Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Sadie!

Happy Birthday, Sadie Mae Moon!  You are an amazing dog.  Nine years of fun!  And more kisses than we could ever count!  We love you! 
(Sophia - 1)
(Anna, 1 1/2 & Sophia, 3 1/2)
(Sam, almost 2)
(Isabella, 3 1/2)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mama's Helper

At the start of summer I always have these big plans for everything I want to do with the kids.  Of course I want to go to the zoo, water park, riding trails, and some museums, on a weekly basis.  I also want to do my own small version of summer school with the kids.  I tried this last summer (for about 2 weeks) and it was great!  But we ended up getting busy with errands and swimming lessons and really just life.  This summer the kids aren't letting me give up that easy.  They are desperate for me to start their "home school."

One thing that I wanted to do I've actually started already.  I've instituted "Mama's Helper" days.  Mondays are Sophia's, Wednesdays are Anna's and Fridays are Isabella's.  On the day that the girls are "Mama's Helper" they get to help me plan and make dinner and do the dishes and other chores around the house.  Notice I said they get to help.  We'll see how long they feel this can't last forever. 

So, on Monday Sophia began to help me out.  She planned the dinner - macaroni & cheese, yogurt and strawberries.  No matter how many different homemade recipes I've tried, Sophia insists that we use good old Kraft -- because "it's the cheesiest, Mom!"  Sophia had so much fun helping with everything.  Our meals may suffer for a while, but I think in the end it will be worth it.

Then I started teaching her the fine art of dish washing.  I will confess that I have a perfectly fine dishwasher in my house that only gets used about 2-3 times a year.  The reason is a little ridiculous.  I hate unloading the dishwasher.  It's not just that I don't like it, I really do hate emptying it.  And we have a big family so it needs run at least once a day if not more when I'm really cooking!  So last July I stopped using it and started hand-washing all my dishes.  For some reason, putting away a dish tray or two is so much quicker than emptying an entire dishwasher.  Long term, I think it's good for the girls to learn how to clean things really well instead of relying on technology because you aren't always fortunate enough to have a dishwasher. 

Sophia loved her Mama's Helper day.  In fact, on Tuesday she insisted on doing the dishes again.  There are certainly more bubbles when she does them, and lots more water on the counter tops and back splash, but it also seems more fun to do the dishes with her instead of by myself.  The other girls can't wait for their day to come.  I'm just hoping that eagerness lasts a little while into the summer!  It's not even June yet. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kids Need To Play

I believe in playtime.  I think that when kids are playing they have the chance to develop so much of who they are going to become.  They are creative, they use their imaginations, they problem solve and they fantasize.  They act out their favorite story lines from books they've read and they get to role play and create fantastic worlds where they are the main characters.

I also believe in a strong sense of community.  In the past, we have lived in a commuter town in a neighborhood where the parents were both at work all day and the kids away at daycare.  When the families reunited at home they were so busy preparing dinner or getting ready for bed that they seemed to never step outside their front door except to mow the lawn on a Saturday morning.  That is not how I grew up.  And that's not what I want for my children.

So, since I believe in play and a sense of community, I take my children on daily walks.  Our neighborhood forms a complete circle and since we have no sidewalks connecting us to anything else, we go around the circle a lot!  The girls ride their bikes, and I push Sam in his stroller and we do this (on good weather days) in the morning, afternoon, and at night when we don't have softball or t-ball. 

We do this for the obvious exercise and exposure to fresh air.  But we also do this because we've found if you ever want to know your neighbors, you have to step outside.  So we go around the neighborhood and try to stop and talk to the neighbors who are outside.  We've met most of them and it somehow makes living here so much more than just a home -- it's a community.  And it's important for our children to learn how valuable this is.  That's why we plan and host a neighborhood Easter egg hunt and why we'll host a kiddie parade for the 4th of July.  Community is important! 

So, everyday when Sophia gets off the bus, she runs inside and grabs a snack.  Then we head to the garage, gather up all of our helmets and knee pads and meet our neighbor to go on an afternoon walk.  She has three children, so it's quite a spectacle for the two of us to go around the neighborhood with all seven kids.  But it's worth it.  It's critical to teach our children the importance of relationships, the appreciation of the land God created, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle.  It's not easy.  We have seven kids between us and the oldest two are seven.  It's a little chaotic at best and a walking disaster at worst.  But it's worth it.   After our walk, when time permits in our busy schedules, we let the kids play in our backyard for 15-20 minutes before we have to head in and start dinner. 

I'm not sure when the idea of neighbors playing together went out of style.  But it did.  It somehow surprises people to see all the kids playing together.  We get all kinds of stares and comments about how "brave" we are.  How sad.  It's rare these days to see kids out playing at all.  It's a terrible state of childhood play and it hangs in the balance of parents everywhere. 

Today I got an unexpected visit from the county health department.  One of our neighbors anonymously reported me for an apparent "unregistered or unlicensed daycare due to the daily observation of 6-7 kids playing in our backyard."  I'm not exaggerating even a little bit when I say I was in complete shock!  Our yard is fenced in and we have wonderful playground equipment that Chris built for the kids.  Not all of the neighbors have either of those so it's wonderful to be able to invite kids over and let them play.  I hope as my children grow older, we will always be the place where kids want to be.  I want my teenage childrens' friends to WANT to be at my house hanging out.  I want to truly know the friends that my children spend time with because they will be some of the biggest influences in their lives. 

I quickly explained to the case worker that for about 20 minutes we have the neighbor children over and at all times both moms are outside sitting on the patio talking and supervising our children.  Anyone who can see into our backyard can also see us sitting out there together.  She was apologetic and frankly didn't appreciate our anonymous neighbor who was wasting her time (and taxpayers $$).  But I digress. 

My point here is that it should not be shocking to see children playing together.  It should not surprise people that we choose to step outside the comfort of our homes to teach our children how to be children.  How to play.  How to form relationships.  How to appreciate what God has given us.  How to make a community out of wherever you are.  And how to live a healthy lifestyle.  We should not be considered "brave" for doing so, but simply fulfilling our responsibility as their parents. 

Here's hoping if you have kids that you take the time for play.  Don't get too caught up in signing them up for every sport, music lesson or dance team. These are all important but cannot take the place of childhood playtime. Take time to encourage play and the creation of meaningful relationships.  Your children deserve it!   

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Summer at the Ballpark

I knew it was going to be a crazy summer.  The day I signed up Sophia for machine-pitch softball and Anna up for her first year of t-ball, I felt like I was signing away 6 weeks of my summer vacation.  I knew each girl would have 1-2 games a week, 22 total games!  But reality is starting to sink in now.   Games begin this week. 

Sophia is so excited with her adorable uniform from the ribbon hair bow down to the tie-dye socks she is ready to play.  She has gotten much better about batting.  She can now hit the ball most of the time that it comes at her.  Though 99% of the time she hits grounders.  It's strategy right?  We've still got to get her to get a little airtime with those balls.  She's pretty good at catching and throwing too.  I have to admit though, at this point in the season the balls aren't really making it out to the outfield (or infield for that matter).  At a recent practice game Sophia was in right field where she spent much of the time playing in the dirt.  She's a tomboy at heart and dirt seems to draw her in like a magnet. At one point she was literally laying on her side basking in the sun.  It's pretty boring in outfield as you can imagine.  But I'm sure as the season progresses the girls' offensive game will improve so there's a reason for a defense. 

Anna is incredibly timid about t-ball.  She's so excited to be playing and knows a couple of the girls on the team which makes things easier.  By random chance she's on an all-girls team which I think will really help her comfort level.  She can hit the ball....with a very gentle swing.  Imagine a little butterfly swinging a bat - that's Anna!  And she's working on her throwing and catching.  She doesn't have her team shirt & special socks yet, but as soon as they come we'll post a picture! Somehow special socks make you feel like a real ball player.  They're still debating their name also.  You know how girls are!

I really want the kids to be able to try different sports and find things they enjoy.  I'm secretly hoping by the time all 4 are of age to play, that at least a few of them will lose interest.  When your kids outnumber you, it's hard to get to all their activities especially when they overlap. 

I'm posting our girls' schedule below not to demonstrate how crazy life is about to become, or to brag about the future tan I'll have from soaking up the Kansas sun this summer, but mainly because our kids have fabulous grandparents who love to come watch the kids participate in all their many activities.  So, Grandad, Grandma, Grammy, Grandpa Gene, Papa &'s the summer schedule.  Hope to see you at a few games! 

Wed., May 19............Sophia........6:30......field 6
Wed., May Whitewater
Fri., May 28................Sophia........6:30......field 6
Wed., June Towanda
Wed., June 2..............Anna............8:00......field 5
Fri., June 4..................Sophia........8:30......field 6
Fri., June 4..................Anna...........6:30......field 5
Mon., June 7...............Anna...........6:30......field 5
Tues., June 8..............Sophia........8:00......field 6
Thurs., June 10...........Sophia........6:30......field 6
Fri., June 11................Anna...........8:00......field 5
Tues., June 15............Sophia........6:30......field 6
Tues., June 15............Anna...........6:30.......field 5
Fri., June 18................Anna............6:30.......field 5
Mon., June 21.............Sophia........6:30........field 6
Tues., June 22............Anna............6:30........field 5
Wed., June 23............Sophia.........6:30........field 6
Fri., June 25................Anna............8:00........field 5
Mon., June 28.............Sophia.........6:30........field 6
Tues., June 29............Anna............8:00.........field 5
Fri., July 2....................Anna............6:30.........field 5
Wed., July Towanda

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tallgrass Prairie

For Mother's Day every year it seems we always spend time visiting other mothers which is important but it always leaves me wishing for more.  Wishing for a day spent with just my family!  I am a huge "quality time" girl!  So this year, we decided to spend Saturday as a true family day.  But the kicker is we had to leave our house.  Our house is just one giant "to do" list.  Not big things, lots of little things like laundry, cleaning up the office, the garage, get the picture.  Even if we spent all day at home together, we probably wouldn't have actually spent much time together as a family.  So we packed up the kids and drove up to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City.  It only took about an hour so it was very doable with our kids.  They have several trails there from only 1.75 miles all the way to 13 miles.  With four little ones and lots of little legs, we were a bit limited.  We had a backpack for Sam, though he quickly figured out that he preferred to walk and Isabella preferred to ride on my back.  They're almost two years apart, but there is only about 4-5 lbs. difference! 

We picked the shorter trail and walked it, then had a picnic lunch and then walked the same trail again.  The kids had a fabulous time!  They saw lizards, a baby bunny (dead, but still very interesting!!), butterflies, birds, and tons of wildflowers.  Sophia is really into nature things and was constantly on the look out for "critters."  She also found a half of a walnut shell that looked like a ghost.  She was so eager to run back to the front building and tell the ranger all about the bunny and the walnut shell. 

If you take the back country trails you can even see bison.  The website warns you how to watch the bison's tail to see if they are friendly or very upset.  Next time we go I think we'll take a longer trail, but 3 1/2 miles was about the right distance for our little legs. 

Did I mention that this was all free?  Other than the gas to get there, we didn't spend a dime.  We packed lunches, the park is free.  Perfect!  I know we plan to go back more and check out the other trails.  Also, as the grass grows more and different wildflowers bloom it will be a little different visit each time.  The kids LOVED it and we had actual quality time as a family.   And we got to spend time outside in one of the prettiest areas of Kansas! 

It reminded me a lot of my grandparent's ranch they used to have.  The rolling pastures and small ponds that I used to fish are some of my best memories as a child.  So it was so much fun to take my kids to something similar.  What a great day!  Can't wait to do it again. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Training Him Young!

Sam is getting an early lesson on how to properly mow the lawn!  

Super Sunday!

This Sunday was awesome!  There's no other way to describe it.  At church on Sunday Sophia was baptised by her Daddy.  It was so special!  She had been asking for over a year and we finally decided that she understood enough to make that decision.  We know she's a bit young, but our Pastor told us that as long as we keep talking about it and teaching her more then he would never want to miss the chance to baptise a child who is eager. She was so cute, right before getting in the water she told us that her legs were shaking.  Two sets of her grandparents were able to come and that made it even more special.

After church we came home and had her 7th birthday party!  My baby is SEVEN! (Almost. Her actual birthday is tomorrow).  We had lunch and then Sophia chose to have another banana split party.  I'm all for that.  No themed cake to bake and decorate.  Simple and yummy! You really can't go wrong with ice cream, chocolate syrup and sprinkles!  We had lots of family over including her two cousins Kaitlynn & Emma.
Sam's going straight for the toppings!

After her party we all relaxed outside while the little ones napped.  It was a gorgeous day.  I fell asleep in my hammock under the deck.  Perfect.  Later that day we had our Kids Club church BBQ/potluck at the park.  The kids had a great time and it was a perfect way to end the day.  I will say that I have always had my reservations about potlucks.  Generally I don't like to eat food when I don't know who made it or where it came from.  I should have stuck with my reservations as I spent all day Monday sick, sick sick.  Food poisoning.  Not fun.  Luckily Chris came home to feed the kids lunch and dinner because there was no way I could go near the kitchen.  A bad Monday though, was totally worth such a great Sunday!