Scenes From Right After Lunch

The table, abandoned.

The table, abandoned.

We have no idea where this giant femur came from.

We have no idea where this giant femur came from.

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"Mama, would you like to hold my trains?"

“Mama, would you like to hold my trains?”

Preparing for the afternoon siesta.

Preparing for the afternoon siesta.

Men at work.

Men at work.

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Lunch is just a quick stop before jumping back into the day. The babies nap. Chores get done. Then the children are free to play or pursue their own interests until dinner time.

Scenes From a Quiet Day

Sitting and working, all together, in the breezy, sunshiny afternoon.

Sitting and working, all together, in the breezy, sunshiny afternoon.

"I'm wearing my sad face!" But she wouldn't turn around to show it.

“I’m wearing my sad face!” But she wouldn’t turn around to show it.

A bicycle, a pottery wheel, some topsoil, and chicken crates.

A bicycle, a pottery wheel, some topsoil, and chicken crates.

I spy... cows in the field?  Practicing with his daddy's telescope.

I spy… cows in the field? Practicing with his daddy’s telescope.

Playing a sea battle game on an ocean of silk.

Playing a sea battle game on an ocean of silk.

A hanging plant left conveniently under the spigot, because it would otherwise never be watered.

A hanging plant left conveniently under the spigot, because it would otherwise never be watered.

Comforting the newly awakened baby brother, while mama snaps photographs.

Comforting the newly awakened baby brother, while mama snaps photographs.

Laundry hung on the line, with the help of the versatile pram, which does an admirable job of holding up heavy laundry baskets.

Laundry hung on the line, with the help of the versatile pram, which does an admirable job of holding up heavy laundry baskets.

Scenes From A Sunny Day

evie scolds - Copy fixing the garden hose - Copy henry - Copy henry cries - Copy kids got a soda - Copy laney hoopin - Copy maple in sun - Copy pram and swingers - Copy Rosie watches - Copy

We’re going for gritty, real-life photographs here this week (as evidenced by yesterday’s living room shot).  Today was gloriously sunny, quite warm, and gently breezy.  Lunch on the patio, baby in the pram, kids playing for hours in the yard, dinner on the grill, and laundry on the line.  Just a perfect day.

Someday – too soon, most likely – I’ll have two typing hands again, and I’ll share something big and meaningful and important, but for now, we’re going to with pictures.  And really, I’d love to see your ordinary, real-life photos, too.

 

Scenes From An Ordinary Day

"I'm huggin' Hen-a-wy's feet!"  I love how she says his name in three syllables. :-)

“I’m huggin’ Hen-a-wy’s feet!” I love how she says his name in three syllables. :-)

boots and chair 2our handsstrawberriesbaby henryIMG_3166

I'm sad to say this is what my living room really looks like today.

I’m sad to say this is what my living room really looks like today.

I’ve been taking the children out often these past few weeks.  I need to be out with them, but I need to also not be with other people.  Did you know there are very few families at the art museum? And that most of the adults just kind of leave you alone to do your own thing?  Very nice.  Especially if you’re feeling anti-social.  (Also, the Speed museum in Louisville is free on Sundays till 2021, if you’re local or passin’ through!)

Just Henry

A pair of photos for my mom.  Regretfully, I haven’t taken many photos yet.  That would be One More Thing and I’d rather take a nap.

Mister Henry had his two week well baby yesterday, and I’m happy to report that his constant nursing has paid off.  Eleven pounds eight ounces!  Go, baby! He’s a happy boy, sleeps like a baby (ha!) and loves his family.  Naturally, we all adore him.  And Evie is almost reconciled to the whole breastfeeding thing.

Otherwise, we’re getting All The Things done, but it takes three times as long.  Especially if I want to avoid any conflicts with nap time.  :-)

About the photos: Brenna was holding him and he was putting all his effort into working up an “Ah!”

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{p,h,f,r} Welcome, Baby!

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henry 1
Meet our newest child! Henry David, born April 18, 10 lbs 15 oz and 22 inches long. That should do it for the vital statistics! Henry is our ninth child and third son, and made his debut nine days past his due date. Most of my babies have been late, several as late as ten days, so I didn’t think anything of it, really. I’ve already delivered several nine pounders without incident. Henry was a bit of a shock. :-)

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The children are head-over-heels in love, just like I knew they’d be. Of course, for a few days there, I was feeling a bit unloved myself, as each morning they’d greet me with a disappointed, “Oh, you’re still here? We were hoping you’d be at the doctor having the baby.” (photo credit: Delaney)

{funny}

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Evie has been absolutely hilarious. This morning, when he spit up, she scowled at him and announced, “That’s bisgusting.” Last night, she ran away in horror as he latched on for a nursing. “Ah! He’s eating you breast!” She’s still not quite convinced that I survive the ordeal whole and intact, but she’s coming around, I think. She’s loves him anyway!

{real}

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So. Birthing an eleven pound baby. I don’t really recommend that! We escaped without a c-section, but his head was almost too big, and his shoulders did not deliver easily, and I pushed harder than I’ve ever had to push in my life to get that baby born. I’ve never been so sore after childbirth! Poor Henry’s face was bruised and swollen, and he was only able to open his eyelids Tuesday night. They’re bloodshot still from the trauma. I needed all the help I got, from the doctor to the nurses to my husband to my beloved prayer warriors, most of whom I’ve never even met!  (I love you ladies so.)   And Davey now feels quite vindicated in his insistence on hospital births. :-) Not that I ever quarreled over it; his peace of mind has been worth it, even if I’d rather be home.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r}!

Confirmed in the Holy Spirit

Newly Confirmed!

Newly Confirmed!

And some family photos, which never come out quite as good as I’d like them to. :-)

The happy (and expectant) parents...

The happy (and expectant) parents…

Just the boys!

Just the boys!

Just the girls!

Just the girls!

All the kids together. :-)

All the kids together. :-)

The archbishop used so much chrism oil this morning, the confirmandi were fairly dripping with it!

Our small parish shares a priest with another nearby, and the Confirmation Mass today was held at our sister church.  Therefore, we ran into lots of people who either don’t know us at all or see us only occasionally, and so there was a lot of, “When is the baby due?!” At eight days late, we’re long past worrying about due dates, though.  So when will the baby arrive?  Some theories:

All of my babies have been born on either Wednesday or Saturday, with the exception of Tommy, who is generally acknowledged to have a special destiny.  He was born into the darkest period of our family life, and he was a bond and a bridge between two people who had forgotten how to love each other.  He has exhibited his whole life a gentle compassion and empathy for people.  I think it’s safe to consider his Thursday birthday a special case.  So, Wednesday, April 20 is a good option.  Hopefully not Saturday the 23rd, because two weeks is overkill, yes?

Another good option is Tuesday, April 19.  I was born on the 19th, as was my mother, and her mother, and her mother, so there is a tradition there.  We considered the fact that it may not be a girl, and have decided that there is a possibility that gender is not a concern, even though this birthday phenomenon has occurred along the female line thus far.  But!  My mother had only one sister, and her mother, if I recall, was one of three girls.  I’m not sure about my great-grandmother, but it appears that there may not have been any boys in these families, so the fact that it has generally passed along from mother to daughter may be irrelevant.  Therefore, we consider that, boy or girl, the 19th would be a good day.  Also, I have been ten days late three times, but never later, so that’s another boon for Tuesday.

Then again, we’re talking about a baby here, and they are generally unpredictable little creatures, so none of our theories or guesses matter in the slightest.  We’ll just have to keep watching and waiting, and whatever will be will be.  :-)

{p,h,f,r} waiting for baby edition

We planted this plum tree years ago, and it has grown beautifully, and the leaves are always so lush, but never has it produced a blossom, let alone a fruit - until now!

We planted this plum tree years ago, and it has grown beautifully, and the leaves are always so lush, but never has it produced a blossom, let alone a fruit – until now!

Unlike the plum, the cherry has always been a prolific bloomer. Every year, I manage to steal a cherry or two before the children or the birds get to them. So good!

Unlike the plum, the cherry has always been a prolific bloomer. Every year, I manage to steal a cherry or two before the children or the birds get to them. So good!

After an unusually cold and occasionally snowy week, the weather has finally switched to spring! For how long, we know not, but we will enjoy it while we can.

After an unusually cold and occasionally snowy week, the weather has finally switched to spring! For how long, we know not, but we will enjoy it while we can.

The bees are all abuzz.

The bees are all abuzz.

My beloved has been refurbishing his tractor for what feels like months now. It's really only been a few weeks, though. He's painting here.

My beloved has been refurbishing his tractor for what feels like months now. It’s really only been a few weeks, though. He’s painting here.

The crib is still empty, the suitcase still packed. Waiting, waiting, waiting for baby...

The crib is still empty, the suitcase still packed. Waiting, waiting, waiting for baby…

No particular story line or theme this week.  Baby is five days overdue, and who can think of anything in any sort of an organized way at a time like this?  I’d like to be finished, but then again, two of the children are being Confirmed on Sunday, and if I go into labor much later than today, I won’t get out of the hospital in time to be there.  Somehow, way back in September, April 9 (the due date) and April 17 (the Confirmation date) seemed sufficiently far apart… What was I thinking? 😉

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r}!

Quick Puff Pastry Recipe with Turnover Directions

Photo Apr 05, 12 03 18 PMIf you’ve been visiting me on facebook or instagram, you know I’ve been playing with puff pastry since Saturday night, and you’ve been getting hungrier and hungrier for some sort of sweet, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery treat.  Did you ever make a puff pastry before?  I did it once, when I only had two small children, and while it was one of the most delicious things I’d ever baked, it took all day to make the pastry.  The folding, and the rolling, and the folding, and the chilling, and the rolling, and the folding, and the chilling… over and over again, until there were hundreds of infinitesimally thin layers of dough and butter that baked up into this light and flaky wondrousness.  It wasn’t quite so wondrous that I cared to repeat the effort, but neither have I ever forgotten it.

A few years years later, I ran across a recipe for a quick puff pastry in the back of a tiny Irish cookbook I’d checked out from the library, so I was aware that a shortcut was available, but I didn’t save it, having four small children now, an absentee husband, a tiny kitchen, and limited enthusiasm.  We moved away from that library, of course, and I have never found the book again, though I remember very well what it looked like.

And then, not long ago, I saw this post about a gorgeous appetizer made with – you guessed it! – a homemade, quick puff pastry.  Unlike all those many years ago, though, we have the internet now!  With the ready availability of recipes, a freezer full of butter from generous cows, and an end-of-pregnancy drive to engage in irrelevant and sometimes bizarre projects, the die was cast.

But you just want a recipe, right?  After several trials and experiments with different versions and forcing my (willing) family to consume several pounds of butter over a very few days, I have decided.  This is the one.  I’m copying it here, with my small changes, because internet links don’t last forever!

Quick Puff Pastry

  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup cold water

(Note: The recipe calls for unsalted butter. I never have unsalted butter on hand, so I used salted, and then reduced the added salt.  Whether your butter is homemade or purchased, this is the right amount of salt for use with salted butter.)

  1. Cut 1 cup (2 sticks) butter into 1/4-inch cubes. Place in an even layer on a plate and transfer to refrigerator to stay cold.

  2. Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Cut remaining 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter into thin slices and add to food processor; pulse to combine. (This portion of the butter should be well combined with the flour.)  Add 1 cup chilled butter; pulse 3 times, 1 second each pulse. Add half of the water and pulse once; add remaining water and pulse twice. Dough will not form a ball.  (Make your one-second pulse a longish second, but you still want that butter to be in nice chunks.)

  3.  Scrape dough from bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour dough and, using your hands, squeeze and shape dough into a cylinder. Press down to flatten into a rectangle.  (Dough may seem crumbly at first, but you should be able to work it into a cohesive clump, much like pie crust.  It seems to hydrate more uniformly while resting in the fridge, too.)

  4. Starting at the narrow end furthest away from you, use a rolling pin to press the dough firmly in parallel strokes close to one another. If there are sticky pieces of butter on the surface, cover with a large pinch of flour and press with the rolling pin to combine. Clean off the rolling pin as you go to make sure nothing sticks to the dough. Continue pressing with the rolling pin, working towards the narrow end closest to you.

  5. Roll dough into a 10-by 20-inch rectangle. Fold the 10-inch ends over the middle (like a letter) to make three layers. Position one of the (about) 6-inch ends to face you and roll up dough like a jelly roll. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, seam-side down. Sprinkle top of dough lightly with flour and press down using your hand to form a rectangle.

  6. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days before using.  (I used it in as little as one hour with fine results.)

For the turnovers pictured above, roll out the puff pastry dough and trim the edges so you have a nice, neat rectangle.  You can make cookies by rolling those dough pieces in sugar, so don’t worry about wasting!  Cut the dough into twelve 4″x4″ squares.  Put a teaspoon of filling into the center, then fold up and pinch the edges shut.  (I used Smuckers cherry preserves for this batch, but you can use any sort of homemade fruit filling, too.)  Cut some steam vents into the top and bake in a 400° oven for 20-25 minutes.  (Make sure you use a pan with sides, as lots of butter oozes out!  It soaks back into the pastry when you remove it from the oven.)  Cool a bit, then drizzle with a powdered sugar icing, a little heavier on the vanilla than usual. The children say these taste just like those very delicious Pillsbury Toaster Strudels.  (They miss their junk food from time to time.)

Unlike the all-day puff pastry of over-achieving bakers, this version takes about 30 minutes to pull together, including clean up time.  The dough is light and flaky and puffs beautifully, much better than the other recipes I tried.  And I bet you could freeze it, too, in case you want to make an impressive breakfast or dessert for overnight guests.  :-)

Have fun!

Creating a Family Culture: Children’s Friendships With Each Other

I had to pop in and talk to the anesthesiologist the other day as part of my hospital pre-admittance checklist.  “Is this your first?” he asked, and I’m not sure why, but I’ve been getting that a lot lately.

“No, this is my ninth,” I said.

“I knew it!” he replied, and I looked at him funny.  “We  have four and my wife said, ‘No more.”  I knew I married a quitter!”

He’s actually a great guy, a devoted father and husband, and the ensuing conversation with him made my day.  (You don’t get so many of these random conversations with strangers any more, since cell phones took over the world.)

8x10 five sistersOne of the things we talked about was sibling rivalry.  It’s a question I get a lot, with Evie being so obviously spoiled with attention: “What is Evie going to think of the new baby?”  The truth is, I don’t even think about it.  I assume she’s going to adore her new sibling, just like her siblings adored her, and just like each baby that came before her was adored.

All I have to do is stay out of the way.

Well, almost.  I’ve talked before about vision and intention in creating a family culture, and it helps to have some ground rules in place.  These are some of ours:

  1. Your brothers and sisters are your best friends.  Whenever there has been an altercation between siblings that required my stepping in, I mediate, without taking sides, and then force a reconciliation.  Yup, I force it. “Give your sister a hug and tell her she’s your best friend.”  Anesthesiology Guy remembers having to kiss his brothers, but it breaks the tension, and sets them back on friendly ground, and, eventually, they actually are best friends.evie snow 2
  2. No tattling allowed.  This one can be tricky, because you have to teach them that sometimes, they’re really and truly going to need an adult and what those times are, but you also don’t want to be constantly jumping into sibling squabbles.  They’ll use you as a pawn to get their own way, and you want to stay out of that.  My rule: “Are they hurting themselves or someone else?  Is anybody’s personal property in danger of being destroyed? No?  Then you guys are going to have to work this out yourselves.”  And then there’s the companion rule: “Well, she shouldn’t have done that thing, but since you just tattled, I can’t really punish her for it.  And you, don’t do that thing again!”  After a (very short) while, the children quit telling on each other, since it has no effect, and they learn to trust each other.
  3. Let them have their secrets.  You don’t need to know everything.  But at the same time, you have to teach them the difference between good secrets and bad secrets.  Most of what normal children will want to keep from you are just silly or embarrassing things, but some secrets are dangerous, and children need to be taught what kinds of secrets to keep and which to tell.  Questions they need to ask themselves: “Is my sibling being hurt by this secret?  Is somebody else being hurt?  Is someone else’s property being damaged or destroyed?”  If the answer is yes for any of these, they need to get a parent involved.  I know my kids have secrets from me, but they don’t have secrets from each other.  And I also know that if someone is in actual trouble, or in danger of getting themselves there, those same best-friend siblings will come to me, and I’ll figure out how to deal with the situation without betraying that trust.  IMG_1605
  4. Don’t be envious of their relationships with each other!  You are a powerful force in their lives, an irreplaceable source of love and wisdom, and allowing them friendships with each other in no way takes away from what you are to them as mother.  I know my older girls really start to feel it when work and school schedules have kept them apart for more than a day, and when they are finally all home at the same time, they’ll hide in their room for hours, giggling and chatting and secret-sharing.  That’s a good thing, even if you’d like to catch up with them, too.  They’ll get around to you eventually.  :-)
  5. One last thing: Kids are people, too.  What I mean by that is that they won’t all have the same interests, strengths or dreams, and just like we take our adult friends each as individuals, with their own quirks and beauties, we need to embrace that in our children as well.  We can’t have cookie-cutter ideals of who our children should be, try to force them into the same mold, compare and contrast.  Admire them for who they are individually, and the gifts they bring to the world, and they’ll learn to admire the best in each other, too.  Help them each to work toward their dreams and overcome their weaknesses, and they’ll learn how to encourage each other, too.  Just love them through their sorrows without trying to preach or correct, and they’ll learn to be compassionate and supportive of each other, too.  Basically, model good friendship with your children, and for your children; they’ll learn by watching your example.

insta kids carsNone of us really likes to think about it, but hopefully, these children will outlive us.  Wouldn’t strong friendships with their siblings be a most beautiful heritage to leave them?  To pass on to the generations that follow?

And thanks to Anesthesiology Guy for getting me thinking about children and friendships!

(PS: Your wife is not a quitter; she’s probably just tired.  Two year olds are hard!)