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.