Merry Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas from the J Train! Whoever you are, we love you for reading our blog! If we usually exchange Christmas cards, I've got a hard copy of this photo for you...I just haven't mailed or run into you yet! The baby in the photo is not our new one...she's still in utero and seems to be content to miss this Christmas. Hope your day is merry! Love, the Alley's


The Nursery

I got to fix up my nursery for our coming baby girl. It is also the guest room. It is pink and girly and I'm not afraid to add some birds. Will I ever tire of birds and trees? I don't think so. They are just too soothing. So here she will sleep. Complete with my dad's first pair of shoes and one of my favorite pictures of my mom and me. I was her third girl, and this will be my third girl. I feel extremely blessed. For the baby and a space to call hers.


Well, I've been without my husband and kids for a few days...free to nest and organize and enjoy complete quiet. And groan out loud when I'm in pain, for there's no one to ask what's the matter. They are on their way home now, so I'm wrapping up and planning on raising my feet high in the air for the last hour of solitude...my ankles have risen to a new level of huge.

While cleaning up and doing projects around here I found some interesting collections. The most impressive was my collection of plastic grocery bags. I really wish I had photographed them or at least gotten an estimate. I'm sure it was a few hundred. But I found some other things I had multiples of...
Who knew we had seven hammers in the house?

And Jimmy's accumulation of big drink cups was quite impressive.

And though I can never find a pencil when we need one, we have plenty of scissors. I love scissors. You can't have enough. Getting them all in one place makes me quite happy.

And then there were these cuties. I'm getting ready to add one. Long live the snot suckers.

I also came across huge virtual collections, like the 4 GB memory card I emptied and backed up on CD's. Quite a feat if I do say so myself.

And then there's the collection of movies I "watched" (which means played in the background for noise to keep myself company)...I always pick movies with good music since I don't really watch them, just listen to them...quite a good selection if I do say so myself...
School of Rock
You've Got Mail
13 going on 30
Music and Lyrics
While You were Sleeping

I guess that's it. I'm ready for my collection of children to return.


The Excuse

Here it is. My excuse. The excuse. This is the last month I'm going to have it, so I just wanted everyone to know that it's really the best excuse. There is no excuse better than, "I'm pregnant." And though in general I do love being pregnant, it brings about some challenges. And everything from dropping something clumsily to forgetting your social security number is covered under "I'm pregnant." So I'm planning on using it every chance I get for the next four weeks. Here are just a few of the things I'm planning on getting "excused" due to my condition.

forgetting I'm supposed to be somewhere
being late
not showing up at all
having b.o.
eating whatever I want (or don't want)
not cooking
taking a nap
going to bed early
sleeping late
groaning out loud
fat ankles
fat thighs
fat fat
my dirty toilet
my dirty floors
all the dirty clothes
moving slowly
looking and feeling like a blob
making poor decisions
getting emotional
"losing it"
generally slacking off

Come quickly, sweet baby. Because as much as I enjoy having an excuse for spilling things, forgetting things, and yelling at things, I'd rather not do these things. And not do them wearing normal clothes.


Shiny Happy People

Does this happen to average people? Do I have unusual kids? This morning I awoke to R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" blasting from wireless portable speakers sitting on the kitchen counter. I had been doing some cleaning and unearthed them so Jimmy set them up yesterday to see if they still worked. So this morning of course, the kids cranked them up at 7 a.m. I wish it made me feel shiny and happy but really I wanted to stay in bed a little longer. Not get up and dance to a trippy song from my middle school years.

This song was the only one they played all the way through. The speakers were connected (wireless-ly) to our computer, so I heard approximately 20 seconds of about 25 to 30 songs before I pulled myself out of bed. Meanwhile, Jimmy is snoring next to me. I don't know how he does it. But there's hope for all of you out there with zero to one child. You can be conditioned to sleep through quite a bit. And if you're like me, though you might not be able to sleep through it, you can learn to tolerate it. Even when the Johnny Cash song "Sam Hall" plays, you can let it go and not even worry your son (named Cash) will start singing it at preschool that day and ruin your reputation as an upright Christian home school mom.

So all day I'm thinking about Shiny Happy People. I looked up the lyrics. There's nothing to them. Just happy people laughing, holding hands, throwing their love around. Putting it in the ground where the flowers grow. And really, I need this pseudo-hippy approach to parenting sometimes. Throw a little love around. Hold someone's hand. "There's no time to cry...happy happy..." Yet somehow my evil mommy eyes seem to pop out of my head without my consent.

And so I thought about that. The evil mommy eyes. The face you make when you say something like, "If you touch that one more time, I'm gonna..." or the face you make without words that can say all by itself, "Don't you dare cross me right now." I decided I'm not at fault for this. Every mom I've ever known (and especially my own) can make the face of a prison warden who is nose to nose with an inmate. It comes with the job. The scary mom face. It's not shiny or happy. It is one of the few tricks in our arsenal of mommy tactics. We must use it to keep the kids in check. And I don't think we have to be holding hands and laughing all the time. I was just thinking today that I hope I have the balance between drug tripping laughy-ness and the intimidating mom face that brings the children into submission. Because when the speakers blare at 7 a.m. you have to face the music.


Costumes 2010

Not much to say about these costumes. But if you need a doctor, princess, Superman, a basketball player, and the sun, moon, and stars, our family was on the ready the day before yesterday. Enjoy!


In My Dreams

I've got to make this quick because I've got to get the day started. Currently my children are on the back deck in their pajamas blowing bubbles making all kinds of noise. In my mind it is payback to the college students across the street who were partying into the night last night and now are trying to sleep. Good luck on that one with the Alley kids outside.

Back to the point. I have hit 30 weeks pregnant and now the countdown begins. I have made my "get done before the baby comes" list and will now begin to feel the push and reality of welcoming a baby into the family. There is something about counting down the last 10 weeks that puts me into overdrive.

I also, of course, am experiencing all kinds of pregnancy fun. Like tiny droplets of water hitting me in the face in the shower after they bounce off my stomach. The return of my love/hate relationship with TUMS. The 10 point turn when trying to go from one side to the other while lying in bed. The major plumbing problem when it comes to urination. (Someone is sitting on my hose and putting a major kink in it!) The inability to "squeeze by" anyone or anything. The small groans that escape my lips despite my desire to hold them in. Need I go on?

And finally, the fuel for this blog, the dreams. A little insomnia, a few crazy dreams, the inability to fall asleep because I'm running through possible birth scenarios where I don't make it to the hospital in time...lots happens when my head hits the pillow.

Two nights ago I had a dream in which I had a sleepover for all my girlfriends. It was at the house where I grew up. I'm not sure what we did, but at some point in the night Jimmy arrived in a full sized yellow school bus to take us all somewhere. As he backed out of the driveway he was waving at my parents, showing off a bit, when he slammed into a big building behind us. I was so mad at him! "You could have hurt my friends!" I said.

Then, last night, I had a revelation in my sleep about Jimmy's perfect eyesight. I told him that his perfect eyesight was a gift from God and that he should be using it in his work. So I suggested that he go down to the greyhound dog track and see if he could get a job watching the races.

These are just a couple of the crazy dreams. But I realized something yesterday as I related the bus dream to Jimmy. Out of all these dreams I've had, they all have something in common. In all the dreams, I never have any children.


I am Glue

I love adhesives. I even like the word adhesive. If I could outfit an art studio I'd really only want school supplies. Paper, scissors, glue. I love glue. It takes something flimsy and makes it sturdy. It takes two things and makes them one. Adhere something. It will make you feel better. It is therapeutic.

Sometimes I feel as though I am glue. Around here, the mom makes things stick. When I am not doing my job, things tend to be flimsy and unstuck. I would like to say that I am a rich, deep yellow wood glue. There is nothing more beautiful and reliable. But lately, I am a glue stick that is almost gone and has had the lid left off for a while. Nothing is more frustrating. You need to stick something together. You reach for your glue stick. It is partially dried up and almost gone. You try to make it work. And it's just not enough.

Now into my final trimester of this my fifth pregnancy I am a sad, sad, glue stick around the house. I have a hard time bending over. I don't like to stand for long periods of time. I have a small amount of pain all the time, thus making me grumpy and short-tempered. I am trying to be positive. I want to be glossy modge podge. Making everything shine and coating everything with an addictive smelling odor everyone loves. But I am nothing sticky. I am feeling used up and the house is suffering the consequences.

I want to write a blog about how wonderfully cute and precious and excellent life is. And when I choose to focus on that, I can. And it is. But when I lie in bed at night I think about glue. How I love it. I love being the glue. But I've run out and I'm not going to be able to make it to the store to replenish my supply until after this baby comes out. Then, I'm going to get much stickier again. I will move past this unsticky season. Until then, I'll squeeze out what gluey-ness I have left and try to be thankful I can still make some things stick. And when I get down, I'll get out the Elmer's and give it a squeeze. Because I love adhesives.


The Fantastic Four

The kids got a 30 second timer from a kids meal at Chick-Fil-A. So at dinner last night Jimmy challenged us all to be completely quiet for 30 seconds. We failed. Multiple times. It wasn't the same person every time, but we just couldn't make it. I am convinced that the only time we could be quiet for 30 seconds in a row is when we're all sleeping.

I have also been thinking about the Boxcar children. There were four of them, two boys and two girls, just like my kids. Jimmy, being a realtor, has access to many vacant homes. I was thinking that we could just leave the kids here, in my rectangular "boxcar" home, if you will, and Jimmy and I could become squatters at various nice homes in Tallahassee. I really think the kids could make it now. We could drop off some groceries every now and then. Maybe some new underwear. And they could last for a while. The boxcar children even moved past mere survival on to solving local mysteries.

I am only joking of course, but one sometimes considers it when you enter the kitchen and your children are "making grape juice" by crushing sticky grapes all over the place. But "don't worry mom, we're eating the skin too, we're not wasting it." I'm glad you're so resourceful, kids.

I have also been thinking about the baby and kid items that every parent wishes they sold in stores but would never be patented because they're potentially dangerous. Like, the elastic band that goes around your baby's face to keep the pacifier in. Or, which I've been in need of lately, the fence you can attach to your bunk beds to make them into huge cages so your kids are completely contained at night. Or a shock collar for screaming. If I could find a way to get some of these on the black market, I could make millions.

Anyway, here are my fantastic four. Capable of all kinds of feats of strength, yelling, mischief, happiness, and love. They are the best.


First week of school

Lots going on around here...I started home schooling so I'm extra spent and a little crazy in the head. Trying to get everything around here on a regular disciplined schedule, (insert "yeah right" face) I exercised twice this week with a workout video. (Insert "it was lots of fun" face.) The first time it was pregnancy yoga. Yoga schmoga, but I figure maybe it will make me a little stronger when labor comes around. I have struggled all week with the image of the video instructor in my mind. She was pregnant too, but could not have been any skinnier or wearing tighter pants. Saying things like, "Look down at your toes...I know it's getting harder and harder to see them" and "If you're feeling light headed at all, please stop and rest." As I've thought about this woman, even though I'm sure she's a nice person, I just want to punch her right in the gut. And I'm pregnant too, so I'd know how to make it hurt real good.

The little ones try to participate with me and say things like, "Isn't that hurting your baby?" as I bend over to face the dog. Yes, kids. But not physically. I'm just scarring her emotionally from the womb as I deep breathe her into inner core strength at a ridiculously young age.

I also did a stupid thing and perused some blog (I never look at blogs much) written by a home school mom who likes art and interior decor and such. This was extremely depressing for me. How do these people have time for constant home rearranging and blogging about it? They must have lots of money and hours with a babysitter. Right? Please don't tell me the children sit quietly in a corner all day reading classical literature and emerge every three to four hours for a high-fiber organic snack. Because this almost makes me want to vomit. But nothing can really make me want to do that. It did inspire me to a little more creativity so it was worth it I guess.

Anyway, my first week of home school in reality was full of crying and fun and amazement and frustration and wide eyes and love. And I'm tired. And I stopped when I felt light headed. And I didn't ignore anyone to refurnish a piece of furniture ("on a budget" which from what I saw meant "with lots of money") and write an elaborate blog about it. I fed, clothed, loved, disciplined, and tried to educate these little munchkins. And as always, they ended up educating me.


A perfect fifth

Today I had my big huge ultrasound where they check out everything on the baby in detail. She (confirmed a girl!) looks great and I ended up having to bring Libby, Cash, and Penelope with me. They did great and all earned an ice cream treat when we got home. I was so proud of them for sitting reasonably still and also proud of my little one for cooperating and being in all the right positions to get everything measured and checked out. I feel so blessed to have seen all the right spinal connections, facial bones, 20 digits, heart stuff, etc. She waved at us really great...holding up those five fingers--she knows her place! The kids each got a copy of that picture. Penelope was looking at the picture on the way home and I heard her say, "I'm going to be so proud!" Me too, Penelope!


2, 4, 6, 8

It's summer again and so the ages of my kids have lined up to be 2 years apart. I dreamed of this 3 1/2 month stint of time when I was pregnant with Penelope and realized that at this point, summer of 2010, I could use the cheer "Two, Four, Six, Eight, who do we appreciate?" and be talking about my kids and their ages. It has happened. When you're me, these things make you feel happy. Now I'm messing it all up with a child who will be three years behind next summer instead of only two. How dare I! Just kidding. I'm grateful for the extra space.

Last summer I did a 1, 3, 5, 7 catch up on everyone...so here's this year's...

2- Penelope
Penelope (whom I call Pip and Nel Nel as well as Penelope) is growing into a beautiful girl and has left babyhood with all the grace and poise of a normal toddler. Translation: Sometimes she poops her pants and gets food all over herself even though she's not a "baby" anymore. Yet she also does so many grown up kid things like bargaining how many books we read and dressing herself in uncoordinated outfits. (She gets that one from Jimmy.) She has her finger on the pulse of the house just as much as I do and covers her ears when someone close to her is too loud. This is what I want to do, and really, I'm not sure why I don't just do what she does. When Cash whines or screams really loud just cover my ears and stare at him blankly. It seems to work for Penelope. There really isn't enough keyboard in the world to describe her wonderful and precious antics. Some of my favorites are when she bosses us all around. Things like, "Jackson, play with me!!" or "No, not that one, I need my bow blanket!" I also get personal enjoyment when she is not wearing underwear. I mean, how many more months will her booty be so darn cute and she even has a little bit of a tan line! I just can't resist it. Am I a weird mom if I like to stare at my daughter and her naked rear? It is just too much. Okay. I have three more kids. Must move on. I love you Penelope!

4- Cash $
I place the dollar sign because this is pretty much how Cash and Jackson and Libby have come to write his name. I use abbreviations in dry erase marker on the kitchen counter tile and have the kids place their cup for the day there. Jackson- Jax Libby- Lib Cash- $ and Penelope- Pip. So Cash has come to expect a $ after his name. It's pretty funny. Cash is quite a handful these days but makes up for it in spades by telling me multiple times a day things like, "I love you mommy and I want to love you forever." Or I might ask him to do something and he'll say, "Yes, Mommy, I will do it because I love you." I'm not making this up. He has become quite the lover. A few months ago he told me he was going to give me "a prince kiss" and so I leaned over for it only to have him grab my face and turn his head to the side, place his lips on mine and hold them there for quite a few seconds. The head turned to the side just about did me in. He also tells me that I "fell from the sky" for daddy. As if I was a dream from heaven. Yes, Cash, let's spread that one around! He really is a sweetheart. He always wants to help me cook and he is a really hard worker. If I give him a shop vac and stick him in the van he won't stop until he gets every last piece of dirt. I have to pry it out of his hands. Love the hard worker in you, Cash.

6- Libby
Oh, God bless the child who is so much like yourself. I feel like I have an ally in Libby. We want the world to work in a certain way and when it doesn't we get frustrated. I feel her pain when circumstances thwart her plans. Welcome to my life, Libby. I am always telling her we have to be flexible. But I feel her pain when things she is pretending or working on get undone. She takes it in stride, though. She constantly amazes me with her productivity. The amount of drawings and writings she has made make me jealous. If only I could be so productive creatively. I would be growing by leaps and bounds artistically! And Libby is. Her writing and drawing are always bringing Jimmy and I to each other quietly saying, "Did you see this?" And we are so proud of her. She is quiet but always listening and processing it all. She does wonderful things like work puzzles with Penelope or Cash or reads to them. Often I call out her name because I haven't seen her in a while. I just want to make sure she's still on the premises. She is, usually sitting at the school table drawing or pretending with toys. She is getting big! Quite a little girl. You are special, my sweet Elizabeth June!

8- Jackson
Jackson is extraordinary. This week was my birthday and he asked very quietly if he could take me out, stating that he was paying. He took me to see a movie, and then afterward quietly asked me if I was hungry. It was SO heart warming for me! What a little dater! I would go on a date with him any time. We saw "Ramona and Beezus" and he brought his copy (which used to be mine) of the book into the movie in case we needed to refer to it. As we left we bought big 25¢ gumballs and I did my best to chew it but only made it to the parking lot. He kept at it and enjoyed it for a while, acting silly with his mouth so full. I think God gave me a really smart mom who knows young kids and used to always say, "I think it's important to answer a child's questions honestly and fully" because He knew I was going to have a kid like Jackson. He is constantly saying, "Mom, I have a question." and I have started responding, "Of course you do." I will forever and ever and ever answer your questions, Jackson. This is my job and I love it and I love you!

That's it. I wanted to add pictures but I'm too tired! I'll add some soon. 2, 4, 6, 8, I really really really appreciate my kids. I sometimes feel like I'm living in a dream world where the blessings just don't stop. It is amazing and unbelievable at times. All I ever wanted was a house full of kids. I wasn't fully aware that it would translate to a house full of crazy, but hey, you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have...it's getting late...


More on dirt

I know a lot of people worry about the images of females we put in front of ourselves as women. As in, we need to be careful we don't think we should look like pictures of women in magazines. Those are models, we are regular people. We don't want to place those expectations on ourselves.

Well, I've got a new one. It's those pictures of people's houses in magazines. I confess, I wish my living and dining room looked like a magazine spread. I'm constantly needing to remind myself how unrealistic they are. Like, the random cutting board with 4 perfect lemons on the counter. No mail, no stickiness, no dishes. My favorite is when there's a big hairy dog right smack in the middle of the gleaming wood floor. They must hire a single person to follow around the dog during the photo shoot with a dust buster. Anyway, even though I know it's not realistic, I still long for it.

In my mind, I can get it there. I envision my walls full of cool art and photos and all the surfaces clear. In my personal reality, it couldn't be farther from it unless I unloaded a bottle of chocolate syrup onto every surface. Now I know I'm supposed to let go of this. That one day, my children will be out of the house and I'll have tons of time to magazine-ify my house. I should be content, even happy, that my rooms are full of life and thus a beautiful mess. But really, this doesn't always do it for me. I want it all. I want messy life AND pristine decor.

So what do I do with this revelation? Do the children need more chores? Do I need to get rid of more stuff? Should I hire someone to follow the children around with a dust buster? I'm not really sure. And all of the above.

One of the Queen's (my mom) famous quotes is, "Play is a child's work." This is what I observe every day. They aren't trying to be slobs, they are just hard at work playing. I ask them again and again to put away, throw away, etc. But when they are in the middle of a streaming imagination, I just don't think it soaks in. So the constant reminding can be difficult and wears you down. When I come into a room and discover someone has emptied the contents of a pencil sharpener on the floor and left it there, I honestly don't want to call them away from their "work" to come clean it up because they are occupied and independent from me.

I wish I had some sort of solution or funny ending to the mess, but I don't. I just want to put it out there that I'm tired of cleaning things up. I know like a trillion and one moms have felt like this before. I know that my mommy work is nothing compared to some of those that have gone before. So I hereby resolve (again and again and again) to love the mess. Because the people I love most in this world left it there.

I recently read this anonymous quote:

"Mothers fight all their lives against dirt, and when they die, they are buried in it."

I'd like to donate my body to science, in hopes that my skeleton one day hangs in a classroom of some sort collecting dust. I'd like to go from dusting things while alive, to collecting unlimited amounts of dust with no ability to make a move to clean it in death. Dust and I currently have a pretty close relationship so I think it would work out.


Brace Yourselves

I figured out what has been happening to me lately. I have been wondering for quite some time why just the presence of my children puts me on edge. My body has not been feeling happy and relaxed much lately because of the pregnancy, but I feel really guilty that I'm constantly saying things like, "Please don't touch me!" In the past months it has been due to constant nausea because even the slightest movement would elevate it. Some of that is still lingering, but I still find myself in need of an even bigger "personal space" bubble than I normally require.

Tonight I realized why. I had been working very hard all day to rearrange/clean/organize/paint the boys room because it has become the girls and boys bunk room. I am cramming all four of them together to allow for a bigger school room and also space for the baby. So at about 6:30 this evening I really felt the need to sit and put my feet up for a few minutes. I allowed myself to do so. Only to be bombarded, as if my legs, which were stretched between the ottoman and couch, were horses. When I requested that stop, I got a visitor right next to me and an elbow in the gut. I realized before he even climbed up next to me, that I saw it coming and "braced myself" for whatever a heavy toddler next to you may bring.

It's like the little army men who control my muscles cried, "INCOMING!" and my entire body went on the defensive. I need so much extra grace! When I'm at a low patience level and my body is pushed to the limit, it is so hard not to wish everyone had big kid sized playpens I could stick them in so as to admire them from a distance. It's like I can't totally relax until I know that no one is going to bombard me with body weight! But let me tell you how I really feel.

Anyway, all that said I am in more love than ever with all of them and gave out some tough love tonight with their new "4 in a room" sleeping arrangements. It was hard but needed to be done. Like, new rules. Or rather actual enforcement of old ones. No talking or getting up and such.

One more really important thing...Brace Yourselves...our baby is a GIRL! I found out Tuesday. We are ultra excited and it is pretty early but the sono tech seemed 100% sure so I'm taking it! We are thrilled and so are the kids and I must admit I'm a little relieved to not be outnumbered by Alley men around here. Because if I have four of those, I'm really going to look into those playpens for adults. But they would need to be self-cleaning...the ideas are really flowing now...


Bella 8/22/08-7/7/10

Well, I have sad news to add to this chronicle of Alley life. Two days ago our dog, Bella, was killed on a highway near my parent's home. She had run away one night while some of us were setting off some fireworks. She was afraid of them. We were leaving there this morning explaining again to the kids why we were going home without her...she had run away and Pop-Pop would get her if someone called and said they found her. We had hung up signs and were checking one of them out as we turned on the highway. We began to accelerate and soon Jimmy began to slow down. He wouldn't tell me, even though I kept asking, why he was stopping on the side of the road. He had seen her in the grass shoulder and was going to make sure it was her. I knew of course but tried to remain optimistic. He tried to lie to me when he got back in the van but I knew. We pulled into a gas station and had a little pow-wow. I said we should tell the kids. He reluctantly agreed. There was just no way I could lie to them about how she might come back and someone might find her, etc. So he went into the gas station and said I could tell them. I don't think he wanted to be there.

I sat in the seat and basically just said it. It ended with "...and she got hit by a car or a truck and she's dead." Not exactly sugar coated but I've never done this before! The middles, who sit in the very back of the van, both burst into tears. I wasn't expecting this. I immediately crawled back there with them and helped them feel better with words and motherly touch. I never had the need to believe that animals go to heaven but I had no problem telling my 4 year old that she was happy in heaven now. It was great opportunity for telling them that God knows the number of our days and that everything He does is to take care of us and for His glory.

It of course hasn't even sunk in totally but I've been okay with it. It's hard to understand but really it has just made me thankful that I lost an animal I loved and not a person. Because if the animal leaves a void, I can't imagine a human member of the family. I almost lost it a few minutes ago (this is what made me go ahead and write all this) in the van I was on the way home from dropping Jackson and Libby off and two different birthday parties. So it was just me and Cash and Penelope in the car. We passed a man walking a black dog and Cash said, "Mom! I just saw a man walking a dog that looked like Bella!" I said, "Yes, I saw it too, Cash." And then Penelope said something about wanting Bella to come back.

What transpired for the next 10-12 minutes (a long time in kid conversation) was a discussion about where Bella was and what had happened to her. Cash wasn't sad, he just plainly told Penelope that Bella got killed and now she was dead but that she went way up into the sky into heaven and she is alive again. It really touched my heart! Amazing how he has totally moved on. How he's happy to tell others that she is alive with God in heaven. Later he said, "I think God has dog food in heaven because he has to feed Bella." And, "Penelope do you know who God is? He loves us and we love him and when we die we will go to heaven and see Him and Bella!" Penelope finally got it sort of and said, "Bella is dying" and Cash said, "No! She's alive again!" So this was very confusing to Penelope and I had to ask Cash to lay off the alive again stuff so that Penelope would understand. It was a moment I know I will never forget. It was priceless to have the older ones away so that Cash could talk about it without being corrected or interrupted. Hearing his conclusions about all of it really warmed me.

And now a few words about Bella. She was a great dog. We got to have her for one year, and as much as I hated her shedding and watching her eat poop, I will miss her too. She made me feel safe. I slept every night knowing she would never let anyone get past her to our bedrooms. I knew she would warn us of any danger. She was so very tolerant. The kids would dress her up, lie on top of her, attempt to ride her...and she never complained. She had soft ears and a soft heart. I was constantly amazed by her loyalty towards us. She was just a "dumb dog" but sure did love us, even when we didn't deserve it. I hope we can do the same for each other. Stick together no matter what. Thanks Bella, for loving a crazy family like ours. We'll miss you!




It is time again. Time for me to announce on the blog, for the sake of the history of our family, that I am pregnant. I have been dreading this announcement for many reasons. First of all, I've been so nauseated that I cannot sit in front of the computer without consequence. (I get up feeling even worse.) Second of all, I don't want the J train to turn from "cool quirky family with four kids" to "crazy people who home school and have lots of children." And thirdly, well...the first two reasons were enough for me putting this off.

Today when I broke it to my pediatrician and he said (after I asked) that his big families were mostly either "LDS" or "Religious home school families" I assured him that we were church people, but that we were "normal church people." What exactly that is, I'm not sure, but whatever. I mean, we all watched the Cosby's in the 80's and they had five kids. No one thought that was weird, right? It was totally doable. Even funny, with the constant jokes about no one ever leaving the house. I mean, if the Huxtables can survive so can we, right? I admit, they were living on a doctor AND a lawyer's salary, AND their house didn't have four walls, but I'd like to think they were real and they thrived, even with five kids. Can we just be creative starving artists who love kids? Because that's what we are.

We are excited and feel blessed to add another to the family. The kids are excited too. I was afraid of selfish reactions but they all wanted to name the baby right away and while it's tempting to give the baby a name thought of by the whole family I told them "If you want to name a baby you can grow up, get married, and have your own!" (A very Cliff Huxtable kind of thing to say, I thought.)

I am feeling all the normal physical issues of pregnancy and it is at this point that all us mothers wonder how in the world we can forget how sick, fat, and tired you feel under the weight of a tiny being. It's like I want to knit on a pillow "Pregnancy is hard" (that's the edited version) and display it on my couch in case I forget. When I'm not pregnant, it seems rosy and miraculous. When I am, it's hard work. But one advantage I have is that there are four miracles running around here that prove to me every day that it's worth it. Let's knit that one on a pillow. Because no matter what challenges this new one brings, it is life and it is precious. I am privileged to be a part of it all.


Piercing Fun

Libby got her ears pierced today! It was part of her birthday from us...she will be six in a little over a week. Because of my multiple frames per second camera, I was able to get quite the progression. You can see she was fine for a few seconds, then began crying once she realized it had hurt. She is fine now and such a cutie, I love her to pieces. Of course she's feeling great afterward with a purple lollipop.

This is before...

And after. Such a good kid to smile for me when I ask her to!

And a quick funny... Today I heard a strange noise from the computer room where Jackson was supposed to be cleaning up. I said, "Jackson, what the heck?" (It's hard to admit I said this--but whatever.) He responds, "I'm the heck!" Yes, Jackson, that is exactly what you are. Smiles.


CSI and an Art Show

Tonight I discovered 4 blue X's on my couch. (Will it ever end?) Cash told me Penelope did it. She has been writing on herself again lately and I believed him. I brought Penelope to the scene of the crime, and disciplined her. (I won't say exactly what that means lest some might get the wrong idea about me...) She cried. I went to get the cleaner for the couch. Libby followed me, saying that it was NOT Penelope but that Cash did it. I really don't know who to believe so I questioned Cash and he was very insistent that it was NOT him, that Penelope did it.

I began to believe Libby since she kept insisting it was Cash. He became more convincing, and I decided he must be telling the truth. Back and forth I went. Libby would not let it go. She became quite the investigator, making me a believer by simply explaining, "Mom, Penelope can't make four perfect X's. Cash did it." And I stopped to assess Penelope's writing abilities and discovered she is correct. It must have been Cash. I disciplined him as well. In the same manner. I didn't do a very good job. He said, "That didn't really hurt Mom." Well, then I did the job better, if you know what I mean. Thank you, Libby for your crime solving skills. (And she was actually a witness as well, so that helps.)

And also, last night we had our Home's Cool Art Show and here are a few pics. I am glad the home school year is wrapping up for me. I've done this a few years now and I think they really are learning something. Like you know, crime scene investigation and such. And how to make perfect X's. What I need to devise is a class for my entire family about writing utensils and their purposes. I can see the syllabus in my head already. Class One: SHARPIES. Class Two: Ball point pens...


If it's yellow, let it mellow

Just wanted to document our trip to Busch Gardens this past Sunday. We didn't bring any sort of still or video camera and I was thinking, if you don't have pictures, did it really happen? Because I really think it's possible to forget events like this, even though I've always been really good with dates and my own personal and family history. When enough time passes, these things sort of blend together.

It was a fun day filled with lots of cool things for the kids to see, plus I got to ride two roller coasters! But the strongest memory for me was when Penelope decided to sample some of her own urine. My kids are growing up and I fear I'm going to run out of these kinds of stories yet still they seem to happen to me.

I was watching Penelope, Libby, and Cash play in their swimsuits in the kiddie water playground. Basically a bunch of falling water contraptions and spouts of water that come up from the ground. Penelope is potty training and doing quite well, so I just had her in her swimsuit with no diaper or anything. There were a lot of kids there and a lot of parents, so when she began to spread her legs and look down and watch the stream of yellow going through her suit and onto the rubber ground, I was standing a good distance from her so I decided to pretend she was not my child. I figured she'd finish her business and move on, and if anyone was grossed out by this they wouldn't know who to blame.

I'm doing fine until she reaches down, catches some of the pee in her hand and puts her hand to her mouth. But I'm committed. Besides, I really don't want to admit to being her mom at this point. Yet I can't let it happen twice so I go over and catch her in the act and redirect. She looked at me as if she knew but didn't care. This is toddlerhood at it's best. The "I know it's bad for me but I'm going to do it anyway and see what happens" mantra they must brainwash the toddlers with when we're not looking. Like, if we played their kid videos backwards it's going to say, "Eat poop, bite people, and run the other way when your parents call you!" This, I believe, is why God makes them so stinkin' cute. Because if any person over the age of 4 samples their pee, we are repulsed by them. But when my angelic looking 2 year old does it, it's really quite funny. But still really gross!

I'm sure there are times I've lost it when my kids want to pretend like I'm not their mom. This is the nature of family. We're figuring it all out together and we love each other regardless. And in the end, it all goes down the same drain.


School of Rock

Let's hear it for the boys!

This week my girls are with grandparents (one with each set) so they're having great fun and are getting lots of attention I'm sure. So it's just me and the boys, and we're having a blast. Complete with secret words--when someone says it you scream PeeWee Herman style.

Last night lying in bed I had the idea to do a rock star photo session with them and they complied and came through with flying colors. I only had 10 minutes until Cash had to be at school but I coached them into a variety of expressions and the result did not let me down.

These boys are so creative and so much like Jimmy. They brought home a CD player from my mom's house last weekend. They immediately plugged it in and had an air band going within seconds. There is quite a void without their sisters but we've made the best of it and rocked out the week anyway.

Thank you Jackson and Cash! You are my little rock stars!