Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nine Months

 Around nine months is just about my favorite baby age. It's delightful. I love how they're starting to explore their surroundings with interest, how their personalities are beginning to emerge, and how they're at the pinnacle of their round, fluffy baby cuteness. After this, I feel like it's a gradual slide into toddlerhood, which is fun in different ways.  Lydia just cut her first tooth last night, which feels like the beginning of the end.
For fun, I thought I'd do a side-by-side of each of the kids at around nine months. It's funny how they all still look like themselves, although Peter's cheeks are about 100% less rashy now. :)
 This pose on the chair lasts for about 2.5 seconds before she dives headfirst off of it.
She prefers to be standing, and will pull herself up anywhere she can. She's already starting to slim down, which is to be expected now that she's moving. But she's still got plenty to love! :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Very Merry Christmas

Sheesh, I feel like Christmas just came by in a whirlwind this year and now it's over. It was a really fun season, but I have to say I'm a little relieved it's done. The week Paul got back from France, we were heavily involved with helping a family of six who just moved to St. Louis. They were in between homes and were very anxious to get settled, so we offered some relief from their tiny hotel room as much as we could. I can't imagine how hard it would be to have no home during the Christmas Season.
We also did our annual gingerbread house making night with our good friends, the Arches. We attended Alex's (Benjamin's best friend) baptism too, which was really special. Benjamin's baptism will be here before we know it! So crazy.
 On Christmas Eve, we let the kids open their traditional gift- matching Christmas jammies. It was surprisingly hard to find matching ones for a baby and up through size 7. Benjamin was the most excited about opening them this year. He had written about this particular tradition for a school report.
 On Christmas Eve, we got together with a bunch of friends for dinner and a nativity play put on by all of our kids. It was a special night, and the kids really enjoyed themselves. I was a little hesitant to go, since I suspected Nora probably had pneumonia. She had been lying around- pretty lethargic, coughing, intermittently feverish, and complaining that her chest hurt for a while. She's been doing much better since then, but I felt bad that it took me so long (like two weeks...) to figure out what was wrong with her. Poor girl.
 Christmas morning was wonderful. My camera was all fogged up from being left in the car all night, but I got some pictures from later in the day. The kids all got bikes this year. It was time, since the one two-wheeler we owned looked like a clown bike, even with Peter riding.
Nora was ecstatic to finally have her own copy of "The Princess and the Frog," which is currently her favorite. She checked it out from the library a while back and watched it every day for weeks. And now that it's hers, she's been watching it every day since Christmas.
 The boys were mostly excited about this present: a Wii. I kind of despise video games, but this seems to be the best solution. They can both play at the same time, it's not on the computer (most importantly, it's on very restricted internet), and it gets them moving a little more. Also, I don't want video games to be a draw for going to other peoples' houses, which has been the case in the past.
Peter found a balloon animal kit in his stocking, which he's had a lot of fun with!
 Nora got a monkey, which she immediately named "Fred," and adopted as her best friend. She's giving him a little chapstick love here.
 The kids were excited to give Lydia her Build-a-Bear they made for her. It's a red panda, and it's super snuggly. Each of our kids has gotten a Build-a-Bear for their first Christmas, which has been a really fun tradition.  
 Nora really enjoyed Grandma's gift! My Mom sure knows how to make magical princess dresses!
Paul's parents made us these awesome keychains. How cool is it that we have our own crest now?!
 Paul got me a nice Cuisinart food processor. I've never owned such a nice kitchen almost makes me want to cook. :)
And for Paul, I got a "Back to the Future" Lego set to build with the boys. I think he liked it!
As I've been reflecting on Christmas this year, and gift giving in particular, I feel like I've come to understand it a little better. Our kids haven't exactly been angels, and I often found myself in frustration, making that cliché, but empty threat that "Santa might not come this year if you do x." I knew it really wasn't true of course. And then it hit me- I'm that bratty little kid, making the same mistakes over and over again about a lot of things. And God, in his infinite patience and love offers the gift of His Son for me, no matter how many times I mess up. Kind of a humbling thought. I guess there are times for teaching and correction, and there are times for love and forgiveness, and Christmas ought to fall in the latter of the two. I love this season and the opportunity to pause and reflect on the gift of Christ and His purpose and mission on earth. I need it!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fun Preschool Toy

 So I'll be honest. Even though I'm doing home preschool now, it's not realistic for me to have crafts or planned lessons every day...maybe I'll get better at that though. :) I love having an arsenal of activities that we can pull out over and over again. Puzzles, workbooks, math rods, stamps, and things like that are great. The other day, I randomly came across this letter builder on Amazon for half off and jumped on it. And I am already a huge fan!
 It's perfect for small hands that can't yet write their letters, but can identify them.
 It's equally as good for those who can write their letters, but need some reinforcement for proper letter formation.
It has cards with directions for forming upper and lower case letters. They're easy to figure out, so the kids pretty much did the work on their own.
 I can see these being a hit for building other things as well...
 It's also great for fine motor skills, clipping each of the pieces together, and finding the right holes.
There are probably not enough pieces in the box to form the entire alphabet at the same time, but plenty to make sentences. Peter came up with this one all on his own. :) So at the risk of sounding like an advertisement (oh, wait- too late), I'd give this one two thumbs up! ;)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Together Again

 Paul got back late Saturday night. He was gone for nine France. I'm usually pretty even keel about his business trips, but this one was admittedly a bit harder. First of all, being a single parent when your kids all have the flu is not fun. Nights were rough. Secondly, he was in FRANCE. I've never been to Europe, but it's going to happen someday...Preferably while my sister still lives there!
Before he left, Paul prayed for our family, asking the angels to bless our home. I guess it was from that prayer that Nora started asking me about them. I thought it was really sweet, and wanted to record it here:
 "Did you call the angels? I don't have a real phone to call them. I need to call the angels because I'm sick. And Peter and Lydi. They will come on the back porch. You need to call the angels."
After a good three days of all five of us staying home, we were all suffering from a bout of cabin fever. We decided to go out and see the light show at a nearby park, stopping at Chick-fil-A on the way. We totally lucked out and made it on the big Santa night. The kids were SO excited that the "real" Santa had come by horse drawn sleigh all the way from the North Pole. Peter pointed out his real white beard and hair, which is how you can tell. They each wrote their letters to him there and tucked them in his box. The light show was a fabulous end to a perfect night with my four littles. It was magical.
The rest of the week was mainly about survival, and lots of online Christmas shopping. We did start reading "The Christmas Carol" together, which I've never read before, and I'm really enjoying it. I'm surprised at how well the boys comprehend it too.
On Saturday, the day of Paul's impending return, we were greeted with a wonderland of snow outside our window. Before I had a chance to really open my eyes, the kids were bundling up and headed out. They built a great snowman all on their own too!
The winter storms delayed Paul several hours, which made for some disappointed kids (and an exhausted husband, who had been traveling for roughly 36 hours), but he's home now and all is well. I feel like now the Christmas Season can really begin. It's just not the same when you're alone.
Another bit of relief came the next day when Paul was called in by the Stake Presidency to be released from his calling as Elders Quorum President (which he's had for the past 3 1/2 years). He has done a wonderful job, but I have personally seen the tremendous emotional weight that he's carried. So yeah, he's happy. And so are we. :)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

0.667 Years

Lydia turned eight months last week. She has been changing so fast!
I know I've said it a dozen times before, but I cannot get enough of her squishy little bread-dough body. It's a shame it's so cold outside now, because we usually have to cover most of it up. She is now well into her twelve month sized clothes. I believe this one pictured was size 9 months and it needed to be retired. Ankle pants are still in, right? ;)
Lydia has started pulling herself up on things, and you can tell she feels so proud of herself. She still has a gummy grin- no teeth yet, which is fine by me. She's a great eater, and can mash just about anything you give her with her gums. She's figured out how funny it is to drop her food on the floor, and immediately looks down to search for what she dropped. I can't ever eat when I'm nursing her, because that food is always preferred to what she's getting.
 She is totally mobile now. She can crawl fairly well, although she often gets mad when she gets tired (or can't find me). I call her Thumper, because she'll start slapping the floor with her hand and yelling with frustration when she's done hunting. She's very much a Mama's girl, and would prefer to be carried all day if I let her.
Lydia still does not tolerate anything on her head. Hats, headbands, and bows are all ripped off moments after they're put on. I used to think she looked like baby Peter's twin, but she seems to be resembling baby Benjamin more and more. Even without bows, I think she's a cute girl, and much more feminine than her brothers.
I finally got a wool rug for the girls' room. It's so much cozier to play on than the wood floors and it's already seen a ton of use. The rest of the room is pretty hodge-podge, but I'm sure it will eventually get done. Lydia adores her sister and brothers, and tolerates all their craziness. She has a thoughtful way of observing, much like Benjamin did at her age. I love her cuddliness and friendliness and overall demeanor. She's a pretty awesome little gal.

November Preschool

 I wasn't nearly as good as I was last month about documenting our home preschool activities, but I did round up a few blurry pictures. :) Peter and Nora LOVE their swimming and gymnastics home school group at the Y. Their swimming teacher is probably at least an octogenarian, and is so sweet with the kids.
They're really coming along, too. They've gotten a lot more confident in the water since we've started.
We spent a few weeks learning about the Pilgrims and "Indians" leading up to Thanksgiving. Here's Peter modeling his Indian headdress on the way home from our friend's house.
We spent time at the Science Center where we learned about bugs and got to hold a giant millipede! We also started a weekly playgroup at our church. Overall, I'm still really happy about my decision to do preschool at home with them this year. We've been having lots of great moments together, and I get love notes almost daily from Peter. That's incentive enough for me! ;)

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Thanksgiving Week

 Knowing our kids are certified road warriors (a trip to Utah and Yellowstone in one summer will do that), it was a no-brainer that we should do another mega road trip this Thanksgiving. It helped knowing that we'd get to see my parents and my brother, who has been in Afghanistan for the past six months. We headed east this time, and saw nine cousins (including two new ones), four aunts and uncles, and two grandparents.

I always love watching our kids reunite with their cousins as if no time has passed at all. First we saw Paul's brother Brigham and his family. Their kids are almost the same ages as ours, and mostly boys. It was a rowdy, loud, nerf-gun-shooting, bracelet-looming good time.
We went to the Bureau of Engraving to see where money is made...

 ...and to the Air and Space Museum.

Nora and Lydia were delighted to have baby Claire around. She is about as sweet as they come!

 We also saw a play based on a children's book series with our cousins: "Lyle the Crocodile," which was great! I was surprised at how much Nora enjoyed it. She was up dancing, mimicking jazz hands, and desperate for a "flower hat" of her own as soon as it was finished.
On our way from Washington DC to Southern Maryland we decided to make a quick stop through Mount Vernon. It was cold and wet, but we had a great time learning more about George Washington and where he lived.

It was wonderful to see my brother Bryan again! We missed him during our reunion this Summer. I got some practice with my new camera and took a few family pictures for them. They also have kids the same ages as ours, although in almost exact reverse; two girls, then a boy and a girl. Nora was in heaven here, with two big girl cousins to look up to!
 The kids loved playing with Grandma and Grandpa!

Thanksgiving was a lot of fun.

 As wonderful as the food was, it was even better to be sharing it with so much family! The kids had a great time with their cousins- also as if no time had passed since last they saw each other.
 The next day we went to the local Marine Museum to get a little Southern Maryland flavor. There was a cute lighthouse there that we got to go up inside.

We saw aquariums full of sea life, fossils, and boats.

 Last on our trip was a stop through Richmond to see Paul's brother Mike and his family. They have a new baby, Elliot, who also has red hair!
 Benjamin has declared him to be the new cutest baby (sorry, Lydia), and claims that he looks like his twin.
 Baby date with Lydia and Elliot. Of the seven cousins born within the same year as Lydia, he's the closest in age.
It was a wonderful trip, and we were grateful we could do it. And now, we're grateful to be home!