Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Batman, a Pink Flamingo and a Peacock

Yes, we dressed up today.  Mason was Batman, Abbie was a peacock and Hannah Kate was a pink flamingo.
Batman was the superhero of choice this year.  And Hannah Kate wanted to be a pink flamingo.  She has always LOVED pink flamingoes.  And this year there was a pink flamingo costume in the Pottery Barn catalog.  She really wanted it, but I really didn't want to pay for it.  So I decided I could make her a pink flamingo costume.  In a way it turned out like I'd envisioned.  In a way it did not!  But she was thrilled with it.  You just have to use your imagination, I guess.  I'm really no good at this kind of stuff.  She already had the pink shirt and pink leggings.  I made the tutu with a little help from my friend who came and rescued me last night.  I've been trying to grow crystals for a science fair project and write a speech and campaign posters for a social studies project (for my 2nd grader!) so working on this pink flamingo costume wasn't exactly a priority!  And then we pinned some feathers in her hair.  She was thrilled!  And I was, too, because this was a lot cheaper than the Pottery Barn costume!
Here is Mason and his friend Cole. 
And here's our cute little Indian!  Connor just melted my heart tonight.  I miss him so much!  He has grown into quite the little man.  He calls me Nanny Jew-ee, and I just love it!  I can't believe it's been seven months since he left us to start "school."  I can't believe he stayed with us for two years and is now two and a half years old! 
Ellie stayed with MawMaw while we went to Boo on the Bayou.  The local businesses hand out candy to all of the kids.  Afterwards we went on a hayride with Cole and Connor and their family and ate hotdogs.  Mason and Hannah Kate had a blast . . . they are so innocent and just love that there is a day set aside to dress up.  So that's what we did today.  We dressed up.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dolly D

Dolly Dingkle showed up at dance last week.  Dolly D is the accidental ballerina who needs a few lessons in how to be a ballerina in the first place.  And this is what Hannah Kate chose in honor of Dolly Dingkle week at the dance studio:
 Here is Hannah Kate and her teacher, Miss Courtney.  Hannah Kate really wanted Miss Jillian to be her teacher again this year, but she LOVES Miss Courtney because Miss Courtney teaches her "big girl steps."
 And here is Miss Courtney and her class of Dolly Dingkles.
One of the neat things about dance this year is that Abbie has class on Thursdays, too, so we get to see her every week.  So here they are in their Dolly Dingkle-est!
Miss Machita, Miss Courtney and Miss Jillian presented the theme for this year's recital and showed the girls their costumes.
I just love seeing all of the girls and their hair candy.  They were so cute; this pictures doesn't do them justice!
And, of course, Ellie got into the spirit of Dolly D, too!
A future Dolly D, perhaps?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Day at the Zoo

Two Friday's ago (yes, that is how far behind I am!) marked the end of the first nine weeks of school and brought with it a day off.  I wanted to do something fun to celebrate Mason and all of his hard work.  So I decided to take the kids to the Baton Rouge Zoo.

Now.  This zoo is nothing spectacular as far as zoos are concerned.  But it is clean.  It has an awesome playground area.  It is cheap.  And you get to see a few animals along the way.  I didn't tell Mason and Hannah Kate my plan.  I simply woke them up, prepared breakfast and instructed them to pick out an outfit to wear.  When I emphasized that their outfit needed to match, they knew we were going somewhere.  And, somehow, Mason guessed it right off.  He's yelling at me from the top of the stairs, "The zoo!  Mom, are we going to the zoo?!  Is my surprise the zoo?  We're going to the zoo!  I just know it!"  Well, okay then.  I'm glad to know he approved of my choice.

So go to the zoo we did.  And we had a great time!  It was a little on the warm side (it's actually still A LOT on the warm side), but it really was a beautiful day.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.  Many of these you've seen before, such as the Live Tiger Cage.  But they insist on their picture being made here every time.

 Mason and Hannah Kate are camera shy.  They don't like to have their picture taken AT. ALL.  And they certainly don't want to pose for the camera!  See what I mean . . .
 Ellie enjoyed her first trip to the zoo!  She slept most of the time, but she did enjoy her stroller ride.  I think she's going to be a thumb sucker.  I finally managed to capture a picture of her with her thumb in her mouth. 
 It's been a few months since our last trip to the zoo.  There's a new giraffe sculpture at the giraffe exhibit.  Again, it was all I could do to get Mason and Hannah Kate to agree to a picture in front of the sculpture!
 We walked the zoo and then spent thirty minutes on the playground.  After that I bought icees for Mason and Hannah Kate to cool them off.  And, by this time, they were ready to go.  I don't really know why, but this picture just makes me laugh.
 As we were leaving, Hannah Kate proclaimed, "This has been the best day EVER!"  Well, I'm not sure about that, but it sure was nice to hear her say that.  I love nothing more than making my children's day!  Lately I've felt like I'm just not doing a good job at anything really, especially at mothering, but this day in particular made me feel like a winner!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ellie: Three Months Old

Dearest Ellie:

You are three months old today!  And what a month it's been!  You continue to grow and change so much, and your little personality is just bubbling over now.  Your third month of life was full of excitement and new adventures.

You are now wearing a size 2 diaper.  Most of your outfits are size 6 months, but there are a few 3 month outfits you can still wear.  You are beginning to grow some "peach fuzz" on top of your head now.  Hannah Kate is very concerned that you aren't going to have the same color hair as she does, and she asks at least every other day what color your hair is going to be.  I don't see the strawberry tint to your hair that Hannah Kate has.  I think you'll be darkish blonde like your brother.  Speaking of hair, we broke out the big bow this month!  As far as I'm concerned, the bigger the better!  I just think it's the most precious thing, and I could just eat you up! 
You still sleep so soundly at night and enjoy your daytime naps.  You go to bed usually between 9:00 and 9:30.  Occasionally you'll sleep until 6:00, but you're usually up around 5:00 for a feeding.  And your new thing is that you obviously enjoy getting up at 1:30, too, because you keep blowing your diapers out about that time, and I have to get up to change you!  But you pretty much sleep through the whole process so it only takes a minute or two.  After your early morning feeding, you snooze for a little while longer, but you're usually ready to get up between 7:00 and 7:30.  By 9:00 you're ready for your morning nap so you'll nurse again and then go to sleep, usually in your swing.  This nap is the longest and helps me to get laundry and some house cleaning done.  You're up around noon for your lunch time feeding.  After lunch you have play time.  And then another short nap.  When Mason gets home, you sit with us through homework and then it's time for another feeding.  You'll snooze a bit while I'm cooking supper and then you're awake until your bedtime.  You still love your bath.

You don't particulary enjoy tummy time.  You'd much rather be where you can see everyone and everything.  You love looking out the window and watching other people.  You aren't too interested in rolling over right now, although you do try to roll over when I put you on your tummy.  But you haven't made it over yet.

Your biggest accomplishment this month was finding your hands.  Those little hands have realized they can reach out at hit at things now.  Occasionally you'll grab the toys hanging down on your play gym, but I'm not sure if that's on purpose or accidental.  When you're in your bouncer, you like to reach up and grab the bunny ears behind you.  When you're wearing a dress, you like to grab the bottom of it and pull it up over your head.  And when you're sleepy, you put your right hand behind your head and your left hand over your face.  This happens daily.  And I just think it's the most precious thing!
You continue to be so calm and content.  You hardly ever fuss, but sometimes I want to hear you fuss because it reminds me that you really are still a baby.  You love to snuggle with me.  I think sometimes you prefer me over Daddy when you're ready to cuddle.  You are the first of my babies to do that, and I rather like it!  You give me the biggest smile every morning when you wake up.  You give me the biggest smile most every time you see me, and I just love it!  You tend to stare at Mason when he's in the room.  And you're finally warming up to Hannah Kate.  I'm working hard to teach her about your personal space, and I think she's finally catching on.  I've noticed you laughing at Hannah Kate a lot lately.  She can be so funny sometimes!  Here you are laughing at her the other day.  I wish I would've gotten her in the picture, too, but I couldn't. 
You also love to do pat-a-cake.  You think it's the funniest thing and start grinning at me every time.  You're also starting to "talk" a little bit.  And every time you talk, Hannah Kate wants to know exactly what it is you're saying!

You sit so sweetly through Sunday School and church every Sunday.  You sit so sweetly through Bible study every Wednesday.  You went on your first trip to the zoo last Friday.  You slept through most of it, but you enjoyed the time being pushed in your stroller. 
I know I tell you this all the time, but it's so true, and I could never say it enough.  You are such a blessing and a joy to our family!  The past three months have been some of the best of my life!  And I love you so!


Friday, October 05, 2012

Having my pie and eating it, too

I ate a pie this week.  And not just a piece.  The whole thing.  Perhaps you've tried the recipe before, too.  It's called Humble Pie.  Anyone with me?

This has been a difficult week for a lot of reasons, one of which you'll find here.  I had no intentions of even sharing this, but the Holy Spirit has led me otherwise.  So for the five or so people who read this blog, perhaps this is for one of you.  I've not shared those raw places in my heart for many reasons, but I will share one now.

Mason's strongest subject is math.  His favorite subject is math.  He just gets it, and it's effortless to him.  I can actually leave him be to do his math homework each afternoon, and he'll get it done quickly and correctly.  He's can not wait to learn his multiplication tables.  I'm not sure when he will be introduced to those at school, but he asks about them all the time.  One day last week I overheard a conversation between he and his daddy as I was nursing Ellie.  It went something like this:

Mason: What's 15 times 15?
Daddy: 90

Yes, I know.  But please.  Just don't get hung up on that and keep on going.

Mason (after a minute or so of thought): Dad, that can't be right.  Ten times ten is 100.  So 15 times 15 has to be more than 100.

Seth was pretty impressed, as he should be.  But reading?  Well, reading is a different story.  Mason struggled a lot with reading in 1st grade, in particular fluency and comprehension.  And now there is this huge focus on how many words per minute a child can read so that was a big deal last year.  I realized in January just how hard it was for him, and we have been working very diligently since then.  He initially scored very low in timed reading and honestly never made it to benchmark by the end of 1st grade.  He was required to read 60 words per minute (wpm), but he read 37.  Let me tell you.  I was just thankful for that 37!  Even though he was below benchmark, I didn't care.

And, let me tell you, I did my research.  I met with his teacher, as well as other teachers in his school and other schools.  I asked my favorite teacher, my aunt, to assess his reading skills last February.  She did and helped me devise a strategy to strengthen his reading skills, which I implemented immediately.  I also carried it through the summer.  It was not always easy, and I can also honestly say that it seemed like we were making little to no progress at all.  But we kept at it.

And then came 2nd grade.  He was tested the second week in September.  Can you imagine my jubliation when his teacher sent home a note saying he not only met but SURPASSED benchmark by 40 POINTS?!  I know you probably don't even know what benchmark is, and I'm not even going to go there because then I'd have to explain the tedious process as to how this is assessed, and I just really don't want to do that.  Nor would you want to read about it.  Just take my word for it.  That was a VERY GOOD thing.  It was validation that all of our hard work was paying off.  Smooth sailing.  But, alas, not so fast.  Choppy waters were ahead.

The first semester of school comes to a conclusion next week.  And, as usual, Mason has an A in math, spelling, social studies and science.  But not so much in reading and grammar.  He started out okay in reading.  But his last three test grades have not been okay.  They have not been okay at all.  We've been studying so hard, spending nearly an hour and a half a day on homework, nearly all of which is devoted to reading.  But instead of seeing an improvement in his reading test grades, they have dropped.  I met with his teacher last week (whom we absolutely LOVE, by the way) because I thought surely there is a common thread across these tests that would indicate what he's lacking, where we need to focus.  Well, there was not.  Each week was not the same.  There was no common thread, nothing particular that we could see.  But, nevertheless, we talked through it, and Mrs. M identified some strategies for us to implement at home, as well as a few things she was going to do at school with him.  So we set to work.  I expected to see some improvement on last week's reading test.  But there was not.  At all.

Mrs. M sent home a note this past Monday with a copy of his reading test.  When I saw it, I lost it.  I'll spare you the ugly details, but let's just say it was NOT a good afternoon at our house.  I cried.  And cried.  And cried.  I cried all the way through homework, all the way through supper, all the way through bathtime.  I was utterly distraught.  Over one test grade, you ask?  Well, it's a little bit bigger than that.

Mason goes to a magnet school.  And there are certain requirements for continued enrollment in that school, including a minimum GPA that must be met.  And beginning third semester, the GPA requirement is going to be increased by .2 point.  Once a student falls below the required GPA, he is put on probationary status and will be given the following semester to bring it up.  If not, he will no longer be enrolled and will have to go to another school.  If you are not from here, you don't understand this.  And this is yet something else that I will not explain.  But just take my word for it.  There are no other public schools in our parish (county, for those of you outside of Louisiana) that we will send out children to.  Private school is not an option for us as long as I'm not working because of the cost.  So, the way I saw it on Monday afternoon, that leaves me with one option.

Homeschool.  Now.  I have MANY friends who homeschool and LOVE it.  They don't understand why in the world I don't do it, why in the world I wouldn't want to do it.  Well.  I'll just be honest.  I don't.  I have absolutely no desire (at this time) to homeschool.  I get it.  I really do.  And sometimes I wish I had the desire to homeschool.  But. I. do. not.  And that's okay.  I promise.  It really is.  We have prayed about this MUCH, and I can assure you that we are following God's leadership for our family and our children.

Let me say that Mason is NOT in danger at this time of falling below the required minimum GPA; however, with the increased GPA requirement next spring, the grammar and reading grades are going to have to come up a bit because even the other grades will not be enough to give us what we need.  But all I could see on Monday afternoon was that low reading test grade, that GPA requirement and a paralyzing fear that it would be too much.  I was discouraged.  I was frustrated.  I was even angry.  We have worked so hard, spent SO MUCH TIME EVERY DAY studying and preparing and reading, but it wasn't translating to those tests at school.  As much as it was bothering me, it definitely WASN'T bothering Mason.  And that became a big problem in my eyes, too.  I'll bet he was even more glad than I was when bedtime finally came on Monday night.

After the children were in bed, I found myself in the family room about to study my Sunday School lesson when Seth called.  So it started all over again as I had to explain everything to him and talk through it with him.  By the time I went to bed, I was a mess.  and that's when it started.  As soon as I crawled under the covers, I started shaking.  I couldn't stop.  I was freezing cold.  I had on long pants, socks and was covered with a quilt and a duvet.  The shaking continued for what seemed like forever, but it was probably only an hour or so.  It was one of the most miserable hours of my life.  I finally fell asleep.

I woke up.  It was dark.  Ellie was still sleeping so I knew it wasn't yet 4:30, but I didn't know what time it was.  I wasn't cold anymore.  I was burning up hot.  And my mouth was dry.  Sticky dry.  I was dehydrated, and I knew it.  I also remembered I hadn't eaten supper.  I got up out of bed and barely made it to the kitchen.  I grabbed a saltine cracker because I wasn't sure if anything I ate would even stay down.  Note to self: Do NOT eat a saltine cracker if you are dehydrated.  I choked on it and then I couldn't get it out of my mouth because it was stuck there.  So I drank a couple of glasses of water.  My fever was 102.  It was 2:30am.  I went back to bed.

Before I knew it, Ellie was stirring.  I wasn't even sure if I could pick her up.  I was afraid I would drop her.  But I didn't.  Somehow I nursed her and then put her back down.  It was 4:30am.  I drank some more water.  My temperature was down to 100.6.  I sent Seth a text message and told him I needed him to come home immediately.  I went back to bed until it was time to wake Mason up for school.  I'm not sure how his breakfast got made or his lunchbox packed, but it did.  I nursed Ellie again and put her down to play.  I crawled up on the sofa and slept the entire day, waking only to nurse Ellie and drink liquids.  I'd called my doctor as soon as her office opened, and she determined that I probably had a virus so she didn't prescribe anything for me.  Seth was home by 9:00am.  So I just slept.  Exhausted.

My fever broke, and I was feeling better into the evening.  Seth went back to work on Wednesday but made the decision to stay in town the remainder of the week.  And I've been absolutely fine since then.  Throughout the day on Wednesday and Thursday, I spent much time in prayer.  Well, as much time as I could with Hannah Kate and Ellie under foot.  I had to face the ugly truth, the reality of all that had happened on Monday afternoon.  I realized that whatever it was I had was probably, well most definitely, the result of stress compounded by a lack of sleep during the past few months.

The lack of sleep . . . well, that's understandable since I have three children, one of which is a newborn.  And there's just not anything I can do about that right now as far as I can see.  But the stress?  And the worry?  And the constant pressure I heap on myself to do or to be?  The truth was staring me in the face.  I was not fully trusting God.  Lack of trust.

The Lord had already begun dealing me with me regarding that issue as I studied Genesis 1 last week.  I never expected or imagined a lesson on trust to come out of a study of God creating the world, especially since that's a passage of scripture I'm very familiar with and have read over and over and over and over and heard since I was two or three years old.  But trust.  God.  GOD.  The God Who SPOKE the heavens, the earth, the galaxies into being.  Just His very voice commanded the stars and moon and sun where to lay.  Power.  Now that's power.  Indescribable.  Majestic.  Awesome-ness.  If He can do all of that, which HE DID, by the way, He can take care of Mason and reading and 2nd grade.  Yes, He can.  Yes, He WILL.  But I have to trust Him with it.

So as the Holy Spirit was sowing this truth across the tattered edges of my heart and mind, my cousin posted the following verses on Facebook yesterday (She prefaced this post by saying, This is the Lord's response to me, uh, I mean Job.  Me, too, Niece.  Me, too.):

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions?  Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone -
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, 'This far you may come and no father;
here is where your proud waves halt'?"
~Job 38:4-11

Proud waves halt . . .


Yes, Julie, this is where your proud waves halt.  Humble pie, anyone?

So I sought forgiveness from the Lord.  I sought forgiveness from my son.  And while I still feel the sting of a proud heart and prideful spirit that ultimately led to the Lord's chastisement, I also feel the sweet waves of restoration.

I'm not sure what lesson, if any, there is in all of that mess for you.  But, whatever you're going through, TRUST GOD.  GOD is BIGGER.

And, of course, I can't do a blog post without a picture.  Three weeks ago, I was inspired to fancy things up a bit.  During their last visit to Louisiana, my sister-in-law was talking about how my nephew just loves to have his after school drink and snack served to him in a wine glass and on a china plate.  This seems to add a little extra motivation to homework time.  So I decided to try my own variation.  Hannah Kate and I made home made ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.  When Mason got home, I layered the ice cream and cookies along with some whipped cream and a cherry on top in the parfait glasses I inherited from my Grandmother.  Well, Mason wasn't impressed.  He thought the glass was silly.  Hannah Kate was a little easier on me.  But here they are enjoying their ice cream and chocolate chip cookie parfaits.

Yeah, those tasted much better than that humble pie.  Trust me.  I know.