Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hallelujah Chorus!

If you have not yet seen this popular video:

Imagine being at Macy’s when 650 voices burst into song!  I teared up just thinking about it!

For more about Random Acts of Culture, visit

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Validation for SAHMs—The Job ain’t Easy

Recently, I found myself in conversation with a few relative strangers.  Talk was of a project and a timeline and the question was asked, could anyone meet the deadline in a few days?  One woman piped up,

“I can’t do it.  I’m off work tomorrow, which means that I have all three kids all day . . . ”

—and the clincher, (apparently, though I was surprised, since I’m not often privy to this perspective)—

“all by myself;

my husband won’t even be there to help me.”

She went on to say something about how on those days, all she can do is brush her teeth.

There you have it.  Have you ever wondered if it’s just you?  If this parenting thing is supposed to be easy, and is for everyone else, but you just haven’t figured it out yet?

Personally, this statement hit me like a fresh breeze: so other people think this job is hard?  Okay, maybe I’m not that crazy to feel overwhelmed at some point(s) on any given day (and all day on others).Smile 

And it puts being able to have “all the kids all day” and also accomplish something more than brushing my teeth into the WOW! category (if you’re like me, all that may be is a shower on some days!).

Shortly after we moved to our current house a couple years ago, a neighbor confided to me that she was going back to work for the sole reason that being a SAHM was too difficult (she had two children: a four-year-old and a two-year-old).  She told me, “I don’t know how you do it, but  I just can’t do it anymore.” whispering to add, “It’s easier to go back to work.”

These two statements echo in my mind (I treasure them, if you want to know the truth!) reminding me that though the perception is that being a full-time wife/mom/homemaker is taking the easy way out, it is simply not so.

Hope these statements brighten my mama friends’ days, too; including former SAHMs (Mom).Smile

These comments dovetail well with an article I read a couple years ago, from which I have this excerpt:

“So look, in the interest of truth-telling, I'm telling you this: people are not being honest about what it's like to be with kids. People are scared to admit that they would rather be at work than with their kids, because work is easier than parenting. (Notable exception: Sally Krawcheck.) If I have to read about how much someone loves their kids one more time, I'm gonna puke. Because we all know that parents love their kids. It's not interesting. It's not helpful. It's not even very relevant. For anyone.

“What's interesting is the part where parents love their kids but don't love being with them on a daily basis. It's very scary to write. But I'm telling you, if the feeling weren't ubiquitous then there would be no one to be in middle management working 9-5 because they'd all be home with their kids, doing freelance work after bedtime.”

For more (including a challenge to the myth of Super Mom; that one can do it all), read her entire article here:

Full-time parenting: effortless, no!

Monday, November 8, 2010

This Post has Pictures!

The girls and I were invited to a friend’s for lunch while Casey was out of town this week, and this is what awaited us.  I was so touched.


We had couscous with avocado slices and the best Panini sandwiches I’ve ever had: turkey, provolone and pepper-jack cheeses, sautéed roasted red bell peppers and sundried tomatoes.  Delicious!


I asked T’s other guest to take pictures for me, because the presentation was so beautiful.  T is especially known for her creativity and eye for beauty, but I cannot get over how easily this type of thing comes to her.  She truly has a gift!  One that I certainly do not have (sadly) but I do appreciate!  It’s easy to forget how important presentation can be, since I pay so little attention to it myself, but this luncheon really reminded me how much difference it makes when attention is paid in this area.  I felt so spoiled, loved and well-hosted.


T’s presentation didn’t stop with the adults: she had this cute table set up for Claire and Haley, and even made place tags for them!  They feasted on turkey sandwiches and macaroni—YUM!


Here’s Ian close to a month ago, back when we were still spending long afternoons outside, picnicking on the back porch and playing in the water table.  (It has since gotten colder and we no longer spend ANY time on our northern-exposure back porch!)





This water table was a great idea, Sandy.  Thanks for pushing for it for over a year!  Sorry I didn’t give in to you earlier.  It has provided many hours of enjoyment.


My life.  (To my housekeeping chagrin, this love seat spends little time sans laundry.)


Ruby is all about “doing” school.


Playing hooky under the table is more along Claire’s lines of thinking.  I’ll nearly always allow her to opt out, and she almost always does, but once we go along without her, she comes back saying things like, “Well, I didn’t know you were going to use a jump rope!”  It’s all good, either way.  She and Haley are picking up so many things, just being around “school.”  This last week, I often heard Haley saying the days of the week and once-in-a-while, she’ll get the pointer and butcher the months of the year or the alphabet, all bossy-like.  It’s so cute.


I cannot. Stop. Kissing this guy.


For about a month now, Haley will pee on the potty on a whim.  She (and the other girls) get a Skittle (yes, we have bought them in bulk!) whenever the fancy takes her, but we are not officially potty training just yet.  I really do wait until they pretty much train themselves.  No power struggles, no drawn-out stuff.  It’s a battle I’m not willing to fight, and I’m okay with having kids in diapers for 6 more months than “usual” if it means we agreeably sail into total big-kid mode in little time.


Casey took the training wheels off Ruby’s bike last weekend.  She loves how fast she can now go!

(Can you tell I’m just going through our pictures for the last month?  Random, I know.  Casey switched the camera from taking pictures in raw format, so I’m catching up!)



In lieu of really camping, we made indoor s’mores this week.  It may be awhile before we camp again as a family.  I think the last time was sometime after we had Claire.



Ian is now four months old.  (And I still haven’t posted his birth story—I know.)  At his well-check on Wed, he was 16 pounds, 10 oz and 26 1/2 inches.   He is still a super-contented baby, but teething is now in full force, and he has been known to complain a little.  Still sweet as ever, though.  Two weeks ago, I got to enjoy my first time away from all children (2 hours: grocery shopping, but I loved it!).  About a week before that, Ian stayed with Casey (napping) while Ruby and I grocery shopped for my first hour away from my sweet little tub of testosterone.

Ian sleeps through the night, and it is a wonderful blessing.  Something I did not expect for awhile longer, but God was so gracious to have him start doing so at the beautiful age of 8 weeks without scheduling.  Generally, he’ll go a good 7-9 hours straight.  The ironic thing is that Haley has started waking for a 2 a.m. feeding every night for the last 2 weeks!

Yes, Haley is still nursing.  Correction: Haley is still breastfeeding.  No latching on for a few seconds here.  It’s interesting to think that when I went to my Bradley teacher training in September of 2009 and was gone from 16-month-old Haley for 5 days, I sadly expected she’d end up weaning because of it.  But here we are, over a year later, and she’s more into nursing than she was then!  Never, never, ever would I have believed you if you had told me that I would one day tandem breastfeed.  Would my sisters like to know what has happened to my cycle due to nursing two children?  Take a guess, ladies.  (It’s certainly not intuitive.)



Monday, November 1, 2010

The “Farm”

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Casey and I took the fam to a local “farm” on Friday.  I put “farm” in quotes so that you will not be disappointed at the barren land that is the background of many of our pictures.  (I am also choosing pics that will not reveal just how barren the land is, because it really is depressing.)

This is how it is when you live in the desert!  The “farm” consisted of about 100 acres of corn and another 150 perhaps of pumpkins and gourds.  That was pretty much it.  Not much to sneeze at, but I am very thankful for one thing: all the acres had been bare ground (read, “dust”) whose topsoil had been blowing every spring and fall for years, straight across the interstate and right into our neighborhood.  Sometimes the blowing dust was so thick, it was hard to see even 10 feet in front of us when we were driving.  That’s pretty scary on an interstate!  Several accidents had been caused by the crazy amount of dust, and the prior solution was to put signs at the areas’ entrance: “Caution: zero visibility likely.”  If you are like me, you probably think that the planting of crops is a much better solution.

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By far, the best part about this farm was that it was so close to our home, and that for most of our time there, we were the only customers.

droid2 098We attempted the corn maze, but didn’t get far, and ended up coming out the way we came in.  I didn’t mind not finishing it (making it to every point/station), but it was a little de-motivating to not at least come out a different way!

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(Haley’s face cracks me up—doesn’t she look like  a jack-o-lantern herself?)

Casey and the girls searched out a perfect carving pumpkin, as well as a little one.  The crops had been planted quite late, so there weren’t any really big pumpkins, but that made the job of choosing easier.

Yesterday, the girls chose a template and Casey carved their pumpkin with his Dremmel (?) tool.  A good deal better than a knife—it only took about 1/2 hour this time, as opposed to several hours.  R & C chose “Tigger the Pooh,” as they call him.  I am once again lazy, and am not downloading pictures just for a post (lame, I know), so I’ll post these pics of last year’s owl-carved pumpkin.  Maybe next year, I’ll post this year’s pumpkin! Smile


I’m glad Casey gets into this and is willing to indulge the girls.  The girls love setting the pumpkin out on the porch and seeing how it looks from the street.  I love that simple things like this can make their day.

Okay Kar, since you asked:



Unfortunately, I only did video of the “glowing” pumpkin, so that requires yet one more download (that I haven’t done).  Ah, the complexity that technology gives!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Here’s a Random Peek

Here I sit with burning eyes, runny nose, sore throat and a fever, completely unable to fall asleep.  A lot has been going on lately regarding my “other occupation,” for which I have been very excited, and as a result of which, my brain has not wanted to turn off at bedtime.  I hope to share about it more within the next few weeks.  Wonderful, exciting news.

Case told me Sunday morning that I’d better take it easy, since today, he had several very important meetings at work and would not be able to stay home if I needed him.  I told him I was pretty used to the SAHM not-being-able-to-call-in-sick position, and I wasn’t too worried about it, but as he had this cold a couple weeks ago, he figured it would get pretty bad and wondered if we should call someone to help me with the kids.

He reiterated just how important the meetings were and that he absolutely would not be able to miss them, caveating to say that I’d pretty much have to be hospitalized . . . but I stopped him short: “Do you really want to say that?” I asked.  He only thought a split second and said no, he really didn’t, since last time (and the only other time, by the way) he had laid things out in such emphatic terms, I nearly ended up giving birth alone.  We had a good laugh thinking what it could look like if I took him literally today: “Only if blood is squirting out at least 3 feet, and you’re driving into ABQ with an appendage hanging by a thread, then you can call me and I’ll meet you at the hospital,” he teased, snickering.

I’m going to just do the bare minimum today and see if we can’t make it until Casey comes home late this evening.  Sigh.  This insomnia isn’t going to make the day any easier.

Other than an annoying cold that has made its rounds (I’m the last to succumb, which is typical), all is well here.  Homeschooling continues, albeit nothing like that first week.  As Sonlight admonishes, I have tweaked things to what works for me, and what works for the family, and homeschooling now blends its way nicely into our day.  The greatest challenge still lies in the discipline department, especially in regard to a 2-yr-old who, to quote a Proverb, “runs rapidly to evil.”  (Okay, so maybe it’s just the cupboard with the granola bars or my bathroom drawer with the toothpaste, lip balm and Vick’s vapo-rub, or the diaper bag with the wipes and Butt Paste, or my purse with the mascara, eyeliner and lipstick.)  Sometimes I wonder: where is the compliant child that is supposed to come along at some point in a family?  Oh well.  It’s actually a blessing that none of them are too compliant, ‘cause I know I’d get lazy and let a lot of non-behavior stuff go and just raise some Pharisees. (At least that’s what I tell myself.)

Perhaps Ian is the compliant child.  Though I would never place any bets, seeing that in my experience, the more compliant the infant, the more challenging the child.

But he is a sweetie.  Honestly, I can’t think of a time when I’ve felt “bothered” by him.  He’s even brought an enjoyment to things I’ve never actually loved, like breastfeeding.  And if ever there was a baby who could be scheduled, he’s the one.  (But I don’t.)  Nearly every moment of the day, he is the opposite of high-need.  At bedtime, I can (sometimes) even put him in his bed, wide-awake, and he will coo and finally fall asleep at some point with nary a fuss.  To anyone who wonders, “What?!  Isn’t that how babies are?” the answer is no.  They are not like that.  If it seems normal, then count yourself very blessed to not know any differently.

Ian’s giggling now, and he rolled over back-to-front last week, despite not yet having rolled the easier direction.  He hasn’t repeated it, so I’m likely to think it was just a fluke.  But he does try to roll any time he’s laid down.  Tonight, while I was trying to nurse him, he played a game with Casey, where he picked his head up and giggled at Case, then buried his face in my shirt.  Over and over.  I can’t help but think he is absolutely the most precious baby ever.

Ruby and Claire are doing well.  They have gotten to liking school again now that we’ve made necessary adjustments.   After completing the Kindergarten readers (27 tiny books with about 6-8 pages and less than 10 short-vowel words on a page) Ruby is on to the next level reader (bigger book with 8-10 short-vowel sentences on the beginning pages).  It’s the reader I had started her out on, since it was below her skill level, but too many sentences on a page really discouraged her, even if the words were easy.  It was a good lesson for me.

Claire is plugging along on the K readers, though she usually wants to read about a page every other day or less, and that may only be because there’s a Skittle involved.  It’s funny how children fluctuate, because about a year ago, she was getting blending concepts very quickly, but now she’s distracted and finds blending difficult.  I’m not pushing her to read.  I just ask every day, and sometimes she’ll take me up on it, sometimes she won’t.  Both of them pretty much do all the other “school” stuff together, and we all enjoy that.  Even Haley is getting to where she will sit down for part of a story (if it’s reading her books, she’ll  easily sit on my lap for a good 1/2 hour as I read book after book to her).

The girls have made friends with some neighbors that moved in during the summer, and it has been great to have some playmates for them.  They are really sweet kids—I feel spoiled to have these particular children living so close.  And there are plenty of them: 8 in one house.  Two families.  The circumstances are sad: one set of 5 children is being cared for by an aunt and a grandfather, due to their parents being drug addicts.  Two of the children have never lived with their parents, and were addicted to meth at birth.  My heart breaks for them.  I am amazed at how sweet they are for what they’ve been through.  The girls will play or talk with them at least once a day.  It’s also nice because Ruby’s “best friend” was the little boy that lived there, who is about a year older than she, and he wasn’t really into playing with girls, so she’d have her feelings hurt sometimes.  (Ironic thing: his nickname is Max, so “Ruby and Max” were playmates this past year.)  These are Max’s cousins, all but one are girls, and there is almost always someone who wants to climb the wall and come play with them.  For now, this is how it works best.  Even though my girls will beg me to let them go to their yard, it’s usually more than I can do to hang over the wall to supervise their every move.  Much better to keep an eye on them in our own yard.

We are hoping to visit the pumpkin patch on Friday, but a cold front has suddenly appeared, and we haven’t gotten out our fall/winter stuff yet, so we’ll see if we can make it before the nearby “farm” closes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What Five-Year-Old Says That?!?

This afternoon, I was pouring (special) drinks into glasses for me and the girls.  All three were gathered around me with much interest and excitement.  From the oldest came this statement:

“Mom, you’re cheating us.  Look how much bigger your glass is.”

As this comment may suggest, Casey and I have noticed a trend in the entitled direction with regard to our children (and, I don’t deny the possibility that it may be happening with us as well—easier to see in others. :)  We’re looking into ways to curtail such things.

As a family (at the dinner table, for instance), we often list things for which we are thankful.  At the moment, nothing else comes to mind as to what we already do to help foster gratefulness.

Does your family have a plan of action in this area?  Know any good ideas?  Please share!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

At the Beach

Casey and the girls on the Pacific coast yesterday afternoon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Herd Overheard

I’ll start off with a few things I wrote down years ago, when Ruby was little and I started hearing myself say some pretty absurd things.  (Sadly for these posts, I have since gotten used to saying these strange things and don’t think of writing them down anymore.)

To Ruby (21 months), while in the grocery store: “Please don’t write on the celery.”  --11/9/06

Hanging out near 4 month-old Claire: “Don’t let Claire suck on your toes.”  --11/30/06

(In the back yard) “You may not feed her dirt!” (Claire, 9 months, in her walker, eating away happily.)  --5/2/07

(Two years old, during dinner) “Feet do not belong in your macaroni.”  --5/6/07

I have one thing written down that I found myself saying to 14-month-old Claire: “Don’t blow your nose into your sandwich.” –9/10/07

Of course, Ruby has had strange things come out of her mouth for awhile.  When she was 2 1/2, she walked into the kitchen, sniffing, and her toddler mind deduced: “It’s not poop I smell.  It’s muffins.”  --11/27/07

One of the first funny things I remember about Ruby is from when she was about 2 years old.   Case was watching an action-filled movie one Saturday afternoon as she played near him.  She looked up to see a speeding car careen around a curve and flip multiple times, exploding into flames and finally come to a rest; a heap of smoking, twisted metal.

Ruby: “Oopsy-Daisy.”


Okay, on to the more recent past (it has been quite a while since I last did one of these posts).


A clear delineation between our oldest girls’ personalities:

Claire: “ Mom, do you know why I like to finger paint? Because I get to stick my fingers in it!”

Ruby: “I don’t like it because you have to stick your fingers in it.  I like to use a paint brush instead.”  --2/19/10


When we were going through this phonics program, I would have Ruby sound out a word, then use it in a sentence.  Sometimes, this made for some interesting sentences.  (*= Please don’t report us to social services.)

The word: “rat.”

The sentence: “Rats can run faster than a gentleman.”  --2/21/10


The word: “mat”

The sentence: “Matt at church.”  (A young man who hands out bulletins and often opens the door for us.)

Me: “Well, that Matt is spelled differently.  This is a different kind of mat, like one you keep by the door to wipe your feet.”

Ruby: “But Mom, Matt is a ‘door Matt’.”  --2/21/10


The word: “leg”

The sentence: “It’s like. . . you lost a leg.”  --2/26/10


The word: “pick”

(You think you know what’s coming here?  Don’t be too sure.)

* The sentence: “Someone picking a knife out of they’s leg.”  --3/1/10


( Upon my having just ordered donuts from the newly re-opened Krispy-Kreme drive-thru.)

Ruby: “Oh,  you’re so special to us!”

Claire: “You’re so special, we might keep you.”  --2/23/10


Ruby: “Mom, my leg hurts like it’s Italian.”

then, to clarify:

“It burns like it has Italian dressing.”  -3/16/10


Ruby: “When God saves my soul, I’ll be a good girl.”

Claire (scrunching up her face very seriously): “Uh, Ruby, I don’t know if that will happen.”  --3/29/10


Claire, commenting on Haley’s diaper as I change it: “I think she go’ed diarrhea.  I don’t think she’s out of the woods with her diarrhea.” –4/26/10

(“Her diarrhea.”  This wording is not incidental.  Haley had this issue for over 6 months—our pediatrician’s office said it wasn’t something about which they were concerned—seriously: they say it’s called “toddler diarrhea”—to which I wanted to say, “Oh, good.  So you wouldn’t mind changing her diapers, then?”  But I digress.  It was such a regular (yuk, yuk) occurrence that at one point a couple months ago, she would warn me by telling me she had “di-yer-pee-you.”)


Claire (watching a bird perched near our house):  “ I think he’s saying our new car looks cool to him.”

Me: “Oh really?  How do they usually say that?”

Claire: “In their heart.”  --5/25/10


Ruby, pulling a sesame seed off her burger’s bun: “Mom, could we plant this seed and grow a hamburger?” –6/13/10


Claire to Ruby (who was pretending to be a crying baby): “Shut that chunk of your face.”  --6/13/10


Claire, gazing at her baby brother: “Mom, I love Ian in real life.”  --8/19/10


Ruby to Claire, after having attended a baby shower with me: “It’s not watching a lady in a shower with her being naked.”  --9/9/10


Claire (to Ruby): “It’s okay.  I don’t matter.”

Me: “You don’t mind?”

Claire: “Mom, you don’t have to learn us everything.”

Me (can’t help myself): “I don’t have to teach you?”  --9/10/10


And for any of you who are doubtful that we have a handful-of-a –little-girl at our house, I give you the following:

Claire (a no-nonsense explanation why Ruby is crying): “I was hitting her and that reminded me that I wanted to give her a knuckle sandwich.”  (Oh yes, she did.)  --9/11/10


Ruby, going through my baking drawer: “Ooo, a thermometer.”

Me: “That’s a candy thermometer.”

Ruby gives an excited gasp, then places the thermometer in the nearby candy cupboard, waits a moment, studying the numbers, then, disappointed: “It’s not doing anything.”


Ruby, singing a Scripture song: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved; you and your houseboat.” (household)  --9/20/10

(Which reminds me of some other songs she used to sing that gave me a chuckle—picture a 2-3 year old:  “What a Mighty God We Serve” was “What a Mighty Godly Sir!” and “I Love the Mountains, I Love the Rolling Hills” was heard as “I Love the Rolling Pins.”  Last December, “Jimmy Crack Corn” had some interesting lyrics, too: “Gimme That Bird and I Don’t Care. . . My Monsters Go Away.”)


Claire: “God made it rain to water the plants.”

Casey: “Yep.  You’re right.”

Claire: “I’m almost always right.”  --9/22/10

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guest Post by Ruby

Hello, blogging friends!  Home school is in full swing here, and that is a post all to itself.  Quickly, I’ll just say that I have a new respect for homeschoolers (I always have respected you.  I just do even more now.)

Ruby’s Language Arts assignment today was to dictate to me a story that is familiar to her.  She picked Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Without further ado, here is her (completely unadulterated) version:

One day, the three little bears woke up and they’s mom maked porridge and the daddy bear said, “The porridge is too hot.” So, the mommy bear said, “We can go on a walk.”


They forgot to lock they’s door. Goldilocks looked in the window and knocked on the door, but nobody was home. She came in the house. Goldilocks tasted the mommy bear’s porridge.


It was too soft. Then she tried the daddy bear’s porridge and it was too hot. She tried the baby bear’s and it was just right, so she ate it all gone.


So, she tried the mommy bear’s rocking chair, but it was too soft. She tried the daddy bear’s, but it was too hard. So Goldilocks go’ed on the baby bear’s rocking chair and rocked and rocked until she broke it.


She tried the daddy bed, but it was too long, and she tried the mommy bear’s, but the pillow was too “up.” She tried the baby bear’s, and it was juuuust right, so she slep and she slep.


The mommy bear came home and the daddy bear. The baby said, “My porridge is all gone.” And so the mommy bear said “Sombody tried my porridge,” and the daddy bear said, “Somebody tried my porridge.”


Now they looked in the bed and so the baby bear saw that one and it said, “can you play with me?” but Goldilocks was so scared, she hopped out the bed and runned out the window.

E end.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This Morning


The perfect sendoff for ‘Lita: breakfast at Weck’s for some papas.



On the back porch  for a messy project. (Haley doesn’t have a black eye.  I just chose this one because she’s such a goofball in it.)


Ruby did a little reading practice while playing w/moon dough.


Ian loves his bouncy seat.  He’s transfixed by the toys that hang from it.


Gotta wrap this up.  I’m on call for a friend who’s in labor.  Not as a doula this time: as a hostess for her fam while she births at home.  I need to leave in a few minutes to pick them up.  The timing is perfect; if they need to stay overnight, the guest room is free again.

*Thank you, Sandy for the pictures!  I’m so excited to post this!  We’ll miss you!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Still Kickin’

Yes, we are still around, and all is well at the Cowart household. It is a little de-motivating to think of posting any updates sans pictures, but I was thinking tonight what bad timing it was to have broken my camera when I did—just before I had Ian—and how my blog would surely have SO many posts by now if I had not broken my camera, and then it dawned on me that 1) Perhaps that’s thinking a little too optimistically about how much blogging I would actually do and 2) Perhaps breaking my camera was one of the biggest blessings at just this perfect time.

Let me explain: I’m not very excited about posting updates without pictures—or rather, I figure readers would want to see pictures of our growing boy and our goings-on, not merely wordy updates (yes, I’m aware of how wordy they get, and I’m over it). In my imaginary life, also figure that Casey will convert the pictures I’ve taken with his camera at some point, and at that time, I will post about that particular event (in reality, I have to admit, that will NEVER happen. . . the posting, that is, not the converting. . . although I do wonder sometimes). So, the result of this is that I have not blogged in over a month, and haven’t felt the need to do so. In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed my break from blogging—not even a hint of guilt.

Not only have I seriously tapered off in the blogging department; I have also been very so-so about checking e-mail. I even went a whole two weeks without checking/reading blogs and e-mail, and let me tell you, it was pretty relaxing. The Amish really have something there. . .

What I’m trying to say in these many paragraphs is that we are so enjoying living that we don’t have much time for updating. And I’m really thankful for my broken camera that forced me into being so-so about updating, because I have felt a wonderful freeness about the whole business.

Not giving it up though. Just feeling totally fine with updating sporadically. We’ve had so much going on (in a good way—not just busy-ness) with company in and out and enjoying the waning summer and watching our boy change and our girls’ crazy antics. I love having a newborn—it forces life to slow down and I really see my children and watch them. I laugh a lot more, and Casey and I exchange many more raised-eyebrow and trying-not-to-smile glances and take time to snap pictures the likes of the rose bud that Ruby planted in the dirt this evening (so we could grow a rose bush) or the third-of-a-page coloring book picture that Claire beautifully and painstakingly colored. (She showed it to Case when he got home that day, and he said, “What a pretty picture. Where’s the rest of it?” We explained that there was no “rest of it.” It was torn before she colored it.)

Even though I am with them almost every moment of their lives, I miss so much by doing stuff. I’m not talking over-the-top projects or activities or anything: just the daily maintenance of laundry, meals, dishes and the training and physical care of the children can keep my day busy enough that so much goes unnoticed. (In another way, too. I have become that mom that I once watched—dumbfounded—completely missing the disobedience, disrespect, naughtiness of the child standing inches away from her. Though I’ve seen no video documenting it, I’m under no illusions about it: I am that mom. There’s no way I’m not missing something.)

Still with me? I really didn’t get on here tonight to wax sentimental. My intent was to actually give somewhat of an update, so here goes:

Ruby lost her first tooth a couple weeks ago. Twice. Only minutes after it came out, it dropped from her hand and we haven’t seen it since. I think it may be under the refrigerator. If I could, this is where I would insert a picture of . . .

{Ruby sporting her new smile.}

Ruby is extremely helpful and responsible, and growing in these traits daily. Before Ian was born, she figured out how to get Haley out of the crib (safely, yes), and that has been a fabulous blessing for my hugely-pregnant-and-anemic-and-don’t-know-it self, on to my I-just-had-a-baby-and-need-to-reduce-stair-climbing self, and now on to my I’m-making-dinner or nursing-Ian self. That one thing alone has changed so much about our days.

We’ll be starting our first school year mid-September, and R & C are very excited to start Kindergarten! We have the curriculum all organized in a cabinet and have even started on a few things (so mom can get a feel for the teacher’s manual as well as gain confidence :). I had started this free downloadable phonics program with Ruby in February, and we have seriously taken FOREVER to do it (40-some units, and we’re just now getting to the 30’s—not how they say to do it, but I’m over that, too). Ruby can sound out many words, since by now she knows quite a few phonics rules (sh, th, ch, long vowels, silent e and many phonograms and blends) and nowadays, she’ll sometimes sound out words on her own (signs, labels, etc.—actually, Claire does this, too, though she does not know as many of the rules.). Counterintuitively, Ruby seems to really love reading single words, but open her (level one, super easy reading) book and she is NOT excited about reading. This is the opposite of what I have read and hear a lot, but I’m wondering if she does not enjoy it very much because she hasn’t become proficient yet, and loses interest because of how long it takes to read a sentence, or . . . Dread! . . . a page. I’ve thought of a possible remedy for her dread, and hope to encourage her that reading really is enjoyable: while I read to them aloud, I’ll stop at words for which she’s learned the rules and allow her to sound them out. That way, we’re making good progress on the page, and she’s getting practice reading while also maintaining comprehension of a more-interesting storyline.

Claire is doing better and better with self-control and in her attitudes and Casey and I are getting to know the delightful, creative, hard-working girl that was often overshadowed by . . . other adjectives (that, or she just didn’t have the time to be these adjectives while fulfilling the other ones . . . or maybe these adjectives were just manifesting in a negative way. . . whichever way, the change is a welcome one). Claire does a great deal of quiet busy-work. She’ll play with blocks alone in her room, or sit on my bed and look at books, or organize the kid’s cup cupboard. She loves to help me almost as much as Ruby, and sometimes even more. I can always count on at least one helper when I ask for one.

Haley also loves to help. Her specialty is taking clothes out of the washer and putting them in the drier. She still continues to display the obvious postponement of obedience-training, but recently we’ve been more able to turn our attention to it, and we’ve known all along—and even decided it would be so—that she is not as well trained in obedience as the other girls were at her age. Adding a third child was our apparent threshold: something had to give, and by necessity, we really narrowed down our battles. So far, a fourth child has not had the same effect. We are in such a better place than we were two years ago, or even last summer. Possibly because not just one, but two of our children are now older than Ruby was when we added a third, there are so many things we are able to do now that we could not do before, and it has been such a relief to find that adding children does not necessarily mean being more and more burdened. (We were pretty convinced of this notion until a couple months ago, honestly.) Even so, We certainly have our work cut out for us. Yesterday at a play place, I told Haley to come to me, to which she replied, “No, you come here!” (Our days are fairly full of such talk. There is sure to be at least one, "No, YOU. . . " from her mouth each day.) On the way home later, I explained to her that I could not give her something because I was not able to trust her with it. She began repeating, “I can’t trust you.” over and over. At least the inflection wasn’t argumentative that time.

As much as “2” is a challenge, it is one of my favorite ages. Kids say what they think, they don’t care what others think, and they are equally as expressive of the excitement they feel as they are of any displeasure. I find the flip-side of the “terrible two” traits quite fun.

Ian is 8 weeks now, and I am going be presumptuous and say that he is The. Best. Baby. I sometimes feel like all he asks of me is to be fed every couple hours. There is a little more work in it than just that, of course, but he is so far from high-need, it seems too good to be true. Makes me feel pretty silly for wondering how we were going to deal with a fourth. I had in my mind that God was really pouring it on thick (sanctification, that is) and it was just going to get harder and harder. Casey and I have been floored (and pleasantly-so) that Ian’s arrival has actually marked the easing of our struggles in many ways. In our heads, we knew God would give us the grace to have and raise a fourth, but little did we know that how God would do it was by drastically changing several things that by that time, we’d come to think of as “the way things are.”

For months, I had toyed with the idea of naming Ian something having to do with sanctification, since by then, we equated the words, “child-raising” to “highly-sanctifying,” and were sure we were in for the most difficult time of our lives (admittedly, I was figuratively flinching) but the day after he was born, Casey and I decided on a name that called our attention to God’s graciousness, not knowing that that is what God would be impressing upon us in these first couple months (at least:) of Ian’s life. Ian’s birth was only one of many ways in which God showed Himself faithfully gracious in giving us a fourth child.

It has been a joy to eat crow. Humble pie never tasted so good. It feels like we’re in a different season, though to an outsider it may look like not much has changed. God’s benevolence has been amazing for us to experience and observe.

Ian weighed 14 lb even at yesterday’s appointment. He’s definitely still a chunker, but he seems much slimmer than when he was born. He’s out of most of his 0-3 mo. clothes now, so I think he may have grown a lot longer (we haven’t measured him since birth day). He smiles and coos, and though he still sleeps a great deal (NOT complaining:), he is very active with his arms, legs and face during his awake times. (It kinda makes me tired just to watch infants—they make breathing look like hard work.) Last night, he had an 8-hour stretch between feedings, and I had the most wonderful 5 1/2 hours of uninterrupted sleep. He gave me a long stretch about a month ago, too: going 6 hours between night feedings. And at that point, the 3 1/2 hours I got was the longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep I’d had in many months. It was so beautiful, I almost cried.

Casey started a new job about a month ago (within the same company, but a new position) and from what he’s said, it sounds like he will be busy and challenged, which should keep him fresh for a good while. This new position will likely have him traveling a little more (looks like once a month, instead of the 2 or so times a year) and, while that would have overwhelmed me only a few months ago, I see it as very doable now. He’s headed back to ‘Frisco for a conference in a couple days and is looking forward to the cool weather and great beauty of that old city (American-ly speaking, that is, Karin :). His mom is here now, so he’s not exactly leaving me to fend for myself.

My sister Deb was here last week, and we had good times trying to squeeze in deep conversation while caring for 7 children (4 of which were 2 and under). As one might guess, that usually meant staying up to ungodly hours. A small sacrifice. I was so rejuvenated by the week full of help, fellowship and stimulating adult conversation, we had a couple fun and productive days following her departure.

Have I put you to sleep yet? I almost have myself. Buenos Noches.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dose of Reality--First Day Alone with Four

Okay, I didn't want to post an update without pictures, but we still have the raw photo thing going on, and uploading photos/changing their formatting isn't exactly top on the list of priorities here at Casa de Cowart (especially since only one of us knows how to do this, and he's been pretty busy providing for and taking care of his family lately. Any grievances may be taken up with him :).

So, these photos are from July 4th. Some pics are better than none, right?

The girls and I survived our first day completely on our own today. Survival was my intent, and I must say it went much better than expected. We even got a few things done.

Mom left on Friday, after over two weeks helping us, and in that time where my duties pretty much consisted of feeding and caring for Ian and enjoying the girls, I regained perspective. For some possibly hormone-related reason, I have spent the last few weeks feeling guilty about many things, most related to my children and life in general--how quickly they grow, how fleeting it is--I really wondered how I'd do once Mom left and my job became more demanding again, since for me, this kind of guilt piles on the more I have to do.

So, today I decided my priority would be to enjoy the children and keep perspective. I would not have a list--mental or otherwise--of things I needed to get done for the day. My "one" goal would be to stay patient, keep a gentle tone of voice and use kind words. It may be hard for some moms to relate to me in this, but I like being real, and patience is a real struggle of mine--always has been (ask my mom :). This already being a struggle, combined with the life situation I'm in (Casey and I noticed last week that it isn't the number of children, or the ages or stages, or even who the children are, but the combination of these things that makes parenting quite challenging at the moment) and there's a good chance I'll be losing it at some point in the day.

But, today, by God's grace, we made it and had a GREAT day. It was truly wonderful. Even got some laundry, dishes, school and weeding done--all with the help of my 3 girls. Time will tell if my impression is a true one, but I do believe that four may be an easier adjustment than 3 was--at least when Haley first joined us. There are so many things that were harder having three three and under than they are with four five and under. I can see how people can handle more children spaced farther apart. That being said, I'm not exactly volunteering for such things :).

I had my first outing with all four by myself on Saturday, and it was also refreshingly stress-free. Granted, we went to McDonald's, not the grocery store, but even so, it was delightfully simple. So much of this has to do with Claire's maturing beyond the fit-throwing self she's been for the last couple years. She still has her moments, but most of them are at home now--hardly ever in public--and they are much (much, much) shorter lived.

Haley's right at Claire's heels in the challenging department, and she's giving us a run for our money. Bossy hardly describes it. Sass, perhaps, but that's still an understatement. Yesterday, Case and I had to not look at each other just so we could keep from bursting into laughter at the absurdity of this 26 month old taking such tones with us. (Last week at church, a loud guffaw escaped from one of the attendees upon witnessing one of these moments. My raised eyebrows must have communicated something other than the, "Can you believe this?" I was trying to communicate, because he immediately looked apologetic and embarrassed for having laughed--I had to apologize later.) She'll often shake her finger and be very stern, multiplying words and ending with, "K?!" (as in, okay? as in, do you understand me?). Now that Claire is doing better, the bulk of our training attention needs to focus on this pint-sized dictator.

Ian. Well I guess I'll finish the post with a little about our 3-week-old little man. He's a fabulous baby. Sure, he cries, but he stops pretty quickly when he senses his needs will be met soon. He's a hungry one. His one long stretch is about 3-4 hours between feedings, but he is otherwise very content and super sweet, so I don't mind how often he's hungry. And even though he prefers to be near me at night, he does not require being attached to me every moment of the night, as his next-older sister did at this age, so though it isn't the most comfortable sleep I've had, it beats what it could be. Currently, the evenings are spent marathon-nursing him until he's finally satisfied to go those 3-4 hours between feedings. After that last feeding, he's O-U-T. That's when I try to get my good sleep--when he's in his bed and I have all sleep positions available to me.

All that nursing is doing something--he was 11 pounds last Monday. I didn't think I could keep his weight-gain going as aggressively as it apparently was in utero, but it seems he's getting what he needs.

Ruby cracked me up today. She'd put on a CD of children's songs while we putzed around this morning. A few hours later, she came to me asking what that song meant about "pooping the ark." "What?!?" I was truly at a loss. She started singing to the tune of "Who built the ark?" (No-ah, No-ah), but instead of hearing "Who built the ark," she'd heard "poo-ping the ark" (No-ah, No-ah). . . I'm still wondering how she got that. They don't sound similar to me.

So far, so good. I'm really enjoying my four blessings. Determined to continue enjoying them, even if it means the house is so-so and meals are nothing to write home about. How I treat my blessings is more important than what I do with them, what I feed them, or what I "accomplish" for the day. Today, a simple, sweet, easy-going day was accomplished. I'll take that any day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ian's Due Date

Glad God brought him early! Here are a few pictures from the first few days spent with our sweet new boy.
Proud Papa

Happy Mama
Big Sister Ruby (and big brother Ian:)

Contented Claire
Overjoyed Haley

Nana and her Cowart grandchildren

Friday, July 9, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Ian is a week old today. Time is already flying! I'd love to share with you a slice of what his first week has been like, but alas, I am technically challenged. Since my simple little point-and-shoot camera is broken and we're using Casey's fancy one, I have no pictures to share with you. Case has the camera taking pictures in a "raw" format. To photo people, that means something more special than it does to me: that I cannot see any pictures until he changes them to a different format. And unfortunately, that means you can't either.

In addition to chubby newborn pictures, I have the sweetest video to share with you of Ruby singing to her little bro last week, but once again, my lack of being tech-savvy thwarts my efforts to keep you updated. Case got me a little (and I really do mean little) video camera for my birthday and I don't know how to add the video to a post yet. It seems I absolutely must use their website or YouTube, and I need Case to help me decide which one would be best and then set me up. And, as you might imagine, he has been a little busy lately.

Mom has been here since the 5th, and we are glad. Case was running low on patience after a few days of caring for me and the girls alone. I found it a little comforting, actually. To know that I am not alone in my struggle with patience with short people who freely express their sin nature at a moment's notice. And he'd only been with them for a couple days. It gave me perspective. Caring for several little ones is a challenging role. For anyone. Even very patient daddies.

Our church has been bringing meals, and that's been a true blessing. I think it would be overkill if it was our first (Mom being here and all), but Ian being our 4th, not having to worry about what's for dinner and how to make it is great.

So, a little about our week-old boy. Hmmm. . . . he's got hairy ears and shoulders still. Something I would not share with you had he been a girl, but I suppose someday he'll be proud of the manliness with which he entered the world. He's a sleepy guy. . . so content. The last couple days, I've been keeping a good eye on the time so he eats frequently. Seems he's almost too contented. But his skin is looking good and he's almost gained back to his birth weight (9lb 15oz yesterday) and he has more and longer awake periods each day, so I think he'll be alright. It is crazy to think he still isn't due yet. I'm so thankful God brought him early.

Anyway, this boy is precious. I just can't get enough of him. I never knew I wanted a son until I had him. I am in LOVE. So are his sisters. It's been challenging to give them all a turn to hold him several times a day (especially since all of them need supervision). The newness will wear off soon, and one day and then another will come where the first thing they do is not come to check on the baby or ask to hold him, so I'm enjoying these fleeting moments.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Postpartum Tidbits I’m Glad Were Shared with Us

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Nursing my little one. Casey’s had me in bed almost exclusively since Ian was born. Though boring at times (and sometimes lonely), I am grateful for his insistence that I rest. It truly speeds all aspects of recovery. How glad I am that my husband listens to good advice, even when it means a ton more work for him.

Thinking of this reminds me of the tips and advice we’ve gained over the years. Things I don’t remember until I’m going through it again. Here are a few pieces of advice I’ve benefitted from in the last few days.

After giving birth, mom is “Queen for three days, princess for a week.” (Queens lay in bed, princesses dictate from the couch.) My midwife with Ruby gave Casey (not me--this is key) these instructions, which he has followed since then, with few exceptions. It is, I believe, one of the best gifts a husband can give his wife. A gift she may not even want, but it will benefit her more than she realizes. Yes, this means that she cannot jump back into life right away. During this time she won’t be attending church or social functions. She won’t be doing laundry or loading the dishwasher or going grocery shopping or getting her other children breakfast.

I believe my quick and complete recovery from my births can be mostly attributed to Casey’s almost strictly following this rule. (I remember with Haley, I begged him to let me just drive through Sonic for some drinks so I could get out after several days of being home-bound. He let me do it, then made me sit on a lawn chair in the back yard as soon as I got back.) Any tears or swelling heals in record time, milk comes in right away (July 4 this time—only 2 days), baby gains back weight quickly, no milk production issues or breast infections or clogged ducts, and engorgement lasts less than a day (all of this provided baby feeds frequently). Placental site bleeding is minimal and short-lived. I might even be forgetting some things.

The other tidbit Suzanne gave Casey is, “when the milk flows, so will the tears.” This was especially helpful when my milk came in with Ruby and I found myself crying buckets for no particular reason (yes, engorgement hurts, but am I that upset about it?). Remembering this phrase helped me to just let the tears flow freely and not try to think of a reason. It also kept Casey from worrying what was wrong with me.

A few other helps for the days after delivery:

Olive oil on baby’s bum makes cleaning off meconium so much easier.

Honey on pads is soothing and healing.

Disposable diapers make nice ice packs for swelling.

Air and light to the perineum facilitates healing.

Frequent feedings and sunning a naked baby quickly eliminates jaundice.

Anyone out there have another tidbit to share?