Friday, October 27, 2017


Adjusting to having five kids (seven and under) has been a little slower than I expected.  Heh.  I feel like I say this every time I have a new baby.  Seriously, I need to write myself a note and remember to read it the next time (God willing) I'm close to giving birth.  It would say something like: 

Yes, newborns are easier than toddlers, and yes they do sleep most of the day.  But remember that their schedule is totally unpredictable.  They are going to need to nurse, or be changed, or be bounced for twenty minutes at random and unexpected times - usually the moment you were finally about to start a new task or run out the door.  Don't expect to get as much done as you're used to, and definitely don't expect to do everything in the same order or at the same time as you were hoping.  In other words, newborns force you to just be flexible and let go of the things that are less important.

We're doing fine, really, but I think starting the schoolyear almost at exactly the same time as we had a new baby made things extra challenging - because I had only had a week of trying to get into the homeschooling groove before Felix came along and totally threw us off.  And now we're trying to tackle the increased challenge of schooling the two big kids at once for the first time AND juggling a crying baby, super troublesome toddler, and whiney three-year old.  (All while failing to keep up with laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc.  Thank goodness for the meal train the members of my Catholic Mom's group have been so generously participating in!)

This past week, we didn't even have an actual official school day, because we were busy dealing with a potential medical issue with Felix, and had to spend a couple days in the hospital.  Long story short, he does this weird thing where he constantly bends his head all the way back - it seems to be his preferred posture.  He does show signs of reflux, and a similar back-arching posture is common for reflux.  But he does this all the time - even when he's calm or asleep, not just when he's having a reflux episode.  So our pediatrician was "very concerned" and wanted us to check with a neurologist, since peculiar posturing like this sometimes indicates a neurological problem.

His usual posture

The neurologist wasn't sure what was causing it, and decided to admit him to the hospital so they could figure out what was going on.  Felix had a full team of doctors working with him, and none of them had ever seen a baby do this with his head.  My poor little guy (6 weeks old) was subjected to: a head ultrasound, an EEG, an EKG, a neck x-ray, an MRI, blood draws, a bunch of wires that monitored his basic functions, and (totally unnecessary), tubes for supplemental oxygen.  

With 26 probes on his head during his EEG

And....all the tests came back normal.  Which I'm definitely thankful for.  But it's a frustrating non-conclusion to the whole ordeal.  At this point, the working theory is that perhaps it's just a weird response he has to reflux.  So we're going to try him on some stronger medication for that, and see what happens.  If the unusual head positioning continues, we may have to look into physical therapy.


A few things we have managed to find the time for during this busy phase of life:

We had Felix baptized!

We've gone on a few more family nature walks, and are hoping to fit in one or two more before winter sets in.  We all really enjoy doing this together, and have discovered a couple great woods for walking.  Each of the three "big kids" has their own nature journal that they use to keep a record of our interesting finds.

Stella: proving once again that *any* creature can be snuggled

Another worm for the journal

Tom finally took the time to show the kids how to use the Mass kit I made for them to play Mass.  I've seriously dreamed about them doing this since they were born, and it just melts my heart.

Fr. Sly getting vested before Mass

The elevation.  Linus is an altar boy, and is ringing the bell

Fe.Linus baptizing Stella's baby (named "Florabelle" - I wonder where she got that from? :-P ), whom she had been begging to have baptized all morning.

Another mom whose kids are in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd with Stella and Linus heard that I was a big fan of "old-fashioned" baby clothes, and gave me an amazing little collection of old baby boy clothes.  Those are like the holy grail of baby clothes for me.  I've found some adorable smocked and laced baby girl dresses at thrift stores and rummage sales in my day, but I have never ever come across a good old-fashioned baby boy outfit.  Look at some of these!!

And lastly, after almost a year of very slow-going work, I have finally finished Linus' quilt for his bed.  It turned out a lot bigger than a twin size, actually, so it will definitely grow with him.  When he was only two, and I asked him what sort of quilt he wanted, he had answered, "Blue. And Green.  And squares."  I think I pulled it off!

The pattern is called an Irish Chain

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Felix's Birth Story

The pregnancy went fairly well this time around.  I never really enjoy pregnancy, because it's just a long hard slog and so tough on your body, but I really didn't have any major complaints this time around.  And I lucked out with unseasonably cool temperatures since the beginning of August.

After having three of my four kids arrive a bit before their due date, I was hoping the odds were in my favor to have it happen again with #5.  I was due September 14th, and had intentionally kept my calendar cleared for the whole week before that.  Of course, Mr. Baby did not come early for me, so I ended up having to endure a torturous week of sitting around the house with no plans, just dying of the anticipation and waiting.

I had a midwife appointment scheduled for my due date - which I had been expecting not even to make it to - and as soon as the midwife asked me if I had any questions, I immediately said, "can we sweep my membranes?!!!"  (I'm convinced that's what had made Linus finally arrive, when he was a week past due).  I was fully expecting she would sweep me and I would be going into labor later that day.  So I was rather peeved when she told me she wouldn't do it, because they already had several women laboring at that moment, and she didn't want to have  to add one more.  Very disappointed, we went back home to sit around and wait for my body to decide to start doing something about getting the baby out.

That night, I did have some contractions.  I decided to park it in front of a show (Victoria, which is on Amazon Prime - pretty enjoyable, largely due to the beautiful clothing!) and wait to see if anything developed.  After several hours of sporadic contractions, things finally fizzled out, and I decided to just go to bed.

I woke up a little after four in the morning, most likely because I had to pee again.  But as soon as I opened my eyes, I realized that it felt like perhaps my water had broken.  I stood up, and there was even more fluid, so I knew that must have been what happened.  This was really the defining point to this entire labor.  My water has never broken on its own.  My midwives always break it for me (at my request) because late in my labor, contractions always start to slow way down since the sac is providing too much cushion on the baby's head.  In fact, a couple of the midwives have remarked that my body makes a "very strong bag of waters"!  So as soon as I realized what was happening, I became worried that things could possibly pick up very quickly.

I woke up Tom, and we began the usual frenzied rush of making all the necessary phone calls (midwives, the doula, the grandparents who needed to come watch our big kids), and getting all the last-minute items into my hospital bag.  Contractions did end up starting only a couple minutes later, but luckily, they were still not too close to transition-type contractions.

We made it to the hospital with enough time, and I was only about 4 cm dilated.  My doula showed up, I got into my usual position sitting on the labor ball with my doula pressing my back for me.....Okay, seriously, I'm a total creature of habit.  If you've read one of my birth stories, you've pretty much read them all!  Really, the only noteworthy thing about this part is that during a few of the contractions, a big gush of amniotic fluid would come out and creep along the floor and almost touch Tom's shoes (he was stationed in front of me, providing a steady force that I could brace myself against), and there was no way for him to escape the on-coming flood!  As soon as those contraction passed, and I was able to think again, I would just chuckle about it, as he ran to get more towels to clean it up :-)

I suddenly wasn't feeling sitting on the ball anymore, which is always my cue that transition is coming.  I moved to the bed, and sorta sat upright against the raised back, and just bore with the slowed contractions for the next hour or so.  Tom and my doula were asked to bring me many many icy wet rags to place on my forehead (Tom found it amusing that I kept asking, "can you make them any colder??" when he was literally having to pick the ice cubes off them before he placed them on me).

Suddenly, things started to really hurt, and I knew it was time to push.  Side-note: labor always hurts just as bad, no matter how many times you do it.  Doesn't it seem like it should get better over time?  Like, your body would stretch out or get looser or something?  After each of my babies is born, I am stunned anew at just how much it hurts.  And's "just" one day of pain....traded for a lifetime with your child.

Anyways, I had the nurses bring the big mirror on a pole.  I love that thing.  It lets me watch exactly what is happening while I'm pushing, and I find it incredibly motivating.  As soon as I can see how close that baby's head is, I am just ready to push it right out.  This whole phase was very quick again.  I think I pushed once to get a cervical lip out of the way, and then two more pushes, and he was born!  As usual, Tom was the emotional one, and he started crying.  I just sorta lay there in shock, clutching the baby to my chest, and thinking, "it's over! it's over!"

My whole labor was four and a half hours, which is my shortest yet.  Felix weighed 8lb.13oz, making him my biggest baby yet.  And actually, I think the two things may be related.  The lactation consultant at the hospital told me the next day that often, babies who were born from quick labors end up being heavier.  Basically, they didn't undergo as many contractions to help squeeze all the "stuff" out of them (I never really got clarification on what sort of stuff that was.  But the idea made sense to me).  Anyways, he didn't look like our biggest baby yet, and he's already been  small enough to fit into newborn size clothing for a lot longer than Linus - my only real "big baby" - ever did.  So I buy that explanation.

A half hour after birth, they brought me a breakfast tray!  Never was I more excited to eat!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Baby!

On Friday morning, one day past his due date, we finally got to meet our newest little boy! 

After much heated debated, we finally settled on a name: Felix Amadeus.

Felix = "happy, fortunate"
Amadeus = "love of God"

He was 8lbs. 13 oz. (our biggest baby yet, though I swear, he looks smaller than Linus was at birth), 21" long, and in perfect health.

Twelve hours old

We're all doing well, I'm just really tired.  I don't know if I'm getting old, or what. It didn't help that the night he was born, I got a massive migraine that the post-partum nurses wouldn't let me sleep off (they woke me up constantly to "nurse the baby" - who wanted nothing more than to just keep sleeping all night - and check my vitals.)  Thankfully, Tom is home, we're taking the week off from homeschooling, and I am trying my best to get a nap in each day.  I think I'll manage to catch up enough on sleep by the end of the week that I can a least get through my days without being a total zombie.

Anyways, I'll try to come back soon with the birth story.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

First Day of School and Some Reflections on the Kids

We started our school year yesterday!  Sly is in second grade now, and Stella's doing kindergarten.  We're calling Linus "pre-school", but I truly have no planned activities for him.  Flora, meanwhile, does her best to cause disruption and destruction while the rest of us are working on school.

We're sticking with Mater Amabilis this year.  I really do love the curriculum and the philosophy behind it, but it's a lot to fit in to our mornings.  Each subject just takes 10-20 minutes (in theory.....but I'll pay you money if you can get through a Saxon Math lesson with Sly in that amount of time!), but there are so many things to fit in, and a ton of reading aloud.  I think we'll need about two and a half hours each day to fit in everything.  It's going to get a bit more challenging to juggle it all once Stella adds in next year, so I'll have to start thinking about where I can combine the kids for various subjects.


I love watching the relationship develop between Sly and Flora.  These two have always been so alike - from their looks, to their personality.  The day Flora was born, we were already predicting her to be a "female version of Sly."  They both have quick tempers and a tendency towards violence (hitting their siblings all the time).  But on the positive side, both are sociable and talkative and very smart.  They hit it off so well, and Sly takes such sweet loving care of her all the time.

But I'm predicting some challenges ahead with Flora.  She is such a troublesome toddler.  She's into everything - throwing things in the toilet and the trashcan, pulling stuff out of every cabinet and shelf.  Sly was just like that.  I had gotten used to my two "easy" middle kids.  Sly and Flora are definitely on the choleric/melancholic end of the temperament spectrum (which I am as well, but I just perceive as the more challenging "moody" types of temperaments), while Stella and Linus are more sanguine/phlegmatic (which I perceive as "pleasant and easy to get along with").


Tom pointed something out the other day, about how people (ourselves included) tend to "blame" a lot of things on having a large family, but that it's not always the reality.  For example, Linus was a very late talker, and hardly said much at all until he was two.  Even now, his speech is still very poor, and he's been in speech therapy for a few months because he can't pronounce many of his starting and ending consonants in words.  It's easy to say "oh, it's because he's the third child, and didn't get as much attention."  Then there's Flora, who probably has the best vocabulary of any of our kids for her age.  And we found ourselves saying, "well, it's because she's the fourth child, and has all her big siblings to learn from."  I think for the most part, the answer is just this: every kid is different, and they're going to do things at their own pace.


I'm eight days out from my due date with this next little boy (name still very much undecided)!  I'm feeling pretty good most days, but definitely mentally ready to get this show on the road.  My earliest baby has come a week early (Sly), and my latest was a week late (Linus, of course, who is showing himself to be late to everything he does).  So I'm expecting that as my range of possibilities.....but I'm definitely hoping for an early one!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to Travel with a Large(ish) Family

We planned a stop at Sunday Mass in the middle of a long drive back home, which is why Sly's in a bow tie!

As soon as baby #4 was born, we started encountering a frustrating problem.  Most hotels would no longer allow us all to stay in one room, because it's against the fire codes to fit more than five people.  Booking two rooms for the night was too expensive and seemed like way too much of a hassle.  Not all hotels offer suites, and if they do, they're too expensive as well.

But we had a handful of out-of-town weddings to go to recently (and yes, our kids were invited!), so we started looking around for cheaper alternatives.  We decided to check out Airbnb, which we only had a vague understanding of at the time.  And let me tell you, we are never going back!

We've now stayed at four different Airbnb rentals with the whole family, and even the least nice of those was so much better than staying at a hotel (and I promise, they aren't offering me anything to promote them - this is just me, wanting to sharing some advice).  We've paid between $80-110 per night, which is definitely comparable to the cost of a hotel room.  But the amazing part is that with an Airbnb, you're getting multiple rooms.  I especially recommend looking for a place where you have the entire house or apartment to yourself, to avoid the awkwardness of having to share space with your host.  If there's a kitchen too, you can save a ton of money by not having to eat out for all your meals.

How it used to look when we stayed in hotels: We're all crowded into one room with not much to do besides watch tv, or let the kids jump incessantly from bed to bed.  When the kids' bedtime arrives, we tuck them all together into one of the queen-sized beds, turn out the lights, and pray they won't fight over the covers or mess around for too too long.

All the lights need to be off, and a quiet atmosphere maintained to encourage the kids to actually sleep.  But Tom and I don't want to just sit around silently in the dark, and we're nowhere near tired enough yet for sleeping ourselves.  So we huddle in the bathroom with the door shut.  One of us sits on the toilet lid, and one of us on the edge of the tub.  We might crack some beers, and talk in whispers, occasionally taking turns to go out and yell at the kids to stop messing around, because they aren't used to sharing a bed and the novelty of the experience is just too much for them to handle.  Once or twice, we've done the old cell-phones-as-baby-monitors trick, and sneaked down to the hotel bar for twenty minutes, but I always felt way too paranoid doing that.

Eventually, we get bored and uncomfortable, and force ourselves to go to bed much earlier than we'd like....because there's literally nothing else to do.

How it looks at an Airbnb: Just like at home!  When it's bedtime for the kids, we tuck them into beds - usually individual beds, since there are often multiple bedrooms - turn out the lights, and shut the doors.  And then Tom and I have the run of the house where we can leave all the lights blazing if we want, have normal-volume conversation, watch tv, or just do whatever we like until as late as we want!  And in the morning, we can cook our own breakfast and coffee, or eat cereal at a table with milk from the fridge.


The other great discovery we made in the past year about traveling involves eating meals during long road trips.  Fast food from rest stops gets really tedious - and expensive - after a while.

Also, last summer when we replaced our old mini-van with a slightly nicer old mini-van (which had been kept pristine inside and out by the previous owner), we made a new rule for our kids: absolutely no eating in the car, EVER.  They can have water in an unspillable cup, and that's it.  No exceptions.  It was tough to adjust to in the beginning, but I don't regret it at all.  It's amazing how much cleaner - and less sticky - your car can be when there's no food eaten in it [except for the adults.  We totally still eat food and drink coffee in the front seats :-P].  But it necessitates a little more planning in terms of snacks and meals, when you're going to be in the car for long periods.

We've always been big fans of small independent diners.  Those little places down some quiet road, called So-and-so's Diner where you can get any meal on the menu for a maximum cost of about $6.  So now when we're traveling, we save up our appetites by not snacking, and we wait until mealtime to fill up.  When hunger strikes, I pull out my phone and search Google Maps for the nearest diner that looks appealing.  W follow the directions off the highway to some random country exit, and stop.  We've had mostly great luck with the little places we've found.  There's always plenty of seating, they're very kid-friendly, and so inexpensive.  Often, the entire family is able to eat a huge and satisfying meal for under $30!  It's nice to get a little break out of the car and stretch our legs and be able to talk face-to-face, instead of calling back and forth between the front seat and the back of the van.

I highly recommend you try finding one of America's little gems like this the next time you're on a long trip with your kids.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Summertime Plans

I can't even believe it, but our homeschool year is almost done!  I thought I had mapped out our last term to end mid-June, but I recently checked the schedule I put together, and we just have until the end of the month!

We followed the Mater Amabilis curriculm pretty closely this year for Sly (with just a few changes/deletions).  I think we did admirably well keeping up the pace.  The only thing we went "too slowly" with was the math.  Luckily, it's an easy subject for Sly, and the Saxon program has tons of repetition.  So for these remaining weeks, we're just going to fly through, and concentrate mainly on the new concepts.  Saxon is a strong program, and I am fully confident that it's giving him a good foundation in math.'s just so dry and boring.  I'm going to be talking with other homeschooling families, and doing some research this summer to see if there's something out there that will work better for us.  And that I don't mind spending more money on.

After giving up so much "free time" this year with school, it might be a little strange to have it all back this summer.  But my mind is ever itching to plan and make schedules.  So my loose summer plans - aside from generally just hanging out and enjoying the warm weather are:

1. Lots of reading aloud.  During the school year, I was reading aloud so often for our school curriculum, that most days I didn't have the energy or desire to read other books to the kids "just for fun."  I know compared to the older kids, Linus and Flora have barely been read to specifically.  I hardly ever pull out the baby board books for Flora.  So this summer, I want to set aside a little time each morning to sit out on the porch swing and read some books to everyone just because.

A few chapter books I'd like to work through are: finishing up Winnie-the-Pooh, finishing up the My Father's Dragon stories, and reading all of St. Patrick's Summer.  The first two were both started at "tea time."  A pleasant little ritual I did increasingly less as the schoolyear wore on, and have completely given up at this point.  Perhaps that will come back next Fall!

2. Weekly daily Mass.  I wish I could say we'll plan to go everyday, but it's just not going to happen.  I'll set once a week as my goal for now.

3. Weekly trips to the library. I'll probably combine this with our trip to Mass, since both are in easy walking distance of my house.

4. Continue having Sly practice reading.  He's not coming along as well as I'd like with reading.  But - I keep reminding myself - he's only six.  No one even started teaching me to read until I was seven, and I did fine.  But, in the interest of not losing anything we gained during the schoolyear, I'm going to have him continue to work on his reading a bit every day.  We'll be using easy things like Bob Books, since he actually enjoys those.

5. Light a fire under Tom's bum, so he finishes building the bookcases in our bedroom before this baby comes!!  Once they're constructed, it will be my job to caulk, prime, paint, and stain everything.  I'd really rather get that done before I'm just too enormous to maneuver my body into all the strange positions I'll need for painting.  Then - the most exciting part - I can finally organize all our books onto the shelves!  I've already claimed one entire side for homeschool stuff.

6. Continue planning out next year's curriculum.  We're definitely going to keep on with Mater Amabilis as our base for next year.  The big things will be deciding what to do about a math program (should I switch or not?  I already have all the stuff I'd need for Saxon grade 2), deciding how much - if anything - I will do with Stella next year, and writing out a daily schedule to ensure I can fit everything in.

7. Finish knitting a baby boy blanket. I'm approaching half-way already, so I don't think this will be a problem.

8. Get back in the groove with meal-planning.  I was good about this for a couple years, but I stopped doing it when Linus was born three years ago (my transition to having three kids really threw me off for a while).  I've been getting by all this time by keeping a well-stocked pantry and chest-freezer at all times, and assembling most of our meals from what we already have in the house.  But it's really starting to catch up with me now.  I think I could relieve a fair amount of daily stress if I just had a clear plan about what we're going to eat before the day begins, and the knowledge that every ingredient I will need is definitely in the house.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

I Finished My Baby Blanket Just in Time.... find out that we are having another BOY!

haha.  Joke's on all of us, I guess.  So this beautiful but very pink blanket will be going into storage for the time being.  And I'll be beginning as soon as possible on knitting a light green blanket for this new little man.

The pattern is called Sleeping Baby's Castle Blanket, and is for sale on Ravelry

Perhaps the next one (God willing) will be a girl.  It would maintain the pattern we've got going on, at any rate: boy - girl - boy - girl - boy.

Now begins the challenging process of deciding on a boy name.  Tom and I are totally deadlocked on this question.  We each have a name we love but the other spouse hates.  And so far, neither of us have wanted to budge :-P