Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #29): Where Real Life and Fiction Intersect, Redux

If you've never been here before, welcome to the club.  I'm so glad you stopped by!

Several years ago, I did a four-part series of posts called "Where Real Life and Fiction Intersect" here at the blog, to detail which parts of my first novel were inspired by true events and people from my life and which were purely fiction; and then when I formed this online book club, I re-posted the series in 2016.  (You can read the last installment of that series here, if you wish, and it provides links to the previous three.)

I'm not a very prolific blogger these days (said the busy Grammy who moved from NH to VA last spring to be closer to her grown sons and grandchildren, and who now has so much to blog about, but so little free time to do it!  A good problem to have, by the way!).  But yesterday I happened to pick up an old photo album with a 1984 picture of my husband and me on the cover, all dressed up to attend a Navy dinner, and I knew I had to write a Grace-filled Tuesdays post about something that happened that night and made its way into one of the scenes in Finding Grace.
I'm kind of glad I came across this almost-forgotten photo again, because I do think it's time to revisit the idea that when an author writes a work of fiction, she can't help but allude to people, places, and events from her own life.  It's just about impossible to avoid it.  They say you should write what you know, after all.  However, nothing in either of my books is autobiographical, per se.  (Except of course the way Grace Kelly feels about Tom Buckley in Finding Grace, because I was channeling my high school self there, and the inspiration for Tom was my then boyfriend/now husband of 37 years.  But other than that, anyone who reads my books must understand that the rest is fiction. And even Tom became a whole new person to me in the course of the four-plus years I spent writing the book.)

Let me tell you about those two crazy kids in that photo above.  They were young (so young! Only going-on-26!) so in love, and the relatively new parents of their first baby boy.  The fresh-faced girl in that photo never thought she was thin enough (but the woman she is now would kill to have that body again!).  She was still working on losing her post-partum weight when this photo was taken, and in fact was probably already pregnant again here with her second son, but didn't know it yet. Aside from the unfortunate uber-thick bangs, she's not at all bad-looking, but she is about as self-deprecating as they come.  For this fancy Navy "dining out" event, she is wearing a Victorian era-inspired bridesmaid outfit that she'd worn in her sister's wedding a while back (and they say you can never wear a bridesmaid outfit again!).  The lace-trimmed cotton calico skirt was made from a Laura Ashley pattern and the blouse, from the then-popular Gunne Sax brand, was dyed to match.  She is also wearing ivory-colored tights and her wedding shoes.  Her husband thinks she looks great; but then again, love is totally blind in his case and he always does.  He looks like a movie star here, because even a not-so-handsome man looks amazing in Navy dress whites.  And he's already handsome, no matter what he's wearing.  Very handsome.

Okay, enough with the third person narrative.  The girl is me.  Switching to first person now.  The bridesmaid outfit had looked perfectly at home when I wore it for my sister's nuptials--after all, her wedding dress was an authentic Victorian white lace gown, circa early-1900's, that had been found in our grandmother's attic.  Why, then, would my sweet and modest skirt and blouse ensemble not be perfectly at home at this Navy shindig?

So we got to the event, and I looked around at all the beautiful young women with their salon-styled tresses, attired in classy LBD's and silky body-skimming, spaghetti-strapped cocktail dresses, wearing strappy heels and statement jewelry...and I felt like a juvenile country bumpkin dressed as if I was on my way to a square dance.  I was mortified and wondered why in the world I had no idea how a girl was supposed to dress for such an occasion.  I stuck out like a sore thumb.  I remember feeling embarrassed for my husband, who must surely think every woman there was more lovely-looking than I could ever hope to be.  Our good friend, a single guy who was in flight school with my husband, smiled at me and said, "You look nice, Laura."  I knew he meant it, because in my experience I've found that men are so much less critical, so much less likely to overthink everything, than women are.  He was a friend who liked me and he was trying to give me a sincere compliment.  But my cheeks were flaming.  I was mortified and wished I could twitch my nose, "I Dream of Jeannie"-style, and be magically transported back home.  Maybe there was something--anything!--in my closet that I could change into that would fit the occasion better than the outfit I was wearing.

I excused myself and went to the ladies' room.  And while I was in the stall, I overheard two women at the sink talking in conspiratorially hushed tones and giggling.  "Oh my gosh, that outfit!  Did you see her?"  "I know.  She looks like she's on her way to a high school prom!"  They said a few other specific things that made me realize with a pang that the person they were talking about was none other than I.  I felt pierced by their words, utterly mortified, and I hid in that stall until I heard them leave.  Then I returned to the dining area and somehow made it through the rest of the night with my head held as high as I could hold it.  Not that high, mind you (the heavy bangs were probably weighing it down), but I managed.  And later, when I unloaded on my husband about my tragic fashion faux pas and my ladies' room nightmare, he assured me that I would always be the prettiest woman in any room in his eyes.  Sigh...When you're loved like that, how can it possibly matter what you wear?

When I was writing about Grace Kelly, with whom I share some personality traits (among them shyness and sometimes crippling insecurity), I thought I'd tweak that real-life event to make it fit into her story.  So when you read this part of the novel, an excerpt from Chapter 8 about Grace's difficult first day of high school, know that it was inspired by that night when I was the young wife of a Naval officer and had to listen to some gossipy women rip apart my outfit as I crouched in a bathroom stall, fighting tears:

       After the final bell had rung and Grace had retrieved from her locker the books she would need to do that night's homework assignments, she made a quick trip to the girls' restroom before heading down to Sister Immaculata's classroom [for detention].  Just as she was about to exit the stall, two girls came in, tittering and talking in conspiratorial whispers as they brushed their hair and touched up their faces in front of the mirror.  Grace froze with her hand on the door latch as she heard one of the girls say with mean-spirited glee, "She looks nothing like her hunky brothers.  Not the least bit.  That awful, kinky hair!"
       "Maybe she's adopted," coldly suggested the other.
       With a jolt, Grace realized that she was the most likely target of their catty comments.  Grace herself had wondered the same at one time--it would certainly explain why she didn't resemble the boys in the least--until Gus pointed out that she was almost the spitting image of their Aunt Nancy, proof positive that she'd been born a Kelly.
       "I'd be embarrassed if I had that name--and looked like that!"
       "I'd have it legally changed as soon as I turned eighteen.  I mean, c'mon."
     Crestfallen, humiliated, yet reluctant to embarrass the two girls by revealing herself and letting them know that she'd heard every petty word, Grace remained behind the safety of the stall door until she was sure that they were gone.

I know just what my poor little heroine felt like, and so that scene was easy to write.  While it was not exactly autobiographical, it was definitely inspired by something I'd experienced firsthand.

But at least I never had to share a name with the iconic beauty who was the princess of both Hollywood and Monaco.  That would have been a hard name to live up to indeed.

Does this post make you want to read Finding Grace?  If so, please do!  And share it with your friends.

Okay then, that's it for today.  Meeting adjourned.  And until next time, happy reading!

Monday, October 9, 2017

My Sunday Best: 80's Style

For Sunday Mass this morning, I wore a dress that I bought at TJ Maxx long, long ago, in 1988 or 1989, back when the fourth of my five sons was just a chubby baby boy. (And now, he's a husband and a father to three babies of his own--triplets born on August 20.)
I've blogged about this infamous dress before here at String of Pearls.  There is actually a sort of sweet story behind it.  (You can read that story here, in an old post from the archives, if you so desire.)

I have thought about giving this dress to Goodwill numerous times over the years, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it (even when it had become hopelessly out of style and I hadn't worn it in a dog's age).  They say that if you hold onto something long enough, it will come back in style.  Maybe that's why I still have this dress hanging in my closet.  (Or maybe it's because of this.  You know, the aforementioned sweet story, which explains how for me, even a dress can become a precious artifact, a tangible reminder of the long, rich history of my life with my husband.)

Two things made me fall in love with this dress when I saw it on the clearance rack at TJ's.  First of all, there was the fabric: the deep royal blue color; the floral print; the swishy silkiness.  And secondly, there was the beautiful lace collar.  I've always been a sucker for lace.
The puffy blouson-style waist, the lace collar, the shoulder pads, the gathered fly-away sleeves, the well-past-the-knees length (my favorite length); these were all the rage in the late-80's/early-90's. This modest and uber-feminine dress pretty much screams "Princess Di," the fashion icon of the era.  She was the well-dressed woman we were all trying to copy.

My favorite thing about this blouson style is that the waist is completely elasticized, and then the top of the dress blouses over it.  This is the only reason I can still wear a dress that I wore almost 30 years ago, when I was just about the same age as that father of triplets I was telling you about is today.  I remember that even when I bought it, I was thinking ahead to a day when I might be a bit thicker around the middle; I hoped that because the waist could expand with me, I might be able to wear it practically forever.

It has probably been about 15 years since I've had this dress on.  So don't listen to the fashion experts who tell you to purge your closet of any garments you haven't worn in the past year.  You might just miss them down the road.  I think I would have missed this faithful old dress.

I did decide to add a cardigan with pearl buttons, even though it was pretty hot and humid here in VA today.  I was delighted to see that I actually had one in the perfect shade of royal blue.  This sweater matches so well that it looks like it was made to wear with this dress.

I feel like the cardigan makes my 80's frock look less outdated.  It's another bargain find from (where else?) TJ Maxx.  The brand is Audrey and Grace, which I can only assume refers to two other fashion icons with timeless appeal, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.  Not bad company to be in, I'd say.

After Mass, I went over to the rental house that our oldest son and his family are going to move into soon and will call home for the next two or three years.  (For the past month or so, our daughter-in-law and four granddaughters have been living with us, while they wait for our son to finish training for his job.)  I had offered to paint their kitchen, which would be very nice if not for the bright yellow walls.  And the rather garish sponge effect.

Speaking of the 80's and bad style...my peers and I, we were all sponge painting our walls back then.  But you'll have to excuse us: we didn't have HGTV to guide us.  So our walls tended to look like this.
Yep, we were all Princess Diana wannabes, with sponge-painted walls.

Well, my second Sunday Best outfit was not as lovely as the one I wore to Mass.  It was the old pair of jeans and the Boston Celtics T-shirt that has become my painting/staining uniform.  It has gotten a lot of use the past few years, as you can see.
The order of the day was NEUTRAL color.
Et voila!  Before and after.
 
Today was a good day, a productive day.  It made me happy to do this for our son and his family.  When I put on that sentimental dress this morning, I was a little verklempt.  I couldn't stop thinking about how unbelievable it is that I'm old enough to have owned a dress for almost three decades...and more unbelievable still, most of my sons are now older than I was when I first bought it.  I don't know where the years go, I really don't.  It's a bit scary!  But whenever I feel the urge to throw myself a pity party, I need to remind myself that although I'm getting older, there are some pretty amazing rewards for having lived this long.

Remember those triplets I was just talking about?
And those are just three of the eleven-going-on-twelve grandchildren with which my husband and I have been so richly blessed.  And now that our oldest is moving nearby, we will be seeing all of them on a regular basis, without having to get in an airplane to do it.  Life is good--SO good.

Well, that's it for me.  Now you might want to head on over to Rosie's (where you'll undoubtedly find more up-to-the-minute fashions, worn by less long-in-the-tooth women).

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A, B, C's and 1, 2, 3's

I have finally gotten back to working on my ABC Book--the one I started ages ago and for which I have set myself numerous deadlines, all of which I've failed to meet.

But just recently, I got three brand new excellent reasons (triplet grandchildren, born August 20) to finish it up in a timely fashion.
I have 11 grandchildren now, with a 12th to be born around Thanksgiving.  And I want this book completed in time to give them copies for Christmas.  (Gulp!  Wish me luck!)

I've been working on the first of the M pages.
This page is ALMOST finished.  And as soon as I feel satisfied with how it looks, I'll start the second M page, which I'm really excited about. The subject matter for the illustration I have planned for that one is very near and dear to my heart. Stay tuned in the weeks to come, when I will (hopefully) post both M pages.

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!

Better?
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
MOOSE.
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
MINNIE.

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
MAC.
(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.

1: A FEW WORDS ABOUT BLOGGING...

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!

2: AND A FEW MORE, ABOUT A BLOGGING CONFERENCE--

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.

3: THANKS FOR PRAYING FOR MY MOM!

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.

4: AND THANKS FOR PRAYING FOR THE TRIPLETS, TOO!

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).


5: NOW LET'S TALK BABY FASHION, SHALL WE?

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.)


6: VA JUST KEEPS MAKING MORE AND MORE SENSE!

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.

7: AND FINALLY, I'VE GOT A BOOK RECOMMENDATION FOR YOU.

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.