August 31, 2011

A Week of Fun and Fellowship

August has been a very busy month for us.  After a week of Vacation Bible School, we had a week of visitors.

Missionaries on Monday
When Brianna made this delicious peach salad.
We had a wonderful time getting to know the Tyler Michael family and discussing their work to the country of China.  Elisabeth loved having a girl her age to dress up with.  Can you believe this little lady is younger than Ellie?

Tuesday's Threesome
Our friends from church came for dinner with their two little girls who are Winnie's and Elisabeth's age.  Ellie thought she was in Heaven to have little girls over two nights in a row!  I am not sure what they were playing but it was precious to walk into the living room and see this threesome praying together.

Wednesday Wachter World Celebration
What a wonderful day we had to celebrate Brianna's birthday.  The weather was great.  The food fabulous (what do you expect) and the company pleasant.

Thursday's Travelers
 Our friends were in town from New York so we were blessed to spend an evening playing bananagrams and catching up on the last year.
Lynn gave us this beautiful gift she painted for our family.  Doesn't it match our kitchen perfectly?  Oh, to have an ounce of the talent some of our friends possess!
 The girls spent a little time swimming before dinner.
 Winnie met her Aunt Helen for the first time.
And Kaitlin made these beautiful soda shop themed cupcakes for dessert.  They tasted as good as they looked.

Friday's Friend
You can read the post about Dawn's surprise visit in this post.

So for all those wondering why my blog has been so neglected... there you have it!  Real life has been intervening.  

And don't think I don't know that I am more than a week behind in the 30 days about me challenge.  And I do know that it has been a few weeks since I updated my 365 Photo blog.  And I know I still owe you all answers to questions and posts on various topics.  And, no, I can't tell you when I will get to it.  But I will, eventually.  ☺

Because now with August and summer winding down, we are cleaning and organizing and planning and getting ready for school.  And planning and packing and getting ready for two trips this fall.  And planning and looking forward to visitors in October.   

Oh, and did I mention our Monday night classes started up again last week?  Which I am really excited about.  There is nothing more fulfilling than digging deep into the word of God.  I sure do miss it during the summer break.  This fall I am trying to figure out how to juggle classes with Winnie's feedings and find time to study and do my homework assignments, but I trust God is going to help me work it all out.    

Don't forget you all are on my heart and mind and in my prayers.  Even if you don't hear from me as often as we have all grown accustomed to.  

And one more thing... to our real life friends and family, don't forget to drop me a line.  You all hear about what's going on in our lives here at Art's Chili Pepper, but if you don't leave me a comment or drop me an email... we don't know what's up in your lives.  And we sure do miss you all!

Until next time,    


August 30, 2011

Sleeping Through The Night

Dove at In the Dovecote is expecting her first baby September 10th.  On my post, 36 Weeks, she asked for some newborn techniques and specifically how is it that we get our babies to sleep through the night so soon.  Well, as is the case in all things blog these days, I really intended to get this out to you sooner friend, so that you would be ready when your little one arrives.  With two weeks to go, I am hoping this crash course will give you a boost to get you and your baby off on the right path.

Truly, I have no big secret to getting my babies to sleep.  My oldest was born when I was 19 years old.  I had little to no experience with newborn babies, particularly a tiny preemie with special needs, like Kaitlin.  I really had no one to go to for advice or encouragement.  So I just winged it.  However, I am a person who does best on a routine and regular schedule so I just naturally fell into a routine of feeding, diapering, playing and napping my little daughter.

I had always heard the stories about babies who are up all night every night until the parents can't see straight, and that is what I expected.  When she was about a week old, I tucked my bundle into her bassinet beside my bed and exhausted fell asleep.  When I woke the next morning and the sun was shining and the clock read 10 am, I was panicked, certain that something was wrong.  But, no, she was sleeping soundly.

Scheduling Kaitlin took all the guess work out of being a new mother.  I knew by the clock why she was crying.  It was time to eat, time to play or time to sleep.  The real blessing of this was, if she was fussy at other times, I could assume there was something wrong... a tummy ache, a cold, teething etc... and quickly tend to my daughter's needs.

This worked so well for my first that I continued it with Brianna.  I was even more grateful for the schedule with Brianna, who suffered chronic ear infections until she had surgery at 18 months old.  It is so hard to identify sickness in a baby, but by eliminating other causes of fussiness and crying, I was easily able to know quickly when she was suffering with an earache.  Being able to tend to it right away, prevented this chronic problem from becoming a permanent hearing loss issue.

When Brianna was about three years old, I read the book, "On Becoming Baby Wise" by Gary Ezzo.  In their book the Ezzos teach new parents about the pitfalls of demand feeding and the blessings of Parent Directed Feeding.  Those names seem so overwhelming but what it boils down to is feeding your baby whenever they cry versus putting your baby on a schedule.  I was so excited to see it all laid out so clearly and to know that if I had failed at all things parenting, I had gotten this one thing right.  When Emma came along the next year, it was a no brainer to put her on a schedule, too.  And all our children since.

We saw the benefits of schedules many times over in light of our babies sleeping through the night from birth.  But also in so many other situations such as having three boys in four years.  With so many little ones around, we were already exhausted.  If we had been up all night with fussing babies, I can't imagine how we would have made it through and tended to our 3 daughters, who were all being home schooled.  Especially, because Allen was on the road many weeks and I was doing it all alone.

Then, because I knew when my babies would be awake, eating or sleeping, I could plan our families schedule accordingly which made it easier to meet everyone's needs with as little stress as possible.

Another time when scheduling really paid off was when Nathaniel was about six months old.  He became frighteningly and inexplicably ill.  Because he had always been a happy and content baby, we were able to very quickly discern that something was wrong and turn our attention to finding the cause and getting him well.

With all that being said, Carmella was our first baby to regularly wake up during the night past the first few days at home.  Being small, I expected that she would need to get up and nurse an extra feeding during the night.  However, we figured that once she gained a little weight, she would start sleeping all night.  But she continued to wake up.  By wake up, I mean she would get up at 2 am, eat and usually go back to sleep within 30 minutes until her 8:30 am feeding.

Not really much to complain about.  Just the same, I was wondering what I had done that I couldn't get her to sleep through the night.  She was eating and sleeping on a good schedule throughout the day.  Literally, she wakes up within 5 minutes of her regular feeding time.  And if we check the clock when she becomes unsettled, it is always within a few minutes of her nap time.  She is a happy and content baby that is enjoyed by all.

Trying to get to the root of the issue, I pulled out my BabyWise Book and reread it last Monday.  I couldn't find anything that we weren't doing.  But I did read the sentence that most scheduled babies sleep through the night (7-8 hours at a time) by 8 weeks.  A limited few take up to 12 weeks.  And at 12 weeks they typically sleep about 12 hours at a stretch, the same as babies who learned to sleep through the night sooner.  We had never had an experience with a baby not sleeping right from the start, so I had not made notice of this time frame before.  I concluded, Carmella was just 7 weeks old and she needed extra nourishment so she would just need a little more time than the other kids.

But do you know what?  Last Thursday, a few days before she turned 8 weeks, voila, she slept through the night.  Waiting to see if it was a fluke before counting our chickens, we tucked her in the next night.  She slept all night.  And the next.  Meaning she nursed at 8:30 pm and then slept until 5:30 am.  So there you have it.  It may take a little time, but if you stick to your guns, your baby, and you, can have a good night's sleep.

Seriously, On Becoming Babywise, is the gift we give to all first time parents.  I can quickly discern which ones have read and applied the principles within minutes of meeting their babies.  Babywise babies are happy and pleasant to be around.  Their mama's are well rested and filled with the joy of being a mother.  On the other hand, babies who are not raised on a schedule tend to be fussy and demanding.  Their parents look exhausted and by 8 weeks are often asking themselves, "What have we gotten ourselves into?"

I often have exhausted parents ask me what to do about their 6, 12 or even 18 month old child who won't sleep.  I tell them it isn't too late to make a change but the best time to start would have been the day their baby was born.

My best advice to you, Dove, is get the book.  Read the book.  Apply its principles.  They will make for a happy baby, a happy mama, a happy papa and a happy family.  Just for doing so, Brianna (my amazing blog designing daughter) has offered to gift you with a free custom blog makeover.  Just email me with your contact info and I will pass it along to Brianna.  Praying for a safe delivery and the best of all God has to give you as you begin your journey into parenting.



August 29, 2011

Samuel Learns to Ride a Two Wheeler

This week, Samuel decided he wanted to ride a two wheeler all by himself.  Before we knew what was happening he was off and away.  He is still working on stopping, though!

August 28, 2011

It's a Surprise!

Last Friday we had a surprise visitor.  Well, for the kids it was a surprise.  For Allen and I it was a great chance to get one over on the kids!  They couldn't believe their eyes when Aunt Dawn showed up for happy hour.  All the way from Ohio.  We had actually been planning it for weeks, unbeknownst to the kids.  Dawn was at the hospital to hold Brianna when she was a newborn baby and she really wanted to be with us to celebrate her 16th birthday.  But with a big inspection going on at work, no one thought she would be able to make it.

When she said she'd be able to come after all, the three of us decided to make it a surprise.  Have you ever read any of my posts about how hard it is to keep a surprise around here?  I can not tell you how many times we almost said the wrong thing and gave it away.  But we did it.  The kids were completely and totally unsuspecting when Aunt Dawn showed up at the gate Friday afternoon.
 I was pleased that the kids remember the rule about the guests getting to have whatever toys they want, no matter what.  Dawn wasn't even through the gate before Carmella was in her arms.
 And that is where she stayed the rest of the weekend.  Being company and all, Dawn got dibs on holding her all weekend.
 All settled in, happy hour could now commence with some kind of fruity drink or another and a very competitive game of Bananagrams.
 When a thunderstorm came through and we were forced inside Ellie dragged Dawn into playing dress up while we made dinner.
 After dinner was time to see what was in Aunt Dawn's traveling box of surprises and some Winnie quality time.
 The girls served us eggs Benedict for breakfast outdoors Saturday morning.  After a walk through the garden we spent some time working in the vegetable garden.
 When it got too hot, we retired to the pool for Maryland crabs.
 As you can see we love a good old fashioned spell of crab picking.
 Ellie thought that kissing your crab was some kind of ritual you carry out before eating.
 The crab feast came to an abrupt halt when our neighbors showed up.
I can't imagine who these rednecks really thoughtful neighbors were who knew my kids would love to check out this toy, but they just showed up and all my kids hopped in.
Of course, there were periodic dips in the pool to keep cool.  
 Many rounds of  Bananagrams... and breaks to sip iced coffee and hold Carmella.
 When the sun set, and the bugs started biting, Allen grilled up an amazing dinner of ribs, corn, okra and watermelon.
 With the night upon us, we reluctantly moved indoors where we gathered for baby holding time until we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer.
 One of the things I really cherish during our visits, is our time to worship together.  Before heading out, Brianna took this photo for us.
 After church, we went to lunch at California Tortilla.  Our regular Sunday hangout.  This is the first time we have been since Carmella was born, so it was extra special for Allen who has been having burrito withdrawals.
 The afternoon was filled with naps and board games.  After dinner we premeired our latest kitchen invention.  A dessert sandwich commissioned by Aunt Dawn.  We named it the Buckeye in honor of her home state.  Recipe to follow in another post.  It met with her full approval and is now officially elected to be a menu item for Jacob and Sons.
Monday morning was upon us faster than we would have liked.  To keep her around a few minutes longer, there was a nice big breakfast.  (Yes, Terri, we are always eating.  And it's just to drive you NUTS!   I mean it's because we really love our guests and want them to be well nourished.)
 But, sadly, all things must come to an end.
 Just another picture...
...or two...
 ...or three...
 ...really this is the last one...
 ... before the baby hand off...
 Not wanting to say goodbye, everyone waited at the corner and watched until Aunt Dawn's car turned the corner and we could no longer see the red of her little car.
How can the time between visits seem so incredibly long and the time we spend together so awfully short? 

It is so hard for me to realize how many years we have been friends and what a gift that friendship has been to me and my family!  As always, my friend, thank you for the blessing of your friendship and a wonderful weekend together.

Until next time,


August 27, 2011

Prepared For the Storm

Last night, we took the children to a party at church.  Where they had a delightful time celebrating their summer reading accomplishments.  Which is kind of funny to me.  I mean all summer, every summer, there are programs to encourage children to read.  My kids love to read.  As a matter of fact, I am often taking a book out of their hands to get them to focus on one thing or another.  One time, when Kaitlin was twelve or so, she didn't do an assignment for school.  Her punishment was a week with no books except her Bible and school books.  It was torture for her.  I was reading a book earlier this summer, and the author was talking about what a blessing it was to have decided to remove television from their home.  She went on to say how all three of her children had a dramatic increase in their grades.  Her oldest daughter won an award for reading the most pages of any student in the school that year.  A whopping 10,000 pages.  So I knew my kids read a lot and I was curious about how many pages that might be.  I asked Emma to  make a list of all the books she has read since June 1st and record how many pages each book contained.  By the end of July she was already approaching 10,000 pages.  So you  might see why it is funny to us that kids have to be pushed and prodded into reading.  Just the same, we have all enjoyed taking part in our public and church libraries summer reading challenges.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, after the party, we realized the tank was empty.  Not just empty, but the light was on, which in my suburban means you are dangerously close to being stranded somewhere.  Despite it being late, and the fact we had not had dinner, and we really wanted to go straight home, we headed to the station to fill up.  When we got there we were not prepared for the long lines which filled the parking lot.  It quickly occurred to us that everyone was trying to gas up before Hurricane Irene came on shore causing gas prices to go through the roof.  As Allen was filling the tank, the boys asked why there were so many people there on a Friday night.  I explained my thoughts about people wanting to fill up before gas becomes scarce or the prices go "Sky High."  Now, Elisabeth always zeroes in on one phrase and gets so side tracked by it.  "Sky High" was the thing stuck in her radar.  She was quiet for a while and then asked, "Why will the gas go sky high?"  I answered, "Ellie, because of the hurricane."

She was quiet again for a time and then shouted, very loudly, with a smile and great relief in her voice "Mama, Pa is bigger!  He can get the tall ladder and go on the roof to get the gas."

As we made our way home, we talked about hurricanes and winds and storms and how people would be affected.  We shared with the kids our experience with a hurricane.  There was a line of about 100 tractor trailers parked with their drivers just waiting to be dispatched outside the FEMA wear house.  That was a sight to see.

We spent some time this morning putting away our lawn furniture and making sure the flashlights had batteries.  We will fill some pitchers with drinking water in case our power goes out for a week, as it did during Hurricane Isabel.  As far as storm preparations, that is about as ready as we get.

It has definitely been an interesting week here in our little town with earthquakes and hurricanes, two things we just don't see in the mid-Atlantic.  But there you have it.  Many people are frightened and worried about what will become of their homes and families.  Not that we don't try to do what we can to keep things from blowing away or plan as best we can for the needs of our kids in such disasters, but as a rule, I don't worry about things.

Because my God is bigger!  He can get the tall ladder and go on the roof to get the gas.  I have a God who can do far better than I to keep my family safe in the storm.  He has seen us through many literal and proverbial storms.  In fact, my God controls the storm.  I have seen Him do it time and again.

What's more, even if the worst storm of all time comes through and my family should perish... No matter if an earthquake should swallow us at this very minute... I am not concerned.  Because I am ready.  We are ready.  Each of us can look to a time and place when we gave our lives over to the Lord.  Put our trust in Jesus' death on the cross and accepted His gift of salvation and an eternal life in Heaven, by His side when the time comes for us to leave this earth.  We are prepared for the storm.

What about you?

August 26, 2011

Boy's Room Makeover

Of all the lessons I have learned in my life, you think I would have learned just one after living with my good husband.  But no.  After years of remodeling and home improvement projects.  I still have the nerve to open my mouth with the simplest of statements that somehow turn into massive home improvement projects.

What started innocently enough... over breakfast with the boys at Panneras, at which time Samuel attempted to eat this enormous cinnamon bun... as let's take the boys to Target so they can choose their new linens... we can move the girls' beds into their room... turned into a 7 week remodeling project.
Before... their serene and tidy little bedroom...
Nathaniel's corner
Sam and Aedan's space...
...and the bureau, far too small to be shared by three little boys...
Allen and I agreed that we would NOT use up all his paternity leave working on this project.  We would only work if the weather was bad and we were stuck inside.  Because we both knew, we sure didn't want to have the house torn apart right now.

I should have known better!  But, no, I agreed to it.  

I should have known that my man could not handle two weeks, with no work, and nothing but relaxation on his hands.

And God provided him with just the opportunity, that very night, when a thunderstorm came through.

While I was otherwise occupied with one week old Carmella, the boys began carrying all their belongings to the basement.  Which created a disaster of such proportions, I was banned from the basement for the remainder of the summer!  YIKES!
And instead of bunking beds, Allen started doing drywall work.
And Emma embarked on a one woman crusade, that spread over two days, to remove the stickers from the windows.
I knew we were in trouble when the drill came out.
So I figured, if you can't beat them, you might as well join them.  I gave the boys a bucket of water and had them wash the walls.
And Allen handed them paint brushes.
When the boxes of hard wood flooring moved in... it was certain we were in for the long haul.  We all began to learn a few things.
Nathaniel learned about demolition...
Samuel became skilled with a paintbrush...
I am not entirely sure what Ellie learned with this hammer but she sure enjoyed it!
Emma became an expert at building closet shelves...
And we all learned that I have become far more tolerant of the disasters created by home improvement projects.  I hardly even noticed the bed sitting in my living room for two weeks.
The kids did all the demo of the old trim and carpet removal themselves.  Ellie came for the occasion dressed in her pink.
With the carpet out and the tacks removed...
The family embarked on a day of laying hard wood floor.  During which time, we were graced with 3 sets of visitors and Winnie's umbilical cord fell off.
No one is immune once a project gets under way around here.  My girls are experts on laying hard wood, ceramic and laminate flooring.
And now certified as inspectors...
the boys know a thing or two, also.
Did I mention my less than orderly house?
When Winnie and I were feeling left out, Allen brought in a rocking chair for us to watch the progress.

But, wait, SAFETY FIRST!  We were concerned about the loud air compressor and nail gun, so someone found ear plugs for their little sister.
We employed a few of those math skills we work so hard at during the winter months.
As I said, we all do our part around here.  I ignore the messes and the kids camp on the floor.  Which they really had a blast with.  Ellie even dragged a mattress into the boys room so she could join them.
The next big project was hanging trim.  Nathaniel got to work side by side with his Pa putting to use all the skills he has been learning over the years as a carpenter's son.
After several weeks, we came back to the original goal of moving the girls' beds into the boys' bedroom.  We knew we would get there, eventually!
Yes, at last those new linens made their way to the bunk beds.
The boys' helped Allen build their three new dressers, which will be much better for a room full of gentlemen.
 And, at last, the after!
 Sam's little corner
 The boys' cozy bunk bed... which they love
 A place for everything
 And, hopefully, everything in its place. 
Lots of hands on lessons have been learned... I've learned to keep my mouth closed... and Samuel learned that no matter how big a cinnamon bun may appear... it can not outlast a Wachter home improvement project.