Halloween!

This holiday is just plain fun at our house. I really love themes, and usually I can get my act together and dress the whole family up in one theme. This year, the budget wasn’t going to work because we just did some home improvement projects, and I needed to be really low key for Halloween. I know there are cool homemade costumes you can do, but I’m not up for that yet! One rainy day when the kids were stir crazy, James took them out to find the parts for the perfect costumes. I shouldn’t have favorites… but I do. This year, Lana’s is my favorite! She is going as Wonder Woman. She really loves the cape, and she doesn’t walk- she RUNS everywhere. Sweet girl. My older kids are starting to really notice when their candy disappears. I don’t want them to ruin their teeth, have a lot of processed foods and sugar, and -well, um, I really like candy!! That’s what it boils down to. I just plain love chocolate. So, yes, I sneak some of their candy. I think kit-kats are my favorite, with Hershey’s white chocolate coming in a close second.

 

 

 

I wanted to share some of our favorite outfits! I don’t buy ghouls and goblins for our home décor and this really frustrates them. If they could put fake zombies on the roof, the headless horseman in the front yard, and witches with cauldrons on the porches, they would. Nope. I stick with fall stuff like mums, pumpkins, and pretty wreaths. I don’t “do” the undead. The costumes are the same way. I guess it’s the obsession with the forbidden fruit, but I won’t let them dress up as anything evil and bloodthirsty. Other kids may- that’s their choice, but we do goofy, wild, and imaginative instead. I get some complaints, because plenty of friends go a different direction with their costumes, but for the most part they don’t grumble too much. The siblings stick together for the first part of the evening and in our neighborhood, Halloween is insanely busy! The grown ups have bonfires, and grill out in the driveways. It looks like huge tailgating parties everywhere. Everyone is outside, talking and catching up. We have a lot of golf carts where we live (golf cart capital of the world, I think is the nickname!) and sidewalks so people from other places come here due to the safety and ease of walking around.

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This year, we met up with a lot of friends and while the grown-ups had a chance to visit and chat, I volunteered to be the mom that went door to door in the early evening. I followed the group of 15 or so kids all over the neighborhood. What a wonderful privilege, to be able to walk and keep up with candy-hungry young’uns! There were fireworks, pounds of candy, chase and tag in the dark, and so many more happy memories to file away.

 

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S’Mores the Hamster

Mom, can we get a pet? on repeat, for 1.5 years.

I got James a puppy as a surprise the day he went to take his Step II board exams in med school. We had been married for a year, and we owned a small townhome in Augusta, GA.  He was a small, black curly haired Schnoodle whom we named Gus. The first night we had him, we put him in a crate, determined to train him the right way from the beginning. He wimpered. We took him out. He wimpered some more. We propped his doggie bed up on pillows, on top of a chair, so he was even with our bed. Then, he kept wimpering…so we put him in our bed. And that was that.

james and gus

He slept with us, at our feet, every night until right before Aidan was born. I’m going to get choked up writing this. I wasn’t sure how he would react when we brought the baby home, but I was not prepared for his reaction! Gus sniffed baby Aidan, licked him, and then growled at anyone who came close. He NEVER growled, ever. Except when we brought a baby home. He met each one of our babies, and he loved them. He let them pull his hair, hold him, tickle his belly, chase him, play fetch, and feed him table scraps. He never bit or nipped- not once- in his whole life. He would however, bark at everything including his own shadow, the older he got. This drove me nuts.

After my mesh surgery and injury, I was on edge all of the time. I couldn’t stand loud noises or my sleep being interrupted. Since Gus barked a lot, he ended up being put in the laundry room to keep him quiet. It has a window, food and water, a bed and it’s right off the kitchen- so it wasn’t a punishment or anything. Still, he would keep his little nub of a tail down and act like he was being banished to Siberia.

In January 2017, I underwent a procedure that was supposed to be low risk, that had a 50/50 chance of working very well to relieve the nerve pain called pulsed radiofrequency treatment. I had a horrific reaction, and it ended up making me much, much worse temporarily. I couldn’t speak the pain was so bad. The few days afterwards are a blur- but I remember my dad coming in to my bedroom and saying that something was very wrong with Gus. Two days later he was dead. I was bedridden, and the kids were in shock.  James and dad dug his grave in the backyard on a cold, rainy afternoon. My mom was in town, and she came in to tell me that I HAD to find the strength to come outside. My daughter wouldn’t put the dead dog down, and she had his blood on her shirt. She was inconsolable. That is the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. I got up and walked outside in the rain, and I took Gus out of Rose’s arms. I was on 100mcg patch of fentanyl, I don’t know how much Lyrica, 3-4 doses of oxycodone a day- and I still couldn’t focus through the pain. Nick was so little, and he said “why is there water coming out of my eyes?” Our oldest son blurted out “That’s not water! You are crying because you are sad!” I don’t think that Nick could process grief at his young age, but after Aidan said that, it hit him and he tore off running across the yard, sobbing. He hid in a giant bush and James had to crawl in the mud to retrieve him. That was a horrible day. The pain was unbearable and blocked out rational thought, grief, and I felt useless. I limped back inside, and curled in the fetal position on my bed while James and my parents took care of the children that afternoon.

I did not want another pet. At all. Ever. It’s amazing how resilient children are, and not long after that day, they started asking. I started saying “no” on a daily basis, for over a year. I had long told them that I did not have the energy to take care of 6 kids, work on my health, and take care of a dog. It wouldn’t be fair to a dog to bring them into our home unless we could promise to take care of them adequately. Finally, FINALLY they wore me down. Well, Rose did. My desire to NOT have a pet, was nothing compared to her love of all of God’s creatures. The child brings everything in here. Crickets, spiders, frogs- oh the tears!! I made her let a frog go at the soccer field. She wouldn’t speak to me the rest of the night!

I started doing my homework on low maintenance animals. They shot down my suggestion of a goldfish, lizard, or fiddler crab. They wanted a rodent of some sort. Ok, y’all, I have to admit- I have a fear/phobia of rodents. Like I freak out and scream. I cannot stand them. I kept researching, hoping the answer would present itself- and it did! I found the perfect pet!

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When Rose was at camp, we wrote her a letter and surprised her, telling her when she got back we would go to PetSmart and pick out a new pet! We decided on a dwarf hamster. They don’t get along with others so you can only own one, they don’t bite, they don’t smell, make noise, and they don’t eat much. Voila, the perfect pet. Oh, the unbridled joy when we brought that tiny animal home!! We named her S’Mores because of her coloring. She’s SUPER fast, and teeny, and we explained that if she ever got out of her cage, that was it- she’d be lost forever. She can run really fast and she’s the size of a small plum- so we wouldn’t be able to find her.

On the first day of public school this year, I drove Matthew to school. I told his teacher that the only thing I was nervous about was him riding the bus. She assured me that she would personally walk him to the right bus that afternoon. When I went to pick him up at the bus stop… he wasn’t there. Our neighbor went back on to the bus and searched- no Matthew. I had to jump in our van, leave my oldest child at home in charge of napping siblings and frantically drive around searching for Mattie. Turns out, his teacher had put him on the “correct” bus, the one that the school system told me was ours, but the letter was wrong- they had mixed up the numbers and sent him to the wrong place. We found Matthew, and he was totally calm of course. Very exciting first day!

When we returned home, my 5 year old came up to me, tears rolling down his face. He explained that he had been playing with S’mores when he was supposed to be resting, and she had gotten loose. I know he was scared of his siblings’ reaction, so he hid behind me. He was SO upset. All of the excitement about losing Matthew was forgotten, and the kids all started shouting at once. They weren’t angry at all with Nick, they were too worried that our pet was lost forever. They took off upstairs, calling her name (as if she would come running?). Frantic, and hysterical. They took their shoes off before they run upstairs to look- I guess to avoid the chance that they stepped on her? I tripped over the shoes, and fell pretty hard on my knee and elbow. Ouch.

After I limped up the stairs, I laid down on the floor, pretty sore. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her tiny, furry body. She came running right at me! Here’s where my fear of rodents hurt the most- I didn’t have the nerve to grab her! I froze- and she kept going. Oh, boy did the kids let me have it! Finally, Aidan trapped her and they got her back in her cage. They patted Nick on the back, letting him know there were no hard feelings. Truth be told, I think they liked the excitement. We are really careful with her all of the time, and I know the little ones learned their lesson that day about taking her out. She is adored by all of them, not a problem at all, and it’s another step back to real life for me!

 

The best day of his life

This past week, we celebrated my oldest son’s 11th birthday. Usually, the kids discuss their birthday for roughly 11.5 months leading up to it. The cake, the presents, the activities, etc. This is the very first time one of my kids (getting older? small tear!) hasn’t brought up their special day ahead of time. We asked Aidan what he wanted, and he said he couldn’t think of one thing. For the record, we don’t shower them with a lot of gifts. James and I get each child a special present for their birthday, and then siblings choose Dollar Tree treasures that they pick out (always the highlight of the day). For his birthday, I knew what he really wanted. He loves to play Fortnite. I am pretty anti-video game, and we have strict rules about screen time. Oh man, the look on his face was priceless! I asked “do you want to play Fortnite and eat junk food for your birthday?” You would have thought I offered him a million dollars. That was it.

me and a and cake

We cancelled school that day, and Aidan played with his siblings outside, and he got to play Fornite. He was pretty funny about lunch. He said he wanted paninis with *pesto*! He knew not everyone liked it, but he did, and it was what he REALLY wanted. It might be my favorite thing too, so I happily agreed. Aidan had football practice that evening, and he asked if I would make cookies for his teammates. Awww- yes, I will. I’m honored he still wants me around. Rose and I made funfetti cookies from Pinterest that turned out really well actually- ha, a Pinterest win!

Matthew had his last baseball game that night too, and Aidan was going to miss it. He was disappointed about that. Aidan’s first love is baseball, and he’s been coaching Matthew since he could walk. He figured out early on that Rose wouldn’t take orders from him, but sweet Matthew was always up for a game and he didn’t mind constant instruction. It was a gorgeous day, and the boys spent a good deal of time in the backyard. Aidan worked with Matthew on his pitching, hitting, throwing and fielding. It was a full two hour “practice!” Matthew’s team hadn’t won a game yet this season. James had to work one of his long days with double shifts, and we had a complicated evening of running around dropping off kids where they needed to be at the right time.

When I arrived at Matthew’s game, I gave him a wave and a smile. He said somewhat dejectedly “I’m not pitching tonight.” He’s only 6 years old, and he plays on an 8 and under team. He really is excellent for his age, but I understood that they couldn’t start him as pitcher for every game. I tried to cheer him up by saying “hey, maybe you will be the relief pitcher?” I watched his game for a while, and the other team pulled ahead. Matthew struck out at the plate, and tried to hide the tears in his eyes. He is the sweetest child in the world, and it is pretty hard for my mama’s heart to watch him get upset. When James arrived after his LONG day, I took off to go to Aidan’s practice. I told Matthew I loved him, and good luck, I’d see him at home later.

After Aidan’s practice, the boys happily gobbled the cookies. I had two other kids with me, and we called James from the car to find out how Matthew’s game turned out. They don’t play past an hour and twenty minutes. James didn’t pick up the phone, so we tried mom. To our complete surprise, they were still playing 2 hours later! It was the bottom of the last inning, and Matthew was pitching- relief pitcher just like I thought. His team was ahead by one run! They had to hold the other team. Matthew had struck out one batter, and caught a pop fly for the second out. One more out and they would win, their first and only game of the season. He had made the two outs by himself.

Aidan was so funny. He had my mom on speaker phone- “MOM!! PULL THE CAR OVER!!!!” I did pull over, because I was too excited to drive. We listened as my mom announced each pitch that Matthew threw. “I CAN’T TAKE THIS!!! CAN I HANG UP??” Aidan asked multiple times. He couldn’t stand the anticipation and the pressure that was on Matthew’s shoulders. When mom announced the last strike, third out- never have I EVER been that elated! HAHA. We were screaming and whooping in the car, and we all pictured little Mattie on the mound throwing his glove in the air with glee.

Aidan was cheering so loudly, I couldn’t drive the car for 5 minutes. Screaming, fist pumping with the other brothers- it was a wild sight. Matthew won his last game, on Aidan’s birthday! When we got home, the brother’s embraced for a while. I met James’s eyes over their heads- THIS is why I endured 9 months of hyperemesis multiple times, I told him. This is why I missed out on girls’ nights, vacations, date nights, and decent food to be sick as a dog with each pregnancy. THIS, right here. Oh, the love that night! Aidan said it was the best day of his life. It was a sweet, simple day filled with love and family time. But, it was a perfect day to us.

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The joyful reunion after Aidan got home from practice and Matthew returned from his game.

When you lose the battle, and it’s ok

I’m going to share something pretty personal here: James and I have had *one* real argument our entire marriage. We’ve had this argument about 11 million times, but it has been the same one, over and over. We disagree on things, but there’s one thing that has been such a sore spot for us over and over. I have this perception that I have to be the mean parent, and he gets to be the fun parent. I’m the rule enforcer, and he’s the one who gives in to their demands and lets things slide. I always feel like one of us has to hold the center, so it must be me. I can’t give an inch, because then, who would keep order?

This perception in my mind of our roles in the home has led to battles, real, raw emotional battles over the years.  The hurt starts with me, not because of anything that James purposely did.  I’m sure when I’m old and gray I’ll be able to offer calm wisdom to young parents about how I learned from my mistakes, doing this! For now, I’m sorta/kinda still in the middle of it, and trying to figure out how to compromise without both of us feeling frustrated.

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Right after we got engaged, when we were 12. Just kidding:)

I am no doubt the stricter parent. Does that make me a “better” parent? Ah, confession. I’ll admit, in my more selfish, angry moments I thought that it did. I know I’m wrong. This line of thinking has gotten me nowhere except angrier, self-righteous and spinning my wheels. Not a great combination. James loves our children fiercely, and has very different ideas about what’s perfectly normal and acceptable. I don’t think that anyone needs to share every argument they have with their spouse on the internet, but I thought that perhaps other parents might find some common ground? One parent thinks they are the strict one, and carries some resentment that the other parent is the “fun” one?

One very recent and vivid example of our disagreement has to do with technology. We will always have to navigate the changing world of discipline and privileges as the kids get older. I am stuck in the 1980s- I didn’t do that as a kid, and I’m fine! I didn’t miss out! See?! I can’t stand video games. Cannot stand them. Cartoon people jump around and you get points, and there are different levels…blah blah blah. I have seen people totally engrossed, obsessed, sitting in front of a tv all day on a weekend in college, with no social skills because they just play video games all day. That’s my perception of what it looks like when people play.

There is a very popular video game trending right now called Fortnite. You’ve probably heard of it. I was fine with not having it at all in our home. James downloaded it for our oldest son to try, and that opened a new can of worms. I can beat my head against the wall and rehash the same arguments over and over again about why I don’t like video games, but James can silence me with one sentence “I played them occasionally and I turned out fine.” He turned out better than “fine”- he happens to be my hero. I think he hung the moon. I can’t argue with that statement. It’s true. He’s a hardworking physician, a very hands-on loving father, a patient husband who was my rock during the hardest times of my life, and a man of faith.

I realized that I want peace in the valley, I want to show James how much I admire him, and after a lot of prayer, I knew I needed to take a long, hard look at my pride. I have a pretty rigid view of what’s right and wrong, and more than anything in my life, marriage has softened my edges. I hope that it has made me a better person- I think so. My personal opinion of video games hasn’t changed, but how we treat them in our home did. The boys play Fornite sometimes and the world hasn’t stopped turning. It’s not winning and losing a battle. There shouldn’t be “winning” in a loving home, because that means that someone gets defeated. I just used that analogy in the title of this piece, to represent my personal battle. I battle my pride all of the time- pride over asking for help, pride over teaching the kids “enough”, and pride over being the perfect parent. Gah- it makes it glaringly obvious how much my arguments are about PRIDE, when I write it down and read it.

We have days, times, limits, etc. on screen time. We are in a unique position because of James’s job, where we have multiple computers in the home. One of them was not being used, and was a very nice desktop. We installed it in his office, so that when the boys are online they are next to James- literally. I don’t feel like I am in a position to share every rule we make about screens, because what works for us is probably not right for someone else. Plus, each one of my children is treated differently. That kind of irks them! I get the question “why is he allowed to do __?”

I hope that when I look back on my life, I can say that I learned from my mistakes. The fact that I’ve had the same argument for 11 years, clearly shows that I have room to grow! As much as James and I are alike in many ways, and we love each other, we communicate very differently. My biggest stumbling block is my pride, when it comes to being a good human being and a person of faith. These compromises as a parent and a spouse might get me to Heaven one day- breaking down my innate tendency to always think that *my* way is “right.” By working on my communication with James over every-day disagreements like Fornite, I hope I’m a better listener and friend to everyone else! I read once that marriage is like putting two rough rocks in a bag. Over time, they bang against each other and become smooth. I like that. It’s not easy, and sometimes there are tears of frustration, but my rough edges are being refined and honed, by love.

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Dancing at Piper’s wedding, after 14 years of marriage.

Meal time + a Recipe

I know that meal time can be a challenge for families- nowadays, so many people have food allergies and intolerances, as well as the usual picky eating that is common to children. We are incredibly blessed to not have to struggle with food allergies in our home. As for picky eating- I’d say I “lucked out” in that department as well, but it really isn’t luck, it’s our approach as parents to food.

My first child loved food so much, it was actually a hindrance to our lives. I tried to take him to story time at the library once- only once! Another mom opened a cheese snack for her child, across the room from us. That was it. He saw it and started yelling. No one could eat in his presence unless he had food as well. Restaurants? Oh dear- awful. Any time a waiter walked by with food for someone else, he took it personally. Needless to say, we didn’t go to restaurants for a couple of years. Aidan ate anything- still does.

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Right after he ate a LOT of blue icing at a bday party, 2011

Second child came along, and low and behold- was very similar! She wasn’t picky, and we would serve her a wide variety of foods. I made their baby food, and we introduced different spices and textures when they were teeny. I know that this isn’t really common- to have two “good” eaters, who will try Thai food, sushi, veggies, etc. and not complain. My third child wasn’t quite as voracious an eater as the other two! He actually turned down some dishes but for the most part, he wasn’t overly picky.

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Pic of baby #2, bless her heart, those cheeks! She wasn’t hungry, EVER.

During my health struggles, I was bedridden and I couldn’t cook a meal for over a year. I don’t think I made a meal for almost 18 months. Wow. We were the recipients of so much love and charity- it was hard to accept, but it was completely necessary. In hindsight, I can see how much this helped our family in ways I didn’t realize at the time. Food isn’t just something yummy or social, it’s necessary for life itself. I think most people in first world countries, who don’t know what true HUNGER is, take it for granted, just a little bit. We have the privilege of being picky and choosing what we feel like eating. What an incredible thing. I’d have to guess, that a majority of the world’s population doesn’t have the luxury of being very picky. They know what real hunger feels like, and they view food as a precious commodity necessary for life.

As a family, we learned that you don’t have to love every food put in front of you, but you do need to be grateful for it. People from our church, homeschool community, friends, neighbors, and family all took the time, money and effort to help provide for us. What an amazing blessing- THAT is what I want my kids to remember at the dinner table. The full plate in front of them is a blessing. I am not going to get in a fight at the table about them not wanting to eat a certain vegetable on any given day. Fine, not a big deal. I am not advocating this philosophy for everyone, and I know that some children can’t stand certain textures or flavors. Maybe the parents fix two or three different meals to appease people. I will never judge how anyone else chooses to make things run smoothly in their home- I’m not in your shoes!

Here, we don’t fix two meals. There’s one thing that’s served for everyone. Sometimes, everyone likes it, but usually, they don’t! There are some common dishes that I really don’t like- I won’t mention them, because they are served all of the time by my friends! I will smile, say “thank you” and really mean it, and then I will take a bite. I don’t feel like arguing over food with my family on a daily basis here. Gratitude is a huge part of the meal- are we really grateful for what is in front of us? Do we realize what a blessing it is, to know where our next meal is coming from?

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Eli helping in the kitchen. This kid will leave a biscuit behind, and just eat the meat! Doesn’t take after his mom, who loves carbs:)

I can’t force my kids to like certain foods, and I don’t try. I don’t need for them to like everything! I hope and pray that they are thankful for food, and that we are all mindful of how much disparity there is in the world. Be grateful, say the blessing and mean it, and if you don’t like a certain food- that’s ok! It’s really not worth arguing over.

I have a few recipes that everyone loves, that I will share. It’s rare to find something that EVERYONE will like, equally. Our all-time favorite is called “sludge.” I’m not joking! It looks like sludge, I mean, it really is the ugliest meal ever. However, once you get past that, it tastes amazing!

Oh- one little thing: I am not the greatest person at following a recipe exactly. I’m more the “a dash of this” and “handful of that,” pour liquid in until it “looks ok.” I’ll write down exact quantities, but feel free to alter things!

  • Sludge- aka Sausage and Lentil Slow Cooker Supper
    Two pounds of fresh sausage (like Jimmy Dean, in a roll)
    1 cup brown rice
    1 cup lentils
    Italian spices
    6-ish cups of beef broth
    1 ½ cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
    White wine optional- splash, for taste

Brown the sausage and drain the grease. Put the sausage in the slow cooker. Pour the lentils and rice in. I start with 4 cups of broth. Add the Italian seasoning. Turn the cooker on “low heat” for 8 hours. I check back in a couple of hours and add more liquid as needed. About 30 minutes before you want to eat, add the cheese and stir. If there’s too much liquid at the end, leave the top off of the slow cooker. Not enough, add more! Stir occasionally.

You can serve with bread, salad, raw veggies, fruit- whatever you like. It’s a one-pot/bowl meal, and clean up is easy. It looks like brown goo when it’s done, but it smells amazing! Enjoy😊

My Middle Child

I have had 6 pregnancies and 6 children. This one was the easiest- well, the only easy one and it was a foreshadowing of things to come. My third child, Matthew came into the world on my parent’s wedding anniversary, a couple of days before Thanksgiving. It was cold, and we lived in the Philadelphia area. I remember waking up on Thanksgiving morning, my first one back home with him, and experiencing a feeling of such complete happiness and joy, I’m not sure I could ever top that!  Matthew is our third child and second boy, and he has broken the mold. His personality, temperament, and attitude are unique and special, only to him. He has traits that I wish I had, and I hope to be more like him when I grow up!

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First day of school this year, I was able to drive and take him by myself (a big deal for me!) 2018, 1st grade

He was my smallest baby at 6 lb 14 oz, and he was born the earliest as well, at 37 weeks. As a baby, he never cried. He would make a noise when he was hungry or tired, but he didn’t fuss. I didn’t know that was possible! He sat rear-facing in his car seat for three giant road trips, two down the east coast, and one halfway across the country. He didn’t cry once. When he cried for three days, after we moved to Detroit for a year, I actually called the hospital! Ha- I’m sure they thought I was crazy for calling to see if we could come in because he was yelling. Before we loaded the car to go, I noticed a rash had popped up on his hands. He had hand-foot-and-mouth disease- and that was the only time he really fussed as a baby!

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Aidan and Rose holding him, his first day home.

In a house full of loud personalities, he’s the quiet one. He’s not shy, he’s just not loud. He doesn’t demand attention- ever. He taught himself to ride a bike on his first try, and he swam across the pool by himself, without anyone teaching him. He can play with a pinecone or a paper cup for hours and be completely entertained. If I could describe his personality in one word, it would be “content.” I think that a lot of adults have to strive for contentment. Being at peace in one’s surroundings isn’t a natural tendency- at least, in my 37 years of observation. Matthew is totally at peace, wherever he is. He’s not always hoping for the next best thing, asking about what’s for dinner at the breakfast table (like every other person in this house!) or coveting every toy that other children have around him.
On Mother’s Day this year, they made me cards and we had a lovely day. That evening at dinner, I thanked the children for a wonderful Mother’s Day and he looked shocked. “TODAY is Mother’s Day?!” It hadn’t registered all day! Another time, he asked when my husband was getting home from work- James was sitting next to him at the dinner table! He has a wonderful ability to block out noise and distractions and totally focus on something. I will call his name for 10 minutes, not hear a peep, and find out that he is 3 feet from me, under some pillows, concentrating on a bug crawling.
Matthew gets along with everyone. He was in kindergarten this year, and during one of his class parties, his teacher told me that he was very smart- he liked to call out the answer to all of her questions. I was pretty shocked, embarrassing for me, because I didn’t realize he could read. He never brought me books, or read out loud like the other children. When I read to him, he sits quietly. He knew the words all along, he just didn’t mention that to me.
My oldest son, Aidan, is a sports nut and he forced Matthew to be his baseball/dodgeball/golf/tennis/football/soccer/any-ball game buddy. Matthew did t-ball for the first time last year since he had learned to love it from playing so much at home. His team lost like 35-0, and after the game he came up to me and asked sweetly if they had won. He truly didn’t care either way- he just loved the game itself. He isn’t competitive in the sense that he likes to “beat” other people in anything. He really enjoys playing games, sports, tag, etc. but just for the sake of the game, for fun. He is a good sport about losing, which is something that we didn’t have to teach him- it just came naturally. See, again, he has traits that I envy! His contentment with life is so beautiful to me.

matt u ice craem
On a date with mom and dad, before school started. This 40lb kid ate the entire $10 milkshake! He didn’t get my metabolism.

I love predicting where I think the kids will end up in 20 years. James and I talk about that, and I joke around with the kids as well. Matthew- my prediction is that he will either be like Matthew McConaughy’s character in Dazed and Confused “all right, all right, all right”, or he will be a hermit/monk who takes a vow of silence and lives in a cave with no earthly possessions, and he’s the happiest person that we know. Either way, his laid back nature will continue and he will always be every sibling’s best friend. I wish I could write down every Matthew story that I know, and preserve them forever. He’s hilarious, gentle, non-conforming, peaceful, his laughter sounds like bells ringing, and his faith runs deep. His name means “gift from God” and it is perfect for him. Thank you sweet Matthew, for being so resilient when I was lacking as a mother, and for being so forgiving. You are a gem my dear.

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.