Sunday, August 9, 2015
Saturday, July 11, 2015
I know I haven't been posting as much. My days are busy, of course, which prevents me from doing as I always please. Also, the pace in summer just encourages a relaxed take on life. The is always so much I could, or want to say. The kids teach me new things every day. I love them. I love watching them. I love seeing them grow and discover the world right in their own back yard. These are some recent peeks at what they've been up to.
(Discovering how a magnifying glass works, our new rope swing, parade, pool party, grotto, picnic,orchard, blueberry picking, water balloon toss, heritage day medal)
Friday, July 10, 2015
They were hysterical crying.
Tom and Mike were being brave but fighting off tears and sadness themselves. I cuddled them all together in the family room and told them it was sad, yes, but that part of having chickens is knowing something could get at them.We've been awful lucky so far losing only a few in three years time. My words didn't console them at all and my hugs seemed to help only a little. Suddenly Michael asked if it was okay for us to pray the rosary. The girls all enthusiastically agreed we should pray the rosary for Hot-Dog too, and how could I argue with that logic?
So, we sat and prayed a decade for Hot-Dog.
Afterwards, I set them all to work so they wouldn't keep up being sad all day. I keep thinking of how good it was that they had that place to bring their grief when my words couldn't help and the hurt was so fresh. It is good to have a place to turn when the reality of life is harsh. For me too. A place found inside themselves that oddly takes them outside themselves, to trust and gain strength and consolation- it is as close to them as their own breath. God is even closer than that, and while children are first taught faith, they also seem to know it so much better and deeper than we all do most days. They live closer to God in their littleness, I see it every day.
Thanks for all the eggs Hot-Dog, and for helping teach my kids ( and me) about God and heaven. Who would've thought you would be so very useful?
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Freddy and I are total S-U-C-K-E-R-S for arcades and carnivals. I don't think I ever passed up a game of skee ball in my life. This morning was over cast, making it the perfect day for the boardwalk. ALL of us went downtown and grabbed pizza for lunch then amused ourselves with sand sculptures and colorful kites flying up and down the beach. The real fun was the arcade loot though. For just 20 dollars worth of quarters, we managed to win about 4500 tickets which were then redeemed into various toys. We're pretty excited about our selection as are the kids.
Prizes included (but we're not limited to) the following:
1 rubber band gun (thomas)
1 tongue tatoo
1 52 in kite (matt)
1 mermaid doll (lolo)
1green irridescent fiber optic nightlight(fred)
1 oikin pig (Mary and Sarah pooled their tickets- but Mary insists 'it's still a little more' hers)
1 blue stuffed elephant (Pete)
1 duck dynasty beard (Ellie)
Way too many tootsie rolls and gum balls
Monday, May 25, 2015
So, we've been having a ridiculous amount of fun. Way, way more than we deserve. My sister is such a hoot to hang out with that my kids haven't stopped laughing and giggling since she arrived.
Then something sort of went wrong. Fred noticed the hvac wasn't working properly. It kept humming, so to be polite he called and let the front desk know (cause-he-notices-how-everything-works-and-when-its-not-up-to-speed #carpenter).
So, Peter calls us while we are at the boardwalk and says our room keys don't work, and the guy at the front desk had been looking for us cause they're going to make us switch rooms. I tell Peter I don't believe him and say he should quit joking. #hesnotjoking.
Next thing we know, they have moved us to the penthouse, cause.... why?
Because this vacation is awesome! Every room has a view of the ocean. Since it took them a few hours longer than they anticipated to clean it, they gave us a dozen free passes to the in house skating rink.
Life is good.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Sunday, May 10, 2015
So as I sat in mass last night I was turning these things over in my mind, wondering how to allow my kids to celebrate without drawing a whole lot of unwanted attention to myself. My thoughts kept going back to one of C.S. Lewis' reflections entitled "The Perfect church service".
“Every church service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best– if you like, it ‘works’ best– when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it." C.S.Lewis
It really struck me that this applies also to Motherhood. Good mothering is the 'long familiarity' process in the life of your child. Good mothering brings a sense of safety, security, happiness, stability, order, and love to a family. It is the force that allows children to grow up and get on with their own lives without having to worry and struggle daily over food, drink and the grown -up anxieties of life. Good mothering fades to the background so the life or lives it supports can get on with it and learn to fly. It makes itself unnoticed.
As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance.A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling." C.S. Lewis
As a consequence most Mom's who are getting things right are likely to ask themselves questions like "Do they really know how much I have given up for them? Do they have any idea of how much I care? Will they ever understand How much of my life I have poured into them each day in the countless unnoticed acts of mothering like cooking, cleaning, washing, teaching, nursing, loving, and praying?" Be careful with how you answer this one- it's liable to make you feel neglected, and under-appreciated if you dwell on it too long. The answer isn't as simple as it seems, at least it isn't for me.
The truth is I don't think I ever really appreciated my own Mom while she was with me. I called her regularly, had a great relationship, shared the same values she did, and was overall very close to her. Yet the moment she was gone,and many times since then, I wanted most of all to be able to go back and simply thank her again for the endless love she showered on me and my siblings. Her love was so strong and steady and powerful that I grew accustomed to it, and took it for granted. But here's the catch- I think she meant for me to. I think she wanted me to know that I didn't have to wonder if she would be there, or if she cared, she wanted her love to be so certain and stable so that I didn't have to worry or fret about it, but could simply move forward secure in it. I say this because it is what I want for my own kids and what most moms that I talk to desire for their children as well.
Last night Freddy took four of the boys out and I put the little girls down early. Peter and JP were at home with me on a Saturday night while I graded tests for my sixth grade class, and did some planning. Peter asked me what I wanted for Mother's day, and I told him nothing. Then he stopped and asked "Mom, what do you get out of being a Mom?" and I could feel a serious conversation spring up in the room for the three of us. You all know that is an impossible question to answer. Telling him he gives my world form and meaning and that I have learned to love by being a mother and to be human, sounds so silly even when its true. The chance to take a little soul and shape that person for eternity is pretty heady stuff and not easy to translate into words. Sort of like the dandelions that get pressed into my hand as a sign of affection from my little ones. On their own they are weeds, but when given to me by my sweet child they are transformed into heavenly treasures only a fool couldn't see.
The conversation died down and I went back to my work. Next thing I knew, and without warning, I was being scooped up by the big strong arms of my second eldest son. He didn't want to look at me when he spoke because, just like when he was little, he is still a bit shy even of his own feelings. So he picked me up instead and hugged me and whispered in my ear "I never know what to do for you for mothers day, because the truth is I never thought I deserved a Mom like you. And I wish there was a way to say thank you for always making dinner, and cleaning, and teaching us, and giving us a good life, but I still don't know how to do it. But I really do love you even if I don't deserve you." and then he let go and left me in a puddle of my own tears and it took me five whole minutes to pull it all back together.
The truth is, we all deserve that kind of love. That unconditional steady support. The kind of love that is so strong and certain it goes unnoticed like the air we breathe, or the heart that beats in our chest. The less attention it draws to itself the better it is. It creates a place for people to become human. It is all worth it. Being a mother is the stuff of life.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
We wondered where we would send Andrew to school and after talking about the local schools in town, Freddy commented "Or- you could home-school him". I stopped and looked at him oddly, growing up on Long Island didn't afford me a whole lot of exposure to home schoolers. "Isn't that what backwards people do?" Fred wasn't surprised by my remark, and simply said "No, and Robert
( his boss at the time) and Mary Rose home-school their five kids, and they are the nicest kids I have ever met." Interestingly, what I really always wanted was nice kids, good kids, real kids- so this adjective Fred used was a good fit. It resonated with me. I asked how they got books, and he mentioned he thought it was possible to order them. So I tucked the idea into the back of my head, and pretty much forgot about it.
At five years old I drove Andrew to his first day of Kindergarten while I carried Peter on my hip over my pregnant-with-John-Paul-belly. I dropped him off and the teacher told me when to pick him back up. I took Pete home to make a little headway on the house while his older brother was away for a precious few hours. When I came back the teacher told me Andrew had thrown a bit of a tantrum, but not to worry, he would get used to it. I was surprised as he didn't do that at home. I blew it off and figured it would get easier. Second day was pretty much the same as the first, except I enjoyed those few easier hours without Andrew better than I had imagined. The third day arrived.When pick up time came, he had thrown another tantrum and was visibly red faced when I arrived. The teacher mentioned to me that she also was in charge of the pre-school ( small town) and that she would happily take Pete as well. I asked about Andrew and once again he had thrown a fit when I left but she reassured me that "he would get used to it" and I walked him out of the building secretly wondering what I would do with those delicious hours of freedom from Andrew and Peter I was about to have!
And it was right then that it happened. I was so struck by how quickly I wanted to get rid of them, not for good, but just for a few peaceful hours to myself. As I buckled them in and fit my pregnant belly under the steering wheel of my Chrysler LeBaron convertible ( wedding present from Freddy), a conversation unfolded between me and God. I was married only a few years by this point and only a few children into this growing family and already I felt parts of me wanted out.
I was so sick with my pregnancies, all of them, dreadfully, mercilessly sick.
We were poor and broke. Always.
Kids were cute but also a whole lot of work.
I never slept anymore.
And as I rode home I realized that this teacher was offering me a small way out. Just a little reprieve. And Andrew would get used to it, I knew he would, as would Peter and I. And I remembered my wedding vows that day, and my promise to love and cherish Freddy and accept children lovingly from the Lord and I knew that so far I was a failure.
So I brought the kids into the kitchen at home and I knelt down before Andrew and I asked him "Do you want to go to school tomorrow?" and he answered "No, I want to be with you" and I looked him square in the eye and told him that he didn't have to . I told him he didn't have to go to back to school that I would teach him and Peter at home from then on.
So our home-school was born, not out of pride or some queer sense I could do better- (in fact I was terrified I would wreck them all given I had only a high school education)- or some religious reasons, but because I felt that I should at least try to give motherhood a chance. And for me homeschooling was a part of being faithful to my husband and my kids and my vows. What I hoped to gain from it was "nice and good kids" and my only goal post for myself was that I felt I had to be able to at least do what they would get from the local public school had they been enrolled there.
I only ever home school one year at a time. I didn't start out saying "I will home-school Andrew through High School", I just wanted to make it through kindergarten. Ditto for first grade . And second grade on up. The thought of home schooling for lets just say -five years- is way too much for me to mentally handle without getting desperate, so I just sign on for small bites and don't think about what's next. Which was a good thing since each year brought a new baby and a new grade, and a new amount of work to juggle.
Since to me, this decision was more about a promise between me and God I always counted on him to help me get through it. If I lived up to my end of the bargain and kept going, I expected He would as well. This thought consoled me on many a morning when I was pregnant or nursing a, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth or tenth child and I could not climb back under the covers into bed (after I woke and immediately got sick for all ten pregnancies every.single.day.til.delivery) or I would finish school work for the day and realize I hadn't done any real house work yet, and needed to begin what felt like a second full time job.
What I learned most during all those years of meeting new Moms and new homeschooling friends is that we all come to home school for very different reasons. We all have different goals. We are all hiding from the outside world that we really live a double life as school teacher and also as wife/mother that on many or most days, is grueling.
When Andrew and Peter graduated High School it was one of the proudest days of my life. But because I had only home-schooled one year at a time, we still didn't know what the following year/years would bring. Peter had decided to try community college ( yes, even now finances are a determining issue) and Andrew insisted he wanted to get a job.
This nagged at me.
I don't ever ask Fred to be the bad cop, but shortly before that Fall came along I told Fred I didn't care how he did it, but he was to get Andrew to at least try a course at the community college. He agreed to and after much cajoling Andrew was signed up for a few classes. He hated me, but he was signed up. A few weeks in, he found his niche. He decided he'd like to go into law enforcement. I was pleased. He finishes his Associates in a few weeks, and so once again he decided it was time to get serious about work. But again, a nagging took hold of me.
I asked him to apply to University of Maryland. He was bothered again (I have witnesses). But by now we really do know each other well enough and he knew he wasn't getting out of it without a rejection letter, so he submitted his application. He was called in for an interview for a scholarship based on his GPA and essay. On Thursday, after weeks of waiting by the mailbox he got his letter of acceptance and a full scholarship to UMB.
I don't know how to tell you how proud I am of him.
After I hugged him and Fred hugged him and Rachel hugged him and the little ones hugged him, he stood back and he said "This is all because of God, I know that now. This wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been guiding me."
And I nodded and thought to myself how right he is, and how smart he is, and mostly ... how nice and good he is.