Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Finding Gratitude

I've had quite a few reminders of just how blessed I am this week.  I have plenty of work from home to keep me profitable, but it doesn't feel so overwhelming that I can't get things like laundry done as well.  It's getting easier every day to take care of two babies, and my heart feels lighter when I contemplate my blessings.  It just so happens that a friend of mine emailed a link to a video on gratitude out to our listserv.  It's appropriately titled "Happiness Revealed". 

Hope you enjoy!

Please pray for a family in our community that suffered the loss of their child to a congenital illness this week.  I remember grace surrounding our family at the loss of our child in an ectopic pregnancy so much that it was nearly a physical presence.  May God bless them in much the same way during this difficult time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Failure is always an option

One of the hosts from Mythbusters is known to say, "failure is always an option".  I'm not sure whether or not to agree with that, but I've been thinking about failure lately.

While homeschooling v traditional schooling is very much a calling and a personal family decision, sending LB to school after 3 years of homeschooling very much has feelings of failure attached to it.  Intellectually, I may agree with my husband that this is a good thing to try (we'll see how I feel after I haven't seen her all day for a week), but in my heart, there is that voice that says, "you could have done it better....then he wouldn't have decided to send her to school".  God knows that I have failings as a mother, it's a pretty human predicament.  And maybe I could have done a better job, but it's hard to tell because homeschooling doesn't look the same in every family. 

I was very laid back about schooling.  I bought the books and we worked on them.....but not every day, not every book consistently.  They were kind of the general guide of what things we should talk about and learn, not schedules that I felt we had to follow.  A lot of it, I made up as I went along.  And you know what, a kid who cried when we did reading lessons so much that I stopped doing them now loves to read.  She might prefer listening to a book on CD, but she actually told me about a week ago how much she enjoys reading.  "WHAT!?!", I thought, "is this my kid talking?"  How is it that the intuition to back off ended up with the reward of a child who loves to read?  I don't think it's anything that I can take credit for, the reading lessons stopped because I had a gut feeling that they needed to stop for a while.  I think maybe God lives in my gut as much as my heart....that He resides beyond even my consciousness where I get that "feeling" that doesn't always have a logical explanation.  I mean, to teach reading, one would think reading lessons necessary.  Turns out, they weren't for us with LB. 

I do recognize some gaps in her education, of course, like I never really got around to teaching her to tie shoes.  I MEANT to...I even got a special really big practice shoe/foam thing to do it.....but I still haven't.  I really do need to get that done before she starts school in a month.......

She also has a hard time telling time still.  If it's on the hour or half hour, she's pretty good, but I really should have worked more with the stuff in the middle.  She also doesn't write compositions yet.  I've had her write thank you notes as most of her writing practice so far.....but I think with just getting to love reading this Spring/Summer, writing will catch up pretty quickly as she moves through the progression of reading stories to writing stories.  The writing thing, I think I can semi-justify....but not the shoe-tying and clock-reading - those I really should have taken care of by now. 

Another thing I should have done better is networking with other families for social time.  I think this sole factor was the decision-maker for my husband on sending her to school.  He felt like she just wasn't getting enough social interaction.  I pray that the social interaction she has at school is positive.  I ran into a family with a little girl LB knows recently and LB was talking to her.  Every time LB suggested something they could do together, the little girl shot her down and LB just kept suggesting things, undeterred.  The girl was really not very nice about it.  She goes to traditional school and while I'm well aware that homeschooled kids can be twerps, it just added one more thing to my list of misgivings about the coming school year.

As I list the balance of my failures, it's only fair to think about the things that have gone well, like the reading.  I think also her character has been positively affected by homeschooling.  She is a genuinely sweet, kind child.  She is, of course, a child....prone to all the misbehaviors entailed therein, but to her core, she is kind.  My biggest fear is that school will rob her of her innocent disposition that we have managed to maintain thus far.  She has yet to be jaded by the bully, the popular crowd and the antics and politics of a school. 

When we were deciding to send LB to school, I deferred the decision to my husband (1) because he is the head of the household and responsible for such decisions and (2) because I was way too close to the situation to make the decision.  Sending LB to school feels like I am paying someone else to be fired from my job.  I couldn't have done that on my own.  So, as I weigh the successes against the failures of homeschooling, I think the balance may swing to success simply because I was willing to set aside pride and defer to my husband.  Because, really, homeschooling is a calling; it's all about doing what God wants you to do.  I pray that we are and remain where God wants us to be as a family......although I really hope that leads us back home soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Baptism and Birthday

The Sunday after we got back from our family reunion, we had the baptism for our newest addition.  So, on July 8th, as my dad the deacon would say, another one was claimed for Christ.

In fact, one of the sweetest moments was when she smiled when the words were spoken, "I claim you for Christ".....I immediately thought, "oh she's going to be a nun!!!!"  I'll try to squelch that over-exuberance and not pressure the poor baby :)

My brother was nice enough to take pictures during the baptism.  He was convinced that all the pictures would be terrible, but as you'll see, there were plenty of good ones :)

Before the baptism

Claiming her for Christ :)

The homily....she's listening intently

Around the baptismal font

Eating my finger to stop screaming :)

Blessing of the water


Her cousin drying her off

Calm for now

Blessing her ears

All done :)
The other big event in the last couple weeks was SB's 1st birthday.  It was a sweet birthday.  We celebrated with my parents on Sunday with my sister-in-law who's birthday was a couple days before SB's.  My husband's new weekend is Sunday/Monday.  As luck would have it, Monday was SB's birthday.  She was having a visit with her birth family in the afternoon, so we went out to breakfast.  It was a great breakfast with all three of our babies.  I think the older gentlemen drinking their coffee might have thought we made the restaurant a little too lively, but the proprietors seemed to really enjoy us (they later came over and told us they had 5 children).

An individual birthday cake (she liked the frosting most!)

LB putting $ in the ceiling at the restaurant (it's a special thing at this place)
One bittersweet thing about SB's birthday was the thought that kept reoccurring that this may be her only birthday that we share with her.  It was a thought I had to push down because I felt it leading me down the crazy path of trying to make everything *just perfect*.  The reality is, it may be the only birthday we share with her....or it could be the only birthday we have to share her......we just don't know, and we won't know really for months.  She's been in our lives for a year and the resolution doesn't seem any closer, although, logically, the conclusion is a year closer than it was before, no matter how long it takes.  So, for now, I've got fond memories of her birthday and an ardent hope that there are many more with us.

In my last blog, I posted about my constant worrying/complaining/asking for something in prayer and my new focus for the month on prayers of gratitude.  It's not been a perfect last couple weeks in this endeavor, but even when I find myself longing for things I don't really need this minute or worrying about what the future holds in terms of providing for our children or even how many children we'll have, the reminder to stop asking and start thanking has really been an eye-opener for the attitudes I'm walking around with each day.  It's not been an immediate transformation, but I see a small shift in my internal thinking. 

Here's a story that kind of illustrates this internal shift:  My refrigerator died.  Six years old, compressor kaput.  Naturally, not a fun situation to need a new major appliance, especially one that we all generally rely on to be in constant working order.....my clothes don't spoil when my washer stops working (although washers in their death throes can do some pretty gnarly things to clothes!).  I noticed that my freezer wasn't staying as cold as usual.  I mentioned it to my neighbor, as she offered to let me store my freezer goods in her deep freeze while we figured out what was wrong.  I went home from visiting with her after this conversation and checked on my freezer....the ice cube tray was starting to melt, so I shuttled 5 full grocery bags of freezer goods to her deep freeze.  Then began a purge/cleaning of the fridge and moving everything into coolers (one of which was loaned by the same neighbor).  Well, over the course of trying repairs and ordering a new fridge, it was 5 days that we lived out of coolers without a fridge.  Throughout the entire hassle, I continually worked to shift my thoughts back towards the positive of the situation.  Multiple times, I would catch myself frustrated over the situation and I would repeat to myself, "thank you God for the means to take care of this problem".  I realize that a new fridge in the past might have been a painful expense for our family.  This was a noted expense, but not a painful expense.  There should be gratitude in recognizing that.

I also stopped to thank God for the generosity of my neighbor.  I am grateful that we only lost a few popsicles and a couple frozen pies.  We saved meat, veggies, and most importantly, breastmilk. 

I ended up purchasing a smaller fridge without as many fancy accessories like water dispensing, but also purchased a small chest freezer with the end result that we're able to store more food and have a little more space in the kitchen with the deep freeze located in the basement.  In time, this will help when we purchase a new kitchen table.  We have an eat-in kitchen and when our newest addition starts sitting with us, we'll be out of table space, so at some point, a new table is in our future. 

As I was driving and contemplating my new fridge/freezer situation, I thought about the positives of the whole deal.  I have a new fridge that is more appropriate to the size of our kitchen, I have a new freezer so I can store food appropriate to the size of our growing family, I have a generous neighbor who helped me save all the important things from my dying freezer......all in all, this was the best appliance breakdown possible.  But then I started wondering, was it really the "best catastrophe" or was I simply able to see the blessings in hassle because of my mindset?  I have a suspicion that God has similarly blessed many of my mishaps, but I've focused so much on the mishaps, I've missed the blessings.  So, I'll keep working on my negative/whining/poor attitude and I think the result will be seeing many more of the blessings with which I am constantly showered.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Family Vacation 2012!

I went on vacation with my family.....and by "family", I mean my husband, all three of our girls, my parents, all of my siblings, all of their spouses, all my nieces and nephews and even my sister's boyfriend.....just a small family gathering of 27!

My paternal grandfather was originally from Northern Michigan.  When his family immigrated, that's where they landed, up near Traverse City, MI.  I have a couple relatives still in the area, including my grandmother, but for the most part, the family has spread near and far across the country.  We decided to gather together for a week over the 4th of July this summer.  The vacation was many months in the planning (we were talking about it before we knew we were expecting our latest arrival) and entailed two large houses that we rented close to each other.  The family also stayed in a couple rooms at a local hotel....did I mention there were 27 of us?!? :)

The week was amazing.  We accomplished about half of what we thought we could in terms of sightseeing and adventures, but got in lots of family time with each other.  We also celebrated LB's 7th birthday.  She shared a bunkhouse with 5 of her cousins and had a very memorable birthday.  It'll be hard to top it next year with cousins singing to her when she woke up, tubing on the lake and many many amazing family moments.

Although we wanted to go to some places and see some sights, my very favorite part was the nightly campfire.  Sitting around with all of my siblings and their spouses, unwinding with s'mores and a beer was exactly my kind of vacation.  The other stuff was definitely fun, but just being around each other and talking was perhaps the most memorable/best part of my vacation.

Eight brothers and sisters and all I wanted to do was hang out with them - that's a pretty amazing feat my parents accomplished to raise the kind of people who can not only get along with each other in close quarters for a week, but who genuinely wanted to be around each other.  Big families are hard work.  My mom and dad have worked for 36 years on getting us through all the phases of childhood and are still in the process of ushering the last few through the high school/college years.  We can all, I'm sure remember stories about some injustice (real or imagined) with our parents from childhood, but we've all had a really solid gift in our parents and each other.  It's a hard thing to have a big family.  Sleepless nights are multiplied, expenses are multiplied, it makes other people uncomfortable, it's too expensive and inconvenient to eat out....the list could go on.  But looking around the campfire at night made me realize how blessed we are to have parents who were willing to take on such a task. 

It's been hard with two babies over the last six weeks.  One of them is generally upset at all times, I just try to make sure it's not the same one each time!  I'm pretty good at balancing the needs of all three girls, but it is really a constant running schedule of who needs what, how I can structure meeting the needs most efficiently and maybe even figuring out how to eat and go to the bathroom myself occasionally.  But for as hard as it's been, I still look at the girls and think how blessed I am.  When our newest one was crying while we were laying down together a few days ago, I had the thought that I was so lucky to be able to have a crying baby.  I thought about all the years of trying, the hormones, the injections, the constant testing at the end of pregnancy.....all of it culminated in this absolute miracle and as demanding as she is, that doesn't diminish the awesomeness of the gift. 

Now, when I'm not waxing poetical about the gift of a screaming baby, I'm generally feeling overwhelmed and sleep deprived.  Answered prayers don't automatically make us a better person, but I'm working on it!  I had a thought a Mass yesterday.  What if the only prayers I said after the Eucharist were prayers of gratitude?  What if instead of asking for more blessings, I just sat in gratitude and thanked God for all of the things we have?  Instead of asking God to help us find the means for a larger house, what if I just thanked God for a house overflowing with children?  Instead of asking to sleep, thanking God for a healthy baby who wakes me in the night.....you get the point.  So, I sat there and just thanked God for his abundance in our lives.  Didn't ask to add anything to the list, just said thank you for everything He's already given us.

I've been pretty space-challenged since we brought our third daughter home.  My husband and I aren't sure what we're going to do, whether remodel or move, but whatever we do, it's not going to be feasible to do anything for at least several months, more realistically after the end of this school year, so about 9 months.  This has been weighing on me and causing some discontent, which I think is what prompted my guardian angel to urge the prayers of gratitude after Communion.  As I sat there being thankful, I started to think about extending that prayer.  What if for a month, I asked God for nothing, just thanked him for what I have?  No more obsessing about the size of my kitchen and the girls' bedroom......could I do it?  Could I stop asking for more and just be content and grateful?  We shall see, my inner challenge this month will be to live in a spirit of gratitude and contentment....not resignation with our house, contentment with our home.  I'm hoping this challenge will encourage me to carry the attitude of gratitude past the month mark, but I'm sharing with all of you to help keep me accountable, no whining or begging, just happy gratitude.

And with a grateful heart, I share my wonderful vacation pics with you :)

Snoozing on the beach

Testing the waters....BRR!

My dad relaxing

Checking out the fallen limb


I'm not splashing!

Ready for the sun

Watching the boats go by

Good morning!

This is why my sister says she's the "meme baby"

Presents from great-grandma

A gift from great-aunt



Birthday cakes

The loot!

Not sure what conversation is going on here!

Nail painting

Late night fishing

The birthday girl

Ready for tubing!

Fishing the tubers out of the current

The adventurers

Some fishing


An intense father/son match

Pretty sure no one has ever given him a plastic knife before, he loved it!

Swingset at the cabin

Part of the coyote pack

Too hot for clothes

Future surgeon at work



The boys

The whole gang

The entire bin is full of cherry pits

Lego Carnival

Mini golf

The pirate is captured!