Kitchen Work

I have always genuinely enjoyed housekeeping and homemaking.  Well, maybe not always.  We’re each of us, after all, products of our families of origin and the larger culture, and neither one really encouraged a love of homemaking in me.  So, in the beginning, homemaking and I had an uneasy relationship, really, because I did enjoy it, and I could see the value in it, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to.  Then, one day, I met Edith Schaeffer.  My deepest suspicions were confirmed, my efforts applauded and encouraged.  On that day, I embraced motherhood and housekeeping wholeheartedly and did not look back.

That doesn’t mean it has always been easy.  My family has grown and changed, with people in all sorts of life stages demanding more from me than ever before.  The number of “hats” I’m wearing has increased drastically.  But, still, I see the value in keeping house and preparing meals, and I am most relaxed when I get to dedicate myself to those tasks.  I just don’t have as much time for it as I’d like.  Because of that, I’ve been actively working to streamline and minimize my kitchen work.  I might be mentioning a few things in coming weeks.

On the Henry front: I mentioned that he was waking in the night specifically to spit up, but really, it had more the quality of vomiting.  Spit up doesn’t seem to cause any discomfort, but these nighttime episodes were uncomfortable beforehand and the vomiting offered relief from that discomfort.  He’s been doing pretty well with that, until last night.  Last night, I had pizza with tomatoes, onions, sausage and bell peppers, and I think it might have been the peppers that caused our problems.  I blame the peppers because that was the only ingredient I hadn’t eaten in the past two weeks.  Most members of the nightshade family are highly poisonous, but a few are only slightly poisonous and more or less edible.  Maybe for Henry, he leans toward the less.

The hunt for the source of Henry’s tummy troubles continues!  By the way, there’s no particular heroism in this for me; I am inspired and energized by a good challenge!


O, The Irony

When Henry was a newborn, he slept too well.  I never thought that was even possible!  But he’d sleep all through the night, and I actually had to wake him up to nurse.  He is such a big baby that I was really worried about diminishing milk supply if we went that long between feedings.

And then, without me even realizing it, something changed.  He stopped being able to sleep well.  He began waking numerous times each night, sometimes just to spit-up when I picked him up.  It was getting worse and worse, and I was feeling more and more out-of-control… and exhausted.  It’s really hard to love someone when you’re sleep deprived.

All this time, in the back of my head, I wondered, “What if he doesn’t like all the milk?” His dad is unique in our family in that he doesn’t tolerate milk very well, and Henry seems to take after David much more than any of our other children ever have.  What if all this dairy I consume is making him uncomfortable?

So twelve days ago, I gave up all the dairy products, which is where the irony comes in.

I was hoping that, within the first couple of days, he’d be feeling better and sleeping better.  I was hoping that it would reduce the frequency of spit-up.  I was hoping that, if his tummy felt better, he’d be less clingy.

It was kind of a lot of pressure to put on a glass of milk and a slice of pizza.

He does sleep better sometimes, but it’s very inconsistent, and the reality is that we have also developed some bad sleep habits.  And he could use a white noise machine.

He is waking less often specifically to spit up, though he does still catch me unaware sometimes.  However, he’s an active little guy, and the problem has not diminished at all during his waking hours.  I guess we’ll just have to keep waiting for maturity of that muscle group.

And I’m his favorite person in the whole wide world.  He’d rather be with me, up in my arms, than anywhere else on the planet.  No other person is as beloved, no other arms as comforting, no other activity as intriguing as the one I’m engaged in.  The lack of dairy in my diet has not diminished any of my enchanting qualities, and Henry is still as insistent on being held as ever.

So, in the absence of miracles, we have to look at the small details.

He is happier during the day.  Almost right away, he quit crying through the evenings.  At night, when he wakes, I think it is less and less from discomfort.  He has managed a couple of long naps, too, which have been non-existent in recent months.  And the frequency of dirty diapers has unexpectedly dropped.

The dairy-free diet does seem to be having a positive effect on Henry.  And it’s not quite as challenging as I thought it would be.

We’ll keep going with this new adventure and see how it all plays out.

Henry, Four Months Old

8x10 feet bw 8x10 henry hand bw henry face

I just adore this child.  Especially those legs!  Those arms!  He is so chunky, so sturdy, and he has the most gorgeous skin.  Most of us are pretty fair, but Rosie and Henry have this gorgeous Mediterranean skin, smooth and deep, and did I mention gorgeous?  He’s round about 20 lbs already. (!) He’s very much wanting to taste our meals, so I share anything that’s tastable, like mashed potatoes and ice cream.  He usually sleeps pretty well, but he’s so big that I wake him up between 2 and 3AM to feed him, just to keep my milk supply up for him.  Lately, though, he’s been waking two or three times per night, and sleeping a lot during the day.  I suspect another growth spurt is imminent. (!) He has a most lovely personality, much milder than Miss Evie, which is good, because two Evies in a row would be crazy!  One Evie is more than enough for anybody.  But if you can follow an Evie up with a Henry, you’re doing okay.

A couple of weeks ago, I had both of these babies lined up on the floor for tandem diaper changes.  (Evie’s taking a potty break.)  “Look at me!” I said to Davey. “I’m 44 years old!  What were we thinking?”  But here’s the reality.  These people – these children, this man – are my road to Heaven.  They are the ones who inspire me to be more than I am.  They open me up to a bigger and more meaningful life than I would ever have found on my own.

So, twenty years into my motherhood, I still change lots of diapers.  I still cut food into tiny pieces or mush it in a blender.  I still wake multiple times in the middle of the night to check on small people.  I still think of outings in terms of stroller-friendliness.  I’m still limited, bound by the needs of children who depend on me for their most basic needs.

And twenty years into my motherhood, I still need to learn over and over again about sacrificial love.  I still need to learn to die to self, to not mind another diaper change, to work cheerfully with only one free arm, to patiently rise from my bed to nurse by the light of a digital clock, to listen to another story, to toilet train another child, to commit to educating just one more.  It’s hard, and in some ways, it’s getting harder.

But then, those sweet faces smile at me, pudgy arms wrap themselves around my neck, and I melt into a puddle of contentment.

What the heck.  Sleep is for sissies anyway.

Creating a Family Culture: Children’s Friendships With Each Other

I had to pop in and talk to the anesthesiologist the other day as part of my hospital pre-admittance checklist.  “Is this your first?” he asked, and I’m not sure why, but I’ve been getting that a lot lately.

“No, this is my ninth,” I said.

“I knew it!” he replied, and I looked at him funny.  “We  have four and my wife said, ‘No more.”  I knew I married a quitter!”

He’s actually a great guy, a devoted father and husband, and the ensuing conversation with him made my day.  (You don’t get so many of these random conversations with strangers any more, since cell phones took over the world.)

8x10 five sistersOne of the things we talked about was sibling rivalry.  It’s a question I get a lot, with Evie being so obviously spoiled with attention: “What is Evie going to think of the new baby?”  The truth is, I don’t even think about it.  I assume she’s going to adore her new sibling, just like her siblings adored her, and just like each baby that came before her was adored.

All I have to do is stay out of the way.

Well, almost.  I’ve talked before about vision and intention in creating a family culture, and it helps to have some ground rules in place.  These are some of ours:

  1. Your brothers and sisters are your best friends.  Whenever there has been an altercation between siblings that required my stepping in, I mediate, without taking sides, and then force a reconciliation.  Yup, I force it. “Give your sister a hug and tell her she’s your best friend.”  Anesthesiology Guy remembers having to kiss his brothers, but it breaks the tension, and sets them back on friendly ground, and, eventually, they actually are best friends.evie snow 2
  2. No tattling allowed.  This one can be tricky, because you have to teach them that sometimes, they’re really and truly going to need an adult and what those times are, but you also don’t want to be constantly jumping into sibling squabbles.  They’ll use you as a pawn to get their own way, and you want to stay out of that.  My rule: “Are they hurting themselves or someone else?  Is anybody’s personal property in danger of being destroyed? No?  Then you guys are going to have to work this out yourselves.”  And then there’s the companion rule: “Well, she shouldn’t have done that thing, but since you just tattled, I can’t really punish her for it.  And you, don’t do that thing again!”  After a (very short) while, the children quit telling on each other, since it has no effect, and they learn to trust each other.
  3. Let them have their secrets.  You don’t need to know everything.  But at the same time, you have to teach them the difference between good secrets and bad secrets.  Most of what normal children will want to keep from you are just silly or embarrassing things, but some secrets are dangerous, and children need to be taught what kinds of secrets to keep and which to tell.  Questions they need to ask themselves: “Is my sibling being hurt by this secret?  Is somebody else being hurt?  Is someone else’s property being damaged or destroyed?”  If the answer is yes for any of these, they need to get a parent involved.  I know my kids have secrets from me, but they don’t have secrets from each other.  And I also know that if someone is in actual trouble, or in danger of getting themselves there, those same best-friend siblings will come to me, and I’ll figure out how to deal with the situation without betraying that trust.  IMG_1605
  4. Don’t be envious of their relationships with each other!  You are a powerful force in their lives, an irreplaceable source of love and wisdom, and allowing them friendships with each other in no way takes away from what you are to them as mother.  I know my older girls really start to feel it when work and school schedules have kept them apart for more than a day, and when they are finally all home at the same time, they’ll hide in their room for hours, giggling and chatting and secret-sharing.  That’s a good thing, even if you’d like to catch up with them, too.  They’ll get around to you eventually.  🙂
  5. One last thing: Kids are people, too.  What I mean by that is that they won’t all have the same interests, strengths or dreams, and just like we take our adult friends each as individuals, with their own quirks and beauties, we need to embrace that in our children as well.  We can’t have cookie-cutter ideals of who our children should be, try to force them into the same mold, compare and contrast.  Admire them for who they are individually, and the gifts they bring to the world, and they’ll learn to admire the best in each other, too.  Help them each to work toward their dreams and overcome their weaknesses, and they’ll learn how to encourage each other, too.  Just love them through their sorrows without trying to preach or correct, and they’ll learn to be compassionate and supportive of each other, too.  Basically, model good friendship with your children, and for your children; they’ll learn by watching your example.

insta kids carsNone of us really likes to think about it, but hopefully, these children will outlive us.  Wouldn’t strong friendships with their siblings be a most beautiful heritage to leave them?  To pass on to the generations that follow?

And thanks to Anesthesiology Guy for getting me thinking about children and friendships!

(PS: Your wife is not a quitter; she’s probably just tired.  Two year olds are hard!)

37+ Weeks and Counting

They smell like fish, but the bees are just in heaven.  There are all kinds buzzing around up there, from honey bees to bumble bees.

They smell like fish, but the bees are just in heaven. There are all kinds buzzing around up there, from honey bees to bumble bees.

Brenna took advantage of a sunny Spring Break day to catch up on her reading.

Brenna took advantage of a sunny Spring Break day to catch up on her reading.

She'd disagree, but I think she's beautiful.  I mean, look at this hair!  The color, the thickness, the shine, the curls at the ends.... Just lovely.

She’d disagree, but I think she’s beautiful. I mean, look at this hair! The color, the thickness, the shine, the curls at the ends…. Just lovely.

Grape hyacinths - so tiny, yet so fragrant, and they remind me of home.  The only other place I've ever seen them is growing alongside my mother's house in New Jersey.  I don't think you can buy seeds or bulbs for these.  :-)

Grape hyacinths – so tiny, yet so fragrant, and they remind me of home. The only other place I’ve ever seen them is growing alongside my mother’s house in New Jersey. I don’t think you can buy seeds or bulbs for these. 🙂

I don’t blog much these days, and for one simple reason, really: one isn’t able to muster much energy for non-baby related things in late pregnancy!  What energy I have goes toward maintaining home and home school as much as possible, and preparing for the little one to come.  I’m at the Weekly Visit To the OB stage, which is always a bit annoying to me.  BUT, baby is doing well, and my midwife seems satisfied with my health, except that I’ve quit gaining weight.  I, personally, am okay with that. 🙂  My diet right now relies heavily on raw fruits and veggies, and I make an effort to keep plenty of good fats and proteins on my plate.  I wish apples, carrots, and heads of lettuce were more filling!

I only have one last thing to do to get ready, and that is to adjust the car seats and install the baby’s.  Easy-peasy, right?  And maybe pack a hospital bag.  But there’s plenty of time for that once the contractions start.  No sense getting ahead of myself.

I told the midwife the other day that I was looking forward to an early delivery.  “Oh,” she wondered, “how early do you usually go?”

“Actually,” I clarified, “I’ve never been early.  Mostly late.”  But a girl has got to have something to hope for!

A Certain Saturday in March

The Evie, so much not a baby anymore.

The Evie, so much not a baby anymore.

I planted two of our garden beds this week: peas and lettuce, spinach and radishes, and a few carrots, too.  I couldn’t resist.  Who could?  Bright sun, warm temperatures… Oh, I know it’ll probably freeze again, though there’s no sign of it in the forecast, but I wanted something in the ground.  Even if it doesn’t pan out, it was worth it to dig in the dirt.


The Thirty-Six-Week belly. It took quite an effort to hoist it back up off the floor!

Today is Saturday, and that means another week has gone and there are only four left till baby’s due date!  Some days, I feel great and get lots done, but other days, this big ole, worn out belly is tired and achy, and I just rest.  Yesterday was a rest day.  Happily, though, I have figured out how to stream youtube programs to our roku stick (very cool little device for us cable-averse folks!) so we can get some education couch potato-ing in.  Yesterday, we watched a documentary about the building of the Hoover Dam, and another about dam failures, as the vast majority of these structures are past their useful lifespan and have been, in many cases, poorly maintained.

The Ooey-Gooey Chocolate Cake, courtesy of Delaney.  She's up next, though, so we'll need a new cake baker!

The Ooey-Gooey Chocolate Cake, courtesy of Delaney. She’s up next, though, so we’ll need a new cake baker!

And today is Double Decker Birthday Day!  We like to group all of our birthdays as close together as possible, and we have done a remarkable job with the month of March.  Evie is on Feb. 26, which is almost March, followed in rapid succession by Brenna (Mar. 9) and Penelope (Mar. 10).  Delaney is just two weeks away on the 28th, and then, of course, the new baby is due in early April, which is also almost March.  Then we’ll have a little breather till June, but goodness!  Early summer must make us feel particularly, um, frisky around here. 😉

Group Hug, while we wait for the rest of our friends to arrive.

Group Hug, while we wait for the rest of our friends to arrive.

Brenna is 20 years old already!  I can’t believe she’s not my baby anymore, and I’m so proud of her.  She’s an amazing young woman.  And Penelope!  She’s nine, and as my friend Anne reminded me, the first of my blog babies.  🙂  How time flies, my friends.  Sometimes, I wish I could just freeze them, in this moment, right where they are.  But then again, watching their becoming is one of the most joyous and beautiful things in life, and I sure wouldn’t want to miss out on that!

IMG_2668aAnd for no particular reason, except that he’s my favorite, you get a photograph of my beloved.  He’s working on the wiring on his tractor, and I just love his smile.  And him.  Can you believe so many people get tired of being married?  My mother always said we should marry our best friends.  Best advice she ever gave us.

Separation Anxiety

Ten-month-old Evie sleeping.

Ten-month-old Evie sleeping.

When Evie was a baby, she’d stop breathing sometimes while she slept.  She’d never start up again on her own; I had to move her to make her take that next breath.  During the day, when she slept, she slept right next to me in a bassinet that I could roll easily around the house.  And at night, she slept in my arms, so that any change in her breathing would wake me.  She was nine or ten months old before she outgrew it, though it was a couple of months before I realized it.  And I suspect that if I hadn’t been sleeping with her, she’d have died from that unexplained phenomenon called SIDS.

Eventually, we set up her crib in our room, so she was still close, but could learn to sleep in her own place.  You can guess how that went!  Neither one of us particularly cared for that vast gulf between her bed and mine, and up until Saturday night, she still most often fell asleep in my bed before I moved her into her own.  I don’t regret the closeness we’ve shared at all!

Eight-month-old Evie sleeps in her car seat.

Eight-month-old Evie sleeps in her car seat.

But there were signs that it was time for us to move along, to let each other go just a little bit, and so, on Saturday, we tidied up her sisters’ room and moved her crib upstairs.  She was so excited!  All day long, she was bouncing off the walls.  But then evening came, and I bathed her and dressed her in my room, and she looked over at the empty corner and said slowly, “Somebody took my crib…”

“We moved it upstairs into your sisters’ room, remember?  You get to sleep upstairs tonight!” I said cheerfully, and she smiled tentatively.  She chattered till nearly 10 o’clock that night, and got her legs stuck in the crib bars once, before she finally fell asleep.

On Sunday, the girls knew not to talk to her after lights out, and she fell asleep earlier, but when I went up to check on her, she’d gone to sleep sitting up and was slumped over, folded completely in half!  Thank goodness I went up there to check on her so early!  In the morning, I told the older girls to have a look before they went to bed to make sure she was okay.

On Monday, I rocked her and sang to her as I carried her up, and as we approached her crib, she looked up at me mournfully, and said, “I want to stay home,” which is her way of saying that she doesn’t want to go to bed.

“I know, baby girl,” I said gently, tucking her tenderly into her crib.  “I’ll be back to check on you in a little while.  You go to sleep.”  She rolled onto her side and tucked her hands under her cheeks.  “I love you,” I whispered.

“I love you, too, Mama,” she whispered back.  She woke up crying once in the night, and one of her sisters soothed her and tucked her back in.

We were so happy to be reunited this morning, it was 45 minutes before we let go of each other.

You don’t think it’s too soon for a sleep over, do you?

12-month-old Evie sleeps.

12-month-old Evie sleeps.


Raising Future Mothers and Fathers

A photo from yesterday, snow on fence posts. More is due in tonight and tomorrow. The children are having a ball!

A photo from yesterday, snow on fence posts. More is due in tonight and tomorrow. The children are having a ball!

Evie was heading up the stairs yesterday afternoon in order to play with all of her people.  “Jon!” I called.  “Evie’s coming up!  Keep an eye on her, please!”

Jon appeared at the top of the stairs to receive her, but as soon as she saw him, she laid down right where she was, and said, “I stuck!”  I smiled, because I knew her game, and Jon came down to her, just like she wanted, and scooped her up.  As soon as he had her in his arms, she put her head on his shoulder and just snuggled in.  Jon glanced at me and grinned.

“it’s good to be loved by a baby, isn’t it?” I said.

He nodded slowly. “Yes, it is.”  And away they went.

Evie adores her big brother in a way that is completely unique among her siblings.  And Jon is just as devoted to her.  My friend Elizabeth remarked the other day that, “Babies make it easy to raise good daddies.”  So true, isn’t it?  Except that many of us have all the babies we’re going to have when we’re young, or when they’re young, and so children don’t often have the opportunity to grow up around infants and toddlers.  They don’t learn how to care for them, or what to expect from them, or how to interact with them.

But I am older, and still having babies, and at least half of my children are old enough to feel more paternal/maternal toward their littlest siblings than anything else, and so they learn to care for babies and toddlers and preschoolers, and to be good mothers and fathers.

Those same children are old enough that my youngest children, God willing, will grow up with little nieces and nephews to learn from, and our pleasant little circle of love will continue to grow, knowledge and experience will be passed along, and that next generation will know how to be good mothers and fathers without having to reinvent the wheel.

That’s a beautiful thing.

Just another snowy day photo from yesterday, these little weeds poking out through the snow.

Just another snowy day photo from yesterday, these little weeds poking out through the snow.

*When Evie was a newborn, Jon was holding her, and I don’t know what happened, but he dropped her.  She bawled as only a newborn can, and once it was determined that she was uninjured, and once she had calmed down, I handed her back.  He didn’t want to hold her again, afraid he might do her real harm, but I said, “She’s your sister and I don’t want you to be scared of loving her.  Just don’t drop her!”  In that moment, their fledgling relationship could have been ruined, and might have been if I’d been younger.  Every time I see them together, I remember this as one of my parenting wins. 🙂

I forgot it was Thursday, what with all this cold and snow messing with my routine, but this post does have a little bit each of {pretty, happy, funny, real} so I’m going to go ahead and link up with Like Mother, Like Daughter, okay?  Okay.


File Jan 11, 8 18 43 AMThis is what our roads look like.  A layer of ice, under a layer of snow, turned to slush under the tires of passing vehicles, refrozen…

We don’t salt or sand in our neck of the woods, and the snowplows only come out if there’s actually something to plow, so… we slip and slide.

But today is Monday, and the world keeps on spinning, bad roads or not!

Delaney was the first one out this morning, for her first day of her second class at the community college.  “If the roads are too slippery,” I said, as I hugged her goodbye, “come back.”

“Okay, Mama,” she answered dutifully, and by which I completely understood that she wasn’t coming back under any circumstances.

But that’s okay.  She knows I need her to be safe and secure, and I know she needs to go live her own life.  She did call me when she got there, to tell me she’d safely arrived, so I wouldn’t have to worry about her lying in a ditch all morning, which is just as good.  Probably better.

It’s a bit of a trick for teens and their parents to learn how to give each other what they each need, to see the heart that lies behind the words.  It takes a lot of grace and love and patience.  But if you can figure it out?  The reward is the sweetest friendships you’ll ever have, because, I hope, those teens are some of the best people you know.

Don’t hold onto them too tightly.  Don’t take the things they say too much to heart.  And make sure they know, every day, that you love them no matter what.  Don’t underestimate that.  That unconditional love goes a long way toward smoothing the bumpy transition from child to adult.  It really does.

Fan Club

We were out and about earlier in the week and Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing came on over a store radio.  Meggie tapped me on the shoulder.  “He doesn’t sing this nearly as well as you do,” she said with a smile.

That happens to me all the time, random people coming up to me and telling me that I perform a song much better than the original artist.  Or maybe just my adoring children.  But I do sing loud and proud in public places, so the random stranger thing is not outside the realm of possibility, right?

(I’d never seen this music video and that guy is a wee bit creepy, but it’s a great song. 🙂 )