Archive for the ‘Me’ Category

  • Things That Go Bump in the Night

    Date: 2017.04.19 | Category: Family, Health, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah | Response: 19

    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.

  • 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.

  • Mamas Don’t Get Sick Days

    Date: 2016.08.27 | Category: Family, Health, Home, Life, Luke, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah, Toddler Time, Twins | Response: 0

    Moms all know that even if we are gasping for air through one barely opened nostril and glowing with fever, that we aren’t really allowed to “be sick.” So when I started having cold symptoms about five days ago, I did what any mother would do, and ignored them in favor of caring for the kids and powering through a press deadline. Even as I felt my throat getting sore and my chest began to ache, I insisted on getting up and getting it done. So it’s no surprise that by Wednesday evening I was hanging by a thread.

    Even Mark took one look at me and told me to go lay down while he cared for the kids and got them to bed that night. Grateful for the reprieve, I fell into bed and buried my face in a pile of Kleenex. I decided that my body was toast and agreed to take the next day off of work. Despite that, I still got up at the crack of dawn the next morning to get the girls ready for school, knowing that as soon as they left, I could crawl into bed and hibernate.

    But alas, as soon as Mark left with the girls, the babies started to fuss. I decided to let them fuss for a bit before I got up to get them, but that’s when the shrieking started. So I stumbled into their room and found Luke sitting astride the crib rail, leg caught between the crib and the wall, riding the dang thing like a pony. Our boy has figured out how to climb out of the crib at 16 months old. UGH. And I am SO not mentally prepared to move him to a big bed yet.

    Climbing resourceful little toots

    I dragged the twins into the living room, put up the pressure gate and laid on the couch with them until Mark got home and then stumbled into bed and crashed, relieved to finally get a break.

    But, as things always go, my plans for a desperately needed “break” quickly got dashed. Mark was out picking up lunch when I got a phone call from school that Sarah was sick. Mark, when he got home, dropped the food and left to go get her. When he picked Sarah up, they asked him if he wanted to check Norah out too, to which he quickly replied, “No,” and took Sarah home. Together she and I cuddled on the couch and watched Netflix in misery.

    Oh, but it gets more fun. You see at some point Wednesday evening, we noticed that all the kids’ toothbrushes were missing. After some interrogation, Norah told us that she had flushed them down the toilet. How? I have no idea. But the toilet was absolutely, 100% not working. So on Thursday, as Sarah and I were laying around feeling bad, we were also down a toilet and I had no inkling or energy to call a plumber.

    I completely missed Back to School Night for the twins, though perhaps for the best because it was raining cats and dogs. When the kids were finally all in bed that night, I took a shot of Nyquil and passed out.

    So of course this morning, Norah comes waltzing into our room bright and early. And for some reason, she’s started speaking about herself in third person. So she comes into our room and loudly proclaims, “Mama! Norah made a mess. She got it EVERYWHERE. She got it all over my jammies, all over my bed, all over the floor. ”

    “No, no Norah!” she told herself, “Mama told you not to make a mess.”

    I just groaned and rasped out, “What is it? What did you do?” Mark rolled out of bed to discover an ice cream sandwich lining, well, all the things she had named.

    I resolved to pull myself back together today though, and everything else mostly followed. The rain finally stopped. Mark and his dad managed to physically reach their hands down into the bowls of the toilet and extract all four toothbrushes, saving us a huge plumbing bill and getting the toilets working again. And, perhaps best of all, Mark asked his parents to keep the big kids tonight. So when the twins went to bed at 7:15, we did a (somewhat muted from the sickness) dance of relief.

    But now, of course, Mark is getting sick.

    And I think I’ll go indulge myself with an 8:00 bed time.

    Man, I’m old.

  • Blowback

    Date: 2016.08.23 | Category: Family, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah, School, Twins | Response: 0

    Any time we make a big change or upset the schedule in our house, we experience a period of what my husband and I have dubbed as “blowback.” Spend the night at grandma’s? The break is nice, but then there will, without fail, be a day of fallout afterwards that includes, but is not limited to, epic periods of screaming and crying, protests over dinner, refusals to go to bed on time and unprecedented messes.

    Enter school. Now, not only are we all having to get up early, but the kids are back on structured days and having to spend time learning instead of painting themselves in mud in the backyard or coloring the walls. And the blowback has begun.

    Blowback Round 1:

    Last week, I was rejoicing because Norah finally went to school and didn’t throw a tantrum. I rode that high all day, thrilled that we were making progress. Then, I got home from work. At first, I didn’t notice anything was amiss. I jumped into taking care of kids and Sarah was snuggled up on the couch with a blanket, watching TV. Then I turned my attention to her to ask her a question and gasped, “Sarah, did you CUT YOUR HAIR?!” A half smile spread across her face as she nodded in affirmation.

    “Mama,” she said, “I was tired of my unicorn mane bangs, so I cut them off.”

    “Where are the scissors and WHERE IS THE HAIR?!”

    At first she tried to pretend like she had done this days ago and had no idea where the contraband items were. But after seeing my rising ire, she quickly complied, ran into her closet and produced the small pair of scissors and the giant chunk of missing hair.

    I was upset. Mark chocked it up to, “it’s hair, it will grow again,” but all I could see was that my girl now had some sort of mullet/ Maria-from-The-Sound-of-Music hybrid haircut. And this was on the heels of us finally halting her anxiety-induced behavior of years of yanking out her own hair. Finally, finally my little girl was starting to get thick hair that almost looked like a bob and now it was all gone.

    How do you solve a problem like Maria?

    But while I was upset, Sarah embraced her new do, telling me that she liked that her hair is out of her eyes. Maybe I shouldn’t be so vain. So, after I had a solid glass of wine, we dug around, found some headbands and started trying to figure out how to make the mullet work.

    Blowback Round 2:

    In protest to having to go to school and do things she didn’t want to, Norah staunchly refused to nap on Saturday. Finally, to my great relief, I thought she had fallen asleep. I got up to use the bathroom and walked in the room to find a toilet full of toys, wipes, cups, bowls and two empty bottles of Burt’s Baby Bee wash, each emptied into the toilet and bathtub respectfully, but not before being slathered all over the toilet seat and bathroom floor. Worse still, I didn’t realize it was on the toilet seat until I later sat on said seat, and when I went to stand up, well the seat tried to come with me.

    Look Mama, my mermaid went for a swim!

    Blowback Round 3:

    Norah has now started sneaking into the kitchen when she thinks we are occupied to secure any and every kind of food for herself. Sunday morning,  Mark and I were recovering from the week’s events and were particularly lazy about getting out of bed. We had already gotten the twins out of their cribs and had them in bed with us, but they quickly scampered out and ran into the living room with their sisters. It took us a few minutes to get out of bed, but no one was screaming so we weren’t too worried. Then I walked into the living room, grabbed a baby and my hand came away sticky from the back of his pajamas.

    One sniff told me it was maple syrup. Further exploration lead us to find that Norah had half emptied a bottle of maple syrup on to the floor, on to about seven paper plates, which she had then distributed and laid on top of random items around the kitchen and living room, and on the backs and heads of her twin siblings.

    It was not pretty. While I stripped and scrubbed babies, Mark took control of the Norah situation. When I came back in the kitchen, Norah had a full mop bucket and a washcloth and was scrubbing the floors while Mark stood guard. Our normally defiant child was dutifully scrubbing every inch of the floor where that syrup had landed.

    And there have been other incidents: while I tried to shower, Norah grabbed my mascara and painted the door with it because I wouldn’t let her in there with me.  Last night, over the course of two hours, I kept having to go into Norah’s room to remove cliff bars and popsicles that she was sneaking into her room at 9 and 10’oclock at night.

    So it seemed like some sort of divine justice that Sunday morning, when we were late to Mass,  we got seated on the very front row. All I could think was that Norah was either going to kick and scream and have to be carried out in front of everyone, or that she was going to run onto the altar and take part in the liturgy or knock over the communion wine. But, to the great surprise of all, that girl shined her halo, held our hands and stood, sat and kneeled when she was asked to. I thought her good behavior was because she was nervous in front of the priest and deacon, but Mark thinks she was just so darn pleased to be in a spot where she was getting plenty of attention from everyone.

    Either way, at least we are capable of putting on our good faces for Jesus.