Our day [or: Most Photos Ever in a Post]

I know I've been really neglectful of the whole photo thing here on the blog. I love a post with photos, but one has to pick up a camera every now and then in order to post a post with photos.

I picked up my camera today.

Hence, a photo-heavy post.

This is what we did today. (Planted our garden!)

"We" meaning Mark, Ella and Isaac. With absolutely no help from me. I mowed the lawn, did laundry, made lunch, took care of Audra, and ran errands (buying a baby shower gift for a friend and buying myself a cute pair of jeans). I did, however, help choose seeds and starts. And I complimented their work and picked up my camera and took pictures.

The seed-sowers:

The wanderer:

But we were able to convince her to sit for some pictures, to show you just how beautiful our rhubarb is this time of year:

This boy got a little distracted from the garden planting with making a home for these two:

Meet Bark and Lucy.

Another boy got distracted from the garden with drilling holes in the lid for Bark and Lucy's new home.

(Leave it to Mark to not simply drill a bunch of holes but to drill holes making a "B" and an "L" for Bark and Lucy's initials.)

Isaac was pretty thrilled, and shortly after this picture was taken, he ran to get more caterpillars. James joined Bark and Lucy later, but James does not have his initial on the lid. Yet.

We rarely get a good smile on camera from this boy, but I got one today!

And here is what our garden looked like at the end of the day:

This girl helped me use that happy rhubarb to make some Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp tonight.

And then we all ate some. With vanilla ice cream. While watching Charlie and Lola together.

It was a great day.

Some good books

Recently I told you I'd read these good books:
Same Kind of Different As Me
To Kill a Mockingbird
Mark just finished To Kill a Mockingbird, and enjoyed it just as much as I did.

Since then I've read a few more good books, so I thought I'd let you know, because if you're like me, you're always up for some good book recommendations:

Cheaper by the Dozen
, by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

I'm embarrassed to tell you that while I have seen both movies- the old movie; based on the book, and the newer Steve Martin/Bonnie Hunt version; which doesn't actually follow the book at all- but I had not read the book itself. Not only had I not read this book, but I assumed it was a fiction book. I did not know that it was a memoir; that this was written based on the experiences these two children had in their own family, with their own father.

All that aside, I have to say: I loved this book. It was laugh-out-loud funny at parts, and I can't tell you how many times I read aloud sections to Mark, who laughed right along with me. This dad was the ultimate creative, homeschooling-type of a father, and I was utterly enthralled by the ways he taught his children. It is written in a witty, engaging way and definitely worth the read. I've bookmarked it as one to read aloud to the kids, when they're older, too.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

I can't even remember who recommended this book to me, but I'm glad they did. I could not put it down. It is historical fiction, and Stockett's debut novel. The story is set in the 1960's, in Jackson, Mississippi. Skeeter, a young college graduate, wants to write, and is encouraged by a mentor to write about something that disturbs her. She sets out to write about the black maids in Jackson. We learn women in particular: Aibileen and Minny, who work for white families, love and raise white children and yet are despised by those same white families for the color of their skin.

I loved these characters- Aibileen and Minny in particular- and the story that Stockett wove.

Other books I've recently read or am in the process of reading:
The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, which has me once again contemplating how we can live more simply, but with the purpose of being able to be more generous.
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, by Francis Chan
Belles on Their Toes, by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen.)
Living Simply with Children by Marie Sherlock, recommended recently by Andrea.

What have you been reading?

Home again

On Tuesday morning I was able to go on a breakfast date with my five year-old Isaac. I love that boy. The evening before he was telling us what he wanted to eat, which happened to be the same thing he'd gotten the last time he was there with Mark. Apparently he'd ordered a pancake and it came with an egg on the top. He really liked the whole egg-on-top idea. We were discussing how he wanted to order his egg this time, (last time he liked his eggs with the yoke runny but now he does not like the yoke runny anymore, so we were wondering how he'd like his egg?) and he said, "like we had at grandma's house." I was racking my brain trying to remember when we'd had eggs at grandma's house, when it occurred to me that he was talking about the deviled eggs we'd had there for our Mother's Day lunch. We had to explain that they don't actually do those kind of eggs there. :) I just have this funny image in my head of the waitress delivering him a pancake with a deviled egg on top.

Anyway- fun date. He knew just where he wanted to sit. [The same table he'd sat at with daddy, last time.] He used great manners with the waitress, when I reminded him to do so. ~smile~ He chatted my ear off and wriggled around in his chair so much I thought he might tip it over. He ordered hot cocoa with whipping cream and slurped off the whipping cream and only spilled once. He ate all but about three bites of his food. [I was seriously impressed. That pancake was the size of a large plate!] His eyes got very wide when he saw the tatoos up our waitress' arms, but- thank you, Lord - he refrained from commenting about them. He dropped his egg on the floor and then was very sad because he'd wanted to eat his egg. So I told him to pick it up. We inspected it, and then he ate it. (I know. I can't believe I'm admitting that, here.)

When I got home I nursed Audra and then headed out to a local spa where I received a Swedish Massage that was TO DIE FOR. It was so wonderful. I've had a few pedicures in my day. And one massage a couple years ago where I was sure the lady was seriously injuring my back, what with how hard she was rubbing. I hurt for days. It was not pleasurable, not one bit. But this girl? She did a great job. It was so relaxing and I felt truly spoiled.

Mark wasn't sure if a massage was a good gift or not. We've talked about it before and I'm so practical I tend to think those things are a waste of money. Or I feel guilty about spending that much money. When I got home I told him I'm now a believer. :) Not in a let's-do-this-every-month kind of a way, but in a this-is-a-great-gift kind of a way.

I came home to a waiting Ella, and we zipped off to the bookstore to browse. Well, first we ordered drinks and a treat and sat down and enjoyed them. THEN we headed to the children's section to browse. We ended up reading several books together, while sipping our drinks. It was such a fun date with my girl.

These dates were such a meaningful gift from Mark. He knows that I often feel like Ella and Isaac get "robbed" of my time; my best. Our third child is such a complete handful that he gets a lot of (negative) attention and I feel like they often get overlooked. Now that we have two very needy little girls in addition to one very needy boy, I feel like I never get to devote time to them. And I feel sad about that practically every single day. So I love it that Mark was purposeful in planning dates for me and my oldest two.

When we came home from the bookstore, Mark had lunch ready and waiting.

After that, I took my sweet Audra out of town for the night. We walked, ate meals I didn't prepare, read, journaled, and prayed. I took a hot bath, sat by the fireplace (yes it was cold enough for a fire) and read some more. Then we slept. The next day we shopped together and then headed home.

And it's a good thing I came home refreshed because today just about had me pulling my hair out and that was even AFTER two days away!

Oh, and here's a picture that has nothing to do with this post, except for the fact that this is my family (sans Audra, who is in my arms) and I love them:

Also, can I just say again- to those of you who read here? Thank you. For your time, your comments, your willingness to sit and read through my rambling posts? (((love you!)))

Parenting resource

Kendra recently provided a link to Covenant Life's series on The Parenting Years.

I've only listened to one so far (the one called Training, Discipline and the Rod), and it was excellent. I found it to be a great reminder of why we do what we do. It left me thinking that we're doing a lot right, but it was also an encouragement to me to reapply myself to those areas I have been neglecting.

Mark downloaded the MP3 onto his iPod so that he can listen to it, too- and when he's done, we can talk about it together.

I really appreciated Brian Chesemore's practical approach: his message is filled with several examples from his own experience with his young children, and he describes how they handle various infractions in their own home. It's one of my favorite things to read a parenting book or come away from a blog or message that has given a "this is how we do it" approach. (Especially if you agree with how they're doing it! :))

Anyway: here's the link again. This is a valuable resource. It's worth your time. Listen and be encouraged!

[And thanks again, Kendra, for the link!]

In which I tell you about how Mark blessed me for Mother's Day

Mark really outdid himself for Mother's Day this year, and I'm here to tell you all about it.

One day next week, I get to:
... go on a breakfast date with my Isaac
... receive a 60-minute massage at a local spa (I KNOW!!!)
... go on a date with Ella, to a bookstore {which includes Starbucks drinks}
... come home to a prepared lunch

To top it all off, Mark arranged for me to go away, overnight, with just my sweet Audra.

All because he loves me. And he knows that one of the things I miss these days is a little quiet. So he has taken two days off work and is making it happen.

I admit, I feel a little funny about the whole: "Happy Mother's Day! Here's your gift to GET AWAY FROM ALL OF US!" idea.

But only when you put it that way.

The truth is, I am really looking forward to it. [Just me and Audra? My sweet little girl to snuggle up with, take walks with, read-a-book-while-she's-in-my-arms with? It sounds pretty blissful.] I plan to sleep, read, journal, eat well, and miss my husband. And come home all refreshed and happy to be back at it.

Recent photos

I snapped these pictures the other day of Mark reading to the kids, soley because of Audra's head position.

Oh, and just in case you didn't recognize him right away, that is Davy Crockett there on the left.

Here is a typical moment of an over-zealous Adelia about ready to pounce on her baby sister. That look right there is Adelia checking to see if anyone is watching her or if she's going to get away with it this time.

Audra, eleven weeks old yesterday. I just adore the drool in this picture, though you might have to click on the photo to see it for yourself.

Early morning rules

{this picture was taken a few months ago, early one morning. i'm pretty sure isaac is regaling his tired mama with stories or dreams, here.}

This is what happens, more or less, every morning:

Isaias (4) wakes up the earliest, usually between 6 and 6:30. He is supposed to leave his room quietly, so as not to wake up Isaac, take his pull-up off, get dressed (or at least put underwear on beneath his jammies), and come quietly upstairs. And then he is supposed to play quietly upstairs: read books on the couch, play with his hot wheel cars, or play playmobiles, all quietly. [I'm not sure if you noticed, but the word "quietly" was used four times in that paragraph. Yep, that's the key.]

We've had seasons where he struggles with one or more of the above things. Usually, the waking-up-of-Isaac one. But for the most part, he does this well. Many mornings I come out into the living room and find him playing quietly, on his own.

And then there's Isaac (5). Isaac cannot seem to do anything quietly. He wakes up singing at the top of his lungs. He gets out of his bed noisily, leaves his room by slamming the door behind him, bounds up the stairs, runs across the kitchen and living room, and either begins playing (ahem, noisily), or runs cheerfully and loudly into our bedroom to say good morning to us. I love that boy, I do. I even understand him. I don't even mind so much being woken up by my cheerful boy, it's really just that I don't want him to wake everyone else up so early.

Now that it is so light in the mornings, or whenever Isaias struggles with the whole please-do-not-wake-up-your-brother thing, Isaac has also been up early. And when Isaac is awake, all of Isaias' manners regarding playing quietly are immediately thrown out the window.

And then there are two: jumping and leaping and hollering and wrestling and playing a game of football and climbing and yelling and building forts and running and all of those things boys do.

We live in a relatively small house. About one minute after Isaac wakes up, the rest of the house also wakes up. Sometimes one by one, sometimes all at once.

So I try to preempt that. The minute I hear Isaac come up, I creep out of our bedroom, so as not to wake Mark and Audra, slip into the hallway, so as not to wake up Ella and Adelia- who are at the other end of the hallway- and peek into the living room to remind the boys to please, please remember to play quietly together since everyone else is still sleeping, and to abstain from all jumping and leaping and hollering and wrestling and playing a game of football and climbing and yelling and building forts and running and all of those things boys do. You know- read a book! play Legos! sit still and do something- but please do so quietly!

I'm not always cheery about this, since, you know, I was sleeping one minute before this. After about the third consecutive time of doing this, I'm really not cheery about this. I usually flop back into bed, all bitter-like, and whisper loudly to Mark about how this makes me crabby. Just how difficult is it to remember not to run pell-mell across the hardwood floors at 6:07 in the morning!? And really, must I remind them every.single.morning not to holler?! Everyone else in the house is trying to sleep! Grr!

Often, then, I begin my morning grumpy. Grumpy because I was awakened from precious sleep, or because one of the girls was awakened before they were ready (which then, you know, affects the entire morning until nap time comes around- because they're tired and fussy), and grumpy because I'm having to deal with correction issues before 6:30 in the morning.

Other than my attempts to manage the noise from my bed- or rather, quick trips from my bed to whisper fiercely into the living room- I've also attempted the following:
-Get up earlier, so that I can monitor the noise level. This works. It's just that I'm not always motivated to get up so early. And I am naturally an early riser, but to ensure that I get up earlier, it would have to be in the five o'clock hour, and that's pushing it.
-Change my (grumpy) attitude. Or- pray about my grumpy attitude, at least.
-Discipline them when they're too noisy.

The whole both-boys-up-early scenario occurred again over the weekend. On a Sunday morning. The only morning of the week that we can "sleep in" (until 8:00). I think the boys were both up a few minutes before six, and I was cranky. I waited, and sure enough- heard Isaac come upstairs, and bang the hallway door as he ran into our room to, you know, say "GOOD MORNING!!!" and give me a kiss. And then bang the hallway door again on his way back out. About a minute later, Adelia woke. Then Ella. Then Audra began stirring, and I began muttering to Mark about it. (Mark, who was sleeping until I woke him up. Because he can sleep through anything. Isaac even came over to his side of the bed to say "GOOD MORNING!!!" and I'm pretty sure Mark slept through that, too.) I said something about getting up to talk to the boys before Audra woke up and Mark said he'd take care of it.

A few minutes later he went out to "take care of it" while I hopped into the shower before Audra was fully awake.

I asked him later what he'd done. He said, simply: "I just told them that the new rule is that they have to stay downstairs until you tell them they can come up in the mornings. I told Isaias to go into the playroom when he wakes up and Isaac to stay in their bedroom when he wakes up."

And that was that.

All of a sudden I felt really dumb for not coming up with that idea on my own.

I have yet to ask Mark why it took him so long to come up with this brilliant idea. [...Honey? Feel free to chime in, here.]

But it works, this new rule. I woke up this morning at 6:15, on my very own, and everyone else in the house was still asleep (save Isaias, who I faintly heard downstairs). I came out into the living room with my Bible and journal and had a full forty-five minutes of quiet, happily reveling in the fact that all of my girls were able to sleep without being startled awake.

I am so thankful for Mark. Naturally, I would be more thankful had he saved me a lot of grief and enforced this rule, say, a year ago. But I am thankful all the same.

Adèle & Simon

Have you ever had the pleasure of reading this book?

We love this one at our house! It's one of those that we check out again and again from the library. The kids love the story itself, and the perk of being able to find something on every page. I love it for the same reasons, but also because, well- the little boy Simon in this story, who is always distractedly losing his things, rather reminds me of my Isaac. And Adèle? Well, her scolding is just what Ella would do with Isaac.

Imagine how excited we all were when we discovered this at the library last week:

More adventures of Adèle and Simon, but this time, in America. It is also very good. (Although I will say that Adèle is a bit grumpier in the new book.)

Isaac asks me about twice a day if there's another Adèle and Simon book. He thinks Adèle and Simon should travel all over the world. Here's to hoping Barbara McClintock keeps writing and illustrating their adventures!

[Note: There is a website with suggestions for activities to go along with the book. Click here.]