Care Package

Are you familiar with the Love Languages? Have you ever read the book or taken a quiz to see how you give/receive love in this life? It’s a fantastic read and a remarkably eye-opening concept that can clue you in to what you desire from those around you in terms of feeling valued, seen, and loved; it centers on five different Love Languages (words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch).

Book plug aside, I think one extra love language that exists in my own family centers on food (maybe this is an off-shoot of acts of service?). Like many, we have seasonal and holiday traditions that include certain special foods (my fave, the four different soups on Christmas Eve, one selected each by my mom, my dad, my brother, and myself); but in general, my family definitely shows love via the kitchen. My dad makes my mom eggs each morning for breakfast. My mom takes menu requests whenever us kids come home to visit. And you should see the way they both (have always) plied my husband with seconds and thirds when we are there (they must think I don’t feed him)! Food is nourishment, but food is also together time and food is certainly full of love in my family.

It makes sense, then, that I was drawn to a task this week that centered on expressing thanks and gratitude through the preparation of food. As I’m sure you remember from earlier this month, the biggest Welschies (i.e. B & I) did not so much handle the week of the 4th so well. We were both stressed out and, honestly, pissed off, at various points in the week by inconsiderate people and their need to blow up fireworks near our house (or in Ben’s case, his head). I ranted a fair amount on Facebook and also requested ideas of what else could be done to honor those who serve (or have served) in the military. I found out from a local mama friend who is also a military wife that she would soon be sending cookies to her husband’s unit, if I wanted to help with that and I said yes. She contacted me this weekend to see if I was still interested and I again said, “Yes!!”

Bless her sweet heart. She not only took requests, but set the goal of sending each member two dozen of their said requests, which ended up totaling darn near 80 doz. cookies! Yeah, that’s not a typo. 80 dozen. I did what I could to help by taking on 19 of those dozen which I managed to complete last night post-book club and this morning while The Bigs were at camp (and Lincoln tooled around with Ben). I’m blaming the extreme heat this week for my flat chocolate chip cookies (and possibly my pregnant brain for thinking it could remember the recipe without looking), but the peanut butter ones and the Monster Cookies turned out great (and oh, my, does that recipe make a huge batch). In total I did 6 dozen chocolate chip, 3 dozen peanut butter, and 10 dozen Monster.

So here is our family’s response to fireworksIMG_0391 this year: Cookies. And lots of them. Made with love and many thanks, “for the soldiers” (as we explained to HD & RL). It may be a drop in the bucket in terms of really giving back, but if something homemade for someone local serving away from their own families can bring a little light and love into their day, then we are so grateful to use this as a means to celebrate Independence Day.

Monster Cookies (this recipe came from a small town or church cookbook at my parent’s house)

Ingredients: 6 eggs, 2 c. brown sugar, 2 c. sugar, 2 t. vanilla, 2 t. Karo syrup, 4 t. baking soda, 3 c. smooth peanut butter, 1/2 c. butter (softened), 9 c. oatmeal, 1 c. chocolate chip, 1 c. M&Ms

Directions: Mix in order given. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 9-11 minutes at 350 degrees.

Makes: 7-10 dozen, depending on size.

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Little Owl

Oh, Miss Raegge. This morning RL found a big cardboard box (thank you bolster order!) to play with in the living room and she had a fabulous time coloring it, climbing in and out of it, and setting up shop (which actually meant calling it a spaceship and then a white car and then a school and then a sleeping house). She played pretty much on her own for the better part of 1/2 an hour like this – hopping in and out in order to run over and find new treasures in the desk drawer (lanyards, paper clips, unspecified sets of keys, etc.) to add to her box. At one point she was having a birthday party with a cake and candles, naturally, and when she blew out the candles, I overheard her say (in perfect imitation of the Too Much Birthday book from the Berenstain Bears), “I only want five babies!” Well my ears totally perked up at that and I had to clarify, “Five, Raegan? You want five babies?” “Uh-huh. Five!” she told me and the whole exchange made me smile and reflect back on this weekend (P.S. HD is a huge fan of babies, too, and has told me before that we should have ten – I may have baby fever, but whoa, we are not having ten! – so don’t be surprised if someday I’m a grandma with lots of grandbabies!!).

During our first prenatal module this past weekend, we learned that when a woman becomes pregnant with a girl, that baby girl already has all of her eggs inside her that will someday become her own children. Isn’t that the most amazing fact?! When you track it forward and backward, it’s rather mind boggling. It means that when Raegan was in my tummy, I also carried the eggs that will become her future children and my grands. It also means that my mom technically carried all of my kids in her baby bumps and my grandma carried me once upon a time, too. When you look at pregnancy and family in that way, doesn’t it just make you feel so connected? My maternal grandmother has been gone for over a decade now, so to suddenly have this knowledge that connects me back to her is incredible. It’s a beautiful intertwining of past, present, and future, really. And when Raegan declared that she would someday have five (that was a fun typo – I just typed fine the first time), I had no doubt because I’ve already carried those sweet babes and can’t wait to hold them again.

Another realization this weekend was learning more about the story of Lakshmi…not from a point of worship, but rather awareness of her connection to and symbolism of beauty and abundance. She is the goddess of “wealth, fortune, love and beauty, the lotus flower and fertility” which is perfect for a mama with baby fever and who also has a daughter who is suddenly talking about her own future baybeys. I also had to smile bright when I heard that Lakshmi’s creature vessel is the owl. If you’ve been with us from the beginning, you know I love all things owl for my Sweet Baby Girl (even her crazy baby owl eyes). I also smiled at that information because our teacher had encouraged us to wear Lakshmi’s colors (pink and gold) and adorn ourselves beautifully this weekend with jewelry and whatnot and look at what I almost packed:

Costume owl jewelry that I have tucked away to someday give Miss Raegan. I ultimately decided against it because I knew I wouldn’t want to practice in it, but how amazing is that? Once again, I already had the knowledge and the connections within myself. I just needed to see them. Very auspicious indeed!

A Change in Policy

In the last few weeks, some friends have shared with me some amazing happenings on the interwebs related to breast feeding and mamahood  including a photography endeavor called The 4th Trimester Bodies Project, the websites/Facebooks groups of The Leaky Boob and The Badass Breastfeeder, and lastly, this outstanding commercial from Luvs: http://youtube.googleapis.com/v/ZgmbJso-2-o&source=uds

Seriously. If you have any interest in nursing, it will be worth your time to check out these resources. And if you’re still not convinced that breast feeding deserves a place within our society, watch this and see if she doesn’t change your mind.
Now by no means do I mean do go all Mommy Wars here and get up on some pedestal about how you should feed your baby. Just feed your baby. That’s all I ask. I don’t care if there is a fox or a box or socks involved – you do what is best for you and your bambino(s).
For me, breast feeding has always been the preferred option. I suppose some of my parenting preferences, like natural birth and nursing, came from the stories I heard from my own mom about how my brother and I were raised. Not that either of those things were pressed on me by her or anyone else; it’s just what I decided I would aim for prior to Harrison’s birth, knowing full well that I may not get my wish. Fortunately, though, I have now been able to have three natural births and have been able to nurse all three of my babies. For this, I consider myself and my family very blessed.
Now that’s not to say that breast feeding has been an easy road for us. In fact, I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why nursing is so hard, but holy moly cow, it is. In some ways, my struggles with each of my kiddos has been the same, mainly thanks to my battles each time with Thrush. Trying to learn how to nurse while teaching a newborn to eat all while enduring stinging nipples for weeks or months on end? That is not easy. Neither is dealing with all the other little oddities and problems like poor latches due to tiny mouths (I know all babies have small mouths, but my children seems to have especially miniature versions, I swear) or plugged ducts or engorgement or pumping before every feeding or cracked nipples. But I have been there/done all that and more. Of course, it was because I wanted to, or chose to at least.
Actually, if I hadn’t been so committed to nursing and had such amazing support from my hubby, I probably would have said forget it. Newborns are stressful enough without all the boob drama, so I can see why many mamas opt for formula. Actually, we had to opt for formula too, with Raegan, but not until she was 13 months old. At that point I was too sick from being preggers with LT to keep up with all the bodily demands of her plus him plus myself, and the little stinker wouldn’t drink cow’s milk (still won’t, except for from a cereal bowl), so we did an older infant formula for six months to get her through the transition of baby to table food. See, I am not kidding when I say you do what you need to do (for each of your littles because each one is bound to be different).
However, what I’ve realized about my commitment to breast feeding after looking at all of the above mentioned resources is that I made another, rather odd now that I think about it, choice. I don’t have a single picture of me breastfeeding any of my babies. I suppose I thought I was being modest by not taking any, but when I look at the images posted to those various pages mentioned above, part of me is sad not to have visual proof of all that we went through and just how far we made it as the HD & Mama and RL & Mama teams. Because the pictures I see on those sites of those mamas and their babies are beautiful. Beautiful for the bonds and connections evident between parent and child and beautiful for the sacrifice I know it takes to make those moments happen.
Had I thought to take pictures of myself nursing Harrison or Raegan, I could have done so just for us. It’s not like I would have had to post the pictures to Facebook albums or even put them in the baby books. But having them in some form, even just on our computer, would be so helpful now that I am nursing their little brother. That way, Harrison could see for himself that yes, I did feed him with milk from my tummy (the expression he used when he watched Raegan nurse as a baby) and Raegan could know that she too got lots of “Milk! Milk! Milk!” from Mama, because these days they both ask in their own ways, quite often, if I nursed them, too. So when I think back about what a big part of their babyhoods nursing was and about how nursing has shaped me as a mama, I am shocked and a little heartbroken that I don’t have those images to share and reassure them with now.
Even though I like to be an equal opportunity mama, I think I’ll make a change this time. I think I’ll make sure that we get some snapshots of Lincoln nursing so that we can all remember what this was like. And so my kids can see, even when they are way past baby stages, that this is a great and healthy, perfectly normal and natural way to feed babies. Because hopefully, someday, it will be my daughter’s turn to make this decision or my sons’ turns to support their wives and I want them to know, to see, what we chose for them. Not to force their hands but just to say this is what we did for you. And it was beautiful.

Here We Go…

Somewhere, deep in my soul, I must thrive on chaos. Or at the very least, some part of me must seek it out, as it seems that I keep finding ways to throw more spinning plates in the air. Our latest crazy? A fence project and a bedroom shift, all in one weekend!

The fence project idea blossomed a few weeks ago when my mom visited and saw, first hand, how challenging it can be to keep my super active kiddos in our backyard. We love our backyard but the garage is way too appealing to them and they can disappear so quickly around the corner of the house, so while she and I were chatting one morning, we decided a fence would be extremely helpful. And somehow, my dear husband did not veto the idea when I suggested it to him that night, because you’ve got to be kidding me if you think I was going to the one building it! I’m the planner, not so much the doer, of these kind of ventures (but I was the one to find the sweet sale on materials from Menard’s, so “yay, me!” for that!).

So really, this fence chaos didn’t come out of nowhere and ultimately it is going to mean for much less chaos in my daily life at home with the kids. I can look past one super crazy weekend and see that pretty clearly. And the great news is, the vinyl portion is all done (minus the gate which is on hold due to backordered hinges, boo!). My dad and Ben got everything dug and set and it looks fantastic. Of course, Harrison now keeps talking about playing Angry Birds over the fence, but he’ll learn pretty quickly when he starts chucking toys over it that Mama is not going to play that game. Keep it in the yard or find something else to do, sweet child of mine! The chain link portion still needs to be set and stretched (or whatever technical terms you use to describe putting up a chain link fence), but Ben is confident that that will come pretty quickly. So no totally enclosed yard yet, but we’re getting there!

The extra crazy idea came last night as Ben and I were talking before putting Lincoln down for the night. We decided (after I had some very, very rough nights of (no) sleep this week) that it is time to get the baby out of our room. The only way to do that, as you may recall, is to get Harrison and Raegan in a shared room. And thus we had our extra burst of crazy this morning when we started combining their rooms into one right after we all got up this morning. HD was pumped, playing Project Overseer (“How’re ya doin’, Mama?”), and RL ran around carrying books from one space to the next while Ben moved the crib and I got all of the little pieces put in place.

30 minutes later and the deed was done. I think it looks sweet and cozy in the room, but appearances are not really the goal here. We are, of course, looking for everyone to get as much sleep as possible and that may be tricky here for a bit. I’m sure bedtime will take a little longer and the mornings might start a little earlier should there be a bathroom break or crying spell or whatnot for the new roommates. But I’ve got to hold on to the idea that I can handle the early mornings so long as I’m getting good, solid sleep (without a freaking pillow on my head) the whole night leading up to that point. And seeing as Lincoln has been going from 9:30 or 10:00 until 5:00 or 6:00 (sometimes even 6:30!) without nursing, we really could be in business here, since I won’t hear him until I need to hear him.

While this isn’t a terribly insightful blog post, I’m sharing it with you so you know the background and the history of our latest (crazy) change (because I can pretty well guarantee that there will be shenanigans and stories to share in the coming weeks from all of this room shuffling). However, much like the fence, I think the long term benefits are going to outweigh the short term chaos. Or, at least I really hope that is the case!

Believe/Be

I pin a lot of crap on Pinterest. It’s true. I love the website and all the pretty things. I want to pin all the pretty things and then learn all the pretty things, make all the pretty things (even though I haven’t touched a sewing machine in years) and eat all. the. pretty. things. Such eye/mind candy Pinterest is! But I’m a realist and Pinterest just isn’t real. I mean, again, it is pretty and there are lots of pretty ideas floating around on it, but for Pete’s sake, there is no way I am ever going to learn, make, or eat all of the pretties I pin. Absolutely won’t happen.

And even though Pinterest does its best to guilt me with its food and workout routines and Best Parent Ever techniques, I don’t buy it. I know there is no such thing as a perfect person or parent (there might be a perfect pastry, but the chances of me making it these days are slim – who has the time?!). And I won’t let a website fool me into feeling bad about myself because I can’t actually do or make or be all the things I pin. I am good with that. And because I am good with that, I get to do a celebratory dance any time I actually do accomplish something I found on Pinterest (which means I’ve only done this dance a few handfuls of times, but hey, that is realistic when I consider the three real-life pretties I must attend to day in and day out).

So, Pinterest rant aside, I am so stoked that one of my happy dances got to be in honor of this:

I actually managed (with many helpers) to make a “Believe there is good in the world/Be the good” sign! And the way it all unfolded was pretty cool. 
First there were the barn boards that my in-laws so kindly brought for me. Their old barn fell victim to a tornado before I ever met the Welsch family, but they’ve kept some of its pieces, using them for various projects, and fortunately some were still available for my little art scheme. My FIL cut them for me and Ben trimmed the edges and this is where we started: 

From there I enlisted the help of my mom who is far more artistic than I am but who still didn’t want to just free-hand the lettering. Instead we searched Word for a good font, played with the sizes of various words and came up with this (“GOOD” is actually the biggest word on the board):

My mama is also a smart lady and it was her idea to use carbon paper (did you know such a thing still exists? Well, thankfully it does at Eakes Office Plus in Hastings, anyway!) to trace the letters on the boards. This was great until we realized how rough/weathered some of our boards were. Let’s just say we had an awful time seeing the word “World”!

From there it was paint time. Buttercup on the “Be the Good” and cream on everything else. Even though I can’t wear it, I love me some good yellow!

 Between nursing sessions, I helped paint. 🙂

Three boards in:

A few days later, it was time for our lovely work to go up on the wall. My dear math teacher hubby devised a pretty awesome way of making this happen. 1×4 boards with eye hooks and some heavy duty wire to hang from screws in the wall and we were in business.

Brass screws attached the boards to the boards (huh?) so that our creation will be fairly easy to relocate should we ever choose to relocate.

 Almost there!

Getting the sign up on the wall was actually a little scary (to me). The steps in our front entryway are STEEP and Ben had to be up on an extension ladder to get the screws in that would align the sign with our front door since there is no actual floor right in front of where it now sits.

 See? STEEP!

With my help, we got it balanced and on the screws and, viola – sign!

Totally worth it, eh? The final product is amazing (and pretty!) and it just so happens that when I sit in the living room’s rocking chair, I am directly diagonal from this great message. This wasn’t why I chose this location, but it is a happy coincidence. I actually chose this spot in our house because everything else is covered in pictures and it was the only place that could house a 4’x4′ sign. That and I wanted it to be a saying that our guests, family, and friends would see whenever they left our house…something to take with them to believe and be in a world/society that tends to sensationalize and exploit the bad.

It wasn’t until my dad made the comment “Words to live by” on a Facebook picture of the work in progress that I truly realized my other desire to have this in our house. I really do want my family to embody these words. We don’t have a list of family rules posted anywhere in our home but now that we have this, we may not need one. When life boils down its most simple and most pure, what more is there than believing in and being good to others? Yes, there will always be the bad (moments, days, acts, people, etc.). But when we focus our attention on the other, the good, we build kind hearts and caring homes. And if we can carry that good, that love, with us, then we have the ability to help others do the same. By no means do I think one little pretty from Pinterest is going to change the world, but if it helps me and mine remember what really matters in life, than I’d say it was well worth the pin, the planning, and the finished product.

A Pirate Says, "ARRRRRRGH"

I wish BabbaCo was sponsoring me to write this, but even though they aren’t, I’ve got to sing the praises of their monthly subscription service for kiddos age 3-7, the BabbaBox. Holy Moly Cow. COOL thing!

Earlier this summer, my parents offered to get Harrison, my little preschool stud, a subscription service for his birthday present. So I did some asking and some looking online to compare different ones (like the KiwiCrate, Citrus Lane, etc.) and decided that the activities (arts, games, books) with the BabbaBox looked like the best fit for us. My mom did the ordering and then, viola, the goods started showing up at our house the end of July.

Truth? We still haven’t done a thing with the first month’s offering (Sorry, Mom!). We were traveling the day after it came and life was crazy and I wanted to save that stuff for when Ben went back to school, so I put it up on a shelf for a later date. Then, this week, another one arrived. Again, I wanted to wait until I was ready desperate, so I left it on the kitchen counter, unopened – that is, until this afternoon…HD had already had his share of PBS and the Kindle, and the other two were still napping, so I decided to pretend like the package had just arrived in the mail today. HD is pretty observant, so it could have been totally possible for him to call my bluff and say, “No, Mom. That’s been in the kitchen for days”, but he’s also 4 – it worked like a charm! I had him all excited about the package with his name on it and we tore into it on the couch.

Much to our delight, we found the coolest activity cards and supplies to get going right away with our “Pirate Treasure” box (although they have yet to show up in a box…always an envelope. Mom, I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. We don’t care that it’s not in a box, but is that some sort of green shipping option? If not, it’s funny that their name and packaging aren’t one and the same).

HD, not a costume wearer, got really excited about his pirate eye patch and wanted to get to the treasure chest decorating and gold coin hunting, straight away. So here is what we did:

Tacky glue and awesome plastic gems made Harrison’s treasure chest truly one of a kind (all supplies included in the kit, even the glue). I glued, he stuck, and then we played hide-and-seek with the coins in the next room while we waited for everything to dry. 

Of course, I had to have a pirate costume for hiding the coins, too, so I grabbed the bow from the original packaging and stuck it on my head. Perhaps a bit more fu-fu and sparkly than your average pirate, but hey, whatever works.

Our coin hunt (complete with verbal clues from me to him to find all 10) was very entertaining and lasted just long enough for the box to dry so we could add it to our fun and games.

It was Harrison’s idea, not mine or BabbaCo’s, to put the coins in two columns of perfectly matched patterned rows. “Look, Mama! A pattern!” Love this kid! Love him so much that we even went hunting for more pieces of our pirate costumes later when the littlest Littles were awake. I didn’t get a pic of HD w/ his bandana, but he did share the eye patch and treasure chest when he took this photo of me:

Eventually, Ben got in the fun, too, adding a treasure map of sorts to the treasure hunt. Making a map is one of the additional online activities, but rather than printing that off, Ben just made up his own version with torn up pieces of paper and quick sketches of items in our living room. From there, he would give Harrison the first drawing which would lead to the next item/clue and so on and so on until all the clues were found and he ended up at the treasure chest containing the coins. After 30 minutes of this (no, really, he played this for a solid 30 minutes, after 45 minutes of treasure chest decorating/coin hunting earlier in the day with me!), they switched it up and began placing the last clue in the chest and the coins in a final location. Harrison Ate. It. Up! For another 30 minutes!
                                      
And this is only one (and a half) of the ideas from this month’s box! What an awesome afternoon it provided for us. I can’t wait to see what else we discover, both with the box and with our own creativity. And the coolest part? Another one comes the next month and you get to have all new adventures. Of course, this would be totally possible with a little bit of effort planning on my part. Any small box or bag could be a treasure chest and the map/coins could be duplicated, too, but my brain is stretched too thin on sleep these days, so this subscription thing is currently a lifesaver. And don’t be surprised if you swing by our place and hear us saying, “ARRRRRRRRGH, Maties!” and “Shimber Me Timbers (HD’s version)!” in the coming days/weeks!

A Favorite, Continued

As I wrote last year, getting the goods for my planters is one of my favorite traditions we’ve established in our little family. I love, love, love doing something for Mother’s Day that lets me bond with my littles and reminds me of how awesome my own mom is. Because, frankly, she’s pretty awesome, and while I’ll never have her patience or talent for full-on flower beds or gardens, planters I can do.

Normally I make both of my planters look exactly the same. I guess that’s my Type A-ness, trying to make everything all balanced and perfect pretty. But this year, I couldn’t decide on a small enough number of plants to fit equally in both; there were way too many beautiful colors and interesting buds for me to narrow it down. It didn’t help (or maybe it did?) that I had a very anxious three-and-a-half year-old helping me with the picking…

For a wee bit I considered doing the plant shopping all by myself. Last year, even with Ben’s help, it was a tad difficult to choose my plants and keep Toddler Man from destroying touching every plant in sight. OK, in his defense, he didn’t actually destroy anything; he did, however, stress me out a bit as I tried to shop and I thought maybe I’d make the picking process a solo thing as a little gift to myself for Mother’s Day. But then, somehow, we all ended up in the van and at the store together, and now I’m so glad we did.

A year makes a big difference. Harrison was still all over the place but he listened to my directions about looking with his eyes, not his hands, and he loved having me hand him the plants so he could hand them to Ben to be put in the cart. He also loved tracking down whatever color I said I needed next. “Here, Mama! Here’s some yellow!!!” “This red one is mine! I pick this one!!” and so on is what we heard throughout our entire visit. There was, of course, some climbing on stacks of giant bags of soil and some frantic running through the aisles (done by HD – not me!), but really – it was a joy to have my whole family with me picking out my flowers and plants as they are the reason I get to celebrate this day in the first place.

The part of the process I did keep more for myself this year was the potting. I didn’t want too much help in this department, so before I began, I let Raegan go down for her nap and Harrison distract himself with other ventures (OK, let’s be honest – it was PBS. Ben needed to mow and it’s Mother’s Day, not Be Mother of the Year Day, so yes, I used TV to occupy my child for half an hour so I could play in the dirt in peace. And I’m more than OK with that!). He did, however, get in on helping with the second planter and did a good job of hanging on to each next plant while I dug its spot. Note: I tried to have him put them in the planter but his idea of “set in the hole” was more like “toss it at the planter” so we had to adjust a little on that. He was good at scooting dirt in around them, though. 🙂

Here are the final products. It is hard to tell from the photos that they aren’t matchy-matchy, but we’ll see as the warm weather continues, just how my contrasting colors and plants do. I hope to the high heavens I didn’t buy anything that shouldn’t be in a container this size, although I have a feeling this year’s offering could turn out to be quite the experiment/lesson (however, if that’s not a metaphor for parenting and life in general, I don’t know what is!).