Monday, June 30, 2008

One of the many reasons why I love my younger, single brother

"Hey, Liss!" he says when I answer the phone. "How about I bring over some Happy Meals for the kids around 11:30?"

"Perfect!" I respond enthusiastically.

"Chicken nuggets, right? And juice?"

"Sounds great! They'll love that!"

"And, let's see, Big Mac no onions and a Dr. Pepper for you, right?"

Does he know me, or what?! So far, so good!

Then, almost as an afterthought, a tentative "Oh, but what about Kristen?"

Silence.

"Ummm, no, wait, she's still too little...right?"

:)

Right.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hippo Song

Good news! Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks! Because guess what I just discovered! My camera? The one I got for my birthday last year? It has a video function! I had no idea. Hello, user manual!, you might be thinking. Yeah, I pretty much disregarded that handy little tool and just jumped right into picture snapping. I was having so much fun messing with all the fussy little settings that I never bothered to check out all the other main functions on that nifty little dial up top! But my sister-in-law recently asked me what kind of camera I used, as she is considering the purchase of a new one, and I wanted to e-mail her a link to the exact model. "Advanced movie function?" I wondered when I found the page. "What the..." Sure enough! Who knew?

So anyway, move over, New Kids! MY kids are way cuter. :)

Here are my girls performing a darling rendition of the Hippo Song they learned last week at Vacation Bible School. Dylan just couldn't be enticed to join them, but don't worry; he's got his own special feature up at his blog. (More exciting posts in the Super-Wilson adventures coming soon! Please, do stay tuned!)

And now, without further ado:

video

Friday, June 27, 2008

Racy lyrics and scantily clad women, but I don't even care.

Because basically, I love, love, love this video!

New Kids on the Block! Summertime!

In case you missed it:



Oh, how I've missed those boys. I feel almost thirteen again! :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Name Game

Okay, so both Jill and Frances have inquired about the naming trend Darren and I have followed thus far with our children. It's funny they asked, really, because this very issue has caused me great anxiety at times in the past! I'm happy to talk here, though, about how we've picked our children's names; I'll start at the beginning.

Like all young girls (or so I assume), I kept a mental list of possible future baby names, adding and adapting over the years until, at the time of my marriage, I had a running list of about half a dozen or so each of boy and girl names that I loved. However, while we were expecting Dylan, it became quickly apparent that Darren and I did not love the same names...not even close. (I have unsuccessfully lobbied for "Skylar Ereniah" with every single pregnancy, but alas, my dear husband just won't hear of it.) :)

Anyway, "Dylan" was a name that I had never really considered until I was actually pregnant with him, but Darren, initially, preferred something a little more traditional. (As I recall, "Daniel" was a name we both sort of liked early on.) But one quiet night, as we were both engrossed in reading in the close quarters of our apartment living room, Darren looked up from his book and said, "How about Dylan Jacob?" That was it. I knew right then that was THE name we would give our baby. I loved that name, and even today, I can think of no better name to more perfectly suit our Dylan.

When we were expecting Caitlyn, we found out about midway through my pregnancy that we'd be having a little girl, so that simplified matters somewhat in choosing a name. There were many I liked. (None, though, from my former list. Funny, that.) I favored names like "Hannah", and "Savannah", both of which Darren vetoed, but then one morning, immediately upon awakening, the name Caitlyn Grace sprang to mind. I loved that name, too, and happily, so did Darren. I did worry much about the sameness of the names, though. I'd repeat them over and over again in my mind, wondering if it made a difference that they ended with like sounding syllables. Dy-lan, Cait-lyn...over and over and over again. I drove myself nuts. But ultimately, I liked the name too much to change my mind. And our Caitlyn Grace is beautiful. The timeless simplicity of her lovely name suits her perfectly, too.

Next, Meghan. By the time she came along, we realized that we had inadvertently set a sort of precedence with "N" ending names. And so the dilemma: should we follow suit with her, too, or break the trend? What if she was our last child and felt forever like the odd one out? What then? (Yes. I do tend to over-think.) I actually tended more towards the "break the trend" philosophy (mostly because I was sure we'd have more children), and I was convinced we were having a boy. But when I realized that I was in labor a month too early, we still hadn't definitively decided on a name. Darren was sure we were having a girl, and he wanted to name her Meghan Elizabeth. I was certain we were having a boy, and was adament about the name "Zachary Michael". In fact, on the way to the hospital, we were joking about our lack of absolutes. We needed a name! So we compromised: "I'll give you Meghan Elizabeth," I conceded, "if you'll give me Zachary Michael." "Deal." It was an easy agreement for both of us, because we were both so sure we were right. Turns out, Darren won. :) And I thank God every day. Meggie is our perfect little girl with a perfectly suited name. I couldn't have picked a better one myself. ;)

And finally, Kristen. By the fourth time around, we pretty much decided that we had to pick another "N" name. Because what if she really was our last? Her name, I think, was really one of the easiest we've ever picked. We knew early on that she would be Kristen Marie, which was a good thing. Had any of our other children been born so soon, they would have probably been nameless for the first day or two! And I love Kristen's name. Sometimes I say the whole thing, out loud, just to hear the beautiful way that it rolls from my lips. Kristen Marie. Like a wish, or a prayer. A perfect name for my perfect little blessing.

Now I'm left to wonder if or when we'll ever have a chance to choose another baby name. I sometimes joke that the only way I'd ever deviate now from an "N" name is if we were to have twins...they could break the trend together, and never have to feel left out! A girl can hope, right? :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nice

Well today wasn't so bad, after all! It was hot, but not miserably so, as I had feared earlier this morning. And you know what? I think that skirts may very well be the solution. Here's a fun one my mom helped me pick out while she was here, and look what else! Toenail polish! And some kicky little sandals! I may yet survive this summer! :)

The children and I actually spent a fair amount of time outside today, as a pleasant cloud cover moved in right around noon. Meghan really wanted to eat at the picnic table, so that's where we had our lunch! Caitlyn had the opportunity to use the bubble blow she won last week during Vacation Bible School, Kristen was asleep inside, and Dylan had fun digging! We all had a really great time. I, of course, could not pass up the chance to photograph a few of the butterflies who have finally discovered our backyard. :)

The graceful Black Swallowtail I had seen through the window earlier in the day was nowhere to be found this afternoon, but Meghan and I delighted in chasing the American Lady and Clouded Sulfur who were fluttering about the garden. Even a tattered little Gray Hairstreak made a brief appearance!





Nobody complained when I said it was time to come inside and cool down with some refreshing mint tea Daddy made last night, and we spent the rest of the afternoon indoors. We read books, and I got to talk to my sister-in-law for a long, long time on the phone. :) I let the kids play with Play-Doh while I played on the computer for a while, and when Darren got home tonight he made the most delicious lemon and basil chicken tossed with angel hair pasta. I think he's just about got the kids to sleep now, so I'm going to go join him for a big bowl of ice cream and help him with the photo layout of his book. Ahhh, these lazy summer days. :)

Miscellany

It is miserably hot here. So hot that the only things I have any desire to do with enthusiasm are showering and napping. Today I'm even breaking my self imposed "no shorts" rule, although I'll probably change into a long, pretty skirt before Darren gets home. There are certain things to which I simply cannot, in good conscience, subject my poor husband. Natural childbirth? Perfect and beautiful. No problem! Pasty white legs in dire need of a good, sculpting workout regimen? Ugh. Not a chance. Not intentionally, anyway. At least not in the middle of the day! ;)

Monday was my birthday. I feel a little silly mentioning it now, and I probably wouldn't even say anything at all, except that I promised my mom I would post a picture of the cake I made with my kids. :) It was yummy (Hershey's chocolate) and the design was inspired by the delightful gift I received from my sister-in-law and brother. So. Thirty one years old! I've been whoopin' it up by listening to all my favorite hits of the 90's. (New Kids On The Block, anyone? Please don't tell me that you're not just as thrilled as I am by the news of their reunion tour and soon to be released album.)

June is fading so fast. I've got some serious planning to do with regards to next year's homeschooling curriculum, but I just have no clue where to even begin. The thought of a carefully structured unschooling approach really excites me, but does such a thing really even exist? I guess what I mean is, I'd love to just select a few key areas of study (astronomy, I'm thinking, and early American history, perhaps) and really just submerge ourselves in those topics. Dylan absorbs so much and just loves learning when he really takes an interest in something, and, while I liked the workbooks we used for Kindergarten, it felt so much like I was just forcing him through the process, robbing him of the pleasure of learning. I hate that. My vision for him is so much greater than simply sitting and doing loads of busy work just to have something to show at the end of the day. I'd love to have one key area of interest around which all other subjects could revolve (vocabulary words selected from astronomy, for instance, and copy work selected from related text.) My head hurts. This is so much for me to think about.



Moving on...Dylan lost his third tooth last Saturday! His top two have been loose for a while now, and while dining with Darren's dad and step-mom, one fell out with his first bite of grilled corn on the cob! His new smile makes me smile every time I see it. :)

Speaking of smiles, Kristen has reached an adorable, very social stage and we are all just so much more in love with her every day! It is so cute to see her respond to us with true delight, and we never tire of prompting her big smiles!


I brought out one of our old play mats a few days ago, and all of my girls were so excited to have a turn! They are so silly; I just have to share these two pictures in particular:


Priceless! But don't worry, Kristen is getting plenty of her own time to explore her "new" toy, too. She really likes it!


My brother and his family will be here for the 4th of July weekend and I can't wait! My brother and sister-in-law are Kristen's godparents, and, since she's already been baptized, she'll be anointed with chrism and presented to the congregation at Mass on July 6th. This is so huge for us. We were still so anxious and scared when we asked Fr. Ray to please baptize her on Easter Sunday (which he did gladly and which we so very much appreciated). I just can't believe that so much time has already passed since then and that Kristen is doing so very well! We are so very blessed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The many faces of Meggie

This afternoon we had a second group meeting with the outreach coordinator and speech and family therapists to devise a speech therapy plan for Meghan. In finalizing our agreement to proceed further with their services, and to better develop goals towards our desired outcomes, we were required to answer several series of questions pertaining to Meghan's current level of expressive development. I had to laugh when we were asked whether, in addition to gestures and inflection, Meghan uses facial expressions to convey needs or emotion. Ummm, yeah...I think she's mastered that particular skill. :)


(*Please note: These photos were NOT staged! I was fortunate enough to have the camera sitting on the dresser beside me a few days ago while nursing Kristen when Meghan came running into the bedroom being silly. I simply snapped away while she was busy being herself!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

SO me.

I really liked Blair's "SO me" post a few days ago, and tucked it away in the back of my mind for future inspiration (where it was promptly forgotten among all the other dusty old thoughts just lying about waiting to be remembered). So last night, Celeste stirred up the memory with her "SO me" post, and I smiled to have such a personal glimpse into the heart and life of such a dear friend. But, trapped smack in the center of a downward spiral of self pity and loathing from some petty little upsets earlier in the day, I felt terribly distraught to think that there was not a single thing in this house that was SO me. Can't our minds be our own worst enemies some times? Because of course this morning, after a good nights sleep and further reflection, I wanted to just slap myself across the face and say, "Are you kidding?! This home is just full of things that are SO me!" And I think Celeste summed things up beautifully when she said, "I know these are just things. And things don't make us happy. But they make me smile. They add warmth and joy and brightness to my home. They are me."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Here are just a few of the many things around my home that are SO me.

First, it must be said that Darren knows me better than anybody else. So basically, anything he gives me is SO me because, well, he's just like that. Here is a beautiful angel that he gave me right after Kristen was born, while I was still in the hospital, and it reads, "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." Isn't she perfect? Also pictured is a lovely stained glass cross that he actually just found for me this morning: pansies and dragonflies. Yep... SO me!


Next, books! And more books! These are definitely SO me. Love my Tomie dePaola's. Love my bedside reading stacks! :)


Also, roosters! Here is just one of the three plates that hang above our dining room bay window, and a small representation of the many more roosters in my kitchen.


I think this next one needs no further explanation. Coffee. Computer. Enough said? :)


Here is an example combining my love of cross stitch and my love for St. Francis, to whom this prayer has been attributed:


And oh, I love this next one. My Willow Tree collection, each a gift from Darren on special occasions spanning the years since Dylan's birth. How I love these simple figurines.


And finally, my children. Yes, they are SO me, but I'm actually referring now to what they're wearing in this picture: matching tie dye! (Thanks again, Auntie Erin!) I love coordinating my kids' outfits. In fact, if Darren would let me, I would order matching outfits for all of us to wear every Christmas. He thinks it's ridiculous. I think it's charming. :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Vacation Bible School

What a fun week! I never imagined that it would be possible for me to get myself and all four kids up, fed, ready, and out the door by 8:30a.m. by myself every morning for a week, but we did it! I'm so proud of us. :) Last year, I just dropped Dylan off at the church each morning and picked him up again at noon, but this year Caitlyn was old enough to participate, too. She was having some trouble with the thought of me leaving her, however, so I actually stayed each day and helped out with her group of four year olds. She was still a little reserved with the group games, but very much enjoyed the craft activities.


And I just have to say how impressed I was with how well Meghan and Kristen behaved! Such little angels. I am not kidding! I figured out that the best arrangement was to have them both in the double stroller, and since the back seat folds down completely flat, Kristen, for the most part, just slept the entire time. I took her out to nurse her when she fussed, and then she'd go right back to sleep! Meghan was so cute, too, enjoying her little snacks just like the big kids, and playing with them on the playground equipment during break time. I'm so happy I was able to share this experience with my kids!



I didn't get to see much of Dylan, aside from the opening and closing sessions in the church each day, but he was such a sweetheart every time we happened to pass each other by chance. Here he is holding open a door for me and the gaggle of girls. :)


Today was their final day, and concluded with a pizza and ice cream party outside on the lawn. Darren didn't have to work today, so he was able to join us, too! Dylan and Caitlyn each had a bag full of all the fun activities and projects they had worked on during the week, and they were so happy to finally show Daddy! We really had such a great week. We're already looking forward to next year's VBS!



Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Three Months.

Bedtime tonight; bright eyed and bushy tailed. :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Changes

I can usually tell when my life is beginning to feel too out of control because I start doing really crazy stuff like rearranging furniture and redesigning my blog. :) I've been doing an awful lot of both lately, and though I am this close to the big reveal of my blog's new look, it's still not quite ready yet. (I have little trouble changing the major elements of my blog; it's the little details that I agonize over forever. This background generator, for instance? I'm totally addicted.) In the meantime, here are the results of my recent furniture frenzy.

First up: No more 55 gallon aquarium in the living room! In it's place is our quality literature children's bookshelf (poetry, fairy tales, Tomie de Paola, Caldecott and other award winning books, religion, and current read aloud series), relocated from it's former residence beneath the window. Also: a new permanent home for our girls' pretty wooden dollhouse! A bit unconventional? Perhaps. But that's okay. We're just sort of like that. :) New canvas storage bins in the bottom three shelves of the entertainment center hold our videos and DVDs which were previously contained within the base of the aquarium stand. The candle holders and floral arrangement were salvaged from a yard sale my mom held while she was home (she still maintains her house here in town) and the large Two Cherubs print was simply moved from our bedroom (my brother bought it for us on a trip he took to Italy the summer I was expecting Dylan).

Next, we had the great honor of receiving this beautiful old roll top desk from Darren's dad a few weeks ago. I was pretty much convinced that we "needed" a second living area to house all of our big, pretty furniture (because clearly, this was just not all fitting), but then I had the great idea to simply bid a fond farewell to the sofa in our bedroom, and everything all sort of fell into place from there. You'll see how in just a minute, but first, the desk:

Isn't she beautiful? :) I had lofty aspirations of claiming her as my own for planning next year's homeschooling curriculum, but—can you believe it?—Darren beat me to it! I tried to concede gracefully, as he does deserve his own space; and with a July deadline looming near, he certainly needs his own work space more than I do, too! Here's how she looks with her lid lifted (and a sneak peek at Darren's book in progress!)

Now, the master bedroom. I thought I loved it before, but I really love it now. Not much has changed on this half of the room...

...it's this half of the room that I just absolutely enjoy:

The aquarium from the living room took the place of the evicted sofa (a much better fit), and the rocking chair moved across the room to a new corner. I love, love, love our new furniture arrangement! But Kristen, I think, appreciates it more than any of us. When Dylan was a newborn, I read that infants are soothed by water sounds, so, dutiful new parents that we were, we went right out and bought him a Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium. He liked it well enough, but it just didn't last through four kids. No matter, though; Miss Kristen's got the real deal. :)


Friday, June 13, 2008

My boy. My joy.

With humble and heartfelt gratitude, I thank you all, so much, for your kind and honest comments. Blessed, indeed, are we.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Drained

What a week.

I don't even know where to begin.

At the beginning, perhaps?

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this story actually begins on the evening of May 29th, so that would probably be a good place to start.

I was at the computer, as is often the case after the kids are in bed, and was searching specifically for more information regarding speech delays in toddlers. We've been concerned for a while now about Meghan's limited vocabulary, but especially so after visiting with our two year old nephew last month. So, at some point during this cyber quest, I came upon a page regarding Autism Spectrum Disorders, and as I scrolled down through the page, one particular paragraph seemed to leap right off the screen at me:

"Some children and older individuals spend a lot of time repeatedly flapping their arms or walking on their toes...Repetitive behavior sometimes takes the form of a persistent, intense preoccupation."

I couldn't believe it! A sickening sensation of dread snaked it's way up through my belly and gripped my heart, rendering me slack jawed and speechless as tears sprang to my eyes. Numbly, I got up from my chair and silently summoned Darren, who was watching TV in a different room.

"Babe," I commanded, ushering him into my vacated seat. "Read this. It's as though somebody has written exactly about Dylan!"

Holy cow.

In a dizzying rush, every quirky little "habit" that Dylan has exhibited since toddlerhood came speeding to the forefront of my mind. The way he hops up and down and "flaps" when he's really excited; his near constant toe walking that had me resorting to threats ("Stop walking on your toes or you'll ruin your feet! Do you want to end up needing surgery to fix your bones?"); his tendency towards meltdowns when he's angry or frustrated; his intense focus on drawing; his need to have a pile of books stacked just so at his bedside every night...

All at once, it was as though many pieces of what I hadn't even realized was a puzzle (this was simply our life) fell neatly into place. I was stunned, to say the least. The more we read, the more convinced Darren and I became that we'd be doing Dylan a great disservice if we didn't at least have him evaluated further. The next day, Darren called our pediatrician's office and arranged an appointment with their behavorial health specialist.

We met with her on Monday, and, after a series of questions and observations, she agreed that Dylan most likely has "a high functioning form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome." She has made a referral to an Autism Diagnostic Center in Albuquerque, and immediately after leaving her office, we headed to the nearest bookstore and bought The Everything Parent's Guide To Children With Asperger's Syndrome and The Asperger's Answer Book. One of our dearest friends came over that night and loaned us her copy of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's. I haven't read it yet but Darren is devouring it. I'm working my way through the first two, fluctuating alternately between varying degrees of optimism and disappointment. We've got a lot to think about.

In other news--yesterday, we had an in-home evaluation (by a private nonprofit organization) of Meghan's speech and cognitive and motor abilities, which was actually a very fun and enlightening experience. Darren and I had met with an outreach coordinator at their offices yesterday morning and were quite impressed with the friendly, family oriented services they provide. And based on their findings, Meghan does display a ">25% delay in the area of expressive speech" (although all other areas scored, including receptive language, problem solving, social, and motor skills, were right on target for her age). Their recommendation is weekly, one hour speech therapy sessions to encourage verbal imitation, which (I think) can also be held in our home. I'm excited. I can't wait to get started!

Also noteworthy: my mom and her husband flew back home to Florida this morning. I cried a thousand tears last night in great gulping, silent sobs, leaving me with a monster headache and red scratchy, swollen eyes. Yep... I'm a wreck! I can't even think about her leaving without that horribly empty feeling of loneliness creeping back in. So, okay! Enough of that! Mom, I miss you terribly already. I missed you even before you were gone.

Friday night will be my first night back to work since Kristen's birth. But I've been away for so long (12 weeks) and spent so much time up there in a non-official capacity while Kristen was in the nursery that I'm afraid it will feel very weird to return as an employee. Not to mention, I've gotten very used to this whole not working thing and I'm sad to go back. And I hate the thought of leaving Kristen, even though it will only be for six hours at night when she and everyone else will be sleeping. And...never mind, enough with my whining.

Work will be fine, Kristen will be fine, we're fine, everything will be fine...

...If I repeat it enough, do you think I'll start to believe it?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Cloth is CUTE!


Soon after posting my most recent update on Kristen, I decided to go ahead and try a few different cloth diapers on her, and much to my surprise, they actually fit! I guess I had underestimated how much she had grown! And while I am still very much in the process of good old fashioned trial and error when it comes to actually using cloth diapers, one thing is certain: baby bottoms wrapped up in the softness of cloth are irresistibly cute! :)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Love is...


Before leaving for work this morning, Darren thoughtfully placed a single red rose from our garden in a glass vase beside the computer. But having gone to bed much later than usual last night, I overslept and didn't discover it until after he was already gone. I wonder how he knew just where to leave it? :)