Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ramblings, Part II

A creepy photo of Lucy to kick this post off... those are stickers from Trader Joe's.  I love Trader Joe's... except that they think kids need 20 stickers each.  When I was a kid, we would get one, maybe two stickers.  That's it.  A lollipop at the bank?  That was like winning the lottery.  A sticker AND and toothbrush AND a bouncy ball from the dentist?  That was excess in my day.  Less is more, people.  See, these two eye stickers entertained her fine.  The other 18 are probably all over the inside of my car.  Thanks a lot, TJ's cashiers.

She stuck them on her own eyes herself.  I bet if she could have seen herself, she would have been disturbed and pulled them right off again, ha.  The hooded cloak, though, is adorable.  It was a Christmas present for her because she loves to dress up.  I got it from an etsy shop here.

This is Cecilia in our local coffee shop... no, not drinking coffee.  She and Lucy split a hot chocolate in two cups.  The older girls take dance lessons at a studio down the street from the coffee shop, so I sometimes stop in there to grab a drink after dropping off Caroline.  Cecilia's class starts an hour later - that was the closest I could get them to overlap - and so she, Lucy, and I run errands before her class begins.  This was an extremely cold day, so I told them that in honor of the cold weather, I was treating them to hot chocolate.

I love the atmosphere in this coffee shop... see the background, how the light fixtures look?  There are several mismatched wooden tables scattered around the place, a few armchairs and couches, and local artwork (for sale) displayed on the walls.  A nearby CSA does their vegetable share drop off here on our dance day.  We haven't done it ourselves because it is pricey, but I would like to try it one day.  And, it is hard to believe it now, but this space used to be our local photography store.  Sadly, it closed because the owner just wouldn't go digital... but I used to come here for film developing, and now I come here for coffee.  The building has come full circle for me... if that even makes sense.  I gradually stopped going because I had switched to digital and only occasionally went to get reprints of old photos, and then it closed... and then it became another local business that draws me in.  Sometimes I will try to remember where things were when it was Clyde Collier Photography, and I barely can.  Or I will sip coffee and think, "There used to be pictures here in this building that I took."  Weird.

Lucy clearly didn't want her photo taken.  She kept trying to block me with her foot.

I have cut back almost completely on the caffeine.  When I was pregnant, I stopped drinking coffee except for the occasional decaf.  I switched to decaf Irish Breakfast tea as well.  I like to keep caffeine out of my system during pregnancy.  With the emotional sadness of the miscarriage, I wanted to turn back to caffeine... but didn't for some reason, overall.  I have had an occasional cup of coffee here at Swift and Finch, but more often get decaf.  Mostly decaf tea at home, too.  I figure I might as well keep it mostly out of my system as I hope to be pregnant again sometime soon...

Here is an example of some of the local art hanging up in Swift and Finch... this is totally my kind of decor: beer cap mosaic.  I made one myself over a year ago in the shape of a big N for my brother, although I superglued them on.  This guy's got the right idea - he pounded them flat and staple-gunned them to the wood.  Much more durable, as the superglued ones kept falling off.  Anyway, can you tell what scene this artwork portrays?  If you lived in Atlanta in the early 90s, you would recognize this as the "Braves win!  Braves win!  Braves win!" moment when the Atlanta Braves beat the Pittsburg Pirates to go on to the 1991 World Series... their first World Series ever.  Everyone in Atlanta became a baseball fan then, because the Braves had truly sucked up to that point.  I collected the newspaper articles, I watched all the games, I recorded the cheesy musical tributes on VCR tapes at the end of the season... I had a foam tomahawk... yeah, I was into it, ha ha.

So, I didn't go back to caffeinated coffee after the miscarriage, but I did decide we were going to a concert at a bar in Atlanta.  Which I might have done anyway had I still been pregnant, just for the music, but it was much easier to decide that Chris and I needed to go out and do something fun together, because we really did at that point.  So this is me in a photo I texted to my mom for fashion advice, ha.  We had seen these cute cable-knit sweater button down legwarmer type thingies (I swear they don't look all 80s or anything; I realize they may sound that way!) when I was in ATL around Christmas, and my mom said I should get a pair... I just didn't know what color to choose and said I would look at some of my outfits to see what would be most versatile.  They are the kind of thing you have to wear with leggings.  I am very picky about leggings - I don't believe they should be worn as pants.  They need to be worn under a dress, tunic, long shirt... something that covers the crotch, in my opinion!  At least on me.  So this is me, modeling a grey tunic-ish thing and a maroon shirt under it with black leggings and mismatched boots.  One dressier black knee high boot, one black combat boot circa 1997.  Just so she could give a good opinion based on what I might be wearing these legwarmer thingies with.  So she got me a pair and then we went to Atlanta a few days later, and I wore them with this outfit to the concert.  With the combat boots, of course.  I need to get the toes on them redone... the leather is all scuffed up.  I am just kind of overprotective and don't know that I trust somebody to take them apart and put them back together again with some new leather.  Kind of like how I won't leave old negatives for reprints (see, back to photography again!) at places that send them off because I am afraid they will lose them or shred them up in a post office machine or something.  I think that's called paranoia or something...

So we went into Atlanta to see Emerson Hart perform at a club called Vinyl.  It has a parking deck underneath that must be classified as an antique at this point.  It took me about seven minutes to get into the parking space - really.  Tight, tight, tight.  We got there just a bit before the opening act went on - and there were two openers - and yet there were no tables left.  I hadn't realized they would have a bunch of tables; photos online of this place looked like an open area with people just milling about.  But there was a raised platform area towards the back that had couches and armchairs on it, so we sat in the two armchairs, and this was our view from there.

This was the third time I dragged Chris to see Emerson Hart.  It was the first time we'd heard him tell so many stories and cuss so much (Emerson, not Chris), ha ha.  The stories were very interesting, although he got very rambly the later it got, after a few people brought him shots of Jameson.  The show was open to all ages even though it was in a bar, and there were a couple of people who had kids there around maybe age ten... so he kept apologizing to them, saying "I'm sorry, sweetie, those are bad words.  I shouldn't say that."  Then he'd keep it up anyway, ha.  Lesson: don't take kids to concerts in bars at 10:00 at night.  Three kids at Gramma's house, none in my uterus - check.  No kids exposed to bad language.  And I was able to have my favorite beer which they had on draft, Terrapin Hopsecutioner.  A small treat in the grand scheme of things.  But it was good to get out together and just listen to music (and stories, lots of stories).

And that is enough rambling for now... I keep thinking I have words inside me that I need to get out in writing, but I don't think they are coming.  So you get this jumbled reflecting instead. ;)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ramblings, Part I

The nun habits the girls got for their dolls for Christmas... so cute
So, this will be a rambling post... and every time I sit down to try to put an update here, I feel like I have so much to say, and then... nothing comes.  So I will add lots of pictures from the past month and see if that gets my brain moving as I comment on them and also hopefully follow the tracks of my brain to where they actually want to go.  If that makes any sense at all.

So, this was a fun thing... I am very sentimental, so this piece of wrapping paper is still on my desk.  My constant battle between minimalism and sentimentality rages on within me.  I am really hoping to work on minimizing things in my house this year... kind of a New Year's resolution.  I don't know where it all comes from, but if it doesn't have a use or it makes my children bicker, out it goes.  If it holds sentimental value to me, well... hard to let go of some things.  I have thrown out stuff in the past and then regretted it later based on the sentiment attached to it.

Back to the wrapping paper... this was a roll of wrapping paper that I hadn't seen used to wrap presents since I was much younger and still living with my parents.  I assumed it all got used up like in 1994 or something.  well, apparently it did - all but this scrap of it.  You know the scrap that you had to cut off and then saved because it might be able to wrap a box of earrings or a baseball card one day?  Don't scoff, I am not being random here; I used to get my brother a baseball card of his favorite Braves player every year for Christmas and then wrap the card about ten times, and this scrap would have been perfect for that.  Well, maybe for half the card.  Apparently this year, my dad decided to use these last scraps.  He wrapped them around the handles of gift bags with a tag attached to them (creating mass confusion in the large family gift opening department, as the previous years' tags on the bags themselves did not get covered up, and he had to explain,"No, look at the wrapping paper scrap wrapped around the handles; that is who it's for!").  And I gleefully announced, "Oh, I remember that wrapping paper - I loved it (alternately, "It was so ugly; I guess it is still around because nobody wants to use it!" - although the pineapple paper has not made an appearance in well over a decade, perhaps two)!  I'm so excited that we still have some!"  Er, had some, as my dad burst my bubble by saying this was the last of it.  So I rescued two of the last of the old wrapping papers, and now, hmm, maybe I will make them into laminated bookmarks or something?  Again, usefulness and minimalizing!  But these philosophies must also intersect with my style of reused/reclaimed/handmade decor.  See exhibit A, my license plate collection which adorns the walls of the sunroom (and contains a few sentimental pieces with stories behind them, of course), and exhibit B, my search for a farmhouse-style dining table (either antique or made from reclaimed wood if new) for our hopefully still-growing family.

So that is another resolution I have for this year.  Find us my ideal table.  I already found a few on Craigslist and they already sold.  To other people.  I am the kind of person who needs to look at ads for tables the day before I could actually drive two hours to buy one.  If I look at them and save them for later, they will be gone before I go look at them.  It doesn't help that the tables are all a few hours away from me.  Chris and I need a date day, a table-looking date day.  This is one thought that kept popping into my head a week or two after the miscarriage: I just want a day all alone with only my husband.  We will go to Mass and go table-shopping.  That is all I want to do.  It was strange how strong the urge was at that time... but yeah, I do still want to go find a table. 

O Come Let the dollhouse families Adore Him
 I found this setup a couple of times during the Christmas season... various toddler dollhouse people gathered 'round the nativity.  This is a child-friendly nativity that my mom started us one, adding a few new figures each year.  The wise men and camels were this year.  Lucy liked to have all her dollhouse people come to join in the Nativity of the Lord.  I don't know what happened to Cloth Dollhouse Daddy there; it looks like his wife pushed him over.  He was one too many for the crowd, apparently.  The plastic brown-haired people... those came from a teacher supply store marketed as dollhouse people for toddlers (because they are chunky and easy to hold, don't have hinged appendages that can pinch tiny fingers, etc)... but the description on the box was unfortunate.  They were labeled as the "safe, soft, white family."  Sold alongside the Hispanic, Asian, and black dollhouse families.  Many a joke was made that Christmas, and seeing as Caroline could read that year, they are still referred to as "Lucy's safe white family."  Thanks, Mom. ;)

See, I told you this would ramble.  It's even uglier than I thought, ha!  And all that from a wrapping paper scrap.  Sometimes it is exhausting to be in my own brain.  So with that, I will take a break and come back later to add more... I think I will post this in parts.  Otherwise, it will just sit and I will keep adding to it slowly and then it will be quite long.  Small dose rambling is probably easier on the brain anyway.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Soul Gardening Journal

I started getting this wonderful little magazine this past fall... it is written by Catholic mothers and is mailed out, in print, for free.  They exist solely on donations.  And I was so impressed with it after reading half of one issue that I sent a donation myself as past of our charitable giving at the end of December.  It seems to be speaking directly to me - giving me the comfort that there are others out there like me and that maybe I am not alone in my craziness, ha ha.  Homeschooling, chickens, photography... all covered in this one issue.  An excellent encouragement for mothers of young children!

Here is an example of one of the articles (see, they are short, on small pages, perfect for a busy mom with her hands full of toddlers and babies to read in short snatches here and there)... you'll have to click to see it large enough to read:

I need to update more here, maybe eventually get around to sharing the Christmas photos, reflections on miscarriage, and sharing some of the girls' artwork and other things we have been up to... eventually...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Family Geography Studies

Some fellow homeschoolers recently asked me to share our Family Geography studies here on the blog.  This is something we do in the first grade as a way to learn some geography and history that is relevant to the children's own background.  It is a suggested topic of study in the plans from Mater Amabilis, a free online "curriculum" of sorts.  I use the quotation marks because it is more a set of suggested resources and guidelines rather than a boxed curriculum of texts.  If you click on Level 1B, you will find the guidelines and suggestions for Family Geography.  Below are some photos of how we have implemented this study in our own family.

Three things that have been very helpful to us for Family Geography:

1. Use of Google Maps.  We have looked up addresses of where parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents have lived.  Using the satellite and street view shots, we can look at the houses, the yards, and nearby landmarks such as rivers and oceans.  My mom and I even "drove" around on the street view for a small town in Ohio where she lived for about six months in the 50s as a toddler, armed with only a photo of the house... and we identified it after about an hour of looking!

2. Obtaining old family photos.  I particularly have pulled out photos that show the houses where people have lived with the family members outside of them or of other geography of the area.  There is one old photo of a great-grandparent at a major river in his hometown, and then we visited that same spot and took a photo of our children standing there.  The old photos have been scanned so I can print them, and then the girls have glued these photos into their Family Geography books. 

3. Visiting the old homes of grandparents and great-grandparents when possible.  If they don't live there any more, we have driven by and taken photos as we pointed them out to the kids.

I have done this with my oldest daughter and am currently doing it with my second one.  So at the beginning of the first grade school year, I have given the child a blank book which we put all of our maps, photos, and information in.  The following photos are of some of the pages from these books.

We printed a family tree template found online and filled in the child, parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.  We also included the birth and death dates and birthplaces of each.

Map page showing locations of each family member's birthplace

We tied in landform study... Georgia, our home state, has almost all the major landforms and bodies of water.  One relative grew up in a town on Lake Superior; one alongside the St. John's River... I had these state sheets from an old teacher workbook and made copies of some of the states that were relevant.  We also visited major landforms in some of the states... my husband grew up in Tennessee, so we went to the highest point in the state, Clingman's Dome, and spent time in the Smoky Mountains.

Page on how my parents came to Georgia and where I was born, as well as my own children's birthplace

My parents were both born in Florida... this page shows where they were born, how they met, and shows some photos of them in front of their homes.  We compared a bay to a gulf since my dad grew up on the St. Petersburg peninsula, in between the Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

More Florida photos... my mom as a baby on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville

We made some recipes that had to do with states or family members... this is peanut butter balls for Georgia.  My daughter narrated the steps and I typed them for her to make this page along with prints of photos of her making the recipe.

Recipes related to my grandmother

Map of Tennessee to show the towns where my husband and his relatives were born

My daughters standing in the same place by the Cumberland River as the old photo of their great grandfather

Another suggestion was to learn about saints from any of the states with a family history... my mom's father was from Pennsylvania, so we made pages on St. Katherine Drexel and St. John Neuman.  We have also visited the site of the first Mass in St. Augustine, FL, and this would make another interesting page or pages for those with relatives in Florida.

There are so many little tidbits they can pick up through this... my grandfather's family owned a slate mine in Pennsylvania, so we found the possible site of it on Google Maps, the house where he lived, how far it was to the university he attended... they could see the mountainous landscape of that region and learn that slate is mined there.  We have a piece of a chalkboard that came from the slate there.  It is neat to tie all these things together!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent 2014

It has been awhile since I posted any updates on what is going on here.  We have had a very difficult past two weeks.  I had a miscarriage at 9-10 weeks into my fourth pregnancy, and now we are all battling bad colds.  It is the worst feeling when you feel like crying over the loss of your baby but making yourself hold back because of the intense sinus pain that you know would only be made worse by tears.

We named the baby Mary Karol.  I had a dream that the baby had been a girl.  We found out that there was no heartbeat on December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mary) after an ultrasound I got in the ER, knowing something was not right.  Then the miscarriage began on December 15, the feast day of St. Mary di Rosa.  So the name Mary seemed very fitting when put with my dream.  I still don't have a definitive feeling on the gender of the baby, and the middle name Karol sounds feminine in our culture but is actually a male name in Poland and was the name of Pope Saint John Paul II.  My family has Polish Catholic heritage, and he was the Pope when I was born.

I am so grateful to the people who have helped us... this is already a busy and complicated time of the year, so we have needed the support.  My mom came to stay with the girls when I had to be hospitalized overnight after passing out during the miscarriage.  Our friends from church took the girls both times when I had to go to the ER and fed them dinner.  Another friend took care of the girls and drove them to their dance classes for me as well as bringing us dinner, and one of our neighbors offered to bring us a meal this past weekend.  Having meals made for us has been truly the best thing... it has been one less thing we have had to manage.  My wonderful husband has been holding us together otherwise, being the only one not struck down by this cold.  He has been doing Christmas baking and keeping everyone fed on the days he has been home from work.  My brother who is a transitional deacon has also been very helpful in looking into how to best go about with burial of the remains of the baby... we want to respectfully do something that is in line with our faith.  Other than the specific things people have offered to do for us, having other moms tell me about their own miscarriages has been so helpful.  It seems that almost all of my friends have been through this at least once.  I am sad that any of us have to go through this, yet it makes us all feel less alone when we realize how common this situation really is.

Please pray for peace for our family at this time.  I took several photos of how our Advent was going before this all began, so I am going to share some of those now... as I sit under the influence of this cold while my kids watch yet another movie, ha.  Movies have been helping to get us through the sadness and sickness.

Our advent wreath before lighting it on the first Sunday of Advent... and Mary and an angel.  We put our main nativity set figures around the room and have them travel gradually to the stable.

Our three kings wait to make their move after Christmas, so they will arrive on the Epiphany, January 6th.

Our baby Jesus stash... they hang out in a sugar bowl until Christmas day, when they are placed in their corresponding nativities.  We also have two play nativity sets, and those already have their baby Jesuses and kings so the kids could play out the whole story of the nativity.

My mom started this Fontanini kid-friendly nativity last year... it looks very nice, but the figures are a durable resin type material.  They are constantly being rearranged, and the grass stuff is all over the floor, ha.

Cecilia and Lucy enjoying the play nativity sets

Some of our Advent and Christmas books... we have been reading at least one each day

The sacrifice manger has been getting filled with straws to make baby Jesus a nice soft bed... each time one of the girls does a good deed or makes a sacrifice, she can place a straw in the manger.

Each day we have been doing a reading from the Old Testament on one of Jesus's ancestors and adding an ornament to our Jesse Tree (Jesse was Jesus's 24-greats grandfather).  Last year another mom hosted a Jesse Tree ornament swap online, so we made 30 of one ornament and then mailed them to her, and she sent everyone a complete set!  I love that we have a handmade set of these to use each year!

The girls made St. Nicholas cookies for his feast day on December 6 and we shared them at our homeschool group as well as with some neighbors.

Lucy loves wearing the Christmas Snoopy apron

The girls got up on St. Nicholas morning to find treats in their shoes... holy cards, clementines, chocolate coins, and a few new Christmas books.

Then we had our traditional St. Nicholas breakfast: bread shaped like a bishop's crozier filled with cream cheese and jam, clementines, and hot chocolate stirred with mini candy canes (croziers!).

Our priest has been wearing purple vestments most of December... Lucy is learning to put the vestments on according to the liturgical calendar.

St. Lucy day was on December 13, and since it is Lucy's name day, we always do something special to celebrate... the girls wear their St. Lucy crowns, which is a custom on this day in Sweden, and we bake Santa Lucia bread in a wreath shape like the crowns.  They have fun blowing out the candles afterward.  Chris and I were sort of glad to be able to come home from that ultrasound and make the traditional St. Lucy bread, to do something normal for our kids and our family, while waiting for the miscarriage to begin.

The girls decorated a gingerbread house recently... I always buy one of those kits on clearance after Christmas and then save it until next year.  That way I can tell them not to eat it because it is too old, ha.  They usually decorate it on one of the days getting close to Christmas on which the O Antiphons are prayed... one day the prayer is, "O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens; Come and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death."  So they build a house to represent this antiphon.  Yesterday's antiphon was O Rising Dawn, which speaks of light... we typically go out on a drive to look at Christmas lights on that evening, but with everyone feeling so awful with colds, we put it off and are hoping to go maybe tomorrow night instead, if we are feeling up to it.  Chris and the older two might be well enough, but I know Lucy and I wouldn't last long.  I am praying we are mostly over this by Christmas eve.

 Cecilia decorated some gift bags that we will fill with some treats to give to friends and neighbors for Christmas.  I have a huge stack of old Christmas cards for crafts... some were given to me randomly and are from unknown people.  Funny thing, one card was a musical one from 1995, according to the date in it, and it started playing when I opened it... and it wouldn't stop.  It played on and on for days.  I was very impressed with its battery life, and it was almost sad when it finally stopped (after sounding quite pathetic as it died down) because it had become part of the background in our house, ha.

I hope everyone has a merry Christmas season and that you have some time of rest with family and friends.