4 weeks in

There have been moments over the past few weeks when four kids seemed like 40. Lots of questions and squabbles and things they must tell me now and tears all at the same time. Or like when the A/C guy came in the other day and the kids started doing their darting around quickly thing and the baby started fussing and everyone was in the same smallish room, I really think I saw the A/C guy counting how many kids there were. I know there’s only four but in that moment it felt like tons.

But on the whole, four has been smooth. We’re finding our groove in school again. Everyone is sleeping rather well. I even baked muffins the other day, people. And that was much to Asher’s shock. Have him tell you about it, and he’ll make it sound like it has been ages! eons! forever! since that happened.

You know how when there is a big event on the horizon for a long time (graduation, start date of a job, wedding, birth, etc) your mind can’t really see life past that date? Well, now life is happening past that date, and while some days are a struggle most are full of good things. Mondays are our “sabbath,” and I’m finding I am guarding them more than I have in a long time. Everyone needs the rest. Everyone needs a break in the routine. And like last Monday proved, everyone needs a doughnut from a local shop and a trip to the wildlife sanctuary sometimes.

asa joel ortiz in pictures

He came quickly on a Friday morning. And like those that have come before him, the Ortiz genes beat out mine in the facial features department. But he can always say he got long fingers and skinny, big feet from his mama. Nice. Omar and I placed bets on his weight. We both undershot and lost. There turned out to be 9 lbs and 2 oz of baby boy tucked up in me.

What follows are pictures upon pictures. Our hospital room had spectacular lighting, so the camera came out more than with any other kiddo. They told me I could possibly go home the day after I had him. When I started laughing they agreed to another day. I love the quiet and nothing-to-do-ness of the hospital. And if we hadn’t had that second night, then Omar and I wouldn’t have had a “date” after the visitors left complete with wine and cheese and a most romantic viewing of Clear and Present Danger.

The kids love. LOVE. this new little guy. Asa will never know what “personal space” is, but I think he’ll be ok with that. He has yet to flinch or be startled when they burst into a room or hold him in awkward positions. Perhaps he really is familiar with their voices. What does startle him? Me eating nuts. Gets him every time.

The nurses were fantastic at the hospital. The oldest three were fascinated with the many bracelets Asa and I wore. And when they saw Omar wearing one, they asked if they could have one, too. A kind nurse obliged and made some up for them. The photo below is proof of their excitement.

Asa’s already a regular at a favorite restaurant of ours. A restaurant where we ate on my birthday just the day before he arrived and where we returned four days later so I could enjoy a beer rather than a milkshake.

I remember the nights being the hardest with the first kiddos. With Elisha it was figuring out the whole parenting, nursing, sleeping, everything. With Asher there was a toddler in the house, and well, I get exhausted just looking back on it all. And Lenna? There was a 2 year old and a 4 old. Again, makes me tired just thinking about it. But now that the youngest is almost 4, there’s a lot less “neediness” in the house and a lot more independence. Now I look forward to the nights. The house is quiet, and it’s the time we get one-on-one time with this boy.

I am so glad you are here, Asa Joel.


sew and dye

I have never found myself on a 39th week pregnant sewing spree. Until this time. It has accomplished a few things: biding my time, getting rid of my fabric stash, and making things that are actually useful for a baby.

The Boppy cover was a quick sew with this fabric, and now I can add zippers to my sewing repertoire.

The embellished burp cloths kind of confuse me. You cover the place they spit up on with not the most absorbent fabric? Yes. Because it’s cute. Done.

Have you seen the prices on the simple cotton gauze swaddle blankets on the market? 40 bucks for 3 or 4? Or a few bucks for some fabric at Joann’s. Add in a box of dye and you’ve got yourself an ombre swaddle blanket.

And finally a simple quilt. No binding, measuring, or pinning required. I’ve had the Echino Japanese fabric for 5 years now and decided to stop waiting for the perfect sewing inspiration and just make use of it.

Sewing spree complete.


Asher asks me the most often when Asa will get here. Asher asks me the most questions about anything. And everything. All the time. He asked me if I would teach him how to use my new camera. Um, not quite yet, buddy. He asks me which of his Lego models is my favorite. Or which of his shirts I like on him the most. Or why they call the eye socket a socket. Or how long it takes to build a city.

On the way to the coffee shop this morning he asked what will happen when the red chariot you see below gets just a bit snugger when we add a 5th kid to the mix. I said that’s just probably not going to happen.

He did not like that answer.

if the baby won’t come, the camera will have to do

Since everyone in the world has seemingly given birth except for me (including a friend’s dog which oddly made me jealous, too), I’ve been trying to break out of the childbirth tunnel vision and get excited about other things in life. Like my new camera.

After almost two years of researching and saving and researching and changing my mind and a little more researching, I settled on the Fuji x100s. I was already leaning away from purchasing another DSLR when I stumbled upon this guy. I had spent the previous three years shooting almost solely with my 35mm lens. I was also using my phone more and leaving the bigger camera at home. And the camera I initially wanted to upgrade to was even bigger than the one I already had. Articles like this one by Zack Arias (this guy loves fuji…whoa) and this one started popping up on my radar, and it didn’t take long for me to decide to go for the Fuji x100s or something similar.

The camera came a few days ago, so I thought I’d share a few test shots. There’s nothing very creative or mind-blowing here and they are all straight out of the camera. I’d heard there was a learning curve, so I’ve been shooting anything and everything. And the daily life of a 9 month pregnant woman isn’t exactly thrilling, so here you go.

The skin tones are just lovely on this. The built-in neutral density filter really is great. I shot the outside pictures here in harsh light. It was overcast and noon. But it made me realize that the camera follows the “Sunny 16 rule” almost perfectly.

And how about automatic mode? Omar will use this mainly in auto mode, so I’ve been playing around a lot with it, too, in case I decided I wanted to program some settings on it. But it’s quite good. It underexposes outside a bit (kind of expected that), but indoors? and at night? Check out the sixth picture down. It’s a random picture of my living room at night, but it’s a real life everyday lighting situation. Its exposure blows away any photo my old nikon took on auto at night. The colors are true to life.

And now I’d give anything to practice on a baby.

these are the days

of waiting for Asa
of being absolutely convinced I will be pregnant forever
of everybody, except that girl you see above, dropping like flies from one sickness or another
of introducing that concept of movie marathons (Harry Potter 1-3) to kids because of the above
of me reading to kids (everything from The Apprentice to Little House on the Prairie to Dragons Love Tacos)
of kids reading to me (I am loving this)
of me reading to me (Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith, 11/22/63 by Stephen King, Parenting With Love and Logic by Cline and Fay, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller)
of not finishing any books because I started too many at once
of washing and folding little boy clothes
of working my way through recipes in Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons (make this oatmeal! and then make these muffins!)
of fitting in dates with Omar before Asa comes
of Swedish pancakes with butter and lingonberry jam breakfast dates
of Chinese food lunch dates
of corn and crab beignet dinner dates
of kind and generous family and friends helping with kids and meals and my sanity

on a saturday night

trying to establish a more consistent and calm Saturday evening routine
stories with kids
back scratches with kids
putting kids to bed on the early side
listening to kids read and chat because it’s on the early side
ironing clothes
lining them up
folding some laundry
leaving some laundry
Omar prepping
me praying
sabbath thinking
coffee waiting for the “on” button
oats soaking
colored bowls all in a row

growing up

It’s been strange/fun to watch this girl become so excited knowing that she gets to be a big sister. I haven’t even had to do much prepping in this department. She’s quick to inform me as to what she will be doing in this new role. Today she told me she would take care of wet diapers. The other day she was floored (FLOORED!) that she was not going to be there at the hospital for the whole birth. A few days ago, Omar was having a familial chat with the kids about being extra kind and helpful when Asa comes because mama will need to give him a lot of attention in the beginning. “And he’ll need LOTS of attention from Lenna, too!” she chimed in.

She loves to come up and talk to the belly and touch it. And comment on it. Many a recent morning I walk into the kitchen and she cries out, “Wow, Mama! He is sooo big!” Thanks, kid.

january weekending

kids arranging fallen coconuts in the yard
squishy lawn from over 12 in of rain
neighbor’s mango tree blooming
shoe making (more like planning) for Asa
Grain Brain reading and gluten-free diet planning for me (I’m desperate to stop the migraines and headaches)
Natalie Merchant concert for Omar and me
An American In Paris viewing for the kids
The Sound of Music soundtrack on repeat for all
discovering there is a Lego! rental! program! genius.
freezer filling up with meals
not wanting to use any of the meals because then I won’t have a freezer full of meals
school sneaking into Saturday
boys not minding because they are taken with all things Marco Polo and Mongol Empire
Lenna: pop bead necklaces, Raccoon Rumpus, baby doll rocking. repeat.

on resolutions and photos

My big resolution of 2014? Bring a baby boy safely into this world and pray the Lord helps us transition to a family of six with as much grace and patience as possible. Done.

I think I’d feel like an overachiever if I tried to do anything more. Except for a certain trip we’re all taking to Colorado in June. All six of us. I’ll give myself a six month resolution: Don’t freak out about the impending trip for the next six months.

Overachieving aside, I did spend much of the day thinking about photos and cameras. For much of the past year my camera sat on the left stereo speaker. It didn’t see much action, and if you would pick it up there would often be a little Nikon-shaped dust outline. I love having the iPhone camera, but to be honest I haven’t even been taking many photos with it. My 2013 photo repertoire consists mostly of sporadic Instagram shots and many (many) photos of random things my kids make or just bring to me and beg, “Take a picture of this, Mama!!” (case in point – the above photo of Lenna’s lunchbox). I used to say no, but they’ve worn me down and it’s just faster and less painful for all involved to point and shoot. And when I do pull out the camera to capture some cute faces? They won’t. sit. still. So many blurry pictures (case in point – the photo below).

But there is an Asa coming. And a trip to the Rockies. And I miss the photos. I’m finally getting around to printing my blog books from 2012 and 2013. And last year’s Instagram book…and 2011′s 365 photo book. Oh my. It’s a bit of a backlog, yes, but it’s worth it. And prepping and formatting all those pictures into book form just makes me want to take more.

So there will probably be some kind of photo project this year. Perhaps a photo a day? A family photo per week? We’ll see where the next few days and weeks take us.

advent days to christmas

Omar and I gifted each other a trip to Charleston to see friends for the second weekend in advent. Savannah has become a required stop for any trip north of Florida, and this trip just confirmed its status as number 1 pit stop. I came across Fabrika and Omar found Back in the Day Bakery. And Charleston? It’s a blur of good friends, lots of conversation, and lots of restaurants all packed into a mere 36 hours. It should become an advent tradition.

Back home Lenna got to attend her first ladies’ Christmas party. She was thrilled that she got to dress up and stay out late and then stay up even later with her papi telling him all about it.

Christmas pjs might become an advent sewing tradition. Or maybe just the pillowcase.

I think Elisha’s favorite advent activity was a campout by the tree. The boys lasted the whole night. Lenna? Not quite.

And as for Christmas Day? Elisha’s easel dreams came true. Asher is now the proud owner of Ed the betta, and Lenna’s baby swing is beloved.

Advent is now over and today marks the second day of Christmas. Omar went back to work, and for the first time in forever, I was itching to take all the Christmas stuff down. I’m usually a big proponent of celebrating Christmas through Epiphany, but this year? Not feeling it. Getting day-to-day things done is starting to take more effort, and it feels like big trees and decorations are getting in my way. I’ve caught glimpses of my profile (heck, even my shadow) recently and been taken aback a bit. I’m just ready for this little guy to be here, and perhaps cleaning this season’s things away and checking off to-do lists makes me feel like it will happen just a little sooner. What? You didn’t spend the week before Christmas cleaning out closets, getting rid of all unneeded baby clothes, and organizing all your tax documents? I drew the line at removing doors and sanding and painting. Lord willing there will be a squishy 9 month old around next Christmas, and that will definitely distract me from the to-do lists and push me back into a celebratory mood.

2013′s advent calendar

Here we go. This year’s advent calendar. An advent calendar with little bags that allow me the option of filling them with a little wooden coin with an activity written on it or, on those days when doing any extra activity would put me in a decidedly UN-adventy mood, candy.  The cheap side of me wanted to fill ‘em up with leftover Halloween candy, but since I’ve already eaten most of the good stuff, I figured I’d splurge a little on some special candies for them. As for the activities, they range from watching a Christmas movie to decorating their rooms. We’ve also been working with the kids on earning a commission/allowance for doing work around the house, so this year one of the activities will be for each of them to go out on a little mama/papi date and buy their siblings a little gift with the money they’ve earned. They’re actually really excited about this part.

The scrapbook paper circles and mini clothespins are repurposed from past years’ advent garlands. I couldn’t figure out how to mark the days until I saw a surprisingly similar calendar pop up on this blog. Of course, number stickers. And now we’re set.

This calendar is the treat side of our advent celebrations. We also read from a variety of resources during the season. This year I’ve got 2 new books to go through: Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader with accompanying cd and Elyse Fitzpatrick’s new book Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional. Fitzpatrick’s includes daily readings for both adults and kids and one activity/craft per week. And each night we try to remember to read from one of the mini book ornaments that comes with The Story of Christmas. Evidently I have an advent book buying problem. For the past few years I buy a new one at the beginning of the season and then unearth one I bought on sale at the end of last year’s advent season. Some past reads are Nancy Guthrie’s Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas and Phyllis Tickle’s Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from the Divine Hours

We never do each thing every day. Some days life just goes by too quickly and on others I simply forget, though the fact that this year there is a possibility of getting chocolate, I’m sure the kids won’t forget to remind me about the advent calendar.

it’s november

I love you, November. I know this still means highs in the 80s, but I take comfort in the fact that I’ve lived down here for so long now that the 70s make me want a light sweater. My boys know no other climate so when the temps hit 75 they’ve been breaking out their new hoodies in order to experience “the cozy.”

The past weeks have marked our return to the world of the parks. Hours of them playing and climbing outside. Hours of me not passing out from the heat. School is crammed into the early hours of the morning, so we can hit up the parks later in the day. I’m also trying to relish these last few months of running out with the kids and not needing to buckle, feed, or change any little people. I know I’m about to jump back into the world of carrying diapers, snacks, and strollers around and am excited about it. But running around parks chasing toddlers? I don’t miss that part.

I love that the past days’ weather has been cloudy and dark and quite windy. It feels (looks is perhaps a more fitting word) like November. Harry Potter movies find their way into the movie rotation this time of year. And this year? The kids get to join us for the first two movies. We always said we’d make them read them before they could watch them, but we were just too excited to let them have a peek at its world that we caved. But only for the first two…for now. And if you watch Harry while it’s dark and stormy outside, you also need hot chocolate or egg nog to go along with it. Cookies don’t hurt, either. So there’s been lots of that around here, too.

And November marks the four month countdown until Asa arrives. That means four months to remedy the situation of me only having 2 onesies, three sleepers, and some worn out blue and green diapers. But if he is willing to boldly rock some girly clothes and hot pink diapers, then I’m almost set.