Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Season of Darkness

My heart has felt pretty heavy lately. A blanket of gloom and foreboding has settled in over my soul. I smile, I laugh with the girls, I crack jokes. But underneath, I feel an undercurrent of worry and dread. 

Some would blame it on the recent election. Perhaps that's a factor. But honestly, neither candidate gave me hope or joy. 
Maybe it's people's behavior around the election. Maybe. I've been pretty disappointed by the way people have spoken to one another before and after the election. I've lost a little hope in people. And that's not typical of me...
Maybe it's the weather. The days are getting short. Darkness settles early. The raw cold of early winter is creeping in. And winter is always my worst season.

Maybe my moods are starting to align with the church's liturgical calendar. This past Sunday marked the beginning of Advent. We spent the previous few Sundays talking about the end of the world. Pretty dark stuff. And before the world ends, it's supposed to get even scarier. Some people might say that the signs of the End Times are all around us now. Maybe. But I suspect 1st century Christians said the same thing. And the world is still here... 

But Advent is a time to look forward to the arrival of a savior. Some might say that's a happy, optimistic thing. But when do you most anticipate the arrival of a savior? When things suck. The more life makes you suffer, the more you want deliverance. The more you dwell on the heartache and hardship of this life, the more you know we need help. The more you hurt, the more you pray for relief.

Many people look to political leaders for deliverance. I am always perplexed when people speak of their political candidate as the one who will save us. "Hope", "Change we can believe in", and "Make America Great Again". Campaign slogans from the last few elections tried to convince us that voting for the right person would save us from all of our problems. And that one person would truly be our savior. Some people attributed god-like qualities to their candidates. But alas, they have all been human. And as humans, they have their foibles. And inevitably, they fail us. 

I've decided over the last few years to emphasize the season of Advent for the girls. I want the leadup to Christmas to be more than just the anticipation of gifts. We have a calendar with compartments that hold candies, Bible verses, and activities for the girls to do. We try to focus on gifting to others, rather than just anticipating packages under the tree. It's a lot of work. But I've always considered it to be an important use of my time and energy. I only have a short amount of time to set the traditions that they will carry forward to their own families, and pass along to their own children. When they are older, the anticipation can be more faith-building and less crafty. I hope. Although I'm sure they'll still demand the candy...

But I need an Advent focus for myself. I know that I'll get something out of re-reading the Christmas story in the Bible. One of the wonders of the Bible is that you can read it over and over and still learn something from it each time. But I'm thinking about how to do more. Instead of fighting the feelings of gloom and dread, maybe I should let myself sink down into it a bit more. Maybe instead of self-medicating through food or caffeine or alcohol, I should deprive myself of that comforts and just feel the frustration, the sadness, the heartache of the world. Wrap myself in the darkness so that I can more keenly yearn for the light. 

Our savior will never live in the White House. No human can completely save us. We were all born with the same sinful natures. Our salvation needs to come from a higher power. I think this season of darkness - the 4:00pm sunsets, the incidences of hate crimes, the fear of things to come - can be a preparation for the light and joy of Christmas. The darker the night, the brighter that star must have looked to those Wise Men so many years ago. I think I'm ready to face the darkness.

Friday, November 25, 2016

America the Great

For more than a day now, the people of my hometown in Texas have been on a mission. A little boy was reported missing. He had slipped, barefoot, out of the house. Nine years old, with autism, he did not have a lot of survival skills. And while I grew up in a suburb of one of the largest cities in the country, the environment has woods, fields, and small bodies of water. Creeks of varying sizes wind through the area, and ponds and catch reservoirs are common. So while there are a lot of people, there are a lot of wild places that scared little boys can hide. And get hurt.

I've been watching from a distance, via Facebook feeds of old classmates and the city police department. A message was sent out to people who lived in the area where the little boy disappeared, to keep an eye out for him. And the message spread. People set out into the night to go look for him. People were desperate to find out where they could report for search duty. After they cleaned up from a day of feasting and tucked their children into bed, parents set out to look for a neighbor's child. A stranger's son, really. It turns out he's from Connecticut, visiting family in the area. Nobody knew him or his parents.

But they knew the fear. "There but for the grace of God go I." Every parent has felt the panic of not knowing where their child is. For most of us, it lasts a moment or two. And then we find them hiding in the clothes rack in the store. Or sitting quietly in our closet, trying on all of our shoes. Or siting on the front porch. Watching the traffic fly down the street, but thankfully staying in the safe confines of the porch. We breathe a prayer of thanksgiving, and vow never to let that happen again. But we know that it can. Children are curious. And fast. And our parental attention is drawn in so many directions.

So they put gas in their ATVs, found their flashlights and lanterns, and set out to help. The police had to ask people to stop coming. There were just too many volunteers.
"I thought of his parents. How terrified they must be. I just had to do something."
"Home from the search. Barely slept. But I can't imagine his parents slept, either."
The people were worried. They needed to help.

It was the same response from neighbors in Louisiana after the flooding a few months ago. Nicknamed the "Cajun Navy", anyone with a working boat set out to check in on their neighbors. Sure, the local officials and rescue crews were hard at work plucking people from the water. But it was the noncommissioned fleet that could be everywhere at the same time. Not because they were asked to by people in charge. But because they cared about their neighbors, and needed to help them.
I have no data. But I'd make a bet that the Cajun Navy made more rescues than the National Guard did. (Nothing against our wonderful Guard members. But there are only so many of them to go around...)

The recent election has saddened me. The tone of the commentary before and after has been harsh, even cruel. Accusations of racism and all forms of hatred have flown across both sides of the aisle. I've even seen people questioning how one can even call themselves Christian if they voted for the other politician. The heightening of the "other"-ness has been frightening. Anyone who voted for your candidate is good, anyone who voted for the "other" is evil. 

But the most recent events in Pearland have encouraged me. People have responded like the missing child was one of their own. He did not belong to an "other" family. His absence was their personal loss. And they had to help. This is the America I grew up in. People house total strangers fleeing from a  hurricane. People give to those who have nothing, even if they have little to spare. People do the lawn care and winter shoveling of the frail lady next door and accept no payment but a hug. This is the America that I have always known. And despite what some might say, it still is great. It is the willingness to take on another's burdens and hurts and try to help that makes our country great. And the more we act on our empathy, even without being asked, the better we make our country.

So we obviously don't all agree on what our government's priorities should be. But each person trying to ease the burdens of those around them will do more collectively than even the most popular and powerful politician. America the Great is us. It is us setting out into the dark to find a stranger's little boy. It is us revving up the fishing boat to rescue people and pets and deter looters. It is us buying warm socks for the guy we see panhandling on our way to work every morning. It is us imagining the pain and fear of those who suddenly feel targeted by hatred and violence, and reaching out to them. It is us refusing to settle into the easy role of "me" vs. "others". 

Please pray for the family of Marcus. Please pray for the people of Pearland. They're worried, and tired, and they want to find that little boy safe and sound. And please pray for all of us. The election has left so many wounded, so many hard and cold, so many worried. We need empathy for each others' burdens. America is not our leaders. America is us. And together, we are great.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Different Kind of Journey

Now that I'm back in Boston, I decided it's time to start another kind of journey. Unlike my last epic trip, I have no idea where the roads will take me.

Thirty-eight (ok, soon to be thirty-nine) years ago, a young woman had to make a decision. She was pregnant. She hadn't planned on starting a family yet. She hadn't gone to college yet. She hadn't started a career yet. She had plans. And having a baby wasn't really part of those plans. So she had a decision to make.

So she decided that the baby needed a family that was ready for her. A family that desperately wanted a baby. A family for whom a baby was part of the plan. So she planned to have the baby put up for adoption. She was given families to choose from. She chose one. The baby was born. And a family was called to be informed that their prayers had been answered. The baby became part of that family, and grew up to live a pretty wonderful life. She was raised by people who loved her very much, and everyone's plans seemed to work out pretty well.

And now the baby has four babies of her own. Yeah, if you haven't guessed it by now, that baby was me. I was adopted as an infant, raised by wonderful parents, and was aware of my adoption from an early age. I always figured that I'd try to find my biological mother some day. I wasn't sure when that day would come. But it would. Eventually.

Having kids really makes you think about family. Whose nose does she have? Whose ears? HeyMama looks an awful lot like BestestHusband's Aunt Marilyn. And LittleFritter looks a lot like me. HurricaneDebbie looks a lot like HeyMama. Who the heck does MeToo look like? No one on BestestHusband's side... So by process of elimination, she must look like someone I'm related to. But who am I related to?

Life is really busy. I'm really tired. Why am I starting this journey now?

I've been getting a lot of gentle nudges over the last few years. Friends who learned of the death of estranged family members said, "One day it will be too late." Friends asked "don't you want to know?" Friends linked blog posts about adoptions. It came up repeatedly in conversations. All of this was from completely unrelated people. This wasn't one person encouraging it. The encouragement has been coming from everywhere lately. Ok, but why now?

A few years ago, I had a counseling session with a social worker specializing in adoption relationships. This kind of session is a prerequisite for the organizations that organize match registries and help with reunions. We talked about different scenarios, different hazards and twists and turns in the road. Anything can happen, and she had seen a lot. I had to be prepared for a wide range of outcomes. 

It is possible that the woman closed the door on that part of her life, never to revisit the events, and would prefer to never think about the child again. I have to accept and respect that. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to bear and give up a child. I can't imagine what would be required to just lock up that time of my life and move on. To force that door open would be cruel. I wouldn't want to do that.

It is also possible that the woman thinks about that baby every October. It's possible that she wonders if she made the right decision. It's possible that she thinks about that little girl and imagines what she's doing now. Does she have children of her own? Is she ok? How have things turned out?

I have the answers to those questions. And if she wants them, I'd like to provide them.

Why right now? 

I have a baby. A very sweet baby. She's squishy and cuddly and has one little dimple. She likes to be kissed. She looks a lot like I did. I have three other sweet little girls. If that woman wonders what she missed when I was growing up, I can show her. I can't give her back those years, but I can give her the happy ending, with a hint of those missing years. None of us are getting any younger. I can't wait forever to start this process.

If nothing else, I want to say "Thank You." The woman had other options that she didn't choose. She didn't have to choose life. She could have had me removed from her body, never to bother anyone ever again. Abortion was legal then. But she didn't choose it. And for that I owe her a debt of gratitude.

I'd love to have a relationship with her and her family. Or I can remain a shadow of her past. I can accept either outcome. But I have to at least find her and let her know everything turned out ok. 

I don't know where this journey will take me. Not every road leads to somewhere nice. But I do know this is the right time to get started. The adoption happened in Nueces County, TX. I have reason to believe my biological family, including siblings of my biological mother, is still living in TX. I appreciate any help you can give in my journey, and any prayers you might have for my ride!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Coming Home

We're home. We're back in our own beds, back under our own roof. And a bit tired of driving. 
Ok, really tired of driving. 

This summer's journey was epic, in many ways. 

It will take several blog posts to truly unpack that statement. I likened it to natural birth and marathon running. It's uncomfortable and exhilarating, and I feel a bit more accomplished for doing it. And I learned a bit about myself. Will I do it again? Probably not with a baby ever again. But in a few years? Once the crying baby PTSD wears off a bit? Possibly. 

The topic of "coming home" is a surprisingly loaded one. 
I found myself crying when I realized we were back in the Eastern time zone. And again when we were on the Mass Pike, for the final hour of our journey. 
Boston is where BestestHusband was waiting for us. And two aging and neurotic shelties. "Home" is the 130 year old construction project we moved into last summer. Boston holds some of our dearest friends, and all of the plans for our immediate future. 
Why did "coming home" make me cry?

I couldn't help but notice, driving through the vast spaces in the middle of our country, how much I felt at peace. The sky was big. The roads were straight and wide. The people wherever we stopped were friendly. The expanses of green, the cornfields and forests, were soothing. 

It's important to know that I've never actually lived on a farm. Other than Boston, I've lived my life in small towns and moderate suburbs. There's no reason that the farms and ranches of the American heartland should make me feel at home. But they do. I felt a peace that I don't often feel here in Boston. Why should I feel at home driving through farmland in flyover country?

I spent my childhood near the Gulf coast, in Louisiana and Texas. Most of my memories are rooted in and around Pearland, TX, a suburb of Houston. My parents moved from there not long after I graduated from high school. My dad, a pastor, accepted calls in different churches that moved them further away from major airports. This is inconvenient when you go to school 2000 miles away. And consequently, I've only once since graduation been to the town that hosted most of my childhood. It's no longer a moderate suburb. It's pretty major now. I'm not sure I would recognize it as "home" even if I did go back regularly. Obviously, I enjoy my visits with my parents. Very much. But I call it "visiting my parents". It's not "visiting home". 

My husband's concept of "home" is very different. He spent his entire childhood in one house. This house is the one he returns to when he visits his parents. His childhood bed is the one we sleep in when we're in Minnesota. Well, actually the girls slept there this visit. But it's the exact same mattress he slept on. With some of his mementos still gracing the walls. 

BestestHusband sat on the sofa in his parents' living room, and looked out the window to the field across the street. "When I look around, nothing from this view has changed in 20 years. Except maybe the size of those trees out there." His concept of "home" is a pretty stable one.

Mine is not. I've come to terms that we won't be moving to Texas any time soon. We keep trying. But, other than just moving with no jobs waiting for us, it doesn't seem to be a reasonable option. My plan is to raise my daughters somewhere in Texas. God seems to have other plans. The job options for BestestHusband are consistently in Boston. Not Texas. So we've consciously been setting down deeper roots in Boston, establishing a stable concept of "home" for our girls. (Hence that construction project we bought last summer.) Because God seems to have plans for us in Boston. He has given us a stable livelihood, great friends, a wonderful church, a cozy school, and a bright future. It's never been my plan for us. But I work to accept God's plan for us here, and have come to terms with the idea that I might always feel a bit like an outsider, no longer how long I live here.

Somewhere during the trip, MeToo started asking questions about Heaven. What would we do there? What things would and wouldn't be there? Would we sleep? What if we really like sleeping? Would we get to eat our favorite foods? Could we watch TV? Have pets? 

I obviously don't have those answers. But we did talk a lot about it, imagining how great it would be and why. We had very different notions of a place of eternal joy.  But I've become convinced of one thing since this trip:  When I get to Heaven, then I will finally feel like I'm home. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Yogurt Revisited

I like to make my own yogurt. I have for quite a while now. 
Partly because I'm cheap. Partly because I'm picky. 
Mostly because it's not that hard and it's pretty cool to do. It's kitchen alchemy that makes me feel like I'm gaming the yogurt industry. I can get vanilla yogurt. Thick or thin. Without added sugar. A gallon at a time. 

A few years ago, I wrote a blog entry with pictures and details. I'm at my in-laws house. I don't want to go digging online. I have doll hair to untangle. And Olympics to watch. It's faster to just type a summary. My SIL requested it. So you can have it too.

  • I start with a gallon of milk. I pour it in a big pot. 
  • I heat the milk until it's reached 180 degrees. 
  • Then I let it cool. 
  • Yogurt cultures between 100 and 120 degrees. 
  • So as soon as the milk gets down to 120, I add yogurt culture. You can add powdered freeze dried culture. I just add existing yogurt. 
  • My favorite is Stonyfield Farms, because I like the robust flora. But other yogurts work just fine. I add around 4-8 ounces. It's a dollop. The more I add, the less time it takes to culture. If you use leftovers of your own yogurt, it has a diminishing efficacy. So I frequently buy new yogurt in a big container, and use the last serving to make a gallon of my own. 
  • I wisk in the culture, and usually a splash of vanilla extract. I've used vanilla bean when heating the milk before. That was better. But I don't always have it on hand. 
  • Then I let the milk sit. I try to keep it above 100 degrees, preferably closer to 120, for 6-12 hours. The longer it sits, the thicker it gets. 
  • Often I preheat the oven to 200, then turn it off. I put the lid on the pot, wrap the pot in a bath towel, and put it in the warm oven. 
  • Then I write myself a note to not forget the yogurt. 
  • I frequently strain it to be more like Greek yogurt. I line a strainer with a thin dish towel, and pour the  cultured yogurt in. I recommend a large bowl under he strainer, as you can really strain out a lot of liquid. I've used it in place of buttermilk before, with good results. (I add a bit of yogurt to get the right thickness). I've also used it in smoothies, too. 
  • When you chill your finished yogurt, it will continue to thicken. 
  • And then you can add as much or as little as you'd like to it. 
  • While paying less than if you bought it at the store. 
  • With not much hands-on time required. 
  • This makes me extremely happy. I know, it doesn't take much. 

You can also get a fancy yogurt maker. If you like things even simpler. 
Either way, enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Crying a River

Wow. What a day.
I'm still self-medicating with chocolate.
There was So. Much. Crying.
And not much of it was from my 4 month old.

I had no idea 4 girls could cry so much. And I've been doing this Mom thing for more than a few years.

Reasons my children cried today:

I asked them to get dressed.
I asked them to go to the bathroom.
I asked them to put on shoes.
Their shoes were right where I said they were.
I asked them to pick up their dirty clothes off the floor.
I told them if they wanted new sneakers, they would have to choose from the 10+ options at the store we were currently at.
I asked them to wear a pull-up at nap time.
I asked them to take a quiet time after lunch while I ran a final errand.
I asked them to write in their travel journals.
I asked them to practice piano.
I reminded them they couldn't play outside until they practiced piano and wrote in their travel journals.
I insisted that bike riding required shoes.
I asked them to finish their corn.
I asked them to wait at the table for a few minutes while everyone finished eating.
I asked them to pick up the toys all over the floor.
I insisted that they actually DO what I asked them to do.
I asked them to wait until after I was done feeding the baby to read a bedtime story.
I only read one (long) story.
I asked them to either let her sister use her nightlight or unplug it so her sister could plug in a different one.

These are just the reasons I can think of right now. And when I say "cry", I don't mean "shed silent tears". No. We're talking full-out extended wailing behind a closed door.

When I announced that anyone heard crying would be assumed to be exhausted and would go to bed early instead of going to the library? The crying magically stopped. Stopped. After hours of crying at every provocation. Like magic.

Why do I threaten them at times? Because when all else fails, it WORKS.
Oh. And I always follow through. That helps.
If you can't listen to my Nice Mommy Voice, you get my Mean Mommy Voice.
My Mean Mommy Voice came out this evening.
I explained that crying uses up my patience and energy faster than a usual day. And it was all gone halfway through our library trip.
All. Gone.
Because there was So. Much. Crying.

I was told again that I'm the Worst Mom in the World. So no matter what you do, you're fine.
You're welcome.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Month In

We've been on vacation for a month now. I've gained a bit of my Texas accent back. I'm not as pale as I used to be. And amazingly, I haven't gained 5 pounds from my Mum's cooking.

The girls have run around with a cousin and some neighbor kids. They've been taking swimming, horseback riding, and piano lessons. They've devoured books. And lots of sugar. They've played games and horsed around with Nana and Pawpaw. One of them even managed to give him a bloody nose and a cut on the eyebrow.

We've done a lot of driving. We've seen friends I haven't seen in years. We had to introduce new children. But it was like we'd never left each other. I was at home. In their home. Far away from my home.

I just feel at home in Texas. The sky is big. The horizon is far away. There are animals and plants that are wild and a little dangerous. Life is not tame and safe out here. Some ruggedness is still appreciated. People drive nicer. Strangers chat with genuine friendliness.

Tonight we girls are in a hotel in Oklahoma City. The drive was pretty easy. LittleFritter only cried for about 2 hours of it. But the roads were straight, wide, and rural. We've been watching a never-ending string of thunderstorms with strobe-like lightening. The girls are mesmerized. We don't get these in Boston.

Tomorrow we meet up with family in St. Louis. We transition to the next phase of family bonding. I always enjoy time spent with family in Minnesota. I'm looking forward to the next week.

But it's not Texas.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Moonrise in my Rearview

It's 1:30am. I'm deliriously tired. But not sleeping. Maybe it's all the coffee I drank to get us here. Maybe it's the adrenaline from driving winding country highways in the dark. With deer roaming everywhere. Maybe it's just the residual high from visiting friends I haven't hung out with in years. Whatever the reason, I'm awake. And thankful to be safely back at my parents' house.

Over 2 days, the girls and I logged over 400 miles in a loop from San Angelo, TX to Round Mountain, then Dripping Springs, then back to San Angelo. During the daytime, we were treated to stunning Hill Country views. Tonight, leaving after LittleFritter's bedtime, we were treated to stars. Lots of stars. They really were big and bright.

I'm too tired to be very eloquent. But I was reminded of some things on this little trip.

Visiting old friends nourishes my soul.
Getting all of our kids together is a special kind of fun. Especially with pools involved.
I love driving Texas highways.
Big open horizons make me feel free.
Seeing the Milky Way makes me feel small.
But I enjoy feeling insignificant compared to the majesty of creation.
Scorpions creep me out.

I'm grateful for good friends who extend their hospitality to my chatty brood. And remind me that moving away isn't a complete loss. It just gives us fun get togethers in more places.

I need sleep. Goodnight.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Playing Catchup

Umm, I've lost track of what day it is. We're still on vacation. We've been busy. Here's some proof. 

Reading at the library. 

Playing in the sprinklers. 

Climbing on trains at the Railroad museum. 

Marveling at the model train setup. 

HeyMama petting Benny the donkey after a horseback lesson. 

Pawpaw making the big girls sick at the playground. 

MeToo's first day in the saddle. 

What else have we been up to? Swim lessons, piano lessons, reading, writing, trips to the neighborhood pool, playing with the neighborhood kids, staying up late watching movies... We've been busy! Next week our cousin will be around to play with, and we'll take a mini road trip to see some old friends. Let the fun continue!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Day 6

We spent Day 6 in Hot Springs, AR. We fed gators. We held gators. We visited Hot Springs National Park. We drank mineral water fresh from the earth. We napped. We found Barbies at the grocery store. We visited the hotel pool. It was a good day. Here are some pictures to prove it. 

Alligators enjoy chicken for lunch, too. 

HeyMama fed a gator. 

MeToo fed a gator. 
HurricaneDebbie was skeptical of everything gator-related. 

There were some sad overheating wolves, too. 

Other random inhabitants included monkeys, peacocks, turkeys, a raccoon, a bobcat, and some turtles. 

A trip to a historic bathhouse provided some Edwardian decorating ideas for our remodeling project. 
Maybe I need a stained glass ceiling. 

Or a giant statue in the middle?

Tomorrow promises to not be educational at all. After trying out a local MegaChurch, we're taking the girls to a water park. We'll head towards Dallas after dinner and see how far we get. We're crossing our fingers that Laura will cooperate. Please cross your too!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Day 5

Somehow I missed a day. Today is Day 5 of this trip. We did a lot of driving. It was a whole day of driving. With some stops. LittleFritter can go about 2 hours before she needs out of her car seat. So when we stop, she needs feeding. And then changing. And the big girls need toileting  and feeding. And the chance to run around. And the grownups of course need all of this too. And then there's some minor van repacking and reorganizing that needs to happen. And then, an hour later, we're back on the road again. So we played with a travel frisbee at one stop, and did cartwheels in the soft grass at another. And some toddler-led yoga. The big girls have been great. We usually hold off on the electronic devices until around 4 or 5pm. Traffic is more tolerable without bickering and whining. And the girls can usually manage themselves until then. LittleFritter becomes a disaster around 5pm. She despises her car seat. And that time of day is when she's usually awake and cranky. If I sit next to her and do everything I can think of, she just mildly cries and fusses instead of full-blast screaming. But it's still pretty noisy. And exhausting. In evening traffic. I have learned that she really likes zerberts on her feet. And being sung to, but only if you do it very earnestly. 

So we've covered about 1500 miles, and have about 500 more to go. 
God help us. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Day 3

I'm sitting in our room in the dark, eating half-frozen iceberg lettuce. Because, ironically, my dinner salad was oddly devoid of vegetables. Some would argue that iceberg lettuce doesn't really count as a vegetable. But whatever. It tastes really good right now, and it's helping to absorb the two frozen margaritas in my belly. I had to chug the second one because LittleFritter was melting down, as we've changed time zones, and it's past her bedtime. We bought a pitcher as part of a happy hour special. Wouldn't want it to go to waste...

I'm sitting next to her travel crib. My phone has doubled as her white noise machine and my computer. I'm really thankful for the auto-correct feature. I don't tolerate two margaritas like I used to. Wowzers. 

So we were at a "Mexican" restaurant in Cave City, Kentucky. Staffed by actual Mexicans. (Trump would be horrified. Although I bet his Trump Tower Mexicans make better taco salads.) Watching Canadian football. I can't make this stuff up. Trip Advisor ranked it the #1 restaurant in Cave City. I'm glad we didn't try the others.   

They say that traveling can teach you a lot about yourself. What have I learned? I'm a food snob. A serious food snob. I expect vegetables to be fresh and plentiful. Baked goods to be fresh and/or contain whole grains. And food to not be slathered in sauces made with ingredients I can't pronounce. What else have I learned? That this kind of food can be hard to find traveling across the U.S. We were thrilled to find a Sonic for lunch yesterday when we bopped off the interstate for a potty trip. But I noticed a rather linear relationship between the size of their tasty beverages and the waistline of their consumers. Oh I don't want to be judgemental. If I had a Sonic in my neighborhood, my waistline would certainly be larger. (Oh cherry and cranberry limeaids, how I love thee...) But there was no (non caloric) flavored seltzer to be found in the local grocery store, and the produce section was sad and unappetizing. Experiences like these help me understand the incidence of obesity and diabetes in our country. Especially when my dinner "salad" resembled no salad I'd ever eaten. 

We did do more than eat questionable Mexican food today. We went down into Mammoth Cave. BestestHusband and HeyMama went twice. (I and the younger 3 girls went back to take a nap in the afternoon.) We toured Dinosaur World. We saw a lot of Dino models. In their "natural" environment. It was kitschy, but moderately educational. 

So we learned a bit about geology and prehistoric life today. And the food time warp we're currently in. "Mama, can we eat in tomorrow night?" Translation: can we find "normal" food at a grocery store instead of eating at a questionable restaurant? Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day 2

Wow. It's only been 2 days?

Day 2 was all about chocolate. We spent the bulk of the day in Hershey, PA. 

The girls started their day with a mug of hot chocolate. Then we went to the Hershey Museum. The big girls and BestestHusband got tickets to the Chocolate Lab to make chocolate bars. While they were learning about where chocolate comes from and how it's made, I was managing a grumpy toddler and a hungry and poop-covered infant. After a trip to the car for a feeding, cleaning, and attitude adjustment, we tried the museum again. They have some great exhibits, including a "factory" where you get to "try out" the jobs done before mechanization replaced the heavy lifting. Wear the aprons. "Roast" the beans. Move bathtubs full of chocolate. Wrap and pack the chocolate. It was a cute way to teach the girls about how the chocolate was made in the early 1900's. 
They also had a cute "I spy" game to get kids to look through the artifacts of Milton Hershey's life. They had an impressive collection of artifacts, as well as info about his ongoing philanthropic endeavors. His legacy includes a school for orphans, hospital wings, much of the town of Hershey, and a solid economy of dairy farming. A chocolate that is based on a recipe of sweetened condensed milk needs a lot of milk. And being perishable, a local source requiring minimal transport is handy. 

I had no idea that he was such a huge philanthropist. Apparently, he had booked passage on the Titanic, but had to change plans at the last minute. Lucky for him. I also didn't know that Hershey used to make soap and other products out of the discarded cocoa fat. 
I really learned a lot, actually. The staff was knowledgeable and very engaged. They seemed to be a mix of older specialists and teen summer interns

The cafe had tasty food. The international hot chocolate tasting was delicious. The gift shop had multiple options for our obligatory Christmas ornament purchase. It was definitely a winner of a destination

Hershey's World of Chocolate was the opposite of the Museum. It was enormous. It was flashy and animated. Singing cows! People in candy character costumes. (The girls got to high-five a Jolly Rancher!) There was a free ride that showed how chocolate was made. (Singing cows! Talking chocolate bars and kisses!) Everything else required tickets. Much of the complex was a giant souvenir shop. HeyMama finally found her perfect memento keychain there. We had already done a chocolate tasting, and the girls had already made candy bars. Since we didn't have time for a trolley tour of the town of Hershey or a trip to the amusement park, we cut our losses and headed out to hit the road

We still had a lot of driving to do. LittleFritter does not love being in her car seat. Me sitting next to her helps a little. But not for long. So traveling at the end of the day is very wearying. We got off the highway to Take a break and found a family restaurant with a soup and salad buffet. It looked like a nice restaurant.

The cheese in the ham and potato soup tasted like nacho cheese. But everyone got to eat fresh veggies, and LittleFritter found a gaggle of staff to dote on her. So I call it a win-win. 

We got to our hotel after 9:00 . So another night without the chance to use the pool. But we front-loaded the driving in the trip, so the days should get easier. After tomorrow. Tomorrow's our longest driving day. Wish us luck!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Day 1

I'm writing this from a bathtub outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Well, the bathtub is inside. But we're not staying in Hershey itself. You know what I mean...

BestestHusband, 4 little girls, many bags of gear, and I loaded up into the minivan this morning in Boston, and went to bed in Pennsylvania. Well, I'm not in bed yet. I'm in the bathtub outside... You know what I mean. 

The girls handled the 11 hours of travel like champs. We started travel journals and checked off the states we visited (MA! CT! NY! NJ! PA! - we're working on state abbreviations right now) and states we saw license plates from (OR! VA! FL! TX!) 

They marveled at Manhattan skyscrapers. They waved to the Statue of Liberty. They sat in traffic. Lots of traffic. Apparently I -78 in NJ and PA had a series of accidents today. At one point, the highway was shut down completely. When we finally passed the aftermath, we lost count of the crunched cars. And were horrified at the image of a shattered 18 wheeler. I have never seen one separated from its engine before today. I hope to never see it again.  But I had to keep reminding myself, "At least we weren't in the accidents. At least we weren't in the accidents." Because LittleFritter is NOT a fan of stop and go traffic. Not at all. And she is not impressed by skylines and statues. Not at all. It was a long and noisy drive. 

Memorable moments:
"Are we there yet?"
Deer along the highway in CT. 
Slow scenic drives on rural roads along 78. 
Pizza topped with a few raw ingredients, served in a grimy restaurant. "Mommy, why are my shoes sticking to the floor?"
Getting peed on in that restaurant. 
Creating the cleanest spot on that floor. 
Temporarily solving the crying problem by climbing back and sitting next to LittleFritter. 
The instant smile when she saw me (I'm still a gooey puddle about that one.)
Also snuggling with MeToo in the back seat. 
Fireflies lighting the way to our hotel. 

I'm not sure if I'm just still amped from the start of our trip, in need of some silent awake time, or suffering from the giant iced coffee I needed after dinner. But it's past my bedtime and I'm still up. And we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. I should wrap this up. If you have a moment, please say a prayer for the travelers of I-78 today. Some of them had a really bad day. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

2 Boxes

Summer weather has finally come to Boston. At least, it's making frequent enough appearances to warrant pulling out the bins of summer clothes and switching over the girls' wardrobes. (Don't worry, I'm leaving out a few hoodies and sweaters. Mornings are still in the 50's. It IS Boston...) Thanks to my obsession with IKEA Samla bins, I have large plastic containers with labels on them. 3T. 4T. Size 5. Sz 6. 7-8. 9 and 10. (I've been gifted with a great hand-me-down provider, so we have a few sizes to grow into.) This makes it easy to sort clothes into their proper places. Clothes come with tags. These tags generally have sizes printed on them, so sorting clothes into bins is simple. Now, it does take some effort to drag all of the bins up from the basement, but the task is pretty clear-cut.

With all of the recent tragedy in the news the last few weeks, it's occurred to me that people really want to do this to other people. 

Sunday morning, I had the privilege of witnessing both the baptism of a friend's son, and the Brit Bat of a friend's daughter. (Sequentially. Not simultaneously. That would be an interesting service!) But while I was shedding tears of joy, people were shedding tears of anguish and fear over a horrible event in Orlando. Their friends and loved ones were shot. Some were dead. Some were fighting to live. Countless lives were shattered. But my feelings of grief were followed by feelings of horror after reading reactions on social media. The carnage was the fault of Muslims. It was the fault of Conservative Christians. It was the fault of Democrats. It was the fault of the NRA. It was the fault of anyone who wasn't actively and loudly lobbying for LGBT rights at this exact moment. Accusations were flying all over the internet. It was everyone's fault.

I've concluded it pretty much is everyone's fault. Everyone who likes boxes. Well, everyone who likes to put people into boxes. 
Gays vs. people who live a "normal" lifestyle.
Conservative Christians vs. people who aren't crazy.
Muslims vs. people who like peace.
Gun owners vs. civilized folk.
Republicans vs. people who care about others.
Democrats vs. people who believe in liberty and freedom.
People who vote for my candidate vs. people who are obviously evil.*

*Um, I don't agree with these binaries. I just see them on Facebook. A lot. Really, a shocking amount of my FB feed includes people posting "Us" vs. "Them" comments, clips, links, etc. And the "Us" vs. "Them" commentary is coming with an increasing amount of vitriol. Some I would characterize as hateful. There is a level of hatred that is frightening to watch. Hatred over things that don't make sense to me. If I guy burned down your house and killed your dogs, I guess I could understand you hating him. (I personally would pray to be able to forgive him, but I'm not going to force that burden on you.) But hating him because he thinks single-payer healthcare is a better idea than a market-based system? Really? You think that justifies your hatred? If so, I think you're just as much to blame as a guy who hates the sight of two men kissing so much that he feels the need to shoot up a nightclub. Those two reasons for hatred seem equally ludicrous to me. 

So if you're busy putting people into boxes of "us" vs. "them" and allowing yourself to hate whoever is in your "them" box, you are at fault. Because that's the same kind of mentality that drove the shooter to kill 50 innocent people. And I'm very afraid of where that mentality is taking us.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Two and a Half Months

Whew. LittleFritter is two and a half months old. It's seemed like and lifetime and a blink of an eye. Funny how time works when you're a parent...

She has, of course, changed our lives completely. Babies are so demanding. Yet so magical. And really really exhausting.

Let me update you on what I know about her.

  • She likes to sleep in a Woombie. With white noise. For naps, she prefers motion. The Mamaroo has been a lifesaver. (Thanks for the rec, Leslie!) At night, she prefers her crib. (No more baby in the bed! Wah-hoo!) She sleeps more than I like to publicly admit. It's almost too good to be true.
  • She likes to be upright. Put her up on your shoulder, and she's a happy gal. 
  • She also likes to try to stand up. Support her standing, and she's your best friend. 
  • If you let her try to support herself, she does the Crazy Baby Dance. Her ataxic attempts at standing and using her arms provide constant entertainment for her sisters. 
  • She smiles and coos. 
  • She likes to have conversations. Speak her language, and her eyes light up.
  • Her language consists of "oohs" and gurgles. Try it. It's fun.
  • She is starting to recognize me as Mama. When I pick her up after a nap, she lights up to see me, even in the absence of food. No longer am I just the Milk Maid. I have redeeming qualities beyond basic nutrition. 
  • She weighs about 15 pounds. 
  • She wants to be held most of the time when she's awake. 
  • She's most insistent on that idea when I'm trying to get dinner on the table and the girls to bed. 
  • She's very loud when she doesn't get what she wants. 
  • Her arms and legs are made of marshmallows. (See that 15# thing, above.)
  • I've developed a seriously messed-up upper back trying to keep her upright  and happy. 
  • She's developed a mohawk of fluffy dark hair. 
  • Her eyes have transitioned to grey. I think I see the beginnings of green.
  • BestestHusband calls her "Mini-Joy". (About time I get a kid that looks like me...)
  • She is the perfect caboose to our gaggle of girls. We are truly blessed.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Day in the Life

I'm a big fan of the phrase, "Never compare your insides to someone else's outsides." 
In other words, don't compare how you feel to how other people seem to be doing. Because you don't know their insides. You only see their outsides. And they're usually more well-presented than their insides. This is why I strive to never paint a picture of perfection on this blog. On Sunday morning, my girls are all dressed in cute dresses, can sit mostly quietly through church, and look pretty good. I might even be wearing pantyhose. But my house has tumbleweeds of dog fur, my clean laundry is in piles, and our life is chaos much of the time. I'm OK with this. This is just the phase of life I'm in right now.

But today was particularly chaotic. HurricaneDebbie was in rare form. So I thought I'd share the messy insides of our family life:

HurricaneDebbie (HD) started the day by taking my glasses off of the nightstand and running around with them. I'm thoroughly blind without corrective lenses. If she hadn't brought them back, I would not have been able to find them without walking into a few walls. By the time I got to my contacts, I probably would have injured myself.

HD is experimenting with the boundaries of obedience. If she crosses her eyes and frowns when I ask her to do something, what will happen? If she starts to do what I tell her to do, but moves at a speed of 1 millimeter per second, what will happen? If she flat out says "no", what will happen? And if she just hides, what then?

She was determined to be a human blanket for her baby sister. Or at least work out any kinked muscles by leaning an elbow into her tiny body. Poor LittleFritter had no idea the imminent danger that lurked nearby all day long.

When we went to the playground with a mom-friend around noon, I insisted that HD wear her sun hat. She initially protested. And then just took it off whenever she thought I wasn't looking. Over and over.

Potty training is going well; and having an independent 2 year old seems like a good idea. Until they insist on trying to clean up their own poop accidents without telling you. Of course she did this while I was feeding her baby sister. I'm getting better at playing "where's that smell coming from?" But I despise that game.

HD had to try on multiple pairs of shoes before leaving to get her sisters from school. I've learned that I should tell her to put on her shoes 30 minutes before we actually leave. And have a backup pair hidden for when she somehow misplaces all of her shoes whenever we're running late.

Despite trying my iced coffee before and not liking it, she decided to take a giant drag from my coffee cup while I was getting LittleFritter in the van. She decided she didn't like the mouthful she had, and spit it all out onto the van floor. Have kids? You need WeatherTech floor mats. Worth every penny.

HD was playing in the front yard with her sisters before dinner. She decided she needed to wear her bathing suit. Then she decided she needed to take it off. Our dinner guest pulled up just in time to see a naked HurricaneDebbie streaking across the lawn. The whole neighborhood saw her streaking across the lawn. I was barefoot on the porch, holding the baby. It was a lovely white trash moment.

I ordered her inside to put clothes on, or just be naked inside. Her choice. She chose to lock the screen door while we were still out on the front porch. Then she couldn't figure out how to unlock it. Thankfully, HeyMama had left the back door unlocked, and ran around the house to let us in.

My friend who came over for dinner also has multiple young children. We agreed that toddlers are evil. And if there was such thing as toddler boarding school, we'd absolutely send them. I like babies. I like 4 year olds. But that 2-3 phase? Not so much. 

And that's why Mommy was drinking wine before dinner. And during. And after...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Patriotic Duty

Sorry, this is a little leftover from Patriot's Day and the Boston Marathon. Given recent primary results, I couldn't help myself...

Why Is Mommy Drinking?

Some people have observed that moms like to talk about drinking. Wine is the typically discussed beverage, but margaritas, martinis and scotch certainly qualify as well. I've heard non-parents question this phenomenon. As I have been drinking this evening, I thought I'd weigh in and help clarify things. 

Mommies aren't really different from other people. So let's discuss some things that might make the average non-parent want to sit back and knock down a cold one.

1. A co-worker that questions your every decision. Whether it's your boss or someone you manage, the effect is the same. When every idea is met with, "I think we should do XYZ instead", "I don't like that", or "Wwwwhhhhhyyyyyyyyy?", getting anything done requires herculean effort, and you spend much of your day in negotiation. It is exhausting. It might make you want to scream, "Just shut up and do what I say!" Or it might make you want to drink.

2. Getting stuck next to a crying baby. What is everyone's travel nightmare? Being stuck next to the crying baby on an airplane. Parents fear upsetting their neighbors on flights so much that there's a trend of packing cutesie little goodie bags to apologize for their noisy offspring. Because no one wants to listen to a crying baby. Sit down on a plane and notice a gaggle of families with small children seated near you? I bet you order your drink before the plane even leaves the gate.

3. The person who doesn't know when to stop talking. Maybe it's your cube-mate who chatters at you all day long while you're trying to actually get stuff done. Maybe it's your neighbor who conveniently runs into you when you're running late, and takes 10 minutes to say something that only needs 30 seconds to communicate. Maybe it's the family member at Thanksgiving dinner who doesn't know which details to leave out when discussing his last visit to the proctologist. That person might make you want to shout "SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!!!" Or maybe they make you want to drink.

4. Having other people spill things on you. That guy on the train who just managed to spill his coffee down the back of your new dress? That new waitress who just dumped your soup in your lap? You are now wearing substances never intended to adorn clothing. And you don't have the chance to change your clothes anytime soon. You might want to hide from the public all day. Or you might want to drink.

5. Constant interruptions. You just started working on something, and then the phone rang. And as soon as you get back to work, your boss stops by your desk. And as soon as you get back to what you were doing, you suddenly have to go to the bathroom. Now. And as soon as you remember what you were trying to do in the first place, the fire alarms go off and you have to leave the building. And then it's noon and you haven't accomplished one single bleeping thing all morning. Maybe it lights a fire under you and makes you more productive than you ever have been before. Or maybe you just want a drink.

6. Sleep deprivation. Ok, so I'm not sure that sleep deprivation makes me want to drink. But it really makes it harder to negotiate with the constant questioner, drown out the crying baby, not yell at the talker, get past the large stain in the crotch of your pants, and remember what the heck you were doing before the 3 kazillion interruptions began. So mustering your self-control in challenging situations might make you feel proud of yourself. Or it might make you want to drink.

Why do mommies want to drink? Because our lives consist of a daily abundance of 1-6. My colleagues are 7, 6, 2, and 7 weeks old. They hate my ideas. They never stop talking. They all do some amount of crying. I'm covered in milk, spitup, and boogers. And they specialize in tag-team interruptions. 

Want to torture someone? Deprive them of sleep. And make them listen to a crying baby for hours on end. Oh wait. That's my life. Right now. (No, really. The baby's in the next room, swaying in her Mamaroo. She's crying again. It's that time of day where nothing consoles her. We've tried everything. It all only makes her more upset. We mostly have to wait it out and then we can eventually soothe her. I'll try again in a few minutes.)

After every article that talks about the challenges of parenting, you get commenters who say something along the lines of, "Well you signed up for this. Stop complaining." Yes. I did sign up for this. I adore my children. And if I can raise them to be kind and successful adults, it will be my greatest achievement. But when a marathoner talks about how Heartbreak Hill really slowed her down, do you say the same thing? When someone complains about their chatty neighbor, do you say, "Well you moved in next to them. Suck it up buttercup." Or when their boss shoots down every single idea they have, say, "You took the job, idiot. Get a new one or shut up." Well, if you say these things, you're a jerk. But I doubt you do. Because actual empathetic people acknowledge that there are frustrating aspects to life. And people need to vent. Some days are worse than others. And sometimes you get those days for years on end.

Mothers Day is coming. If you have co-workers who are moms, take them out for lunch this Friday. And buy them some drinks. And while you're out, could you pick me up some earplugs? The crying's really getting to me. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ostrich Month

I'm sorry if I haven't returned an email or phone call from you lately. My phone spends a chunk of its time now as a white noise machine. 

Ok, ok, I'm avoiding you. I'm not avoiding you, really. Just responsibility. The responsibility of taking in one more piece of info. Or answering one more question. Or making one more decision. But it's not just one more. It's another. And then another. And then another. Because life doesn't stop. Even if you're mostly sleeping in 2 hour chunks. And having your ears filled with marathon crying sessions.

And the older kids don't become quieter when a new baby comes home. Oh no no no. They still want to monologue constantly, if they're HurricaneDebbie. If you ask her to be quiet, she'll drop to a whisper, but not actually stop producing words. They still want to take 200 words to express a 5 word idea, if they're MeToo. (Good gracious, child, GET TO THE POINT!) And they need to have constantly self-edited conversations if they're HeyMama. (Her constant on-line/mid-sentence revisions take serious concentration to follow if you've only been sleeping in short bursts.)

And they don't need less from you. Or argue with each other less. Or compete with one another less for your attention. Oh no no no.

So I've been avoiding email. And phone. And messaging. Because my brain hurts from the sound and the constant demands to interact, to listen, to answer, to be on-demand. So I've stuck my head in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich, and ignored anything that could be immediately ignored.

So I'm sorry for ignoring you. Tomorrow marks LittleFritter's 1 month birthday. I need to emerge from the haze, get my head out of the sand, and become a responsible, reliable human again. Or at least try...

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Learning Curve

I used to think of myself as an intelligent person, but I'm starting to think that I'm not so bright. Possibly still intelligent, but definitely a bit dense at times. Thankfully, God gave me children to help me learn a few things.

Child #1:  I learned how to do things one-handed.

Child #2:  I learned how to ask for help instead of stubbornly struggling along on my own.

Child #3:  I learned to say "No" to things that weren't worth doing.

Child #4:  ???

So far, I think I'm just learning how to sigh heavily and mutter "whatever" at things that previously would have bothered me. But we're only 3 weeks in to having 4 children, so I'm willing to learn more.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mommy Moment

Mommy Brain. It's a real thing. Whether it's due to the hormones, the lack of sleep, or the brain-dessicating effects of 3 highly-verbal kids who need to ask questions every 23 seconds, Mommy Brain is a real life problem. And it can be seriously debilitating.

If you know me, you know I'm not one to only post Pinterest-worthy images of my daily life. I will not insist that raising 3, now 4, children is all sunshine and roses. I have no problem telling it like it is. I post pictures of laundry piles that swallow entire beds. Pictures of things in my house generally have chaos in the background. And at least one dog that probably is overdue for a grooming. I'm fine with admitting my failings, and frequent feelings of failure. So I'm sharing my biggest fail for the day to help you feel better about yourself. 

Today's Mommy Brain Moment:  I drove to the wrong dentist's office. I took myself for a scheduled cleaning. To our family's pediatric dentist. I figured it out before actually pulling into a parking spot. And the dentists are actually in the same town. I would have been on time if I'd gone to the right place. That's a huge accomplishment for me. But I would have failed part of the cognitive test I give my patients on a daily basis. Where am I? Oh crap. I'm not sure...

Yesterday's Mommy Brain Moment:  I burned a pot of breastmilk. Huh? Yup. I did. I have to scald anything I pump because I make extra lipase, which makes the milk smell soapy. So I scald the milk briefly before freezing it away. The scalding takes only a few minutes. You can't walk away from the pot, because it heats up very quickly. So if you walk downstairs to do laundry and get distracted by other household stuff, you end up with a brown pot of what used to be 3 ounces of liquid gold. I didn't spill it, and I didn't cry over it. But I stupidly destroyed 3 ounces of preciousness that I'm carefully collecting to earn myself a child-free date night this Friday. Dang.

Tomorrrow's Mommy Brain Moment:  It could be anything. Really. Anything's possible. 

Hope your week is free of Mommy Brain Moments. Unfortunately, conditions are favorable in our household for many many more.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Two Weeks and a Day

This child in my arms is two weeks and a day old today. She's celebrating this milestone by refusing to sleep unless she's being held. And she's fighting the process of falling asleep like her life depends on it.

She's helped dress me for the occasion by adorning my sleeves with eye boogers, and my shoulders and hair with spitup.

We've learned a lot about LittleFritter in the last few weeks:

  • She's a hungry girl. She really likes to eat. She gained a full pound in the week after we brought her home.
  • She likes to be upright, with a view of the world. Especially the people in it.
  • She likes to be the center of attention. She got passed around at the church Easter Breakfast like a hot potato, and loved every minute of it. I swear she turned on the charm. She was a dangerously tempting baby, and caused visions of larger families to dance in multiple heads...
  • She's got quite the range of facial expressions. The nurse at the hospital who bathed her on Day 1 reported that LittleFritter gave her a suspicious side-eye for the entirety of the bath. The nurse of 30+ years said she never felt so judged in her entire career. Fritter has thankfully added "surprise", "sly smirk", and "full grin" to her repertoire. "Eye roll" was an early accomplishment. I guess that gives me 13 years to prep for the teen years.
  • She's outgrowing her 0-3 month clothes as we speak. I ordered a bunch of 3-6 month stuff last week. It won't be here for a few more days. We're doing laundry very frequently for the 3 sleepers that currently fit her.

We're adjusting to having a larger family. With 4 adults around to manage it all, we're doing well. But in a week, my parents head back to Texas. Then the real fun begins...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Not Such A Little Fritter...

So LittleFritter made her grand entrance Sunday morning. After keeping us in suspense for over 4 days past her due date, we were just happy she didn't need a medicinal eviction notice. 

She upheld my Fishtank Theory. You know how fish will grow according to the size of their tank? My children have gotten successively larger with each pregnancy, as my "tank" has been stretched out of shape. 

HeyMama started out right under 7 lbs. MeToo started out right over 7 lbs. HurricaneDebbie started out at 8 lbs. and LittleFritter tipped the scales at 9 lbs 7 ounces. And 22.25 inches long. I have to say I'm a bit gratified that she's that large. I was getting rather uncomfortable, and actually asked my midwife if it was possible that the baby could be bruising my internal organs. 

She's lovely and perfect, and I'm thrilled to have her off my bladder and in my arms. She feels a lot lighter that way...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Yup, stiiiilllll pregnant...

40 weeks and 3 days. 
And I'm still pregnant.

One of my closely-held theories of pregnancy is that the third trimester is designed to prepare you for childbirth. More specifically, the inconveniences and discomforts of the final weeks are designed to increase in a way to convince you that childbirth sounds like a relief. Ok, to be graphically specific, the final weeks of pregnancy are so unpleasant and wearying that the notion of squeezing a grapefruit-circumferenced creature through your girly bits actually sounds like a great idea. 

I am convinced. Even doing it again without drugs sounds like a step up from the status quo.

Baby, it's time for you to come out.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gestational Narcolepsy

I feel another attack coming on. I need to leave the computer soon. 

When I was still working, I'd have to pull over to the side of the road. I'd try to get to a quiet neighborhood where I didn't have to worry about getting rear-ended or having someone call the cops. But the urge was so strong, I'd be forced to pull over. 

And take a nap.

There is something so heavy about pregnancy fatigue. It's like a giant weighted suit being placed on you. With more and more weight added until you submit and just lie down. 

I've tried to fight it with caffeine, extra sleep, and adrenaline-fueled work demands. But it doesn't make it go away. The attacks are always there. Sometimes you can hold them back for a little while. Sometimes you can't.

I used to feel bad about my need to nap. Not anymore. If I nap, I become functional again. If I don't, then I'm useless. So I just need to accept and adapt. Even 15 minutes makes a huge difference. 3 hours seems optimal. Especially when I only sleep in 2 hour increments at night. But life is not so accepting of gestational narcolepsy, and truly restorative sleep is rare.

I'm growing another human being here. And thanks to her, it's more difficult to move, digest, excrete, and even breathe. So excuse me as I need a few minutes to recharge. I think I've earned the right.

Monday, March 7, 2016

40 Weeks

I'm a few hours away from Baby Girl #4's due date. I'm not getting my hopes up, because none of my girls have come early. Or even on time. We tend to overbake them a bit in this household. Little Fritter seems to be pretty cozy still. Cozy, yet up to her mixed martial arts antics. (Good gracious child, can't you just leave my bladder and spinal nerves alone?)

I haven't blogged in months. Sorry. It's just been a bit nuts over the last year. The pace has not slowed one bit. Well, until my parents arrived a few days ago... Now there are other grownups in the house who have enthusiastically thrown themselves into meal prep, laundry management, and child herding. Wow. It's amazing.

But about a year ago, I started hunting for a new job. And a new house. 
I got new jobs. 3, cobbled together, to get the work hours I was looking for and pay for the childcare I needed.
We found a new house. We bought it.
We prepped our old condo. We sold it.
We moved. Only a mile and change away. But we moved 10 years of jointly-accumulated stuff to a new place.
We discovered the "joys" of owning a quirky fixer-upper. Will the basement light work today? Let's find out!
I got pregnant. And sick. And tired.
I worked more than I had previously. On less energy. 
BestestHusband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary by traveling to Turkey.
School started again, and the girls ramped up their extracurriculars a bit. We scheduled them all for weeknights, because our kindergartener had begged for "one day a week to sleep in." We go to 8am church services. Changing that is non-negotiable. So no more gymnastics or piano on Saturday.
BestestHusband found and started a new job somewhere in the whole sequence of things.
Our toddler morphed into a full-scale Tiny Tyrant. Holy Shmoleys. The screaming gave me high-frequency hearing loss. She also became increasingly more charming when she isn't screaming. God has a funny sense of humor...
We kept finding more things about our home that desperately need to be fixed. (Oh, when it's 5 degrees outside, our kitchen only gets up to 47 degrees with the heat running.)
We suffered a 2 month onslaught of stomach bugs, respiratory bugs, and a sinus infection.
We started potty training. And then backed off because I'm miserably pregnant and am tired of dealing with poop-filled undies.

But these last few weeks have been full of reminders of those who have sustained us over the last year. Our family has continuously prayed, called, and sent notes of encouragement the whole time. Friends have been steadfast in their offers of help, prayers, and kind words. Other parents at school have offered to help ferry the girls to birthday parties, events, and playdates. We're not the kind of people who like to fill up our lives with busy-ness. But that's what our life has become. Yet it's all an overabundance of good stuff. 

The next week will likely bring the arrival of Little Fritter. And a new level of mayhem. But I have no doubt that it will also bring more reminders of the wonderful family we have, and the wonderful friends that have become our family here. 

Now that I'm on maternity leave, I hope to blog more. Really. I do. And I'll be up feeding Little Fritter at 2am, and will need to do something to help me stay awake...