Endless Strength Header

 photo blogheader-2.jpg

December 31, 2011

Happy and Blessed New Year!

It's the night before the first day of 2012.  As I sit here, I think about how I want to put forth New Year's Resolutions.  But the things I come up with are all things I've already been working on, so it really would be more of a renewed effort, I suppose.

What are your resolutions for 2012, if you have any?

1.  I resolve to finish the four or five blog posts that are sitting in draft form...a couple from 4 months ago!  And I hope I can be a bit more regular with the ideas this year.  I have a few that sit in my brain and pop up every time I'm in the shower or something.  Which is really NOT the ideal time for a good blog idea to come up.

2.  I resolve to get to the Community Center and/or do SOMEthing active four times per week.  I've already paid for a 7-week Spin class on Thursday evenings, so I need to get to the pool to swim one or two days a week and run another day a week.  That ought to do me good.

3.  I resolve to keep working toward a more people-centered/people-driven role at my job.  Hey, if I've got to have a job anyway, I figure I ought to enjoy it more than I have been.

4.  I resolve to MAKE TIME for a date night with Craig once a month.  I'm gonna have already kept this one for January this coming week, because a sitter is already hired for Tuesday night!  :)

5.  I resolve to continue to budget and begin paying much more on my student loan this year.  We have no other debt and there's no excuse for the fact that I haven't done this yet...other than I got kind of happy that we have no other debt.

There are some things I'd like to resolve to do in 2012, but that I know are failures waiting to happen:

1.  I'd like to resolve to keep my desk/office area at home neat and tidy.  But let's face it, it's my biggest clutter magnet and it's the last thing I want to do when a bed is beckoning me to sleep or a book is begging to be read.

2.  I'd like to resolve to keep my house clean.  But I have a toddler and a baby in the house...'nuff said.

3.  I'd like to resolve to go to daily Mass.  But I tried that at Advent and it lasted 2 weeks.  Work got crazy and I needed to be there early, so that little commitment went by the wayside.  I guess it's just not meant to be at this stage of my life.

Overall, in 2012, I'd like to live more fully and love more completely.  If I'm able to figure those two things out, I think I'll have a great year.

December 29, 2011

Thankful Thursdays (7)

It's time for Thankful Thursday.  Thank you, Rebecca, for hosting!

This week I am thankful for:
  • Four visits with my Aunt Bea in her last 10 days of life
  • The opportunity to hold Aunt Bea's hand and to feel her squeeze mine in return
  • The ability to  say "I love you" and to kiss a dying woman on the forehead and her cheek and stroke her hair
  • Safe travels for Craig's family both here to Kansas City and home
  • The time my children had with their cousins, even at their ages, family is so important to them

December 28, 2011

2011 - A Blog Year In Review

I was inspired by Elizabeth Esther's post last week where she listed her top 15 posts of 2011.  I am nowhere near the level of EE with regards to writing, readership and the like, but I thought I'd look through my posts from 2011 and highlight the ones that stood out on their own.

Of course, THE main event of 2011, you know the one with life-changing implications, was the pregnancy, anticipation, arrival and acclimation of Vincent Gerard to our family. 

Earlier this year, I was fleshing out my feelings about my parents, the divorce and what that has meant for me as an adult and as a mother.  Here are a four posts related to that:

Four other favorites from this year:

And finally, three posts related to my acceptance of God's call to live my vocation as a wife and mother in a more unorthodox sense:

Some of these inspired more feedback than others.  In reviewing these, I see that I write more reflection and confession than controversy.  I guess that's par for the course for my personality as I prefer to profess my faith and state my position rather than take a defensive and protective stance braced for a fight.

I rather enjoyed reading through these again.  Sometimes I think, "Wow, I wrote that?!?" and on some things I think..."Uh...wow...I wrote that" while shaking my head.  :)

If you have any comments to add, please do so.  I read every comment faithfully and earnestly.

December 25, 2011

Aunt Bea: It's Hard To Put Into Words...I'll Attempt It Anyway

I met my Aunt Bea when I was 10 days old.  Or something like that.  I had been born November 11, 1973 and my parents, who lived far from any immediate family, traveled an hour south of Topeka, KS to Ottawa for Thanksgiving at Aunt Bea and Uncle Alex's.  My mom always said that Aunt Bea and Uncle Alex were so excited to see me...they were the first family to see me outside of my parents and older brother and they were thrilled.  Probably as thrilled as grandparents might be to see a new grand-baby.

Aunt Bea was my grandfather's cousin.  Her mother and my great-grandmother were sisters.  She was born December 31, 1911.  Many have tried to capture the qualities and sentiments of people like my Aunt Bea.  She would fall into what historians have called "The Greatest Generation."  I can't say that I would disagree that she was a great woman.  She lived through both world wars.  She was in her late teens and twenties during the Great Depression.  She went to college at a time when most women didn't.  She was a nurse in a few different places and then a teacher of nurses at the University of Kansas.  She had a strong love for children.  Over the years, I gathered enough in our conversations to understand that she desired children with my Uncle Alex, but they married late in life and even though they "tried to have 'em" somehow it wasn't God's plan so "they never came."

God's plan was for her to be a mother and grandmother for those of us who needed her.

If Aunt Bea was ever unhappy with her life, she never let on.  

When I was very young, I visited Aunt Bea and Uncle Alex on weekends.  As an adult, I look quite fondly on these visits.  I remember that Uncle Alex got up very early on Saturday morning, went to pick up the paper from the driveway, then came in and ate some grapefruit while reading the paper.  I learned that putting a little bit of salt on grapefruit was pretty tasty from him.  After a bit, he usually would go back to bed with Aunt Bea until she was ready to get up.  She was not a morning person.  She even let me come in their bed when I would wake up early.  I remember one time when I did that, but I couldn't be still.  We ended up talking for a little bit (I think I was 6 or 7 years old) and she told me she didn't like to get up before 9 o'clock or so.  She liked to sleep in!  The next time I visited, I remember trying really hard to sleep longer so Aunt Bea didn't have to get up too early.

I thought of this about 10 days ago when I visited Aunt Bea at the nursing home where she lived.  She was in the hospital wing of the home and I visited with a nurse before I left.  She mentioned that they'd really like for Aunt Bea to come out of her room for three meals every day, but she seemed to be making it for only one.  I said, "Well, if you're serving any meal before 8:30 or 9, she won't ever want to come to that."  The nurse chuckled and said, "Yeah, we've kind of figured that out."

The best part of my weekend stays with Aunt Bea was the meal she would cook on Sunday when my family came to pick me up.  Aunt Bea could put out quite the spread!  Roast, potatoes and gravy, rolls (oh, the rolls!  And the butter!), corn (sometimes a special treat would be corn on the cob!), green beans, salad, and all of this just for Sunday supper!  She made the best snack mix ever.  Yeah, Chex makes their mix and it's okay, I suppose.  But Aunt Bea's snack mix puts it to shame every time.  I have the recipe somewhere...it's all in how she baked it...you literally could not stop eating that stuff.  She made it for us all every time we'd visit her.  We'd always get to take an old coffee can of the stuff home with us.  Of course, she could make desserts with the best of them, too.  I think her use of butter might even put Paula Dean to shame!

While we're on Aunt Bea's cooking ability.  Anyone who ate my Aunt Bea's Fudge would just ooh and ahh at how delicious it was.  I had people I worked with who clamored for "Aunt Bea's Fudge" even though they had never met her.  Any of us who knew the ingredients of the fudge knew that it tasted as good as it did because of the overdose of love Aunt Bea put into making it.  The ingredients themselves were not all that spectacular...just your regular run-of-the-mill fudge...unless Aunt Bea made it.

One of my favorite things Aunt Bea said was "Toodle-oo!"  She would say it when she was leaving the room, but coming back in a bit.  Or she would say it when she knew she'd see you again, whether soon or not.  I remember her saying it a lot when I was little.  It's one of my fondest memories..."Toodle-oo!"  she'd say as she waved good-bye after a visit.  "Toodle-oo!" she'd say when she set me up with paper and crayons to draw and she was heading to the kitchen to cook.  

One of the best memories I have are of Uncle Alex and Aunt Bea standing arm in arm waving goodbye.  Whenever I went home with my parents, heck...whenever we left Aunt Bea and Uncle Alex's house...they'd come out on the driveway and wave at us as we pulled out...then wave at us until we couldn't see them anymore. 

Growing up, my school had "Grandparents Day" once a year.  Grandparents got to attend school with their grandchildren.  There were usually fun activities planned, a special lunch, all that stuff.  My grandparents didn't live close enough to come for it.  But Aunt Bea and Uncle Alex came and they were so cute.  You could tell they really enjoyed it.  They would split up...one came with me and the other with my sister (the youngest two were not in school yet and my older brother was in high school).  They seemed to get such a kick out of the day.  They seemed so honored to come and be our Honorary Grandparents.  I know my Nana and Grandad were pleased that they could do this, too.  It meant so much for us kids to be able to have them there.

I remember when I came back to Kansas to go to college after graduating high school in North Carolina.  If I could get someone to drive me down to Ottawa, I'd promise them they'd never be disappointed in the meal we'd get while we were there and the company was even better.  I spent many evenings over the course of my five college years visiting Aunt Bea and Uncle Alex.  They would give me advice (solicited or not) on what I should do, what I should study, all of that stuff.  Uncle Alex was pretty disappointed when I didn't get my CPA certification.  If Aunt Bea was disappointed, she never let on.  She was always supportive of anything that meant I was working hard, secure in a job and saving a bit of money somewhere along the way.

The evening dinner visits were much the same--A huge spread of food, great conversation and a coffee can filled with her snack mix for the road.  She would come out on her porch and watch us pull out of the driveway and wave to us until we couldn't see each other anymore.

Uncle Alex and Aunt Bea had an inter-faith marriage.  If there was ever anyone who had the patience, wisdom, courage and understanding to live out marriage as a Catholic to a non-Catholic, it was my Aunt Bea.  She never said it was easy.  She always said it was hard work.  And she always acknowledged that sometimes it meant that she went to Mass early in the morning so she could attend services with him later.  I know he attended with her sometimes, too. 

I remember my first basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse...Aunt Bea took me.  Of course, I was too young for it (it was on one of my weekend visits and I was probably 6 or 7 years old) and I think it was more of a hassle than she would have ever wanted.  I remember saying I couldn't see and I remember asking if the game was over yet.  I think eventually, she really enjoyed seeing my passion for college basketball, and specifically for the Jayhawks.  I think she was glad to know that somewhere along the line, I "got it" about Kansas Basketball and how special it was.  She had retired from KU and had season tickets to football and basketball games.  She finally had to give them up when Uncle Alex and she could no longer navigate the stairs and the driving safely.  When I was in college, she allowed me to attend a couple of games with friends over the couple of years that I was in college in Topeka before I transferred to KU.  They had pretty good seats and we got to go to some good games.

 I remember when Uncle Alex died.  I remember when she called me.  I was living in a small apartment in Topeka, but working as a Relay Operator in Lawrence.  She sounded sad on the phone.  We had known it was coming, Uncle Alex had been sick for awhile.  Aunt Bea had taken care of him at home up to the end.  I remember sitting with her in their living room after he died.  It was about a week or so after the funeral.  (Details are fuzzy...maybe it was longer...maybe it was shorter.)  She was crying.  I had never seen her cry.  And I never saw her cry again.  But she was crying then.  I just sat there with her and let her cry.  I cried, too.  And she said, "It's really hard."  And I remember nodding and getting up and giving her a big hug.  And then crying some more.  I cried because I missed my Uncle Alex, for sure.  But I cried, too, because I was sad that Aunt Bea would go forward in this life without her sweetheart, her love of her life. They were married 49 years. I had seen 24 if those and had been unable to understand the sacrifice and the example the showed because I hadn't had the life experience yet. 

Aunt Bea got a special place to sit at our wedding.  She was walked up as an honorary grandmother and sat next to my grandparents.  She got a corsage and everything.  Because she held such an important place in my life for all of my life.  She was always one of the first people I'd tell about a new pregnancy.  Of course, she worried about us...a woman who lived through the Great Depression worries about a family with many mouths to feed.  But she was always appropriate with her concerns.  

Of course my children have adored her.  These past few months, it has been difficult for them to be unable to come and visit Aunt Bea.  They have missed her.  They have prayed for her.  Today, when I told them she died, they were all sad.  But they also understood, somehow, what I meant when I told them she'd lived a long, good and faithful life.  It was time for her to go and be with God.  

I can't help but feel blessed that I was able to visit her about 10 days before she died, and four days before she entered the hospital for the last time.  I was at her bedside for about an hour.  We talked.  She told me, "Yeah, a couple of times I thought I was a goner!"  And she also asked me to help take care of the things in her room when she was gone.  She was so happy to see me when I walked in...her face just lit up.  A little bit into the visit she said, "I almost didn't know who you were at first."  And so I decided to ask her if she knew who I was and she got that exasperated tone to her voice and said, "Yes!  I know who you are...you're Michelle!"  I held her hand and rubbed her arm.  I told her I loved her....so many times.  I asked her if I should bring her anything and she said (true to Aunt Bea's form) "No!  Save your money.  I have all I need, they take good care of me here."  I told her I would come back and see her and she said, "You take care of your family...you don't have to come here all the time."  I had brought her a blueberry muffin and she asked the nurses if she could have some butter.  She ate about a quarter of the muffin while I was there.  We were sure to wrap the rest of it up so she could eat it later.  She asked if she could have salt for her eggs.  When the nurse said, "I'll have to check on that one." Aunt Bea leaned toward me and said, "That means NO."  So, she didn't eat the eggs sitting on her table.  We visited a while longer, but I knew she was staying up for me, so I told her I'd get going, but I'd come back in a couple of days.

My older brother and his family, my sister and her family and me and my family are the closest related family Aunt Bea has.  She has great friends in her town, particularly one who was good enough to call and let us know Aunt Bea's state of health so that we could be sure to come and visit her.  I know my first priority is always to my family.  I thank God for my husband who was so good and supportive whenever I wanted to drive to Ottawa and check on Bea the last 10 days.

When I returned about 3 days later, it was clear that Aunt Bea was a bit more tired and not doing so well.  I kept my visit much shorter, but she did see Vincent, since I brought him with me.  She always loved the babies, and this day was no different.  She looked at him and smiled at him.  Of course, she mentioned how sorry she was she couldn't hold him.  But I got him close enough that he might have slobbered a little bit on her, but she loved it.  Shortly after I left, they took her to the ER and she was admitted to the hospital.

Tuesday, I got the word that Aunt Bea's body wasn't fighting this pneumonia like it had other times.  The antibiotics weren't able to do their thing because Aunt Bea's body just wasn't up for it.  Craig brought me an overnight bag to my work and I went down after work to spend the night with Aunt Bea in the hospital.  She was having a good night when I saw her.  She was pretty feisty.  She was telling me what to do ("Go to sleep!") and fidgeting around under her covers...when I asked her if she was okay, she said, "I'm just tryin' to get comfortable!"  She joked with the nurses and told them she liked their hair.  When I left, I told her I was leaving to go to work and she apologized that I'd been there all night.  I told her not to apologize, I wanted to see her, I didn't want her to be alone and that I loved her.  I also promised her I would be back in a couple of days.

The priest in Ottawa came on Wednesday and Bea received the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Communion and Annointing of the Sick.  I was so relieved when I heard this had happened, because it was something I was concerned about. 

On Christmas Eve, I was in tears as I drove toward Ottawa.  I was thinking of Aunt Bea, all alone in the hospital on Christmas with no one to be with her.  I knew I couldn't stay long, but I had to stop in and check on her.  I was overcome with positive emotion at the sight of Uncle Alex's grandson, whom Aunt Bea treated as her own grandson, too, who is a diocesan priest in Kentucky sitting there next to Aunt Bea.  She wouldn't be alone after all.  I sat on her bed for a little while.  She was in a semi-conscious state, it's common for end of life.  She had a full oxygen mask on to help her breathe and she was on her side a little bit.  Her eyes were closed, but the one closer to the pillow was a little bit open.  I looked at her, I stroked her hair.  I held her through the blankets.  I talked to her.  I told her I loved her.  I told her we all loved her, my sisters and brothers, my parents...she was so important to us all.  My life was infinitely better because I had her in it.  She squeezed my hands a little through the sheets on a couple of occasions.  I felt like she was letting me know that she heard me and knew I was there.  When I left, I hugged her, kissed her cheek and her forehead and told her I loved her and Merry Christmas.  

On Christmas morning, I got the call that she had passed away.  I think perhaps I was the first person he called.  With it being Christmas morning, I made some quick calls to get the word moving, but hadn't really had time to process it all.

But now, I am sitting here and as I write all of this...the tears have finally come.  I'm not sad for her, though.  I miss her, sure.  I'm sad that I won't have her here with me in this life anymore.  But, for the last 5 years, she's been pretty forthright in letting us all know that she was ready to go, when the time came.  

I think about all the things she lived through and the events that impacted her and made her who she was.  I think about the people she influenced and touched in this life.  She means so much to me that I am really not doing it justice with what I've written here.  There is a hole in my life now that she's not here.  There haven't been large dinner spreads for many years now and no coffee cans full of snack mix for about 5 years.  But those were always just material/physical representations of the love she had for us anyway.  She has continued to love us all.  She spent time with us.  She enjoyed our children.  She gave so much love to us that it's hard to imagine I could ever experience such a thing in my life from anyone else.  She loved in a motherly way.  She loved unconditionally and fully.  You know, she had a strong devotion to Mary through the Rosary.  I wouldn't doubt that our Blessed Mother Mary was extending her love to us through Aunt Bea.

A little over a year ago, on one of my visits, Aunt Bea mentioned that she had flipped on EWTN when she had awakened in the middle of the night recently to see that Brother Andre had been canonized.  She relayed the story about how in 1934, she shook his hand.  What a blessing for Aunt Bea to see that a man she knew about, had encountered in her life, a man she had touched, was in Heaven with God and all the Angels and Saints.  

So, as I wrap this up tonight, as I think about Aunt Bea, I am comforted that she departed this world in the friendship and communion of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  I hope that she is reunited with her husband and her father and her mother and her sister and brother, her cousins...especially my Grandad and Nana who loved her so.  

I will miss Aunt Bea, for sure.  But I have faith that she left this world well on her way to sainthood.

Toodle-oo, Aunt Bea.


December 19, 2011

Monday Mumbles - 15

It's Monday.  So, I'm mumbling.  Checkout TOOJE at Circling the Square Table if you're interested in another mother's mumbles on Monday.

1.  Dominic is back to normal, we think.  Well, you know...whatever normal is.  He hugged on Santa at the Breakfast with Santa at his Grandma's parish yesterday.  Then he was pretty funny, cracking us up throughout the day.  And he slept in his own bed last night.  I think I'm calling it GOOD.
2.  I am 90% done with Christmas shopping.  I really hate that I only have about 3 days really to get the rest done.

3.  But 90% includes TEACHERS gifts!  yay me!  Ohh...wait, I don't have the boys' daycare present yet...well, that's in that 10%.

4.  What do you get your kids' teachers for Christmas?  This year, I got heated travel mugs (for coffee) and Quiktrip Gift Cards.

5.  I did a Spin class Saturday  morning.  I hadn't done one in 7 years.  Yes, I hurt.  Thanks for asking.

6.  My Aunt Bea was admitted to the hospital last night.  She has pneumonia.  Thank you for your continued prayers.

7.  Christmas.  6 DAYS AWAY!  (Friendly reminder)

8.  Our Christmas DVD's are done, I have 15 cards ready to go in the mail.  I still have 8 more to get ready to go in the mail.  I'll be glad when that part is done!

9.  My kids are very excited that their cousins on Craig's side of the family are coming to town for Christmas.  They cannot wait.  They are driving me nuts with their anticipation.  tee-hee.

10.  A Christmas Story.  Do you have it?  I do now.  Ha!  I don't have to watch TBS to see it this year.  I get to watch my own DVD version WITH NO COMMERCIALS!!!  

Have a great Monday!

December 18, 2011

Thy Will Be ...

This past weekend's Gospel was from Luke 1: 26-38.  This the the story of the Annunciation, when the Archangel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary and announced that she would conceive and bear the Son of God.  

In his homily, this weekend, Father put forth an interesting juxtaposition. Side note: does anyone else get excited to use a word like juxtaposition in their blogpost? Yeah, I figured. (I am SUCH a nerd!)

He reminded us all how fearful this moment must have been for Mary.  She was young, a teenager, and she was being told that she would conceive a child, (when she had no relations with a man).  Without the fact that this child would be the Savior of the World, this was scary.  She was betrothed to Joseph who could choose to leave her; becoming pregnant out of wedlock might get her outcast (and that was probably the least scary option); and going through pregnancy, labor and childbirth without going through normal human means to get to that situation...the chances are that Mary might have wondered if there were ANY way at all to bring the Lord, our Savior into this world without having to go through all of this, that she might pray for that instead.  But she said, "May it be done to me according to Your will."

Then he reminded us all how fearful the night before His Crucifixion was for our Lord in the Garden.  He prayed that if there were any way at all to accomplish what He needed to accomplish without going through the torture that lay ahead, that He would rather do that.  But His prayer, ultimately, was "Thy Will Be Done."

The juxtaposition was this:  Instead of praying with the spirit and intention of "Thy Will be Changed" Jesus and Mary both prayed with the spirit and intention of "Thy Will be Done."
How often when I pray, do I say the words, "Thy Will be Done" but with my heart and mind I say, "Thy Will be Changed"?  I have caught myself more often than I want to admit with the prayer, "Please, Lord, Let it be your will that X, Y, or Z happen."  

I thought about this a lot this weekend.  

It's human to want things in our lives.  We think we know what's best for us.  We would like to avoid suffering.  We'd like to partake in all the comforts of this life while avoiding all of the discomforts (or most of them anyway).  And I think it's in some of Paul's writings in the Bible (yes, I'm showing my Catholic laziness by not trying to find the actual Bible verses...sorry) that we are to petition the Lord.  He wants us to pray and petition Him.  That is how we build a relationship with Him.  However, just because the outcome WE desire does not materialize, does not mean God has not heard our prayer or has not answered our prayer.

I think it's easy to get caught up in our prayers to God and think that we must be praying for what is God's will because we desire it so much in our hearts.  We make ourselves believe that God put that desire on our hearts or else we wouldn't feel it so strongly.  And, then when our hearts' most urgent and real desires do not become reality, we kind of stomp our feet and say, "Well, why do I desire this so fervently if it's not Your Will, God!?!?"  And sometimes we only pray all the harder for this intention.

It's hard to remember that God answers prayers on His terms, in His time.  And it's hard to remember that God's will is not always something we ourselves would choose.  

I have a favorite line/quote from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (the first of the series).  When I think about what I want versus what God wants, it pops into my head.  It is at the end of the book when Dumbledore and Harry are having sort of debrief discussion after the climax of the story.  Dumbledore tells Harry,
"--the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them."
Now, of course.  humans do not ALWAYS choose something that is worst for them.  However, that which is best for us usually entails a bit of work, or some suffering, most likely some sacrifice.  

More than likely, God's will for us is going to take at least some work on our part, most definitely some sort of sacrifice and undoubtedly a bit of suffering. 

How often do we see our choices ahead of us and ask God to grant us the way with the least amount of work, sacrifice and suffering?  And then, when the way that unfolds for us is the one with the work, sacrifice and suffering, we are sad, we think God didn't hear us and we surely believe God didn't answer our prayer if, somehow, He did hear us.

I have found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I've thought about this message over the last 24-48 hours.  I am challenging myself to honestly assess my prayers and hold myself accountable for where my heart is anchored.

Do I pray with the spirit and intention and request that God's will be changed to conform with my wishes and desires?

Or do I have the courage, wisdom and fortitude to pray with the spirit and intention and request that God's will be done in my life?

December 16, 2011

7 Quick Takes (14)

--- 1 ---

I got a call Wednesday night from a woman in Ottawa that checks in on my Aunt Bea.  She left a voicemail because I was at the kids' Christmas programs when she called.  Her message was long and mentioned whether "any of you" (meaning me or my sister or brother that live up this way) were "going to do anything for Bea for Christmas or for her birthday" and that she wasn't doing well.  So, I called the woman back and she unloaded on me a little bit.  I wasn't prepared for her phone call and of course, the emotions that overcame me when hearing Bea wasn't doing well, didn't help me receive the tongue-lashing and guilt trip that ensued.  This woman is the only way any of us can get information and she never calls to tell us if Bea has ended up in the hospital...we usually find out after Bea is better and out of the hospital and back at the home.  And since none of us is on the list of people for the retirement home to talk to us, we have to rely on this woman for information.  I'm not sure why it was set up that way, but that's just the way it is.

Even though I didn't owe this woman anything, I explained that it's difficult for me to get down there because I usually have all five of my children with me when I am not working since my husband works nights/weekends.  She backed off a little bit, but continued to complain about whatever she had been doing for my Aunt Bea and used the word "burden" to describe my most beloved stand-in grandmother.  I was pretty much checking out at that point.  I didn't like her talking about my Aunt Bea that way.  And if she feels that way, then she should take herself off "the list" and put my name on "the list"...I certainly don't think Aunt Bea is a burden.

In the conversations with some other family members after the phone call, I realize that the woman probably is stressed with the holidays, and her husband has been sick and probably from the outside looking in (as far as Bea's family goes), we might look like we're pretty neglectful.  I mean, she's checking in with Bea regularly and if she never sees anyone else, she's bound to think she's the only one doing anything.  

I did go and see Bea Thursday morning and we had a lovely visit.  She was having a good day which was all I prayed for on the way down there.  I ironed out some details with Aunt Bea about what she'd like me to do for her and she reiterated that she didn't need me to bring her anything or spend any money on her that she has all she needs.  We exchanged lots of "I love you's" and I held her hand and showed her pictures of the kids on my phone.  Finally, I had to make myself leave because she was so tired and I could tell she was trying to stay up for me.  I don't know how long we have with Aunt Bea.  Please keep her in your prayers.  She's one of the most important people in my life.

--- 2 ---
I am Christmas shopping today.  I really hope I get it all done since I can do it without kids in tow.  I have all of the items that need to be shipped to my sister and brother that do not live around here wrapped and ready to go.  Today is for all the relatives that are traveling HERE for Christmas this year.

--- 3 ---
Oh!  The Christmas programs!  They were wonderful.  Helen was assigned the part of Mary for the K-1 program.  She did a lovely job.  Here's a picture:

oh and here's another one:

Then grades 2-5 put on a great little show, too.  My poor Sarah...she's so little.  But she's a 5th grader, so they put her in the back with all the 5th graders.  And then promptly stood a couple of tall 4th and 3rd graders in front of her.  I couldn't even see her!!  Dani was on the other side of the production, but we were able to see a little bit of her while they were singing.  The program was really good, though.  All the kids sang so loud and proud and they were good!

--- 4 ---
So, exercise hasn't been high on the priority list since I ran a 5K on the first Sunday of November.  *sigh* I MUST get back on the wagon!  I'm doing a spin class Saturday with a friend.  It's a complimentary "try it out" class at the community center.  I know it will be fun.  I do wonder if they even have a class that I could get to on a regular basis though!  Vincent is almost 6 months old which means he can start going to the Child Watch area soon!  That makes a Saturday workout more feasible and so maybe if I am getting there on Saturdays, I'll work harder to get there before work during the week a couple of days.

--- 5 ---
Dominic got his tonsils and adenoids out a week and a couple of days ago.  I'm watching him closely, though.  I don't think the anesthesia has completely worn off or something.  He's still rather lethargic and whiny/gripe-y.  But I am taking him to his daycare today.  Maybe he can just lay low and hang out.  But getting out of the house might help him snap out of it.  (I hope???)

--- 6 ---
I just read this post over at Roman Catholic Cop.  I like the way it's written and it has a very good message for Advent.  Go read it!

--- 7 ---
I uploaded this pic to Facebook last night.  I finally got the high chair back out so Vincent could sit in it while eating his nightly bowl of rice cereal before bed.  It was amazing how much better he ate it sitting in there than in his bouncy seat!  

Anyway, a rather hilarious discussion ensued, begun by my husband, about Vincent looking like he just threw down a beer or something and was looking and waiting for another.  I finally determined that it must be my motherly eye that only sees pure innocence and joy in the face of my baby boy.  Is he not adorable??

Have a great weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

December 13, 2011

Tween: Gateway to Adolesence

She huffs; I puff.

I sigh; she mopes.

I yell; she yells back.

She bosses her younger sisters; I scold her and remind her there's only one mom in this house.

She desires my approval; yet she also wants some freedom and independence and room to make her own choices that don't require my approval.

She wants my hugs and kisses and attention.  Often, I want some space and a reprieve from her pouty demeanor.

She wants to talk about purses and shoes and shopping.  And she plays this game called "Pageant" at recess.  She loves fashion and accessories.  

I'm scared.

Because I don't know how to do this.  I don't know what to do with a pre-teen girl.

How do I navigate these tween years that will turn into teen years all too fast?  

How do I love my daughter and raise her and support her as she grows to be the woman God plans for her to be?  

How do I prepare myself to love who she turns out to be even if it's not who I envisioned?  (does that even make sense???)

How do I get through the next 8-12 years and come out on the other side with a relationship filled with trust, respect and love between a mother and a daughter?

She's so sensitive to everything that I say; yet there are times she acts like she doesn't hear me or she couldn't care less about what I have to say.  For a couple of years now, Sarah declined to hold my hand if we were walking into the store or down the street.  But last week, when I took her to the KU game, she surprised me by taking my hand as we walked from the Fieldhouse to the car after the game.

You see, it seems we are in this position where she's still a little kid and, at times, will admit it in one way or the other, and allow me to mother her like she's still a little kid.  But then it seems we are in this other position where she's still a little kid, but she thinks she's a big kid who wants to brush me off and be able to do something independently.  And occasionally, it seems we are in this position where she thinks she's all grown up with her grown-up tastes (so she thinks) and grown-up opinions and thoughts.  In my brain, I know she needs the space to express herself.  But at these times, it seems, I find myself recoiling from her; resisting the urge to scold her and "put her in her place" either with my words or my actions.  Sometimes I succeed in resisting...other times, I'm not so good.

And it is at these times, when I think that I must almost crush her as she is trying to spread her wings a little bit.  And the fear almost overwhelms me.  I want Sarah to enjoy talking to me and share her opinions and express herself to me.  I want to KNOW who she is probably almost as much as SHE wants to know who she is.  I worry when I make mistakes that cut off the opportunity for her to show me who she is and what she thinks because I decide to interject what I think or believe about this or that.

Yeah, these days there's a lot of huffing and puffing going on.  And there's a lot of sighing and moping going on.  And there are many power struggles playing out.

My prayers this Advent seem centered on this particular challenge of motherhood -- Prayers for patience and fortitude and perseverance and temperance and wisdom.

December 12, 2011

Monday Mumbles - 14

Happy Monday!  I have a few "mumbles" to start off the week.  If you'd like, please join TOOJE, she's usually mumbling on Mondays...at least she started it! 

1.  Dominic got his tonsils out last week.  He hasn't gone anywhere since.  Well, I take that back.  He got dragged to Mass on Thursday for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Father kind of scolded Craig and said that "he should be at home."  OH well, live and learn.  I think Craig was more concerned about getting the kids to Mass than himself really.  But anyway, Dominic hasn't gone anywhere else since.  I think he needed to stay home again today, so I asked Craig if he could just let him watch tv/movies in our room while he slept and I would just take Vincent to daycare.

2.  I was supposed to be off work Thursday and Friday last week.  But a death in the family of my co-supervisor left me little in the way of options.  I could have maintained my PTO schedule, but that would have been horrendous on the folks left behind to do all the work.  So, I moved my days off to this coming Thursday and Friday.  I just had to put off my Christmas shopping one more week.

3.  Friday night I felt BLAH.  Like a bad BLAH.  So on my way home from work, I grabbed some Michelob Ultra.  I haven't had a beer in forever, so I stuck to the lightest beer I know of, LOL.  But I just hung out with the kids, watched some tv and had a beer or two.  Haven't done that in a really long time.

4.  Sunday night was the first night Dominic went back into his own bed after his surgery.  He didn't really want to, but I kind of pulled out the "you need to stop being a baby now..." thing to get him to go in his own bed.  Poor l'il guy...sure has a mean mommy.  Because of course, an ninety minutes after he went to bed, he was up and in pain because we'd forgotten the pain medicine.  He needed some water and I gave him another dose of the "good stuff".  Oh and brought him into our bed...he needs his momma.

5.  Oh yeah.  ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!  My Jayhawks played MUCH better on Sunday to beat #2 ranked Ohio State!  They won by 11.  OSU's best player was out with muscle spasms or something like that.  So if he would have played, maybe KU would have only won by 2 or something.  :)

6.  I get really crazy at basketball games.  I mean, I'm hoarse today because I scratched my throat up screaming, yelling and carrying on at the game on Saturday.  I was jumping around like a crazy woman.  At halftime of the game on Saturday, Craig's mom says to me, "you should text your husband from me and tell him his wife is out of control."  So, I did.
7.  Craig's reply text:  "Tell her that's why I married her." 

8.  And KU has a new football coach.  Maybe you've heard of him?  Charlie Weiss.  I suppose there's lots of people with an opinion.  A college football coach is generally one of the few things on which I really don't have an opinion.  Hey, the KU football team can't really get all that much worse at this point, so let him try.  I'll be interested to see how it goes and hoping for some W's!

9.  We've been working on our annual DVD.  Well, 2010 was the first year we didn't send one out since we started in 2005...and boy did we hear about it!  So, we're putting one together this year.  What we do is set a slideshow of pictures of our family to music.  In the past, we've given each kid their own song.  But our thought this year was not to do that because it would be too long.  So, we picked five songs anyway...just some favorite Christmas songs...and it's plenty long.  Somehow I wonder if we shouldn't have just picked a song per kid.  But that is more work.  Anyway, now we're just trying to clean it up a bit by making sure we don't have any grainy/blurry pictures in that we don't HAVE to have and making it all fit with the music.

10.  I have read so much good stuff lately.  I haven't had time to write any of the stuff in my head.  Maybe this week...

Have a great Monday!

PS:  And it's the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe today!

PPS:  I don't think I shared this video on my blog (I know I did on Facebook).  I am putting it on our DVD, and need to find a good spot to insert it...what do you think?  stand-alone?  Or inserted in with the slideshow of pics (yes, this is an option on my Mac...)

December 8, 2011

Thankful Thursdays (6)

Friends, Between a crazy work, school and family schedule, the holiday season, my Dominic having surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids yesterday, the KU game Tuesday...I have hardly had time to pee (sorry if that bothers you) let alone write this week.  But, I am making time to be thankful today.  :)

I am thankful...

...for excellent surgeons and today's technology that makes a tonsillectomy and adenoid removal "routine" procedure

...for kid-friendly pain medications

...for Grandmas (Dominic's was so gracious to come and spend the day helping Craig since I had to work)

...for college basketball - I CANNOT WAIT to be in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday as KU plays THE Ohio State University (currently ranked #2 in the country).  Even if KU loses, I am betting it will be a great game.  I've been so excited that before the conference play started this year, we have already played Kentucky, Duke and now will play OSU (all top-10).  Past few years non-con schedules were pretty pathetic.  ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK! GO KU!!!  :)

Please go visit Rebecca at The Road Home for more Thankfulness on this Thursday.

December 2, 2011

7 Quick Takes (13)

I haven't done these in awhile.  But you know what?  Vincent turned 5 months old this week!  My, where has the time gone?  So I have 7 Quick Takes about my Baby Boy!

--- 1 ---

This kid makes me smile.  All. The. Time.  He is happy most of the time.  He loves it when I walk through the door arriving home from work.  He wants me to hold him most of the evening.  

Vincent has really brought a calming presence to our family.  At least I feel calmer with him around...and I guess that's all that matters.  :)  I think he enjoys being doted on by his older siblings and for sure his momma.  He watches them.  When he focuses on his toy bar hanging above him when he's in his bouncy seat, it's really kind of funny.  And when he is kicking his feet, that's pretty funny, too.

--- 2 ---

5 months is such a sweet age.  I forget about that, until I have another baby who hits 5 months.  At this age, the babies typically aren't sitting up all the time by themselves and they aren't quite ready to start pushing up to crawl or anything.  They still need to be fed their bottle (yes, we're bottle/formula feeders at our house) and they need to be supported much of the time in order to look around and interact.  But they love to look around and interact!  Vincent really enjoys watching...ME!  I catch him more often than not, just looking at me and watching me.  Sometimes he babbles, but sometimes, he just gets his goo-goo eyes going and makes my heart go pitter-patter.

--- 3 ---

Vincent got to meet his Grandad this month:

--- 4 ---

Vincent also really enjoys playing with his feet.  Lay him down to change his diaper and he grabs his feet.  Put him on the floor, he grabs his feet.  Cradle him in your thigh/calf...he grabs his feet.  You get the idea.

--- 5 ---
Vincent is also a very active baby.  He kicks his feet in such a way that it looks like he's doing an Irish jig or something. 

--- 6 ---
Vincent can roll over (been doing that for quite awhile...I wonder if it has something to do with him being a tummy sleeper?) and he eats rice cereal pretty well.  I'm not very religious about giving him the cereal.  Some nights I remember and some I don't.  I suppose I should drag out our high chair.  I think it's funny how different a mom I am now than I was when I had one or even just two kids.  With Sarah, as soon as we started cereals and foods, I was right on schedule trying something new as soon as I ascertained she had no allergies to what we'd already introduced.  Now, it seems I figure, if Vincent is okay having 10 oz of formula instead of some cereal and maybe 6 oz of formula before bed...okay.  Or if he eats 5 bites of cereal and then fusses, I just get him down and feed him his bottle.  With Sarah I was adamant that she finish her cereal!  Just kind of interesting.

--- 7 ---
At night, I've been trying to see if Vincent will get himself back to sleep.  This is tricky because he shares his bedroom with Dominic and I really don't want Dominic to wake up.  But, through this process, I've noticed that Dominic sleeps really hard, so it would take a lot to wake him up!  And Vincent is going a little longer waiting for me to come and get him from his crib.  Sometimes he gets himself back to sleep and sometimes he doesn't.  He's not crying at all, just flips himself onto his back and starts babbling.  The babbling gets louder and louder until I know he really needs me to come and get him out of his crib.  I know if I don't give him a chance to try and figure it out, he may never figure it out.  But he's still pretty young yet, so I usually go get him and try a bottle if he doesn't self-soothe back to sleep in a reasonable time.

I just can't believe I'm a short month away from the "magical" (for me) 6-month mark.  I'm always just a little more at ease about everything when the babies are sitting up and eating more table food and starting to try to crawl.  But I do think I will miss this stage, too.

Have a great weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

December 1, 2011

Thankful Thursdays (5)

Today I am thankful for so many things.

1.  This article by Simcha Fisher.  LOVE.
2.  This blog post by my friend, TOOJE, at Circling the Square Table.
3.  This blog post by my friend, Maggie, at From the Heart.
4.  My baby boy, who turned 5 months yesterday (OMGoodness!!!) and my big boy, Dominic, who cuddled his mama last night and made my day.
5.  My husband, whom I could never give enough praise.
6.  My girls, who provide a most interesting combination of likes and dislikes.  They all three are the product of my husband, me and God, but UNIQUE they ARE!!
7.  My sister, who graciously agreed to watch my children last minute last night so I could go conduct an organizational meeting where no one showed up.

For more Thankful Thursday, visit my beautiful friend, Rebecca, at The Road Home.