Bumps and Bruises

Patrick is learning to ride without training wheels on the front lawn, which has a little downward pitch to make it easier.  I know by now that there are going to be tears and bumps and bruises but big proud moments of beaming eyes looking up at me and saying "I did it!" 


Baby Love

Oh, Janey is the sweetest little baby in the world and brightens every day.  I'm sure every mother thinks the same thing, because what is there not to adore about these soft, cuddly, innocent, bright-eyed humans that look at their moms with adoring eyes and always have a smile?   Patrick asked me at the dinner table the other day if I could have 'five-ten-thousand' babies, would I?  I said yes, but not all at once, and only every two or three years to space them apart, and if I could stay the same age and never grow old so I'd have the energy for them.  That's a lot of "ifs" but by golly, I mean it.  He told me he's going to have that many babies.  I wonder if his future wife knows of his big plans. :)

I am trying to not full-on-panic about the fact that her first birthday is 3 months away.  It's almost a punched-in-the-gut feeling when I think about it. I know my baby will always be my baby, but when babies turn one they look different-they get longer and leaner and wear shoes and start to walk, and they don't look like "wrapped up in a blanket" babies anymore, and oh boy, I am not ready for her to be a toddler as much as I love that stage also.  I wish I could double time my life right now...like make every day last twice as long.  I think I might be crazy.  But I'm ok with crazy, especially when it comes to this part of my life-it's my whole life-being a mom, and I love it so much.  I was hooked when Isaac, my first, was born, and I wish it could just go on forever and ever and ever-babies in my home forever, shining their little light to all.


A Spring Walk

It is purple and pink and green all over here, and it smells so good-the lilacs are in full bloom.

I could stand at the end of this driveway for a full hour just sniffing in the smell.

Our neighbors down the street raise chickens.  They are always wandering the yard and crossing the street and I love it.  


A No-Recipe Meal: Meatball Subs

This a favorite of ours and so easy.  It's great for those evenings when schedules get crazy and kids are eating at different times.

You need:
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
meatballs (I buy the frozen bagged kind)
mozzarella cheese
sub buns

Pour the jar of sauce into a saucepan and heat up the meatballs on low till they are heated through.  Place as many meatballs as you like onto the bread (I estimate about 6 small meatballs per person), along with some sauce.  I use anything from a fresh French bread loaf to (desperation) hotdog buns.  Sometimes I toast the buns if they are too soft so they don't get soggy.

Top with mozzarella cheese.  Leaving the sandwiches opened, I put them in a 350 degree oven till the mozzarella cheese is melted and browning just a bit and they are all warm and toasty.


Distracted Parenting

Dr. Neal Halfon, a physician who directs the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities, refers to “parental benign neglect.” One example involved an 18-month-old and his parents:
“‘Their son seemed happy, active and engaged, clearly enjoying time and pizza with his parents. … At the end of dinner, Mom got up to run an errand, handing over care to Dad.’
“Dad … started reading phone messages while the toddler struggled to get his attention by throwing bits of pizza crust. Then the dad re-engaged, facing his child and playing with him. Soon, though, he substituted watching a video on his phone with the toddler until his wife returned.
“… [Dr.] Halfon observed a dimming of the child’s internal light, a lessening of the connection between parent and child.”5
-from a talk by Rosemary M. Wixom called The Words We Speak

I've been thinking so much lately about the benefits of growing up in certain generations.  We received a Newsweek magazine recently that outlined them each generation from the 1900's up-the Baby Boomers, Generation X, etc.  I don't know if I "believe" the little parcels of traits they tuck us all into, but I do notice and worry (because that's what mothers do best) about some of the drawbacks of being a child today.  I know my children are so lucky in so many ways, but I also know that as a mom, I can be so much more distracted and busy if I don't make a deliberate effort to be present, in the moment, with my children.

I am old enough to remember a time as a mother when there were no cell phones, when a computer wasn't a necessary addition to the household.  I know things have changed attention-wise because of all this technology at our fingertips.  If I go back far enough, I remember being raised with a phone that was attached to the wall.   Which meant if my mom needed to talk to someone, the only multi-tasking she could be doing was within 3 feet of the outer wall of our kitchen.  Do you know what that meant?  With five children, there wasn't a lot of multi-tasking while on the phone!  Phone calls were generally quick, and had a purpose.  Even if "catching up" was the purpose, we knew that we had to wait 5 or 10 minutes, quietly, and my mom would be "back".

There are plenty of good things that technology brings us moms-things that make our life easier, but I can't help but want to flip some of what we might think and are told are "benefits" and examine them for what they really are most of the time-distractions, causes of frenetic busy-ness, breaks in concentration, information overload in our brains and most of all, a tendency to not be present for many little minutes that add up quickly in our children's eyes.

Have you ever been talking to someone who you can tell is thinking about the text they just received or sent?  Or having a conversation or meal with someone who is constantly answering their cell phone?  We all know it's rude, but how often do we do this to our children-sometimes they don't have the words to say, "Mom, please look at me!  Mom, please pay attention?  Mom, are you listening?"

When I read the little excerpt from the talk above, the words "dimming of the child's internal light" really struck me hard.  How often does that little light dim?  How long till that light goes out because children give up fighting for our attention?  How often are we distracted and pulled in different, more trivial directions, when we should be focusing our attention on our children?

I was at an indoor soccer game with Patrick this winter...a little league that I usually would pass over, but I knew this little boy needed to get out and run once a week.  The first time I went I sat and watched him play-he was so darn cute, and he said to me before, "Mom, watch me, and cheer me on OK?"  He reminded me so much of Isaac, 13 years ago, at that very same age-a smile on his face, having the time of his life.  I noticed so many little things that made me hunt for a tissue in my pocket-this sweet sweet little boy and all his nuances that only a mother would see.  I've said it a million times before-they will be gone before you know it and there are no do-overs.

When I happened to glance around at the other parents way more than half of them were on their phones.  It made me so sad-these kids KNOW you are here, they want you to watch them, they ARE looking for you, and in that moment they look up, do you want them to see you on some dumb phone? What conversation/game/internet search could be important enough?  Do you all realize how fast time flies?  Don't you want to imprint that sweet little face in your memory forever?

But the next time I took Patrick, Abbey was driving to a lacrosse game in a neighboring town-she texted me to ask me how to get there.  Matthew was home alone and had a question about something and called.  Isaac texted me from school to ask about plans for coming home for the weekend.  If I had walked in on myself during that soccer session, I would have been just as guilty of that inattention as the group of parents last week.

It made me think of how often we are pulled away from our children-sometimes for good reasons, but those reasons wouldn't have even existed 20 years ago.  If I didn't have a cell phone, Abbey would have had to ask me the night before, or called a friend, Matthew would have figured out the answer to his question on his own, or would not have been home alone because he couldn't contact me, and I would have had one weekly phone call (remember when dorms had one phone everyone had to share out in the hall?) and we would have talked about it then-definite plans would have been made and settled without little tidbits of communication back and forth.  I see pre-planning, the development of independence and good decision making...benefits to being un-plugged and un-available.

I can make up (I'm sure we all can) hundreds of excuses for our inattention, but I am trying to decipher, more than ever, if any of them are valid.  I think we as parents must really really flip these excuses over and examine them for what they really are-mostly excuses.

I do know this.  Kids behave better when they get our attention.  Kids pay better attention themselves, when they get attention.  If you want kids to listen to you, listen to them. All kids want to be good.  They don't want to be treated like pests.  They don't want to feel less important than some device in our hand or some keyboard or screen.  Kids don't need to be the center of our world and feel it all revolves around them, but they do need to feel that they are just as important as anything else in our lives.  

The way you show someone they are important is too look them in the eye and pay attention...everyone knows, even the littlest child, when we are truly present.


A Mother's Day In Photos

Write it on your heart that every day 
is the best day of the year.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Mother's Day!


Janey Pants On The Move

Abbey looked at Janey the other day and said, "Mom, she's gotten so much older looking all of a sudden!"  It does seem like that.  She's grown a little more hair, she's been sitting up so well on her own, and starting to get on all fours.  She can definitely get herself around a room.  She has six teeth! 

Sometimes she looks like a little doll to me, with her blonde hair and big blue eyes and dimples.  

She has such a quiet, happy personality, and is just a big bundle of joy for our household.

Babies are such a gift from God and I'm so so thankful for each one of mine.  

Lately, I've had a few questions about baby sleep issues in my email inbox.  Here's what I do:

Never let my babies cry.  I have strong feelings about crying babies, as in: they should have their mommy's comfort to make them stop asap.
Sleep with them at night...they've always woke up, some more than others, to nurse through the first year.
During the day, for naps, they slept in a crib.
Try to be as consistent as possible about when/where/how I get them to sleep-the more consistent the easier my life is, and theirs too, and the better they will sleep.
Use white noise (a fan) to block out all the household sounds.
Rock and/or nurse them to sleep. (For some nursing to sleep would work, others I have to make sure they get the burps out or they'd wake up right after I'd put them down. Each of my babies had their own little schedule and sleep needs....it's part of their personalities...)
Remember that babies wake more when they have some new achievement on the horizon.  It's exciting and their brains are excited for them.  
Stop caring if I'm doing this "right" or "wrong", stopped trying to find the magic answer in a book written by some male pediatrician who probably never woke up once with a baby anyways, or had their brain rattle with hormones when their baby cried, or being envious of parents who bragged about their babies sleeping 15 hours through the night and taking two 3 hour naps because I don't believe that happens anyways or even should happen anyways.  

Sometimes it is hard.
Babies are not always easy.
Often I am tired.
I am used to being tired.
That's what under-eye cover up and chocolate is for.
Life is short.
Babies grow fast.
One day they will be teenagers who sleep more hours than they are awake.


Weekend Work

This last weekend was beautiful and I was determined to get our yard in order.  Which is no easy feat, but the sooner this huge job is completed the sooner we can enjoy my most favorite season of the year...summer!

 Remember Isaac's welcome home from college gift?  He'll be happy to know that he doesn't have to touch this chore-his least favorite thing to do ever.  Probably besides writing papers and studying for exams which he was doing instead.

I made a big old list, and recruited helpers. (Recruited is a nice word but it was more like "we are doing yard work all weekend and everyone has to help" ...groaning, whining, complaining, sounds emitting like there are legs getting chopped off with anesthetic...and that's just Jeff :).

Here's my list:

If Janey wasn't sleeping (monitor blasting in window), one of the jobs up for bid was to push her up and down the driveway in the stroller.  It was either that or spread mulch.
You'd be stupid not to pick sweet Janey-watching for heaven's sake.    

This year I cut the beds deeper and planted hot pink impatiens all along the front of the house.  I threw those babies in faster than you can say "these will all get trampled with some sort of ball why am I setting myself up for failure."  I am diligent about watering this spring/summer all the work should be worth it...till the poor things get trampled with a ball.

  My favorite tree...which is so old, and loses more and more branches every year, but I can't bear to part with her presence.  If only she can hang on just a little longer.  

She's been so kind to us over the years...her kindness could have possible contributed to her branch-sparsity. 

So last fall I took down the ivy climbing up the doorway.  I don't know why I did that, it just felt good to rip it down and clean things up.  But then I saw this photo from last year and the ivy looks so pretty. 

So ivy or no ivy this year?  
What do you think?

 No ivy...


I'm thinking ivy...and ivy is thinking ivy, because I've already noticed it creeping up the brick wall.  


Ordinary Days

A little further in my kitchen spring cleaning. It's slow going.  

Abbey was asked to prom.  I offered my old formal dresses to her at no charge, they fit and everything!, and she still turned them down.  Picky, picky, picky.

Here I am in the white one, gloves and all. (That probably had something to do with Abbey not wanting to wear the white dress-I lost the gloves and really, they make the outfit don't you think?) Have I ever told you my prom stories?  Oh, they're good.  Really good.  In the horrifying way that makes me laugh now, but not so much back then.

While we are talking dresses...I am trying to control myself over baby girl summer dresses but oh boy, it isn't easy.  I LOVE little girl dresses.  Janey and I share a closet presently so that helps a little.  And really, how many dresses does a baby need?  But it is SO nice to just buy her clothes with no feedback from her whatsoever.  We moms of daughters all know that doesn't last very long!  I say, "Janey look at this one with the sail boats, isn't it just so sweet?  Don't you think you need it for church?"  And she smiles at me, and I take that as a yes.  

How's that for a gray sky?

My mom and dad came up and visited for a day.  My Dad cut down a tree for me, trimmed another,  and my mom talked with Janey and I for hours.  It was great.   

A few funny things I heard this week that I don't want to forget:
Patrick came to me and in a very concerned voice said, "Mom, my mouth wants food but my tummy hurts."

He also came to me after soccer practice and said in a very disappointed-sounding voice, "Guess what Mom?  My soccer coach has a, has a, has a... mustache."   Ever since he's been really little, Patrick has not been a fan of mustaches and beards in general, I have no idea why.  But the completely dejected look on his face...like he waited all winter for this soccer season and now THIS has to happen-the whole season down the drain because of a dumb ol' mustache-cracked me up.

And Andrew asked me in the car out of the blue, "Mom, did you have to go to nursing school?"  I knew right away he meant to learn how to "nurse" the babies-so cute what goes on in their little heads.


Mud Cups

Oh, I hate making these things, but my kids love them.  They are allowed to bring a snack for their classmates on their birthdays and when I ask them what they want me to make, in my head (and sometimes out loud) I say, "Please don't say mud cups, please don't say mud cups."  But they usually do.  I made them once for Isaac when he was little-I must have been in some overachieving sort of mood-and I've been stuck making them ever since.  They ARE cute though.  And the kids DO love them.  And they require no baking and are relatively easy to whip up-just a little messy.

For about 30 mud cups you need:
6 large packages of instant chocolate pudding (the 5.9 oz size)
whole milk
Oreo cookies
gummy worms
clear plastic cups

Make all the chocolate pudding according to the directions and carefully pour desired amount into cups.  Crush Oreo cookies and sprinkle on top.
Add a few gummy worms.