Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pick a Tree... Any Tree...

I had plans for tonight.  They involved cleaning and laundry and pulling out Christmas decorations, because Sadie is desperate for Christmas decorations and I told her they'll be going up on Christmas Eve, and now I'm worried that her expectation may exceed the reality of the decorations that I'm desperately hoping I can find in the basement.  

Let me pause to blame the multiple mini floods in our basement these last few years for the fact that I have to search at all.  The boxes were organized.  They were lined up along the walls with their contents labeled on the outside.  And then there was water and I was desperately moving them from one side of the room to the other.  Then the water backed up from the other side and there was more frantic box moving.  Now after several more floods and a pregnancy and a baby, the box room is simply chaotic.  

Before entering it to even look for something it's good to ask for Saint Anthony to say a prayer for you because that's pretty much the only way anyone is finding anything.  

Organizing that room (again) somewhere near the middle of my-things-I'd-really-like-to-do list, which means I may or may not get to it before we move, which is an event that is likely quite some ways off... but finding our decorations had been bumped up to the top of the list by Sadie's passion for all-things-Christmas.  

Like my oldest, I love Christmas decorations.  I really do.  And in the past I've loved decorating the tree and seeing the looks on their little faces when they came downstairs and found the living room transformed.  

She wasn't quite as destructive when
she was still toddling around the house...
But there's a catch... namely our destructo-children.  

When you have a child who takes any vertical surface as a personal challenge to attempt to scale it, having a Christmas tree presents a unique challenge.  In fact, having anything on the walls presents a challenge.  Any picture that remains up on my walls is up simply because a certain someone hasn't been interested in finding a way to scale that particular part of the wall to get them down... because if she wanted to, she could.  

The lights are just as tempting as the tree, with their siren song of brightness.  And then there are the ornaments.  Mae is in love with small things that fit in her hand and many ornaments match that description perfectly.  

So Christmas decorations are a challenge.  And I'm puzzling over exactly how to approach this challenge this year.  To begin with we have five Christmas trees of various sizes in our house.  

There's tree #1:

Tree #2:

The Florida Christmas... this one
was a Black Friday sale at Joanns.

And Trees 3-5:

And the ice storm trees that I set up
when we had Christmas last year in the hotel.
Okay, so none of them are ideal.  In fact, they kind of take tacky (or maybe kitschy) to a whole new level.  But it's what I have to work with.  

Maybe (hopefully) next year I'll have the energy/creativity to get a real tree and find a way to make it strong enough to withstand the attentions of a certain middle child and her accomplice, but this year I don't see that happening (and honestly, I have no idea how it could work.  This child has accidentally snapped metal legs off of a space heater... a tree would just be too appealing and even on our best day without any intention of hurting it I can't see it lasting... It could be suspended from the ceiling and reinforced with steel and I'm afraid it still wouldn't survive the holiday... unless they sell titanium Christmas trees...).  

I started this post talking about how I had plans for tonight... those plans are still in exactly the same state they began in when I started to try to clean at 7 o'clock.  That happens to be the same time that James decided that he had other plans for the night that involved me holding him while he stared into my eyes and cooed and smiled and frowned at me grumpily when I tried to sing to him (unlike Sadie he cannot say in his most politely embarrassed voice "Mommy.  Please.  Stop.  Singing.").  

I'm fairly certain that the period of time that followed his waking was by far the longest he'd ever managed to stay awake in his entire two months of life.  He'd drift off and I'd try to put him down and his little eyes would snap open and he'd scream in outrage.
Usually he falls asleep on his own in his bassinet without a sound.  Tonight he was determined to have quality time with Mommy.  

And so I shelved my plans.  After all, how could I resist this face:

A smile!
Until he finally went to sleep and I started writing this post.  

Tomorrow I'll pick up where I left off and see if I can come up with a Sadie approved Christmas display in our living room... with all the fiber optic awesomeness that our little Christmas trees contain. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Grump

Sadie has been the giver of nicknames in this family since she first began to speak.  Maggie became Mae Bae because Sadie could say her entire name (or baby) and so she shortened both of them.

Patch started out as "Pokie Boy" (because he was such a slow poke and took so long to get here, she explained) and then "Bippie Baby" and finally Patch (or Boomer depending on who you ask).

Now it's James turn.

Grumpy Baby.  Grumpy Cat.  Grumpasaurus Rex.  Grumpkin.  Mr. Grumpfish.  Tommy Brock (apparently James reminds his biggest sister of a story book badger...).  She tests out a new nickname every day.  Sometimes she runs through all of them at once as she gushes about his cute grumpiness.

He has a lot of nickname to live up to.  And he's doing his best to make his big sister proud:

Closing Down...

I always wondered if my schedule would eventually catch up with me.  Trying to keep all the balls in the air, our marriage, running my stores, homeschooling, therapy and doctors appointments, the house, a new baby and  toddler, the various allergies that I have to keep in mind while cooking... I sometimes just wished there were more hours in the day (and especially the night) to get things done.

And for the last couple of years I couldn't help but think that if I could just stop sewing for my stores I would be fine.  I could do the rest.  But needing to sew for hours every night and the stress of getting orders out in time while new orders came in seemed to weigh a little bit heavier each month.

Once James arrived I felt the desire to focus more on the house and babies all the more keenly.  He didn't love sleeping in his bassinet while I sewed like his brother did.  He wants to be in my arms and while I spent a few nights sewing with him in the wrap neither of us were huge fans of that situation.

I didn't see our situation changing any time soon.  But when orders began to slow in the last few months I was relieved.

I knew why business was slowing down and what I needed to do to change it... but I didn't have the energy.

Over the years, while running my four (now three) stores I've learned that variety is key.  If I can keep around two hundred options in my store business is booming.  Anything down to 160 is still somewhat steady.  And when there were less than 160 items in my shop business would fall of abruptly.  And I'd sold so many fabrics out that my store was now in the 150 range most of the time.

This was compounded with the problem that came with how hours and earnings don't quite match up when you're selling handmade products on line.  My problem was like this.  I might sew 10 snoods to put up in the shop.  All ten might sell.  Or only one might sell for an extended period of time.  And so twenty hours of work might come to ten dollars an hour or it might actually be more like a dollar an hour depending depending on what sold in a given week, month or year.

So while I could actually calculate each headcovering to have it come out as paying myself ten dollars an hour for that particular headcovering it was likely that I would work somewhere between twenty five and thirty five hours a week and make anywhere from zero to four dollars an hour that week.

I'm proud of all the hard work I've put into my shops over the past few years.  My snood shop has had 903 sales, as of this morning.  Between my shops that means well over 1000 sales on Etsy.  And those sales have helped us survive the last six years of graduate school.

Yet when Paul found out he'd promoted and would be working full time his first question was whether I thought I could close my shops.

The stress of getting orders out as James became more and more insistent that night times should really be for staring into Mommy's eyes and cuddling and not being put down in the bassinet was wearing on both of us.  And so I made a budget.

And then I removed everything on my snood shop except for the patterns, which are automatically downloadable after they've been purchased.  My other two shops are still up, because everything in them is pre-made.  In time I'd like to relist the headcoverings that I already have made (I think there's over a hundred of them) but for now I'm taking a break and focusing more on getting organized here and cuddling with the babies.

Maybe in time I'll make some new covers, but I think in the future I'll stick to listing things that are already made, instead of buying large amounts of fabric and allowing orders that will mean late night sewing to get them out in time.

And that is the big announcement this morning.  I love sewing... but I love sewing without deadlines and stress (and sewing the same thing over and over and over again) and so this is a much needed break.  Thank you to everyone who's shopped at my stores... and I have a feeling some of those already made headcoverings will be making their way into giveaways here in the near future!

And hopefully my typing won't wake James up the way my sewing machine does... because I'm hoping this will give me time to blog a bit more too!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Let It Go.

In her "boat" in the "ocean."
She loves pretending!
Mae's been walking around the house saying "Ma Go. Ma go." for weeks. I thought she was telling me to go get something or that she wanted something and couldn't figure out what.

This morning she brought over a little wooden staircase that was pretty much the only broken thing that didn't get thrown out (because she loves playing with it) and took my fingers and made them go up the stairs. Each time she would say "La go. La go!" and smile.

If you have a daughter in the preschool age range you may have already figured out what was going on. She's been saying "Let it go!" while reenacting the scene in Frozen where Elsa runs up the ice stairs.

And when I realized what she was saying and repeated it back to her, her entire face lit up because I finally understood what she's been saying!

Friday, December 12, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday Awesome-ness Edition

I have to start with the big news of the day first (I already wrote about it on Facebook, but for anyone not on Facebook I thought I'd share it here too).

My doctor called today with the biopsy results and  they were exactly as he expected.  There were minor changes to the cells, but nothing was cancerous (and when he did the biopsy he thought he'd gotten the cells)!

So now it's yearly checks to make sure it stays that way!  It was such a relief to hear!

Using one of her mermaid tails as a body sock.
A certain child in this house absolutely hates baths.  She also absolutely hates having her hair washed.  Actually I'm not sure hate is the right word.  Being terrified is probably a better description.
Earlier this week, shortly before her OT appointment, I brought her into the kitchen to wash her hands and washing her hands turned into playing in the water and suddenly someone was stripping down and getting into the sink.

When the OT arrived she was still playing in the sink and so her therapist came in and when I mentioned how much she hates having her hair washed, she helped me work on washing her hair.

And she very quickly realized that Mae hates it when water trickles across her head.  She also realized that if we took a wash cloth and pressed it against her hair so the water didn't trickle she was totally fine.

Tonight I cleared out and cleaned the sink, brought over the little kitchen step ladder and ran warm water and successfully washed her hair on my own without a single tear.

Hopefully as she gets more comfortable with having her hair washed I'll be able to get her used to the bath tub (I don't think she likes how open it is).  It's a step in the right direction!

Sadie made a hat for herself and has worn it each time we've left the house since she's finished it.  She's quite proud of her accomplishment:

Mae was always our super eater.  She would eat just about anything put in front of her.

In the past year, and especially the last month, she's slowly become more and more finicky, until I don't even know if her favorites (oatmeal and potatoes) will be eaten when I serve them.

Tonight she shocked me my cuddling up to Paul and reaching over and helping herself to his spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette!  Hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

It looks dramatically different now.  The chest
is there and a table that Mae uses during therapy
and there's a little kids couch and the tiny toy box.
It's so much easier!
I've been on an organizing binge lately.  I've been sorting through clothes (Thred Up is going to be getting quite a bit from me), toys, books and just about everything else under our roof.  We sent a huge box of books to Mae's therapy center, have taken a lot to consignment stores, have set aside bags of toys that haven't been played with in ages to donate and have been steadily sorting out things that are broken to recycle or discard.

And I finally feel like I'm making progress.  Last night I stripped the play room down to bare bones.  Our kids all tend to do most of their play by dressing up and running around.  Mae (somewhat surprisingly) is the only one who really plays much with toys.  So I put one toy box that's one foot by one foot to the side and I sorted through the other toys, putting some away and putting some aside to donate until all the smaller toys fit into that box (there's still the bouncy horse and a rocking horse and a few other larger toys that they do play on a lot).

And tonight clean up was much quicker and easier.  Now hopefully I can maintain this momentum and really reorganize the entire house!

I feel like I'm the opposite of many pregnant/postpartum women.

When I was pregnant I felt like I could barely get out of bed.  I had so many things that I wanted to do, but for the last two pregnancies I never got that burst of energy.  I hated cooking/baking/cleaning/moving... things that I normally actually enjoy.

As soon as I got home after James was born that changed.  I loved cooking and baking again.  The urge to clean and organize was back.  And that burst of energy that never arrived while pregnant seemed to arrive as soon as he was born.

I just hope the super burst of energy lasts through my reorganization plans!

And for a little extra awesome-ness, here's our little mermaid showing off how well she gets around in her mermaid tail (she loves being on camera!):


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

The Santa Debate: Delving into the Whys...

I probably should have known that no good could have come from poking the sleeping bear that is the topic of Santa Claus when Christmas rolls around.

I thought it might be possible to write a post that talked about how we celebrate Christmas without getting into the whys... because for me the why is a personal decision that Paul and I agreed on more than half a decade ago, although anyone who's really curious could read one of the previous posts I wrote on one of those Decembers past when I was feeling less sleepy and more ready to defend my stance.

Unfortunately Santa seems to be one of those hot button topics like breastfeeding and cosleeping, where any post on the topic, even one that's simply about one's own personal experience, can turn ugly fast.  Because I think it is ugly to talk about how you think a strangers Christmas is going to be sad because they don't do thinks the same way that you do them.

Let me begin by reassuring everyone that Christmas around here definitely doesn't tend towards the sad.

It's joyous, with running and laughing and parents who are exhausted from staying up too late getting things ready and waking up at the crack of dawn, when those little voices start shouting to go downstairs.

Our kids don't count down the days, impatient for Christmas to arrive, because it's a bleak or sad celebration.

In fact I have to admit, over the last few years since we've downsized our Christmas celebration by necessity, with fewer presents and more focus on Advent and preparing for the coming celebration, Christmas has felt even more joyful.

In the comment section of the previous post there was plenty of speculation about why parents who don't "do Santa" make that choice.  Is it to be counter cultural and stand out?  One reader claimed that it was a sign of being "helicoptery and hypersensitive," which honestly I'm not sure I even understand in relation to the conversation (or the original post).

But after reading through today's comments, with the guesses on why parent's who don't "do Santa" make the choices that we make I felt compelled to answer... because pretty much every guess widely missed the mark.

As I said in my earlier post I don't really feel like we don't "do Santa."  Our kids learn about Saint Nicholas and we celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas at the beginning of December.  And we read stories about Santa and watch Christmas movies and treat the Santa and Reindeer myth just like any other fairy tale.  We just don't insist that it's real.

Our reason is pretty simple.  When we tell our kids that they should have faith in something that they can't see, we want them to be able to believe what we're saying.  And while I've been told over and over again that no one is ever confused or has their faith damaged by having been told that Santa is real, I've also heard from a number of people who tell the opposite story.

Is it likely or even common?  I don't think so.  But it was something that we considered.

It wasn't, however, the factor that solidified the decision.

I've heard a number of homilies about how lying, for any reason, is always a sin.  And when I imagined telling our kids that Santa had brought the presents I couldn't find a way to get around the fact that that simply wouldn't be true.  I'm sure there are people that will think that's over scrupulous but I couldn't get past it.

When I sat down and really thought about it, insisting that Santa brought the presents seems absolutely harmless, but it also felt like lying to me.

As I mentioned in the earlier post I think that this is a topic parents need to figure out for themselves.  People have different comfort levels with pretending.  And while I love playing and using our imaginations with the kids I've come to a different conclusion about where we draw the line with the way we explain fairy tales.

People celebrate in different ways.  I think the thing that I find the most disturbing about the way the conversation in the last post turned is that in this topic, which is so centered around imagination, falls short of imagining different joyous ways of celebrating the birth of Christ.

Christmas is joyful because of what it is.  We celebrate Jesus' arrival on Earth, the birth of the Messiah who has come to free us from our sins. To believe that that celebration is somehow made less joyful because a family isn't telling their kids about a man flying across the sky in a sleigh drawn by reindeer seems to miss the point.

The modern image of Santa is fun, but it certainly isn't necessary to the celebration of the welcoming of our savior to the Earthly plain.  I suggest continuing through this Advent season by resolving to give others the benefit of the doubt.  Let's try to believe that perhaps others aren't making choices for their families to be different or stand out, but rather because they believe they're doing what's best for their family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Breathing a Sign of Relief

I've been avoiding a subject that's been weighing on my mind lately.  It's been the subject of fervent prayers, of novena after novena and as August turned in September and September turned into October and James arrived and then Patch's birthday passed in November and still a full time job hadn't materialized.

I found myself beginning to feel bitter when I'd see posts about employment on a local news stations facebook page, because they would inevitably lead to fight in the comments section with a few people telling others how easy it is to get a job if they just got off there behinds and went looking.

It's a popular idea.  If you just dress up, present yourself in a professional manner and apply to a few jobs you'll find one quickly.  Sometimes someone even throws something in about "if you'd gotten an education."  Except it isn't always that simple.

I'd watch my husband walk out the door in his suit to pick up applications and to go to interviews and the results were pretty much always the same.  Things would go well until they'd ask about education and it quickly became clear that his MA and JD were liabilities.  The idea that he wouldn't stay at any job long and would be looking to move on to something else hurt any non-law job prospects.  And law jobs were few and far between.

Don't mention the JD, I began to say, after the first thirty or so jobs slipped by. But it always came up.  "What's this gap in your employment history?"  "Oh I was going to school."  The question of "where" would quickly be followed by "for what" and then "You have a law degree?" which usually dashed any hopes of even a minimum wage job.

We both searched for jobs.  Craigslist.  Job websites.  Job fairs.  Government websites.  Temp agencies.  Car dealerships.  He had a job working three nights a week, but obviously we couldn't survive on that paycheck and things have been unsteady with my stores lately.

He was willing to take on one or even two more jobs but finding them was proving trying.

Then news came last month that between a postal sorting center closing and third shift at one of the plants being laid off our city would be losing hundreds of jobs in the coming months (I believe it was 700 by January).  I could practically visualize new job applicants streaming into the job market.  I was starting to feel hopeless as fall turned into winter and the days turned colder.

Would we have to move to look for work elsewhere?  The idea was the last thing I wanted to think about.  Mae's resources here are amazing.  We love her therapists.  Would we be moving someplace else and learning to navigate a new system, being put on wait lists again that can be very, very long and basically upending her entire life?

I'd started scanning the house for valuable items, but I was running out of options.  We'd sold our Bob and Double Bob.  A load of toys that no one plays with went to a consignment toy store, but that was hardly going to help much.

Yesterday, the day after we finished the novena of the Immaculate Conception, a call came in telling Paul to come in to work to meet with the owner and manager.  I bounced around the house all day, praying it was the news we'd been hoping for.  And it was.  He'd been given a promotion to a supervisor position and he'll be working six days a week now.  He started immediately (so he worked yesterday!).

I feel like I can breath now.  I can make a budget where I can pay all the bills in the same month instead of picking a choosing between whether gas or electricity gets paid off this month.  It won't be easy, but at least it will be possible!

Thank you to everyone who's prayed for us!  And hopefully this is just the beginning of the good news... I'm hoping I'll hear soon on the biopsy test results and be able to breath a second sigh of relief!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Great Santa Debate

I've seen lots of Santa posts coming up in my news feed this last week and while I opened them and even read the first few descriptive lines in my feed I stopped short of going any further and finally closed the links to return to later.  I wanted to write this post and put down the thoughts on the subject that have been swirling around in my head these last few weeks when the subject came up in various groups that I'm in and I wanted those thoughts to simmer on their own so that I could put them down on paper before I read anyone else's take (this year).

Really the title of this post is a tad misleading, because I'm not really debating the pros and cons of either choice.  Still, I know there are parents out there pondering the decision and so I thought I'd share what we've done over the years and how it's worked for us.

I used to say that we "don't do" Santa, but then this year someone asked how we keep our kids from ruining the secret for kids who do believe in Santa by telling them "he's not real" and that made me pause.

You see Sadie wouldn't (at this point at least) think to tell another child that "Santa isn't real" because she's been taught her entire life that he is real.  She knows that Santa is Saint Nicholas and she's always been taught that Saint Nicholas, like all the other saints, are every bit as real as you or me.

When she was four, a grown up asked her if Santa had come to our house.  She paused, clearly puzzled and finally responded that Saint Nicholas was a real person who lived in heaven with God.

But maybe I'm less worried about the hypothetical situation because the child has never met an imaginary game that she hasn't loved.  She came out of her ballet class yesterday chattering about Elves who were getting into trouble.  She knows elves aren't real (because the child constantly asks "is that real or imaginary?") but was excitedly retelling and embellishing the story none the less as we drove around Paul's alma mater looking at Christmas lights.

I should probably have begun this whole post by explaining our Santa Strategy.  Since the kids have been small we've had saint books and children's Bibles scattered around the house.  We've read the stories and stressed that the people we're reading about were real people who loved God so much that they became saints.  We try to celebrate feast days whenever we're able and Saint Nicholas' Feast is one that we've gone out of our way to observe.

On the other hand, we read stories about Santa (the reindeer drawn sleigh version) too.  I have a copy of The Night Before Christmas that I love.  We watch Christmas movies and read Santa stories, in the same way that we read books about princesses and watch princess movies.

Some years we've even taken the kids to see Santa... our discontinuation of that particular tradition in recent years had less to do with believing in a certain version of Santa and more to do with the fact that the kids were considerably less excited about seeing Santa than they were about seeing the various characters at Disney World when we lived in Florida.  Actually, that's an understatement... the last few Santa visits were nothing short of disastrous...

I guess what I'm saying in a round about way is that we treat the image of Santa as a jolly man in a red suit flying across the sky in sleigh pulled by reindeer the same way we treat Princess Aurora or Dora or Oona. We read the stories and make up stories and they play dress up.  They draw pictures and dance around the room and sing songs about Santa or princesses or being a mermaid (or in Patch's case he stomps around the house in snow boots yelling "Guppy!  Guppy!  Bubble Puppy!" to let me know that he thinks it's a grave injustice that he doesn't have dog).

And over the years Sadie's asked me if Princess Belle is real and if mermaids are real and now she loves to ask "Is that really a princess or is it just an actor pretending?" with a smile, already knowing the answer.  

It hasn't seemed to lessen her excitement at all, in fact, like children all around the world she's eagerly counting down the days until Christmas.

As I considered writing this post I couldn't help but think about why this is such a popular topic for posts in the Catholic-Mom-Blogosphere at the moment.  It's almost inevitable in comment sections that defensiveness creeps in as people on both sides seek to justify their choices (at least from the comments I've seen accompanying links on Facebook).

In a way I'm sure this post contains a little bit of that defensiveness, because whatever path you take when you celebrate this holy time of year, whatever choices you make, you can easily find those who are explaining why they've made different choices.  Sometimes the language is kind and sometimes you'll be accused of damaging your children by telling them about Santa or by not "doing Santa." We've certainly been told we're "ruining Christmas" by not playing along with the more popular tradition.

Yet one look on their faces on Christmas morning tells me that nothing could be further from the truth.

As I wrote this post I decided not to delve to deeply into the "whys" that Paul and I considered when Sadie was tiny and we first began embarking on this whole parenthood journey.  I wanted this post to give ideas to those who are considering their options, and to stand as an explanation of one way of approaching a surprisingly controversial subject.

And maybe this year I'll be brave enough to take our four to visit the Santa at the mall... but more likely I won't be quite that daring... I have visions of being asked to leave and not come back!  They're usually really good when we're out and about but I'm afraid the sensory overload of a line to see Santa might be just too much for certain members of our little group!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Six Week Check and a Biopsy

Waiting in the waiting room.
We were early and James was about to start
making Grumpy faces at everyone.
I'm fretting and worrying this morning.  Of course it's very likely I'm fretting about nothing.  But still, it's hard not to.

I suppose I should start this post with a warning.  Yesterday was my postpartum check and it went... not as well as I would have hoped, so if you're squeamish about things like biopsies you might want to scroll past this one.

I went to yesterday's appointment knowing that I'd had abnormal test results on the pap early in my pregnancy.  But I wasn't really worried.  After that particular doctor's appointment where a doctor who was not my doctor told me the results of the test after finishing her little spiel on how NFP doesn't work (since I wouldn't accept her offers of birth control) I'd been fearful.  She'd made the results sound pretty bad.  But then I came home and talked to other women who'd had abnormal paps and found out how common it is and I felt considerably better.

Until yesterday's appointment.  I figured we would go in and do a repeat test and wait for the results which, statistically, were very likely to be normal.  A lot of women have abnormal paps during pregnancy and then have another at the six week check and everything comes back normal.

Except after talking with me about how the recovery had gone my doctor told me about the results and said they wanted to do a test that was "kind of like a pap" and they could do it right then and there.  We walked across the office to a room with a giant microscope... and then it was almost immediately time for the colposcopy (Ouch.  Just ouch.). The colposcopy quickly turned into a biopsy because they could see problem cells (the biopsy part didn't hurt at all, just the colposcopy/vinegar part).

And so now we wait.  The doctor thinks the cells are precancerous.  He thinks that he got all of them with the biopsy and that we should be good.  This will mean more frequent check ups, but that should be it if the results are what he hopes they'll be (and what I hope they'll be).

Still, waiting is stressful... and I think that ever since the miscarriage in the second trimester I've been less able to trust statistics that tell me that everything is very likely to be okay, mostly because I was clinging to that 99% statistic when the problems started like it was a life raft.  So prayers are appreciated... and hopefully we'll get some good news soon!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On Sleep, Service Dog Dreams and Caffeine

The days are going by so quickly right now that sometimes I feel like I go to sleep on Monday night and wake up on Friday and wonder where all the days in between have disappeared to.

James is "sleeping through the night."

Alright, I should really say he's sleeping through the night by pediatrician standards, which means that he sleeps for six consecutive hours each night, between the hours of 11 pm and 5 am.  At 5 am the entire house wakes up to Maggie loudly telling us that its morning.

Can I just say that never in my entire life have I been less of a fan of day light savings time?

I woke up this morning thinking, "That's it.  We have to move to Arizona.  Or South Africa.  Or anyplace without Day Light Savings time."

Because Maggie, with her rigid little internal clock, does not recognize the time change.  And she wakes up her sister who yells "Mommy, is it morning time yet?  Maggie and I are awake!" which is immediately followed by Patch in his room yelling back "Guppies?  Guppies?" because he's hoping that he is going to be allowed to watch Bubble Guppies (his obsession) at some point over the course of the day (as a side note the second most talked about topic that Patch brings up is his need to have a puppy... which I think we can blame on a particular episode of Bubble Guppies...).

And then it's all over for poor James, who might be able to sleep for longer than six hours if his brother and sisters weren't so enthusiastically loud at 5 am every morning (or if 10-11pm wasn't his favorite play time).

And nothing, from staying up hours past her bedtime to having everyone stay in their room until the time that we wish they would sleep until (6 am) makes a difference.

In terms of sleep problems, it's not a horrible problem to have.  I mean, Sadie woke up every hour for the first eighteen months of her life, which means that I spent a year and a half stumbling around like a blurry eyed zombie, so really, I know that the sleep situation could be much, much worse.

Still, I'm hoping, really desperately praying if I'm honest, that her service dog application is approved.  We made it through the first application and collected the information from her psychologist and doctor and therapists that we needed for the next round and now we're waiting to hear back if we'll be approved for a home visit.  I've read stories about how great the dogs can be at night and how calming they can be, and so I'm hoping every day that we hear good news from them sometime soon (it can take 24 months though to move on to the next part of the process... so we may be waiting a while).

And if anyone is still following along in this stream-of-consciousness-totally-random-post can I just say that I might be going downstairs in a few minutes to find a sugar free caffeinated beverage to offer my two girls (does that sound crazy to you? It does to me!) because earlier this week there was an incident involving Maggie having gluten, which led to me giving her a cup of coke in order to get her to take the medicine she needed to take that I was praying would help, since we had nothing else in the house that would mask the flavor/texture of what she needed to drink, and all the while I was thinking the result would be completely and totally disastrous but instead it was truly amazing.  While there was a (much smaller than in the past) reaction to the gluten, the immediate reaction of the caffeine was shocking.

Mae started talking more (which was truly surprising after having gluten), sat at the table for just about three hours doing her work and was incredibly focused.  Throughout the day she kept running over to me to touch my cheek and kiss me, and while that isn't unusual she was just so calm that I began to research and then talked to people with more experience about these things and it seems that we were seeing first hand how effective caffeine can be at helping people with ADHD focus.

Since two other members of the family have ADHD I guess it shouldn't be totally surprising if Mae might too (although how would we ever be able to tell with all the sensory seeking bouncing off the walls going on), but regardless, a small amount of caffeine seems to seriously help her focus and make her feel better, so I'm going to experiment with small amount of tea and honey to see if it makes a difference with her frustration level throughout the day.

And in other news Sadie's occupational therapist convinced me to start a brushing regimen that involves the brushing of limbs with a therapeutic brush followed by joint compressions, every two hours during the day.  We'd talked about doing it with Maggie, but I'd never started the two hour routine, so I decided if I were doing it with Sadie I might as well add in Mae, and then Patrick runs over yelling "Too!  Too!" and insisting he needs to be brushed as well, so that's a new component of our day and it's going to be interesting to see how it fits in... because once speech (finally) starts I believe we're going to have 12 therapy sessions a week crammed into our schedule... which might explain why time is flying by so quickly!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Cream of Mushroom Soup

One cooking that I miss with the kids allergies is cream of mushroom soup.  There were a few recipes that I loved that used it and I really didn't think I'd ever find a way to replicate it that my family would enjoy.  This year I tried my hand at coming up with a solution so that we could have green bean casserole. And I was shocked at how pleased I was with the result!

And so I decided that it deserved a place in the recipe section of my blog (which is one of the first places I look when I'm looking for recipes).

Here is my take on a gluten free dairy free cream of mushroom soup:
That would be the green bean casserole, made with
my homemade cream of mushroom soup.
Maybe next year I can figure out a gf/cf way to do
french fried onions...


18 large mushrooms (sliced)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup vegan butter
1 small sweet onion (diced into small pieces)
1 tsp thyme
4 tbs rice flour
1 cup unsweetened unflavored almond milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbs bacon grease

In a large saucepan add the broth and then the mushrooms.  Pour the bacon grease over the mushrooms.  Bring to a boil.  Cook until the mushrooms are tender.

Blend the mushroom/broth mixture in a food processor until the mushrooms are in teeny tiny pieces and everything is well mixed.

In another pan melt the vegan butter and whisk in the flower until they're combined.  Add the almond milk, spices and onion and then combine it with the mushroom mixture.  Stirring frequently bring the mixture to a boil until it's well combined and thickens!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

An Amazing Moment in Our Day

Today we had an amazing moment as we were waiting for Sadie's occupational therapist.
A little girl came up and looked at the fish tank near where we were sitting. Sadie, who happens to be the most outgoing person I've ever met in my entire life, jumped up and ran over next to her and started knelt in the chair next to her facing the tank, so they were side by side and said "Hi, what's your name?" 

The little girl responded with her name and then Sadie asked her how old she was and she said she was six and then when Sadie said she hadn't heard her she repeated it again.
I didn't think anything unusual had happened.
And then her grandmother looked at me with wide eyes and said "she has never in her entire life responded to another child."
Can I still blame the pregnancy hormones for how teary I got with happy tears at the joy on her grandmother's face (although I totally did manage to keep myself from crying!)!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mermaid Tail and Other Great Sales

This year with the rush of getting ready for Thanksgiving and then launching straight into Advent preparations I neglected my shops a little.  I sewed on the orders that were coming in, but I didn't take pictures of my latest projects or put up coupon codes like I did in the past.  So Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday all slipped past.  But I would like to offer a few coupon codes for any of you who are still doing Christmas shopping or have been thinking about buying anything in any of my shops.  

I'm offering 10% off in my snood shop.  If you go to A Snood for All Seasons and use the Code Advent10 when you're checking out 10% will be taken off of your entire order.

My snood shop has everything from snoods to eternity veils to headbands!
In my rosary shop, Full of Grace Creations, you'll find rosaries and chaplets.  While I have more traditional looking rosaries in the shop, Sadie helped me pick out the beads for these one of a kind chaplets that I added this evening too!  Just use Advent20 at checkout and you'll get 20% off everything in your cart!

For my newest shop, Mae Bae's I've saved the largest discount.  From tonight through December 24th you can save 25% off if you use the coupon code Advent 25 .

And now, for a moment that has been a long time coming...

I have now added custom Mermaid Tails to Mae Bae's shop.

Right now I have two different listing posted, one for a single fabric tail and one for a double fabric tail.  There's also an option for the bottom of the tails to be open or closed.

Single Fabric

Double Fabric
And the Mae Bae's coupon is good on mermaid tails so if you're considering one now would be the time to shop!

Advent 2014: The Preparations Begin

Advent is here!  The day after Thanksgiving I felt like Advent had snuck up on me, but Saturday night we decorated the mantle for Advent and brought out the nativity set for the kids to play with (we ended up with two because last year I couldn't find ours anywhere until after Advent had started and I'd gone out and bought another one, having given ours up for lost).

I wasn't sure if I was up for doing much with the kids this year, but I was motivated by the past few years and the fact that I really want to create Advent traditions that last year after year that our kids remember and so I dragged myself through the evening setup on the 29th and when I was done felt energized and accomplished.

And thankfully since we have been working on making Advent traditions for a few years our plans sort of fell into place because I already had a fairly good idea of what we wanted to do and what we didn't want to do.

The first thing that I knew I wanted to find were the candles that I'd purchased last year and our Advent "wreath."  It's not an actual wreath but it is one of my favorite Advent decorations, and we use it as our wreath:

And after Advent the candles will be changed out for Christmas:

Each night we'll say our family prayers and light the candle for the night before bedtime.

Next on the list was finding the box labeled "December Toys."  Thankfully that was easy for Paul to find and we'd planned on doing a major purge of broken toys and toys that aren't being used anymore that are being snuck out of the house for other kids to enjoy (Sadie was surprisingly on board with the idea, likely because she helps clean up the toys every night and the idea of less toys to pick up sounded pretty fantastic to her).

Then we brought out the toys from the December box and set up the play nativity with all of its pieces in the center of the toy room and then we set up the other nativity on the mantle as part of the Advent Christmas display.  That nativity only has animals in it and is placed on the right side of the Advent Wreath.  On the opposite side of the mantlr are a tiny Mary and Joseph who will slowly be making their way towards the nativity:

This year we're also doing Wise Men Adventures again.  That means that these guys...

...will be hidden somewhere that the kids can find them each morning until Epiphany when the Wise Men arrive at the stable and that these guys...

....will continue the search until arriving on Christmas morning when the kids come downstairs.

Sadie and I are also watching the daily videos from Holy Heroes (I highly recommend it!  We did it last year and it was wonderful!).  We'll be incorporating the Holy Heroes lessons into our school day and then continuing them through Advent once we go on break for the holidays.

Sadie also reminded me that she wants to use The Jesse Box, as part of our Advent preparations, which I must admit in all the rush I'd nearly forgotten about:

The last thing we'll be doing this year is our Jesse Tree.  Last year I finished all the ornaments but didn't get the tree sewn together the way I'd planned, so each day we looked at an ornament and talked about it, but it was never completely finished because the ice storm left me stranded without a sewing machine in the four days before Christmas (and then in the days after too!).

So hopefully this year nothing will keep me from sewing all the ornaments into a tree to hang on the wall!

Here are some of the ornaments.  Thankfully they're all together.  I plan on making them into a giant tree wall hanging.
Sadie and I are also going to be making little hand drawn ornaments apart from the giant ornaments we'll talk about each night.

And that is how our Advent traditions are adding up this year! What are you planning for Advent this year?  Are there any new traditions you're adding to the mix?

And for more Advent reading check out:
Christina at a Catholic Reversal 
Sarah at Fumbling Towards Grace
Cecilia at Catholic Fit Mom for Life

Feel free to leave any Advent posts you've loved in the comments sections!  There are so many great posts with great ideas and I'd love to read yours!