New Project

Yesterday, Katie said: “Mommy, when we move, if there’s an extra room, can we set it up just for sewing?”

I smiled.  “That’s my dream home, Katie.”

Not likely to happen any time soon, but we can have fun imagining it.

I have been avoiding teaching my daughters how to sew.  As always, it’s the learning curve.  I didn’t want to have to be patient for hours/days/weeks while they learned a new skill.  To force myself to do it, I gave Katie a quilt kit for Christmas.  The quilt is sized for a doll, and is meant to be hand sewn.  Smart cookie that she is, she did the first 3″ line of stitching joining two patches and then asked to switch to the machine.  We had that quilt completed in a few hours.

She was not very diligent about maintaining a 1/4″ seam, but it was just a doll quilt.

Jenny saw this and decided she wanted to make a quilt for the new baby.  We opted for red/white/blue, since we don’t know the baby’s gender and because I had a bunch of red/white/blue fabric on hand.  We finished cutting those squares yesterday and designing the layout.  I did have to go back and trim up all the squares to make them the same size.  Katie had helped, but cut 5″ x 5″ squares instead of 4″ x 4″.  And I have a plastic quilt block pattern which is 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ to have a 4″ x 4″ end product, but I did not realize that it was like that.  I cut a bunch of 4″ wide fabric strips, and the girls used the pattern to cut them into “squares” but they were 4″ x 4 1/2″ instead.

This was MY learning curve, and I don’t seem to mind those so much.

We then started sewing the patches into strips, making sure we got the design right.  Jenny picked up very quickly on the need to pay attention to which block came next.  After I did two strips, she decided she wanted to do the sewing.  So, I showed her how and (after Katie’s sewing performance), stressed the need to keep the edge of the fabric aligned with the edge of the foot.  I even made her rip out one seam and do it again.  She did great.  After walking her through a few strips where I aligned the fabric and showed her exactly where to stitch, I let her do it by herself while I watched, and she demonstrated that she thoroughly understood what she was doing.  She finished all the remaining strips with minimal assistance.

I did have to re-thread the bobbin at one point.  And re-thread the needle after the thread broke.

And there was one point where Katie was showing her how to use the iron, and I was across the room cautioning, “You MUST be careful with the iron.  It will burn you.  I have a scar on my leg from being burnt by an iron 35 years ago.  Pay close attention!”  My words were immediately followed byOuch!” and Katie ordering her sister to put her hand under cold running water.  It’s a pretty ugly burn, but she took it like a trooper.

After the doll quilt was finished last weekend, Katie decided that she wanted to make a quilt for her bed.  I am unhappy about the store-bought quilts they have.  They just have not held up in the wash and with normal childhood wear and tear (jumping on beds, being used as a tent, etc).  But finding the time…

But since Katie did such a great job on the doll quilt, I decided to go ahead and jump in with not just her quilt but three coordinating quilts for the three girls.  We went to the fabric store last week and bought enough to get started with a vague idea of a pattern.  This past week, we finalized our design, and yesterday we began to cut the shapes: each block is 9 pieces, but there are 2 different sized squares and a rectangle.  One square is large (10″ x 10″ when done) and we found three fabrics with the same pattern but different colors: light blue, lavender and pink.  Each quilt will have that large square be a different color, but the other colors will be in the block as well.  Each quilt will be unique, but they will all go together well.

We’re using the Puss-in-the-Corner

I also got some great coupons in the mail this week (50% off!!), so we’ll go back to the store after Mass today and see if they have enough of this gorgeous lavender paisley fabric that we want to use as a backing for all three quilts.  Katie can’t wait to start piecing her blocks together.

I don’t regret not doing this sooner.  I think the timing is perfect.  I’m pleased at how well both girls are sewing and their comprehension of the way the pattern goes together.  I’m enjoying how they are working well as a team and helping each other.  And since Katie’s doll quilt was also my first quilt, I’m enjoying learning this with them.  I wasn’t worried that it would be difficult (I tend to be undaunted with sewing projects even if I do spend quite a bit of time ripping seams and trying again).  But I was concerned that the project would be tedious and frustrating if their involvement required too much effort from me.  Instead, I am finding that the monotony of measuring, cutting and stitching is very pleasant when you have nice companions.

How They Took the News

Just in case you missed it, I am having a baby.  It’s OK if you did miss it.  I am not offended.

In the comments of my January 2nd post, Elizabeth M asked if Billy knew I was pregnant when he predicted a new sibling this year.  Yes, we had told them, and it was a moment worth remembering.

When you have babies every couple of years with regularity, you start to expect babies every couple of years with regularity.  The baby I lost right before Bill deployed to Afghanistan, though unplanned, was not unexpected.  Mary was well over a year old at that point.  Since Bill’s return two years ago, I’ve had two other miscarriages.  At some point, I began to expect loss instead of joy.

I sheltered my children from these losses as best I could.  This was a natural extension of sheltering myself from these losses.  I am a big fan of repressing pain and sorrow.  You’ll not convince me that depression and crying are good for the soul.  My children knew of two of these losses.  One, immediately after the worst was over, and at that time, we mentioned the one from 2009. They were so devastated, I did not tell them about the last one.

And I definitely did not tell them I was pregnant with this baby for quite some time.  I wasn’t sure how long to wait, but often things just work themselves out with time.

The first hurdle, in my mind, was getting past the 6 – 8 week mark.  Twice, the first indication that something was wrong was when I began to spot.  Somewhere around week 7, I began the process of getting a referral to the midwife group I wanted to use.  This should have taken, at most, a week.  It took more than four (because government-run health care is that good).  The next challenge was confirming a heartbeat.  With my second loss, I went to the midwives at around 10 weeks, but the baby was only 8 1/2 weeks in size with no heartbeat.  It was another 2 weeks before my body expelled the baby.  Even though I was over 11 weeks by the time I got an appointment with this child, I knew that there was still a possibility that the baby had already died.

The midwives have an ultrasound machine, but the woman who does their scans is only in on Tuesdays.  I knew that, but the first appointment they had with the midwives was on a Friday and they had this funny thing about scheduling first appointments with the ultrasound lady.  They didn’t seem to care that that’s all I cared about.  What’s the point of doing that whole history thing and drawing blood and having a physical exam if you’re not going to have a baby in the end?

So I went in on that Friday late afternoon, last appointment of the week, and gave blood and recited my medical history (having written my medical history prior to the appointment) and had my eyes, nose, ears and glands checked.  I had a breast exam, and then she felt my uterus and said the size matched my dates, so everything looked good.

Then she got the little sonogram machine that lets you hear the heartbeat.  She warned me it was still early (I knew), but she said let’s try to hear one.  She tried and she tried and she tried.  And I might have been fine if she had stopped after a minute and said, “Well, these babies don’t like to come out for these things, and it’s still too early, so we’ll bring you in for an ultrasound on Tuesday and see the baby then.”  

But, no, that’s not how it went.  “There it was!” she said, but then she lost it.  I didn’t hear it.  She desperately wanted to give me that thread of hope, but the more she searched, the harder it became to maintain my composure.  She left me for a minute to get a newer machine, and it gave me time to dab at my eyes, take a deep breath, and turn off my brain.  “Don’t think about anything!” I ordered myself.  She came back and after another agonizing minute or two said, “Can you hear that, in the background, that ticking?”  There was a ticking, like the second hand on a clock, faintly, which sounded most like some sort of static interference.  “That’s the heartbeat,” she insisted.  Riiiiight.

She was convinced, and my logical, intelligent brain reminded me that she is an expert and has heard thousands of heartbeats on these machines, so she knows what she’s talking about.  My illogical, emotional side, though, decided that I would not tell the children, not yet.

Friday afternoon until Tuesday morning is a long time to wait for something important, but I managed to push my worries aside by simply not thinking about the baby as best I could.  That Tuesday morning, I left Fritz in charge so I could go to a “doctor’s appointment.”  On the drive there, I could feel my pulse and respiration increase as my anxiety fought to surface.

All was well.  The ultrasound lady showed me the healthy heartbeat, and she pushed my abdomen to try to get the baby to turn toward the wand.  We watched an arm lift a hand to the face.  And I fell in love, again.  I fell in love with this baby.  I fell in love with my husband who helped create this new life.  And I fell in love with God who gave me another precious gift.

I think I called my husband on the way home.

I know I called my sister, who had been praying so hard for me for weeks.

I called my kids and Katie answered.  I had her check in the fridge for lettuce and tomatoes for our Taco Tuesday dinner.  I told her I would stop quickly at the store, but that I had some good news to share when I got home.  I thought about telling the kids and wondered what they would think.  It’s not a topic they nag me about – like going to Disney World.

By the time I got home, all the kids were eager to know what I had to tell them.  As I gestured for them to calm down, one asked, “Where were you, Mommy?”

“She had an ultrasound,” said my nosy 13 year old son who is in the habit of studying my Google calendar.  If only he were as interested in charts of Latin verb conjugations.

“What’s an ultrasound?” someone asked.

“It’s when they look to see if there’s a baby growing inside you,” explained my suddenly too-smart-to-tolerate 13 year old son.  Apparently, he did not get the memo about how homeschooling shelters children from real life.

“And do you?” asked the children.

“Yes, I do,” I answered.

And they cheered.  They cheered.

They could not have given me a better gift than this joy at knowing we are adding another member to the family.

I remember when I came home from the hospital with Billy.  Fritz enjoyed a rigid bedtime routine: bath, pajamas, brush teeth, story book, prayer, kiss goodnight.  After the disruption of mommy being away for a few days, I wanted to get back into it.  He needed me; he had missed me so much.  I sat him on my lap in his bedroom to read his book while Bill paced with the baby in the living room.  In our tiny condo, he could not prevent us from hearing the baby cry and fuss to be nursed.  Fritz was worried that I would leave him to go to the baby, and upset at the baby’s presence in our home.  The book was all about loving a child all his life no matter what.  I started to sob, and all I could think was that I had ruined our perfect family.  “What have I done?” I wailed to myself.

What have I done?  I have multiplied the love.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

We went to Mass last night, and Bill is dropping the older boys off to go canoeing today.

Bill plans to take Jenny out for lunch and to get her ears pierced – her birthday present.

I’m listening to my irreverent “Sunday Morning” playlist.  One of my favorite songs is Sunday Morning Coming Down, and my version has the Man in Black singing in a slow, mournful tone, much sadder than the version here.  If you’ve never felt lonely or separated from the love of God, you won’t get that song.  If you felt that way once upon a time, it will remind you to be thankful you no longer do.

The other songs on the list are very singable.  I picked them because they remind me of songs my father might have sung on weekend mornings, playing his guitar and serenading his sleeping children until they awoke.  Some of the songs, like Bed of Roses, are thematically inappropriate for children, and yet, my children know them as well as I did at their age.  Other songs, like Summertime by Kenny Chesney, are modern, but my dad might have learned to play them had they been out 30 years ago.

There are no church songs in my playlist.  I hope you still love me after that confession.

I’m stuck in my kitchen/family room area, because I’m making waffles.  Everybody has eaten their fill, but I’m making 4 batches, which should get us through the week.  I have one waffle iron, and it takes 6 minutes to cook.  Each batch makes about 6 waffles.  I’m not doing the math for you, but I won’t be going anywhere for a bit.  Perhaps my blog reading will get caught up.  Or my checkbook will be balanced.

I turned the A/C off two days ago.  That’s the first time since April, I believe.  I wore jeans last night since we went to see a movie at an outdoor venue.  I love fall.  We scrounged for warmer clothes last night, and I think I might have to do that whole clothing swap soon. 

Not today.

Today I’m going to sit and make waffles.  And take some deep breaths.  Maybe a nap.

Lunch break

Jenny has a head band wrapped horizontally around her head.  She is holding two fingers up and saying, “Peace!”

These supposedly sheltered homeschoolers have somehow managed to learn about pop culture from an era that pre-dates me.  Where do they get this?  Is Netflix to blame?

Worse, though, is that Fritz’s response to her behavior is to take a Nerf gun and shoot her yelling, “Die, Hippie!”

I think it’s time to get back to work.

Celebrating Babies

I have written so many blog posts in my head that when I come here and see that it’s been nearly a week since posting, I don’t really know how that happened.

We started school this week, so that explains quite a lot.


Back in June, one of my family’s favorite families welcomed another child into the world.  I was hoping that this would be their 3rd girl, but instead they had their 6th boy.  My girls and I were disappointed, but the boys thought this was just grand.  They roared their approval.  I think adding a bit more estrogen to the household might have been nice, but boys are wonderful, too.

You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.

And baby Dominic is a cutie pie, just like his big brothers.  No need to be disappointed about him at all.


Last week, I informed the kids that another of our favorite families was imminently expecting another child.  Although at one point we all lived in the same vicinity, we are now in three different states.  I keep in touch, but the kids only get bits of news and don’t get to watch the weekly and monthly progress of a pregnancy.  One day, mom says Mrs. P. is expecting, and then many, many months later, mom says she’s having a baby.  In their mind, Mrs. P. just had a baby, because the last time they saw her, her baby was barely crawling.

I’m the same way.  If people didn’t post pictures of their families on blogs or FB, they would never grow up in my mind.  What?  Susie’s getting married?  But she’s just fifteen!!  No, she was fifteen 10 years ago.

The kids wanted to know if Mrs. P. was having a boy or a girl.  I told them we would have to wait to find out.  The boys said they hoped for a boy.  “But Mrs. P. already has four boys,” I argued.  “Don’t you think Eva should get to have a sister?”  The girls, of course, agreed wholeheartedly, but the boys seemed unsympathetic to poor Eva being the lone daughter.

After a bit of a pause, one child voiced what seemed to be children’s collective thought:

How come everybody is having babies except us?

It was, fortunately, a rhetorical question, and nobody truly expected an answer.  Or perhaps they just knew what I would say: you get what you get.  Fits will not be tolerated.

But it is interesting to note that none of my children seem to think having another sibling would be a bad thing.  There is still room for more, apparently.  

“The greatest gift you can give your child is another sibling.”  Pope John Paul II

 I guess my kids would agree with him.


Mrs. P. had her baby early yesterday morning.  I was still fuzzy-brained when I saw her email announcement.

“She had another girl,” I told Bill flatly.

“She had a girl!” said Bill, who had already had some coffee and could think more clearly than I.

“Oh, yes!!  She had another girl!!” I said.

The boys received the news demurely.  The girls smiled happily.  No roaring.  Girls don’t roar.


The local Army post is having a baby boom since many soldiers returned from deployment about 9 months ago.  Babies happen.  It’s a wonderful thing.

I don’t know what they do when boys are born, but whenever a baby girl makes her debut in the maternity ward, the hospital pipes the Stevie Wonder song “Isn’t She Lovely?” through the entire hospital so everyone knows the good news.

I love it.

Convenient inconvenience

Fritz keeps losing pocket knives.  This past summer camp, he lost one of his dad’s.  It was, intentionally, an inexpensive knife, so it’s not a big deal, but for the frustration of having a son who is generally responsible, except in this one area.


Years and years ago, my husband and I had an ongoing argument about joining the NRA.  I was opposed to membership on the grounds that someday NRA membership rosters would become government “most wanted” lists.  I argued that NRA members would be the first ones to have their homes searched when guns were ultimately outlawed.  I preferred to present to the world a “normal” facade while hoarding a stockpile of weapons under the floorboards of my house.  My husband felt that the NRA would be the organization that would work hardest to prevent such a scenario and that membership would aid them in defending 2nd Amendment rights.  At some point, he did join the NRA, because he is a grown man who has a mind of his own and who only goes along with his wife’s paranoid ideas if it suits him.

Hopefully, if things ever get that bad, we’ll have some sort of e-Paul Revere sending texts: “The ATF are coming!  The ATF are coming!”

Anyway, dutiful bill-paying wife that I am, I make sure that his quarterly dues to the NRA are paid in full.  At some point, they were automatically charged to his credit card, but a compromised card led to a new number and the NRA sent us a paper bill when the charge to the old card was declined.  On the paper bill was the suggestion to have the dues automatically charged to a credit card, and the enticement that you could get a free pocketknife and flashlight if you did so.  I did so.  And we got a free pocketknife and flashlight.

Three months later, we received another paper bill with the exact same offer.  Even though last quarter’s dues had been charged to the credit card, they hadn’t set it up as an automatic thing.  I filled the form out again and a few weeks later, we received a package with a pocketknife and flashlight.

Three months later, we got another paper bill.

I can’t even remember how long this has been going on, but I’m mailing out yet another paper bill with the credit card information on it.  I think we have 9 more quarters to go before his Lifetime membership is all paid for.


It’s actually quite amusing to me to see how long this will go on.

My main hope is that Fritz stops losing pocketknives before they figure it out.

Grilling experiment gone awry

It’s bad enough to have a greasy grill fire leave your dinner an indistinguishable pile of char.

But then to have your neighbors witness the event?  {sigh}

If I could see myself, I might have been amused.  After all, what the neighbor saw was me coming back outside (after having discovered the fire) with a big box of baking soda, calmly walking over saying, “Oh, yes, I have a fire, thank you,” in response to his slightly alarmed expression and gestures at the grill, and dousing it with the white powder.  No need to panic.  I have handled a greasy grill fire once or twice…or a dozen times.

Note to self: cooking bacon on the grill, even in a closed pan, is not a good way to avoid kitchen heat.

Last Chance Mass

We went camping this weekend (more to come on that later), and didn’t want to rush to get to Sunday morning Mass.  One of the local churches has a “last chance Mass” on Sunday evenings, aka the “drunkard’s Mass,” the “sinner’s Mass,” or the “camper’s Mass,” since my boys will see half the kids from their Troop there on camping weekends.

Bill and I had discussed Mass attendance options over breakfast that morning and decided to go to that one.  We did not include the children in our conversation.  Throughout the day, my older kids said, one by one, “Hey, it’s Sunday!  What about Mass?”  Like we would ever blow it off.

But it’s nice to know they think about it.

I don’t prefer to go Sunday nights, and I have a nagging feeling all day long whenever I do.  This same church also has a “first chance Mass” on Saturday “evenings” – at 4:30 pm (most other area churches have Masses at 5 pm or later).  I have been to that one several times, and it has a very different mood than this Sunday evening Mass.  Saturday evening seems much more somber.  But the Sunday evening Mass had, I swear it, a party tone.  I finally resolved to stare at my lap so I would stop noticing all the chattering, hugging and complete disregard for the True Presence.

Just then, Katie, sitting to my right, nudged me and I was compelled to look down to my husband who was smirking.

“Peter’s shirt is on inside out,” he told me.

“I told him that!” said Katie-with-the-halo.

Peter was wearing a collared, button-down shirt.  “How is that possible?” I asked.

“The tag is shoved up under the collar,” explained my husband.  “And he’s not wearing socks.”

I started laughing, trying hard to stifle it.  At least he was clean.

June in Georgia and the Army

I attended a sit-down dinner last night with about a hundred other people.  I can’t even remember the centerpieces – perhaps blue and red carnations? – but I won’t forget that strewn decoratively around the centerpiece on the white tablecloth were dozens of coffee beans

We presumed a foreboding of tedious speeches.  The coffee beans could be consumed if necessary.


It’s been over a year and I still can not get used to the deference shown my husband based on his job.  Nobody calls him “Bill” (few people call me “Michelle”).  When speaking to me, nobody ever says “your husband” or even “he” or “him” when it is obvious whom they mean.  It’s always “The BC” or “The Colonel.”  Every single time, I ask myself “Who?” before I realize they mean Bill. 

Fortunately, in a year, he’ll be back to being just another LTC among hundreds of LTCs.  At least I hope so.  It doesn’t do a man any good to spend too long with people kowtowing to you.  Humility is a virtue hard to cultivate when you are a VIP.


I was actually a bit early for the dinner last night, so I thought I could make a quick trip to the commissary.

I forgot it was Monday.  Not all, but many commissaries are closed on Mondays.  However, I’ve spent most of my time living near Fort Belvoir, and that commissary is usually open on Mondays.  I can’t get used to something that is actually very standard.


The Okefenokee Swamp is on fire.  It has been since late April.  We are about a hundred miles northeast of the fire, but we can see and smell the smoke all the way up here.  On Saturday, when I drove down to Florida to meet my mom and pick up my girls, I spent over an hour in thick smog.  It’s not very pleasant, but it’s interesting and amazing at the same time.  I would think that a hundred miles is more than enough distance to dissipate the smoke, but apparently not.  I can’t imagine how horrid it must be closer to the blaze.


Now that our days are less congested with activities and the temperatures are oppressive, I thought it would be a great time to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy out loud as a family.  I’ve told the boys that they can’t watch the movies until they’ve read the books, so they are eager to get going with this project. 

Of course, as soon as I mentioned this to them, I had another thought.  I turned to Bill and asked, “Do we even own the books?”

No, of course not.  Fortunately, the used bookstore in town had copies.  It was my lucky day.


The other evening, the doorbell rang, and once we shooed our vicious dog away, I opened it to find my elderly neighbor standing there with a watermelon.

“Are you gifting me with a watermelon?” I asked.  She was, and actually gave me two since I had such a large family. 

I’ve got great neighbors.  We have always been fortunate in finding good people wherever we are.


After the nasty sand gnats become less troublesome, out come the deer flies that circle you several times before picking a nice tender spot to chomp on.  Both the gnats and the flies travel in swarms, so there is no escape once they spot you.  Now that the flies have pretty much died off, the Georgia humidity is kicking in.  It wouldn’t be so bad, but the A/C in this house is inadequate.  I suppose 84 degrees is better than 94 or 100, but it’s still hot.


Such is Army life: several friends are moving away next week.  I hate goodbyes; I think we all hate goodbyes.  We’ll focus on the petty annoyances of packers and movers and landlords and remain in denial about the bigger life changes happening. 

And also, in the Army, it’s not necessarily goodbye forever.  You never know what old friends you might find at your next duty station.

And I’m re-learning that it is much harder to be the one left behind.