Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Snapshots of our Life

When I did my Winter Photo Dump, I forgot to go through and add a few videos.  We take lots of them but I try to be very selective about the ones I post on our blog.

This first clip is a significant one because it's one where we caught Elliot doing something that he does all.  The.  Time.  And those are really important to us.

This little word/phrase is such a commonplace component in our vernacular that Grant usually uses it to address him, "Elliot Oh Yoyyoyyoyyoy."  I'll be so sad when he doesn't do it anymore.

As most of the readers of this blog personally experienced, this past winter was no joke.  I tried to remember that here in Pennsylvania, we had not one, but two very mild winters before it.  In fact, the one the year before this one was actually problematically mild--the trees started to flower early and then there was a freeze, but that was actually the normal weather for the year--and the farmers suffered for it.

Besides colder temperatures, there was also an unreal amount of precipitation.  So.  Much.  Snow.  And then more snow.  Then maybe a layer of ice for good measure.  And then more snow.  We got to a point where we didn't have sidewalks, we had ditches dug out to be pathways.  It got old REAL fast.  One way I found to deal with my frustrations with the snow was to shovel it.  I had a LOT of opportunities to shovel snow.  And sometimes I got some help with it...

She's so awesome.

I totally grew that awesome person in my body.

Blows.  My.  Mind.

We also have a nifty feature on our DSLR that captures video as well as take pictures.  I forgot that when I made the post about the Pig Piles that I switched back and forth between these features and got some video footage of that Fun.

And last is a longer one.  We are not in a place where going to the movies as a family is something that is really practical for us, we tend to wait for things to come to Redbox and see if we like it.  So we hadn't seen Frozen before it was released on DVD.  But it was kind of a smash hit in this house, so we purchased it soon after we watched it and not long after that this video was taken:

This video is particularly interesting to us because it is SUCH an accurate snapshot of our life at that time.  Kendra was singing.  And wearing a dress-up dress rather than street clothes.  I was on the sofa with Bridget, who was only 4 days old.  She, Elliot and I are all wearing jammies--the kids and I spent more time in jammies than not this Spring.  Except Kendra, because she preferred to dress up.  Elliot was doing his own thing and then wanted to come participate in Kendra's game but eventually got distracted by his interest in the baby and ultimately spend most of his time with her instead.

And those three minutes totally capture it all.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pig Piles (with Daddy)

Growing a person is exhausting.  Raising people you have already grown, also exhausting.  Doing both at the same time?  Well...I spent a good deal of this fourth pregnancy like this:

But luckily we ain't in this on our own.  We have Daddy, and he really loves his job.  So I do a lot of the caring for the children, and he does a lot of the playing.  And Daddies aren't Mommies, when they play, they mean business.


So many children.

So much fun.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rocking McDonald's

I'm taking a break from the catch-up blogging I've been doing for the sake of capturing a specific experience while it is fresh in my mind.

You see, something happened last night that has never happened before.  Something HUGE.  Something amazing.  Something I've pretty much spent the last 15+ years preparing for without even knowing it.

I totally took my 4 children ages 5 months through 5.5 years to McDonald's.  By myself.  And there were no tantrums.  No crying.  No near misses with death or catastrophe. There wasn't even a significant amount of wasted food.

I will be up front that there was a non-zero amount of sheer, dumb luck involved, which I will explain as I tell the story, but I really want to capture this in detail because it was such an amazing experience and honestly--I really needed a Win in my life.  Something I could look at and proclaim, "I ROCKED THAT!!"  I totally ROCKED this trip to McDonald's.

Anyway.  We never go to McDonald's for dinner "just because" or casually.  Once or twice a month we might stop there as part of an outing, but that's really it.  And for the kids, that's really ALL they do when they go out to eat.  I know that a lot of people aren't going to agree with the method of parenting that I'm about to describe because "kids need to learn how to behave" and I do agree with that.  However, I think parents need to learn a few things, too.  I think it's important to set a situation up for success as much as possible, both for the parent and for the child.  It boosts confidence and self-esteem, it facilities a loving environment, it decreases stress.  So, I like to do it.  Kids need a Win sometimes, too.

So.  From the start.

Our first bit of luck was that the parking spot closest to the door was available.  So I got out the stroller frame for Bridget's car seat and set it up on the sidewalk in front of the van and loaded the diaper bag into it.  Then I loaded up the Sanity Bag.

One thing I do to set my kids up for success is I have a small bin of toys in the back of my van.  Interactive, LOUD, obnoxious ones.  Exclusively V-Tech toys--the company with a strict policy of only producing toys with THE MOST annoying sounds and music humanly possible.  I swear they have a deal with Satan to boost their sales...but they do something right because my kids love them.  But since I can't stand them, they are for trips out.  Up to this point, I used these toys at Wal-Mart but I knew they would come in handy here, so I loaded up.  I had 4 toys and something else for Kendra, and I brought it all (I normally only take in 1 toy for each of the boys but this was a special circumstance and I needed all my resources at the ready).

After the equipment was unloaded, I got the kids out.  Order is VERY important here.  Kendra went first because she is independent and reliable.  Meaning that she can get out herself and follow instructions--she played a little on the small lawn while she waited for me to be ready.  Then I got Bridget, still strapped into her carrier seat, and clicked her into the stroller frame with the breaks on.  I am able to reach behind Bridget's seat and unbuckle Elliot so I did that and told him to wait by the door when I took her out.  By the time I came back, he was patiently waiting, at which point I told him and Kendra to "help me with the stroller" by placing one hand each on it.  Paxton is the flight risk, so I physically carried him.  Kendra and Elliot then pushed the stroller in the back while I steered it and opened the doors to get inside the restaraunt.

Once inside, we immediately went to the bathroom.  I knew the last time Kendra and Elliot had been, I knew that they'd been drinking fluids since then and that if we didn't go first thing, we would need to go in the middle of our meal.  So in order to set us up for success again, we all went to the bathroom.

Pro tip:  when you have a toddler with you and you need to use the bathroom, if at all humanly possible, make sure the toddler is physically unable to open the door of the stall.  When you have an infant and a toddler, you can totally barricade the door with the infant's carrier/stroller.  It's magical.

After we were all voided and washed up, we went to the dining area.  Another bit of luck was with me that there was a large unoccupied table in plain view of the counter, so I set the 3 older there and busted out the Sanity Bag.  I gave Paxton and Elliot an obnoxious V-tech toy and presented Kendra with her own little gift bag with a notebook and pen inside.  She was pretty excited because both the notebook and pen were bejeweled all over.  I was totally able to order and pay without losing eye contact and I was about 10 yards away.

We don't do Happy Meals very often and didn't this trip.  Instead, we order a la carte.  My kids reliably eat chicken nuggets and fries and this was not a time to deviate from familiar patterns and try something new, so chicken nuggets and fries, it was.  I ordered a 4 piece, a 10 piece and a large order of fries.  And a cheeseburger for me.

The kids played with their toys while I ordered the food, got it and got everything set up.  Kendra got the 4 piece nuggets and I opened the carton and filled the empty lid with fries, which was about the size of what she would have gotten in a Happy Meal.  For Paxton and Elliot, I opened the 10 piece box and put ketchup in the empty lid and gave them each their own pile of fries on a napkin, and this all worked EXTREMELY well for two brothers who are constantly getting into disputes about ownership.  Drinks were from the diaper bag--Paxton had a cup of milk and Kendra and Elliot shared a water bottle.

They all ate happily.

We had the perfect amount of food and perfect amount of distraction.  When we make our once or twice a month outing trip to McDonald's, there is usually ice cream at the end.  But they were getting restless and I was on my own, so we skipped that part.  I did switch out the toys and pull out fresh ones to keep the boys interested at the table for a bit longer while Kendra finished her meal to her satisfaction, but I knew we were running out of time.

But it worked out extremely well and I cleared up the mess and loaded our toys back up and we went back to the car, Kendra and Elliot pushing the stroller from the back while I held Paxton and steered...but this time kind patrons held the doors open for us.

Then I used our keyless remote to open the doors as we approached the van so that Kendra and Elliot crawled in.  Paxton never set foot on the ground, which is optimal as he is the flight risk.  I strapped him in, then Bridget (not that she's a risk, I just think it's better to get everybody back into the vehicle as quickly as possible.  I loaded the contents of the Sanity Bag back into the bin, folded down the stroller frame and loaded it, brought the diaper bag up front with me so that I wouldn't need to open up the back when I got home.

And that was that.  I did it.  I TOTALLY did it.  And I didn't just survive it, I ROCKED it.  The kids ate a meal--not a very nutritious one by any stretch of the imagination, but they ate it, happily.  In public.  And there was no weeping or wailing or gnashing of teeth from them OR me at any point in the experience.  We had a great time together.  And we were able to give Daddy a much needed hour at home to finish a project he'd been working on that he really needed the house to himself to accomplish.

It.  Was.  AWESOME.

Sometimes I have little moments of success in parenting and I think, "I can do this!  I can totally raise 4 kids!" and it's exhilarating.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


It was a quiet winter in State College.  It lasted for-ev-ER and it got really, really cold all the time, but it was quiet.

Because of the significant number of occurrences of weather over the season, there were many opportunities to do a little sledding.  Our neighbors lent us their little disc and Grant took Kendra down the hill across the parking lot from our apartment.  She had fun.

I am always entertained by the way my kids play.  Elliot went through a short phase when he insisted on playing with the Little Mermaid alongside his dinosaurs.  Luckily I got a photo.

And of course, it's even more entertaining to see how they play with each other.  There were a number of times over the winter that Paxton just up and sat down in Elliot's lap and made himself at home.  He was not invited, though cheerfully tolerated by his big brother.

Though his most common perch was on the interior stoop of the refrigerator.  If I opened the fridge and he was around, he would sit down.

For Christmas, we bought some triops and grew them through the bleakest part of the winter.  It added a daily enjoyment to check on them and we let the kids use a flashlight to look at them more closely.  Kids love to use flashlights, it turns out.

Paxton received a blanket for Christmas, and has grown VERY attached to it.  He insisted that I wrap it around him like this many times.

Meanwhile, Elliot has a particular accessory as well.  He has always been exponentially more sensitive to audio stimulation than any of his siblings, and sadly, this usually manifests itself into things like startling very easily at noises and generally having an extreme dislike for loud noises.  So we broke down and bought a pair of ear protectors and when he gets scared, we put them on him.  We call them "quiet headphones", and they help him to handle the grass getting mowed and the carpets getting vacuumed.

This winter also marked the beginning of an era in Kendra's life--the era of dress up.  She received a trunk with dresses, slippers and accessories and she just became OBSESSED with dressing up.  This is by far her favorite ensemble so far.

I have mentioned our holiday headbands before.  Paxton in particular has had fun with them.  This one was his favorite out of our Christmas collection, it's got mistletoe on it.  Not that he would need any to get kisses from me!  This picture is also a very accurate portrait of what he does with boxes.  Every box he can, he empties and occupies.

Elliot dropped his nap during the winter...sad!  So we had those awesome weeks (months) of transition where I didn't put him down because if he fell asleep in the afternoon, he'd stay up WAY past his normal bedtime but there were also days where he was just plain tired.  And once he passed out cold on the couch, which is a special feat during the day because in this tiny apartment, the couch is in the loudest, least peaceful part of the of the house!

This one doesn't have a significant story, it's just a cute look on Paxton's face that I happened to catch one day.  I love this kid.

Along with watch my children play and play together, I also extremely enjoy watching them learn.  Paxton discovered our shape sorting cube this winter and it was fun to go through the steps of learning this toy with him as I did his siblings before him.  We start with me putting the shape over the right hole and them pushing it through.  Then they find the right hole and I help them twist it into place.  Then they do it without me at all...they grow so fast!

I'm very pleased with how many pictures we got of Paxton this winter.  This 3rd baby is way not neglected in the documenting department!

I love this picture of Elliot and Grant.  This really is a father and a son--the resemblance blows me away sometimes!

You can always count on Elliot to assume the correct pose for a picture.  As soon as he sees the camera, he freezes, makes this face and says, "CHEEEEEEEESE!"  It's so adorable.

This winter saw a lot of snow.  And snow means the snow blower clearing off the sidewalk outside our windowed door.  And machinery getting used means little boys will investigate.

For the "big" present, we decided to get something to promote activity indoors, and we went with an exercise trampoline.  It doesn't bounce them very high, but it does help them to be more active during times when we're not able to get out very much!

Seriously, we did NOT get out much.  If it wasn't the weather, it was my entering the last trimester of my 4th pregnancy in 5 years that kept us inbound.  It was so nice to see them have so much fun.

This.  FACE!  He's so awesome.

She's pretty cool, too.

I can't remember when now, but at one point Elliot received this dump truck from his Poppa (my dad).  It is totally his favorite and he drives it around the house a LOT.  He also collects his favorite treasures that week and keeps them in there.  It's an all purpose vehicle for this little boy's needs.

I showed her these two flowers so she could pick something to wear in her hair for church one week.  She chose to wear both of them.

Wicked bed head.

Just spending an afternoon launching Hot Wheels through the loop.  It was simple but super fun.  Their childhoods are marked by afternoons like this.  Nothing and everything at the same time.

I totally do pore strips sometimes.  And I have no shame about that, so I'm posting the recorded evidence on my blog.

I can't get Paxton to eat cooked pasta, but he'll totally try to eat it dry, painted and glued to his big sister's art from preschool...

Paxton has developed into a very long and lean little man.  As a result, his pants are starting to fall down (he's still consistently gaining weight, so there's no medical concern) and we get plenty of moonlight as a result.

It is so, so very hard to be two.  Sometimes, when Elliot is having a hard time and not responding to my attempts to calm him, all I can do is take him to a quiet place and leave him there.  I generally go get him once he's quiet and let him out, but this time I found him like this.  At least he laid down on the rug and not the cold floor.

There you have it, Winter in a nutshell.  Congratulations for making it through the end of the post!  I definitely felt like it was an accomplishment to make it through the winter!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


From when we first learned that we would be having a boy after already having a girl, I wondered how different he would be from his sister.  And there are definitely some things that seem to be fully BOY.  We were very intrigued by how drawn he has always been to trains.  The kid really, really, REALLY loves trains.

I think he first saw them at the library, where there are a couple of train tables set up.  It was really interesting to see how strongly he gravitated towards them.

Boys love trains, apparently.

So he was particularly delighted to find model trains running at a park in Albuquerque last fall...

He spent quite a bit of time running between those two switches and keeping the trains going on and on.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Halloween and Fall Photo Dump

Kendra is old enough now that she gets to pick her own Halloween costume (until I start doing family themed costumes--then she just gets to pick what color light saber she wants when she wears Jedi robes or what color her Star Fleet uniform is, etc).  She likes what she likes what she likes, and last fall we were very much in a Wreck-It Ralph phase.  So when I asked her what she wanted to be for Halloween, she immediately answered "a girl Fix-It Felix".

So this was my first foray into actually crafting a costume.

And who would Fix-It Felix Jr. be without Wreck-It Ralph?

Paxton had a cute little monster costume but stayed home with me to pass out treats because it was a cold and wet night and he had a cold.  And I did not get a picture of his adorableness.  I also made myself a maternity skeleton shirt as I was 4 months pregnant with Bridget at this point, but something about starting a pregnancy 40 pounds overweight did not make me inclined to pose for pictures throughout.  Call me crazy.  But there is this shot with the shirt visible in the background...

Though after Halloween, Elliot was plenty interested in the Fix-It Felix Jr. getup.

Many Saturdays, Grant takes Kendra out on little outings just to have some one-on-one time with her.  There is usually ice cream involved.  I couldn't decide which photo from this series best represented the experience, so I included them all.  Hey, it says "Photo Dump" right there in the title of this post.

There is something about watching a kid sink their face into food that really makes it look delicious...

On a trip to the craft store for supplies for the Halloween costumes, Elliot passed out in the cart.  It was somehow sad and adorable at the same time.

And while he has always been more of a climber than his big sister, during the Fall Elliot really started taking on new heights by making a habit out of climbing into Daddy's loft bed.

Isn't he helpful?  He noticed the fan was off, so he was spinning the blades himself.  That didn't make Mommy's heart stop or even skip a beat at all when she walked in and saw this.  Though there is a queen-sized bed right under him, so even if he would have fallen, he would have been just fine.  Daddy might even have been trying to teach him and his sister to jump down onto the bed from the loft.

And then there's Paxton.  Dear, sweet Paxton.  We joked around a lot when he was a baby that he was not impressed.  But we noticed that once he gained mobility, the whole world got much more interesting for him and he toddled into becoming an extremely fun little boy.

He is the last of our children to turn in for the night (actually sleep has always been an issue for this poor little guy--I'm a little worried that he will have sleeping issues for his whole life like his father) and one evening we turned around from watching a show to find him like this:

Just happily dangling his legs from his perch on top of the piano.  Not that Mommy's heart stopped a little at all that time, either.

He does something hilarious whenever I start the dishwasher.  He gets down on his belly right in front of it and carefully examines the source of the noise.  He's very curious about it.

He's just a pretty sweet little guy in general...

I already mentioned that I was well into my fourth pregnancy this past Fall.  I am very blessed in that my pregnancies are very easy...but that's "easy" in a relative way.  On the easy end of the spectrum is a more accurate way to describe it because even my "easy" pregnancies are consuming.  And this was my fourth pregnancy in five years, which meant I was growing a person while caring for three other small people.  Not to mention this pregnancy started nine months after the last one ended.  I was also over 30 when this one began and man did that make a difference...

The point is, I was just wiped out.  Like, all of the time.

Which means Grant couldn't resist taking this picture because it sums it up so well...

That's me.  Passed out cold, with a piece of bread I was offering to Paxton in small bits in my hand.

I was really, really tired this Fall.

But I have all these really amazing kids to show for it, so it was totally worth it.