Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Where did my positive outlook go?

I'm generally a "try to see the good" kind of person. But four to five to six months after I have a baby I lose it a little. Or a lot depending on time of day, depth of mess. Some days are better than others. I'm not so much depressed as just discouraged and overwhelmed. And tired. Of course much of it's hormones...I get that. But also this is just hard. Four kids is hard. Four kids when the oldest is just six is HARD. Just when I need a a positive outlook the most, it's no where to be found. So here it is, my search for a better attitude.

  • Yes, my kitchen is a disaster area. But a yummy supper is all cooked and the dishes in the dishwasher are clean.
  • I look a mess, but I did get a shower this morning.
  • We're not going to make it to church tonight, but the new kids class doesn't start until next week (and I'm sure I'll have it all together by then, hahahahaha).
  • Christian seems to want to nurse all.the.time...but he doesn't seem to have any of the reflux problems Jack had.

Some how I just know things will look better when bedtime rolls around:)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Doesn't Christian look thrilled to be my model?
This is our heirloom dedication gown (I'm not exactly sure what all of the differences are between dedication ceremonies and infant baptisms). At least it will be an heirloom one day. My grandmother made it when I was expecting Levi. When she made my wedding dress, she saved the leftover material and used that to make the baby gown. It's actually made from the soft cotton material that lined my dress and its lining is made from the ivory satin that was the outside of my dress. Like my wedding dress inside out. We knew that Levi would be a boy and we didn't want anything that looked too girly. You know, for a dress:) The gown is very simple. I requested something more Little House than Victorian. It has a thin line of simple lace on the hem. The blue ribbon on the front is easily changed for a baby girl - although I've only had to swap it out once. There is a precious bonnet that goes along with the gown but it is temporarily misplaced. It also has blue ribbon for ties, but I don't change them since Brenna wore my baby bonnet/wedding hankie for her dedication.
All our babies have worn the gown and we hope all our grandchildren (maybe even great-grandchildren!) will be able to wear it. My plan is to eventually embroider the names or initials of every baby who wears it around the hem.
I'd also like the embroider "made by Grandma Mary" somewhere in it.
Most of the Nazarene churches that I've been to don't make as big a fuss over baby dedications as other churches that have christenings or infant baptisms. I'm sure a few of the people at our church think a gown is bit over the top:) It's a very special tradition though, so we tend to go all out. You can read a little more about the ceremony here. After the church ceremony, we've usually gone out to eat with the whole crowd of family, but this time we decided to have everyone come back to the house. It was so lovely. We were able to invite the pastor and his family, my children's "church grandparents" and our friends Debbie and Steve and their precious kids. Plus we could just relax and visit with everyone instead of only getting to talk to the people at your end of the table. If we're ever blessed enough to do this again we'll definitely skip the restaurant.
Traditions are really important to me. I'm not sure if it's because of growing up as an Army brat and moving so often or if it's because I come form such a large but close-knit clan. Or maybe the combination of the two. But whatever it stems from, I love my family's traditions and I love creating new ones for our family. I'd love to hear about your traditions, too!

Monday, January 21, 2008

And so we begin

When we bought this house four years ago we got a decent deal because the bottom half was unfinished (well, except for the laundry room). But with just one toddler and one on the way, we weren't in any big hurry to finish it. Three bedrooms, a living room and a playroom (shh, it's really a dining room), a kitchen and two baths seemed so huge! But with four kids we're starting to feel the squeeze. First it was a bigger table...ours is from our newlywed days and really only seats four - not five and a highchair. Then we started talking about the master bedroom which is essentially a catch-all for the stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else - Casey's guitar's and speakers, my sewing machine and craft stuff. Before we knew what happened we were thinking about finishing the downstairs!
This is the front bedroom downstairs. We'll have to put in a closet, but nothing too major in here. For now this will be a guest room and my sewing room. I'm not quite ready to move any of the kids downstairs yet and they're all enjoying sharing rooms for now anyway so there's no need to.

This will be the bathroom. I have lots of ideas for in here, but hubby keeps pointing out where things "have to go" and that is so annoying. He just doesn't appreciate my vision. Of course he would say that I don't appreciate he has to build this stuff:)

This room is behind the garage. We're planning on putting up a wall just this side of the white door you see down there to make this a smallish bedroom or office. The rest of the space will still be hubby's workroom accessible through the garage.

This is one end of the den/schoolroom. We've been using it to store outside toys so we'll have to come up with a plan for those. For awhile at least this room will be the playroom - no tv!

This is the other half of the den - the schoolroom half. I'm getting so excited planning all the bookshelves (although hubby reminds me we need walls before bookshelves - buzzkiller).
But, first things first, we have to set a budget. Casey is planning on doing the majority of the labor himself with some help from a friend at church (an a/c guy), my dad (former electrician) and my grandpa (a carpenter). I'm so lucky to have such a handy hubby and so many other smart men who are willing to help!
This house is such a blessing. If we never finished the downstairs, I'd be content - the upstairs is really wonderful. But as our kids grow and as our family keeps growing (I hope!), it sure will be nice.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jack's 2nd Birthday

He's getting so big! That's a balloon in his hand, by the way:) My little buddy!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The big meal plan

In my effort to get things a little more organized around here, I finally got around to making a list of the meals we eat pretty regularly. I tried to plan for a month's worth although what we actually eat in any given week depends on what is on sale and what we have on the calendar for that week. Having this nice neat list means I can just check the sales ad and pull menus from the list - no more "hamburger's on sale.....hmm, how many diifferent ways can we eat hamburger meat." Also, it should make stocking and shopping from the freezer a lot easier. We'll see...

30 Days of Supper
Flank steak, grilled or broiled, vegetable, & twice baked potatoes*
Hamburgers*, grilled or broiled, salad and fries
Potatoes and sausage (frozen potatoes o‘brien w/ sliced keilbasa), veggie tray
Spaghetti w/ meat sauce, meatballs*, or marinara*, salad & garlic bread
Pizza, veggie tray
Tacos (made with browned then frozen hamburger meat), salad & fries
Chicken and red pepper quesadillas, veggie tray, and fries
Country vegetable plate (cabbage, potatoes, squash, blackeyed peas, macaroni and cheese*)
Fajitas or enchiladas*, salad & fries
Gyros pork pockets, vegetable, baked potatoes
Pork lo mein*, egg rolls
Inside out egg rolls, rice
Baked steak, mashed potatoes & gravy
Ravioli (frozen) w/ bottled or frozen spaghetti sauce, salad & garlic bread
Potato soup, salad & garlic bread
Chili, cornbread
Tortellini soup, salad & garlic bread
Wager schnitzel, vegetable, mashed potatoes & gravy
Pork chops w/ peppers and onions, potatoes alfredo, vegetable
Pasta carraba (fettuccini w/ chicken, peas, and mushrooms in alfredo sauce), salad and garlic bread
Beef stew, biscuits
Meatloaf*, vegetable, potato wedges
Salisbury steak*, vegetable, mashed potatoes & gravy
Pork roast, vegetable, sweet potato gnocchi or baked sweet potatoes
Lemon pepper chicken fingers, potato wedges, salad
Chicken marsala, garlic mashed potatoes, salad, garlic bread
Breakfast (sausage, pancakes or Hashbrown casserole*, eggs and grits)
Philly cheese steak wraps, salad or veggie tray, potato wedges
Lasagna*, salad & garlic bread
Chicken and dumplings, biscuits salad

Steam/sautéed: kale, green beans (add soy sauce), broccoli, spinach, squash
Corn on the cob
Roasted or grilled onions, asparagus, cauliflower
Squash casserole*
Veggie tray usually includes baby carrots, celery sticks, grape tomatoes, sugar snap peas and/or cucumber with dip

* make two and freeze one or make a big batch for the freezer
italics - super fast and easy

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Quick Homeschool Idea

One of my ideas for this year is to incorporate some new things into our homeschool, to fill in a few holes. One of the problems I've been having is keeping up with our reading. For one thing, we read in spurts and I wanted reading to become more of a daily habit. Also we would bring books home from the library and wind up reading them all in one morning the day they were due:( And I could never remember what we had read and I had no way of knowing approximately how many books we were reading. So...I've been browsing at lots of wonderful blogs to get ideas and I ran across this great idea at By Sun and Candlelight. And our new reading program was born.
Each month I'll make or buy some small decorations (snowflakes for January, maybe hearts for February) and when we read a book, we'll write the title on it and hang it on the french doors at the end of the school/play room. At the end of the month I can take them down and copy the titles into a word.doc and then throw the decorations away. I also cleared off the sofa table at the other end of the room to display the books I want to read for each week. We'll read those during Snack and Story time (Levi's brilliant idea). One idea he didn't care for at first was a daily reading time. We've always had quiet rest time (mommy's sanity demands it) and it used to be that they were occasionally allowed to watch a few shows during QRT (Levi and Brenna, anyway, Jack still naps in his room and Christian usually naps near me), but you know how fast that went from occasionally to every stinking day. So now the first part of QRT is reading time for Levi and picture-reading time for Brenna, then the second part is a show mommy picks or a real rest.
The first two days were a struggle (I want to watch tv. I don't like those books. I'm done already, why can't I get down. Etc.) But today went perfectly and I am greatly encouraged. At a baby shower once we all went around the circle and gave the new mommy one word "gifts" that she would need to be a good mother. I remember someone said love, someone said patience. I don't remember what I said back then with only one perfect angel to my name (I think he was a couple of weeks old at the time), but I know what I'd say now. Perseverance! No matter how strong willed they are, my will has to be stronger (or fake it til you make it, right?).

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Best Funeral I've Ever Been To...

We lost my Aunt Ef this week. I would say that she was my favorite aunt, but I actually have several favorite aunts (some of whom may read this!). She was very high on my list. She died very suddenly in a car accident, just a year and a half after my Uncle Jack. Yesterday would've been his birthday and I think maybe Jesus called her Home to be his birthday present. Her funeral this afternoon was soo...her. There was lots of laughter through tears (her favorite emotion - and a line from a favorite movie). There were lollipops. There was a big old purdy grapevine wreath she would have loved. There were lots of family and friends telling stories about her. And there were some good stories y'all. This was a woman someone should write a book about. As my hubby said..."she wasn't the life of the party, she WAS the party."
We're all supposed to think of some things that will remind us of Aunt Ef - her daughter read quite a list. Here's mine...
  • a red hat
  • a toe ring
  • sunglasses on the top of someone's head
  • flipflops
  • a buffet

I went on several "sister trips" with her, my granny and two more aunties to the mountains. I don't think I can really describe these trips - let's just say they were full of yard sales, flea markets, 2-hour feedings, apple barns, boiled peanuts (which we snacked on between the two hour feedings), and laughing - the pee-your-pants kind of laughing. And I got quite an education on those trips. Actually, I got to thinking last night about all the things I learned from my Aunt Ef.

Play with your husband, have fun together always. A lady should always have a hankerchief. A glue gun covers a multitude of sins. If someone comes to your house they must eat. If your fixing them something to eat, make it fancy and delicious. If they try to leave, beg them to spend the night like nothing would make you happier. If you succeed in getting them to stay, get up real early to make a big old breakfast for everybody. Anything you really need you can find at a yardsale. If you find something you like, pick it up and carry it with you until you decide if you want it. And go on and buy it, because you'll kick yourself later if you don't. Pretty always helps. Fat may be the truth, but just say fluffy. Don't neglect your girlfriends! Kiss and hug hard - like you mean it. Never be too embarrassed to have fun - and tell the story when you're through.

She was amazing and I was blessed to have her for an aunt. I will miss her so much, always. I'm off to put on my biggest & gawdiest earrings, prop up my freshly painted toenails and drink a margarita in rememberence:) I love you, Aunt Ef.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ideas for the New Year

I don't do resolutions anymore. I'm finally old enough to realize that I have tendency to go overboard and, while I always manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat (thanks to my mom!) sometimes the stress of resolutions and deadlines is just more trouble than it's worth. So, while I've read all the articles on how to set goals (write it down! make it qualifiable! set a deadline!) that's just more than I feel like biting off right now. So instead I have...ideas. Thoughts. Things I'd like to think about and maybe get started on. Yeah, it's gonna be that kind of year:)
Idea number one - I want to lose weight this year. Now I've said that every year and every year I start a diet and fail. I'm not going to do that this year...instead I'm going to preform a little experiment. I'm giving up coke (stop laughing if you know me in real life! I said stop! Really, I mean it this time!). I'm just giving it up for a few weeks to see if I lose any weight. If I lose a couple of pounds without any other changes, I think that will be motivation to give it up for good - plus I'll be over the withdrawal symptoms so it should be easier. I give it up every time I get pregnant so I know it can be done! Once I'm over that hurdle I'll see what other steps I can take.
Idea number 2 - getting a fresh handle on our budget. Making a budget is never a problem for us, it's figuring out the practical day-to-day how to make it work that gives us fits. Do we use the envelope system? The in-house checking account system? The cash-only system? We need something that doesn't fall apart the first time I buy something online and that prevents Casey from stopping in for milk and coming outwith a cartful - you know, cause he's the only one that does that;)
Idea number 3 - homeschool. We've been chugging along in kindergarten this year. Levi's reading well and he's learning every day. The problem is I haven't been very organized about it so far. We have days where we get a lot done and days where we don't do much of anything and I've been fine with that. But I'm feeling not so fine with it lately, mainly because he needs more of a challenge and because I know we're going to need much more structure as we get into "big kid" stuff. So I want to start setting aside some time to prep every week. There are so many wonderful things to do and learn about! I've gotten so much inspiration from Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight. I've even taken her fabulous filing crate system and made it my own.
My last (for now) idea...getting more "religion" in our lives. I know how that sounds and y'all will have to understand that I don't mean we need "religion" in a pharisee-like way as if that's what saves us. What I mean is that over this last year we have really enjoyed Christmas and Easter much more because of our focus on Him - the religious traditions (like the Adornaments and Easter Tree) that teach us and points us to Him have added so much to our holidays. I'd like to start observing more of the traditions of my faith, not in a legalistic way but in a what a privilege kind of way. I'm especially thinking about the Sabbath and about teaching the kids to worship. Also, I want to get more involved at church this year. I've really pulled back over the last few years since Brenna was born - it was absolutely necessary, too! But I really miss it so I'm looking for new ways to be involved that don't mean abandoning my family responsibilities.
So...lots of exciting stuff to think about. Almost too much for my tired mind to process right now. Especially when I have a grocery list to make and extra blankets to find (it's finally good and cold here, y'all!). I guess I'll reread this in the morning so I can remember what I'm supposed to be thinking about:)

What a couple of weeks!

It has really been a whirlwind around here. Just before Christmas, and just after my parents and sister got here, we had Christian's dedication. It was so precious to me. Our pastor has dedicated all four of our kids now and he gives us a rose for each one to symbolize the beauty and pain in each life. His daughter, our favorite babysitter, sang Jesus Loves Me and the second stanza of Because He Lives (how sweet to hold a newborn baby and feel the pride and joy he gives...but greater still, the calm assurance...this child can face uncertain days, because He lives) - it was so beautiful. Christian wore our family gown, sewn by my grandma when Levi was born from the leftover lining of my wedding dress. Thankfully, he slept through the whole thing. Afterwards, we had family and friends back to the house for a buffet lunch. I had plans to do the whole thing myself, a la Meredith, but got quite behind and my mother saved me from an all night cooking marathon with a quick trip to Walmart for cream puffs and many other goodies. She is incredibly generous. We wound up having a really yummy meal. Spiral sliced ham - I bought the Kroger brand on sale a few weeks ago and froze it, then glazed it with honey mustard. It got lots of compliments. A big veggie platter with dip (the sugar snap peas went the fastest). Big crockpots full of shells and cheese, rolls for sandwiches and a relish tray. Then dessert...oh delicious dessert. We had cranberry bars and white chocolate bark with orange, cranberries, and walnuts. And the cream puffs! My sister had brilliantly stashed an extra box so we had a few more while we sat and rehashed the party (there were more than enough on the buffet). It was so nice to sit back and relax with everyone instead of trying to visit in a restaurant.
Then we had Christmas Eve at my grandparents' houses. Jack got sick so we called it a night a little earlier than usual. Christmas morning was just about perfect - I think we hit a nice balance this year with the gifts. The living room still looked like FAO Schwartz exploded though - they have very generous grandparents and great grandparents and aunts and uncles:)
My sister left on the day after Christmas for a mission trip to Mexico. I'm on pins and needles waiting for her to get home so I can hear all about it (and so I'll know she's safe - we haven't been able to talk to her since she left San Jose).
My niece and nephew were here from Ohio. It always amazes me how much they can grow in the six months between visits. My nephew and my parents got to be with us on Sunday when Casey was re-baptized. Y'all that just made my whole holiday! He was baptized as a kid, but he said he just felt like he wanted to recommit himself to God and this was a great way to show it. It had such an impact on Levi and on my nephew, Eric - you should've heard the questions!
I know this post has been super long already, but one more really incredible thing happened this holiday. My best friend since forever, Betty, had a beautiful baby girl - Lily Rose. Isn't that the lovliest name? I'm just so tickled for all of them! With all of our kids (mine mostly boys, her's mostly girls) I sure hope some of them wind up getting married:)
And now...on to the New Year! I have so many plans for our homeschool and I'm considering using this blog as a way to keep myself organized and accountable (I'm all about the big plans...follow through, not so much). So how is your new year going so far?