Friday, August 31, 2007

Finally A Potty Princess??? Probably Not

I had plenty of time this morning to answer an ever-growing question. As it turns out, the question finally ended up being "What can you accomplish in 45 minutes?" Sitting there, on the floor as I was, I had plenty of time to contemplate the answer. As the minutes flew by, I imagined I could have cooked an entire meal, cleaned the bathroom, changed the laundry, cut the front lawn, or even watched almost an entire Mike Rowe program. But what can one really accomplish in 45 minutes? Oh yes - waiting for Laura to go pee on the potty for the first time right after she gets up. Yes, that's what one can do with 45 minutes. Sit and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait some more. Of course you get to reread "The Potty Book for Girls" maaaaany times while you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait some more.

I realize that I have a lot of sitting and waiting ahead of me. Much more than I ever had with Matthew and Jonathan. Apparently boys are quicker to pick up the 'just get it over with because M&M's are waiting' concept. Laura seems to think she can vicariously taste the suckers so why pee in the potty when a diaper will be much more convenient. *sigh* So to circumvent her determination, I thought getting her up right away, before she managed to gel her diaper in to oblivion, would do the trick. After all, who doesn't want to hit the bathroom as soon as they get up??? Turns out, Laura wouldn't.

Yes, we sat there for 45 minutes. Forty-five long minutes. An entire Clifford episode and half of a George danced across our television screen before she jumped up, clapped her hands and exclaimed "I did it!!!" with tremendous enthusiasm. After sharing my joy with her, cleaning her up, pulling on what would soon become a dead pair of Dora pull ups, and beating the feeling back in to my leg, I dug up the bag of M&M's and rewarded her with a few. She was thrilled. She wanted more. I told her to she could have more, just as soon as she went pee pee again in the potty. Then I reminded her once again that if she peed in her pants, Dora's flowers would die. She nodded with the understanding that only three year olds have, as though she knew I was instilling in her the greatest gift even though she had no clue.

A few minutes later I returned to her with breakfast in hand. In that time she'd managed to strip herself of all but her precious Dora pants and her socks. Yes, it was going to be an interesting day. I was beginning to think that maybe the success just moments ago would give her the umpf she needed to carry the whole 'going on the potty' thing to a glorious conclusion. Yeah, I know. I dream a lot.

As she sat down on the chair, ready to dig in to her breakfast, I reminded her once again that it was her job to keep Dora's flowers alive by remembering to go pee pee on the potty. She shook her head with grave agreement. And then she looked down at Dora. Then looked up at me. Her face fell a bit and she said "I sowwy, Mommy. I sowwy." Indeed, Dora's flowers were no more. She'd managed, in just five short minutes, to let Dora's flowers die. Dead. Gone. Killed. Never to be seen again. Well, until the next pair of pull ups steps up to do its duty. Oh well. No biggie. Life goes on. She won't walk down the aisle in diapers, will she?


I'm sure the Lord thinks we won't ever 'get it' now and then, too. And yet he loves us anyway. Through thick and thin. Stupid stubborn attitudes and strong-willed episodes and all. He lovingly waits until we give in, realizing that going the extra mile, although not necessarily the easiest thing, really is better than dragging our heavily gelled buckets behind us all of the time. And he probably doesn't get exasperated while he waits either. Hmmmm... perhaps I need to work on that.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me through my stubborn periods. Help me to do the same with my less than cooperative daughter as together we overcome her love of the diaper. Remind me, hourly if necessary, that this valley will be only for a moment in time before she rises to the potty top having grown enough to let go of her diaper. Help her to realize that clutching what she perceives as a comfort object is really just a gel-filled weight that is keeping her down. And remind me about whatever weight I am hanging on to as well. Let us both grow from this experience. In Thy name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What Can You Learn From Robinson Crusoe?

I've discovered that there are a lot of things we can learn from books. You might be thinking that is a given, and that I shouldn't even have to state the obvious, but alas you would be thinking of the 'normal' things one can learn from a book. Since I've been schooling the boys at home, I've discovered that there are other, more subtle things you can learn as well.

For instance, did you know that "Robinson Crusoe" can teach you how to survive on a 'desserted island'? After all, there aren't any restaurants around you know. And Robinson Crusoe is indeed 'quite profishient' at raising food? Who knew that would be required so close to the ocean? *snicker*

Throughout the book we were constantly evaluating his motives, attempting to determine what it might tell about his character. Regularly we tried to come up with some new words that described him as he moved from marooned sailor to a competent builder, farmer and eventually, courageous rescuer and then benevolent master. When asked to come up with a list of words that might describe him, Jonathan chose the following: Kind-hearted, courageous, brave, restoredful, smart, adventurous, selfish, and strong. I guess he sleeps well at night as he wakes up restored and full of something, which is more than I can say about me some days.

I love schooling at home. You never know what you're going to encounter next. And it seems I'm getting educated right along with them. Who knew? LOL

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On The Rise?

Okay, okay, okay. I have a unique sense of humor that periodically embarrasses my children. I can deal with that. They'll have to cope the best they can. They're young. They are flexible. And when they finally leave the nest they'll miss it, I'm sure. But an embarrassment to my husband??? Say it isn't so!!!

Alas, it is. You see, my dearest hubby has been to the Dr. more in the past two years than he's ever been in his life. Between a possible heart attack that turned out to be shingles and his Grave's Disease, he's getting used to being prodded and poked in a regular basis.

A few weeks ago he went in to see the Dr. because he was having his first ever, and an obnoxious one at that, case of poison ivy and they just wouldn't go away. They still haven't but that's a whole other issue. Anyway, the Dr. examined him and sent him home with some meds to help and an additional request. Because his blood pressure was elevated, and had been the previous time he'd been in, he was to monitor his blood pressure and write it down. Easy enough. I was happy to share my blood pressure cuff with someone else and really had to work hard not to snicker because my usually very healthy hubby was dealing with the same thing I was and he'd discover it wasn't so easy to remember to take your bp or, heaven forbid, to remember your pills everyday. Yep, this would show him... uh... no.

Instead I discovered that he had 'white coat syndrome' instead of high blood pressure. Here at home his pressures are just dandy. On the low end, even. *gasp* I was once again sailing on my own in the world of high blood pressures. We thought that was the end of it for him. But no.

Yesterday I received a call from Mary indicating Dr. Stone wanted to see Don for a bp follow up. I laughed and chatted with her for a bit and then made an appt for him to see Dr. Stone. Gleefully I shared the news with Don when he came in but alas he was not quite so thrilled. At his request, I wrote Dr. Stone an email. In my own way. To the embarrassment of my hubby. Here's what I sent:

Dr. Stone,

Here I thought I was the one to avoid the Dr. at all costs but I think Don beats me in that department hands down. As always, I totally enjoyed talking with your Mom today when she called to let us know you wanted to see Don regarding his bp. Smirking under my breath I shared the good news with him when he came home. Gosh, who wouldn't want to come in and just say "Hi" to you over a blood pressure cuff, anyway? I know I'm just waiting with baited breath for my chance! But alas, it seems Don would be heavy in to avoidance. Without a word he headed upstairs and returned rather quickly with the following list:

8/10 - 127/72
8/21 - 117/71
8/23 - 126/79
8/24 - 119/69
8/27 - 126/78
PSA - .43

Any person with half a brain would assume that he's trying very hard to avoid seeing you, but then I might be claiming more abilities than I really have so I'll leave that decision up to you. Do you still want to see my wonderful specimen of a hubby next Tuesday for a follow up bp check or can we assume that he'll let you know should things take a rise, unheeded, in the near future?


Just what pray tell is wrong with that note??? I fail to see why he asked if I couldn't just write a normal, short note with the measurements and that's all. Isn't that just what I did???

My poor family. Sentenced to life with a woman who happens to have a quirky sense of humor. I feel so for them, don't you?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like... A New School Year!

YES! A new school year is about to begin. It is one of my favorite times of the year! School starts tomorrow. Tomorrow!!! I know, I know. You all are just as excited as I am. And the boys... their excitement can't be described. They are so thrilled that they have been rendered virtually speechless. Literally. Especially when I told them that we'd be having our annual 'planning meeting' tomorrow morning at 7:30 after they'd had breakfast and made their beds. Oh to see the shocked looks on their faces. It was priceless.

As they digested this news, I could see their wheels start to turn. Soon I was rewarded with their loosely thought out arguments like how could I, a mere schooling-at-home mother, imagine that they needed to get up at such an (and I'm quoting directly mind you) "obscene" hour??? How could I make them actually get up early enough to watch the sun rise? Or better yet, to watch their poor friends, who actually have to go to school every day, get on the bus??? Cruel, aren't I? *rolling eyes* I happened to mention that they normally get up that early on their own, that they know a planning meeting comes at the beginning of every school year, and that in fact our planning meeting had to be productive and reach a conclusion in time to take Matthew to work for the day where he'd be earning money while his friends were in class. Ah, money. Okay, everything is all right with the world once again.

As the day has gone on, I've seen them quietly planning between themselves for the planning meeting. It seems that they've decided what devotions we'll be using (one decision down), they have each chosen an instrument for the year (second problem solved without my even suggesting it as a necessity to a well-rounded education), and they've both decided that my idea of health education (they've seen the Christian sexual education books I've purchased sitting on the table) isn't what they want to hear this year so they are going to loudly protest at that moment in the meeting. I can handle that. I'm not sure I'm ready for them to learn all of that anyway. After all, I didn't learn it quite that early and I came out okay so it must work to wait.

A lot of things work better when you wait. Like tomorrow's meeting for instance. If I'd had this meeting last week without preparing them, they'd have had to make all of these decisions while I watched. They probably would have argued a bit, wanting to make it an authentic meeting and all, and they'd probably have stretched it out until it was time for Laura to wake up from her nap, virtually ending our meeting before it was supposed to end leaving far too many things for another meetings agenda. Instead I told them at breakfast today what was ahead in their week and gave them time to ponder it. Indeed it is good to wait. Tomorrow's meeting has just a few topics left for discussion. Surely we can do that in just a short amount of time.

I think I'm getting smarter at this parenting thing. And I'll keep thinking that. At least until tomorrow mornings meeting.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Milk Does A Body Good... Sometimes

I've had another reason to be so very thankful as I have had reason to be in almost everything that surrounds our little gift called Laura. It seems that part of the reason she's here with us is to remind me regularly about being thankful. And I do mean thankful. Not only is she here, alive and well, but she's not the vegetable that they warned us she'd be. Nor is she even vaguely 'in need of intensive intervention' as they claimed, in writing no less, that she'd be for the rest of her life. Yes, we have much to be thankful for when it comes to Laura. In fact her middle name means "God's Promise" and indeed he is keeping his promise to bless her life.

Laura lives on dairy products. I do mean just that. She drinks several glasses of milk a day and loves yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese and ice cream. On any given day she has at least one meal, and more often two, that are centered around dairy. Her bones aren't lacking. That's for sure. But her tummy was suffering. We just didn't know enough to figure that out.

When she was a baby she was on special formula. We transitioned her off of that on to milk and she's had it ever since. She supplements with pediasure but that's not common, and she loves the stuff. So it never occurred to us that it could be causing her problems. Recently, 'My tummy hurts' was a common refrain. At first I thought it was for attention and Don thought not. Then, over time, he began to agree with my position and I began to move over to his side. LOL The final straw for me was having her curled up in my arms, content at the individual attention while guzzling her last glass of milk for the day, and turning to me 10 minutes later crying because her stomach hurt. I suspected we had a problem - with milk! UGH!

After consulting with her Ped we put her back on prevacid for a few weeks and the complaining did go down some. But it didn't disappear. So we moved on to Plan B. We cut out lactose. The change was immediate. Her breath, which has long smelled like something died in there, didn't smell at all. Her diapers became normal. Regularly. As in all of the time normal. No loosie goosies at all. And not a complaint about her tummy. Not a one. Nada. Nyet. Nothing. I think we have found the problem.

So once again we are thankful. Thankful that she's a normal, healthy three year old with only a lactose intolerance. She's not dealing with something even more difficult to handle like celiacs, and she's not allergic to milk. She just can't digest her lactose. How wonderful is that? She'll be fine. We'll all make some adjustments and we'll go from there. Life goes on. The Lord is so good. So very good. I know. I have a constant reminder living right here with me. :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pistols and Daggers and Swords, OH MY!

I recall receiving a note from a friend when I discovered so long ago that David was on the way. My second boy. No little pink bundle to dress in frilly socks and hair bows for me. No. Another blue bundle to love. And my friend knew that I was, if only for a moment, wondering just how much testosterone I'd need to deal with in my life. She sent a poem about raising boys and how much joy and fun it really was. I laughed and posted it where I would see it often while at my desk. Little did I know just how right that poem would be. Boys are a joy and so fun to raise! But I failed to realize just how much testosterone I'd actually have in my life.

David wasn't with us for long but Jonathan soon took his place. I grew used to saying "the boys" when referring to my children and it fit me just perfectly. What doesn't seem to go with my view of life is the ever present fascination boys have with weaponry. Why is it that everything in their world can become a gun or a sword or even a dagger? When I look at a stick I see a marshmallow melter, or even a hiking pole or firewood. My boys see swords, rifles and spears. When I see a small piece of wood I think it needs to find its way to the tinder box. Matthew thinks he needs to find a tool so he can carve a new weapon that the military might actually want to buy from him. *sigh*

The other day we were all playing outside. Laura was collecting 'shicks' to take to Poppa's house so they could burn them for roasting marshmallows. (That's my girl!) Jonathan wasn't particularly in to doing anything that vaguely looked like work so he was avoiding her at all costs, choosing to climb a tree instead. He casually held a stick in his hand and whacked the tree branch with it every so often. Matthew was sorting through the tinder box in search of something. Soon he asked Don if he could have a small piece he found. Once Don gave the okay and disappeared in to the house, Matthew started looking for tools. Within 30 minutes that piece of wood was now officially a dagger. Why? I couldn't really say. I was honestly just glad it wasn't joining the ranks of all of the other lego/pvc pipe/wooden replicas of official rifles, pistols and such he's been making with his spare time lately. But a dagger??? Did we really need another weapon of some sort around here???

Once Laura came along I became dreaming of the day I could hold a craft or cooking party instead of a water or mad scientist party. A time when wooden craft pieces could become creations that the maker intended, not a makeshift weapon to be tried out on the back fence. A time when calm chat would reign over crazed, running, testosterone laiden preteens and teenagers. And then reality struck. I saw it with my own eyes but I hesitated to believe it. So I had to look again. Yes, there it was once again. I saw it. I really did. Jonathan had come down from his perch in the tree and was... *gasp* ...swordfighting with Laura. Say it isn't so!!!

Alas, it is. Laura, for all of her girly girl tendencies, is being raised with tween and teenage boys. Boys who love all things male. I think I'm outnumbered. I think I'll quit planning for craft parties now. Then, if they should happen to actually occur, I can be thrilled beyond my wildest dreams. Yes, that's a plan. I'll work on it....

Tomorrow. For now I'll enjoy doing Laura's hair and dreaming of a beauty salon party I can do for all of her 'dirl' friends. I even have pink lacy hair clips to put in it. I guess I've managed to put a little bit of girly girl in her after all. I think I just heard her say her favorite color is pink. YES! Go girl, GO!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Where's Daddy?

My first conversation with Laura this morning just tickled my heart. Yes, we have a variation quite frequently. But it is usually said with a deep sadness. This morning it was very different. It went something like this:

"Mommy? Where's Daddy?" questioned Laura as she peeked in to our bedroom and found the bed all made up.

"Where is Daddy?" came my usual reply.

"He's at worked."

"Yes, Sweet Pea. He's at work. Why is he at work?" I ask for the umpteenth time.

"He's at worked betause he wuv's us." Her normal reply came quickly. And then she added with so much joy "He wuv's US! He WUV'S US!!!" And she danced down the stairs with a smile on her face and a song on her lips.

How much better can it be than to have a Daddy who really loves us enough to get up and go to work at 5 AM no matter what? It really can't get any better than that. Laura knows it. And so do I. :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, We Need A Schedule to Go...

As we get more and more prepared to start schooling at home again next week, I realize that fall is my favorite times of the year. While each season has its high points (yes, even winter - but then the Christmas season ends and you're left with the rest of the winter here - UGH!), fall is really the best time of the year. Warm days and cool nights, fires in the fireplace, the golden yellows, oranges and dark reds that decorate everything, the crunch of the leaves as you walk down the sidewalk, the quiet each day as the neighborhood empties in to school leaving us to our own family time and the routine of life as we head to the holidays makes the warmth of the season surround me. I just love this time of year!

The past few years have seen me far too busy dealing with kids, school, and surgeries to fully enjoy the preparation of the holidays. I'm going to change that this year. My Christmas gene needs to prepare for, and enjoy, a wonderfully marvelous holiday season. So I've been searching for ways to get ready on time, and yes even early. I have found two websites: and One of them is going to guide me through. Yes, I'll change and adapt it to meet our needs but I need someone else to help me get organized this year. I admit it. I'm open to change as long as I don't have to think it all up myself.

I'm also redoing the kids schedules, their responsibilities and chores, and their attitude charts. Starting next week Laura will get her own chores to do along with her usual 'help' that she is required to give us when we request it. She has already started helping me fold small towels and to match up some of her socks so I think she's ready. Matthew will be taking on more responsibilities as fits his older abilities, and he'll be teaching Jonathan how to do some of the things he's been doing for awhile, too. I think it will take us awhile to get in to the new groove, but it is very much a welcome thing for most of us. I'm not so sure about Laura. :)

All in all, fall is a new beginning. Ours begins next Monday. And frankly, I can't wait! The kids with their noses in books, time with them while everyone else is gone for the day, games, music, piano and guitar lessons... Yes! What a great way to spend our fall! And if it all leads to a prepared, relatively stress free holiday, I'm all for it!

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Stista" and "Waura"

My very precious friend Michelle is dealing with the frustration of having a very sick child and not being able to immediately help make it all better. I've certainly been there, done that far too many times to count in just the past three years, let alone the 14 that I've been a parent. My heart goes out to her as she lives through this difficult time.

Since there isn't much we can do for them given where she lives and where I live, one of the only things I can do is pray. So we're doing that here regularly. This morning after sharing the update from Michelle on Krista's condition, we prayed for them together. Jonathan prayed "Lord, help Krista. She's in bad pain. I wouldn't want that so I know she doesn't because she's a girl. So heal her." and then he remembered to be polite, adding "Please". When it was Matthew's turn he said "Krista needs healing. You love her. You heal. So do it. Today." I could hear the unspoken "Dude Jesus" in his attitude after that but he didn't say it. LOL Boys... I'd tell you what Laura said but I didn't catch anything beyond "Ward"(her version of Lord) and "Stista" but I know she meant every word she said.

We all miss Michelle and the gang when they aren't here and we cherish their visits. So we took a little trip down memory lane today and in honor of Krista, here's one of my favorite pictures:

Little "Dirls" and Their Hair

This morning Laura woke up declaring that today she wanted to be a "dirl". So I tried something new with her hair. Needless to say she's in love with it. And I hope it means less tangles when we go to brush it out later. However, I'm not so sure how it is going to survive naptime!

New Activities at the Lego Warehouse

Recently our resident warehouse workers decided it was time to find something new to do with their constant supply of bricks. Yes, the warehouse managers encourage them to do this on a regular basis. No, the warehouse managers didn't count on the extent of their creativity at that moment. *sigh* When will we learn???

It seems that the new Bionicle dudes come with 'shooters' of some sort. Things that can propel pieces without the intervention of actual fingers. Well, there is the need to press some sort of button, but that means they really didn't throw them, did they? After all, the 'shooter' did it! Yeah... I'm buying that one.

Here the warehouse workers are in the midst of battle. The family room survived. I'm not so sure the up and coming warehouse worker stuck around to see, but her toys came out okay in the end, too. :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

And The Saga Continues...

Sometimes I just want to curl up in the corner and have a good cry. I wonder why it is that Laura must endure so much. I wonder why she had to not only have all of the gastric issues, oxygen issues, and eating problems but clubfoot on top of it all. I wonder why it is that after all we've done to assure she'd have the best little feet she could that we're still dealing with problems. Why? Why??? Oh wait, now I'm starting to sound like a three year old. I guess I'd better grow up a few years and just handle it. After all, she's here. She's normal. She's full of joy and laughter. This is what is important.

When we knew Laura would be born with bilateral clubfoot we researched what that really meant for her and how we might handle it. With the persistence of very caring parents we found Dr. Ponseti and his method where her feet could be corrected without surgery. We interviewed Drs and found one we thought would be great for us and felt quite comfortable when she was born with our plans. We weren't prepared for all of the other issues she faced and found ourselves pushing her feet to a lower priority as we prayed for her other, more immediate needs.

Her precious feet were classified as "atypical" relatively early in the process. This meant she would have a few more challenges in correcting them than the norm, but we figured that it was just Laura's way. After all, she certainly managed to do everything else the hard way so why should this be any different?! :) We did everything we could to keep her from having surgery above and beyond the typical tenotomy. We even trucked her out to Iowa to see Dr. Ponseti himself for over a year. Finally, even he couldn't figure out why her left foot just could not be corrected and cautioned us that she might have CP. I can't tell you how that possible diagnosis effected us but you can imagine it wasn't good. We had already seen a neurologist who had run an MRI that indicated she was fine. At least at that point. Her therapists, who saw her weekly all said she didn't have CP and even our ortho said that he didn't think so but if she did, it was only so slight that she'd be fine and lead a normal life. If we could just get her little left foot to correct.

Her first visit with Dr. Ponseti:

Finally we opted for the ATTT surgery on that foot. It went well and we were happy with the results. However, her foot kept 'sliding off the fat pad'. We tried several things to fix that and the right foot complied. The left foot didn't. After a year of that she finally received the next in what we've come to realize may be a long line of diagnoses regarding her feet. We sometimes wonder if it will ever end. We know her foot is unusual and that most clubfoot kids do just fine with Dr. Ponseti's method of treatment to achieve a perfectly corrected foot. We've come to realize that no matter how stringent we were with the FAB, her feet just aren't fitting in any mold known so far. So we must once again make a difficult decision.

Laura in casts as she has been on and off since birth:

Next week Laura will be fitted for an AFO for her left foot. I have resisted this option until it no longer makes sense to do so. Normally AFO's are not appropriate when using Dr. Ponseti's method. But then Laura isn't following the norm. So we'll be giving this a try until she's ready for what we hope is the final surgery on her feet. Apparently, with the diagnosis of hindfoot varus, her foot will need a surgery to correct that if she's to stand straight without a brace and without wearing out the other bones in her feet due to the awkward stance. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Meanwhile, I'll work on dealing with the AFO. I pray a minimal one is all that will be needed.

I'm sure I'll wonder why all of this had to be Laura's lot in life many more times before she's grown in to a wonderful young woman. But I'm also going to remember to thank the Lord along the way that she's the intelligent, loving, funny kid that she is. We really can't ask for more than that!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Homeschool Buyers Co-op Group Buy on BrainPOP (and Lego!)

In order to help spread the word on this wonderful opportunity, I thought I'd share it here as well. The Homeschool Buyers Co-op is offering a group buy deal on BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. Here is the link:

Membership in the homeschool buyers co-op is free. You just have to sign up. They provide many opportunities to participate in money saving opportunities for homeschooling and other families interested in their child's education throughout the year. They also offer a daily deals notice where they list general deals you can get on the net each weekday. I've participated in group buys previously and it is always done well and professionally. Please remember to read the information they provide and follow them. It makes it easier on all of us!

If you haven't seen BrainPOP before here are the links and . And of course, the important thing to remember is that the more people who go in on the group buy, the lower the price for all of us. If you want to try it before you buy it, you can get a free trial at both sites. Just be sure you try it and decide before the deadline for the group buy!

They also have group buys going on now for LEGO education, God's World News,, Dave Ramsey, Skills Tutor, Unitedstreaming and others. Check them out!

No, I get no extras/compensation/whatever from any of these groups. I just like the homeschool buyers co-op and BrainPOP, and will be participating in the group buy.

Yoga and the Boys

About a month ago Auntie Diane asked me if the boys would like to spend the day at Cedar Point. Uhhh... no brainer! Of course they would! She offered to take them and I encouraged her to give it to them as a birthday present. We planned and plotted, as all good gift givers do, gleefully knowing they'd love the day once it arrived. But we thought that perhaps they'd get more rest and be better prepared for the day if they didn't know about it before hand. And so "Yoga" was born.

Auntie Diane creatively typed up a certificate for Matthew, cut it down to the size of a cd case where she placed it, wrapping it so he'd suspect that indeed he was opening up some music. He opened, and then read, the note: Happy Birthday Matthew! You are cordially invited with your brother Jonathan to experience a day of peace and tranquility with your loving Aunt Diane! The date and time of this calming adventure will be a surprise! More details to follow!

As they picked apart this message, both Matthew and Jonathan thought it meant they'd have to wait until Jonathan's birthday in mid-September to get more info. We just laughed. Then they started in with questions about what it all really meant and "Yoga" seemed to fit the peace and tranquility comment. So Yoga it became. Both boys adamently said they weren't doing yoga. We just laughed some more. Then Jonathan decided Auntie Diane really wasn't that mean, was she? I think Matthew suspected all along that it wasn't yoga specifically, but he couldn't place it, either. So the questions began.

My standard statement was that they'd know when the time was right. For each guess and each thought expressed I'd state that they'd know when the time was right. It became a monotone statement after awhile, but sometimes it was hard not to laugh. Like the time Diane told them they'd need to practice their 'Ummmms', which she said with her hands folded in front of her in a typical pose. Or when she told them they could get ready by standing on one foot with the other leg raised at a 90 degree angle - another typical pose. Eventually, yoga became a litany throughout our day. Even Don's workplace unknowingly got in to the act when they sent through the exercise hint for the day mentioning the benefits of yoga. THAT was a gem!

Finally, after weeks of baiting them, and a few days of yoga talk, Auntie Diane called me to plan for their day. Wednesday would be "The Day". Don and I decided that we needed to get them in to bed early to make up for the lack of sleep the night before when a friend slept over, so we opted to tell them that Wednesday would be "Yoga Day" and gave them what that really meant as far as bedtimes and our Wednesday morning schedule. This little announcement sent them in to a flurry of guessing games.

Matthew was sure that "Yoga" stood for something and he tried his hardest to sound it out and make it represent something. Then he gave up and started guessing all sorts of things from a day at Swings-N-Things to swimming to Geauga Lake. After all, yoga and Geauga kinda sounded the same, didn't they? Deep down I think Jonathan thought yoga was a possibility but he hoped not. He would have been happy with a day at the pool but he knew that wasn't it as soon as we got in the car without our suits. Oh how much fun it is to drive them crazy with clues!

On the trip up to Auntie Diane's this morning I gave them a few more clues. Statements like "Since there would be so many people at yoga, Sonny was going with them just in case another adult was needed." and "You won't be able to take your hat or wallet as you might lose them while yoga-ing" didn't help them any with their ultimate destination. Diane had prepared cards for them to open when they were about half way there that would finally answer all of their questions. I can't wait to see how that went!

Right now they've been at the park for a few hours and I'm hoping they are having a great time. They will be delivered back home safe and sound, and hopefully exhausted before 9. I'm sure they'll have stories to tell, and they'll remind me that they guessed Cedar Point once or twice in the weeks leading up to today. And I know they'll remember this present for a good long time.

Thank you Auntie Diane for loving them so much. Thank you for taking time out of your vacation to spend the day with them doing something you know they'd enjoy. Thank you for being you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Is There A Christmas Gene???

I realize there are a lot of ways people are different. Some are outgoing and some can't carry on a conversation with anyone to save their lives. Some are active, preferring to spend time outside no matter what the weather, and others prefer a good book, sitting quietly to pass the time. Some love children and are really just big kids at heart while others think only mature activities count in the great scheme of things. And then there are those who love Christmas and those who don't. I'd agree that most of us fall somewhere in between, but I can't help but wonder... is there a Christmas gene?

I love Christmas. Lock, stock and barrel. Yes, even the snow. In fact, I'm of the opinion that we should have wonderfully warm weather until Christmas Eve when the temperature should fall below 32 degrees so snow can fall overnight coating the world with a thick layer of white. We can enjoy the snow for a few days and then expect that by New Year's Eve, the weather will warm enough to melt the snow in time for all of us to enjoy the new year in comfort and warmth. Yes, I know I dream big. After all, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas just like I do every year.

I plan for Christmas most of the year. As a bargain shopper, I keep an eye out for sales where I can stock up for the holidays any time of the year. Those 'after Christmas' sales are just the beginning of preparations for the following year. You can find wonderful things for those people who are important to you almost any time of year if you just take the time to shop for them. Knowing that you found just the perfect thing someone will enjoy makes the time well spent, and your budget will appreciate it, too. I used to find more time than I do, but I'm working on getting back in to the swing of sales shopping once again.

I also love to make things. I've painted, cross-stitched and crafted things for many years. I know that some folks don't appreciate all of the effort you put in to things, but I figure that's their problem, not mine. I just enjoy making them, and thinking of that person, praying for them while I do. I just wish I could find something that could be created as quickly as life seems to move these days. Meanwhile, I'll just keep fitting creative moments in where I can.

But the things that means the most to me during the holiday season are the sweet Christmas songs, the joy-filled Christmas decorations, the warmth of the Christmas specials and the time we set aside to spend with family and friends as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I spend days decorating the house, adding some new things each year knowing our family will enjoy every little touch I add. I'm even contemplating putting up two Christmas trees this year - one in each bow window. And I love baking Christmas cookies although I don't need to eat even one of them. Somehow they taste even better when they are actually Christmas cookies and I'm sure that means they have more calories as well. Then there's the music. I've already started playing Christmas music and we get Christmas programs from the library almost every week to watch now. I figure why wait? There's so much that we'd be hard pressed to fit it all in to one month of the year so we're enjoying it a little at a time.

Yes, I think there is a Christmas gene. I've definitely inherited it. I'm not sure where it came from, as my parents aren't nearly as enamored with Christmas as I am, so maybe it came from Nana. And since I've got it, I feel like it is my duty as a parent to pass it on to my children. Matthew has some of it already and Jonathan's definitely in to Christmas. But Laura. That's where my Christmas gene will shine the most. She's already enamored with all things Christmas and thinks every evergreen is just standing there, waiting to be decorated for that special season. Like me, she'll never think of them as anything but Christmas trees. And that isn't a bad thing, is it? :) Then there's the lights. She sees a set of twinkling lights and she automatically thinks of Christmas. Yes, she's got the gene, too.

As you think about summer coming to a close, I encourage you to follow in our footsteps even if you didn't inherit a Christmas gene yourself. You can choose to embrace the season, preparing ahead of time by getting your house in order, shopping for those you love with purpose instead of last minute desperation, or creating something from your own hand to honor their place in your life. As you prepare to celebrate Christmas this year, put Christ at the center of your season. He loves you enough that he came as a baby, living just as we do before dying to save you. Let this holiday season be the beginning of a new phase in your life. The beginning of your very own Christmas gene.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Why, Mommy? Why Does Daddy Love Us? Why?

We are deep in to the inevitable three year old "Why" stage. Really deep. And I think it is going to be awhile before we dig ourselves out of it. At least if today is any indication. Here's a conversation I just had with Laura:

Mom, where's Daddy?

Where is Daddy?

Daddy's at work. Why is Daddy at work?

Why is Daddy at work?

Daddy is at work because he loves us.

Yes, Daddy loves us very much.

Why, Mommy? Why does Daddy love us? Why?

Because he does.

But why, Mommy? Why does Daddy love us? Why?

Because he does. *I smile as I think about just how much he loves us*

But why, Mommy? Why does Daddy love us? Why? Why? *she sits there with a pleading look on her face, hands facing up as she gestures that 'I don't know' thing she does with her hands and shoulders*

Because Laura. He loves us just because we are his.

But why, Mommy? Why does Daddy love us just because we are his? Why?

And so the conversation goes. I seems as though it will be never ending. So far it has gone on for several minutes. There is no end in sight.

I've thought a lot of late about the love that surrounds me. My family loves me unconditionally. I am blessed to have Don who has given so much to us all in the past five years and will continue to love us more than I can ever imagine. I have friends who are a constant support and am growing in that circle of friends on a regular basis. And in the midst of it all I have the Lord who loves me enough to die on the cross for me. Me. One of many yet he knew he was doing it for me. Me. Christine. Why? Because I am his. Because he loves me.

Perhaps Laura will have an easier time understanding the mighty power of the love the Lord has for us because of her Daddy. Then again maybe not...

Why, Mommy? Why does Daddy love us just because? Why? Why?

And so it goes...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Why? Why? Why, Mattchew? Why?

I just overheard a conversation that indicated a phase has started that I'd hoped we might skip with Laura. Alas, I have hoped in vain.

Matthew and Jonathan have overdone it this morning. Between days and days of rain keeping us all inside (where, oh where did that drought go???), the humidity and heat index issues, and lack of structure that we naturally fall in to during the school year even though we are schooling at home, the boys need to have some energy outlet that I can't provide at the moment. So they chose to provide it themselves. I believe fists were involved but it seems not one was hurt. And amusingly, no one is willing to give me the whole story - not that I'd want it anyway. However, they are both cooling off in separate spaces at the moment. Confined until I deem them 'chilled and ready for appropriate interaction.'

Matthew is stationed in the entry way. Laura is fascinated by the fact that he's still, in one location, and apparently free and ready for interaction. So she's been encouraging him to play. He kept saying "No" until finally he said "I can't, Laura. I'm having a time out." (Yes, even 14 year olds need to chill for a bit now and then. I'd have said he's just cooling off, but if he wants to call it 'time out', who am I to question it?). Laura said "Why?" and when no answer was forthcoming within the half second pause she allowed, she continued with "Why? Why? Why, Mattchew? Why are you in timed out? Why? Why? Why?"

Why indeed. Why is it that three year olds like that word? Why? Is it because it is short and easy to say? Why? Or is it because it just flows off the tongue over and over again easily? Why? Why? Why, Laura? Why? Perhaps it is because there doesn't seem to be a set answer so there's always a reason to ask again. Why? Why? Why? However, I think the real reason they ask us why is because they know it drives us nuts. Especially during the rainy season.

So much for hoping we'd pass through this phase quickly. Why, Laura? Why is it that you must insist on doing everything every other three year old does? Why? Why? Why, Laura? Why???

"Twiet, Mattchew! Stop!"

Getting the kids to bed most nights, especially when Don is off on vacation, can be a challenge to any sane parent. The boys have perfected stalling and Laura has learned all she needs to know at 3 to do her best as well. Yes, they have a definite bedtime. During Don's vacation week, they rarely make it. Last night was no exception.

After getting Laura dressed for bed, we headed back down the hall to brush her teeth. That meant a trip back in to our bedroom, home of 'the people magnet'. True to form, the boys were spread eagle on our bed, laughing and playing with Daddy and arguing over who had to brush their teeth first. On the way to the bathroom with Laura, I scooped up Jonathan and the three of us managed to get to the sink without incident. I have no clue what Matthew and Daddy were doing, but I do know it involved the usual game of 'who hid the TV controller'. *sigh*

Laura's teeth were done before Jonathan's so she headed back in to the bedroom, climbed on to the people magnet and proceeded to take the channel changer from Matthew and started changing channels. There was some protest but it was lost in my "No, we're going to bed! Now!" statements. Laura continued to change channels but Matthew got up and started for the door, at least for a moment. When Jonathan resumed his place as co-antagonist with Matthew, they both drew closer to the bed once again. Matthew was teasing Laura, telling her it was time for bed and that she had to put down the remote and get out of our bed. She kept saying no. He kept telling her yes. She'd say no. And so it went.

The level of their discussion was rising so after cleaning up the sink after all of the teethbrushing, I headed back in to the bedroom to round up everyone and get them to bed. I came through the doorway just in time to see Laura attempt the impossible, and achieve it! :) Apparently her ability to control the television so empowered her that she figured she could do the same to Matthew. So after Matthew said "Put that down, Laura. It's time for bed. Now." just one time too many, Laura pointed the channel changer at him, said "Twiet, Mattchew! Stop!" and pressed some buttons.

For a moment peace reigned. Followed shortly by bales of laughter. Laura has much to learn about just what a remote can control and what it can't. But then I think that it is better if she doesn't ever really know because then she can work to achieve anything she wants. Even if that means shutting up her brother. :)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Few Good Books

In the past few years the boys and I have discovered a wonderful way to pass a few hours. We grab a new book and sit down for a good ol' family read aloud event. Sometimes we pop popcorn, sometimes we sit around the living room or family room, and sometimes we climb on our bed, formally known as 'The People Magnet'. But we always do it together and we always enjoy it.

One of the great difficulties I used to have was picking a good book. After reading through most of the Narnia series a few years ago, it seemed there was little to match the sense of adventure and the depth of storytelling we found in them. But I was wrong. Good books that lend themselves to reading aloud are found in almost any genre. Mysteries, diaries, historical fiction, fact based books, comedies, and real life history stories are some of our favorites. We've read some that aren't necessarily in any 'best books to read' lists but cracked us up anyway. And some mysteries that I got out for myself have been such a fun read that I ended up reading them again out loud to the boys.

I find books for us to read in a variety of places. Thrift stores are one of my favorite haunts. Here I can find great books in excellent condition as well as old favorites that I'd like the boys, or Laura eventually, to read and I can get them for next to nothing. I also like the library's book sale shelves, garage sales, scholastic books warehouse sales and those passed on through friends and freecycle work, too. And I'm known to browse the children's section of chapter books in our library with as much interest as I browse the adult sections I love to spend hours in. Our bookshelves here are overflowing and I know we'll always have something to read. But that hasn't stopped me from looking for more!

Some helpful folk, as they discover what I'm looking for, encourage us to read the Harry Potter series. Most of the time I smile and let it go without responding. But sometimes the need to share that we don't feel those books have a place in our home begins an interesting conversation regarding whatever their perspective is on witchcraft, Satan's ability to make evil things look good, obedience to authority, and how it is that they think we're wrong about our decision. I think most chalk it up to our more traditional family values which are serving us quite well, or even our desire to school our children at home, but I figure it is their problem, not mine. Others want to encourage us to read series like the 'Little House' books, but the boys just aren't that interested. *sigh* Perhaps I can enjoy them again with Laura! Meanwhile, we are always on the look out for good books.

One series I've had my eye out for have been the books for boys written by Max Elliot Anderson. I've looked for them everywhere hoping to snag some that were within my budget. After all, books written for boys in that critical 8 - 12 or 13 age range are hard to come by. I'd heard about them from the author himself and have read a few reviews so they were on the top of my list. I even looked for them at the library and, while they said they would be ordered, didn't ever find them available. So I asked the library to order them. Several times. Finally, last week, we got a few with more to come soon. I love our library!

In our very unbiased opinion, these books are fun! Just plain good ol' fun reads. The boys in these books are real 12 year olds and they have a good time together. And they choose to do what is right, not what is easiest. My boys can't get enough. And they can't listen quietly either. If we decide to read them after Laura has gone to bed, we must either read in the living room or the basement - as far away from her room as we can get. The rolling laughter that comes during each read, and the discussions about what happened and how it might have come out differently if Tom, Jimmy, Eddy, Scott, Amanda, Todd and Matt had chosen to not do the right thing bring up lots of opportunity for them to repeat over and over again their favorite lines. (Note: No longer can you ask in our house 'what is it about?' when referring to a book without getting an smart aleck answer quoting the page length instead of the content. LOL) We can't wait to get the rest and meet more fun tweeners. I'm sure they'll be just as fun as the first few.

So, we're always on the lookout for good books for older boys. If you know of any, please feel free to suggest them. I'll periodically let you know what we've been reading and how we like them. Meanwhile, I think I'll read ahead a few pages to see what happens next in "The Newspaper Caper". Shhhhhhhh! Don't tell the boys!!!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Another Year Older...

Yesterday Matthew moved yet another year in teenagedom. He's fourteen now. It is truly bittersweet. On one hand we are well on our way to raising this wonderful child in to a man. On the other hand, my first baby isn't a baby anymore.

Most of the time he tries to remind me that he's grown up now. That he's no longer a baby. That he doesn't need me. That he can take care of himself. That he's autonomous. And then reality hits. He can't find a clean pair of shorts and wants to know why I haven't done the laundry. He's hungry and he wants to know what we're having for whatever meal is close at hand. Or a ride somewhere. Or even a new pair of shoes.

But sometimes he really is growing up more than I'd like to admit. Like the other day when he opted to stay home and play with his brother instead of with his friends because he knew his brother was lonely. Or the time he just started picking up the living room because it needed it. Or when he actually came in and did the dishes without being told and it wasn't even on his chore list, just because he knew I could use the help. Or when he is sure to get a kiss and a hug from me before I leave. And he tells me he loves me and wants me to be safe while I'm gone.

I realize that in the next few years the grownup moments will become more frequent and the childish ones will fall more and more by the wayside. I'll know that we've raised a wonderful young man who will go on to be a good American citizen, choose a wonderful wife, raise his own family, and become the strong man of God that he is to become.

But meanwhile, you'll pardon me if I trip down memory lane every once in awhile as we did last night while sharing his birthday dinner with him. After all, who can forget his little finger and thumb raised in an 'L' as he says in that little baby voice, "Be right back". Or his little waves as his head rested on my shoulder while I sang yet another round of "Sing Mush, Mommy. Sing Mush." Or the feeling of his little hand in mine as we walked up the steps to Momma Lori's house for the start of yet another day. And let us not forget the stories about the candy bar...

Yes, memories are so very good. And I'm glad we continue to make more of them while reliving the past. Honey, Poppy and I love telling him those stories and we love reminding him of his 'cute' moments. Rest assured that he enjoys it almost as much as we do. :)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I Wanna Dough Smimmin' Aden!

We've been home from Auntie Diane's house now for about 15 hours. For 10 of those hours Laura was asleep. The other 5 have been filled with a constant refrain. "I wanna dough smimmin' aden!" can be heard coming from the smallest of the crowd - and the one who amusingly spent the least amount of time in the water. But I guess that's largely why she'd like to get back in!

We spent the afternoon and evening yesterday at Auntie Diane's. Don and I knew we were going but we left it a surprise for the kids. We told them that if they got the house picked up and the vacuum run in the morning, we'd go on an adventure in the afternoon. They kept asking where we were going. Matthew desperately wanted to think we were headed for Cedar Point but I kept assuring him we'd not waste the admission for only a half day of fun - and we wouldn't take Laura with us either. Then they both guessed a park pretty close to Honey and Poppy's, the rec center, and even Swings 'n Things. But all we kept telling them was "You'll have to wait and see."

When they couldn't stand it any longer, they begged for some clues. So we gave them the following: We are ALL going as a family. It is some place sunny and there are lots of other people. (Sunny and of course Sonny... I couldn't resist) It wasn't enough for them. They wanted more. Not knowing how I'd give them more without their very productive brains figuring it out meant we would not budge. They lived with that and their constant guess of the local park for awhile. Then we made a fatal error.

Don was in the basement getting our swim bag ready to go, planning to squirrel it out to the car without them seeing when I decided I'd lost enough weight that I needed to try on bathing suits. Jonathan, who knows no boundaries, happened to come in to the basement while I had on the one that fit the best. He began to put a few things together. *sigh* Don and I planned how to foil their attempts at solving the mystery so I grabbed a pair of trunks that didn't fit anyone at the house and headed upstairs. I told them I'd been cleaning out some buckets in the basement (well, I did go through the swimsuit bucket and got rid of a lot that they've outgrown so it counted) and wanted to know if they knew who owned the pair I was holding. They started in with "We're going to the rec center!" and "We're going swimming!". So I had to deter them. I offered the following: "Boys, I can assure you that this specific item (pointing that the too large for anyone here trunks) is not involved in our afternoon adventure." (I learned this technique from my Mom and Dad but more on that another time...) Jonathan tried to pick that apart with the comment "that specific one but not all swim suits" but Matthew let it slip on by. They threw out their swim dream and went back to hiking or some such. Boy, we're good! :):)

As we all climbed in to the car they asked once again where we were headed and we relented with "North". I think I repeated that for a good ten minutes before we gave up and gave them a few more clues. Knowing Auntie Diane was planning to get dinner from Boston Market I said "Well, at some point we'll be going to Boston today, too." It didn't help them a bit. So we reviewed what they knew: We were all in the car together. We were headed north to some place sunny where there would be other people. It wasn't much. So I thought quickly. I added "Once we arrive at our initial destination (Auntie Diane's condo), you'll be 'dyin' (Diane - get it?) to go to the next spot for our adventure (the pool). Don looked at me like I was nuts and groaned. Hey, it was as good as I could get. However, after not too much more time in the car they'd narrowed it down to the probability that we were headed to Auntie Diane's or Grandma Jan's for the day - possibly to head to the beach from there. Man, they are good!

Grandma Jan, her neighbor Dorothy and of course Sonny all gathered with us at Auntie Diane's. We spent over two hours at the pool and while the sun was shining on us for about half of that time, there was a breeze so you either wanted to be under the water, or out of it and wrapped in a towel. Then we headed back to Auntie Diane's condo for a bite to eat. She slaved all day, well okay, she worked very hard finding the phone numbers for Donato's (the kids got a supreme pizza) and Boston Market for the rest of dinner. We ate. We talked. We watched the kids play ball, entertain the neighbors and in general have a great time.

We headed home after 8, ready to hit the hay and rest up from our day. It was good to visit with our family again. And I know we added at least one more memory to all of their family memory banks. Laura won't soon forget it, either.

"I wanna dough smimmin' aden!" Yes, that's at least the 100th time this morning. *sigh* I sure hope we get to go back soon! I'm sure the kids do, too. :)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Our Potty Princess - NOT!

Laura, Laura, Laura. *sigh* Some days you just can't get enough of her funny talk, her subtle efforts to get you to pay attention to her and the joy she brings when you watch her with her babies, imitating her family as she goes. Other days you wish she didn't feel the need to reach up and turn your face towards her with her hand because you have failed to pay enough attention to her latest 'Watch me, Mommy!' or paused when you were reading the current favorite gripping preschool book to pay attention to something else demanding your attention for a moment. We won't go in to the nights lately when she wakes up crying and we can't figure out why. But in general I can say I love the stage she's at right now and I find that would choose to leave her stuck here for awhile if I had the choice. Well, almost.

As I head up the steps once again making a beeline towards the changing table I wonder when it is that she'll decide that going on the potty beats sitting in what is there when she doesn't. When is it that she'll decide that being able to poop and get off the pot is much better than tolerating the smell and the goosh until we discover it and change her? And when is it that being soaking wet is supposed to bother her??? I realize she's three and a half but given her slow start, we figure she'll be behind on a few things but I'm beginning to realize this just might be one of those things she's willing to control no matter what the cost to her little baby buns.

Yes, she's stubborn now and then. She gets that from her Daddy, I'm sure. And this is one of those things she's just decided she's going to be stubborn about. I figure that when you wake up dry more often that not, it's time to be letting it out on the porcelain throne. Uh no. Not if you are Laura. She'll sit on the potty for 10 minutes or more. Through multiple readings of "Once Upon A Potty". Ignoring the ever present running faucet meant to help her along a little. Determined to get that diaper back on before she relents. Honestly, my fanny can only take so much time on that little stool so I tend to give it fifteen minutes or so and call it a draw. If I manage to have enough guts to check, I can find a very wet diaper within minutes.

In our efforts to get Laura to decide she's a big girl we've invested in Barney undies, Dora and Disney Princess Pull ups and even ruffled panties. All to no avail. Barney gets wet, Dora's flowers get far too much water to survive and the poor ruffles sag after just a little while in their attempts to help her grow up a bit. We've had tea parties with her babies, I've sat for long periods of time while she watches her babies use the potty chair, and I've sung "She's A Super Duper Pooper" until I am beginning to believe it myself. All to no avail.

I suppose this is just the first of many issues that have the potential to become a power struggle between her little self and her much bigger, holding-more-cards Mommy. So I'm learning to take it as it comes, to pray a lot, hope for the best, and keep the diapers and wipes well stocked. This, too, shall pass. I just wish it would pass in the potty more often than not.