Loving Henry

It was really hard to be Henry’s mother.  From the moment he was born, he cried.  He cried because he was hungry and my milk hadn’t come in yet.  He cried because it had been twenty minutes since his last nursing and he was hungry again.  He cried because I wasn’t holding him.  And, increasingly, he cried even when I was.  For a while, when he was very young, he slept through the night, and I actually had to wake him to nurse, but as the months slipped by, he was waking more and more frequently.  Every three hours.  Every two hours.  Every 90 minutes.  Every hour.  When I hit the end of my rope, he was waking every 45 minutes, all night long.

It is hard to love when you are exhausted.  It is hard to love when nothing you do can make this baby happy.  It’s hard to love when the size of your world has shrunk to the circle of your arms.  It is hard to love when there is never any relief.  I tended to his needs as well as I could without knowing why he cried, and I prayed that genuine affection would grow out of that faithfulness.  It hurts to admit that.

henry-eats-his-toastIt’s been two weeks now since Henry and I began our tomatoes-and-peppers fast, and he is an entirely different child.  He’s happy, and he’s a joy to be around.  He’s clever and affectionate and busy, just like a baby is supposed to be.  He naps a couple of times a day for a couple of hours at a stretch.  He still wakes too often at night, but not as often, and I think genuine discomfort has been replaced by just bad habits.

He is seven months old, and I am only just now falling for this little guy.  I wish it hadn’t taken so long, and I will forever feel some guilt for not feeling that affection, and that he suffered for so long when I could have spared him, but right now, I’m just loving Henry.

 

Make: Chunky Bobble Garland

I do not know what possessed me to want to make bobble garland, but make it I did!  And it looks adorable on my “Advent” tree.  (An “Advent” tree is an artificial tree that you put up as soon as possible after Thanksgiving, even photo-nov-27-11-35-46-amthough your husband doesn’t care for “Advent” trees, and would prefer that you wait till the family goes out to find a real one closer to Christmas.  Husbands.)

So anyway, back to the Advent tree.  My vision has always actually been to use the Advent tree to hang our Jesse Tree ornaments, except that we’ve never had any Jesse Tree ornaments, nor have we ever been disciplined enough to make it through the whole Jesse Tree saga, anyway.  But, hope springs eternal!  I’m drawing some ornaments this year, because I can, and I like to, and they’ll be just exactly what I want them to be, more or less, as my skill or lack thereof dictates.

I thought the garland would look nice while we waited for the tree to fill up with the devotional ornaments, but the children hung up all of our New For 2016 ornaments right away.  And I still think the garland looks really cute.  It has potential as a year-round decoration, too; I see similar types of things adorning walls and mirrors and whatnot on fashionable home-dec blogs, so there’s that!

Would you like to make one?  It’s really easy.photo-nov-27-5-51-09-am

I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease chunky yarn and a size P crochet hook.

Start with a chain of eight or nine stitches.  Triple (or treble) crochet into the fourth chain from the hook, but don’t finish the stitch.  Leave the last loop on the hook.  Make three more triple crochets into the same chain stitch.  You should have five loops on the hook now.  Yarn over and pull through all five loops at once to form the bobble.  (Photo instructions follow.)

Now slip stitch around your last triple crochet, and again into the chain stitch you’ve been working in.  Chain 6 and make another bobble in the fourth chain from hook.

For some of your bobbles, you want to push them inside out and then flip your work.  Your first slip stitch will be around the three chain stitches at the beginning of the bobble, and then into the chain you worked in.  This will give some variety to the garland, so keep them a bit irregular!  Finish up with a few chain stitches at the end.

One skein makes about 8 feet of garland.  If you want a little more distance between your bobbles, you can make a longer chain in between.  Just make your next bobble in the fourth chain from the hook.

Let me know if you make any garlands of your own!

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Choosing God

The other day, I mentioned that just because something happens, it doesn’t mean that God wills it.  It isn’t God’s will, for instance, that children get sick and die.  It isn’t God’s will that we commit violent crimes against each other.  It isn’t God’s will that some among us suffer hunger, homelessness, or loneliness.  It isn’t God’s will that we treat our most vulnerable, the unborn and the elderly, with callous indignity.

None of this is God’s will.

He envisioned something much better and more beautiful for us: peace, joy, love, and intimate friendship with the King of all.

But God is a gentleman, and he never forces Himself upon us.  He asks us to choose Him, to want Him above all other things.  He longs for that, and it is why He so cherishes the sinner who returns to Him, but He never demands it.

This is the great problem of free will: we are equally free to choose or reject God, to choose evil or to choose love.

Advent begins today, four short weeks to prepare our hearts to receive the infant Christ, to turn away from sin and worldliness and choose He who is Love itself.  This is a time for penance, for renewed acts of charity and mercy, and for refocusing on what matters most to us.

I’m grateful for these times, because it’s so easy to be distracted.  But God is always calling, always seeking, and always waiting for us to turn back to Him, too.

Kitchen Work

I have always genuinely enjoyed housekeeping and homemaking.  Well, maybe not always.  We’re each of us, after all, products of our families of origin and the larger culture, and neither one really encouraged a love of homemaking in me.  So, in the beginning, homemaking and I had an uneasy relationship, really, because I did enjoy it, and I could see the value in it, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to.  Then, one day, I met Edith Schaeffer.  My deepest suspicions were confirmed, my efforts applauded and encouraged.  On that day, I embraced motherhood and housekeeping wholeheartedly and did not look back.

That doesn’t mean it has always been easy.  My family has grown and changed, with people in all sorts of life stages demanding more from me than ever before.  The number of “hats” I’m wearing has increased drastically.  But, still, I see the value in keeping house and preparing meals, and I am most relaxed when I get to dedicate myself to those tasks.  I just don’t have as much time for it as I’d like.  Because of that, I’ve been actively working to streamline and minimize my kitchen work.  I might be mentioning a few things in coming weeks.

On the Henry front: I mentioned that he was waking in the night specifically to spit up, but really, it had more the quality of vomiting.  Spit up doesn’t seem to cause any discomfort, but these nighttime episodes were uncomfortable beforehand and the vomiting offered relief from that discomfort.  He’s been doing pretty well with that, until last night.  Last night, I had pizza with tomatoes, onions, sausage and bell peppers, and I think it might have been the peppers that caused our problems.  I blame the peppers because that was the only ingredient I hadn’t eaten in the past two weeks.  Most members of the nightshade family are highly poisonous, but a few are only slightly poisonous and more or less edible.  Maybe for Henry, he leans toward the less.

The hunt for the source of Henry’s tummy troubles continues!  By the way, there’s no particular heroism in this for me; I am inspired and energized by a good challenge!

 

O, The Irony

When Henry was a newborn, he slept too well.  I never thought that was even possible!  But he’d sleep all through the night, and I actually had to wake him up to nurse.  He is such a big baby that I was really worried about diminishing milk supply if we went that long between feedings.

And then, without me even realizing it, something changed.  He stopped being able to sleep well.  He began waking numerous times each night, sometimes just to spit-up when I picked him up.  It was getting worse and worse, and I was feeling more and more out-of-control… and exhausted.  It’s really hard to love someone when you’re sleep deprived.

All this time, in the back of my head, I wondered, “What if he doesn’t like all the milk?” His dad is unique in our family in that he doesn’t tolerate milk very well, and Henry seems to take after David much more than any of our other children ever have.  What if all this dairy I consume is making him uncomfortable?

So twelve days ago, I gave up all the dairy products, which is where the irony comes in.

I was hoping that, within the first couple of days, he’d be feeling better and sleeping better.  I was hoping that it would reduce the frequency of spit-up.  I was hoping that, if his tummy felt better, he’d be less clingy.

It was kind of a lot of pressure to put on a glass of milk and a slice of pizza.

He does sleep better sometimes, but it’s very inconsistent, and the reality is that we have also developed some bad sleep habits.  And he could use a white noise machine.

He is waking less often specifically to spit up, though he does still catch me unaware sometimes.  However, he’s an active little guy, and the problem has not diminished at all during his waking hours.  I guess we’ll just have to keep waiting for maturity of that muscle group.

And I’m his favorite person in the whole wide world.  He’d rather be with me, up in my arms, than anywhere else on the planet.  No other person is as beloved, no other arms as comforting, no other activity as intriguing as the one I’m engaged in.  The lack of dairy in my diet has not diminished any of my enchanting qualities, and Henry is still as insistent on being held as ever.

So, in the absence of miracles, we have to look at the small details.

He is happier during the day.  Almost right away, he quit crying through the evenings.  At night, when he wakes, I think it is less and less from discomfort.  He has managed a couple of long naps, too, which have been non-existent in recent months.  And the frequency of dirty diapers has unexpectedly dropped.

The dairy-free diet does seem to be having a positive effect on Henry.  And it’s not quite as challenging as I thought it would be.

We’ll keep going with this new adventure and see how it all plays out.

The Angry Internet

The internet is ugly this week.  If we kind of thought the deep divisions and angry rhetoric would die out after the election, I guess we were wrong!  It seems worse than ever out there, name calling, and accusations, and bitterness all around.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether a person was a “winner” or a “loser”.  There’s just a lot of bad blood right now, and social media is a very negative place to be.

Anyway, the most important thing is to keep our eyes on Jesus, for it’s only when we look away that we sink under the stormy waves of our worries.  I love that story, don’t you?  The one where Peter gets all excited about walking on water like Jesus, but then he notices that it’s really actually quite stormy on that little sea, and what was he thinking, anyway, walking on water?!  And as he starts to sink under his fears, Jesus reaches out and grabs hold and asks him, “Why did you doubt?”

Why, indeed.  I don’t think for a minute that Donald Trump is God’s will for the country.  Not everything that happens is God’s will; sometimes, things just happen anyway, and we have to make the best of them, or turn them to good by the power of our tiny faith in a man who could walk on water.  We can walk above this as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus.

Next up: I find myself in rather an ironic situation…

The First Monday After a Trip, and Halloween, Too

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Van Gogh is our Artist of the Month for November, and I thought we’d make this torn-paper collage of a vase of sunflowers to get us off on the right foot.  I’m really trying to work in art projects on a regular basis, you know!  We happen to have a ton of sunflowers blooming right now.  In October.  Crazy, right?  Apparently, the chickens spilled a LOT of feed out in the field, and it has all started growing and blooming and seeding, so we happen to have sunflowers thanks to the chickens.

We picked ourselves a nice bouquet to arrange inside for inspiration, but then Tommy happened to notice ladybugs in both their larval and pupal stages!  After some hunting among the leaves, we also found eggs!  So the art session became a nature study session, too.  It was fun, and we have Tommy’s excellent observation skills to thank for it!  He was the one who discovered that this strange bug we’ve been seeing is actually an immature ladybug.  He’s a smarty-pants, that one.  photo-oct-31-12-00-02-pm

If you are in the market, I highly recommend this insect observation kit.  It has three jars with magnifying lids, a larger magnifier that allows you to look at the insect from both above and below, and two pairs of bug tweezers, in case you don’t want to touch them.  We used to have some bubble-shaped tweezers picked up at Target, but, alas, those are no more!  I bought this months ago, but only broke it out today.  Lots of fun!

So, after cleaning the room, which happens to be a mess magnet, gathering ourselves for educational pursuits, and getting distracted by said pursuits, that’s all we got done today.  But it was fun, and maybe that’s what you need on the first Monday after a two week break for a road trip, especially if that Monday is also Halloween and your kids are going trick-or-treating for the first time.  (Can you say “excited”?)

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Family

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We’ve been in New Jersey visiting with my mom since Thursday, and today is our last day. Tomorrow, we go home! I love my mom, and I love my sister who also lives here, but I miss my family. I’m anxious to get back to them. My life is crazy, but it’s crazy good.

Fallish Things

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We’ve been having a busy month. First, this replica Lewis and Clark expedition boat showed up at our riverfront. The real Lewis and Clark traveled with one keelboat and two pirogues, but they only brought one pirogue on this trip. Back in 2003-2006, they used these boats to reenact the whole journey, which is both pretty cool, but also, “Do you people not have lives?” They called this their Eastern Discovery Tour, and they visited several museums, but also lots of small river towns like ours. Pretty neat, huh?

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The fellow up the hill at the encampment had a rope making device that Lewis and Clark might have had. Maybe. But theirs would probably have needed to be bigger, since their ropes were made out of elk hide. Anyway, kids love to make ropes and he loves kids, so he picked up a rope-making device and gives demonstrations, over and over and over again, to as many children as want to make ropes. We heard the same spiel with minor variations three times in fifteen minutes while waiting our turn, and he never appeared to weary of it. God bless that man.

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I just think the wood on this boat is so beautiful.

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While we were at the park, we remembered to collect some osage oranges. Rumor has it that they are insect repellent, and especially useful against spiders. We brought them home and tossed them in all of our dark, spidery corners, since this also happens to be the Large Spiders Coming Indoors time of year. For the sake of science, I also put some where spiders were actively dwelling in order to gauge their effectiveness. The spiders in question did not seem at all offended by the fruits; in fact, the one I watched most carefully seemed to be more relaxed, actually enjoying the mild, citrusy scent. Later that weekend, when I cleaned the living room, I also noted several large spiders apparently taking refuge from my vacuum behind an orange. The verdict? They are not spider repellent at all. I suspect that, generally, the appearance of the fruit coincides with colder weather and the natural spider life cycle, and they usually are dead or hibernating by now. I think it’s not a cause-and-effect, just a coincidence. But it was fun to find out.

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Also, may I just say how nice it is to have a big family? You always have people to pick up and go see historical ships with you, or to help you glean from nature’s bounty, or to carry the baby when your arms get tired. And they always do it so cheerfully.

This week, we went to an unphotographed circus, which was fun, and we also went to the pumpkin farm.

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They have a really nice playground here for the children, but there were some crazy kids on this day, and our children don’t care for boorish playmates. They tend to look at them like they are alien creatures and pull off to the side to watch disapprovingly. They have goats and ponies to pet, though, too, and that was fun, except I noticed some boorish adults hanging around the pens, presumably the parents of the ill-behaved children (the Nuts and Trees theory), and I didn’t much care for my little ones to get bored with the animals and take note of their surroundings, so we didn’t stay long.

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We did get pumpkins, though! This farm does not actually grow many of their own. The small ones are grown on site, but the jack-o-lantern sized ones are imported and artfully strewn about the field. Usually. Last year, they left the boxes out there, too.

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The other night, I remembered that there was a chestnut tree at church, and it was probably time for the nut drop. I was right! We spent a happy half-hour after Mass in the bright Autumn morning, harvesting this undeserved bounty from amidst the gravestones in the parish cemetery.

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When I dumped them all out at home, we had most of paper grocery sack full. That’s too many for us, so I packaged some up for my mom and sister. My mom and sister live in New Jersey.

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A couple of weeks ago, I woke with a weight on my heart, and as I went through the morning prayers, I became more and more certain that there was only one option. At breakfast, I said, “I think I need to go see my mom.”

Davey has lived with me for a long time, and he just nodded and said, “I think you should. Go!”

So we’re going, those of us with no obligations outside the family, which means me and five children. If you think of me in the coming days, say a little prayer for us for a peaceful and pleasant journey? Many, many thanks in advance.

Meg’s Courses, 11th Grade, 2016-2017

History and Literature: Roman Roads Media “Greeks” (Literature and history)
A full year French Revolution history and literature unit of my own design

Latin: Henle II (Memoria Press)
Greek: First Form (Memoria Press)

Math: Precalculus (Teaching Textbooks)

Religion: History of the Church (Didache)

Science: Exploring Creation with Marine Biology

Literature is included in both history courses, English grammar is covered in Latin, and writing assignments are regularly scheduled in both the history courses and the religion course, so we don’t have a separate English class.