Thoughts about the latest Tragedy

My deepest sympathies and prayers to everyone involved with the latest school shooting in Florida.  I was a freshman in college when the one of the first big news shooting took place at Columbine.  It was tragic then and how little we knew then that this would be something that would continue and become something we would actually have to say "the most recent" about instead of it becoming something unheard of happening again.

I don't have answers and I can see so much truth in both sides.  I feel like both sides are so far apart that neither will take a moment to think about the truth that each has to offer.  If we take a step towards the middle both sides feel that is relenting completely.  I also think that when both the right and the left use this situation to try and justify their opinions on gun control other major factors get over looked and ignored.

I read an article this morning giving some surface details about what happened.  At one point they showed the text messages that the students were sending to their parents while this horrific tragedy unfolded.  I completely lost it because it reminded me so much of my own teenager and pain I felt for these parents as they lived through what I can only imagine as my worst nightmare.  Texts that said things like there is a shooter, I heard gun shots, I love you, I'm scared, thank you for everything you did for me, still bring me to tears just repeating them.  I also read that the school was full of unanswered phones ringing as parents prayed and desperately tried to reach their precious children.

My own daughter texts me from school now and then asking about after school plans or for me to check something.  This past fall there was a bomb threat and many parents refused to send their children to school the next day even though the school took every precautionary measure possible to ensure their safety.  Although fairly certain it was a hoax to get school canceled we let Emily decide whether she wanted to go or stay home.  She chose to go to school even though many of her friends did not.  One mom told me that she would never forgive herself if something happened and the risk was to great for one day of school before break.  I've never prayed so hard for her safety at school as I did that day and looking back maybe we should have kept her home too.

19 years ago in February a friend took his own life and changed mine forever.  It seems to me that Feb is one of the hardest months for everyone but especially anyone that suffers from depression.  Mental illness and suicide is more prevalent than ever and happening in children younger and younger.  My sister, a high school counselor, has several students that are currently hospitalized after either attempting have having thoughts.  With social media on the rise I feel that it hyperboles the already difficult experience of middle school and high school.  There have been so many experts point to it as a direct link to the increase in students' struggles with mental illness.

As a mom one of the most difficult question that comes to mind when tragedy like this strikes is how do we keep our children safe?  This is when my liberal friends look at me like I have two heads but here is my truth.  We raise our children to be successful in this lifetime but most importantly we raise them to be saints and to enter the Kingdom of Heaven first and foremost.  We anchor them as disciples of Christ and teach them love, kindness, and charity.


Tough but not too tough Love

The start of the school year was a little different for us this year because we have a teenager starting middle school as a 7th grader.  For the past seven years our kids have gone to a Catholic elementary school which meant uniforms and much smaller schools and class sizes.  To say that I have been dreading middle school is such an understatement.  No one likes middle school.  It is just such an awkward stage in growing up and trying to find a balance between being independent and still needing a lot of guidance.

Emily is a great kid and she works so hard and wants to succeed.  She is taking pre AP classes and it is a little bit of a stretch for her academically.  Her elementary school prepares them well and we were advised to go ahead and try the harder level classes. So far for the most part it has gone well.  Until the end of last week.

Self discipline is something that Bret and I never excelled at.  We get the work done but procrastinate like pros.  School was never a huge challenge so we could usually get by with last minute except for those pesky classes that kept you from waiting until the last minute.  Deadlines, check-ins, practice logs, and attendance were never our strong suits and it kills me to say that already I can see Emily heading down that path.

She has to have 3-4 books read by the first deadline of one class and she as of Thursday last week she was 85 pages into her first book.  Needless to say a grade update of D- was a cold glass of water to the face.  Next came band class which Em loves and is pretty good at.  Except the consistent practice part.  Once again her practice logs resulted in a D grade update as well.

So we spent the long 4 day weekend in between family activities reading and practicing the sax.  This morning I got a frantic call from Emily because she left her practice log (that is due today) at home and needed me to bring it to her.  I took it too her and called when I got to the school and she didn't want to come get it bc she was worried she would be late.  Not my problem.  Either she came and got it or I took it home.  5 seconds later here she came sprinting out the building and back in with her log.

I went home feeling bad that I was too hard on her.  Bret said he understood and that what makes it so hard it that we know she is trying.  She is trying pretty hard and isn't purposely just not doing the work or not caring if she succeeds.  

We have high expectations for our kids but we are pretty reasonable too.  Emily cried this weekend telling us that she hates reading and is a slow reader and sometimes has to read things more than once.  She said she was going to fail the class.  My answer was maybe with that attitude and that if she did she would then lose her phone and be grounded.  So she kept reading.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart and I feel like the first two weeks of school has been pretty rough in our house.  Logan got sent to the Principal's office, Palmer got in trouble at home for having kids over when we were not home, and Emily has been struggling with school work.  Add that to exhausting schedules of cross country, football, and cheer and I am ready for a drink.  It is a roller coaster of highs (Em made the elite stunt she has been working so hard for in cheer, placed at her first cross country meet, Palmer made the baseball team he tried out for, and Logan turned his behavior around pretty drastically) and lows (tears the whole way home from an earlier in the week cheer practice because stunts were not hitting, low grades, Logan & the principal, Palmer got in trouble).  Two weeks of school people and I am ready to hide under the covers.  So we begin again with a shortened week and pray for grace and patience.


Heavenly Cake

Yesterday was a hard day.  It as my dad's birthday and although I miss him everyday it was much stronger yesterday.  Off an on throughout the day I spent time remembering how we celebrated his day over the years.  I figured out that I really only missed a couple birthdays (two when we were in PA) over the course of my lifetime.

My dad was a lover of food.  In my family for our birthdays we usually went out to eat to the choice of the birthday person.  Dad always choose BBQ or Red Lobster for his birthday.  They were his favorites.  We also usually celebrated with a cake.  For many many years my grandmother made our family's birthday cakes.  My dad especially loved chocolate and his favorite was a family recipe "Uncle Lee's" chocolate cake.  It is a simple but old recipe that includes sour milk and boiling water.  It makes a fabulous rich and moist cake.

Dad spent four years here in our little part of Kansas once we moved back.  We took him to his choice of restaurant, the kids made or signed cards, we always had a gift, and we had Uncle Lee's chocolate cake.  The last year he wasn't up for going out to eat so we brought in BBQ for dinner and ate with him at the nursing home.  I usually bought him clothes or something he needed like an electric razor.  Last year I bought him a big box of different snacks and candies from the local bulk candy store.  He really liked having snacks in his room to munch on.

Two of my boys have January birthdays also.  A lot of time we celebrated them all together.  Yesterday we went to eat at the new BBQ place that just opened up and agreed that he would have loved it.  I thought about making a cake but didn't for a number of reasons mostly that I didn't want to end up eating most of it myself.

Since his death I have had some guilt and spent time wishing that I would have done more.  I wish I would have had more patience and spent more time with him.  Yesterday though was one of the first times that I didn't have those feelings.  We always worked pretty hard to celebrate his birthday and make him feel loved.  It's almost like a sigh of relief to be able to say that.

During some of the hard early days my priest who I am very close to gave me advice that has comforted me so much.  When I told him about my guilt he asked me "did you love your dad"?  I said yes of course.  Then he asked me "did your dad love you"?  Again the answer was yes.  He then asked me "did your dad know you loved him"?  I looked at him and said yes I think he did.  My priest then said "I know he did, and that is all that matters."


Special Lady

Today would have been my grandmother's 98th birthday.  She has been gone 6 years.  I remember this because I was very pregnant with Logan when we came home for her funeral in September.  She was one of the most influential women in my life and I miss her terribly.

Although no one is every perfect she was the type of person I always aspired to be.  She never had a bad thing to say about people and she always believed the best in everyone.  She was kind, considerate, humble, and so very loving.

I have so many memories of simple everyday things we would do when I went to visit her during my summers and school breaks.  The time spent in her garden, hanging clothes out on the line, cooking, sewing, feeding the chickens, going for walks, and visiting the neighbors were so fun and meaningful.  My entire life she gave me gifts she spent so much time and energy on (and very little money).  She made clothes and blankets for my dolls,  popcorn balls and other homemade treats for my school birthday treats, aprons, cookies/pies/cakes for every special occasion and sometimes just because, slippers, hats, and mittens, quilts, and countless other things.  My most treasured was for my high school graduation she wrote out all of her recipes and gave me a box full of them.

My grandmother also gave so much of her time and prayers.  She wrote and called often and was always so happy to see you.  One of the most touching thing about my grandmother was that she was a crier.  So am I.  She cried because she was so happy to see you and cried when you left because she was sad to see you go.  She cried when she heard beautiful music and she could never read birthday cards without shedding a few tears.  Her tears were soft with no sound.  She cried during good movies and when she read great books.  She was the first person I told that I was pregnant with Emily when I was terrified and still trying to come to terms with the unexpected news.  Of course she cried and somehow her joy made me realize the joy too and for the first time think that everything was going to be fine.

I made my final trip to Kansas about six weeks before she passed.  She had not been well and she looked tired.  She was still so happy to see us and thanked us for coming to see her.  I very distinctly remember that I kissed her several times and hugged her tight before I left because I knew it could very well be the last time.  The pictures are from her last Christmas.

I am so very thankful that my kids are so close to both my mom and Bret's.  Their love and relationship means the world to me because I understand how much it means to my kids.



My husband is many great things, gift giver is not one of them.  In our family I do all of the gift giving.  I think about what each teacher, relative, and child would like and I plan and conspire.  Not just for Christmas but for birthdays, anniversaries, and Mother's/Father's Day too.

It's not about how much a gift costs sometimes they don't cost me anything but time.  I compiled all of our family recipes made a beautiful cookbook for my sister for Christmas one year.  This year my niece got her first American Girl doll for Christmas.  To go with this I made aprons (one for my sister, niece, and the doll) and framed some of my grandmother's handwritten recipes for my sister to hang in her kitchen of their new home.

So back to my husband.  Have you read the book the 5 love languages?  I am still trying to figure out what my love language is.  I think it is somewhere between words of affirmation and gifts.  My husbands is acts of service.  Bret shows us that he loves us by working hard and providing for his family.  He feels loved when I fix him meals, and take care of everyday things for him.  If Bret is trying to make me feel loved he puts in extra effort with the kids and around the house.  This is just who he is. 

So during holidays and birthdays and anniversaries I have learned that if I do not want to be disappointed I need to be very clear about my expectations and more specifically tell him what I would like.  Bret waits until the last minute and usually hastily throws together something to hand to me.  It is still a little disappointing since to me the thought and time is what really counts.

This Christmas was one of the few times that when we were talking about gifts for each other and I was going to offer ideas Bret said he already knew what he was going to get me.  I was shocked and very excited that weeks in advance he already had a plan.

Emily, like her mother, loves to give gifts also and is very good at it.  This year she really wanted to get gifts for her brothers.  We decided after hearing the idea from a friend to draw names this year.  It was so fun and the kids took their secret Santa idea very seriously.  Emily asked me what she should get her brother Logan and I helped her get some ideas.  Bret took Emily and Easton shopping and I took the other too boys.  Both Bret and I had drawn names too.  I think that out of all the gifts we opened we all looked forward to these the most.  A few days before Bret and I were talking about taking kids shopping and he needed help with a game plan.  I mentioned that Emily had Logan.  Bret said no I thought she had you.  I corrected him and he let it go.  Turns out Emily did have me and told me she had Logan to throw me off.  Totally worked!

Long story short about Christmas this year.  Bret did get me a gift but it wasn't here by Christmas.  He ordered me floor mats for my car.  I had so many mixed reactions about this gift.  It was very thoughtful and useful.  I do love them in my car.  I was thrilled that he came up with the idea all on his own.  However, I was still a tiny bit disappointed.  We don't usually spend a lot on each other for Christmas.  One year we got each other the same board game on accident.  This was the first time we spent a little more and he got me floor mats.  Just once I wish he would be a little impulsive.  Jewelry or a new purse would have been awesome. 

We talked about it later and I was honest with him.  I also told him I was a little disappointed that there was nothing under the tree.  I had gotten him a new grill, a K-State shirt, shotgun shells, and a bunch of little things for his bar.  He loved it.  Again it's the little things that to me shout "I think about you and love you".  Bret promised to work on it and neither of us let it impact our holiday.  Here's to still trying to make a marriage better and constantly working at things.


The Baby turned 3

To little people there is usually one thing that describes a big event to them.  When it comes to birthdays for most kids it is the presents.  For Easton it has always been cake.  Bret and I would ask Easton what he wanted for his birthday and the moment the word birthday came out of your mouth he would yell "CAKE"!!  If you asked him what kind of cake he wanted he would tell you "in my mouth, YUM!"  It was hilarious and became one of our favorite party tricks to show everyone when Easton was around.

Besides cake Easton's other major passion in life is Paw Patrol.  If you haven't watched this show it is about a little boy who has rescued several pet dogs that each have a skill used to rescue whoever is in trouble (usually the mayor or her pet chicken).    Easton would sing the songs from the show and new every character and most of the episodes on Nick Jr.  So of course when it came time to work on Easton's birthday there was no choice but to have a Paw Patrol birthday cake for his little party with family and a few friends.

The good news was that because this show was relatively new we knew exactly what to get him that we didn't already have.

This cake turned out better than some of my past ones.  My friend came over a few days in advance and we made our fondant and rolled out all of the pieces and gave them a chance to set up and dry.  I watched a couple Youtube videos to remind myself the tips and tricks to covering a cake and it helped a lot.  Funny I remember watching the video and seeing them use a tool that I happened to have but hadn't used in forever.  What a difference!

Easton is such a fun and easy kid.  He was by far the easiest kid I ever potty trained.  He is fiercely independent and has no problem helping himself especially if he is hungry.  While he loves to play with his siblings he also loves being home by himself when they are at school. 

I love having him home with me and I will miss him tremendously as he starts school.  A couple of years until he is in school all day feels so very soon!  It is good to know that he is ready for preschool next year and will love every second of it.

Easton goes pretty much anywhere with me and is pretty easy going.  He goes to a mom's day out drop off a couple times a week and refers to it as his school.  He never minds a babysitter or the gym nursery.  He is just pretty easy going for the most part.

Easton always thinks of himself as one of the big kids.  The other day as he and I headed to the car to run errands he told me "I call the seat" which is what the older kids say about the middle bucket seat next to the one with his carseat in it.  He had no idea what he was calling but he has heard it so many times he felt it necessary to call dibs.

While the poor kids has to go to more practices, games, and errands than any of the other kids he also gets a lot of one on one time with mom.  Sometimes I think about how young I was when I had Emily (23) and how much stress we were going through when Palmer was so young and I know that I am savoring Easton's early years so much more.  I have more time and patience now than ever before.  I rock Easton to sleep for his naps sometimes and never complain when he wants me to hold him when he doesn't feel good or is tired.  We spend so much time putting puzzles together and reading books.  Our everyday life while the big kids are at school is just at our own pace and I love every second of it.

He is such a joy and blessing in our lives and loved by all of us.  He was the missing piece in our family and I can't imagine our lives without him.

Happy Birthday Easton!




Logan is 6

Today is Logan's 6th birthday.  I can't believe how fast the time has gone.  It seems like yesterday he was still like this.

This picture was taken the morning of his birth.  He was born by C-section and just like the rest of his life so far it wasn't exactly what I had planned.

I gained very little weight with Logan's pregnancy (12 pounds to be exact) and I was really hoping for a vbac since Palmer's C-section was really hard on me.  My doctor felt pretty confidant my whole pregnancy that we could make this happen until about the last week of the 40 weeks.  Bret and I were laying on the couch watching TV and he started feeling the baby.  About the second time he started feeling around his eyes got pretty wide.  "This baby is huge" Bret told me (he was a 3rd year OB resident at the time).  I told him that wasn't possible since I hadn't gained almost any weight.  Bret said no, he is very big.

Long story short he was very big and a vbac just did not happen.  He was born weighing 9 pounds 2 ounces.

These are the first two pictures taken after Logan was born and were sent to all of our family and friends right away.  A few moments later when the nurses were cleaning him up and the doctors were putting me back together a nurse quietly asked Bret if we knew about his hand.

Bret's response was "what's wrong with his hand?"  We had no idea and until the nurse pointed it out to Bret we still didn't notice.

So Bret wrapped him up and decided to wait until we were in the recovery room to tell me.  I remember this moment with such clarity.  There are so many emotions after just having a baby.  I remember thinking that if we didn't know about his hand what else did we not know about.  I was so scared that something really serious was wrong and we just didn't know yet.  I kept asking Bret if his heart was OK, was his kidney's OK, how do we know, I kept asking.  Bret said "he is healthy, he is going to be just fine" and I believed him and he has been.

From that moment forward Logan has lived life to his own beat and as God, not me intended. 
When Logan was teething instead of sucking his thumb or chewing on part of his hand he used to stick his whole hand in his mouth to comfort his tender gums.  People used to freak out thinking he was going to choke himself.  It was one of the first of many times Logan cracked us up.
Just before Logan's 3rd birthday over Christmas break I had my older two kids at the eye doctor's office for a yearly check up.  They asked if I wanted Logan's eyes checked also since he was there.  I had no idea they checked them that young but figured why no since we were there already.  Lo and behold the older two's eyes were perfect.  Logan on the other hand needed glasses and pretty strong prescription to.  I told the doctor I didn't think there was anyway Logan at three would wear them.  The doctor assured me that Logan couldn't see very well and once he started wearing them he would wear them all the time.  He was right.

Logan is such a fun kid that makes us laugh everyday.  He is also the kid that I find myself on my knees asking for help with constantly too.  I thought that having two other kids would prepare me for a third.  Logan reminds me everyday that he is his own person and that what might have worked on two other kids won't always work for him.  He is loud, outgoing, stubborn, and very bright.  At the last preschool parent teacher conference I remember asking Bret before going that if they were going to hold him back we would know by now right?  I had no idea because at home he showed no interest in learning anything to do with school and usually responded with "I don't know, what do you think?" when asked things like what letter is this.  Turns out Logan was very bright and surprised both of his parents with the fact the Logan was actually reading.  Who knew?

 Kindergarten brought a whole new level of challenges that broke my heart.  Logan was in the principals office twice the first week of school for fighting.  During recess a third grader was grabbing his hand to look at his little nubbins (the tiny fingers that never grew) and then was trying to pull them.  Logan punched him.  The second time again at recess a girl grabbed his hand and wouldn't let go so Logan threw her down onto the ground.  After two weeks everything stopped.  I am not sure if Logan just figured out how to handle things better or if other kids decided not to mess with him anymore.  We have not had a single behavior issue at school since the first two weeks but man were they rough to start.

Logan lives life hard.  He also loves so fiercely.  He writes these little notes and leaves them for me that just say "I love you mom".  He hugs and cuddles.  He adores his big brother Palmer and has started to play and get along a lot more with his little brother Easton.  He and Emily still sort of tolerate each other.

This past summer Bret decided Logan was big enough to ride the 4-wheeler by himself on the path behind our yard.  You would have thought Logan died and went to heaven.  He rode it until it ran out of gas.

This past year showed Logan's sensitive side as he suffered heartbreak.  We lost our devoted dog Sadie that Logan claimed as his own from the beginning.  He cried every night for a week and still talks about her and how much he misses her.

Logan was really close to my dad.  Having been to a few funerals before he had an idea of what to expect.  At the rosary he told Bret, "OK let's go see papa's body."  When he saw dad he told my aunt "that's my papa".  She told him that she knew and he said "he used to laugh at my stories, sometimes they weren't true, I am going to miss him a lot."  My aunt told him that papa loved him too and that now he could run.  You could see the relief in Logan's eyes when thought about the fact that my dad was healed now.

When you have a your first child you wonder to yourself how you could ever love anything else as much as this child in your arms.  Love is endless.  I cannot explain how you love each child so completely you just do and it is such a gift. 

Happy Birthday sweet Logan.  We love you so very much.