Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Magic

It is unfathomable that Christmas is only 3 weeks away! We still have much to do to prepare: gifts to make/wrap/shop for, treats to make, decorations to put up, getting the house ready for guests, and packing for our trip to Florida. Ack!

Having said that, I will admit that what we have done so far has been magical for our children. This year, more than ever, they are mesmerized by the lights. They are loving the Christmas cookies. They have loved helping make presents and can't wait to help wrap them. They are soaking in the atmosphere and music. We talk about Santa and Jesus, and what Christmas means.

We haven't found some of our Christmas decor, so the Advent calendar is absent this year unfortunately (along with our Veggie Tales nativity, boo-hoo). But we made paper chains, and each day they tear off a link and know that it is one day closer. I made videos for them from Santa (Portable North Pole - VERY cool), and we will probably have them watch them this weekend. I am so excited to see their faces when they open presents this year. And I am overjoyed at being able to spend Christmas with family members we don't get to spend enough time with (especially Chris' parents!).

We already had snow once, and they were so happy because they thought it was Christmas that day! I hope we will be blessed with some more whiteness soon.

It really is amazing, seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child again. Only this time, it is even sweeter. It is truly magical.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Are You Thankful For?

We were sitting at breakfast yesterday, drinking our green smoothies, and I starting talking about what Thanksgiving was all about (George wanted to dress up as a vampire, Josh wants to get presents - I needed to clarify). So I started telling them what I was thankful for that day: the sunshine, that our family is together and healthy, etc. So we went around the table so that everyone could say what they were thankful for. When I said to Blake, "And what are you thankful for, Blake?" Without missing a beat, he immediately responded, "Boothie!" (Smoothie)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin Patch 2009

We debated about going to the pumpkin patch many times this season. We needed pumpkins, after all, and the experience of actually going to a patch is so much fun for the kids (okay, and the adults too). But when our craft at MOPS was painting pumpkins, which we got to take home with us, we decided it was not necessary to get anymore pumpkins. And when we ran out of money, we also decided it was not frugal or wise. And the boys were aware that we decided not to go to the pumpkin patch, as we already had pumpkins. They seemed accepting of that, especially since we said we'd for sure go next year.

But then during bedtime prayers on Thursday night before we went, George prayed that we wouldn't be too late to go to the pumpkin patch and get a pumpkin and carve it and eat the seeds. Talk about being stabbed in the heart! How could we refuse such an earnest, sweet prayer?! We decided we'd go, and do the most frugal option - ONE pumpkin for the whole family (put to a vote), plus the hayride for us all (kids were free, and we were $2 each). Total cost? $9.00

The enjoyment and quality time we had as a family? Priceless. See for yourself....

If you are on Facebook, you've seen these already. This is something new I'm trying - linking my Facebook pictures in the blog. That way I don't have to duplicate efforts. But I will be posting different stuff in each place, so if you want it all, then read the blog and be friends with me on Facebook! Let me know if you like the link to Facebook pics or not. Please leave comments! I'm feeling like nobody cares...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blake at 20 Months

How can it be that my baby is on the downward slope to 2 years old?  Time is going by so fast, and I have not documented his babyhood nearly well enough.  I guess I can pass a little more grace on to my parents, who only took about a handful of pictures of me as a baby/toddler (in all fairness to them, their camera broke during that time).  Maybe I should get started on the baby books, although at this point I'll probably have to make some stuff up.  Perhaps I'll just use this blog as a way to remember stuff (though I haven't been consistent with that, either).  

So I'll try to summarize what Blake is like right now, at 20 months old:

  • He is a dynamo!  Full of energy, he does not like to be confined (or to be held for long).  He gets right in the thick of the action, regardless of the personal risk he assumes by doing so.
  • He is a ham.  He totally has a great sense of humor already, and likes to get attention with it.  He knows he's funny, which makes it even funnier.
  • He is very verbal.  He is using sentences now!  He will say things like "I don't know," or "Pacis are for night-night," or "Hugs and kisses from George and Josh."  And he repeats everything we say.  He amazes us with his verbal ability!
  • He is sweet.  He will sometimes come up and just grab onto our legs and bury his face into them as a hug.  He HAS to give hugs and kisses to EVERYONE before he will lay down for bedtime.  And he will say "Night-night, I love you."  He is sometimes willing to share his stuff, and he also has empathy (when we fake cry, he starts to get upset).  
  • He is all boy.  He loves dirt, rocks, vehicles (especially trains), bugs, dinosaurs...all of the things that many little boys naturally gravitate towards.
  • He is growing up way too fast.  He has started to do things that make him seem even older than he is.  He has peed on the potty once already!  He puts his own clothes in the hamper (by request, of course).  He is really good at doing simple commands of all sorts, actually.  And he is losing some of his babyish look.  *sigh*  
We are so very blessed to have this little man in our lives.  He brings joy, laughter, and chaos to our home, and we love him to pieces.  He is SO cute (which is partly why he gets his way so much), bright, and fun.  We thank God for adding him to our family!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Dad

Recently Joshua has really gotten into storytelling.  Most of his stories of late are about his "New Dad."  I'm not exactly sure, but I think it all started after we had some friends stay over one night on their way down to Florida.  They also have 3 kids, and once they left, Josh would weave tales about how he had twin boys named "Eden and Meden" (Eden is their baby girl's name).  Or he and George would tell stories and use their kids' names throughout.  It was quite entertaining.

From there it started becoming "My New Mom" and "My New Dad."  His new mom's name was Bennie (for a while).  So he would tell stories about about his new parents and all of the things they had or did.  He kind of dropped the new mom a while back, and now tells the most creative and outlandish stories about his "New Dad."  For example, his new dad is a HUGE black widow spider who lives on Mars and drives a monster truck/rocket ship/plane.  And anytime there is something he wants that we don't have...that's AOK, because his new dad has it!  He has even offered to let me borrow stuff that his new dad has that I don't have.  So this has been going on for a little while.

Imagine the weirdness when Chris and I watched the movie Coraline last night.  If you haven't seen it, there is this whole thing about Coraline having a "other mother" (and father).  We weren't exactly freaked out, but it was a very strange coincidence!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Flag Football Game

The boys' first football game was last Saturday, and it was a lot of fun watching them play.  Of course the little cheerleaders were adorable too.  It's funny to see how many adults are out on the field with a bunch of 4-year-olds.  Both boys got to run the ball, and of course I couldn't get the camera switched over to movie mode in time, which Chris was none too pleased about.  So we'll be taking the camcorder AND the camera to future games.  It's not exactly the easiest thing to try and pay attention while keeping a (at this particular game, tired and cranky) toddler happy and entertained, but we managed fairly well.  I believe having LOTS of snacks handy was key.  Here are some of pics of the big event:

Both teams gathered on the field before the game.
George's Team - The Bulls (Daa Bullss).
Josh's Team - The Comets.
The super cute little cheerleaders.
Here's the kind of thing that makes 4-year-old football a hoot.
Here's a typical scene: Josh is just standing out there zoning out, a couple of kids are getting individual instruction, and the kid on the far left looks like he's ready for a nap.
Another common scenario with the 4's: In this particular instance it is George being physically moved to his designated spot.
One of the fleeting moments where Blake was relaxed and calm on Daddy's lap.
I'm including this picture just because both of the boys are on the field at the same time (George, far left, #4 jersey.  Josh, second from right.).
George on the sidelines.  The kid to his left is the tallest kid of all in this age group.
This is a picture taken just after George's almost touchdown.  He did get a touchdown, but then a flag was thrown because one of his flags was missing from his belt (but not because someone had pulled it).  At least I captured a shot of him holding the ball.  That counts for something, right?  He's on the left, in purple, holding the ball.  Oh, and there's Josh too, on the far right!
Josh and teammates (and a coach) running to the sidelines.
Josh on defense.  That's a pretty decent stance, I think.
George hamming it up.  You can tell it's getting to be close to the end - the kids are all kind of losing interest in the game.
Josh running the ball, and George on defense.  Brother against brother.  Clash of the Titans.  Peyton vs. Eli.  
What I've dubbed as "The Good Sportsmen Lineup."
Just click on a pic to see a bigger version of it.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Better Chocolate Milk

My boys have never really gotten into plain milk.  When the twins were weaning, I asked the doctor what she suggested since they weren't really drinking it.  She recommended flavoring the milk.  Oh, if only I had known then what I know now.  As I continue on this journey to transition our family to a whole foods lifestyle, I have done quite a bit of research, and from that I have decided to switch from commercially processed (i.e. pasteurized and homogenized) milk to fresh, raw milk.  We are currently drinking raw milk from a small local organic farm (for more information on why to choose raw milk, check out this website), and it is fantastic.  But I digress.  

Not only was I giving my kids potentially damaging milk, I was also loading it up with sugar and chemicals.  I tried just about every flavor of milk mix I could find, and was delighted when there was a sugar-free version that they liked (this is a topic for another post, but I have also given up artificial sweeteners and white sugar).  Needless to say, once I did a little bit of research on natural, nourishing, whole foods (and what foods are NOT of that variety), I realized that chocolate (or other flavored) milk might not be an option for my kids anymore.  

Once we made the switch to raw milk, I once again tried (unsuccessfully) to get the boys to drink plain milk.  I knew I wanted them to get the good stuff that raw milk has to offer, without forcing it on them or making them feel deprived.  My goal is to make the transition as seamless as possible for my family.  So I decided to make my own chocolate milk mix.   

During my search for a wholesome, natural sweetener (that tastes really good and is also versatile), I came across coconut sugar (otherwise known as palm sugar).  You can get this in various forms: block, paste, or crystals.  I have tried all of these, and I have found the crystals to be the easiest and most versatile.  This sugar is all natural, has a low glycemic index, and is relatively low in calories (15 calories per serving).  And it tastes AWESOME.  I have tried many other sweeteners, and this is my favorite by far.  You can find different varieties on, but it is pretty expensive.  The last time I got it I bought 5 lbs. in bulk from Azure Standard.  A better option would be to hit up your local Asian market (I have yet to go to ours, but it's on my to-do list).  You should be able to find a few varieties there and for much cheaper.  But this comprises the bulk of the chocolate milk mix.

The second ingredient is the chocolate.  I have switched from Hershey's brand to Navitas Naturals Raw Cacao Powder.  I think you can get it for a decent price at iHerb or LuckyVitamin.  Or try your local health food store.  

So here are my supplies for the mix:
I am using a sample sized formula can for the acutal mix, and I use a quart sized mason jar for the chocolate milk itself.  The ratio for the mix is (roughly) one heaping teaspoon of the raw chocolate powder to three tablespoons of coconut sugar.  Once you've filled your container, you can either shake it or use a handy-dandy mini whisk like mine.

See?  Isn't it cute?  And it does a really good job.  I use it for lots of things.  But if you do not own a mini whisk, you could use a spoon, or fork, or whatever you choose to mix it.

You will also want to label it.  You could use a Sharpie.  Or, if you're a geek like me, you'll want to use your label maker.  I LOVE mine.  See?  There it is.
And just in case you couldn't read it from the above picture, here is a close-up of my spiffy little label.  
So once it's all mixed up and you're ready to make the chocolate milk, you'll need to add a heaping spoonful of mix per cup of milk (more or less, to taste).  It does not just dissolve by stirring it in.  You can blend this in a blender (fastest), or if you're not in a hurry, you can use the shake method.  I usually shake it up and stick it in the fridge.  Then every time I open the fridge, I give it a good shake.  It takes several times before the mix gets all dissolved, but it happens eventually.  Now pour and enjoy, like so:

It is truly delicious, and also much more nutritious than the chemical-laden, sugar-filled store bought syrups and powders.  We love it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Arts & Crafts

George has been asking frequently and repeatedly to do crafts.  Poor kid, we haven't been to a MOPS meeting in ages, and we've missed a lot of church over the last few weeks...they've been totally deprived.  And as our house is still a work in progress as far as getting situated, the craft supplies are still packed away.  So I had to come up with something else.  I settled on an activity rather than an actual craft, as I had everything necessary on hand.  So we did shaving cream art.  I know it looks like a glorified mess, but in actuality it was a lot more.  We started off with just a pile of shaving cream in a dish.  Then we added some blue food coloring and swirled it around in one area.  In another area we added some yellow.  And when we swirled them together, ta-DA!  We got green.  So it was an exercise in color mixing.  

The fact that they were encouraged to play around was fun for them, though that is much more up Joshua's alley than George's.  Joshua played a LOT longer in the shaving cream.  He is much more tactile oriented, and he got really creative with it (like seeing shapes in clouds).  It made me realize how I need to make more of an effort in planning activities for them - it was simple and quick, and they really enjoyed it.  And I need to pay attention to how each of them learns - definitely two learning styles here.  I have a lot of ideas of what we will do in our pre-schooling sessions, but I NEED to get the space in order before I can focus on that.  Yes, we're starting "school" late this year, but I guess that's one of the benefits of doing it from home (especially pre-school).

Josh loving the sensation of squishy shaving cream.
I definitely gave the plastic mat to the right kid.  I couldn't find my vinyl tablecloth, and only had one of these, so we went with it.  

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ripley's Aquarium

Well, I'm not doing very well with keeping up on the blog!  It's been almost a month since I last posted.  I'll try to do better.  Really, I will.  But for those of you who are dying to see more of the kids more often, you can also befriend me on Facebook and see the pics/video clips I post there.  

So the boys and I tagged along on a work call with Chris a couple of weeks ago, and on the way back we drove through Smoky Mountain National Park (awesome scenery) and then stopped in Gatlinburg to visit Ripley's Aquarium.  The kids really enjoyed it, and it was a very nice family attraction.  Here's a bit of what we saw:

This giant catfish was bigger than Josh!
The boys and me, taken quickly so we could get out of the way.
Teeny, neon-colored Poison Dart Frogs.
In the shark tunnel.  The flash made its eyes glow - doesn't it look super fierce that way?
It's hard to tell by the poor quality of this photo, but there are no less than 5 sharks right there.

This was a lazy Sawfish, lying on top of the clear tunnel ceiling.
Shark TEETH.  Scary.
All of the boys in the shark tunnel.
A mean-looking Green Moray Eel.
George & Joshua enjoying the inner view of this tank of puffer fish.
Touching Horseshoe Crabs.
I love Sea Horses.
But have you ever seen Sea Dragons?
A crazy-looking Dragon Eel.
Blake making friends with a Giant Spider Crab (I wanted to dip those legs in some butter, y'all).
A Jellyfish.  And my camera flash.
Deep sea diver, George.
Deep sea diver, Josh.
Mesmerized by the big Sting Rays.
All in all, Ripley's Aquarium was definitely worth going to.  Kids (and adults) of all ages can enjoy it.  It is entertaining, educational, exciting, and beautifully displayed.  They did a great job making this a family-friendly place.  You can spend a few hours there (like we did) and feel like you got to see everything without missing out.  But you could also stay longer and watch the feedings, see shows, and hit every little learning station.  I recommend it!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wheat Bug

We had a good week last week.  My parents visited for several days, and we were able to get some stuff done, go see a movie (a real date!), and then we took them to a marriage conference led by none other than Kirk Cameron.  It was my mom's birthday present from us.  Of course they had to make the trip down here, but I think she thought it was worth it.  And I suppose that spending time with the grandbabies didn't hurt, either.

So for the first time ever, we had all 3 kids watched by someone other than my parents.  And for the first time ever, we had to pay a babysitter.  I was wondering how we were going to find quality care for a decent price with such short notice.  The preschool director at our new church gave us a few names and numbers, and after the first person turned out to be unavailable, we found Miss Ashlyn.  She is 18 years old, has 4 younger siblings, and has been babysitting for a LONG time.  She was available, willing, and only charges $5 per hour.  TOTAL.  She was able to come out and visit us on Thursday evening so we could all meet her ahead of time, and I felt confident that she would be great with the boys.  And they were very excited to get to play with her.

I only thought about calling her maybe 10 times that evening, since she was going to have to do dinner AND bedtime.  But I restrained myself, and figured she'd call if she needed us.  And as it turned out, everything went swell and the boys had a blast.  They went to bed early, even (8:30)!  She is a lovely girl, and homeschooled as well.  So we talked a bit about that once we got home, because it is something Chris and I are considering.  She told us that when she was putting George & Josh to bed, she sang Jesus Loves Me (that's the song we sing every night), and they were telling her that she wasn't singing the right words.  Josh informed her that she needed to say "wheat bug."  She was confused, and kept asking what he meant, and he made her go through the song again so he could tell her where.  So instead of "they are weak but he is strong," they wanted her to sing "they are wheat bug he is strong."  So she had to sing it again all the way through, including "wheat bug."  

Now I'm pretty sure that they know the correct words to this song, as we've sung it hundreds of times (and we even do a few motions on occasion).  Either they were just changing the words up for fun, or they were playing with her since she was someone new to mess with.  Or perhaps they've always thought that the lyrics included wheat bug.  Whatever the case, it was a pretty funny story.

Needless to say, we will be using Miss Ashlyn again.  Soon, and probably often.  She also has a 16-year-old sister who is similarly experienced.  So we have a couple of quality babysitters already!  Praise God for providing for us in this way.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

One Thing About Trenches...

They sure can be mucky.  Take, for example, the fact that my adorable baby boy pooped in the pool the other day.  Yes, he had a swim diaper on.  And swim trunks (just because they are cute).  And thank goodness for those two layers.  Chris brought him to the door so I could get him and clean him up -  The entire inside of his swim shorts was soiled.  I suggested to Chris that maybe we should drain the pool (he had wanted to from the get-go) and then sanitize it (I love using peroxide and vinegar sprays - check out this article for more information - it's cheap and totally non-toxic!  Just make sure to use two separate spray bottles.).

So today we re-filled the pool and all went well.  Until bath time.  When Blake did his business in the tub.  With the other two in there with him.  And the toys.  Mega-ICK (I won't go into details).  So I drained the tub, got the naked kids out, sprayed all of the toys and the tub and the tub mat, scrubbed the tub, and started over.  *sigh*  And not 2 minutes after I got them out to clean up, Blake peed on the floor.  

Did I mention it was 7:00pm and we hadn't even had dinner yet?  

Some days are just like that.  At least now that it's over I can laugh about it.  

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Random Update

Good grief, it's been a long time since I posted last.  This cannot continue - I must update with some regularity!  I am so behind with all of the updates.  I still need to post about the boys' 4th birthday, and Blake's last checkup, and many other things.  

I'll try to get to that, but for now I'll try to briefly highlight our goings on as of the last week or two:

*We think we found a new home church, right here in Corryton!  We feel very good about it, and we think maybe God led us here so we could become a part of this very special church.
*My parents visited this week, from Tuesday afternoon until Friday morning (they left before we got up - boohoo!).  They came here as part of a trip they were already taking to Virginia for a family reunion (which was today, and we missed it for a few different reasons).
*With extra hands and help, we got some more boxes unpacked, a couple of rooms worked on, and most of our garden is planted!  Yes, we started VERY late in the growing season, but warm weather lasts longer down here, so we should get something out of it, anyway.
*We celebrated the 4th by buying and setting off our own fireworks.  We did one batch when my parents were here, and then another one last night (Blake missed the first one entirely).  The big boys are in LOVE with fireworks (who can blame them?).  And the baby?  Not so much.  He lasted about 15 minutes, and then was crying and asking to go night-night. Maybe next year.

I haven't been very good about taking pictures lately, shame on me.  I need to get back into that habit.  I do have some that I need to post, and hopefully soon I'll get to a regular routine.  

We've been spending our time still trying to get the house organized and finish unpacking - it's going painstakingly slow since most of our time is spent caring for the little ones and just doing the daily stuff.  Not to mention all of the other projects we have to do (like putting up the shed, which is going to be a doozy!).  On top of that, we need to find (and go to) a dentist, doctor, pediatrician, dermatologist...all of that good stuff. 

Our first month here was a good one, despite the generous amounts of rain, mass quantities of bugs, and the poison ivy that Chris and I accidentally discovered was growing on the edges of our property.  We have wild blackberries (and a few of my personal favorite - black raspberries) all around here; we see wildlife and farm animals all the time, the scenery is awesome, the people are really friendly, and we love our house.  God has truly blessed us by bringing us here.  Yes, we miss our families, but we feel this is the right place for us for as long as God intends.  

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tennessee Showers Bring Big Puddles

We've been having a LOT of severe weather this week.  In fact, today is the only day that hasn't seen at least some rain.  Yesterday there was a severe storm (which we had to drive through, of course) which included high winds, pretty sizable hail, rain so hard we couldn't see, and lightning every couple of seconds.  There was a tree down at one point, so we had to turn around and go a different way.  Luckily we had the GPS to re-route us (I heart my TomTom).  Then we saw a power line down, which was pretty freaky.  And, of course, our power was out when we arrived home.  This makes the second time in the two weeks we've lived here.  Only yesterday it was out for about 5 hours (the first time was only an hour or so).  I was starting to get worried that all of our newly purchased grocery items would spoil.  But they didn't, and we managed fine.  

Chris was working for most of the day (except for when we had to pick up our van from the shop and return the rental car, which was when we went through the storm), and once he dropped us off the storm cleared and it started getting sunny out.  And hot.  

Our front section of property slopes down, and the bottom part kind of serves as a retention pond.  As such, it had collected quite a bit of rain water, and the boys saw it and asked if they could play in it after lunch.  So when the baby went down for his nap, I took the big boys out to frolic in our new redneck pool.  Observe:

And then the baby got up from his nap...

So I have concluded that the boys' new favorite toys are: sticks, rocks, dirt, mud puddles, and bugs.  Good thing we have plenty of all of them!