Apr 3, 2011

The Beginning of Spring

My attempt at a group photo of the kids....

Pretty good.


Oh, good grief.

Adeline loving her baby brother.

Miss Lioness



Master William 12-weeks-old

Mr. Long Body Jack 7-years-old

Miss Sunshine Adeline who is almost 5-years-old

Darling Ella at 2-years-old

This is why painting time is outside time.

We spent some of Jack's instructional fund money for homeschooling on these Elenco Snap Circuit kits. Wow, Jack loves them. He has a math/engineering/science brain, so he really enjoys these things. This is a remote controlled Rover that he built with different electrical circuits, wires, batteries, and ummm...other things that I don't understand.

And a special shout out to the ice cream man at the park today. The kids were watching as all of the other kids at the park lined up to buy ice cream. We didn't have any cash with us, so J, A, and E knew they couldn't have any. Well, Mr. Ice Cream Man calls them over when the other kids were done and he proceeds to hand each of our little ones an ice cream. They thanked him and were smiling from ear to ear. What an act of kindness we were blessed with. People are so gracious, and I see proof of it all the time. Thank you, Ice Cream Man. May that kindness circle back to you.

Feb 1, 2011

The Birth of Our Baby Boy

Welcome, William Pierce!

■ January 15 @ 11:18 p.m. (his due date)

■ 9 lb. 10 oz.

■ 21"

■ Born at home in the water (my third home water birth)

I was dilated 6 cm. for at least a week before my due date. (My body seems to always dilate beforehand without me really knowing, and then I have quick labors once they start.) My previous labors have been 5 hours, 3 hours, and 2 1/2 hours. I get a little anxious when my due date approaches because it can be unnerving when you don't have much warning of when baby is going to be making its appearance!

Well, due date arrives, and I have no signs of labor. I get my older two children to sleep and then lie down with my 2-year-old. She's been acting weird all night....not sleeping, rolling around, taking her clothes off (lol)....just being strange. So, I'm lying there with her and.....I get a contraction. I know it's a "labor has begun so get ready" real contraction. I look at the clock. It's 9:45 p.m. My daughter Ella still isn't asleep. Crud. I make a quiet plea to the baby, "Please wait until I get Ella to sleep." Baby basically says, "Um. Nah. I'm gonna go ahead and come now." (lol) And a few minutes later I get another contraction. So, I tell my sleeping husband, "Labor is here. I'm having contractions." He rolls over and mumbles, "OK, just let me know," and rolls back over to sleep. Hmmm. OK. I say much more definitively, "I AM IN LABOR. THIS IS IT. GET THE POOL READY, DEAR." Well, that gets him up. He throws on his special T-shirt (he wore this same shirt when we met, got engaged, got married, and at the birth of each of our children), and he starts getting things ready.

I go to the bathroom. Bloody show. Have another contraction. Call the midwife. She's on her way. Then I quickly get things organized. Make sure (my still awake) Ella has on a clean diaper. Contraction. Get out her "distraction" items for while I'm laboring (read: lollipops and DVDs). Contraction. Put on my top to wear in the birth pool. Contraction. Find my robe. Contraction. Fire in the fireplace. Contraction. Light the candles. Contraction. Make sure the cameras are out and ready. Contraction. Midwife assistant arrives. Takes my blood pressure and listens to fetal heart tones. Contraction. Really wanting to get in the pool. It's almost filled enough. My friend Anna arrives (who also happens to be a midwife assistant). Hug her. Contraction.

Get in the pool. Now I'm deep into labor land and contractions are coming fast and hard. Midwife arrives. I start to make grunty noises with the contractions, so I know I'll be pushing soon. All of the kids are awake and by the pool now. Sean is kneeling down with his face by mine. I grab his hand and squeeeeeeeeze it. I hear my 2-year-old make adorable, curious sounds of wonder and aww as all the activity is unfolding. I'm moaning and starting to push now. Undeniable urge. The contractions are nearly on top of each other. Squeezing my husband's fingers, pushing, reach down and feel the baby's head. It's right there. I know if I push I'll have my babe in arms.

PUUUUUUUUUUSH, head is out.

PUUUUUUUUUUSH, body is coming, I turn over, reach in the water, and pull up my beautiful baby into my arms.

Joy! Relief! Happiness! Elation! Bliss! Baby! Our wonderful baby is here.

I hear someone say the time is 11:18 p.m. Good grief, it was a 1 1/2 hour labor. Exhale. I relax and lean back and let the kids look to announce if it's a boy or girl. My four-year-old daughter says, "Girl!" Um. No. (LOL) It's a BOY! We now have two boys and two girls. We wait until the cord stops pulsing and my husband, son, and oldest daughter all cut the cord. Such a sweet moment. Eventually, we get snuggled in bed and just love all over our newest family member. He looks so tiny to me. I swear he must only be 7 lbs. Anna weighs him and he's 9 lb. 10 oz. Oh my. OK, so I won't ever be the "guess your weight" person at the county fair.

Anyway, he's just an adorable, smooshy, blob of perfect baby. He nurses and rests in my arms as we all soak up his sweetness. My two-year-old finally decides it's time to sleep; I guess she really didn't want to miss the birth of her baby brother. She nurses and falls asleep on one side of me while the baby snoozes on the other side of me. My other two children and husband are at the foot of the bed. There is no better place to be in the world.

All is right.
All is peaceful.
All is good.

Welcome to our family, sweet baby Will.

A photo montage of the birth:William

Dec 12, 2010

Mini Maple Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins

We made our Mini Maple Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins this morning. A simple, fun, warm delight that are portable and can be frozen for enjoyment later. Yum!

My darling sous-chef.

Her favorite thing to do is to crack the egg. She can do it now with no shell breakage. Milestone!

Ready for the oven....

Baked and ready to eat!

Now this is how to enjoy breakfast.

Mini Maple Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 24 cup mini muffin pan with non-stick spray.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Sift together with a wire whisk.
In another bowl, stir buttermilk, egg, maple syrup and melted butter until just combined.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until combined.
Stir in chocolate chips. Reserve a few chips to sprinkle on the tops.
Bake for 8-9 minutes.
Makes 24 mini pancake muffins

Oct 7, 2010

On apologies, gratitude, and other social norms...

I don't force (suggest, coerce, or tell) my kids to share, apologize, or say, "Thank you." I'm guessing that this might not be very popular, but it's something that feels right for them and me.

When Adeline is using a toy and Jack wants to play with it, I tell him, "Maybe she'll give you a turn." And I suggest he ask her if he can play with it when she's done (or better yet, see if they can enjoy it together). I don't force her to share ("OK, Adeline, it's Jack's turn now."). How am I to know when she's had her fill of joy from something? Why would I force an arbitrary limit on that? And if/when she does end up sharing, I draw her attention to how happy the other person is now and how her actions contributed to their joy. Do I give her friendly reminders that someone else would like to enjoy something? Sure. But I don't make anyone give something up.

When they hurt someone or mess up, I try my best to take a breath to connect with the situation. I point out how everyone is feeling. ("He seems very sad.") I comfort those who need comfort. (I welcome everyone to bring comfort to those seeking it.) And *I* can model an empathic apology. I don't tell anyone, "Say you're sorry!" What if (gasp) they're not sorry? Simply going through the motions and saying it doesn't create feelings of sorry. And what if their expressions show that they feel remorse, but they just don't say the words? Does that matter?

The same goes for "Thank you." You won't find a forced giving of thanks (much to the chagrin of some family and friends!). Really, if there is a smile, a glimmer, a simple (or extravagant!) expression of joy or curiosity, then I embrace that as gratitude. And even if there is no reaction, then a robotic and patronizing, "What do you say?" certainly feels disingenuous and contrived for both of us. I can appreciate that sometimes children (and adults!) may be distracted, shy, overwhelmed, bashful, introverted, preoccupied, or whatever. Either way, I don't give to get thanks. I trust people and assume the best.

All of this really boils down to the same thing for me. Empathy and prosocial acts must first occur spontaneously from a child. And for it to occur spontaneously (without force, coercion, bribes, or rewards), modeling is one of the most significant paths. Especially if we ever expect our children to have an intrinsic motivation to "do the right thing" (which, to me, means to connect, have empathy, and navigate their thought process). I apologize to my kids when I (often) flub up. I try to do so with my eyes, arms, and words. I spontaneously share things with them and invite them to share in my joy. I try to express my gratitude with passion and authenticity -- again with my words AND actions. I can show my children how their acts and words affect others around them. I hope they see the blessing and joy of empathy, understanding, and compassion for themselves and the people around them.

I also try not to forget my own humanity while journeying this path with my children. I'm not perfect, and neither are they. I hope I model grace for others and myself so they can expect and do the same.

The other day, my dad gave each of my kids a collector's coin. Jack really wanted the one that Adeline had. He spent a good hour deeply coveting her coin with his eyes, expressions, and comments:

"I don't have one like that." (sad, puppy eyes)
"I really like that one." (with longing and desire)
Then a final plea, "Adeline, do you want to trade?"

She said, "No," and went on playing with her coin. Jack looked defeated and disappointed. I resisted any urge to negotiate on his behalf or guilt Adeline into trading coins or passively comment on how she "wasn't being nice." I just gave Jack a hug and said, "You really like that coin, don't you?" He gave me a gloomy nod.

Ten minutes later, after Adeline was done playing, she walked over to Jack, put her coin in his hand, and simply said, "Here, Jack, we can trade now." Jack's face lit with excitement, he started jumping with joy, and he poured appreciation onto his sister, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" Adeline giggled at his jubilee and said, "Look how happy he is, Mom!" I could see in her face how truly happy she was with his joy.

It was another touching moment in my life as a mama. And, honestly, the journey with this family of mine is filled with expressions of genuineness and compassion like this. Do we always manage to pause for empathy? Nope, not always. Do we bicker and argue? Umm, yes, OF COURSE! But I continuously have confidence that our hearts will guide our way, and I truly trust our connection. My admiration for my children is immeasurable.

Sep 21, 2010

A Visit to Pretend City

I forgot to post pictures of our trip to Pretend City. The kids had a nice time, but I don't think it's a place worth visiting again. I think things are more relevant out in the "real" city. And, frankly, we all have more fun out in the real world. ;-)

Sep 4, 2010

Bolsa Chica Wetlands

The kids were learning about wetlands this week. We read about wetland habitats, ecosystems, food chains, conservation, and wildlife. So, on Friday, we took a trip to our local wetlands for some real life learning.

Yes, natural learning is messy!

Aug 30, 2010

Homeschooling Days

Some people have asked me how I manage the three different ages when they're homeschooled and doing different activities (Jack is almost 7, Adeline is 4, and Ella is almost 2). I honestly don't think three is all that unmanageable (it's not as though I have ten kids like some homeschool families -- my hats off to them!).

In honor of everyone posting about the "first day of school," I thought I'd share a few shots of our afternoon.

If I'm not able (or in the mood -- lol) to supervise a "messier" activity with a toddler around, then Adeline knows to wait until Ella's nap time before she can do things like paint or glitter. Here Adeline is enoying some peaceful time painting outside while her younger sister snoozes.

Video of Adeline painting and impromptu singing:

Because she's a normal toddler, Ella likes to be involved in whatever a sibling is doing, so I often just put crayons, markers, and paper down for her next to someone.

Ella colors while Jack does some online activities (www.Time4Learning.com/).

Cheese! (I didn't even have to ask for this smile. What a cute ham!)

After this, Jack did some workbook activities, and Ella went with Adeline into her room and they put together some train tracks. We all had reading time today and played outside.

We were also watering the garden and Jack spotted a plump, hairy caterpillar. The kids were asking me all these questions about caterpillars that I didn't have the answers to, so we went inside and searched all about caterpillars on the computer and in our science books. Did you know caterpillars have 4,000 muscles (compared to our 650)? We also watched this fascinating video showing the life cycle of a monarch:

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