Sunday, September 24, 2017

My Sunday Best (and Her Sunday Best)

This morning, my husband and I attended 8:30 Mass at our new parish in VA with our oldest son's wife and four young daughters (two 6-year-olds, a 4-year-old, and a 2-year-old towheaded fashionista).

These five precious beings have been staying with us since the beginning of September while our son is living temporarily in FL, training for his new career in aviation.  Their family had all been living together down there in the sunshine state, in an airbnb apartment; but after about a month in those tight quarters it got a bit unbearable for them, due to the guy in the apartment downstairs who let it be known--by thumping on his ceiling loudly and often with a broomstick--that the girls were making too much noise.  (How do people raise families in apartments?  It must be so hard!)  They were planning to come up here at the beginning of October anyway, to start house-hunting in the area (since our son's new job will be bringing him to DC).  They have already put money down on a rental house about 20 minutes from where we live, and they'll be moving in there around mid-October. But until then, they're with us.

It is a very sweet experience to share a pew with these affectionate granddaughters.  They like to lean against us and nuzzle our shoulders.  (They also like to take sniffs of us, which I've talked about here at the blog before.)

They're very into wearing dresses these days, all the time; so the four of them looked really pretty for Mass.  But the youngest, City Girl, had a Sunday Best outfit on today that was just too good not to share here at the blog.  For her trip to God's house today she wore a beautiful white dress, with embroidery embellishments and pin-tucks and lace...and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle socks...and pink Crocs.

It was a killer ensemble, as you can see.

My own outfit was not nearly as notably fashion-forward.  I just wore a Kelly-green fit-and-flare lace dress that I got many moons ago on clearance at JC Penney, paired with a 3/4-sleeve flowered cardigan from Target.  (Target really does have some very cute, very reasonably priced cardigans, don't they?)
I don't know what to do with my hands!

I am a big fan of this front hallway at our new house.  We had that sign above the door hanging up in our family  room back in NH for decades, and I just love it.  On the upper left is a circular piece of wood from the Holy Land with a cross and a house blessing on it; this was a gift from son #1 and his wife.  The small blue glass Crucifix from Venice on the left and the painted clay cross from Mexico on the right are both gifts from son #4 and his wife.

I did  not wear Ninja Turtle socks to Mass; instead I chose nude opaque tights from Walmart.  (Boring!)  And instead of Crocs, I chose some camel-colored flats that also came from the sale rack at JCP; they are by Liz Claiborne, but I believe they're supposed to resemble a style of shoe by a much more expensive designer.  (Tory Burch?  I'm not sure, but I think if I asked some of my daughters-in-law, they might know.)
After Mass, the parish had coffee and doughnuts in the church hall.  (Huzzah!  And the people rejoiced!)  The two younger girls enjoyed theirs right away, while the twins attended their CCD class in preparation for their First Communion next year.  Rest assured, though: the big girls got to eat their treats later at home.  And we all had that Sunday staple (in this house, at least), BACON.  (Huzzah again!)

This is what our breakfast table looked like on this glorious autumn Sunday.  The table décor around here is, shall we say, a little more interesting these days.
Kind of like City Girl's Mass outfit.

And that's it for this busy Grammy. But if you want to see what other bloggers (or their significant others) are wearing this fine Sunday, head on over to Rosie's.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Babies and Birthdays and Bears--Oh My!

Tomorrow marks exactly one month since the birth of our three newest grandchildren, the triplets.

In yesterday's post, I told you that the two boys were coming home today, but unfortunately they didn't pass their car seat test yesterday so their stay in the hospital will have to be extended.  (I guess they have to be able to sit in their car seats for two hours without having any significant changes in their oxygen levels or heart rates, or else they cannot be deemed ready to go home.)  So it may be tomorrow or the next day, I'm not sure yet.

We started out our life as grandparents with identical twin girls just over six years ago, so I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about the ins and outs of life with multiples. But the twins were pretty much the size of singlets when they were born--5 lbs. 9 oz. and 6 lbs. 10 oz.--and they did not require a stay in the NICU.  Since these preemie triplets arrived by c-section at 32 weeks and were still not quite ready to breathe on their own without help, they had a tougher road to travel.  They, too, were good-sized, considering their gestational age and the fact that there were three of them growing inside my very petite daughter-in-law: one of the boys and the little girl were each a few ounces over 4 lbs. at birth, and the smaller of the two boys was 3 lbs.  But still, they all had to be on CPAP machines and had feeding tubes in their wee nostrils until they were strong enough to take their feedings from bottles. All three got jaundice, too (which is common in preemies), and had to spend some time under the UV lights.   But all that being said, every time we visited them the nurses assured us that they were NICU champs and were doing beautifully.

Apparently, preemie girls fare better than boys in general (something I hadn't heard before), so it isn't really a surprise that my son's little princess is already home and her brothers are lagging a little bit behind her.  Since she's going to be the lone female in their little trio, maybe it's a good thing she has that to lord over them if they ever gang up on her in the future.  (Although I'm sure our son will drill into their brains that the worst thing they could do would be to mess with daddy's little girl!)

I have some amazing pictures of the triplets from their time in the NICU, and I want to do an enormous "photo dump" post and share them with you; perhaps I'll save that for a 7 Quick Takes link-up post this coming Friday.

One thing about these babies is that even at their tiniest, when they still didn't have much flesh on their miniature bodies, they were astoundingly beautiful.  Their faces are all so perfect that they could be used for models to sculpt the faces of baby dolls.  I know I'm their Grammy, but it's true.  Even the NICU nurses agreed with me on this.  (And don't even try to tell me that they say that to all the proud grandparents!  Sometimes it's just so very true!)

Here are a few recent close-ups I've taken of the babies' ridiculously adorable faces.  (And I think I finally have their blog handles figured out!)

This first one is the "big" guy, triplet A.  (He already has chubby cheeks like his daddy did!)  In high school, the big bruiser on the football team was nicknamed "Moose."  (So was one of the elderly nuns who taught us, but that's a story for another post.)  So triplet A shall heretofore be known as
Triplet B, the only girl in the group, is already as beautiful as her mother (she looks like her mommy's mini-me, according to her maternal grandmother), and she will most likely be the most petite of the three.  So she shall be called

And finally there's the smallest of the group, Baby C, a little scrapper who fought from the beginning to thrive.  The doctors thought he might not make it, but boy did he ever prove them wrong.  Because he has a very Irish name, I'm going to call him
(I think that's the perfect moniker for this little peanut, because mac means son in Gaelic!)

When the father of these beautiful babies was a little boy, he told me that he wanted me to make him a teddy bear.  He didn't want me to buy him one, he wanted me to make it all by myself.  This son (#4 of our five) has always been a very creative and artistic guy, and someone who truly appreciates anything that is made with love by hand.  And he is an amazing artist himself.  Just to give you an idea of the level of his artistic talent, here is a piece of artwork that he created (which I might have shared here at the blog before) to announce his wife's pregnancy on Facebook.
Anyway, back to the bears.  Even though I'd been sewing since I was in high school, I'd never made a teddy bear and wasn't at all sure I would be able to do it.  But he persisted, because for some crazy reason, he though his mom could figure out a way to do just about anything (don't you love the innocent trust that children have?).  The funny thing is, when it came to my boys, I DID want to do just about anything, within reason.  So I went to JoAnn's and found a pattern for making jointed, weighted teddy bears, and I set out to make my son happy.  

I got really into it over the years.  If you've never made a homemade bear, you should try it.  As you put together the head and the face starts to emerge (and each one ends up having its own expression and its own personality--just like human beings do--as hard as you try to make them just alike), you'll probably find yourself talking to it.  I remember cooing at these bears, "Oh, aren't you just adorable?"

When we moved from our beloved house in NH back in March, I brought all the precious memorabilia and artifacts from our boys' childhoods along with us, stored in large plastic bins.  I knew that I had the bears that I'd made for my son in one of them, so this morning I rooted through a few bins and found a whole bunch of his teddies, big ones and small ones.  But these three little ones really got me excited.
Oh my goodness, won't they be perfect for the triplets?!

There's a bear dressed up as a bunny, which I think should go to Mac.
And a big-eyed angel, which of course is perfect for Minnie.
And there's an all-boy bear, wearing cargo pants and a sweater, that I think should go to Moose.
For a number of years, I had so much fun making bears that I thought about selling them in one of those shops that carries handcrafted items; but I never really got around to doing anything about it--other than thinking up a name for my line of creations and making little tags to put on the bears.
If Etsy had been around back then, maybe I would have opened up a shop.   But everything is timing, I believe.  And I was not meant to sell these "Fuzzy Buddies."   I was meant to give them to three precious new grandchildren.
More pictures of these darling triplets are coming soon.  Stay tuned!

And before I go, a shout-out to my sweet daughter-in-law Preciosa, mother of two-going-on-three, who celebrates her birthday today.  We love you and hope it's a special day for you!

Monday, September 18, 2017

I'm a Bit Rusty, But I'm Back

You guys...what is wrong with me?  I have so much to write about these days, as our family is expanding at breakneck speed and going through the most incredible transitions; but the last thing I can get myself to do lately is to sit down and write about it.  I've been almost afraid to go near our office here in VA, as roomy and cozy and efficient a space as it is, for fear that I will go on a writing bender and come out days later bug-eyed, bedraggled, and unshowered.

It could happen.  (I'm in my nightgown as I write this.  When I finish today, I'll let you know what time it is and whether or not I've managed to get bathed and dressed yet!)

About our office, though (which I intend to put on the new house tour, if I ever get THAT particular set of posts up and running again!): it is the greatest place imaginable to work!  I've always wanted such an office and my husband was adamant that our new house would have one--and not only that, but it would be outfitted with matching rolling chairs so we could work side-by-side at our desks.  (He says he wants me to be the happiest woman on earth.  And because of him, I am.)
When I was a newbie blogger, I couldn't wait to open up my laptop every morning and get to it, before my first cup of coffee had even had a chance to grow cold.  (And that's back when I didn't even have a fancy office to work in and had to park myself at the dining room table, because the only office space we had was in a gloomy corner of the basement.)  I had dreamed of being a writer my whole life, since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, but had put that seemingly farfetched dream on the back burner during the years that I was raising my boys.  Some people can do both--take care of a home and a husband and kids and also be writers--but I knew instinctively that, at least for me, trying to do it all would be too hard.  Or at least that if I tried, I would end up feeling like I wasn't giving enough of myself to one job or the other.  So I waited until my youngest son was about to begin high school in 2007 and I had hours to myself during the school days to start writing my first novel; and then I waited until he was about to graduate from high school to start this blog.  (Good things happen to those who wait and all that, right?)

I've gone through arid patches with this blog in the past few years, where I've felt tapped-out and tired, thinking that I haven't got all that much to say anymore.  I've considered giving it up, even, at times; but I always come back to it.  I miss it too much when I'm away.  Blogging has been the most satisfying outlet for me.  The writing in and of itself brings me a lot of joy; but then add to that the many blessings I've received over the years--especially the online friends I've had the privilege to meet--and well...I can only say good things about my years in the blogging world.

Okay then, the last time I was here (just under a month ago!  Wow, has it been that long?), my fourth son and his wife had welcomed triplets into the world.  So many of you kind readers have probably been hoping for updates.  But like I said before, I am not one to do many things at the same time and do them well.  And while I've been busy trying to be the best Mom and Grammy I can be to so many people whom I love, I just haven't felt capable of being much of a writer.  (When this blog goes through dry spells, though, you can catch up with my family's news on Instagram, if you so desire.  I've been posting there rather than blogging--and I can see why so many formerly prolific bloggers whom I used to follow have taken to doing the same.)

Time for a writing break, as I just learned that my husband has scheduled a 10:00 appointment with someone who is trying to sell us mortgage insurance for our new house.  (And I thought he wanted to make me the happiest woman on earth!  I'll have to tell him that interrupting my writing to make me listen to someone talk about mortgage insurance is not the way to go about that.)  I may not have time to shower, but I have to at least get out of my nightgown and into some clothes.  And hopefully, I'll be back later to finish this up!

In the meantime, here's a recent picture of the triplets with their mom and dad.  All three babies will be home as of tomorrow!  They have been thriving and gaining weight like a trio of NICU champions.  The little girl (for whom I must come up with a blog handle) went home after a mere 23 days; the boys (who will also get blog names eventually) will join her one day shy of a month since their birth.  God has been so good to this sweet little family.
P.S. One last thing: please pray for my baby sister, who has been flat on her back in excruciating pain for weeks, and is having surgery on a herniated disc this morning--that the procedure is a success and she finally gets some relief!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Triplets Are Here!

I have  big news!  About little people!

Last night, son #4 and his wife welcomed their triplets into the world!  Mom and babies are doing well so far!  As of yesterday, Braveheart had made it to exactly the 32-week mark, which was the goal her OB/GYN had for her at the outset.  And yesterday the contractions started, right on schedule.  (Already, those grandchildren of mine are proving to be very obedient, very much rule followers.  And smart, too; they must have realized that even the day before would have been too soon, so they waited until all was just right!)

My husband and I were not there in VA when all this was happening--we're in NY right now.  But last night, one of my other VA daughters-in-law, Preciosa, took a photo of one of the triplets being transferred from the delivery room to the NICU.  She got off the elevator and saw this medical team, and she excitedly asked them, "Is that a Pearl baby?!"  And it was!
The babies were delivered by C-section.  The first one out was the larger of the two boys, Baby A, who weighed in at 4.277 lbs. (18.25 inches).  He was born at 7:30 p.m. The second and third babies were both born a minute later: first, the only girl, Baby B, who weighed in at 4.211 lbs. (17.5 inches); and then the smallest of the bunch, Baby C, a boy who weighed in at 3.02 lbs. (16.2 inches).  That third-born triplet was the one the doctors were initially worried about making it at all, because at the beginning he wasn't growing; early on, they had prepared our son and his wife for losing him in the womb (in what they call "vanishing twin" syndrome, I believe).  But the little guy proved what a fighter he is by surprising everyone and growing like a weed.  So many people were praying for those babies, and indeed prayers have been answered tenfold.

My daughter-in-law is something else, I'll tell you.  She has looked glowing and happy throughout this pregnancy, suffering absolutely no morning sickness at all; and this is how the new mother looked not long after the C-section:
Don't these two wonderful kids look happy?!?!?  I love them so much.  And I know I'm going to love those tiny babies.

I have pictures of the triplets, but until I find out how their mommy and daddy feel about having them on social media, I'm not going to share them.  Suffice it to say that they are three of the eleven (so far) cutest babies you've ever seen in your life.  (And in November, that number will jump to twelve.)

And now it's time to pack, because guess where I'm headed?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Seven Quick Takes: Blog Business, Baby Boy Bonnets, and Books

So I haven't done one of these link-ups in a while.  But I need to play a bit of catch-up here at the blog, so I thought this was a good way to do it.


First things first.  Just so you know, I'm still a blogger.  Yes, it's true: I still blog--but not nearly as often as I used to.  I mean, for the first few years after I started String of Pearls, I would write and publish posts daily; but it's been a while since I was that prolific.

And also, I must take this opportunity to apologize for neglecting all the nice people who have left lovely and heartfelt comments on my posts in June, July, and August.  (It's been a very busy summer!)  So if you were kind enough to stop by and leave me a few words in my combox, and you were wondering why I didn't have the courtesy to respond, you can go back now and see that I have re-read all of your messages and replied to them.  I probably don't say this enough (maybe I've never said it?  If that's the case, I'm sorry!), but it truly makes my day when readers connect with me.  I can't tell you what it means to me to have people, most of whom I've never met, praying for me and my family.  God love you!


So now that we've established that I'm a blogger, I have to tell you how excited I am to be attending the CWBN Mid-Atlantic Chapter's 2017 Blogging Conference at Ana Hahn's house on August 26.  I am so excited (and also a tad nervous) about meeting--IRL!--all these women whose blogs have entertained and inspired me.  You don't have to be a famous or widely-read blogger to attend this conference (at least, I hope that's true--or I've made a huge mistake signing up for this!).  You just have to be a Catholic (check!) and a blogger (check!), so I will be there with bells on!  The fact that this event (or as Ana has called it, this "par-tay") is going to be held in Front Royal, VA, just under an hour's drive away from our new house down there, is just one more reason--among many, many others--why I'm glad to call Northern VA my new home.


Thanks to all who have offered prayers for my mother's health.  As of now, her surgery to remove one of her kidneys has been postponed while she deals with chronic UTI's and various other issues, including general muscular weakness.  She is currently infection-free and growing stronger daily in a rehab center in VT.  We hope that she will be able to have the surgery soon and return to her assisted living home across the lake in NY, strong and cancer-free.


Also, thanks to all who have prayed for the triplets my #4 son and his wife Braveheart are expecting, possibly any day now.  She has been in the hospital since 30 weeks, due to a scare that they thought would end in an emergency C-section; but as of today, she and the babies are doing very well.  She will be 32 weeks tomorrow, which is HUGE; and they may decide to let her go to 34 weeks, unless of course she goes into labor before that.  Continued prayers would be much appreciated for Braveheart and those wee ones (two boys and a girl).


My #2 son's wife Ginger is a huge fan of the Beaufort Bonnet Co., and she's a sucker for a baby bonnet.  She just gave birth to a second son in June; but the fact that her children are both males has not discouraged her from purchasing bonnets for them.  (My son, for his part, thinks boys should wear baseball caps rather than bonnets; but he and his wife have reached a compromise on the issue:  by the time they are 18 months old, his little guys are no longer allowed to wear anything but typical "boy hats."  Daddy has laid down the law.)

I just have to share some pictures of these two brothers in their dapper headware.  If you formerly agreed with my son that bonnets are suitable for baby girls only, I think these images might change your mind.
Oh my goodness, are my grandchildren the cutest things you've ever seen, or what?  (Rhetorical question, obviously.  Do not bother to answer.)


Speaking of grandchildren, this fall, our oldest son's wife and four daughters will be living with us temporarily, while he finishes up his airline training and they search for a house to buy in VA.  (Yes, that's right: as of January 2018, when son #1 will begin a new job as a pilot flying out of D.C., all four of our married sons and their families will be living within an hour of us!!  Now we must pressure encourage our youngest son to move to VA, too, when his Army obligation has been completed!)

Our firstborn and his wife are homeschooling their girls, and this year the twins (6) will be in first grade.  I am excited to find out as much as I can about homeschooling networks and resources in Northern VA at the CWBN conference--yet one more reason I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to attend.


I am way behind on some assignments I've got to finish--reading and reviewing a couple of books by Catholic authors that I was given in exchange for honest reviews.  But for some reason, I've had trouble reading books lately, especially non-fiction works, and have taken to reading short articles and Instagram posts instead.  So that's part of the reason I'm procrastinating with those reviews. But also, I think I'm just going through a rather arid patch when it comes to writing.  (Thus the blogger's block that I've been battling for quite some time now!)  I did, however, read a novel recently, on a last-minute flight down to VA the day we thought the triplets were going to make a premature entrance. (I purchased it at an airport book store right before I boarded the plane, because an engrossing novel has always been the best medicine for me when it comes to forgetting that I'm sitting 30,000 feet in the air.)

I highly recommend this book, an extremely well-written debut novel by an author I hope will write many more.  It was a page-turner.  If you like Kate Morton's books, this one's for you.
Well, that's it for me.  Now over to Kelly's to see what other people in the Catholic blogosphere are up to.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Who's Got It Better Than We Do?

My husband and I are spending the summer in our old hometown in Upstate NY, working hard at being the caretakers/cleaning crew of our Oyster Haven VRBO lake house (and my husband is commuting to work from here).  So today, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I got to attend a noon Mass at my childhood parish church.  And then I stayed afterward to pray a group Rosary.
We moved to this wonderful town when I was 10, and I went to the Catholic grade school just across the street from this church.  This is where I went to Sunday Mass every week as a kid, but it's not where I got married.  My husband and I actually exchanged our wedding vows in his parish church across town--the one that was connected to the Catholic high school we both attended.  We thought it was apropos to get married there: seeing as how we'd met at that high school and started dating when we were 15, that church seemed to be more a part of our story as a couple.

But the church I was in today was where we gathered in November for my father's funeral Mass.  It's the first time I've been back inside it since he died.

Both of these churches that are special to me are just breathtakingly beautiful, but I thought I'd show you some pictures of the one I was in today.  I had forgotten just how glorious it is; my goodness, it rivals many of the ornately beautiful Catholic churches I've had the privilege to visit in Europe, when I've tagged along on some of my husband's working trips.

How's that for a feast for the eyes, on Our Lady's special feast day?  You could almost believe you were in Heaven, couldn't you?  (And these iPhone photos don't even begin to do it justice!)  Is there anything more beautiful than the inside of a Catholic church such as this one?  Don't answer that, because obviously the answer is an emphatic "No!"

When I am present for the Sacrifice of the Mass--surrounded by beauty such as this, hearing the soothing sound of the voices of the faithful solemnly joined in prayer--I often think of something I heard about the Harbaugh family.  When well-known football coaches Jim and John Harbaugh were growing up in their close-knit, loving family, their parents had a phrase they used all the time.  "Who's got it better than us?" Jack and Jackie Harbaugh would ask their kids.  "Nooo-body!" John, Jim, and their sister Joanie would answer.

Well that's how I feel about being a member of the Catholic Church, the best family on earth, and having this Woman as my Mother.
Truly, who's got it better than we do?  NOOO-BODY!  That's who.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Please Pray for the Triplets (and Their Bravehearted Mommy!)

I am asking you, dear readers, to pray for my daughter-in-law, Braveheart.  She is 30 weeks pregnant with triplets (two boys and a girl), and this morning she woke up bleeding and had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance. 

It turns out that one of the amniotic sacs had ruptured, so until the babies are delivered (it could be either within days or within weeks), she is going to stay in the hospital where she can be monitored.  She was given a steroid shot to help the babies' lung development, should they arrive too soon (32 weeks was the benchmark they hoped she would reach in order to ensure the safest outcome).  But so far, so good--praise be to God!  All three babies have strong healthy heartbeats.  They are little fighters.  In fact, early on, the smaller of the two boys looked like he wasn't going to make it, and the doctors told the kids to prepare for two babies instead of three.  But he rallied and grew like crazy and is now within ounces of the other two, doing just great.  Like I said, they are fighters.

And my Braveheart is a fighter, too!

She is the wife of my fourth son, and is in every way the perfect mate for him.  They are both very intelligent and cerebral, and they can talk about scientific or philosophical topics all the livelong day.  But they also share an offbeat sense of humor and an appreciation for little-known cartoons and kid-friendly video games.  Their children are going to have two very fun and interesting parents.  I can hardly wait to see them in action.

Here is a picture of my sweet girl, the soon-to-be mom of three, at our house last Christmas.  She was celebrating after scoring her dream present--a Pikachu costume--in our first-ever family Yankee Swap, as her hubby and her beloved doggies looked on. (She would not learn that she was pregnant with her first child[ren] until about a month or so later.)

Isn't she a hoot?  My boy adores her, she adores him, and we adore them both.  We can hardly wait to meet their three tiny angels.

Please keep Braveheart and her wee ones in your prayers.  Thank you so much!!