Sunday, December 25, 2016

On Christmas Day

We decided to brave the midnight mass for the first time as a family and it was only slightly a disaster.  We put the kids to bed in their church clothes and then commenced operation trim the tree/find and wrap the presents that we had hidden in all the nooks and crannies our basement has to offer.  Once it was time to go we just got the children up, put on their shoes and coats and loaded them up in the car.  I think it would have been completely fine had the mass not been really long--beginning with carols and then continuing with what Chris dubbed, 'the Mozart mass.'  I don't know if that's its actual name.  It was beautiful, with the full orchestra and choir, but by the time we hit the 'peace be with you's' the children were officially done and we exited the church with our dignity still somewhat intact.  

Santa arrived sometime  after we got the children back into bed and then we were all up again by six, ready to see what he left.  Well, the children were ready.  I could have slept another five or so hours.

Highlights from the morning included:

Margaret officially taking over Henry's role as chief candy thief.  I didn't think anyone would be able to steal the title but she cannot be trusted with any amount of candy within sight.  Or out of sight.  She is not particular--and also undeterred by little things like "danger" or the possibility of "falling off of the counter" and "cracking her head open."  

John wandering around giving us toys and telling us that they were our "celebrations!"  His "celebration" were the Rescue Bots that turn into dinosaurs that Santa brought.  He said it was a good thing that Santa brings things that I would never buy like more Rescue Bots and giant Lego sets and drones that are destined to crash and break into bits.  Isn't it though?  

Overhearing David chastising Henry in his sternest voice saying, "Henry, it's Christmas," in an attempt to convince Henry to just let him build the giant Lego set--because obviously Christmas means handing over your favorite present to any sibling who might want it.  

I only managed to craft one gift this year and that was a doll cradle for Margaret.  We found it at a garage sale last spring looking a bit bedraggled and David said he wanted to get it for his sister and ran back to the car for the money--which I thought was so sweet.  Once I got it into the car though, Chris asked me what the five dollars that David told him I needed was for.  Apparently David wanted Margaret to have the cradle, but not enough to spend his own money to buy it.  I painted it up and sewed a little mattress to go in it and I think it turned out pretty well, despite the fact that I cannot get the measurements right for a doll mattress to save my life.  I know I should make it bigger than the actual measurements of the bottom of the bed, but by how much?  I even made this one with boxed sides and it was still an inch short all around.  Luckily Margaret only noticed the fact that she now has a cradle that's considerably larger than her last one and all of her babies can fit in it.  And she is amassing quite the baby collection.

All in all, it was a wonderful start to the Christmas season, despite our less than stellar mass performance.  We played with new toys, took a walk to the park to give that drone a go in a spot with minimal tree hazzards (not me though, I never even changed out of my jammies), and had a seafood feast prepared entirely by my husband,  If that's not winning at Christmas day, I don't know what is.  


Merry Christmas to you all!  And remember to keep the celebrations going!  Tomorrow we gingerbread :)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Life Among the Savages

The book links below are affiliate links so go ahead and use them to buy all my book  suggestions and Amazon will send me all the cents, or do what I did and get them from the's up to you  :)

"Our house is old, and noisy, and full.  When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; I expect that when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books; we also own assorted beds and tables and chairs and rocking horses and lamps and doll dresses and ship models and paint brushes and literally thousands of socks.  This is the way of life my husband and I have fallen into, inadvertently, as though we had fallen into a well and decided that since there was no way out we might as well stay there and set up a chair and a desk and a light of some kind; even though this is our way of life, and the only one we know, it is occasionally bewildering, and perhaps even inexplicable to the sort of person who does not have that swift, accurate conviction that he is going to step on a broken celluloid doll in the dark.  I cannot think of a preferable way of life, except one without children and without books, going on soundlessly in an apartment hotel where they do the cleaning for you and send up your meals and all you have to do is lie on a couch and--as I say, I cannot think of a preferable way of life, but then I have had to make a good many compromises, all told."

So goes the first paragraph of my favorite book of 2016. I read a piece in the Review section of the Wall Street Journal on a new book about the life of Shirley Jackson whom I remembered only as the woman who wrote that creepy short story, The Lottery, that we all read in high school.  Apparently she wrote a lot of other fairly dark stories, but she also wrote a lot of fairly hilarious stories about her actual life as a mom, which is what Life Among the Savages is.  It reads as a precursor to the modern day mom blog and she even dedicated it to "[her] children's grandparents" whom my own mom blog is, if not actually dedicated to, are nonetheless my target audience.  I've found that reading stories of other mothers, especially from different eras, managing shenanigans very similar to those of my own children gives a nice perspective to my days and reminds me of the fact that while motherhood is often an exasperating endeavor,  it's always easier to face up to it when you have a sense of humor firmly in place.    

I suppose what I'm saying is that I would love to sit down for coffee with this woman and swap stories about our children's antics.  Not that we'd be able to hear each other over the din.   Also I'm seriously considering changing the name of my blog to just Life Among the Savages in an homage to her.  It sums up my life nicely and unlike my current blog name, has only words that everyone can pronounce.

I desperately want to read the sequel, Raising Demons, but my failure of a library doesn't have it.  I did check out Let Me Tell You though, which is a compilation of her short stories and has a whole section on motherhood in general.  It didn't disappoint.  And while I don't like to read scary or disturbing things as a rule, I did pick up her book, We Have Always Lived in the Castle which was also very good.  Not scary-disturbing, but creepy-it-kind-of-sticks-with-you-disturbing.  

I know you all love my sporadic and oh so professional book reviews and advice, so if you are a mom and also in need of a good laugh--which as a mom you probably are--get thee to a library and find some Shirley Jackson, you won't regret it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

On It Already Being Advent

or alternately, Where Did November Go?

Does anyone else feel like they blinked and found themselves transported from Halloween to the first week of Advent?  I suppose it could be the whole having a newborn and not exactly sleeping thing that's skewing my sense of time, but it did seem to fly by exceptionally fast this year.  I also don't have much in terms of documenting what we've been up to since I've hardly pulled my camera out at all which is a shame because, again, the whole having a newborn thing.  Newborns are adorable and should have their picture taken.  Frequently.  I did manage to get a decent family picture for our Christmas cards using my camera's automatic timer and a "tripod" which was actually two ladders and an old board we found in the yard so at least there's that.  We are very fancy here--and also it might be time for an upgrade in my camera equipment.  

All the grandparents out there can take that as a thinly veiled ultimatum.  You want pictures of your latest grandchild during the dark and dismal days of winter, I need an external flash :)  

I'm feeling pretty good about our Christmas preparedness here, even if it does feel as though we're speeding towards it at an unnaturally fast clip.  The presents are all purchased, not all wrapped mind you but purchased.  Present wrapping is one of my love languages though, so that's not a chore so much as a treat for me.  All the nativities are out, as well as the nutcrackers and Christmas books and I've got it on pretty good authority that St. Nicholas is bringing some excellent new additions along with the gold coins on his feast day this year.  Thanks to Trader Joe's and their boxwood wreaths our Advent wreath was up and running in time for its first Sunday lighting.  And in an Advent miracle I was able to easily locate the candles the boys rolled last year since I apparently had the good sense to put them into a box and label it "candles" after we made them.  I love last year me, I'd like to give her a high five.  Or maybe a hug. 

Now I can mostly just sit back and relax.....except for writing those Christmas cards.....and baking all the cookies.....and I guess that popcorn isn't going to string itself for that tree that we still need to go and procure.  So "sit back and relax" might not be the correct sentiment.  Maybe it's more of a "calmly stay on top of the season instead of descending in a panic of last minute Yuletide preparations." 

Wish me luck.  


Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Halloween-ish Weekend

Our neighborhood hosts an annual Halloween costume party so we obviously got the kids all dressed up to attend.  There were very specific costume requests this year, mostly from David who wanted to be his dad, complete with his '94 4-Runner.  Sure sweetheart, I was hoping to do some postpartum cardboard crafting anyway.  Henry just wanted to be a cowboy from the dress-up box (and under no circumstances participate in a costume contest or have anyone look at him, ever).  John had been asking to be a ghost for over a month but once he was outfitted in the costume I made him (from sheets, not over his head--as per his request) he decided that actually, he didn't want to be a ghost after all.  He picked out the dinosaur costume David wore circa 2010 instead.  And as for Margaret, she wore the princess dress that Aunt Courtney sent along with the flower crown and wand I crafted.  Well, she didn't actually wear the crown and she probably would have been just as happy in the dinosaur costume but when you wait so long for a princess option you go with the princess option.

After the party we hit up the pumpkin patch and found the perfect giant pumpkin to go along with the smaller ones we already had that the squirrels have been nibbling.  Today we carved them up and Chris got to show off his super handy masculine side by busting out some power tools to get the job done.  I suppose that's what you should expect when you turn over pumpkin gutting duty to dad.  It really was a labor of love since he really dislikes everything about pumpkin carving.  If you don't carve pumpkins though you don't get roasted pumpkin seeds and everyone loves roasted pumpkin seeds.  I made these sweet ones and these regular ones this year and they were delicious.

Especially the sweet ones.

They'll hold me over nicely until I raid the children's Halloween candy stash tomorrow night.  I'm going to be attempting my first solo trick-or-treating adventure with all five kids so wish me luck.  Maybe luck and prayers.

PS David totally won the costume contest in the elementary school age category and he only lost one wheel in a fight with a Jedi :)

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

On Her Second Birthday

We celebrated Margaret's second birthday today and since I have an eleven day old baby it was a very fancy celebration indeed, complete with a store bought cake, delivery pizza and cousins.  Lots and lots of cousins.

We gave Margaret her dollhouse which was a big hit and she also got a high chair, stroller and Ergo for her baby dolls and a hair dryer/pretend make-up set to boot.  I'm afraid I didn't get any good pictures of her playing with her new toys so you'll just have to take my word for how adorable she looked wearing her baby doll while simultaneously blow drying her hair and pushing her stroller.  She will certainly make an excellent mother one day with those multitasking skills.

Before her party she maintained that it was not her birthday and she did not want cake or ice cream or presents--mostly because she's in a very ornery stage and automatically says no to pretty much anything you ask her.  But by the end of the day she was happily singing "happy birthday to me" with a tummy full of treats and arms full of gifts so I suppose she must have reconsidered her anti-birthday stance somewhere along the way.

If you ask her how old she is now, she will reply "two!" while holding up somewhere between three and five fingers only to quickly change her answer to "five!" while holding up all ten.  We'll obviously have to work on her finger counting accuracy but she's certainly got the enthusiasm down for being another year older.


Happy birthday sweet girl.  You bring us so much joy and laughter and maybe, just maybe, this year you can master bringing a little less screaming and ninja kicks :)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Quick Birth Story on the Feast of St. Francis

I'm pretty sure this is the first baby I delivered before their due date, and also the first to not be born in the middle of the night.  Full of surprises this one.

I probably should have known that I'd deliver him on Tuesday being that I was both still completely mentally unprepared for having another child and that I spent Monday in a frenzied compulsion to accomplish and clean ALL THE THINGS--as best as a someone who can't actually bend down can accomplish and clean things anyway.  By evening I was coming to terms with the fact that the baby was on his way and I was up all night waiting for it to be time to head in to the hospital.  After all, my babies are always born in the middle of the night so clearly Christopher would be too.  Well by six in the morning I had had about thirty minutes of sleep but it was time to head in, if only just to make sure that we didn't get stuck in traffic trying to wait any longer.

An accidental home birth is one thing, an accidental side-of-the-road-birth is something else entirely.

We made it to the hospital and had a fairly quick and uneventful time of things, aside from the obligatory me telling the doctors that I was ready to push followed by them not listening, causing a bit of chaos as someone was forced to dive, gloveless and not suited up, to catch the baby.  This time when I tried to give ample warning that the baby was coming the doctor responded that actually she thought my labor had slowed and offered me some Pitocin to get things going again--literally five minutes before they all had to come running back in for the delivery.  They also had the gall to tell me not to push.  Now, I've delivered with epidurals and without and you can certainly tell someone with an epidural not to push and they can probably comply, but if someone does not have an epidural they certainly will not.  Christopher was making his entrance and I was laughing maniacally at the thought of trying to stop him. Probably not out loud, but on the inside--on the inside there was total maniacal laughter.  The doctors said that it was one of the fastest deliveries they'd ever seen.

That's probably true, it was pretty darn fast.

Chris scooted home after everything settled down to take care of the children and I was released twenty-four hours later.  I debated staying the extra allotted day but the beds in this hospital are apparently all designed to prevent bedsores by randomly and continuously inflating and deflating so that you feel like you're rolling around on a water bed.  And you can't turn it off.

I thought, all things considered, I'd rather be home resting on a non-vibrating mattress with my newborn than in the hospital, even with their excellent room service menu and the promise of relative quiet.  

Here everyone's doing well and the kids just love their new little brother.  The little ones love him a little too hard sometimes, but I suppose that's to be expected.  Chris will be home to take care of us for most of the month and I'm trying to fight the urge to clean things and just sit around and snuggle this precious little baby instead while I can.

Everything happened so quickly that I still haven't quite wrapped my mind around the fact that he's actually here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

On Finishing A Quilt And Not Being Ready For Baby

I think this might be my favorite baby quilt that I've ever made, and that is saying something because I really liked Margaret's flower garden quilt and I'm itching to start a twin sized one for her big girl bed.  I ended up hand piecing a bunch of nine-patch squares at random using scraps from John's baby quilt (as per his request so that they could match) with some bits of the boys' old shirts and daddy's old boxer shorts thrown in for good measure.  The boys like to pretend that this wanton use of undergarments horrifies them but I'm pretty sure they really think it's hilarious.   I say waste not, want not.  Am I right?  Then I laid them out on the floor to make sure the same fabrics weren't touching each other anywhere which I was not entirely successful at.  Unfortunately I'm a lazy quilter and was not about to pull it apart to fix it so the mistakes will just have to give the thing a bit more character.  I really like the way the perle cotton hand quilting turned out--especially on the back.  It totally makes up for the randomness of the front, don't you think?

Now, finishing up the baby's quilt probably should have been a clue that I might actually be having a baby soon.

It wasn't

Chris mentioned last week that it was just four weeks to go before the baby arrives to which I replied, "no, you're crazy" before checking the calendar and realizing that no, I'm the crazy one.  Now it's more like not quite three weeks until d-day and I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that I'm about to have another baby.

I did spend last weekend pretending this was actually happening and forcing myself to prepare basic baby necessities anyway.  I got all the 0-3 month baby boy clothes out and gave them a soak in ye old oxyclean to remove those pesky milk stains that like to manifest themselves sometime between when you laundered the clothes for the last time and whenever you opened back up the storage bin.  In this case that would be almost four years.  I also mended my favorite fancy muslin blankets which had become so worn with use that they had some pretty intense holes.  It was a rough job but what they lack in beauty they make up for in functionality.  Muslin is hard to mend.

My sister-in-laws also gifted us with two perfectly timed donations of cloth diapers, liners and other accouterments--one tiny baby sized and one giant baby sized which were exactly what I needed to resupply my sad, worn out diaper stash but didn't particularly want to spend the money on.  Which just goes to show that if you wait long enough to buy things that you need, something will eventually turn up.

So baby Christopher officially has milk-stain free clothes, some functional if obviously mended swaddling blankets, and plenty of diapers.  I suppose once I have Chris pull the infant car seat and my overnight bag down from the attic I'll be pretty much set to get to the hospital and care for basic baby needs.

Being mentally prepared to deliver and actually have another baby at home, that's another story.  At least he has a pretty adorable quilt.

Friday, September 16, 2016

On the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows and the parish where our little Frances was buried offered their annual Our Lady of Sorrows Mass for families who have lost children.   We made the hour long trek out to Holy Trinity even though I was pretty sure mass without Chris would be a disaster since Margaret hasn't made it through mass without needing to be escorted outside for months.  It was well worth it though, even if I did end up in the cry room with my screaming toddler and then the apple picking I dangled as a reward for attending mass after an hour long car ride plus another thirty minutes to the orchard lasted all of fifteen minutes before the bags were full and the children done. Kara, the woman behind a m.o.m.s peace, who literally buried many of those lost babies herself, was at the memorial mass and, as usual, was working tirelessly to bring comfort and peace to all the grieving families there.

When we lost Frances we didn't realize what an ordeal it would be to have her buried with some modicum of dignity.  When we lost our first daughter in Pennsylvania, our parish referred us to the funeral home owned by another parishioner and he just handled everything at no cost to us.  He said he always took care of babies for free.  He was even willing to fly her back to North Carolina where we wanted her to be buried at no cost to us.  We ended up having Chris' parents drive her down, but it was such a blessing to not have to worry about the logistics of anything on top of our grief.  I just assumed that that was how it was everywhere.   I was wrong.

Here in Virginia we were looking at either the cost of a full funeral which would have been several thousand dollars or letting the hospital "dispose" of our daughter's remains themselves.  Neither was an acceptable option.  We just needed a place to bury our baby and someone to help us figure out what to do to make that happen.  That's where Kara came to the rescue.  Kara knew the law, gave us moral support, offered prayers, and arranged the burial with Father Woude from Holy Trinity presiding and even provided baby blankets and a much more appropriate tiny casket than the tupperware container holding our daughter's remains that we left the hospital with.

Well, I didn't set out to write a pitch for this wonderful ministry, but losing a baby is difficult enough without dealing with all of the aftermath alone and seeing Kara again at this mass reminded me of how much she did for our family and so many others.   If you live in the Northern or Central Virginia area remember that  a m.o.m.s peace is here if you or someone you know needs them.  Or better yet, contact Kara and see how you can help.  Goodness knows she could use it.  

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.
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