Sunday, December 16, 2012

Alone with Audrey

December 2012: 21 months

Audrey & I have a few precious hours each week when it's just the two of us.
I will often use that time to get errands done.  
Shopping with one "helper" is way easier that 2 or 4!

Audrey has sensitive little eyes and always tells us when it's "bite!  bite!" (bright)
Her sunglasses save the day.
I love that she will wear them through a whole store 
or carefully position them on her head just like Mom.  

Audrey is talking up a storm.
We love her singing too.
She'll sing Twinkle, Twinkle to herself when she's just hanging out.

This week she's been really excited about baby dolls & strollers.  
I think we had 5 strollers set up for a day or two.  
I love watching her be a little mommy to her dolls.

She was determined to get diapers on every doll!

Another favorite distraction right now is marbles.  Audrey could play with these all day!

She rolls them down her car garage ramp over and over again!

Picks them up with tongs, puts them in and out of ice cube trays 
and of course rolls them under couches, the piano, and into every corner.  
Choking hazard?  Sure...but just think of those fine motor skills!

This cute little kid walked to the bus stop with me the other day.
I'm a pretty lucky mom!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Storm Rolls

We have a tradition that we're all really loving..."Storm Rolls"
Winter 2009-2010
It started a couple years ago when we got snowed into our house for several days twice in the same winter.
We happened to have ingredients for Cinnamon rolls so we made a bunch.  The kids took invites to lots of neighbors (who had no excuse because nobody was going anywhere!).  It was such a fun excuse to visit with neighbors!  I highly recommend you adopt this tradition.  Sure makes me want to get snowed in more often!

So when we heard that hurricane Sandy was on it's way last week we checked our ingredients and decided we were all ready for the big storm! (we made sure we had more important stuff too!)

I might be biased....there's nothing good-for-you about them....but these are YUMMY!!!  Cinnamon rolls are starting to become a signal to me that it's time to snuggle up with my family and love every second of slowing down!  Bring on the winter!


3 TBS dry yeast
3 c. very warm water    
1 c. sugar

Mix with wire wisk.
Let sit for 10 minutes.

¼ c. vegetable oil     
1 TBS salt
8 cups flour
Dough should be soft, yet not too sticky.  
Put a little oil in a large bowl, make the dough into a ball & cover it with oil.  
Let rise for an hour with a towel covering it.
Roll dough out with rolling pin onto a flour covered surface into a rectangle shape.  

Spread ½ c. softened butter over entire area with spatula.  

Mix together& spread evenly:
1 ½ c. brown sugar 
2 TBS cinnamon.  
Roll dough into a log. (I cut it into two rectangles so the rolls are smaller)  
Cut slices about 1-1 ½ inches wide (I use thread to cut).  
Place onto a ungreased baking pan and let rise for 30 more minutes.   
Bake @ 350 for 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.  
Frost immediately with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese softened
1 stick butter softened
2 tsp vanilla
1 box powered sugar

Beat ingredients with electric mixer until smooth.  
Add small amounts of milk for desired consistency.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A little breeze

I guess when they give the wind a name it might do things like this...

But really, this happened before the real wind even got started!  

Our poor tree was dead.  We were just hoping that next spring it was going to miraculously come back to life!  I guess we won't have to make the hard decision of cutting it down any more...

5 amazing neighbors came out to join Ryan as he chopped it up and hauled it away.  They did it in record time!  We are so grateful for so many kind people that live nearby!

Our poor house looks so bare without a big tree in front of it!  The kids each kept a small piece of it...we have girls...things like this are emotional!

The final up-rooting!  Thanks to our neighbor's green machine!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Window to My World

This is our front window.  This is our life!  

It started with one picture that she was really proud of.  We really love the new neighborhood art gallery!

Coloring is Alice's passion right now.  She colors from sun up to sun down.  In the car.  On the couch.  At the table.  In her bed.  This week's flavor is Halloween pictures.  It buys me a quiet time.  Then I usually color a couple with her after quiet time.

On the same day that I decided to take pictures of Alice's art work, Audrey decided to make sure that her art was picture worthy too!  Soon after the pictures above, Audrey woke up and the older girls got home from school.  I was trying to be the engaged, present mom I want to be by sitting at the kitchen table and talking with the school kids about their day.  Audrey left snack time after a few minutes.  Little did I know, there was a box of markers in the front room...

But she's so darn cute it's hard to be mad!  And it all came out (phew!)

Sunday, October 14, 2012


About 10 years ago I was accepted... the most rigorous training program known to man.


It wasn't on a whim.  It was something that I wanted with my whole soul.  I had felt the heartache and tears of applying and being denied.  I waited longingly for that acceptance letter!  I was thrilled about my new future and more than willing to commit to a life-long program.

I felt confident, scared, excited, and complete.

I was determined to do it all right.  To master this role.

My heart was filled to the brim with love for my new baby...that cute little bundle reaffirmed that this was my mission.  I loved her.  I loved how she changed our family.  I loved being her mom.

But, despite buckets full of love in my heart, I was shocked at how often I felt a little lost in my new role.  I was surprised at how unfulfilling the hard days and weeks were.  At how quickly I stopped noticing the good moments and couldn't forget all the hard moments.  At how foggy my brain became without enough sleep!  I wondered what I had gotten into.

But we bumbled along...sometimes enjoying the ride...sometimes surviving.  I remembered that this wasn't a course I could quit.  Which was good--because some days I would have handed in my notice and missed the amazing journey of growth that I am still on!

Since then we've signed on to more complex training programs...adding more babies one by one.  It's been an intense and satisfying journey.

When  baby #4 was born I was stretched to my limits for a little while.  I wasn't sure if I was going to make it!  But, sure enough, after some time, my role started coming back into focus.  I think I truly started to understand some of the most important truths about motherhood for the very first time!  I'm sure some mother's are a little quicker.  I'm pretty stubborn and determined.  So it took 4 kids and 9 years before I stopped just plowing ahead--determined to succeed!

The first and most important realization that I accepted was this:

I thought I was there to love, mold, shape and train my children.  I knew I wasn't perfect, but I thought that my adult status made me completed.  As my true role as a mother started to come into a crisp focus, I finally started to "get" the fact that while this was about assisting my little ones in their own journey, this was one amazing opportunity for me to be loved, as I was molded, shaped and trained.

There are so many ways for us to experience life.  We can seize countless opportunities that will challenge us and help us to develop and internalize characteristics and skills that improve us as human beings.  We all have so many ways we can grow, improve, expand, and become more balanced people.

My choice was to experience my life through motherhood.

I'm not sure if I'm a slow learner compared to others on this journey, but I am happy to say that I am finally at the beginning of that course that I started on many years ago.  Because I am finally here as a student.  I am ready to learn.  To seek out and master new skills and learn new tools.

I believe that I have a spiritual inner compass that helps guide me as a mother.  I believe in prayer.  I believe in miracles.  But I also believe that it is my job to fully immerse in my new-found student status.  I am hungry for knowledge and skills.  Sometimes my resources are "experts".  Sometimes I reference friends.  Often my husband and I have brainstorming sessions that give me enough material to practice and tweak for a month!

My goal is to take on the attitude of a student--which is harder said than done in mothering.  I am trying to look at what I need to change about me and my reactions before I assume it's my kid that is a lost cause!  I have learned that as I learn new skills and find tools, I am a more effective mom.  If I mess up (which I do often) I am trying to adopt the attitude of a scientist instead of a highly emotional woman!  I want to step back and say "Huh!  That didn't work--what could I do differently next time?"  I search for tools to help me with my weaknesses.  I am a project that I am fine tuning.

I loved this quote that I stumbled on...

I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have to learn and grow in the safe environment of our family.  This is a life-long process.  Just because I am an adult, doesn't mean I am finished with my schooling!  I sure hope that my kids can feel safe in their environment as they tweak their weaknesses and learn, fail and succeed at new life skills.

I have learned that family is a powerful laboratory.   They love me even when I fail.  They make me laugh even when I'm at my wits end.  They help me remember to enjoy the process instead of wishing it were all over.

This isn't a course that I'm taking just for the diploma at the end.
 It's the way I've chosen to experience my life.  I've finally learned that "doing it right" and "mastering this role" isn't about perfection in the moment.  It's about letting myself be changed through the process so that I have no regrets about my schooling.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Blissful Bedtime

(written sometime during summer 2012...before I was ready to publish and commit to this blogging thing)

I just want to remind myself that tonight my heart was full of gratitude as I experienced a [rare....almost unheard of] bedtime.

Our bedtimes are generally miserable....have been for quite some time.

We are typically very proactive parents.  When we recognize a problem we are quick to put our heads together and brainstorm, search, ask for advice, implement and execute a plan then tweak until it works.  But in the bedtime department our efforts have seemed pointless.  Positive results from all our experimenting are few and short-lived.  I have wondered why we continue to fail in this area.  It makes me sad to feel frustrated every night as we end the day.

Typical bedtime involves:
asking kids to do the list of things they do every night and yet can't seem to do on their own...asking again...losing a kid somewhere...fighting over senseless things because they are patience running thin...finding a kid that's suppose to be brushing teeth out on the trampoline...firmly reminding them what they should be doing...wishing we were just curled up reading together...someone inevitably gets hurt...more whining...someone refuses to go potty...I know we'll be up at midnight taking her potty...another fight...losing a kid again...this time she's reading a book two flights down in the basement...tired of running up and down the stairs carrying a baby that has to be held...wondering why one kid still hasn't brushed her teeth...asking...waiting...tired...

...and by the time they manage to lay their little heads on their pillows, I am at a breaking point.  Frustration rules.  Not cuddles and love like I dream of.  Regrets.

So in an effort to continue to try to fix our little problem we spent many hours last week moving everyone's bedrooms around.  We have 2 small bedrooms for the kids.  There are only so many options.  But we found a way to stop using the top bunk which will allow me to be closer, lay in bed, scratch backs and cuddle easier with one of my girls.

Just in case it never happens again, let me outline my dreamy bedtime tonight.  I have seriously dreamed about this for a long time!

-Everyone completed their evening responsibilities with support from mom but minimal nagging (cleaning up a small area of the house--their zone, plus normal bedtime drill)
-Everyone climbed in their bed without protests and early enough to read for a while.
-At one point the older 3 were all reading books on their own in silence while I read books to Audrey on the floor.  I was stunned!!!  (This is usually the time that they are fighting for attention and I don't have enough to go around)
-Ryan took Audrey (it's always easier with 2 of us!)
-I spend the next 45 blissful minutes having one on one time with each child.  They talked my ear off and I loved every minute.  I sang them their favorite lullaby "Baby Mine" and smiled when each girl smiled and helped me insert her name in the last line.  I scratched backs, rubbed necks, rubbed feet and gave hugs and kisses.
-I soaked up and enjoyed every second of it.
-I walked away.  2 little hops out of bed but right back.  No fighting.  No frustration.  Everyone fell peacefully asleep.  Bliss.

Tomorrow night probably won't go like this but for now I'll live on a hope that it is possible and we'll keep striving to enjoy our last minutes of each day together.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


 It was a busy afternoon and evening.
There were some unplanned changes to the schedule.
Then the "crazy" in me made a bad decision.
Since we were driving past Costco on our 3 hour after school jaunt...
might as well run in for milk!
But it was almost bedtime, the kids were running on snacks & hoping for dinner soon.
It wasn't a disaster but left me wondering why I try to squeeze too much in?!?!
When we finally got home I stuck this fussy baby on the counter next to me 
while I whipped up an amazing 5 minute dinner.

She's a smart kid.
Why wait 5 minutes when you have a block of cheese next to you?
Go to town baby!

Flashback 12+ years.
Ryan & I were married in England.  
It was a double wedding with my brother & wife (for convenience not cuteness!)
I'm the second oldest of 11 kids.
I had siblings all the way down to 2 years old at the wedding.
Plus 2 families of in-laws.
It was a zoo..a happy wonderful zoo!

At some point in the happy chaos Ryan and I walked into a room and found my 2 year old brother in fetal position on the floor.  We tried to coax him to tell us what was wrong.  Eventually we found out that he was simply guarding a large block of cheese that he had managed to escape the kitchen with.  It was carefully nibbled around all the edges.

I'm sure glad to know that kids are resourceful when our mothering falls short.
And I always need to keep a block of cheese in my fridge!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day of Dates

About 4 years ago Ryan and I took ballroom dance classes and had a blast!  We totally had fun stepping on each other's toes but also enjoyed every second of having a weekly date that we were committed to showing up for!  We've reminisced and wished for the last 4 years that we were still doing that...other priorities got in the way (like baby #3 and baby #4! and various other excuses!)

Well we finally decided we were going to somehow carve out the time and money to make it happen again.  Hallelujah!  As life gets more chaotic we see each other less and need these dates more and more just to stay connected.  Plus it really is fun to waltz around the room with no babies hanging on our legs!  So, we started our weekend off with our awesome weekly date!

We are blessed to have the most wonderful family for neighbors.  She and I help each other out all the time with quick runs to the grocery store and other child care helps.  In the spirit of trading back and forth they offered to send us out on a date before they have another baby and we get our turn to babysit.  So we took them up on it!

We took Hayley out on a date with just Dad & Mom.

This was the "big talk" that we've been dragging our feet on forever!  Yeah...kind of meant to check that box at 8 years old.  Amazing how easy it is to procrastinate.  After 10 years of dreading this "talk" I'm wondering now what I was worried about?!?!  It was perfect--no awkwardness--and I'm not worried about the next 3.  I'll post more details later for those of you that still have a few years to squirm and don't know how to handle this.  But the short story is that we hung out at Panera Bread for breakfast then found an empty field, laid out a blanket and talked!

Man!  She's growing up!

Then because we still had willing babysitters and time on the clock Ryan & I escaped for a quick hike doing one of his favorite things...letterboxing!

After we returned it was my turn to take Alice out.  A slurpee date at Target (you know those errands that masquerade as dates?!)  Alice is my silly & fun kid to hang out with.  4 years old is hard though....on me and her!  So one-on-on time with no whining or battles is much needed therapy for both of us.  I stole this little trick from Values Parenting.  I told her 10 things I loved about her/things she was good at, while writing the first letter of each thing on her fingers.  Sometimes it's good to stop and remember the good stuff! 

After all that Ryan took Maya on a date [trip to Lowes] so everyone ended up with love buckets filled...

...and yet we still had a cranky bedtime!  Thank goodness for pictures to remind me of all the good moments!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Recording My Messy Journey

Summer 2012: Tie Dye Shirts!
Hayley (9), Alice (4), Maya (6)
Audrey (18 mos)

It's been a let me start over.  I am a mother of 4 beautiful, growing daughters.  I am the wife of a devoted husband and father.  I love to organize and plan.  I love to learn and perfect things.  I love to share ideas and improve lives.  On my own I enjoy reading, watching the news, and scrap booking online.  With my husband I love our ballroom dance classes, cooking together, and watching whatever show or movie we are both completely hooked on.  As a family I love it when we are outdoors playing or hiking.  I love one-on-one moments with my girls--board games, experimenting with hairstyles, coloring & reading.

Maya, Hayley, Alice
September 2012
My oldest is 9 1/2 years old.  My baby is 18 months old.  I am grateful for the things I have learned & the ways I have grown up in the last 10 years!  But the last 18 months of mothering have changed me more than all the years before that.  Maybe it was because I reached my limit and had to stretch.  Maybe I was just ready to completely submerse myself in this journey of motherhood and grow from it instead of just surviving on the surface.

September 2012
I'm here to record my journey.  Not because it is impressive, heroic, or tragic.  I want to record it for myself and my children and whoever else chooses, because I think it's a normal, everyday story.  I read of mother's who are required to be much more heroic than me.  I know of mother's who have mastered more skills.  But I want to write about me because I have grown.  I don't want to forget that process because it was hard!  I need to grow more.  I am learning to appreciate and love and be patient with the process that is me!

August 2012
I disappeared from the blog-o-sphere soon after Audrey was born.  When she was about 6 weeks old I took a nose dive into post-partum depression.  This was a first for me.  I was lucky that it was like someone flipped a switch one day.  It was so black-and-white obvious that within 2 days of starting to cry all day and have panic attacks about dumb little things I was getting help.  My husband saw it immediately and gently encouraged and supported me as we experimented to "lift" me back up.  My mother swept in and rescued my kids on days that I couldn't function.  The worst of it was short lived.  And I know that I am so lucky and am so grateful for that!  I don't know how our family would have survived me for much longer!!!

March 2011
Audrey: 2 weeks
Since then, I have learned to say no to many things.  I have protected myself from becoming overwhelmed and tried to just focus on all the basics because having a functioning wife and mother is too important to a family!

I have chosen not to blog for a while partly because I wasn't in a happy place but also just to preserve my resources for the people that are most important to me.  But oh, how I have missed it!  Lately I have been ready.  Ready to embrace all the joy I get from regularly recording my experiences.  I know that I see more good in my days when I am looking for moments to share.  I pick up my camera more often when I know I might blog that picture.  I laugh at the hard stuff quicker when I imagine it as a blog story.  I love how spending a few minutes recounting a good moment erases hours of hard moments and hard work. After blogging I am suddenly ready to embrace the ups and downs of parenting and living life because I feel more confident that there will be more good and I can see the big picture more clearly.

So, if you choose to follow along...welcome!  Someday these will be my treasured memories!