Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Today... a BIG BASS!

This morning, I looked down to see yet another one of Barrett's creations. I think this kid is going to be an engineer someday. Or an architect. Or maybe a builder, like daddy. He just loves to build. In this case, the train was delivering lots of packages to the farm. William and I both spotted Barrett driving it as I was asking William to get dressed and go to the bathroom. "Can I watch Barrett make this turn?" William asked eagerly. "It's going to be a tight turn!"

Before 9 AM, I got a phone call from my mom. As she began to speak I felt my heart sink. Two years ago I had gotten the same phone call: my cousin Chris and his wife Wan Chin, both concert musicians who live in California, were in town for the summer and playing at my grandma's independent living facility. Today. Two years ago, when I had gotten the last-minute notification, I had not attended with the boys. Why? Not sure. I would've been pregnant with Neva at the time. It's also over an hour drive to Waltonwood, and apparently I was not up for it that day. I didn't feel up for it this morning, either. My first thought was, why is this always a last minute thing? My second thought was, I have so much to do today! I can't go. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the things I had to do today were not that important. I had a fresh little baby who had not yet met his great grandma, and also had not met his great aunt Sue, who absolutely loves babies and I didn't know the next time I was going to get to see her. Since she lives in Grand Rapids. I also had two boys, One who had, a year and a half ago, been obsessed with the big bass, and who were both getting to be school aged. And I'm a homeschool mom, after all, or at least I will be, right? And a homeschool mom wouldn't pass up this opportunity. Plus, the only way my mom is going to go with if I went, and I just felt like it would be good for us to be there.

So… We went! And I am so very glad we did. First of all, the boys had apparently gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, because in the couple hours before it was time to leave to pick up my mom, they were being absolute pills. They each were disciplined for things they absolutely know are wrong. Barrett bit William, and William was trying to pull Barrett's pants down. Beyond that, they just were not getting along, knocking each other's block towers over and taking each other's toys. I had had it up to HERE by 10:30 AM. If we had not left the house for this, I may have locked them in separate bedrooms for the rest of the day. Once in the car, things settled down, especially when we picked up Grandma. God bless my mom. Where I would just bark at William: "Put your shoulder strap on!" - She instead takes time to explain why a shoulder strap will help in an accident, using her hands to demonstrate what happens when you crash and are wearing only a lap belt. We swung through the drive-through at McDonald's and, thanks only to my mom, who was sitting in the middle row and able to distribute all the food, the kids ate happily all the way to grandma's house. I ordered three large fries, And while I did eat about half an order myself, the kids pretty much polished off all the rest. William ate an entire large fry himself, plus extra. Barrett and Neva finished a 10 piece chicken nugget between the two of them and William scarfed down his hamburger. Mom and I enjoyed our lattes. And we were not late for the concert!

Once we were there, Aunt Sue scooped up Mac right away. Mom was able to get Neva to sit happily on my grandma's lap, and she stayed there for pretty much the entire concert. The boys sat so nicely the entire time Chris and Wan Chin were playing. My mom, bless her heart again, walked the boys over at one point to watch Wan Chin's fingers fly across the keys. Their talent was incredible. They showcased little-known pieces (at least, to me) from different musical periods. Before each one, they shared history about the composer of each piece. The music was a good mix of elegant, slow pieces, and lively dances. At one point, Chris was playing the bass so quickly that Barrett was laughing out loud. I snapped my fingers at him to quiet down, and he did, but I really hated to do that, because it was so precious.

The other residents loved seeing the kids, and afterward they all remarked how well the boys behaved, sitting there so nicely. I have to admit, though, that I was a little bit dismayed by the boys' behavior as we visited afterward. This is going to sound like an excuse, and I suppose it is to some degree, but it's just the truth that Barrett gets naughtier and rowdier the more tired he is. And as the afternoon stretched on, and he did not get his afternoon nap, you bet he kept trying to wrestle with William, kept failing to use an inside voice, and kept draping himself all over the floor and furniture. William too, did not always keep both feet planted on the floor and crawled under the coffee table once or twice. I wish I was able to visit a little bit more, but their bad behavior increased when I was distracted. I was so happy my mom was there to help me manage them, especially when Mac had a giant blowout and needed a clothing change.  Thankfully, most of the residents had gone back to their rooms by this point, and there was no concert for us to interrupt, but I was still a bit embarrassed. Oh well!

(This lady, talking to Neva and my grandma, was something else. She pinched and squeezed all the kids, exclaiming, "I love you! I love you!" I didn't know what to do, and the kids were so shocked that they just stood there and let her assault them however she pleased. She cupped their faces in her hands and kissed them and then put her hands on her hips and started wiggling back-and-forth, instructing the boys to "shake your tushie!")

Grandma Neva and her little namesake!

Grandma meets Mac! 

The whole fam. The little girl on the left, William was sure a fan of her. While I was changing Mac, apparently the two of them played with his cars. William just loved her. He asked for the rest of the day, can Kendall come over to my house?? I didn't formally meet Kendall's parents, who are related to Chris on the other side of his family, and they live in Novi, so I'm not exactly sure we're going to be able to make this happen. I suppose if he really keeps asking about it, I can text my Aunt Sue for Kendall's mommy's phone number. 

All in all, we spent a few hours in the car, 20 bucks at McDonald's, and an unforgettable afternoon. I'm so so thankful that we went. I would not have otherwise remembered this day for any special reason. (Perhaps the only thing I would've remembered it for would've been my very naughty boys this morning.) But now we have a memory of seeing a big bass

Monday, July 24, 2017


After a post-church run to Sam's Club, I am sitting in the middle seat next to Mac and Neva, the two boys are in the back, and the entire trunk and passenger seat are full, almost to the ceiling, of groceries. The kids are eating pretzel rods purchased at Sam's, and I hear William in the backseat rubbing two rods together. "Will," I say, "don't make crumbs with your pretzels." The rubbing continues. "William," I say firmly, "I hear you rubbing those pretzels together. Stop making crumbs."

"I'm not making crumbs," he replies. "I'm making dust."

Saturday, July 22, 2017


Today Joel and Dayna took the boys to a baseball game at Jimmy John's field! William and Barrett we're so excited for the baseball show. All week long, it was, "how many more sleeps? How many more sleeps today until the baseball show? When Saturday did come, they were useless. They didn't seem to understand that the game was not until the evening. All day long, they kept reminding me, mom, we need to go to the baseball show now.

While they loved the game, I think their favorite part of the night was playing with Uncle Joel in his basement and earning trophies! William earned a real trophy for making five baskets, and Barrett earned a real trophy for making five kicks! (Apparently Uncle Joel was clearing out some space in the house, and thought his old high school trophies would be better appreciated by someone else. Were they ever. They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, but in this instance, that saying is elevated to a new level. William and Barrett are thrilled with their trophies.)

After playing at the house, Joel and Dayna took them to Wendy's for hamburgers, fries, chicken nuggets, and ranch. William told me later, "I finished my hamburger and all my fries and I was still hungry! So uncle Joel and aunt Dayna gave me all of their fries!"


"Mom," Barrett said, "there was a park there. And I found something! Do you want to guess what I found???"

"What, Barrett?"

"I found a CONE!"

At home, daddy was running errands and Neva and I were taking care of gag and reading lots of baby bug magazines. She calls them kit, which means "carrot, which is in reference to the stories about Kim and her stuffed bunny, carrots, that appear in each issue. She kept wanting to re-read the one where Kim and carrots have a tea party. This particular issue also featured other animals and babies having tea parties. I asked her if she would like to have a tea party, and she said, "Yeah!"

So we did. This was a big moment for me!  My first tea party with my daughter. It was divine.

After dumping her first cup of tea onto the towel ("no, no, Neva... you drink it, like this- see?"), she got the idea and sipped it from then on. Apparently she didn't want to pick up the cup for her sips, however, so she took a more direct approach.

When I realized that she was sitting quite nicely for a much longer span of time than I had anticipated, I decided we needed some snacks. I quickly ran into the kitchen, buttered a piece of bread, then cut it into tiny pieces and made tiny butter sandwiches. She ate them all.

All in all, a day to remember. 

Friday, July 21, 2017


This morning, after I ran downstairs to grab another couple of bananas for my hungry kids, I came upstairs to see all three of them sitting quietly on the floor looking at their board book collection.

One of Neva's little post-breakfast rituals is grabbing a stack of books from the book-nook, spreading them out onto daddy's table, and  flipping through each one. There is usually a line of books, at any given moment, sitting on this bench. 

What a fun week the kids have had! On Wednesday night we went to grandma and grandpa's house for aunt Kassidy's birthday dinner. On Thursday we had a play date with Sheryl and her boys. Today Grandma came over to take William and Barrett to the library, and tomorrow the boys are going to a baseball game with uncle Joel and aunt Dayna! 

The boys have been participating in a reading program at the library this summer. Every day that they read for at least 20 minutes (or, as in the case with my kids, are read TO), they put a sticker on a special sheet. For every five stickers they accrue, they get a gold coin, and then they can use those gold coins to shop at the bookstore at the library. My mom had offered to come over to help today, so I asked her to take them to redeem their gold coins at the library bookstore. I knew I would not be able to adequately help the boys pick out their special books if I was trying to corral Neva and Mac. So as I write this blog, they are playing at the library with Grandma, having already redeemed their coins. I can't wait to see the books they've picked out!

Reading is so important to me. I LOVE to read. And I love children's books! I started collecting children's books long before I ever had children. Even before this summer reading program, I've always made it a point to at least have one storytime a day. It's almost my favorite way to spend time with my kids, reading stories. I've always loved books and one of my deepest wishes is to pass that love onto my kids. In my opinion, there's no better spelling and grammar curriculum than reading heaps and heaps of stories. (Of course I am still buying a spelling and grammar curriculum when we homeschool! Got to cover all our bases.)

And to my delight, it does seem as though my kids have developed a love of books of their own. Not a day goes by that doesn't see each of them, at some point in the day, silently flipping through books in the book-nook or on the couch. Neva especially loves books ("gooks")- more, I think, than the boys did at her age. She loves nothing more than to bring me book after book after book, standing beside me as I read them and then quickly running off to fetch the next one. 

When I look beyond the baby years, I truly hope that my kids and I will still enjoy reading together, even after they have learned to read on their own. I envision all of us listening to stories while we put puzzles together, or curling up on the couch together while we read a chapter book as a family. 

We took these later, when Grandma and Grandpa stayed this evening. I so thank God for grandparents like these for my babies. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Yesterday... and today

Yesterday was our FIRST GROCERY TRIP as a mama+4. It was... an experience. 

The trip started, in my opinion, when I rolled out of bed at 5:45 to start the day. I wanted to be completely ready to go before the kids woke up. (Including gathering library books to drop off, packing up Amazon returns to be mailed, getting breakfast ready, and getting dressed myself.)

We arrived, right around 9:45, blessed with a great parking space on the other side of the handicap spaces, right next to a cart corral. I sat Mac into the Moby, seated Neva in the front of the cart, and let Barrett sit in the big part. William walked. I dropped off a prescription, picked out some toiletries and necessary makeup (concealer, and also my eyeliner suddenly dried out on me!) and returned the baby girl outfit we'd bought a few weeks ago.

(This was the only picture I took)

We headed to the opposite side of the store, picked up the kids' free bakery cookies and then, as promised, headed to the toy section for them to play for TEN MINUTES ONLY. On the way, we admired the fish. Will is so curious: "What's that one called? What's that one?"

I had told the boys they could each pick a treat- a donut (or other food item) or a Hot Wheels car. Barrett chose the donut, Will chose the car. Once in the toys, it took him a long time to pick one, but to my credit I remained very kind and patient as he deliberated, discussing the merits of each one. 

I was very antsy in the toys. I had a big list and desperately wanted to be done before Mac, asleep in the Moby, woke up. But once Will was done picking out a car, I set the timer for 10 minutes and let them play as I reviewed my list. The second the timer went off, it was momma's time. 

Long story short, Barrett and William walked behind me and behaved very well while I filled up the cart to a heaping mound. Meijer was running their 10 for $10 sale on lots of items that I needed. By the time we got to the produce, there was hardly any room left in the cart. Thankfully, the cart corral was close and I was able to grab a second cart (one of those half size carts) for William to push. I filled that cart up with fruit. (The cherries were on sale and Brian wanted to get six bags.) Meanwhile, an older gentleman, whose wife was shopping, was just standing there aimlessly in the produce section, needing a job. He decided to talk to me, a person who had more jobs than she could handle at that given moment and clearly did not need a conversation. His voice was loud and booming. "Wow, you've got your hands full!" he said. (A phrase I heard probably - seriously - 50 times that day. I got it often when I was pregnant, but it was said to me on this trip by almost EVERYBODY who saw me. I always say, "Thank you!") "How old is that baby?" asked the man. "He is two weeks," I replied distractedly, trying to keep Neva sitting in her seat and trying to pick out cherries for Brian and plums for Will. "You have at least one girl then, right?" he asked, dismayed by Mac's sex. "Yes," I replied, "and three beautiful boys." At that moment William, wandering around the cart, tripped on the rubber floor mat and hit his head on the cart. The man exclaimed all sorts of sympathies: "Wow! you really bumped your head there! Are you OK, buddy? Are you going to cry, buddy?" He wasn't mean at all, but it was rather annoying. When he finally walked away, another shopper, a mom with two kids a little bit older than mine, walked by and said, "Some people should mind their own business. You have beautiful children." I smiled, rolled my eyes a bit and said, "Yes, and at least I got one girl, right?" She laughed. 

With our two carts, we wheeled to the checkout lines. Of 30 lanes, there were probably three or four checkouts open. I stood behind two other shoppers and waited my turn, but I pity the poor fools who wound up behind me. It took me forever to unload both carts onto the belt. I hadn't finished unloading both, so the cashier got a third cart and began filling it up. Since my first cart had been puzzled together so cleanly, and mounded so high, there's no way the bagged groceries were going to fit in the same way, so by the time I was finished checking out I had two full-size carts filled to the top. William and Barrett tried to help putting things on the belt, but they are still little and did not necessarily expedite the process. I heard one woman behind me say to another, "And she's not even done unloading yet." In retrospect, I don't think she meant it to sound as nasty as it did, since she gave me a warm smile as I was leaving, but at that moment I felt like the scum of the earth clogging up the checkout lane. Oh Meijer, why must you be so stingy with your cashiers? The cashier, Kris, was super sweet-  she really likes me- and kept commenting on how good the kids were. Bless her heart. A long time ago, when I was pregnant with Neva, she told me that she had lost her little baby girl when she was 10 months old, and I never forget that. She's always so bright and friendly to me, but I wonder if seeing my kids ever makes her sad.

Pulling two full-size carts, I dragged everyone back to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. Fortunately, the kids forgot all about riding the horse and I was able to dodge that bullet since Mac had let loose a huge poop in the Moby wrap while I was standing in line to check out, and was now squirming, awake. As I stood in line to pick up the prescription, I fed the kids blueberries, fresh from the produce section and obviously unwashed, into their mouths with my fingers like hungry baby birds. Prescription in hand, I dragged the carts and the babies, followed by the boys, out to the parking lot, thanking God with every step that it was summertime. 

Mac was not at all happy with his full diaper, and of course I had forgotten to put the wipes back into my bag that morning after changing him on the dining room table, so I couldn't even change him. He screamed the whole way home. Neva wailed too, having skipped her morning nap and dropped her baby doll on the car floor with no one to get it for her. What a racket! As soon as we got home, I got everybody out of the car, hurried into the house, changed the baby's diaper, and sat to nurse him. The other three patiently waited until I was done for their lunch. It wasn't until at least an hour after pulling into the driveway that I was able to finally unload the groceries. Thankfully I hadn't bought any Popsicles or ice cream. But it was done! I did it. And I can do it again, too. (Though hopefully not too soon.) It sure was a good way to break up the day, I tell you what. Nothing like visiting Meijer with four kids to make the following day feel like an easy breezy vacation day.

Today (July 20)

Shortly after getting the kids out of bed this morning, I was relaxing with them, playing pets with the boys on the bottom bunk, reading books to Neva intermittently, when I began wondering what day it was. When I realized it was Thursday, I thought to myself, Isn't there something going on today? Then suddenly, I remembered. I'm actually shocked I remembered because I hadn't thought of it since Monday morning. Sheryl and the boys! They were coming over for a play date at 10:30! Sheryl had told me she would be bringing lunch for us, so thankfully I didn't have to worry about cooking. I fed the kids breakfast and we straightened up the house. I even had some time to relax with Mac. 

It wasn't like I had that much preparation to do, but I'm so thankful that she didn't show up to me going, oh yeah...

Not only had she brought us lunch (chicken salad and croissants for her and me, mini corndogs for the kids, fresh vegetables, hummus, and pretzels for everyone, and Popsicles for dessert) she had also brought dinner and dessert for me, Brian, and the kids- lasagna casserole and homemade apple cake.

You better believe I ran upstairs and got a sleeping Mac out of his bed, because she had darn well earned the right to hold a sleeping baby as long as she pleased!

They stayed for several hours and it was such a lovely time. The boys always play so nicely and I always enjoy visiting with her so much. What a blessing to have friends who are willing to drive all the way out here to see us!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today (July 18)

Our second full day without the Bri. We did okay! No disasters, everyone ate, the laundry got done. Mac DID, however, sleep most of the day. 

I want to soak up my kids. But at the same time I want to get to all the housework I neglected while pregnant. My dirty windows were affecting my enjoyment of my house today! How do you find/create a balance? 

I know we are meant to work. We are created for it. How long do we sit and enjoy our kids each day? At every single moment there is a list the length of my arm (much of it related to the kids!) and it is so hard to not think of it when I sit to play with them. 

Will and Barrett played SO nicely together today. Hearing their imaginative play- for probably (at least) a total of 2.5 hours- makes my heart sing. I sorted laundry this morning and just listened as the finger puppets built a house, hiked the mountains, ate each other, turned nice then mean, etc. I often think, too: I'm going to wreck it if I go try to play with them. I'm going to interrupt their flow. So I stay out of it and enjoy it from a distance, usually. Isn't that what a mom does, to a large degree? Is supposed to do? Isn't that ok?

Lucas sent this lovely note to Will today! It says, "I loved your picture Will. I think you are a great artist. I think your picture is awesome."

Will was absolutely delighted. "Barrett," I overheard him saying later, "he says he thinks I'm a good artist." 

They were SO impressed with Lucas's drawing of Tyrux and Revvit. Barrett was a bit sad that he didn't get one, but I put it on our fridge so they can both enjoy it. 

"Mom,we haven't done a workout in the basement in like five days." Haha... more like three months. So we went downstairs and I did a light little workout. It felt so good and the kids loved being down there with me, again, doing our old thing. Neva has gone from being a crying, whining nuisance during this time, to being content to play. Very adorably, I must add. 

Anyway, this is Will showing me how strong he is... behold! A tractor and trailer, lifted high into the air!

Finally, a picture Will took of Barrett, playing pets on his own while I nursed Mac. Barrett is the king of imaginative play in this house. He directs most of their adventures. I've seen him entertain himself with a single Duplo truck and guy for half an hour while I nursed the baby once. I LOVE IT.