Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vacation--Days 3 and 4

Yesterday found us at Navy Pier where we went to the Chicago Children's Museum (another fun place!) and then Josh and the girls rode the HUMONGOUS ferris wheel. Josh told me he was just a tiny bit scared, and for him to admit that reinforced my decision to not ride. ;o) That whole "heights thing" again. And he agreed it's not so much a fear for his own safety but a fear the girls would do something unsafe. That has only exacerbated my own fear too . . . so many little people to keep an eye on. I remember my own mother freaking out as we peered over mountainous edges as kids, and I remember not understanding her reasoning . . . I was being careful! But I completely understand that fear now--however irrational it seems! ;o)

The afternoon Josh and the older three spent at the Cubs/Cardinals game. They enjoyed spending their day in Cardinals attire and getting reaction from a few Cubs fans and high fives from other Cardinals fans. Jackson managed to get a foul ball which he has in his pocket right now (and also put on his Cardinals shirt from yesterday). So I'm thinking it's fair to say the day was a hit with him. I hung out at the hotel with the littlest boys where Emmett and I played "cars" and Owen had a napping/nursing fest.

Today we are heading to American Girl and going to finally eat out (can you believe we made it until today!?). I think we're seeking out a Giordano's for some deep dish pizza. If there's time we might stop by a nature center on the way out of town, but we're hoping to hit the road in the early afternoon and be home sometime later tonight.

One of the funniest things about this trip has been Jackson's need to have a clean hotel room. He wanted everything off the floor at all times. I would make a dirty laundry pile and turn around and discover it thrown up on the couch. Or he would push things up against the wall to make sure the main area was clear of stuff. He LOVES hotel rooms and hotel pools (he's scared of Grandpa and Grandma's). Truly we could have just stayed in the room all day, ate the free breakfast, and swam in the pool and ALL the kids would have been more than thrilled. Slap the name ~*vacation*~ anything and they are on cloud nine. ;o)

I'll be back sometime in the next few days with pictures! Until then~

Friday, May 28, 2010

Vacation--Day 2

Success!!! ;o)

Things that went right today:
Room darkening curtains keeping all kids asleep until 7:00 a.m. (a record I'm sure!)
Awesome full out breakfast that I didn't have to prepare
A sweet and simple 1/2 hour drive to our destination
$16 for the parking garage--$16 WELL SPENT!
Free admission to The Museum of Science and Industry (this place is AWESOME, I very, very highly recommend it!)
A picnic lunch out front and discovering seagulls really like Pringles
A quick little jaunt over to The Field Museum, another free admission and $16 for parking
A little stroll along Lake Michigan
And 45 minutes to get back to the hotel

*sigh* THIS was how yesterday SHOULD have gone. ;o) The kids are getting in their swim time with Daddy and then it's off to bed, and I'm enjoying a few moments of quiet and a cup of tea. Yay vacation!! ;o)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Vacation" Day 1

The Journey:
We left around 1 a.m. The kids were beyond giddy with excitement, but they did go back to sleep, and even I caught a few winks in the van. Josh did well driving through the wee morning hours, and the cool thing about leaving at this time--no traffic. ;o) We stopped around 8 a.m. in Rock Falls, IL and made use of the picnic tables in front of a Dairy Queen for our breakfast. (There was a detour so we weren't traveling on a road with rest stops . . . which would have been preferred over the Dairy Queen, but oh well). I drove for about an hour afterwards, Josh napped a bit. We got into our hotel just after 10 a.m. And YAY! our room was ready for us (check-in is technically 3 p.m.) so we got our stuff unloaded, had our lunch and mapped out our day.

The Plan:
The Museum of Science and Industry

What Actually Went Down:
Getting INTIMATELY acquainted with Chicago's rail system

Rather than drive to the heart of Chicago and pay lots of money to park our vehicle we thought it would be a great experience to "take the 'L." Well, we did get an experience.
Things learned:
1) Every employee will give you a different set of directions
2) Families of seven with strollers don't typically ride the rails
3) The elevators between floors smell like urine REALLY bad (like worse than the building at the Children's Zoo that has the naked mole rats bad)
4) Our hotel was a LONG ways away from the museum--2 hours each way
5) After an afternoon of trying to keep my kids away from the edge--and what I envisioned to be a certain plummet onto the tracks of an oncoming train--I am a nervous wreck
6) I can nurse a baby just about anywhere now
7) Josh and I have great senses of humor--because if we didn't I think we both might have been in tears to discover ourselves *somewhere* in the midst of Chicago after getting off the train with what Josh claimed was "6 blocks" of walking . . . let's just say that after a mile and a half we were not even close to our destination.

New Family Phrases:
"We should have Garmin'd ourselves," said by me in reference to the GPS we left back at the hotel when we found ourselves *somewhere* in the midst of Chicago.
"Everybody huddle 'round," said by Josh as we gathered around Emmett to give him some privacy because he had to "go" BAD and we were again *somewhere* in the midst of Chicago. At least there's a lot of us--we formed a complete circle, which I'm sure didn't look the least bit suspicious. ;o)

The Conclusion:
Nope, we didn't quite make it to the museum today. After about three hours of trying to get there we decided to admit defeat.(Which was a hard thing to admit after devoting the good part of a day to trying to get there). It took us two hours to get back. But the good news we DID make it back--which counts for something, right? ;o) And we're resilient--we'll be trying again tomorrow, with van and GPS in tow--and I vow, we will prevail!!!

(and as a sidenote, I have the best little baby in the world--just one 10 minute melt-down through all of that!)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Little Check-In

I'm taking a bit of a "procrastination pause" in my preparations for our quickly approaching trip that the posse and I are about to be departing for. (and I just spent way too much time trying to fit a whole bunch of "p" words in there because I have a "thing" for alliterations) ;o)

The majority of the grocery shopping is done. I have great plans for "hotel assembled meals" (like shredded bbq chicken we heat up and eat on buns and soft shell tacos--the meat also just in need of a heat-up). That'll save us from eating out too often. It probably sounds like a lot of extra work for a vacation, but this is actually FUN for me. I love mapping everything out and planning what we will need. Strange but true.

I've printed off lots of Toy.Story coloring pages for the boys and "note reading" worksheets for the girls (I'm sure they'll be pumped!). ;o) I'm hoping to teach them piano this summer and thought they could get a bit of a jump on that.

I'm anxiously awaiting an Amazon order for myself with some vacation reading. I have been stalking the "track your packages" page daily for these two books:

They're coming in separate packages, and I dearly hope they arrive tomorrow. Otherwise I'll be so sad. I think I have a hold on something still at the library though (I believe it is something Mar.tha Stewart-ish on home organization . . . not something I really want to think about on vacation, but might have to if Amazon doesn't come through for me). ;o)

Oh, and we have a baby birdie! I'll get all my nest pictures posted sometime--there ended up being two eggs, so we're still awaiting the other hatching. We have had so much fun getting front row seats to this whole process.

Well, that's all for now . . . so much more to do. And a vehicle to license. Yippee. Off I go!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Five Months Old!!!

I can't believe my sweet little boy is five months old . . . just a month away from that half year mark!
And he's definitely trying out some new tricks, like:
~ Sitting--it's not "official" yet, but he can "tripod" quite nicely ;o)

~ Sippy cup exploration (it's just water)--he loves to chew on that spout
~Honing his drooling skills
~Earning a few new nicknames like "Sharky," "Piranha," and "Chomper"
(seriously I'm thankful he doesn't have teeth yet--although perhaps he's working on it--but he's got quite the jaws, take my word for it!)

~He's well insulated ;o)
~While sleeping (in a swing or wherever) he likes to find something to smash his face up against and pretend he's nursing (melts my heart)
~He also likes to pull on his ears while he nurses--it looks painful--but apparently he finds it comforting (reminds me of Isabella's hair twirling)
~He's a big "patty cake" fan, especially when we "throooooow it in the oven"
~He also likes a little ditty the girls chant at him "You think I'm funny-funny, You think I'm fine, You think I'm funny-funny-funny-funny-funny-funny-funny-funny, YEAHHHHH!" (perhaps it's all those "f" sounds, but it never fails to elicit a smile)
And THAT sums up life as he knows it! ;o)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Summer Reading

Now that we're done with school I've been trying to come up with a framework for our summer, one that (hopefully) includes lots of reading. ;o) A few of my favorite books that encourage me to read aloud and/or give me good book lists are:

(and all three are available at the local library)

I'm trying to make a more concentrated effort in reading aloud to my boys, sometimes I'm on a roll, and sometimes . . . yeah. When the girls were little I was so good about this, and now I'm hit or miss. Right now I just have two simple goals, 1) To read a chapter a day from WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS (my country school teacher read this aloud to our class when I was a girl and it remains today one of my most vivid memories of that classroom) 2) Spend 15 minutes (minimum) reading to the boys books at their level.

And as far as encouraging my girls to read for pleasure we have lots of options:
1) They are getting paid in the form of their own personal Barnes & Noble gift card--Marissa gets $1 for every 100 pages read, Isabella gets $1 for every 50 pages read from May 15-August 15. And then we get to go shop for new books. ;o)
2) Barnes & Noble also has their own book club, read 8 books and get a book free (have to be going into 1st grade though) . . . go here and click on "download passport"
3) Local library summer reading program . . . go here

I asked Josh if I could have a summer reading program too, you know, in the form of some Amazon credit. ;o) He said he would pay me $10 every week I DIDN'T read. So much for that idea . . . :oP

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shooting Ourselves in the Feet

One night, a few weeks back, Jackson was talking of his need for a Buzz.Light.Year, and eyeing the girls' jar of money. I thought he might be ready to try to earn a little bit of money and work on saving up. We introduced him to the "cleaning fairy" a fairy we had come up with back when the girls' were anxious for a tooth fairy visit (and there wasn't even a tooth loose yet). The cleaning fairy comes in at night to see if you cleaned up your room before bed and then leaves a quarter . . . it used to be a dime, but ya know, inflation and all . . . ;o)

Long story short--it worked like a charm. Every night he got that room spic and span--by throwing everything into his closet of course--and then would beg me to vacuum. In spite of the untidy closet I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for at least getting Jackson interested in cleaning up. He was truly dedicated to keeping the floor clear of toys. And he was happy with his growing jar of money. Often he would ask "Is this a lot of money?" Because "a lot" was what he needed for Buzz. (He had a ways to go). And this mothering thing, boy did I have it figured out!!! ;o)

This past weekend we were at Kohl's and saw a $5 stuffed Buzz. Seeing how delighted Jackson was with it and the fact it was only $5 (as opposed to the $20--or so--"hard" versions), Josh, feeling benevolent, purchased it for him.

And that night Jackson informed me he had no need of money anymore since he now had a Buzz and no longer cared if his room were clean or not. True to his word, he has not cleaned it since.

The end. :oP

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Picture Perfect

~~~A week before Mother's Day 2006--where I shove a camera at Josh and say "Take a picture of me and Jackson in case I die on Thursday." (I can be a bit over dramatic at times). ;o) ~~~

On Mother's Day I was pondering my past Mother's Days, trying to think--did I have a picture to document each one? And my mind drifted back four years to a Mother's Day that is lacking a picture, the one of me in a hospital gown, tubing running from various places, my head in bandages, my hair I'm assuming "askew". The Mother's Day where I was in Los Angeles and my kids were in Nebraska. On that day our friends Erik and Alicia, (who live out in LA) stopped by with their little girls, bringing me an ice cream sundae from Mc.Donald's. It was the first day food had sounded good again and I REALLY liked that ice cream.

I wish I had a picture though . . . at the time it was the furthest thought from my mind (and I most likely would have run from a camera had the opportunity presented itself). But now I look back and my mind fogs a bit--I wish there was a picture of me all "gross" because whether I looked pretty or not, it's part of my story. It's a good lesson for me--and maybe all women in general--that we shouldn't hide from cameras because we think we're too fat, we're wearing our "scruffies", or we have no make-up on. Life is good and bad, and I dare not leave a legacy to my kids of a mom who was always "put together." I hope they know I was a real person. I'm sure some day when I'm gone they'd like to find a few pictures with me in them. ;o)
~~~ This picture was around a week and a half past surgery. We went to Santa Monica Pier because I was craving a cheese steak like you wouldn't believe. We researched it online and discovered where we could find a tasty one. It was cold that day and as we pulled up to park the car a big ol' clump of hair fell out of my head. It REALLY was a bad hair YEAR . . . first thyroid hair loss, then the spot they shaved for surgery, then stress-induced alopecia that I had to have steroid shots for in my scalp. When I look at this picture, I remember all those things. But especially the awesome cheese steak. ;o) ~~~

~~~Mother's Day 2010--I stayed home from morning church fighting off strep, Jackson asked if I had another baby in my tummy, certain he could "feel the head", I realized after all my men were down for an afternoon nap I had gotten no picture so my girls and I had a "photo booth" session in the bathroom, and laughed and laughed. I just know this picture is going to be a favorite some day. ;o) ~~~
Today I'm celebrating life, it's imperfections, and "four years since . . ." It's a wonderful day and I'm a very blessed mama.
(linking this post to here for the first time)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Our New Neighbor

Meet Mama Robin. ;o) A few weeks back she started on this nest and I was so excited. I loved spying on robin nests as a girl and now my kids would get that same opportunity--right on our own back porch. But then all the nest "stuff" would get knocked down. We'd see her working on it again, and then find everything knocked down again. We didn't see her for about a week--and I was pretty disappointed. But she returned! In about two days' time she has built this lovely home, and I believe, as of this morning, is beginning the laying process. We decided this mama must have a personality like Jackson . . . maybe those first few nests just weren't right so she destroyed them. Ha! Be prepared for many pictures of eggs in the near future . . . ;o)

Friday, May 7, 2010

An Essay on Mothering

When I was a little girl I loved babies. I was fascinated by them. I loved getting to hold them. I played with my own baby dolls, named them, and dressed them in the clothes my mom had sewn for them. I have a great memory of my mom setting my sister and I up with our own little clothesline out back--with little ice cream buckets full of doll clothes--so we could hang out our own wash. We went to a small church and as an elementary student I was helping in the nursery. I couldn't wait for motherhood. In high school I worked with toddlers in a daycare center. I wrote term papers about the importance of reading aloud to kids. I trained to teach Kindermusik. I began college with the desire to teach kindergarten. I worked in a Montessori preschool. I took classes in child development. All of these experiences were wonderful. And all of these experiences in turn created a young woman with a very idealistic view of motherhood.

I had grand plans.

I like to look back on my first 2 years of mommyhood . . . my parenting "honeymoon" so to speak. Marissa was my delight and I poured out all my ideas into that little lady. I laugh at myself when I remember sitting and working with my 9 month old to teach her letter sounds. Not that it was such a bad thing, it just that it was one of those things that went by the wayside as our family grew.

I remember when Isabella joined the family, and the rosy time suddenly came to an end. Being a mother to two was a whole lot different than mothering one. There was a new realm of multitasking that I hadn't explored before. Suddenly feelings of frustration and that of being overwhelmed became my new companions. There has been an adjustment, a need to reconfigure our lives, with the addition of each new baby. Somewhere inside me still lurks the idealist, but along the way I like to think I have become much more real and practical. And here's the truth:

Motherhood is about dying to self.

Over and over and over again, day after day after day. I thought it was about all the fun things I would do with my kids. I was going to teach them so much! It was going to be about activities and excursions and all the special things I would do for them. Instead they have taught me how selfish I really am, and truly, how lazy I can be.

Often these days we mommies are told we need "me time" or "make sure you are taking time to focus on you" or we justify activities because they are "good for me." I enjoy some time by myself as much as the next person, these moments are truly a gift and a time of refreshment, but I start to run into trouble when I think I DESERVE it, or worse yet, start to demand it. All those other things? And most likely they're "good" things? God has called me to mother first. Nobody else can effectively take the place of me in their little lives. I need to be there and be available, no matter what the cost is to myself.

Motherhood is a mission, sometimes quite an intense one. And it is NOT about me. It's ALL about them . . . how can I serve them better? Love them better? It's about doing HARD stuff. And it's not even about happiness. I read a quote in a book on marriage once--I can't remember exactly how it went, but the gist of it was this: God really isn't concerned with us and our "happily ever after" but about us growing in HOLINESS. I think the same can be said of motherhood. Truly is there a better place than within our own families to be working out our salvation?

I am blessed to have the big family I always dreamed of. Often since having Owen I hear, "I don't know how you do it!" The truth is, I don't either. I fall flat on my face quite regularly, and my kids do enough embarrassing things to give me the humility I need. I often long for a dreamy word called "quiet." But I would rather keep my life on the "hard" side. It stretches me daily, reveals my weakest areas, makes me more creative, and most of all points me to the One who is my strength. Without this big beautiful mess of a family I would be a very self-centered and self-indulgent person. It's true. I NEED them to trip me up and exasperate me.
That girl of long ago . . . she didn't have a clue. The mommy of today . . . she wouldn't change a thing. What an incredible blessing it is be entrusted with five little lives to raise for His glory! And what an added bonus that I get to grow and be refined in the process. ;o)
Wishing all the mommies an early "Happy Mother's Day!" Keep on keeping on!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

~School's End~

This week brings to a close our third year of homeschooling. Woohoo!!! Our theme for the year was "Exploring Countries and Cultures" and we toured the world from our dining room--and via the internet. I'm always amazed at what I can find online. No, I can't do a field trip to the Eiffel Tower in France, but we can find an online video taped from the vantage point of a climbing person and feel like we're there. That is truly amazing. Anyway, summing up--

Marissa "2nd Grade": started out the year knowing the location of 17 countries and ended up being able to locate an even 50! (Her geography knowledge already surpasses mine . . . ahem) Her weakest continents were South America and Africa. Last summer Isabella got some Montessori continent puzzles for her birthday--of Europe and Asia--and in the end those were the two places Marissa knew the best. I might look into acquiring more puzzles. She began cursive and has gotten to a point in math where she can carry, borrow, multiply and divide. And much to my delight LOVES to read and is reading "real stuff" now. ;o) This year has really taught her about the religions and cultures of other countries and given her a real heart for missions. Her favorite country? Japan. Why? Because they have origami and she wants to make paper cranes. ;o) (Some Japan notebooking pages)


Isabella "kindergarten": Isabella did a lighter version of what Marissa did while also learning how to read from her Bible reader and keeping a notebook of each Bible story she read. My main goal for her this year was to become an independent reader, and just in the last month her confidence has soared as she read through her first few chapter books. Yay!! She also is adding, subtracting, and measuring. Her favorite country? France. Why? Because they have lots of tasty food there (girl after my own heart . . .) ;o)

(some France notebooking pages)

In spite of the challenges of this year--Josh's crazy schedule, pregnancy, new baby, the feelings of inadequacy at times (always wondering if we're really doing enough?)--It's great to look back and see GROWTH and feel that we DID accomplish something. Aaaaannd it's great to be done! ;o) Summer has *officially* begun!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Linky Love

Because I'm certain you all have nothing better to do but follow link trails, here you go! ;o)

~Inspiring to me in the home/mothering/organizing arena:

~Loving the photos of these ladies' houses . . . something about this time of year has me craving white and light and these women do it so well:

~Oohing and Awing over the photography featured in this post:

(hey friends with Photoshop expertise . . . how does she achieve that look?)

~Admiring this bag and trying to determine how I could recreate it

~Loving the look of burlap, but not its itchiness and wondering what this "almost linen burlap" would be like if used for pillows or table runners or . . . ?

Enjoy! ;o)


Jackson has decided to become a pirate and crafted himself a fleet of ships: (This is his first foray into the realm of cut/paste--and before you find yourself amazed with his smooth bottomed ships, realize he stole Isabella's snowman notepad, and what you see is the bottom belly of a snowman) ;o)
What nine months of toys being thrown down the stairs looks like while being repaired:
I laughed when I saw Josh's "first coat" of spackle. Sadly this isn't the only wall getting such treatment (although it is probably the worst of the lot).
Reading time with Rissy:
I'm collecting myself a nice little stack of pics of Owen in her lap, Owen laying next to her while she reads aloud to him. So sweet.
And Josh has one more day of this semester left . . . one more final . . . and then we'll all be breathing a bit easier. We've just about nearly survived this nasty spring semester--we will spend the rest of May celebrating. ;o)