Saturday, February 27, 2016

7 Quick Takes - Leap Year Edition

Linking up with Kelly over at her blog for another Quick Takes.  Thank you, Kelly!

Considering I haven't done a Quick Takes since November (yikes!), it seemed like perhaps this would be a good time. Blogging has taken a backseat lately for a few reasons, mostly thanks to homeschooling, plus the final farewell our boys made to naps. Simultaneous napping was the only thing that saved my sanity (and this blog) for the past few years, and I am really missing it. However, considering we had a good five-year run, I know that I was luckier than most mothers searching for a mid-day sanity break. John still naps occasionally, but Joah is over it for good. Not surprising, considering he started to resist at around age three, but we powered through that and got another good year and a half in before I decided it was time to throw in the towel. Ah, nap time...may you RIP.

Before moving on to what's happened around here this past month, I'll back up to January, which can best be summed up with these photos:

For hire. Cheap.

Things were really looking up around here, as far as the weather was concerned, until January rolled around. We'd been on record for having one of the mildest winters yet, and I was even harvesting broccoli and greens at the end of December. The daffodils were four inches tall, and the buds on the maple trees were starting to swell. It was delightful but also, a bit disconcerting. Thankfully, nature always seems to find a counterbalance before things get too carried away, and sure enough, by the end of January, we were under 14 inches of snow with temperatures around zero. The snow was so deep, the boys couldn't walk in it, so we were forced to stay indoors most of the time, which really made the cabin fever set in. But, I am happy to report that we are survivors of yet another Snowmageddon, and the daffodils and maple trees have been put back in their rightful place and will now be blooming in a few weeks, right on schedule.

February has been a whirlwind month for celebrating feasts and liturgical days around here. In one week, we had two birthdays, St.Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday. My head started spinning as I tried to prepare for all three. But before all that, we celebrated Candlemass. I kept that one pretty simple by just putting all the candles in the house on a mantle with a few flowers and lighting them after sunset. It was actually very pretty, but I did have a hard time convincing the boys that no, we are not expecting the power to go out, and no, we are not under a tornado warning. So, something might have gotten a little lost in translation this year regarding the significance of Candlemass.

Anyhow, coming back to birthdays...Joah had a great one. We had a houseful of family and he was all smiles. His request this year was for a peanut butter cake with a blue car on it. So, I did my best to accommodate. Unfortunately, my baking powder was less accommodating, so the cake was actually more like a cookie, but Joah loved it none-the-less.  I'm sure it is obvious that I just winged the design; cake decorating is not my charism, but if anyone out there is looking for a cake design to promote strip mining, mountain top removal, or overall environmental destruction, feel free to pin this one.

Speaking of things environmental, like last year, we spent another weekend holed up in our house, looking out the window at Snowmageddon, and counting birds at our busy feeder as we participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

I even made some bird cookies to commemorate the event.  Can anyone guess what bird this is?  It's okay if you can't; my husband couldn't either (reference my cake decorating skills above).

Anyhow, I really tried to promote this citizen survey project this year by sharing the information with all my social media friends. Last year, we had three people from our county participate. This year, my goal was to get that number up to five. When I last checked the county results, we had one participant. Me. Needless to say, environmental activism is not my strong suit. But if any of you reading this did participate, let me just say that the birds and I thank you. We need more people like you. Lots more.

Another significant event this past month that deserves a round of thank yous to all my dedicated readers is my blogiversary! Two years and counting. It really has flown by. I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote my first blog post (which, when I read it now, sounded oh so lame). Hopefully, time has improved my blogging skills, and for those of you who visit me here, thank you. I am very humbled that anyone takes the time to read even a little about my ordinary life in the backwoods. And a special shout out to Our Lady of Lourdes, whose feast day is my blogiversary, which I only realized in hindsight after starting this blog. Now, I know who all the credit goes to! Anything good that comes out of this blog is thanks to her. Hopefully, she will help me find a way to keep blogging now that nap time is a thing of the past.

And speaking of Our Lady, now that it is Lent, one of my goals is to say the rosary every day. Most days, I get it done in the wee hours of the morning, after my husband goes to work but before my boys get out of bed. But when that doesn't work, I have discovered that saying the rosary makes a pretty good cadence when walking. If I take a step on every third or fourth syllable, I can get a short, brisk workout in. The cadence works pretty well during the Our Father and Hail Mary's, although the creed is a little trickier, so I say that part during my warm up, and the Hail Holy Queen is a good one for the cool down. I'm guessing I'm not the first one to discover this, but thought it might be worth sharing in case other folks are like me and struggle with walking and chewing gum at the same time, if ya know what I mean.

The elusive wood frog.
And in honor of our bonus day that we get this coming week, here's a little leap day trivia.  Did you know that if we didn't have leap years, in 100 years, we would lose 24 days on our calendar? It's all because it takes the earth just a little more than 365 days to circumnavigate the sun, so every four years, we have to add a day just to compensate. So basically, leap day gives us the chance to get caught up with the rest of our galaxy, which is somewhat reassuring in a strange way.   Plus, who couldn't use an extra day every so often? A nice little gift, thanks to our solar system. I personally think it should be a paid day off for everyone!  Maybe one of our presidential candidates could adopt that as part of their platform??  In the meantime, I guess you could say that it's a good reminder that we are all part of something much greater than ourselves, and it is best to stay in sync.

Have a great weekend but don't forget to check out Kelly's blog for everyone else's Quick Takes.  Thank you, Kelly!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Two Birthdays

We're celebrating two birthdays here this week. The first birthday is for our newly minted five-year old, who joins in age his slightly tarnished five-year old brother. Two five-year olds, but not twins, so for the next six and a half months, I will get to answer the litany of questions again that usually goes something like this:

"Are these your boys?"
"How old are they?"
"They're both five."
"Are they twins?"
"How far apart are they?"
"Six and a half months."
[predictable pause as they do the math]
"How'd that happen?"
"We adopted."
[another pause as they look the boys over]
"Wow, they look just like twins."
"I know."
"So, are they both adopted or just one?"
"Just one."
"Which one?"

And so on.

In another year or two, they will be able to answer for themselves. I can only imagine the twist they will put on their story when I let them offer their own explanation. I suspect they will leave people feeling even more befuddled than they were before they asked. My two not-twins boys will likely find enormous humor in that, given the fact that one of them is already a pretty accomplished wise guy and the other has a propensity for practical jokes.

The other birthday we are remembering this week is for our Karol Elizabeth, whom I gave birth to in miscarriage four years ago this week. To this day, I still believe she was my only daughter. I can't say I have any proof of that, but from the moment we learned of her existence in my belly, her father and I just felt certain of the gender. When we learned that I was pregnant with her, just a few months after my postpartum fertility had returned, we felt validated in our assumption that I had been healed of infertility. Finding out ten weeks later that she was already gone left us to struggle once again with all the feelings we'd tried to bury in the year before. When it comes to life and death, we learned all over again that it is best to never make assumptions.

And five years ago this week, I stood just outside the door of a hospital nursery, peering through the glass and craning my neck to see the little newborn baby who might become mine. I was not allowed inside, and had to ask permission to hold him. I could not claim him as mine, at least not yet, and was not allowed to be with him unsupervised. I was so close to being his mother, but yet, he was not really mine. Holding him, rocking him, snuggling him, I waited to see if someone was going to tell me I had to give him back. I sat in a plastic chair where the nurses could see me holding him, and for those first forty-eight hours, I tried not to make assumptions.

Two birthdays this week for two precious lives, one of which I eventually got to keep, and one of which, I had to give back. I used to try to understand why, but it really is of no use. There is no rationalization that satisfies the emptiness that comes from losing a child, and there is no justification for why I now have two five-year olds who make my heart overflow. It is nothing more than my particular journey, my story, and maybe, if I dare say what I hated hearing for so many years, part of God's plan. But then again, by saying that, I may be making assumptions.

For me, there has been very little consolation found in assumptions, rationalizations, and weak explanations with regards to why things so often turn out the way they do. The energy required in trying to understand is more than I care to offer. Instead, I will take that energy and buy some flowers for Karol's grave. I will make a cake and wrap gifts for a special birthday boy. I will use that energy to celebrate two birthdays for two of my children who just happen to live on opposite sides of heaven. Two birthdays that remind me that life is one great paradox, and that it is usually best to just let the mystery be.