I Am

(Abbey in her cute outfit with a big bandaid on her leg from getting scraped by a boat during crew which makes her cuter than ever, in my opinion, not hers, she'll be mad at me now)

Today I am-
-hoping it won't be rainy and cold on Halloween night.
-realizing that's a small worry compared to those who have been hit by the storm.
-fighting candy cravings like nobody's business.
-loving all things pumpkin.
-serving grilled cheese and Campbell's chicken noodle soup for dinner because it's easy.
-thinking about how I'm so lucky to have baby Janey-pants (my nick-name for her), since a fancy specialist once told me I had less than a 1% chance of having another baby.
-wanting to go visit fancy specialist and show him how cute my 1% chance turned out to be.
-praying for my Abbey because high school sometimes stinks, and just because I love her.
-thanking my husband for working so hard so I can raise my family in our warm cozy house.


Things I Want To Remember...

I love when Isaac texts me from college.  I know he misses us but loves college too and it's so nice to hear from him and encourage him.  He's a darn good kid.

Janey was so good today.  She slept in her bassinet today for 2 hours!  That's a small miracle.  And she pooped herself out of 3 outfits, no joke.

I love good friends.  Today I visited with one today, just for an hour, and we laughed and talked politics and Christmas and a bunch of other stuff.  It was refreshing.

Today when I picked Abbey up she asked how my day was.  I have found that what this means is "please ask me how my day was too" because something icky happened.  She needed help with some friend drama and I just love that girl.  And being a teenage girl is hard.  Darn hard.  Take the high road is what I always say, thanks to my super smart mom who taught me the same thing.

Matt was in a mad scramble to find a Halloween costume for a school event tomorrow.  We decided to blindly pull things out of the costume bin and put something together and he did it.  He is so flexible and gets the 'big family" thing, and I love him for it.

Andrew and Patrick made us some popcorn after bath time.  Popcorn is another one of Andrew's specialty   He told Patrick to "go get a train" as the popcorn was popping.  I laughed because that is a little quirky thing Andrew loved to do when he was little.  Put one of his beloved trains in the bottom of the popcorn bowl and watch it get buried as the popcorn covered it.  I said, "Oh Andrew, really?"  He said, "Mother I am just trying to relive the moments of my childhood, now that I'm a kid."  He cracks me up.



We are having beautiful autumn days here.  
I wrote to my brother in Ireland one morning and said, "You would love this day.  It's warm and the air smells good and there is just enough breeze to whip the leaves around."
And he wrote back, "Abe and I will be right over on my bike."
I wish. 
That would be one long wet bike ride.

What is it about warm autumn days that make me a little homesick and reminiscent of childhood days? 
I remember running home, off the bus, eager to get outside and play.
There was always a little excitement in the air-maybe it's because I adored Halloween so much and counted down the days, or maybe it was just all the change going on in nature.
I still feel the same but have to fight the feeling of dread I feel about the coming long cold dark winter months.

Meanwhile, Janey and Patrick and I take a little walk around the block once or twice every day, collecting leaves and acorns, and soak up the sunshine.


Where's My Chicken?


I'm going to try to shove him in this costume every year, just for a photo.  
Even if it takes bribery.  



A Little Encouragement

Our new Janey is so sweet and I adore her.  She is 8 weeks old today.  I have been thinking so much how grateful I am to spend every day, all of my hours with her.  I couldn't live otherwise, honestly.  Thinking of anyone else taking care of her makes me sick to my stomach.  Maybe I'm crazy, but that is how I feel, how I felt with each of my babies.  She knows me-Jeff told me the other day when he was holding her that when I walked in the room and she heard my voice, her eyes looked for me.  

And she has so many little intricacies.  I know how many burps she needs to get out after each feeding. And I know if she doesn't meet her quota she is not a happy camper.  I know she likes to be very warm.  And she takes a looong time to eat.  She goes through diapers like nobody's business.  I know when she is fussy she likes to be swaddled and placed in the sling and patted on the back gently while I dance around the kitchen with nice music on, or bounce on the exercise ball in a dark room.  It is sometimes hard work but I would do anything for her.

I've received so many emails from new moms over the years that felt torn between staying home with their babies and going back to work.  I know that some mothers don't have a choice, and my heart breaks for you, but some do and feel incredible pressure from friends, and family and sometimes husbands to go back to work and leave their baby with someone else.  It seems like they hear the message again and again that they will waste their degree, or slip off that stupid ladder, or regret it one day.  Or maybe there is a little fear to lose income and see friends buy that house or new clothes or take nice vacations, or just have a feeling of more security.  And then the reassurance that everyone does it and things will be OK, and it's just what happens nowadays.

I want to offer some encouragement, a different rarely heard message, from my heart.  

LISTEN to your heart.  If there is ever ever a time in your life to listen to your heart and tell your head to just shut up, now is the time. Let your heart lead and your head will find a way to follow. If there is ever a time to trust your gut, your mommy gut, be brave and trust it fully.  Your baby wants YOU, and needs YOU, and adores YOU.  NO ONE can do a better job than YOU.  Yes, the job can be done by others, but you do the best job ever because you know your baby better than anyone else.  

Babies are precious, sweet, innocent, intricate little miracles.  I just can't imagine anyone else taking the time to learn Janey-it's taken me 8 whole weeks and we are finally getting our groove on.  Would anyone else bounce her on the exercise ball when she's fussy or would she just learn to cry it out?  (My mom tried to bounce her once and joked that she thought I would find them both splayed on the floor.)  Would any one stand next to her changing table for ten somewhat boring minutes several times a day to let her bottom air out, just so her super-sensitive skin won't get rashy?  Would anyone else wear a sling for 6 hours a day just to get her to sleep?  I know there are high-maintenance babies and easy babies-I've had them both, but they all took sacrifice and endurance to care for every day and that takes love only a mother can give.

The bond between mother and baby deserves so much more respect than what society throws its way.

So "waste" that degree.  It's not more important than your baby, it's just a piece of paper, and you aren't wasting it really.  (You might still be paying for it..I was for about 10 years after I had my first.) Tell your husband you can't do it-your heart will break and you have to figure out something else, even if that means a drastic change for him and your budget and your plans.  What else is worth a drastic change?  I really believe that often that change and the pressure leads to better situations in the long run anyways. There will be nothing more important in your life ever, ever, ever than your babies.  Tell your friends, your relatives, your co-workers that you can't leave your baby and don't apologize for it, just say it quietly and with conviction. 

And then go and rock your baby.  You'll never ever regret it.


Real Life With Baby

Right now:
I do everything one-handed and leave just about every task half-finished.  This can be really frustrating, as it takes double the time to do anything, and there is hardly ever a sense of accomplishment.

I know babies cry, it's natural, but it makes me feel awful.  On the changing table, in the car, it doesn't matter where, I hate it and I have to stop it as soon as I possible.  This also makes me tense.  Which then makes me snappy and irritable sometimes.  Then I feel guilty for being snappy and irritable.

Guilt and doubt are feelings I fight.  Guilt for paying little attention to anyone on those fussy baby days.  Self-doubt creeps in easily when I'm exhausted.  I hardly feel like I can give anyone their fair share of me.

I sometimes wear the same outfit for days.  No, I always wear the same outfit for days.  I usually don't have time for makeup or hair.  I take 2 minute showers every other day. I have huge under eye circles from waking up at night.  My hair is always in a pony tail. The other day I had to run into the local grocery store and as I'm entering the store, I'm checking to see if my nursing bra is latched, and pulling a dorky clip off the top of head where I stuck it there that morning and totally forgot about it.  Not an ounce of makeup.  Baggy yoga pants.  I looked like I just woke up after a hard night partying.  I look like that more days than not.

When my husband complains of being tired I can shoot daggers out of my eyes and sometimes I have to bite my lip and sometimes I don't and just say, "Do you really want to complain to me about that?"

And in spite of all this, I look at this precious little tiny baby girl and I love her so much my heart can burst.

She outgrew a few outfits this week.  I went to put them on her and they were too short.  Patrick and I were paging through his scrapbook last week and I looked at his first year...how quickly they go from those beginning unpredictable tiny need infants, to babies who sit up on their own, and then crawl, and eat food, and walk away, and then run.  I told the kids the other day, "This time next year, Janey will be playing in the back yard with you!"  It panics me a little when I see her getting bigger, even though I know my life will get easier.  I used to feel impatient waiting for that next milestone, the next phase of parenting, but I know that it's a precious piece of time that is gone quicker than I can notice it leaving.  And that every baby I was gifted with is so worth every sacrifice, short-cut, and compromise I can make.


Good Books

I'm catching up on some good book recommendations I've had since summer for you readers out there.  Remember I am terrible at giving descriptions of books and you'll just have to trust me when I say that you won't be able to put these down.

I loved this one-it might be the top book of the year for me.  An emotional, but beautiful story of a former foster child turned young woman trying to make it in the world.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  

I really like this author-I've enjoyed every one of her books.  This is about a young girl growing up in a small town with an not-so-stable mother.  

Different, but couldn't put it down.  Another story about a girl growing up during a life-changing event that throws her family into a tail-spin.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.

Set in the South in 1946-a fast-paced story that makes you glad you weren't a farmer's wife living with your nasty father-in-law in the middle of nowhere.

This book reminded me a little of The Glass Castle.  There were times I hated the mother of the boy in this story and just wanted to wrap my arms around the little boy in this story.

Another one my Laura Moriarity.  I felt so much for the main character of this novel-a girl in college whose life is changing drastically while everything goes wrong at once.  Loved the ending.

A very detailed description of the trauma of a divorce and the difficulties of remarriage and a blended family when children are involved .  It's really a compelling but heart breaking story.


Waxing Leaves

I posted this last year (and the year before and the year before) because it was such a hit and I thought I'd remind you all again...

We did this every year when we were young and it was so much fun. It’s a simple tradition but one kids love. First you need to gather leaves…go on a nature walk, find the most beautiful, colorful, perfect leaves. OR just zip your mouth, let the kids pick up the ones they want, no matter what they look like...there is no better way to ruin a creative endeavor with your kids than by being bossy and controlling!

Pick some of this up at your grocery store in the canning section. It’s a couple dollars and one box should be enough.
Don’t forget to buy a disposal pan like this one…if you don’t you will have to use a good pan, and you will ruin it.
Melt the wax over low heat.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be careful…hot wax is HOT. Place it on a back burner and guard it with your life if your children are little.  I don't want to feel awful if you tell me one of your little ones got burned because of me and my cute autumn activity.

I have done this with kids as young as 2, but you have to be vigilant!
Have them hold the stem, dip the leave in melted wax and then set the leave on wax paper. Cover your counter with newspaper, then the wax paper, to make clean up easy, because it’s NO fun scraping wax drippings off counters.
Let each leaf cool completely…once they are totally cool they will lift off easily. If the wax starts to harden in the pan, just warm it up on the burner again.
You can put them in a big glass bowl, or tie them up with string to form a garland. They are beautiful and a perfectly simple (and almost free) autumn decoration.


Some tips:
Make sure the leaves are completely dry when you start. 
Lots of people asked me how long they last.  It really depends.  The way I hang these in the window in direct sunlight and over 2 heat ducts makes them last till I am ready to get up the Christmas decorations...around December 1. (They start to get curly and shrinky looking.)
If you keep them in a darker, cooler place I'd bet they'd last longer.

I hung my leaves from thread that I tied around each stem to create a garland.

If you drip wax on your floor or counters, a reader sent in this tip:
Just lay down a paper towel or newspaper on the wax spill and iron it (cotton setting). It even works on CARPET, yes really.  I have cleaned up some doozies with this method. I would not use this method on fine wood furniture, there are ice methods for that.


Halloween Photo Garland

I made this Halloween photo garland for my kitchen windows a couple years ago and just love it.  It makes me get teary-eyed every time I see how these kids have grown.  Andrew wouldn't be caught dead in a cute cuddly elephant costume this year now that he is a cool 9 year old, but boy I'd like to smoosh him into one.

This is so easy to make, it just takes some time.

First I selected the photos I wanted to use from my computer files.  I just used random Halloween photos from years past.  

I use Picasa to edit my photos and just this year Picasa added even more cool editing choices to make this project easier than ever.  To give my selected photos a vintagey, spooky feeling I added a white border and changed the coloring a little.

For this photo, you can see I selected the vignette (which puts that dark shadow around the photo) and added the white border and also chose the Orton-ish option to change the coloring.  You can play around with all these options to come up with the look you want.

I had my photos printed out at the one-hour grocery store photo counter and picked up these supplies while I was out.

1. Ribbon and string for the garland.  I chose string that had little black plastic balls on it...it works great for this project because it holds the photos where you want them to stay. (Found it at Hobby Lobby.)  The ribbons I used for decoration on either side of the garland.  (See window pic above.)

2. I used a small hole punch to create a hole in the photo.

3. I bought enough little lanyard-clip thingys to attach the photos to the string. (These are found in the jewelry aisle.)

I punched the holes, put the lanyard thingy in carefully, and strung the photos on the string.  I rearranged the photos once I had the beaded string hanging to get the photos somewhat evenly spaced apart.