Monday, December 30, 2013


Things I don't want to forget:

1.  Sitting with Layla in my lap feeling her soft cloud puff of hair against my face and feeling her happily walk her fingers on my arm, from my shoulder down to my wrist and then back up to my neck.
2.  Holding a relaxed but alert Caroline on my shoulder, with her head warm and soft and bumping gently against my jaw and cheek as she looks around with wide eyes.
3.  Zion scrunching his little nose happily when he asks me a question he already knows the answer to, just because he wants to hear me say it.
4.  Israel's wide-eyed happy exuberance and innocent joy.
5.  Gabe's gentle and shy hugs, and the way he sometimes grabs me and hugs me tightly when I don't expect it and how I'm always startled by how wiry and boy-ish he is, instead of childish, and how his hands don't feel soft any more, but harder and more grownup and it's kind of bittersweet.

Things that make me happy:

1.  The feel of a cold, wet cat nose against my nose, and the whispery fluff of cat fur on my cheek.  I never thought I would ever get to have a cat again since Tim is allergic to them, but a stray cat adopted us this summer and we warmed up to her and she warmed up to us and now she mostly lives in the house after TIM basically invited her in because he was worried about her getting cold (!!!) and we think she is pregnant and we're all excited about kittens and she is so friendly and cuddly.  And Tim went and got on Singulair and now the cat doesn't bother his asthma at all and he loves her and keeps telling me that Kitzi is such a good cat. :)  I consider this a direct gift from God to me for us to actually get to have a cat. :)
2.  A hot bath in the tub with the whirlpool jets running.  Heavenly bliss.  This often feels like my solitary break in the luxury.

Things that have been very hard this month:

1.  Caroline got hit pretty hard with RSV which caused bronchospasms that caused a very scary cough.  When a chest xray seemed to show a change in her heart size, the pediatrician sent us up to A.I. Dupont Children's Hospital that night for them to evaluate her, and also to check her for possible pertussis.  I was honestly terrified that she had pertussis, and it was a massive relief to find out that she did not, and that her cough that mimicked a pertussis cough exactly was just bronchospasm, and that albuterol helped immensely.  Praise God.  The chest xray ended up to be a fluke, but it was discovered that she did have two viruses at once - RSV and rhinovirus, and so the month of December involved very little sleep for her parents, as her stuffed nose and cough kept her up into the wee hours of the night for weeks.  She was actually not diagnosed with bronchospasm until we came home and she was continuing to do her heart-stopping cough where she would cough and cough and cough and seem to run out of air and turning red and this thick mucus would be coming out of her mouth and her head would be lolling and she would be struggling to breathe in and this would be going on for over a minute.  Terrifying, I tell you.  I called our pediatrician a little before midnight that first night back in tears, because SOMETHING was not right, and she surmised what might be happening and told me to give her nebulizers every four hours to prevent it, and it helped enormously, but meant nights camped out on the couch with Caroline directly underneath a cold mist humidifier, ready to scoop her up and out if she started coughing, and with my alarm set for the nebulizer.

2.  At the same time all of this was going on, Layla started doing this thing in the middle of the night where she would wake up disoriented and probably having to pee but not understanding it yet.  She would throw massive and long temper tantrums in the middle of the night - say, 4-5 AM.  Overwhelming and so frustrating and confusing to know how to best handle them.  Tim and I would tag team in the middle of the night where he would go out to sleep on the couch to watch Caroline and I would go back with Layla.  Then, she also started doing them with the onset of bedtime, and everything was a struggle: to get her into pajamas, to get her to stay in bed without one of us there, to get her to lay down.  And then she would basically scream her head off in outrage until she fell asleep.  This also for weeks.

With these two things, you can understand how Christmas felt like something to survive this year.  I really tried to keep my expectations low in terms of Christmas-activities-to-accomplish, because I love to do all the "things".  I made party mix and molasses crinkles early in the month...and that was about that.  I got the tree up after repeated impatient begging from Israel (the boys were so cute and hyper and excited and racing around the house.  They eagerly helped me lift things down from the attic and put the ornaments on themselves.) and I got Christmas shopping done and wrapped everything all at once the night before our Christmas.  The boys also put up the little Christmas village in the window and arranged it just so and cut out stars and a moon (and later sun and clouds) to hang up at the top of the window and it looked so neat and I wanted to get a picture but didn't.

I feel like just as memorable as Christmas is, for me, almost more memorable is my Christmas wrapping experiences of the past few years.  A few years ago, Zion was two and still often up late and finally I gave up and wrapped all but his gifts with him there, and he "helped" by putting tape on the wrapped presents. :)  And then last year I had another mega-wrap night the night before our Christmas, and the boys were warned to stay in their room and not come out, and Tim helped me wrap after I begged him to and he did just a staggeringly impossibly terrible job (HA!!!) of wrapping but I didn't care at all.  Somehow, wrapping gifts for him is like math for me.  Just so confusing and mind wrinkling.  And this year included Caroline and another mega-wrap session in the wake of a crazy month.

But I "got-er-done".  We had our Christmas morning mayhem,

and our Christmas breakfast
(also more simple this year) with the beautiful stack of pancakes made by Tim

- actually Tim made the entire breakfast, with the exception of me whipping up the pancake batter for him - and then we had our pancaked-crash afternoon and then a visit from out of state/country friends Janelle and Jessica

and then finished up the evening with a "snacky" supper

and our annual viewing of Nacho Libre. :)

We went to VA the next morning, which was Christmas Day, and had Christmas with my family and then my extended family the next day.  We came home on Saturday.

Things that have been a blessing this month:
1.  People who were praying for us during Caroline's sickness and afterwards.
2.  Our church family who brought meals to us for a week just to help lift some of the burden of life.  Like, seriously.  This was a month of WORK.  Like, WOW.  Phew.

The good news is that in the wake of Christmas, Caroline is completely better and going to sleep much much earlier, usually before midnight, and then sleeping until 9 or 10, and Layla has gone down with almost no fuss or even none at all, and has slept all night.  I was hoping the time away might "reset" her, and I reeeeally hope it sticks!!!!!

And here's where the photo onslaught begins. :)

Here's a view of the fixin's.
Happy Caroline girl in her carseat watching all the activity. :)  She smiles a lot and coos a lot.
 Layla got a Dora undershirt and undies and INSISTED on wearing them and only them for a good while.  Here she is listening intently to the heartbeats of her new dolls. :)
 Gabe buried deeply in his new comic book.
 Partaking of delectable breakfast fare while wearing your Dora goodness.
 This one.  Amused shake of head.  Sometimes I will find Zion hiding behind a chair in the living room playing with Israel's legos.  This day, Israel was the envy of the group with this used V-Tech texting toy I found for him.  I walked into the living room and saw no one, but heard gadget music coming from behind the chair by the window and found this Sneaky little Sneakerton busy busy busy.  
 Zion and Layla enjoying the concept of a toast with their fizzy grape juices.


We got to Virginia at around 2 PM on Christmas Day.  The kids helped their Grandaddy decorate the snow scene with the lime mixture that turns white and takes on a snowy texture.  Everybody got a chance to pour.

 Layla taking an apple break in the living room. :)  Cutie.

 Dad and his good dog, Maddie.

 Oh look!  It's the Sneaky little Sneakerton hard at work again, this time behind Grandma's couch, with the same delightful toy.  Cackle of laughter.  :D

The Christmas Feast.

Presents.  Look at Layla's delighted little face. :)

Layla LOOOVED this gift.  It was supposed to be a Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) costume.  She felt just beeyoooteeful in it, and tripped around in her little shoes for a long time with just a look of delighted awe on her face.

Snoozing Caroline.

 Layla helps Grandaddy make the popcorn for the traditional nightly popcorn and juice snack that occurs at Grandma and Grandaddy's house every night.

These days, it's a squeeze to get everyone around the kitchen table. :)

The next day, Israel was keen to get started on his new science kit.  Thankfully he had a good Grandaddy to help with such endeavors.  This project was very exciting and got brothers running to see.

 Gabe was not to be left out of the science goodness and had to do one of his own projects from his kit.  This one was cool too. :)

Caroline just said...snore.

Grandma giving Caroline a bath getting her ready for the evening.

Layla fell fast asleep on our drive over to her Great Grandma's house for supper.

She was enamoured of the chalk board that hangs on the wall there and it kept her busy for quite a while.

Downstairs to the basement to open presents after supper.  There was a strange man there carrying a very sweet baby that looked familiar.

 The fam.

 The boys eagerly waiting for the next gift installment. ;)

My uncle Lowell, cousin Calvin, Grandma, and Mom.

We stayed one day longer than we had planned, so that Tim and I could get a night out on the town doing exciting things like hitting up discount stores ;) and going out for Indian food.

Moxie cat.

The boys had a GREAT time hammering away at this iced up water to give the birds a drink.

Caroline smiling away at her Grandma.

When I went upstairs to get the kids ready for bed after we got back, I found them having a great time in the boy's room.  Gabe was laying in bed reading, and the other three were having a great time taking turns climbing onto the dresser and jumping off into a pile of blanket on the floor.

Home again, home again.  We ended our day playing a new game from Nana Carol and Grandpa Norm called The Treasure of Skull Rock.  Very exciting pirate game.  So exciting that only Layla and Israel ended up brave enough to snatch the treasure rocks out of the treasure chest. ;)  Everyone else took an additional day to warm up to this concept.

A good time was had by all!! Thank you, family and friends, for all your blessings to us this month!!!

Friday, November 15, 2013


We've officially transitioned into fall around here.  I took this picture out the front door the other day, because I loved the browns and reds and greens and greys.  Looked so autumnal.

See the boy swinging hanging on to the rope?  That rope is there because of an awesome swing I bought earlier this year that has basically sat unused all year because the kids just clamor for the rope.  Roll of eyes.  What.  Ever.  It's a whole "play with the box a package came in" type of thing.  Gabe has gotten pretty adept, and will spend a long time swinging around in various loops and jumps and vaulting off of the trashcan or tree.  This is his "Spiderman" version, that makes his mama feel a little worried about him landing on his head, does look pretty cool. :)

We continue to transition into life as a family of seven.  Here we are, all seven of us.

Things are going pretty well overall.  Always trying to find the balance of doing everything it takes to feed, clothe, train, and care for five children...while holding a baby.  Wide eyes.  Caroline has been kind of fussy, unless she is being held.  But less so since I cut out chocolate.  :(  Caffeinated drinks were already a no-go, almost from the start.  So.  No chocolate, no coffee, what's the mama of a newborn to do??!! ;)  I have my replacements, though, no worries.  Mother's Milk tea and butterscotch chips are the current fillers.   So... Carriers right now aren't the trick for her either.  So someone, somewhere is generally holding her over their shoulder or bouncing her just so at any point in time she is awake.  OCCASIONALLY, she will settle in the bouncer for a least a period of time, or her swing (even more rarely).

The other part of transitioning that has been sticky is Little Miss Layla Grace Miller.

Which I wasn't exactly shocked about.  Her current specialty is the Enraged Shriek.  Of any of the kiddos, I think she has transitioned the hardest to the arrival of a younger sibling.  The infamous Terrible Two's (which I really have only also seen in Zion) have landed with a resounding crash, I think, somewhat in reaction to the subtle shift of mommy's attention to a newborn.

The other night, during the unquestionably MOST difficult part of adjustment for me - evenings by myself when Tim is gone, where I am carrying a fussy, uncomfortable baby around while trying to get a tired, cranky Layla settled who just wants to be held a little bit, plus getting the other boys to do homework and ready for bed and quieted down (AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! - enter overwhelmed tears - but it's ok, this will pass and eventually not be so difficult), Layla went back to her room after she had come out wanting something or another, and her little lower lip was just quivering so sadly.  At that point, I decided I was going to spend at least a few nights in her room with her to give her some physical presence that I can't always during the day, and that actually has seemed to help her adjustment.  Caroline is in there too in her cradle alongside Layla's bed.  At least for now, we do what works. :)

Overall, though, Layla has actually transitioned very well into me not laying down with her to go to sleep.  We have our little routine, where she kisses everybody goodnight, and we read three books and then turn out the light and I hold her for a few minutes in the chair in her room and then put her on her bed and give her the stuffed animal of her choice and turn on her nightlight if she requests it, and then she goes almost immediately to sleep.  She seems to generally understand that Caroline is a factor and sometimes I have to leave prematurely, and accept that with very little fuss.  Although I will point you to the word "generally". ;)

Layla does love her baby sister very much.

I cannot hardly handle the cuteness of these pictures.  !!!!  AAACCKK!!  And here's another one in their matching jammies.

Melt melt melt goes the mommy.  :)

Caroline had a doctor's appointment today at 5 weeks old.  She was 8 lbs, 12 oz, and 21 1/2 inches long.  That is up 2 lbs 10 oz from her birth weight, and two inches from her birth length.  The doctor was very impressed with her and her good eating skills. :)

She also is still an excellent sleeper at night.  Up to this point I haven't let her sleep longer than 6 hours, but I think I'm going to see how long she will go.  Initially I was concerned about compromising my milk supply, but I think we'll be ok.  I find it quite novel to have a child that sleeps in such long stretches at once. :)  She goes to bed for good around midnight...bleary eyes...and I'm trying to work that earlier by not letting her sleep long than an hour and a half at a time during the day, and keeping her out of her cradle for early evening naps so they won't be quite as sound.

Walking around with a fussy newborn for hours on end really emphasizes the first part of the saying "The days are long and the years are short."  Because the days are really. really. long. when the baby is new.  :) I told someone the other day that my new adaptation of that saying is "The days are long and the nights aren't quite long enough." :)

She's started (at around 3 weeks) to give us brief, eye-connecting smiles.  Baby smiles are always so gratifying when they start appearing!!  At one month, I feel more free to leave her home with Tim to run quick, 30-minute or less errands.

Hi guys!! :)  This was Caroline on the Sunday of her first trip to church at 2 weeks 3 days.
3 weeks old.

Here we are fresh off a Walmart run. :) I thought she was SO CUTE in her seat with her little feet sticking out of the blanket.  I kept checking them to make sure they were warm, and they stayed toasty.  Several people commented on the cuteness of her feet.  :)  She slept the whole time.

4 weeks 3 days.

Riding tiredly on her daddy's shoulder. Tim does MORE than his fair share of carrying around this exhausting little lightweight, who calms down better for him when she is fussy than me unless I nurse her.  I think my shoulder is too bony. I dunno.  Bony shrug.    

In sum: duty calls around the clock, tasks are plentiful, and rest on the slim side of adequate.  All normal and as expected for this stage of family life.  I stood in the doorway of the hall bathroom the other night bounce bounce bouncing the fussy baby as Tim gave Layla her bath and tried to scrub some crud out of her hair while the boys whirled and tumbled and wrestled in the living room in an excess of noise, and asked Tim "Can you imagine what life would be like if we just had two boys ages 9 and 7??"  He looked up at me with the same startled wonderment I was feeling, and we both had to laugh, because life would be so insanely different that it's almost hard to imagine.

Life is color and chaos and noise and babies and tantrums and silliness and sweet and frustrating and rewarding and occasionally overwhelming and task-filled and sacrifice and laughter and yells and funny and annoying and diapers and laundry and stress and good.

And one of these days/years life will be calmer and less crazy and different and good then too.  And meanwhile, I'm joyfully grateful to have the five kids I have that make up my crazy life right now. :)

Layla falling asleep in her dad's lap.


These two.  These are "the best of times and the worst of times" pair.  Screeching with laughter one minute and with anger at each other the next.  The other week I went to investigate their prolonged quietness and found them sitting on the floor in our bathroom with some tiny little sewing kit scissors, with Zion busy snipping Layla's hair.  "Layla wanted me to cut her hair," he explained.  Mmmmmmm hmmmmm, chile'.....!!!!  Actually her bangs were almost getting too long, and it was the curls in the front that he carefully snipped off, so it ended up being ok.  Just the infamous childhood haircut checked off of the list for those two.

Also.  Zion is such a little pack rat.  He loooooves to secret things in various boxes or carriers.  He is drawn to having hidey-holes.  The other day he was asking me if he could put paper into the pellet stove.  He asked this several times, and was very bummed when I didn't allow this behavior.  Then the next day I found the reason he kept asking.  He had a pile of carefully torn and crumpled papers resting quietly in the corner of the office just waiting for him.  I just had to take a picture before I vandalized this current little nest.  ;)

 The CHRISTMAS CATALOGS!!!! have arrived en masse in the mail.  Hence the rapt children.


"I'm a pwin'cess," she tells me, very seriously.

"A princess, huh?"

She nods thoughtfully.  "A bew'ful pwin'cess."  She adjusts her headband carefully. Apparently this is how bew'ful pwin'cesses wear their headbands: in front of the ears rather than behind.  I think royalty can probably pull this off, especially in my house.

She goes on to tell me that she is a big princess, not a little princess, since the doctor told her she was big.  So she is a big princess.  I nod agreeably.  I hear almost every day of late that the doctor told her she was big, which indeed she did a few weeks ago.  This seems to have made quite an impression, and one that she slightly marvels over.  :)