Sunday, September 28, 2008

You know your kid is homeschooled when...

...you take your son out to the front yard to star gaze for a while. Then your husband points out a particularly brilliant "star" and suggests that it may actually be a planet.

Then your six year old says, "Or maybe it's a new star. Or a nebula."


Then you all laugh a bit at his knowing such an impressive word and using it properly in context. Of course when asked if he really knows what a nebula is, he proceeds to explain it to you, and you learn something that you didn't know five minutes prior. And it occurs to you that this homeschooling thing really is easier than it looks.

They (apparently) just teach themselves at some point.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mmmmm....


I finally feel like it's fall. The leaves are starting to turn colors in earnest now, and those warm, sunny days are ending in cool, crisp evenings rather than the stifling hot nights of summer.


I forget every year how much I love fall until we hit this point. I am a summer girl myself. I love the freedom and joy that come with long hot days with backyard BBQs and popsicles in sandy, wet hands, dripping down little bare chins and chests. So I always start to mourn a bit the end of summer and the onset of fall, sad for all the wonderful days that are soon to be left behind.

But then fall really starts. And I remember that I really love it. I love the turn of seasons. All of them really, but summer turning to fall is really just lovely.

So to celebrate my very late acknowledgment of fall’s arrival, I thought I’d share my favorite fall recipe. So here it is, my Pumpkin Spice Bar recipe. You should make it. It’s pretty fast and really simple and terribly fattening. And, best of all, I guarantee you’ll LOVE it.

Benny's Pumpkin Spice Bars

In a small bowl, mix together:

2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

In a larger bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) combine:

4 eggs
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (or your own fresh pumpkin is fine, too)
1 cup oil (I use canola, but it’s a flexible recipe)

Once the wet ingredients are all mixed, slowly add the dry mix into them. Then pour the resulting batter into an 11x15 baking dish (9x13 is OK, but I find the bars better when they are thinner). I usually spray my pan with Pam or some other non-stick spray. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK. That is crucial. These are very moist, and you do not want to cook them to the point that they dry out. I just check with a toothpick and wait until the center does not look wet, but particles do still stick to the toothpick.

Once the spice bars are cool, spread cream cheese frosting over the top. The more the better. You can use a can of pre-made, but I use a homemade recipe and it’s definitely better, if I have the time and ingredients. In a pinch, the can will work just fine, though. My cream cheese frosting recipe is from Mary Grace, actually. But I’m sure she won’t mind my sharing it:

Beat together until creamy:
One 8 oz pkg softened cream cheese
½ cup softened butter
1 + tsp vanilla (I always make it an overflowing tsp…)

Then slowly add 4 cups powdered sugar and mix until it’s done.

To make it pretty, I usually drag a fork across the frosted pan of bars lengthwise in little waves back and forth. But that’s optional.


In the end, it’s a lot like a cake. But it’s much, much better, in my humble opinion.

So, happy baking and happy eating. Let me know if you try it. I’d love to know if it’s as popular at your house as it is at mine.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Semantics


So I've come to the conclusion... or maybe it's more of a realization... well, call it what you will... I have decided that I am ECLECTIC.

I’m eclectic in what styles and topics I choose here on my blog. I’m eclectic in what I teach my children. I’m eclectic in the foods I like, in the d├ęcor that draws me, in the friends I love, in the clothes I wear… the list goes on and on.

Now, at first glance, wouldn’t you say that sounds, oh I don’t know… exotic? I think “eclectic” has a very exotic and fascinating ring to it. It makes me feel so… fancy and decidedly different.

But here’s the thing. Eclecticism is, I think, just a fancy word for indecision. I just can’t make up my mind about much of anything.

So maybe it doesn’t sound so fancy and exotic when I put that spin on it:

I can’t make up my mind about what style I want use in writing my blog. I can’t decide how best to teach each of my children what they need to learn in their years home with me. I can’t commit to any particular meal plan because I never feel sure that I have really chosen the best possible meals for any given period of time. I can’t decorate a room from start to finish because I can’t seem to make up my mind on which furniture, decorations, wall hangings and window coverings I like best. Et cetera.

I think you get the point.

Anyway, I feel like the Lord is working in me on my follow-through and my decision making. I may always lean towards the indecisive side of life. I will likely always be drawn to a variety of different choices, from foods to friends to decorations to traditions. Maybe that is just part of who I am. But maybe it’s something that I need to work on.

Or maybe it’s something God wants to work on in me.

So I’ll be doing just that. Working on it and praying on it. And hoping that it’s not too terribly painful a thing to change. ;o)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tagged

Well, I guess I have to do this now that I've been tagged. So here it goes. Hope I'm doing it right...

The "rules" of the game are as follows:
1. Post the rules on your blog
2. Write 6 random things about yourself
3. Tag 6 people at the end of your post
4. If you're tagged, DO IT and pass on the tag

1. I consider myself an artist. I rarely create art anymore, since it takes so very much time and energy away from my calling as a wife and mother. But I am still an artist at heart.

2. I am a quitter. This is a big confession. I have hidden this fact for years under a multitude of good reasons and excuses for not finishing things I start. But the truth is, if it looks too hard or if I do not think I can do it perfectly, I will most likely try to quit. Probably the reason why I rarely do art anymore, as well. ;o)

3. I like watching most of my kids' movies. I really do not like most Hollywood movies aimed at adults these days, but I find those aimed at the younger set generally more to my taste.

4. I love having close women friends. I never thought I would. But I do.

5. I talk too much.

6. I am more of a watcher than a doer. I'm working on that though... having three sons makes it hard to sit on the sidelines and watch.


And as for who I tagged, I really am new to the world of blogging, so I just picked people that intrigue me from comments I have read on my friend Mary Grace's blog, and hopefully nobody minds being tagged by a stranger. ;o)

1. Mandi at Doodles Place, because I stumbled across her blog and find her family adorable and fascinating (her three girls to my three boys)
2. Anya because I'd like to know more about her too
3. Tree Climbing Mom because she looks very fun
4. Ellajac because I love the idea of 'aspiring to simplicity' and I am still fascinated by people with tons of girls
5. Missus Wookie since she was nice enough to comment on my new blog
6. Hadias at Proverb's Wife because she looks really inspiring

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Today

Today has been a day full of life in our house. It's been just delightful.

Today we ate oatmeal for breakfast, and it's oh-so fun to watch a two year old try and slop oatmeal into his mouth all by himself.

Today we (and by "we" I mean Punky and Finny... Goose, Girly Pie and I just supervised)cleaned up the boys' bedrooms. Isn't there something just so refreshing about a nice, tidy floor and fresh sheets on a bed?

Today I got to chat on the phone with my best friend, and after watching her go through a rough patch on her end, it lit up my heart to hear joy and laughter in her voice today. It's amazing how inspiring the friends that God places in your life can be, even when they haven't a clue they're doing a thing.

Today I let all three of my boys slather shaving cream all over our kitchen table. It really is just so neat to watch boys in action like that. They are always just so inspired by physical sensations in general. But to really be let loose with something to ooey, gooey, fluffy, messy, slimy and so full of aroma... well, they were completely in their element. And though it was an activity I was reminded of from a pack of toddler activity cards I got, I could not tell you which of my sons enjoyed it more, from two all the way up to a very mature and manly six and a half year old.

Today, Goose took a long, warm, splashy bath (he was, after all, covered in shaving cream) with nothing for toys save a few driftwood pieces from a long ago ocean trip. He loved it.

Today, the couch cushions were removed from the couch and many a tower, tent, fort and landing station were built. And I even let the big boys join in to what is normally reserved as a little boy activity.

Today, we baked chocolate chip cookies. And all three boys helped. We slopped ingredients in the mixer bowl, they ate oodles of chocolate chips before the final product was done, and they ingested lots and lots of raw egg (I just cannot bring myself to deny my children the pleasure... no, the sheer rapture... of eating raw cookie dough). I'm sure the sugar high will come back to bite me before the day is through. But it will have been worth it.

Today, we did a smattering of school and it was repeatedly interrupted by younger siblings. But not a one of us seemed to mind a single interruption.

Today, Girly Pie was actually able to consistently bring a toy to her mouth and work it around with her hands for a long period of time, something she has been working at for quite a while and has been so frustrated to fall short on until today. And it was so delightful to see her smile of accomplishment in doing so. I'm so glad I was fully in the moment to share that with her, and not caught up in some bigger, "more important" task elsewhere in the house.

Today, lunch consisted of a warm, melt in your mouth cookie (well, one for each boy... I admit I ate at least three), a cup of yogurt and a serving of reheated mac & cheese. Not a vegetable in sight. And I felt no guilt.

Today, there is flour on my kitchen floor, my counter is full of lunch dishes waiting to be put away, there are toys scattered on the floor, my laundry is backed up and waiting to be folded, and the majority of the people in my house have a runny nose.

Today, we also have a cooling rack laden with delectable cookies, my four children are all either resting or sleeping, and it's Friday so after today we get Daddy for three whole days (he works from home on Mondays). The mist is falling, dinner is planned, and the house smells of cookie heaven, shaving cream and fresh laundry. My children have been the best of friends today, Punky diligently working to build a pillow fort while delegating activities suitable to keep a two year old Goose involved, and not needing any direction from me on how to do it. Goose is enamored with Finny and Finny is happy to play with his little brother, much to Goose's delight. Girly Pie has been watching all three of those boys with eyes full of anticipation, and not one of them has failed to meet her gaze with a smile and a word of love today.

So yes, today we have lived life to the fullest. We have all enjoyed each other and each activity immensely. And we have the messy house to prove it.

Love.

Biblically speaking, Love is much more of an act than a feeling. It is so easy to say “I love you” to somebody, but it really is so much more difficult to SHOW “I love you” to very many people at all.


Today, I find myself struggling to show Love to, of all people, my two year old Goose.


According to Paul in 1 Corinthians, Love should be patient and kind. It is not proud or rude, nor is it self seeking. Love is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, and never fails.


Now, do I love my Goose? Absolutely without a doubt and with all my heart. I feel love for him more than I can find words to express. But do I actively show Love to Goose? Well, today I think I am doing a decent job, but I have to say I am working exceptionally hard to do so.

Let me just give you a little glimpse into a day in Benny's house when Goose decides to try on the full superhero suit for Toddler Man…


First, Goose wakes up in a delightful mood, full of vim and vinegar, ready to take on the world. He gleefully chants “MOMMY!” as Daddy carries him into our room while Girly Pie and I come to consciousness a few minutes before the sun actually rises. He kisses and hugs me and joyfully embraces his baby sister. He is all sunshine and roses.


Then, something goes wrong.

At some point between waking up and eating breakfast, the little imaginary devil on the toddler’s shoulder starts whispering in his ear, “Uh oh, you’ve been way too cute and sweet today. Better not let them get too comfortable. Time to step up the drama a bit there, Bucko.”
And it’s like a switch flips.


Suddenly, it’s a day full of tantrums, potty accidents (and the kid has been clean and dry for ages, it’s come out of left field this week!), destroying brothers’ property, crying and yelling, refusing to comply with basic household expectations, knock down drag out fits over the nap he so desperately needs (and this kid NEVER throws fits over sleep. He LOVES sleep!). He takes himself out of time outs, he rips off his nap diaper, he throws his body around in fits of rage that would be frightening if I’d not already had two boys come and go through the throes of twodom. I do not have the words to describe it, but if you’ve ever had a two year old with any sort of defiant temperament, well, I’m sure you have an idea of what I mean.


And it all seems to come from nowhere. He could just choose to be cute, happy and content. Many days, he does. But today, not so much.


It really is just all a bit difficult to handle even under the best of circumstances. But throw in a four month old who through no fault of her own has to be set down and left alone at times (she can only do that gracefully so many times in one morning), and two bigger boys who are (thank the Lord) being oh so patient and quietly enjoying a morning FULL of free time… and, well, sometimes the expectations of the act of Love just feel like a bit much.


But, as a mom who does dearly Loves her boy, I am pleased to be able to say that as I look over the list of God’s definition of Love, I do believe I have been able to show him the Love I feel, even today.


I see how hard it must be for him. He has to share his mom with three other people. He has to go to the bathroom where we tell him to, he must go to nap when I decide, he can’t play with all the toys he sees because many of them are not even his, he can’t even get my lap to himself most of the time because there is a new little baby in it. Some days he’s happy to just enjoy life and smile through it all. Other days, he has to rebel against the Powers That Be (namely Me, since Daddy still seems to walk on water to that boy…) to try and stake his claim as an independent person who surely does not need a Mommy to do anything for him.


It really must be hard to be two. I can see it in his face. I can see how hard it is for him to have so little control, especially when he loses it completely in one of his epic tantrums.


But I can see it most when he finally succumbs to peace, and I hear the quiet in his room where only moments before there was screaming. When I open the door, and instead of finding him pounding on it like he had been, I see him in his bed where he has tucked himself in as best as he could, and is now calmly waiting with his head on his pillow, his binky (our first binky boy… I know it needs to go, but neither he nor Mom and Dad are ready to give it up just yet…) planted in his sweet soft lips, his thick brown hair wet with sweat and pushed back off of his forehead. And as he looks up at me with his big, tired eyes, a little shudder in his breath from all the crying, I can see how much better he feels now, because I am there.

After all that, after all his hard earned misery and after all that he can throw at me in a morning, he knows that when I walk back into that room I still Love him.


And that is why I do what I do. That is why I hold back the frustration and why I try so very hard not to raise my voice. That is why I stay and why I make sure that even when they are behaving terribly, that I tell them that I love them. Why I show them that I Love them.


I grew up with one wonderful, loving father who was there for me no matter what. And I grew up without a mother, because she chose to leave when I was just Goose’s age. And no matter how much my dad loved me and no matter how great he was, I always doubted his love as a child. I always suspected if I could do something bad enough to make my mom go, than I could do something bad enough to make him leave, too.


Now of course as an adult I know that I did not drive my mom away. I can’t say I have a close relationship with her at this point, but I always knew her and she stayed in my life, and I know I would not be who I am today if she had not played her part in that. I know that God’s hand was in it all.


But this I know only in hindsight.


And as I look at my babies, my four beautiful gifts from God, I know that I never, EVER want them to wonder if they might be able to do something “bad” enough that I might stop loving them.

So after his little soul had come back to peace and he was no longer fighting against the simple realities of life, Goose lay there in his bed looking up at me, wondering just what it was I might do. There are, after all, consequences in our house when you do things wrong. And I know he wondered if he was in trouble for losing control the way he did. He wondered what would happen when I saw the nap diaper he’d defiantly ripped off and thrown to the floor.


And of course, because I am his mom, and because I Love him, I did what any Loving mom would do. I smiled at him with eyes that were full of my Love, and I gently wiped the sweat off of his brow. I kissed his face in the little game we play (I’m going to kiss your… eyes! I’m going to kiss your… nose!). I told him how much I loved him and how I knew it was hard for him. I put his diaper back on (and he did not fight me this time) and I tucked him in right. I turned on his music and snuggled him up with his Blankie. I got him a sip of water and kissed him a few more times, and I gave him a really long hug, soft but sure, so he’d know how much I meant it (but wouldn’t feel confined, heaven forbid!) and I told him again that I Loved him.


And when I left his room, he was calm and at peace. And I know that he knew he was Loved.


And the coolest part? The coolest part is that THAT is how God loves US! No matter how "bad" we are, no matter how much we mess things up. That is the missing part of the puzzle that I did not have as a child when I wondered if my dad might go too. That unconditional love, the Love that not even all moms have for their own babies even when you think every mom should, that Love that never leaves, never fails, never ever falters even a little bit. I am glad that I can give my children just a taste of that now when they are young, just like my dad did with me when I was little. And I pray that as they grow, they do know God’s Love that way, too. I hope they can see God’s Love in their dad and in me. I hope they can pass it on to their own families someday.

And, to be honest, I just hope Goose is happy tomorrow. I can do this for days on end. But boy, is it tiring. I think we could both use a happy, smiley day full of hugs, games, smiles and laughing.

But, if not, I've got plenty more Love to give. Because I've been given so much Love myself.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The romance of motherhood

Isn't it just so sweet, tucking your children into bed for the night? There is your beautiful six year old boy, sleepy and cozy, all snuggled up under the covers. He looks at you with big, beautiful brown eyes overflowing with love for you, his beloved Mommy. You lean in to whisper one last sweet thing to him and to give him one last kiss for the day as he nods off to sleep.

Then he says, "Mom..."

...and you wait to hear what sweet, lovely thing he has to say to you. "Mmmm?" you say.

And he says, with a sweet smile on his face, "You have really bad breath."
Then he just looks at you, unashamed and unembarrassed, still smiling sweetly, as though he's just told you how beautiful you are, as far as he's concerned.

"Yeah? Sorry 'bout that."

"Yeah. I really can't stand it."

"Ok. (slight pause) Well. G'night, Punks. See you in the morning. I love you."
"Love you too, Mom. Night."

Ahh. isn't it just so romantic? That's the stuff the dreams of parenthood are made of, huh?

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Good luck!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

One of those weeks...

Have you ever felt like this? A little, shall we say, overloaded?




Well that donkey you see, the one hanging up in the air with all his burdens keeping him dangling up there? Yeah, that's me this week as we try to work our way into a somewhat workable schedule of homeschooling with four children six years and under.

And here is what you would find if you were to peak inside those packages on my cart:

Homeschooling first grade. Four children. Pre-school. Two year old toddler. Four month old baby. Unlimited curriculum choices. Laundry. Cooking. Meal planning. House cleaning. Character training. Christ following. Supporting friends. Walking alongside my husband. Reading. Planning. Soccer. Awana. Kisses & hugs. Time with the Lord. Church. Cookie baking. Emailing. Telling stories. Mediating disputes between siblings. Researching. Dish washing. More laundry. Field trips. Diapers to change. Diapers to wash. Potty accidents. Shopping. Decorating. Organizing...

...and that is just what's in the first box or two.

Deep breath.

This is where I am so very glad that God knows what to do, because it's clear that I do not. I have an awful lot to do each day, and an awful lot to be held accountable for. I want to educate my children well, but I want to raise them up to be good people even more. I want them to know and love Jesus, to follow His lead in their lives, to love others and to live a life according to His word. I want to see them storing up their treasure in heaven. And I do not want to lose sight of that greater goal as I work to make sure they are learning what they need to know to succeed in this world as well.

So I keep working through each day, trying to find a schedule that works for me and my four little ones. Just how is it that a woman is supposed to meet each need for four different people each day, and still be a good wife when her husband gets home at night? I know it's been done since the dawn of time. I just need to keep praying and keep working to see just how God had it in mind for me to do it.

So there you go. The insecurities of a homeschooling mom of four young 'uns. But, when I really do take life as God says to in Psalm 118:24, it really isn't so hard at all. It's only when I step back and try to figure out the whole "cartload" that I get overwhelmed and stuck. So I guess I'll just go back to His way and call it good. I just need to carry a few boxes at a time, and leave the rest until I am better able to carry them.

And in the mean time, I've got a billion little kisses to collect and a zillion happy smiles to soak up.

Man, God really is good. Even in just writing it all out here my thoughts have gone from "all I HAVE to DO" to "all I GET to HAVE."



Well off I go now. I "GET" to go change over (yet) another load of laundry before bed tonight. ;o)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

For Mary Grace



Just in case you needed a visual for what you already knew, Mary Grace.

Praying for a better tomorrow for you.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quality time

Isn't it funny how your perspective changes with age? And have you noticed how your perspective changes even more as the number of children in your family increases?

I only mention this random observation after an evening spent with only two of my four children. Normally the post-dinner/bedtime routine is a bit of a blur.

Now don't get me wrong... bedtime is, as a general rule, one of my favorite times of day with my family. I love being the one to tuck my kids in each night and watch as the events of the day slip away into the comfort and security of their beds. I love peeking in on them as they doze off. After several years of nannying, I can tell you there is nothing sweeter than being the one who not only gets to go through the blessings as well as the hardships of each day, but also gets to be the final kiss, the last voice heard each night... and the first smile they see each morning.

But tonight, my Man was out running soccer practice with our big boys, Punky and Finny. While they were gone, it was just me, Goose and Girly Pie. And as I sat there in the relative quiet of the bathroom watching two comparatively small children splashing and smiling in the tub, I was amazed at the peace of it all... The quiet, the calm...

I remember when Finny was born how much busier things got going from one to two. I loved it... I adored watching the sibling relationship unfold. In fact I never really hit much transitioning trouble at all with the two of them. But I do remember things just being busier and I had to work a bit to have quiet moments with each of them.

But tonight, having two be half the normal number rather than double as it was years ago, it hit me how it's really my perspective, more than my children, that has changed. Those quiet moments are a little harder to come by with four small hearts looking to you to be filled up constantly through the day. But they are there, if I can just open my eyes and see them. So when they do appear, I have come to realize that I must take those moments and really enjoy them. Luxuriate in them.

So tonight, with just the younger set present, that is just what I did.

The two Littles enjoyed a long, coolish bath together. Then Goose and I got to read his favorite Truck book at a leisurely pace, lingering on each page and looking in detail at each large truck pictured. When he had to go potty, I actually got to sit there with him and keep him company the whole time (with the truck book, of course), a luxury that really only my first born ever really got to enjoy much in his life. We sang songs and played together. We brushed teeth like the big boys, and Goose even tried to spit like they do in the sink. Goose got to snuggle extra in his bed when I tucked him in, and he was quite happy and relaxed as I kissed him goodnight.

Then I got to go downstairs with a happy, wakeful girl who was so eager to give me her full ear-to-ear smile, with that heart melting sparkle in her sweet blue eyes. She clearly loved having my full, uninterrupted attention all to herself.

These are all moments that I get small tastes of throughout each day. But tonight I got the full meal deal with my two littlest ones.

And it was delicious.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

School time blues


Well, I guess it's not actually the blues. But I have to admit that my heart is not quite fully in school year mode yet.

I feel like I must be the only one still holding onto what shreds of summer freedom are left.

Maybe it's the fairly new baby. Maybe it's the fact that we as a family just really enjoy being outside. Maybe it's looking at the three growing boy bodies floundering around my house in the rainy summery days and wondering how on earth these walls will contain them for the many, MANY months of gray wet Northwest winter ahead of us. Maybe it's the fact that my Rainbow order still has not arrived, and so I can't even start much of what we have planned for the year yet. Maybe it's because I STILL have not organized or cleaned my desk and office so I can barely find anything I need for school.

Or, it might possibly be the fact that we pretty much quit school last April (or March... it's all a blur) and have not really revisited much of it at all since then. But I was quite pregnant with a May due-date looming ahead and my inertia had just faded by that point. Spring was in the air, a baby was on the way, and heck, it's only kindergarten.

And though I can honestly say that with adding a fourth child I have not found too much change in my daily happenings from how things were with the first three, I do admit to a sheer lack of planning and preparation for this coming school year. But again, I wonder where that lack of excitement and planning came from. I usually like to plan. I can't claim that I always follow through 100% with the plans I make, but I do like the planning part. ;o)

So there is my admission of deep guilt. I know I am still a good mom. I know I am still fully capable of educating my children, and of doing it well. I even know that at some point my excitement for teaching my kids will come back in full. I guess I'm just wondering if it's gonna happen this year.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Oceans away from home...


Well here I am, vacationing on the Pacific coast for the week. Now, I'm sure when some of you hear "Pacific Coast" you get visions of hot, sandy beaches, sunscreen, swimming in the waves in swimsuits and walking on boardwalks with thousands of fellow beachgoers. Anyone with that picture in mind is clearly thinking of the Southern California coast.

I am not there.

I am here, on the Washington coast. And despite what many people who are new to this whole chilly beach idea think(...ahem... MG...) it really is quite lovely. We do need sunscreen here, if we're out on the beach more than an hour or so. The sun really is warm, too. It's just hard to feel how warm the sun is through the frigid wind. But the sand is really nice... perfect for sand castles and name writing. You can find tons and tons of broken sand dollar bits (which, by the way, make excellent windows for the afore mentioned sand castles) and seagull feathers (perfect for castle flags!) and crab parts (really not useful in the least, but terribly fascinating to a gaggle of little boys).

I must say I've never really been to much of the Atlantic coast (Florida once... it was terribly humid and the water was too salty) and I only recall a few sunny, hot days in San Diego. I do like the warmer water, and there is something to be said for haivng the opportunity to swim without fear of hypothermia setting in.

BUT... having lived in Washington since the age of five, this is The Beach to me. I loved jumping the waves as a child, feeling the ice cold water on my legs, soaking my shorts (it's just plain insanity to go out in this water in a swimsuit!) and often most of my shirt. My cousin and I would get out just to our ankles at first... slowly, tentatively... Then, we'd brave it out to our knees, all the while jumping the waves as they'd come crashing in. And before long we'd be soaked to our waists, laughing and frozen, no feeling left in our feet at all.

And now I love watching my boys do the same thing. I forget every year when we come here that I need to bring so many clothes. Without fail our first day out at the beach my boys end up soaking any and all clothing they have on, even if it happens to be the one and only coat we brought along for the week. But there they go, Punky quickly stripping to as little clothing as his Momma will allow and Finny out there pretty well bundled until he sees his adored big brother down to shorts with no shirt, at which point he follows suit. They go out there and jump waves for a bit, until the waves get just scary enough that they turn tail and run for all they're worth back to the sand, until they catch their breath and head right back out for more. Inevitably, Finny falls at some point and gives in to the teeth chattering chills and he needs to be brought back to the truck to dry off and warm up. Punky just keeps going though, until someone calls him in when it's time to head back. Goose is not yet much of a water baby, but he sure loves chasing his Grampa down the beach, running like a little football player, head down, shoulders hunched up, thick, short legs pumping like mad!

And then there is the digging. What is it about little men that is just so darn cute? They are just so clearly built to work. Give them a shovel and a wide open plot of sand and watch them go. It's amazing, really. And fascinating. Now don't get me wrong, I remember building a few sand castles back in my day. But really there were far more fascinating adventures to be had for me than to sit and build up a pile of sand in somewhat of a castle shape. But to watch my boys (and my dad and my husband...) go at it, well, it's just such a charming reminder of how God really did create men for work. My dad was so disgusted last year with our meager supply of plastic shovels that he actually brought a bunch of real garden spades this year. If you're going to do the job right, apparently you need to have REAL tools with which to do it. ;o) And boy do those three little boys' eyes light up when the big shovels get tossed out of the back of the truck!

There's Punky, finally putting to life the castle he's been plotting out for weeks as he anticipated our annual beach trip coming up. He's got a massive moat and multiple towers (8 at least). His daddy is there (very large garden shovel in hand) digging right along side his boy. Finny is over with a much more humble moat and only three towers, but his castle is decorated in fine detail, with multiple feather-flags and neatly placed shell-windows. Goose is over trying to move his dump trucks around and being remarkably considerate of his brothers' castles for a two year old, I think. Grampa has built him his own little castle he can knock down at will. But true to his little male spirit, he's finally come around to realizing that sometimes there is more joy to be had in building up than in tearing down. He's finally seen the light (and boy are his big brothers thrilled that he's figuring that one out!).

There I am sitting in a beach chair and nursing a sleepy Girly Pie, watching all my men in their element. It's really just so beautiful. The sun is shining (always a treat) and the wind is remarkably mild. The waves are crashing... oh my, they are lovely. The ocean really does just remind you how small you really are, and how big our Creator really is. And the baby is sleeping in my arms, and the boys are chasing and digging and laughing and pretending. The men are munching fried chicken and plotting out other digging ideas. The seagulls are begging and the boys are chasing them. Goose is chanting loudly "YUMMY! UMMY-UMMY-UMMY..." as he begs for more potato salad. Finny is trying to enlist peoploe to join him in a whole new family reenactment of the Swiss Family Robinson (his all-time favorite book and movie) and suddenly he and his Daddy are freeing me and Girly Pie from pirates. Punky is STILL working on his castle - apparently it is in need of a well. Now two of my sons are buried up to their necks in sand. And did you know that if you throw a mostly dead crab out on the beach the seagulls will eat it right in front of your eyes? I know, fascinating stuff.

And the whole time I just can't stop thinking about how blessed I am and how this is just such a beautiful time. And I think how great God is, and how awesome are His works.

But of course there is only so much time for such musings, as I answer the endless questions and admire all the buildings and wipe multiple messy faces and pick sand out of eyes and burp Girly Pie and munch on chicken myself. But still, in those quiet moments in between all the busy, full moments, I love to just soak it up.

And really, what fun would those quiet moments be if you didn't have so many busy and full moments to muse over, right?

Love from a best friend...

Wow Mary Grace. Thank you for sharing your heart like that on your blog. I am still always amazed and humbled when I get glimpses that maybe, just MAYBE you might love me and need me in your life as much as I love you and need you in mine! ;o)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Names

I should probably introduce my family. I was thinking last night of names to use for my kiddos that would work without getting their real names out there on the internet. My friend (the one who told me to try blogging) uses literary character names for her family. I think that's a great idea. But it's her idea, not mine. So I wanted to think of something different. Then last night as I was going to bed, the thought occurred to me to use all my kids' family nicknames. None of them have anything to do with their given names, just random names that I came up with at some point in each of their lives. So I think I'll go with that. So without further ado... here are the chitluns from the Benny Gang. (oh yeah, and Benny just happens to be my nickname from when I was little... so I guess the nickname theme started even before I planned it!)

Let's start with my biggest, I guess he'd be DS(6). His nickname around here is Punky Loo. Random, I know. But when I was pregnant with him we did not find out what we were having, so we came up with the cute nickname for my mystery baby-in-the-belly. It was Pumpkin. So when we'd write family or post things on our family website, we'd refer to "the baby" as Pumpkin. After he was born we mostly called him by the boy name we had so carefully picked out for him, but as he grew I just couldn't help calling him Punky. And for one reason or another, Loo just got stuck on the end. I don't know, I guess it just has a nice ring to it. So he is Punks, Punky, Punky Loo, Loo Loo, anything of that nature. But for ease of use here on the blog, I think we'll just go with Punky. Punky is a mature, sensitive young man with a strong sense of justice and an amazing love for God already. He loves his family and his friends with a passion. I think if I had to think of one word to describe Punky, it would be Passion. He's just passionate about anything he does in life. And I think that's beautiful.

Next on the docket we have DS(4). His nickname seems equally random from the outside, but it makes perfect sense once you know him. My second boy is my little Finny William. William happens to be his actual middle name, but Finny is just because. "Because why?" you ask? Well, partly because I have always loved the name Finn and wanted to use that name for one of my sons. But I happen to be married to a man who has never in all four of my pregnancies even momentarily entertained the thought of actually naming a child Finn. So I gave up on pushing for the name, but by about 14 months of age, it was clear that my little man was quite the free spirit, with his thick mop of then strawberry blond hair always flopped wildly around, his charming nature, his go-with-the-flow attitude, his fearless nature and his unquenchable thirst for life... he loved being outside, loved being dirty, loved to just try anything. He just gave me that Huckleberry Finn kind of feeling... I just knew he was that kind of boy. I don't remember all of the true Huck Finn's adventures, though I do recall they were not all terribly pure and lovely. But still, at just over a year old, that boy of mine just seemed to fit the nickname Finn. And being the goofy nicknamer that I am, it quickly morphed into Finny William. But again, for the sake of simplicity, we'll simply refer to him from this point on as Finny.

And now we move on to DS(2). And really, this nickname just seems weird. He's Goose. And all I can give for explanation there is that as a very young infant, when we were still counting his age in weeks rather than months, he was just the cutest little cooer! And if you'd make a sound at him, he'd most likely echo it back to you. And the cutest was when he'd say "Ah-goooo." Do you know that sound? Am I the only one whose babies say that breathy, endearing little "ah-goo" coo? Well most of mine have, but this boy did all the time, and it was so darn CUTE coming from him! So right off I started just calling him Goo which soon changed to the plural, Goo's, which is just a short jump to Goose. In fact he was often called Goosey or Goosey Pie. But Goose it is. I know. I'm weird. But if you knew him, you'd see, he really is, in a weird sort of way, a bit of a goose. He's just a funny little man with quite the sense of humor already for a two year old. He adores his big brothers, and unlike any of my other babies, he has always been a Daddy's Boy. Which is, of course, why he has my husband completely wrapped around his fat little finger. And as a side note, how cute are two year olds?!? He's in that parroting stage of repeating anything you say back in that toddler not-quite-right-but-oh-so-cute way. One of our favorites right now is his version of Quesadilla... for some reason known only to Goose, he calls it "Quesa-DADDY." And yes, his daddy thinks it's the cutest thing on earth.

And now we move on to my darling Baby Number Four. This would be my DD(3 1/2 months). As with all my other pregnancies, we did not find out what we were having with Baby Girl here (she's nursing as I type this) and I was thoroughly convinced she was a boy. I had the PERFECT boy name all picked out. Of course, my husband never did actually agree to the name. But still, it was perfect, and in the end, I'm sure he would have given it to me after giving birth. But that's beside the point, because much to my surprise, I gave birth to our first daughter. And when it came down to names with her, the short list of three we had going into labor quickly got narrowed down to the one that fit her best, though it was not the top on either my list or my husband's before we met her. Funny how that kind of thing goes, huh? Well, anyway, I guess that's all beside the point, since I'm not going to tell you her real name. Mean, aren't I? But she does have a darling little nickname, one that I started using the day she was born. She's just plain old Girly Pie. The Girly part is self explanatory, I think. After my three beautiful boys, it was just fun and novel to call someone Girly. And the Pie part, well, as you saw earlier, I had Goosey Pie. And in her first day of life, Girly Pie just rolled off my tongue so easily it was just her. So Girly Pie it is. She's cute and darling and we all love her to bits. It is a joy to watch as her personality unfolds.

So there they are, my four wonderful children. I can't think of a fun nickname for my husband at the moment. Believe it or not, I usually just call him Hon or Honey. I guess I'm not so imaginative with pet names for my Man. But he doesn't seem to mind. If I think of something better to call him, I'll let you know.