Friday, May 30, 2008

I love this

by Dylan, age 6

More Fun with Photoshop

First Dance
Before and After

Memorial Day 2008
Before and After

I had these sent to a one hour photo processing center and was quite pleasantly surprised to find that the printed image quality far surpasses what you see here on the screen. The first one resides now in a pretty frame on our bedroom dresser; the second graces our fireplace mantel. I might never again visit a professional portrait studio!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My babies

I've always known I wanted many children. Five was my standard response if ever pressed for a specific number, but secretly I thought that seven or nine or twelve sounded just fine, too. :)

And even as I was enjoying Dylan's infancy, I couldn't wait to give him brothers or sisters. Caitlyn was conceived when he was just sixteen months old, and I was overjoyed at having not one, but two babies to love and hold! But boy, could those days ever be exhausting. I think back now and remember how overwhelmed I sometimes felt to have two in diapers, two in our bed, two to entertain by myself all day long...but I remember, too, how full my heart was, and how soon I felt ready to embrace and cherish another new gift.

Caitlyn was 26 months old when Meghan was born, and she was such a joy to all of us. And I discovered that it really is true what they say: the more children you have, the easier it is to care for them! Instead of having only a toddler and newborn to care for, I now also had a four year old to play with the two year old and that, to me, made a world of difference. But there were other, different ways in which I still sometimes felt stretched beyond my limits. I still had two in diapers, two in our bed, and, for the first time, two who also enjoyed tandem nursing. Was I exhausted? You bet! Would I have traded it for anything in the world? Never in this lifetime.

And now again I find myself with another two year old, another newborn. But this time around, I find myself missing the very things that I so often found myself despairing of when my other children were small. I still have two in diapers, but Meghan is the first of my children to sleep through the night at this age in her very own big girl bed. And she has not one, but two doting older siblings to play with her and assist in her every day needs. Caitlyn, in particular, is such a big help at bedtime, helping Meghan into her nightgown and snuggling her in the bed they share. Two nights ago, Darren (who usually sits with them after bedtime stories until they fall asleep), left the room while they were still awake, and soon after we heard Caitlyn singing lullabies to Meghan. She sang her to sleep!

But there is still so much "baby" left in Meghan. I hear it in the way she says Mama. I smell it in the soft sweet scent of her baby fine hair. I feel it in the pudgy, dimpled hand that holds my own. I embrace it when she runs to me with every bump or fall, and I cherish every moment of these fast fading baby days with her. And I wonder sadly, now, how much I took for granted when Dylan and Caitlyn were my "big kid babies". I don't remember now whether I stopped to notice the lingering hints of babyhood they displayed as toddlers; what I do remember is how big they suddenly seemed to me, overnight, when we brought home each newborn sibling. I was looking through some photo albums last night and the sight of two year old Dylan with baby Caitlyn, then two year old Caitlyn with baby Meghan, preserved there in the pages of my photo albums, made me just want to cry. How I'd love to hold those small soft bodies just one more time!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Big Fat Happy Caterpillars!

They grow up so fast! Days ago they were still mere babies! :)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Life right now

How is it possible that our little Kristen is already ten weeks old today? Although she was our fourth baby, I felt like such a brand new parent when we finally brought her home from the hospital. I worried all the time. Was she too cold? Too warm? Was I feeding her enough? Too much? Would she suddenly stop breathing if I actually dared to sleep at night? I questioned everything and no longer trusted my maternal instincts. Although we had always, in the past, been very strong proponents of the attachment style of parenting, we basically kept Kristen on the same rigid schedule she had followed in the nursery for the four weeks preceding her homecoming. Her pediatrician had me adding a precise measurement of formula to expressed breast milk to feed her every four hours, which I did unfailingly, even setting the alarm at regular intervals during the night so as not to miss a feeding. But it all felt so unnatural to me, so unfamiliar. And it was exhausting. One night after carefully washing all of my pump supplies and bottle feeding paraphernalia, I thought to take a picture of it drying there on the counter. Is this the image of a healthy breastfeeding relationship? I thought not either:

And so I sort of rebelled, a little. I began increasing the amount of nursing in between bottle feedings, and then began skipping the scheduled bottle feedings altogether. It just all seemed a little ridiculous to me; why go to all the trouble of pumping, which was clearly just not working well for me, only to feed her the milk from a bottle later? Slowly, I began to regain the confidence I had lacked and listened more to my instincts and Kristen's needs than doctor's orders. And Kristen seemed to be thriving! The truly telling point, however, came when we had her most recent weight check...she's over 7 pounds now, and the pediatrician was pleased with her weight gain! I am thrilled to report that my trusty old Medela Pump In Style (purchased when Dylan was an infant...this link is actually to a newer model) has sat abandoned in the corner of my bedroom for the past several weeks now and Kristen actually goes days at a time without any type of supplementation. We no longer set an alarm at night, and she has actually been sleeping most often in our bed, where we share together the joy of night time nursing just as I did with her older brother and sisters.

She is still receiving caffeine, which we're told she'll most likely outgrow the need for by the time she's four months old, but in all ways she is just the picture of health! She's outgrown all of her preemie clothes and is now wearing mostly size newborn and a few size 0-3 months. I'm so excited to see that it probably won't be much longer before the smallest cloth diapers we bought will fit her!

And I'm trying really hard not to be so overprotective of her. She actually had quite a busy weekend! We've been very reluctant to take her anywhere for fear of germs, and in fact, aside from several doctor visits and one trip to the hospital lab, she had only been to church twice (she made her debut on Mother's Day--her original due date!). But we all really wanted to go to the bookstore on Friday (it was Darren's day off), and so we figured that, being a weekday, it probably wouldn't be too crowded. We were right! We had the children's room to ourselves, and when Kristen began to fuss, there was the nice, cushy, swivel rocker (used by the storyteller on Saturday mornings) right there to sit and nurse her! She went to Mass for the third time on Sunday, where she was an absolute angel, and today, quite impulsively, we made a quick trip to Lowe's for grass seed and some canvas storage boxes. She is really such a good baby. Here are a few recent pictures from the many hundreds I take each day. :)

Here she is napping against my shoulder in bed a few days ago. I love her peaceful expression in the first photo, but also really like the half smile in the second. So you get them both:

And here she is just hanging out in her Baby Papasan seat. She likes it quite well.

My days are busy, full and long, but I try to embrace every second of them. Time is just passing so quickly. My mom will return to Florida in a couple of weeks, and I'll return to work soon after. "Normal", for us, will soon be changing again. But I think I'm ready for it; or, at least, the thought of change isn't quite as terrifying as I thought it might be. This is life at it's best. We are so blessed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Graduate

Dylan and I were playing around with Adobe Photoshop today and thought this was a fun way to commemorate the Kindergarten "graduation" party we held for him last Friday! It was a completely impulsive idea, but I am so very glad we went ahead and held a little ceremony to mark the completion of his Kindergarten year. It was my brother's idea, actually, posed unsuspectingly as we were sitting around visiting Thursday morning. He casually questioned whether we were taking a school holiday that day, inducing a near panic attack on my part. "Okay, so this is the thing," I confessed. "We've pretty much finished everything we needed to for Kindergarten, but I don't know how to just end the year!" (There may have been just the slightest tone of desperation in my voice.)

"Well," he countered, "when we were little we always had a pizza party at the end of the school year."

"BRILLIANT! Let's do it! Except wait...ummm, there's also this one little thing. I really wanted to make a scrapbook of Dylan's Kindergarten year to give him when we finally finished, and...I haven't even started one yet. Nor do I know how. Or even where to begin."

To which my amazing and talented sister-in-law cheerfully responded, "I can help!"

And so it began. We shopped on Thursday and hand made forty beautiful birth announcements for Kristen (which had been in our plans all along), and we spent Friday (with my mom's help) putting together the most incredible scrapbook for Dylan. I LOVE it!!! And I can't tell you how much fun I had assembling it with my mom and sister-in-law. (Jenn, are you sure you don't want to move down here?)

While I was busy putting the finishing touches on Dylan's surprise scrapbook, (my brother had kept all five of our combined "big kids" busy playing while we sequestered ourselves in Scrap Central...aka, My Bedroom) my sister-in-law also made the cake we had for Dylan...and later decorated it for me while I was gone with Darren to pick up the pizzas! (Honestly, and I can't stress this enough: this party would have never worked had it not been for the tireless efforts of my sister-in-law, and also my brother and my mom. You guys were awesome!!!)

At any rate, Dylan was thrilled with his party. We hadn't told him about it until late Friday afternoon, and he was so excited! He is so eager to begin first grade. He is so proud to have finished Kindergarten. We are so proud of what a brilliant and accomplished student he is! :)

I have many thoughts to share on the completion of our first year of homeschooling, and an equal number, I'm sure, regarding our plans for next year. But those, I think, can wait. Here I want to just share a few pictures of Dylan's big day.

Dylan with the "Diploma" my mom helped me make on the computer.

Admiring his new Kindergarten scrapbook. He loves it!

Cake! We sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".

The outer cover and a few of my favorite pages.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fun Stuff

I'm still here! For a few days there I was just feeling a tad too snarky to post politely, but I'm much better now and am having, actually, a fabulous time with my sister-in-law (and brother!) who are here visiting through the weekend. We've been busy stamping and scrapping, and our children are having the best time playing together. We've got more fun in store for the weekend, and I am so excited!

And, here's the really fun stuff: in my bits of spare time over the past few days, I've been helping Dylan set up his very own blog! Remember Super Wilson? Now you can see much more of him at Dylan's very own Super Wilson Comics! I do hope you'll visit. :)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mealtime Madness

Before I go to bed tonight I just have to share these dinnertime photos because they so perfectly capture the nature of my three oldest children. At mealtimes, with very few exceptions, there ensues the same scenario: I call the children to the table, and my girls come running, clamoring for a seat together, (with Meghan invariably trying to squeeze herself onto the same chair as Caitlyn), while Dylan takes his sweet time, ambling in at long last with book in hand, which I have to pry from his grip at the very last second as I set his plate before him. Tonight, I finally thought to capture the scene on film (or rather, a memory card, as the case may be) and I'm so glad I did. (I love the lighting at this particular time of day, the sun casting a warm, golden, reflective glow off the dining room table.) Oblivious to his surroundings, Dylan sat engrossed in his book even as the girls became progressively louder and sillier. Aren't they a darling bunch? :)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


It's been so nice to see that birds are finally visiting our backyard with increasing frequency. Meghan, in particular, loves to station herself in front of the big bay window in our dining area, where she can watch their comings and goings at the feeders and bird bath. Last summer we took great pleasure in identifying the many butterflies attracted by our gardens; this summer I hope to also include bird identification in our nature studies.