Introductions are in order

My amazing daughter Rose deserves her own post and introduction. I picked her name way before I was even married- and I have a twenty-five year old diary entry to prove it! It was the most beautiful name I could think of for a little girl. Her first name is Carolyn, after my grandmother. I had the honor of meeting all of my grandparents, but being close with only one of them. My other grandparents passed away when I was a little child, but my paternal grandmother, Carolyn, was a big part of my life. Carolyn Rose was the name, before she even existed:)

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My first-born child, Aidan, was a tough kiddo. He broke any mold I thought kids should fit in to. I felt inadequate and anxious as a mother, and I remember thinking, “oh my gosh, I don’t want him to be an only child, but I am terrible at this parenting thing!”  From the moment I found out that I was pregnant with Rose, I started praying that she would be different from Aidan. I pleaded, Lord, I can handle challenges, but can they please be different ones?? Ha. He delivered in spectacular fashion.

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Right before the pregnancy, I was working out and I pulled my back out. I never fully recovered and I didn’t want to take muscle relaxers or any medication that could affect the baby- so I lived with back pain for 9 months, in addition to unending morning sickness. By the end, I was so tired from not sleeping, I was too tired to eat. When I delivered her, I was the thinnest I had been in years (not a good thing!). She was an easy labor and delivery- opposite of my first. She came out, eating her hands. Literally. She was hungry from the first moment I met her! It was hilarious to us that night.

She was the polar opposite of her brother in every way. We used to joke and call her “Gilly” like from Saturday Night Live, the character that was so accident prone. Rose had a way of attracting extreme danger and not thinking anything of it. She would casually bring me steak knives and scissors, in case I needed them, while reading a book. She was devoid of all fear. When she learned to crawl she would go head first down the stairs over and over again- she never had a fear of heights or ledges. I always said “if the entire world went right, she would go left.” Rose was always unique- she picked her own clothes, and went through a phase when she wouldn’t leave the house without a cardigan and a necklace, at 2 years old. Who is this kid? Jackie O? She has always been SO sweet-natured, and patient. She is my opposite in so many ways. Where I try to create order and structure, she thrives in any situation- any. No boundaries? That’s ok. When we went to Disney World, I was afraid she would wander off with a stranger- she’s that friendly.

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There are two times that come to mind in particular, when Rose met new people. Once, she met a man who was physically deformed. I warned her ahead of time not to stare or ask him a lot of questions. My warnings were completely unnecessary. She walked right up to him, hugged him, and chatted him up like he was her oldest friend, never once breaking eye contact. His body was very broken, and different from anything she had ever seen, but she only saw his eyes, and his smile. The other time, she was going to meet an elderly woman with severe tremors and speech problems. Again, I gave the heads up- no staring. Rose ran to the woman and jumped on her lap! She wrapped her arms around her neck and asked a million questions. My other kids were present for both of these encounters, and they were polite, but they showed a little trepidation and uncertainty at how to handle themselves. Not my girl.

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When my health took a very sudden turn, we had to come up with a new plan for the kids for school this year. It was decided that Rose would start at the local public school, which is well liked and highly spoken of. I can honestly say, I was not nervous at all for her. I was more concerned that her teacher wouldn’t be able to contain her exuberance, outgoing personality, and her joie de vivre.  Rose would thrive anywhere, anytime. When her baby sister came home from the hospital, she was colicky for months. Rose would walk up to me and take her and say “I’ve got this!” in her mature, 6 year old way:) She would rock Lana, pace with her, and shush her for an hour or more, so I could collect my wits. I call her Saint Rose for her patience around here.

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Rose has so many qualities that I wish I had- fearlessness being one of them! She has a photographic memory- it’s unreal. It took us a while to realize that. She couldn’t hold still while we read to her- ever. Later, I realized she was an auditory learner, and she could recite, verbatim, exactly what I had read while she had been bouncing off of the walls.  She does a youth ministry group called Awana, and when she was in kindergarten, she finished memorizing all of the Bible verses in her book. They gave her extra verses, to finish out the year. By the end, she had an entire page, single spaced, to memorize. She was upset and so was I. That is a LOT of pressure to put on a kindergartener! I went in to speak with her leader and point out that I considered it unreasonable to give someone her age that much to memorize. She said that other children had done it, and I asked if any of them were Rose’s age. They were not. Rose went home, looked at that paper for a little while and then said the whole Scripture passage, perfectly, from memory.

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Her love of animals is what makes her tick. She wants to rescue all of them, from frogs that unfortunately fall into the filter at the pool, to worms in the backyard. Her favorite, by far, are dogs. She has memorized textbooks of breeds and knows EVERY trait of every dog I can name. She knows every dog in our neighborhood, their temperment, who they belong to, and their personality. Rose loves all of God’s creatures and is thisclose to becoming a vegetarian. I think her love of bacon is the last hold out! If this continues, her brothers predicted she will be the crazy cat lady with 52 cats and dogs, who feeds every stray animal in her neighborhood. Our dog, Gus, who we had since right after James and I got married, died last year. She took it the hardest and has been begging for a new puppy ever since. It’s just not the right time for us now, but that doesn’t slow her down- she still checks with me, daily.

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Sweet Rose is a night owl, who is my only child who will sleep in! Bless you for that. When she talks, it’s a mile a minute and she is very persuasive when she puts her mind to it. She sees things in shades of gray, she is definitely not as rigid as I am. Thank goodness for that! She has taught me more as a mother than I have taught her, I think. I see my own weaknesses and my tendency to want everything MY way. She sees the world differently than I do, and takes after my husband more. What a treasure you are my dear. She challenges me every day, and I am SO glad that we survived your toddlerhood- Gilly!

Child Most Likely To: Jump out of an airplane, join PETA, know everyone’s name on her college campus.

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Around here, we have decorated the house with heart streamers, artwork brought home from preschool, and homemade cards from the past couple of weeks.   This time last year, I was in a haze, bedridden, and barely functioning. This year, I am in a better place, but I am by no means “supermom.” There are no elaborate meal plans, homemade valentines for each classmate, rhyming hand-painted cards, etc. For Lent, I had the best of intentions. I wanted to make a Lenten calendar for the family, with cut out crosses or symbols for each day to mark our progress through this church season. I would have loved to have special Christian books for each child, to guide them in an age appropriate way. We have a tree, with ornaments that correspond to Bible verses, that lead up to Easter. It’s in the basement somewhere.

Comparison is the thief of joy, and unfortunately I let it steal my joy from time to time. It’s easy to look around at other families and think that they “do” more than I do. I can look back at my own life and compare where I am now, to where I was then. I had the energy to cook more, and buy the supplies for elaborate crafts for each season/holiday.  This year, I managed to get each child’s class some valentine’s from Oriental Trading Company. I got the sale items, and not the $8/child soft friends holding various flavors of chocolate! For Lent, I do not have anything special around the house- no calendar, special new books, or great plans to obtain either item.

This year, we celebrated Valentine’s Day a day early, on Shrove Tuesday. I wanted to start Lent on Ash Wednesday, and it wasn’t a stretch to tell the kids we were going to do something special a day early. They ended up eating pancakes for two meals that day! They got little trickets from James and me. The biggest hits were bracelets from The Mermaid Pillow Company. It wouldn’t be a holiday here without something from Star Wars! The three middle boys got little lightsabers, and Eli the Wildman got a Darth Vader hat.  As far as cards go, we save some money there and buy them in bulk. I got a 6-pack of identical generic cards, and James and I wrote each child a letter. Valentine’s Day for us, is a chance to celebrate as a family, have a little chocolate, talk about our love for each other and our heavenly father’s love for us.

 

I put more pressure on myself to make Lent an “event.” Gosh, I realize how stupid that sounds as I write it! What if I don’t teach the kids ENOUGH? What if they don’t grow up to appreciate the meaning of Lent, and it’s MY fault? Shouldn’t I have visual props around the house, intellectual reading material, and schedule of holy happenings for the next 6 weeks, that we can attend and check off of a list? Won’t that make me a better mother? I feel better than I did last year, so I should be DOING more to show everyone else what is inside my heart.

When I really dig deep, and look at these sentiments, I realize I haven’t learned as much as I should have this past year and a half! Did I not learn that a person’s worth isn’t defined by how much they accomplish in a day? As a wife and mother, my worth does not lie in what I make for dinner, what kind of Valentine’s I buy, or what I do/make/create for Lent for our home. It is so easy to get sucked back in to my old way of looking at the world and my life. It’s easy to compare myself with other people, who have never walked a mile, or even a few steps, in my shoes. Shoes that are more often than not, slippers, because I am home most of the time. I’m still not strong enough physically to run a lot of errands, go exploring the outdoors, or even drive a lot of carpools. Why am I so hard on myself? Why, before Lent even started, did I feel like I wasn’t doing it right?

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What did we do for Valentine’s Day? There wasn’t a fancy date for my husband and I, there were homemade pancakes. He made them for the whole family, while I laid on the couch, ice packs on my feet. We hugged and loved on the kids, turned off the tv (Olympics and news!) and played charades. We sat around the dinner table in the evening and talked about almsgiving, praying, and fasting. It wasn’t a memorable oration by any stretch. It was interrupted about 72 times by someone asking for water, a napkin, or more syrup. I hope, James and I got the point across, that Lent should be a time to open your heart to God. Open your heart and soul and let God in even more. What does that look like? I think it’s different for everyone. For small children, visual and tactile examples of sacrifice are helpful. We have two jars. Both start out empty. One, we put any money that we find, or they earn, inside. That is our “almsgiving” for the kids. The other, has a small basket full of beans next to it. For every extra good deed or sacrifice we make, we get to put a bean in the jar. I got that idea from another mom, here!

At the end of Lent, the unremarkable brown beans are switched for bright, colorful jelly beans on Easter morning! Our kids get to eat them- which might be the only part they actually remember? The point is supposed to be- your sacrifices, and kind deeds matter. We want to emulate Jesus, and on the day that he rose, they get to see the fruits of their labor turn in to something beautiful and edible!

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Valentine’s Day and Lent coincided this year. How fitting. Love. The most perfect example the world has ever known was Jesus, and that he gave his life for us. He gave His life, so that we would know just how loved we are by a heavenly father.  This Lent, my goal is to redirect my heart away from what I think I should be focusing on. I want to open my soul, my ears, and listen. That requires me to get out of the way, and let God do His work. It isn’t a 6-week diet, it isn’t a 6-week house purge and cleaning, although there’s nothing wrong with eating healthier and cleaning out clutter. God wants my soul and my heart. Much easier said than done. Clearly, the lessons he taught me were forgotten pretty quickly, when I started comparing myself to others and what I thought I should be doing.

My life is supposed to look like Amy- and no one else. In order to open up my heart more, one of my goals is to put away distractions- to recognize them for what they are, and put them away. I want to live in the moment more, be present. We started the season with attending church, all eight of us, and my parents met us at church. I brought a zero gravity chair, and sat in the back, because that’s the only way I can “sit” through a service.  Ashes and Holy Eucharist are an uplifting experience for the whole family. I vowed to listen more, notice. I am going to be reading more books, and I ordered a Lenten study guide from Blessed is She. I love Lent- I look forward to it every year. It’s the chance to start fresh, and punch the reset button! One other thing that helps me be present, is to give up shopping. We buy food, the essentials, but I do my best to stop shopping, completely, until Easter. It’s amazing how many little things I buy, that I think I “need”, but I could do without. What is essential to life? What am I filling my life with, that is because I saw someone else have it, I saw an ad for it, I thought it looked interesting? Yesterday, I thought, oh, I want to buy Aidan something that he doesn’t have, that other children have. It isn’t expensive. I paused and realized what I was doing. The need to consume, buy, fill our lives with clutter. Deep breath! I stopped myself. It’s harder than I think! Every year:)

I am so blessed. That doesn’t mean lucky, it doesn’t mean my life is easy. Even the difficult, painful days are a blessing. Why? I can think of a few reasons. Pain makes me hold still. Reflect. Stop trying to accomplish physical tasks, release my idea of a perfect house/homeschool/wardrobe/menu plan, etc. The difficult days make me clear my mind and just focus on being in the present moment. I pray more! I think of others, and their needs and I pray for them. See? See how a “bad” day can be used as a blessing? I repeat, that does not equal pleasant or necessarily enjoyable! A blessing is something that someone needs, that they might not even realize! But God does.

So, it’s time for me to get out of the way, clear my mind, and my heart, and let God do the work. He’s so much better at it than I am anyway.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

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Summer 2014

My plan was to just jump right in and lament my stress over science fair season! However, I can understand how some parents might not be able to relate at all, because their children have different goals than mine do, when it comes to these things. An introduction is in order! I have to put this stress over the science fair into context- it isn’t just science, or projects, it’s BOTH with this particular child.  He is my oldest, the most like me in personality, and I think he hung the moon (not because he’s like me, just because he’s that special!).

aidan 1 His 10th birthday, 2017

The name “Aidan” means “fiery one,” after St. Aidan. He was a cool guy- read about him if you get the chance!  I’m sure anyone could write for hours and hours about someone or thing that they love. Same with me. I’m not even sure how to par this down! Each family has unique dynamics, and in our large family, his personality affects how the younger ones fall into place. Aidan is, I would say, an “alpha” male or personality. He’s a natural leader (he’s been accused of being bossy by his younger counterparts), Type A (like me), and a bright kid. He started kindergarten when he was 4, and he walked to school everyday- usually without one of his parents- as part of a “walking schoolbus” in our neighborhood. We lived in Michigan that year for James’s fellowship, so our little guy was walking in snow for at least 6 months out of that year!

Like me, he sees the world in black and white, not shades of gray. There is a right way, and a wrong. There are definitely pro’s and cons to this personality trait! We are horrible liars- he couldn’t tell a fib if his life depended on it.  It also makes us rigid in how we like to do things, such as cleaning a certain way, bedtimes, meals, rules, etc. He is like me, times ten. As an adult, marriage has softened my edges and refined my character a great deal. I had to learn how to compromise more, and that there are two ways of doing things! My way isn’t always right:) Aidan, bless him, has an unwavering moral compass, and a tendency to be hard on people who are not in line with him, like his siblings! I think that having a large family is WONDERFUL for us. The sibling nearest in age to him, Rose, could not be more different. She doesn’t kowtow to his demands, she stands her ground like Wonder Woman, and isn’t intimidated by his skills, book-smarts, or sharp wit. It is SO good for him, to have her as his “foil” in our home. God put these special human beings in one place, so that we could all learn from each other, benefit and love one another. Someone’s weakness is another one’s strength. We talk openly about how each person has unique gifts, and that we can’t compare ourselves to others.

Wrestling as babies, Rose cheering him on in his first youth triathlon 2017

For instance, I have never, ever seen anyone with a memory like Rose. She can hear or read something once and recite it perfectly. I don’t know the exact criteria for a photographic memory, but she has got to be close. It’s astounding. Aidan and Rose both attend a children’s ministry group called Awana on Wednesday evenings. They are supposed to memorize Bible verses. Rose can memorize hers in under 5 minutes. Aidan is like a normal person, and has to practice for a while. This irks him to no end! He is very, very, very, did I say VERY competitive?? Everything, his whole life, has been a competition. Brushing teeth, I mean, who can compete when they brush their teeth?? Apparently he can. He does his the “right” way. When he was teeny tiny, his first word was “ball” and a love was born. As a plump, Buddha-esque baby of 8 months, he would sit on the floor and throw a softball to me, over and over again. If I got up to take a break, he would YELL his little blond head off, until I returned and we started again. Always with his left hand. I’m a lefty too:)

   Holding the ball from his first out-of-the-park homerun! Visiting Turner Field, 1995 Braves World Series Trophy

He loved to play baseball in the yard with James from the time he could walk. He would have make-shift bases made out of moss. I’m not kidding- he would slide into second base, which was a giant tree with gnarly roots, and tear up his leg!  Aidan would stand up, with cuts and blood, tears streaming down his little face. “I’m SAFE!!” I would explain EVERY TIME that daddy was NOT going to tag him out, he didn’t have to slide! I didn’t matter what I said…he was not taking any chances. There was no way he was going to lose to dad!  We laugh about that all of the time now. He thinks it’s the funniest thing ever.

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Palm Sunday, 2014 I think, playing the role of Jesus

His intense personality spread to other areas of life. He is known and has always been known for his love of food. I know, plenty of kids love treats and are “good eaters.” He’s in a category by himself. When he was little, as my first child, I had all of these goals of things I wanted to do with him to be a “perfect” mom. I took him to story time at the library- like he would actually listen at 13 months. I remember, some kid opened up a cheese stick, and it was all over. He screamed at the top of his lungs because someone else was having a snack. We couldn’t go anywhere for almost three years, where other people were eating.  Restaurants were off limits, because every time a waiter walked by with food for someone else, he hit the roof. Again, he thinks these stories are just HILARIOUS now. He would eat anything- and I mean anything. His physique was, shall we say, sturdy?  Then, around 6 years old, his eating did not slow down at all, but the chunk turned to muscle. Why can’t that be a trait from me?? Why?! How does that happen??

   First summer on swim team, he won Coach’s Award for his age group! 2017

He has six-pack abs, rounded biceps, legs that look like a sprinter. I do NOT have any of those qualities. Darn shame it is, I tell ya. He still loves baseball more than the air he breaths. Everything about the game- the smell of fresh cut grass, warm-ups, the sound of a bat cracking when it makes contact in the sweet spot, pitching a perfect strike, and of course, sliding!! We always watch the World Series together. In 2016, for his October birthday, I got the two of us seats right behind home plate, when the Braves were playing the Tigers- last game at Turner Field. I couldn’t go, because of the pain from my August surgery. That was right before I ended up being transferred to Emory for the full work up and mesh removal. My heart broke that I missed that with him. He still got to go though!

He is so responsible, and helpful around here. Every morning, when I am too sore to get up quickly, he hears the baby making noises in her crib, and he gets her for me. He will bring a warm bottle in for me, and help me get her changed. He helps his little siblings get dressed when they can’t find the button holes:), and he loves learning how to cook. Every since he was little, I thought he was cut out for the military. He thrives on structure and rules, and he appreciates boundaries. His sense of fairness rivals a Supreme Court justice anyday. His competitive streak does not come from me though- the blue eyes, dimples, dominant left hand, rigid take on right and wrong- that’s all me. I wish the six-pack abs were, but alas, those are definitely not mine either! My husband loves sports, but the killer instinct to win everything- that is all his own. Aidan was born with the desire to win every race, hit every ball out of the park, and WIN at the science fair.

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His first science fair, he did the project all by himself, 3rd grade

Now, on to the topic of the day- his science fair project! He’s very math and science oriented, like daddy. He loves math and breezes through. I worked hard in math, and did well, but it was not a breeze for me! He comes to me a week or so ago and asks, seriously, “Mama, can I split an atom for my science project?” Absentmindedly, I replied, “No hun, that’s kind of dangerous.” “But I’ll do it in the kitchen!” I have NO idea why that would make it safer? I firmly explained why we could NOT split any atoms, anywhere in the house. A few days later…”Mama, could we get a sample of polio from a lab, infect an animal, and observe it?” “Oh my gosh, NOOO!!” Not to be completely deterred, “Ok, what about an insect then?”

I had to get to the bottom of why he was coming up with these outlandish topics. Why couldn’t we just watch a sandwich get moldy? Build a potato battery or something like that?! I asked, but I should have known without asking, “Mom, I have never WON the science fair! I can’t do just ANYTHING, it has to be AMAZING!!” Ok, no pressure or anything. Daddy and I had a family meeting and came up with some ideas that didn’t involve killing a lot of people, and I think we finally settled on a topic today!! Oh thank goodness. The stress of trying to pick a topic was unpleasant. Aidan gets so into things- he doesn’t do anything 50%, he only knows 100%- which is wonderful, but when mom is running on an empty tank, and dad has successfully fought off the flu and been sleeping for a week straight, we are just plain tired!

I’ll have to post some pictures of the finished topic. I love that kid. We can finish each other’s sentences, read each other’s thoughts. I love my children equally, but not the same. Each one of them is SO different. I would have thought that they would take after each other, share some traits. Nope. God gave us 6 individuals who could have been from different planets. I absolutely love that. It made each pregnancy that much more exciting- seeing how different and special each new life would be. Aidan, you are my fiery one. Never lose your fire! Never lose your sense of justice, and your love for all things good and pure and righteous. God has big plans for you buddy!

 

Self-Care

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Ok, it’s ironic that I’m writing on this topic at all, because it’s so new to me! I almost feel a little hypocritical recommending it to others, when it wasn’t even part of my vocabulary for so long. I was in survival mode. Truth is, intense pain makes you selfish. I would explain to my husband- I felt like an animal, retreating into myself, just thinking about surviving. Basic needs- food, water, breathing in and out. I couldn’t even think about anyone else, which is so contrary to my nature, because I was concentrating on making it through life, one hour at a time. When I was able to catch my breath, I realized I had worn pajamas every day for ages. I was housebound, so no reason not to! When I got dressed, my kids would ask “do you have a doctor’s appointment?”

I wrote earlier that I got some make-up for Christmas, because my friend wears it and she looked so cool in her how-to videos! By Christmas evening, I had emailed the company to see if I could sell it, because it was so fun. It was new- feeling pretty and just putting myself together, even if I was staying home:)

The company’s message just happens to fit into my own personal view of self-care. It’s not geared towards glamazons, although, if you’ve seen some of the youtube videos, you are aware that there are some serious Artists, (with a capital “A” out there!!!). Every person is unique, special, and has the right to feel good about themselves. Often, it helps to put a little color on your face. Not always, make-up isn’t required for self-esteem by any means! However, I love some color and to bring out my best features. People have very different ideas of beauty, and what makes them feel good. Sometimes, it’s a hot bath, a chat with a certain friend, new shoes, or just smiling!!!

Maskcara beauty has put together fun collections to celebrate “Galentine’s” Day. If you are single or taken, it’s always a great time to be thankful for the gal pals in your life, who make you smile. Here are some pictures of the collections. Fun, beautiful colors, and  way to save money if you want to treat yourself or a friend who needs their day brightened!

 

 

Valentine’s Day

 

 

 

I will post “before and after” pics of myself. I know everyone can get a kick out of those:) Haha- keep those jeers to yourself:) Even after coffee, it’s still not pretty!