Monday, February 8, 2016

John Beilein Interview-Sacrifice and Dedication

Love this interview with my Uncle John (my mom is his oldest sister) and everything he has to say about hard work, competition, the drive that is necessary as the sole provider for his family, growing up in a big family, peas and toast mentality (you get what you get and you like it!), the "Greatest Generation", and my wonderful Aunt Kathleen who is one of my top mother mentors.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Red Gatorade and Face "Fime"

Eating our breakfast eggs.  I am going strong on Whole30 and love it. Jeff asked me what is one thing I could eat off the plan and I said, "Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate" and he said, "Do you want to take some time to think about it?"  But honestly I feel SO much better I don't miss anything that much.

Working out with me.

Face "fiming" Abbey. Janey asks to facetime Abbey and Isaac every night. One morning she woke up and said, "Did Abbey leave? Did Abbey leave?" because she was having some sort of dream about her. So sweet.

I put some chicken on the grill for lunch and went up "just to straighten upstairs really quick".  Darn. I should know better.

Tea party. She asks all day long to sit with her at this little table and play. 

I am going to soak up the baby cheeks and lips as long as I can.

And thankfully I don't have a picture of this (that would be weird) but we had a stomach bug (knock on wood, only one child) who drank a red Gatorade at a relative's house the night before he was sick in a nice trail from his bed to our bed.  I have never been a Gatorade buyer but from this point on I have announced that red Gatorade will never be consumed by any member of my family till I am dead in the ground. I worked on that stain forever and I am now calling in professional help.

A reader sent me this lovely article. It is wonderful to read this message. My Dad worked two jobs for a long long long time so we could manage while my mom stayed home. I love how this mother is so appreciative of this.  I wish a story like this would be published every month on the front page of every newspaper.

I love this. I have been thinking about this quote from the article:
"My husband and I had similar values — we talked a lot about what was best for our children and the decisions we made, we made together. It was never about what we read, what the new research showed, or what other parents were doing. It was about our own children and what we thought was best."

I will link to this article also, because it's one of my favorites on sticking our heads in the sand and I think it's the right message.  

"We cannot properly tend to our God given duties when we are trying to solve the world’s problems by debating others online.  Or shushing a 4-year-old’s joy over a newly painted picture because we are engrossed in a news article.  As we fill our time with researching these disturbing world events, anxiety crowds out faith, hope and charity at an alarming rate.  We grow tense, short tempered and depressed.  We suddenly realize how out of control we really are.  And how vulnerable.  We get scared.  And our family suffers."

We are doing big work and part of that big work is protecting our moods and our mental clarity and FOCUSING on the task at hand. I really feel like this is key for mothers today. There is too much exposure to experts, articles, experiences, advice.  Too much advice that is NOT homegrown. Too much information in general, and not enough attention at hand.

I also understand the hypocrisy of my words as I link to two articles and type a blog. Of course we all really are "forced" in many ways also to use the internet today. But I have learned I must keep my world very small right now to feel settled and happy. Thank God I know what "normal" feels like since I didn't grow up with all this instantaneous widespread interaction-in the ancient times back then. I feel sorry for my own kid's generation who won't know what that feels like in their brains. I said in my last post I think, that I don't think our brains are meant to process so much information-even if that information is good stuff-about family updates.  It's not all meant to be coming at us at once constantly.

We are in the thick of basketball season with some overlapping indoor soccer but it feels so manageable now that Janey is three. One of my New Year's Resolutions (boy I have a lot) is to do things without rushing NO MATTER WHAT. No matter if we will be late (I hate being late), I will remain calm. I have successful at this almost all the time, but I wonder if it's more just because of the time of my life. 

It was SO SO difficult to be somewhere with a nursing baby or work around a nap schedule etc. I always felt such time pressure and the coordination sometimes made my head spin, and I was so so tired much of the time. I give so much credit to those families that I see in church with new babies. (I have been drooling in church as there are quite a few of chubby babies all around. I look at them coming back from Communion in their mother's arms with envy.  Why are they all dressed in those one piece pajama like outfits that accentuate those chubby baby thighs? Or asleep with their little mouths open and their cheeks squished on their parent's shoulder?  My mouth (and eyes) water.)

I want to remember the difficult things too. I was asked to speak at a mother's group in April and one of the things in the inquiry was that with my spread of ages I can still relate to younger mothers-it's not all this glossed over forgotten time period.  But I have to tell you-it's hard not to forget the baby stuff, the little things because of a broadened perspective of it all because all those days become sweet days. I don't want to though. I want to remember how much work it was raising all these kids-teenagers AND babies. Because it was (and still is sometimes) hard.  HARD. Really really draining. 

I want to remember bouncing on the darn exercise ball at 3 a.m. under the bathroom heater with a baby who was colicky. I want to remember that screaming feeling in my head of stress when the baby would cry in car line and it seemed to take forever and I felt like yelling, "Move it people, don't you know what we are going through in here!" as my heart broke. I want to remember never getting a minute to myself for weeks and weeks and weeks (and months and years.). I want to remember going to the bathroom with a baby carrier on with an infant in it because God forbid I was going to put that baby down and wake him/her up after finally he/she finally fell asleep. I want to remember being so thirsty nursing a new baby that it felt like I was a dried up frog on a summer sidewalk. I want to remember never wearing a cent of makeup for a year or two or three, and if I did probably not taking it off at night, and never having a chance to exercise or even think about it. I want to remember wearing the same old black leggings (this is back in the 90's) for a year before I fit back into anything, and then every baby it was something different-the ONE thing that fit and was comfortable. This last year I have had terrible hip pain that led me to a chiropractor. After x-rays, he told me that the hip I carry babies, toddlers on is lower than the the other one. 21 years of never trading hips, who knew?, will do that. I had to laugh and you know, I don't care. Of all things to have hip pain from, carrying babies is worthy enough, and I wouldn't change a thing. It's a small price to pay.

There are definitely different emotions and duties and strains and stresses with each stage of parenting-and they are all worthy of understanding, all deserve their own validation.  It's not supposed to be easy. We aren't supposed to have time to ourselves all the time, we are supposed to give, give, give.  Give to the point of hurting.  Every mother who has walked the floor at 3 a.m. with a baby in arms and an aching back knows this. 

That's just the beginning isn't it? It's lifetime and it is truly the refiner's fire because it changes us like nothing else could and leads us to such a rich, deep life that we could never have imagined. I read a text from an old co-worker of my husband's-she sent a picture of her first, and she said, "I could never have imagined this feeling, this incredible love." That says it all. It's unimaginable but so so beautiful. It's worth giving everything to. Nothing is more important, and more rewarding than that mother love.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ordinary Days

It is funny how the more I stay off the computer the more I love staying off the computer. During December and most especially when everyone was out of school I knew I wanted to curb my time down to almost nothing. I also decided I didn't want my Facebook or Instagram accounts anymore as I didn't enjoy them (this is my second rendezvous with Facebook and now I have really learned my lesson-I had to learn my lesson twice-I don't enjoy the pull I feel, and the time suck, and the obligation, and the information that fills my mind with too much non-essential.) When I hit those delete buttons it felt like I just did a deep-clean/clutter purge in my brain and freed up some space in my brain for more important things. It's crazy how that makes me feel calmer and more focused and organized and purposeful.  Apparently I need all the extra brain space I can get. :)

But I do want to keep up on blogging, even if it is only sporadic. It doesn't help that Janey has stopped taking naps-that happened just organically over Christmas break and it was perfect timing.  She goes to bed earlier and sleeps better at night.  But it's always an adjustment for me also, because I lose my reading/computer time, or at least some of it. I haven't finished one book yet since the Tidying Up book I read after Christmas.

On that subject I read this quote from ages ago somewhere and gasped at the truth of it:

"What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. 
Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention."  
Herbert Simon (1940's I believe.)

Isn't that brilliant?

"What are we going to do all day Mom?"  She is in the stage where she stuffs her whole world and anything else she can find into bags. It is hilarious what we find in her back packs and purses.  Missing something? Go find the back pack. 

My mom gave me this towel for Christmas and I love it.  My whole life revolves around food when the college kids are home. Mother of boys-do you ever feed your family a nice big filling dinner and then see them standing with their heads in the fridge 30 minutes after dinner? Because they are hungry again?  How is that possible?  

It IS nice to have them have a great appreciation of my cooking once they have experienced dorm food.  Isaac never complained about dorm food, but Abbey is having a harder time with it...maybe it's the difference in cafeteria offering (I do think some colleges do better than others in this dept.) but she is also calorie conscious and a little picky about healthy food (and lives in fear of the freshman 15) and I don't think there are many choices besides the plainest salad for every meal and who wants that. 

I do notice that the kids eat out a lot at college-gosh, what ever happened to the poor college student? I ate a can of Spaghettios for a meal quite often, and Jeff and I remember "splurging" on a lunch of .99 cent breadsticks with a little extra for sauce as our lunch. Cheap ramen noodles and mac and cheese?  I don't know. Things have changed, I DO know that. (And just for the record our kids have to pay for anything off the meal plan themselves-although we made an agreement this semester with Abbey because she wanted to go down to the lowest meal plan and use the difference for more off-campus healthy food.)  She will be happier I think when she has an apartment kitchen, meanwhile, "make do" is the answer.

Speaking of healthy food-I am going strong on my Whole30. It takes more time for sure, and there is a learning curve, but I have never felt hungry.  Mind control is the key-I don't let my mind wander to all that I am missing.  And once the sugar habit is kicked, and I lose that yearning, it is much easier. 
I wish I could eat chocolate all day long, I will never stop wishing that.
Chocolate is the best food on the planet. (And not healthy dark chocolate, creamy milk chocolate in foil wrappers.)

Janey is my workout partner sometimes (when Jeff is gone in the evening and I can't send Janey upstairs to play). We go in the basement, I do my weight routine, and listen to free Pandora set to Ed Sheeran. I look forward to it every day, really. 

Basketball season! Andrew is #20. These kids are so so cute. He has the best class. They are all so kind to each other. Jeff is his coach along with two other dads.  By the time our kids are all through grade school Jeff will have coached so so many years. I bet he will keep doing it also-let's hope he doesn't get old and cranky. I love that he is always positive and encouraging and never gets mad at the kids no matter what. He works with each one and they have fun. I really hate going to a game and hearing the other coaches get so mad and yell at the kids. (I should add that Jeff "yells" during games but yells plays and reminds the kids who to guard etc, not specific negative yelling at players or the team.) Maybe I'm being too sensitive and the boys can take it but I know I would have felt absolutely awful and never would have wanted to play a sport again if I had a coach get mad at me. It also raises the emotion of everyone in the building and the parents get tense also.  I always picture the kids going home and up to their rooms all dejected and feeling so bad about themselves. Which proves I'm a girl because I'm sure the boys just get over it by the time they get to the car. :)

Abbey went a little crazy packing for winter break, meaning she brought home half her dorm. Her roommate joked (but a little seriously) that she must not be coming back. Half the van was filled! After carrying all that back into the dorm this last weekend, I asked her if she was going to make that same mistake again and she said no.  I felt like I was dropping her off all over again, but this time my mind flashed back to preschool after Christmas break when they got used to being home and don't really want to separate again. She likes it but it's not always easy I don't think-dorm life in general and 19 hours etc. College is more difficult than high school in some ways isn't it?  I think high school is constant little life lessons in your face every day, but college is pressure and stress in different ways.  Planning, choices, organization, tolerance, etc.  

I had to take this picture because our sweet neighbor Mary Carol came over with her Girl Scout cookie sheet and I told everyone to pick a box of what they wanted and she was bombarded with questions and orders and debates about what the order will be. She takes it all in stride and just smiles the whole time of course.

First snow! (I couldn't take a picture outside because I was too cold. I tell the kids I am allergic to winter.)

Little things I want to remember that I have no photos for:
Matt enjoying tennis practices in prep for trying out this spring.
Poker games during the evenings of break between boys and friends.
How both Isaac and Abbey willingly with no prodding called and worked their summer jobs all break to earn their own money (yay!).
Abbey coming so close to losing at left right center twice at family parties and how much she wanted to win that jackpot.
Isaac remembering a little boy's birthday at the place he works and bringing him a gift. 
The hoopla and excitement and talk of the lotto and how many laughs (and serious discussions) it brought to the house.
Abbey showing me make up tricks (and good ones!) and taking me to Sephora to buy a few things (where I lasted about 10 minutes-she knows by now I have a short ticking time bomb of mall time.)

And one more quick note:
Raising teenagers is hard. 
I never ever ever ever want to make anyone who reads this blog and has teenagers/young adults, feel like things are any different at my house than they are at yours. I record the good memories and the special sweet things, not the arguments and the frustrations and although there are times when I think we see some great huge strides of maturity there are also times when I think they've slid back to the age of say, around two years old and seriously sometimes I remind myself to take deep breaths and "break the wrist and walk away" and then I do so, and sometimes I remind myself to take deep breaths and walk away, but don't actually do it but let them have it in no uncertain terms with a strong lecture which is not always said in a mature quiet manner on my part but just couldn't be held back.  Late for church, picking on brothers, throwing clothes on the floor, tone of voice, selfishness, unappreciation,etc, etc, etc.  
This too shall pass. 
Notice the good. I have to remind myself often.
My mom wrote to me this break with the advice to parent them like they are who you want them to be-parent them like they are their best always.  It struck me as so so right. When we are frustrated we tend to see all the weaknesses and parent in a frustrated angry way and when we see the strengths we parent in a positive upbeat encouraging way.  So stay the course with the good in our minds and our expectations will be known and be brought forth. Now for the follow through. :)
My mom is so smart.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

December Days

I am going to try to catch up here after a little break.

Patrick turned eight. EIGHT! It seems so old. It's not easy to coordinate a birthday party and gifts so close to Christmas and every year I vow to be better at not being stressed about it all but I took a few notes this year to remind me next year. We had a small family party for him and it was so fun and relaxing. I made all the easy favorites and lots of good (easy!) desserts.

(Oreo Pie-recipe on back of Oreo pie crust)

The two older kids made it back from college safe and sound and with so much laundry.  Both worked (on their own initiative! yay!) through break. I do have to say that the first week home is always an adjustment for everyone.  The college schedule is quite different from our family schedule (as in-go to bed at a normal hour and wake up at a normal hour and eating meals at normal times) and always causes some angst (is angst the right word? maybe annoyance?) as we press the "reset" button on what "normal" is.  This is what coming home is for though right? Because no one should live the college life 24/7/365.  I think I am getting the hang of this though-this need for readjustment, the patience it requires, when to set my foot down and when to ease up. It is nice to have them home-they appreciate my cooking (which isn't fabulous at all) so much, and add a fun energy to the home. I love their friends, I love the extra help with the little ones, I love the good conversation.

On the same subject, I was laughing with a friend the other day who has many children older than mine at the fact that it seems as soon as you figure out this parenting thing across the board for all ages (even adult children) you are "done". There is no education but doing it as you go on, and learning while you are in the thick of it.

We took the three younger kids to a work party at the zoo-saw the lights and had a nice dinner with a Santa visit. Janey won't sit on his lap but stays just far away enough to reach for her gift.

Here she is dashing away.

On Christmas Eve after church and dinner the kids exchanged gifts and it was so cute to watch them receive and give.  Janey bought everyone a pack of gum since it's just about her favorite thing in the world. 

At some point in the break Jeff took the kids to see the Star Wars movie and all those light sabers came out again.

Christmas Eve.  

Diving in.

Later that day. And then all week till I couldn't take it anymore. It was a record year for the tree being up though, I lasted about a week after-and next year I am going to try a new place my neighbor told me about with fresh trees and a new stand that will allow me to keep it up till the Epiphany.  I swear our tree was cut in October! 

Her two favorite gifts. So easy and simple!

All in all it was a good Christmas. On Christmas Eve late at night I felt so sad about the kids growing older. I know I can't complain-I've had 22 years of having a child little enough to be really excited (a "believer" is a way to put it?) but I count the years down now and I shouldn't.  But it's an adjustment as the years go by-as busy and hectic and draining the little years are, they are gold too. I know I lived them and appreciated them and gave them my all (even with fuzzy headed lack of sleep with babies in arms) and I'm still doing that but memories blur and fade and change. I'm not good with change maybe. 

I also wanted to scale back this year and that was hard for me-I worried about it. I thought there would be disappointments with the older kids and there wasn't-or if there was I had settled in my mind it was something they just had to work through and that I needed to be peaceful about. But then I was so proud of them all. They were so grateful and I realized that much of my worry exists in my mind only. 

On to New Year's Resolutions, my favorite of all.

I am doing Whole 30-my friend Jane did it and lost a lot of weight and felt so much better physically and after a month (a year?) of eating not so healthfully, I am very motivated.  After 3 days I can see a change in my skin already. Bags of Dove chocolates (and Lindor and Symphony and whatever else I get my hands on) aren't the best for me go figure. I really indulged these last few months-I made and ate every treat I ever wanted knowing that January was around the corner. I have our wedding picture on my screen saver and taped to my fridge and I swear I'm going to get back down there finally, as close as my body will let me in a healthy way.  It feels like the time is right-Janey is three, and I have a little more time on my hands when it comes to exercising and getting in that right mindset. 

My mom gave me the book The Life Changing Habit of Tidying Up. I have heard of this often and it didn't appeal to me too much because I don't have many issues with purging my house of clutter and keeping things relatively organized, but I loved reading it-it is quick and very motivating when it comes to reducing clutter.  A few days after Christmas I had our closet looking wonderful and made Jeff ask himself "Does this bring me joy?" while he went through 50 t-shirts. Sometimes I had to tell him it just couldn't, there was no way possible, he must be mistaken, there was no joy there. :)  I was ruthless on my side of the closet of course. On to the rest of the house-lots of indoor winter time to accomplish that task.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Things I Want To Remember About Janey

1. How you adore The Sound of Music soundtrack in the car and we've listened to it so many times we all want to hurl ourselves out of the doors into fast moving traffic.  Seriously, Patrick says, "Mom I can't do this anymore! My head hurts!"  Of course I let you listen when you are running errands with me during the day, and sometimes I look back and your mouth is in a perfect O as you are belting out the tunes. You know them all by heart and sing them around the house. I love when your little voice goes into the shaky church lady or opera singer mode.

2. All your faces and expressions. You have so many. No one but us gets to see this side of you as you are incredibly shy around anyone else.  But you are silly.  Dad often says you are the funniest of all the kids.  And your laugh is so so contagious. If Matt gets you going, you laugh so hard you can't catch your breath. No one in this world could keep a straight face when you laugh.

3.Your dancing skills are superb.  I am holding off as long as I can before I get you in a dance class but I know you will be in heaven. You love to dance.

4.Today as we left school after the geography bee you said, "I didn't get to see my Bubby!" You adore Patrick and he adores you back just as much.

5. How if someone asks you if you want more food or drink, you say, "I'm fine, I'm fine" like you are thirty years old and don't want another refill.  I have no idea where you got this but it makes me laugh every time.

6. Your incredible passionate love of babies. You notice them everywhere and can't take your eyes off of them. You put your hands together and say "tiny tiny baby" when you see a newborn. You play with your babies all the time, wrapping them up and shushing them and bouncing them-you have the mom bounce down already and you are only three! I wonder what God's plan is with this, seeing that you would just die and go to heaven if you could experience a baby sibling. I ask you how many babies you will have when you are a mommy and you say fourteen. Maybe that's the plan.

7. You love clothes but you hate having your hair washed, combed, brushed, done in any way. A bow or rubber band never lasts more than one hour.

You are such a joy to have around and your "three" can't be cuter. I try not to think of you turning four next year, because I know that at that age you will be more kid than toddler, and when I think of that it feels like my breath gets knocked out of me.  How fast time flies!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sibling Adjustment to New Baby

I have been asked to answer questions on this topic so much this year, that I thought I should just write out my thoughts all at once and before my memory leaves me.

I remember being so concerned also, each time I was pregnant, (yes even with my sixth), about how the "baby" of the family would adjust. (The last three times it hasn't been a baby adjusting but a older toddler/preschooler-two times before that I had more of a "baby" that had to get used to a new sibling.)

First I think during the later months of pregnancy, our minds can get anxious so easily.  A new baby seems overwhelming, and if we know what we are in store for during the first couple months, we tend to think, "I can't do this!"  I always have to remind myself-I will not be nine months pregnant AND have a newborn!  Yes, I will still be tired but for different reasons. I won't be roly poly, I will be able to move around again in a normal way, and I will be able to eat and breathe much better. (I won't add sleep to that list! :)  I will be able to tie those little toddler shoes, and pick up all the gear off the floor. I will be able to take stroller walks and just physically function better.

Second, we feel a loss-we know our baby-whoever he or she is at the time-won't be the baby anymore.  In this post I wrote about the world rearranging itself and what an awesome thing that is. Once you have more than one, and this is another thing that we always forget going into those final months, (I swear this is the devil at work trying to make us doubt ourselves and our mothering capabilities) is that our hearts WILL grow.  I always think of the line from The Grinch about his "heart growing two sizes that day." It's a miraculous thing, this growth, but our hearts make room for more love and we bond with this new baby just like we did with the ones that came before him or her. It is easy to dwell on our older "baby" losing his/her glorious crown of babyhood before the newest baby is born, but then magically our hearts grow.  But I still cried at least once in that last month knowing that the "baby" wouldn't be my baby anymore-it almost feels like a special bond is broken a little.

And yes there will be an adjustment time-that rearrangement to make room for a whole new life-sometimes it's right away, but I always found it to be about three months in for me-maybe just a little more whiny or fussy or older siblings squabbling a bit more. But it will pass. Go on as usual, discipline as you usually do, don't panic. They want to know everything else will be the same-they just have to grow a little and sometimes that takes growing pains.

I think some great advice is to call the baby "our baby" all the time, even during pregnancy. Don't expect jealousy. Compliment them and let them hear you say to others as often as you can about how great they are with the baby. Teach them about being gentle and soft and don't tolerate any roughness at all, but correct it calmly and quickly and firmly or it will become a trigger point for attention if too much attention is given for it. Show them how much the baby loves them. (Look she's kicking because she heard your voice, she thinks you are awesome already!)

I also think it's important to try to spend time one-on-one again, but I also think that it sometimes more pressure when we moms are already feeling overwhelmed. I know with our last three who were fussier, I just couldn't do that as much as I would have liked, it was truly impossible.  But even just the littlest thing makes a difference-reading a book while nursing maybe if possible, or asking questions and having a conversation, or just letting them know you are watching them (even if you are sleeping with your eyes open), etc.

I think we have to be careful to also remember our attitude towards what we have heard so much about-this sibling jealousy, sibling rivalry.  If we expect it, if we watch for it, if we give this look of pity towards our older children, wouldn't it make sense that they think they have something to be pitied for?  They are so sensitive towards our attitudes and our emotions, it comes off of us like infrared waves. And they hear and see everything!

Here is a better way to explain what I am saying.  Every mother knows that if their toddler wipes out, chances are they will get up and dust off and be fine, except when they hear that dreaded gasp from others, especially mom or dad.  If we gasp, rush over, and "poor baby" that fall, they will bawl.  If we pretend not to see it, or respond matter-of-factly with an "Oospy Daisy, you're ok, go get that ball!" and squash our gasp, all is miraculously almost always fine.  They look TO US for a sign of their capability, to see what emotion they should show, to gauge how they should react.

I remember hearing this beautiful piece of wisdom somewhere along my parenting journey and it was Godsend to me and I've found it to be incredibly true:

A sibling is the GREATEST GIFT you can give your child. It is nothing to feel guilty for, it is nothing to feel doubtful of. The children will become more independent because they will have to be (and this is good, as they learn to do things themselves and we are most certainly doing things for them that we had no idea they could do, they grow incredibly-this is the root of self-esteem!), they will have someone to share time and attention with, they will have a playmate, (maybe not right away but quick enough), they will have someone to entertain, and someone to be entertained by. They will learn they are not the center of the universe (and yes there are other ways to teach this for sure, but this takes NO effort whatsoever when you add more and more children-it is just checked off "things I don't need to worry about", an added benefit!)  They will learn by watching how to care for a baby-the time and love and attention and work it brings but also the incredible joy and they will take that with them into their parenthood. It is an incredible gift we are lucky to be able to give to them. This perspective helps so much alleviate many worries and anxiety for us and gives a growing family a beautiful attitude towards new life.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ordinary Days

No we are NOT getting another dog (for the rest of my life. over my dead body, never ever), but Patrick LOVES these books and I want to remember how excited he is every time he comes home from his school library day and shows me what new dog book he checked out.  Although dogs are not my favorite subject, we've learned so much from these books, and I've found them interesting because they go into the history, geography, etc.  I think besides sports, Patricks favorite thing to do is to have me read to him.  He loves books, and begs to go to the library.  He is the sweetest nicest boy ever still and a joy to be around.

Janey does her homework with the kids every afternoon. 

Andrew is my kitchen helper and loves to cook. He will do anything I ask-he's the most helpful kid ever, no matter what. He follows instructions and is so interested in it all.  I will always remember going to conferences this fall because I could have just cried-the teachers all said the nicest things ever about him-he's kind to all, so helpful, loves to learn, the first one with his hand up when a teacher says, "I need a helper" even before he knows what the chore is, he diffuses situations, he comes to school excited to learn every day.  Yes, this is him to a T. 

We had our own very simple Thanksgiving the day before Thanksgiving-older two home from college and just us-so nice to have them all around the table again, even if it was a lot of co-ordination. I am often so tired when the older ones come home-it always seems so chaotic to me and is a whole new schedule/meal adjustment and maybe I am not good with those things, but I am trying to figure it out so I don't feel so scattered.  It seems no matter how prepared or scheduled I try to be, something throws me off.  I felt like I went to the store a dozen times and forgot laundry detergent each time which is not conducive to two college kids coming home with laundry, something I love to stay on top of.  The chute was backed up past the first floor.  Ick.  The younger ones are all excited about their older siblings coming home and so the house takes on a party atmosphere-harder to get them into bed for sure, harder to keep our schedule.  And then the older kids have their own schedules also, like eating breakfast at lunch time, and that doesn't fly here. Any advice from moms of big families with older kids in college, bring it on. I'll take it.  Like maybe there is a special concoction to make them all little again? Yes, that is what I'm looking for. :)  There are no secrets I know that-it's work, and then you figure things out, and then a whole new stage of parenting comes on, and then you figure it out again-and then you are a master at every stage, but it is all over.  Learning, growing, stretching, lessons, knowledge, wisdom.  

My helper again. And poor Jeff-maybe we should be fake tree people. I said that to Abbey and she said,"No, please, don't do that to me."  Our tree is always crooked.  This time I slipped some toy blocks in the base and it held it straight. 

She loves it. So fun seeing things through their eyes for the first time. She wouldn't have remember last year at just 2, so now everything is new again and wonderful.

These two are best friends. Janey adores him and never stops following him everywhere.  She loves all her brothers.  Just today she said, "Where are my boys?"  She watches out the window for them to get home from school, and she has to see them get off on the bus in the morning (she is so disappointed when she sleeps in and misses it.)  She laughs so so hard at Matthew, he still cracks her up the most, and she gets so excited when "Idee" comes home from college. (She can't say s's yet.) She will wrangle them all into playing with her, or reading her books. 

She has to talk to Abbey on the phone every time we do. It is the cutest thing. I think their relationship has grown stronger with Abbey going off to college just because they don't take each other for granted. 

I always find neat photos on my camera, thanks to Matt. He figures things out I could never do.  He has always been good at this sort of thing-from Legos to electronics, he can figure it out on his own. He is learning so much in high school it blows my mind away. When did high school get so hard? I tried to proof read a literature paper a few weeks ago and I was so so impressed, I don't think I could ever write anything like that at any age. 

Red shoes. She was so so excited for this dress and these shoes, which have been waiting for weeks in the closet. 

St. Nicks Day

I thank God for my mother-in-law who has her annual party every year where Santa visits. This makes it so easy for me-no trips to the mall or other horrid places or lines etc. The group of little ones around his feet get smaller and smaller but this is life, as they grow. It's so sweet to watch their faces. Janey was too scared to sit on his lap, she was petrified when he came in the room. She stood next to him with me holding her. You wonder what goes through their heads. 

It's the second week of Advent already-it's amazing how fast this season goes. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Clara And A Few Thoughts

I read this cute little book a month ago and I turned down a page and wanted to remember some things I gleaned from Clara's wisdom-

"We didn't have money like kids do today. We didn't get everything we wanted , so when we had a treat, it was really special."  She went on to talk about how a nickel would buy her some ice cream or another treat and how she looked forward to that all week (her parents gave her a nickel to spend on Sunday after they cleaned the house on Saturday.)

I read this book around Halloween time and I thought back to my Halloween and how much less of a super duper holiday it was-we lived on a small street and would come with maybe a dozen treats, and it was pure heaven.  A few times I'd be so excited for that darn candy and the whole trick-or-treat event, I would get sick with anticipation.  At school I don't remember dressing up (maybe we did?) and I don't remember any Halloween parties or bags of treats handed out at school, if we did get something, it was something very small like a cookie or a cupcake.  I never remember a store bought costume (did stores have costumes? there certainly weren't Halloween stores) and my mom helped us put together something when we were young, and then we did on our own as we capable.

And then I compared that to what my kids experience now and thought about the crazy "overdoing it" culture that exists today.  By the time the holiday comes, some kids are worn out-from parties, from candy, from treats, from "specials".  I've heard of some kids who don't even want to trick-or-treat-a treat isn't special anymore, they can have it anytime they want, and it's nothing to look forward to.

I was laughing with a friend the other day-what happened to just a birthday party at home with cake???  Gosh I remember those!  Not hundreds spent on some grand event or destination-but just a simple party with cake and icecream. Or kids who open so many gifts at Christmas, it becomes almost a chore. How sad! To have so much, that nothing is special anymore. If we start out big, what will ever be good enough?  If we ruin the little special things, what will ever be left to look forward to? It's a terrible disservice in way-to rob a child of anticipation, excitement, gratitude at such a young age-that is what makes childhood special isn't it? The only way to keep that anticipation, excitement and gratitude today is to give less, and make special events "special" by experiencing them rarely. The more a child has given to him, the less it all means.

I've noticed the kids that are the most fun to be around, possess a certain joy for the simple things in life, and in return are a joy to be around. And what a precious gift that is-to have children who are a joy for everyone to be around!  And I've realized that in our crazy culture today, I have to be conscious of my desire to keep the "special" in life-it is definitely swimming against the tide and it is sometimes impossible to do.  But I want so much for my children to have that gift, because really it's the most precious gift of all-unable to be purchased-unable to be given at any other time in life, and forms such wonderful character traits.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Raising Boys Into Christian Gentlemen - Some Notes

I finally had a chance to go listen to a speech I've been trying to get to for years.  It is by a priest that has worked most of his life (I think 40 years now?) at a local all boys Catholic high school.  It was EXCELLENT.  So many good thoughts, with funny stories too for many of the points.  He was gentle and loved his job, and loved helping parents understand their sons. The subject was "Transitioning Adolescent Boys Into Extraordinary Men".

Here are my notes, a little scattered, but things I want to remember:

Teens these days have:
Too Much Stuff
Too Many Choices
Too Much Information
Too Fast

Brain development: Teenage boys have "hardware but no software".  In brain-prefrontal cortex is underdeveloped until early 20's. This is what helps to make good judgments.  This is why we will often hear, "I don't know why I did it.  It was stupid, I shouldn't have, but I just did without thinking about it."

When they are alone, their tolerance for risk is the same as adults, but when they are with friends their tolerance for risk is twice as much-this is from brain studies!

So what do we do?

We provide structure.
We give freedom WITH limits.
We help "be" the pre-frontal cortex.
We are the brakes.
We teach teach teach---lessons of integrity all the time.
Guide the transition out of selfishness-how do actions effect others around us.
Guide journey to manhood.
Be parents not friends.
Set clear standards.
Articulate consequences (not outrageous ones but ones that fit the "crime") and follow through.
Be consistent.
Love him but not all that he does.
Allow freedom and separation.
Don't take it personally.
Don't ever say, "My kid would never do that."  Yes, he would.  ALL kids makes mistakes, all of them.  Smart good kids do stupid things.  ALL of them.
Forgive but it does not mean no consequences.

He will disappoint you but not deliberately.

Keep a plumb line for him-teens swing into polarities-we need to teach the middle.

Parents are heroes-they need to give lifelong love.

How God dealt with Old Testament's message is geared towards infancy/children in a way-reward/punishment/this is what I say/do it.

Jesus in New Testament not reward and punishment but teaching what's right through words and examples, guidance and leadership, Jesus was always asking questions, this style fits teens.

Teen boys needs ritual and initiation and ceremony provided by parents and church, if not it will be provided by peers (gangs). ie.-Confirmation, becoming upper classmen, annual trips with fathers etc.

Overprotecting could be safer now but not in long run-they need to develop an immune system to build character and resilience-be exposed to bugs and viruses in a way, to face consequences of life. Success is working through problems and difficulties.

Don't be overprotective, give gradual freedom. Just punishment can't stop behavior, must learn from us, natural consequences and why. Take an interest in friends, and pray, pray, pray.

Every child needs a mother and a father. Divorce is hardest on children-when there is shared custody there is no consistency in the home-two people who can't get along are now raising children two different ways with two different sets of rules, teens need consistency more than ever.

A mother and a father are essential in a child's life.  Both model different things, both give children different things that they must have.  This is the ideal and should be upheld for the sake of the child.

A father must be active and present in a child's life daily.

Statistics for boy's without their fathers: (I wrote these down quickly, don't know if I have them totally right).
71%  of dropouts
90% of men in prison
90% of runaways
63% of suicides
75% of drug and alcohol addicts
72% of murders
60% of rapists

A mother nurtures, comforts.  Dad's supply the adventure, the model, the identity and walks with him through the journey to manhood.  Dad's-tell your sons you love them, every son wants to hear it. They must know your love is unconditional.

Love him and enjoy his adolescence with him.  Remember your own experiences, and have faith in God, and faith in the foundation that you have given your son.

Remember Romans 8:28
"All things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose."

Monday, November 30, 2015

Affordable Gifts for Teens

Favorite Toys here.
Favorite Games here.
Favorite Books here.

Ok, ready?  Boys and girls mixed in, junior high into college, here's a list of ideas from Abbey and some of her good friends. (I begged only a few suggestions out of my boys.)  Also at the bottom, is a cute post my daughter wrote when a few years ago with more ideas.

Nike socks-girls and boys wear them. I have bought so many pairs of these! Where do they all go?

Very popular right now, lots of different choices.

Makeup brushes. I am told they don't have to expensive to be quality.

Sanuk flip-flops.

Soft PJ's.  The Aerie brand is popular.

Crocodile clips.  Can be found at any drug store

Not Your Mother's Beach Spray and Dry Shampoo

These Lush bath bombs are a perfect gift and have a five star rating and are very popular.

Personalized Coffee Mug
This cute one is from Anthro for $8, but you can find these everywhere.

YogaAccessories (TM) 1/4'' Extra Thick High Density Yoga Mat (Phthalate Free) - Jasmine Green
Earth Therapeutics Aloe Socks, Pink

Electric Blanket-Abbey LOVES her electric blanket (and boy did it come in handy early this year when Janey and I had a terrible bout of pneumonia.)  I bought her one at Kohl's on sale.

Fuzzy Blankets
We have this one and this one-these are found everywhere, the softer the better.

IPhone Cases
My niece uses the Otter Box  Commuter Series and really likes it-they are affordable too.
Abbey uses a (after having to replace the screen because of a breakage she decided it was in her best interest to spend more.:)

neff Men's Daily Pipe Glove, Cyan, Medium
neff gloves-

neff Men's Daily Beanie, Green, One Size
neff beanies-lots of cute colors.

Duffel bags-especially for college kids-Lands End has great ones, I love their sales, and you can get them monogrammed.

Quad copters. This is the brand we chose and you can read about this fun toy here.

Here is a list from a couple years ago, written by my daughter:
Shopping for teenagers is definitely harder than other ages (I would know, I am one) and one of the biggest problems is not knowing exactly what they want.  If you're stuck on this and need a few ideas, these are some of my favorite things that I have gotten, and some things I am asking for this year!

Headphones. Definitely a broad topic. My favorite are the brand Skullcandy .  Lots of styles, affordable, and great quality! Pink and purple are my go-to colors.

Something that I am in desperate need (okay, want, sorry Mom) of this year, this iPod adapter thingy for an older car like the one Isaac and I share.  Because radio music can get old too fast when they play the same songs over and over...

The Wet Brush Detangle Brush . Last time I went to the salon, the lady who trimmed my hair suggested this because my hair is so long and gets tangled so easy. It works wonders.

OPI and Essie nail polish. great quality and true to color. New favorite colors: Gargantuan Green Grape by OPI (minty green) and Mango Bango by Essie. You can find Essie at Target and OPI at salons and makeup stores like Sephora and Ulta.

A subscription to InStyle magazine.  Full of great ideas, new trends, fashion advice, cool pictures, and classy clothes!  Once I am finished reading a magazine, I look through it and cut out pictures that inspire me and my style and collage them onto my doors.

Jean jacket!  
The style staple for the season, its a no-brainer! I received this one from American Eagle for a birthday gift and love it.

Every girl needs something Vera Bradley! Such cute patterns and very durable. I use my bag for everything, school, shopping, etc. (Sometimes I see these at TJ Maxx for a great price.)

And when I don't feel the need to lug around my big purse, I love this wristlet, they can be found at most clothing stores:

Another car accessory but a great stocking stuffer: A car clip air freshener like this one from Bath &  Body Works.  When Isaac hid bacon scented air fresheners in our car after he left for college, this helped like crazy to make the car actually breathable again.  My favorite scent is Island Margarita but there are so many to choose from!

One of my absolute favorite Christmas presents last year from my grandma was this Color Daze Blockbuster from Sephora.  (NOTE: This is crazy expensive now, this is a similar kit at a price close to what was paid for the above kit.)  For girls that love experimenting with makeup and trying new techniques, this set comes with it all: Mascara, blush, eyeliners, lip gloss, eyeshadow, luminizer, and brushes. It could also be a good starter kit.

Pink yoga pants and leggings are definitely on my list for this year.  So comfortable and easy to slip on after a long day of school.

A jewelry organizer is a must-have for a cluttery closet! This one hangs anywhere and is two-sided.

Hope this helps!