Tuesday, October 4, 2016

For It is In Giving That We Receive

I was thinking today about the story of the rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-31) Lazarus lay at the rich man's gate covered with sores and starving. When I picture this poor, sick man in my head, it's easy to convince myself that I would never have ignored the needs of Lazarus. I would never be like the rich man "feasting sumptuously every day" while a poor man suffers to death right outside my house.

In reality, I certainly have plenty of failed opportunities when it comes being Jesus' hands and feet  to the people in my little world!

There is always a 'Lazarus' that God places in our lives. (Sometimes several at one time!) Anyone in need that God puts on our hearts to help is a Lazarus.

The Lazarus in our life will probably not be a poor, starving man with sores sitting outside our door. Some wounds are more difficult to see...and easier to ignore. I find it so hard to give in situations where I can't 'fix' the problem. It's hard to jump in when someone else's life is messy. There can be strong emotions that are uncomfortable to deal with. There can be physical suffering that I can't do anything to relieve.

In a lot of ways it's easier to write a check for poor and suffering people on the other side of the world that I have no personal contact with then it is to share my time and emotional energy on people God  places in my life...or even with members of my own family!

I find that I'm always struggling with balance in my life coupled with a copious helping of guilt! There are so many things to do each day, so many people in my life and the whole world, and I am so inadequate to meet anyone's needs completely. It makes me want to turtle...but that doesn't help anyone!

I think that choosing to be selfless is something that will always challenge me! I'm trying to be a better listener so that I will respond in the best way when God reveals "Lazurus" to me each day. I'm also trying to listen to the WAY God wants me to respond. I can't solve anyone's situation, but I can bring them a little encouragement and hope. I can send a quick email or a text, or I can stop in to visit someone, or I can make someone a meal or a cheesecake. I can say a rosary or a chaplet...or I can utter a simple prayer if that's all I'm inspired to do. Mother Teresa said, "It's not about how much we give but how much love we put into giving."

After all, it's God's grace that brings the comfort and healing.

We are merely the vessels He uses at any given moment to deliver the graces....we just need to cooperate.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Send In the Sandman

I can't seem to make up my mind...

At 7:30 tonight I decided I was done mothering for the day. Anyone else have those moments? When you're just "done", and try to find somewhere to hide until the kids' bedtime?

Thankfully, Luke had dragged Jay into building elaborate Lego creations and I managed to convince Kate that her sisters were having "extra special girl time" with "music and everything". (I really had no idea what "everything" was. It just made it sound better!) Kate went running to knock on their door and ended up with a mani/pedi and a game of Chutes and Ladders. (Truth be told, she asked me to play the game before the girl time, but I stalled to change into my pj's, heard the music coming from the girls' room, and tricked convinced Kate that sister time is way more exciting than hanging out with mom. Ahh...lazy mom 101 at its best!)

So I parked myself on the couch and ignored the Star Wars ships being flown around the living room by Luke and Jay and waited for bed time. I even ignored the "light saber battle" with pillows that ensued because Jay gets way too silly!(That's why the kids always want to play with him!)

The magical hour of bedtime finally arrived! Teeth were brushed, the potty was used, water cups were filled and kids were tucked into bed. Twenty minutes later, I heard Luke's voice call from the bedroom, "Mom, I can't sleep." (I'm thinking that a rousing battle of pillow "light sabers" was a poor choice on Jay's part right before bed!)

Though Jay might be the "fun parent", I'm the "nice parent".(Jay would call it soft.) As I called to Luke that he could come out with us for five minutes, Jay's voice overpowered mine and said, "No, stay in bed." Then, we compromised and told Luke he could read in his bed for 10 minutes.

As Jay and I sat together on the couch watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, (his current obsession), my heart shifted a bit.  Instead of relishing in this "little kid" free time...all our teen and young adult children were all milling about...I found myself missing Luke and wishing we had let him get out of bed. Luke is my snuggle buddy!

Having birthed 9 children over the last 23 years has given me lots of experience in many different areas of parenting. One area that I have failed at miserably with several different children is independent sleeping. I admit it...it's because I'm the "soft" parent! I'm always worried about making sure my kids feel loved, and that spills over into helping them get/stay asleep.

When our oldest, Mike, was a toddler, I tried to do the textbook bedtime routine. Bath time was followed by some quiet snuggle time and then we would read a couple of books in his bed. I would get close to the end of a book and he would grab the book, close it, and immediately grab another one, (that I intended to read anyway), thinking it would push off bedtime just a little bit longer! I would often lay with him and he would twirl my hair until he fell asleep.

Funny story: One night, when I was VERY pregnant with our second son, Andrew, I was trapped between a sleeping Mike and the child bed rail. I couldn't roll off and I couldn't just sit up because of my enormous belly. I started trying to rock to get enough momentum to sit up....I was totally like a turtle stuck on it's back!  It took a couple of minutes to finally free myself! When I turned to leave the room I found Jay laughing at me in the doorway! He watched the whole thing and just let me struggle! He got my "angry eyes" that night!

Fast forward a couple of years and we had 3 little boys. Jon would fall asleep on the couch most nights watching Blue's Clues during our night time routine. Mike still liked me to lay with him. I felt guilty that Andrew was laying alone even though he was younger than Mike. So, sometimes I would get Jay to lay down with him...even though Andrew didn't necessarily want him there! Oh, the joys of mom guilt!

Fast forward another couple of years. After losing our first daughter, Therese, our hearts were starting to heal with the addition of baby Sarah to our family. We lived in a 2 bedroom house, so a few months after Sarah was born we added on an extra bedroom and bathroom. Sarah was actually a pretty good sleeper, and she moved into her new bedroom when she was about 6 months old. Jay and I would go to bed some nights...umm, might have been most nights...and I would be missing her! I was hoping she would wake up and want to nurse so I could bring her into our bed. After several comments to Jay about missing the baby, he would go to her room, pick up a sleeping Sarah, and bring her into our bed. (I know, most of you are shaking your heads! I couldn't help myself!)
A sleeping baby Sarah!

I'd like to say that with experience I became a better sleep trainer of children.  Unfortunately, although my desire to have my babies and toddlers sleep became stronger as more of them arrived, the only one that actually complied was Ellie!  To be fair, Peter's struggle with sleep was not my fault....undetected food allergies and a sleep disorder due to Autism made night time a nightmare for many, many years.  I'm so grateful that he eventually grew out of it...although it took about 12 years!

Luke was an extra needy baby and toddler and it took many years to get him to sleep all night long independently.(We finally resorted to bribery...if he slept in his own bed all night for 3 weeks then he could pick out a medium size Lego set!)  Kate wasn't quite as bad as Luke, but there are still many nights that she wakes up scared and wants me to snuggle with her. (And it's much harder to sleep on 6 inches of bed as a 42 year old! My sore shoulders, sore hips, and knots in my back that Jay has to massage out are signs I'm getting too old for this! Although, snuggling with Kate is way easier than climbing into Luke's upper bunk in the middle of the night...thankfully, that's a very infrequent occurrence!)

So, if family members or friends ask my advice about teaching kids to sleep independently, I honestly tell them I don't have any great advice to give. I can tell them a few things NOT to do if they don't want kids in their bed for, well, years! Then I refer them to my friend, Colleen, who is the sleep master!

I AM making progress, though! You will all be happy to know that I did not have Jay go get a sleeping Luke out of his bed! And it's not just because Jay fell asleep on the couch before Luke! There's hope for me, yet!

.....Luke's way too heavy to try and lug out of the top bunk, anyway!

Just kidding!;)

Monday, August 1, 2016


Turning the calendar to August 1st is filling me with trepidation! The dreaded countdown to school begins. Along with the (hopefully) slow slide towards the end of summer, comes all the mama responsibilities that have to be accomplished: summer packets, school supplies, uniforms, school shoes, new sneakers! Just a wee bit stressful and a whole lot $$$!

Yesterday, I read a good article entitled The One School Supply I'm Missing This Year. The gist of the article is this: "what if we spent as much time praying for our children as we did shopping for them?  What if we prayed as much as we planned?  What if we prayed a little more than we worried."
It's helped me to have a better perspective as I get used to the fact that August has arrived! The article offered a challenge to pray each day in August for each of your children and all the hopes, dreams, and fears you have for them this year. It's definitely worth a read and it's something that I will be doing...and I'm thinking it will help me as much as it helps the kids!
This morning I got to go for a walk while it was still cool outside! The first song that came on my phone was "Slow Down" by Nichole Nordeman. It's quite the emotional song...and I was proud of myself that I didn't cry and just blubber for all the neighbors to see...but it did make me pretty reflective about all the changes that will be coming this year.

This little girl right here is starting 1/2 day preschool at the end of August!

Honestly, I have no idea how this has happened. I have found myself staring at Kate all summer and taking in her personality that has just exploded over the last few months! A deeper sweetness has made her such the love bug! Kate has such a curiosity about everything and still wants more than ever to keep up with her big brother, Luke. I keep looking at her long Hamel legs and her cute expression and I'm just so grateful that God blessed us with this "Bonus, Bonus" baby! I'm going to miss her SO much while she's at preschool, but Kate is excited to start her new adventure! She told me yesterday that she wants to get a butterfly backback and a butterfly lunch box because, "Butterflies are beautiful!". So you know that's on my (ever growing) list of back to school supplies!

Luke could.not.wait for August to get here! It has nothing to do with school starting and everything to do with his birthday coming up in less than a week!

We had a family party for Luke and Peter's birthdays over the weekend, and Luke got all of his wish list and then some! He spent all weekend building Star Wars Lego sets...his two favorite things rolled into one...every.waking.moment! He built almost everything by himself with the occasional shout out for help to Jon or Andrew when he had trouble with a step. Me thinks we have another future engineer in the making!! Luke is heading to 1st grade in a few weeks...my baby boy is growing up! sniff! He is such a gentle giant. I will definitely praying that Luke continues to develop good friendships, is able to be a good friend, and has the fortitude to step up to the challenges of first grade. (Because most days he would rather be home building with his Legos!)

This is an EXTRA exciting school year coming up because we have a TRIFECTA of graduations this year! So many blessings and so many memories for Ellen, Sarah and Andrew that will be made during this special year of  "lasts"!

This girl right here will be an eighth grader!! Eighth Grader!! What the what?!? Just unbelievable!

Ellie has grown up right in front of our eyes!(and at 5'8 3/4", she is still growing!) Ellie has the biggest, most beautiful heart of anyone I know. She is SO loving and SO sensitive! Just this weekend, Ellie sat with Jay as he spun all his tales about his favorite saint JP II. At some point, Ellie's beautiful, big blue eyes overflowed with tears. She articulated well when she said, "My heart just feels so many things!". She's a beautiful person, inside and out!

Sarah is entering her senior year of high school at the end of August!

As I write this, she is on the tail end of the biggest adventure of her life: World Youth Day in Poland! She has been gone for 11 days and has had lots of amazing experiences that we can't wait to hear more about when she gets home in 2 days! The group she went with is finishing their amazing experience  in Zacopane, where JPII spent many of his younger years hiking and sharing his faith as a teacher and young priest. Since Sarah shares Jay's love of  JPII, getting to see his homeland is an awe inspiring experience! I'm sure she will be talking non stop about her trip for weeks afterward!

Sarah is one of the most passionate people I know! Bring up anything to do with pro life issues or her faith and her face just lights up as she talks with boundless energy about all the ideas that she has and all the ways she wants to get involved in helping those without a voice. Sarah wants to change the world! Right now! It's not a surprise to me that she is drawn to the field of speech therapy and wants to work with kids with disabilities. Sarah is chomping at the bit to jump into life with everything she has to make a difference. Unfortunately, she has to actually finish high school first before she can take the next step! Despite her impatience, in typical Sarah style she throws herself into her studies with everything she has. Senior year will be filled with 5 AP courses, trying to maintain her school rank of second in her class, being president of the Pro-Life Club, campus ministry, Drama Club, baking cookies for her friends that are celebrating a birthday or having a bad day, and any other endeavor she somehow squeezes into her insane schedule!

Andrew, God willing, will be graduating with a degree in Computer Science from UMass Dartmouth this year! He has a challenging schedule as a senior and needs to take one extra course, Statistics, that will hopefully be offered in the Spring semester at a time that can fit into his schedule!(This is DEFINITELY one of the things I will be praying about this month!) I can not believe that our second son is on the brink of graduating from college and getting started on his adult life! It just blows my mind! #dontblink

Not to leave them out....
Peter turned 15(!) yesterday and will be staying at his current program, which we LOVE! He is going to have the opportunity to do more inclusion this year and we are so excited for him! This program is everything that we have wanted for him and Peter is SO happy!
Happy Birthday, Peter!
He was modeling his new shirt.
He loves cut off shirts AND Martha's Vineyard!

Jon is entering his junior year as a mechanical engineering major at UMass Dartmouth. He has done so well that he will most likely be invited into a special program that would allow him to start on his Master's Program during his senior year and finish his masters degree in just 1 extra year. So...big decisions for him to make. He's also going to be working with some upper classmen/grad students on a professor's project. He's really excited and is looking into options to specialize in some kind of Marine Engineering. (I'm probably getting all this terminology wrong, but that's the gist of it!:) Jon was also a world traveler this summer and had the opportunity to spend over a week in Rome. He had such a great time and loved all the history and faith that he was able to experience!

Mike is currently figuring out what direction to take in his professional life. A job that he was hoping for fell through, but, when God shuts one door he always opens a window! So, once his summer job ends at the end of the month, we're curious to see where that window will lead him!
(As a side note....having young adults is less physical work, but the emotional energy is still very difficult! Not to mention, these big life decisions need to be made by them! Our job is to offer encouragement but that's about it. The "Art of Letting Go" is not so easy!)

So many times, people will comment about how challenging it must be to raise a big family. (And you can tell by their expressions that they are SO glad that they are not in our shoes!) Yet, I'm especially grateful at this stage of our lives for our big family! It's so hard to see our older kids start to pull away and begin their lives apart from us. The change in our relationships does bring about some grieving now that we aren't the center of their lives anymore. Having the younger kiddos is so consoling! And, even though I dread the days when Luke and Kate will be ready to expand their worlds and spread their wings, I figure that by that time we will have had some weddings and a few grandchildren to fill up the void. I'm perfectly happy with never having an empty nest!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hi!...and a little review!

It's been quite a while since I've visited my own little space in the blogosphere! June was a tough month for me! I crawled through the end of the school year feeling very burned out. The summer has been better, but busy in its own way. I'm really trying to focus on doing fun(cheap/free) things with the younger kids to make family memories and being nice to myself so I can re-energize!

Several months ago, Marianne Bell from Adventures in the Ballpark asked me to review a book that she wrote, "The Twelve Days of Christmas Adventure". This book is filled with ideas to be a blessing to someone else over the twelve days of Christmas! It's so much fun to surprise a family or individual that God puts on your heart, and Marianne gives lots of examples that her family has used over the years.

So...even though this review is incredibly overdue, it just so happens that Marianne is offering a special sale on her book that is good through Sunday! A little 'Chistmas in July' special! 😊 Even better, some of you mamas may be running out of steam and ideas to keep your kiddos occupied during summer vacation! What better way to spend some time in August then on planning and creating blessing boxes that will be ready to go come that crazy time of the year?!? Kids occupied + doing something for someone else + having blessing ready to give come December = WIN!

**Bonus: TheTwelve Days Of Christmas Adventure is only $6.99 if you snag it in July!

Head on over Here to check it all out!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Back to back blogging days! Quite the rare occasion around here!

Today's a special day....Sarah is 17!

It just doesn't seem possible that it was 17 years ago today that we held her in our arms for the very first time!  The day she was born was very much like today....beautiful sunshine. I spent the day relaxing on the deck watching Mike, Andrew, and Jon play in the yard. They were 6, 4, and 3 at the time. I had contractions all day long 10-15 minutes apart but I was totally relaxed, not at all thinking that it was the "real deal" because I had an appointment to be induced two days later.

At 7:30 that night, I laid down on the couch to snuggle with Jon and, to my shock, the contractions went to 10-15 minutes apart to 2.5 minutes apart! By 8:30, we were at the hospital, and at 9:55 Sarah was in my arms! 

And we never let her go!!!

Andrew was in love with his baby sister!
The feeling was mutual!
When Sarah could talk she called him, "My Enew". (melt<3)

Sarah brought so much joy and healing to our family after losing Therese the previous year. She continues to bring lots of joy...and a little sass;)...17 years later!

Kate: "I want to be like Sarah when I grow up. 
Sarah is sassy! I want to be sassy like Sarah."

Sarah is a very motivated, faith filled young lady. She has big ideas and wants to change the world! Sarah is incredibly passionate about the subjects that are important to her, particularly anything pro-life! She loves to sing, completely overload her academic schedule(4 AP courses this year..5(!) next year), read, sew, paint, and snuggle any baby she can get her hands on.

Kate insisted that I add this slightly fuzzy picture bc it's Sarah holding her when she was a baby!

Sarah has lots of love to share...which often comes in the form of cookies or pies to her friends and family. She's no pushover, though...she did survive growing up with 3 older brothers!

Sarah has a boyfriend for the first time. His name is Dan and he is a really nice young man. He's a Senior this year and Sarah is super excited for prom next week!

Sarah is working at a local summer camp starting in June and is hoping it will add a little something to her college applications in the Fall. Sarah's goal is to become a Speech Therapist and work with kids with special needs, particularly Autism. Sarah has a real gift with anyone with special needs. She has a genuineness and patience to see through the disability and connect with the "real" person. I've seen it firsthand with not only her brother, Peter, but anyone with a disability that she meets out in the community. It's definitely a special gift!

Jay and I are so proud of the person that she is, and we're excited to see what the future holds!(Although we wish we could keep her home with us forever!)

Happy Birthday, Sarah! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Peter Victory

IEP meetings can cause a lot of anxiety for parents. We have been blessed to have mostly positive experiences. Today was probably the best IEP meeting we've ever had.

Back in the fall, we decided to change Peter into a different program. There were multiple reasons for our decision. The other students in his classroom had aged out and he was the only one left. His main classroom teacher was on maternity leave until Thanksgiving. The program he was in was located in a Middle School that had very limited opportunity for any kind of inclusion beyond art and music...neither of which Peter really liked.

Jay and I  toured another classroom within the collaborative Peter attends that was located in a high school two towns over. Even though the classroom was full, the teacher agreed to take Peter in for a temporary placement to see if he would be a good fit. The classroom was perfect for Peter, with 8 friends and an awesome program that had multiple nuerotypical high school students rotating in and out of the classroom multiple times a day. Peter fit right in!

Today at his IEP meeting, the psychologist was present to go over the  psychological testing Peter had as part of his three year review. The psychologist had also done Peter's testing three years ago, and she was amazed at the difference she saw in him. Three years ago, she had to give Peter constant breaks and redirection to get even the minimal testing done. She had to currently address negative behaviors that came up because he was doing a non-preferred activity, which was the norm for Peter back then. 

Not this year! This year, she got all of his testing done in two sessions with no breaks! He was able to complete all of it. He even scored in the average range and close to the average range in a couple of different categories. That's a huge improvement for Peter! 

I can't say enough about the team that we are blessed to have for Peter: From the psychologist who celebrated the gains Peter has made and reminded us that Peter is much more than any result of a test, to our home therapist who has helped us through so many bumpy times and continues to push Peter forward to help him reach the highest levels he is able, to his classroom teacher who has had such a positive influence on Peter all year and has helped him work through his clothing quirks and helped him to really bloom into the teenager that he is, to the aides in his class that give him so much love and positive attention, to his speech therapist who totally gets the direction we hope to go in and the gains in true conversation for Peter that we are praying for, to the director of his program  who is always so positive and the director of our Special Ed Department, who was brand new this year and supported us and helped to find Peter a classroom that fit him so well!  

Peter is still profoundly affected by Autism. He will never be even close to functioning at the same level as his age appropriate peers. It's gotten easier to hear his teachers and therapists talk about focusing on academics that will give him life skills. Our focus on helping Peter be the very best version of Peter that he can be. To be as independent as possible in life and to have the skills to have fulfilling relationships with family and friends. Peter's life will look different from his siblings, but it can still be filled with happiness and fulfillment.

Life with Peter has definitely had its challenges. There were so many years when we could not leave him alone for 5 minutes...literally! (One time, when he was about 6, he had been in his room for less than 5 minutes without me checking on him and he had crawled out the window and it took us 10 minutes to find him. He had gone down the street three houses and was sitting on a neighbor's ride on lawn mower in his driveway.) That kind of behavior was the norm, not the exception. There were years filled with 24/7 anxiety to keep him safe. There were YEARS of dealing with his horrible sleep issues...when 3-5 nights a week he would wake up for 2-4 hours in the middle of the night and be wide awake. There were years of hearing teachers tell us, "He is very bright and has lots of good skills, but it takes so much effort to control his behaviors." 

If there are any moms..or dads...of kiddos that have special needs reading this, take heart! Because somewhere along the way, something clicked. Peter finally started sleeping better. Peter finally stopped moving, climbing, and impulsively running off at every moment. I feel like we have finally started to enjoy who Peter is, rather than use all our energy to just keep him safe.

This year...Peter has finally stopped having all of the behaviors in the classroom and is opening up opportunities for himself to learn and grow friendships at school. Part of it is his ability to self regulate. Part of it is that he has matured. Part of it is the location of his program being at a high school that is very supportive of their special needs peers...especially the reverse inclusion AND the inclusion opportunities that Peter will have next year! That's something Jay and I have wanted for him since he was at the Elementary School level and I'm SO excited for Peter for next year! Last but CERTAINLY not least.....a BIG part of Peter's success this year are due to his teachers, aides, and therapists creating an environment for him to grow into the best Peter he can be!

I am beyond grateful!

Friday, May 13, 2016


Quick Take Friday...TGIF! This has been such a busy week..and it felt SO long! I loved the warmer, sunny weather! It looks like Spring has finally arrived!  :)

#1: One of My Favorite Things
Two weeks ago, Sarah was part of her high school's production of The Sound of Music. She played a nun and a party goer. (The party goer had a different outfit. ;)  This was part of  Sarah's Bio: "Sarah is a junior. She loves nuns and so is happy to be one, if only in a musical." When I read it at the play, I LOL'd!

#2: More From the Stage!
Sarah isn't the only family member performing this month! Mike was invited to be in a local theater Group's Production of Snow White! Mike played "Doc"....which is EXTRA comical considering he is 6'4". All the dwarfs were on their knees when they were on stage! He did a great job...and has already been asked back for their next play! Kate really loved it...Luke, too!

....Except, maybe for this one, which ended
up on the theater group's Facebook page!

The only time in years that my parents have been taller than Mike!
#3: All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth...
Well...I don't think he will have to wait until Christmas! But, Luke is now missing both of his front teeth! It's such a cute look! I'm not looking forward to those big grown up teeth taking up space in his mouth! I don't want my little boy growing up!
#4: Mother's Day
I was completely spoiled throughout Mother's Day weekend! Luke came home with the sweetest card and flower pot that he made for me at school! I.love.it! The card is definitely going into the "pileofspecialthings" that I WILL get into a scrapbook someday!!

"I like it when me and my Mom go to Captin Bones.(Captain Bonnies)
I like it when we make chicinpi.(chicken pie)
I like it when my Mom tacs(takes) me to popparc.(Pope Park)

This picture just makes me melt!
Luke is such a sweet little boy!
Bonus "she said":
Kate: I don't like that picture. It doesn't have me in it!
Luke:(talking with his hands and an animated voice): Kate, my teacher told me to draw a picture of something I like to do with Mom! NOT something I like to do with Mom AND my sister!
Jay completely spoiled me for Mother's Day! He got me a Lindor chocolate bar, a chic flick, a gift card to Panera and Barnes and Noble, and my own green cell phone charger!(The white ones always disappear mysteriously...we're pretty sure Jon or Mike will find a stash of them in their rooms eventually!) PLUS...Jay made a frame for our giant family canvas pic and hung all the pictures that have been in a pile in our room for quite some time!

I was spoiled by all of my older kids, too! Mike got me a gift card to a yummy local breakfast restaurant, Andrew brought me home a quart of one my favorite Acushnet Creamery ice cream(Cranberry Harvest..and there's even some left!), Jon made me delicious chocolate covered strawberries(which I forgot to get a picture of before I ate them all!) and a funny card with an offer to take me out to dinner sometime in the next week or two, Ellie made me a super sweet card and did lots of extra chores so I didn't have to, and Sarah sorted through our big bins of pictures and organized them into different categories to make it easier to get them into albums!

Mother's Day was a great day! We did brunch at our house with both our families and then had a lazy afternoon by ourselves! It was perfect!

#5: Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!
 It's been a super busy time for Sarah! In the last 2 weeks, she's had lots of rehearsals, 4 AP tests, SAT's, The Sound of Music, and, on Tuesday night, she received the Pope St. Pius Xth Award! 

Sarah and her boyfriend, Dan.
Aren't they cute together? He made her cookies to congratulate her. (Aww) :)
On Wednesday night, Sarah was in the Spring Concert at her school. She is part of the Acapella Group. (Just a quick note about one of the things we love about Sarah! Sarah takes after the Hamel side of the family and has extra long arms and legs. It makes shopping for more modest dresses challenging since so many clothes are too short to begin with! Sarah is crafty and has taught herself to sew. So she added lace to the bottom of this dress to make it a better length! #<3)

#6: Super Sister #2
I would be remiss to not mention how super helpful Ellie has been the last few nights! She has helped with dishes, bath time, and even made cookies on Tuesday night.(Which are completely gone!) Ellie has a big week coming up herself! So stay tuned! :)  And, just in case my older boys are reading this, thanks for helping with watching the littles the last couple of nights! You were helpful, too! ;)

#7: Baseball
Despite the fact that I swore we would not put Luke in baseball...Jay and the boys wore me down and Luke had his very first instructional game last night. The league is a lot different now compared to when the older boys played baseball. The season is MUCH shorter. It's over around July 4th now, which is SO much better than the late August/early September ending when Mike, Andrew and Jon were little! Plus, Jay isn't coaching, which makes it much easier for me! Luke is so excited to play, and all the older boys and Jay have been helping him practice and teaching him some skills. Luke did great! He hit the ball all three at bats and even made it to the base safely once.(The other two times he was too busy watching the ball to run!lol)

Luke and his cousin Brayden are on the same team!
Brayden had a great first game, too! :)

Have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Love in the Details

I read several blog posts the day that definitely made me think. For all of my fellow 80's lovers..."Things that make you go Hmmm!"

Christy Fitzwater, a contributor for Club 31 Women, wrote a post entitled "One Secret to Making It to Your 25th Anniversary". Since Jay and I will be celebrating our 24th Anniversary in the fall, I was really curious...and definitely had to agree...on what Christy had to say. Particularly these few lines:

"The secret to 25 years is in seeing to the details.
Early on in a marriage, the details drive you NUTS. Like when Matt would hang the towel up with the tag showing. Come on. Or for him, it was when I would go to the bathroom and not close the door all the way (this guy has a thing about closed doors, I can tell ya.)
But somewhere along the way the details changed from an irritant to an opportunity. It was the sign of a deep growth of the heart, from selfishness to service."

I love that..."seeing to the details"! It's so true. Life does have it's share of exciting and momentous occasions, but the majority of our days are spent in the everyday, humdrum moments. The laundry moments, the washing the dishes moments, the cooking dinner moments, the driving your kids to practices and appointments moments, the snuggles with littles moments, the talking with teenagers moments....you get the picture!

There are so many 'little', seemingly insignificant, things that I try to do most days because I know that they please Jay and will make him feel loved. They are really my own version of "seeing to the details" that Christy talks about. Yet, it's in those little moments that gives us connection and nurtures the love between us. (With all the distractions in this world, the love in everyone's relationships need as much nourishing as they can get!)

Every couple's "details" will be different, When I read Christy's article, I couldn't help but think of some of the everyday ways that Jay and I try to love and serve one another. For instance, Jay completely lives up to the saying, "The way to a man's heart is through his his stomach". Jay enjoys a good meal. If he's had a tough day at work, one of his favorite dishes waiting for him when he gets home is a form of therapy for him! He certainly doesn't expect fancy 4 course dinners, but hearing we're having homemade chicken pie or Guiness shepherd's pie is sure to put a giant smile on his face. You can just see the stress of the day melt away as those comfort foods fill his belly!

Something I try to do each day...and the key word is try...is to have at least the living room picked up  when Jay walks through the door. I know that Jay really appreciates a place to relax at night that is free from visual clutter. So, even if the rest of the house looks like an episode of hoarders(!), the kids and I do a quick clean up about 30 minutes before Jay gets home from work. This way, after dinner and bath time, he has an enjoyable place to unwind for a few minutes before he falls asleep on the couch. ;)

There are other little things that don't really mean much, but make his life just a little easier and more convenient. Jay likes to take his work shirt off as soon as he comes in the house and throw it in the washing machine, and then shower and change and run all of his work clothes in a load.  I try to make sure that the washing machine is empty so that he doesn't have to switch the load to the dryer first.
....Not that he ever complains about switching the load, but it's a little act of love on my part! He's been at work all day and it's nice if he doesn't have to worry about "doing" anything when he first walks in the door.(at least until bath time after dinner!;) 

Then, there are some really small, hidden things that I do. I pray for Jay, (and each member of my family), as I fold their laundry. I put Jay's laundry away before I put away my own pile. It's a really silly thing, but it's a (very small) act of putting him before myself.  "Offered up" as a sacrifice, no matter how little, injects grace into a mundane act of housekeeping. (If only I could stop messing up on the "bigger" opportunities of sacrifice God frequently puts in my path! Thankfully, He keeps sending more to give me extra chances to get it right!) :)

All marriages have different seasons....and even the best marriages have their challenging moments! I think that "seeing to the details" helps to build a foundation, (and helps to fill spots that might be weak and need some extra grace), to have a fulfilling marriage. 

In the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, "Merit does not consist in doing or giving much, it consists in loving much."

We need to love our husbands in the details.

Friday, April 29, 2016

On organizing the (emotional) Mess!

Quick Take Friday: On organizing the (emotional) mess!

#1: Organize
One of my friends, Ellen, has a jar filled with virtues, (written on paper). Around New Year's, she offers to pick a virtue for you and message it to you. This year, I got "Organize". Which is something I really need. Originally, I had this idea that "organize" was going to be a year of decluttering and,  (God Willing), the ability to FINALLY figure out how to print and scrapbook/put into albums the thousands of pictures I have in manila envelopes, on memory cards, and stored on my computer. Being the memory keeper is important to me and it's a sore spot for me that I can't seem to figure out how to start organizing all of these photos!  Four months into 2016, and I'm thinking God has more in mind. (Doesn't He always..and yet, I'm still surprised every.single.time!)

#2: How to Reconfigure and Organize Life
Looking for tips? Yeah...me, too! I think step one is accepting that you have an organizing problem. Trying to balance life is a continual see-saw battle!

Battle cartoons, Battle cartoon, funny, Battle picture, Battle pictures, Battle image, Battle images, Battle illustration, Battle illustrations

#3: Acknowledge the Un-Organization in Your Life
I've been a little lost lately.
Maybe more than a little.
I think it has a lot to do with turning 40 and being at a real cross roads of change in life. Some of the other smaller "issues" in life that were themselves manageable, all of a sudden morphed into much less manageable weights that make some days hard to function through normally.

You know those times when you think of all the things that have to be done, you calculate the time it will most likely take to do it, and you realize that even if you worked without sleeping for days that you could probably STILL not be able to finish it all? And you just want to give up before you even start?

There have been quite a few days like that.

Bill Watterson

#4: "Focus Danielson"
I'm picking a couple of areas to start on because a complete overhaul would just be too overwhelming! So...I think I'm going to focus first on getting our financial life more organized AND trying to add date nights into our month. That sounds counterproductive, doesn't it?!? While going out for dinner occasionally is a nice treat, I'm thinking that our couple time will be going for walks and grocery shopping together on Friday nights. (That counts, right?!?) AND...I need to come up with a plan to tackle the picture backlog problem and schedule time to implement it!

#5:  Just Start Somewhere
I know for myself, I want it to be the perfect scenario with the perfect plan mapped out from a-z before I even start something, That's all well and good, but some projects are so overwhelming that you just have to jump in and start somewhere. In the words of Maria Von Trapp, "Let's start at the very beginning... a very good place to start." (and not worry about how long it will take to get to the end!) All forward progress counts!

#6: St. Catherine of Siena
On a completely different note, today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena! She is one of my favorite saints! She was a total "bad butt"! Small but powerful! 

#7: He Said/She Said
Jay: (talking to Kate) Hi, honey, how was your day?
Kate: I went to the doctors and got a shot and it really hurt! Then, mommy took me out for lunch and we had chicken hands.
Jay: Do you mean chicken feet?
Kate: No. Wait a minute. I mean chicken fingers...we had chicken fingers!

Happy Weekend!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Journeys Into The World Of A Teenager!

Birthdays are a frequent occurrence when you have a big family....but it's an extra special day when you get a new teenager in the house!

1. Not Our First Rodeo
Ellen is our 6th teenager! Of course, her three oldest brothers have wandered into the land of young adulthood..(shudder)..., so we only have 3 teenagers in the house right now. "ONLY 3"...seems kind of a funny thing today. We've done 4 teenagers in the house at one point, so 3 should be easy...Right?!?

2. Those Eyes!
Ellie has the biggest, bluest eyes out of all our children. When she was a baby, those big, blueberry blue eyes drew all the older ladies over to my shopping cart whenever we were out in public!

Considering Jay and I both have brown eyes, recessive genes made an appearance quite a bit in our family!  Mike had blue eyes until he was 12 and they changed into more of a green color. Andrew and Peter both had blue eyes until they were two and then they turned to hazel.  Ellie and Kate have blue eyes, although Ellie's are the truest blue. 

Ellie was SO excited that Kate had blue eyes! Ellie told us after Kate was born that she prayed and prayed for a baby sister with blue eyes just like her. So sweet!
Our very own Cindy Lou Hoo!

#3: Speaking of Sweet...
Ellie is one of the sweetest people I know! If I had to pick one word to describe her, "sweet" would be the one! Ellie has such a big heart. She loves and gives with all she has. Her big heart is right there in the open...which makes her a very sensitive person. Her personality is a lot like Jay's Mom. 

The "sweet ones" at Ellie's Kindergarten graduation

#4: Except On The Court...
One place Ellie is NOT sweet is on the basketball court! Basketball suits her well since she is 5'7" at 13 and the doctor thinks she still has several inches to go! It's good to be tall. :) 

Bending over so she doesn't tower over everyone!

#5: Daddy's Girl
Ellen is definitely a Daddy's Girl! She always has been! All of the girls have Jay wrapped around their fingers! 
Always a Daddy's Girl!

#6: The Little Sister, Big Sister, & Middle Child
Ellie is our true middle child. She's not as old as the "big kids", the little kids are quite a bit younger than her(Luke is 6 years younger, Kate is 8 years younger), and because Peter's cognitive/emotional age is so much younger because of his disability, Ellie is stuck in the middle!  Sometimes the older kids act more like parents than siblings...and no one wants that many parents!

In the past year, I've noticed a really big difference in Ellie's relationship with most of her older siblings. She has definitely started to be more connected to the big kids...especially Sarah. It's really special to see them together...or hear them talking and giggling in the bedroom...during their frequent "girl time". I hope they will always be close!

Of course, Ellie is frequently sought after by Kate and Luke, too! She is great with them. Kate loves to play "dollies" with her and both Luke and Kate love to play Legos with her. Ellie is "super sister"...she learned well from her older "super sister"!(Well done, Padawan!)


#7: Happy 13th Birthday, Ellie!
We love you bunches and can't imagine life without you! :)