Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

For its joyful moments and its embarrassing simplicity, may this blog post make another mom see one possible way how Thanksgiving can "be done" with a three-month-old in arms and who has suddenly begun waking every 15 minutes while he sleeps.

Let other blogs and websites that we all know and love provide examples for how to be a Domestic Goddess even with a big brood of children, but this blog will have to be an example of how to simplify further than you ever wanted to and how it's all okay anyway.

While I was seeing folks post on Facebook their turkey cinnamon roll creations planned for Thanksgiving morning . . .

. . . I was inspired to go all out (one serves a special breakfast before cooking all day long?) and buy from Pillsbury!

I thought it was pretty cool that I had that going when the crew finally woke up, and didn't have an answer when my husband asked, "Soooo, what else are you making for breakfast?" And then, on cue, the baby woke up screaming again 15 minutes into his first morning nap and I had to run off, leaving Chris to make something additional for breakfast.

Then began The Great Preparation for the meal . . . which involved Chris loading up all five children to pick up a full meal at Boston Market.

Stock image

Seriously, I cannot tell you the tense feelings (and probably fights, but I can't remember) when Chris initially suggested buying any portion of the Thanksgiving meal earlier in our marriage. Sacrilege! Heresy! Ruination and bad example of homemaking to our children!

But enough Thanksgivings have passed in which I've struggled, failed, and been tense and barky because I'm doing it all by myself, no other adult relatives around to help, but with many little hands to make it more difficult, and then really, I'm no great shakes of a cook.

It got easier to buy a meal the couple of years I had babies due in November and December, because I was so big with pregnancy. This year, when Chris suggested simply buying the whole thing, I didn't even argue.

It was so much better for this season in our lives.

Once home, the children had a glorious morning playing by themselves in the leaf piles. I was about to call them in for lunch when I caught rumor from a short person that Daddy had lit a bonfire in the back yard at that very moment.

I improvised by making a tray of PBJs and Dorito chips (ooooooo), which I delivered out of doors.

Tra-di-tion . . . tradition! Like Tevye, I try to have family traditions, but I've had to make easier ones as the years ago by because I don't have the time or hands to do the complex ones.

We still had our handmade fall leaf place markers from last year, so we didn't have to re-create those.

Gratitude Basket Preparation: I grabbed a basket (a bowl or Tupperware would do fine) and cut up some construction paper, placing the "scene" on the Thanksgiving table. I announced, repeatedly, as a kid would whiz by, that we were all to write down some things for which we were grateful and fold the slips of paper, place them in the basket, and they would be read at the dinner table. (Double-win: more calm conversation, less weird body noises and TV talk.)

Later, we had a little contretemps when the adults had to start reheating the Boston Market meal--still a tightly coordinated 2.5-hour process involving two ovens, stove top, slow cooker, toaster oven, and microwave oven!--and the children revolted, just wanting to watch television. I neither confirm nor deny that some too-old-for-this children threw fits about having to do any work on Thanksgiving.

A quiet-voiced instruction followed about how Thanksgiving is actually a huge day of work and this Mama cannot possibly do it by herself, nor could this Mama and Daddy do it alone, and that we all must pitch in as a family. It was decided by the children that they would rather there be no television turned on at all to occupy the youngest un-helpful set because that would be too much torment for the older set to be missing out on.

Fine, a deal was agreed upon.

Mama was feeling rather grumpy about this sour set of attitudes, when she noticed--in the absence of the boob tube--that all the children had gathered spontaneously around the Gratitude Basket and were writing feverishly, and with older children helping the younger ones who couldn't write. (Someone even put a pen in the three-month-old's hand while the other sibling suspended the baby in the air and moved his body so that he 'wrote' on a paper!)

They also spontaneously made loving cards for each other to put at each other's places.

The rest of the afternoon, the children actually did pitch in like their usual generous selves, decorating the table, cleaning up, holding the baby, and so forth.

Photo with Daddy

 Some of my favorite readings from the Gratitude Basket (of dozens) were:

  • "Having the best mother/teacher in the world!"
  • "Having the best father/guardian in the world!"
  • "Playing piano"
  • "Being with [our piano teacher]"
  • "Legos, fishing, siblings"
  • "Milk" (written on behalf of David, three months old)
  • "Having a bouncy, trouncy, full-of-fun-and-milk-and-laughter, gurgle, snort Lauer (which means David)"
  • "I am thankful for playing in the back yard and for having a humongous leaf pile"
  • "For praying the rosary"

Photo with Mama

I pitched in during clean-up, but Chris carried the bulk of the load. Normally David goes to sleep for the night around 6:00 and sleeps in solid two-hour chunks, but on Wednesday he woke nine times in two hours before I gave up and just crawled in bed with him. On Thanksgiving night, I'd race downstairs during his 15 minutes of sleeping to help clean the kitchen or eat a few bites of pie, and then I'd respond to his screaming call again, so really Chris ended up doing most of the three loads of dishes, two laundry loads, sweeping, and general pick-up. I don't know how I'd do life without him.

Thankfully, I can sit and write this blog post in peace . . . because said Stinker Baby decided that instead of his normal sleeping until 6:30 or so, that 4:30 a.m. was the right time to get up for the day. (WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH HIM THIS WEEK?)

We have so much to be thankful for this year!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Day at the Farm

A Day at the Farm . . . Followed by a Day in Bed

I've been feeling so much better postpartum than the sick-all-the-time feeling of pregnancy that I had a hankering to go visit our friends on their farm about two hours outside of Charlotte.  We love our friends, the C----s, and we always laugh that their five and our six children so far amongst them share four of the same names!

Chris was able to join us for the day too, which made the day more enjoyable and much easier. I had been planning to take the children by myself, which, in retrospect, would have been a disaster.

Just sitting on an ATV, not really riding it

This is a working, small farm on 19 acres with a pig for slaughter, chickens, and a certified micro-dairy. The children had a grand old time riding the ATV, climbing things, playing football and soccer, feeding the big its slop, digging a pit, and shooting a cross-bow and bow-and-arrow.

Boys climbing everything in sight

The mama cow looking at her two-day-old calf

Super friendly, calm farm cat "Annie Jane"

I was humbled by our outing that was seemingly so simple--drive two hours, sit inside the house most of the day chatting with my friend and her baby (while the dads chased kids outside), drive home--because I developed mastitis again (twice in a month). How many times as a La Leche League counselor have I advised women with mastitis that this is a sign of Doing Too Much, and that the cure in almost all cases (antibiotics are so rarely needed) is to go to bed with the baby for a whole day and night?

Even being in the car for two hours (which itself does represent being "separated from the baby") and being in a foreign environment where I thought I was nursing the baby often enough, but apparently was not, was too much for this smaller-than-I-thought mama. By the time we departed for home at 4:30, I was starting to feel bad and had my suspicions; by the time we arrived home, I knew I was done for and I crawled into bed at 8:00 with a fever that burned all night. Then I was out of commission all of Monday recovering.

So, the latest gives this mama of a larger-than-average brood much meditation about what is normal activity in our culture, why not to compare to what other families might be doing, that God writes natural law into our very bodies sometimes, and about how what my body, my baby, and my family need is different after each delivery, so I need to discern anew with every baby what I can and should be doing. That's a lot of words to say, "I need to be doing even less than I thought."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mary's Daddy-Daughter Birthday Date

For some time, Chris has had a tradition of taking each child for an outing for his or her birthday. It might be an event (like Margaret chose swimming last year) or a meal: Mary chose a hibachi grill for her evening out.

It's such a joyfully anticipated outing that Chris and I decided to institute a Mama tradition as well: I will have a one-on-one outing with the child on his or her baptismal anniversary date! See you for some fun in a few weeks, Mary . . .

Friday, November 17, 2017

{SQT} Almost Thanksgiving!

1. David is Three Months Old

David turned three months old! I had him weighed at Mary's well-child check and he weighs 14 lbs 10 oz, which (according to my master Excel spreadsheet) makes him my biggest three-month-old: something I didn't expect!

2. Warbirds Over Monroe

On Veteran's Day, Chris took the oldest four kiddos to see Warbirds Over Monroe, which is apparently one of the largest air shows on the East coast.

I stayed home to have a quiet day because my having a "big day out" on Friday--with CCE and a house showing--and a "big day out" on Sunday--with Mass and Mary's birthday--it would be entirely imprudent for this Mama to make that three "big days out" in a row.

The gang had a great time and were duly impressed. John carried around my camera and took many photos.

Next year perhaps I can join the gang. Tips for next year: Chris would drop me with the stroller off at the gate, then go park the van and take the shuttle bus in to the event. It's a cash only event, so bring cash. Bring chairs and picnic blankets. Make a home base at the event.

3. Mary's Birthday

Click here to read all about our dear Mary turning nine!

4. First Bonfire of the Season

5. The Tooth Fairy Is Going Broke

It has been the most remarkable loss of teeth experienced in this household lately! In the last two weeks alone, the ten-year-old has lost one baby tooth, the newly nine-year-old has lost four (and has two double gaps!), and the six-year-old has lost two: her front two!

6. Fall Illnesses

The various respiratory bugs continue to bother us. When littles don't feel well, sometimes it's Mama's job just to "sit!" (as my two-year-old commands while he holds up his arms to me).

7. School

School chugs along . . .

Doing preschool with Joseph

The two girls and John have been drawing so many pictures lately in their free time. Below are just several.

P.E. is concluded and CCE is now on break for six weeks, so now is when our schedule opens up wide. I would say we'd be enjoying doing quiet, more regular school at home, but this is also that time of year for Thanksgiving, many Advent adventures, the Christmas octave . . .

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mary's 9th Birthday

Our sweet Mary turned nine years old!

Mary is bright and musical, but more importantly she takes her Catholic faith seriously and is a mother's helper who takes initiative to help me in so many ways with the three littlest boys. She's my right hand!

We opened gifts on Sunday morning, then went to breakfast at a nearby diner.

Mary knew that when it came time to open cards from siblings, two-year-old Thomas would feel left out that he didn't have one to give her, so the day before she sat with him and helped him draw a card for her own special day.

When we ordered hot cocoa for only the birthday girl, the generous girl ended up pouring out enough for all her siblings to share.

After Mass, we enjoyed cake at home.

Happy birthday, Mary! Next year . . . on to double digits!

Friday, November 10, 2017

{SQT} It's About the Love

1. Preparing for Burial

On Saturday, I chose a burial plot for the cremated remains of my mother (who died five years ago) and my stepfather (who died two months ago), and we purchased it. This seemed a very fitting task for during the octave of the Feast of All Souls.

Mary standing on the plot

2. The Octave of All Souls

Click here to read about our outing to pray at the cemetery.

3. Voting Day

On Tuesday, we went as a family to vote in local elections. It is neat having a child on the cusp of 11 years old because I am seeing a very real transition into the "dialectic" phase of education: so much questioning! This kid wants to know why and he's asking detailed questions about politics and government, a subject about which Chris and I enjoy chatting.

4. Frustrations

This week was rather tough. (But life is tough, right? When is it ever 'such an easy week!') It's been two months since my stepfather died and I'm struggling with that every day. It's been three months since I had the baby so I feel like I "should" be back on top of my game, but I can still barely get a heated-and-assembled dinner on the table, and I can't make time to exercise at all. School is hard. Housekeeping is hard. I need to find a way to maintain my peace.

5. Sibling Love

When all I can see is a physical mess in my house, or another simplistic meal served (instead of a home-cooked masterpiece), or some missed homeschool assignments, I can choose to look instead at the love our children are learning with their siblings in our home.

The children spent numerous hours this week playing in the dry leaf pile. They dug out five "homes" within the leaf pile and decorated them individually. They rode their bikes down the "roads" they scraped out of the leaf pile, and the older children taught the four-year-old traffic rules.

Last Sunday, our eight-year-old invented a new activity to entertain our two-year-old in which Mary draws Thomas' day out for him. It started when she "drew Mass," and then she added in every person who was there, and other interesting details.

How much does my heart sore when I see a big sister so happily pulling her toddler brother onto her lap to draw for him and help him learn how to talk?

6. Love for Mama

When I'm sad and all I can see are the ways I don't measure up, I can make some attempt to see me through my kids' eyes.

My four-year-old is so enamored with me at this (his) age. One morning, he came to my side of the bed twice in the wee hours, and I sent him away twice, telling him not to come back until the first number on the clock said "6." But then I couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up grumpily around 5:30. When Joseph heard me rustling, he rushed in, then collapsed in a pile of silent tears on our closet floor. Irritably, I said, "You've woken me up twice too early, and now I'm finally up and ready to take you downstairs and you're sad! What is going on?"

"Mama, I was so looking forward to laying with you for a snuggle, so I was waiting till six! And now I missed six and I won't get to lay with you!"

Oh dear. I told him that it was really only 5:30, so he hadn't missed six o'clock at all, and that we could have a good snuggle in bed.

Showing me the worm he caught
My three littlest boys are waking up way too early this week due to the fall-back time change, so we've had some good, bleary-eyed times in the pitch dark, eating cereal in the kitchen.

Two boys who wanted to watch their baby brother

One evening when John knew I'd had a really rough evening--my husband gone while I suffered through listening the infant or the two-year-old alternatively or simultaneously screaming and wailing for three hours straight, and nothing I did helped it stop--he left me some cookies to find on my laptop later that night. Sweet boy!

Speaking my love language! Food!

7. Trickle Down Homeschooling

I don't know whether to laugh or cry . . . but my six-year-old and eight-year-old daughters have been teaching arts, crafts, and school to my four-year-old son for weeks now. Click here to see their publications.

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