I suppose that with nearly a month having gone by, I ought to update the things that need updating.
Life in our home has continued much as usual: rising, praying, breaking fast, sending two off, schooling, playing, reveling in the gorgeous sunshine and unseasonably mild days, gulping great quantities of fresh air throughout the house, lunching, napping, praying, tending chores, schooling, playing, welcoming home, cooperating, praying, supping, playing, bathing, praying and sleeping.
That's the general of it.
The extras have been...well, not profuse, but present.
There have been births within our home school group and parish family, with the requisite ministering to the Mamas, celebration of Baptisms, and loving on sweet, new, beautiful babies.
There have been deaths within the family, with the expected and mixed blessings of late-in-life passings and the shock of heart attack and death, and the requisite ministering to grieving families, prayers for the souls of the departed, and the always mixed emotions of gathering with those we love to speak of memories, sweet and sorrowful.
There have been celebrations of feasts and solemnities, including a grand party to celebrate the great Feast of All Saints, at which my sweet Squash won--to the very pure delight of his four-year-old-heart--an authentic Buzz Lightyear, who shares his days and nights, being set down only briefly, and only for bath time. He may have been aided by some awesome big kids who knew that Buzz was the desire of his little heart, and who may have been having Squash's name written on their tickets for playing games, and they may have then popped those tickets into the bucket in front of Buzz from which the winner's name would be drawn at the end of the night. Yep. That may just be what happened. Perhaps.
That party was pretty cool. It's a tradition several years old now, and for the past seven years, has also served as a fund raiser for the Frog's school. The high schoolers all set up and run little-kid games in a big shed, where the little kids (as mentioned above) receive tickets for having played, have their names written on the tickets, and then put them into buckets to be drawn to win donated prizes. There is a pot-luck supper (amazing amount of delicious goodies!), a lovely bonfire, including last year's Christmas tree, the singing of the Litany of the Saints, the parade of saints (very cute costumes, and some of them quite elaborate!), and the saints trail (middle school-aged kids handing out candy to the little ones on a lit trail through the woods, with daddies watching to ensure safety!).
I did *not* go through the haunted trail. Totally left that up to the big kids who just really seemed to enjoy having the stuffing scared out of them (no little ones allowed, thanks--in fact, most of them leave before the haunted trail even opens) by the returning college kids and upper-grade high schoolers who put the thing together and man the various stations. I like my stuffing exactly where it is, and continued to sit through the evening near the warmth and comforting light of the bonfire.
The Frog continues to shine at school. Her grades, save for one class, were definitely worthy of a hearty hug and congratulations. That other grade happens to be in a class where my dear friend (and the Frog's teacher) assures me that a low grade is completely within the realm of normal when a student is brand spankin' new, as is the Frog, not only to the school, but also to the classroom setting. There are quite a number of formerly-home schooled students, and it just plain takes time to adjust (or in the case of the Frog, to readjust after years of being home schooled) to being in building school. And since that grade in that class was given for the first quarter of the Frog's freshman year, I'm holding perspective and trusting that she will adjust and that her performance in that class will improve.
The Pickle and the Reepicheep are also doing very well. We are able to incorporate most of their subjects, so that they are learning about the same things at their own levels on everything except math, which they pretty much share. They have made up nearly a dozen games in the back yard, and cannot get enough, it seems, of pumping that beautiful fresh air into their systems. They trek to the library each week, delighting in reading until their eyeballs practically roll straight out of their heads and onto the floor. They love going to our weekly enrichment activities with our home school group. They participate in art, phys ed, science and schola. They're learning physics, multi-media applications, doing the Presidential Fitness tests, and learning Gregorian chant (!!!!!). It's a blessing--it's a long day, but generally a good day.
The Reepicheep has been growing closer to the little Cuppie. The two of them play tea party, dance, dress up like Cinderella (whom Cuppie calls "Reela") no matter what the dress really looks like (did you know that a blue t-shirt with a picture of a fish on it is a "Reela Dress"?--even, or perhaps especially, if it's worn over pajamas!!), dance some more, sing songs together, dance a little, and snuggle in the rocking chair to read books. This is so good for both of them. It's good for Cuppie, because though she misses the Frog greatly during the day, she has discovered that she has a good and trusted friend in her other big sister. It's great for Reepicheep, because she is learning that she is capable of caring for someone smaller than she is. She's learning that when little ones depend on her, and when Mama expects it of her, she really can do things that a lot of big kids just aren't expected to do--and so they just don't do them. She regularly changes diapers, gets snacks or sandwiches, snuggles for snooze, and makes a general invaluable helper of herself. I'm really proud of her!
Squash and Pickle have been learning to play better with one another, too. Squash is a wonderful, energetic four-year-old, and Pickle is a wonderful, focused twelve-year-old. They definitely clash on occasion, but almost always find a way to work with (or around) their differences. They play legos, knights, baseball, sandbox, bikes, and made-up imaginary games galore. They race and wrestle, they fight and argue, and they love one another fiercely. Squash willingly lets his brother play with Buzz....which is a gigantic deal.
Squash participates in the enrichment activities, too, attending the Junior Saints group. He learns songs and activities, plays games, works on crafts, and just grows and fills me with wonder and astonishment.
The other day, I was leaving a response on a message board. Squash saw my pregnancy ticker in my signature--it's a baby floating around in a circle, drawn to represent "about" what our baby looks like right now. He asked me if that was the way babies grow inside of Mamas. I explained that it's a picture that probably looks a lot like the way our baby looks right now, except that the picture is really small. And I said to him, "Our baby probably isn't bouncing around like that, because there isn't that much room...but there is some water in there for the baby to float in."
He said, "I know. There was water in there with me, too."
Now, we've talked a lot about when I was pregnant with him. He remembers the glow from light, and he remembers seeing what he calls "bloody grapes"--which is a pretty darned accurate description of the texture left behind from other placentas. He *loves* watching the PowerPoint slide show that I made of the pics of his birth, and listening to the music that I labored to. (He calls it, collectively, "Baby Water"--because he was born in the water.)
So I said to him, "What else was in the water with you?"
And he said, "God. God was in the water with me."
I said, "You remember that God was with you?"
He looked at me like he was sure I was a little bit confused, and said, "He's always been with me, Mom."
My sweet Cuppie will swiftly turn two. TWO. TWO. I cannot even begin to believe it. And the Reepicheep, merely days later, will turn eleven. I have no idea to where the years have fled. I've searched my memory for them, and they only seem to exist in tiny fragments of memories, but even then, as mere wisps of the richness of experiences I know they once held.
There are only fifteen weeks left of this small child growing beneath my heart. We've come up with the nickname "Little Apple," because, once-upon-a-time, one of those nifty compare-your-unborn-baby-to-the-size-of-a-common-fruit-or-vegetable websites said, "Your baby is about the size of an apple," and the Squash was utterly charmed. In our prayers each night, we say the names of each member of our family, concluding with "Little Apple." When he types the names of everyone in our family, Squash always includes "Little Apple." So even though it's currently about the size of a lovely squash, it's still our "Little Apple."
I'm looking forward to a visit with Chris tomorrow. I'm starting to notice, unfortunately, some of the signs that my body always gives me that my muscles are just a bit touchy. Some people call it "irritable uterus." I call it "stretching ligaments and sore, achy Mama, with plenty of cramping to boot." We probably won't even say the words "bed rest" this time, but I will definitely take it easy as I need to.
I am not as anxious for this baby to come as I have been with most of the others. I am anxious about what February will bring. Will people be willing to venture out in the winter weather, with the cold, the ice, the wind and the snow, to visit with us? Will I have the energy to keep up with the little ones and the baby, and the patience to make it through each day? It's a whole different ball game with the Frog at school, but the Pickle and Reepicheep have definitely been stepping into more responsible and charitable roles with their younger siblings. That's been a comfort, to be sure. Will postpartum depression make a return, and will I be able to cope with it?
My depression continues to hover, like a storm that refuses to calm. Though I don't feel mired down quite so much most days, it lurks, waiting for my weak moments, and then it sinks in like a weight on my spirit. There are so many parts of it: guilt, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, shame, doubt and lingering grief. I recently spoke with a very dear friend who helped me to think differently on the suffering that comes with depression. I was feeling much as though perhaps God was asking me to learn how to suffer in the right way, like I'm just not getting it the way He wants me to. I don't remember her exact words, but I do remember her bringing up Blessed Mother Teresa, who walked the valley of doubt and darkness much of her life. And I remember well reading the words of Fr. Neuhaus in his book, Death on a Friday Afternoon, in which he reminds us to remain with Our Lord at the foot of the Cross, with Him in His suffering, rather than rushing too soon to the joy of Easter.
It's hard to remain in suffering willingly. It's even hard to think of Mama Mary, waiting with Him in His suffering--and very much in her own. To know that God has something for me to learn from this depression, this suffering, is a joy! But it is a joy unknown and unseen and even unimaginable.
"Lord, I believe! Help me in my unbelief!" Saint Thomas, pray for me!