Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Imagination Land

Today, Alex and Kristiana each got a box to play in.  Their little faces lit up when they saw them and they immediately hopped in.  They seemed so comforted by getting inside.

What is it about a box that is so entertaining to kids?

I used to love playing in boxes.  I tried to remember what I loved about them so much.  At first I thought that perhaps it was personal space.  It does provide a barrier between one and the outside world.  If you close up the top, you are all alone and no one can see what you are doing.  Perhaps being inside a box reminds them of being in the womb subconsciously.

But, it probably has a lot to do with imagination too.  A box can become anything one imagines.  The possibilities are limitless.  I noticed over Christmas someone actually did decide to market and sell boxes as children's entertainment.  They were large boxes with scenes, or playhouse printed on the outside and they could be colored.  However, I think that they probably did not sell a lot.  Aside from being an overpriced box, they were printed on, which immediately eliminates the imagination part.  Nothing beats a good old-fashioned, plain, cardboard box.




Monday, January 30, 2012


I am feeling ambivalent about today.  If somehow I could calculate the goodness of the day, I would say it turned out well.  However, it felt trying...

I stayed up late last night washing all the laundry so that today I would only need to fold it and put it away.  I had to stay up especially late because I accidentally forgot to put the clothes in once and the machine ran empty.  I was pretty tired last night too.  I knew that if all the laundry were washed it would help to make this day feel less strenuous.  All this to say, when I started this day early this morning I was working off six hours of sleep and I expected I would be crashing at some point in the afternoon.  Surprisingly, I kept up all day long.

I prayed with the kids this morning. Success! It's not easy praying with three preschoolers, or even to get them all to the prayer corner all at once.  It was a struggle to get them all dressed prior to prayers.  Afterward, I figured I would put on a little music while they played and I would work on a few chores.  But Alex had another idea, instead of regularly planned homeschool lessons the kids listened to a CD of Aesop's Fables.  Alex came to me in the middle and said they all needed popcorn to eat while they listened.  I thought that was a great idea.  At least it was a great idea until Alex finished his popcorn before the girls and then stole Kristiana's popcorn bowl and she melted into a fit and kicked popcorn all over the room.

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We went to the grocery store and Alex and Kristiana had an affectionate, playful, fight all through the store.  Kisses and pokes and boisterous giggling, which would sometimes digress into scratches and tears.  It was sort of cute, but also extremely annoying and embarrassing.  They fought enough to not get any sort of reward at the end of the trip.

Lunch happened next.  I put away the food and doled out freshly bought vittles.  I let the kids watch T.V. for a couple of hours while I caught up on a little work.  But, before that time was over Annie awoke from her nap wheezing.  I laid down with her a little while in hopes she would fall back asleep, but she was struggling to breath too much.  So I got her up and she cried for a couple of hours while I tried to make her comfortable.  I finally gave her a breathing treatment and tylenol and then she was ready for more fun.

I tried to get Alex to read aloud this afternoon, but he gave me heck about it.  That is about the time I got fed up and said to myself he is going to school next year, because I cannot go through this daily refusal to learn just because I asked him to do it.  It's not good for anyone in this situation.  We are going to have to try to make tuition for Catholic school.  Besides with a new baby in the house, we are going to need a little extra time to spend with the girls.

The children then played outside in the chilly, but mild January weather for hours.  Alex got constructive bringing playroom furniture outside and up to the top of the play house.  Hey, it kept him busy and it only took ten gummy bears to get him to put it all back before dinner.

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I guess what made the day stressful at points was all the picking and bickering the kids did.  For some reason Kristiana was malicious toward Annie today.  She would push her down and kick her for no reason.  I caught her smothering Annie under a bean bag.  I don't understand.  Maybe she just wanted to see what would happen.  It's just hard and taxing having to discipline and break up fights consistently all day long.  Plus, I take it so personally when they treat each other badly.  I am sure they are not thinking conscientiously.

However, in retrospect it was a pretty good day.  The kids went to bed on time.  Alex did learn despite not sitting down for a homeschool lesson.  We talked all about the calendar before his bedtime story.  Everyone got fed and tended to. The laundry and the shopping are done.  I just want everyone to get along.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Today's Precious Moments, with Hashtags

I don't have a Twitter account, but I think hashtags are funny, cute and clever (What are hashtags?).  So I am writing this post with hashtags.

  • After a long wait, friends Anne and Taylor are getting to adopt their little girl! They just have to wait 30 more days.  #GodisGood, dreamscometrue, happydance

  • Listened to our five year old son read two stories to his sisters. #successandpatience

  • Pushed the kids on the swings for a half hour and listened to their giggles of joy. #nicesunnyweather

  • Hubby made dinner and it tasted great. #secretmasterchef

  • Received a dozen sweet, soft, and not at all sloppy, kisses, intermittently throughout the evening from our three year old daughter. #thankheavenforlittlegirls

  • Held baby girl's hand as she fell asleep in her crib. #sleepbyyourselfbygolly

  • As I wrote this post, Lucy kicked so hard I saw my belly rise up. #stronghealthybabyonherway

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Play With Us

Blackberry Snack

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A Nurturing Slide

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A Dangerous Boy

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Loving Cuddles for a Precious Moment - Then Back to Hitting.

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Baby Lucy

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Icon Army

As I mentioned in previous posts, we recently painted our great room.  I have been slowly re-hanging all our wall-hangings.  I have begun to re-distribute some icons around the house.  This is pleasing to have heavenly windows throughout the house.  Last night, I re-organized and re-hung our icons, which serve as our prayer corner.  Our prayer corner is really an easterly facing wall.  I like this location of the prayer corner,  because it is the first thing people will see when they come into our home sending a clear message of our beliefs and it faces our open kitchen where we spend a lot of time, can easily view the wall and remember our connection to God.

I asked my husband to assist me in putting this area back together, but he was also running interference with the children.  I hung the icons as I did the previous time.  I added a couple of new icons and moved some others.  When I was finished my husband came into the room and said, "Why are all our icons lined up like little soldiers?"

I chuckled and asked him if he wanted me to change it.  He said, no and said he just thought it looked strange.  I told him that this is how I had done it before just with different icons.  I put them this way, because they are all at eye-level of the average adult hobbit.   Plus it does look nice and orderly, and what is God if not Ultimate Order.

Eventually, when money grows on trees, I would like to add some nice chest or hutch, where we could store both religious books and music as well as have a place to set up incense and candles.  This area is not child-friendly for candles and incense as is.  I would also like to add two nice reading chairs so that one could easily sit and read the Holy Word of God or other spiritual type reading.

How you arrange the space in your home and the things you hang on your wall speak volumes not only about want is important to you but also who you want to become.  If you don't have a suitable place to pray, you will not.  I truly appreciate the Eastern theology of icons and am grateful to have these treasures in our home.



Friday, January 20, 2012

A Venerable Name and Eventful Week

This has been such an eventful week. On the weekend we painted the large main room in our house.  We painted it a color called "Light Incense."  It is such a fitting color for the Clayton house.  It is a light creamy, yellowish color.  It lightened up the big room and we are pleased.

We have this little room that is supposed to be a dining room, but we use it as a play room.  It sits open just off of our great room.  We wanted to paint this room a different and more dramatic color as an accent to the rest of the house.  We were torn on the color, because our kitchen also sits open to the main great room and it is green.

I diverge--this is such a first world problem.  These are troubles of having an open floor plan and an ample home.  It's not a huge house, but I feel it's enough that we could raise a large family here happily.

Anyhow, we chose a color for our little room called "Cork."  It was a golden, bronzy color.  It sort of reminded me of the gold one sees in reproduction Icons.  One afternoon I painted the little room myself with a three year old and five year old apprentices.  I swear I spent more time cleaning after them than I did painting.  When my husband came home, he looked in the room and said it look orange.  Then he got very grumpy.  It did look orange.  It had dried a very tangerine color.  We had bought a sample paint and tested it on the wall.  We did not know how we had made such a mistake.  It was so overwhelming.  It was just too much.  We spent a couple days pondering what to do.  We finally bought more "Light Incense."  Everyone felt happy sand calm again.  I guess we are just vanilla type people and that's okay.

I really want to but a few more large prints for our walls.  But there are sooo many other things we need to purchase.  Shoes, a new blanket, a carseat for the new baby, more cloth diapers, more homeschool materials…Someday.  I know good things come to those who wait.

After a week of collecting supplies, I have finally begun the icon writing process.  I have decided to do six copies of the same icon for our Godchildren and friends.  It is simple and small so I am hoping to achieve this feat before Easter.  It is my practice to send something to the Godchildren at Easter.  This week I have gessoed my icons.  Next week, I hope to get them traced and maybe paint the cartoon.  I just need to keep moving on it and not get bogged down in the magnitude and length of the project.

I think I am doing all right on the New Year's Resolutions.  Rome was not built in a day, right?  I started working on icons.  I sat outside for 1h30 today while the kids watched a movie for their quiet time and I just gessoed and prayed.  It was nice.  The kids have stopped watching T.V. first thing in the morning.  So they are watching a lot less T.V.  My answer to that was to simply get up early before them and wake myself up so that I was ready to make them breakfast and get them going on their morning activity.  They have not seemed to miss it.  I have not had as much patience with the children as I had hoped.  It seems like I am always putting out fires and I am not always so quick on my feet to think of the best and calm resolution to whatever is going on.  My kids seem to violate every BIG No-No behaviors daily.  I do not know why they think their behavior is acceptable when I constantly remind them of how to be respectful.  I constantly remind them of the golden rule to help them understand why their behavior is unacceptable.  The big no-no's are biting, hitting, respecting each other's space and they are obsessed with saying the words for private parts and bodily functions (it's their toilet humor and they run around giggling).  I have been praying more, but not like I had hoped in my resolution.  I am working on it though.  We have been eating better and that is largely due to not eating holiday food anymore.  And I joined a gym, finally.  I have had the membership a little over a week and I have gone five times.  The kids love going and having a little play time outside the house too.

Now for kid updates:

Alex has fought me every morning on doing his home school lessons.  He is so defiant.  He wants to play.  He wants to do anything, but his school work.  I do not ask him to do much.  I do not ask him to do something that is above his age.  The lessons are enjoyable.  Eventually, each morning he decides to sit down and he enjoys the work and gets it done quickly.  Usually, I announce that if he does not want me to be his teacher and do his home school work, then he will have to go to public school six hours a day.  He immediately straightens up and does the work.  He definitely wants to do home school.  But, why does he give me such hassle in the morning.  One morning this week I was near tears.  Home schooling just makes sense to me and we want this for our children.  They say they want it too.  But, I cannot go through this battle everyday.  I know this is his personality.  I have known that he is this intense since he was in the womb.  I just need to find a way to work with him better.  When I ask him to do his home school, I need him to sit down and do it.  He is a great kid, loving and we really get along well, except he likes to be his own boss and I understand that.  I just have to figure out how to let him be his own boss while still getting stuff done.

Kristiana gave up her pacifier this week.  We were going to the store and I told her that she could pick out a special toy if she gave up her pacifier forever.  She agreed.  We packed up her pacis and went to the store.  She picked her toy and paid for it with the pacis.  From that moment on she understood that she was done with pacis.  She did not ask for the pacifier the rest of the day.  She did mention that she just wanted to see Annie's pacis at bed time.  Then she went to be bed without any fuss.  She has not tried to take Annie's paci like I expected either.   She has been without it for days now and she is still fine.  Although, we have heard a lot more screaming from this little girl lately.  She has one less coping device and so when she gets frustrated, she just screams and screams.  Her first reaction to anything that troubles her is to scream or whine.  I am working hard to help her react by communicating her frustrations better .  Poor baby girl still has fluid in her ear as well.  The doctor's office has not called me back, but I am thinking she will be getting a tube in her ear very soon.  This will probably help her communication and touchiness.

Annie thinks she is just as big as the other kids.  It has been really amazing to see her blossom from baby to little girl.  She has been sleeping in a big bed and sitting in a booster chair.  She babbles at us like she is really talking.  I say babble, but I am pretty sure she is trying to say real things.  She definitely understands a lot of what we are saying to her.  She plays like the other kids.  When they sit down to color, she tries to color on paper too.  I took her to a gymnastics gym free play and she did not want to play in the toddler area.  She played with the big kids.  She hung on the bar and swung.  She toddled on the balance beam.  They have a long trampoline to run on and she waited in line and ran down it.  It was hilarious to see a baby act like a big kid and do it with skill.  She wore me out.  She is so sure-footed.  But, this does not surprise me.  Alex and Kristiana were just the same.  When Kristiana was Annie's age she was scaling the big kid play ground with speed and agility.

Baby #4 is 25 weeks gestation and growing.  I felt pretty good and STRONG this week, because I went to the gym.  I am just as happy and excited about this baby as the rest, but I am more at ease with my 5 years and 4 babies worth of experience.  In other news, Baby #4 has a name.  We are pretty settled on it.  It came to us very naturally as did the other kids.  It is a name we have long considered and the right child has come along to receive it.  I asked the kids what they would like to name the baby and after they came up with some silly names like, "Thunder Go Awesome," they asked me to list a few.  After hearing the list, they picked one.  They were pretty certain of the name choice.  Once Alex makes up his mind, no one can change it.  We are going to call our little girl, Lucy Macaria (St. Macarius and Greek for blessed).  I really wanted her first name to be Macaria.  But I could not sell my husband on it (or anyone else, but he's the only one who counts).  We all love Lucy.  Kristiana can't wait to call her Lulu.

Oh, was that too much to read?  Well, I know some will just want to skip to this next part, and I don't blame you.  A few snapshots from the week.

Look! We discovered how to get Alex to eat vegetables.  
It's called, "Green Slime Smoothie."  Alex saw it on Allrecipes.com while I was looking for recipes for our weekly menu.  
He had to try it.  It consists of strawberries, bananas, yogurt and spinach.


Two months ago, Alex was given a fast food kids meal toy (blue bird on the right) while I was at my insurance agent's office.  
This week he asked if we could get more of these toys.  They're called Dino Tots.  He calls them Dino Tops, because they only have a top.  
I said that I am sure the fast food place did not have the toys anymore.  But we decided to make a TyrannoTot out of felt.  I made the dino on the left one afternoon this week.


Here is proof that we painted our house and that Annie thinks she is older and bigger than she is.
She speedily, scaled this 8 foot ladder all by herself .  Daddy spotted for safety measures.  
But, she was so quick he almost did not get there in time for her to make it to the top.  Crazy kid.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Important, Ordinary Day

Woke up this morning and went to pray.  As usual a few minutes later one of the children joined me and curled up in my lap.  Monday it was Annie; Tuesday was Alex and today was Kristiana.  When the kids sit in my lap I feel distracted and rushed, but I am glad I am getting this time to pray anyway.  All the children were awake and hungry minutes after I finished praying.  I kept thinking I need to get a shower, but had things to attend to.  Around 8:00 a.m. my husband woke up and asked me what time Kristiana's ear doctor appointment was.  "Oh! I completely forgot.  Thank you, honey! It's at 8:30!"  So I jumped in the shower and asked my husband to help the kids get on their shoes.  We were out the door ten minutes after my husband had initially alerted me and showed up on time.

At the doctor we had to wait a long time, because their computers were down.  Oh boy! I questioned whether it was right of them to make everyone wait so long or if they should reschedule some people.  It was very difficult to corral three preschool aged kids in an inhospitable place for so long.  But we finally saw the doctor, which I was grateful for and it did seem like they were trying really hard to keep things moving.  By the time the doctor came in to see us Annie was bored to tears and had trouble not fussing and screaming.  It was hard to converse with the doctor.  He said one of Kristiana's eardrums did not look good, but was not a candidate for a tube yet.  The other ear already has a tube.  I asked if it did not look good because she was just getting over a cold or if it just did not look healthy in general.  He said it just did not look healthy.  There was no fluid behind it and it was vibrating normally, but not healthy looking.  Later that day she complained about ear pain, which now I have to call back and ask if it could be infected.  Poor girl.

After the long time at the doctor's office, I decided to run some errands.  We went to Michaels to pick up a birthday present, but it turned into a more expensive trip than I anticipated.  I really need to be more strict with myself and what I intend to spend when I go into stores like this.  You would laugh at me if you really knew how little I spent and the fact that I am complaining.  But, I did not go in there thinking I would spend that much.

Then I went to a gym and signed up for a gym membership.  Now I have no more excuses, I have to go get exercise.  I am paying for it after all.  Or what I am really paying for is the childcare, which is wonderfully reasonable when you consider you get childcare and a top fitness facility.  My children played in the kids area while I signed up for membership and loved it.  They loved it when I took them to the YMCA in Washington over the summer.  After they played at the Washington Y, they were rewarded by getting to play in the pool afterward, but they will not have that same great kids pool now.  I have a feeling they will tire of this kids place quickly.  But, I am going to ride out their enthusiasm while it lasts.

We finally made it home at lunchtime.  Annie was asleep.  She has been having lots of trouble sleeping on her own since our holiday travels.  But, today I laid her down and she slept for two hours.  It was a much needed rest for her and mommy.

I made myself and the other kids lunch and they watched television for a couple of hours.  In the meantime, I checked my email and Facebook.  Then I worked on my Mother's Rule.  This Rule is my schedule/rule that allows me to serve God and the five P's of life best (Prayer, Person, Partner, Parent, Provider).  I am still working on reading "A Mother's Rule of Life."  I took a break to do some other reading.  Now I feel I need to complete this book and refine my Rule.  I hope this Rule will suit my family as well, because parts of it I will need their cooperation--like for attending family prayer, chores, getting dressed in the morning and so forth.  I like how this book emphasizes self-awareness and serving God first.

After our long lunch break, I asked the kids to clean up their toys because friends were coming over and it's much nicer to play in an area that is cleaned up and organized.  They agreed and promptly moved the toys they wanted to play with to a clean open space in the house and began to play.  Smart kids, but not exactly what I had in mind.  Nevertheless, they were quietly and creatively playing.  So I decided to tidy their play area, which I knew I was going to help them with anyway, and just let them play.

While I was tidying the toys, my mom called to see how I was doing and to suggest names for our baby.  I told her that I did not think that we would name our baby any of the names she suggested.  None of them really hit me.  But, I am open to hearing name, because you never know when you will hear the perfect name.  I mentioned that the kids had already picked a name they liked for the baby.  And she immediately said she did not like it.  I explained that Andrew and I liked it too and it was a name we had considered before.  Then she was so bold to say that we should choose a name that was aesthetically pleasing.  It was a stab to the heart.  Of all the rude things to say.  It did not occur to her that when I said WE LIKED the name that we felt it was aesthetically pleasing and she should be respectful of a name we liked.  (I should mention that the name is not unusual or harsh to the ear).  Yes, fire rained down from there.  It was not a civil conversation from that point on.  I took a jab back at what she had named me.  She of course did not like my jab and was offended by my accusation that perhaps my name was not the most aesthetically pleasing choice.  But, at least she knew what it felt like when she had said what she said to me.  This is my child to name after all, and I promised it will be a tasteful, holy name.  Say what you will about my name, but no one ever pronounced it right at first glance.  It was hard to say at loud gatherings.  But, eventually I grew to love my name and owned the identity for myself.

Finally, friends came over and we all visited and played.  Things got crazy.  Sometimes I worry that my children lack social graces.  It may be because of their age or may be because every thing your own children do seems so much worse, and everyone else's children seem perfectly, well-behaved, which they would tell you otherwise.  It was not my finest dinner soiree and I am so embarrassed at my service.  There was a lot of "it's okay" said.  Fortunately, the people we were visiting with are like family and it really is okay to be a little embarrassing amongst people you are so close with.

Everyone was exhausted at the end of the day and crashed after a short clean up.  This included my husband.  And I am sitting up late into the night logging my day.  I cannot tell you why it seemed so important to log this day of all days.  It seems every day is busy and eventful.  I do not know what I would do with myself if my life were not so full.  I am so very grateful to be graced in this way--Good and loving God, perfect husband, beautiful children, good healthcare, money in our pockets, time for oneself, prosperous decisions, a bounty to tidy, amazing friends to share our bread. Wow, is all I have to say.


I do not know how they ended up like this, but I just had to take a picture.  
I think Annie just came and sat on Kristiana who was lying on the floor fussing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Isn't She Lovely?

I am in love with this sweet face.  We did not get 3D ultrasound pictures of the other kids because they all had their faces hidden.  But, this is quite something.  Technology is AMAZING.  We have a lot to be thankful for.  Our baby is totally healthy and beautiful.  We now know that our fourth child is a girl.  This is much to our son's chagrin.  He had a big meltdown that he would not have a brother.  We explained to him that it was good to be the only son, because it meant special one on one father-son time with Daddy.  My husband was a little worried too.  As he told the ultrasound technician, "You don't understand. Our daughters are really beautiful and I think we are all in a lot of trouble."  Then of course, he worried about paying for weddings and or a dowry to a religious order.  But, I said we just need to teach our daughters to sew and bake cakes and arrange flowers and all the sisters can help with each others weddings.  This is a good thing to have three girls in a row.

Baby #4