Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Yep ... Pretty Thankful!

What a fun weekend ... a fun looooong weekend!  Kind of hard to come back down to the reality of Monday after a sweet family time like that!  But I guess we have to have something like "normal" in order to enjoy the "special" of the holidays.

We started our holiday weekend off with the Great Pre-Holiday Toy Purge of 2010 ... do we know how to have fun, or what?!  The kids were home from school on Wednesday and so, being such a great mom, I put them to work.  But just for the morning.  After making our way through the house, top to bottom and side to side, we pulled out three bags of trash and 4 boxes of toys to give away.  Boo-yeah!  I love that feeling of less:  less to pick up, less to search through for the toy you really want, less to keep contained.  I was really pleased with the kids and their willingness to let go of some of their things.  We wrapped up the morning with a trip to McD's.  No ... we didn't get any Happy Meal toys! :)  In reality, we are only making room for the gifts to come ... but for right now, we feel tidy.

Then it was Thanksgiving Day ... gobble, gobble!  We started the morning with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade ... which ended up being a lot of talk and a little itty-bit of parade.  Poor Ashley was still asking about 45 minutes into the broadcast, "When is it going to be the parade?"

"Sorry, Honey, this is it."  Lots of yakking, some reporter kept taking other people's coats (what was that all about?!?), a few glimpses of balloons and a photo shot or two of some famous person on a float.  Oh well ... I'll bide my time until the Rose Bowl Parade and enjoy it on HGTV ... no commercials and no silliness.  Just the parade!

Eventually we got dressed and headed to my brother's house.  His family hosted Thanksgiving in their new home ... new memories to make together!  The kids played.  Hard.  While we adults lounged, ate and Boggled.  Hard.

Somehow, we worked up an appetite and that was a good thing because we had a delicious spread to enjoy:  turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberries, bread, wine, pie ... I'm stuffed just thinking about it again!  Thanks, Joshua & Jill, for hosting us in your lovely home!

Then it was the mad dash to Montrose that night.  The Goal:  get there before anyone fell asleep.  Mission Accomplished!  Maybe it was the contagious giggling from the backseat, maybe it was the pecan pie coursing through our veins, or maybe it was the Christmas music blaring from the iPod ... either way, we pulled to a stop just as Lydia's eyes began to droop.  Whew!

While in Montrose, we made our traditional trip to the tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree.  This is such a delightful tradition!  As you will see from the Smilebox ... we had a great time!  It was warm, the sun was shining and everyone had smiles on their faces.  A true Christmas miracle!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Customize your own free slideshow design

Now our tree is standing in our family room waiting patiently for us to decorate it.  Tonight, we will be having my other favorite tradition:  The Christmas Transformation!  Christmas music, boxes of ornaments (each with it's own sweet memory), bins of decorations to transform our house, angel and snowflake dishes to eat from, lights twinkling inside and out.

Ooohhh, yeah ... I'm getting in the Christmas mood! :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Talking Wrong :)

I have a tendency to periodically speak ... wrong.  What is going on in my head is not what comes out of my mouth.  At all.  And usually, I hear myself say the correct word, so I'm oftentimes perplexed by my audience's perplexity.  I make an ordinary announcement ... and something like this follows:

Laughter and giggles ...
"What?  Didn't I just say ...."
"Nope," snicker, snicker, "You didn't.  You said ..."  Hee, hee!

I would like to blame it on the kids and my having given birth to them and half my brain, but I'm afraid I've been this way a long time.  There are two particular memories I have of talking wrong that still come up in conversation ... proof that talking wrong has been a life-long trait.  Both transpired before we had kids.

Article of Evidence #1

One evening before Christmas, Brett asked me what I would like as a gift.  I was standing in our closet putting away clothes when I replied in a sing-song voice, "Leather Boooties!"

Brett turned to me, with this "what in the world?!" look on his face, and asked, "What did you say?"

"Wool socks."

"That's NOT what you just said."

"Yes it was."

"No.  It wasn't.  You said, 'Leather Booties'."

"No!  I did?"

"Yes.  You did."

We still laugh about that one!

Article of Evidence #2

One morning, we were hanging out on the couch reading the paper.  Brett asked me what I wanted for breakfast.  I thought for a minute and responded with, "Pizza, pizza, slooooww."  

This time I knew that something strange had escaped my mouth and I busted up laughing.  

Brett, looked stunned, "What?"

I clarified:  "A piece of cold pizza."  Ahh-haa ... 

Growing up, we often enjoyed eating a piece of pizza from the night before.  We had a tradition of eating out at Pizza Hut on Saturday nights during swim season ... and having a little more the next morning for breakfast.   Pizza Hut is truly the best cold pizza.  Right out of the box.  Mmmm ...

Yeah ... that was memorable.  

Now, seeing as my mouth doesn't always cooperate, is it any wonder that sometimes our kids talk wrong, too?  Some of my favorite miss-speaks of the kids are from when they were little.  When Aaron was about three and in full-construction-obession, he would get really excited about his construction trucks and say, "Excagrrraaator!" for excavator.

I also remember when Norah would call her little, pink, pig friend, "Pliget" in place of Piglet.  I was so sad when she started saying it right. :(  She is also famous for shouting, "I'm so exciting!" when she was thrilled about something.  Yes, she was exciting in her excitement about being excited.

One of my favorites from Ashley is from just after Lydia was born.  We were riding somewhere in the van and Lydia was crying.  And crying.  And crying.  Sweet Ashley piped up from the seat next to her, "It's okay Weeda Mae."  Weeda = Lydia ... when you can't say your L's.  Mae is Ashley's middle name.

I corrected her, "That's sweet honey, but her name is Lydia Rachel."

Long pause ... "It's okay Weeda Mae Wachow."

Little Lydia still gets called Weeda Mae by her Mommy. :)

Right now Lydia is still stuck on "Ma-ma" as her most favorite word ... and it can mean a variety things.  Even with her limited vocabulary, she has said a few things wrong - even with just that one word.  She is rather obstinate about calling Daddy "Ma-ma" ... even when she's being corrected and looking very repentant and sad.  She's supposed to answer, "Yes, Daddy" at the end of her little disciplinary chat ... but often will pout out her lip and mutter a little, "Mow Ma-ma".  Her little, "Thank You" is even a little reminiscent of "Ma-ma" as is "More, please."  I guess it's all in the context!

All this talking wrong reminds me of a skit that Steve Martin did years ago about teaching your kids to talk wrong by giving them the wrong words to use.  Every now and then when the kids (or I!) come up with a real zinger, Brett or I will quote him:

"Wouldn't it be great if we taught our kids to talk wrong? Like on their first day of school and they have to go to the bathroom. They raise their hand and say, "Mambo dogface in the banana patch?"

As it turns out, however, we don't have to be taught to talk wrong ... we can do that all on our own! 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Food For Thought

Hope this post finds you with a full heart from the holidays ... but, with a belly that hasn't been filled too full, too! :)

As I was thinking about what to highlight this week, I thought I would showcase something simple, but simply delicious:  Bread.  There is nothing quite so wonderful as the smell of fresh-baked bread ... except for a slice of said fresh-baked bread, still warm from the oven with a dibby-dab of butter.  Yumm ...  I have a few girls who are convinced that indeed you can live on bread alone! :)

Unfortunately, I think that this generation has lost touch with this down-to-earth delight, seeing as more often than not, our bread comes from the store, wrapped in plastic and at room temperature.  Such a pity!

So, here's my little tutorial on home-baked bread.  I hope you will discover how simple and yet scrumptious bread making can be!

If you are the proud owner of a bread machine, you can just pop these breads right in your machine.  I have listed the ingredients in the order that you will want to put them into the pan.  Follow your machines instructions for baking.

If you don't have a bread machine ... no worries ... I will talk you through it.  I have a KitchenAide mixer that I love for making bread.  But, if you don't have a sturdy mixer, we'll just use our hands! :)  Here we go!

Peasant Bread
(from The Bread Machine Cookbook, Copyright 1991)

1 1/3 cup water (warm from the tap)
2 t. sugar
1 t. salt
3 cups flour (I use half white, half wheat.)
2 t. yeast

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Stir to combine.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the water, sugar and yeast.  Let this sit for about 5 minutes until it starts to foam.  Add the liquids to the dry ingredients.  If using a mixer, drizzle the water in a steady stream.  If using your hands, stir this with a wooden spoon until it's too tough to mix ... then get at it with your hands.

When all the water is added and mixed in it's time to knead.  With my mixer, that means setting it to about speed #3 and letting it go for about 2-3 minutes.  If I'm using my hands, I dust the countertop with extra flour, dump out the bread and start kneading with my hands (about 7-10 minutes).  When I'm finished, the dough should feel smooth, not sticky, and have some good stretchiness to it.

Now it's time to let it rest and rise.  Take a large bowl and spray the inside with oil (I use pan spray).  Roll the dough into a ball and roll it around inside the oiled bowl until it's covered lightly with oil.  This will keep the dough from drying out.  Cover the bowl with a towel and set this somewhere warm.  I like to stick it in my oven, that has been warmed for a few minutes.  Set the timer for about 1 hour.  The dough is ready when you poke it with your finger and the dough doesn't spring back up.

Now it's time to shape the dough.  Grease a bread pan with pan spray and set it aside.  Lightly dust the countertop again and dump the dough out.  Knead it again a few times to knock the air bubbles out.  Then roll it out and roll it up to fit in the bread pan.  Cover this again and pop it back in the oven to rise the second time.  This will also take about an hour.  When the dough has risen to double it's size, carefully take it out and set it on the counter.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Bake the bread for about 20 minutes until it's golden brown on top.

Honey Spice Bread
(from my mom's kitchen ... we ate some on Thursday!)

1 1/2 cup warm milk
2 eggs
1 t. salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup honey, warmed
7 cups flour (I use half white, half wheat.)
4 tsp yeast
2 T ground coriander
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground cinnamon

(This bakes two loaves of bread.  I would recommend using half the recipe if baking this in your bread machine.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, eggs, butter and honey.  In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Gradually add this to the milk mixture while letting your mixer run.  Or stir with a wood spoon between batches.  Knead this on a floured countertop for about 10 minutes.  (Or let your mixer run on speed #3 for about 2-3 minutes.)

Now it's time to let it rest and rise.  Take a large bowl and spray the inside with oil (I use pan spray).  Roll the dough into a ball and roll it around inside the oiled bowl until it's covered lightly with oil.  This will keep the dough from drying out.  Cover the bowl with a towel and set this somewhere warm.  I like to stick it in my oven, that has been warmed for a few minutes.  Set the timer for about 1 hour.  The dough is ready when you poke it with your finger and the dough doesn't spring back up.

Now it's time to shape the dough.  Grease two bread pans with pan spray and set them aside.  Lightly dust the countertop again and dump the dough out.  Knead it again a few times to knock the air bubbles out.  Divide the dough into two pieces.  Then roll each out and roll them up to fit in two bread pans.  Cover them again and pop them back in the oven to rise the second time.  This will also take about an hour.  When the dough has risen to double it's size, carefully take them out and set them on the counter.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes.

This also makes a fantabulous french bread ... so yummy, it deserved a brand-new word. :)

"Macaroni Grill" Bread
(from www.copycat.com ... via my good friend, Kim.)

1 cup warm water
1 t. salt
2 1/2 cup flour (I use half white, half wheat.)
1 T. yeast
1 T. sugar
2 T. rosemary
1 T. olive oil

(For this recipe, if you are using a bread machine, you will want to use the Dough Cycle.  You will make your bread using the water, salt, flour, yeast and sugar ... saving the rosemary and olive oil for later.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt.  In a small bowl, combine water, sugar and yeast.  Let this sit for about 5 minutes until it foams.  Add the dry and wet ingredients and mix well.  Knead in your machine on speed #3 for about 2-3 minutes or on a floured countertop for about 7-10 minutes.

Now it's time to let it rest and rise.  Take a large bowl and spray the inside with oil (I use pan spray).  Roll the dough into a ball and roll it around inside the oiled bowl until it's covered lightly with oil.  This will keep the dough from drying out.  Cover the bowl with a towel and set this somewhere warm.  I like to stick it in my oven, that has been warmed for a few minutes.  Set the timer for about 1 hour.  The dough is ready when you poke it with your finger and the dough doesn't spring back up.

For you bread machine bakers ... this is where you take out your dough and follow along. :)

Remove the dough from the bowl and place in on the floured countertop.  Knead it a few times to knock out the air bubbles.  Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into small rounded oval loaves.  Place them on a cookie sheet.  Brush their surfaces with the olive oil.  Sprinkle rosemary over the top of the loaves and press it lightly into the surface.  

Cover and let rise in your warm oven until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Gently remove the cookie sheet from the oven.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly sprinkle the loaves with coarse salt.  Back for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.


I hope you can astound your family and friends with a fresh loaf of mouth-watering home-made bread this holiday season.  Of course, with as quickly as they will scarf it down ... better double the recipe! :)

Sorry no pictures this week ... I'm off playing with my family! :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Counting My Blessings

A few weeks ago, I shared with you some of my random acts of thankfulness.  Little bits of life for which I'm grateful.  It was definitely random!

On Tuesday evening, my family and I made our Thankfulness chain ... another great way to be reminded of all we have to be thankful for.  The kids had a lot of fun working on this project together and, "we broke our record of last year!"  Yes, we did.  Our beautiful chain goes all the way around our family room and is made up of our gratitude for:  socks, video games, hot running water, the Bible, fire-fighters and yummy food.  And a whole lot of people!  Here are a few snapshots of our time of thankfulness:

What are we thankful for?  Lots!

Big girls stapling our chain.

Aaron supervising :)

Hanging the chain ... all the way around!

Four of my biggest blessings ...

Acting silly!

During this holiday season, it has been great for me to return to this practice of counting my blessings.  Especially since the "hurry, hurry, rush, rush" tendency of this time of year lurks around every corner.   I want to savor this time with my family.

Speaking of "savor" ... that's what I'm doing today!  Today is one of my favorite holidays - Thanksgiving.  While I love Christmas, it's easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of that season and lose my perspective.  On this special day, there is no gift-unwrapping fury, disappointment when the kids realize they didn't get their own iPod, deep fatigue from holiday preparation or a sense of, "hmm ... guess it's over."

Instead, on this day, we are focused on the people we love, the God who loves us and the richness of this life we've been given.  And our lives are full ... kinda like our stomachs after the big meal! :)  There is a wonderful sense on this day of God's sweet and abundant provision for us.  He is our Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider, and He is generous in His giving.

We sang an old hymn at church this past Sunday that reminded me of this promise of God to meet our needs.  While my family doesn't farm (we're city folk!), the imagery in this verse is a wonderful snapshot of our dependence on God ... and His care for us.

Come, ye thankful people, come; 
Raise the song of harvest home. 
All is safely gathered in 
Ere the winter storms begin. 
God, our Maker, doth provide 
For our wants to be supplied. 
Come to God’s own temple, come; 
Raise the song of harvest home.
"Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" by Henry Alford & George Elvey

Thank You, God, for gathering me safely to You.  I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Geocaching Joys

When was the last time you went on a treasure hunt?  And not for a missing sock, a lost Lego piece, a miniature Barbie shoe, anything you needed from Wal-Mart (they need maps at that store!), the elusive sippy cup half-filled with milk last seen in the van, a cheap deal on cereal, or a pair of jeans that didn't make your back-side look big.  :)  A real treasure hunt.

For our birthdays this year (Brett and I were born just one week a part) we decided to buy a GPS gizmo (for lack of the real, technical term).  With this device, we can log coordinates of little treasures hidden here in the Grand Valley and all over the world ... and take our family a-hunting!  We figure it's a great way to get us all out of the house, get us active and get us working together.  And how else do you get your kids walking happily for 45 minutes?  A treasure, of course!  Here is a link to another blogger's experience geocaching ... I would recommend a little visit so that you are 100% familiar with this popular hobby.  Then come back here and I'll give you the Kellum-version. :)  (One little word of caution - this blog has a little language, so just be warned of other little people peering over your shoulder.)

Alrighty ... do you have a good idea about how this works?  First you go to a special geocaching website and look for caches you are interested in looking for.  Then you log the coordinates into your GPS ... unless you're just really good with longitude and latitude. :)  Then you load up, head out and look for said cache.  When you find the cache, you open it and log your name and the date.  When you get back home, you can register that you found the cache on the appropriate link and then the owner of the cache can follow its progress.  It's really pretty easy once your get the hang of it.  The biggest challenge is being sneaky ... with 4 kids ... with 4 excited, exuberant, un-spy-like kids ... with 4 kids who are oblivious to the loudness of their voices or the attention they draw to themselves.  We are not sneaky, but we're having a good time.

For the past few weekends, we have been heading out after naps on Sunday to look for a couple of treasures.  It's a pretty good time for us to go:  the kids are rested, Mommy & Daddy are rested, and it's still sorta warm.  The only challenge is finding the cache before it gets dark ... but more on that later.  Here are a few of our experiences; then you can decide for yourself if it sounds like fun. :)

A few weeks ago, we had two caches that were near each other that we set off to find.  They were within walking distance, so we loaded up the double stroller, the dog and the GPS.  We managed to find the first one rather quickly.  Actually, Aaron had it found and opened before I even got Lydia out of the stroller.  So a little anti-climatic for me. :)  Still, his excitement and pride in successfully find the little tupperware dish was fun ... not quiet, but fun.  I'm sure there were a few puzzled looks from those walking by on the trail nearby.  But we were in the bushes, shh-shhing and whisper-giggling, so we didn't notice.

The next cache, according the the GPS, was 1/10 of a mile ... thata way.  We headed off in the direction indicated.  Until we came to a body of water.  The GPS read that we still had 50 feet to go.  Hmmm ... no scuba gear, so I guess we need to go around.  This is where geocaching gets a little tricky.  All you have is the info in your little gizmo and you have to kinda figure out from there what to do next.  We weren't sure of how far "around" was going to be ... or if there even was an "around".  But, we still had plenty of daylight left and so we turned to our right and headed toward where "around" might be.  As we walked, we watched our "distance to cache" go from 1/10 to 1/5 to 1/2 of a mile... and then as we came around the bend (whew!) we watched as the numbers started heading back in the direction we wanted.  (This reminds me of a scene in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" with John Candy and Steve Martin ... "You're going the wrong way!")  Eventually our little GPS beeped, letting us know that we were within 10 feet of the designated coordinates.  That's when the hunt began.  The kids were climbing trees, Brett was sweeping leaves out of the way and Gimli was marking.  I'm proud to say that Mommy found that one ... and then got to play a little "Hot/Cold" with the kids.

The kids were so stoked about being 2 for 2 that they almost didn't mind the long walk home (a bit longer than expected due to that pesky body of water!).  After an impromptu diaper change in the stroller ... and the happy surprise of finding a diaper in the stroller! ... we headed back the way we had come.  We made it home just before it got dark and only had one sad little person.  Not bad for a fun family outing!

The next Sunday, Brett logged about 4 caches into our GPS and we headed out to treasure hunt.  The first was was super easy ... if you're Norah and don't mind crawling around on the ground.  Again ... I was moseying along with Lydia and almost missed it, but we all got to join in the sly, covert celebrating.

The next coordinates were pointing us about 1/10 of mile in the opposite direction.  We headed off.  Just a family of six going for an afternoon stroll .... hum, dee, dum, dum ... while occasionally yelling, "I think it's over here!".  Aaron was carrying the gizmo when it started beeping.  That was just before he disappeared into the cat-tails and bullrushes.  We hollered for him to come back out and checked the coordinates.  Yep ... thwarted by water, again!  Instead of being able to walk those last 10 steps to our destination, we headed west until we we could cross over.

About fifteen minutes and a few whines later, we found ourselves across from where we almost lost Aaron.  The hunt began.  There was a lot of grass ... tall grass ... and a fence.  Aaron and Norah clambered to the other side of the fence (those little monkeys) while Brett and the babies and I looked on this side.  Again, it's hard to look inconspicuous when you're shuffling around in the grass, peering through the chain link and hushing your boisterous brood.  We had just about given up (sometimes they just aren't where you think they should be) when Norah quips, "What's this?"  Ah-ha!  So sneaky!  It looked like part of the fence, but it wasn't.  Way to go, Team Kellum!

We headed back to the van ... slower on the return trip.  Lydia had walked about 4 miles ... if you take into account the length of her legs and so she requested (screamed) for a ride back.  Norah was energized and ran the whole way to the van.  (I want to bottle whatever gives her such energy.)  Ashley shuffled, whimpered and lamented that we hadn't taken the stroller.  Aaron stepped in dog-doo.  Yeah ... the trips out to get the cache are often more fun than the return trip.  Fair warning to you all. :)  But when our moany little troop got back to the van, they were ready to tackle the next one.  The Treasure-Hunt-Bug has a powerful bite.

The final two caches were nice and simple:  pull up in the van, take a peek around, check the GPS, squeal happily, shush each other, look around sneaky, and get back in the van.  Actually for the last one, Ashley and Lydia opted to celebrate from the van.

All around, it's a fun hobby for our family ... and we're just getting started!  There are hundreds of caches here in the Grand Valley and it will be fun to go out and explore our city and surrounding area together.

I would encourage you to look into it, too.  Just be forewarned that you might discover more than just a cache.  You might end up with fun family connections, a few beautiful sunsets, a little extra exercise as you negotiate obstacles (lakes, rivers, canyons), dog-poo on your shoe, extra cuddle time with your kids as you hoist, schlep and haul them around ... and some silly stories tied to great family snapshots!


Here's a little something we will be making tomorrow for Thanksgiving ... a little munchy-goodness!

The Blessing Mix

Bugles - These are shaped like a cornucopia, the horn of plenty.
Twisted Pretzels - The shape symbolizes our arms folded in thanks and prayer.
Candy Corn - During the first winter, the pilgrims were allotted 5 kernels of corn because food was so scarce.
Dried Fruit - Thanksgiving is the celebration of the harvest.
Sunflower Seeds - Representing the potential of a bounteous harvest for the next season if they-re planted and well tended.

~From Norah's 2nd Grade Class 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It Was a Wild, Wild Party!

This weekend we celebrated our little Lydia ... affectionately known in our home as Godzlydia.  Now, before you get upset about us teasing our sweet baby girl with such a monster-like theme, let me assure you that we made it the girliest Godzilla party ever.  Pink balloons, rainbow streamers, a "happy birthday banner" with hearts and lots of presents wrapped with purple tissue paper and hot pink ribbons.  Girly!  So what made it a Godzilla party?  Uh ... the "bites" out of the paper plates, the disheveled appearance of many of the guests (we don't usually look like this) and the ferocious tu-tu-ed Godzlydia on the ice-cream cake.

Trust me ... we chose this theme on purpose.  Celebrating our little destroyer just like God made her.  Delightful but destructive!  Here is a little acrostic poem that Norah wrote for her class describing her baby sister ... it's enlightening!

Zebra for Halloween
Loves to pull hair
Amazing kid

That about sums it up!

It truly was a fun party full of good food, silly playing, memorable gift opening and lots of laughter ... just the way we like it!  But even me, being a word-person, would find it difficult to describe here all the excitement and spirit of celebrating.  It's times like this that I'm grateful we live during such a technological time.  With a few clicks of the mouse ... it's almost like you were there! :)

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Free digital slideshow made with Smilebox

Of course, a few scenes need some extra descriptions.

Yes, Auntie Allie had a paper airplane in her hair.  And her hair-do isn't usually so fluffy.

No, Nana doesn't need the neck brace ... although it kept her toasty warm.

The final gift in the blue bag was from Lydia's Gramps and Grammy ... who had to miss this party. :(  It included a sweet interactive baby doll that laughs, talks and even snores.  This package arrived about a week before the party via UPS.  The driver (a friend from church) said that he listened to the package "Wheeee!" all day long.  Every time he would make a corner, the box would giggle or squeal or yell, "I like it when you hug me, Mommy!"  It was his last delivery.  Of one of his longer, but more lively days. :)

A few days after the box arrived, Lydia was in my room playing when she bumped into the box leaning against my dresser.  The box laughed and Lydia jumped!  Luckily, she has warmed up to the little cutie quickly.

Since the end of the party, Lydia has been enjoying pushing her babies in her new stroller, caring for her babies with the vet kit (animals and children alike), wearing some super cute clothes and strutting her stuff in her penguin backpack.  Yep ... the party was a success!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Is There Crab in That?

Ever had one of those times when you got really excited about something ... I mean REALLY excited about something ... and then it didn't quite live up to its expectations?  In fact ... it tanked?  It's always so disappointing when something doesn't quite pan out.  We had one of those experiences with our kids the other day.  It was definitely a head-shaker.

Around our house, we have a fun birthday tradition.  For one meal during the birthday weekend, the birthday person gets to pick where they want to go.  No input from other kids or parents ... which has led to some interesting dinners.  We have been to the Grand International Buffet, Chick-fil-A, Red Robin, and most recently, Red Lobster.  Now let me back up and say that none of my children have ever wanted to eat at Red Lobster.  Ever.  If fact, I remember driving by the restaurant one time and one of the children remarking about how yucky it would be to eat at the "pet store".  Eww.  So ... imagine our surprise when Norah requested a trip to Red Lobster for her birthday dinner.

She declared this desire several weeks before her celebration day with the interesting declaration, "I love crab."  I didn't recollect having every served her crab.  I did remember that any other attempts at feeding her fish or seafood has always been met with, "Blech.  Eww.  Gross."

Hmmm .... "Crab, huh?"

"Yep.  I love crab.  When I stayed with Auntie Allie and Nana I had some and it was delicious."

"Really?  Crab?  Are you sure?"

"Yep.  I love crab!"

In the days leading up to her birthday dinner, Brett and I continued to ask her if she was certain.  She was.  Aaron was thrilled as he loves shrimp and is almost always willing to try new things.  We knew Ashley and Lydia would probably be having mac-n-cheese and we tried to psych ourselves up for paying $4 for something we could make at home for $1.50.  In spite of our uncertainty, Norah stuck with her guns, "I love crab!"

So ... with such conviction and unshakeable belief, we headed to Red Lobster.

The girls and their lobster friends

As we walked in the front doors, the kids immediately ran over to the lobster tank.  There was a mixture of excitement, surprise ... and a little bit of "ewww"...  As we were seated by the hostess, Norah suddenly had a new comment, "It stinks in here.  What's that smell?"

To which Brett and I thought, "Crab", but said, "Fish".

"Uh-oh," I thought, "Here we go."

Sure enough, as Norah started pouring over the kid's menu, I could see her attitude changing.  She sat chewing her lip a bit, reading the menu intently.  After a few minutes, she looked up and with a sheepish grin asked, "Uh ... can I have the chicken fingers?"

It was at this precise moment that Daddy & Mommy had a choice to make:  Hold our little crab-lover to her claims or let it go.  We looked each other in the eyes, sighed in-synch and said, "Sure."

Was it frazzling?  Sure!  Here we were at a rather expensive restaurant (by someone's specific request) ordering something that they were NOT famous for.  If she wanted chicken, we should have gone to Chick-fil-A ... it's in their name!

Was it worth the battle?  Nope!  This was supposed to be a celebration and we wanted to keep it that way.  Even if it meant ordering Kraft Shells & Cheese and chicken nuggets ... at Red Lobster.  At least we were all eating our meals and enjoying out night out.

And as it turns out, Norah does love crab.

Not to eat, but to use as jewelry or utensils.  Who knew?!?

Her crab ring

Fashion hurts, sometimes!

Fancy new chopsticks ... perfect for french fries!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Food For Thought

Halloween is past and Thanksgiving is quickly approaching.  Before we know it, Christmas will be upon us!  I'm not sure how the second half of the year speeds by so quickly, but it seems like these past few weeks have been go, go, go!  Now it's time to press the "pause button" and take a few minutes to enjoy these fleeting fall weeks and the yummy food that fits so well with the season.

Here are a few tasty recipes that fit well with this harvest time.  Of course, it's someone else's harvest!  We decided to carve our pumpkins, not eat them, so these recipes are made with pumpkin out of the can.  Maybe next year, I'll try my hand at cooking a small pumpkin and making these from scratch.  But for now, Libby's Pumpkin Puree will have to do!

Zesty Pumpkin Soup
(This is from my friend Chandra.  She found this recipe on the back of a can of pumpkin a few years ago.  Thanks for sharing!)

Swirling goodness!
1/4 cup butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 t. curry powder (I chose to use 1 T. green curry paste ... just a bit more heat.)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. coriander
1/8 t. crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups chicken broth
16 oz. can pumpkin
1 cup half-and-half
Sour cream & Chives for garnish

Delicious aroma!
In large pot melt butter.  Saute onions and garlic until soft.  Add curry, salt, coriander and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute.  Add broth and boil gently uncovered for about 15-20 minutes.  Stir in pumpkin and half-and-half; cook 5 minutes.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool slightly.  Pour this (by 3 batches) into blender container.  Blend until creamy.  Transfer back to pot and heat through.

Garnish sour cream and chopped chives.  Yum!

Perfect with a hunk of homemade bread.

Pumpkin Bread
(This is one of my mom's recipes.  A family favorite during the holidays.)


1 cup sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 can pumpkin
1 cup oil
4 eggs
4 cups flour (I used half wheat and half white.)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans.)
1/2 cup water

Hearty, wholesome ingredients
In a large mixing bowl combine sugars, pumpkin, oil and eggs; beat until well blended.  In another bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Add dry mixture to wet ingredients and mix well.  Stir in raisins, nuts and water.   Grease two loaf pans.  Pour mixture evenly into loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool slightly on a baking rack.  Remove from pans and cool completely.  We like to eat our pumpkin bread with a little cream cheese ... almost like pumpkin pie! :)

Perfect mid-morning snack ... or midnight snack!

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law posted a recipe for pumpkin pancakes.  Delish!  I took her recipe one step further and made them decadent!  Devine!  Go here for the recipe ... and then come back here for the topping.  

Cinnamon Brown Butter
(This is from Taste of Home ~ October & November 2010.)

1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup maple syrup (We used good ol' Mrs. Butterworth's.)
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted*

In a small saucepan, cook butter over medium heat for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.  Stir occasionally.  Add the syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Remove from heat and add pecans.  Let cool a bit before ladeling over your pumpkin pancakes.  Warning:  This is pure decadence.  Do not eat this every morning. :)

Mouth-watering indulgence :)

* Toasting nuts brings out more of their flavor.  To toast pecans, 
place them in a small saute pan over medium-high heat.  Shake the pan back and forth as they heat and brown.  When they are a nice dark color, transfer them to a bowl.  Don't leave them in the pan as they will keep cooking.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Baby Girl

My sincerest apologies to all you "babies" out there ... the last kids of the bunch ... the littlest sibling that will forever be 12 years old.  We mommies can't help it!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby Liddy!

My little Lydia turns two tomorrow.  How did the time fly by so fast?!?!?  Right before my very eyes, my baby is big .... -ish.  :)  She's still my baby and she's still little, but she is quickly leaving all her baby-ness behind her.  Just this past Sunday, I realized as I dropped her off at the church nursery that this was her last Sunday with the babies.  This coming Sunday she will be with the bigger kids.  Eek.  No baby in the nursery.  Ever again.  I got a little choked up.  

It started me thinking about all the other "lasts" that we have experienced and the "lasts" that are still to come here in our home.  There was a speaker at MOPS a few years ago that talked about how we as moms celebrate every little first of our kids:  first bath, first solid food, first tooth, first step, first birthday.  However, we oftentimes fail to celebrate the lasts.  Probably because by that point our lives are shooting by at such an insane rate of speed that we miss them!  So today, I want to pause and celebrate a few "lasts" ... but, first I'll go get my tissues. :)

Somewhere along this road of growing up, my big kids stopped holding my hand to cross the street.  That is a "last" that I certainly miss:  their little fingers wrapped around mine; slow, little steps across the road, tightening my grip when they try to weasel away!  Every now and then Aaron will sidle up next to me and kinda leeeeaan in as we cross the street and periodically Norah will link her arm around me ... but it's not quite the same.  Even Ashley claims she can, "just walk close."  Sigh ... I guess that means poor Lydia will have to hold my hand until she's in her twenties ... maybe longer!

When our kids are potty training, we have always made it a habit to take our kids to the potty "just one more time" before we go to bed.  This has saved us from countless, middle of the night, bedding changes!  Sometime this summer, Ashley started getting herself up in the middle of the night to go potty ... rendering our potty breaks obsolete.  Suddenly we have three kids that take care of their own business.  Alone.  Successfully.  While I don't necessarily miss these rendezvous in the bathroom, there was something precious about holding my sleeping kids, listening to them mumble in their sleep and then snuggling them back into their covers with one last smooch.  While Lydia is still several months away from this potty-practice, I'm already projecting that this just might tug at my heart-strings.  She may need "potty-help" for awhile ... at least until she's old enough to tell me to mind my own business! :)

On November 1st, Lydia graduated out of the high-chair.  Mainly because of her persistent eagerness to sit like the big kids on the bench and because I was tired of cleaning it up and keeping her in it.  Imagine my surprise, however, when she screamed and cried upon seeing her booster seat on the floor ... and her frantic attempts to get it back onto the bench!  The only solution was to stick it out in the garage and go on with the meal.  Thankfully, she was quickly over the issue and happily sitting in her place ... but I think that deep down she perceived that this was some sort of milestone, too.  That, or she was being a turkey ... probably more likely the later.  Now we have all six of us around our table, on knees or bums.  The next to go will probably be the plastic dishes.  Already Aaron periodically asks if he can have a "real" plate or cup.  (That reminds me of a story a mom shared at MOPS about her kids excitement over getting to use a "human" plate ... just like the grownups! Ha! Ha!)  It's inevitable that my kids won't want to eat off of the Star Wars plate or drink from princess cups forever, but Lydia might have to use those cute monkey dishes for awhile ... not at college necessarily, but for awhile.

Just last summer when we were traveling across the state for a family reunion, the kids' music of choice was Veggie Tales.  We drove along singing, "At the Carwash" and "Jonah was a Prophet".  Then just the other day, we all loaded up in the van, turned the ignition and Junior Asparagus started singing "Bushel and a Peck" to which Aaron said, "Can we turn this off?"  What?  Since when did you stop liking Bob and Larry?  Now the kids ask if we can bring the iPod along when we run errands so they can listen to "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas or our theme song "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz.  Suddenly my big kids are too cool to listen to kid's music.  But I like Veggie Tales.  Pout.  Lip out. Arms crossed.  Fortunately, when the big kids are at school, the little girls still like to sing along with Mr. Lunt and Pa Grape.  Whew!  I wonder how Lydia will feel about dancing at her wedding to "I am a Promise" by Junior Asparagus? ...

Along the same lines, we have several DVD's that have probably played their last shows, and we didn't even know it at the time.  The cover jackets to Rescue Heroes and Mega Truck Adventures are pretty dusty!  I remember that Aaron and Norah lived and breathed those shows.  Daily.  Repeatedly.  While at the time, I was amazed that they could watch them over and over again and not be bored stiff; now I miss those simple stories and cheesy dialogues.  Now those have been replaced with Fineas & Ferb (admittedly a funny show) and Ben 10 (significantly less funny).  Fortunately, they have also fallen in love with Looney Tunes and seeing as I still like to watch that, we can be assured that this love affair will last awhile.  Still ... my very favorite Veggie Tale, "Lyle, the Kindly Viking" hasn't been played in ages.  Hmmmm ... looks like Lydia, Ashley and I need a snow day.  (You really need to go to this link and listen to the songs ... guaranteed to make your day a little more smiley.  "A turtle wearing pink pajamas!" Ha!)

I remember the first time we were able to turn Aaron's car seat around to face the front.  Ta-dah!  Now he could see where he was going instead of where he had been.  It was so fun to see his little smiles in the rearview mirror ... or why he was screaming like a banshee:  blanket just out of reach.  This summer we reached yet another milestone: Aaron graduated out of his car seat.  Now he just sits like a "regular person"!  It was terribly weird the first time I looked in the rearview mirror to see him sitting there:  no booster seat, just my boy.  It is great that we don't have to trade out seats for him anymore, but we are still deeply entrenched in the car seat era.  When someone offers to take our kids somewhere, first I cringe with the thought of transferring three seats out of the van ... and then I just hand them the keys.  "Here.  Take our van.  It's just so much easier!"  Someday we will graduate out of car seats all together and that will be amazing.  Our van will finally officially seat 7 ... instead of 6 and a tiny-hiney to squeeze between seats.  But that will also mean my babies are too big ... I wonder how big I can make Lydia's car seat.  Big enough to seat a 15 year old comfortably?

I truly enjoyed nursing my babies (once I figured it out!) and it was super tough to wean each of them.  While I knew I wouldn't miss the "available whenever you need me" aspect of breast-feeding, I knew that I would miss the cuddles.  When else in the lives of my children will I have regular breaks to sit and snuggle and kiss fingers and stroke hair (sniff, sniff) and whisper blessings?  Now they barely stop moving at bedtime for a book, a song and a prayer.  The other night, Norah actually did a backward roll to get to her pillow ... try to snuggle that!  After I weaned them, my babies moved on to sippy cups.  And now Lydia is trying her hand at big-kid cups.  She's just going to fast!  While I won't miss cleaning the valves and lids and making sure nothing goes down the garbage disposal ... I will miss the dryness of the sippy cups.  Since Lydia started preferring a big-kid cup, it's been a lot wetter around here.  And I have a regular load of rags on the washer.  I guess she has to learn like the rest of them, because she probably wouldn't take too kindly to having a sippy cup in her lunch bag in the 2nd grade.  Although ... maybe one of those with the nifty straw ...

I can't remember the last time I had to send Aaron, Norah or Ashley to the corner for a time out ... but, for Lydia, it was just about an hour ago.  My big kids have begun to figure out how our house works:  Listen and obey = Life is better.  It doesn't mean they don't end up with consequences, but they have big kid consequences ... and ones that help Mommy more.  Lydia, on the other hand, is still in the beginning stages of toddler training and so we are keeping it simple.  Disobey once = Verbal Correction, Disobey twice = Time Out.  She spends a lot of time in "Time Out".  A lot.  All I have to say is, "Go sit down." and she high-tails it to the nearest corner ... wailing and stomping all the way there!  And then the crying continues, accompanied by her heels thumping agains the floor angrily.  So lovely.  I do enjoy our "Do you know what you did wrong?" sessions, however; the times I get to cuddle her and send her off to do it right this time.  Her rendition of "Yes, Mama" ("Ma, ma, ma") is so sweet; her smooches are sweet and it's sweet to see her march off ready to try her task again.  The right way.  In spite of these sweet memories ... I am dreaming of the last time I have to send Lydia to the corner ... and I hope it will be before she graduates from high school!

Each "last" is inevitable.  Each "last" is a milestone of development and learning.  Each "last" is sign of independence and maturity.  But it doesn't make those "lasts" any easier on my mommy-heart.  I just want to be able to keep those snapshots in my mind and hold on to my kids just as they are today.  Remembering their baby-ness for tomorrow ... when they are crossing in front of the podium for their diploma, walking down the aisle with their true love and welcoming their own baby home.

Please pass the tissues!  sniff, sniff

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Do You Spell "Love"? - Part 3

Beginning September 15 and ending December 25, we celebrate 12 family birthdays (including Baby Jesus!).  That's a lot of gifts!  There are big people gifts:  gift certificates for dinner out.  There are little people gifts:  hockey sticks and Polly Pockets.  This is a natural way for us to express our love for our family and friends.  And of course, our kids love to get gifts ... it's in their genes to want goodies!

While it's true that we each enjoy to get a little something wrapped up in paper and tied with a bow, for some people this practice of giving and receiving gifts is how they say and hear "I love you".  Today we will learn about the fifth love language according to Dr. Gary Chapman's "5 Love Languages":  Gifts.

For my husband's mother, gift-giving is most assuredly her love language.  She has a wonderfully generous heart and we are regularly blessed by her giving heart.  When we visit their home, the kids often find little treasures on their pillows ... coloring books, little Lego sets or crafts.  For birthdays and Christmas (and Easter and even Halloween) she often sends cards, goodies and the kids' favorite:  cash! :)  Even Brett and I get spoiled by her generosity ... thank you, Mom, for sharing your love with us!

In the same way, she truly enjoys receiving gifts ... whether it's a picture from Ashley for the fridge or a weekend with her kids ... she experiences love through gifts.  She appreciates the sacrifices made when a gift is given to her ... making it all the sweeter.

My sis-in-law is also a gift-giver.  She loves to send hand-made cards to everyone on her list and she has an extensive list ... and an enormous family!  This is her love language ... little gestures of love and affection in each card made and sent.

Be careful to not confuse this love language with the love of "things".  It's not materialism, it's love shown through frequent little gifts.  When someone with this love language receives a gift, they feel loved because they were thought of when that item was purchased, found, chosen.  It's not being caught up in gift itself, but the love behind the gift.  Be mindful that a missed birthday or anniversary can be devastating for someone whose love language is gifts.  That old adage, "It's the thought that counts," doesn't count here! :)

Now you might be thinking, "My kids love to get stuff!"  Keep in mind that while kids love to get gifts, not all kids experience love through these gifts.  For a child whose love language is indeed gifts, you might find that they have several precious treasures that they have on display in their rooms and they can remember who gave it and when and why.  They have a lot of feelings tied up in that gift.  For them, these gifts speak loudly of your love for them.

Now to review the 5 Love Languages:
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch
  • Acts of Service
  • Gifts
So ... which are you?  

Still not sure yet?  

Think about what energizes you, what excites you, what fills your heart.  

Think back over the past month:  What comes to mind as a time you felt loved?  
What happened to make you feel that way?

Think back over the past month:  What comes to mind as a time you felt invisible and unappreciated?  What happened to make you feel that way?  

Both should point to your love language.  

Still having trouble?  Check out Dr. Chapman's site and take one of his assessments.  These will help you to discern your primary love language.

Now do you know? :)  Great!  Take some time to communicate this discovery to those around you ... fill them in on how they can fill your love-tank.  It's a win-win situation:  you feel loved and your friends & family don't have to guess!

But it doesn't stop here.  Now take time to study your family and friends.  You know the five categories and you can observe those around you and I'm sure that with a little studying you will soon discover each of their own personal love languages.

Once you figure out your friends, kids, spouse, parents, siblings, co-workers ...it's up to you to love those around you in their own personal love language!  Be Cinco-Love-Lingual :) Trust me, it's worth the work!


Of course, if you still need more information, there are two books by Dr. Chapman:  The 5 Love Languages and The 5 Love Languages of Children.  It's all the info you need to know how to love well! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How Do You Spell "Love"? - Part 2

When we go to church on Sunday, we take up an entire aisle.  Between our family and my brother's family we fill 10 seats (with two babies in the nursery).  Yep, an aisle.  While it's true that we adults are completely outnumbered, it is a true blessing to see our kiddos sitting together (sometimes in the same chair if we're short a seat), sharing their Bibles (searching together for the verses being read) and giggling about whatever strikes their funny-bones.  Which is apparently a lot.  But it's even sweeter to see them loving on each other.  This past weekend, the 11-year old was holding the 7 year-old (silly girls!) and my 4 year-old was hugging her 4 year-old cousin as they swayed to the music.  Loving snuggles ... even during the singing at church.

Watching my Ashley cuddle with her cousin, I had to giggle, but it also solidified to me that my young daughter's love language is most definitely Physical Touch.  Today we will continue with our topic of Dr. Gary Chapman's "5 Love Languages" ... beginning with Ashley's love of choice.

My sweetie loves to hold hands, play with my hair and is happiest to be on my hip or lap.  One of my favorite snapshots that I hope I will never forget is seeing my baby girls holding hands while they ride side-by-side in our double stroller.  Ashley will reach across the divider and take little Liddy's hand in hers and stroke her little fingers with her thumb ... such tender touch.  I'm quite certain that this is also why Ashley is having such a terrible time giving up her thumb-sucking ... even this type of touch is comforting to her.  When Ashley is upset (too tired, feeling under-the-weather or feeling grumpy) sometimes the only comfort is a cuddle with Mommy or Daddy.  You can talk, talk, talk ... but a hug is what she really needs.

In light of this being Ashley's love language, we have had to be careful with how we discipline her.  While we have used spanking with the older kids for serious offenses, for Ashley a swat is almost too much.  We have found that a verbal reprimand is usually enough.  Or perhaps it's just the time in the rocking chair awaiting her correction ... the waiting is the worst part! :)

This love language also happens to be my husband's.  He is reassured of my love when I pat his back as I walk by, sit close to him on the couch and reach over and rub his neck while he's driving.  All these little actions speak loudly to Brett about his value and importance.  Likewise, if I walk by him without reaching out to touch his shoulder, he feels a bit neglected.  If I'm frustrated or distracted and withhold touch from Brett, it's like a cold breeze blowing through our friendship ... brrrrrr!

Fortunately, I also like physical touch and so this is a relatively easy love language to "speak".   A few warm snuggles, encouraging back pats and taking time to hold hands proves to my husband and daughter my undeniable love and affection for them ... and I get some warm-fuzzies, too!

The fourth love language to talk about is Acts of Service.  I initially thought that this was Brett's primary love language because he is such a servant.  As it turns out, service is definitely part of his make-up, but it's more of his spiritual gifting, rather than his love language.  He also grew up in a family where service was valued and so he learned the importance of service by seeing that modeled in his parents.  So while he is a professional server :) this isn't necessarily how he shows and receives love.

For my neighbor, on the other hand, service is most certainly how she perceives love and value.  She bends over backwards and spends herself (almost to empty) in her service to others:  family, friends and her community.  In the same way, she feels loved when she is served and helped.  Sometimes her need is big (opening our home up to her kids), sometimes her need is small (a bag of ice) ... but both speak to her that she is valuable and important.  For my friend, her love-tank is filled when someone spends energy and time in serving her.

In the same way, for people whose love language is service, they can feel very un-loved if they are un-served.  By forgetting to do something you say you will do (taking out the trash, stopping by the grocery on the way home, ironing a shirt for work) you may be inadvertently telling that person that they are not important or valuable.  Fortunately, we can quickly remedy the situation by doing something for that person ... and saying, "Sorry", of course!

So ... have you found your love language yet?  Do you feel valued when you receive a note in the mail or perhaps a pat on the back?  Do you show love in service or spending quality time?  We have one more to look at tomorrow:  Gifts.  I'm sure you'll find yourself in there somewhere!

Then once we have all the facts ... we'll take on the challenge of putting our love to the test!

Monday, November 15, 2010

How Do You Spell "Love"?

I went on a field trip with my son's class on Friday morning.  We went to see "Annie" performed by a youth theater group here in town.  We arrived a bit early and waited in the lobby so that we could walk in with my boy.  When their bus arrived, Ashley was on the lookout for Aaron.  We spotted him, waved and then stepped into line with him to enter the theater.  As we approached our row of seats ... he chose to sit near us, but not next to us.  When a teacher asked if he wanted to sit next to his mom, he replied, "Nah ... I'm good."  Aaahhh.... boys.  If it had been Norah, she would have been in my lap! :)

I frequently marvel at the individuality of my children.  Same mom.  Same dad.  Totally different kids!  Just another example of God's creativity; and in some cases, His sense of humor!  Here we have four kids living under our roof and everyday we find yet another example of how they see life differently.  Aaron is super easy-going while Norah has a rather intense level of drama in her life.  Ashley is a cuddlebug, Lydia is a gotta-get-busy bug.  Norah feels immediate remorse when she does something wrong, Aaron needs to see specifically how his wrong effects others ... Lydia is oblivious.  Ashley has never met a stranger while Norah would much rather turn invisible when introduced to someone new.  Norah is interested in everybody's business; Ashley likes to boss people regarding their personal business; Aaron keeps to himself - indifferent to other people's business ... Lydia is physically IN everybody's business and personal space.  Yep ... they each approach life differently.

In the past year, Brett and I have become more aware of yet another area of distinctiveness in our kids:  How they perceive and share love.  In the same way that our children are different regarding their likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies, personalities and identities ... they also feel and show love in unique and personal ways.  Dr. Gary Chapman has spent years investigating this peculiarity of love and in 1992 published a book entitled, "The 5 Love Languages".  Through his course of study and his interactions with hundreds of people, he was able to deduce that there are basically five unique ways in which we each define love:  Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.

According to his research, we may experience love in any or all of the these ways, but there is typically one area that is stronger than the others.  One area in particular really fills your love-tank.  As Brett puts it, using any one of these areas will fill your love tank, but there is one that fills it fast.  Like the NASCAR pit-stop.  Filled up and ready to go!

I thought it would be interesting to look at each category over the next several posts ... with the hopes that you would be able to identify your own love language and those of your loved ones.  That way, you can communicate your love needs, but also love those around you better ... like a Pit Chief on Jimmy Johnson's pit-crew!

Today we'll focus on Words of Affirmation and Quality Time.

I'll come right out and tell you that for me love is shown in words, words, words!  I love to be told, clearly and repeatedly that I am loved, valued and noticed.  Compliments set me afloat, I tuck away notes and cards to read and re-read later and my whole day can be changed by one surprise, expression of praise or admiration.  I can capture in my mind little snippets of things people have said to me ... and I can replay them again and again when I need a boost.  I think this is why music is so powerful for me, too.  Words set to music are even more powerful!  I love to use words, too (if you've been a faithful Snapshots reader ... that is quite clear).  I enjoy writing notes to family and I love snuggling with my kiddos and whispering to them praises and encouragement.

My little Norah also experiences love through words.  She loves to write notes and letters.  And she loves to receive them, too.  Each day, I stick a "love napkin" in the kids' lunch bags ... a quick affirmation scribbled on their napkin.  She keeps them.  All.  In the bottom of her backpack.  Even if she is having hot lunch, she asks that I write her something.  She needs to hear from us that she is precious, important and valuable.  In words.

Along these same lines, we both are easily hurt by words.  Insults and critical words also stick in my brain and are almost impossible to forget.  I can remember unkind words from a classmate in the 6th grade.  Yep ... words are powerful. :)

As for Quality Time, Aaron is a perfect example of this love language.  His love tank is only truly filled by quality time:  full, undivided attention.  When we share our bests and leasts at the end of the day, Aaron's highs & lows almost always center around whether or not he had time with friends and family.  If he got to play with a buddy, it was a good day.  If he didn't, well ... that ends up being a "least".  If he got to play Wii with Daddy, it was a great day.  If he didn't, it's more of a bummer day.  Aaron is a classic example of the the need for Quality Time in that if I take just 15-20 minutes in the afternoon to connect with him (play a game, listen to him recount his recess touch-down, read "Calvin & Hobbes" together or have him join me in fixing dinner) he is happy, helpful and hands-down more fun to be with.

If I'm in a hurry or distracted and he is needing to get his love-tank filled ... he picks on he sisters, wanders around bored, and generally gets into trouble.  He is seeking attention and apparently he's not particular if it's positive or negative.  Just a few minutes of quality face-to-face time is a huge investment for him and he goes away confident, secure and ready to be a productive part of our family.

As a side note, words don't really mean much to him.  He has confessed to "not really reading" my notes.  But I still send them along ... just in case!

We have three more "Love Languages" to cover in the coming days ... come back and we'll learn more about how our hearts tick. :)