Categories
Fatherhood Ink Slingers Matrimony Motherhood Parenting Respect Life Sacraments Sarah Vocations

Greater the Gold: Adding Siblings is Worth the Sacrifice

This spring, we were thrilled to welcome our seventh baby. And to add to the excitement, it was a boy, after twelve years and three daughters. Our two older sons were thrilled to have a new brother and our daughters were equally as thrilled to have a baby to dress up. They even fight over who gets to change his diaper!

After nine months of debating (read: arguing with me), the kids won out and we call this little guy Blaise. I can’t even imagine how special it must be to feel like you got to name your little brother! Even three months in, they’ll occasionally comment “Aren’t you glad we named him Blaise? What a great name!” He is theirs and he couldn’t be more loved.

Our big kids have made many sacrifices, now that our little guy is here. There are the regular newborn sacrifices, of course, such as learning to change a diaper (you’re welcome, future spouses!) and deferring their preferences to the baby’s demands. They have all pitched in and helped out without a single complaint.

They’ve also made sacrifices for his particular needs. Blaise was born with bilateral clubfoot, which is one of the most common congenital defects. It’s not a huge deal–it’s easily correctable and we’re fortunate that one of the top orthopedic surgeons specializing in clubfoot is only a five-hour drive away.

But that’s a five-hour drive nearly every week for their entire summer break. This means there hasn’t been any time or money for much else. Family trips to the pool have been slim. Family vacations have been non-existent.

Our family van, which had been faithfully limping along for months, finally met its end shortly after Blaise was born. We are searching out a replacement, pinching our pennies, and making due in the meantime. Have you looked at the price of high-occupancy vans lately? Ouch!

I don’t mention this to complain, but rather to point out the abundance we have been given. Yes, between a vehicle, mounting medical costs, and life in general, things have been tight.

But you know what? No one has complained. Not once. No one has suggested that our family is too big, that maybe a new baby was a crazy thing to do. And I am absolutely certain that if we asked them outright, not one child would regret this little guy. Not one person would suggest that maybe we were better off before.

Because the truth is, we weren’t. Isn’t it funny how you don’t realize what you’re missing until you have it? And then you can’t imagine life any other way? We are all better forever each time we welcome another child to our unruly gang.

Money, time, energy, and stuff are not worth the trade-off. Fancy vacations are boring compared to hearing our little boy laugh. Money seems useless when I step back and watch six older siblings cheer him on as he tries to roll over for the first time. (Still working on it!)

Summer is winding down and the return of the school routine is looming. As I look back on our summer, I am inclined to regret all that we weren’t able to accomplish. The garden that was eaten by weeds and rabbits…the trip up north never happened due to car troubles…the rare, long leisurely days at the pool or the park…so few spontaneous meet ups with friends.

But I’m better served to remember all that we did do and all that we have. Money is tight and only our small vehicle runs, and our sweet baby needs to be in St. Louis every week or so. That was still special time with him, every week when we traveled. Because we could only fit one extra person in the car, we were able to spend special time with one “big” kid each trip. The kids who stayed home had an abundance of time with their cousins, while we were out of town.

We spent long summer days watching our baby grow and change. Older siblings spend afternoons rocking their brother to sleep and playing with him as he learned to giggle at their funny faces. We are still hoping that our Kateri will learn the age-old rule “never wake a sleeping baby!” But it’s hard not to snuggle with him when he looks so peaceful.

In reality, this is probably the best summer we’ve ever had. As our five-year-old likes to remind us, “Aren’t you glad I asked God for a baby?” Yes, dear. We are so, so glad.

 

Categories
Domestic Church Ink Slingers Michelle Respect Life Spiritual Growth

The Fountain of Youth

The Fountain of Youth is a spring that is rumored to bring everlasting youth and/or life to those who bathe in or drink from its waters.  From Herodotus to famed explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, the Fountain has been hunted for thousands of years.   But why do so many seek it?  Why would someone want to be forever young and does the Fountain truly exist?

I suppose that there are many reasons one may search out the Fountain of Youth.  Some may want to drink from it for vain reasons, while some may just want to cling to a time in their lives where they felt truly alive. For many the best time of their lives was when they had little responsibility; where they didn’t worry about what bills to pay, what to make for supper, or whether or not the tires on the car would last another six months.  They long for a simpler time when they played outside until the sun set, laughed and had sleep overs, and just hung out with friends.  They look to hold on to those great experiences that they had a child or teen- those things that “young people” do but that as adults often are no longer done.

Where is the Fountain of Youth? Does it really exist? I believe it does.  I’m also pretty certain I have found it.  You see I found the Fountain of Youth in a very surprising place…. it was in me this entire time!

Are you scratching your head right about now asking what in the world is she talking about?  If so I beg of you for just a minute more to explain myself.  You see, I can look in the mirror and see the tell-tale signs of getting older.  I see the gray hair that is springing up in between my blond tresses.  I see the tiny wrinkles forming in the corners of my eyes.  My back gets sore and my feet ache a little sooner than they used to.  My memory isn’t as sharp as it was and I find myself feeling like time is beginning to just pass by too quickly.  But even with these little signs telling me I’m getting older I also know that because I made life changing decision many years ago that the Fountain flows freely in and through me.  Are you curious as to what my secret may be?

Many years ago my husband and I decided to be open to life.  It has been one of the best decisions we have ever made.  Not only has it been an honor to be a part of bringing life into the world, it has also been instrumental in keeping us young!  We first became parents 20 years ago and yet just 3 months ago we had our 11th child.  That is 20 years of child-bearing and rearing! Most people our age or those who started having children about the same time as us are about to have an empty house as their children move up and out.  Not so with us.  Even if we were to have no more children we are still looking at 18 more years of having children in our home.  If our youngest child moves at that time we’ll have had children in our home for almost 40 years straight!  I know to some that sounds exhausting but for me it is rejuvenating!

As I was thinking about what to write I made a list of all the things I am still doing today that I did 20 years ago with my first daughter. When I first began the list I wondered how many things I would have written down.  Before long I had nearly 50 activities!  I looked at the list and wondered how many others my age are still playing with playdoh, singing John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt, swinging on the swings at the park, having a dance or singing contest, dressing up their pets, having campfires in the backyard complete with tents and s’mores, dressing up as superheroes, playing doctor, wearing moustaches just because it’s Monday, dying Easter eggs, carving pumpkins at Halloween, and waiting on pins and needles for Santa to get here.  I imagine that many of those my age have put away the slip-n-slide, haven’t read a bedtime story in a long time, played hide and seek, nor made a snow angel in years.  And yet here I am 20 years later still getting to play every single day!  It’s no wonder I feel so much younger than my years!

This isn’t to say that being open to life is all fun and games.  It’s not.  With a large number of children comes worries about finances, how we will feed them all, more medical problems, less time to myself, lots of noise, and many other stressors.  Still, in the end God always provides for us, the love we have in our homes is staggering, and we get to play every day.  The benefits clearly speak for themselves!

Many people chase down remedies to help their aging bodies not look so “old”.  What these people do not understand is that we all are going to age and that is a good thing.  To be honest it would just be weird to be ten years old forever.  However, just because our bodies age doesn’t mean that our hearts and souls have to as well. I have found that immersing myself in my children’s lives and surrounding myself with youth itself has helped me stay youthful.  I know that eventually my children will be grown and gone.  I won’t be surrounded, at home, by youth forever.  But I also know that when that time comes I will look for ways to make sure I can still be involved with children.  I will volunteer with the youth at church.  I will look to the youth in my community and I will look to my grandchildren.  I see others who do this as well as their own children grow up and move one.  I hope to follow their lead.  Surrounding myself with the innocence and youth that radiates from children will indeed help me stay young.

The Fountain of Youth is real.  We can tap into it anytime we wish.  We only have to open ourselves up to God’s gift of children… whether it is by bringing a child into our family through birth, adoption, or some other means or if it is by working closely with children in our communities.   As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” In Heaven we will be youthful and restored.  Why not begin that process here on Earth by accepting the little children just as Christ did?  Your body will still age but your heart and soul will surely stay young!