Saturday, November 28, 2009


Doesn't it look like he's praying? Love this little man!

Now, onto business...

In Ecclesiastes one reads about timing and seasons of life. That catchword "season" is tossed around quite a bit amongst Christian mommy circles and with good reason. It is, I think, the most concise way to describe the fact that we each go through different phases: singlehood, dating, engagement, marriage, newly-married, mommyhood etc. Disclaimer, this is all about the mommyhood and yes I am fully aware that there are many other phases of life etc, but this is what I'm posting about, so there. Anyhoo, amid the mommyhood season there are distinct subseasons: newborn, one baby, 2 kids, toddlers, tweens, teens etc ( I am really into lists tonight!). My point is, we often use "I am just in a busy season/difficult season right now and can't_____." I myself have said this many a time. But, I must confess, when I've said it, I've wondered if I was using it as an excuse. As in, "I just can't have a quiet time right now, I've got and infant and a 2 year old, and the 2 year old doesn't sleep well." True enough, but is there really not one little spot of time (thank you Virginia Wolf) to carve out for my God? Really, not 10 minutes? Um, well, yes there is. So, it is an excuse in that example. Now there really are some things that I just cannot accomplish right now - serving at Samaritan House with Ryan strapped to me might work, but now with Will hanging onto my leg. So, all of this is just to point out that sometimes, I think we rely on our season to bail us out of stuff that really is a matter of discipline, spiritual or otherwise. This has been rolling around in my head as of late as I struggle to find, no strike that, make time for exercise and as Jeff and I crunch numbers to "do" Christmas and pay off the hospital bills. Self-discipline is in and of itself a lovely concept, but I for one will fail every time if my motivation is not "glory-filled." In other words, if I am working out merely to look good (a massive feat for this stretched-marked body:)) rather than because I am a work of God and it is my duty to care for his creation, then I will fail because I will never look good enough for the world. I can, however, take care of this body, to be strong to lift up my children, help my husband, neighbors, friends, and strangers. If we are not self-controlled in our finances then we will be unable to give generously to those in need. So, we're prayin' for self-control around here!

We had a great break. For the most part everyone got along and our actual Thanksgiving was a delight thanks to my in-laws for the amazing feast! Jack got to spend the night with a friend last night and EK is having a friend over tonight. They are both blessed with some dear friends, whom we hope stick with them for a long time to come! I am sad to see the vacation come to an end, but it will only be a matter of weeks before we're back on break for Christmas.

Here are some pics of our past week.
One of our nights on Thanksgiving break - we made a pallet, popped in a movie and enjoyed some down time.

This is what happens when you have a sister!

But, this is also what happens when you have a sister! Everyone loves to hold Ryan:)
We even made time to bust out the Christmas decorations and get the house all prettied up! Funny, in the pic I am noticing a spot where I didn't put as many lights - oh well. The kids enjoyed hanging the "instruments" as Jack kept calling them. I didn't even have to go back and "fix" that many as I have in years past. Tomorrow we will light the first Advent candle and begin our scripture reading as we strive to stay focused on Jesus' birth. Note the cockeyed star - Jeff hasn't trimmed the top for me yet, so we're just saying it represents our family: a little off-centered but really shiny!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We are waist deep in family time around here! It has been so much fun to be home with the kids and with Jeff's altered schedule, he's been home a lot too. He actually only had to work Mon & Tue night and is now off again until Sat. Sat. morning I took off for some "alone time" as we call it in our house. I ran some Christmas errands and just enjoyed shopping without any kiddos. It did feel weird not carrying a diaper bag, but I managed to get through it! When I returned, it seemed that all was not well in the Simpson house. Apparently Ryan had not been a happy boy for the first couple of hours I was gone. This is so not like him, and I know Jeff was frustrated. Jack said, "Dad banged his fist on the counter and said 'Why won't you sleep?'" Too funny. Ryan is really such a pleasant baby, so I felt bad for Jeff that it had not been a great morning. But, what are you gonna do - he's an infant and if what he wants is to be held, then that's all that is really going to satisfy him. Luckily the rest of the day was calm and that night we enjoyed Lil' Smokies and our family's favorite cheese dip recipe while we watched some movies.
Sun after church the kids were outside playing when Jack came tearing into the garage screaming. He and EK had found some old bottles in the dirt over where they are making a path in the woods. In typical kid fashion, they decided to smash the bottles against a large stump. The glass shattered for the most part, but one piece apparently ricocheted and Jack sliced his finger pretty good. Oy Vey! This kid. Jeff put some butterfly bandages on it and we're hoping it will heal up without a trip to the Dr. The lesson that came out of that was about not leading someone else into sin. You see, initially, Jack insisted that he had cut his hand on a rock and turned to EK who was running in behind him, to back up his story. Being the super sharp and intuitive mom that I am, I immediately realized that there's was a story full of holes and when confronted, they folded like a cheap tent. Thankfully it didn't require an inquisition to get the truth out of them, but again, we had to discuss being truthful. And, this time, we had to make sure they both understood how strongly the Bible speaks to leading another to sin. Just another day in Paradise:)
Last night I got to have some girl time with my 2 sweet friends - Love those girls! God is so good to give me other women to share this journey with. We commiserated over how difficult parenting can be; when you care so much for these children and want to leave a godly legacy, there is just so much to do each day!
***Sidebar Ella-Kathryn just came in to go potty then proceeded to pee all over herself! Good grief! Well, that rug needed to be washed anyway:)***
Tomorrow we'll have dinner with Jeff's family, drive around the square down in Fayetteville to see the lights, and then hopefully get our tree on our way home. This year it will be a smaller tree than years past, but that's ok, it's just a tree. We thought about not getting one at all and just using the little artificial kid's tree that was mine as a child, but the kids were really bummed about not going to get "our tree." It's a big production - we all pile in the car, head to Lowes (no tree farms around these parts), I make Jeff pull out the ones I like, shake 'em and turn 'em around til his arms are killing him, then after the kids have run 10-20 laps around the garden center, I will finally pick "the" tree. Ah, traditions:) So, we'll see, but I think the plan is to just go smaller this year, but still get a live tree.
Today the kids and I will take a walk and start collecting our naturals for decorating: pine cones, branches, etc. and we'll make our plans for the decorations. I do love this time of year but there is still that noticeable void. Jeff's co-worker/friend with whom he had gone hunting, called on Monday to let us know his mom had died. My heart breaks for him - I know that mixed feeling of being glad that you were there for the last moments and yet unbelievable devastated to know that your mom is gone. We will, as always, count our blessings this Thanksgiving, but also pray for those who are in mourning, hurting, and sad. Pray that they will find the hope that is ours in Christ!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Halloween, 1 month later?

Pumpkin carving supervisor.

Seed washer.

Um, cheerleader?

The happy carvers.

We are such slackers! I bought a pumpkin a couple of nights before Halloween, but we've been so stinkin' busy, we never got around to carving the darn thing! Poor children. So deprived:) Well, last night while I took Ella-Kathryn to the Girl Scout sign up, Jeff, Jack, Will, and Ryan got to carving that pumpkin. It was fun to see Jack and Jeff working together, and Jack actually did most of the cutting. He's desperate for a pocket knife, which we have vetoed for a couple of years at least, so this was as close to using a knife as he's gonna get for a while. When all was said and done, Jeff lit the candle and turned off the lights and brought Will in to look at it. He was a bit wary, scared even, and then shouted, "Punka, punka!" Poppy that's for you:) So, Happy Belated Halloween!
Yesterday I got to have Thanksgiving lunch with Ella-Kathryn and then today I went up to school for round-up ( a great program in which they talk about character traits like honesty, kindness etc and then each class takes a turn presenting some kind of play/show to exemplify that week's trait). This week it was Jack's class and they did a Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving play - very cute, and sweet Jack was precious when it came to his line; he sounded so shy and reserved and it melted my mommy heart. Will was perfect and Ryan slept almost the whole time - a major blessing because Jeff had class and couldn't be there. Later, Will, Ryan, and I picked Jack up for lunch, a la McDonald's (yuck, but it was his choice) and had a mom and her 3 sons date - so much fun and they were all so well behaved!
After lunch, it was to Wal-Mart, home for naps, feeding, dinner prep, then pick up the kids, start dinner (Jeff worked the church tonight so we do the early-bird special and eat at 5:00!), iron Jeff's uniform, eat...days like this fly by, and yet are so full of so many blessings. It's amazing what God can pack into 24 hours! Right now, the kids are watching a movie and munching on popcorn and I'm looking forward to an hour from now when all are in bed and I can sit down with a book for a bit. I know tomorrow will hold more of the same - empty the dishwasher, drink coffee, make breakfast, put away laundry, break up fights etc. but there is something so rich in knowing that there will be so much that will not be the same. There will be different expressions on the kid's faces, different things to laugh about, different things to fight about, there will be new memories made tomorrow. The kids are out of school for the week and I'm so happy to have them home with me. Even though there are times when they drive me batty, I love having everyone under the same roof. I love watching them march across the backyard, heading off on an adventure. Jack in the lead, Will trailing behind, but mad if he gets too far off the pace, yelling for Bubba and Sissy to wait! Ella-Kathryn going along with Jack for the most part, but every once in a while shouting a suggestion for them to do something differently. Then there's a conference between Ek and Jack, while Will wanders around aimlessly. Finally a decision is reached and they dive back into their imaginary world. Will eventually gets hurt and Jack carries him up to the back door for me to inspect the wounds, dust him off, and tell him he's fine and to get back out there. Hap keeps watch over them while Chewy runs around like the village idiot on the dog run:) I will call them in for lunch or dinner. When I reach over their shoulders to put their plates in front of them, I will inhale deeply, taking in that outdoor/sweaty child smell. This scent will be replaced at the end of the day with kid's shampoo and baby lotion. I will fall asleep after rolling over and smelling the top of Ryan's head one last time. Mine is a sweet, sweet life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Under the weather

Ever since EK ran fever a couple of weeks ago, she has had lingering symptoms, namely a cough. She coughs all night, and I even went out and got her an OTC cough syrup (this was after nights of honey, vicks and cough drops to no avail). Will seemed to pick up Jeff and EK's cold last week and we've not been getting good sleep lately. Ironically, my 3 month old can sleep through the night, but my 2 year old cannot. Oh well. At least the baby IS sleeping that much - we've never had such a good baby! So finally today, after another long night, I called the DR. and took EK and Will in to see what was going on. Nothing major was found, but we did go ahead and start a round of antibiotics for both and they will share some cough syrup and hopefully we will all sleep tonight!
I am amazed that Ryan is such a great baby. Because of some random stuff this weekend, we got off schedule by an hour and so last night he took a bottle at 8 instead of 7 so this meant I could either stay up until 11 and give him one more bottle before I went to bed, or I could try and see how long he could make it, maybe til 5? Well let me tell you, that little man slept until 5:45, and probably could have stayed in bed a bit longer if Will hadn't been having a temper tantrum in his ear! I already miss his night waking simply because when he would stir for his bottle I would unwrap him from his swaddle he would just smile at me like I was the best thing he could imagine seeing at 3am. Oh how I love that boy! People keep commenting on how big he's getting and they're absolutely right. He's in 3-6 month clothes now (I switched over after his 3 month checkup) and he takes at least 5 oz at each feeding. I miss nursing him, but I know that he is growing so well now because of the formula. It is hard to feel time surging so quickly ahead. His hospital stay seems a distant memory and yet when I look at pics from that time those emotions are right there under the surface. Yet, I am overjoyed to see him grow, smile and laugh, watch his brothers and sister, find his hands, and sleep like an angel:)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Man!

Jeff got his first deer on Sat.! We were all so excited for him and for us to have the "meats" of his labor to eat. I got some hands-on training as I processed the meat into various cuts and then today we got a grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer so that we could grind up the rest. What a dream that thing is! It is time consuming to trim the meat prior to cubing it to be put into the grinder, but what a treat to have fresh venison for dinner tonight. I browned up some of the ground meat, then added it to our fave spaghetti sauce - the kids loved it too. It's so nice knowing that we can eat lean, antibiotic and hormone free meat. We will be forever grateful to his friend J who really walked him through every step and provided so much of the gear for his first outing. Sadly, our friend with whom Jeff drove out to the deer camp got a call early Sat morning that his mom had taken a turn for the worse. She has been hospitalized since the spring but that call is never truly expected. He left and headed out to pick up his family and make the drive down to south AR. Jeff spoke with him last night and he said that she is in pretty bad shape, unresponsive and so they are really just waiting. My heart breaks for him, his dad, and his brother (and all of their family of course.) I wish I couldn't say that I know how that feels.
I just found these pics on my camera. They were taken last weekend on the Bentonville square. One of the many benefits of living in Wal-Martville is the great events they sponsor. This one was a holiday kick off and all of the big toy vendors came out to pitch their goods for the coming Christmas season. Of course it was overwhelming, but it was fun too. It coincided with the mountain bike race that has become quite an event here. The trail is awesome and draws riders from all over the world. Some of the bmx riders showed off their tricks which means that I spent 30 minutes saying, "no you cannot do that at home!" So, the pics from that night are below:
This is what Ryan did, other than sleep of course:)
Will loves to dance! As we were wrapping up our time on the square we saw a great cover band playing across the street. He just can't help himself - when hears music, he's gotta dance!

Jack got to pose with one of the real Bumblebees (from Transformers)- of course he wanted to know if he could drive it!

Jeff and Will in front of some big truck that is supposed to be a brand new toy item this year. Kind of looks like the old Tonka trucks to me? I'm sure there is some new marketing spin on it this year though.

EK got to pose with Barbie, or a reasonable facsimile thereof? She was very nice, totally misspelled EK's name "Ella-Aathryn" as if that were a real name? I thought she was a bit scantily, read sluttily, dressed. She was wearing black fishnet stockings. At a kids event. And she looks all of 17. Come on people. We can do better than that for our girls! More on this topic later...

Friday, November 13, 2009

All by myself

Well, the title of this post is a bit misleading. Jeff was supposed to head out very early tomorrow morning for his first day of deer hunting. Around noon today, his ride called and said there was more to be done down where they would be hunting and so he wanted to leave then and spend the night at their friends place. Ok, ok, so it's a trailer but it just seemed too cliche to say that my husband was going deer hunting and would be sleeping in a trailer - yes we live in Arkansas! Anyway, as Jeff is on the phone I hear him saying, "well, I need to talk it over with Melanie and I'll get back to you." Sweet him. I am mouthing to him, go ahead and go, but he hangs up and very dearly asks me if it's really ok. I assure him it's fine (I did, but I also made this ridiculous face and said, "oh no, can I handle all 4 kids by myself, what ever will I do - yes, dripping with sarcasm since I do this ALL of the time and because sarcasm is the glue that holds this relationship together, and is why my 7 year old son is constantly being told to hold his tongue because he has NOT mastered the art of appropriate sarcasm and yes I know it's all our fault for being this way around him and who else can we blame but ourselves.). So dear husband hurriedly packs, I wash his clothes in scent-free detergent (we use this anyway) and do not use a dryer sheet when drying them because we don't want the deer to smell him (ironic because anyone who knows him could tell you he is capable of making his umique scent if you know what I mean:), while he runs to Wally world to do the gathering part of his hunting expedition. Jerky, check. Water bottles, check. Sweet-n-Salty chex mix, check. Breakfast bars, check. Diet Dr. Pepper, check. He came home, made his PB&J sandwiches and at that point I off-handedly ask if he would like me to stick a banana or an apple in his bag. Ha, Ha, Ha. Real men don't eat fruit while hunting! No, he didn't say that, but I'm sure that's what he was thinking. Oh well, I tried.
I picked up the kiddos from school and then we hit Wal-Mart our own selves for some movie night necessities - pizza, root beer, and powdered donuts for the morning. Normally I make our pizzas, but I couldn't muster the energy tonight. As of right now, all are tucked in bed except for Ryan who is talking to me from his bouncy seat. He and I are going to settle in on the couch for a movie of our own.
I was sad to have missed seeing my friend H and her kiddos AGAIN today. They are all recovering from the swine flu and with Will's horrible cough, I just didn't want to chance giving them his cooties. Poor kid sounds terrible, but seems fine other than that. No fever etc. but still. He covers his mouth about forty percent of the time - not a good enough average to be around people with recovering immune systems! Alas, maybe I will see her next year:) Instead of visiting with her, I spent the day cleaning. I mean deep cleaning. I'm doing a room a day in an effort to get it all done before it's too cold to open up the windows anymore. I'm running out of time! Oh well. I just get so grossed out when things get too dirty around here. and with two indoor dogs and 4 kids, well, it gets dirty pretty quick! Wish me luck getting it all accomplished, and pray for Jeff as he tries to bag his first deer!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Side notes

This Wed was our last night of meeting with the group from our 50 Day Challenge. This was an experiment of sorts for our church, in which small groups met every week, once a week, and sort of hit the high notes of what it means to be a Christian, specifically, practicing spiritual disciplines and the core belief that Christ is our savior, died in place of us for the ultimate forgiveness of our sins, and that Jesus is love. My favorite part by the way, that last one! We got to know some great people whom we otherwise never would have met and some we would have, but probably not to the depth that we do now. And people, we got deep real quick like! It was awesome! I love transparency in believers - knowing that the body of Christ is real, cracked, and grateful as all get out for what God did for them. I love hearing people's testimonies and their stories. Love. It. So I was notably sad for it all to come to an end this week. But, as He often does, God did something really cool too. In the school pick up line on Wed. our community pastor, who also leads our group, honked at me and proceeded to tell me that his wife and 3 out of 4 of their kiddos had the swine flu. They clearly wouldn't be there that night, and didn't want to cancel either, so, drum roll please...would Jeff mind leading? Woo doggies! Let me fill you in on my hubby for those of you who don't know this about him. while he is an amazing leader in the workplace, he truly feels inept and uncomfortable when it comes to the small group dynamic in church. He has come a long way since the early days of our marriage, but it is still not the place he wants to occupy. But get this. He did it! And he was awesome! God couldn't have planned it any better. Jeff was already at ease with the group since we had already been meeting for so long and because there was no pretense or facade being held up by anyone in the group. I am so proud of him for stepping up and taking on that challenge. He would be the first to say it's not something he wants to do on his own, but it is such a huge praise that he didn't merely say no way!
On another note, Dad is up in NJ visiting the fam there. Another blessing there, in that he is so close to all of them and the relationships they have will continue on even while we all miss Mom. I have yet to go "home" and wonder what it will be like to walk back through the door where she spent much of her childhood. To look across the lawn where her engagement photo was shot. To eat in the dining room where so many of our holidays were spend laughing and yelling (hey it's NJ people!) To know that each room holds a story that I find myself reaching for in an effort to not lose everything she shared about herself. This is the hardest part right now. I will start to remember an anecdote that she told me and then lose the thread. I want to call her and say, "Hey what was the name of that place you worked at the summer you lived at the shore and ate only soup and drank only iced tea?" Completely insignificant to the big picture, but damn it if it doesn't make me angry that I can't remember. And worse, is this leading to me forgetting more about her. The important stuff? We are such sensory beings and I will never forget her hands - they were freckled and she hated her nails because they were so fragile and tore easily - but they were always soft to me. As I child she used to pay me (and my sister) to brush her hair, so there is a smell memory of her hair. Her laugh. Her cough. I just wish she had written an autobiography for me. But I know that there are so many here who can fill in the blanks for me. Her mother, her sisters and brother, my dad. These people can remind me of the details. but the important stuff, her love, caring, and humor, I will dig them up and keep them swirling in my mind so that I never forget.

Friday, November 6, 2009

3 Months Old!

Well, the first three pics are how this lil' man is usually - happy, content, just waiting for someone to engage him. He laughs a bit now when I get going into full silly mode - so much fun! The last photo is how he is from dinner time til bedtime. Fussy period? Colic? not sure. The nurse today said it could be either. He's really not that bad -just wants to be held the entire time and that's difficult while trying to cook dinner, do homework, get baths etc. He just won't settle and even when he falls asleep, he will only stay that way for about 10 minutes. Oh well! This too shall pass in the blink of an eye.
I was very encouraged by his weight gain - he's now 11lbs 12oz - a gain of 1 pound, 6 oz. Go Ryan! He eats about 5 oz every 3-4 hours and often goes 6 hours at night. In fact I need to go wake him right now because he hasn't eaten in 5 hours! I need to get a pic of the back of his head too because he's worked himself a perfect little bald circle. Poor baby!
Jeff is still fighting a bad head cold, but is off to scout out the hunting grounds tomorrow and then will actually hunt next weekend. I'm super excited about the possibility for some free meat. Times are very lean around here right now as we struggle to make ends meet and still pay all of our hospital bills. We are trying to remember that this is just a season of time and it will eventually be over - it just seems to loom ahead of us right now. I am praying for provision and to not be consumed with worry/fear as I see so many fall prey to that in these tough times. I also don't want have a pity party every day! We have so much to be grateful for, Ryan's health especially, and I know I need to focus on those things. I know we are never with out God's grace and mercy, and even when we struggle here on earth, it is all part of our walk - to trust and have faith that he loves us and has only good planned for us.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Photo Ops

Hi, my name is Ryan and I'm a happy baby. And I slept 6 hours straight last night, so my mommy is happy too!
My blessings:)
My 3 Sons!
Halloweed 2009 - that cow costume has to last one more kiddo!

Jack had asked me why I didn't hold him anymore. It made me think about that poem in which there is a line about not knowing when the last time you will hold your child, hold their hand in the parking lot etc. So true. I picked him up and told EK to snap a pic. He's not that heavy, but I know that I will blink and he will have grown far too heavy for me. Oh my. Then EK wanted a turn, so I happily obliged. It is incomprehensible that Jack will be turning 8 this Jan. We were watching some home movies last weekend and it was so funny watching Jeff and I parent ONE child. Hah! If only we had known! Man-to-man defense was the plan even after EK came along. Now we are totally doing zone defense and I have to laugh because sometimes other kids wander into our zones and they just get pushed along with the tide! Welcome to the Simpson family, no we don't need to know your name, just keep it movin' and keep your hands to yourself, and no screaming unless something is broken, or your bleeding (and we qualify this in our house to mean copious amounts of blood, no wimpy hangnails), or a limb is stuck in something (and no fingers and toes do not count as limbs, just pull hard enough and eventually that thumb will come out of the plastic train). Speak kindly to one another, ask forgiveness if you've done something wrong, respect each other and our things (no we're not made of money), and be a light for Christ wherever you go. Nuff said.