Friday, May 29, 2009

Heart-Shaped Rocks

When Sunshine was about three years old, she brought me a pretty rock she found, in the shape of a heart. I thanked her and exclaimed about how neat that it was heart-shaped. After that, she made it her mission to find me more heart-shaped rocks. In elementary school, she would sometimes spend her recess inspecting the rocks on the ground and come home proudly displaying another heart for me. At age 15 1/2, she still sometimes brings me heart-shaped rocks.

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I only wish that I had thought to date them! Some of them, you have to look at just the right angle to see the "heart"; those were the ones she brought to me when she was younger. Now, she's more critical and only brings home ones with distinct shape.

Sunshine is my firstborn, the one who caused me to grow up, the one who taught me to be a mother. The one I've made the most mistakes with. I guess it's true that "love covers a multitude of sins" because she doesn't seem to hold my mistakes against me!
She's turning out to be a pretty awesome girl, if I do say so myself. She is very bright, creative, and talented. I'm encouraging her to start her own blog to showcase her writing and art talents, but she does have an account on Deviant Art and has created her own website based on a graphic novel she is working on. She's a happy-go-lucky girl, hence nickname "Sunshine". You can't miss her in a crowd, with her bright orange fedora and crazy, mismatched outfits. If she ever gets into trouble, it's the mild, mischievous kind of trouble.

Sunshine Facts:
Favorite Colors: orange, yellow, red, white, and lime green
Favorite Food: pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple
Activities: drawing, reading, writing, plays trumpet in the band
Favorite Movie: The Invisible
Favorite Books: Pyewacket, the Warrior Cats series, Lord of the Rings
Favorite Flower: sunflower
She collects: vinyl records from the 60s & 70s, playing cards, weird shoes, weird hats, weird socks (esp toe socks), weird gloves with the fingers cut out

Sunshine on her 15th birthday. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Interview with my kids

This deserves its own blog. There was this thingie going around on Facebook in which moms interviewed their children and shared the answers they gave. Here is my interview with my three oldest children, and here are their answers to the questions, written down just as they gave them.
(BTW, if you've never heard "Dead Skunk" before, you're missing out! While you're reading, look for the kids' iPod at the right of the page, click the play button, and enjoy some of their favorites.)

Interview With Caveman, age almost 5
1. What is something Mom always says to you?
I love you.
2. What makes Mom happy?
Be good.
3. What makes Mom sad?
Being bad.
4. How does your Mom make you laugh?
You tickle me and all that stuff.
5. What was your Mom like as a child?
Mama, don't ask that question.
6. How old is your Mom?
Ummm, I don't know.
7. How tall is your Mom?
Taller than Gem. But Daddy is taller than anyone in the whole world.
8. What is Mom's favorite thing to do?
Snuggle me!
9. What does your Mom do when you're not around?
Work.
10. If your Mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Being Mama.
11. What is your Mom really good at?
Cook!
12. What is your Mom not very good at?
You'll have to give me a clue.
13. What does your Mom do for her job?
Pay money.
14. What is your Mom's favorite food?
Popcorn.
15. What makes you proud of your Mom?
When she behaves.
16. If your Mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Bat-Man
17. What do you and your Mom do together?
Snuggle
18. How are you and your Mom the same?
We both are Catholic.
19. How are you and your Mom different?
Because you're big and I'm not.
20. How do you know your Mom loves you?
Because you made me.
21. Where is your Mom's favorite place to go?
MOPS
(Mama notes that I've only been once.)
22. What is your Mom's favorite color?
Black.
23. What is Mom scared of?
A dragon.
24. What is Mom's favorite TV show?
The news.

Interview With Mojo, age almost 8
1. What is something Mom always says to you?
Ummm...work.
2. What makes Mom happy?
When we play nicely together.
3. What makes Mom sad?
When we fight and tear up the house.
4. How does your Mom make you laugh?
You can never make me laugh! (Said while laughing.)
5. What was your Mom like as a child?
I think she lived in a poor house.
6. How old is your Mom?
You're 35. Or 34.
7. How tall is your Mom?
189 inches.
8. What is Mom's favorite thing to do?
Tell me to do work.
9. What does your Mom do when you're not around?
She watches movies that I've been wanting to watch, only I can't watch them. And she buys ice cream when I'm in bed.
10. If your Mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
She'll be a famous karate star.
11. What is your Mom really good at?
Playing guitar.
12. What is your Mom not very good at?
Basketball.
13. What does your Mom do for her job?
She works as a nurse in LCU. Or CCU. Something like that.
14. What is your Mom's favorite food?
Probably avocado.
15. What makes you proud of your Mom?
When she buys a lot of good stuff.
16. If your Mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
The black cat on Spiderman. She was actually his girlfriend in disguise.
17. What do you and your Mom do together?
Go shopping.
18. How are you and your Mom the same?
We both have curly hair.
19. How are you and your Mom different?
My head is little and mama's head is big.
20. How do you know your Mom loves you?
Because she takes really good care of me. She sometimes gives me money.
21. Where is your Mom's favorite place to go?
The store.
(Mama says NOT!)
22. What is your Mom's favorite color?
Dark purple. And black.
23. What is Mom scared of?
You're scared of tornadoes.
(Sunshine is arguing with her "Mom is not scared of tornadoes. She goes and sits on the porch and watches the clouds." Mojo says "Yes, she is. She's afraid she's going to die.")
24. What is Mom's favorite TV show?
John Wayne
(Mama's saying "where the heck did she get that?" LOL)

Interview With Sunshine, age 15
1. What is something Mom always says to you?
You can't wear that to church!
2. What makes Mom happy?
When I bring her heart-shaped rocks.
3. What makes Mom sad?
When I get bad grades.
4. How does your Mom make you laugh?
By telling me about her weird, crazy, off-the-wall, out-of-this-world dreams she has, and it makes me think she's smoking something.
5. What was your Mom like as a child?
As a teenager, she was pretty much the same as I am now.
6. How old is your Mom?
Mom, how old are you?
7. How tall is your Mom?
Um, a little bit taller than me.
8. What is Mom's favorite thing to do?
Put up with me and my crazy friends. That's my sarcastic answer.
9. What does your Mom do when you're not around?
I don't know, I'm not around, but my guess would be inappropriate things.
10. If your Mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
For revealing some government conspiracy...she'll go tell the world what they're putting in our food.
11. What is your Mom really good at?
Mothering.
12. What is your Mom not very good at?
Listening to opinions that oppose her own.
13. What does your Mom do for her job?
If you ask me, taking care of all these crazy kids is more work than working at the hospital.
14. What is your Mom's favorite food?
Some of that weird Indian stuff that I don't know what it's called.
15. What makes you proud of your Mom?
Because somehow I grew up to be exactly like her.
16. If your Mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Star Fire from Teen Titans.
17. What do you and your Mom do together?
Chat about random things and sometimes go shopping.
18. How are you and your Mom the same?
We're freaks.
19. How are you and your Mom different?
You have a lot more patience than me.
20. How do you know your Mom loves you?
Cuz she tells me every day. And she buys me really awesome treats.
21. Where is your Mom's favorite place to go?
Um, probably to bed.
22. What is your Mom's favorite color?
Black.
23. What is Mom scared of?
Losing us. Me in particular.
24. What is Mom's favorite TV show?
Um...That 70's Show? I don't know, you don't watch much tv that I notice.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What's So Great About My Bear?

One of the things that frequently comes out of peoples' mouths when they hear that I have five kids is "How do you do it?" My answer is frequently "Well, I have a good husband. I don't think I could do it without him."
It's no secret that I love my husband. I recently made up one of those silly quizzes on Facebook to see how well my friends know me. One of the questions was about my "secret crush". I gave a list of actors that everyone seems crazy about and included Bear's name on the list. That was the one question that every person who took the quiz got right. I have no interest in Brad Pitt or whoever else I grabbed to put on the list. I even read Twilight and watched the movie just because everyone else was doing it, and seriously...Edward??? I don't get it. But I digress. Y'all know I do that sometimes, right?
So anyway, what makes Bear so special? Being the low-key and behind-the-scenes kind of guy that he is, he's kind of hard to get to know. I want to share the things that he does for me and for his children, the things that make him special to us.

10-20-07 target practice 4-19-08

The number one thing I admire about Bear is the way he prioritizes his life. His faith, wife, children, parents, extended family, and helping others are at the top of his list, in that order. I sometimes am frustrated by his stubbornness, but on the flip side, that same characteristic causes him to hold staunchly to that which he believes is right. It causes him to be deeply committed to those things he sees as important. He is loyal to those he loves.
Along these lines, I never catch him "checking out" other women. I know that it's normal for guys to look, but I also know that Bear believes it's not right for married men do so. I know that he tries not to. And if he does, he never gets caught at it. I sometimes hear other women talk about the things their husbands say about other women, the things they find their husbands looking at, the way their husbands openly check out pretty girls walking by. I'm just really thankful that I don't have to deal with that. I feel honored and respected that my husband finds our marriage important enough to guard his eyes, mind, and heart.

Easter 09 Photobucket

Bear also has a servant's heart. When I read or meditate on the scene from the Last Supper where Jesus takes on the role of the servant to wash His disciples' feet, I am reminded of my husband. When he comes home after working a 12-hour shift and sees that I've had a bad day here, he asks me "What can I do for you?" He willingly bathes kids, loads the dishwasher, or does anything else that he thinks will help me. When the baby is waking up numerous times a night, he offers to take over a night feeding or get up and walk with him til he goes back to sleep. Even if he has to get up at 0530 to go to work the next morning. When I am the one who is working, he does his best to juggle all the homeschooling, diaper-changing, meals, laundry, cleaning, and referee-ing. He has to work at it harder than I do; it doesn't come naturally to him. But he puts forth his best effort, and I appreciate it.
When I am pregnant, tired, and nauseated, he goes beyond his normal helpfulness. He takes over the tasks that leave me dry-heaving, like dirty diapers or handling raw meat. If we are out walking somewhere, he automatically starts rubbing the part of my back that hurts when I am on my feet for very long. Anything he can do to ease my discomfort or make things a little easier for me, he does willingly. And sometimes I don't even have to ask.
Once the children are born, he's a devoted, involved, hands-on Daddy. He's just as comfortable soothing a newborn as he is wrestling with the older kids. He loves taking them places and doing things with them. I think he probably takes more pictures than I do. He looks at them with such love in his eyes that it melts my heart.

Bear and Juju napping Bear and Gem 11-26-06 our official pancake maker Photobucket

He's not afraid to show affection. When he leaves the house or returns home, he kisses me and tells me he loves me. He stops to gaze into my eyes, and I can see that he loves me. I can see that he's missed me while we were apart. If we are near each other, he's usually touching me...hugging, rubbing my shoulder, holding my hand, or playing "footsie". We usually fall asleep all tangled up. I know that would drive some folks crazy, but "physical touch" is one of my primary love languages. That kind of attention is right up my alley! He also leaves notes, surprises me with little gifts, calls me during the day when he gets a break, and just generally does small things to let me know he's thinking of me.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Sound like I'm describing the perfect man? Not hardly. Nor do we have the perfect relationship. He's human. I'm human. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we even argue in front of the kids (gasp!) We may sometimes disagree on how to spend our money, how to clean the house, what activities or entertainment to choose. We may be complete opposites in how we react to situations. But on the important stuff--matters of faith, family life, life goals, morals and ethics, politics--we are on the same page. I'm really thankful that we share the same priorities. We have a good thing going here. I love you, Bear.

Photobucket scenic ride along the OK border, 6-25-00

(And as you can see in the above picture, we're passing our morals onto our children as well! hehehe)

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Don't Wanna Go Through the Motions

Have you heard this song by Matthew West yet? If not, look for the iPod on my sidebar, and click the play button! It came on the radio while I was on my way out of town this afternoon, and it put into words some of the feelings that have been rolling around in my head the past few days.

Andrea's memorial service was yesterday, and I don't believe I've been to a more joyful memorial service. There was a slideshow with pictures of her in all her loveliness, set to the Beatles and Johnny Cash. Our friend Siobhan gave the touching and fitting eulogy, and how she managed to keep her composure is beyond me. But she did. A close friend of the family, Chris, sang "Sissy's Song" by Alan Jackson. The place was packed with family, friends, and students of hers. Her family opened up the microphone to those who wished to share their thoughts and memories, and we heard testimony after testimony of lives changed by her upbeat spirit, generosity, and unconditional love. Sunshine surprised me by getting up to speak about how much her Aunt Andrea meant to her. Andrea's 12-year-old daughter spoke of knowing that her mama is in a better place and feeling no more pain. Most touching of all was her sister Dina's recounting of Andrea's last days, in which Andrea was given a glimpse of the incredible beauty that lay before her.

Siobhan mentioned in her eulogy that Andrea would not want to be painted as a "saint", and it's true that she was human just like the rest of us. She felt and expressed pain, anxiety, weariness, even anger at times. It was what she chose to do with these feelings, how she chose to carry herself, how she chose to wear a smile, how she chose to focus on others rather than herself that made the difference. As I heard people sharing stories of her kindness and generosity, I nodded in agreement. I was remembering back to when I was in the hospital delivering Caveman, how she took time between radiation treatments to come see me. Not only that, but she insisted on picking Mojo up to spend the night with her because she just knew that a three-year-old girl would have plenty of fun things to do at her house. When she brought her back to me the next day, she fought against crazy traffic to bring us donuts from the newly-opened Krispy Kreme before going on to her radiation treatment. And she insisted that all this was no trouble at all. That is just a small example of how she thought of others.

I suspect that I am not the only person who is now thinking of what changes I need to make in my life. I'll bet I'm not the only one who wonders, "How will people remember me? Am I making a difference in anyone's life? Am I a light?"
Andrea has inspired me in many ways through the years, and she continues to inspire me. I've long quipped the motto "Peole before things"...but I think I lose sight of that sometimes in my struggle to keep the floors swept, the clothes folded, the toys put away. Really, what difference is any of that going to make in the long run? Because of Andrea, I will think twice when I think I don't have time to play. I will think twice when I think I don't have the time to visit with friends. I will work on sharing more of myself with others and worrying less about what people may think about me. I will make a point of telling people how much they mean to me, whether they reciprocate those feelings or not.

Here are the lyrics to Matthew West's "The Motions":

This might hurt, it's not safe
But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

No regrets, not this time
I'm gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I'm finally feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

'Cause I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

take me all the way (take me all the way)
take me all the way ('cause I don't wanna go through the motions)
take me all the way (I know I'm finally feeling something real)
take me all the way

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

take me all the way (take me all the way)
take me all the way (I don't wanna go, I don't wanna go)
take me all the way (through the motions)
take me all the way

Monday, May 11, 2009

Remembering my beautiful friend

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Andrea was called to her eternal home on Mother's Day, May 10 2009, after a six year battle with breast cancer. She was a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother to three beautiful girls, the favorite teacher of most of her 7th grade English students, and friend to so many. She was such a powerful presence that her absence will leave a void in the lives of those who know and love her.
I've known Andrea since third grade, and we became good friends in 9th grade. Through the years, she's been a huge part of my life. She was a bridesmaid in mine and Bobby's wedding, and the three of us rented a house together for awhile. She insisted that I take a pregnancy test and held my hand while I waited for the result when I found out I was pregnant with Sunshine. I was a bridesmaid in hers and Laith's wedding. She read the scriptures in mine and Bear's wedding, and she made our wedding cake. She's hosted baby showers for me, been at the hospital when some of my children were born, been at our baptisms and First Communions, birthdays, and other special events. Our children have grown big together.

Although she had undergone several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a lot of us were convinced that she was invincible. She never let it slow her down. She still was teaching class and visiting with friends a couple weeks ago. It was a little over a week ago that we discovered that it was time to say our goodbyes.

This past Wednesday night, she had a bad night and was in a lot of pain. The hospice nurse had said that if she continued to decline as rapidly as she had so far, then she would have about 2-3 days left. I was distressed, unable to sleep, and I wound up driving to a nearby Perpetual Adoration chapel in the middle of the night. I prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament--Mother Teresa's emergency novena and all 20 decades of the rosary.
While I was there praying and crying out to God for a miracle, a question came to me. What if Andrea had just won a trip to some beautiful, exotic location, free from all care? Would I be so distressed, begging for her to stay HERE? No, I would send her off with great joy, excited for the opportunity that she's been given, maybe even a little envious of her good fortune. I realized that the journey she was about to embark upon is greater than anything earth could offer her. I would have been happy to see God work a miracle for the sake of her young daughters, or in the hope that some of her unbelieving loved ones would be converted. But at that time, I came to be at peace with sending her off on her journey.

Siobhan, Donnita, Sandy, and I visited her on Thursday. She had always said that she wished she could get Sandy, Siobhan, and me all together at the same time, but it never had worked out. I was afraid that after the night she had, it was going to be too late for her to enjoy all of us being there together. But I was wrong! She wanted to put on the new pajamas that her grandma brought her, get in the wheelchair, and sit at the table with us. She was able to eat a couple bites, drink a little, and take her medicines. Although she seemed confused at times, she knew who we all were, and she seemed very happy to see us. She would turn and look at each of us at different times, smile her beautiful smile, and reach out to hold a hand or give a hug. Once she went back to bed, she slept very deeply for the rest of the afternoon. She actually seemed more happy and at peace than I've seen her in a long time.

There are times when I don't think we've had enough time to adjust to the fact that she really is leaving us, but at the same time, I'm glad she didn't have a long, drawn-out period of suffering. And I'm thankful for the time we had with her. I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to pray a rosary with her during her last week here. I thought she was asleep when I sat down beside her to whisper the prayers, but then she reached to hold my hand. I could see her lips moving in prayer along with me at times, see her trying to keep track of the prayers on her fingers at times, and occasionally she would open her eyes and smile at me. What a blessing that memory is to me! (If you are wondering...no, she wasn't Catholic, but she loved the rosary just the same.) I'm thankful that her friends were able to give her a good send-off and let her know how much she was loved. I'm thankful that her last moments were surrounded by loving family. I'm thankful that her family had time to prepare for her leaving. I'm thankful that she is reunited with her youngest sister, whom she missed so much. I'm even a little envious that she actually got to see our Blessed Mother on Mother's Day.
I will miss visiting with her at the girls' ballgames, spending lazy afternoons at the pool, those increasingly rare occasions when I could catch her on the phone to chat. I will cherish all the wonderful memories I have of her. The night we went running barefoot through a freshly plowed field enjoying the feel of the dirt on our feet. The time we both drove 30 miles in the middle of the night to meet each other halfway at a gas station so we could visit in person. Sitting on the front porch swing sharing a bottle of White Zinfandel at 3:00pm (the whole bottle!), listening to the Doors, waving at the passing cars. Floating lazily in the lake, singing terribly. Long phone conversations about motherhood, God's grace in our lives, lessons we'd learned.

I will always love Andrea and miss her while I am here on earth, but I am so thankful for the hope of being reunited with her someday.

Here are some of my favorite pictures...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wisdom

I mean to post something on our virtue/Scripture/saint every week, but you know how it is. Life, five kids, work, and all. ;-)

This past week our virtue was wisdom. What is wisdom? I define wisdom as having knowledge and making good use of it, knowing the correct thing to do and making the choice to do it, using good judgment, understanding. What good is knowing something if we do not know how to use that knowledge? What good is reading and listening if we do not understand and apply what we've read and heard to our lives? Simply knowing the right thing to do does us little good if we do not also realize that we have to choose to act on it.
Wisdom does not come naturally to all of us, but the good news is that we all have a way to obtain it! The Scripture verse we have chosen to memorize this week is James 1:5 (RSV), "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him." I believe this wholeheartedly, and I will never cease my asking.

Each Friday, if the children can commit our Scripture verse to memory and recite it for me, I give them a dollar. I have no problem with bribing the children to memorize their Scriptures. I'll be happy to do whatever it takes to help them permanently etch the Scriptures into their memories. All the candy and bribes I received from memorizing Scripture verses Sunday School growing up did me no harm whatsoever, but those verses are still in my memory today. They come to me in prayer, they come to me as an answer to prayer, and they come to comfort me in times of stress.

Our saint for this week is Catherine of Sienna, whose feast day was April 29. St. Catherine is a hard example to follow, with her severe ascetism, but she is an example to us nonetheless. She was the youngest of 25 children, and answered the call at a young age to devote her life to God. She devoted her life to caring for the sick and poor, and her wisdom caused her to rebuke a pope...and he listened to her. She received the stigmata, which became visible after her death, and she is one of the saints whose body was found incorrupt after her death. She is one of the Doctors of the Church. Her writings can be found here.
St. Catherine of Sienna, pray for us!