Friday, September 15, 2017

{SQT} Hurricane "Noro" Strikes Home

In which our heroine battles her archnemesis Norovirus while her husband is 3,000 miles away and she's trying to teach a 4-week-old how to nurse . . . 

1. My First Meal

I made my first dinner solo this week, so one month postpartum. That is thanks to so many generous folks from our parish bringing us meals, and to my husband for cobbling together dinners on the other nights.

I share this because other mothers of large families sharing their humbling 'smallness' has been of great and inspiring benefit to my spirit. No, one does not have to be perfectly competent to have many children.

I managed Breakfast for Dinner: frozen waffles, frozen sausages, and fried apples--that I peeled and sauteed myself! This delightful repast was served on the finest of paper plates.

This wasn't even my first attempt. I had tried to make dinner one night the week before, the baby wouldn't stop crying, everything was falling apart, and Chris finished work and found me just flailing about in the kitchen, with us past dinner time, and he stepped in and rescued me.

2. Meal Planning

I put a meal plan into effect this last week (although it turned out that not many of us were eating with the illness in the house). I wrote out a blank monthly calendar and wrote into it our regular outings that would affect preparing dinners: twice monthly altar server practice, Scottish dance Thursdays, YMCA classes, and so forth. Then I planned Week A meals and Week B meals, so there are only ten different meals served every 14 days, and then they repeat (so 20 different meals every 28 days).

And they are very simple meals.

They're so simple, I'm a bit too prideful to publish them on the blog. For example, one night I plan on regularly serving PB and J sandwiches. I remember years ago how shocked I was when I heard that one mother of over a dozen children served cold cereal to her children on game nights during sports season. Well, now, I 'get it.' Now I've got a lovely friend who gives her kids a big spoonful of peanut butter on a spoon when they come home from sports games and get ushered straight off to bed . . . and this time I thought the mother was brilliant.

Anyway, I don't have time or energy to be cooking anything interesting these days. Apparently, it is heroic of me to make frozen waffles and fixins with a crying newborn in my arms.

3. Sibling Helpers

I find I'm going through this newborn phase differently with #6 than I did with the earlier babies, especially with the first three. I feel like I'm parenting as a team effort: I simply cannot do it alone.

I learned after the first two weeks of exclusive pumping that I needed to bring a child with me for every daytime pumping session. The second two weeks have gone so much better because I simply choose a child every time I have to pump. Even if the baby is asleep, I park a child next to the baby to watch him and pick him up if he wakes.

This practice results in my finding cute sibling selfies on my phone.


My children know so much more about baby care than I did. Mary (8) is my most devoted mama's helper, and I maintain that every newborn should come equipped with an eight-year-old sister. The dinner and evening hours are proving to be tough ones with a crying baby and frazzled mother. One evening, I was trying to manage all these things by myself when Mary took over with the baby and all went peacefully quiet. I found her curled up on the bed, with him in the crook of her arm and her face on the top of his head . . . exactly how I put him to sleep every night.

When my two biggest kids were both sick one night, and the baby was wailing without me as I ran to and fro during bedtime routine, Margaret (6) went to his side without my even asking. He went quiet, and I found her calmly reading "Jungle Book" in the master bedroom while supervising a very quiet, happy baby. She said matter-of-factly, "I knew to put David on his side, give him a pacifier, and put a blanket on him, and now he's happy." Which he was!

There was special privilege in having my first baby, when I could manage to do everything for him: I could hold him nonstop all day or rock him in peace and quiet as long as I wanted. While I truly miss being able to provide all comfort myself to my precious infant, there is also something special in having built a village that can take care of this little fellow, who will grow up feeling loved by a bunch of 'bigs.'

4. Baptism of David James

Sunday was David's baptism (click here). Joseph became sick that night, but then bounced back, so we thought it was a one-time event. (Foreshadowing: we were wrong!)

5. Outings

We cancelled Monday's doctor's appointment due to illness, but did manage some family errands. John is finally old enough to graduate from being a Junior Postulant to a Postulant, so he attended his first regular altar service practice as such.

On Tuesday began our YMCA classes of the fall: Track for John, and P.E. for the oldest four children. Don't think that stopped Thomas (2) from joining in: he ran about the periphery of the room where the P.E. classes for ages 4-7 was being held, jubilantly throwing balls, dancing, imitating all the exercises: he was a hoot!

By Tuesday night, kids were falling sick fast, so we cancelled another doctor's appointment on Wednesday, both Scottish Dance and a special Mass and veneration of the True Cross on Thursday, and CCE on Friday due to illness.

6. Illness

While the nation's news helicopters and drones were capturing footage of Hurricane Irma lashing Florida this week, a hurricane of a virulent vomiting illness was lashing us at home. As one who has fought such battles before, I recognize what I believe can only be my arch nemesis Norovirus. The look, the feel, the smell: they're all the signature of that beast of a virus which is so dramatically contagious and long-lived on surfaces of the home.

Of course, Noro struck me at my most vulnerable: while my husband was away all week on a business trip 3,000 miles away. In fact, she sneakily struck him too such that he flew to California, checked into his hotel, and became symptomatic just as the children were collapsing here at home.

Nine loads of laundry created the first night, me catching tiny snatches of sleep during that worst 24 hours in between changing the laundry loads in the dark, stripping sheets again, scrubbing carpet on my hands and knees while praying the newborn would stay asleep, multiple kids vomiting at once, changing their pajamas and mine repeatedly, using up latex gloves with rapidity . . .

The horror, the horror!

By Thursday, we were in the "calm" eye of the hurricane, so I decided to take all six children--no longer vomiting hourly but still weak, dehydrated, and clearly ill--to Urgent Care by myself to obtain more prescriptions for Zofran. By that night, I had three kids relapsing.

Steam cleaning the carpet after the horror

7. Nursing Progress

David chose this bizarre, busy week to make major strides in nursing capability! He achieved numerous milestones:

  • Finally being able to transfer milk from the left side (previously, always 0 mL)
  • Nursing up to 3 oz sometimes
  • Reducing his need for overnight bottles from three, to two, to one, to one-half (because he's filling up on nursing)
  • Occasionally rejecting a bottle of milk for the comfort of nursing

According to my rough calculations (and not all of this can be calculated), David is getting about half his milk directly from Mama! Soon he should be free of bottles! Please keep up the prayers for us.

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.

Monday, September 11, 2017

David at One Month Old

David James, one month old and weighing 11 lbs 7 oz

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Baptism of David James

David James was baptized at our parish on Sunday, September 10th.

Because of Hurricane Irma's wending path and changing ways, the godparents and grandparents were not able to come, so proxies stood in as godparents.

I think these photos perfectly reflect how different babies' baptisms are over the years. Photos from the first one or two babies were so beautiful, neat, symmetrical, and staged. We remembered to bring "the good camera," to put a grandfather's beautiful old rosary draped across the infant, to make everything prissy perfect.

Now we're lucky if we can get everyone to the church wearing shoes on their feet.

The photos are chaotic and jumbled and they show a mass of about 60 people who love us who showed up for this event.

I consider a baptism a rare opportunity for a really nice family portrait to be taken. I had been looking forward to this and coordinated our outfits to all be in black, white, and grey.

We gathered everyone and then realized we didn't have two-year-old Thomas--who had become too loud and was sent outside with an adult minder--so we sent for him to be brought inside. Then we realized that we didn't have the two girls, who had escaped outdoors to play in the grass, and we sent for them.

By now David and Thomas were wailing, and they continued to do so for the rest of the photo shoot.

We took numerous photos before we realized that we were missing Joseph, so we had to send a runner to go find him. He returned holding a rolled up "sword bulletin," which would later come into play. Meanwhile, Margaret was acting ridiculous in the photos.

This is probably the best family portrait we got out of 14.

It was then that Mama, who is plastering on a very forced smile through all these antics and a wailing newborn, noticed the bulletin sword, which has RUINED her planned formal family portrait, the likes of which she gets only once or twice per year. Without thinking of the repercussions, Mama ripped the bulletin out of her four-year-old's hands and THREW IT across the church into the pews.

Joseph turns away, heart trampled.

Joseph begins weeping hot tears. Note how his siblings have begun laughing at him.

In terrible irony, Joseph buries his crying face into the woman's skirts who tore his heart out when she tore the bulletin from his hands. Siblings are still cruelly laughing.

Joseph tries to hide further . . . and the laughter just increases.

Finally Mama and Mary try to comfort the poor child. The infant has been wailing inconsolably this entire time.

I'm getting better at planning these receptions to be extremely simple. We bought a few trays of appetizer food at Costco, the kind for which one peels off the plastic covering and puts the food out as-is: nuts, cheese and crackers, veggies and dip. We ordered the cake from Costco, and the table decorations from Amazon, shipped to our door. At the last moment, I asked lovely 12- and 14-year-old girls at our parish to set it all up for me. Voila, and done!

Friday, September 8, 2017

{SQT} Duties, Stoicism, Grief, Life Amidst It All

1. Grampa Neil, RIP

My stepfather, very much loved, passed away a week ago (click here). This is the first Seven Quick Takes I am writing knowing he isn't reading it on his computer in California. He always emailed me feedback after reading my update of the week.

2. Children's Grief

It is a terrible thing to gird oneself to tell one's children that their beloved grandfather has died. Although their grandmother (my mom) died five years ago, they were all so young as not to understand then.

That day when I spent about six hours in my bedroom calling relatives with the news and crying till there were no more tears left, my two daughters wrote me a letter "to Mama Lauer in her bedroom."

The letter gave instructions for me to view a memorial outside of my second story window.

With my aging eyes, all I could see was a bright flash of color from a distance, so I sent my six-year-old out with my cell phone camera to take a close-up photo of the flowers.

3. Busy

Chris was starting back to regular work, and I already didn't know how on earth I would take care of five children and a newborn, pump exclusively and bottle feed, and do some minimal homeschooling. Now I'm adding to that hours per day of legal phone calls and paperwork concerning my stepfather's estate. I thank God for my stalwart husband and two mother's helpers who came out to help me this week because this is a workload I still don't know how I'm managing.

4. David at 3 Weeks Old

At three weeks old (4 weeks today), David has been increasingly alert. He has about two lengthy wakeful periods per day.

I've caught him batting repeatedly at dangling things.

And he is just reaching 11 lbs in weight. He has outgrown some of his newborn clothing.

5. Nursing Update

David is transferring milk! He is consistently transferring 1 ounce of milk, and on a few occasions has transferred 2 oz. He needs to be transferring 3 oz consistently for him to get off bottles and maintain his own milk supply (instead of the pump doing it).

We experienced a beautiful milestone on Thursday: David has started to experience fussy times (colic, whatever), so he was crying at length. He wasn't calmed by a bottle of milk, a pacifier, being swaddled, or being walked around, so I finally tried nursing him (normally my first attempt for a nursing baby!--but David isn't a "nursing baby"): and he quieted instantly. He wanted to nurse. He fell asleep, latched on. Praise God for small moments.

6. Preparations

We prepare for the Eucharistic Congress, David's baptism, and Hurricane Irma. It is an uncertain weekend.

7. Bonus Reading

Ann Voskamp's "Happy Mom Manifesto" (original in the link, Facebook version below):

1. Today, even if everything goes wrong, love is always right. There is ridiculous hope in this.

2. Today, the only thing that has to be written in stone is when to pray. We will just pray at set times & make our home a house of prayer. What else really matters?

3. Today, there are no emergencies. Life is a GIFT -- not an emergency! Only amateurs hurry. So: Say yes to one game every day and laugh loud. No empty-nest mama looks around and wishes she did one more load of laundry.

4. Today, when stress mounts, I pray to dismount it with gratitude. My stress management plan will be simple: all stress will have an intervention of giving thanks for one thing out loud. I can only feel one feeling at a time, and I choose to give thanks at all times.

5. Today, I will pray to speak words that make souls stronger. Grace is the only non-toxic air.

6. Today, I will pray to just be: Consistently consistent. Make rhythms, live routines, wear good habits. Do the same thing at the same time every day -- and you kinda change your life.

7. Today, THIS: The moment when I am most repelled by a child’s behavior, that is my sign to draw the very closest to that child.

8. Today, I will hug each of my children as many times as I serve them meals — because children’s hearts feed on touch. I’ll look for as many opportunities to touch my children today as possible — the taller they are, the more so.

Whenever I want to throw hands up, I'll throw them around someone instead. Holding someone always helps holds things together.

9. Love is a roof.

Be a shelter, a safe place, just be a roof for your people today.

10. Today, I will laugh! And I will create a culture of JOY! The only life worth living is a scandalous one: scandalous love, offensive mercy, foolish faith. Let joy live loud in your soul.

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

R.I.P. Grampa Neil

In your charity, please pray for the repose of the soul of my stepfather Neil, who died unexpectedly on Thursday August 31, 2017. We are incredibly grieved. It does not seem real that I had hoped he would be visiting us soon when instead he will never meet his newest grandbaby, only three weeks old.