Buckle My Shoe

Yesterday, our songbird Susannah Wren flew out of one and into two.

She's been such a joy since she entered our lives, and the explosion of her personality in the last year brought yet more. We look forward with hope to many more celebrations of this little firecracker.

We love you, Bird! Happy Birthday!


Today all four of us smushed into the armchair while Millie read to us, and Susannah fell asleep in my lap. This is a rare and lovely event indeed, but as it was lunchtime, it placed me in a small quandary. (Ah, the grave dilemmas I face!) Millie suggested that she and Annie hold Susannah while I go prepare lunch, and the excellence of that idea brought about this.

While I heated up the stew, I came out to see that Millie had transferred Susannah to the arms of a Nixie.

But it was done with the intent that she could then have her greedy turn alone a few minutes later.

During all the quiet commotion and jouncing love, Susannah slept.

And look at those sweet, newly two-year old hands relaxed in sleep.

That's Some Party!

We celebrated last night with a low-key party consisting of ourselves, a giant cake (we squeaked out of Lent observance for the occasion; don't ask me how), gummy worms, and gifts.

When asked what cake she would prefer, Susannah responded with equal approval to the suggestions of horse, frog, flower, doll, dragon...you name it; she loved it. I gave Millie and Annika the honor of narrowing the selection down to one cake, and, predictably, they chose a bird cake.

Here's the cake.

Here's the one finger-mark that I didn't find in time to cover with a profusion of yellow blossoms like I did with the others. It's like a game of "I Spy," only sweeter.

Here are the inept huffs and puffs that blew her hair out of her eyes but posed no threat to the flame.

The aforementioned worms were greeted with suspicion...

but quickly welcomed.

One of the guests, with three (yes, three) ballet costumes layered together, had a purse full o' tricks.

Following the face-stuffing, we indulged in gift-opening. We gave Susannah an umbrella (spring, soon!) and a bug net.

Grandma and Grandpa Owen gave her a fancy tricycle, which made its way around the house with three pairs of churning legs.

Here's the birthday bird on wheels.

She's playing with her newly opened gifts from Grandma and Grandpa Johnson as we speak, but my camera batteries are charging, so you'll just have to wait for the conclusion.


The Best Laid Plans of Mice, Men, & Me

Despite giving birth in the hospital, I've always tried to keep the experience as natural as possible. I refuse epidurals, have signed off on induction, and don't care for unecessary intervention that is done more for the sake of convenience than anything else. We've grown accustomed to signing paperwork that releases hospitals from legal action, and have tried to avoid some of the extraneous details present in such a setting.

Of course, our ability to maintain this has been due to the fact that despite delivering nearly 2 weeks late with two of our babies, they showed no signs of distress, and all was well. If there was any indication of trouble that couldn't be helped apart from intervention, then we'd toss natural birth out the window for the sake of the baby's health and would be rightfully thankful that we're blessed with such easy access to medical care. I have fairly short, very intense labors with no complications thus far, so when we finally moved back into an area that had a "local" homebirth midwife (albeit almost an hour away), I was excited to pursue a home birth.

Baby Buster, dear Baby Buster, you may foil all my plans!
(But he or she sure is cute, huh! And smart as a whip, too!)

I'm 21 weeks, and we found out at my first ultrasound yesterday that I have almost total placenta previa, as well as low amniotic fluid levels. The fluid levels I should be able to help along by chugging a gallon of water a day (you thought pregnancy bathroom visits were frequent before!), but the placenta previa can't be altered through my actions, apart from the most efficacious action of all-- prayer. If the fluid levels stay this low, there's a good chance that Baby Buster will show signs of distress later in pregnancy, and I'll have to either be induced or have a c-section. If the placenta is stubborn and refuses to attach higher as my pregnancy progresses, then we'll have no choice but to have a scheduled c-section, which, in that case, would be the only way to protect the baby and mother's health. Placentas do quite often attach higher as the pregnancy progresses, but it's not a sure thing, and I'd really, really like to avoid a c-section. If you understand my desire and feel like doing so, please join me in prayer for my...um...placenta. There. I've done it. In a public forum, I've repeatedly typed out a word that I don't even like speaking aloud. PLACENTA!

When we were thinking about birth options, I asked the Lord to clearly let us know if a home birth would not be the best thing for the baby's health or mine, so if things stay the same through the end of the pregnancy, that's His clear hand, and I will be thankful to hold our wee one safely delivered via a c-section. I'd like for things to change, though, so that we can continue to give birth safely as we have in the past, or better yet, in our own home.

Anyway, I'll call the homebirth midwife today to let her know, because our original desire may be out of the picture for this baby. If the placenta does decide to stop living such a sedentary lifestyle, which I hope it does, then it may happen too late in the pregnancy for me to transfer to homebirth care. We'll see. I guess Baby Buster must really love hospital food...


*As a complete aside, if you're interested in the topic, either because you think home births are wonderful or because you think home births are wacky and irresponsible, here's a great article published in the British Medical Journal that compares low-risk hospital births and low-risk home births.

And, because we love this baby, here's Buster's striking profile, with a knee bone stretched to the little chest.

Tall Tales, Volume 412- Brought to You by Memories of Summer and Green Grass

It's been a while since the last snapshots delivery of too-long and not-as-funny-to-non-parents anecdotes, right? Like, a week or two...


Annie is much more inquisitive about the nature of God than Millie was at her age, or, for that matter, than Millie is now. She asked her latest question right before naptime today, which was recent enough for me to remember. "Mama, God can't see in the dark, right?" Since we've talked about God's omniscience, His omnipresence, and His ability to see everything, I was baffled. "Why do you say that?" She responded with logic that only a three year old could produce, "God can't see in the dark because He is Light."

In the past, if Annie has fibbed or done something that is blatantly spoken against in the Bible, I've told her about the verse with this addendum, "God says do not _____." I guess I speak very soberly when I do this, because last week after I told the girls to go upstairs and prepare for bed, I added, "..and don't dawdle!" "YEAH!" said Annie, her eyes bugging wide in righteousness and with a loud, stern Puritan tone, "Because in the Bible, GOD says DO...NOT...DAWDLE, right Mama?" I admitted defeat.

Here's another doctrine-themed anecdote. The girls and I have given up sugar for Lent- no desserts, cinnamon sugar or honey on toast, sugar on Toasty Oats, gum, etc., and they're handling it much better than I am. Annie reminds me at least once a day that "We love God more than we love sugar, right Mama?" I had to laugh last week when she came to me and in an explanatory tone said, "We should love God more than everything, right? Even sugar!" When I placidly agreed, she added, "Candy is yummier, but GOD is gooder, right?"

A frequent and necessary aspect of the girls' imaginative play is the ability to change their ages at will, with whatever whimsy possesses them at any moment. To set the scene for something, Millie was explaining that she was 12 even though she looked like she was only five, but Annika cleanly won the contest by countering, "I is one hundred when I look like free."

Annika no longer calls her doll Split Pea Soup but rather Split-Pea-Soup-Chronicles-of-Yarnia. Guess which series we're a quarter of the way through?

Last of the Nixie: We don't have this book, but the concept has apparently reached us nonetheless, and Annika says, with variations, "Mama, I love you how many a moons an a stars are, an' how many a sand is, AND how many the lollipops is!" In case you don't know, that's A LOT, and I love her that much times two.


Another Lent-themed anecdote, shared with me by John's mom. When we were down on the Island, she and Millie watched part of a televised Sunday morning service, in which the speaker reiterated the self-confidence building mantra, "Never give up. NEVER. GIVE. UP." Millie stood and listened before thoughtfully saying, "Weeeeell, except for Lent, right?"

Millie and Annika have been on a fairies kick lately, all jumbled up with ballerinas and ball gowns, and Millie came downstairs decked out in fairy garb. (Which, if you're not aware, was this costume combined with a wand and a hodge-podge of scarves, a cape, a crown, and sparkling ruby slippers.) When I picked her up to cuddle, she leaned into my neck and then shied away in suspicion, saying, "Um! Just don't tickle my armpit because that kills us fairies!" When I questioned her further, doubting the veracity of this folk legend, she explained in a whisper, "I'm the most powerful fairy in the world, even though I can't fly like my parents, and we usually use our wands to stop people who want to tickle us. My parents told me never to tell ANYONE this secret, but I just wanted you to know." Hm, sounds logical, but part of me thinks she just had the foresight to stave off a Tickle Monster/Mama.

Scenario: The Wren's in the kitchen, holding her pants and saying, "'Tinky, 'tinky," a sure sign that she needs to be rushed to the bathroom. Millie comes over to me with a grape-juice moustache and deduces that Susannah wants some juice, too, and furthermore that "Maybe 'stinky' is her new word for 'grape juice.'" I took Susannah to the bathroom, anyway. Millie's a bright girl, but she's no Sherlock when it comes to potty-training.

Scenario: I wish I had a picture. Millie enters the kitchen as I make supper. I glance up to notice her outrageous costume combination-- buttercup yellow dress glove on one hand, pale pink glove on the other; ballet tutu, ballet slippers on feet that redundantly have then been stuffed into too-big, Dorothy sparkle-shoes; a bright red superhero's cape tied around her neck, and my old, yellow, Raggedy Anne and Andy blanket from kindergarten veiling her head.

"What do I look like?" she asked. I gaped, obtuse, before stirring the onions and coming up with a completely unoriginal, "You look like a little girl with a cape and blanket on her head." She paused, and then said, "Oh....I think I look like a widow." I nearly guffawed, and then asked if she was certain what a widow was. I explained it, just in case she might be mistaken, and then asked her what color a widow would typically choose to wear in our culture. With some hesitation, she replied, "Black." Relieved, I said, "Yes, black is a color of mourning!" Millie thought some more and then began a lively tap dance, her ruby shoes clunking on the linoleum, "I'm a HAPPY widow with YELLOW!!!" It was at this point that I did guffaw.

Susannah does really funny things all the time, like insisting that the giant, stuffed lion is "tinky," before putting him on the toilet and soaking his too-long tail in toilet water. Unfortunately, you'd have to be here to find most of them funny. Give her time and increased speech capabilities, and she'll wow you with the rest of them.



John grew up reading with television noise in the background, reading next to mannequins in department stores, and anywhere and everywhere else, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that he's adapted so well to life with sweetlings. He didn't last long, though...


Even though I felt self-conscious and silly, to appease those who've asked me to show off Baby Buster, I squeezed into the only snug shirt I could find in my drawers that are full of potato sacks.

I'm halfway there! Halfway to holding who's within, halfway to girly-hood (note the pale pink shirt), and halfway to the pinnacle of poundage. To play it safe, I always eat for five, and I view the medical profession's suggestion of a 25-35 pound weight gain, which I've nearly reached already, as a goal for only the faint of heart. I've got the heart of a LION!!! (A very hungry lion wearing a pale pink shirt...)

*** Disclaimer- So you don't think that I undergo a personality crisis when I'm pregnant, let it be known that I am not wearing lipstick or rouge. The girls were splashing in the tub, so the bathroom was as warm as the tropics. And, yes, I posted the most flattering picture I took. Sue me.

No Going Back

Notice anyone different? Susannah's potty-trained, recently weaned, and really happy to be finally out of the pack and play and sleeping in a new room. She sleeps in a makeshift trundle bed-- a mattress that we slide under the bed when it's not in use-- and she loves it.

John and I do, too, but it feels odd to be in a room all by ourselves, a thing that's not been since we were newlyweds.

I'm still nagged by the feeling that something's wrong at night, kind of like I was when the girls moved into another room after we moved from Buffalo, until I realize that it's the absence of children next to our bed, and then I grin. I miss having all of us tumbled together on mattresses on the floor, but there's something to be said for talking without fear of waking up a child a'slumber.

Let Your Yea Be Yea

After last year's Valentine's-card craze, I decided that we would only make a select few this year. Ha! We made fifty-some, and the table was heaped with mice, flowers, and hearts. NEXT year, we're not going to do this.

Hold me to that, will you?

Permissible This

Don't hold me to it, though, if next year we're invited, like we were this year, to an incredible Valentine's Day party on Mount Hunger, one replete with all the local tuzzins and brimful of energy and heart-shaped variants of sugar. If that happens, I'll happily help the girls churn out dozens more.


The day we left for the Island, I took the girls to the Discovery Center. It's been too long since our last visit, and we discovered that Susannah's big enough to get into everything now.

This is one of Millie's favorite rooms. She never tires of lying down on the hospital bed and calling "Nurse, please bring me my child" so that she can tend to her newborn babe. Yes, I'm the lucky nurse, and no, I don't understand how she bore such a dark-skinned baby.

Blurry. Oh, well.


After a busy and enjoyed visit with our Island Owens, we arrived home on Monday. Here are the two pictures I took. (This blog doesn't deserve its name...)

John's family has moved into their ancestral home, a lovely house that John's grandpa built and in which Dude grew up, so John and Dude spent the weekend moving heavy things while the girls and I tried to stay out of trouble with all the packing and unpacking that bustled around us.

John also assembled furniture while Susannah, with nose buried in the rug, slept beside him.

These two climbed little trees in the giant backyard, marveling at their good fortune.


All the Livelong Day

Due to the recent slew of never-ending rain, gray, mud, and this mother's lethargy, walks are rare around these parts. A sky as blue as berries coaxed me out, though, in spite of the mud.

The girls dutifully dug in the hillside for worms, and "also to make homes for squirrels," says Annie.

A log is no excuse for laziness, though; mining should continue even while sitting.

We actually made it to the river proper this time. The girls, whom I sufficiently impressed with the fear of breaking through the river ice, were not allowed to pass this tree.

I was oddly taken by garbage in the light. A tangle of discarded plastic bags speaks volumes about our society, but in the sunlight, beauty found them. They look like a chrysalis newly emptied.

Millie seems a general here, sternly surveying her troops.

Annie pretended to rest.

Then she abruptly awoke, nearly obscuring the General-Turned-Again-Miner on the hill behind her.

And we paused to capture our shadows near the overflow pond on the way home.

*** Yes, we're still going to the Island and will leave in about an hour. I forgot to post this last night, though it was ready and waiting, so you get a bonus.

Happy Friday!


A Note

Dear readers,

My husband came home tonight and asked if I wanted to go on vacation. I'm never one to refuse a vacation, so we're heading to the Island for the weekend to see the family we miss. I must now stuff clothes into suitcases. Please allow these few posts to satiate your need for shotsnaps until our return.

Most respectfully yours,
(signed in flowing cursive)
Snapshots Management

Food. Again.

Find recipes on buildabelly.

Specifically, find sugar from last week's pre-Lenten confecting and the spiciest shrimp you'll ever see, as well as newly-added pictures of the world's least photogenic soup. (See. Pestering for pictures worked!)

Mini Mother

She's irresistible.
Yesterday, I was reading on the couch and looked down to see this.

(And by "looked down," I mean, "looked down, walked over to the shelf, picked up and turned on the camera, took a picture, laughed, kissed her, and then went back to my book, leaving her on the floor.")

Day of Rest

Sunday, late afternoon, after we arrived home from church...

Heat here filled Millie's dress like wind in a sail.

Susannah's pigtails couldn't settle down while she read a book.

Nor could they, for that matter, when she sped-read a book. (Sped-read? Speed-readed? Somebody help me here.)

A Tale of Teeth

The two older sweetlings and I went to get our teeth cleaned. We have excellent dental insurance which completely covers cleanings, but this was the girls' first time in a dental office. (I'm not implying that it was later than it should be; I first got my teeth cleaned when I was 18, and it was at a local community college, where I was a willing guinea pig for eager, aspiring dental hygienists.)

They loved it. They loved the office, the jolly lady who scrubbed their teeth with a whir and a buzz, the paste of varied hues and flavors, the magic seat that could, if one only knew how to direct it, rise through the window and into the clouds, the counting of teeth (Millie only stopped at 100 when I nudged her into silence), the unnatural gleam of a white floor (how DO they keep it so clean?), and, best of all, Dr. Tony himself, who entered the room with a boom and a chuckle and made them giggle until he stepped out the door.

"I love that man!" Annika proclaimed emphatically as we buckled ourselves into the van, all three of us dazzling pedestrians with our pearlies, "He's a jokester-doctor!" Millie spun her sparkly bit of plastic all the way home, a prize pulled from a pail before we walked from the office, and she can't wait for the next visit.

After we got home, I surprised them with the camera as they lay on the couch together, brushing their teeth with new bristles (princess-emblazoned, no less), though without water or toothpaste.

And then I prodded them to grin like horses up for auction.

And then I left them alone, until I noticed Millie stroking Annie's hair. She's such a sweet little mother.