Summer Miscellany

Where has June gone??! I have no idea how the weeks pass so swiftly, even while they feel long at some points during the day (cough, *witching hour*, cough). Brain and photo dump beginning now!

-Maeve-

This girl is giving us a run for our money in terms or her (lack of) sleeping habits, VOLUME, energy, etc. I’m thinking she may be 100% choleric, although she does have high highs and low lows, so maybe some sanguine (but she’s extremely difficult to distract, so I don’t know).

I’m trying to gradually wean her, since she is….well, a bit demanding. I gave her a bottle of cow’s milk last week in desperation and she actually took to it pretty well and will accept it as a nursing substitute about half the time.

She’s learning a few more words, (the girls’ names, most notably) but still mainly gets her desires across through a bizarre mixture of screaming, signing, and gesticulating. And, given her tendency of the last 6 weeks or so of waking up at 5:20ish and only napping an hour and 10 minutes a day, there’s been a lot of almost falling or totally falling asleep wherever she’s sitting.

 

 

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(1000% cuter when asleep :))

Still, she is so funny and absolutely filled to the brim with zest for life, and (when not screaming or clawing at me) she gives the absolute BEST hugs I’ve ever experienced, as she wraps her tiny arms as tightly as she can around my neck and lays her head on my shoulder.

-BREAD-

If you don’t LOVE bread (and if you don’t, you may be crazy, or you just may not have eaten GOOD bread and you need to fix that!) then this point will bore you. While I have been baking sourdough on and off and tweaking things for the past 4 years, it’s never been a super predictable rhythm, considering the care and long wait times between starter feeding and finished loaf. I recently tried this recipe from the always reliable King Arthur Flour website. It was SO easy and tasted absolutely delicious, even compared with our different iterations of sourdough loaves. We ate the first loaf in less than 24 hours, and the second in the same time frame. Then I decided to look into the baking phenomenon which inspired the recipe, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I love the health benefits and timeless nostalgia of sourdough, so I think I will try to keep my starter alive (going strong since 2014….I should probably name it!) and bake a traditional sourdough loaf a couple times a month. But, I’m very taken by the Bread in Five movement, and I’m excited to give it a try and see if it helps get us more homemade bread more easily (and the cookbook, which I got from the library has a ton of recipes I’m itching to try). Long live bread!

-In the Garden-

This is the first year we’ve ever seen bunnies in the yard/neighborhood. Our neighbors, who’ve lived here for about 60 years, tell us they never have until this year either! We are all obsessed with sighting them pretty much daily. There seem to be three, and one is a really tiny, adorable baby (well, probably more like adolescent). They love our weed-filled lawn and must live somewhere in our bushes or the neighbors.

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Garden-wise, we’re getting more cukes than we can eat, the green beans are starting to come in nicely, we have a couple heads of cauliflower left (blanching them by tying the leaves up over the heads solved the pest problem), cosmos and zinnias (but our fancy flower seeds are either struggling and/or got eaten by the birds, so sad!) and the zucchini is being really, really weird:

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It looks like a zucchini-pumpkin hybrid. And despite the nearly 6 feet of zucchini plant we have, this is the only fruit we’ve gotten! The rest of the flowers are all male, and we have no idea why it isn’t producing female flowers. Probably the lesson here is: throw your really old seeds away and use new ones, unless you want some crazy plants!

-Family Fun-

Lucy celebrated the 4th anniversary of her Baptism! Traditional celebrational skillet cookie cake.

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A visit from my very dear high school friend, Beth!

Who also tried really hard to get a family photo of all five of us! Haha!

-Reading-

Whenever I’m not dashing after Maeve as she careens into the road or down the sidewalk, I try to have a book outside with me.

Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G.K. Chesterton — these are fun, short little mysteries, the perfect thing to pick up and read a mystery or two if you have to read in snatches like I do. I actually don’t usually love the mystery genre (I could never really get into Agatha Christie or the like), but these are so very Chestertonian and their brevity makes them very satisfying.

Cymbeline by Shakespeare– I basically forced Tom to take the Shakespeare course offered as an option this summer so I could read along and glean from his insights/discussions. It’s taking me way longer, of course; he’s already about to start the third play (they finished A Winter’s Tale, and will read The Tempest next). I like all the footnotes and explanations in the Oxford editions since it makes everything much more accessible to read on one’s own.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck– I just started this for our summer book club. Gripping so far, and everything about peasant life in China is very fascinating and very foreign!

33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley– Since my absolute favorite spiritual book is I Believe in Love, I figured I would like this book, and I do! It doesn’t have the same soul-feeding poetic beauty as I Believe in Love (i.e. his writing is just so-so and not all that inspiring), but the ideas, which of course are not his own, are still profound and beautiful. I recommend it if you have any devotion to St. Therese, Divine Mercy, and/or St. Faustina. (But then go read IBIL, because it’s solid gold).

-Listening-

A couple podcasts I’ve enjoyed recently:

“Enjoying Your Toddler” from Messy Parenting-– this had a lot of helpful little reminders and hints about living la vida toddler. (This podcast is one of our favorites for its Catholic marriage/parenting/family life advice!)

“Aristotle’s 3 Types of Friendship” from Pints with Aquinas— we’ve been talking about friendship lately, what it is, how to make/keep/be friends, and how friendships wane or wax through the years. This was a helpful explanation of Aristotle’s 3 levels of friendship (utility, pleasure, virtue) and it makes you think twice about the way you interact with people! (And many more of these podcasts episodes are great too; check out the archives).

Also related to friendship, specifically as a mom: “Nell on Friendship “from Just One Small Thing— all about why having other mom friends is crucial and how to make/be a good one!

-Looking Forward To…-

  • Lena’s third birthday next week! This girl has been plotting and planning her special day since about March! She has requested a chocolate, pink-frosted kitty cat cake. NO PRESSURE! I actually did find a very do-able, even for craft-allergic me, template, so let’s hope I can make her wildest dreams come true.
  • Solo trip up to Boston for my cousin’s wedding! This will be the longest I’ve ever left all 3 girls, and as Lucy would say, “Maeve is a big fan of you, Mom!” I’m just praying out of sight, out of mind will last for 36 hours. (Pray for Tom!) But, I’m really excited to a) have a quiet hour on the plane, b) sleep in a hotel, c) sleep in, and d) catch up with all my dad’s side of the family/see a dear cousin get married, at what is sure to be the swankiest wedding,!

(Linking up, late, with Kelly and the other Quick-Takers!)

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Life, Sleep, and the Lack Thereof! (Catching Up!)

This is about the 7th nap failure in the past 3 days, so I’m sitting here typing on my phone while rocking the baby, who’s “nursing” in her sleep, the only way , evidently, that she will sleep these days.

But today is Sunday, and Tom is grading papers in his workshop while Lucy builds nests on the driveway (piles of leaves, branches, berries, acorns, etc) and Lena naps. On a weekday, I would have to take the crying baby, who’s woken up the second I lay her in her crib, and make sure that the toddlers aren’t getting into any mischief. I’m fairly desperate to have this baby sleep, hoping to catch her up on a really bad sleep deficit, so  I’m taking advantage of the second parent being around and letting her nap in my arms.

(Yeah, sleep regressions are terrible but I’ve come to expect them with each child and try to take the long view that she’ll soon be a normal, sleeping, older baby. And frankly when compared to the rest of the horrifying political/social/etc. events going on in the outside world, I’ll take it).

At any rate, Maeve is growing like a weed, crawling on actual hands-and-knees, and pulling up to stand, often one-handed, any chance she can. SLOW DOWN, baby, slowwww down. She has two bottom teeth and there are two more about to pop on either side [and the baby sleep experts try to tell me that teething doesn’t affect sleep….rolling eyes emoji forever]. She’s pretty fat, wearing 9-month and a lot of 12-month clothes,  waves, and of course says “Da-Da” all the livelong day. But, to be clear, only Mama will do, all the livelong day (and night).

As for the rest of us, the past six weeks have been full to bursting. Tom’s school load and schedule are the worst in September and most of October so he’s been pulling crazy long days. And then doing stuff like this on his “days off”:

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His parents came out to visit for a fun-filled and week at the beginning of the month; it was their first visit since Lucy was 2 months, and the first time the older two had seen them since Christmas 2014. Tom and his Dad did a TON of house/fixer-upper projects, not least of which is that really, really lovely light fixture in our dining room. Love it so much. Also got a new, functioning, front doorknob and a handrail going up the stairs!

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I failed epically at getting good pictures with the grandparents! But they loved walking to the park with Grandma and Grandpa!

And in the midst of the busy-ness and to-dos, we’ve been trying move onward and upwards from survival mode to thriving, to maximize our efficiency, winnow out time-sinks and bad habits and anything that isn’t enriching our lives, really. We’ve reorganized all the closets in the house, made the nursery into an actual nursery for Maeve, gotten rid of a lot of toys and baby clothes, and even my entire dresser (I can fit my wardrobe in the closet either hanging from hangers or in two sets of these shelves bolted into my closet, with a bit of overflow in my nightstand drawers).  I’ve been trying to figure out better rhythms for our days at home, what kinds of activities will both keep Lucy busy and yet not destroy our house if I need to leave her alone to try to get Maeve to sleep for the billionth time.

What I’ve been realizing increasingly over the past few weeks is that this task of mothering and running the household takes immense self-discipline on my part (yes, sheer genius, I know!). I’m the arbiter of the daily schedule, my mood sets the tone for our day, for better or for worse. If I give in to laziness or dawdling or multiple distractions, the kids act out. The baby’s nap gets ruined (ok, she also ruins it all on her own lots of the time too). The house still has massive piles of clutter and dirty floors. Every day is a struggle to determine the right balance between making our house a clean, happy place, and not stressing if the kids’ needs literally leave no time for me to shower, let alone clean the bathroom. Between industry and rest, between working on habit formation and just enjoying the littleness of the children.

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There are little things I can do to make very quotidian tasks easier and even somewhat enjoyable: pre-sort the laundry (and teach the toddlers to separate their darks and lights), insist on all the toys or previous activity to be completely put away before moving on, bake with the older girls just for fun. And then little things that make me happy and also make more sense economically and health-wise; I’ve finally started making our yogurt, since we plow through it each week, and it’s beyond easy and foolproof.  I spent a good deal of time researching ways to improve my sourdough bread baking so that I could make our bread again, without getting frustrated. Yes, they take a little more forethought in my already busy life, but they’re things I’ve decided are worth it, and worth prioritizing over others, (such as dusting more often) because for me, the process is rejuvenating and enjoyable AND the results are delicious and give something tangible for my family to enjoy.

We are all looking forward to enjoying as much of this amazing fall weather as we can, spending tons of time outdoors without getting eaten alive or sweating to death. It’s a glorious season, and it’s really amazing to have these sweet, innocent children who just enjoy things so freely, with no concept of how utterly crazy things are in the world right now. They’re the perfect antidote, really, and they teach me a lot about living in the present moment. Sleeplessness and all, we’re a lucky bunch!

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