a children's halloween

decorating done by my children

decorating done by my children

costumes sewn by elisabeth!

costumes sewn by elisabeth!

elisabeth's pumpkin

elisabeth's pumpkin

As you can gather by the captions, my children really took charge of Halloween this year. I had a lot going on with work deadlines and bronchitis-that-may-or-may-not-have-been-pneumonia (according to my doctor, so we treated it like pneumonia just in case, I never got a chest x-ray to confirm), so we decided early in October that Elisabeth would sew the costumes (she wanted to, anyway). She is awesome at sewing and did an incredible job! My sewing machine broke on her mid-way through and needed to go into the shop (it was overdue for a service, anyway), so we had to borrow my sister-in-law's VERY different machine to finish up, and she did a great job adjusting to the unfamiliar equipment!

I was excited that my crew agreed on theme costumes again this year (last year was a Halloween-Christmas mashup that I never posted about here), and Peter Pan is an especially fun theme. Of course people are always confused about one member of the group, so this year, no one seemed to realize that Elisabeth was Wendy Darling. 

I took more photos but this is all I had the patience to edit online (still waiting to repair our iMac with all my actual photo software on it). I am so proud of Elisabeth's work on these costumes, and her patience both with the process and with hovering (and occasionally nagging) younger siblings. 

I was also excited that these costumes turned out to be very affordable! We used lots of coupons and sale fabrics, and we already had all the notions, thread, elastic, etc., that we needed on hand. 

Patterns used were McCall's 3051 for Wendy, Simplicity 7784 for Peter Pan, Simplicity 2872 for Tinker Bell (I really liked this pattern's take on the fairy costumes—rather than a literal translation of the Tinker Bell look, it loosely applies it to cute dresses, which really expresses my costuming "philosophy", if I have one, that costumes should give the impression of something more than look like a literal copy of it), and Simplicity 9844 for Captain Hook, which you can see looks about 1,000 times better when made than it does on the pattern envelope. It is so cute and John is my only extroverted child, so he was quite into the entire process of dressing up and parading around the neighborhood. He got tons of attention and soaked it up! We couldn't find the old pirate hook we had from Nova Natural many years ago, so we ended up having to pick up a plastic one at the last minute. 

Anyway, altogether we had a great Halloween with much merriment, and I was so happy that my children took a lead role in decorating, costuming, and pumpkin carving this year. As bittersweet as the whole growing up thing is, it is a joy to see the traditions we have set up really being owned by them as they get older. 

Happy Halloween!

Goings on

It has been such a long time since I've checked in here—I never mean for it to be, but there it is.

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Long course swim season is underway, and with it lots of extra practices each week for my girl who now swims with her team's senior group. 

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We have a new kitten in the house. Her name is Alice and she was a craigslist find in response to some very persistent pleading on the part of a certain 6-year-old little lady who felt left out on the pet front, as the dog is sort of Elisabeth's pet and our other kitty prefers to snuggle with James. At a certain point, it's impossible to remain unmoved by such earnest pleas, so we ultimately relented. Cats are pretty low maintenance... Fiona chose her name and I must say I was quite impressed. Although my children tend to be pretty good namers—whether of animals or dolls. Our dog was named Daisy by Elisabeth, and our family's most beloved dolls are named Claire, Peter, Charlotte, Josephine, Janie, and Anna. So I'd say we are pretty good namers around here!

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Not too much else is going on...about three weeks ago, a gust of wind caused a door handle to hit the back of my hand and hurt it terribly. It is still bothering me quite a bit so I may end up having to give in and have it checked out. As such, any type of handwork has not really been happening—I haven't picked up my cross stitch since it happened. Fortunately I'd finished a good amount of it before that . On the other "hand", I have been sewing a little bit, mainly cloth diapers to replenish our stash of worn-out diapers from the older children.  

I hope you are all doing well! Leave a comment to let me know if anything new or exciting is going on with you!  I would love to be able to keep you in my prayers. 

13

Newborn

Newborn

First birthday

First birthday

Age 1

Age 1

Second birthday  

Second birthday  

Age 4

Age 4

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Age 5

Age 5

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6th birthday

6th birthday

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Age 7

Age 7

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8th birthday

8th birthday

First Holy Communion

First Holy Communion

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California

California

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9th birthday

9th birthday

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Age 10

Age 10

Arwen costume

Arwen costume

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11th birthday

11th birthday

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Bobby soxer

Bobby soxer

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12th birthday

12th birthday

At Camp W. 

At Camp W. 

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Recital

Recital

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First in her heat at state (red cap & black shortjohn suit)

First in her heat at state (red cap & black shortjohn suit)

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13th birthday, with a bad head cold

13th birthday, with a bad head cold

Today our wonderful, amazing Elisabeth Grace is 13 years old. it hardly seems possible, and yet we are so ready, too. 

I think a lot about the ways I have fallen short and, yes, failed as a parent over the last 13 years. I worry about the ways my own baggage has come to rest on the shoulders of my daughter at times—when I see my perfectionism, anxiety, or hot temper flare up in her. I grieve over the ways our hopes and dreams for our family, when we were so much younger and just starting fresh with our first adored child, have failed to come to pass. 

But then I spent a few hours today looking through pictures of her—these, and so very many more—and I see the evidence of a joyful childhood, of a happy little girl coming into her own, developing interests and passions. I see a girl who is a leader, who is caring, compassionate, kind, funny, and brilliant. She is both very innocent and very, very wise. A few weeks ago, she told me that she thinks people rush through their lives and make risky decisions because they are afraid of facing the idea of death. I thought this was so profound, something I hadn't really thought about before. 

She is generous, often spending her own money on things for her siblings. For example, she recently bought a scooter for Fiona so that Fiona could ride on her own scooter with the older kids.  

She is responsible and so helpful around the house. She is wonderful with John, which is such a gift when I need to take care of other things.  

It's incredible to imagine that the sweet, silly baby that she once was is now this thoughtful, mature young lady—and all the amazing things she was in all the years in between. Creative, imaginative, stubborn. An extraordinary child, an extraordinary teen.  

As my girl now stands in adolescence, ever so gently closing the door on the large part of her childhood, I know that it was a beautiful childhood that we made together—Elisabeth, her father, and I.  

The mistakes don't matter so much as I think. I am so grateful for the gift of this incredible, beautiful human being.  To know her is a privilege, to be her mother is a true gift.  

I love you so much, my Elisabeth. 

winding down

On Saturday I floated on my back in a pool of cool blue water and watched clouds slowly drift across the dome of blue above, and thought and thought, about everything—and nothing. 

It was our last day at the pool for the summer. This was a summer of immense growth for all of our children, watching swimming "click" for the middle two, witnessing our baby's first words ("doggy" was the first!), and the sudden transformation of our eldest into a very mature and grown-up young lady.

I usually hate the month of August, but this has been a surprisingly good one so far. We are still struggling financially, but it hasn't been too hot and my usual August blues haven't paid a visit. In fact, the winding-down of summer, as many of our friends have returned to school this week, is a little bit bittersweet. We will not start our "homeschool year" (in quotes because I use the term "school" loosely) until sometime in September. We usually like to start around the 8th or so, but I think we may be just a bit later this year depending on several factors. 

I'm reminding myself not to wish away any time, as the time here with these children passes too quickly, as things are always changing, and just as soon as we thought we had something figured out and settled, that time, too, moves forward. 

So even when I'm feeling tired and a bit uninspired in general, here is my baby, ever closer to his first steps, his little words bubbling up with such joy. It is a reminder that even as summer seems to be passing away, here and now there is something fresh and so beautiful.

just my baby and me

My husband took this crazy crew camping and left John and me home for a few days. 

Last year, he took the three of them camping just a few days after John and I came home from the hospital, and I spent the whole time on the couch, nursing my new baby, avoiding going up and down stairs, watching the entire first season of House of Cards, eating Chicken Divan that I'd frozen a few months before, visiting with my midwife, and resting. 

This year I opted to stay home again because my back doesn't do well with laying on the ground, and while our time at home has been a little bit less "glamorous", it has been so nice, too. I've done a good bit of housework, but I also managed a couple of naps with baby John, read just a bit, spent some time praying and journaling, took some silly quizzes on Facebook, killed a really creepy fly-spider hybrid, and played a ton of peekaboo.

It was nice to have this time, and I really needed it. But I've missed them, too, and the house has been dreadfully quiet. So I'm really looking forward to seeing them this afternoon!

cherry picking and pie making (and a recipe for you!)

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We have enjoyed not one, but two delicious homemade cherry pies in the last four days. We have two dwarf Montmorency cherry trees in our back yard, and since cherry pie is my favorite thing, well, it's obvious that this would be an exciting season. We actually didn't have any cherries last year due to a frost that ruined the blossoms, and the previous year we were up to our ears in house renovations, so the birds got to them before we did. So this is the first year to enjoy the fruit of our trees in pies! These pies were especially fun and exciting for me as a mama, because Elisabeth made both of them. The first one with my oversight, and the second on her own. 

Some of our backyard cherry spoils, plus our family's favorite cherry-themed book,  Cherries and Cherry Pits

Some of our backyard cherry spoils, plus our family's favorite cherry-themed book, Cherries and Cherry Pits

I have normally closely guarded our family cherry pie recipe—which is a combination of my mom's pie filling and my grandma's pastry—but I've decided to share it here so it won't be lost to time!

Note: This is not healthy. It is dessert, after all. We don't eat cherry pie all that often, so I don't mind one bit throwing all my usual healthy eating policies out the window. The crust is unusual as it uses shortening instead of butter (I know, terrible—but so reliable) and milk instead of ice water (maybe this is the secret?), but it's so reliably tender and flaky that I just keep going back to it. I have not had any luck so far with gluten-free pie pastry, and I've tried a lot of different recipes, so this is with "glutenful" flour. Fortunately my gluten-free child doesn't really care for pie.

The Best Cherry Pie 

Preheat oven to 425°F.

For the pastry:

-1 cup chilled vegetable shortening (an organic version, like this, works just as well as the gross trans-fat variety)

-2 cups all-purpose flour

-1 tsp salt

-1/2 cup cold milk

Cut the flour and salt into the shortening using a pastry blender, two knives, or a food processor, until rough pea-sized crumbs form. It's good to have different sizes of crumb. (I do this by hand with a pastry blender.) Add the milk, a little at a time until you can pull a dough together. (Mix with your hands.) Knead just once or twice. Divide in half, pat each half into a disk, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

For the filling:

-6 cups pitted tart cherries (or 3 cans tart cherries, rinsed and drained)—DO NOT USE SWEET CHERRIES.

-1 2/3 cups sugar (that's one and two-thirds, if the formatting makes it hard to read)

-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (do not substitute corn starch or another starch—trust me on this)

-a generous 1 tsp almond extract (I really add up to another quarter teaspoon or so)

Combine all the ingredients and let stand while the dough is chilling. 

Assemble and bake pie:

Roll the first disk of dough out, and fit to a 9" pie plate. Pour the filling in, and dot with butter. (I use a few tablespoons, cut up.) Roll out the second disk of dough, cut slits, and place over filling. Crimp edges. Generously sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar.

Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375°, and bake an additional 20-30 minutes, until crust is browned and filling is bubbly. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting. 

Enjoy!