Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Strange Morning (Guest Post by Joey)

Hi everybody, this is Joe. Joey, Joes-Knows, Joseph Daniel, Shnoogumberry, whatever you want to call me. I'm interrupting the regularly scheduled programming about my sleep habits and what we're wearing to church, so I can tell you about the strange morning I've had.

Mama laid me down for my first nap at the regular time. I didn't give her any trouble about it because I was sleepy. Our 12:30 a.m. meeting and my too-early wake-up time will do that to a baby. But someone's got to keep Mama in line, and I'm that guy. So she laid me down, whispered some sweet nothings, patted my bum a few times, and sneaked away like she always does. (She thinks I don't know when she leaves.) I drifted off in my dark room listening to the noise machine.

A while later I woke up angry like I always do and started calling for Mama. I heard quick footsteps and the door opened. Her hands felt a little different when she reached into the pack 'n play, and her voice was a little different too. But it was dark and I was still sleepy, and I didn't think much of it. Then she took me out into the kitchen I got a good look at her and I saw that she was.. NOT THE MAMA!!!

Now, if you don't know the list of people I prefer, and the order in which I prefer them, I will give you the list. Here it is:

Sissies and maybe brother
Grandfathers and uncles
Strange men. Any man will do. Mailman, third cousin twice removed, escaped convict, neighbor, doesn't matter.
Aunties and grandmothers

Strange ladies are not on the list!!

I looked this way and that for Mama, Daddy, sissies .. Where did they go? I've seen this strange lady somewhere. Mama and Daddy like her. I'm OK but I'm not happy. She was saying hi to me and talking about what a nice morning we were going to have together, but I wasn't buying it. I wondered if it would be worth the effort to cry, but decided I should just just keep looking out for Mama instead of squinching up my eyes and crying.

She changed my diaper, then got a bottle out of the fridge and walked with me out the door and down the street. I stared at her really hard the whole way. She took me to another house. Her house? Inside there was a man. I reached out my arms. Oh good, a man! Let me go to him! They both laughed and she handed me to him. He said, "Hey, Buddy." The man will sort out this little misunderstanding and give me back to my mama.

The man showed me his dog, but he didn't let him lick my toes.
The man took me to the garage and showed me his toys.
Don't let her get me.
The man showed me his car and his boat too.
I get to ride shotgun. Where we going?
The man tried to give me my bottle too, and I drank a little bit so they wouldn't fuss over me. I don't care much for bottles or other Mama substitutes.

Then the lady said, "Time to head back home, Joey." She took me from the man and I did not like this. The man said, "Bye, bye, Joey." He waved. I stared and stared at him until the door shut and I couldn't see him anymore. Why couldn't the man bring me home?

I stared at the lady all the way back down the street. I know this place. This is where we wait for the bus. A white van drove up and a man got out. A man! The lady said, "Hi, John." I reached for the man, but the lady kept walking and they both laughed. What is so funny about this?

The lady took me up our stairs and into the front door. Inside there was my mama! Mama, where have you been? Please take me back! Mama took me back with a big smile and I was back where I belonged, on her hip. She and the lady talked about me.

"He slept until 8:40."
"Oh, good."
"I took him to my house, and he loves Jason... Jason's home on leave getting a few things done .. On our way back here we saw John the maintenance man, and he tried to go to John!"

Mama and the lady laughed at this and Mama talked about when we went to Massachusetts and I did not want the ladies to hold me, just the men. These are the rules and they are not funny!!

I really need to keep a better eye on my Mama and make sure she doesn't get any more crazy ideas. That's all I have to say.

Joey out.


Rachael here again. This morning I left Joey with a non-family babysitter for the very first time, so the kids and I could go to the dentist. It was a little bit of a big deal, and I found myself wishing it were possible to give Joey a heads-up, like, "Just so you know, when you get up from your nap, someone else will be there, but it will be OK. I'll be back." But I couldn't because he wouldn't understand. If he had understood, he might not have gone to sleep! Then I got to thinking about what it must be like for a baby when things don't go the way they're supposed to, and nobody consults him when making other plans. He just has to go along. Then Kelley texted me the photos, and I cracked up at the look on his face in all of them and I got the idea for this blog post. Fortunately for us, despite his quirks, Joey is flexible and the morning was a success.

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Sunday Best Episode 5: On My Own

I was on my own this Sunday for the first time with four kids. I took these pictures with Delaney a little while before we left. Ideally, I would have liked to get pictures of all of us: Timmy with his shirt buttoned all lopsided but looking handsome all the same; and the girls in their matching sundresses. But by the time these pictures were taken we had only five minutes left until we had to leave, and Timmy was still searching for his shoes and Annie was sulking because I'd made her change out of her denim shorts and tank top. I told her, "It would be one thing if you had nothing nicer, but you've got so many nice things." Seriously so many. (Sigh.) I know I was the same way when I was a kid. So these pictures with Delaney, Joey and me were the best I could manage.

I was a little bit -- no, a lot -- nervous about Mass on my own with the kids. I asked Delaney to take this picture, but I had just been barking at the kids and issuing warnings about how the rest of the day was going to go if they didn't start listening. As a result, every time I tried to smile my face twitched. So I said, "OK, let me think of a happy thought.." At the moment she snapped this picture I was saying, "Brownies?" (I had plans for baking later.) There, don't I look happy?
My blouse and pants: Old Navy
Sandals: Kohls
Necklace: RubyRoo Baby
Joey's outfit: Baby Boden
Delaney's dress was a gift from her grandma, and I'm not sure where she got it. Annie has one too, and it seems that if one of them puts it on, the other one does too. I love the colors.
At least I had plenty of rest, not that it ever seems to be enough. Joey's doing much better on the sleep front, and last night he slept from 7:30 until 6. 6 is the time I've really been aiming to get him to wake up at since it works best with our weekday routine. Yay!

How did Mass go? No worse than usual. The girls still need to be better at participating. I just remind them from time to time what they ought to be doing, but try not to get too uptight about it. Easier said than done.

Timmy had his usual problems facing front and not talking or trying to play with his brother. And Joey squirmed this way and that the entire time, and it was quite the workout keeping him in my arms. He did bang his head into the pew in front of us and cry for a few seconds, but it wasn't too bad.

We made it! The rest of the hot and humid day went quickly. Joey took a good nap, the kids watched some Star Wars .. Our trip to the pool was a bust because of thunderstorms in the area, so after waiting around for the 'all clear' for a half hour, I gave up and said it was time to go. The kids took it in stride. We brought brownies to the new neighbors across the street, and back home I let the kids have half a brownie before dinner for being such good sports about the pool. We had oven fajitas for dinner and brownie sundaes for dessert once they'd picked up their messes. Then it was time to pack lunches, get breakfasts ready, get the kitchen clean, let them play outside for a bit, and then wind down for bed.

I hope everyone's off to a great start for their week. I've got three kids off to school, one down for a nap, and a cup of coffee. It doesn't get much better than that.

I'm linking up again with Rosie for My Sunday Best.:)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Sunday Best Episode 4: Back to Our Little Chapel

This picture was taken a few hours after Mass, and don't look too closely at it. Apparently I must have swiped my hand across my eye at some point in in the day, and smeared mascara right into one of my crow's feet. I didn't even know it until I looked at this photo, so it's a good thing I didn't go anywhere like that.
Shorts: J.Crew via ThredUp; blouse: Old Navy
I'm getting to where I kind of never want to see my summer clothes again. I want it to be fall, I want to put on sweaters and leggings and LAYERS again. But I'm out of luck because it is hotter than blazes here, and fall weather doesn't come until December (although I usually jump the gun on fall clothes sometime in September). I keep digging through my closet again and again to see if there's anything I missed. When I got back here from Massachusetts a couple weeks ago, I discovered that I had, despite eating an ice cream cone every day, lost the last of the baby weight -- and could now wear these aqua shorts. So I've been wearing them a lot. They fit perfectly, but I don't know if they look right on me. They look crooked, but maybe it's me that's crooked .. But they fit! This morning I paired them with this black blouse that I hadn't worn in forever but had been unwilling to get rid of. I'm so glad I didn't get rid of it because it came in handy, and now I realize I really like it. Black and aqua, can't go wrong with that. (I feel like every other thing I own is some variation of aqua/turquoise/teal/mint, and so be it. I love that color family!)

We're back to our little base chapel again for the second week I think, the dead cockroach is finally gone, and the a/c works -- hooray! The singer moved away, and now it's just the organist playing the music and singing. That hasn't been going well. We think the poor lady can either sing OR play the organ, NOT both at the same time. She can't get it together, and the music has been weird. But she is up there and she is giving it her best, and for that I have profound admiration. If I didn't sound like a dying cat when I sing I might volunteer to help her.

I want to meet the new people I've been seeing, but by the time Mass is over, we are too weary to be sociable on the front steps with everyone else. Wrangling Mr. Squirmypants Joey is a workout, and then there's the constant warnings we have to give to five-year-old Timmy for his less than stellar behavior. He still can't find it within himself to behave for one hour a week at Mass.  As a consequence he had to miss out on Ice Age: Collision Course at the base movie theater this afternoon. Then there's been Tim's bad back this weekend, the heat, and it's 11:30 and we're all hungry for lunch. Maybe next week!

For more My Sunday Best, go to A Blog for my Mom!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Joey: 8 Months

We moved Joey out of our room as soon as we got home from Massachusetts a little over a week ago. For the first few nights he slept like usual -- dream feed at 10, nurse again around 4, and up for the day a couple hours later. I relished not having to tiptoe around our room in the dark and the luxury of reading a book before going to sleep. He had not been a good roommate! But then he went through a regression, which I've read is common at this stage, even without throwing in travel and changes in sleeping arrangements. I've gotten him back on track now, using the Sleep Lady's techniques as I did with the girls. Last night he slept from 8 until 5:30 this morning. Nice! There will probably be some more ups and downs, but I am doggedly determined when it comes to getting older babies to sleep through the night. What a difference a good night of sleep makes for us all. Worth fighting for, and definitely worth losing sleep over (ironically) in the short term.
Now that school's started I've gotten him on a good schedule during the day. He is up at 6 like the rest of us, then down for his morning nap soon after the other kids leave for school. Then he's up in time for us to take part in Stroller Warriors or a playgroup, or whatever else we have planned. He has a second nap after lunch, and then sometimes a third nap. But he's been fighting that one so I don't know for how much longer. Those first two naps are the important thing. And now I never want to be out and about when he's supposed to be napping. I love having him on a schedule and I don't want to do anything to mess it up. Unfortunately, life interferes sometimes.
He's still not interested in solid food, and that's been typical of my babies up to about a year. He eats a few Cheerios while sitting at the table with us, but drops most of them on the floor. He nurses quite a bit. One new development is that he can drink out of a sippy, usually with help and rather messily by himself. It is so nice now to have an alternate way of feeding him. It came in handy on the long drive back here when he was too distracted to nurse during our stops; and I pumped and gave him the milk in a cup to drink while we were on the road.
He learned to clap his hands while we were in Massachusetts, and started to wave too. Sometimes he pats his cheek too, but we don't know why. He has playful and silly moods that we really enjoy. It's hard not to smother him with love. He laid his head on Timmy's lap today when we were sitting on the floor, and he's been known to give open mouth kisses once in awhile. It is so wonderful when the baby we've been loving on for month after month starts to love on us too.
He is obsessed with doors -- opening and closing them, going through them and turning around and coming back through the other way, stopping at the threshold so he's half in and half out.. Endless fascination. He will pause a nursing session just to go play with the door. It's maddening at times, especially if I know he's hungry.

We all dote on him like crazy. The kids miss him so much while they're at school, and they can't wait to get their hands on him when they get home, particularly Annie who's the little mama. I love the way his eyes light up when he sees them. I'm so grateful for this baby boy who brings us so much joy.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Why Are We Such Meanies? {In Defense of Toy Minimalism}

Delaney is holding a tiny stuffed animal in her hands with a plaintive look on her face. "It's only $5. Pleeaase, I'll pay you back." Those big brown eyes pull on anyone's heartstrings. She is still so simple in her likes, just a little child at nine years of age. She has so many stuffed animals, but this one is special. And it's only $5, so what's the big deal? It's so easy to say yes to these kinds of things and so hard to say no, even though our attempts to teach her to prioritize her wants through a weekly allowance have thus far resulted in scenarios like these. What's wrong with letting her have all the things? All the cute, cuddly little things she wants? Better that than the iPad she always talks about saving up for (with the money she can't wait to spend on stuffed animals).

Where do I start with all the reasons I should be a monster and tell her no? This is something that's been on my mind lately and thought I would try to organize my thoughts and share them here. This goes to the heart of what kind of people we are attempting to bring them up to be.

We want them to be grateful. When it comes to the kids, I use the expression "Easy come, easy go" a lot. It is well known that whenever things are easy to come by, you take them for granted. That's why if you give one of our kids a dollar for performing a small chore, we're likely to find it in the couch cushions later. It's the reason why game pieces are scattered to the four corners of the house and not picked up and put away. Gratitude is one of the hardest things to instill in our kids. When you expect things, when they know there will always be more, there's no need to keep track of them or put them in a safe place. They are fortunate enough that they have never had to do without anything, which is great. But somehow we have to try to raise them to be grateful and appreciative.

What are some ways we try to do this? Making sure they say "Thank you." Not giving them the thing they happen to want at the moment. By telling them no, or telling them maybe for Christmas or a birthday; or maybe they can save their allowance and buy it themselves. Delayed gratification. I struggle with this myself on a daily basis. My favorite blogs are always telling me about what clothing item or accessory will complete my wardrobe. There's a skin cream that's going to lift years off my haggard, sleep-deprived face. Anytime I walk through Target or TJ Maxx, I see the displays and think, 'I need that. OK, maybe I don't need it but I could really use it..' It is so hard to not be greedy. I have to walk on by, and I have to let them see me doing that. Even if it's on clearance! Is it a great deal if you have no business buying it in the first place? No, it's not.

We want them to be generous. It is more blessed to give than to receive. This concept comes more readily to some of us than to others. If Annie has a few dollars to spend, she looks for something she can share with Delaney and Timmy. It makes us so proud and we are always sure to tell her so. We want to raise generous kids who will become generous adults. Again it's up to us as parents to set the example. A portion of every paycheck is allotted to the church and to whatever other charities we feel moved to give to. We can always work on being more generous. As Mom always says, "God will never be outdone in generosity." In order to teach our kids generosity, they put some of their allowance into the "giving jar", some in the "saving jar", and the rest is theirs to do with whatever they want. We would love to see our kids who are not as naturally inclined toward generosity to learn the joy that comes from choosing to give.

Saying no to Delaney when she asks to borrow $5 to buy a stuffed animal is not going to help her learn generosity; but saying yes will probably feed into the selfishness that we're trying to discourage.

We want them to learn that having too many things is excessive and wasteful.

That's the best way I know how to put it. Things have gotten a little out of control, and not just in the stuffed animal category. Tim and I are always asking each other, as children of the '70s and '80s, did WE ever have this much stuff? It seems that everywhere we turn, crap is being thrust at our kids. We can't leave a birthday party without a swag bag full of dollar store toys. It might only be a dollar, but it's such a waste of a dollar. It will end up in my trash can or under their beds within hours. After a dental checkup the kids pick little plastic lizards or little guys on motorcycles, to go put in the little bag with their toothbrush, toothpaste and floss. Why? Even their teachers are in on the conspiracy. My kids in primary grades are rewarded for their behavior with a trip to the treasure box at the end of the day/week. Some will say, "That's better than candy that will rot their teeth." But why does the treasure box need to exist? Can't a verbal "Great job!" and note to your mom about what a good student you are be its own reward? What's the point of all this garbage? Why is it necessary to say "Good job!" or "Thanks for coming!" or "Way to sit in a chair while we look at your teeth!" with MORE STUFF?

My kids love it. The girls, especially, like to keep everything they get from everywhere. Their room, without our constant vigilance, quickly becomes full of what can only be characterized as debris. Tim likens them to little birds who are trying to build a nest. We find little bits of stuffing from inside things. Little scraps of paper. Stickers. Strings. Feathers. Fabric. Broken toys. Almost all of it is too big to be sucked up by a vacuum and they don't play with any of it. We don't even know where most of it comes from. When told to clean up, they might pick it up and put it in a basket, but it wouldn't occur to them to just throw it away. They seem to enjoy wallowing in it.

Some would argue that as long as it's in their own space, I should just close the door and not worry about it. But these are not the standards we want to raise them to have. Even nesting birds have a specific place and a purpose for all their little scraps, and that brings me to my next point:

We need order in our lives (and hope they will want it for themselves one day).

We have a bigger than normal family. More of us means more stuff, but it doesn't need to mean too much, and not all over. Everything has a place and everything needs to be in its place. If we have a container for widgets that's full, that means we don't need any more widgets. (And we don't need a bigger container either!)  If I give the girls a cute bin for the corner of the room for the purpose of holding stuffed animals, what does that mean? If it's full, they get no more unless they want to get rid of one or two. It does not mean the overflow goes on their beds and under their beds. If I designate a hanging shoe organizer for all her itty-bitty stuffies, what does that mean? Once all the little compartments are full she doesn't get any more unless she wants to throw away or donate one or two. There IS a such thing as enough. We require our kids to make their beds and keep their rooms picked up and things put away. If you have to clear a path from the door to your bed or to your closet, that is no way to live. While they are under our roof, they will not live that way. I hope they never do. Over the years we've learned that it's more manageable getting them to clean up when they have a minimum of toys and knicknacks.

Again, Tim and I lead by example. A big black trash bag sits outside the door to the garage, and as I'm going about my day, if I see something that we no longer need, that someone else can benefit from, it goes in the bag. I have no qualms about throwing things away if I determine that no one can benefit from them. Once in awhile, Tim has trouble closing his t-shirt drawer and realizes maybe he doesn't need 55 shirts and he can part with a few. I might decide a cute pair of sandals I wore in 2005 is probably not coming back, but if it does, I still don't need it. Maybe I'll scrutinize a piece of decor that I've been saving for the right house, and realize that I really don't like it anymore. We fill up one bag a month, I'd estimate.

Tim and I come under fire from time to time for the infamous appliance box full of toys and stuffed animals that got "lost in the move." Here's what happened: Once we'd unpacked most of the house and saw how much we already had, and how much the kids already had, we did not want to open this box. This box contained almost all the stuff that was in the kids' playroom in NC. We have no dedicated playroom here. We let it sit in the garage for a couple weeks while we deliberated. Finally, before either of us could open the box and change our minds, Tim put it in the back of his truck and took it to the Salvation Army. The kids asked about that box for awhile and I admit to feeling a little guilty. But do I regret that these things are not filling up every corner of the kids' rooms when it's already so hard to get them to clean up? Nope.

We want them to be responsible with money. 

As I already mentioned, they divide their allowance into savings, giving and spending. They earn their allowance by performing a few specific chores a week and just being helpful in general. When Tim sits them down to give them their allowance he asks them how much of the determined amount THEY think they've earned, and lots of hemming and hawing follows. Sometimes their allowance is docked, or maybe some of what would have been allocated for spending is put into giving based on the conclusion they come to about their performance in a given week. (This is all Tim by the way; I have no energy for this.)

Tim is a financial expert. Unlike me he is a born saver. Pre-Tim I was never in debt, but I was never goal-oriented in my saving and investing the way he is and pretty much always was. It took me a little while to come around to his way of doing things (i.e., recording our spending by category into Quicken and not spending in a way that hurts our longterm goals.) Before we merged our finances, I was lazy and shortsighted when it came to money. I wasn't bouncing any checks or carrying any credit card debt, and I figured that was good enough. But now I get it. We have to be managing his income, we have to know where it all goes, and we have to save for our future and our kids'.

Tim is trying to pass his ways onto them, but not with a whole lot of success. In a moment of weakness recently, I gave in to Delaney's request to borrow, but we've since decided her borrowing days are over. I hope that if we keep modeling responsibility with money, and keep enforcing our rules, eventually they will learn.

In conclusion..

I hope it's clear by now to my handful of dear readers that our intent is not to be mean parents or to turn our house into a boot camp. To be honest, I don't always know if we're doing the right thing. I'm nagged by guilt and worry sometimes. If Delaney winds up on an episode of Hoarders, it's going to be because of us. I hesitate to use the term "minimalist" because a quick Google of minimalism will tell you we're nowhere near that extreme; but I've heard people describe us using that term. Honestly, I can proudly own whatever degree of minimalism we embrace. But our ways have drawn criticism from family members, and some of it is probably deserved. Here we are trying to teach our children gratitude, but we must seem very ungrateful ourselves at times as we continuously purge our home of things, many of which were gifts from loved ones at one time or another. I have made, and will continue to make every effort to ensure our kids have space to keep the things they use, enjoy and cherish no matter how much we need to downsize at our next duty station (more on that later). And I never want to be a grinch when it comes to birthdays or Christmas.* I love watching them open presents, and am not just scheming about how quickly I can make them disappear.

How well do we uphold our lofty standards? Not always well. I fail time and time again. I've said yes to Delaney more times than I want to admit, and maybe told her no when I shouldn't have. Maybe I've gotten rid of some things that I shouldn't have, in moments of frustration (but nobody misses them). If you were to walk into my house right now, you would not see only clear, shiny surfaces and everything put away. Far from it. We're not perfect in this or in any area of life. We just do the best we can, and praise God these are the kind of problems we have and not how are we going to pay the bills or put food on the table.

It feels good to get that off my chest! Happy Sunday and New School Year Eve.

* I brought up the idea to Tim that maybe the next time we do a big birthday party for any of the kids, we can do a book swap like one of my friends in North Carolina did; or perhaps pick a charity for guests to donate to in lieu of gifts. But I would want the kids on board with that idea, and not force them to.

Friday, August 12, 2016

20 Questions for Timmy at Age 5

1. Who is your favorite person in the world? You.

2. What is your favorite color? Dark blue.

3. What is your favorite show? Paw Patrol.
4. What is your favorite outfit? Um.. My jet shirt. What else? My black running pants.

5. What is your favorite sport? Basketball.

6. What is your favorite song? Cruise (by Florida Georgia Line)
7. What is your favorite cereal? Dinosaur oatmeal.

8. Who is your best friend? Riley.

9. What do you want to be when you grow up? A military policeman. Don't pull me over and search my car with dogs, OK? I'm gonna search you..
10. What is your favorite book? The Paw Patrol library book.

11. What are you really good at? Basketball.

12. Where do you wish you could go on vacation? New York City.
13. What is your best memory? The cruise with Grandma and Grandpa.

14. What would you buy if you had a thousand dollars? You know, a big box of cars.

15. What is your favorite vegetable? Apples.
16. If you could have a wish, what would it be? To go to Disneyland.

17. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Monster mint.

18. Who is your biggest hero? Daddy.
19. What do you like to do with your friends? Play soccer.

20. What do you hope to do before your next birthday? I don't really know.