Monday, October 22, 2012

Taking Down The Giant

I have been insanely blessed with the most amazing father for my children.  I believe most average dads work their jobs, come home and say hello and checkout for the rest of the evening. Maybe they coach their child's team and check that off the list of important dad duties.  If they don't coach, they show up to the games and competively push their child to success. They will occasionally sit down to play a board game or even better a video game.They may find a connection with the "special" child and work at that relationship as the primary focus.This is an average dad.<

My husband is so much more than that.  My husband works 60+ hours {I mean, we have 5 adorable but wildly expensive kiddos} and is a part time stand up comedian.  He never uses that as an excuse to not perform at the highest level of excellence as a father.Shawn spends quality time with each of his children and works hard at developing a strong relationship with every child. He is the most perfect example of the men I want our daughters to date and totally gets that his example is what they will look for in a husband.

To our boys, Shawn connects with them on individual levels.  He never tries to make them into what he wants or wishes them to be.   He patiently guides them to becoming strong men of character as his example shows them.

Most recently, Shawn's awesomeness as a father went into a whole different stratosphere with our newbie, Keegan.  He shows such empathy and sensitivity to our little boy who is going through transitions very few people have had to. Shawn works to put Keegan's needs above his own and by doing so, exemplifies selflessness.These are all of the ways Shawn is above average in the dad category. And, I haven't even shared the most important part...

Tonight, Shawn sent me a message and told me to have the kids plan a sneak attack on the "Giant".  Let me explain... the "Giant" is a game my most creative husband came up with.  He acts like a menacing creature and encourages the children to try and "take him down"   Now, this little spirited mama loves the premise.  It teaches our children to not be afraid to take on "Giants".  Ok, maybe a little melodramatic but true. My kids have to take down a 6.5 ft giant.This takes alot of determination and strength.  They never quit until they get him down.  Let me assure you, my competitive husband NEVER backs down and lets them win.  This is one of his biggest rules.

Anyways, I got the message and took the hooligans out back, loaded for bear {they each had big cups of water}.  I gave them the instructions to stay put until I led the giant to them.  Then, Shawn gave a call and recorded a voice message on my phone.  He pretended to be a neighbor who had just spotted a giant.  He then began screaming as if he was being attacked {get it?  Attention to details  The dude never leaves anything half done}.  The kids were beyond excited. 

Shawn came home and I led him to the sneak attack.  As he rounded the corner of the backyard, my tough little kiddos doused him!  They then ran around the house, went inside and locked the door. The plan was to make him dance and then he would be allowed in. Backfired!  He had his keys, let himself in and proceeded to take down every wayward child  The kids were hysterically screaming, laughing and doing their best to take down the "Giant"

These moments will become less and less as my children grow up  I know this.  So does Shawn.  I love that I married a man that understands the importance of taking these opportunities and making the most of them.  He has never used his job or his limited time as a reason to disconnect.  He has never allowed anything to come before his dedication to being a father.  He tirelessly and vigourously attacks the role of father, not because he has to but because he wants to.  Shawn is my hero.  God gave him to me to be my best friend and to love our children without fail.  Today, I am thankful.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Soccer Mom Dreams and World Cup Fantasies

Growing up in Canton, Michigan you had no choice but to be deeply invested in soccer.  One summer Canton even hosted the world cup for little kids.  The streets were filled with obnoxious kids and even more obnoxious parents.

I can vividly remember being at Flodin park and watching lil kids playing like their lives depended on it.  Sometimes, based on their parents screaming, their lives may very well have been in jeopardy.  The parents would scream at the coaches and grown adults would break out in fist fights.  It was hilariously entertaining.  But, also very intriguing.  I was mesmerized by this game and the passion behind it.  This was the first game i was told by a coach that i had skills.  It was at these moments I knew one day my kids would be groomed for futbol.

I couldn't wait for the day to pile up my kids in a van and head to the soccer fields.  I would wear a cozy sweater and have a sophisticated mug o Joe.  I may even have a soccer blanket and cups of cocoa for my other lil darlings.   My husband would be coaching our kid and holding my hand.  It would be a blue sky, nothing but blue skies, kind of day.  Birds would chirp and fellow soccer moms would holler greetings as my crew headed to the game.  The air would smell of dirty boys and wet grass.

20 years and 5 kids later that dream is fully realized.  Shawn is my current soccer stud.  Watching him running on that field with shin guards and dreams of a soccer championship, deftly dribbling his ball and meeting his teammates.  I can almost hear David Beckham offering him a spot on his pro soccer team.  Christiano Ronaldo giving him a pair of purple and pink soccer cleats.  Real Madrid scouting his eager youth, trying to figure out how to get him to sign.

These are my Canton Soccer Mom fantasies.   Don't judge.  I quickly drain my gas station cup o Joe and tighten up my sweater against the nippy fall air.  Adjust my kiddies blanket and say hello to my other soccer comrades.  I watch intently on every call the ref makes, ready to pounce if needed. I lean against my husband who is loudly sideline coaching our son and sigh with pleasure.  As I look over the soccer field waiting for shawns second round of games i am overcome.  I realize that 20 years ago there was a 13 year old girl who dreamed of being a soccer mom.  I am everything I wanted to be with a shaggin wagon (minivan) to boot.  20 years later I can proudly check off the box and know my dreams came true.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hiking at Raven Run

Today was hiking day!  All week my boys and kiley had looked forward to this.  I picked them up, my bag packed with lunches and my schedule on pause.  We made it to Raven Run and were ready to start off on our adventure.

We met up with keegans Godmother, Emily.  Since Keegan has joined our family, our family has expanded in love and support with new members.  I am not going to lie, this is strange and weird.  Sometimes it can be tricky and awkward to navigate.  Our times together are made better by having adventures that provide all of us with new memories.  They bind us together and help us through the troubling, insecure times.  The smiles it puts on keegans face and on my children is why we all keep working on this impossible beautiful dream.  Tangent, sorry.

So, we met Emily.  We all took off on the trails.  The kids had a bag to collect their treasures.  This is a must for our travels.  The thing about hiking with kids is that you MUST say goodbye to any plans.  That means if they want to climb a hill of rocks and say, "rock on".  If they want to pick up bugs and let them crawl on their hands.  You say, "what a good explorer!"  If they want to run and let loose you say, "go for it!"  I am not going to lie, this is not easy and takes mucho patience.  I draw the line only at spotted leaves...why?  I don't know, they freaked me out.

We walked for an eternity.  The trail got very narrow and was along a big drop off.  This caused mild heart palpitations for Emily and I.  But, you can't quit, there is a payoff.  We went to a Lookout which should have been called suicide rock.  Through a stern voice and some limits we let the kids sit on the rock dangling their feet over the edge (our hands seemed to never leave their collars- would that have stopped the plummet?  Probably not, but it gave me comfort).  As we looked over at the Kentucky river I remember thinking, payoff.

On the way back, the crankies hit, in a bad way.  It started to rain.  I twisted my ankle (not bad just enough to add to the misery).   The temp dropped 10 degrees.  We took a new trail and were slightly terrified that it was taking us the long way.  As the rain began coming down harder I looked at Emily and said, "These ideas are crazy!  I sure hope that we don't regret this".  Emily said, totally confident, "when you have the kids in bed quietly sleeping and you look back at the pictures.  It will be worth it".  Payoff was the motivation for the last half mile.

At the end of the day my bag is full of rocks, my heart is full of love and my head is full of irreplaceable memories.  Memories, as Emily said, that I pored over that night.  Thankful for my sleeping exhausted angels.  Thankful for my awesome camera phone.  But, also thankful for this crazy, new, weird extended family that encourage, support and love all of us.  Payoff.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Being A Cheerleader For the Team That Matters

Its halftime and your team is down by 21.  Impossible task, right.  Not if you have the right cheering squad.  A cheering squad that never stops, no matter how impossible.  A squad that is always there, no matter what the weather.  A squad that will be focused on the action not on the distraction.

This is how I felt tonight when I got to be emmas cheerleader at her cheerleading game.  See, its important for your child to make the team but it is even more important to be on the sidelines cheering.  They really don't care what their coaches say or how many atta boys they get..the most important encouragement comes from you.

I am lucky everyday that not only do I get to be the cheerleader for my kids I want to.  It wasn't hard to shut down my phone, block Facebook and tell the NJ Housewives to take a chill pill.  Not when I had the opportunity to matter in the life of a child...especially my child.

So here's to all the cheerleaders out there.  We are an elite squad and the unsung heroes.  We are the few and proud.  We are the ones who will reap the rewards....and there will be rewards.

My parents were my cheerleaders and because of that they are still my besties.  They get my first phone calls of happiness, they get my time and attention, they are active grandparents and adored by all 22.   They are the first ones I think of in the morning and the last ones I pray for at night.  They even will score the most magical suite de la Reynolds casa when they get old, senial and smelly.   These are the best rewards a parent can hope for.

So cheer loud, cheer proud but most of all, be there.  Be present and focused.  Be the loudest one (not obnoxious...emma had to coach me on that one).  They will notice.  They will remember who was in their corner.  Their corner is cozy and full of happiness.  Be there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"My Hero"

Today I am going to blog about mommy moments of pure amazing love.  Every mother should be lucky enough to have these from time to time. I truly hope so.  I also hope that when these moments hit all moms are able to wrap them up in pretty little bows and tuck them in their brains for a rainy day.  Today I am going to recall one from each of my chilly beans.

Shawnie was my first baby boy.  When i was pregnant with Emma i was scared that shawnie wouldnt feel as love.  I took him for a "date". We went to the park and played.  He was getting ready to turn 3 and i pretended to cry.  I told him that he was my best friend and couldnt grow up.  He looked up at me and said, "I wont grow up. I be 2."   We started singing our awesome song "best friends forever" (we just say that over and over).  To this day on his birthdays i still wish him Happy 10th Anniversary of your 3rd birthday.  Its weird, maybe a bit creepy, but it is my way of holding him to his sweet promise to me.  It is also my way of remembering that moment forever.

Now, Emma was my hot mess. She is me, made over.  But, she is also the one i can talk to about everything.She confides in me and i get her.  My mommy moment of amazingness is when my girl made the cheerleading team. We drove up to the school and I think I was more nervous than her.  I watched her get out of the car and go up to check the sheet in the door.  As a mom, you have to act like it doesn't matter...but, it did.  It mattered a lot to her.  I knew her heart would break if she didn't make it.  When she checked the door she turned and looked down.  Friends were all around her.  Do you know what she did?  She looked for me and gave me a thumbs up.  She then ran to my car without stopping to talk to her friends.  She came to tell me.  It didn't matter to me if she made it but it was the fact that she celebrated with me that brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my soul.

Kiley is my sweet, quiet Angel.  My mommy moment with Kiley was when we hung up our bible verse frames.  The point was to write a bible verse and a saint for the kids to think about.  Each child has one, even me and shawn.  The first night these were up I went to bed to find that kiley had snuck in my room to write me a love letter.  She is constant leaving me notes around the house.  I keep all of them.  They make me smile.

Keegan is our newbie and by far my special moment was the first family picture he drew.  It was the first time he showed how proud and happy he was in our family.  Best part?  Keegan was holding hands with me under a rainbow.  He waited all day to give me his present.  I literally almost burst with pride.

This morning Dylan gave me a mommy moment.  I was running around, as usual, trying to get it together.  The boys were ready and I was desperately trying to get a hot cup o Joe.  Dylan came into the kitchen wrapped his arms around me and said, "my hero".  Just like the lil rascals when Darla says this to alfalfa.  My heart melted into a soppy puddle.  All day I heard that lil voice cheering me on.  "My hero"  swoon...

These moments give me breathes of energy and love that can not be met by any amount of money or fame.They literally keep me going. They keep this lil hippie grounded.  I am so thankful for these moments of grace because without them I would be lost.  These moments make me confident that I am doing something right.

I will end this blog by telling you I am going to live in the light of one such moment.  I am going to snuggle up with my brood to watch the Little Rascals.  When Darla tells Alfalfa "my hero".. I will close my eyes, take a deep breath, smile and say, "you ain't got nothing me."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pretend Brother Baptisms

When we were little, we were fascinated by our religion.  We used to play church all the time.  We used oyster crackers as communion and the brothers were our priests.  Me and my sisters were the nuns and of course, Mary was always the cranky Mother Superior.  We would spray each other with holy water like vampire hunters.  Our religion became a hysterically holy play put on by heathens.

Which brings me to our family fun event.  Today I worked on planning Keegans Baptism.  Catholics get baptized out of the womb but since Keegan was adopted his baptism will happen now.  Here lies the problem...little man hates being center of attention so this baptism thing may be a bit difficult to pull off.  He is going to have to be center stage and get water poured on his head. 

When I told Keegan about his baptism he vehemently was against it.He was horrified when I told him what happens.  Oh great, this is not going to be good.  All I was envisioning was Keegan kicking the priest and running off the altar and out the church doors.  So, what is a mom to do?

Well, I could chastise him and make him do it.  Tell him I am the boss and get on with it.  I could coddle him and bribe him with sugary delights.  I could reverse psychology him and tell him that fine, kiley will get to be baptized if you don't want to.  But, then I remembered I am the fun mom....lets play baptism.

I gathered up my boys and filled a  bowl with warm water.  I then let them perform "baptisms".  We got out some oil for the sign of the cross, too.  Keegan went first.  He looked a bit confused at first but then I dripped some water over his head.  He started to laugh...hard.  Then he got to "baptize" Shawn.  Shawn gets bonus points for his theatrics.  Shawn "baptized" Dylan and had great fun thoroughly soaking his brother.  By the time we were all "baptized", I had all my boys begging to be dipped again! 

We then read the story of John the Baptist who was Jesus friend.  He got to baptize him just like the brothers.  We talked about the prescence of the holy spirit and how baptism gives you an abundance of grace.  Grace is the armor that helps keep your soul clean.  We talked about how when you sin, you dirty your soul.  When you are born you have original sin on your soul (thanks Adam and eve!) but, when you are baptized that sin is scrubbed away.  We wrapped it up with a rousing rendition of "you gotta take that sin right outta your soul!"

And, this is why it pays to be a fun mom.  My boy is now beyond excited for his baptism and my boys will now get to play Catholic.  Hopefully they will look back on this and remember how much fun it was being brought up Catholic.  We Catholics get a bad name for our rigid, uniform services but at moments like this I remember why I love my religion.  These traditions have provided a great base of faith for my kids.  This base will be a steady foundation for them as adults.

Now...where did I put those oyster crackers????

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Yummy! Breakfast Dinner

After a long day there is nothing like sitting down to a dinner with my lovely family.  Unless, of course it was a breakfast dinner!

Every once in awhile we have these cheap, good dinners and the kids get a kick out of it.  There is something rather magical about messing with the conformity of a meal.  This simple little act of pulling a switcheroo puts the rest of the evening on call.  It says, "watch out world there is party starting that may never stop!"

The thing is, a breakfast dinner is actually both healthy and cheap. Tonight I scrambled some eggs, made some sausage patties, fried potatoes and whole grain English muffins.  I cut up some apples and voila!  Dinner is served.  Equal parts of amazingness and penny pinching.  Winning!

Ok...a little melodramatic but, I will emphatically stand beyond breakfast dinners as one of the ways a cheap.parent comes out a Victor.  My kids left the table full and smiling with not a morsel to spare.  I consider this family idea one of the best!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Leaf Hunting

We have always been avid treasure hunters and have always enjoyed the great outdoors.  When Keegan joined our family it was clear that this kid loves to hunt for things.  Not a day goes by where i empty my pockets without finding an acorn, paperclip or small toy that Keegan has given me for safe keeping.  This entry is one of those great hunts that resulted in amazing treasures.

Today I knew we needed to get outside.  Do you know how I knew this?  The boys were rolling on the floor like 2 puppy dogs fighting over a chew toy and kiley had perked up enough to do the awesome whining and groaning of a sick child.  The outdoors were calling and I was the first in line!

We headed to our park where the kids played for a bit.  Soon the play turned back into squabbling so we took off on our adventure.  We walked into the "enchanted forest" on the hunt for trolls and skipping rocks.  Sure enough we found the perfect rocks and the skipping fun began.  After a wayward rock found dylans forehead we decided to go hunt for the perfect leaves.

Now, again the almighty payoff...finding the perfect leaf meant looking for one with the perfect color and no holes.  This is only something a real explorer can find.  It takes great concentration and quiet voices.  Translation...quiet and calm teamwork.  1 point for the mom with bags under her eyes!

Off we went, looking under every tree and gathering up our fall treasures.  As we hunted it was the perfect time to talk about our favorite colors and favorite memories.  The conversation was such an added blessing. When we completed our hunt we had approximately 100 leaves and 3 tired, calm and loving children.  Which, by the way, paid off in a long nap for the whole house.  2 points for the mom with dried puke on her clothes!

At the conclusion of naptime we all made the most amazing leaf people.  The kids worked on these for an hour.  They worked cooperatively and shared a glue bottle.  This alone was a miracle of Jesus!  They were very proud of their creations and very content with our day.

Since Keegan has joined our family every day has become a wonderful family adventure.  It is an adventure that is never ending.  Every day we grow closer and this incredible bonding is allowing us to meld into a strong, united family.  These days of treasure hunting reminds me, once again, that God brought us Keegan to grow more in faith, love and family.