Speaking of me. . .

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We lost Penny this afternoon.

Okay, maybe "lost" is too strong of a word.  "Misplaced" is probably more accurate.

Anyway, it was a gut-wrenching, frantic, panic-inducing 3 minutes.

It started simply, with the girls in and out of the house through the sliding glass door.  Penny had been traipsing along with them but at some point they all scattered.  The quiet was what triggered my concern.

"Where's Pen, guys?"

Radio silence. I upped my volume.

"Has anyone seen Penny?"

Tess was the first to respond followed by Max.  She ran outside to check and he poked his head into rooms.  We hollered her name and checked all of her usual spots.  Others joined the search and the lists of dark possibilities rang in my mind like the totalling of a cash register.

"She's not out there!" Tess was breathless as she came inside.  I'm unsure if my eyes matched her wild expression but I was less than comforted by her look.  Could someone have left the gate open?  Could she have wandered towards the street? I ran out front quickly and when I got back, I heard a muffled question from Jac.  I hoped he was saying she was with him.

"What?"

"Did you find her?" He was at the top of the stairs, panic on the edges of his voice.

I didn't think my heart could sink any further but it did.

And then, just when I was on the edge, I saw the faintest motion past the trampoline.  Her little ponytail was being buffeted in the wind.

"I see her!  I see her!" I yelled as I ran out to her.

I'm not sure why I ran to her.  She was safe and fine.  But watching her hauling a doll out of the Cozy Coupe and struggling in the wind combined with my overwhelming relief sent me out.

"Pen-pen!  You scared us!" She saw me running and thought it was a game.  She smiled her crinkled nose smile and ran to meet me.  She squeezed me back and patted me when I picked her up.

In that moment, I really, truly understood Luke 15:4.

"Doesn't he leave the 99 in open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?"

I'm not one to suggest changes to scripture but I'm just saying that "lost child" packs a greater punch.  Then, too, I have never much liked the Prodigal Son (I'm the eldest, remember?) but I understood the father running to his son today.

What was it that left me shaky and oh-so-grateful to hold her little body against mine and to feel her happy hands on my shoulder?  We've lost kids before.  (C'mon.  Don't act shocked or like it's never happened to you.) Was it because she isn't talking yet so she couldn't respond to our calls?  Perhaps knowing her speed and her curiosity  was what lit up my imagination.  Whatever it was, I was abundantly thankful that she was found and that I have been found, too.  May I turn with a crinkled nose to the Father who runs toward me even in my faults and failings and may I press into him, patting him back, grateful to be loved. And thank you Jesus that we found our girl.

Now if you'll excuse me, I do believe I need a drink . . .

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Jac follows some groups on Instagram that are all about the Every Day Carry.  They feature "pocket dumps" in which the contents of their pockets are artistically laid out for others to gawk at.  In case you're wondering, there isn't a stray coin, receipt or lint ball to be found in any of these images. These are highly curated, high class collections of items.  Only the fanciest of knives, pens, handkerchiefs and moneyclips make the grade.

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The kids tease me that my purse is less purse and more Mary Poppins bag.  As in it's big enough to hold a lamp AND it's completely possible that one might be in there.  Really, it's possible that anything could be in there.

I have 7 kids. I gave up the idea of having a separate purse and diaper bag a looooong time ago.

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I think the actual words that came out of my mouth when searching for a tissue during Mass last Sunday were, "What in the actual world?!" Because I found a small mason jar in my purse.  A mason jar, people.  I am not hipster enough to rock that kind of crazy.

I really was dreading the thought of cleaning out the deep, dark recesses of my bag until I remembered the "pocket dump" pics.

My favorite parts? The Penny tights and single sock and shoe. Don't ask me where the others are.  How about the 6 stray coins not in the coin purse or the unsent mail?  I also like the acrylic paint in a ziplock and the purse within a purse concept.  And how about that library receipt?

Was there a more productive way to spend 40 minutes of my Monday?  Probably yes.  Have I ever enjoyed cleaning out my purse more than this? Definitely not.  It was good to laugh at myself (and the kids because the mess in the purse was a team effort) and to realize that of all the crap, I only NEED 7 of those items.  The tiny Cinderella slipper is on that list, obviously.

 

Last week. . . Last week I strong armed us back into our school schedule. We had griping and complaining and we had to school in the afternoon (unheard of!) because of a lazy morning and we used Friday for catch up instead of IT. But it was a good week.

This week? Well, this week we are dragging ourselves on our belly by ragged and broken fingernails to the finish line.

The whining!

The crying!

The terrible, angry shrieking from Penny!

I returned home from a meeting today to a filled wine glass and a note alerting me to the fact that it was indeed for me.

It's been that sort of week. One in which a child who shall not be named killed the sourdough starter by not paying attention and using cornmeal instead of flour. (It was white cornmeal in their defense so it sort of looked like whole wheat. I still wanted to cry.) A jar of cold pickle juice was spilled all over me by another child, soaking every piece of clothing I had on. I found long bite marks in my fancy lip stuff. And today as I wrangled and wrestled little girls in the bathroom while out at a concert field trip, the spot where Pen was being held on my hip got very warm and very wet.  Somehow her diaper had slipped so my shirt and pants did the trick.  A change of clothes for her I did not have.  And our lunch that was rather thrown together by the boys for the picnic afterwards was drowned by a leaky water bottle.

I'm blaming the sudden rainy, dreary, threat-of-snow-in-mid-May weather for the funk we've all felt but also remembering the good of the week, too.  We had great friends over for a visit and Tess made playdough solo for the first time.  We've had 2 awesome field trips in 9 days.  Gemma figured out she can clean their room on her own.  And I have managed to comb the girl's hair EVERY. DAY.

I guess the week hasn't been so bad after all.  But maybe that's just the wine talkin'!

 

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!

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Something about the pregnancy hormones makes me- how do you say it?- CRAZY. While growing a baby my brain clicks off all reason and I start thinking things like, "I can make all the things!"

It gets me into trouble.

Coming off the All Saints costume fiasco adventure, I should've dried my tears, looked around and decided that a purchased Christmas would be just fine.  But I didn't.  Instead I dug in about THIS being the year to make the girls dresses AND bloomers because obviously it made sense. I mean next year I'll be nursing a baby and will definitely not have the time or energy.  Nevermind the same was true THIS Christmas AND my ankles swelled, my back seized up, and my pelvis went on strike.

The show would go on!

We did very little Black Friday shopping this year but we did go to Hancock Fabrics for their super sale.  The lines!  Oh, the lines.  I knocked over a shelf of polar fleece with a cart loaded with fabric and little girls and set my purse down.  When I realized my mistake, it was gone.  My heart rate quickens just thinking about it. . . but God is good and an employee found it at the register so I was more than a little giddy when the cashier announced we had saved $130+. "Heck yes we did!" I hollered to the rest of the line, pumping my fist in the air for good measure.

Pride goeth before the fall.

The fabric chosen for the dresses- a beautiful pine colored crushed panne velvet - was lovely on the bolt but a NIGHTMARE in every other sense.  And the waist band - how about a matte black satin just to make things interesting?

I wondered where Mama Syd's good sense had gone to encourage such poor choices.  She's the one who taught me 1. Never sew anything stretchy 2. Never sew anything slippery and 3. You've been warned. Sure, I've broken those commandments but never on such a grand scale with so much riding on it or four times over.

It was rough.

Cutting things out started badly with me losing my temper and Jac calling me 'Chris Reyes.' Good times.  Then he googled how to square up knits (because he's a good man and really, really loves me and really, really hates the crazy), pulled out the 4 ft. T-square from the garage and we were on a roll.  That's when I realized we bought a few yards too many and that green fuzz would probably be the death of me.

I took a few days to recover from the cutting and to steel my nerves for the stretchy sewing. And pleating.  And repeat TIMES FOUR.

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I coaxed and cajoled my machine, stopping often to clean the green fuzz from her guts.  We went slow - so very slow! - and I only had to pick two seams out.  Victory was mine!

Fitting was nerve wracking. "That'd suck if they didn't fit, huh?" Jac laughed.  Seeing my crazy eyes he followed that thought very quickly with, "But they'll wear them anyway!"

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Good save.

I saw the Nutcracker for the first time when I was around 10 or so.  I loved the look of the bloomers with the party dresses and promised myself that if I had a daughter someday I would dress her in such a get-up at least one Christmas.

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Boom.  2015 was the year to live the dream!

Gemma ABSOLUTELY flipped out at the thought.  It bled into how she felt about the dress, too, and she almost went to Christmas Eve Mass in just her coat.  Thankfully, she recovered when she learned she could wear her new ballet slippers. Her sisters on the other hand, they were pro bloomers all the way.  And they have asked me every Sunday since if they could wear them with whatever dress is up for the day.  They testify to the comfort and I do think there is something about wearing essentially jammie bottoms under your fancy clothes. . .

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Donning the dresses in preparation for Mass, the girls spun and spun in the living room.  They were warned that there was no puking in the Christmas dresses.  They laughed and spun some more, repeating the performance for the Bishop and all the revelers who visited in the front of Cathedral after mass was over.

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I swore as I sewed that I would never do such a thing again but you know, a few weeks out and it doesn't seem so bad.

It's probably just the crazy talking.

I used this pattern.  It was simple, lined, and easy to follow.  I highly recommend it!  

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You know what I don't like? The way doctors knock before entering the room. It's stupid, I'm aware, to feel this way and I know it's tied to my social anxiety but still. Because, what? Are you going to say, "Just a minute!" or "Come on in!" to the knock? You're in their house. 

The knock. . . It's dumb.

I was left pondering my deep and passionate feelings about the knock as I watched dust bunnies bounce about in the speaker that was playing vaguely country music this morning. Here's the other thing- husbands should be allowed to accompany you to stressful exams. "This is a women's only area. . . I'm sorry!" just doesn't cut it.

The news was good, so I shouldn't be griping, really.

I didn't sleep well last night. When pregnant with Lu, I found a lump in my breast. The day she was born, while in labor, I endured the first ultrasound. "It may or may not be benign. Come back in a year." they said. A year later, it was larger and had changed color, though it was "nothing to worry about," which seemed to go against everything I'd ever read. I was told, again, to come back in a year and so I stood, stressed and frightened, in front of my closet this morning. We had a meeting later in the day that I doubted jeans would be appropriate for. But if I donned a dress and the necessary tights, it'd be a pain at the doctors. In the end, I opted for the dress and figured it'd be fine.

The imaging tech was kind and friendly. She showed me to the pocket of a changing room and pointed out the gown. Then she told me that "only the top" needed to come off. My mind did a victory lap at not having to unzip boots and wrestle out of tights and the pregnancy belt. And then I shook out the gown. It was little more than a child's painting smock-an over the head deal, navy blue with a cheery pink knit collar. 

It barely covered my belly. I stood in that closet and decided that laughter was better than tears at this point. I heard the kids chanting about leggings not being pants and Elizabeth suggesting that we should just wear tights as pants in response to the outbreak of that being ALL the highschoolers wear.

I took the challenge and tried to act nonchalant when the tech came back to get me and usher me to the exam room. Tried to carry on a conversation carelessly, ignoring the fact that I was essentially in my chones and then left pondering how I loathe the doctors knock whilst not wearing any pants.

My nerves were frayed, as you might guess. 

But then the doctor-who kindly averted his eyes from ALL the awkward situations that were present- said it the mass had shrunken to such an extent that they don't need to track it any longer. At that point, it didn't matter what I was or was not wearing because, thanks be to God!, that was some good news.

I still don't like the knock or that I was alone. And let the record show that while pants are advisable, my sartorial choice made for a humorous moment. Above all, God is good, I am relieved, and we are thankful.

Pants or no pants.

  

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I've been stewing for the last week.  Reading status updates of people hating on Mother's Day has riled me up.  The sentiments behind the posts were legitimate - grieving a mother, the hurt of infertility, dreams deferred, rough relationships, and everything in between.  I wasn't sure why I would get worked up because I'm certainly not attached to the day myself.  Then, it dawned on me- it felt like those voices were raining on my parade.

I know they're not, I really do.  But let's be honest, mothering is my thing. I desired and chose it, ill-prepared and naive as I was, and I have been finessing it for 12 years.  I have willingly been stripped of and let other things go for the sake of this call and I own it.  My motherhood isn't clean or soft or even pretty, but it's hard-fought and determined and passionate.  The chorus of what I'm doing wrong and failing at is always droning in my mind and at times it can be deafening so don't think for one moment that I think I have it together or that I'm perfect.  I don't feel the warm, fuzzy "I heart being their mom!  They are my world!" vibe, but this pack of rapscallions?  They made me ME and are plowing my way to heaven, THANK YA JESUS.

So I will take the day.  The recognition.  The honor of being noticed for what I am doing and will do for the rest of my life. My motherhood, my pride in saying, "I brought forth that life," doesn't make me better than anyone else but it does define me. Being a mother means your body is never, ever yours alone ever again. My biology, my very self at a cellular level, has been changed by my children. My mind, too, is different as a result of this call. If they gave medals for it, I'd take one for each of my babes because mothering is HARD. First with the puking and fatigue, then the pinched nerves and hernias, labors, births, nursing, fatigue, post-partum depression, fatigue, mom brain, hormone roller coasters . . . did I mention fatigue?  For the love of Pete, isn't it okay to give these hard working ladies a brunch and sparkly cards?

Sheesh.

In the end, I wonder if we women aren't just afraid.  Afraid that we won't be remembered and noticed for who we are.  I'm just a stay-at-home mom, after all.  Others worry no one will recall or recognize the empty arms and aching heart because of infertility or a life lived unmarried. Others worry their loss of a baby will be forgotten.  Or that no one will want to mention the mom who is no longer here or who abandoned you or was abusive.

Woman, you are seen.  You are important because God made you and he has a plan for you.  It is wild and crazy and doesn't seem logical, but if you follow where he leads, that plan will yield joy upon joy. Alleluia, glory be, God. Is. GOOD.

Today that meant breakfast in bed, homemade cards and lilacs rescued from the snow.  It meant less than an hour to get ready for mass and wearing cowboy boots with fancy dresses because we couldn't find the right shoes.

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It meant braving the snow on the roads to go to a sparsely attended mass. It meant carnations from birthright clutched in hands of various sizes.

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It meant second day makeup and tights poking out of shoes that I didn't notice until we were back home.

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It meant lunch from Taco Bell, naps three to a bed, and sharing my water bottle with a thirsty girl so she would just go to sleep.  It meant Jac cooking supper and celebrating with 3 godmothers because we realize their spiritual motherhood is as valuable as my physical presence in the life of the kids.

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It meant phone calls and texts to the ladies I love and admire.  It meant crying over a letter and gifts from Jac because he notices me.

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It meant shaking off the funk and annoyance and noticing God's goodness.  And it was great.

We mardi gras-ed it up right last night.  Things were loud and sticky and just about perfect.

Yes, I thought, this Lent will be great!

Cue rueful laughter here . . .

Again we keep this solemn fast
A gift of faith from ages past,
This Lent which binds us lovingly
To faith and hope and charity.

New year resolutions?  All well and good and I appreciate the sentiment but for real, hard core change?  Serve me up a Lenten list any day.  It was with this attitude and so very many shiny, promising fasts and observances that I went to bed last night.

I awoke this morning to screaming. Screaming and a headache, to be exact, and within 30 seconds those high hopes were trashed.  Why, Lord? Why did I think that 10 hrs and a plan would somehow change who this family is?

Kids still fight.  Feelings still get hurt.  Insecurities still grow.

Let us avoid each harmful way
That lures the careless mind astray;
By watchful prayer our spirits free
From scheming of the Enemy.

I was ready to throw in the towel before I even rolled out of bed.  It's too hard, it isn't worth it, I don't want to! all played on repeat.  From somewhere God whispered, "My power is made perfect in your weakness."

Fine.

And so it begins.  The walls are bare, but our foreheads are not.  We are still working on our lists, remembering that this time is to strip away the things that distract and keep us from God.  It's bare-bones season, baby.  Let's not waste it!

We pray, O blessed Three in One,
Our God while endless ages run,
That this, our Lent of forty days,
May bring us growth and give you praise.

*Hymn: Again We Keep This Solemn Fast.  It was a fight, of course, this morning over which Lenten song would be sung for morning prayer as everyone has their favorite. (It's true.) Tess won out with this one which is darn close to the top of the list for me, too.  The text is ascribed to St. Gregory the Great - it makes my heart glad to sing these words of his.  There's a reason why he bears the distinction of "the Great"!

**Also, no photo today because the only picture I took was of a very full toilet.  It was that kind of day. You can thank me later for sparing you.

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Today was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  It rolled off of a night of fitful sleep full of teeth grinding which was proceeded by an argument with my beloved that had been rearing it's ugly head for days.  Before that was an evening that didn't go as planned on the heels of a week of much of the same.  In fact, trying to find the genesis of this particularly crummy date on the calendar had me traces it's start to some where in January.

Yuck.

Jac found me hiding at lunch time, meeting my crazy eyes with a smile.  "There's always tomorrow!" he reminded me.

I know.  Oh, I know.

I wish I could pin point the issue (Issues?  Lord, help us . . .) but I think it's a combination of things.  Too much to do and too little time to do it.  Too many nights spent scattered to the 4 winds.  Not enough reading.  Not enough praying.  Too much technology and not enough eye contact.  Plus, the weather has been lovely - most of the time - but we know in our heart of hearts that there is March to endure and so we can't revel.  Or at least I can't.

And really?  The devil is throwing punches and hitting us in the soft spots.  Because I'm tired, I stand there and take it, growing dizzy and sick at heart. I feel the strain of my back against the ropes and don't even flinch when the jabs come.

I hate that guy.

This afternoon, after a failed nap, I took Gemma to Boyd's. Jac had returned from the Chapel craving a Twix and caffeine so Gem and I went in search.  She chatted happily all the way there and stood in wonder before the shiny, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate.  She was eager to help and carrying the wallet and king-sized candy bar filled her with importance.

I soaked it in.

I forget nearly every moment the gravitas of my role as wife and mother.  I mean, I know, but I don't KNOW know. I get bogged down in the have-tos and shoulds and ought-tos and pass right by the get-tos.  I let the Enemy in and hand over the joys then mope in the corner. For what?

We made our purchases and walked into the sunshine.

"Mama!" Gemma yelled.  "It is SO nice out here!  I like the sun even when it's bright.  I missed it when I was inside.  Because," here she clicked her tongue in this adorable way that she has while she wrinkled her nose and shook her head, "the sun is not inside.  No it is not.  It is out outside!" With that she ran to the car.

And I think that's it.  The answer to everything.  The going, the doing, the forfeitted joy, it's from dwelling too much on the inside.  Our eyes - all of us - have been focused in when they are meant for the LIght.  The Son is outside, in the other, far from selfishness and self-pity.

This evening was still hard.  But I watched the sun set and asked that the sun would shine again tomorrow.  That I wouldn't squander the light.  That we would celebrate every joy and look out instead of in.  Because that Gemma kid, well, she's onto something.

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Jac texted me at 7:58 this morning.

"Wanna shower while things are quiet?"

That's how we do love up in here- texts sent from 12 feet away.

By the time towel was in hand, there were 3 different Daniel ladies screaming and I considered joining them.  There was just so much to do and I didn't want to handle it.

But I did because that's what virtue is - doing the right thing even when it's hard.  I could have been more joyful and thankfully there is always tomorrow.  Always . . .

I made Jac breakfast while we snapped at each other.  Oh, how quickly charity slips away!  The stress multiplied like the winding of a spring, turning and turning with each misunderstood word and little girl yell.  The dishes piled in the sink and it wasn't yet 9 o'clock.  The kids chased each other and asked too many times for too many things while Monday careened through it all barking and jumping, simultaneously adding to and attempting to contain the chaos. I willed myself to take it in.

LIFE.  I am PRO-LIFE.

And not just this one- this beautiful, messy, crazy-blessed life- but ALL life.  Because EVERY life matters.

Every.

Single.

One.

We've got to-do lists miles long and we will be away from the kids all weekend and next week is just as busy.  A dear family lost their patriarch today and the car is acting up again and FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-PETE-WHY-CAN'T-THE-YOUNG-ADULTS-GET-THEIR-POOP-IN-A-GROUP?!?! All those things feel heavy but that's not why we slogged through today. No, the weight on our hearts and souls was the weight of 57,557,364 abortions since Roe vs. Wade passed this day in 1973.

Every life matters.

We forget.  We grow complacent.  We turn in and tune out and ignore the weight.

I know there's no easy answer to a culture that says women are strong and no different than men but glorifies our bits and pieces.  I shake my fists at a world that sends all sorts of mixed messages to men AND women and then puts us in a box, shakes us up and expects us to turn out all right. If the world were at my table, I'd say it's crap (though maybe not so nicely) and to knock it off.  Quit hiding behind things and get to the heart of the matter. Alas. . .

Instead, I hold the weight of those lost lives.  I share it with the kids and ask them to heft it.  We talk about pain and sin and hurt and heartbreak.  We pray for mamas in tough spots and pray, pray, pray for people - ALL people - to be virtuous and make good decisions even when it's hard. And I remind them that every life matters.

Every single one.

*500,000 people marched for life in Washington today.  We knew some but cheered for them all.  Every life matters, people.  Every single one.*