/> Raising Angels

Thursday, October 09, 2014


This afternoon, as I was sitting in the hot tub with Felicity, I was watching a young father keep an eye on his toddler daughter. He was having a conversation with an older woman that he ended by saying, "I don't know how you guys did it without iPads, smart phones and DVDs."

His words hung in the air, too heavy to float away. I couldn't let them go.

I watched Felicity play with the bubbles and wave her hand through the water. It's been funny to me that the more babies I have, the fewer toys they have. I've found that with age comes a little wisdom, and I've realized that babies don't need much at all to be entertained.

I remember when I had Mackenzie, people would ask me what I do all day. They wanted to know how I entertained her. Funny, even as a teacher, I never felt the need to entertain my kids. As babies, they all just followed me around the house while I did what needed to be done. Of course, half of what I did was clean up from them undoing what I was trying to do.

Don't get me wrong, they played around my work. There were rides in the laundry basket and loads of fun crawling through the sorted piles of clothes. There were boxes to be emptied as I gathered recyclables. There were numerous pieces of Tupperware to be emptied from cabinets as I cooked. There were so many things to look at as they rode in the shopping cart. There were faces to smile at and people to chatter to. There were also songs to be sung, books to be read and paper to be colored on.

Felicity's current favorite kitchen game is to take down the towel that hangs on the dishwasher. She takes it down and carries it everywhere. I trip over it eventually and put it back. She immediately crawls over and takes it down again with the guiltiest grin you've ever seen. This happens multiple times a day. It NEVER gets old.

Right now, she's tugging at my shoelaces as I type. This is after I opened a bucket of Lego Duplos for her to rummage through. Apparently, I'm much more interesting than a bucket of blocks. I'm happy about this (not usually in the moment I need her to be occupied, but always in the long run).

It makes me sad when I go out in public and see kids of all ages (adults included) attached to an electronic device. We have been in restaurants and seen entire family units looking down at some screen in lieu of any eye contact. We have all (I am as guilty as the next person) become so concerned with social networking, we've forgotten the value of social interaction.

None of my kids (including my 9th grader, much to her chagrin) have a cell phone. They don't have iPads or iPods. They share a computer at home for homework. This has been a very deliberate decision on our part. We hate the idea of them being so plugged in that they tune everything else out.

We realize full well that there will be a time when it will be unavoidable. We struggle with our decision the older they get. It becomes an issue as Mackenzie babysits for people with no home phone. Her friends text her on my phone. We're trying hard to hold off until it's more of a need than a want.

Our kids operate old school style. If they walk to a friend's, they have to call when they get there. If they leave that house, they have to call first. They don't leave without knowing exactly when they need to be home.

Let me also say that we have a DVD player in the car that we use on long trips (after we pray the Rosary of course). All of the kids get sick when they read in the car and they don't watch a lot of TV at home so we felt like a road trip was a fine time to do that. Also, it makes for a very peaceful drive and lots of good conversation for Nelson and me.

However, if we go to one of the kid's sporting events, we go to support that child. We make the kids watch the game being played, not a game on a video screen. If we're driving around town, we talk to each other. When we're waiting at a restaurant, we play games, practice math and solve the world's problems together. We're teaching them social skills and encouraging them to entertain themselves with things that keep their minds active (we hope).

At the end of the day, our hope is that if they meet you, they will be able to look you in the eye, shake your hand firmly and say hello. If they're letting you in on a joke, they'll know how to wink using their eyes instead of an emoticon. They will learn new things from their conversations with you. They will also probably have Facebook and Instagram accounts (that is, if they're still around when they finally get a smart phone). But hopefully, those accounts will pale in comparison with their friendships and interactions with the real people around them.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Thoughts From the Beach

The beach in October is my favorite beach time of the year. There’s something about going when it’s not vacation season that makes it all the more enjoyable. The crowds are minimal and the weather is mild. It’s harder to get here because of the missed schoolwork that has to be done and all the carpools, lessons and activities that have to be rearranged, but once we’re here, it’s always worth it.

This year I am even more grateful for my parents’ unending generosity. This is their place and they let us crash every year. We bring the grand kids and a few meals to share and they take care of the rest (and spoil us all rotten).

My favorite thing about this week has always been the fact that it forces my kids to entertain each other since there are no cousins and very few young people around. When it comes down to it, they love each other and get along beautifully.

It’s been bittersweet the past few years because we’ve had to bring Mackenzie back early. Once they reach middle school, we’ve learned that missing a full week of something like a fast moving math class that covers a new concept every week can really hurt them. This year Aiden, MUCH to his chagrin, had to go back with her.

It was a sad afternoon for all of us when they left yesterday. It’s so funny how the addition of the baby has had me pining once again for them all to grow up. It’s been hard for me to understand friends of mine who are bemoaning having seniors or college kids who are moving off to school. Independent young adults sound pretty great when you’re still changing diapers and getting up in the middle of the night.

However, yesterday I got a glimpse of what they feel. I understood that Mackenzie’s time with us will get shorter and shorter. Aiden and Dawson won’t be far behind. And, one day soon, it will be just the two of us with poor little Felicity hanging out.

Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side until you get a closer look. The trick, I think, is to appreciate the grass you’re walking in every step of the way.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

This Kid Wins the Prize

Last week at our household dinner, which now includes an extra ten adults and one child, Dawson mentioned that he thought chicken and dumplings would be a great idea for this week. The gang agreed and I let Dawson know that it probably wouldn’t happen. It’s a very labor intensive meal and I’m never sure what kind of day Felicity will have. Planning a six hour meal is risky at best.

Today, when he walked in from school, Dawson asked, “What are you cooking Mama? It smells so good.”

“Chicken and dumplings,” was my reply as I continued tearing apart the cooked chicken.

“How long have you been working on this?” he wanted to know.

“All day,” I answered honestly because for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to shop for the meal the day I made it.

“Thank you Mama,” he said so sincerely it made my heart melt. He was walking away when he turned suddenly wanting to know, “Didn’t you say you wouldn’t make this again?”


“Then why are you making it?”

“Because you like it,” I said looking into his giant eyes.

He smiled and walked away again. But before he left the room he turned one last time. “You know Mama, it’s not always all about us.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bring on the Pink!

Today I got to celebrate the miracle of life.

My mom and I hosted a baby shower for a friend who has been waiting for a baby for a very long time. Many, many people have been praying for years for her and this shower gave them an opportunity to celebrate a very clear answer to those prayers.

Boy, oh boy...(or rather girl to come), did I have fun! When I was on bed rest at the end of my pregnancy, I discovered Pinterest. Sitting still, I pinned a lot of things. It made me feel like I was doing something. It was so nice to have an opportunity to use a few of my pins.

She was very impressed that I made the tissue paper flowers. I explained to her that I am a child of the 80s. Every dance I went to in high school used these things as decorations. Who knew they'd come back in style?

The invitation had a baby carriage on it so we used that for a lot of things. This fruit bowl was pretty easy and the hit of the party. A simple cut on the watermelon, a peeled cantaloupe, some grape eyes and a pacifier and presto - a super cute way to give the expectant mama the melon she's been craving.

I love the diaper cakes I've seen at showers but I wanted to do something a little different. When I found this baby carriage, I had to try it. A few rubber bands, pins and some ribbons made it pretty simple to assemble.
Isn't she radiant? She is such a beautiful young woman! She brought magnets with scripture verses on them to give to all of us. "They helped me get through a very trying time and I hope when you see them, they'll do the same for you," she explained through happy, grateful tears.

Pink punch, cupcakes and cookies added some festiveness to the table.

It was such a fun celebration!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sometimes God Says I Told You So

I'm not a big fan of the selfie. However, there are some moments that make it appropriate. Today's moment wasn't a spectacular one, nothing of note. It was simple, unplanned and ordinary.

I took the kids to the pool this afternoon. Most days this is an activity that accomplishes getting us all out of the house and out into the wide-open field, shaded playground and of course, the cool waters of the pool. I love it because it necessitates me being devoid of all responsibilities other than keeping an eye on the kiddos to make sure no one drowns. 

That's how I could look at it. However, what it really means is that I am interacting with all of them. I am not merely counting heads, but watching dives, judging cannon ball contests, timing races, doling out snacks, playing gutter ball (a pool invented game that I must say I am pretty good at considering I have to play with a baby in one arm), and just being. Conversations are real and attention is undeterred by electronics, chores or business.

When I snapped this shot, I had just finished feeding Felicity and she was sweaty and happy. The boys were playing together in the water and it was the simplicity of the moment I wanted to remember.

Her puckered, perfect lips; the hint of her dimples on both sides; that pudgy, curious finger pointing at the camera; the way the sun is peeking through the trees all reminded me that at this time last year, I was totally second guessing God's decision to add this beauty to our family. And yet, here we are, so together that the kids can't remember what life was like before she came. 

That smile from me is real. It's a smile that admits we've made it through some tough times together but things are looking up. It's a smile that says I'm so very glad you're mine. It's a smile that concurs that God's ways really are better than mine.

And that sun in the background? That's God saying I told you so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Hairy Situation

A local pizza place was running a super special today. We decided to take the boys out for lunch to enjoy the great food for really low prices.

We’ve been working on teaching them the proper dress for the proper occasion. This involves a lot of instruction as well as several trips back up the stairs to find clothes that match AND are appropriate.

When I’ve got my act together, I try to head them off at the pass with something like, “We’re going out to lunch. Remember no gym shorts.” This is Nelson’s major pet peeve. As far as he’s concerned gym shorts and t-shirts are for working out and playing in the backyard NOT for going anywhere in public that does not involve athletic participation.

They all came into the bathroom to get approval and comb their over grown summer buzz cuts. Amazingly, they all succeeded in dressing correctly. Since they saved the time of trekking back upstairs to change, they had a little extra time to spend on their hair.

Of course, this does not strike me as anything less than miraculous. These are the same boys who would rather go to school with hair going all over the place than sit still to fix it. However, we now have a boy entering middle school, and something has changed. He combs his own hair now…before he goes to the pool. See? Miraculous.

Today he had a very cool look going on. His hair was combed normally except for the front part, which was standing up. Though it’s difficult to describe, it really was a good look for him and I told him so.

That was all it took for the little guys to get into the action. Combs came out, gel was being used and Aiden was none too pleased that they wanted to do their hair like his. This meant they had to figure out another style that absolutely had to include the gel. This was not an easy task.

Dawson set to work as Max walked in with his hair gelled to the nines. Every single hair on his head was standing on end straight…all over his head.

“Um Max?”
“Yes Mama?”

“I see where you’re going with your hair, I’m just not too sure that Daddy is going to approve of going out in public like that.”

“Oh it’s okay,” he let me know. “I think it’s cool so it’s totally fine with me.”

And that’s how we left it. Sometimes you fight the battle, and sometimes you smile at the fact that boys will be boys and hair standing up on purpose is much more cool than bed head.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Look Who's Moving!

After the struggles we had with Max, I was concerned we might experience more of the same from Felicity. However, she has moved better and stronger than any of the other kids. In fact, she is the first of the five to move on her own in a normal manner without the aid of some kind of physical therapy. Even after seeing the other four do it, it never gets old!