...and our Little Flower is asleep before the fun begins!
The costume? From the Cottage Garden, where beautiful flowers grow!
Mary asked me to ponder this a bit. In order to raise healthy, happy, holy children, I think they need these six things everyday:
My husband and I were recently discussing a major goal in the raising of children: the development of empathy. We want our children to be empathetic. As a matter of fact, I see empathy as crucial to maturity. If a child can't grow to see outside herself and to "feel for someone else," she will not be an effective parent or spouse or friend or minister. You cannot nurture or love or serve without seeking to understand.
Adults who have little or no capacity for empathy are emotionally stuck. They are children. They are so self-absorbed that they cannot relate. And often, they are unaware of this handicap. Our job as parents is to ensure that our children grow into an awareness of other people and learn to empathize.
Like so many other things, we "teach" empathy by modeling it. When we empathize, particularly when we are sensitive to our children, they learn to be sensitive to others. And we praise empathy. When we see a child nurturing a sibling or even a pet, we call it what it is and we encourage more of the same behavior. There are many, many oppoprtunities to develop empathy in a large family.
I've noticed that some children have a natural tendency towards empathy and it takes just a little fine tuning on my part to encourage virtue. Some children, though, are not as inclined. We have to talk about empathy more. We have to point out opportunities to understand and to serve. And we have to correct self-centered behavior frequently.
Last night, I witnessed such tender empathy that I was inspired by my child. Nicholas and Stephen are 22 months apart. But they are nearly the same size. Stephen, who is older, is actually a bit smaller. They are inseparable. And they delight in pretending they are twins. They both have asthma. Nicholas has had a rough road of it lately and has required frequent treatments using a nebulizer. Last night, as he was holding the mask up to his face, his head began to nod and his eyelids grew heavy. Stephen noticed, took the mask in his hand, and helped Nicky to put his head on the pillow. There Stephen sat for twenty minutes more until all the medicine was gone and his best friend in the world slept soundly.
Just as we were celebrating the utter joy and loveliness of babies as a community, we were reminded that when we say "yes" to life, we also take a risk. We risk the heartbreak the Blessed Mother knew so well, the pain of loss. Several of the mothers at 4Real have suffered miscarriages this week. As Alice so eloquently wrote, "One by one, a little row of lights went out, giving way to the darkness of disappointment and loss." Please join us in praying for our dear friends. Alice has posted a beautiful prayer at Cottage Blessings.
Now that Kim has given you the history behind our home management notebooks, I'd love to share my details. Kim and I discussed what we wanted out of these over the course of several months. We're both very visual and we agreed they had to be pretty. We had to want to handle them frequently and we wanted to be rewarded when we looked at them. She's a graphic genius and she sent me my cover inserts and divider pages. They were all the inspiration I needed to take off on my own.
We both had taken to heart stories like this one and this one, and since we were both pregnant, they were in the back of our minds as we sought to put on paper everything we knew would make our households run more smoothly. The chance of our demise notwithstanding, there were other reasons for committing household routines and rhythms to paper. We saw these binders as works in progress and we knew that they would become the living books with which we could teach our daughters to keep house. That's why we both chose visual themes with our daughters in mind. And we also knew that the exercise of thinking these things through would only benefit our families, not just in the long run, but in the near term.
When a bottle of red wine fell off the top of the refrigerator and onto the granite counter below, thoroughly drenching my copies of Heart of the Home and Autumn from the Heart of the Home, I cried. Then, I blotted and reconciled myself to the fact that now I had lots and lots of pages to cut and paste in order to add graphics to my planning pages. I downloaded the same font she'd used for the dividers from Two Peas in a Bucket. I wanted all the pages in the same font if at all possible. For purposes of this post, I have saved all the downloads in a plain Word font, since you wouldn't be able to read them in the Two Peas font unless you'd downloaded it as well. Clear as mud so far?
I have already benefitted enormously from this book. I had all these routines in place by midsummer and my children and I were well practiced before the fall and the stresses that came with it. Within a two week span, my husband changed jobs (from one that had him traveling often and working at home to one that has him traveling still but working in a downtown office as well) and we added a baby to the family. Add to that the beginning of the school year, a new activity schedule, and some nasty viral illnesses and I could have been looking at utter chaos.
Thanks to the help of some very dear friends and to the forethought of the plan, we are surviving rather well. It's not perfect and my house doesn't look like a Better Homes and Gardens spread, but it's functional and when we put our minds to it, it's downright lovely.
The book begins with some inspiration. Kim sent this page:
and then I added this post to remind myself why I am doing this whole homemaking thing.
The Schedules section of the binder begins with a master schedule for the week. I've listed, by day, where each child goes and how they get to and from. Behind that are pages that include all the game and dance rehearsal schedules, directions to all the fields for the current season, my husband's travel schedule, the local school schedule and any correspondence from coaches or dance teachers. I keep a few empty page protectors there so that I can file things the minute they get home.
The Food section includes:
The Cleaning Section includes:
The Health section includes:
The Faith section includes:
The Home Education section includes the plan for each child that I wrote this summer. Those are all linked on the sidebar of this blog.
The Contacts section includes:
Whew! I'm having such fun reading others' ideas and plans for management notebooks and I'm sure glad that I bought a two inch binder from the get-go. I see much adding in my future.
For more on Homemaking Companion Books click here.
It's been all babies, all the time here for the entire month of October. And it's so much fun to share the joy with mothers all over the world who know and understand the loveliness of babies.
For so many of us, babies begin with a prayer. There is a longing that the Lord inspires in our hearts, a restlessness and emptiness that only a bundle will fill. And so we beg God for a blessing beyond compare and we buy more than our fair share of pregnancy tests, hoping for two red lines. Minnesota Mom eloquently captures those feelings of hope and eagerness as we pray to see The Thin Red Line.
And when those two lines appear, we're off on a whole new adventure. Kathryn, in England, set off on just such an adventure this time last year. She did it with a lot of prayer support and hundreds of cyber aunties who joyfully welcomed Kathryn's late-in-life Little Cherub.
And there is a little cherub at The Island of Hope, too. His name is Jack (sort of).
Several of us have been talking lately about the paradox of having so many friends who have had so many babies. The more people you know, the more stories you know. We know stories of triumph and of unimagined joy. But we have also heard the tragedies, the sorrows, the very real risks that come with having children. Cheryl takes us through the highs and the lows,to a place of trust and comfort. No one knows the gravest risks and the most terrifying fears better than Angel who has lived with an intimate knowledge of the fragility of life since the day she was born. And she reminds us to never, ever take babies and birth for granted.
Helen shares the "labor" of adoption--a labor of love. Alice brings her trademark faith and serenity to the birth experience. She tells the beautiful story of Catherine's birth and reminds us that we do not bring our babies into this world alone. She's also given us new baby pictures and some glimpses at the new miracle in the always lovely Cottage.
Sometimes, we pray for a baby and we get a surprise. The Barretts at the Bonny Blue House must be really good pray-ers, because God gave them two-at-a-time babies this year. And Mary Ellen is discovering anew that folks will do just about anything for those precious babies.
Cay considers her own babies and those of the people she loves. MamaJen shares how to keep babylove alive even when there are currently no babies in the house.
Elena reminds us that we need each one of those babies and that women will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness (1 Timothy 2:15).
It's not just moms who are reflecting. My eldest son has found a reason to ponder too. He shares what the babies in my house have meant to him.
And what about me? I'm in a fog of Baby Bliss and pretty much the entire October archives is devoted to Sweet Karoline Rose. She is an answer to fervent prayer--the rose picked from the heavenly garden, a balm to a tired soul, a fresh breeze of hope and joy. She has enchanted our entire family. I live for this and it is such a lovely life!
Mary Beth will turn ten tomorrow. Since the Loveliness of Babies Fair will be here tomorrow, I thought I'd post her birthday post today. Her brothers call her "Mini Mom" and though it irritates her, it is a fitting nickname. She is nurturing and competent, quite the lovely big sister. Still young enough to play with American Girl dolls and pretend to be living in a Little House, she is also showing a maturity that takes my breath away. Ten years seems such a short time ago! Mary Beth is a bigtime blogger and she absolutely adores her friends from the Cottage and the Glen. I laugh with their moms as we watch the second generation of cyber-buddies take shape. My first girl, I do so enjoy her and I'm so thankful for the chance to be a mother to such a dear girl. Happy Birthday, big girl!
When I met him, my husband was a baseball player--not just a pick-up game kind of guy, but a serious ball player, the kind who looked ahead to college baseball and talked with Major League scouts. We watched a lot of baseball during our courtship, snuggled on a couch in his parents' basement, eating Haagen Das ice cream and rooting for the Baltimore Orioles back when both Cal Ripken and Mike Mussina were in Balitmore. My husband grew up, but he didn't leave sports behind. Now he's a "player" with ESPN and his real life job is still games. We watch a lot of television sports in this house. We tell ourselves it pays the mortgage.
I guess it only makes sense that major sporting events stand out in my mind as benchmarks along the way in the history of our family. We announced to the world that we were expecting our first baby at a Super Bowl party, 1988 (the Redskins won). Patrick was born on a Redskins-Dallas Sunday. Stephen was born hours after Super Bowl XXXIII; Mike barely made it to the hospital. And Mary Beth stayed awake her first night in the hospital for the second longest game on record at the time--an Orioles-Yankees postseason heartbreaker. I have never been so tired in my life, but she was determined not to sleep until she knew the outcome.
Really, postseason baseball has permeated the homecomings of five of our babies. It just seems that babies and baseball are what we do. One night last week, I settled in with my little boys to watch grandma's team (Detroit) win a World Series berth. I fell asleep to Tommy Lasorda exhorting us all to watch postseason baseball. In a voice that sounded eerily like one of my uncles from Brooklyn, he intoned "I live for this. You live for this. We all live for this." And I was out like a light, baby Karoline snuggled on my chest. I awoke two hours later to a squirmy baby and Tommy again: I live for this he insisted. I sure do, I thought as I bent to kiss a sweet-smelling downy head and then to settle my newborn at my breast. I sure do.
I live for the way she makes a perfect "O" with her mouth, the way she shudders a bit and sighs contentedly when she has finished nursing. I live for the tiny hint of a smile I see when she sleeps and the promise of grins and giggles to come.
I live for the two little boys who stayed awake while I took my baseball nap and are eager to fill me in on the details, since it is now the eighth inning and I've missed almost the entire game.
I live for the chance to watch my four-year-old former "baby of the family" cuddle her new sister and croon, "I just love, love, love Karoline." I live for a twelve-year-old tough guy who acts like all he cares about is soccer, but tries to hide his tears when it's not his turn to hold the baby. I live for the daughter who witnessed her little sister's birth and still reflects that unparalleled joy.
There was a time when "I live for this" was not a television slogan; it was not hyperbole. There was a time when I left a tow-headed baby and went to the hospital again and again to be drugged with poison in order to save my life. And every day, I'd wake up and face those challenges with a single vision: my baby. I live for this. I live for him. All I wanted was the privelige of watching the baby grow into a little boy and then a big boy and then a man. All I wanted was to get him to eighteen.
And I did. We did. God did. I was granted the great gift of being present for my child, the gift of mothering the baby. The baby is eighteen now. We made it! And there is a new baby. Her lifetime stretches before me like a story begging to be written. I know now how foolish it is to think I just need to get to eighteen.Mothers are never finished mothering their babies. I also know that God has a plan and that there are no guarantees--we don't know how long we have to live for this.
I have a better understanding of vocation than I did way back then. I know that these children are God's children and His plan is what I want to live. I know that as important as I thought I was to that baby all those years ago, the children that God has entrusted to me are my path to salvation, not the other way around. Sure, I will teach them diligently and I pray that they will know, love, and serve God, but it is me who will learn the most in these relationships.
I know the sweetness of a newborn. I know the joy of seeing a child grow. And I've seen all the stages between brand new and full grown.
I also know the gift of every single day, each little tick in time. Every moment, really, every breath. It's all such a miracle--that I'm here, that she's here. It's utterly lovely. I live for this. I really do.
My ten-year-old daughter was there for the labor and delivery of Karoline. People have asked why we allowed her presence. Mary Beth first proposed the idea. She wanted to be there. It was that simple. I talked with friends who had had siblings at birth and heard nothing but positive feedback. I talked at length with my midwife. I admit that I was a bit taken with the idea that I could show my daughter how to labor. I've always had good labors and deliveries and I liked the idea of sharing that positive with her. So often, young women hear the horror stories; I wanted her to know something else first. But, in the back of my mind was the creeping doubt. What if something went wrong? What if she witnessed something unthinkable? And so I wrestled all the way until the end.
I talked extensively with my friend Melanie who was Mary Beth's choice for her own support person. I was the labor coach when Mel's teenage daughter delivered two years ago, so Mel and I were together as Emily labored to bring Gracie into the world. We had a shared labor experience and Mel had an understanding of what we hoped. She also knew to whisk Mary Beth away if necessary.
We opted not to watch birth videos. She wasn't interested. We talked a lot about labor and delivery and looked through some books. I walked her carefully through the emotional signposts described in Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way.
When push came to shove;-), she did beautifully. It turned out to be a hard labor (Karoline was posterior and transition was 21/2 hours long). I worried that she would be so traumatized by watching me in pain that she'd be afraid of childbirth. On the contrary. When I hit the "self-doubt" signpost and began to declare rather emphatically that I couldn't do it, she told Mel, "She really can. She just worries too much." There's a girl who did her homework!
To see her face as this baby was born was a precious priceless gift. A few days after the birth, when I asked if she were afraid, she said she's less afraid than before Karoline was born. Later, she wrote:
I was there when Kari was born, there when they measured, there when they weighed, and there to cut the cord of sweet Karoline and much more. I am posting to tell you such a great experience I got out of this. I loved to see that head pop out into her shiny new world and spend her first seconds. I watched her cry with my mom and I just got to see the beautiful moments and minutes and even hours she first spent in the world. I loved cutting the cord and I knew that I was blessed to have such a good friend (Mel) watch over me at this time.
It took a huge leap of faith for me to have her there. I had to overcome my own fears and my natural sense of protectiveness. But I'm really, really glad I did.
What great excitement met the news that Baby's cord had fallen off at last! It was time for a bath. We filled the tub with warm water, turned down the lights and lit a candle. We bathed her quickly with castille soap and a soft washcloth. Still, she didn't like it. (Mommy would have loved such a bath.)
We dried her with a warm towel and then gave her a massage with almond and lavender oils. Finally, we dressed her in warm pjs and a new cap and wrapped her up "burrito style." Hopefully, someone will sleep well tonight.
I thought I'd share a few things that have made this postpartum a bit more pleasant. First up, right after delivery and faithfully from that moment forward is the herb for moms of many: Raspberry leaf. This wonder from the earth is a great uterine tonic, controls bleeding and helps the uterus to contract efficiently after birth (it's great all the time really, not just postpartum). The nurses who cared for me all marvelled at how well my uterus had responded to this eighth birth. I just smiled and thanked God for Kim, who insisted I take plenty of raspberry.
My room smells like lavender with a hint of tea tree oil.I love these two essential oils! Both herbs have wonderful antiseptic qualities. The lavender smells like a lovely floral and the tea tree is a bit more medicinal. A few drops in a peri-bottle, sitz bath, or bathtub are healing to both body and spirit.
Next up is Trail Mix Crunch from Mareblu Naturals, my sustenance while in the hospital. In this bag are delicious chunks of almonds, cashews, and pistachios with just a light coating of rice syrup and salt. I'm allergic to wheat, so the typical after-labor snack of graham crackers and peanut butter was not happening for me. I packed a bag of this awesome trail mix (purchased at Costco) and ate it throughout my hospital stay. Note to self: if you tell dietary about the allergy, the food will be safe, but even worse than normal hospital fare.
I've been drinking copious amounts of Postpartum Recovery tea, purchased from the good folks at Earth Mama, Angel Baby. The tea is delicious and full of more good things for both both mind and body. From the company's description:
This herbal blend of organic stinging nettle, organic raspberry leaf, organic alfalfa, organic oatstraw , organic lavender, organic lemon balm, organic cinnamon and, of course, organic lady's mantle . It's rich in valuable minerals iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus necessary for postpartum mamas. And its astringent herbs help tone the uterus, reduce uterine bleeding, and all the while, helping to calm and balance brand new mamas.
I'm finding the ad copy to be entirely true.
I'm alternating that tea with Milkmaid Tea, equally delicious and created to enhance breastfeeding.Fennel is the herb of choice for encouraging milk quality and quantity. I'm not a huge fan of fennel, but this tea is good. Karoline seems to approve. Speaking of breastfeeding, my friend Cindy gave me a My Brestfriend as a shower gift. Ahhhh...this is far superior to a Boppy. The pillow in front is sturdy and just the perfect height for nursing and the cushion around the back supports my back and shoulders and
forces encourages great posture. Oh and, while I was hanging out at Earth Mama, Angel Baby, I tossed some Happy Mama spray into the cart, too. Now, life even smells good.
I'm not going to Hat Tip the dear friend who recommended Bottom Balm (bet you were worried there, for a moment, buddy), but I'm going to mention it here for the benefit of anyone who might ever benefit from such a salve and I will tell you that I am forever indebted to her for suggesting I get it "just in case." Calendula and chmomile in shea butter and olive oil are pretty typcial "balm" ingredients. This one has St. John's Wort as well and my buddy and I think that might just be the magic elixir.
I've been listening to lots of Baby Needs Mozart, a perennial favorite in our house. Karoline and I drift off to sleep together and I remember similar snuggles with her siblings while we listed to this CD.
Finally, I'll tell you what I read in the hospital...a couple of days before Karoline was born, a plain manilla envelope arrived in the mail. I peeked inside, gave a little squeal, and sighed "perfect." And then, exercising great self control, I didn't read a word, but tucked it into my suitcase. I think I am the only postpartum woman on the planet who can say she spent the day after birth reading Danielle Bean's new book. It was an unedited, advance copy and I had to restrain myself from marching next door to the first-time mom with the baby that cried all night and sharing it on the spot! I think she could have used the kind encouragement.
...not to mention that it hurts to sit. But I did find this response to the frequently asked question, "What do the kids think of the baby?" My advice after reading this essay? Don't stop having children too soon; there are beautiful, rare gifts that come with that very wide age span of siblings.