Saturday, August 5, 2017

Coraline's First Haircut

At almost 2 and 3/4s year-old, Coraline finally has her first haircut in the books! Nell asked for a simple trim and received a bonus fancy pants braid. Mara crawled over the floor and picked up a zillion strangers' hair all over her belly. It was gross.

Oh, and those are dolphin stamps on the middle of their forehead. You should see their bellies!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Videos of our July

July sped by, but I suppose I intended for it to be that way. I intentionally signed the kids up for all their summer activities in June and July, so that I could have August completely free. I don't feel like we really over schedule. The plan was to have swimming lessons in June and then one rec program for Nell and Reid in July. That's not too much, right?

But when you're hauling four young children to each of those activities it starts to feel over-scheduled. I don't know how people manage more. And I know a lot of people manage more. By comparison, my kids are in far fewer organized sports and lessons than other kid's their age. I don't let myself feel bad about that though. 

Anyway, June's swimming lessons were so successful I decided to sign the kids up for July lessons. I didn't want them to forget all the valuable stuff they learned. Plus, they each passed their June classes -- so I figured the lessons in July would introduce new skills and that would be good for them. 

Reid's rec class (sports of all sorts) was daily, M through Th the first two weeks of July. Swim lessons were M and W for the final three weeks of July. And Nell's dance class was T and Th of those same three weeks. So yes, the month of July just flew right by. 

Here's a video of Reid at bat during one of his sports of all sorts days. 

He did do significantly better at sports of all sorts this year. It's not the athleticism that I worry about, but rather the sportsmanship. He struggles with that. Even with this year's improved attitude -- I still had to haul him off the field on his last day of class (the parent vs kid kickball game). It may be a dramatic response to his behavior. But the deal was, "If you get mad at another player on your team for getting to the ball before you do, we will go home." So, we went home -- whether he was willing or not. We left. My back was terribly sore the following two days, and I couldn't help but wonder if hoisting my 70-pounder over my shoulders was the cause.  

Anyway, here's Nell's dance class showing off the routine they learned on the final day of class.

She's been begging for dance lessons for over a year now. But she showed no enthusiasm during any of her lessons. I couldn't quite tell if she enjoyed it or not. Perhaps she needs a more social activity. I'll be interested to see if she ever asks for another dance class again. 

The class was moved back one session from it's original start date, so even though there were 20 girls to start with, we only had 5 on that final day (recorded above). My guess is that half the missing kids were away due to EAA and the other half had parents that forgot to note the reschedule on their calendars. 

Perhaps my favorite video from all of July is this little doozey below.


Our afternoons spent at home were always a welcome change of pace after running to and from activities (and errands) in the morning. I love how Nell reads her favorite stories by retelling the plot with such accuracy and detail. I love Coraline's mimicking. I love Mara's playful coos in the background. And I love that closing shot of Reid building duplos in the corner. Yes, of the three videos this one is my favorite. It is the most accurate view of my motherhood. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bay Beach

A couple weeks ago (July 19th, I believe) Ben took the day off so we could have a little family outing to Bay Beach amusement park in Green Bay.

Though Bay Beach is beachless, it is right on the Bay. It is part of the county parks system, so there were lots of playgrounds and benches and no official admission to the park. You purchase 25cent tickets and then use those to pay for the rides. Between rides, lunch, and ice cream we spent just about $40 for our entire family of six to enjoy multiple hours at an amusement park. Pretty amazing!

We started with the merry go round. I thought those little elephants were pretty adorable. They were perfect for the girls. Coraline shouted "I like it!" the whole way around. Reid was super excited to ride the horse and go rabbit hunting. At first I thought he was just using his imagination, but when they did the merry go round a second time (and sat in the same spots as the first) I understood how the idea came to him.

They were over the moon excited to go on the train. It was a pretty good ride along the Bay.

Ben was super excited to take Reid on the Bay Beast (pictured below). Reid was really excited as well. Until the ride began. Then it was complete horror -- as evidenced by the bottom photos. Ha ha ha! I think we'll be laughing over those for years!

He had a similar reaction when I took him on the roller coaster. He was so proud of himself for being so brave. He would not admit to hating either ride. It's amazing how we can find joy in fear once we're planted safely back on ground.

He actually said a sweet little prayer while we sat in the roller coaster, waiting for it to take off. He was a little nervous as it began, but the ascend was slow and I distracted him by pointing out the amazing view of the Bay. Once we started falling he was hysterical. When we came to a stop at the end, his first response was "Hey, that prayer worked. I'm not crying!" While it's true, he wasn't crying -- he sure screamed a lot while the ride was going and his breathing didn't resume to normal until we gave him a giant ice cream cone minutes after the ride was over.

Other favorite rides were the bumper cars, the swings (which Coraline screamed "I like it" with the voice and face of fear -- so adorable and funny), the boats, and the airplanes. Ben went on a big scrambler type ride. And I took Coraline and Reid down the big slides. Reid rode in a sack by himself and Coraline sat with me. She liked the first part of it but was screaming and angry by the end. As we walked back to Ben, Nell, and Mara -- Reid confessed to being scared. He didn't show it though. And I admitted to him that I was also a little scared (mostly that I'd tumble over the top of Coraline). It's strange how a little fear can be so thrilling. I hope I never forget how cute Lou was as she fear screamed "I like it" on those swings. We couldn't decide if she was trying to convince herself or what. But it was adorable.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Splash Pad

This afternoon the kids and I headed to the farmers market / splash pad / park.  Yup, it was a glorious 3-in-1. I bought fresh tomatoes for our grilled margarita pizza. The kids ran wild while the cool water splashed all over their sweet bodies. Then they scrambled around the playground equipment to dry off. Of course, we did a repeat of those last two steps before coming home.

I tried like crazy to snap some cute photos, but the sun was glaring at my screen, so I had no idea what I was really capturing. These kids were in heaven though, and I wanted at least a little glimpse of that for the years that are yet to come.

Mara was trying her darndest to wriggle out of the stroller and join the big kids. I finally took her out and hoisted her into the misters. Oh the giggles that caused! She was in heaven. Later I conceded and plopped her right down in front of one of the big sprayers. 

She was getting it all up her nose and everything. But that could not stop her fun! She was so content to just sit there all afternoon. 

The above series just cracks me up. 1) Patiently waiting for the water, 2) Yay! It's here!, 3) Hurry, cover it up, and 4) If you can see why this one cracks me up, you'll know my maturity level (he, he)!

She was soaked all the way through when we were done. Glad I always have an extra outfit handy for this extra JOYful baby! 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Last night we took a family walk through our neighborhood nature preserve. Reid beat us to the bridge over the creek, and he immediately started shouting about the low water level and all the logs that were now exposed. Once I caught up to him I instantly shushed him.

"Look at that mom and baby deer!" I whispered with excitement. I couldn't believe it. Straight in front of us, in the middle of the creek, there stood a gorgeous doe and her growing fawn. It appeared as though the fawn was nursing in a rather playful manner. I immediately felt the most sincere kinship to this mother and infant pair.

When Ben and the girls caught up I told him I thought the fawn was nursing (though it was now staring straight at us). "It looks a little big to still be nursing," Ben replied.

I agreed with him. The child had to duck it's head under the mother's stomach to get at her nipples. But I swear I saw it. And I had, because soon enough we both witnessed it. That sweet little fawn bent its neck and tucked its head right into its mother's breast.

I can't adequately explain why, but that display of affection between the mother and toddler deer was so sweet to me. I wasn't even holding Mara at the time. But the love of their bond (of my bond to each of my children) was palpable.

Of all the beauties of my own motherhood experience, breastfeeding is one I feel most sensitive about. It almost feels sacred. I feel like I have never captured that love here on this blog, and I am keenly aware that in just a few short months it will be over forever.

There are several reasons I don't write about it. 1) Speaking to the beauty of breastfeeding can often feel like shaming to the bottle-fed. 2) It's such a personal and private experience. 3) There are not adequate words to describe the emotions of the experience.

Also, it's just plain hard! It hurts; things crack and bleed. Biting is inevitable; catching a break in the daily chaos of infant care is impossible. The sacrifices are nearly as great as the reward. And sometimes I focus a little too much on those negative aspects of nursing.

But standing on that bridge and watching that sweet mother and her child just melted my heart. It was such a simple moment, but perhaps documenting it here will help me always remember the beauty of nursing my own children.

I am forever grateful for the sparkle in their eye, when they have gazed up at me from my breast. I will always cherish those sweet chubby hands as they played pat-pat-pat on the top of my chest. I pray the smile that cracks through in those playful and grateful moments is forever seared into my memory. I am almost in tears, realizing that the number of times a sleeping child will doze off to the suckling of my nipple is nearly at an end (see what I mean by personal and private?). The beauty of breastfeeding has been one of the most sacred experiences I have had as a mother.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Day in the Life

A few years back I wrote a "Day in the Life" post, and it just so happens that, that day was July 24th 2013. So, yesterday I thought to myself, "do it again this July 24th!" Here's a detailed look at life once again, four years later.

12:30 am Coraline's shouting wakes me up and I decide to rush in to the kid's room to try and shush her before she wakes up her siblings. I also decide this might be a good time for the tooth fairy to swap out Reid's tooth for that cherished $1. But, I can't find his tooth holder under his pillow and my fumbling causes him to stir. Dang it! Why didn't I remember to do this before I crawled in bed at 10? I sneak out of the room, mission failed.

2:30 am I wake up to Ben stirring. He gets up to use the bathroom and I hand him the dollar bill and put him in charge of the tooth fairy's dirty work. Maybe now I can sleep for more than a 90 minute stretch.

4:13 am Mara's up, ready for her early morning feeding. I stumble in to her room, fill her tummy, and place her back in the crib.

6:24 am I hear "Nelly got poops! Nelly got poops!" hollered repeatedly from the bathroom. Noting that Ben is not in bed with me, I ask "Are you taking care of that?" to which he responds "I'm in Mara's room, changing her diaper." Huh, I didn't even know she was awake. Good news is, Nell didn't really have poops (Mara did though). Soon enough, all six of us have found our way into my bed. Family snuggles are the perfect way to start the day. Even if I'm totally exhausted.

7:45 The kids have unloaded the dishwasher, we've finished up our cereal, and Reid's in the basement playing Legos. The girls are begging for their beloved TV. I eagerly remember, "Wild Kratts Alaska!" They inevitably start a chant and coax Reid upstairs to join in their begging. We've been waiting weeks for this, and it's perfect because in last night's family council I set a goal that we'd only watch PBS shows this week (I'm too realistic to have a truly screen free week around here).

After a family prayer, Ben heads out the door for work. The kids cozy up on the couch and begin Wild Kratts (thank you PBS kids app!) I head to the nursery and snuggle Mara for a bit before putting her down for her morning nap.

8:30 Mara's finally falling asleep, and the kids just finished up Wild Kratts. This is unfortunate because I didn't even get any personal alone time while they watched TV. So when Nell asks to watch an episode of Dinosaur Train I say "Yup!" and get them situated. I then hide out in my room to check the usual: NPR, gmail, facebook, and mint.

8:55 The TV is turned off and I give the kids' some juice to take outside. I grab my book and lounge in a chair on the deck. I'm hoping this will encourage them to stay out there and play.
Gosh I love them! Time stamp: 9:07
9:08 After that photo was taken a pretty ugly fight between Reid and Nell breaks out. We're all back inside trying to chill. I decide to tackle the art shelf in the pantry closet (it's been a disaster for at least six weeks). Coraline looks over my shoulder and starts begging for water paints. I give in, thinking this is a good chance to get them to clean off the table while I finish dejunking and organizing. They sort of clear the table, but mostly just push things out of their way and start whining even louder for their paints. Sigh. Fine.

9:40 "Mommy, Coraline is tearing her paper and putting it in her water." This sentence is followed by the sound of Coraline's evil giggle. It's also the same moment Mara starts crying, having awoken from her nap. Sigh. Fine.

10:00 The closet is done, Mara is fed, and the paint mess is cleaned up sitting in my kitchen sink. I contemplate whether or not I have enough time to do some grocery shopping before our 11:15 swim lessons. I figure I do, but also decide I don't have the determination to really get the kids going just yet. Now I have to decide how we'll fill the next 40 minutes. Sometimes, waiting for the right moment to get ready and go can be just as complicated as getting everyone ready to go at the right moment.

The kids manage to fill the time playing both around the house and outside. I mostly just snuggle Mara.

11:04 We make it to the YMCA just after 11. Inside the entrance I give Reid and Nell their swimsuits and send them on their way to the changing room. I head in the opposite direction to drop Coraline and Mara off at the drop-in daycare. Mara is sobbing as I leave.

11:12 I make it to the locker room just in time to get the kid's clothes from them, put my gym bag in a locker, send Reid and Nell to swim class, and then head back to the car for my wallet so I can put some more money on my drop-in account. Mara is still crying when I drop off my receipt. I decide not to care and finally get on the treadmill by 11:25. This gives me at least 30 minutes to walk/run/climb. Perfect.

11:40 I pull out my headphones, because I hear the intercom: "Attention YMCA guests, would Liz please go to the daycare center. Liz, you are needed at the drop-in." I go to retrieve my crying baby after just fifteen minutes of exercise. How am I at this place for more than an hour, with just 15 minutes to myself?!?! Sigh. Fine.

12:15 pm Swimming is over and the kids are all loaded in the van. We can do our grocery shopping now, even though I know Coraline will fall asleep on the car ride there. And she does, even though it is less than a 3 mile drive. I wake her up at Aldi's and all five of us head in to stock up on 11 pounds of fresh produce, an 18 inch pizza, and some baby crackers -- all for just $21! I can't believe this place, why have I not been shopping here all along?

1:15 pm Back at home, the pizza is in the oven and a brocoli, cauliflower, and carrot medley is steaming on the stove. I'm randomly shoving spoonfuls of green beans in Mara's mouth as I keep prepping lunch. The big kid's are in the front room peacefully playing with the duplos.

1:45 pm Mara is now down for her second nap, and the kids and I are all enjoying (a very late) lunch together. I gobble a huge bowl of veggies so I don't have to feel as guilty about all the grease on that yummy pizza. I symbolically pat myself on the back for feeding the kids a balanced hot lunch.

2:15 pm I decide there is no use trying to give Coraline a real nap today. Instead, I let her pick a show, and before you know it all the kids are on the couch enjoying Little Baby Bum nursery rhymes. Ben walks in the door about this time (on his way to Wautoma), and I realize they were settled in to TV when he walked out the door this morning. I swear, this isn't all we do. His drop in is real quick, just enough to grab a snack for the road before he heads to court hearings.

2:45 The TV is off and each of the kids have picked a book for me to read. Just as we are about to start, Coraline whines about "poops" and I see that her diaper has leaked pees (no poops, thankfully) onto my couch (not thankfully). That diaper wasn't even full, and it was on right. So I have no idea how this has happened. But our reading time is shot as I now have to change her clothes and clean the couch instead.

3:00 I give the kids each a cookie and send them outside. I let them know they are not allowed back in until I give them permission (this ends up being about 6:15 pm). I head to the basement to start some laundry and enjoy my sanity snack (the laundry room stinks like kitty litter, by the way (which is odd, cause we don't have a cat). I flush out the sump pump and hope that addresses the problem -- it doesn't).
Oh dark chocolate, how would I survive without you? Time stamp: 3:33
4:30 We've all been playing outside for a while when I check my phone and find a message from Ben. He'll be home later than expected, so now it's up to me to start our FHE hot dog fire. It's about this same time that our neighbor boy arrives home from daycare. I know he'll keep the kids busy for the next half hour before fire time. So I take Mara inside and do a little clean up. You'll notice there really weren't a lot of endless indoor play times -- but they somehow always manage to make a huge mess. Sigh.

5:15 I tell the kids they each have to pick up ten sticks to earn their hot dog. The neighbor boy does the best job at this chore. Eventually, the fire is going and they have each earned their hot dog (this is part of our family culture -- the kids must complete some sort of family job before they earn dinner (the idea was inspired by Nell's and my reading of Little House on the Prairie)).

5:30 Ben gets home and I quickly pass him Mara (who has insisted on riding my hip for at least the past 90 minutes). I can now start cooking the hot dogs. Reid and Nell are in charge of filling up the waters and bringing out the plates. We all settle onto our picnic blanket and enjoy our dinner of hot dogs, baked beans, and green beans. Ben gives us a lesson on Education while the kids enjoy an ice cream treat. To appease Coraline, we all sing "Sunbeam" to close our FHE. It's a perfect, simple family dinner. 

6:15 We go inside and the kids start their baths. 

6:35 The kid's are cleaned up and in their jammies. They begin picking up the front room (I always tell people that if they want to see my house clean, they have to come between the right-before-bedtime clean up and the right-before-wakeup tornado -- that's the only time it's truly clean, but the important thing to note here, is that my house is perfectly clean at least twice each day).

6:43 Ben begins reading their bedtime stories 

7:00 Our guests arrive right on time for our game night. Unfortunately, we still have two more bedtime routine items to complete. Since our friends are our Bishop and his adult son, we figure they won't mind joining us for our Book of Mormon reading and family prayer. 

7:05 Kids are tucked into bed and we adults gather around the table to play Acquire. This all came about because the Bishop's wife, tween, and teen children are in Virginia visiting their adult daughter. We thought it'd be fun to have them over for a game night since things are probably pretty quiet around their house. 

7:20 The rules have been read (it's Ben and I's first time playing), and we are ready to get started. Reid comes out to tell us both his sisters are asleep, but he isn't tired (code for, can I stay up with you please?) Ben sends him back to his room, but I give Ben some sad eyes and before you know it Reid's sitting next to me, helping pick tiles and sort money. We give him until 7:45 to enjoy our company. 

9:10 The game is over. I lost, significantly. Our friends stick around and chat for a bit. It's nice to have adult conversation with others on a weeknight. 

9:40 Our friends are on their way home. 

10:30 I fall asleep for the night. This time I make it almost five hours before I'm interrupted by a crying child. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Three Saturdays in July

Saturday, July 1st was our 11th anniversary. We've kind of turned our anniversary into our Family Birthday. The kids love it, and it's a good excuse to help them reflect on all the effort that is put into building and growing a family.

Last year we celebrated with cake and ice cream, but this year we had a real party. We went to one of the kids' favorite restaurants: China King Buffet. Reid was over the moon excited about eating crawdads. Yuck! Nell loves the fish, and we all love the noodles (especially Saturday at lunchtime when they have their Singapore noodles out!!!). After that we headed over to the library to update our summer reading charts and check out some new books.

We decided to sneak some naps in for the littles before heading off to the pool for our final celebratory act. Reid and Nell were both so excited to show Ben everything they'd learned in their recent swim class. Ben commented that he just couldn't believe how grown up Reid was -- swimming all over without any need for help. He loved showing us how deep he could jump into the lap pool. He also loved going down the slide on this back, so he could pick up as much speed as possible. Even Nell went down the slide all by herself (just once) to show Ben how much she has improved.

Mara might be our biggest fish though. That girl loves to splash herself and can sit calmly in the water for hours at a time. Coraline -- that girl needs to turn 3 soon so she can take some swim lessons! Such a wimp. Even with a life jacket on she insists on being held the entire time.

At about 6:00 we picked up a babysitter and went out for dinner, just Ben and I. We had absolutely nothing exciting planned, but just avoiding bedtime for one night was thrilling enough! Well worth the two hours away and the subsequent pay. I think Family Birthday is quickly becoming one of my favorite traditions.

Saturday, July 8th We met Brian and Jamie Szilagyi family at the beach in Racine, WI. It was such an awesome day! The waves were huge, the sand was perfect, and the cousins were so happy to be reunited.

These pictures are very inadequate at capturing the great time we had. Coraline and Parker loved playing on the beach together. Reid, Allie, and Jackson were little fish that we could never get out of the water (after about two hours I had to drag Reid out, purple lipped and quivering his entire body through). Nell was a little unsure of things, but had a blast each time Ben or I took her out to the sand bar.

The sand bar must be documented. Even without pictures. It was fabulous. It was about 40 yards out from the beach, and the adults could walk to it the entire way. The waves out there were significantly bigger than they were back at the beach, so the kids were in heaven on the sand bar. Reid was fighting those waves like crazy. I mean that literally. He was hitting each wave as it passed. Karate chopping it right in half. At one point we were all out there but Ben and Mara (when we got back to the beach I snapped that napping picture). It was so much fun.

Saturday July 15th was ridiculously busy -- even though we stayed right here in town. We'd planned to go to the Oshkosh Corp parade, but Reid was also invited to several other awesome activities. His friend Livi was hosting a charity lemonade stand and wanted his help, and his friend Ben invited him over for a playdate. It's so rare that he has these kinds of opportunities, so I figured out a way to work everything out.

We woke up and did some basic cleaning before things got too busy. Ben's mom dropped him off at our house so he could come along with us to the parade. The kids played a bit before we loaded up the van. Once we arrived on the parade route, we found a nice spot on the grass under a couple of trees. It was perfect for letting the kids ran around and play a bit while we waited for all the big trucks to come by.

There was certainly a wide variety! Oshkosh Corp (as you can gather from the photos) is a utility vehicle manufacturer. They are probably most known for their large military contracts, but I'm always most impressed with their fire trucks. They were celebrating 100 years of business. I'd say I'm grateful they host such great events for the community -- but I'm also kind of torn over what a waste of tax dollars they are, so ...

Ben (friend) played at our house for about an hour or so after the parade. We all ate lunch, and the the two little girls and Ben (husband and father) all went down for a nap. I took the three big kids over to Livi's lemonade stand to buy some treats. I left Nell there to help out a bit while Reid and I took Ben (friend) back home.

We only helped Livi out for one of the four hours she hosted the stand, but she still let us stick around for the swim party afterwards. I was so impressed. She (and all her helpers) raised almost $500! As word spread, an other $100 donation (from a local business) came in. All the proceeds will be given to a local warming (homeless) shelter. When the shelter found out how successful the event was, they asked to arrange a special event for the kids (and their parents) to come drop off the funds. We are going to miss that, but I'm so proud of these little neighborhood friends we have and the wonderful experience they created.

Coraline napped for more than three hours! So she wasn't at all tired come bed time. Reid and Nell however, had been playing in the pool for almost two of those three hours, so they were wiped out! Once we put them and Mara to bed I took my Lou with me on a little grocery run. She was beaming with joy (and I was too). I love special together time with my little kiddos.

And I also love busy, fun weekends with my entire family. So far, July has been exceptionally good to us!
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