Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Big Helper . . . Helping

What happens when your 8 year old daughter wants to help with dishes while you are at the store?

Yeah, I was at the store buying dishwasher soap. We were able to have an enlightening discussion on the difference of dishwasher and regular dish soap.
The upside is the kitchen floor was super clean for about 10 minutes.

Sweet Abigail, I feel like you are in this fun/difficult/energetic - maddening new phase! You are growing up so fast, and truly want to help me. You help cook, clean up, help with the girls, and also leave me in awe of your spastic energy. Is this just an 8 year old phase?? You are inspiring me to cut all sugar out of our lives - I just don't think it is needed - seriously.
I have to admit that paired with the craziness is also the sweet side that asks if we can sit and talk. The side that still wants to snuggle in close, and your desire to be an active helper in our family. I'll have it all - because it's you, sweet Abigail - thanks for helping me with the dishes.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ma'am... We Need to Talk

I'm going to veer a bit from my 'normal' writing style to share a bit about what is happening right now in our lives.

Arturo wrote a blog about Stella, and how he has realized that she is bringing us both to a new level of parenting (truly the nicest way to say that she tries both of our patience in the most extreme way). Some days it seems to work well, and other days . . . I just need to hide the cats and keep 5 feet between siblings. Funny thing is he wrote and posted his blog on Monday, and on Tuesday we had a small insight into what may lie ahead.
Stella is in a pre-school program in the morning, and with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) from Georgia, she qualifies for a special 2X week afternoon program that focuses on speech and articulation. Stella had her first day this past Monday - the same day Arturo wrote his post. I did not see her teacher at pick up, but no news is good news, right?
Well Tuesday was the night for parents to meet the teacher, and off I went to complete my parental duty. I have to admit I was curious as to what this program entailed, and how Stella did on her first day. Her teacher did an excellent job explaining the curriculum, goals, and objectives. As brief questions concluded the evening, I asked a simple question about IEP meetings, and her teacher responded, "I'm glad you asked, I was hoping to speak with you after the meeting."
I vaguely remember her mentioning during the meeting that she rarely has to move a child from the Green Bear (good behavior) to the Yellow Bear (warnings & not listening) the first day, but that it does happen - and I thought she was looking a lot at me. That should have been my first clue. As we spoke, her teacher said that Stella had a rough first day and she had some concerns for Stella. She actually asked me if Stella had hearing issues (we've had her checked twice). Stella was in the classroom that first day from 12 - 1:30, and I thought - is this enough time to have that many concerns? Yep . . . I guess it's plenty of time. In a nutshell, she thinks Stella may need some help beyond the basic speech articulation, and may qualify for a 5X week program for children who need extra help - rather extra extra extra extra extra help.
Of course no one wants to make a judgement in 1 day with less than 2 hours interaction . . . but I have to say that all of her concerns have been mine. Nothing she mentioned was a surprise to me, and at the same time I want to make sure she truly 'sees' Stella. So hopefully this Friday will give a clearer indication of where Stella truly is - if she'll need more testing - if she'll need more help - if we've been misreading her simply because we did not know . . . know what? I'm not sure right now, and I am honestly content to wait til Friday and learn some more info. How can I be content? Because I feel like we are finally getting this figured out. It's a strange mix of sadness & relief.
You see, the past few months of deciding to go to Italy - renting out our house - selling/giving away/packing everything we own - moving to Florida into my mom's house - trying to raise an enormous budget so that we can do what God is asking - all of this has been a crazy time of faith, trust, joy, & obedience. Arturo and I have both prayed that we would continue to yield and submit to God's plan & trust that His plan is the best for our WHOLE family.
Having said that, our goal of getting to Italy in September came & went, and I have to admit I was disappointed - I doubted - I was jealous of missionaries who didn't have to fundraise - I was not in a good place - not thinking from an eternal perspective. I know Arturo was struggling as well - we both had so many questions . . . unanswered.
So, as I'm driving back from Stella's school - after hearing that she needs more testing because she is not processing information as other kids her age - I was not a happy mother. Then it hit me - our desire was for our whole family to be blessed by this move. If we would have moved in Sep., or if we would not have moved to Florida, we would not have been able to learn that our sweet Stella may need some extra help so that she is able to lead a full and vibrant life. God loves the least of these . . . my sweet Stella. And I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself for not trusting in God's plan. Has he ever let me down? His timing and ways are NOT mine, and I cannot say I understand everything . . . but His love is so real and unchanging.
I guess I may not be that different from Stella. I wonder if God wants to have my hearing checked, or if he wonders why I'm not processing information in a normal fashion, and I bet he's astounded at how often I need to learn the same lessons over . . . God is good - all the time! All the time - God is good! May I imprint this on my heart because it will NEVER change!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lessons Learned from Project Runway & Top Chef

I admit it girls, I LOVE to watch Project Runway and Top Chef! I think you might be able to see a connection with Top Chef . . . I love to eat - especially if I am not making the food - and I really do enjoy baking and cooking delicious meals & desserts. Project Runway on the other hand may baffle you . . . I admit that I choose function over fashion, and haven't accessorized since the 80's when I was in my faux punk phase. But there is something about the show that intrigues me, entertains me, and I admire.
Maybe it is the fact that with both shows a group of people are given a crazy project, limited time, pressure to produce, and stiff competition in which to compete. I think I would secretly like to be so good and confident at something that I would not only choose to compete, but be accepted into such a rigorous contest. Having shared all of this . . . I am sure you are asking yourself exactly what lesson I have learned from these shows.
BE YOURSELF. Be who God created you to be, and have confidence in your ideas and capabilities. Over and over again, people have been booted off of these shows when they veer from who they are, and try to accomplish something that is not them. I am not advocating for a play it safe life where you do not try new things or push yourself beyond what you are currently doing. In fact, nothing exciting or adventurous happens if you do not risk, and sometimes through new risks we actually gain deeper insight into who God has created us to be . . . so by all means try new things. Just be true to yourself in the process.

A perfect example is Papi. He is an amazing photographer, and as he began to establish his wedding photography business he had many opportunities to do things in the expected way - that is NOT your Papi. A great example of this is his Get Married & Give Back. This might seem strange that he would give 10% of his earnings to a charity of the couple's choice . . . but that is who your Papi is! He has a heart and desire to invest in missions, and get people excited in investing in missions, and open doors for people to invest in missions. You see, Papi is about missions - missions locally, globally, medical, educational, and spiritual. Though it might not be the typical choice or idea - it is Papi being who God created him to be . . . an advocate for those whose voice is getting lost amidst the self-focused crowd. Papi creates opportunities to do what he loves to do, and brings others along so that they can share in the blessing of giving. I am proud of your Papi, and hope that His example to be who God created him to be will inspire you as you grow into young ladies.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy - Happy Birthday Stella (a little late)

Sweet, sassy Stella - it is your 4th Birthday!!

Stella, I love that I am able to hold a full conversation with you - singing every word like we were in some crazy musical. You truly have an energy and spunk that equally makes me laugh hysterically and exacerbates me immensely. Whatever you are engaged in - it is 100%. Whether it is caring for your sisters, and tenderly helping them . . . or chasing them down to extract the toy from their arms. You love dressing up as a princess, cheerleader, cat, or dancer & you equally love to climb trees (or anything), play in the mud, or race cars! You are an amazing little girl, and I am in awe that God has entrusted you to us! Papi and I pray for you, and are seeking God to give us wisdom so that we may raise you in a way that glorifies God by helping you fully become who He created you to be! Blessings Stella, and Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Conversations with Abigail

Conversation #1:
Abi - "Can I get a cell phone for my birthday?"
Mom - "No."
Abi - "Why?"
Mom - "Because you are 8, and besides school and the back yard you are always with me. Also, you don't even know our phone number."
Abi - "If I memorize it can I get a cell phone?"
Mom - "No."
Abi - "When can I get a cell phone?"
Mom - "When you can drive."
Abi - "Can I ask Papi if I can get a cell phone?"
Mom - "Sure."
Abi - "Papi, can I get a cell phone for my birthday?"
Papi - "No."

Conversation #2
Abi - "Some of the kids at my school have a boyfriend. Why? What happens when you have a boyfriend?"
Papi - "You already have a boyfriend."
Abi - "I do? Who?"
Papi - "Me. I am your boyfriend - meaning the main boy in your life - until you graduate from high school."
Abi - "Thanks Papi, you're great!"

Conversation #3
(I opened up the trunk of our van, and one of the recycle bins fell out. Abi & GiGi were in the last seat peering out at me.)
Mom - "Why didn't you guys hold the garbage can so that it wouldn't fall out?"
Abi - "How was I supposed to know? You didn't tell me?"
Mom - "You are supposed to read my mind. Don't you know that?"
Abi - "I can't read minds. Only Papi can. He does it with us all of the time."
Mom - "Really? I wish he'd do it more often with me."
Abi - "Well, then maybe it is just with us kids, but when we lived with Grammy in Florida he read our minds all of the time. I think he has a gift."
Mom - "I think he does too . . . "
Abi - "Do I have gifts?"
Mom - "Yes, all of you girls do. God gave you all gifts, and the fun part as you grow up is asking Him to help us figure out what your gifts are so that we can serve God with them."
Abi - "What do you think mine are?"
Mom - "What do you think they are?"
Abi - "Hmm, well I like to paint, draw, cook, and help with the babies. Oh, and I also like animals. Except for spiders, though I did like our pet weaver spider. I'd like to live with animals. So what do you think I'll be when I grow up?"
Mom - "Well, you like to paint, draw, and cook which are all things that create - you are very creative. You have your own special style. You also like to help with your sisters, and animals. So, maybe do something that cares for others - a helping profession."
Abi - "Well, God will tell me as I get older right?"
Mom - "Yeah. You can start talking to Him about it, and He will help you figure it out."
Abi - "OK."

Conversation #4
Abi - "Mom, can I have the spray because I want to clean the bathroom."
Mom - "Abi, you just cleaned the bathroom yesterday. You do not need to clean the bathroom like that everyday."
Abi - "Awww, but I really want to clean it. Please??!!??"
Mom - "Tell you what. I'll let you clean my bathroom instead."
Abi - "Really? You're the best mom. Thanks!"
Mom (said with a smile) - "I try."

Conversation #5
Abi - "When Papi is gone can I stay up late, and we can exercise?"
Mom - "We'll see Abi. I need to make sure everyone else is sleeping."
Abi - "Well, if you need someone to stay up late with you, I can. I'm that kind of kid who can stay up with adults and help, ya know? I don't much sleep"
Mom - "Thanks Abi, I'll keep that in mind."

Conversation #6
Abi - "Mom, can I help put Chloe & Claire to sleep?"
Mom - "Sure Abi, but they need to go to sleep so no playing, ok?"
Abi - "Sure, I'll read them a book."
- After she comes out of their room -
Abi - "Well, we played 'I spy', I read them two books, I put their covers on and kissed them, and I prayed with them to accept Jesus into their hearts because we all need to do that, right?"
Mom - "I love you!"
Abi - "I know. I love you too."

Abi, you are 8 years old! I cannot believe how lovely you have grown. I enjoy our conversations, and look forward to many more conversations. You are a talented and compassionate young lady, and I am proud to call you daughter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Faithful Are the Wounds of a Friend

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." Proverbs 27:6
When I was younger and 'older' people would say that you can count your true friends on one hand . . . well, I honestly didn't believe them. I thought I had lots of true friends. Looking back, I really think I had a lot of friends, but unfortunately time is not easy on friendships. Friends move. I moved. Friends got married. I got married. Children are born - more children are born - more children are born. It's not that you do not want to keep your friends, it just gets more challenging. So true long-lasting friends are a rare thing. Turns out those 'old' people were right, you can count them on one hand most of the time.
Over the years I have realized that there is a distinction between friends, and true friends who are not afraid to wound you. I am not talking about mean friends who abuse your friendship. I am referring to friends who will hold you accountable. Friends who will lovingly and gently point out when you are being a . . . . difficult person who is not glorifying God. Friends who are not afraid to wound your ego or burst your bubble because they are committed to walk out the journey of life with you - even when you make bad decisions.
Girls, I need these friends. You need these friends. I am especially mindful of true friends right now for different reasons. One of these reasons is that I unintentionally hurt a friend of mine with a comment I made (as you girls get older you will realize that this is not a shocker when it comes to your over-opinionated mother). This friend had the integrity and love to talk to me about it. Girls, I was disheartened to think that something I said caused this friend doubt or discouragement, but I was more grateful to her for confronting me rather than gossip, slander, or avoid. I know it was not easy to confront, but I truly appreciated the opportunity we both had to exercise love to one another.
Some true friendships may float in and out of your life for various reasons, and some may withstand the test of distance and time. I have experienced both types. One true friendship that has been with me since birth is that of your Tia Kelly. Yes, she is my sister, but she is a true friend who is not afraid to wound me in order to help me become a better person.
Papi is also a true friend who is committed to wounding me so that I may be a better reflection of Christ. If you scroll down a few more verses in Proverbs 27 you will read verse 17, which may be a familiar verse. "As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens one another." This is part of a true friendship as well. In fact In John 15:15 Jesus calls us friends if we do what He commands. What is His command? His command is to love each other like He has loved us.
Girls, my prayer is that not only will you find true friendships with people and be a true friend to people . . . but that you will be true friends to each other. You each have 4 built in true friends, and I hope that those friendships will be cultivated throughout your lives so that you girls are actively sharpening each other to God's image.
Do not be afraid of the faithful wounds of a true friend for they are to sharpen you and place you before the only One who can truly transform you into His friend.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tears of Joy & Pain

For the past 2 years around February and March, I realize that I have been a bit . . . emotional - teary eyed - sentimental (don't ask Papi what he calls it - remember, this is my story). Once I pause to acknowledge my emotions, I immediately know the origin of these sometimes unwanted friends = memories of my journey with Chloe & Claire and unabashed gratitude for their health & the health of all of you girls.
I still remember wondering why Stella started getting fussy and not feeding well when she was about 5 months old. I soon found out I was 2 months pregnant, and poor Stella was not getting enough milk. I have to be honest and say that finding out I was pregnant while on the pill & nursing a 3 month old did NOT make me happy - I cried. But as you girls know, God has His own plan. I wasn't too thrilled about His plan at that moment, but Papi and I quickly surrendered to it, and so when we found out there were two of you in my tummy we just laughed til we cried.
Part of our new adventure involved moving from the Dominican Republic back to the US. So when we came back to celebrate Christmas with Grammy, I went to the doctor and that is when we found out that the pregnancy was high risk. I cried. Monoamniotic - monochorionic pregnancy happens in 1% of twin pregnancies. Basically you guys were floating around together with nothing to separate you or your cords - which basically twisted into knots. So at 20 weeks pregnant we were told that the best odds at having 2 healthy babies was for me to go inpatient at 24 weeks to receive as much monitoring as possible. I cried, Papi cried, but we did it.
I spent 2 months in the hospital, and you girls were born 2 months early. This was when I first saw you together, and it was both wonderful & scary.
The first time I saw you in the NICU - I had just had my C-section that morning, but I insisted on being wheeled down to see you girls. I had visited the NICU, and thought I was prepared . . . but nothing prepares a mother to see her own child hooked up to tubes - not able to hold them - kiss them . . . I cried.

You girls spent almost a month in the NICU, and were able to come home the same day. It was a Sunday, because Arturo and I went to church, and Grammy took the morning visitation with you girls. She called Arturo's cell phone to let us know that the doctors said you could come home that day. We rushed back to Grammy's to get ready . . . I hid in Grammy's walk in closet & cried. It was overwhelming to think 2 little 4 lb. babies would be added to the crowded master bedroom we lived in while at Grammy's. I also thought what a miracle it was that my 2 month preemie daughters were coming home with NO health problems, breathing problems, heart problems, or medication - I cried with gratitude. I was happy, excited, rejoicing . . . and I was scared, nervous, tired, and unsure of our future.
Girls that first year with the five of you was brutal. I understand why sleep deprivation is a torture tactic. I was in awe of how small you girls were, and how healthy and strong you were - it made me cry in gratitude. I was in awe at how fussy you were at night, and how little I enjoyed being a mother of twins - I cried in frustration and guilt. Some people might assume that I was suffering from Postpartum Mood Disorder (PPMD). I wasn't - though my friend, Angela, can add some real insight into PPMD if you visit her blog. I was suffering from being overwhelmed with 5 little ones, and sleeping 2 hours tops at a time.
Girls, let me raw and real. I would NOT want to repeat that first year . . . ever again, not because you girls were not worth all that and more. I just think I can look back in deep appreciation, and gratitude that we made it. In all honesty, I made that year harder on myself because I would not ask for or allow help. Don't get me wrong, people helped, family helped, Papi helped. But I know that more was offered, and I felt like I needed to do it on my own. Why? um, hmm? I guess one good answer is that your mother is prideful, stupid, a slow learner or all of the above. I had certain expectations and standards of myself, especially as a wife and mother. I thought no one, except maybe Grammy, could care for you like I could. I wanted to be an excellent wife and mother, and I guess I thought doing it all on my own would prove that. It nearly broke me. I had nights where I would wake Papi up screaming, "I can't do this! I've got to sleep! I don't like this! Why don't you help - don't you hear them crying? Why doesn't God help?" Girls, it is very hard to receive help if you never ask. Papi was always more than willing to help me, even when I didn't ask.
Independence is a highly rated quality in the United States. Not having to impose on anyone, being able to manage on your own, not owing anyone - are all skills that are honored. I do not think being independent is bad, in fact I think Papi and I are raising you girls to be very independent. But being independent and living interdependently in community do not have to be opposing qualities. We all read inspiring stories about community and strength in numbers, but are we living it out? The Bible is full of God's exhortation for us to live and function as 1 body - some of my greatest memories and sweetest friendships have developed when I have allowed God's body to function in my life. Receiving is sometimes harder than giving, but both are equally important, and our family is a living testimony of how we give and receive to function in a healthy and God honoring way. I have cried many tears of joy and pain - especially in that first year with five young daughters, and God has seen, counted, and kept them all.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Look at Me!

"Look at me" seems to be the popular saying at our house lately. Whether it is a new dance move, dressed up as a princess, flips over the couch, opening up the fridge to get a cheese stick, jumps on the trampoline . . . pretty much anything and everything seems to merit a "look at me mom". I'll be honest, I get annoyed sometimes. Sometimes I'm on the phone, cooking dinner, folding laundry, going to the bathroom, or in another room and simply do not want to stop everything and . . . look - acknowledge - encourage - smile - cheer. Then it hits me. What if you girls stop? What if you don't want me to look? What if you want to keep your door closed, and yell 'don't come in' when I open it up? What if you don't care if I look - acknowledge - encourage - smile - cheer? I want to be a part of your lives. Let me rephrase. I want you, to want me, to be a part of your lives. Time seems to be speeding up, and I do not want folded laundry to get more looks than you girls!

Let me share another way "look at me" has become popular in our house. This one mainly pertains to Abigail and Jillian (though I know it is only a matter of time before the other girls are involved). You girls are beginning to help more around the house, and are excited to show me how you are learning. Believe me, I am thrilled that you girls can set the table, help cook dinner, and put laundry away, but I hope that you are learning to do it with joy, purpose, and gratitude! The thing is, I know you will learn the nobler purpose of mundane chores through my attitude. You also are excited to have me see how you 'look' like me. I don't mean physically, but how you act like me. This scares me more than you know, because I know even though I try, I will fail you as being the best example. My respect and awe for the apostle Paul has multiplied, especially when he said in 1 Corinthians 4:16 to imitate him. I have never been more motivated to pursue holy perfection than now . . . knowing that my daughters will be watching and wanting to imitate me. The verse after his exhortation to imitate him, is what excites and spurs me on though. "For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Cor. 4:17 Girls, what I want to imitate for you is a woman that is in love with Jesus, and desires to give her life to him - daily - as a living sacrifice so that others may fall in love with Him. I hope that as you grow older your "look at me" changes to "look at Jesus!"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

You Girls Are Changing Me . . . Literally

When I was pregnant with Jillian my earrings suddenly became itchy. I tried hypoallergenic earrings. I tried silver - gold - anything. No good. I was a bit sad. I like earrings. Nothing like the 80's where I wore HUGE hoops, or one big earring and one small earring - but still I like earrings. Any earrings I tried made my ears itch. Apparently pregnancy can change your body chemistry. My new body chemistry did NOT like earrings.

3 years later when I was pregnant with Chloe & Claire I decided to cut 10 inches of hair before I spent 2 months in the hospital. Seemed like a good idea not to have to take care of so much hair while lying in a bed most of the day. When my hair grew back I had a 'bump' in the back. Ok, I had a few bumps . . . but I'm talking about the one on the back of my head. The pregnancy changed the makeup of my hair. I'm not known to spend more than 1minute on my hair, so this new spot really threw me for a loop. The hairdresser said I have a new wave in the back . . . in just one spot . . . just 1 wave . . . Go figure. I'm not trying to be whiny about it, but it has a tendency to produce a pretty wicked knot almost every morning. Or after I've been wrestling with the girls. I've thought about chopping off my hair - but it's too cold. Maybe in the summer.

So, 4 pregnancies and 5 daughters later I cannot wear earrings, have a new hair bump, can function on limited sleep over a long duration of time, can hear the slightest whimper of my child, and can help a child to the bathroom - get a glass of water - get some tylenol - and console someone in the dark. Motherhood has changed me in so many ways.

You girls have also taught me the value of slowing down, the importance of hugging, that people are a priority and cleaning the house is the interruption, that everyone wants to help and feel useful - even if they are 2 years old, sometimes life is scary and just acknowledging that helps, it's ok to ask big questions about God, it's ok not to know all of the answers about God & still have faith like a child, you can pray about anything, dancing without worrying what you look like is fun, and so, so, so much more.
Girls, I truly am a more patient and compassionate woman because of you girls. God has used all 5 of you to teach me. He has redeemed painful parts of my life in order to become mature and leave you girls an honorable legacy. God is using you girls to change me - mold me - break me - redeem me - shower His love on me. You don't even know it, and may not realize it for a while, but God works miracles through you girls, and I am eternally grateful.