Friday, July 21, 2017

{SQT} The "Baby" Turns Two!

Watching the clock . . . I am 36 weeks tomorrow! This carton of half-and-half will last longer than my baby will continue residing in utero!

1. Thomas Turned Two!

Thomas Vincent turned two years old on Wednesday. The second birthday is a cute one because the birthday toddler remains clueless: What is this delicious cake? What are these fun gifts? Oh well, I'll just go with it! We hope to have a celebration with grandparents when they're in town to watch the children perform in "Esther"! Who knows if there will be a new baby in attendance by then!

Click here to read my birthday post.

2. This Is Love

I doubt I have any single ladies reading my mommy blog but, in case I do, this is an image of love:

This is the completed play kitchen my husband made for our two-year-old. The kitchen whose idea it was mine to purchase for his birthday because Thomas loves kitchen play so much. The particular kitchen I wished for so much when Chris would have gone with a simpler version. The kitchen the buyer must assemble himself. The kitchen with at least one hundred parts to it. The kitchen whose box we opened and we both silently thought, "Ohhhhh, maybe we need to return this."

Instead, Chris, with quietly and steadfast determination, built this kitchen for four long hours late at night because I wanted it.

Single ladies: this is an image of love. Are you dating a man who will do this?

A grocery cart, the table to set for a meal, and the kitchen

Mama stocked all our play food inside

3. Big Helpers

I realized this week that the two oldest children merited a more real label and explanation of "contractions" and some other health difficulties than my simply using the vague line, "Mama isn't feeling well, so I need your help."

When I'm having painful contractions for three hours right during the dinner and clean-up hour, I'm asking the 8- and 10-year-olds to completely be my body for me while I sit in a kitchen chair directing them how to make the dinner. They're accustomed to helping me a lot, but while I work alongside them, not while I sit in a chair, appearing to be lazy. Big emotional difference.

We're having regular discussions about how these last weeks are very trying for all involved, we're all having more opportunities for sanctification than we could ever want, and that Daddy and children are stretching themselves far in how much they have to help physically while Mama is stretching herself with how much she has to let go of control and be content with being in homemaker's "survival mode."

4. Messier and Messier

I'm guarding my energy carefully each day in hopes of most nights being able to assemble a simple dinner. That means I can only clean up so much, which ain't very much. I've begun noticing that my house is becoming a disaster area . . . zone by zone. I require so much help of the children already, and I'm trying not to be an absolute slave driver, which means tolerating a lot more mess.

Please, I hope this is sanctifying me!

5. Organizing

The organizing does continue (amidst the messes surrounding me).

I had collected art and school papers for months and months, so I finally threw out most of the papers, sorted the rest into piles by child, and stored them in each child's annual binder.

I also moved our holy reading and prayer corner out of the den--which gets too busy and noisy in the mornings--to the dining room, which remains ever peaceful and empty.

An inviting prayer corner

You can see laminated sheets sticking out of the books, which are each child's individual prayer sheets.

Margaret (6) doing her holy reading

I will share photos of our rearranged Bonus Room when the new sleeper sofa gets moved up there by some strong teenage boys!

6. Outings and Events

I pretty much stayed inside these four walls. My husband is taking the children almost everywhere they need to go, and I only go somewhere if he can't.

It is hurting my heart that the children are now approaching me with very polite tone of voice, "Mama, I have a question . . . and I know you'll probably say no! But, just in case, do you think we could . . . [go somewhere/do something]?"

7. Midwifery Appointment

All is well. My blood pressure remains good!

I hired a babysitter that morning so I could go alone to my midwifery appointment and then retrieve Thomas to take him to his two-year well-child check. In between, I had some time to spare all by myself. Should I read at a coffee shop? Should I roam a book store? Should I peruse a clothing store?

I pulled into a parking lot and took a nap in my van . . . mamas, you know you're envious!

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Aint the Lyceum.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Thomas Vincent Turns Two!

Given them I'm 35 weeks' pregnant and have 'newborn on the brain,' it was particularly meaningful to look back on my blog and read the birth story of Thomas Vincent (click here for a trip down memory lane).

Happy Second Birthday, Thomas Vincent!

Thomas is such a sweet baby and a joy to us.

He is very athletic: he dances, climbs all furniture, is barely slowed down by hurdling over baby gates or out of his crib, climbs up and down the bunk beds (and sometimes leaps off), balances and straddle-walks his Strider bicycle, and on the playground he swings by himself, goes down the slide, climbs ladders (regular and rope), and swings from the trapeze.

He's also a busy boy in the play room, where he lines up toys, stacks blocks, builds with Duplos, and loves best doing imagination play in the play kitchen.

Thomas does have his quiet moments, such as how often he likes to perch on the bay window and watch the bees on the flowers. "Bees, bees!" Also, he is a big fan of board books, either being read to or flipping through a stack of books by himself.

Watching bees

But usually Thomas being quiet means TROUBLE. He is the reason we have put baby-proofing doorknob locks everywhere, have set the alarm to 'ping' if any external doors are opened, have taken to locking all the deadlocks, even when we are home, and why he isn't allowed outside at all without an adult shadowing him.

Getting his own pizza out of the refrigerator and cutting it

Climbing the fence to escape

Climbing the counter, procuring a snack, and taking it upstairs to napping Mama

Dumping all the cards

Thomas remains a "man of few words," and we don't know if he's just a fifth child who doesn't need to speak because everyone understands his desires, or if something is amiss. His receptive language and eagerness and ability to follow instructions is fantastic. We had him evaluated by the county early intervention program professionals who work with children under three years old in the home, and, while they saw a real lacking, Thomas was deemed "not severe enough" for the program. What I read is that by 24 months, a child should be saying 50-200 words, singing songs, and saying simple sentences, and that the words should contain complexities like verbs.

Interestingly, when I am giving reading lessons to Joseph (4), Thomas sits at my feet with rapt interest and repeats all the phonemes I say, but then is silent when I blend or say a word. He can copy "C! A! T!" but not "Cat!"

Nouns Adjectives Exclamations Verbs Sounds
Baby = himself, another baby, a doll Bye-bye Dee = diaper
Ball Hey! = protest Growling sound = any fierce animal
Bar = snack bar 'Lo = hello Meow = cat
Bee Night-night Sound of chewing = food
Bowl No Vroom = car
Bus = any vehicle Please Whee = swing
Cheese Up Woof = dog
Daddy Yay
'Lo = cell phone
Mole = skin, not animal
Wa-wa = water
Yellow = his special yellow blanket
Yummy = food

On Thomas' birthday, I took him and a couple of siblings to a diner breakfast, while the 'bigs' were at 'Esther' musical practice.

Then, in the evening, we enjoyed dinner and a homemade cake by Mama. The kids didn't even know I could make a cake, and they think other mothers who bake cakes are essentially professional bakers. Of course, I pulled a "typical Katherine" and bought all the ingredients except the chocolate for the chocolate cake. Chris dutifully and kindly went back to the store to get it for me.

Thomas received a bunch of specialized Duplo sets from relatives for his birthday, which will be grand fun because he's been stuck making the best of the basic set we bought for our firstborn probably nine years ago. Daddy very sweetly picked out an official Beaker doll for Thomas because of how much he likes Beaker's Ode to Joy. Thomas' big gift from us was a fancy, new play kitchen, as yet to be assembled.

Lastly we enjoyed the cake before Thomas and Joseph got to stay up for an hour playing Duplos with a passion.

Friday, July 14, 2017

{SQT} The Firstborn Returns

Watching the clock: I'm 35 weeks' tomorrow . . . 

1. Baby Shower Breakfast

A dear friend who believes subsequent babies deserve a baby shower as much as the first one organized a little breakfast for me. I was just tickled to have breakfast at a restaurant with some gal pals, which was especially refreshing seven days into eleven days of solo parenting! (I hired a babysitter for my tykes that morning--the only few hours I was off duty the whole time.)

It was an absolutely beautiful meditation for me to look around the table at 8 ladies who have cumulatively 47 children (plus two current pregnancies). All have intact, first marriages, most of which are 15-20 years in duration) and that isn't due to luck, romance, or sheer love-sweet-love because I've known these ladies for ten years and know of the major stressers in some of their lives, stress points that cause many couples these days to divorce. Their marriages are a testament to the Catholic teachings on marriage, the graces of the sacrament, and the obedience of the couples. So very beautiful and so much good fruit!

2. Summer Camp

John and Chris came home from the wilds of New Hampshire! Please check out my blog post about summer camp by clicking here.

3. Starting to Crack Up

I surprised my own self by how well I parented for the first six days of solo parenting--patient, kind, with such low expectations of relaxed summer days--but Chris was gone a total of eleven days and I did start to crack up and lose my temper. The turning point was one particular No Good, Overwhelming Day, which I describe below (from a cooler, calmer place) and which I trust will cause my reader to understand why this 34-week pregnant mama temporarily lost her mind.

One morning, dawning bright and beautiful, the children begged to play outside before breakfast. I rarely say yes to this frequent request but hey, it's summer, now is the time of day when it's cool, sure! I'm a good mom!

Note that the kids had already spent significant time that morning being mischievous and receiving consequences from me--time I had to sit and supervise--so I thought getting outside might get their wigglies out.

Know that afternoon thunder and rain storms have graced our city almost daily for a month plus our sprinklers run early in the morning, so our backyard is a mud pit. If you wanted to have one of those mud race-and-obstacle courses, you could host it in our back yard.

Therefore, I told the kids they could play on the driveway without taking a single step off of it: ride bikes, roller skates, climb the trees, bounce balls, etc. This is a common instruction when it's muddy and they know it well.

Margaret and Mary can dress themselves, so they got out there first before I could. I was dressing the little boys. Then Joseph dashed out ahead of me by five minutes.

Thomas was so excited that I was taking him outside to play--since, at 23 months, he doesn't get to play outdoors unless I go supervise, and you can imagine how often this rotund, pregnant mama does that in 90-degree heat and oppressive humidity--but as soon as I got downstairs, the other kids presented themselves covered heavily in mud from head to toes. It was like they lay down and rolled around in it!

Because I have pregnancy brain (and other moms will know what I mean), it did not occur to me that, of course, I should have hosed them off outside first. Instead, I marched them through the house, upstairs to the bathroom.

It took me half an hour to clean them off. Mud got tracked through the house and bathroom on the brand newly cleaned floors. Baths were required. The caked tub had to be scrubbed out. I thought the clothing might be ruined by rinsing, spray stain remover, pre-soak, and extra rinse in the load did actually get the grime out. All the while, the toddler was justifiably weeping throughout because he was denied his play outdoors.

I was still recovering, now three hours having passed without this mama eating breakfast, when the boys busted into the pantry and stole and ate chocolate. More discipline was meted out.

That really was enough for my day. After breakfast and clean-up, I let the children go play in the Bonus Room where their toys are. I was working in the kitchen: the Bonus Room is just up the stairs, with no door or anything, so I can supervise by ear. They are all of ten feet away from me.

Joseph found two pounds of dried lentil beans--locked up and dedicated to a science kit I used years ago back when I actually did science experiments with my tiny tots--and proceeded to throw them like confetti over every square inch of the bonus room, which had just received its monthly vacuuming treatment two days prior. 

Please imagine the scene, if you will: all the bookshelves: filled with lentil beans; all open toy bins: filled with lentil beans; the wooden blocks: filled with lentil beans. Four hundred square feet covered in a patina of dried lentil beans. The horror, the horror . . . 

I had enough sanity left to march the two little boys to quiet/nap time (whose time it was anyway) so I could lay down and rest for an hour, as I knew I wouldn't hardly be able to see those lentil beans to clean them up for the RED I was seeing instead.

Later when I emerged, speaking in that scary whisper voice that is beyond the yelling kind of angry, I experienced my only tender moment of the day: apparently during quiet time, the two girls had discovered the shocking lentils and, having no idea what had happened, had begun diligently cleaning them up because they didn't want Mama to be upset. I joined them in their efforts and the three of us working hard for an hour got the job done.

I was really tired by that point in the afternoon, and feeling lonely for some adult conversation. So, when the phone rang and I saw it was a friendly relative, I dared to answer the call even though it was the middle of the day, my children were awake, and they weren't duct taped to chairs in order to keep them out of mischief. Thus, it is clear that the next results were all my fault.

My children were playing in the garage (no car parked in there), which is a known, allowed play area these days when it's 95-degrees outside because our garage houses a lot of toys and caps at 80 degrees.

After only five minutes on the phone, I was made aware of a situation and had to hang up rapidly. While appropriate distribution of blame remains questionable, I do believe that certain parties were goading other certain parties to do the mischief, which makes everyone carry some of the blame.

One child made a giant pile of stuff on top of other children, and by 'giant pile,' I mean: all the winter coats which hang on the garage wall, the five bins' worth of the children's shoes, the laundry basket full of all the children's socks, the collection of winter gloves, the collection of winter hats, all the outdoor balls, four five-gallon bottles of water, various cardboard boxes, and three plastic bins.

I saw this pile and wished I could light it as a bonfire. Alas, we had to clean it up, which we did as a family after yet more discipline was administered.

And then after dinner--which I mercifully allowed those beasties to eat--I had to load up all the kids to run some time-sensitive errands.

After that day, I never quite recovered my composure and struggled with temper until Chris returned.

4. Bugs

Plus, there were bugs.

When you live in an area as hot and humid during the summer as the tropics, you get bugs like you're in the tropics.

My children's legs are shocking, each covered in 20 to 30 mosquito bites from the knees down. They look like they have a plague of some kind.

We have ants seeking refuge in our house.

One day, my daughter caught first what appeared to be a GIANT stink bug . . .

. . . and in the same day, a huge stag beetle.

And then there was the morning I did battle with the largest cockroach I've ever seen in this house. I waddled downstairs for morning coffee, only to find this unwelcome visitor in our den. I knew what to do: get the broom and dustpan, capture the invader, deposit him into the toilet basin, and flush him to his doom.

Only this cockroach was so big and strong that he clung to the porcelain and withstood the first flush.

He withstood the strength of six flushes! Between each whoosh of water, he would shake off his giant wings to dry, ready at any second to fly . . . onto me?

I ran to the kitchen and filled a large plastic bin with water, raced back, relieved he was still where I left him, and splashed a really overwhelming amount of water on him so even this beast lost his footing and was swept into the toilet, to die a death by drowning. Good riddance.

Once presumably nice bug we found was a unusually large cocoon hanging in our back yard.

And five minutes later, we discovered a 3-foot rat snake slithering through our back yard. We watched him happily slide across our yard, under the gate, and into the back woods.

5. Prenatal appointment

My 34-week appointment was fine, with blood pressure creeping just a bit: will it spike into a danger zone like last time or remain safe? There were some tears, but that's pretty normal at this hormonally charged stage.

6. Other Events

We had music lessons, Esther rehearsal, swimming with Daddy, a tea party in celebration of a little friend's birthday, and my very last personal training session until postpartum--because really, it's just a big wink-wink joke these days to think I can do anything more than trudge slowly at two miles an hour while trying not to cry.

I went grocery shopping and actually went into the store (with kids), which deserves its own mention. I dropped by the thrift store to make donations again, this time having culled 22 books: Chris, you're welcome!

All week, we've been reading aloud "Wild Animals I Have Known" by Seton and various Shakespeare plays by Nesbit. I've begun reading about the logic stage in Classical education.

7. Bonus Reading

Dr Bruchalski's Incredible Stories: Kleenex warning! Note especially the story of the abortionist who delivered the anacephalic baby, and the story of the Lovanix (sometimes God just likes to show off big!).

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Montfort Boys' Camp 2017

Chris and John (10) have returned from Montfort Boys' Camp in New Hampshire, a week of wholesome outdoor activities in a traditional Catholic environment, as run by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Brothers. 

The camp is for boys 9-13, although out-of-state boys need to be 10 and (at least the first year?) have a parent chaperone present. It was quite a gift to John for his Daddy to take off a week from work and drive 900 miles each way and for his Mama to run the home alone for 11 days with four children at 34 weeks pregnant.

Labeling all of John's clothing

Packing John's belongings

Daddy and son getting on the road at six in the morning

The drive up took two days. They arrived late at camp after a Gilligan's Island type of "three hours' tour" being lost in the woods, but all was well!

Arriving with a dirty car--dressed for the opening Mass they missed

Campers participate in the following activities…

Daily Religious instruction • Latin Tridentine Mass • Camping in 8-man cabins • Daily inspections • Sailboating • Hiking • Swimming • Arts and Crafts • Canoeing • Boxing • Fishing • Archery • Sports • Campfires • Achievement & Good Conduct Awards • Guest speakers …and more!

Chris was on kitchen staff which was basically a full-time job. Being on the go from 6:00 a.m. till 11:00 p.m., most of it standing on his feet working, was no vacation for Daddy--but it was still fun and in good company of men!

Camp was increased from a cap of 75 to 100 boys this year.

John is front and center in this photo; Chris is in the rear row, slightly right of center.

Each day began with the bugle at 7:00 followed by attendance at the traditional Latin Mass, roll call, and a morning jog before attending breakfast at 9:00. I think there is much to be learned in that routine, and this Mama ponders how to implement some of that order and priorities in our homeschool routine. Yet, we have littles (who need food sooner) and our attending a daily Mass (when a TLM is available here) would cut way into our school day due to timing. And how do we fit in morning exercise (so salutary!) when the children wake at varying times? And how does Mama exercise when I need to be alone to do so (meaning, I do it before they are awake)?

Morning Mass

Roll call by squads

Morning jog before breakfast

Meals were served only three times per day and more widely spaced than here at home: plus, no snacking. I think this is probably really good for these older boys and causes kids to come to the table a lot more willing to eat. Again, how to implement the good aspect of this routine when we have littles at home (as well as a pregnant/nursing mama) who actually do need to eat every two hours?

Outside of meals, the days were broken into three segments of outdoor activities: a morning session, an afternoon session, an evening session. On the first day, the children were required to receive training at each station so they'd know what to do there (although the stations were, of course, still manned by the brothers at all times). Then the boys had choice about what they wanted to do with their time. John said he enjoyed rifle shooting and fishing the most and he never did make time to participate in sail boating or archery.

At the end of the week, John took first place in rifle-shooting in the 9- to 10-year-old age bracket, which translated to third place in the entire camp (ages 9-13). Pretty good for never before having shot a 22-rifle!

The rifle range was run by a former Army Ranger and Chris attests that the safety training was on par with what the NRA teaches in its classes.

John shooting

Other boys checking out the targets

I think John enjoyed fishing the most, and that was a new activity for him, not something we've done at home. Over the week, he caught four fish, at least two of them 14" long. We can tell that John greatly admired Brother Peter Mary, who ran the fishing activities.

Yes, there was a scolding from Mama
regarding this open, useless life vest.

One afternoon, the boys broke into two squads, hiked about 90 minutes on separate trails up the mountain (with "MRE" brown bag lunches in tow), then met at the top for an epic Super Soaker battle. Unbeknownst to the boys, the adult staff had secretly driven up there and leapt out from hiding places with their own Super Soaker guns in a surprise attack: so much fun! Afterward, they all enjoyed a special dessert.

There were organized games, like tug-of-war and relay races.

John reports to me that he enjoyed the canoes for fishing, but otherwise preferred kayaking.


In the evenings, the boys prayed the Rosary and participated in Benediction in the chapel.

Heading into the chapel in the evening

Sometimes the priest spoke on catechism or other topics.

The priest in residence
Other evening activities included movie night (a great war movie) or talent show night--at which John took third place (for playing "A Warlike Dance" on the piano).

Boys in grey tee-shirts, Brothers in black cassocks

The drive home took three more nights, instead of two, due to a blown tire and the difficulty of replacing it and getting the right tires in stock.

I'm sure I'll be hearing many more tales of adventure in the days to come: I can hardly wait! For a homeschooling mother who has rarely done drop-off activities (e.g., sports, classes, parties, anything), and who already felt discombobulated dropping off her two oldest at musical rehearsals for three hours each week (with no parent), being incommunicado with my boy 900 miles away from me for a week and a half was bizarre, but maybe also resulted in some good growth as well.

John is already counting on going to Montfort again next year (and every year) despite our reminding him that our family has to make this decision one year at a time. He loved every minute of it and I'm really interested and excited to witness how we hope he's come back a more mature, grown-up boy.