Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day

This morning I read this post. Please read it. I want to explain my headspace when I clicked on this link.

The other day I thought I was in labor. I had regular contractions and I was convinced enough to hop into the shower. (Pro Tip: shower before the hospital because you don't know when you will be able to bathe again.) Suddenly I was hit by a wall of exhaustion, so I decided to lie down. I figured if I fell asleep labor contractions would wake me up, but if not, I wasn't really in labor. I was not in labor. Of course this has put me in that desperate-to-have-baby phase of pregnancy.

Today I read a snarky thing about how priests "have permission to preach about the Gospel instead of mothers this Sunday." Now, I get it. Really, I do. There are a lot of women who are not mothers, some of whom would LOVE to be mothers, who hate mother's day sermons. I myself am not a huge fan if only because I find these lovely men paint motherhood with a soft glowing lens. Meanwhile, I'm usually in the pew, hot, being climbed upon, acting as a barrier between two children trying to sacrifice each other in an Old Testament kind of way. So, yes, I agree that sometimes the Mother's Day homilies can fall into a "more harm than good" feeling. I may or may not have fantasized about having a Mother's Day baby in order to escape this kind of personal discomfort. (Incidentally, I do love when priests talk about Mary and/or The Church as a mother. Everyone needs a good mom, and not everyone gets one. It's nice to be reminded that, actually, we all do get a Perfect Mother.)

I went downstairs after Scott had left with the kids, and I saw Molly's book report on the counter. My blood boiled as I went stomping around the house looking for my phone to call him. The book report was something I was so very proud to have her turn into her teacher. First of all, Molly loved the book I bought her and asked for the next in the series, which was a miracle of sorts. Secondly, her picture that she drew looked perfect. If only I could describe what it is to have Molly, of all the kids, draw something well. I cannot, except to say that I was almost considered worrying that her teacher would think that I drew the picture, it was so well done. (This is because her teacher doesn't know that I cannot draw very well.) At any rate, I was angry it was left behind after all Molly's cheerful hard work and cooperation, I was so upset that she just forgot about it as though it were nothing, as though we haven't had such a hard time with tension over school work. Here was our one collaboration in which we were both excited about her results!

Thankfully, God is perfect in His love and I read the above link. A mama who will only have a stone to visit rather than a child to cuddle. A mama who still deals with all her daughter left on earth, but has no cheek to stroke or hair to brush or book reports to make her exasperated. A mama who is not fretting about how to pay for tests for her child, but a marker for her grave. Oh, I have so much to learn from this life.

In retrospect I should have laughed at that book report. It should have tickled me and felt so perfect. After all, today is her birthday treat day at school. She sent me in search of overpriced cupcakes because Molly, who cannot eat cupcakes, appreciates the finer things in life and is always generous in sharing them with others. It is also Teacher Appreciation week and the kids decided to bring flowers, so she had a bouquet to give to a teacher that she adores with her whole heart. Why wouldn't she forget about her book report when she had so many good things to share with her class? Why wouldn't she forget about her own glorious work? She was being selfless, and I was seeing irresponsibility instead. Oh, I have so much to learn from these children!

Friday, May 1, 2015

So, it's been a while. I've gotten all manner of complaints, but let me assure you that I have spared any likely reader from months of congregating at a blog that would be, in it's essence, a Festivus Pole where upon I air all my grievances. You see, there has been lots and lots of sickness. A virus every other week, along with the usual busy life that a good sized family might encounter, will make a person a big grouchy and whiney. So I just took Thumper's dad's advice: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I had nothing.

Today I played "Here Come's the Sun" and I felt the urge to go a write how pretty freaking fantastic we are. Which is a little bit of an optimistic spin given that I am 37 weeks pregnant, grossly anemic and unable to quench my desire for a margherita - extra tequila - as big as my face. Yesterday Mariana followed classroom routine without extra prompts. Next week she starts 4-day-a-week school. She's been all but discharged from PT because she can walk up and down appropriately sized steps without help. She is speaking more, though it has been suggested that perhaps a behavioral therapist might be of some use given her sass. (Note to all: I am the behavioral therapist without the degrees or the ability to bill insurance. I also kinda like that she can defy the "They are so sweet." protocol for people with Down syndrome. I feel it makes her an ambassador of sorts.)

Here is what I love about Mae's school. The kids in her class are hyper aware she is different, but none of them can put their finger on it. They ask me all the time if she is still a baby and why she doesn't talk, though she does talk and is simply unintelligible at this point in her development. They adore her and line up to give her a hug before she leaves. They both want to be her friend and want her to like each of them. When she is mean to one of them it is a big deal and the offended party always tells me. But they are always kind to her regardless, which is such a sweet thing for a bunch of 3 year olds. (3 year olds are mostly wretched humans with adorable voices and yummy chubby arms that hug you right as you consider wringing their rotten necks.) Her teacher expects Mae to do everything the other kids do. She cleans up her own messes, washes her own hands, with the help with the soap since she is so short, walks in line, puts her hand on her heart for the pledge, holds the flag when it is her turn, and must always push in her own chair no matter how long it takes her. Miss K. is excited about seeing Mae's successes and is never fooled by her pretend incompetence. We are the luckiest family ever to have this preschool experience right now. Things aren't always easy in our world, but God is never too far for us to hear Him loud and clear.


In other news, we had a First Holy Communion for Molly. I love this day so much and I really appreciated that it was on the Feast of the Good Shepherd weekend. I love Jesus as the Good Shepherd and I often see my children as little lambs (and goats depending on the day). It's a peaceful image to sit with, especially when one of them is seemingly beyond my help. Realizing that The Good Shepherd loves them more than even I helps me relax a little and let things unfold over time rather than running on the anxiety treadmill of "What if...."

Molly's been that kid lately. I feel it's probably not appropriate to get into details on a public blog since I do care about my kids' sense of privacy, but the specifics lead to a general problem all parents face with our kids: How do we help someone when we don't really know what is actually the issue? Sometimes I think just making an effort is enough. Trying something different can jostle a kid into a new perspective. Or maybe just having Mom and Dad put a kid between them and show that this kid's problems are both important and not overwhelming is enough. I can't say that I know the exact formula for success, but somehow just shining a light on a particular child for a particular reason and saying, "We expect and we will help." is working.

Which leads to the other children, all who have become high-need all at the same time. Magically my anemic exhaustion has been fruitful. I sit in my recliner at night in my bedroom where each child comes in alone and we get 10-15 minutes of chatting. (I prefer the image of a stately queen receiving subjects, but I resemble Jabba the Hut more closely in a visual aspect. Minus the girl in a bikini and chains, of course.) It has happened naturally, and it has been nice to remind them that they belong there in my room, that I am not shut away incubating their brother. Kate is in that adolescent place of needing me and never having enough awareness to actually ask for my help. Charlotte is in a phase of finding her siblings just awful to have around her breathing space. (Incidentally I do not blame her. I find many of the things they say to one another grating, but I'm also 37 weeks pregnant and easily annoyed.) Molly is being forced to face her weaknesses and needs extra hugs and reminders of her magical qualities. Paul needs the cuddles of his mama and to exercise his ability to make me laugh even if I'm tired and the baby is literally on my nerves. Mae needs to swipe all the baby's things out of the crib and lay them on my belly because she is the boss of this belly.

So, yes, we've been active. Things have been very challenging and sometimes disheartening. Life has not been terribly kind this winter and spring has arrived quite late given that we live in Florida. Also, I have a charlie horse that just won't quit. What can we do? The answer seems to be in that image of Jesus gathering his sheep. He is not doing much, just picking them up and looking at them in the face and letting each little lamb see that His love is big enough for all of them. And magnesium...for the charlie horse, I mean. Magnesium hasn't failed me yet.

Monday, January 5, 2015

And Then There Were Six

Whoa, let's dust this old thing off a bit, shall we? I've been purposefully neglecting this place all fall. The reasons vary, but mostly come down to the fact that just living was a lot of work. We are expecting another baby in May, and he, yes he, made his presence known and felt in the most unpleasant ways. This little guy will not be ignored, I tell you. Little being a reletive term since I am measuring, and he is measuring a week ahead. My helpful OB said, "Oh, let's not do anything over 9lbs." because I'd like to avoid a c section this though this is in my control. The only thing I can do is avoid too much of the sweet stuff, which hasn't been too bad since I mostly hate food, unless I don't, which I almost alsways do soon after consuming it.

Pregnancy is my Achiles heel. I hate every bit of it, not because I have these woeful experiences, but because I have so little control over the health and wellbeing of the child. There are a million sources that will tell you that every eyeblink can control the outcome of pregnancy, but life will teach you otherwise. Yes, good nutrition and exercise are very important, unless you are throwing up so much that keeping any calories down is a win, or you are on bedrest, or both. You see? It's a crapshoot. Denise Austin is my favorite fitness guru out there because she always stresses doing the best YOU can do. Not that we should slack off, but that we should maybe be okay that we are limited. 

I did have the NIPT done, which is how we found out that this person with the hiccupping is a boy. I didn't do it because I wanted to breath easy that he will be physically perfect, but because insurance covered the test and the kids REALLY wanted to know the sex. Even with all the screens coming back favorable, there is no known outcome. There is an expectation, but nothing known. Which is astounding sometimes that we keep having babies. None of our kids are total jerks, so the odds are this guy just might be a total jerk. But hope springs eternal and we are up for the adventure, or so I think. Ask again after the many sleepless nights.

The other children are also growing. I am often astounded at their individual growth. K is cruising toward adolescence, which I am ever hopeful that I won't totally mess up. C is becoming a very interesting person. I feel she is always showing a new depth and at times am astounded that such a little girl can think so deeply. Molly marches on, having had her first Reconciliation and displaying a new level of piety that I remember from second grade. How serious those children become when they realize that Jesus gives them the chance to start new at any time! I love the sweet, purposeful sign of the cross, and how each word of prayer is pronounced just so. She wants so much to be good! Meanwhile, in the land of Paul, we are surprised that he can read so much since his interest in such things seems non existent. When I read to him, he is content to listen, but when we are out and about, he will read off labels and signs with relative ease. We practice sight words, during which he bounces, stands on his head and jokes that "when" is "will" even though I know he remembers the word. He has no interest in practice, even when I make games of it. Thankfully he has a teacher at school with the patience of a saint.

Mariana, oh Mariana. She is growing, learning and becoming--God knows what. We are in search for a new speech therapist closer to home. The poor child has so much language, but her speech, or the motor planning to articulate her language, is not up to her ability. Being in school has helped tremendously, and we hope to continue her education in a class with typical peers. We started in a class of 18-24 month old children, but quickly found that she is a kid who likes to fit in. The behaviors we had moved past came roaring back, along with some new, uncool tricks that we were more than happy to skip. At least in a class of 2 year old peers her negative behavior is age appropriate. I don't love hearing her yell, "No! Stop!" at me, but it is at least a 2 year old thing to yell.

To sum up: Scott is the last one in the family who has stayed the same relative size and shape these last months. The rest of us are growing up or out. One of the snakes went missing twice in the last few months, and I did not have a heart attack.  There was an outbreak of lice at Thanksgiving, which was a nightmare, but we survived. My friends, we are a hearty bunch, are we not? Now that 2014 is gone and we have a fresh calendar to fill with adventures for the new year, I only ask that we stay mostly healthy, the snakes stay contained, and the bugs kindly reside somewhere in the wild. Not a lot to ask from a new year, but then, we shall see.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joy and Narcissism

Leave it to the interwebs to make another seemingly innocuous thing controversial. There was this post about the ice bucket challenge that brought up a very good point. The ALSA donates some of their funds toward embryonic stem cell research. There are many people, myself included, who find this line of research immoral due to the the destruction of life. Not everyone agrees, I understand. However I have another, perhaps more practical, reason for opposing money being poured into this type of research, which is: never, not once, has this research been effective at producing a practical solution to the problems it seeks to address.

Adult stem cell research, however, has had multiple successes. Let's focus our time, talent and treasure on that which offers the most practical hope and does not have legions of people concerned about the ethics of such research.

But there was another issue at hand in this post that I have seen other places. The idea that these things are wasteful and rooted in and encourage narcissistic tendancies. First let's talk about narcissism. I will grant that social media seems to feed the beast that is our Culture of Me and our cultural lack of empathy. Of course this is true! Anything that gives a person the chance to put on a "display" can indeed feed that sort of darkness.

That being said, there is a large blindspot in this claim. You see, the ice bucket challenge is fun. Yes, doing something seemingly inconsequential, and daring others to do the same is playful. Playfulness can build community because we tolerate one another so much better if we know we can set all of the baggage down once in a while. Sure, it's seems wasteful. Isn't all fun peered at from the outside looking in a bit wasteful? "But good drinking water!" I hear you gasp. Stop it. Unless you protest swimming pools and water parks, just stop your nonsense. We have access to water, and using a little for fun is okay. If there is a draught where you are, then yes, by all means refrain from the challenge. But also? Be creative. My sister, Geek, chose instead to sing "Ice Ice Baby" in carline while waiting for her children to be let out of school. (Gee, I hope she wasn't wasting gas by keeping her car idling!) She was nearing the 24 hour deadline, and decided that she could be creative and meet the challenge in a fun and silly way.

The second blindspot is this idea that all things displayed on social media are inherently narcissistic. If that is the case, then all things done publicly must be so. Do we not understand yet that Facebook and Twitter can be much like the water cooler? We live an online life now, and that is not a sin. Maybe it's not as good as authentic in-person relationships, but it can also keep those relationships strong when time and distance cause them to whither.

My parents had weak relationships with their siblings when I was young. Oh, sure we were family, and God knows we had one another in times of trouble. However, the day-to-day sharing and caring was missing because we didn't live close, and there was this weird thing called "long distance rates" that meant calling someone in another area code cost money. When you are raising a young family, those expenses have to be held to a minimum. But now? Our family is strong. I love my cousins and I know how to contact each of them. Each of my 8 siblings is on Facebook, but none are in my hometown. We make each other laugh, we call if we are concerned, and we groan when one of us is getting too righteous online.  That is just my family. I can't tell you the number of friendships I've strengthened online. My friend Sarah, whose ups and downs have allowed me to cry and cheer in communion with her family. The boy from grade school who reached out to me on Facebook and told me of the troubles he had faced post college. He later committed suicide, and while I am heartbroken, I am so glad I could lend a shoulder to a suffering soul for just a little while. Nora Rose, whose family has been in our lives for a very long time, but whose journey I could follow first hand thanks to social media.

I understand the impulse here. The ALSA donates to things that are sketchy. ALS is a horrid disease in need of eradication, and posting a video of getting a bucket of ice water dumped on your head seems to make light of a very serious disease. But the world needs light. The world needs fun. The world needs communion and understanding and encouragement. This is what this challenge can offer, my friends. The good news is there are organizations that you can donate to that won't fund embryonic stem cell research. There are hospitals, maybe even local organizations, that can hunker down and help out your actual real live, and not just virtual, neighbor. You can look it up and post that on Facebook as your ALS charity of choice. Celebrate the charitable inclination of your fellow man and have some fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kindergarten 4.0

The Blurry Child Who Never Stops Moving
Dear Handsome,
You are the fourth child I have seen off to Kindergarten. On Monday we brought your supplies and met your beautiful teacher, Mrs. G. She is a Buckeye, which I'm sure makes Cappy (and Kiki, of course) very happy. Today you dressed in "button shorts", a belt and a golf shirt. You wanted your hair combed like Cappy, something that makes you feel connected to the man you hardly remember. You ate breakfast with a tea towel around your neck and on your lap, and you were barely still for the photos I wanted to take. You seemed excited because you kept getting into the car before it was time to leave.
His genuine smile is like a vampire--never  to appear in photos
Two pretty girls and a goofball.

On the way to school we said our prayers. We asked our Gaurdian Angels to care for us and and help us make good choices, as well as keep us safe. We prayed for everyone going to school, and then I heard a little voice say, "Help Molly not be scared...and maybe me too."

We've had a great summer, you and I. We bonded over our hatred of being spoken to in the morning. We snuggled deep under covers when you were not supposed to be in our bed. You started really taking becoming a gentleman seriously. I began to see that my baby boy is not a baby at all. Even when you pitched fits over things like swim lessons, I saw through your naughtiness and learned to coach you. Your skin went from pale to brown over the course of a few weeks, and any chunk left from the toddler years disappeared to reveal bones and ropey muscle.
Not an ounce of body fat anywhere but those cheeks and lips!

As we walked in to the room, you grew quiet, but this year you didn't bury your head into my hip. You showed Dad your desk, we hung up your backpack, and you handed Mrs. G your papers. Mae sat next to you. I snapped a picture, which happened to reveal the truth; you were very scared.
Mae is ready for Kindergarten, while her brother is ready for this to be over already.

Dad and I left anyway, knowing we had to let you march through to the other side where happy chatter and friendship waited. Before I left, I kissed your cheek and reminded you that I couldn't wait to hear about your day. There was a small smile, or at least a corner of your mouth lifted in an attempted smile. We left to go find some friends and to peek at your sisters, but my heart stayed right there with you desperately, hoping you would feel better fast.

Molly's Motto: Why carry bags when you have so many other's willing to do it for you?
You were first in this afternoon carline today. Your hair was sticking to your scalp like a 90's Clooney. You had a huge grin on your face. As you climbed in the car you said, "Hi Mama, good seeing you!" I asked how your first day of Kindergarten was. "Oh, great! It's not hard work at all!" That was all I got from you, though I was waiting for stories about friends and teachers. Instead you asked if you could buy lunch tomorrow, letting me know for certain all was well with you.

I'm glad you still love school Buddy. I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

Overly Sentimental Mama

Thumbs up for Kindergarten!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Quick Takes Pre-Back-to-School

It is Back To School time, y'all. Remember that commercial with that guy going through the Staples buying supplies with the song, "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" blaring? Cut to his kids who are not feeling it. Imagine that, but in reverse up in here. My kids love the beginning of school. They have long forgotten about homework, early wake up times, bed times, the desperation of looking for the other shoe, and my demands that they continue to make their beds and brush their teeth. All they can think of is that they will spend 8 hours a day with people they like who don't expect them to empty the dishwasher and feed the pets.

I, however, have enjoyed the luxury of no homework, not caring as much about hygiene (because the ocean is sterile, you guys. It's Science!), and lax bedtime/wake times. This year I was so smart and created a spreadsheet for school supply shopping, and then went to the inter webs and had it all delivered to my house. I don't do the school sponsored boxes. I never remember in time, or, when I do remember, I have spent all my money on froyo.
But then I decided to do a room switcheroo. You see, the oldest will be semi-homeschooling with virtual school. She made a really good point that she would like to sleep in a little, and yet shares a room with a sibling who will be getting up at 6:30. That, coupled with the fact that the baby was starting to get closer and closer to getting out of her crib, lead me to the decision to move the kids around. K has her own room, M &C are together now, and the baby and Paul are bunking in the "camp" room, that I will one day finish decorating as a camp bunk because the furniture is very rustic.

Let me tell you something about trying to organize and swap clothes with a two-year-old in the house; it's terrible. Especially if this particular child likes nothing better than to "reorganize" all the shoes you have lined up to weed out and repurpose. Especially if said child also loves to pull perfectly organized clothing onto the floor and then "refold" it and place it somewhere you shall never look until you move. She's a helper, that one.
Kate has her own bathroom. I recognize that this is a risk I am taking. She is already very entitled as witnessed when I told her she would need her own toilet brush.

K: What for?
Me: To clean your toilet. I'll get you shower cleaner too.
K: Why do I have to clean the toilet?!
Me: The same reason you have to make your bed and vacuum your rug. You use it, you clean it.
K: That seems excessive
Me: I regret to inform you that if you neglect your bathroom you will become responsible for all the bathrooms in the house. Also, please make a note that the size of your bedroom will be about the size of your first apartment, if you are lucky, so try very hard not to be too comfortable.
K: Oh yeah, living here is so luxurious.
Me: Glad you understand.

I am so looking forward to the teen years.
The baby sleeps in a bed. Like, actually gets put in a bed, falls asleep in that bed, and then stays in the bed until morning or nap time is over. I would like to know, what in the heck in going on, Internet? It should be noted that this is for her own safety. She began to get her leg up on the railing a couple months ago, and had since built little stools out of books and stuffed animals to make it easier to get out. She has not been successful (low muscle tone, FTW!), but it was coming. Because she is a bit weaker, even if she puts her arms out to catch her fall, she would likely bust her face. The bed is very low to the ground with a bunky board rather than a full boxed spring.

The bonus is that Paul has stayed in his loft bed since her move. He is there to protect her, after all, and he takes this very seriously. For now.
I am walking a lot lately thanks to my husband shaming me with his Hop-Out-Of-Bed-And -Go-Running routine. Wait, first he does push-ups and dips, then he goes running. Lying there listening to all this productivity has shamed me into at least taking the dog for a power walk. Running is too excessive in the summer. I've done it off and on every summer since moving to FL, and I simply hate it. I also have an easier time meditating and counting my blessings if I am not panting and hating life. I'm also nicer to my kids when I get home. It's really a lose-win-win-win. The loser is my bed, who loves me so dearly and surly misses our coffee-and-news mornings. Poor thing.
Can I just say, I finally get the mother/son relationship lovefest? Paul has always been turned to 11, regardless of that being good or bad. He overwhelms me with his full-throttle passion. However, I'm slowly learning about his particular needs and finally meeting them. Everyone has sensory needs, it's not a diagnosis, or problem, it's just like nutritional needs vary, so do sensory needs. Paul is a proprioceptive seeker. Think wrestlers and football players. So when he's hurt, he hits things and runs around, and when he's happy, he snuggles you to death and kisses you so hard your nose feels broken. Now that I understand, I've been able to give him lots of input and now he's so much calmer, and more charming, and hilarious.

One interesting thing I have found is how easy anger is for him. Since he was a baby, if he were scared, hurt or sick, he would get mad and hit people. Now that he is a little more mature, I can say that he can just be hurt without being angry, and it hits just the right note for him. He'll start to spin out, and then come in for a hug and tell me what is bothering him and what he wants to fix it.  The weirdest thing is to see how that has translated into his ability to admit when he is wrong and to apologize as well. Yes, some of this is maturity, but a lot of it is the sensory needs being filled too. I can see how much he neede this from ME. He needs a woman to understand him better just as the girls need their Daddy to work to understand their needs.

One thing I want to leave with is the fact that I'm tempted to feel guilty that it took me 5 years to get it together with Paul. Yes, I use the term tempted. Some guilt is constructive and helps us keep trucking toward being better human beings, and some is destructive and makes us naval gazing depressed narcissists. I let a little of the guilt hang out enough to remind me to be patient when he needs it, and I tell the rest to buzz off. I love my son, and I'm confident in that. I will never meet all of my children's needs no matter what. I'm comfortable with that most of the time. That's how I handle the guilt anyway.
There is a lot of bad news in the world, and I mean a. lot. of. bad. news. Sometimes it makes me think God made a mistake when He promised not to wipe us all out and start fresh a la Noah. And then there are stories like this.  I was lucky enough to meet this fine lady at my little Edel excursion and she is amazingly funny and interesting and silly. I then found out she had a blog and I was all up in that business. I promise you, if you were to meet her, you would not for a minute think she has a bunch o' kids, that two have SMA, and that she home schools. I mean, honestly you wouldn't because there is no blinding halo keeping you from getting too close. So, yes, humans are awful. However, they are awfully wonderful also. Congrats to Kelly and her family. It is a well deserved blessing.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Edel 2014

As a mom of young kids, I know we all experience the same feeling of defeat. We all experience that moment, sometimes more often than we care to acknowledge, where we must escape. Like a caged and beaten animal, we find ourselves longing to run away, far far away, and nurse our wounds. It doesn't matter how many children you have, if you work or stay home, if you are rolling in cash or drowning in debt, we all experience that sensation that we must flee.

That's not why I bought my ticket to the Edel Gathering.

The Edel Gathering was named for Venerable Edel Mary Quinn, and I think the two founders may have found her name by googling "Patron Saint of Partiers". I was only half listening to that sentence because there was a really distractingly cute baby near me. At any rate, Jennifer Fulwiler and Hallie Lord, decided that mommies, and specifically Catholic mommies, needed a weekend to refresh, renew and recharge themselves back to the amazing and wonderful individuals they have always been. There are a lot of wonderful things to say about these two women, but I'm going to save that for another day. First, let's talk about moi.

The day I bought my ticket was rotten. My husband was out of town, The children were needy, and I was depleted. I had considered it, but there was no decision made by the time the tickets went on sale.  So, that day, when I spoke to my husband, I told him I bought my ticket, and I was staying at the Omni downtown Austin. We have a policy of discussing any several-hundred dollar purchases in advance, so he had every right to be angry with me, but he was not. Surprised, maybe. Probably a little frightened, wondering what kind of desperation would lead me to forsake our agreement, but completely on board. Because he is the best.

What followed was one month after another of really bad news, really deep heartache, and really hard days. One day, I think perhaps in May or early June, Scott said, "Well, at least you get to go to that conference." and I nearly burst into tears. "That Conference" was months away. I needed a break right then. I couldn't see past the sunset, let alone weeks ahead. I was afraid I was becoming someone unlikable. I was afraid I had made a mistake in choosing to go alone, and not even trying to make some kind of e-connection with the other attendees. I misunderstood and thought it was mostly an opportunity for self-promotion of personal projects. I didn't have anything to promote, I didn't want to buy anything. I didn't need a massage. I needed to find out if I could exist outside of who I had become, and in that moment, I didn't want to do that because I was afraid I would not like it, I would not like me outside of my roles.

My sister lost her husband in February of 2006. He was 30, she was pregnant with their second child. My father-in-law died in 2011. Sweet baby Nora died in June. A lot of people spent their lives identifying themselves with these loved ones. My sister started dating Mitch since she was 15, but had decided to marry him in 5th grade. My mother-in-law had not only built a life with her husband that included children and grandchildren, but she spent his last years being his caretaker. Aleisa and William spent all of Nora's 2 plus years caring for her and nursing her and chronicling her witness for the world. Identities wrapped in these relationships and then they were gone.

I spend a lot of time caring for my children, especially Mae. But I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. While many of the ladies at the conference were experiencing the crushing isolation of motherhood, I have a life full of well-built relationships. I've been where they have been, for sure, but that's not where I am now. I have 4 amazing, beautiful, hilarious sisters who love me dearly. I have 3 tough, compassionate and generous brothers who love me. I have two holy and patient parents who love me. I have a husband who thinks I am the closest thing to the Virgin Mary on earth. (I am so very much not that, but I do not seem capable of ridding him of that delusion.) I have a parish and school community that love our family. I have friends who "get it", and support me even when they don't. We have a neighborhood full of people who like each other and are prepared for the onslaught of Fryman Teenagers when the kids get to that age. I have in laws and cousins and aunts and uncles and even the cashier at the grocery store who gives me coupons and let's me break up my order so I can use more than one $10 off $50 coupon. I am not rich, I'm filthy rich.

Which is why the reading of the rich young man haunts me. Money isn't my comfort, relationships are. The experience of these past years have taught me that it is possible that I could lose all of this around me. The day I bought my ticket I had realized this and I could not answer a question that thundered into my thoughts; Did I even like being just me?

So I went to Austin alone. I met other women without one of my children licking them first. (True story, happened more than once.) I went for walks. I slept in a bed alone. I went to confession. I went to mass. I partied. A lot. I talked to strangers. I ate yummy food. A lot. I smiled. I cried. I watched Gravity and cried like it was me in space with one thing after another going to hell. I identified a little too closely with Gravity. I missed home. I sat in Saint Mary's Cathedral. I thanked God for the weekend. I thanked God that I had met all these women. I thanked God that The Body of Christ is made up of wounded a broken people who want nothing more than to love and be loved. It was in my gratitude for the weekend, in the pleasure I felt at actually absorbing a mass undisturbed, that I knew I absolutely could not ever stand to be alone. The good news is, God Almighty promised me I never would be.