Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Fo(u)rthright

It's hard to believe, but my Mopsy girl turned 4 on Monday.  

I know 4 doesn't seem so very big, and it isn't, not really. Four year olds think they are big, but they are still so small. I can still recognize so much of the baby that she was.

In a big family there is the danger of getting lost in the shuffle.  Not in a permanent way, not as long as a loving mom is on the job at least, but the day itself can lose some luster if you are just thinking about it as "one more kid turns 4."  See? No big deal when you put it that way.

So I make an effort to recognize each one on their birthdays.  We don't do big parties, but we do try to make it special.  We hang the birthday banner, I make whatever cake they request, and Rob takes the day off of work.  There is something precious about hearing that your beloved daddy, who works all the time, has left work just for your birthday.  And that's exactly what he tells them: "I'm not working because it's your day, and I want to be with you."

On Monday, we went out to lunch with the 3 little guys, and then we hit up Target so Mopsy could spend the birthday money she got from relatives.  After school, my parents came over and we all had dinner and cake together.   That was it, and it was perfect.  

Mopsy, as a little girl, is delightful. Full of life and charm and mirth, brimming with mischief and hilarity and independence.

We love her dearly. 




I love, love, love the way Baby is looking at her big sister in this picture.

Mopsy loves all things mustache-themed. I have no idea why, but that's who she is.
So it was fake pink mustaches all around on her birthday.


Baby does not love mustaches, but she loves her sister and she was a good sport.

Bun does love mustaches. 

I love her face in this picture. 

Cake time! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Laetare

So. This blog. It does still exist and I am not dead.

As for the rest, I'm blaming it on the Polar Vortex.  I know it's not a new weather phenomenon, but it practically killed my spirit for nigh on 3 months.

Because there was just. so. darn. much! of this:











When I used to hear older ladies talk about their "nerves" or how so-and-so had "bad nerves," I would think that it was a mostly imagined problem.  I am now apologizing to those ladies.  They know what's up because "nerves" is a totally legitimate medical condition.  And mine just about snapped this winter.

Have you ever had one of those days where you are utterly depleted? Where every nerve ending and sensory receptor in your brain is screaming "Danger!! Overload!!" Where you are touched-out and asked-out and yelled-out and whined-out and cried-out, and if you don't find a dark corner in which to retreat you will ab-so-lutely lose  . . . your . . . mind.

This winter was weeks made up of those days.

It's completely dramatic to say I had a nervous breakdown, so I'll just say that even my confessor told me to go on vacation.  He said that I should call it a "mother's retreat."

He did not tell me to take a "nerve pill," as the sweet old ladies called them when we lived down south, but I probably could have used one of them, whatever they are.

And listen, I was not the only one considering self-medicating until spring found me.  Even the kids started to get strung out.

Yes, that is my baby raiding my brother's alcohol cabinet.
At least he chose some good Scotch to honor his heritage.

But thank the good Lord that even the most bitter winters do not last forever and must eventually give way to the gentler touch of spring.  Snow turns to rain, and the way I feel today is not the way I will feel forever.

And even during the depths of winter, we managed to find good things:

Victory! Too bad they didn't have a flag to plant on top
of the mountain of snow on the mailbox.

Not much gets this girl down. Not even snow drifts twice her height.

Driving the aisles

This kid . . .
oh, man, am I in so much trouble.


I ran my first 5K in 12 years last weekend.
See that behind me?  That's called green grass. 



It's Laetare Sunday, a day to rejoice because we are halfway through Lent and the winter's behind us.
I'm ready for that, my friends.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Long Winter

Ohhhh, this weather.  What can I say?  It's winter out there, and sometimes winter is brutal.

This year seems especially harsh, but I am choosing not to let the 24/7 weathertainment machine make me crazy about something that I should expect as a resident of the northeast United States.

I've stopped counting how many "inclement weather" days the kids have used.  Our school gets 4 built into the schedule, and I think we passed that back in December.  Mopsy has had so many preschool days cancelled that her teacher told all the parents that once the spring is here she will extend the school day by a half hour so that they could do some of the fun projects that had to be scrapped.

On Monday we got 9 inches of snow, and last night we got an inch of ice on top of all of that. I managed to use the window between the storms to grab all my groceries, so I had plenty of time to stare out the window and try to remember what green grass looks like.

Most days, I don't mind staying in. Dressing everyone for the outdoors is an epic feat and piloting the land yacht along snow packed roads is less than exhilarating. Rear wheel drive is not my friend in this weather.

The snowy woods behind our house, looking from the corner of our front porch.


The Snow Removal Crew getting instructions from the Crew Chief.

Fiver is shovel ready. And that snow is heavy and wet.

The second shift of the snow crew, post naps.

Helping Daddy, shovelful by tiny shovelful.

The Land Yacht with its snow cap.

This is one of my favorite pictures.  This is Bun and Sally, lying on top of their snow fort,
talking things over. They are getting older and moving in different circles,
but their old closeness still comes out.  I hope they remain that way through life.

The view from my windshield while waiting to drop Mopsy at school.
It's hard to tell from this angle, but that pile of snow in front of the van is as high as the hood.
And that street had already been plowed. Twice.

The parking lot across the street from school. I usually park there, but there was no way
I'd be able to make it back out with that much snow.

One of the roads on the way home from school. You can finally see about a half lane of
blacktop, for which I was very grateful.  Just beyond the trees and that little beige
building is the partially frozen river.  I shiver every time I drive over the bridge
on my way home.  



But even the weather can't steal all of our fun.  I've always been so happy to have Bun's birthday in the dark recesses of winter, just to break up the monotony. 
The birthday banner!

Six. How did that happen? 

This is the cake I made for Bun.  He picked it from the internet, even though he only eats
plain chocolate cake with plain white icing.  Everyone else thought it was delicious.

Mopsy helped me put the candles in the cake.  She was also offering herself as a taste-tester.

One of my favorite things is knowing that Bun and my dad share their birthday.
They have always thought it was such a special gift to be birthday buddies.

Make a wish!

I hope they wished for warmer temperatures.  Or at least above-freezing temperatures.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Man With A Plan

Bun's class prepared all the readings for school mass last week.  It was the first time that the kindergarten was in charge of the readings, and Bun was excited to get picked for the first reading.

He practiced and practiced, and he did an excellent job.  Apparently, reading at church started to give him ideas, because later that night he came home and this conversation transpired:

Bun:  I know what I'm doing with my life.

Me: Great! What's your plan?

Bun: On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I will be a geography teacher.  And on Friday and Sunday, I will be a priest.

Me: Hmm, I'm not sure it works like that.

Rob (in the other room): "Father, can you help us with Holy Thursday mass?" "Nope, sorry, not a priest on Thursdays, remember?"

Me: What about Saturday night mass, Bun?  Won't you do that?

Bun:  Ohhhh, yeah! I forgot about Saturday night!  Okay, then I will be a priest starting around 2 or 2:30 on Saturday.  But not before that.

Me (laughing): Yeah, I bet a lot of priests might like Saturday morning and afternoon to themselves.

Bun: Exactly.




Friday, January 24, 2014

7 Snappy-ish Takes.

ONE

We had a repairman out today to check a possible problem with our heater.  After a lot of checking, traipsing in and out, and a $70 service fee, it was determined that it just needs a good cleaning.

Seriously.  I had to pay $70 to find out that I am bad at keeping my furnace cleaning appointments.

TWO

Anyway, the guy was nice.  And he was also young.  He looked about 13 and I'd be willing to bet that service fee that he is fresh out of HVAC school.

He showed up right around 5:30, which is a dicey time here.  We're usually still in WHM - Witching Hour Mode - while I am trying to finish cooking and get everything on the table before my people perish because they are sooooo hungry. (Then they sit down and promptly declare that they don't like any part of dinner. So obviously not that hungry.)

Sometimes I wonder what people think when they walk into our house.  Especially people who know nothing about us.  Do they feel like they've accidentally wandered into the asylum?

THREE

Because the first thing he saw was these two:



Doesn't everyone wander around in a full length hooded cape?

Mopsy immediately introduced herself as "Little Red Neighborhood," and Baby just stared at him unnervingly.

FOUR

Then he went downstairs and found three more kids, playing diner.  Chef Sally was dressed in an eclectic combination of scarves and a bathrobe tied at the arms around her waist, serving cheese and sardines. Speaking fake French.

While he was looking at the heater, another kid came downstairs and half of them started singing the SpongeBob theme song.  Loudly. Right by the door to the furnace room.

FIVE

By the time the repairman was finished, everyone was at the table for dinner.  He came up to fill out the work ticket, and that's when he noticed Septimus in the highchair.

Since our dinner table generally resembles something you might find at a Renaissance Fair, I could see his eyes wander over and he began the mental countdown. I knew what was coming.

"Wow, you guys are sure busy."

SIX

Oh, you have no idea.

video

SEVEN

While he was here, the technician asked to use our powder room, and I half-jokingly apologized for anything he might find in there.

When I went in there after he left, I saw what he saw.  A pair of little underpants on the back of the toilet tank, a nightlight that looked like it had been practically punched out of the socket, a slice of fake bread and a fake chicken leg left on the sink, and, probably the most horrifying to strangers, little brown fingerprints on the light's switchplate.

It was from the chocolates the girls ate, but not everyone knows that.  Sorry, dude.



Thursday, January 16, 2014

{p,h,f,r}

There is so much going on here these days, but nothing really "newsworthy".  It's just the normal busy-ness of a family of nine.  We've celebrated birthdays (mine and Rob's), and we've hunkered down as the polar vortex forced our school to close.  There has been basketball and dance and midterms and one crazy baby who is bound and determined to keep up with all these big kids running around.  

It all leaves me exhausted by the end of the day, but I still look for those little pockets of contentment, those fleeting moments of calm in the midst of the chaos.

{real}

This is NOT a pocket of contentment . . .  this is the midst of the chaos.



{pretty}

But my dear dad has been working so hard on this masterpiece, to help me reclaim the calm.


I love it so much that sometimes I just stare at it.  These shelves really are a thing of beauty.  All the shelves and drawers are tailor made for my hooligans.  The drawers completely extend and can hold up to 100 pounds.  


The shelves can be moved around, the toy box has specially designed hinges, and the most genius part is the very bottom.  Where it looks like decorative scroll work along the baseboard, my dad actually left the backing as a solid piece of wood and painted it black.  No toys can roll under there and get trapped.

Do you know how many tiny cars and doll brushes we have?  I am in love with the fact that I will never have to squeeze my hands under there for a lost toy.

Plus, you know, it was all hand made by my dad.  That's the very best thing about it.



Oh but wait, I'm not done.  My dad also made this beauty for our dining room:



Even though our old table was still in good shape, we were shoe-horning ourselves in there at dinner time.  In truth, we would often eat in shifts.  Kids first, and then Rob and I would sit down.

Now we have a gorgeous table that can fit all of us and more.  My dad put 7 coats of polyurethane on it - one coat for each child, so it should stand up to their messes.

It is such a blessing to be able to sit together at dinner, all thanks to Pop-Pop. He's the tops.



We're also doing The Jesus Project from A Holy Experience.  Ann has some beautiful free print-outs of bible verses to commit to memory and they are perfect for everyone.  God's Word is beautiful and I think it's important that it look beautiful when it is displayed.  

I printed out the first set, and each week I will cut one out, glue it on some pretty card stock, and display it on the table.   


I made the card holder out of a broken candlestick and some 14 gauge jewelry wire.  I wrapped wire around the top of the candlestick, and then twisted the other end of the wire into loops tight enough to hold a card.  It's sort of like a very tall place-card holder. It works perfectly.


I didn't tell the kids anything about it, I just set it out on the table.  I've heard each of the independent readers reading it aloud several times as they passed the table.  I love that.