Tuesday, December 5

Bike Safety

Today Connor wanted to go ride his bike outside. I told him all the rules and then as I got him ready to go, I had him repeat back to me what the rules were. The main one I was hoping to hear was “no asking friends to play”. I never did hear him repeat that one, but he did have some other important ones. First, stay on the sidewalk. Second, said with his characteristic and highly contagious Connor grin, “no getting runned over by cars!” He’s got the important stuff down!

Wednesday, July 20

Daily Summer Life-7/20/16

Earlier today...when I was much less tired than I am now, at 9:35 10:18 pm, I had the thought that I should record the little things that happen throughout our summer days.  At the start of most summers I worry about how we'll get through the summer with all the kids home all day and what I'm going to do with them to fill the time.  This summer has been different.  I didn't dread them being home, I looked forward to it.  And even though there have been plenty of days where Jeremy has come home from work to find me in tears (blame pregnancy hormones and my introverted nature that just NEEDS some quiet), I have really enjoyed our summer all together.  We've been on a few trips that will be easy to remember, but I know that I won't remember what the day to day of summer looks like if I don't write it down.

So, two things from today that I want to remember.

1. This morning, a little before 10 am, I noticed Connor laying on the couch snuggling a stuffed dog.  He typically doesn't stop moving if he's awake, so this was a red flag for me.  After taking his temperature and seeing that he had a fever, I gave him some Tylenol and left him alone, thinking that if he wanted to fall asleep there that would be fine.  A few minutes later Alexis and Tyler noticed that he wasn't feeling well and soon started to fuss over him.  Within minutes Connor had (in addition to his stuffed dog) a pillow, a blanket, a toy car, a sippy cup of water and an ice pack for his head. And withing minutes after that he was sound asleep.  Their love and attention continued all day and I was very touched that they care so much about him and are so thoughtful about what he might need and what might make him feel better.

2. The kids each have a list of "jobs" they are required to get done everyday before they can play with friends, watch TV, etc.  They aren't all actual jobs, some are just things they should be doing daily, like morning prayer. Unfortunately consistency has never been my parenting strength, and so some days I'm not too great at enforcing the "no friends before jobs are finished" rule.  Today was one of the days where I wavered.  I let Ryan's friend come in while he was supposed to finish up cleaning his room, so of course he put his friend to work folding blankets and making his bed.  After that I let him go play with a few other friends without finishing the rest of his jobs.  I didn't even really say anything to him about his jobs, but he showed back up at home an hour later with two different friends, ready to do his jobs.  I heard him ask them as they walked down the hall, "who wants an easy job and who wants a hard job?" A minute later Alexis came out and told me that the friend that wanted the easy job just said Ryan's morning prayer for him, at three in the afternoon. After that they moved to the table to work on Ryan's math book...

Taking a minute to remember these things about our day is good for me because I had originally planned on watching a movie I rented after kids were in bed and while Jeremy was at basketball.  But some kids cause problems at bedtime and come out of their room a few too many times and by the time I was done with getting them all to bed it was too late and I knew I shouldn't stay up to watch it. Connor's fever hasn't really let up today, and by the end of the day he was complaining of his mouth hurting.  We'll see what tomorrow has in store for us... 

Wednesday, January 13

snot and ice...that's what January's are made of

This is what our January has looked like so far:

Basically a gigantic snot ball. Connor, in particular, has had a really runny nose for weeks, but all of us have come down with a touch of something or other since Christmas.  It's all part of the fun of January.

Speaking of January, normally I hate the month more than I've ever hated anything.  And I had a day or two last week where that was the case, but this year it hasn't been so bad.  It's probably just because we're so busy that I don't have much time to hate it, so I'm grateful for that.  Though I would love more than anything to be able to go sit out on the grass with the sun shining on my face.

Yesterday Ryan combed his own hair.  This is a big deal because Ryan doesn't like getting his hair fixed and pretty much always looks like he just rolled out of bed.  He's blessed with some thick, crazy, unmanageable hair! I tried to get a good picture of it but Ryan can't take a normal picture, he's always making some sort of funny face, and the picture is usually blurry because of it. But that's all part of his charm!

Ryan is the kid that leaves me scratching my head in confusion the most.  He is hilarious and imaginative, and oftentimes I don't know how to handle the situations we find ourselves in.   That happens with the other kids too, of course, but it happens the most with Ryan.

One day last week, when I went to pick Ryan up from kindergarten he was covering his right eye.  I thought he was just being silly, then his teacher told me that at recess he got hit with a snowball.  We haven't had fresh snow for a few weeks, so the snowball was actually an ice ball.  According to Ryan, during recess his friend found this ice ball and wanted to see if it would hurt when it hit something.  Obviously he couldn't throw it at the ground because grounds can't talk, so he needed to throw it at a person.  He asked Ryan if he could throw it at him, and naturally Ryan had to think about that for a little while.  While he was thinking his friend went ahead and threw it anyway, because he assumed Ryan would say yes.  Well, it turns out that ice balls DO hurt!  I'm glad they got that sorted out.  Ryan cried for a bit, but didn't tell the teacher because he didn't want to get his friend sent to the principals office.  We talked about it, and hopefully next time someone asks to throw ice at his face, Ryan will answer NO without hesitation.

Monday, July 20

a metaphor

This summer is my third year attempting to grow a garden.  The first two summers went relatively well given my lack of experience, but this year is not going well at all.  I did the same things I always do: till the ground, plant the seeds, water the plants, weed the garden.  But within weeks little shoots of grass and weeds began popping up everywhere in my garden.  And I mean EVERYWHERE.  I'm not sure where they're coming from, someone suggested that its from the secondary water I'm using to water.  I tried to keep up, but that grass grows faster than I can weed.  Eventually I gave up on weeding between rows and unused portions of the garden and decided to just weed immediately around the plants.  I've tried using a weed-wacker to knock them down, I've tried laying grass clippings on them in an attempt to smother them, and of course I've tried uprooting them all.  Nothing works.  They are very persistent weeds. 

We've been out of town for the last 10 days, and when I came home last night I was filled with equal parts dread and excitement at the chance to look at my garden. 

Now you can understand the dread.  I went to bed feeling totally overwhelmed with that mess in my backyard.

Then this afternoon, after a long, loud morning with the kids, I went out to take a picture of the garden because it's just that terrible.  As I stood there staring at it, I realized that what I was staring at was a perfect representation of how I feel like life with my kids has been lately.  So I posted it to Instagram, as you do, with a caption that said, "If I could capture in a picture what I feel like raising my kids has been like lately, it would look like this picture of my "garden" (which hardly deserves the name garden). Wild, daunting, overwhelming, and hard to spot the good through the bad.  If only I could figure out how to remove the 'weeds' in family life so we could all thrive a little more."

Kids, lately, are hard.  They fight...A LOT.  They cry, they whine, they make bad choices, they make big messes, and they challenge me beyond what I feel like I'm capable of.  I'm not sure what's changed, but it definitely feels like things have been worse lately and I've struggled a lot in finding the joy in motherhood when everything feels like this.  I know there's joy to be had, I just have to let it grow stronger and taller than the "weeds".

The fact of the matter is, I'm good with messy and I like things a little wild.  I don't do neat and orderly, no matter how much I think I want to--it's just not me.  And maybe it's not my kids either.  Maybe I'm pushing us all to be things we aren't.  Maybe it's okay if they're loud, or if all their clothes are either stained or ripped, or they make huge messes because they are thinking huge creative things.  Maybe they need more "fun mom" and less "clean the house mom".  More one on one listening time, and less nagging time.  I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud here.  Doing a little mental "weeding" if you will.  How does a mom to spirited kids let them be spirited without giong crazy?  How do you direct them in the right ways wihtout controlling them and squashing their spirits?  These are the things I pray about constantly, but I still don't have the answers.  Writing about it sure helps though, and remembering that its okay to not be perfect.  In fact, its okay to be very far from perfect as long as my intentions are good.

So here I sit, with two weed patches on my hands, one literal and one metaphorical. I might just have to give up on one of those weed patches for now and let the weeds take over, so that I can give my attention to the other weed patch.

But that's okay, I can always get my produce from the store.

Friday, September 26


Last Saturday we had company coming over so I began to look at my house and yard with fresh eyes, as you do when you know someone else is going to look at it with their fresh eyes. This led me to a last minute scramble of pulling out all the dead sunflowers in the front flower bed, and planting pansies, a small tree, and a few other small flowers.  I knew none of my guests would notice, but that's okay because I was really doing it for myself anyway.

I planted the pansies on Saturday and watered them the first few days, but then forgot to water them for the next two.  Trying to grow plants has taught me a lot about myself, and I've discovered that I do much better at caring for things that can make noise and remind me to care for them.  (I think I just had some insight into why my kids are so noisy!)  Anyway, this morning I looked at the pansies in the flower bed and what I saw was pitiful.  The poor flowers were lying on the dirt, as if they had no strength to hold their heads up.  They were almost human-like in their despondency, I could see their extreme thirst on their petal faces.  I immediately got out my hose and gently surrounded them with water and then went on with my day.  A few hours later I went to check on them and was amazed at how they had perked up.  They weren't quite standing strong and tall, but they were working on it.  Hopefully the forecasted rain this weekend will give them the rest of the strength they need.

As I was watering the pansies, I thought about being a mother, as I basically always do.  When my pansies had been ignored and not given what they needed, they showed it by lying feebly on the ground.  When children aren't given what they need, they show it.  They rarely act despondent (or maybe that's just my kids), rather they act out and search for whatever sort of attention they can attract--even if it's the bad kind.  They say the child that needs the most love is the child that seems to least deserve it.  That kid that's picking fights, throwing toys, crying at the drop of a hat, the kid that you want to lock up in their room? That kid needs more love.

I read recently that children need twelve hugs a day from their caregivers.  Twelve!  I have 4 kids...so 4 x 12 = 48.  Forty-eight hugs that I should be giving out EACH DAY!  That's a lot of hugs for a person like myself who generally doesn't like to be touched.  Since reading that I've been making a more conscious effort to hug them each more throughout the day.  I'm not keeping count because I'm pretty sure with a few of them I'm not even coming close to twelve a day simply because I see them less during the day, but I'm trying to remind myself constantly to hug them.  When I walk into a room, I find one I haven't hugged in awhile and hug them.  I don't make it a big production, sometimes it's just a little pat to let them know I'm aware of them and love them.

Now, for my own sake, some things I've learned/remembered during my hugging experiment these past few days.
Alexis: I've always known she needs physical touch to feel love.  Though she is 10, she still loves to snuggle up to you and talk to you.  When you're hugging her she'll talk, but unlike her typical conversation, she'll ask about you and show an interest in things outside of herself.  (I'm not calling her self centered, she's just a kid and they're pretty much focused on themselves by nature.)
Tyler: He has always been one of the best huggers ever.  He's quiet and just leans on you for quite awhile, especially in the morning.  He never objects to my request for a hug. He's not the greatest communicator, so for him, hugs are essential.
Ryan: Ryan basically never stands still, so hugs are short, but important because as the third child he tends to get lost in the shuffle.  He doesn't like his back scratched, but if I'm really lucky he'll rub my arm or play with my hair when I'm holding him.
Connor: This kid easily gets hugged two or three times the "necessary" amount each day.  All I have to do is sit down on the ground, with my legs spread out in a v in front of me, hold my arms out and call his name and he walks right into me for a hug.  He loves them, I love them, so I'll stock up on them while I can.

As a mom to four, I often have my hands full trying to meet all their physical needs (cooking, cleaning, laundry, bathing, etc.), but on the days where I'm being a proactive parent and seeking to meet their emotional needs, I have my arms full too.  And that's the best kind of full.

(I almost hesitate to hit the "publish" button on this post, only because I don't know if I'll have more.  Will it be another seven months before I post again?  Or will it happen next week?  No one knows...)

Thursday, February 6

2 pictures

I wanted to share two pictures from my phone. I don't take a lot of pictures, my mind just doesn't think that way, though I wish it did. But these pictures show things that I want to remember. 

First, from yesterday morning. The heat was on and Tyler held Connor over the vent so his feet would warm up. He loved it and once Tyler put him down he stayed there with his hand on the vent, smiling and laughing.  But what I really love about the picture is the face Connor is making. Yesterday he discovered that he could tuck his bottom lip super far into his mouth, and he spent all day doing it. He looked like a complete goofball and it made me smile all day. I tried to get a closer up picture, but he would smile every time I got closer. I remember each of my babies making this same face at about the same age. It's fun to watch babies learn and discover new things!

The second picture is from Tuesday afternoon. Geronimo Stilton was supposed to be at the schools book fair for the kids to take pictures with, so we headed over there after a very busy day.  When we got there "he" was sitting nondescriptly on a chair. A young girl sitting with "him" announced that "he" would sign a book if we bought one from the book fair, but then informed us in a whisper that inside the costume it was actually a woman named Denise. Well, I hadn't planned on buying anything, our only purpose of being there was to take a picture with Geronimo because Alexis and Tyler love those books, so I passed on the chance to get Denise's forgery of a mouse authors signature and snapped this quick picture instead. My kids appearance is a little crazy, but that's one of the things I like about this picture, it's very real.  Also, Tyler's shoe is untied because his shoes are CONSTANTLY untied, despite recently learning how to tie them. He's wearing shorts because he hates pants, and because we had been to a trampoline park earlier in the day. Also, he's standing a few inches from the chair, a little wary of the situation with the mouse. Meanwhile Alexis is snuggled right up next to it because she is hardly ever wary of anything. She's got a strip of blue in her hair from some hair chalk, a near daily occurrence. A hole in her leggings because she's not allowed to wear them to school, but when she's off track (as they are now), anything goes. And lastly, the sweatshirt she's wearing has hardly left her body since she got it for Christmas.
 They're a rag tag duo, but I love them!

Monday, January 13

He's moving!

Probably only grandmas will be interested in this, but the baby is making forward movements. I love a baby's first crawl because it's so spastic and uncoordinated, yet they are undeterred by their lack of control over their own bodies. Connor does this funny move where he gets up on his knees and rocks his body forward, and his chest goes flying forward while his arms buckle underneath him, and then they finally follow the rest of him and flop out to the side.  Other times he's up on his toes and pushes his body forward with his toes. It's all very adorable, naturally.

(PS this video is entitled "Ryan Crawls" even though it's actually Connor. I just have too many kids and not enough brain cells left to keep all their names straight.)

I can pass on your congratulations to him if you'd like. But as you can see in the video, it would probably be more appropriate to congratulate him on simply surviving in this family so far.

Friday, January 10

anyone past 20 is OLD!

This conversation just happened between me and Alexis (9) and Tyler (7).

Alexis: Mom, were you alive during the Dust Bowl?

Me: (Thinking we're talking about some sort of football game) I don't know, when was it?  What was it?

A: It's something that happened in a small Utah town (she then provides more explanation that I've already forgotten). 

(Long pause)

A: In the 1930's.

Me:  (Trying to control my laughter) Uh...no.

A: Well, do you know anyone that was?  It happened in 1935, so how old would they be?

Me: I don't think I know anyone that age.  They would be 79 at least.

Tyler: Oh, I do!!  My school teacher!

Just so you know, Tyler's teacher is probably in her 40's.


Speaking of football (sort of), Tyler received a set of 32 miniature football helmets--one for each NFL team--for Christmas.  He knows which team each helmet belongs to, and likes to quiz everyone (and I mean, EVERYONE) on them.  When he has friends come over he sits them down and pulls out the helmets one by one, asking them to name the team it belongs to.  If they get a helmet wrong, he sets it aside and makes them practice it.  The other day I asked him to quiz me on them.  First I named each team and got probably 30 of them correct, which I think is pretty good for a person who doesn't even like football.  Then he wanted me to go back and name what city or state the team was associated with.  That was a little harder and I think I missed 5.  But hes got me practicing them 3 times a day and I'm sure I'll have them down in no time.  (Not really.)

Sunday, January 5

a resolution?

I was reading through some of my old posts on this poorly neglected blog this past week and I realized how grateful I am that I've written here.  I read so many things that I had forgotten, that I (of course) never thought I would forget.  And I resolved to myself that I would do better about writing on here, whether or not anyone else is reading.  When I write here, I write about the good parts of being a mom.  I know there's more to me than just being a mom, but I think I write the most about that part of my life because it's the part the needs constant vigilance to see the good.  It's no secret that being the mom is hard, and if I don't choose to focus on the good, the hard and frustrating parts can sneak to the front and make it harder to find the joy in being a mother.

A few days ago I found myself feeling really sad about the fact that Connor was already six months old.  He's started to do the really fun tricks: getting up on his hands and toes, rocking his body while on his hands and knees, trying to move forward, rolling over both directions, and sitting up.  They are such fun things, but they always make me realize that my baby is changing from a little baby to a big baby.  I started to think I was so sad because Connor is my last baby (according to my current plans), and it means I'm finally moving out of the baby stage of parenting. But then I read through my old posts from when Ryan was the same age, and I realized it's just what I do--with each baby I get a little sad when they start to move.  It only lasts for a short time, and then I remember all the fun that lies ahead.  I've come to see that sadness is a necessary feeling.  It makes me appreciate the stage I'm in before it really is gone for good.  As a result, I appreciate each time Connor still rests his little head on my shoulder, and each (rare) time I get to hold his sleeping body in my arms.  It makes me appreciate the times in my day when I have to sit down and nurse him, even if I think I'd rather be doing something else.  It's taken me four children to get here, but I've learned that it really is a privilege to be a mom of a baby.  It lasts for such a short time, and I intend to enjoy every last second of it. 

 P.S. Christmas happened.  It was awesome.  I've said it before, but Christmas with kids is really the greatest thing ever.  All the work is worth it to see their faces and hear their exclamations on Christmas morning.

Also, this is my new favorite family picture (taken at an Ugly Sweater Party).

Wednesday, August 28

Summer summary

Let's catch up with what's happened over the last few months.

June started out with Ryan turning 3.  This kid is so full of personality and is hilarious, but I often feel he's under appreciated!  He talks a lot, and he often talks loudly and is sometimes hard to understand, but when you are willing to take the time to understand him you can catch some real gems that come out of his mouth. Also in June we set up the bunk beds, but he doesn't have any interest in sleeping in his "big boy" bed.  He did it for a few nights, but seems to prefer the containment of his crib, so he still sleeps there most nights.  He also has no interest in wearing underwear and being potty trained.  He likes being a little boy and doesn't want any of that to change.

The first week of June was also the last week of school for Alexis and Tyler.  Tyler "graduated" from kindergarten and all the kindergarten classes put on a really cute play showcasing some of the things they learned in class. Tyler loved kindergarten and made lots of friends, including his new best friend Gabe, who is sitting in front of him in this picture.  Alexis also made some great friends in 3rd grade, but she also had a REALLY tough year.  I think 8 is a hard age, but combined with a move and being in a classroom that was often very chaotic, she was often very emotional.  I was more than happy to get her out of school so we could have a summer to relax and distance ourselves from some tough situations and it was exactly what she needed.
During the second week of June we had a family reunion planned with Jeremy's family.  I debated about going since I would be 8 1/2 months pregnant and it was camping a few hours away from home, but I finally decided I could do.  I'm so glad I did because we had a lot of fun and I know I would have been lonely and bored if I just stayed home. I don't have any pictures of it because I forgot to take the camera!

I do have a picture of Ryan's face looking like this, though:
Two nights before the reunion I was driving home from picking Alexis up at a birthday party when Jeremy called to tell me he was on his way to the instacare with Ryan.  In the background I could hear Ryan crying hysterically, but Jeremy was very calm.  He didn't give me details but told me I could meet him there if I wanted to.  Of course I wanted to!  But when I was almost to the instacare he called and said they had to go to the ER instead because the instacare wouldn't treat Ryan.  At this point all I knew was that Ryan had fallen off his scooter and hurt his head and it was bleeding.  Fortunately Jeremy's brother lives right next to the hospital so I dropped Alexis off there, I knew she wouldn't do well with seeing Ryan upset, as well as seeing the blood.  After dropping her off I raced to the ER to see Ryan sitting on our neighbors lap (he had driven Jeremy there) while Jeremy was getting checked in.  The image of Ryan sitting there is one I wish I could erase but probably never will.  He was so incredibly upset, and had a giant bloody hole (yes, a HOLE!) on his forehead between his eyes.  It was so disgusting I could barely look at it.  Jeremy took a picture of it once I got Ryan calmed down, but I can't look at it even now, it's too upsetting to me.  Anyway, I took Ryan from our neighbor and they gave him a blessing, and then he calmed down quite a bit and even fell asleep on my shoulder.  But then they had to do a CT scan and had to put several layers of stitches in.  I wish they would have sedated him for the stitches because it was very traumatic.  They swaddled him in a blanket like you do with a baby, and had us hold his legs down while they numbed him and did the stitches.  He did pretty well at first, but I think he was really annoyed because their hands were right in his eyes while they were working, and at one point he tried to scratch his nose and when he realized he couldn't move his arms he got even more upset.  Finally they finished and we left the hospital and he was perfectly happy!  But I was super stressed about him for months following, even now I worry about him getting hurt.  When we took him back to get his stitches out, something that should have been easy, ended up being almost as traumatic.  His wound had scabbed over so they had to soak it for awhile, and then they tried taking the stitches out with the scab still in the way, and he was just as upset.  He clearly remembered the previous experience and wasn't happy to be there again.  Finally one of the male nurses completely sat on him to keep his arms to the side.  It was such an unpleasant experience that Tyler (I had taken the older two because I thought it would be quick and easy) started throwing up!  It was a pretty horrible day to say the least.

AND THEN!  Two weeks later, the night before I was due, Ryan fell off his scooter again and cut his forehead open AGAIN!  The first wound was actually caused because a neighbor kid hit him with his bike handle while Ryan was on his scooter.  This second time Ryan just fell off his scooter (which despite all this, he was actually really good at riding) and didn't catch himself so his head hit the cement and split, just by his eye.  I was on the other side of the house and I heard him crying and heard Alexis yell "Mom, Ryan fell", and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty.  I took off running (while 9 months pregnant) and saw blood all over his face and said, "You have got to be kidding me!" This time Jeremy wasn't home so I had Alexis call him, and I was able to stay relatively calm, mainly because I could tell the cut was MUCH smaller than last time.  So we cleaned him up a bit, gave him a Popsicle and decided to forgo the ER and just close it up ourselves.  Our kind neighbor who's a nurse came over and did it for us.  There was no way any of us could handle stitches again after the last time, and it's really healing up well.  And the best news is he hasn't done anything like it since! (Probably because I made Alexis throw his scooter in the trash immediately after he fell the second time.)

Moving on to more pleasant topics.

Jeremy's birthday fell on Father's Day this year, so I tried to make it an extra special day for him.  But again, I was very pregnant and very tired.

I also had a birthday, but it wasn't the greatest day so I'm not sharing those pictures. Also, the 26th of June marked the one year anniversary of my kidney donation.  We had Crystal and her family over for dinner a few days before to celebrate, and I was going to take a picture but I forgot!  (Seeing a theme here?)

But here's a picture of me a few days before I had a baby.  I didn't take many pictures of me pregnant, but I really didn't get as big as I usually do.

And then, on June 30th, Connor was born!  He was due on the 27th but I asked them to not induce me until later because I really wanted to see if I would go into labor on my own.  So they scheduled my induction for Monday July 1st, but on Sunday morning my water broke.  I kept waiting to have contractions but never did, so I finally went to the hospital around 3 pm.  They gave me Pitocin, so technically I still had to be "started" but I was just thrilled that my body did SOMETHING on it's own!  

Connor has been THE BEST baby, and is so loved by his older brothers and sister.  I expected Alexis to really love him, and I expected Tyler to like him, but I've been really surprised by just how much Tyler really likes him.  He wants to hold him all the time and play with him and talk to him.  He is the one that gives Connor the most attention and will often tell me what Connor's up to, if he's tired, if he's crying, if he's sleeping.  He'll usually say, "Mom, I think Connor's tired, he's got his tired eyes on."  I love that he's made up a phrase like "tired eyes"!  Ryan likes him too, but doesn't know how to be gentle with him.  Or how to not yell in his ear.  Connor is in for a loud life, though he himself is very calm and patient.  I'm hoping he'll continue to be the peacemaker in the family.

Sheesh, that was just June?  Fortunately July was much more uneventful.

Jeremy gave Ryan a mullet without asking me first.  4 days after I had a baby.  I wasn't too pleased. But I got used to it and we kept it like that for 2 months.

Jeremy took the kids out on the Rhino a few times.

 And the rest of the month was spent adjusting to having this new guy around.  He's pretty great.

This summer Tyler has taught himself how to swim and become quite the good swimmer.  He's good enough that I let him jump off the low dive at a local swimming pool.  The water was 13 feet deep, which always makes me nervous, but he did great.  After a few jumps he asked if he could do a front flip off the diving board!  He's crazy!

In the middle of August Alexis turned 9!  She was so excited for her birthday, and is at the age where things are starting to get expensive.  Here she is seeing the cake grandma made for her.  It had three different layers of three different flavors of cake! 

One thing she really wanted this year was an iPod.  So she got one! One of the best things about Alexis is how excited she gets when you give her something.  Whether it's big or little, she loves to receive gifts and always makes it worth the giver's while.  So it was equally exciting for us to give her the iPod.

Here's a picture of Connor with my sister's son, Jackson, who was born two weeks before Connor.  These little cousins are going to be so fun to watch grow up together.

Grandma with her arms full...just the way she likes it!

The day after Alexis' birthday was one of my most exciting days of the summer...the first day of school!  Tyler went off to first grade and Alexis went to fourth.

For awhile I felt guilty about how desperately I needed them to go to school.  You often hear of moms talk about how sad they are when their kids start school, and how much they love to have them around.  In fact, I think I've written that on this blog a time or two.  And I started to wonder if maybe I wasn't as good a mom as those other moms, but then I realized a few things.  One being that I have four kids now, which is more time consuming and demanding than when I had two, so I think it's perfectly natural to enjoy having less kids around for part of the day.  And second, I'm not a high energy noisy person.  I've always been mellow and I've always needed my space and my quiet and time to myself.  And as I said before, I have four kids which means life is always loud and I'm NEVER alone.  So by sending two of those kids off to school I have a greater chance of having some downtime at some point, and having a quieter day so when they come back I can appreciate them even more.  Phew!  I do love my children after all!

Do you know what else I love?  My mammoth sunflowers!  I planted these in May and have been patiently waiting all summer for them to bloom.  It's probably safe to say that I'm obsessed with them.  I check on them multiple times a day and am so fascinated with how big they get.  It's hard to tell from this picture, but they are pretty tall.  From the ground to the top of the gutter is 11 feet, and a few of them go past the gutter.  One is 12 feet tall!!  I've done a little research since planting these and am really excited to try and make them even bigger next year.

This summer was also our first summer gardening.  Probably planting a garden while 8 months pregnant and then trying to care for it when you have a newborn is not the greatest idea, but it's been a lot of fun anyway.  I have lots to learn and I'm excited to try again next year, but I've loved it.  I took this picture below to remind myself next year to try and contain my tomato plants better next year.  I think they are the most unruly tomato plants I've ever seen.  But they sure do produce a lot of tomatoes!  Probably too many tomatoes...

Jeremy spent all summer constructing these cornhole boards.  He made two sets, and I'm sure he could have got them done sooner if it weren't for the new baby.  But he had fun building them and got to exercise his creativity a bit.  He's so talented!

And finally, last Sunday Jeremy blessed Connor at church.  He's 8 weeks old now and I can hardly believe it!  The time has flown by and I'm try to snuggle him up every spare minute I can because he's growing up already way too quickly.  Life is starting to return to normal, which is nice, but this is the first time I have loved having a newborn.  Why can't I learn to appreciate things sooner??

He does smile now, but I couldn't get him to smile on Sunday while I was trying to take his picture.

But then Alexis came along and he was all smiles!

I might be biased, but that's the cutest group of kids I've ever seen.

And that wraps up our Summer summary!