1. I took Patrick to be evaluated yesterday by both a physical and an occupational therapist.
He's fine, but in August we visited with a neurologist and she recommended we see a few specialists to make sure Patrick is growing properly and to ensure his muscles and balance and coordination are up to par. So yesterday, he and I drove to a rather large, but very reputable medical facility to have his body poked and prodded and exercised.
It was painful to watch the therapists work with him.
Patrick lacks a great deal of balance, strength, coordination and basic body awareness. He's also on the short side and as skinny as they come. His physical weakness and short stature makes keeping up with his peers and doing basics things like carrying groceries or even his backpack harder for him than the "regular" kids. To add insult to injury, he's also on a special diet, which makes him even more different than the other children his age.
A few times throughout the morning, I had to fight back tears as I realized just
hard certain tasks are for him. On the one hand, I felt great relief for the medical progress we've made with him (I mean, dealing with physical weakness is much easier than dealing with life threatening illness). However, on the other hand, I felt sad Patrick has to suffer at all; I felt sad he faces these burdens.
But here's something else I realized while the therapists were working with Patrick: this kid has many gifts.
He's got a tack sharp memory, he loves to read, and he doesn't struggle with academics, like some of my other kids. He's also a people person. He enjoys meeting others and talking to them, especially if those people share a common interest in history. Making friends comes easy to him.
he has these small crosses because these are the things he's going to learn from the most. We don't grow from the things we are good at. We grow from the things that are hard for us, the things for which we don't have natural talent.
Patrick's weaknesses will keep him aware of his need for God.
If he were an astute student, people savvy person, AND a physically strong specimen capable of moving boulders with his bare hands, why would he need God? What lessons would he need to learn?
His weakness is a gift. It's a present wrapped with a big red bow and a note signed With Love From, God to keep him humble and aware of his neediness.
I have my own gifts of weaknesses which keep me needy for God.
2. It's that time of year. The stores are already going crazy decking the halls and the Christmas tunes
can be heard frenetically floating through the air at local craft stores. It's so insane how big industries have turned Christmas into one, big gigantic money making opportunity.
Most years, I walk right into the corporate track. I buy and I get stressed out and I worry that the small gifts I have to offer are not enough.
But not this year.
This year, I'm not buying gifts. At all.
Instead, John and I are thinking about taking the kids on a small trip the day after Christmas. Maybe to New York City? To see the lights and maybe a show? The money we spend doing this will be so much better than any money we spend on barbie dolls and hot wheels. We're buying time to be together as a family--time away from our usually chaotic routine--and I think that is more valuable than anything.
This year I want to buy an experience for the kids, not a toy.
3. When we were in Mexico, a few of the parents started swapping "Can you believe my kid did
this?" stories. I jumped right on the bandwagon, regaling the crowd with all kinds of awful, when I realized my embellished stories overwhelmed one of the newly married men in attendance.
I know this because he walked away from all the crazy talk mid-story.
The next morning, I realized I had horrified and scandalized this man with my tales of parenting woes, so I found him.
"Listen," I said to him, I wanted to apologize for talking so glibly about parenting last night. I made parenting--and the crazy/hard/silly/funny things my kids do-- sound terrible.
But that's not true.
thing I've ever done. There are so many tender moments I experience a mom, moments where my kids take my breath away because of their goodness, I'm moved to tears. But those moments are hard to describe and....they are fleeting. The other stuff? The tough stuff of parenting? That's easier to talk about and makes for better stories. But I want you to know parenting has made me a better person."
The man understood where I was coming from and was really good natured about my follow up commentary, but I knew he couldn't totally wrap his brain around the AWESOME that comes with being a parent.
Yesterday, Camille fell asleep while we were driving to pick up the kids from school and she awoke right as I was unloading Mary Bernadette and Christopher from the van to play at the park. (We were waiting for the older kids to finish their art classes.) This inopportune nap rendered her disoriented and cranky and inconsolable.
I tried to be kind and sensitive to her tiredness, but I found her excessive crying kind of annoying and because I didn't have any ideas as to how to distract her, I did what I always do when faced with this kind of kid situation: I ignored her.
But then I overheard heard Christopher say to her, "Hey, Camille, would you like to have the lolly pop I got from school? Will you play with me on the playground?"
The thrashing, screaming Camille stopped mid-scream. She looked at Toph, wiped away her tears, and unbuckled her seat. He helped her out of the van and then he slipped her the lolly pop, both of them laughing because it was their favorite flavor--"mystery". I watched in amazement as the two of them walked off together towards the playground, Camille's tantrum a thing of the past.
In that moment, I wished my friend from the wedding could have witnessed Christopher give away his lolly pop in order to make his little sister happy. I wished he could have seen how Camille looked at Topher and how together they played on the swings because that small moment I witnessed between the two of them wiped away a day's worth of bickering and tantruming and self-sacrificing.
Those moments--the sweet, tender and fleeting ones--are the sweet spot of parenting. They are what make all the not-so-good stuff, so, so worth it.
4. Speaking of Mexico, on the day John and I returned, Meaghan turned ten years old. We've
been so busy readjusting to life, we didn't celebrate her birthday until a few nights ago. Her big gift from us was a used DSLR camera that I found on Craigslist.
(It was a steal of a deal!)
She's always asking to use my nice camera and I'm always saying no. But she has a real desire to learn the basics of photography so I got her a camera she could practice on. I'm excited about teaching her the concepts of what makes a photo cool/interesting/beautiful and she's excited to try.
"Mom," she said the day after the received her gift, "I already have different poses and types of pictures I want to try with the kids."
We're gonna have so much fun.
Holding it like a pro already
5. When I was in labor with Mary Bernadette, I had regular contractions for hour until my labor
entirely petered out. There is a medical term for this weird condition, which I can't for the life of me remember, but her labor required pitocin and my permission for the doc to break my bag of water. I was dead set against pain meds (silly me!) so the labor was EXTRA!!! fun and when I finally delivered her, she was over nine pounds.
Mary Bernadette was--hands down--my longest and hardest labor.
I should have known then that my life with her would always be eventful.
She's so different than my other two. She's got so much energy. (Seriously, God broke the mold when he made her.) She has a huge appetite. She loves music and dancing and
creating art. She has a tender heart, is very sensitive, and also extremely generous.
Mary Bernadette is one of my kids who also struggles academically. Homeschooling her is a challenge because she learns in a different way than the other two. (Wow, this has been tough for me as a parent and as a teacher!)
To encourage Mary to pursue things she is good at--like art--, she received a guitar and lessons for her birthday and she seems to be taking to it very well. It makes me so happy to think that even if reading and arithmetic are a challenge (which they very much are), she can take refuge in her art.
Art is refuge for my soul and I want that for her as well.
Mary teaching Meaghan how to play
6. Clickable posts: Thoughts I liked recently--
: I wish I had written this myself. So insightful and so true.
: So, so beautiful. Heart-wrenhing too.
: My friend, Emily, sent me this when I need it. So very sweet and encouraging.
7. Every morning I receive a famous saint quote in my inbox from some Catholic company. I love
reading the quotes, but I particularly identified with this one. I've been thinking about it all day.
"Guard against anger. But if it cannot be averted, let it be kept within bounds. For indignation is a terrible incentive to sin. It disorders the mind to such an extent as to leave no room for reason."
— St. Ambrose
8. Halloween pictures? So glad you asked!