Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Could Not Ask For More

It was late summer, 1999.  I was about two months pregnant with our first child.  I recall vividly standing at our bedroom window, looking out on the birch tree that was right in front of it back then, and out to the yard below.  The weather was beautiful -- almost becoming a bit fall-ish, but not quite.  Warm, with a hint of fall to come.  I had new life growing within me.  I had a husband I cherished, a new home that we were making our own, and a wonderful church family who was welcoming us in those first new years of being there.  The world felt full of promise and I suddenly felt overwhelmed with excitement of what was ahead of us.  A popular song at the time, "I Could Not Ask For More", by Edwin McCain came to mind, and boy did I feel that sentiment.  I had so much!  I felt as if my cup was overflowing exponentially. A new baby -- a burgeoning family, which was what I had been dreaming of and praying for my whole life.  As the song replayed in my head, I felt like my heart might burst.

. . .these are the moments I thank God I'm alive,
These are the moments I'll remember all my life.
I've got all I've waited for,
And I could not ask for more.

So many joys had been afforded me at only 26!  There was so much on the horizon, and even though I couldn't quite imagine the life ahead, I had this overwhelming feeling that it would be beautiful.

That was more than 17 (!) years ago, and so many of those dreams have come true.  My family has continued to grow and bless me.  Of course, life is not perfect, and there have been trials, pain, loss, frustration and moments where I was ready to throw in the towel.  But as I look back on my young self, with so much ahead of me, it makes me smile.  I knew something great was about to happen - we were on the cusp of the family years, but I couldn't quite imagine how it would actually look. "I could not ask for more" was exactly how I felt.  That I had been blessed so greatly at the moment, how could I ask for anything more? But here I am, 17 plus years later, and we have humbly asked for more over the years as we have been open to children.  God continues to provide for us in ways I never could have imagined.
If I could go back and talk to that young gal of 26, I would tell her, "There is so much more ahead!  This feeling you're having - it is so real.  God will continue to provide for you in ways bigger than you could ever dream.  Yes, there will be some pain along the way, but God will work His glory through it.  His plans are always good, and He will walk with you every step of the way.  Enjoy these moments, soak them in, and understand:  life just keeps getting richer."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

On Vocation and Sacrifice and Holiness

My day yesterday:

Get up at 5:30, get myself and all the kids ready.
Leave at 6:55.
Drop older two off for high school bus.
Get to work at 7:15.
Teach 3/4-year-olds until 3:00.
Leave work at 4:00.
Get home and sit at island helping with homework.
Start dinner at 4:30, while cleaning up kitchen of stray items.  Calm child who is having a meltdown.
Serve dinner at 5:15, and eat quickly myself.
Leave at 5:30 to pick up high schoolers.
Arrive back home at 6:40 because they were running late.
Leave with eldest at 6:50 to go to theater.
Go to meeting at church late at 7:15.
Pick up eldest at theater at 9.
Get home at 9:15 and work on grocery list, dishes, kitchen clean up, laundry.
Fall into bed at 10:45.

Maybe you can relate to my day.  Your day probably didn't look just like mine, but maybe it was full and busy and exhausting. Maybe you spent your day serving others.  Maybe you stayed home with your little ones and felt like you got nothing accomplished.  Maybe you worked all day in a job that feels unfulfilling.  Maybe you spent your day in a job you love! Or maybe you were afforded a day of leisure -- of spending time doing what refreshes and renews you.

No matter how you spent your day, likely some (if not much of it) felt very ordinary, full of minutiae, even boring or frustrating.  I know my days often feel that way.  Just a to-do list that never ends.  Laundry, taxiing children, work, cleaning, dishes, paperwork. . .it can feel as if I am drowning.

I recently read this passage that resonated with me so.  The idea of vocation has long been something that has fascinated me.  That God would work in our lives, and even more, do HIS work in our lives -- our seemingly very ordinary, mundane existence -- amazes me.

. . ."For all their [lay people] works, prayer and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne - all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

Our ordinary lives are made holy in Christ!  Our every day sufferings, pain, minutiae, joys, chores, and work actually become a spiritual worship when we offer them up to Christ.

What joy this brings us!  While we might not feel as though our daily lives are anything special, we know that Christ is working in even these moments -- bringing us closer to Him, and often through our example, bringing others to Him as well.

Today I will have a similar day as yesterday.  I don't work today, but I will be working - running errands, doing household chores, ferrying children to and fro. And since today is Valentine's Day, I will close out the day with a special family dinner.  But today I pray that instead of being bogged down in the mire of ordinary life,  that I would see this day and every day as the sacred work Christ has chosen to do in my life.

Great holiness consists in carrying out the 'little duties' of each moment.
Saint Josemaría Escrivá

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Week in Pictures

Here's a visual summary of my week:

This meme was basically made with me and my daughter in mind.  Note the red and blond hair? (Though I assure you I would NEVER wear pink!).  Many of my items have disappeared into her room...leggings, scarves, socks. hair accessories, hair products, shoes, sweaters...the list goes on.  I suppose I should feel flattered that my teenage daughter thinks my stuff is worthy of "borrowing", right?

One quick scribble and this!  Our "I can't believe it's not butter" becomes the über hilarious "I can't believe it's not butt"!  Butt!  Butt!  Nothing could be funnier than a condiment that is almost butt! 

I got this fitbit flex 2 for freeeeee! Our insurance company pays us for healthy, proactive habits, and I guess they think having a fitbit will help us with those habits.  I'm pretty excited about it - I've wanted one for awhile but didn't feel I could spend the money on it. I'm enjoying tracking my steps, calories, and sleep. The fitbit has confirmed what my husband has been telling me for years - I am a restless sleeper. It tracks how many times I'm restless in the night, how many minutes I'm awake, how long I sleep.  It's pretty interesting and only vaguely unnerving.  #bigbrother

We went to a marriage night at church last night and had a great time.  We laughed, danced and connected - the committee made it a wonderful night.  One of the things we had to do as a couple was create something with play dough that represented our marriage/family.  My husband made the masterpiece above.  Can you guess what it is?  It's our dear old pop-up, where we have spent many weeks together and created countless memories.
  I'm pretty sure the actual pop-up is sturdier than its play dough counterpart.  Hopefully.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Two Sheets to the Wind

Dear reader, this is going to be a short post.  I just simply have to share with you what I learned today.

Not everyone enjoys sleeping with a top sheet.


That is what I am blogging about.  You see, I have been raising several little people who have perplexed me.  Many of my children have eschewed a top sheet and prefer to sleep with just the comforter on top of them.  This has frustrated me, because sleeping with a fitted sheet underneath you, a top sheet above you, and perhaps a blanket and then a comforter on top is just what you do, and it feels wonderful!  I have encouraged my children to do it this way, telling them that no one skips the top sheet.

Until today, when I found out that some people, in fact, never use a top sheet.  Grown ups!  I had no idea!

Sunday night, whilst shopping online at Kohl's, I discovered beautiful gray patterned percale sheets (just like mine, actually, which I blogged about here) on sale for a lovely low price.  All three boys were using hand-me-down sheets that didn't match their room, so I decided to buy them each a set.  I happily told one of my sons that he was getting new sheets, and he could now use two sheets and a comforter, "just like a real boy!" (I'm not sure why I compared him to Pinocchio -- perhaps I was high on my love of percale sheets).  He seemed less than enthused and said he would just take the fitted sheet and the pillowcase.  "But son!", I exclaimed.  "You are getting older now - you need to sleep in a bed like adults do! All grown ups sleep in a bed with two sheets!"  He didn't believe me and suggested that, perhaps, not everyone did indeed sleep with a top sheet.  I firmly disagreed.

And then this morning, somehow this topic came up with some of my colleagues and preschool parents, and my world was shattered (did I go too far there?).  As it turns out, several people in the conversation do not use a top sheet.

Seriously.  I had no idea, son.  It seems you can be a real boy and not use a top sheet.  Live and learn.

But I'm not giving mine up!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Week in Pictures

Here's a little summary of our week, in photographic form:

I bought this lovely Chopped salad (if you haven't tried them, buy one right away - they are fabulous!), and noted a strange interloper in the bottom of the bag. . .

A giant carrot!  I can't fully explain why, but that giant carrot cracked me up. For several minutes, I laughed about that carrot.  My son grabbed some ranch and made quick work of it.

IKEA towels!  My parents bought some new IKEA towels, which I saw over Christmas break.  I loved them, because they have a little loop for hanging up, which might perhaps give my children the nudge they need and enable them to actually hang up their towels. Since I have no IKEA nearby, I asked my parents if they would buy some for me on their next trip.  I asked them to get two of each color, and assigned each child a color.  I have wanted to implement this system for awhile and these towels seemed to fit the bill.  So far so good!  If I find a towel laying on the ground, I know 
just who to ask about it!

The detritus of one Shadow puppy.  His most beloved items, all lovingly laid out for his perusal.

A playdough My Little Pony, made at the request of my younger daughter with her big sister.  The two girls laughed and worked together on this masterpiece.  I simply adore their sisterly bond. 

This is the dresser drawer of my youngest child, lined with a piece of wrapping paper from the baby shower I had for her big sister.  When my mom was pregnant with me, she saved all the wrapping paper from my shower and lined my dresser drawers with them.  I still have all that wrapping paper - from the early 70s!  When I had my baby shower, I followed suit, and had so much fun lining my baby's drawers.  Even now, 16 years later, when I open my not-so-little one's dresser drawer, the wrapping paper makes me smile.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Love You More

Every night, the same.  My 7-year-old starts the following sequence, in rapid-fire succession:

K:  Love you more than you love me!
me: Impossible!
K: Possible!
K: Love you more than Sprite!
me:  Love you more than coke (zero)!
both of us together: PLUNGE (with an exploding hand motion)
K: Love you more than hearts!
me: Love you more than stars!
K: Love you to the moon and farther!
me: Ditto!

Then we hug and kiss and then blow kisses and hugs at the door and finally part for the night.  Every night.  Sometimes it's rote to me, and sometimes I even feel impatient -- I have a long list of things to do still - can we hurry things along a bit?

But when I'm not feeling so rushed or tired, I relish these moments.  All of the "one more hug, mom" (from all three of my youngest kids), "sleep with me for just a minute" and "I love you so much, mommy" - this is the good stuff.  I may have a long list to finish downstairs every night, but nothing is more important than those moments at bedtime with my sweet babes.

I recently read a quote by C.S. Lewis -- "Children are not a distraction from more important work.  They are the most important work."  Yes!  Yes!  How often we forget the work God assigned to us in the gifts of our children.  How often I put other things I think are important in front of playing with, talking to or even cuddling with my children.

Laundry, dishes, cleaning, work. . .it'll all be there tomorrow and the next day.  But little ones who want to cuddle and have a love fest will grow up before I know it (I know this from experience - my two older ones aren't inclined to sit on my lap anymore!).  I think I'll make a renewed effort to remember my most important work - loving my children.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bits and Pieces #16

School is out for me and my grade schoolers, and my high schoolers have just one day left of finals tomorrow.  Woohoo!  Being at home so much has been AWE. SOME.  We have had some family in town and have been visiting, wrapping, baking and shopping.  It's been great so far and I can't wait to enjoy the rest of our two weeks with a slower pace!  

  • I have been playing a game of Toilet Paper Russian Roulette this week.  I noticed we were perilously low about two days ago, then forgot for about maybe 12 hours, then remembered again.  I quickly got onto Amazon and upped my subscribe and save shipment (what - you don't use subscribe and save?  Give it a whirl!  I use it for all sorts of sundry items!), and was informed it would arrive on Thursday.  Could I make it until then without buying any more?  I wanted to gamble, but thought I should buy just a small package today while at Walmart.  But as luck would have it, just as I was about to steer my two boys down the TP aisle, they noticed the Lunchables, asked for one for lunch, and I promptly forgot about our urgent need.  Tonight I have assessed that we have one half-ish roll per bathroom.  The delivery will not be here until Thursday.  We have seven people in our house (and will have two overnight guests tomorrow night).  I fear the odds are not with me. 
  • Two nights ago, I was in a gift wrapping frenzy.  Santa brings three gifts per child to our house and we give three gifts, and that equals a lot of wrapping.  But I was on a roll and knocking out this dreaded delightful job.  I remembered I should get out a gift my in-laws are giving our kids but that I had purchased for them.  It is a relatively expensive gift, since they are buying it for all the boys (but it was purchased on Black Friday with multiple discounts at Kohls, so it was practically like we stole it).  Anyway, it is kind of a big deal gift and I wanted to give it to my in-laws so they could take it home and wrap it. Aaaaannndd - I couldn't find it.  For about an hour, I looked in the basement, my room, the dining room. . .I retraced my steps and walked through the day I got it. . .and couldn't find it.  I forced myself to stop thinking about it, knowing I would find it eventually.  About half an hour later, I went to the basement again for another check and this time found it.  Whew!  I am so good at hiding gifts!  I could hide my own presents from myself - skillz!
  • I recently bought a wood sign with the words "Do small things with great love".  I believe it was Mother Theresa who first said this phrase, and I have loved it ever since I heard it.  Oh the number of small things I do in our house -- often without great love and instead with great grumbling.  What a wonderful reminder that loving others needn't always involve a grand gesture, but instead can be many small things added together.  And as I handle the minutiae of family life, I need to be reminded of that sentiment often.  What a gift it is to be able to serve the people in my home!
  • The kids have been watching old Christmas video clips on the computer and they are fabulous.  I adore watching the kids open their presents and remembering how sweet and little they used to be!  We all are oohing and ahing over how cute they all were.  Watching them is such a good reminder of the value of pictures and videos!  These will be treasured for years to come!