Friday, July 24

7 Quick Takes: All About Rest

1. Two more weeks of summertime for us.  It's flown by, but luckily this week has been the first week with nothing big on my "to-do" list and we've been able to just chill at the pool, run errands at our leisure, watch movies in a cool darkened living room, casually read, and go to bed pretty much whenever we're tired.  It's awesome.

2. I've been in a bit of a funk this week.  I think it's hormonal (isn't it always?) but I'm always attacked with the same feeling that I'm only worth what I can do.  That I'm only liked because of what I offer, and when I step back and stop offering then I stop being worthwhile.  And even though I'm assured otherwise, and even though I know it's just Satan whispering lies and twisting reality into something horrible, it's a few days in the month when I just sort of have to pull back from everything and shut down.  I hate it but I also know that it's my reality and this is how I have to cope. 

3. The good thing about "shutting down" everything is that we can just do whatever we want and need to do.  Hence, spending those last few "leisurely summer days" in the truest sense of the words. 

4. I've been exploring the idea of "leisure" as I read Souls at Rest by Charlotte Ostermann.  She explains that the only way we will achieve true leisure as God intended is by honoring the Sabbath.
"Sabbath is the cure for the ills caused by neglect of God, by distracting busyness, by impatient haste, by the assault of noise and by running away from who we truly are."
Distracting busyness?  Assault of noise?  Didn't I recently complain of noise and being too busy?  Clearly I need me some Sabbath.
"God created this day of rest for you, for human beings, so to find out what makes it holy, we must look at what makes people whole."
What makes me whole?  Who am I, truly?  God knows my life, my virtue, my vices.  He already knows.  Yet I still find it hard to feel loved and accepted for me, just the way I am. 

Maybe through reading this book I'll have a better understanding of Sabbath rest, and I'll be able to come to know rest the way God intends for me.  Maybe that will help.  I know that I don't keep the Sabbath holy in the way that I probably should, because honestly it would add more work to the other days of the week, and that is daunting to me.

5. One thing I do know is that I am loved unconditionally by this man.  And through his love I know that God loves me.  I posted on Instagram, " I am much loved by God through my husband.  Our marriage has helped me understand just how much our Heavenly Father loves me, and Ryan reflects His love to me and our children daily." 

6. I'm wrapping up my lesson planning (more like "rough outline") of our 2015-2016, and I hope to do a more thorough post on it later.  Books, papers, calendars and schedules have been littering my desk for a week now.  With wisdom gleaned from podcasts, books, and blogs, I have scheduled six terms using a block schedule.  Not very Charlotte Mason of me, but I'm having to adapt to three school-aged children and one very busy toddler!  I have great hopes that this year will go well with the new schedule in place; it will allow us to do less subjects daily but cover more material through the year.  Multum non multa, right?

7. I've pre-ordered Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching From Rest and can't wait to read it, as I just adore her and everything she does.  She always breathes new life into my day and her podcasts are always so inspiring!  I know she will have many new thoughts and ideas for me to ponder!  Preemeptively, I'm also building in a time of rest for me, too, to re-evaluate life and plans as needed and bring it all together.  A "teacher work day," of sorts- but hopefully at a coffee shop with my laptop and some encouraging books. This idea was from an amazing podcast, but I have no idea when I listened to it and can't figure out which podcast it was from!  Sorry!  It's not a new idea but it will be new for me.

Wednesday, July 22

Another Day Ends

Let me be real, and honest for a minute.  As another day ends, I'm exhausted.  Every last stall tactic from the kids has pushed me to the edge and all I can think of is the glorious time of day when they're all sleeping and I'm alone.  Why could they possibly need me for one more minute?  Haven't they had me all day long?

As 4:30 approaches every day, I stare into the 3 or 4 hour routine of cooking-eating-cleaning-showering-praying-reading-bed and some days I have to muster every bit of strength to even start.  I'm so thankful I get to share these hours with Ryan, but I'm so sad they tend to be chaotic, and I'm disappointed in myself for not cherishing them more.  Well, maybe I at least try to cherish them sometimes, but more often than not I just can't wait for them to be over.  I'm touched out.  It's too noisy.  I'm just so overstimulated.  I just want to be alone in the quiet, not touching anyone or anything.  I don't even know what I want to do, I just know I want to do it in silence.

I can't even be funny or hopeful right now.  I know these days will be over someday but it's hard to focus on that- on anything- when the whining about dinner is constant and they keep beating each other up, with words or fists.  Aghhhhhh....

The good news is, I know I'll have a few hours alone to recharge.  And I'll get to start tomorrow with new hope that He will renew me and forgive my bad attitude and ungratefulness if I can get over my pride and pity party and tell Him I'm sorry.  I might even have to apologize to the kids tomorrow for being horribly grumpy.  Until tomorrow, I will remind myself that I'm still in the trenches of parenting little ones, remember that I'm in good company, and try to think of ways to relax a bit and be a more gentle mother.

Friday, July 17

Moving Forward

 Don't cry because it's over.  
Smile because it happened.  - Dr. Seuss

I've weaned Caeli.  And even typing out the words brings tears to my eyes.  I wasn't ready, and I'm trying to tell myself that this wasn't about me- it's about everyone else.  I had lots of reasons, and I thought they were all pretty good.  But I'm still not positive that I should have intentionally made the decision to end this part of our relationship.

Ryan and I left for our trip (more to come on that soon) and were gone for 5 days and 4 nights.  I didn't pump and leave her bottles because I was positive she wouldn't take them (she's taken a bottle all of maybe 4 times in her life, while I was doula-ing).  I had in my mind for a few months that it would be a good time to wean her.  18 months is good enough, right?  It seemed so far away in February when I planned it.

As the time for our trip drew near, I knew it was coming.  I started taking a lot of pictures of her while she was nursing and I started treasuring every moment, ridding the distractions and just focusing on her.  The way she'd kick her legs, play with my hair.  Look at me and smile while she was still latched on.  

She didn't seem like a big girl.  She still seemed like my baby, who still needed and wanted her mama.  I know everyone else looks at her and sees a toddler who is becoming verbal, eating solids (more than her siblings, usually), saying her prayers, and playing games.  I think a mother always looks at her child and in some way, still sees her baby.

And of course babies grow up.  They grow out their hair, the sweet chunk on their thighs disappears, and they don't need you to put on their shoes anymore.  It's good for them to grow, it's what God intended.  I know in my heart that it's good that she's growing up.  But this nursing relationship has been different to me.  It's never been any work for either of us, and I can safely say that it's been a blissful 18 months of bonding and sweet time for us.

I've spent hours upon hours holding and treasuring her.  Cuddled up in bed, night after night, inhaling the sweet smell of sweat and sour milk, while going through the usual routine of waking-latching-drifting off to sleep together.  Sitting in our favorite nursing chair, examining every inch of her smooth, dark skin, noticing any little blemish and offering a kiss- as if my kiss would heal her wound.  Sometimes I'd have to ward off pokes, pinches, and violent tugs of my hair!

But she's the fourth.  I have three big kids who need my time and attention, and every time I'd sit down to cuddle them or read to them, Caeli would want to nurse, and she'd kick her sibling until they'd leave, upset or crying because she hurt them.  We tried but couldn't fix that.

And I have to wonder if my moods and lack of postpartum depression this time around have been because I wasn't nursing a baby when she was conceived; I had almost a year off for my hormones to become normal again.  I nursed Jack until he was 25 months, and weaning him was my last chance to cure my premenstrual dysphoric disorder- a horrible horrible mood disorder that affected everyone in our family.  I was upset because he was so upset.  He cried so much- he didn't understand.  It seemed logical to me that being gone on a trip would sort of force the issue for Caeli and me, and it did.

I came home after being gone for five days and saw her in the morning a few minutes after she woke up.  She was hesitant to leave my mom's side and come to me (I expected that and respected her space), and about a minute later she let me hold her.  I spoke sweetly and she touched my face, then moved her eyes and hands down to my breasts.  I hugged her close and distracted her, and she hugged me back.  And that was pretty much it.

No more nursies. 

She hasn't asked anymore.  She'll sit on my lap and want to cuddle, and when she's tired I'll offer her a pacifier.  She gives me sweet, giant hugs and will pat me on the back like she was a man hugging his best man-friend.  But she doesn't ask anymore, and she doesn't seem to really miss it.  So why do I?

I will always cherish these 18 months.  They've been so very sweet and Caeli continues to be the gift that God made known to me before she was conceived.

Wednesday, July 15

A Trip to the Lake, with a Hospital Detour

A few weeks ago, we headed north to spend a fun weekend with friends at the lake.  With much anticipation, we bought life jackets, prepped the kids for several hours in the car, and packed everything up.  I was super excited about getting out of the house for a few days.  Sometimes it's nice to just get out for a bit, you know?

We arrived late on a Thursday night but, on vacation, the adults stayed up late.  Because we could. :-)

Despite periodic cloudiness, we spent much of Friday and Saturday in the water.  Beth, Luke, and Jack became pretty confident in the water, although after hearing about "alligator gar" Luke was pretty nervous about getting back in!  We did a little fishing in the evenings and enjoyed hanging out, building friendships and making memories.  I can't remember the last time I enjoyed myself so much, being silly with the kids, watching Ryan have so much fun with them, floating in the water, laughing, and feeling very carefree.



We had a fun Saturday night in which Luke felt it necessary to stand and dance on the outdoor bar while eating.  (Anything goes at the lake!)  Early on Sunday morning Beth woke up me saying her foot hurt.  I had no idea what to tell her at 4 am, so I tucked her back into bed and told her we'd look at it tomorrow.  The next morning she had what looked like an infected cut on the top of her toe, so we put on some neosporin and a bandaid then went to mass.  She was very lethargic during mass, and afterward I took this photo and texted it to my brother, Dr. Michael.


Doesn't look to bad with the bandaid on, but he said it was "streaking" up her leg and we should go to get it checked out.  After a quick lunch, and after figuring out some logistics (we had been planning to go home after mass), Ryan dropped Beth and me off at an urgent care and drove back to the lake house to pack us up.  Beth was feeling pretty rotten at the urgent care, I posted this photo on instagram and asked for prayers.
The PA who saw us at the urgent care was on the fence about what to do.  He thought about sending us home with a prescription antibiotic but asked if he could send a photo of Beth's toe and leg to a local ER doctor.  By now the streaking had traveled up to the top of her thigh (it had been at her ankle before mass) and my mama intuition told me something was going on.  I consented to having the photo sent, and the ER doctor said she wanted us to come in for an IV antibiotic.

Our sweet friends agreed to watch Luke, Jack, and Caeli for us so Ryan could come take us to the ER.  He picked us up and we went to the hospital that the urgent care recommended- being in a strange city I was at the mercy of their recommendation.  After they got us into a room, we had several doctors come in and out to check on Beth.  The first was nice, but the second doctor, who was the pediatric doctor, didn't handle things well.  He shocked us by saying Beth needed to stay for two to four days, and that this was "serious stuff" and she could lose her toe.  He said this in front of her- not okay!  Her diagnosis was cellulitis- blood poisoning in the old days.  They wanted to keep her on IV antibiotics for at least 48 hours until the blood cultures came back negative, confirming that she didn't have a blood infection.  


Beth was a nervous wreck about having the IV put into her arm.  My poor baby was feeling bad, sort of delirious with fever that kept getting higher each time they checked it, and not in a place to really rationalize the necessity of an IV.  I laid down on the bed next to her and braided her hair.  We talked about her favorite saints, the meaning of redemptive suffering, and the importance of being brave. The years I'd spend building up her trust and confidence paid off on this day.  I was able to confidently remind her of the trust we've built, the control I let her have over her decisions and her body.  I let her choose her clothing and hair, respect her time, and honor her autonomy.  I reminded her that I wouldn't MAKE her do anything that I didn't think she absolutely had to do, and this was an instance in which she HAD to do something she didn't want to do.  I didn't make her do it.  She trusted me and consented on her own.  And to me, that meant the world.

She was brave.  Even sick, exhausted, not understanding, and hurting. 


It seemed like it took forever for them to bring the antibiotics in, then transfer us to her room in the pediatric unit.  Charlie brought food for us because the hospital wasn't confident that they could feed us a gluten-free diet.  (On another note- even after requesting a gluten-free meal, the hospital sent a regular gluten-filled dinner that night, which really made us lose confidence.  There was a lot of miscommunication, or perhaps lack of any communication at all, which was very disappointing.)

After discussions, Ryan and I decided he'd spend the nights with her and I'd drive back to the house to stay with the other kids.  I thought Caeli would do better with me there at nights and I felt so confident that Ryan would make sure Beth would receive the best possible care.  After a round or two of antibiotics, Beth started to feel better and she and Ryan watched movies, played games, took silly pictures, called people on the phone, drew pictures, and probably did all sorts of other cutting up.

She looked back to her old self by the time I arrived on Monday.  I brought the other kids so they could see her (Luke had cried on Sunday night when I told him Beth wasn't coming home that night) and after a short visit, Ryan took them back to the house for the afternoon while I stayed with Beth. Beth also had some other visitors that day!  Grandma and Grandpa drove up to see her and bring her some goodies, and our friends also brought their family up to see Beth too!  Other than the IV in her arm (she was more annoyed with it than anything- it didn't hurt anymore) she acted like her old silly self!

That night Luke and I texted Beth a goodnight picture.  I think she and Ryan had already gone to bed though!

Back at the lake house, life was back to normal- just without Beth and Ryan.  The kids still woke up early and had to be fed.  Everyone missed Beth and there was definitely a cloud hanging over everyone's heads as we knew she was gone.  I was taking phone calls from doctors and well-meaning friends and family.  It was chaotic, but there were some beautiful moments too, like an early-morning lake-side breakfast with this beauty.

And listening in on a conversation with these big kids who were discussing the existence and creation of God, and trying to ponder how He was, is, and always will be. These children are amazing.

We heard on Monday night that Beth might be able to leave on Tuesday morning, if the results of her blood culture were negative.  We were excited to hear the news that she might be out so soon but we were also concerned about the incoming tropical storm!  We weren't sure what time she'd be released, how long the process would take, or when the storm would hit... We decided to play it by ear.

I was really feeling the pressure of extending our stay for so long!  We were generously invited to visit for a long weekend (late Thursday night through Sunday morning) and had already over-extended our welcome to Tuesday- and now we were having to delay our departure another day due to potential bad weather!  Our hosts were so generous, and if they ever felt like we were staying too long or getting frustrated with our presence then they never let us know!  They were nothing but gracious and helpful and understanding of everything we were dealing with, and the fact that we had their home to basically crash (and sometimes trash!) for almost a week seemed like it was no problem for them.  I am so very thankful for that.  I know it's hard to travel and stay in someone else's home (we have so many weird food demands!) and I know what it's like to have someone stay over for maybe a day or two too long.  It's hard to have someone else in your home sometimes.  But I never felt pressured to leave or felt unwelcome.  They were amazing to us.

Our friends Charlie and Andrea were also absolute life-savers.  At the first sign of concern they were asking what they could do to help, and I had complete trust and faith that they meant it and that they'd be totally capable of handling our little ones.  It made a world of a difference because I didn't have to worry about Luke, Jack, or Caeli at all. They went our of their way so many times, and did so cheerfully and prayed with us along the way.  Charlie brought us supplies in the hospital and no doubt encouraged Ryan. Andrea shared my mama worries, got angry with me when I was angry, reassured me and validated my feelings, solicited prayers, gave me hope and confidence, and celebrated with me when we brought her back.

Beth was released on Tuesday afternoon and we enjoyed a celebratory dinner tonight while everyone partied.  The other kids planned a surprise party and gave her gifts and cards, and there was much rejoicing all around.  We planned to take off the following morning and I think we were all pretty exhausted, so we hit the bed early that night and came home the next morning.

Beth had to complete 8 full days of a nasty oral antibiotic, which we mixed with chocolate milk and she chugged it through a straw.  She despised it but she did it!  She wore her hospital bracelets for a few days, I think as a reminder of a great personal victory.  

After reflection, I feel like if this had happened at our home, it would have been much more difficult for us.  We were able to rely on our friends so heavily, and for that I am eternally grateful, because this was such a stressful two-day experience.  If we'd have been home we would have had to carted all the kids around, or arranged to drop them off somewhere and all of that would have added another element of stress to the situation.  We were so thankful for their support, and so thankful to our hosts for understanding our difficult situation!  

A month later, as the medical bills come rolling in, we still run into people we haven't seen lately and they ask how she's doing, and it seems like it happened forever ago.  So many people were praying for her,  and for that I am also so grateful.  I was so worried about sepsis.  About her losing her toe.  And of course she's just fine, everyone probably knew she would be- we were told this is a common childhood illness after all!  But when it's your baby, it's hard to see that far ahead into the future.  All glory to God, author of life and in whose will we find our peace!

Sunday, July 12

Answer Me This: It's Hot, I Need a Drink!

No, I didn't go to Edel this year either!  I had my ticket to go last year but wound up selling it so that we could attend the wedding of Ryan's cousin (which I just sadly realized, I never put up a blog post about our trip to St. Louis!).  I hope to attend sometime in the future.  Or maybe just go with some girlfriends to the beach or something.  A girl's getaway- wherever it is- sounds so fabulous right now before we kick it back into school gear.  Anyways, here are this weeks questions from Catholic All Year!

1. At what temperature do you keep the thermostat set? Summer, winter, day, night?
I've been really hot lately.  I don't think it's just summertime, I think it's a hormonal thing, but for the past two months it's been at 76.  In years past I could deal with 78.  Really, I'd rather have it down to 74 or 73, but I'm terribly afraid of what that would do to our electric bill.  We have an a/c unit for upstairs that I've programmed to go as high as 83(!) during the daytime hours that we're not typically upstairs, and if I ever have to run up there during that time I just melt by the time I reach the top of the stairs!   In the winter, I think it's usually about 72?  I can't remember, all I can think about right now (literally) is how HOT I am all.the.time.

2. What is your favorite frozen beverage?
Ahhh... Frozen drinks.  Ryan hates them and I'm not sure I've met a frozen drink I didn't enjoy.  I just figured out the kid's snow cone maker (basically an ice shaver) is fabuloso with some lime juice, tequila, and triple sec on top.  So yeah, basically a margarita. ;) I know, so unoriginal, but really right now I need drinks that require very little effort for me to decide and make.  So lately I'm pouring lots of margaritas and bourbon with ice!

Not frozen, but hand-squeezed and so very yummy.

3. Where do you keep your keys?
We try to keep our keys by the garage door or in my diaper bag, but they're usually found somewhere other than where they should be.  Sometimes we can't find them at all.  And I used to be so organized...

4. Have you ever really been lost?
I can't remember if I've been truly lost. I'm pretty good with directions, especially if I've written them down before I left- I have sort of a photogenic memory in the sense that I can remember what I physically wrote down with a pen and paper (doesn't work as well when I type).  One time a GPS took Ryan and I down an incredibly sketchy street outside of DC and we truly feared for our lives for a few minutes.  There were people approaching our rental car... Sort of looked like they were trying to corner us... Ryan gunned it out of there.

5. What is the last movie you saw in the theaters?
I can't remember this either!  I think it was Maleficent, with Angelina Jolie.  I went with my Mom and Sister- and it would have been last summer?  I loved Disney's Sleeping Beauty as a child, and so of course I had to go see with with the girls!  I enjoyed it, mostly, but as a fan of Michael O'Brien's  A Landscape with Dragons, I was bothered with the idea of justifying one's evilness.  And really what happened to her was quite disturbing when you think of it on a darker level.  Of course there's a happy ending and she ultimately chooses good, because it's a Disney movie!  But it struck up a good conversation and helped me figure out where I stand on how evil is portrayed in literature and movies.  (My kids are still incredibly sensitive to anything that appears to be tense or scary in a movie, so we don't watch many movies in our house.  But I do love reading fairy tales to them because I believe their mind can only paint a picture that they can mentally handle, unlike a movie which shows them an image that they may or may not be ready to handle yet.)  

Have you read A Landscape with Dragons?  What did you think of it?

Jack is FIVE!

We celebrated Jack's birthday a couple of weeks ago- he's now FIVE!  He woke up excited that it was his birthday, but he can be a little shy and embarrassed so he was sort of playing it off a little bit!  We had a morning at home playing his favorite games- jumping on the couch cushions and Twister. ;-)

Mawmaw was here, Grandma and Grandpa came in for the afternoon, and Aunt Jenny showed up with Uncle David and Uncle Alex that evening.  We grilled hamburgers and of course had some cake!

He caught this fly in the house and brought it outside.  He said it was his "fly friend."  I don't know what he did to it that made it not able to fly away!

Jack is a seriously sweet, sensitive kid.  He craves alone time with us and sometimes I worry that he's suffering from middle child syndrome, but we try to give him the time and loving he needs.  He loves to read one-on-one and play Frozen memory over and over and over again.  He also loves to dress up and frequently dresses up as as bishop, a snorkling man, or just a kid in a Buzz Lightyear costume who runs and slides on the tile floor to make his little sister laugh!  He's such a sweet big brother to her!  He plays independently and imaginatively, which is why he received a homemade fairy "treehouse" from Daddy for his birthday this year.  He was a little shy about it at first (of course) but he already plays with it daily.  He wears the same clothes almost daily (the clothes in these pictures), I practically have to bribe him so that I can wash them!  He always tucks in his shirts and is very particular about his mass clothes and socks  He can be very private, modest, and reserved.  I can't wait to see what God has planned for him. 

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