Dani Turns Eleven Today!

Eleven years ago, my second child was born. Dani was my easiest labor and delivery of all of my children. Going from one to two children at home was a fairly easy transition. I remember looking at Craig about ten days into it and we both said, “Whoa, this time is so much easier!”

And it was.

The shirt, hat and boots were birthday shopping treasures from Grandma

For one thing, we’d done this whole parenting of a newborn thing and so we knew what to expect. We knew that if Dani cried longer than thirty seconds, life was not going to end. We knew that she’d eventually sleep all night (actually, she began doing this very quickly…about 3 weeks old) and we knew that trying to get her to eat cereal at 4 months old wasn’t necessarily the ticket to that full night of sleep.

Being Dani’s mom has been easier on me than being Sarah’s mom. I have mentioned before how different everything is for the oldest kid. It seems there is a microscope to examine every decision with the oldest child to see if it is right or wrong so that we can adjust, if needed, for the younger children. Something I have learned in thirteen years of motherhood is that there’s not much I can do about that — there’s a part of me that knows I can’t stop it no matter how hard I try. With Dani, the same can be said for how much pressure is lifted. Because I’ve over-analyzed my decisions before, I know it’s not worth it and I simply allow things to happen with Dani much more than I can ever seem to do with Sarah. (This is a benefit all the younger children seem to enjoy.)

With Dani, I don’t think about whether it’s time to have “the talk” with her, knowing she probably has all the information she needs already, courtesy of a big sister. I don’t think about Dani going off to college or hitting that point in her life nearly as much as I do with Sarah, and even then, I don’t think all that hard about the logistics of it. I just figure it will happen when it happens and we’ll figure it out at the time.

I think Dani’s personality reflects this more laid-back attitude in that she enjoys living in the moment. Of all my kids, she is the one that I think enjoys being whatever age she is, or fully lives every experience of the grade she is in school. I love that about her. And she’s always been that way. Just last year, I thought I should address some more “grown-up” topics with Dani and as I led into the conversation, she simply said, “Mom, I don’t need to know that stuff — I’m just a kid!!”

Her first heat winner this summer was classic! She was EXCITED!!

It’s hard to think of Dani being eleven years old for a couple of reasons. First of all, the time flies so quickly…it’s hard to believe we’ve experienced this many years of that girl. Secondly, kids (especially girls) seem to grow up so quickly these days; it almost seems like age eleven is a more mature age than I see in Dani. She is still quite taken with Taylor Swift, and what some might call “little girl fiction” (as opposed to trying to jump into Young Adult Lit) and prefers her girl friendships and eschews anything that is remotely close to a boyfriend. Yet, I read articles that about how to handle Tween dating and I hear from my doctor that it’s not uncommon for girls to be sexually active at this age (usually in other socio-economic or different home situations).  My Dani is so innocent with regard to that!

One of my favorite recent pictures with Dani (and with her cousin, Jenna)

I think I like to forget about those sorts of things because Dani enjoys being a kid. She enjoys her innocence and she doesn’t try to figure things out that will rob her of it. I remember at Christmastime last year, I took her to see “Saving Mr. Banks” (Spoiler alert) and the part where the flash back included the girl’s mother wading out into the lake and she might drown herself…and the girl was following her trying to stop her — I was so worried that scene would end in such a way I’d have to have a talk with Dani about adult depression and suicide right then. The scene was saved (in a sense) and the movie didn’t go all the way there. But some other things have happened to bring that about anyway in the last few months. I worry about having to talk to Dani about those things because she relishes her innocence. Not many girls these days recognize when they are innocent and work to protect it. But my Dani does.

So, as she turns eleven, I hope she continues to enjoy this last year before middle school. I know that the day will come when her surroundings and experiences will chip away at that innocence. Somehow, I have a peace knowing that as it happens, she will be ready. Because that’s how she rolls.

Happy Birthday, Dani!!


Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Today, my oldest turns 13 years old.

I have allowed that to sink in for the past few hours (since I woke up). Wow.
The oldest child is always new. Everything about her is a first time. The first steps, the first cuts and bruises, the first time she said, “I love you” and the first days of school—and now the first time she goes on a plane without an escort and we are barreling down the road towards first high school days, clubs, sports, first dances and dates and….just everything. She gets so much focus because we want everything to go as we planned. 
It is true, I struggle with how much space to give her to screw up socially and how much I protect her from the inevitable mean-girl things that happen at this stage of life. She handles everything so much better than I anticipate. Over and over again, I am forced to realize that she is even more mature than I give her credit for (and I actually give her a lot of credit). The things I see that remind me of my own trials in middle school are things she handles with grace. She is loyal to a fault, but I realize that is something for which I can’t help but love and admire her, no matter the tears it can cause along the way.
As the firstborn of five (+1) children, she is an incredible big sister. I remember when I found this in her school bag in 4th grade, as we were preparing to welcome Vincent that coming summer.

“Heaven is more beautiful than the big Christmas Tree at Zona Rosa
Heaven is more awesome than going to Disney World
Heaven sounds more fun than going on a play by myself to New Jersey
Heaven feels like getting another sibling and being loved forever.”
I was so touched, as a mother can be when her children admit/show their love for each other. Now she is a fantastic babysitter for us and for other families where she can earn some money. She knows how to play with little kids. Often, it is Sarah who initiates the play with her siblings that doesn’t involve electronics or anything. She has a knack for that, coming up with fun and engaging play activities in which all ages of her siblings will play and enjoy.
I am excited to watch as our next “Firsts” unfold. She will be in 8th grade this year, preparing for high school, playing club volleyball, discovering more about herself. I love learning how she feels about the books she reads and the movies she watches. I enjoy following her Tweets and Instagram photos and really love it when her loving personality shines through.
Sarah has always had a contemplative faith-life, understanding things earlier than I anticipated. She is the reason Craig and I delved in and learned more about our Catholic faith. She is the reason we embraced NFP and ultimately became open to more children. Her baptism was the turning point for me and promising to teach her our Catholic faith and raise her to be Catholic was the best thing I ever did.
So, off we go, into Teenager-land. Happy Birthday, sweet Sarah!
Birthday Girl!

Dear Vincent (Part 3)

Dear Vincent,
Do you realize you are the only kid that (now) has three posts (on this blog) all addressed to YOU? I wrote to you twice when you were still in my womb

Just 12 hours old…

I have always been particularly fond of communicating with you through this blog. Perhaps when you are older, you’ll read some of it. I don’t know what you’ll think, but I hope you’ll be able to see just how much I have always loved you and your siblings.

You found your favorite hiding/mischief spot early!
Always had a knack of finding those
spots you just fit into…

Today is your birthday! You are three years old. It feels incredible to say that. You are my youngest child on this earth and you are now a little boy and not really a baby anymore. You don’t need diapers and you talk more and more every day. You have a fantastic personality — you’re funny, active, persistent, sweet and loving, too.

Can’t keep you indoors to save our lives

You still have me wrapped around your little finger. You’ve always given me a look that makes me feel like I’m the only woman you’ll ever love (and I LOVE it…) and I’m happy to say that your little hiatus or preferring Daddy to me is over, at least for now. 

When I drop you off in the morning, you want to give me hugs and kisses. If I leave the house, you run after me saying, “Kiss! Kiss! I need Kiss!!!” At night, you’ve begun to sing the songs with me as I sing to you before you fall asleep. I love that. You’re the only child of mine that has done that. By now, the other children have grown tired of bedtime songs, but not you. You insist and you belt out the tunes as if you’d written the songs yourself!

You MUST be outside as much as possible — if nothing
organized is going on, you “tinker.”

This past Easter Sunday

You love to play outside much more than I remember the other kids. You actually ask if you can go outside, and while you’re out there, you will play and do anything. You love to kick the ball around, or throw it. You will play with bigger toys if they are around. But even if there are no toys, your imagination knows no bounds! 

Getting so big!

You’re more of a daredevil than your older brother. You will jump off just about anything and you love to climb, climb climb! I don’t think there is anything you can’t do. You threw a ball a pretty good distance when you were only 9 months old and you love to swim! You will kick your legs and try to move your arms — almost as though you are a natural in the pool.

You love the bigger little kid toys…

One of the most fun things about you is how you laugh and make jokes so openly about things the rest of us would rather not mention. You were thrilled to get your turn with the Whoopie Cushion the girls brought home from your grandparents’ house.

And…the Whoopie Cushion!!!

But one of the most heart-warming things I’ve had the pleasure to hear has been you wishing you could be with your brother or your sisters. Sometimes, you’d rather stay home from daycare when you know your brother will be home so that you can play with him. Sometimes, you ask me to bring along your sisters on a quick errand because you want to have them with you in the car. Sometimes, it’s just the fact that all four of the older ones will create a game completely centered on you and the five of you will play together for a little while. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing all five of you working or playing together in harmony.

You’re just so gosh-darned sweet

So, today, as you turn three, I look back over these past three years and I see this beautiful boy who is growing into his own little person and finding his place in this world. And right now, that is just figuring out how you fit into this family as the youngest of five.

And you’re doing a fabulous job. I love you so much, Vincent. Happy Birthday!

A moment I’m so pleased to remember with this photo

7 Quick Takes – 76 — A Very Special Birthday Girl Edition

Thank you to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting! 

— 1 —

Sunday is my sweet baby girl, Helen’s birthday! She will be 8  years old. Oh my. Let me say type that again: She will be 8 years old.

Do you see this precious 4-year-old here? The bottom pic was Helen’s pre-K pic. She has such a sweet smile.

— 2 —

I’ve written before about the fact that I claimed Helen as “my baby” from the earliest onset of pregnancy. I prayed for her to be a “momma’s girl.” I loved the independence of my oldest and cherished the relationship my second-born had with her dad, but I wanted a child who had eyes only for me.

And…well, God answered that prayer 100 times over I think. 🙂

First day of pre-K four years ago

Playing with her little brother…

Sitting by a fountain

Such a good big sister — reading to her brother
— 3 —

She has grown so much since then. Here is her Kindergarten pic:

— 4 —

Helen is in 2nd grade and therefore is in the midst of preparing for First Communion after having participated in First Reconciliation a month ago. Helen takes her preparation very seriously: she studies her questions and she successfully badgers her over-committed mom to work with her once a week. I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that her teacher told us at Parent-Teacher conferences this year that she is a “hard worker.” 

It made me proud because I was always described as a “hard worker” too and I love it that Helen has taken that trait and made it her own.

— 5 —
 Here are some recent pics from basketball season:

— 6 —
Being in 2nd grade also means the first year of eligibility to play basketball for St. Andrew’s. Helen had so much fun playing with her friends and I think she grew to like the game of basketball. Like many kids her age, she could probably do without the running, but I also think she realized how critical that particular movement is to playing basketball well.

2nd grade basketball pic
— 7 —

So, Happy birthday baby girl! You are a sweet, sensitive, smart girl. Your face lights up my world. You are Amazing! And…I love you.

Be sure to go check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes Posts!


Dear Dominic

Dear Dominic,
Happy Birthday! I can’t believe you are 5 years old today. 5! Five! 
There’s just something about turning 5. You are old enough to go to school in the fall–not just preschool…though that’s fun and you enjoy that. But “real school” as you call it. 
I wanted to document some of the things I love about you today. You probably won’t read this now, but maybe someday in the future you will.
I love your heart. You are so very sweet. And kind. And considerate. You love people with the kind of love that even most adults can’t feel or show for others. 
I love your brain. You’re smart and witty. I think you get the “witty” mostly from your dad. You amaze me every day with your love of everything you learn. You basically taught yourself to read and now you nag me to “work on my math” and when I bring up the preschool math games, you tell me, “No mom…addition and subtraction — THAT is what I am trying to work on.” Your reasoning ability is far beyond what we’ve experienced with the other kids at this age and often we just throw up our hands not knowing whether we should be amazed or just laugh. (Often we do both.)
I love how you are the spitting image of your dad. It’s fun to watch you and think — I bet Craig did/said that sort of thing when he was that age. 
I love your obsession with Angry Birds. And with Star Wars. And with Angry Birds Star Wars. I’m a big Star Wars fan, so it tickles me that we have that in common and I can’t wait to see what else we have in common, as you grow up.
I love your cautious optimism. You are positive much of the time, but you’re cautious, too. You believe you can do things, but you understand it will take effort sometimes. And you’re pretty good at gauging whether the effort is worth it in the end.
Five years ago today was one of the five most joyous days of my life. I remember within 20 minutes of your birth, my doctor asked if another doctor could observe the birth — it would be her first. I remember thinking, “huh, fine time to ask as I’m getting ready to push!” but I didn’t object. And then, I remember within the minute you were born, our doctor said, “Gosh, you guys are so amazing!” 
And really…it is you, sweet boy…you are amazing. Every encounter you have makes someone smile, I think. I remember when we visited my sister when you were only just about 2 years old and she said, “Gosh, you just have to experience Dominic, don’t you?” And what she meant, I think, was that words won’t do you justice. Gosh, here I am trying to do justice to you with words, anyway.
Yesterday, I walked past you in the hallway on my way to Helen’s basketball practice. I stopped in front of you, gave you a hug and told you to “have fun!” and “I love you.” As I walked away, my heart burst with joy and pride at the tone of your voice as you spoke to a friend in the hallway and said, “That was my mommy.” The words by themselves were not what was touching me, but it was the way you said it. I could feel your love for me in the words you said. And I didn’t even have to look at you to feel that. And that’s how you are 24/7 and I love it.

How could I feel any more blessed than I do having you for a son?

Happy Birthday.

Your incredibly overrun-with-pride Mommy.


Happy Birthday, Craig!

October 16 is Craig’s birthday.

I’ve always been happy to celebrate the day of his birth, but I think this year, I praise the day even more. This has been a difficult year for us and I’ve leaned on Craig far more than I ever expected to need to. I knew he’d always be there for me and could handle my leaning on him, but I just never thought I would.

You see, I’m the kind of woman who can handle anything. I grew up starting at the age of 8 without my father, helped care for my younger siblings, dabbled in unmentionable activities in high school — and survived it all. I take pride in my ability to do many physical things — I’m a good athlete and I’m competitive and I win. A lot. 

When we opened our marriage to new life in our children, it happened for us (pretty much) whenever we wanted it to. When I have gone for promotions at work, I’ve (pretty much) gotten them. It really wasn’t until about 11 years ago that I truly started to understand that I am blessed more by Grace than my own means…but a lifetime of a lack of humility is difficult to tame (though I’m always trying).

This year, I haven’t won very much. 

Losing Gregory was the hardest thing I have ever endured. Having pregnancy end in death was not something I ever had a mind or heart for (who does??) And while that’s the biggest hard thing that’s happened this year, there are others.

I’ve struggled in my job. You see, I have a complex where I want all the people in my group I manage to like me. And it’s been a hard lesson to re-learn that I can’t please everyone.

Discerning God’s plan for our family size was difficult earlier this year. Gut-wrenching actually. Discovering through prayer and discernment that my final foray into childbearing would end the way it did, with no chance at a “happy ending” to console me was almost impossible, if not for Craig, would have been impossible. He helped me to face my selfishness and lack of trust. It was somewhat selfish that I wanted another baby, because it wasn’t what is the best thing for our family. And though it was difficult, Craig helped me to wade through those feelings and prayers, and reminded me of all the ways we are blessed.

I’m the more uptight and intense partner in this marriage. Craig is gentle, forgiving, loyal and unwavering. 

I want what I want and I want it now. Craig reminds me that sometimes God’s blessings and timing are very different than ours.

I have been an emotional wreck for most of this year — sobbing through Mass, not to be counted on to assist with the children. And at times, feeling like doing nothing around the house, even when there is clearly much work to be done. And there is Craig, rubbing my shoulders, giving me a hug, taking charge of Vincent at Mass, cleaning the house, disciplining the kids — doing his part AND my part — because I am not doing it. Craig has been rock solid and is the reason our home hasn’t fallen apart in the midst of all the chaos this year.

So…I asked Craig what he wanted for his birthday and he said he didn’t want presents (unless the kids insisted, ha). I know he likes cards, but I am so bad at picking one out. There are many cards that could tell Craig how much he means to me, but I have this public blog and all…so I thought I’d write it here.

Happy Birthday to the kindest, gentlest, strongest, most caring man I know in this world. My children are blessed to have him for a dad. And I praise God that He saw fit to bless me with Craig for a husband. 

October 16 — my world is infinitely better because Craig was born on this day.