As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Monday, May 27, 2013

Big Day for a Special Boy

On Sunday my son Timothy made his First Communion. It is a step he has been looking forward to ever since his older brother made his First Communion last year.  You see Timothy, despite being my second of six children, suffers from middle child syndrome.  And he spends much of his life living in the shadow of his older brother, who makes all the milestones for the first time.  But this year was all about him, and it was special - and if there's anything Timothy loves, it's to be made a special deal over.

When I realized that the First Communion was the same weekend as the bachelor and bachelorette parties for two of our closest friends, I didn't know what to do.  Jeff and I are both in the wedding party, and Jeff was hosting the bachelor party (which was an overnighter), and the First Communion was for 9:00 am the next morning.  I texted Jeff to let him know only a couple of weeks before the First Communion but didn't hear back right away. When I got home that evening I discovered he had already talked to Timothy about it, who was crushed.  We tried to find another way, but he wouldn't have it. He didn't want to do it at another church, and he certainly didn't want to do it on his own without a catechism class (and the community-wide celebration that accompanies it).  He was heartbroken, he couldn't even talk about it without crying.  There was nothing we could do - we had to make it happen.

And little Timothy was thrilled!  He spent the weeks before his First Communion taking part in classes, learning a song that the kids all sang together, shopping for a suit with his Dad, and baking cupcakes with me for the big day.  And it was all worth it.  The look on his little face says it all.

God is good, and always makes up for what we lack.  Where we felt we had no time, God was there, providing for us - giving us the energy to celebrate our friends who are preparing to make the incredible journey into marriage late into the evening the night before, and still have the energy to rise bright and early the next morning with Timothy.  My mother and nephew stayed overnight to help with the kids the next morning, and despite having seven kids (and having been up until 2 am) things went off without a hitch.  We, who are late for Mass on a good day, managed to arrive on time and with our good tempers intact.  I could really feel God's grace carrying me, preparing the way so that I could be fully invested in my boy.

He was giddy with excitement when he received the Eucharist for the first time.  I kept telling him he should close his eyes and pray, but he couldn't. As I knelt in prayer I could feel him flipping my hair, tugging on my coat, and shifting next to me.  And while I would normally correct such behavior, I let it slide.  I knew this was the expression of his joy - all of the excitement leading up to this very moment.  I asked him if he felt any different now that he had received Jesus' body and blood inside of him, and he said, "A little like my chest hurts.  And a little happy."  And that made my chest hurt a little too, in a bursting with pride kind of way.

Receiving his certificate
We have been preparing for this day for a very long time.  We have had long talks about what it means to receive Jesus into your body physically, how at the moment of consecration the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, and how Jesus - who is King of all the world - does that just so that He can live inside of us, and fill us with His life.  I don't know how much of that he gets right now, if any.  I don't know if he was thinking of that when he received Jesus for the first time or not.  But what I do know is what I saw on his face - that look of pure joy filling his heart and bursting out of him.  He knows it's a big deal, and he knows it means he is growing up.  And I know that is one of the biggest steps on his journey to knowing Jesus for himself.  Jesus making himself physically present to him, living inside of him.  What an incredible thing!

May Jesus present in the Eucharist dwell in my son and make his heart aflame for Himself!

Us and Timothy with his Godparents on his special day

Friday, May 24, 2013

With Strength

It's been a doozy past couple of weeks.  Do all of my posts start like that lately?  I'm sorry.  It's really not anything significant, but I find it's always the smallest things that break me.  Why is that?  There's a song by Old Man Leudecke that aptly fits my current temperment:

"Long suffering Jesus, you must love to hear your sons and daughter's moans."

Put in the context of our Lord's sufferings, mine seem so infinitely small.  Clogged milk ducts, to be specific.  Anyone who's nursed a baby may or may not have experienced this, but it happens when your breasts don't drain properly for one reason or another.  Mine was a trip I took with my mother two weeks ago.  I brought the baby with me, but delayed her first feeding by an hour and a half because she was sleeping and I didn't want to delay our departure.  We spent the next day shopping and I thought I nursed her plenty, but I guess she must have been distracted (and I a little too eager to get on with my day).  Things went awry that very evening, and ever since then (but for a calm day or two in between) I have had to clear my calendar, nurse on demand, rest, and pray.

It's been tricky, because even though a clogged duct keeps the milk from draining, that doesn't mean you stop producing milk.  So the longer you go without getting that sucker out, the more painful it is.  It has been a real test for me, one that has brought out the best and the worst in me, all in a matter of days.  The first clog lasted four days and caused me to miss a spelling bee for the kids and a day trip to visit my Aunt in Moncton.  The second appeared the day before a big concert for one of my best friends.  Because the milk ducts become stretched, I am more prone to developing recurrent clogs, which is where I'm at right now.  And after nearly two weeks of dealing with this painful condition, I'm worn out.

"Why oh Lord," I wonder, "can you move mountains, and yet you can't get this milk moving?"  Of course, He can.  And my reaction to this minor bump in the road reveals so much about me.  Is He indifferent to my suffering?  Of course not.  He permits it - for my good.

Jeff told me in a moment of despair that it was like St. Peter on the raging waters.  He reminded me that the strength to stand came only from fixing his eyes on Jesus.  That imagery has helped me so much over these past few days.  Perhaps mostly in that it gave me something to share with the kids, who have seen me walking not so gracefully at times through this.  "Why did St. Peter start to sink?" I asked them.  "Because he doubted," Joseph answered.  "That's right," I said.

It's scary to be so needy when you have so many people who are dependent on you.  Dependent for meals, for education, for attention, for love.  All I've wanted to do these past few days was sneak away into a hot bath, or to go lie down, or to pump like crazy trying to get this thing dislodged.  Not only is it painful, but completely baring.  When your breasts are sore, the last thing you want is a crowd of people around - and yet, I have been surrounded by six sets of eyes on me all the time, at my worst.  Wanting only to disappear by myself until things are better, and even still - called to serve, called to love, called to be present.  To not disappear.

I asked them to pray.  I told them that, like St. Peter, I too need to keep my eyes on Jesus.  But sometimes, that's hard.  And when I loose my patience and get snappy, "that's the sign," I told them, "that Mommy's starting to sink."  I asked them that in those moments, to please say a silent prayer for Mommy to look back at Jesus.  So I don't sink.

I came across this gem of a reading from Pope Francis.  It's a homily he gave called, "Suffering difficulties with patience and overcoming oppression with love."  It could not have been better timing for me.  In it, he says:

" 'To suffer, he explained, is not simply to “bear with a difficulty.": To suffer is to take the difficulty and to carry it with strength, so that the difficulty does not drag us down. To carry it with strength.' "

Isn't that the call of every vocation, of every person?  Whether large or small, no person's life is devoid of difficulty.  May mine continue to point me to Christ, so that I may not be overcome by the small stuff, but will rise with strength to the peace that Lord desires so deperately for me.

"Long suffering Jesus, you must love to hear your sons and daughters' songs." 
(Old Man Luedecke)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The most exciting moment of my history as a blogger

I only have nine regular followers (according to the little sidebar on my blog, anyway).  I'm small potatoes in the blogging world.  So you can imagine my excitement to discover that a blogger from Georgia reads my blog!  Or has read it, at least once.  Kelly, from a blog called "In the Sheepfold", recommended me for a Liebster award, which is a kind of honorable mention for blogs with less than 200 followers.  Basically you answer a few questions, and then tag some fellow bloggers to do the same.  When I got to the end of her post and saw "Natasha" as the final person she tagged I thought, " can't be me."  Then I clicked, and it was!  And I told Jeff as soon as he came in, as if I was famous!  And for a small moment, I was - if only in my own mind.

I am a few weeks late in doing this post, so I won't delay in getting to the questions.  But first let me encourage you to check out Kelly's blog - I found her through another blog I read by Rachel Balducci (  She and Kelly both live in a Christian community in Georgia called the Alleluia Community, and I love reading their accounts of family life, both as Christian families in their own homes and as part of a larger Christian community who are accountable to each other.  If God aligned everything in my life just right I would love to start something like this here.  But for now, I can read and admire what the Lord is doing in their little corner of the world.

So - there are some questions with this thing.  And here they are:

1. Where were you on 3/13/13 when you saw the white smoke or heard that we have a pope?

We were en-route from piano lessons.  We had watched the first two burning of the ballots (the night before and early that morning) and knew that the timing of the third burning of the ballots would be somewhere around the time we get home.  We stopped at our store on the way home, and the person in front of me took FOR-E-VER to finish at the counter.  I wanted to shout, "I gotta go!  Don't you know we're waiting for a Pope??"  But I didn't (thankfully!)  The two older boys and I (and the baby) came in the door and turned the TV on, and saw the white smoke pouring out of the chimney. They were so excited!  The kids kept saying, "Go to Google and type in, 'who is the new pope?'" and it was a powerful testament, even in our modern-day world of information available on demand when I want it, to the beauty of waiting.  My husband was in town with the other three kids, and was able to make it home before the announcement of who the Pope was, so we got to see it all together as a family.  So many of our friends and family called us to see if we were watching, which added to the excitement for the boys.  When the Pope asked everyone to pray with him we all knelt as a family, and received his blessing right there in the middle of our living room, united with those present in Rome and everyone watching all around the world, all at that exact moment.  It was really beautiful.

2. If you had a whole day to yourself (without your kids or hubby) what would you do?

Something with my husband.  Oh wait, I forgot that it said "without your kids OR hubby).  Then I'd probably be missing him!  Actually just recently I was able to get away overnight with my Mom, and it was awesome!  If I really had to make do without my husband, I would most likely arrange to spend time either with my Mom or one of my close friends.  The hardest thing I find about making stuff like that happen is just coordinating babysitters and dropping kids off/picking them up - I tend to talk myself out of things that require too much work.  When I can just leave the house and go out, and come straight home when I'm done, that's when I really feel like I've had a break.  Which my husband is pretty good at making happen for me whenever I need him to.  

3. What was your favorite childhood cartoon?

Teddy Ruxpin and The Smurfs.

4. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

It is my dream to go to Rome.  We really really (really) wanted to go there for a honeymoon, or within the first six months of our marriage, because they have a special Papal audience for newlyweds where you get an individual blessing from the Holy Father.  It didn't work out though, because as it turns out you need lots of money do take a trip like that (who knew?) and we didn't have it.  A few years ago I nearly had us talked into going for our tenth wedding anniversary, which is this summer, but as the time draws closer and with six little ones (ages nine and under) it is slowly becoming apparent that maybe we'd better shoot for our 25th instead.  But if money wasn't an option, I'd be there in a heartbeat.  And I'd take the kids - a friend of mine visited with very young kids a few years back, and she said it was a great place for kids.  She said every Catholic should visit Rome at least once.  I hope that someday I will.

5. What is your favorite prayer or devotion?

The rosary is our favorite family devotion.  When Jeff and I first started dating, some friends of ours said the rosary with their family every day at 9:00 pm, no matter who was there (their kids ranged in age from probably about six to seventeen) and it was so powerful to me to be present while everything in the house stopped and everyone prayed.  I knew I wanted to do it with my own family, but oh it was so difficult in the early years!  I think I had too high expectations (I experienced that after this family had been established, and didn't have small babies) and so often our "family prayer time" ended with tantrums - and not just from the kids!  It wasn't until we attended our first Family Camp, where the rosary is said every evening with all families present, and kids of all ages, that we really got the encouragement we needed.  We saw that kids really can do it, that all these other families do it, and what is reasonable to expect of them (and also what is not).  We do a shortened version (three Hail Mary's instead of ten) mostly for the youngest ones.  It has been a real blessing to our family life.

6. What is your favorite “go to” outfit to wear?

Jeans and whatever shirt I happen to grab to go with them.

7. What is something that not many people know about you?

That I was a huge wrestling fan growing up, and watched WWF (now WWE) with my dad.  And I loved Brett "the Hitman" Hart.  I even asked Santa to get me to meet him one year, but Santa left a detailed letter outlining all the reasons it wasn't practical for that to happen, all of which I accepted because I was a good kid like that.  And also that I believed in Santa until I was fourteen.  No joke - I even stood up to the mean kids in my grade nine class who cornered me one day and said, "you can't be serious!" And I responded, "you're wrong, I know it's true because I asked my Mom and she told me, and my Mom wouldn't lie to me!"  

8. Are you a Downton Abbey fan or a “what’s all the fuss about” girl?

I'm curious about Downton Abbey, and I wish I had a reliable way to watch it.  But we don't have network TV, and it's not available on Canadian Netflix.  I know there are ways to watch it online, but I'm never certain if those websites are legit if they don't come from the Networks themselves.  And I suppose I could buy the DVDs, but I don't know if I want to invest myself into a show that much. If it was something I thought Jeff would like, and that we would watch over and over again, I might consider it.  Until then, I'll just have to find someone to lend it to me (or wait until it finds its way into the Canadian Netflix lineup).

9. How did you meet your hubby?

We went to the same high school.  We never met until May of my graduating year at a youth rally, but apparently he knew who I was long before that because I used to hang out in the halls at lunch with my friends, and I sat right in front of his locker.  He was such a tease when we were at the youth rally and I started having a crush on him, but by the time we came home he had started dating another girl.  They broke up not long after, and our prom was coming up, but I already had a date by then so I set him up with another friend so that he would be at the prom with us.  He came to the same party as me after the prom, but didn't stay the night because he was leaving on a trip to Steubenville the next day.  We didn't see each other again until the fall when I, then a university student, thought it would be fun to visit our old high school. My friend and I went together, and I had him on my mind.  I searched all throughout the school and couldn't find him, then decided to check the library on the way out and he was there.  We exchanged numbers, and the rest as they say is history.

10. What was your favorite song/album/band/artist growing up?

Oh, how my taste in music has changed!  In my younger years I was a big New Kids On the Block fan (who wasn't??)  We had a cousin living with us when I was in middle school who introduced me to hard rock (Warrant, Poison, Skid Row).  Then when I got to high school I couldn't believe the school had a band - I thought they were just about the coolest guys around!  They played Pearl Jam, I Mother Earth, Moist, and others, but my favorite from those years was Our Lady Peace.  Now my music repertoire has grown to include many more varied artists and genres, but most of these still have a fond place in my heart.  Except maybe New Kids...

11. What is a lesson you've learned that you want to pass on to your children?

The biggest gem I've come across recently has been through Communion and Liberation, that reality is always positive because it is the only moment that is given to us, and it is the only moment in which Christ is waiting to encounter us.  So regardless of what the particular circumstances of that moment are, in every moment we can either choose Christ, or not choose Him.  It goes along with the teaching in "Abandonment to Divine Providence", that the souls who are attentive to the Lord's providence in every moment, seeking Him and seeking to do His will, that is how we will be most at peace, because it is turning away from God that disrupts our peace.  Consequently, doing the Lord's will brings peace even in the most difficult of circumstances.  This is my lifelong focus, where my efforts are focused (if I am concentrating on focusing them and not allowing myself to be swept away in my circumstances) - this is the constant call on my heart.  To say, "where are you Lord, and what do you want from me now?" And if I can teach my children not only to always be looking for Him, but also (and this is big for me, sinner that I am) to know that even if I didn't look for Him before, that I can look for Him now, that each new moment is a new opportunity for an encounter - then at least they will be pointed in the right direction.  


If you've made it to the end, thanks for sticking it out!  I'm supposed to tag five more bloggers, but I don't know that many!  And I'll be honest, this is part of the reason I've taken so long to do this post.  These guys I'm pretty sure all have waaaaaay more than 200 followers, but I'll tag them anyway, if only to send you to their corner of the blogosphere and introduce you to someone you might never have found otherwise.  Check them out:  Clover Lane, 71 Toes, Bad Catholic, Danielle Bean, and Hungry Janey.

You can also read Kelly's Liebster Awards post (and see that she really did link to me!) here.

May 14, 2013 Snapshot

Wow, it's been a while since I've done one of these!  Does anyone else get completely blindsided by May?  I feel like I should be more prepared, since the same thing happens every year - Spring hits, Easter comes and goes, and school is still going for another two months.  And yet for some reason, May is jammed full of activities, wrapping up extra-curriculars, picking up new outdoorsy activities, and so many celebrations.  It is like a breath of fresh air after a long winter and dreary spring, that never seems to leave me feeling exhausted and grateful all at once.  

Joseph had a winning design for his Kub Kar, and made it all the way to the regionals.  It's kind of funny because it really is so random the way they do things but some people take it so seriously!  Not my boy though, he didn't even watch his car cross the finish line half of the time!  They raced three cars at a time in 12 heats, and his car was either first or second in every race.  He took home a trophy for sixth place overall, which he was so excited about.  We competed again in a "Final 12" race two weeks after that and he didn't place, but we all sure had fun.  

When I was still nine months pregnant with Mary, I drove past an arena advertising a run and texted Jeff, "let's do a run next summer after I've had the baby."  "You're funny," he texted back.  Nevertheless in January I began scouting out races, and found this great one at the Saint John airport, where the course is flat. There was a 1.5K kids fun run, and the boys seemed less than eager when I mentioned it in the winter. Then one day in April I said to my parents, "Jeff and I are running a 5K on May 4" and my Dad looked at me and said, "That's next weekend."  And I panicked!  We hadn't been out at all!  I hadn't run outside for at least seven years, and Jeff hadn't run even longer than that.  I thought it wasn't fair to ask the boys to do a race when we didn't have time to train them properly, so I didn't mention it.  Turns out I didn't have to.  On our first night at the track, both of them asked about it.  I told them if they could run two times around the track, they could do the race.  That was the only time they got out, but both of them were certain they wanted to do it.  And they were excited!  They both finished with decent times, and are looking forward to more races in the future.  And I've taken each of them out running again since.  I hope we are able to go with this as a family, and make running a regular part of our lives.  

We celebrated a birthday in April, my second-oldest boy turned seven. I just can't believe how quickly the time is going.  Seven seems so old, I keep forgetting that he's not six anymore.  His birthday happened right around the time we had a stomach flu going through the house, but rather than take away from his special day, that made it even more special.  He had sleepovers at both of his grandparents' houses, went bowling and to a movie, and had birthday suppers two weekends in a row to make up for it.  Now the rest of the kids think birthdays are weeklong least I have another month to talk them down before the next birthday rolls around.

Jeff and I finished our race with good times.  I was pleased because neither of us really knew how we would do.  I know it was just a 5K, but it seemed so big when I realized we only had a week to do our training.  There was an hour time limit to the race and a sweep vehicle to pick up anyone who didn't finish, and my goal was to not be picked up by the sweep vehicle!  More than anything this race helped us to see that we can fit running into our schedule, if we work at it and keep it small.  We'll try over the next little while to fit runs in around the things we are already doing, and in small enough distances that it doesn't take away from our family life.  We have our eyes on a couple of 5-milers coming up in the next couple of months.  Mostly I am excited to be doing this with if only I could keep up with him!

We got new chicks a month ago, 26 of them.  20 meat birds and 6 laying hens.  They are currently in our basement while Jeff works furiously to finish the new coop for them (they are much to small to be put in with the other birds just yet.  Also we found out the hard way last year that laying hens will eat meat birds, so we can't keep them together).  Raising chicks is fun, but we both realize we're not as much into babying these guys as we were the crop before.  They were so socialized to us, they'd eat right out of our hands, and fly onto our shoulders when they got bigger.  These guys are much more deprived of our affection.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it is what it is.  Probably means we're making the transition from pet-owners to farmers.  Which I guess is a good thing.

It's been a while since I took a photo of all the kids.  I intend to take them outside someday soon and do some proper shots, but in the meantime I thought this was cute.  It started off with just the baby on her belly, then the other two little ones came on each side of her and sat the same way, then the next brother. So I grabbed my camera, convinced the oldest two to join us, and snapped away!  I didn't get the shot I was looking for, because by then the younger ones had had enough sitting still and started rolling around, but that's life I guess.  I think the final shot is a better representation of who we are.

I stole this shot on an impromptu park date while the older boys were at their piano lesson, and our sitter was on vacation.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and my youngest boy has been aching to spend some time outside.  This little playground was close enough that we could spend twenty minutes playing (while I nursed the baby) and get back in time to pick up the boys.  We had fun!  My favorite part was watching my oldest daughter tear across the playground from one structure to the other screaming with glee while her two brothers followed close behind.  It's a lot of work to go out with them, but so rewarding to see the things we can do, the ways we can enjoy life.  We're loving this sunny weather!

And lastly - this girl had her ears pierced.  We got my oldest daughter's ears pierced on a whim when she was 13 months old. I didn't think Jeff wanted her to get them done until we were in the mall one day and he said, "What do you think Katie would look like with pierced ears?" I had my ears pierced as a baby, and was all over that!  It was however, slightly traumatic, and we decided that if we had another girl we'd have her done as a younger baby, or wait until she was old enough to decide for herself.  Mary did really great with it.  She cried of course, but she was over it much quicker than Katie was, and has never had a problem getting them cleaned (which we need to do three times a day for six weeks).  I even snagged an earring on her shirt the other day by mistake and popped it out, and it didn't phase her at all to have me put it back in.  The little hole was just a dot on her lobe, no redness or anything.  And they look so sweet!  When you have so many boys, it's nice to do little things that celebrate the femininity, daintiness and specialness of girls.

Cheers to you and your families! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Blessed Trials

I have been in quite a slump lately.  And I could give you a whole laundry list (literally and figuratively) of all the reasons for that.  A list which probably wouldn't be that different than most other mothers, and would likely be far less than many.  But I won't do that.  For the sake of not making excuses, I'll spare you (and myself) the list.

But my slump, oh dear how I obsess about it.  I start off every day hoping and praying for positive, for productivity, for peace.  I stare at that mountain first thing in the morning and think, "today's the day I conquer you!" and yet with the first stumble, I hurl myself over the side crying, "why, why can't the road be easier?"  But the thing about mountains is that they are always there.  And the only way to get to the top is to just keep going.  Through the rocky roads, against the steady gravity that is gently but constantly pulling you downward.  Onward and upward, one foot at a time.

I had a message on my phone the other day.  When I checked it, I realized it was a recording of us (likely taken when a wee one dialed our number and let it ring to the machine while I was unaware).  My stomach sank as I worried about what it might have recorded - would I be screaming in the backround?  Would I be confronted with that side of myself that I wish would just stay hidden? I wasn't.  Instead I heard the sweet sound of children playing make-believe, and me responding back to them.  I was listening, I was attentive, I was loving.  And I praised God that was the moment that was played back to me!  I have a similar message on my cell phone from a few weeks ago.

I think the Lord is trying to show me that these low points are not the whole of my life.  These mistakes I make, they're not the whole picture.  And I can either identify myself with them and stay at the bottom, or pick myself and start walking again, with greater determination than before.

Climbing a mountain doesn't happen without hard work.  And you never reach the top of a mountain without being better and stronger than you were when you set out.  The rocky terrain, that is meant to strengthen you - your body and your spirit.  When you encounter a moment where you feel like you can't go on, and then you push through anyway, you see that you can.  But it takes focus.  It takes diligent and constant prayer. It takes not looking back at where you came from, not looking down at the road that seems so difficult, but looking ahead at your final destination, that glorious peak where you will find everything you're working towards.  May I never forget that these trials are a blessing, and that the only way to reap the rewards that they sow are by taking it one step at a time.

Burning ember I remember love's first light in me
I was cold and like a stone when I saw your flickering
Burn forever and let me never curse the pain you bring
Somehow I know I will be whole in your burning.
(Steve Bell)

Friday, May 3, 2013

For Me

I spend a lot of time just watching my baby.  Being number six, I know just how quickly this time goes.  The things that stressed me out with the other kids (When will you sleep through the night?  How can you be having such a fussy day?  When will you be finished nursing so that I can finally go out without having to take you with me or pump?) don't get to me with her.  I love it, all of it, because I know that someday, before I even have time to blink an eye, she won't do any of that, and these days will be gone.  She will be a new little girl, with a whole new personality, some of which is evident to me now, but oh so much more yet to be revealed.

I lingered with her on the change table just a few minutes longer after a diaper change one day not too long ago. I played and she giggled, and it hit me - she's not going to remember this time.  This moment is purely for me.  What a gift!

Babyhood is like wrapping paper on the most beautiful present.  It captivates you, begs you to take it in, pick it up and admire it.  Before we know what's inside we are enamoured with this gift.  But then, oh then, babies grow up.  We begin to see a little of what's inside, and then a little more, and a little more.  And here's the crazy thing - this amazing little girl that I am so in love with, has so much yet to be discovered.  How could I possibly love her more?  Because I will see her more.

I love babies, really I do.  But I grow even deeper in love with each of my children as they grow older.  I delight at my oldest boys, the way they relate to me, that I can joke with them or share in the things they like.  I love hearing my oldest sit for hours at the piano playing the pieces he learns, the way his brain is always thinking about things, his confidence and boldness with his friends, and that he never allows himself to be pressured into doing something he doesn't want to.  I love watching my second oldest follow his Dad around the yard, doing everything he does and wanting to be just like him (as he did - and still does - with his own Dad), the way his eyes grow like saucers when he is telling me about some new project he is dreaming up, and how much he loves to be treated extra-special.  I love watching my third son's eyes sparkle, the way he connects with everyone, his soft, sweet, endearing nature, how he is learning to put letters together and read, getting that spark of knowledge and amazing me that he is so much smarter than I realized.  And my girl, oh my girl!  I love how she whispers in my ear, and plays princess games in the mud, and how she just overflows with sweetness.  I love my toddler and his troublesome ways (even though they cause me such anxiety!)  I love his spark and his spirit, how he is always happy, that he always has a song on his heart, and his love of all things prayer.  I loved them all as babies, as any mother does.  But I never saw any of this when they were as young as Mary.  This is what all that beautiful wrapping was concealing - the amazing gifts of these little people that I know are just beginning to unfold, and will only grow more beautiful over time.

The gift seldom gives a second thought to the paper it was wrapped in, just as my children have no memory of the beauty that filled my early days with them.  That is all for me.  Forever ingrained in my memory and treasured, ready to reveal the marvel within these amazing people.

My loves