A Reading Rainbow (Of Books for Adults)

Every night, I relax with a (hopefully) good book. I am a devotee of the classics, but I am not above re-reading the entire Harry Potter series every year. It helps me to unwind after a hectic day and keep my mind diverted on lighter things (instead of worrying) and drift off to sleep. I have done this for as long as I can remember. I remember being scolded as a girl because my reading lamp was still on late into the night because I kept saying to myself, “just one more chapter!” I already did a list of books I wanted my girls to read here , but I wanted to divulge what I have been reading lately. Just for funsies.

For the past several months, I have been alternating between cravings for the authors P. G. Wodehouse and Rex Stout. I read Rex Stout when I am feeling particularly braced. Like God is in his heaven, and all is right with the world. My favorite series of Rex Stout’s is the Nero Wolfe series of murder mysteries, of course. Nero Wolfe is a corpulent New York City detective (from Montenegro) who lives in a brownstone with his debonair assistant Archie Goodwin, his Swiss chef Fritz, and his sea of priceless orchids in the greenhouse on the roof.  He solves murders and mahem without ever leaving his office, but only because he can send his wisecracking assitant Archie in his stead. It is an enjoyable romp, but if I am already stressed all of the murders can become upsetting after a while. This one is probably my favorite Nero Wolfe mystery.

If I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed (an admittedly common occurrence), I opt for a P. G. Wodehouse story instead. Wodehouse has two character series that I really enjoy. One is Lord Emsworth, the other is Jeeves. Lord Emsworth is a wealthy peer from England who enjoys a quiet life, but mostly his prized sow, aptly named the Empress of Blandings. His bossy sister and her nagging ways and his goofy son and his foolhardy enterprises are always interrupting his aims, however. Hilarity ensues. This is probably my favorite of the Lord Emsworth stories. The other beloved Wodehouse character, Jeeves, the personal gentleman’s gentleman, you might have heard of from the British comedy, “Jeeves and Wooster,” starring Hugh Laurie of “House” fame as Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves. The books are even funnier. This is my favorite collection of Jeeves stories. They are laugh out loud and scare your husband half to death in the middle of the night funny.

My dear friend (and daily texting buddy) of this blog recommended this book for me. She is a lovely mama to eight children, and has been giving me sage advice on how to establish some manageable family boundaries, especially since the holiday season is coming up, and we tend to be confronted with a lot of demands on our time, funds, and energy during that time. I’m trying to get us into a workable routine so that we can avoid being stretched too thin. I’m sure many of you can relate. The Christmas season in particular can be so hectic and distracting during a time when you just want to slow down and reverently meditate on the joyful mystery of the nativity of our Lord. Anyway, the book approaches boundaries in relationships from a Biblical perspective, and I found it very enlightening. I’m not sure if I agreed with everything the author says, but I found many passages helpful nonetheless.  

What are you reading these days? I’m always on the prowl for good literature. I was thinking about starting “Jane Eyre” as my primary education was sorely lacking and I neglected to read it. But I’m hesitant because I’m afraid it will be too stressful. Ah, reading probs.  

Cover photo: “The Story Book” William Adolphe Bouguereau 

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Confession time: I am a Halloween Grinch

Yes, I admit it. I am a veritable Ebeneezer Scrooge of Halloween time. 

You know when you are growing up and you swear you will never inflict the horrible persecutions your parents inflicted on you growing up? Well, not properly getting into the spirit of Halloween was what I swore never to do.   HA!

For Ruth’s first Halloween, she was one month old. I dressed her in a little Halloween themed outfit that my sister bought for her and went to my aunt and uncle’s house to join in their neighborhood Halloween block party. Ruth pooped all over her cute outfit the minute we arrived and got so fussy we had to leave soon thereafter.
Not to be deterred, I took Ruth and two week old Rose out treat or treating the next year. Ruth donned her adorable pumpkin costume (the cheapest one I could find at Pottery Barn), I put Rose in Ruth’s old Halloween outfit from last year (underneath some bundles because it was cold) and we doggedly tried to go trick or treating. Ruth was one, so she was finished by the time we got to the end of the driveway. 

   
The next year, I was pregnant with our third child, and budgeting was on the forefront of my mind. That was when the seed of my Halloween grinchiness began. I bought Ruth and Rose the cheapest costumes I could from Costco, and we took them trick or treating. Walking to the house next door might as well have been 40 years across the desert with a 2 year old and 1 year old in tow, but we did make it. Ruth very much enjoyed her post two pieces of candy sugar high, and they did look cute in their costumes. 

   
Ruth only wore hers because I told her it was a Minnie Mouse costume. My sisters were appalled at my deception, and sided with Ruth on the goofiness of the cheap mouse costume with irrelevant questions like, “why does the mouse have a beer gut?” Et tu, Brute? 

I won’t continue to put you to sleep with the litany of Bass Halloweens. You get the idea.  But I will outline the reasons I have become a Halloween grinch in my old age.

  1. Reason 1: The kids’ costumes are so damn expensive. I mean, really! They are in all likelihood going to wear the thing once! For a few hours! And for that reason, all of the reasonable and cute secondhand costumes are harder to come by than Taylor Swift tickets.   

Picture source
You can buy the above costume for the low low price of $89! That better be real magic coming out of the wand and those wings better actually fly. That’s all I have to say.

2. The women’s costumes were clearly designed by 15 year old boys. 

 

Picture source
Look kids! Mom is a truck stop stripper beloved character from classic children’s literature!  Remember girls, when you grow up, Halloween is all about shedding all womanly dignity and debasing yourself as much as possible. But have fun with it! 

3. All the candy. I mean, I love candy as much as the next person, but the candy aftermath of our Halloweens is just gross.  There is no way we can possibly eat that much candy, so it just ends up being tossed.  So wasteful. (Although I have heard something about donating candy to our troops? Does anyone know about this? And more importantly, do the troops even like it?)

4. Our doorbell being rung all night long. Since our neighbors across the street build a pretty popular “haunted house” every year, teenagers with pillow cases will seriously still be ringing our door bell at 10:30 at night, waking up our kids that we put to bed at 8 over and over again. They don’t care that all of our lights are out, and they won’t pay attention to our little sign. It is exasperating.

So yes, I am a Halloween grinch.  Guilty as charged. But I DO love autumn. October weather in Atlanta is sublime. And pumpkin picking with the babes is so much fun. I love the gorgeous leaves, pumpkin spice everything, hay rides, corn mazes, candy apples, the whole nine yards. So I am not a total lost cause. But you will find me on All Saints Day a much relieved Sylvia.  

  

  

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In which I fish Wren out of a pool and other notable events from our vacation

Bright and early at the crack of 10:30 am (just like we planned) on Ruth’s birthday, we left to go see Scott’s many relatives and my aunt and cousins in Florida. Ruth was very excited to “have [her] birthday in Florida.” I had just bought some fall/winter church shoes for Ruth and Rose, and they insisted on wearing them in the car on the way to Lakeland, Florida. We knew that we would spend most of the day in the car, so Scott and I reluctantly agreed. The shoes, specifically, were these . And let me tell you, they are the worst. The girls had to stump around like Frankenstein’s monster to keep the shoes from flying off their feet. And that method wasn’t even always effective. We got some weird looks dragging two girls walking around like their knees didn’t bend into the Chick Fil A when we stopped for lunch.

  
And the heavens opened up and welcomed us into Lakeland. Apparently, it had been raining nonstop until we arrived. The weather while we were there, however, couldn’t have been more beautiful. Scott’s grandmother and aunt had a birthday cake for Ruth waiting when we got there, and her two little cousins had decorated the place with super hero decorations. They even had sweet gifts for her. She loved it. 

 That cake was delicious.

On Sunday, we headed to Tampa to go to mass with my aunt and uncle and cousins. Ruth and Rose had no fewer than five false bathroom breaks, and Wren was a holy terror as usual. My uncle ended up walking with Rhea in the back while my cousin chased around after Rose and Wren. Ruth very kindly allowed me to sit through the rest of the mass.

After mass, we headed back to my aunt’s house for some delicious Cuban food and birthday cake for Ruth and my cousin Grace, who also had a birthday that week. 

 Rhea is about as big as my cousin Ben.

On Monday, Scott’s dad flew into Tampa to visit and help Scott’s grandmother with whatever she needed. Scott and I immediately volunteered to go to Tampa to pick him up and hurried out the door, leaving all the girls with Scott’s selfless aunt and grandmother. It was like a fabulous vacation for us. We chatted all the way to Tampa without constant interruptions coming from the back seat (“Excuse me, mom! I see a cloud!”) and took a leisurely walk from the car to the airport to wait for Paw Paw’s plane to land. Once he arrived, I convinced the men to go get dinner at the Tampa International Plaza’s Bay Street as the traffic heading back to Lakeland was at a standstill. We drove past the gorgeous bay and ate a delicious meal at the Bay Street restaurant.  I was on cloud nine. Then, Scott’s aunt sent me a text delicately informing me that Rhea had refused her bottle and was being an all-round stinker, so we hurried back to relieve the beleaguered troops. I could not be more appreciative of Scott’s aunt and grandmother for holding down the fort so that we could escape for a little while. What a blessing.

Monday night I got the text from my dear friend Cody asking if we were ready to visit the Happiest Place on Earth, and the rest is history. BTdubs, I wore these shoes  walking all over Disney, and I could not be more pleased with them. It felt like I was walking on clouds, and not a mark was left on my feet. But they also breathe really well and worked perfectly on the surface of the sun during that hot day. 

 That it is, that it is. (As you can see, my snapchat addiction continues. The handle is sylcell, for those interested.)

Tuesday night, Scott’s aunt hosted us and Scott’s childhood friend and his family for dinner. They have a pool in their backyard, so we packed the usual two tons of swimming with toddlers paraphernalia. Wren hates the water and wants nothing to do with it. She even shrieks in  protest during her baths. So we strapped her puddle jumper on her and let her waddle around while her older sisters swam with Daddy. There was a ball that she liked to hold in her arms while she waddled. I’m sure, my dear readers, that you have already guessed what happened next.  As if in slow motion, I watched her drop her ball in the pool, lean over to reach it, and fall headfirst into the water.  I rushed over to the edge of the pool to drag her out. She was wearing her puddle jumper, so she was floating on her back, but I was still anxious to grab her ASAP. It is amazing how difficult it is to fish a toddler out of a pool. I felt like it was taking me forever to get her to shore as she floundered and thrashed. I can only imagine how stressful that would have been if she hadn’t had her puddle jumper on.  Needless to say, if her feelings on bodies of water weren’t that of deepest distrust before, that event certainly sealed the deal. She wanted nothing to do with even being near the pool after that. 

 Sweet sisters keeping warm.


 We left for St. Augustine to visit Scott’s maternal grandparents on Thursday. We wasted no time in heading to the beach on Friday.  

 I

I

f you observe Ruth pretending to be a mermaid in the background. Ok, I have no idea what is going on with that last sentence, but the WordPress powers that be have decreed that I cannot fix it, so pretend that it gives my blog whimsy. 

    
    
 We enjoyed some fabulous seafood and Scott’s grandparents’ hospitality. Rhea, however, was totally thrown off her groove being away from home and was waking up every hour all night long.  So I can’t say I was totally disappointed to finally be heading home on Sunday and getting some sleep! 

 Not sure how she can possibly that smiley after a sleepless night. 

 Scott had to immediately leave on a business trip on Monday, and I have been single-momming it ever since. It is the worst.  Thank goodness for my mom and sisters. I don’t think we would have made it without them helping me with dinner/bath time/bed time (aka, the most hectic and work intensive part of my day which is coincidentally when I am most exhausted.) Counting the seconds until he is home again. 

 

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In which we take a preschooler, two toddlers, and an infant to Disney World

“Brave” was the adjective most utilized when we shared our pictures from the trip. “Crazy” was the adjective used by my husband when I asked him if he thought it would be feasible to take Ruth to Disney World for her fourth birthday. So, I let it lie. But right before our annual trip to Florida to visit Scott’s family near Orlando, I got in touch with our dear friend (who lived next door to us when we were in law school) who works at Disney and asked him whether he thought I was out of my mind to hope to take Ruth to Disney. “Not at all!”, he responded. “Head on over, and we’ll take care of you.”

  
So, we made it happen. Cody’s (our friend who works at Disney) wife happened to have the day off, and she met us at the gate to help us out with the girls. Scott’s aunt and two cousins (who are much younger than Scott) were also able to come with us and help. Scott’s cousins (two boisterous little boys) patiently went on every baby ride with us without complaint and were so kind and attentive toward the girls. All of our companions for the day were a blessing to us for sure.

  
The magic carpet ride was about as thrilling as it was going to get ride-wise for these two patient kids.

A few people have asked for tips on doing Disney with babies and toddlers. Welp, I have done it all of one time, and I think we had such a fabulous experience due mostly to luck, but I can share what worked for us this time.

  1. Bring help, and preferably someone who is familiar with the park. We were fortunate in that Scott’s aunt was very familiar with the park, living nearby, and Cody’s wife Rebecca was pretty much an expert on all things Disney World. It made things so much easier having a tour guide who knew the rides, the places to eat, and what wait times were good and bad. (She even knew when to protect the volatile toddlers from sudden water squirts on rides!) We had an adult for every child, which also helped with rides that only seated two or three at a time, or rides that I would have to sit out with the baby.   
  2. Have a plan for transporting the babies and young toddlers. I wore Rhea, which worked really well, even though it was beastly hot. I had a little paci stashed in my Ergo for when she got fussy, and she pretty much just napped the whole time. All of the rides we went on had no problem with me wearing her, with the exception of the carousel. I had to sit with her on my lap in the carriage. Go figure.  We also used a small, lightweight stroller for Wren. You can rent strollers there, but they were large, plastic, and unwieldy. Wren stayed in it without complaint until it got too close to nap time and she wanted to be held. Then we put Rosie in it.  

Stroller shown here. It holds up to 50 lbs and Rosie was pushing that limit.

3. Go in the off-season. The cognoscenti  inform me that November is the best month. The park is empty and the weather is lovely. The park was pretty empty when we went (on a Tuesday in late September) but it was HOT! The wait times for rides were only 10 minutes early in the morning and about 40 minutes in the afternoon. We didn’t use them, but I’ve heard fast passes are worth it for the rides and the characters you really want to see. 

 

Hot, y’all. And this was in late September! Can you imagine what it is like in the dead of the summer?!! Heat stroke city.

4. Keep your expectations low. You won’t get to do all of the things you want to do (it seems like the options at Disney are ENDLESS)  and the toddlers will start to melt down if you stay too long. We left the second Wren started fussing and managed to avoid any major meltdowns. Because Magic Kingdom is pretty far from parking, and we had to ride the train, then the monorail, and finally do a good bit of walking just to get back to our car.  I’ve heard the other parks are easier. 

 
5. Get your pins! Once you arrive on Main Street, you can ask a friendly representative for pins commemorating your children’s first visit to Disney. They helpfully write the date on the back. Ruth got another pin for her birthday too!

  Only Rosie could be surly in front of her beloved Cinderella’s castle at Disney World.

6. Miscellaneous. Don’t bring selfie sticks. Apparently those were causing some major problems and are now banned. I don’t know why, but I find that hilarious. Selfie stick duels! Also, if you are an adult, do not dress as one of the characters. It is confusing for all of the children.  We saw a Cinderella imposter getting a citation for that very offense. 

The girls really did have a marvelous time (we even got a few smiles and giggles out of Rose!). Ruth will tell anyone that will listen about Disney. She even remembers every character that just happened to walk by us (“Chip and Dale and an Aristocat!”) It was the trip of a lifetime for us. We are incredibly beholden to our dear friends and family who helped make it happen.

And now for the photo dump: 

 Real men wear babies. 

    
 Wren is too cool for the rest of us. 

 Instead of the flattering “skinny arm” pose, I opted to let it dangle awkwardly. And this, my friends, is why we can’t have nice blogs. 

I’ll probably bore you with all of the minutia of the rest of our Florida trip in another blog post or five. You have been warned.

Have any of you taken your littles to Disney? What advice would you give? We are definitely going back. Even Scott has been bitten with the Disney bug after our enjoyable trip. 

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The Post of Ruth

Ah, Ruthie, Rutabega, Rue, Ruey, Baby Ruth, The Rue, Rue Baby. Rose calls her “Roofie” and our housekeeper from Guatemala calls her “Rudy.” An entire post can barely contain her, but I will sure as heck try.

  
She has always been precocious, but she was our first child, so we didn’t notice. She never ceases to amaze me with her memory and her observations on life. She turns 4 on Saturday (waaahhhhh!), and she keeps asking for a bouncy house like she had last year. Except this year she wants a “Frozen” bouncy house instead of an Ariel bouncy house like last year. I haven’t had the heart to tell her that this year we will be out of town visiting relatives, so a bouncy house most probably isn’t in her future. 

There is a pillow case we have with a stain on it that I haven’t been able to get out from when we had her face painted (at the same festival as above) and let her take a nap in her face paint. She always points to the stain and says it is from when she had her face paint on. This stain happened a year ago, and I had no idea she even realized what that stain was! Craziness.

Tonight, when I was tucking her into bed, she starts chatting with me. She loves talking about “Baby Rhea” and how she came out of my belly. She has even been known to tell complete strangers while grocery shopping with Scott that “Mommy is at home feeding baby Rhea milk out of her nipples.” And then she pulls up her shirt to demonstrate what nipples were, just in case the strangers were confused. My very reserved family did not find that story as humorous as I did. I’m sure they think I am some sort of crazy hippie mom who shamelessly nurses her babies in front of her other children. Wait, I guess I am that mom! Oh well. Ain’t nobody got time for nursing covers all day (and the babies hate having that on their heads) and it’s not like I can spend my hours sequestered in a room nursing the baby while the toddlers run amok unsupervised. If they must run amok, I would rather supervise it.

Wow, I got way off topic. Ruthie. Tucking her in. Ruth starts talking about going to the “big house like Aunt Rachel’s house” (Rachel lives in a large apartment complex) to go see baby Wren “through a big window where a woman was changing her diaper.” I realized that she was talking about going to the hospital to see Wren after she was born. It couldn’t have been Rhea, because she didn’t go see Rhea at the hospital. Wren was born almost two years ago! Ruth was two years old! This girl is blowing my mind with her memory like a steel trap. She even complained to my mom that I wouldn’t let her put her fingers in her Ariel cake for her birthday last year and hurt her feelings. Recording grievances against her mom already.

  

No idea how to style that poodle puff she has going on on top of her head. A ponytail up top just makes all the curls cascade out of the hair band in a perfect spherical wave that makes it look like she has a hair fountain on top of her head. And there just isn’t enough hair to do a full hair style just yet. I know, she is practically four! Apparently curls don’t grow as quickly as other hair types.

She is a very anxious child (she comes by it honestly, we suffer from anxiety on pretty much all sides of the family). When we went on a walk on a trail by the Chattahoochee River (gorgeous trail, by the way), she kept saying things like, “we’re getting farther and farther away from our car,” and “I think we’re lost!” When we walked to a little deck overlooking the river and Rosie started leaning over the rail, Ruth started sobbing and cried out, “Rosie is going to fall into the river! She’s my best sister!!” I always reassure her and comfort her. Any tips on helping a nervous child other than constant reassurance and comfort?

She is extremely self sufficient. Every morning, she dresses herself, goes downstairs, puts a DVD in and helps herself to a banana (and any cookies or banana bread that mama carelessly left within view). She can get stuff out of the fridge too, but I like to wake up with her and make her a more substantial breakfast than just banana and milk. Her outfits usually look really cute too! She’ll sometimes even throw in some edgy shirt layering.

  
She and Rosie are thick as thieves when they aren’t bickering. And she has mastered the art of offering Wren something else if Wren has a toy she wants. When Rhea smiles at her, it absolutely makes her day. She brags about it for the rest of the day. She still takes a nap every day, and will put herself to bed with little or no resistance. She is a hot mess without it. 

She is such a beautiful, thoughtful child. She looks into your very soul with those huge eyes (are they gray? Are they hazel? Are they violet? I can never tell.) I adore our nightly chats. You never know what she is going to say next. 

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