Monday, January 16, 2017

Joseph Turns 4!

Happy fourth birthday to our fourth-born, Joseph Anthony, commonly known as Josey!

Morning conversation with Joseph:

"Guess what? Now you're four! Happy birthday!"

"I'm four? NOW? I need to get up to see how big I am!"

Josey stands up on the bed. He doesn't appear to be any bigger.

"Honey, you're not going to seem bigger on your birthday. Remember, you grow just an eency bit every day, all year round."

We padded downstairs in the dark to bake chocolate chip muffins for a fun birthday breakfast.

After all the siblings were awake, we opened gifts.

Joseph is no longer allowed to play with the play money he so enjoys because it is part of my math curriculum and he kept losing the coins. To solve that problem, we gave him a cash register and his own stash of play money for his birthday!

While I taught a half-day of school, Chris (who had MLK day off) took Joseph on errands, including getting his first hair cut at a salon and picking out his own cupcakes for later celebration.

After half-school and music practice, we loaded up for a drive to meet the grandparents at the midway point in Greenville, SC, two hours away. Cue 'Gilligan's Island' theme music because that is when the misadventures began, making this one of the most unpleasant drives (in both directions) we've experienced in some time (not coincidentally, also the first long drive we've taken as a family in ages).

We ran off some of the children's energy at Greenville's downtown park--and Margaret fell into the foul duck pond, a happening for which I had no change of clothing--before meeting Chris' parents at Mellow Mushroom for an early dinner.

Obviously a picture taken by Daddy

Thankfully, the time at the restaurant was really fun, the food was delicious, and we all felt refreshed from the car ride of fighting children and two hours of a crying baby, and we all felt strengthened for what we didn't know we were anticipating: more baby crying and a vomiting, pregnant Mama.

Evening conversation with Joseph:

"Mama, am I still four?"


"Am I going to be four tomorrow?"


"Am I going to be four when I die?!"

"I hope you'll be much, much older when you die, honey."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Peter Perret Youth Talent Search 2017

John and Mary participated in what was a new music competition for them: the Peter Perret Youth Talent Search hosted by the Winston-Salem Symphony (see here).

The children have been working so hard to prepare for this, and at the expense of being able to do two other competitions normally in the line-up because there simply aren't enough hours in the day. Not only have they been learning these concertos for about nine months, but, for the last few weeks, John has been playing his concerto one hour daily, and Mary has been playing daily her violin concerto for one hour and her piano concerto for one hour, plus they've had once weekly rehearsals with their accompanist. (And our kids were practicing the least of all the students sent by our studio to this event.)

I've come to appreciate that actual professional musicians work incredibly hard. They are playing the songs in practice and rehearsal so many times, they can do it with their eyes shut, while conversing with someone else, while watching a TV show, with siblings swirling around them, or while half-asleep.

John and Mary waiting their turn to rehearse in the beautiful practice hall

This competition was of note in that it was the first time our children were performing on a stage (in a mostly empty 595-seat theater), which is a very different experience than in a tiny, enclosed room with only a judge and an accompanist, plus it was open to the public, so parents could sit, watch, and film.

Mary playing Concerto in d minor by Noona 

John playing "Concerto in Classical Style" by Martha Mier

Mary playing Concerto No. 2, 3rd Movement by F. Seitz

When Chris and the children returned from Winston-Salem (90 minutes away), we all met for a celebratory dinner. (Although nighttime brought on just how much Josey and Thomas still have bad coughs, so I felt regretful about that aspect.)

We went into this competition (which was for ages 8-12) knowing that our children would not place, but the experience was important and valuable for the future. We won't receive judges' comments for more than a week, and we just hope for some positive and useful feedback.

Participating in this event helped them experience and be calm under an increased level of pressure, taught them to focus on perfecting one song for many months (which requires patience that is hard to achieve), and let them experience performing on a large stage (which can cause stage fright and make the otherwise competitive player be unable to continue). We participated in this competition for the children's benefit a couple of years from now.

And now, I think we all very much look forward to letting these three concertos slip away into the children's repertoire (played once daily instead of an hour daily!) while we move onto entirely fresh songs for an event in February.

Friday, January 13, 2017

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. Update to the Sleep Saga

Thomas (17 months) and I seem to have come to a truce. (If you missed my struggles, read last week's post.) I know he can climb out of the escape-proof crib tent and he knows I know that he can climb out of the crib tent, but he has simply stopped doing so. He seems to be back to enjoying the security of his crib. I nurse him with his special Yellow Blanket over him, I rock him, I sing him one song, and I lay him down in his crib, where he goes to sleep happily without a peep. Maybe zipping up the tent helps alleviate him of his uncontrollable toddler compulsion to climb, such that he can simply relax to sleep.

I don't know! All I know is that we're all so relieved to have worked this out. I hope the situation stays reasonable until he is really old enough for a big boy bed (probably around 24 months).

2. Snow!

We enjoyed the New Year's Snowstorm of 2017, even if we only got about an inch instead of the eight inches of winter wonderland we were assured.

By five days later, the temperatures had reached 78 degrees.

3. Everyone Needs a List

For better or worse, I am known around the home for writing lists. I write out to-do lists daily for myself and the children. Apparently, my 8-year-old daughter has decided it's time for Thomas (17 months) to have his own list, so below is the one I found written out for him on Saturday.


Wake up.
Not going to bed for nap.
Read the book.
Be stinky.
Be cute.
Cry a lot.
Don't let Mary practise [music].
Thwart mommy and daddy.
Have N 3x a day. [that means nursing]
Draw on, in, books
Hole punch your fingers.
Going to bed with noise maker.
Break the hole puncher.
Make siblings (and parent) love you.

4. Epiphany Blessings

It's that time of year when our family makes Epiphany blessing kits for our fellow parishioners.

On the Vigil of Epiphany, Chris takes pounds of salt, many boxes of chalk, and ten gallons of water to the church for the traditional (Tridentine) Epiphany blessing, which is a 40-minute blessing rite full of wonderful exorcisms. Then he brings home the materials and we spend Sunday morning assembling little kits for the families so they can bless their homes for the new year.

5. Miscellaneous Moments

Anticipation for Sunday morning popovers

Gorgeous popovers
One of our 17-month-old's endearing habits is gathering blankets and pillows, carefully making himself a nest, into which he drags a book, and then he lays down and "reads" (actually babbling nonsense out loud). It melts all of our hearts to watch Thomas' little ritual!

Thomas brought me his brother's helmet and insisted I put it on him.

6. New Furniture Arrangements

We received an incredibly generous and unmerited gift from Grampa Neil: a grand piano!

Pianists benefit from playing on a grand piano with its much heavier strings in order to build the muscles of the hands. If a pianist plays only on an upright, then goes to play on a grand piano at a competition or concert/performance, the pianist will struggle to achieve the dynamics on those heavy keys: it makes a big difference in the music.

So, we've been gifted this gorgeous Mason-Hamlin grand piano and there are hardly thanks enough.

We moved the upright piano into the dining room and the grand into the den so we have two practice spaces. If someone wants to play a concerto (which requires two pianos), we can put the little electric keyboard next to either good piano.

In smaller furniture changes, we obtained a second refurbished laptop to add to our homeschool, which will make a wonderful difference in our scheduling of subjects by being able to have two students doing computer work simultaneously.

I'm experimenting with putting this little computer station in the front foyer right outside of my husband's work-at-home office (while the other station remains in the kitchen).

7. Health Stuff

I am delighted to have found what I think will be a great new family doctor, after we had to decide to part ways with our beloved medical practice of ten years because it (very understandably!) stopped taking health insurance and is now a cash-only business. Budgeting for that with six kids is just too tall of an order.

Josey was our first child to have an appointment with the new doctor: his well-child check for his fourth birthday next week. Joseph said, "I just hope they have an aquarium!" And look what we discovered in the waiting room . . .

This small practice prides itself on rebuilding the doctor-patient relationship and making individual medical decisions while taking extra time with patients. I noted that the waiting room decorations involved a Bible prominently on display and many patriotic pieces. The Physician's Assistant we saw turns out to be a homeschooling mother herself!

We found a doctor just in time because the mild cold-and-fever that infected Grampa Neil during his visit, then five of the seven of us so far, turned into croup for Joseph. In ten years of parenting, we've never had a child with croup and it is as scary as parents always described it to me.

So, Joseph had his well-child check on Monday and was back for a sick visit at our new practice that very Friday.

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

7 Quick Takes: The New Year

1. Going Public

If you're not friends with me on Facebook, you probably missed our big announcement! I am expecting Baby Lauer #6 in August, and the children are so excited to be getting a new sibling. Discussions of boy versus girl and name choices have commenced among them.

Now you can go back and read all the blog posts for the last six weeks and imagine the descriptive words "and I was exhausted to the bone and wanted to vomit every moment" embedded in everything I wrote. (I know you won't really do that.)

I haven't read aloud stories to the children in at least a month because I can't stay awake, and I'm not bothering to post my meal planning because it involves a whole lot of standing in front of the refrigerator, wondering, and then asking kids, "Do you want a peanut butter sandwich?" I went two weeks without being able to exercise whatsoever, and then, with a goal of walking briskly for an hour, walked for 15 minutes before I stopped and really wished I could take a nap.

First trimesters don't get easier, no matter how many kiddos you already have, that's for sure!

2. New Year's Eve

We enjoyed celebrating New Year's Eve (click here).

3. Pottery

The children got their finished pottery pieces back. Thanks, Grandpa R.!

4. Soft Start

My first intention was to start back to school on January 1 with our revised, rigorous schedule, which includes some major shift-arounds and an entirely new curriculum (First Form Latin), as well as moving piano lessons back into our home and my taking over teaching Music Theory (instead of going to lessons with a teacher for that).

Yeah, so that didn't happen.

Second, after I saw our week filling up, I hoped for a Soft Start to school, with a goal of doing about half our daily work each day.

The reality is that our back-to-school was really more of a stumbling start in which we fell on our faces. The week was simply too crazy!
  • I'm still in the thick of major nonstop "morning" sickness.
  • On Monday, the kids went to lunch with their grandparents before they left town, then Daddy took them to Lazy 5 Ranch for hours so I could take down all the Christmas decorations and tree undisturbed.
  • On Tuesday, I was gone for almost five hours at my prenatal appointment (I drive an hour+ each way to the only provider I consider decent), plus we had piano and violin lessons, plus I made a meal for a postpartum mama.
  • On Wednesday we said goodbye to Grampa Neil, went out to lunch with him before driving him to the airport; plus the housekeepers came for their monthly visit (which always hours of preparation work on my part, which you can imagine was exponentially harder after Christmas and our switching around furniture in three bedrooms).
  • On Thursday, I had my personal trainer appointment (while in my first trimester = ha) and I took five kids to a music lesson and to the dentist.

    My kids take up the entire dental office simultaneously
  • Finally on Friday, we started back at CCE all morning, attended an Epiphany party in the afternoon, and then I collapsed in a heap while Chris attended the evening Epiphany Mass.

So, yeah, this week was the School of Life. NEXT WEEK, we get rigorous. My calendar next week is gloriously empty and lacking in color.

5. Newly Organized Bedrooms

I took photos of the completed-for-now boys' and girls' rooms.


The girls' room in particular would benefit from some organizing solutions because their toys have no place to live now that their bedroom is shared with the sewing room. I'd like to get some under bed storage.

6. Thomas' Sleeping Saga

Thomas' sleeping saga continues. You'd think that by Baby #5, I'd have this figured out, but it's not so.

I finally followed all the advice and sleep trained this baby at 10 months, and then enjoyed six months of being able to nurse him and lay him down awake, when he'd go to sleep totally peacefully by himself. I could step away from homeschooling for all of 10 minutes for the whole process, instead of losing an hour to it: glorious!

Until he learned how to climb out of a crib at 16 months . . . and would proceed to climb to the tops of all the dangerous furniture in the master bedroom.

I bought a sleep sack (babies can't climb in those!) but he just climbed in his sleep sack anyway.

He learned how to open the door knob and would appear downstairs.

Finally, I bought a very expensive, escape-proof crib tent.

It took Thomas 24 hours to learn how to unzip the crib tent.

No, I don't have a room or closet in the house that can be a bare room with a toddler mattress on the floor and a lock on the outside of the door.

No, I can't nurse him to sleep anymore, like I did with the first four babies, because I finally followed The Good Advice and sleep-trained him: he loves nursing, but it is not a sleep association for him at all.

For the entirety of Christmas break, I've been getting by on my husband laying him down for naps (which Thomas will do! just not for me!), but Chris has gone back to work, so we're stumbling around trying to figure this out.

7. Bonus Reading

"How to Stop Whining and Learn to Love Being a Mother" by Mussmann (The Federalist, 5 Jan. 2017)--Believe me, this is advice I need to take, not advice I'm fit to give.  [EDIT: I just have been informed that the author of this article has only two small children, so now I'm wishing I hadn't shared her article because she is in the natural phase of knowing virtually nothing but thinking she knows it all. It is still a worthwhile meditation, and we're having a really fruitful, lengthy discussion about it over on my Facebook threads with mothers of many, many children (including one mama with 17 kids). So, I leave it up, with a caveat to read with a grain of salt.]

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