Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Sunrise, Sunset

Swiftly go the years!  (You know that song, right, from Fiddler on the Roof?  Truer words were never spoken.)


I was a brand new, utterly besotted grandmother.  The tiny identical twin girls in my arms were practically bald and I had a full head of healthy dark brown hair.


I am now a grandmother to 17-going-on-19 and those same twin granddaughters will be taller than their Grammy any day now. Their hair looks almost exactly like mine used to, while mine is thinning and graying.

But all the downsides of aging are wiped away by the privilege of getting to watch my grandchildren grow up— of being able to witness these two sweet little girls morphing into poised young ladies right before my very eyes, these past four-plus years that they’ve been our neighbors.

Thank you, God, for this and for so many other things!

P.S. If you want to be happy turning into an old lady: marry a man who, when the sun hits your head just so and really highlights how the silver hairs are definitely beginning to outnumber the brown ones, loves what he sees and tells you how pretty your hair looks.  That's the guy I married.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Weekend Recap (in Pictures)

What a wonderful weekend for our family!

On Saturday we celebrated the birthdays of three little peeps (grandsons who are about to turn one and three and a granddaughter who will turn two, in the course of three consecutive days this coming week).  The party was a Halloween-themed costume affair at the house of son #4 (the dad of the wee birthday girl/Pikachu) and it was fun. Crazy fun.  Emphasis on crazy!

I think I might have had a smudge on my lens, these photos are very blurry!

Our gifts to the little dinosaur-obsessed fella who's about to turn three were a truly classy dino-themed Garanimals outfit and more importantly, a 40" blow-up T-Rex.  I think you can tell by this photo (that his mom sent me after they got home and his dad inflated it) that it was a hit.

He loved it so much that he slept beside it!

If your Monday was feeling a big gloomy thus far, I bet it brightened up considerably after you saw that last picture, didn't it?  I don't even have to ask.  I know it did!  How much happier a place would the world be if something as simple as that inflatable dinosaur could produce as much joy in us as it does in this precious little boy?

Here's another image to brighten your Monday: my adorable 5-year-old granddaughter wearing the poodle skirt I made for her to wear for her school's Fifties-themed celebration today.  

My favorite little bobby-soxer!

Yesterday, my husband and I met up with our oldest boy's family at a nearby VA brewery for a very relaxed belated birthday celebration.  He didn't get home from work until late at night on his actual birthday a few days ago.  Instead of celebrating turning 38, he was flying his last trip for the airline he's been working for while they've been living in VA.  He starts training for a new company soon and then within a couple of months his family--including a little boy with four big sisters and another baby sister on the way--will be moving out to the Midwest.  

But Papa and Grammy (or "Papagrammy," as the triplets call both of us--you know, kind of like Brangelina) didn't want to dwell on that yesterday!  We wanted to enjoy the time we have with this sweet family, and we did.  My daughter-in-law and I brought supplies for a simple picnic, we ordered some beers, and when the kids weren't sitting at the picnic table chatting with us or sitting on our laps, they were running around the fields.  It was 70 degrees and sunny, the scenery was bucolic, the company was was a perfect Sunday afternoon.

I feel like an old-school blogger here.  Sitting down to get this posted was the first thing I did this morning (after I made a cup of coffee, of course!).  I'm not saying this will be a trend, but it feels like the early days here at String of Pearls--make that String o' Pearls.

I hope you have a great week, dear readers.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

7 Quick Takes: Much Ado about Nothing (or Everything)

I always look forward to the 7QT posts Colleen Martin shares here each week.  This funny, bright, devoutly Catholic, happily married mother of seven has long been one of my favorite bloggers, and I'm thrilled that she has kept her Martin Family Moments up and running, even after most of the gals I used to follow have jumped ship and headed over to the Insta-world.  I have felt like giving up myself numerous times over the past five years or so, but I keep trying to plug away at it.  I've noticed that even if she doesn't get any other posts up during the week, Colleen is usually here on Fridays for 7QT.  I am going to use her example as inspiration and try to do the same.  I used to blog every morning, for goodness sake; I can certainly blog once a week.  Because, you know--

1. Blogging is Still a Thing

It is!  And speaking of Martin Family Moments, if you aren't reading it you're really missing out.  If you stop by this endearing blog site, you will undoubtedly be entertained and inspired.  You will see adorable children, ranging in age from toddler to teen.  You will be amused by clever memes (you might even LOL on occasion!).  You will also get some great ideas for new recipes to feed your family.  This recent post is a perfect example of why I always make a point to read Colleen's blog.  Check it out! 

2. Further Proof That Blogging Matters

If you're here at This Ain't the Lyceum, you probably know how awesome blogger/writer/speaker Kelly Mantoan is, because she's the host of this link-up after all.  But when I read an old blog post of hers, "I Am Not Exceptional, and So Can You" (following a link that Colleen had shared in that post of hers that I just told you about), I was blown away by her writing.  What a beautiful treatise on finding joy while parenting her kids, two of whom have special needs, reminding readers that God can choose any one of us--whether we seem like "saints" or not--and give us crosses to carry and challenges to overcome that we might never have thought we could handle.  Kelly has a down-to-earth way of putting things and writes with wisdom, honesty, heart, humility, and humor.  She says, "Raising a special needs child requires the same skills as raising non-disabled children: patience, hard work, sacrifice and love.  If you say you couldn't do what I do, then I have to question if you can properly raise any child, pet or possibly houseplant." So true!  I just love the way she puts things.  (You can read that post here.) 

3. I Have Lots to Blog About, But Less Time to Do It!

I used to have just five boys to blog about (there they are with me in this photo on my computer's screen saver), but they grew up and got married, so now I have five daughters, too, ten children in all. And those ten have so far produced 17 precious grandchildren, with two more on the way.  With SO MANY people in my life to love (and bake birthday cakes for, and babysit for, and snuggle...), I could seriously write a novella every day...if only I had the time.  

4. I'm Going to Need a Bigger Wall...

When our grandchildren reach the age of one, they are immortalized on our living room wall with a photo canvas.  Our daughter-in-law Preciosa started us down this road Christmas 2012, when she gave us a 16 x 20" canvas print of our twin granddaughters (now 10), who were our only grandchildren at the time.  Preciosa wasn't even engaged to our middle son yet (that would happen within a few months, and the wedding just under a year later), and she already knew exactly the kind of gift we would love.

When our next grandchild, the twins' sister (now 8), was born, we decided that since the twins were just about a year old in their canvas, we would have one made of her at that age, too.  Our gallery of canvas portraits just keeps growing and growing as each new grandchild celebrates his or her first birthday.  When the next set of multiples, the triplets (now 4) came along, we put them on a 16 x 20" canvas together, like the twins, but all the singletons have 12 x 12" squares to themselves.  (I hope the multiples don't feel cheated!)

It has gotten to the point where I'm going to need a bigger wall.  Or I'm at least going to have to rehang all the canvases higher up, both in order to make room for more faces and to keep curious little people from standing on the couch and playing with them.  (Not that that would ever happen.)

4. So Many Birthdays, So Much Cake!

With a family as big as ours, there are certainly a lot of birthdays to celebrate.  And that means there is a lot of cake to eat.  (Not a bad problem to have..."Or maybe it is," says my waistline.)

5. Speaking of Birthdays—

Hey, that last take was actually quick, which is out of character for me.  Did you notice?  Anyway...

Yesterday was our oldest son's 38th birthday.  (That's him in the grey and blue striped polo in the picture up above.) Happy Birthday to the boy who made me a mom and changed my life forever for the better; I love you to the moon and back!!  

Our firstborn is the father of five with one on the way, and he has recently taken a job with a new airline.  His schedule, commute, and quality of life will be so much better with this new company, as far as time with his own family goes...but the hard part for this spoiled mom/grandmother who has had all of her grandkids living nearby for more than four years now is that his sweet family will be moving, from 17 minutes away from us in VA all the way out to the Midwest.   More about that in a later post...[sniff!].  I’d rather not talk about it now!

I've been busy lately, so I missed blogging about our oldest boy's wife's birthday last month, and our oldest grandson G-man's a few weeks ago.  It's hard to keep up, I tell you!

My favorite 7-year-old boy.

Next week, we have three grandchildren celebrating birthdays three days in a row (they're turning one, two, and three).  Fortunately, the two moms of those little ones decided to join forces and have one big party today, which will simplify the Pearl family's calendar of events considerably!

6. I Might Have a Mini-me...

With all those grandchildren, I guess the odds were there might be one who resembled his or her Grammy a little.  Our #4 son and his wife have 4-year-old triplets and an almost 2-year-old daughter (one of the three whose birthday we’ll be celebrating today) who looks so much like her daddy did at that age.  They think this youngest little gal of theirs looks like me.  What do you think, is this my Mini-me? 

7. If You’re Looking for Me, I’m Probably Baking, Sewing, or Painting

It’s a good bet that if I have free time, I’ll be doing one of those things!  As a matter of fact, I have to sign off now, so I can decorate a sheet cake with a T-Rex for two little grandsons and finish sewing a dress for one one granddaughter’s birthday and a poodle skirt for another granddaughter’s upcoming Fifties-themed dress-up day in kindergarten.

Before I finished and published this post,
I finished the skirt!  

No painting today.   But I recently finished a fun trompe l'oeil painting project on my walls that I'll share here soon.  

That’s it for me, but now if I were you I’d head on over to Kelly’s, where many delightful die-hard bloggers continue to gather.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Sewing with Grammy (4 and 5)

I never got around to blogging about sewing lesson number 4 last week!  I find it hard to blog these days, and I truly don't know where the time goes; but I definitely want to try to keep up with this little sewing series.  I want my granddaughters to have these memories of our time together to look back on whenever they feel like it.  So today you get a two-fer.

Last Monday, the twins (10) started out with more sewing machine practice on paper, following straight, curvy, and zig-zagged lines.  The curves and zigs and zags proved to be challenging, but they did remarkably well. 

After they'd demonstrated what masters of straight line sewing they've become, I had the twins practice doing straight lines on fabric by having them hem casings for the elasticized waists on four simple skirts for their American Girl dolls--one each for the seamstresses, and one each for their two younger sisters, 8 and 6. (By the way, if you want to make one of these, all you need is one regular 8 and 1/2 x 11" sheet of computer paper.  Place the shorter side on the fold of the fabric to cut one large rectangle.  Then you just fold down the top to sew a casing for the 10 and 1/2 " long piece of 1/4" elastic, hem the bottom, and sew up one back seam.  Voila!  Easy peasy.) 

Once they'd finished on the machine, I had the younger girls pull the elastic through the casings guided by safety pins, because I wanted them to feel like they have a hand in the creation of these doll fashions.  (Each girl got to pick out the fabric she wanted to use for her garment, but I wanted all of them to feel fully involved in the project.)

Yesterday, I was going to have the twins hem the skirts and sew the back seams so they could take them home and start using them on their dolls; but first, I had a hand-sewing project for all the girls to do together.  And that ended up being so much fun, and taking up so much time, that we never got to the skirts and decided to finish them off when we have our next lesson.

For hand-sewing, felt is always a good idea, in my book; it's so forgiving.  And Christmas-themed crafts are also always a good idea.  I think so, anyway.  So felt Christmas tree-shaped ornaments were the project du jour for my budding seamstresses.

To use as a model, I decorated the front of one of the felt trees I’d cut out before they arrived.  (Mine went home with their little brother, who doesn't like to be left out of things--so I added a car, an airplane, and a football button especially for him.) 

The girls had a great time rummaging through my button box, and they were very creative.  Each ornament was a one-of-a-kind creation.  They sewed backs on the decorated fronts and stuffed them, and then we added loops for hanging them on the tree.

It's hard to put into words just how much this little weekly sewing class means to me.  Back when I was raising these girls' daddy and his brothers, if I had tried to look ahead and picture what life as a Grammy to many grandchildren would be like, I never could have imagined anything even remotely as wonderful as it is.  When these girls are my age, I hope they look back on our times together with fondness.  And I hope they keep sewing!  It's such a useful skill!

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

An Open Book: The Lacemaker

Anne Faye's latest book, The Lacemaker (A Novel of St. Zelie Martin) has been on the top of the “to read” pile on my nightstand for a while now.  It's not that I wasn't eager to read it, having enjoyed several of Faye’s earlier novels; it's just that I've been busy enough lately that reading (one of my favorite pastimes ever!) has taken a back seat to other more pressing endeavors.  

But that book, with its appealing cover--featuring a sepia-toned photo of St. Therese of Lisieux's mother, St. Zelie, surrounded by Alcenon lace--has definitely been calling to me.  And once I started reading it a few days ago, I had a hard time putting it down.  Two sittings was all it took to finish it.

Faye has done an outstanding job of making St. Zelie come alive for me, and after devouring this novelized version of her life, I intend to read more biographical works about this extraordinary woman.  She was a saint who was also a wife to a saint and a mother of saints.  And as if those accomplishments weren’t enough for any soul, she was also a successful businesswoman who was a maker of exquisite French lace.
Zelie Guerin never thought she would marry and have children; as a young girl, her dream was to enter the convent. But God had other plans for her, which included making lace and meeting Louis Martin, who had also dreamed of a religious vocation but instead would become her partner in marriage, parenthood, and sainthood. Zelie and Louis had nine children in all, four of whom died in infancy or early childhood; the five daughters who survived to adulthood all grew up to become nuns.  One of them, of course, was their youngest, Therese, a well-beloved saint known as  “The Little Flower” (a Doctor of the Church no less).  These are facts that you might already know about St. Zelie, but Anne Faye goes behind the scenes and into the mind and heart of this popular modern saint, making the busy and sometimes complicated family life in the Martin household very real and relatable.

Working mothers of big families will especially relate to Zelie Martin’s struggles to become a saint while dealing with the daily trials and tribulations that come with trying to balance it all, sacrificing sleep and longed-for solitude and personal health to attend to the needs and demands of her business and her home. She suffered unimaginable losses and endured tremendous physical suffering as well, yet through it all her deep Faith sustained her.

Zelie Martin wasn't a perfect person; she was quite human and had many of the same faults we all struggle with.  She often felt overwhelmed with worries about her children, and was always happiest when they were gathered under her roof (which for various reasons, they often weren't).  Her lace business seemed to operate on a feast or famine basis, so if she wasn't complaining about being overworked she was feeling stressed that it would fail.  She got tired of sacrificing sometimes, and Lent could seem very long.  She struggled to understand her most difficult child.  She was not always pleasant and patient and thought most of the people around her were much holier than she was.  But when it came to the heaviest crosses she was given to bear, she carried those with saintly determination.  I know that Faye used actual letters that Zelie Martin wrote to family and friends as a resource, paraphrasing and adding color; so I believe this book is an accurate portrayal of Alencon's famous yet extremely humble maker of lace and saints.

I can so relate to this quote!  Lots of stone-hard
wood to chop here.

I’m so glad I read The Lacemaker, because if there's anything I need more of during these difficult times, it's inspiration for ways to become a saint while living in the world.  What a beautiful example Zelie Martin's life gives for achieving holiness while working both inside and outside the home!  I highly recommend this book.

If you're wondering what you should read next and need some more good book recommendations, head on over to Carolyn's October An Open Book link-up.

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Long Game

My husband and I recently had dinner at our second-born son's house, and thoroughly enjoyed visiting with him, his wife, and their four energetic boys, aged almost one to almost six.  (We fondly refer to their rough-and-tumble family of little men as "the Gronks." Does anyone outside of New England--where we lived for 27 years--get that reference?)

At bedtime, the oldest of the four boys had been promised that he could come out and visit with Papa and Grammy after his little brothers were asleep, but he got impatient and started banging on the wall to be let out sooner rather than later. Our son went to his room to talk to him, and when he came back I asked him if Junior was going to be able to come out eventually. His answer?  "No, I don't negotiate with terrorists."

Score one for Dad.  As much as we would have liked that extra one-on-one time with our growing-up-too-fast grandson, it was the right call to make. 

What a good lesson for a young kid to learn: that parents make the rules, and you don’t get what you want by trying to wear down their resolve with unreasonable demands or bad behavior.  It's a tough thing to stick to, as a parent, because it's always so much easier to give in and give them what they want, isn't it?  There's so much less stomping, door slamming, back talk, and crying. 

But that's just in the short term.

If you stand firm about how you expect your kids to behave, it pays off a hundredfold in the long run.  As my husband liked to say, if you want your kids to be your friends as adults, you have to be okay with them not liking you sometimes when they're little.  Parents who try to be their kids' friends when they're young can end up with grown children who are hard to like.

Of course, when you’re in the trenches with relentless little would-be terrorists, sometimes you're just too tired to deal with the power struggle, and you weaken and cave.  You’re only human.  But you just have to persevere--with the help of God, the Blessed Mother, and every saint in Heaven--and keep trying to play the long game, so that in the end, everyone wins.

Son #2 sometimes balked at having such strict parents when he was growing up; you can be sure that his father never negotiated with terrorists either, and there were definitely consequences for bad behavior. But obviously, as a dad now himself our son believes that was the right thing to do, or he wouldn’t be following the same playbook. 

It's so satisfying watching your grown children raising their kids to be obedient, kind, respectful, compassionate people.

Just like the ones you raised.

Here we are at Christmastime, 2018, with our "Big Five" (who make me feel petite!).
I like them.  I like them A LOT!  They are all MVP's* in my book.

*Mom's Valuable Players