Monday, April 20, 2009
The house is still in less order than I'd like. I've never gotten much of the planning done that I had hoped to do to stay on top of life with four small children (such as schedules, meal plans and consistent housekeeping on more than just "the basics"). Quite a few projects have fallen by the wayside. The list goes on...
And I have the feeling that much of it is just that adjustment to priorities. I may not have a newborn, but I do have one more child than I did last year, so there is just that little bit less of me to go around. So I give what I have to the things that really matter. First my husband and kids, next the feeding and house stuff. School and projects trickle back at the end of that list of priorities. I mean, we of course do school (almost) every day. But the amount of planning and forethought that I have put into anything I've taught my children is pathetic, really. It's been just the basics.
But not all of it is priority adjustment. I know that some of it is just plain lack of diligence and self discipline.
So as we near Girly Pie's first birthday (less than 3 weeks away!) I am feeling the tug to get a little more diligent in my other non-Mommy duties. I still plan to put time with my kiddos way at the top of the priority list, but I need to set aside a lot more time for planning and keeping up with other jobs, too.
In particular, I need to work harder to make school a top priority, not just something I whip together last minute.
I’ve been super lax with school stuff this year. I want to get in gear and work towards more fun projects and outings this spring. We mostly do math and language arts, plus reading and a very small bit of spelling. That's the daily stuff. We have hardly done any of the real Sonlight this year, though we’ve enjoyed all the read alouds and have followed loosely and done a bare bones overview of history up through Greece. Rome is next, so I just need to put together a reading plan with all of the great books from our library plus throw in some videos and crafts. Then I think I’ll call history done for the year and we’ll focus on spring stuff. We’re all very excited to be finishing up the garden boxes that we started last spring. But last year it snowed in late April and then I went and had a baby, so we just never got around to finishing the beds. But that’s OK. I probably wouldn’t have planted anything anyway. I was too busy loving on my new baby girl and playing with my boys when I could! But this year we really want to plant some veggies and flowers. I also envision a couple of zoo trips and maybe some field trips to nature parks or something. So that’s the spring school plan. I just find it impossible to sit around in the house doing book work when the sun comes out. I hope I’m not forming bad habits for life in my kids. But really, when in their lives will the ever again have the freedom to really enjoy this beautiful world God created with such consistency? They’re young, it’s sunny, and there’s a whole lot to be learned out in the sunshine!
So there you go. A little glimpse into the chaos that is my brain. Lots to do. Not a whole lot of self discipline currently to get it all done. But I'm working on that. And praying on it. ;o)
And hey, my kids really are learning a lot and they really are growing and loving and living. So I can't be doing all bad. It's just that I think I can really do better...
But I have to go now. I have a super adorable 2 1/2 year old sitting here waiting for me to go out back with him and push him in the swings. How can I resist?
Friday, April 17, 2009
Taped up over our doorbell on the front porch.
Well, actually, this is probably the third or fourth version of the sign. The others were either torn or the tape got unsticky so I had to remake the sign a few times.
But still. You get the point.
Yes, the doorbell chimes just feet from our nursery where once toddler Finny, then baby Goose and now baby Girly Pie have slept. And yes, when it has been rung during nap times, they all inevitably woke up in a horrendous mood. So yes, the sign was necessary.
But seriously. Could you get more tacky than that? Notice the cracked masking tape that held it up? See the faded lettering that you have to strain to make out? Punky pointed out to me yesterday, as he tore the thing down, that I must have had it up backwards. The ink was actually darker on the backside than on the front.
At first it was just temporary. I took it down in between naps. But as you can imagine, I would forget to put it up some days, and those were of course the days that the UPS gal would come and ring the bell smack in the middle of a much needed nap. So I just started leaving my temporary sign up all the time.
I lived in denial, thinking it wouldn’t be needed that long.
But as the weeks turned into months, and then years… well, I finally admitted that it was to be a permanent fixture to our front porch.
So for the past couple of years I’ve been meaning to make a pretty little sign to replace the tacky taped paper one. But really, I never walk up to my door and knock or ring the bell. I always enter through the garage. Out of sight, out of mind, after all.
But, after years of excuses, better things to do, forgotten ugly signs, teasing remarks from my dad who would never have stood for such a tasteless little (not so) welcome sign on his own front porch…
I am proud to announce that today it took me all of an hour (maybe less... though broken up for drying time between the paint and the varnish coat…) to do up this cute little sign:
I guess all it took was the guilt of seeing my son pull my handy little sign off the porch helpfully, seeing it as nothing more than a piece of trash on the wall.
So this afternoon while Girly Pie napped and the boys played out back, I whipped out my acrylic paints and a little wooden plate I’d intended for a name sign on Girly Pie’s door (never got around to that either…) and set down to work. Then when Hubby got home he was kind enough to drill out two small holes in the circle areas I’d painted for just such a purpose. He was also sweet enough to drill a little hook into the siding above the doorbell so I could hang the thing up. Then I stuck some yarn through the holes, tied a knot in the back, and VOILA!!! A cute, happy little sign on the front porch.
Let’s just hope it still gets the point across to Mrs. UPS. ;o)
Thursday, April 16, 2009
It's hard to think of anything else that can make me feel as loved as those proud gifts from such loving sons.
Even little 2 1/2 year old Goose today said: "Mommy, I got a pwize (surprise) for you. Wook. I got a fwowuh (flower) for you." I guess he's learned how to be so sweet from his brothers. And they all learned it from their sweet, sweet Daddy (who brings me random flowers on random days, just because he loves me).
But I believe there is no prettier flower than that bright, happy yellow weed when it is given with such love and devotion.
I will never again in all my life look at a patch of dandelions with scorn. I will only think of the years of happy, smiling boys so in love with me and so eager to bring a smile to my face.
Thank you Lord, for this season of life when I have a window sill full of weed-laden mini-vases, and so many dirty little hands and smiling little faces to wash each spring evening.
My cup runneth over.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Girly Pie just turned 11 months old. That means that next month she will celebrate her first birthday. Wow. I can hardly believe it’s been that long since she was born! Can you tell that I just don’t seem to have a real grasp on how time works? I am always shocked by how quickly everything spins by us, especially in regards to my babies!
Girly Pie is just a happy, sweet, darling little girl. It’s funny how old 11 or 12 months sounds when you first give birth to that tiny 7 or 8 pound baby. Someone else’s 11 or 12 month old looks huge and you cannot imagine you baby EVER getting there. That’s practically a toddler. It’s hard to imagine counting your child’s age in years when you’re still able to count the number of days they’ve been here on your fingers.
But when you get there, especially with your second and subsequent children, you realize how little and babyish this age really is. Really, Girly Pie is at the peak of cute babyish sweetness right now. She loves to crawl around and explore the house. She thinks peek-a-boo is the coolest thing ever. She’s like a cat – if her head is the least bit hidden, or if her eyes are just buried – she seems to think she’s really invisible. Then she’ll pop her head up with a look of complete delight in anticipation of the surprise on your face as you say, “Where’s Girly Pie? OH!!! THERE she is!” It’s pretty funny. She loves to point and babble about everything she sees. Playing in the Tupperware cupboard is much more exciting than any toy box in the house. She’s little and squishable and huggable and kissable. She’s just so dang cute you could almost eat her whole.
Girly Pie got the chance to really explore the yard last week when the sun made a short but exciting appearance for a few days. She seems completely unfazed by the pokey grass under her bare toes. She was so delighted to find that she could navigate the little backyard climbing toy by herself. She's my little climber.
That fair complexion of hers is going to be put to the test as soon as the sun comes out in earnest. Girly Pie barely kept her hat on long enough for me to snap off this shot of her. She mostly screeched and yanked at it until she got it off. Time to find some nice baby friendly sunscreen for faces, methinks.
Oh, and she's a monkey, too. Every time I turn around Girly Pie finds a way to get up onto some piece of furniture. So far she's not made it on top of the dining room table or the kitchen counter. But I'm thinking I'd better watch out...
Our dog Jake is quite happy to have a little one around who does not yet know the rule about not feeding the dog from the table.
Look... she's got JUST enough hair to eek out pigtails. Isn't she cute!?
Thursday, April 9, 2009
But I found a really cool Easter craft. And I just have to post about it!
So we dye Easter eggs every year – and though I think there might be some pagan roots somewhere in the egg dying tradition, it is one of those childhood memories that just make me feel a little too warm and fuzzy to drop. We most definitely put the focus on Jesus and His death and resurrection at Easter time (well, all year really…), and our kids don’t really even know who the Easter Bunny is. I think if you asked them who the Easter Bunny was, they’d likely tell you that it’s Mary Grace’s kids’ rabbits – on Easter. But we do give little gift baskets, we do a little egg hunt, and we do dye Easter eggs. So there you go.
Usually I just buy the little box kit of egg dyes and we go at it sometime the week before Easter. Sometimes I forget to have eggs on hand, so we do it late. One time I forgot to hard boil the eggs before we dyed them. (Just FYI, boiling eggs AFTER you dye them just washes the dye right off. And then you can’t re-dye them. In case you were wondering…) But in general, that’s what we do.
This year though I was inspired by a little book I got at a library sale a few years back. The book is called The Mudpies Activity Book: Recipes for Invention by Nancy Blakey. It is a great book, and there are ton of activities I plan to do over the years. But the one I’m talking about is the natural Easter egg dyes.
It just looked like fun, and I’m all for crafty stuff like that. I know for sure that I would have LOVED for someone to sit down with me and chop up fruits and vegetables to boil down into a real dye. I haven’t a clue what’s in those fancy dye tablets you get in egg dye kits. Honestly, I’ve barely ever even wondered. So how cool would it be to actually make your own dye?
Well, being the big kid that I am, I figured that even if my kids didn’t enjoy the whole project, at least I would. So I set myself a few reminders on my little email program to make sure I had the right ingredients at the right times (I found the recipe months ago, and knew I’d forget to do it if I didn’t set myself an electronic reminder. How lame is that!?). And, lo and behold, I was set and ready to go come this week!
So after a busy start to the week, today was The Day… and my kids were so excited. To make matters even more exciting, we had done a craft earlier in the week with some friends and had made little clay birds’ nests – so the big boys were so excited to fill their little nests with naturally dyed eggs.
So here is a little step-by-step of our very, very, VERY fun project – pictures and all…
The ingredients you’ll need to make the three colors we made are water, vinegar, 2 cups each of blueberries, chopped beet root and yellow onion skins. Oh, and eggs for dying, of course. ;o)
And that was it for making the dye.
The boys had a great time setting the eggs up in their little clay nests. We have two little animatronic pet birds in our family, named Chirpy and Sunny (they are fairly realistic replicas of an eastern bluebird and a goldfinch, with lifelike chirps and all) and the boys had so much fun setting the little birds on “their” eggs in the nests. They were so cute!
So the process of making the dyes was really fun. I know it would have been faster, cheaper and easier to just buy the little kit with the colorful dissolving tablets. But I cannot describe to you the joy I felt today as we methodically planned out each step of the process. The vast majority of today was spent in making those beautiful eggs. Each step was very simple, and the kids were able to do anything not requiring sharp knives or direct contact with boiling water. But there were so many steps - and a lot of lag time between steps - that it did take all day.
This will most definitely be the most memorable egg dying experience of my life so far, and I’m sure it is one that we will be doing again. I wish I could describe the satisfaction we all felt through the process. But I’m not the best with written words. So you’ll just have to trust me on that one.
So there you go.
So if you happen to have a spare day and some beets and blueberries lying around this weekend, maybe you can try to make up a batch or two of dye. I think you’d really enjoy it…
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
But apparently it wasn't His Own presence God had in mind to settle my spirit today.
Apparently it was Finny's.
Tuesdays are busy for us right now. Finny has a 10-11am gymnastics class and Punky has a 2-4pm homeschool class at the YMCA which includes swim lessons and alternating gym and art classes each week. Both of these classes are in the next town over from us, a solid 25-30 minute drive from our door to theirs. Thankfully it's just a short season, and both kids seem very blessed by these classes, so it's something we're willing to do... but myohmy, I was not created to be an on-the-go mom! And poor Girly Pie and Goose!
But today we were blessed in that Mary Grace was able to take Punky to the 2pm class with her kiddos, so I was able to drive the kids home after Finny's morning class for a full lunch and everyone but Punky got a decent rest or nap depending on their needs. It was clearly a much needed nap for Goose and for Girly Pie, both of whom were most definitely not going to make it through the rest of the day without it! And though Finny fought the alone time in his room, he did seem to benefit from it.
Oh. And I really enjoyed the quiet time, too.
So when Finny's rest time ended (the story on CD is set on a timer and when it clicks off they know their "rest time" is over and they are free to come out and join me) I was still in my bed finishing up a very nice worship time of music and Bible reading. I was feeling fairly refreshed and mellow, though I admit I was still oddly pensive and a bit gloomy feeling. But instead of both big boys trampling down the stairs to find me catching up on chores or computer time, I just had one quiet boy amble into my room, and together we stumbled into one of the nicest afternoons I've had in a really long time.
He joined my on my bed and I snuggled him up into me. I could smell the dirt in his skin from yesterday's yard play. And the sun was coming into the room just so, lighting up his fair skin and the little blond fuzz on his arms and neck. He was just so snuggly and yielding, which he is at times but not all the time. It was so nice to chat with him without interruption. No baby needing my arms. No toddler bouncing around with funny little antics. No older brother butting into each and every part of the conversation to offer up his own thoughts. Nope. None of that. Just me and my Finny William.
We talked about Easter and Jesus. Usually it's Punky who gets into the deeper theological discussions around here, and Finny is often just left there looking like a much younger child who really doesn't "get it" yet. So I was honestly surprised to hear what a strong grasp he has of Jesus and His sacrifice for us. He seemed perfectly aware of His death and resurrection, and understood why it had to be so. I was surprised by this mostly because Finny currently struggles with some pretty intense fears and sadness over anything remotely close to death or sadness. So to see him so matter of fact about the whole thing was really neat.
And then we talked about how we get to live forever in heaven. And about how in heaven you don't have any pain or fear... and you don't get ear infections (he is currently recovering from one), and you don't need ear tubes in heaven, nor do you need to get your tonsils taken out there (have I mentioned last year's surgery to have his tonsils and adenoids removed and to have ear tubes inserted to help with his chronic ear troubles?). He laughed at that, and was very pleased to realize that in heaven, he could swim or shower and not fear water getting in his ears. My heart hurt to see how simply he accepted how it is here - my strong little boy, already so much more aware of sacrifice and burdens than so many other five year olds. But it was so sweet to really know that someday, if my husband and I do our part well and if Finny stays on this path towards Jesus, he will be in a place free of these burdens of pain and suffering. And it was so fun to dream about that with him. Forever in heaven, always happy, never sad or lonely.
He was smiling the whole time. And I held his hand in mine, cradling it and turning over his little fingers, studying them, memorizing them and their smallness, their softness. The bright sun still lighting up all those blond little fuzzy hairs, the window cracked to let in the sounds of passing trains and breezes flitting through the trees.
The whole time I had my music playing, a little CD my husband put together from me with some of my favorite praise songs and a bunch of other country and oldies songs I like. It was pretty funny when Finny asked me to turn off the music. He said it made him "nervous." I tried to get him to explain to me why it made him feel nervous, and the best he could put to words was that they were all about Jesus and hearing songs about only him just made him feel "nervous." (For the record, they weren't all Christian songs, only a small portion - but it is a mix of music with a lot of heartwarming songs that definitely spark emotions in me.) So I'm not sure my five year old's understanding of the word nervous fits the feeling he was actually having, but I did find it interesting and sweet to see him so aware of the emotions that music brought out in him.
Another striking moment for me was during a snippet of our talk involving guns. We don't allow toy guns in our house and though the boys have small character toys with guns (Lego guys, etc.) they aren't allowed to play with or pretend to have life size guns. I'm just not ready to watch my boys pretend to kill each other. I've heard it may just be inevitable and I'll just need to get over it. But for now... I'm still holding strong!
But... Finny mentioned something about guns and how we don’t have them and how he'd never want toy guns. And it sparked a memory of a story my dad told me from his childhood. It was the first and only time he'd ever gone hunting. He went out in the California desert as a young man (old boy?) with a gun, and he heard a song bird. He saw it far in the distance and just for fun tried to shoot it, figuring it was too far off and he'd miss anyway. Well he hit the bird, and its song died along with it. My dad went home and put the gun away and never picked a gun up again. He was so heartbroken over the life he'd taken - over the contrast of the beauty of the bird's song to the harshness of the gun that killed it - that he just couldn't bear to take another life again.
So as I told this story to Finny, in a more watered down way of course, he turned his head aside and started to cry softly. This is the same boy who so openly accepted Christ's gift of His own life in exchange for our sin... the same boy who had only moments before discussed the beating and the crown of thorns... and yet his heart could not bear the thought of that little song bird dying in the desert, nor the thought of his young Grampa being so sad over the death of that little bird.
It was just such a sweet moment. He was a little sad, but still talking about it, and our talk took a few more twists and turns from there. That little boy has such a soft heart.
Later I brought up a little bag of candy I had and we divided up some pieces to share. He had fun counting them all out and finding patterns and making shapes and letters with them. He loves that kind of thing.
So through the whole time we spent together - maybe an hour total - I just felt so close to him, and so blessed to be his mom, to have him for a son. And I felt so thankful for all of my children. I very much enjoy the time I spend with all four of my kids together, and the times with just a couple of them. But when I really get to have just a little chunk of time like that with just one of them I am always amazed at how much I really enjoy that. It's just a special treat and it's one that I am so grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy now and then. I am so blessed to be a stay at home mom. I have a husband who works so very hard so that I can be home to raise and care for our children! And I get to homeschool. How hard would it be to carve out that special time with my kids if they were gone all day five days a week!? And I have a friend who can make a car trip for me now and then so that I can have just those extra two hours in the afternoon to spend refueling my spirit.
So that was my gift today. I admit that I still struggled to keep positive as the day wore on. There must be something rumbling in my soul that will be revealed later. Or maybe it was just a weird day. But that little snippet of my day really feels like a bright ray of sunshine on an otherwise gray day.
I can still smell his dirty boyish smell. I can still see the translucent look of his skin as the sun shone so brightly on it. Those little peach fuzzies are so clear in my mind's eye. Those hands - so small. That giggle at the thought of an ear infection-free heaven. The quiet tears shed over a little lost life. I think part of what made it so special was that Finny was himself, too. He wasn't frustrated or straining. He wasn't distant and happily floating in his own little Finny World. He was not competing with anyone else, nor was he striving to get my attention. He just had it, and he was happy for it, but not straining. It was just the most natural thing in the world. And sometimes in a house with 6 people, it's a little hard to find completely natural time to just be yourself with someone.
And as an only child, though I rarely get such moments, and really don't even try for them, I really do feel so refreshed when I am gifted with them. I forget how much a part of me that quiet one-on-one time is. It is just music to my soul.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
So today we went to our local Target Portrait Studio with four cute, smiley kids in very darling coordinating orange and white outfits. I have been so excited ever since I booked the appointment. I've never had four children in a photo shoot before! I was actually giddy as I walked into target and saw all of my babies looking so clean and neat and all wearing similar clothes. No one had a jammie shirt on. Not one holey knee. Everyone had recently trimmed hair and they were fairly clean and mostly brushed. I had picked all the boys' jeans out so they were all the right size and no one had hand picked any nice plaid button up shirts to go with their red workout pants and clip-on tie (that would be Finny's favorite NICE outfit. Real nice, huh?). All four of my kids looked absolutely darling.
It was perfect.
So of course it could only go downhill from there, right? I mean, I do have four children, after all. I think it is physically impossible for all four of them to be happy, cooperative and STILL at the same time.
So first there was Little Miss Girly Pie. She was the one I was really excited to get pictures of. For one thing I've never taken her in to get any pictures done before, so firsts are always fun. Plus it's nearing her birthday so I thought these could count as some one year photos. And add to all that I've never gotten to pick a dress or decide on hair accessories for pictures before. That's just a whole new world to a Momma of three boys! So I was just so excited to see my cute, happy baby girl smile for the camera and get some absolutely adorable shots to frame and hang up. I had planned the pictures to be smack between her two naps so she'd be in a great mood. And she was... in the waiting room.
But then we got into the picture-taking room - and the happy, smiley girl was gone. Girly Pie half smiled, barely, for the first two or three shots (group shots as she immediately cried when I tried to put her down alone for the individuals), and proceeded to cry the whole rest of the time if I even tried to peel her an inch or two off of my body. No cute, happy girl standing there beaming. Nope. In fact, it's a good thing I thought to wear a white shirt, because I ended up holding her for most of the pictures. But at least I did get a couple of sweet solemn faces - which look fine in sepia where you can't see the red eyes from her crying.
And then there's Goose, who apparently had to poop, as he was running circles around everyone. Literally. Circles. It was like I had just given the kid a Coke and a candy bar or something. It was pretty great.
And Punky, the first born ham that he is, was being the biggest show off and camera hog I have ever seen! At one point, the lady was just trying to get some candid shots of the kids all looking at Girly Pie (she gave up on trying to get smiles, since GP cried every time she tried to make her look towards the camera! – I even had to sit there with her in my lap because I couldn’t put her down anywhere near the camera lady. Girly Pie was obviously terrified of her.) and there was Punky in the background of everyone, literally standing on one leg and craning all his limbs out and making a super fakey cheesy “Look at me, I’m smiling!” sort of face. It was such an obvious center-of-attention sort of ploy it was almost funny. Almost.
Then there’s Finny. I had to remind him so many times not to scratch his nose (He doesn’t pick it, he just sticks his first two fingers in both nostrils and sort of scratches the whole area there constantly. I’m not sure if it’s a nervous habit or if he really is itchy. Either way – it looks REALLY bad in pictures!) or touch his face or cover anyone else’s face with his hands or the little flower prop we used in an attempt to keep Girly Pie's interest. Really he was the best one. At least he kept a somewhat natural smile on his face, didn’t try to steal the show, and mostly stayed in the same place.
So there you go. My first experience of getting pictures done with four children.
I'll post some of the pictures here when I pick them up in a couple weeks. When all was said and done - though they did not turn out as I had imagined they would - we did end up with some sweet shots of my kiddos.
So really, I guess I can't complain.
Though - I guess it’s no wonder I only take them once every two years. ;o)