Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hey everyone, it's me. Natalie.


Hi everyone, Natalie here. 
*photo of Goblin:
 1219a

Aren't I cute? I know that I am, because everybody tells me so about a million times a day! Mama has obviously been a slacker at blogging lately, so I thought I’d fill in for her today.  Anyhow, I introduced myself as Natalie. N-A-T-A-L-I-E. I am not a Goblin, for pete's sake.  What a wretched nickname! Also - look there to your right.  Why hasn't Mama added me to her blog's background? I'm going to have to have a chat with her about that.

Anyway, I thought I might update you on what’s been going on lately around our house.  Lots of things – it’s a very exciting place to live!

The big sister just got accepted to a place called ‘college’.  People keep saying she’s a badger now. She still looks like a person to me. She's enjoying her senior year and Mama and Daddy keep remembering when she was a baby. I think that was about a thousand years ago or something.

The smaller sister is a hoot. Look at her being all silly with these French fries:
*photo of Bumblebee making a mustache out of fries:
 1219b

She’s all jazzed up about Christmas. She keeps asking mama very specific questions about some person named Santa. Mama told her that Santa only brings presents to those who believe in him… I’m going to have to remember that in the future!

My sisters are both amazing and I love them so much. But let me tell you about my brother.  He is so sweet.  If Mama is ignoring me while I scream my lungs out (I don’t know why she thinks she has to do things like go to the bathroom and make dinner and fold laundry. She should be holding me all the time!) my big brother will come pick me up and talk to me. He doesn’t like to hear me cry, and he is so good at calming me down.
*photo of The Boy holding Goblin:
 1219d

And he has cool hair.  I hope my hair grows like his.

So I mentioned Christmas.  I’m not sure what it is, but apparently it’s a big deal.  There are lots of sparkly lights around the house.  Smaller sister says there are usually more of them but Mama just got lazy this year and didn’t put up all of the decorations.  She said there is normally a giant sparkling tree set up in the sun room!  That’s crazysauce because we already have like three trees around the house. Why do we need another huge one? Anyway, the kids keep talking about what they want for Christmas, and there are pretty packages under the living room tree. I think I will like Christmas as long as Mama is there too.

I don’t like to leave Mama’s side.  When she sits down to dinner, I scream to be fed, even if I ate recently. Why should everyone else get to eat and not me? She usually pulls out the Boppy pillow and nurses me at the table while she eats one handed. That’s called a compromise.  Works for me! I'm glad the rest of the family isn't bugged by it.

I am so tired of Mama taking pictures all the time.
*photo of Goblin sticking out her tongue:
1219e

The Mamarazzi follows me everywhere with that big black flashy contraption. Make it go away!
*photo of Goblin covering her face:
1219c

Several days ago, I played the best practical joke on Mama.  I slept through the night twice in a row!  Mama was so excited, she kept telling me how awesome I am and smiling a bunch.  Her face looked different too – the puffy bags under her eyes weren’t so noticeable. But guess what? If I sleep all night long, I don’t get that extra special middle of the night snuggle time with Mama, so… I decided to start waking up again. Maybe I’ll go back to sleeping all night, but I’m not so sure. I don't understand why she's so tired all the time.  She's asleep whenever I wake up to eat at night!

I’m still mad at Mama for what happened last week.  She took me to a place called the doctor. They took my clothes off, weighed me, and kept calling me things like ‘dainty’ and ‘peanut’ and ‘she’s so tiny!’.  I did not like that.  I may be only 9 pounds and in the 10th percentile for my height and weight, but I am TOUGH and STRONG, darn it. Anyway, they did all sorts of weird things, poking, prodding, looking in my eyes, ears, and mouth with a flashlight, and so on.  It was annoying, so I let them know that I was not pleased.  And then… holy shit, you guys (oops, Mama says 2 month olds aren’t supposed to swear. Sorry!) the nurse stabbed these sharp sticks into my legs! What the hell was that for? I am never going back to that place, I don’t care what Mama says.

There is this thing called football at our house.  Do you have it at yours?  It’s where a loud noise comes from the TV.  It sounds like a crowd of people talking, with some whistles blowing, and some clanky noises, maybe from when the men who wear tights bump into each other? Anyway, our team is the Packers and everyone in the house dresses up in green and yellow on Sundays.  Mama is in love with some big muscly guy named Clay and Big Sister gets all googly eyed over Aaron Rodgers. They like to tease each other over whose 'boyfriend' is the best.  (I'm on Mama's side for that one, but #12 isn't so bad either.) 

We watch the game and Daddy yells a lot. Sometimes it’s good yelling, and everyone whoops it up.  Our dog Reggie is the funniest – he’s a huge football fan.  He runs around and barks when there’s a touchdown. And sometimes it's bad yelling.  Then Daddy goes over to our punching bag and hits it.  He says he's letting off steam, but I haven't seen any steam. Just a mad face and some talk about the blankety-blank refs not calling penalties. Anyway, I’m still not so sure about all of this, but I guess our team lost last weekend for the first time all year.  Daddy was kind of disgusted and Mama wasn’t too happy either.  But look – I didn’t mind.  I love my football game outfit:
*photo of Goblin smiling in her Packers gear:
 

Well, I should get going now. I’m starting to get hungry.  I like to eat about every two hours during the day which makes it tough for Mama to get anything done.  But I know she loves every second of it, because she tells me so all the time while she’s sniffing my head. She says she has to go back to a place called ‘work’ soon.  I don’t know what work is, but I think it must be like ‘doctor’ because she does NOT want to go back.  She gets sad when she talks about it. Poor Mama. I hope she doesn’t have to get shots there.

Anyway, that’s about all I have time for today. Maybe Mama will be able to write another post soon. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Accepted!

*photo of Hollywood looking at her laptop and throwing her hands up in the air in excitement:
Accepted!

This photo was taken of Hollywood at the exact second that she logged into her University of Wisconsin online account and read their admissions acceptance letter. 

She got in! She's now an official Badger.

There was never any doubt in my mind that she'd get accepted.  The kid's top of her class, straight As, great ACT score, tons of extracurriculars, etc.  But it took them 12 weeks to give her the official 'we want you' letter.  She was waiting for a long time to get it, and recently she'd been getting antsy. Wisconsin was the only school she applied to - after her visit to Madison this spring, she was 100% set on going there. It felt like the perfect fit for her, and she couldn't wait to get enrolled!

It was a rare moment in our family last night because we were all in the living room together, except for Bumblebee who was at a sleepover next door.  The rest of us were watching the Iowa vs. ISU basketball game when she came screetching into the room.  She'd gotten an email stating that the admissions decision was available online.  She brought her laptop into the living room, logged into her account, and we all waited holding our breath. As you can see from the photo, she got the news she wanted.

I know that she can't wait to get this new chapter in her life started. Last night she spent time ranking the residence halls and reading up on the enrollment process. That smile never left her face and occasionally, she'd let out a giddy "Whee!" with a delighted clap of her hands. That enthusiasm was so contagious - we were all smiling.  Even Goblin, who usually only smiles in the morning. While I'm a mess when I think of letting Hollywood go, I can't help but recall when I was her age and the world was so... limitless. She's now one step closer to her dreams, her future, the incredible time in her life when she writes the definition of who she is.

Congratulations, baby girl. We are so proud of the young woman you've become.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Expressions

This kid cracks me up:
*collage photo of Goblin with many goofy expressions:
Expressions

Friday, December 2, 2011

Imaginary Photos

*photo of Flat Stanley with a giant turkey leg in front of him:
IMG_5517 (2)
I can't believe it's December already. This week has seriously flown by.  I have been planning on writing up a recap of Thanksgiving for several days, and now I've finally got a calm baby, a cup of coffee, and a brain in the mood to throw some words together. So here goes:

***

I didn't take many photos this year for Thanksgiving, which makes me sad.  Photographs are so important to me - they freeze a moment in time, giving us the chance to look back years later and remember an event.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; I hope my children look back on their years at home and remember our laid back, family oriented Thanksgivings.

We hosted dinner at our house this year, which is why I didn't have the chance to take a lot of photos.  Between the baby and the food (and the football game - Go Packers, 11-0, baby!!!) I didn't have the chance to walk around getting in everyone's face with the camera.  I suspect people were pleased.

If I would have had the chance to take photos this year, here's what you would be seeing right now:

The first photo is of my mother-in-law, who came up the night before and spent the night so that she could make us a breakfast of ebelskivers - danish pancakes that were delicious!  In our imaginary photograph, Judy is wearing her pajamas and she's standing in front of my stove flipping the donut-like pancakes. Her smile softly crinkles her eyes, and there's a smudge of powdered sugar on her shoulder.  Bumblebee is hovering around her, waiting for the next batch of ebelskivers to be done (and so am I - those things were like crack!- but since I'm the imaginary photographer, you don't get to see me!) As usual, my kitchen is a bit of a mess, but it's still a colorful, sunny, and a happy place to be, especially on Thanksgiving morning. Our imaginary photograph has special powers, so you can smell the chocolate in the pancakes, the hazlenut in the coffee, and the pumpkin pies that were just put into the oven. Mmmmmm....

The second photograph is also of my mother-in-law. She's not as happy in this one, and if we had an imaginary video instead of a photo, you might hear her mutter some mild curses under her breath.  She had the task of making a million deviled eggs because she makes the best ones I have ever tasted. This year the eggs didn't want to peel nicely, so she had trouble with them. In our photo, you see her hands fumbling with the egg shells, trying to coax them into coming off of the eggs easily, leaving a smooth surface of egg white.  The smooth surface was not to be; the eggs had the crater-filled appearance of the moon - but I assure you that nobody in our family noticed as they gobbled them up.

Another photo shows my brother Luke, who was the first of my family to arrive. Luke lives in Kansas City and we don't get to see him as often as we'd like.  This imaginary photo was taken outside in the driveway, just as Luke got out of his car.  It was captured at the exact second that Bumblebee launched herself up into Luke's arms.  Caught in mid air, you can see that she's got a big smile on her face, while he wears a look of concentration: the expression that comes from the effort of counterbalancing the energy of an enthusiastic 8 year old in order to remain standing instead of getting knocked to the ground.

There are other photos of my brothers and their families as they arrive.  Smiles on their faces, arms bearing the food they brought to share. My nephews take off for the basement or the back yard to rough house with my kids, and there are dogs everywhere.

The next photograph is taken in our back yard where there is a crew of guys playing football. It's the end of November and the weather is beautiful - over sixty degrees, which is unheard of in Iowa.  The dogs are participating in the fun, and in the photograph you can see Reggie tackling my nephew Alex as he ran with the ball.  (It was all in good fun, but I do think it scared him a bit, and I feel bad for that.  Reggie didn't mean any harm, I guess he was just taking his job as safety very seriously.) The sun is shining down on the grass, which is somehow still green in places and sprinkled with leaves from the neighbor's apple tree.

Moving back inside, we now see a photo of the women standing in the kitchen doing what is required of them on Thanksgiving day: drinking hefty amounts of wine. Hollywood is among the ladies, and has been given permission to enjoy her first glass of wine with the 'grownups'. There's a glint in her eye, she's pleased to be included in this adult tradition, but if you were to see her mom, you might catch a quick look of sadness cross her face - sadness at the thought that this is the last year she'll be at Thanksgiving while she lives at home.  Next year it will be like she's a visitor. The rest of the subjects in the photo are Judy, my mom, my sisters-in-law, and the ebullient Bumblebee who insists loudly that Hollywood is getting drunk. We are all smiling and enjoying the warm-faced glow that comes from wine and good company.

The photographs taken at the dinner table show mismatched china (who has matching service for 22 people, anyway? Certainly not me!) over a pretty burgundy tablecloth.  The kids' table is set up in the sun room, only a few feet away from the adults.  The photos show people eating mounds of food - turkey, potatoes and gravy, stuffing, corn, green bean, and asparagus casseroles, and so much more.  There is SO MUCH FOOD, you can gain ten pounds just by looking at these pictures.  The photos capture a mouth stuffed with food here, a chin raised in laughter there, and a family squeezed close together around the table. Thank goodness my brothers aren't seeing who can go the longest without using deoderant anymore.

A guest photographer has borrowed my imaginary camera and has taken a photo of The Husband and me.  The photo captures us from behind as we are seated together at the head of the table sharing the wobbly piano bench.  The Husband has put his arm around me and leaned in to give me a kiss on the cheek and whisper his thanks for the food and for putting this all together.  He squeezes my side and the camera captures my squirm, as he's gotten a ticklish spot. For the record, this is a magical imaginary camera and it shows no bra lines or love handles or back fat.  I abhor photos taken of me from behind, but this one is as flattering as can be.

There's a photograph of my dad standing in front of the kitchen sink, washing all of the dishes by hand. Our dishwasher has been broken for a few months and while I ordered a new one a while ago, it didn't get delivered until the day AFTER Thanksgiving.  So here's Dad in the photo, shirt sleeves rolled up above his elbow, while the dishes are stacked ceiling high to his right.  To his left is the clean pile, waiting to be dried and put away.

In the living room, we capture a photo of my mom holding my five month old nephew, Simon.  Nanna is slowly moving her fingers up and down, as you would if you were playing an imaginary piano. Simon is fascinated by this and can't take his eyes off of the moving fingers.  His chubby little hand reaches for the moving fingers, and he eventually grabs one and puts it in his mouth.

The last imaginary photo was taken after all of the guests have gone home.  The Husband went to bed early and the older kids are downstairs watching TV.  The photo is of me snuggling with Goblin.  It's been a busy day and she's behaved wonderfully - the noise and activity is calming for her, apparently.  But I had many things to do today, and there were people who wanted to hold her, so I didn't get my usual dose of baby snuggling.  So this last photo shows me sitting on the sofa, wrapped in my raisin colored chenille blanket with a sleeping baby in my arms. Goblin is making reflexive expressions in her sleep that look like grins, grimaces, and expressions of surprise. My neck is bent down with my nose on her soft head, smelling her sweet baby scent. I'm inhaling deeply, replacing the smell of turkey, pie, and other food with her precious scent that will only last for a short time.  My eyes are closed, and I am at peace, thinking of the day and how wonderful it has been. Thanksgiving - oh yes.  There is much to be thankful for.

In reality, Bumblebee had a school project and Flat Stanley had to get some photos taken over the holiday weekend. So we did take a few photos, but not many. I will leave you with this one: Flat Stanley's dessert:
*photo of Flat Stanley eating pumpkin pie:
IMG_5518 (2)
We forgot his whipped cream topping!  How rude.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Eighteen. (Wait, really?? How did that happen?)

I just had a good cry.  It was an ugly cry.  A gulping, gasping for air, blotchy red face, leaving you with a headache cry. The kind where you don’t even bother to grab the Kleenex – you just let your nose run until you’re faced with the choice of wiping snot on your sleeve or letting it run into your mouth.  No matter, the shirt I’m wearing needs to be changed eventually, right?

Hollywood turns 18 today.  I’m not sure why I cried so much about this milestone.  Perhaps I was mourning the loss of my first baby who screamed her pretty little head off for the first six months of her life. She taught me so much during her first months: how to do things one-handed, so I could hold her all the time, how to know when to step away and let her cry, even if it killed me to do so. And then when she got older and pushed every limit we set, I learned the art of patience.  I wasn’t a quick study, I’ll admit, but I did eventually learn how to take a deep breath and count to ten before flying off the handle.  And when she went to school and greedily devoured every lesson, she taught me about learning, and how there is so much in this world to explore. As she grew into a teenager I watched her be confident without being cocky, shower generosity on her friends and family, and rely on faith to get through hard times. As my firstborn, she paved the way for me as a mom and gave me my sea legs so that I could feel more confident parenting her brother and sisters. She has filled me with so much.  So am I sad because she is no longer a child? That seems silly since the only alternative to growing up isn’t a good one.

Maybe I’m sad because I know she’ll be leaving soon. This coming summer, we’ll pack her things and move her into a dorm room in Wisconsin. She’ll live five hours away from us.  I can’t even stand to think of her being so far away, not being here for silly family dinners where we sit around the table laughing until we cry, Packers games, and impromptu shopping trips. This house won’t be the same without her.  It’ll be a little dimmer, a little quieter. But I know she’ll be making her own traditions; finding herself and making a life of her own. I am so excited for her to take those steps – to build her own life. College is an amazing experience and I look forward to seeing her soar into adulthood like I know she will. I feel like she was loaned to me, never really mine at all.  She’s never really been mine, she’s been her own all along.

I guess there are a lot of reasons that her turning 18 could make me sad.  But I’m happy and proud (oh, so proud) as well.  She’s such a great kid. Woman? Yeah, I’m not quite ready for that yet.  I’ll stick with ‘kid’.    

Here is a slide show that I put together to celebrate her 18 years.  Happy Birthday, Hollywood.  I hope you know how precious you are to your dad and me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I need to change the blog's masthead...

My blog header states the following:

"The random and often rambling thoughts of a working mom with three kids and a husband who travels."

So I have to update it since I now have four kids.  (That still amazes me. I am responsible for FOUR kids. Eek!)

But... guess what?  I also have to change it because (dun-dun-dun) I now have a husband who no longer travels all the time!!!!! (yes, I used my allotment of exclamation points, but this is huge, y'all!)

The Husband started a new job this morning that will significantly reduce his travel time.  He'll still have some out of town work to do, but nothing close to his old job.  I am so excited to have him home more often, you can't even imagine... This new job is an amazing blessing and could not have come at a better time for our family.

He'll be doing the same type of work, but the company he's with now has contracts with some of the large local businesses, so there will be more service/maintenance work and less on the road installations.  Yippee!

There's only one downside to TH being home so much.  I expect that he won't appreciate cereal for dinner as much as the rest of us do.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ack. Be still my heart...

Friday was another day like all of the rest around here.  I woke in a haze after getting far too little sleep and moved the milk machine operation from the bedroom rocking chair into the living room so that I could supervise the older kids as they got ready for school.

The Boy had to go in early to turn in his pads and football equipment, so Hollywood dropped him off.  The school is only a mile away, and so she came back home to finish getting ready for school.  Bumblebee had gone off to the bus stop during this time (the bus stop is just a couple of houses down the street).  I don't know why - there must have been some subconscious thought process going on, but when Hollywood came back inside, I asked her if she saw Bumblebee at the bus stop. She said that she was there, safe and sound.  I had a thought, but again, it was fuzzy, and not fully formed.  "She's not the only kid there, is she?" I asked.

Well, she was.  And then I remembered.  It was Friday. November 4th.  And we had BREAKFAST WITH PARENTS on our schedule.

Shit. Shit. SHIT.

I asked Hollywood to call Bumblebee in from the bus stop.  I didn't want her to be the only kid on the bus, when all of the GOOD parents remembered to go into school early to have coffee and donuts with their kids.  Hollywood did as I asked, but I was in such a frenzy that I ran outside (in my pajamas) and hollered at her myself.  "Get in the car!" I yelled.  "It's breakfast with parents!"

So... I sprinted to the bedroom, changed out my pajama bottoms for a pair of jeans, and threw on a sweater.  I tossed the baby into her car seat and headed for the car.  I didn't comb my hair, brush my teeth, or put on makeup.  I looked scary.  I only hoped that the sweater covered up any breast milk stains that might still be on my shirt.  I'm glamourous these days, y'all.

But it didn't matter what I looked like - I had to get to the school with Bumblebee.  As I was getting into the car, Hollywood said, "You're a good mom."  I looked at her, about ready to cry.  I'm three weeks postpartum, people.  Hormones! I raised an eyebrow and she quickly added, "No - I mean it! I know you forgot the breakfast, but you're doing everything you can to get there. You're a good mom."

Ack. Very high praise from a teenager. I couldn't speak, so I hugged her and ran to the car.

I was pretty sure we didn't make the breakfast, but my goal was to at least drive Bumblebee to school so that she didn't have to ride the bus by herself.  In the car, I apologized fifteen times for forgetting Breakfast with Parents.  Bumblebee, ever the sweetie, said, "It's ok if we missed it, Mommy.  I don't really like donuts that much anyway."

Again with the Ack. Can she be any sweeter?

Turns out that we got there in time and as a bonus, they served breakfast pizza instead of donuts, so Bumblebee was stoked.

Later that night Hollywood apologized to me for how she acted when she was 13 and, in her words: "I was cranky and fought with you and hated on you all the time."  I asked her what prompted that and she said they were talking about it in her English class and she thought back to those oh so fun times.  It made me smile.  I reassured her that I only got what I deserved, since I did the same thing to my own mother at age 13.

I'll leave you with one last 'Ack' moment.  The Husband found this sticky note stuck to his laptop the other day:

*photo of a sticky that has a heart with me + Dad written inside:

When you turn it over, this is what it said:
*photo of the sticky that says "P.S. Me is Vali"

It's these tender moments that make me cherish being a mom.  Even if I am a scatterbrained, forgetful one these days.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two weeks

Goblin is two weeks old already - I can hardly believe it.

I don't have much to update - this is pretty much what's been going on for the past fifteen days:
*photo of me holding Goblin:
xIMG_5291
I hold her all day and most of the night too. Good thing I love snuggling babies! I've got everything set up within arms' reach of the sofa and if I want to change things up a bit and move to the recliner, I can do that.  We got a good start on cloth diapering and that's going well too, although I'm still using disposables for overnight.

Goblin is a good baby, but she likes to cluster feed in the evenings and nighttime, my worst times of the day.  In the morning she is alert and cute as can be. Which explains why I look so exhausted here.  But I'll take it - wouldn't trade it for the world.

Someday I'll come back and post something that is mildly interesting.  Promise.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Goblin's birth story, part 2

So there it was. We had a new baby girl! The Husband and I spent the hours after her birth watching her and snuggling with her. She was alert for several hours, no doubt wondering what the heck just happened to her.

Early Sunday morning, Grandma J brought the kids up to meet Goblin. Hollywood took her first and snuggled her:
*photo of Hollywood with Goblin:
IMG_5065x
As Hollywood was holding the baby, Bumblebee jumped into bed with me and we had a good snuggle ourselves:
*photo of Bumblebee and me in the hospital bed:
xIMG_5028bw
Then it was Bumblebee's turn to hold Goblin. This is one of my favorite photos ever:
*photo of me, Bumblebee, and Goblin on the hospital bed:
IMG_5051x

IMG_5060x
The Boy got to hold her too, and although he was hoping for a brother, he doesn't look so disappointed here:
*photo of The Boy holding Goblin:
xIMG_5095
Then it was Grandma J's turn:
*photo of Grandma J holding Goblin:
xIMG_5043
I can't explain how amazing it is to watch your children open their hearts to a new sibling. My kids were so gentle, and so excited to meet their new baby sister.

It was Sunday afternoon, and the Packers weren't on TV, so The Husband and The Boy got all decked out in their Packers gear and went to watch the game at a restaurant:
*photo of TH and TB in their Packers clothes:
xIMG_5074
My brother and sister-in-law brought Nanna to the hospital to see Goblin.  This photo of Nanna exploring Goblin tugs at my heart:
*photo of Nanna holding Goblin and checking out her fingers:
xIMG_5081
And of course Brother Z and Sis-in-law M had to get their snuggle time in too. Check out that adorable knit hat that Aunt M made Goblin!
*photo of M holding Goblin:
xIMG_5084
*photo of Brother Z holding Goblin:
xIMG_5091
The visitors left late Sunday afternoon, and The Husband and The Boy came back to hang out for a while.  After they left to go home and get dinner, I spent the rest of the evening holding Goblin and starting at her perfect little features.
*photo of me holding Goblin:
xIMG_5093
I still can't believe she's here and she's ours. I've been holding her almost non stop for a week now, and don't plan on doing much else for the rest of my 12 week maternity leave.  I know I keep saying it, but we are so very blessed to have been given the gift of another child to love and raise.

My cup overflows.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Goblin's birth story, part 1

Dear Goblin,

You are sleeping next to me as I type this. Every so often you make a sleep squeaky noise that is so adorable I just want to scoop you up and snuggle you.  Which is what I have been doing non stop for the past five days. I am sleep deprived, have sore lady parts, and am basically a walking zombie because we haven't slept much this week.  But I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.  These first few weeks of bonding and snuggling with an infant are among my most precious memories, to go down as the happiest times in my life.

But let me tell you how you came into the world.  You were due on Halloween, which is why I've given you the nickname "Goblin" on this blog. I was pretty miserable these last few weeks - feeling very clumsy and uncomfortable.  I had a pregnancy symptom called PUPPS which made me itch uncontrollably for several weeks. I was hoping and praying that you'd come a little bit early to relieve me of my misery, but I never really expected you to.  You see, your sisters and brother were all overdue, so I assumed that you would be too.

On Friday night, your dad and I went to the varsity football game to walk Hollywood down the football field for senior night.
*photo of TH and me walking Hollywood down the football field:
IMG_5005
Everyone asked me if I was ready to have you and I said, yes!  I sure was - I couldn't wait to meet you.  After we got home from the game, Daddy and I watched The Five People you Meet in Heaven and had a nice relaxing night together. (Daddy doesn't like to watch movies that much, but I sure love it when he agrees to!) I wasn't feeling great that night - had cramping and was hoping they would turn into real labor, but by early morning they had fizzled out.

Saturday I didn't do much.  A little laundry, not much else. I was bummed that the pains from the night before didn't turn into anything.  I took a late mid afternoon nap while Daddy went to the grocery store to get some chicken to grill.  It was a beautiful October day - sunny, temps in the high 60s.  Nice night for BBQ chicken!  But... you had other plans!

When I got up from my nap, my water broke. I won't gross you out with the details, but there was no mistaking what happened. Oh. My. Goodness.  We were going to have a baby!!

I told The Boy to call Daddy and tell him that my water just broke.  The Boy and Bumblebee were both so excited.  It was so sweet.  After calling Daddy, The Boy texted Hollywood, who was on her way home from work.  She squealed with the news. Daddy left his cart of groceries sitting in the middle of the aisle he was in when The Boy called him.  He shot out of there and headed home as fast as he could.

It's a rare occasion to have all of us home at the same time on a Saturday, but as we left for the hospital, your brother and sisters were there to say goodbye.  I hugged each of them, and a tiny tug of sadness pulled at me.  Not because I wasn't over the moon at your impending arrival, but because things just wouldn't be the same anymore, and there's a certain sadness in that reality. They were so excited, that I got over that feeling very soon.

We made it to the hospital, and got checked in.  I won't go into the details of your labor here, because, gross! But let's just say it was the longest of my labors (by 4 minutes, according to the nurse).  It wasn't terrible, and I caved and got an epidural that made it feel wonderful. You made your appearance at 11 minutes before midnight on Saturday, October 15th!

We didn't know if you were a boy or a girl, so the doctor asked us if Daddy wanted to tell me what you were.  He did, and when he told me you were a girl, I felt the tears rush to my eyes.  I was so happy.  Daddy cut the cord and they laid you on my chest.  Here's a really gross picture of you:
*photo of Goblin right after birth:
 IMG_5009
See how purple you were with that white gunk on you?  Don't worry - they cleaned that up real quick.  But not before I got to snuggle with you, and explore you, and count your ten perfect fingers and toes. It's amazing, that feeling of having an infant created out of love between your husband and you placed onto your chest.
*photo of me with Goblin on my chest after delivery:
IMG_5011
They cleaned you up and set you on the scale.  You weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces and were 19.5 inches long.
*photo of Goblin being weighed:
IMG_5013
Then it was Daddy's turn to hold you.
*photo of TH with Goblin:
IMG_5014
We're both so proud to call you our daughter.  But here it is, almost time for you to wake up and eat again, so I will close this and write more about your birth later.

We love you, Natalie. We're so very blessed to have you in our family.

Love,
Mama

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Introducing Goblin!

Goblin was born on Saturday night - October 15th.  Her name is Natalie Caroline, and she was 6 pounds, 8 ounces and 19.5 inches long.

I will write up more, but want to do her birth story justice and my sleep deprived brain isn't wired for writing at the moment.

So I'll leave it at this:  we are very blessed.
*photo of Goblin:
IMG_5069x

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Insomnia

My body has been preparing me for the lack of sleep that Goblin will inevitably bring by giving me a wicked case of insomnia night after night.  I used to fight it, and it about drove me crazy.  I'd lay there, trying to get back to sleep, as panic built up inside me with each passing minute of the clock.  My alarm is going to go off in three hours... My alarm is going to go off in two and a half hours... My alarm is going to go off in an hour...

I have since learned to get up and do something productive.  Sometimes it's laundry, sometimes I read a book.  Other times I spend the wee hours of the morning cruising Pinterest and thinking of all of the fabulous ways I could decorate my house if only I didn't have this pesky thing called a job to keep me busy.

Last night, I whipped out the paint and glue and craft supplies and started working on Bumblebee's Halloween costume.  I'll wait until it's complete to reveal what it is, but here's a teaser.  It involves foam board, spray paint, and those push lights.  And it's going to be awesome.

Had a doctor's appointment yesterday.  Here's what I wrote on twitter:*I won't embarrass myself by tweeting the details of the condition of my cervix. I'll just say this: not good enough, uterus. Work harder:

There has been a tiny amount of progress, but my doctor teased me by saying: "I'd say you have an excellent chance of... being pregnant a week from now."

Oh well. I suppose it would be too much to ask Goblin to come out a couple of weeks early just to make his/her momma more comfortable.  We'll see the little critter soon enough. 

In the meantime, look for me doing creative things at 2 in the morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Checking in (aka Yes, I'm still pregnant).

Just in case you wondered... because everyone has been asking me this lately.

I drove to work this morning with a thick, hazy fog all around me.  The full moon, ringed by the fog, was glowing in the western sky. It was eerily beautiful, but I couldn't help but look around and wonder if I was on the set of a zombie movie. I turned off my audiobook and finished my commute in silence, letting my thoughts bounce around as they will. I have serious ADD lately, and I don't know how much of it can be blamed on pregnancy.  I suppose a lot of it can be, because the hormones and lack of sleep have to be affecting my attention span. But occasionally it's nice to ride the 40 minutes to work, with no noise or distractions, alone with my thoughts.

These days my thoughts are usually surrounding the impending birth of our Goblin.  I am due in 20 days. Less than three weeks.  In some ways, that feels like an eternity.  But in others, it's a terrifyingly short duration of time. Don't get me wrong, I'm ready, for the most part.  The bag is packed, most of the essentials have been purchased (babies don't really need much those first couple of weeks, after all) and Lord knows I'm ready to have my body back to some version of 'normal'.

But I'm worried that I will be spread too thin for a while to give my older children the attention they deserve. I remember when I was about to have The Boy, I was heartbroken because I felt certain that I'd never be able to love another human as much as I loved my Hollywood.  I honestly stressed about that for a long time. I know this is a common fear among second time mothers... And that miracle that happens when the younger child is born - the virtual doubling of the heart's capacity for love - is an amazing feat that still awes me.  I'm not worried about being able to find room to love all four of my children.  But I am worried that for a while, the older three will not be getting "all of me".  If that makes sense.

This weekend, The Boy got confirmed.  Here is a photo of us all decked out for the occasion:

1
It was a lovely (although long) mass, where the Bishop of our Diocese officiated over the sacrament that welcomed these teenagers into the adult community of our church.  The Boy chose his sister to be his sponsor, which I think is really special.  He sees her as a role model for his faith, and I'm glad that they can share that together.

After confirmation, we went out to dinner with my brother and sister-in-law, and then the rest of the family went home while The Boy and I went to see a movie together.  It was his request to go to the movie, he wanted me to take him; was glad to spend his Saturday afternoon with his mom at the theater, when he could just as easily have asked to meet a friend there.  I treasured those couple of hours with him - and I felt just a little sad that because I'll be the sole food source for an infant for the next several months, I won't get true one on one time with The Boy like that for a while.

I don't mean this to say that I'm not ecstatic about the arrival of Goblin. See the expectant smile and (gag) glow on my face as I show off my belly?
*belly photo of me in front of the crib:
2
I can't wait to meet our little guy or gal, and am looking forward to caring for an infant again. I know these thoughts are similar to the ones I had when Hollywood was my only child and I was about to change her world forever by bringing her brother into the world.  It would appear that his existence didn't damage her too terribly much.

But enough about that... I haven't blogged in a while because life has been going on around us in the whilrwind of activity that defines our schedules.  Here are a few photos of some recent activities:

At the beginning of October, we had a great time at our annual tailgate with my dad's extended family.  The kids got to talk with my grandma for a while.  Grandma V took the kids by the hand and said to each of them, "Now tell me all about YOU." by way of the conversation opener.  She spent all afternoon talking to her grandkids and great-grandkids and learning more about who they are. What an amazing woman she is:

*photo of Grandma V with Bumblebee:
3

*photo of Grandma V with The Boy and Hollywood:
4
We've spent time doing other things this fall - hiking the trails at Ledges (a state park that I'm in love with):
*photo of The Boy and Bumblebee with Reggie at Ledges:
5
And of course there have been school activities (Hollywood emceed the Homecoming Pride Night Event), sports (Hollywood is running cross country and The Boy is playing football), and a packed social calendar for the kids.  It's been a beautiful fall so far, weather-wise.  Soon enough, the vibrant colors of the trees will fade, the cold will creep upon us, and winter will be here. 

But before that happens, I'll be a new mommy again. What a thought!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fifteen Years

*photo of TH and me cutting our wedding cake:
scan0010

Tonight I’m sitting on my deck on perhaps one of the most beautiful evenings of the year.  September really knows how to do weather right in Iowa: light, tickly breeze, beautiful blue sky, a perfect 73 degrees.  I hear lawn mowers in the distance and the crickets are already chirping their evening symphony, even though it’s just after 5 p.m. Reggie is crunching on the remains of a bag of Tostitos that was left outside by one of the kids. His ears perk up when he hears the bark of a distant neighbor’s dog.

Bumblebee is inside doing her homework, or pretending to do her homework anyway.  The last time I checked, she was distracted by the coupons from the Sunday paper that were strewn around the dining room table. 50% off soft serve, add your own toppings ice cream is more interesting than the rules of plural words. So we’ll see if she’s done when I go inside. Later, we’ll snuggle in bed as I read another chapter of Harry Potter to her. I’ll nuzzle her close to me and smell her shampooed hair as I read about the adventures of Harry and his funny friends.

The Boy’s at football practice.  Later on, when I pick him up, he will smell nastier than I thought my sweet little guy could ever smell. He’ll be drenched in sweat, his awesome curly hair will be wet along the hairline, and he’ll greet me with a cheerful smile and because he’s a sensitive kid with a heart of gold, a “Hey, Mom, how are you feeling today?” before he slides into the car and I have to put the air freshener up to my nose like a gas mask so I don’t pass out from his sweaty stench. Because I’m not feeling well this evening, he’ll happily make dinner after he’s cleaned up from practice.

Hollywood is at cross country practice.  She’ll stop home, breeze through the house like she does so often these days.  Always on her way to somewhere else; her constant absence is God’s way of preparing us for her departure next year.  On her way to the shower (she’s got to work this evening), she’ll share a bright and funny story about one of her friends with me, or she’ll ruffle her sister’s hair and chat with her until she absolutely has to get ready for work. Then she’ll head out the door, with a quick hug goodbye, looking like she belongs on a television show.

Goblin is calm at the moment, but that won’t last long.  Soon s/he’ll start practicing the dance moves, or perhaps it’s soccer, or maybe a ninja competition that s/he’s training for.  This pregnancy hasn’t been easy on me, and I complain to my family about my discomforts far too much, but in reality, I’m enjoying every second of it.  There is life inside of me.  I’m about to add a fourth child to this beautiful, perfect family of mine.

Do you know who’s responsible for all of this?  Well, God, of course. But He chose The Husband to walk with me through this life.  It wasn’t a traditional beginning and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t doubts along the way.  But look at everything I have now.  I have our modest, but colorful home in a beautiful neighborhood.  I have three of the most amazing children on the planet, and another one on the way.  I have a dog who annoys the ever loving snot out of me at times, but who I wouldn’t trade for the world.  And the cats?  Well, this is a counting your blessings kind of post, so I’m going to skip over them for now. 

I have all of this because of the man who will share an anniversary with me tomorrow.  A man who I can truly say means a thousand times more to me on this beautiful evening than he did on the day we got married. I don’t know how that’s possible; I was very much in love with him then. But it’s amazing how experience, life, and years make that feeling grow.

Fifteen years ago we got married on a beautiful September Saturday in a park with our family and friends.  Counting the years before we married, I have been with The Husband for half of my life now.  We don’t have an ooey gooey romantic relationship.  We went out to dinner for ‘cheap Mexican’ (with Bumblebee in tow) this weekend under the pretense of celebrating the milestone.  Truth be told, I just didn’t want to cook that night. We didn’t give each other gifts this year for our anniversary, and we didn’t get to take a trip together like we usually do. In fact, we won’t even be spending it together in the same state because of TH’s work schedule.  But that’s ok.  We have a marriage that works, and has grown stronger, especially in the past few years, because of our respect and commitment to each other.  The Husband has given me, quite literally, my world.  This world that I’m taking in as I write on my deck and look out over the beautiful September evening. And I’m counting that as my anniversary present.  It’s a pretty kick-ass gift, if you ask me.

So… Happy Anniversary to a couple of kids who got in way over their heads when they were young. It was a rocky, scary beginning, but it led us to the serenity and comfort that we have today. We’ve come a long way since those days, and I couldn’t be happier to be celebrating fifteen years of being married to The Husband.

Love you.

------------------------------------------------------

Here's a walk down memory lane...

Here we are while I was in labor with Hollywood.  The doctor peeking out behind my mom is the same doctor I see today.  He has less hair now.
scan0012

And here we are as a young family. (Love TH's studly sunglasses!)
scan0008

At my brother-in-law's wedding when The Boy was a baby:
scan0009

I have no idea when this was taken, and it's not particularly flattering of me, but holy cow.  The Husband looks like a movie star here!
scan0011

These next two are fairly recent, within the last few years anyway:
9

10

It's kind of crazy looking at how we've aged through the years!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I should probably write a real blog post one of these days, huh?

Yeah, I know.  And I will. Soon.

Fall is chaotic with school activities.  I'm getting HUGE.  There is no more room in my stomach to eat food, so I'm eating ice cubes and getting calories through Kool-Aid.

I don't think I'm waddling yet.  At least I'm trying REALLY hard not to.  If I'm living in a dream world and you have seen me waddle, please don't shatter my illusions.  I do not waddle. 

Seven weeks left, folks.  The home stretch.  I can do this.  Really, I can. I've been telling Goblin that if s/he shows up a couple of weeks early, I'll forever consider him/her to be my favorite kid.  Think that's incentive enough to leave my comfy womb?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bumblebee's Crafty Birthday Party

Whew. I'm exhausted.  Bumblebee had her birthday party this afternoon. Ten girls showed up to celebrate, so we had a houseful of very energetic girls:
*photo of the girls being goofy:
IMG_4428

I decided that instead of gambling on the weather and scheduling too many outdoor activities, that we'd keep indoors and do crafts instead.  8 year old girls LOVE crafts, y'all.
*Photo of the girls doing crafts:
 IMG_4431

We decided to do two crafts.  The first was to make rock buddies.
*photo of supplies:
IMG_4417

We grabbed a bunch of rocks from our weed flower garden outside and washed them.  I made sure to get large and small rocks so that if kids wanted to glue smaller 'heads' onto larger 'bodies' it would work. I painted most of the rocks a variety of colors. Then I set out some glitter, googly eyes, pom poms, markers, and glue, and we were set.  We also had feathers and other stickers from the other project, so those got use very creatively as well.  The finished product:
*photos of the pet rocks:
IMG_4467


IMG_4470

These were Bumblebee's rocks.  A ladybug and a bumblebee - appropriate, no?  I hot glued the smaller rock to the larger rock:

IMG_4468

Our second craft was to decorate wooden photo frames.  I took a picture of the girls when they first got there, and printed off eleven copies of the photo. These are the supplies we used:
*photo of the supplies:
IMG_4419 

The wooden frames are available at Michael's for $1.00.  We also used foam brushes, acrylic paint, feathers, sequins, markers, stickers, and glue.

The girls painted the frame whatever color they wanted:
*photo of a partygoer painting a frame:
IMG_4432

Then they added whatever embellishments they wanted to the frame.  I set out the frames to dry, and once they were, I added the photos to the frame:
*photo of the frame with the photo in it:
IMG_4472

Super easy, and they get to bring home a fun keepsake of the party.  In addition to their pet rocks and the photo frames, I sent home a fun little project for them to do at home.
*photo of play-doh kit:
IMG_4474

In their goody bags, I put these homemade play-doh kits.  I found the recipe on Pinterest (which is my new addiction). It's super easy, you just put together some salt, flour, and kool-aid mix.  Then you put them in a cute bag, tie them up, and write out the recipe.  All the girls' folks have to do at home is mix the ingredients with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil, and voila! they have homemade play-doh.

The girls spent at least half of their time making these crafts, and then they roasted some hot dogs (or 'weenies' as Bumblebee likes to call them):
*photo of the girls roasting hot dogs over a fire in the back yard:
IMG_4452

Bumblebee really wanted to have time to watch the movie Soul Surfer, and they gave it a try:
*photo of the girls watching a movie:
IMG_4448

See how calm they are?  Yeah, that lasted maybe five minutes, but there wasn't time to watch the whole movie.  Before long, they were off to eat some of these:
*photo of cupcakes:
IMG_4415

 As they sang Happy Birthday to Bumblebee, she belted out, "And many more...":
*photo of Bumblebee singing:
IMG_4458

Here's to many more fun birthday parties. This one was a success.  As the girls were doing their crafts, one of them said, "best birthday party ever!" and it made me smile.  You can't beat that for praise, can you?