Vacation--all I ever wanted

2009 is leaving me and I feel the need for a final post. Our schedule has been extremely full since leaving Tallahassee for our Christmas road trip on the 20th. We dropped off Bella (our dog) at my parents house, then went on to Brandon to spend time with Jimmy's parents. On the way into town we went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. The next day we finished our shopping while Granny and Grandad made cookies with the kids. The next day we took Jackson and Libby on a surprise date to see the Nutcracker. We didn't tell them where we were going until we were in the car. Those of you who know Jackson know that this was killing him. The kids enjoyed it and so did we despite our nervousness about them falling over the side of the balcony which had a barrier of only like 24 inches or so. It was a long drop into the abyss since we were in the nosebleed section. But we escaped with no one falling and I liked the snowflake dance the best.

We led worship at our old church, Calvary Chapel Brandon on Christmas Eve, and then spent the evening at Jimmy's parents annual party. Christmas morning was full of stockings, presents, and a big breakfast, then it was off to my parents house by lunch to see all the cousins and family. We ate a large Christmas dinner as soon as we got there at which I declared that no one else in the entire world has a Christmas dinner as good as ours was that day. Seriously. We should sell tickets. Later we opened presents...this year was the "$3 Christmas" meaning we could only spend $3 on a gift (or re-gift something you already had or give something you got for free, etc.). It turned out to be quite impressive and Jimmy received two identical Mountain Dew hats from each of my sisters. They both got them for $2.99 at Ross. They didn't know they had bought him the same thing until he opened them. Poor Jimmy. But hey, he did it to himself. He likes to flaunt his Mt. Dew obsession. Just a few days earlier he had bought himself Mt. Dew flavored chap stick. (I'm doing him a masculine favor and not calling it lip gloss.) The next day the women went on a day after Christmas shopping trip treated by the Queen for our Christmas (she exempted herself from the $3 rule) and were successful in shopping and escaping the noise for half a day.

The next day was church and that afternoon we spent prepping for Monday, which was a trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios! Yes, you read correctly. We took 8 adults and 10 children to a Disney theme park during one of the busiest weeks of the year! Are we crazy? No! Why? Because we all got in free! My sister Becky's family has year passes, my sister Susan had 9 free tickets, it was Susan's birthday, so we were only short 2 tickets, since Penelope gets in free. My sister Becky scored two more tickets because her husband Jim chaperoned a trip to the Candlelight program last week with their youth choir. So there you go. AND we packed our lunches and ate dinner after we left so the only money we spent was for the kids on some trinkets as we left. It was crazy and tiring and fun and awesome and we didn't lose anyone and Susan got to ride a roller coaster for her birthday! It will probably never happen again and we were all glad we did it.

So that brings us to the last couple days which have involved thrift store shopping, more shopping, shooting, skinning, and eating squirrel, building a bonfire and roasting marshmallows, playing outside, playing the Wii inside, eating really good food, playing games, and watching football. Does anyone else want to come on vacation with us? Yes, it is all I ever wanted. While I am dreading the detox/damage control I have before me when I go home in a couple days, I am thankful for family and the holidays.

I wish I had lots of cool pictures to show but we haven't really had the camera out that much. I didn't want to take my work camera into a theme park. There is the annual "silly picture" of my family which came out great as usual. There are some things you can always count on. And that's partial insanity from your relatives.


Art Class Houses

Wednesday during my Home's Cool Art Class, we made gingerbread houses. It was lots of fun. I was determined to take photos instead of build a house because I knew capturing my little artists at work would make great pictures. They worked hard at creating and then put their entire selves into devouring every piece of their work. At least my kids did. There was this extreme uproar at dinner. It's like they were going to die right there if they didn't get to eat it. Once we just let them at it, all was peaceful. I can hear the oompa loompas singing in my head...Augustus Gloop, Augustus Gloop, great big greedy nincompoop... The entire photo shoot is on my Julie Alley Photography Facebook page. No, Julie Alley does NOT have a Facebook account. But Julie Alley Photography does. I don't want any friends. Just fans. Ha ha.


Mom on the move

Shame on me for not blogging in a while! It seems there have been no big events by which to spin my tales. Yet a lot goes on around here. So much, it seems like there's nothing exciting really happening. But when I stop and think about it, even ordinary days can be exciting.

Like today, I had exactly 45 minutes until I had to leave with the family for the mall. We were meeting some friends there for kid's eat free at Chick Fil-A. (I talk about kid's night at Chick Fil-A so much on here I'm beginning to think I should have named my blog "Kid's night at Chick Fil-A!") I was really sweaty and overdue a shower (I won't reveal how long "overdue" means in my world) but I wanted to exercise before I showered because naturally, I can't exercise within 18 hours after showering because that would be a total waste of a shower and thus my time. So I wanted to shower, exercise, and get everyone out the door in 45 minutes. I knew I'd be cutting it close. But it's these little challenges I give myself as a mom that make my life interesting.

I grabbed the dog's leash, hooked her up, told Jimmy what I was doing, and took off at a power walk. The dog was so excited that I was semi-running she dragged me all the way down our hill. I round the corner. She sees dogs. She drags me some more. We make it past. Then encounter some other dogs. I let the leash get away from me. She runs to the fence. They literally bare their teeth at me and I'm a little freaked. I make it home. Penelope and Cash are painting black streaks on their cheeks with my eye liner. My compact is missing. I can't take a shower yet because a kid is on the potty. Cash has to go too. The other potty is clogged. I send him to pee off the back deck. I'm telling Libby to hurry up. Searching for my compact. Walking through the house half-naked looking for my jeans in the laundry. Find the foam circle for my compact on the floor next to the toilet. (In prime little boy missing the mark pee territory.) I jump in the shower. Get out, get dressed, brush hair, don't apply any make-up since it's been you know where (I'll wash it out later), put shoes on kids, fool around with Jackson's shin guards (he had soccer later on), and help Jimmy get everyone in the car. Run back inside to get something for Penelope's hair because she looks like a sheep dog. I was on about 51 minutes. Not bad. I had allowed for some cusion.

We're driving two cars because of the soccer practice afterwards. Jimmy lays down a challenge to see who can get to the mall first. Why not? He pulls out first. A total advantage because we have the shortest way to the mall down to a science. But I'm up for it. The kids get into it. I pull a gamble of a move right at the end and beat him with time to spare. Victory! Sometimes, things do go right for a mom on the move. At the mall I get a steal of a deal with a gift card and take three kids home, bathe and bed them with no poop incidents or major melt downs. I even tended to the clogged toilet. Sometimes, you have good days. You exercise, shower, escape cooking dinner and purchase something fun at the mall all in the scope of two hours.

I'm not really sure if it's sad or weird that these things are what constitute a "good" day for me. But this is my life. And although my compact is still missing, I have my years of toddler experience to assure myself that it will turn up. Unless it got flushed down the toilet. In which case I've got experience in that department as well. Don't think I'd be able to reuse it though...


The Mom Fairy?

Things have been eventful and busy around here since my last post. So, normal. There's been some potty training, some sickness, a week of reorganizing/cleaning, a toddler sitting in an ant pile, home school, some Christmas decorating, and a three year old who decided to stick his index finger in the pencil sharpener and sharpen it. I guess his quick wit wasn't enough, he needed a backup secret weapon.

I've also been taking tons of pictures, of which I feel very privileged to do. I look at these and I think about how exciting it is to get a good picture of your family and I'm excited for them. I know how relieved I am when I feel like I capture one of my kids personalities.

Speaking of personality, we've got plenty of it around here. I am so thankful for my vibrant little offspring. Even though they like to raise the level of demand on me as a mother to a new (never thought possible) level on a daily basis, I welcome it. I just hope they remember the times when I'm laughing and having fun and not the times when I go into my room and lock the door.

And while we're on the subject of locking the door, this is what I must resort to do if I have to talk on the phone. I have a complete and total deficiency as a parent. I have neglected to teach my kids phone manners. They in fact seem to do the exact opposite of everything I have ever asked of them in this area. Mom is on the phone? Time to yell at her, pull off her clothes and generally act as if the world will end if she doesn't talk to you this very second. I need to practice with them and get some kind of reward system going and the whole nine yards but for some reason I just can't get there. Where is my sticker chart to remind me to do a sticker chart with my kids? Where is my candy when I successfully teach something to them? Can I please get some sort of positive reinforcement from the Mom Fairy of the skies? Because I sure could use a piece of chocolate when I do something good as a Mom. A sticker? A reward? A check on my Mom Fairy chart? Anything!

What I really need is to sharpen my index finger so it will be much more effective when I wave it at them when I'm on the phone...


Birthday Suit Poop

Well, I wanted to post on Penelope's birthday but it was met with a few activities I'd rather not remember. (Yet here I go anyway...) I have refrained from writing about our dog, Bella, because she is a dog. Not a human being, no matter how much she and everyone else in the family believes her to be human. Do you hear me, kids? Bella is NOT a human because humans don't do the following...

Penelope, on her birthday, decided to strip down naked (How could I not let her wear her birthday suit on her birthday??) and play outside in the sandbox. She yells for me, "Oh no Mom, poop!" (NOT words you like to hear when you're me) and I run out there to see that she's pooped outside on our deck. Not a major disaster, except that her index finger was poised and ready to play with it. Luckily, I called to Jimmy for help and caught her just in time. Now, I love Jimmy, and he's a huge help around here. But when it comes to times like this, he seems to think I've called to him so that he can come and watch me deal with the mess. So he came, and stood there. But at least I had moral support. I dragged Penelope over to the hose, sprayed her little bottom clean, while he watched, and then turned around, and, to my horror, witnessed the dog eat Penelope's poop off the deck.

I screamed and declared the dog could not come inside for at least 24 hours and of course blamed Jimmy for letting it happen. He was just laughing because, he is the true saint who cleans up after the dog, feeds the dog, deals with the trash the dog drags all over the yard, so he knows what the dog puts in her mouth on a regular basis. Penelope's poop is probably pretty clean. But having to watch the dog actually do it...I prefer to live by the policy "If you don't see it, it didn't happen." For someone who has resorted to rubber gloves to deal with excrement, I do not want the image of my dog eating it going through my head when I hit the pillow at night.

I put Penelope in the bath. Guess what? She pooped in the tub. Contamination! Had to go through getting everyone out, scrubbing the tub, washing the toys, washing the kids...aahhh!

Later that night Jackson slept walked into the hallway and lifted the lid of the clothes hamper as if it was the toilet seat and was in position and ready to let it loose. Luckily I caught him and did some redirecting. I dodged a bullet. So, I'm wondering, will I ever get used to this part of the job? Because I've acclimated to many things being a mother. But do they ever run out of different ways to pee or poop on something? And will I ever stop freaking out about it?

So here I've gone and written a birthday blog about poop. I better wrap it up before I think of more to say. Luckily we didn't celebrate on her birthday, so I can remember tonight's celebration instead of the poop fiascoes. Tonight we had cake and presents. Happy Birthday Penelope!

Here's a pic of one of her cupcakes and also a few I took in the yard yesterday of she and Libby. Dressing my girls in matching clothes will never get old to me. They love it now so I'll enjoy it while I can. They had some fun with my glasses. They're like my mini-me's in them!


Good Times

Tonight Jimmy and I had a total lapse in judgement when we took our kids to the worst Wal-Mart in town, two days before Halloween. It was a zoo. What were we thinking? And isn't it funny how when one parent is totally freaking out (me) the other parent is laughing and enjoying themselves even though their children are in everybody's way and are slinging around plastic pumpkins and making WAY too much noise (Jimmy). You seem to always balance each other out that way. He was right. No one really noticed or cared. To end the trip I took the kids to the car while Jimmy stood in a ridiculously long line, and Cash peed all over his (and part of my) foot. Yes, I was letting him pee in the Wal-Mart parking lot against our tire. We don't refer to it as "the ghetto Wal-Mart" without doing our part to contribute to its reputation.

So it was a crazy ride home and another zoo trying to get everyone washed up and in bed. Libby can be extremely loud but at the same time quite sensitive to the noise. While we were out running our errands, she was crying (loudly, I might add) in the car because Cash would not talk to her. Then, while they were eating a quick snack before bed, she says to me..."I don't like how everyone talks. I wish this house was calm and no one had any mouths except me."

Well, she's right that we're not always calm. Yet still we seem to escape without too much injury. We had our first stitches this week though, when Cash fell off a chair and hit his head just right on some brick steps we have in our closed in carport. He was a good sport about it and Jimmy said he bonded with him, since he brought him to the doctor and afterward took him to Taco Bell to eat. If you want to bond with Jimmy, eat at Taco Bell with him. Even my dad has done it. They still tell the story. Crazy shopping...plastic pumpkins...peeing...stitches...Taco Bell... Good times.


Another Quote and a Naked Kid

Since I recently brought up movie quotes...one of my favorites is from Runaway Bride. Joan Cusak's character says to Julia Robert's character, as she is about to marry and is nervous..."Your veil is not attacking you!"

This week I kept hearing in my head, "Your house is not attacking you!" It was just really busy and I felt like I couldn't stop handing out snacks and picking up random stuff. I've already blogged about the impossibility to stay ahead of housework before, so I won't revisit it, but I needed that voice in my head to tell me that my house was NOT attacking me and it was just one of those weeks.

The kids, with the change of weather (yes!) have started riding their bikes in the driveway. I have been asked to move the van multiple times this week so they can have full use of the downhill slope. Our downhill actually goes towards the house so it is impossible for them to roll into the street. This is fortunate because I'm sure someone would have rolled into the street by now if that were not the case.

Cash is having a little trouble making it to the toilet recently and I'm getting tired of the laundry. When it gets to the end of the day sometimes he just runs around naked. It is quite interesting the way a three year old's nakedness turns it up a notch. Somehow when they are naked they think it is okay to run at full speed, yell at full volume, and totally ignore you.

Last night Cash was naked after dinner (it was almost bath time) and Jackson went out front to ride his bike. Cash followed and I just didn't have the energy, after three days of my house attacking me, to stop him. I went out in a few minutes to find him riding the little plastic football with the base of the handles quite strategically placed. I got the camera. I couldn't resist. I got some shots. Then he got on the tricycle, same story. (Meanwhile, cars are driving by, the neighbor is outside, people are walking their dogs, and I'm way too over the "look at us we're white trash" line to care.) So I just wanted to get one more shot, of his naked little booty while riding the tricycle. But of course, he stood up and turned the trike around. I said, "Cash, I wanted to see your booty." So he says, "Okay!" and takes both his hands and spreads his cheeks apart. I guess he wanted me to check and see if he'd wiped good enough. It was totally obscene. I snapped a picture. Jimmy said, without even seeing the picture, "DELETE THAT!" It really was over the top and inappropriate. I didn't delete it. Yes, I'm admitting to disobeying my husband right here for the whole world to see. I'm sure I'll delete it eventually, but it was just too funny to erase immediately. I will of course not post it here but let me tell you it is just as "I can't believe he did that" as it sounds. With him smiling over his shoulder and everything.

Why, when I ask this child to "Go wash your hands and face" do I have to remind him 3,000 times, but when I ask for a picture of his rear end he goes way above and beyond the call of duty? Nakedness, I guess. It is his super power. It heightens his senses and gives him super specific obedience. I wish. If this were true, he'd be naked all the time! When it was time for him to come inside I literally had to stop his wheels and raise my voice he was enjoying his naked joy ride so much. I've got a new quote for the bulletin board in my brain..."Your naked three year old is not attacking you!"



*I'm copying this definition from a dictionary. A paperback Oxford I can hold in my hand and smell with my nose. I'm not getting the definition online. On purpose. Get out a book once in while all you techies out there.

sol•i•tude n. 1 state of being solitary. 2 lonely place. 1) aloneness, isolation, seclusion; loneliness, remoteness. 2) emptiness, wilderness, desert island.

This definition sounds pretty depressing, right? Who wants to be in a lonely place? Who wants to feel remoteness and emptiness? Who wants to be by themselves on a desert island?

I DO!!

All day I couldn't get this word out of my head. Solitude. Solitude. Solitude. It must be around here somewhere, I'm thinking. I've just got to find it! It's not in the junk drawer, it's not under the couch, it hasn't been put through the washing machine, and I'm pretty sure Penelope hasn't eaten it. I just can't seem to grab hold of this simple noun. Solitude.

In my world it just doesn't exist. Or maybe Penelope put it in the trash.

BUT. Can you imagine solitude with no escape? Never having to wait in line for the bathroom or learn patience as you serve everyone shorter than you first? Watching a funny movie with no one to laugh with? Not having a fuzzy baby head to kiss? True solitude would suck.

It's all or nothing for me. Solitude, or so much togetherness you think you might die of too many loud and sticky people touching you. So I'll take the loud sticky togetherness. Goodbye solitude. Into the recycling bin you go. Turn yourself into raw life. It's much more fun. At least that's what I keep telling myself.


When Dad's away

I'm long overdue on a blog and plenty has happened to write about but the time has passed and I'm not in the mood to look back. Jimmy is out of town and I'm braving the home front by myself which, so far, isn't as bad as I'd feared. Don't freak out babe, but I'm sort of afraid I'll like it when you're gone. Like, I can sleep in the middle of the bed, I have one less person to take care of, I have "sole possession of the remote control--very important" (what movie is that from, anyone know? don't look it up!) and here's the big one, I can kick that whole submission thing to the curb for a couple of days. Just joking. I could never survive without Jimmy...proven to me by the feeling I get in my gut when I hear his voice on the phone or when he gets home after being out for a while. I'm truly blessed.

My friend Carey's husband is out of town too and tonight we braved Chick-Fil-A with our 8 children and no husbands. Carey and I can talk till the cows come home but we barely even spoke. We just sat there with mutual feelings. Like, we were both just waiting for it all to be over so we could go home and put everyone to bed and watch TV and forget about life for a couple hours. She wins the prize for the most battle scars from the experience though since she got lemonade poured all over her feet and flip flops. Chick-Fil-A brings me back every time even though it can be crazy on kids eat free nights. I just like feeding the whole family for less than 15 bucks and being served by an eager high schooler in a tie. For someone who is always serving other people food, I'll brave the germs, sticky-ness and mess to just put it all in the trash can and come home to a clean kitchen, letting my tie-wearing friend mop up the lemonade.

The kids have been really cute missing their dad. They keep asking when he is coming home and they want to talk to him on the phone or computer. Today Jackson wrote an email to Jimmy asking him how he was. Then at the end he wrote, "P.S. Send Money!" (Double points to anyone who can tell me where he got this from!)


Angel Baby

Your baby is not a baby anymore when:
-they bail out of your arms when they want to walk like a big kid
-they yell "turn it up!" from their car seat
-they crack jokes
-they remove their diaper (full of poop) and bring it to you
-they grab your face and tell you (very specifically) what they want
-they climb down from their high chair with no help
-they can sing tracks from the "Slumdog Millionaire" soundtrack

You guessed it, Penelope has done all these things recently. My baby is no longer. Just wanted to make sure I put on the blog, on the record, that Penelope has been an angelic baby, a gift from heaven. Before she hits 2 in November I am taking the opportunity to tell her (when she can one day read this) that she is my Angel Baby and I love her very much. But she is really a little girl now and I'm not saying that she will cease to be an angel, but the baby has left the house. She dances, eats, and communicates like only a little woman can. Her toddlerhood has begun to rear it's ugly head but I'm hoping to do it up right. You know..."unspare" the rod and "gratefulize" the child.

Here are some pictures from this past week. Jackson had fun making her a little royal bed, Libby had fun dressing her up, and she danced (whasup homey?) with Cash like crazy in the bathtub. (He was in the bath pics too but was naked and Cash's physique is not for the faint of heart.) I caught her reading books in her crib after nap. And I snuck a photo of her sleeping. I hate to seem like I'm bragging about my kids, so if you've made it this far, thanks for loving Penelope too!


Cheering in the Rain

Last night we went to the Florida State/Jacksonville State football game. My parents were given tickets and my Dad wanted to take Jackson for his birthday (which is in 2 weeks). I agreed to go, even though I have been on a football game fast for quite some time. It was nice to return to my cheerleading roots and cheer on the Seminoles. They needed it, seeing as how they were losing pretty much the entire game. They managed to squeeze out a win, literally, because it was extremely wet; it rained the entire first half.

Our friends the Mitchell's and Walworth's were able to go as well, and we attended the Janek's long standing tailgate party and sat with them too. Jackson had a great time and I had de ja vu with my Dad as we used our trusty free and excellent parking space and walked into the game on the same path we walked on many times my freshman and sophomore years. Score!

F-L-O-R-I-D-A S-T-A-T-E....Florida State, Florida State, Florida State, WHOOOOOO! Go Seminoles!

Wife of the Year


And with this terrible face, Julie Elizabeth Alley wins Wife of the Year. In this shot, Julie was yelling at her husband to put away her expensive camera because it was beginning to pour down rain. At the same time, Julie was trying to get on her rain jacket so as not to get completely drenched. Sorry, Jimmy. Thanks for asking me to bring the camera. And for carrying it for me. And for flirting with me at the game. I love you!


Home's Cool

Well, I have survived the first week back of "Alley Home's Cool." I'm pretty pooped. But I need to share some pics from the week, especially of Cash's first day of preschool. The morning of his first day my mom called to wish him a good day. I called him to the phone: "Cash, there's someone on the phone for you!" Cash: "Is it Mrs. F.?" (his teacher) How cute that he thought his preschool teacher would call him an hour before school just to make sure he was on the ball. He sure was. He was Mr. Happy that's for sure.

That same morning he took his breakfast smoothie to his room and declared he was going to have "a drinking party." I sometimes write these things I don't want to forget down and also as fuel for the blog. I jotted down "a drinking party in my room" on an index card and put it next to the toaster, for I knew there would be other one liners that day. Later in the day Jackson found the card and sought me out to ask what it meant. (Anything involving the word "party" Jackson must be informed of.) I explained it to him and so he decided to find Cash and tell him he was ready to organize the "drinking party" in their room. So a sign was made for the door and Jackson gathered the necessary refreshments and cups. I was invited. (My first drinking party--YES!) I came in to the red solo cups and everything. I took a drink of my brew (H2O) and stood there with Jackson as we drank. I couldn't resist. I said, "So, come here often?" and he says, matter of factly, "Yeah. Cash has this party every day from (pauses to glance at the clock) 1:24 to about 1:40." So there you go. What better way to kick off your first days of homeschool than with a drinking party?

Sometimes people ask me how I get anything done with my older student when I have little ones running around. I don't really stress about it because I just think about all the other home school moms who have gone before me. I figure if they made it through somehow I can too. But it is definitely a challenge and causes many many many interruptions. Penelope spends most of the day doing this like this:

So, there you go. That's how I get things done. I allow my toddler to tattoo herself with markers. After Jackson, they've all done it. It's a rite of passage. She also eats them, though, which is unique to Penelope. I'm not going to analyze why this is. I've also been trying to get a shot of Penelope on top of the dog for a while. Our dog Bella lies around a lot and Penelope will go over to her and plop down right on top of her like she's a pillow and the dog doesn't even bat an eye. It's like nothing happened. She's a very tolerant dog and I think has a soft spot for Penelope because she's the same height and I do catch Penelope sharing her snacks with the dog sometimes.

Today I taught an art class for some home school friends of mine and we had fun and got dirty. I didn't get any pictures because it was too busy! Afterward Jackson made a movie with some of his buddies and this is how I caught him reviewing it later in the day. I think Jackson's current hairdo (he's begging us not to cut it) looks like Jim from The Office. That's what I said.

We wrapped up the week tonight when Libby got to get her first library card. I let them get it when they are in Kindergarten. She wrote her name on the back like a big girl and was so proud. She got a free bag and filled that thing up to where it was so heavy she could barely carry it. She reminded me of myself. You can only get 50 items, Libby!

And one last pic: Cash and Penelope--the new school. Stay out of trouble kids, and you just might learn something around here. If you're not down with the educational route, there will be a drinking party every afternoon...


Septomom vs. Dracula

Well, today was one of those days that I feel the need to take a shower when it's over in an attempt to wash it all down the drain. It's only 7:27 and I'm already out, because Jimmy saw the need and put everyone to bed at 7:00. Thanks, babe.

This morning I watched a friend of mine's kids, three girls. So I had my time of being a mom of seven. It was fun and pretty uneventful. I realized what having a big family must be like when I was assembling turkey sandwiches en mass at 10:30 a.m. in anticipation of "the lunch rush". It's really great when the kids have friends over because they're not constantly asking me to be their playmate. And I can enjoy watching them. I really only felt a little like Octomom once when I had the fussy baby strapped to my chest while wiping a bottom. It was short lived and at least the poop was in the toilet.

Later after nap time the whole family went to the library and I was feeling pretty rough (coming down with a cold) and felt like I was shush-ing children left and right. Especially Cash who goes from quietly playing in the water fountain to reading to running around and screaming all in the space of three minutes while we are at the library. But this wonderful angelic woman said, after I had shushed someone, "I think their voices sound really cute. You're not bothering anyone." God bless this wonderful human being. They are cute. Above the decibel level for the library by my standards, but cute.

At dinner I hit a new level of chaos/misrule when Cash was walking around the kitchen twirling a string over his head like a lasso. Not a good idea, but even more so when he had found the string on the kitchen table fresh from the rotisserie chicken Jimmy was cutting up. It had been tying the legs together. And I wonder how my walls get so dirty so fast.

In the bath tonight there was high pitched screaming made by Libby and Cash as they were pretending with their toy fish. I tried to get their attention but to no avail. It's like I wasn't even in the room. Jimmy came in to see what was going on and I complained to him that I could say anything and they wouldn't hear me. I tried, "Hey, tomorrow we're going to Disney World" and miraculously they got quiet and said, "We are?" No kids, I just want to wash your hair!!

And finally, what put us over the top on the early bedtime...Cash fell in the hallway after getting out of the bath and not drying off enough. He cried pretty hard but I was busy in Libby's room behind him and just gave the perfunctory, "Cash, are you ok?" and left him lying there. (Hey, people fall down and cry all the time around here!) Libby walked up a few seconds later and said, "Mom, Cash is bleeding!" and I felt pretty bad and came around to help him. What I found was a three year old that looked a bit like Dracula after quite a feast. I mean, really, like more blood than I think I've ever bled at once (childbirth excluded). He was fine, just a bad busted lip. Bedtime for all! And that's when I hit the shower. Washed all that Septomom, Dracula, and chicken residue down the drain for the night. I start over tomorrow. And willingly. This is my life. And it's full of life. And I love it. It just makes my blog a little better to sound like I'm going a little crazy.


Sally Julie Raphael

Today on the way to church Jackson asked me (again!) about the restaurant I went to last night. It's called Bella Bella and he's very interested in it because our dog's name is Bella. He wanted to know why we never go there to eat. I told him because it was "fancy" and it costs a lot of money. (That and because every eating establishment which we give the honor of serving us a meal, we leave them a small beach of crumbs, spilled drinks, and sticky tables while we are being really loud and impatient during the entire meal.) Last night he was very concerned because I was all "fancy". All I had done was take a shower, braid my hair, put on a cotton dress (with flip-flops) and was wearing a necklace. He wanted to know why I was getting so dressed up. I guess since my usual attire is jeans and a t-shirt, yoga pants, or paint clothes, I looked pretty good.

So anyway, he asked me again this morning about it. "Mom, does the chicken at Bella Bella have curls on it?" I asked him what he meant by curls. He said, "You know, like curls and lace on it, since it's fancy." I said no, and thought it was quite Amelia Bedelia-ish of him to think so. But really, if the restaurant is fancy, shouldn't the chicken come out wearing lace and curls? (Amelia Bedelia actually does "dress" the chicken in one of her books.)

Having this discussion about fancy restaurants and lacy chickens are just some of the things I have to talk about around here. Someone always seems to want to talk to me about what is going on with them, no matter how big or small the problem. I feel loved and appreciated, but lately I've felt pretty overwhelmed. I can't tell you how many times someone will be talking to me and someone else breaks in. Who am I, Sally Jesse Raphael? Is it the glasses? Because sometimes I feel like a talk show host.

On our panel today we have Libby and Cash. Libby feels hurt because Cash messed up her doll house and Cash seems unrepentant and aloof. Audience, let's welcome Libby and Cash!

Julie: Libby, can you tell me why you've come today?
Libby: Cash messed up my dollhouse!
Cash: It was an accident!
Libby: No it wasn't! He did it on purpose!
Julie: Cash, did you mess up Libby's dollhouse?
Cash: Don't spank me!
Julie: Let's bring in our expert, Jackson.
Jackson: Thanks for having me.
Julie: Jackson, did you see what happened?
Jackson: Yes, Cash pushed over Libby's dollhouse toys.
Julie: Cash, look at me. Cash...Cash...look in my eyes.
Cash: I won't do it anymore.
Julie: You need to tell Libby you're sorry...

And so it goes. My life is really just like a Jerry Springer episode without the mullets and microphones. I am a problem solver, an exploiter of people's mistakes, and I make a spectacle out of people's bad behavior in hopes to get... ratings? Well, it breaks down there, but I do feel sometimes like I need a microphone and cue cards to 1) be loud enough to be heard over the screams and frustration and 2) remember what I'm supposed to say that is patient, loving, Godly, yet still just and firm. Can I get some scripted mommy-isms to get me out of a bind? And while we're at it, how about an arsenal of good-loving-supportive wife comments to utter when I'm feeling overwhelmed by all my husbands crazy ideas? Thanks. Just drop them off at my trailer. I'll be hanging out at the food table, since I seem to not be able to get through the day anymore without chocolate.

Ooh, even now I hear a fight breaking out in the back of the house. Here I go. JER-RY, JER-Y, JULIE, JULIE...


Winning the War

Sometimes I am afraid that one day my friends and family will realize they haven't heard from me lately and that I'm not answering any one's phone calls and they will come to my house only to find that me and my entire family have died of messiness. We will all be buried under a mound of toys, dishes, laundry, shoes, and books. They will pull me out last, only to find me breathing my last breaths, as I listlessly utter, "Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere..."

Why is it so hard for me to accept the fact that there are six people living here and that we live here, thus we use things, make messes, and there is always putting away and cleaning up to be done. If my house was neat all the time, we wouldn't be living here. But does that mean that we can't put our shoes away when we take them off? Because I'm believing the impossible---I think we can!

I'm pretty tired of fighting this battle, if you haven't noticed. But we home makers are silent warriors, fighting the war of messiness and disorganization but determined, no matter how many battles we lose, to win the overall war. It is a thankless job with no recognition or praise for our work. Who's to see when we conquer and reorganize our linen closet? But we know. Somehow we can rest a little easier knowing the sheets and towels do not have control over us, but that we can still show them who is boss.

And to encourage all of you out there like me, just keep going. Keep preaching "a place for everything and everything in it's place" even if it only happens 10 percent of the time. Last night before bed Jackson was allowed to read books on my bed until bed time. When I came to bed, my bed was covered with various piles of books, adding up to 20. I was so happy to see my son enjoying books and so I did not mind cleaning up after him. THEN, he apologized this morning for leaving them on my bed in my way. THEN he told me he had organized them and that the "other" pile had the most books in it.

A small battle won by those who like to put things away. My son organized his books! Yes! So I am inspired to keep teaching cleanliness even though from my very spot at this computer I can see unidentified sludge on the floor, a dirty diaper wad, and enough dog hair to knit a sweater. I will march on! I will win the war against messiness! It will not dominate me! Now off I go to fight another day of messiness battles. Charge!


Warning: Fresh Paint

Well, we've been doing major home improvement stuff this week and I'm really tired but wanted to get it down for posterity. We hung dry wall a couple weeks ago and this week finished it, primed, and painted our entire living room from floor to ceiling. Plus all the baseboards and molding. So everything has been in total upheaval... not totally out of the norm but still disconcerting and hard for the kids and even the dog. Plus, I kept finding little black dog hairs in my paint so she was not on my good list this week. All of us, dog included, did strange behavioral things because everything was just so crazy around here.

On Friday morning I found dog poop, complete with flies, on the deck. I did not touch it. I take care of the majority of the poop inside the house made by the children; I leave the outside and the dog to Jimmy. He also gets up with the dog in the middle of the night. It's actually kind of nice to be on the other side of "someone's crying (or barking) go take care of it." I refuse to get up for a dog. I have actual humans who need me here.

So then, later, we got home from swimming at a friend's house and I took off Penelope's suit and she said she had to go potty. I let her. She peed. Got a treat. Woo hoo big girl blah blah blah. She then comes to me a few minutes later (still naked I just hadn't gotten to her yet) and told me she pooped on the floor. I asked her to show it to me. She did. I cleaned this one up, after assigning Cash the job of making sure the dog did not go near it, as I knew she would probably either roll in it or eat it or stand next to it and pee. Luckily Cash did his job and it was just a normal clean-up job.

I have been so focused on painting and just wanting to get it done I've let a lot of things go and have ignored a lot of things that would usually cause alarm. This afternoon Jimmy found some unidentifiable substance on the ground that we thought might be vomit but it didn't really look like it, but we just couldn't tell. The only kid it could have been from would be Penelope so I called her over and asked her if she did it but her communication is not quite ready for this kind of exchange so I couldn't determine if was hers. All she smelled like was graham crackers. It didn't look like anything she'd eaten today, and she didn't have anything on her shirt or mouth, so...that leaves the dog? I still don't know who did it but I did actually get my nose down there and smell it (what was I thinking?) while holding my paint brush, then went right back to my painting and let Jimmy deal with that one. He does have a cleaning business and all.

All day today, Jackson was working on an elaborate drawing of "Jackson's World" in which Jimmy cleans and I cook. We work three days a week for $20 an hour. I am talking to Jackson about all this while painting. Asking him where he's getting the money for this lavish house. In a round about way, he basically said he prints his own money. And there is a rocket ship parked in his yard. It is tiring to keep up with all this while painting and making sure no one touches it. Later on, Libby peed her pants. Cash came in with his underwear on inside out. Are those the ones with a skid mark from earlier? I thought. Oh well I'm just not going to look. I just kept painting. Put on a video. Get your own drink, grab a cheese stick, I just kept rolling. I am glad to say I am done for a while and hopefully everything will get back to semi-normal and I can keep the house under control.

What am I saying? DO I EVER HAVE THE HOUSE UNDER CONTROL? No! But maybe my chaos will seem a little better with freshly painted walls and clean baseboards.


Preschool Camp

For about two years now, I have referred to Libby and Cash as "the Preschoolers." I'm a bit nostalgic because when I start schooling again in the fall Libby will be in kindergarten so I won't be able to call them that anymore. Jimmy's dad had minor surgery earlier this week so Jimmy and Jackson went to see him down in Brandon and me and the rest of the kids dropped off at my mom's in Waldo since she is by herself while my dad is on a mission trip in Bolivia.

So this week has been like the Preschooler's last hurrah, since we've been really focused on them and doing things they like to do. I feel like I have gone to Preschool camp. It has included things like dancing, playing school, taking bubble baths, going to the pool, going to a museum, going to a playground, and generally having fun and being content just to play and pretend. When Cash got into the bubble bath today he just romped and rolled and said, "Happy, happy, happiness!" This sums up the Preschoolers.

Libby and Cash really are best friends and have also shared a bed these last few nights and play until they just can't stay awake anymore. Last night I checked on them before I went to bed and they were holding hands in their sleep. The preschoolers are like that. Arguing one minute and holding hands the next. Keeping you on your toes. Requiring much patience and determination to not allow them to take over the free world. I'm pretty sure I'm still in charge.

I've dubbed Penelope the "Preschooler in training" for she is doing all kinds of things such as going potty (when she wants to), sitting on a tall stool at the island to eat a snack, and running the other way when you call her name (total preschooler behavior). But she cannot graduate quite yet, for I can still muscle her into the stroller and she does after all, prefer her thumb and blanket to many preschool activities that are yet to come. I'm sure she'll be glad to take Libby's place and become a preschooler with Cash soon. He still needs a woman to keep him in line.

I love you Libby and Cash. You are the coolest preschoolers ever!


Pumped up volume

So, every year as a cheerleader I won the award for loudest voice. I swear those football players could hear me shouting through the megaphone as they lined up on the goal line on 4th down. I've always been proud of my loud voice. Until lately. My children have inherited many of my wonderful talents and abilities, and of course some not so wonderful. But it seems they have all inherited my loudness. And oh, how it has come back to haunt me. And hurt me. And my ears.

The thing about loudness is that no matter how hard you try to respond in a quiet calm and kind sounding voice, so as to be a good example to your child, it will not work on a three year old who is shouting or singing (or both) at the top of his lungs. He just cannot hear you unless you yell louder than him. You can try and wait him out, he has to take a breath at some point, right? But if you wait him out, by then you just can't think straight anymore and you're afraid for your own sanity. Like, seriously, if the noise level does not drop and drop soon, you just might go into your bedroom and not come out until everyone has run around and yelled long enough that they pass out. Who cares if they're pounding on your door or playing in their poop, I've just had enough of the noise.

I have to admit I've never used the "let's use our inside voices" cue. If I thought it would work I would. But that would mean absolutely nothing to our kids. Our volume is: Inside voice-- loud. Outside voice-- a little louder. Jimmy tries to carry on conversations with me while in the bathroom with the door closed, me at the sink, water running, trying to get someone a drink ("Mom, I'm thirsty I want..." "How do you ask" "May I have a drink" "Yes" "What Jimmy?" "I can't hear you" "Yes, I'm getting the drink" you get the picture) I mean, I don't know at what point I lost control of the volume knob but it has definitely taken over and lately we've soared to levels I didn't know existed. Like, higher than eleven. I literally have to clap my hands and say "Excuse me boys and girls" just so we can say a prayer before we eat.

It's pretty overwhelming. But, full of life. And whenever Jimmy or I commiserate about how we can't go out whenever we want, can't have a conversation between the hours of 7 and 7 without being interrupted, how we feel we are just guests at the Holiday Kid, I remind him. Remind him how badly we wanted kids and how miserable we would be right now if we were unable to conceive and have kids of our own. It's true. And I'm so thankful. But all the thankfulness in the world will not turn them down, although sometimes I wish it would. But most times I'm glad I have a noisy life. It makes the quiet times much more wonderful. So pump it up, kids. But if I go crazy, refer to paragraph two and don't say I didn't warn you.


Catching Up

Oh, where to begin? We are coming off a quite eventful two weeks or so. Jimmy has finished his job at the middle school and is already off on another business venture as I write. He is awaiting the prospect of another job and meanwhile we have enjoyed a small vacation.

Our trip to my hometown area included us working on my sister Susan's house in Merritt Island, FL. Their family is moving to Sugarland, TX in a couple of weeks so we helped them prep their home for sale. I got to take some pictures of her house which was fun. Jimmy took multiple trips to the Cocoa dump, which I'm sure involved some interesting characters. My mom cleaned like only the queen can, and was so committed I had to force her to leave the room for fear she would asphyxiate from all the bleach she was swimming in. My family stepped it up if I do say so myself. If you need to clean up your house and make it look good, we're the ones to call.

My other sister kept the cousins, all 10 of them, ranging in age from 1 to 15. They called it the "cousin party" and for two days they swam, played the Wii, and just had fun. After the work days we were able to go to the beach and play. The disadvantage to having a nice professional camera is that I will NOT take it to the beach (unless I'm hired to do so)...I don't want it to get ruined with sand/salt. My sister did have her camera so I'll hopefully get some pictures from her. So, the only vivid memory I have from the beach is when I took Cash to the port-o-potty and had to live my own personal nightmarish Slumdog Millionaire community toilet scene. Aaahh!

After my sister's we went to see our friends Jeremy and Darcy in Vero Beach, FL. They just had a new baby which I was able to hold to my heart's content and got to take some pictures of her too. We enjoyed watching all the kids play together...Libby called Madeleine her BBF (she meant BFF) and Jimmy was amazed when Nena, their three year old spoke to him in Spanish. The last morning we were there Nena woke me with the song "This is the Day" sung about six inches from my face. She sang the whole thing. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Whew. I'm trying to give the condensed version but it's hard. After Vero we went up to my parents house in Waldo to spend the 4th of July weekend with my entire family. This included multiple skiing and tubing events and the entertainment of watching our dog and Dad's dog (the sister black labs) jump into the lake at high and long distances. I have some pictures but am not going to get to them for a couple more days...

The day before the 4th we drove to Itchutuckne Springs and floated down the springs, all 15 of us. (My mom stayed home with the little ones--the only kid I had to keep track of was Jackson.) I got really cold and was a bit delirious and really hungry and thirsty when we got out of the spring. Waiting for the tram to take us back to our cars, it appeared we would not fit and would have to wait for the next one. This was not okay with me. I was determined to squeeze on so I said, "Come on! We can fit!" and squeezed between Jimmy and my Dad on the last two seats left. I thought others from our family had gotten on. As we were driving away I heard my sister yell (from the line) "We've got Jackson!" and at that point I realized that I had not given even half a thought as to where he was or whether or not he was on or off or even with an adult. I felt like the worst mom ever! It was the cold! It made me temporarily selfish and pushy!

The vacation culminated with us bringing home our dog finally and feeling pretty bad about tearing her away from her sister and also my dad who had pretty much become her master. She's been having a blast at the lake swimming and jumping and now she's in our craziness here...seems to wonder if things ever slow down around here. Well, they don't. But she's gotten a lot of love from our kids and Jimmy and I pet her...well, occasionally. It's not that I don't like her, I'm just trying to get used to having another reason to wash my hands. They're getting all chapped and raw again. Yesterday morning I shoveled poop twice, wiped Cash's booty, and changed Penelope's diaper all within the space of 45 minutes. I'm going to buy stock in anti-bacterial soap.

So that's it for now. I'm going to try to get to my pictures soon!


The Heat is ON

You know it's hot when you break into a sweat just stepping outside to take out the trash. We have slipped into full summer mode here in the Tallahassee. I'm trying to deny that the heat has reared it's ugly head but it has and it's given meaning to the very expression "ugly head". I've been doing morning VBS with the kids this week so when we get back at 12:30 I literally vow not to leave the haven of air conditioning for the rest of the day. I've considered trying to pretend it doesn't exist and become a hermit for the next three months, not even venturing out to the grocery stores...living on whatever I can find in the depths of my pantry and freezer. (Don't think I haven't considered trying this on many occasions...not just when it's hot...trips to the grocery store can get pretty dreadful.) And then I think about how the heat will still win the war because my electric bill will surely show the constant AC use. But then...

My inner cheerleader steps in and chides me for being such a whimp*. Be aggressive! B-E Aggressive! B-E A-G-G-R...well, I can't type all that out, that's just a little too aggressive. Anyway, my inner voice says, "Julie, stop being such a whiner! Think about the Tallahassee Indians! (I don't know exactly what they're called but I'm too hot to look it up) They settled here so that you could one day enjoy living in such a beautiful town! They did not have air conditioning! And they had to kill their food! And plant seeds and weave stuff!" And then I think how fortunate that I didn't live then because I would not want to go around half naked with a baby hanging off my boob. Do you see what the heat does to me? It makes me crazy in the head!

And let me tell you something else. I think another reason it makes me crazy is because it doesn't get dark until like 9:30. When you've been with crazy kids in the heat all day you just want the cover of darkness. Please, can we just get a little Truman Show action around here and have the sun set at the bedtime of the Alley's house? However early that might be? Because I don't need daylight after bedtime. It's not like I'm going anywhere. It's not like I want to anyway since I become a hot mess of mosquito bites if I step out onto the front porch for more than like five seconds. Here I go complaining again. Where's my inner cheerleader now to stop my whining? Oh wait, she must have forgot her water bottle and passed out from heat exhaustion. Funny, her outfit looks very similar to those in my Native American daydreams.

I stand by my spelling of whimp. Spell check wants me to spell it w-i-m-p. But if whimper is spelled with an h, don't you think whimp should be too? If the word ginormous can be put into the dictionary, I can spell whimp however I want.


Happy 5th Bday Libby!

So, Libby turned 5 today and we had quite the outing to the mall so she could spend $10 of birthday money from my grandmother at Build-A-Bear Workshop. (She has been waiting days to give her bear a bath because she touched some mac n cheese a few weeks ago.) Then on to Chick-Fil-A where Libby got to get a shake to share with her brothers. The day started out though with Jackson impaling the side of his ankle with a toothpick. I was standing at the sink and he was just walking behind me and suddenly screamed in pain and I looked down to see quite a large line of blood pouring down his foot. I finished what I was doing (because blood, of course, has become no reason for alarm unless it is shooting across the room from someones jugular or in the near vicinity of my semi-new couch) and bent down to ask him what happened. He said a toothpick went into his foot. Like, he was just walking across the kitchen and a random toothpick on the floor assaulted him. I don't know how it could have happened but I believe him and plan to keep a closer eye on my toothpicks. After just watching part of Transformers with Jimmy I am wondering if maybe my toothpicks are robotic. Meanwhile, Jackson has quite the puncture wound and wouldn't put any weight on his foot when we got back from the mall. Where was my phone answerer and personal assistant? Jackson was asking me to get things for him. Whoa, buddy, not so fast.

The picture at the top is from this past weekend when we had a small party with my parents and sister's family. (I made a chocolate cake for the first time and I think it probably weighed more than Libby) The below pictures are lessons in self-control. My nephew Lincoln obviously wanted to help Libby blow out her candles but knew he may not be able to trust himself to refrain from helping so he went with the hands over your mouth technique. Libby also knew she had to wait until the song was over so went with the same technique to wait it out. I should have implemented the same technique at nap time today when I said in a not so nice voice to Libby, "I don't care if it's your birthday, I will spank your bottom if you scream again!" Note to self: If you get upset at your kids, place hands over mouth and sing Happy Birthday until your horns retract and your eyes go back into your head. Otherwise, you will look like Optimus Mom and your children will writhe in fear. Well, then. Happy Birthday Libby!

Thanks to my bro-in-law Willie for capturing this!


One, Three, Five, Seven

Libby's 5th birthday is this week. When she turns five, I'll be into the three months out of the year when my kids are two years apart in age. So I'll have a 1, 3, 5, and 7 year old. This is what these odd numbers are like these days...

1... (19 months)
Penelope is definitely not getting any dumber, uglier, or slower. Quite the opposite. She is making her way as a smart, mothering little girl who uses her cuteness to change any harsh looks directed her way. She loves to be sung to (her faves are Bob the Builder and Jesus loves me) and to snuggle with her blankets. Last week she picked and ate her own blackberries adjacent to the park we go to a lot. She was so cute nestled into a bush just picking and eating away. And that night I was amazed again at small kids colon activity when I was given her own recipe of quite a few smooshed and whole blackberries in her diaper. So everything is quite on schedule with her. Oh, and she loves to run around the house naked which is always fun to watch.

When I think about Cash these days I think about how he pees everywhere...in the yard, off the back deck into the yard, on the front tire of our van (he makes sure he gets it in the hole so he can see the steam come off whatever hot car part his pee is touching). And after he sits on the potty inside, he runs around naked too. Lots of nakedness from Cash. He can ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,p ,puieasxd Oh, he can do the above--he typed this while I was away from the computer for a few minutes. This pretty much sums it up. Mischievous and sneaky. Oh, and he seems to say everything as if he is speaking through clenched teeth. Like, "Doh do dat Wibby!"/ that was him. / He thinks it's hil4larious. Typing numbe1rs 0while I'm at the computer. So funny, Cash.

Libby has become quite the bookworm. She has begun reading at an early age and reads whatever she can get her hands on. Today I was reading out loud to her and she began reading another book simultaneously and I had to stop her so I wouldn't be wasting my time. Although, honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if she could listen to a story and read a story at the same time. She is pretty with it. And very imaginative. She is always telling me stories and explaining drawings and I feel like a dummy because on a scale of one to ten she makes me feel like my imagination is a 2. And the only problems I have with her losing her temper and being unkind is when Cash won't pretend the way she wants. A few days ago she whacked him with a mirror because he wasn't doing the right thing with a plastic dog. Heaven forbid he places the dog on the wrong pretend bed. Don't get in the way of Libby's imagination or you will pay!

Ah, Jackson. Where to begin? He's Jackson. Full of life. To the brim. Questions galore and random facial expressions by the thousands. And fun to be with. I was doing dishes the other day and he walked up with a big folder and started fanning me with it, chanting, "You're the royal queen..." Last week he asked me if I had any ideas of how he could get to Hollywood? He said we could keep in touch by Facebook, Gtalk, letters, phone, and email. When I asked him why he wanted to go to Hollywood he said, "Because they treat you really nice, there's lots of fun things to do, and they have really good food." One night last week, I came in his bedroom to tuck him in and he was waiting for me, standing in a chair in his underwear, arms stretched over his head, and as soon as I came in he yelled, "I'm startastic!" I have no idea what he thinks this means, but that's exactly what Jackson is. Startastic.


This weekend we were out of town (again!) to my parents because my sis and family were there and we do not often miss an opportunity to hang with cousins. Jackson and my sister's three boys had quite a few crazy tube rides from their Pop-Pop. I went once with the camera to try and get a few pictures. It is not easy, as the boat is bumping like crazy too and trying to keep the camera from giving me a black eye was my main concern. Libby and I even went on a girly, no big bumps, slow tube ride. I like to go on crazy rides too, it's just hard for me to put myself in the hands of my dad behind the wheel of a ski boat. I've lost my innocence and tend to think of the ibuprofen I'll be downing in the morning. I totally trust my dad to take care of me, but he usually has quite a bit of fun throwing me around first. But it really is a lot of fun.


A Dog for the J Train

This weekend we went to stay with my parents and proceeded with our plan to have this coming week to work on home improvement projects by sending the boys with Jimmy's parents to Brandon and leaving the girls at my parents house in Waldo. Everything was proceeding well when something I never thought would happen happened.

There is this thing about being a Christian. You sometimes feel called to things and have no idea why. This is what happened to me this weekend. Just yesterday, actually. We got a dog. It just sort of happened and for some reason I feel totally okay with it. I'm still wondering if I was possessed by the ghost of a dog-lover or something because I have no idea why I wanted this dog, but like I said, sometimes you feel like you're supposed to do something and it's just not something you ever thought you would do.

So we have this dog, she is a black lab named Bella. She is nine months old, so still a puppy but not a newbie. My Dad helped us get her--it was a man from his church who asked if he knew anyone who would like two black lab pups. Dad said "No" and then a matter of hours later we went and picked them up. Dad's going to keep the other one, her name is Abigail. He may and try to find a home for her, but she's already pretty attached to him.

Last night I laid in bed thinking, basically, "What was I thinking?!" and also things like: Will my house get really gross? Will I be able to teach her to obey? Will I smell like a dog? Will I be able to resist the urge to wash my hands every five minutes? Are we stupid to take on an extra expense? Am I even a dog person? Why, God? Well, I'm going to find out.

After getting her, we had to decide whether or not to keep the already made appointment to get her baby maker turned off. So here I can't even make this decision for good in my own life, and now I have to decide it for my dog which I've only had for a few hours. I just always wanted to see a dog have puppies, and I also just really love pregnancy. Anyway, with the voice of Bob Barker in my head, we decided to control the pet population and she will be getting fixed on Wednesday. The appointment was close to where my parents live so both dogs will be with my parents this week and will have their motherly fates decided together. We will get to bring her home next weekend.

So there it is. Just when I don't think I have any news to post on the blog...we get a dog. It really is a pretty crazy ride around here.


That makes Jesus happy

I've been away from the blog due to more home renovations and company and just general craziness this week which culminated in a horrible restaurant experience tonight that I can easily sum up with the following nursery rhyme:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe
She had so many children she didn't know what to do
She gave them some broth without any bread
She whipped them all soundly
and put them to bed

I'll leave out the details, for fear that someone from the Department of Children and Families reads my blog...I've always thought there is quite a bit of wisdom in this so tonight Jimmy and I lined everyone up on the couch and well, you know...

Things can get pretty busy around here and there is always something to do. I try to play with the kids when they ask, but it's really hard sometimes to want to sit down on the floor and drive cars around when you have absolutely no brain cells left to devote to using your imagination. Earlier this week I literally fell asleep sitting on the floor "playing." (I put it in quotes because I was obviously not doing much playing.) Yet sometimes, you get a payoff. I don't ever want to forget what Cash said today when I agreed to play Little People with him.

We were playing with a castle and king, queen, etc. Cash, playing the king, said he had to tell everyone something. So he climbs him up to the top of the castle and stands out over his lowly subjects, played by me. He made the king say, "I need you to go to Disney World with me! Do you hear me?!" And I laughed and said, "Okay, king." He began to climb down and as he was doing so he said, "Because that makes Jesus happy!"

If only I could just get down on the floor and play with them more often. Because I think that makes Jesus happy.



Penelope is now 18 months and I try not to freak out daily about the fact that my baby is growing up and forcing me down the exit ramp off the freeway of babyhood. It's a crazy bumpy fast-paced ride full of accidents and many tears so you'd think I'd be happy to get off but I'm not. I'm trying to remember the feeling of a baby kicking inside me and a newborn sleeping on my chest...

I like to remember those things, and it's good to do so because then I also remember things like nausea, waddling, spit up down my shirt, sore nipples, night time feedings, and the general greasiness you feel 65% of the time when you have a new baby. So even though all those things are totally worth it, I'm trying to see myself as in the pay off stage. Like, I had the baby, trained her well, now I'm enjoying my adventurous 18 month old who will still snuggle with me whenever I need it.

I snapped this picture of Penelope a couple weeks ago. I didn't catch her like this, she climbed in face first and I caught her in there with her back towards me. So I grabbed the camera and turned her around so I could remember just how cute and little and playful my baby girl is.

I have always tried to capture the cuteness of my kids in the bath...little kids are SO cute wet all over. But I've never really been able to do it to satisfy myself. I threw caution to the wind and got way too close to water with my expensive camera but was able to get a 1...2...3... of Penelope that I think will remind me of her preciousness one day. It is special to be the baby. We're all crazy about her. I'm glad I'm getting this down now, because yesterday and today she started walking around the house yelling, "Maaa! Maaa!" I'm sure this is going to get old real quick but for now I'm scooping her up and loving her with fury.

Finally, today I took pictures of Cash for his "3 year old" photo shoot. I'm only a month late, that's pretty impressive. I put some pictures on my photography blog, but here's one I left off the "professional" site. It happened in the middle of the session...he had to pee so he dropped his drawers right there in the yard. Love it.