Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Look who's six months old today!

How far we've come, little one. We are so thankful you are healthy and growing!

Friday, August 24, 2012

A new era

Monday night we had an open house at Nathan's school so we could meet his teacher and get his supplies settled at his desk:
The night before school we had a fire and made s'mores. I think this would be a fun back-to-school tradition! (Poor Naomi decided she was done sitting in the Bumbo seat and wanted to be held.)

And here I am, proud mama, with my boy. He was excited with a pinch of nerves, which I think is just the right combination. I wanted to send him off with a power-packed breakfast, so made heart-shaped eggs in whole wheat toast, along with smoothies.
We love you, buddy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The end of summer

A couple months ago I posted an ABC list of summer activities. Out of the 26 activities, we did 22, which I felt pretty good about, especially since we went on a 3-week trip and all of my listed activities were done at/near home.

Here's a report on how things went, interspersed with some commemorative photos:

A--- park (park in a nearby town just to mix things up a bit): Nice change of scenery
Bowling (via the Kids Bowl Free program): Eric took the older two. Natalie scored a 95 with bumpers! =)
Camping: This was the one thing I changed from the original list--Eric took the older two tent camping and they had a great time!
Dot-to-dot book: My kids love activity books like these, but I try to spread them out as they can go through them pretty quickly.
Excavating in ice: This took as much time to prep as to play with (Isn't that often the case?!), but the kids did have fun, especially Nathan, who was more aggressive when it came to digging.
Flour "I Spy" (hiding toys in a bin of flour and letting kids hunt for them): This is one we didn't do. I confess I just didn't feel like making a mess!
Game marathon: Nathan, Natalie and I each picked out a game and then we all played them. Nathan picked Sequence for Kids (a huge hit here!), Natalie chose Chutes and Ladders, and I chose Hi Ho Cherry-o.
Hide and seek: This was one of the first things we did, and it was a perfect example of the success of the list. In a moment where the kids couldn't find something to do, I consulted the list, and offered this suggestion. Fun times.
Ice cream shop: We have a new ice cream shop downtown, so I thought it would be fun to check it out with the kids.
Jump on trampoline: We have a mini trampoline that we keep in our basement, but I pulled it outside one day when the kids needed a little energy-busting.
Kite flying: Aunt Monica sent Nathan a kite, and we hadn't had a chance to try it out yet. Eric took him out for a little outing.
Lunch outside: I used this as a reward one morning when Nathan and Natalie had played exceptionally well together. We walked to a nearby grassy area and had a simple picnic.
Movie theater (Our local theater usually shows some free summer movies.): Bummer--our theater didn't have free movies this year! Natalie's never been to the theater, so I kept checking the titles but didn't see anything I thought was appropriate for all of us to go to.
Naomi gifts (Before we went to the hospital, we purchased a gift for each of the older kids "from" Naomi. We still have them wrapped and waiting!): The gift to Natalie was the aforementioned Sequence for Kids; Nathan's gift was a new Lego set.
Olympics (I thought we'd have a mini-Olympics sometime during the actual games.): Well, we didn't do any Olympic activities, but we certainly watched a lot of them on TV. And since I made Olympic cake, I'm totally counting that.
Pinaqua: This was a super fun activity to set up with the neighbor kids on a hot day when the kids were a little restless. I think we did it 6 times, and they still begged for more!
Quizno's (We have a gift card there, so it would be a fun lunch out sometime.): We picked up some lunch and had an indoor picnic due to rain.
Rodeo: Eric took the older two to a rodeo in our region. The kids loved it, especially the parade beforehand and riding ponies.
Sugar cookies: Just a fun treat for the kids to help make.
Trains: This is something we didn't get to. Nathan has a very big train set, and I thought one day we'd get everything out and play it together.
Umbrella walk on a rainy day: Due to the drought, it seemed this would never happen. But a couple weeks ago, we had a perfect, light summer rain on a Saturday morning. We only have two umbrellas, so the girls shared. Now we just need to get Natalie an umbrella--pink, of course!
Van movie (watching a movie in the van): I thought this would be really fun, and it was for about 5 minutes, about the time it took to set up the movie and make popcorn. Then both kids decided they didn't want to do it. Oh, well!
Water balloons: This was funny, mostly because Natalie's not so adept at catching, which meant she got the most wet!
Xplorers baseball game (nearby minor league team): Eric took the older kids for Father's Day.
Yogurt popsicles: I'd seen the idea on Pinterest to put yogurt in cookie cutters and freeze. The kids loved these!
Zoo: This is the 4th thing that just didn't happen. My consolation was that the kids had gone in the spring after we got home with Naomi.

I don't know that I would do the alphabetized list every summer, but I definitely liked having a list of activities to aim for, and to have in my back packet when some inspiration was needed!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The heart of the matter

Warning: rambling post! I have some things I've been wanting to process. It won't be very articulate, but it will be honest!

Nathan has really been on my heart lately (more than normal). I have been thinking so much about him starting school and being away from home all day.

I've realized increasingly over the summer that Nathan is not one to share what he's thinking or feeling. (Unlike me--ha!) It makes me sad to think that I will be less aware on a daily basis of what he's doing. Having stayed home with him since he was born, that will be quite a change for us! I do hope to at least draw the basics out of him--high and low point of the day, etc., but I know I can't have unrealistic expectations. (Not to over-generalize, but is this just a boy thing?!) I did read a neat idea in a book the other day--the author's family does "Mad Sad Glad," where they shared what happened that day that resulted in each of those three emotions.

Nathan went to Christian preschool, but he will be going to a public elementary. Since he won't be getting any biblical instruction at school, Eric and I want to be even more intentional about his spiritual development. Part of Nathan not really talking is that it's hard to gauge where he's at spiritually. We read the Bible every night and he's memorized quite a few Scripture passages, but he does not seem to understand or even be interested in how it applies to his life and decisions. We've heard great things about the AWANA program and plan to sign Nathan up this fall, but I want to be proactive at home as well.

I know he's *only* 5, but I have a real burden for him to desire a relationship with Jesus. I know I can't make comparisons, but I asked Jesus into my heart when I was 4, and I still remember the moment pretty clearly. More than a certain timeline, however, I want Nathan to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We definitely pray for and with him, but I'm looking for additional ways to challenge and encourage Nathan in the areas I've mentioned. Any insight to offer? Any approaches or materials you've tried with your children (maybe boys in particular) that have been effective at helping them grow in wisdom?And/or drawing out kids who say "I don't know" to most questions of substance? Thanks for your help.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The fruits of our labor

I have been meaning to share a post about our garden, and my friend's inquiry (Hi, Steph!) gave me the push I needed to do so.

Like most of the Midwest, we have experienced a drought this summer. I nearly gasped when I saw our crackly brown "grass" upon returning home from vacation. With vigilant watering and a couple much-needed soaking rains in the last week, our yard is finally looking better. Our garden has been similarly mixed due to the dry heat.

Last year we had a massive harvest of green beans. This year, I think we've had a dozen beans--total! However, our onions and potatoes are doing great. I love those crops, along with garlic, that have a longer shelf life. I usually only buy a couple of onions in a whole year's time!

We've gotten quite a few green and red peppers, and a bountiful supply of Roma tomatoes. I had the same lunch 6 days straight last week! I put a handful of spinach/romaine in the bottom of a bowl, then add a cup of cooked pasta. Next I put a couple diced Romas, along with a veggie or two that needs to be used up (onion, pepper, avocado). I drizzle Italian dressing on, add a sprinkle of mozzarella, and voila! A delicious, healthy, and easy lunch! Unfortunately, no one else in my family will eat such a creation, so I just make a single serving for me, and everyone else gets sandwiches or leftovers! =)

Since the nutrition workshop I attended a couple months ago, I've been much more cognizant of incorporating fruits and veggies into what we eat. It's easier, of course, in the summer when fresh produce abounds, and I'm trying to offer greater variety than I have in the past. This is also on my radar as I face packing nutritious lunches for Nathan as he heads off to Kindergarten in a week. (More to come on that topic!)

On another fruity note, you may recall me mentioning a couple years ago that we were the recipients of several coolers full of apples. Eric's friend has since moved, but Eric decided to stop at the house and ask the new residents if they might have extras. The guy said they didn't plan to pick any of them, so we loaded up 12 dozen for free! We spent a few hours the other night making applesauce. Boy, did our kitchen smell yummy!

Here is a pic of the result of our applesauce endeavor, minus 5 jars that had already been taken downstairs.
A third of the batch was pureed and left unsweetened since little Naomi will start eating baby food very soon! I will definitely also do carrots, squash and sweet potato. We'll see what else I feel up to tackling! Oh, and note the beautiful flowers in the picture. Eric surprised me by planting some zinnia seeds this year, and he and the kids pick a new vase-full every few days. Lovely!

So, there's an update on our harvests thus far. How does your garden grow?

Friday, August 10, 2012

The eyes have it

Thanks to Monica for taking this pic!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wrapping it up

Considering there were nearly 2000 pictures taken on several cameras over our vacation, it's taken me awhile to sort through them! There were so many great ones that I wanted to post some of my favorites here, and then I'll move on to other topics. =)

 This cutie pie recently learned to laugh, roll over, and suck on her fingers!
 The clan--can you imagine how many takes it took to get all 18 of us looking and at least somewhat smiling?! Notice the matching dresses from Grandma.
 The 5-year-olds: Bethany and Nathan
 The 3-year-olds: Addison and Natalie
 Grandma taking the 6 older grandkids on a paddleboat ride
 Grandpa's turn for making Naomi smile
 Love this one!
 Nathan got up on skis several times!
 Holding a BIG mouth bass caught by his uncles
 We stopped in Chicago to have lunch with my dear friend, Mandi
 My grandma (Nana) holding Naomi
 Little patriots
 Overnight stay in St. Louis with my close friend, Kelly
 What a great pic of the older cousins enjoying some ice cream
 Snuggles with Pepaw

Love to our family and friends--we miss you already!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blog friends

In the 5+ years since I started writing here, I have been blessed to meet several blog friends in real life: Leah, Mer, Jamie and Tracy. I've even met up with 3 of those women on more than occasion!

I was able to meet two more blog friends on our recent vacation. First of all, I had lunch with Lisa. She is actually a second cousin of Eric's, but I've gotten to know her through her new blog, and we discovered we have lots of things in common. It was so much fun to meet Lisa for the first time, and here's proof that we survived Michigan's record-breaking heat:

After years of correspondence, it was a real delight to finally meet Katie in person. Katie has become a dear friend. I wrote her not long ago and told her she is one of the most encouraging and generous people I'd *never* met. When our travel itinerary took us near Katie's abode, I contacted her to see if we could stop by. In true Katie fashion, she not only opened her home to us for lunch, but made sure to have lots of favorites on hand, and she even sent us off with some treats for the road. It was so great to meet you, Katie! Though our time together was brief, we were so blessed by your hospitality, and it was fun to interact with your sweet kids as well!

I am thrilled to have met so many amazing women on this journey. Hmm--wonder who I'll meet next?!