Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happy birthday, Charlie

Baby girl, I'm sorry it's late, but you know how busy Mama has been. You know how busy, because, of course, you watch me and you help me. I hope that I'm teaching you great things and that someday you'll use them to mother your own baby girls and boys. And I want you to know that I couldn't do this without you. So thank you for making me a mother, six years (and five days) ago.
Happy birthday, my sweet, spunky, over-cautious but so astute and beautiful, lanky, blonde, mothering cutie pie.

Birth story

I think I’d mentioned that I had about 3 weeks of on-again-off-again labor, right? And also that I was about 42 weeks pregnant by the time my baby arrived? The plan was to break my water on the evening of July 13 to try to get things started, which was not ideal, and I had a really hard time making that decision. I was nervous to do so, since once we did it, I’d pretty much be on the clock to have this baby. So the night that I actually went into labor—the kind of labor that produces a baby—it really is no wonder that Paul didn’t believe me and told me several times to leave him alone and go to sleep. Seriously, I can’t blame him. But boy was I mad at him then. We had watched a movie (I wish I could remember which one), during which I was ignoring contractions. Sort of reverse psychology with myself. Anyway, once the movie was over and we were trying to go to sleep, I just couldn’t ignore the pain anymore, and I asked Paul to time the contractions for me, as I wear contacts during the day and glasses at night, so in order to see the clock across the room, I have to put my glasses on, and it just didn’t make sense to me to do that every four minutes. EVERY FOUR MINUTES??? Contractions are really coming every four minutes? Geeze, I had no idea that I’d so successfully started labor by ignoring contractions!
12:00 AM So, Paul was timing these for me and then nearly falling asleep between contractions, and so every time I had another one and then had to wake him up, yes, he was getting a bit annoyed with me. At one point I said something like, “Paul, you need to STEP UP. I’m in labor here.” Then I asked him to please call my midwife and get things going. I think he still didn’t believe me even at this point, but whatever. He made the call and the birth team started on their way. Then I got out of bed and started a bath for myself, and Paul finally realized that this was the real deal. Then he totally did “step up.”
1:00-1:30 AM My wonderful midwife (this was her third time with us) showed up and seemed to be pleased that I appeared to actually be in labor this time. She sat in the bathroom with me while I labored in the tub by candlelight. It was so peaceful, and I was so glad to be laboring at night while the kids slept. I stayed in the water for as long as I was comfortable and then got out and labored in the bedroom, switching often between the bed and the floor. I really wanted my body to be stretched out, even standing, but I felt too weak to hold this pose for very long. I had thrown up several times and was so tired that I had to be very careful not to lose my strength.
2:30 AM The pain was so intense. I think this was my most intense labor ever, probably because it was so quick. I felt like I could just not get on top of things. At this point, I realized (as a woman must do at some point during labor) that I needed to let go. Labor is this incredible experience where three very strong forces—the woman’s body, the woman herself, and the baby—are in action and need to be cooperating in order to bring about good results. In order to have a successful labor, the woman must give in. She must surrender to labor. It’s so hard, because she feels like her body is trying to destroy her. It’s so difficult to feel those waves rising around and to just surrender to them, almost feeling like they’re going to consume and drown you. But once the laboring woman gives in to the experience, the intensity, it’s almost like her body invites her back in for a little more of the control. It’s so hard to explain. Once you give up control, you get a little of it back, and then all three forces are synchronized. The body squeezes another “God-help-me” contraction and the baby moves down into the birth canal, and then mama feels that urge to puuuuushshshsh, then hold that baby right where she is to wait for her body to start the next play. It’s an unbelievable well-oiled machine, a beautiful and perfect picture of nature at her best.
3:00 AM At this time, I first felt the urge to push. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I was. I knew we were near the end. I kept shaking my head and crying, “Come on, baby, come on out. We want to meet you.” Shortly after first feeling the urge, I tried to stand up. I could feel my baby sliding ever lower, and the sensation was just so intense. I then asked Paul to sit on the stool that we’d brought into the room so that I could sit on his lap, facing the same direction and sort of creating a birthing stool with his legs. It’s the position that we used to birth Judah, and it worked very well then, as he was born after only a couple of pushes once I sat on Paul’s lap. This time was taking a little longer than Judah’s birth did, and poor Paul had to endure sitting under a laboring woman for way too long. What a trooper. We made a great team, and it was awesome for me to have his support, both emotional and actual physical support. Each contraction produced bigger and stronger pushes, and the entire birthing team assured me that it would not be long at all until I held my baby. I started to then touch her head as she crowned, or actually the bag of waters, as the sack didn’t break until about a minute before she was born. I had to hold her head there through three contractions in order to ease her out, so as not to tear. That was agonizing but necessary and very much worth it!
3:35 My water broke, and with the next contraction, out came baby’s head. I got my hands down there, ready to catch the rest of her. Just a minute later, out slithered her little body. I caught her myself and wrapped her up in my arms, which means that I was the first one to see whether baby was a boy or a girl. The light was so dim that I didn’t believe it—“It’s a GIIIIIRRRRLLLLL!!!” Not that I would have minded a boy, but I was so surprised and happy to have another girl.
Just a little while later, Paul brought the kids in to meet their new baby sister. What a strange experience it must have been to go to bed one night and then wake up with a new sibling. Judah wasn’t very interested until the next day, but Charlie was having a blast studying the baby, holding her, and hanging out with the birthing team. Among all the many reasons, this is probably my favorite reason for having a home birth—being all together in our own home for the entire experience and having that immediate bonding time.
Well, that’s about it. We had a pretty short babymoon, considering we moved two and a half weeks later and Paul had to work his last week on Capitol Hill! But she has nursed like a champ from the very beginning and is already sleeping through most nights. So for me, the transition from 2 to 3 has been a bit easier than from 1 to 2.
Just for you, I’m posting some pics from Baby Penny’s baptism which took place in our home parish in Virginia before we left, while she was only days old. It was so special to have her baptized by the same priest that baptized me into the Church just months earlier, and, in fact, with the same godmother.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In my spare time

I was talking with a customer today (a customer of my sewing business, that is--she needs a nap mat for her little pre-schooler) about the specifics for her purchase. Once we had decided on the fabric and the other particulars, she thanked me for making this custom item for her. I told her how happy I am to do it, as it is a pretty fun project for me. I really love making things for kids and babies. She laughed and said, "I wish I had time for projects!" I would have laughed along with her, had this not felt like such an isult. Who does she think she is implying that I'm just sitting around all day waiting for people to call me with sewing projects??? Doesn't she know I have three kids at home, two of whom I'm homeschooling and one of whom is an exclusively breastfed newborn? I also somehow manage to maintain a home, without a dishwasher, mind you. If I'm working on a sewing project, I promise it's not because I have nothing else to do!
And while everything I just said is actually true, I'm only joking about the "insult" part. Okay, maybe I am truly a little bit insulted, but that's just my pride. There's no reason at all to feel this way. No REAL reason. We're all given the same number of hours in a day, and we all choose how to use them. While sometimes I feel like I can't even go to the bathroom without the explicit permission from at least four people, deep down I am happy about how my hours are spent.
That said, I have been EXTREMELY busy since Penelope was born almost two months ago. Since giving birth, we have packed up our life and moved two states away, Paul has started a new job, and Charlie has started first grade in homeschool. Judah started potty training, and then I thought I was going to lose my mind. I realized he wasn't ready, and we have set that on the back burner for a bit.
I, with the help of Paul's family, also organized a surprise party for Paul's 40th birthday. It totally went off without a hitch, and he would have been completely surprised, had not Judah opened the door just before Paul walked in. It would have been fine at that point, had not Paul's dad whisked Judah from the doorstep and shut the door on Paul. And Paul might still have not suspected anything,  had not someone instantly closed the blinds. Oh, no, nothing going on here! Anyway, Paul knew what he was walking into, but it was still a great party. I became a bit emotional at one point, remembering life without kids at all, and somehow now there are all these little ones running around at these family gatherings. Life is so, so much fuller these days.
And how did all this happen? One day I'm going out with my boss's brother, a few months later I realize that I don't want to live without him. One day we're married, one day we start a family. Day by day we make our choices. The little choices add up to become bigger decisions, and somehow we're a family of seven (five of us here in this life, and two already on the other side). So many huge things in such a seemingly short time.
We've left the life in the big city and are closer to the life that we want in the country. I am loving being back in South Carolina. While I miss my old neighborhood and, of course, my precious friends, things are feeling familiar to me here. We're getting settled into our little brick country house on two acres of grass and woods. Paul even has a riding lawn mower. Yep, he's gone country. :) We buy raw milk from the dairy farmer down the street, and we're looking into an organic CSA from Mini Miracles Farm.
I see at least one extended family member ever day. It's just wonderful. The kids have nearly daily access to all of their grandparents and nearly all of their cousins, aunts, and uncles. I'm so happy that they will grow up this way.
I am sorry to say that I am going to have to be signing off here. It's almost my bedtime, and I suppose I should get back to my sewing "projects." :) I will be taking photos and also posting them in the near future. Until then, feel free to visit my friend Joy's blog and take a look at the photos she posted from her trip here last weekend.
One more thing before I go: I absolutely covet your prayers right now for my sister Stephanie. She has just today been put on the list for a heart-liver transplant. Her story is long, but basically she was born with congenital heart disease and has had multiple operations during her life, the last of which was January, 2010. She is now in pre-liver failure and needs both a heart and liver. She needs our prayers for her daily peace, energy, and ability to care for her two young chldren and husband. I would also ask for your prayers regarding the mixed emotions that she must be experiencing surrounding needing new organs from a donor. Please pray that her faith would not be shaken. I ask for your prayers for all of us who love her, that we would seek God and his love through this difficult time.
The peace of Christ be with you all tonight. I will write again as soon as I can find just a few minutes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My lovely

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd become the subject of a photography student's project on homebirth. After my friend Ashley finished her project, she came back to our home to do an absolutely breathtaking newborn photo session of our little Penelope Joy. Here are some of my favorites.

Ashley, thank you so so much for taking the time to do this for us. These pictures are such a treasure. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

At last . . .

I'm afraid I don't have a lot of time at the moment, but I wanted to announce the arrival of our latest: Penelope Joy. She arrived after a fast (well, "fast" except for the 3 weeks of practice labor) and furious four-and-a-half-hour labor at home during the night. It was a perfect and beautiful, albeit pretty darn painful and intense experience.

Our biggest baby yet, Penny (I'm going with "Penny," while Paul and Charlie seem to prefer "Pen") weighed in at 9 pounds, 3 ounces and measured 22 1/2 inches long. She's very healthy and pink and nursing like a champ! We're all doing very well, the kids SO excited to have a baby sister. I'm feeling great, though pretty tired. Laboring at night proved to be a very good thing where the other kids were concerned--they just slept right through it! However, the down side is that we were just settling in for naptime as the kids were waking up refreshed and ready to face a new day as always.

There were so many blessings and answers to prayers. I'll get to those when I share my birth story. For now I'll just say I'm so completely blessed and just bubbling over with gratitude. The most amazing gift that God could have given me (along with my brand new daughter and, of course, all of my other children) is my husband. Paul is truly the most incredibly selfless servant of a father and husband that I've ever seen. You really should see this man care for me and the kids like he has, even after being up all night supporting me through labor. I just want to say thank you. Thanks to God and also to Paul for allowing himself to be used as he has.

Penelope, welcome to the world. I can't wait to show you what a wonderful God we serve and what a beautiful world He has allowed you to be born into. Welcome to our family, where we hope to love you as we should, giving you everything. Charlie and Judah, I love you and I hope that you find in Penelope all the love and joy that you have found in each other. Paul, God bless you, my incredible prince of a husband.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sigh . . . still waiting

I'm getting awfully tired of this. I really shouldn't complain, I know, but really I just want to meet my baby! The thing is, the due date has been up in the air this whole pregnancy. If I go merely on dating, as in last menstrual period, taking into account my long cycles, my due date would have been around June 23 or 24. I was inclined to go by this date, considering that I found out on October 29 that I was pregnant and was having such strong symptoms, and that would have made me about 4 weeks gestation, which seemed about right. However, when I had what would have been my 20-week sonogram (20 weeks by those dates), the baby measured just over 18 weeks. But one cannot estimate the age of the baby according to measurements beyond 11 weeks, because all babies grow at different rates once they pass the 11-week mark. Anyway, the ultrasound people don't seem to be able to think analytically and decided that my new and improved due date would be July 4. So my midwife and I talked and decided to split the difference and set the due date smack in the middle of those two due dates at June 29.
Boy am I glad now that we did that. You see, if I want to have this baby at home, I have to do it before the 42-week point. I thought for absolute certain that the baby would come before the end of June, no problem. And here we are. It's July 7, and there is no sign that the baby is coming any time soon.
I've gone into "practice labor" several times the last three weeks or so, and just last Monday, July 4 (which would have made a cool birthday!), we had the entire birthing team here. Contractions started early in the evening on the 3rd, and by 1 AM on the 4th, I was calling my midwife, birth assistant, midwife student, my friend who was on call to help with Charlie and Judah, and my friend who is photographing the birth for her photojournalism project (that's 9 people, including the family, in my 970-square-foot 2-BR condo). Anyway, while contractions had been a minute and a half long and two minutes apart for a couple of hours, for some reason they ended up spreading further and further apart until they pretty much stopped. We called it quits around lunchtime, which was pretty disappointing. I thought that things would pick up later that day, but even now, three days later, there has been little activity other than the Braxton-Hicks contractions that I've had for the last 21 weeks.
Here's why I'm happy: I'm birthing this baby at home, and I have choices and power to decide what happens. When my midwife came to me and suggested that we take a break and have everyone leave so that I could get some real rest, she laid everything on the table and handed the decision to me. She offered that we could reconnect later in the day and try some things like castor oil, etc. and try to push on, or we could just leave things alone and see what happens. I opted for the latter, feeling no real pressure to force this baby to come. While I would LOVE to have birthed the little guy or girl by now, there is no real reason that it has to be. I firmly believe in letting nature take its course (at least until I run into the necessity of birthing in the hospital--I WILL take action to avoid that).
When I think about what may have happened had I chosen to labor and birth in the hospital, I am so thankful! I probably would have ended up being coerced into pitocin to help labor progress, when in actuality, the baby just needs a little more time to "cook," and my body is just preparing a little more for when the time is right. I'm okay with that. And being at home with such an understanding and gentle and knowledgeable group of women gave me such perspective. They aren't rushing me through the birthing process. They recognize this as perfectly natural, and most of all, they recognize my right to make decisions that I (and Paul) feel good about. It's just so lovely that I wish more women realized the value of midwifery.
Now, that's why I'm happy. Here's why I'm frustrated: Frankly, and please forgive me, I'm getting so tired of having the conversation about how dilated I am and why this baby hasn't come yet and can I believe that it's so late. I really wish that I had not shared my due date with anyone, including myself! I know that people love me and are excited, but I just can't talk about it anymore. It has taken me days to write this post because it's just so tiring.
So the lowdown for all of my loved ones: I really feel great, but I get tired easily, as one can imagine. I am sleeping pretty well, except for when the kids come in on occasion and wake me up. I'm not going to discuss my cervix here, 1) because eww and 2) because it really doesn't matter--when labor starts, it takes its own course, and dilation/effacement really matter very little. The baby was estimated at my 41-week sonogram to be about 9 pounds, but it feels a little bigger than that to me. I'm excited about that--I think big babies are actually easier to birth and eat and sleep better once they are born.
There. I think I've hit the highlights of my current status. I really, really do appreciate everyone's concern and excitement. I'll be quite sure to update everyone via email, Facebook, phone, and blog (probably in that order) as soon as there is a little one to introduce. A happy night to all, and keep me in your prayers, if you think about it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

People say the darnedest things

I thought I'd take my mind off what is sure to be more "practice labor" (only because although I've been having somewhat intense contractions every 5-7 minutes for the last hour or so, I have now called my midwife for the headsup, which only seems to slow labor almost immediately), and tell you about some recent conversations I've had with total strangers.

1. This one has happened about six times during the last 4 months or so, ever since I've been visibly pregnant:
Stranger: "When are you due?"
Me: "The end of June."
Stranger: "Well, my birthday is June the 6th, so I think you should have the baby that day."
Variation: "Oh! You should have the baby on July 12th--that's my birthday!" (this one was said just the other day, after I told a woman that I was past my due date)
Now, I don't mean to be cranky, but seriously? Why the heck do I care to have the baby on a COMPLETE STRANGER'S birthday? I mean, the baby IS going to be born on many, many complete strangers' birthday, regardless of what day that is. And really, my own mother's birthday was yesterday--if I had any control over the day that this baby is to be born (since I don't believe in scheduled c-sections or unnecessary inductions, that is), would I not try for the birthday of someone that means a little more to me than the random guy at the local farmers' market?

2. I'm actually having a contraction during this conversation, mind you.
Stranger: "So, when are you due?"
Me: "About a week ago or so."
Stranger: "So that's the stressed-out look on your face?" (Tactful)
Me: "Um, I guess so."
Stranger: "Pizza helps."
Me: "Excuse me? Like, pizza helps with stress? Or pizza helps with what exactly?"
Stranger: "Both of my kids were born two days after my wife ate pizza."
Now, there's some scientific proof. Once again, some random guy's wife ate pizza and then TWO DAYS later she gave birth. But that's not all! It happened TWICE! Amazing results! Even if she does eat pizza every other day during a pregnancy, who knew?

3. Stranger: "So, just those two kids, plus the one you're carrying?"
Me: "Yes."
Stranger: "You need four more."
Me: "Why's that?"
Stranger: "Because I have seven, so you need seven."
So, nevermind that I have two children in heaven, I know this guy doesn't know that, and I'm not offended by it. But basically because this random guy taking my order at Panera has seven children, I'm supposed to have seven children? Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have that many someday, if God wills it. But it won't be because Chuck the bagel guy thinks his kids are great, which I'm sure they are.

I know that people mean well and that they are only trying to relate and be friendly. It really is okay. I've said some pretty stupid things during my time here on earth as well. I just find it unbelievably entertaining sometimes.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Waiting for baby

I haven't written in a while. I have all these great posts partially written in my head, but I've been so so busy with life, that I just can't seem to get them transferred to the blog. There is so much to catch up on.
First of all, I'm still pregnant. Enormously pregnant. Like, you-would-not-believe-how-big-my-belly-is pregnant. I see people as they approach me trying so hard not to look down. It's like they're all having this inner dialog "Don't look down. Don't look down. DON'T LOOK DOWN!" And then they just can't resist and their eyes are forced to take in the planet-sized belly that is surely holding twins or at least a ten-pounder. And their eyes ever so slightly bulge open, and I laugh inside. It IS pretty funny.
I'm currently timing contractions and hoping to God that this baby makes his or her debut tonight. Not making any promises. I typically have "false labor" for several days before baby arrives. Yesterday I swore that this little one was sending the signal, but no go. So here we are. I'll be sure to keep you posted.
Among other BIG news is that we are moving. It's time for this family to get out of the city. In my blogger profile you can see that we "live a simple life too close to the city and longing for the country." Well, dear readers, it's going to happen. We've prayed and prayed that God would make His will known to us and open a door somewhere, somehow, and He's finally done so. He's stretched our patience and proven His love yet again.
In just a little over a month, we will be relocating back to the upstate of South Carolina, near family and in our hometown where we met and were married. We have rented a beautiful house on a country road with two acres of yard. This 3-bedroom house is almost twice the size of the condo we're in now and has more kitchen cabinets than I will know what to do with. I seriously wonder if I could place one dish inside each cabinet and still have storage space left over. That's okay, though--I'll figure it out. I'm also especially looking forward to having a washer and dryer in my own living quarters instead of having to walk outside to the end of the building and then pay $10 per week to do the laundry. AND the rent is HALF our mortgage payment! God has provided a cute married couple to rent our condo here, which was also a big answer to prayer.
We're so thrilled for the opportunities that lie ahead. God is so good to our family. Of course, though, we have mixed feelings about uprooting the kids and leaving the only home they've ever known and also leaving some very dear friends that have been so wonderful to us. We will miss our church--the parish where I was confirmed Catholic, and also the parish where my babies were baptized. We will miss our incredible little neighborhood. We'll miss our little condo, where one of my babies (and another one any day!) was born. It'll also be pretty difficult to leave the town where our Benjamin's grave lies.
And as much as we desire to live in the country, at least I (I don't know about Paul) will miss living 4 miles south of our nation's capitol, just across the Potomac River. It's been such a fun adventure being able to drive or run along the river and have a daily view of things like the Capitol building and the Washington Monument. Any time we want we have the chance to visit a Smithsonian or other museum (most of them for free!). However, one thing we will absolutely NOT miss is the traffic. Goodness, are we glad to get away from that!
So now we are beginning the packing as we await the next little baby. And besides the obvious things I am looking forward to (i.e., the baby itself), there are quite a few other things I'm looking forward to: being able to breathe, being able to sleep on my stomach and my back, seeing Judah as a big brother and Charlie as an even bigger sister, running again.
On a side note, I started this post a few days ago and cannot believe that I am still working on it. Part of me wonders if the baby is waiting for me to finish before he or she enters the world this side of the womb. Hopefully that's the case, because I'm going to hit "Publish Post" now and would really, really love to feel a nice strong contraction to finally begin real labor. :) Have a great day, and I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


We are getting very close to birthing time, but things feel so different this time around. At this point with Judah, I was definitely having mixed emotions, it having been only a year since Benjamin was born. I also was having huge conflict over somehow destroying Charlie's world by allowing a sibling to enter into it. Even during labor I remember lamenting to my birth assistant that everything was going to change for Charlie. But now I understand that birthing a sibling is the best gift that I can give my kids, and I'm so excited to be doing that again.
Except that they are growing way, way too fast. Just a minute ago, when Judah spied a picture of a cat on a blog, I heard Judah start to say, "Meow," which USED to be his name for cat, and then stop mid-word and correctly say, "Kittens." It made me sad. He's also stopped saying "wow-ee-o wuck" for "fire truck" and "hee hee" instead of "sissy." Charlie's all grown up in other ways, and suddenly we need to stop spelling things in hopes that she won't hear what we're discussing. It's a beautiful thing to watch them grow up, but it's so painful to recognize that they're in our hands for such a short time.
These feelings make me want to hold onto every single second, which, I think, is partly why I'm not quite ready to birth this baby. I am one of those obnoxious women who so love being pregnant. I really do. When I'm pregnant I feel more myself, almost as if this is why I'm here. And so I'm holding onto the pregnancy for that reason, as well as because once the baby is born then he/she too will start to grow up like everyone else. It's crazy, I know. But right now the baby is mine all mine.
But alas, the day will come when I have to share him/her, and so I have been working like crazy to prepare. I've become the subject of a photography project on homebirth, which has been much fun! It has also lit a fire under me to do some projects of my own, which I might not otherwise choose to do.
Ginny over at Small Things had a great idea that I copied in order to get photos for my friend's project, but the dried herbs didn't arrive in time for the deadline. The kids and I put things together this afternoon by combining comfrey leaves, calendula flowers, rosehips, rosemary leaves, chamomile flowers, and lavender oil in small muslin bags. When in labor and after the baby is born, I'll steep a bag and pour the tea into the bath for healing and relaxation.

Yesterday I sewed this pretty gauzy nightgown to wear during our birthing time. I wanted to have something special and nice for photos.

And though I have no pictures, you should see my stocked freezer! I've made several casseroles to have on hand for immediately after the birth and in the weeks afterward. As for the food needed during labor and immediately after birth, I know that some people think it's preposterous that a woman should have to be concerned with providing food for herself, let alone the birth team. But what they should understand is that this is the way it is. Having a baby at home means that there will not be a cafeteria (thank goodness), and that it's a really, really good idea to prepare food ahead of time. It also means that the midwife and the rest of the birthing team (birth assistant, possibly a midwife student, childcare provider, etc.)--these people on whom the birthing woman is depending--may not be coming from their own homes, and therefore will not necessarily be able to grab a TV dinner on their way out the door to come help birth the baby. I'm happy to provide a good, healthful meal for myself, my family, and everyone involved! In fact, it's sort of a fun ritual to welcome baby. It fits nicely with our philosophy regarding the home and the family, if you think about it. We homeschool, homebirth, and provide a homecooked meal. :)
So, as soon as I know that I am in labor, I will make my phonecalls to gather my team, set out a casserole to thaw, and then settle down with my little ones that are here with me already. I'll do my best to relax and gently welcome baby into his or her new world. Until then, more nesting. ;)

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Mother's Day

First, I was awakened by my little guy, just like I am every morning. Judah is usually the first to rise, and he always stomps into our room and climbs into bed. On my side. Every time. Never wants to cuddle with anyone but Mommy. It's okay--he's quite the cuddler. Then Charlie quietly (which is more her way) tiptoes into the room and joins us in the bed, too. On my side, as well. So I entertain them for a while and then remember that it's Mother's Day and I get to sleep in if I want to. :) So I nudge Paul and ask if he would kindly enlist Charlie and Judah's help in the kitchen with Mother's Day breakfast in bed. Which he does.

I doze for about a half hour while Paul slaves away in the kitchen over fresh baked croissants with honey butter, scrambled eggs, perfectly crispy bacon, fresh berries, orange juice, and a cup of Irish breakfast tea. I'm sure the kids are helping, but all I can hear is giggling and occasional bickering. But I stay in bed, because I know Paul has it all under control. Breakfast was just lovely, eating alone in my bed and reading my new book, which was my gift from the family--The Handbook for Catholic Moms. I actually read a couple of chapters AND drank a cup of tea before it became cold!

We went to the later Sunday morning Mass so that we I could have a more leisurely morning than usual. It was nice. We ended up walking to church, since it was such a perfect day, and letting the kids play on the playground for a few minutes before the service. On our walk home, we retraced the path that I used to walk from the bus stop, back when I was a childless working woman in the city. The walk triggered my memory of those days, and I began to talk about what life was like when it was just Paul and me, before I was a mother. The days of office work, happy hours, last-minute weekend trips to the beach. I actually used to fix my hair EVERY DAY! While we were walking past our old condo--the one-bedroom on the second floor that we owned (and were perfectly happy with) before we learned of Charlie's existence--I pointed up to show the kids where we used to live. "Look! That's where Mommy and Daddy used to--"

"Hey, Mommy! Did you see that bumpy slide at the playground? It was so fun!"

Not only does she have no problem cutting me off while I'm on Memory Lane, but she has no idea that there was a life before she was born. As far as they know, we didn't even exist until they came around. There was no reason to, right?

It really is hard, though, to remember life before these guys. It feels like a lifetime ago. As if I'm remembering someone else's memories. Life was totally about Paul and me back then. We came and went whenever we want, slept as long as we wanted on the weekends, did pretty much whatever felt good at the moment. Now I can't even write this blog post without having to get somebody a drink of water or help settle an argument.

We came home from church, had a light lunch, and then headed outside to plant our little seedlings in pots to hopefully have the opportunity to nurture an abundant container garden of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs. We had so much fun digging in the dirt and running away from the hose (this is how Paul gardens--chasing us with the hose).

We went out to dinner that night, though I wonder if we will next year. Mother's Day is really a crazy day to go out. No one wants Mom to have to cook on Mother's Day, but Mom really doesn't need to wait an hour for a table and then spend her entire dinner not only entertaining her own kids but having to endure listening to everyone else's kids be cranky and all that, does she? It's my fault--I really wanted to go out. But hopefully I'll remember next year that it's not all it's cracked up to be. :)

I spent the day completed delighted with my family. Life is certainly so different these days. I stay busy being at home, homeschooling, and making a peaceful environment for the family, with very little time to myself. It's really hard having to be "on" all the time. But life is so full, and I wouldn't want it any other way. These little guys are what I always wanted before I knew what I wanted. :) It isn't always so rosey (as I'm sure you know!), but if I weren't home with them like I am, I feel like I would miss so much. I'm so, so thankful for our simple life.

I'm also thankful for my own mother, who showed me what self-sacrifice is all about. She gave of herself every single day, and continues to do so, even though her children are all grown. Even when times were difficult, we always, always knew we were deeply loved. I hope that my own children will say this of me someday. Thanks, Mom, and happy Mother's Day (a few days late). :) Love you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Springing forward

A few weeks ago, Paul was priveleged to travel a couple of days for work. He visited the district in SC that his boss represents--mainly the Columbia area--and toured several agricultural facilities like a cattle ranch, a farm, and the largest peach orchard in the Southeast. Ever since that trip, Paul has been reading and talking about supporting small farms and wanting to somehow be involved in community-supported agriculture. As a result, he and I spent some time with the kids over the weekend planting seeds for our first-ever container garden. We live in a small condo with not much direct sun, which is why we have never attempted a garden of any sort. But we started thinking that there's no reason we couldn't put a few things in pots and move them around where the sun is, right? Well, we're going to try it. So now we've got seeds for cherry tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers sprouting in egg cartons in the house. I have to move them from window to window during the day to make sure they're getting the sun they need. I also have a pot of cilantro outside, and just yesterday I gathered some seeds from a green pepper that I'd like to get started, too.

Paul shot this with his Blackberry yesterday morning. This is the cucumber growth just since Saturday!

There has been a lot of spring cleaning and nesting going on lately, too. I think the combination of the time of year and the time in my pregnancy has resulted in an obsession for me. :) I really like to clean already. But always, around 32 weeks, I get the bug to constantly organize, donate our unwanteds, clean, spruce up, etc., as if once the baby gets here the whole house has the potential to just fall apart. As much as I'd like to live in a larger space, having a small condo grants the opportunity to get it all done. In addition to cleaning, I've been able to make a few things like a new wreath and the bathroom curtains for which I've had fabric for about a year!

My front door spring wreath

We have been having such a beautiful spring seaason. Easter was just lovely, quietly celebrated at Mass with friends and then brunch afterwards. Our Lenten season was also very special, as I take inventory of everything going on in our family's life lately, and sort of streamline a bit. For Lent, in addition to giving up my late night snack (which I really don't need anyway but somehow always feel entitled to since I am, after all, pregnant), I focused on some wifely and motherly duties that sort of needed some "tightening up."
These ideas sound so archaic and repressive, in the modern world we live in. "Wifely duties." The duties that I've been working on are things like setting the table for dinner with a tablecloth (for example) and having family-style meals instead of fixing our plates in the kitchen and being sure to pick up the house, make the kids presentable, and fixing up myself with set hair and makeup before Paul comes home from work. I know these things might sound so silly to some people, but they have become very important to me. I feel like being in this mindset helps to create a place of peace. It's the little details that show a little more care, you might say. 
I'm also working on having a set time for prayer and quiet time, and especially praying for patience with the kids and Paul. It's not exactly natural for me to be patient. Being pregnant, mom to two, homeschooling, providing part-time childcare (just for a few more weeks!), handling almost all the household duties (Paul does do all the laundry, which is so great!), running a sewing business, and making sure to get the kids out of the house when I can, makes for very long days and not a lot of me-time, or God-time, for that matter. I do realize that it's a matter of priority, and if that means heading to bed earlier and actually setting an alarm clock, then it's what has to be done.
I love this time of year for the idea of waking up from the winter, shaking off the dust and cold, and preparing for the growth of summer. There is a feeling of potential in the air, and responsibility to cultivate that potential. So as we transplant our little seedlings, and I begin to close out this pregnancy, I'm praying that God will help me to always recognize what's most important--that while it's nice to have a clean, organized house, it's better to have children and a husband who are at peace, know they're loved, and are growing in God's grace. It seems that it's an ongoing prayer.
On a side note, my parents are giving me a camera soon, so I'll be able to get back to taking pictures and hopefully will then have more incentive to blog more often! Yay! :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

New at JoyfulGifts!

I'm working on some new gifts for Moms over at JoyfulGifts! Take a look at my handmade diaper clutch gift sets--I have 4-piece and 5-piece sets that are the PERFECT gift for a new mom, or just a mom that deserves some pampering. I'm also working on a brand new item--designer aprons! They will be made with some new fabrics by designers like Michael Miller, Amy Butler, and Alexander Henry.
All Mother's Day gifts are specially priced and will be shipped for free!
Take a look and let me know what you think, and be sure to come back again to see new inventory!

Thursday, March 31, 2011


I once heard that the human gestational period is 8 months and 2 years. So, as I'm tempted to write that I'm in the home stretch, having officially entered the third trimester, I won't. As fast as the last 6 months have flown by, I know these next 3 probably won't. But it's okay. I love being pregnant and will savor the time, growing belly and all.
I couldn't wait to show you the bedding that I made for our next little one. I'm very grateful that last summer I was commissioned to make a crib bedding set, because without that experience, I don't know that I would have taken on the task of making a set for my own baby! I'm really happy with the results. Thanks to Joy for taking the photos for me!

I wish that I could show you the whole room. This is just the baby's corner. On the other side of the room we have the big kids who sleep side by side on a daybed and a trundle bed that gets pushed underneath during the day. It's an excellent way to make space. We had originally wanted to get bunk beds, but the more we thought about Charlie's fear of heights coupled with Judah's lack of fear of heights, it just didn't make much sense. At any rate, we will have all three kiddos in one room, which I have absolutely no anxiety about whatsoever. ;)
So, things are moving along here. Charlie is about three-quarters of the way through her first year of school. She's doing so well, and I am so blessed to be her teacher. I know that all homeschooling parents wonder at times why we do what we do, but right now I know exactly why I'm doing this. Yesterday we spent the majority of our school day talking about gravity, which turned into a discussion on the planets and the universe, which developed into a discussion on God and His immense power. I don't know that a discussion like this would have ensued at a conventional kindergarten, and I'm so happy for the opportunity to participate in a learning experience like this. I'm trying to get a head start on preparations for next year, since I know that a large part of my summer will be spent babymooning. Charlie is becoming quite the little lady and ever the great helper. I'm so looking forward to seeing her at this age with a little baby!
I'm also working on preparations to start some Montessori work with Judah and will keep you posted. His new development is being able to dress himself. He's so happy with his accomplishment that he goes through "costume changes" several times a day! The only problem is that the only shirts that he can reach are his pajama shirts in his dresser drawer, so the child is constantly changing into pajamas. I want to encourage his autonomy, but it certainly makes for some extra laundry! He's such a silly kid. I know he'll be a great big brother, too.
I bought my first items for new baby (that's his/her name right now): a two-pack of gender-neutral sleep gowns and a few disposable diapers for the early days. Now I can start washing and putting things into the empty dresser beside the crib! This little one seems to be my most active baby yet, and I'm wondering if that's going to translate well once he or she is born. Dear God, we are begging for a child who sleeps well--maybe not at the very beginning, but maybe within a few months? :)
Of course, we know how incredibly blessed we are, regardless of the sleep issues we've had the last several years. Psalm 127:3 says, "Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him." It's such a different mindset from the typical modern view of children that makes them more of a burden than a blessing. We are so, so thankful. My prayer is that we always remember that. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Emerald Isle

I recently had the great pleasure of visiting my twin sister (and best friend) and her beautiful family in Ireland. I went solo (well, solo except for the baby in utero), which was hard for me, given that it was the first time I'd ever left the children, and the longest Paul and I had ever been apart. I cried buckets walking through security leaving Reagan National, and I'm pretty sure I almost attracted too much attention. Once I'd made it through my connection in JFK, I relaxed as I boarded the plane for the long flight over the ocean.
I was sooo happy to see my sister who drove with her baby early in the morning to pick me up at Shannon International Airport about an hour and a half away from her house in a pretty little town in the countryside of Ireland. During the week that I was there, we drove through the Gap of Dunloe and Connor Pass; walked the towns of Killarney, Dingle, Kenmare, and Tralee; and visited Muckross House and Ross Castle. Since I was there primarily to visit with some of my favorite people in the world, I wasn't terribly interested in spending all my time site-seeing, but I think we had a really nice balance of quality time and tourism. One of the highlights for me was having high tea with my sister at an Irish tearoom in Killarney. Of course I also enjoyed the many afternoons spent by the fire just hanging out with the family.
The view from Connor Pass, the highest mountains in Ireland

The view from Castlegregory

The girls scaling the walls of Ross Castle

Cindy and baby
The view from Muckross House

A traditional Irish breakfast, one of my favorite delicacies

The Irish breakfast upon leaving the restaurant :)

Guinness and Bailey's ice cream at the best ice cream place I've ever patronized

Taking a rest upon the altar of the largest stone circle in Western Ireland in the town of Kenmare

The girls dancing on the altar

Making homemade pierogies and pasta

Me and my Ireland-bred nieces

Posing with my sis under an archway at Ross Castle

Our impression of a mirror

I miss them all so much, but I was happy to get home to my own babies and Paul. It's hard to be separated from my twin over such a distance, but this world just isn't perfect. I keep thinking about the day when we will all be in Heaven and can spend eternity together. I am so thankful to have an identical twin and to have had the opportunity to spend a week with her.
Thank you to my mother-in-law who traveled to spend the week taking care of the kids while I was away, and for the friends who filled in the gaps for childcare, as well as my parents who helped with the cost that traveling incurred. It was a wonderful and relaxing trip!