It’s been quite the week and it’s only Wednesday morning. I was struck this morning by the reality that our choices truly matter. I can choose to wallow in this ick that is our life this week or I can choose to laugh and persevere. I choose the higher road!
You see nothing is as it seems. Nate was so proactive and acquired a hotel room for Sunday night so that he and the big kids could get a good night’s sleep before testing. They could leave the house at 6:15 to get to the testing sight or they could sleep closer to the facility and keep everyone happier before testing. However, this is where the choices begin. Thinking Nate & big kids enjoying a fun dinner before heading to the hotel, I’m left with a few unaccounted hours before bedtime. I could run a quick errand to pick up milk (which of course we have none) and a few things for art class. I load up the little kids and head to Sam’s. Closed. Okay. Detour. Wal-Mart it is then. I send a quick email from the front seat as everyone gets unbuckled, only to realize Clare has moved to my side and throws up all over the floor and front seat. Well then. Sorry future shoppers, she did finish her business in the parking lot. Forgive me, but a car of people versus the concrete, I chose outside the vehicle. I strip her down shoving her soiled clothes into a bag. (Thinking we are still going to finish our shopping, she starts to cry realizing there’s no clothes to wear. “Mommy, people will laugh at me if I have no clothes.” Oh sweet girl. We are going home without milk.) I drive with the windows down praying for clean air. Unload the kids. Bathe them. PJs on kids and everyone in the nursery, even 19 month olds who is surely not tired after a late nap. Now back to the van to wash off the floor mats. Thank you Lord for floor mats!
Choice opportunity #2 this week. 4 a.m. and one almost 5 year old throws up on the bedroom/hallway carpet. Okay, so maybe earlier she wasn’t car sick. Shower done. Clothes changed. Sleepy girl sent back to bed. Carpet scrubbed. Laundry towels started. Mommy crawls into bed. I take a deep breath and hear 3 year old crying from the same bedroom. I go in to see a look of horror on her face as she declares she just pooped in her pajamas and spit up on her blanket. Well then. Shower #2 done. Clothes changed. Bed made on mommy’s floor. Sheets and blankets added to earlier towel laundry and restarted. I crawl back into bed (after changing my own clothes for good measure) and quickly realize said 3 year old on the floor is no longer tired. Cue the Roku and a kids’ movie. Dozing in and out of sleep is as good as it gets. Clare wakes to throw up a few more times, but without incident. Let’s just say I am so thankful she is almost 5 and can run to the bathroom to do her business.
Monday, 1 p.m. coming home from standardized testing, Michael gets out of the car to help pick up milk at the store, and bends over to spew onto the parking lot behind the van. Well then. You are on Daddy’s watch at that point. Whew.
Early morning PT for me on Tuesday (this PT manual soft tissue work is no joke y’all), but everyone at home is feeling fine and spunky. It’s been almost 24 hours, let’s go get free lunch at The Grub! Super fun and very yummy!
Now. Time to rush! Pick up some friends. Drive 20 minutes. Teach a 2 hour art class; today it is difficult concepts for homeschoolers not accustomed to a group dynamic. Scissor skills. Following directions. Staying on pace with the group. Lots of perseverance, a few extra adult hands (thank you ladies), and I can say they did it. The sunflower pictures turned out great!
Rush home with 15 minutes to spare. Time to tutor a precious little boy who I haven’t seen all month. Sent the kids outside with a snack and the older ones with homework while they supervise the play, only to hear, “Mom. She just threw up.” Well then. Choice #3. Cancel tutoring while taking off soiled clothing. Send naked child upstairs to get clothes from daddy (who is supposed to be working from home and hidden in the master bedroom). Disinfect the bathroom for at least the 3rd time this week, scrub the floor with OnGuard cleaner, wipe down the faucet and door, and inform the 12 year old that normally walking a sick child through the house isn’t the best idea. Let her finish her business outside and use the hose. 3-year-old comes back down and promptly goes back outside to play. What is it with little ones bouncing back? However, it had been 36+ hours and she’s sick again. Seriously? More carpet to clean. More laundry. Admittedly, while scrubbing I allowed the feelings of guilt to take root. Guilt that I had potentially shared our germs with those at the restaurant (our friends especially) and the kids at Art Class. How could I be so irresponsible? [The devil uses every moment he can, right?]
Early to bed for everyone. 2 a.m. and 12-year-old wakes me with her great news. Now. 4/5 are sick or have been sick. Sweet girl. It always hits the oldest ones the hardest. Not good! However bittersweet, she’s independent, mature enough, and ultimately cares for herself.
Unaware of Katie’s night, Daddy goes in to wake Michael for their early morning drive (the Sunday night hotel before testing wasn’t such a restful thing after all). After opening the door, it’s clear someone is sick. Let the hunt begin. Phone flashlights are awesome. Choice #4. It’s the baby who happens to now be sound asleep. You know, after having 5 kids, a smart mother would consider all the options before putting her children to bed. Why, oh why, did I not remove all the stuffed animals from his crib. (They are his companions, he makes a little sleeping nest surrounded by and on top of them.) Where to begin? Remove all stuffed animals and blankets and begin laundry immediately. Remove baby from soiled crib, strip him down in the laundry room only to watch his pathetic, heart-wrenching pleas for his beloved stuffed animals a mere foot from his head and oh so off limits. Bath water run with a few drops of OnGuard Essential Oil for good measure. New clothes for both of us. Now to consider the nursery. Purify EO in the diffuser to clean the air. Trash bag in hand to take bedding straight to the dumpster outside. (My dearest mommy friend taught me long ago, sometimes it is better to just throw it away.) Wipe down plastic crib mattress. Reassemble with baby safe bedding.
[Despite the fact that he sleeps with his stuffed animals, I do take extra care to keep his belly-sleeping body from resting on the plastic infant mattress. Yes. I do all the things we are told not to do; but I also entrust my children to the Lord, trust His plan for their life, love hard on my children every day, and make decisions relevant to the overall good of our family.]
Add OnGuard to the nursery diffuser. Change laundry so baby who continues to walk to the laundry room begging for his friends and crying, will soon have dry, clean companions to love.
Choice #5. Oh no. Fiberfill everywhere!! Which of the crib friends lost their filling during their wash? Sure enough. With each item pulled from the washing machine, it has to be hand picked for lint before being put into the dryer. Yes. Everything. It’s hard to believe that this newest little companion has any stuffing left. I guess once he gets resewn, he’ll be extra snuggly in his new squishier self. It is in this moment when I realize I need to make friends with this family blog of ours. As I pull a clump of lint from here and another from here and another from there, I look at my week from above.
Anyone who has ever cared for sick children knows that it is tough. The uncertainty of unknown eruptions is tough. Holding children who aren’t acting like themselves is tough. The endless laundry is always tough, on any given day. Food choices always possess an element of doubt…will they eat it? How much should they eat? Is it bland enough as not to aggravate an already uneasy tummy? Do I give in to the pleas for milk? How often should they eat? Where does it end, right?
I imagine in my less mature days of motherhood, I would have been completely overwhelmed. I think I can recall having been there, but God is good to smudge the clarity of those memories. Today, I choose to be thankful that there are little ones in my house that still need me. I choose to recall an article I just read about coveting the vacuum lines in the carpet. It is an unmet desire in my house too, but it is unmet because I have beautiful children, five of them, who live in this house 24/7. One day I will have clean floors, vacuum lines that last for days, laundry that isn’t begging to be done daily, and beds that haven’t had people sleeping in them at all. There will be no middle-of-the-night footsteps to my bedside waking me from a peaceful sleep to tell me I have choices to make.
So. Today, I pray that God allows me to remember this week. That he reminds me to treasure the moments I have here with my kids. To read another book, even if the words are read slowly and have only three letters. To remember what it felt like to have little bodies pressing to get as close as possible just to be part of the action of a slowly read book with only three-letter words. This. This is what I love. This is the simple moments of my mommy days that often get overlooked and yet these are the ones I want to remember most. Above, I listed six moments I had an opportunity to make a choice, but really, I make choices all day. Today, I’m simply reminded that these choices can have lasting consequences despite the fact that it really only effects a half dozen people or so.
Today we will stay home. Tomorrow we will stay home. Friday we will stay home and maybe even this weekend we will stay home. (You see, I never want to be one of those irresponsible moms who take their children around the world while they are sick. I really just didn’t suspect. I thought the rule was 24 hours.) Instead, I choose to be joyous in this change of plans. Thank you Lord for reminding me to slow down, for forcing me to be content with my crew. Grant us health, please. Pretty please, but thank you too for this opportunity. I choose to treasure it…all of it!
Oh my. I so love this feast day. Normally, for ease of everyone, we celebrate as a family on Epiphany Sunday. However, this year, we needed a few more days. Wednesday, January 6th, traditionally Epiphany, was this year’s celebration day. For the last five years, we have marked this day with a special family meal, often using the wedding china and wine glasses for everyone. After having taken her cooking classes, Katie asked to make this year’s meal. Sweet & Sour chicken and fried rice was a nice treat for all of us. Even Grana, who doesn’t typically like sweet and sour, happily ate it and saved the extras for leftovers. It was really yummy and super exciting for me to not cook. Dinner at 4:30 allowed the boys to get to their Cub Scout meeting by 6:30.
After dinner, it’s the much anticipated gift giving. The family spends the days between Christmas and Epiphany crafting gifts for one another. The gifts must be homemade and budgets are minimal. We often craft throughout the year, so it’s likely that we will have at the very least basic supplies.
A few months ago, I spoke with Nate about combining efforts and pulling off a joint gift. I needed his help implementing the concept. I gathered the cards and medals, painted the patron dolls, and cut the stickers. He found the boxes, hand cut the holes, and painted them. I love the new patron saint place cards for our table. (More to come in a different blog post about these little boxes.)
It was so fun, although quite difficult to plan my own gifts and also help the little girls each accomplish something to give. For their first year participating, they made gifts for Katie and Michael and each other only. Clare was especially so excited to sneak around crafting her things and then hiding them away so they wouldn’t be found before our celebration! Clare struggled to fully comprehend the concept of this celebration. She thought Christmas was over. She wasn’t sure everyone was making her gifts as she only made a few. It was really sweet watching reality sink in and her excitement grow!
Everyone loves making things for the baby. It’s so easy. An ornament goes a long ways as he doesn’t have a preference, right?!
Michael had some great ideas in the beginning but struggled more than years past with his implementation and timing. He follows in his dad’s last minute footsteps more than Katie & I. It makes me a tad crazy for sure! He pulled it off in the eleventh hour and everyone was so happy with his gifts. I love his smile in these pictures and his own excitement at giving and the anticipation of what would be placed in his hand. It’s funny how not wrapping the gifts adds its own allure. He told everyone his favorite thing was cats, so he got cats!
Katie was so very proud of her gifts this year, and was especially independent and creative in planning and executing her things. I couldn’t be more proud. She actually was finished with 2 or 3 days to spare. Yes. I was very jealous!!
So another Epiphany is in the books and already a little conversation about next year’s ideas. I love it. This is indeed one of my most favorite traditions. I love how the kids get so excited to GIVE gifts. I love the anticipation before and during our celebration. I don’t even recall how this tradition came about, or for that matter, when we started it, but it has definitely become a highlight of our year. God bless us all and the example of the Kings! Our decorations will start to come down tomorrow! Boohoo. However, one final MERRY CHRISTMAS from our house to yours!
Call me a sap, but tonight there’s so many things going through my head.
We just left the theater; Nate & I and the two big kids. I left tonight feeling happy. Happy that we had spent a total of $11 on four tickets, four medium popcorns, and two large drinks. (Thank you Deal Flicks!) Happy because of a strong sense of nostalgia; a homecoming of characters and storylines. This Star Wars #7 was a beautiful mix of old and new. I found my heart happy to see old friends, to revisit familiar storylines mixed with new lines, and of course the wonder of what is to come in the next two episodes. The pull of the force and that inner light has a depth of beauty beyond Hollywood’s grasp. Nostalgia yes, but God’s guidance even more.
A conversation on the drive home with a friend contained such a strong sense of peace and contentment, something we haven’t seen in them in a long while. Of course, there’s always a mix of real-life, but tonight, I heard such simple love. Another boost to my overflowing happy emotions.
While getting ready for bed, someplace I thought I would be long ago already, I was reading a very beautiful blog post about adoption and how it changes your heart forever. It’s something Nate and I have always considered, but with our hands quite full now, it’s not where we feel God is leading. However, my heart is so instantly touched by the idea and especially to hear the stories of those who have walked and continue to walk that journey. God bless us all! (You can read the blog HERE. Simply beautiful and God’s provisions immense!)
My mommy heart was moved again just a few short seconds later at the sound of Max’s whimpers from the nursery. He sees me enter the room and he stands up to greet me asking to be held. After not being home tonight to put him to bed, of course, I happily indulged a late night snuggle. He immediately rested onto my shoulder in that perfect little crook next to my cheek.
Having woke up herself, Clare whispers, “Papa?” (who was the one to put her to bed tonight). “No, Clare, it’s actually daddy (who had come in to deliver some water to Max). Good night and go back to sleep.” What’s her response in that ever so sweet, I’m half asleep whisper? “Thanks for coming back!” It was the final straw in my already emotionally overflowing heart. There was such an onslaught of goodness tonight. Her words were a stirring that I couldn’t ignore. As I held a sleepy 15 month old, I pondered our sweet four year old girl’s words, “Thanks for coming back.”
Is that not what God had been saying to me all night?
Sara, thanks for coming back. Thanks for allowing your heart to be stirred by my love. I showed it to you a zillion different ways. Thank you for coming back, for hearing my voice, for responding to the love that I have to give you. It’s here, in these simple everyday moments of those around you. Tonight, you have simplified life and can hear the simplest of my messages. “Thanks for coming back!”
Okay my dear Jesus, as I crawl into bed, officially after typing these last words, how do you want me to come back to you? When I wake tomorrow morning, in what ways shall my day be different? In what ways are you calling me to COME BACK?
Thank you for your stirrings my Lord. I’m listening in this Christmas peace. The season is only beginning! Please keep stirring!
Oh happy days. I have always known that my heart belonged with children. In college, I never doubted my training to be a teacher, a special ed teacher to be more specific. I always knew what I wanted to do. Actually, there was a time when I was growing up that I talked about becoming a pediatrician, until I considered the implications that career choice might have on my own family, and decided teaching was better. I’m forever thankful for my training both in and out of the classroom. I have been (professionally) teaching since college; 16 1/2 years.
I never actually taught in a special ed classroom outside my student teaching, but I gained even more than I could have imagined! While teaching KG, before becoming a mom and staying home with our kids, I learned so much about taking a group of kids and lifting them to greater heights no matter where they started.
These past 12 years, I have been tutoring and teaching PSR (Sunday school classes) at our parish. This current year, I have had the privilege of guiding 5 student mentors as they assist in different classrooms within the Monday night program. I also have 3 others that are volunteering in the nursery making my two youngest quite happy. Elizabeth loves to go to her “school” and of course Max gets lots of loving! I hear he snuggles the entire hour with Ms. Stacy. I have so loved coaching these preteens and teens in how to help in the classroom, but admittedly this year I’ve begun to miss the classroom experience myself.
I had the great opportunity when I first started teaching to be mentored by an incredible woman and a few others along the way. This particular lady spent regular nights after school coaching me in how to bring the best out of my students. I was very literally drowning that first year teaching, and desperate to survive. What I got was so much more than survival. I fell in love with my students that year and their families. I worked harder than I ever imagined and I grew tremendously as a person and a teacher. So many of the things this precious woman taught me I have used as a parent, and of course still use as a teacher both to my kids and in my other teaching endeavors. I learned to die to myself. She made me practice, while sitting in her office, my stern face. Imagine practicing, right? I learned to convey so much with body language, both as an opportunity for redirection or direct discipline. A smile can be equally as effective if used deliberately and with sincerity. I learned how to communicate with parents about their child’s successes and struggles. I learned to create lesson plans that were engaging and appropriate to the age and time of day of my students. I learned how to love children, all children and turn their struggles into so much goodness. I will never be able to say thank you enough for all Judy taught me as my dean and guide so many years ago. I am so thankful to be learning from her again through her regular updates HERE.
I have always prayed for my students and whatever particular obstacle had presented itself. It was in one particular moment, after that first year, that I distinctly understood my teaching vocation was not about changing the particular student who didn’t fit the norm, but changing myself to fit God’s plan for this child. That is my focus even now when addressing a student in and out of the classroom. (I wish I could say I do as well with my own children! God help me.) How can I adapt this lesson, this classroom, this moment to bring out the best in this child? I was with a dear friend today and she said something (speaking about her young daughter) so poignant and something I had lost sight of until she reminded me; “We have to be so careful to not set her up to fail.”
It is so easy in the classroom to become focused on the negative, to allow a child to derail THE plan for the lesson, to think that it is all about me and my expectations. Much of that is true. It IS all about me as the adult and my expectations for this child, but what are my expectations and how have I set him/her up to succeed? Have I emphasized the positive? Have I prayed? Have I inquired of the parents and offered parental support and collaboration? Have I considered in what ways I’m called to grow through this situation?
As I mentor these young volunteers, I am reminded of all the ways we can make a difference. I have seen these middle and high school kids grow themselves as they have taken on this responsibility, check in with me before and after class asking for advice, and take a vested interest in the religious formation of their partnered student. They have been trained, are receiving on-going training in classroom management, peer-to-peer support, redirection tactics, relevant expectations for 5pm on a Monday night, and of course love for the child. It brings me great joy and hope for the hearts and souls within this partnership. I’m honored to be part of it.
However, tonight, I got a rare opportunity. I got to lead Clare’s preschool class in their Advent lesson this last class before Christmas. I have used this particular book since my first year teaching. It is from a Protestant publisher, but I so love its sweet presentation and the opportunity to interact with the Christmas story. It tells the stories through the eyes of the animals who were there. Tonight, not only did I bring animals, but I also considered the ways in which the kids could become animals and interact with the story on a different level.
The sparrow who sat in the tree and saw the angel appear to Mary, was a gift from Grana when Katie was two and astonishingly still chirps. I found it tonight in the eleventh hour in Max’s toy box. In our stash of the FisherPrice Little People, I managed to find all the Christmas characters from our nativity set and several animals pulled from the Noah’s Ark set. The kitty (actually seven of them for the seven kids in tonight’s preschool class) who lived in the Inn and showed Mary & Joseph where her kitties had been born, came from Clare’s Littlest Pet Shop collection. The cricket who lived in the stable in Bethlehem and chirped baby Jesus a lullaby was purchased at Pet Smart this afternoon. Oh yes. I brought live crickets to help me tell tonight’s story. They sat briefly in the manager scene in the sanctuary and of course were carried by everyone at some point tonight as we walked through the Church experiencing each part of our story. (You can find the book information HERE.)
We ended the last few minutes of class in the classroom coloring a wooden block that would become a birthday present for Jesus on Christmas morning. When Katie was very small she was adamant that we give Jesus a present. Certainly unprepared for this parental moment, I looked around the house for something to wrap and pretend to be a present. She tells me this afternoon that it was a wooden abc block. Good grief. That oldest girl of mine doesn’t forget anything. We left for Church that Christmas morning with block in hand. In fact, as I recall, she held that block all through Mass. After Mass, as we visited Jesus in the manager, she put her present next to him as we said a prayer. Of course, tonight I encouraged the preschoolers to give Jesus his gift in their own manager scenes at home. We’ll see if Clare remembers and offers it to Jesus Christmas morning. By the way, I love THIS book also for the preschool/KG kids.
My heart is filled with JOY in this third week of Advent. Our lights are on at home. Teacher gifts have been delivered these last few days. My teacher’s heart is full, and I love my sweet Clare just a little more for the moments she gave me tonight. This moment, right now, reflecting on the day, reminds me how important it is to be joyful! To turn moments of trial into moments of joy can do the soul a lot of good! I’m going to try to find more ways to find joy in the everyday moments. Yea for weekly virtues!
Oh happy days. We inherited a skinny tree from friends and have finally removed the old lights and spent part of the day beginning to restring it. Stringing lights really is not so much my thang. It will be pretty though and I’m so happy to have a smaller tree that will fit in our space. Although pretty from the street to put it in the front room, we are really never out there to truly enjoy it. I think I’ll like it much more here in the midst of our true living space. Nate so loves colored lights that we have used colored lights for many years now. Colored it is again this year too.
Tonight, the vigil of the 3rd Sunday of Advent, also means we get to turn on our Christmas lights both inside and outside. Several years ago we added this date as a new tradition, sort of a mid-season anticipation. This year, Nate strung a few new strings, and added a super cool dome light to the porch. He’s so excited about this great little addition. I must admit that it does add a little something cool. We laughed though as we stood in the yard admiring it, that it’s the one time during the year that we wish the street light did not sit on our property. Ha.
Today also gave us an opportunity to assemble our gifts for the teachers and leaders of the kids’ various groups and classes. I’m always amazed when we actually start to count up the number of people who provide for our family throughout the year in this capacity. I tend to do different things each year. I sort of like finding a little something that does not come with a out-of-budget pricetag, but does have some sense of meaning. This year, it is candles and handsoap. As you can tell, everyone has female leaders. (This does not include the BoyScout leaders though. Still undecided there!)
This afternoon Katie’s AHG troop gathered at a nearby retirement center to sing carols. The older girls in the troop really have beautiful voices and are quite talented in adding harmony to these very common children’s songs. What a blessing to me to see them grow these past five years and now stand so confidently as leaders for this troop. Well done girls.
We do secretly (or not so secretly) hope that Grandma Hazel (soon to be 90 years old) will decide to move to Atlanta and enjoy the fun that is to be had at the retirement centers around our area. I foresee some great field trips for my little ones should we personally know a resident there.
Hope the start of your third week is blessed. Christmas is quickly approaching!
BTW….I have been listening to Josh Groban’s NOEL album while writing this post. The album happens to be free on GooglePlay today! Go download it if you don’t already own it.
Oh how very, very thankful I am that Katie’s American Heritage Girls, Troop 0413, was able to gather enough leadership to remain an active troop. It remains a tremendous undertaking and an incredible act of generosity and love on the part of the leadership team. I’m forever grateful!
What an incredible Joining Awards Ceremony tonight. We’ve been through this particular event yearly since beginning with the troop 4 years ago, but tonight it appeared the night was truly centered around all things right. There was a profound sense of leadership and virtue and offered all for Christ’s greater glory. It began in a powerful opening prayer calling graces upon each girl and family member, continuing in the recitation of virtues by those joining AHG and our troop, in their presentation of song, the lighting of their candle, and of course the camaraderie with one another. I’m so proud of this troop and honored to be a very small part of it.
Katie has grown so very much within American Heritage Girls and continues to truly love the girls and the programming. I appreciate the leadership team who is extraordinarily keen on growing leadership skills in each of its members, but particularly its higher level groups. What a special and unique opportunity for the future women of our Church and society.
Tonight I learned that the pack numbers were chosen based on a scripture passage. How very special and a detail that somehow I never knew.
Philippians 4:13 : I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.