Monday, December 27, 2010

What's in a name? To change from 6 under 6 to 7 under 7....

Ok... so this isn't MY 20 week ultrasound.  I won't have pictures of that until mid late January.  The delay in posting (I'm so disappointed in myself that I'm averaging one post a month since October!) was related to many things not the least of which was waiting until we were safely in the 2nd trimester with number 7.   We're closing in on the family size of Brian Regan  - one of the funniest comedian's I've ever heard.  If you're from a big family you have to check him out!

Of course we're enjoying the days after Christmas when toys are still clean, working and considered fun. We even managed to sneak a few toys in which will acutally teach the kids a thing or two.  A few new VTech games to help with reading and logic (and hopefully good sportsmanship when played head to head!), a Leap Frog Tag  for the preK set and specifically a letter scribbly thing to help John Paul with letter recognition deciding if he wants to be righty or lefty. (for those keeping score, for today he was righty).

It amazing how quickly they grow up - trite as that sounds - it rings more true each day.  For Christmas mass we brought our eldest two and left the younger ones at home with cousins as sitters.  Joe and Sarah really listened and participated.  Of course it helped that they had been part of the church decorating volunteer crew on the 23rd, so they were proud to point out their handiwork (part of Mom's 'evil plan' for a peaceful Christmas Eve mass!).  The priest, Fr. Sean, asked the children present, what they were hoping Santa would bring them.  Of course the offer of speaking into a microphone to a packed church ushered forth many the volunteer.  "I want a puppy" (hear parent cringe), "Xbox for my brother so he won't use mine anymore" (hear parent sigh of relief).  Not quite so many hands went up when Fr. Sean asked "What's the best gift we could ever get?"  Joe thrust his hand in the air and waved it violently (and internally I cringed not sure what was coming!).  He caught Fr. Sean's attention and when the microphone arrived in front of his lips, Joe burst out with "JESUS".  I was floored. (Proud, but floored).  I hadn't planted any answer and this is what he said.  So that was my Christmas gift - to see that my son is beginning to know the Son who makes all things possible. 

God even makes it possible to survive the blizzard we endured today, stuck inside with 6 little ones, each clamoring to go outside.  God even makes it possible for  a mom to be able to explain to 4 year olds the concept of "wind chill factor".  God even makes it possible to be thankful for my sometimes crazy, sometimes maddening, sometimes sweet and always growing up son, Joseph.  Who today was working alongside Dad at clearing 30 inches of snow from our house to "make it safe so the kids can play outside". Which he did....and after 30 minutes of layering, snowsuiting, booting and wrapping the oldest 5 - boy did they enjoy those 15 minutes of artic blast winds before they gave up and came inside!  

So I sit here in the silence of a house of six sleeping kids and wonder what is more important... the name of my blog or what I'm prompted to share when God reveals it to me.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Life, Death, Skunks and Refrigerators

For the last two weeks, I keep thinking to myself.... I haven't blogged in forever. Alright maybe "forever" is a bit much but its been a while.  Life has been swirling around me in many ways.  We've been busy, the routine of school has gotten a bit easier (when everyone complies with the routine!) however, the shortened days make for a challenge and the thought of a long winter with six little ones stinks.  Hopefully, we'll all stay healthy and we're already setting the stage by 'mandatory outside time", unless it is pouring rain!  Our parcel of land is small - 50x 100 but I'm always amazed at what new games, activities and surprises the kids come up with.  It goes to show me that they don't need the world - they already see the world at their fingertips... oftentimes in the postage stamp back yard and  - if the weather doesn't cooperate - we resort to 'indoor explorer mode'.

At the start of this month I lost a colleague to death. It was very unexpected - a reminder for me of today's Gospel reading and the whole purpose of Advent.  She was only in her mid 50's.  As it happened all I could think of saying to God was "this stinks".  This was the thought in my mind for days until... John Paul showed me - during a MOT (mandatory outside time) that my thoughts were like a skunk....stinking up my life and that I had to set a trap to scare them away. 

Of all our children, John Paul and Patrick are philosophers in training. They don't mean to be, of course, but they seem to be the voices through which God gets to me most often. They have very different styles of doing it but both do.

My skunk trap encounter with John Paul in the back yard  was followed up shortly thereafter during a snack break in IEM (indoor explorer mode) when I spotted Pat alternatively scavengering for a 'banilla' yogurt and testing the theory of the refridgerator light. (Come on, we've all done it as some point in our life.... we had to get the answer to the question of what happens to the refrigerator when we close the door!)  He was unaware I had the Ipod running and seemed bound and determined to catch the exact moment, mechanism and means by which that refrigerator light was controlled.  He's not unlike his mother - thinking that God should show me all the intricacies of His plan, explain them ahead of time and allow me to determine when the light comes on or goes off.  My friend's recent death was the  proverbial fridge "light bulb going off" for me. 
As I watched Patrick trying to capture the exact moment of the change and understand the cause - I marveled at my own lack of faith.  Haven't I always believed that death changes life, it doesn't end it?  Just cause the light in the fridge goes out, doesn't mean the food isn't still there. God has promised me that he will provide me   - and my friend Mary -with eternal life.  So why do I keep testing the door of the fridge instead of trusting? 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Child rearing and construction....seeing the parallels

Each morning I drop our two eldest off to first grade for the 8:08 bell.  From that point I have a 25 mile commute to my workplace.  We live in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the US.  I know this not only from Wikipedia, but from first hand experience on the roads! 

My dad likes to say there are two seasons in New Jersey.  Winter and Construction - and that when winter is coming, construction moves into full swing.  Commuting in NJ is always interesting.... some days I can arrive at my desk by 8:45am, other days 9:10am all 'depending on the traffic'. 

Recently, I have begun to use the commute time as a meditation time.  Turned off the radio (which never seems to report the traffic I'm in anyway, so why listen!) and talk with God. 

Its helping me to see parenting as a journey, rather than grown children as a destination. Earlier this week my husband and I were talking about the stage our eldest two (age 6) are going through.  First grade has brought big changes. Full school day, new burgeoning friendships,challenges of peer pressure and the manifestation of new fears.  I had the chance to chuckle about a friend who, when I complained about the teething stage, reminded me that "they'll grown out of that stage soon".  She neglected to tell me that one stage is followed quite rapidly by another which is generally more difficult, less clear and which I'm also not prepared for.

When the children were first born, each visit to the pediatrician was met with a form to track their developmental stages.  Were they reaching all those mile markers on time?  Babbling, rolling over, sitting, crawling etc.  Oh how easy those days seem in comparison.  Perhaps it was better that parents with more experience didn't share what this next leg of the journey would entail.  Wisdom shared isn't wisdom learned.  Some of this journey Mark and I have to learn for our selves.

 I find myself being forwarned about the curve ahead but as yet unable to enjoy the vision of what is around the bend.  And whatever the speed limit never seems right to me.  Why can't my daughter realize that being a little girl is a precious time? Why does she want to speed up and be a 'grown up' so fast?  Why does she have to be so dramatic? How come my son won't do the things I know he can do (like put on his uniform on his own) consistently?  Can't he grow up faster?  Why can't he be more serious? I'm seeing myself as the worst of the back seat drivers.  Constantly questioning the route which God has chosen to take me. 

Last weekend we were blessed to spend a weekend in retreat.  One of the topics discussed was heaven and hell and readying myself for judgement.  It would seem like a not so nice topic to some,  but it helped me tremendously. 

One metaphor stuck out - in describing heaven and hell - we were reminded that we build that reality in our daily life with a thousand small decisions.  The metaphor was phrased as the question "where are you placing the bricks God gives you to build with?"In other words, I am given the great gift from God to decide if, by my daily decisions, I will create an earthly hell for myself or build, instead a cathedral which is heaven on earth. 

I've been using my commute to meditate on what God is wanting to teach me through my crew of little bricklayers.  That in each moment, I have a chance to place a brick in heaven by how I respond.  It is a piece of wisdom I'm learning at the moment and I'm grateful.  It also reminds me that God is the chief architect, not me. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

The impact of a dozen tattered thoughts

I'm absolutely surprised with each post how my tattered thoughts are touching people.  I literally looked at blogger stats today and realized my thoughts are reaching people around the world!  I started blogging on February 23rd this year with one post. 

Six months later I posted again as a response to losses I was dealing with  and life seemed tatttered like my favorite sweatshirt.  It's nearly ten years old, soft as hell, shredding at the sleeves but it was one of the first things my husband ever bought for me - after a fall day cycling on Martha's Vineyard.  It reminds me of good things - falling in love with a wonderful man and how motherhood, while more complicated each day, also brings a comfort that cannot be matched by anything.

Since that August post, I've been somewhat consistent since then.  Yesterday when I clicked on the stats tab, I nearly fell over. Almost 800 people have read my 12 posts.  And you who are reading are not just my friends from church or family members or colleagues from work - you are literally from all over the globe.  I joked with one of my four 'official' followers (who's a good friend)  this morning that I have to get cracking to break into the African continent.  This afternoon - two hits from Morocco!   (I'm thinking now that maybe with 6 kids age 6 and under,  I should start talking with friends about lottery numbers).

I started this blog for me mostly.  And maybe to someday have my children understand in some small way what a gift I have been given by God to have met their father and cooperating with him, to have brought them into the world.  Quite easily these days I can become down hearted - looking at the state of the world.  The lack of love, the greed and violence that seems to grow more strong with each passing day.  However, I am heartened to know that my tattered thoughts and reflections on what God is doing in my life and that of my family is somehow worthwhile for others.  In a world as busy as ours and a family as hectic as mine, I find the comfort of my old sweatshirt in knowing that their are like souls literally on nearly every continent who believe that love is stronger.  If my ruminations bring a smile to your face, think of someone you know who'd be helped to live with hope by sharing it.  Maybe in that way, together we can cover every continent and every country.  God knows, the world needs hope.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The discipline game...keeping the eye on the goal

I've been remiss in posting the last few weeks....but life has been very very busy.  Sometimes I need exhaustion to hit before I can say "whoa, time to regroup".  Lest you think I've been digging ditches or engaged in physically exhausting manual labor, rest assured it isn't that.  It's a different type of exhaustion.  The feeling my husband and I have of being worn down by trying to discipline two six year olds, two four and a half year olds, a three year old and a generally compliant (but definitely watching how the big kids do things) 18 month old.

For Joseph, our eldest boy, the new favorite activity is 'pushing mom and dad's buttons' and he generally does it lately through potty talk.  We've learned many things in the first weeks of first grade - not the least of which is a myriad of new words and phrases for body parts, bodily functions and the like.  He thinks it is hysterical to use them at the table, in the yard, while doing name it. So he's spent a lot of time in time out this month. 

I'm amazed at how swiftly he can move from being such a sweet, lovely young boy to an absolute ogre.  We hope that the impact of our approach is having an effect.  A handwritten note I received from a sheepish faced Joe just prior to bedtime about a week ago gave me some cause for hope. It reads "I love you Mom. I am sorry for Disobeying."  {The journalism major in me was willing to overlook the incorrect use of the capital D} In the face of all we've been trying to counteract, it may as well be a piece of gold leaf.  Perhaps he's beginning to understand.

I find myself trying to think back to myself at the age of six and remember what was I being asked to do in terms of my behavior.  I suppose it was something similar but I'm only now appreciating how tough it is for parents to help form the conscience of their children, especially in a world which constantly says "anything goes".  It is our job to teach all our children that it isn't "anything goes", rather it is meant to be "others go first".

I have to keep reminding myself of the little note from Joe, especially after this Monday coming home and learning that when a classmate made a goal while playing soccer at recess  Joe's reaction was to "accidentally" scream in his classmates ear.  So we had another discussion about how to make friends, play fair and be kind. And another discussion about what the difference between "accidental" and "on purpose" means.   I reminded him how last Saturday when he was asked to be the goalie for his team (he was so proud sporting the fancy orange shirt) how he did a great job not only blocking three shots on goal, but also encouraging his teammates, cheering for them as they scored against their opponents.  How working and playing together is more fun than being alone and that when he treats others in a mean way, like he did to his classmate, he's less likely to be asked to be part of the team.  I guess you could say it was my best shot on goal.... whether I scored or not remains to be seen.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Illusions of a painless and suffering free world

I haven't posted in what seems like forever but is has been a tough few weeks.  Shortly after my last post, I took John Paul to the dentist for what we thought would be a routine filling in a baby tooth.  The dentist - while not the favorite hang out spot for many 4 year olds  - is a decidedly hated spot for John Paul.  Knowing what his reaction in advance would be, I didn't reveal where we were going until we pulled into the parking lot and he put it together.  After wrestling with him to stay in the chair, the dentist drilled, filled and then to her amazment watched as the filling was pushed out by what ended up being an infection in the gum.  The tooth had to come out.  All things considered, he did very well and earned his tiger mask which he wore with pride for two days! And while he didn't have any David at the Dentist moment, it was intriguing to see him work through the effect of the novacaine for a few hours -  how being numb for a while helps to tolerate the pain.

When not at home with our 6 kids, I also work at a university in New Jersey as an administrator. These last few weeks have left me feeling a bit numb and searching for a way to reconcile the suffering and pain I've seen around me.  If you aren't from this area you may not be aware but two universities have lost students - one to senseless gun violence and another to suicide - in the last week and a half.  I was called in to work when the student was killed by gun violence, leaving the children with my husband after trying to explain to our six year olds how the student had died. 

Probably like many parents, I struggled to find the right words to explain how violence is sometimes seen as the only way to resolve problems.  I was fighting to find the words to share with them that suffering is a part of our life, a part in which we can come to understand ourselves more deeply and love others more fully.  I'm hoping that God allows me the grace to convince my children that to spend your life trying to avoid pain or suffering will be a futile endeavor.  They don't need to go looking for will find you at different points in life but the great task for me and Mark is to teach them to look for the good that can (will and must) come from suffering.

Just as I know I couldn't take away the pain of an unexpected tooth extraction for John Paul, I realize I cannot take away the unexpected pain of loss for the students I work with.  I wish there was some sort of novacaine to make it easier to deal with but I suppose that is me looking to avoid suffering.  Instead, I have to ask God for the grace to understand that His will is best in all things - especially those things which confound my small brain.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Boring rut or beautiful refrain

Yesterday was the first day of preschool for 'babies' 3 and 4, John Paul and Catherine.  The local high school runs a great program which provides a free preschool for three mornings a week.  There are only 15 children accepted each year.  We had our application in when JP and Cath were about 4 months old! The high school juniors and seniors studying child development, work with the kids in a 'living lab'.

It is becoming easy to believe that the routine of school will be with us forever.  The same morning begging.  Please get up.  Its time to brush your teeth.  Yes, you need to make your bed.  No, you can't have that for breakfast.  And with only three weeks into the 2010 -2011 school year and only the eldest four in a school setting, I was already beginning to fall into the rut.  I started asking myself  - "Is this all there is going to be for the foreseeable future?"

And once again my kids proved me wrong.  Just prior to snapping this picture on my phone, I was serenaded by two four year old cherubs.  We had to park our car a bit away from the entrance, so as we walked across the parking lot, I told them both "Hold Mommy's hand, it could be dangerous".  I never expected what I got next. 

We've recently been on a Mary Poppins kick.  We bought the DVD some time back but no one took interest in it until this summer.  It's been in our car DVD player for probably the last three weeks solid. The songs have been stuck in my head too!

But as I took their little hands on the way across the parking lot toward their new classroom (can't wait for the routine "hand print" art project to come home soon!) they both began to sing in unison and simultaneously..... "Oh its a jolly holiday with Mommy.  Mommy makes the sun shine bright.  Happiness is blooming all around her!  When mommy holds your hand you feel so grand your heart starts beating like a big brass band".

What a great start to the day for me proving that the most familiar routine or tune is really a beautiful refrain just waiting to be found again.  If you want to take a stroll down the chalk drawing path.... check out Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Keeping the herd together.....aka the Von Trapps got nothing on us!

It seems like a lifetime since my last post but in reality it is only about a week or so.  But what a week it has been. Last Wednesday, Sarah and Joe turned 6 AND started first grade at our interparocial school. The uniforms are so sweet, their favorite subject so far is "Recess" (but they have Gym for the first time tomorrow, so that may change!).  

The weekend was a great one.  We spent the weekend (Thursday evening through Sunday) with my sister and her three little ones all aged 4 and under.  My brother in law is in the midst of starting a new job out of state and is able to be home only on certain weekends.  This weekend he was away and their house went on the market with an open house on Sunday, so clearing out was a necessity for my sister O and the kids. 

So we three adults, took nine children {7 boys and 2 girls} all aged 6 and under to a cabin in the Adirondacks owned by my husband's family and prayed for the best. Sometimes the weather cooperated, sometimes it didn't and you resigned yourselves to wet shoes and socks and a great time apply picking, cider donut eating, petting zoo. OK in a spirit of full disclosure the adults did like the cider wine tasting.  But having an orchard at your disposal to just plain running around to burn off energy  can't be beat.  So the morning was spent crunching on MacIntosh straight from the trees- all the while praying that the sun will come out and warm the day enough for them to swim. Which thankfully it did on Saturday - and while I am certain that the water temp wasn't nearly as warm as they all claimed - they stuck with it in spite of the brisk breeze!

It was the kind of weekend where you, as a parent,  arrive home exhausted but the kids are wired. But as we emptied the van, sorted the piles of dirty laundry, and put PJ's on the kids you were somehow happy for what you shared. For me it was a bittersweet end to a bittersweet week of transitions. 

My eldest are now school aged.  My sister and my brother in law are readying to move - about an 11 hour drive - and as I watched the herd of cousins singing along with Old McDonald on a DVD and galloping around in their pajamas, I was proud that refrained from tearing up.  But the thought was there..... this is a fleeting moment that we will never have again.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tomorrow my blog name becomes obsolete a.k.a 2190 days into motherhood

Technically tomorrow I should be updating the name to Mom To 6 Aged 6 and Under.  Sarah and Joe, my babies, turn 6 tomorrow.  Ironic how the 6 years has gone by so fast but at the same time so slowly. It hardly seems possible that it was 2,190 days ago that they were born and 2,185 days have passed since Mark walk them in the front door, a car seat in each hand to balloons, flowers and well wishes. (I of course was trailing SLOWLY behind him, having undergone my first every surgery in the c section which brought them into the world and frankly still looking 9 months pregnant!)

I remember fondly (now) those first insane weeks.... when it seemed like the entirety of days was spent nursing, changing and my eating to keep up strength.  I remember, not proudly, how I ignored my mother's advice, failed to rest and had an infection which rendered me practically useless at a time I was needed most.  I remember putting Joe, shirtless into the bay window trying to avoid hospitals and sunlamps.  I remember my mother in law making me what may well be the BEST roast beef, lettuce, tomato and mayo sandwiches and reminding me (to the babies benefit) to drink more water.  I remember the MOMS group from our parish, providing us with dinners week in and week out.  I remember waking up one morning in early October and recognizing my ankles again. I remember so many volunteers who came to sit quietly in a house with sleeping babies, so mommy and daddy could rest as well.

I remember the not so fond memories - of Joe screaming in pain with reflux, of feelings of helplessness and understanding how judgemental I had been upon hearing stories of parents who snapped and harmed their children.  I remember being afraid.  I'm grateful beyond measure now that God never removed His hand from me and Mark in all the dark hours.

The cliche says there is no instruction book for raising children.  I've come to understand that its true. We face another big milestone tomorrow ironically.  Sarah and Joe start first grade.  Who knew it would only take 2, 190 days to get them to this point.  It somehow never seemed possible as I struggled to give Sarah her first bath.  A few days ago.... here's what she can do herself.

It hardly seems possible that after so many nights in those first months singing away to Joe to solace his pain with reflux that we would ever come to a day when he would be the one singing and be singing to his baby brother; he's now the eldest of six.  It really is amazing what can change in 2,190 days!

And me, with 14, 235 or so days under my belt sit here typing and realizing that as I teach my children, so they too teach me.  They teach me to know that they will always be able to do more than I believe they can.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Milestones are like baby teeth...

Sibling dynamics are fascinating in our house.  With so many in close proximity to each other, the developmental milestones crash over each other like waves.  It's hard to keep track sometimes.  Tonight was a clear one.

Sarah wasn't so big a fan of Simon when she first learned her new sibling wasn't a girl.  In fact, she broke into tears. 

We learned the gender in December 2008 (after 5 babies and innumeral ultrasounds....lets just say I spotted the marker before the ultrasound technician could tell us!)

We opted to share with the crew at Christmas and we told the children that Baby Jesus gave St Nicholas a note to put in Mommy's stocking about our new baby boy.  Breaking int moans on Christmas morning, "but I realllllyyy wanted another sister" Sarah wasn't keen on this 4th brother thing. We hoped the intervening months would warm her heart to the idea.

You can see how happy she was to hold him in the hospital on his birthday April 3, 2009.  Not exactly the picture of love.

Happily, once we explained to Sarah that not only did her brother share the first letter of her name "S", he also had exactly 5 letters in his first name like her. She asked for paper and wanted to know the letters so she could write them out.

The connection was made - as evidenced by photo # 2 on Simon's birthday Sarah has become his first cheerleader, his greatest defender and a guardian/tattle tale to keep him safe.

So tonight, a new milestone in big sister/pseudo mommy wannabe Sarah's special relationship with Simon, now nearly 17 months.  As I worked my way through the toothbrushing brigade, Simon kept barging into the bathroom.  After 3 attempts to remove him from the scene, I gave up in frustration.  Sarah said to me "Mom, maybe Simon wants to brush his teeth?  He has 4 you know".  Simon looked at Sarah, spit out his nuk and started grunting at the toothpaste tube!  After rummaging about for an extra toothbrush of the proper size, softness and shape (convinced that our recent visit to the dentist had to have resulted in extra on had, the search proved fruitless in finding a small kid toothbrush), I settled on a Reach adult brush with soft bristles.  By the time I found it Simon had caught on to Sarah's prompting "now Simon when you brush your teeth you can't swallow the toothpaste" and he was nearly bouncing for joy.  What ensued was really quite sweet.

Our aspiring dental hygenist proved to me tonight, that milestone moments are like baby teeth in that they somehow break through when you aren't looking.  Sarah, instead of needing help, is suddenly the helper and Simon the "baby" is ready for big kid things.  It's like waiting on that tooth...the pain of waiting for it to happen seems like it will never end but suddenly you look and there it is, pushed up through the gum, shiny, tough and ready to go!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When you name a child after a saint you have to expect a unique kid

Our third child, John Paul was named in honor of the late pope, John Paul II.  His namesake was unique as is our "John Paulie".  He arrived in the world a bit early - breaking the water with his foot about five weeks early and he's been keeping us on his toes ever since.

Of late, John Paulie (his self proclaimed moniker) has been on quite a tear of imagination, dialogue and growth.  We're fascinated with two things this week:  birds and being a big kid.  See both videos... first a seagull at Sandy Hook on Sunday (he's in the white t shirt with the flailing arms) and this evening a world premiere bird shadow puppet showing for mom.
Now with regard to the "big kid" thing... it doesn't help that big brother Joe keeps taunting that John Paul is a baby.  But the wheels are turning.  This morning he made his bed on his own and he visited dad down in his home office.  They had a great conversation with about what it will mean to be a big kid.

Mark sent me the transcript  via email  and I reproduce it here for your reading pleasure:

"Just a couple seconds ago, he comes down to my office, and says, 'Dad, I wish I was a big kid, so I could do big-kid-stuff.'

And I responded, 'like what?'

John Paul said, 'like make my bed, clean the windows, using a computer, using your blue sticky-tape, sitting on the couch, and going to New Jersey, because that's what big kids do. And pirates have swords to cut stuff, like you have a chainsaw.."

Evenutally we'll have to explain that we don't need to go to New Jersey, because we live here.  But I'm looking for suggestions on the sword/chainsaw issue....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Singular moments in a plural world.... a memorable day

Today was a terrific day.  We visited a spot we haven't been since Fall 2005, Atlantic Highlands and the beaches of Sandy Hook.  When last we strolled this beach, I was pregnant with our second set of twins and our eldest had just turned one.  Today, nearly five years later  as a family of eight, we had two singular moments.

Spending family time without spending a fortune is always a challenge  - perhaps a bit more so with the economies of scale which God is asking Mark and me to manage.  So we look for inexpensive, energy expending options for our Sundays.  It was great to let the kids run around and enjoy a wet and windy day.  Our first venture out of the van didn't work so well.  The skies opened and we all got soaked.  Running full speed into the visitor center we enjoyed  a short movie on (and learned more than any one person should know) the mating and migration patterns of the Great Egret. We returned to the van and drove the length of the island, checked out the Coast Guard post including the lighthouse all the while praying for a cloud break.  It came eventually and we were able to have some fun.

You have to understand that from the moment Mark and I became parents, our world turned plural.  It took until my 5th child to get to experience nursing one baby.  Just this summer was our first vacation during which we had only to change one diaper.  So moments when we can  share a once in a lifetime occurence with one of our children or even better, spend solo with just one of the children are treasures in our hearts. 

Today, we had two treasures.  Simon met the ocean.  They got along nicely.

After our stroll, some beachcombing and a snack we headed home to a chorus of "thankyous" from the back seats of the twelve passenger van that is our family car.  The chatter continued for quite a while - one sibling regaling the other with a story or memory from the day until the van grew very silent as we approached the GSP.  The only noise (other than snoring) was a gentle humming from the seat behind me.  Patrick was singing to himself one of his new favorite tunes.  Friends of ours gifted us  this summer with boxes upon boxes of Disney videos (yes VHS tapes!) which our kids are gobbling up.  A particular favorite is The Jungle Book (1967) based on the Rudyard Kipling story.  Mowgli's attitude and toughness remind me a lot of Pat; it must be one of the reasons Pat loves it so already. 

Our second treasure of a rainy Sunday afternoon outing.  A serenade by Patrick.  Music to the ears.

I'm coming to see that creating singular moments in our plural world is in fact a bare necessity for me and Dad.  A great day and a great lesson for me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm often asked "How do you do it? Six children!"

Most often my response is.. the truth, that Mark and I cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  In reality, we don't do anything - God does it all.  I joked recently with a friend that I'm learning that having babies and raising children are two very different things. 

Yesterday I was introduced to someone new in my work environment.  The person introducing me shared that I have six children.  Ready... incredulous look #1 (I've become accustomed to it).  Revise statement to state ages of six children.  Ready.... incredulous look #2 followed by incredulous query #1 "how do you do it" OR  awkward silence filler "God bless ya'!". 

When I consider what others are able to do, like this couple in Ukraine, I can't boast so much.  But I can confirm that God gives us what we need and the truth is that in my weakness, His strength is shown.

The video is about seven minutes long.. but worth the watch... especially near the 3 minute 45 second mark.  I agree with Illya!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kids say the darndest things... or so I've been told

So I'm having quite a blogging spurt... two in one week after a six month hiatus.  But John Paul made me laugh today and I had to share.  Two days ago I made a banana bread. It has become a regular event since all six kids seem to have decided that bananas are no longer cool to eat.  We're on a strawberry kick lately.  (Personally I'm holding out for apple picking season....only a few more weeks!)

John Paul enjoyed a slice of the banana bread this morning and quite matter of factly recounted "Mom. You know, I know how to make banana bread. First you need to get some bread and then you put a banana in it."  It was proof again that kids say the darndest things

In fact, this morning's banana bread encounter brought back a great memory and pushed me to the keyboard tonight.  It was a friend from work who told me several years ago that I needed to start blogging to capture the cute stories of my kids.  She advised me of this after I shared at lunch a story from the night before....

Two years back now, Joseph - our eldest, who will soon be six years old (thus rendering my blog name inaccurate I suppose) had a similar culinary epiphany he shared with me.  He was just past the 4 and 1/2 year old mark; that point where they are convinced they know all they need to know and can do every thing for themself (except clean up their toys of course).  After dinner one evening Joe asked if he could have dessert.  Since the entire meal had been consumed, I agreed to dessert and asked what kind of pudding he would like.  "Butterscotch!  Its my favorite" came the fast reply which was promptly followed by... "Mom. You know, its easy to make butterscotch.  First, you need butter.  Then you add the scotch."  I remember thinking how hard it was not to laugh, since he was genuine and sincere.

When I started this blog I think I believed that there would never be a day when I wasn't the Mom to 6 under 6...but the day is fast approaching.  Soon I'll be the mom to two six year olds and 4 under 6...but the blog name will stay the same!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

the difference half a year makes

I set this blog up back on a snowy February night. Things got busy and it is August. Here's my second post. Alot has transpired in 6 months. In April we found out we were expecting. In May we lost the baby. Some say it wasn't a baby....I differ in thought. Mark and I had visions of a Christmas baby. Number seven to arrive just after our 7th wedding anniversary.   I was especially reminded of the gift Mark is tonight...when he navigated all 6 through teethbrushing. It is this love - 7 people in a 6 foot by 10 foot bathroom - all spitting - that shows what a great man Mark is...  It is also proven by this past week's dentist visit.  Five kids with teeth going for visits and only one cavity in the bunch.  We made Dr. Cynthia very proud. She remarked at how calm I was in the face of 5 kid dentist visits in a day...

p.s. You can't see him but Simon, the youngest is there - in front of Mark - with all 3 of his teeth.

Ironic that sleeping legions allow for my second post on the anniversary of the day Mark asked for my hand in marriage. Its a meaningful day for us in multiple ways - since in the Catholic church it is also the Feast of the Assumption. Mary has been in our relationship from the start. We were married on a Marian feast day and our first born twins share a birthday with the BVM.  Our fourth child was born on the feast of Joachim and Anne - grandparents to Christ.

The past six months have been marked in many ways - beyond the loss of our 7th child.  My sister and her husband will move soon to North Carolina for a job promotion for him.  It is a terrific opportunity which will allow my sister to stay at home with her 3 boys (all under age 5 I might add).  It's an opportunity I would love, but God in His wisdom has not allowed in my life.  I'm learning alot about God's wisdom - which is a folly for me.  In the last month, a good friend lost his 17 year old beautiful, athletic and talented daughter to suicide; a great aunt has been diagnosed with breast cancer and a former colleague was killed in a car accident leaving her two adult children and her 15 and 10 year old daughters and 4 year old son without a mother. 

So I've been struggling with what is God trying to tell me?  Plenty.  My days are not my own.  My children are on loan from him.  They are not a possesion I can keep or shape for my own purposes.  God is reminding me that I'm called to lay down my life for them - in agape - a total self giving.  A tall order to fill; one which I can only as God for the grace to fulfill. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Making time for a blog

I've never been a diary or journal keeper. I don't have a particularly good memory. While I consider myself a fairly good story teller, I'm not a writer. As an undergrad journalism major some 20 years ago, being objective and being invested in a story but not biased to or for it was alway important.

Fast forward 20 years - which takes surprising less time than one would think - I'm a married woman, working full time outside the home and my husband and I try to keep up with our six children aged 5 and a half and younger. We both work full time and 'free' time is a rare thing indeed. So why blog?

When we first found out, in early 2004, we were expecting fraternal twins - friends said "You'll have so many stories to tell!" Sarah and Joseph were born and our life as a family began.

When we found out in summer 2005 we were expecting fraternal twins - again - we were parenting 10 month old twins and Mark had surgery at Sloan Kettering to remove a kidney tumor that fall - friends said "We hope you're writing these great stories down! God is doing great things!" I promised I would. Catherine and John Paul were born in February 2006 and we went from playing man to man, to playing zones as they say in basketball. In other words, some part of the zone is always uncovered in spite of your best efforts.

When we found out we were expecting for a third time - and the obstetrician bet us a bottle of wine it was twins again - we could barely keep awake past 8pm. When Patrick was born - solo -in spite of his eldest sister asking "Where's the other Patrick?" in July 2007, I recounted the story to our pediatrician who, after heartily laughing assured me that there was a book to be written about our family dynamic. In fact she said I could be the new Erma Bombeck. In spite of my best intentions, it didn't happen.

When pregnancy #4, with baby #6 was announced in the fall of 2008 when we were still not yet married 5 years, I managed a surprise trip to Florida for Mark's birthday. We didn't quite know what to do with ourselves with no little ones waking us early in the morning. I had almost relaxed into vacation mode by the day we flew home!

Simon, our 6th baby is now approaching his 1st birthday in April 2010.

So why am taking the plunge now? I'm afraid if I don't I'll forget all the important things they will ask me about and a blog is way easier that keeping baby books. My younger sister has inspired me to get started. She's a writer!