Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Music to my ears

As I rested my weary body against a stack of pillows on the living room sofa for a few moments late yesterday afternoon:

Caitlyn: Mommy, why are you so pretty?

Friday, February 22, 2008


Guess what my sweet husband indulgently bought for Dylan at the grocery store last night?

Three boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios.

Guess why?

Because Dylan really wanted these:

He's never actually read any of the Spiderwick books before, but now that they've based a major motion picture on the series, he's been exposed to Spiderwick advertising everywhere we turn. (I should also note that he's got his eye on these Happy Meal toys, too, but I'm not too keen on the idea of bringing more cheap plastic toys into our home, especially in light of our recent elimination of so much similar clutter. But what am I saying? He'll probably collect them all. :) )

Anyway, here he is last night at bedtime, starting the first of his three newly acquired Special Edition books...

...and here he is in my bed this morning, already finishing the third! He says he likes them so much that he "might even want to see the movie", but, as he's always quick to point out, "the books are more important than the movie". :) I'm not actually sure that I have an opinion of these yet (this was my first exposure to them, too) but I think we might like to read the series together in the near future. My boy loves to read!

And, while we're talking about Dylan, can I just share some more of his recent creative endeavors? I am constantly amazed at how he is forever coming up with new crafts to try! It's really not just once in a is all day long, and sometimes he exhausts me! For the most part, he's pretty self sufficient, but I feel like I'm always hovering just in the periphery, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings to ensure his safety and to keep the girls from bothering him too much. Here, for example, is a treasure map he made a couple of days ago after seeing the idea in one of his favorite books. I walked into the kitchen to find him pouring hot water into one of my 13x9 glass baking dishes and swishing tea bags around in it. Next he soaked a sheet of card stock in it, and we let it dry on a towel overnight. The next day he had this very cool, "aged" paper (which he crumpled and tore to add to the effect), on which he drew this amazing map. Don't you just love it? The best part is that when Caitlyn saw it, she immediately ran to change into her Ariel costume so that she could be the mermaid. :)

Last Saturday (our snow day!), he decided after re-reading Stone Soup that he wanted to try making one of our own for dinner. I've always loved that story, but it would never have occurred to me to actually make stone soup! Darren and I thought it was so cute, though, to find a stone sitting in a pot of water on the stove that afternoon, and when Dylan came to us with a shopping list in hand, itemizing the ingredients from the book, what choice did we have but to make stone soup? :) Darren took him shopping for the necessary groceries while the girls and I got busy working on the bedrooms, and after going to a great performance of my brother's high school choir students that afternoon, Darren helped Dylan make his soup while I took Caitlyn shopping for new bedding. It was delicious! I was so proud of my big boy.

These next two pictures are yet another example of Dylan's sweetness and creativity. One day last week he made me this flower from card stock, a yellow craft puff, a thin dowel, and some chenille stems. He said that since all of our flowers are dead right now, he wanted to make me a pretty one for the window. God, how I love that boy! (And our kitty's pretty cute, too.) What a special privilege it is to be the Mommy of this amazingly sweet, smart, and creative little boy. I am so blessed!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New Rooms!

Remember how excited I was just a few short months ago to create a special school room for the kids, and one fun bedroom for all of them to share? Well. I'm a little sad to report that our novel arrangement didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped. One of the problems, I think, was that our school room doubled as our playroom, which meant that every time I was in there trying to work on lessons with Dylan, the girls were in there creating multiple (though unintentional) distractions. It was very, very difficult to keep Dylan on task, a factor that I think contributed in large part to my recent feelings of burnout and dissatisfaction with homeschooling. Plus, in thinking about having three little girls in our very near future, I just really wanted Dylan to have his own special, private place.

So, guess what we did over the weekend?

We painted and rearranged and reconfigured both rooms so that Caitlyn and Meghan now have their very own, very girly room, while Dylan now has an absolutely gorgeous, all boy room that includes his own workspace and bookshelves. (They're the same ones from the old school room, just modified a bit to be more Dylan.) His favorite color is red, so when I found a heavy twill curtain panel that perfectly complemented his new bedding, I bought it and cut it from the bottom to make new chair covers and made the remnant into a matching valance. I love the way his room has come together, and I am absolutely smitten by the soft, sweet colors and patterns in the girls' new room. It is perfect for them, and they have been so enjoying spending time in there together playing with their dishes, dolls, and princesses. It was a hard decision to come to, but I'm so glad now that we did. Now I'm wondering...what can we do to the other rooms in our house? :)

Snow Day

Darren and I had been planning for weeks to hold a yard sale this past Saturday, amassing piles of stuff in the center of our garage as we purged every room, closet, cabinet, and drawer in this house. Imagine our dismay when we realized that snow was in the forecast for Friday night and Saturday morning! Snow! Finally, but on the one weekend that we were really hoping for perfect weather! As we readied for bed late Friday night, large, beautiful, fluffy flakes were falling gently and accumulating rather substantially in our dark yard. We were rather undecided at this point as to whether to go ahead with the sale; on the one hand, it was snowing. Who would really want to be out yard saling on a snowy Saturday morning? On the other hand, we had already designated that day because it was one of my rare weekends off from work, and we had already paid for the advertisement in the newspaper. We finally decided at five in the morning to go ahead and set up as planned, as the snow had stopped and much was already melting. Neither of us expected a very good turnout, but felt obligated to carry on, anyway. We were so surprised to find that this was actually one of the most successful sales we've ever held! We couldn't believe it. We kept looking at each other as people kept coming (and buying!) and were so glad we hadn't canceled our plans.

At one point, however, as we stood shivering in the driveway, we suddenly heard the sound of our kids (who had been up to that point snuggled into blankets on the living room floor, watching Saturday morning cartoons), laughing and shouting in the backyard! I ran (or actually, more like waddled at a brisk pace) through the house and out the back door to find all three kids, barefoot, in pajamas, running through the snow! They were so excited, and had been so very patient, that I abandoned Darren for a while and bundled them all up in layers of clothes, mittens, coats, and hats. (And as I did so, I wondered why on earth I've been envying all those other mothers in snowy parts of the country who have to do this every day.)

By the time we finally made it back outside, there really wasn't much snow left to play in but they still had a blast anyway. They threw snowballs, tasted snow, collected buckets of melted runoff from the roof, slid down snowy slides, climbed on snowy forts, and completely soaked themselves through to the skin! They must have been cold, because nobody--not even Meghan!--objected when I said it was time to go inside for warm baths.

I'm just so pleased with how wonderful our Saturday turned out. I had thought that snow and our yard sale would be mutually exclusive; little did I know how exciting each would actually be! I'm so glad that my kids had the opportunity to experience the joy of what little snow we did have, and was incredibly happy with the final profits made from our sale. It was enough, in fact, to indulge the crazy whim I had to make-over two rooms in our house...but that story is another post entirely. :)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Our Valentine's Day

Last night, as I tidied the kitchen following our decidedly unromantic dinner of delivered pizza, I gazed out the window above our sink towards the home of the young, married, childless couple who lives next door and contemplatively asked Darren, "I wonder what our neighbors are doing this evening?"

"Ummm," he stammered.

"I mean really," I broke in. "What did we do on Valentine's Day before we had kids? Do you remember? Because honestly, I don't."

He assured me that we were, at one time, quite romantic on Valentine's Day. This year, I'm sad to say, I failed to get him even a simple card. But I know, because he shows me every day, that he loves me just the same. In fact yesterday, as he spontaneously embraced me as we passed in the hallway, he said the most beautiful thing to this very pregnant, very round, very cherished wife: "You're getting kind of hard to hug lately...but you're still very easy to love." (Awww...isn't he sweet?!)

At any rate, my kids and I most certainly enjoyed our day, even though Daddy wasn't home to celebrate with us. For breakfast I made heart shaped biscuits, served them on Valentine dishes, and each of the children had a little gift bag full of Valentine goodies from Darren and me. (And, yes. Both of the girls are wearing their brother's old pajamas. Because, you know, their mommy is just so in command of the laundry these days. But it's all good, really. Caitlyn declared herself "SU-per Girrrrl!" and was actually quite pleased with her "new" sleepwear.)

And I just had to showcase these two darling decorations created entirely by Dylan. While we were outside playing a couple of days ago, he found this lonely old squash hiding in the sad remains of our garden. With a few scraps of kindling from our firewood bucket, a sharpie, some scissors, and cardstock, he made this "Valentine Jack-O-Lantern". See the kiss on it's cheek? :)

Also: he decided quite on his own a few days ago that wood carving is a fun new technique of creative expression. How he discovered this still remains unknown to me, but with a letter opener from our kitchen "junk drawer" and again, more wood from the firewood bucket, he's been carving to his little heart's delight. First was a clever set of hieroglyphics. Next was this sign, which is a bit easier to read in person: "happy Valentine's Day!" Too sweet!

After breakfast we read Saint Valentine, a lovely book by Robert Sabuda. (We especially loved the beautiful mosaic illustrations.) Later we made some Triple Chocolate Fudge cupcakes, topped with pink and white frosting and a variety of Valentine sprinkles. (And I have to confess that here I cheated just a little--Betty Crocker really does "make life a little sweeter"!)

I invited a friend and her daughter over for treats after lunch, and we had a great time visiting, eating, and playing together! I meant to get a picture of all the kids together at the table, but was too busy partaking of the luscious strawberries and above mentioned cupcakes myself. Oops! I did, however, snap this sweet shot of little Meghan lingering at the table long after the others had left, savoring every last bite of her big, juicy strawberry. That's my girl!

Dinner was, as I mentioned, a no frills affair which was actually, for me, a really nice treat. And, as a special touch, I remembered to light the special heart shaped candle that my kids have been begging me for weeks now to burn. How blessed I felt to sit in it's soft glow at our dining room table, with my happy children chatting animatedly about their day, eating hot pizza ordered by my thoughtful husband because he knew I'd had a long and busy day, feeling within me the stretches and rolls of the daughter I can't wait to meet, side by side with the man I love. In fact, you know what? I think last night may have actually been more romantic than any of our pre-baby Valentine's Days. I'm living the life now that I could only dream about then, and it's more beautiful than any of the best visions I ever had for my future. I never knew I could be this blessed.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lenten Activities

I saw this darling Lamb of God idea last night and fell instantly in love. (Actually, I saw it first at Waltzing Matilda and thought it was just unbelievably cute and clever!) I showed it Darren, gathered some poster board and markers, and then, in the time it took for me to search Google Images for a sweet lamb to use as our guide, Darren just independently sketched this adorable little guy! Dylan traced over the outline with marker and added all the wording and other details, and I lightly penciled in a box for every day until Easter. Meghan had the priviledge of adding the first fluffy cotton ball, and then we hung our poster in our living room where we can enjoy it all day long. Caitlyn added another cotton ball this morning, and Dylan will have his turn tomorrow. Too cute!

We also prepared our Easter basket for Jesus last night, reviewing the guidelines we established last year: for every act of love and/or selflessness that the kids perform, one Easter egg cut from card stock will be added to our basket. We can't wait to see how full we can make it this year!

Our Stations of the Cross are again adorning our hallway walls, and this year we also have a Stations of the Cross book that I bought last summer which we'll use to go along with them. I imagine that Friday evenings will again be devoted to this activity; we enjoyed it a lot last year and look forward to implementing the practice again this Lent.

I thought I would do so much more to prepare for Lent this year, but I think it's probably better that we're keeping it simple and familiar. The activities we've chosen are, I think, well suited for our young family, and by not trying to incorporate too many new traditions I feel much less stressed and more at peace as we embark upon this Lenten journey. It is this quiet that I need to really search my heart, to prepare my soul, to ready myself for Easter. Because I still feel so inadequate. So unworthy. So undeserving of Christ's sacrifice. I see myself for the wretch I am. I pray for the grace to change.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fat Tuesday

Today was supposed to be perfect. Chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast...

...followed by some cute little Mardi Gras mask crafts before lunch.

Well. As you can see, Dylan and Meghan had a great time with theirs. Unfortunately, this is pretty much how Caitlyn spent the remainder of her day:

My kids have all been battling a bad case of the flu, beginning with Meghan, progressing to Dylan, and now finally on to Caitlyn. She, in particular, has been having a very rough go of it (crying even in her sleep) and today I was unable to keep her temperature below 102 degrees despite repeated doses of Tylenol and a bath. She woke up from her nap only to fall asleep again on the living room sofa, and, despite the high volume of Dylan and Meghan's boisterous play, she slept until just a few minutes before Darren's return home from work tonight. Happily, she was feeling a little better, well enough even for a little dinner, and she was able to enjoy a serving of the traditional King Cake I made today. (Here you can also see the mask she made earlier, the blue one on the left, that I was never able to photograph her with.) Despite having slept most of the day, she went to sleep easily again tonight (as did Dylan and Meghan, who never did have naps today), and I can only pray that she is doing much better tomorrow.

I can't believe that Ash Wednesday is already upon us. I struggle to ready my heart for the coming days of Lent; my selfish tendencies are a beast to tame. Perhaps it's be a blessing that my children have all fallen ill right now, when I am most seeking to expand myself? I would, after all, serve them--as I should Him--with my very life. "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Nice things

I was scouring the classified ads in Friday's paper to see whether there were any potentially wonderful yard sales being held this weekend. Knowing full well that all the best stuff disappears fast, this was, perhaps, stubbornly optimistic on my part, given the fact that I had to work all night Friday and most sales in our area begin at seven or eight a.m. on Saturday morning. I wouldn't even be home until around 8:30, but I decided there was no harm in checking, just in case. Imagine my delight when I saw an ad that practically leapt off the page at me: "OVERFLOWING! Exersaucer, maternity clothes, lots of girls clothes size 0-4T, too many items to list! Saturday 9a.m., no early birds please!" Whoa! Was I in luck, or what?! I asked Darren to please have the kids ready when I got home from work, and before leaving the hospital I picked up muffins and cookies for the kids to eat in the van as a special treat. We headed across town to the specified address, but, at first glance, my high hopes began to slowly deflate as I realized that there were already lots of cars parked in the street and the displayed selections seemed slim. As I started looking, however, I couldn't hide my glee at finding several cute dresses for the girls, a practically-new pair of shoes for Caitlyn, a Wiggles puzzle for Dylan, AND, if you can believe this...diapers! Lots and lots of soft cloth diapers! Two large boxes full of assorted sizes, plus a number of vinyl pull on covers.

Now, I haven't really mentioned here (or anywhere, really) that I've been giving considerable thought lately to cloth diapering our next baby. Probably this silence has been out of fear of adding more fuel to the already raging "Melissa is crazy" fire held widely by several family members and sparked first by our thoughts on procreating, bed sharing, baby wearing, extended breastfeeding, homeschooling, and other such non-mainstream practices. But anyway, now I've said it: we're thinking of cloth diapering our next baby! Our reasons are many, but I think the first seed of an idea was planted in my mind by this beautiful post written by an equally beautiful and much admired woman. (Who knew that diapering a baby could be such a lovely experience?!) She really opened my eyes to an entirely new and different perspective, and for that I am grateful. It was a while before I gave much more thought to the idea, but lately I've been noticing more mommies blogging about cloth diapering and I realized that this really could be an option for us! That is, until I started pricing them online. Wow. I was shocked to see how expensive these things can be! (As much as seventeen dollars for one diaper!) With a few simple calculations, I realized that it would actually be much more costly to choose cloth over disposables. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this was just not going to work for us, but accepted the defeat with a twinge of sadness and disappointment. And then these were most unexpectedly made available to us through that wonderful yard sale! Nine dozen diapers in three different sizes and three dozen covers for only thirty dollars! I am overjoyed. I look at them longingly and just can't wait to hold our new baby in my arms!

Oh, and also found at that same sale and certainly worth mentioning here: nine short sleeved Motherhood nursing tops! Perfect for summer and snuggling up with my newest little nursling! Did I already say that I can barely wait?! I'm giddy at the thought of her impending arrival! Fourteen more weeks just seems interminably long. Time speed, please!

And lastly, though this has nothing whatsoever to do with this post, I am absolutely astounded by the exquisiteness of these eager little hyacinths just emerging from the cold earth of our front bed. Aren't they sweet? They are a lovely reminder that spring really isn't too far off, and maybe May 11th really will be here sooner than I think!