Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall is in the Air

Our goof-off.

Always ready to strike a pose.

Doesn't get much cuter than that!

A magical moment.

My little cowgirl.

My five beautiful treasures!

Grandma doing one of the things she loves best - spending time with her granddaughters.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Lovely Sunday Surprise

Yesterday morning, my hubby was out of the house at 2:30 a.m. to go up to L.A. and run the inaugural Los Angeles Rock N'Roll 1/2 Marathon.  The girls and I still headed off to church, just with one less pair of hands on deck to help get everyone dressed and ready to go.  We did fairly well and sidled into the back of church five minutes late or so; I told the girls it was better to be there a little late than to not go at all.  All in all, though, the morning really didn't feel all that hectic, for which I was thankful.  

While drinking coffee and chatting with friends after church, one of our priests came over to me and said he thought it was wonderful that I had gotten up and out the door that morning to come to church with the girls without Augustus.  He and his wife and another couple proceeded to invite me and the girls out for lunch as a treat to us.  We all went to a nice restaurant together and had a lovely lunch and visit.  The girls managed to employ their "formal dinner manners" for nearly the entire meal and were quite pleasant, if I do say so myself.  Augustus surprised us by being able to make it back down to San Diego to join us for lunch, also, which added to the fun.

In retrospect, as I was thinking back to our time yesterday, I realized just how blessed my family really is in the generosity that has been shown to us by all of our friends and family with whom we have regular interaction.  We are a family of 7 which could be an intimidation factor when inviting us out for a meal at a restaurant or into someone's home; and yet, in our experience, it is usual to go to others' homes to share in a meal and fellowship.  I feel extra, especially blessed by my own experience when I reflect on the reality of many big families in America that are not so fortunate as to have friends and/or family that welcome them with open arms into their homes for meals, parties, or just to visit.  So, to those of you reading this that know big families, I encourage you to consider inviting them over to your home for a meal or another fun event.  (I am not saying this to my own friends who already go above and beyond the call of generosity in this area).  It may seem like launching into the unknown when imagining your home being filled with a small army of children not your own, but I encourage you to take the challenge nonetheless.  Just be sure to put breakable objects and precious items out of reach and be prepared for the joy of managed chaos.  A big family that you know will be blessed by your generosity and who knows, maybe you will realize that you, in turn, are being blessed, too.  

And to the wonderful friends that took us out to lunch yesterday, thank you for the lovely time and may the Lord bless you for the love that you have shown us!

Friday, October 22, 2010

On the lighter side

My darling, precocious 4-year-old.

Recently, the girls and I have read aloud several times, "The Berenstain Bears and the Week at Grandma's".  The premise of this particular story is that Mama and Papa are going on a 2nd honeymoon back to the resort where they honeymooned many years before; and, Brother and Sister are going to stay the week at Gramps and Gran's house. 

So, this morning while were are driving home in the van from dropping Isabella off at school, Arianna brings up the subject of honeymoons and I explain that Mama and Papa Bear go on their 2nd honeymoon as a type of fun vacation years later after the 1st honeymoon and that the kids stay with the grandparents while the parents are away.  Arianna then proceeds to declare that she will leave her children with me when she goes on her 1st honeymoon.  Which leads to the second explanation of the morning:  that you get married first, go on your 1st honeymoon, then have kids, and can go on a second honeymoon later, if you would like.  This gets the girls thinking and Arianna tells me that she has decided where she is going for her 1st honeymoon with her husband when she grows up and gets married, and, that she will tell me the special location when we arrive home.  As soon as we walk in the door of our house, I ask her if she would like to whisper to me this secret.  She says, "No, Selah can hear this, too.  I am going to PARIS (with great emphasis) on my 1st honeymoon!"  (All said very enthusiastically and with a twinkle in her eye).   

I find this all to be quite hilarious!  Arianna, my middle child that is sandwiched in between the other 4 girls, is very opinionated, decides what she wants and does it, and rarely changes her mind.  So, to watch her set her mind on a honeymoon destination at the age of 4 tickles me pink.  I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up going to Paris on her honeymoon someday.  The other aspect of this conversation that is neat is that Arianna still thinks that whatever Mommy and Papi do is still cool.  Augustus and I went to Paris last summer with just Livia (and 9 months after coming back, Dakota was born) and when we came back, the other 3 girls heard all about our trip and constantly look at our Paris pictures on the computer.  As a mom, it is special that my kids are still interested in what their parents do and want to go and do likewise (at least for now). 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lessons I'm Learning from my Kids: Take Joy in the Simple Things

#2, #3, and #1 at the Wild Animal Park last spring.
As an adult, I seem to often focus in on the "big" things that are going on in my life, week, and schedule.  I sort of brush aside the mundane, every day items as daily tasks and nothing else;  and, then I look forward to the next big event, family outing, or date with my hubby in a somewhat exagerrated way, as if it will bring me more happiness and joy in my week than usual happenings.  There are times in my life that I take joy in the little things more than others, but I find it a temptation to not be fully "present" in my tasks at each step of the way.  This all leads up to my outing last week with my dad (Grandpa) and the 5 girls.

Dad and I decided to take the girls to the Wild Animal Park last Friday because Isabella and Selah were not in school due to parent/teacher conferences.  Of course, as the parent I was thinking of the wonderful and spectacular opportunites that were awaiting us on this outing.  It was a cloudy, overcast day which is a good thing at the Wild Animal Park (as temperatures can easily soar 100 degrees on any given summer day).  Over the years, we have learned to let the kids direct the progression through the Wild Animal Park and Zoo; it is a more enjoyable pace and easier than trying to race from place to place with an unwavering agenda.  Over time using this method, we have managed to see most everything in these two destinations and the girls have had the opportunity to truly explore and discover during these adventures.  Friday was no exception.  The girls climbed through a play log, were fascinated by two hornbill birds that were clacking their very large beaks together, took an extended walk down into the Heart of Africa area and observed many different birds along the way, ate lunch, played at a playground, watched several gorillas out and about, and finally talked with a big, blue macaw while exiting the park.  

On our drive home, I asked each of the older 3 girls what they had enjoyed most that day at the Wild Animal Park. As to what I was thinking, I was betting that they would mention one of the aforementioned activities that had seemed so fun and exciting throughout the day (and I'm sure they were).  But, no, each of them completely surprised me in their answers.  Here is what they said: 

Isabella - "Feeding the Fruit Loops to the ducks" (discovered on a bridge that another child had dropped; probably not an approved activitiy according to the zoo keepers).
Selah - "Eating the strawberries for lunch that Grandma sent along as a surprise."
Arianna"Riding on Grandpa's shoulders."

I realized that my children were enjoying each part of their day for its own intrinsic value.  One activity was not necessarily "better" than another on the excitement meter based on conventional ideas of fun.  They were just taking each moment at a time and enjoying it for what it was worth.  They were being "present" in the moment, which is what we as Christians should be doing anyway, and taking joy in each of God's gifts.  And, they were practicing the truth that all of life is a sacrament (, not just the parts in which we partake at church, but also all of our daily experiences along the path of life.  And hence, the "favorite" activity of each girl was a simple item that stood out to them and they were able to appreciate if for what it really was rather than judge it on some arbitrary scale of what is supposed to be fun or not.  God wants me to teach and guide my children on a daily basis, be He has also given them to me as a gift and blessing and I am learning from them constantly, as well.  

My lesson to remember:  take joy in the simple things; be present in each moment; practice the truth that all of life is sacrament. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesdays

As I've visited other blogs around the blogosphere, I have encountered the craze of Wordless Wednesday.  As of today, I will begin my own attempts at this, at least for the time being, and see if I enjoy it.  It may become a regular feature, but I don't like to commit too quickly to these kinds of fads until I've had a chance to see if they and I fit well together.  Of course, I've already committed the grave error of using this many words on a Wordless Wednesday, but it seemed to require a bit of explanation for my first go at it.  So, here it is:

Monday, October 18, 2010

6 Months Old . . . Already!

Dakota is already six months old.  My babies grow up too quickly for me.  I am one of those people that love the baby stage (this isn't to say that I haven't been enjoying every other stage that my children are progressing through, though).  This might be due to the fact that my babies have all been "easy" infants, or maybe just because they have sweet baby fat; darling, adoring smiles for their family members; require absolutely no discipline at this stage; spoiling them is not a problem yet; and above all, babies seem to emanate love and receive love so readily in return.  There are moments when I am holding Dakota in my arms and she is grinning at me and pulling me close that I feel like I can barely catch my breath; the sweetness of the moment overwhelms me and I'm at a loss for words at the joy of being the mother to this precious, wonderful little human being. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Daddy's Girls

A couple of days ago, I was looking at some pictures I took recently of Dakota and Augustus.  The look on both their faces says it all; there is mutual adoration there. 

Today is my hubby's birthday, and so an especially fitting day to pay tribute to not only the wonderful husband that he is, but also what an amazing father he is to our children.  I truly believe it is very important for little girls to receive love from their fathers in order to be secure and confident in who they are as they grow up.  Augustus not only loves his daughters, but also takes time to laugh with them, have tickle-fests and dance parties with them, and comfort them when they are sad.  When our girls turn 5, we give them a big birthday party.  Augustus makes a slide show of pictures and includes this song with it that brings tears to our eyes.
It is called, "When Daddy Says I'm Beautiful".

I thank God for giving Augustus to me and our 5 girls.  Happy Birthday to my Hubby!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DIY Preschool: Fun Use for Paper Towel and Toilet Paper Tubes

Daughter #3 and I have fun thinking up fun, creative, and cost-effective activities to do during our preschool time.  Not that this happens every day, but we try and sometimes succeed.  Such is the case with reusing and re-purposing paper towel and toilet paper tubes (wow, I think we may have almost gone green with this project  by reusing something generally thrown in the trash).  Arianna loves to get these rolls and run around the house pretending that they are instruments, spy glasses, and any other number of items.  My dad and I have seen this, so we both started saving up the tubes when we were finished with the paper products.  When we finally had amassed quite a number of the rolls, I decided it was time to put them to good use.  Arianna and I brainstormed uses for these tubes and she liked my idea of making a robot (I thought a geometric object would be easier in construction).  Armed with a hot glue gun (only used by Mommy), scissors, and yarn, we were able to assemble and connect all parts of the robot.  Arianna wanted to play with the robot more than I allowed because he wasn't as sturdy as was necessary for a rambunctious 4-year-old.  Here the robot is in the first stage. 
Now, we were all set to decorate this lovely robot.  Hands down, #3's favorite art activity is painting so she was thrilled to have an entire robot to paint on her own.  I just set her up and let her go to town.  It is fun to watch Arianna experiment with the paint by mixing different colors together and make choices as to where each color should go.  Here is her finished product.  
 He is now hanging off a hook on Arianna's ceiling as a decoration for her room.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lilah turns 1

It's hard to believe that our puppy is already 1.  Right before Christmas last year, my hubby started looking at ads for puppies, even though we really had no serious intentions of purchasing our standard poodle just yet (we were planning on doing this a couple of years down the road).  On December 26, we made an appointment to go see a litter of puppies.  We knew we wanted an apricot standard and almost from the moment we set eyes on her, we fell in love.  Needless to say, she came home with us, that same day to be exact.
Lilah napping in my arms on the car ride home.
Lilah is a great family dog, but she is also a definite Daddy's girl - no surprise to us as we have 5 daughters that also adore their father.
Almost every way in which we determined not to spoil her, we have, which is part of the reason I think that we enjoy her so much.  She gives her love freely every day and we not only receive that, but find an outlet for pouring out love and affection unabashedly (this should be a lesson to us of receiving and responding to God's love).  Lilah is treated like the 6th little princess in the house, but in her defense I would give her great credit for being extremely tolerant with our children (ages 7 & under).  She puts up with a lot and good-naturedly, to boot, as evidenced in the pictures below.
Dressed in a crinoline and cape by Arianna.

One of the girls is perpetually putting a crown on her.
Now we can't imagine the family without Lilah.  Happy Birthday, Delilah Amelie! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Coffee at Home

As much fun as it is to go out for a cup of coffee, I really rather enjoy making myself a fancy cup of joe at home.  Nine years ago, Augustus and I stopped by our favorite thrift store, the first year that we were married.  We found a Krups cappuccino maker for $3 - and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.  It isn't one of these new-fangled ones where you can have the espresso coming out and the milk brewing at the same time, but it works well and is still growing strong 9 years later on its second life.  Three cheers for my cappuccino maker! 

A delicious hazelnut cappuccino.  Yum!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Is the "Terrible Two's" a Misnomer?

As I've been interacting with my two-year-older for the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking that the label "Terrible Two's" should be banished.  Now, I realize that many of you out there will probably disagree with me, which is perfectly fine, and when Livia is at the height of a 2-year-old fit I'm sure that this terminology, also, crosses my mind.  But, like most things in life, we can choose to see the glass as half-empty or half-full.  I would like to think that with my toddler, I am going to choose the latter (or at least attempt to, on most days).  Instead of "Terrible Two's" some alternate and more creative terms that come to mind might be:  "Developing a Will of My Own", "A Time Full of Exploration", "Realizing What I Want and How to Get It", "Honing My Sense of Humor and Being Able to Giggle Nonstop for Minutes on End", "Engaging in Pretend Play", "The Art of Interacting with Those Around Me", and so many more.

Livia turned 2 in July and in the last couple of months, I have really noticed a distinct change in her - from baby to toddler.  She has always been my child that is very sweet-natured.  She is easy to take places, by far smiles more often than cries, and is a definite Mommy's girl.  As she has taken this new plunge into toddlerhood, I have been fascinated, as if watching with new eyes although she is my fourth child to enter into this stage of life.  Maybe having already gone through the inital trepidation of impending toddlerhood several times, the challenges of dealing with 2 and 3-year-old's, and my own familiarity with all of this as a mother has helped me to relax and observe my younger children in a way that wasn't possible for me with my older ones.  In any case, several observations of this age group, the "Tremendous Two's" as I may venture to call them, have come to the forefront of my mind and I will venture to put them on paper (in a manner of speaking).

Checking out the peonies.
Two-year-old's have such a natural curiosity and inquisitive nature that can be a lesson to us as adults.  Livia attempts to understand as much as she can about the world around her, especially when encountering a new object or when she is put into a new setting.  She takes time to smell the roses, so to speak, and allow herself to be immersed in the joy of the moment without worrying about what comes next.  Being two is a time of discovery and experimentation.

Livia has discovered that she if she sets her mind to something and is persistent, then most times she can achieve her goal.  Yes, this does mean that she can be very stubborn, strong-willed, and goal-oriented, at times, but all of these characteristics are really positives for her now and in the future.
At present, when she asks for something and says "Peas (please)" for it about 30 times in a row, it gets a bit annoying, but someday this might help her get a promotion at her job or a better salary than someone else.  I like that she knows what she wants and doesn't want; this will be a good characteristic for her in the future when it comes to dating boys and standing her ground.  

Another 2-year-old trait that I find absolutely engaging and delightful is the developing sense of humor at this age.  Livia has learned how to play basic jokes on her family members, loves anything resembling slapstick humor, and will giggle non-stop when she is tickled or finds something funny.  Any little invented game between the two of us could go on ad infinitum  - it is Mommy that wears out first, never the toddler.  Most adults laugh too little and forget to find pleasure and humor in the little things.  Having a two-year-old, once again, is reminding me of the importance of finding time to smile and laugh in one's day.

I could ramble on about this subject for much longer, I'm sure, but I'll end with this thought.  A popular parenting phrase is, "Pick your battles.", and I couldn't agree more.  So many times, the things I seem to think are important at the moment regarding my kids, just aren't all that important after all.  All my kids have been very picky about shoes as 2-year-olds and it seemed that battles ensued just to get a pair on before leaving the house.  I'm learning just to listen to Livia when she hollers that her shoes are "Ow".  Maybe they don't match her outfit, but she isn't concerned with the fashion aspect of it, so why should I care so much, either.  So these days, seven years into motherhood, I'm telling myself to choose my battles wisely, let things go, savor the precious moments, and breathe in the sweetness emanating from #4, my darling toddler.  Now, to follow my own advice. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No Bake Cookies

Yesterday, Arianna and I decided to make a batch of no-bake cookies together.  Baking is a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy, find relaxes me, and I derive much pleasure from baked goods that taste great and that others can enjoy.  I like to bake at many different skill levels (from easy to complicated), but as a mom of five, I have difficulty finding the time to enter into very long, drawn out recipes that are time sensitive and require much care.  If the baby wakes up in the middle of baking and needs to be breastfed, or my toddler has a meltdown, or one of the other children needs help with something, then a big baking project may have to be abandoned in the middle and who knows what the result will be after that.  For this reason, I hold a special place in my heart for easy but tasty recipes that fit into a busy schedule, but still fit the bill of being homemade and tasting like they are homemade.  This recipe for no-bake cookies is one that I wrote down in my first personal cookbook when I was very young, probably in elementary school.  It came from my mom's friend, Nancy Mankins, and my mom used to make it all the time when we were growing up.  This recipe is a fun one to make with children because the directions are simple and easy-to-follow.  It does involve the stove and hot chocolately syrup, though, so adult help and supervision is a must.  These cookies are affectionately called "Globs" because you put a glob of the mixture on a cookie sheet and then it hardens up.


2 c. sugar                            1/2 c. milk
3 Tbsp. cocoa pwd.           1/2 c. margarine or butter (1stick)
Put this all in a saucepan, melt together, boil it for 3 minutes, then remove from the stove.  Whisk it periodically.

Quickly stir in:
1/2 c. peanut butter
2  2/3 c. uncooked oatmeal (I use quick oats, but rolled oats will also work - they will make the cookies chewier, though)
1 tsp. vanilla

Drop by large spoonfuls on waxed paper; let set (usually this will take a couple of hours, but they do taste good warm and falling apart, especially over vanilla ice cream).

Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

DIY Preschool

For the past few years, I have sent my oldest two daughters to preschool a couple of days a week that is located 15 miles from our house.  It is a fabulous preschool that is run and owned by the school where my husband teaches; I had planned on sending #3 there, as well.  When I began pondering the possibility of this for Arianna (#3), I realized that this just wasn't going to work for us this year.  I would now be driving my two elementary-aged childern to school on 2 different schedules amounting to three trips in the car a day - just to school.  I would have a new baby who would be sitting for much of her time in a carseat which I find very regretable; I didn't want to add a fourth and long trip to the mix for a preschool located quite a ways away.  I began calling around to preschools here in our town and just wasn't sure if I wanted to send #3 to any of them for what it would cost me to put her in for 2 days a week.  The year before she and I were already working on basic preschool skills and projects at home.  She is bright and catches on quickly to anything new and I realized we could just continue this at home and achieve the same academic results as in a preschool.  My dilemma was that I wanted her to have some other opportunities for socialization with kids other than her 4 sisters and a chance to learn classroom behavior with a teacher other than her mother.  After thinking about this for months on end, seeing that we were almost in May by that point and at the end of the school year, and feeling that I really needed to make some kind of decision, I had an epiphany.  A catalog for the city's Recreation Department arrived in the mail and got me thinking.  I realized that they offer many interesting classes geared for preschool-aged childeren here locally (an easier drive for all of us) and very affordable prices.  I had also been wanting to put Arianna in gymnastics because she is a very physical child that seems to need to move her body constantly.  When I compared the costs of putting her in a few classes of my choosing every month that I really felt she would enjoy and from which she would benefit versus just putting her in a traditional preschool, I felt that the choice was obvious.  When we got home from our summer vacation in August, I looked at the current Rec. Dept. classes and signed up #3 for preschool science and enlisted Grandpa to go with her to the weekly class.  I also enrolled her in gymnastics class at our local YMCA which has a very nice gymnastics gym and program.  And on the other days, we work on the academics and crafts at home together.  So, far so good, but I'll keep you posted.  DIY Preschool will be one of my regular postings as I have thought, ideas, or reflections on how it is going. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

But the Sun Comes Out Again!

Sooner than expected, everyone is getting better.  Thank the Lord, I got a full night's sleep last night which makes a huge difference in my day-to-day functioning.  Dakota slept through the night and only has a little runny nose left.  Livia seems as good as new.  And, Selah went to her regularly scheduled ENT visit not a day to soon; we discovered that her virus has led to an ear infection that she has been fighting for a week (fever and all).  So, now she is on antibiotics and is set on a path of recovery, as well.  My head is feeling more clear, I can think straight, I've had a double shot of espresso on ice with half n'half at Starbucks, and the prospects for the weekend are again looking bright!