About me

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Precipitous G

Stories about becoming parents are so close to my heart.  I love to hear stories about labor and delivery, from the unplanned home-birth to the C-section determined months in advance.  My favorite, however, are the speeding-to-the-hospital-almost-didn't-make-it ones.  Perhaps it's because I loved hearing the story of my brother's birth: two weeks before his due date, my parents racing to the hospital, labor a mere 70 minutes from start to finish.  So now that I have my own precipitous labor story to share, please indulge me.  I'll try not to get too technical.

Looking back, I think that labor really began on Tuesday.  For the boring story, read this whole post.  For the really interesting story, skip to the last few paragraphs.

I woke up on Tuesday in a touchy and grumpy mood;  bouts of insomnia and contractions had made my Monday night super fun.  As we began school work for the day, I found myself doing as much cleaning and contracting as I was doing instructing.

I had a doctor's appointment at noon, and the doctor revealed that my body's preparations had progressed slightly since the previous week.  She also offered to perform a procedure that might possibly encourage labor (to which I enthusiastically agreed).   I left the office feeling very excited, only to be a little disappointed to come home and read online how the procedure is no guarantee of labor.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, I kept having contractions, which were neither strong nor regular.  I set about to ignore them, and instead took care of some pressing homeschool business: photographing our basketball drills. (The weather was unseasonably warm--over 70 F--which is why we're wearing shorts.)

At around 4 pm, B left with M for Greek school, and I decided to call the pediatrician about Z, who had been sick for a couple of days with a fever and terrible cough.  I explained to the receptionist that I was very close to my due date, and asked if we could be seen that afternoon.  Unfortunately the only appointment available was for the next day.  (It turns out that Z had pneumonia, which led to total craziness, but that's a different story.)

By suppertime, I was feeling quite exhausted and irritable.  I put T to bed, and made Z lie down early  with a book and took a shower.  When B and M returned from Greek school, B decided that we should watch The Bourne Supremacy because a part of it takes place in Moscow and he's going through his annual Russian phase.  We timed my contractions for an hour--they were every six minutes but not painful.  When I ate a bowl of cereal, they stopped altogether.

And Tuesday night was like Every. Other. Previous. Night.
Occasional contractions.
Nothing productive.
No labor.

And then, at 5:30 am, things got INTERESTING.
 (For those wanting to read the good parts version, start here.)

I had two very strong contractions within 5 minutes, and just somehow knew that I was in labor.  After doing a quick happy dance, I roused B.  His response was: "Well, I'm not going to get out of bed yet.  Why don't you call the OB and then we'll see."

To which I responded.  "No, dear, this is it.  Please get out of bed and get moving."  (He was still in bed 15 minutes later.)

I then called the OB on call and waited for 15 minutes while he called me back.  I described my symptoms.  He also seemed pretty skeptical that I was really in labor, but told me to come on in to the hospital.

At this point it was 6 am, and I had finally convinced B to get out of bed and get T ready to go.  I changed out of my pajamas and got the big kids up and dressed, all while pausing to breathe through very strong contractions every five minutes or so.  We weren't really sure how we were going to provide care for the kids.  A working friend had volunteered her house (for its proximity to the hospital) and her sister had volunteered to drive over while she went to work.  So, when we were finally in the car at 6:15 am, we called her to let her know that B would be coming with the kids.  I made B promise to get a special treat for the kids to have for breakfast.

I then convinced him to drop me off at the hospital first, despite the fact that my contractions had slowed to every eight minutes or so.

I arrived at the hospital at 6:30 am, and had no idea where to go.  I wandered for a couple of minutes before I asked someone, and then trekked up to the third floor.  The admitting nurses were a little disappointed when they saw me.  We joked about how they were all prepared to catch the baby the minute I stepped out of the elevator.  My OB called by chance while I was at the desk, and said she'd be right over. I filled out the paperwork, and the nurses told me to sit down.  I couldn't sit, but paced a little until my nurse came to lead me to a room.

My nurse looked at me a couple of times, and then said "You don't look like you're in enough pain.  I can't decide if I should take you to triage or to a delivery room."

By some amazing inspiration, I said to her that appearances can be deceiving, and requested that she check my progress.  She agreed, led me to a room, and told me to change into a gown.

I'll never forget the look on her face when, at around 6:50 am, she checked me.

"Oh! You're at 9 cm!"

The next 10 or 15 minutes were a blur, but I remember that the room suddenly filling with people and being asked a lot of, what I thought at the time were, silly questions.  At one point I was asked my date of birth, and the next question was "How old are you?"  In my head I wondered why the person asking couldn't do the math, but I managed to be civil when I answered.

I also remembering apologizing a lot because I couldn't not push.

At 7:10, my OB arrived, and managed to elbow the on call OB out of the way in time to catch G at  7:19 am.

And at 7:35 am, I saw B's shoes under the curtain that covered the door.

His first words?  "I thought I told you to wait until I got here!"

It couldn't be helped, dear.

 G's smallest, biggest fan.

So, welcome, G--all 9 pounds, 4 ounces of you.  We're so glad that you've joined our family.  (And now the girls are outnumbered 2 to 1.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


(Whoops!  Forgot to post this earlier.)

... that another boy child has joined our family.


born on December 5, 2012
9 lbs, 4 oz
21 1/2 in

Monday, November 26, 2012

Neglect not the girl

Despite the lack of posts detailing the projects I've made for Z this fall, she has received her fair share of sewing love.  Her vertical growth continues at an astonishing pace, so I was astounded one Sunday morning to discover that she had nothing long enough to wear to church.  My length "requirements" aren't too modest, but when one can see fanny during metanoias, it's time to look at the wardrobe.

I made this jumper (and yes, it looks very "homeschool") using a combination of patterns from this book and this book.  The pattern on the corduroy was a compromise, something I am willing to do to ensure that a handmade item gets worn--which it has been.  The details of the bodice would show up much better with a solid fabric.  The gathers at the bottom get lost in all of the flowers.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nesting? Panicking?

This week and last have been a flurry of forehead slaps and gasps.  There's nothing like the last couple of weeks of pregnancy to draw attention to all of the baby supplies we're missing.   And most of them are silly things, like baby socks and tiny baby hats.  Apparently all of my previous children have been blissfully barefoot and bareheaded until six months of age, because I can find neither a tiny sock or a tiny baby hat in the house.  Thankfully I have lots of yarn, and baby items take very little time to knit.

Also, the boppy we purchased when Z was a newborn needed some attention.  After all, three other babies have spit-up, leaked diaper matter, or otherwise wreaked havoc on it.  I don't know why I didn't think to protect it more and earlier, but I am finally wise.  I purchased a waterproof cover, and then followed this pattern and tutorial to make my own "attractive" and washable cover.  I used a knit fabric that I purchased a few years (for $1!) so that I could practice sewing with knits on something that didn't require fussy sizing and adjusting.  The whole effort was quite easy, although my fabric stretched a little, resulting in a cover that is a little too big.  I can definitely see myself making another (and another and another) using woven fabric, and perhaps a different kind of zipper.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

More Froggy Pants

When I finished the pants for the new baby, I immediately cataloged the remaining frog flannel for T.  There wasn't enough left to make up an entire pair of pajama bottoms, so I improvised with some leftover green Kona cotton.  I usually try to find fabric for under $3 per yard, but the Kona cotton solids are worth every penny.  The quality is tangible.

I added a waistband and cuffs to this pattern.  I also taped the back and front pattern pieces together to save myself some sewing time. Well, in theory.  I ended up making a bad decision about the construction and had to rip out a couple of seams.

Once again I added a special tag for Mr. T.  He loves the owl, and of course I appreciate the sizing on the back side of the tag.  The waistband is a little funny, as my waistbands usually are.  I still can't figure out how to  sew them neatly.  They're functional, just not beautiful.  Any hints?

The pants fit him just right, despite his generously sized diaper area.  The length leaves a little extra room.  Maybe we can get another winter out of them?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

For the (big) boy

I love the thought of the KCWC, but rarely do I have two nights in a row free for sewing, let alone seven.  Since our "schoolroom" and "sewing studio" occupy the same exact space, the thought of changing up the room daily is just too much work.  I have been doing more sewing this fall than ever before, and mostly on Friday and Saturday nights, when I can just leave the mess out for the weekend.  My impetus for sewing has derived from an actual need, too, which has given me no end of satisfaction.

Take these pajama pants.  When I unearthed this season's hand-me-downs for M, I found a single pair of pants that could be taken either as sweatpants or pajama bottoms.  When in doubt, relegate to the pajama drawer, I say.  Still, one pair of pajamas?  Not enough for a messy six-year-old. At least with two pairs one can be in the washer while the other's being worn, right?

So, off to the fabric store for some half-off flannel!  I brought M along and allowed him choose from among some very hideous patterns with the thought that he'd be more likely to wear something he had a say in.  (For the record, my vote was something like this.)

I was surprised at how quickly this project came together--I had the fabric purchased, pre-washed and sewn up in time for M to wear the pajama bottoms to bed that same day!  I drafted the pattern from a pair of too-short pajama bottoms, and followed a hybrid of these directions and the ones from this book.

And I write the above not to toot my own horn, but to encourage anyone else out there.  
Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can.

And last, but not least, my favorite touch: a little tag made from cotton tape, a bug stamp, and this.  (Although I'm not sure whether I put the tag in the front or back.  It's really hard to tell.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

A reason not to homeschool

Sorry, kids.  Unless we lose power, we'll have lessons as scheduled.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Walk in the Woods

One of the things that I take for granted is the proximity of our house to hiking trails: there are miles and miles just a two minute walk from our house, and there are miles and miles just a two minute drive away.  In any direction.   

We visit at least one trail for a hike each week, sometimes one every day, when the weather is nice.

 It's amazing to me how we can just disappear into the woods, for hours at a time.  

T and I took our first walk just a few days after we returned from Athens. 
I remember sighing to myself and saying, "This.  This is what I missed the most."

Sometimes our hikers need a little pep talk, but usually we have willing participants.

I love watching T follow in M's strides. 

 M is usually yards ahead of the rest of us, scoping out the best sticks with which to hit things.

Or spotting a new bird in the branches above.

Or just being still.

(T kept asking, "Me in a picture?"  How can I refuse that face?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Channeling Bright

I don't really know what came over me when I picked the fabric for these trousers.  I think I had been reading this blog(which I love), and admiring the author's bright color choices.  Whatever the reason, when I saw the froggy flannel at my local Joann store, I knew that it was meant for baby trousers.

Froggy-side front:

Red-side back:

These pants reversible, and they're of a cozy and soft flannel, which will be perfect for a winter babe.  I chose to make the 3-6 month size, but they look baggy enough for my monster-sized children to wear them past 15 pounds (or four weeks of age, whichever comes first).  I loved adding a little side tag (in picture above) with the size marked on it.  These pants will definitely be handed down to our next child.  (You know there's going to be one, right?)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I was truly excited to be reunited with my sewing machine after a year's absence, and as soon as I got home I got to work sewing.  T was in desperate need of a pair of shorts--his hand-me-downs from M were in tatters a little worse for wear, and many got left in Greece.  I decided to try out one of the pattern books that I received from my mom last Christmas, Happy Homemade, vol. 2.  

Despite the fact that the directions were in French, I muddled through and produced this pair of khaki shorts:

I made the smallest size, but they were a little long on T, which means that they'll fit next year (and possibly the next, too!).  I loved constructing the faux fly, the pockets and the seams.  The whole process only took me a few afternoons, while the kids were visiting their grandparents and T was napping.  The pattern diagrams were fabulous, which definitely helped bridge the French/English gap.  My real excitement about the whole process was that I "reclaimed" the fabric from a pair of XXL pants that I purchased at a thrift store.  For $1.50.

He's already gotten a lot of wear out of them, first this summer and then more recently.  Today was unseasonably warm, and he could be seen running around in his mama-made khaki clamdiggers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gender Unspecific

My mother-in-law saw the blue sweater in my last post and wanted to confirm that I wasn't hinting anything.  I wasn't, as the following gender-neutral sweater will show, but my money is still on BOY.  I did the math the other day: of the 21 babies born (or soon to be born) to friends in 2012, only 7 have been boys.  Odds point to us having a boy, no?

Yes, we do seem to be in the midst of another baby boom, as always happens when I am pregnant.  The next delivery is a scheduled one.  Remember my friend that visited from Tunisia?  She's delivering tomorrow (prayers for her, please), and she doesn't yet know the gender of her baby.  Exciting! Somehow I'm convinced that we're having whatever gender she doesn't.  See these wacky mind games I play to drive myself crazy keep my brain occupied in the last few weeks?

This sweater is a version of the Puerperium Cardigan, which is a free(!) and easy(!!) pattern.  It's a metaphor for my pregnant brain, confused and all jumbled up, but somehow still functioning.  I used four different weights of yarn, as I had so little of each color.  I didn't swatch.  I don't even know how or when I finished it.  The sweater still needs a way to be fastened; I was leaning toward snaps, but am very indecisive at present.  The sleeves are short (again, the shortage of yarn), but I keep telling myself that keeping this baby's core warm is the important thing.  Right?  I am totally inexperienced when it comes to winter babies. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A February Sweater for a December Baby

I have committed to a year without new yarn.

There is a huge stash of yarn sitting on our shelves, just waiting to be made up into something spectacular. (Most of it is teeny-tiny, skinny yarn, so I'm expecting it to take forever.)  So far I've done a great job restraining my yarn purchases--I haven't made any in the 2012 calendar year.  It wasn't that difficult when we were in Athens, but beautiful yarn is far more available in the US.

Despite the large amount of yardage on the shelves, I don't have enough of any one weight (except teeny-tiny skinny) or any harmonious colors to make up sweaters for our three children.  I basically have small amounts of everything, enough for lots of baby sweaters.

With that in mind, I recently used two skeins of yarn that I bought when Z was a wee babe for this:

It's a modified February Baby Sweater, and it's for our fourth baby.  That's right.  Number four.  Who will hopefully be arriving sometime in December. (Which sort of explains my blogging absences this spring and more recently.)

I'm aware that this sweater is blue.  We won't find out the gender until this baby makes an appearance, which always drives me crazy (especially during the last few weeks of pregnancy).  I'm hoping that the blue is sweet enough to work with a girl or boy.  It needs a few buttons, but those will be sewn on in the hospital.

p.s.  Just for the record, my money is on boy.

p.p.s. Also for the record, I am 1 for 3.  M is the only child whose gender I correctly predicted.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Shift

Whew!  We have been busy and popping in and out of town since my last post.  The kids and I were visiting my family for almost the entirety of the month of August, and apparently I didn't manage to take a single picture with our camera.

When I transfered the pictures from the camera to the computer this evening, I stumbled upon this gem.  I don't even remember taking it.


But really my brain has been foggy for the last few weeks, and now that the early school haze is beginning to clear, I can finally string two words together.  We have moved successfully from our out-of-the-house Greek education to our stay-at-home American one, and despite a few hiccups everything is going well.

I have been hinting at our "new" homeschooling system, and I am pleased to report that it has passed the test of keeping us on task for the last five weeks.  Therefore, I'm ready to share.

Z and M each have a cubby that contains a binder and their personal workbooks, in addition to a drawer, which holds a cassetina and any non-book items needed for the week (such as their small dry-erase boards and math manipulatives).  Z's color this year is red, and M's is green.  T has the little green drawer on the bottom, which I fill with little games and his markers.  We've never had all of the student items contained so neatly before.  (I toyed with the idea of workboxes, but it just sounded like a lot of, well, work.)

What keeps us going every day (and helps me stay organized for each child) is the Binder, which contains one week's worth of assignments.  I read about it during my scads of homeschool-free time in Athens here, and while we don't use Sonlight, I instantly liked the idea of having everything laid out for each child, one week at a time.  At the end of the week we store the work in a portfolio.  I don't mind spending an evening coordinating the week's assignments for Z and M.  It's usually on Friday night, while I am thinking about it.  And also because we don't use Sonlight, I have had to come up with my own personalized sheet for each child.  I thought about typing it each week, and then decided that was a little too annoying, so excuse my handwritten notes.

Here's Z's.  Hers is a little beefier than M's.
(Also, please excuse the picture quality.  My free time this year comes only in the evening, and natural light has been hard to come by.)



All of the abbreviations stand for the different textbooks we have been using, and the shaded boxes indicate work that can be completed by Z independently.  I am very excited that we are moving toward so much independent work!  

Here's what her assignment sheet looked like today after we finished all of our work.

It's immensely satisfying to cross off a task when we complete it!  And then, on Friday evening, this becomes the first page of the week's worth of assignments in our portfolios. These will probably only be stored for a semester.  Our county requires that homeschool programs are evaluated by a county official at the end of each semester, so we'll hang on to all of the paper until after we pass.

I hope that this isn't too much information that no one wants to know.  I love taking "peeks" into how different homeschooling families juggle all of their work, so perhaps this post will provide that peek for another curious Mama (or Papa).

And, yes, I am spending more time preparing lessons this year, but our work feels so much more organized...totally worth the extra time.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Something New

When B and I picked up the big kids from the grandparents, we noticed something different.  I'm telling you, our children, who are typically well-behaved and pleasant to be around, came home from the time with their grandparents even more helpful and fabulous and willing to chip in.  

And so, à la Elsie Marley, I'm sharing our new responsibilities.  I have yet to hear a complaint about the actual tasks set for each child.  (They are just very concerned that everything is FAIR.  I don't blame them.)  Things like putting away toys, making beds, and attending to general hygiene don't count as additional chores.

Z, who is now 8:
rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher--every meal
folding all laundry
putting away everyone's clothing but M's
cleaning up after T, occasionally with his help

M, who is now 6:
taking out trash and recycling with B
clearing table and scraping dishes
putting away clean silverware
cleaning up after T, occasionally with his help

They take turns setting the table and doing other random jobs that crop up in a day, like carrying bags in from the car, or entertaining T.

Until this summer, I had been fairly inconsistent in my enforcement of such duties, and mostly because I had a hard time letting the kids work at their level (I have a habit of micromanaging).  But this evening, after close to a week of consistent dish-washing, I noticed several things that convinced me that the chores had sunk in.  Z not only figured out how to organize the silverware in the dishwasher, but she also learned how to close the dishwasher door without displacing any plates (or making that horrible crashing sound).  I call that progress!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Home Again, Home Again

I don't know if I would describe our airplane journey with the phrase "jiggety-jig," but we made it!  The kids were so extremely well-behaved and cooperative that I kept saying little prayers of thanks.  At one point I told the older two kids to turn off their movies and go to sleep, and they were both unconscious within five minutes.  T was happy as long as we took walks around the plane every so often, and he was a little loud (but happy loud).  We were over the moon to see family as soon as we landed, including a surprise visit from my niece.  She's the one who made us the sign.

The past few weeks have flown by, between unpacking and rearranging furniture and more unpacking and setting up phone service and more unpacking.  The house is still in disarray, but the important items have found a home.  The big kids spent two weeks at their grandparents' house far, far away.  T and I missed them, but we filled the time with a few activities...

...like baking and eating lots of cookies...

...playing with old toys...

...and reading the same books over and over and over.

I found a little time to knit and sew, but I was consumed with homeschool preparation.  I have never, ever felt so compelled to be quite so organized.  Ever.  And despite the fact that paper scraps and math manipulatives have exploded in our homeschool area, I can safely say that the school year is really coming together.  More sharing later.

After a couple of weeks of T and me time, B arrived home and spent a his days doing this:

Sometimes with, sometimes without, a partner.

We have readjusted to life in the States with surprising ease, making our time in Greece feel very much like a far off dream.  People keep asking if we had a good time (yes!) and would we go back (yes!).

Ahhh, it is nice to be back again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Saying Good-bye to the Parthenon

This morning I convinced B that he didn't need to go to work, and that he could spend one last day hanging out with us before we leave. (He has a few things to finish up here before he rejoins us.)  What can I say?  I think that I am largely somewhat to blame for any lack of progress on his dissertation.

Anyway, he asked both Z and M what their favorite place in Athens was, and endeavored to take them to say good-bye.  Neither hesitated.  M chose the Acropolis/Parthenon, and Z chose the Acropolis Museum.  B was only too happy to make the outing during the super-pleasant weather we're experiencing.

This photo has been recycled from one of our fall visits to the Acropolis, but M is wearing the exact same clothing for the visit today, down to the shoes!

I put T down for an early nap, ostensibly so that I could pack.  There's really nothing for me to do, other than tap my feet anxiously and wander around the apartment.  Rather than scrambling to round things up, I am waiting for clean clothes to dry.  We'll be leaving the house a mess-ish. (Sorry, honey.)  But everything we've left can be tossed into the trash.  Really.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Last Hurrah (or maybe I should say "ΖΗΤΩ!")

The view from our balcony, as I was eating breakfast.  Horses and sea in the far left.

T's godparents recently purchased a home in a village just outside of Nafplio, a city that B and I have loved since our college semester abroad days.  When we were invited to spend a little time with them and their family right before our departure for the States, we jumped at the chance.  Oh, friends, we had the most relaxing and heavenly weekend.  Despite the fact that all of their furniture was stuck in customs (things here just take a bit longer than scheduled), our friends showed us their beautiful new home, and they remained wonderful hosts.

Where, O Where, can I find such tile in the US?

We stayed at the charming Christina Apartments, which are every bit as elysian as the website makes them sound.  For some reason the tile in the bathroom made me smile.  We have definitely added this place to the list of "Must-See Again."  

Ready for our last trip to the beach, and scoping out the horses to visit.

The big kids loved the beach, and T warmed to it by the end of our stay.  For the rest of the time he chose to sit well away from the gently lapping Argolic Gulf, and yell "Scat, Water!"(in Greek, of course) whenever he felt it moved too close.  I have never been so thankful for a child who will stay put on the beach.  I was never afraid that he would wander too close to the water.  This bodes well for our trip to Lake Michigan later this summer!  

The big kids adored playing with T's god-brothers and god-sister, who are a bit older, and wonderful role-models.  My favorite memory is of Z and M chasing a school of fish, trying to catch the "teacher,"  the one fish bigger than the rest.  Z declared that the teacher must have let the fish out for recess when they saw her coming, because those wily fish would just. not. be. caught.  

Asleep on the bus ride home after a full day of beach and play

After this lovely weekend, we boarded the bus for Athens and home, at least for now.  I am so thankful for the chance to reconnect with our American friends, whom we will see so very shortly.

And walking home from "our" metro stop was so very sad.  It was the last time the kids and I would do it.  The weather had changed for the cooler and breezier, making it difficult to want to leave.

Today we said farewell to some of our neighborhood friends--most of them have gone to their villages, and we said our good-byes ages ago.  We'll miss visiting Miss Poppy at her school store everyday after school, and we'll miss the woman in the grocery store who pinches T's legs and once gave him balloons.  We'll miss the man who runs the pharmacy on the corner.  Every time I walk by, he waves hello, and he has been so patient with my poor Greek descriptions of symptoms.

Yes, I am eager to go home, but I am suddenly so very heartbroken to do so.