Thursday, December 31, 2009

"To Do" List for 2010

I've never really done New Years' resolutions. If I realize a change that needs to be made on September 20th or December 12th, I'm not going to wait until January 1st to put it into practice.  That said, here are some changes I've decided to put into practice for the new year, and some I've already started on:


1. Dramatically decrease Internet time.  It is so easy to blow an hour out the window simply by sitting down at the computer and "checking mail".  Checking mail leads to cruising blogs, which leads to checking message boards, replying to posts there, and then researching an insignificant topic, then checking Facebook.  Before I know it, I've essentially wasted 60 minutes, with nothing redeeming to show for it.  In the week leading up to Christmas, I decided to extremely limit my Internet time to checking email twice a day: first thing in the morning and during the boys' nap time.  I think my total Internet time added up to five minutes a day.  This doesn't include updating our blog, because I consider that "family archiving" and not a waste of time.  So, instead of spending lots of time on the Internet I'm going to:


2. Read more good books.  In the past few weeks, I've had a lot of extra time to read books, since I curbed Internet time. Reading good books enriches my life, and the time sitting on the couch during nap time, curled up with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a book truly rests my mind and recharges me for when the boys wake up.


3. Research homeschooling methods.  Tommy won't start kindergarten-level learning until fall of 2012, but I am already feeling the slight panic of not knowing what sort of education method I'm going to be using with him.  During the next year, I hope to talk with experienced homeschooling moms at church about this, as well as research the Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Montessori, and Classical methods to figure out which one more closely fits our household and parenting philosophy.  I have a feeling I'm going to end up with a blend of some of them.


4. Meal plan.  This one I've already gotten a head start on.  I go grocery shopping on Friday mornings and buy a variety of good food that we enjoy: fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and pasta.  On Sunday afternoon I go through my stack of favorite recipes and plan meals around the food I purchased for that week.  It may seem backwards to plan meals around food I've already bought, instead of buying food for recipes I've already planned, but this is what works for me.  I find that I spend a more money if I choose recipes first and then buy the food for them.  It's cheaper and more fun to purchase raw ingredients that I already know we like, and then come up with recipes to use it all up.


5. Make my own bread.  We have come far since last year with changing the way we eat, and we are eating lots more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  But one thing we can't seem to give up is bread.  If we can't give it up completely, we may as well learn how to make it ourselves.  Healthy bread (rich in whole grains, protein and fiber) goes for a whopping $3.29 at the local grocery store, and we go through about two loaves a week.  That's almost $7 a week just for bread!  So Mark bought me a bread machine for Christmas and I've been on a mission to find the perfect recipe that Mark and I can agree on: one that is healthy (for me) and still fluffy (for Mark).  I'm getting closer every day to finding that Holy Grail of a loaf.  Now if we could only get our own dairy cow for all the milk my kids drink in a week...


6. (At the risk of sounding clich├ęd) Exercise more.  The time change and extra precipitation of the season really threw me off this year.  During the summer and early fall, we had a good routine where we would take a walk every morning or afternoon either at the local bike trail or through the vineyard across the street.  But with the time change, the boys started waking up later in the morning, throwing our schedule off, and then by the time they'd wake up in the afternoon, it was too dark to go for a walk.  So now I've planned into our daily schedule a daily walk after breakfast, and I plan to stick to it!


7. Read to the boys 30 minutes a day.  I've been depending on random times throughout the day to read to the boys, but this isn't working anymore, especially when we have very busy days.  It's recommended that by 3 years old, children should be read to at least 30 minutes a day, and I've been lacking here.  So I scheduled 15 minutes before nap time and 15 minutes after nap time to read to them.  I set a timer for myself and plant ourselves on the couch to read good books (see sidebar for our current library picks) to them.  Ben lasts about 5 minutes before he's off the couch and playing with other things, but Tommy is soaking up our reading time.


8. Read the whole Bible.  I'm ashamed to say I've never actually read the whole Bible, even though I've read much of the New Testament several times.  I started a "read-the-Bible-in-one-year" plan last January, but didn't get much further than the middle of Exodus.  So I picked up where I left off in early November and now I'm already up to Judges.  I'm using a chronological plan, which will take me through the Bible in the order the events occurred, instead of the order the books were placed together later by scholars.  I plan to read through the whole Bible every year hereafter.


9. Memorize scripture.  As with my Bible reading, I got a good start on this early last year, but got away from it somewhere in the middle of the year.  I didn't notice a deficiency at first, but months away from constantly dwelling on the word of God has certainly added up.  I realize now that failing to subsist on the God's word and committing it to memory has seriously affected how I deal with difficulties.  For more information on why memorizing scripture is so important, check out this article by John Piper.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Day Outdoors

Yesterday we were all feeling so good that we spend almost the entire day having fun outdoors.  In the morning we went to Vasona Park in Los Gatos, and then we met family back home at a local park for a picnic lunch.  The kids had a great time being outside for the first time in days, and were able to burn off some of their energy they'd been storing up during the days they were laying on the couch too sick to play.











Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tommy at 3 Years, 2 Months

This is your second month being a three-year old.  In some ways you seem so grown up that I think you should be starting kindergarten soon (probably because you look like you're five!), and in other ways you are still very much my baby.  You are very sensitive, you startle easily, and you prefer to play on your own rather than with other kids, unless they are your brother, cousins, or other close friends.  You get easily overwhelmed in social settings (kind of like your mom), and prefer to stick close to me or Daddy in these situations.  You love helping me in the kitchen and helping Daddy in his workshop.  





You love playing with Benji and have begun making up games for the two of you to play together.  Your favorite one is a chasing game, where you boys chase each other around the house, and eventually land on the floor together in a scuffle.


Here are some of your favorites:
Books:  Anything about cars, trucks, construction vehicles, fire trucks, or people associated with any of these. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Engine and Trashy Town are your current favorite books.


Shows:  You love Bambi and any show associated with a book that you like.  You currently like the Scholastic Storybook Treasures, which are shows based on books that we read.  You generally like shows or movies that are very mellow and happy.  You scare easily with shows that have any kind of conflict or alarming images.


Food:  You are still a vegetarian at heart, and will only eat a piece of meat if it is drowned in cheese or other sauce.  Your favorite foods are waffles, pancakes, and bagels.  


Toys:  You got a big kid Lego set for Christmas that you really like to build with.  You call them "my little Legos".  


Activities:  You love riding your bike and can go very fast, and can even stand up as you pedal, which you've realized helps you go up hills easier than sitting down.  You enjoy building things.  I think what you do is randomly stack blogs or Legos together and then when you're finished, you decide what the object should be, and usually it's a truck or a boat.  You also like to draw now more than you ever have.  You can draw faces and sometimes even cars and trucks.





New things:  You're completely potty trained now!  You wear underwear for naps and at naptime (no more pull-ups at all!), and you are able to go through the whole bathroom process completely by yourself, from pulling pants down to washing hands.  I'm so proud of you.  You are able to dress yourself on the bottom half, but don't seem to have motivation to learn how to put your shirt or jacket on.  I'm sure that will come some day.  You are enjoying wrestling with Benji more.  You used to scream every time he would tackle you, but I've been working with you on lightening up and playing more physically with Ben, and so now you invite him to jump on you and sometimes you even give him pony rides.
For reference:
Shoe size: 10
Shirt size: 5T
Pants size: 4T

Height: 41"
Weight: 39 lbs



Tommy drawing pictures

Monday, December 28, 2009

Almost well...

We are almost well, after being very sick for five days.  Ben woke up pretty cranky from his nap this afternoon and just snuggled into my chest the rest of the evening, even during dinnertime.  Here we are snuggled on the couch watching Bambi (yet again).  Then forty minutes later he jumped off the couch, apparently revived, and started wrestling with Tommy.  Silly boy. 





Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

On the morning of Christmas eve the boys both came down with colds, and so we had a very slow day.  They both woke up super early (thanks to their colds) and no amount of persuasion would convince them it was still nighttime.  So they got to watch Bambi while I got my act together and made breakfast.  


Mark took the boys with him to do outdoor work at his parents' house while I stayed home and did meal prep for Christmas dinner and cleaned the house.  We decided not to go to church in the evening because of the boys' colds, which was very sad to me because I love our church's Christmas eve service and had been looking forward to it for weeks.  Instead, we went out to eat at a yummy Italian restaurant, came home to do our final celebration of advent, and put the boys to bed early and watched Love Actually together.


Sleepy boys watching Bambi







On our way to Christmas Eve dinner


Christmas morning was much the same as yesterday morning, early, yet slow.  Both boys woke up early again, but this time I was already awake before them because of my own cold.  We ate freshly baked gingerbread and apple slices on the couch while Mark read the story of Jesus' birth from our favorite storybook Bible, and then opened our presents.  The boys both received Tag readers as their 'big' present and they spent most of the morning playing with them.  The Tag Junior is a bit above Ben's level (rated for ages 2-4) and the original Tag reader (ages 4-7) is a bit above Tommy's level, but we hope they'll grow into them in a few months.  


The rest of the day was mellow: we took a meandering walk around the neighborhood, then returned for a lunch of leftovers, and all took early naps.   After naps we hung out around the house some more and then headed over to Mark's brother's house for our extended family Christmas celebration, and then returned home for our Christmas dinner.


While there were many happy moments during this Christmas, overall it's been a pretty rough week. The kids getting sick has been difficult, mainly because of the sheer volume of whininess and clinginess.  I've also been struggling with sadness over the child I wish was with us this year and feeling impatient for another one, yet feeling like I "should" be happy simply because it's Christmas, and people are supposed to be happy, right?  I'm honestly happy this holiday season is over, and I'm looking forward to the new year. 



Tommy trying on Mark's new sweatshirt


Mark and Ben playing with the Tag Junior



Tommy engrossed in The Cat in the Hat.  He also received The Little Engine That Could, Green Eggs and Ham, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! for his Tag reader.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cousins!

We watched our nieces for two days this week while their parents went on a quick getaway.  Having four kids isn't too different from having two, except for mealtimes, bathtime, potty time, bedtime, or trying to get out of the house.  Okay, so maybe having four kids is a lot different.  But the kids loved spending time with each other and had a lot of fun these two days.  :-)



Watching Bambi after nap



Joining in our family tradition of driving around to see Christmas lights.  Pardon Ben's Billy Idol impression.



Reading on Uncle Moose's lap



Fun in the fort

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weekend Review

In an effort to slow down as we near the Christmas Day, we decided to stay home all weekend and do as close to nothing as we possibly could.  I think we were pretty successful.  





On Saturday we woke up late (and when I say we, I mean Mark and the boys, since as a mom I am biologically unable to sleep past 6:15am) and had a big breakfast complete with pancakes, eggs, hash browns, and fruit.  Then we went on a family walk to the high school down the street so the boys could ride their bikes over the speed bumps in the parking lot, which is one of the great joys in their lives.  Then we returned home, put a fire in the fireplace, and read books on the couch for awhile.  Actually, we just read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel three times. After this, we built and decorated a gingerbread train.  It was sticky, sugary good fun.  Afterwards, I put the finished train on top of the stove and told the boys not to touch it (yes, our children still need to be told not to touch things on top of the stove).  As I walked away I heard Tommy telling Ben in a very serious tone "We can't touch.  I'm letting it dry.  It needs pribacy."  





After the boys went down for a nap, I made sugar cookies from scratch broke apart pre-made, pre-cut "Christmas Shape" sugar cookies and baked them, so the boys and I could decorate them later in the day.  Sugar cookies are Mark's favorite and I had planned to make them from scratch, like I do every year at this time, but Christmas week snuck up out of nowhere and I decided my time would be more wisely spent outside of the kitchen, rather than spending half a day rolling, cutting, freezing, and re-rolling cookies.  After the cookies were done baking, I did something unprecedented and watched a movie during naptime by myself.  





After nap time we went to the playground, then came home and watched a tractor plow the field across the street for about fifteen minutes.  It was in that moment of watching my boys so intently watch the tractor do its work that I glad we had no plans and nowhere to rush off to.  When it was too dark to watch the tractor anymore, we went inside and decorated cookies while Mark made us a yummy dinner of Trader Joe's orange chicken and rice.  


On Sunday we went to church and had lunch with friends afterwards.  Then we returned home and put the boys down for a late (and long) nap, and I made myself a nest of blankets on the couch and dug into a new book I was given at church as an unexpected  Christmas present called The Thought of God.  After naps and dinner, we drove around town to look at Christmas lights.  Tommy told us "I love a lot, a lot, a lot of Christmas lights!" In all, it was a very relaxing, enjoyable and mellow weekend.



There are two drainage vents in the field at Nordstrom Park.  The boys realized that they could yell to each other through the vents, like the "phone" funnels at the playground.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Puzzled

Tommy loves puzzles.  If I leave him alone with a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle for 30 minutes and keep denying his requests for help (either because I'm actually busy or I know he doesn't really need help), he'll eventually put the whole thing together on his own.  


We picked this one up at the $1 section of Target this morning and he begged me to open the box and do it with him.  Finally after lunch, we worked on it together.  He certainly doesn't get his love of puzzles from me, because I find them frustrating and a bit boring.  Hopefully I'll come to like them someday, but at least right now I enjoy spending time with Tommy while he does them.














Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This Kid...




Has woken up dry in the morning every day this past week!  We have a new routine where he wakes up between 5:00am-7:00am and immediately yells, "Mommy, I have to go potty!", then I sneak in his room and get him out without waking up Ben, take him to the bathroom, then put him back to bed with a few books.  I've convinced him that 7:00am (his normal wake up time) is still nighttime, and I guess since it's dark out and Ben is still asleep, he accepts that.  One more week of waking up dry and he'll get to graduate to underwear for bedtime!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How We Keep Christ in Christmas


We live in a culture where it seems that the anticipation of Christmas is made up of one great, overwhelming to-do list.  Must remember to send out family greeting cards, decorate the house, get the tree, decorate that, bake cookies...Oh, and buy presents!!  What in the world am I going to get Aunt Betsy this year?  And the kids...can we afford to get Eric that bike this year?  And the Nintendo DS?  And the [insert hot toy of the season].... and on it goes.  


We've found our own family caught up in the trappings of the Christmas holiday, where we spent more time preparing for parties, gift giving, baking, and decorating than we did thinking about Christ Himself.  We caught ourselves in this after Christmas last year, when it was too late to do anything about it, but we vowed that next year would be more Christ-centered.  Well, it's next year, and so here are some of the ways that we are slowing down and putting Christ where He belongs: in the forefront of our minds and the reason for everything we do this month and all year long.


Advent Celebration
I was inspired to celebrate Advent with our family after reading Noel Piper's book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions.  A few months ago, we started having family worship in the evening after reading this book, and so celebrating Advent was a seamless transition.  We light our Advent candles, sing traditional carols as well as worship songs, read a passage of the Bible related to the Christmas story (so far the passages have been prophesies of Christ's coming from Isaiah), read a chapter from our Story Bible, and then sing one more song.  The kids may be too young to fully grasp what we're doing (that's debatable), but it is certainly centering our grown-up minds on Christ.


Nativity Scene
This year we bought a Schleich nativity scene with figures that are practically indestructible.  It sits on a table that is accessibly by our boys and is played with often. This presents many great opportunities throughout the day to talk about who each figure is, why he or she is important, and to retell the Christmas story, which is essentially the gospel.   


Jesse Tree
In Treasuring God in our Traditions, Noel Piper writes about a Jesse Tree, which is basically to gather every day objects that symbolize the attributes of God or Christ or parts of the Christmas story and put them on a tree.  One idea is to have a separate tree or mobile for these objects, but we just put them on our main tree, near the bottom so the kids can see and touch them.  Some of the objects we've put on the tree to represent Christ are a toy hammer and a saw (because Jesus was a carpenter), a toy loaf of bread (because Jesus is the Bread of Life), and a cross.  The idea is to use this objects, similarly to the nativity figures, to talk to children about the attributes of God and Jesus.  Some other objects Noel suggests are a lion (of Judah), a lamb (of God), Dove (Prince of Peace), Candle (Light of the world), or nails (crucifixion). We hope to add more to the collection next year. 


Three Wise Men Gifts
We stumbled upon this idea after Christmas last year and we have been excited to start this new tradition this year.  Each child gets only three gifts, and each gift represents the symbolism of each of the wise men gifts: One is a valuable gift (Gold), one is a spiritual gift (Frankincense), and the other is something for the body (Myrrh).  While we don't assign spiritual significance to this particular method of gift-giving, it is a wonderful way to simplify gift-giving to our children.  They've never experienced a deluge of gifts from us, so (hopefully) they'll never come to expect it.


One thing we'd like to work towards in the future is doing more for others with our children.  We've donated as much toys and goods to good causes as our budget could handle, but I wish we could do more.  Plus, the kids are still a bit young to be in the loop of what we're doing.  Hopefully in a few short years the boys will be able to understand that our family is incredibly privileged and can participate with us as we give to others.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Our Bedtime Routine

Every family develops their own bedtime routine.  Usually it involves bath time, story time, maybe even a baby lotion massage.  In this house, our bedtime routine involves wrestling.  Maybe because the evenings are so dark in the winter months and we can't expend our energy any other way then running around the house and having our children jump on us. It has been a winter evening tradition since Tommy was a baby (not a newborn, obviously, though it's funny to visualize trying to wrestle with a newborn).




Wrestling is even more fun when you have a bruiser of a little brother






Friday, December 11, 2009

Cookies with Cousins


Yesterday the boys' cousins came over to make gingerbread cookies.  What I thought would be a fun morning activity turned into a fun all day activity.  It had been a few years since I made gingerbread cookies, so I forgot exactly how time consuming it is, and that's even with preparing the dough the night before!  It took all morning just to cut out (and refreeze, re-roll, cut out, refreeze...well, you get the idea) and bake the cookies. We adjourned for nap time, then reconvened right afterwards to decorate.  Mark was SUPERDAD! and offered to head up the Decorating Committee, for which I was so thankful.  As you can see, it was a messy effort, but all the kids had a ton of fun.  


After the cookies were all done, both families shared an amazing lasagna together for dinner (made by Cameron).  It was a fun day, and I know my boys loved having their cousins around all day.



Before four toddlers/preschoolers got their hands on them



Getting lessons on proper frosting techniques



Working hard on Gingerbread Man's face


Needs more pink!



Tommy's creation - the black dots at the bottom are feet



A very small sample of some of our cookies


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This Kid...

Climbed over our front fence yesterday and was found playing a puddle next to our street by Mark's mom, who just happened to be driving by at the time.  (!!!!)  Needless to say, he will no longer be allowed to play in the front yard unsupervised!  





Notice the very un-guilty look in both photos?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This Time Last Year

This time last year, I woke up in the early dawn hour and decided to take a pregnancy test because my next cycle was a few days late, not really expecting it to be positive. To my utter shock, it was positive. I was pregnant with our third child, to be born in August of this year, when our other boys were only 2 1/2 and 18 months old.


To think that I actually cried miserable, bitter tears at finding out I was pregnant grieves me today and shows me just how far I've come since this time last year.  It grieves me not because I want a third child so much now when I didn't then, but because my tears meant that I wasn't relying on my Savior a year ago.  I didn't give my problems over to Him, cry at His feet, and put myself in His caring arms.  I simply cried because "I'd done this to myself", as if it was my doing and not God's anyway. 


To be honest, with the holidays here, my loss has hit me again, hard, like a ton of bricks.  A day does not go by that I don't think of my baby and mourn him.  But this time I am sitting brokenhearted at my Savior's feet instead of crying alone, like I did this time last year.  I am casting my sorrows on Him and am asking Him to heal my heart.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Our Weekend in Pictures



Saturday morning: helping Daddy clean up the yard.  All those pesky pugs lying around need to be moved! 



Taking a walk with a friend Saturday night in downtown Campbell at the Christmas festival



Sitting on a police motorcycle at the festival.  Tommy wanted to drive it.  He actually talked to the police officer, which I was very surprised at because he is normally too shy to talk to adults.  But police officers are just that cool.




Snow!  The Boy Scouts had a small hill of snow set up that kids could sled down. The boys loved it! 



Christmas season tradition: Sunday night we loaded the kids up with hot chocolate and drove around town looking the Christmas lights.  Tommy says, "Oh look Daddy, more Christmas lights!!" while Ben says "Big big lights!"  We saw this incredible house along the way.  It's like the Griswold house, but with elegance.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why the New Blog?

We've had several homes for our blogs over the years - first we were on Blogger, then on Typepad.  When we got our Macs, we decided to switch to the blogging application called iWeb, that came with our computers, and so that's where our blog settled for about 2 years.  However, we started building up a list of grievances with that application, but still stuck with it because it wasn't bad enough to switch blogs again, and it was nice to have an application that worked with our other media applications (like iPhoto).


But this past weekend was the final straw when iWeb refused to publish our blog.  It would just shut down every time I tried to publish.  There is no fix for it that we can find, so this finally pushed us over the edge to find a new home for our blog.  So we compared blogging sites and decided that Blogger was the spot for us.  Good thing, too, since it's completely free!  


One major benefit of Blogger is that we can print a book of our blog.  This means that our blog can become the journal of our life that we can keep as a book.  This also gives me motivation for keeping our blog up to date, since it will serve as our family history.


I hope you'll check in with us often!

Ben at 22 Months


Photo courtesy of Tommy


You turned 22 months on December 1st; that's just two months away from your 2nd birthday!  You are developing quite a little personality and your vocabulary has exploded in the past few days.


Some of your favorites:
Color - Green.  Everything is green to you, and if I ask you what color you want in something, you'll say "Bean!"

Book - Goodnight Moon.  This has been your favorite book for months now. You also like the Gossie series by Olivier Dunrea. You won't sit through too many other books. 
Food - You still love all things meat, but you are starting to eat some vegetables. Just today at lunch you ate all the sliced baby tomatoes on your plate!
Shows - Bambi.  You only watch about 30 minutes of TV a day, a few times a week, but you are in love with Bambi right now.
Toys - Anything that builds. You enjoy Legos, wooden blocks, and anything you can stack otherwise.  Daddy thinks you're going to be an architect when you grow up.


Some new words/phrases:
"No, no, Mommy!" (I'm not liking this new phrase)
"This?" - as in, "What is this?"
"No, mine!"
"Hi, Mo-mo!" - Hi, Nemo


You are cruising slowly into the Terrific Twos and I'm happy to say that this time, I'm one step ahead of the game!  I remember from my Terrific Experience with Tommy that this is a relatively short phase that we both have to get through, so that you can be a joyful and obedient child by the time you reach your third birthday.


You are generally obedient (thanks to early training), but a few times a day you'll decide you want to do things your own way and will throw a fit, complete with red-faced kicking, screaming, and rolling around on the floor.  Case in point: The other day we were at a friend's house and you purposely spilled your juice on the floor because you didn't want to sit down on the chair to drink it like I asked.  I did what I normally do when you spill and handed you a towel to clean it up, but you refused. I gave you a few chances and minor chastisement, but still you resisted.  So we paid a visit to the bathroom for a formal chastisement and then returned to the spill. Still you resisted.  We went back to the bathroom and again returned to the spill. Finally you wiped the spill!  It was a ten minute ordeal, but well worth the effort if it meant that you learned that tantrums don't get you anywhere.


Back to happy things...you are "all boy", as some like to say.  You love to climb as high as you dare and you dare to jump off of things as high as 3 feet tall.  You are also learning to climb more challenging venues - just this morning I found you sitting on top of counter in the kitchen and I have no clue how you got there.  You can climb things on the playground that your big brother doesn't dare do yet.  You like to wrestle, though you have a hard time finding a willing partner.


You are a very social boy. You are attracted to other children, even if they are considerably older than you, and you try to talk to them and get them to play with you.  You make me smile and laugh about 128 times a day.  :)


Some boring stuff, so Mommy can reference in the future: 
Shoe size: 6.5
Shirt size: 3T
Pants size: 2T