7 quick takes, Uncategorized

7QT: The Things You Missed (because I didn’t tell you) Edition

It’s 91 degrees here today. 91. As in nine degrees less than one hundred.

The funny thing is, I don’t even mind. After all the cold, wet rain of the last month, this feels great. Hot, but great. Like summer. Since this weekend is the beginning of summer (as far as retailers are concerned, anyway, by the volume of e-mails I am getting about various sales), I’m good with it.

I do feel like I’ve left out a lot in my blog silence of late, so consider this a ketchup post- photos and things I haven’t told you.

We celebrated Easter here at our house and went to church at our own parish. Usually, there’s this big debate about whether we ought to take a “liturgical field trip” to the Basilica or the Cathedral, but this year, we wanted to stay put. George made a country ham and a truly amazing lemon chess pie. There were Peeps and chocolate bunnies. And Felix wore a bow tie. It was pretty perfect.

Just at the last minute before the season of Easter ended, we managed to dye eggs with our friends. I’m always grateful for long liturgical seasons when we start listing things we want to do as a family. Everyone has a special list of things we MUST DO or it will not feel like Easter (or Christmas, or Thanksgiving, etc). I know the Church wasn’t thinking of busy moms when the calendar was being created…I’m pretty sure it has more to do with Jesus…but it’s lovely to take advantage of the length of the season to spread these things out.

We celebrated Pentecost here at home, too, with a very red cake that turned everyone’s mouth very red. It wasn’t red velvet- I didn’t have enough cocoa powder for that. Sam wanted to just dump red food coloring into the bowl and make the batter as red as possible. This was the result.

I’m probably going to just blame any and all behavior problems for the next 90 days or so on that amount of red dye. Ugh.

Sam celebrated his First Communion last weekend with friends and family. He looked so handsome in his suit and was so excited to go up to receive communion. He and his good buddy Mark ended up being chosen to carry up the gifts together. Watching them process up the aisle, side by side in their suits, I suddenly wondered if they’ll do that again at Confirmation and maybe when one or both of them gets married…and then I had to stop, because I was crying.

Sam was the first child of 70 something to go up to receive, and he was nervous he’d mess something up. Of course, he didn’t- it all went beautifully. I think the bigger thrill for all of us was the next morning, though, on a regular Sunday, when Sam got to walk up with us and receive communion instead of crossing his arms as he’s had to do for a while now. The priest asked for all the First Communion children to come up front to receive as a group, but Sam didn’t go. He said, “I’d rather stay with my family so we can all receive Jesus together…that’s kind of the point of today.” It was a beautiful moment.

After church, we had a Second Communion party with friends from church at a local park. It poured down rain. The picnic shelter kept us dry, and the kids (who didn’t care) stood outside and let the rain stream down their bodies and laughed.

In other news, there are two girls here who are VERY eager to make their First Communions. They raided their dressup clothes collection for “communion costumes.” I think it might be a long few years for them.

Felix has adopted the word “actually” (to the great amusement of everyone else in the house). He picks up things and holds them close to his chest, saying with great authority, “This is MINE, actually.” It sounds more like “ak-shoowee,” but he is using it correctly…and something about that is just so funny.

I still struggle with this- I don’t want him (or any of my children) to think we’re laughing at him, but sometimes we can’t help it.

On a related note, the empty lot next to us is being turned into a house. This means lots of noise and lots of trucks. Felix couldn’t be happier about this development. He has started naming the trucks and machines and correcting us if we call them by the wrong names (actually, that’s a cement mixer!). After months of reading his truck books to him, it’s fun to see him getting excited about the real thing.

I do wish the trucks didn’t beep quite so loudly when they back up. Seriously- SO LOUD.

In an ongoing effort to appreciate the beautiful sweetness of everyday moments, I’m trying to take a picture every day to record one. I’m sharing over at Instagram with the hashtag #100daysofholylens. Come follow along. You might even get to help me identify random wildflowers or weigh in on fabric choices for projects in progress. Conversation sparks creativity for me- I’d love your input.

I have a love-hate relationship with clothes my children have outgrown. When I put away Sam’s clothes, I sorted and labeled everything carefully, anticipating we would need those things again. With the girls, I was lucky to get the clothes out of the house to the shed at all, and I mostly just shoved things into bins and stacked them high in the shed. Whenever we go to get things out (like the lawnmower, which has suddenly become pretty important), the terrifying towers of hand me downs sway ominously back and forth, threatening to crush us beneath them if we make a wrong move.

To avoid this unpleasant end, I’ve been sorting through the bins and finding new homes for things the girls and Felix have outgrown. I am keeping some things, but it seems foolish to have so many clothes piled up when someone could be using them. I don’t know exactly where the line is between thrifty saving and greedy hoarding, but I must be close to it!

Something about going through those girl clothes is really hard. I haven’t seen them since I put them away. They’re tiny and sweet and covered with rosebuds and rainbows and tiny daisies and watermelons. It’s hard to give them up…but it is slightly easier to give them to someone I know will love them. We were able to donate a big bag of stuff, plus a few baby essentials (pack ‘n’ play and bouncy seat) to a new twin mom who had fallen on hard times. That was fun.

(Do you need any little girl hand me downs? Let me know! I have tons.)

That’s it- I think you’re all caught up, right? Thanks to Kelly for hosting. For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

7 quick takes, Christmas, liturgical guilt, long hair

7 Quick Takes: Liturgical Musings, Life Updates, and Long Hair Problems


Hungry for details on what we’ve been up to during the long, unscheduled radio silence of the last month?
Want to know about my not-so-internal struggles with liturgical living this year?
Care to weigh in on the great no-shampoo debate and advise me on my suddenly long hair?

Well, you’re here, so you must be at least a little curious.

The Perils of Raising Children Liturgically: A Short Play with One Scene

Lucy has a talent for naming her dolls unconventionally and unforgettably. One of her favorites is called First Day of Christmas. A few days ago, she was carrying the doll through the kitchen when Nora stopped her.

Nora, pointedly and with relish: You can’t play with her.
Lucy: I can, too! It’s still Christmas.
Nora: Maybe so, but it’s not the First Day.
Lucy, who is often reflexively contrary: Is so. 
Nora: It isn’t either the first day of Christmas! She’s off limits until next year.

Lucy: Ahhhhh! (bursts into tears)
Nora, matter-of-factly: I guess you should have thought about that when you named her. If you’d named her Epiphany, it would all be okay.
Sam, coming in to see what the drama is all about: Well, almost. In a few days, anyway.

Tears. Wails. Sobs.

End scene.

As you can probably tell by the previous vignette, my children have inherited my hang-ups about doing things correctly.

Listening to them, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. What struck me most about their unkindness to poor Lucy was how similar it sounded to my own thoughts about some of my neighbors. I’ve made no secret of my Big Uncharitable Feelings about the Giant Santa Inflatable at the end of the street, who made his first appearance the day after Halloween and was replaced before new year’s by a large polar bear holding a heart. Nor did I attempt to disguise my annoyance at being unable to buy peppermints in Wal-mart the day before Christmas- they were busy putting away all the “holiday” decorations to make room for the Valentine’s candy, and they hadn’t put the Christmas stuff on clearance just yet, so it Just Wasn’t Available.

They do have Cadbury Eggs, though. On an endcap, too, so you can’t miss them.

Why do they have to rush everything? And why does it bother me so much?

I think these little moments of irritation could be opportunities for me. Opportunities to practice patience, maybe- little reminders that we are living in the Not Yet. We’re waiting…for Christmas, or for the end of Christmas, or the beginning of Lent, or the season of Easter. We’re following a different rhythm than big box retailers or the Seasonally Festive Inflatable House down the street. We’re waiting for something different, and it’s just a tiny, dim reflection of the bigger waiting…not just waiting for the next big holiday, but for the coming of the kingdom of God (which looks nothing like we can imagine, anyway, and isn’t about tasteful decor that’s the appropriate liturgical color).

Really, I could be just a little more charitable while I wait.
Barring that, I could practice gratitude. At least there are no President’s Day-themed inflatables yet.

Christmas, in bullet points: What We Did

– visited Christmastown with family
– took a pajama ride to look at holiday lights around town
– went to the Christmas parade with good friends
– hosted a spirited fiesta for Our Lady of Guadalupe with twice as many kids as adults (and Mexican hot chocolate)
– attended Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral

– traveled to visit both of our families (and listened to a lot of great Christmas music in the car)
– made and ate a gingerbread village, populated by such residents as Santa, Jacob Marley’s ghost, my Gramp, and the Headless Horseman

– stayed in a hotel with a glass elevator and a heated indoor pool (the high point of celebrating, as far as our kids were concerned) and complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast (the high point of celebrating, as far as I was concerned)
– baked a ton of cookies
– ate and gave away a ton of cookies
– got on a first-name basis with our UPS delivery guy (maybe because of the cookies)
– ate way too many Reese’s Cups (that was just me)
– completed a Master’s of Social Work degree (that was just George, but I’m still rejoicing!)
– visited the Basilica in Washington, DC for Mass on January 1st

All in all, it was a great holiday break. We celebrated well this year. I just don’t feel quite ready to stop yet.

Speaking of Christmas, I’m having a hard time letting it go this year. My “rule-following, liturgically correct” self is having an argument with my “hey, calm-down, it’s-not-an-emergency-it-just-feels-like-one” self. I’m still not sure who is winning.

Liturgically Correct Self: It’s Epiphany. You really need to take down the tree before book club this weekend. You’ve never been one of those leave-it-up-til-Candlemas people, and this is no time to start.
Hey, Just Calm Down Self: Oh, come on. It’s pretty. The kids are enjoying it. And besides, we were gone almost all of the 12 Days. We didn’t really get to enjoy it.
Liturgically Correct Self: You sound depressed. Stop being so lazy.

Liturgically Correct Self: OK, enough with the Christmas music already. Jesus is born, and now it is time to move on.
Hey, Just Calm Down Self: These events are outside of human time. Jesus was born and IS born and never stops being born, really…it’s the Incarnation! I refuse to be limited by your human understandings and chronology. And I waited so long to start playing Christmas music because of Advent…the kids are just learning the words to these songs!
Liturgically Correct Self, rolling her eyes: What in the world is happening to you?

Basically, if you come over any time in the next few weeks, there will still be some signs of Christmastide. Maybe even big ones. I’m not apologizing for it…but I am realizing that it probably never mattered quite as much as I thought it did. Being correct isn’t everything, and it isn’t even that fun most of the time.

School is back in session at our house this week, and everyone seems rather relieved to be back on schedule again. We’re easing back in slowly, so we won’t be up to our full load until the end of next week. We’re reading our favorite snow books in the hopes that it might influence the forecast. If you’re local and hoping against snow, don’t be mad- we’ll just cancel each other out (except that little kids hoping for snow have more influence than grumpy grownups who don’t want it to come…you’ll just have to work a little harder than we will to get your point across to the Guy in Charge of the Weather).

The girls and I read Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton today for the first time. It was oddly detailed about the various trucks and vehicles involved in snow removal, but the girls LOVED it!

They immediately set about building a road with the wooden blocks in our living room. Nora pulled out half a roll of toilet paper and layered it carefully on top of the road to be the snow, then borrowed Felix’s smallest bulldozer and started “plowing” the road with it. It was amazing to watch…especially because if I had suggested it, they would have refused to do anything of the sort. There were no princesses or mommies and babies involved at all, either- just growling and tooting and roaring trucks pushing snow-covered blocks all over the carpet and towing each other out when they got stuck. And Felix, who shared his bulldozer without incident, ran through the whole scene over and over with his arms above his head, yelling, “KATY!” with great gusto.

Sam, who is often blurry, is blurry.

Incredible, really.

I realized last month that my hair has gotten really long. It’s halfway down my back. It was shoulder length when Felix was born. Now he’s almost 18 months old, and I haven’t had it cut in over a year.

He was so much littler! My hair was so much shorter!

These are things that happen when you aren’t paying attention.

The thing is, I am a short hair person. I haven’t really had long hair since high school (except a brief time while I was growing it out for my wedding, which now just seems silly. Why do people do that?) Short hair works for my life and my head and the shape of my face. That’s why my blog picture still has short hair (well, that and the fact that I haven’t made the time to update it in a while)- my mental image of myself is of a person with short hair. I cut it above my ears years before Sam was born and loved it, so I kept it that way.

Sometime after the twins were born (or maybe after they became toddlers, because oh.my.goodness), it became really hard to go and get haircuts every five or six weeks, and I started letting it grow. Now that it’s really long, I have two choices: cut it all off again, or figure out what in the world to do with it.

I talked to my sister about this over Christmas. She’s stopped using shampoo and says her hair is softer and lovelier than ever. She’s using a natural bristle brush and baking soda and eggs and vinegar instead of shampoo, and the whole thing terrifies me just a bit.

I decided to start by buying a brush- a real brush with boar bristles, like people who really care about their hair use. (That’s what y’all do, right?) I typically just comb my hair after I wash it and then put it up or braid it, but I guess maybe I could put forth a little more effort? I’ve been behaving like a person with short hair who just happens to find herself with long hair. Having a decent brush seemed like a reasonable first step toward reform.

What do you do, long-haired readers? Please share your advice. If I’m going to commit to being a long-haired writer, I need to figure out how to manage it.

And if I’m not, I really, really need a haircut.

Lent starts in 33 days.

How is that even possible? Wasn’t it just Christmas? Didn’t I just finish saying that it’s still Christmas at my house? I guess I need to get my act together.

What are you reading/doing/praying/becoming this year for Lent? Point me in the right direction, please, because I am still eating candy canes from my stocking (and mini Reese’s Cups from Felix’s stocking, because toddlers can’t appreciate mini Reese’s Cups and are not entitled to have them) and am not feeling ready for this at all.

Thanks to Kelly for hosting and to you for reading!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

7 quick takes, Halloween, Nora

7 Quick Takes: Halloween, The Art Department, and the Quotable Nora Edition

In the interest of keeping you up to speed on the final dressing up choices of everyone this Halloween, here is the official Halloween photo dump:

Felix as Bacchus, the Roman god who knows how to party
Lucy as A Princess, But Not A Disney One

Sam as Scipio Africanus: “Carthago Delenda Est!”

Nora as Laura Ingalls (without braids)

Obligatory Group Photo

I’ve been overcoming my inborn fear of art-related mess for years now, but finger paint still gives me pause. It seems like just asking for trouble. This week, when the girls asked to finger paint, I took a deep breath and said “yes.” Here are the results:

“Felix thinks it’s a bird, but it is NOT.” by Lucy, age 4
“It’s a dragon. But it doesn’t eat people.” by Nora, age 4

They moved on quickly to watercolor. Turns out part of the allure of finger paint is that mama usually tries to talk them out of it.

Also art-related: Nora drew a real face! With eyes and everything! It was a first.

She’s been drawing people’s bodies with arms, legs and torsos for quite a while now, but their heads never had faces. I’m not used to that progression- most kids I know do the big heads with smiles and then start adding arms and legs coming directly out of the heads. Nora is on her own track, art-wise, as she is with most other things.

Speaking of Nora, she’s been so quotable lately that I often find myself turning my head so she won’t catch me laughing. It’s worse when George is here- I have to tell myself not to look at him because I know we’ll both dissolve into laughter, which would definitely hurt Nora’s feelings. She’s a serious girl, that one, and she does not mean to be so funny.

This morning, she turned up at my side in her Laura Ingalls costume (her uniform since the middle of last week). I greeted her with a little hug and she tossed her baby doll onto the counter, saying casually, “Well, I’ve got my kids today. My wife’s a ninja, but she doesn’t stay here.”

Then, over her cheesy grits at breakfast, she announced, “Hey, I guess you’re in charge, Mama, ‘cuz Pater Noster’s at work.”

I die. I just hope it doesn’t show on my face. (I know. I know it does. I can’t help it.)

My first-ever retraction…I’ve written lots of contractions, some against the better advice of my inner English teacher, Ms. Raines, who always stands inside my head and dispenses advice in her red Reebok hightops. She’s never wrong, and yet I persist in my wayward writing ways. Contractions are friendly space savers. I like them.

As far as retractions, though, I haven’t had to write one before (that I remember). This is a first.
I must tell you that my reporting of the Time Change-Induced Behavior Episode Involving K’nex and a Certain Boys’ Bedroom Ceiling was apparently inaccurate. The child in question did not actually put holes in the ceiling. He removed all the sticky putty from the backs of his posters, smooshed it onto the ceiling in tiny bits, and used it to suspend said K’nex pieces so that they looked like they had been poked into the ceiling…as if some crazy multi-colored porcupine had moved into the attic and fallen asleep with his poky side down.

Let the record stand corrected.

Because some children are harder to live with than others (ahem), there’s this amazing reflection by Susan Barico on her blog. You should read it. If not now, later. Say you will- then we can talk about it, okay? I have lots of thoughts.

I have the self-imposed deadline of Martinmas (November 11) in my head as the time by which closets should be ready for fall. That’s partially because of Molly at Molly Makes Do (who gives hand-knit things to her family for Martinmas gifts) and partially because of something Kendra at Catholic All Year wrote about extra coats and St. Basil. Basically, it comes down to this- some people don’t have enough. We almost always have more than enough. We especially have more than enough size 3T snow pants- they seem to have been procreating in our closet since last winter. It’s time to pass some things on.

In my cleaning out, I noticed that my favorite long red coat has once again been a snack for a new crop of carpet beetles. I am beyond sad about this. Those guys were in that closet when we moved into the house, and I’ve eradicated them four times. They just keep coming back.

I hate carpet beetles. I don’t know why God created them. I do not wish for them to be the recipients of our Martinmas sharing of coats. Any ideas?

To wrap things up, here’s a picture of the most amazing Friday afternoon surprise from the most amazing mother-in-law I’ve ever had. Sandra, you really put a big smile on my face!

It’s been a pretty difficult week, but how can anyone be frowny with a basket like that on the table?

Happy weekending, all. Now you’re all caught up.
For more Quick Takes, go visit Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum!
7 quick takes, Felix

7 Quick Takes: Felix is one edition

So, this baby is one. One! A whole year has gone by since that day when the midwife met us at the hospital for my favorite birth ever. In case any of my kids ever read this, please know that saying it was my favorite birth ever doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s my favorite child. Not necessarily. I love all of you in your own special ways.


Because he is the fourth child, Felix has suffered in the baby record keeping department. I don’t have a baby book for him with all the carefully recorded milestones and the dates his teeth came in and what face he made the first time he ate peas. I do have a lot of pictures on my phone. (What did people do before they had smart phones to take pictures of their kids?)

I guess they just remembered to write things down in their carefully-kept baby books.

This week, though, I’m focusing on letting good enough be good enough, and I’m not going for perfect. So pictures will have to do, Felix. Good thing we have so many wonderful pictures of you!

I made a collage of pictures from Felix’s first year for the birthday party. It’s amazing how much he’s changed.

Our gift to the baby who already has everything by way of hand-me-downs was a plastic baby pool with ball pit balls in it.

It was awesome. He loved it. I think it’s the perfect one year old present, and I kind of want to give it to every one year old I know.

My nephew will turn one on September 1, but we will not be sending him a plastic pool filled with balls, because he lives in Nome, Alaska. His mother will probably be grateful.

If she had experienced this gift, though, she might appreciate the ball pit more.

George’s sister and her family, in a gesture of love (and possibly out of a desire to get even with us for that child-sized electronic drum we gave their son- our nephew and godson- on his first birthday), gifted Felix with his own Rock and Roll Elmo.

Elmo sings, dances, taps his foot, plays the tambourine and the bongos, and will share his instruments and microphone with any child who takes them out of his hand.

“Okay! Your turn to use the microphone! Ha ha ha ha!”

(Why does Elmo sound so maniacal when he laughs? It gives me the creeps.)

Anyway, our baby boy was delighted with Elmo and crawled right up to him to put his chubby baby fingers in Elmo’s mouth. Elmo just kept singing, but I thought it was kind of charming. It turns out that if my baby loves Rock and Roll Elmo, I kind of love him, too. I was even happy about the extra set of batteries they gave us.

Since the arrival of Elmo, Felix has started dancing. I don’t know if Elmo really gets credit for this development or if it is just coincidental. Either way, it’s really awesome. He dances sitting down, standing up, and in his car seat. I could watch it all day.

A one year old’s birthday party is a tricky thing. It needs to be kind of low-key and comfortable. We were so precious about Sam’s first birthday- our “first” first birthday. We tightly controlled the guest list, the food, the start and finish times (carefully chosen to protect both morning and afternoon nap) and Baby Sam’s overall sugar consumption.

No longer a baby. Semi-pro cake eater.

This time…well, yeah. Our family is bigger, so there’s a certain amount of chaos around here all the time. Our siblings’ families have also grown, and most of our close friends have several children, too. It ended up being a rather sizable crowd with children running everywhere in our backyard. We bought a bunch of kites from Dollar Tree and gave them to all the kids. That led to a wonderful, harmonious time where everyone seemed to be flying a kite. The only downside was that I felt like the soundtrack from Mary Poppins was in my head for the rest of the weekend.

Although I have never been one of those people who talks about how fast time is passing, I feel like time is passing fast with this baby. How is it that he’s already one? The rest of our children seem to be exactly the right ages, and I don’t feel time rushing by when I look at them (even though Sam is doing all kinds of big-kid things this summer every time I turn around). There’s something about Felix, though- there’s something about his turning 1 that makes me want to slow things down just a little bit.

Unfortunately, if I slow down at all, I’ll just have to run faster to catch up with all the others…and who knows what they’ll get into before I get there. Might as well keep on going, I suppose!

Happy birthday, Felix. You are the most, and we love you.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

7 quick takes

7 Quick Takes: The Little Wins edition

Once upon a time, there was a blogger who never blogged.
The end.
No, just kidding. Sometimes, she sat down at her computer and a bunch of words came flying out of her brain through her fingers and onto the screen, and she hit “publish” and people got to read them. Most of the time, though, she hit “save” and the words sat for a long time with the word “draft” beside them and no one ever read them…except the writer herself, when she needed a post for some looming deadline and thought she might try to recycle one.
The trouble with blogging in fits and starts is that so many things don’t ever make it to the screen. I end up feeling like there are big holes in the story- so many little things I haven’t told you! So today, I’m sharing some of them. We’ll call it the Little Wins edition…the deceptively insignificant-actually great stuff that has happened lately that I want you to know. 
Ready? Here goes.

This week, I roasted a whole chicken by myself. I cut up the veggies and rubbed butter and kosher salt and pepper all over the thing, and I remembered to take out the yucky parts in the middle before I put it in the oven this time, and I even stuck some cloves of garlic in there to replace those yucky parts. And…it was amazing. So, so good. I felt like such a grownup that I even texted three people a picture of the chicken after I put it into the oven and told them that I felt like a grownup.

If you were one of those people, thanks for not telling me to grow up…because as far as I am concerned, I just did.

Let no one say that I have no domestic skills (even if some of them might have been late-blooming). Win.

The kids got a craft box this week from One of Those Monthly Box Subscription Services that are all the rage right now. I am not, overall, impressed with this company, but this box was a hit because it had a robot theme and included a hexbug.

Do you know hexbugs? They are pretty awesome things! Here’s a link*:


I hadn’t seen them until my nephew’s birthday this year, where there was a whole little hexbug world happening with little robotic bugs climbing up and down these plastic connected tubes. It looked like a Habitrail I used to have for my gerbils for the middle school science fair.

So, we now have a hexbug of our own. My first thought when I saw it was, “Oh, no, here comes a HUGE problem,” because there was only one of him and three kids who were clamoring for him right away.

But then, this happened:

The big kids collaboratively built a course for the hexbug. They figured out he didn’t work well on the carpet, so they put down books. He didn’t do well on the books, so they lined up wooden blocks end to end and made a road. He fell off the sides of the road, so they made bumper-style walls for him on either side, complete with a little wooden box garage door trap at the end. They released him into their course and cheered for him until he reached the box…over and over and over.

It was amazing.

It might have only lasted five minutes, but what a gloriously beautiful five minutes they were! No fighting! All teamwork! Somebody must be doing a great job of parenting those kids. Win!

Before they could start pulling each other’s hair out and squabbling over the bug, I left.

I left. And I went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant with my friends and zero of my children. It was even more amazing than the hexbug.

Thank you, George. I ate some chips with salsa for you.

(Win. Obviously.)

Mexican dinner out was especially amazing because I can now eat dairy again. The dairy elimination didn’t really seem to help Felix at all, so we decided to do a dairy reintroduction trial and see what happened. There was no difference. That’s not great news for Felix, but it’s good news for my diet. My short-lived exile from all milk products is over, and just in time to make a bunch of mint ice cream. I have missed ice cream so much.

I don’t mean to sound unconcerned about Felix- of course I’m still concerned about that, and since he’s about to go back to the doctor again (for his one-year checkup…how is that possible?), I’m sure we’ll get it straightened out. But ice cream and yogurt and cottage cheese and sliced cheddar and lasagna and queso dip and all the other things I haven’t been eating are not to blame for his issue. Thanks be to God.

Sam decided yesterday morning that he’s fascinated by robots and needs to know everything about them.

I know pretty much nothing about robots, and his questions were coming so fast and furious that he was practically spitting his Cheerios.

What’s a cyborg, technically? 
What’s the difference between a robot and a cyborg? 
So wouldn’t General Grievious be a cyborg? 
Does Darth Vader count, too, because parts of him are mechanical? 
What about Luke Skywalker? He has a mechanical hand! 
Well, is a cyborg like a kind of robot the way a square is a kind of rectangle? 
What kind of microchips are in their brains? 
Do robot brains even look like brains? 
Well, are you sure? Have you ever seen one? 
I bet the NASA guys would have made Curiosity’s brain shaped like a human brain just because they’d get a kick out of that.

I did what any reasonable homeschooling mom on summer break would do- I took him to the library with his card and sent him straight to his favorite librarian. She gets him. He went straight up to her, said, “I’m interested in robots now. These are my questions…” and she jumped into action. She found him a small selection of robot nonfiction, he copied an article from a science encyclopedia with some assistance (“Is this copier actually a robot? It’s doing a task that a human could do! Is it automated?”), and we headed out. Now he is building a robot in his project workspace. I don’t think there are any electrical parts in there, but I should probably double-check that he hasn’t dismantled something and cannibalized it for parts…like my sewing machine…

Hold on. I’ll be right back.

In other Sam news but completely unrelated to Sam (for reasons that will become clear), we’ve finally gotten to the bottom of the mysterious odor in his room. After weeks of futile carpet cleaning, sheet changing, and mattress airing, I have learned that someone seems to have been using the air vent in his room as a latrine.

Now, I should say (before this story goes any further) that a wise woman my mom’s age once told me about a little guy in her family named Yehudi. He lived in their table leg, and any time there was an incident with her three boys breaking something, Yehudi took the blame for it. She always told them she didn’t need to know who had done it- she just needed it to be fixed/cleaned up/made right.

She’s obviously a genius.

We don’t have Yehudi, but we apparently have “Mr. Nobody.”

Some stealthy interviewing led to the revelation that Mr. Nobody might have, on one occasion or another, peed in the vent. After seeking expert advice (thanks, Mary Beth!) I poured baking soda and vinegar down there as far as I could and wiped it up (unearthing a collection of Starburst wrappers in the process- apparently Mr. Nobody also has a candy stash someplace). I scrubbed the surrounding carpet, too, and the smell (while not entirely gone yet) is better.

Sam hung out and helped with the cleaning, and he assured me that Mr. Nobody was no longer using that vent for his bathroom needs. (“He was doing it, and he probably did it somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 20 times, but when he heard that you found out about it, he was really embarrassed and he stopped.”)

I’m not sure how my mom would have handled this, because I would never have done anything of the sort as a kid. I think this gets recorded as a parenting success. No one is peeing in the vent now, and we’re getting rid of the smell. Win.

That’s it. I wrote a 7 Quick Takes Post! Win! And now you’re all caught up on the little wins. Thanks to Kelly for hosting, and thanks to you for reading…and *if you click on that hexbug link and buy one (or whatever else you were planning to order from Amazon), your purchase helps support this blog at no cost to you- thank you for your support!

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7 quick takes

7 Quick Takes: The Good Enough Edition

Wow. It’s been a really, really long time since I have done a set of quick takes. I mean to do it almost every week. I keep a little list of things that could be quick takes. I write and edit them but don’t quite finish, because I’m not quite satisfied…they’re not quite right…then life happens, and I usually just manage to get five minutes of writing done early Friday morning and have to call that “enough.” It’s not really enough. It’s just all there is, sometimes.

I’m kind of frustrated about that. I need to just let them be Good Enough Quick Takes and hit publish and let it go.

Today, I’m not dwelling on the frustration, though. Because Good Enough 7 Quick Takes! And Friday! And maybe a teensy bit of non-rain over there in the corner of the sky? Dare we hope?

Regardless, it’s good to be here.

This guy would like to point out that his mother forgot to take the monthly picture with the sticker again. Again. Because he’s the fourth baby, he says. You know what, though? He’s the first baby to even have any stinking stickers for each of his first twelve months. (He can thank his grandma for those.)

Anyway, he’s ten months old this week! And he’s crawling. The world is about to be very, very different for his older siblings, who have been warned, over and over, that babies like to eat Playmobil. And Littlest Pet Shop. And whatever other tiny choking hazards they have lying around the floors of their not-vacuumed-often-enough bedrooms.

I predict some medieval Playmobil weaponry will be the first thing swallowed. Anyone want to start a pool?

In other Felix news, his last checkup revealed that his head in in the 100th percentile for size. All our kids have big heads, but this one consistently tops the charts. He’s also been having stomach issues, and his doctor suggested that I limit dairy to see if it helps. I haven’t eaten dairy for a month now, and I’m not sure there has been any improvement. I hear it takes a while for dairy to get completely out of our systems, so maybe it just hasn’t been long enough…but I’m aware that if I call and tell them it isn’t helping, they might suggest we go gluten free. This is hard- I like ice cream so much that an ice cream maker was my birthday present last year- but least I can still have sorbet. I’ve been really missing George’s pizza, which is fantastic. This week, he brought me some non-dairy “cheese” (the first ingredient is water!). Vegan cheese is not tasty, but if I don’t pile it on, I can almost pretend it is real pizza (and if I don’t look at or smell the other people’s pizza with the melted feta and cheddar and other goodness on top).

Gluten free, though, would be really, really difficult.

I have much respect for all of you who are parenting people with food sensitivities. This is our first time dealing with any of this. If it helps, it will definitely be worth it, of course- but it’s hard to keep doing it when we aren’t really seeing any improvement yet.

Garden update: We have some things starting to come up: carrots, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, beans, some herbs, some strawberries and some melons. I had planned to expand our raised beds this year, but ended up deciding that I have enough going on and should stick with what we already have. (What is this feeling of deciding not to take on more than I can handle? I’m not sure, because it’s so out of character…I will let you know how it goes.)

In all the flowerbeds, there has been weeding galore to keep everyone (mostly me) busy. It’s hard to motivate small kids to weed gardens. I remember my grandma paying us to pull weeds, and even as a seven year old, I felt like the pay was not enough to convince me to sit on my knees in the dirt and rip out tiny clumps of clover. Last week, I dug out a corner of the flowerbed under the girls’ window where I once had a rosebush that shriveled up a couple of years ago. We always intended to plant another one there for the child we lost. When I uprooted the weeds and moved the dried up stuff that had accumulated there, I found the rosebush still growing there, thriving, and with two buds on it about to bloom. It felt like a small miracle.

In the vegetable raised beds, I put a chalkboard with space for the kids to update when we make our garden observations. Sam is doing some garden journaling using printable pages from Cathy James’ new book, The Garden Classroom, which has lots of good activities and really lovely pictures. I’m hoping to post a book list of garden books we’re loving next week.

School update: Instead of a formal test, I scheduled a local evaluator to come to meet with us. She talked with Sam, reviewed his work, appreciatively watched him demonstrate his bike riding skills in the driveway and determined that Sam has made adequate academic progress for first grade. The competitive person in me wants him to have made amazing progress in all areas and be ahead of everyone else. That’s why this was good for me. It’s not always about being the very very best you can possibly be. Sometimes, gentle progress is all we need.

Since she came, it feels like summer should be here. I’m having trouble motivating myself to do anything schoolish. Fortunately, this place is like a learning laboratory all the time, and Sam keeps things going with his multiple projects without my needing to prod him.

Currently on his project table: the rock project (ongoing), a Playmobil star wars stop motion film, an Ancient Egyptian tomb model/diorama looking thing with paintings on the walls, and a paper/cardboard model of the Parthenon.

It is tiring being his mom sometimes, but it is never, never boring.

It feels like it’s been raining all week, every day, all day long. This doesn’t necessarily keep us inside, but it made me realize just how much time we’ve been spending outside recently. Our house isn’t big, some people who live here have energy levels that are above average, and outside is like another room for us. When we have to stay in, it feels a bit cramped.

Being in such close quarters made me realize how much I have not been engaging with them as they play. If they are happily occupied together, I usually find something else to do- fold clothes, unload the dishwasher, get dinner started, etc. No, I don’t have to play with them, and they don’t need me to…but I took the opportunity this week to relax a bit and just hang out with them while they were playing. It was really good for our relationship.

It was not as good for the state of my house. But hey- it’s Friday! I have all weekend to scale that mountain of laundry that I haven’t folded, right?

Finally, can you guess what happens when your driver’s side window won’t go down and you have to have the van inspected and they don’t have the part to fix it and you have to have the van because you can’t cancel your kids’ big trip with their cousins to Dinosaurland?

You get a rejection sticker!

It’s only pending the arrival of the part, of course, and I could have changed our plans with my sister and her kids. That would have made the week a lot more difficult, since this trip was much anticipated. I gritted my teeth and drove the van with a rejection sticker. It wasn’t as bad as I thought…the sticker was white and small on the windshield, not a huge red poster with flashing neon lights around it as I had expected.

And we got to go to Dinosaurland.

I wrote about this place before– complete with lots of photos of a tinier Sam running around in a Velociraptor costume. You must visit if you’re ever anywhere close to here. It’s…unique.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!
7 quick takes, pacifiers, random miscellany

7 Quick Takes: Pacifier Madness Edition

Because I know you’ve all been holding your breath to know how the glucose test turned out on Tuesday, I’m going to report on that first.

I don’t have gestational diabetes.

I know we could have dealt with it and managed just fine for the next 9 weeks or so, but I’m glad ecstatic that I don’t have to think about counting carbs and testing my blood sugar four times a day. It would just be one more thing, you know? My brain feels kind of full most days already.

We celebrated the news by eating a bunch of sugary yogurt with even sugarier toppings from Sweet Frog. (Do you have Sweet Frog? I feel sad if you don’t.)

Speaking of full brains, I’ve been wishing Dumbledore’s pensieve was a real thing that I could order on Amazon. I really, really need one. I have all these lists of things…stuff we need to do before the baby comes, things I need to take with me when I leave the house, errands I need to run, questions I need to remember to ask George. Sometimes in the middle of the night, I get up and “empty my brain” onto a piece of paper so I won’t have to lie there trying not to forget anything.

It seems like a terrible waste of energy. And paper.

I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.” 

Yes. This would be much more efficient.

One thing on my mind lately is the children’s 6 month dental appointment. So far, no one has had any cavities, but we go regularly so that Sam can have a cleaning and the girls can get used to the idea that one day they, too, will have their teeth cleaned.

It’s never boring.

The appointment was supposed to be on Tuesday, but since I was busy vacationing at the midwives’ office for the glucose test, I rescheduled for later this month. Our favorite babysitter is going along to be the extra set of hands (ever tried to wrangle 3 children ages five and under while someone tries to get them to open their mouths wide and starts touching their teeth? It. Is. Madness.) I’ve promised to treat everyone to Chick Fil-A afterward if we survive…but I already know the biggest hurdle we have to face will be before we arrive at the office that day.

The dreaded moment has arrived. It’s time to get rid of the girls’ pacifiers.

I know, I know. They’re 2 1/2. I should have done away with the pacis (or “passas,” as the girls call them) long ago. My sister told me so. “You’ve got to get rid of them early or it’s going to be even worse,” she said, having survived the process with her own daughter.

I should have listened. I was weak. I made excuses. “They only use them when they sleep,” I said, which is true- they turn the passas in when they get up, and I stash them in a high place where they are out of reach. Somehow, I thought only using them for sleeping would make it easier to ditch them when the time came.

(What was I thinking?)

Sam never used a pacifier, and I would have naively said then that people shouldn’t use them. Funny how having twins changed that know-it-all feeling I used to have. The pacifiers have been lifesavers. I’m indebted to them, really.

Did you ever see the old film Reefer Madness? It was all about how smoking marijuana made this group of respectable teenagers insane…they danced! to jazz music! how scandalous! and someone ended up getting shot, I think. Totally over the top craziness- it ended up becoming a cult classic.

No pacifiers. You’ll regret it one day.

Anyway, I can’t help thinking that we are in our own film- Paci Madness. It starts out fine enough…harmless little latex nipples with cute plastic rings on them that help the babies sleep. They don’t cry. They suck happily and drift off to dreamland. The parents sigh contentedly and smile at each other as they snuggle into their own bed, happy to be getting such wonderful rest. It’s all thanks to the paci.

And then…the paci madness starts.

The babies start throwing the pacis. They scream and demand that the parents come and pick them up. The parents drag themselves out of bed two, three, even four times in the night to retrieve the little lost opiates so that everyone can go back to sleep.

At just past two years of paci use, this is where we are.

The time has come to say goodbye to the pacis.

Besides, I know that in a few weeks, the dentist will ask if they are still using them, and I really want to be able to say, “No! They gave those up!” I’m pretty sure I get some kind of Good Mama Award if I do that, right?

Please, friends…pray for us. I think this could get ugly.

To replace the pacifiers, we told the girls they could choose “a special friend,” which is their name for a stuffed animal.

Where would they like to go to look for these special friends?

IKEA, of course.

I think Lucy and Nora have been to IKEA once since they were old enough to remember, but they talk about it all the time. They push their babies in their strollers and say they’re going to IKEA. They drive their Duplo guys in cars and say they are going to IKEA. I’m not sure what IKEA did to make them customers for life, but they got these girls early.

Anyway, I think we’re going this weekend for the special friends and random other pre-baby needs: plastic mattress covers, hooks for towels, a small bookshelf, a lamp.

And probably meatballs. (Why are those so good?)

I guess we could view quitting the pacifiers as a milestone of sorts, just one I’d rather not have to experience.

Other milestones are much more pleasant. Every time we finish a read-aloud book with Sam, it feels like kind of a milestone, too- the kind you fondly note in someone’s baby book (or their homeschool reading log!). We finished Peter Pan this week and are ready to move on to our next book. After some discussion, it seems like it will be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this time.

This post by Micaela made me think. Are we introducing some of these books too soon? Having an advanced reader in the house is challenging- he wants to read better and harder stories all the time, and usually we try to have our read-alouds be things he might not be ready to tackle on his own. I try to guide him toward things that he’s emotionally ready to handle and that won’t overwhelm him. Peter Pan was racier than I remembered- we had to skip some parts when we were reading aloud- but he loved the story and the pirates and the excitement. I know he’ll read the book again in a few years when he’s more mature because he was so fond of it. I don’t want him to be forced to only read The Magic Treehouse books for the next few years until his maturity catches up a bit to his reading level…but I’m not willing to throw him into the deep end with books that he’s not ready to handle.

For now, I think it’s okay that some of the language and some of the themes in what we read aloud together are going over his head. We’re laying a foundation and fostering a love for great language and good stories and deep, interesting characters. It’s okay if he doesn’t get every detail right now.

George is doing another running streak this year. Last year, I participated, too…we ran at least a mile a day every day from Memorial Day to Independence Day. It was challenging, fun, and motivating, and it helped lay the groundwork for my marathon training.

This year, I’m jealous of the running streak (or really, of anyone who can run at all). My joints are super loose this pregnancy- my hips have been popping in and out of joint just from ordinary activities of daily living, so I can’t chance any running until a while after this baby is born. I miss it so much. I think running functions kind of like the pensieve for me…a place to deposit thoughts and sort them out.

The endorphins are nice, too.

At least I have some labor-related endorphins to look forward to…and the running days will be back eventually. Still, if you’re one of those people posting every day about your mileage on social media, please don’t be upset if I stop commenting on your posts for a bit. It’s not personal. I’m just sad without my own miles to claim…and you don’t want me to compensate by starting to post about how many poopy diapers I rinsed off every day.

Hey, maybe now that we are getting rid of the pacifiers, we can tackle that potty training thing in earnest!

As always, thanks to Jen, our amazing host.
For more Quick Takes, visit her at Conversion Diary!