Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I've got two little super-heroes that would like to wish you a...


Tuesday, October 30, 2012


If you would have stopped by our place Friday evening, you would have found a houseful of rowdy boys, paper plates with only the remains of pizza crusts left on them, a constant {indoor} soccer game going on, a fluffy pallet on the living room floor, popcorn spilled in between the blankets & The Lorax being played not once, not twice, but three times in a row. {For four days now, the only thing I hear when I lay down to go to sleep is "How ba-a-a-ad can I be? I'm just doin' what comes naturally!" Please! Somebody make it stop!}

We had us a sleepover.

My kiddos are pretty lucky, in that while they don't have any real cousins just yet, they do have an already built in set of kids they get to grow up with. Ones they get to make lifelong childhood memories with. Ones they get to have Friday night sleepovers with. Ones we call "honorary cousins". I love that.

This was Jett's first real sleepover. The boys have stayed all night in the past, but it was when Jett was younger & at the time, he didn't really get what was going on. This time, not only did he get it, but he got in on every bit of action that was taking place--the wrestling, the rough-housing, the snarfing down junkfood & the staying up past bedtime--you know, all the sleepover essentials.

Jett wanted everything just like the big boys. When he saw their matching jammies, he begged to be dressed just like them.  Note to self: next time purchase three sets of matching jammies for sleepover.

At one point during the movie, Jett jumped up in the middle of the pallet, began clapping his hands & exclaimed, "I so happy!" Oh boy howdy, was he ever.

The boys finally wound down around 11:00 {Jakey crashed around 10:30, after informing us that it was "TEN-TOURTEEN" {10:13} & he was "TI-WERD" {tired}.

The boys had a ball. And me, I had a ball watching them having a ball.

From what I could hear between the three of them, there's already talk about plans for the next sleepover--how it will be Jett's turn to sleep over at their house.

I have a feeling we'll be swapping kiddos for the next oh, fifteen years or so.

I'm good with that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Docka Jett

Little man's imagination is really coming alive here lately. He is all about the pretend play & is figuring out there's a ton of fun to be had when that little imagination of his is being put to use.

Sometimes he flings open the baby gate, heads down the stairs, giving a quick "Bye, guys" as he tells us he's going to Hy-Vee to pick up Lucky Charms & orange juice. He comes back moments later, a proud-as-punch look across his face, exclaiming "I got it".

Sometimes he lets us know our cars need filling up & that he'll "be right back" because he's off to get gas.

But his most favorite thing to pretend play {& my most favorite to witness} is "Docka Jett" 

{Translation: Doctor Jett}.

This kid gets into full character, never overlooking even a single detail. He pulls a white t-shirt from Daddyboy's closet to use as his doctor's coat. He comes barreling down in the hall with his oversized kit of doctor supplies. He lays out a blanket for his sick patients. And then he brings them in one by one, lining each of his patients in the order they will be seen--a green monkey, a monkey that wears underwear, & a little sister.

I love Lulla's face. "And just what the heck do you plan on doing with that thing?"

Out of all of his sick patients, she is his favorite. Bless her heart, she's such a good sport.

His doctor demeanor cracks me up. He is so serious. He examines in great detail, asks how his patients feel, checks temperatures & "bwud pwessa" {that's blood pressure in non two year old terms}. And even though he gives me dirty looks when I laugh, I can't help it. It just strikes me funny that he knows exactly what each instrument is called & what to do with it. We've never taught him this stuff. 

For the most part, he has a very gentle bedside manner. We've had to have a few talks here & there about being especially tender with baby sister. He just couldn't figure out why it was wrong to put that tongue suppressor to use & get a good gag out of Lulla. We've had several talks about pretending what that means. Sometimes he seems to understand & other times he still goes for the ol' gag reflex. 

It's the same thing with shots. He thinks they need to hurt. Good thing Lulla is extra squishy.

Lulla hates shots.--real ones & pretend ones.

So this part is hilarious. And he never forgets to do it at least once while in "Docka Jett" character.

His kit came with this orange plastic beeper & when that thing goes off, he whips it around, looks at it & announces aloud, "I got a page".  

This kid is the real deal.

Once Dr. Jett has checked temperature & blood pressure, listened to a heartbeat & lungs, administered shots & medicine, he announces, "All better" & gives his patient a clean bill of health. But not before pulling a band-aid from his stash & sticking it in the most random spot, of course.

It's hard to say just yet if our Jett Jett is a real doctor in the making or not.

But I do believe he's on to something. I mean, he runs that pager like a boss.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Great Outdoors

Nothing beats the Autumn outdoors. The bountiful colors. The dense earthy smells. The crisp evening air. If we could just go ahead & push Pause on this season for the next six months, I'm pretty sure I'd be cool with that. So much to do, so much to see, so much to breathe in. And this past weekend, we dunked ourselves right into the middle of it all & spent an entire weekend delighting in the great outdoors.

Saturday marked Aunt Elaine's Annual Weenie Roast. And just like last year & the year before that, we had ourselves a ball.

A dozen kids & not a single word about television or video games or ipads or boredom. When you've got acres to roam, tractors to climb upon, a horse to feed snacks to & sticks to collect--well then, what more is there? It's simple & there's something so very beautiful about simple.

And while Lulla couldn't join the pack of kids & run like wild with them, she still sipped her own cup of countryside & enjoyed it to the last drop.

'Grandma the Great'

As daylight hours wind down, that's when the barn really comes to life. We load our plates with hot dogs roasted over an open fire, chips & homemade salsa, creamy potato salad, freshly baked cookies & we chow down. Some of us sit on hay bales, while others gather around small card tables & there in that barn, we share life with family members we don't see often enough. 

By the looks of things, I'd say Meatball is giving Uncle Gary & Grandma the Great the business.

And then we conclude the evening with Aunt Elaine's games & fabulous prizes. The kids get loud & crazy & the grown ups sit back & enjoy the show... because trust me, it's always a good one. That is, when we aren't ducking & running from that stick they're swinging at the pinata. 

All the kids think Jared is a kid, too.  So he gets to play.

Even though Jett was begging to stay "just one more minute" for about the hundredth time, we knew a two hour drive & a bedtime routine awaited us. So we hugged our loved ones, said our good-byes & traveled back down a dusty dirt road until we reached the stretch of highway that would sail us home. We left the farm, the fun & the beautifully simple behind, but we took home with us a great big boatload of memories.

That & the excitement that we get to do it all again next year.


Sunday afternoon, the great outdoors kind of fell into our laps.

I was really wanting to find a great spot to do that pumpkin shoot with Lulla. A friend recommended the most beautiful trail/lake here in our town, so I thought we'd take a little outing & scope it out. I had driven by this trail/lake a gazillion times before & never had even the slightest inkling of what a true treasure it really is. What started off as a photo shoot ended in a full blown half day nature walk.

It was glorious.

Lulla posed in a pumpkin.

And my boy, he did what he does.

He ran.

His feet hitting the ground. The wind in his hair. Sweat on his brow. He's always had a thing for it.

He ran & explored & I watched the boy inside of him be nurtured & fed.

{We've named this little spot "Leaf Lane". And we have some big plans for "Leaf Lane". Just you wait}

Acorns, hedge apples, sticks, leaves, & things I have no idea of their name--he calls them his "treasures" & insists on stuffing them in his pockets. So every evening I clear pockets so that the treasures don't go through the wash. And I smile. 'Cause I really love being a mom to a little boy.

{This face, full of wonder. Love}

Miss Lulla Beans could have done without being squished into a hollowed out pumpkin, but she did enjoy the rest of our nature walk. When she wasn't gazing at the tree tops above her, she was snoozing away to the crunching & rustling of leaves beneath her.

Fall just keeps on keepin' on--delivering in ways I could have never planned. We've still got a few things left to check off our Fall bucket list, one of those being another visit to this newfound gem.

There are lots more treasures waiting to be found out there in the great outdoors & we are off to find them.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lulla Cate {Five Months Old}

This lil' pumpkin is five months old today.

{arm rolls & cheeks & lips...oh, my!}

And besides sitting perched inside a pumpkin looking absolutely irresistible, here's what she's up to lately:

* I think she may be teething. She goes to town gnawing on those fists & we recently busted out the bibs because her clothing is constantly soaked in drool. Hyland's teething tabs have made it to best friend status.

* She does this new squealing/ screeching thing when she's extremely happy. We heart it.

* Little Miss isn't big on crowds. A couple of people, maybe three...she can handle that. But go & add several strange faces to the mix & you're going to see a puffy bottom lip poking out at ya.

* When Papa comes to visit or when we go to visit him, he always takes Lulla on a stroll outdoors to look at the leaves. He's nurtured inside this little girl, a full blown love for leaves. Every time we are out in nature, she locks eyes on the rustle of leaves from above & simply gazes in wonder.

* The love of her life continues to be her big brother. I hope this doesn't change for a long, long time.

* We have approximately five big hissyfits a day out of this one. All for the same reason: having her bottle taken away mid-way for a burp. Don't mess with girlfriend's food or girlfriend's gonna lose her mind. And let me tell you, this chica can put on a show. But have no fear. When brother is near, he skips in & saves the day. As soon as he comes to her rescue, the wailing ceases & is replaced with a grin that smears across her face. It is seriously like magic. And seriously sweet.

* I caught her trying to scoot the other day. I know, it's too early for her to go trying to grow up on me--I won't have it. She was on her belly, trying with all her might to inchworm her way forward. And I did what every good mother does. I rolled her to her back. None of that, little missy. You have to stay little.

* Forget the baby swing, the bouncy seat, the play gym, the mobile in her crib, the rattle toys. This wee one would ditch every bit of baby entertainment she's got in this house & trade it in for Momma's hip. And most of the time, that's where you can find her. Oh my stars, she's rotten.

{Girlfriend knows how to work those lips, doesn't she?}

Life with our sweet baby Lulla is better than we ever could have dreamed.

She is most definitely the spice inside our pumpkin.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Extra Effort, Less Sleep, Lotta Chaos

You gotta love when a friend sends a text on Thursday afternoon asking what your plans are for Sunday, & not even two minutes deep into the conversation, between the two of you, you've come up with one crazy good game plan.

Ten kiddos.
Chili & cornbread.
Pumpkin carving.
Apple cider.
Six dozen sugar cookies.
Roasting pumpkin seeds.

Not a fall leaf left unturned.

I tend to go a little overboard, this I know about myself. Especially during the holidays. When I got that text from Michelle on Thursday afternoon with a bunch of great suggestions for Sunday, I couldn't help but respond, "Let's do it all!". 

I want to do it all, have it all, squeeze everything in & out of the holiday season that I possibly can. Sure, it means a little extra effort, a little less sleep & a whole lotta chaos, but not once have I ever looked back & said to myself, "Man, I really shouldn't have gone all out this time around. It totally wasn't worth it." 

So together, Michelle & myself, we went all out. 

And once was totally worth it.

The kids carved faced into pumpkins & squealed when the insides were pulled out. They slathered frosting across cookies & made the biggest mess you've ever seen with a sprinkle shaker. They covered their skin in Halloween stamps & slurped out of orange & purple straws. And us mommas, we barely even had a second to note all of our efforts--because ten kids & an afternoon of activity equals the inability to even hear yourself think.

But here's the kicker. Once the evening simmered down & sugar highs slowly settled, the sweetest thing began to take place. There we all sat, around a smoldering pan of freshly roasted pumpkin seeds, nibbling away while the boys begged for me to tell them stories from the eight years I had nannied for them. One after another, their faces lit up the room as they exclaimed, "Now tell one about me!" "Now tell a good one!" 

And so, we spent the most precious time sharing memories--how the only time Ben ever got in trouble from me was when he hid a piece of licorice behind his back & lied about it. How Adam had to go commando when he was three, just after he had pooped his pants in the middle of a department store & the only thing I had in the car was an extra set of pants, no undies. How strangers always told me just exactly how much Liam looked like me & how I never had the heart to tell them he wasn't actually my {flesh & blood} baby. How Jakey got us kicked out of Kindermusik because he was so wild in class.

The stories that evening, they flooded my heart. The time we spent, with Liam cradled in my lap the the rest of the boys sitting on the edges of their seats, anxiously waiting to laugh at the stories I rattled off the top of my head, it will be with me forever & ever. I won't ever forget that very precious time. I won't ever take for granted those eight years that I got to make memories with this sweet family. I won't take for granted the years that lie ahead, the ones where my family gets to grow up together with this one.

And I won't ever let anyone tell me that this memory making thing I do--albeit a little outrageous & over the top sometimes-- isn't worth the while. I don't do it to toot my own horn. I don't do it so I can snatch up some Mother Of The Year Award that doesn't even exist. I don't do it so I can broadcast to the world how great I think I am. I do it because childhood memories, they matter. All those kiddos around that table with eager eyes the other night, they confirmed that.

The beauty of this life is that if you're alive & breathing, then it's not too late. It's not too late to start building more memories. It's not too late to carve out time for the people you love & cherish. I love this family with so much of my heart. And when I walk away from a night like the other night, my heart is bursting at the seams, it's so full. But honestly, I don't spend enough time with them. I needed this particular evening to remind me that my presence in their life & theirs in mine, it matters in magnitudes I hadn't truly realized before.

One day, all of my kids {my flesh & blood ones & my honorary ones}  may very well sit & around a table & say, "Hey remember those crazy Fall get togethers you & Mom used to plan?" or "Remember our annual Christmas Cookie Decorating parties?" Or maybe they'll ask, with eager eyes, for me to tell them the many stories from when they were growing up. All I know, is that if/when they do, I don't want to be left empty-handed. I want to be able to rattle off the top of my head, a million more.

Even if it does require a little extra effort, a little less sleep & a whole lotta chaos.