Saturday, December 18, 2010


The view of Santa at our house may cause some parents to cringe. We have never taught our kids that Santa is real. We've not perpetuated the typical American glamour of Santa as the one who brings children their presents. We don't think it's wrong, but it isn't how either Luke or I were raised. I remember growing up thinking of Santa as a huge part of Christmas, but he was more of the decorative part than the center. He was the sparkling lawn or tree ornament that I loved, but I don't have any memory of actually believing he brought me my presents. Mine and my siblings presents were given to us by our mom and dad and grandparents and they'd jokingly say it was Santa at times, but it was just for "fun."
We've taken the same approach with our kids. Presents to our kids have come from grandparents, cousins and parents with a fun stocking from Santa. When Precious Jewel was about 5, we wanted to teach her about Santa, but we wanted her to know the history behind him because the real "Saint Nick" is so much more than a fat man in a red suit who brings gifts to children on Christmas. We searched high and low for a children's book that would tastefully tell the story of Santa without bashing today's view as well.
The Story of St. Nicholas
More than Reindeer and a Red Suit
published by Voice of the Martyrs
is the best book I've found that has beautiful illustrations for children
It's the true story of Nicholas of Myra who was born in the 3rd Century. "The real Nicholas was a man full of generosity and conviction...Nicholas is recorded to have exposed the corruptness off a government official during a famine. He uncovered the governor's deceitful actions of hoarding grain until the demand forced it into higher prices...He saved people from execution...Even though many have preserved the stories of Nicholas' acts of righteousness, few know of his sufferings for Christ." He was a man who suffered greatly for his beliefs in Jesus and how he stood for Him.
Our kids have loved the book and it's a favorite (next to our Christmas book "Morris's Disappearing Bag) that we pull out at this time of year. It's helped build the gap between what they are inundated with at school, the store, television, etc....
I was a little concerned when we attended the Breakfast with Santa this year. We've explained to the children that a lot of other kids believe Santa is real and it's not their place to inform them otherwise. Although, I discovered that last year Mr. Smiles and another little friend informed the rest of their friends that Santa was actually dead. Ooops! I hope repair work was done!
Precious Jewel shyly hopped into his lap and stated that she wanted earrings that didn't make her ears swell (heehee) and another American Girl Doll. She looked so big in his lap!
He was a very sweet and authentic looking Santa.
Mr. Smiles was next, but due to a certain curly haired little brother who thought it might be fun to launch himself off the high stage, I totally missed what he said and his cute photo opportunity.
He is my one who goes back and forth on believing in Santa because all his little friends do and then attempting to tell everyone around him that Santa is really the man who loved Jesus a long time ago and was thrown in prison for it. It draws some strange looks as well as interesting opportunities for conversation. ; )
I was a little wary about this guys photo opp. He has a history of doing or saying unsocial things, but he passed with flying colors. He was very serious about the whole deal and quite cute! I'm not sure what he said to Santa, but I think Santa did most of the talking.

Then there was cutesy-curly-top all dressed up in his red shirt (that was heavily crusted in donut sugar by the time he sat with Santa). I got all teary eyed. After seeing his siblings get their time with "the big man," he toddled right over and reached up to sit in his lap. Santa just quietly talked to him and poked his little belly when he realized that Naters vocabulary is still sorely lacking.
I remembered dear Mr. Smiles 6 years ago bursting into tears and frantically throwing himself off of the Big Man's lap. I'm sure those sweet store or event Santas have a love/dread relationship with small children.

Then he called all 4 kids to him for a "group" photo. I love Good Lookin's expression: still so serious but doing his best to behave and be up with his siblings. Mr. Smiles kept went back to adding to his list in great detail much to the amusement of our dear old Santa.

My sweet kiddos! Each of their personalities shine out in the picture!

Later they had fun in the fake fireplace while I filled out the forms for each of them.

She has learned to pose. = )

I love these guys and the little one who ran out of the frame right as I snapped the picture.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Night Time Solutions? Hopefully We'll See

Here's a little update on Nater Mater and our sleep battles with him. Every single child we have had presents wonderful joys and interesting and unique challenges. He is no exception. He is the sweetest and funniest little guy (and entirely too cute). He's sweet, affectionate, mischievous, and accident prone. He declares victory with the most ER visits and 3 day hospital stays of any of the other 3 combined. He lives in silent stealth mode and I am forever finding him into things. You'd think I don't watch him, but I do! All I have to do is take a 60 second bathroom break and he'll find something he can get into. I digress though.
Lately Luke and i have been walking around in a haze of exhaustion. My dear husband is wonderful with getting up with our kids at night. He didn't used to be, but he also has had jobs where he worked the night shift or the late shift and he needed to sleep, so only I got up multiple times a night with our (at that time) two toddlers. Even though his job has a crazy schedule and hours, he now gets to be home at night. Yeah us!!
I've posted and written about our nap and night time challenges with Naters. Two days ago I was at the end of myself. It had been another fiasco of a bedtime with just me and my 4 kids plus the little boy I babysit. All of us were in tears except M who was happily watching Dora while my other children were yelling "unfair!"
Luke came home about 8 or 9 and I collapsed in his arms in tears. I try to make our home environment a welcoming one for when he does come home. You know, stuff like quiet music playing and all the kids (except M) in bed and the house cleaned up. Not this night. This night he found me sobbing on the couch declaring that motherhood was simply too hard and I felt the need to go on a long (and solo) vacation.
Bless his dear heart, he listened to me, held me, let me vent and then said, "why don't you ask other mom's how they do it?" I was surprised. He is not one who likes to ask for advice, but he didn't have a clue either and couldn't offer his own. So, I hopped onto facebook and he read what I wrote, gave his stamp of approval and I posted it to the world of facebook.
God knows what our hearts need and I know He doesn't want us to go it alone and "tough it out."
Luke and I have been praying about his schedule, my exhaustion and the kids missing him and him missing the kids. This time He provide via the world of facebook. I got several good tips and a couple of phone calls from dear women offering to just pray with me on the phone. Bless you! It's what I needed.
I also got a phone call from a good friend (who hadn't seen my posted plea for help) who invited me and the 2 littlest ones over for the morning. I hadn't seen her since last April other than in passing really, and was excited to get to spend some time with her.
She asked me the next morning how things were going. I shared with her my frustrations with Nater Mater and his poor sleep habits and then my bedtime woes. She was most insightful with Nater Mater's sleep patterns.
You see, apparently she was also the child who woke up multiple times a night to "play." She has memories of riding her trike down the hall when everyone else was asleep. Of course, if she got to loud, her parents put her back to bed, but for the most part as long as she stayed in her room and was quiet, they let her be. She was not a napper either. She simply didn't require much sleep! She also suggested a room of his own and a gate to keep him from wandering the house at night.
We tried it last night and it fairly well worked! We are also cutting our nap time (sigh). Luke also quit napping before he turned 2 and since Nater Mater seems to take after him in sooo many ways, I shouldn't be surprised. Nater still needs naps, but he can survive without them and he sleeps sooo much sounder at night when he doesn't get one. I'll have to keep him quietly occupied somehow due to 4 others sleeping in the middle of the afternoon!
So I threw out every parenting book info and knowledge from the previous 3 children that has been stored in the back of my mushy brain, and put him to bed as normal. Then we put up the gate.
Naters was not impressed with the gate and kept saying, "mommy! gate! no!" But, he didn't crawl over it. (which he is capable of). It was a full 2 hours later before he finally quit playing in his room and settled down for the night. He turned his light on, his toys were all over the room, but he went down without a whole lot of extra help from Luke or I! Luke did end up in the extra bed in the room in the middle of the night because I have a nasty cough that woke him up and scared him (Naters, not Luke). = ) (Although, I'm sure Luke couldn't sleep through all the coughing either).
I ended up taking the gate off sometime in the middle of the night (my mistake) and he woke me up bright and early with a freezing glass over cold water splashed all over me. "Here mommy, You!" Gasp! Lunge back! Shriek!
Good morning!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Night Time Trials

We figured out Nater Mater's night sleeping problem. He's still being a stinker going to bed, but he is improving. A couple of nights ago when Luke was working late and I still had a babysitting child past our kid's bedtime, I just put the older 2 in front of a short cartoon, piled the other 3 in the car and drove to the mailbox. Good Lookin' gleefully layed on the dash of the van, but I had Nater Mater strapped into his car seat. He was snoring by the time with hit the mailbox a quarter of a mile from our house! I did it again last night. Tonight he's sick, so he fell asleep in my lap.
Night time though is a different story. He has been getting up multiple times a night and either crying loudly or just trotting to sibling's rooms or our rooms to "Play."
Dear hubby came up with the plan for us to take turns sleeping in Precious Jewel's bed. (We moved her into the boy's room momentarily) and whenever Nater Mater wakes up, put him back to bed right then. Bless his dear heart, he took the first night and discovered part of the problem.
We have Nater's bed between the wall and Precious Jewel's bed. We thought it would give him a crib-like feel and he seemed to really like it. The toddler bed has a half rail on both sides, so we thought he'd be fine not falling out.
I knew that kid thrashed a lot in his sleep, but I had no idea how bad he was/is! Luke said (and I saw it last night when it was my turn) that he not only rolls from side to side, he sits up, flops over and rolls again. Now his head is at the foot of the bed where he can roll at least the upper half of his body off! The problem was a 4-6 inch space between his and Precious Jewel's bed that he was getting stuck in. Luke told me (laughing) the next morning that Naters is like a little turtle stuck on his back if he rolls off and he can get up, but it took a lot of work. That doesn't fly for an under 2 1/2 year old. I think by the time we were getting downstairs to him, he'd scooted himself out, but he was all worked up and wide awake. I'd be freaked out too!
So, we scooted Precious Jewel's bed over another 6 inches and we'll see how tonight goes.
He has always been my baby in motion. In the womb he was constantly moving. As a newborn, he was wiggly and didn't like to snuggle when asleep. And now as a toddler, he's still the same.
Well, we'll see in another night. Tonight he's running a 102 fever and back in his old crib across the hall from us. He didn't even try to crawl out. Poor little guy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Family Photo Session Fall 2010

Mommy finally got her wish: a professional photo shoot with the entire family.
I LOVE my hubby! He hunted down the photographer, and called me up.
Nater Mater refused a nap this day, but we went with it anyway. I will have to get his individual photos at another date. We were just lucky to get any good shot with a cranky 2 year old and a rather skeptical 4 year old.

Aside from Nater Mater's "angry face," I think we did pretty well!

He was yelling "no!" at the photographer when he was told to smile. What can you do?

My beautiful beautiful girl

Mr. Smiles melts my heart

The ever classic Good Lookin'
That kid is just nuts

But oh, so handsome!

On daddy's lap being tickled so we'd get at least one good shot!
I love them all!
Thanks Gary!!

Too Tired to Think

I am so utterly exhausted. It's not even remotely funny. How can one small person who is normally so cute and layed back and sweet cause such dark circles under my eyes. For the last 4 days, I've been repeatedly putting him back in his new big boy bed.
We moved him out of the crib just after Thanksgiving because he had started climbing out multiple times a night but couldn't get back in. Well, he's still getting out of bed multiple times a night and climbing into bed with siblings to "play." Sister and brothers and daddy and mommy are not so playful at 11pm, 1am, 3am 5am and so on and so forth.
I will not reveal our spanking philosophy because in this day in age, you just get shot at by both sides. Some things are better left unsaid. Suffice to say, we've tried just about everything other then sitting on him. (I've contemplated that and sadly, gasp, a very large dog kennel). Know that I would never do either, but it was a fleeting thought.
Its like having a newborn all over again in the sleep deprivation arena!
He's so dang cute too! He just tiptoed out the door to the hallway where I'm sitting to say, "wuv woo mommy." And that was after I'd just disciplined him and put him back to bed. Oh Supernanny, some days I wish you lived with me.
Tonight, we are moving big sister out of the room that they share and gating him in. I'm going to move all her toys and dolls and crayons and books and barbies, and fingernail polish, etc... to the top shelf of her closet and gate him in. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Abigail

My sweet baby girl is losing the little girlishness of small childhood. She's done away with most of the frilly dress-up that she has loved for so long and has traded it in for nail polish and late night chats. Gone are the days of changing her princess costumes 5 times a day, my trips to the store with "Bell" or "Cinderella" in tow. Now, it's the jeans, cute boots and hair accessories. The rolling of the eyes has begun. The, "mommy! please! you're embarrassing me!"

She still smells of sweet little girlishness though. She still likes to snuggle and be picked up when she is hurt. (no small feat now that she is up to my neck in height). I'm still her best friend and confidant.
2 years old grand birthday in Mexico

2 1/2

Her 4th birthday
She's always been a rather girly girl. I've loved it. While she has attended horse parties and animal parties and such for other little friends, she has stuck with her tea cups and crooked finger. I used to feel the need to apologize to other mothers for the repeated tea parties with little sandwiches that she requested year after year. Now we simply invite only those who enjoy it and won't roll their eyes at her in all her finery. Tea parties and dresses and china plates have been a norm all year around. I hope she never totally outgrows that. Some of us are just born for finery.

Just after her 5th birthday and the night before her first lost tooth.

Age 6.
Proud big sister of 3 little brothers. (one happened to be sleeping for this adorable picture that she requested and there was no way I was waking up to join us.)

Found this fabulous little table and chair set at a garage sale this year for her birthday gift. ($5)

With a coat of paint, I turned it into a perfect little set for her room. She's asked me to paint flowers all over it. Happily I will comply.

She was openning her present early in the morning before school on the day of her birthday. I let her stay home for the day for just she and me time. (with 3 little boys in tow also)

My sorry attempt at pink and black zebra stripes.
Thankfully, she loved it even though I was reminded of a pink and black vomiting volcano every time I looked at the finished product.
He toddler brother. Well, he felt the need to "check" on mommy's work. I counted a grand total of 17 finger holes that he made in his sampling endeavor.
Her party this year; again it was very girly. She wanted to go ice skating, but the rink was closed for the weekend due to some kind of competition. So, she chose another "girly" theme instead: pink and black colors with manicures, pedicures and facials. I sort of gulped at the job ahead of me and swung into it. At our house, the birthday child is the up and center for the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are their pick. The color scheme is their pick. The cake is their pick (within my ability). The party plans are their pick. Basically, the day revolves around them once a year (and once a year only).

Happy 8th Birthday Abigail! We love you!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving: A time to give thanks

I struggled with that this year. I had so looked forward to a time spent with my side of the family for the first time ever and at the last minute it all fell through.
I had wonderful memories as a little girl spending Thanksgiving with all 15-16 of my other stair-step cousins and my kids have never had that (in such a big fashion).
God is the God of goodness though and He gave me a gift in the form of my husband's family. Two of his 5 cousins drove a combined grand total of 21 hours one way to spend 3-5 days on the dairy farm. They've never done that for Thanksgiving the nine years I've been in the family. Between the two cousins that came there were 9 kids. Throw in our 4 and mix in Luke's brother's 3 little girls and it was a recipe for chaos, laughter, and a hay load of fun with 16 children ranging in ages 2 months to 12 years. I grew up in a big family with lots of cousins, so for me it was everything I'd wanted. (not so sure about everyone else). = ) Everyone had a playmate all the way down to the smaller tykes.
The weather was, in a word, GORGEOUS the first day. The sky was overcast and there was a high chance of rain, so we wondered if the planned hayride and bonfire with smores would be a bust, but it wasn't. Here are a few of the highlights from the 4 days.

Here are 15 of the 18 grand kids that are in existence. Luke has a cousin in England who'd just had a baby and was unable to come. We missed her family!

The kids loved the hayride. I think a couple of them may have never been on one before. I know Good Lookin' and Nater Mater were a little overwhelmed when the tractor first started bumping us all down the road.

There was lots and lots of laughing and giggling and throwing hay (we put a stop the throwing hay) the whole way down the road.
Dear Grandmama broke taboo and bought all the boys cap guns. Having 3 little, somewhat wild, grandsons who adore her and severely extended the pouty lip when she at first told them "no guns" when choosing a gift in the toy aisle changed her mind. For the first time in history, she allowed little guns..much to the shock of the generation who was told "no." What can you say, grand kids are spoiled and so they should be.

Since we live near an airport that has planes flying over our heads on a regular basis, the planes had to be shot down. Every bird, duck, goose, squirrel and cow was aimed at as well. No shooting people please.

And for those that were thought to be too little to handle guns and wouldn't care, well, they just picked up straw and defied us all anyway.

With that many little people and that many adults (we were vastly outnumbered), we ate our yummy pre-thanksgiving day cookout dinner out in the carport. The tables were decorated "kid style" ie: no decorations that could be damaged. (which meant, no decorations at all). If needed, someone got up ran into the dark for who knows what and then ran back to their place at the table. We watched the lightning light up the sky off in the distance and prayed it wouldn't rain on us. It didn't. = )

Thanksgiving Day
Precious Jewel has 4 girl cousins close to her age. One is a first cousin and the other are second cousins (I think), or maybe it's once removed, or second cousins once removed. Someone can help me here. Anyhow, it's Luke's first cousin's kids. We only get to see them once a year if that, but she loves being with them. He new, and almost daily, question is, "mommy, why cant's I adopt a sister like Natty did?" Hmmm.....I tell her to keep praying about it. God does answer prayer and if He says, "yes" she'll get a sister. For now, it's about cousins and friends.

Thursday night we had all the girls over for a sleep-over. It was so fun watching them be girly and giggly and create their hilarious Wii characters. After the 7th or 8th "goodnight" and "no, you can't switch beds again" all was quiet, and I marveled at the precious lives God gives each of us as parents to care for.

Painting horses the next morning.
We had freezing rain most of that night and it was COLD outside!!!! The girls didn't seem to mind though and spent a good couple of hours out walking our very happy dog. (I had a 2 year old who didn't want to venture into the cold, so I missed some really beautiful pics). Oh well.

Precious Jewel's cousin has been taking Irish Dance lessons for the last year. We cranked up the music and stomped around.

Sweet girls

Friday night we had all the little boys over. Two of the aunts took the oldest 2 boys and the 4 girls to the movies. It was a bit crazy for me because Luke was working until after 10pm that night and it was me and 6 boys. AHHHHH!!!! But I was the one who invited them even without Luke there and I'm glad I did.

They did AWESOME I must say. Can I say that I am VERY thankful for LEGO'S? Whoever invented them, I hope they made billions because they deserve it for the hours upon hours of entertainment that those little toys provide for boys of all ages (and mommas too).

Saturday morning was cold too, but it didn't stop the boys for adventuring outside into the woods, shop and goat shed. Luke was home that morning too and let them feed and water the goats, play hide-and seek with them in the trees and then brought them inside to teach them how to play bumper pool

Nater Mater was a wee bit upset that he kept getting in trouble for moving the balls for the big boys.

We put the pool sticks up. From my childhood experience with a pool table, "ahem" the sticks are used more as weapons than tools to move little balls into pockets. My brother and I broke more than our fair share of pool sticks sword fighting in our basement.

So there you have it. I did spend several times crying missing my family, but God didn't allow me to wallow in self-pity. He gave me another family and wonderful people to spend Thanksgiving day with. I am so very thankful for His goodness.