Friday, January 25, 2008


The other day, Benjamin (6) came running in from outside.


"Mom! Where's your camera? The sky is just GORGEOUS today!"


I briefly explained which button to hold down and how not to block the lens with fingers, and he took off with the camera.


This is the picture he took:

Ben's sky

Then I guess he passed the camera off to Lily (4), because she brought it back to me with this addition:

Lily's wall

"It's the wall," she explained proudly. "I took that."


Ah, well. At least SOMEONE takes after me. Taking, ahem, low-quality pictures has been a long-standing tradition in my family, and I would hate to see it end with me.



Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Birthday Tidings




Our youngest is one year old today. While this isn’t the first one-year old birthday we’ve celebrated (that was Benjamin), or the first one-year old girl’s birthday (that was Lily), or the first twin birthday (that was Abraham and Miriam), it is the first for Eden. And while she does come after quite a few others, she is by no means a repeat.


Eden Quinn Mable Allison … her name reflects our fetish with Old Testament names that (sort of) rhyme with Allison (OK, so Lily Ann and Abraham and Miriam are kind of stretches but just go with slant rhyme on those). The “Quinn” is to make the part that rhymes with “Allison” three syllables long, and it means “fifth.” “Mable” is for my maternal grandmother, who always explained, “It’s ‘Mable’ like ‘table.’”


But she rarely gets called “Eden Quinn Mable,” "Eden Quinn," or even “Eden.” It’s usually “Edee” (after a friend of ours), “Edee Beety,” “Eetle Beetle,” or “Eedles.” She’s the happiest baby we’ve ever had…and I mean genuinely happy. There were others who were quieter or more content or more complacent…but she is downright happy. She chuckles almost constantly. She finds it absolutely hysterical to pretend she doesn’t hear when I’m saying her name. She is definitely a papa’s girl and has been from birth. In her first-day newborn pictures from the hospital, she is smiling. Broadly. She was the first baby of the day to be photographed, and the photographer could not get over her smiles. “Those are real…I can’t believe this…what a ham she is!”


Edee loves her siblings and loves to rile them up. Her nightly routine is to grab Miriam’s baby doll from her toddler bed and try to run out the door with it before we catch her. She cuddles right up to Benjamin as he gives her a drink and reads to her. Lily likes to comfort her, picking her up when she’s crying and giving her a grandiose, “Oh, my poor baby,” that just feeds the drama queen in her baby heart. She currently looks most like Abraham with her round cheeks and open smile, and he will let me know, “Edee’s crying” when she wakes from her nap.


We’ve loved getting to know her. She makes our days happier and our nights welcomer (in all honesty, even good babies are better asleep!). Her happy toddle from room to room, usually carrying her baby doll and kidnapping someone else’s, brings smiles to our faces. Her warm snuggle down into the crook of Ethan’s arm, a huge smile across her face and her index finger headed upside-down into its semi-permanent place in her mouth, is a picture I will treasure for as long as I can remember it.


Happy birthday, baby girl!


Friday, January 18, 2008


We awoke yesterday to a grey, windy, cloudy day, with a hint of snow in the air.  Hints of snow are rare here in Virginia, so we grab onto each hint for all it is worth (which is, admittedly, very little). But the hint delivered yesterday, and later in the morning we were delighted to see huge, slow flakes of snow morph into smaller, faster flakes.


 Ethan was recovering from a tooth extraction and a root canal, so I valiantly determined that the children and I would get outside before the snow melted (snowfalls are quick and fleeting here). Over an hour and a half later, I had finally gathered enough hats, mittens, boots, coats, and snowsuits to adequately cover my children. Dressing five small children for snow is NOT for the faint of heart! And I must admit, I was quite faint of heart. So faint, in fact, that my poor husband heard my frustration as I ordered the fourteenth child (how many do we have?) to leave his mittens on under penalty of death; and I turned around to see Ethan, gauze in cheek, pulling on his boots.


I wasn't exactly sure WHAT I had planned to do with the children after we finally got outside (you mean being OUT in the snow isn't enough?), but Ethan pulled out the inflatable sled and we blew it up. Ben (6) ran off to the back hill to try it out. I had Edee (11 mos.) on my back and the twins (2) were staying close to me, ordering me to "go for a walk" with them.  I'm not sure what Lily (4) was doing, but I think it had to do with looking for the other sleds. As the twins and I walked down the back hill, we passed Benjamin trudging back up it, both his spirits and the sled deflated. "Do you want to go for a walk with us?" I asked. He said, "Snow isn't that exciting," and continued his dejected walk up the hill.


Abraham and Miriam surprised me with their energy in walking through the snow. It was hard-packing snow, and in some places it was pretty deep for a 2-yr. old. Abraham kept about ten steps ahead of us, pointing out birds that were flitting in the tops of the field grasses and saying, "Oh, Christmas tree!" every time we passed trees with snow on them. We had just rounded the corner at the bottom of the hill when he plopped straight out on his front, turned his face to the side and said, "I can't. No walkin'." Typical. Wait until the BOTTOM of the hill to decide you're tired.


I asked them if they wanted to make a snowman instead. "Yeah, snowman!" they agreed, and we started walking back up the hill. This took about five times longer than the descent, and our speed was not aided any by the frequent sitting spells they were taking (the hill is not THAT big). I cheered them on with chants of "Let's make a snowman! Let's make a snowman!" which they echoed once they regained their energy.


We reached the top of the hill into our back yard when a very welcome sight met my eyes: an almost completed snowman that Ethan helped Benjamin and Lily make. "Look! They made a snowman!" I told my group. Miriam's eyes grew wide with wonder. She ran at the snowman, yelling, "Oh, a Christmas! Look! A Christmas!" I guess my vocabulary was deficient on our walk. Perhaps if I had told them we would make a "Christmas," things would have moved along a little faster.


Our contribution to the snowman was finding a spot under the magnolia tree where the snow had not fallen and pointing out some black walnuts that might be the right size for eyes. We then headed into the house, everyone starving after their 45-min. excursion in the snow. I commented to Ethan that it hardly seemed worthwhile when it took twice as long just to get them dressed for it.


But they took early naps, and long ones too, and that definitely made it worth it.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's the Principle of the Thing

Beware of Tricycles

I realized, as we drove down our hill of a driveway on the way to do some shopping yesterday, that putting away the pair of tricycles our children left halfway down the hill has somehow erased itself from my mental to-do list. The trikes were almost artistically abandoned, flanking the dirt drive like some sort of Toy Storyish Fisher Price sentinels. As we drove between them, my husband and I joked about some people having stone lions to guard their homes. We have plastic three-wheelers.

But the fact that these misplaced toys had become so familiar, even welcome, in their alien setting was a little disconcerting. Now I have never been dishonest or disillusioned concerning my yard-keeping skills. Even on the few occasions that we have trudged around our large yard with several trash bags, throwing away broken toys and empty bottles of water and juice and motor oil, we tossed with the certainty that our efforts were futile. After all, an often undiscussed victim of having many littles is The Yard. It is Mother’s best friend in fair (as defined by Mother) weather: “Go play outside!” The children romp and climb and eat and tumble endlessly (or until naptime) while Mother gets things straightened inside and enjoys the incredible quiet (my sincerest apologies to all of you who do not live in the country and must be where your children are at all times). Playing in The Yard is such a treasured occasion that Mother often drags it out a little longer than it should be; so when the triangle is rung and Mother is yelling, “Time to come inside!” it usually means it was time to come inside ten (thirty?) minutes ago and there is no time for straightening up. I’m talking time management here…she managed to get an extra ten (thirty?) minutes all to herself. Priorities, people, priorities!

But the trikes gave me cause to pause. What else in my yard was I relabeling, possibly in an effort to ignore its being out of place? Well, how would I know exactly where to park if it wasn’t just a little to the left of the plastic oar? And the six pairs of dirt-caked shoes on the front porch? Souvenirs from a drive through a field that was a little muddier than we anticipated and that resulted in nervous giggles as we all tried to get the van unstuck … and were successful! Happy times.

There are about twenty (two hundred?) miscellaneous small treasures that my children are so delighted to find unexpectedly while playing – I would never DREAM of removing those. And what may look to you like a pile of broken sand toys and shovels is really the site of a fantastic archaeological dig…we live on Revolutionary War ground, you know. The empty cat litter bucket hanging from a tree out back? That’s our gun target!

As I was musing over these excuses reasons for each … ahem … yard ornament that we have, I realized I have gained a little empathy. The next time we pass a yard full of what looks like appliances, baby paraphernalia, and vehicle parts, I won’t be so quick to jump to a color and a body part*. I’ll entertain myself with thoughts of what creative things that family must be doing. Perhaps the car is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or a mechanics lesson or a souvenir. The baby swing might be more than just a mere swing, even if it is on its side and missing a leg. I’ll tell my children those must be wonderful people, full of humor and life and ingenuity. What vivid imaginations they must have!!!

We’ll all join in the chorus of the song my mother sang to me as we pass subdivisions of endless homeowners’ association members: “And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same.” Editing note: If you want to hear Pete Seeger singing this song, you can go here.

And THAT is why I'm going to leave those trikes out there for just one more day.

*Redneck, for those of you still combining colors and body parts

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Primer

If I were trying to explain morning sickness to someone who has never had it, I think I would bypass the never-strong-enough description of the physical illness aspects (think chemotherapy treatment) and would instead focus on the one word that best encompasses the entire ordeal for me:




Morning sickness is just ... so ... dirty. There is the obvious dirt of retching every half hour or so. There is the dirt of being so weak that even standing in the shower takes too much energy and so hair doesn't get rinsed as well as it should. There is the dirt of not being able to find clean clothing because you haven't made it downstairs to do laundry for, well, far too long. There is the dirt of stinky diapers, the dirt of retching yet again at the thought of changing the stinky diapers, the dirt of dishes that are awaiting some kind of glorious cleansing, and the dirt of floors that haven't seen a vacuum in ... months.


Despite all of this, I have to say that these past four months have been the easiest in dealing with morning (and yes, I have to say it..."morning" HA!) sickness and all of the accompanying dirt. I am the kind of person who always has to tell people that I am pregnant when I am about 6 1/2 weeks along. It's not that I'm that's that I'm that green and they always fear I'm dealing with some terrible disease. But this time, it was 11 weeks before we told my parents (who, admittedly, called and said, "Is there SOME REASON you've been so tired lately?" -- a nice way of saying, "Is there some reason your house is such an ABSOLUTE WRECK?" after they stopped by unannounced); and it was 15 weeks before we told anyone else. While I could easily attribute this to the chemical 1/2 Unisom and Vitamin B6 I tried to take every night, I have to say that I know it has to do with my husband.


Ethan orchestrated the dirt beautifully. He never mentioned it, taught the kids to wade their way through the paper plates (wonderful invention!) lining the floor in order to heat a bagel for themselves, picked up a sandwich for me on the way home every day so that I wouldn't have to smell dinner cooking, kept small "protein bites" (yummy steak and hamburger cut in bite-sized pieces) in the fridge that he could pull out in a moment's notice if he thought I was looking pale(r), promised us a big outing when Mommy was up to it when we would go to a LAUNDROMAT (this is still a place of wonder to our children) and wash what turned out to be all fourteen loads of laundry, went to work, prepared for his seminary classes, preached his senior sermon in South Carolina, took five licensure exams, and got his preaching license at the December presbytery. And he never once commented on my being more helpless than our nine-month old.


And in the midst of this, he helped our 5-yr. old turn 6, our 3-yr. old turn 4, and we celebrated Christmas. WITH A TREE, EVEN.


So if someone asks what morning sickness is like? First, it's messy. It's dirty. Stress just makes it messier and dirtier. It's nothing like the movies where the beautiful mother-to-be suddenly grimaces, grabs the nearest trashcan, loses her grilled chicken salad from lunch, wipes her mouth, says, "I'm fine, really," and then puts her lipstick on. It's more like the scuzzy mother-to-be who is lying on the couch, her twisted face twisting even further, a loud "GET OUT OF MY WAY!" erupting in a monster-like manner as she pushes her hands to her mouth, dashes in an amazing rush of adrenaline to the nearest bathroom, pushing children and toys and, yes, food from the floor in order to get there, counts it all joy if everything makes it into the toilet (and by everything, we mean nothing close to grilled chicken salad...try a Burger King Whopper or some Pringles or whatever it is she could actually fathom eating), and then after she loses her lunch, she loses anything additional that might have been in her stomach as she glances at the state of the bathroom.


I'm just saying.


But now, at 16 weeks and counting, things are finally starting to look better. Not necessarily cleaner (although I am wearing all clean clothes and my  hair has been washed, rinsed, and COMBED!!), but we've got all afternoon to work on that.


Hee hee hee.


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