Friday, August 15, 2014

An introduction (and baby pictures)

Hello, friends! It's been a while. 

I've got lots to catch you up on...and lots of laundry to catch up on...and some sleep, too.

But first, there's this guy- I just have to introduce you.

Baby Felix Alexander was born Friday, August 1at 3:10 pm after 3 hours (plus two and a half weeks) of labor. We brought him home on Saturday to a delighted and welcoming crowd of little reaching arms and cooing voices.

And he is making life so blessedly, happily full these days.

I've really never felt more immediately at ease with a baby. He's just a perfectly snuggly and mellow guy so far. 

We had a lovely two week getting acquainted period, lovingly dubbed "Felixcation," when George was home from work and we could all hang out together. 

We have learned some key things about Felix:

He likes to move.

He wants to be held.

He has the cutest toes in the known universe.

He makes loud humming noises while he nurses,

He enjoys a rousing rendition of The Itsy Bitsy Spider. If sung loudly enough, it can even quiet him when he is upset in the car.

His sneezes sound like the sneezes of a fully-grown person, and he always sneezes twice.

His favorite time to poop is whenever his diaper is off.

So, consider yourself introduced. Now that I've finally posted that, I can gradually catch you up on the other things. 

Enough is enough for one day, though, right? I have baby rocking to do. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Surviving the early days of parenthood

So, my plan for keeping things quiet over here while I wait patiently for baby's arrival isn't quite going as I'd hoped. Well, except for the waiting part. There is a whole lot of waiting going on. Everyone is heading off to Edel this weekend, and I'm still sitting here, very pregnant, with nightly early labor that fizzles predictably as the sky turns light.

I know. Patience. I'm just tired and grumpy. And if I can't be in Austin with my friends, shouldn't I at least be holding a baby?

Anyway, since I can't put coherent sentences together, The Amazing Kelly from This Ain't the Lyceum has graciously shared some words of wisdom on surviving the early days of parenthood. She's always funny, of course, but also a wise mothering role model for me. Enjoy her post...and if you have some extra prayers for patience and stamina, I could really use them about now.

And...if you have special intentions or prayer requests, feel free to send them my way. You can leave a comment here, on the blog Facebook page, or send me an e-mail. I'd love the chance to pray for any of you in the coming days.

While Abbey is busy gestating I wanted to stop by and offer some deep thoughts on parenthood during those first few weeks once baby arrives home. I think it’s fitting that Abbey’s blog is entitled “Surviving Our Blessings” because that’s exactly what being a parent looks like from the get go: it’s a matter of survival. Yours and your child's. As a new mom, or dad, you’re dealing with a lack of sleep you never imagined possible, and yet somehow, while stumbling through your day, incoherent and with the speed of a one legged zombie, you’re still responsible for keeping another tiny human being alive.

I vaguely remember people telling me before my first child was born about needing to feed a baby through the night or new parents being tired, but I seriously put these ominous threats on par with being faced with the prospect of pulling an all nighter in college. And then I had my daughter and I quickly realized the issue wasn’t with having to wake every few hours to feed her, it was that she had the audacity to eat and then not go back to sleep. “What kind of horrible game is this child?! You’re changed, fed and cozied up to your mama in a very overpriced pillow top mattress; what’s with the waterworks?!”

Of course, the lack of sleep and constant screaming (from the child and I) would create a bit of tension between my husband and I; two people who usually never argued or raised our voices. Things my good natured hubby and I would fight about at 3 in the morning after not sleeping for several nights included:





(ten minutes later) 







While my husband would go off on vacation everyday, i.e. work, I would flounder through my mornings trying to remember a basic hygiene regimen that would at the very least get the smell of baby poo and vomit off my body for ten minutes. Afternoons were a blur. There are large chunks of my life from that period of time I simply can’t remember. Some useful facts that would be helpful to remember when you find yourself in a similar position, a.k.a. the newborn zone would be:

Take all the naps. Baby sleeping? Nap. Baby playing contentedly in swing/ on mat or in crib? Nap. Feeding the baby? Nap. When not to nap: while driving the baby, bathing the baby or during an attempt to get a night out with your spouse.

Accept all the food. Casseroles? Thank you. Slab of cooked meat? Thank you. Weird ethnic food created especially to help milk production? Looks very interesting. Thank you.

Accept all the help. When people ask how they can help, tell them to come clean your house, pick up your groceries, sit with the baby so you can take a long shower and SHAVE YOUR LEGS. Heck, anything on this list would rock your world. Never, ever, ever turn down help. You are probably a hot mess right now. Please, let someone help you. And if you live far from friends or family, hire help. You’d be surprised at how affordable getting your house deep cleaned once every other week actually can be. Plus paying someone to babysit your child for two hours does not make you the worst person on the face of the Earth. Promise.

Talk to all the moms. You can even try talking to your own mom or grandmother. Any friends with babies? Call and talk or email regularly. No friends with babies? Find some moms at playgroup or online through a friendly chat group or message board. Does a woman with only a small dog try to talk to you like she understands what you’re going through? You don’t need to talk to her. Try to remember to not smack her in your sleep-deprived state.

Say all the prayers. Pray for yourself, your husband and your new baby. Try a few quick Hail Marys uttered throughout the day. As you sit and feed your child, maybe try a morning offering. I know if I want to guarantee I’ll quickly drift off to sleep, I start saying a rosary when I lie down.

And always, just try to do the best you can, or at least 65 percent of your best. When my first was born, baby powder was considered okay, but by the time my fifth was born, they told me it could cause asthma so don’t you dare use baby powder!!! I was sternly reminded with my first and second to LAY THEM ON THEIR BACKS TO SLEEP...ALWAYS...forever and ever AMEN. But by my last three, the nurses in the hospital were laying them on their sides. And by then I’d met moms whose colicky kids only stopped crying on their stomachs! *gasp!* Plus, the Bumbo. How the mighty have fallen; once the registry gift of the century, it is now nothing more than a carefully molded piece of pure child abuse. So anyway, just try your darndest and realize what you’re doing is probably going to be considered a hazard at some point now or in the future. Frankly, it a miracle any of us survive the first 18 years of our life. But here we are, not only alive, but responsible for the next generation. 

We can do it. You can do it. Baby powder inhalation risks and all.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Silence is golden

I'm still gestating over here, and I don't feel much like writing right now. Things are likely to be quiet here until baby arrives. We will make sure there is an update then!

If there are specific ways I can pray for you over the course of the coming days, please let me know. 

Thanks to each of you for your prayers and support of our family.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Five-minute Friday: Belong

It's Friday...the end of another week, the beginning of another weekend. I'm excited to have my mom coming up to help out this weekend so we can get a few last-minute things done before Baby arrives soon. As much as I feel I've been neglecting this space, it still seems important to keep writing here (both so the conversation doesn't totally die and for my own mental health!), so I've been trying to keep up with Five-Minute Friday.

In case you're unfamiliar with it, Five-Minute Friday is a writing exercise, kind of like coloring with words without worrying about staying inside the lines. We set a timer for five minutes, write in response to a one-word prompt, and then share it with others so we can encourage each other. If you have a blog, you can link your post up with Lisa-Jo and the group here.

Today's prompt is Belong.

It's a place I've passed many times but never really noticed, set back a bit from the road and surrounded by carefully landscaped beds with daylilies. Some of the apartments have little screened porches or rockers in front of them. Mom says they thought about getting you a screened porch one but were worried about your wandering off with direct access to the road.

While I know she's right, I remember sitting on your screen porch, on the white wicker furniture with its African violet cushions, watching a summer thunderstorm. I was scared of that storm, and you told me it was God's way of showing He was in charge of everything. The porch eventually became a room with walls, the furniture was painted over- khaki with new cushions- but the conversation stayed in my mind.

God's still in charge of everything, right? Because when I stand in the center of the room you now occupy, so much smaller than your old house, with many of your familiar things missing, it just isn't the same. It doesn't smell right. There are no violets in the windowsill and no kids' drawings on the refrigerator. I can't point out the place on the cabinet that burned when the meat caught fire on the stove that time, or the nail near the fireplace where you always hang up the little wooden jumping guy at Christmas time...the one I used to play with as a child, the one my children always play with now.

Except not now...because now, you're someplace else.

My son says, quietly, "This isn't Gram and Gramp's house."

He's never been more right about anything, ever.
Part of my heart wants to cry, wants to ask, "What happens to me, where do I go when the place that has always felt like home, the place I've set so many novels and stories in my mind, is no longer your place?"

But now, for now, this is where you belong, even while my barefoot memory walks the hallways with their wide-plank dark wood floors, still hearing every single creak.

For more Five-minute Friday, visit Lisa-Jo Baker.

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Theme Thursday: Bright (and {p, h, f, r})

I've been struggling lately to keep up with everything I want to be able to do. I guess it is my body's way of making me slow down a bit in preparation for this new baby's arrival in a few weeks. Anyone who has known me long, though, knows that I like to be doing things rather than wishing I were doing them, and it's been difficult these past few weeks to have to recognize that I just can't do everything I want to do right now.

As I've needed more time to rest, I've found less time to write here...and wouldn't you know it? My children still need the same amount of care, attention and love as they ever did. To-do list or no to-do list, they expect me to be at least somewhat present with them. 

Today, though, you get content (light content, but still! content!) and pictures. 

It's Theme Thursday at Clan Donaldson, and I'm linking up with a photo of this amazing, potentially life-changing bracelet my dear friend gave me as a birthday gift.

It's engraved with the prayer of St. Francis.

In my continued efforts to be less reactive and to create a climate of peace in my home, nothing could be more appropriate. I hope that seeing it and feeling it, bright and cool against my skin, will remind me to be kind and gentle with those around me.


Being kind and gentle (and using my quiet mommy voice) is not always easy around here, especially when things like this happen:


That is Lucy and Nora's room at approximately 10 pm on Tuesday night. George had a rehearsal, and I was very much looking forward to hanging out at the second online meeting of the Carrots Classic Book Club to discuss Brideshead Revisited. All the children were snug in their beds, and although I could hear the girls chatting to each other, I thought things were fine. Then Lucy started screaming, "I NEED my BLANKIE!"

It turned out Nora had taken the blankie and was holding it hostage in her bed.

They had emptied the (supposedly locked) wardrobe of all the new baby's clothes, their own clothes and shoes, and every diaper and wipe in the room and had covered the floor and themselves with diaper cream. Because they were obviously still quite awake (and smearing the diaper cream around on their faces), I had to clean everything up right away. George came home in the middle of the process and helped me set things right, but it took about an hour to get it all picked up.

Notice the delighted, completely unrepentant grin on Lucy's face.

It doesn't get much more real than that...unless poop is involved, which it wasn't. Small graces.


We visited my mom and stepdad for the Fourth of July weekend and awoke to this scene.

Sam, the always-early riser, had set up a guard station at the top of the stairs outside his sisters' room.

The sight of those little guys with their campfire and weapons made me so happy, I had to giggle.

And, speaking of giggling, this:


Our kids have been enjoying a lot of water play in the backyard. Most of it has just been turning the hose on each other and playing in a plastic pool. Lucy always insists on drinking out of the hose. They haven't yet mastered the skill of changing the spray to a more drinking-friendly setting, so this is what happens.

To change things up a bit, I'm joining the crowd at Like Mother, Like Daughter for {pretty, happy, funny, real}...although in my case, it's {pretty, real, happy, funny} today. 

round button chicken

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five-Minute Friday: Lost

There is desperation in his eyes. 

"I know they must be under the seat in the van," he says. "I've looked everywhere else."  The tiny sword, quiver and belt he's been missing are critical to Erik the Red's mission, and without them, Sam simply cannot go on. "They have to be there. I just know it."

The search for the little figure's weapons has been relentless and unending. Every day begins with conversation about where they could be. Every night ends with musings about where they might have gone. How could they have disappeared? Did they slip between the cracks in the van seat? Did he leave them in the backyard after an adventure to be run over by the riding lawn mower? Could his sisters have eaten them?

It's hard to resist the temptation to be irritated by his singleminded focus, but I'm impressed by Sam's persistence. This is a boy who does not give up easily. He knows the name and location of every piece of Playmobil weaponry and armor his collection contains, and he will not rest until Erik's rightful pieces have been returned to him.

There's a lesson here for me, too, I, the mother who finds myself inconsistently bumbling through certain days, tired and losing sight of my mission, snapping at my kids, forgetting to start the rice in the rice cooker for dinner (multiple days in a row!) and hitting one of our family's parked cars with the other one in a parking lot. I sometimes feel a little lost, like I'm losing my bearings and letting down the people I care about most in the world.

But Sam reminds me, with his five-year-old tenacity, that God does not give up on us easily. For all my wandering off the path, I'm not really lost as long as someone is still looking for me...and so I keep trying to make my way back.

"Do not fear. The poorer you are, the more Jesus will love you. He will go far, very far in search of you if at times you wander off a little."

 - - St. Therese of Liseux

For more Five-MInute Friday, visit Lisa-Jo Baker.

Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

to my lost girl on her feast day

Dear Verity,

It's the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and you won't be born today.

Most babies don't show up on their due dates, it's true...but you won't be born any other day this week or next week, because you were born into Heaven many months ago.

And I still miss you.

I'm not going to wrap you in a swaddling blanket or put tiny clothes on you. We're not going to marvel at how long your fingers are or how your chin looks just like your dad's. We won't be waiting to see if your eyes will stay blue like your sisters' or change to a rich chocolate like your brother's.

I didn't even knit you a hat.

(Oh, how I wish I had done that.)

Instead, Baby Girl, there's a space- a not-quite-empty space you occupy, a space where you are still (somehow, mysteriously) part of our family...a space that isn't here or there but is somewhere in between, where our spirits still touch and where someday, somehow we'll see you and hold you and know exactly who you are and that you are ours.

In that space, we belong to each other, and you are always my child.

Until then, I'm holding you in my heart.

Until then, I'm always going to miss you in my here-and-now- at our breakfast table, in our minivan, in the bathtub with your brother and sisters.

Until then, we will celebrate your tiny life- today, with pools and splashing and water balloons and popsicles and all the summer chaos we can manage with all the kids we can find- because all life, no matter how small, deserves a party.

Until then, we love you.

Your Mama