Friday, March 3

Theo's Heart Update!

At 20 weeks, Theo was due for his third appointment with his pediatric cardiologist.  This checkup was routine and since we had been given good news at his checkup in December, I didn't feel too concerned that we would receive bad news.  In retrospect that may have been a little arrogant of me, but personally, I really can't dedicate too much of my brain power to worrying about that which is out of my control, either.

Since Theo's diagnosis of a VSD, he has been on a daily dose of Lasix to help rid the excess fluid from around his heart, so it didn't have to work extra-hard to pump blood.  This was supposed to help with potential inflammation.  In December, his heart was a bit swollen, but at his appointment last Monday, the swelling was gone and it measured perfectly for his age.  What wonderful news!  His EKG measured normal and his echo-cardiogram indicated the VSD hole is still closing.  It is shaped like a funnel, in the septum between his ventricles.  The tip of the septum is developing a flap of skin to close it off, so eventually it will not allow blood to pass through it anymore.  This may take a couple more years but as long as Theo is not having any symptoms (turning blue, weight loss, trouble nursing/eating) then he can just keep up a "normal" life! 

I think this is a great diagram that I pulled from that explains the heart anatomy and shows exactly where the hole is and how it's effects.  Imagine a funnel-shape of skin extending into the left ventricle- this is how Theo is healing!  There are some peripheral issues that could become problems that would warrant surgery, but at this point he doesn't seem to have any of those problems, praise God!

He's a robust almost-16 pound goober who is starting to chew on his toes and detest sleeping anywhere but Mommy's arms.  Sounds like a typical 5-month-old to me!

Wednesday, March 1

March is Most Welcome

Oh, February. 

The month when all homeschooling parents simultaneously let out a giant, collective sigh.

Short dreary days, restless children cooped up in the house, mud stains all over the floor.  Discarded gloves, hats, and coats by wet boots on the porch.  We're lethargic and sluggish, somewhat suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and craving some sunlight on our skin.

Trudging through math lessons and flashcards, wondering if we'll see the light at the end of the tunnel soon.  Are we halfway through with the book yet?

We're craving something delightful, but even tea and poetry doesn't feel the same when it's raining outside.

Catalogs of new materials promising a better school year and happy students start arriving in the mail.  I can't look at these yet as we still have three solid months left of this school year.

Three. Solid. Months.

By the end of February, I'm feeling a little hopeful.  The sun is out more frequently now, and the coats are stuffed back into the closet.  While I'm dreading allergy season, it's a welcome relief to see eager leaf buds, azaleas in bloom, and tiny lettuces popping up through the dirt in my garden.  There are even some fragrant orange blossoms on the tree that lived through the freeze.

We've past the halfway mark of the math book.  We have only 12 history lessons left!

I find relief in a new mug filled with hot tea and a good book that promises peace in my heart by trusting in God's plan for our family.  The day stays busy and loud but we take time to pray and eat, gather and separate, work and play.

Lent is beginning only today, but is welcome because we must fast before we can feast.

February is the Lent of my school year.  It's the fast, the dark night when I'm blinded to the progress of my students.  We're naturally all a little more solemn, a little less celebratory.  Some days we trudge along to the routine, happy to have something to cling to when otherwise we might just stay in bed all day.  But we are learning; there is inner growth.

I've learned that February comes, but it also goes.  Knowing that certain phases in life are just that- a phase- can sometimes be the only consolation during those dark nights.  Sometimes there's no lesson other than just to be still and wait.

They're doing their lessons, practicing their piano, and reading their books.  They can't see the little bits of growth that happen every day, but I pray they will recognize it in May.  When they check 8 month's worth of progress pages of their handwriting books, or when they go back into their drawing notebooks and laugh at how they drew a knight last summer.  When they see a workbook filled with completed math tests, or a notebook with sketches and writings about their favorite saints.

Or when he can read an entire book outloud to me.

As much as I pray to enjoy the moments placed before me every day, in February I look ahead.  I practice patience and contentment and beg God to get me through.

Welcome, March 1.  You're so very welcomed in my home!

Wednesday, February 22

Tuesday, February 14

Valentine's Day 2017

Ryan went searching for last year's Valentine's Day post, and we realized I didn't write about it because it was just so horrible!  I think last year was on a Saturday, the restuarant was incredibly crowded, the kids were ill-behaved, and I was newly pregnant and not feeling great!  Ryan almost didn't want to go back this year... But he is a man of tradition, so we went. 

This was our 11th year of having a "family date" again!  We went to PF Changs for an early dinner, Barnes and Noble to let everyone pick out a book, and then the kids rode on the carousel. We brought all of our cards for each other to the restaurant so everyone had something to do before the food came (which is the worst part that these kids, who don't eat our frequently, don't understand- that the food is made to order and you have to wait!).  I asked the boys to make cards for their sisters, and everyone had something for Ryan, and he and I exchanged little gifts.  We also had some special cards from Grandparents and Great-Grandparents!

 The family photo turned out much better than last year's photo.  Ahem.

At Barnes and Noble, Beth picked out a fantasy thriller, Luke picked out a King Arthur chapter book, and Jack picked out a Wild Kratts Level 2 Reader.  I gave the boys freedom to pick out pretty much whatever they wanted, hoping to encourage some excitement about reading.  Though Jack did bring me a scary stories book that I refused to buy!

Next we went to the carousel. Beth wanted to stand by Beth and "help" Caeli, I think she may have felt she was too old to ride and enjoy it!  But in the end she did.  I think the boys remembered it going much faster; Luke kept trying to encourage the whole thing to get a move on!

We picked up the car from valet- another Valentine's Day only treat- and were all home around 7 pm!  It was an early night- which is why I have time to sit her and write a post about it on the same day.  Every year I am so glad we kept up with this tradition.  This day isn't particularly special or romantic for us, but bringing our family out and witnessing to the world what love is and what love does has become more meaningful to me than what any society-encouraged date night could do.

Sunday, January 29

Sleeping Boy

At almost four months old, Theo takes several naps a day still, usually about 45 minutes for each nap.  This is pretty much the same as how the other kids slept, so it's what I'm used to!  While his naps aren't long, he usually wakes up pretty happy so I can't complain. Usually I swaddle him tightly, give him his Nuk, and walk him around my room for a few minutes.  He passes out relatively quickly and I lay him in the same little rocker that Caeli had.  Sometimes I'll lay him down in our bed, depending on the time of day.  Theo may sleep a little longer in the afternoons, especially if I go lay down and join him for a nap!  Most days this doesn't happen but I try to make it happen if he hasn't had enough cuddle time with me or I feel like we both need to rest and reconnect.  Napping next to this sweet little boy is just one of the most pleasurable things I've ever had the privileget of doing!

For my records, we weighed him a couple of weeks ago and he was 13 lbs 13 oz.  He's outgrowing his size 6-month clothing (that I just bought for him a few weeks ago!).  I tried cloth diapers for a few days but realized I'm not up to it right now!  Maybe we will try again when he is a bit older.  He is starting to like his pacifier more but prefers to stick all of his fingers in his mouth instead!  He's so very slobbery right now, but just has the best gummy grin! 

Monday, January 16


I hear piano keys pressed firmly and assuredly.  He plays "Old MacDonald" and hits every note just perfectly.  "Mom, did you hear that?"  I yell out, "Yes!  It sounded perfect!" I reference my printed recipe, not really measuring out ingredients but instead using the recipe as more of a suggestion.  A couple of cloves of garlic squeezed through my press... Unscrew the top of the oregano jar and just dump some in... Sure that looks about enough...

Down on the floor in the kitchen, she's playing with three babies, a rocking chair, a book, a purse, and a bouncy ball. She is the Mommy and those are all her Babies.  The ball is her baby too.  She's talking to everything, lost in her make-believe.

He darts into the kitchen, sliding on his socks with holes in the heels, bats his compass over his shoulder, and turns the corner just barely making it without hitting the granite.  Out of breath, he throws his arms around my waist and says, "Mom I love you," quickly under his breath, looking down.  It's as if his whole body is moving too quickly, and he's just trying to keep up with himself.  Then he asks if he can paint.  I really don't want to get out art supplies before dinner, because if he paints they'll all want to paint, and if they all paint then there will be watercolor cakes, baby food jars filled with water, and torn sheets of half-used, not-cheap watercolor paper on the table right when I'm ready to serve our dinner.  Sigh. I say yes though because I'm trying to say "yes" with a cheerful heart when I don't want to.  And I realize after I say yes that I am actually cheerful about it.

As I send him to the pantry to gather supplies, I debate the merits of "fake it till you make it" and "obedience before understanding."  It's nice to be validated, to actually see the fruits of my attempts to bring joy to our household when so often it feels like everyone is just fussing at each other.  It's nice when things work out.

I don't get far in my thoughts because the biggest of the small ones is asking if she can help me.  I take a small sip from my glass (since it's Friday, it's my favorite bourbon) and ask her to put a cup of rice in the rice cooker.  "Brown rice or white rice?"  I tell her white and she skips off into the pantry to collect the machine, singing the same verse of the same song over and over and over again.  But her voice is developing nicely.  "Maybe singing the same verse over and over again is like reading the same board book to a toddler over and over again," I think, as I take another sip.

The brass-colored handle jiggles and gets stuck.  It hasn't been working well since Christmas, but he grips it a little harder from the outside and pushes his way into the house.  "Daddy's home!" They all stop and drop everything they're doing and run to him.  Paint on the table, rice on the floor.  His arms and legs full of excited babies, he makes his way over to the stovetop and kisses me hello.  He raises his eyebrows happily when he notices the bourbon on my breath and checks the pot for signs of dinner.  "It's Friday!"  And the weekend begins.

Sunday, January 15

Mid- January

Well, we are back into the swing of life around here.  We had an unplanned "soft start" to school last week but it was definitely for the best for everyone!  I wasn't entirely organized with my spring semester planning and we had a couple of kinks thrown into the plan (of course).  A giant storm a week or so ago killed my printer!  At first it wouldn't even come on, but after some encouragement, it turned on.  But it won't print wirelessly now, only if I plug it in.  So... not messed up enough to warrant a new purchase but just messed up to be incredibly annoying!  At least my new computer is lightweight and has holds enough battery power for me to haul it upstairs EVERY TIME I need to print something.  I know, poor me!

Once I finally got the printer to work, something else spazzed out, but I can't even remember what it was now.  I find many of my days are like that- if it's not one thing, it's something else.  I get really frustrated if I can't make it work out, but I've learned that in the moment I have to stop and recognize that I'm losing my temper at the lifeless printer (or whatever it is at that moment), and recognize that the feelings will pass.  It took  only10 years of preaching it to my kids for me to sort of pick up on it; maybe now I can actually begin embody the virtue of temperance!

We've spent our days reading along on our 31-Day Challenge, practicing piano (because Luke and Jack are playing now), doing our usual school work, enjoying the freezing cold weather one day and the spring-like weather the next (because Texas), and adoring baby Theo.  He's 3 months old now, smiling at everyone, trying to roll over, and cooing up a storm. He is adorable.

I was considering taking up my doula work again.  I thought God was calling me to it through a series of random occurrences, but I never felt completely at peace once I made the decision to accept a repeat client in March.  I would like to "work" again in some capacity though, and I am praying for clarity about that.  God has placed in me a great desire to serve, and it benefits me and my family so much when I can take the opportunity to serve outside of our home. Ironically, it helps me find balance within our home.  In the mean time, I've accepted some volunteer work at our parish and am hoping that I can serve God and others through my talents in that way.  I also would love the opportunity to mentor young moms somehow, but I'm not quite sure how that would play out. 

I am just really happy right now.

Saturday, January 14

Happy Birthday to Caeli!

Happy birthday, my sweet girl!

Today you woke up a little grumpy, but when I told you "happy birthday!" your eyes lit up and you said, "Yes, it's MY birfday."

We had some school lessons where you played with your babies (today you played with Beth's American Girl doll, which you have pretty much claimed as your own).  You sat at your desk with her in your lap, colored, talked to her and yourself, and then changed her clothes.  I think you also put her down for a nap because you closed your door very gently and tiptoed away and told me, "Be quiet, my baby's sleeping."

After lunch we picked some carrots from the garden and you were so excited to eat one!

I also tried to pose you by the window for some photos but Mommy is rusty with the old camera, and you weren't really in a mood to smile.  But you were in a mood to talk- you're pretty much always in a mood to talk!

I spent some time pondering how much you are starting to look like Beth when she was your age.  You favor her in looks and in your love for books and dance, but you favor dolls and you definitely have some extra spunk in your step.  No doubt from trying to keep up with three big siblings who play with you like you're as old as they are!

That evening you got to Facetime with all of your grandparents, cousins, and Uncle Josh and Aunt Ramona.  You loved being able to hold the phone all by yourself, because these days, it's all about you doing everything all by yourself.

For days, you were so excited about choosing your own dessert for your birthday dinner, and you had the heavy influence of older siblings!  You finally decided on brownies and ice cream, though you don't care for the brownies as much as you do for the ice cream.  Knowing that, I gave you a tiny bit of brownies and an extra scoop of ice cream in your bowl!

We sang to you, and you sang along.  Because you love to sing, and you REALLY love when we are all focused on you at the same time.

Mommy and Daddy gave you a sticker pad (which you loved!), some new clothes, and on Saturday you'll receive your big gift- a balance bike!  We weren't able to give you that on the weekdays because the sun sets so early, and we wanted to be able to work with you during the day so you'd have the chance to try it out.  MawMaw and PawPaw gifted you a sweet little mass sweater and skirt, and your great-grandmother sent you $10 in the mail.

You went to bed with Daddy because he wanted to spend some special time with you.  I think you had a perfect little day for a new little three-year-old!  You are always so expressive and cheerful that you're able to turn any day into a party day!  We love you, baby girl.

Sunday, January 1


2017 is here, Happy New Year!

Yesterday morning, Ryan an I had the opportunity to go out to breakfast together and have a "family meeting."  You probably know that he and I are planners- to a fault sometimes- but it makes us both feel better to have discussions and put ideas to good old fashioned paper.  A friend send me the idea of making a planning "web," so we tried that out.  (On a side note, one of my favorite places to get coffee and breakfast in a unique space is shutting their doors, and we just happened to go in on their last day open.  I was so sad to hear that but so happy we got to have one more breakfast date there!)

We had categories that included "travel," "home improvement," "self care," "education," and several more.  From there we placed our ideas, upcoming events, to-do projects, and needs.

This year I've decided I'm really going to focus on figuring some things out about myself.  Child birth always makes me reflective, and this time has been no exception.  Also I turn 35 this year and I feel like with Beth just turning 10, I'm approaching a new time in my life.  Parenting has definitely evolved as the kids have gotten older, but I'm also learning and understanding more now about my needs and how to survive the next 18+ years of having children at home!

Ryan and some friends are really into the personality testing, specifically the four temperaments and the Myers Briggs personality testing.  I'm never the kind of person that likes to be fit into a box or category.  Heck, even as a Catholic who believes and practices everything the church professes, I feel like I'm not what people expect me to be.  But I'll admit there's been something relieving about reading about my "type" or "temperament" and just feeling at home with the general blanket statements, and it's helped me to understand more about how I interact with the world (and therefore how I can do a better job at it!).  Not only that but it's helped me to understand Ryan better, and therefore to respect certain dispositions about him.

For example, I'm pretty melancholic.  I'm introverted, and I am slow to react to external stimuli, because it takes me awhile to process information.  This means I'm not so great in the heat of a moment, don't always take a gift or compliment well, and maybe seem like I'm "too good" to talk to someone when really I'm a little shy and fumble over my words as I'm trying to understand that person.  I'm no good at small talk, I prefer to dive into deep conversations with those who I trust.  These have been important realizations to me because I've considered myself sort of awkward when I meet new people sometimes, or why I can never think of the right words to say when given a gift.  It was important for Ryan to understand this about me to because when he gave me a beautiful necklace for Mother's Day, I just sort of smiled and said thanks.  I was absolutely stunned, but it took awhile to sink in!  Knowing this is who I am- who God made me to be- is so freeing, because it took away the thought that I was somehow ungrateful.

I am also an ISFJ- "The Nurturer."  I have a strong sense of responsibility,  am the first to jump in to help, see the best in people and situations, and value aesthetic function of my home!  Well, there's so much more than that, but reading about this personality type has helped me to understand my reaction to conflict, and why I have a deep need for peace and non-conflict.  My whole world can get thrown off because of conflict, so when my beliefs or deep-seated feelings are not compatible with the beliefs of others, I tend to shy away.  I think this is part of the reason I had to leave social media for awhile.  But I'm not sure that's the "right" way to handle certain situations, so I'm trying to learn how to engage in meaningful discussion (not argument!) instead.  As in all things, it's a learning process though, and it doesn't always go well.

Throughout the year, I hope to help identify some of these characteristics in my children, so that I can be a more effective teacher to them and help them pursue the talents that God has gifted to them.  It's definitely been beneficial to talk to Ryan about these things, and I can only see how it would be a good thing to work on with the children, too.

I've spoken with several people recently about the current buzzword "authenticity."  I've always liked that word, but I think now people are talking about it more because on social media, you can make yourself out to be whomever you want.  And for some people, that's backfiring.  Long ago I stopped reading blogs and following Instagram accounts that seemed too perfect.  I know in my head that no one is perfect, but I am the kind of person that needs to see some of the mess, to know I'm not alone in my messy life. The perfectionism I was seeing online made me a little jealous, because it was something I desired but couldn't have!  It wasn't a good thing for my heart or my soul!  I've always tried to keep this blog real, but positive- a true reflection of who I strive to be.

In 2017, I hope to explore what this means for me.  I hope to cut back on the things that pull me down, make my heart unsettled, and turn my focus away from the Lord.  I hope to better understand how God made me and by using my gifts to nurture my family and the community around me.  I want to make some new friends, explore a new part of the country, and get better about making meal plans and sticking to them!  I think it's all going to be harder than it sounds!

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