Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Lego Christmas

 

I remember my first Lego toy; it was a airplane hosptial and matching ambulance. It had several nurse and doctor figurines plus a stretcher. I remember my sister and I playing with it for hours. Later in my early adulthood years my then boyfriend Caskey and I would buy Lego kits and spend evenings putting them together. Just after we were married we tackled a 2 1/2 foot tall figurine. We had purchased the kit at the Lego Store near Disney California Adventure. We used every available cereal bowl in the house to sort and seperate the Legos. It took us weeks to finish. That same (now, very dusty) Lego man is still standing in our bedroom.

The love affair with Legos has been passed on to our children. I still remember the first assorted Duplo box I bought for Lainy Ann. I bought another box for Connor when he was about 2 years old. Connor graduated to the grown up Legos by the time he was 4 1/2. And just this last summer we made sure he had his very own Lego space in our bedroom - safe from little hands that are eternally attracted to choking hazards. Now Connor and Lainy Ann (mostly Connor) will spend hours building and even more hours pouring over his Lego Magazine. It was no surprise that "Legos" was at the top of his Christmas List.

 


When I was first born my mother started a tradition of getting my sister and I an ornament each year. She always told us that when we grew up and moved out we would have a whole house of Christmas ornaments. And I do. I have also started the same tradition with my own children; so you can imagine how many ornaments we have now. I try to chose an ornament that is representative of an accomplishment during the year. Those years that the accomplishment is less concrete we fall back on the old standby of picture frame ornaments. After our big Lego year it only seemed fitting that this years ornament be a Lego ornament.

There are many different kinds of Lego ornaments, most of them sold by the Lego company. They are some sort of globe with a minifigure inside or other already made Lego sculpture. But I found online instructions for making Lego ornaments. Not only could we have a memento for our tree, we would be able to make ornaments for our friends, and it would be a great family activity. I am very pleased with the end results. We all sat down and worked together on the ornaments, of course Alexander and I worked together. But the rest of the family was able to make their own ornaments. Caskey even made a Googley-ornament with the leftover pieces.

 
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Experiences . . . . for Mommy

I have told Caskey for a long time now about how much I love being a stay-at-home-mom. It is the perfect job for me. I'm a self-starting over-achiever, so we always have a long list of things to do or things we want to do as a family. I am always on the go doing errands, volunteering, gathering supplies for the most recent classroom/team/scout treat. I scour the internet for new ideas for Papa's birthday cake or cupcakes for Halloween. I absolutely love being involved and busy in those ways. On the flip side, we have a lot of flexibility. If someone gets sick, if the baby didn't sleep well, or if its a dreary day outside I can cancel or rearrange our plans. It really is the perfect job for me since I can do exactly what I want to do.

It started slowly. I had to start doing things that weren't my favorite. First was sports. I dislike sports for a variety of reasons. But nonetheless I joined the ranks of soccer-moms everywhere and found myself wrestling a small child, with a camp chair across my back while pregnant for 10 Saturdays in the fall. The kids love it, so we do it and honestly it isn't that bad. But in the spring we will be starting t-ball. Of all the sports to choose from, baseball ranks the lowest. But come April I will be sitting in the grandstands on Sundays watching two t-ball games. *sigh*

But what really takes the cake is camping. I was able to get out of camping in October since I was 38-weeks pregnant. Boy am I glad I did. It rained and it was cold the entire weekend. I just can't imagine. I have difficulty sleeping in a hotel or the hospital. I can't imagine having to sleep outside on a thin mattress for several nights. But I won't have to imagine it. In July I will be going camping with the entire family, yes even with Ellie who will be 8 months old. We will be camping for 3 nights. THREE?!?!?! What on earth can we do for 4 days and 3 nights in the mountains without electricity or indoor plumbing? Oh, wait, I remember what the flyer said, more stuff I don't think I will particularly enjoy; hiking, kayaking, and finding firewood.

It seems that being a mom is really challenging in many ways. It is really broadening my horizons in a way I didn't expect. But honestly I wouldn't dream of missing out on these firsts with my kids. Stay tuned for my 'camping' post in mid-July . . . .

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Forget

‎"If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died--you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift." --Elizabeth Edwards

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Funny

As we were driving to school yesterday:
Alexander: Miss Mary, Miss Mary, Miss Mary, Miss Mary, Miss Mary
Me: What? I'm mommy.
Alexander: Joke (laugh)

Why are all the boys such comedians? Oh wait, they get it from their father who exclaims "Oh Deer" about Ellie's jammies that have reindeer on the feet.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And So It Begins . . . .

I once heard a mother tell a child "Sorry, we can't go to the park today because it is closed." Caskey and I vowed then to always tell the children the truth about everything. Which is why when I was pregnant with Alexander we had to buy the baby book and explain the baby-tunnel. We have continued to tell the children the truth over the years, even when it wasn't nice and it might have been a little hurtful. We softened the blow as much as possible, but we taught our children to be honest above all other things.

But last night I outright lied to my son, Connor. He asked, "Is Santa real?" All I wanted to do was turn back the clock and perserve his innocence. Six-years-old is far too young to stop believing in the magic. Rather than actually lying to him I skirted around the truth. "Do you think mommy has enough money to buy you all that stuff?" His reply, "No, but I think grandma and other grown-ups sneak in at night and put the presents under the tree." *sigh* This guy is too smart for his own good. But I stuck to the party-line; Grandma and Mommy and Daddy can't afford all those gifts, so it must be Santa. I just want him to stay little a tiny-bit longer.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Who-Who

 


Little Miss Eleanor is part-owl. Whenever we put her in the papasan (Thanks, Cristina) to sleep she wiggles and grunts until she gets her head pointing at the celiing. Caskey will 'put her head back on correctly', but just as quickly she wiggles and grunts her way back into this position. He is worried her head is going to fall off.

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Peanut Brittle Birthday Cake

 


Its Papa's 60th Birthday and I know no better way to celebrate than to make a special birthday cake and dinner. Last year I made a super yummy chocolate peppermint cake for his 59th birthday. So I took this year as an opportunity to be adventurous. I asked my mother what his favorite flavor is and she told me Peanut Brittle. So I scoured the internet looking for a yummy Peanut Brittle Cake. I found a few different types with angel food cake or lady fingers. I settled on a mixture of a few recipes and my own ideas.

I started with a triple chocolate cake (a simple box mix and added some chocolate chips).

The frosting was the main event.
2 16 oz containers of ready-made vanilla frosting
1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
Whipped the 2 ingredients in a bowl.

Top with
1 cup of finely crushed peanut brittle

The middle layer was simply the peanut butter frosting. Initially I was going to put crushed peanut brittle in the middle layer too. But in retrospect It would have been too sweet (although the extra crunch would have been a fun surprise). So I kept the crushed peanut brittle only for the topping.

My husband does not like sweets, but he loved this cake. As did the birthday-guy! I think I will mix peanut butter with frosting more often. It was super yummy.
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Chewelry - Product Review

http://pacificpediatricsupply.com/cart/chewable-jewels-rectangle-slide-necklace-p-851.html

I don't normally post about my children's uniqueness, but I am making an exception this time in case this can help someone else. William has always been very oral. He kept his bottle extra long, and his pacifier too. Even when we finally weaned him from the pacifier he just supplemented by putting his fingers in his mouth or toys. Over the year he continued to find ways to sooth himself orally; he chews on his clothes, coins, toothbrush, spoon, anything he can get his, um, mouth on.

At some point it we realized it wasn't doing any good to discourage him because he was putting things in his mouth that were unsafe. Instead it was better to give him something he could chew on. After talking to a few speech therapists and Autism experts we found Chewelry. We purchased him the green rectangular necklace. I knew we made the right decision when we gave it to him and he said "Thank You mommy!" He had the biggest smile on his face when he realized he could chew on it anytime he wanted.

I knew it was working when he would ask me where his necklace was and seek it out. The only problem with the necklace is that the 'string' part is not made to be chewed on. A few times when William did chew on it he chewed right through it. So I contacted the company and asked them if I could buy an extra string. The customer service representative was so nice that he sent out a new string and an extra necklace. We got it in the mail in just four days. I highly recommend their products and the Pediatric Supply company even more.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No Leave Eleanor

 

Its been really amazing to see the new sibling dynamic in our house now that we have gone from four children to five. I thought for sure Alexander and William would be resentful. I expected a tad of jealousy from Lainy Ann. The reality has been far different and I don't think I could have predicted it.

William has adopted Eleanor as his own personal pet. He sings to her and checks up on her. I caught him laying on the floor with her the other day and I asked what he was doing. He said "I'm petting Ellie". Recently he and Lainy Ann got into a screaming match over what Eleanor's favorite song was.

Lainy Ann is loving having a sister too. She helps me pick out bows and outfits. They even share hair bows. She has had a few moments of uncertainty and has said "just because you spend more time with Eleanor doesn't mean you love her more, right" and "But I was your first princess, right?" We have been sure to reassure her of her place in our family as our oldest daughter.

Even Alexander has gotten into the action as an older brother. I expected him to mostly ignore Eleanor or regress, maybe even act out. Last night though my mother was holding Eleanor as she said goodbye to the kids. Alexander ran up to my mom and said, "no Eleanor leave". Apparently even he knows Eleanor's place in our family.

Adventures in Baby Clothing

 



When Lainy Ann was born we had no other friends with children. As a result Lainy Ann was spoiled rotten and got every stitch of clothing and baby gear brand-spanking-new. By the time Connor came around we had a handful of friends, some with boys (none with girls) so Connor started getting a few pieces of used baby clothing here and there. We got lots of comfy pants for that toddler age when he was interested in climbing and learning to run, some jammies too. It was really nice to save a bit of money on clothing. Then when William and Alexander came along the rule was hand-me-down clothing from brothers and the exception was new clothing.

Over the years I have had the priviledge of loaning out clothing as well. I have a few of my favorites that are never lent out, but most things get marked with a 'D' as I sort through them and given lovingly to our friends. I enjoy the process of lending children's clothing and baby gear to our friends. I enjoy sorting through the clothing with fond memories of when each child wore which outfit. I love seeing our friends wear the clothes and love them as much as we did.

But about 18 months ago I got it in my head that we wouldn't be having anymore children and if we did it would certainly be a boy. Just look at the statistics (before Eleanor). We had Lainy Ann, then 5 boys in 5 years. Really, the odds were against us. So I started sadly giving away baby girl clothing. I kept the clothes I couldn't bear to part with and with a heavy heart I gave away the first 2 years of baby girl clothing. I can't even remember who I gave it all to.

So imagine my surprise, and delight when we had another pink little girl in our home. I would be able to go shopping once again and spoil our little princess. But about 5 days after getting home from the hospital I started getting emails and phone calls of people who had boxes of girl clothing that I could have. I was on the receiving end of the clothing for a change. It was wonderful to go through boxes and boxes of tiny clothing to see which ones would fit the appropriate season. One of our most used pieces of clothing so far is a baby pink knit hat. I don't even know the girl or the mother who gave it to us. It is my mother-in-law's, friend's, daughter's friend. Did you follow that? I will likely never meet the previous owner of this hat, but it warms my heart knowing that they have shared their clothing and memories with us.

But the most surprising outfit I received is the one pictured above. It is a size 6 or 9 months so Eleanor doesn't fit it quite yet. It is an outfit that Lainy Ann wore 7 years ago, then it was lent out to 2 other girls; now ages 4 and 2 years old. And now its back for Ellie to wear. It has been washed so often that the tag is completely faded, all that is left is the 'D' I had marked on it 4+ years ago.

A close friend once told to me that she wondered what the story would be if a piece of clothing could talk and tell about its adventures through multiple different kids and families. You see, she regularly shares clothes with her sisters who live all over California and beyond; she has shared clothing with me as well. I agree with her. I would love to hear the story of this purple outfit or the pink hat or any number of other pieces of clothing we have made part of our lives and memories over the years.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Husband Left Me

The day Eleanor turned 18 days old Caskey returned to work. It was wonderful having him home and tag-teaming getting kids ready for school and into bed. It was glorious heading back to bed for a nap at 8:30 am while my husband took the kids to school. But I knew he was itching to get back to work. On Monday he headed into the office and I readied myself for a long day of child-wrangling and after school activities and bedtime. Imagine my surprise when my husband texted me at 1 pm and said, "I can go to San Francisco the rest of the week [for work], right?" I quickly scanned the calendar and while it was chock full of daily activities none of actually required his attendance. As a good wife should I replied, "sure, just tell me what time I should drop you at the airport."

I'm sure I should take it as a compliment that my husband felt confident enough in my parenting skills to leave me alone for a week with our 5 children; the newborn being less than 3-weeks old. We managed okay, if you don't count sleep deprivation and the kids skipping a few nights of baths. However, I was very, very happy when he got home and I celebrated with a nap.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ellie's Lights

 


My darling Ellie has been my anomaly. She stayed in utero longer than all the others. She held her breath when she was born and stayed grey longer than I liked. And she has hair when Lainy Ann did not.

Apparently she still wants to be unique and has decided to hold onto her bilirubin. So here we are on her one-week birthday back in the hospital. Her bilirubin levels are at 19.4, dangerously high for her age. So she gets a tanning bed for the next 2 days and I get a fold out chair.
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Eleanor Marie's Birth Story

On March 3, 2003 Caskey and I spent the day recovering in L&D after the birth of our first child. We loved on her and greeted the endless parade of nurses and visitors. During the lulls we would people watch out the window. Since we had a great view of the parking lot, we could see mother's waddling out of the car for their arrival and other mother's being wheeled out of the hospital with their flowers and babies.

One particular mother stood out to us. She arrived after we were in the recovery room, about 15 hours later she went home. We couldn't believe it. Here I was lounging in bed with my swollen feet, avoiding walking and enjoying my hospital food. An older model red minivan drove up, they opened the side door where we could see tons and tons of car seats. They threw the baby in and zoomed down the street. We were in awe! I couldn't believe this woman was able to leave so quickly after childbirth or that she wanted to with a van-full of kids at home.

Fast-forward seven years. The text books say that the more births you have had that the faster each subsequent birth is. My statistics are 6 births in 7 years. Therefore I expected baby #5 to come quickly and early. Even the OB thought that would be the case, especially with how active I am keeping up with the other 4 kids. But at 39 weeks and 2 days there were no signs of imminent labor, just a lot of pains. I had been contracting for weeks, nothing regular of course, and swelling as well. I was down to just a few outfits and flip flops because my feet had gotten so fat. Couple that with the exhausting process of arranging childcare for 4 children and the fact that the OB kept saying "this baby will be a 9-pounder", well, it was time to be done.

I waddled into L&D just after midnight on Wednesday morning. I packed light, with just enough stuff to keep me entertained for the next 2 days, plus snacks for the hubby. We started the IV and antibiotics and then we waited. I was hoping for a Wednesday afternoon delivery, but my contractions never stayed consistent and it was apparent we were in for the long haul. Grandparents put off coming to the hospital as long as possible and I kept eating my "clear liquids" of juice and jello. By 4 pm that night (14-hours) I was only at 4 cm. Finally, about 6 pm the contractions got harder and regular and I okayed to have an epidural. At 8 pm I had one of the best epidurals ever. I am continually impressed with the anesthesiologists at Glendale Adventists, they have gotten much better over the years. At 9:30 pm the doctor broke my water and I was 8 cm dilated. The doctor and I both took a short nap to get ready for the last push. (pun intended :P )

After 3 short pushes Eleanor Marie was born at 1:50 am on November 11, 2010 (25 hours of labor total). She was just 2 oz shy of 9 lbs. My biggest baby by almost a pound. She decided to give us all a scare and held her breath for a bit and stayed nice and gray. But after a bit of old-fashioned medicine, a pounding on the back and tickling the feet she decided to breathe and turned nice and pink.

I let everyone know right away that I was still planning on going home on Friday. They all gawked at me and said "we will see". They suggested a pediatrician who was more willing to make an exception to the Group B Strep 24-hour rule. I started walking first thing in the morning and eating full meals. I was bound and determined to make it home and help the older kids get ready for school; two full days in the hospital was enough for me. I think near the end the nurses were annoyed with me because every time they came into my room I reminded them of the to-do list so we could go home. Every new nurse I met was told that I was going home on Friday - even if it was at 10 pm at night.

At 8:30 pm the pediatrician finally showed up. I gave her a quick family history and explained to her all the good reasons for me to go home before midnight - aside from the financial ones of course. She agreed and said Eleanor looked great and we got early discharge. I was home by 11 pm on November 12th. Eleanor wasn't even one day old yet.

Caskey and I got into the car and had quite a giggle over that mom we saw through the window seven years ago. Why on earth would she go home after less than 24 hours to a house-full of noisy children?! Well, because of love, of course.



Why I Love Mindy

There are many reasons I love Mindy; her coupon clipping, her craftiness, and her endless energy. Seven years ago I wanted to buy a giant stork and put it in our yard to announce Lainy Ann's arrival to the whole neighborhood. But Caskey was paranoid it would be an announcement to kidnappers where the prettiest baby girl was living. They would break into our home and steal her. (I have since found out that he just said that to keep me from buying the stork.) Then we had 3 boys and 3 more reasons to not put signage in our yard announcing baby's arrival; cost, time, etc. There was always a good reason to not do it.

But today the whole neighborhood knows about our newest bundle of joy, Eleanor Marie. Thanks to Mindy. She snuck over to the house and decorated the front door to welcome home little Ellie. You are the best friend a mom can have.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

$1 of Fun

I know I am only 39 weeks pregnant, but I feel like I am over due. And with the swelling and pain . . . . well, I haven't been too enthused to leave the house. That plan isn't working so well for my 4 energetic kids, so today we went out to breakfast and then to the dollar store to let the kids pick out one of anything they wanted. That's quite a daunting task for kids. We must have spent 30 minutes just browsing and looking and deciding. Of course I ended up with a few things myself (books and writing paper for the kids). Caskey had his own stash; a new light up toy and paper coin wrappers. He told me it would be a great fun activity for the kids. I figured it would go the way of folding laundry . . . . everyone folds 4 items of clothes and then they wander off or start fighting. But since it was only a dollar, we gave it a shot.

Other prized possessions included balls for Alexander (of course), planes for William (of course), a foam poster board for Lainy Ann and she convinced Connor (of course) to buy 'crystals' or glass beads. I still have no idea what the plan was, but they spent quite a bit of time conspiring and discussing it.

The rest of the day has been spent with our newest treasures. All the kids sat with daddy at the table first sorting the money, then counting out stacks of 10. They talked about foreign currency, flat pennies (from theme parks) and game tokens. They spent 2 hours sorting, counting and wrapping. Now I have $50 of money I didn't have before! :-)

During nap time Lainy Ann and Connor did who knows what with their treasures. They were entertained and quiet for several hours and that right there is the gift.

Now that the sun has set the little kids are playing with the light up toy together. The money and time was well spent at the Dollar Store today. Less than $10 has bought me hours of (semi) quiet playtime.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Punishments that Backfire

*sigh* I think these children of mine are too smart for me. I remember posting a few years ago about a punishment for Lainy Ann that backfired. She was so pleased that she was responsible for herself for a full 24-hours. Well, it seems Connor is following in her footsteps.

Last week Connor was acting up in the car, being wild and disrespectful. We were one-block from our destination. So I stopped the car and told him he had to walk the rest of the way. I was hoping that he would realize that riding in the car is a priviledge and he needs to be respectful to me as the driver of the car. Nope. He was thrilled to death. He got out of the car and immediately ran into a friend from school. So they raced half-way down the block. I followed him the whole way in the car watching his big silly grin.

The next time he got in the car he asked, "Can I walk?" *sigh* Backfire . . . . again.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Not Camping

This weekend Daddy has taken Lainy Ann and Connor camping. *thud* Yes, you can pick your jaw up off of the floor. Sure, we embark on adventures in this family. But all adventures include indoor plumbing and beds. This is our first real adventure; in the wild, peeing in porta-potties, campfires, hiking, and sleeping on the ground.

As with other scouting stuff this month I got out of it since I am nearly 38 weeks pregnant. I have a hard time sleeping in my own bed much less on a cot in the woods looking for a toilet every 2 hours. So I stayed home with William and Alexander. Honestly, I think its best this way. Alexander is still very much in need of his schedule and routine and William still gets scared pretty easily.

William was a little disappointed staying home, but I decided to make it fun for them too - and relaxing for me, so I don't go into labor. Friday night the kids snacked for dinner; granola bars, yogurt, a few chicken nuggets. I parked myself on the couch and the kids grazed and watched too much tv. I treated myself to a Netflix movie in bed and called it a very early night. It was great!

Saturday morning the kids had danishes and yogurt for breakfast. Then playdates all day. First friends at our house; while the mom and I chatted and folded laundry, then naps, then an afternoon Halloween party with close friends. It was so wonderful going over there in sweats and just sitting and relaxing. The kids had juice and cake and hot dogs. They were in heaven. We stayed extra late so bedtime was easy. Then William and I had date night. We snuggled into Mommy's bed and watched "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and then he slept with me all night. He was in heaven!!!!

Sunday morning was a breakfast of popcorn and tootsie pops and yogurt. Yup, we have already started digging into the Halloween candy. My only goal for the day is to grab a shower before the campers get home.

We have been so busy this fall that it has been nice to relax and do nothing. No real plans, lots of tv and all of our favorite foods. I wouldn't say we are camping per se, but it is definitely a departure from our normal routine. A very welcome one at that!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Still an Adult

I absolutely love being a mom. I embrace every part of it. I love being my own boss and creating traditions in our family. I love being able to blow off everything in favor of an afternoon of ice cream. I love making quilts and birthday cakes and party food for classes. Its not all cotton candy and rainbows, but I love it nonetheless.

But every once in a while I get a glimpse of my old life, my pre-kid life. And I realize I loved that just as much too. Just recently I attended a School Site Council meeting. I almost didn't go, just because evenings are so tough for me. In the end I did go and I am glad I did. I really enjoyed talking to other parents, not being interrupted, not wiping noses or breaking up fights. I have 2 1/2 hours of adult conversation surrounding budgets, test scores and morality versus discipline.

It seems like such a small thing. In fact, it technically still is a mom thing since I am a parent representative and we were talking about children. But it was so nice to talk about it from a theoretical business perspective instead of venting about the most recent tantrum. I am so thankful for that grown-up time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Solo Disney Trip

Connor-man is so spoiled and I am so thankful that we have the opportunity to spoil him in this way. He is always helping with the trash and other chores, defending his mom and his sister and helping his brothers. He has such a big heart.

Recently family friends were taking the day off of school and work to go to Disneyland. It sounded like a ton of fun and it just so happened our passes were good that day. But at 37 weeks pregnant there was no way I was going to be able to take 4 kids to Disney for the day. Heck, after grocery shopping I have to go home and rest. Instead they offered to take Connor along with them for the day.

I wanted to say yes, but I was really concerned about the havoc it would reap in our household. I would have at least 2 other kids in tears and screaming "not fair". But I decided its only first grade and this doesn't happen often and we let him go. Surprisingly with a combination of not mentioning it and some simple reasoning with the kids it was a non-issue when we dropped him off at friend's house instead of school.

He was gone until 10 pm that night. I couldn't believe it. He came in, leaving his new toy in the car, and fell into my arms. He was utterly exhausted. But the next morning we got to hear about all the cool rides he went on. We don't always get to go on all the big rides since we always have a littler one with us, so I was happy he got that opportunity. It was his first time on Haunted Mansion. He told me it was no big deal, you just ride in cars and see stuff and its all pretend. He also went on Soaring Over California and again downplayed it "its just a swing and a big movie screen". I think he is thinking how cool he is that he has gone on these rides and the rest of the family hasn't.

It was definitely a successful trip. No tantrums from the kids left-behind. Connor happily went to the school the next day and he got to experience a whole new type of Disneyland!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scout Hike

I have been hesitant to write this post mostly because its all 3rd person. Since I am in my 9th month of pregnancy I have gotten out of all the fun scout activities this month. Although the morning of the hike I was grateful, I really am missing being there with my kiddos as they experience all of these fun things for the first time.

Connor is a cub scout this year and its a whole new ball game for us. First off, I am a girl, so I was never in cub scouts. I never had any brothers who were in cub scouts. And girl scouts is entirely different. This has been a real learning experience for us the past few months. I spend hours pouring over the Tiger Den handbook and reading about the belt loops on the website. Then I check our schedule and see how we can fit in these activities and if any of them coincide with the girl scout try-its, so Lainy Ann can get credit too.

But recently I had a day off from scout planning. The pack leader had organized a Pack Hike - they picked the location, learning points and figured out the appropriate award. All I had to do is make sure the kids had a sack lunch and appropriate hiking clothes. That in itself was a bit of a challenge. It doesn't get very cold in California, so we don't invest in heavy duty cold weather wear. If its going to be that cold, we just stay home and change our plans. Well, apparently scouts are tougher than that and will hike even if its raining (okay, to be honest it was more of a drizzle).

Lainy Ann, Connor and Daddy set off on a 2 mile, mostly level hike, to a waterfall. I was thankful for the cool weather so I didn't have to worry about dehydration or sunscreen. I had to spend a bit of time explaining to Lainy Ann why we wouldn't be taking an umbrella. But since she was excited to be doing 'big kid' stuff she was pretty agreeable. I dressed the kids in shorts, long sleeves and raincoats, worried that Daddy would end up carrying the coats the entire time. Daddy had on his emergency/outdoor gear with all the pockets and a first aid kit and even waterproof matches, just in case. I couldn't pick a better or more well-prepared person to take my kids hiking.

Then they left. They were out of cell range and I had to hope for the best. So the rest of the story is all second-hand from Caskey.

It was quite a large group, 50+ people. Each person picked up trash as they walked in the true nature of scouting. At the midpoint of the hike they all stopped and ate lunch at the waterfall. Apparently the older scouts took this opportunity to splash and play in the water, even though it was 58* and drizzling. On the way back down the hill they had to cross a river 2 or 3 times. Connor-man was happy to walk through the river knee deep. brrrrrrr My princess on the other hand hopped from rock to rock as Daddy stood knee deep in the water holding her hand. Apparently older scouts had brought a change of socks which seemed smart, but on second thought what good are dry socks if the shoes are wet . . . .

I am so impressed that my kids stuck with it. Connor apparently did quite a bit of whining near the end, but I don't really blame him. What miserable conditions. Caskey tells me that near the end of the hike he looked back to check on Lainy Ann who walk walking along silently . . . . she was quietly walking with tears streaming down her face. :-( My poor sweet girl. I am so proud of her though. Just that simple act showed me how much she has matured in the last few months.

I wonder how camping will go . . . . .

Sunday, October 10, 2010

More Cleats

I don't know how it works for your AYSO region, but in Region 88 the team mom takes on the responsibility of snacks, banner, collecting money, and the end of the year party. She is the secretary of the team. The coaches job is usually just to coach and lead practice (for U6+) and referee. Its quite a time commitment with the training and extra meetings, so the team mom (and other volunteers) try to pick up the slack for the coach.

I am *not* team mom for U5 this year, but somehow I have been left in charge of snacks, banner, disseminating information about picture day and a few other things. I really don't mind. And honestly I don't want the pressure of being team mom, especially in a few short weeks when I will be in the hospital for a few days having our newest addition.

But imagine my shocks when our U5 coach, whose only responsibility is to show up for the game on time in uniform (neither of which he was doing) sent me an email telling me that my banner design had failed and that *I* was supposed to be responsible for the banner the rest of the season.

EXCUSE ME! Already, each and every week I manage to wrangle my family with 4 kids to each and every game, snacks, chairs, etc all while being VERY pregnant. I just don't see why its my responsibility to also lug the banner each week, especially when he is coming to the game with one child - not a toddler who is looking for an opportunity to engage fat-mommy in chase.

He went on to tell me that my snack choices (that had been pre-approved 5 weeks prior) were bad and that I needed to change them. I should *not* have oranges at any future games.

I could go on and on about the he said and she said. But it doesn't matter. A carefully worded email has explained to our coach that games do indeed need to start on time, the coach should be wearing his uniform at every game, and that I do snacks because I enjoy it. However, I am happy to give the responsibility back to each parent and we can rotate.

Every game since then has been a pleasure. The coach thanks me for bringing oranges to the games and appreciates my efforts as I waddle around the field dispensing snacks and collecting trash.

The good news is that I am that much more appreciative of the great coaches we have this year for U6 and U8 and have told them so numerous times. I see a great end-of-season gift in their future.


Happy 400!

'Tis the season for pumpkin patches and hay rides! As we are blazing through fall once again, thanks to typical southern California weather of 95*, I am reminded that I have never taken my kids to the pumpkin patch. Never. We have been parents for 7 years and have yet to set foot on the hay laden floor of a pumpkin patch.

You see October is the end of the birthday season for our family and also our wedding anniversary. So as a gift to us every year my mother and step-father keep the kids overnight, spoil them rotten and then bring them home the next day sticky and sweaty with face paintings from the pumpkin patch. I am in no way complaining. In fact, it gives us a much needed break and is nice on our pocket book too. The kids have snow cones, Happy Meals, and popcorn. They climb the hay bales, go through the maze and ride ponies. Then they can pick out any pumpkin they want, provided they can carry it by themselves, and bring it home. I can only imagine how much that costs for 4 (soon to be 5) children.

In celebration of my 400th blog post I want to thank my mom and step-dad. Hubby and I truly appreciate a few hours of quiet, a meal alone, and a chance to get a word in edge-wise. But even more than all of that I know that the kids truly cherish having something special to do with their grandparents every year. Lainy Ann and Connor are older and they can remember past years visits to the pumpkin patch. They pass on the stories and the history to the younger ones who can't quite remember last years adventure, but get excited at the idea.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Friendship

I wouldn't say high school was great for me.  I didn't have a lot of friends in high school.  Sure I had a group I hung out with and one or two people who I socialized with outside of school.  But for the most part I kept to myself and read books when friends weren't available.  I was envious of the popular crowd who always had the best spot in the quad and were laughing and joking all the time.

Then in college I had nothing in common with the other students.  Most of them were 3-5 years younger than me and living on campus.  Which means their biggest concerns were which party to go to on Friday night.  I, on the other hand, worked 30ish hours a week, commuted to school and still volunteered on the side.  My goal was to get through college as quick as possible and get a job.  That plan didn't leave much time for frivolity.

Then I got my first teaching job.  I loved teaching.  I was by far the youngest teacher at the school.  And although everyone was very nice, helpful and kind, I still didn't find a close friend.  But the ladies at the school were happy to collaborate with me and chat about teacher stuff.

As a parent I have really come into my own.  I know who I am and what I value in a friendship.  I have met several ladies who I would call sisters in parenthood.  They have really been there for me over the years; we have had birthday parties, baptisms, new babies, church, soccer, all of it.  Its been even more fun as the kids are starting to do extracurricular activities.  A few ladies in particular have been fabulous about taking my child along for soccer practice or a trip to the beach.  Things I would love to do if I weren't in my 8th month of pregnancy and dragging 3 other kids along with me.

If all that weirdness in my early high school and adulthood years was a trade off for the great friends and good times I have now, then it was totally worth it.  We have had so many great summer afternoons where everyone brings a dish, kids play, and the grown ups catch up.  I have had so many wonderful meals with out kids, some with kids, playdates with all the children.  I feel very blessed.

I used to be a Teacher

I know I didn't teach for very long, only 3 years.  But I spent six years learning to be a teacher.  In that time I wrote many term papers and research papers.  I understand syntax and making sure that sentences are understandable to strangers reading my work for the first time.

So why is it that every week Lainy Ann tells me that I don't understand what her homework is.  Even when faced with the evidence that last weeks homework, that I helped her with, got an E, she still tells me I am wrong.

When did I become so dumb?  Oh yeah, when I gave birth to her.

Glitter and Cleats

I'm not sporty.  I have never understood those articles where parents get into fist fights on the sidelines.  I just don't get it.  I am very supportive of my kids playing sports and being active, but I just see it as exercise.  I'm not particularly concerned with my child excelling or being great at a sport.  But recently I was ready to get into a fight at soccer . . . . with the coaches wife.

This season is to be unique for us.  All 3 big kids (poor Alexander) are playing soccer.  I am due to have baby #5 (#7) in the middle of the soccer season and somehow I got roped into being team-mom officially for 2 teams and responsible for the banner and snacks for the third team.  That's a lot of responsibility for a very pregnant lady.

It would be okay though, for a few reasons.  I have several awesome friends and family members willing to help out with carpool and being a back up for my time in the hospital.  Also, I really really enjoy helping out in this capacity.  So many moms have to work and I know they have far less time than I do.  So I feel like its my responsibility to all of them to pick up the slack.

One of the more fun activities was creating a banner for William's team.  We got to be creative with one of our best family friends and spend a few weekends collaborating.  It really was a lot of fun and I can honestly say that all four adults were huge contributors.

So imagine my surprise when the coach told me "my wife put on a few finishing touches".  :o  What?!  I was anxious to see what kind of improvements this lady made to our banner.  After all, we had already spent a good 10 hours creating our masterpiece.  We had taken many things into account; age of the kids, gender, ability to have a souvenir at the end of the season, saving money, etc.  Why would this stranger decide to alter our labor of love?!

The following Saturday I was anxious about seeing these changes.  So I walked over to the banner, camera in hand (for evidence) and found glitter all over the BOYS soccer banner.  BOYS!  Why she felt the need to bedazzle our banner is beyond me.  I have a feeling its going to be a long U5 season . . . . .  After all, there seems to be a reason the coach and his wife get along so well. . . . .

To Be Continued. . . . .

Tantrums

Poor Alexander.  He has never known how old he really is.  He has 3 older siblings to keep up with and he does a darn good job of it.  He is always outside playing with them, running around, and fighting back.  He has been jealous of all the cool things the big kids get to do; scouts, soccer, and school.

Well, he got to start school this fall since he was officially two years old.  It wouldn't be very much, just 3 days a week until noon.  But it would get him out of the house with his peers and give me a chance to grocery shop in peace.

He was very enthusiastic about starting school.  He loved going and loved coming home, so I knew we had picked the right preschool schedule for him. . . . until Tuesday.  Tuesday the big kids went to school without him.  He got left at home during drop offs and I could hear him all the way down the driveway.  He was standing at the door with shoes and his lunchbox in hand screaming and crying, "school, go, box (lunchbox)".  It continued for a few weeks.  Every Tuesday and Thursday he would cry and throw a tantrum because he couldn't go to school.  I tried taking him with me for drop offs, but that just meant wrestling him at the school to get him back into his car seat.

As soon as we could we upped his preschool to 5-days a week.  He loved that!  Each day he had his 'box' and he went to school with the other kids because, you know, he is big too!

Today though we had a change in plans.  He was still going to school, but not until 9:30 (after speech therapy).  We went to preschool to drop off William, but his poor 2 year old little mind didn't understand that we would be back in just an hour.  The entire preschool could hear (and see) me physically restrain him to get him back into the car seat.  Later Miss Mary asked why Alexander had such a tough time coming to school today.  I assured her it was the opposite.  He had a tough time leaving school.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Earning my Macaroni Necklace

I had big plans this week.  More importantly I didn't have too many plans since I have finally gotten caught up on household chores.  I planned on a bunch of nothing while the kids were at school; maybe grabbing a meal with a friend, going to the fabric store, watching some of those season premieres on the DVR.

But Monday night was spent up and down all night with fever induced nightmares.  Then Tuesday morning 1/2 the kids woke up with fevers and headaches and whining.  I wasn't feeling so hot either.  Well, actually I WAS feeling hot and nauseated - thanks to the last trimester of my pregnancy.  But my darling little kids curled right up next to me; tiny little hot water heaters warming my body.

I was patient, mostly, but then we got out the sleeping bags so everyone could have their own space (mommy too!).  I complained to my husband about how they were all sick and clingy and just wanted to be on me, but I wasn't feeling well either and wanted to be left alone.  He reminded me that its days like this that I earn my 'bling'; those lovely macaroni necklaces that I get in May.

I wonder what I will be doing today to earn my macaroni necklace . . . .

Friday, September 24, 2010

Student of the Month

It was like a scene from "Price is Right" this morning at the elementary school.  The principal was announcing this months Students of the Month.  One student is chosen from each classroom who has demonstrated the word of the month.  This month's word is 'responsibility'.  Our own Connor-Man was one of the winners.

After each name was called a child would emerge from the group of students on the grass and run towards the principal to collect their award.  The entire school would applaud and hollering would erupt from the student's class.  Student after student ran toward the microphone area to collect his/her pencil and certificate.  This was quite the honor.  The entire school was enthusiastic.

Then they called "Connor Dickson".  He walked forward solemnly.  No smile, no enthusiasm.  In fact, you would think he was being punished, not rewarded.  Then all the parents rushed forward to take pictures of the group of winners.  Connor was scowling.  It was time for an individual picture, this time he was glaring at me.  I was so confused.  What had happened?!

The poor little man was simply embarrassed.  He doesn't appreciate the lime-light.  Once I got him away from the group and away from the other cameras he smiled and I got a great picture.  He told us that he was proud and he was happy to be an award winner.

He is so much like his daddy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nine Tiny Blankets

This year in an effort to be green and economical I made tiny quilts out of scrap materials in my fabric drawer. It was quite a lot of fun making tiny quilts and remember the scraps from baby quilts I had made for my niece, nephews and my own boys. I even have some scraps mixed in from my mother. These quilts have so many memories in them and I have they bring peace and comfort to their new owners.

Included in the 9 blankets are 3 crotched blankets donated by dear friends. One lady donated 2 blankets in memory of her own son Elijah who is in heaven with my sons. These boys will never be forgotten here on earth. I'm so happy that I am able to find productive way to honor their memory and provide a tad of comfort to other mother, sisters in grief.

The tiny quilts vary in size from 14 x 25 inches all the way to 20 x 29 inches. It really depends on the size of the scraps. The crotched blankets are crib sized. Since there is such a variety of size I am hoping the labor and delivery nurses can choose just the right blanket for just the right family.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Choosing Life over Death

In just two days it will be the 5 year anniversary of when Jacob and Paul died.  Come to think of it, tomorrow is the day we got the terrible news that they had died in utero.  Going back and reading some of the posts from the first few years is really eye-opening.  I don't have that over whelming sadness this year.  Last year was kind of the same, but it was more about procrastination of the big day and not wanting to acknowledge what the day was a reminder of.  Last year I was so emotional that I ended up in the principal's office at my daughter's elementary school crying over a silly scheduling issue.

This year I got the beginning of school blues/anxiety.  But I reminded myself of last year and I refused to over react.  Instead I started making mini-quilts as the gift.  I have been incredibly blessed to have a few friends donate blankets too; in memory of their own children in heaven or in memory of Jacob and Paul.  It has really meant a lot to me.

But then soccer started and the beginning of the year colds and here it is 2 days before we celebrate, with one day left to finalize the gifts.  Most of the quilts are done, but not all.  I have decided not to bake for the nurses this year and instead picked up pre-packaged breakfast food.  I started to feel guilty about it.  Then I realized I wanted to spend my time on living.  I genuinely want to spend my time on scouts and soccer and earning belt loops with my children.  I want to make a difference in my living children's life.  That doesn't discount the love I have for Jacob and Paul and the huge whole in my heart and arms.  But when I calculate how best to spend my time I want to focus on teaching my children new things or having adventures, rather than sewing by myself in sadness.

I think this will be the last year we take the kids out of school to remember the twins birth/death day.  Next year we will celebrate on the weekend instead, or I will go alone to the hospital and cemetery.  We won't forget them completely, my living children won't let me.  Just today Lainy Ann told me she has 5 brothers because we can't leave out Jacob and Paul, they are part of our family too.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Camping: Take 1

Connor-man joined cub scouts this year.  Only one month into scouting and it has already been an adventure.  Anyone that knows Caskey and I knows that are favorite hobbies are ones with a controlled climate; air conditioning and heat, oh and no bugs.  I prefer sewing, reading, sitting on the couch and napping.  Caskey likes video games and programming.  None of those hobbies are weather dependent.  Heck, we even live in a state that isn't weather dependent.  Caskey is always laughing at me for checking the weather because in Southern California it is never more than a few degrees away from between 65* and 95* and rain only happens about 10 days a year.

Scouting was going to be a whole new experience for us; camping, shooting rifles, beach trips, hiking.  All the things I could live without.  But since this part of our lives is about raising the best children we can who have had the most experiences we jumped in with both feet.

The very first camping trip will be over Halloween weekend, since I will be 38 weeks pregnant, I get out of the trip.  Caskey will be taking the two oldest kids for 3 days and 2 nights of adventures.  I plan, with the remaining 3 kids, on joining them for the spring camping trip.  That meant buying camping gear for a family of 7.

Obviously our friends know who we are, because not more than an hour after we got home from the camping store did the phone ring.  My good friend was calling dibs on our camping gear, knowing that camping wouldn't last long in this house.  LOL

That evening we decided to try out the gear, kind of a test run in the front yard.  The whole family piled into the tent.  I got to lay on the cot due to the pregnancy and all the kids had little cots on the ground.  I gave everyone flashlights and we settled in to sleep.  An hour later no one is sleeping, Alexander can't get used to sleeping on the floor instead of his crib, Lainy Ann is crying because she wants her bed, Connor wants what Lainy wants.  The only one left in the tent is William, the one I thought for sure would be scared of the dark.  At 9:30 pm only William and I are sleeping in the tent.  The other kids were all zonked in their beds and it was getting chilly outside.

At 10 pm we gathered up the last child, William, and his things and put him in his bed.  I went to my own bed (with all the pillows to support my very fat body) and we called it a 'good try'.  I foresee another test camping trip in our future, after all, I don't want Caskey to end up in the middle of nowhere with crying kids next month.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kitty Prozac

I want to preface this entire post by saying I love our cat. He is wonderful to our kids and to our friends children. He is patient and polite when 1 year olds pull his fur, he lays still when William uses him as a pillow and he even lets the kids carry him around sometimes. He is the best cat to have with a family.

Lately though he has become high maintenance. It started weeks ago with constipation. I couldn't get a vet appt so I used Vet Google to find out how to solve his problem, short of an enema of course. We ran out to the store to buy canned pumpkin, baby food prunes and wet cat food. After two all day vet stays he was rehydrated and given pain meds. Then he began symptoms of a UTI; peeing all over the house and trying to pee every 10 minutes. Another vet visit later, more meds and he was doing better. When the pain meds ran out we had another bout of UTI-like symptoms.

That's when the doctor started saying my cat is stressed. Really?! What exactly is stressful about his life. Half of our house is off-limits to kids, but not to kitty. His food, water, house, and blanket are all in the off-limits part of the house. What exactly is stressful about being an indoor cat that is fed multiple times a day.

The vet suggested multiple litter boxes, multiple water dishes and a few other homeopathic changes. I skipped the extra litter box, if the 6 people have to share one toilet than the cat only needs one toilet - not two. But I did spend over $100 on a water fountain type drinking fountain that runs all the time, making me think my washing machine has over-flowed, and a phermone diffuser in the main room of the house so the cat feels calm; think Glade plug-in for cats.

At one point I told the vet that I couldn't see how the cat was stressed; we are a one pet household and he has full access of half of the house. She responded, "well, there are a lot of kids there." Yeah, because I am going to chose the cat over my kids.

A week later it started up again. We ended up putting the cat on oral narcotics as needed. The original directions were for 3 times a day at $4 a dose. But we have weaned him down to every other day at this point. I think this whole would be easier if he could just say "it hurts right here".

The diffuser is plugged in, but I haven't noticed a difference in his behavior unless he is on the narcotics. I still haven't seen him drink from the fancy water fountain. I have had to refill it, so I hold out hope he is drinking it, rather than the water evaporating. At this point we have managed to avoid kitty Prozac. He seems to be doing okay now. Maybe he just needed a little attention so he didn't get lost in our big family.

Alexander's Reminder

On Alexander's 2nd birthday he tried to drown. We went to Vegas for the weekend with friends and took a quick dip before dinner. I got in the pool with all 4 kids, 2 water safe, one terrified of the water, and Alexander. I put his swim vest on his. And I still Thank God that I did. The big kids swam around, throwing balls and racing plastic boats. William entertained himself on the stairs in his vest. He isn't confident in the water and stays near the steps, which is fine with me since he isn't completely water safe. But Alexander has a zest for life. Everything he does is big. He took to immediately jumping off the side of the pool and into my waiting arms.

We took turns; William jumped, then Alexander jumped. I should have known that it was an accident waiting to happen when Alexander starting jumping at the same time as William. I put both boys on the stairs within arms reach of me, took a sip of bottled water and answered a question for William about what kind of dessert we would be having for Alexander's birthday.

Then I turned behind me and saw Alexander floating face down prone in the water. He wasn't struggling, he was still. I scooped him up and he immediately started coughing and breathing. He must have climbed up the stairs, walked behind me and jumped in all without me noticing. Alexander was done swimming after that. I wouldn't let him near the pool anymore.

I am still in shock now that there were 4 adults in the pool and a professional lifeguard and no one noticed him. Caskey tries to comfort me and say that he must have just popped up when I noticed him. Also, he wasn't blue so he must not have been in the water very long. But it was enough of a scare that I won't take 2 non-swimmers in the pool anymore.

Another Funny Man

I can't believe that all of my boys have been born with a sense of humor. Alexander's latest joke goes something like this.

I went into his room to find him in his crib completely naked, again. He is going through a stripping phase. I wrestle him into his diaper and then leave the room to get his jammies. When I get back he is laying face down in the crib fake snoring. When I exclaimed that Alexander must have fallen asleep, he jumped up and laughed. Apparently he thought he pulled one over on me.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Not as Planned

I confess I hate the park. I do not enjoy taking the kids to the park at all. There is sand and dirt, bugs, restrooms that are too far away, which means taking all 4 kids to the bathroom together or letting one or two go alone. Its a hassle to pack everything up.

Instead we have a lovely gated yard complete with a swing set in the back. The kids can play outside, use a clean restroom all while I catch up on dishes or laundry. The kids really rule the outside of the house, as long as they don't break anything. They can arrange their play equipment, have a picnic on the grass, go barefoot and dig up my planters. The trade off is that we don't go to the park.

But every once in a while I do take them to the park. Just this last Sunday we had an outing of buying new soccer equipment for the impending AYSO season. I packed a dinner and blanket and snacks. We bought the new balls and cleats and brought along our goal. Even though the park was packed we found a spot on the far side of the park that was mostly shady and away from everyone else.

Caskey and I settled onto the blanket, enjoyed the shade and read our books. I was hoping for an hour or two of reading while the kids played and ate dinner. The weather was perfect.

The kids didn't last 20 minutes. Every two minutes one of them was complaining about not wanting to play, its too hot, they are too thirsty. Oh my! No playing was done and certainly no relaxing. We packed up and headed home.

That is why I don't take the kids to the park.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Airplane Cake

I enjoy making cakes for my family; birthday, Halloween cupcakes, First Communion, etc. The only occasion I don't make a cake for is my own child's baptism. I figure I get a pass since the baby is only about 6 weeks old.

William is fascinated with airplanes so this time I tackled my toughest cake yet, a 3-d sculpted airplane cake. Long ago I opted to never buy cake pans; they were costly, about $20 per pan and I only used them one time. I found that a bit of research online, some photocopies and templates and I could make any cake out of a few regular sized cake pans; rectangular, circle and square.

I found Andrea's website were she made a GeeBee Model Z plane for her sons 4th birthday party. I modified the design a tad because I didn't like the oversized cowling.

I have to say it was the hardest I have ever done, mostly because I redesigned the nose and the cockpit a few times. Then I made the fatal mistake of not buying Wilton food coloring. I decided that the grocery store food coloring would be bright enough. It wasn't. His cake came out a little too mint-green for my taste.

But once I added the tail numbers William didn't even notice the muted green coloring.

I baked three 9x13 rectangular cakes according to Andrea's instructions. But since I redesigned the nose and cockpit I believe two cakes would have been sufficient. I printed out the templates on Andrea's website for the plane. The nose cone is 2 pieces of cake stacked. The shape is a freehanded semi-circle.

[caption id="attachment_738" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Bare bones plane"]Bare bones plane[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_740" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Added a different nose and cockpit than Andrea\'s design"]Added a different nose and cockpit than Andrea's design[/caption]

Andrea's design of the cockpit calls for two pieces of cake fitted together like a puzzle piece, but since I had so much extra cake I simply cut a piece that was oblong and then shaved down near the back end. For the tail I used a graham cracker covered in frosting.

I put some colored frosting into a ziploc bag and snipped off the end to write on the cake and add the white for the cockpit.

[caption id="attachment_741" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="The wing numbers are his initials and B4 (birthday 4)"]The wing numbers are his initials and B4 (birthday 4)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_742" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="The number 4 seemed to be an appropriate tail number"]The number 4 seemed to be an appropriate tail number[/caption]

Monday, July 26, 2010

"There is watermelon in my rocket lab!"

Sunday we had a spontaneous day of friends, watermelon and pneumatic rockets.

My darling husband is an engineer. He spends all his free time tinkering and building and reading about how to build. He recently came across instructions in Make Magazine for paper rockets powered by compressed air. And given William's fascination with all thing aerospace . . . . it seemed like a fun activity to do with him.

This isn't my husbands blog, so I am not going to give you schematics or instructions on how to build the launch unit. I do know he redesigned it slightly to be less expensive. He only used only pvc pipe and a sprinkler component for the launch unit. Then he attached that to an air compressor and portable battery - the battery was the "launch button". He is hoping to redesign it with an actual button.

[caption id="attachment_716" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Launch Unit"]Launch Unit[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_717" align="alignnone" width="270" caption="Launch Unit"]Launch Unit[/caption]

Then the kids set to work making their very own paper rockets. We had several extra pieces of pipe to use as a template for the rocket. The main components of the rockets were ordinary paper, scotch tape, and packing tape. Optional items included a nose cone and tail fins. The key to a paper rocket that flies is covering the entire rocket in packing tape and leaving no weak areas for air to get through. A weak rocket results in confetti. We probably had as many confetti rockets as we did fliers.

[caption id="attachment_718" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Designing the paper rockets"]Designing the paper rockets[/caption]

Children also had the option of decorating their rockets, but after the first few went up (and sometimes broke) we had to beg them just to put their names on the rocket. The adults became a little competitive too. Our 'winner' for the day was another dad. His rocket flew the highest (twice) and across the street. A few other rockets got lost in trees or on the roof.

[caption id="attachment_724" align="alignnone" width="239" caption="3, 2, 1, . . . . Blast Off!"]3, 2, 1, . . . . Blast Off![/caption]

Now that we have spent a few hours experimenting with the rockets launcher I can't wait to play more with rocket design. For kicks I decided to launch a pool noodle. We cut it in half and then taped up one ends with packing tape for a good seal. It didn't go very high because of the weight, but it flew.

[caption id="attachment_720" align="alignnone" width="270" caption="Pool Noodle Rocket"]Pool Noodle Rocket[/caption]

Sunday, July 25, 2010

California Science Center

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, in fact, I currently live about 2 miles from the hospital I was born at. Everywhere I drive are memories of my childhood. But shockingly I had never been to the Coliseum or the California Science Center located at 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90037.

William is fascinated with all things flying right now. In fact, I believe he has appropriated Caskey's subscription to Model Airplanes. Unfortunately the Santa Monica Museum of Flying is currently being renovated so we needed to find an alternate outing for William's 4th birthday.

We settled on the aerospace wing of the California Science Center. After perusing the website it seemed like the perfect place to visit. Not only is the museum free, but it is centrally located and has several full size planes on display. The website also talked about tons of hands-on activities.

The aerospace wing is an entire 4-story building shared. Half of the building focuses on planes and aerodynamics the other half focuses on outer space. The bottom floor has about a dozen hands-on activities including a virtual hang gliding machine and an area to test the aerodynamics of different wings. The kids spent the majority of their time down there trying everything out.

[caption id="attachment_731" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Exploring the hands-on activities"]Exploring the hands-on activities[/caption]

The 3rd floor has a full size police helicopter that still has steering capability. Children were able to take turns inside pushing on levers and pedals. Not only was it tons of fun for kids, but it was a great photo opportunity.

[caption id="attachment_727" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="William flying the helicopter"]William flying the helicopter[/caption]

The wind tunnel was another favorite. Children could wear airplane wings and pretend to fly in the wind tunnel.

[caption id="attachment_729" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Connor really flying"]Connor really flying[/caption]


There were several computer modules set up where people can create their own planes or space craft and go on missions. On the space side there were models of the Hubble Telescope and a moon rover.

Unfortunately there were a lot of displays that were broken or not working properly, about 1/4 of them. In addition the elevator was out of order the day we visited. It didn't seem to bother the kids much, but as a pregnant lady I would have appreciated the elevator and a tad more seating. Our outing had 6 children ages seven through 1 year and it kept everyone busy for about 2 hours. We didn't rush, but we could have probably spent another hour there. But this pregnant lady was getting tired.

We intend to go back very soon. I love that it is free and there are several different sections including tons of hands-on displays. There are some special pay areas like the IMAX movies, the traveling exhibit (which is currently Mummies) and a climbing wall. The gift shop is large and and well-stocked, but I managed to stay out of it this time. There is also a McDonald's inside the museum in case you get hungry.

But it seems there are tons of other non-exhibit things to explore; a rose garden, pathways, a playground and of course the Coliseum. It would easily take a few days to see everything. But at $8/day for parking you don't want to spread it out too much.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Buyer's Remorse

I think Lainy Ann is going to be a politician. She can convince Connor to do ANYTHING. Lately he has been saying "I hope the new baby is a girl because Lainy Ann wants a sister."

A few days ago after nap/rest time Lainy Ann and Connor told me about their plan. They were going to pool their money and save up for something that was in the American Girl Catalog. Warning bells are going off in my head. I know there is lots not right about this 'plan', but walking the fine line of letting them spend their own money and making good decisions and letting Connor be taken advantage of was going to be difficult.

Connor starts to tell me all the great aspects of this 'plan'. The set they want to buy has 2 dolls; a boy and a girl so Connor can have one too. Well, Connor never plays with dolls and Lainy Ann rarely plays with hers. So spending $95 on dolls doesn't sounds like a great plan, especially since Connor will be footing most of the bill.

I remind them that if they both have $50 right now that they can buy two Nintendo DS games right now instead of waiting to buy dolls later. Not only is that a better purchase, one they both will like to use. But its significantly cheaper as well.

Off to the store we went with Lainy Ann's $7 and Connor's $45. The idea was that they could buy 2 games; one they both agreed on and another than Connor chose. The deciding process was a nightmare and emotions ran high. But finally it was time to purchase. I herded 3 of the kids outside with me while Connor and Daddy stayed inside counting money. They came up a little short (tax will get you every time) and Daddy covered the difference. He gave the cashier a $20 bill and kept Connor's bag of change which was mostly pennies and slightly less than $20.

Oh my! If looks could kill! Connor was angry and hurt that Daddy had stolen his money. We went round and round with him about how Daddy had paid the lady and we didn't want to hold up the line by counting out all the pennies. We talked about returning the games so he could have the money, but he wanted both - money and new games.

Connor would not or could not understand. So we went home and counted out the money. It equaled $17 dollars, which meant Connor still owed Daddy $3. He has been doing more chores ever since to earn more money. I hope he has learned a valuable lesson about trusting your daddy at the store and when he says "I will take care of it" just say "thanks dad".

The Arizona Experiment

Poor Lainy Ann. She is surrounded by boys. She has three younger brothers and it seems that all of our friends have boys, if they do have a girl, she is at least 4 years younger than her. To add insult to injury she has absolutely no cousins her age. So her princess movies go unwatched and she is always begging to go with me when I go out with my girlfriends.

Last summer my step-mother suggested Lainy Ann visit them for about a week. This wouldn't be a regular visiting grandma and grandpa trip. My father and step-mother adopted two girls who are now about the same age as Lainy Ann. While I thought she would have a blast I was a little apprehensive. This would be her first long trip away from home, another state even. But we dove in head first.

The reaction from her siblings I did not count on. I first mentioned the trip a week before she was to leave. Connor spent that day yelling at me, crying and threatening all sorts of things. I would tell him its bed time and he would say "only if I can go with Lainy Ann". I have never seen such a fierce love for someone.

I decided not to talk about it anymore in front of Connor. We weren't going to change the plans and it would just upset him. The day before Lainy Ann left she started packing her clothes. Connor also packed his clothes. It didn't matter how many time I told him he was staying at home and we had a week of special outings planned. He would sob and cry and threaten. He would try anything to go along with Lainy Ann, he didn't want to be without her.

Once Lainy Ann got to Arizona things were fine. Connor stopped the tantrums and crying and we were able to settle into a nice routine with Connor being the oldest. He slept in Lainy Ann's room all week and had other special privileges and chores. It was really interesting to see the family fall into a different rhythm without Lainy Ann around. William and Alexander became closer and more brotherly. They took over the boys room and played together tons. Connor took over Lainy Ann's room and read books and played Legos. Connor was super helpful with household responsibilities and as a result he got to have a later bedtime.

Lainy Ann was different too. When we saw her again in Arizona she had matured. She was being responsible for her well-being and doing things when asked the first time.

But less than a week after Lainy Ann came home everything went back to the way it was. Connor and Lainy Ann are inseparable. Lainy Ann was directing play and not doing chores. The only thing that stayed the same was the two little ones; William and Alexander have stayed fast friends and like to play together often . . . . if I can keep Connor and Lainy Ann occupied.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Butterfly Pavilion at Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens

Each month I sit down with the monthly Westways magazine and go through the calendar section. For those of you in the east, Westways is a monthly AAA publication touching on all things travel. In our quest to get the most out of life and teach our kids about everything we sit down with this magazine and figure out what adventure to go on next. That's what the Monster Van is for: Adventure!

This weekend was the Annual Butterfly Pavilion at Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens in Claremont, CA. We enjoyed the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center in Callaway Gardens when we were in Georgia a few years ago, so this seemed like a great idea.

Admission for adults is $8 and children 3 and up is $4 BUT its an extra $2 per person to see the Butterfly Pavilion. Well, that's the only reason we were there. It cost us $38 just for admission, but the parking was free. For that price I decided we needed to make good use of the gardens. But these gardens feature native California foliage. Maybe I am the wrong person to ask, but to me those are weeds.

The trails are nicely maintained and yes it was nice to walk through the gardens, but it certainly wasn't $38-nice. I could have gone for the same walk in my free mountains and seen the same things. All I could do is hope that the butterfly pavillion was worth the money.

It wasn't. The Butterfly Pavilion was a screened in tent the size of my living room erected in a clearing. While the docent was knowledgeable and the butterflies were plentiful we were done hunting for monarchs and caterpillars within 30 minutes. There were about 5 varieties of butterflies in the enclosure and a nice explanation at the beginning about the life cycle of the butterfly. The kids had fun watching the butterflies land on us.

Our entire excursion lasted less than two hours. There just wasn't anything else to do. There were no grassy expanses where the kids could run and do cartwheels. There was no picnicking allowed. For $38 we could have visited the Kidspace Museum, which is 30 miles closer, for the entire day. They also have special events including a butterfly release.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Broken Heart

Connor has adored his sister forever. I have never seen such a close bond between two people. My passive little boy first started hitting friends when they dared to touch sisters toys. Every day he says he wants our next baby to be a girl. When I ask him why he says, "Lainy Ann has been waiting for a long time for a sister and I want her to be happy." It makes my heart swell and hurt with how much he loves her.

This year is a big year for us. Lainy Ann is 7 years old and will be going to Arizona to visit my dad, step-mom, and step-sisters for about 5 days without us. I am very excited for Lainy Ann. She really needs some girl time and hanging out with my step-sisters (who are the same age as Lainy Ann) will be tons of fun for her. To make the treat much more special she gets to fly to Arizona with my step-mom. She is very excited.

I have been excited too. I am looking forward to the different dynamic in our house for a few days. Lainy Ann likes to be in charge and can be bossy, so it will be nice for just the 3 boys to be able to play together without being directed in their play.

But Connor is devastated. When I first mentioned it 2 weeks ago he flipped out and screamed at me about how he was going no matter what. So I stopped talking about it. I didn't want to make him anymore anxious and upset. This morning is 2 days before Lainy Ann leaves and she decided to start packing (my practical baby girl). Connor has spent the last hour in tears, begging and pleading and threatening and yelling. He even started packing his clothes. He is yelling at me for disappointing him and telling him he can't go. He is yelling and saying he IS going.

To put this in perspective, Connor is my calm easy going child. Tantrums are not something we see from him, Lainy Ann and William yes, but not from Connor. I honestly think he is heart broken. He can't bear the thought of being without her for 4 days. He has tried every negotiation he can think of and I don't think its over. He is my thinker, my contemplater. I expect its going to be a long few days until he can be reunited with his sister in Arizona.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grandparents

I obviously can't speak how it has been for other generations, but it seems that this generation of grandmothers all have the same complaint; their daughters/daughter-in-laws don't listen to their advice. I hear them talking at church and parties about how they must be dumb now just because they are old and how offended they are that their advice isn't considered or followed.

As a young mom I understand where these unknown daughters and daughter-in-laws are coming from. Things have changed drastically in the last 30 years. We now recommend keeping children in car seats until they are 7 years old (varies by state), it used to be that 3 year olds could sit in a seat belt in the front seat. Our children are getting upwards of 36 vaccinations by the time they are 5 years old. I received 12 vaccinations. There are new discoveries about allergies daily and how they affect behavior and illness. It is also being uncovered how many chemicals are being put into our food, chemicals that weren't being put into food when I was a young girl.

A good deal of things are the same too; basic reading, writing and discipline is the same. But now there are new products to accomplish these mundane tasks; "My Baby Can Read", warmers for wipes, and diaper genies just to name a few. These products didn't even exist when my mother was in the throes of new motherhood. So asking her opinion on the necessity of such a product would be useless.

The advent of the internet has allowed tons of new mothers to get the latest information on these new products and practices. Message boards have been formed where mothers from all over the world can compare notes on how best to soothe a colicky baby or the best brand of no HFCS whole wheat bread. Amazon.com has countless reviews on new products from other parents. Back when I was a girl new mothers depended on the advice of their own mothers or family members.

On behalf of all the new mom's out there, I am sorry, grandmothers. Although we value your experience and support, sometimes we need to talk to another mother who is in the same situation as us right now. While the basics of parenting are the same, it validates us to know other mother's are struggling to make the same decisions as us. Don't be offended when we don't want your advice. Just allow us to embrace our own version of motherhood.

Ahh, Eee, I, A

Alexander is "reading". I guess now that 1/2 of the kids are independent readers, reading full on chapter books no less, and William is doing beginning phonics this summer Alexander doesn't want to be left behind. I have caught him with a book saying "Ahh, ee, I, A" Its like he is naming the letters - obviously he has no idea what the letters are, but he tries nonetheless.

Earlier today he brought me a magazine, took my pointer finger and tracked the words again saying, "ah, ee, i, a".

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"NO, Me Bite!"

There comes a point in the development of all my children when I have a huge sigh of relief. Some of those moments haven't happened yet for all my kids, but I know they are coming.

Yesterday was a huge relief for me in Alexander's verbal development. We had friends over for dinner and cupcakes and another child tried to take his cupcake. He yelled at the child, "NO, Me bite!". I was so pleased. He used a 3 word sentences to express to the other child that it was his cupcake. There was no prompting from the adults and his first inclination wasn't to act out physically (as usually happens with verbally delayed children).

I don't want to jinx it and say he is caught up, but I now know that he will be totally caught up by the time he is 3 years old. That was my biggest hope for him. A delay in verbal development really hurts a child; socially, academically and even in discipline. It takes them much longer to mature. I know a few boys who had speech delays at 18 months old, but for whatever reason didn't start services until closer to 3 years old. Now at a respective 6 years old and 5 years old they are still delayed in speech and socially, not to mention the behavior problems the parents have with those children. I'm so glad we chose not to wait. Alexander is really going to be okay . . . . at least in this respect.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Found Quarter

Its not often that I don't have all 4 kids with me. Even if I do, its only for a short trip to pick them up from school or a 45 minute sports class. But last Thursday my mother took Connor and William to Vegas, which left me home with only 2 kids for 24 hours. And it was my easiest two kids, the ones who can either bathe, feed and dress themselves and the other who doesn't fight with anyone. It was great.

As a treat we headed out to KFC for dinner, those pregnancy cravings haven't changed in 6 pregnancies, can you believe it? It was so nice having to only wrangle two kids in the store instead of four. After I finished giving my order I realized that Alexander was hiding something in his hand. After a bit of prompting he showed me that he had a big shiny quarter. It looked so big and wonderful in his chubby little hand, like the golden ticket that Charlie got.

We asked around and no other adult claimed it or at least wanted to spoil Alexander's good mood. He was so proud of his new found treasure and promptly put it in his pocket. The only thing he loves more than something in his pocket is a ball. Alexander's big sister spotted a super ball vending machine in the corner. With a tad bit of prompting in went the quarter and out came a bright orange ball. His eyes were so wide and excited. As we walked to the car, me with my yummy food and Alexander with his prized ball I was thankful for what a quick and easy trip it had been. Then Lainy Ann got into the car and surprised me by saying, "I am glad Alexander got a ball. He is littler than me and deserves it."

Kitty

I was very excited to have a cat in our home when we didn't have any kids, but now that we have 4 kids I really take him for granted and yell at him a bit when he wakes me up too early in the morning. But I need to remember that he has a valuable role in our family.

William is very smitten with the cat. We recently went on a vacation whirlwind and each time we have come home he sits with kitty and loves on him and pets him for 30 minutes. Then for the next several days he sits with kitty, follows him around and if William has to leave the room he says, "mommy, can you watch kitty?".

While we were in Florida William was very concerned about Kitty and who was watching him. Then when we got home the kitty-sitter's son was sad to say good-bye.

Kitty is the most patient and sociable kitty I have ever met. When new children come into the home Kitty is content to let them pet him, pull his tail and essentially beat him up. He puts up with it for about 20 minutes before he runs away. He has never hurt one of our kids, if he gets the slightest bit annoyed a simple nip or bat at the head reminds the child to be gentle and polite.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Headstrong

As a mom we worry about our kids all the time, but mostly about their future. I haven't ever worried much about Lainy Ann's future. She will do just fine. She is headstrong, organized and a leader. I am mostly worried about the two of us surviving until adulthood for her. Did I mention we both are headstrong?

Lately I have been worrying about the school years. Next year she will be in 3rd grade and I am worrying about boyfriends and peer pressure and all of it. But she has told me two stories recently that have reminded me that she will make it.

Last week her class went on a field trip. First she told me that she couldn't believe a single person wasn't sitting in a booster. In California the law to ride without a booster is 6 years OR 60 lbs. Therefore, all these 2nd graders were following the law, but some of her peers are little peanuts and certainly not safe in only a seat belt. When they ride in my car they are in a booster or sometimes a car seat.

Then she went on to tell me that her friend was riding with her shoulder strap behind her back. My confident little girl told one of the most popular girls in class that what she was doing was unsafe. She told her that it didn't matter if the seat belt was uncomfortable, its better to be safe than wear the seat belt improperly. Not only did she continue to wear her seat belt correctly but she spoke up about being safe.

Today there was a chorus party after school. Normally I make something healthy for her to share, but I have been feeling like I need to give a little and let her fit in more. So I bought Lofthouse cookies, you know, the ones covered in icing. They are more of a cupcake than a cookie. After school she tells me about the party and about all the junk food there was. She said that there were only 2 fruit choices and the rest were cookies, cupcakes and brownies. She went on to tell me that the teacher had brought only soda and water to drink, no juice. My darling daughter chose water to drink because she knows she isn't allowed to drink soda. Everyone had soda except for her and 2 other kids. She cried while telling me the story. I'm not sure if she was crying because she didn't get soda, because she was sugar-crashing (although I am leaning towards this one) or because she wanted to be like the other kids.

Any way you slice it my daughter has now been without me two times and made the choices that our family supports. I am incredibly proud of her. I may just start considering a cell phone for her after all.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Test Track

Test Track was the favorite ride at Epcot. It is a car on a track that goes through a series of tests that are modeled after the same tests that a new car goes through before coming to market. Critics of the ride say its one long GM commercial and it kind of is, especially the at the end of the ride where you must walk through a showroom of 10 brand new GM cars complete with window stickers and a desk for people with additional questions.

Connor was telling my mother about his favorite ride at Epcot. He got to ride it 3 times. He told my mom, "the ride goes so fast that air goes up your nose".

Cooks in the Kitchen

I'm really enjoying having older kids. This morning while I did dishes my 3 eldest kids made blueberry muffins. I preheated the oven while they read the directions on the back of the box and mixed it all up. Alexander was content to watch while the others cracked eggs, measured milk and mixed it together.

They are so incredibly proud of themselves for making breakfast. After that they cleaned up. Connor took out the trash and William re-lined the trash can. Next up: teach them to do laundry!

More Speech

So, 3/4 of my children now have been diagnosed with speech issues. Yup. I certainly do believe it runs in the family. Some of my husband's extended family has had speech issues as well, so we are definitely a high risk group. My two youngest boys have the simplest speech issues; a simple delay. Intensive therapy for 18 months has allowed my 3 year old to catch up and even surpass some of his peers. I am so incredibly thankful to our speech therapist Tiffany. She has been a great friend and advocate for our family.

When Alexander turned 12 mo old I started watching the signs. If you have one child in a family with speech issues then you are likely to have other children. Also, you are more likely to qualify for services through the Regional Center. At 17 months old on the dot I called Lanterman Regional Center and Alexander was qualified with no spontaneous words. Although he would mimic sounds (something that William did not) he didn't not use any of his words or sounds on his own. Now at 20 months old he will use 2 to 3 words sentences with us. I am so pleased with how well he is talking.

Even my oldest daughter is now in speech. Although her issue was 'created' its no less concerning. My darling daughter's speech story starts when she was 2 years old She LOVED her pacifier and would not give it up. When we finally decided to take it cold turkey the dentist told us she would need an implant to help grow her jaw. She wore it for one year; from 4 to 5 years old. It was a metal implant on the roof of her mouth. She started saying her /s/ sounds (and quite a few others) by putting her tongue between her teeth instead of behind her teeth. The hope was that after a few years without the implant she would correct it herself. While a lisp is cute on a 5 year old, its not so cute on a 7 year old. The decision was made with the school district that once a week she visits the speech therapist to practice and remember that her tongue goes behind her teeth.

This isn't a 'woe is me' post. I fully recognize things could be so much worse. These simple speech issues are easily fixed when discovered early and worked on consistently. I know parents who ignored the problem and their children are still having issues several years later. Some of them convinced themselves that their child would grow out of it. If not diagnosed and fixed early speech will affect social skills and education. I feel badly for those children/parents, not for us.

If you have any concerns about your child's speech check this simple checklist. By 18 months old your child should be able to spontaneously say 8-10 words, by 24 months old your child should be putting together 2 word phrases and speak 50 words. If your child is not doing this between the ages 18 mo and 36 mo old contact your local Regional Center for a free evaluation. If your child is older than 3 years old you will need to contact your local school district. You can also contact a reputable speech therapist to do a simple screening. I highly recommend Tiffany Ringle or Pat Riner-Constantino of Riner-Constantino and Assoc 818-957-2766 at 3245 N Verdugo Rd Ste 301 Glendale, CA .