Monday, July 30, 2012


We went out of town for the weekend to have a little family fun.

Our kids aren't short of fun, not by any means. They play almost everyday with friends, cousins, and family. They swim, go to the park, and get to go out for ice cream and attend barbecues. Indeed, it has been quite a fun summer.

However, it's been a busy summer, too. Mark has been gone a lot, and when he's home he's busy still with work, and when he's not doing that there's the yard to mow, and a large property to maintain. It's a common story, but we really needed a day or two with just us and the kids, to get away from all the things that need to be done, and just enjoy our family life this summer, if only for the weekend.

We drove "The Cities," which is commonly known for those not living in the metro of MN as Minneapolis/St. Paul and the surrounding suburbs. While everyone from "The Cities" drives "Up North," to Vacationland, where WE live, we "drove down to the cities," to enjoy some of the urban comforts we don't have here. On our agenda was a day at the zoo, which included carnival rides, and a stay at a hotel with a waterpark, and lots of yummy food.

 The bison smell, and they are huge!
 Michael loved his first zoo trip! He kept pointing and "telling" us all about what he saw. Here he is with a lion.

 Paulie on a carnival ride. 
 The spinning tea cups made the kids a little sick. Being pregnant, I had a surefire excuse to get out of spinning rides. 

The boys were wonderful. We asked a lot of them--a lot of walking on a hot day, patience and manners at restaurants, and the need to keep close to us at all times, which they aren't used to in our small town. We all shared a hotel room, the kids swam, and it was wonderful.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bringing Up, French Style: Part Un

I just finished "Bringing Up Bebe," by Pamela Druckerman. Even though it's not a parenting book of how-tos, it's one of the more interesting parenting book I've ever read. It explores a culture of consistent parenting, so rooted in French society that French parents don't even know they are doing anything special. It's not all perfect, but it's highly entertaining and very interesting.

The first point that grabbed me about the book, is a difference between American and French mothers. The author explains that American mothers often judge how good a job they are doing with how difficult they make their lives. It's the typical American Martyr Mother/Woman. We earn extra points if our pregnancies are rough, if our babies sleep terribly, if our husbands work long hours, or if we do all the housekeeping/cooking without any help.

I am so guilty of this. Here's the thing, we kinda relish in it. Like, the more we sacrifice ourselves, the better we think we are for it. And we compete, too! Have you ever been venting to a mom about a difficult baby stage, or that you need more help at home? Most likely, the answer from your mom-friend is something like, "Oh you think that was tough, little Johnny woke up through the night until he was four!" Or, "At least your husband comes home at six mine never is."

I'm not criticizing my friends at all, but seriously, it's what we do, isn't it?

The French moms are on a totally different wavelength. They are devoted and love their kids, but they have an idea about balancing family life, and about le couple being a priority. There is no such thing as a "child king" in a French family, because that's not the way the French family culture functions. Children are doted on and loved, but not at the expense of the mothers personhood (which includes being a wife and a woman, something very cherished by the French--the female mystique).

I still need to chew on a lot of what was written in the first part of this book, because the ideas vary so differently not in the way I mother, but in what I deem as devotion to the kids. Even though I might be better off going to the gym everyday, getting a date night once a week, and taking an entire day away from the kids that doesn't include grocery shopping, somehow, my mind has deemed it an unworthy pursuit, because it might not include constant, loving sacrifice.

Anyone else out there read this book? Or have a thought about the French? ;-) .

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Big Day.

On Monday night I couldn't sleep, I was a mess of anxious nerves. Tuesday morning was our ultrasound. I had no reason to be necessarily worried. After all, there are only an infinite number of problems that could happen when a person develops from one cell into the millions of cells that are present midway through pregnancy (note sarcasm).

I'm getting too old now. I know too much, and worry more than is healthy. People close to me have had difficult news at their ultrasounds. Twenty-something couples with happy hearts have lost their babies at birth, had their babies taken away at birth for major surgery, and have had spent the months after an ultrasound preparing their family for a special needs baby that will change life forever. This is so real to me now, it has hit too close to home too many times. No, ultrasounds aren't exciting for me anymore, they're terrifying.

Today, no news was good news, and I mean "no news" in the most anti-climatic way possible. At first glance, all seems well. We feel blessed and thankful for what we hope to be another beautiful, healthy baby. And, while I was hoping to do a big blogger announcement about our "baby boy," OR "baby girl," I swear, we still don't know! Baby is keeping him or herself covered for the moment, and we will left speculating for the time being exactly who we will be adding to the family this December.

I hope to rest better tonight, in gratitude for the beauty of life.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Oh, Boys...

Tonight Mark comes home after being gone most of this week. The boys and I have kept ourselves busy, and we're all sufficiently exhausted from our attempts at making the time alone go faster. And, we were all doing okay until some point last night when, quite suddenly, all my patience, which I had been carefully rationing, had run out.

It was during the course of the morning when my weakness got the better of me. I often read Testerhome, about a mother who had five boys in a row, and definitely related to her recent sentiments. She questioned her ability to adequately mother five in a row--and why did God do this, when she felt that she wasn't cut out for the specific challenge it was.

The boys are loud. They roar at each other, and growl, and pounce. Their favorite games are 1) Chase 2) Wrestle 3) Swords. Often, 1,2, and 3 are done all at the same time--with a fair amount of growling and roaring thrown in. 

I'm okay with this. They are sweet and mannered when they need to be, and when they are free to play, I deal with the boisterous behavior. Except for today. Today I'm not being a very good mother of boys. Without Dad here to circumvent the wrestling, to take on some of their activity level, my weaknesses get the better of me. I'm not sweet, patient or gentle. I yell, lose my temper, and say mean things out of frustration with their boyishness. 

We find out very soon the gender of our new baby. As always, I am completely at peace with whatever God blesses us with. It was only today, after being frustrated, that I thought for a moment "What if...What if it's another boy...???" Not that I would be disappointed--absolutely not, but that I doubted my ability to be a good mother to a FOURTH boy in a row. It's understandable--This tired, pregnant, emotionally fragile woman without a husband for five days that can't keep up with the energy level of three little boys is bound to wonder what God would be thinking to send us another boy.

But then I checked myself. These attacks are not of God. I am weak and vulnerable and alone--a perfect recipe for self-doubt. These boys have a Mother and a Father. God didn't bring these boys to raise on my own, he gave them a Dad, too. A dad who was once a little boy and wrestled with his brothers, was loud and crazy, and can now share that with his three (maybe four??) sons.

We might be functioning on a "basic needs" basis today  until reinforcements arrives. I might be making several more trips to the bathroom just to hear the faucet run instead of the shouts and hollers, but it's okay. Soon enough I'll be delighting in snakes, snails and puppy-dog tails again, and marveling at the affectionate sides of my sons, who will overjoyed to be once again with their Daddy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Mouths of Babes.

My three-year old is the easiest of the children to bring to Mass. He can keep him endlessly occupied wrapped up in his imagination. He's not necessarily paying attention to what is going on, but he isn't bouncing off the walls, and for this I'm thankful.

Over the summer though, he's been more difficult. He is starting to notice more, and gets very upset during Communion when he only gets a blessing instead of being able to receive. Last week he actually had to be carried out and disciplined because he was crying so hard in the Communion line.

He gets carried out by dad, arms and legs flailing while yelling, "I want one of God's cookies! I want God's cookies!"

It's pretty naughty, I know.  But isn't it sorta sweet, too?

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Beast Within.

It's not very often I meet a mom who has kids that are like mine. There is nothing wrong with my boys, and they do try within their capabilities to behave, but they have a certain quality that sets them apart from a lot of other children.

Maybe it's because they're boys, or because they're mine, but seriously folks, they go in and out of stages where they are totally, and uncontrollably BUSY.

Remember this little guy? My sweet, most wonderful baby in the whole wide world? The boy stole my heart after I thought it had been wrapped up with the likes of the first two boys. This baby would put himself to sleep by bouncing in the bouncer, or sucking his thumb while laying down. MichaelANGELO, my angel baby.
Well friends, times have changed. He's still super cute, and we all just love him to pieces, but don't let that grin fool you. He's a terror of a toddler.

I've got him figured out pretty well. First off, he's a lot like my first son. He won't play with toys, and chooses instead to make it his mission in life to find any piece of electronic equipment he can get his hands on and press buttons until Kingdom Come. The remotes, phone, cell phone, computer keyboard, baby monitor, have no chance against his fingers, and by the time I can pry them out of his hands, are usually covered in dry applesauce or drool.
If I can get anything out of his hands, I'm lucky. What really gets us in trouble is when he flushes what he finds down the toilet. Honestly, we haven't had a free-flushing toilet in this house since the boy started to walk three months ago.

Yes, he keeps us on our toes. He is always a step behind us as we go along our daily life. If I'm emptying the dishwasher, he's throwing knives in the plastic bowl drawer. When I'm sorting laundry, he's throwing clothes out of the basket. When I sweep, he is scattering my dirt pile with the dustpan. The mimicry and messes are all part of how is he learning, but oh my, it is exhausting.

After several summer parties that were spent with either Mark or I chasing him before he ran off a dock into the water, or falling into a fire pit, I've quietly resigned that at this point, we're getting a babysitter for the baby, or I'd rather not go. The last time I made that resolution was with our first child, who was just as fearless of a toddler, and very difficult to keep track of. My toddler boys in a crowd are honestly a danger to themselves!

There are seasons for everything, and Michael won't be 15 months old forever. At this time he is a challenge, and by the next season, there will be a new obstacle to face, although I am hoping it doesn't include having to fish through the trash for bills that were thrown out by the toddler. We'll take them the way they are, and pray they stay safe and we stay sane as we care for these little ones who make us laugh with their delight, but worried sick with their every move.