Personality, Parker.

Welcome back to the "old blog." I guess I couldn't stay away long, huh? Since I couldn't get the WordPress to upload this video without paying, I decided to stick it here and on Facebook. Hope you enjoy my little guy showing off his personality. If you're wondering why this is here, you can go read this blog for the background story.

Moving, again.

No, not physically. No orders just yet.

But virtually moving from this blog to a new location. Check out the new digs at WordPress and you can also find out why I'm moving from here to there.

And if any of you are seriously smart at website things, I would LOVE to import all of my posts from this site into the WordPress one. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.


Mario, Luigi, and Bailey

If you have known me any time at all, you know I have an irrational love of cake. The taste and smell, of course. But also, a the look of cake. And I especially love PRETTY cakes that TASTE and SMELL amazing. From the time my first son was one, I've sought out a "cake lady" to bring my vision to life in the form of sugar. I had a great cake lady in Forest City (Janet). I found one in Columbia for the one set of birthdays we had there, and then was mostly without one until this year. If the friend of mine who made this cake wanted publicity, I can assure you, I'd flood the internet with references, but she doesn't want to create a business out of her passion. I can honor that.

I think I need to write an entire blog about the beautiful cakes the boys have had over the years, but since THIS particular post is supposed to be all about Bailey, I'll stop drooling over cakes for the moment and move on.

My third child, the greatest surprise of my life, has turned 7. He got a super celebration this year as we were in England on his actual birthday. Sherri gave him a full birthday party at her house, and honestly, it was plenty party to sufficiently celebrate Bailey! He loved it and it was his favorite part of our England trip. I can't thank her enough! Then we got home and celebrated Bailey with our friends at our home. Bailey is my child who most loves to be at home so when his brothers started planning their birthdays (last SUMMER) and they wanted large get-togethers at the bowling alley or indoor play places, Bailey wanted his to be at home. Easy enough!
Thanks to the Caltriders (who were sorely missed at Bailey's party, both by the boys and the adults) we were able to let the boys eat their pizza on the porch. We inherited their outdoor furniture and have already had several meals out there!
And now you'll see why I find someone to make cakes for me. I have no talent whatsoever for decorating. I can make it taste just fine, but it is U*G*L*Y! Now, please note that I'm referring to the icing part of the decorations. The letters and green icing and characters are beautiful and well done, thanks to the Birthday boy.

We made this cake yesterday in keeping with our family tradition (that started last year, so I'm sort of amazed at how seriously the boys now take it). In 2010, because we weren't celebrating with a party on Carson's actual birthday, but did so with friends a few weeks early, we decided to make a cake together ON his birthday to celebrate. A month later we did a similar thing for Bailey's 6th birthday. 2 months later for Hayden's, we had to do the same to keep things fair (I don't like that word... 'nother blog for 'nother day). Well, guess what? They remembered that this year and so Carson and I whipped up a cake together. A month later, Bailey SO remembered that, even though he's already had two full birthday parties! :) But who can argue with a 7 year old with two missing front teeth when he says he wants to spend time just with you? Not this mom! And so we spent a portion of rest time yesterday making this cake.
Now, in breaking with normal practices, Bailey didn't want a triangle slice of cake. He wanted his name. So, as best I could, I cut the top layer off giving him all 6 letters.
No cake making day is complete without big brother kissing the baby and getting chocolate on his face.

Now, in the next picture I understand that I used too open an aperture here, therefore blurring Parker out (even though I adjusted hoping to get them both in focus) I couldn't resist adding this photo. For whatever reason, Bailey's using his 'gangsta' face and it's adorable.Happy Birthday, sweet Bailey. You are a joy to your family and we are so glad God surprised us with you!

The Advocate

So, the time has come to transition from the new baby seat to one that will grow with him. This milestone occurred much later for Parker than for any of my other babies, that's for sure. At only 18 lbs (3rd percentile) he still has 4 more pounds he could gain before outgrowing his infant carrier. But since he's officially a year old, I decided to order his big-boy car seat. It arrived today so I was fast to get it set to the right size and install it in my van. We even took a ride to WAAF to show daddy. He was unimpressed. That was fine with me! (I was quite impressed!)

His original seat:The new seat:

He seems pleased enough. Okay, so the truth is he has his second ear infection and doesn't feel very well.
Saying good-bye to the old seat. He's growing up so fast.

The way to see England...

My dream finally came true. I got to see England! I am so excited about the memories we made and the fun we had. We've been home less than a week and I've already made and ordered my Shutterfly Photo Book for the trip! (If you need the password, email me and I'll give it to you.) This is how we traveled. The big three were on their own, Matt carried Parker, and I carried the essentials: a back pack full of diapers, wipes, Motrin to stave off kids' leg cramps, a banana, video camera, sippy cup of milk, change of clothes for Parker... thinking back, I don't even remember what else was in that heavy thing that I never even used. I should have carried less each day... And of course, in my hands at all times, my new Nikon that I reference here.

Here is a quick recap of our awesome vacation:

Here we are in front of Buckingham Palace. I wish the scaffolding wasn't there.

After we left the palace we headed to Hard Rock Cafe. We all had a great experience there, the wait staff took amazing care of us. But Parker seemed to have the best time of all! :) (Bailey lost a tooth while we were there, the day before his 7th birthday!)
Here is Matt in front of Westminster Abbey.

And here he is with a sleeping Parker in front of Big Ben. During February and March we spent a few weeks studying England and its major landmarks. We learned that what we can actually see is called "Clock Tower" or "St. Steven's Tower" and the bell inside is called "Big Ben." The minute hand is 14 feet long and made of copper. It's hollow to keep it light.We love this bridge. It's called "Tower Bridge" and it's just beautiful.
The day we visited Cambridge proved to be the day I had more time to try out some creative things. The city is less busy and we spent most of the day in pedestrian zones, which means we were less concerned about the boys stepping into traffic. Bikes were everywhere, as were signs warning bikers not to chain their bikes to specific fences. At the end of Cambridge day, we went to Sherri's house, a friend of Jessica's and Zak's. Sherri had planned a full-on birthday party for Bailey! She made a strawberry checkerboard cake with Buzz Lightyear on top. She served this cake on Star Wars plates and had the table decorated with a solar system table cloth. Everything was so well thought out and after we returned home to Germany, Bailey said that Sherri's house was his favorite part of the entire trip. Makes a mommy happy!And the next day, the babies got a rest. Here's Connor sacked out on the floor of our hotel room, chilling while Jessica taught me how to play Fluxx. Pretty fun, but it takes a while to get the hang of it. I won the first two rounds, then lost the next 10!
Part of the day we spent outside letting the babies swing, play in the grass, and letting Owen and Bailey run free, with no cars to watch out for. Just a free, relaxing day.

Zak and Matt took Hayden and Carson to Oxford to eat lunch at a very special restaurant. The Eagle and Child is where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien sat together every Tuesday and shared their timeless manuscripts with each other. When we returned to Germany, the boys both said that this was their favorite part of the trip.
On Sunday we headed back to London to Hillsong Church. Amazing worship experience, even if Jessica and I had to take in the service from the "baby" room. Afterwards we headed to see the top item on my list: Diana's chapel! This was a highlight for me, for sure!
On our last day in England we had a few hours before our ferry back to France. We saw Dover Castle and were SO highly impressed. The castle was so well preserved and the historical importance was meaningful to us. Here you can see me reading to the boys about the underground tunnels that were used during WWII.
Here are some words I wrote for the end of our Shutterfly book. It's not required reading, so no complaints that it's long! :)

We were so blessed to have friends take us to England who had lived there before. That meant we didn't have to drive on the other side of the road. That also meant they knew the area well enough to get us around and about in cars, trains, tubes, and double-decker busses.

We were able to hit all the major sights that one wants to see when heading to London, giving us just a taste of all there is to experience. We would love to go back and see more things in detail. I want to tour Buckingham Palace and the Royal Muse. I want to spend a lot more time in St. Paul's Cathedral (where Diana was married). I want to enter Parliament. I want to spend a full four hours at the Tower of London. None of these were possible in the time we had, but we got to see each of them and snap the obligatory photos of us with each of them.

A neat story about our experience with St. Paul's... On our first day in London we used the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour. We passed "Diana's chapel" before the automated audio-tour guide told us what it was. I was disappointed to have missed it, but we had other things we really wanted to do, so my mind was set toward getting us to the Tower of London. The next day I started to really hope that we could go by and see the Cathedral on Sunday when we were back in London. Zak and Jessica were cool to let us go out of the way a bit to spend some quality time there. I LOVED every minute we spent there and am so glad it worked out that we were able to fit it in.

Things that surprised me:
* Londoners do NOT wait for the "little green man" before crossing the street. (Germans ALWAYS wait and I appreciate them for that.)
* There is way more to see and do in England than I thought.
* The London Eye is much bigger than I expected.
* The babies did a great job traveling in their backpack carriers.
* Double-decker busses are just as fun to ride on as I had imagined.
* There were NO pictures of Diana... Anywhere.
* A baby who touches your lens at Hard Rock will leave a smudge that will be evident in all the pictures you take for the rest of the day, causing some of the windows on Parliament to be blurry.
(Clean lens often.)

I also believe God had his hand on our trip. We asked Him to bless us with smooth travels and safety and He answered those prayers. Some of the many ways we saw this are below:

* Even though we had 10 people in our party, we were always able to be seated in restaurants immediately. Unheard of.
* At The Hard Rock Cafe they sat us immediately, gave the kids a table next to ours, and gave us a military discount without us having to ask. (I wouldn't have THOUGHT to ask... the waiter asked us if we were "with the forces.")
* We got on all trains/busses/tubes without having to wait a long time. AND we never got on a wrong train/bus/tube.
* Our hotel was amazing: 1 bedroom, 1 full kitchen, 1 living room, 2 full bathrooms. (Each family had their own hotel room.)
* We saw several accidents averted right before our eyes. A few SHOULD have been accidents and, had they occurred, we would have been involved.
* Nothing got stolen, lost, or left behind. (Not even Bailey's "Lord of the Ring" ring that he did his best to lose!)
* We had absolutely gorgeous weather!
* Everyone stayed healthy while on the trip.
* On the way home we drove as far as we could, trying to get into Germany so we could fill up at an Esso station, using the US prices rather than European prices. The GPS sent us on a wild goose chase and we ended up in a small village with an Esso Station that had closed a few hours earlier. At that point we were 29 miles from empty. We were a bit nervous that we wouldn't find ANY station open, Esso or otherwise. Matt prayed aloud and within 3 minutes we found a Shell. Paid full price, but got enough gas to get us home without danger of running out. The relief of finding that gas station more than compensated for the extra money we spent having not used an Esso station.
* And finally, as important as almost anything else, we left for England friends with the Hills and we returned as such. There's always a chance that too much togetherness can tarnish a friendship and I believe God was good and provided protection against this. We are thankful for every aspect of this trip!

Ten on Ten : March 2011

Today I am taking a new challenge. a photo challenge. it's called TenOnTen and the idea is by the blogger of a bit of sunshine...

The goal is to take a photo an hour for ten consecutive hours. Finding much life and beauty amongst the ordinary things of our day! Here I go!

7:50 - Dinner started early (now that's a beautiful thing!)

8:45 - Keeping Parker out of the hallway where Bailey was putting number cards in order
9:45 - Doing a Math lesson with Bailey

10:45 - History - Learning a bit of England's history before we go there next week

11:40 - Parker time

12:45 - Heading out the door for P.E.

1:45 - Homeschool P.E. (me practicing "panning")

2:45 - Tired baby - he missed his nap during P.E.

3:45 - ME TIME! (working on this blog during "me time")
4:45 - Putting dinner together
5:45 - Eating Dinner (this is my long-awaited cheese grater!!)

6:45 - Love is spelled "TIME" and "TIME" sounds an awful lot like "Dad, will you play catch with me?" And when it gets dark before dinner is over, an episode of Mythbusters will always suffice...

(I think I cheated... I did more than 10 photos. Oh well. I can't write a short blog for the life of me... why did I think I'd be able to keep it short in photos?!?)

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