Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dining Room Date Night

Babysitters are few and far between when you have four kids and a budget to maintain. About a month ago Greg and I started realizing that the sum total of our daily conversation went something like this:

"Did you put gas in the van? Yes; can you get my dry cleaning? Sure; don't forget I have a hair appointment tomorrow night. Okay, I'll try to get home on time; how did Tai Quon Do go today? Ummm, good, but you need to talk to the boys about staying focused.  Okay, and don't forget I have a soccer game Thursday. Got it; have you paid the cell phone bill yet? Yep, I paid it online. How did Chloe's spelling test go today? It went well. Oh, great, is Charlie up already?"

You get the idea. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so I give you... Dining Room Date Night.

We made a pact to be more intentional about spending at least one night per week alone together, sharing a meal after the kids have gone to bed. We either get takeout or make something nice, and get takeout sides so we don't have a big mess to clean up.

The champagne flutes were the ones we toasted with at our wedding. They're my favorite thing in the china cabinet.

Dessert delight. Cincinnati's finest, now available at your local Giant Eagle. 


The cool thing is that we've found that we actually sit in the dining room longer than we would at a restaurant. There's no waitress bugging us, no concern about getting home to the sitter. Once a week, we have nothing but time for each other. 

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eight Months Old!

Charlie, you are eight months old!

Actually, you were eight months old about three weeks ago, but let's be realistic - you're the fourth child in this family, and not many things seem to get done on time for you. You don't seem to mind, and we sure do appreciate your patience, buddy.

You're a big boy... at least for our family of munchkins. You weight almost seventeen pounds - Chloe didn't even weigh that much at 15 months!

You're a crawling, exploring, man on a mission. We can't turn our backs on you for a moment.

You had your first trip to the Urgent Care over the weekend. What we thought was teething was actually a nasty cold that had developed into bronchiolitus. You started wheezing and Mommy almost called 911... pretty scary. You had a few breathing treatments at the Urgent Care and they sent us home with a breathing machine, which thankfully we haven't really had to use much since. Three cheers for modern medicine!

Your brothers and sister can not get enough of you. What a joy you are to each other.

I could write pages of the sweet things they do for you, but this morning Sam is on my heart. When he hears you cry on the monitor, he alerts me as if the smoke alarm has just gone off in the house. I always insist that I'm going to try to get a few more minutes out of the nap, so Sam goes up to your room by himself. He sits by your crib and I can hear him chattering to you over the monitor. He tells you stories, "reads" you books in his chirpy little voice, and brings you toys. By the time I go into your room to get you, half of the playroom is up in your crib. Sometimes it's hard to find you among all the toys and animals he's brought to keep you company!

You're growing up before our eyes, Charlie. We can't remember life without you, and at the same time we can't believe eight whole months have already passed since the day we first laid eyes on you. Keep dreaming, bright-eyed boy. You are so dearly loved.

"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him."
Luke 2:40

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One Sweet Afternoon

A few weeks ago Chloe earned her cake decorating badge with her American Heritage Girls troop. This badge had Chloe's name written all over it as soon as we got our handbook in the mail last summer. She love love loves baking.

We went to the Sweet House Bake Shop in Mars and learned how to bake a yummy cake from scratch. Here's Chloe adding flour.

 Next we learned about icing and the proper way to frost a cake.

 Here's a tip I picked up for my fellow novice bakers: when frosting a cake, the pros do what they call a "crumb layer" first, and then pop the frosted cake in the freezer for a short amount of time. The crumb layer of frosting gets hard in the freezer, and then you can put another two layers of frosting over that to get a perfectly smooth frosted cake.

The girls weren't too worried about the crumb layer as they put their newly acquired skills to work. They frosted (and ate, of course) their cupcakes and then set to work together on a cake. Here is the finished product:

Our  sweet AHG tenderhearts. I love these little girls!

"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
Psalm 119:103

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Presidents Day!

Click on the link below for a little view into one of the things we've been working on in our homeschool classroom this year:

"We know what works: Freedom works. We know what's right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state."
President George H.W. Bush

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hero Night

A few weeks ago Chloe and Pop had a date night. Chloe is an American Heritage Girl, a scouting troop she has been involved in since kindergarten. AHG has been one of the coolest things Chloe and I have been able to do together; I get to be one of her leaders, which is great fun for me. Because it is a Christian scouting organization, we have the opportunity to shepherd these girls - ages 5-18 - in such a special and unique way. I have watched the leaders truly pour themselves into loving, teaching, and uplifting these girls.  I hope Chloe remains an American Heritage Girl until she graduates!

AHG sponsored a Hero Night at our church, in which each girl was asked to bring her male hero for an elegant evening of dinner (Chick Fil A, of course) and dancing (the Hokey Pokey, of course).

To our dismay, we realized as soon as we looked at the calendar that Greg was going to be gone that night. He is a children's leader with Bible Study Fellowship and once every three years they have a weekend retreat in Hershey; Hero Night was the same weekend. No problem! Chloe just so happens to have two heroes in her day-to-day life... her dad, and mine. She is such a blessed little girl.

She wore her "heels," (technically summer shoes, but she insisted and I relented), borrowed one of my headbands, and had her nails painted by mom to match her dress. Here she is a few minutes before her date arrived:

They had a fabulous time! I wish I could have been a fly on the wall.

"Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
   and parents are the pride of their children."
Proverbs 17:6 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Like Peas and Carrots

Homeschooling is hard. I never question that it is the right choice for our family, but there are days when I would love to put them all on the bus and drink my coffee in peace. There are days when I dream of all the things I could do with six or seven kid-free hours in my day.

Then I hear them playing together. Today it is Little House in the Big Woods, which the four of us have been reading every afternoon. They've transformed the playroom into a log cabin, and the window seat is their horse and buggy. Last week they built a fort in the boys' room and all fell asleep in it that night, curled up like three little bunnies in a nest. The last time it was my turn to carpool to dance class, I overheard a first-grade conversation in the back seat: the little neighbor asked Chloe who her best friends were, and without missing a beat she said her brothers.

To be sure, they do get on each other's nerves; there are sibling squabbles in our house all the time. But the bond I see forming between the three of them brings me great joy. Because so much of the world is edited out right now, they're able to spend hours and days and weeks on end building relationships with one another. One of my deepest regrets about my later childhood and teen years is the amount of time I spent dissing my sisters and focusing all my relational efforts on my "friends" - most of whom I haven't seen or spoken to in about a decade or more. My prayer is that these four kids will grow to understand that God has chosen for them to be siblings. He designed our family and gave each of them as gifts to one another. The world may be against them, but they will always have three other people who will be for them forever. 

Here they are, bravely preparing for their well checks last week. They had each other's backs that day. I loved it and was proud.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

All You Need Is Love

Happy Valentine's Day!

We had a super fun Valentine's Day party with our friends last week. Lots of joy and merriment! Pictures soon to follow...

"We love because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19

Thursday, February 9, 2012

To Catch a Thief...

Don't be alarmed, but it has come to our attention that there has been a thief in our house - several times over the last few days, no less. This particular thief has a penchant for electronics - namely my digital camera, flip camera, iphone, and ipod. Greg and I recovered fingerprints, and they are quite small. We believe they fit the profile of a smallish five year old. Hmmmm....

A photo was recovered from one of the recent crime scenes (aka, my kitchen).

Please enter the following into evidence :

If you have any information that might lead to the capture of this perpetrator, please contact me immediately. If this thief is not apprehended in the near future, the lives of countless expensive electronic devices will remain in jeopardy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ice Ice Baby

Field trip fun! I took the three oldest kids ice skating for the first time last week. We had a great time!  Two Thursdays a month our homeschool co-op has negotiated a "Homeschool Skate," where we homeschool nerds get to take the rink over and fly around the ice to non-Justin Bieber-like tunes for a ridiculously cheap price. Love it.

I wasn't sure how the kids would do considering that this was our first time skating, but the rink offered little walkers to let them get a feel for the ice, and that was a big help.

Max completely dug it and never stopped smiling. Chloe was a little apprehensive about falling but was very determined. Sam hung out for about a half hour and then sat on the bench and ate pretzels. Whatever works.

Here are a few pics of my little skaters:

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
 2 Timothy 1:7

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Joys of Boys

Mighty Max, ready for battle.

 Every afternoon in our house we have "quiet time." Theoretically, the kids are each in a separate room upstairs, listening to their books on tape while I am downstairs, experiencing desperately needed mental and spiritual rejuvenation in the midst of a quiet house. Theoretically is the operative word there.

It seems that lately, the boys need less and less quiet even as I need more and more. The less energy I have, the more they do.

A few days ago I was sitting in the living room, which happens to be below the boys' bedroom, trying to ignore the thunderous bangs on the ceiling above me as I worked my way through a chapter in Phillipians (joy in the midst of trials, people!). Sam was supposed to be listening quietly to a book. Max was supposed to be in my room down the hall, quietly playing with the legos he had chosen as his quiet time entertainment.


I thank my God every time I remember you, claimed the words on the page I was reading.

BANG! Rattle Rattle BANG. Hysterical laughter.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. Focus... focus! I willed myself.

GET OFF ME! Angry scream. Angry cry. GIANT BANG. 

...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Just ignore them, I said to myself out loud.  Ignore them!


Hammock?? That was it. I was off the couch. My Bible thumped onto the floor. I hit the stairs at Mach 10 and practically flew through the door of their room, I was so furious.

There they both were, sitting on their upturned Pottery Barn chairs, each wearing about six pairs of underwear on their heads and four more over their jeans.

In that moment, the hilarity of the scene was completely lost on me. All I could think about was that I had just neatly folded and put away each of those tiny pairs of underwear, and now they were wearing them on their heads.

Four wide eyes blinked at me beneath crowns of Spiderman underoos.

The rest of the story is uneventful. I lost my temper, and then felt terrible. Tears were shed. Boys were separated. Undies were refolded. Forgiveness was offered, and accepted. The sun set on our day, as it always does.

That night as Greg was reading them a story before bed, I wandered in and puttered about, putting toys away, picking up a stray sock. I saw one of the chairs still upturned in the corner and remembered the earlier catastrophe.

Hey guys, I said, what were you playing on these chairs anyway? Why were they upside down?

We're Mowgli! Sam announced. These are our hammocks in the jungle.

Oh. Okay, I said. But... why were you wearing underwear over your pants like that?

Because we're also superheroes, Max explained impatiently, as if this were something I should have already known.

And wearing the underwear is, ummm... what makes you the superhero? I asked.

Yes, Max nodded, nearly rolling his eyes at my lack of imagination.

Oh, and, boys? What about the underwear on your head?

That's our disguise, Max explained.


Here's Mowgli 1 and Mowgli 2, asleep in their "hammocks."

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ."
Phillipians 1:9-10