Friday, December 31, 2010

Remember When...

The annual list.  It begins as scribbled notes on a piece of paper torn carefully from the perforated edges of a spiral notebook.  At the cusp of the new year, we look back at the finished one and write its history.  Like pulling yarn from a skein, we carefully unwind the threads of our past days,  re-rolling them into this paper list. 

"What else?" I ask, and they remember.

"Remember when Benjamin got his first haircut?"  I put ink to paper and rewind to the day that baby wisps drifted to the floor, tuft by tuft. How joy and sorrow swirled together as my scissors snipped away strands of babyhood.

"Remember when Maddie lost her first tooth?"  I think of that March day, when I was eleven weeks pregnant and drowning in morning sickness.  Brian returned to work that day after the winter off, and that day, Maddie wiggled out her first tooth and brought me out of my pity into her delight.

"Remember last winter we had two snow storms in one week?"  "Remember this summer when it hit 100 degrees so many times?"  My pen flies over paper, remembering stretches of days snowed in the house, snowed ...and stretches of days out of the house when the simplest of summer activities was exhausting in the oppressive heat (and seven months pregnant!).

Yes, it begins as scribbles on paper.  The tears and giggles come together. Calendar pages act as cheat sheet when minds ache with the effort of recollection.  We remember the mundane and the fascinating, the good with the bad.

"Remember when Aunt Kati spent the summer away?"  I jot words again, thinking of missing her quiet smile and counting the days to her return..  How when she departed, a babe rested under my skin and when she returned, Alaine was seven days out of my belly.  

"Remember when Owen moved into a booster seat in the car?"  Remember when Gavin and Daddy went to three baseball games?"  "Remember when Aunt Sarah had her baby in Thanksgiving Day?"  "Remember..."

The voices slow and the list feels complete.  I begin to scratch numbers in the margin, organizing and ordering this jumble of dates and thoughts.

"Oh!  Remember when Maddie went to horse camp?"  I squeeze words into a strip of open white space. There is always room for more on the list.

I move to computer, transferring  handwritten scratchings to letters on the screen.  "Anything else?" I ask.  Nothing more.

I push a button and our year prints out in black and white.  A year of God's faithfulness condensed onto one single sheet.  I punch holes, preparing it for a notebook. I remember the holes placed in His hands, allowing us the grace for the past year and more for the coming one. 


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from the seven of us to all of you!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Could you, would you?

On Friday,  the seven of us gathered at the table to make our annual pretzel "cookies."  We do it every year  because it is tradition and because there is something for even the (almost) littlest hand to do and because it is one of Brian's favorite Christmas treats.

I already shared my story of how this simple family baking session became an annual ritual.  Now that my entry  is a finalist in Kendra's A Cookie and A Story Contest, it is time to decide a winner.  Visit My First Kitchen today through December 28th and cast your vote after clicking here.  (I'm the second Kristin, the 6th name on the list.)

Would you?

(One vote per day per person...which means you could vote up to 7  times.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making a list and checking it twice...

Stuffing.          Sealing.          Stamping.          Sorting.          Sending.

Preparing our Christmas letters became a family project this year.  I had to look away and pretend I didn't see  letters going upside down into  envelopes and stamps going on crookedly.  It took a real act of will power.  Believe me.  

With Alaine (and sometimes Benjamin, too) perched on my lap, with the Christmas music playing, with lollipops being licked, we talked about each family and individual being sent a card.  Some we see every week.  Some haven't spoken with in years.  Some we've never met.  

We laughed.  We sang.  We made more memories.  

(If you would like to receive our Christmas letter, leave your e-mail address in the comments or my e-mail and I will gladly slip a copy into your inbox by the 25th.) 

Monday, December 13, 2010

House. Home.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Trees:

One with mismatched ornaments...embroidered name hearts, cardboard creations,  photo frames...
Lopsided placement...child eye level, three to a branch...
The mark of little ones in our home.

Another with yo-yo ornaments...scraps of fabric, needle and thread...pricked fingers.


The Sentiment:  

Glass ball purchased the year we were married... 9 years ago...
Nest...5 eggs for 5 children...this year...
Time ticking on.

The Scents:

Spicy candle...flickering in dim room...
Fresh fir...lone cone...
Cinnamon sticks...tied with color...
Oranges...cloves pressed with bruised thumbs...sun streaming through back window.

The Confection: 
Gum drops, royal icing, Red Hots...
Dining table centerpiece... 
Magnet to little fingers.

The Message:

Speaking His many names...whispered awe on humble lips.
Christ dwelling in us...the depth, the mystery.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Woman to Woman: Breastfeeding, Pt. 1

Having nursed four babies to toddlerhood and currently nursing another wee one, I have received multiple  questions from multiple women via e-mail regarding breastfeeding.  I love to share what I've learned through my eight years of mothering.  (Eight years exactly, today.) Instead of relying on magazines and books and doctors, how wonderful when mothers can seek help from other mothers. 

This is my humble attempt at answering some of the questions I have received.  I'm breaking it into three separate posts, in an effort to keep it simple and organized.  Please, if you have a question, consider leaving it in the comments or tuck it into my inbox and I will gladly add the answer to one of my posts.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Nursing the Older Baby  
  1. How do you breastfeed in public?  

    I've never had problems nursing my children while out and about.  When Gavin was a tiny infant, I tried covering up with a blanket to nurse, but that seemed to draw unnecessary attention to what I was doing.  He usually pulled the blanket down or got agitated and I would get flustered and he would pull I decided to learn to nurse discreetly without a cover-up. There are times, though, when it is easier or more comfortable to find a secluded place to nurse. 

    I know there are women who think it is indecent to breastfeed in public and there are other women who think they should breastfeed in public to show the nursing is a natural relationship between mother and child.  I don't have a point to prove either way.  I just do what is right for the situation.  Alaine is not one of those every-hour frequent nursers  (I have had a few of those babies, though!) so I've not had the opportunity to nurse her in many places other than the car between stores or friends' homes, but when the need arises (like when we were at a 2-hour performance of the Nutcracker ballet), if I act nonchalant and continue conversation with my husband and other kids', the casual observer thinks I'm simply snuggling my baby.

  2. When do you start solids?

    I have chosen to follow these general guidelines: 
    • wait until Baby is at least 6 months old
    • wait until Baby can sit unsupported
    • wait until Baby is interested in food  (not only in putting things in his mouth)
    That being said, my children have begun solid foods anywhere between 7 and 10 months old.  It is a no-pressure, fun affair. Breast milk contains all the nutrients they need until past a year old so if Baby is happy, I am happy.  (For a more extensive post on how I handle solids, click here.)

  3. What do you do when (s)he turns 1?

    Just keep nursing!  Formula-fed babies switch to whole milk around the year mark, but my breastfed babies are free to nurse as long as we both are happy.  In fact, though my 2-year-old weaned around 19 months,  he only drinks cow's milk on occasion.  When my babes turn 1, we simply continue on as before, gradually introducing solids and nursing when needed.  

    Maybe because I'm usually pregnant by then...or maybe just because...somewhere around 18 months, I prefer to night-wean and teach my babies to sleep all the way through the night without the comfort snacking.  I've found that, though it is a struggle for a night or two, they are more easily weaned and trained at this age than when they are younger.

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Cookie and My Story

Baking Day is next week.  My mom, my sister, a smattering of kids, and I gather in my mom's kitchen with bags of flour and boxes of butter.  We spend the entire day singing along to Christmas music and mixing up multiple batches of holiday treats.  (I am not a big fan of using the word 'holiday 'as a substitution for the word 'Christmas,' but I mean it literally.  We make enough to last us to New Year's and quite possibly Valentine's Day...well, maybe not.)  It's festive and it's tradition.

This week, I am a finalist in Kendra's A Cookie and A Story Contest.  You can read my story by clicking here.  You can read others' stories by returning to My First Kitchen every day through the 21st. 

Voting beings December 22 and runs through the 28th at My First Kitchen.  One vote per person per day.  I'll remind you.  Wink.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Children's Book Monday-- Together Books

Summer means long days for my grass-cutting man.  Though it goes against my grain to serve dinner without him, we often have to eat before he arrives home for the day, thirsty and tired.  We still try to gather around the table while he eats his meal with grass in his hair and I give the kids a snack   He hurries into the shower and sometimes we play a game with the kids or watch them ride their bikes before tucking them into bed.  

Christmastime ushers in a slower pace on the job, as most days he is home before nap time is even over and he can lend a hand in getting dinner on the table and doing the dishes.  As often as the schedule has allowed these past two years, we have spent our December nights sharing a chapter or two of a book together.  Instead of reading and telling back to Daddy, December means we absorb the words together.   

My mom used to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson aloud to us almost every year at Christmas.  Despite laughing through the first six chapters of the book, when we got to the final chapter, she always cried.  Though I was also touched by the story, I couldn't understand what made her cry every year until I read it aloud with my family two years ago and choked out the last few words of the book.  We'll probably read it again this year...and I'll probably cry again.

 I had never heard of The Light at Tern Rock by Julia L. Sauer until I read a review on another blog.  I'm not even sure whose it was, but we were looking for a Christmas book and the story looked okay so I reserved it from the library. The book was written in the 50s when my dad was born and the little boy in the story was named Ronnie which is my dad's name.  He didn't have an Aunt Martha that I know of, but I thought of him as I read each of the four chapters.  Unless you, too, have a dad named Ronnie, that won't draw you to this book, but with only 64 pages and a story about turning disappointment and betrayal  to joy and contentment, it is a worthy read!
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is not a chapter book, but it has enough text that it could be stretched to fill more than one night.  That was our intention until we got too caught up in the story to stop.  (If you don't like teary eyes during Christmas, don't read this book either.)  The simple words-- a story of man and boy and wood and loss and redemption- go deep.  Children who cannot sit for long stretches of words can fill their eyes with the gentle watercolor illustrations.

I'm still searching for a new book to devote our reading minutes to this Christmas.  The season is too short to waste it on empty words.  If you have  a book that is dear to your heart, please take a minute to tell me about it.   And as always, Elise has books to share every Monday

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Children's Book Monday-- Our Christmas Stack

We spend the months of September through November reveling in the joys of autumn.  We decorate with leaves and pine cones and let the scent of pumpkin goodies and pumpkin candles permeate the house.  We go to bed on the fourth Thursday of November thinking of Thanksgiving...and awake to Christmas, for on that day, we decorate our tree and break out the Christmas literature that has rested on the top shelf for eleven months, save for the time some silly child sneaks a beloved favorite into their bed on a sweltering summer day.

Christmas books hold a corner of my heart because of the memories and events surrounding them.  We had a copy of  Claude the Dog: A Christmas Story by Dick Gackenbach on our shelf when I was growing up.  It is a short story with only a few words per page, but it is has the ability to make me teary every time I read it.  It touches me in a way that a book about a dog should not.  My mom still keeps a copy (the same copy?) on her shelf and I read it to my kids each Christmas.  I really need to get one of my own! 

We do have our own copy of The Little Drummer Boy  by Ezra Jack Keats.  In fact, we read it so much that the pages were falling out and we had to order a second one.  My first memories of this treasure are of singing the words to this book when I was a mama of only two children.  Gavin would sit at my side, rubbing my arm, and Maddie would sit on my lap.  Before they even knew all the words, they could sing along, "Pa rum pum pum pum."  They loved it so much I would sing the words to them as I rocked Maddie to sleep at night.  What a joy to sing gentle carols with my children.  Though it is not nearly as beloved, we discovered a copy of Away in a Manger last year with stunning illustrations by Mike Jaroszko.

I didn't discover Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson until I had three children and we didn't add it to our favorites list until last year when I had four children.  Each time I would ask for a book to be brought  to me from our book basket, Owen would bring this one.  One by one, other books were returned to the library while this one hung around week after week, and yet somehow, we never grew tired of listening to and reading the story of the little mouse who discovers the meaning of Christmas in a unique way.  It is cute, but not silly at all!  We also love Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson, though this one is more sweet sentiment and less profound message. 

Thoughts of Mama and Maddie outings to the ballet mingle with The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers, the best re-telling I have read (and which I reviewed in 2008)I think of sharing Silent Night by Will Moses in the floor together while waiting for Gavin's December birthday party to begin, and finishing the last few lines as Grandma walks in the door.  There is Mr. Putter & Tabby Bake the Cake by Cynthia Rylant and Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble and Toot and Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie and The Christmas Tree Ship by Jeanette Winter (reviewed in 2009)... so many memories woven around so many wonderful Christmas tales.

un-staged perusing of the Christmas basket

Slip back in next Monday for a few Christmas read-aloud suggestions. And join Elise every Monday at her quiet spot for more children's literature suggestions

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Circus Man

What are these children so intently watching?

An impromptu juggling show by their Daddy!  Who knew he had it in him?!

I'm slipping away from here for a few days of cooking and baking and eating and sharing and visiting and shopping and decorating, but I'll be back on Monday with our list of favorite Christmas books!  Have a joyous Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

C is For...


...and Comforting Cuddles, too!


Friday, November 19, 2010

I Mustn't Forget

I lay her in front of me on my bed.  I gather the littlest ones to my sides and quiet them for bed while the older kids play a game in their room.  We sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "This is the Day" and "God is So Good" as I change diapers and offer a last cuddle.  I glance down at my little girl and find her smiling at me with wide abandon.  She enjoys the music and I enjoy her gummy grins, but my heart still tugs within me.  I want to squeeze her to keep her small, but I can't deny her (or myself) the joy of  the growing up. 

I wrap her in the white blanket with purple butterflies.  I tuck her arms down by her sides like I've done since she was born.  This time, she wiggles and squirms until her arms are free and she sleeps with arms flung over her head. Instead of offering comfort, the swaddling feels confining.  She is maturing, but I'm not ready to leave the newborn stage behind.  (Would I ever be ready?)  I want to swaddle her 7 pound baby self just one more day, but the girl before me is pushing 14 on the scale!

Some days consist of too much fussing and more than enough stained outfits and interrupted naps.  There are days when I count minutes until bedtime and I complain of missed sleep.  I bite and mutter and feel regrets and wish for a new day. 

Time is slipping, slipping, slipping by one day at a time.

I don't want to miss the gift of the present while pining for what is done...

...and I don't want to focus on what is coming and wish away today.

Can I be brave enough embrace the now while still remembering the past?  And can I see clearly enough on the hazy days to imprint the memories on my heart? 

I mustn't forget...the way her dark brown hair curls on the top of her head after a bath.
I mustn't she coos a conversation with Maddie.
I mustn't forget...that her siblings vie for the chance to hold her while I fix sandwiches for lunch.
I mustn't forget...the way she falls asleep in my arms as I rock and bounce and cook.  
I mustn't she snuggles into her Moses basket for long, long naps.
I mustn't forget...that she likes Gavin to sing her lullabies and silly songs. 
I mustn't forget...the rolls on her legs.
I mustn't forget...that she whimpers when she is cold.
I mustn't forget...the way she knows when Daddy is home and waits for him to rock her to sleep at night.
I mustn't forget...that she loves her own bed but wants to snuggle with me midway through the night.   

I mustn't forget His grace.

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