Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Song

Happy Easter!  As I was lying in bed last night, after a full day of preparations and mass and company and so many gleeful children running around until past their bedtimes, I was thinking about the day, wondering if every guest felt welcomed, and if maybe the lamb wasn't a bit underdone (it was.  My meat thermometer tricked me!), and if only I could have kept the twins in their pretty Easter dresses for a little bit longer (they changed into their ragtag favorites about five minutes after getting home from mass).  You know, just the typical awareness of all of the imperfections of this boisterous family life we have embraced.  And I caught myself a minute into this train of thought, and laughed at my own ridiculousness, because isn't the ultimate lesson of the Lenten season that God can do something beautiful from our most humble efforts?  Wow, there is such comfort in that, especially when even our best efforts are kind of messy.

We were blessed with an incredibly present Triduum, where we not only went to church, but were able to go without some of the littler kiddos, meaning that we could participate and focus in a way that is truly special.  And I think that for all of us, but especially Ben, in this first Easter season after having lost his brother, there is healing in liturgy of the Triduum.  Because in taking us through the last days and death of Jesus, all the way to the miracle of his Resurrection, it is also taking us through what God has promised for us.  I am thankful for all of it, and thankful that the Church freely gives us this beauty and meaning.  I had my feet washed on Holy Thursday for the first time in my life (along with my sweet eldest daughter Zosia).  Hugo punctuated the utter silence on Good Friday after the readers  loudly exclaimed "Crucify him!  Crucify him!" by helpfully announcing "That was loud!"  And the twins somehow came to believe that a little girl wearing bunny ears in mass on Easter morning was the Easter bunny, and they tried to hug her.  And Josephine slept through just about every minute of it.  And then we hung out with friends and the full compliment of my West Coast family on Easter.  It was all pretty great.

I hope you had a beautiful Easter, too, and will feel the joy of the Easter season throughout the entire year.  This song was my brother in law's favorite, and he used to blast it through his house on Easter morning.  He's risen, halleluja. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fairy Houses, Reading, and Baby Love

::We're getting the house slowly ready for the big Easter gathering we're hosting over the weekend, and it makes me so cheerful to catch a glimpse of flowers as I'm going about my tidying.  As the Easter card my inlaws just sent reads, "The new life that surrounds us in spring is a beautiful reminder of the new life we've been given because Christ lives."  
::We have taught all of our kids how to read using this book when they're four or so, and it's always magical to watch them suddenly "get it" and start reading more fluently.  Ben and I have been competing over who gets to give Hugo his reading lesson in the evening.  I am already looking forward to teaching the twins: at least we'll each have a pupil!
::Zosia and her friends put together a little song and dance number for their school's talent show, which made us all so proud!  It's not easy to get up in front of an auditorium full of people, let alone do it with grace and poise and smile on your face.  It's so fun to watch each of our children develop into unique individuals, pursuing their own interests and talents.  As I kid I had some awful stage fright, which I truly think I've only fully gotten over as an adult: I think doing a talent show like that would have been my worst nightmare.  But there she was, confident and happy, in front of a room of friends and their parents.
Watching Zosia up there, we realized that over the past six months, our kids have developed close friendships with some pretty great kids. I remember my sister in law, who has spent most of her adult life as an air force wife, moving more frequently than I can wrap my mind around, once said that it takes about six months to feel settled in somewhere.  And of course she's right.  :-)
::I can't believe that just over two months ago, we hadn't met Josephine yet.  It feels like she is right in the middle of our family, acting as entertainment, antidote to boredom, and superlative winner in most categories according to her siblings.  To me, a new baby is the ultimate teacher of pure love. Because, if you think about it, Josephine's siblings shouldn't boundlessly adore her: they should resent her (which all of those parenting books tell you they will!  Six kids later and we're still waiting on that one).  I mean, here she is taking up attention, and needing new diapers and all.  But they absolutely adore her and she brings out their kindness, creativity, and gentleness in entirely new ways for no good reason, other than love.  And likewise, we should probably be pretty grumpy about the fact that we are getting up at night, or jiggling a baby and what have you, but there is nothing that could make us happier.  Babies, you guys!

:: We are right in the middle of a "fairy house" craze, which means that I find little shrines all over the house containing a mix of random toys, natural elements, food waste, and in this one, a nativity icon.   They are so incredibly creative, I leave them up for as long as I can bear it before reclaiming that bit of countertop (or tabletop, or lawn, or bathtub).  Clearly, if we don't yet, we will soon have a lot of fairies living in our house.

May you have a blessed Holy Week!  Our feet are going to be so clean in an hour or two.

Friday, March 18, 2016

New Blooms, Rain, and More Oranges

Suddenly, it is spring here.  I didn't know if we would really have a true, bursting-from-the-ground sort of spring out here.  Granted, it's not nearly as dramatic as cherry blossom buds after a cold and barren winter, but it is here: the trees are pale green with new leaves, there are new flowers bursting from the ground, the fruit trees are starting to blossom.  Flower are all over, and it's still novel to me to be in a place with native blooms that I surprise me from my own dining room table (above, bouquets from the girls, below tulips from Ben!).

For the past week and a half it has been raining.  Our kids are little enough that they have sort of forgotten what to do in the rain since we've been living in a drought ridden state for the past 8 months or so.  We used to be really good at rainy days, but it's the sort of thing you have to practice, you know?  A morning of rain is one thing, but we had many back to back days of solid rain, and Clara and Dorothy were looking at us like, "You mean I can't just stroll outside in what I'm wearing?"  So we had to teach them about all of the things you can do on a rainy day, like lounge around the house and do puzzles and read and maybe get around to sloooowly making something for dinner.  It's good to have a rainy day like that every now and then.

I adore baby Josephine.  Of course I adore each of our babies, but being the sixth child in the family does sort of make Josephine the center of a lot of love.  There's Josephine, sleeping right through snuggles, kisses, pokes, and jiggles.  We have our steady refrains for children who are interacting with Josephine, sung on repeat and hesitantly heeded, "With an open hand" (to prevent poking), "on the top of her head" (to prevent kisses on the mouth, nose, eyes.  We've seen it all, folks), or "Give Josephine a bubble" (which is our last ditch attempt to convince to give her a little room).  Luckily, she seems to adore all the attention, eagerly following her siblings with her eyes and increasingly smiling at even the sound of their voices.

Oh, and we're still picking oranges.  I remember when we first moved here, I looked in horror at oranges that had fallen from orange trees and were left uneaten (just right there, on the sidewalk, or in someone's yard, or their lawn waste).  But now I get it.  The past month we have gone from cherishing the incredibleness of having fresh citrus in our backyard to the grim reality of moldy oranges on the lawn.  We're harvesting those oranges every day and we are only about half way through.  As of this evening, we have newly harvested oranges ready to give out to any friend/potential friend/neighbor/teacher/passer-by ready to receive them.

I'm joining in with Like Mother, Like Daughter today!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What I Wore Sunday

I've never joined in with What I Wore Sunday, partly because getting out the door for mass with all of the children dressed is tricky enough without a photoshoot!  This week I waited until we got home from church and had a snack, at which point two of my children were naked and the rest were covered in mud (don't ask), and I opted for the "just with the baby" photo.  That counts, right? 

These days my go-to Sunday outfit can be classified into one of two categories: a skirt and a button down shirt, or a shirtdress.  Because, nursing, you guys!  And my go-to accessory would have to be either a baby carrier or a baby blanket, or a set of squirmy twins.  :-P  

Josephine, on the other hand, is *much* cuter, with smocked dresses and bonnets, or, as Ben likes to say "dressed like a pilgrim."  She loves to sleep through mass, which works just fine by me, as two two year olds is just plenty to keep us occupied.  Today's mass highlight would have to be that someone brought a seeing eye dog to mass, or that the little girl next to us had a whole sheet of barrettes with her as her toy (I'm taking notes!  Genius!).

Our one favorite life hack for going to church with a lot of little kids has been reading the Gospel aloud in the car on the way to church.  That way, even if we are totally distracted during mass, we kind of get the gist of what's going on.  Luckily, mass is good even when we aren't perfectly attentive!  The sacraments are pretty great like that.  What are your favorite tricks for going to church with little ones?  

I loved seeing what other people wore this week!  Thanks, Rosie!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

What We're Reading

Hi there!  And Happy March!  The other day I was realizing how central reading together is to our family.  We like reading books, it is educational, and entertaining.  But moreover, reading together constitutes some of the most meaningful one on one time we spend with each child.  

Because even because some of our kids read quite well on their own (and spend a lot of their free time doing exactly that!) we still have a custom of reading aloud, generally at bedtime, with all of our kids.  These days that means Ben generally reads a couple of books to the twins before we tuck them in, Ben or I give Hugo a reading lesson and then read a few stories with him before we tuck him in, and we spend some time reading with the "big girls" after all the littler ones are in bed.  And even though our kids adore reading, I think it is Ben and I who enjoy it most.  Whether revisiting books we read as kids ourselves, or finding new ones to enjoy as a family, it is magical to read together.

So let me get down to it and share some of the books we've been loving in the past month or so! 

For the 2 and under set:

Just about any classic Golden Book!  These are awesome: they are inexpensive, can be found at your local thrift store, contain lots of animals, and are generally exactly the right length to hold the attention of your toddler or two.

For the 4 and under set:

Hugo's been loving the Paddington bear books and just about any non fiction book about animals he can get his hands on.

For the 8 and under set:

We just finished book four of the Ashton Place series last night, and are still hooked (although be warned, every single book is incredibly absorbing and ultimately leaves little resolved!  It's a bit of a tease!).  These are new books and it's been so much fun to read them for the first time together, although I have a feeling we will be reading them again and again as our younger kids grow into them.  They feature a young governess who is assigned the task of caring for three "wolf children," at an estate in England.  During their studies, they stumble upon adventures, and inadvertently start to discover the secrets of their own past.  Eee, so good (and funny!).

Zosia and I have independently been reading Wildwood, and I like it so much I'm going to make it our next read aloud.  This is another new book, and it's silly, exciting and nerdy, and set in the Pacific Northwest.  What's not to love?

 I would love hearing about your favorites, whether something you're reading with your kids or something you love from your own childhood.  I think I could talk about children's books all day!