13 October, 2009

new venture

I decided to take a small step towards a new business this month. Check out my new website--Motherland Photography. I've been a hobby photographer since my teen years and I'm excited to step out into something visual as a foil to my work with words. I'm starting with families and kids, but I have a couple of family weddings booked next summer so I'll see how that goes too.

First month of school

It's been a month and a half of kindergarten and Bridger loves it. Yesterday he was too sick to go, but he still got all dressed, in coat and hat and backpack and cried while the bus went past our house. I'm glad he likes school, though I'm constantly second-guessing what the right thing is to do for him (and all my kids for that matter).

I had always thought I would try homeschooling, but Bridger and I tend to clash a little and he is so extremely social that I don't want him to wither. But this very social behavior can be troubling for me as I see our family influence getting smaller. Not only is he gone for 8 hours a day, but when he returns, he's got 1-5 friends coming over to our house to play with. At dinnertime, both the boys get upset if no one is coming over for dinner ("ow, just us tonight"). Mom is totally chopped liver, no matter what I'm serving.

Then there's academics. I can't help but think he could be learning more. That is the one place he's complained ("mom, I already know everything). I've instituted a little home-homework, since he was dying for it anyway and I'm volunteering in the class to get a better feel for what's happening.

There's been some new vocabulary and drawings learned (some quite anatomically correct), though that has prompted some really good conversations.

All in all, I know that kindergarten was a good choice for Bridger this year. Doesn't mean public school will always be our choice, but this is where we are now and we are going to embrace the moment.

01 September, 2009


Today I wanted to post a sweet, cute vignette about the first day of school complete with smiling pictures of my adorable kids. That will have to be tomorrow's post...

After I picked up Asher from preschool today, I decided to head to Costco for a few things and get the two kids (Bridger was still at school) some pizza and an ice cream to celebrate. Shopping at that time of day is always pushing it and by the time we got our lunch, the kids were starving. I got one large twist ice cream for the kids to split for dessert (two cups). Everything was going great until I needed to get one more spoonful from Asher's cup to Eilidh's (she didn't get a full half, obviously).

Asher proceeded to whine about this spoonful. He was not content with his over-half-full cup, he wanted it all. So, I took it away from him. This lead to an all-out screaming fit. I mean screaming and stomping all the way out the door (especially as I threw away his ice cream cup).

On the way to the car, a woman, who perhaps had never had children or had certainly forgotten what it is like to have very small ones, heard him screaming and proceeded to instruct me to and "use discipline, honey." Then while she walked away, commented loudly to anyone who would listen that my child "obviously had never been disciplined a day in his life."

This is not the first time I've had a comment about my kids' temper tantrums in public. Bridger threw some good ones in his threes and Asher's not to be outdone in the category either. But what these busybody folks fail to realize while they witness the fit is the that the tantrum is the RESULT of discipline. If I wanted to be a pushover and keep Asher quiet, I simply would have shushed him and let him keep his ice cream. But he needs to learn to be thankful for his half of the cup and to share with his sister. NOT disciplining would have made my trip to Costco much easier. Moreover, Asher was going to get more of that said discipline once we got to the car, but I thought it prudent to wait until then since I was balancing grocery bags in one hand and a 17-month-old in the other who was dripping her half of the smoothie onto her dress. That lady's lucky I didn't have a hand free for a crossover jab.

The real question is why, when I know I did the right thing, does this bother me so much? It's embarrassing, of course, but there's more than that. Maybe I'm more like my son than I'd like to admit--I haven't yet learned to be happy with my over-half-full ice cream cup. I want it all. You see, I'm happy to take the (many more) compliments I receive about my kids' behavior, but utterly invalidated when a random stranger thinks I'm a bad mom. I like to take the credit, but none of the blame. And my identity is way too tied up in what people think of how my kids' behave, how I mother, how that all reflects on me.

Today, I am going to take some time to remind myself that my identity does not come from how I perform, but from Christ who performed for me (and my kids).

I guess I needed a lesson on the first day of school too.

20 August, 2009

Easy rider

There is nothing more quintessentially "kid" than riding bikes--freedom at such a young age to go fast and far, coasting with the wind in your hair.

We had high hopes of Bridger jumping on his (big) two-wheeler this summer without training wheels and whizzing down the bike path with us. That dream was quickly replaced with kicking and screaming if we even suggested riding without the training wheels--in fact he took to riding Asher's tricycle it was so bad. In all fairness, we did buy a high bike (thinking it would be a good value because he could have it for awhile). His feet couldn't touch the ground from the seat and if he jumped off the seat...well, you know how boys bikes are configured.On the recommendation of some friends, we decided to try a balance bike--European inventions where there are no pedals and kids run with the bike, learn the balance of riding and never need training wheels. Since the bike was such a sore spot with Bridger (and because I didn't want to repeat my training wheels debacle with Asher) we decided to get him the balance bike (via grandma and grandpa) for his third birthday in June. All of the sudden, this bicycle stuff was fun again and after about a week of Bridger playing on Asher's bike (and a few fights about sharing), he jumped on a slightly smaller-framed two-wheeler from the neighbor and hasn't looked back. Asher can already coast with his feet up for half a block so I have no doubt he'll be on a two-wheeler next year.

Soon, I'll be seeing a lot of that back shot of the boys pedaling away into the world. Although the thought sticks in my throat, I think I'll enjoy their freedom and a bit of my own!

11 August, 2009

Picture people

Bridger: 5 1/2--easiest to pose, hardest to get a true smile.

Asher: 3--enjoys being cute, but can't sit in one place for long

Eilidh: 16months--easiest to get candids, impossible to pose

I like pictures--I take a lot, I'm into photography, our walls are covered with this "art" featuring mostly our kids. I also took the idea of milestone pictures very seriously--3mo, 6mo, 1yr, 2yr--it seemed I was always traipsing to some photo studio in a department store. I couldn't really afford to go to a fabulous photographer, but somehow I just felt like the studio atmosphere would force my kids to at least get one good shot. The last two years have been the worst--trying to get three kids to smile together and separately is a nightmare. Ryan finally kicked some sense into me last fall after a particularly harrowing "studio" experience where he used up his entire day off to fight with the kids then walk the mall with them while I had to endure a hard-sell presentation to spend something like $500 on pictures that weren't all that good to begin with. He said, "why don't you just take their pictures?" and then, the key phrase, "I'll help you"

You see, usually picture day (notoriously Christmas card picture day) is when our marital strife is at its peak. In fact, Ryan is typically the hardest one to convince to even get the camera out so if he was willing to help...maybe this could work.

Ryan made good on his word and we took an evening this July to take some shots of the kids. It wasn't easy and I still don't have one of three of them together that I like, but overall it was a much nicer experience. And it yielded better pictures.

21 July, 2009

Joshua's 4th birthday memories

Today would have been Joshua Ryan's 4th birthday and we wanted to make the day special for those of us in the family who still inhabit this earth. We've done something different every year, but we always make it a strictly family day. This year since we just got back from vacation last night, we decided to keep it around home. Our morning began with cinnamon rolls (what Bridger thought Joshua would like). Then we spent most of the day making mosaic stepping stones--one for each child and a special one for Joshua with everyone contributing. If you can tell in the photo, Bridger made Joshua's body, Ryan made a sun and a flowing river, Asher just sort of made a picture and I made a tree.
We made a birdbath and painted some rocks to adorn the garden and a few to take to his grave. This afternoon we started a new tradition of shopping for some gifts Joshua might like if he was 4 years old and then taking them to the local children's shelter. Tonight we'll flip through his baby book and photo album.I'm looking forward to seeing his stepping stone in the garden for years to come--amongst the growing and dying life in its seasons.

09 July, 2009

Live-in Workman

Our house has been in an almost constant state of minor redo since we moved in almost three years ago. Paint, chair rails, windows, etc etc. But recently it seems we've had big projects--like the entire basement to tackle. Enter Super-Husband. I am continually amazed at all that Ryan knows how to do around the house--granted sometimes he learns on the fly (I'll not mention the water-heater incident that made the new basement a necessity). Part of the reason is I grew up with a fabulous dad who can be described as many things...handy is not one of them. Dad could wield a hammer and follow directions, but he truly tried to avoid household projects at all costs.Ryan really likes working with his hands--and he's good at it. Sometimes even too much of a perfectionist and I have to remind him that no one's going to notice the mudding job in the back of a closet. He's redone every room in the basement (sometimes with some incredible help from family and friends), but truly mostly on his own on his one day off a week (pastor's don't get real weekends). A few months ago he finally finished the last room of the basement, which is now his office (see the before and after above), and then not two weeks later started another huge overhaul outside building a new fence. As you can see, our previous one was rotting and falling down. Again, we received some awesome help, which we could not have lived without (especially while using the auger!) but Ryan's put some major sweat into the finished product, which was completed tonight.
I'm hoping he can take a rest now from some of these big projects, though I do have a few cupboards that need painting...

29 June, 2009

Asher hits the big 0-3

That's right, my blond little guy turned three, and boy was he excited for his birthday. He started to really notice birthdays on Bridger's last, which was in November. Then he had to wait through Daddy's, Mommy's and Eilidh's before it was finally his turn.
Asher is in many ways still the baby of the family, or at least he would like to think he is. In classic middle child fashion, he plays big when he wants to and throws in the little card when it suits his agenda. I know that I've coddled him more than Bridger, and he also enjoys the coddling so it is a hard habit to break. The other day he walked all the way over from the neighbor's raspberry patch with his pants around his ankles because he had peed in the bushes and then claimed he didn't know how to pull his underwear back up. He nearly caused an accident by the hysterics that were induced from the drivers-by. He knows how to pull up his pants, he just wants someone else to do it. Of course, there are things he truly can't do by himself (like lace up his hiking boots) that he will vehemently fight to do independently--I guess he's a typical preschooler.He's the joker of the family and has Eilidh in stitches in no time flat. He's also the biggest cuddler of them all--you can always count on Asher for a great snuggle.

We celebrated with a dinosaur cake and many friends at a nearby park with a screamin' splash deck. I love summer birthdays.

24 June, 2009

I don't think I fully realized when we bought this house how much random maintenance there would be. I mean, it took me a good year to figure out how to routinely clean, not to mention pick up clutter and take care of the yard (and various plants and gardens I put in every year). And we have a small house--with only two small bathrooms (my least favorite area to clean)! Last month alone we had the chimney sweeped, the plumbing flushed, the trees trimmed and the carpets cleaned. Granted, most of those items will last us several years, but geez it was an expensive month!

I really find myself hoping that we can make this small house work for the long haul. Most of the time I think we can, but this weekend when Asher crying during naptime threatened to wake everyone in the house while we were recovering from the stomach flu, I start to wonder if we couldn't use a little more space. Occasional inconveniences aside, we love our house. I love that the boys share a small room--they're never scared and they have to learn how to share space. Every time we redo a room or plant a perennial bed I put a little piece of me here (literally--at least a broken fingernail) and I always get the twinge of feeling like we're going to get it just how we like it and then have to move--either because we're called elsewhere or we just plain outgrow the house.

I suppose we could learn to love another house, but please not one with too many bathrooms.

13 May, 2009

The mom with the yellow hat

This is how these things happen. We're having a party, it's 11pm and we're trying to wrangle the remaining kids into bed. Asher and two little girls were attempting to go to sleep along in a bed with a toddler in a portacrib beneath them. Needless to say, not much settling down was occurring. Soon we heard some coughing and screaming and Asher seemed to be gagging. I assumed he had too many doritos and we headed to the bathroom. He stopped coughing quickly and then explained that he had swallowed a hair thing. We looked around because I assumed it was a rubber band, but we found both of those. Only one of the 2-inch barrettes was missing.

It took me awhile to figure out what to do. I mean, there are many factors at play here--maybe he's making up a story, after all it is 11:30pm and getting any info out of 2-3 year-olds usually results in nonesense. Let me say that again, it's 11:30 at night--what kind of mother am I to have my kid up that late and apparently so hungry he resorted to eating sparkly metal? There was also the copious amount of margaritas (for me, not Asher: I'm not that bad of a mother). Eventually after some phone calls, I decided to bring him to the ER (it's about 1am by now). Sure enough--the barrette's in his belly (pic 1). The next day, it's in his intestine (pic 2). Good news because it passed all the really small parts and now just has to weave its way through the bowel and on out--"but let us know if he vomits blood or his belly becomes distended and he'll be rushed to surgery." Great.

Thankfully, he ate, drank and pooped to his little heart's content and, though we were diligently searching for its passing, the barrette remained illusive. Today's x-rays confirm that it is gone, though, so I don't care where it went. We also went to the bookstore and bought "Curious George goes to the Hospital" because I remembered an image from when I was a kid of George's x-ray with a puzzle piece inside his stomach. Asher got a kick out of this comraderie. In fact, he's enjoyed all the attention. Hopefully the surgery threats and prune juice will be enough to deter him from doing it again.

After Ryan's kidney stones last month, I have really spent enough time in the ER this year and don't even talk to me about our deductibles.

It is a good story, though--even worthy of Curious George.

02 May, 2009

Weekly goals

After several woeful attempts at homeschool preschool this year, I finally settled on something that works for us. My failed attempt this fall was to set up a little schedule with small amounts of time loosely devoted to different things I wanted to teach the kids. I put together six weeks worth of prep sheets, but after all my those were done, I could never find time to do more. Keep in mind--I need prep sheets. I don't do well just throwing things together and my kids can sense my fluster a mile away. If I'm not sure what activity we're doing, things are bound to denegrate into fits followed by Scooby-Doo episodes. (Bridger told me he can learn about mythological creatures by watching Scooby-doo--see what I'm up against?).

I can't be too hard on myself because I took a full-time stint back at my Philly job (from home, obviously) September through February and have been taking other freelance work since. This is also why I finally caved and started the boys in preschool in March. But back to my original premise--something that's working.

Instead of having daily work that I can't really quantify, I started thinking of two or three weekly goals for both the boys. They vary from Bridger learning to tie his shoes and Asher learning to put on his clothes to Bridger counting by 5's and Asher learning to spell his name. We work on mainly those goals each day of the week--sometimes they are really difficult (I admit the tying shoes one is still ongoing) and sometimes they are mastered within a day. Once they feel confident with their knowledge, they complete their goal for Ryan. If he is satisfied, the boys recieve "kid cash" for each of their accomplishments which they can use to buy an extra dessert or tv show.

I'm really excited about this because I feel like it could be something I continue through school to enrich their education. After many hours of thought and prayer, we will be sending Bridger to public FULL day kindergarten next year. Academics isn't the only thing I'm concerned about, but I hope this tradition can continue. Mostly it depends on me continuing to think up interesting goals--and the kids caring enough about Scooby-doo episodes to save up their kid cash.

What's up?

So my blogging has taken a bit of a hiatus lately. I apologize to anyone who actually checks this anymore and doesn't opt to follow me on twitter (who am I kidding, I don't have time for twitter). It seems that the blog has become more of a place for ruminations, while Facebook and Snapfish take care of the family's need for constant photos. And, though I've had a few random thoughts lately on what might make a good post, I've had absolutely no time to percolate. However, I'm feeling a bit inspired tonight so maybe I'll get something in the hopper. Here's a photo of the kids on Easter for those of you who are still interested...