Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Day My Baby Turns 7

Dear Juliana,

It's midnight, June 1, 2013, which means your 7th birthday has arrived. I should know, as you have only  been counting down since Christmas, marking each day on your calendar. I figured it was a good skill, so I went along. I didn't count on that making today feel so monumental. I pray that today, and every single day, you know how loved you are.

Yesterday, May 31, was a great day. You decided you could read a whole chapter in On the Banks of Plum Creek. So you did. Just like that. As much as you have fought growing up {including reading}, wishing to forever be our baby girl, 7 suddenly sounds like the right age to read a whole chapter. I smiled so big today listening to you read; mostly though I smiled at how proud of yourself you were. You went on to earn 100% on your spelling test and read your own birthday cards. I pray you never doubt yourself, and that you try new and difficult things.

First grade proved to be much more fun than kindergarten with you. We read all of the Caroline American Girl books, and 2 Little House on the Prairie books. When I asked you at dinner what you loved about school this year, that's what you remembered {well, right after you mentioned the 3 math books you did with Daddy}. The thing about you being my baby is I want to slow down and enjoy all of that with you. So we spent much of first grade snuggled on a couch with cups of tea, Caroline, and really good books. I cherish those memories. I pray we are always close, even as you grow and mature.

Gymnastics has become your great love this year. Sometimes I wonder if it's simply because it's different than what your big brother and sister do. You are your own person and you don't follow the crowd. Ever since the Olympics last summer you have spent part of everyday in a bathing suit doing flips and tricks on the couch. Tuesday is your favorite day since you get to go to the gym. I pray you blaze your own trail where you can, and you learn the joy of following others who have gone before you.

Two surgeries could have put a bit of a damper on your 6th year, but not our Sunshine. You handled all of it with grace and charm.

I hope there aren't more surgeries in your future, and yet I know that God created you to be able to handle adversity, and you will be a bright light even in hard situations. I pray you seek God through those moments, and you hold on to His love.

Sometimes you get a little lost because you are the youngest, and Gabe and Mckenna can do many things better than you can. However, something happened recently that showed me how capable and willing you are. Someone at church needed a lot of help setting up a whole room with the AWANA store. You were free, and you volunteered. She didn't expect a ton, but gave you jobs anyways. To everyone's joy, you worked the room like a pro, setting out toys and games, putting price tags on them, and artfully arranging each table. You were so helpful that the room was finished much sooner than anyone anticipated. I see a glimpse of your future, in which you are incredible capable and talented and sweet. I pray you serve God with all of your heart and all of your skills, for all of your life.

My sweet, sweet girl, if you only knew how much we cherish you. I will never stop thanking God for giving me the absolute joy and privilege of being your Mommy.

Happy 7th Birthday my sweet Princess!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Just a Day.

No, I am probably not back to blogging on a regular basis. But I started blogging to have a record of our days as a family, and this is one to blog about.

I think I will run it down by the hour.

7:50 am. I woke up. Super late. Because I have a week off of the gym. And I was awake from 2:30-4:00 am for no reason.  Waking up late isn't a great way to start a day.

8:00 am. I made the kids start the day with chores. I had been gone all weekend, and they had been very helpful for Daniel, but once I got home Sunday night they stopped being helpful. So we cleaned up first.

8:30 am. Feed the kids the homemade donuts we made the day before for a book Gabe is reading. School starts and we are on a roll. History, math, and Latin done.

8:35 am. Can't take a phone call from a friend hoping we sign Gabe up for golf (we aren't).

9:30 am. Call number 1 to the MRI place. Daniel injured his knee in a soccer game 2 weeks ago and it's not better. He needs an MRI. They said they would call me back after the pre-authorization came through.

10:00 am. Snack break and Ellen got home with Malcolm, Sean, and lots of groceries. Field some work related emails about writing in present tense.

10:20 am. Back to school, and still moving along. Language Arts done.

11:45 am. Lunch. I made chicken with mushrooms and onions over pasta, and started some taco meat for dinner. More work emails about integrating quotes.

12:15 pm. Science and call number 2 to the MRI place. The Orthopedic Dr. needs to confirm the request.

12:20 pm. Call the Orthopedic Dr. Get an answering machine. Request that they confirm the request.

1:00 pm. Miss a phone call from a friend coming to see us this weekend.

1:30 pm. School is done, chores begin.

2:00 pm. Talk to Daniel on the phone, solve some dilemmas, get some emails written together.

2:30 Snack and get tready for the afternoon. Finally get an MRI appointment (Call number 4 for the day) for Wednesday. Make the rest of dinner for everyone else.

3:00 Leave for Jiu Jitsu with Gabe and Juliana.

4:10 pm. Daniel gets to Jiu Jitsu. We talk a few minutes and I go home.

4:40 pm. Mckenna and I leave for soccer with a car full of uniforms and papers to get signed. Listen to voicemails from missed calls from this morning.

4:55 pm. Talk to the people in charge of soccer, trying to get my paperwork set for the first game this weekend. Set up for practice.

7:01 pm. Finally leave the field with all the papers signed and uniforms handed out. Head to Costco.

7:07 pm. Daniel calls. Rogue has eaten what was left of a bottle of Doggie Calming Tablets we had for Katana.

7:15 pm. Feed Mckenna dinner at Costco. Shop.

8:20 pm. Unload groceries, watch Mckenna work her kid whispering skills on baby Sean, and discover Rogue's semi-overdose of calming tablets have made her hyper. Completely hyper. Do some research and decide she will be fine. Make some broth so she will drink a whole bunch of fluids.

8:30 pm. Hang out with Daniel for an hour. First time we have talked all day face to face.

9:30 pm. Mckenna has finally showered and is in bed. Clean up kitchen and start on essays.

10:00 pm. Catch up on 

11:30 pm. Done with this post and heading for bed.

Nothing special, yet everything special. This is my life. things sometimes go as planned, and sometimes they don't. Some days are simple and others are really complicated. But this is what we do. And I love it. Next week I go back to the gym at 5:30 am. So late nights will go away again, and blogging will go away with it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Russell Rules

This Russell clan has a propensity for making lists of rules that make sense only to us. It simplifies our parenting when we can quickly or discreetly say, "Rule Number 3!" and the offending child knows what to change immediately. 

For your viewing pleasure and my scrapbooking purposes, here are the current Russell Rules:

Rule #1: Russells do not complain.
Rule #2: Russells work harder than anyone else.
Rule #3: Russells ask if there is more work to be done.
Rule #4: No Tortugas.
Rule #5: Number 5 is alive.
Rule #6: There is no rule number six!
Rule #7: Painting.
Rule #8: Do not say, "Nucular."
Rule #9: Act and do not watch.
Rule #10: 

These have morphed over the years into inside jokes and funny memories, as you can probably tell.

Rules #1-3 are self explanatory. The kids understand our work ethic, and often will ask what they should do next. If they break Rule #1, we simply say, "Rule Number One is in effect," and they ask for more work. 

Well, most of the time it works that way.

Rule #4 comes from my days as a waitress. The majority of the cooks were Hispanic and spoke little English. If it was busy in the deli and we felt like they were moving too slowly, we would simply draw a turtle with an X on it and say, "No Tortugas!" (Spanish for Turtle). Now when the kids dawdle, we use this expression to remind them to work, walk or eat a little quicker. 

Side Note: Gabe has combined 2 different eras of my life and thinks I was a waitress in France. I cannot convince him otherwise. And for the record, I was in France, and I was a waitress, but I wasn't a waitress in France.

If you aren't from the 80's, Rule #5 might be lost on you. It has morphed very recently; it was, "Don't hit your head on the wall." That's a hold over rule from when we often wrestled with the kids on our bed and they, you guessed it, smacked their heads on the wall. Now it's our funny way of encouraging the kids. 

Gabe side note again: He doesn't get it. He always says, "I have never been number 5. I was number 7."

I have no idea why there is no Rule Number Six. There never has been one. It makes us smile though.

Rule #7 is the first Rule that baby Juliana contributed. At eighteen months she wanted to be a part of this fun process, so she simply shouted out the first thing she could think of: Painting! And it stuck.

"Don't say Nuke-U-Lar" is one of my personal favorites. My kids have picked up a few bad habits (NOT from me! This is my pet-peeve!) of saying certain words incorrectly.  They said lie-bare-ee for library, am-bli-ance for ambulance, and veNge-ta-ble for vegetable. Oh, and clearly, Nuke-U-Lar  instead of Nu-cle-ar. Now when they mispronounce a word I have previously corrected, I simply say, "Rule Number Eight is in effect," and they stop and correct themselves. The best part about rule # 8 is you have to break the rule to say the rule :o)

Rule #9 is recent. For some reason unknown to me, when something goes wrong my kiddos stop and watch it happen. For instance, if they drop a jug of milk, they watch as the rest of the gallon pours out onto the floor instead of grabbing it and saving the rest. If they spill a glass of water on the table, they observe the flow instead of reaching for a towel and saving the rest of the table and the floor. It boggles my mind and it seems to me that it could lead to problems within a true crisis, where there is perhaps bleeding or drowning taking place. So now I shout, "Rule Number Nine!" and everyone springs into action.

And Rule #10 is really for one particular child who has a particular bad habit, so I am not going to embarrass that child here. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mother Letters

Around 3 years ago, I came across a beautiful idea; a husband was collecting letters written by mothers to compile and present to his wife as a gift. He knew that he didn't know what it is like to be a mom, but he knew that there was camaraderie amongst mothers, and that having companions along her journey would encourage his wife. I loved this thoughtful gift, and in the comment section one night, I wrote my own Mother Letter to this stranger.

I don't know exactly what I wrote, but the gist of it was how quickly the opportunity to be a mother could have been lost to me.

If you don't know, I spent the first 14 hours after the birth of my first child unconscious. There is one picture of me holding her, but I don't remember that moment, nor any of the visitors, nor the first time I nursed her. My blood loss was great, and 2 hours of stitching didn't staunch it.

God was so gracious to me, and I lived, though 7 weeks later I bled out again and required emergency surgery. The dr. warned my husband that I might not make it, and at the least, my uterus would not make it.

I was 23.

And yet, all my parts survived that trauma, and though it took nearly a year, I conceived my son. At 18 weeks I was put on bed rest and told he or I may not make it to the delivery. The next 20 weeks were the longest of my life, resulting in an emergency C-Section and a terrifying few hours.

Again, we both lived, but I received more blood transfusions and a prolonged stay in the hospital for bleeding.

You see, the point of my Mother Letter was to never take what we have for granted. And when mothering is difficult, when moments come that leave me exasperated, I only have to recall that all of this could have been gone in an instant, and I am back in a place of gratitude.
Fast forward to a couple months ago, and I received an email that I was one of a few mothers whose letters were being printed in an e-book appropriately titled Mother Letters.  I am honored that my thoughts on mothering were selected, and you can see my new button on the right that bears my honor.

The e-book is due out March 17, and I plan to buy it as a reminder that I am not alone in my amazing role of Mother, and that I could have, indeed, missed all of this.

Monday, January 9, 2012

More Katana

Japanese word for Samurai Sword
Bathing in the sunshine
Her ears slick back as I approach. It seems she is still intimidated.
But this is what she does as she receives a little loving.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


We called her "Sparkly" as a toddler.

She adds charm and twinkle to every situation.

And now she has some twinkle of her own.

And those sparkly pink earrings only add to her charm.



If it wasn't personal, grief would be a fascinating study for me.

When we told the kids they had to say good-bye to Rocky, each one reacted very differently.

Mckenna screamed, over and over, "No! This can't be it! No, not Rocky!" Each cry pierced our hearts.

Gabriel made vows: "I will write his name in every book. I will make sculptures and pictures of him."

Juliana mourned quietly, saying over and over, "This is so hard. It's hard to understand." She slept with pictures of him for days, tears slipping quietly from her eyes.

Daniel and I went through each of those emotions, though not at the same time.

Sometimes I wanted to reverse time, start all over, have him again; I mourned in disbelief that this could be the end. I would have done most anything to hold him once more.

Sometimes I wanted to keep on being miserable, fearing that if I stopped crying it would be like forgetting him, or letting him slip away.

And then it just hurt, a deep hurt that left me crying myself to sleep and waking up already sobbing. I have not experienced that before, and it just hurts.

Our previously planned trip to Disneyland for 2.5 days went a long way in our healing. Only I cried while we were there, knowing what was to come when we got home. And sure enough, walking into an empty house put Dan, Juliana and me over the edge again, and we all mourned fresh that night.

So Friday, we did what anyone would do (maybe?). We got a puppy.
And Monday we hope to get another one.

Katana, 7 months

And our sweet new girl, Katana, has somehow squirmed, kissed, and wiggled her way into the hole left in my heart.

But I still miss my Rocky. And it requires effort to choose to move forward and not want to stay in the past.
Rocky, 10 years

And while he was a part of our family for 12 wonderful years, and saying good-bye was so very hard, he was only a dog.

Tonight I know loved ones mourning sick children, lost jobs, failing marriages, and other life altering trials.

So tonight I pray for my loved ones who are grieving. And I realize that my dear Rocky has once again taught me a lesson that will help me to help others, and I remain forever thankful.