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" 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 take effect, yet. 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 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! 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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Transfiguration Moments

At Mass on the Transfiguration a couple of weeks ago, I got some interesting insights that made me think of this particular event in a brand new way. To be fair, other parish priests may have explained the Transfiguration more fully, but it's been many years since I've heard more than just small bits and pieces of the homily because of life with little ones! But that's a whole other blog post.

Our parish priest talked about the Transfiguration as the time "where Jesus got His apostles ready to face His death." I guess I always considered the Transfiguration as just another time when God revealed the identity of His Son in a really special way. I didn't consider this moment as a time when Jesus showed His glory to prepare and strengthen Peter, James, and John for the difficult experiences that would soon be upon them.

Then he asked, "What are the times when you had a personal transfiguration---when God felt closest?"

I think that all of us feel God's presence in different ways in our every day lives. It might be opening to a random Scripture verse and having it answer a question or give us comfort...or a friend that happens to say just the words we need to hear...or a song that comes on the radio just when you need to hear it. However it manifests, we just know it's a moment where the Divine touched our life in a special way.

When I thought about the question that our Pastor asked, a specific memory came to my mind....
It was in late October, 2003, and I had been at Mass at a local parish on a Wednesday night. That was my quiet time in a very busy season when we had 6 children that ranged in age from 6 months-10 years. I had been struggling with severe burnout and depression at the time, and getting some weekly quiet time was a very needed reprieve from the "normal chaos". This one particular night, I felt God's presence in a very personal way. It was like God drew me up and wrapped me in Himself. I felt His presence and love in a way I had never felt it before. 

The moment didn't last long. I really didn't understand it. 

The following week I was at daily Mass at another local parish and I was going to speak to a priest we were friendly with about my experience from the previous week after the Mass. While I was waiting for him after Mass, an older woman walked up to me and said, "I know you don't really know me, but I was watching you with your children. I noticed your little boy and he has a lot of characteristics of my grandson. My grandson has autism but it was all diet related."

She was talking about my son, Peter, who was two and a half at the time. He was severely speech delayed and I knew something was wrong, but we hadn't had any official diagnosis at the time and I had been praying for weeks to understand what was going on with him.  I had been praying endlessly for weeks to St. Peter that Peter would start to talk. I would have dreams that Peter would just start speaking and I would feel so relieved! Then, I would wake up and feel that horrible feeling deep inside that I knew something was really wrong with Peter but not knowing exactly what it was.

That woman's words left me in shock. I can still remember exactly how I felt all these years later! I was emotionally numb and struggling to process her words...but I knew that they were truth. 

I barely spoke to the priest about the experience I had in prayer because I was so numb from what I had just been told. 

Thinking about that special time in prayer all these years later, I believe that was a "Transfiguration Moment" for me. When God reached down to prepare my heart in a special way to face a great cross in our life: the death of the dreams we had for Peter to be a neurotypical child and the death of our expectations for the family life we hoped to have.

I think that God gives us all kinds of "Transfiguration Moments", and thankfully they aren't always that extreme. 

~When God pulls on our hearts to give us the grace to face death to sin, that's a Transfiguration Moment.

~When God comes close and shuts a door on a path we thought would lead to our dreams, that's a Transfiguration Moment.

~When God shines His Light on the brokenness we hold deep in our hearts, that's a Transfiguration Moment.

~When God gives us the knowledge of His presence but strips away all of our artificial comforts, that's a Transfiguration Moment.  

God comes close to give us the grace to go through death to self, death of dreams, death to expectations, death to brokenness, and death to holding on to self made comforts.

I also heard a great talk by Chris Stefanick on the Transfiguration. He mentioned that in the Transfiguration, God reveals Himself as a loving Father. "This is my beloved Son." 

We are in the hands of God. We are in the hands of love. If I could just trust in that on a regular basis, the ups and downs of life would be so much easier to navigate!

Chris also spoke about Sr. Josephine Bakhita. She was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child and eventually was bought by an Italian family who set her free. She became a religious sister and was known for her gentleness and love. Despite the incredible difficulties she faced so early in her life, she trusted God with the path she was on and saw all the good that came out of the suffering she endured. 

"I am definitely loved. 
Whatever happens to me, I'm awaited by Love."
~St. Josephine Bakhita

She believed in God's love for her and I find her simple words so beautiful...and her immense trust in God so inspiring. 

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Friday, May 26, 2017

On Pancakes, Proms, and Princesses

There are so many phases of parenting that seem like they will never end! All those sleepless nights definitely spring to mind! Then, at some point, I blinked and little ones that needed my every minute of every day were all of a sudden much more independent. And it felt nice. I felt like I could breathe a little.

But then you blink again...

The independence grows. Their life revolves around school and friends. While it still feels nice to be able to focus on projects and areas that just a few years before would have been impossible, you also start to see the writing on the wall. Their independence will continue to increase and their worlds will continue to grow...and our rolls in their lives will change. And decrease.

It's such a crazy emotional time, I am proud of my young adults and excited for where they are headed in life....but I'm also a little sad because they are growing up and away from us. I have given my whole life to caring for and raising these children that God has blessed me with...and yet, I am working myself out of a job.

This growing up stuff is so.not.easy.

Yesterday and today, the "On This Day" on my Facebook page have had pictures from Andrew and Jon's high school proms from four years ago and three years ago respectively. Seeing them brought some tears to my eyes. It seemed like just yesterday that they were in high school and now they will be finishing up college next year!

Jon and his friend Amy making goofy poses: 2014

Andrew and his high school friends: 2013

Now it's Sarah's turn! Our first daughter will be attending her senior prom and it just seems impossible that we are at this spot again with yet another child! "How did this even happen?" is the question that I've been wrestling with the last couple of weeks. With Sarah graduating from high school, Ellie graduating from middle school, and Kate graduating from pre-school, it's a season of change for all of my girls.

...for their mama, too!

I've felt my anxiety levels ratcheting up all week. It has reached the level where I feel like everything around me is just beyond my control...all those balls juggling in the air feel like they are getting away from me.

I see all my older children around me turning into adults and I feel so very inadequate. All those failures I've felt as a mom, both real and perceived, haunt my memories and fuel my fears for their future. I hate feeling so "less than"; less than the wife I want to be, less than the mom I want to be...and now time has run out/will run out in giving my kids the best emotional, spiritual, and mentally healthy foundation that I can.

The question screams through all my inadequacies, "Can I ever be enough?"

I honestly didn't even have words to describe all that I was feeling. All I felt was a whirlwind of overwhelming emotion. As I drove to pick up Kate at preschool, I was listening to KLOVE and the song "Just Be Held" by Casting Crowns came on. You know when a song just speaks to your heart? Well, that happened to me this morning.
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you're tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There's freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

I just may have started balling just a little. Thankfully, I had a few minutes to compose myself before Kate's teacher brought her out. It's amazing how sadness and grief can disguise itself...and how hard I can work to "be strong" and not give myself the time to work through hard emotions. 

As Kate and I raced to the car through the rain, she looked at me and asked if we could go to a restaurant and have "breakfast for lunch." There were lots of reasons why we shouldn't's prom day, I was emotional, I still had cleaning to do, etc.

But then I thought about all of the reasons I should go. Because I'm going to blink, and it's going to be Kate getting ready for prom! So, off we went, just the two of us. I listened to her constant chatter and soaked in her cute little face and sweet little voice. I didn't rush our time together...I was present for every precious moment!
Who wouldn't want to have lunch with this sweet face?!?

Back at home, Sarah asked me to help her put on her pearl necklace....a beautiful 16th birthday present from some very special family friends. In my head, I blinked and had the future thought that, before I know it, I will be clasping those pearls around Sarah's neck for her wedding day.

Please pass the tissues....

Monday, May 8, 2017

On Growing Up and Letting Go...

An old blogpost showed up on my Facebook page today. Borrowed Moments was written 4 years ago on the cusp of lots of changes: Mike graduating from BCC, Andrew graduating from high school, Sarah getting ready to graduate from middle school, Luke getting ready to enter pre school...

In a lot of ways, I'm in that same emotional place of letting go this year, too. In just a few weeks, Sarah will be graduating from high school and Ellie will graduate from middle school. Kate starts full day kindergarten(!) in the Fall, Andrew will be finishing up his college degree(he had a conflict so he needed an extra semester), and Jon will be entering his senior year of college and applying to grad school.


You think by now I would be used to this growing up and letting go stuff!

But I'm not...

I think going through it with daughters is like doing it for the first time all over again. Having your beautiful, almost 18 year old daughter heading to college is a lot scarier than when our 6'+ sons were heading off to start their college adventures. I didn't worry about their safety as much as I will worry about Sarah. And I'm not ready to have this young women enter even more into an independent life....she's my reliable helper and it's going to be an adjustment having her even more busy than she already is! We will all just miss not having her around....

And, Ellie....Somehow, I'm still so surprised that Ellie is grown up and ready for high school! She was the baby of our family for so long, that I guess I took it for granted that she would stay in that roll. That was clearly my mama "lala" world train of thought because Ellie is a 5'9" beauty with a big, braces free smile that is ready to jump into her high school adventure! The girl that was our baby for 6 years grew up right before my eyes!

Those bonus babies God blessed us with are no longer babies! Luke will turn 8 this summer and just keeps growing and growing! He will be as tall as his brothers before too long! (sigh)

The official "baby" of our family is a 5 year old learning machine who wants to know and understand everything. Kate reminds me very much of her biggest big sister! She is starting to read, wants to know how to spell words, and likes to create math facts for fun.  She wants to be "older" like Luke...and I just keep begging her to slow down and enjoy being 5!

Kids grow you and stretch you as a mom. Nothing ever really stays the same...even during the months, (or years), where it seems like you will NEVER sleep through the night ever again, when all you do is change diapers, wipe noses and do laundry, and the days are filled will the endless needs and cacophony of littles calling(screeching) your name.

And even though, at 24 years into this parenting adventure, I still don't always sleep through the night, still do lots of laundry, and my children still call my name....I don't mind so much. I know that the nights that Luke has a nightmare or Kate wants to snuggle and know I'm there are numbered. I sleep through the night as much as or more than I hear "Mommy" at 3am these days.

That laundry means that there are still people living in our home....and with our oldest already moved out and two others getting close to graduating and moving on to the next step in their lives, I know their daily presence in home is fleeting and I'm in no hurry for that time to pass quickly.

My children still call my name during the day, but it's less for squirmishes..(at least most of the time!).. and more for conversation. They talk about their days, their ideas for college, trips, and grad school, and their job opportunities. I do more listening and praying...they make more decisions. I'm grateful to hear their deeper voices and that I still get to be a part of their lives.

Ultimately, it's our goal for parenting...that they become independent, emotionally healthy, faithful adults.

Regardless of how proud I am as my kids grow and start to step out on their own, for us mamas, this letting go is not easy!
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Quiet Time And Grace

I recently read a reflection from Dynamic Catholic about learning to love and see the benefits from fitting in at least one daily Mass every week. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with and that I have tried to do for many years during all of the different seasons of my parenting life.

I love going to daily Mass, even with squirmy toddlers and squak-y babies, because of the peace that I feel while I'm there. While thinking about the reflection, one particular period of time popped into my head...

When our son, Peter, was diagnosed with Autism at 27 months, it was very challenging.(#hugeunderstatement) We were reeling emotionally from the diagnosis and afraid for what it would mean for Peter and for our family. I began obsessively reading everything I could get my hands on, trying to figure out how we could help him. He had therapy through Early Intervention, an early intervention program that he went to a couple of times a week, a special diet we put him on that made a big difference, new doctors, ABA therapy at home, and far away doctor appointments that specialized in different types of All the while, we were looking for the "smoking bullet" that could possibly "cure" our little boy. I was terrified I would miss something!

Just prior to, and during, this second hardest trial in our married life, (the first being the loss of our daughter Therese), I found solace in a Wednesday evening Mass that was my quiet time, (and my life line), at a Parish the next town over. The demands of a special needs, very difficult child, plus a 6 month old, 4 yo, 7 yo, 8 yo,and 10 yo were great! My heart was heavy, the sleep deprivation was rough, and my burn out was intense.

The 15 minute ride to and from the Mass, and the small, intimate Mass itself, was a silent oasis that my broken spirit was desperate for. I clung to God in that silence like a drowning person clings to their flotation device in the midst of a terrible storm. There were lots of tears shed and lots of pleas for help on those Wednesday nights. Lots of days when I felt I couldn't give one more ounce of myself because there was nothing left to give. Somehow, even on the nights that I drove home really, really slowly because I dreaded another sleepless night and children's needs that I felt no ability to fill, God gave me the grace to do what needed to be done.

I'm grateful for the graces that Wednesday night Mass gave to me in that season of life.  It was a place of peace in my emotional and physical unrest, a place to let my grief out, a place to let my fears out, a place to find God and try to wrap my head around the fact that no matter how out of control life felt, God was in control. It took almost a year, but I know that the graces I received in that quiet time helped me to come to a place where I realized and accepted that I couldn't live in a manic way, trying to "cure" Peter. I couldn't spend 95% of my energy on just one of my children while everyone else got the leftovers. I had to allow myself to accept Peter for who he was and grieve for the Peter that I thought he would be. Mostly, I had to believe that God loves Peter more than I ever could, and that He would provide what Peter needed. I only needed to do my part. God gave me the grace to stop trying to do my job AND His job...which was good because I was definitely doing it poorly!

I still made lots of mistakes along the way during those early years of Peter's diagnosis; mostly because I didn't reach out and ask for more help or try to find more help that we really needed. I'm sure there were people that God would have provided if I had only looked for them.

Sometimes, God doesn't want us to be Wonder Women, especially when we are feeling like we're emotionally held together with duct tape! It's a tough lesson to learn...

If you ever find yourself feeling like you're life is falling apart in some way or if you have nothing left to give, spend some quiet time with God and ask Him to give you the grace for the help you need, even if that means humbling yourself and reaching out to family, friends, or someone else God will place in your life. You're worth the 30 minutes of quiet time no matter how crazy your schedule is....and the benefits of peace, hope and guidance are priceless!

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Do you fit in an extra Mass or some adoration time each week? How has that time changed you?
If this isn't part of your routine, could you squeeze an early morning Mass in once a week? Could you stop in at church on your way home at least one time per week even if it's only a few minutes? The small amount of time you take for yourself to spend time with God and soak in His graces will be well worth it! Give it a try...and let me know how it goes!