Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Wonderful Man

There is just nothing sweeter than a man and his children thoroughly enjoying each other's company.

My husband has an outdoor job, and it was wet and rainy today. I think we had some near record floods even. There were threats of the only highway that leads to our small town being closed. But my Man made it home. He walked through the door (a good hour later than he'd planned) wet but happy to be here. He threw his work clothes in the wash so they could be ready for tomorrow and I brought down some fresh, dry sweats.

And then the fun began. That wonderful Man of mine just got down on the floor and let a couple of the boys tackle him and he listened to the excited explanations of the day's happenings. Punky told him all about how much flood water we'd seen on our drive to and from town for Girly Pie's 6 month checkup this morning and Daddy listened with full interest. Finny tackled and tickled and Punky went to get this new doodad that came in a ball pump package. It's a tee for football kicking. I'm sure there is a very technical term for the little plastic thingy that holds the football still so the kicker guy can kick it. But I'll be darned if I have a clue what that technical term might be. Anyway. Daddy knew the name. And Punky kicked the ball and Finny caught it. Daddy then gave them the basics of football and showed them how to properly tackle an opposing player who catches the ball. I'm a complete idiot when it comes to sports, and though my husband is quite knowledgeable on most sports, it's still not one of his major passions in life. So it was a novel thing tonight to have this sports tutorial.

But boy did those boys all have fun kicking and tackling and throwing around the family room. And my Man was smiling the whole time and so happy to be there with his boys. And I was getting the last bits of dinner ready and on the table for my beautiful family. And Goose (who apparently has an ear infection) finally got over the post-nap stupor he'd been fighting all afternoon and was just a complete goofy delight at dinner.

When my Man was spooning bites of stuffing into little Goose's mouth, Goose was standing in his booster seat (bad habit, it bugs me but Daddy doesn't mind so I don't fight it) doing a crazy little dance with each mouthful. It was hilarious.

And is it just me, or is there something just so darn cute and sexy about a man whose eyes twinkle at the sight of his kids doing something cute or sweet? I just love that.

And when Girly Pie spotted him he gave her his best Daddy grin and she was in the Moby wrap and did the full body wiggle of delight and bobbed her head down in this demure, faux-shy girly little move that none of the boys have ever done. It's funny to me that it seems to really delight her Daddy when she does that. That girl is going to win that man over hands down.

Ahhh. life is so sweet when you have such a wonderful, loving man to share it with, you know?

Doing this 30-Day Challenge has been neat, but I admit that it's not been life altering. Now don't get me wrong... I can definitely use the daily reminder to say something encouraging to him and to avoid the temptation to complain to him or about him when he does something I don't like. But on the whole I have realized that I am generally doing alright naturally at complimenting him and appreciating all that he does for me and for our family.

I know that had I tried it two or three years ago it would have been really difficult to follow through on. To give a quick rundown on the challenge, the goal is to go thirty days without saying anything negative to your husband or about him to anyone else. You also need to make sure you say at least one positive thing to him, and one positive thing about him to someone else, every day. I know that in years past this would have been very hard for me. I was quite disrespectful and undermining of my husband's role in our home and family for the vast majority of our relationship. But the sad part is that I didn't even see it as such. And to have tried this a few years back, even after becoming Christian, would have been really eye opening for me. But honestly, I've realized that I am already doing this most of the time in a conscious effort to be more respectful of him in general.

The real turning point for me in my attitude towards my husband was really when we read Emerson Eggerichs' Love and Respect about two years ago. It was really an awakening for me into how much I was taking away from his confidence by constantly trying to better him and "constructively" criticize him. The basic point the book makes is that men should love their wives unconditionally (and society seems to support this half of the equation) and that wives should respect their husbands unconditionally (this goes completely against societal norms - when is the last time you watched a prime time sitcom where the husband was treated with respect either by the wife or the children?). It was hard at first, but I was amazed at how quickly our relationship changed when I just started to focus on the things I did love and respect about my husband, and I tried to ignore or gloss over the things that I thought needed improvement.

Funny thing. Suddenly I really saw that he was this great guy, and he didn't really need much improvement after all. I was the one who needed improvement. And the icing on this lovely cake? He actually started doing nicer things for me and improving naturally in all the areas that I felt worries about previous to my change in attitude. Crazy, huh?
So, I bring all this up just to say that books like Love and Respect, and efforts like the 30-Day Challenge really can make an amazing difference in a marriage. I would never go so far as to say we had an unhappy marriage. But now that I make a general daily effort to appreciate the man that God has blessed me with I find that our relationship is, on the whole, a beautiful one.

I am one very blessed woman. And I love that my husband lets me know that he feels like a very blessed man, too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Days...

Boy. It seems like it was so easy for a while there to find time for myself. And now all of the sudden it takes a whole lot more work to get everything just right so that all four of my kiddos are quiet and contained and I have moment alone.

Mind you, I'm not complaining. In fact I've quite enjoyed my busier time of really being in the moment with my family. We're doing more fun stuff with school as the year moves along, which I know my bigger boys both enjoy. Goose is starting little bits of preschool stuff, too. He loves numbers right now so I'm trying to take time here and there to go do some fun counting and manipulative work with numbers. He loves it when I can carve out the time. It's far from daily though. I'm working on that. And Girly Pie is at that really fun interactive stage at six months. she's still not crawling or sitting up on her own, but she can roll across quite a large space, and will soon (I'd bet within a week) figure out that she can span a room to get where she wants to go. So I'm just busier with her drinking in all the cuteness and fun of one of the most pleasant stages of childhood, I think. She really is in that "golden age" of babyhood. She's all smiles and sweetness, and she really can light up a room just by being in it right now. So when she's awake, it's much harder for me to just plunk her in my lap and type away. I just can't ignore that girl! She's irresistible right now!

And in a perfect world I would really be on top of keeping a better schedule. I've read Managers of Their Homes and while I agree that having a schedule is ideal, I have yet to manage my home as efficiently as the author of the book seems to. I think I am more of a routine person than a schedule person.

So are you curious about what our routine is? I'm happy to share it. It's a fluid thing, but we are beginning to see the real routine of life with four children 6 and younger take shape... Here's what a typical weekday looks like around here, barring any outings, sickness, temper tantrums, potty disasters, visitors or other such unexpected interruptions (so you can imagine that it's not exactly a constant thing! But we're working on it!):

6am: I wake (new to me... just trying the early rise thing... it works great when I have the will power to get out of my warm bed!) and heads downstairs for what Bible reading and quiet time with the Lord I can find. Girly Pie is often awake with me at this point, but sometimes she still dozes in bed with her Daddy.

6:30-7am: Boys start waking up and tumbling downstairs. They generally start the day off with free play time for a bit.

7-7:30-ish am: Big boys work on their daily chores while I prepare breakfast and tend to Girly Pie. Daddy is up and Goose is most likely following him around as he prepares for his work day.

7:30-8-ish am: We eat breakfast together and kiss Daddy goodbye as he heads out for the day around 8 (unless it's the busy time of year, at which time he's gone before most of the kids are up).

8-9 or 9:30am: Boys finish any lingering chores and Punky whips out two pages in both his Singapore Math book and his Spectrum reading comprehension workbook before their free time starts. Most days (when our ancient computer is cooperating with its failing sound card) Punky will do some online learning programs to supplement his math and spelling skills at this time, too. Goose plays on his own for the most part during this time and he flits in and out of my routine and the big boys' free play as I go about my morning chores. Girly Pie is usually in the Moby Wrap at this time or in her exersaucer or rolling around on the ground with toys. This is my work time and my free with the babies time of the day. Often, too, I will spend this time in the morning investing in the wonderful friendship that God has blessed me with in Mary Grace. I know it is a bit of a guilty pleasure to spend time on the phone in the morning. And we don't talk every single day. But more often than not we will check in with one another and talk about our day, our children, our faith, our husbands, our worries, our achievements and our failings... we support each other and laugh and cry together. And with nine kids between us at this point, all of whom are homeschooled, many of whom have various appointments for doctors, therapy, etc... it is just getting really darn hard to physically get together and enjoy each other's company. So that time in the morning I look at as fellowship and support. I do know that the actual routine and schedule of my days would go better if I spent that time more wisely... but I fear that my heart and my spirit would fade more quickly through the day if I did not spend that time with the friend God has blessed me with.

All that as a good excuse for chatting on the phone for an hour or so most mornings. Can you tell I feel just a little bit guilty for that indulgence? But it's worth it. ;o)

OK. Moving on.

9:30 or 10am: Girly Pie starts her morning nap and I get going on any handsfree school work I have planned with the boys. Often Goose does playdough or plays with his little diggers in a tray of rice at the table with us during any project time. On Fridays we usually bake something tasty during this time. Some days it's a craft, some days it's sit down lesson stuff. Some days we just play board games. Today I did some laundry and played battleship with Punky while a very cranky Goose watched a video and Finny floated between the two activities.

10:30 or 11am: Girly Pie's nap is wrapping up and the boys are revved up and ready for some free time, so usually Punky and Finny play Legos or dress up as knights or Egyptians or scuba divers... whatever we're doing in school or reading in our books at the time that inspires them... Goose will float with them or hang in the kitchen with me while I putter around and prepare lunch or tidy any messes left from our project or Goose's play time.

Usually we eat lunch around 12, give or take 30 minutes. up to this point in the day, the times really move around and some things take longer and others are skipped. I throw laundry in and out of the machines and fold in fits and starts when I can. Girly Pie is up or down at varied points, since I still have not pushed her to a strict sleeping schedule yet. Goose floats a ton in the mornings. I want to make the perfect time to have just mommy and Goose time... I'm working on that one.

12-1pm: At some point in here lunch is over, and I excuse Goose and myself upstairs while the big boys finish up their food and clear their places to have a few minutes of quiet free time downstairs. Goose still takes naps and we really enjoy the time of reading and snuggling while I get him ready for his nap. Girly Pie is usually with us, but she's happy to roll around on his bed and chew on his toys while we read.

12-1p: Still in the window of time but after goose is down for nap, I try to tidy the kitchen from lunch, but often just skip it for now. This is when we begin our Goose-free school stuff that really takes my (mostly) full attention. We read our Sonlight books during this time... We all enjoy this part of the day, though I admit it is definitely the most time consuming part of school for us. Often we'll skip basics even, like Punky reading his own books, for the sake of reading our Sonlight stuff. But many days he does get to read on his own to me, and I think it's OK for now that he's not reading books daily. He reads something in his morning workbooks daily and often will finds something on his own throughout the day. Right now we are reading Jack Plank Tells Tales together, taking turns reading paragraphs. It's a very cute book. I'd recommend it so far. For Sonlight right now we are still working on Egypt. Our projects have included building several kinds of pyramids and making sledges to see how simple machines aided in the construction of the real pyramids. I need to get a raw chicken leg so we can try to mummify it later this week. When I came down from putting Girly Pie down for her nap today, my boys were role playing something unfamiliar... it involved swords made of Zoobs of course... but the costumes were new as was what I could catch from the plot. They were playing Egypt. Only it was kind of like Tarzan and Swiss Family Robinson. Only not really. Anyway, take 4 and 6 year old boys, just enough knowedge of history to be dangerous, some plastic construction toy weapons, a bucket full of random dressup items and a healthy lust for certain Disney films... and voila! You get my family!

1:30-2 pm: At this point I am usually finished with our school reading time and Goose is still sleeping. Girly Pie is usually ready for her second nap now (if she's not already sleeping) and if I can manage just right... I can scoot the big boys upstairs to their shared bedroom and put on a book on CD for them and they begin their 90 minute rest (the CD player is set on a timer and clicks off after 90 minutes). They start out in their beds with a quiet activity (reading, coloring, resting...) and after a set number of chapters they are allowed to play quietly together in their room. They usually choose a combination of Lincoln Logs, Playmobil "guys," other characters and some home made wooden toys and play castles or pirates or Egypt... that sort of thing. I think it's one of their favorite times of day. And they have heard some great stories on CD, too. Usually something like a Little House book or one of the Freddy the Pig books, some Magic Treehouse, some A.A. Milne, a bit of Hank the Cowdog, Mr. Popper's Penguins... and a ton more. And if it's all just perfect... that is when I have all four of them happy, quiet and occupied... and that is when I get to sit here and post this (like right now.)

I also pay bills at this point, or make business calls or set up appointments, or plan some school or finish cleaning up the kitchen from lunch. Sometimes I will indulge in a catnap, but that is rare at this point.

by 3 or 4, depending on the day, everyone is up and moving from our daily rest time. The afternoons are mostly free, and I get to spend more time with Goose or play games with the bigger boys if we missed that earlier. This is when we go outside if weather allows.

4:30-ish: This is when I usually start dinner prep, or at least figure out exactly what I'm feeding the troops if it's a usual week and I've once again managed to forget to plan meals for the week. Tonight it's ranch chicken and stuffing. Unless my hubby tries to bring home Thai food for a grown up date night later in which case the kids get corn dogs while we have a family movie night. We'll see. I'm waiting on the call from him that will dictate when he's home and what plan he picks. His call, not mine. Finny sets the table for dinner. Girly Pie floats in the Moby or exersaucer, Goose plays with the big boys.

5:30 pm: Family dinner time. Daddy is home, food is hot and ready. We always eat dinner together and though it is something I take for granted at times, I do feel very blessed to be able to count on that almost every night for the vast majority of the year.

6-6:30 pm: Dinner wraps up. Punky clears the table, Finny and Goose run upstairs. If it's not a bath night, they all get in jammies and have some train table time in their rooms for a bit. If it's bath night then play time gets skipped.

7-7:30 pm: Daddy and Goose do bedtime routine together in Goose's room while I read with Punky and Finny in their room. Girly Pie rolls around on the floor and chews on their wooden train tracks or blows on the toy kazoo (it's so cute to see a six month old play a kazoo. She's brilliant, I tell you!).

7:30-10 pm: Kids are down, baby is still up until 9 usually, hubby and I wrap up work stuff (I will catch up on emails or organize school stuff, he will finish up business calls or emails that were missed in the work day) and then start whatever evening activity is in store for us. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I do my best to work at real school planning or cleaning up and organizing my desk and office (where all the school stuff tends to pile up and never get sorted out). Other evenings are pretty much free and we usually read a book together or watch a movie, or we just hang out. Some nights we fritter away wasting time on email or the computer. I don't like those nights as much, but my hubby and I are both putterers, so it does happen more often than I'd like.

So there is the basic rundown of my day. Like I said, it's all fluid still. But it's looking pretty consistent within that framework. My goals include making more school planning time, and making more efforts for one on one time each day with each child. But with four of them, I may not get complete one on one with each of them each day... but we get lots of little snippets here and there, and lots of Mommy and a couple of kids time.

So I've typed too long and Girly Pie is waking up. So up I go to rescue her from her nap. And then on to the afternoon of our day. I wonder what we'll do this afternoon... I'm thinking making something tasty. I'm hungry for a sweet something. Wonder if those boys are up for baking?

Monday, November 10, 2008

I've been quiet, but...

...I'm still here!

I've been busy with school, four beautiful babies, time with my amazing husband, keeping up with dear friends and lots of appointments for my kiddos...

But I'm still here. I'll write a real post soon. But tonight I have a date to hang out with my husband, so I am going to go and do that.

By the way, I'm working on the 30-Day Challenge. It's a challenge to encourage my husband and see what growth can come from that in my faith and in our marriage. I learned of it from a blogger I follow, and she was kind enough to allow me to link to it for anyone else interested in trying the 30-Day Challenge out themselves. So if you want to learn more about the challenge or about Meghann and her beautiful family, go to her blog and check them out.

I plan to write more soon about the 30-Day Challenge, as well as about our school time and discipline with my children, sensory issues we're learning about with one of our boys, teeth for Girly Pie, Christmas and Advent planning and activities and just general day to day stuff like that. But again, as I said, I've got a date with my Man.

So off I go to enjoy his wonderful company. I can't wait to carve out a few minutes to write about some of the wonderful things floating around in my heart and mind of late.

Oh, and just so you all know... my Girly Pie turned six months old this weekend! Wow. Time does fly.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sweet Punky Loo

I am about to head up to bed, but before I do I wanted to just say quickly how wonderful my biggest boy is. Punky is responsible, loving, exuberant, charming, full of laughter and joy, and always on the lookout for ways to make his loved ones happy.

Today Goose needed to pee at a very bad moment for me to help. I had just gotten a very hungry Girly Pie from her crib after a long nap and had just gotten all settled on the couch nursing her. Poor Girly Pie is teething right now and sometimes it's tricky to get her latched and happy without her gums bugging her, so when she was happily nursing and suddenly Goose hollers "PEE!" from across the house, I was in a bit of a bind.

In comes Punky to the rescue! I asked if he wouldn't mind helping his little brother get his pants off to go potty. Punky didn't even bat an eye. He just climbed off the rocking horse still dressed in his fancy ninja getup and walked over to the bathroom with a smile as he sweetly depantsed (is that a word?) his two year old brother. Then he picked up the 32 pound hunk of toddler and plopped him on the pot to do his business. Goose was relieved, Punky congratulated him on doing a good job on the potty, and life went on as usual.

These kinds of things happen numerous times each day around here. And I realized as I was heading up to bed how little I celebrate his helpful nature. I mean, I appreciate it, and I know I tell people about it. But I know I haven't posted about it. And I know I could focus on that kind of thing more often.

So anyway. My Punky is an amazing little man. And I have no idea how I could keep up with all that goes on in a day in this happy and busy house of ours if it weren't for him. From helping little brothers to pee and holding baby sisters when mom is in a pinch, to volunteering to vacuum for his mom just because he loves her and wants to "let (his) light shine before men so that they may see (his) good deeds and praise (his) Father in heaven." (Matt 5:16) that Punky is one amazing young man.

Thank you, Punky. I love you so much, my boy!