Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boys in Costumes

Halloween is not a big deal to me. Not having celebrated it as a child, it doesn't hold much sentimental power over me, so every year I'm ho-hum about it. I do appreciate very much the fact that our church has a Hallelujah Party on Halloween; and that's a safe, barrel-of-fun activity that my boys literally count down the days to.

As the big day approached this year, Josiah and David announced that they wanted to be Zorro--not surprising in the least. At first, Jeff and I decided that it wouldn't be the best thing for them to be Zorro for the Hallelujah Party; after all, this is a Mennonite church we're talking about. :) But then, we talked to some people and found out that the sons of one of the pastors had dressed up as Zorro when they were small boys, so then we decided that it must be OK, right? If the Blossers did it, we can do it! :)

Jeff had found plain black hats at the dollar store a while back, perfect for Zorro; and since the price was right, he got three (one for Tobin, too, just in case he wanted to copy his big brothers as they wore their hats around the house). That was the easy part: we still needed a mask and cape at the very least. Imagine my surprise and delight when the doorbell rang a week after our Zorro incident, and there stood my friend Misty, holding two gift bags. She's so talented! Not only can she take pictures, she can also sew and do all kinds of creative stuff. She gave a gift bag to Josiah and one to David; and when they opened them, they discovered a black mask, a black belt with a "Z" and other decorative stitching on it, and a black cape. They were beside themselves with joy! So was I, since that meant I didn't have to give another thought to their costumes. :) Thank you again, Misty; you surely made two little boys very, very happy...and made them look forward with even more anticipation to the Hallelujah Party so that they could SHOW THEIR FRIENDS THE ZORRO COSTUMES! :)

Who is that masked man? (He's holding an imaginary sword because, even though they were allowed to be Zorro, they were NOT allowed to take along their swords)! :)
Oh, I recognize that half-smile. It must be Zorro Josiah!
And here comes his faithful sidekick Zorro David. Imagine how much more injustice the real Zorro could have fought if only there had been two of him?!

In contrast to the big boys, Tobin was a giraffe--a very peaceful giraffe. He had loads of fun with this costume today (which we purchased at Goodwill a few years ago for only a couple of dollars), although eventually the hood bothered him and he kept pushing it off his head. I took these pictures here at home before we left for the party, while he was still content with the hood up.
He's the cutest little giraffe I've ever seen.
We had a little extra time before we left so he went for a walk, down the hill to see Grandpa...
...helped by Grandma's steady hand.

Shav was a jalapeno (although various people tonight guessed that he was a tomato or a IS kind of hard to tell). He used the costume that all the other boys have worn for their first Halloween. After we got home tonight and settled all the boys in bed, I had to dig through my picture archives and find a photograph of each of the boys wearing this costume. After I had put them in this post in order, Jeff said I should scramble them and let people try to guess which picture is which boy. This should be interesting. :)


I'm glad they all got to wear this costume. Some traditions are too, let fall by the wayside.

Friday, October 30, 2009

If You Don't Have Plans on a Sunday Evening...

...your children will get squirrely.

If they get squirrely, your husband will kindly volunteer to take the oldest three and go out, leaving you with one small infant and a relatively quiet house in which to take refuge.

If they go out, they will first ask if you have a shopping list.

You will give them one.

If they are given a shopping list, they will go to Walmart.

They will find everything on your list.

They will walk through the bakery section and find something not on your list: chocolate-iced donuts.

If they find chocolate-iced donuts, they will buy them and bring them home for Monday morning's breakfast.

On Monday morning, all three of your oldest children will want one.

That includes your 21 month-old toddler.

You will give him one, not only because it hardly seems fair for him to have to watch his older brothers eat one while he is given a Nutri-Grain bar and your sense of fairness is strong when it comes to younger siblings (because you are one yourself), but also because you don't want to hear him scream.

He will devour the donut.
The chocolate-covered donut.
He will become a chocolate-covered boy, even suddenly and miraculously growing a mustache and beard to match his daddy's.
He will even finger paint on his highchair tray with the icing.
He will be happy.
Very happy.

And he will also need a bath immediately after breakfast, which is not exactly how you were planning to spend your Monday morning. Something about proper nouns and US geography and poetry and "U Is for Universe" was what was supposed to happen, but oh well...never mind... Bathing your child and cleaning up his highchair (which somehow got chocolate icing ALL OVER IT) takes precedence.

And all because it was Sunday evening and you had no plans.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Many Faces of Tobin

Body language is a powerful thing--particularly facial expressions. It's amazing how much can be understood through the means of non-verbal communication; and in the case of Tobin, it's a very good thing because the boy just doesn't talk much. He can say some words; but in reality, his communication through them is very limited. That doesn't mean, however, that he doesn't communicate! Unfortunately, his recent method of conversation has involved some screaming, especially when we don't understand what he's trying to express...or when we do understand it but aren't doing what he wants us to anyway. But fortunately there are other much more pleasant ways that he uses to "talk" to us.

The fallen leaves presented a photo opportunity that was too good to pass up this afternoon so David and Tobin and I traipsed outside to play and photograph (while Josiah and Shav slept indoors). Tonight as I looked through the many pictures I took of Tobin, I was struck by how varied his expressions were...and how I could tell what he was thinking simply by the look on his face. I love knowing him to that degree; I love studying him and figuring out what's going on in that brain of his. I love the faces he makes and how even something as small as the movement of his eyebrows can indicate a whole new thought pattern for him.

Here are some of his faces (at least, according to my interpretation of them!):

~ the "I'm scooting" look

~ the "I'm really going to listen and concentrate on what this person (in this case, David) is saying because I want to understand them" look - the furrowed eyebrows show his concentration in this picture

~ the "here's something interesting" look, which is followed by the "what can I do to this object?" set of actions - I knew, as soon as he picked up this leaf, that he would soon start tearing it to pieces - he did that exactly

~ the "hey, there's Grandma!" look

~ the "I'm watching Grandma and trying to do what she does with her hands" look

~ the "these are MY hands; aren't they cool?" look

~ the "oh, look, there's something going on over there!" look - I notice also that he still has adorable little dimples at the base of each finger, and that his right hand is automatically searching for his belly button...he uses that outstretched right index finger to poke and pull his belly button...such a classic Tobin habit these days, but in this picture, his jacket is preventing him from doing it...I have to be careful what I dress him in these days so that I don't frustrate the tar out of him by making it too difficult to reach his belly button!
~ the "I'm standing and carefully walking" look

~ the "yippee! somebody noticed me standing and walking!" look

~ and my favorite, the "I'm a happy Tobin Bear" look

My heart is so full of love for this boy! "Could I love him any more?" I wonder. But tomorrow I will, and the day after that will bring even more love...and on and on and on. It's a good thing that hearts are expandable because, if they weren't, mine would surely burst.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Believe...

...that God gives us enough time each day to do what He wants us to do.

That being the case, it's obvious that I don't have a clear picture of what His expectations are for me since my plan for what I need to do each day is never even close to being possible to achieve. The pressure that results from thoughts of "I don't have enough time!" are not part of His plan for me...neither is the discouragement that comes as I do and do and DO, feeling all the while that I'm spinning my wheels and not accomplishing anything. I don't know how to fix this issue of time: knowing theoretically that I have all the time I need to do God's will, but nevertheless feeling stressed by HOW MUCH I HAVE TO DO and HOW IMPOSSIBLE IT IS TO MAKE PROGRESS ON MY NEVER-ENDING, ALWAYS-EXPANDING TO-DO LIST. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing better in this area, but the past few days I've felt the opposite.

All I know to do tonight is pray along with the Psalmist, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Simple Sunday - Sunshine You Can Touch

~ thankful for the splendor of fall foliage...yesterday the temperature reached a beautiful 77 degrees, and it hardly felt like fall; but driving around on nearby roads, we noticed how stunning the trees have become...this is a gorgeous time of year in our corner of Virginia, and every year I am awed by the majestic transformation the trees undergo...I'm thankful that for the past five years, we have lived here and had the privilege of viewing this incredible costume change designed by God and put on by nature
You crown the year with your bounty.
~ Psalm 65:11
What a spectacular crown this tree, here in our own yard, is wearing; it's as if a piece of sunshine has fallen from the sky and lodged itself by the corner of our house!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24, 1941...

...was a very good day on which to be born. Just ask my mother; she knows. :)

Actually, I've often wondered, in my years of being an adult and especially a mother, how difficult it might have been to be raising children in the early 1940s. After all, it was only about a month and half after my mother's birth when Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States entered World War II. What an uncertain time that must have been! Even though my grandparents lived on a small farm in a very rural area of southern Pennsylvania far from any major city, they must have felt concern about what the future held for their country and their family. What kind of a world were they bringing children into? If my grandparents were still alive, I would ask them how they felt about all of this.

On to happier things... We had the privilege of celebrating my mother's birthday with her, and it made me think back over the past five years we've had of celebrating together. Once again, I'm SO grateful to be living close to my parents and enjoying these golden years with them. I'm glad to be the one to host their birthday dinners...and bake their birthday cakes...and pick them up when their car breaks down (as it did today). You know, all the good stuff.

When I asked Mother what kind of cake she wanted, she said either angel food or German chocolate. Well, between her refrigerator and mine, we didn't have enough eggs for angel food (our chickens, sadly, have neglected their duties recently and AREN'T LAYING A THING!); so German chocolate it was--always a treat. Isn't she beautiful? Such sweet grace in that face.

In honor of the occasion, here is a little something about what my mother loves:

B - boys: especially the four little ones who live up the hill from her
A - acorns: she's been busily picking up the ones that have fallen from their oak tree and has donated about 75 pounds(!) of them to the Forest Service for their reforestation project
R - red: her favorite color
B - books: she's really good about buying them secondhand at Gift & Thrift, but not so good about letting herself actually sit down and read them :)
A - applesauce: homemade, of course, and home-canned to be taken out on cold winter days and relished
R - reduce, reuse, recycle: as my friend Julie wrote last year, my mom was green before it was cool
A - all of us!: always supportive, she's one of the biggest fans my little family has

Did you catch the clue I hid about what WE love? It's BARBARA! The best mother a girl could ever ask for. I love you with all my heart.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Integrating Faith and Learning

The title of this blog post sounds exactly like something my alma mater would use as a catch phrase in the literature they send out; however, we brought the concept down off its lofty pedestal today and implemented it on a very basic level in our very own home-sweet-home(school).

Today, being Friday, was the day we study the "specials." Forsaking such routine subjects as language arts and math, we instead focus on things like Spanish and art. So this morning, as part of art, I asked the boys to each draw a picture showing God's love so that we can send these along with our friend Melanie when she goes to a women's prison next weekend to be part of a group that ministers there.

Here are the pictures my little artists drew (with no help from me as far as ideas or execution):
~ Josiah drew Jesus on and off the cross--a great idea, I thought, since it reminds us that He didn't stay on the cross

~ David copied his big brother's idea and drew Jesus on the cross (see what a nice big smile Jesus has?), then he wrote "Jesus loves you"...when he wrote his name, he made the classic mistake that beginning writers make: he didn't leave enough room for all the letters so one lonely little "D" is hanging out by itself on the second line

~ even Tobin got into the act; after I set him in his highchair with a piece of paper and some crayons, he made quite a few colorful marks on the paper (and just a few on the highchair tray which fortunately is easier to clean than other random things that have gotten marked on recently around here!)

This was a fun way to, in a very small manner, share the love of Jesus with those who are hurting. I couldn't help but think of Matthew 25:31-46 because even though we can't go to visit these women ourselves, we can send a little piece of love to them. Oh, and we're also sending chocolate chip cookies. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Motor Skills

The little video clips I post from time to time are treasures to me because, in a matter of seconds, they can transport me to a particular moment in the past; and I feel much more fully there than I could simply through words or even still photographs. Technology is amazing; and although at times I regret the hold it has on us, today I'm very appreciative of the power of technology to assist in memory-making and keeping.

I love capturing Tobin at this stage of life. Here he is doing an activity which I frankly thought was too advanced for him, but he showed off his fine motor skills and did a good job with this. I think it's so cute how he opens his mouth just so when he's concentrating. :)

I had pulled this walker out of storage in the garage a while back, thinking that Tobin might be interested in it. He wasn't--not for a while anyway--but in recent days, he's suddenly realized how much fun it can be to zip around with it. His solo walking is still slow and cautious; but with the walker, he's much speedier. One day recently, while Josiah and David were at the kitchen table doing some schoolwork, Tobin did laps around the table.
When I see him walking with this, I think he looks just like how my dad looks when he's using the old Troy-Bilt tiller in the garden or the old-fashioned row-maker. To be fair, I KNOW I've looked funny the few times I've used the tiller. It's impossible to walk "normally" while you're tilling because if you did, you'd walk right over your freshly-tilled soil--same with the row-maker. But still...when I see Tobin with his walker, I see Dad with the tiller...and I just have to smile. :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Quarter of a Year

Yesterday Shav celebrated his 3 month birthday; and by celebrate, I mean that he drank milk, slept in his cradle, pooped, fell asleep in his swing, watched his brothers, spit up, needed his spit-upped-upon clothes changed, went for a ride in the car and then the stroller to get to Josiah's choir class, sat in my lap during class, smiled, went with me to a girls' night out with my friends Julie and Misty, was the perfect gentleman during our fine Italian feast, fussed some on the way home until I stuck my pinkie in his mouth for him to suck on, had some snuggle time, fell asleep peacefully, among other things. Just another great day in the life of Shav, but a day that made me stop and reflect on who this amazing little creature is.
My dad took Shav to his office tonight to weigh and measure him. I was trying to shove the rest of my dinner down my throat before I headed off to a meeting, so I was grateful to stay here at the house and hear the official report when Dad and Shav returned: 13 pounds, 5 ounces, and 25 inches long.
Shav is fully into the stage of babytalk, and I delight in the times when he becomes very verbal and babbles and coos. Simply adorable sounds!
He's also intent on watching what's going on. No longer willing to stay in his swing or the playpen while the rest of the family eats supper, he wants to be in on the action. The other day, I set him in the bouncy seat on top of the counter so he could see me as I moved around the kitchen. He looked like a spectator at a ping-pong tournament, his little head swiveling as I passed him first one way and then the other. Back and forth I went, and back and forth his eyes followed me. He probably rubbed additional hairs off the back of his head with all that friction.
I have always loved our little boy clothes and all the various shades of blue found in dressers and closets around here; but with Shav, I'm also enjoying the new clothes that we've been given for him, many of which feature the "new" colors of brown and green. Although blue IS my favorite color, it's nice to see more than just blue when I open the armoire in his room.
Sometimes when I'm tucking him in bed, I start to lay him down in his cradle, then have to raise him up again so I can give him another kiss or two before really laying him down. He's so precious that it's hard to let go of him sometimes. I cherish these days of him being so small and fitting into my arms so nicely, of knowing that four to six times a day I get to sit down and nurse him and savor the feel of his little body. I know these days won't last forever; they fly away on wings that I didn't even know existed. Here I was thinking that this stage is a snail, but really it's an eagle: flapping strong wings and quickly moving out of sight.

I was thinking these thoughts recently as I read Patti's excellent post about holding our children. The mental picture she includes of a mother and son in a hospital bed is truly powerful. I can't gather all my sons into my arms this moment; but I can tiptoe around to each of them, feeling their breath as they sleep, giving them another kiss, thanking God for another day of life for them.

And especially thanking God for the three months and a day He's given us with Shav.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TTT - Old Grannies in Heaven?

One night as he was getting ready for bed, Josiah asked me whether there was an even or an odd number of people in the United States...except instead of using the word "even," he said "equal," (as in, "is there an equal number of people in the US?") It took me a moment to figure out what he was talking about. "Equal to what?" I wondered; but after I realized his meaning, I thought that it really did make sense for him to say "equal" because in other situations, "even" and "equal" could be used somewhat interchangeably--for example, I divided the candy corn evenly between Josiah and David means that I divided it equally. Anyway, to answer his question, I told him that I had no idea whether there was an even or odd number of people in our country right that moment because it was changing every second. Babies were being born, people were dying, travelers were leaving and entering the US--only God could possibly know the answer. Kids are so creative and out-of-the-box in what they wonder about and ask!


One day when we were talking about our favorite instruments, David said, "All I want to play is the drums...and the guitar...and the violin...and the piano." And then he added, "Oh, and the microphone." The microphone? He held an imaginary one to his mouth as if to help me get the concept. Nice. Yes, my boy, with your flair for entertainment, I can see you "playing a microphone" very skillfully.


David: I don't want to be fingernail-cutted!


While looking at a family picture that hangs on our wall and includes a picture of David when he was a few months old, David said in his funny mixed-up grammar, "Who looks like Shav is that little guy." It was a statement, not a question. I asked, "Who is that little guy?" And he answered, "Me, but it looks like Shav!" I guess he's just agreeing with the blog readers who have remarked on the similarity between the two of them.

Later that day, David said with feeling, "I just wish Shav was a girl so I could mmmmmmarry him!"


David inquired of me, "Do you think in heaven, we'll be kids or old grannies?"

Not desiring at the moment to delve into the impossibility of him ever being an old granny, I fell back on my standard answer when confronted with such important questions, "I don't know; what do you think?"

"I think we're going to be kids because old grannies would be like, 'No, I don't want to play'," he responded.

I pressed further, "So we're going to play a lot in heaven?"

"Yes!" was his enthusiastic reply.

Of course.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Simple Sunday - Grandma's Shoulder

~ the first ever Shav-as-author edition
~ thankful for Grandma's shoulder, a pretty good place to fall asleep...Grandpa's lap is a nice spot to hang out in, too; but my mommy must not have been paying attention at the right time because she didn't take a picture of that...I sure love having my grandparents live close by so that they can hold me a mommy likes it, too, so that she can actually eat without having me on her lap at the same time...I was getting kind of tired of pieces of tomatoes and shredded cheese and dollops of sour cream falling out of her taco onto my head!...Grandma's shoulder is a much more peaceful place to be, especially when she sits in the rocking chair by the woodstove and rocks with me...ah, this is the life
Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged;
parents are the pride of their children.
~ Proverbs 17:6

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crossing Over

My dear sons,

It appears that we as a family have crossed over some societal boundary of "normal" and have now entered the realm of "large family." Our friends who really have large families (say, 8 kids or so) might laugh derisively (in an affectionate way) at the thought of the six of us being a large family, but most people seem to consider us as either "above average" or "slightly abnormal" in the area of family size.

I am reminded of this when we go out together because EVERY time, someone (or several someones) remark to us about our family. And, thanks to you all, the remarks have, for the most part, been extremely complimentary. Your behavior at Cracker Barrel last week for my family night and at Country Cookin' tonight for Josiah's family night was exceptionally good; and in situations like these, I nearly burst with pride when folks at neighboring tables speak to us across the aisle or stop us on our way--or their way--out of the restaurant to mention how impressed they were by how well-behaved our boys are and what a beautiful family we have and four boys? how wonderful! and so forth.

For some reason, we, with only four children, are at the stage of being noticed. How grateful I am that, most of the time, it's noticed for being good. The love that you have for each other and for Daddy and I, the obedience that you display, the respect and kindness that comes forth from you, not to mention your willingness to actually sit in your chairs and eat your food rather than climbing on or under the table or loudly trumpeting a bad attitude for everyone within the restaurant to hear - all of this shines the light of Jesus to those who see. You have no idea how many people watch you and how much of a witness you already are.

I am so proud of each of you and grateful beyond words to be your mother. The thought of not having any of you is horrifying to me, and I'll gladly accept my role in our "large" family. I'm so glad we crossed over!

Overflowing with love,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Any Thumb Will Do

Our two previous* thumb-sucking sons, David and Tobin, were one-handed thumb-suckers--decidedly so. It was ALWAYS the left thumb, never the right.

Shav, proving once again that just because he's the fourth son doesn't mean he's a carbon copy of any of his big brothers, is perfectly content to suck either thumb. Today I laid him on my bed while I folded some laundry. He fell asleep, and I snapped this first picture.
Later I noticed that he had switched thumbs so I had to take another picture. After all, one can never have too many pictures of one's sleeping baby.
Shav seems to choose which thumb to suck based on the practical matter of which way his head is turned. Whichever thumb is closest wins the competition. It's simple, really.

And adorable.

* "Previous" by no means implies that they don't still suck their thumbs because they both certainly do. You might think that David was getting a little old for that. You might be right. Our dentist, Dr. Greene, who is well-known, well-respected, and well-liked in this household, told us that David isn't sucking long enough or hard enough to damage his teeth so we didn't have to put a stop to it yet. However, we have decided that when he turns five, David will need to stop sucking his thumb. The consolation prize is that he will GET TO CHEW GUM--a very eagerly anticipated consolation prize by a certain four year-old in our family.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Green...and A Big Ol' Thank You

I'm happy to report that, although Zorro has been spotted occasionally around here during the past two days, he's behaved himself quite well. Now he's the perfect gentleman - actually, gentlemen, since there seem to be three of him. Maybe later this week I'll post a photo of him them, if I can corner the sneaky big little guy(s) long enough to snap a picture.

I'm still kind of speechless about Monday's incident, especially when it comes to writing something for the blog. How do I follow up on that? But I do want to say a big thank you to everyone who commented with such kind words; you helped take the sting out of it and helped me see the hilarity of it a little more quickly than I would have otherwise.

Moving right along... My talented young friend at Emily Joy Photography is hosting a weekly photo challenge with a different theme each week. I thought it would be fun to play along this week, so here is my picture for the theme GREEN.
Green grass, a couple green dresses, going green by hanging clothes on the line: this picture has it all. :)

I'm off to check on my sleeping beauties Zorros and kiss them all good night one last time...

Monday, October 12, 2009

What Do You Say...

...when you go downstairs to tell your four year-old that quiet time is over and he can go outside to help Grandma pick up sticks, but instead of delivering your message, you discover this......and this...
...and this.
this, and...
Also this...
...and this.
This, too...
...and this.
And oh yes, this...
...and this.
Do you say, "It appears that Zorro has ridden this way"?

Do you say, "I obviously need to teach my son how to make a proper "z" since ALL of them were backwards"?

Do you say, "How nice that the marker seems to have plenty of ink"?

Do you say, "Young man, you just wait until your father gets home"?

Do you say nothing, and cry?

Do you say nothing, and laugh?

Does your jaw drop, and you stand there with hands covering your face, completely unable to say anything and hardly daring to peek between your fingers for fear that you'll find EVEN MORE places where a certain little four year-old has scrawled his backwards "z's" in imitation of his latest hero, Zorro*?

Yes, I did some of that.

And then, when I could recover from my speechless state, I got down, looked David in the eyes, and said, "Do you know that I love you more than any THING? Do you know that you are more important to me than the floor or the walls or the books or the shelves?" He nodded solemnly.

That was followed by, "WHAT were you thinking?"

He didn't really have a good answer for that; but later on, after we had talked and cried and prayed together, and cleaned and scrubbed and tried to erase the marker (which happens to come off very easily from a dry erase board, but not so easily from bookshelves, book spines, and white walls), he said in such a desperate voice, "I prayed and asked God to make the "z's" go away!" that I almost had to laugh.

I suppose the surprise is not that some unauthorized "artwork" happened in our home, but that it didn't happen sooner. After seven years of being parents of boys, it's slightly amazing that this is the first time that such a thing has occurred. But what a thing! It wasn't just one scribble on the wall with a crayon. It was EVERYWHERE. The more I looked, the more unbelievable it seemed.

After we had finished cleaning up (as much as we could do...Jeff did some painting tonight to cover more of the spots, but some still remain), I took David in my arms and sat in the old brown recliner with him, right on top of the ink streaks. We talked and prayed, and I told him how my specific prayer focus for the boys today was self-control. Ironic, eh? He was a sober little guy, listening closely and tearfully praying. And then when I said "amen," he hopped up to try to rub the "z's" off a few more spots that I hadn't noticed yet. I wouldn't be surprised if we make even more discoveries in the days to come.

I don't think I--or he--will forget the day Zorro came to visit...and left his calling card behind.

*Jeff and the boys have been watching some of the old Zorro movies. I think they're from the 1940s perhaps, and I know they're black and white. When I think of Zorro, I think of the movie that came out within the past 10 years, I would guess. That is not the movie the boys have seen. I don't think they're ready for that!