Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How My Dad Taught Me to Make a Memory

This blog is often my way of recording the things my children say or do. I want to remember everything, but I know as time passes I will forget so much. I have already forgotten so much, it makes me sad. The kids will say remember the time, or ask me a question about a time they can't recall, and I have no idea what they are talking about. But those special moments? The ones you want to preserve forever, but aren't moments when you are waiting with a camera in hand? My dad taught me how to keep those.

One time, when I was a very little girl, my dad and I were walking on the beach. I can't remember exactly what trip we were on, but to the best of my recollection it was the time we went to the Jersey shore with our Foster cousins. I was really small, and he was holding my hand. He had been helping me jump in the waves, and I was having the best time. I looked up at him and told him I was having the most fun and I wanted to stay there forever. My dad sat down in the sand, and pulled me up on his lap and said, "Do you know how  to keep a memory forever? You look all around you, and then close your eyes and put that picture in your memory. Make sure you get the whole picture. Then remember how you feel right that minute. That way you are keeping the picture of that moment forever."  He told me that he did that all the time because he didn't want to forget anything.

Even as such a little girl I knew this was important advice.  I memorized what he said, and right in that moment, I made a picture of that memory. I can still feel the way I felt in his arms, all safe and happy. I remember the ocean. I also clearly recall thinking that I should remember what it felt like when he picked me up, because probably soon I would be too big for him to pick up anymore, and I really liked it when he picked me up. From that day on, I have tried hard to create those memory pictures. I look around, savor the moment, feel everything that moment has to offer, and I try my hardest to memorize every detail. Some of the memories I have stored away are so, so precious to me. The first time I danced with my husband. The first moment I realized I was going to have a baby, each time. The moment I saw each of their little faces. The times when they were so sick and needed me. Those first smiles when you really fall in love with your baby.

I'll never forget the day I became an aunt. It was such a special day. I was so, so thrilled. I can remember holding my tiny niece in my arms, her poor mama all pale and exhausted, too tired to know or care who had invaded her hospital room. I remember how she smelled, and exactly what she looked like. I can remember the look on my brother's face.

My dad probably doesn't even remember that conversation on a beach so many years ago. Our family has been blessed with many, many delicious moments, and I will always be grateful that my dad taught me how to make a memory I could keep forever in my heart. It's my most invaluable skill.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What I Want For All the Mommas

Today was a weird day. It was the March For Life in Washington DC. The March remembers the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that effectively made abortion legal. My 14 year old daughter was at the March. She was our family representative this year. So, I spent the day watching the March, tweeting and texting her, and trying to get the media to pay attention, or forgoing the media altogether, get the word out via social media.

Interspersed with all of this was my usual day of schooling and mothering. I was privileged to spend most of the day with my five sons, aged 13 all the way down to 2. Here are a couple of the conversations I had with them today:

Benny, age 4: "Momma, Does God laughs because you and I are in true love and He is happy about all us kids?"
Yes, my Benny, I believe He does...

Later, when we were doing our teeth-stories-prayers-bedtime snuggling Benny says; "Mom, are you snuggling my brain?"
"I sure am. I love your brain." says I.
"Well, that's horrible! Stop it! I am trying to focus!" (he was telling me stories).
"Mom, know what I am gonna do when I grow up? I am going to be a race car driver and win lots of money, and buy a sucker!" I love a boy who knows the value of a dollar.

All this time, Yebbi was rolling all over us, intermittently barking and counting "one, two, fee, four!" or yelling "ninjago!" Ah Yeb, when will you learn to talk? Or at least do more than bark?

Luke, age 6, was at his lego table, building away. He brought one of his hero factory/ninjago creations over to me and says, "Mom, this is a girl. Know how you can tell?" he says to me with a sly, conspiritorial look on his face. "No, how?" I feel compelled to ask, even though I am a little afraid of the answer - this boy likes women, ya'll, and he's observant. Or so I thought: Luke grins and points to the two round, but up and down shapes on the front of the figure. "Bra!" he whispers to me so the babies don't hear him. A minute later he is back with a boy hero factory/ninjago creation, and the two figures are held together in what looks like a pretty risque embrace. Luke says to me, again in that conspiritorial whisper, "Look Mom, they're kissing. Isn't that romantic?"  He had me laughing as I remembered days of Barbie and Ken, and all the "romantic" situations we had imagined them in, however his tone was actually trying to find out whether his little lego creations were being romantic. He was on a fact finding mission! My beautiful, sweet, ding dong, woman loving boy. He is going to get his heart broken plenty, that is for sure.

This day had it's challenges, not the least of them the lack of coverage of the March by the media. One of the goals of Catholic social media this weekend was to try and get people to understand why the abortion issue is so important. This, these silly moments in my day, the thrill of realizing how funny, sweet, loving, and hilarious my children are...the absolute joy that zings through my body when they say something funny, or declare that we are in "true love", or even step on my head when I am trying to listen to brother's stories...this. This is what I want for every momma. This is simple, basic mothering. It doesn't cost a thing. This loss of it, though. The loss of these moments is something you can never get back if you throw it all away. No one's life is perfect, but every life is worth living. Every little moment of that little life is a treasure. Abortion robs a mother, a child, a father, a family of all of these little moments. It can even make the moments that come after so bittersweet. Please, if you are considering abortion, or know someone who is, email me, or someone else, or contact a local pregnancy center for help. There are all kinds of choices. The best choices will never rob you of the joy of your child.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Do You Mean By "Choice"?

I always cringe a little when I hear the word "choice". I'm sure you can guess why. It's been hijacked by the pro-abortion crowd. They toss it around like so much laundry, thinking it will change or somehow make okay what they are really talking about. They talk about a woman's right to "choose". Choose what? Life for their child, and the joy in knowing you brought a life into the world and gave him or her the best shot you could, whether by parenting the child, or finding parents. Or, choosing to kill the baby, and living forever with the knowledge that you are responsible for your child's death. That you made the choice to end your baby's life.

We live in a country where choices are abundant. Options are overflowing. We are blessed beyond any other nation on Earth. So, why does the word "choice" rankle my nerves so much? It's because I know that women here have so very, very many choices. There are so many options for an unexpected pregnancy. Killing the baby shouldn't be an option. There are people who will help the mother raise her child, there are people who will adopt the baby, the mother has resources. She need only call the closest Crisis Pregnancy Support Center to find all the answers she needs, including help with a place to stay, prenatal care, maternity and baby clothes, and so much more. In most states, a mother can even drop a newborn off at a police station, hospital or fire station with no consequences. Choices...

I'm a mom. I've been one since I was 19 years old, and found myself unexpectedly pregnant. I was a freshman in college, and I was supposed to be the "good, Catholic girl". I hid my pregnancy from my family for five months. We were going to tell everyone as soon as we had a "plan". We never considered abortion, but we had a really hard time coming up with this "plan". We were going to elope, get an apartment, go to college. We just couldn't quite figure out how to do all that with no money. So, once my pregnancy started getting further along, I called our local Crisis Pregnancy Support Center. The women in the office were amazing. They didn't lecture, they didn't act shocked or disapproving. All they wanted was to help. They were amazing. The counselor I had offered to come with me to tell my parents. They offered us free childbirth classes and anything else we needed. They offered me a variety of choices, including helping me find adoptive parents if that was what we wanted, helping us find a place if we needed it. They were willing to do whatever it took to help us have a healthy, safe pregnancy and baby, and LIFE. They actually called me every few weeks for YEARS to make sure we were doing okay and that we didn't need anything. I was very lucky. After the initial shock, my whole family rallied around us with so much love and support. We never needed the services provided by the Crisis Pregnancy Support Center, but to this day I am grateful to know they were there, and that the counselors there truly love and care for the families they serve.

I get so tired of the argument that pro-lifers just want you to have the baby, and once you say you will, they move on to the next pregnant person. The pro-life community is all about choices... making good choices so you can provide a good life for you and your baby. There is help for any situation. All you need to do is ask for it.

I have said this in past posts, and I truly mean it. We would care for a child until the mother was ready. We would help a mom and her baby anyway we could. We would help a mother find what options work for her and her baby, so that she need never have to live with knowing that she took every choice away from her child.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tucking Them In...

     I know I already posted today, but I still have so much rolling around in my heart and in my mind. If you have been here before, you know that we lost our little twins back in October. One of the blessings I have found in this has been that I have spent the time since treasuring these little ones even more than before. More cuddling, more savoring. More sniffing of necks slathered in baby lotion. More hugging the teenagers, more patience with the tweens. Kolbe has even been letting me hug him. He probably knows I need to.

     I was  frustrated with nearly everyone in my household today, most of all myself. I was anxious, and irritable, and just needed a little time to escape. Once I did that, I was able to come in, make dinner, sing with Kenzie,  play with babies. I know, my 2 year old, 4 year old and 6 year old aren't really babies. But, they are my babies. The tail end of this tribe of mine. I watched my big boys eat us out of house and home, and my Jenna quietly reading, her nose ever in a book. Eventually we went upstairs for our bath-lotion-jammies-teeth-stories-prayers-bed routine.

     I took a minute, as I was tucking in those wee small bodies, after listening to their sweet little voices praying the Angel of God prayer, asking God for blessings on those they love, with their teeth all shiny, their hair combed just so, and smelling like heaven itself - the goat smell briefly held at bay (thank you, Johnson&Johnson), and I felt that  gratitude. That sheer wave of gratefulness that spreads over you when you know they are here, they are happy, they are safe in your arms, and that for the time we have on this earth, they are yours. Thank you Lord, for the blessings of my children. Please let me always remember this moment, when they are still small. Thank you also for the sweet little saints awaiting us in heaven. My George and Gabriel, Matthew, Jordan and my other tiny ones. I love you all so much.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Ran Away from Home Today...

     Today was rough. I don't even know why. Ben was over the top annoying, Jonah just wouldn't stop eating. Jenna was bugging me about an order I placed for her. Doug was mad because I spent our whole last paycheck and only got two bills paid. Kolbe won't stop flipping through the air. No one really did school, with the exception of Kenzie. I ended up running away from home...for about an hour. I dropped off the water bill, and went to the grocery store for more butter. I can't bring myself to buy a whole bunch of butter at once, unless it is really cheap. I keep thinking, that much like gas, it will probably go back down in a day or two, so I only get what I have to have. This of course means I go to the store way too often. To buy butter.

     So, anyway...I ran away from home. On the way I talked to my mom. When I ran out of places to go, I went home, but instead of going inside, I slouched down in the van and called my sister. My Boo, who is leaving me in a few short months for far off Pittsburgh. Alright, so Pittsburgh is an hour and a half away. But, it's not like it's the next town over, like now. It's not like she'll live right near my parents and brother and sister. So, I am missing her already. So, back to hiding from my children. I slouched down, hoping no one would see me if they came to investigate. Luckily, no one did for a good 45 minutes. I got to talk on the phone with my sister, where no one could hear me, and I could moan and complain and yes, even gossip a wee bit, without anyone interrupting, or overhearing something I would rather they didn't, or asking me who I was talking to, or anything. It was great. (I also had a stash of cheapo chocolates, and that made it even better.)

    We talked and talked, and as we did I was reassured that no matter where she went, I could always have this with her. She would always be able to just hang out on the phone with me. While we were talking, we started to wonder if we had ever been mad at each other. More than kid stuff, and more than annoyed. I mean actually angry. Neither one of us could remember a single instance. Maybe that is just the blessing of time, or the fondness of our hearts, I'm not sure. But, for as long as I can remember, she has always been my very best friend. She is the first person I ever worried about. She is the first person I ever took care of. My husband often wonders if I love her more than I love him. Of course I do. And, of course I don't.

     She moved away from me once before, to the actually kind of far off land of Chicago. I think I might have been mad at her then. I really, really hated that she lived so far away. But, they only stayed away for six months, and they came home constantly. I think maybe, as much as she loved Chicago, she missed us.  Now she is moving, and this time it probably will be a bit more permanent. I worry about losing cousin sleepovers, and our girls night out, and the fun of last minute family dinners when we all pile into my folks' house and make them feed the 35+ of us at the drop of a hat (which they always manage to pull off, somehow). I love how close our family has always been, I know how special and rare that can be. I don't want it to change.

 But mostly, I worry about missing my sister. I know I can talk to her anytime I want. I could even drive over to see her pretty easily, but not as easily as dropping in just because we're around. Not as easily as just deciding to have dinner together. It won't be easy to leave all the kids together while we go prowl the aisles of  the craft store or Target. I also worry that she will be lonely, or need me, or will have to walk to "C" Building all by herself. Wait, that was 3rd grade. But that's how I feel.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Benjamin and His Bathtime Narration

 Benji is equal parts pure love and pure terror. Well, not equal parts. He is about 85% pure love, but that 15% of terror is potent, people. Most of the time, he absolutely slays me with his constant chatter, the over use of my name, and some of the things you never expect to hear come out of your child's mouth.

Benjamin's (4) narration of our bedtime bath and jammie time:
Mom! The baby is drinking butt water!
Mom! 'Tend this is a pool, 'tay, Mom?
Mom! I am doe-ing deep sea diving, 'tay, Mom?
Mom! Are you donna swim wif us?
Mom! The baby is spilling all the water in my ocean!
Mom! Luke is hogging up my whole pool over here!
Mom! When you wash me on the back you hurt my fur!
Mom, I fluffed, did you see my bubbles?
Mom! I hate wotion! Wait, is it sumscreem? I wove sumscreem, so I don't get burnt, do I?
Mom, I love tissing (kissing), do I?
Mom, you love tissing, too, wight?
Mom, we are so in wove, are we?
Mom! Tag!
Thanks, Mom, I don't wike the tag, do I? It hurts my fur. But I wike my dinosaur jammies, they have dinosaurs all wover, do they?
Mom, will you brush my teef and wead stories and say prayers and snuggle wif us? And play the sleeping game?

Because, of course, this routine isn't the same every single night, or anything...How will I ever survive without wee ones in the house? I will miss this so very, very much!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Just Write - a prompt I have seen on several other hard for me. I feel like I have to actually have a point when I post. Of course, that leads to no posts.

Thanksgiving and Christmas have come and posts. Although, I have been very busy with the Christmas season - not an excuse, just fact. When we were in the middle of losing our twins, I just wanted it to be time to get ready for Christmas, so I had something else to focus on. Something joyful. So, as soon as Thanksgiving was over, we went whole hog. I embraced the season as I haven't in many years. I baked my heart out. We did several projects, and had a blast all Advent long. A couple of the things we did, I would like to make a annual tradition, I loved them so much.
Jeffery Fam 2011

One of the first things we did was to really celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas. We have actually been doing this for a number of years, but this year I let the teacher in me escape just a little. Oh, how I wish I could let her out all the time, but I am afraid of what she might do. We wouldn't get a whole lot of lessons done, but we would bake, and do art, read stories and find ways to weave our lessons together so that they made more sense. We would do all art, literature and history, with very little math or science - just the bits that would leak in with the baking or other activities. We would play all day and learn about all the saints and never do much actual book learning. So, I have to keep her under control. (I think I am an unschooler at heart, but afraid my kids won't learn enough so I have to have some structure!)

So, back to St. Nick. The arrival of his feast day is always met with chocolate coins in the shoes or stockings, and candy canes for the tree. We put the tree up over Thanksgiving, but save the candy canes for this special day. This year I made up work for my sisters to do little goodie bags with coins, candy canes and worksheets for all my nieces and nephews to do on the feast day as well. I put them in little Santa bags, hoping to inspire them to want to learn more about Saint Nick. So, my kids got up that morning and were pleased to discover the coins. We had fun reading the story of how St. Nick decided to help some young maidens with their dowries by tossing bags of gold coins down the chimney so they could get married. We went on to read about his staff, and how candy canes are just the same shape. All these stories and more can be found at the St. Nicholas Center. I had so much fun choosing the stories and coloring pages.

My husband and I also carved more than our usual share of time out together to do our shopping. We had several afternoons of going out to lunch, shopping for gifts and just enjoying the season and being together. He is not as big a fan of Christmas as I am, but he's coming around. When I met him he was a bit of a "Bah-Humbug!" sort, with a tiny little Charlie Brown tree. Now, as the father of so many children, he has been forced to love it a little more. He joined me in the kitchen, or rather, I joined him, and we cooked and baked so much, we were vying for counter space! Me and my cookies and sticky buns, him and his fudge and turkeys and hams and mashed potatoes. We had a lot of fun delivering treats to loved ones.

We also had our first annual cookie eating and ornament making party. It was so much fun! We had an open house and invited my sisters and my close friends and their children to come over. Moms sat and talked, kids ate cookies and painted wooden ornaments to take home. I really, really loved this and plan to make it part of our Advent from now on. We kept everything super casual,and I think it was a success.
The Karcher family has a long standing tradition we call "Cookie Day". All the moms and kids gather at my mom's house and we bake all day long. We used to try and do ALL of our Christmas cookies that day, but as more and more children came, that just got to be too hard. Nowadays, we just do gingerbread men and cut-out cookies. We all bring dough ready to be rolled, and just let the kids take turns rolling, cutting, decorating and of course, eating their little hearts out. I look forward to this day with a mixture of trepidation and joy. Joy because the kids love it, but man, it can be a little stressful. This year, though, I think we finally have it down to a science. One mama to monitor each phase of cookie creation, and putting the bigger girls in charge of watching over decorating, and we flew through it all - about 200 dozen cookies - with ease. Not too shabby, considering there were 4 toddler boys, 1 newborn, so many eager, small, blond girls I have lost count, and a bunch of big and small boys all waiting for their turns at each station. Luckily we have lots of older girls to help keep everything running smoothly.

Our youngest daughter, Jenna takes tap dance lessons with her cousin, MaryKate. They had a fun, not nearly as stressful as the Spring recital, recital. It was very fun and Christmasy to watch as they tapped along to "Jingle Bell Rock".
The week leading up to Christmas I of course wrapped and wrapped. And make candy. And cookies. And cinnamon rolls. And pies, and sauces for the pies. I was so tired, but having such a good time. I truly didn't want it to be over too quickly. Fortunately, we got a bit of a longer Christmas this year. We took a brunch of  breakfast casserole, cinnamon rolls and mandarin oranges to my in-laws house on Christmas Eve morning. We had a lot of fun just hanging out, watching the kids play, and getting some nice, quality time with my husband's brothers and mom and dad. It was really, really nice. No rush to be anywhere, the kids played and talked. We had a great time.

After a bit we had to go and get ready for Mass, where our Luke would be a shepherd, my big boys, Jonah and Kolbe would serve Mass, and my girls would sing in the choir. Christmas Eve Mass is always, always my favorite part of Christmas. All the sweet little voices of the children's choir singing "Pa rump pa pum pum" and yelling "Go Tell It on the Mountain". Every year I wait for that, and just sit and savor that moment. This year, as has happened in other years, we were getting all these kids where they needed to go for the Mass, and missed out on sitting in the church. Always bums  me out a little. I have to work pretty hard at not being truly annoyed at the people who only go to church at Christmas and Easter (the Chreasters, as our pastor puts it). I know its small and petty, and I really don't want to feel that way at Christmas, but when I have to miss seeing my children in the choir because of people crowding the church one day a year, I get a little peeved. Off soapbox!

At home we get dinner, baths, and tuck wee ones into bed after reading the Christmas story from Luke. Most of the time the bigger kids are strangely willing to go to bed early, and this year was no exception. Kolbe, who is nine, was really worried that we weren't going to bed, too. He didn't want to take a chance that Santa wouldn't stop because we were still up. If he actually believed in Santa, that is. This year took a lot of work to keep him believing. The clincher was a handful of old jingle bells donated to the cause by Liz's mom. She knew Kolbe was having a hard time believing this year, and thought that the old jingle bells, left just for him, might do the trick. She was right! Doug Santa writes a letter to the kids every year. Each child gets a mention  - what they have been good about, and even what they have been naughty about. This year, Santa chose to leave the bells for Kolbe because he has become such a hard worker, and so much help to his parents, and that kind of thing is high up on Santa's list! He has carried the bells around in a bag every since. I love that my oh so very logical, please explain it to me in detail son still believes.

The Seven, as I call them, on Christmas Eve
Christmas morning didn't arrive until after 8am, thankfully. We got up and had the best time watching the kids tear open the carefully selected and wrapped gifts. I was thrilled this year that each child got at least one gift that I knew would be dear to their hearts. I think they had a really nice Christmas, and I know how blessed we are to be able to do that this year. We had a leisurely day, playing with new toys, getting ready slowly throughout the day to go to my parents' house for Christmas dinner. Dinner with all of us are always a little chaotic, but this year it was worse, due to my suggestion that we do a buffet. You have to plan that sort of thing, ya'll. You can't just do it on the fly when there are almost 40 hungry people standing around! So, we learned a little, coped, and then settled in for the fun. Kids had a sweet gift exchange where each cousin presented their secret person with a gift. Many of them were so excited to see the recipient open the gift - it just made everything even sweeter. To top off our super gooey evening, my sister got her picture - the other thing we (by we, I mean Doug) do every year. He draws a portrait of every new baby every year. Many years he has had two to do, but this year there was just sweet Spencer, my sister's youngest.

Now, I said that church is my favorite thing at Christmas, but this year I had a new favorite moment. Two of them, actually:


Cousins, Jenna, MaryKate and Reagan and the little guy is Sam, my brother's son. So, so lovely.

If you are still reading this, Merry Christmas, and a Blessed, Happy New Year. Christmas isn't over yet! The Feast of the Epiphany is Sunday!  I am going to Christmas it up until then...not ready for it to be over just yet...