Missing My Brother

I have a confession to make: ever since I went to college 10 hours away from home, I have regretted leaving my little brother to pursue my studies. I think that changing my relationships with people to pursue new places and opportunities has always been a source of regret in my life, but the person that I feel it affected the most was my little brother.

He was starting high school the Fall I started college, and our age gap of 3.5 years may seem like a lot, it was so natural for us to have a close friendship. When we were little, we always played together. Being the third and fourth (and two youngest) kids in our family put us together a lot. We spent hours in the summer days building legos, playing cars, trains, and playing with the younger neighborhood kids outside. When our sisters had soccer games in the Autumn, we would explore whatever park we were at. My older sisters had their own friends and their own sleepovers. I was always booted from the room we shared to spend the sleepovers in my brother’s room. One sleepover we put the old bunk-bed back together and I spent several months sleeping on the top bunk and chatting with my brother until we fell asleep at night. On family road trips we always shared the middle bench seat and often a set of headphones to listen to all of our favorite songs. We had all the same favorite TV shows, so that precious 30 minutes of television we were allowed was often spent together. And we also both are baseball fans; I was always thrilled to watch his games (since my baseball skills were limited) and we would catch as many pro games on TV and in person as we could.

Thinking back I wonder if things started changing when I started middle school. I think he must have realized that I was going to leave him someday, when he saw me making phone calls to boys. He ran around the neighborhood shouting, “Susanna likes _______!” Which is a crushing sort of thing to do to a middle school girl. But then we remained close even when I was in high school attending various youth groups; I was even really excited for the time when he would be old enough to also be in my youth groups. I never formally dated anyone in high school and I think that made him happy. Both of our other sisters had dated some. He asked me to be his Confirmation sponsor my Junior year of high school (Confirmations are in middle school in the Archdiocese of St. Louis), and I accepted. I was honored, and knew that I had an even greater responsibility to him than that of his sister.

Then I chose to go to college 10 hours away. All summer before I left, he told me that he just knew that I was going to meet a man at college and move away forever. I did. I came home from college that first summer dating M. My brother was pretty annoyed at me; he told me that I was too young to be dating and discerning marriage with someone. Then M and I broke up and my brother told me that it served me right. Perhaps I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to notice that my brother had missed me and maybe wanted to spend time with me when I was not mourning and moping about my heart. I am sorry I was such a jerk that summer. Though we did have a phone conversation while I was in Austria that Fall semester where he apologized to me for being mad at me for dating; you see he had a crush and ended up dating her.

By the time I got back from studying abroad, I was dating M again. Then I spent half of my break with M visiting our house or me visiting his in Michigan. Then I stayed all summer in Steubenville, and then again the next summer. The longest I spent at home between my first summer of college break and my wedding was the four weeks before my wedding, and by then he already knew that he had lost me.

He claims that he does not do well keeping in touch especially through the phone, and honestly our best conversations since I was married have been during in person visits. And I cherish any contact he has with me, be it a text, a rare phone call, or the in person visits. I hoped that one day we might end up back in St. Louis and I would see more of my family, but that has not happened. For now, I must be content being hundreds of miles away.

You see the thing about my brother is that he is so lovable; he is funny, intelligent, and caring. He knows how to treat a lady (he better with three older sisters!). He has his strong Catholic faith. He works through his weaknesses. He does not need me to be there in person to be who God created him to be, but he does need me as a loving sister who prays for him daily. And that I do, and maybe one day I will be able to stop regretting leaving our family home when he was just fourteen. Because if we both get to Heaven, then we can be together forever.

7 Quicktakes Friday–2012: The Year of Stress and Blessings

I never did a highlights of 2012, and since I still don’t have a lot of time to blog I am going to combine them with Friday Quicktakes:

Why 2012 was a stressful year:

1. Job Inteviews: A year ago at this time M and I were probably the most stressed we had ever been in our lives. He had finished his first round of interviews and was waiting for call backs for the second round. He was blessed with five on-campus interviews during February, which meant for me that he was traveling 14 of the 28 days. He had 21 flights (including connecting flights). While I was really happy he was getting interviews, when I heard about the last one (which had him gone for 3 nights and 4 full days) I called my mother-in-law for help with the kids. She was able to take the time and help me out which was awesome. All of the worrying proved to be worth it since he got offered his top choice of interviewing schools and accepted the offer.

2. Leaving the Awesome People of Buffalo: I could say that the thing I miss most about living in Buffalo was Wegmans, but that would be a lie and I do not morally agree with lying. So, I will get a little bit sentimental here and say that I really miss (we all miss) our friends from Buffalo. They accepted us foreigners from somewhere in the middle of the country to Western New York into their network of young Catholic families. I had my first babies with these people as our friends, learned about being a new wife and a new mom from them, shared my heart with them, prayed with them, and they were the best friends I could have asked for. If you are reading this, you better know I miss you!

3. Moving 980 Miles with Two Small Children While Pregnant: I have to confess being pregnant while moving had its perks (read: I did not do any of the heavy lifting), but being pregnant means lots of hormones which means lots of emotions about lots of things that do not always require emotions… Also, when you are driving the car and your husband is driving the truck (when he has never driven a UHAUL before) makes you really stressed. All sorts of awful scenarios were running through my head.

4. Spending Five Weeks Between Buffalo and St. Paul Visiting Family:  This could look like that we do not enjoy spending time with our families, which is not true. Five weeks without a home of our own is a long time, and imagine the famous “grandparent effect” (see last week) built up over five weeks. I also missed my bed. My bed spent those five weeks propped up on its side in my in-laws garage, and we are very thankful to them for storing our stuff between cities. One of the ways I relieved my stress during this time was by going to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard four times during our week in St. Louis.

5. Moving to a New City in a State I Never Had Been in Before: My first time in Minnesota was the day we drove to our house (which we are renting). After we unpacked I had to figure out where all the stores were, directions from place to place, find new doctors (which I am still doing) and all the things one does to settle into a entirely new city…

6. New Job for M: We are so thankful for his job, but new jobs are an adjustment. He is the “new guy” and the young guy also. But we are blessed that he has an awesome job in an awesome philosophy department and through it we are making some awesome friends. 🙂

7. Having a Third Child: I have heard again and again that the transition from two kids to three kids is the most difficult. I believe it (until we have our next I suppose). While F has been the easiest baby so far, sometimes I stop and wonder if I am missing someone. I am pretty sure that this is a sign that I am stressed as I get used to three kids and not that I am ready for another.

The sunset in Iowa that my parents witnessed on their way to St. Paul on the day F was born.

I just want to say before I go (and cook dinner) that while all of these things are stressful, they are also ways that we have been blessed this year. God has been so good to us and we are so thankful (even if we are stressed)!

On Mom Friendships and Mom Blogs

I like to read blogs. I started reading a blog by a mom with two young children about a year ago, and recently realized that her blog was about a three yer old and a six year old. I was relating to her because she had a nursing child and a non-nursing child; suddenly her kids were older and her life did not seem so similar to mine. And then she started sharing from other parent blogs on her blog and the secular view of children and parenting started to really bother me. There is something really, truly negative in a lot of the secular/non-Christian parenting blogs that I can’t quiet pinpoint and describe. It is also present in the parenting magazines, which I peruse in doctors’ waiting rooms. I found that when I read these things, I am more selfish mother, annoyed at my children, and wishing things were different. Which is not what I am called to as a mother or a wife.

On a side note: I know a lot of my feelings about being a mother lately are coming from being very pregnant, living in a new city where I have not had enough time to develop solid friendships (though I have hopes for many great friends since I have met so many wonderful women so far!), and missing the great friends I have in Buffalo.

However, as I have been reading mom blogs of home schooling (or normal schooling) Catholic moms who have more children than I have, I have found a sort of support system, that will not replace the real life one I am developing here in St. Paul, but will encourage me to press on in my call to motherhood and wife hood.

I realize that my days of cultural normalcy are limited, and that I have been enjoying them perhaps a bit too much, when someone asks G if she is going to be going to pre-school and she tells them very openly that she is home schooled. I know once baby number four starts to make an appearance (be it God’s will that our family continues to grow) in a couple of years, I may not get as many friendly comments from strangers. Even now, three is not as normal as two. Also, my kids are “really close together.” Ha! I am looking forward to the days that G and L are the teenage older sisters with the baby brother or sister on their lap and I take care of the baby for feeding and changing (like a family we met this past weekend at M’s cousin’s Confirmation party). I am finding I love talking to the moms of 8+ who have been where I am and are fully aware that since I am 26 and having my third child will be where they are in about 10 years or so. To them my life makes sense and they know what it is like, but they are realistic, seasoned mothers who know that it is all for good and really love their children. They inspire me and have great advice to give. And a young mother needs that support from older mothers. A young mother also needs support from other like-minded young mothers.

And it really is love that it all comes down to. Loving God. Loving myself as God sees and knows me. Loving my husband. Loving my children. Loving my other family and friends. May God help me to always love, and to trust Him in all things. Then I know I will be truly happy and have a happy family.

Two Sisters Moving Together

I have been appreciating more and more the sweet friendship developing between my two little girls. G. at nearly 3.5 has been really relying on her younger sister for companionship this summer and L. at 20 months, as she develops vocabulary and the ability to play more with her sister instead of in parallel play, is doing everything she can to keep up. I am so thankful on behalf of both of them that we had these two girls first. I imagine that a girl and a boy or two boys would be able to have a friendship as well, but there is something about having sisters.

It seems to me that L. is the perfect age for her older sister at this point in our lives as we just moved to a new city and are meeting new people and adjusting to new places. Any younger would have not been as helpful for her. L. is forming her first sentences/phrases these days. Her first was at dinnertime as we were helping her eat and she told my husband who was feeding her a bite (for some reason she is asking us to feed her), “Mommy do it!” The sweetest phrase came from her today as I was rocking her before nap. I told her it was time to go to sleep and her face turned into the saddest pout and she said “Want G—-!” The girls do not nap in the same room since G. only naps about 1/3 of the days.

I am so glad that they have such affection for each other, even if it means they spend too long falling asleep at night because they are talking and giggling. They also fight and pester each other, but they have more fun and games or even cause trouble together than discord between each other. And as we have been transitioning that which has helped the girls the most has been the things that have stayed the same between the two homes from toys, to furniture, to the meals I cook. The most important constant for them has been each other, and I am so thankful that my girls have a life-long friend in each other.