The Never-Ending Winter.

Long ago, when we were packing up for our move to Chicago, people told us, “There are two seasons in Chicago: Winter (which lasts about 6 months) and Summer.” I wasn’t sure I believed it. Now I do.

When I opened our heating bill yesterday, I was brutally reminded of what a cold and harsh winter this has been! We are back to the bone-chilling temperatures again, which we notice as soon as we pull back the covers in the morning and attempt to put our feet on the cold, drafty floor.

Our home is definitely not well insulated; freezing in the winter and super hot in the summer., our two main seasons. We very much cherish the few short weeks a year when we get in between temperatures! Even the boys are starting to bemoan the constant cold and icy snow. The other day we were walking home from school and Zakkai suddenly exclaimed, “Mommy, look! Grass!”

It has been so long since we’ve seen it that it was like seeing an oasis in the desert! Unfortunately, the grass will be covered up tomorrow in the next of our winter storms. I am much too seasoned to say it will be our last!

Zakkai is feeling much better from his illness. I think he has been battling a sinus infection and he hasn’t been able to taste his food, which is a big disappointment for someone who enjoys his food so much! Hopefully it will pass soon. Thankfully, everyone else is fairly healthy, a little congestion aside.

There isn’t too much else going on, besides just trying to figure out which direction our life is supposed to take. You know, minor things like that:) We are kind of at this stuck, cross-roads place. This really, really (really) long waiting place that has grown stale and we are trying to figure out what is best for our family right now. Ben just happened to pick up the boys’ copy of “Oh The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Suess last night and go figure, it really spoke to him about where we are and what life looks like sometimes. If you haven’t read it, you should! Dr Suess clearly experienced a lot of things in his life if he was able to write a book like that. It’s funny that even the words of a simple kid’s book can sometimes touch you.

It would be really nice if there were a big flashing billboard telling us what will happen next or what to do. If you see one of those, let me know, okay?

We are trying to find some fun little things to do together as a family, to offset the serious life discussions:) It helped to have recent birthdays and we do have our upcoming anniversary to look forward to. We’ve been having fun with Zakkai’s new Wii Mario Kart and having some fun races. Eliana has even taken some turns and loves being Baby Princess Peach! Sometimes at night, I’ll say, “Goodnight, Baby Peach” and she said, “Good night, Mommy Princess!” She’s a little joy, that one!

Here are a few cell phone pics over that past few weeks:

This is our new favorite cereal! It is too expensive to buy more than every once in awhile but wow! It is REALLY good!

I made bread bowls for the first time a month ago and was very impressed that they actually turned out:)

We had them with Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Next time I would make them smaller since they rose SO high and were impossible to finish!

Eliana wanted to match with Baby Anna for church a few weeks ago:)

Ben’s mom sent a special Valentine’s Day box for the kiddos and in it were these lips that make funny zipping whistling sounds. For the next few days, our home was filled with a joyful noise, even while doing homework!

Even Moosie got a pink one:)

A couple weeks ago on Saturday, we went to one of our favorite nearby libraries to stock up on books. They had ipads that the kids could take a turn on and we let them play for a little bit.

Eliana put a pair of earphones on but I’m almost certain they weren’t even working! She likes to feel like she is big like her brothers:)

Last week when I did our grocery shopping for the rest of the month, it was so slushy and gross out that I couldn’t bring the bags all the way in the house. I stopped on the towel that I keep by the door for boots/shoes and set the bags down, trip after trip. I noticed Eliana dragging a few bags away and when I was done, this is what I found! She is such a big helper for me:) The funny thing is, she kept telling me, as I was putting away the groceries, “Mama, You are such a good helper!”

Have a great Thursday!

Chocolate Cake and Germs!

 It will seem weird going to sleep before 11 pm tonight now that the Olympics are over. I admit that, although I will miss having something interesting on tv to watch, it will be nice not to wake up tired every morning!

On Friday, after I put Baby C down for his morning nap, Eliana and I made a chocolate cake for Zakkai’s birthday! She was my very big helper, as she usually is when I bake and she was very excited that she would be tasting this cake, too! Later when I mixed up the icing, with Baby C hanging on my leg, I let E lick one of the beaters:)

Mmm! Baby C would’ve loved a lick of the frosting but I was pretty sure his mommy would say no to that one:) Maybe when he’s bigger!

I am terrible at icing cakes. Definitely not my forte but I figure, as long as it tastes good, it’s all good!

After a delicious dinner of pizza (which, I might add, is heartily improved by B’s new pizza stone and a new sauce we whipped up!), we lit up the magical 7 candled cake and got ready to serenade our sweet guy.

Sweet face!

He said he didn’t need a wish since he already had a birthday:) There was barely a peep our of all as they gobbled up the delicious Ghirardelli chocolate cake. Once I discovered how delicious everything is with that chocolate, I could not go back!

Saturday, we met our good friends at this really cool indoor playground and passed the morning getting the kiddos energy out. Always a favorite choice! Eliana was SOO tired from staying up late partying for Z the night before and going down slides that she fell sound asleep on the way home, despite all vehement protests that she wasn’t tired:)

Yesterday morning, Zakkai woke up sick. I thought it was strange that he wasn’t downstairs with Eliana and Samuel and found him curled up in bed reading. Very strange! Upon closer inspection, I found him flushed with fever and complaining of a headache:( We spent a quiet morning at home instead of going to church. Well, Zakkai was quiet anyways!

Samuel and Eliana practiced headstands! Almost Samuel…

A little higher!

Well, try again!

 Bingo!

Uh-oh, it’s a copycat!

Trying her hardest!

Show off:)

Hard work, isn’t it, Missy Girl?!

Practicing my camera shots on the Big Bird chair of Ben’s childhood:) 30+ years old and still going strong….

See how perseverance pays off?! Well, with a little help anyways:)

We ended up playing a board game to pass some time, which was really nice. Zakkai perked up for a little while to play and then went back to hanging out on the couch reading. He was just congested and feverish, with swollen throat glands. Needless to say, since he still had a fever when we went to bed late, he stayed home from school today.

He was fever-free today and reclaimed much of his chattiness throughout the day! His throat is still pretty swollen and I am hoping that gets better as he sleeps. He had to walk with E and I to go get Samuel this afternoon and we ran into one of his classmates, who was home today with the exact same symptoms! We found out there were at least 3 of them out with the same virus. Hopefully it is short-lived and none of the rest of us share in his brotherly love.

We can only hope!

Happy Birthday, Z-man!

Our little Z-man isn’t so little anymore! He is officially 7 years old now. Or 7 years and 6 hours old, he would like you to know:)

I usually relive my memories of each kiddos birth on their birthday but I have barely had the chance to think today and it’s still so hard for me to wrap my mind around his age! He was the cutest little baby, with his full head of dark hair and his little triangle-shaped nostrils:) He was loud, too!

And….that hasn’t changed!

Since he is getting a multi-day birthday celebration and this is is off-year for a party, I wanted to do a little something to make him feel special today. Ben and I decorated a birthday chair for him and blew up 7 balloons!

He came down to his “throne” and a special breakfast of mini chocolate chip pancake muffins, OJ and scrambled eggs! A good start:)

He is so darn cute! I think he looks so grown-up in this picture! He used to be SO chubby and he has gotten so lean, which is pretty amazing, quite frankly, considering how much he loves to eat! haha. Such a sweet boy.

After school, I had his presents from Grandma waiting by his throne and he was very excited to open them!

This is a classic Zakkai face right here, folks. This means he really likes something! He’s a goofy kid, alright!

A few things about our Zany Zakkai:

*He loves his name! And it really suits him, too. Only one random person ever tried to shorten it to “Zak” on purpose and we quickly nipped that in the bud. But people most often glance at his name and call him “Zachary” or “Zakkaia” (with an “a” sound on the end).

*His favorite color is red. He decided that a long time ago when he realized Samuel’s favorite color was also red. Samuel tried his darndest to get Z to change it to orange (which is Z’s 2nd favorite color!) but red stuck:)

*He is crazy about reading! His top favorites are Magic Tree House, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and information books. We started reading to all of our kiddos at very young ages (2 months old) regularly and we have always encouraged it and make regular trips to the library. I think it’s rubbing off!

*Zakkai is insanely and mysteriously good at figuring out how electronics work. He is naturally mechanically-minded and at Christmas time, he was the one who was able to help my grandparents figure out how some of their own electronics worked! He has a snap-circuit set we got him for Christmas last year and he just adores it. It fits him to a tee!

*Zakkai is a master at the coolest Lego inventions! Probably because of his engineering mind! I will have to take pictures sometime of his inventions. Maybe he will invent something for real someday…

*Z adores math! It just blossomed this year. We found out before Christmas that he was in the highest math class and we had no idea! He is in Math Club right now and it’s too easy for him but he loves it:) He finished his first math book for the year last week and got a brand-new one yesterday. He talked about it for days, he was so excited. I was never excited about math so this is foreign to me!

*He loves to be tickle tortured by Daddy. He would not admit it to you and often cries wolf and screams like you wouldn’t believe! But he always comes back for more and his giggle is heart-warming!

*Z is very bossy. Oh yes. He figured out the one person he can boss around is Little Sister and he takes full advantage of it! We call him our “policeman” and often have to crack down on him and get him to be gentler with his words and less “daddy-like” with her. He means well….

*His favorite foods are spaghetti and chocolate! He very very recently stopped calling it “pasketti” because Samuel kept correcting him. He loves the sauce most of all and lots of it! And every birthday without exception, he asks for a chocolate cake:) That’s my boy!

*His least favorite foods are peanut butter (never tried it and refuses to!) and potatoes. Excepting french fries:) He didn’t believe us for the longest time that french fries were made out of potatoes but we finally convinced him. All other forms of potatoes cause a serious look of disgust on his face and he can barely choke them down.

*Zakkai talks in his sleep and we can get him up to go to the bathroom and have conversations with him and he never remembers a thing in the morning! He even fell out of bed last week and called for me and tried really hard to tell me something and had no idea it happened.

Zakkai is smart and funny, vibrant and spunky, sweet and eager to please. We are so thankful for this person who brings so much life and joy to our home. He may give us some gray hairs sometimes but we wouldn’t trade him in for anything in the world! He is a special one-of-a kind boy and we adore him!

Happy Birthday, Zakkai! We love you!

Toothless and Veggie Galore!

 Mr. Z lost another tooth, just in time for his birthday! We are notorious for our slow teeth-losing so I am guessing this may be it for awhile:)

He’s pretty cute with missing teeth!

We have always loved his baby blue’s! We are going to have to divide his birthday celebrations into a couple of days. Ben won’t be home tomorrow so I will make Zakkai’s special birthday dinner and he will get to open some presents (he has a small pile waiting from his Grandma!) and he very sweetly agreed to having a cake and opening his present from us on Friday night when Ben can be with us. Who can say no to ongoing birthday celebrations!

I figured out the secret to getting everyone to fulfill their vegetable quotas ~ veggie trays! I grabbed one at Sam’s Club a few weeks ago on a secretly hopeful whim and was pleasantly surprised to see how much vegetable consumption went on that week! I don’t have to cut up lots of vegetables and everyone really loves picking out whichever ones they like and munching. Win win!

Eliana especially loves the veggie tray! She gets upset when I put it away:) She adores sugar snap peas, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and peppers. She would munch on them for an hour if I let her!

I figure $9.98 once a week is a good way to spend some of our grocery money! It’s much cheaper to get a bigger tray at Sam’s than it is at the grocery store. It does take up a lot of room in the fridge and maybe it would be cheaper to buy them all separately and cut them up but honestly? I don’t really care! I am usually so careful about splurging on food items because we have a tight budget to adhere to (which gets tighter each month it seems, with all these growing munchkins!) but this is worth any extra pennies to me.

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The weather has turned beautiful in the past couple of days! Beautiful for winter anyways:) The sun is shining and melting the icicles and snow (never mind the slushy mess) and the warmer air feels so good after so many weeks of frigid temperatures. Who knew 38 could feel like 60 degrees? It gives one hope that life will emerge after the harshness of the winter months.

I feel that way about life in general, not just the weather. Hoping for new life to emerge. It has been a very harsh winter for us, especially the past month, and I am beyond ready for some little green blossoms of hope to sprout. We are so thankful for all of the continued prayers and encouragement we have received from our family and friends. We are even really thankful when people honestly say to us, “I have no idea what to say to you. I don’t understand all of this either but I am praying for you.”

It’s nice to just have people care and be there with you in the tough moments and to not always try to fill the silence of your pain. To just let you be sad for a little while. While I am so thankful for all of our family and friends who have supported and prayed for us, I am especially thankful to my mom, Ben’s mom and my Grandma for loving us through all of these years and for being our prayer warriors!

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Anyone else been watching the Olympics? Even though NBC’s coverage stinks, I still enjoy being able to turn on the tv in the evenings and have something fun to look forward to. It will be hard to get used to going back to nothing once it ends this weekend! I really enjoyed the ice dancing the other night and watching our couple win the gold. Does anyone else think she looks like Princess Jasmine??

Samuel has loved the snowboarding events and even went to the library and picked out a book about snowboarding. I can’t quite picture him doing the half-pipe or snowboarding down a mountain but stranger things have happened!

I am off to pick up my boys from school…

More Snow…

 After so many weeks of a grueling winter, we dread checking the forecast! I avoid it as much as possible. Ben got up to drive to work today and there was a lot of snow falling and it continued ALL day long so he ended up having today as his work from home day instead of Wednesday.

The boys spent pretty much most of the day outside sledding! Their good buddy Mikey has a couple of sleds and he has been bringing them out all weekend. They sled down the huge mound of snow out by the end of the sidewalk (away from the street!).

There goes Samuel for sledding round #435!

I didn’t feel like walking out into the snow, as pretty as it is freshly falling, and instead stood under the porch snapping pictures like a mommy stalker:) Yesterday the temperatures got warm enough that the seriously dangerous icicles that have been building up on the roof over the past couple of weeks started to fall. Whoa! It sounded almost like thunder as they slid of the porch roof and crashed!

We made the boys stay far away from the icicles because someone could get seriously injured; these are SO heavy and big.

Can you tell Samuel was having fun in the snow??!

He didn’t want to come in for dinner!

Today, Ben resumed our special date time with the boys by taking Zakkai out for lunch at a little place nearby with hotdogs and other junky cheap stuff:) Just what a kid loves! They had a good time talking and spending time together. Now it’s my turn with Samuel and before we know it, we’ll be adding Eliana into the mix!

We also did a tiny bit of rearranging today. I felt the bug creeping back in over the past week or so and since Ben wouldn’t let me move our atrociously heavy couch, which scratches the wood floors, I moved a couple other smaller pieces. I had to rearrange Eliana’s room, too, to make room for her dollhouse, as Baby C has found it a fun thing to check out lately:) She was very happy helping me fix up her room. Which really means she was asking lots of questions and playing “hide and seek.”

Eliana has a newfound love for playing hide and seek with me, which consists of her saying, “Mommy, find me!” And then she runs to her “hiding spot” and giggles loudly while calling, “I’m over here behind the couch!” or “I’m behind the chair! Find me!” Ha! She gets such joy out of it:)

We are gearing up for birthday #2 this week! We’ll have one happy little boy in a few days:)

Birthday Celebrations, Pizza and Cute Girls in Pink!

Do I win the prize for most boring blogger ever this week? A medal perhaps? My blog is about as exciting as NBC’s Olympic coverage….

Yesterday, we had the honor of making our main guy feel like King of His Mountain! It was Birthentine’s Day! The boys and I were up early, sprucing up the place and making a yummy breakfast of homemade biscuits with lemon curd, sausage patties and OJ. A nice change from our standard weekly fare of cereal!

I did something fun this year to show my family that I think they are pretty special! I cut out lots of pink and red hearts, 4 each for the kiddos and 8 for Ben, and wrote on each of theirs something I love about them. I taped the first one by their beds so they would see them first thing, put on on the wall coming downstairs, one at each place at the table and one little one in the boys’ lunch boxes. Eliana’s were a little lower so she could find them; even one on Baby Anna! Ben’s I hid all around the house, like on his desk or on his coffee grinder, a sure place for him to look:)

They all really enjoyed it!

Here is our littlest Valentine, checking out her hearts:)

I loved her outfit and braids yesterday! She was very Valentine-y.

She moved her hearts all around the house all day:)

The kiddos worked very hard on a “Happy B-day Daddy” sign and were very excited to surprise Daddy with it!

So colorful!

The boys hung up all of the streamers:) We had pink from when Eliana was born and red from Z’s party last year.

Later in the morning, Ben got suckered into playing with Eliana’s dollhouse by a cute little 3 year old:)

They worked hard to set up all the furniture!

Hard to resist a little girl with purple glasses and beautiful blond braids!

Oh and the dimple doesn’t help either:)

Giving me the stink eye! She thought she was pretty funny!

We presented our guy with a pizza stone for his birthday, something he has been wanted in hopes of perfecting our homemade pizza! He was really happy about it and is about to use it for the first time tonight.

The reason we didn’t have our Friday night pizza is because I treated Ben to lasagna last night! I wasn’t sure I was going to do it but I know it is one of his favorite meals and they do say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…..

He was thrilled to pieces! He and Zakkai, I should say. They share the same hearty appetites and often like the exact same things:) Eliana declared the “Tasagna” good! I wasn’t sure if she would even try it, having an unpredictable 3 year old appetite but she did! She thinks it’s “telicious!” ha;) I feasted on salad and breadsticks. Yum. I tried a specially cheese-less tiny corner piece of the lasagna just to be a good sport. I’m pretty sure my taste buds will not change on this one but the sauce was delicious!

We finished our evening with ice cream sundaes and a movie. A nice quiet night! Now tonight, we’ll see if we can bring our pizza to a whole new level….

Olypmic Watching and Bookworms.

 We spent most of the weekend, aside from a birthday party and church, holed up inside watching the Olympics! Our good friends treated us with pizza Friday night and stayed to watch the opening ceremonies. I don’t think either one of us has ever enjoyed opening ceremonies so much before:) It involved a lot of laughter and jokes, that’s for sure!

The boys are just crazy about the Olympics and are loving every minute of being able to watch. They can barely even tear them away from the “boring” sports, even while they are complaining about how boring they are! So far our favorite sports are the ice skating, of course, the snowboarding and the ends of the cross-country skiing/shooting races (what do they call that sport?). The announcer that gets hysterical as each person comes up to the finish line cracks us up! We got Miss E twirling around the living room with the ice skaters last night. It was so cute! I will have to get a video if she does it again…

This little lady got herself a yucky stomach bug on Thursday night/Friday morning and was up allllll night with me. She was pretty puny on Friday and took a 3 hour nap, a rare occurance anymore. She is feeling much better now!

Yesterday she decided to dress in her matching dress with Baby Anna for church and agreed very amicably to pose for pictures:)

The thoughtful pose….

Eliana’s best friend! Has there ever been a more loved little baby doll??

We have a couple of birthdays coming up in our household in the next week and a half! First my dearest Valentine will turn more 30ish something on Friday and next week Zakkai will turn SEVEN. Gosh, that’s crazy! Wasn’t he just our fat little Buddha baby only last week?

Zakkai got to go to a bowling party on Saturday and he loved it! If it’s not too expensive, we may try to see if we can go bowling next weekend for his birthday. He was my buddy on Saturday. Ben felt cruddy all day with a sinus infection and Eliana was still so-so. They hung out at home and Samuel played outside while Zakkai and I battled the snow (is this snow storm #47?) to run to the store, the party and to the library. We have lots of books to keep us company on these cold, snowy days now!

All of our kiddos are really into reading these days. Just like Samuel, Zakkai’s love for reading has been fueled by the Magic Tree House series! We often find him with a book stashed nearby, sometimes in funny places. And Samuel has gotten into the Hardy Boys series!  I am glad he has finally picked a series that isn’t too easy for him. He really loves them and spends long (long) minutes telling me the plot of every one he reads:)

Eliana is into the Fancy Nancy series, or “Fancy Wancy” as she calls her:) It’s about a little girl who loves to dress fancy and use fancy words. It’s very cute. I wonder if that fueled E’s new love for her sparkly princess dress? This promises to be a fun year with her, as she is really getting into dressing up, playing with Barbies and being a fun little girl!

Hope it’s a good start to the week!