Friday, November 7, 2014

Sammy (8) and Danner (1)

Before the next and final birthday of the year is upon me, I thought that I should post about the last two birthdays that we've had around here.


Sammy's birthday was in late September. He turned 8 years old - crazy I know. In true Sammy form he wanted a camo birthday. He wears camo almost everyday in some form or another, shirt, pants/shorts, and/or hat. He loves the hunting and wishes we had more birds and bunnies in our yeard so that he could hunt more. Several weeks before his birthday, he even bought himself a BB gun with money that he had been saving for months.

For Sammy's party, he wanted giant chocolate-chocolate chip cookies (no cake), shooting games with his BB gun and bow and arrow, and a marshmallow eating race. All his friends came decked out in camo and knives - true hunters never leave home without them.

There was a huge storm that was projected to hit right in the middle of his party. We just had time to finish all of the outside games before it started raining. Although the storm wasn't as massive as the news was making it out to be, it was enough to keep all the party-goers inside for the rest of the day. And what are you going to do with seven 6 through 11 year-olds stuck inside for a couple of hours? Watch an old Godzilla movie on youtube, of course (Sammy and Tom's idea)! The boys thought it was the best thing ever!

Thankfully even though he's a crazy, rough and tumble boy, he still loves to be snuggled and always makes sure to get plenty of hugs throughout the day. I hope he never grows out of that!


The youngest of the Cutlip crew turned one mid-October. My baby, one year old! He's such a sweet, easy-going, kinda crazy (gets wound up right before bed), little boy. He loves to be rough-housed with, loves Livvy as much, if not more, than Mama, has four teeth, can stand on his own, waves "bye, bye", says, "baa" (ball), "Maa" (mama), "Daaa" (daddy), and can sign "more" and sometimes "please". He's gaining more and more confidence standing by himself, and will probably be taking his first steps here real soon. Go slow, baby. No need to rush!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bye, Bye Summer - Hello School

Gone are the days of...

sleeping out in the tent night after night...

catching lizards, snakes, frogs, dragonfly nymphs, and watching moths emerge from their cocoons...

hunting bunnies in the back yard (Sammy killed his first one)...


playing at Wet Beaver Creek...

heading downtown for the 4th of July parade...

playing in the water with friends...

The mornings and evenings are getting chillier now. Yesterday morning I even had to forego sitting in my newly refinished front porch bench (with pretty cushions) because it was a little too chilly. It's been a great place to sit and welcome in the morning before the day begins.

Although most of the flowers in Noah's garden are already fading, the vegetable garden is in full bloom. We're eagerly awaiting it's yield in another couple of weeks - the sugar snap peas are especially coveted. We even have apples on the apple tree for the first time in four or five years. Yummy apple pies are in our future.

And as another summer passes away, so the need to get back to schooling has risen. It took me the first couple of weeks of August as the public school kids were heading back to school to realize that it was up to me as to when to start our schooling again. The beginning of August was definitely too soon to return to the books in my opinion, so I opted to wait. Unlike in years past when we've started back up after Labor Day, I chose the week before as our start. I used our annual Friday school day trip to the Coconino County Fair as an incentive for getting back to school with a good attitude - seemed to work fairly well.

Whether it's old age or just mommy brain, but I can't seem to remember how I've done school in the past, especially in regards to having a crawling infant. I remember our great routine that we had last year, I even spent hours mulling our schedule for this year, but... How did I do school when Jon was a wee one waking up from his morning nap when we still had an hour or so of school to accomplish?

The first day of school was the worst. It's gotten better in regards to settling everybody else back into our routine/schedule, but...(notice a theme here). Danner failed to read the part of the schedule that said that he was to play by himself for 30 minutes in the room adjacent to the school room with a gate at the door so he could see us. I clearly remember putting a gate at Livvy's bedroom door when she was about Danner's age and she would play very contentedly for up to an hour for her "rest time". Usually Danner is crawling around by himself exploring his world very willingly for at least 30 minutes. I truly thought he'd be fine exploring the guest bedroom, playing with special toys, behind the gate. The thing that makes Danner go from happy-go-lucky baby explorer to "you're torching me" screaming is the gate at the door.

The first day, and every consecutive day, Danner has stood at the gate, with snack in hand, crying big crocodile tears - totally disrupting school. He was so sad that Sammy teared up too because he felt so sorry for the little captive. If it wasn't for my three big kids, who are very sensitive to the cries of their youngest brother (which is very sweet, I have to admit), I know I could train Danner to be quite content with his 30 minute alone-play. But, every time they look over at that cute, chubby-cheeked, tear-stained face standing at the gate they beg me to let the him free, which, because I've gone soft, I comply. Oh, brother.

I know I tried something similar with Jon when he was a baby, I can't remember if it worked or not. I seem to recall Jon spending a lot of time on Livvy's lap while she did her school. If I can't seem to make the guest bedroom work for a play room for Danner, I might drag in his highchair or retrieve his jumper from the attic. I know we'll find something that works, I just hope it's sooner rather than later.

Although we've had a bit of a rocky start to school, I think it's going to be a good year. Even though I don't quiet feel enthusiastic about the year yet, and have questioned my abilities to manage, this year over all the years in the past, I feel pretty good about having all of my bases covered.

So, here's to a new year at home with my kiddos. - except for those momentary overwhelmed feelings that make me want to cry for just a couple of minutes, there is no place I'd rather be!!


Oh! And here are Danner's 9 & 10 month shots before he turns 11 months:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ben - 6 Years

A few months ago while we were sitting at McDonald's, I noticed the man behind us watching us. It's not that unusual to be watched, and even counted, because apparently we have more than the average number of kids. Out of the corner of my eye I could tell he was smiling, so I turned toward him to smile back. He told me that he has six daughters, the youngest being 20 and a grandson about the same age as Danner. With a serious yet gentle face, he told me that he was positive that she was just born yesterday - "It all goes so fast. Hold onto to these young years." I smiled back and thanked him for the encouragement. I'm trying.

Six years ago in July we had just moved into our Handyman Special. We had been working really hard for a little over a month to get the house livable so that we could move in before our 3rd baby was due to be born.

The night of July 21st Tom and I went for a walk, played a game with my mom, and then rushed to the hospital to have our Bubba Ben - by far the best and fastest of all my deliveries.

Ben has so many great qualities - creative, sensitive, and strong. He's made shoes out of plastic shoe inserts and duct tape, fixed the bathroom sink, and designed some very elaborate bunny traps (they really couldn't catch a fly, but they are very imaginative). He's a very fun kid, most of the time. He also has a tendency to be extremely strong-willed, stubborn, and foolish - he's a lot like me.

For his party he wanted a knights and dragon theme. Seemed easy enough.

The tough part was trying to come up with a cake that didn't have icing (Ben's not a big fan of icing). With some help from my honey and Livvy's cake-pop maker, I made some cake-pop dragons that took over a castle. I thought it turned out fairly well.

For games the kids played rescue the princesses (basically an obstacle course with the two girls at the party stuck in the fort waiting for their knights to rescue them from the  dragon balloons that the boys popped with their wooden swords that Tom and my dad made), pin the fire on the dragon, and launch marshmallows with popsicle stick catapults into the castles.

And, of course, on his actual birthday we had a special breakfast with more candles to blow out.

We love you Ben, oh so very much - even if you do drive me crazy every now and then.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Be Our Guest

Our house has four bedrooms - three for the kids, Tom and I, and a guest room. I love having that extra room. It allows us the opportunity to open the house comfortably to family and friends.

We love hosting overnight guests - or sometimes just a sleeping young-one whose parents wanted to stay later than bedtime and hang out for a bit. We enjoy staying up late and chatting. It's fun to cook and share meals. It's a huge blessing to do life with others, even if it's for a short time.

The guest room is frequented by my parents, or just my mom up for a couple of days a month. They like to come up, see us, help out with a project or two, and/or just have fun with the kids.

Back in February Lyle and Alexandra came down from Alaska and stayed for several nights. We took advantage of every minute - fun times for the kids, way too late nights for chatty adults.

At the beginning of March we had the pleasure of hosting a missionary on furlough from Indonesia. Charity, or Miss Charity as the kids lovingly call her, is the principal of an elementary school in Bandung. I knew Charity from my days in Campus Crusade at NAU. We didn't necessarily hang out in the same crowd, but we knew all the same people.

It was such a blessing to have her live with us for three months. Tom, the kids, and I enjoyed getting to know her better and hearing all her many, many stories. We also got to see the behind the scenes life of a missionary. An amazing experience for all of us.

In the mornings while the kids and I "did school", she would work on her grad school classes. Jon-Jon made sure she didn't study for too long, having her set timers when she was going to be done so he could go and let her know it was time to come out and play. She made sure to give her time equally to the kids. She read them stories (introduced us to the Llama Llama books, Jon-Jon's new favorites), played many, many games, went on a couple of field trips, and even got to witness our chicks being born.

In the afternoons she and I would have some time to chat or enjoy hunting down a favorite food not available in Indonesia - the pretzel dog at Sonic for one. Because she used to be an elementary school teacher, she was the perfect person to teach me several new techniques that should really help me out next year as I teach the kids.

The evenings were full of good food, entertaining and/or discussion-inducing movies, and more conversations. We shared all of our favorite foods with her, which she seemed to also enjoy probably because she appreciates "the crunch-factor" just like I do. And she could never resist a slice of specialty cheese with Tom. She and Tom could really get into some deep theological discussions - I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them debate the finer points of the law being a tutor vs. guardian, for example.

She left the first of June to spend her last several of weeks in the US with some friends and family. It's so amazing to me how easily and naturally she became apart of our family. We all miss her very much.

Just two weeks after Charity left, Tom's parents came for their bi-annual visit. We had lots of fun flying kites, fishing, and bowling together. Most likely they'll be back in November or December. Dad helped get our garden tilled so that we could plant and a couple other little odd jobs here and there. Mom was a huge help with cleaning windows, blinds, etc - all those things you know need to be done but you just can't find or make the time to do. We really look forward to having them back!

So, for the first time since February, the guest room is empty with no plans of being occupied anytime soon. I don't even think my mom has any plans on coming up, though she'll have a kid at a time with them down in Phoenix for the kids' Oma Camp.

Now that it is truly summer with guests gone, little to no school to speak of, we're trying to find our new norm in the absence of our usual routine. Thankfully we have few commitments and/or activities. Each day is different, a women's Bible study at a park, summer movies, trips to the creek, and lots of time to play with neighbor kids until it's time to come in for dinner.

Anybody want to come to Flagstaff, get out of the heat, enjoy the mountain air? Our guest room is available.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

School Days

Discovery Day kids with their final presentations
I wrote the majority of this post awhile ago. Due to limited time in the evenings to blog (ie, I had other/better things to do - more about that next time) I never quiet finished it. But now, on the eve of our final school presentations, I want to make sure to publish this so as not to forget - once summer has come and gone, I'm going to need to look back on this to remember what and how we "did school".


As far as routines/chores go, I think we're in a pretty groove right now - not that we don't slip and/or have to have mama there every second to direct (I'm praying for the day when they'll remember that every morning they...and just do it. Ha!  But, there are such things as miracles.)

So that I don't forget this season and for anyone out there that might need an idea to springboard off of, this is how we do life/school, starting first thing in the morning when everybody stumbles out of bed. Are you ready?

Somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30 am we all wake up. The kids get dressed and throw their laundry down the laundry chute, and come downstairs. Sammy sorts and starts a new load of laundry while Ben unloads the dryer from the day before into individual baskets (everybody has their own laundry basket that their clothes are sorted into). Livvy and Jon unload the dishwasher (I run the dishwasher every night after dinner). Then we all sit down and have breakfast. If I'm finished eating before the kids I will pull out the Bible and start reading the Bible lesson for the day. <We just switched our chores, Livvy used to be in charge of laundry, but now Sammy is taking over her job and Livvy is in charge of Jon - getting him dressed, doing chores, etc.>

After breakfast the kids put their dishes in dishwasher and do table chores: Ben clears table (he needs LOTS of reminders to do EVERYTHING), Livvy and Sammy alternate days & jobs: one washes table, the other sweeps floor after every meal. Then the kids grab their laundry baskets, take it to their rooms, and put away their clothes (shirts are hung up, socks, and underwear go into baskets in their drawers, pants are shoved into drawers - I used to try to make them fold them, but I've given that up). Sammy puts away his clothes and helps Jon put his away as well. Danner's, Tom's and my laundry all get put into one basket that I am responsible to put away.

Once everyone is rounded back up again, usually between 8:30 and 9am, we gather on the couch or at the table again to start "school". Regrading school, we're currently using My Father's World, Creation to the Greeks (and loving it!) for our Bible, geography/history, and science. For math the big kids (Livvy and Sammy) are using Teaching Textbooks, Livvy does Rod and Staff English/Grammer and spelling, and for Sammy and Ben's reading I use All About Reading (although Sammy actually just finished Level 2 and I'm not sure what I'm going to do with him next). And I think that's about it. We get together on Thursdays for our Discovery Day co-op. During that time we do Spanish, science, art, and writing using IEW. The kids and I LOVE the family we get to co-op with - they are such a blessing!

Anyway, back to the couch. We start, or wrap up, our Bible along with history/geography. If we're on the couch reading, and Ben and Jon are having a hard time paying attention, I'll have them sit on their blankets and play with a couple of toys (Ben is perfectly fine with this and somehow listens very well to what we're reading. Jon, on the other hand, doesn't really like toys and so will usually just lay there and suck his thumb). If we're at the table copying verses or journaling (illustrating the Bible story that we read), Ben and Jon like to sit down too. Ben usually draws his version of the story while Jon grabs his markers and a piece of paper to make his "A's". Even though I don't necessarily require Ben to listen to the Bible and history readings, I'm always amazed at how much he hears.

Most mornings we're done with our Bible/History/Geography around 10am and then we take a 10-15 minute break before moving into the school room. Every year I write up a nice neat little schedule of what each kid will be doing in 15-30 min time frames between the hours of 9am - 12 pm and every year without fail, I do something different (not completely different, just slightly), for the life on me I can't seem to stick to it - I like having it there to reference things that need/should be accomplished in the day, but it never seems to happen in that order. Oh well.

I sit down with Ben first. I use a mix of All About Reading Pre-Level 1 and My Father's World Kindergarten - I've half given up trying to come up with fun little crafty things for him to do, he just doesn't care. As soon as I'm done sitting with him, he gets to do a lesson or two, along with games, of Reading Eggs. He's also supposed to spend 15 minutes in the "reading nook" (looking at books). That doesn't happen as often as it should - it's one of those things that gets forgotten about. He does, however, end up looking at books on his own, just not during "school" as I had planned.

While I'm sitting with Ben, Livvy and Sammy start going through their list of daily activities, usually beginning with their math. I switched both of them over to Teaching Textbooks soon after Danner was born - I just couldn't find/make the time anymore to go over each of their math lessons like before (and even then, I never really did that great of a job - crazy that math was one of my favorite subjects when I was in school).

If you look really close at this picture you can see Jon sitting on the couch in the background. He's watching his new favorite thing to watch during school - Baby Einstein On the Farm. He used to sit in the school room and play with one of the many boxes of school toys. But right now he's into Baby Einstein and I'm okay with that for now. 

After the big kids are done with their math, they move onto their next task - Livvy has English, spelling, piano, and some more math (a mental math workbook and a math facts worksheet). Sammy moves on to his extra math, silent reading, and then reading/spelling/pre-English with me - like I said, we're still trying to figure out what to do next.

Danner seems to nap during a good portion of school which is very nice. Once he's up and nursed, he's usually passed around, jumps in his jumper which hangs in the school room door, or rolls around on the floor...or a combination of the three.

Around noon we usually eat lunch. As soon as we're done eating and everybody has done their table chores, we sit down and have story time.  We'll read a book or two that pertains to school and/or just some fun stories.  After that, usually between 1:00 & 2 pm we have rest time - everybody goes to there own space for at least 30 mins, if not an hour.  I love this time - I get to lay down for 10-15+ minutes and then catch up on e-mails or anything that requires my undivided attention.

When the kids are done with rest time, they do their afternoon chores: Sammy and Ben switch the load of laundry from the washing machine to the dryer, Livvy and Jon run out to the chicken coop, checks their food and water situation (do they have any), and grabs any eggs. They're also supposed to feed and water Phoebe the cat, though she is forgotten and the cat goes hungry. Sorry Phoebe.

Once afternoon chores are done, it's snack time and a mix of anything that wasn't done before rest time like writing, Greek words, piano, etc, and free time until dinner.

In between and during everything there are lots of breaks, moments where play breaks out and is allowed to continue so that I can get something else done, enjoy some downtime, or nurse the baby.

So there you have it, that's a typical day in our household, just in case you were curious.  Although it's a very fluid system, it seems to work for us, for now. Key words, "for now". I'll be sure to post if we change anything dramatically, but this is how we've basically done things for at least 3 years. Every season requires tweaking here and there, but the base seems constant - it's what keeps me sane. And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jon-Jon is 3!

This one seriously almost escaped me. Not that I've had an incredible amount of free time and just completely spaced blogging about Jon's birthday, but...I did kinda completely space blogging about Jon's birthday.  Whoops.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, Jon, my Little-Big-Man, and our most lovable Lil' Napoleon turned three at the end of March. I made him a yellow dinosaur cake because he loves the color yellow - he could care less about dinosaurs. 

Jon and his bestest friend Natalie.

Figuring out a present for Jon was a bit challenging. The kid doesn't really play with toys. He's very imaginative, very articulate, but toys just aren't his thing. As we were outside one day, I watched Jon scoot along on a trike, trying unsuccessfully to keep up with the big kids - his legs are too short for the pedals so it made for very slow going for the little guy.

Light-bulb moment! "The kid needs a bike!" I rallied the grandparents and we all chipped in to get Jon a yellow glider bike. He loves it! Though he's still not as fast as the big kids on their bikes, his glider bike has allowed him to pick-up some speed and at least feel like a big kid. And the second best thing about the bike - it can be passed down to Danner when he's bigger! Yeah!

Happy belated birthday my sweet little man!!