Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Staying Cool

We went from record lows earlier this month to record highs the last few days...
Temperatures in the upper 90's today.
Finally the arrival of summer.
Which I would enjoy a little more if our a/c hadn't gone kaput this weekend.
We are drinking lots of water. The sound of fans on high is a constant drum of noise that, while less effective than the a/c, does have the effect of drowning out some of the noise of three little toddlers. We have also taken refuge in the basement.
Today the heat was a little too much for us though, so we abandoned the last of the school work and decided to let the young ones nap in the car and drove to the mall-- I had shoes to return :)
It also seemed the perfect time to renew an old tradition in our home, the summer purchase of sunglasses.
From the time Banana was a toddler, I have taken her to The Children's Place for sunglasses. She would try on six or seven pairs, settle on one, and we would have them for about a week or two. Joseph, for weeks, has been carrying around an old pair of yellow flowered sunglasses so I figured it was time to get him a pair of his own.
I figure my kids might as well look cool as we make our best effort to keep from melting in this heat!

There is no such thing as bad weather. All weather is good because it is God's.
-Saint Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Daughters...

Tonight was the night.

A rite of passage as a parent.

It was the night I talked to Banana about getting older.

Yes, we began this talk a few months ago, but I knew the time had come to gently share a few more details. I agonized for a few days. Reread books to prepare myself. Mostly I prayed. I prayed for wisdom.

It turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. There were some moments of awkward silence, and as is my habit I filled them with silly jokes. There were moments I wished I were more eloquent. Still, it went very well.

Then somewhere in the midst of our conversations of soccer games and the latest Penny Parker novel, she flashed a smile at me. It was a moment I wanted to capture and hold. Hold next to those pictures in my memory of how beautiful she was when she was born -- this sweet, precious girl who ushered me into motherhood. The picture of her taking her first steps, of her sleeping peacefully on my chest, of her reading her first book, and riding a bike.

In that smile, I saw the last ten years and I wanted to somehow stop time so that I could spend so much more time with her. I wanted to hold her close forever. I wondered how it is more than ten years could have already passed.

Then, in that smile, I caught a glimpse of the moments we would have in the next ten years, and it was the only thing that made the passage of time bearable.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

The Backyard Edition
Since having the fence installed, we have taken every opportunity to let the kids play outside. Although we have a very small yard, it is nice to finally have a patch of green, be it ever so tiny, on which the kids can safely play.

 {pretty}
This little one seems to quite often be my pretty picture. In this case not only is my sweet Bophie beautiful, but the new pretty headband was a sweet gift from a generous Grandma. I also love these lilac bushes that line the back of our yard. This year they were in bloom for just a short span of time, but you can smell them all the way to the deck.

 I also think my freshly potted window boxes are a pretty sight from my kitchen window. I look forward to the fresh herbs and pretty flowers they will provide all summer.
 
{happy}
 
Green grass makes me happy. With all the rain we've been getting our yard seems so green this year. Pretty feet also make me happy. This week I had the privilege of going for my first pedicure with my mom and sisters on a kidless Saturday afternoon. Let's just say I hope this becomes a tradition repeated frequently, it was wonderful!

While I enjoyed being on my own for an afternoon, I was happy to come home to all these blessings. It makes me happy to watch them play with one another. Having lots of siblings means having lots of playmates. Moments like these make me happy.

{funny}
They aren't all those sweet moments, though.

This picture doesn't do justice to watching Joseph try so very hard to blow bubbles.It makes me laugh to see him make so many silly faces trying to get those bubbles to come out. In the end he was content to have Dad blow them for him. 

{real}
The shaggy dog needs groomed, even more so now that she stays outside so often. Here she is chewing on a chopstick from last night's Chinese meal enjoyed on the deck. She had a feast last night as we dined al fresco, thank goodness we were outside so the mess was not on my kitchen floor.

Reality is that while we enjoyed a few glimpses of sun, this week was spent largely indoors as it rained almost every day.

For more pretty, happy, funny, real visit:





round button chicken

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Down the Homestretch

"It is our part to seek, His to grant what we ask; ours to make a beginning, His to bring it to completion; ours to offer what we can, His to finish what we cannot." — Saint Jerome

We are currently wrapping up our year of homeschooling. Subjects are slowly being finished, workbooks thrown away, final touches being put on projects, end of the year assessments are being taken. As mom and Chief Education Officer (CEO), I am evaluating what worked for us this year, what we should improve, and what direction our little school will take next year.

I am, by nature, a perfectionist in many ways. I want all the lessons finished 100%. I struggled this year with my expectation that all finished work be completely correct, and if not, completely corrected. I like every "t" crossed and "i" dotted. In my end of the year evaluations, it is easy for me to see all those t's that not crossed, all the undotted i's. It is tempting for me to fixate on all I had hoped to accomplish this year that either was done hastily, done half way, or completely unattempted. I am again reminded of my imperfections as a teacher, a counselor, and a mother.

At Mass this past Sunday, The Feast of the Good Shepherd, our parish priest spoke of vocations. He very eloquently reminded us (by pointing out his fellow priests) that God does not call the perfect. That we should not allow our imperfections, our personality flaws, or our inadequacies, to stop us from pursuing whatever God is calling us to do. While this is so very true of the calling to our vocations, and especially the priesthood, it is equally apropos to those of us called to homeschooling. It is very easy to think we are somehow too undisciplined, too prone to anger or impatience, too distracted, too uneducated, too overwhelmed, or just too "not up for the task." We forget that our calling is less about our abilities and more about being an instrument of God's grace. We forget how God uses the lowest and the most inadequate as shining examples of how his grace can work through us. We forget it is about saying "yes" to God's will, not about being able to do it all on our own.
This year has been a year of learning to say "yes" to God in the little moments, because it is all those little moments that add up to our big eternal "yes." I learned to step back from the big picture and ask myself in each little moment, "Am I doing God's will right now?" Asking is this what I need to be doing to serve God right now has allowed me to recognize when I should be saying "yes" in a different manner, when it was time to put aside my own desires. I learned to serve him in changing the diapers, cleaning the spilled syrup, as well as in teaching mathematics.
 Asking each moment has also helped me learn to leave the rest to him.  If in each moment I was doing all I could, then I couldn't be bothered by what I couldn't do. If I was called away from school to clean a bathroom because two little angels (aka 3 year-olds) had gotten into the toilet *again*, I had to do my best to clean it and then return to schooling. I couldn't beat myself up over being unable to do it all. My daily To-Do List is almost always left with three or four items that I just couldn't get finished. Instead of worrying or giving into the temptation to feel more overwhelmed, I have been working on (only sometimes successfully) trusting in God to bring to completion what He feels needs to be completed.
While I certainly was not able to finish all that I had planned for this school year, I trust that my willingness to be at the disposal of God will allow him to finish all that he feels needs to be accomplished as we wrap up this year's educational pursuits.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Jammies

Grandma bought Gabriel some new jammies today. Despite the fact neither Juju nor Joseph have ever seen Sesame Street, they both fought over who would wear the new Elmo and Cookie Monster jammies. So even though these monkeys are two years older than Gabriel and the jammies were sized 18-months, they both insisted they should get to wear them!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spreading the News

Yesterday I had the pleasure of telling Joseph's speech therapist that we are in the process of adopting another little one from China. We have shared this news with friends and family who are for the most part pretty supportive. They think we are a little crazy, we have already gone from three children to six in a very short period of time.  I think we are a little crazy too, but in a good way. It was difficult to bring this up to the speech therapist, though, because the reaction I get from most is that we are really truly crazy, and not in a good way.


I mentioned before that I am overwhelmed. Some moments are very difficult. You know those moments. A few months ago just minutes after I finished the monumental task of making every bed in the house (after washing every piece of bedding we owned), Joseph got a bloody nose while going down for a nap-- ten short minutes after I made his bed.  I thought I was going to cry. Then Juju had an accident and pooped in her bed, pooped in the bed I had just finished making, hospital corners and everything. All that work and I was now going to spend the afternoon re-washing more bedding, not to mention bathing two toddlers who should be napping. It had taken a week to get the original bedding done and I did cry then.
That moment is by no means isolated either. I have several a day. Moments where I feel as though I could use ten more hands, I need to change a diaper, wipe a nose, refill a sippy cup, help someone diagram a sentence, and answer a question about the periodic table of elements. Moments where my patience is strained from bickering, and sometimes it breaks from the sheer volume, there are six of them--one of me. Moments where I just want to scream "Calgon, take me away!" Moments where dead birds land on my back porch and I think to myself this isn't what I signed up for.

One could mistake those moments of chaos for unhappiness. I admit, sometimes I let them get the better of me. Then I get a wake up call. A little one who wraps both arms tight around me and "kisses" my cheek, a toddler who learns to say "MMMMommy" after so much work to get the sounds correct, a girl who wants nothing but to hold my hand, another girl who learns to make coffee so she can surprise me in the morning. Yesterday, one of my girls told me I was definitely going to heaven because all mothers of six children must go to heaven. Sometimes just a smile from one of them changes my whole outlook on life.

Yes, with six little ones and another in the works, life is more hectic. I have less "me" time. I never seem to accomplish that daily To Do List. I often feel frazzled. Conventional wisdom would leave one to think I must be unhappy,  but the truth is I am happier than I have ever been. With each little person, made in the image of God, we bring into this house we invite another piece of heaven. Each little one gives me the opportunity to grow closer to God by loving and providing for them. They provide an opportunity to grow holier, and therefore more peaceful and more joyful. Not in the worldly sense of peace and joy, rather in the heavenly sense.


We have soccer games every night this week, difficult appointments, a grueling school schedule, and my house is already in shambles from last week. There has also been a streak of all my best laid plans going awry. For two weeks now it seems my will has been thwarted at every turn, I'm not sure why I bother with a calendar.  Still there is peace, there is joy that material things and "me time" could never bring. Each child brings a unique joy to our home and family, the extra work is a blessing and a small price to pay for that joy.


When dh and I began discussing another adoption, we both were struck with the thought that in as little as ten years from now, we might regret not having done all we could to bring home another little one, but we would never regret having adopted one more. One of dh's favorite memories of his grandfather is of him at many family gatherings looking out at all the children and grandchildren saying something like, "Look what Lil and I started!"  Sure the work might seem overwhelming now, but God has always given us the graces we need and we will count on them again. In a few short years, this difficult season will have passed and we will have the lifelong blessing of another child.

Joseph's speech therapist politely offered her congratulations. I'm pretty sure she thought we were crazy though... I'll choose to think it's crazy in a good way and continue to count my blessings.

These thoughts were prompted by two fantastic posts: 
It's Never a Good Time to Have Kids
Life Doesn't Have to be Easy to be Joyful

Both well worth a read.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Almost Six Years Ago...

We moved into our new house and I said it was wonderful, but it needs a fence.

Six years later, we have our fence.

 Gabe's expression perfectly captures how happy his Mom is to have a backyard in which he can play more safely.
Yes, this Mom is very happy to have a fence to keep her monkeys in the yard and not have to risk breaking her foot trying to rescue them from oncoming cars.
Beautiful, isn't it?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

All of my pictures this week are from a park day last Friday because since that outing, nothing, I do mean nothing, has gone as planned. No community garden plantings, no First Holy Communion Parties, no brunch with Grandma, no dinner with friends, no planetarium field trips. Not for lack of trying, it simply has not been our week. 

{pretty}
 
This beautiful picture was taken by Banana, age 10. I think she may have more talent for this photography thing than I do. I love the way she captured a true Bophie expression and the sunlight that had been so elusive in our neck of the woods.

{happy}
Having good friends to share a trip to the park makes me happy. Watching my children play and grow also makes me happy. This reminds me of both. It also makes me wonder what trouble these two will cause...

{funny}
 Speaking of trouble... This is the picture you get when you let four preteen girls play with your camera. Somehow it captures the life of the modern homeschooling mom. Off-roading with strollers loaded down sporting all the modern accessories all to savor one of the very few sunny days of spring.
 {real}
This is what 3-year old boys look like after you take them for a walk to the creek. OK, this is what they look like if you keep telling their older sisters not to let go of his hand, and if you spend every other moment asking, "Where is he?" and saying things like, "Don't go in the water!" or "Move 5 paces back with him." Otherwise it would be much, much worse. This being my first experience with a boy, the creek has an attraction for him that is much more intense than it did for my girls, it seems to call him to it with enticing shouts rather than whispers.

For more contentment visit:

round button chicken

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bear's New Glasses


As part of the adoption process, we again had to take everyone in for a physical. A few weeks ago we staggered appointments and in one week managed to get all eight of us into the doctor's office. It was quite a feat. The way it worked out, our doctor's appointments were the same week as our dentist appointments. So it was a really, really busy week.

For some time Bear had been telling us she was having trouble seeing things far away. I thought she was just envious of my new glasses-- ok, not so much. I just didn't pay much attention to it. She seemed to be reading and completing her schoolwork without any difficulty. Let's just say it wasn't a stellar mom moment as she stood in the doctor's office and failed a simple eye exam. Then when at the optometrist, we found she needs a stronger prescription than both dh and I!
Dh took her to that appointment, and he picked out her new glasses. I was a little worried when he told me they were red, and really picking out glasses isn't really a Dad thing. Truth is they are purple-ish and he did a decent job. They make her look so grown up. In an attempt to have them fit her for two years, they skipped the kid glasses and went straight to preteen. It's hard to believe she is already eight and needs anything preteen!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Little Boy and His Patron Saint

While today is abuzz with Divine Mercy and the beatification of JPII, it is also the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. What a great day to be Catholic!

Joseph is already quite enamored with his patron saint. He regularly has chats with St. Joseph in our backyard. It was St. Joseph, protector of families, whom we invoked to watch over our Joseph before he joined our family.
He tried to do this at our church too, but the end result was, well, disastrous. Thankfully, this statue has held up so far to Joseph's affections. Each morning, dh prays the following beautiful prayer. I thought it appropriate as we head into Monday after a day of such wonderful feasting. We will be praying it as we diligently push forward to complete our school year.

O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations, to work with gratitude and joy, in a spirit of penance for the remission of my sins, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from God, to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties, to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thine example, O Patriarch, St. Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death.
-- St. Pius X