At the NCRegister Blog: Letting Go of Our Children with Our Lady

This recent New York Times article about how some babies are easier than others rang true for me this week, but I did not need an article to tell me that. When we had our first baby seven years ago, her different needs changed a lot of my presuppositions about parenting. For example, we never wanted to use a pacifier, but she was so oral we ended up giving her one. Our second baby had different needs, and we did things differently with her. Our third baby could fall asleep unassisted from the time she was a newborn.

Our fourth baby took all my nighttime parenting confidence and threw it out the window. With him I had to give up on all my human efforts to help/make him sleep, and prayed a novena to St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes…

7 Hopes that I Had for Family Life While in College

In my research for writing the second installment of the story of my relationship with M, I have been reading my old prayer journals. First of all, why was everything so dramatic in college? Second, of all it has been fascinating seeing who I was then and seeing how I have changed, and how I still need to improve.

One of the things I came across was how I imagined family life would be. M and I had a lot of serious discussion during our time in Austria, and this was a topic that came up as we wondered if and when we should date again. It is kind of fun to see how I hoped life would be. Here are a few of the hopes that came true.

1. “Husband in charge of kids so that she can work on her book or read a novel”
Now I have not written a book, but I am doing a lot more writing than I once did in my married life. I do feel that writing has been a kind of fulfillment for me these last few years that I had forgotten about when we first had children. Usually it happens not while M is watching the kids, but during our daily quiet times or after the kids are in bed. And I am finding plenty of time for reading novels and other things.

2. “Group of women to spend time with”Developing friendships always takes time, but it is worth the effort. Everytime I get together with lady friends or have a good conversation online, I am reminded of how important it is for women to support and have each other in their lives. It is especially helpful with family life to have the support of other women.

3. “Family meal time is sacred”
When the professor works at home, we sometimes have all three meals together. In fact, he would forget to eat lunch sometimes if it were not for the family eating lunch with him (#philosopherproblems). Family mealtime has become crucial to our spiritual life and cultural life as well, since it is at these times we pray together, read Scripture together, or at lunch read fairy tales together.

4. “I do not want stacks”-This means “no clutter.”
We are not always the best at this, especially on select spots on the counter, the dining room table which doubles as the pre-K craft table, but we have become pretty good at having a spot for everything, and eliminating the offending stacks fairly often. We also purge the house a couple of times a year of things we do not need.

5.”Children should be everywhere”–but God is in charge
I had a strong desire for a large family in college, but also realized that when it comes to having children, we only have so much control. Bringing new people into the world/adding to the perfection of the universe is not something to be taken lightly. And I am so thankful I have been blessed with these four amazing human beings. Sometimes I look at them all together and it blows my mind that I bore them all in my womb, gave birth to them, and tended to their basic needs day in and day out. How did I get to four children already?

6. Home cooked meals
I love home cooked meals, and I love cooking home cooked meals. But I also love the ease of ordering out when I need to, or just would like a break. Food is yummy!

7. Close tight-knit family
This is something I had growing up in my own home. So far the kids are all really close, and I figure if we do what we can to promote a close family, it will probably happen.

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum on Seven Quick Takes Friday!

7 Quick Takes: Sick Days and Snowmen

I have been trying to come up with something interesting to say on the blog, and nothing really seems that interesting about life lately. Here we are, two days into Lent, the beginning-middle of of the longest February we have had in years, and the kids are sick. I figured that I might as well do some quick takes even if they are not that interesting.

1. Baby T, or Mr. Tumnus as he is sometimes called, has been doing one of those sleep regression things again. We got a little reprieve after our three week tour of the Midwestern USA and then six teeth decided to come in right when he got the worst cold topped off with an ear infection. The poor baby. When the baby is sick, though, daily life does not change much. He just is a bit sadder and my left shoulder becomes his favorite tissue. But he also sleeps worse at night.

2. When the baby does not sleep well, Mom does not sleep well. It makes sense, but I find myself getting into a sleep deprived funk, where I obsess over every minute of sleep I did not get and every minute that I did get. I make calculations in my head every morning, and declare it will be a good day if my sleep added up to 6 hours total or I got at least one three hour stretch of sleep. I also down my new favorite natural wellness things, like apple cider vinegar and elderberry syrup, hoping that I will somehow not get sick even though I am covered in baby snot. So far, not sick, but ask me tomorrow how I am… 

“Mom, is this T’s FIRST Ash Wednesday?” L in the middle of Mass. #ashtag

3. I took the kids to Ash Wednesday Mass, sick baby (had no idea it was more than a cold then) and all, and G’s second piano lesson, courtesy of the lovely Mrs. Coyne. At any rate, it was the first time I took all four kids to Mass without another adult to help. We sat in back and did pretty well.

4. Yesterday, after a bad’s night sleep with T, I decided to bless the children with Lourdes water and call the doctor. Only later did I realize it was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. (The Lourdes water we have, M and I both brought back from Lourdes 10 years ago after our semester abroad.) T and I went into the doctor and got the ear infection diagnosed and now he is on antibiotics (and probiotics). The 24 hour mark is coming up when antibiotics are supposed to be working, and if it weren’t for teething I would have great hopes for tonight and getting better sleep.

5. At any rate, G and F both came down with fevers yesterday afternoon. As M had a talk to go to that evening, the girls got into pjs early, and we sat down to watch some Anne of Green Gables and eat popcorn. I love that they are old enough for me to share that movie with them; it has been my go to sick movie since I was a little girl.

6. Today the sick girls slept in while the sick baby was up at 6am, and rather than doing our normal Chronicles of Narnia radio plays for sick days, I searched my library audiobook app and found The Secret Garden. G has been following along when she has the energy, or just listening when she does not. F has mostly just slept. So, it has been a relaxing day despite sick children.  Hopefully, these girls will get over the cold faster than their brother, since they are better at taking it easy than a planking baby who can’t fall asleep without help.

All Spencer snowmen will be blogged about.

7. On a non-sick note, before the deep cold we have had this week set in, we spent last Sunday in the warm (30s) yard, building our snowman and rolling giant snowballs into a mini sledding hill for the girls. I think M and I had more fun than the girls playing in the snow. One of these days I will wake up and discover that I love winter, but I am not that Minnesotan yet. I will say that one of the things I love about home schooling is not having to leave the house in the winter if I don’t want to…

Testing the hill.

Linking up with Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum. Click on over for more quick takes.

7 Quick Takes–Home Again, Home Again

I’m linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum a few days late for Seven Quick Takes.

1. We have been home for two weeks now, after three weeks on the road.
The trip was great we clocked 2200 miles going from Minnesota to Indiana to Michigan to Ohio to Missouri and back home to Minnesota. The girls were great in the car as usual, and T was awesome for his first long trip.

2. The only time he was inconsolable by his favorite music, Dave Brubeck was during the last 4 hours of our trip from the middle of Iowa to home.

M got sick of listening to it, but it was a lot better than other music a baby could be obsessed with. Ask anyone who road in the back seat with the kids. It literally would put a tired T to sleep within five minutes of the music starting.

3. We saw people of all four sides of our extended families,
and we loved every daytime minute of it. The girls had lots of fun with cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. The nights were not so great. I discovered that T needs a pitch black room to sleep well. So we went back to bad sleep for the trip. It was made up for by good visiting time with our relatives, many of whom we had not seen since last Christmas. Though by the end we decided that we are done with three week road trips. They will be shorter in the future.

4. It is amazing how three weeks on the road makes daily life at home so much better. I am loving things like sitting in bed reading while the baby sleeps peacefully in his own room. I am loving my quiet afternoons to read, write, waste time online. I even managed to do five school days plus all the housework last week. Not too shabby.

5. We are still celebrating the Christmas season here, the Season after Epiphany to be exact, until Candlemas (Feb. 2). But Sunday was really liturgically strange, because it was Septuagesima sunday, still the season after Epiphany, and at St. Agnes we celebrated the Feast of St. Agnes which was actually last Thursday. Isn’t being Catholic fun?

6. Because no blog post is complete without a picture, and I have not really been taking pictures lately, I am sharing this one from Instagram.

This guy has rolled to his belly, turned, and belly scooted about 5 feet across the floor since I started writing this post. I am realizing that my life is about to be a bit crazier with a mobile little boy.
Linking up
7. In case you don’t follow my blog on Facebook, I wanted to share here my newest article for ChurchPOP: 12 Things St. Zelie Martin Taught Me About Sainthood as a Mother

Pink and Five

My Dear L,

You have grown so much in the last year, and now you are five. Your birthday always comes in the whirlwind that is Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent. You were born on the First Sunday of Advent, you labor beginning early in the morning and ending just before dinner, quite the opposite of your older sister who made us stay up all night, but setting the standard for everyone else.

What would life be without the middle sister? For G, she cannot remember life before you, and after the first strange weeks your presence became so necessary. For F, you have always been the caring, sensitive sister. And baby T has a special smile and squeal of delight just for you.

You strive hard to wear all pink everyday, and if not pink, it has to be something pretty, like stars. Your school (besides the occasional reading lesson) and quiet time this year has been devoted wholly to the making of paper dolls: princesses with pretty crowns and large extended families. And in your generous nature you make paper things for everyone in the house (except the baby). Who needs toys when you have tape, scissors, paper, and crayons?

You told us last week that when you grow up you are going to be a Pink Sister, a mom, or a ballet dancer. I suppose in any of those vocations you could still pull off wearing pink everyday.

Love you Always,

Now We Are Three

 My dear F,

Today you are three. Three. Three years ago, I woke up at 4:30 am in labor with you, and you took another 15 hours to come out. You were so worth it, but you know that. You tell us all confidently daily, “I am a pwin-CESS!” You spend your days going from intensely serious about whatever you are doing to trying to make us all laugh by being silly.

You love playing with your big sisters, and you love your baby brother. You also like to scream. A lot. You screamed a lot at the farm this summer. You were afraid of the dog. But after a couple of days you were okay with her, and when we went back to the farm last week you were not scared of her at all. “That’s Rosie. She is my favorite.”

I do not think you that you feel supplanted by your baby brother, and I am glad. You are so confident that you are loved. Of course your Uncle P will like the card you made him for his birthday, because “He likes purple and he likes ME!”

Happy birthday to you, my sweet, silly girl. And thanks for all your “help” in the kitchen. Maybe one day we will actually make your peanut-butter cup filled and covered chocolate cake together without any mishaps.

Love you forever,

What We Did for All Saints and What We are Doing for All Souls

Every year I pull out the sewing machine in October to make costumes. Our kids dress up as saints and go to a really cute All Saints party on All Hallows Eve (like a Christmas party on Christmas Eve), and play games for candy.

Left to Right: St. Felicity, St. Perpetua, and St. Kateri

I squeezed all of the sewing into the Saturday a week before the party, because I knew it would be the only time I could sew. M has been taking the girls to the grocery store on Saturday mornings and I am left in silent-house-only-the-baby-bliss for however long he takes. That is how I started my sewing, and I ended it by mid-afternoon. So, not so bad.

This is what they did when I asked them to look prayerful. Apparently it is prayerful to eat plants…

Our saints this year: Sts. Felicity and Perpetua who were martyred together in Carthage in the 3rd century and the Native American St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

I asked them to pose with the pumpkin, but St. Perpetua was done and wanted to get in the house.

For St. Kateri, I was asked to base the costume on the image here and found this simple tutorial for making a costume. I also bought fabric that would not fray, so no hem was required.

For the Carthage martyrs, I looked up how to make a Roman stola, stuck t shirts underneath, and used our hand dyed play scarves for on top.  And in Minnesota, the appropriate food wear of sandals would not work, so we went with church shoes for the martyrs and moccasin slippers for St. Kateri.

On Halloween, due to sleep issues/bedtime, we decided on T and I staying home from the party so he could have his bedtime. And by a miracle of St. Jude (we prayed the novena), this baby has only woken up once each the last two nights! Also, his teeth finally broke through!

We all woke up refreshed for the 7:30 am Traditional Latin Low Mass, and T wore his adorable All Saints outfit. Seriously, whoever designs baby dress clothes is a genius.

Please, pardon the adorable baby photo dump. I can’t help it.

Now, as much as I love a feast for all the Saints, I think I like today, All Souls day, better. I wrote the devotion today over at Blessed is She, and I am so happy that I got to do it. Because I got to spread the word about how we can earn indulgences today and this week for the poor souls in purgatory. Check it out.

We were able to wake up for morning Mass today to pray for the souls, and are going to be praying in a cemetery for them later this week. If I feel so inspired, we might make a batch of Soul Cakes today as well, but maybe not.

A Year of Existence: A Letter to my Son

My Dear Sweet T,

A year ago this week we learned that you existed. A little line in a small round window told us that you were here. Tiny little you existed, implanted in my womb. We were so happy, so anxious, so thankful for you. We were happy because we, with the help of God, had brought another human being into the world. You have added to the perfection of the universe by your very act of existing. And you have been doing it for a year.
So, I gave my body and my heart to you. I cared for you from the beginning. We went to the doctor, learned that I had low progesterone and, with care, did twice weekly injections to help you live inside me. 

When we had the early ultrasound and saw your little heart beating, we were so thankful. You were alive. So, I gave myself to you through all the discomforts of nausea, sore injection sites, blood draws, fatigue. I loved you from the beginning. 

I prayed for you. I knew what life with a new baby would be like, and I anticipated your arrival. 

Another labor of love was the labor it took for you to come out. You were ready, and childbirth happened. Nine hours of labor, 25 minutes of hard pushing, and you came out after so many weeks of growing. All 10 lbs, 3 oz of you came out. It took all my strength to get you out. And then I held you in my arms. I saw your little face looking into mine and smelled your newborn smell.

Life is so busy, centered around you. Family life is always centered around the baby’s needs, isn’t it? If we stretch you one way, we know we will have to give you more care later. But you are so delightful, your existence is a gift for us all.

And here you are now. We have had a whole year together. I have nourished you and helped you grow a whole year. You are a whole 16.5 pounds of cuddly, lovable, little personhood. There is so much more growing and loving to do, and now that you exist, you always will, you with your immortal soul…and I am so glad to exist knowing you.

Love Always,
Under His Mercy,

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, September 18–brought to you by Quiet Time

1. Nine years ago today I woke up to go to the 6:30 am Mass in Christ the King Chapel. I woke at 6:07, got dressed in running clothes, stumbled down the second floor Marian Hall to the bathroom, popped in my contacts, and pulled my hair up. Then I rushed quickly back to my room to grab my phone and raced off to Mass. I noticed my phone light up with a call as I was walking. My sister was in labor. In labor! A couple of weeks early! I promised to pray, especially at Mass. After Mass, I went for a short run. This was back when I convinced M to go running with me. I think it lasted about two runs. But anyway, I was trying to get into running. It was a tough jog, but I offered it up for my laboring sister. And by the time we were walking to the cafeteria for breakfast, my new baby niece was born. Hooray! And now she is nine years old. Happy Birthday to my first niece!

2. The garden is still going strong, though our tomatoes are not ripening as quickly as they had been, and our cucumbers are down to once a week or so. I picked this carrot yesterday.

I think it is part Twi’lek or at least distantly related to Bib Fortuna. (Please, please, catch my Star Wars reference.)

3. Our morning glories on the side of the house have really taken off.

This was a winning experiment, so we plan to do it again next year. I am going to let each girl pick a seed packet. Not pictured are our annuals. I have a sense for what works in our side garden and what does not. I am forming a plan beyond, “lets try some random flowers.”

4. Fall clothes… I need some jeans that fit. I found a great pair last September while thrifting, but my PP midsection is far from being ready for those… so I need to go out and find new ones. M promised me some shopping time soon, but I am not sure that the baby will let me go… I also am going to hunt down a cute trench coat, because we have enough chilly days that are not freezing that I am ready in find a nice cool weather jacket that will last and fit my varying sizes.

5. Guess who has been irritable, drooling, having trouble napping for long stretches and has two swollen bumps on his bottom gum?

This guy…wish us luck…

6. Quiet time has been my saving grace these days. Even quiet time with T is awake is so so necessary. The rules for the non-nappers are: stay in your quiet time space and play quietly until I say you can get up… we may or may not milk two hours out of them most afternoons. T sleeps whenever he is tired still, but F (almost 3) sleeps habitually at 1:30pm or stays in her crib. If you have little kids who don’t nap and don’t do quiet time, I highly recommend it…

7. And check out this artsy shot. It cracks me up…

Middle of the week ramblings…

Okay, so it’s Wednesday.

For some reason school is taking like no time this week. I think it has something to do with math not taking an hour a day. We got stuck on number bonds and number bond games…So, I looked at my math planning over the weekend and made it more doable.

I am all over Google drive these days, especially since I realized I can use it on the iPad with apps. It is great! I can write on both my devices now!

I also use a Google spreadsheet for lesson planning. It tells us what to do each day. I love having my schedule right there. I do the planned pages and we are done. Yep.

Our Art and Music curriculum are also being put in Google Docs. So, when we have them finished, maybe we will market them…though you can make your own with the help of iTunes and Wikipedia…

School has also forced me to change my weekly chores around. I decided to only do dusting and vacuuming during the week and do the sheet and towel laundry on Saturday. Which means that yesterday, when the kids all wanted to go to the park after school, we could. 

I look at this picture and am like, when and how did I get four kids? Seriously…four seems like way more than three to look at. I am not even 30 and I have four kids… 

But basically, if I do not internally pray all day and focus on being silly with the kids, I am a huge grump. On days I am laid back and give of myself more fully, we are all happy.
Hi, I am Susanna. I am a perfectionist. Being laid back is hard work. My two year old takes after me. Which means she will stay in her nap, but screams if her bib is not on right.
The baby is getting more touchy about sleeping. If he is dosing off and a sister walks by or talks, he pops his eyes open and looks for them. So, we might be needing to get him asleep in a quiet room soon, which will be less convenient than him dropping off while we are doing school in my arms and happily laying down for a dose.

We are all set for a busy weekend, and I am wondering how it is going to go with baby.

We have our first Little Flowers on Thursday, and G and L are both in it this year. This means M and F get some father-daughter bonding time while I take everyone else to LF until 8:30pm. We get home at 9pm, the big girls go to bed, and then I am like, what happened to my evening? Well it should be fun and is only once a month, so… hopefully T will not be thrown off sleepwise by riding in the car at 8:30pm.

Then the philosophy department party is on Friday which will be until bedtime again.

Then another late night on Saturday. And Sunday is our co-op kick-off picnic probably until bedtime… so busy weekend.

I really liked last weekend. M took the girls shopping for 2.5 hours, T napped, and I enjoyed a quiet morning doing some sewing that had to get done. Maybe we will have another quiet weekend at some point. But for now, we press on into busy school time!