Latest Issue from the House of Tissue

costco fun

We hit Costco every Sunday after Mass. The boys are in love with the new iPad display.

I have been craving a return to writing in this space. I thought it would happen last week, when everyone went back to school. And then maybe earlier this week, after we had been on A Schedule for a full week. And here we are, at the end of the second week of school (so still technically a week and a half in because we started last Wednesday) and I finally said “enough waiting for the perfect moment. Just do it!”

Up first, a story that perfectly encapsulates where I’m at in life right now.

Today I was at lunch with two of my friends, happily enjoying some lunchtime friendly banter and I started to relay a story about a recent conversation I’d had. Just a casual, “this is what we were talking about…” and out of the blue, like I did not see it coming, tears. Floodgates. Ugly sobs and me apologizing because the look of my face was terrifying nearby babies.

Woah! That was fun.

The good news is both of those girls are about seven months pregnant, so unpredictable waterworks they get. “Oh that was so me last night,” comforted one friend. And the crying itself doesn’t freak me out. I’m inclined to cry, more when I’m happy than sad but still. It was the total lack of notion that such feelings were hanging out right there in my chest. Guttural sobs at the local Mexican dive. Who knew!

And that, my friends, is what my life is like right now. Happiness, joy, excitement, EXTREME TEARS. Elation, glee, fun times as a family UH OH HERE MOM GOES AGAIN. Sheesh. It’s really emotional around here.

I’d like to add, just as a reference point, that I’m also experiencing brow sweats which is a new and fun thing for me. So I’m hoping that more of my issues can be blamed on swinging hormones than on my oldest son being a senior in high school. But I think the fun thing for some women is that two coincide “nicely” (not) and I’m left mopping myself up off the puddle I turned into on the floor. Or in the basket of chips, as the case may be.

I’m emotional right now is what I’m saying.

But the happy news for you few blog readers still hanging on (hi mommy and daddy!) is I’ve come up with a schedule for writing. Because writing helps me a lot. Emotionally. Spiritually. Emotionally.

Back to having a senior: it’s my first and I’ve got several friends, whose kids are in Ethan’s class, and they are about to graduate their babies. And I’m talking the youngest of six and seven kids. Just like that, the youngest is a senior. So that puts things in perspective. This is our first time, we have many more to come. But I see these women and I remember when they were in my boat, when I was the mom with four little boys, none yet in school and these women were at the basketball games (my husband coaching their sons) and active in all the school activities. And just like that, they are finishing up and I’m getting started (by the way I’m crying now so I’m sure you’re feeling sad you aren’t sitting here to watch the drama).

My mother should have named me Anne of Green Gables. I’m already mourning the loss of all six of my babies being gone from the nest when the truth is they are all very much here. I love me some gut-wrenching I do.

So the lesson here is: ENJOY THE MOMENT RACHEL. Quit being sad even though it’s okay to be sad. Like, do your little crying and then get back to the joy of the moment, okay? Okay. I promise. I’ll try.

Into the Great Unknown

first day 14And here we are, at the place I’ve been thinking about for so long. Our oldest child is beginning his Senior year in high school, he is becoming the man we’ve all these years been training him to be. Not so much training him as guiding. Not telling him who to be as much as gently buffering him on his way.

I realized a few weeks ago that parenting teens feels a lot like building a ship. We tinker and toil and sometimes (between the ages of 12 and 14?) it involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears. We are involved in the assembly of this masterpiece that will one day set sail. We pray the ship is a sturdy vessel that can handle the waves, that is built to withstand the tides and force of the great ocean of life.

But perhaps more than a shipbuilder, the role of a parent is sculptor. We are given the gift of a child and our job is to simply help discover who God has already made that child to be. God has given each of our children gifts and talents, and our job is to help our children find their way. We guide them and teach them Truth and train them in the way of true joy — all the while watching with delight the discovery of who these wonderful people are.

The week before school started our son Ethan left with some of the high school staff and the other members of his Senior class for a retreat in the mountains. As we stood there in a circle and said a prayer for their safe travel, I knew what a big moment this was. Standing there on the edge of the great unknown, watching as the first of my little chickadees starts to think about leaving the nest. What will it be like to have him leave? How will we ever survive?

The thought brings a lump in my throat, I won’t lie. I won’t pretend that it doesn’t break a little piece of my heart to admit my son isn’t the tiny baby we brought home from the hospital all those years ago. He’s no longer the little boy who had to hold my hand to cross the street, he doesn’t need me to run next to him as he steadies his bike.

But he is of course. He is all of those things still. It’s just that those parts of who he is are now contained here, in my heart, where I will treasure all those seasons as mama to my oldest son. As I do with each of my children.

And now, we look forward. We rejoice in all these years of preparation, our years of guiding our boy and praying for him and we pray that Jesus will continue to do the good work he started in Ethan. It’s emotional being a parent, and exhausting. And also thrilling and wonderful. I’m scared about my children growing up, and I love watching who they’ve become.

But I know God’s grace is enough. And this is part of his plan. Even when it feels scary, even when the unknown feels like something I’d rather not experience, God’s love for me reminds me to trust in Him and be not afraid.

The joy of life with the Holy Spirit is peace. It’s grace. It’s the ability to look at life’s circumstances and know God is with us. Not in a white-knuckling survival-of-the-fittest kind of a way (though there are admittedly seasons when that is the case). But in a way that faces each new day with the confidence that God is with us. He is with us! He loves us! Do not be afraid, he loves you so much.

Movie thoughts: The Identical

identicalPaul and I had the chance to watch a good movie recently, one that’s coming to theaters next week.

The Identical is about twin boys separated at birth; one becomes a famous musician and the other spends years trying to figure out what exactly he’s been called to do with his life. It’s an interesting look at making peace with who we are and who God made us to be, and how hard it can be if that doesn’t seem to jive with someone else’s perception of your life calling.

It’s a great family film, by which I mean it’s one of those rare gems that you can sit and watch with your children. No awkward scenes, no bad language. None of those too-often movie moments where you wonder what exactly you’ve just exposed your children to.

We’re going to watch the movie with our boys, because I think it will open up a good discussion on the importance of discerning God-given gifts, and how to figure out what to do with your life (ie, pray about it, seek counsel, consider the gifts God has given you). Lots of good food for thought in this movie, I’m so glad we got to watch it!

For a chance to win four free tickets to the movie, click on over here!

You Can Do It!

Limo.1

I love this picture! Susie and Kajse are still my two very best friends, Dennis and Fr. Tim are still Paul’s best friends and Tina (Paul’s sister) is his childhood best friend and partner-in-crime.

I’m posting my newspaper column on the eve of Paul’s and my twentieth wedding anniversary! Who can believe that? The time sure has flown and I continue to be in awe of God’s goodness to me, to give me a husband who treats me with such kindness and love, who adores our children (without enabling them), who is a steady shelter and a fierce protector and provider. What a good God we have, who gives us everything we need. I love you, Paul!

The other day, Henry (in constant search of food) walked over to me with one of those hard-to-finagle yogurt tubes and asked me to help him. I barely looked up from what I was reading, ripped the top off the tube and handed it back.

“Wow,” was his grateful reply, “it’s so important that you are good at opening these, because you’re a mom.”

As my boy began sucking down his treat, I reflected on his observation.

“Actually,” I told him, “I’m good at opening these because I’m a mom.”

Funny that. I can open a tube of yogurt and trim small fingernails and whip a twelve-passenger-van into a tight parking spot (while opening a tube of yogurt). I am mama, hear me roar.

But the truth is, these talents, these impressive abilities, are an acquired skill set that comes with the territory. My boy Henry thinks I’m an awesome mom because I can open his food; I know if it wasn’t for him (and his four older brothers and baby sister) I’d have very little interest or ability in any of this. We learn as we go, and we are amazed at all we learn.

When Paul and I got married twenty years ago, the list was vast and sweeping of Things I Don’t Know. It’s not that my mama didn’t raise me right; it’s that I had absolutely no interest in domestic capabilities. I remember once, when Paul and I were dating, him wondering if a station wagon was in our future. I freaked out.

And here I am, all these years later, driving a van and loving every minute of it. I take great pride in my excellent parking abilities and if you ask me how many times strangers have complimented me on this talent I will happily tell you. It happens a lot.

What a thing to boast about! What a strange turn of events. Who would have thought I could manage such things? Not I.

But God, in his infinite wisdom, knows better. And he gives us what we need in the moment. When I reflect back on where I started, and where I am now, I can only envision my heart as a flower opening a little more each day. Each day a slightly better capacity to love, each season a greater willingness to expand.

I never dreamed, when we said I Do all those years ago, that God would be so generous. That not only would he soften my heart to say yes to these children, but that I would find such joy and satisfaction in this beautiful vocation. And that I would be capable of the care and feeding of five boys and a girl.

That, to me, is the grand adventure of life — learning and growing. Doing the thing we think we cannot do. Mastering skills along the way, becoming someone we never dreamed we could be. We all have areas where God has dreamed bigger for us, where he has shown us to trust in him and be not afraid.

For me, I am proud to park the van and trim the nails and a million other strange talents I now have thanks to my life as a mother. Twenty years ago, I had no idea I had it in me.

Every step of the way, God is there with his generous grace. For each of us, in the things he has called us to do, he really does give us everything we need. He asks things of us, and then he gives us the tools to get the job done.

The key, I’m finding, if carving out the time to hear his voice. In the stillness, He is there. He wants to grant to us every good thing, and he waits patiently with grace and peace and joy, goodness beyond our wildest dreams.