Sunday, October 26, 2008

Birthday Girl

I can't believe it's taken me this long to post about Caitlyn's birthday! She turned five over a week ago, during my extended break from blogging, and after I e-mailed photos from her birthday to my mom, I forgot that I never posted any here!

This year Caitlyn really wanted a Wizard of Oz birthday party. She loves The Wizard of Oz, and will, in fact, be dressing as Dorothy for Halloween this year. She sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" beautifully (and often). So, remembering the number of McDonald's Happy Meal toys we had collected over the preceding weeks, I figured it would be quite simple to find a Dorothy doll to top her cake. (And, just so you know, we don't actually buy the Happy Meals themselves. For a dollar, we just stop by to purchase certain toys that particularly pique our interest. When we found out they were carrying Madame Alexander--a line of dolls I used to collect as a child--Wizard of Oz figures, I knew I had to have them.) Anyway, what I didn't realize was that these particular toys had been discontinued the previous week! In desperation, we called around to every McDonald's in town, hoping that perhaps one might have a few extras stashed under a counter somewhere. None had Dorothy, although a couple did have duplicates of characters we had already collected. But after a final unsuccessful phone call to the main local office, we actually received a return phone call that they had located a Dorothy for us! And, when Darren stopped by to gratefully receive it, they presented it free of charge with a wish for our daughter's happy birthday! Caitlyn loved her cake so much, and was so surprised to see it when she returned home from taking Dylan to CCD that day with Darren. She had no idea what I had planned!

Earlier that morning we made a "Pin the Heart on the Tinman" game which we played later that evening. It was hilarious! Caitlyn was clearly the winner, as you can see from the photo I took of our results. Embarrassingly, Darren and I did not even try to give her a birthday girl advantage. :)

My dad came over after dinner to have cake and ice cream with us, and to open presents. I was so proud of the thoughtfulness Dylan displayed this year in selecting her gifts. Almost immediately after his Super Wilson party, he confided to me that he really wanted to order for Caitlyn her very own "Blue Girl Drawing Pad". "Blue Girl" is the name they've given a particular character that Caitlyn loves to draw, so I helped Dylan secretly scan one of her drawings into photoshop and he added the title as he wanted it to appear on her notebook. He helped me order it from Walgreens, and it arrived on her birthday just as we were sitting down to dinner! Needless to say, we were quite relieved. She was absolutely delighted to open it (along with her very own gel pens!) and she has already very nearly filled it's pages with her adorable drawings. Most mornings, it's the first thing she wants to do when she wakes up!

Another gift that Dylan created (and that I absolutely love) was a beautiful "Make your own necklace kit". We were both so charmed with the gorgeous paper beads Charlotte recently shared on her blog, but instead of actually making a necklace for Caitlyn, Dylan thought she would have much more fun making her own. So, he and I shared a few late nights making beads together, which he packaged with elastic string in a decorated zip lock bag. Darling!

Caitlyn also received from us a few of her very own special books, ones which we just knew she would love, including Fancy Nancy, Ladybug Girl (one of our affectionate nicknames for her is Caitybug), Pinkalicious, and Someday. Particularly, it's that last one that I knew I really had to have for her when, months earlier, I stood in Target after reading it cover to cover (upon the recommendation of a dear friend) with tears just streaming down my cheeks. It begins, "One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one..." and concludes with "Someday, a long time from now, your own hair will glow silver in the sun. And when that day comes, love, you will remember me." Sniff!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Horrid. And yet, oddly addicting.

I thought it would be a nice idea to bake some cookies today. It's cloudy out, and chilly. This recipe for Celestial Oatmeal Cookies sounded yummy, and I was so excited to try my hand at homemade pumpkin puree for the very first time. Except, I decided to modify the ingredients for the cookies just a teensy bit. (Note to self: the addition of chocolate chips does not necessarily equal improvement.) I bit into what I believed would be soft, gooey goodness immediately upon removing them from the oven, and was puzzled to note that they actually tasted...well, sort of odd. I tasted another, just to be sure. Odd, yes, but strangely appealing, too. One more, just for good measure. Hmmm. Definitely different.

A short while later, Dylan politely said to me, "Mommy? I think those cookies are just a little bit strange tasting. Were you supposed to put orange in there?"

"Yes, honey, that's what the recipe said."

"Oh. Well, maybe it's because of the spices. Did you think you were using the best recipe?"

"Well, son, I thought so. But I decided to change things up just a little."

"Well, Mommy," he continued, ever the diplomat, "people do have different tastes! Maybe some people think these are good!"

"You're right!" I responded, biting into yet another. (They were cool by now and sometimes, you know, that makes all the difference.)

Coughing, though, he presses on: "Ummm, but Mommy? Is there anything I can do to get that awful taste out of my mouth?"

"Here," I say, passing him some milk as I pour a glass of my own. (To go with...yes! One more cookie!). "Try this."

"Hey!" he marvels, gulping it down. "It worked! Thanks, mom."

No problem, son. Now, outta my way! I need another cookie.

Thank You.

You all are great. Really, I mean that! And to those of you who have taken the time to comment on my recent absence, I thank you. Sometimes, it feels nice to be missed! But don't worry. I'm still here, although I can't say for certain yet in what capacity I'll be staying. Part of my silence here has been spent discerning how (or whether) I want to continue with this blog. Privacy is sounding more and more like the better option, but that might just be paranoia on my part. Another larger factor for my time away, though, is simply time. Time spent online here is time spent apart from my family, time which I just don't really feel I can afford right now. At the end of the day, I'd much rather be able to say that I was with my children, truly present and undistracted. I'd really hate for them to grow up and remember only a mother who was more interested in photographing and blogging them than being with them. I'm already mostly convinced it will be one of many issues discussed in their therapy sessions. ;)

We've had a busy two weeks. We celebrated Caitlyn's fifth birthday, visited the pumpkin patch, took an impulsive week off from school to rearrange bedrooms (again!) at the children's request, baked, and crafted. It's been nice to be a bit more disconnected from the internet and more connected with my children. But I would still love to share with you some of what we've been doing. If you'll bear with me for just a bit longer, perhaps I'll have some posts written. Sometime, maybe, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when the rest of my family is sleeping. Or maybe, I just need to work on better time mangement skills? :)

At any rate, I hope to "talk" with you all again real soon. Thanks for being a friend!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Celebrating in our Domestic Church

"Isn't it awesome," I said at the dinner table last night, "that our faith is so rich in history and feasts and traditions?" One of the most delightful and unexpected benefits I've discovered in home educating our children, in fact, has been celebrating the liturgical year with them. It's sequence and rhythm provide such a beautiful foundation upon which to build every other component of our learning. And fall, my most favorite time of year, is filled with such an abundance of wonderful occasions to celebrate! Here are a few pictures of our most recent festivities:

This was a spectacular celebration. So simple, really, but so significant within our family. Dylan loves St. Michael the Archangel, and Caitlyn has a special fondness for St. Gabriel, so we spent the day coloring Charlotte's beautiful coloring pages, reading about the Archangels, and we even made a cake! It wasn't angel food, which would have been nice, but chocolate, which was what I had on hand. After dinner, we read a prayer for each of the three Archangels, and as we did so, each of my three older children placed a candle on the cake. I had read in The Catholic Home that the color orange is often associated with St. Michael, blue with St. Gabriel, and yellow with St. Raphael, and, as luck would have it, I found in one of my kitchen drawers an old package of birthday candles with polka dots in those very colors! (And, hey, polka dots are in, right? Maybe?)

Our old kitchen angels were resurrected for this special day! They had been hiding in my closet, and two were missing this year (having sustained permanent damage at the hands of our resident two year old) but we are so happy to once again have these whimsical fellows gracing our dining and learning area! We read angel stories: Pascual and the Kitchen Angels, of course; Angels, Angels Everywhere; and Angel in the Waters. We served "Angel Kisses" at tea time (with many thanks to Dawn for the lovely idea) and angel hair pasta for dinner. Dylan copied an appropriate bible verse on some storybook paper I created for him, we again delighted in the handiwork of that ever talented Charlotte, and we did a simple little angel craft with a few items from our craft cabinet.

We read a beautiful book we had checked out from the library earlier in the week. We have several other St. Francis books of our own, but this was one we had never read before and we loved it so much that we'd like to add it to our collection! We colored pictures. I wanted to make bird feeders, but took a nap instead because I was supposed to work that night. Darren made a deliciously rich Italian pasta dish for dinner and, because I hoped that St. Francis, the good natured Italian friend of animals, would appreciate the gesture, we served Gelato on Zoo Pals dishes for dessert. :)

I realize, of course, that it is simply not possible to "do it all". (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, for example, was sadly overlooked this year. But next year? I'm thinking these sacrifice beads would be just lovely.) It is my humble hope, though, that any effort, however small, will help illustrate for my children the importance and beauty of our faith, and that, as they grow, these traditions will be ones that they, too, will freely choose to observe. I pray they will always remember a faith filled, love filled home.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Living in a fog

I said to Darren shortly before bed last night, "Dangit, I forgot to put the sheets in the dryer!" But out in the garage, I was bewildered to find those blasted sheets just sitting there in the washing machine: no water, no detergent, just sitting there with the lid up, mocking me. What the heck? I remembered eventually what had happened: before starting the machine earlier in the day, I went to retrieve the accompanying pillowcases, scattered about the house by my helpers. Distracted by someone or something, I forgot to add them to the waiting load until, well, 9:00 or so last night.

And that is just so typical of how my days go lately. I'll walk into the kitchen and stop, shocked to find the dishwasher open, lower rack pulled out, half emptied of its contents, but with no recollection of having started the job. (And I've got to remember to begin with the knives from now on; those black handles horrify me every time I see them exposed like that in plain view and easy reach of small hands.)

Sometimes I'll catch an unsuspecting glimpse of Meghan's bare bottom beneath the hem of her dress, the briefest flash of skin, and it takes me a moment to register the fact that many minutes earlier (I won't say hours) she had asked me for a dry Pull-Up.

Once, a few weeks ago, I walked into my bedroom and experienced a flash of panic when I didn't see Kristen in her crib. Where on earth could she have gone?! Oh, but wait, of course: she was seated in the living room, settled happily in her Baby Papasan, where she could watch her big brother and sisters while I got ready. Two nights ago, while dining with my in-laws out on our back patio, I kept finding myself performing random, mental head counts of my children and worried once when I came up one short...and then realized it was because Kristen was nuzzled up to me, nursing contentedly beneath a blanket!

I wonder sometimes how much of my children's recent bad attitudes can be attributed to their Mommy's absent mindedness. Please, somebody who's been through this: tell me there's an end in sight! Tell me it won't always be like this! And please, for the love of all that is holy, please tell me I am not the only mother who has ever allowed chocolate cake for lunch at two o'clock in the afternoon. (A one time occurrence, I assure you.)

(ETA: Just after publishing this post, I went to check on how Dylan was doing with his school work. I found my cup of coffee waiting right where I left it...two hours ago. I drank it anyway.)