Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Moo Car

2007 Blue Mirage Toyota SiennaMiddle row (8 passenger seating)
Deep cargo space

"Moo Car" is a phrase that can be frequently heard coming from Cooper's mouth. He LOVES riding in our "moo car" or new car. Yes, the search is finally done!! YAHOO!!! We sold our Town and Country Mini-van the weekend prior to purchasing our new car so it was a bit tricky being carless until our friends shared their Land Rover with us. Talk about a long drawn out process that ended up right where we started. We ended up purchasing our new 2007 Toyota Sienna from our very own Toyota lot right here in town.

The past two weeks have been blissful as we have cruised from activity to activity. We love the fun and useful features of the automatic sliding door, stow n' go seats (not that we will ever get to "stow" any), tons of storage space, three full size seats in the middle row, built-in DVD player, adjustable seats, 6 CD player (our first time having one in the car), etc... Our only complaint would be the really annoying car seats that I bought for Nate and Coop 92 days ago which could no longer be returned because they were 2 days past the return policy. SUPER ANNOYING!!! They are super hard to adjust, buckle, and everything must be done with two hands (adult hands). Nate will be sitting in the back seat after the baby is born and is supposed to be pretty independent in buckling himself in so I don't have to climb over the seat to help him each time. Seeing as car seats are so expensive but also are used on a daily basis I am not sure what we are going to do about this problem.

I had my 35 week doctor's appointment today and I am dilated to a one and 80% effaced. Looks like we are ready just in time for this little girl to join our family!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Coop!!

Two years ago today Cooper joined our family. Each birth of our five children has always been an amazing experience for Birch and I, though Cooper's birth was especially wonderful. Perhaps it was the really great epidural I had or maybe the fact that I felt seasoned in giving birth but Coop's delivery was so peaceful. It was calm and quiet in the labor and delivery room--just a nurse, my midwife, and Birch. My friend that was watching the other kids during Coop's delivery reminded me on my way out the door to the hospital that this was one of my chances to have a really spiritual experience and to feel close to God. Cooper's entry into the world was just that.

The following four months of Cooper's life weren't so calm and peaceful. He was a very colicky baby and rarely stopped crying. At times we all wished we could send him back and trade him for a cheerier kid. Boy, am I glad that we didn't!!
This kid is such a highlight to our family!! He is deeply loved by his parents and siblings. We are all smitten with his blue eyes and fun personality. He is talking up a storm and LOVES to be apart of EVERYTHING that is going on around him. Coop loves to ride his bike, play in the dirt, draw on everything (unfortunately often not on paper), play baseball with his brothers and daddy, sneak stuff out of Alysee's special hiding places, feed the ducks, read stories, and snuggle with his green frog blanket while sucking his thumb.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Invisible Mothers

An "invisible mother" and her son Coop - July 2007

"It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this ? Can you tie this? Can you open this??

Some days I’m not a pair of hands ; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!?

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave
their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it. And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, nocupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women."

By Nicole Johnson
My "invisible mother" and wonderful grandmother who built seven of her own cathedrals and is working on eleven grandchildren - July 2004 My other "Invisible Mother"and superb grandmother who also built seven cathedrals and is working on 19 grandchildren - July 2006

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Just can't stop him

Over the past two years Tyler has really started excelling in his love for running. The elementary school that the kids attend has the kids all run at least fifteen minutes each day. They have found that running has such a positive effect on the kids academic behavior and retention. Not only do they run daily, but the kids also have an opportunity to participate in "Mileage Club" that is held each Thursday during lunch recess. During this time the kids can choose to run up to a half an hour. There is an adult there counting how many laps the kids do, and then for each 5 miles completed the kids are awarded a "foot" to put on their charm bracelet. Last year Tyler ran a total of 40 miles over the school year Mileage Club. His goal this year was to reach 50 miles.

As the year has progressed Tyler runs an average of 11 laps during one recess or 2 3/4 miles. Birch showed him some stretches to do prior to running so his body can adjust to such demanding use. Last week Tyler was awarded the official "50 Miler Mileage Club T-shirt." Unfortunately it was an adult size small so we don't have a picture of Tyler wearing the shirt.

Tyler's "50 Miler Mileage Club T-shirt" and well-worn running shoes Tyler running in the 1000 Meter Run at Track Camp over Spring Break - April 2008
He finished in 8th place at 5 minutes and 16 seconds
Tyler and his track buddies Colin and Kaleb Cox

We are super proud of Tyler for being so dedicated to something he has found to love!!!


I have found that over the years I have become less passionate about things I used to really enjoy. I don't think this is necessarily a good thing, but maybe sort of a coping mechanism for this season of my life. Things that I used to really enjoy have been replaced with simple pleasures like laying in a quiet bed at night, grocery shopping by myself, or weekends with little on the calender.

On the other hand I see my children becoming very passionate about various things. Alex has always loved sports. Ever since he was a little kid he has loved anything with balls but especially baseball.

Alex-two years old - July 2000 (Eagle, ID)

Over the years Alex has participated in t-ball and coach pitch baseball. This year we ran out of options that involved less commitment and time, and after much thought Alex tried out for Little League. He was ecstatic when he found out he made it on the Braves team. Turns out the team is still very much in the learning mode and hasn't had a real successful season thus far but that hasn't dampened Alex's passion for the game.

Without bragging it would appear that Alex is the team's best pitcher. This has become his favorite position to play. This last Saturday he had an awesome game where he did not walk anyone and got eleven strikeouts. He was pretty stoked!! In addition, he made an in-the-park home run. Alex ended up being awarded the team game ball.
Alex-May 2008
When not pitching Alex often plays first or second base.

The kids have all been super supportive of the time commitment that Little League has had on our family. Generally they love coming to the games as long as the weather is nice and mom has brought lots of treats.

Here is what the rest of us are doing during Alex's games:
Alysee and Tyler
Trying to stay warm--Mom

Dad is behind the camera and wouldn't miss a game.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

33 weeks down...5 more to go

The days are ticking by quickly for the arrival of baby girl#6 Ditto to enter the house of noise and love. I told the kids on Saturday that we only had six more Sundays to go until their new sister will be born. Their enthusiasm is SO fun to watch! Alysee quickly went and made a chart to record each Sunday until the new baby's arrival.

Last Saturday I was having a little too much uterine action so on Monday's appointment my midwife "checked" me out. I was dilated to a one but after doing a quick ultrasound we were relieved to see that my cervix is still in a normal range. This is the usual time for me to have pre-term labor action so I wasn't surprised.

This past week has been fairly calm (contraction wise). At my appointment yesterday my midwife did another ultrasound to check out our baby's growth. Like Alysee, she seems to be on the small side but she sure is one wiggly girl. She currently weighs about 3 pounds, ten ounces. I always love getting to "see" her with the 3D ultrasound.

Profile shot of faceMy midwife assured me that she doesn't really have a double chin. How could she at 3lb 10oz? She does have a Ditto nose and my big lips, though.I was hard up for a picture of myself to post today. Nate was the photographer for the above picture. It was his first time being allowed to use the camera and he couldn't quite figure out how to get my head AND feet in the same picture. While the quality is not great, neither is my posture so it is a good match.

We came up with a new name idea this past week. I'm not sure if we will finalize on naming her prior to her birth or wait to see her in person. The car search continues. We are thinking that we might go with the same guy that bought our current van through a car auction. Hopefully this week we can sell our current van for near our asking price and then finalize on a new car that will fit us all.

Lastly, I wanted to share a quote that Birch and I have posted on our mirror right now. It is a great motivation for me to try hard to be a better person.

"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.

I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.

I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenk's lawn.

I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children.

I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden.

I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.

I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."
-Author Unknown

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Morning Gingerbread and Apple Muffins

In case you aren't privy to my brother's blog you have recently missed out on two really tasty recipes.

Apple Gingerbread

1 cup buttermilk (I substituted 1 c. milk with 1 t. vinegar)
6 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 heaping teaspoons ground ginger
2 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 heaping teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 heaping teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 Apple (diced or shredded)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a bread pans (2), then set aside. In a saucepan, over medium heat, add the buttermilk and butter. When the butter has melted, remove from the heat and cool. Whisk in the eggs, sugar & apples. Whisk until smooth. Sift the flour, baking soda and spices together. Stir the flour. Mix well. Pour into the prepared pan (batter was surprisingly runny.) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the center of the bread is done. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

These dark, crazy moist muffins will keep well for several days, and the brown sugar on top, should you not skimp on it as it adds a crunchy touch, perfect for those of you who know that the lid is the best part.

Yield: 18 muffins

1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk or yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour an 18 cup muffin tin and set aside.

Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.Mix in the buttermilk gently. (If you over-mix, the buttermilk will cause the mixture to curdle.) Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Hair" we are together

This picture certainly does not deserve being framed but it is nice to get a family shot every once in a while. Taken April 27, 2008
This picture is kind of celebratory over everyone's haircuts. Over the past eleven years I have roughly calculated that I have saved $3,240 by having Birch and the boys haircut at The Ditto's Salon. It is certainly not my favorite task but the convenience and financial benefits certainly outweigh the squirms, whining, and complaining (just so you know Birch is always grateful even when occasionally he ends up getting a less than professional haircut).

(Side note: Monday night we were especially grateful that we had taken this family picture. Tyler had been wearing a hat all day but that isn't really anything new. Upon removal of his hat Birch found that Tyler had gone to town with some scissors on the front part of his hair. What seven year old does that?, was my response. Guess he thought that he would look good with even shorter hair. By this time he was tearful and said that after he finished cutting his hair he decided that he didn't look so great and wished he had never done it. Birch lovingly highlighted Tyler's dumb idea at Family Home Evening that night and reminded the kids that only mommy is good at cutting hair. Tyler now has a buzzed head and I think everyone learned a good lesson.)
Notice anything different about this beauty queen? Alysee has been begging to have her hair short for about a year now. When she was little she would always say that she wanted to grow her hair so long that it touched her bum when she sat on the toilet. Now that she is a mature Kindergartner she has changed her mind. She has only had her hair trimmed a few times over the years by my mom. Saturday I decided that I was going to have to buck it up and do the trimming myself. I was a bit nervous and as I began cutting I learned quickly that it is tricky getting everything cut even and the same length. Alysee was THRILLED with the outcome even though it was a bit shorter than I had originally planned.
When Alysee's appointment at The Ditto Salon was finished she was so excited to show Birch and her brothers her SHORT hair. Alex, being a temporarily terdy big brother, responded to her new du by saying, "What's the big deal? You didn't have any hair when you were born." Alysee took it in stride and basked in all the compliments from the other kids and Birch. She was so excited to show her friends at school and church. I'll miss her long braids and buns but I am glad to have brought her such joy!