Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Thirteen years ago today at 1:24 Pacific Time I became a mother.
Gah this picture stinks I am awaiting my new iPhone

When I was in my early twenties, I lived in Manhattan.  I wanted the fancy job, the fancy clothes, and an apartment bigger than my childhood bedroom (didn't even have to be fancy).  I wanted to dine at fancy restaurants and hobnob with smart and fancy people.  Oh, who am I kidding:  I probably just wanted to be her.

But sometimes people smarten up in their twenties; I'm not sure I did, but I started to wonder that even with a little more fancy here and there, I wasn't terribly happy.  And that the path to even more fanciness - namely, a lot more of work that didn't really thrill me - might not be a path I wanted to follow.

It was a visit from my parents that I think began to change what I wanted out of life:  it struck me that my parents, my dorky parents (dorky because of course they weren't fancy urbanites comme moi), married since forever, living the suburban dream were....happy.  And with a sudden clarity I knew I wanted that happiness, that regular happiness that some of us might be lucky enough to drink of in this life.  It's a happiness born of a life well lived, and having people to love, and doing just that.

Things changed.  Well, a lot, but that's another tale.  And then I met PVT.  Suddenly it seemed like that kind of happiness - nay, an even better happiness - euphoria! - was attainable.

And it was.

But it wasn't until I had you, Keane, until I looked into your turquoise blue eyes and your perfect round face (oh but really!  You were perfect!  I will never forget how shocked I was at your perfection - how could this seraph have come from my broken, partied-out body?  You didn't even have a cleft palate, like I was sure you would!), that I knew that this was what I was meant to do on this earth.  That I was supposed to be a mother, your mother (and eventually all of your siblings' mother).  I'm not sure anything I ever did up to that point in my life even mattered.

Now hold on:  I'm not saying I'm a GOOD mother.  I yell to much.  I nag.  I could never homeschool you because my patience with homework is less than negative (thankfully your father is both patient and far more proficient at homework help).  I despise crafts viscerally (every time your poor sister asks for help with her sewing machine a silent F-bomb explodes in my brain).  I am very, very impatient.  I can take a lot of barbs and then I detonate for a small slight.  I still rely on a bit of wine to glide me through the witching hours.  I like things clean at the expense of creativity.  I freak out and become slightly crazed and irrational if any of you become sick or hurt.  And the screen time I allow so I can do laundry or zone out on Facebook?  Shameful.
Sunriver 2015

But if there is anything I want  you - and your many, many siblings - to know, it is that I have loved each of you so fiercely just as you are:  that I have strived to see you and know you, all of you and each of you, as the individuals that you are, not some idealized kid, son or daughter.  I have wanted to spend as much time as possible with all of you (after you go to that magical place called school).  In fact, I would rejoice if extracurricular activities were somehow forever banned; there is nothing I love more than having you all here at night, goofing around, chatting, squabbling.  Except for the occasional date night with your Dad, I don't like being apart from you all at night.  I detest doing things - even fun things - on weeknights.  First and foremost, I am a mother.  Your mother.  And that matters more than anything to me.

Cross Country 2015
Oh Keane.  We have all been so busy lately; I wake up in the morning with a sense of queasy dread knowing all that has to be gotten through that day.  Especially you:  you are so busy!  All your hard classes, band, cross country, soccer, homework.  I don't know how you are doing it all.  I worry you are just going to collapse; I would!  But you are doing it all, albeit somewhat haphazardly. And then, magically, at night when you are all here safe, I silently praise God that He (and the Diet Mountain Dew) has gotten us through yet another day.

Sushi Birthday Dinner
My beautiful, suddenly curly haired son, you are so bright.  You are athletic.  And you have poise and a personality too.  You are so good with Francie and Margaux (the others, I know you love them too.  Yes you do!)  Yes, you are forgetful and disorganized.  Your words to us sometimes give us a glimpse of the "pissy teenager with attitude" who is coming in the next few years.  But I suspect we will see great things from you.  Just remember your homework.  And your ID.  And your water bottle.  And to tie your shoes...
Good big brother
Know how much you are loved, dear son.  And please be good to your dorky mama these next few years.  I have so many, many teenage years to live through.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Come-To-Jesus Summer - and Introducing Francie

So!  Do you know any atheists?  Want to hasten their conversion?  Just send 'em all to my house, because there have been oodles of pounds of divine intervention around here lately.

Exhibit A:  yesterday my son emerged from the yard with this ugly beast:

He fell onto a stake in the ground while playing soccer with the brothers, and somehow the stake scraped him long instead of deep.

I'm thinking that was a good thing.  

And Exhibit B:

At the ripe old age of 41, I had a perfect, tiny little girl,  Everything went swimmingly, despite my vast morass of C-section scarring.  She is thus far an easy, delightful little newborn (although I don't think I've gotten a full smile from her yet, little bugger).  She is Francine Patricia VanTrease (a "mouthful" says a mother-in-law) - or simply Francie.  Now that she's broken 7 pounds, we call her Fattie Francie.

Oh we adore her.  Her sisters' adoration, in fact, is a big pain in my arse, what with them wanting to hold her when they have pink eye or a stupid cough.
Hey momma!  Let me eat the baby!

Exhibit C:  Despite my deep uncertainty that I could keep yet another tiny human alive, Francie is doing beautifully!  Her jaundice is almost gone!  She is gaining weight!  And the little cough she has that I was sure was TB or pneumonia or baby-death waiting to happen is probably just a little reflux, says the doctor.

Hallelujah, hallelujah.

Exhibit D:  We survived both PVT's work-related bachelor party (it's a thing, really!) in Vegas and his annual Golfapalooza trip to North Carolina.  I envisioned all kinds of horrors befalling us while he was gone (floods!  Urgent Care!  Zombies!  Maternal cannibalism!).  Fortunately I lured (kidnapped) my sister to visit during some of his absence.  Without her, I would have gone berserk.  Now I've managed to ensure I will never have a niece or nephew by her.

I'm the one who's pregnant with triplets

So now that we've survived Postpartum Armageddon, we're in the midst of this thing called summer.  Ugh! Our days have been a hot, muggy mess of SpongeBob, XBox, and perhaps a paltry attempt at an outing so we don't all gnaw each others' fingernails off.  But surprise!  There are very few places where a tired, paranoid mama can take 7 children ages 12 to new that are agreeable to anyone. Yesterday we went to one of these new video game/laser tag shenanigans places, and I almost lost the will to live as I gave Margaux dollars to lose playing Skee Ball while the boys frolicked on an overpriced ropes course and Sylvie threw a fit about winning rubber ducks.

But we will make it through!  We have enough residual love and laughter and Stinky Gringo Margarita around here (for me, for me, not the kids) to pull through.  I'm a warrior like that, friends. I'll try to visit here more often so you can compare your lives favorably to mine.  I'm good for something!

No infants were harmed in the taking of this photograph.  I promise.  
And once we've converted the atheists, you can help me pray for some miracles:  that I lose more than 5 of the 30 pounds I gained; that I locate that odd pee stench from the girls' room, and that the boys improve their personal hygiene lest my tombstone reads, "Here Lies Jill VT, Expert Skid Mark Scrubber of the 21st Century."  Seriously, boys.

Happy Summering!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring and Transitions

Well!  So.  Apparently I may be having a baby in the next few weeks.  But time is a funny, slippery, elusive thing in pregnancy:  35, 36 weeks sounds pretty darn far along when you're 5 or 6 months.  But now?  A week feels like a month, a day like a week, an hour in the afternoon like a very tedious decade.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be pregnant forever, despite these bullies called Braxton Hicks.

And I'm a bit emotional:  while the baby seems to be doing fabulously, and is heartily kicking my rib at this very moment, I am pondering a friend's stillbirth. And other far lesser horrors like cleft palates, or the NICU, or jaundice, or the possibility of a hysterectomy (which my doctor is prepared to do if things go wonky with this C-section #6).  I'm a real barrel of laughs to be around, obviously.

But I am trying my best to have faith that, despite not deserving the gift of another child - hopefully another healthy child - God will still give one to me, ignoring my monstrous, selfish ways.

In the meantime, there's been all sort of shenanigans around here:
Oh Easter!  A long time ago!

Most of us had a Happy Easter

32 weeks, back when I was relatively svelte

Of course they got these for Easter.  Isn't that the norm?

Mucho de Soccer Tournaments

We are VERY excited for the upcoming dance recital.  

Well we females anyway.

Already hijacking the baby stuff
So that, more or less, is what we've been up to.

Playing dress up "Mom."  I guess their Mom was a pole-dancing extra on the set of Flashdance.
If you bother with my little blog, you've noticed it ain't much of a blog lately.  There are many reasons for my neglect:  a little less time; quite a bit more writing for other little publications; the difficulty in writing about older children, who can be huge buttheads; and the niggling feeling that I would like to do something a little...different.  I'm not sure what that looks like yet.  But you will be the first to know.

In the meantime:  please say a little prayer that we will have some good news with which to update you soon!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

This Must Be A Joke! A Blog Post!

Welp, it's official.

A whole 'nother month went by?  Life is cruelly passing me by.

And not in the "times goes so fast" wretched horrible cliche way that I detest  (anyone who has ever said that does not remember being, or has never been, hugely pregnant and sleepy on a Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm with wild little girls to entertain for many many more hours), but as in I Am Drowning in Details and Exhaustion and Not Making Time for Fun Stuff.

Like blogging here and there!

March was wild:  it started out with several stranded snow days (no pictures!), a bout of strep throat running through the house, a quick mama getaway to the Canebrake for some "research" for my next article, and then culminated in a much-awaited trip home to Seattle.

Look at all the pictures I took in Seattle:

Well of course THAT happened

Our view from the Westin Bellevue

Yep, that's a picture of cranes.  PVT and I snuck - sneaked? - away to our favoritest hotel in the world, the Bellevue Westin, for a night, and I wanted to show the boys how close the cranes were to our room (the construction in downtown Bellevue is breathtaking).  But these are the extent of my pictures.  (Alas, our little overnight was cut a bit short when Memere called in the morning telling us that Keane had woken up with a rash, probably measles.  But since I am as pro-vax as they come, I suspected it was not measles.  It was a reaction to the antibiotic he was taking for strep.)

So here, then, are some pictures of pictures (oh my inexplicable lameness) that my Dad took (thank goodness he goes overboard, else my children's lives might go undocumented for years on end):
Um...hunting for dog poop

Sur la beach

The baby...for not too much longer

Huge me, 30 weeks

Brothers playing basketball
 It was a good, fast, exhausting trip.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

And now here we are, gearing up for bonkers time:  spring, soccer, end of school stuff, recitals, et cetera...oh, and hopefully a baby.

Who seems to be doing fabulously.  Although I don't want to take anything for granted.  I just can't wait for her to be here, safe and sound.

Here is hoping your spring has sprung beautifully.

And if you want more, here's my latest article on my Facebook pet peeves.

Enjoy.  Or ignore!

Friday, February 27, 2015

This is Long and Dull, But So is February


Oh my Lord I have to post SOMETHING in February, don't I?  I have slouching towards the end of this month like I'm crawling through a long dark tunnel, the light at the end of which is MARCH.  And really, winter in Tulsa?  It's been sort of the usual:  Oklahoma, I think, is the garbage disposal for the rest of the USA's weather; all the leftovers are deposited right here, brutally and unceremoniously, with very little warning.  So we've had a few snow days, and lots of very cold, gray days, but they've been interspersed with the occasional balmy tease of spring.  And STILL I cannot get through this winter fast enough.  Can you imagine how the likes of me would have fared in Boston this year?  Clearly God knew my meteorological limits.

But really we're all doing OK:  everyone has been relatively healthy, and I am feeling good.  I have a friend from church who is also pregnant with her seventh, due AFTER me,and she has been on bed rest for a month, and will likely be for the duration of her pregnancy.  I have never been so thankful to do my own Sisyphean housework than when I think of her.


A couple of weeks ago, one son who shall remain unnamed kicked a hole (a hole!) in the wall after I told him I would not advance him allowance to buy some more Madden points on the XBox.  This rather brutal act of violence stunned me; I started revisiting every parenting decision I'd made since he was born:  did I wean him too early?  Did those days of daycare when I was working scar him for life?  What have I done WRONG?  WHAT WILL HIS FATHER SAY?

Well, when PVT got home, I told him the sordid tale, and to my surprise PVT was not horrified or shocked.  In fact, PVT looked a bit sheepish:  "Oh, I did that when I was his age."  Well, phew.  I know my husband is not a sociopathic maniac, so this revelation was a bit of relief - maybe we still might get this kid right.
There's a hole in the wall!
However, we're hoping the talking to he received will prevent him from taking out his frustration with our odious rules on the plasterboard again any time soon.


In a mere 19 days, we are finally going to Seattle - I have not been home in 20 months, the longest period ever in my 41 years.  First the trip was postponed due to barforama, the second due to my eldest's "National History Day" project (my hatred of National History Day is visceral and very very ugly, so I won't talk about it here):

Nomeward Bound, Baby

But surely we will be able to board the plane this time!  Right? 

Woo hoo!


Brother versus brother in a cold soccer tournament a couple of weeks ago:

 Big brother won, but we're all still friends.

Gratuitous shots of Thelma and Louise here:

Just another school day ensemble

And with my other two daughters Anna and Elsa

Sylvie and Margaux have become inseparable.  Colette fancies herself much too sophisticated for their antics, so they pretty much eat, sleep and breath every moment together.  This is a good thing.  And a very loud, messy thing too.


Our eldest was also inducted into the National Junior Honor Society:

The best picture I got:  I had just waddled down a whole thing of bleachers and was nervous I would keel over

With his homies

I am really not sure how he snuck in, since he seems to spend 90% of his free time watching YouTube videos and playing some geography game on his laptop, but we'll go with it!


At my last doctor's appointment, I got a rather stern lecture on having more children - this will be C-section #6.  I was a bit surprised, since he had never seemed too concerned about all my surgeries, but he had just told a woman who was a surrogate mother and had also had 6 C-sections (which to me is a whole 'nother animal) that he would not take her on as a patient should she she hire herself out again.  He told me he would still take me because he likes me (oh phew!), but he would not be thrilled about doing so.

At my age, I know I'm more likely to be facing menopause after this child than another baby.  But I suppose there is a slim chance I could get pregnant again.  So what, exactly, are the risks?  I know that all scar tissue is problematic, and there are higher chances of placenta previa or uterine...um, disaster, but I am still rather vague on HOW risky another pregnancy would be.  I am willing to accept a bit of risk (especially since the thought of assiduously charting during the remainder of my fertile years makes me grouchy), but I also don't want to leave behind a pile of orphans.

Any thoughts?  And did Ethel Kennedy really have 11 C-sections?


Are you reading anything fabulous lately?  I have become addicted to this author's summer sagas on Nantucket - they are fairly well written, engrossing....and admittedly a bit smutty.  So I am also reading this book about this fabulous guy, and learning so much I didn't know about his philosophies, particularly Theology of the Body.  I keep trying to get into this monster - I have heard wonderful things about it - but this tired brain of mine cannot get past the long Norwegian names late in the evening.  Sad, I know.   Are you reading anything fabulous?

Well, there you go.  February.  I am hoping for temperatures over 50 degrees, light in the evenings, and hopefully hopefully another healthy baby here in 10 weeks.  Pretty please?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Where Boring Ruminations About the Weather Lead Me to More Boring Ruminations on Having a Big-ish Family

(I am going to force this into a Seven Quick Takes Post, and hope it works, OK?)


Ah hello there dear friends.  I have been suffering a severe case of January-itis that has left me feeling sad, lethargic, anxious and generally morose as soon as the alarm goes off each morning at pitch-black thirty.


But today:  the little bug Margaux and I are sharing seems readily controlled by Tylenol, the sun is shining, and the temperature promises to break 40 degrees, which makes me want to blubber tears of pure joy.

I don't know when I became so affected by the weather (although I suppose my whacky hormones might contribute a bit to the shenanigans).  I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where the term "sunbreak" was coined.  When I lived in New York, I trudged through the city streets with alacrity through Nor'easters, snow storms and all kinds of awful muck (in high heels, no less, because I could not abide the sneakers/skirt commuter look).

But maybe since I've had kids, or maybe since we've lived here (I can still hear a friend, a native Tulsan, intoning when we told him we were moving here:  "Say goodbye to temperate weather," a phrase I promptly poo-pooed but which has haunted my brain ever since), both the extremes of summer and winter make me wring my hands in despair like a little old lady.

It's fairly pathetic, really.

Too, the past many winters have corresponded with the middle, boring part of pregnancy.  A boring pregnancy, of course, is a wonderful thing; I don't think anyone yearns for an "exciting" pregnancy.  But the mid-pregnancy blahs, coupled with the mid-winter blahs, make me snappish, grumpy, and unable to handle the little things with any sort of resigned cheerfulness.


The only picture I've managed recently:  waiting at bassoon lessons
But a little cheerfulness is something I've discovered is desperately needed when you have a big-ish family:  because there is always a little problem, a little SOMETHING, going on.  Way back when I had one or two kids, I always viewed mothers of large families with awe, a bit of envy, and a dash of self-righteous disdain:  how could they possibly love ALL of their children as much as I loved my two perfect little boys?  Well hahaha: now that I have my own large-ish brood, I can assure my past self that I love each and every one of my (perfect-ish) children just as much as I loved the first two.  That isn't the hard part.  What is hard is all the little things, all the time:  this one has a huge project that requires nagging every single night.  This one lost his new hoodie.  AGAIN. Why does this one have a little fever?  What is going on with that one's finger?  Why did that one just randomly puke on the couch that I JUST HAD PROFESSIONALLY CLEANED last week (sob)?  That one NEVER STOPS TALKING.  This one needs to talk SLOWER.  This one had better adjust his attitude.  This one is always hanging out in his room solo, playing on his Kindle.  This, that, the other thing...none of these are big problems, of course.  But all of the little little things add up sometimes to where I feel like I can't keep up, despite the fact that I try to be fairly laid-back, for sanity's sake.


And the FOOD!  Back when I had three little boys, I usually could get by with one large grocery store on the weekend.  A few years later, I had to add in a mid-week run for things that disappeared quickly, like fresh produce.  Or chocolate.  And now?  It seems like I am at a grocery store every.single.day because we've run out of something.  And I have at least 5 grocery stores in the rotation:  one store has the best toast, the other the best produce, the other the best whip cream (this is very, very important) and deli meats, the other my special French Vanilla "coffee," the other the Sriracha mayonnaise that is helping me survive this pregnancy (which is why, perhaps, I've gained 20 pounds and the baby supposedly weighs 13 ounces).  It's like I'm a Frenchwoman who goes to the farmers' market every day, without the charm, the farm, and the French.  And with a big big van.


Where did she come from?
But of course all the little things and problems are, in the long run, more than offset by all the daily victories, the daily laughs, the daily jokes, the very loud and hazardous games of indoor tag, and the milestones.  There is this one who finally got the project turned in, and while no one will think Mama did it (a point of pride in this family:  homework is done by children. I am not sure all the parents in our school district always agree), it is a lovely piece of work.  This one's fever is gone, and she is back to chatting up a storm about carnival rides and French toast.  This one looks so very PRETTY in her ballet tutu.  This one scored 5 goals last night.  So much to keep track of, but so many joys, big and little.


Many many years ago, the partners of the accounting firm I was working for hosted a progressive dinner at their houses for all the newly promoted tax managers.  We got a limo, and there were probably 8 of us managers packed in, drinking champagne; there was flirting; we were young and on fire, and we were having a ball.  Each partners' house seemed to get bigger and grander than the home before.  Finally we got to the last house.  It was a brand new house presiding atop the West Hills in Portland.  We could see all of Portland glinting below, the river and the mountains beyond that.  The house was immaculate, I remember the beautiful virgin wood floors shining like mirrors (in fact, the partner was so obsessed with her floors that she had emailed me specifically to chose my footwear carefully, knowing my penchant for obnoxious heels).  And I kept looking at those floors, knowing I would never have a house like this; I didn't have the fire, the stomach for all the work needed to make partner.  And I missed my two little baby boys - and PVT - at home.  And right then I had a thought that I think has given me the courage to have "just one more," to discard the stern warnings of doctors who mutter darkly about "advanced maternal age:" my children are my wealth.  

Nothing else.  

Well, that and health insurance.


That's probably enough mush for one post.  And my "wealth" wants me to come play some weird game with my shoes and a blanket.  Here's to the occasional warm winter day and healthy kids!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Dispatch from December

I am a bit shocked to write this, knowing how many things can go awry at this time of year (6 kids, winter), but I believe I can put this down in the books:  our Christmas was marvelous.  No one was sick; we made it to church; I made an edible breakfast casserole; and I only wrecked one dish at dinner (I couldn't find my tin foil, so for some reason I covered the spiced squash rings with a plastic lid.  I think I thought that it was some special oven-proof plastic?  Um.  Suffice it to say we did not eat the spiced squash rings laced with melted purple plastic).

And the kids, of course, had a fantabulous time.
That's a lot of blue and green for a bunch of Okies
I think you will probably agree that second to hearing your newborn baby cry for the first time, there is no sweeter, happier sound than waking up to kids squealing with delight over their Christmas loot.  Even if they wake you up from a deep warm sleep and it is still as dark and cold as the dead of night.
Anyone who knows Margaux knows she has worn the same tattered ballet dress EVERY DAY for the past three months.  Santa got her this dress, and it is a miracle that rivals the incarnation of Our Lord that she is wearing it.

I keep seeing these huge dolls lying face down on the floor and  thinking some kid has lapsed into a coma.

A wee bit of snow!  Snowman made by mama, thankyouverymuch

Sno cones on Christmas.  Of course Santa brought a sno cone machine!

It was a happy, exhausting day.  

I don't think I have ever been more happy, or surprised, to be pregnant.  Usually by this (relatively early) time I am so tired and over the whole thing, complaining about my gimpy leg, my herculean weight gain, and all the other indignities of pregnancy.  But after my own losses, after hearing too many stories of others' heartbreaking losses and struggles with infertility, I feel like I've won a lottery.  Every time I feel her move I feel a mixture of relief, elation, and dumbfounded gratitude. 

Please remind me of this when I start complaining about heartburn or extreme fatigue or feeling like a one-legged bowling ball, which I'm sure will be all too soon.

And now, we are facing down a lovely week of sleeping in, bickering over screen time, and lots of football and loud random yelling by Sylvie.  I plan to treasure it.

See you in 2015!