Your ticket, please

This fall has been a bit of a wild ride, but it seems to be settling into a routine at last.

A little more than a week after my three oldest boys started school, just when I was beginning to figure out what the new shape of my life might look like, Jason received a job offer with a start-up branch office of an IT Services company. Unfortunately, the job would have required us to move to Fort St. John, B.C., a nearly 3-hour drive west of here.

The job was appealing because it offered Jason a chance to gain shares in the company incrementally over time, which is not the kind of thing that comes along in his industry all that often. However, the initial salary offer was not enough to make us think of the decision as a no-brainer.

So, after much prayer, and research, and two fact-finding missions to Fort St. John, Jason sent them a counter-offer that we could live with. They couldn't, and that was that. The process described in the last three paragraphs was about four weeks of limbo and turmoil in our lives, though, which made for a rather emotional September. But at least, in the state of "are-we-going-to-sell-our-house-or-not?", I got my kitchen linoleum replaced--no more holes! Yay!

Thankfully, we have had a beautiful "Indian Summer"-type of fall again, which means that, while we did not accomplish huge chunks of our yardwork in September, we have been able to get winter-ready (for the most part) in October.

After Jason's super-stressful summer, he decided to take two weeks off in October so we could actually finish up a few of the "summer" projects he had been meaning to do--not to mention, get a mental break from work! Yesterday was his first day back at the office.

While he was off, I managed to butcher the last of my spring roosters, so I now only have one remaining (which Jason pithily named "Lucky"), other than one or two in a batch of chicks still too young to be certain about at only 2 1/2 months. The garden got taken in and prepped for winter, our collection of old appliances got hauled away, and on Sunday, Jason and Brian Stanley put our deck on at last! (Yay! It's been sitting on blocks in the middle of the yard for two years, ever since we purchased this mobile home.)

Jason is still hoping to build a roof over our woodshed before the snow flies (because wood burns so much nicer when it is dry.)

Now that Jason is back at work, and the outside stuff is mostly done for the year, I find that I can be in the house focusing on my "inside projects"--except, not really. Levi has reached the stage where he needs almost constant supervision, and thinks all things electronic are things he must get his hands on--and throw. Or at least (in the case of keyboard), copy the typing action everyone else does on it. :-)

Ergo, office work while he is awake is pretty much out of the question. I can do some kitchen stuff (like the bread I plan to bake today), and have been making progress on some knitting patterns I have been designing, but I have been praying for God to help me remember how short this phase is as I try to subvert the frustration I feel at not being able to get even basic office work done some days.

Going back to the baby phase--and now into the so-called "terrible twos"--has been more of a change than I thought it would be, and I realize how much freedom I had with the ages of my other three boys. They were all old enough to be trusted with a certain amount of independence, and I had peace of mind knowing they were all looking out for each other while they were outside, too.

I think I'm going to have to find some friends with boys this age so Levi can start having play dates, and I can start having sanity time. And I'm going to keep praying. A lot.

The Busy Princeling

Lately, I've been having a difficult time getting my butt in my chair to do any writing. Partly, this is because of the amount of yard work and things still needing to be finished before the snowflakes make their appearance. But mostly it is because Levi's skill at getting into trouble has increased significantly.

Even ten seconds unsupervised can mean he has pushed a chair to the nearest cupboard and started pulling down glasses, dishes, papers, pens, electronics--a continual and expensive fascination for him--you name it.

After a two-minute bathroom break this morning required a five-minute mop-up of the water he had poured out of the cooler while I was doing so, I decided that from now on, I'll have to strap him in his chair when I need to go that badly. Or wait until his naptime.

Our boy is busy, but he is also still pretty fun and cuddly. After breaking another tooth a few days ago, his attitude returned to its normal laid-back disposition. Thank goodness!

He has been attempting more words lately, but they are still pretty mangled. He tends to take the last consonant sound of a word and put it first. Thus, "egg" becomes "guh", "sock" becomes "kah", "cup" becomes "puh". At least he's trying!

Speaking of the little man, he's getting in trouble again... gotta go!!

2013 09 18_0677 crpd web.jpg
Why, yes, I am a little prince! How could you tell?

Poor puddy tat.

About a month ago, we got a four-month-old kitten named Angel to catch mice. She sucks at it just yet, but she did show pretty good interest in playing with the baby mouse that wandered across the kitchen floor one night.

I ended up capturing that mouse and giving it to the dogs.


Levi loves the cat.

 And I mean, he LOVES her.

For some reason, she doesn't normally feel the same way.

Thankfully, the baby gate gives her a "Levi-free" safe zone. :-)

Crocs Rock

Levi has some of the widest feet I have ever seen on a baby. This makes it very difficult to find shoes for him.

Jude had a similar problem at this age--he had very chubby feet with a high instep. Different foot shape, same issue with shoe buying. That made summer great, because sandals--especially the kind with Velcro in two places over the top and one around the back of the heel--are so adjustable and forgiving. (That is, when you feel the need for shoes at all.)

Well... do you think I could find a pair of sandals like that when I took my little man shopping for some footwear about a month ago?

Not in this small town. But what I did find at Walmart were some of the knock-off cheap-o (YAY!) garden clog style shoes, only thing in his size, with--guess what?--very wide feet.

In the last few days, these have been Levi's favourite things to wear. He goes and finds them from the shoe stash in our entrance first thing int he morning, brings them to you (one at a time, sometimes), and stands there holding them out to you, making his little ascending-pitch "uh?" sound that is his general word whenever he has a question or wants something. Once you help him put them on, he is happy as a clam, proud as punch, and wears them for pretty much the rest of the day. (Mommy takes them off at nap times, so he has to go find them again afterwards.)

I totally understand the appeal of a great pair of rocking, comfortable shoes, so I guess I can't complain. And really, in the face of all that cuteness, who would?

BamBam's favourite clogs.

Everything's better with your favourite shoes on.

BamBam's clogs

BamBam sportin' his clogs.

Scrap a Little More...

I have a new battery for my laptop. Okay, it's not new anymore. But it lasts a really, really long time when it is not plugged in.

That meant that on my way home from Sylvan Lake yesterday, since Jason was driving, I got to scrapbook some more. That's a first for me, scrapbooking in the van. :-)

Where's a Genie When You Need One?

This afternoon, I overheard my kids indulging in some wishful thinking. It was the, "If you could have three wishes, what would they be?" discussion.

Jude wanted ten billion dollars, to be faster than the speed of sound, and to know everything there was to know about everything. (Not omniscience, just to have all of humanity's accumulated knowledge in his head.)

Noah wanted to have the power of invisibility, to have all the video games in the world (except monster and zombie games), and that everyone would do whatever he said. (He initially expressed this as "That everyone would believe me." Questioning produced clarification.)

Jabin wanted a trillion dollars, super strength, and all the video games in the world (except zombie games, "because of Noah.")

Jude asked Levi what he would wish for. His response was "Aaaah, baah, bah, bah..." He sounded pretty happy just the way he was. :-)

I guess, as an adult, I have become kind of boring. I was thinking about what I, in my heart of hearts, wanted most at 3:00 this afternoon when this discussion was taking place. My top three things were:

1. a nap
2. that all my books and taxes would be finished and filed
3. that my husband and kids would be fulfilled, happy, and blessed.

Is this all I want? No. Don't I have bigger dreams than naps and completed paperwork? Of course I do.

But at 3 p.m., those sounded like the best things to me. Just like a good night's sleep sounds pretty good right now.

So, off I go... because I have a feeling that being well-rested may let my mind ponder those bigger dreams again for a while.

Keep Talking, Baby!

When Levi joined our family, he had already begun to speak a few words: Papa (favourite person, remember?), and also he would want to be held and he would go around pointing at things saying "Zah?" for "What's that?"

Since then, he hasn't tried to say much else... until today. Well, to be honest, I think he said "No" a few days ago when he saw me coming to reprimand him for playing with the water cooler spigots... again. He quickly withdrew his hands, got a serious look, and said, "Noo," ever-so-softly. It was the cutest thing... but didn't stop him from doing it again later!

One of the things that has fascinated him about our house has been all the plants everywhere. Silk or real, I have plants and flowers all over my house, which weren't very prevalent in his previous home. He would point to them, saying "Zah?" over and over again as we answered, "Plant", or "Flower."

Today, while admiring for the umpteenth time the little silk sunflower on a shelf across the hall from where he gets his diaper changed, he said, plain as anything, "Fow". And said it several more times today.

Later, while I was having tea at Amanda's, he said "Pant" while pointing at one of hers (she has them everywhere, too.) He said "pant" a few more times today, too... always with lots of positive reinforcement, of course.

Oh, I just remembered that he has picked up the baby sign for "dog" (panting), and I think he actually has tried to say "dog" a few times, but it hasn't been consistent or clear.

Other signs he has learned are "up" (he had already learned to raise his arms and say "Uh!" for "up" before we got him), "more", and "down". Amazing how only a few words can make communication so much easier... and how him asking to get down makes it much more pleasant to hold him, rather than have him throw himself out of your arms unexpectedly.

Can't wait to hear what he's going to say next! :-)

Settling In

The last two weeks have had their ups and downs, but fortunately, there have been more ups than downs.

Levi is starting to feel more at home, both with us and with the actual house. This was evidenced by how he kept pushing boundaries as much as possible beginning two weeks ago. While this is completely normal for a child that has just learned to walk--since the horizon is suddenly three feet higher--there is even more of this here, since he hadn't had any previous boundaries established at crawling height to start from. Not only that, he is still early in the process of attaching to us as parents, so he is also pushing against our boundaries.

The worst casualties of this experimentation are our school bulletin boards in the hallway, since there was really no place to relocate those things that they would still be useful to us. Several centuries of history have been obliterated from the timelines, and key figures from the early stages of humanity have been demolished. Has anyone you know winked out of existence, lately? If so, my sincerest apologies. ;-)

This week, despite several interrupted nights that have made for long, tiring days for all members of our family (the paper-thin walls, hollow doors, and ankle-high gaps under them in our trailer don't do much to slow down the transference of sound between parts of our house), Levi seems to be fitting in more and more as a family member instead of a guest. Last weekend, Jason and I were discussing how we still felt like the babysitters... this week, I started to feel more like his mom. He would do cute things to get our attention, he would play and wrestle with the boys more, and he would be more easily comforted by Jason and I. He has become less clingy (a sign of a more secure attachment).

We have also seen Levi's natural happy-go-lucky, laid-back personality start to re-emerge, which has made him much more pleasant to be around. The sudden changes in caregivers, diet, and environment combined with teething meant that the first few weeks were mostly spent carrying around a fussy, insecure baby. The shift has been encouraging.

We have also managed to get his diet figured out a little better. We are back in the groove of creating baby food, keeping regular feeding schedules, and have started to work out just how much lactose this baby boy can handle. (Not much. Too much lactose=unpleasant diaper changing experiences.)
Rubber bands--pshaw!! Rules were meant to be broken, right?

Beets=fun baby photos.

Speaking of diapers, I began my adventures in cloth diapering this week. So far, I haven't made Jason deal with any of the cloth ones (oops, except a wet one he took off as he was prepping Levi for bed one night), as there was about a two-month supply of disposables that came along with him we need to use up (so they stop "using up" space in our house!), so he's been in disposables at night. However, cloth diapering is way easier than I thought it would be, and I still haven't even gotten any of those flush-able paper liners for them--although I am looking forward to having them!

I got started fairly cheaply, buying most of what I needed from a friend who is past the baby stage. She had sewn the diapers herself from a kit she bought on Etsy, but had several purchased covers and other accessories that came with the package--all in all, it would have cost well over $350 to buy all that new, and she gave me a super deal at only $50. The diapers are similar to these. So, I only had to buy a few things like new fasteners (bye-bye, diaper pins! Check out the coolness of modern diaper fasteners!) and some boy-themed and slightly larger diaper covers, as the smaller pink hearts she had for her little girl aren't so stylin' on our little man. :-) I was glad to find a SAHM in Grande Prairie with a "local" online business that I could support to fill in the gaps. (www.ClothDiaperKids.com)

Cloth diapering, even only during the day for the last three days, has already had the desired effect--less garbage going out. We went from throwing away a half-to-one 22-L bag of garbage a week B.L ("Before Levi"), to a full (stinky!) one every 2-3 days after we got him, especially when we were working through the teething and lactose issues, to now going back to pretty much what we were at before. We don't have a dumpster or a burn barrel, so disposing of garbage for us is kind of an inconvenience--we have to take it to the local dump for our area, but there are only two time blocks a week that it is open, and it is about 20 minutes away in a direction we rarely travel. We prefer to save it in a couple of garbage bins until they are full, and make the trip every few months. Thank goodness, we won't be filling those up once every two weeks anymore!

Thankfully, we didn't have to sink any money into buying any disposable diapers before I got going on this. A quick trip down the baby aisle at the grocery store reminded me how outrageously priced they are, all to wrap your baby in chemical-laden plastic and paper that is inconvenient to dispose of and harmful for both the baby and the environment! I wish I would have taken the time and energy to figure out cloth with my older three boys. Oh, well... never too late to start, I guess. :-)

Enough about diapers...

In the last two weeks, Levi's preferred form of transportation has gradually morphed from crawling with a few occasional steps to walking full-time. He's getting faster and more stable, but still trips and goes "kerplunk" on his butt fairly frequently. Good thing those cloth diapers offer extra padding! (Okay, last time with the diapers. I promise.)

While most of the excitement in our home has centred on our most recent addition lately, Jude did get to go to his buddy Ethan's birthday party last Saturday. The activity for the party was that Ethan's dad (an accomplished career carpenter) helped the boys create medieval weapons from plywood.

Jude designed a rather menacing-looking sword. And posed with it.

Jude, April 2013 (Age 10)

The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

Jude, July 2006 (Age 3)

Levi: Week Two

The second week with Levi in our family has seen some significant changes, not the least of which was the little man turning one!

Before last weekend, we had not yet had even one whole day home together as a family. However, thanks to a four-day weekend that Jason got over Easter, that was rectified. At the beginning of the weekend, Levi was still ultra-clingy to me, exclusively. However, by Monday, he had decided that this "Dad" guy was okay to be with, too.

He has been more and more settled as the week has gone on. Also, I think the tooth that has been bothering him has gone up a little. That irks me, since I know we'll have to go through all those symptoms of teething (including clinginess) again, but it has given us some temporary relief from the Cry Baby.

The rest of us, too, seem to be finding our new groove with a baby in the house. It has been helpful that for the most part, he has been sleeping through the night for the last week. He goes to bed at about 8-8:30, and has begun sleeping until 6:30-7:15. That's exactly what we were hoping for.

Sleep training during the day is not going so well. He still wants to be held or rocked to sleep, and as soon as he is put down, wakes up and fights it. As many of you know, I don't have time to hold a baby (nor the strength to hold a 26-lb. bundle!) for an hour and a half so he can sleep. One day, he had three short naps of 20-30 minutes each. Yesterday, he slept for five minutes, and refused to sleep any more. That cherubic photo at the beginning of this post was taken in his carseat on Wednesday, when he fell asleep in town and had a rare, 1 1/2-hour nap.

So, he is still learning how to self-soothe. However, as long as he is sleeping at night (so the rest of us can sleep, too!), handling a fussy, tired baby during the day becomes a lot easier to do.

All in all, after two weeks, I feel like we are beginning to discover what the "new normal" is. Even though our lives remain full, as I did not have time to do the normal "weeding-out" of activities that would have happened had I been having a baby the traditional way, he has begun to fit right into it like he has been there all along.

In other news, Jude is taking a belt test for karate today, going for his yellow belt. Unfortunately, it is in Grande Prairie, and the weather is not that great. Jason is supposed to let me know what the roads are like when he gets to work--I'm not sure whether I hope he says that they are fine to travel, or I should stay home! At least if we go, Levi should get a nap! ;-)

Happy Friday, friends!

First Birthday

Levi turned one yesterday. To celebrate, he spent a couple of hours with his Nana and birth mom/"Auntie". Then when he came home, he had fresh oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

Last night, I gave him a haircut. I don't think it was his absolute first, but it may have been the first all-over cut. (This boy came out with a lot of hair, so he's probably had a trim or two before.) Here he is today, sportin' his new 'do. It's a bit choppy in places, but for a baby haircut, he did amazingly well. I've just got a couple little pieces I need to even out later.

Today, we had errands to do in town all afternoon. Despite that, this was the happiest, most settled day that he has had since he came to be with us. It also followed the longest, most undisturbed night of rest he has had yet.

Every day, things are getting just a little easier.

We are so looking forward to what the next year brings. Love you so much already, little man!

Levi: Week One

Tomorrow, it will be a week since our family grew by two feet. It has been an emotional ride, as well as a physical one. My body is no longer trained for the rigours of carrying around a teething, 26-lb. toddler, nor for waking once or more at odd hours in the middle of the night, nor for surviving on army sleep rations--6 hours or less!

Emotionally, we and the Stanleys have been working out the details of a transition that was too fast to be healthy... in retrospect. Now that it has gone down the way it did, we are having to work things out backwards a little. This has not been as easy on any of us as we would like, so I would ask that you continue to pray for us, but especially them. We are merely dealing with a little extra busy-ness, and the joys of getting to know this little guy. They are dealing with a gaping void that suddenly appeared in their lives, and although there is less work for them, they also are missing the many joys that come from having a baby in the house.

I am going to keep the overall tone of the rest of this post positive, however.

Sleep training is progressing, but not "there", yet. Levi is cutting his top left-of-the-middle tooth (which will make 6 total), and that has made him fussy, not to mention the major changes he has experienced recently. All things considered, things could be worse, though. Incidentally, I found out that Frankincense oil diluted 1:4 with vegetable oil is a fairly effective teething remedy for babies, you just have to apply fairly frequently when the pain is really bothering them.

As of today, I pretty much have all of his stuff unpacked and sorted through, so as soon as I can put the yet-to-be-grown-into clothes out into the Seacan, and give the just-grew-out-of-them clothes to a new friend of mine with a 3- or 4-month old boy, he'll be "moved in."

Last week saw me doing some significant rearranging of our living room, purchasing new storage and shelving units to keep things safer for little guys, and throwing in some spring cleaning and mouse-proofing (a recently-discovered issue) to boot.

Last week when we brought Levi home, Jabin laid out his Big Brother plan:

"First, I'm going to teach him to walk. Then, I'm going to teach him to talk. Then, I'm going to teach him to read!"

Well, this boy has taken being a big brother by the horns, I tell ya. He dotes on Levi, as do the other boys, but it has been such a joy to watch Jabin really dive into this new role. He has fed him lunch several times, and enjoys entertaining him for me at such times as I can't be carrying or holding him.

Two of the kids have caught a stomach bug that's been going around recently--Jude and Jabin. I am hoping that it stops there, as some of my least-favourite memories of this stage are cleaning up pukey crib sheets and blankets several times a night, and middle-of-the-night baths. So far, so good.

Levi turns one next Tuesday, so I am going to be spending this weekend planning a birthday/adoption party for next weekend. And hopefully, while my husband is home, getting caught up on a little sleep!

On an unrelated note, I started the Young Living Slique Experience diet last Sunday (March 17), of which a key component is using Slique Essence to control cravings and regulate blood sugar. Alongside that, I have been severely limiting grains, especially wheat (not quite a full elimination, but close), and also dairy in my diet. So far, I have lost 6 pounds. Not bad for 12 days, I guess! My total goal is to take off the 20 extra pounds that have snuck onto me without permission over the last several years. As an added benefit, the extra exercise Levi is currently adding to my day is inadvertently aiding the process. :-)

Here's a photo that Jude took last night--it's blurry, but he's still cute!!