Saturday, December 8, 2012

Double Digits

It's hard for me to believe this little girl is no longer a little girl. My sweet Catie Bear is already a decade. 


It seems like this was just yesterday. She and I spent a whole week together in the hospital. It was December, we were new in town and knew no one, Dad and Hannah got the flu while we were there, so it was just the two of us. We needed that week because life was a whirlwind after that. We moved one week later, and this little one just was her own little whirlwind. Always on the go. She walked the earliest, she took more risks, she needed more cuddling, she was well... Catie Bear. 

When trying to find a gift for her birthday, I had thoughts of a pogo stick. I was doing some research and after settling on one, I read the first review which talked of a kid knocking their teeth out. I sent the link to dh to ask his opinion of the gift. He sent back a text saying, "It sounds fun, and dangerous, and strangely just like the perfect gift for Bear." It was too. She goes out into the garage after finishing homework and bounces and bounces and bounces. She's also our current jump rope champion with over 300 jumps. No one seems to be able to match her energy. 

She made a cute little page in her Christmas pageant at school. Her wacky sense of humor suited the part well. I love the look on her face as she sneaks a peak at her family watching in the audience. School has been an interesting transition for my dear Catie. She is such a smart girl and has been working a year ahead since starting Kindergarten at four. This was never a problem homeschooling which allowed me to work at her pace. When we made the decision to put her in school I struggled with where she should be placed. She is the age of a fourth grader, but doing well as a fifth grader. The school combines two grades so she is in a 5/6 classroom and while she is hanging in academically, I can tell she feels out of place sometimes. Thankfully, the school is wonderful, the teachers, the students, the families, and I look forward to next year when Catie will be in a class with students her age.

My talented sister put together a photo booth for Catie's birthday party. We made little dry erase boards and the girls had such a fun time writing little sayings and getting their pictures taken. I am so thankful for the help of sisters and good friends for my girls. I am also so eternally grateful for the gift of sweet Catie Bear. How blessed I am to play a part in her life.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dignity and Dirty Towels

A few weeks ago, we were bathing the kids (which we do on Saturday nights whether they need it or not). In many ways this has become an assembly line. Someone undressing them, someone bathing them, another diapers them, then someone else dresses them in their pajamas. While it is fairly organized, it's chaotic too. Trying to accomplish anything with five kids under five is bound to be chaotic. During the hullaballoo, there was a shout for the towels taken downstairs. Not wanting more laundry than necessary, I asked the two-year-old to take the towels to his sister in the bathroom. He was struggling and going pretty slow on the stairs so I sent the twelve-year-old as reinforcements. She promptly grabbed all the towels and diligently ran up the stairs, leaving the two-year-old crying in her wake.

When things settled down before evening prayers, I began to explain to the twelve-year-old that perhaps a better way to handle the situation would have been to let the little one carry one towel and taken the rest. Alternatively, she could have let him hold the towels and then pick him up and "fly" him up the stairs. It was clear he wanted the joy of helping, and it was snatched from him when she took the towels.

Dh, with so much wisdom, chimed in that this is exactly what God does for us. He has no need of our works, he has no need of our help, and yet he gives us the opportunity to chose to work for him. It would be nothing for him to get the towels up the stairs, but he gives us the opportunity to help. He allows us to find true dignity in working for his kingdom. We are the two-year-olds struggling with simple tasks and he gives us wings, and he helps us with the towels, he doesn't do it for us or snatch the towels, because then we would be deprived of the blessing. God, the ultimate father, allows us his children to work alongside of him. With eternal patience he watches as we fumble through tasks much like a child who wants to help. If we remain childlike in our acceptance of the job he gives us, what joy we find in doing these tasks, even in something as little as taking a towel upstairs. 

I feel that joy each time I look at the faces of my children. They are my "little towels" to bring to the father. Caring for them, changing diapers, washing dishes, laundry, endlessly picking up, and the million other tasks that are part of motherhood can sometimes seem like a heavy burden. I sometimes struggle to get them up the stairs. Like the two-year-old, there are others better at the task. Still, I am blessed to have this calling. I am asked to be childlike in the acceptance of the work being given me and to find the inherent dignity in it.

When society tells us it's too much, it's too hard, it's not worth it. I want to shout about the joy children bring. I want to tell them I don't have to do it alone, I have a father in heaven, a mother in the Church, and brothers and sisters to help me.  It's not easy work dragging these towels up the stairs, but the reward is too much to miss. The smile of my heavenly father thanking me for doing this small task. Him picking me up and making me feel valued. I must be thankful for each of the opportunities to love and work for his kingdom.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why I am not a photographer

You'd think with my fancy schmancy camera and eight kids to practice on, I'd eventually be an expert at getting good baby shots. You'd be wrong though. I spent quite some time trying to get a good 3 month picture of baby Ellie smiling. Yes, believe it or not, this little one is already three whole months old. She brings us such joy and smiles so often I thought for sure I'd be able to capture it.

I waited until too late in the evening, so the lighting is terrible.

At first she just looked at me like I was some kind of crazy woman and the black camera just mesmerized her.

Then we were photo-bombed by Joseph.

When I finally got a smile, I didn't have the camera ready.

Then all the little siblings wanted in on the action.

My favorite picture with her sweet smile, but my camera focused on her onesie.

This was when I decided to call it a wrap and let Aunt Amy try later.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Baptism of Mary Elizabeth

"You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors it bestows! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by personal sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be Christ’s members"
-- St. John Chrysostom (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).

It took us awhile to get everything lined up for the baptism of our eighth little one, but it was God's timing and a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Little Mary Elizabeth was welcomed into the Church on Sunday September 23. I know it's taken me awhile to get this post out too. These days it seems to take me awhile to do most anything. :)

How blessed I am to have this man as the most wonderful husband there could possibly be. He loves the memory of his grandfather at a family gathering looking around and remarking, "Look what Lil and I started." I have visions of dh saying those same words some day. I never imagined we'd baptize eight children, I'm sure he didn't either. I'm so thankful my children have him as a father, that they see him really live his faith. He is a gift to me and them.

Is there any sweeter smell than that of a new baby christened with holy oils? I really don't think so. The hope new babies and baptism bring to our world all mingle together in that beautiful scent. God gives us so many wonderful gifts.

I can't help but post this picture of the baptismal gown my talented sister took after the baptism. I've posted about it before, but it means so much to me. The gown has been worn by most of our children (Joseph and Peter were too big) and was made by Sophia's godmother from a piece of my wedding gown.

Our first picture with all the new family members. How blessed we truly are. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Apple Picking

Oh, the Lord is good to me,

And so I thank the Lord

For giving me the things I need:

The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed;

The Lord is good to me.

--Johnny Appleseed Blessing--

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Funny

Or at least mildly amusing to my probably poor sense of humor...

After the five oldest leave for school, most days we come home and I try to do as much housework as possible. Some days I nurse the baby endlessly (it is amazing how even though this is my fifth nursing baby I am still surprised how much my day is consumed feeding her). Other days I run errands while I have fewer to load and unload. On rare days I chuck it all and take the kids for a walk.

On our walks I often wish I had the foresight to give the name Paul to our little Gabriel. That way when those passing by told me my hands were full and asked their names I could tell them I was walking Peter, Paul, and Mary :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Phonics Homework

With the kids in school, my days are quite flip-flopped. My mornings and early afternoons used to be jam packed with schooling and activities. If the little ones were napping, we hit the gas pedal on schooling. Now my mornings and early afternoons are quieter (though mysteriously just as busy), but once the girls come home... Sheesh does it get crazy here, and it doesn't settle down until bedtime. I have to admit some of the homework has been a hard adjustment for us. We've had quite a few late nights.

Yesterday afternoon I was helping little Sophia with her homework. I try to have her at the table so that I can keep an eye on what she is doing. She just needs a little more supervision to make sure she forms her letters correctly and such. Workbooks are also pretty new to her, so there are often questions. Plus the homeschooler in me just loves working with her whenever I can.

She had skipped ahead in phonics, almost 100 pages so there were new instructions. We read them together, "Say the name of each picture, if you hear the short sound of e color the picture." I wanted to be sure she understood the instructions before I wandered away to start dinner so I asked her, "Do you know what the short sound of e is?"

"Sure," she responds. "It's, like, when you don't say the sound for very long."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A New Era (Part II)

The day finally came, we had to make the move to a twelve passenger van. Yes, that still gives us room for two more. Sheesh though, give us a chance to breathe. The two extra seats are still not enough to fit all the gear needed in my Mom Taxi, which has been in high demand with school starting and soccer season in full swing. It is big enormous. It is a gas guzzler. It terrifies me to have to park. I've yet to brave a drive-through, although with eight mouths to feed the drive-through was already a scary thing, unless I'm going for coffee. I have a feeling for that reason alone I'll learn to master the drive-through.

Cleaning out more than ten years of junk was quite a task. When we pulled out the car seats I'm pretty sure there was a large container of fries just dumped there. Not to mention goldfish, pretzels, assorted gummy things, and some grossness not worth mentioning. There were coffee stains, mud stains, who-knows-what-the-heck-that-is stains. There were worn spots from me getting in and out, indentations from ten years of car seats, dirt from at least three states. It was a bittersweet moment to pass it on to another family just starting out.

In the early years of our marriage, we hoped for a big family, we prayed for it. When our only car died and it came time to purchase a new vehicle we decided to plan for the future and, despite only having one child, we purchased a minivan. I remember how nervous we were sitting in the car dealership, Banana quietly playing at our feet as we sweat it out. I was especially apprehensive as I had never purchased a new car. The price tag seemed staggering.
Our family when we bought our "small" family van

Then, less than a year later, we drove that car across the country as we moved to Pennsylvania. By this time, we were expecting Bear. The years went on and that car carried our possessions as we moved again, this time back to Ohio, but still we only had the two girls.
More than ten years and this was the only picture I could find of the old van. It was purchased before we owned a digital camera. How times have changed.

We began to feel guilty about our minivan decision. A car would have suited us fine. We didn't need the extra seats. We suffered multiple miscarriages and often doubted we would ever fill that van. Still it was our van and it really never brought us any trouble. Then came Bophie, then Juju, now we were thankful for the extra seats. More than eight years after purchasing the van, we finally hit capacity when Joseph and Gabe arrived within the span of a week.
Our family now (Ellie in utero). 

When we started Peter's adoption, we knew a new car was in order. We survived the first few months by driving two cars when we traveled as a family. I could still drive the kids around as needed without dh, but it was clear that we had outgrown the van we never thought we'd fill. Little Ellie's arrival sealed the deal. Now I couldn't even carry all the kids in the van, it was time for a new car.

So the new era is upon us. We've passed that family-size milestone into a truly large family and we have the van to prove it :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A New Era (Part I)

This week marked a very important first in our household... It was the first day our children left the house to go to school. The three older girls are attending a very small Catholic school in our area. It was a hard decision for us, but with five children under the age of five, (I cried uncle) we decided this was the year to try it out.
We are blessed to have this school so near us. The teachers know and faithfully practice their faith, the classes are small, and the curriculum is impressive (even to an overbearing homeschool mom). They pray the rosary daily, have morning prayers and lunch prayers, attend Mass regularly, and have a religion teacher with a well-known reputation for being amazing.

That being said, I miss my girls. I thought I'd miss their extra hands, but I've found I'm managing things well. I more miss their chatter. I miss teaching them. I miss being there when they grasp a new concept. I miss setting up our school area, going through the new books with them, hearing their opinions, talking to them about what we hope to accomplish.
I do like the quieter house. I feel less frazzled, those three hens add more than their share of cackling. I enjoy nursing little Ellie without worrying about trying to teach at the same time. I'm thankful to have the time to read to the Gabe and Peter and to take them for walks as we drop Juju and Joseph off at preschool. I still miss the girls though.

It isn't less work. Paperwork, drop-off and pick-up (I have to load all five little ones in their car seats), homework, lunch packing, and the million other little details take as much time as schooling did. It's just different demands, a different schedule, and different stresses. The jury is still out on which one works better for our family.
We've always said one year at a time... You just never know what the year will bring. The last three and a half years have brought five little children. It just changed things for us.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Juju's Genetics

A few weeks before little Ellie (my nickname for baby Mary Elizabeth) was born, we were having a dinnertime conversation with the girls about who the baby would look like. Dinnertime at our house can be a little loud as little ones vie for Mom and Dad's attention. In response to the question, each one was talking about how the baby would look remarkably just like them, which is funny because our biological children seemed to look so similar. Juju (our daughter from China) did not want to be left out of all the giggly chatter of her older sisters, so she quite loudly chimed in that her new sister would look just like HER!

She didn't really understand when we all laughed a little louder at the thought.

As we waited the arrival of baby sister, Juju became more convinced baby Murray (as Gabe calls her) would look just like her. When baby arrived and one of the nurses remarked about her head of dark hair, I knew Juju would just love that the baby had her hair!

When the girls visited, we talked about how she had Bear's nose and eye color, she had the shape and mouth of Bophie, and Banana's ears and feet-- but she had Juju's hair. Then a few days ago she had her first bath.

When she was all dried and snuggly, I took this picture of her fuzzy hair.

It made me think of this...

Friday, August 17, 2012

15 Years...

Last night as we finally went upstairs to sleep, dh and I made our nightly rounds checking on all the kids, then   went in our room to put the newest little one to sleep and finally hope to get some elusive sleep that is sometimes hard to come by with five children four and under. In those final moments before sleep I couldn't help but ask dh how we got here? How can it be that we have eight beautiful children? How is it possible we have been married fifteen years? In someways it seems we just met, and yet in other ways I have always known him. Tired from c-section recovery and the busy-ness that just is in our house, I barely got the questions out before my lead filled eyes could stay open any longer.

A few weeks ago I read this blog post. I immediately sent it to dh with the message, "I wish I could so eloquently speak these words to you."  The first paragraph put into beautiful words the way I feel about him. 
"I am madly in love with my wife.  I am not my own man, and I haven’t been since the first time I laid eyes on her.  With each passing hour, I surrender more of myself to her, sometimes imperceptibly, and at other times with a great decisiveness.  I felt it most strongly when we professed our vows before God and the Church, and again with the birth of each of our children.  Yet I feel it too every morning that I wake up, utterly aware that my life would have no meaning apart from her."
Of course how I feel about my husband/him :)

The blog post above made me think about my vocation to marriage. At one point Jake, the author, points out that marriage is meant to mirror the love between Christ and the Church, but not just marriage in general our marriage specifically. The love shared between Dh and I is an earthly reflection of the love between Christ and the Church. It was eye opening to think of my marriage in that light. 

As we came home from dinner we talked of how blessed we are to have our vocation, how blessed to have the graces given to us to live out this vocation. We were pondering the question of is there just one person out there for whom we were designed or is it that in a marriage those graces are made available to us? Both of us too tired to have such discussions (we do have a two week old newborn), decided it didn't matter. It was enough that we were together and given those graces. 

Fifteen years ago I never would have imagined the journey we have taken. Yet, here we are and I know that I wouldn't have it any other way. Our marriage has drawn me out of myself and made me more the person God intended. I am thankful for each day I am given the opportunity to grow closer to Our Lord through my wonderful dh. 

I love you David.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Welcome Mary Elizabeth

Our dear Mary Elizabeth made her entrance into the world. Her c-section was much easier than my last, and she and I are doing well.

It is amazing how even though this is our eighth child, those first cries still bring such joy. It just never grows old. 

There's just something about newborns. Mary has the cutest, but longest little baby toes I've ever seen. She has started making those sweet little noises when I am not quick enough to feed her. She even had a few little baby sneezes yesterday.

What an amazing blessing we have been given.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Birthdays and Braces

Today my oldest little one turns twelve. TWELVE. One more year and I have a teenager. How is this possible?

For her birthday, we had a special mom 'n daughter morning of ridiculously overpriced, but fantastic iced coffee drinks followed by a trip to the salon for manicures. We ended with a round of shopping. It was a wonderful morning. In some ways it is fun to have a child beginning to enjoy some of the things I do, in other ways it is scary. I'm realizing again how important it is for me to keep my own vices in check, but that's another post...

My Banana is becoming quite a young lady and she makes me very proud. She is chatty, chatty, chatty, and always inventing some new way to accomplish some task. Ask her to help unload the dishwasher and you will most likely get a look, but pretend she owns a cleaning company and hire her to empty the dishwasher and she goes above and beyond. As I count down the days to the arrival of our newest child, I'm even more convinced that we are so blessed to have Banana as our oldest as I know she will be such a big help. She already is. More than helpful, she is learning to grow in virtue. Sometimes I wish those lessons came more quickly, but she is teaching me that I also need to grow in patience. It is amazing to watch her bloom.

In the midst of the trial of Peter's surgery and recovery, Banana got her braces. I think they make her look even older and I was amazed when I saw how much she no longer looked like a little girl. She carefully chose colors (purple and green) for the braces. Her careful color selections, her new short hair cut, the beginnings of primping, and she just is entering a new phase. Still she will always be this sweet girl to me.