Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Low-Key Advent {Quick Takes}

Ah, I love Advent.  The quiet, the calm, the preparation before the unbridled joy that is Christmas.

And I love that I feel *ready* for it - there's a LOT that I feel can be done for Advent...  People have their Jesse trees or their Elf on the Shelf or the Wise Men journeying (which, I'm sorry, I don't get - they didn't start their journey until after Jesus was born!)...  We like to keep it simple here, since we're constantly in a fairly chaotic life situation and this year is no exception!

Here's what we do:

--1--



The Story of Christmas Advent Calendar - One small book per day, we read it either in the morning or in the evening, lighting one candle from the Advent wreath, saying a quick prayer from John Paul's MagnifiKid, and singing a verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel (and then switching verses when the O Antiphons start)

--2--

SIMPLE Advent wreath.  Literally a broken candleholder inside a faux-wreath.



We need a new system for blowing out the candles, since it became a SERIOUS source of drama with the big kids last year...  But yeah, I'm not taking the time to make one out of fresh greenery or hand-rolled felt flowers or whatever the heck craftier moms do.  Not something I can do!

--3--

Get our shopping done EARLY!

I don't want to figure out what everybody's getting for Christmas close enough to the holiday that I HAVE to go to a store to buy it.  Actually, I don't think I set foot in a single store during the entire month of December last year (aside from like, the grocery store).  Part of that is thanks to Amazon Prime, but most of it is thanks to planning ahead and shopping smart!

Need gift ideas?

A Gift Guide of Musical Gifts (written by a music teacher, so that's gotta give me some street cred, right?)

Favorite Toys for the Under-5 Crowd - these have withstood the test of time for us!

--4--

Nativities!


Journey To Bethlehem 2PC Set - I love that we have a pregnant Mary on the way to Bethlehem :)

We have several nativities for the kids and we pull out one every week (minus Baby Jesus) and spend much of Advent acting out the Christmas story with various different toys.  Actually, the pretend play has already started this year - Cecilia pulled out her Mary veil and John Paul's Joseph robe and gave birth in the playroom.  This will be recapped MANY times this December, I'm sure...  (And I'm betting Peter's gonna be referred to as "Baby Jesus" more than by his actual name...)

I mean, I couldn't not throw a baby picture in here...

Here's a link to our favorite nativities:


Five Advent Favorites

--5--

Books!

We have a good stock of Christmas & Advent books that live in our bin of decorations, and I like to request a bunch from the library early (like, NOW) so that we have new stuff in the rotation, too.  Then we put away most of the other books and immerse ourselves in all things winter & Advent & Christmas without being too focused on the Nativity (until Christmas Day)

Favorite Board Books for Christmas & Advent - these are our favorites for the youngest every year!

Some awesome suggestions for books for Christmas, Advent, and all the feast days that fall in December:

--6--

We don't do all the things.

Chocolate coins for St. Nicholas? Absolutely!  Taco night for Our Lady of Guadalupe?  Sure.  Extra dessert for the Immaculate Conception?  Yup.  But there are soooo many feasts you could be celebrating in December, and I don't have the time or energy to do it all.  So we don't!

There's no point in observing a simple Advent if you're stressing over sewing robes and dipping your own candles for St. Lucia, or making everyone their own embroidered tilma to celebrate Juan Diego.  Stick to what you know you can handle!

--7--

What are your favorite Advent traditions?  If you had to pare it down to the bare minimum, what would you keep?

Linking up with Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes - check out more over there!

Nope.  Kelly again - look who jumped the gun two weeks in a row!  I think I should get a prize.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hey There, Baby!

Guess who's here?  Peter Damian Hill made his appearance at 12:26 AM on Saturday, November 15. 
 



8.5 lbs, 21.5 inches, and only a 13.5-inch head (which made for a happy pushing mama, let me tell you!  John Paul's 15-inch head was no joke...)

We thought he'd end up coming on his sisters' birthday, but the stubborn little guy held out for *just* long enough to claim a unique birthday, and we found appropriate that a baby named for a Doctor of the Church was born on the feast of another Church Doctor!


Not only does he take the trophy for being our biggest baby so far (beating John Paul by a whopping 2 ounces), he is also the FIRST baby we've ever had who has hair!  None of this peach fuzz the others teased us with for so many months, real hair!  This is an exciting occurrence, as you can tell.


We're home now, and I'm overgramming up a storm so come follow along if you aren't already!


I promise a birth story will come eventually - you'll forgive a general lack of blogging as we adjust :)  Long story short, we finally managed a drug-free birth and I prayed for you all a LOT during, which really helped me get through it and hopefully the prayers are fruitful!

The big kids are doing AWESOME and absolutely adoring their new brother.  The twins are fairly whiny about the whole thing because they don't like sharing mom.  


Cecilia is taking her role as big sister VERY seriously, reminding me that "Whenever you're done nursing him, you just let me know and I'll hold him again!" and "I just need to fix my wedgie but you can give him back to me when I'm done."

The twins spent their visit trying to press every button in the hospital room and trying to use the bed as a slide...
And John Paul has his moments of extreme tenderness, but mostly wants to hold him for a few minutes and then be done, reminding us frequently that "He really loves me because I'm his big brother.  It's okay Baby Peter, your big brother is here!!!"

He's also VERY excited about lactation, as his first excited words upon visiting us at the hospital were, "Mom!  Is there milk in your breasts now???"

This is what happens when your overly-gifted 5-year-old helps himself to reading books about pregnancy during naptime...

Thank you so much for all your prayers and well wishes!  I really appreciate any extra prayers you can send our way, particularly for patience - dealing with sleep deprivation and the extreme, extreme shrillness of whiny toddlers is proving to be a trying adjustment, and we can use all the grace we can get!

I'm sure I'll be back here soon with a glut of pictures :)  Happy Monday!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

TWO!

Well, we got here.  We survived.  Two years into this twins thing.  And I'm gonna be honest - it was hard.  Really hard.


The other day they woke up and DID NOT INSIST on snuggling me for 30 minutes first thing...  They just walked right by me and started reading together!

I feel like we're just starting to get into an easier stage - one where they don't dash for the street the moment we go out the door to get in the car.  And I can *mostly* count on them not to be sticking non-food items in their mouths.  They are REALLY good climbers, to the point where they don't really fall anymore, so I can send them outside with the big kids and let them have fun on the swing set without constant spotting.  And they mostly don't dump cups of water all over the floor if somebody leaves one unattended.

Sometimes I can just sit there watching them play and it's SO adorable.  I get the obsession with twins, finally - the way they play together is just. so. cute. Until they start fighting, which is still frequent.  But lately they've been getting along better, I think in no small part due to their long naptime conversations before they both fall asleep (Yes, I think we've pushed past the nap strike!  And while I've still been hearing, "LIZABETH!  WAKE UUUUUP!" 30 minutes into nap, Mary Claire's been falling asleep too and NOT climbing out of her crib and it's wonderful!).

So!  In honor of their second birthday, and because it happens to fall on a Friday, here are 7 quick (well, not so quick...) facts about each twin:

Elizabeth (Baby A)

1.  Wicked bedhead (see above picture).  I don't even understand HOW, because she has, by far, the least hair of any child we've ever had.  I'm pretty sure she just rubs her head back and forth for a while before she falls asleep every night, because that's the only way I can explain the nest.



2.  Has VERY strong opinions on everything.  She has to be the one to choose clothes first in the morning, and choose pajamas first at night.  She's obsessed with pink, and usually wants to be wearing as much pink as possible.  She HAS to be in charge of who gets what book or which stuffed animal during naptime.  Basically she's a tyrant, but she's tiny and adorable so it's hard to resist!



3.  Loves Duplos.  LOVES them.  Mostly the pink ones - yesterday she brought me two pink creations she had made that happened to have eyes and told me, "Dere are many different types of pigs!"

4.  Does NOT like physical contact if it's not her idea.  John Paul and Cecilia try SO hard to wrestle her and hug her but she freaks the heck out if they don't ask first, or if they ask and she says no.



5.  The angry face.  Gets me every time.


6.  The fake smile, too!


7.  Talks about going to Mass ALL the time, and how "We whisper at Mass!"  Want to know how many times she's whispered?  Ha.  She likes to try to make us all laugh during grace every meal by shouting random things and trying to sing the ABC's.  So basically, REALLY going to heaven ;)

Mary Claire (Baby B)

1. Close to overcoming her unfortunate hair style - we might be able to turn it into a bob soon!


2.  Thankfully doesn't argue when Elizabeth throws her fits about needing to have the pink cup or the pink plate or the pink bowl or...  Well, everything.  Doesn't particularly care about what she wears or what color anything she gets - thank GOODNESS!

3.  Any animal toy is her favorite - she carries them around the house and lines them up in the play kitchen as her "animal rescue center" (we just got a Dora & Diego book from the library and they're OBSESSED).  The animals are also frequently cooked, served to various stuffed animals, and used as medicine.  A little confused?  Perhaps...


4.  Gave in LONG ago to the frequent hugging and tackling and carrying by the older siblings.  John Paul says that "When Mary Claire grows up, she'll be a world-famous wrestler." The big kids are VERY thankful that SOMEBODY will wrestle with them!


5. Sings a lot, and sings REALLY well.  Like, completely tuneful with a range of more than an octave, which is not common for a kid this young, and not something Elizabeth has accomplished!  Her whiny little voice is so very adorable and I love hearing her sing, since she's got a constant song in her head :)

6. Would be outside all day, every day if we let her.  It's the greatest tragedy of her life that it's getting too cold for me to let her outside barefoot with almost no clothing on.


7.  Getting saucier - she's been mimicking John Paul and Cecilia with their demands and inflections, and hearing a 2-year-old in her high-pitched voice yelling, "GIVE me back my colored pencil!!!" is so hilarious it's hard to correct her for not speaking in a nice voice.  Because SO much talking.

Need more?  Here's their first birthday post, their birth story, and a whole bunch of other general twin links if you want to go clicking down the rabbit hole of the internet!

Linking up (early) with Conversion Diary because, well, I have this written and I kind of love early quick takes posts when other people write them, so here's your Thursday night gift from me!

Just kidding, Kelly's hosting the link up this week! This is what happens when I try to get things done early ;)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Large and In Charge {WIWS}

I'm really hoping this is my last pregnant WIWS for quite a while.  40 weeks yesterday, and so SO tired.  Thankfully the big kids did a decent job at Mass today, aside from John Paul reading along with the priest's words a little *too* loudly.  And I may have laughed a little too hard when I saw that Cecilia was filling in every answer in John Paul's Magnifikid with the word "CAT" - that's my favorite beatitude, too?

Anyway.

You know those days when you think you look totally fine and then you take a picture to post to your blog and realize that, no, in fact, you don't look so great?

Just me?


This dress is not, I think, compatible with the final weeks of pregnancy.  Too short.  Awkward-looking.  No drape.

Also, do you like our method of babyproofing the fireplace?  Just shove all the toys inside, and nobody will climb in!  As a bonus, when they don't clean up you can threaten to set all their toys on fire.

No, I haven't yet made that threat.  But I have no doubt it'll emerge in the next few weeks...

Of course, John Paul would probably take that as a challenge and then ACTUALLY try setting things on fire.


Cecilia insisted on posing with the Madeline book we got from the library.  Also, how did I not remember how ridiculously trippy those Madeline stories are?  SO WEIRD.  

I'm trying to convince her to grow her bangs out because they look awkward all the time.  She is convinced they are an integral part of her personality, so they stay...


And this.  This face.  I had to include it, because the camera caught my reaction to overhearing Mary Claire and John Paul fighting over something...  

I'm so done.  Baby?  Time to be born. 

Linking up with Fine Linen & Purple for What I Wore Sunday.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Life, life, and more life {7 Quick Takes}

Well okay, before I start complaining...  Two major triumphs lately:

--1--

We went out to dinner (um, at a pizza buffet so I don't know that it really counts as "going out") and everybody behaved.  And ate well.  There was no crying.  Also, we only had to pay for the adults and John Paul, because Cecilia and the twins were free.  But seriously, everybody behaved!!! 

Miracle of miracles.  And you know what happens when life starts getting easier?

Yup, time for another baby!

--2--

And then!  Today!  We went to Costco and THERE WAS NO CRYING!  Everybody ate peacefully and happily and was just generally cute and endearing and it was astonishing!  It kind of makes me feel like, who are we?  Actually representing large families in public without complete mayhem?  I could get used to this.

--3--

But at the same time, there will be no getting used to it because, hey, tomorrow's my due date!  And throwing a newborn into the situation is sure to throw everyone for a loop, no matter how many times we've done this.

"I LOVE you!!!" "I wuv YOU!"

--4--

Oh, want to know what else throws you for a loop?  When your fourth child is the FIRST one who ever starts climbing out of the crib.

Thank you, Mary Claire, for reminding us that we will never be experts at this whole parenting thing.

First she ended up out of her crib during naptime.  So I put her back in, and 5 minutes later John Paul told me, "Mom, you forgot to turn off the light in the babies' room!"

False.  I turned off the light.  Mary Claire climbed out of her crib, climbed up onto a chair, and turned on the light.  Then she started giving Elizabeth all the toys and books she could find.  After the third time, she stayed put and they both went to sleep.

Next day?  I put her in tights, in the hopes that not having any traction from bare feet, she wouldn't be able to climb out.  It worked!

Next day?  Yeah, found her IN Elizabeth's crib.

So I got the pack n play out of the basement and set it up in John Paul and Cecilia's room and confined her there, and they both actually slept.  And John Paul and Cecilia were happily occupied with legos, so they were quiet enough for decent naps to be had by all.

But that night?  I heard far too much giggling, noticed the light was on in their room AGAIN, and burst into their room to find both babies in Elizabeth's crib, trying to wedge Elizabeth under the fitted sheet.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING???"

"Sleepin'?"

So yeah, I moved the chair out of their room after the second time that happened (because moving furniture is what you do when you're 39 weeks pregnant, right?), and she finally stayed put.

"I'm havin' a wittle bit of wine!"  Good thing she's funny.

--5--

THEN (because this is getting so long it needs another take), I was planning on just doing separate rooms for naptime again today, except she had climbed out of the pack n play at the end of naptime yesterday anyway, and I thought leaving her in the room with all of John Paul and Cecilia's things would probably be a bad idea...

SO I moved the pack n play into the babies' room, and Cecilia threw a fit because she had been using it for her baby doll, who is actually a REAL baby, and needs a soft bed and it CANNOT be a basket or a pillow or her bed, and I may or may not have threatened to cut the stupid doll into tiny pieces and throw them away if she didn't stop freaking out about it.

Mom of the year, right here.

Anyway, I put Mary Claire in the pack n play and 15 minutes later, guess where she was?

Elizabeth's crib.  And she had pooped and wanted to be taken to the potty, where she did nothing.

Then 15 minutes later, I went in there again to see her straddling the space between the pack n play and Elizabeth's crib, asking to go to the potty again.

So I stuck her in her crib with the threat that I'd take away her blanket if she came out, and went downstairs to watch Gilmore Girls and eat Halloween candy.

30 minutes later, and both babies were actually asleep!  AND woke up cheerful and were generally awesome for the rest of the day (hence the magical Costco trip)!

--6--

Isn't it so nice that she decided to do this right before we have a baby?  Because you know what I'm going to be able to do a LOT of while nursing a newborn?  Getting up to toss the toddler back in her crib.

Oh wait.

And it's gonna be super-fun for my mom to deal with whenever we're at the hospital having this baby...

At least it's actually pretty funny in retrospect?

--7--



Meanwhile, John Paul and Cecilia spent almost the entire day playing with legos, because we got a giant bin of them from Andrew's dad's house and it's AWESOME.  All the legos he and his brother played with when they were kids, with tons of Star Wars-themed minifigures.  Cecilia's annoyed that there are no girls (I told her maybe we can go to the lego store and she can make a couple girls of her own), and Elizabeth is convinced that everybody is named "Pon Soyo" (Han Solo), which makes John Paul VERY angry.

Anyway, I kind of love watching them create with these things, but the lack of organization frustrates me - what do you do to organize all those teeny tiny pieces?  Do those lego organizer containers actually work?

Okay, done with this stream-of-consciousness post - go read more at Jen's!
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