Sunday, April 9, 2017

New Territory

On Monday, we had planned to walk to the park but were derailed by some unexpected snow (OK, unexpected because I hadn't paid any attention to the weather forecast and just expected MOTS) and gusty wind that made the expedition not very Kaleb-friendly, despite my attempts to shelter him in the stroller. So instead, we took a walk around the block to give Oliver and Max a chance to realize that adjusting our plans would be wise. They decided it would be plenty of fun to build a snowman in the yard. the Montana winter was not wasted on these little boys--they showed their independent snowman building skills as they rolled those snowballs across the yard and successfully enjoyed the snowball effect in the wet spring snow.
Oliver rolled that middle section all by himself. But he had a hard time getting the ball up there because it just kept collapsing every time he grabbed and lifted with those short little arms. After rerolling the midsection a couple times, he was willing to have my help in placing it atop the bottom snowball.

In the sun he melted, melted, melted, by the end of the day, but he was fun while he lasted. We enjoyed milder Montana spring days for most of the week. Friday the wind got so crazy gusty it was reminding me of contact adventures in Blackleaf Canyon with Melayna.

Saturday we decided to drive 80 miles northeast to support Xander in his first track meet in Cut Bank. (His first track meet would have been last Saturday, conveniently at the home track, but Xander chose to participate in General Conference instead of track or going to a big scout Merit Badge college that day. I could see the track meet going on out my bedroom window as I changed diapers during conference.) Not even Aaron had been to that exact bit of Montana, and we enjoyed exploring new territory, even if it was even windier up there and felt a bit like a test of endurance at times.

Watching a kid in a track meet was also new territory. It's not at all like watching him play hockey or basketball or even tennis, because there are all these different events going on at the same time, and you're constantly asking, "where is Xander?" and looking at this approximate schedule and trying to figure out where they're doing the mini-javelin throwing or triple jump. We had the most fun cheering for him in the 100 meter dash. I think Xander was kinda confused by the whole experience, too, with no coach telling him when to be where. They don't baby these big kids anymore. It was a good out-of-your comfort zone kind of junior high experience for him at times, but he enjoyed it and we were really proud of him for stepping up. We convinced him to come home with us rather than on the Bulldog Bus with the promise of letting him pick any fast food restaurant in Cut Bank, since Choteau has no fast food restaurants unless you count the gas station. I was pretty pleased when he picked Subway over McDonald's or Pizza Hut. We took it to the park for Oliver's benefit--that kid cannot get enough of the great outdoors. When Xander showed Dad how his toe was popping out of his running shoes, Dad suggested taking a significant detour to Great Falls, especially since Elodie hadn't had any luck in finding a suitable Wax Museum costume in Choteau and the deadline was approaching. After a couple thrift stores and just one store in the mall, everyone had what they needed and we hauled a very tired gang back home, arriving just after 7:00! It was a busy but blessed day all together as a family.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Moving Day(s)

We awoke St. Patrick's Day morning feeling lucky, so after some green smoothie and green yogurt-topped pancakes, we herded the older kids off to school and brought the three little boys to the Choteau Title Office, where we signed our names about a 100 times, handed over a fat check, and POOF, became real homeowners again!

We dropped those little boys off at my generous friend's house and started moving in right away. With a huge tarp placed oh-so-carefully atop the livestock residue in another generous friend's horse-trailer, Aaron got right to work and had all of the couches moved over in record time, with just a little physical help from me (and a kind passing stranger) and a lot of really helpful advice from me. I have good ideas. Though some unnamed individual may feel my ideas and communication of said ideas just slow him down when he's in his impressive get-'er-done zone.

Soon the extremely generous J&C Stott family arrived and we really started to get 'er done. I feel such a debt of gratidude to them; they sacrificed their whole weekend for us--all day Friday and all day Saturday--despite it being their daughter's 17th birthday on the 17th in 2017 and everything. After school, their older kids came over and helped, too. Since Kaleb had spent most of the morning screaming at my friend's house, I was so grateful that their dear birthday girl had the touch with Kaleb! She was such a blessing to me!

Speaking of after school, that was probably the craziest part of the day. Xander came home to the old house, and was under the impression that his sisters were right behind him. But they weren't. I waited and wondered. And called. But Aaron, being in get-er-done mode, wasn't answering his phone to let me know if they had come home to the new house. When there was still no sign of them and it was nearly time for Elodie to go to piano lessons, I hopped on my bike and zoomed the five blocks to the new house, where I found both girls' bikes and eventually the girls themselves. With all the back and forth we were doing with loads of stuff, this scenario played out several times. Having two homes may seem luxurious, but when they are within easy walking distance even for young children, it gets very confusing very quickly! When the generous horse-trailer loaning friend dropped pizzas off at the old house for dinner, we rounded everyone up at that house and headed over to the new house, which required some people walking on foot and being carried in arms since car seats and strollers were at the other house, and others driving to get another load of stuff over. But by the time we got to the new house, Aaron and the guys had already left to get another load from the old house; I think it took an hour to get everyone gathered for dinner! Hectic!

As we finally sat and stood on the back deck of our NEW HOUSE eating pizza, I was quite impressed with everything we had already accomplished--most of my kitchen stuff was not only moved, but also put away and organized in its new and improved cabinetry.

Aaron even managed find enough energy past bedtime to get mattresses in place to satisfy everyone's wish of sleeping in the new house that very night! And, miraculously, Oliver did an amazing job of staying in his new big boy bed for the first night ever. Lots of change and he handled it without a bump. (Saturday night was a different story. In our exhaustion of trying to finish up a few last things to get the house ready for Sunday, I got to tuck the little cutie in 5 times and Aaron 3. I guess we both needed a little test of patience that night. I actually had to excuse myself at one point when I had gotten so desperate I was begging. I told Oliver I'd be right back, I just needed to go upstairs to eat some dinner--it was 9ish and I'd only had a few canned mandarin orange slices that I'd found in the old house fridge around dinner time--to help refuel my patience.)

This was my biggest St. Patrick's day surprise.
Green. Bright green. My master bedroom has two vibrant green walls. the shocking part was not as much their color as the fact that I did not notice this color the 3 times I had come and looked at the house! How could I miss such a not subtle color?? I just thought the whole room was this fun, pretty shade of blue.
Apparently, I am not the most observant kid on the block. But I think I'll learn to like the vibrant colors. (I'm definitely not the most eager-to-paint kid on the block. Y'all can have your HGTV reno plans and projects, I'm just happy to have a move-in ready house at this busy stage of life!)
Today, I was just so thankful for some generous friends who had invited us over to their house for a delicious dinner and pleasant company! It was a peaceful, rejuvenating way to spend the Sabbath!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Count down to close

I truly am grateful that we found this little rental house in Choteau when we needed it. Really, I am. It is conveniently located and has technically fit all of us and all of our stuff, which no other rental we saw could have done. Yet, I admit, I am eager to move on. Many of you reading this may have come to take certain luxuries for granted. Perhaps soon, I'll forget they are luxuries and be tempted to take them for granted as well. So now I document them lest I forget.

When I stand in front of a sinkful of old dirty dishes, or find myself trying to cheerfully motivate a child to face the mountain of dishes, or attempt to wash dishes with a baby on the hip, or even look at a "clean" kitchen with a huge heap of clean dishes spilling out of the dish drainer and across the counter to dry, I get so excited about having a dishwasher again!

When I step on the sharks and boats in the bathtub as I shower, I get so exciting for having a master bathroom all to ourselves, with our very own shower! Talk about luxury!

When I am vigilantly following Oliver around the front yard (since the back yard is barely existent) to keep him out of the puddles just off the sidewalk in the busy highway, I am so excited for a fenced yard on a quiet street at the edge of town.

When I trudge out into the snow, back and forth between the house and the car with the little boys and the groceries, I get so excited for the ease of an attached garage!

When we're all sitting at the dinner table and I realize I forgot the salad dressing, so I ask Hazel and Max to move so I can open the fridge, or Elodie literally climbs over Oliver to get to the sink to get herself some water, or we invite company over and squeeze them around the table, I get so excited to have plenty of space for our family and friends to not only fit around the kitchen table, but to comfortably get in and out of our seats.

When Xander is getting upset with a younger brother, AGAIN, for destroying some irresistibly amazing Lego creation while he was at school, I get so excited for Xander to have his own bedroom, with an actual door!

When Kaleb wakes up in the middle of the night and I really think he doesn't need to eat, and would probably just fall back asleep if I let him fuss for a few minutes, but then one of his dear roommates, Hazel or Elodie, comes in to beg me to just please get him and feed him so they can SLEEP, I am grateful that in the new house, he can sleep in the office and have his "own room" with a door!

When I trip over coats, backpacks, and shoes as I'm trying to walk downstairs to the basement, or hear Max ask me why I put his boots in the freezing room again (our truly arctic entryway), I get so excited for a spacious, heated mudroom!

When I wedge myself into the little closet-sized laundry room to stuff the clothes into the dryer, I get so excited for a beautiful, custom, well-designed laundry room.

When I walk into my bedroom and it's covered with a heap of partially folded laundry, again, I get so excited for the simple laundry basket shelf in the new house that will help me to prevent the mountain from ever forming in the master bedroom.

When I bump into the exercise bike squeezed into our bedroom, I get so excited for the basement family room with ample room for a little spin bike.

Needless to say, I'm counting down the days. Five. Yes, 5 days until closing and moving day!

Friday, March 10, 2017

7 is 7

My 7th baby is 7 months old! And he happens to weigh 17 lbs 7 oz.

He is a delightful baby who uses his charm to get plenty of attention. There phrases are oft repeated in our home: "He is just so cute! Kaleb is such a sweetie! He is adorable! Ah, look at Kaleb, he is so CUTE! Listen to how I can make him laugh!"

Just in the last week, he learned how to intentionally, frequently roll over. Fun and exciting, but sad to say goodbye to the stays-where-you-put-him phase. He can now roll himself right into trouble, bumping his sweet head on furniture and getting stuck in awkward places. He can sit up for brief periods of time all by his growing self, but he quickly tips over. Soon he'll master that milestone too and really earn the title of independent sitter.

As far as sleeping goes, I'll just say that I had a lot more success with wise sleep principles back when the baby had the luxury of having his own room and there was no crying domino effect. Those nights when he does sleep all the way through, I am amazed by how refreshed I feel in the morning! When I've been pacing the dark house and catch myself wondering, "why won't you just sleep?!" I snuggle his darling little body and feel a surge of gratitude, peace, refreshment, and love. Such tender moments.

What a precious stage.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Spice of Life

Kaleb loved the Thai Curry. 
Max, Oliver, and even Hazel thought it was too spicy--it is a real Thai import after all. Yet Kaleb lapped it up. Atta boy, Kaleb. Way to make your mama proud.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dear, Delightful Daughter

Thanks to our sweet little kindergartner, Hazel, Family Home Evening was an absolute delight this week. She loves to write and do projects and plan ahead and make up games and be in charge. She had a simple assignment, scripture, which most of us just kind of look up and read last minute when it's our turn. But she remembered that responsibility as soon as she woke up Monday morning and asked for helping in looking up the primary scripture of the month, with paper and pen in hand, ready to copy the verse down. To help us memorize it, she recopied the whole verse onto her white board easel.

Then she gave each of us a turn to erase a word or two, lavishing us with not only verbal words of encouragement and praise for erasing well-done, but also presenting each of us with a badge that she had made beforehand. I had no idea that she had put all of this preparation into it, and she was just so delighted to see it all come together as she carried it out and the whole family actually followed her every direction. These little reward "stickers" were cut, pasted, and even had little rolled up masking tape bits all prepared on the backs, with messages like, "Good Good" and "Good Jobe Good." Dad thought the badges were best displayed on the forehead, and that stuck (pun intended), so we were all reciting Mosiah 2:22 with little paper words of affirmation taped to our foreheads. Sweet moments!

Last week when we went on a walk through the spring-melt puddles, Hazel was super lucky and found a whole dollar on the sidewalk! I asked her if she thought we could find out who it belonged to, and since we couldn't think of a way, I told her she could keep it. Later, I found this heavily-taped, homemade, handwritten envelope that said, "To: Mom and Dad." When she presented it to me, I discovered her dollar and all of Max's money in it (a quarter and a nickel). I humbly asked why they were giving all of their money to me, and they said it was to help buy our new house because they knew it cost a lot of money. I was so touched by their generosity and selfless examples! It is truly no wonder that Jesus taught that we must become as little children to enter his kingdom.

Hazel and Max are best buddies. Watching them play and giggle together just melts my heart. When Hazel was not feeling very excited about going to the Saturday morning basketball skills session for K-2 kiddos at the school, remembering how she had gotten hit in the head with the ball twice at the last session and not made a single basket, I was at a loss for how to inspire her to try. I mentioned to her that next year, Max will be able to go with her and maybe she would be able to show him how to dribble, jump stop, and shoot. She perked up at that thought, cheerfully got ready to go, and did her best the whole time. I'm excited for them that they get to have lunch and recess together at school next year--one of the benefits of a little rural school!

I loved a tiny little note that Hazel gave Max last week. It was two tiny little hearts, decorated with marker and fastened together with excessive amounts of tape, naturally. Written on the back, it said, "To: Max, my BFF From: Hazel." That's all. But did she need to say anything else? These two interact so beautifully together these days, whether Hazel is reading him books,

playing with paper dolls (made by their talented cousins),

or playing dinosaurs, legos, sharks, or some imaginative princess-superhero combo "game." They are oodles of fun at this stage and so I'm treasuring it while it lasts!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Five in Line's Gotta Fight for What's "Mine!"

Oliver loves the kitchen step stool. He is quite convinced that it is HIS stool, one that he occasionally let's his short mom take a turn on to reach the top shelves in the cabinets. IF she asks nicely. That little stool gives him freedom, the ability to be involved in what's going on and to take care of his own needs--how he wants it, when he wants it. It's an independent toddler's dream. Especially for a toddler who seems to dream of becoming a chef. (And hearing a 2-year-old correctly identify that I "need. a spatuwa" when I put a tortilla on the cast iron pan is nearly cuter than I can bear.)

The other day, Oliver pulled the stool to counter, reached my cup, moved the stool to the sink, turned on the faucet, filled the cup with water, climbed down, and put his drink on the stool. Xander walked by, saw the water, and casually took a drink, unaware of who had filled the cup. Oliver told him who was boss, "No! Go take a nap!" He worked hard for that water! It was HIS! A boy's gotta defend his turf with so many siblings around!

Unfortunately for me and Max, shouting hilarious toddlerisms is not always enough in said turf-defending. Oliver and Max now love the same toys--sharks, trucks, Legos, dinosaurs, airplanes, superheroes, you-name-it--and frequently NEED the exact same one at the exact same time. When emotions were running high a couple weeks ago, Oliver began turning to the teeth, repeatedly, and that was not such a good arrangement for Max. So I figured I'd give him a "use your words" tool for when he was feeling threatened by an insistent Max who was grabbing or otherwise trying to wrangle a toy from his little brother's grasp: a nice, firm "Back off, buddy!" About a week ago, I was happy when Oliver started to shout that at Max rather than going straight for the bite. "Back off. Buddy!" We've held "back off" practice games where we take turns saying, "back off, buddy!" and scooting back and admiring just how far back they scooted, giving so much space to that brother! Wow! I was almost feeling like maybe this was working when Oliver turned it on me and started shouting, "Back off, buddy!" whenever I approach to change a diaper or insist on some other unpleasant task that he is simply not in the mood for. Hmmm. It is so lucky for both of us that he is so crazy cute when he says it!