• Things That Go Bump in the Night

    Date: 2017.04.19 | Category: Family, Health, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah | Response: 1

    I swear, any time the phrase, “Wow, we’ve all been sleeping through the night for a while here lately,” stumbles through my brain, a tiny little ESP signal flashes into the brains of my children, triggering a great nighttime revolt.

    The morning of Easter Sunday was glorious. My first child didn’t wake up until 7am, and then, being the studious oldest that she is, she merely crawled into bed with us to snuggle until the others woke up close to 8am. I was feeling so thrilled, so happy and rather pleased with everything.

    But oh dear sense of self-contentment, what a fleeting stranger you are.

    We played hard on Easter. We went to Mark’s family’s farm and the kids ran around outside in the sunshine all day long. “Oh,” I thought, “They are going to sleep SO GOOD tonight,” as I fantasized about laying in bed until possibly even 7:30am!

    But… I didn’t even think about all the Easter chocolate, cookies, cupcakes and red dye 40 they were shoving in their faces all day. They did go to sleep rather easily, but at 4am, the sugar monsters came to life in the form of… nightmares. Sarah had a terrible one. One that was so terrifying that she wouldn’t even tell me what it was about, instead yanking her terrified, shaking little body into my bed. She pressed up against me, heart pounding. I soothed her and let her stay there (which is rare in our house – we are firmly of the “no kids in our bed” kind of people). Well that lasted about 20 minutes. She kept kicking me every time I’d start to doze. I moved her back to her bed, yet some version of “my throats hurts,” “there’s a ghost outside my window,” “it’s just impossible to go to sleep” re-awoke me every time I started to doze off again. Finally at 6am I caved and let her watch TV so I could sleep for 30 minutes. My husband somehow managed to sleep through all of this, I might add.

    Monday, I thought, would be much better, despite chugging along on only a few hours of sleep. We played hard Monday – visiting friends, playing in water outside, and I put them all to bed early. “I did everything right!” I thought, “Good night, stinkers!”

    Cue this 4am gem: “Maaaaammmmmmaaaaa! My bed is soaking wet!” Norah, this time. She pointed to her soaking wet panties on the floor. I felt her bed – it was drenched. Let me pause to say that since Norah decided she was ready to potty train, she has never once wet the bed. However, she has started lying to us out of spite? Contrariness? I don’t know. But she insisted to me that she had gone to the potty before going to bed that night, and that, it turns out was a GIANT LIE. So, off went the sheets, the mattress cover, her blanket. I re-made the bed. I finally got her all settled and went back to bed, only to have my mind start making a huge deal out of not-huge-deal-things because it was 4am. Also my husband was snoring. I finally dozed off, only to be re-awoken.

    Norah: “MOM! There’s a FLY in my room!”

    Me: “What is going on?! A fly?! Are you kidding me?! BACK TO BED!”

    She angrily stomped back to bed. Of course when my alarm went off that morning, I was the only one who could pull my exhausted self out of bed. I went to wake the girls and discovered the following: a sippy cup, a half eaten pile of graham crackers and chocolate wrappers. It seems that in order to pass the time from 4 to 5am, Miss Norah prepared herself some delicious snacks in the wee hours of the morning while I slept. But of course when it was time for school, she could not be persuaded to budge from under her cover cave of wonders, which resulted in anguished crying on both our parts.

    #overit

    As we finally got them all into bed last night, I looked at Mark and said, “If ANY of them wake up in the middle of the night, I’m kicking you until you get up and take care of it.”

    So, of course, that night everyone slept like soundless baby angels.

    Someone pour me up another cup of coffee, please. Or, better yet, I’ll take a glass of wine (or three).

  • Two Two-Year-Olds

    Date: 2017.04.13 | Category: Birthday, Family, Home, Love, Luke, Mark, Me, Twins, Vera | Response: 10

    Sometimes, even now that you are both two-years-old, Mark and I look at each other and say with a touch of disbelief, “We have TWO babies.” Though I guess you’re not truly babies anymore.

    As I was making your birthday video (below), I realized that at this time a year ago, neither one of you were walking. And now? Not only are the two of you tearing through our house at top speed, but you dance, hop like bunnies and climb anything and everything.

    Having twins is so fascinating. You are each your own separate and truly beautiful and unique person, but there is a part of each of you that belongs to the other. If one of you wakes up before the other, the first thing you do is inquire where the other is. And if I don’t immediately go to your room when you first wake up, when I do finally wander in, I discover the two of you hopping like little rabbits, laughing at all the pillows and blankets you’ve thrown across the room at one another.

    At two, Vera, you have an amazing command of language. I’m constantly shocked by your ability to speak in full and (usually) understandable sentences, and your responses to things make me laugh. I asked you what you wanted for Easter, and without missing a beat you declared, “a chocolate bunny!”

    Meanwhile Luke is completely fascinated by anything and everything with wheels. The first word you really grasped after “mama” and “dada” was a loud and resounding version of “CAR!” You have since come to fully appreciate trucks, vans, planes and trains, zooming all of them over the floor, the couch and your sisters.

    I love to watch the two of you interact. If someone falls or gets hurt, the other runs over and says, “You ok?” while offering a kiss or pat on the back. In the tub, both of you delight in dumping water on the other’s head. Vera, you love to play with your sisters, dress up and color alongside Sarah, while Luke would much rather snuggle up on the couch with daddy and watch the most dull videos imaginable on everything from remote control 18-wheelers to squirrel hunting.

    I laugh all the time when I look up and see the three girls delighting in some game, while Luke is halfway across the room in his own world playing with cars. Though, Luke and Norah do so love to beat up on each other.

    Both of you love to dance, sing and play outside. Vera is ever my little social butterfly, going to anyone and everyone and rambling on about everything from “bo bo’s” to “bumble bee bites” and “lady bugs.” Luke, on the other hand, would much rather stick to mommy and daddy like glue and hide his head.

    Luke is such a Daddy’s boy, constantly hanging on his legs and going to him for comfort. I laugh a little and tell Daddy that he finally gets to see what it’s like to be the one who has to stop everything to take care of one tiny tyrant. Vera usually prefers Mommy and especially loves poking me in the eyes, ears, etc, while confidently identifying all said body parts.

    This past year has been one of so much growth, one of watching the two of you become your own person. It makes me both sad and proud to see you putting on your own shoes, pushing my hands out the way because “I do it.”

    People still tell me all the time that they don’t know how we do it. But you guys are the best and such wonderful little two-year-olds. Having a built in buddy, even with the occasional fight over a toy, makes all the difference. Yes, we have TWO babies, two toddlers. And while I still marvel at it, I am so glad I get to experience having both of you as my children and watching how you both find yourselves and help one another.

    Happy Second Birthday my little loves!

    Here’s a video of their past year!

    Vera and Luke's 2nd Birthday from Jessica Rinaudo on Vimeo.

  • Today, You’re Six

    Date: 2017.04.11 | Category: Birthday, Family, Home, Me, OMG YAY!, Sarah | Response: 8

    Sarah, today you are six. I know all parents say this, but it’s so hard to believe that my wide-eyed, dimpled baby is now a tall, lean, athletic, artistic six-year-old little girl.

    I remember, as a first child myself, my dad always calling me the “experimental child,” and I really didn’t grasp his full meaning until we had you. We are always trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, if we’re doing the right thing, are you where you’re supposed to be, etc., but you make things extremely easy on us.

    Your spirit is such a delight. We always joke that you live in unicorn land, surrounded by fluffy clouds, rainbows and unicorn friends with names like “Starlight Glimmer” and “Sunshine Magic.” You have such a great attitude and a hunger to learn everything.

    I affectionately call you “my little weirdo,” because you love to “speak in unicorn” and, as you yourself put it, “I neigh a lot.” So much so that your entire kindergarten class (teachers included) call you “Neigh Neigh.”

    We have seen our fair share of challenges over the course of 5 to 6, trying to help you figure out how to overcome some personal battles. We want so much good for your life that it’s so hard as your parents to watch you struggle with some physical obstacles and anxiety. But, our prayers were answered in an unexpected way when an evaluation suggestion and a spot on the school soccer team lined up to give you a physical outlet for your stresses and a chance to work on coordination.

    And it turns out, you’re really stinkin’ good at soccer. I know all parents think that, but girl, you score at least one goal every game and by the end of this current season, your footwork, agility and determination were mind blowing. Your social anxieties have nearly evaporated, as have most of your other issues.

    You overcame intense fear of bike riding this year, attacked learning to read with a ferociousness that makes your book-nerd mom extremely proud, matured in your faith (aka you no longer see Mass as Mom and Dad looking for a way to bore you to death), go to children’s church without fear, show extreme kindness to your baby siblings, and even look to take care of your parents when we don’t feel well.

    Yes, you did some crazy things this year, like giving yourself one of the worst hair cuts I’ve ever seen in my life, drew intricate (and surprisingly beautiful) murals on all of your furniture, and wasted so much soap and lotion making concoctions in the bathroom, but you did it all in a spirit of curiosity and discovery, which I find hard to punish.

    You definitely honed your knack for fashion design, though you still enjoy playing alone, often telling your siblings that you “just need to be alone right now” (poor little introvert).

    .

    I am so grateful for you, my big six-year-old. Your childish wisdom, your creativity, your drive, YOU inspire me so much. I’m so glad that God knew what He was doing when he placed you in our lives. You, my darling unicorn, are an absolute treasure.

    Happy 6th Birthday, Sarah. We love you.

    P.S. I made this little video to celebrate her birthday. :)

    Sarah's 6th Birthday from Jessica Rinaudo on Vimeo.

  • The Aftermath

    Date: 2017.04.09 | Category: Birthday, Family, Food, Home, Leela Fish, Life, Me, Norah | Response: 26

    April is the birthday season in our home. Out of the six of us, four have April birthdays (as does one of my nephews). And with Easter falling right in the middle of the month, creating the birthday party schedule proved to be a bit crazy.

    Once I got it all figured out, I looked at Mark and said, “You’re going to kill me.”
    “Whyyyyy?” he asked.
    “Because I’m having back-to-back weekend birthday parties … at our house.”

    Now, anyone who has children knows how much work it is to clean house on a good day, so getting the house “party ready” requires a lot of work on our part. Still though, we powered through it and the parties were both a great success.

    But as with any sort of fun, it seems like we always have to pay the piper the next day. As one of my favorite lines from Hamilton says, “Can I be real a second, for just a millisecond?”

    The morning after the twins’ party, I heard the big girls wake up and start moving around. They usually go in the living room and play, or ask one of us to put on the TV for them. I probably should have known by the quiet and extra 30 minutes of sleep they gave me that all was not well. When I finally got out of bed, I wandered into the girls’ room and both turned around to look at me, exposing their very blue lips and teeth. Sarah and Norah: 2, Cupcakes: 0.

    The resulting mess was all over our kitchen. Turns out blue food dye does not easily come out of, well, anything. After the kitchen mess was scrubbed, I went to use the restroom when I noticed a very strong smell of smoked brisket wafting from the girls’ room. I stopped, walked inside and looked around, thinking Norah had surely made a well-rounded breakfast, adding leftover brisket from the party to her cupcake. But, alas, my inspection yielded something much worse. There, on the lone patch of carpet not covered in toys and clothes, sat a giant pile of brisket grease infused dog vomit.

    “Ugh! WHY?!” I yelled as I got some scooping cardboard and the Bissell green machine out and got to work. It took a long while to get most of it up. (And over a week later it still smells like smoked brisket when I walk in that room, despite liberal treatments of everything from chemicals to vinegar and baking soda. It has to be the grease.). I had no idea how the dog got into it. I had put up all the extra food and taken out the trash the night before. Finally, Mark sheepishly walked into the house from the backyard, holding a now-clean brisket drip pan that Leela saw fit to clean out entirely.

    I went in the room again a bit later and it still smelled terrible. Sarah, amidst her poking around said, “Mama, COME HERE.” She was standing in her closet, pointing to another pile of the brisket vomit.. and it was touching several pieces of clothing that had fallen off hangars. Cue more cursing.

    Not to be outdone, later that day I was picking up their room. When I lifted up a blanket I discovered what can only be described as a “cookie monster crime scene.” There was blue frosting EVERYWHERE, and even a couple of candy eyeballs scattered about. Honestly, I was so tired from scrubbing up dog vomit that I didn’t even make an attempt to get it up. I need to. Still. Really, I should. I mean blue spotted carpet probably isn’t an acceptable home decorating accessory, right?

    And Norah’s mouth and face were stained completely blue. All attempts at scrubbing just left her looking bruised, like she had taken several hits to the face. So that’s how she appeared when I drove through the tornado storm to get to my sister’s fancy bridal tea later that day.
    ****
    Yesterday was Sarah’s birthday party. Again we woke up to another quiet morning, that is until Sarah came running into our room, yelling that Norah was painting her brand new My Little Pony orange… I came tearing out of bed to find that yes, she was indeed painting said pony orange, while sitting in the middle of a giant pile of sprinkles she had decided to decorate our floor with.

    Oh, and she had also found the only set of non-washable markers in our house and decided to give herself warpaint with it. So this time for Palm Sunday Mass, instead of looking bruised and battered, she merely looked like she had some kind of terrible rash going on.

    At least for the second birthday party I had wised up. We had cupcakes with white frosting only, and I made sure they were all gone by the party’s end. Sprinkles, as it turns out, are much easier to clean up the day after. Scented semi-permanent markers though? Not so much.

  • My Sick Bonnie Girl

    Date: 2017.02.23 | Category: Bonnie Barrell, Dogs, Family, Health, Home, Life, Me, Pets | Response: 8

    My dog , Bonnie, is very sick.
    That’s your trigger warning for this blog post.

    Surrounded by at least two border collies since I arrived in the world over 30 years ago, it’s safe to say that I was born a “dog person.” I’ve always had their cold noses in my face and their warm bodies pressed against me when I needed a good cry. They are an essential part of my life, and a part I was grateful to bring into the lives of my own children.

    We have had Leela for nine years and Bonnie for eight – both longer than our own children have been in our lives. When we adopted one-year-old Bonnie, we had a neurotic, anxious, obsessive mess on our hands who growled at any strange man who came near her, including my poor father-in-law. When she was scared, which was always, she rolled onto her back and peed everywhere. (Her barrel rolling behavior, along with her portly form, earned her the nickname “Bonnie Barrel.”)

    But I was determined to rehabilitate my new dog and we researched the best ways to help her. Eventually after a couple of years, she grew into the much more confident, happy and laid back dog she is today.

    Our kids love Bonnie and she loves them. She patiently and tolerantly lets them hug her and dress her up and rub her big ole belly everyday.

    About a week ago, Mark was putting flea medication on Bonnie and noticed a big bump on her throat. I immediately called the vet and they asked us to bring her in the next morning. The mass was about the size of a baseball. They took a needle biopsy on it and sent it off to pathology. She didn’t seem to be in pain and was still eating and breathing fine, so they sent us home to wait for the results to come back.

    On Tuesday I called and though they had the lab results back, they needed to talk to a specialist vet to interpret them, so again we waited. In the mean time we saw that her mass was noticeably getting larger. Yesterday as I picked up the phone to call our vet,  my phone began to ring and it was my vet calling me. After some discussion, he told me that anything growing that quickly was fluid, not tissue. He didn’t feel comfortable working on her and directed us to another vet in town.

    Although he is normally off on Thursdays, this vet happened to be in this week and they agreed to see us early in the morning.

    When I got home yesterday, I noticed a bloody spot on Bonnie’s neck. I thought she had bumped it, so I laid her up in our room. By 11:00 last night there was a larger nasty spot on the other side. By this morning she had blood and fluid all over her beautiful white fur and could barely walk. I just knew my dog was suffering and dying.

    Mark took her to vet appointment while I got the twins ready and off to school, all the while I was mentally preparing myself to have to say goodbye. The kids all knew something was up. My big girls wanted to love on Bonnie this morning, but Sarah was shaken by all the blood she saw. The twins kept asking about “Bon Bon,” and when I finally told Vera that Bon Bon was sick and at the doctor’s office, my not-even-two-year-old nodded sagely and said, “ok.”

    I’m sure my complete and total distraction this morning led to Vera falling and scrape her knee on the way into school. And as I held my screaming and crying little girl, all I wanted to do was lean into her and sob too.

    I finally made it to the vet and there was another customer at the front desk who was carrying on and on about her dog’s microchip with no sign of slowing down. She then tried to engage me in conversation before I interrupted at her and told her that my dog was very sick and waiting to see me. Fortunately the receptionist jumped on it and found out where she was and took me back, despite this lady STILL trying to have a conversation about the dang microchip while I was visibly crying.

    When I got back to the room they had shaved all the fur off of her neck and she looked absolutely terrible. Her mass had swollen to the size of a cantaloupe, but she was still so happy to see me. She ran to me, tail wagging and nuzzled up to me. The vet came in and told me that whatever this thing started as, it was now super infected and needs to be treated with IV antibiotics, along with some kind of laser and hydrotherapy before we could begin to talk about recovery. BUT he said the word I hadn’t expected to hear: “recovery.”

    He was so kind and gracious and showed us the pet ICU where she would be staying overnight, hooked up to fluids and medicine. The staff was so kind and reassuring, and he had a game plan for her.

    “Dogs are the best patients,” he said,  “because they don’t feel sorry for themselves. You’d never know she was feeling bad if you couldn’t see what was going on or take her temperature” (which was 105).

    So we left her there this morning for an overnight stay. They graciously told us to call as much as we liked to check on her and that we could even come visit if we wanted to. The vet explained that this sickness is an avalanche that needs to be stopped before we can begin to go uphill for her recovery. And so now we wait and we hope. I know she is in the very best place she could be right now.

    Saint Francis is the patron saint of animals. If you have a moment, say his prayer for us.

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
    where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury, pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    where there is sadness, joy.

    O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
    to be consoled as to console,
    to be understood as to understand,
    to be loved as to love.
    For it is in giving that we receive,
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
    and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
    Amen.

  • Celebrating 9 Years

    Date: 2016.10.20 | Category: Family, Home, Life, Love, Mark, Me | Response: 0

    The night Mark asked me to be his wife.

    When Mark and I got engaged 10 years ago, it was at a very transitional point in our lives. He had recently quit his job and started his own business, complete with its financial burdens and uncertainty. I was working part time and trying to plan a wedding on a super tight budget. I remember saying to Mark, if we can survive starting a business and planning a wedding in the same year, then we can survive anything.

    I think God must have laughed to Himself then, and said, “Ah, but this is just the groundwork.”

    That year of planning and start-up was difficult, as were the two to three years following it. Committing your life to someone and living with them, sharing your time, your space, your life, can be challenging. We learned to communicate and learned some very hard lessons about money and budgeting. We grew up and we grew together.

    So, of course, when we finally started coming out of financial hardship, we decided it was time to move out of the townhouse, invest in a real home and grow our family. That, in itself, came with its own set of fears and anxieties. Not only the financial concerns and the usual fears that come along with being responsible for a tiny person, but because I had a long history of women’s health issues that, I was told, would make conceiving a child “a challenge.”

    Before we were married, I remember after a difficult appointment at the OB’s where I was told I would likely “need assistance conceiving,” that I sat on the ground next to my bookshelf and bawled my eyes out. I had always wanted many children, and I worried my future husband wouldn’t be happy if children weren’t an option. Mark sat beside me, wrapped his arms around me, looked at me in the eyes and said, “I want YOU. If we can have children, great. If we can’t, I’m ok with that. It’s not going to change me wanting to marry you.”

    And through it all, even when things have been tough between the two of us, or difficult in our lives, we have always kept that same mentality, that same love in our marriage.

    Of course we did go on to miraculously conceive our first child, fought through my post partum depression and his depression simultaneously (oy), and came out of it stronger, more aware of the other person. We experienced secondary infertility and I’m pretty sure my insanity and obsession during that time nearly drove him out the door (or at the very least into hiding in the garage, tinkering with tools). And then when our second child was finally conceived and born, we were tested with colic and sleep deprivation beyond what any new parent should have to endure. We established a support system that involved “tapping out” and a lot of tears on my part.

    Then, once again, when our lives finally seemed to be smoothing out, when we were blessed with two beautiful girls beyond all hope and through abundant grace, the good Lord laughed again and said, “I know you fought through all that fear and infertility and now you think your body won’t give you any more children, so, SURPRISE! Here’s TWO babies for you even though you’re still nursing that second one you prayed so ardently for.”

    That was a test of enduring real and honest shock – of scrambling to figure out how in the world we would financially and mentally survive. There was bed rest and a shift in household responsibilities. There was a re-commitment to our faith and trust in God and in one another. And then, of course, when the twins arrived, we had to learn to reshape our lives once again.

    This morning one of the twins’ teachers told me they have no idea how we all get out the door so early in the morning and even manage to eat breakfast. I told her that Mark and I do it together, we’re a team. We have it down to a point now where everyone has their own tasks they have to complete in the morning. We’re a machine. But now the struggle can be moving out of that “machine” mentality.

    It can be so difficult to find time for just the two of us. It’s almost impossible to find a babysitter to keep all four children. I feel like we burn our families out by asking for help during the work week when sitters fall through, and every good sitter we know has either moved or recently had a baby. When people tell us to “make sure we get a date night,” we look at each other and shake our heads. But the thing is, we both know. We both know what it takes to keep things going, to support one another, to love one another when so many other people are constantly demanding our love and attention.

    Mark and I joke that we never do things the easy way, but maybe there’s a reason for that. We have endured trials and tests, but the end result of each of them has been greater sacrifice and, as a result, greater love. Mark always says that the first time he saw me, God told him that I was the one. And it didn’t take much longer for me to figure out the same thing. Life is not perfect or even remotely easy, but we stand by one another, we love one another and even when things get stressful, or tough, or frustrating, we will always be the other’s rock, cheerleader and best friend.

    I love you Mark, and I’m so grateful that we found and have one another.

    Happy 9th anniversary.

    P.S. This is the anniversary card he gave me. Perfection.

  • Soccer, Rainbow Dash, and Life Lessons

    Date: 2016.09.26 | Category: Family, Health, Life, Me, Sarah | Response: 0

    As Sarah begins to get older and understand embarrassment, I’ve been reluctant to share much about her struggles out of respect for her privacy. But I have a good story to tell about her, one that she can hopefully look back on one day and be proud of.

    Without going into too much detail, Sarah often struggles socially and has a hard time dealing with loud noises, changes, frustrations and has a few unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s prevalent enough that we have sought out help and advice on the best ways to handle it.

    For years she has begged me to do soccer and dance. But for the past three years I’ve been so overwhelmed with pregnancy and babies that just getting everyone fed and in bed felt like the best I could do on most days. We have let her do choir through the school, which is wonderful, but the more we dug into what she’s dealing with, the more we realized she needs some sort of regular, structured, physical activity.

    Our school put together a kindergarten soccer team. And when sign up time came, as usual, I was slow to react and we missed the boat. But then, by chance, a child ended up not being able to play and a spot opened up on the team. One of the coaches called me and asked if Sarah wanted to participate. My immediate gut reaction was yes, but Mark and I were nervous about practice time and making sure we could commit to all the games. I looked at the schedule though, and decided we could make it work.

    Her first practice went really well. The coach, a dad of one of the players, was overflowing with compliments about how well Sarah did on her first day. And she came running to the car, grinning from ear to ear, telling me how much fun she had. She talked about soccer the rest of the evening, only complaining once to tell me to send her a change of clothes next time so she wouldn’t have to get so hot in her uniform.

    Her first game was Saturday and she was so excited. Coach let her start. But her smile quickly faded as one of the girls on the opposing team began to score goal after goal and our team couldn’t even get the ball onto their side of the field. I saw Sarah start spiraling into frustration mode. First she crossed her arms, poked out her bottom lip and refused to move. Then, after the girl scored again, she marched off the playing field and towards the fence, sat down and refused to play anymore. I hustled over to her while they put someone else in the game. I walked her back over to the sideline and made her sit with me.

    Before I could say a word she said, “ I don’t want to play anymore. That girl keeps scoring.”

    Me: “But Sarah…”

    Sarah: “I don’t want to play!”

    Me: “You don’t have to play, but you do have to listen.”

    Sarah stared at me fiercely, but didn’t argue.

    What followed was a pep talk that involved the ever-fast and athletic Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony. Fortunately, I’ve seen every episode from every season roughly 100 times, so I’m intimately familiar with the characters and plot lines. I told her about the episode when Rainbow Dash gets made fun of and wants to give up, but she doesn’t. We talked about the other little girl who kept scoring and how she has been playing a long time, but this was Sarah’s very first game. And, after all, if you give up the first time you get frustrated, you’ll never get any better. The only way to improve is to try.

    She didn’t smile. In fact, her scowl didn’t change at all. But two minutes later she said, “I want to play.”

    After a few minutes, Coach came up to her and said, “Sarah, do you want to play? You’re fast, we need you out there.”

    And she, quite matter of factly, walked back onto the field. They started the game, the ball was passed to her, and then she took off running with it, quickly outpacing the other kids. And then, just like that, she scored a goal.

    After that moment, her spirits immediately lifted. She wasn’t jubilant though, just determined. She threw herself into the game, playing hard. She was stopping the ball with her feet, lining up her kicks and passing and making goal attempts. I was floored by how good she was.

    When the game was over, she was still scowling. “Why are you upset?” I asked her, “You scored!” She looked at me fiercely and said, “I want to keep playing.”  Coach told her he was so proud of her, that she was like a fast little gazelle making her way across the field.

    We left the game and I told her we could go get a treat. “Not because you made a goal,” I told her, “Although that was really amazing, but because you didn’t give up and went back in the game.” Within minutes she was telling me that the little girl who kept scoring was #8, which was also her own number, and that soon she would be as good as her.

    That evening, after the game was over, Mark and I talked about it with smiles on our faces. We were so hesitant to put her in soccer because of the busyness of our lives, but after just one practice and one game, she’s already improving with a lot of her issues. At church on Sunday, she even sat in the pew in front of us with one of her friends, and for the first time ever, went to children’s liturgy without one of us. I feel like I’m watching her transform before my eyes – learning to fight through the frustrations, and socialize more.

    Soccer may not be our cure all, but it’s certainly proving to be way more than I could have hoped for. It’s the perfect platform for teamwork, social interaction and learning to physically move her body and do things in a loud setting. And, because of that, I’m going to cave and buy her the “special fast shoes,” (cleats) that she really wants.

    So, between my minivan and this, I guess I’m officially a soccer mom. Somebody make me a “Sarah’s Mom” shirt so we can seal this deal.

  • Happy Third Birthday to My Norah Bean

    Date: 2016.09.22 | Category: Birthday, Family, Home, Life, Love, Norah | Response: 0

    The fact that I’m making this birthday post two days after her actual birthday because her baby sister has been super sick and consuming my days, is so quintessentially “Happy Birthday Middle Child.” Sigh, I swear, we do try our best. And despite the fact that I spent most of Norah’s birthday at the pediatrician’s office, Mark did make her very favorite dinner – potato soup, which requires a lot of prep work – while keeping an eye on the other kids. AND, I did go have lunch at school with Norah, even though she freaked out because we were sitting separately from her class and she thought I was going to leave her at the “trouble table” alone. But we pulled through it. She also got the Stitch toy she’s been begging me for and she and her little mischievous alien friend are now inseparable. Also – Lilo and Stitch luau party this weekend!

    Now, onto Norah’s birthday post.

    ***

    Last night as I watched my girls play in the bathtub, I marveled at Norah laughing, singing and using her imagination, remembering the day she was born. She, ever the child with her own agenda, came three days before her scheduled c-section. I remember holding her and thinking how very different she looked from Sarah, rubbing her head full of hair against my cheek, and staring at her laying on the hospital bed with the sunlight filtering through the windows onto her chubby little cheeks.

    That was three years ago, and honestly it feels like so much longer than that. I worry sometimes, that I somehow robbed Norah of her “babyhood” by having the twins while she was still an 18-month-old baby herself, but she impresses me. I think there is a reason that she is exactly where she is in our family dynamic.

    Even at 18 months, she was smart and resourceful and had an amazing vocabulary. When I tell people it’s her birthday, people often say, “Oh, is she four?” To which I respond, “Nope, she’s three. All those crazy things she’s been saying and doing have been coming from the mouth and imagination of a two-year-old.”

    At three, Norah is really coming into her own. It’s one of my most favorite things about this age. And while she holds definite opinions about things (a big NO to pizza, for instance), she does love to follow her big sister’s lead in playing make believe. Together they will line up the My Little Ponies and play school with them, or put on costumes and dance through the house, or play mermaids in the bathtub.

    At three, Norah is always a source of entertainment and frustration in our house. One minute she’ll be physically kicking someone out of “her spot” on the couch and I have to go running in to rescue the screaming victim, and then in the next moment she’ll be sharing her beloved “kiki” blanket with her crying baby sister. I can’t pretend to understand her thought process or reasoning – but what’s life without a little guesswork?

    At three Norah is charming and knows how to get people to do what she wants. I’m sometimes kind of horrified by this quality, but I know it will likely serve her well as she grows into the leader she’s destined to be. Out of all my children, people comment the most that Norah makes them laugh or smile. Her fierceness combined with her mischievousness and devilish grin make her a bottomless well of great story material. Even now her former teachers and babysitters will tell me Norah stories that make me laugh and often embarrass me, but she takes it all in confident stride.

    At 3, her ability to process and understand things also amazes me. In the weeks leading up to her birthday, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her response was, “You mommy.” To which I replied, “No, what do you want for a present?” Norah said, “To spend the day with you.”

    It broke my heart and made it melt at the same time. And due to the logistics of things in our lives, we couldn’t get exactly that, but I did have a day with just me, Norah and Sarah,” and together we had lunch, got ice cream and got to pick out a My Little Pony from the store. Both girls told me it was the “best day ever.”

    Our house and appliances have been broken, painted with various lotions and sunscreen, colored on and had holes punched through them more times in the past three years than I thought possible. We’ve made far too many ER trips and learned what a papoose board is, to my great dismay. Norah truly embodies her favorite movie character, Stitch, but like Stitch, she also has a heart of gold and places all of her trust, love and joy in her “ohana,” her family.

    Mark likes to say that God must think a lot of us for giving us Norah, and yes, she challenges us daily, but somehow, even in the midst of her worst disasters, we often find ourselves trying not to laugh. I am so grateful for the chaos, the joy, the laughter and the love that Norah has brought into our lives over the past three years.
    Happy third birthday, my girl. We love you.

  • The First Note Home and the Animal Revolt

    Date: 2016.09.13 | Category: Bonnie Barrell, Dogs, Family, Health, Home, Leela Fish, Life, Norah, Pets, Puppies, Sarah | Response: 0

    One of my coworkers recently told me that she looks forward to Mondays just so she can hear what shenanigans Norah has been up to over the weekend. (Insert embarrassed/awkward emoji face here). But it’s true – she is always up to something. This past weekend it was spreading a combination of sunscreen and toothpaste along the hallway and around the bathroom sink – and that’s really pretty mild all things considered.

    But, last week, she did have her first note home from school.

    Now, Sarah is far from perfect and has her own set of issues, but she’s usually a quintessential firstborn rule follower. In the past three years, there has never been a note sent home from school, though her teachers have all filled me in on some of her antics that resulted in pulling a card.

    But, as we all know, Norah loves to buck the system. And when I was loading her into the car last week, one of her teachers could barely contain her laughter as she began explaining to me why Norah’s face was colored purple. In her backpack found a note that read:

    “Norah found a purple crayon at nap time and drew all over her face with it, colored the floor and ate some of it. The crayon was nontoxic. :) ” I do so love our teachers for being concerned about the crayon’s toxicity.

    Of course she got in trouble and had to make a serious apology to them the next day, during which they worked hard to keep from smiling.

    Perhaps I should gift them both with jumbo-sized boxes of Magic Erasers.

    *****

    And lest we forget the other three individuals who reside in our house, they have been up to their own set of antics. And no, I’m not talking about my other three children, I’m talking about our two dogs, Leela and Bonnie, and Angie Cat.

    We discovered, after having the twins, that Angie Cat protests by peeing on any and all clothes that happen to be on the ground in our room. And while this did finally force us to keep our closet floor clean, any time a piece of clothes would fall out of the hamper, it was game over. We’ve been very diligent lately about keeping all the clothes off the floor. Angie Cat though, refused to be deterred.

    We discovered her next target when Leela started waking up Norah in the middle of the night by climbing into bed with her. (I find it hilarious that she seeks out Norah’s bed at 2am, because Norah often torments Leela during waking hours).  I couldn’t figure out why in the world the dog would suddenly start sneaking into the girls’ room in the middle of the night until I smelled it. Angie Cat had struck again – this time taking out the dog beds. They were so sabotaged that we just had to chuck them out. We’ve made other attempts at making dog beds with blankets, etc, but without fail, nearly every night I am woken up by Norah whining and yelling, “Get off LEELA! GET OFF!” And then it’s often a good 10-15 minutes before I can convince Norah that it is, in fact, still dark outside and too soon to wake up.

    Thinking to thwart this newest set back, I set a pressure gate up outside the girls’ room to block Leela from going in. (Norah won’t sleep with the bedroom door closed). So, of course, the first time I set the gate up, at 2AM, I heard Sarah crying in the hallway. Half asleep, she was standing there by the gate, shaking, telling me she was freezing and her stomach hurt and she couldn’t get to the bathroom.

    Normally, she’d scamper over the gate, no problem, but this particular night it turns out strep had taken over her body. And because bunk beds don’t lend themselves well to vomiting children, I moved her to the couch in the living room. With no place left to block the dogs out, Leela decided that she was just as content snoozing with a sick Sarah, and Sarah, bless her poor, ill little heart, didn’t mind the company.

    Our new neighbor asked me last weekend why we have pets – “Aren’t they so much work with all your kids?” she asked. And while they can sometimes be just as irritable and messy as our children, they are part of our family. They were here before the children were and, despite the sometimes angry revenge peeing, take the kids all in stride and even deign to snuggle with them – on their own terms of course.

    P.S.: That cat pee smell is the worst and so hard to get out, but since we are cloth diapering now, I discovered a whole bunch of awesome things that get nasty smells and stains out, and this stuff is THE BEST at getting out that ammonia smell. I use it all the time. I am not getting paid to promote this stuff, just wanted to share it with my fellow cat/dog/kid parents as a FYI. Click on it to find it on Amazon.

  • Is it Monday Yet?

    Date: 2016.08.29 | Category: Family, Health, Home, Life, Luke, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah, Toddler Time, Twins, Vera | Response: 0

    This weekend was ROUGH. I mean, by the time it was over I was begging for Monday, dreaming of sitting at my desk in the peace and quiet for a few hours. I realize that probably makes me sound like a terrible mother, but, well, we all need a break sometimes.

    This cold I’ve managed to get has snuggled itself down into my chest and refuses to leave. I sound like a hacking, wheezing old woman most of the time and it hurts to raise my voice. And because the six of us are in such tight quarters, I was not surprised when everyone was snotty and hacking by Sunday.

    Let me back up. Friday night and Saturday were actually quite wonderful. The big girls stayed with their grandparents, Mark and I ordered Chinese food, without having to worry that no one else would eat it, and then the twins and I had a whole day together with just the three of us on Saturday.

    Vera was unusually fussy, but upon investigation, I saw that in addition to the two front teeth I knew were coming in, she was also actively dealing with four giant molars pushing their way through. I was shocked. She’s been physically behind her twin brother on everything, including teeth, and then she somehow leapfrogged him on this particular milestone.

    But then it was time for the big girls to come home and you know what happens after 24 hours with the grandparents. That’s right, blowback.

    It turns out they had a rough night of sleep with their grandparents  and then Norah barely squeaked a nap in. So Sunday, on top of exhaustion, everyone had colds and we had to cancel all of our fun plans for the day, including a play date with one of Sarah’s best friends that left her in tears.

    With guilt riding heavy on my shoulders, I still attempted to make the day fun. We made Norah’s favorite muffins (pumpkin chocolate chip), and both the girls were very helpful with the baking. (Seriously! And I had predicted total disaster). But Norah, well that was probably her only good moment of the day.

    The girl refused to nap, and instead spent nearly two hours alternately running out of her room, or laying in her bed screaming at the top of her lungs, which also resulted in the babies being woken up early from their naps.

    And the throwing things and flushing them down the toilet compulsion has gotten out of hand. So much so, that Mark is now the proud owner of one of those plumbing snakes that he had to use at least three times over the weekend. (But hey, it does actually work to get things out!)

    Norah also felt compelled to dump all the toys we own onto the floor to make a “swimming pool.” Though at least that entertained her for a while and was easy for her to later clean up.

    Here’s a sample of a real conversation Mark and I had Sunday morning:

    Me: “Where are the Kleenex?”

    Him: “In the bathroom.”

    Me: “Why are they in the bathroom?”

    Him: “Because I needed somewhere to put them really quick and your coffee and toast were on the window ledge already.”

    Me: “That’s because I had to find a place to put them really quick where the babies couldn’t grab them because I caught Norah buck naked, covered in Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.

    Him: “Right and I went to the bathroom to make sure you didn’t kill her and took the Kleenex so the babies wouldn’t empty them out.”

    And oh the screaming. There was so much angry screaming on Sunday that Mark and I made the executive decision to have the twins in their beds at 6:45pm and the big girls in bed by 7:15pm. After they were down, I sprinted out of the house and to the grocery store, just to have some alone time for 45 minutes while I bought the week’s essentials. And you better believe I stopped by our stress eating outlet of choice on the way home: TCBY. I’ll take a giant Oreo filled frozen yogurt (so I don’t feel guilty, but really it’s ok because I forgot to eat lunch anyway) thing, thankyouverymuch.