Friday, August 27, 2010

a little light reading

Some of the accompaniments to the lass's recent requests to "read, Mommy!"

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Demonstrating an early understanding of the literary device known as "simile", the younger lad had this to say of me shoveling in some salad at lunch: "You're like a front end loader."

Is this a compliment?  Coming from him, probably so. 
(but at least I got to finish my lunch!)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

house rules

At our house, jumping on the bed is verboten.
(I know: we're such kill-joys.)

My college roommate, a dear friend (the one with the aversion to spiders), had given the elder lad a Baby Tad plush frog shortly after the lad was born.  Baby Tad sings songs and plays games.  Now he's a favorite of the 19-month-old lass's.  He's obviously unaware, however, of a certain aforementioned house rule, because I caught him jumping on the bed with the help of the younger lad (who was not jumping).

"Did you tell Tad what the rule is about jumping on the bed?" I teasingly asked the lad.

Looking at the frog, the lad said soberly, "we have to make the bed first."

Monday, August 23, 2010

hard hat area: construction-themed picture books

We've been experimenting with different driving routes to school in the hopes of striking a balance between most direct and quickest, which are not necessarily the same, depending on the time of day (rush hour, when my beloved is taking the lad to school, and mid-afternoon when the younger lad, lasses, and I are going to pick him up). 

One route is lined with orange construction barrels almost the entire way, with lanes narrowed and lowered speed limits.  This sounds like a nightmare to me in morning rush hour traffic, but to our five-year-old kindergartner, it's a dream come true.  The mid-afternoon drive through this little boy wonderland isn't quite as bad for the chauffeur, especially when punctuated by such wide-eyed, delightful exclamations as "that's my excavator!" and "that crane is lifting a pick-up truck!"

In honor of the construction that surrounds us and my lads who love it, here are some of the construction-themed picture books that we've dug (in no particular order):
  • Roadwork by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock 
  • The Construction Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Rob Bolster 
  • The Lot at the End of My Block by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Reg Cartwright 
  • Building with Dad by Carol Nevius, illustrated by Bill Thomson 
  • Dig by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal 
  • Who Made This Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa, illustrated by Junji Koyose 
  • C is for Construction: Big Trucks and Diggers from A to Z by Caterpillar 
  • Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Saturday, August 21, 2010

welcome to my world

where Legos and laundry peacefully (peaceably?) coexist.

Friday, August 20, 2010

three weeks of two & two

"Mom, remember the first day I held this little missy?" the kindergartner muses as he snuggles his littler sister after school.  Yes, I do: three weeks ago today... how is it even possible?

All too easily, I'm afraid, after seeing some big kids at school Mass this morning.  My bambini will be that big someday. Oy.

After the snuggling, he traded the sister for a cup of chocolate milk, most of which ended up all over his uniform.  Stay tuned for the verdict on my stain treatment measures...

The middle two bambini are holding their own with their distinctive personalities.  The younger lad has been spontaneously singing "Dancing on the Ceiling" (yes, by Lionel Richie) after it skyrocketed to the top of our charts last weekend.  The not-so-littler-lass has new monikers for my beloved and me: "Daddy-O" and "Mommy-O."  We'll answer to those.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

a full day

The first day of kindergarten seems to have been a success.  The morning drop-off went well (both traffic- and farewell-wise), and the elder lad was wearing a big smile when I collected him this afternoon.  He likes his teacher, the new friends he's getting to know, the gym, and the playground.   It helps a lot to have a familiar face at school as well: one of my beloved's aunts is a teacher there, and she checked in on the lad throughout the day, delivered him to the car after school, and reported him looking to be doing well throughout the day.  

To celebrate this monumental day, we tried out a new pancake recipe and had breakfast for dinner.  The elder lad made the pancake batter pretty much on his own.

We're off to a good start here.  God willing, we'll get some traction and gain some momentum, and soon this will all seem old hat.  This day has been a long time coming.  I'm grateful for its arrival.  Here's hoping it's the first of many fun days for the elder lad, and an instrument of grace to help our family grow in holiness together.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

it's a school night.

We've reached the end of an era.  Tomorrow the elder lad will start kindergarten at a parish school, which will usher in a new season for our family.  On his last day of summer vacation, he seemed to have a lot of fun digging in the dirt with his brother, playing a game of chess with his auntie, going to Target with my mom, and holding his baby sister.  I think he's both excited to start school and understandably nervous about the unknown.  I know I am for him!

I wonder if I have made the most of the time I've had him at home with me.  I've tried to, but still I wonder if I've done enough.  There have been many times when it's been obvious that he was up for more of a challenge than I was able to provide at that moment because of needing to tend to his younger siblings or some other obligation I had.  This is part of life, and developing the skills of self-motivation and initiative are very important.  I hope I've given him enough of a framework within which to cultivate those skills.

He's clearly ready for the experience kindergarten will provide.  While I haven't discerned the call to be his teacher in a home school setting, my beloved and I will always be his primary teachers.  We're not abdicating that role to someone else; we will support and collaborate with the teachers at his school in the educational process. 

As much as I may fret over whether I've been able to meet his intellectual needs to this point, I have to trust that we have done our best (and will continue in this endeavor) to form his eternal soul, teaching him how to live as a child of God, with his family and the larger community, and how to listen for the voice of God calling him to grow more and more into the person he was created to be.  We do this with all our love and care, and take as many opportunities as are afforded us to tangibly let him know of our love for him as the person God made him.

It'll be an early start for him in the morning, as he and my beloved (who will be taking him to school in the mornings) will need to hit the road earlier than they're both used to for the stop-light laden drive across town.  The three younger bambini and I will pick the lad up after school, snacks in hand, anxious to hear how it went but (here's hoping anyway) not overbearing in our quest to find out.

Clueless as I am to this whole big-kid school thing, I'm having some trouble settling down for the evening (if that isn't obvious), trying to take care of everything but certain that I've forgotten or overlooked something.  I need to give it a rest, though, and turn my worries over to God in prayer, because it's a school night...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

bedtime music

Music has long been a part of our bedtime routine, along with reading, prayers, and snuggling.  After lights out, the music comes on.

 I've been playing Perchance to Dream, piano pieces mainly from the Romantic era of music performed by Carol Rosenberger, since I was a child.  It went to college with me.  Now our bambini fall asleep to it.  I often do also, as it's so ingrained in my psyche as the "night-night" cue.  If I manage to fend off its sleep-inducing effect, I mark time by it, since the order of the pieces is by now very familiar.  A few of the pieces were among the repertoire I studied as a piano major in college, including "Mignon" by Robert Schumann (track #8) and Johannes Brahms' Intermezzo in E-flat Major, Op. 117 No. 1 (track #16).  This latter piece is probably what I would consider my hallmark, closest-to-my-heart piece of piano literature I studied.  Inscribed to an unnamed loved one with words akin to "Sleep softly, my child.  It pains me so to see you crying," the piece endeared itself to me long before I had children.

If pressed to name one favorite composer, Johannes Brahms is probably mine.  The sonorous melodies, rich harmonies, and expressiveness of his music speak to my particular brand of musical taste.  Brahms at Bedtime: A Sleepytime Serenade is an instrumental compilation of orchestral and vocal works by various performers and instrumentation (no voices).  Brahms' "Lullaby" is, of course, included (track #1), as is my dear Intermezzo in E-flat Major (track #11).  Among others is the lied (or song) "Wie Melodien" transcribed for cello and piano (track #7) and one of the variations (track #12) from Brahms' much larger work Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, an intriguing and multi-faceted piece first introduced to me when my college piano professor was preparing it for recording and would perform it for his students in our weekly studio class. 

Intrigued by an elementary school marimba ensemble concert in a microbrewery/pizza parlor on our honeymoon to Portland, Oregon, my beloved and I sought out some marimba recordings upon our return home.  Our favorite quickly became Christian Roderburg's marimba transcriptions of Bach cello suites (BWV 1010-1012).  I've read that Bach is actually not the best music for sleep because it is so complex and stimulating to the brain, but the marimba seems to counteract the complexity and lure the listener into a nice rainy-day kind of sleepiness. 

Sleep is elusive around here these days (at least for some of us, the raven-haired lass being the exception).  Good thing this collection of bedtime music is queued up and ready.  With such strong sleep associations these recordings have, eventually drowsiness overtakes even the most obstinate sleep fighter -- that would be me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

flying solo

For as challenging as the fourth pregnancy was for me, the wee raven-haired lass has shown herself to be a sweet-natured, fairly easy-going young lady.  She pretty much has to be, doesn't she?

My beloved returned to work today following a week's "staycation."  Our parents have likewise returned to their work-a-day routines.  Thus, with much humility and deep gratitude (and I'm sure thanks to much grace and a barrage of prayers on our behalf), this first full day of Mama and bambini flying solo went fairly well.  Sure, it had its ups and downs, but I've come to expect and weather those with the knowledge that comes only with hard-earned experience that, given a chance (and a prayer), the tempest will pass if I get out of the way.

The same experience -- all five years of it -- tempers my relief at the relative success of this day with the knowledge that not every day will go as well.  At such times, I pray both for mercy and for God's grace to make up the difference between what the bambini need and what I'm able to provide at that moment. 

Yes: the workload has increased.  Curiously, it seems our dishwasher is running all the time now along with the washing machine.  This baffles me, because the raven-haired lass dirties no dishes.

And yes: I'm pretty tired.  But seeing the raven-haired lass's three older siblings doting on her in their various ways gives me hope for the days to come, not to mention a collective lifelong legacy of laughter and looking out for each other.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

not unlike Mayberry

Growing up in a small town, folks like the auto mechanic, heat & air guy, and plumber are almost like family in that we've called on them time and again -- even on Sundays and Thanksgiving -- and there they are post haste.  When my parents' air conditioner went on the fritz (for which no one could blame it, given this relentless  heat), they called the heat & air guy, a name almost as familiar as my own to me.  Guess what the problem was?

The capacitor.

Friday, August 13, 2010

on the eve of our anniversary

On this night six years ago, the eve of our wedding, I didn't foresee snuggling three bambini for bedtime stories while the eldest played one last game of checkers for the day with his dad.  As I wrote, though, in the column that ran in the diocesan newspaper the day after we got married, the care of these children is part of the "shared vocation to which God has called [us] -- the one which He has seen fit to will for us so that we may help each other prepare to meet Him at the end of our earthly lives."

For the call to this vocation and the myriad blessings of this life together, I am profoundly and humbly grateful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

king me

In a week's time, the elder lad will be an official kindergartner.  He is fully registered at the parish school and seems to be looking forward to the new adventure.  Now if only his uniform shirts were not gargantuan, but that's his mother's doing -- buying clothes at least a size or two too big in the interest of longevity.  Thankfully, his slightly-older cousin has some outgrown uniform clothes that will likely fit our elder lad.  Now he'll be on the receiving end of the hand me downs, an idea which seems to appeal to him.

Our soon-to-be-kindergartner is relishing his "oldest child" position.  He keeps making reference to it.  As much as he might like to think himself king of the castle, today we taught him how to play checkers.  The strategy involved is right up his analytical alley, and the glee on his face when he says "king me" is a sight to behold. 

Sure, he got tired of the game before it was quite finished and wanted instead to use the playing pieces as coins in a game of store, but then later he taught his younger brother how to play checkers.  Tomorrow the elder lad wants to rewrite the rules to start with kings that dissolve into singletons after a successful run across the checkerboard.  Instead of "king me," what will we say then?  "Abdicate?"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

dining al fresco

The lads ate breakfast on the back porch this morning (for some unknown reason, as the air was already thick with humidity).  Their sisters were sleeping in, and my beloved (who is home for a few days' "staycation") and I were having our breakfast at the kitchen table in the air conditioning.

When next the elder lad came inside, he discovered his sisters at the table with us.  He shouted to his brother out the open door "say 'good morning' to your sisters!"

"GOOD MORNING!" the younger lad hollered.

"That's enough," the elder lad said curtly, and dashed back outside.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

power nap

By some miracle, there were *four* sleeping bambini in this house at the same time.  As soon as the remaining holdout drifted off, my mind started prioritizing the things that need tending to (starting with that mountain of laundry to be folded, followed by having some chocolate), but instead of popping up I made myself lie down for a ten minute power nap.

That's about all I could manage, though, because then the raven-haired lass awoke -- and I had to have some chocolate.

Monday, August 09, 2010

heebie jeebies notwithstanding

A dark spot on the dimly-lit floor outside the laundry room cut through the fog of my grogginess this morning.  I knew immediately what it was: a cricket.

I don't care for crickets in the same way my college roommate doesn't care for spiders.  By that I mean, each kind of creepy crawly thing makes us just about come unglued.

Silly girls.

Heretofore when encountering crickets, I've been inclined to leave them be, as their jumping makes me jumpy too.  But I'm the mama here, and I'm not going to stand for crickets (or other such intruders) in the house.  Creepy crawly things are liable to be doused with hairspray before being squashed and disposed of, but in order to reach the hairspray I would've had to get past the cricket, and I figured that maneuver would make it jump, and then I'd jump, and that would be bad.  So I reached for my spray bottle of white vinegar and didn't let myself think any further of any jumping that might ensue.

The poor thing put up a valiant fight in spite of being too vinegar-logged to jump.  I was able to end the episode with a wad of paper towels and a big sigh of relief.

Now if it had been one of those half dollar-sized spiders that have made appearances a time or two this time of year, well, I think I'd probably still be standing there -- but then again, a mama's got to do what a mama's got to do...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

normal (whatever that is)

As we try to get back to normal, or rather find a new normal, striking a balance between allowing myself to rest and heal from the younger lass's birth and wanting to be right back to "normal" with the older bambini is proving to be the biggest challenge.  Overdoing now could spell trouble down the road, and I don't want that.  There's just a lot to be done, and I know all too well how much more manageable the tasks are with multiple hands working to accomplish them.

I so appreciate the continued tender loving care we've been receiving from our loved ones.  My beloved is likewise working overtime to pick up the slack left by my sitting idle in my comfies and spectacles.  I am torn between wanting to rest and sleep and wanting to be as ever for my young children, who still depend so heavily on Mama taking care of them.  This time of transition is already confusing and challenging enough for them.  While it's good for them to learn to receive loving care from someone other than me, it's also essential for them to know I'm still here for them.

In less than two weeks the elder lad will start kindergarten, and we will once again redefine our "normal".  In the in-between, all I know to do is do our best to stick to the basic daily routine we've had for a while now, and make the most of the blessing of each moment together.  We'll work our way back to normal -- whatever that is...

Saturday, August 07, 2010

sweet tooth revisited

This happens every time.  My sweet tooth just goes berserk after I have a baby.  When I'm pregnant, it waxes and wanes depending on how nauseated I am, but it reaches fever pitch after the baby is born.  It's all I can do to keep it in check, allowing myself a little indulgence but trying to be smart about it.

In this fourth bout with the Sweet Tooth (it gets capitalized now -- it's that formidable), I'm trying a few things to make sure things don't get out of control:
  1. I try to have a protein-dense breakfast, like our pancakes, cheese grits, or breakfast casserole.  If I have something like a bagel and cream cheese (much as I love that), I'm more inclined to go for something else high in carbs later on, and the rest of the day I struggle to keep from consuming nothing but carbs.  This gets me nowhere good.
  2. When I do have something sweet, I try to choose something like our chocolate chip chickpea cookies (protein and fiber are hidden amongst the chocolate) or protein-laden chocolate Greek yogurt.
  3. I'll allow myself such delights as chocolate milkshakes (though the trash-can sized ones are only for right after delivery) and my mother-in-law's apple küchen so long as I've had enough protein beforehand to take on the sugar spike that ensues. 
  4. Once these mint Milano cookies I'm so very fond of that my mother brought me are gone, they're gone. 
*Note: dark chocolate (like my favorite dark 85%) lies beyond the realm of the balanced diet parameters.  Dark chocolate is nearly always considered "health food" thanks to the antioxidants and endorphins it imparts.

For my family's sake as well as my own, I must eat well -- not only so that I can supply the raven-haired lass with the best nutrition, but also so that I feel well enough to be able to take good care of everyone. If I haven't eaten well, I can't do that. Too much sugar and not enough protein spell sluggishness, irritability, and muddle-headedness, and I'm already plenty muddle-headed!

It's an ongoing battle between my Sweet Tooth and me, but I think I might just have the upper hand.

Friday, August 06, 2010


When our elder lad was about a year old, my sister would on occasion bring him to me after holding or playing with him for a while and tell me "he needs resetting."  Some quality time with Mama, and he'd be back ready to play with other folks.

We've been very blessed to have family helping us for the past couple of weeks with all manner of things, from bambini care to household maintenance, for which we are so grateful.  Since we got home from the hospital, we've been "resetting", reconnecting with the bambini after our brief separation and getting to know our raven-haired lass.  She has us all beguiled by her discerning contemplation of us and her sweet nature.  She's a week old today. 

I hope to make the most of this time together before the elder lad starts kindergarten in a couple of weeks.   With everyone reset, we stand the best chance at long-term success.  Please keep us in your prayers.
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