A few things...

1. My dear friend Amy blogged about our joint Christmas gathering here. [Pictures included; thank you, Mike!]

2. If you haven't yet seen pictures of Kimmie's sweet new baby girl, please click here to go check out how utterly adorable she is. What a wonderful gift from God; this little beauty.

3. Our girls' name is finally chosen! Mark and I are now decided. I say that with a bit of trepidation, as we were "decided" before on a different girls' name, but... I think this one is here to stay. And it better be, because if you'll notice in my sidebar? "Only 22 days to go..."

So now we're set: boy or girl, we're ready for you. And nope, I'm not telling our names. (I do, however, plan to post a contest here within the next couple of weeks, where you'll be able to guess baby's gender, date, weight, etc. So stay tuned.)

4. Next weekend Mark and I are going away, overnight-- for a little rest and relaxation before this baby comes. I cannot even wait. :)

I think that's it. I've got one child hollering from his bed downstairs, another having a fit on the couch next to me, another on the floor, fussing, and another- reading quietly in our bed. Time to get started on this day. Nevermind that it's 8:55, four out of the five of us are still in our pajamas, and I haven't given a thought as to what's for breakfast. ~sigh~

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Lentil & Black Bean Soup

Today was cold, so it seemed like a good day for soup. I tossed a bunch of ingredients into the crock pot and voila: SOUP! It took me about 15 minutes to throw it all together, so it was easy. And we liked it so much I thought I'd share the recipe. We'll definitely be having it again.
Lentil & Black Bean Soup

2 cups of dry lentils, washed
1 cup of dry black beans, washed
1-2 carrots, chopped
1/4 of an onion, chopped
5-6 slices of bacon, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp salt
5 chicken bouillon cubes
water: fill to the top of crock pot

Cook on high for 4-5 hours. I then turned it to low for the last 1-2 hours.

*I also think celery and diced tomatoes would have been a good addition, but we were out of those particular ingredients.

By the way, I LOVE soups. If you have a favorite soup recipe, I'd love it if you'd share it!

Pencil & Notebook Cases

Here's my latest sewing project:

Pencil & Notebook Cases for the kids to bring along to church.

I made up the pattern- purposefully sizing them for the Composition notebooks (because they're cheap and always available!), and this was Attempt #1:

*It was too big, so I adjusted the pattern to make it a bit smaller.
*I also made adjustments so that there would be more room for the pencils to peek out.

*This closure method is clearly not going to work: Isaias can't tie, and I don't want to be doing it for him every week. Next up? VELCRO!

Attempt #2: (Isaac's)

Attempt #3: (Ella's)

Isaias' is the only one I'm not happy with, but I'm still debating if I'm okay just leaving it as is or adjusting it, size-wise and closure-wise. (Who am I kidding? I'm a perfectionist. I'm sure I'll be doing it entirely over.)

They can hardly wait to take them to church tomorrow. We'll see how it goes. If it ends up being too distracting- all those pencils going in and out of the case, we'll make them Nature Notebooks instead! ~smile~

[Inspiration: Hilary's Zoo Wraps.]

Verse #1

I'm not big on resolutions for the New Year. Oh, sure-- sometimes I make a list in my journal of things I'd like to accomplish or grow in in the coming year-- but that's about it.

When I asked Mark at the beginning of this month what his New Year's resolutions were, he said, "To be a better man." We both laughed, because that pretty much encompasses it all, now, doesn't it?

One thing I am committing to doing this year that I'm really excited about is memorizing Scripture. I can't think of a better goal for the year than to be meditating on and memorizing God's word throughout the days, weeks, and months of 2009.

On Beth Moore's blog, in this post, she invited her blog readers to join her in her goals of memorization: Two verses, every month- one chosen on the 1st, another chosen on the 15th, for the entire year. 24 verses total, by the end of 2009.

Today is the 15th, and I've got my first verse down:
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.

Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.

And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Colossians 3:12-14, The Message

I wrote it on an index card, "laminated" it with clear contact paper, and taped it up in the shower. Every morning (with maybe one or two exceptions) I've said it, and then prayed it, and several times have copied it down in my journal as I've learned it, and now I know it. One verse down, 23 to go. Moving on to choosing verse #2 today.

Does anyone want to join me? The idea is to choose a verse you need; for you [ie: I especially need compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. I need to be even-tempered, quick to forgive.... You may need something else entirely. Choose it. Begin to memorize it. Head on over to Beth Moore's blog and sign in with your verse (but tell me, too- if you are doing it- because I'd like to know!)

The Best Daddy

While I know it's been fully established here on the blog that Mark is the best daddy in the world, don't think for a second that I'm going to stop bragging about him.

I've mentioned that my husband son [Isaac, 5] loves Legos. Last month Mark made for Isaac a much-desired Larry Boy:

Since then, Isaac has been asking Mark to make him a monkey. With instructions. After all, the instructions are his favorite part. Last night after Isaac went to bed, Mark built a little monkey for him. Then he took it apart, piece by piece, and then built it again, this time taking photos of each step. He put the set of instructions on the computer so that Isaac could click through them one by one. Here's the final photo:

And this is Isaac, at about 7:30 this morning:

And if you remain unconvinced about the best-daddy assertion, let me just say that Adelia was up at 4am, 4:30am, and 5am, and Mark was up with her every.single.time. Ella was up once, too, now that I think of it. This all after Mark went to sleep at midnight.

And that's just all in the past 8 hours. Don't even get me started on yesterday.

Case closed.

Read-alouds and movies

After reading the book, we watched two of the Heidi movies:

Movie #1: this one.

Movie #2: this one.

And while neither was as good as the book (duh), we did have a favorite. Our pick? Movie #2.

Three main reasons we liked this version better:
1)In movie #1: Heidi's Grandfather is just flat out mean. And angry. Not at all like his character in the book.

2)In movie #1: Klara was excruciatingly annoying. Her incessant whining and wheezing was truly painful to watch. ~shudder~ Mark and I sat through the movie, grimacing- and giving each other looks as if to say, "Seriously. Must we? Sit through this?" Trust me. It was awful.

3)In general, as far as the characters and the story, we thought movie #2 was much truer to the book.

Recently, we also finished reading aloud The Incredible Journey, which we loved. I made the mistake of checking out Homeward Bound- The Incredible Journey from the library. We started watching it and it was not at ALL what I had in mind. (Note: I'm not saying it was a bad movie, it's just that I'm always looking for what is truest to the book.)

Take 2: This was exactly what I had in mind.
Very good. Loved by all.

We're almost finished reading Pollyanna, and plan to watch this movie after we're done. [And- with Hayley Mills starring, I'm sure it must be great.] I'll let you know.

Next up for read-alouds: Lassie Come Home.

Last year we checked out this version from our library-- an abridged picture-book version, readers (gasp!)-- and truly enjoyed it.

Although, I must say- I was bawling through parts of it so the kids had a difficult time understanding me. I'm quite serious. The boys were completely bewildered and Ella cried right along with me. I can't wait to read the book in its entirety.

What is your family reading/watching of late?

Bring the Rain link

You must watch the video in this post.

If you're not familiar with Angie's blog or the story of Audrey, you may want to read this first.


Yesterday was my 34-week appointment. I walked out of the doctor's office with appointments scheduled right up until my due date. Which is quite nice and all, but my babies are late (10 days, both of them... and I had to be induced, both times)... so really I simply ignore the happy "Only 6 more weeks!" comments. In my mind, it's 8 more weeks, and I'm sticking to it.

Baby is great, the doctor says: head down, bum to the left, knees centered and feet tucked right up under my ribs (to which I nodded vigorously. I feel those feet regularly!) I saw sweet little hair on this baby's head on the ultrasound today. Can I tell you how much I love knowing that?

When I told the kids about the hair, Ella (7) immediately asked, "What color was it?" I explained that we couldn't tell that on the ultrasound. And then Isaac (5) piped up: "But was it boy hair or girl hair?" I'm quite sure in his little mind he was thinking we could figure out this mystery once and for all: if the baby's hair was long, it's a girl, of course; short, it's a boy. ~smile~

Mama is um, feeling particularly huge. [I'm trying very hard not to think about the fact that I weigh more than Mark at this stage of pregnancy. But there you go, ladies. Now you can all feel sorry for me about that little tidbit.] And I'm very tired. I think I'm especially exhausted because I'm carrying around my sweet 10-month old Adelia much of the day. She's become such a mama's girl of late. I told Mark recently: "It's as if she knows that this one-on-one time in my arms is limited. She's getting it while she can."

I'm also feeling really nostalgic about my time with Adelia-as-my-baby slipping away. The other night she was snuggled up against me while I fed her her nighttime bottle and it hit me: This won't be happening when the baby comes. [At least, not as much.] I'll have another baby here that will need these arms, and Adelia will get them that much less. ~teary, here~ I know that before too long she'll naturally be more independent, anyway... but I'd hate to feel I'm forcing her into it before she's completely ready. Thankfully God has this all figured out and His timing is perfect.

Now if He could just help us come up with a girl name. We had our girl and boy names all chosen- for the majority of this pregnancy, but then about a week and a half ago, I started seriously second-guessing our girls' name. So the baby name books came back out and now we're back to square one. [I like old-fashioned (think 1800's) girl names, if anyone would like to list suggestions in the comments.]

A *huge* congratulations, by the way...
...to Andrea (Great story. Go read it.)
...to Carolynn
...to Kimmie (who is about ready to hop on a plane to Ethiopia to pick up her precious baby girl!)

Note: I was going to wait to post this until I could get a good belly photo on here, but I'm going to post it and get to that later. I'll let you know if I end up updating this with a picture.

The Habit of Attention

There are several things I admire and have gleaned from Charlotte Mason's writings, and one of those is her concept of forming good habits. She writes, "One of the great functions of the educator is to secure that actions will be so regularly, purposefully, and methodically sown that the child will reap the habits of the good life, in thinking and doing, with a minimum of conscious effort."

When we began school this year, I introduced a habit to the kids that we were going to purpose to work on together: The Habit of Attention.

We learned this verse:
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight
~Proverbs 5:1
and discussed the ways in which each child could show that they were paying attention. Things like:

* looking at me when I speak to them
* answering with "Yes, mama" (so that I know that I've been heard)
* obeying right away

A few things we did to practice this habit:

*I wrote the habit and the verse on our school board so they would see it every day.
*We memorized the verse and recited it a few times each week. [We even made up motions, too, to go along with it.]
*I had a weekly conversation with them about how we were doing in learning our habit. We reviewed the ways they should be showing me that they were indeed paying attention.
*We had training sessions. We'd sit together on the living room floor and I'd give an instruction, one at a time, to each of the kids, and then they would take turns following my instruction while "practicing" the habit of paying attention. The rest of us would encourage that person. [For example, I would say, "Isaias. Please go into the girls' room and bring me a diaper for Adelia." And then Ella, Isaac and I would watch him: Did he look at me as I spoke to him? Did he answer me? Did he run off cheerfully to obey? When he did, we would praise him for a job well done.]

Note: I can't speak highly enough of this kind of training: having children walk through something the right way- while being observed- but outside of the context of everyday life. (What I mean by that is that these are simply practice sessions, and practice instructions. I didn't actually need that diaper. We were pretending. And yet, they are walking through the right responses and the right behavior.) They love this kind of thing: it is a game to them, and they happily oblige. It's a good reminder for me, too- to be more diligent in following up our correction times- where we've just discussed what was done wrong, why that was wrong, what will you do differently next time?- with an actual task for them: "Now show mommy how you should have asked for that toy. Do it the right way this time."

*On days where I felt like we weren't doing well at all, we played a game where I had the kids looking for good habits of attention in one another. (For example, I would say: "We're all going to watch each other today, and if we see someone paying attention well, we're going to encourage them by saying, 'Great job doing Proverbs 5:1!'" On those days it was great to see the kids noticing the good in one another and praising each other.

I was really pleased with how well all the kids took to this idea of learning a habit, and I think we made huge strides in this area of attention.

As we started up school again this week, I introduced a new habit, which we'll add to the other one and hopefully see some good progress there, too!

A few other habits I have written down that we may work on in the future:
-The Habit of Obedience (I tucked that one onto our "Habit of Attention", but this could really be one all by itself.)
-The Habit of Manners
-The Habit of Gratitude
-The Habit of Cheerfulness
-The Habit of Thoroughness
-The Habit of Responsibility

Would you like to help me add to my (ever-growing) list? What are some habits you have noticed that your own children might need to work on? Chances are, we need to work on it here at our house, too!

[Another post on Habits, here.]

Christmas recap, 2008

I just moved a pile of Isaias' Playmobil's off the chair so that I would have a spot to sit and try to type out a post. Adelia is crawling around the living room, with my keys in hand, smiling her delightful smile even though she's only had a little over an hours nap all.day.long. [Which seems to be a recurring thing around here, and I'm still unsure what to do about that.] Ella sits across the room, curled up on the couch with her new baby doll and her new book, pillows and blankets all snuggled around her, reading happily. Isaac is in at the kitchen table, playing with one of his new Lego sets. That boy and his Legos. They are inseparable. Isaias is napping. Mark is at work. Dinner is in the crockpot- a new recipe- and if it tastes about half as good as it smells, we're in for a real treat tonight.

I feel like we're finally winding down a bit from all of the Christmas festivities. The kids and I took the tree down (and out) this morning, which I always have mixed feelings about. I'm not quite ready for the tree to be gone yet this year; I enjoy it so much in here- the fresh smell of pine, the twinkly white lights, our pretty ornaments... but I'm also feeling this need to get our house back to it's normal state.

We had a very full week last week-- five days of Christmases, and we were all pretty tuckered out by the end of it. A full week of no naps, no routine and late bedtimes took its toll on all of us and I am thankful to be heading back into our normal groove.

We also had a white Christmas this year-- which was lovely, although it did make things a bit more complicated. The week preceding Christmas we were pretty much snowed in, here- and I was pretty much going crazy not being able to GO. [Not normally the case, but I happened to have a lot to get done that particular week.]

A recap of our week, for memory's sake:
*Monday* Mark headed out early to do some shopping, I was in the kitchen making food for our evening Christmas event, which is a combined Christmas-party and birthday party for my grandpa Jake. He turned 88 this year. Several family members couldn't make it due to the snow, but we're close enough that we were able to.

*Tuesday* The "quietest" day of our week. Mark took the boys out to breakfast with a friend and his son. More cooking for me- for a holiday basket our small group was doing. Mark and the kids played in the snow for awhile, and in the evening we headed out to deliver the holiday basket with some friends from small group, and they took us out for dinner afterwards.
We had planned to do our family Christmas that night, but ran out of time, so when we got home we let the kids open one gift and then we all went to bed.

We got the girls Bitty Baby Twins for Christmas. How cute are they?

*Wednesday* Christmas Eve: Marks' side of the family gathering. Cancelled. Because his parents and a sibling were snowed in. HUGE bummer. We ended up doing our own family Christmas that morning, and then later in the afternoon headed over to Mark's sisters' place for some food and games with all those who could make it. Fun day.

*Thursday* Christmas Day: Stockings in the morning with our kids, on our bed... then we headed to my parents house at 9:30 for breakfast. My dad makes breakfast for everyone: french toast, ham, eggs, cinnamon rolls (well, those are mom's contribution. And my personal fave.) Someone (Dan) made a Starbucks run so that we could all have coffee. Tasty.

My mom, reading to the grandkids on Christmas Day.

Mom made a huge lunch, spoiling us all with her good cooking- roast, potatoes, rolls, salad, and apple pie and ice cream for dessert. Mmm!
We spent all day there- joining my two younger brothers and my sister and her family. We put the kids down so that we could stay late and play games.

*Friday* More time at my parents' house. My sister and her family come from out of town, so we try to spend as much time with them as we can while they're here. That
night mom and dad offered to watch all the kids (eight, total) and my sister, Dan (her husband), my two brothers, and Mark and I all went out to Mexican food for dinner. I tried to convince my dad to let us go out for dinner and a movie, but he gave me a look like I was pushing my luck. They survived, and we had a nice dinner out.

*Saturday* Mark's family's POSTPONED family Christmas. All day from 10 am to 10 pm. Games, homemade pizzas for lunch, lots of rousing time with the cousins for our kids, more games, more food, gifts to be opened. A fun, FULL day.

The cousins, Mark's side of the family.

Mark's siblings and their spouses. Mark is gracious enough to let me sit on his lap, and, you'll notice, being the sweet man that he is- isn't even wincing at all that extra weight! :)

A few thoughts:

*I love time with extended family over Christmas.

*Bananagrams is a fun game. If you like Scrabble, you'll be a fan.

*Another fun game: the Apples to Apples version for kids. Ella played it with her cousins and it was a huge hit.

*One of my least favorite things is finding a place for all the new stuff.

*I love it that Mark is usually able to get the week of Christmas off. Next year maybe he could take a few days extra? This was not a restful, vacation-y week by any stretch of the imagination.

*Usually we have so much going on during this week that our own immediate family Christmas (with Mark and our kids) gets squeezed in whenever there is time- a little here, a little there. Most of the time, rushed- because we're on the way to another family gathering. This year we decided to do our Christmas on the 23rd, but we planned other things and it didn't happen. I am resolved for next year: We will fiercely protect that day for US, for our traditions and unhurried time as a family.

~Whew!~ I've managed to get an entire post written. I'll try to slide some pictures in here before I hit that publish button, but I'm not making any guarantees. Adelia doesn't appreciate the computer on my lap without being able to touch it every 3 minutes!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!