Friday, April 29, 2011


Not quite!

You gotta love the matching scowls at a stranger though.

With Mike working out of town at least twice a week, I figured I better step up my game and see what I can do to make the most of the time he has at home. That means not sending him off to the grocery store. I've taken the girls to the local store a couple of times and it's gone okay. I usually park next to a cart corral and load them into a regular cart to get in the store where we can use the "car" cart. Amanda and Ana ride in the basket and Tali rides in the baby seat. I pull the cart right up next to the van door and hold it so Amanda can climb in herself.

On the this trip, Tali was really upset about riding in the cart. She seemed a little disturbed by the bumpy motion across the parking lot. Once Ana was sitting in the seat next to her, she was fine. The first time I took the girls, I put Ana in the car part with Amanda but that was just too far away from mom.

I may find it just a bit amusing to make people think Ana and Tali might be twins. :)

The hardest part about getting groceries is carrying them all into the house with the little girls. However, the boys hate to ride the bus home and normally they would walk over to Mike's work and catch a ride home with him. If I plan shopping trips for the days Mike is gone, the boys are very happy to have me pick them up after school and they can carry in all the groceries. Win-win!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Extended Rear-Facing with Photos

A while back, I promised photos of our car seat arrangements. It's been a bit tricky since when the girls are all buckled in their seats they are ready to GO!

We have a 2004 Chevy Venture that seats eight. There are only a few minivans with this seating arrangement. The Pontiac TransSport and Montanas, Chevy Ventures, and Oldsmobile Silhouettes. 2004 or 2005 were the last years for this option. At least that was what we found in 2008 when we bought the van.

Tali and Amanda sit in the second row. Tali's seat uses the LATCH system and Amanda's seat uses a retracting lap-only belt. Tali's seat is an Evenflo Tribute that rear-faces up to 35 lbs. Amanda's seat is a Sunshine Radian that rear-faces up to 45 lbs.

Christiana sits in the middle of the third row using a lap-only belt, the kind with a locking slide buckle. Her seat is also a Sunshine Radian. Tali and Ana's jackets are fleece-lined with a nylon shell. Amanda's jacket is fleece. I cover them with blankets on cold days.
The passenger seat next to Amanda is usually flipped forward, so I life Christiana into the van, climb in and lift Tali into her seat. I can sit in Amanda's seat while buckling her in. Then I sit in the back and buckle Christiana in while Amanda's getting into her seat. She can buckle all of her buckles herself now. Christiana can do the chest clip. After tightening Christiana's, I tighten Amanda's and climb out. I imagine that as Tali gets more stable on her legs, I will put her in her seat last but this has worked for us this winter. I do need to work on remembering to flip that passenger seat back into it's position when I get out.

There is quite a bit of space between Tali's seat and the driver's seat when I drive. When Mike drives, he reclines the seat as far as it will go against her seat. He is sitting a little more upright than he prefers but it's okay. Amanda's seat fits between the driver's and passenger's seat.

Christiana's seat is tight up against the Amanda's vehicle seat. I think I usually install Amanda's seat first. If I recline that middle seat and then install Amanda's seat, when I put the seat back into its upright position, it's even more snug. Then, I install Christiana's seat. I need to twist the buckle several times before inserting the latch otherwise it won't tighten properly. In this position I can use the seat's top tether. It is tethered to the anchor that's located on the back of that middle row center vehicle seat (Amanda's seat). All these details were checked at the car seat clinic and were acceptable.

Of course, the biggest concern for most people when considering extended rear facing, beside space in the vehicle and ease of use, is their baby's long legs. Obviously it looks like Amanda's legs are too long to sit in this position and she can't straighten her legs, but she isn't uncomfortable. Little kids are constantly curled up like pretzels. My girls are always trying to squeeze themselves into tiny boxes. In fact, that most uncomfortable position for them is to sit in a chair that's too big with their feet unsupported, like when they are forward facing in a car seat.

The Radian is well designed so that she can bend her legs or put them off to the sides. I think she would be a little more uncomfortable if she was still in Tali's seat with the raised sides.

Amanda is significantly more comfortable in this reclined position for falling asleep, too. The Christmas before last, Mike took Amanda and the boys up north in his pick-up because the weather was bad. She had to sit forward facing because of the size of the seat in the extended cab. She cried A LOT because she couldn't lean back and fall asleep.
As far as the broken leg argument, I've heard it said, "A broken leg is easier to fix than a broken neck."
As far as the expense...yes, the Radian's are expensive. I was able to get ours for around $215 and it will be the last car seat I will need to buy since it can be used for children 5-80 lbs. For us, it made sense.

The Cutest Little Garbage Man

Yes, it is snowing here today.

Yes, Amanda is still in her pajamas.

She actually sits by the window waiting for the garbage man to come so she can go out and bring up the empty can. You gotta love her enthusiasm.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our Provider

Seventeen years ago, when Mike and I got married, he was working as a "yard guy" at the local lumber yard. With a baby on the way and a family to support, opportunities for advancement seemed slim. Many people believed we had thrown our lives away. But Mike was undeterred. He worked hard at his job and advanced to driver, head driver, and then into sales. He was aggressive and brought new ideas and programs to his store. He also drove school bus to make some extra money and because he liked to. :)

Only four short years after we were married, Mike was asked to manage a lumber yard in a small town in North Dakota. At 24 years old, he was the youngest manager in his company. We didn't know it at the time, but the company was planning to close that yard soon. They sent Mike out there to test his mettle but the figured if he bombed it would be no big loss for them.

Well, he didn't bomb. He showed them what he was capable of and that he was willing to work hard to make a difference. As soon as an opportunity to manage back in MN opened up, they closed the ND store. We had been there for two years.

This new store was a gift. A reward for all the hard work he had done in ND. It was a successful yard in a busy area. It was also a great area full of conservative homeschooling families. We built our first house there and were there for three years. It was a difficult decision when they offered him a larger store closer to our families. But then his boss said, "If you take this job, and I assuming you will..." We figured if his boss thought he's be an idiot not to take the job, we should take it.

We've been here for seven years now. Three weeks ago we were asked to move again. Mike was asked, no, begged to go back and take on his hometown store. The store has been struggling and his bosses felt Mike was the best person to go in there and turn things around. Mike has always desired to get his hands on the store and see what he could do. He always kept on eye on the store and considered what changes might make it more profitable. But now he has five kids. And two of them are teenagers who aren't thrilled at the idea of having to make all new friends again. The other three are too little to help mom pack up a house to get ready to move. So, he hesitated.

His company had a big buying show and he was gone for three days. His bosses said they would talk to him more about it once the show ended. Mike had told me that he really felt like he was going to tell them, "No," but that I should expect a curve ball. Sure enough, the curve ball came. They want him to manage both stores. Hmmm. I'm not sure how that's going to fit into the "involved homeschooling dad" model.

The reality is that there are many people who are out of work. There are many small business owners in our area whose businesses are failing and they are struggling. Mike works in the hardest hit sector of the economy during this "economic down turn." We have been concerned about Mike's job for the last couple of years. The fact that he was asked to take on this challenge speaks volumes to his position in his company. We are thankful that he has a good job and that the company has taken care of us for all these years.

So, he said, "Yes," and began work at the new store yesterday. It's about 1 1/2 hr commute. After spending the day getting to know the crew and presenting new ideas and technology to them, he's very hopeful and excited for the opportunities for improvement. He also excited because he gets to hire his brother as an outside salesman. Usually the company doesn't allow nepotism but Mike included it in his proposal. Since his brother is currently working for the competition and has worked for Mike before, they agreed.

It's difficult to say how this is going to affect our family life overall. It will be hard to not seeing him for lunch everyday. He'll be over there two or three days a week. He may spend more time at the store here on the weekends. We will just take it one day at a time and be thankful that Mike is able to provide for our family.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Pool Take 7 or 8

The last couple of trips to the pool have been much easier since my neighbor loaned us this little floaty. Tali is usually pretty happy in it and I can hold onto Ana. I don't even bring the wrap any more. On Good Friday, my mom met me at the pool with my sister's two boys and my brother's two boys. Since the older boys were going to be there, Tyler decided to get up and come with us. We left around 8:30 am on a day off from school. I was impressed. He also drove us there and back. Very nice!

My mom taught Amanda about jumping into the pool and she's very brave. On this trip she was really jumping. She still wants somebody to hold a hand out to her but she doesn't really need to be caught.

Which is great since I only have one hand free and can't really catch her. She usually grabs onto my hand with both hands and I could pull her up if she got into trouble.

She jumped and jumped and jumped while mom and I tried to catch a picture of her in mid-air. It's really tricky with an automatically adjusting digital camera and I really didn't have the time or a free hand to play around with the settings. Because Christiana never left my side, of course.

The boys shot hoops and did jumps in the bigger, colder lap pool. One day while we were at the pool there was a woman swimming laps near the edge that's close to the little activity pool. All Tali could see was her hands popping up after each stroke. She watched the hands going back and forth across the length of the pool totally perplexed. It was so funny!

We only have one more week left of our membership so I'm glad I was able to get some pictures. It will be another month and a half before we can swim in the lakes. Until then we'll be hitting the parks. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we don't get any more snow. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Amanda and the Water Heater

It's such an obscure household object. I'm sure most kids have no awareness of the water heater in their houses. Not Amanda. She is very aware of our water heater. It began when our old one broke down and needed to be replaced. I thought it would be interesting for her to watch the guys work for a bit. Moments after they started, the noisy pump they were using to drain the water broke loose and sprayed water all over the laundry room including on Amanda's feet. Thank goodness the heater was broken so the water was cold. She still talks about it.

Then the fan on top of the new heater was out of balance so it was VERY loud. The first time Amanda was in the laundry room when that started up she ran screaming from the room.

She has just recently started coming into the laundry room again and edging closer to the water heater. Where she discovered this:

It took me an entire day to convince her that there was NOT a MAN inside our water heater. A very distubing thought, to say the least. However, explaining to her exactly what that sticker means did not ease her mind about the trustworthiness of that big thing in the corner of the laundry room.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Mom Makes Me Laugh

The following email conversation started with this picture and the email subject: Trumpeter Swans?

Me: "We watched at least two flocks of these birds fly over our house. At first I thought they were geese but the sound was different. Amanda talked about some other birds,too. I wish I could remember how she described them but it was funny, of course. But it had something to do with them making noise. We've been hanging out on deck with the sliding door open."

My mom: "Am studying my bird book and have asked for help on the birds." Me: "They are trumpeter swans I'm sure. Click on the photo and zoom in. Long necks." "This was the sound. I have it recorded on video too." My mom (several minutes later): "Of course they are trumpeters!! I was looking at them BACKWARDS! Silly me!" That's when I noticed the discription she had sent to the local bird expert: "Flying over [our town] area. Short necks, black heads, long trailing legs? Not Trumpeters, not snow geese. Not pelicans or gulls or Egrets." Perhaps, it was the late hour or maybe we're just bird geeks, but it made me laugh out loud. Maybe I should have sent the video first! :) The bird expert did respond that they were probably tundra swans since the flocks were so large and he had seen hundreds of them in the past week too.

Amanda's New Chores

Last week, Amanda did three new chores. She brought up the empty garbage can from the end of the driveway, she put the recycling into bags and took it to the garage and she took the compost to the pile. Taking the compost out is, by far, her favorite new chore because our compost pile is really more like a deer-feeding pile. She is also pretty proud of her unloading-the-dishwasher job. She can unload almost everything now. There are just a few heavy glass things that she can't put away. She always asks me to help her and I say, "Yes, I'll help you! When you get all done unloading it, I'll fill it back up." Occasionally, she been allowed to stay up a little past bedtime to unload the dishwasher. She considers it a special treat. I'm going to enjoy this while it lasts. :)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tali's Walking!

Be sure to turn down your sound before viewing. There's lots of background noise.

Tali's been taking steps for about two weeks. She's pretty excited about it and likes to practice. I think it's really strange that out of five kids, four have started walking around 13 months despite a wide variety in when they started to crawl. Tyler started crawling at 10 months, Tony was crawling at 7 months, Amanda was crawling at 5 months, and Tali started crawling around 8 months. Christiana is my statistical outlier. She started crawling at 11 months and walked around 15 months.

Baby Birds

Often people have commented about how Tali and Ana look like little baby birds quietly opening their mouths for a bite of food. Then they wait patiently for the next bite. I agree often they are like baby birds.

But baby birds do not wait quietly or patiently between bites. The squawk loudly and frantically as if they fear they are going to starve to death.

Yes, at some meals, all three little girls act like baby birds.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

On a Leash?

I have no problem putting my kid on a leash.

Especially if it means I can control the speed at which she goes down big hills on her little bike...

Or use it to help give her a little pull up the big hills...

While pushing the stroller...

Loaded with these two cuties...

Those hills are MUCH steeper than they appear in the photos. I often jog with Amanda so she can experience a little speed. She is really good about pedaling while I'm pulling her uphills so it's not like hauling dead-weight. Except when she thinks she's funny and stands on the brakes.

The leash is probably a 15 ft retractable. It is looped and clipped around the seat post of her bike. Amanda lifts up her foot when I switch to helping her up the hills. It's great that it's retractable so that as she speeds up or slows down the leash doesn't get tangled in her tires but I think a 10 ft retractable would be better so she stays closer to the stroller. (I have to thank one of my neighbors for the idea. It's brilliant.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Traveling Mercies and A Playground Milestone

Our trip went surprisingly well. My cousin just moved back to MN from OH and so my mom and grandma traveled with me to go see her. I also delivered the last of my extra breastmilk to my milk baby. She turned one in March and I quit pumping extra in February but still had a cooler-full in my freezer. I napped in the back next to Ana for the first 1 1/2 hrs while Amanda listened to a rosary CD with my mom. We stopped for about 20 minutes for diaper changes, gas and bathroom breaks and then I drove the next hour or so into the city while mom kept the girls occupied with snacks. My cousin had lunch ready for us when we got there and then we went out to play. It was pretty cold and windy but there were nine little kids nine and under so it was pretty crazy in the house. My aunt came with my cousin's daughter too.

Most of the kids were moving too fast for me to get any photos but Ana was putting on a show for us. Before our last snow storm, we had gone to a park and Ana cried the whole time. She seemed afraid of being able to see through the grate to the ground. But not this day. She was having a blast. She started out playing at the bottom of the slide but then somebody taught her how to get off the slide and climb back up the stairs to go again. And again. And again. Fun!

Our goal was to get out of the city before rush hour and we cut it a bit close. Thankfully traffic wasn't too bad. All the girls fell asleep after a few more snacks from my mom. My mom took a nap so she could drive once we got out of the city traffic. We stopped to visit another elderly relative about an hour out of the city. She's was so happy to see all of us. The girls were pretty subdued because they were so tired. However, when it was time to go, my mom opened the door to hallway of the assisted living complex and Tali took off crawling down the hall. The other two started crawling with her and pretty soon they were all giggling and laughing crawling down the flowered carpet. They were spreading little bits of sunshine all over! They stayed awake the whole way home but kept pretty happy. When Amanda started to fuss, I told her to blow on her fingers like party candles, which led to talking about birthdays and finally reciting the birth order of all the cousins. There are eighteen cousins. All three girls were mesmerized by the chanting of the familiar names. Again and again. The girls were tired and were recovering today. What did I learn from the whole experience? My days would go so much better if I always had food and drink immediately available to stuff into their mouths the moment they start to whimper. ;)