Sunday, June 28, 2020

Birthday Fun

Lucky for me, my birthday fell on a Saturday this year, which meant we got to spend the entire day with Sam! His big work project ended just in time to give him a totally free Saturday.
We toyed with exploring another bike trail, but ultimately we decided on one of my favorite activities: picking berries at Cedar Hill Farm.
After sleeping in and then waking up to yummy chocolate chip pancakes made by Sam, we got ready and headed out.
I always know at the outset that the boys won't last more than about 10 minutes picking berries, especially in the hot sun, but thankfully there is a super fun pirate ship adjacent to the berry patch and Sam kindly took all the boys over to play while I finished up.

The real highlight of Cedar Hill is the amazing playground. Whether we are sitting in the shade observing, pushing kids on the tire swing, or watching the fun on the zipline, it is so enjoyable for the entire family.

The three oldest had SO much fun playing on this tire swing this year (sadly, the giant tractor tire swing was out of commission). In the middle of their playing, they came over to me and informed me that since it was my birthday, they were going to give me a birthday swing and then all three of them pushed me around and around while I sat awkwardly in the tire.

After the farm, we stopped at The Dip, which is a fun old-fashioned ice cream stand and burger grill with delicious, unique flavors of ice cream. We got the "mini" size, but we definitely need to remember to get the "baby" size, because it was sooo much ice cream. I thoroughly enjoyed my monkey bread ice cream (with chunks of real monkey bread in it)!

We were pretty hot and exhausted when we got home, but Sam headed out to the grocery store while I took a nap and then lay in the hammock reading while the boys played with water. Sam came home and slaved away in the kitchen making my favorite dinner--cilantro lime quesadillas!
Just take a look at this many amazing flavors packed into every bite.

He picked up a Baskin Robbins ice cream brownie pizza and it was delicious! I opened a couple of small gifts and later on used birthday money from Sam's and my parents to pitch in with Sam's bigger gift to me...a Vitamix blender! I guess I'm a real adult since I was so excited about a high-powered blender, but it has been so fun. I have made a number of fun things in it already, including:
-homemade peanut butter (plus we added a little chocolate to it)
-whole wheat pancakes (It ground up the wheat kernels like a dream, and so quickly! My ordinary blender could never handle hard wheat.)
-a snowcone
-chocolate sorbet

Our smoothies have been totally smooth and velvety, even when using almost all frozen fruit, and it has been fun to test its capabilities in some of the other things. The chocolate sorbet was incredible!
Since we make so many smoothies, the blender will be well used for many years to come.
All in all, it was a great birthday!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Swimming and Fear

This week and last, the boys have been taking swimming lessons (hooray for the fact that we found someone teaching!).
This is Maxwell's first round of lessons ever, and he really hasn't been in the water too much in years past.
Add to that his introverted nature and his caution about trying new experiences,
and I wasn't at all sure how lessons would go.
I was surprised when he was a perfect angel for his first lesson and did everything the teacher asked without the slightest protest. He was laser-focused and kept practicing everything she showed him while he sat on the steps as she worked with his classmates.
So I was totally surprised when, the next day, he threw a huge fit and was completely terrified to get back in the water for his lesson. It was a miserable hour and he spent much of it sobbing.
The next day I came more prepared...I wore my swimsuit and got into the water with him when it was time for his lesson. I worked on skills with him as his teacher showed me what to do, but it was still a pretty rough 45 minutes.

So it was on to the next strategy to help him overcome his fear.
The next day I took him to Dollar Tree and we picked out a bunch of prizes to put in a gift bag he chose.
Each day he completes his swimming lesson without protest and does the things the teacher asks (with me by his side in the water), he gets to choose a prize out of the bag to keep.
I've been so proud of him as he has learned the skills and made so much progress over the last couple of lessons! Today he was putting his face in the water and swimming with little assistance like a champ at the end of his lesson!
He went down the slide about 15 times in a row with me at the bottom and didn't even protest if I let his face go under when I caught him.

Somehow, it is SO satisfying to me to see my kids overcome a fear.
I am constantly telling them that I never want them to not do something because of fear--if they choose not to do something, it should be out of wisdom. It's not being brave to do something foolish or really dangerous, but choosing not to do something relatively safe because of fear is something I never want them to do.
I want them to know they are in control of their fears and they shouldn't let fear control them.
And every time I see them succeed at something they were previously afraid of,
my heart absolutely sings.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Library Days

Weekly library days with all the boys are one of the greatest joys of Summer for me.
We caravan into the library and drop off our enormous mountain of books to return,
and then the boys head back to the children's section where they are instantly absorbed, the musty, comforting smell of old and new paper surrounding us on every side.
I push Benson in the stroller through the aisles, picking out challenging books to assign the three oldest boys to read and scanning through picture books for winners to read to the little ones.
Checking out is always a bit of a process, but the librarians are patient with our dozens of books and multiple library cards.
Sometimes we walk up onto the bridge by the parking lot to look for turtles in the stream below--and there are usually quite a few!

Upon our return, the boys instantly spread out through the house to read and piles of library books appear everywhere. We have kids on the couches, on the floor, in the hammock, and propped in crazy positions while I head into the kitchen.
In place of lunch, I prepare a spread of snacks that the boys can munch on all afternoon as they read.
(Today's variety included fluffernutter sandwich triangles, popcorn, grapes, strawberries, dried mangoes, quesadillas, and chocolate spinach protein smoothies.)
The afternoon is typically as quiet as it gets at our house as the boys are absorbed in their books, working their way through their piles.

I am so incredibly grateful the library closures didn't last too long.
When so many of our favorite summer haunts are closed or have significant restrictions upon them,
the library has saved the day for our family.

Monday, June 22, 2020

24 Weeks

Picture from about a week ago, at 23 weeks

24 weeks along and doing pretty well!
I realize I have it pretty easy when it comes to pregnancy...I know plenty who are throwing up constantly, who are put on bedrest, who have preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, who are at risk for a very premature delivery, or even who have almost died bringing another life to the Earth.
So I recognize that I have little room to whine, and then I feel like a wimp because I find it so difficult to just keep my head up, to care for my family's many needs, and to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It just feels like my body is working so hard just to stay alive while growing a baby and the smallest things, like walking up the stairs, leave me feeling completely winded and gasping for air. There are many days when I feel like I'm struggling for air all day, as if I've just been sprinting, but it lasts all day. I'm not sure why that is--maybe a result of my low iron levels?
My heart rhythm has normalized for the most part and I only occasionally have arrhythmia, which my doctor isn't worried about at all.
Circulation issues and resulting constant leg pain is just starting, but as long as I'm not on my feet all day it hasn't gotten too bad yet.
I'm still craving constant fruit smoothies and lots of ice.
Insomnia is still a pretty frequent companion, but there has been some improvement.
We are making progress on settling on a name...after looking through 1,000+ names we have come up with about 4 we would both consider.
I'm about to transition Benson out of his crib so I can start getting the nursery ready and add some GIRLY touches!

Maxwell is the only one of the boys who has felt the baby move so far, and he was absolutely squealing with delight. He is so intrigued and the best appreciator of all the baby clothes I bring home. "Oh, she will love this one, because it has hearts on it!" He is convinced we should name the baby "Cutie."
Benson still seems pretty clueless, but I think he will start to understand as my tummy is getting bigger.
Overall, this pregnancy has been much better than the last so far.

A month or so ago, Lincoln walked into the kitchen, where I was working, and sighed dramatically.
"I wish I was a mom," he said.
"...Why?" I asked as my mountain of responsibilities came to my mind.
"You get to have lemonade, you get a blanket, and you get to have a baby!" he said with plenty of annoyance.
(Drinking water was making me pretty nauseated at that point so I would sometimes dump a flavor packet into my water to make it easier on my stomach, and I had just gotten a new super-soft blanket for Mother's Day.)
Amused, I tried to explain to Lincoln that being a mom required a ton of work and that having a baby wasn't exactly fun...that it meant that I was sick and exhausted and in near-constant pain. But as he walked away, still annoyed that I had a special drink, I realized that, given the choice to hand off childbearing to someone else (say, husbands for example...) I wouldn't do it.
It isn't easy, but at the same time it feels like a precious gift and an unbelievable privilege to have this role in bringing forth new life.
I already feel such a deep bond and connection with this baby within me and I am incredibly grateful.

Monday, June 15, 2020


Just a few snapshots of my favorite picture Lincoln has drawn lately: Enos, praying in the woods.

I can't get over his adorable details! Like in this picture, notice the apple core discarded on the ground.

And here, the animals he was hunting and the variety of weapons he brought.

And here, the adorable birds landing in their nest.
And the sky is covered with stars to show that Enos prayed all day long and into the night.

Every day I clean up SO many drawings from the boys. It is hard to pick and choose which ones to save. Sadly, someone threw this one of Lincoln's in the trash shortly after I saw it, and I had to dig it out to take some pictures of it so we could at least have some record of it! (Thus the ripped, wrinkled appearance.)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Pandemic Date Night

One of the things we have missed the most during quarantine has been our weekly date nights!
At-home date nights after the kids are in bed are nice, but they just don't recharge us in quite the same way.
Between pregnancy and life's general chaos, I'm sad to say I haven't been the most creative about planning dates.
We've usually ended up eating take-out in our bedroom while Talmage babysits or watching a documentary (which I usually fall asleep in the middle of).
But a few weeks ago I finally got a little more creative.
I did some searching around online and discovered a game called "Pandemic."
Maybe this game is common knowledge to most people, but I had never heard of it.

A game to match our current global situation?

And lucky for me, Target happened to have one in stock for pick up that day.
I quickly placed the order for in-store pick-up, and after the kids were in bed Sam and I made kettle corn and peanut butter/chocolate bars and we settled in to play.
It had a little bit of a learning curve, but after about 45 minutes we had finally figured out how to play and we were off! It was SO fun--better than I had expected!
The goal is to cure all 4 diseases before the number of outbreaks or infections gets too high.
Different roles (like "scientist" or "quarantine specialist") give you special abilities and with each turn you travel around the board to different cities.
Players work together to compete against the game, and it was surprisingly intense!
We barely won and we weren't even playing with the hardest difficulty.
Sam taught the boys to play the following day, and Talmage and Wesley loved it.
Lincoln, however, was in tears because it was too scary and they barely lost in the end.
He has such a tender heart and just couldn't bear the suspense.

Anyone have suggestions for other board games we should collect for date night?

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Meeman-Shelby Park Bike Excursion

22 week belly!

On Saturday, we headed out to Meeman-Shelby Park to check out the bike path there.
We generally try to go on a new, longer bike ride every Saturday, but it's been harder than I thought to get a real feel for each trail online before we go. We never know how do-able it's going to be for the kids--especially Lincoln--and also whether or not it will accommodate the bike trailer well.
So it's always a bit of a shot in the dark, but we've been able to enjoy some very lovely rides!
Riding bikes helps me with my agitation and frustrations more than almost anything,
and somehow, despite my breathlessness and weird heart rhythm pregnancy issues, I can push pretty hard on a bike without too much trouble.

We pulled up to the trail and started unloading the bikes and noted that we were just about the only ones there...unexpected at a state park on a Saturday morning!
We started the path and it was amazing. I rode up next to Sam and said, "Best trail so far, huh?"
It was wide and deserted and shaded and really just the perfect place for so many reasons.
A couple of miles into it, though, the trail went down a looong, steeeeep, winding portion and the smooth ride became considerably more difficult.
The trail was not well maintained and was very broken up by tree roots and "spike balls," as we call them (sweetgum tree seed pods) were covering the path, the combination of which made for an extremely bumpy, jarring trailer ride for Maxwell and Benson.

We went a bit further and then encountered a hiker who told us that there was a cottonmouth on the trail up ahead to watch out for.
Talmage lit up like a Christmas tree and started begging to keep riding down the trail to see it, spouting off facts right and left as he tried to convince us.
"But one in four bites is a dry bite, and hardly anyone dies from the venom, and they usually don't bite, and..."
He is still totally enchanted by the time a teenage counselor at Cub Scout Day Camp caught a cottonmouth where the boys were fishing and cut off its head, leaving the headless body to thrash around.
Despite his pleadings, Sam and I opted to head off on a dirt trail that would bypass the snake.
It quickly became a sludgy mess due to the recent rain, and poor Lincoln was struggling to keep going on his little bike. We are slowly upgrading the boys' bikes, but we haven't gotten to Lincoln's yet!
So we stopped and turned around to head back to the trail head.
And happy day, the playground next to the parking lot was OPEN and the boys got to play at a park for the first time in months! Too bad it was so hot by that point that they only wanted to play for a few minutes.

We ended our excursion at the Shelby General Store at the edge of the forest--a legitimate old-fashioned store with a small grill. We ended up waiting for our food for about 30 minutes, but finally it came and the boys downed their lunch in a flash.
It was a successful morning, but I'm not sure I would say "best trail so far" anymore...
at least not with the bike trailer!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Last Day of School, Root Beer Floats, and a Giant Storm

May 22 would have been the boys' last day of school.
It felt pretty anti-climactic since, as I've mentioned before, no schooling was pushed or required by their schools during the closures.
But nevertheless, we celebrated with our traditional root beer floats!

Here are their first day/last day pictures. I think Wesley has changed the most!

We had our root beer floats out on the front porch.

Wesley finished his float and then walked down the front walk a bit and caught sight of the sky.
"Whoa, guys, come see the sky!" he exclaimed. It was looking pretty ominous.
I started gathering everything to go in, but Talmage and Wesley wanted to stay outside as the storm headed our way. I agreed, telling them to come in if it started raining or if there was lightning, and walked into the kitchen to clean up. I was in the kitchen for about 1 minute when the BIGGEST gusts of wind came out of nowhere! The trees were billowing like crazy and it honestly looked like hurricane footage.
I dashed to the front door and had to use a lot of effort to get it opened, as the wind was sucking it shut.
"COME INSIDE!!!" I screamed to Talmage and Wesley, who were already frantically battling the wind that was threatening to blow them away as they made their way up to the front door.
Just moments after they were safely shut inside, the power went out.
The wind and rain bombarded the house for a very short time after which the storm passed as quickly as it had come. The sun came out and everything was still outside.
I walked out to take out some trash and discovered that our trash cans had blown over and there was trash everywhere and our basketball hoop had tipped over (it has a pretty solid base, so I was surprised!) and the (super-duty) metal rim had broken off.
The neighbors' things were strewn around as well.
The power remained out for a couple of hours, coming on just as we were putting the boys to bed.
It was such a strange, quick, furious storm that seemed to come out of nowhere!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge

I keep telling Sam it feels like I am in a weird time warp.
Every day seems to crawl by aimlessly,
but it feels like everything froze when all this started in March, so I simultaneously find myself totally surprised that it is already mid-June.
Quarantine+pregnancy+insomnia+summer in Memphis has been a very weird combination for me
and has led to my feeling very agitated much of the time.
Every day I feel aimless and like we are just killing time until life begins again. I feel stuck, somehow, and I feel a great need to do something that gives me a feeling of progress and accomplishment.

One thing that has led to has been collecting lots of baby clothes. Somehow preparing for the baby helps me feel like I'm moving forward and brings me a measure of peace. I love thrifting, so I will sometimes run to Goodwill while Maxwell and Benson are sleeping and leave the oldest three at home (Sam is still working from home), and I have scored lots of good finds there. I've also found so many amazing deals online--lots of stores have crazy online deals going on since they have been closed for in-store shopping! The other day I bought a baby dress from Old Navy for about $1.50! Add to that Facebook marketplace...well, let's just say that this little girl already has 16 pairs of shoes from sizes 1-3.

Obviously I needed another outlet besides endless purchases of baby clothes. :)
So, in addition to a bunch of projects I have on my radar at home,
I decided that I would plan one adventure for every week of Summer.
It's taking a bit more creativity since a lot of public places are still closed,
but I am determined to get out and explore instead of wishing our days away at home.
I guess I'm not as much of a homebody as I thought!

Last week's adventure was at the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, which is located about 45 minutes from our home. It was hard to get a good feel for it online and I had never been myself, so I figured we would take a shot in the dark and give it a try.
It ended up being pretty lame, BUT it took us away from the house for a whole morning and that alone made the trip worthwhile to me!

We saw dozens of turtles and a few kinds of birds, but other than that the only wildlife we saw were tons and TONS of bugs...especially spiders. On the docks, spiders had built their webs in between every single post on the rail!
It would have been a lot more fun if there had been trails to walk around, but the only trail was about 1/8 of a mile long. I guess the main attraction was the road that went around the refuge, which we could drive along as we tried to spot wildlife.
Maybe we'll come back sometime and attempt to ride our bikes around that loop.
Maybe it's more fun during bird migration season?

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