Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Musings Inspired By A Six Year Old

Kate is a little philosopher.

In February, we were invited by my parents on a wonderful Disney vacation. It was mid 80's the WHOLE time we were there which, after the cold winter we have had, was amazing! (As I write this, we are staring down our fourth nor'easter in 1/2 as many weeks. I am missing those 80 degree days!)

But I digress...

Kate just says the cutest, heartfelt things. While in Disney, Kate and I were 'ride buddies' for the Ariel ride in the Magic Kingdom. During the ride when Ariel is facing her dilemma of being a mermaid but in love with a human, Kate looked at me and, with a very matter of fact tone said, "Mommy, people just need to live their own lives."

Then, just this morning, Kate and I were driving back from a doctor's visit, and we were discussing what movie she would like to watch together so she could rest. (She's been sporting a low grade fever and a nasty cold since Friday). I suggested Moana, because we own it but we haven't watched it in a while and it's more of a "girl" movie and there were no brothers home at the time. Kate said,(with an incredulous tone), "Moana's parents don't want her to leave the island. Didn't they know that the water was her friend?!? It called her!"

Out loud, I reminded Kate that Moana's Dad lost his best friend when he tried to leave the island so he was just afraid that something bad would happen to Moana. He was just trying to keep her safe.

Inside my head and my heart, I have to admit that I kind of like Moana's Dad's plan just a little. Or maybe even more than a little if I'm completely honest!

Our family is standing on the brink of some enormous change! In just two short months, there will be two additional college graduates in the house. Andrew has already secured his first real job after he attended a recent job fair. God's fingerprints are all over this new opportunity that will start right after his May graduation. I think Andrew's plan is to live at home for at least a little while to pay down some of his college loans more quickly, but I don't foresee it being all that long until he ventures out to live in one of his best friend's apartment.
Andrew and Kate

Jon will also be graduating in May and just the other day sent his letter into UNH accepting an assistantship position and securing his spot in their Ocean Engineering Graduate Program that starts at the end of August. Since he lived home over the last four years and commuted to college, this will be a very big change for us. Once he leaves in August, my guess is that his presence in our house will be mostly as a visitor. Jon's grad school program is two years long and includes two summers. Once those 2+ years have gone by, I think Jon will be moving on in a way that won't include returning to our home as a permanent resident.(At least Ellie is hoping he doesn't move back...she has already called "dibs" on his room.)
Jon and his girlfriend, Marisa

Plus, Jon will be spending several weeks traveling in Ireland starting at the end of May. He has such wanderlust....and saved all last summer to afford to take this trip. Gotta love all the opportunities that parenthood gives us to work on growing and stretching beyond our comfort zones!

Yes...Moana's father and I could be VERY good friends...

Mike is looking to spread his wings a little farther than the apartment that's 5 minutes away from us. A new job and a new adventure are right around the corner for him, we just don't know all the details yet.
Mike and me

And Sarah...she's pushing the growing up envelope too! She started college just this year. But, because of all the AP classes she took in high school and a CLEP test she took last summer, Sarah started off with so many college credits that she is actually a junior!! Blows.my.mind! This overachieving daughter of ours continues to overachieve in college, and next year at this time she will be making her own decision about where to go to graduate school. And it won't be a commuting school, either!
Sarah, me, and Ellie

And, just like that, our daily household will shrink from 8 kids to 4.

I am in denial...and shock.

So many different emotions swirl through me every day. I am proud of the paths my kids have chosen so far. I'm excited for all these new opportunities that are opening up before them. Their eyes are open wide and all their senses ready for all these new adventures and to see where life will bring them. The small world that had their family as the center is now expanding rapidly. I know we will always be a part of their lives, but we are no longer the center. My role for my older crew is less and less of a caretaker and more and more that of a cheerleader.

I know that, as a parent, this place that I am right now with my older crew is progressing exactly as it should be. I am so grateful for that. But it's also incredibly painful! Change...even good change...is not easy. There is much grief mixed with the joy because life as I have lived for the last 25 years is ending. My identity is changing. The way I relate to my older kids is changing. Slowly over the last several years, I have started to let go and they have taken the reigns of their own lives. I offer ideas, and suggestions, and advice, but then back away to let them make the decisions. Before too long, the big decisions they make will be completely on their own...and eventually with their spouses.

I look at Ellie and I know that her high school years will go by incredibly fast. The slow letting go process has already begun. I try to ignore it...but I can't stop it no matter how much I might want to some days.
Marisa, Jon, and Ellie

Peter is approaching 6 feet tall and will be 17 in July! Looking to the future for Peter is even more of a challenge. Trying to figure out how to help him have a fulfilling life and making sure he's cared for by people that love him is a focus I have and am praying about.
Peter and Mike

I look at my not so little Luke and I cringe because I know what's coming. I see the changes in him already. He doesn't run over and give me giant hugs when I see him at school with his friends now. I get a smile and a wave. That didn't happen when this school year started! I might have cried a little on the inside the first time it happened....A little on the outside too once I got to my car! Thankfully, Luke is still very affectionate when we are at home! But I know that won't last forever either.

And my Kate, my sweet girl with a side of sass. She has changed and grown so much this year. She is another overachiever and very sensitive. Thankfully, Kate is still very affectionate and still runs over to give me hugs when I see her at school no matter who is watching! She snuggles on my lap now and her gangly, Hamel legs seem to have no place to go. She is my littlest, but already so big. My heart aches a little at every milestone she makes because it marks the last of the firsts that we will go through with our kids.

Our family has been like an island, and now more of my children are setting out to chart their own lives. It's kind of like childbirth. Once a baby is ready to be born there's no stopping the process. The same holds true for young adulthood. There's no holding them back once they are ready to move on. It's truly bittersweet.

Friday, January 5, 2018


Happy New Year!

It always amazes me how all the crazy, wonderful, sometimes overwhelming, moments of December go by SO fast!

A few years ago, I blogged about trying to figure out a theme word for the year. I don't think I've really done a theme word since then, but it was something that popped into my mind again as 2017 was coming to a close.

A couple of days ago, one of my Facebook friends had posted a random word generator from Jen Fulwiler. I decided to give it a whirl! After a quick prayer in my head, the word that came up was


I feel like "soak" is a great word for me this year. It's a reminder to "soak" in every moment because our ever growing, ever changing family seems to be transforming before my eyes. My "baby" is six...years!...and seems to be growing every week! Even though she will always be my baby, she clearly isn't a baby anymore.(sniff, sniff)

Three nights ago, all of our older kids were here hanging out. This has been a rare occasion as of late between work hours(Andrew), girlfriends(Jon and Andrew), and the fact that Mike doesn't live at home! They were all playing Jackbox TV games. (Andrew has several of these games on his computer and he hooks it up to the TV. We all use our phones/Ipad to join in. Our favorites are Fibbage, Quiplash, and Drawful...but Andrew just bought a few new ones that they really like, too.) 
I was actually reading in bed because my bed time is much earlier than their bed time! But our older crew was doing a lot of laughing and clearly enjoying each other's company. It warmed my heart! I realize that these moment will be even more rare as they become true adults and move out on their own. So, I soaked in all that laughter and sibling camaraderie and stored it all in my heart. 

There were so many days and years when our kids were all younger that every day felt just about the same. Get up, breakfast, school/care for little ones, laundry, lunch, dishes, laundry, homework, dinner, baths, bed time, repeat...for years.  

Things are different now with a mostly older crew. Now I just want days and years to slow down because I know that I will blink and it will be Luke and Kate going to high school. Of course, my hope is that by then there will be the sounds of grandchildren filling our home but it still won't be the same.

So...this year I will soak it all in. The vacation to a warm, sunny place this February. The First Communion, Confirmations, and graduations come Spring. All of the ordinary and special moments both planned and unplanned in this brand new year that stretches in front of me just waiting to unfold. 

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Final Final

This Fall has gone by in a blur! New schedules, new schools for a couple of the kids, a different job, celebrating our 25th Anniversary and taking two grad school classes made for an extra busy Fall. The dust is finally starting to settle as we ramp up for all the excitement that Christmas brings.

I learned a LOT over this past semester....and it wasn't all about Psychopharmacology or Career Counseling!

Learning to juggle homework, housework, working part time, meeting the needs of a husband and 8 children, and taking care of a new puppy was challenging to say the least! (We brought home an 8 week old female black lab puppy we named Josie at the beginning of August...I claim a moment of insanity mixed with mommy guilt)

Luke is thrilled to have his first pet!

It took time to sweep away all the cobwebs in my brain and teach myself how to study again. It was difficult for my family to have me gone one night a week.  Dinners were simple on those nights and Sarah did a great job taking care of getting everyone fed. Jay, Sarah, Jon and Ellie all pitched in for clean up and taking care of Kate and Luke. It was a very different experience from what everyone was used to. They were all very supportive and super helpful.

I saw this whole semester as a time for discernment. Was this really the path that I was meant to/wanted to pursue at this point in my life?

One of the major struggles for me was the constant busyness of life and feeling like there wasn't any down time. I changed hats multiple times a day, and there was always more work to do than time to do it in. The housework definitely took the brunt of the neglect, but I often felt like I was being stretched between my role as mom and student in an uncomfortable way.

After Kate and Luke's normal night time routine, sitting on the couch relaxing with Jay always had to include reading tedious, technical textbooks, writing papers or studying for quizzes/tests. There was always so much to do and keep track of. As the semester went on, I got better with juggling everything but it was almost impossible to ever really relax with so much hanging over my head. This played into my discernment about grad school being the right path for me. I had to consider if this level of busyness was something that was good for me and for my family over the 3 years, (including summers), that it would take me to get my degree.

Another piece of discernment puzzle was how long it would take me to get the degree and then work part time for a company to complete the almost 1500 hours I would need before I could even sit for the exam I have to pass to become a licensed therapist. It would take me almost 6 years to get to the point where I could work independently and create my own flexible schedule. I started thinking about what my life might look like in 6 years. Since my older boys are all in their mid to early 20's, there's a very good chance that in 6 years we will have some daughters-in-laws added to our family and some grandchildren arriving. Just when my older kids might need me to take a bigger role in their lives, this time as Grandma?...Nana?...Mimi?....Grammie?, I would be starting a career. The thought of that made me hesitant.

I've always been very interested in psychology and mental health. I love trying to help my friends and family work through struggles they are going through. I really liked the idea of having formal training and helping others. I liked the idea of attaining a Master's Degree...of reaching that level of accomplishment. It would make me feel more capable. It would make me feel more important. A little pride there..umm, yeah, but I'm being honest.

Yet, to achieve that goal, I would have to sacrifice in other areas. I couldn't be as fully present to my family. I would have to split my attention and focus between different areas of my life in a way I haven't had to in the past. The mom that Luke and Kate would have during their elementary school years would be a much different mom than their siblings had.

While there's absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing a different goal in my life, was this really the direction I wanted to go in? Is it the direction I was meant to go in? Did I really want a career, or did I just need a job? Are some interests and talents just meant to be used in His way and in His timing, and not just as a means of financial gain? I had so many questions as the semester went along and I waited and prayed for more clarity.

Jay and I have made lots of sacrifices over the years so that I could stay home with our babies and toddlers. It's been a blessing that Jay had a job, and added per diem hours during the week, so that I was able to stay home. My family has been my career for my entire adult life.

At one point towards the end of the semester, I was pondering the direction I should go. I felt God ask me in my heart, "What if your family was the only career you had in your lifetime? Would you be satisfied with that?" I thought about it for less than a minute before answering "yes". Loving my family and giving them my whole life would definitely be enough.

I continued to pray about it and talk it over with Jay. I decided that this graduate school adventure is only meant to be a short journey. I'm really glad that I took the courses and tried out this path that I have been considering off and on for the last 10 years. This particular adventure wasn't meant for me.

So, for right now, I'm continuing to work part time for my parents' business. The hours are very flexible, which is perfect for the stage of life I'm in right now. I think I will enjoy some extra prayer time and quiet time come January after the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season settles. Who knows what adventure God might have in mind for me next?!? There still isn't a whole lot of free time most days, but there is a little. I'm not in a hurry to fill it....I want my days to be more "Spirit Lead" and less "Michelle driven".

His plans and ideas are always way better than mine, anyway! ;)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Amazing 25th

I have no idea how time can pass by so quickly! Many days with young children seem to go on forever, but the years truly fly by.

Twenty five years ago today I married my best friend. I have no idea how it's even possible that 25 years has gone by! That's a quarter of a century! Just amazing!

I've learned a lot from being a wife over the last 25 years! Here are 25 tidbits that have stood out the most....

1. Men don't think the same way as women. 
While this probably isn't a surprise to anyone, it can be a real challenge to adjust to. Honestly, it's something that still pops up every now and then. It just doesn't surprise us like it used to! 
When we had Michael very early in our marriage, we were both going to school and still adjusting to being a married couple. Jay was still used to operating as a single guy and, because I didn't say that I was lonely, spent a chunk of his free time socializing/exercising with friends. Until one day, as he headed out the door to weight lift with a friend, I burst into tears and asked him if he still loved me. Jay was a deer caught in the head lights of his wife's hormonal outburst. Of course he loved me...and he didn't realize that I needed more time with him. After that afternoon, he adjusted his routine to make sure we had more time together. 
Which leads to my next tidbit....
#2 Men can't read women's minds
As convenient as that would be, it just won't happen. Men don't read minds and they don't multitask! What seems perfectly obvious in our heads is not even on the radar in their minds. If you want your man to know something, you need to tell him! Which leads to my next suggestion...

#3 Honey Do Lists are a good thing 
 If it's multiple things he needs to know, make a list! It might take a while to get through the lists, but most men work best with a visual reminder. Again, most men are not multi-taskers. :)

#4 My way doesn't always have to be the only way
Because women multitask so well, I think we have struggle (occasionally;) with being a little too controlling of things. The more things we try and juggle, the tighter we tend to hold things. Even when our honey offers to help, we(I) may try to micromanage instead of just let go. Even though he might not handle the task the same way I would, the task gets done. In the words of Elsa, "Let it go!"

#5 How to work through a crisis
While the day we exchange "I do's" might feel blissful, the reality of life is that there will be lots of hills and valleys. Learning to support each other and protect the emotional health of your family in difficult times is a very important skill. Jay calls these times "circling the wagons". As a family, you only do what is absolutely necessary to get by until the crisis passes.

#6 Men and women grieve in different ways
Grief happens. It might be the death of a grandparent, a parent, or, in our case, the death of a child. Loving each other and giving each other the support needed through the season of grief looks different for everyone. Sometimes it's a shared grief and other times it's giving your spouse some space to work through their feelings. Sometimes having outside help, whether it's a close friend, pastor, or a therapist, is needed. Knowing it's ok not to be "ok" is important, and asking for help can help each other heal more quickly and make your relationship even stronger for going through hard times together. 

#7 How to talk about emotional needs
This kind of goes along with #1 and #2! It's important for both spouses to be honest about what's going on inside their heads and hearts.We need to make ourselves vulnerable and work as a team to meet our emotional needs as a couple and individuals.

#8 Don't sweat the small stuff
I'm sure each couple has little annoyances that drive each other crazy. These are great opportunities to 'offer it up' and gain a little extra grace for ourselves and our spouse. (Or get annoyed and add on Purgatory time! Which is probably what happens to me way too often!)

I saw a great little sign this weekend!   It said "Changing the toilet paper roll does NOT cause brain damage!" It made me laugh out loud. We have lots of people that live in this house and I frequently enter the bathroom to find an empty roll. Or, perhaps more annoying, an empty roll on the holder with a full roll on the top of the toilet tank! It was definitely a pet peeve of mine! Until I changed my perceptive. Instead of getting annoyed, I looked at changing the roll as an opportunity to serve my family. It is a privilege to get this extra grace! Sounds silly, but it really works.  (Works in other ways, too! I could tell you about the tea bags...)

#9 Sometimes "Just Because" gifts are important
I'm not talking about anything crazy...diamond bracelets or a new truck with a bow will never be appearing in my driveway! If you see something that makes you think of your spouse, though, consider surprising them. Maybe you drove by a favorite restaurant and run in for their favorite cup of soup or dessert...their favorite color flowers...their favorite candy bar...a funny card..a text message with a link to their favorite song. It doesn't have to be much, but knowing your spouse was thinking of you during the day makes you feel extra love. Who can't use extra love in their day?

#10 The way to a man's heart really is through his stomach
Seriously, this is totally true for Jay! If he's had a tough day, nothing makes him feel better than one of his favorite comfort foods served for dinner. Jay's favorite meal that I made is chicken pie. A close second is Guiness shepherds pie. Given the choice, Jay will have seconds for dinner and skip dessert. Although apple crisp is a favorite of his as well.

#11 Knowing your spouse's love language
It's really helpful to know how to make your spouse feel most loved. Jay is more of an auditory person...he likes to hear me say "I love you" and to verbalize when I appreciate something that he's done. I feel more loved when he spends time with me.

#12 Knowing when to ask for help
Life is not always easy. It's ok to ask for help. Sometimes close friends, a pastor, or a therapist can help work through issues that are too tough to get through alone. Asking for help is humbling, but in the end, it will help strengthen your marriage. This might sound redundant from earlier, but it's really important.

#13 Learn from other couples
If something that works for other married couples in your family or friend circle, or facebook post, seems interesting, give it a try. It's always good to be growing and changing in little ways. Why recreate the wheel when you can learn from others?

#14 Knowing when to say "when" in the sleep deprivation years
When children are young and needy and sleep is a luxury, something has to give. You don't want that "something" to be your sanity. I am the primary night time caretaker because I nursed most of our children. When we went through a rough night time patch, I learned that housework got put on hold, sometimes we ordered pizza for dinner, and the most important goal of my day was to get a nap in. Even when I couldn't leave the baby for long periods of time, a half hour walk by myself when Jay got home or Saturday morning Mass and some adoration time by myself did wonders! 

#15 Learn to adapt
Knowing that some days you will be on Plan E by breakfast, and learning to let go and trust that it will all work out, is important. 

#16 Children are gifts
Not everyone feels called, or is able, to have a large family. I can't imagine our lives any other way.

#17 Men and women complement each other in parenting
I am definitely more of the softy in our parenting styles and Jay is a firmer disciplinarian. There are times when the kids need me to be tougher and there are times when the kids need Jay to be a little more lenient. We help each other to have a better balance to, hopefully, raise children that are emotionally healthy and have good character. (At least most of the time!)

#18 Always have a united front
This goes along with #17. There are times when I think Jay is being a little too hard on one of the kids or times when he thinks I'm going to easy. If one of us has made a discipline decision that errs in either extreme, we take time to talk about it together and make a decision as a couple. Then we adjust whatever punishment was doled out for the offending child. It's very important that kids don't use their parents conflicting thoughts to manipulate. That drives a wedge between spouses...and marriage is the relationship we need to work on the most! 

#19 Be generous when you are able
When time and/or money are tight...we've rarely had the "or" scenario...it can be challenging to be generous. If God puts it on my heart or Jay's heart to make a financial contribution or a time contribution that the other isn't sure about, we always try to take time to pray about it. Most of the time, it's an opportunity for God to grow and stretch us. One of my favorite sayings is, "God can never be outdone in generosity." (I'm not sure who said it originally, but St. Jose Maria Escriva comes up in the Google search.)

#20 Two plus two doesn't always equal four
There have been COUNTLESS times throughout the years when there was just no way that we could break even at the end of the month. Yet, somehow, all the bills managed to get paid and we had what we needed. The more we try to trust in God, the more He blesses our efforts. Over the years, I've seen it time and again. Sometimes it came in the form of a new job opportunity, sometimes in an unexpected gift, sometimes I found money I forgot I had squirreled away for a rainy day...but always it ends up working out. Yet, after 25 years, I still struggle to look at Jesus instead of sinking when a financial storm starts brewing. Thankfully, God gives me lots of chances to have a right response.

#21 Making time for fun is important
Sometimes life gets really monotonous. Work, kids, laundry, dishes, sleep, repeat. Taking time for family fun and making memories is important. Waiting until you have the right amount of money for that perfect family vacation in your head isn't the best focus. I am ALL for big family vacations, and they are a total blessing when they happen.(Even when the stomach bug takes out members of  your family like a sniper...and a magical day turns not so magical. But that's for another post!)
Simple things like pumpkin carving, taking a walk on a local trail, trying out a different school playground on a weekend, or going out for ice cream can be a welcome treat that gives everyone a little break to the usual routine.

#22 Making time for friends is important
Good couple friendships are really important. It's good to have couple friends to laugh with, commiserate with, and get new ideas from. It's important to talk with other adults that are walking a similar walk. Sometimes it's nice to get together as families...and sometimes is nice to get out and have a double date night. We have been blessed with several close couple friends. Even though our lives are all crazy, making the time to put a date on the calendar to get together is always rewarding!

#23 The graces of a praying husband
I am an incredibly blessed woman and my children are incredibly blessed because I have a husband and they have a father who prays and has a relationship with God. Jay will argue that he is far from perfect and, well, toilet paper and tea bags...but seriously, Jay is our rock. Jay gives and gives of himself all the time. It's not easy having to carry a family of ten on his shoulders, yet every day he does it. He goes to work for us, spends time with us, and loves his family without a thought for himself. Luke's requests of "play with me, Daddy" are met despite how tired Jay is and how much he was looking forward to just sitting down and watching whatever Boston team was playing at the moment. He has done countless breakfasts, lunches, and ice cream rides with the older boys who needed some "Dad time", and has spent many a night watching a chick flick or the Hallmark Channel because his older girls needed some "Daddy time" of their own. And Kate...all she has to do is look at Jay with her big beautiful eyes and he will be on the floor playing dollies just because she asked him. Jay's  ability to give is directly related to how he prays and relies on God to help him live the life he was given.  For this, I am eternally grateful!

#24 The importance of carving out couple time
This is one area that Jay and I still need to work on. Having a bunch of kids, including one with severe special needs, and not a lot of money isn't super conducive to couple time. We've had to alter our expectations and come up with ideas that allowed us the connection we needed but fit into whatever season of life we were in at the moment. When the older boys were all little and went to bed early, our date nights consisted of cooking fajitas together, eating on the coffee table in the living room, and snuggling together on the couch as we watched Dr. Quinn Medicine Women. Our anniversary dinners out generally involved a nursing infant as a side kick. 
Our 20th Anniversary was shared with a 10 month old Kate :)
As the kids got older, Jay would take a day off from work and we would have a date day while the kids were in school. My parents would watch Luke or Kate once they weren't nursing and we had some time to ourselves. Our kids have almost all been terrible sleepers, so overnights weren't really a possibility. Until this year! This past weekend Jay and I spent two nights in the Berkshires. The weather was beautiful and we did a lot of relaxing. Highlights were spending time at the Divine Mercy Shrine and going to Yankee Candle Village. Just having that uninterrupted time together was amazing...and the little kids had a great time with my parents. Our goal is to now do a little getaway weekend once a year, and, God Willing, a bigger trip every five years. I will let you know how our long term plan goes in 2022!
out to dinner

One of the beautiful views from the weekend

#25 God is part of our marriage 
Staying connected in prayer individually and as a couple is key. Inviting God into our marriage is the only thing that could have kept us together with the difficulties we have faced as a couple. Going through the death of our first daughter when we were only 24 with 3 young boys to care for was devastating. Having a child diagnosed with severe special needs with 6 kids 10 and under was life changing and completely overwhelming. The statistics for divorce for couples facing either of these crosses is incredibly high...and we dealt with both by the time we were 30. I know that it was only our faith and the graces given to us that have allowed us the opportunity to grow closer to each other despite the incredible difficulties. It has been an adventurous 25 years!

Happy 25th to my amazing husband! I love you with all my heart! Hoping and praying that the next 25 years will be even better! 

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"So if there is anything that will move you, any incentive of love, any fellowship in the Spirit, and warmth or sympathy-I appeal to you, 
make my joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart, and one in mind,
~Philippians 2:1-2

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Adventures In Grad School

On Wednesday, I carefully smoothed my new University parking sticker on my van and took off for week 2 in my new life adventure.

With our youngest entering full time kindergarten just a couple of weeks ago, my life is changing pretty dramatically. I've spent the last year, praying and discerning...sometimes with a sense of excitement but mostly with the wailing and gnashing of teeth...., trying to figure out what I am meant to do in this next stage of my life.

Over time, I started to feel like returning to school to get a Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling was the direction I should to go in. So, I signed up for 2 classes this Fall to get my feet wet and figure out if this is what I'm meant to do.

It's been a VERY long time since I've set foot in a college classroom. Over 21 years to be precise. To say that the experience is a little overwhelming would definitely be an understatement!

Day 1 last week, I was filled with much anxiety. I pulled into a parking lot next to the building my class was in. (Actually, it was the building that I thought my class was in, but I will get back to that in a minute!) I had to stop at the check in and I tell the "guard" I had a class in "Kelly". The guard asks me if I'm a teacher...if I wasn't so overwhelmed and confused I probably just could have gone right in. I doubt he sees many 43 yo students driving a 12 passenger van to class. Instead, I'm told several quick directions to a PARKING LOT FAR, FAR AWAY...(it really wasn't that far. A 10 minute walk)...but I had no idea where anything was and I was feeling very overwhelmed!

I took a breath and asked him to repeat the directions again. I briefly considered begging him for mercy...take pity on this 43 year old tired mama with hip bursitis and taking prednisone that hadn't started to effect. I kid you not...graduate school AND hip bursitis! God certainly has a sense of humor! Makes me feel ancient!

I found the parking lot...eventually. I did have to stop and ask an officer directing traffic for directions. I made it to a class which happened to be the wrong class. It was a mix up from the syllabus. Thankfully, I realized the mistake and made it to the correct class with a minute to spare!

I survived WEEK 1 feeling very overwhelmed and sporting a killer headache!

Week 2, I had to head into school early to get a college ID card. I had gotten the wrong information and ended up in the wrong building on the complete opposite side of campus! There was lots of traffic, too! I was worried about getting to class on time. I hopped back in the car, parked in the same lot as the week before, and I had to walk to the tip of campus. I was walking in the very hot, humid weather...grateful that the Prednisone had started working a little on my hip bursitis AND that I had taken Advil before I left just in case!...and considering all the students that were walking to and from classes around me. I could have birthed the majority of them! Quite the sobering thought!

I finally made it to where I needed to go. I was SO hot and sweaty! The college student running the counter, (who I also could have birthed), seemed a little pompous to me. At that point, I just wanted to get my ID card and go get a cold water bottle before class. (I realized I forgot my water bottle in the van and I was NOT walking all the way back to the parking lot!)

I had to take a picture for the ID card. You can imagine that it was no Glamour Shot with my red, sweaty face and disheveled hair! Gotta love humility....

I made it home that night, still feeling overwhelmed but with only a mild headache. I considered that progress!

Here's to a headache free WEEK 3!

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Yeah...pretty much just insanity!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

You're Gonna Miss This

Today was a day I have been dreading for a very long time! Kate starts full day Kindergarten.
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It amazes me that our "bonus, bonus" baby is old enough for school. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was cooking in the kitchen, calculating days in my head, when Jay asked what I was thinking about. When I told him that I thought I was late, his eyes lit up and, in true "Jay fashion", ran out the door to CVS to get a pregnancy test. He bought the more expensive box because he didn't want to wait a whole 5 minutes to know the results!

I am beyond blessed to have a husband that celebrates new life...no matter what the number!

So I guess I blinked..because Kate went from being an early Christmas gift, to a very loved baby, to a very opinionated toddler, to a super cute and sweet preschooler, to the little girl that I dropped off this morning to spend the whole day learning and playing. You would think by now I would be used to this since I've been through it SEVEN times before! I can honestly say, that it's so much harder "letting" Kate and Luke grow up then with any of the other kids. (And I say "letting" because obviously I have no choice in the matter!)

This morning, I woke up with the Trace Adkins song, "You're Gonna Miss This", playing in my head. I haven't listened to that song recently, so I know my mind is trying to work through this exciting new chapter in my life...which also feels like a loss in some ways. With Kate starting school full time and no other little ones at home to care for, I've been praying in searching for God's plan for me in this time of change.

Kate has not been overly enthusiastic about starting Kindergarten. She liked preschool and is a smart cookie, but she isn't thrilled to be a "whole day friend". To be fair, neither am I, but I have kept my feelings to myself(!) and talked up how much fun she will have and how fast the day will go by. Kate was still more nervous than excited this morning, but there were smiles for her pictures and no tears.(At least not from Kate!)

This year, I did great not crying in the school building! (I hate crying in front of people!) I kept thinking of the scene from Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2:

To distract myself today, I'm taking Sarah, my only child not at school or work today, out to do a little back to school shopping.

My Kate needs some clothes for Fall, too. So, even though I don't have her with me for the day, I can still do something for her! I am very grateful to God for the gift of our "bonus, bonus baby".

Now excuse me while I go grab some tissues....and indulge in some Retail Therapy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Plethora of He Said/She Said

Even though I haven't been blogging much lately, I have been saving a lot of the he said/she said moments that I didn't want to lose! I email them to myself when they happen otherwise I would completely forget them! My memory is not the best...please pass the Ginko Biloba.(Is that still a thing?!?)

Anyway....without further ado, here are some of our noteworthy notables from the past few months!

~We visited The Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge this past October. It's a beautiful shrine, surrounded by mountains and trees. At one point, we were walking down a path to another part of the shrine, and Kate was singing a little song she made up herself.
Note: insert the tune of The Farmer in the Dell.
Kate: "We're following the path. We're following the path. Don't get lost because there's bears in the woods.

~Kate LOVES lasagna. She would eat it every.single.day! Sarah was also a lasagna lover until she developed a lactose issue about 2 years ago.
Kate: Mom, can you make Sarah lasagna?
Me: That's a nice thought, Kate, but she can't eat it because it has dairy.
Kate:(pondering) I love lasagna! I love Sarah! We need to fix this!

~After several acts at Luke's School's Spring Concert:
Kate: Are we just going to sit here and stare?
Jay: Yup, pretty much!

~Sarah had tried curling her hair overnight and it didn't come out exactly right..
Sarah: Well, this isn't the look I was going for!
Andrew: You look like an 80's Glamour Shot...

~We were having one of our deep family discussions...the battle between Tostitoes vs Tostitoes Scoops...
Kate: Scoops rule and chips drool...that means that girls are made of scoops because girls rule!

~After getting one of those cheap toys with the tickets he won at Dave and Busters..
Luke: These are my most prized possessions!
Luke: (momentary pause) Mom, what's a prized possession?

~Mike took Kate and Luke bowling by himself and they had a couple of funny moments:
Kate:(who was losing) Mike, will you switch points with me?
Mike: No, Kate, that's not how it works.
Kate: But I'll switch points with you!

~Kate had to use the bathroom but there wasn't a family bathroom at the bowling alley so Mike had to bring her in the Men's Room.
Kate: I can't go in there! It's a Men's Room!
Mike: Kate, I can't take you in the Ladies' Room.
Kate: Fine...but I'm not peeing in a urinal!

~On our trip to Disney over Christmas vacation.(I need to write a whole blog post on that but it's taken a while because I have a little PTSD over the trip...I will write it soon!)
Kate:(after a little disagreement with Luke) Luke, I'm not having a magical day now that you yelled at me!

~And last but certainly not least! Jay was recently talking to Kate about some of the differences between men and women: how girls are made with lots of love in their heart and are really good at understanding feelings. A day or two later, Jay was helping Kate get her jammies on and Kate was upset because he was trying to put a nightgown on her and she wanted to wear her favorite pj's that were shorts. I was called in amidst tears and frustration.
Kate:(still crying) Why was Daddy trying to put on a nightgown on me instead of my favorite jammies?
Me: Oh, honey, Daddy just didn't understand that it was so important to you.
Kate:(still sniffling) Yeah, Dad doesn't understand feelings AT ALL!
Everyone in the house: hahahahahahahaha