Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Not all sunshine and rainbows

I have a weight on my chest and a lump in my throat and this may not be very coherent. Please forgive me that.

For the most part, the mom blogs (and twin blogs) I frequent all talk about the highlights of life with kids. Or at least the funny slash frustrating aspects that we can all laugh about after the fact. I have only met with one blog so far that has given gritty, painful, personal details about her life. And I'm guilty of the same thing - I only report the funny bits, the birthdays, the cuteness.

One might think I go through life from one hilarious mishap to the next. But it's not all like that, of course. There is the same daily nonsense, fights that must be refereed, chores undone, minor emergencies, what-do-I-make-for-dinners, hurry-we're-going-to-be-late-for-practice. Like most people, I too go to bed at night (or, in this case, face a New Year) with a list of things I just didn't get to.

I have been blessed with a relatively care-free life - no critically premature babies, no birth defects or chronic illnesses, no PDDs, learning disorders or intellectual disabilities. We haven't had to bury a child. We have a solid marriage and just moved into a new home. We struggle with debt but thankfully my husband holds an interesting job which is sufficient to allow me to remain a homemaker. Life is good.

But I still cry a lot. I'm sorry if you're reading this and thinking "What a crybaby...suck it up, woman." All I can say is that each of us has a different load to carry, and I don't think I'm strong enough to shoulder what some of you brave people must live with. I sometimes think God won't trust me with anything really difficult.

A long time ago, when I only had two children under the age of 5, a friend offered an old saying..."Little children, little problems. Big children, big problems." And I, of course, scoffed. Not my children. We're so close. That won't ever happen. We talk to our children. We pray with them. They may not have their every hearts' desire, but we care for them. Not us.

The kids kept coming and by the time we had our 6th, our oldest was 12 and there was still no sign of trouble brewing on the horizon. Our family was still close - we played games, attended church together, still talked to our kids, traveled, did pro-life work. We were homeschooling, which we thought was insulating our family against worldly pressures and bringing us closer together.

Then somewhere in her 13th year, our oldest changed the rules. She became hostile and hurtful and sullen, wanting nothing to do with her family any more. Oh, did it hurt me. All I could do was wonder where I had gone wrong, what I did, what I didn't do. She hated us; I had lost her.

In her case, it lasted about 2 1/2 years. Then she started coming back around, engaging with her family again, wanting to spend time with me again. So when it happened in 7th grade with our second child, I was ready for it. I knew that it wasn't anything I had done, it was just that awful, awkward age, those "lost years," and I was prepared to wait it out. It still hurt deeply, and this time he started to get involved with girls, and each of the oldest began engaging in certain behaviors that I am not ready to mention here. There have been more than a few heartbreaking episodes in recent years that I just can't talk about.

It was about that time that it was confirmed that I was expecting child #7, which soon turned into children #7 & #8. And though I was ecstatic over having twins, deep inside I was also mourning that this meant two more teenagers I'd have to live through.

Child #3 is on the brink of teen-dom and the "lost years." And if he turns to the dark side (or, as we say in this house, "turns into a butt"), it's really going to hurt. I think it might hurt the most with this one out of all of them. He really is a terrific kid and I'm going to miss him terribly.

I have lain awake countless nights, crying, wondering why I ever had any kids at all. It's not like they're juvenile delinquents or dangerous criminals - Lord, please bless the mothers that have to deal with that. It's just that I've had to come to terms with some naked, painful truths that shattered all my illusions about parenthood. And it's never easy to have your illusions stripped away. It boils down to this:

They are not my children.

This is the big mistake that I have been making since before they were born. I always thought of them as 'mine.' This is untrue. They are not mine, and they never were. I have been entrusted as their caretaker, that is all.

They belong to themselves.

And hopefully they will realize that they also belong to God, and will live accordingly, but so far that has not been the case.

Why does it have to be this way from generation to generation? Why does the new generation need to ignore the precautions and advice in order to experience the hurt for themselves? Why must parents pour themselves out for their children and have rejection be their reward? I know how God must feel with all of His children. He couldn't possibly have done any more to save us from ourselves, and still we turn our backs. How can He possibly still love us?

I do love my children, but I'm not God...I feel like I must put a wall up around my heart to protect myself from their rejection. When they spend every waking moment of their days in their own pursuits, then finally pop in at bedtime or the next day with something to say to me, the hurt is so great that I can't even respond. I know I should be grateful and shouldn't reject even the little bits of themselves they throw my way, but I don't want their dregs. Maybe I'm like a spoiled child myself, but I want my children back.

I already feel like an empty husk and hopefully my tears will run out soon. How can I survive this with 6 more children and still be a functioning human being? It's harder now for me to love the younger ones like I did at the beginning, because I know what they're going to do to me in a few years.
I feel sorry for them, because they're going to grow up with a mother charred by bitterness. I know it's a part of growing up, of finding out who they are apart from us. But I am not ready for how much it hurts. I fear there will be nothing left of me to give. I just want to fast-forward to the end when they're all grown and gone. And I'm not sure the good times will be enough to sustain me through the hurt.

One thing that really digs at me is when someone looks at our Christmas pictures or sees us at church and says, "What a beautiful family you have." Because I know it's only pretty on the outside. Inside, cohesion and unity are sadly lacking. And I feel responsible for that. I think I just don't know how to make a happy family.

Sometimes I think that because I was an only child of divorced parents, I wouldn't know what a happy family looks like even if I was living in one. Maybe happy doesn't equal Brady Bunch. Maybe happy has a seamy underside.

As I put this into words, my throat is closed with anguish and I cannot swallow it down enough to sleep. I can't pinpoint what triggered this. I just want to start charging them both rent and stop setting a place for them at the table in the hopes that they'll grace us with their presence for dinner. I don't want to attend their concerts or go visiting colleges. I just want them to leave and take the hurt with them. I wonder if when they do leave if I'll even have enough left to care.

It would be nice to be needed by them again, but I wish I could just stop caring. Not caring might take away the bitterness of rejection.

Did you ever hear of the First Pancake Theory? When you're making pancakes, often the first one has to be thrown away because the griddle is too hot or too cold or the batter's not ready. That's kind of how I feel about the oldest two. Not like I want to throw them away literally - I just did something wrong and they didn't turn out the way I'd hoped. And I pray to God that I figure out what I did wrong so I don't keep making the same mistakes with the rest of them.

I can't even rejoice anymore when I hear that someone is expecting a baby. I just feel sad for them, but I can't let them know that. It's not up to me to shatter their illusions.

I wonder if I would have listened if someone had tried to warn me about this way back at the beginning.

Perhaps what this all boils down to is that I am mourning the passing of time, the ending of an era. Maybe what I need to do is screw my head on to match this paradigm shift, and start looking for the beauty instead of lamenting what has been lost. I didn't really want them to stay babies forever, after all. There are certainly more obvious moments of joy with young ones, and it was nice to be "the prettiest mommy in the world" for a while, but I am still hopeful that they will become adults of which I will be proud.

AND... maybe this is all just coming from holiday stress, or pms, or whatever. Maybe tomorrow or next week I'll find those resources of strength again. Maybe I'll read through this post again and laugh at myself. That's one of the cruelest effects of depression, I suppose...the inability to imagine that things can ever be better than they are right now. Maybe one of them will do something small to remind me that they're not lost to me. So I keep plugging away, and try to keep smiling until I really mean it again.

I close this note more hopeful than I began it, and more than a little bit more nostalgic. I think I'll go get out their baby albums. Maybe they'll even sit down with me, to look through them together.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Our twins turn 2 today!!

Natalie & Noelle

Watching Veggietales 3 inches from the screen again...
I can't believe it, but Natalie's almost 2 inches taller than Noelle.

Sampling the frosting, which was amazazing. So light and fluffy and easy to spread, and it didn't pick up any crumbs when I was spreading it. That was important because there were crumbly, cut edges on the cake from cutting out the shapes. It tasted exactly like marshmallow fluff. I just couldn't believe how easy it was.
Recipe is

A close-up of the cakes.

A shot of the carnage that ensued...

Check out Natalie's face as Brian shows her a birthday card...

It was also a baby doll heaven. They received matching sets of baby dolls three separate times. Good thing they're crazy about babies right now. They also received a play baby stroller for Christmas, so they load up with as many babies as they can manage.

I don't even remember when this video was taken and I don't know where else to stick it, but it's a wonderful glimpse of what the babies are like as they're turning two. They do this kind of thing every day, and I'm so privileged to be a witness to it.

And finally, a photo montage of the twins' first two years.
I had so much fun (and spent too much time) making this! I especially love the first song, "Easy Livin," the lyrics for which are below the video. Don't feel like you have to watch the whole thing. It's LONG. I couldn't stop myself - I kept finding 'just one more' picture to include. It's mainly for us and the grandparents, anyway.

Living for you is easy living
It's easy to live when you're in love
And I'm so in love
There is nothing in life but you

I never regret the days I'm giving
They're easy to give when you're in love
I'm happy to do whatever I do for you

For you maybe I'm a fool
But it's fun
People say you rule me with one wave of your hand
Darling, it's grand
They just don't understand

Living for you is easy living
It's easy to live when you're in love
And I'm so in love
There's nothing in life but you

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Highlights

Christmas Eve was spent at Pap & Mam's house, and we didn't get home until 10:30. Of course, everybody was so hopped up on sugar, excitement, and new toys, so bedtime was extra challenging.

We told them it wasn't going to snow on Christmas, but probably rain instead. This is Clare & Theresa pretending to make mud angels. They kind of look like chalk outlines instead...

This is a short video of Noelle playing with a new toy. It has a revving engine sound, so I put it up on the table to put masking tape over the speaker, so it wouldn't drive us quite so crazy. I left it on the table, and I found her there a few minutes later.

Every time I tried to get her upstairs, she'd frantically cry "No! No! No! Pwaying! Pwaying!"

Once everybody was nestled snug in their beds, I got the stockings stuffed. If we hung them on the wood stove, they'd incinerate, and they don't have hanging loops anyway, so we settle for the couch.

Some of us wouldn't be opening our stockings until later in the day, so those stockings were placed safely out of reach.

The peaceful house on Christmas Eve.

Clare was the first one up on Christmas Day...
Yes, she's wearing the same dress as Christmas Eve. She slept in it. In fact, she's been wearing it for the past three days. The girl's got some Christmas spirit.

Let's see what I got...

Didja get anything good?

Ahhh...nothing like a ring pop first thing in the morning.
Somebody found the candy dish, too.

Guess who was up a little too late and a little too early?
Brian & Conor received mad awesome nerf dart guns. This is all I saw of them for most of the day... I can't tell you how many times I was ambushed by the little creeps.

Of course, no holiday would be complete without this treasured family tradition...

Yes, he really DOES chase them around the house with a naked, dead turkey. See? He's not a Big Mean Daddy ALL of the time!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Annual Christmas Portrait Misery

One way or another, Christmas Picture Day always turns out to be one of the worst days of the year. The only ones who are genuinely smiling in this picture are Sarah & Clare.

Scott just had a fight with his girlfriend. And no, he's not standing on a box, he's just getting that tall.
Brian and Conor were fighting.
Theresa hates all formal portraits, and started crying the second we told her it was picture day.
The babies only cooperated because we gave them candy canes.
Andy is disgusted with the house and family in general.
I just got finished crying because today I managed to screw up everything I touched.

I guess we're all getting much better at just sucking it up and smiling for the lousy camera, because we don't look like we all hate each other. Boy, the outtakes are something, though. Merry Christmas, one and all!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snapshots of December

We were quite surprised to have Saint Nicholas drop by on his feast day...
Saint Nicholas with Conor, Clare & Theresa

Our television is on a ledge in the corner, and the twins seem to think the closer they can get to VeggieTales, the better...
Natalie, Noelle & Archibald Asparagus

The aftermath of a very messy sock battle...Mom won, of course.

9/10 of our family has been ravaged by the stomach flu for the past two weeks. This has been a common sight in our house recently:
Theresa, Noelle & Natalie passed out on the floor

As soon as we felt a little better (and the rain stopped) Daddy and the healthy ones went to get our tree. They picked a real beauty...Conor & Clare

And had a delightful time decorating it...Noelle

Theresa & Brian


And every day since then, the twins have been steadily un-decorating every inch they can reach. It's kind of like a reverse Pin The Tail on the Donkey - whatever they can grab is fair game. There's a sparkly silver disco ball just out of their reach, and they are so cute jumping for it, in an annoyingly mischievous kind of way. They haven't gotten it yet...they do know how to drag a stool over, so I imagine it's only a matter of time until they put two and two together. This is what the tree looks like now (and how I suspect it will look from now on).

Video: *WARNING* Not For The Squeamish

You are about to witness a 2-year-old feeding herself. Well, it's not that bad, actually. I just wanted to post this to show my husband (poor sap is at work) Natalie eating Spaghetti-Os with the biggest spoon in the house.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Twins' 2 Year Portraits

A few weeks back I posted about my negative experiences at the portrait studio. I am sorry to say that against my instincts, last month I took the babies to have theirs done. There is only one studio within driving distance (starts with 'S' and rhymes with 'beers', which is what I needed after it was over), so my choices were limited. And the results were predictable:

* the same miserable woman was working there (and she was still miserable)
* they made me wait an interminable amount of time
* they wouldn't honor the coupon for both babies
* the pricing tiers were so high that I could only afford portraits for us and the grandparents. Couldn't even afford wallet sizes.

I was concerned with getting inferior results at home, but I just don't care anymore. I'm going to do it at home from now on. It wasn't like she could get them to smile, anyway.

Noelle (refused to smile at all - this feeble half-grin was all she would give us)

Natalie (couldn't wait for her turn, and smiled enough for both of them)

Police lineup practice
Posted by Picasa

How on earth do they stay in business??? They prey upon overly-sentimental parents who just can't bear to part with any image of their precious child. I know, because I used to be one of them. I had many experiences of "Awww, look at her face in this one...and ooooh, I just love this one, and awww, we HAVE to get this one...Let's get the 164 photo package. And all the proofs. And don't forget the keychains. And the photo cd!"

Then time after time we were left with envelopes filled with enough leftover pictures to wallpaper our bathroom. 164 pictures? I don't even have that many friends and family.

Am I the only one this happens to?

Friday, December 12, 2008

College Acceptances

Sarah was determined to have her applications submitted in November. Lots of schools now let you know as early as December 1st, so every day since the beginning of the month she's been eager to check the mail. She was anxious for the reassurance that at least one college would accept her.

Acceptance 1 of 3: December 12, 2008 - a happy day for Sarah, who received her first college acceptance letter in the mail!

Acceptance 2 of 3 - December 13, 2008 - this one is her first choice school.

signed by the Director of Admissions ~

I know, big deal. But the first one was only a form letter.

Acceptance 3 of 3: Bloomsburg University, which I did not see because she whisked it away upstairs too quickly. Almost an afterthought, since it was her safety school.

NOW...onto the financial aid arena!

Christmas Stockings & Gift Traditions

Kim over at The Mommy Machine posted about her traditions regarding Christmas Stockings. So I'm going to share mine, and invite you to comment about your own. Or better yet, make your own post and link to mine so we can share!

One year I also made stockings for all of us.

Mine aren't as personalized as hers, but they have a white pocket on the front with the child's monogram on it (in a family of 10 this can be useful since they were all from the same fabric). I haven't done the twins' yet, because my sewing machine broke and it's not high on my priority list. I actually like Kim's mom applique' idea. It would be so cool to add items slowly as their interests change.

I know this is corny, but I use the Christmas stockings to resupply the kids with toiletries - toothbrush, deodorant, dental floss, lip balm, hand lotion. I also include a movie, dvd or cd of interest, maybe a small toy for the younger ones, their favorite gum or candy, and some money tucked into the pocket. The ones who hang out at Dunkin Donuts received gift cards for there. My handyman son received a roll of duct tape. My hikers one year received patches from the longest hike they'd completed that year. Maybe something they need, like a pair of gloves or a travel umbrella. One year my little girl, who'd recently had her ears pierced, received a pair of earrings.

Oh - each year I also put in one Christmas tree ornament for everybody . It doesn't have to be expensive. Some years everybody gets an individually selected one, but other years it's a set. This year everybody got a jingle bell from Target.

Last year it was a packaged set of tiny wooden presents with a monogram sticker on each one. The year before was a set of Rudolph&Friends ornaments. My oldest, a nonconformist, got Herbie the Dentist. My tallest son got the Bumble. My tool-lovin' son got Yukon Cornelius, etc. I've used plastic stars, or miniature stockings personalized with names & the year. The kids love opening the ornament box every year and reminiscing. When they move away and have their own trees, they can take their ornaments with them (this sounds good in theory, but will probably break my heart).

In recent years, one of the treats I've tried to include is candy from another country. One year I ordered eccentric candy bars from Australia that aren't distributed in the states. My kids are STILL talking about that year. There are whole bunch of candies with really weird names that sound totally quaint to Americans. Get a load of these:

Killer Pythons
Cherry Ripe
Wine Gums
Violet Crumble
Milk Bottles
Freddo Frogs
Magical Elves
Dairy Milk Bars

Violet Crumble is amazing. So is Nestle's Peppermint Crisp - unlike anything I ever tasted. I ordered fifty bucks of candy this year (I couldn't stop myself), to stuff stockings and also to set out for company. It's a great conversation piece as well. I get them from Simply Australian but there are surely others. I just stick with what I know. The lady there, Jan, was so terrific to work with that first year, and I'm loyal - I believe in rewarding good customer service.

Now onto Christmas gifts. When we had fewer than 4 children, they used to get a boatload of presents, large & small, and the distribution had to be kind of equal. But the present pileup got to be overwhelming in our small house (not to mention the mounting cost), and you all know that the kids don't even remember what they got after a few weeks.

A dear friend suggested that the kids should only get 3 presents because that's what Jesus received, so we did that for a while, but after another kid or two, the accumulation and cost were still substantial. Even when we tried to make one of the gifts spiritual in nature, it still felt like the focus was on the presents more than anything else.

So a couple years ago, we took the plunge and cut it down to one present per child. GASP! Talk about pressure! When they only get one present, it has to be a good one. Of course, they still get presents from others outside the house, but on Christmas morning they get one present from us in addition to their stockings.

NEXT YEAR, though the kids don't know it yet, we're thinking that we won't get them any gifts at all. I know, I know, we probably all say this every year, but this time I'm sincere. We're going to put money away all year, and at the beginning of Advent next year we're going to give each of them $100. They will have to think of something good to do with the money for somebody in need. We're big supporters of Food for the Poor and they have an amazing gift catalog, but it doesn't have to be anything overseas. Maybe they can provide 5 Christmas dinners to people in our town. Maybe they can buy warm coats and mittens for kids. Maybe they'll participate in Toys for Tots. We're going to try to offer ways for them to help other people in our town or abroad, and my prayer is that after the howls of protest die down, they'll come up with ways on their own that we didn't even think of.

But I'll still try to stuff their stockings with something amazing. Otherwise I might die of guilt.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Video: Candle-Blowing Tryouts Today

With under three weeks to go until the big day, the twins have been practicing their birthday-candle blowing-out skills. This video shows that Natalie has mastered the art.
In fact, she's a candle-blowing MANIAC. Wish I could say the same for Noelle...They're also both getting good at singing the song. "Hap Boor-dee Na-Noelle" is the way Natalie says it. She calls herself Na-ee, and refers to herself and her twin as Na-Noelle. Noelle calls Natalie "Natnee' and refers to themselves as Na-Noelle. I guess maybe we say Natalie&Noelle too often? I call them by the wrong name so often that I just reduce the names to Noettalie and be done with it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

9 Words Women Use

I found this on another blog...I've never seen it before:


(1) Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

(2) Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

(3) Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.

(4) Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission.. Don't Do It!

(5) Loud Sigh: This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of nothing.)

(6) That's Okay: This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. That's okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

(7) Thanks: A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you're welcome. Unless she says 'Thanks a lot' - that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say 'you're welcome' .. that will bring on a 'whatever'.

(8) Whatever: Is a woman's way of saying You Stink!

(9) Don't worry about it, I got it: Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking 'What's wrong?' For the woman's response refer to # 3.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Funny holiday videos from JibJab, featuring our Talking Heads

JibJab is hilarious and I never heard of them before!

This one features Theresa, Noelle (wearing hair clip), Natalie, Clare & Conor
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