What I Learned in February

In case you haven't noticed, I've been struggling to find my voice here lately outside of #morningrun. I'm not sure why, though I do have some hunches. I love my blog, so I'm tying to push through and find my voice again, or perhaps, to find a new voice. Emily, at Chatting at the Sky, has invited readers to share what they learned in February.

That seems like a great way to begin chatting again.

1. I learned that I am happier when I begin my day outdoors. (Apparently this is a lesson I need to learn over and over again.) I really, really  miss my summer walks and runs. I've tried to be good about getting to the gym, but it's a lot more complicated than rolling out of bed and hitting the trails right outside my door. It's trickier when I need to figure in transit time and traffic and such and it's also not nearly as motivating to run on a treadmill. I love the outdoors and I thought that I could walk or run outside as much as I had in the summer. But ice. And subzero wind chills. So, no. When I do get out there, I've been listening to The Fringe Hours. It's good to be given permission for self-care and this book definitely does that! I hope to chat with you more about it when the needle & thREAD feature makes its return. 

2. Mike has been traveling a lot lately. We sat down Sunday afternoon, as the ice did its thing outside and we mapped out the spring. I learned it looks daunting.  I think I heard him hyperventilating. We have lots of kids at an active stage of life and he is highly sought after in Connecticut and DC and Florida. Much juggling of the calendar and some frequent flier miles to bank. Ours was a long distance relationship when we were in college. Little did I know that some of those relationship skills would be refined over the course of our lifetime. I'm still learning.

3. I have a real life friend who will sit with my girls while they throw up. That is one "for real" friend! Her presence in my very messy house with my very messy girls early on a Sunday was necessitated by the fact that I also have a friend who will scoop my son off a soccer field (which he has made a bloody mess) and hurry him to the ER so that a plastic surgeon can stitch his cheek back together. Thirty-seven stitches later, we learned that Stephen's soccer team is made of people who don't flinch and don't turn the other way; they gather and support. That was a hard, hard week. Mike was gone. All the girls were extremely sick. Stephen was a bit of a mess. I also learned that...

4. My orthodontist and pediatrician are pretty much the best. My orthodontist saw pictures of Stephen on social media and texted me immediately to tell me he wanted to see him. Upon close (and very gentle) inspection, we learned that the permanent retainer cemented to the back of his teeth saved his teeth. It's definitely taken a good knock but it held and though the teeth were knocked around, they were braced. So, yay! My pediatrician also wanted to see Stephen right away. He hung with us closely through the weeks of concussion evaluation, alternating between concern for Stephen and concern for Mary Beth, who has caught one nasty infection after another. Lesson there: the first year of teaching in an early childhood setting will yield all kinds of germ exposure, especially if you've never gone to school. Poor girl. When I'm flying solo, and everyone seems to be super needy at the same time, it's good to know that the people we've chosen for health care are invested in us. (<--absolutely NOT a paid promotion.)

5. One skill that Mike and I have gotten much better at in the last couple years is making time for focused attention with each other. We really, really benefit from one-on-one, totally uninterrupted time. And we are learning to look for the small pocket of time, call in our resources, and seize the opportunity. We launched February by practicing this strategy really well. Through some ridiculous logistical gymnastics, Mike and I were able to get away for about 24 hours. We went to Charlottesville to see the soccer team honored for their NCAA championship at a UVa basketball game. We stopped at JMU to pick up Christian on our way, so that he could hang out with Paddy. The game was so much fun--crazy electric atmosphere of ESPN Game Day in a place filled with students fired up about an unbeaten season. 

We left at halftime. It wasn't that we don't both love college basketball. It was more about the fact that we hadn't seen each other in over a week and we were staying at my folks' house and they weren't home. The thought of an entire evening with no interruptions and no obligations other than each other? Opportunity seized. Such a great night and so nice to wake early on Sunday, go to Mass alone together, and gather the boys so that we could prop them up and feed them breakfast. (They'd clearly enjoyed their Saturday night, too.)

6. I learned that Liberty University offers an excellent online education. Mary Beth is fully enrolled this semester. It's been a challenge for both of us as she learns to navigate the demands of college and the nuances of online education (and a couple of jobs). What she is being offered is so much better than the dual enrollment experiences the boys had at community college for their senior years in high school that I'm peaceful about the higher price tag. 

7. My teen boys have pretty good taste in music. I let them man the radio buttons to and from soccer and I've added to my repertoire lately. Upon their recommendation, I've become a fan of Ed Sheeran and Andy Grammer. It's a little disconcerting when my six-year-old belts out "Honey, I'm Good" on endless repeat, but I've learned that the the culture infiltrates the childhoods of kids #7, #8, and #9 and we kind of have to roll with that. The video is pretty darn cute, by the way.

8. Soccer can and will be played year 'round, regardless of the weather. I have now witnessed soccer when the real temperature is 7 degrees and the wind chill is hovering around zero. I've watched how the artificial turf reacts to an inch or so of sleet and how 14-year-old boys think playing in that is about the most fun you can have in February. And I've seriously considered one of these. And a space heater. 


I've talked about some of these things and some more significant life lessons over at Mercy Found Me. Jacque Watkins is such a good listener! And her blog is just so great--indulge in a little reading over there if you have a few moments. 

What have you learned lately?


Happy Birthday, Patrick!


This is the first time I've been away from one of my children on a birthday. Michael went to college nearby and it was fairly simple to meet up to celebrate. It's a strange feeling not to see Paddy today. The day comes 'round and I can't help but remember. I have a much better memory of the day he was born than Patrick does, actually. And I probably remember his first and second birthday better, too. Oh, the second birthday! I was nine months pregnant with Mary Beth and Paddy had emergency microscopic surgery because he sliced through his hand on the computer (long story)

He's the boy with the Guardian Angel Birthday. Sledgehammers falling on his head just glance off and leave the smallest of scars.

Even the birthday he spent away from us--his 16th, living in Florida with the U-17 National Team--we got there. It was crazy good to see him, but he was so homesick, so sad. This year, we sent cookies to Charlottesville with his dad last night and we'll see him play on Friday. He's not nearly so homesick and he sounds pretty happy. Still, here I am with my memories, missing my boy. Facebook keeps prompting us to send him coffee. 'Twould go nicely with his cookies, but I think the resident cookie-baker has already done that today. 

No, I think there's really nothing more to send than prayers heavenward--for God's protection and for His blessing. And prayers of thanksgiving for the gift that is Patrick.

Patrick Leaves for College Today

The last time a child left for college, I allowed myself  to be very vulnerable online in the days that immediately followed. I mused aloud, did a lot of soul searching, took a long look at homemaking and mothering and home education up to that point. I left my heart bare. It was probably one of the worst mistakes I've ever made. I doubt I'll ever fully recover and I know I'll never do that again.

I know now that there are some people who will never understand the enormity of such transitions in a wholehearted household, particularly in the soul of a woman. They will never understand how a mother's heart and home are not fair game, especially at a tender time.

And I know that there are kindred spirits who understand without words.

For those dear friends, I'm very grateful.


So. Here goes. The leaving-to-college post.

Goodbyes don't seem to get easier for me. If anything, knowing how this whole off-to-college thing can play out makes goodbye harder. I really like our family life, so change doesn't come without a huge struggle. Patrick, however, has said goodbye previously; we've had a bit of a practice. And we have a good coping strategy. Last time, Mary Beth made a slideshow for him. The plan this time was to update the slideshow (particularly to include Hilary), but I have just discovered that all the pictures from the first time (and from most of the last 3 years of family life), carefully saved on an external hard-drive, are now inaccessible. And since that is way too much emotional overload for me to process today, I'm just going to re-run the old slideshow. The sentiments are all the same. We love this boy so much and our "wish" is really a fervent prayer.

Paddy is so ready to take on the world. And he is going to both bless and be blessed by the University of Virginia and that sweet place of heaven-on-earth called Charlottesville. It's going to be amazing!

Your prayers for him are very much appreciated.

Hilary, tea time is at 2:00 and the girlies are so looking forward to having you with them this afternoon! It's all good. God's got this.