Tuesday, December 30, 2014

12 in 2014: Princess, Pirates and Baby Shoes

I was excited to see that Dwija is hosting a 12 in 2014 Link-Up and couldn't resist the chance to look back over the last year at some of my favorite moments and photos!  


I was looking for an icy picture that truly captured our incredibly cold Michigan winter last year, but then I saw this picture of Sadie and Maggie playing princesses together after we got back into the house and I just couldn't resist using it instead.


In February we learned that we would be welcoming a new member to our family and we made the announcement on social media (after much scouring of ideas on Pinterest) with this picture:


In March, when it was finally warm enough that we could brave the outdoors without it hurting to breath, we attempted a family picture... and this was really as good as we managed.  We may not all be looking at the camera but at least no one was crying!


In April the temperature finally climbed up above freezing.  And Patch modeled one of the t-shirts that I got for us to wear in the local Autism Acceptance race later in the month.


The big even in Mae was Paul's Law School graduation after three years of hard work.  We posed in front of the Sparty statue... and Sadie would like everyone to know that she was catching herself when she was falling... again with the family picture fabulous-ness...


June arrived and Sadie turned six!  We celebrated by taking a trip to the zoo where she rode a camel, horse and little train and then going to the lake for a swim!


Mae turned four in July and we went out to California for a visit... during an impressive heat wave.  In this picture we took a break from the triple digit heat outside to visit one of our favorite museums.


The beginning of August saw us flying back to Michigan and taking a trip to the botanical garden for Paul's birthday.  It was also the beginning of the job search.


In September Sadie started dance classes at her new ballet school.  She is impatiently waiting to hear the theme for this year's recital.  


James Ignatius was born in October, weighing 8 lbs 7 oz and measuring 22 inches long.  He quickly earned the nickname "Grumpy Baby" from his biggest sister for his frequent frown.  


Patch turned two in November and moved in to a big boy bed.  He was a huge fan.


This last month of the year we've continued to settle in to a new routine with six people in the house.  And we're looking forward to the new year to come!

Monday, December 29, 2014

When Staying Home is the Right Thing to Do

The great hospital stay of '2012...
I was recently involved in a conversation where someone announced that, short of being hospitalized, they refuse to miss Mass.  It doesn't matter if a member of the family is sick, they will be there on Sunday, because they aren't going to stay home just because "someone else might catch the sniffles."
I had to exit the conversation, after begging the person to stay home if they're sick and being told that they absolutely would not (and that I should be thankful that I don't go to their parish...), to keep from saying exactly what I think of this attitude.

Thankfully, I have blogging, where I can say exactly what I think in a general way, which so often keeps me from saying what I think about a specific situation out loud (or stewing over what I didn't say for days afterwards).

I know Rebecca already wrote a great post on this topic, but after seeing it come up again and again this Advent/Christmas/flu season I feel that it really can't be said enough.

Please, if you're sick, stay home from Mass.  You're excused.  You don't need to confess it or agonize over whether it was a sin.  It's not.  When you're ill you don't have to go to Mass.  It's really quite simple.

Sometimes going to Mass through all the challenges that life throws at us can become a point of pride.  When I look long and hard at my own experiences in the past I think it had become exactly that for me, and it was humbling when I realized (after speaking with my pastor and explaining our situation) that sometimes I really shouldn't be there (but that's really it's own post, since that has little to do with illness and everything to do with the beautiful but very strong sensory experience that is the Mass).

I was proud that I didn't miss Mass for years, that I was there, in agonizing pain days after my first c-section, that we braved dangerous roads and blizzard conditions to be there one Christmas Eve, and that as soon as I was released from the hospital we were bringing our newborn babies to the next Sunday Mass.

I don't think it's bad to push yourself to go if you aren't putting yourself or anyone else at risk.  That's a personal decision to work out for yourself.

Everything changes though, when you're putting others at risk by going to Mass when you're sick.  I know it can be hard, especially when an illness is being passed around through your family and it seems to go on and on and on.  Believe me, I know what that's like.

I also know what it's like to not have the greatest immune system.  While I tend to be totally able to fight off illness when I'm not pregnant, any illnesses when I'm pregnant, from the first trimester onward, tend to take a nasty turn.  That week I spent with the infectious disease team at our local hospital where they were starting sentences with phrases like "You'll probably live if..." has forever changed how I look at little old viruses that don't seem that serious.

And after the last two pregnancies and many, many viruses my OB pointed out this last time that it seems that any little illness sends me into labor now... which was the reason for all those trips to labor and delivery where James thankfully managed to stay put this last time.

Between my own experience and watching Maggie have a fever for roughly three months out of this past year, and going through round after round of antibiotics and tests and fears and doctor's appointments and hospital visits wondering whether something was seriously wrong, since she just wasn't getting better as the fever bounced from 99 degrees some days to 104 other days, my thoughts on going to Mass when a person is ill has crystallized.

It can be hard to imagine when you're healthy and the flu means being sick for a day or two... but for the very young and the very old and those with compromised immunity, a "little virus" can be life threatening... or even life ending.

Sometimes it's kinder to make the sacrifice not to go so that you don't endanger others and put them at risk for a hospital visit, or worse.

After all, even if you avoid others you're still likely touching door knobs and doors, pews, the holy water font and possibly receiving the precious blood (and that's not to mention air born viruses).

Jesus knows your heart.  He knows that you want to be there.  And he sees the sacrifice that you're making when you can't be there because you're putting others ahead of yourself and staying home.  So please if you're sick, stay home from Mass.  Those who go who aren't quite as strong and healthy will be grateful that you're not putting them at risk, and you'll get the rest that you need to get better as quickly as you possibly can.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Flu is Here...

The flu hit our house seven days ago and has been making the rounds through the house every since arriving.  First it was Maggie and then Patch.  Sadie woke up sick on Christmas morning and then Paul was next and finally after beginning to think it would have been luckier to be the first one sick because knowing that I was likely going to be following in their footsteps shortly was rather torturous, I came down with the flu yesterday and after twenty four unpleasant hours (thank goodness it wasn't longer) I'm finally beginning to feel human again.

Today Patch and James both woke up with fevers, although James at least seems to have the mildest case and, despite his temperature spent most of the day looking like this:

Patch, on the other hand, woke after sixteen hours of sleep and decided that the only place he needed to be was curled up on my lap.  And for the most part I was okay with that... I would have been entirely okay with that if I didn't need to do things like get the other kids food and nurse the baby.

In fact, when Mae reached out and touched my hand he shrieked in much the same way that he yells if she tries to steal one of his favorite treats off of his plate when we're having dinner.

Although James, at least, was spared the shrieks, probably because he's still Patch's favorite person at the moment.

And I can't help but think that the reports I heard that this years flu vaccine didn't seem to be the right strain of flu were correct.  I didn't get a shot (after being refused it again this year because how my lungs sounded...), but Patch already had one and it definitely didn't work this time.

Here's hoping that the cycle of sickness going through the house ends quickly... this bug is not fun and I'm hoping we get to have some portion of the Christmas season to celebrate without some member of the family being sick!

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Update I'd Prayed I Wouldn't See

I found myself bursting into tears in the middle of the kitchen this afternoon after seeing a status update on Facebook that I'd been expecting, but also praying that I wouldn't see.

Maybe you already saw it on the news.

Jayden Morrison, a four year old autistic boy who went missing on Christmas Eve, was found dead in a retention pond near his grandmother's home.

These stories all too often turn out the same way.  A child goes missing.  There's a frantic search.  Sometimes the child is found with a few scratches and bruises, but alive.  But more often than not the stories that make the news, that is to say, the ones that have gone on for an extended period of time, end near a body of water; a canal or a pond or a river... in tragedy.

I read a statistic once that said that 90% of wandering deaths were drownings.  I can't remember where I read it and I don't know if that's true, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is.  Mae is drawn to water like a moth to a flame and that attraction is, without a doubt, my greatest fear in this life (followed by her sprinting into a busy street as a close second).

Trying to figure out how to get in to the water...
She's about to take her shoes off...
Sometimes when we're out driving (and day dreaming) we'll see a house for sale and Paul will say "how about that one" and I'll scan around it immediately.  "No."  I'll shake my head if there's a pond or a creek near by.  "Look.  A pond."  The risk is too great, the stakes too high.  She's little and fast.

All afternoon I found the words "there but for the grace of God go I..." going through my head.

The quote isn't a perfect fit, but in a way it sums up one small part of the reason that I think so many in the autism community feel these losses so keenly (in addition to the fact that these losses are heartbreaking and horrible in and of themselves).

Many of us know all to well that on any given day if we look away at the wrong time or find ourselves distracted for a second too long we could easily find ourselves mourning the loss of a beloved child.

I will never forget the day that we almost lost Mae.

Taking off her shoes to go in the river.
There's about a twenty foot drop a few
feet in front of where we're standing.
She was still more than a year and a half away from her diagnosis.  We'd gotten a Groupon for a condo in Orlando over the Christmas break of Paul's first year at law school.  With the Florida resident discount we just couldn't pass up a chance to take the girls to Disney World and so we scooped up the Groupon and found our way to the condo.  I'd been up all night sewing new princess dresses for the girls and I couldn't wait to see them all dressed up in pink velvet and lace.

When we arrived at the condo I was pleased to find that it was completely child proofed.  There was nothing that our rambunctious girls could break or damage.  With the girls playing in the living room I slipped into their bedroom and began unpacking their clothes.

A few minutes later Sadie sprinted into the room, yelling that Maggie had opened the door and gone outside.

Paul and I flew into the living room to find the living room and saw a side glass door open.  It had been locked when we'd come in, but Mae had managed to turn the dead bolt and the door stood open.  We raced outside and saw our eighteen month old girl toddling across the parking lot.

She hadn't made it far but there was a lake about a hundred feet from where we found her.

"I saved her life!"  Sadie repeated over and over again that week.  "I save my sister's life."

I don't think we realized how true those words were.  We hadn't yet realized how drawn Maggie was to water, how she would start to take off her socks and shoes while standing holding my hand at a cliff above the river at my parents' house, or while looking at a giant tank of sturgeon at a museum.  She's always ready to go for a swim, with or without me.

For the last three years we've been vigilant.  In the beginning we wondered when she would outgrow the phase where she took of sprinting in one direction, enjoying the feeling of running, giggling all the while, completely oblivious to danger.

When people tell me we should get a baby sitter so that we can go out without the kids I nod and agree, knowing all the while that there are very few people we'd leave Mae with because of her tendency to wander.  It's hard for people who haven't experienced a child who's determined to wander first hand to understand how hard it can be to keep them from doing just that.

In the past year I thought that we were making progress on the wandering.  Mae goes on walks with her therapists.  Sometimes she even walks alongside without having to hold hands.  Then we went to the Hayride/Bonfire night with Sadie's AHG group.  We had to leave early and were walking through a dark field of Christmas trees back to the car.  Mae would stop to adjust her shoe and after fixing it would stand up and try to sprint into the pitch black Christmas tree field.  For whatever reason running off into the dark seemed like the fun thing to do.

That walk pretty much shattered any illusions I had about her tendency to take off coming to an end any time soon.

Whenever I read comments on the stories that follow these tragedies there are people criticizing the parents and talking about how negligent a person has to be to lose a child.  Yet I have to say that in a house with an alarm system that lets me know if a door is opened, with bars on her windows as far as they open, with double baby gates and door handle covers and specialized door locks, I still find myself worried that my super strong little climber will get past our safety precautions and get outside without anyone noticing, or will wander off when we're out and about... because if there's one thing that the last four years have taught me it's that when you have a child who's prone to wander the smallest distraction can lead to tragedy.

Please pray for Jayden's family tonight.  I cannot imagine what they must be feeling as they enter into this Christmas season without their precious little boy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Tonight after the babies went to bed Sadie and Paul helped me decorate the living room.  Sadie carefully decorated the little Christmas trees and danced around holding the lighted garland that I strung around the top of the walls and gasped every time I plugged in another string of lights.  

We decided to use the little Christmas trees this year after finding a tiny blue tree to add to the lineup so that each of the kids still has their own... which means we've avoided the issue of Mae climbing the Christmas tree for one more year.  Hopefully.  

At the start of Advent I had big plans for having another homemade holiday.  For the past few years most of our birthdays and Christmases have relied almost completely on homemade princess dress and dolls and I thought we'd do it again.  And with the shops closing I thought it would be pretty easy to do, since I'd have more time.

But I underestimated how much necessity had motivated me in the past... and how nice it was to sleep a little bit more and not stay up until the wee hours of the morning sewing (which James wasn't a fan of anyways).  So I started thinking of other options.

There are two ideas I've heard suggested when buying Christmas presents for children.  One is to get three presents, to represent the three presents that baby Jesus received from the Wise Men.  The other is a little rhythm that says "One want and one need, one to wear and one to read."

I didn't quite do either of the gift buying plans, but I kept them in mind while I was shopping and we decided to get each of the kids one toy (or in Sadie's case a necklace that she desperately wanted and had gone on and on and on about), a pair of pajamas, an outfit and a book (with the exception of James since we have hundreds of board books in this house and I'm desperate to have less of them rather than more).

So the final gifts that were wrapped up tonight after Sadie went to bed.  And here's a sneak preview of what they'll find in the morning.

Can you tell that Patch is a little bit crazy about Bubble Guppies right now?  And that he desperately wants a puppy?  Hopefully a stuffed barking Bubble Puppy helps him with that particular wish.

And because, in the past, I've had a tendency to go a little overboard with Christmas presents.  Sadie's first Christmas is the perfect example of that tendency:

Those were all for Sadie.  It was... over the top.

And so this past few years reeling in the material side of Christmas and really focusing on why we're celebrating has been a tremendous blessing for our family.  Although it was fun to actually go shopping this time and find one toy that I knew that each of them would really enjoy playing with!

Tomorrow will be a stay-at-home Christmas.  Patch and Mae have both had the flu for several days and Sadie and I haven't been feeling 100% either (although compared to those two we're great) and so we'll be resting and hoping that this virus passes through the house quickly.

Now to get a little sleep before Christmas arrive in 33 minutes!

Have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My First New Year's Resolution

My first New Year's Resolution
is to fit back into my non-maternity clothes.
I love New Year's Resolutions.  I have varying degrees of success each year in keeping them, but writing them down, looking forward towards the new year with hope and anticipation, is one of my favorite yearly traditions.  

This year I knew that getting back into shape was going to be somewhere near the top of my resolution list.  If I'm going to keep up with the babies, especially the little feisty one with near super human strength, I need to be strong too.  

This is the first time that the baby weight didn't drop off easily. Two weeks after Sadie was born I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans. After Patch it took three months to shed the baby weight (that was a record thanks to the elimination diet that I went on to try to figure out his allergies).  And so I expected it to be easy this time too.  But I think that the passing of each additional year is making bouncing back more difficult and this time it's clear that it's going to take hard work to fit back into my non-maternity clothes again.  I don't love empire waistlines quite as much when I'm not expecting, and that's pretty much all that fits at the moment. And I can't hide under a combination of my super puffy winter jacket and my Moby wrap forever, which has been my plan lately since I really don't want to buy a new wardrobe and nothing fits!    

My current strategy.
The jacket.
And borrowing Paul's t-shirts.
Right now my goal is to do an hour of cardio every day and to do light weights and core strengthening a few times a week.  I'm using the My Fitness Pal website to track what I'm eating and how much I'm working out.  It's amazing how much putting everything down helps motivate me to make healthier choices.  Well... at least it has for the last five days!

Now I just need to stay motivated.  

If any of you are on My Fitness Pal, definitely feel free to add me!  

And don't worry, there won't be a ton of fitness posts on the blog.  I might do an update once a month, but that's it.  And hopefully this will be one New Year's Resolution I can stick to, because I need to be strong enough to carry at least 46 lbs up the stairs on a daily basis and right now that's a struggle!  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ramblings on Hearing Tests and Tears

I wrote a blog post a few days ago when I was frustrated and saddened and I stopped just before I finished the closing paragraph when Paul told me he'd watch the kids so that I could go to the gym.  My Christmas present this year is a $10 a month gym membership, which I 've been putting to good use this past week and after about twenty minutes of cardio I was glad that I hadn't published the the rambling rant that I'd written.  

Still I've sat down to write a post every night since I wrote that one last week and my fingers have sat frozen on the keys.  

I'm horrible at blogging when I have something on my mind that I'm avoiding writing about, that I still need to work through and apparently just writing that draft and putting it away isn't working.  And maybe now with a few days between come and gone, I've hopefully cooled down enough to really process why it is that the entire situation bothered me so much.  Logically I know it wasn't that bad... and yet I found myself sniffling and holding back tears as I stumbled through the rest of Sadie and Mae's doctors appointment.  

If you're ready for a rambling post in which I work through all of these things that are apparently making it impossible for me to write, keep reading.

A couple of months ago Sadie and Mae both had speech evaluations in an office across the street from the hospital where Patch and James were born.  It's a familiar building, with seven stories of doctors offices, and these days we're there at least twice a week for OT, and often we're back eve more often, since my OB and Patch and James' pediatricians have offices there as well.

The speech therapist asked me to call the girls' pediatricians office to make appointments for hearing tests before we saw her again and a couple of weeks after James was born I tried to do just that.  I called and said that I needed to make an appointment for a hearing test and explained that my four year old who is a patient there is autistic and asked if they would need to refer us out to a specialist for her test.

Of course I wouldn't need to take her somewhere else, I was told.  But they couldn't make the appointment that day, because we already had conflicting doctors' appointments scheduled for 100% of the times they had available, and so I was told to call back the next week and in the rush of the week that followed I never found the time until two weeks ago when I finally had a moment to myself and I actually remembered to make the call.  The conversation that followed went something like this:

Me: "Hi, I'd like to make an appointment for a hearing test for my daughters who are both patients at your office."
Receptionist (after collecting their information and bringing up their files): "Why do they need hearing tests?"
Me: "They both had speech evals at (the name of the clinic) and the speech therapist requested they have hearing tests done at their own doctors' office to rule out a hearing problem."
R:  "It says here that they both had physicals back during the summer and that the physicals were fine."
Me: "Yes."
R:  "So they didn't notice a hearing problem then.  Has this problem been noticed by their school?  This is usually done at school."
Me:  "Well one of the girls is four and is in therapy all morning and doesn't go to school and the other is homeschooled."
R:  "So is there a reason for this test?"
Me:  "The reason for the test is that the speech therapist at ____________ requested it be done and told me to call their doctor's office."
R:  "But is there a reason?"
Me: "The reason is that they both have speech issues that caused the speech therapist to ask that I get them tested to eliminate hearing problems as a cause."

Finally, after going round and round, she made the appointment for me.

On Friday Sadie and I rushed home from Occupational Therapy and Mae ended ABA early so that we could hurry across town to their doctor's office.

Waiting in the waiting room at the office is always stressful and this time was no different.  Mae did better than she has in the past.  Having Sadie sitting next to her seemed to calm her considerably since she is usually incredibly stressed whenever she goes into this place where she knows they'll make her take off her shoes and where they'll weigh and measure her.  This time she even stood on the scale and allowed herself to be weighed (without shoes!) after watching Sadie go first, which was the first time the process hadn't involved a complete meltdown.

But the waiting room is usually the worst part of our visit. It's the part that I dread.  Between the stares and the disapproving sighs and occasional rude comments it's a half hour of my life I would gladly spend somewhere else.

Then it was time to go into the room to wait for the doctor.  The nurse, who I've gotten to know fairly well over the past year, looked at our chart and said "Just so you know, there's no way we're going to be able to successfully test her."  And I smiled tightly and said "I thought so.  I asked when I called if it would be possible here and they said yes...  So we'll get a referral to specialist?"

After that it was time to wait. And wait.  It wasn't as long a wait as it has been the past.  Then the doctor came in.  If I'd known that we'd have an actual exam with the doctor, instead of just a hearing test, I would have requested our doctor, but I hadn't and so we were seeing a resident we'd never seen before.  At least he knew what OT and ABA were (the doctor who did Maggie's physical didn't...).

He asked dozens and dozens of questions about the diagnosis'.  Usually I can talk all day about the various tests, what we've done, what we've tried, who we've seen, but for some reason as I spoke with him I found myself feeling so, so tired.  Maybe it was because he asked if Sadie'd been tested for autism.  Yes, at two different offices.  They concluded she has ADHD.  Which offices?  Which doctors?

He left to ask the attending doctor a question.  The girls were doing remarkably well for having waited in a teeny tiny room for so long.  We'd been there for over an hour and the hearing test still hadn't begun.

Mae started to giggle and I took a quick video:

I didn't feel like they were being very loud in that tiny room at the very back of the building, with the door closed.  Maybe I was just too busy savoring the giggles and being thankful that they weren't screams.  The day before we went to the doctor Mae began a vocal stim that lasted for about two hours.  Every twenty seconds she would scream (with a smile), and that scream was so loud that the alarm system in our house would say "glass break" every single time that she did it.  There was no stopping or distracting her.  Usually stims don't bother me.  I understand they're usefulness.  But this one... oh this one hurt... So the level of noise in that room (demonstrated on the video) didn't strike me as out of control.

Until the knock on the door came and another woman in scrubs burst in with an angry look on her face and said "Excuse me but I am working next door and I am trying to make phone calls and it is very, very difficult with all the noise coming from this room."

Afterwards a million things would go through my head.  I should have said something about how hard it is to keep kids quite when they're waiting for over an hour every time they come to the office.  Instead I stuttered something about how I'd try, but... autism... and it's hard.

And then I was angry at myself for using autism as an excuse, angry at her for the instant look of pity that came to her eyes, for the change in tone, for the sudden sweetness and offering the kids books and puzzles and saying things about how hard it is for me.

And that's when the tears attacked me, out of nowhere and I sat there thinking about how I hadn't cried a tear when I'd heard that first mention of autism. hadn't cried when the pediatrician had told me she was 100% certain Mae was on the spectrum and yet there I was crying because some woman said my girls were giggling too loudly and she couldn't make a phone call.  I held them back, just barely, knowing that if I blinked they would fall.

She left and it was just us again and Mae, who misses nothing, hid under a chair, making herself very small and quiet and Sadie, who will listen, sat perfectly still while we waited for the doctor.

He came back and examined both girls (and if she couldn't make a phone call with those little giggles I'm pretty sure it was impossible with the screaming that followed when he looked in Mae's ears) and then gave us a referral for another appointment in another office.

After that Sadie took and passed her test.

We left the office.  But the day felt heavier.  Everything I did felt heavier.  When I got kicked in the face (completely accidentally in her excitement over something) putting Mae in her car seat the tears started to flow.  And when I got home I snapped at Paul, not sure why I was even upset to begin with.
I stumbled through the hours until bedtime and then at Paul's suggestion, headed to the gym.  Once I was moving the day seemed to move into perspective and the hugeness of that moment rapidly deflated until it no longer overwhelmed everything else.  I could see again that even on a day that felt like that one did, our blessings far outweigh everything else.

Still it's lingered in my mind, that moment, and I have to admit it's because I'm baffled by the effect that it had on me than because of anything that actually happened.  We've had many, many appointments in the past sixteen months since it was first suggested that Mae was on the spectrum and never have I felt anything more than a steady determination to help Mae achieve her potential.

And so I find myself stopping somewhat short of a conclusion that I'm searching for but not quite managing to find... having hopefully moved past my writer's block.

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!