It slunk through the household from little to big, and two weeks of sickness later, we're ready to move along. Sleepless nights with a croupy baby, lying cramped and curled on the tiny bathroom floor upstairs, rivulets running down walls and hair soaked from steam that rolled off the tub; a 7-hour emergency room visit a week later for that same baby, who'd swollen into a troll and who's obviously highly allergic to something; hot tea brewed by the jugful for all the children and, for some, the rare treat of honey and lemon; a walk-in visit for a girl whose sinus infection spread toward her eye...yeah, we're done. We avoid the doctor's office unless forced there (Millie cutting her toe half-off in October? We caved for that.), and our insurance doesn't cover a blessed thing until we've paid thousands in deductibles, so, really, we're done now. Really.
One can't speak more surely than with an emphatic and italicized "Really," so it's clear that we're moving up and out of this slough.
The snow has arrived, not quite in earnest yet, but at least it covers the brown for longer stretches. I'm slogging along, or mostly trying to, and these dreary days of late January are brightened by the boys and girls who roam the house, both whose bickering and camaraderie lift me from Self. And, then, in deep night, the little one I hold within speaks with rhythmic nudges and quicksilver thumps, in that wordless language of the yet unborn.
Motherhood is more than corralling bodies that can't be still and tidying messes that will be made again moments later, more than chopping garlic and stirring a pot and serving up portions. It's not even pinned down in reading picture books or tucking-in or training up in the way one should go. These souls that spring from such small beginnings, sparking up the dark womb, stretch and grow in body and mind with mysteries I'll never know. In winter days that stay too long and nights that sink too fast, I sometimes catch a flash of this, and it sustains. They are not meant to be contained, these souls. They were created to grow and stretch and press against the womb-walls, and then, later, to grow and stretch and press against all else, until they reach the place they're meant to be. Dirty dishes piled high, clothes to fold, books to crack, life to learn, and glimmering in it all is this great wonder.
If you turn your back while Ezekiel's helping, you can be sure he'll scoop out all the zucchini pancake batter by himself,
and if you wait a minute more, Aidan will eat the rest plain.
He flips them, too! (Pardon his girl apron. He looked for a boy one, but there were none to be found. I told him I can make him an apron with a truck and a hamburger on it for his birthday because trucks + hamburgers = boy aprons.)
I'll have to remember to include a holster for the spatula. Those fake, puny pockets just don't cut it.
Filching (McGamma, Sarah Nye, Wendy, and Luke & Jae-Ryong Are Not Allowed to Look Until Your Packages Arrive)
I started a few Christmas gifts during the Twelve Days, as is my bad habit. You should know that I also have the nasty habit of stealing good ideas from friends, and this year dawned no differently. Do you know how many bathmats I've sewn appliques on in the past few years? It's laughable. So many bathmats!
I may be moving on, though. The same friend who introduced me to bathmat applique has now introduced me to decorating wooden things with a wood-burning pen. And by "introduce," I actually mean, "She posted something cool she made, and now I'm shamelessly stealing the idea."
I'm clumsy and discovered the initial pencil sketch is a lot easier than the actual wood-burning, but I'm still finding it a bit addictive. Maybe the weird chemical coating on these bamboo boards that melted and wafted into my lungs as I worked, though, has something to do with that. After I started in ignorance, I looked stuff up on the internet to discover that bamboo is not the optimal wood for wood-burning, nor, I assume, are chemicals the optimal fumes to breathe. Ah, well.
My poor mother-in-law gets another hen item from me, but it's her own fault for having a theme in her kitchen.
Kind of funny-looking spoons for my sister-in-law, who also is probably sick of me giving her penguins, but, again, I blame her for a lifetime of loving the funny creatures. (I have no one but myself to blame for the funny spoons.)
A salmon cutting board for my brother and sister-in-law in Alaska, because, well, Alaska. When you can see something in real life, catch it fresh from the water, and pan-fry it in your kitchen an hour later, why wouldn't you also want it etched into a cutting board?
And, then, instead of going ahead and burning the more graphically-styled mountain design I planned to put on Luke and Jae-Ryong's cutting board, I first asked them what they would like...which turned out to be a pig!
Easy peasy piggy pie.
Psst. And finally, because I'm a loyal person, I blundered ahead and sewed animals on another bathmat. Bathmats are harder to abandon than they have any right to be. For Bryan and Sarah, love birds of a sort...
I splurged for the children's Last Day of Christmas Gift, spending $50.00 of our Christmas money on 110 pieces of wooden bliss. We already had a smaller set, but the bigger girls were craving more pieces to enhance their construction options.
This last week has proven that the purchase was not the worst I've ever made. They are busy, big and small, with building and breaking down and rebuilding and all variations in between. And since we spent the remainder of our Christmas gift on paying a stranger to repair our furnace so we could have hot water and oil heat for the first time in 3 weeks, I don't feel a bit guilty. (Plus, after they go to bed, I get to build roads all by myself.)
Pippi, Luci, and Zeke are always having impromptu tea parties, usually feasting on invisible tea and crumpets, so I gave them a big tub of hot chocolate mix and some boxes of cookies during the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The next day, everyone broke out their gowns and fans and had a feast.
Finding half a dozen identical photos like the one below gave away the fact that although she's clever enough to spell her name in sugar, Annika has not yet learned how to manually focus the camera.
It's a new morning and a new year. We're still celebrating the last days of Christmas leading up to Epiphany here on the hill, so I'm avoiding all thoughts of fresh starts and trying agains and let's do it this time, for real. Reflection is for the birds.
I am thankful for Advent-- the looking forward to Christmas with our eyes on the Light-- and I love just as much the gradual winding down of Christmas morning's heightened excitement, slowly subsiding through the Twelve Days until the kings arrive. I remember the emptiness that sometimes arrived the day or two after Christmas when I was younger, the deflated feeling that often comes when something fervently anticipated has come and gone in a flash. Celebrating a fuller season helps us avoid that, while continuing to smear the joy around like butter thickly spread.
So, for those of you resolved and determined, for those of you with paper and pen in hand, scribbling lists of betterment and improvement, I hail you! Wishing you nothing but the best, I hunker down here on the couch under this blanket, salted caramel cocoa in hand and a cookie waiting on the coffee table, besides, trying to ignore the fact that hlearning begins again tomorrow.
For the last six months or so, I've been waiting for the half-broken autofocus in my camera lens to die completely. I thought that it would perhaps slow my snapshotting down to a reasonable amount. Well, the auto focus is now in the boneyard, and, judging from the amount of snapshots I just had to load, it hasn't helped slow things one bit. I don't know if you'll cheer or groan to hear that, but here's the stack, piled as high as always, beginning with some leftovers.
I painted a Silver Surfer shirt for John, but I've decided to call it his Gunfight Shirt. From ten paces away, it looks great, but any closer, and you can see the dozen+ smudges from me dropping the paintbrush on it, as well as the evidence of children racing around the table as I made it.
Just right for a gunfight at ten paces.
Annika made this hat for a secret recipient.
Piper fooled me well. On Christmas Eve, she came to me and asked me to pull her front tooth out. I'd been itching to pull it out all week, because she wiggled it back and forth so gingerly that I thought it might stay until she was twenty. I asked her if I could take one last picture of her with two front baby teeth, and she gave Millie the look on the left before grinning big for the picture...with her tooth already gone.
She was as pleased as can be, the little trickster.
These two sometimes get along like cheese and wine.
Millie kneads salt into fresh butter.
...this boy can transform from Robin Hood,
with pistol and gingerbread cookie dough in hand,
to Something a bit more puzzling.
I don't know if the cookie dough's to blame, but this princess-ballerina-outlaw fully booted for a tromp through the swamp threw me a bit.
It was sixty degrees on Christmas Eve. When the sunshine spilling over the mittens alerted me, I made the children run outside and use wisely the last few hours of daylight.
I cranked the ISO super-high to make Zeke visible, but here he is (in the darkness of a setting sun) barefoot, on December 24th.
Debbie was not present for the annual stocking-stretching ritual. I blame her absence for the ensuing chaos, but after a half hour of this, I at least had the presence of mind to order them up to bed.
I was pretty pleased with myself for avoiding an all-nighter this year. Three cheers! You won't be so impressed when I tell you that I didn't get into bed until after 2:30, but in my defense, I had finished wrapping all presents, both large and small, shortly after breakfast, and had divided, wrapped, and sorted into bags all stocking stuffers the previous night.
HOW THEN DOES IT TAKE HOURS FOR THE KITCHEN TO LOOK LIKE THIS?
In a word-- COOKIES.
I blame the cookies. There are seven cookie children now, you know, and they take a goodly amount of time to frost.
There's little point in telling you which cookie belongs to which child. I'm sure the uncanny resemblance to their real-life counterparts already gives it away. (But just in case you can't see beyond the frosting to the soul within, the order goes from oldest to youngest.)
leaving a downstairs all shrouded and still..
and cleaner than it ever is when people other than me are awake.
I placed the Baby in the creches, started the wise men on their journey, and all was at peace,
All at peace, except for this one discordant note at the top of the tree.