Friday, March 30, 2007

The Karate Kid

Tonight's family movie: The Karate Kid.

In honor of my own karate kid:

Except for some isolated bad language, this was a great choice for our family movie. Mr. Miyagi has nuggets of wisdom for any situation. For instance, "I say, you do, no questions" works for me daily!

Sam fell asleep 10 minutes in and missed the whole thing. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Had to Share This

I didn't even know these existed, but what a difference this made in Tony's second haircutting experience.

The first time he got a haircut he cried and twisted, reaching for me the whole time. This time he couldn't have cared less if I was even in the room, so intent was he on steering that car (but not so intent that he let go of his sippy cup, you'll notice).

Anyway, this mom is sending out gratitude to whoever had this wonderful idea. Thanks for a peaceful salon experience. And, Cost Cutters, rest assured you have found yourselves some loyal customers. We'll be baaaaaack!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

One Month Old Already

Time sure flies (when you're not pregnant, that is!). Isabella is already a month old and changing right in front of our eyes. I could not get her to look at me for this photo, so busy was she looking at the light coming in from the window off to the side. She spends lots of quiet time awake now, just observing her often chaotic surroundings.

This is her signature look: tongue sticking out slightly between her lips. Cute, but let's face it, only at this stage of her life!

Isabella hasn't smiled for real yet, but grants me plenty of previews through her frequent and oh-so-charming sleep smiles. She, like several of her siblings but neither of her parents, has a dimple in her left cheek. I can't wait to see it in action.

Apparently, the photo session was a bit taxing for her.

She is such a joy and I am so happy she is here. We all are. I am falling in love with my other children all over again, seeing how they love her, care for her and regard her as the miracle that she is.

Who could have understood the many blessings of having such a large family? Not me, but I am here to tell you that they far outweigh the challenges.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Where's the Rest of Her?

This is disturbing on so many levels.

Where is her torso? Where is her head? Where is my 3 year old daughter, who is roughly the same size and will soon be mourning the loss of her "twin"? Where are my husband and son who so desperately wanted this overgrown toddler-puppy? Where is my sanity?

Why I'm laughing so hard?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

More Tooth Fairy Trouble

I laughed out loud when I read this over at Mom to the Screaming Masses. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who is a rotten tooth fairy!

It was a particularly timely post for me since this very same I day I made my second--and probably not last--tooth fairy blunder. You may recall Lindsey's sobbing disappointment several months ago when the insensitive fairy did not show to collect her front tooth. You would think I would have learned from this and never forgotten again. Well, I didn't.

Five year old Sam has become the next victim of the fairy's ineptitude, but, luckily for me in this regard, Sam is a very different child than Lindsey. Sam did not cry, in fact, he was not even disappointed. He came into our room the morning after the no-show and matter-of-factly reasoned it out.

Sam figured it was his fault the tooth fairy didn't arrive since he had come into our bed in the middle of the night and did not actually spend the entire night in his bed. Hearing his explanation, I paused for only the briefest moment before agreeing with him. Yep, that must be it: the tooth fairy gets confused when the tooth loser is not in his bed along with his tooth! So, I quickly explained to Sam that he was absolutely right and that she was sure to come if he stayed in his own bed all night (which she did, phew!).

Yes, I am properly shamed by letting my kid take the fall for my forgetfulness, but, hey, I did it for him. You know, to preserve the magic of the fairy. I'm sure it had nothing at all to do with covering my own failure. And I'm sure you believe me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What A Difference A Year Makes

Today is Jay's birthday.

It was a very good day, if I may be so bold as to speak for Jay in summarizing his own birthday. Jay worked from home, at a job he loves that provides what our family needs. He took his dog for a walk in the desert. He had his favorite prosciutto sandwich for lunch. He went to mass. He interacted with both immediate and extended family throughout the day. The best part of all? This very nice day wasn't much different from most days at this point in our lives.

I could not help but think, as the day progressed, how much better this March 21st was than the last one was. Last year at this time we were worried about a lot of things. Jay was forecasting the need for a major job change and did not find the day to day joy he sought in his work. We were concerned about Joey's school situation, as he was not thriving. We owned an albatross of a house that would not sell. Just one year later, these things have all resolved, our prayers answered for each one.

For me, however, the most striking difference between last year's birthday and today's was the going-out-to-dinner part. Like last year, we left the kids at home so Jay and I could go out for a nice dinner. Also like last year, dinner had to be later than we would have liked because we had to be at church for a meeting or event. Unlike last year, though, tonight we actually made it to the restaurant!

One year ago tonight, as we were on the way to dinner, a car ran a red light and hit us, deploying the air bags and breaking my wrist. We spent the evening of Jay's birthday in the emergency room instead of the restaurant. Tonight, in sharp contrast, we had delicious Argentinian food: tapas, pasta and steak.

Last year I had morphine, x-rays and Anointing of the Sick (no, I wasn't THAT injured...our priest happened to walk by me as I sat in agony on the gurney in the hall, which was nice!). Tonight I had red wine and creme brulee instead. Better? I'd say so!

Happy birthday, honey. It's your day. So, why does it feel as if I got all the presents?!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It Must Be Enchanted

I'm sure of it. This can be the only explanation as to why I am obsessed with Orange Chicken from Panda Express. Because, really, nothing can be that good unless it has been placed under some sort of spell.

You remember, of course, Edmund in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and his addiction to Turkish Delight. The witch made it so that he could do nothing but want more after he first tried it. Well, I have been similarly afflicted, and I would like to have a word with whoever is in charge of recipes over there at the Panda's corporate headquarters, because this is ridiculous!

This dish is sweet, sour, spicy, crispy, and savory all at the same time...and what ravenously hungry nursing mother can resist this? Clearly not me. I had some for lunch today and am already plotting and planning to figure out when I might next pass one of the FOUR Panda Express locations within five miles of my house precisely at lunch time.

Pathetic? Yes. True? Sadly.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Too Young for A Cold

But I guess this is just my opinion--the bacteria don't share it. They have found fertile ground and they are diving in.

Sure enough, poor 3 week old Isabella is snorting and sneezing, and it is breaking my heart. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the germ-ridden older siblings who grab her little hands with their dirt encrusted paws (even when repeatedly instructed to wash their hands before doing so). But would I have them love her less? Of course not. Their adoration is too precious and all-too-temporary, as I know from experience. As soon as she is mobile she will annoy them, so she'd better soak in this loving while she can!

I am making myself feel better about her plight by focusing on all the great immunities she is building up. But listening to her rasp while attempting to breath through her nose is quite sad. Get better soon, Isabella, so we can both sleep better!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

(Not Too) Sweet News, and Other Tidbits

I got the results of my postpartum glucose testing, and the news is delightful. My gestational diabetes resolved itself! My numbers were very good, not at all borderline, so I am thrilled and relieved. Yipee!

I can't believe that once again it has been a full week since I have posted. What have I been doing, you might ask? Not much besides laundry. As much laundry as five children and two adults generate, a newborn noticeably adds to it. I used to spend the breaks between homeschooling lessons answering emails or something similar, but now I just rotate laundry. I looked forward to Saturday all week as the one day I have to just catch up on laundry without having to tend to other obligations (scary, but true). I have strategically placed a crucifix in my laundry room to help remind me to cheerfully offer up this labor. It helps.

I have been enjoying life oh-so-much-more now that I am no longer pregnant. The kids have been making me laugh a lot lately, and I wonder, have they always been this funny or am I just in a much better mood now? I have a sneaking suspicion it is the latter since Joey asked me somewhat suspiciously last week, "Why aren't you grumpy, mom?" when he caught me laughing about something. Hmmm... Anyway, they have been delighting me with their sweet personalities and amusing turns of phrase.

Tony is learning new words every day, but it is not fast enough for him. He is ready to talk and gets so animated trying to communicate with long strings of non-sensical syllables interjected with one or two intelligible words. Our family favorite is when he comes running to one of us, pointing accusatorily behind him, saying something like, "ar buh jogruh DOG ibwa due BAD DOG!" Tony loves to torture the dog by climbing on him and throwing things at him, and Trooper is generally extremely patient with him. In fact, Tony spends a portion of each day "waterskiing" on the tile holding on to Trooper's tail. So, Tony's total outrage when the dog does something back to him--like take a ball from him or eat some food he has dropped--is very funny to us all.

Julia is in a phase where she thinks she speaks like an adult and will say fairly adult things, but messes up the words. It is so hard not to laugh, but we try not to because it hurts her feelings. A few days ago she was walking down the stairs on her heels and asked triumphantly when she reached the bottom, "Impressing, isn't it?" Yesterday she was asking when she would see her godparents again (the Bizzanellis) and she said, "When will we see the Grand Finales?" I love it!

Jay is just back from an Opus Dei retreat where he gave a talk on "Sanctifying Family Life". As you might imagine, he did not have to look far to find material. Plenty of opportunities on an hourly basis around here! Anyway, it is nice to have him back, peaceful and happy. I recommend retreats for everyone, as the dividends pay off for weeks after the fact for the entire family.

Enough aimless rambling for today. I'll try not to let another week go by without a new post, but I'm afraid I can't promise. You know, laundry and all.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Not So PC is OK By Me

Yesterday I went with Joey to his baseball practice. It was an extra Saturday practice where the parents and siblings played a scrimmage game with the boys on the team. Normally, Jay takes Joey to baseball--I don't have much to do with this particular extra curricular activity. But since Jay was busy hauling pea gravel to our play area all weekend, I agreed to take part in this scrimmage game so he could keep on with his work.

I wasn't too worried, even though it had been at least 15 years since I had played any form of baseball. After all, I've seen the Quartz Hill Angels play (I do go to the games) and I felt I could hold my own against this troop of 7 and 8 year olds. I mean, the pitcher barely comes up to my waist, how bad could it be?

In considering this, I forgot two important details. First, I gave birth just over two weeks ago and was pregnant for a long nine months before that. Second, I broke my wrist a year ago and it doesn't move like it used to. At all. Needless to say, the Angel's kicked my sorry rear...and it was REALLY sorry after running the bases only one time (yee haw, I got a hit, but it wasn't worth it!). Not one play was made at 2nd base since I was completely unable to turn my glove around to catch a ball. But the boys weren't interested in my pathetic physical excuses. They just thought I was naturally terrible. And I suppose that's OK.

But none of this was the point of this post anyway. What I really want to comment on is how great I thought his two coaches were yesterday.

When we lived in Northern California I took Joey to baseball more often because Jay traveled so much. I thought his coaches and team there were wonderful too. They were so kind to the boys and supportive, even when they played terribly. It was a good, positive experience for Joey and, although his baseball skills didn't improve tremendously, his confidence was good, which was much more important to me anyway.

We now live in a much less PC area. The crunchy granola undertones of Northern CA have been replaced with a bit more raw reality. For the most part, I like this, and I especially like how it translates into baseball practice. Now, don't get me wrong. These coaches love and support the boys too. They give them lots of praise when they do something well. But they also give them the straight scoop and tell them when they are messing up. There is no sugar coating, no beating around the bush. It is a good old fashioned "What the HELL was that?!" when they miss a ball they should have caught or throw to the wrong base. They follow up with an actionable correction to whatever went wrong instead of ignoring it or saying "it's OK, you're doing fine." And you know what? The boys are really improving! (And they don't seem emotionally scarred yet, either.)

I have been thinking about how this translates into the virtue of humility, which I so want to instill in my children (not to mention myself!). The best definition I have heard of humility is: "the ability to see things as they really are". I consider this often. We are humble if we can see clearly where we need to improve but also where our true strengths are. It is different from false humility, which is downplaying our strengths to appear modest, and it is also different from blindly stumbling through life believing we good enough as we are and we don't have to work too hard to be better since everything is all OK and just fine as it naturally is.

True humility, for a seven or eight year old playing baseball, is understanding that he might not be the best one on the team. That not everyone has equal skills. That he might have to bust his gut playing catch with dad in the backyard if he wants to be as good as the guy playing first base. It also might mean knowing that he actually is the best one on the team and learning how to handle this in a way that is not prideful and doesn't isolate his teammates. Humility is accepting that sometimes there is only one MVP and not everyone earns a trophy.

This is real life. Sometimes it's harsh. Sometimes we're not good at something we really want to be good at. Sometimes things don't turn out as we want them to. We naturally want to protect our children from this reality as long as we can, but if we protect them too long, do we risk the development of their character?

I, for one, am glad to see a little humility getting doled out on the baseball diamond...because he already has his mother to tell him that he's wonderful, pretty much no matter what he does.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Tony the Trash Man

One of our favorite things to do during Lent is attend the Knights of Columbus Friday Fish Frys. We eat really good fish, feed the whole family for very little, and see lots of our favorite people. The kids run around with kids they know from school or church, and Jay and I get lots of time to talk with other adults. What's not to like?!

Normally, some of the Knights walk the aisles of the crowded hall with rolling trash cans to collect garbage. This week, members of the first grade class at Sacred Heart School took over this duty with relish. They pushed and pulled and gleefully collected trash without tiring. The Knights thought this was great and so did the kids.

Tony, when he was done investigating the desert table and attempting nearly successfully to swipe it clean of its brownies, decided he needed to get in on this trash action. He loves to push things around the house (bar stools, benches, the laundry basket), so this was right up his alley. Before anyone could stop him, he had commandeered a trash can and was enthusiastically pushing it back and forth down the main aisle.

Naturally, Tony is too short to see over the trash can, so there was quite a bit of careening into tables and passersby. I had to follow him closely and gently direct the trash can without letting him know I was touching it. If he saw me even touch it, he erupted in howls of protest.

Some, who couldn't see Tony on the other side, found it alarming--and then amusing--to see a seemingly unattended trash can moving on its own.

Cute, right? For the first 15 minutes, yes. For the next hour and a half? Not so much. But he would not be deterred. And, luckily, most of the attendees thought it was very cute, even when the charm had faded for me.

Yesterday Jay and I were at Lowe's with Tony and Isabella, and we heard someone call across the paint aisle, "It's the trash man!" Tony beamed. I cringed, because I already know what next Friday will bring, and it's not me sitting down eating my fish while it's still hot.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Didn't Think This One Through

Trooper has been chewing our dining room chair. In an effort to stop this, I cleverly asked Jay to spread some Tabasco on the area, thinking that his next chew would be his last. Great plan, right?

Turns out, Tabasco sauce doesn't really bother a Mastiff. But it does make him drool. A lot. For a long time, out of both sides of his mouth.

So, now I have a chewed dining room chair, a soggy carpet and a disgusting animal on the loose.

Well, it seemed like a good idea. Live and learn.

Homeschool Poetry

I had to share the result of Joey's recent poetry unit:

My baby brother Tony
His nickname is bologna
My sister is Isabella
We call her mortadella
My other brother Sam
His nickame is ham
Our family like to eat
Lots of deli meat

Enough said.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Back to Normal

It's amazing, when you have six kids (or 5 or 4 or 8) how quickly life returns to normal after the birth of a baby. After my first baby, and even my second, things remained out of whack for what seemed like months. But, here I am with a one-week old baby and life is just like it was before...except with a wonderful new addition, of course. Oh, and I'm not pregnant anymore, which is really something to celebrate!

Back to laundry, making lunches, changing diapers, grocery shopping, homework and home school lessons. Back to paying bills, taxi service, gymnastics and baseball practice. Back to life. And you know what? I couldn't be happier.

This is the life I choose. The life I love. The life I treasure and protect. Living a boring, repetitive life, serving my family, praying for the best, and being truly grateful for all the blessings in my life. It's nice to be back.