The pain.

I often wonder if this dull ache that lies quiet in my heart will ever really go away. Watching my kids grow up is absolutely beautiful and fun and wonderful, but it is also deeply painful in a way I struggle to describe. I used to live for the phrase, "I can do it myself," but I find myself dreading it these days. My oldest three girls are basically self-sufficient. They could, in theory, take care of a household. The fact that I pay a babysitter when we go out is maddening because my girls are the ones who put the babies to bed and help them with their needs. They are just little moms. They even know how to cook (basic things), do the laundry, and clean necessary rooms. I am hardly important anymore (wink, wink).

But tonight as I went in to Timmy's darkened bedroom to stop him from kicking his legs repeatedly into his crib, I felt my heart sink a little as I held him tight to my body and we rested on his rocking chair, cheek to cheek. Soon he will be more independent and won't need me as much as he currently does, and the thought of that surprisingly makes me sad. I could not have anticipated this happening to me so many years ago. I longed for my independence too, but now I long to be needed. I want to serve and listen and be present with my kids as long as they will have me.

Will this ache ever feel less painful? Will it?

Love grows

I think one of my favorite things about being a mother is knowing that when my kids think of me each day--they smile or laugh or roll their eyes--because I'm their mom.

Tonight I played a pickup game of soccer with Mya across the street in our neighbor's yard, and as I moved my arms like an octopus in the goal or outran her to the ball on more than one occasion, I watched her smile and laugh at me, and I thought, I am creating a memory. But not just for her, for me too.

I just sent Elle upstairs after coaxing her out of a fit of rage. Granted, she's up past her bedtime, but the tantrum was just silly and unnecessary. Tim didn't have the patience for her, and for some reason I did, so I just talked to her quietly as she paced in circles, crying and smacking her hands against her legs. Knowing it would only aggravate the problem, I did not raise my voice. I just watched her and talked her through her thoughts until what seemed like a small miracle, she just stopped crying, and she curled up into a ball next to me, waiting for me to run my fingers through her hair. I did, and then I wiped the remaining tear from her cheek and whispered, "I love you more than all the chocolate chips in the world." The smile that spread across her face told me she was ready for bed, and I'm certain she'll fall asleep dreaming of chocolate chips and her mama.

This week has been a little touch and go with Felicity. She's struggled to communicate the pain she feels around her ears after her surgery, and I have found myself carting her little body around the house or in the store more than I would normally do, but I haven't minded. She has a way of looking at me that tells me I am everything to her. And although it's added a little more weight to my step or a little extra work to my load, I know that everything I do to ease her discomfort means the world to her. Of course, she does not say it, but she does not need to.

Just like Felicity has a look when she looks at me, so does Genevieve. Genevieve is a particular soul. She holds so much in that I struggle to know where she is, but then she has moments where she'll let me into that special place inside, and she'll tell me of her struggles at school with friends or about the things she does to help other kids feel happy at school. I wish so badly that I knew more about what she thinks and feels; I often worry that she lives too much in the shadow of her overly dramatic sisters, but I think she knows how much I love and appreciate her--and how much I need her in my life as a daughter and as a friend. She sees me in a way that perhaps no one else does--she always sees the best in me.

And then there's my bubba. I would say 90% of the time he only has eyes for me. Whenever he can't find me in the house, I will often hear the familiar voice yell "mama...mama...maaaaamaaaa" until he finds me. I love how he runs full speed into my arms. And I love the grin he gives me when we are reading books in his room before bed. He is all mine, and I am all his, and we know it. It is our brief, uninterrupted time, and we both soak each other up as much as possible before I lay him in his crib and place his blankets all around him.

Everyday, even the hard and hellish ones, I feel loved. I feel there are people who see me, believe in me, and hope good things for me. Most of those people aren't even in their double digits of age yet, which is incredible if you think about it.

I often wonder how I've been able to foster this great love I feel for and feel from my children, and I think I owe a lot of the credit to my parents who taught me to love without reservation, even when huge reservations perhaps deserved to be made. They didn't always make the correct steps in life; in fact, a recent experience showed them and me how much impact a painful misstep could have, but they have always moved forward, with a resolve to be better and love more deeply than before, and I think they've succeeded at that, and I hope to as well with my own children.

I've made huge mistakes--one in particular haunts me in my dreams from time to time, but I continue to follow the example of my parents and create a home where creativity and independence thrives, and love grows. It will make all the difference in the end.

I couldn't walk out, but I can speak up.

If I didn't have a child just arriving home from surgery this morning, I would've brought a poster to my girls' school and participated in a walkout to show respect for the dozens of children/teens that have lost their lives due to gun violence at school. I am not about to engage in a political debate on this blog, but let me tell you something, as a mother of 5 young kids attending public school, there isn't a day I drop them off that I don't worry I might not see them again. 

Gun violence in schools is one of the scariest scenes imaginable. How can small children and teenagers be expected to know how to react if something so serious actually does occur? I know my children--Mya would freeze out of fear, and Genevieve would try to be the hero by shielding other kids. Both could potentially be targeted. It is awful. 

I think about the parents in these most recent (over the past 5 years) shootings, and I think about the way they probably waved goodbye to their kids as they hopped out of the car or jumped on the bus, only to never see them alive again. Honestly, it makes my knees weak. I have tried to make our mornings sort of a peaceful chaos so that if something horrible ever happens to my kids when they're not with me, at least I can feel some solace knowing I loved them to the very last minute. 

Please help stop gun violence in schools. Please remember these kids need us to be their advocates. Their voices are too small to be heard, but ours are not. 

I'd choose the fennec fox as my mascot.

My daughter is currently explaining to me why she'd choose the fennec fox as a school mascot for the merging high school in our town. She said, "The first reason I'd choose it is because they're fast at running, which is probably good for all the sports the teenagers do there. And second, I'd choose them because they're good at hiding, which is good if there's a lockdown with an active shooter--that way we wouldn't get hurt because we'd know how to hide like a fox."

I don't think I ever thought of a mascot in reference to such a serious subject before tonight. I mean I remember going through fire drills and bomb drills as a child in California, but Mya just informed me that they do "active shooter" drills more than any other drill. I asked her how that made her feel (it did not make me feel warm and fuzzy that's for sure), and she shrugged, "I don't know mom. I try not to think about it because it just makes me want to cry."

I hate that people do stupid and hurtful things because of hate. I honestly consider home school from time to time because I want to keep my children safe, but I know I can't be with them every minute of every day.

This conversation that started out so cute, but it really just broke my heart in the end.

I'm weak, but only for a short time.

It would seem I've had a bit of bad luck the past few weeks. I generally deal with waves of bad luck with as much courage as I can muster, and I put my best face on when I handle things in front of my kids. However, stress can make one snap. Snap, snap, snap. Here a little, there a little. And then all these exposed cracks make one rather weak.

I am weak. I've succumbed to sadness in a way I haven't in years. If I didn't have duties and responsibilities, I'd happily wallow in my bed while eating the rest of the mini peanut butter cups I picked up on my way out of Boston. But I can't, so I won't. I just walk around with all these gapping cracks and gashes, and I feel rather vulnerable and low. I'm desperately trying to shake it, but life is heavy right now.

In the midst of the heaviness and fog, I do, however, feel glimmers of light. Even after the van was vandalized and robbed in the heart of Chicago, I looked to Tim and whispered, "We've been so blessed. Our life has been so good, even with it's challenges." And that has certainly been an unexpected challenge.

It's strange to feel so much gratitude at the same time as I feel so much sorrow, but I believe that gratitude is the only thing buoying me this week. I am grateful for my husband who, even at his weakest point of high fevers and aches and chills, held my hand and ran his fingers through my hair as I talked. I am grateful for my children. I have often been asked if I ever feel like I am missing out on life because my life is so wrapped up in my tiny human beings, but the answer is no. I may fib and say yes from time to time--perhaps on the most difficult of days, filled with crying and whining, but the truth is, no, I'd give anything to be with my kids. They are affectionate and funny; they are thoughtful and smart. They are pieces of me, pieces of Tim and pieces of themselves, and it makes for an excellent mix of people. I am grateful for my parents. They offer me space when I ask and love when I come calling. I am grateful for my siblings who constantly remember me, even in our differences; I know I am on their minds, and they are on mine. I am grateful for my friends. I have written this so often, but I have the best friends in the world. They know me, and they still like me. I am grateful for my in-laws. After the weekend we had, I really didn't know who to call, but when I called them and asked for help, they willingly rearranged dinner plans and drove down to lend us a car until our window could be fixed. Cathy also brought a handful of groceries because we had to cancel our cards because some of the information was saved on my stolen computer (not doing that again). And I am so grateful for faith. I have felt at my lowest over the last few days, and in these humbling moments, I feel hope for the future and hope that things can and will change.

And so, I will not give up or give in. Life will always ebb and flow, and it helps us recognize our dependency on others--and more than others--on God.

brain dead

I feel a little brain dead lately--like there's this void of any real thoughts in my head. I'm not sure if I should contribute it to the amount of times my kids watch Zig and Sharky (I mean...what really is that show?!), the mind-numbing chores that keep me busier than I'd like to be, a lack of sleep, or just the grey, winter sky. 

Today was a rather long day, and coupled with a brain-dead brain, it felt like I should just curl up and go back to bed at 9am. Sadly, I couldn't. I pushed through the fog and managed to finish my Thursday chores, bathe the babies, read to them and play a few toys with them too. On paper, it wouldn't appear all that bad. But then there are the unwritten tantrums that just put my nerves slightly over the edge, propelling me to the kitchen for an early lunch just so I could chase the lunch down with chocolate, and lots of it. 

Do you know these days? Perhaps you can replace a few key characters (aka...babies) with a certain friend, spouse, coworker, etc. 

Are you feeling the winter fog too? It's thick over here. Tonight we're supposed to get 8-12 inches of snow (in addition to the 6-8 inches we already got this week), which means Genevieve's field trip to see a play in South Bend will likely be curtailed by a snow day, and I will have to comfort her broken heart with an empty promise that the school might reschedule the show (highly unlikely). Oh to be a kid and to have your heart set on a field trip that may never happen! In addition to her sad face, I will also be thrown into the midst of chaos as my girls decided to make every craft in sight, since they can't go outside all day. 

Blah. Double blah. 

I'm sounding like such a pessimist. I guess it's sorta true at the moment. I've worked so hard at seeing the bright side, but let's get real for a moment, a pessimist can never truly change its true form. It can adapt most days, but sometimes its true nature just spills out all over the place, like a waterfall, and man, does it ever feel so good. ;)

And lastly, although there never was a first, I'm about to start my period, which according to Tim, lasts for about 3 weeks. Hahaha. The man doesn't have an agenda or anything. ;) But for periods are wreaking havoc on my body. It's like we all want to help the poor mom who's just starting labor with pains at a level 2, 3, or 4, and we're all so happy to bring her what she needs to feel more comfortable, but do we do that for the 30-something-year-old moms who aren't in actual labor but their bodies don't actually know that. Their period is just in full force, and we're like, "Sorry about your luck, but make sure you fold and put away the laundry. Oh yeah, and don't forget to sweep the floor." Ugh! Kill me. But for real. I'd give anything for a nurse to give me a pass at life, even if it was a 2-hour one. 

Oh boy...there's that pessimism. I hope you know that as I write this I have a coy smile painted on my face because I just love how pessimism brings out my sarcasm. Their in cahoots today, and it may be the best thing of my day. 

Anyway, sorry that you've probably been waiting for me to write something of value and you got a whole lot of babbling. But it was nice to be back. Perhaps it will prompt my brain to think deeper. Maybe. Hopefully. 

Finding the perfect tree

We always choose a fresh tree, and this year we had a wonderful time searching for her this past year. (I should note that Mya was a total nightmare because she couldn't bend on the type of tree she wanted.) But the rest of us had fun running among the trees and joking about the ugly ones. But we finally compromised and loved that tree dearly for 6 weeks. Timmy especially loved it, tearing ornaments off by the handfuls every single day.