Monday, January 30, 2012

What you learn in half a lifetime

Monica, our 7th baby will soon be 9 months old. And I haven't blogged in nearly half her lifetime.  I could get down on myself for that but I don't. Our family life is busy... Four now in school, one in preschool, one (please Lord) on his way out of diapers and our little blue eyed speed crawler.  I once posted an entry with 9 reasons (excuses) for not having blogged in over 2 months.  If only I could have gotten to the keyboard in so little time this go around. 

I've come to appreciate a little bit of wisdom from John Hughes, director of so many of the angst filled films of my youth.  In the words of Ferris Bueller (now part of American folklore, but when I first heard them part of a Saturday movie outing with a pack of my 15 year old friends....) life moves pretty fast. If only Ferris knew how fast - in that I'm blogging while on an Amtrak train from Washington DC back home after a one day business trip. I literally needed a 3 hour train ride to be able to type these lines - which while not revelation with a capital R, have been a revelation to me in these months.

 Life moving pretty fast comes much more clearly to me as I watch my children grow.  In the months (short though they may be) since I've last blogged, Monica has 1) started solid foods and now enjoys the heck out of a pizza crust, inspite of having not a single tooth, 2) rolled over, 3) learned to laugh, 4) experienced her first Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, 5) begun to crawl , 6) mastered sitting up and most recently 7) pull herself up in the crib to greet me each morning.  In four months.  Not a bad learning curve.

She's not the only one learning and changing.  We have two aspiring cursive writers, one spelling bee competitor, two sound blending pre readers and a singer of all things Thomas the Train and Little Einsteins.  And two parents trying to keep up with it all.  The learning  is never static. (The clothes from the dryer may be!)  

And so you might say, what am I learning and am I changing... well in the half a lifetime since I was 20, I've learned lots.  But nothing so fast as what I've learned in marriage and parenting (albeit only for 8 years). I've learned that what the psalmist says "our life is over like a sigh, our span is seventy years or eighty for those who are strong" is true.  And that in a way, Ferris is right on target.  Stopping to look around is important.  With the busyness of our house and family, it is easy live life like Bill Murray in the classic movie Groundhogs Day. Instead of teenage angst I get forty year old parent angst sometimes. Every day the same routine and all bent on achieving external success or some exterior measure of happiness.  Says who?

Reflecting on how much my little one has learned in these few months reminds me that God doesn't want me to  lose sight of what is most important. God doesn't want me to have angst.  I'm learning it is most important to look to the right place for wisdom, the Church. And most of all, when I have that little "r" revelation about what the big "R" counterpart can offer me, I receive peace and patience as gifts.  How's that for a good lesson to learn? And the more I accept this learning, the more God can change me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bye Bubbles. Thanks.

So tomorrow starts second grade for my two oldest and the day after they turn seven.  My blog title really is obsolete.  Soon I won't even be Mom to 7 under 7!  Where did this summer go? In fact, where does the time go? It is a question I've asked myself frequently this week and especially today - the 21st anniversary of the passing of my Grandma.

It is also the end of summer  2011- a bookend of sorts for an amazing few months.  Summer is a great time - this summer especially with our baby Monica bringing great joy to the house.  Summer is also a tough time - practically speaking, every night has to be bath night! Don't get me wrong, we bathe the children regularly - but usually in shower mode.  Sarah and Joseph, our two eldest have been able to independently shower for more that a year.  Mostly out of necessity and somewhat out of conservation - you can shower and use less water much more quickly that a full tub bath.  But for the young ones, a tub 'bubbly bath' is de riguer for the summer. 
The chance to break out rubber ducks and boats and swim through a sea of Mr Bubble is somehow like heaven to our kids. There just isn't a way to keep ahead of the sweat, sand, dust and fun they have each day.  The bathtime shuffle becomes the evening routine in the summer. In fact, my favorite sentence that Simon, now 2 years and 5 months has coined this summer? At the close of every bath, where he watches every drop of water go down the drain, he offers a thanks to the bubbles.  "Bye bubbles.... thanks!"

So Simon's reminder last night was still ringing in my ears as I sat at mass this morning, praying for Grandmother's soul and remembering the graces I received in being at her side when she passed. I thought of the many times I'd had sleep overs at her apartment in the Bronx - starting the evening in a bathtub filled with Ivory soap, how she would rinse my hair squeaky clean, blow air between my toes ("You could get a harribble fungus, doncha know" she'd tell me in her Sligo brogue)
and cover me in powder before donning my pj's and serving open faced turkey sandwiches with generous slices of cranberry jelly that we'd eat on card tables in her living room while watching TV.  I was reminded how swiftly time passes, as she's now been gone from this earth two years longer than I knew her. She was a grandma to me and my 3 siblings as well as 9 cousins.  We were quite the brood circa 1980. (I 'll leave the reader to guess which one is me!)

But summer bubble baths also make me grateful for what God has given me this summer - many precious moments with my own family (now 8 strong including husband Mark) and my family of birth along with neices, nephews and brothers in law.  Seeing how much they all enjoy one another's company was one of the best memories of the summer. My grandma always used to say "It sure didn't take long to sleep all night" and as a mom of so many little ones I can attest to that being true. But I realized today that it doesn't take long for a generation to grow up either.  And all this reflection because of the last bubble bath of the summer. Amazing what God uses to make us think of Him

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

14 weeks and so much change

So it has only taken just shy of 14 weeks to blog again.  But I have one REALLY cute reason to have been distracted.  Monica Mary arrived safely on May 13, in spite of her mother's anemia (apparently I should have listened to the doctor and taken the iron - read horse - pills).  You want proof of the cuteness?  Just look at that face!

Prior to Monica being born I asked a few friends should I change the name of the blog?  Would one more child make that much of a difference in the experience that I blog about?  I can say resoundingly - yes! 

The arrival of each new child has changed the dynamic of our family life in every possible way.  But most especially for me, I can now appreciate the little things in all the older children as they mature.  For example, how Sarah and Joseph can help to pack the van when our family went away for July 4th.  They wrote their lists and took out the clothes they needed to pack.

How each child understands that this new sibling will need mom and dad more for a little while and to see how they adjust.  The boys - who didn't use to like to play together much - now playing tag, light saber style daily.  Sarah offering to paint Catherine's nails.  Sure they still fight but I've been conscious of how they know the small things - like keeping the house quieter when Monica and Simon, who is an official big brother now - need to nap.  Thank goodness for kiddie pools and buckets! 

We've also learned how important to try to carve a little something special for each of the children as often as we can, to fan their interests and laugh with them at their adventures.From admiring John Paul's egg carton rocket, to accompanying Simon to the library story and play time, gratefully accepting a friends invite to a swim play date or taking in the latest dress up fashion show, life in a larger than life family is still wonderful.

Its also easier to see how fast the time goes .... Monica seems as if she's been part of our family forever.  But also since my last post... my god daughter, who it feels like was baptised three weeks ago is now driving, my younger sister and her husband and sons moved to Charlotte and I turned 40.  Before my sister's move we had a great all extended family day. I reveled in the fun that our children  had along with their seven cousins. We took advantage to memorialize the day in a photo. Reminds me how good God has been to me as well as my sisters. 

I was inspired to stay up a bit later to jot these thoughts after my husband sent me a link to a story about another "a typical family"  - The Kilmer Family - from Maryland.  They have 11 children under the age of 12 (no multiples for them) and appear to be just as content (but maybe more tired!) that I am.  What an inspiration!  I loved a quote by the mom, Jen - she pointed out the truth I'm coming to know better myself “Somehow God provides,” she often says, “in ways you don’t even know.”

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Being OTL - sometimes it makes me LOL & other times say OMG

Well in less than 24 hours (God willing so) I will be a mom to 7 under 7. All of our children have been delivered via c section (glad I live in an age of modern anesthesia!) and tomorrow is my 5th section. I usually become a bite more contemplative in the last week prior to delivery especially since the prospect of surgery makes my mortality more present.  It prompt the existential question - What is it that I live for? 

As I woke this morning I found myself ruminating on being open to life (OTL).  Many times when my husband and I share with others that we are OTL they don't know what to make of it.  Most presume it means having lots of kids - we get the old school "oh you must be Catholic" jokes pretty often.  (For a fun look at some of the usual statements made to us check out this video made by a large family who is OTL)

This morning I wasn't thinking about large families - rather I was listening to the relative silence (only 4 of our 6 are home now and in a few hours it will just be me and Mark since we have to be at the hospital at 5:45am tomorrow!) and began thinking about my many friends and acquaintances who are OTL and it has nothing to do with having many children.  It's about trusting in God's plan and cooperating with it.

Some examples .....  our neighbors.  We met them 7 years ago when they had two sons (and unbeknownst to us had lost a baby girl at 7 months gestation).  Their sons are now a sophomore in highschool and an 8th grader.  Shortly after we moved into the neighborhood, this family began serving as foster parents for two young children who had been born by mothers who suffered from drug addiction.  Those two children - a boy and girl  who are now Joseph and Sarah's good friends- have been adopted by our neighbors who thank God since "we would never have thought of foster care or adoption if we hadn't lost our baby".  

Another neighbor - have also adopted a child - a son born in Korea.  You see, the husband in that couple was in a very bad car accident when he was in his early twenties and is paralegic.  You would cry to see how dad points out hitting tips as his son plays baseball under his watchful eye in the backyard.

Our friends ..... my husband was asked by a high school friend to write a letter of support for their adoption process.  They had tried for years to conceive but weren't able.  When their son arrived from Korea at the airport - they asked Mark and me to be there "To see our family be born".  What an honor. 

Another set of friends who married quite late in life but desired to witness to love.  They too looked to adopt.  Their son, born in China with a cleft lip and palate was literally saved from the gutter  and certain death by the fact that God gave them the grace to be OTL.

In all of these adoption stories, the children are of a different race and or ethnicity from their parents.  Showing the world that we are all in the image and likeness of God - regardless of the external appearance or label. 

Another set of friends also struggled with infertility for nearly 8 years before they were able to welcome their son.   Two years later their son was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome.  Many folks thought "how tragic" but this couple instead were filled with love at being given a twice special gift - a son who would need even more love.  (By the way - they remainded OTL and have another son and are waiting for the birth of their third child).

How about our primary babysitter - a now 18 year old girl who lives up the block.  She was adopted by her parents as an infant after they had been unable to conceive for many years.  After adopting her,  being OTL to give love to a child, her parents had two additional daughters.  I'm always amazed at how the 3 girls, only two of whom are genetically related, really resemble each other!

Another set of friends have one son who is now in 5th grade.  They've not been able to conceive since his birth and science can't tell them why (without their assenting to going against what the church teaches about the procreative and unitive nature of conjugal love).  We are part of the marriage preparation team in our parish with this couple and I'm moved to tears each time the mom makes the statement  that her job as a mom is harder than mine.  She tells the engaged couples that she has to make sure her son understands that the world doesn't revolve around him - he is called to love others as if they were his physical brothers or sisters.  Teaching a 5th grader to be OTL. 

So this morning's thoughts were about cooperating with God.  Life with 6 under 6 has been crazy at times (hence the need to LOL or utter a prayer of OMG) and for sure life with 7 under 7 will be interesting as well.  But as I sign off to pack my back for the hospital, I'm inspired by these OTL friends which God has given me and I trust in the words of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians....  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My waiting game.... and the sad waiting game of others

So I'm t minus 8 days to scheduled c section and am at home waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  (You can see that patience is a virtue I have mastered!). 

I've got more 'spare time' so to speak and was reading through the msnbc site today and happened upon a story which saddened me.  Somehow the concept of children as something which requires a cost benefit analysis is depressing.  What I see is the richness in being open to having children.  Like the richness we experienced cheering on Mark in his 2nd race - a 5 K ('piece of cake') this past weekend. 

Please note that I share the photo - not because I'm looking my best (in fact I think I was growling at someone to sit down and watch the photographer) - but rather that our family, size that it is had a great morning rooting daddy on to an under 32 minute finish of his 5K.

So Mark's race was this past race has been this week and next. Ensuring that everyone's dentist appointments and follow ups for cavity fills (ugh) are complete. Swapping out all the winter for summer clothes (just as temperatures drop to an average of 55 for several days).  Packing bags - for me and baby girl to go to hospital and for 3 different 'sleep over' spots with 2 children per location launching at various points next week to (hopefully!) leave Mark and me ready to go to the hospital early on the morning of Friday the 13th of May  to deliver our lucky #7.  Lest you think we are superstitious, we chose May 13th for the feast of Our Lady of Fatima - who called us especially to prayer and sacrifice.  A great message as we prepare to welcome our next child, whom the world may see as "costly" but whom we see as priceless beyond measure!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When less really is more.... Sharing in Mark's success

Again about one month has gone by between posts but today really was a fantastic day which connects my last post  - about doing more or giving up for Lent with the events of today.  My husband Mark made a decision about 5 months ago to get into better shape for himself, the kids and me.  Though he's hit many a milestone in the journey thusfar, today was a huge milestone.  Proof that when you are less,  you are really more!  Since November Mark has lost over 60 pounds ... much of it by living a more 'lenten' lifestyle. 

He's been making changes in diet but also running pretty much 5 or 6 days a week.  When he hit the 50 pounds lost point about three weeks ago,  I shared with him he had in essence lost in weight the equivilent of our son Joseph!

Being pregnant, I 've not been able to accompany him in this transformation as I'd like to but have tried to support by better menu planning, shopping healthy and making sure to the best I'm able, that he has the time he needs for his run each day. (That being said I would be remiss if I didn't note that the other thing there is less of for Mark - as if that is possible with 6 under 6 and the 7th on the way - and that is sleep.)  He's up each day at 5:30am and out the door for his run.  All this was to work to the goal of today - to complete a 10K run  - his first ever - and to do it in "under 90 minutes and no injuries".

Check out the video to see if my man in red (with bright green hat....) hit his target...

After finishing, he remarked to me that while running he was thinking that it should have been someone else doing this race, not him.  It didn't seem possible five months ago.  And yet as I teared up taking the video and watching the kids giving their dad high fives, I am reminded that nothing is impossible for God.  Mark started this change not really for himself or to build himself up but rather to be a better father to our children and better husband (as if that were possible) to me.  He's healthier, happier, smiles more often and is much more at peace. 

When I consider what the next month will bring - the arrival of our 7th child in 7 years of marriage - I'm filled with awe at what God has done and is doing with our family.  Sarah, our eldest daughter had made a bet with her dad.  If he can in 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the race she would promise to be more obedient and he would promise not to yet at her ever again.  (BTW  - he didn't come in 1st, 2nd or 3rd...but we're still hoping on more obedience from Sarah thus requiring less yelling!) Mark didn't just run a race today - he gave a witness to me and to the kids of the truth in St. Paul's  first letter to the Corinthians (9:24). 

" Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."  

It was clear to me and the kids today that the prize for which Mark ran today is not a medal or trophy but for something which will last much longer - to witness to his kids that he loves them enough to get healthier for THEM.  His weight loss is not a prize he's seeking for himself. He's making these changes as a means of thanksgiving to God for all which He is entrusting to us ; seven little souls.

I'm also so grateful that God has given us good friend along the way - two of whom helped me wrangle the crew at the finish line and two of whom accompanied Mark along the 6.4 mile route!  Here's a shot of the whole gang (save Lou who volunteered as photo taker).

The next "leg of the race" will be mine to rune - the arrival of Hart Baby Girl #3 on or around May 13th! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Give up or do more.... choices at the start of Lent

I'm not quite a full day into the season of Lent and already I wonder what have I gotten myself into.  My husband Mark and I have spent the last few days trying to explain to our eldest two (who noted that yesterday was their 6 and 1/2 month birthday!), the purpose and meaning of the season of Lent for Christians. 

Here's how some of the discussions went:

Dad: "Joe, what do you think you 'd like to give up for Lent?"

Joe: "I've been thinking about it alot, Dad.  I think I'm going to give up homework."

{after a bit of discussion Joe came to understand you are meant to give up something you LIKE... so homework will get done, but we're opting out of using our Razor scooter}

Mom: "Sarah, what do you think you 'd like to give up for Lent?"

Sarah: "Well ...(long pause) ....maybe you could give up yelling and I could give up being disobedient?"

Interesting that my children are not really so different than me.  I'd rather give up something I perceive to be unpleasant (like Joe with homework) or make a barter with God - a quid pro quo - (like Sarah with me - scratch my back and I'll scratch yours!).  My own personal  quid pro quo these days would be "God, if you can stop our 3 year old from coming into our bed every night, I'll do anything!".   But it is clearer and clearer to me that this isn't the type of Lent I'm meant to live.

I had always learned as a child that Lent was for giving something up.  As an adult, people began to speak with me about doing something more as a way to show my love for God - to draw myself out of my more selfish nature.  I wonder if with its non scientific poll will ask if folks will opt to do something more?

So I spent today wondering and thinking... what to do... or give up....  and I finally settled on a few things. 

First - a lenten vacation from Facebook.  I followed the lead of a few friends who are signing off until Easter dawns.  I've been happily surprised that I can still breathe in and out without checking status updates on an hourly basis.  (Of course as I type I just realized.... in order to post blog entry to FB, I may have to log on to FB....). 

Second, to not listen to the radio in the car during my commute to work.  I readily admit to being a little addicted to WCBS880 and the traffic reports every 10 minutes.  Seems a silly thing but it is actually a two for one.  By having silence in the car, there's more chance I'll pray.  Work in a daily dialogue with God. The irony is not lost on me, when I think of how noisy my life is day to day - 6 young ones can make quite a racket - that I don't think to do this year round.  Let's hope it becomes a habit which sticks through Easter and beyond  - heck let's hope the desire on Sarah's part to be obedient sticks too! 

On the "Do More" front... I think I have wait to see what God puts before me.  I do know this.... what I need to "do more" often is to be patient. 

I couldn't help but think today of  a great little scene from the movie Evan Almighty.  Maybe I'm just too much of a Morgan Freeman fan... but everytime I think of this scene it makes me reflect - even it the midst of my hectic days - what God has offered me and my husband.  Many daily opportunities to love - and those opportunities have names  - Joseph, Sarah, John Paul, Catherine, Patrick and Simon.  And they'll learn about God's love for them through me.  A great starting point for praying in the silence of my minivan this Lent.