When Your Kids Surprise You

It’s funny how my kids surprise me. Funny because they meet my expectations, yet it is still a feeling of surprise at how awesome they can be at times. In a time when people seem to expect so little of kids in society, I expect so much from my kids and they still deliver. So why do i feel surprised?

Today, I woke up and decided I needed to rake leaves. I began working in the front yard and quickly discovered we were out of lawn and leaf bags. I filled the ones we had, then decided to go on the hunt for more. Craig and I walked up to the local hardware store only to find out they were completely out. So I drove to Lowe’s and Home Depot only to find out both of them were out as well. What’s a momma to do?

We have these awesome and big yellow trash bags, so since I had made the decision to get the leaves cleaned up today, I asked Dani to come out and help me. She worked with me for more than two-and-a-half hours to finish the front and work in the back yard! We got many many leaves cleaned up. It was such a joy to work alongside my 8th grade daughter and get all that work done! She never complained. She simply let me know she was getting tired — and I was too, matter of fact — so we picked up the piles we had made and called it a day.

Throughout the time I was working outside with Dani, I noticed that inside, my other children were doing things to help. Helen brought the dog out onto the deck and brushed him to remove excess hair, then she took him inside to give him a bath. Sarah was working with her brothers to clean the bathrooms and vacuum the common areas of the house. Vincent was outside on the deck and I gave him the job of sweeping excess leaves off of the deck. He finally tired of that and went inside. He came out to ask me if he could play video games and I said that he needed to ask Sarah if she needed help first. and I heard him say as he went in, “I know! I’ll clean up my room first!”

I know it’s kind of silly. Most likely when you started reading this you may have thought I was about to write about how talented my children have been in the classroom (which they have!) or how surprised I’ve been with their talent onstage (which would also be true) or how much they surprise me play various sports. And even their artistic ability — sewing, painting, drawing — surprises me at times.

But honestly, they please me the most on days like today. They please me when they simply help me out — they clean their rooms, or they help clean the house, or they help in the yard — all without my nagging or asking for their help.

On days like this, I feel truly blessed to be their mom.

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Spiritual Attacks For Days

It’s been quite a roller coaster the past 4-5 weeks. Parenting is definitely not for the faint of heart. And Spiritual Warfare is real.

Let me back up. There was a time when people would mention that they believed they were being attacked spiritually and I honestly didn’t know what they meant. I always prayed for them, of course, but I sometimes wondered what it must feel like to know you are being spiritually attacked. I have always believed spiritual attack was real, but just wasn’t ever sure I was experiencing it — at least never in the present. I could often look back at times in my life and see that Satan and his demons were having quite a time with me, but rarely did I ever believe it was happening to me as it was happening to me.

That has changed, and I am not sure if it is simply the fact that I am trying to see it when it happens to me or if the attack has been kicked up a notch. It’s probably a little bit of both, if I have to come up with a reason.

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LINK HERE

Several months ago, I noticed a change in how I was treating my husband. The awareness was clearly a gift from the Holy Spirit because it was through it that I started to feel the negative forces at work in my heart. Some examples that I noticed was that everything he did that typically annoyed me a little bit started annoying me A LOT. Like, I couldn’t even hide my stupid reaction. Some of these things were things he had always done and that I’d always just sort of glossed over figuring they were no big deal. But suddenly, for a few months, these things were all HELLA BIG DEALS and I was mad or annoyed.

It got to the point when he did something that was wrong on all levels, it angered me to a point I had not been before with him. Looking back, when he did this, I still would have been angry had I not already been annoyed with him for the previous few months. But the anger I felt was to a point that it scared me. I am not kidding. I was furious and all kinds of rage-y angry. The thing about me is…when I get angry, I shut down. I rarely yell, I don’t want to talk and I internalize. Part of this internalization is leftover from my abuse days where I would seek to find my fault in what someone else did. Completely stupid and irrational, but that’s the mindset of someone who has been manipulated for years on end.

Anyway, I’m glad I thought about how I felt and I called in some reserves in the prayer department and asked for some big prayers for my marriage because I believed that our marriage had been attacked for a few months and this action on my husband’s part gave the dark and evil spiritual forces just the opening they needed to try cause even more division in our marriage.

I was angry for about a week…like, I didn’t even feel like talking to my husband for a few days — that kind of angry. This was the first time in our marriage that I had been that angry at him. My husband rarely makes me angry even in a mild sense, so these days were very trying for me. The prayers must have worked well because finally I was at a point where I decided to simply let him know how angry I felt and why. I think part of the reason I had gotten so angry was that I was afraid to tell him the depth of my feelings so then I refused myself the validation that I needed that it was okay to be that angry.

And once I told him and tried to make it clear just how upset and hurt and angry I was, do you know what he did? He apologized. Plain and simple. And I started to feel better and I became less angry. We went to confession that weekend (it had been several months) and I became even less angry and the sadness started to go away, too.

Over the next few weeks, i started to be less annoyed at the things my husband did. Everything isn’t and wasn’t perfect, of course, but I was aware and I realized that I wasn’t preferring nails on a chalkboard over my husband, and that made me believe that the prayers were working, the graces we found in confession were working and that we had tapped into those graces we received when we married, too.

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But here is where the reality of spiritual warfare kicked in for me. Recently, we’ve had a couple of things going on with our middle school daughters. They are separate things — one “biggie” thing for Dani and one long, drawn-out “biggie” thing for Helen — but when i put these things together, i start to see that the evil spiritual forces didn’t leave us alone, they simply changed course. Satan and his demons figure, “If we can’t break up their marriage directly, let’s attack their children and divide them there.”

I love that in our Catholic faith we are encouraged to ask for prayers from other faithful Christians. And I cast a very wide net — I was asking people to pray for us that I probably hadn’t spoken to in quite a few months, but I didn’t care. I knew that if I simply told them, “This is serious and I can’t give you any details, but know that we need you to storm heaven for our daughter,” that they would do so. Lots of them came back letting me know that they could be there for me no matter what, and I appreciated that. In Dani’s case it wasn’t my story to spread widely and it still isn’t, so I won’t be going into details here. I will share something that sticks out as a moment that I identified how Satan works: on a night in the middle of a few very troubling days as we dealt with the “biggie” Dani thing, I noticed, all of a sudden, that Dani’s birth stone had fallen out of my mother’s ring. I was so angry when I saw that! Now, sure…yes, it very well could have fallen out even if we hadn’t been dealing with stuff at that time. But the fact that it DID fall out at that precise moment is why I was completely aware that Satan and his demons were chipping away at me, trying to get me to either turn my back on my husband or my daughter and I refuse to ever do either. But it is these little occurrences that we must be aware of to identify the spiritual warfare going on in our lives. And to remember that it will never stop.

What the last year has shown me is that Satan needs only the smallest of openings…if he thinks he can convince you that your husband is a bastard who doesn’t care about you, he will jump at that chance even if all your husband has done is some minor annoyance. And when you overcome his attacks, he will go after your children. He doesn’t give two shits about them and if he sees it as a way to get to you and your marriage, he will do it in a nanosecond. And he’s relentless. When he sees you handle one thing well and it only brings you and your husband closer together, that just pisses him off and he will tackle the kid that hits you hardest.

The thing is…God loves us and He wins. Every. Damn. Time. And so far, God has helped our marriage win and we are helping our children. They were already claimed for Christ in their baptism and it will be over my dead body (and even then it won’t happen) that he gets close to trying to claim my children’s souls.

A prayer I have been praying multiple times a day for many weeks now is the St. Michael prayer. I cling to it. I cry when I pray it. I say it with force. Because I know it will work. I pray it over my children, I pray it with my children, I pray it as I drive away from my house and I pray it as I come into my house.

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The amount of comfort that prayer brings me is indescribable. A few weeks ago, I even wondered why it had become my “go-to” prayer. And in hindsight I realized that it had because even though I wasn’t fully conscious of what has been going on, I knew I needed it.

I could probably sit here and come up with a list of times it should have been more evident to me that there was spiritual attack going on in my life, but that’s not really where I wanted to go with this. Basically, I think it’s important to validate to everyone who needs it that spiritual attack is real, it has many forms, and most likely we’ll experience a variety of attacks in our lives. Remember those prayers, remember that God is with us always and that He won already. Remember that you will probably have to fight for your children at some point as well as make sure they grow up strong enough to fight for themselves.

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Ignored While Not Being Ignored

I awoke Saturday morning to the sound of my phone going off from received texts. One of these read, “Happy Birthday Michelle! Please text me a good time to call you. We love you. Mom and Lane.” I replied that I was up so feel free. Honestly, I figured it would be better to get it over with and the sooner the better.

Afterward the phone conversation, I thought, “Why couldn’t I have pretended I missed that one?”

As I process my thoughts from that conversation, I was trying to find articles I’ve read in the past about the characteristics of narcissists. The thing is, I think there is a distinct difference between a regular joe-schmoe narcissist and a narcissistic mother. I probably think that because I have a narcissistic mother and haven’t, in many years anyway, dealt with a regular joe-schmoe narcissist all that closely. I found a quiz online titled, “Are YOU a daughter of a narcissistic mother? Take this survey to find out.” A list of 33 questions appeared in the body.

I shall start with the very first one and use my conversation with my mom to highlight this characteristic.

  1. When you discuss your life issues with your mother, does she divert the discussion to talk about herself?

When my mom called me after receiving my reply text, she said “Happy Birthday” and then delved into her plans for the day. She made the obligatory inquiry about the children, and when I mentioned that Sarah had been inducted into the National Honor Society the previous Wednesday and was remembering how awestruck I was as they listed Sarah’s accomplishments. She did not miss a beat and jumped right into telling me how proud her own father must have been when she was graduating from nursing school and she would stand for all the honors she received. She listed off things like her Nursing Honor Society and her Dean’s List honors and some other things (honestly, I was so annoyed that I spaced off…)

I also mentioned that Sarah decided to participate on the swim team this year — truly an undertaking since Sarah has never swam competitively before. My mom launched into praise of my nieces and nephews and all of their swimming dominance. I am absolutely supportive of my nieces and nephews and all of their swimming feats. However, I get so sick of my child NOT being acknowledged by my mother. And, I’m really happy that my mom is so in tune with my nieces and nephews — I guess she can pay attention to at least a couple of grandkids. But this is typical and while I never begrudge any of my nieces and nephews their accomplishments, I definitely find myself annoyed at my mother’s constant throwing of them in my face as if my kids don’t accomplish things of their own (which she ignores…often)

Finally, she asked what course of study Sarah was thinking of for university and I did the stupid thing in mentioning Sarah’s potential interest in nursing school. Gah! I was then told how my mother had received “the call” to be a nurse at the age of six. And no, she didn’t realize that call until after she’d had five children, but she had been “called.” And she threw her 20 year career at me with her “advice” that she imparts to anyone who considers being a nurse: “If you haven’t been “called” to the profession, you will not be prepared to make the critical decisions required to be a good nurse.” (yes, it’s okay if you use a nasal, annoying craptastic voice as you read that part.)

So…forget that she was talking to me for a minute and let’s just freaking focus on the fact that she can’t even recognize her oldest grandchild’s accomplishments for what they are and without making it about her. ugh.

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I think I have had it. I think this is the last birthday I allow my mother to ruin.

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27. Did you feel you had to take care of your mother’s emotional needs as a child?

AND 32. Does your mother compete with you?

Many of those questions from that survey linked above resonate, but these previous two I mention are pretty accurate. Growing up, it was often required of me to build up my mother, whether it was to tell her how good she looked for a mom of five kids or to tell her what a great mom she was that she was doing so much for us kids by going to nursing school and taking care of us. It was debatable who was doing the most care of us, but…she was the adult so she gets the credit, I guess.

And even presently, any time she may start to sound like she would empathize with me being a mom of five myself, it often quickly turns into reminiscing about how hard her life was and how much she did for us. Often times she will then bring up one of my siblings that has seven children and then of course, nothing i do is even close to that level and she compares herself to that, too.

So, I guess the point of this post is mostly to help me write out what happened so that over time I don’t start wondering if it was real. If I actually have something to read over that happened in the past the next time it happens (if it does — I’m not so sure I will care to talk to her all that often anymore, because honestly, I am sick of this stuff) and I will know that these things she does are a product of her narcissism and not some flaw of mine, at least in these circumstances.

When these things happen, I’m not going to lie, I wonder what keeps me from becoming like her. I worry so much that I would compare myself to my children (which is SO stupid) or that I would try to one-up them in their feelings or something. I think when I was younger and still trying to figure all this stuff out, that I was prone to behaving like this — I think it was most likely the reason my younger-life relationships didn’t work out so well — and so it scares me that I may dip in and do it again or become that self-absorbed.

I guess it could be true what they say, that knowing and being aware is half the battle. I sure as hell hope so.

Being A WOTHM With Older Kids

Today is the first day of my long vacation. The kids still had school so I got up to help. Sarah’s car currently is un-drivable as it needs a leaky water pump fixed, so I made sure I could drive her to school. When I got home, the other kids were in the midst of getting ready and I realized that I was — how do I say this? — I was in the way.

I’m not around when the kids get going off to school every morning. I don’t cook them breakfast and I don’t make their lunches. I don’t get them dressed or brush their teeth for them. Something happened over the last year or so and all five kids got self-sufficient on me. And now we’re at a point where I don’t know where to be if I happen to be home in the mornings.

Oh sure, it was good that I was home because Sarah hadn’t had time to make her lunch last night before bed (hey, we were busy watching our recording of “This is Us”!) Therefore, I did make her lunch for her before driving her to school. But when I got home, I asked Helen what she wanted for breakfast only to learn she had eaten while I drove Sarah to school. And she said, “Since we braided my hair last night and I made my lunch already last night, and had my bag packed last night, and then I’ve already brushed my teeth, I really don’t have anything to do.”

But then she did something amazing. She made sure Dani had made her lunch last night (it was in the refrigerator) then went upstairs and asked Dani what she wanted for breakfast and came down and got Dani’s breakfast on the table for her — complete with her cup of water to take her medicine she takes with breakfast. Whoa.

I did fix Vincent his breakfast, but when it was time to get lunches together, Craig did that because he “knows how to make Vincent’s lunch.” Both lunches were thrown together (Dominic made his own) in a matter of minutes. I also helped Vincent get dressed because he can be rather pokey and the boys are signed up for Fit Team on Wednesdays, so we needed to get out the door earlier than the days they take the bus.

When I walked back in from dropping the boys off, the girls were heading to the bus stop. And boom…the house was empty of children, so I went and took a walk.

My thoughts on this morning are twofold.

One, I’m glad I got to see how mornings go when I am already at work because I will no longer concern myself with whether they get all their stuff done and out the door to school on time. They seem to have taken our cues on how to prepare and how to care for each other. I think one of the things many work-outside-the-home-moms (WOTHMs) worry about is whether we’ve dropped the ball in preparing our kids for life by not being available to them at every critical time to ensure they succeed. This experience helps me to continue the realization that this preparation for our kids is happening — perhaps EVEN BETTER than it would have been otherwise — even though both of their parents work full-time jobs outside the home (and even on opposite schedules). Homework gets done in the afternoons/evenings, we’re still doing other activities (swim lessons, soccer, cub scouts, after-school activities for middle schoolers, volleyball, etc)

Secondly, wow…my children are growing up and I cannot put into words how much love I felt for all of them as I saw them caring for each other (i.e., Helen preparing breakfast for Dani without even being asked to do so.)

Another little side note I will mention is that I noticed that my kids do not eat breakfast together, but each of them, individually yet quietly, took time to say a blessing before eating without being directed to do so.

I know I haven’t written much lately in the way of support for work-outside-the-home motherhood. Most of that is because over time, the guilt has subsided and the questions have been answered. All those questions I had about whether it was damaging my kids to be somewhere other than their parents’ care for non-school time and whether they would be emotionally ready for life without having a parent attend all their class parties and stuff like that — those questions are not questions anymore.

Being a WOTHM requires different things from everyone in the family. It requires some sacrifice. Yes, even sacrifice from the kids. They sacrifice that extra 100% attention from a parent before and after school. But they gain so much, too. They learn early and often to be prepared on their own. They also learn how to help each other and not rely on mom or dad to help out the sibling. They learn how to keep going and get things done without having a parent picking up behind them and pushing them out the door.

This is not to say that kids of families with a stay-at-home parent don’t also learn these things. Of course they do. They just have different ways of presenting the information and moving forward.

What I’d really like to say to my 35-year-old self who was just coming to the realization that stay-at-home parenthood was never going to be the way for this family is:

“It’s all okay. You’re doing it right for your family and it’s been right all along.”

Being the Mom of the kid on the bench

I am a fairly coordinated person and I was a competitive athlete when I was in high school. I made all the teams I went out for and started all the games my junior and senior years for both volleyball and basketball. I would have been really irked to have not started (remember, humility is not my strong suit). I rarely sat the bench. I mean, yeah, I wasn’t the best passer, so I played only the front row in volleyball. But in basketball, I came out when I was tired and told the coach when I was ready to go back in. So I played…unless I was screwing up, but I often played as much as I wanted. And I worked hard, so there wasn’t any question of earning the time.

Now I am the mom of the kid on the bench. It’s true, my kid gets her playing time for Junior Varsity and sits bench for Varsity. But that was not my experience, so I’m learning a whole new side to high school sports. It’s enlightening and thrilling honestly. I love to watch her play, no matter the level. And her experience helps her to lead the younger players on JV, so this is not a knock on my daughter at all. I am pretty sure she wishes she played Varsity only and that she were on the court most of the time, but she also sees the value in the extra court time she gets by playing JV.

I mean, what if she wasn’t getting that time on JV? I’ve thought a lot about that this season. I’m grateful she gets the time on the court for JV and am pleased she is at a school that provides that, because let’s be honest, it would stink to put in the work that she does and rarely get to play in a match.

This is about being the mom of that kid on the end of the bench.

I am the mother of the hard working kid on the bench.

I am the mother of the kid who made every summer workout, except one where she had to go to the doctor to get the required physical done.

I am the mother of the kid who did extra running in the summer: the kid who busted her butt and made sure she met the coach’s soft requirement that they run the mile under 8 minutes (I think she was around 7:39 or something?) and continue on the pacer past 8 minutes (I think she got to 8:30-ish)?

I am the mom of the girl who goes hoarse to make sure she does her share (and then some) of the talking required to keep communication going on the floor.

And I think I feel the same level of pride in my player as I would if she were playing every rotation on Varsity. I see how she conducts herself on the bench: focused on the game, ready should her number be called. She isn’t moping or disengaged like some teens might be in her situation. She cheers for her teammates.

As a matter of fact, this is really cute…last year on JV, when the team scored a point, often Sarah could be seen jumping up from her position on the court with arms extended in victory, excited for the success. She still does this currently when she is on the court and her team scores. Over and over, each and every time a point was scored, it seemed she jumped so high in the air with excitement. It was adorable and endeared her to many of the parents in the stands. We called it “The Sarah” and even this year, some of the new JV parents have noticed how high she jumps when a point has been scored and mentioned it. The really cute thing is…she also does it from the Varsity bench this year. She is so truly happy for her teammates success, that she shows her exhilaration in a high jump from her seat on the bench, arms extended in victory.

When I started having kids, I assumed they would all have my athletic ability and competitive spirit and desire to play sports. Of course, five kids later and some of these children that have grown enough to show me that they–at least–did not get my coordination and athletic desire/ability, I know that was a silly assumption. But hey, Mom’s got dreams, right? I thought that maybe Sarah would get tall like her aunts on Craig’s side and maybe get to be 5’8″ or so. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

But I started teaching Sarah fundamentals of volleyball in the 3rd grade. She worked hard and she is a passable defensive volleyball player. Heck, she has grown to be rather smart. This year playing on JV has helped her develop the ability to put the ball where the other team isn’t, even if it is a lob over the net. She’s learned that placement is key, that brains can, at times, trump brawn in the game of volleyball.

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Anyway, when Sarah was young, I dreamed of being proud of her because she was a fabulous hitter, and then because she was a fabulous defensive specialist (when it was apparent that the height thing wasn’t going to work out).

But now, as the mother of the kid on the bench, I am proud of her because her work ethic is second to no one’s. I am proud of her because her conduct on and off the court is unquestionably impeccable.

I am proud of her because she is coachable and wants to be better, even if being better doesn’t necessarily mean she gets to play all the time. I am proud of her because she understands that even those who aren’t the stars have a place on the team and that their place can, at times, prove to be just as important as those with the starring roles.

I am proud of her because she is growing into a stunning and stellar young woman with leadership and communication skills that will carry her far.

And honestly, I am proud of her because she doesn’t complain or gripe about things outside of her control. She focuses on that which she can control (the fact that she attends practices and workouts and works her butt off, for example). When she does whine or vent about anything, it’s usually to me and she and I work through it and she realizes that it’s not worth being upset over when she can’t control other people’s words or actions.

She’s learning a lot about life in volleyball. For example, she’s learning that there will always be those who absolve themselves of all responsibility, regardless of how obvious it is they had a hand in something. And she’s learning that there will always be those who blame everyone else, no matter what. And she’s also learning that there will be those who take responsibility for their actions and there will be others who rely on their parents to fight their battles for them. It’s given us lots of fodder for discussion about similarities between what she experiences now and what her dad and I experience in the workforce and what she may experience in college with classes and other people in life.

As the “has been” mom who had her opportunity to play extensively and avoid the bench relegated to watching others; as the mom of the kid who rides the end of the bench praying for a chance to play…I can say I have learned a lot watching her.

I’m humbled by her approach and her willingness to accept her role. I’m pleased with her performance when she is asked to play.

I’m honored to be the mom of the kid on the bench.

 

 

Happy 14th Birthday, Dani!

My second-born child turns 14 today (August 31).

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Mom and Dani on the eve of her birthday

Watching Dani grow up has helped me (somewhat) understand my sister, more.  I always resented her desire to do the opposite (usually) of anything I did in order to distinguish herself. But Dani is always looking for a way to do the same. Sarah and Dani are such different people, but both equally awesome in their unique ways. The last few years, an undercurrent in my thoughts is how easy it could be to overlook Dani. She’s the middle of three girls. She’s not my “middle” child, as Helen fits that description in a literal sense. But being in between Sarah (my natural leader, goal-setting, Type-A personality) and Helen (my anxiety-prone-but-much-better-than-she-used-to-be child) can be a tough order for a kid who really does like some attention.

Dani has always had a stronger attraction to “the arts” be it something like drawing, painting or writing or even performing arts like choir and the musical and playing an instrument (guitar). Due to that leaning, her activities revolve more around the academic school year and now that she’s in public school, transportation and parental commitment is lower than for things like volleyball or some other sport. With that, it is less likely to see Dani’s development in her gifts grow from day to day. I simply must wait for the next performance to witness it.

During the summer, Dani chose to chop off her hair and find her style. She did a fabulous job of picking a “look” that fit her face and her personality and was able to convey what she wanted to the woman who’s been cutting/styling her hair since 4th grade. Leading up to this transformation, I learned a lot about my second daughter.

 

I learned that Dani is fearless and independent. She is self-assured and confident. She seems to have grasped early on that it really is “none of her business what other people think of her” and so she doesn’t entertain that sort of worry like most girls her age. I learned that she has the most beautiful frame in her face for a short hairstyle and she doesn’t ascribe to the notion that femininity is tied to the length of her hair.

Watching Dani adjust to life in 8th grade has also taught me quite a bit about her. She DOES care about school and wants to be organized, though it’s a struggle. She has always wanted to please teachers and parents, but I see her staying on top of her work now to please herself. She sets some goals — and they are different from the types of goals Sarah sets — and she makes a plan. She LOVES her music and drama. She joined the After School Activity of Competitive Drama and learned that they would be “trying out” a Debate team this year and she is interested in that, too!

On a more personal level, Dani understands true friendship on a level most kids her age do not. I think of an example recently where Sarah discovered an event to which Dani was not invited and Sarah (Mama-Bear she is) thought it was “rude” (Sarah’s words) that she wasn’t. My first statement to Sarah was, “You know, Dani never thinks anything of that stuff until you say something.” (And I was right about that, again in this instance.) But I did discuss it with Dani and she said, “I’m okay with it. I mean, I like one-on-one outings with people better — I don’t have to share their attention, and I feel like it’s more enjoyable.” She didn’t feel left out (as Sarah did when these sorts of things happened at this age) and she didn’t feel hurt. She understood that she doesn’t get invited to everything and she chose to focus on the fact that she often has really fun outings with friends because she usually arranges small gatherings.

 

Helping to plan Sarah’s surprise party this summer also showed me something about Dani: She is not afraid to make her desires known. As we walked through Costco and various other places the afternoon of the party, getting things bought/paid for and organized, she said, “You know, Mom, I know it won’t be this year or anything…maybe not for a few years, but I would really enjoy a party like this for my birthday.” Not only did that tell me that she could appreciate what Sarah was about to experience, but she didn’t mind telling me what she wanted. So many women today STILL have trouble vocalizing their wants, needs, desires and beliefs and here is my now-14-year-old daughter unabashedly and unapologetically telling me something she would like her family to do for her “at some point.”

Lately, I have seen that Dani likes to hang with her brothers and likes to show affection for them by picking them up, baking for them, playing games with them. Like most new teens, for awhile there, she spent quite a bit of time in solitude, but I have really seen her making an effort the last 8 months or so with her siblings. She and Helen have a close relationship that I remember witnessing in my own two younger sisters growing up.

Through all of these ways I have watched Dani grow, it’s clear she is finding her place in the world and in our family. She is growing into a lovely young lady and I can’t wait to see all the amazing things she will do as she continues to mature.

So, Happy Birthday, Dani-squirrel! I know you will work to make your dreams come true and I look forward to seeing you shine.

 

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Summer 2017

Observations

Today was the first day of the 2017-18 school year for all five kids. The past couple of weeks have been full of Schedule pick-up nights, Meet the Teacher Nights and Back-to-School nights. Over the course of these days and weeks leading up to school, I have noticed so much about each of my kids and wanted to share. Before going into details, I simply want to say that it constantly amazes me the difference in each of my children!

Sarah is beginning her Junior year of high school. This is crazy to me! She received some good news over the summer in that she earned a high enough score on the AP Psychology exam to receive college credit at universities that accept AP grades for credit. She received some not-as-good news that she needs to prep a little before trying to take the ACT again. She is playing a little varsity volleyball and some JV, too. And she has a full slate of classes. My observation of Sarah is this: She has matured into a competent, confident, beautiful, faithful and self-assured young woman. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She’s responsible for herself in many ways — she gets herself up in the mornings and takes herself where she is supposed to be, she has paid for half of her car and she plans to pay the ongoing cost of her insurance. And she says she will do these things as if she has always known they were expected and she figures that they are expected of everyone. I can’t wait to continue to see how her future unfolds — it’s most definitely a bright one.

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Dani is beginning 8th grade. Dani has always been pretty sure about what she wants, but hasn’t always been able to vocalize it. That all changed last year. Dani learned how to stand up for herself and to ensure she was heard. For so many years Dani would remain quiet when she hadn’t been heard and just went along with it figuring there was no way anyone would hear her anyway. I think she was the opportunity last  year, to speak up because there was no underlying assumption about what she would or wouldn’t do. Therefore, she found her voice — in more ways than one. What I see with Dani is a young lady who will listen and review the options and then make a decision about how she will spend her time and talent and resources in ways that she will enjoy. For example, she participated in a volleyball camp with Helen this summer. She thought that she might like to try volleyball this fall. But she discovered that she didn’t enjoy volleyball to the extent she needed in order to spend the time to get better at it. She also thought she would try out for Cheerleading. But she learned the requirements and decided that she wouldn’t enjoy that. Dani’s passion lies in theater and choir — performing arts. And she also enjoys reading and writing. And so, she has chosen to direct her efforts in that direction this year and I love seeing the excitement she has for it all!

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Helen is beginning 6th grade. When I took Helen shopping for clothes this year, it was a far different experience from last year. She is very much in that “in between” stage where she’s too big for a lot of the “Girls” clothes, but she’s not mature enough for much of what can be found in the “Juniors” section. Thankfully, she found a few things in both camps that she liked. A week before school started she was set on wearing a dress on the first day of school, but her confidence in that wavered as the days drew closer. Now, you and I (and every other kid past the 6th grade) knows that it doesn’t matter what you wear on the first day, but we can all remember worrying about it before the first day came and went. As late as last night, Helen was still undecided and was worried. I told her that no matter what she wore, she’d be comfortable because that is how she picks out her clothes — if it’s not comfy, she won’t buy it. She finally settled on athletic shorts and a t-shirt. This morning, the text came, “Mommy…what if I am the only person wearing shorts today?” To which I replied with a text: “Well, then everyone else will be hot later and you will be comfortable.” She just sent back an “I love you” text and that was all I heard. And I saw in the pictures her dad took that she had stuck with the athletic shorts and t-shirt idea. This evening as I reviewed her day with her, not one time did she mention what she or anyone else wore to school. 🙂

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Dominic is a friendly child and loves school. He is entering the 3rd grade. He was very excited that one other boy was in his class again this year! This boy and Dominic spent a lot of time writing a “series” based on minecraft and legos last year. Dominic looks forward to resuming this important work. His teacher asked him about himself at Meet the Teacher night and I heard my little boy sound oh-so-grown up as he explained that he loves to read and draw and play minecraft. His assignment for today was to fill a brown paper bag with items that helped tell “his story” or “all about Dominic” and here are the things he put in there: Pencil (because he loves to write), a Marker (because he loves to illustrate what he writes, an Imaginator/Skylander thing (because he has a great imagination), a Lego (because he loves to creat things), and an Angry Birds Telepod (because, as he said, “they’ve been a part of my life since I was small”) Dominic is a fantastic kid. I think he’s going to be the kind of person that everyone loves to talk to at a party or meeting.

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Vincent is as low-key as any of my kids come. He enjoys activities and school, but he doesn’t show it the way most kids his age do. For example, he was taking swim lessons and after the first couple lessons, the instructor told me that I needed to bring Vincent to the pool outside of swim lessons so he could become more familiar with the water and lose his fear. Now, this was a surprise to me because Vincent had never been afraid of the water from what I could tell. Nevertheless, our family went swimming that weekend and he was bobbing up and down, jumping in with no one to catch and everything. I finally pointed out to him that his swim instructor was life guarding at the time and was watching all his antics in the pool! I said, “Well, now she KNOWS you aren’t afraid to put your face in the water, so you better do it during swim lessons!” No further problems with swim lessons. 🙂

The other night at Meet the Teacher night, he wouldn’t smile or laugh or anything in his classroom. The teacher asked him if he liked to be called anything other than Vincent and he said — with a completely straight face — “No. Just Vincent.” The teacher asked him if he was excited to start school and he said — again with a completely straight face — “Yes.” and then a little boy walked by and he says with monotone inflection and a straight face, “Hi Slade.” I did manage to convince him to smile for his school picture (which his super-organized school manages to have taken at Meet the Teacher night every year) but other than that, Vincent really just kind of keeps a low profile, does what he should do, and coasts through life.

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These kids are everything to me and I love watching them all grow up and show me and the world who they are. They are awesome little people growing into really cool bigger people and I’m so proud and excited and blessed that they are mine.