This modern age with its diagnosis and syndromes and whatnot. . . It can seem ridiculous. But the first time I read about "Decision Fatigue," I thought, Oh my goodness, write this down, I have that!

Alllll day every day I am bombarded with questions. "Can I eat this? Why not? How come she can? Can I play on the computer? How much time will this get me? What's for lunch? How come I have to make it? Is nap over yet? What's for dinner? What are we doing tonight? What's the weather like tomorrow? What's the plan for Friday? Who's going to babysit us? Why's your eye twitching like that? Are you crying? Mom?!"

Decision fatigue. It's a thing.

But sometimes? Sometimes I'm the one asking the questions. Not always fun ones, either, but necessary all the same. Like why is there raw bacon on the bath mat? Is that poop on that toilet paper next  to the toilet? Why is the counter all wet? Where's Penny? How'd she get in the shower?! Why'd you let her in? How much toothpaste DID she squirt onto the floor? Is that gum in the shower? Who put it there? And why is there a toothbrush in the tub? What the heck is that on my towel? Why do I smell nail polish? Why can't this place stay clean?!

It turns out that asking the questions is just as exhausting as answering them so either way I end up tired. There's no question about that.

*All questions were really asked in the last two days in the bathroom. Life's a barrel of laughs over here!

Ellie,

I want you to remember that on March 26, 2017, you made your first communion. Remember that it was a rainy, misty day. That we all breathed a sigh of relief when Mama Syd and Papa Chris texted to say they were in Hot Springs. They asked if you wanted to go to Fudruckers or Perkins for lunch.

"Mmmm. . . Can we do Perkins? I'm gonna get the 'usual.'"

Remember how Elizabeth came over to make the flower crown you requested. Seeing the white and palest pink spray roses that we had been unable to find was so exciting and absolutely perfect. You two worked together on it and when you tried it on, you positively glowed.

Remember, too, that I had promised you that your Bitty Baby would have a dress to match yours but at 3pm, it was still not done. Dad and Mama Syd said nothing but gave plenty of pointed looks encouraging me to step away from the sewing machine. You hovered close by, repeatedly asking if your dress had buttons yet. They were seen on at 4:10, plenty of time before the 5:30 mass.

You requested a bun in your hair and didn't complain once about the repeated combing to make it just right. On went the dress, the tights, the shoes, the flower crown and then the veil. I'm pretty sure you grew a full 3 inches the moment the veil was pinned in place! Remember how I told you to have a seat on the pew and for-the-love DON'T move so you'd stay clean. You cradled your now matching doll, grabbed a book and proceeded to sit criss-cross applesauce in your dress. I only had a minor moment of panic.

Remember that you were so excited. You had asked for weeks, months, when we could practice. It took us a while to track down the required Necco wafers but we did and we poured wine into a glass and prepped a dish with the candy even though it was very late. Everyone sat still and quiet while we told stories of God's providence, Jesus's miracles and the great mystery that is the Eucharist. You answered questions breathlessly and then, nervous and eager, lined up behind your siblings to practice how to receive Our Lord.

Recall on the day of, as we walked into Cathedral you felt the same eager nervousness that you had felt just days before. The greeter asked if we wanted to bring forward the gifts and I think dad would have said no (he was ALL nerves!) but he looked down at you in your dress and veil and crown and said yes instead. Your brothers served the Mass, grateful to be a part of this with you, so it was Dad and I and the girls that walked the long aisle to take forward the bread and wine. And because it was Lent, we did it to the sound of silence.

I hope you remember that Fr. Dillon called you and your parents up to receive Our Lord, Fr. Giving you the precious body and grandpa offering the precious blood. You were reverent and somehow looked so grown up and yet so tall all at once. You prayed an act of thanksgiving in the pew and were still and relaxed, breathing easy now it was over.

Please remember how many people came up to congratulate you, how many came to support you and love you. You stood patiently for so many photos and smiled and said thank you again and again. Remember, too, how people we did not know came up to tell you how happy they were for you or how beautiful you were. Remember the man who congratulated me and was teary eyed as he shook my hand, pressing into it $10. "For the first communicant. You have a lovely family!" Never forget God's abundant generosity and love that you received in the form of bread and wine and the love of those around us.

I hope you'll remember the tacos we served at the party and too many people for the house. How Joe was so silly and funny you kids howled with laughter and Patrick nearly choked in the hilarity. Remember, too, the gold painted cupcakes and the fun of gifts and how you walked to each gift giver unprompted to smile and thank them specifically.

I know it's a lot to keep track of, so maybe just remember this: you are so loved. First, by the King of the Universe who gave his life for you and shares his flesh as true food. Second, by your family who basks in your joy and thoughtfulness. And third, by all of those who come in contact with you. Yes, you are so loved. Never forget it.

Tonight I turned on 90's alternative rock while we made pizza. Hearing it on the "easy listening" channel on a recent office visit gave me a hankering.

"What is this?" Max muttered.

"This, my friends, is the sound of my high school years."

"Was that a long, loooong, LONG time ago?" Gemma wondered.

Philip chastised his sister's audacity while I laughed.

"I guess so!" Was the final answer.

Recently I started receiving info about my 20 year reunion. Good golly, that just can't be! I remember that 20 year reunions were attended by middle aged people.

The kind of people who say things like "good golly."

So I guess I'm there. Glad I've brought my music and sense of humor with me.

It's been a long week and it's only Wednesday.

Oy.

Lucy and Gemma have been full of mischief and trouble.

For Lu, this means she's been decorating all sorts of things (walls, bedspreads, herself, herself) with all sorts of things (sharpies, markers, pens, nail polish). This morning she brought a lovely shade of purple nail polish to me and was adamant, "I did not put this on my door. I did NOT." Then she smiled. "I didn't!"

Convincing as this was, I had my doubts. On the wall next to my bed I had found an interesting illustration done in purple sharpie. (Purple isn't the only shade she uses-red, brown, green and pink have been in her repertoire this week, too.) I called her in and asked her if she was the artist behind the masterpiece.

She considered. She demurred. She began to deny and then nodded her assent. I sighed and said I was just so sad that she hadn't done it on paper because paper I could keep, but walls need to be washed. We had what I assumed was a fruitful conversation and I gave her a smooch and thought I had sent her on her way.

I forgot she is the 6th child and fourth girl so she has all of the angst and drama of a preteen shoved into a three-year-old frame.

"I'm just really stressed out! Because I'm afraid you don't like my drawing and think it's stupid."

Speechless pretty much sums up my reaction. Then I laughed (she joined in) and assured her I would never say that about her. But mostly I wanted to say, "If I were you I'd be stressed out about having martial law instituted on your person!"

Anyway, trying to work out how to function without anything in the house that can make marks. Open to suggestions!

If you want to get to Mass on time, you mention it Saturday night.

Mentioning your hopes means that you should find shoes for everyone before tomorrow morning.

Thinking of shoes makes you remember that you should probably find the right size tights for everyone while you're at it.

In order to find the right tights, you need to figure out what you'll be wearing.

This leads you to the girls' room where you see the littlest girls bed is in need of sheets. It's been this way for over a month so you set your jaw and decide to make the bed.

To make the bed, you need to find sheets so you open the linen closet.

When you open the linen closet, a stack of towels falls at your feet so you take a few minutes to sort through all of the linens.

As you sort through the towels you remember that you want to get to mass on time so the girls should shower tonight so you hustle them into the shower.

While they shower, you take advantage of them being occupied to make their bed.

When you lift up the mattress to make the bed, you find roughly 10 pounds of toys, garbage and writing utensils that need to be removed before the sheets can go on.

After you pull the mattress out of the bunk and lift the entire bed frame up to sweep out the crap, you realize you are now ankle deep in the detritus of 5 girls, the bed isn't made, you don't know what you're going to wear, where the tights or shoes are and now it's very, very late and everyone's tired so you make the bed, put on the fancy pillowcases, and send kids to bed while you hope for the best in the morning.

And in the morning? The hunt for shoes takes so long you are past an acceptable late entrance so you turn the car around and come back home where you mention that you want to be on time for the evening mass.

Imagine, if you will, that you are hanging out at our table.  For funsies, you suggest a game of word association.

You: Queen

Me: Fat Bottomed Girls

(Here Philip covers his ears and leaves the room.)

You: Butt

Me: Dirty

("Mom!" Tess exclaims.)

You: Wipes

Me: Diaper

You: Penny

Me: Velociraptor

(The kids left in the room erupt into laughter.)

Yes, my precious babe resembles a vicious dinosaur.  She seems friendly enough but she has razor sharp teeth, a penchant for destruction and a scream that induces sheer terror.

Honestly, the scream  . . . ! It started as a way to express displeasure at the sometimes overzealous attention of her sisters.  But now? Well now it's used as a general "Listen to me!"

Poor girl, she so badly wants to communicate but is having a hard time being heard in the chaos.  Being heard when she isn't screaming, that is.  She's been reluctant to use signing, opting to only utilize "All done" regularly until this past week or so.  Seemingly overnight she picked up "Please," "Food," and "Nurse." Then last night as she played with Monday, she started to say what sounded like "Monday." She repeated it again and again.  Excited, I asked her to say "Daddy" and she did several times. That's when Jacques asked her to say "Mama." Without pausing, her hand shot out and she rapidly signed

"NURSE"

We laughed because it was hilarious but also because it confirmed my suspicions- she only likes me for my body.  It's cool as long as she's not screaming. ANYTHING to keep her from screaming!

(My laughter becomes nervous and then turns to crying. There's so. much. SCREAMING.)

Update: tonight she said "Mama" a few times! But then when Jac clarified if she was indeed saying "Mama," she signed "Nurse" again.  Baby steps, right.  Baby steps.

On Friday I was explaining to another homeschool mom where Jac was. "He's at the dentist with Phil." A friend overheard and exclaimed, "Again?!"

Yes, AGAIN. February-and it turns out March, too- was the month of dentistry. It adds up quickly when everybody and their mother (no hyperbole here) have cavities and or other issues.

So fun!

Its made us hyper sensitive to whats going on - or more accurately, IN - everyone's mouth.

Gemma is bird-like in her appetitive to begin with but she leans hard in the "bird-like and only things that are sweet" direction. As in, claims she's full after eating three sugar snap pea pods only to ask for an "Oreo? Gumball? Icecream? Peep?" etc., etc. the minute she's excused from the table. The requests for sugar are made ALL DAY LONG and she is often found rummaging in the pantry (or on the counter or above the fridge or in my room or. . . ).

Plain and simple, she is a sugar fiend.

Recently, she announced she was hungry. So, so, sooooo hungry. I suggested some cheese.

No.

Yogurt?

No.

Crackers, pretzels, apple, Cutie?

"Yeaaaah. I'd just really like an Oreo. Or some chocolate."

I laughed. "Gemma, we've got to get you eating something else beside sugar!"

"Why? Because I'll get dia-BBs?"

I choked back a laugh. "Do you know what diabetes is?"

"It's when you swallow sugar and you get BBs stuck in your throat and die."

I had a choice here and I did NOT take the high road.

"That's right. You're right."

"So, I can't have an Oreo then?"

We are well loved by the people in our life. So much so that's i fear the kids might take it for granted, that it's a given to be so generously cared for.

On Monday I realized that Wednesday was Pi day and mentioned it aloud absent mindedly. A few hours later the mail arrived and the kids clamored around when Jac handed me a package.

"Who's it for?! Who's it for?!"

"It's for mom."

"Well, who is it from?!"

"It's for mom so that doesn't matter."

I announced it was from Chrisa.

"YES!" Philip yelled. "I KNEW she'd send something!"

Chrisa's fun-filled Pi day packages have repeatedly been a mid-March blessing and it made me smile to realize that they have become something that the kid's look forward to.

This year's box was heavy and I could hear coins. As I started to peel back a flap all of the kids yelled.

"No! We have to wait until tomorrow!"

They were particularly cooperative and quick Tuesday morning and they all gathered about me expectantly when prayer was finished. Upon opening the box we found a wrapped bundle that Gemma opened. Inside was an envelop for every individual in the family. Anxiously they tore their envelopes open. Out poured coins and a card.

They were lightening fast in figuring out that the coins added to $3.14.

A short debate followed with factions arguing for and against individuals keeping their money or pooling it for pie.  I knew Chrisa's heart would rejoice over how they multiplied 3.14 by 9 and then asked what a trip to Perkins would cost for 2 pies (as there are chocolate fans and fruit fans and only a few who swing either direction, thank you very much). After a quick call, they added up the two pies and subtracted that from the total. We pacified Gemma and Lu by allowing them to keep a few Penny's and made big plans for a treat after FNE.

Alas, everyone else in Rapid City also made plans involving pie and when I made it to Perkins Tuesday evening nary a pie was left.

We made amends on Wednesday and all really enjoyed the deliciousness of being loved and remembered.

It was possibly even sweeter for breakfast. At least Penny thought so!

(Gemma chose to paint the walls with the remainder of her Thursday breakfast. She then learned how to wash chocolate silk off the wall. That kid.)

 

At 4:30 pm, while I was nauseous with nerves and the kids hovered about me while I fought with the sewing machine ("Tension! Let's talk about tension! C'mon!!"), I gave myself a harsh talking to. Why? Why do you do this to yourself? Why do you make things harder than they have to be? Why must you make things a thing?

Well, because they're fun and memorable and pretty darn great.

I'm just writing it down so I'll remember the next time we are all in a frenzy.

I wish I could say it wasn't all my fault but even the kids dragging their feet can be traced back to me modeling plenty of procrastination. Dang. So the fact we chose our Mardi Gras theme on Friday, chose the day to celebrate on Saturday and then didn't have the house anywhere near presentable until lunchtime today. . . It was a team effort on the waiting.

I hope the kids remember how their costumes appeared like magic from the cantankerous machine. How bed sheets and scraps and curtains became garb from Japan, Africa, Russia, and India. I hope they take the joy of Mardi Gras and the fun of costumes  with them where've they go in this wide, wide world. And I hope-for the love of Pete and all that is holy- that they learn, by some miracle, to plan ahead.

We celebrated Penny's birthday with Her Godparents and Susan. We put her in her Guadalupe dress and she represented Mexico. Lucy was a Spanish flamenco dancer, Gem a Russian maiden (because it had a crown AND jewelry!), and Ellie opted for an African woman. "Even though I think I'm probably the second or third most whitest person in the house!" Her reason? She really, REALLY, wanted to wear her hair wrapped up. She went to bed only after asking if she could repeat the hair-do soon. And she loved that Maria came as an Africa. princess. Tess and I watched a video about how to wear a sari and pulled one together out of curtains. How fun to have Val arrive in a gorgeous authentic sari from her days in India! Philip wanted to be a Samurai and even *gasp!* let us put his hair into a Samurai bun. "My hair pores aren't as strong as the girls!" He announced. And Max, well Max likes to push his mother to the point where she gives up and then he pulls through. He would not commit to a country and decided at 5:15 that he would be Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days. But he wore a pink cravat so I won't complain! I represented Scotland and Clan Crawford with my kilt and Jac was "European" in his FNE uniform. He and Sebastian were a good pair as Seb was a Frenchman. Nate represented Peru and Susan was from North America-it was very cosmopolitan, you can be sure! We ate whipped cream on bacon and pancakes and in our pop and covered in sprinkles. In the end Jac said, "I'm so glad it's not Ash Wednesday tomorrow! Two full days of gluttony!" Yeah, that's pretty great.

I like to plan. It's a well known gag among ourselves and our friends that Jac and I tend to be decidedly different about the necessity of planning. (I'm bringing him around!) And our children? Yeah, they've learned a little too well from my example.

"So, what's going to happen after nap?"

(If you don't ever go to sleep and keep the baby up, you won't live to ever find out.)

"What's for dinner tonight?"

(Why do you only ask on days that I don't have an answer and how about one thing at a time, Mr. Jammiebottoms?)

"How will I say no if someone asks me out?"

(Uh. . . You're ten. Let's work on learning the times tables first, m-kay?)

Anyway, The kids were sorely disappointed by our lack of plans for New Years Eve.

"No one is coming over?! That's sad!" they lamented.

I assured them I had planned on plenty of sugar and probably some games and all would be well.

There were no plans for New Years but there were plans for the rest of the twelve days of Christmas, Twelfth Night, Epiphany, for schooling, for evenings in and out and I, for one, was relishing the thought of the New Year, new goals and fresh starts.

Then the call that Papa was in the hospital. Would he stay or be sent home? If he stayed, for how long? Things weren't so bad. Things weren't looking good but could turn around. Things were . . . Bad.

I got the text Papa had passed after the New Year was rung in and everyone was in bed. We got the first text offering condolences and help before I was out of bed the next morning.

Messages of sympathy and assurances of prayers came flooding in. We had planned to go to Mass and leave to come and load up so we could go before the weather hit but we were the last to leave the church. Friends came to give hugs and ask what they could do. Folks offered to pick things up for us. Rent a vehicle. Take our kids so we could pack. Elizabeth came and washed dishes, matched socks and folded laundry.

When we hit the road, exhausted and spread thin, friends stayed up to pray and send messages, asking for updates and making sure we stayed awake. More texts came assuring babysitters if we needed them in CA. Later we heard that at Ripon Grace, Pastor Rex asked for prayers for our safe journey. All of this prayer ...continue reading