Tuesday, June 15, 2021

11 Going on 20

 Two months ago you turned eleven years old. I've gone to write this blog post many times and have been stuck; not because there aren't a million great things to say about you, but because you are one of life's great treasures that I feel will be lost in mere words. Still, words are important, so I will attempt to capture at least some of who you are. You turned eleven, but truly it feels like you are twenty some days. I don't mean to suggest you are a child who likes to act too grown up for your age, but rather that  you possess great wisdom and maturity. You have an amazing ability to be mature, yet still maintain imaginative play and a light hearted nature. You are a very quiet child and prefer to keep your deep thoughts to yourself. You are exceptionally diligent in work and school and like nothing better than to have a list in which to check things off. 

This year you started to be a "mommy's helper" for several families. It's hard for me to let you go do this work when I feel like you do so much of it at home already, but you beg to go and are always such a help to those you serve. Often times, moms will compliment you in amazement on how well you folded all their laundry, did their dishes or mopped their floor. When I speak to my friends, they will often comment on how much easier their life would be if they "just had an Annabelle!" 

More than anything, I am proud to watch the progress in character you have made and strive for every day. Just the other day a friend was lamenting about the tantrums her child is currently struggling with. I responded by saying, "You should have seen the tantrums Annabelle used to throw. They were epic!" The friend was aghast, "Annabelle!!! No! She's so calm and composed!" I wish I could say this was due to some magical parenting trick, but it is mostly due to your hard work and determination to be a holy and Godly woman. I have literally watched you want to lose your self control and go flying off the wall with emotion, and then slowly gather yourself, take a breath and choose the better road. I have watched you pick up your sister's clothes for the millionth time and want to scream in annoyance, but gather your patience and act in kindness instead. I watch you everyday treat Miriam with the sweetest and most loving kindness as if she were the most precious child on earth. I watch you in mass, almost daily, with your book full of devotional prayers as you reverently and consistently try to grow closer to Our Lord. I watch you in complete awe and wonder what I ever did to deserve a daughter like you. You are incredibly beautiful on the inside and out. 

I look forward to watching you grow and change in these coming years of adolescents. I hope and pray to be an example to you of a Godly woman. I love you, Annabelle and am so proud to be your mother. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Sarah Turns 6!

 "Mommy, do I have a book like the other kids? The kind you wrote in when I was a baby"

"No sweetie. By the time you were born, I didn't have much time to write in those books anymore. I'm so sorry."

"It's ok mommy. I love you. You're the best mommy in the world."

Conversations like this happen on a daily basis with you, my Sarah. You live up to your baby given nickname every single day. You are SUNSHINE on the darkest days. Your smile and contagious belly giggles brighten the whole family. You are constantly at my side, asking how you can help me, climbing on my lap and asking to read stories. You are naturally extraverted and are always looking for the next person to play with or the next conversation to be had.

One of the most fun things to do is watch you interact in a group of kids your age. You are a natural leader and extremely social. You will ask any kid to play with you and come up with the greatest games. You are one of those rare people in life that can make each individual person around you feel special and loved and amazing. You are always willing to put yourself and your desires to the side to maintain peace in a social situation. Being able to balance this while also leading a crowd is quite something to behold in a six year old child.

This is your first year of homeschooling and you are an amazing student. Most days you come to the table with great eagerness and maintain a positive attitude even when mommy has to help other children in the middle of your math lesson. You aren't reading yet, but your acute memory and sharp mind let us know that it's just a matter of time before the letters click and you are soaring through books. You often ask to "do school" on weekends. I never thought I would have to tell a child, "No honey. You can't do school today."

If mommy or daddy are running an errand you always want to tag along. Even if you are the only one going, you quickly throw on your shoes and race to the car. You talk non-stop to wherever we are going, don't stop the whole time we are there, and continue talking the whole way home. You often have deep thoughts and want to ask questions about Jesus or the way the world works. You are desperate to understand what your older siblings are doing or learning or working on. You get along with them well and look up to each of them in different ways. While you are trying to keep up with the older three, Miriam tries to keep up with you. You love her very much and play with her often. You can often be seen carrying her around as if she is a baby. She's almost as big as you and to watch you walk around with her as she lays her head on your shoulder is quite the funny site.

If I did have time to write in a baby book, this is what I would say: I would tell you that no amount of words written could capture the blessing you have been to me. I would write about how your smile and kind heart are exactly what this broken world needs. You are caring and kind and generous and bring smile and laughter to everyone around you. I would tell you how incredibly proud and unworthy I am to be your mother and how much joy I have watching you grow and change every day. I'm sorry their is no baby book for you, my fourth child, but know that I love you with every fiber of my being.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Time and Space

 It was a bright June day when I started noticing a peculiar habit of Juliana's. Every morning after breakfast, she would run out the front door and sit in the front yard, seemingly doing nothing but staring at the grass. This day was maybe the fifth day in a row she had done it, and as I stood at the window I watched her peaceful, dainty hands stroke the blades of grass. 

The night before my observation, Juliana had lost her earrings for what seemed like the thousandth time. They were the second pair we had to buy her because she had lost the first. She had to use her small amount of allowance to pay for them, and when they went missing she was naturally devastated.  Tears rolled down her cheek as she searched everywhere for the tiny silver hoops that had just arrived the previous day. We asked for St. Anthony's help, but eventually decided it was time for bed before finding them.

The next morning, when Juliana decided to come in from her new morning grass staring ritual, I asked if she wanted to go check eggs with me. As I grasped her delicate hand in mine and stepped onto the back porch, I spotted her tiny earrings laying on the concrete! What a terribly strange place for earrings to be! Great excitement and relief came from Juliana as she quickly snatched them up and held them tightly in her hand. 

"You should thank God and St. Anthony for helping us find those!" I told her.

"I already did", she replied matter of factly.

Surprised, I inquired further. "You thanked them, just now, that quickly?" 

"No, I thanked them when I was in the front yard this morning saying my prayers."

I tried to bring clarity to the situation by asking her if she thanked God for helping before the earrings were found, and she replied that she had. She couldn't seem to understand what was strange about this. I tried to press further, my mind trying to grasp what was going on in my seven year old's spiritual life.  

"What else did you tell God when you were praying?"  

Juliana shrank back from me, her eyes lowered and her voice became quiet and shy, "I don't like to tell people what I pray. I think it's just supposed to be between me and God."

I respected her privacy and grabbed her hand to head towards the chicken coop. After about five paces, she stopped suddenly. "Mommy, I don't really pray to God. I more like talk to God and ask Him questions. I ask Him what He is like and how His ways are and then I try to hear what He says. I only really pray, like ask for things, at church."

I was obviously very shocked to hear my seven year old basically describe contemplative prayer in her own sweet way that day. 

In days since, I have thought a lot about our conversation. I have mostly thought about the gift that time and space is for little children (and maybe big ones too!). If Juliana had been hauled off on a school bus that morning, if she had had an ipad to grab or a daycare to get to, she wouldn't have had the space or the quiet to run into the front yard, stare at the grass and contemplate His ways. It has given me a renewed sense of gratitude for the gift of homeschooling. It renews my firm belief that staying home with your children to witness and be a part of these little moments is worth more than all the money  or earthly prestige in the world. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Happy Birthday #5

I'm a little late on this, but better late than never!

Dear Miriam,
What indescribable joy you have brought this family! From the moment you entered this world you have been adored by everyone around you. You are not a docile calm baby but make your opinions known and "speak" your mind. There is no fear that you will be forgotten in the crowd because your strong and persistent spirit won't let that happen!

You are happy most of the time and if you aren't , someone is always ready to fix your problems. You love to sit and look at books and are extremely physically advanced. You climb on and in anything you find. Sometimes we see you next to an open box or container of some sort and you ALWAYS try to fit yourself in it! You love to be outside and walk around like you own the place. You have no fear of the chickens running around the yard and could sit at the fence for hours watching the neighbors' dog run back and forth. One of your favorite outdoor activities is to be pulled along in the wagon. Sometimes we find you sitting in there just waiting to be pulled.

You have a special affection for your brother. I always joke that you are trying to make up for not being a boy to him. Anytime he picks you up, you instantly lay your head down on his shoulder. You love to just sit with him and cuddle. You even let him put you to bed every night. You love to walk around the house with a baby doll in your arms, patting and rocking them as you go. You are extremely busy and like to get into everything around you.

You have brought so much joy, laughter, beauty and light to this family. We are forever blessed by your presence and can't wait to watch you grow!

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Year of the Cross and Finding Joy

One year. Those two words rang through my mind so many times in 2019. While Miriam's birth and entrance into this family brought more joy than we could ever have imagined, my body didn't respond very well to the stress of sleepless nights and an unplanned move just a few months after she was born. I fell deep into a postpartum depression that manifested itself through insomnia and anxiety. There were many days and nights where I thought I would end up in a mental institution because something had to be done! I clung to the cross, I clung to my husband and I clung to the hope that someday I wouldn't feel this way. I cried so many tears of mommy guilt as I looked into my baby's deep blue eyes wishing she would grow up so things could get better. Aren't we mothers supposed to tell our kids not to grow up? Aren't we supposed to mourn every time they move up a size in clothes? I couldn't do it this time. I stretched my imagination far and often looking for that time when she would be one year and things would get easier. I have carried some heavy crosses in my short twelve years as a wife and mother. Five years ago today I sat in an emergency room wondering if I was ready to die because death seemed to be standing on my doorstep. But even thinking back to that moment I can say with complete honesty that no cross has ever been as hard, dark and life altering as this one.

Miriam is a year now. She toddles everywhere, gets into everything and still brings buckets of joy to our days. She is perfect and pleasant in every way. She doesn't need to nurse as often and sleeps fine without me right by her side. But the truth is, we are two months past a year and I still struggle. Most nights I still don't sleep well and there are some days. though not as often, when I am still plagued by anxiety. And so I stretch my mind to the far future in hopes that I will heal slowly and someday this cross will be a distant memory.

During my pregnancy I had almost constant spiritual consolation. God felt near in every moment. His peace flooded my soul. Shortly before this I had three strong urgings by the Holy Spirit to pick up a devotion to The Sorrowful Mother. I did begin a devotion, knowing full well that this probably meant a big cross of some sort was coming. Also during 2019, at the beginning to be precise, I was given the word "Joy" to meditate on for the year. I will admit that for most of the year this confused me greatly. How could my word be joy when I had never cried so many tears in my life? It seemed like a cruel sock to the gut when I was supposed to know joy but only felt sadness. While I'm still not completely clear on the true mystery of joy, I have found one thing to be true: Mary's greatest joys are amazingly close to her sorrows. The presentation of Jesus led to Simeon telling her how much she and He would suffer. Birthing the Son of God meant fleeing in the middle of the night for fear of His life to a land they knew not. Finding Him in the temple was preceded by three agonizing, anxiety ridden days of searching for her only son. Finally, only by standing at the foot of His cross and holding his bloody and mutilated body could she experience the joy of His resurrection. So if there is one thing I have learned it is that in a mysterious and beautiful way, all our true joys in life must be tied to heavy crosses; and while the weight of this cross has not been lifted, my eyes are set on the hope of the future. In the meantime, I am reminded every day that joy itself sits right in front of my eyes in the form of a babbling baby. Miriam is joy, and every sweet smile she gives me makes the weight of this heavy cross seem insignificant in the light of her eternal soul.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Number 1 Isn't Such a Peanut Anymore...

Our sweet first child, and only son, turned 11 a couple of months ago. The fact that he is the oldest and the only son makes this mama have a slight mental break down every year he gets older. I can't believe how fast he is growing and the wonderful young man he is becoming. Peanut's number one goal in life right now is to make people laugh. He will do anything to put a smile on someone's face. While he is still trying to figure out what kind of humor flies and what kind gets shot down, he succeeds most of the time in his ventures. He is incredibly witty, quick and smart. Sometimes his desire to make people laugh gets him in a bit of trouble (by me) at our homeschooling co-op as his desire to be funny overrides his desire to listen to his teacher. Lucky for him, he is smart and knows most of what is being taught already anyways.

He is growing everyday in virtue and tries very hard to become a better brother and more obedient son. He is great at playing with his sisters and especially adores #5. He asks to hold her all the time and cuddles her when she is sad. His sisters look up to him in every way and he is always successful in making them laugh.

This year Peanut shot his first deer and it was surely a moment to remember. He did a great job listening to the instructions of his father and making Belle feel as ok with everything happening as possible. I'm sure this hunting season will be the first of many in his life. On a daily basis at home, Peanut helps out a ton with the chickens and the two cows we have. He never complains when he is asked to do chores outside and is always willing to give a helping hand.

If I had to name one passion for Peanut these days it would be his love of the mass. He LOVES to serve mass. He cries when he can't. I can't remember a day when we dropped him off at church that he didn't literally RUN all the way into the church. He asks to serve daily mass as often as we are able to go and is always looking for ways he can be a better server. As he grows, I pray this love of the mass stays with him always. I am so beyond proud to call him my son.

Peanut, you are an incredible young man. Your love for truth and our Lord are inspiring to me and I hope that only continues to grow in you. Thank you for always being so willing to forgive me when I mess up. Thank you for knowing when I need a hug even before I do. Thank you for your constant love and sweetness and effort. I love you with all my heart and am so proud of you.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Birth of Miriam

On December 9th we attended a beautiful Advent devotion at the Bishop's cathedral. Grandma Valerie had flown in several days before and we tried to fill the days with distractions as we all awaited your arrival. We sat at the cathedral and listened to a choir that sounded like angels sing the old Psalms and heard scriptures read about Christ's coming. That evening, almost all seemed right in the world.

After returning home from the Advent devotion, I couldn't fall asleep. It was after midnight and was now December 10th. I was uncomfortable and tossed and turned. I decided to get up and use the restroom for the hundredth time and felt warm fluid drip down my leg. I knew my bag of waters was leaking. The time was 1:30am I woke up your father who immediately jumped out of bed (rare for him) and started putting things together. With my last two births happening very quickly, we knew we had to move fast if we were going to make it to the hospital. I had one real contraction and Max insisted on calling our doula and doctor. I hesitated, thinking that it was crazy to call anyone after just ONE contraction. He had no intention of listening to me, made two phone calls and told me we were going. Through the next three contractions I quickly put on some mascara, threw a few last items in my bag and complained about how crazy it was to be leaving so early. Max shuffled me to the car and we were on our way.

I rode most of the way with my eyes closed, breathing through contractions which were getting more and more intense. What I did see was several stop signs passed by and a few red lights passed. Max knew more than I did how quickly we needed to get there. When we finally arrived I asked Max to please let me wait for our doula to arrive before we went in. With the next two contractions, I started to make pushing noises and we both knew we needed to start walking, without our doula, or this baby was going to be born in the car.

Once inside, I made a beeline for the bathroom. In my primal state, I wanted to be in a tiny room where no one could see me. Looking back, and Emergency Room bathroom probably wasn't the cleanest place to choose. I waited there until Max told me a wheelchair was ready for me. Generally, I would have rather walked to the labor and delivery unit, but I knew that if I attempted that walk I wouldn't make it to the 5th floor with a baby still inside me. I was wheeled up to labor and delivery while Max made small talk with the tech pushing me. This annoyed me to no end, but Max is always polite and amiable, no matter what situation we are in.

We arrived at triage and I breathed through another contraction leaning up against the wall. I thought back to the sign on my mirror at home with a quote by St. Rose de Lima, "Pain is never permanent" and found strength and comfort in that truth. A nurse asked me to lay in the bed and get strapped up to monitors. I told her there was no physical way I could possibly lay in a bed. She didn't like this very much and told me for the sake of my baby's health we needed to check on her. I asked where my doctor was and heard her say behind me, "I'm right here." Relief flooded me. She told the nurses I needed to be checked right away as I had precipitous labors. At this point my doula arrived. Again, relief flooded me. I was asked to get on the bed to be checked and instinctively got on the bed on my hands and knees. I thought in my mind, "Whatever needs to be done has to be done like this because I am not moving!" With the next contraction I could feel baby Miriam coming down. Dr. L. checked me and said I was complete and ready to push, which I already knew. With the next contraction I pushed while placing my hand where I could feel Miriam coming. As her head emerged, I was able to feel every inch of it and control my pushing. With one more contraction, at 2:41am, her tiny body slipped from mine and she was lifted to my chest. She was pink and tiny and beautiful. Everyone in the room was shocked at the short length of the labor; 70 minutes from the first contraction to a baby in hand.

Miriam, you are a joy to behold and sweetness incarnate. I wake every day excited to snuggle you and behold the ways in which you will grow. I love you sweet baby girl.