Friday, October 31, 2014

7 Quick Takes Halloween Edition

This week...well let's just say it was wild and crazy above the normal wild and crazy that is Halloween week.  So here it is, in 7 Quick Takes...

#1: Not only was it Halloween week, it is also Red Ribbon Week at the big kids' school.  So each day had a theme, in which participation was apparently a life or death situation.  In fact, I think they might have never been allowed to return to school if they chose not to wear sunglasses and a neon shirt.  Tuesday was "Dress Fancy Day."  Even though Reece doesn't go to school, he very much wants to do what the big kids are doing.  So, for Fancy Day he literally wore a three piece suit all day long.   Jacket, tie, vest, velcro-pocket square...the whole nine yards.  Oh, and camo Crocs with socks.  All. Day. Long.  He even slept in the thing.  And did NOT want his picture taken. 

Check out Andrew's awesome suit coat.  So much love.
Finally broke through the baditude.
#2: Reece has been, let's just say "challenging" the past few years (read: his entire lifetime).  When we were naming him we discovered that "Reece" is derived from the Welsh "Rhys," which means "fiery and enthusiastic."  I think we got our money's worth on that one.  We joked that we should pick a middle name that means "well-behaved; subdued."  We chose to go with Kyle as his middle, which I think is Latin for "generic boy name."

Anyway, he is such a lovely little boy when he wants to be (as they all are) and I know that as parents, we see the best and the worst of our kids.  But lately he's being really mean.  I can't figure out if he's an introvert or just a bully.  Anytime that other kids come over who are out of the norm, he is just a jerk!  So this week I instituted the Love Bowl!  How many reward/accountability systems can you have for one kid?  Who knows?!  I say the more, the merrier.  So he already gets beads for behaving (i.e. following directions, having a good attitude, etc.)  If he is naughty he loses them and every bead he has at the end of the day turns into a chocolate chip.  So that is kind of a reverse reward system--he can lose them for misbehavior.  (PBS educators avert your eyes!)  The Love Bowl is just a big fishbowl that I taped stuff on (the front cover of the church bulletin, thank you Joe B.) that focuses on the greatest commandment--love God, love your neighbor, love yourself.  All the kids in the house at any given time can earn Warm Fuzzies to put in the bowl when they do loving things.  It's been helpful in getting them to think of others before themselves.  And we'll just save all the lessons on intrinsic motivation for when they go to college.

#3: We have the tiniest dining room in North America, I am sure of it.  Maybe there is a Guinness record to be won and I should look into that.  We also lack counter space in our kitchen.  So coming up with creative solutions to these first world problems is my full time not-job.  Any suggestions that would make entertaining at our house easier?  I was thinking about some kind of buffet/sideboard/wooden thing that would be super skinny.  I don't know.  Help me.

#4: The baby keeps waking up while I am trying to write this.  Geez.  Don't babies have any consideration for others?!

#5: These pancakes.  Seriously.  If you never do anything else I say, at least do this.  Make and devour these delicious creations.  We have found that it might be best (if you have a big-ish family or a big-ish appetite) to double the pancake recipe but leave the streusel as is.  Serve them with or without real maple syrup, cause these babies are sweet and wonderful. 

#6: Over the summer I had an idea to start an organization for kids who needed financial assistance for participation in extracurricular activities, specifically the arts.  I did a little research, and then I got busy with life and really didn't pursue it any further.  Then my awesome friend had the same idea and he actually started a non-profit!!!  It is called the Day Dreams Foundation and they are working on getting all the paperwork in order to be legit!  I am super excited to tell you more about this as it gets off the ground, but if you would like to financially support this organization, let me know!  They are currently looking for a donor who could contribute $400 to pay for some start up paperwork costs.  And there is a trivia night fundraiser already on the books for December 4th!  Go find them on Facebook and get involved in helping out a great cause!

#7: If we have any more children, I may have to start on Halloween costumes by July 4th. 
And don't even get me started on how many trips to the craft store it took!  My life is so hard.  Here are some pics from our un-official playgroup costume parade at the mall...see if you can guess the theme.  One of mine is in the stroller with the crown on and the other one is in the striped shirt, standing next to Queen Elsa.  And we also have Goldilocks, Baby Bear, and Ewok.  Marty the Zebra and Alex the lion from Madagascar were there as well, but they were camera shy.  

Life can't be all bad when your grandpa works at the carousel!

Happy Halloween, friends! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Much Ado About Nothing

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about South Dakota, The Shoe Song, rap battles, and why I should not ask people if I can pray for them

#1: Yesterday I spent three whole minutes trying to figure out how to put a sleep sack that I found in the closet on Luke.  It was not a sleep sack.  It was a Boppy pillow cover.  Maybe my kids are on to something when they said I'm not smart.

#2: Speaking of baby sleep products, I was suckered again.  Have you seen that show, Shark Tank, on ABC?  If you haven't, it is great!  But watch with caution.  It is basically a cleverly disguised infomercial...a wolf in shark's clothing.  (I know that analogy doesn't work, but humor me mm-kay?)  So we bought this baby sleep sack thing, called a Zipadee-zip, that we saw on the show.  I was hopeful that it might improve our sleep situation, which right now, is really not all that bad.  It did not.  He hates it.  Like thrashes around until you take it off hates it.  I think he might be too old for it.  It's kind of supposed to be a transition from the baby straitjacket swaddle that we all know and love.  But he's been unswaddled and fancy free for many moons now.  If any of you want to look it up and give it a go, I'd be happy to pass it along. We bought size medium.

#3: Amendment 3 (see what I did there?)  I don't like to get political very often and we are all entitled to our opinions and let's just play nice, okay?  But...Missouri Amendment 3 which will be on the ballot this November is very very bad for teachers and students.  I urge you to educate yourself on the issue and please vote no.  Both Missouri teacher's associations, MSTA and MNEA, are very strongly opposed and so are all the teachers I know.  As a family of current and former teachers, please support what is best for kids and vote no!  You can go here and here to get more information.

#4: Lately I've been convicted about our family's eating habits.  They are pretty good, but not great.  I cook almost all of our dinners from scratch using real food ingredients.  We eat fruits and veggies.  But lunch and snacks are not always the best.  My kids could hold off on eating healthy food because sooner or later, snack time will roll around and they can fill up on crackers, yogurt raisins, or what have you.  So I'm trying to do better about only stocking the house with good food "from the nature."  This week I tried my hand at making apple chips (So easy!  So delicious!  Make you some!) and currently I am snacking/lunching on some roasted chick peas that are pretty good and satisfy my need for salt and crunch.  So if you have any great ideas on the food front, send them my way!  Hurry.  Before I go out and buy all the ice cream.

#5: Some mom friends and I took all of our tiny humans hiking at Rock Bridge State Park yesterday.  The weather was gorgeous and the company was great!  One thing we didn't plan out so well was the fact that we took 11 kids ages 4 and under, 5 of whom can't really be trusted to walk on their own.  Geez, kids.  Make yourselves useful.  Now if you've ever been to RBSP you know that there are a great many stairs on the wooden walkways.  Not so conducive to strollering.  All of us are babywearing mamas, but still, you can only wear so many babies at a time.  Or can you?

Meet my awesome friend, Jenny.  She's a bad mutha'...shut yo mouth!

We decided to take this other trail that was a "wide rock path."  That picture was taken after she pushed those two in a jogging stroller through what was basically a rocky creek-bed turned into a "trail."  While wearing her two year old on her back.  Who also refused to walk for what seemed like 18 miles. 

This was the best picture I got of all of the "big kids."  There are 6 of them.  That means that we are wearing the other 5!  The crazies insisted on lying down on all the rocks.  They also insisted on running through the rocks and falling over, every last one of them.  The two year olds also insisted on holding hands with each other and no one else.  It was like the blind leading the blind, I tell you.  When it was all said and done, no one died or had to be helicoptered to safety and we brought lunch so everyone left happy. 

Perhaps this should read, "Pets must be leashed, children must be abandoned."

"I was there, too!"

#6: If you're my friend on Facebook, you were probably already treated to this exchange but I'm posting it anyway.  Emma and Andrew were playing a "trivia" game on the way home from church one night.  Andrew asks, "Who was the first Native American born in the USA?"  The correct answer?  Stevie Wonder.  So many things wrong here.

#7: Also that night when we got into the garage I said, "Something smells like pee and poop."  Emma: "It might be me..."  What?!  (For the record, it was the dog area.)

Have a great weekend!  Go Tigers, beat Vandy!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

World Youth Day

Twelve years ago, I met a Saint.  Ok, to be honest, I didn't meet him in person, but I did come close to him.  He did pass me by, encased in his glass "Popemobile," and I saw him up close with my own two eyes.  If I had shouted to him, absent of the roar of the rest of the crowd, he could have heard me!  Maybe he even saw me, or waved to me.  Yesterday, October 22, 2014, was the first official feast day for St. John Paul II.  And it was yesterday that I realized that I was once in the presence of a Saint.  

I don't tell the story of World Youth Day 2002 very often.  Probably because my long term memories of the experience are kind of fuzzy.  And probably because it was such an unbelievable experience that to describe it well is virtually impossible.  In July of that year, over 850,000 young people descended upon Toronto for a week of events that culminated with an overnight vigil and Papal Mass.  It was Pope John Paul II's last World Youth Day and my first.  

"You are the salt of the are the light of the world."  

There were two separate groups that went from our Diocese, one of college students, and the other for high schoolers.  I went as a chaperone (at the ripe old age of 21) with the high school group.  We took two charter buses from Missouri to Toronto, Canada.  I remember that we stayed outside of the main part of the city.  Each day we would drive into the area of Toronto where the events were held, and each night we would drive back to the hotel.  While many of the WYD participants slept on floors of churches in sleeping bags, we had much more comfortable accommodations.  I think we all wish, in retrospect, that we hadn't.  

One night, as our bus traveled the dark streets of the Toronto area, a pedestrian walked out into the road.  Our driver had a green light, the person was wearing dark clothing, and there was never a chance that we would see him.  After the initial impact, and the rumbling through the bus that we had just hit someone, I remember immediately curling up in a ball in my seat, trying not to throw up and cry.  And just as quickly as I curled into myself, I remember thinking, "I am one of the leaders here!"  So I took a deep breath and forced myself up out of my seat, hurrying to check that the teens on the bus were okay.  I remember all of us praying the rosary on the side of the road as we waited for emergency personnel.  I remember how scary and sad and heavy that night and the next day felt for us all.  I don't think that we ever officially got word about what happened to the pedestrian.  We all assumed the worst, and it was probably a fair assumption to make.  One thing is for certain, he had a lot of people praying for him.  

"You are the salt of the are the light of the world."

I remember the crowds! The throngs of Catholics from all over the globe!  Flags were flying over our heads as far as the eye could see.  People were chanting and singing in their own languages, and dancing to the songs of others.  I think that we even flew a Mizzou flag!

I remember that we went to a concert and danced to Matt Maher singing "Pharaoh, Pharaoh" and "Your Grace is Enough," not knowing that a member of our group would later go on to actually play in his band! 

I remember walking the Stations of the Cross through the streets of Toronto and kneeling on the hard sidewalks as we remembered Christ's passion and death.  

I remember standing in line one evening, holding the hand of my teenage friend who was going to reconciliation for the first time in a long time.  

"You are the salt of the are the light of the world."

And then there was the "pilgrimage."  We walked and talked and sang along the way to the site of the Papal vigil.  I think it was an old airfield, or something like that.  Picture a wide open space, large enough for almost a million people to gather.  I remember waiting in lines that were too long for food that was not enough.  We found a spot for our group to camp out for the night, but we hadn't brought tents.  We were to sleep under the open skies!  And that night, the weather almost got the best of us.  Torrential rain and winds set in across the area.  I remember building makeshift shelters out of barricades set up for traffic flow and tarps that someone in our group had.  We were freezing and wet and the water still dripped/poured in through our poorly constructed lean-tos.  And then there were tornado warnings!  I'm not even kidding.  I think at one point we may have evacuated to somewhere, but I can't say for sure if that is a false memory or if it really happened.  

And then, in the morning, the sun rose.  And Pope JPII arrived!  And he was driven through the crowds and we were so close to him!  And we celebrated Mass together, receiving communion consecrated by the Holy Father himself.  And I remember the stillness of the crowd and the holiness of the time that we spent, thousands of us joined together in prayer and in awe of the wonders of God's love for us.  It still feels like it happened in a dream.  

"You are the salt of the are the light of the world."

Saint John Paul II was just that.  He was salt and light.  His fire for Christ lit the flames of so many others along the way, and we Catholics shine so much more brightly because of his wisdom and guidance.  As completely insane as our World Youth Day experience was, I think it could be a good metaphor for our faith lives.  They are tumultuous--we are alternately filled with joy, and weighed down by such heavy burdens and sadness.  There are hard roads to walk that leave our bodies aching and our hearts gasping, and beautiful moments that take our breath away.  And one day, when we are reunited with God in Heaven, we will be able to look back at our lives and say, "What a crazy ride! I'm so glad I came!"

Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Intelligent women of the world, I have failed us.

It all started with a case of head lice.  Yes, you read that correctly, head lice.  We managed five, glorious, lice-free years with kids in public school before the head bug apocalypse hit us yesterday.  Emma was hollering about wanting me to lice-shampoo her hair and not Dad--she makes it a high priority to maintain her "worst patient" status any time she is sick or ailing in any way.

And then it happened.  Andrew loudly whispered, "Well, what if Mom messes up?"  My ears pricked up.  "What?!  Why would I mess up and Dad wouldn't?!"  And then began the downward spiral in which I discovered that my kids think I am basically a warm body who occasionally brings them pizza.

"Well, Dad's smart."
"And I'm not?!"
"How is Dad smarter than me?  In what ways?"

He went through the list of things Dad can do which basically included fixing stuff.  And I pushed, "What are ways that I am smart?"

"Hmm...let's're smart at laundry, doing dishes, making babies, driving, cooking."

And then I died.  Apparently my children think the only thing I am good at is reading Harold and the Purple Crayon and writing my name backwards with purple crayon.  I cannot even manage the task of combing tiny bugs out of someone's hair.  EVEN MONKEYS CAN DO THAT!!!!!  And he said I am smart at cooking, which is a total lie because he doesn't even like anything I make!  I wanted to holler about my two college degrees and my ACT score, but let's be honest, that'll probably make him think I'm even dumber because I had to go to college twice!  And who even cares about your ACT score after you graduate high school?!  NO ONE!  You know who cares even less?!  An 8 year old boy who doesn't even know what that is.  I wanted to protest that I know big words like "inveigle" and "obfuscate" (Does it matter that I learned them from an episode of the X-Files?  I think not.)

So we talked about how there are lots of different kinds of smart, and how Dad is mechanically smart and good with technology and math.  And we talked about how I am good with words and writing, music, and people-smart.  I think I was so stunned and flabbergasted that I couldn't formulate a proper rebuttal.  And I'm not sure that I know how even now.  Since becoming a stay at home mom, what do I have to show for prove it to them?  How can I explain to them that even though I choose to make mothering my full time job, I really do have the brains to accompany the baking?  Maybe I need to spend my free time (wait, what?) doing the NY Times crossword and beating them in chess.

Maybe I should rethink my Halloween costume to something more along these lines:

Or, perhaps I will have to hire a trained monkey to homeschool them since I am obviously unqualified.  It'll be okay though, because then the monkey can take care of the lice, too.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

My First Ever 7 Quick Takes

Well, I'm joining up with Jen at Conversion Diary and a bunch of other, more real bloggers, for 7 Quick Takes.  Firstly because I love Jen, and secondly because I have a bunch of random stuff that you don't want to hear about that I want to blog about.  So without further ado...I hope I do this right...

#1: My kids are totally ridiculous.  But you knew that already.  Yesterday Andrew proclaimed that he was "dark and brooding."  I am questioning if he even knows what that means.  I mean, look at the kid.  He's the whitest, gingeriest 8 year old there is...sorry kid.  "Dark" will never be used to describe you.

#2: Luke has finally started to make his return to the land of the regular nurslings.  For the past few months he has only consented to nurse whilst lying down (whilst...because of his fancy demands.)  But!  Yesterday he decided he would eat with the commoners while I sat in the living room.  And today, also!  Maybe he'll make a habit of it and I can return to properly supervising the 4 and under crowd that has been writing on the unattended furniture. 

#3: I have gotten a lot of questions about Luke's necklace lately.  No, it's not a gold chain and we  aren't really into baby bling.  It happens to be an amber teething necklace.  For those unfamiliar with this sorcery, supposedly the amber releases succinic acid, which is said to have pain relieving properties, into the baby's skin.  I'm thinking of buying a bunch of them and wrapping them around him like baby chain mail just so we can get through teething. 

#4: Speaking of baby things no one cares about...In Luke's 8 months of old age he is finally starting to maybe perhaps toy with the idea of getting on a loose "schedule."  I won't hold my breath.  But just this week I actually made it through one and a half Jazzercise classes.  Maybe he just hates all the Pit Bull that we dance to or thinks that mothers should not shake their booties that much.  I don't see how that's possible, though.

#5: We have this CD that came from the kids' Vacation Bible School and one of the songs is called "Kids for Jesus" or something like that.  It came on the in the car the other day and Andrew said, "Yeah, that's my jam!"  Lest you think that we are raising super holy kids, Emma told her class at school that her favorite song is "Fireball" by Pit Bull and Reece brags gleefully every time he manages to hear "the big fat butt song" on the radio in the basement.

#6: On that note, we need to up our barely existent game of family devotion.  Any ideas?  Resources?  Tips and tricks for not making it the second worst time of the day (trumped only by bedtime, the most worst time of the day)?

#7: We have a statue of Mary in our living room and a little friend was looking at it the other day.  She patted the Blessed Mother and said, "She's beautiful!  Is that Elsa?"

Not the worst comparison, really.

Have a happy weekend!  Go Tigers!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mom, You Got This

Being a mom of both young children (4 and infant) and older children (10 and 8), I feel like I have a foot in two different worlds of parenting.  And really, I am thankful for that perspective.  I know things now that I wouldn't have been able to articulate ten years ago.  But the funny thing about having kids so early is that now I find the rest of my friends catching up.  And I see my younger parenting self in the struggles and joys of my friends who are now finding their way as parents of tiny people.

Halloween 2008...they were two and four.  How did they get so big now?!

Don't misunderstand me...I do not think that I have this parenting thing in the bag.  I have no idea what it will be like to parent teenagers, or college students, or even my two tiny ones as they get older.  I really have no idea what it will be like to parent any one of my children even later today.  But I am able now to take the long view.  When the baby is up all night and the preschooler flies off the handle because his socks are bumpy or his water tastes funny, I can at least take some comfort in the fact that this, too, shall pass. 

The early years of motherhood are so intense.  I can't even find a word to describe it.  You have to be on all the time...there is virtually never a quiet moment to yourself.  They are in your bed when you sleep and when you wake up.  They are there when you pee.  They are sitting on your lap or on your hip while you eat your lunch.  And sometimes that marathon of mothering leaves you gasping for breath at the end of the day, wondering how you can even take another step.

But the good news is, it isn't all for naught!  Being a mom stretches us in ways we didn't know we needed to stretch.  No pain, no gain, right?  I think of it as building our parenting muscles.  The little annoyances, the struggle against our own selfishness or anger or worry, the sheer exhaustion...all of these help to rebuild, reshape, and strengthen us so that we can do the really big work that comes with raising kids.  Teaching them our values and our faith.  Teaching them to love other people and to serve the world around them.  Teaching them about sexuality and love and all of the other wonderful and complex things that kids and young adults need to know.  Guiding them through crisis and heartache and poor choices and wrong decisions.  The labor pains of mothering don't stop after birth! And the intensity of those first few years really do help to strengthen us in the ways that matter most for our children.  They help us bring to birth all of the things we want for our children as they grow and go out into the world. 

So, to all my friends who are wondering how they will even make it to the end of today: take heart!  You can do it!  And when you can't, God's grace will be there to pick you up, dust you off, and set you back on your feet for tomorrow.

Some unsolicited cuteness.