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It seems fitting on the final Wednesday of Lent to discuss Mardi Gras.  Fitting if not a little late.

We've had things.

However, the record should show that Mardi Gras 2014 was the year:

-We started the day off right with a trip to Jerry's Cake and Donuts because nothing starts the day quite like sugar and the donut lady asking "are these all yours?" 

-We did Masquerade so masks were made.

-Tess did such a bang up job on her mask she was commisioned to make mom and dad's as well.

-Philip made masks for our Mary statue and the picture of the Immaculate Heart because EVERYONE needed masks and it was clever and funny and just a little irreverant which is kind of the point of Mardi Gras anyway.

-Gemma ate the glitter.  Oh yes she did! The kids begged to use my fancy, super-fine Martha Stewart collection and I relented with the strictest of rules and instructions.  They were promptly ignored or forgotten in the frenzy of creating.  Rule 1 was to keep them out of Gemma's reach and we were ALL following it when I turned away to keep the glue gun (we play fast and loose around here) from melting a mask when I turned back around to see the entire cotents of a bottle of flitter come pouring out of Gemma's surprised mouth. My stunned silence caused her siblings to look up and their cries of alarm made HER yell back, blowing fairy dust everywhere. This was followed by fishing the lid out of her mouth, her crying and demands from her to "Stop laughing at me!"  

-That mom was cleaning Gemma's glitter mouth and Philip dumped a bottle of glitter into a full laundry basket.

-Mom changed her position to align with dad's that glitter IS the STD of the craft world.

-Susan stressed out about having a mask and in the end CROCHETED ONE thereby sealing her fate as a truly crafty person.

-Philip wore his black shirt over his white shirt with the tie tucked in. We couldn'tqute grasp this sartorial decision and tried persuading him to wear one or the other. When he had assessed his reflection he reemerged with his pocket square in. "I figured out what was missing." he announced.

-Sir Randall Vette showed up in a full suit and fancy mask and, like a true gentleman, kept it on even though the chalk from the board got all over him.

-Bridget wore gloves. It was as fancy as it sounds!

-The Wittes returned as did Susan and Bridget and we innitiated Jackie and Randy (though they failed to partake in the whipped cream on bacon tradition.  Next year!).

-Two batches of eggs were made and still there were no left overs of any kind.  Fat Tuesday indeed!

 

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For many and sundry reasons, our kids have not frequented a doctor.  Yes, when sick, we take them in but they have to really, really need it.  This has resulted in a few unforeseen consequences.  First, they have no fear of needles as they don't know what they are for.  "Shot" to them is what comes out of a gun (and with that sentence I have sealed our fate as red necks.  *sigh*). Second, for the few that can remember trips to the doctor, visits are recounted with much relish and listened to with awe.  "Tell about the time you had the surgery!" Lastly, the whole medical scene is mysterious and therefore fodder for the imagination.

Ellie received a doctors kit for Christmas because she so enjoyed playing doctor with her "favorite friend."  It was used passionately for a while and then fell out of vogue.  The last few weeks, however, have seen a resurgence in the medical arts.  Lego tools have been constructed.  Possible ailments and surgeries have been carefully printed into notebooks and the downstairs has been turned into a hospital. I myself was canvased for any possible hiccups in my health and recommended to surgery.  

"Don't worry, mom, we'll tell you what to do.  When it's time, you go to the top of the stairs and wait there until Max tells you that you can come down." Ellie patiently explained. "Then you have to sit on the couch and wait again until the doctor comes and says they can see you.  They will ask you what you need and then you have the surgery." Here she gripped my arm and lowered her voice. "But not really.  Just pretend."

Consequence four - they think the waiting is fun.  Hmmmm. . . 

Though I was scheduled for a carpal tunnel surgery and informed that because Philip was the Physical Doctor ("That's what PhD stands for," Max announced) he would be my surgeon, I have yet to go under the knife.  It's just so hard to find a convenient time for recovery, you know? But I've heard plenty of consultations, diagnosis, and surgeries.  

My favorite came last week.  I watched Ellie come to the door of her room, notepad in hand.  She glanced at it, pen poised, and called loudly, "Maximilian Daniel?"  Max emerged from his room and she gave him a quick once over.  "This way, please, she said briskly, holding the door open and allowing him to go in first.  "Mmm-kay, what can I do for you today?" I heard her ask as she pulled up a stool.  "I need a tonsillectomy." Max announced. "Allllriiiight," she said, matter of fact and taking notes, "How do you spell that?"

Only the best care around here.

 

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We are wrapping up 2 days of Jac being gone.  It included 2 nights away as well, one of which was filled with a puking Gemma.  Now, I am fullyl aware of and pray for those spouses who handle deployments and exteneded absenses.  Those folks are incredible and made of firmer stuff than I am.  The point is, my husband carries a lion share of the responisibility around here and is present and available to us most of the time so his venturing out is keenly felt.

This afternoon I reached my limit and was in a rather zombie-like stupor.  I carried with me 20+ pounds of sleepless baby because Lucy is teething and cannot and WILL not tolerate being alone.  I don't know why I did it - you can't explain crazy - but I did this:

 

In my defense: I have had 4 baby girls and - due to complete and utter exhaustion - I have not gone over the top with the cutesy or frilly or girliness while they have been infants.  I was taught young to abhor "brain squeezers" and so have steered clear of the darling headbands that are so popular as a result.  Well, that and the fact that the girls have all been blessed with my head which just so happens to be the wrong shape for headbands.  Sure, we can rock them loose and limp around our ponytails or riding our eye-brows, but where they should be?  Forget about it.

So I did pig tails in Lucy's hair and it was adorable.  The kids called to each other to "Come and see Lucy!" and each viewing was met with gales of laughter and 

"She's so cute!"

We enjoyed the 'do through supper then I took pity on her and her poor head and took them out. This was the result:

 

Again with the laughter.  Again with the fawning.  Then Max declared, "She looks like a Macaroni penguin!"  That led to this:

 

We all agreed.  And that's how she became Macaroni Lu.  

"We should do her hair like this every day!" Max suggested.  If it means that Jac doesn't leave again for a very long time, I'd do whatever it takes.  Apologies in advance to Lucy.

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I'm a mean mom.

Actually, if I remember correctly, the accusation was that I was "a mean-o and a bad mom." It turns out the nearly five-year-old has a flair for the dramatic, too.

"That's right!" I yelled gleefully. "I am mean and the worst mom ever. MWAWAHAHAHA!!!" 

Maybe she gets the drama from her mama . . . 

Anyway, this little conversation was actually yelled across the house as she had been placed in time out yet again.  Insert eye rolling and head shaking from me right here.  She's had this chip on her shoulder and been nigh on unbearable since Mama Syd left.  I'm inclined to think it's a touch of emotional growth spurt.  It seems all of the kids hit them from time to time and I'm praying that's what this is.

It's been exhausting.

Come to think of it, that's how she's been acting - completely exhausted.  She's snappish and short tempered, emotional and irrational.  She doesn't always make sense and fails to make simple connections.  Other times . . . 

One morning last week, they all crowded around me to view a picture.  I was enveloped in a halitosis haze.  "Your breaf stinks!" I said, because I'm a mean-o and mean-os say mean things. The eldest 3 scootched back a few inches while Ellie sat down on my arm rest and cocked her head to the side.

"Our breafs stink?  But why? We just took a shower and we washed our butts . . . " 

We all took a second to follow that train of thought then burst out laughing together.  I think this explains a lot.  It also is the thought that makes me resolve to keep working to find that sweet little girl again.  She's in there somewhere!

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Last year Easter was . . . chaotic. I was in the throes of first trimester fatigue/sickness/misery and paled at the thought of smelling of smoke from the Easter fire and staying up well past midnight at the Vigil.  Jac had tried to rally me to prep Easter baskets in advance but I could barely stay awake until bedtime, let alone past it to do anything so Holy Saturday found us with our bed buried under pastel eggs and plastic grass and enough candy to make anyone sick happy.  We whispered conspiratorially and divied up the loot.  Alas, baskets were found wanting and Jac insisted on a very quick trip to Walgreens ("We still have to do dinner, showers, hair, and clothes, remember?  Please be fast!") for a few more things.

He was gone maybe 7 minutes when, as I was feeling like we just might get everything done, I heard

CRASH!!!

*t i n k l e* * t i n k l e *

THUD

screeeeeeeaaaaaaam!!!!!!

I knew immediately that something was VERY wrong.

I ran towards the dining room and first saw the horrified expressions of the kids, each of them frozen in shock. The next moment I saw the shattered glass and Gemma in a rapidly gowing puddle of dark blood.  The bottom of a pint glass was broken into menacing shards, the largest dripping blood.  As I picked Gemma up, it was clear that the shard had cut into her scalp though through the hair and gore I couldn't tell how deeply or badly.  And the blood was ev-er-y-where.

It was terrifying.

Somewhere my brain reminded my voice to stay calm.  I asked Max to grab a clean towel.  I sent Tess to find my phone.  I assured Gemma and the kids and myself that she was fine, everything was fine, it was going to be fine. Some how I dialed Jac and told him over the screaming that I needed him home and maybe he could pick up some bandaids?

At some point Sabine came upstairs and soon we had plenty of help, Gemma was calmed, we attempted to glue things together and we moved on to clean up the carnage.

We were all still a little shaky as Mass started that night.

Fast forward to Easter Monday which just happened to be April Fools.  Oh, the excitement!  Oh, the joy of coloring the milk!  The kids were giddy to "fool" us and each other and, truthfully, disappointed that we had done nothing in return. I can't remember who had the idea - Jac or I - but we watched the kids playing in the waning twilight and we walked past the boys room strewn with LEGOs we had repeatedly asked them to clean up and there it was.  Should we?? we giggled.  We knew it might scar them for life in light of the events two nights before.  It might also be the greatest thing ever!  We doubled down and did it.

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"MAX! PHILIP!  I need your help!" Jac hollered.  "Hurry!  Mom's hurt!"

Their concern, for the 8 seconds I could keep from laughing, was real.

"Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!  What do we do? What do we do?"

But then I snorted out a laugh just as the girls entered the room.  Everyone claimed that they knew it wasn't real and that we weren't funny. They also vowed they would clean up their mess.

 That claim was the best prank of the day.

 

 

 

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Today I learned:

-The paint on our walls is very forgiving towards dry-erase markers.  The paint on the doors?  Not so much.

-I will gag when forced to use a plunger but only if the murky (gag!) water is splashing over the rim and the t.p. and other unmentionables are listlessly floating about. *shudder!*

-Gemma LOVES toilet paper. (See above)

-Gemma has taken to taking care of "business" on the toilet all by herself.  (See above) "No I dude it," and "No, I dot it," are frequently heard if you try to assist her.  However, she doesn't usually let anyone know until after the fact.

-I have A LOT of gray hair.  I blame Gemma. (See above.  AGAIN.)

-"Exampling" is a great verb.  It should be in constant use.  It's used like this, "No, Mama, I wasn't really yelling at Ellie, I was just exampling how I shouldn't  talk to her." Perfect.

-The girls have seen Frozen once and yet have most of it memorized.  I'm setting the bar too low for scripture memorization.

-It's a tough crowd around here.  I tried a new recipe tonight and assumed it was safe what with the inclusion of crescent rolls, chicken, and cheddar cheese.  Jac's response, as the kids attempted NOT to gag at the mere sight of the dish, was "What's in here?  Is this already chewed chicken?" Thanks, love.

-I should have the kids plunge the toilet more often so they can be exampled on what is appropriate gagging material. (See above. )

-Armadillos makes everything better.

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If we were to draw a straight line from Gemma's current talents and interests to her future profession/life's work, this is the list we would come up with -

1. Belly Dancer
2. Smuggler/Theif
3. Spy

She's going places, obviously.

The belly dancing is a God-given talent as she can make her stomach roll up and down, slow or fast and even stop and reverse.  At age TWO.  She does NOT get this skill from her mother, I assure you.

But the other choices?  Well, she hones her snatch and grab, run and hide, climb and scale and stealth nearly every hour of every day.  Sometimes it is sugar she hunts, other times it is unattended drinks or bowls of cereal.  Less common are markers (so nice on the walls and smooth on the skin!  Sharpie?  Even Better!) or Jac's flashlights.  Most often, though, it is a phone or the ipad.

There are the times we catch her outright - when we happen upon her with the charger attached (she's taken to unplugging and running most of the time), we find a suspicious lump under the blankets and find her curled up with the phone, or hear a very soft and slow click of a door latching and know she's gone to a favorite hiding spot (the linen closet and her bed being top rated).  Then there are the times we find the evidence.

Both of our phones and the ipad are full of photos taken by the little imp.  We finally got smart and put passcodes on all devices but she can still open the cameras.  Shots of the ceiling and floor, her feet or face, videos of her attempting a getaway all abound.

They are glorious.

At least they are NOW, in the still and silence of a sleeping house.  In the moment they are just mildly cute, barely registering amid the outrage and frustration of a little girl who can't leave things alone.  But late at night, they provide a healthy dose of laughter if not a window to the future.  And, honestly?  I'd take a theif over a belly dancer any day.  Just don't tell Gem.

 

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Mama Syd is here and we all know what that means.  Hand-me-downs!  Yaaaaaaaay. . .

They really are a blessing (it's the process that isn't) and bring up so many memories.  Poor Ellie, she's so very excited about being in 5T but has been downright confused with some items.  "Wait . . . " she says, squinting her eyes and cocking her head, "I remember wearing that . . . " Yep, you did sister, when you were 3 but now you get to wear it again in Tess's size!  Aren't you lucky?!

The hand-me-downs are also proving how bad my memory is getting.  I can't keep who wore what straight any more.  This has caused us to come HERE a number of times to double check or prove our theories.

Pictures don't lie.

There are holes, of course, things I thought I wrote, pictures I thought I posted.  And I realize that someday I'll want to look back and remember this time so I should do something about that.

February/March 2014 was that time when:

-Philip turned 9.  He received 42 oz of chocolate from Mama Syd and Papa Chris, we made a red velvet cake and went ice skating.  Let the record show that I did NOT fall but someone I love very much DID.  I'm pretty sure all the kids did, too, so  . . .

- Lulu is 4 months, 19 lbs, can roll over and loves to blow raspberries. She loves her mom which means she's in my arms a lot.  I'm getting buff but not getting a whole heck of a lot done.

- We survived yet another Pinewood derby, came home with 2 trophies, and Ellie raced her first car.

- We made so many Valentine's.  There was glitter everywhere.  It was lovely.

- Tess lost two teeth in a week. The tooth fairy was late due to being hung up in customs on her way out of Sochi.  Profitable business, hockey games are.

- The dishwasher - God rest it - is dearly missed.  Each meal produces a stack of dishes and we are usually making 3 meals a day so . . . goooood times.  I'm thankful for the view out of the kitchen window.

- There was that one time that I took all 6 of the chitlins grocery shopping on a Saturday morning by myself.  We survived and when we were finally all loaded up in the Suburban again I asked who needed a margarita.  Philip and Max were disgusted and offended at the suggestion.  "Welllll," Ellie said, "what's in it?" "Lime juice and tequila." "Oh!  Yeah, I think I can have that.  ME!"

 

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Here we are on the final day of February. Tomorrow Armadillos will open and the high in town will be -6.

-6!

It must be March. Always the hardest month . . .

A friend so wisely pointed out the beauty of Lent falling this way for us in these northern climes. The agony of more snow, more cold, more gray while we suffer with our Lord.

Good times.

The girls worked on a crown of thorns that I could share with some different groups in town. As I hurried about getting other things ready, I heard them chatting.

"Lent's not as fun as Advent, but we've still got to do it." Ellie observed.

Word.

So we are preparing. We've already cried over possible fasts. We've decided on some prayer commitments (we are filling our calendar in with 40 different names - one for each day) and are looking forward to all of the liturgies and feasts, too. We hope to do it up right.

We will start, of course, with Mardi Gras on Tuesday. This year we are doing a formal masquerade. The boys are unimpressed. Past years can be found here, here, and here.

We've purchased a box of 800 toothpicks for the crown of thorns.  We won't use that many but if we average just 1 sacrificial act per walking person in the house for the 40+ days of Lent, that's over 300 hundred thorns that must be placed in a crown.

Whoa. How's that for perspective? Instructions on our crown here.

I haven't quite figured out how we will keep the Stations of the Cross up on the wall this year with Gemma about (she does take particular delight in tearing things down . . . ).  We've used this set before and this set. This is a fun colorful set that you can purchase.

 

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