Long story short: my eldest’s First Holy Communion was cancelled last spring. We weren’t going to Mass anyway at the time, so put off finding an alternative. We just recently started going to another parish’s sparsely populated Saturday morning traditional Latin Mass and decided that was the perfect setting for the sacrament. So after all these months, and braving a blizzard to do it, it finally happened. It was a total joy, only excepting all the people we couldn’t party with.
I took a few pictures in the desperately cold church vestibule and then at home. They are…not very high quality, but it just wasn’t my priority at the time. Oh well. Here you go!
Looks like January came and went, so maybe I should get caught up with December. Here’s what’s been going on.
Small Fry counting her piles of birthday cash.
The kids discovered their dad’s Calvin and Hobbes books and are enraptured.
I made my very first pies for Christmas. I have a video of this blueberry number from this angle still bubbling from the oven, but you will have to content yourselves with a still because I don’t pay for exciting things like posting videos.
There was also pecan. But it was runny.
I had many regrets after the sugar-fest that was December and tried to back off after that.
But I also got a new way to make treats – my husband gave me the best gift ever. Behold a terrible picture of my lovely new espresso maker/milk frother contraption that lets me make fancy coffee drinks to my heart’s content.
I am so happy with this thing.
And now for more kid pics:
Kids got Mickey D’s gift cards from my aunt for Christmas so they got the rare indulgence of Happy Meals.
I must have taken this picture because I love it when they look scholastic.
We sort of got back into school after Christmas. We’re in immigration/pioneery times.
Mr. 6 has been diving into chapter books and graphic novels: longer books than he’s tackled before.
The big one wanted to make bread all by herself and take it to the neighbors.
Miss 4 got her first funschooling journal. Her big siblings each have one (actually I do too) and she couldn’t handle being left out of that. I’m a big fan of these books: they allow kids to create their own curriculum out of topics they are interested in.
Baby learned how to say “dirty.” and applies it to everything in my house. The shoes are “du-dee.” The dishes are “du-dee.” The floor is “du-dee.”
She’s not wrong.
The boy has been creating a lot of art; I guess I haven’t taken pictures. He has been very inspired by Mo Willems of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus fame. Willems had some drawing videos out at the beginning of lockdown season last year and they were very good. Mr. 6 got very creative with his drawing. Then for Christmas we got him an Elephant and Piggie Art-ivity book. He actually learned about a few different art forms and is now into collage. It’s been a delight to see what he’s working on every day.
Miss 9 was inspired to make a map of the world of the Gail Carson Levine fairy tale novels (Ella Enchanted, etc.). She has also been writing the story for a movie she wants to make and designing a lot of clothes. She also learned to embroider and to make lotion bars. There is no creative thing she doesn’t want to try and I can’t quite keep up.
I came out of the shower one morning to find Miss 4 had asked Miss 9 to work with her on some early readers. The little one is really picking up steam with reading. This is the first time a kid has learned without me really seeing it. It was her big siblings and her own motivation that did it, and I left them to it.
Not to be left behind:
Miss 9 got a new funschooling journal all about fashion history, and we have had a ball starting in the 1800s. We’ve watched youtube videos, read books, and dug out all my Jane Austen movies on DVD. We’ve watched the Kate Beckinsale Emma, the Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility, and are into the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice. We have to pause every couple of minutes to talk about what’s going on, but Miss 9 just loves it. And I do too.
After 16 months, I got tired of getting up all night with the wee one and I stopped. It was one of those things where it was angsty torture about what to do, but then after 5 or 6 nights of putting her in the crib to sleep (instead of next to me) and trying to discourage nursing in the middle of the night, bam! She slept 11 hours in a row. She’s done that for four night now. It’s amazing. It’s life-changing. There is hope for all of us now.
There was another dump of snow, this one hilariously huge.
Just a shot of the Christmassiest Christmas outfit to ever Christmas.
I’m going to leave you with a random quote from the boy because I have nowhere else to stick it. We had the inauguration on and Garth Brooks was performing. The boy finds me to say, “Does he like burgers?”
“Does he like burgers? He looks like he’d like burgers.”
After 15 months with the fourth child, I think I’m finally accepting that I am in Bare Minimum Mode. And that it’s not going away for a while. That means accepting that I can accomplish precious little outside of getting through the day decently and not beating myself up for that.
So our Advent has had zero special activities other than putting up stockings and the tree. There have been no devotionals, crafts, liturgical observances, or themed baking.
Our homeschool has been the basics with no art, music, science, or a million other things that are my ideal. Also we went on Christmas break at the beginning of December because we can never focus anyway.
We eat a lot of prepared meals from Costco out of the freezer.
All of this is okay. Do the kids feel they are missing out on something? No! They have no idea that there are all these unaccomplished goals going through my head. They’re fine! They’re excited for Christmas. The tree, wrapping gifts, and watching Christmas movies is plenty for them. I’m the only one who is setting myself up for failure by trying to do things I just can’t. So. I’m working on accepting this season right now. And giving myself grace.
So. What HAVE we been up to?
Bitty Little got a new stocking. Her first Christmas was last year, but we just didn’t manage to get her one and she had to use her dad’s old stocking which DID NOT COORDINATE WITH THE OTHERS. It was very hard on me. Luckily, when Grams took Miss 9 out shoe shopping for her birthday, the two brought this back. It is perfect.
We also got out the Little People Nativity and a velcro tree thing to play with.
I did manage to acquire chocolate coins for St. Nicholas Day, so we kept that tradition alive. There are some things you can’t flake out on without consequences, and gold coins in the shoes is one for us.
Rare picture of my men together. Starting to get harder to pick this little man up. I remember distinctly those last few times I picked the big girl up and thinking, this might be the last time ever. It’s getting closer with this guy.
After Deep Fry Saturday, we were totally over fried foods. For like a couple of days. Then we’d say, there’s oil here. Why don’t we fry this one more thing? I’m happy to say we really are done now and have emptied it out and will never do this again. But those zucchini chips up there in that picture? To die for.
Also! When I was growing up, there was a restaurant in my Grandma’s town that had rolls that tasted nasty and good and it only occurred to me as a grown up that they must have been fried. So we tried that with crescent rolls from a tube. Yes. Spot on.
Speaking of food atrocities, I’d like to discuss this trend of creating the most insane dessert recipes online. People so want their food to stand out that they do over-the-top things to them. The thing that sticks out in my head is seeing a multicolored, multilayered confection made of Lucky Charms. Just…why?
But I still committed one of these dessert crimes for my mother-in-law’s birthday.
It’s layers of shortbread cookie, chocolate cake, peanut butter buttercream, roasted peanuts, and caramel, topped with a chocolate ganache, more caramel, and snickers.
No. It’s not good. I mean, it’s good. But also nasty. Like so many things. Like fried rolls. Like KFC biscuit bowls. The madness must end.
Did this for the first time to the big girl’s hair after a bath in the evening.
So that this would happen in the morning:
Fun! Takes me back.
We read a couple more books after officially breaking from school.
And had some fun in random days of lovely weather.
Miss Almost 4 was brave enough to try out swim class with Miss 9.
But then decided against it.
There was snow!
And then Miss Almost 4 turned 4.
The theme was Frozen. Which was the other girl’s 4th birthday theme too. Must be the perfect age.
The boy tried to help light candles.
The grocery store Frozen cake was pretty unimpressive for costing a fortune. Haven’t I banned cake in this house yet? What’s happening? Down with cake!
Auntie sent a kitty blankie. And teeny tiny stuffies.
We got the tree up the day after her birthday. Behind bars. I may have had trees with toddlers before, but never THIS toddler. So.
We are almost ready for Christmas. I’m quite excited this year. It seems the first time I’m prepared, and have presents for everyone, instead of saying, sorry, catch you at Easter! We will see both sides of the local family, the older side before the health care worker side, and all promises to be good.
However it all works out, the God of the Universe still broke into our world at Christmas, so we got that going for us.
There were a miraculous handful of nights this baby only woke once and it was so restorative and we felt amazing. But then she went back to normal. The husband saw some molar activity in the back of her mouth yesterday, so…well, it’s always something.
My first baby turned 9. She’s halfway to a legal adult. I guess I’d better figure out how to raise her or something.
The weekend before her birthday, two of her friends on two different days gave her presents outside and she got to see them briefly. It was so sad to not have a huge party for her, but that was really special.
Her friend across the street dropped gifts on our porch the morning of her birthday, including a piece of honeycomb from their very own hives. They remembered she loves to eat honey straight off the comb. So sweet!
They also gave her a tub of cotton candy and this is how she felt about it:
We gave her the last book in the Penderwicks series.
We also gave her a “smart watch” that does a bunch of fun tricks, like taking pictures and playing games, but doesn’t connect to the internet. It’s mostly gone okay and not driven us too crazy. She LOOOOOOVES it.
She requested macaroni and cheese for lunch and Chinese takeout for dinner. Very happy to comply. Grammy and Poppy joined us for dinner, and we followed it with a Twix Bar Pie, which was basically a giant homemade candy bar.
The husband did a lot of work around the house. Here, baby girl is watching him replace our leaky kitchen faucet.
The boy drew farm animals.
The boy had a revelation when he realized Mouse Tales and Owl at Home were by the same marvelous author, Arnold Lobel. When I pulled out Frog and Toad and had him check the cover, his mind was blown. It set off a reading spree.
She is so thrilled with herself when she puts on Daddy’s slippers (or any of our shoes). She can walk surprisingly well in them.
Miss 9 had started piano lessons last winter and then, well, you know. So the piano’s been a bit neglected, but this week they got in a playing mood and I realized the boy had been teaching himself how to play by observing Miss 9 and deciphering the lessons in the book for himself. Every now and then he would even sing, which is a rare treat compared to how often the girls sing. We pulled out some Christmas songbooks and they all started singing Jingle Bells together and it was so adorable. You know how if you visit my house, sometimes all you experience is a lot of craziness? Well, that’s a part of life here (and often amped up just for your benefit) but there are so many sweet, calm, charming times too.
I’m reminding myself too.
I decided we had to maximize the time we could see my parents before the time we avoid my parents, so I made more holidays. The Sunday before Thanksgiving my folks and my cousin came over and we had breakfast all day and played games. I would like to point out that I beat my husband and cousin at both Catan and the Game of Life, the latter in a startling upset at the end. Haha, suckers.
Then we did Thanksgiving. Same basic plot, different food. Here are the kids mooning over my famously perfect dinner rolls the day before:
And randomly, here’s Miss 9 dressed as her father:
The spatchcocked and smoked turkey (and the man who feels similarly after all that work):
Grammy’s scrumptious pies:
And Grammy’s new Christmas jammies for the kids:
Thanksgiving was followed up two days later by Deep Fry Friday. Except, yes, it was Saturday. The only other time we did this was over a decade ago, but it obviously made a mental impact on me because here we are. It was a Christmas that was just with my parents and cousin and the day after was a Friday, and we decided that what we needed to do was put our leftovers in wonton wrappers and deep fry them. And then to do that to whatever we found in the house.
Well, I resurrected that idea yesterday.
This was fried mac and cheese, leftover from meatless Friday.
Then I put itty bitty Thanksgiving meals in the wonton wraps.
They were okay.
Even though I was planning legit doughnuts with legit dough, the husband wanted to try a canned crescent roll cronut.
Which was good, don’t get me wrong, but I was proud of my REAL doughnut.
But like the rest of the day, it was all more work than it was worth. When you haven’t used a deep fryer in a decade, it’s fun to try all the things, but I’m 42, and my body was over it pretty fast. I don’t think I’ll do this “holiday” again. I have to remember it’s okay to plan a day with people I love without planning a ton of work, right?
So Miss 3 is about to become Miss 4, but it will fall in the Not Seeing My Folks window of time, so they brought her present early. She was delighted.
And now we will see the other side of the family for a couple of weeks, and then leave a gap before seeing my folks for Christmas. It’s annoying to plan out, but I’m happy we’ve got a method going. I definitely value my time with everyone now. Even if I don’t always act like it when I’m trying to prepare food!
Weeks with birthdays and holidays are hard to focus, so schoolish schoolwork has been hit and miss, but history reading has been happening.
If we get through one more week of Catholic Schoolhouse material, we’ll be halfway through, and I will feel accomplished, even though it is objectively meaningless how fast we run through history. I mean, really. Taking our time would be fine too. I seem to understand that in other areas. Miss 9 started a “3rd grade” cursive book in “2nd grade” and is still working through it. We never stopped using her “2nd grade” math book because there is too much material for one year and it is still at the right level for her.
Anyway. Stop overthinking, Julie.
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Hello and welcome to another installment in The Neverending Cycle of Days that are All the Same. I know I titled this blog Sweet Monotony, because in general, I’m really into Doing Nothing and Going Nowhere but…sigh.
I think she was doing multiplication with the unripe tomatoes we pulled from the garden before fall nights killed them.
That’s one my husband’s #thereifixedit moments. The lever for the recliner on my side of the couch became detached from the…cord…thing…so now I’ve got a nice pair of pliers to yank on. But seriously, if it weren’t for him, I’d have to throw out the couch. And also the whole house, because I don’t know how he holds this place together.
One whole morning of snow happened, so I dug out all the winter gear so they could spend an eternity getting it on for a few minutes of snow fun.
Sorry, kid, I’m not going out there.
The boy played with numbers.
For the third time, we made Trader Joe’s stupid haunted cookie house and it looked really great for a second and then it collapsed and then we basically ate frosted cardboard.
And Halloween happened.
Yes. Yes, the boy was Santa for the FOURTH YEAR RUNNING.
It was a lovely night, and the first time we’ve stayed in our neighborhood in 8 years, and though there wasn’t a lot of action, there was enough and it was a good thing.
There was some gorgeous weather and it occurred to me we should get to the zoo. Here we are on the train.
We started using Scrabble to do spelling quizzes cause that’s fun.
The husband and I hit 10 years of marriage and we celebrated with takeout from Olive Garden and a Costco-sized tiramisu from…Costco. I hurt at the end of the night, so I know we did it right. Everyone liked tiramisu except the oldest. That’s fine.
The boy did this the other day. For fun.
The books we’ve been reading:
Reading aloud is going slowly these days. It can only be done when the baby’s unconscious; otherwise, she just gets in my face and screams. So the big girl reads what she can on her own. And we take our time with everything else. Which is fine. I’m learning a lot. Kids seem to be too.
Take a good look at the boy’s hair, because…
He hates it when we cut his hair. So we let it grow super long, then buzz it off, and repeat. The husband is capable of doing a very nice haircut, but it takes longer and means more drama, so…just this today.
Final shot of the girl who determines my sanity every day.
She can climb up on the table now. It’s intense.
I had my dad come over and take a family picture. I made up Christmas cards right away, but it’s 2020, so they are a little messed up. However, I can’t care enough to fix them, so you’ll be getting them anyway. If I remember to send them.
The big girl turns 9 this week. She had a checkup and she’s the average height of a 10-year-old! She can’t do much to celebrate, which is hard on this party animal, but that’s life for everyone this year. Then the holiday season begins, and oh yeah, we really need that, and it’s awkward and stressful to figure it out. But we’re figuring it out.
Things have been so very MUCH for my brain lately. Sometimes I do well and sometimes I don’t. We don’t have the normal things we can do that help us cope, and I’m worried about heading into winter, where the little things we could do are gone, and seasonal depression comes for all of us in a way it never did before. I’m pretty sure you guys are feeling that too. How are y’all getting along?
I already miss it. And the 15 minutes alone I get every month or so. I love you, balcony! *sniff*
Baby and me.
We went to an apple orchard/pumpkin patch for a friend’s birthday and it was delightful. I can’t believe this is the only picture I took.
It was so much fun to get out and do something all charming and fallish.
Miss 3 helped Dad fix Miss 8’s bike.
I’m throwing up pics in the order I took them, so please forgive their lack of coherence.
So one of the things I worry over is my competence teaching religion. The oldest was in Catholic school for preschool and K, and it was so good for her to be just bathed in this worldview. I often worry that I deprived the others of that, especially Mr. 6. But then he surprised me one week with everything he keeps quietly in his mind. I had given them an acrostic to do on the topic of being a Christian and he came up with this:
Wow. Pretty hardcore, eh?
I write some of our memory work on the board every week. We had been working on the 23rd Psalm for a few weeks and I only had up that week’s portion. Well, Mr. 6 decided we needed the whole thing up and the boy who has never sung along to the CDs we use to learn this stuff, pulled all this out of memory:
I was amazed. And I realized we were all doing better than I thought.
Jarring segue to baby in a car.
Kids are hooked on a show called Liberty’s Kids we’re watching on YouTube. Miss 8 already knows more about the revolutionary period than I do.
What’s that? I’m glad you asked. It’s a bread dragon. Yes it is. This is a weird tradition I started on Michaelmas, or the Feast of the Archangels. Apparently St. George is thought of as something like Michael the Archangel’s representative on earth, and his fighting of the dragon analogous to Michael casting the devil into hell. So. We make a dragon out of bread and slay it. Cause why not.
We were gifted shark mittens.
We played with numbers.
The kids are fascinated with big numbers, so the boy decided to write out a googolplex on the board. But then Miss 3 added a few zeros so this may be off.
Baby was terrifying.
Miss 8 dressed up “like a grownup.”
Pile of kids.
The neighbors set up a cute photo shoot for their baby and asked if we wanted to take a picture on it. We weren’t well prepared.
The most exciting thing happened. Husband’s sister and mother took ALL the kids away for a day at the fancy pumpkin patch. We’ve never been alone before, at least not for years! We did date-y things. It was…okay, terrifying…but once the anxiety abated, it was pretty cool! And then they came home.
Miss 8 dropped straight outta that Almost Famous poster. Yikes. Gorgeous.
Babies in feetie jammies are my favorite.
Grammy’s muffins are popular here.
We finally got to pumpkin carving day!
The kids were waiting for treats after this but not too keen on helping dad scoop out the goo. “No work-y, no eat-y,” he told them. Miss 8 piped up, “John Smith said that.” Aw, yeah.
And the treat. Pumpkin Nutella cookie bars.
The boy made me a picture to color-by-number.
In school this week, we are learning the Southeastern states and their capitals. Mr. 6 labeled the states and Miss 8 the capitals.
We read stuff.
We do a little of both of these every week.
And are rereading this beauty.
Fun with food faces continues.
In a crazy surprise to me, Miss 3 can identify several words by sight, and do word searches even if she doesn’t know what the words are. Cool.
Here’s how I blog: I upload pictures I’ve taken since the last time I wrote that I think will be fun to share. Today I have 36. I think I need to figure out how to blog more often.
Okay! Let’s see what happened.
Oh, yeah, this little potato had a birthday! Let’s see what else I have from that day.
Big sister decorated.
Because cake is overrated, we made a peanut butter cup pie. It started like this:
Oreos were crushed for the crust.
Then there was a fluffy, creamy peanut butter layer, and a riiiiiich chocolate ganache.
It was going to go in a pie plate, but the recipe called for a plate an inch bigger than I had, so I got nervous and went with the square. Somehow feels a lot less important in a square but that’s okay. Still tasted incredible! You know, at first. Then my body, which never used to be so old, said, that’s enough now, we don’t ever need to do that again.
We also celebrated the baby other days, like ya do when you can’t have a bunch of people at one giant party. There’s a legit first birthday pic: cupcake in the face.
In other news, we are totally farmers. In that we’ve harvested a whole zucchini and maybe two tomatoes from our garden.
We have continued making our way through American History. Here are some of our reads.
Miss 8 read the first two when I bought them a few months ago so we didn’t actually read them again.
We attempted making Native American-style pottery out of air dry clay.
While waiting days for them to dry, a couple were broken, and we still haven’t tried to paint them. Sigh. I hate arts and crafts. I want to occasionally make an effort, because I feel like I should but ugh. So much to manage.
We moved on to colonial life. Miss 8 read a Magic Tree House book about Ben Franklin too, but that was this summer and it’s back at the library now. She also read this next Ben Franklin book all on her own before I could even get to it.
We also read a biography of St. Junipero Serra in there, but I forgot to put it in the pic and I’m not going back now.
And this week we are in the Revolutionary War.
Keep finding her curled up with this one.
There are some really great history books for kids out there. I will never understand why we inflict textbooks on them so often.
For all my talk about not forcing them to do any academic work this semester, I totally started forcing them to do academic work. I panicked. The big one especially needed some direction and discipline, just a smattering, so I brought out the bins with math and grammar and spelling, oh my.
I got them out the night before we were going to start, and after leaving the room for just a few minutes, my boy had already gotten out his handwriting book and done a page.
They are not always so easy to convince to do schoolwork, but it’s so much more fun to write stories like this than to write about the times they fight and whine.
Meanwhile, the husband found a few spare inches on my chalkboard to teach me why different blood types can receive donations from the kinds they do:
It’s nice to have smart people around.
The boy made Jesus-themed designs out of Cuisinaire rods.
Actually, I’ve never used these math-related manipulatives for their intended purpose. Because I don’t actually know what that is.
My eldest is obsessed with fire pits and built her own. I think it looks pretty legit, but we haven’t convinced her dad that we should light it on fire yet.
It is never fun when the baby is teething. Cause that’s been most of her life. And multiple times a day for stuff like this on my body.
Also, nursing her is like a battle.
The boy really likes to make faces out of his food.
And have feelings.
And Miss 3 is very proud when she makes my coffee.
Also, she’s gorgeous.
And, to conclude, baby continues to be cute.
I did it! I did it! I finished this all in one way-too-short naptime.
In honor of my little girl turning 1 tomorrow, I present to you a list of the stuff I Just Don’t anymore with this many kids.
1. Natural Childbirth
The first three kids got a sober and helpful mom, the last one got a completely useless, drugged mom and had to do all the work herself. Which she did like a champ. Unlike the one before her, who had so much difficulty that I ended up plain fearful about birthing #4 and therefore: drugs. This is sort of a silly entry, I wouldn’t necessarily give up the natural version forever. But I just could not this time.
2. Cloth Diapers
Losing all my hippie cred with this baby. I tried for a while, but one night her little butt was so irritated by my offensive diet that I sent the husband out for diaper cream and paper diapers, and almond milk for me so I could quit all the top indigestible foods at once. The throwaway diapers took so many little tasks off my plate that I took that win, since I then had a hundred new difficulties living with diet stress for 9 months.
3. Baby book
I mean…she’s the fourth baby.
This thing was always a serious problem for my soul, but it became more of an obvious problem for my brain. I just could not take in any more information, especially fast, random information. It was too stressful. Even my time off it was made worse because I couldn’t focus on anything. Ugh. Good riddance. See also: Patterns. Why do you have to be so loud and contrasty to everything?
5. Presents, apparently.
We haven’t gotten anything for the kid’s first birthday. It’s not that we haven’t thought about it a little. But we have no ideas. She doesn’t know, she doesn’t care, and we need approximately zero more things in this house. So. Huh. I guess no presents.
6. Oh, yeah, cake.
No one needs cake for their birthday. I no longer feel an obligation to have a cake just because that is the birthday thing. Do you smell that? That’s the smell of freedom. Also the smell of peanut butter cup pie. Cause that’s what we’re having.
I’d like to take some time to talk about my love for taco meat in weird places. This obsession entered my life when my good friend and neighbor made me Mexican Stuffed Shells after my…second? third?…baby. I don’t remember the baby; I do remember the food. Taco meat mixed with cream cheese stuffed into pasta shells. It’s genius. The husband and I love it, and the 3-year-old has been a fan since she was wee. Nobody else cares. That’s fine. More for me. Here’s the recipe:
In between the third and fourth babies, we lost a little baby very early on. Actually – huh – two years ago today. The husband’s pastor and his wife brought us a wonder called Taco Ring. I have no idea how we lived so long without this. It is one of the precious few things everybody in this house will always eat. Here’s the recipe I found: