Road trip!

Before we had kids, our trips were always adventurous - hiking and camping and traveling to other countries. Now I just want to sit on a beach and relax. So we did. Of course, we had to drive 15 hours to get there but it was worth it. We rented a little place on the North Carolina shore. We could walk right out the back door and be at the beach in a matter of steps - which meant I didn't have to worry about finding a bathrooms or taking along diapers for the little people. That my friends, is vacation bliss for a mom! 

Craig's sister Steph was even able to drive over for a couple nights. It's always nice to catch up with her and the kids love their auntie Steph which means mommy gets even more of a break!

You might notice the absence of cute photos of children playing in the water. They both refused to touch the water. Jonah got wet once accidentally and it "traumatized" him so much he walked past Lucy's sand castle, past our umbrellas and towels and would have walked all the way back to our house if we didn't stop him. Lucy was not really much better. This actually had its upside. I was actually able to sit and read a book without worrying about them drowning and they had enough fun searching for seashells all of which they insisted we bring home (anyone have idea for sea shell crafts? We probably have 100+)
trip5 035

This is close enough Mom!

We eventually bought them a baby pool so we didn't have to keep filling buckets for them. 

trip4 045

trip4 040

trip4 035

trip5 041

trip5 009

Bible time and bedtime stories overlooking the waves - a great way to end your nights!

trip1 097

Of course, we still managed to have some adventures, both there and on the way home - ice cream and dancing to oldies on the boardwalk, hiking amongst venus fly traps and other carnivorous plants, a trip to the aquarium, visiting a battleship, touring Carl Sandburg's home and hiking in the Smoky mountains.

trip3 022

trip3 021

trip3 014

trip3 009

aquarium 053

aquarium 040

trip2 074

trip2 026

trip4 027

trip4 019

trip4 004

I planned on putting him in the Boba for the hike but he insisted "No, Jonah Jonah!" He's probably one of the few one year olds who can say he's hiked part of the Appalachian trail - if he could say "appalachian trail" that is.

trip5 145

Mountain Farm site at the Smoky Mountains National Park was a last minute addition that ended up being one of our favorite stops. It was really neat for Lucy to see some of the things she had learned about in the Little House series.
trip5 101

Carl Sandburg's home was fun too.In addition to the cute goats, there was one big take home message. Stop feeling guilty about how many books you own. Compared to him it is probably nothing and if you do get close to his level, you can always resort to having an fire hose installed in the staircase like his wife insisted on. I'd like to say her fear of fire was irrational but that really was a lot of paper in that house!

trip5 060

And that's what I did on my summer vacation.


Spoiled but not rotten

We've been having lots of fun for the past two weeks ending with Lucy's birthday celebration Monday AND Tuesday when my dad and his wife Cindy were here for a visit. What can I say, one day just isn't enough when you are turning four.

We let her open her big present from my dad early so the men folk could put it together. It didn't take them too long even with all the "help" they got.

lucy4thbday 014 - Copy

lucy4thbday 018 - Copy

The kids were so excited to start climbing. I think this is going to be the outside toy of the summer.

lucy4thbday 023 - Copy

And this isn't a great picture but I love it because it shows both kid's personalities so well. Lucy climbed a bit then ran to her helmet. We tried telling her it probably wasn't necessary but she remained unconvinced. Even then, it took her a whole day before she was willing to go to the top. Jonah on the other hand, took about 30 seconds to get to the top. Craig stayed with him at first, mostly to teach him to use his arms to slowly lower himself down to the ground again and not just fling himself off. But he would say "weeeee" as he went down, then "more!" and climb right back up again. Now that Lucy's gotten comfortable on it, she's up at the top or hanging upside too, it just took her a little while to get there.
lucy4thbday 075

Then we needed some candles, cake and ice cream.


Lucy requested "vanilla cake with chocolate frosting that is round" so I made a Gluten Free vanilla bean cake with strawberry filling and chocolate ganache with homemade vanilla ice cream to top it off. Jonah approved!

lucy4thbday 067

And more presents. Four has been my favorite birthday because she knew it was coming and has been excited for a while. And it did not disappoint her. She was so excited for every single present. This was her face each time! New Book! Anna apron! Ballerina Dress! Hanger for ballerina dress!

lucy4thbday 037 - Copy

And yes, she got lots of new dress up clothes and at one point she and Jonah both had multiple items on. I'm really glad I got two pairs of butterfly wings :-)

lucy4thbday 071

She also got a big set of unit blocks from Craig's parents. She and Jonah had a smaller set of wooden blocks that they used on occasion but got frustrated with if they were both trying to build a tower. This new set has tons of pieces but they are also the special unit block type. I've read great things about them but was still surprised just how quickly Lucy started building very imaginative things. She's already built an airplane, a boat, "the city" (complete with it's arch!) and used the little peg people it came with to act out billy goats gruff and cinderella. And it's only been two days. I've become a unit block believer.

lucy4thbday 055 - Copy

Jonah likes the blocks for building towers to knock down and for throwing but he also had a lot of fun with the box they came in :-) Here he and Cindy were putting his "eebee" to sleep, saying shhhh, then opening the box to wake him up again. I think they did this probably 20+ times.

lucy4thbday 054 - Copy

lucy4thbday 045 - Copy

Whew, all this fun is wearing me out. 


Practically a grown-up

lucy4thbday 056

Dear Lucy,

I can't believe that four years ago I became a mother. Welcoming you into my life was one of the very best things that has ever happened to me and every year you just gets better and better. I have loved watching you grow from my little baby turn into a little girl. Even the parts of you that sometimes exasperate me are really wonderfully qualities that are just missing a little bit of self-control but I'm sure God will use them later in your life for a wonderful purpose. You are sweet and loving and emotional and dramatic and curious and thoughtful and cautious and smart and witty and wonderful! I can't wait to see what the next year brings.

But before that, a quick look at how Lucy views herself with her annual question update:

What is your favorite color? Blue

What is your favorite toy? Blocks

What is your favorite game? Hide and Seek

What is your favorite song? Jesus Loves Me

What is your favorite animal? Elephant

What is your favorite book? Don't let the pigeon drive the bus (I don't think she has read this book in over a year. I think a more accurate response would be the Little House on the Prairie series or the Maple Hill Farm books)

What do you like to snuggle with at night? Puppy (And horsey and green blanket. Those are what she calls her "lovies")

What is your favorite movie? Mary Poppins (Again, this was a random response. we all really thought she would say Frozen)

What is your favorite thing to eat? Broccoli

Where is your favorite place to go? Library

What is your favorite outfit? Elsa Dress

What do you like to learn about? Flowers (Probably because that is our current preschool topic :-)

What have you learned in the last year? To ride a bike

What is hard for you? Cleaning up high

What is your favorite thing to do as a family? Stay home 

What do you like about Mommy? That you're so sweet

What do you like about Daddy? I don't like that he goes to work but I do like that he comes home.

What do you like about Jonah?  Nothing! Uhm, that he likes to hug me. 

What do you like about yourself? That I have good ideas. 

What do you want to be when you grow up? A pizza seller. 


MEP Reception Review

I thought I had talked about MEP Math previously but I can't find it anywhere around here so I guess I'm just having another case of mommy brain. But back last fall Lucy was going through the Rod and Staff Preschool books and finished them up but was begging me for more school, mostly math. I was trying to hold her off and MEP reception was our compromise.

MEP stands for Mathematics Enhancement Programme and it is, as the spelling might indicate, British. I believe it was put together after research on Hungarian Math programs which are top rated but is available free of charge to British schools - and anyone with access to the world wide web. Free - you just got to print it (or use it on screen).  I started Lucy with their Reception which, depending on who you ask, is the equivalent of Preschool or Kindergarten. We just finished it up last month and I thought I'd tell you what we thought.

We both loved it!

Oh, you want more? I think it is great, especially in being developmentally appropriate for young children in terms of working deep concepts but in very tangible ways. It's all based on talking and looking at pictures, holding up fingers or clapping and basically having fun. There is some coloring but no writing of numerals, or even seeing numerals. Because its visually, they can talk and ask about addition and subtraction and even pretty tricky concepts like "how many more" without issue. It's spiral in that it works with a variety of concepts within each lesson, slowly advancing them.

Lucy really enjoyed it as well. She asked for it daily, so much so that I thought we were going through it too fast so I purchased Singapore Essentials Math A and B, one of the Singapore Kindergarten programs to use as filler. I picked that one because it is fairly inexpensive and from reviews seemed to be something that I could just let her do a few pages with each day without worrying about getting manipulatives out and such. I don't want this to turn into a Singapore bashing session because it wasn't horrible, it just showed me how great MEP really is. In contrast to the EM program, MEP stays with much smaller numbers early on but seems to give the child a lot of practice working with them in multiple ways.

It also mixes things up quite a bit so students are always reviewing things and thinking about different things instead of 10 pages on addition, 10 pages on number bonds, 10 pages on ordering. To Lucy, that makes it a lot more fun. She would do an MEP Reception lesson and then a few pages of Singapore but once she finished up Reception and I was still getting my act together in terms of printing MEP 1*, she got frustrated with Singapore. Not the work itself, we are about half way into B and she's fine with the concepts, but she'd do one page of number bonds then want something different but I'd have to sort through and find a page about time or ordering that wasn't built off of the pages she missed. She finally nagged me enough that I printed MEP 1 for her and now math is a daily request again but she is always very clear to asks for the "purple math" (MEP placed in a purple binder) and not "yellow math" (Singapore).

Other "pros" for MEP. It's quick. The lessons have time frames in them but because they are meant for a classroom, the "30 minute lesson" probable takes us 15 minutes even with Jonah climbing on us and taking our counters, etc. Which I think is perfect for her age. She may not agree, but I'm the mom :-) The cost is also pretty nice. Reception is the most expensive to print because the pictures are all in color but I sent mine to bestvaluecopy.com and got the teachers manual printed and bound, plus the sheets printed in color for quite a reasonable cost (don't remember exactly, perhaps $20?). I put the color work sheets in sheet protector sleeves and she used dry erase markers so the whole thing is reusable for whenever Jonah is ready. For Year 1 materials, I'm just printing 30 lessons and the corresponding worksheets in black and white at home as I go, leaving the few posters as something we can look up on the computer when we need them so the cost is even less.

As for cons, the biggest is that it seems confusing. It isn't really confusing once you start, but looking at it seems you can easily get intimidated. Reception isn't as bad as 1 but your eyes might start to glaze over - what are copymasters? Do I need those and posters? But if you download it and actually read it, and it comes together pretty cleanly. It's also designed for a classroom so occasionally it says to have three kids line up and pick the tallest and shortest but we've always been able to easily do the same activities with her finding stuff animals or using duplo people. And despite what I thought, it turns out to be very open and go after you get used to it. I actually found Singapore to be less so because even though its just worksheets, I often had to prep Lucy and teach the concept then let her do the sheet herself, with MEP, the teaching part is built into the activities and the concepts aren't always taught directly from the teacher as the questions help the child discover the method themselves.

TL;DR? MEP math is awesome. You should check it out.

*Because British grades don't correspond exactly to US Grades and MEP is advanced in some ways but slow in others (variety of concepts but with small numbers), there are some who say Reception is Kindergarten and MEP 1 is first grade, others who say that Reception is the equivalent of preschool and 1 is for Kindergarten. I say, who cares! If your child is younger than 6, I'd start with Reception because it is a lot of fun and only 60 lessons so you can do it pretty quickly if you wish. But Reception was added recently and the original program began with MEP 1 so you also won't miss out on any concepts if you start with 1.


Lucy's First Photo Exhibit

I realize y'all are probably ready to be done with chicken pictures but Lucy really wanted to take some pictures last weekend so I gave her the camera, showed her how it worked and hope it came back in one piece. It did and despite a few head chops, I think she did pretty well.

Of course, now she wants to take a picture every time she sees the camera. But Craig drew the line at selfies. Let's see how long he can keep that up.


Down but not out.

It's been a rough couple of weeks and each time I have these hopes that the next week will be better but it doesn't quite seem to work out that way. And it's not even those bad days that you can laugh at later - the ones where the toddler spills the entire jar of milk and the preschooler helps you move laundry to the dryer which means you somehow miss your sweater and it ends up the size of a baby sock. No, those bads days I just get through knowing they'll be memories for when I'm rocking on my front porch telling stories to my grandkids.

These few weeks have just been an unveiling of the world's wrongs coming at me from all sides. Beloved babies I've been praying for going to be with Jesus. Other parent's not only completely failing to protect their children but inflicting the damage themselves. I'm having arguments with people over issues that to me seem so obvious I can't even come up with an argument at first - like is being a mother something that is exclusive to women? (It's a looonng story and I'm sure it will be told eventually but for now its too raw and I'm still entrenched in the fight). Or do principles matter if they don't effect you, can't you just "help" people and put away your values that are getting in the way? No people! Don't you understand what morals are? If I could just leave them at the door, they wouldn't be morals!

 I just want to walk away from it all and it some ways, I'm working on it, but I also know I can't. I'm in this world. This horrible awful sinful world.

But is that such a bad thing? Yes. And No. The sin is bad. It always is. But my response is not. Right now I'm feeling like I just want to wash all this evilness off of me. Like it's tainting me. Or to bring in another C.S. Lewis work, I need Aslan to scratch the scales off for me. But he already has. I am protected from it, He is the ruler and I'm glad I'm re-seeing the world as I should. I don't know if all Christians feel this way or maybe it's just a weakness of mine but 99% of the time I am aware of the fact that I am nothing without God and my life would be nothing without him but every once in a while I'll have a moments of jealously, when I see people in the world and it looks like they are having their cake and eating it too. But then I realize, that's not cake. That's crap. And I don't want part of it or the consequences that will inevitable result.

So I'm glad he gives me these moments that cause me to turn and run back to him, back to his shelter. Because I'm not alone. God's here. And he knows I'm struggling and has set in place plans to protect me. After I memorized James, He put 2 Peter in my mind. At first, I wasn't a fan. 2 Peter is really hard! And I'm not making very good progress. It's not a big book but its confusing and the sentences are long and complicated and while it certainly is inspirED, it hasn't always been very insprirING, at least to me. But NOW. Now, I see exactly why God has me working on it. It's like a balm to my soul. I've have the C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy in my to read pile for years now but this all happens right as I pick up "That Hideous Strength." While I won't pretend to understand everything he's saying in it, I do find it quite encouraging at the moment. As is the hymn I "just happened" to pick out for this month last fall.

This is my Father's world.
O Let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong, 
God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father's world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is Kind; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!


18 months

Jonah is already 19 months old (and quickly approaching 20, stop baby boy stop!) but I wrote these things down last month so I wouldn't lose them. He's already changed so much. His vocabulary is probably double now. 

You've really started talking a lot recently. Some of your words include - Mama, Dada, Wa-Ba (Water or Water Bottle), Na-No (Noona for Lucy), pot-tee, baby, baggie, kitty, mi-mi (nurse),  lots of animal sounds. I didn't think you signed much compared to Lucy but then I started writing them down and you do have a lot. Some are: eat, book, bye, sleep, outside, bath, hot, (cow) milk, all done, flower, ball, hat, shoes, rain,  puppy, kitty, penguin, fish, monkey, giraffe, horse, bunny, hippo, mouse, frog, butterfly, bug, spider ...you really like animals.

You also love books but while Lucy liked a lot of variety, you like the same ones over and over again - llama, llama books are big hits, Farmer Will and a couple other animal picture books, but mostly nursery rhymes. We have to hide the Mother Goose book sometimes to save our sanity.

You love to be moving. You can walk up and down stairs by yourself, run around, walk backwards while saying beep-beep, and when I'm exercising, you like to join me and you can actually do a mean plank and downward dog.

You love to play with food. Eating, well, not so much. Except chicken. You down chicken like its chocolate. But you don't seem to like chocolate that much. We have to watch you because you'll sneak into the lunch and snack drawers and find food to carry around. You love to walk around the house with cookies or crackers in your hand - but you don't really want to eat them, they are just insurance I guess.

You're really sweet. You love to carry around your eebee doll or a stuffed animal around and hug and kiss it or you'll stroll them around and make them food from the pretend kitchen - or feed us food from your kitchen. You love real animals more. Every morning you help me feed the kitty and you love to pat the kitty and put your head down so she can lick it. If she isn't it he mood to lick, you just keep following her around until she finally gives in - or jumps up high. When we visit the chicks, you pet them so gentle with one finger or hold out their treat worms.

You love to build towers with wooden blocks and duplo. With wooden blocks you'll clap for yourself or call for us to look then laugh when you knock them down. Building duplo or handing one of us duplo blocks so we build something is another favorite. You like to build a tower then put one "fancy" block on top and call it by name.

You love to be outside. Your first stop when we go is the sandbox and I'm sure you'd spend hours in there if I let you. You also like to run around the yard and walk along the top of the wall like a balance beam - but will not accept my holding your waist or hand. I can keep my hands close but not touching, you're a big kid and can do it yourself! You love to ride Lucy's balance bike but you' re so small your feet can't touch so daddy has to push it. You love your new baseball cap and sunglasses and can't wait to put them on if it is sunny and I get them out for you. You always turn your hat so it is a little bit crooked. They make you look like such a big kid. But in reality, you are my little guy. Your just now fitting into some 18 month clothes but the 12 month still works too. You did get your first pair of real big kid/hard soled shoes though and you like those too.

You also love to play dress up with Lucy's things - I think we need to find you some boy dress up clothes though ;-) You love to do art with Lucy, drawing and playdough especially. Actually, you love to do anything Lucy is doing and you love to make her laugh. If you do something weird or funny and she laughs, you just keep doing it for a while. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it means you're walking around with a piece of cheese on your head for 5 minutes.


Spring K-drama overload Part I

Whew, these posts make it seem like I've done nothing but watch tv the last few months but in reality, I haven't watched a drama in quite a while. I just finished most of these right as Lent started or a few weeks into it so I didn't get a chance to post about them. So here's part I. 

Two Outs in the Ninth Inning/Bottom of the 9th with 2 outs/9 end 2 outs - 3.75

This is an older drama but it is such a cute story of two best friends discovering that maybe they should be more due to some cohabitation hijinks. I really love those forced living situations/co-habitation dramas and this one has a much more realistic set-up than some others I might mention (cough  Full House cough). It almost feels like two different dramas though. The first part is funnier and deals more with the female lead's growth. I wasn't a fan of her noona romance to start but it helped that I knew it wouldn't last and I did love seeing the main leads friendship when it truly is a friendship. The second part isn't as funny and I certainly missed the humor of the initial episodes but I liked the plot more as it dealt with the two leads, their relationship with each other as well as their other friends. Overall, quite enjoyable.

The Prime Minister and I/The Prime Minister is Dating - 3 (Averaging the 5 stars for the first part, 1 for the second)

Oh show. You hurt me. I didn't think I would like you. Mostly because the PR was bad. First you were about a prime minister and the nanny that brought the family together as he found love (Sound of Music anyone). Then, before the show started, it all switched and suddenly it was a contract marriage with a reporter. That isn't bad but it seems a bit weird to have such a large change. Add in the fact that there was a sizable age difference between the main leads (even for me!) and the star was a Girl's generation idol and I think it is pretty understandable that I went in cautiously.

Then you were so adorable! The first 75% of this show is amazingly cute. The main leads totally had chemistry and I loved the emphasis on family and how the leads communicated even when they were fighting. I'm a sucker for contract relationships and this one was done for all the right reasons. Yoona was actually great in this role, very believable and I understood why everyone loved her. And for being kinda old, Lee Bum Soo was pretty awesome as "Korea's youngest prime minister." I especially loved all the kids and the fact that they were actually a part of the story and not tagged on leaving you wondering if they were ever fed (cough, cough, Reply 1994, cough cough). Even the second female lead was a decent human being and I love it when that happens. I was tad disappointed in the second male lead role but that's more because I really like Yoon Shi-yoon but he will always be "Enrique" to me. Overall, I was convinced you were going to be in my top 5. But then..

Show, you did me wrong! Why? Why? You not only jumped the shark, then that shark started eating all the small children? The final ending itself was okay-ish but a handshake, really? And more than that, you dropped all the good stuff for the yucky filler and completely lost the heart and abandoned your theme. Badly done, PMIS,  badly done.

TLDR - Watch and love the first 75-80%, then stop. Or don't, but don't blame me when you finding yourself breaking out in hives.

Playful Kiss - 3.5

This was a very popular show a couple of years ago but all I ever heard was the criticism which didn't really incline me to watch it. But eventually I did and it is pretty cute despite it major flaws. The main plot is that an high school girl falls in love with a smart but not very kind boy and basically follows him around until he gives in and marries her. And yes, the plot is the major weak point. There isn't much of one and what is there, sounds so sad. But it honestly is really cute. I'm not sure what else I can say other than that. Oh wait, this one has co-habitation too, complete with encouraging parents. And there are couples (matching) flannel pajamas and really, can you get more adorable newlywed flannel pajamas. I think not.

Let's Eat - 4.5

I think this is my favorite show of the year. It seemed like a bit of a sleeper but I hope that is just my perception because it deserves better. I don't know anyone who recapped it and I didn't even start watching it until it was half way over. But I caught up quickly. It's just so darn cute! but it's not totally fluffy either.

The main show doesn't have too much of a plot, it's more of a slice of life drama about single/apartment dwelling life, loneliness, family/friends and food. Lots and lots of food. It's practically the "Farmer Boy" of the k-drama world. I'm pretty sure my kimchi consumption went up at about 10x when I started watching this show. Luckily the kids like kimchi too.

There is a bit of a criminal mystery but that is really an odd odd side plot. I didn't mind it since they kept it mostly to cliffhanger endings and as a way to have our other characters interact. And the characters are a lot of fun.

Soo-Kyung is one of my favorite types of female leads. She is your average woman but with a little bit of quirkiness. In this case, she's a tad suspicious and really loves her food.

Dae-Young is a refreshingly different male lead too. He's not cold and aloof - or rich and living under his parent's thumb. Who knew k-dramas could actually have a normal guy in a first male lead role - crazy talk! He may not be quite what you think he is at the beginning of the show, but he's genuinely "the best best man!" (insert thumbs up here). And I know Korean idols tend to get a lot of flack for their inability to act (mostly deservedly so) but Yoon Doo-Joon did an awesome job in this role. I still laugh at his intense food talk moments. Between him and Monstar's Yong Joon Hyung, I think I'm turning into a B2ST Fangirl.

Jin-Yi is another awesome female. On paper, she's a bit ridiculous. She's recently been dropped into the real world but everything is so new and excited (my first bill! I've always dreamed of paying a bill!) that you'd think you'd hate her, but she's also genuine and sweet so you love her. Actually all the characters are a bit odd on paper, but you end up liking - and laughing - at them all, even the dog. Maybe especially Barassi the dog. I really liked his scenes. (Side note: Jang Won-Young plays the best friend's husband/office manager. Everytime I see him in a show I think he's the korean Jeremy Piven. Anyone else?) 

Super cute, super funny! The best!

My Love from the Star/My Love from Another Star/You Who Came from the Stars - 4.25

The was immensely popular. Some people say it deserved it, some say it was overrated. I agree. There are a lot of reasons why it shouldn't have been super popular - 400 year old alien and a super star actress? Plus it was long, the murder mystery was ridiculous and the sci-part of the show was a bit lacking in development. BUT - the good stuff was really good.  Jun Ju-hyun is so funny. I guess she's more of a movie star and I don't really watch Korean movies so I hadn't heard of her but I know why people love her. She's hilarious and her character is over the top but still manages to be relatable - in a huge vain super star kinda way. I'm actually laughing outloud just remembering the scene with her running and using her leg to try and block that cameo by Suzy. And Kim Soo-hyun as Do Min-Joon was great too - the perfect adorable "grumpy cat" alien who didn't want to fall in love. Heck, he didn't even want to get involved. And it certainly didn't hurt that there was plenty of skinship.

As for the ending, the show never pretending to really care about the sci-fi aspect. The alien part was a mere vehicle for the two main characters to be conflicted about. So I'm not torn up about the lack of answers or duex ex machina stuff. I'm just happy everyone ended up right where they should be. I'm just assuming the whole spit issue was resolved with some good old fashion immunity building through exposure even though that wasn't really explained either. But overall, I laughed, I cried. It moved me, Bob.