The other night I was sitting in the dining room thinking that this house, the one that has driven me crazy and that I've pretty much hated for the last year feels like home.
We were grateful for the friends who let us live in their house for most of the past year, but their house, though we took it over, never felt like home. For many months I was in a state of displacement.
I'd always thought it might be my children that made a house into a home, and they certainly go a long way in creating a lived in feel to a place, but alone they didn't make a place home. Was it the furniture I've had following me around for so long? I don't think so, because when we bought this house, my mother gave me a lot of stuff she didn't want anymore, so much of the furniture is new to me.
Building a home is truly full of many stages and pieces. This place is beginning to feel like home, but the boxes and clutter, the baby sleeping in my closet -- all lend a somewhat temporary air to the place.
What really made this place suddenly become home to me though, despite all that, was the night we unpacked our books. We have a lot of books and we haven't unpacked them all. I also haven't read them all, but taking them out, seeing my old friends and putting everything up on the shelves, made this house less of a stranger. My family lives here and so do our books.
As I do every year, I'm trying a new cheesecake recipe in his honor. This year I've made one from Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook. Having never been to NYC and not really hanging out with lots of people in the know, I've never heard of Junior's but I snagged the cookbook off the new books shelf at the library and immediately fell in love.
I only make a few cheesecakes a year, but I definitely would love to own this book. Of course, I am a cookbook junkie, so I want to own almost every cookbook I get my hands on. The recipes in this cookbook are fairly easy to follow, which is not the same as easy or short. The instructions are well written and the variety of yummy cakes makes my mouth water.
I'm trying out their vanilla bean cake, which is a pretty standard cheesecake, judging by the recipe. The main difference is that it has a sponge cake crust, instead of the more typical kinds of cheesecake crusts. Thanks to the water bath, it did not crack while baking, which is something most of my cheesecakes do. It looks about as perfect as a cheesecake can get. The cake is aging in the refrigerator now. I hope it tastes as good as it looks.
By the way, use the "Look Inside" option on Amazon, to get a better feel for the cookbook and recipes, or go check it out from your library.
Tell one child about the birds and the bees and they'll be spreading the information on to all their younger siblings. No matter how many times you tell them that their younger siblings are not old enough for that information yet.
And thus while I was giving the girls a bath last night I got asked by the three year old, "Why does Daddy sometimes stick his [redacted]?" Well now...
I explained what I'd explained before that husbands and wives do that because they love each other and because it makes babies.
The five year old then got a thoughtful look on her face and asked, "If that's how babies are made, do the doctors have to watch to make sure the baby gets made?" With visions of my OB staring on (ew), I tried not to giggle and told them that it was a private time between only the husband and wife.
So far they haven't started explaining the facts of life to complete strangers, which their father apparently did when he was a wee lad.
Yesterday between unpacking boxes, I hung up my diplomas in the little hallway where the master closet hits between the bedroom and bathroom. My husband has all his diplomas and things hanging in his office, because when people go to visit their lawyer they like to know that he graduated from college and law school. People are funny like that.
The house is my office and since I have the things framed I might as well hang them up. Now when I go to brush my teeth in the morning, I can remember that I once graduated with honors in German. When I return to my bedroom, I can remember that I once read German and understood literature well enough to get a Master's. When I pick out clothes for the day, I can think about how I once knew enough library science to get a job in an academic reference department.
Then I can go on with my day, look at the German books on a high bookshelf and wonder if I can still read them, or some day when I have a van again take the kids to the library and use my excellent librarian skills to find Hardy Boys and fairy tales.
My life may not be the one it looked I was headed towards when I got all those degrees, but those degrees helped me be who I am and do what I do -- if only in subtle ways.
I'm getting a message loud and clear. Last week a million different things prevented me from doing errands. This week I didn't have a lot of things planned and I want to get a lot of unpacking and packing done, but I did have some places in mind that I wanted to get to.
On our way home from church on Sunday the check engine light came on. It's generally not recommended that you tool around town when that light is burning, so the van went to the mechanic's. It's the only vehicle we have that holds all the rugrats, so I'm staying home.
Yesterday I worked on unpacking things and putting them in our lovely master closet with 11 foot ceilings and shelves all the way up. A lot of the things will move upstairs when we have an upstairs, but getting them out of boxes and getting the boxes out of my bedroom is a great feeling.
Today it will be more of the same. Unpacking, sorting and cleaning are the goals and I hope to get a lot done.
Not many 32 year olds probably can say they grew up on the Kingston Trio and it was one of their favorite bands, especially not 32 year olds whose parents consistently have voted Republican their whole lives, but I did. My dad was a huge fan of the Trio and I grew up loving their music and playing my father's old records over and over again.
Now I have most of their albums on CD (actually, on the iPod). I don't listen to them quite as much, because the kids want stories when we're in the car and a certain husband of mine tends to make fun of my enjoyment of Kingston Trio music (although not as much as when I put on Peter, Paul & Mary or The Chad Mitchell Trio). Certainly they weren't "authentic," but they were the leaders of the folk era. Their music is pleasurable to listen to and those boys could really pick a banjo.
It saddened me to hear of John Stewart's passing, though the Kingston Trio was a band that split up long before I was born, it was one I was closer to than many of the bands most popular when I was a teenager.
The eight year old and the five year old were putting away all the books that had been scattered throughout the living room and dining room.
As they were sticking things on the bookshelves, the eight year old asked his sister, "So why don't you like chapter books?"
Said she, "They don't have enough pictures and I like a lot of pictures!"
The eight year seems almost upset, "But don't you realize what you are missing? Take this Dr. Dolittle book..."
Interrupting, "Is that the same Dr. Dolittle mom read to us about who can talk to animals?"
"Yes, but this is another book about him and you are missing out. This is probably a really good book and you won't even touch it, because [somewhat condescendingly] it doesn't have enough pictures. There are so many great books you'll never learn about if you only read books with pictures!"
And that's when chaos erupted in some other part of the house and I missed how the conversation between the scholar and his little sister ended (probably with him getting punched, but I didn't hear any screaming).
The toddler boy is still the tiniest thing ever. At fifteen months he only weighs 19 lbs 2 oz. We've been putting formula in most of his food for extra calories since he was six months old and have recently moved on to Pediasure, which I'm told has even more calories. It all seems to make very little difference.
He's just not gaining weight, no matter what he eats or how much. And one of his first words is "Eeeeee" when he sees food coming towards him and another frequently used word is "Mo!" when he's not just screaming and pointing at food. He likes to eat.
So it's time to run a few tests and see if there are any answers. When we went to his check up a few days ago we did a blood draw for lead (just to keep tabs on our old house living) and to check for Celiac's Disease. Although we have gluten related allergies on both sides of the family, he doesn't seem to have any of the other symptoms, so I'm not too concerned. On Friday we go for a CF screening test. Again, he doesn't taste salty to me and his lungs have never been a problem, so I don't think that's the problem, but getting things ruled out will help us know if there is something serious going on, or if he's just meant to be small.
It's strange to wonder though. Other than the current drippy nose he's sporting, he seems the picture of rambunctious health. He runs. He climbs. He shoves his older siblings out of the way and demands they do his bidding. He seems to be doing just what I'd expect a fifteen month old to be doing. Being a mother though, that doesn't stop the worries and the what ifs though. I need to pray more and let go (as I said below) but it doesn't come easily.
All week I've had plans. I have a list a mile long of things to get for the house or our trip. I needed to get the last things out of our friends' house and I need to unpack, unpack, organize, and unpack some more.
I'm beginning to think my plans are not what I'm supposed to be doing though. As if some divine hand were playing with things and giving me several kicks to the rear, I've been rescheduled all week. We did manage to get our things moved out of our friends' house, but as for everything else? Not so much.
After various interferences earlier this week, today was the day I would finally get busy. I really had it planned. The kids and I would get the shopping done and then head home to clean and unpack.
While I was cooking breakfast, my brother-in-law called. His wife's mom was in a car wreck s few days ago and is going in to surgery today. Could I watch their baby?
So hear I sit, snuggling a sleeping 3 month old trying to close my eyes to the chaos around me and stay here in the sweetness of the moment and pray that the surgery goes well. My schedule is not God's and today, right now, I'm not meant to be shopping or cleaning, I'm supposed to be here with the passel of young'uns running around.
Meredith links to me and I get more hits in a morning than has been usual around here lately. The fame and coolness is rubbing off...
The problem I have with doing this meme is that I do not particularly track my expenses in meal production. I admire those who do, but I'm pretty lousy at it. I'll do my best to guess at what I've made that's cheap, but I really have no idea. Easiest or fastest meals, I would have a lot simpler time figuring out.
Cheapest and Healthiest and Most Delicious Meal You�ve Made:
I think this is a fairly impossible question to answer. I've made lots of things I consider to be healthy and lots I consider to be delicious. Add cheaper to that and I'm pretty much at a loss -- maybe vegetarian black bean chili or garden vegetable soup would fit the bill.
Cheapest dessert recipe You�ve Made:
In the summers, when we have abundant raspberries growing the backyard, we often have raspberries topped with whipped cream. Whipping cream isn't particularly cheap, but a little whipped up with some sugar and vanilla goes a long way and tastes fabulous.
Cheapest Meal for a Large Group of People:
Soup or lasagna. At least those are my favorite things to make for a large crowd. Chicken noodle soup and corn chowder are pretty simple to whip up in large batches and I usually have corn and/or leftover chicken in the freezer along with homemade broth (or bouillon cubes in a pinch). Lasagna isn't probably all that cheap, unless you get a good deal on ground beef and ricotta, but it can feed a lot of people, which is always a plus.
Cheapest Vegetarian Meal You�ve Made:
Probably the black bean chili I mentioned above, although I once used up leftover vegetarian succotash chowder by turning it into a casserole. That had to be pretty cheap too.
Quickest Healthy Meal You�ve Made:
The black bean chili only takes about 20-30 minutes to make, but when we're really racing around trying to get a meal in a hurry, we usually fall back on cheese quesadillas and a salad or noodles with homemade pesto and a salad. Pesto is fairly cheap to make if you grow the basil in your garden and buy a huge bulk bag of pine nuts at Sam's Club. We eat a lot of pine nuts and a bag usually lasts us a year stored in the refrigerator.
Sigh. I need to track my spending and become more frugal. In the meantime, there you go. I did my best.
Although our disease carrying rats children, left us with colds, we got a lot done this weekend. We're almost moved out of our friends' house and we have a lot more things unpacked around our house.
Our main focus this weekend was the kitchen. It's coming along nicely. We've unpacked a lot of boxes of pots, pans, dishes and whatnot. We have a working stove, sink, and refrigerator. The dishwasher isn't quite hooked up and neither is the oven, but these things take time. Every step forward is a welcome one.
Diane asked how all the moving in plans coincide with the traveling to England plans. The answer is not all that well. The England trip really couldn't come at a worse time for us, and yet it is coming and we'll take advantage of the opportunity, because these things don't come along very often. We'll have the house as cleaned up, unpacked and all that as possible and we'll hope our house-sitter can take these things in stride. We'll just pick up with the renovations and finishing when we get back.
The fumes have pretty dissipated around the house and the plumber is there installing the kitchen sink and dishwasher. My husband needs to hook up the stovetop and oven (he may feel comfortable hooking up gas after having done it before, but I'm not).
I can move back into my house again, and a working kitchen is so close, I can almost taste the steamy soups and creamy cheesecakes I can start making. And did I mention that though the laundry room cabinets aren't finished, we do have the washer and dryer hooked up? I'm a girl of simple pleasures. A working kitchen and laundry facilities please me greatly.
We're going to England! The tickets are purchased. The passports are here. Now I'm working on all the details.
What do I need to take with me to make life livable, and yet pack as light as possible? I don't know if we'll have laundry facilities in our flat, which definitely scares me a bit, but I also know I can't pack a huge amount of clothes for anyone. I'm sure we'll need warm stuff and raincoats too.
For Christmas I got this portable high chair and it's perfect. I'm thinking about getting the Phil and Ted's portacrib too. It's not cheap, but the weight and size are seductive, since our current portable crib from Evenflo is neither small nor lightweight. I'm hoping to borrow a double umbrella stroller and I think that will take care of my baby travel needs.
Finally, the thing I've been thinking most about is schooling. I'm not planning on taking many books with us, though I plan to take Our Island Story with us. I know we'll have plenty to get out and see, but we need to figure out what to do with it all. I think we'll get a bunch of journals so that each child can record their thoughts on the days and illustrate them as they see fit. I'd love to come up with more ideas for how to homeschool while far from home without the normal things like books and art supplies lying around.
Remember how I said the Catholic Church's teaching on birth control was one of the hardest for me? Sure I know all about NFP and I have no doubt that it would work very well, if one had a chance to learn it. I have The Art of Natural Family Planning sitting here waiting for me to learn the basics.
Unfortunately, I had barely gotten past the flipping through it stage when the natural child spacing effects of breastfeeding wore off and I started phase of vicious 15 day cycles. I hadn't even figured out how to track things when they were relatively normal.
I can't say I was shocked when the pregnancy test came back. I know how these things happen, after all. I will admit that I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about it though. After our conversion, I was pretty sure a fifth child would be in my future, but this certainly wasn't my choice for timing.
It's been difficult. A few weeks ago I had to go borrow a bunch of maternity clothes from a friend since mine were still buried in boxes. I haven't been able to help with a lot of the cleaning, painting and other things related to getting the new house ready. I'm already now flexible enough in the middle to do some of the things I want to do and because of the baby, I insisted we all move back to our friend's house yesterday for a couple nights because the carpenters poured a finish on our kitchen counters and I didn't want to be in the fumes.
By now, of course, the fact that the baby is hanging out in there is becoming more real to me and I am excited (and plumper around the midsection). As I learn to follow the Church's teachings with both my mind and my body, I am beginning to understand the call to be open to new life and welcome another of God's children into my family. It's not an easy vocation to follow, and I, who still like peace and quiet and sometimes can't handle a simple spill or pair of poopie underwear, am far from sainthood. Yet without the struggle and the trials, being called to do things I'd rather not, how would I ever get there?
Imagine piles and piles of boxes everywhere. I'd show you, but my camera isn't on me at the moment.
Actually, it's gotten a lot less ugly. On January 1, we actually slept in our own house. It happened to be one of the coldest nights so far this season and we didn't have insulation, so in the morning it was 51 degrees in the house. It's only gotten better and warmer as we've unpacked, the temperature outside has risen and as of today we actually have insulation upstairs.
So here's to a warm new year in our own home and figuring out how to properly thank people who have taken you in for 8 months.
As I was saying yesterday, last Friday I went to pick up the kidlets from my sister-in-law's house where they had spent the night (even the baby) giving my husband and I a night all alone to celebrate our tenth anniversary.
As I was gathering their things together, Peter picked up a toy metal spoon in his cousin's room and tripped with it in his mouth. He started shrieking and blood was gushing out his nose and mouth. I wound up taking him to the local ER down there and after two ER docs and an ENT looked at him, they decided he was very lucky and the two cuts were just deep cuts to the soft palate, but would heal on their own.
I had seen lots of mouth cuts, but I had never seen that much blood pouring out of one child. It was pretty nasty, and I was so glad that it wasn't much worse.
We have had a busy, busy time since I last saw all of you.
Our Christmas was lovely. Our first Christmas as Catholics was both different and similar to previous Christmases. We ate Christmas Eve dinner with my husband's extended family. We had thought we might go to one of the vigil masses, having been told by everyone in the world that taking small children to Midnight Mass was insane. Instead, we wound up going to an 8:30 mass on Christmas morning, and although perhaps not as full of candles and beautiful music, it was a great way to dedicate the day.
Afterwards, we opened presents and went down to the town my sister-in-law and her family live in to have Christmas dinner with relatives.
Thursday morning I drove the kids back down to my sister-in-law's. Then I drove back to the purple house, where my father-in-law and two brother-in-laws were helping Justin clean, move things and get the house into better shape. The plumber was also there installing my clawfoot tub and the painter was finishing the kitchen walls. I ran errands for people, got lunch and stuff like that. By the end of the day, my father-in-law had vacuumed and mopped everything. We'd moved a lot of the furniture back into place and it was actually sort of looking like a house.
Then Justin and I got cleaned up and went out for a nice dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We've made it ten years and hope for many more decades to come. That was lovely and it was nice to come home, go to bed and not have to deal with the horde of children.
In the morning, we got up, went to breakfast and then did a few things at the house. We got the fridge moved into place, so the plumber could hook up the water line. The plumber came back in to finish hooking up fixtures in the powder room and do a few other things, which actually took most of the day. Justin did various stuff, I'm not sure what all.
It was shaping up to be another productive day, but I had to travel back down to my sister-in-law's house and pick up the kidlets. And what an adventure that turned out to be...