Monday, December 29, 2008

Hmmm...what day is it?

I'm definitely in that zone where we've been gone so long and I don't know quite where I am or what day it is. Monday? Really? It doesn't feel remotely like a Monday. I feel a strange pull to stand at my own kitchen sink and do dishes. Then I would feel centered. Ha!

It did start to feel kind of Monday-ish, however, last night when after the Norton Christmas celebration was over, Delaney started to feel bad and threw up a few times through the night. Then it hit Jesse today so I spent most of the day reading my book while keeping an eye on him. It was the "over-quick" variety, so it hasn't actually been too horrible (except, I'm sure, for our hosts who have to put up with our children who seem to throw up every single Christmas while they're here). Just a reminder that we are back in reality. It really did seem like all illnesses and colds and troubles were suspended while we were in Florida. Do families who live in Florida get stomach viruses in December?

Anyway, we and our germs will be heading home tomorrow. Only one more packing and unpacking to go!

Friday, December 26, 2008

News flash: Florida has better weather than Ohio in December

That would seem like a no-brainer, (right?) especially since it seems that half of the population of Ohio has come/is here/is coming to Florida in the winter. That would be a clue. But still, after a week here (and we know that we really hit the jackpot on Tampa winter weather this week), I'm a little surprised still each morning as I head out on the balcony in my short sleeves and soak in some Vitamin D. What a very, very nice thing to get a break from the constant cold.

When we debate each day whether to find a new place to explore, or try another area of beach, or find a new adventure, for our kids, the vote always comes back to "let's just swim in the pool!" It has been the greatest blessing to have this big heated pool. They are just thriving in it. Levi and Sara are swimming like fish now and Delaney and Jesse just jump in with their inner tubes over and over. Leah has even ventured off Her Step for some piggy-back rides. Pool tag with adults is the favorite game, as is diving for pool toys. Sara has just simply amazed us, going from an inner tube the first day to now swimming under water without one breath the entire length of the pool -- over and over and over. We made her get out to eat yesterday because we were worried she would get too weak from all those calories she was burning.

Today we ventured down to St. Petersburg Pier, which was beautiful. We watched the boats, toured the small aquarium, hit the gift shops and restaurant, and rode the trolley. Jason's family had a good time riding the family bicycle around the area, but we opted to head back and -- what else -- swim one last time before starting The Packing.

We're heading back north tomorrow, for a Christmas visit with Eric's family. We can't wait to see everyone and share our stories and shells, but we are definitely sad to leave!

Here's a few more pics, from the pier today:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shells, sand and seagulls, oh my!

You guessed it -- we've been at the beach. We (the seven in our family) went yesterday to scope out Honeymoon Island -- a small island that has been saved as a state park and has lots of great wildlife; it's just west of Tampa. It was cooler yesterday (high of 63:), so we just spent time checking out the great sea shells around the north side of the island. Delaney was in shell heaven and we collected way too many.

Today we went back (all 16 of us -- yes, Karyn and John are here!) and had a memorable day in the fun and sun. There was hiking, shelling, much dolphin-sighting, warm sun but much too much wind to be perfectly content, wading in the cool ocean, meeting visitors from mostly states other than Florida, sand-castle building, burying each other in the sand, and, last but never least, the seagulls. When it was about time for our packed picnic lunch, I got out the pretzels and the kids starting eating. We noticed some seagulls creeping near and the kids wanted to feed them. I said -- casually -- "no, don't do that because then more will keep coming and want to be fed". Levi did not heed that warning and tossed one of them a pretzel. To say the least, BAD IDEA. A true flock descended and wanted more. As we started getting out sandwiches and the rest of the food, they basically turned into crazy-commando-seagulls. They flew about 4 feet overhead the whole time and kept swooping down. Finally, one of them literally came in and grabbed Izaak's (nephew) peanut butter and jam sandwich FROM HIS HANDS. It was insane! Angie gave him her sandwich and he started eating it, and another seagull took that one. I'm not kidding. We ended up having to hide the food and if you wanted to eat, you had to do it under a towel or blanket. Once we quit eating and got them to finally mostly go away, if anyone even opened the bag that had the covered food in it, they would start to gather again. I must say I will be surprised if the children do not have a few nightmares about swooping seagulls.

Other than that, we are entertaining ourselves by checking the weather in Ohio compared to here (it seems as though someone is doing this by the hour around here). : ) Hope everyone is staying warm, and merry Christmas Eve Eve.

Some pics:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Not lost, just relaxed

Hmmm...I think I may have mentioned something about blogging our vacation. Why was I more motivated to do this last year than this time? Not sure. I think part of the reason is our vacation house's computer room is in the lower level and I don't pass the computer much and think "blog this memory". Or something.

ANYWAY, we're here! The drive down was fine, no one threw up, Eric and I got a few hours of sleep each as we drove straight through and arrived in foggy -- BUT WARM -- Florida in the early morning hours of Saturday. My brother and his family were either behind or in front of us (not on purpose!) most of the way but we didn't see each other until we got to the rental house. My favorite memory of the drive is watching the kids skip and run and have a great time at 3:30 a.m. at the Florida Welcome Center rest area. They had just woken up a bit so we took a break as they enjoyed their first time ever in the state. "Take our picture by the palm tree, mom!". They got a lot of smiles from the surprisingly-many other travelers who were taking a break at 3:30 in the morning. At least I just chose to notice the people who smiled at us.

My mother's family that lives in Florida came to the house today to visit with us, and we had a great time catching up with them. It was about 80 degrees and nice and sunny here today, and the kids swam about three different times and will sleep well tonight. It's really a good setup for the 16 of us (except for the inexplicable lack of chairs/seating?) and we are so thankful to enjoy this surreal Christmas week. I try not to even think about the cold and wind in Ohio, but someone is checking the northern weather around here about once an hour it seems. I guess that's part of the fun of spending a winter week in Florida.

I'll post some pics tomorrow. Good night!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Heading somewhere warmer than here

So today, as we are finishing the last-minute-throw-whatever-you-see-into-the-bag packing, the sun came out. It was startling, after days of ice and rain and ice and freezing rain and gray, gray, gray. The wind changed direction and warm breezes started melting everything. I sent the kids out to feed the kittens, and they came back in, exhilarated.

"Mom! It smells so good out there!" said Delaney.

"Oh, yeah?" I said. "Does it smell warm, like spring?"

"Yes!" she said. "Is it going to smell like that in Florida? I can't wait!"

Me either.

(The cute hats were delivered to our doorstep this week by our thoughtful neighbors!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Deja Vu?

Does anyone remember last year close to this time, when, oh, I started this blog to document a big road trip?

Little did I know that Big Road Trip #2 would come so soon. My dear father, from whom I have inherited bones which get colder than others' bones starting in October, has gotten my dear mother to go to Florida during her Christmas break the only way possible: by taking all of her children and grandchildren too.

I'll do my best to record our trip here, again, since reminiscing over last year's posts has given me great joy, and because my memory does not seem to be improving. This is our very first go-to-one-place-and-stay-there-for-the-whole-week vacation, so any readers may tire of my "The kids swam while I read a book" posts. : )

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sing, sing, sing

For your (ok, the grandparent's) viewing pleasure, the homeschool choir concert.

First, the preschoolers (Leah in the middle):

Then, Jesse, Sara, Delaney and Levi's group with two fun songs:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Have I mentioned this?

A few Sundays ago, at a morning Church meeting, the choir sang a unique and rousing song praising God for Jesus as our friend and Savior. After the "amen's" and applause died out, my dear, lover-of-a-well-done-song son Levi YELLED out, in the silent pause before the next part of the service...


I'm not kidding.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

As long as we have our priorities straight...

Scene: Kitchen table, early morning, Levi is cleaning up, Sara is finishing eating. I (Mom) have just banged out a little morning "wake-up" rhythym for fun on the drum set.

Levi: Mom! I didn't know you could play the drums like that. You play the drums better than you play the piano.

Mom: Ha!

Levi: Really, mom. You should be in a rock band.

Long pause while Eric and I chuckle.

Sara (who had been listening intently but never looked up from her CEREAL): You'd still have to make breakfast, mom.

There's no one like her

Happy Birthday Mom/Grandma!

Monday, November 24, 2008

We're a vegetable-free (twilight) zone

As seems to keep occuring, today is a birthday day in our household. Much to our chagrin, someone has had the gall to turn NINE around here, and thus, participate in the Choosing of the Menu. He has had the most practice at this, and knows that since he will not be getting most of these foods the other 364 days of the year, he'd better stock up now. So he stocked up, and we have all had sugar/carb rushes and subsequent crashes today that have left us pretty much lifeless (and just in time for Thanksgiving!).

Breakfast: doughnuts and sausage, OJ
Lunch: hot dogs, Cool Ranch doritoes, tater tots
Supper: Pizza, Cherry Delight, ice cream

Add to this that we ate a Thanksgiving meal with our church group last night, where the kids snuck cups of Coca-cola and we don't know how many cookies, and you can imagine how we feel tonight!

When he first made out his menu and showed it to me, I had to at least ask, "don't you want any vegetables?" He added pickles to his supper list. We were so stuffed by supper though, that we forgot all about the "vegetable."

We do love our newly-nine-year-old and are so thankful for him, carb-lover and all. : ) Happy Birthday Levi!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just keeping you informed...

Since the corn is down around our house, the mice have come a'runnin. Into our home. To be warm, presumably, although then why aren't they camping out in Eric's office where it's warm and toasty from the corn boiler instead of in my pantry and kitchen? Oh, yeah -- the food.

Tally so far: they've eaten on two bags of chocolate chips, one loaf of bread, and a bag of quick oats. I haven't lost any more household items to their destruction because we haven't been able to destroy any (yet!). Eric devised a brand-new capture-and-kill system (built a better mousetrap : ), which the mice are apparently discussing (in my pantry), and then sharing the news with their friends. I'm sure they'll be lured in soon. In the meantime, we just went and bought 8 new old-fashioned mousetraps, set one, and watched the kitchen mouse run past it in a nice arc.

I promise to move on to fun kid posts with cute pictures in the near future. Maybe. : )

Monday, October 27, 2008

Memories to write down...

...We're participating in a talent night for homeschool families in a few weeks and were talking about how the night would go with the kids. After the discussion was winding down and everyone was scattering, Sara turned around with the biggest grin on her face and exclaimed (yes, really exclaimed), "I can't WAIT to be on the stage!" Oh, how different they are from each other...

...Levi's football team made it to the second round of the playoffs on Saturday and then lost an absolute nail biter, in overtime, 6-0. Over and over in the game, it looked like we were going to win, and it just didn't happen. He came off the field after the game where I was waiting at the gate, and what was the first thing he said? "I hope it doesn't go this way for Ohio State-Penn State." That's my boy...

...Just a funny...Sara drank something too fast the other day and started hiccuping. Her announcement? "I think I have the hook-ups!"...

...When I make something new to eat, the kids have started measuring how many of them like it in football yards. So if everyone likes it, they say Mom made a touchdown. (Tonight's Mexican Lasagna and Broccoli Salad, however, still had 20 yards to go, apparently). You can tell what's been on our brains for three months...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Norton Sports Network report

On Sunday, Oct. 5, at about 2:30 p.m., #17 Levi caught a pass and, despite the efforts of several defenders, ran it in for a touchdown. His first touchdown ever in a league game.

This was not a thing of eternal importance, I know, and sometime the joy will fade. But I will forever remember my son's face as he scanned the crowd of parents and found me after the game. A shared smile after the accomplishment of a long-awaited dream goes a long way.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mousehunter: a history

I've decided that I have to start keeping track of the various tools with which my husband has killed mice in our homes. When I say "tools", what I mean is "things that are closest to him when he sees the mouse."

I need to do this because someday he may ask, "where has all of the money I've made gone?" And I will answer, "to replace the items with which you have killed mice."

[An important note: I love my husband and his great intiative and willingness to kill all the mice that have entered our domains over the past 12 years. Although I frequently have to be the spotter/herder, I have very, very rarely had to come near the mice and for that I am thankful.]

I bring this up because just the other night he managed to stun and subsequently murder a very wiley small mole (which looks like a mouse but has very different behavior and patterns -- we are becoming experts) that had eluded all traps and was living a very nice life somewhere between my kitchen cabinents and the refrigerator. The kids were in bed, and I was finishing up the dishes while Eric was standing at the bar talking to me. He said those notorious words I hate to hear: "Don't move." (Should I mention here how I screamed and jumped toward him onto the bar immediately? No, I don't think I will.)

It had circled my feet by the kitchen sink. I'll let that sink in.

He graciously volunteered to finish the dishes, while I sat on a chair (with my feet up) and became the spotter. It didn't take long. I was unprepared for the quick return of the varmit, and thus Eric grabbed the nearest item: my LIBRARY book. He managed a very quick whap (which thankfully produced no liquid onto the book) and it lay there. Then -- of course -- he grabbed my TONGS from the utensil drawer and took the still-twitching critter outside to finish him off.

This is not a new event in our married life. We've lived now in two homes that seem to be a beacon for mice and their cousins, and Eric has no patience for mousetraps that are ineffective and serve only to feed the mice. He continues to set the traps, with a widening array of, lures, but many, many more have died simply by him spotting one, chasing it down and killing it with various household items.

Thus, my list (and these are only the ones I can remember):
-- frying pan (even he agreed we shouldn't eat out of it again)
-- toaster
-- bread box
-- various spatulas
-- photo album
-- shoes
-- and now, LIBRARY book (very ironically, titled "The Fugitive", about a man who shunned war and violence)

Donations to "Household Items Tainted by Mouse Remains Replacement Fund" accepted.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mom-free homeschooling


1 sister who reads well

1 sister who is catching on quickly

1 sister who wants to be read to all the time

32 new library books

1 free-time afternoon

Mix well. Remove mother from room. Enjoy immensely and sear into your memory.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Team Norton, first round

Name: Delaney
Sport: Soccer
Team: Sound Solutions (otherwise known as "red and blue")
Results: games, 1 win, 1 loss, but more importantly, scrimmaged the boys and won 3-0

Name: Sara and Jesse
Sport: Soccer
Team: Covenant Engineering (don't you think he'll pick up a lot of engineering work from that advertising?)
Results: won first game 9-1; Sara scored 3, Jesse scored 3 -- are they twins or what?

Name: Levi
Sport: Football
Team: National Trail Blazers
Results: won first game against Twin Valley South 19-6; he played running back on offense and various backfield on defense; once again got the wind knocked out of him when he and his friend Jacob ran the double reverse fake where Jacob ends up with the ball while the entire defense thinks Levi has it; Mom is starting not to like that play!

Name: Leah
Sport: Bag-packing
Team: It's all me
Results: Successfully thrived through a week with 2 games, 2 scrimmages, and 4 practices; Consumed untold amounts of twizzlers, fruit snacks, raisins, goldfish crackers and water; Never got left behind at any ball field!

Monday, August 25, 2008

August Quotables

Set-up #1: All five children are in the kitchen near the sink. Daddy's setting them up to wash the van outside, and the sponges are under the kitchen sink. He has just teased them all by telling them to get the sponges and be sure to catch the mouse when it runs out, too (we've been trying to catch a mouse this week), while he went to change his clothes. No one wants to be the first to open the door. I overhear this from the next room:

Delaney: Mom says boys have to protect girls.
Levi: You need to do it for practice in case the boys are not there.
Delaney: You are there.
(Long Pause)
Jesse: Yeah, but Mom says boys should let girls go first.

Set-up #2: I am driving Levi to his football practice just down the road. Jesse is with us. For some reason (past experience with Dad?), he feels the need for speed when we pull out onto the road.

Jesse: Mom! Go fast!
Levi: No, she won't. Mom doesn't take risks.

My transparency is a bit alarming.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We're all HGTV-ish around here

So, Friday evening, as I'm bemoaning my ever-shrinking bookshelf space and other logistical frustrations in my living room/school room, Eric and I get into one of those conversations where the ideas really start flowing (from him, obviously -- I'm just good at complaining). He starts sketching. By Saturday noon, he has the materials. By Sunday evening, he's done (whatta man!), I've researched my web instructions on how to make something new look antique, and have started staining. By this morning, it was dry and moved in:

I am thrilled. He built me in a power strip on the top so I can add much-needed lighting, it divides the school area from the rest of the room and has shelves all around it. A homeschooling mom's -- and book addict's -- dream.
When we were out there working in the barn all weekend on it, it hit me -- the perfect idea for one of those reality TV shows. Whenever we're somewhere with cable, I love to watch those "transform your room in a day" shows. And lately, everyone keeps asking me if I watch some other cable show with this couple that has eight kids (sextuplets, I think?). So here we are in the barn, making a very large piece of furniture from scratch in the only free time we have managed to grab while five children are running their bikes over power tool cords, helping measure, asking continually to paint, just full of life and questions. THAT'S a reality show I would take the time to watch -- those HGTV decorators making those rooms "just so", on budget, on time, while taking care of that couple's eight children. : )

Thursday, July 31, 2008

July Catch-Up

A lot can happen in 10 days, right? I mean, everyone is always telling us how we have five children and, my, my, how they must keep us busy. Well, July has proven them true.

First the sad news: the puppy only lasted six days. (Don't look at me! I was being supportive!) He apparently worked himself up enough one night and jumped the four-foot fence that seemed secure. He then, of course, headed where all animals seem to head around here, right for US 40, where he was struck and killed. The boys were pretty upset, especially Levi. I may not shed tears over animals, but I do shed tears over my children shedding tears.

Our obligatory fair-trip went well....highlights were how well our new red wagon worked out (does that count as a fair highlight?)...Sara's 2nd-place tractor pull finish (is there any money in professional kiddie-tractor-pulling?)...Leah enjoying the Ferris wheel for the first time. Here's a fun-loving boy at the top of a well-loved ride:

If it's fair time, it must be birthday time. Delaney gets a birthday well-spaced from the others, right smack in the middle of summer. Turning seven around here means you can invite a few friends to join in the celebration (Delaney's in the middle).

Last but not least, football practice has officially started. And to think, it only took 8 1/2 years!

Monday, July 21, 2008

You are not hallucinating

Look carefully, all ye people. Especially all ye former college roomates. Especially the Vet and the Ohio attorney. What is it you see?

Yes. It is. He's ours.

Here's the stats, for those who care about such things:

Black lab, 13 weeks old, found him through Craig's list from a family who does animal rescue (his parents were rescued by this family). So far, kids are still 3-2 in favor of him, although Sara shows heavy signs of bumping it to 4-1 soon. Leah is generally determined to live indoors for the rest of her natural life. Because, of course, he is and always will be an OUTSIDE dog. : )

They have named him Prince (after Eric's childhood dog).

P.S. If you look carefully, you can see the feet of the child standing on the chair next to Prince. There is no doubt who their mother is.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Musical Discernment, 101

We were in the van yesterday on a visit to family; one hour there, one hour back. We listened to a Christian music station most of the way. On the way home...

Levi: Mom! We heard that song. I think that's the same song we heard this morning.

Me: You're is.

(A few minutes later)

Delaney: Mom! This song, too. We already heard this song.

Me: You're right...we heard that one earlier, too.

Delaney (after a few more that sounded awfully familiar): Mom, I think these radio stations play the same songs over and over.

Me: I think you're right, girl.

Delaney: Let's find something that sounds more mysterious.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What's been going on, you ask?






Monday, June 30, 2008

The telephone game, our version

You may note, that I am getting this post in just under the wire before the date will turn to July, thereby accomplishing a grand total of TWO posts in June. I am sorry to have disappointed you, my adoring audience, but I have actually been busy writing other things this month (newsletters, VBS lessons) and have exited my computer chair as soon as possible each night. I make no promises about July. I also, for the record, have no idea why my paragraph breaks aren't working on this post.

Eric and I just returned yesterday from a little "get-away" trip to the Ohio homeschool convention, thanks to my dear parents who willingly cared for the kiddos.

Next we headed to the hills! We scoped out some good camping spots and trails, and hiked other trails that the kids won't handle for another few years.We had a great time, getting to drive, sight see, eat and just talk. The strangest feeling comes when we both go in together at the gas station convenience store and pick out our own drinks. We never get to do that, ever.
The nicest part of getting away by ourselves, of course, is the time it allows us to talk about life-things in-depth. Plans and questions and discussions that we really can't have at home can go on for hours without interruption. We enjoy this so much that we have a hard time coming out of that mode, even after we have retrieved the children (this is leading into my post title, by the way -- I had you lost, didn't I?). We need to re-train ourselves quickly, because while we aren't wearied anymore by endless diapering or toddler-chasing, the conversation round-robin around here can nearly kill you. I'll leave you with just one example from today.
Parents' discussion: the unlikelihood of travelling anywhere for 4th of July
Kid 1: "did you say Nanny's? When are we going to Nanny's?"
Kid 2, to Kid 1: "What day are we going to Nanny's?"
Kid 3, to Kid 4: "We're going to Nanny's TODAY!"
Kid 5: "I've got my backpack ready! Can I sit in the middle?"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is that in your Bible?

So we're back in the routine of our regular devotions, now that we wrapped up our homeschooling year's study of Matthew. Each night -- generally -- Eric reads a short passage from the Bible and then the kids draw what they heard and remember from the passage on their own little white boards. Then each one gets to show his/her picture and explain it. They get pretty intense on these pictures! It's great to hear each of their descriptions, but Leah has been taking the cake lately:

After a passage on people getting baptized: "...and this is Jesus, and he can't see down in the rivah (river), and see the baptized, because he can't see with his eyes, because I didn't give him any eyes, because my marker was too big."

After a passage on Jesus healing and casting out demons, which is irrelevant because she was still stuck on the baptisms: "...and these are four little girls, and they're going to be baptized in the tomato juice." (she had used the red marker that night)

For your bonus, here's a recent pic of her with her sisters:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

This post is for me

I held a four-and-a-half-month-old this week. Our neighbor was babysitting him for a friend and brought him across the road to chat. It's taken me a while to get to this point, but I'm definitely in the nostalgic-about-babies phase. (Most people, I understand, would have their next baby at this point, but since we all know OUR backstory on that, we'll just move on. I'm content to put the whole burden of producing offspring on my sister!)
Anyway, my point here is that my children are growing quickly, and I can't seem to keep up. Someone's always saying or doing or drawing or singing something amazing each day -- times five -- and most days I can't seem to get my head out of my laundry pile and focus my full attention on them, for a real, true moment. So right now, for me, I am going to write, and capture a bit of who they are, this day. Youngest first, don't you think?

Leah Hope
There are no words to describe how much she is her own person, even at age 4. She plans her days as if the whole world awaits her announcement of the agenda. Every fork, carrot, toothbrush, pencil is a imaginary character that wants to play with a similar item in her sister Sara's hands, and every other moment is spent evading work with her brother Jesse. For her and only her, tough big brother Levi will put toothpaste on, tie a shoe, buckle a seat belt and accept a kiss. Her highest aims are to do "reading lessons" like her twin siblings, and hop on one foot for a long time. She gives four kisses, every time, and tries to sneak in a fifth.

Sara Jeanne
Imagine very light, big, clear blue eyes staring innocently up at you, while the whole time you can almost see the gears turning furiously as the five-year-old "good" twin tries to figure out how to stay out of trouble without lying. She is curious! She wants to know everything, about everyone, all the time. Joy abounds at the mention of peanut butter and jelly, but her whole body slumps when anything appears in the shape of a casserole dish. She produces seemingly endless works of beautiful art every morning, all of which she expects will be displayed appropriately. She loves to read, and is figuring out more words each day. She makes friends more easily than any of her siblings, but never, never with a dog.

Jesse Harold
What goes on in that mind? If he notices you noticing him, he reacts with a quick huge grin and two fully extended arms asking for a hug. He plays the best by himself of any of them, but would never ask to do so. He loves to sleep, but doesn't ever complain when his big brother rouses him out of bed each morning. Eye contact is an absolute when giving him instructions, because it seems he usually assumes that no one could really be just talking to him. He basks in praise from anyone, but especially his older brother. He cheerfully -- and very accurately -- completes math problems said older brother has created for him each day, content to just be doing what Levi is doing. He is quick to laugh, quick to help, and very quick to love.

Delaney Kay
I can barely write about her without crying. Six years old is her element, I guess. She leaves us amazed each day with her witticisms and thoughtfulness and obstinacy and intelligence and bossiness. the bigger the words in the older the hymn, the better. She directs the group playtime of herself and the younger three each day until Levi bribes her heavily enough to convince her to join him in something and bring along her gang. The newer the food, the more mixed up it looks, the better. Nothing cheers her more than the announcement that it's a "big workin' day!" She lives to write stories, organize/sort clothes, and visit her Nanny and Grandma.

Levi Matthew
A dear friend told me that I would love all my children, but that my love for my son, my firstborn, would be a "fierce" love. I live that every day. This tall, intelligent 8-year-old looks at me each morning and all I want to do is grab him and kiss his head all over. But then he starts complaining and I want to whop him with my dishrag. He will whine and wheedle, trying to get out of chores or schoolwork, but he's actually the one who always does the work. He will complain that something is not very fun, but wouldn't miss doing it with you for the world. If he could sit quietly beside his dad the entire day, every day, that's what he would do. He remembers everything, and understands about that much.

I am so thankful for each one of them.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My apologies, lawncare specialists

We did it. We confess.

All of you who make a living providing homeowners with lush, green, perfectly uniform lawns will be working extra hard. All you homeowners who care deeply about such things are in for the fight of your spring, at least if you live in a certain-mile radius of us.

You see, we promulgate weeds here. Not just any weeds, mind you -- dandelions.

I'm not a particularly gushy mother (SHOCKER!), but even I cannot deflate the faces of those who delight in bringing me dozens upon dozens of bright, yellow bouquets each spring. "Flowers!", they shriek, when they find the first one of the year sprouting up in the yard. Since moving here nearly five years ago, we've gone from a few patches here and there to near ground-cover status.

This may be because -- yes, you guessed it -- our activities do not end at bouquet collection. How can you be dandelion specialists if you do not help nature do its work?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

End of the year test, homeschool style

I cut the first part off by mistake, but thought you might enjoy this poem, recited by Levi.

Monday, April 21, 2008

...And that's two points for the girls

In the Suburban...

Levi: "Hey, we need to pick our joke of the year. How about Jesse's 'catch-up/ketchup' joke?"

Eric: (getting in the spirit of the kids first bowling outing) "I've got one for you. What did the bowling pin say to the bowling ball?"

Levi: "I don't know."

Eric: "It's not my fault!"

Levi: (after a looonnng pause) "Ha! I get it Dad! It's not my fault...that's a good one. Delaney, do you get it? You don't get it, do you. It's like the bowling pin gets hit, and..."

Delaney: "I get it. It's not funny."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Things I Like (a stolen post title)

Thank you to my sister for inspiring this post.

1. Quiet evenings after a loud day.

2. When you just happen to be finishing up a study of Russia and Russian music, and you just happen to hear an announcement on the radio about a free orchestral presentation of Peter and the Wolf for families, and you spontaneously take the kids, and sit in the front row, and it is absolutely wonderful, and they sit spell bound, and give you excited looks when it comes to parts they remember. And there is free food.

3. Things that are free.

4. The growing realization -- that must only come with growing older? -- that being content with what you have brings so much more satisfaction than getting something you wanted.

5. Sitting in a cozy chair on a Sunday afternoon, making out grocery and menu lists, while my daughter snuggles beside me writing new stories and pictures in her notebook.

6. The start of a new week, with a clean kitchen sink and a promise of sunshine.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kid - 1, Mother - 0

I realize, now, that I have been coasting. We've been diaper-free for more than a year. Everyone dresses themselves. I can read my own books in the corner of the children's section of the library for quite a long time without any shushing. As a bonus, we get lots of hugs and spontaneous "I love you" 's and "thank you, God, for my dad and mom" prayers. I really like these ages.

I'm taking my cues from society, I guess. It tells me that the babies are demanding, and toddlers are terrible, and just wait (!) until they're teenagers. But I have never gotten any warnings about oh, say, 8-year-olds. Which must be why I was so caught off guard this week, as we ventured out for a long walk and playtime in the finally-warm weather, at a local park. We had a great time together throwing rocks in the creek, and finding interesting things to look at on the trail. When we got to the large playground, the four youngest ran off to climb and play. Levi, however, camped beside me on the picnic table. When a neighbor friend of his -- whom we haven't see all winter -- strolled up with his mom, Levi camped beside me at the picnic table. I said, repeatedly, in various forms, (sounding very much like a voice from my past) "Go play."

He said, repeatedly, "No. I don't want to."

After an hour or so of trying to have a conversation with my neighbor, while talking over the head -- literally -- of my suddenly-statuesque 8-year-old, we headed home. He asked me, in the truck, "Do you want to know why I didn't want to play on the playground?"

"Yes!" I said. "I really do."

"I didn't want to play with the little kids," he said, as if I should have known.

Oh. Yes, of course. The little kids, who are, like, seven.

At the end of the warm weather last year, he was the first one out of the truck and on the top of the monkey bars (and I'm sure we'll still have more of that this year). Someone could have mentioned to me that I should have buckled myself in a little earlier for the roller coaster of "I'm old/I'm just a kid". Didn't you remember my motion sickness?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Catching up

Well, March has been busy. We'll just call these posts a March madness round-up and pretend they were nicely spaced. Of course, I may just be talking to myself here, since even my loyal sister may have given up on me by now.

Levi heard about this crazy tradition that other children participate in called "spring break", so he coerced his mother (ha!) into taking one the week of the 21st. He also informed me that we always do some painting or a house project during spring break, so we brainstormed and came up with letting them personalize their rooms a bit. A few shelves, posters, paint and lights later, here's some of what they came up with:

I have to point out what Jesse chose for his poster (it says "born to ride" under that, by the way). He is a true Norton:

And then Levi's (Ahhh, my boy!):

We also made an afternoon out of a trip to Dayton's Boonshoft Museum, a jewel of a find that we will definitely frequent from now on. The discoveries were endless, from leaf rubbing... lots of dress-up and much more.

Then began the "Gauntlet of Visiting". First, extended family from Arkansas came to my parents', and a bunch of my mother's side of the family were able to get together. Here's my mom with two of her four siblings:

The next day was on to southern Indiana, where things were 10 degrees warmer but just as wet (although we had a beautiful first day and soaked in the sunshine -- and 70 degrees!! -- when we got there). We celebrated the resurrection of our Lord, and the xxth birthday of my dear mother-in-law, Doris. If I put her picture on the Internet, you would never hear from me again, so instead I'll post a pic of my dear niece and grand-niece (yes, that does make me feel old!):

Next it was home again, as we readied ourselves for visitors whom we had been looking forward to for some time...the Smith's from Alabama! Yes, the same dear new friends who opened their home to us on Thanksgiving Day as we headed north through Alabama on our Road Trip of '07, spent some of their vacation in Ohio and were able to share a meal and time with us. Actually, their five children (including boy-girl twins, of course!) were very, um, comfortable here, right, Sarah? ; ) The best part was when their five year old daughter came bouncing into the house after a verrrry long day in the van, and said, "Your house is a long way away!" We were very blessed to get to see them in person again and look forward to the next time. For you who have read this whole post, a very rare, hard-to-find picture of ....The Moms:

Now since today is the 31st, I am all caught up on March. Nothing else can happen today, right?

Monday, March 10, 2008

O Rules, how many ways must I say thee?

Yes, I'm sure it must seem to our children that we sit around at night making up more rules.

"Don't run through the house."
"No, you can't stick your playdough heart on the walls with glue."
"Don't go toward the road."
"No jumping off the bunk bed and grabbing the ceiling fan."

So how, HOW, could we have forgotten to mention this one??

"Do NOT cut the light cord with your scissors!"

It was just a small expoding sound. And Sara is fine, thanks to the grace of God and rubber on the scissor handles. It turned into a good lesson on electricity, too.

Monday, March 3, 2008

What I didn't know I needed

My mother tells me I was quite the bossy child. I think she may have even heard that confirmed by my kindergarten teacher, who commented politely on my skills in directing the other 5-year-olds. I wasn't even a first-born, but I did have quite a few years -- six, to be exact -- at practicing being the youngest. Then my parents informed me that there would be another baby coming. I remember being excited about helping pick out a name, and the fun of baby blankets and other baby gear being bought. Sure, I was excited about the baby, too, but I have a feeling that was mostly due to the fun I thought the baby would bring to my world. I would control the baby.

The baby turned out to be a sister, named Karyn, who was not about to fit into my box, literally or figuratively. (I believe this would not have been the case if they had only spelled her name with an "e".) She was very cute, with lots of wispy blond curls, and she sang, all the time. She sang while refusing to play the way I wanted her to, and she sang while she cut off my Barbie's hair. She sang when we wrapped her up like a mermaid, and she sang like a canary when she told on me.

I know that I am a better person today because I have a younger sister. She challenged me to shed some of my controlling bubble, and she inspired me -- and still does -- to think of others' needs before my own. We sing together.

But God knew I needed more work. Fast forward a couple decades, one husband, and four children. I still, with four children under four, thought that I needed to be in control. I thought, "ok, four. I can handle four." So, when my twin babies were 14 months old, on a cool March morning in 2004, the Lord gave me another Karyn. We named her Leah Hope. She has wispy blond curls and sings, all the time. She sings at the school table while I am doing spelling words with her brother, and she sings while we travel down the road. When the rest of us do one thing, Leah does the other, and waits for us to catch up.

I am a better mother by far because of the miracle that is our Leah. I am so thankful that God moved beyond us and gave her to us. Today, she has turned four years old. Happy Birthday Leah!

They even share the same birthday month! We love you Aunt Karyn!
Here's Leah today, on her birthday

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You had to be there

My apologies for another math-related story so soon, but that's apparently what's on the agenda around here lately. Listen in on this morning's conversation between the 8-year-old Mr. Math and the 6-year-old Miss I-won't-be-outdone.

Levi (after hearing that you can multiply larger numbers easily by multiplying the first numbers and then adding the zeros): "So, 60 times 60 is, 3600?"

Mom (struggling, in the bathroom, to get the blond girls' hair into ponytails before church): "Yes."

Levi: "And so, 80 times 60 is...4800? And 90 times 90 is....8100?!"

Mom: Yep.

Levi (turning to Delaney, who is ready to go and waiting patiently): "Delaney, what's 90 times 90?"

Delaney: "I don't even know what 'times' means."

Levi: Okay, it's like, 2 times 2 means, take two, two times."

Delaney: "Four."

Levi: "Right. And 2 times 3 means take 2, three times. Or take 7, 3 times, is 7 times 3. Or you can take 21, divide it by 3, and that' s 7."

Delaney: "I don't even know what divide means."

Levi: "Division is easy. You just take the bigger number and figure out how many times the little number takes to get there. Like, 12 divided by 3...count by 3's until you get to 12."

Delaney: "3, 6....9....12!"

Levi: "Good. So what's 12 divided by 3?"

Delaney: "12?"

Levi: "No. Four."

Delaney (immediately, in pure form, putting a quick end to further math instruction, starts singing a song from The Jungle Book movie they had watched earlier in the week): "Look for the, bare necessities, the simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife....yeah man!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Life on this road

As many of you know, we do not live on a quiet, secluded road. At all. I could write a whole book about things that have happened just because we live on this road.

One of these things happened again this afternoon. Many, many semi-trucks go past every day, a fact we may get used to in about 30 years -- maybe. Many of them apparently like to talk on their CB's while driving, and snippets of their conversations get picked up and broadcast through various electronic devices in our home -- usually the baby monitor.

Today, the perfect storm arrived: one talktative trucker spouting very non-uplifting words, one baby monitor, two computer speakers, one television playing a children's video. The five-second spurt of vulgarity came through astoudingly loud and clear. Let's just say it did not go unnoticed. Levi shouts from the living room: "Mom! Something just came through the TV, and it wasn't winnie-the-pooh!"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cold Virus Attack -- a haiku

It hits all seven
Sniff blow wipe cough hack repeat
I need hot jello*

(*You'll have to ask my mom. I have no idea why. But it works.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

doo-in skool

  • So, we're in India. Educationally geographically, not physically geographically. Levi sits down and reads this book. As he gets further in, he gets more intense. When he reaches the end, with fold-out pages of elephants carrying all the rice the heroine has sharply gained from the raja by understanding the power of doubling, he is near bursting. Then, the final page, the one many kids might ignore, shows the exact numbers that come from 30 days of doubling, starting at one. He reads, aloud, each and every number. All the way to 536, 870, 912. And, then, in his astonishment at discovering this new level of mathmatical truth, he reads the numbers again -- aloud -- to his could-care-less brother and sisters who were playing. He is flabbergasted. He is high on math.

  • Speaking of numbers, Levi and Delaney got into a quite heated argument during lunch one day about whether there really was a "ten hundred". Delaney proves her point (yes, there is) with her counting prowress -- "800....900...1000 (ten hundred)". Levi shoots back: "No, there's no ten hundred! It's 1,000 ("a thousand"). Back and forth they go. Question: are you really supposed to stop sibling arguments like this as a parent? (Yes, they ended up taking the matter to Daddy, who explained how they were both right)

  • In a move that has brightened the week around here considerably for the teacher, we bought a small laminator (Aldi special this week!). Levi and I were laminating fools -- geography game pages, cursive practice sheets, who knows what else I might feed in there?! I will laminate the cat if it keeps trying to sneak in to my warm house through the pantry.

  • Finally, something that made our hearts melt. An unsolicited poem, by Delaney, which she delivered to my desk last week and which she says is her first ever.

Delaney's Palm

The world is so Big that i want to see all of it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

When my words do no justice

Acts 2:37-39 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Levi -- February 3, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

Yes, folks, it's game night

A small glimpse, for your entertainment, of what family game night actually looks like at our house...

*It's Sara's night to choose the game, and, inexplicably, she pulls out Monopoly. She does not like games that require much sitting still and decision making. Especially Monopoly with SEVEN people. But she says excitedly, "I pick Monopoly!" We believe it has something to do with the enjoyment of lining up piles of money.

*I finish reading my Newsweek article while Eric passes out all the money and Levi sets up the cards. I consider this a great perk of being The Mom. The Mom is not in charge during game night. She has just cooked The Pizzas.

*Leah makes it exactly two rounds. She frowns deeply when we pull $200 from her stack for the income tax and frowns even more deeply after we tell her she can't roll the dice in a manner as dangerously as she did the first round. She tells me she wants to be on my team and that I can have all her money, then exits to go play "kids and dog". Jesse leaves one round later.

*The rules are, whoever has the most assets in one hour is declared the winner. Delaney immediately leans toward hoarding, and considers it beneficial when she ends up in jail twice. Levi refuses to believe that the game will actually eventually be over, and is torn between buying more properties and (strangely) asking to mortgage them to get more cash (what are we teaching him?). Eric can't roll higher than three all night unless he's landed on my electric company and has to pay me four times the roll. So, even though this never, ever happens, I get lots of doubles, buy everything I can, zoom around the board and end up winning.

*My first property purchase of the night, on my very first turn (I'm usually a conservative Monopoly player), brought this winning quote of the night from Levi: "Wow, $150, are you sure? That's a lot of money for a mom."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Which one of these is not like the other...

...which one of these, doesn't belong?*
Read these quotes from yesterday and see if you can guess correctly:

"Mom! Levi got hit with the binocular-thingys!"
"That cat is using our screen for a claw sharpener."
"Jesse spilled milk on me. But it wasn't my fault."

"Honey, there was a small explosion in the office."
"Do I have to use soap in the shower?"

*Bonus points for finishing the lyrics of that song in the comments!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Times Two

When you have twins, life slows down considerably. We went from two children to four children and my patience for the everyday details of life got quite the workout. I distinctly remember thinking that first winter, I can't imagine them being older, like, five.

And today, by the grace of God, here we are. Time has actually sped up now, and we even find ourselves trying to slow them down, holding them a little longer. Five children between ages 3 and 8 is a very sweet spot, and I'm trying to sear it into my ever-addling brain. As Sara said today, "I'm going to miss you, four."

Happy 5th birthday, twin-o's!

P.S. For those who are interested, the twin's chosen birthday day menu:
Breakfast: Blueberry muffins, bacon, donuts, orange juice
Lunch: chicken nuggets, french fries, cut-up apples, water
Supper: crock-pot pizza, cauliflower salad, garlic bread, Darn Good Chocolate Cake (white version) with strawberry (Sara) and chocolate (Jesse) ice cream

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My post-holidays Holiday

This is exactly what I needed this week. We're not hitting our regular routine again until Monday, so I've been methodically cleaning each room, purging and organizing as I go. I have five willing participants who like the cleanliness and new arrangements, but only one of them is showing the true organizational gene so far. "What can we sort now, mom?", Delaney asks first thing in the morning. "Can I stop playing and help you organize?" That's my girl.

Some results of my therapy...

...a clean and sorted school area:

...a place for every single winter glove, hat and scarf, finally:

...and a to-the-corners, inside-the-cabinets, even-the-top-of-the-refrigerator clean kitchen:

So, if you're thinking about visiting us in 2008, tomorrow would be the day to do it. Everything may not be this clean again for another year. And now, when we are in the midst of the messiness of real life this year, I can pull up this post, inhale deeply, and remember.