Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I'm busy deep cleaning the house.  I don't know what you do but vacuuming the master bedroom is considered deep cleaning around here.

So I'm in vacuuming my bedroom when my arms and legs start feeling funny.  I'm pretty sure it's cause no one has bumped into me or pinched me, or clawed at me in at least ten minutes.  I see the big boys in the living room; Jack is reading a book to Ty.  The little boys were out of sight and quiet. 

When they are quiet and off by themselves I always think, "I wonder if they are doing something they shouldn't be."  Which is hilarious that I still wonder after 6 years of parenting and a success rate of 100% on the "doing something they shouldn't be."

Still I wonder when I should be walking in there armed with a box of wipes and a magic eraser.

I enter the play room.

The three-year-old looks up at me and says with much enthusiasm:

"We got mustaches!"

I must have had a bad look on my face because his next words were:

"We not do this never again. Never again. Not tomorrow."

I haven't said anything at this point, I just walk over, take the markers from the boys hands then turn to leave the room to get wipes. 

Austin starts his bargaining:

"We clean this up so we not get spankings."

I'm not sure if that was a question or a declaration.

So if anyone wonders, this is why my youngest two will not know how to color when they enter Kindergarten.

This is after he already cleaned a ton off (see wipe in hand)

He thought it was pretty amazing.

The main target was the toy overhead projector --which is supposed to be used with the markers.  This is just the collateral damage.

He was using dry erase markers --lucky for him.

While I was wiping everything up he says: "Mom, some got on the paper." 

One day he will be apologizing to his teacher for coloring on the paper.  The woman is going to think I raised them under a rock...

...And she'll probably be right.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

One woman's trash is another man's treasure

Some friends of ours at church are soon leaving the states to be missionaries in Italy.  This weekend they planned a fund raising garage sale.  I went up into the attic and handed down some things I felt we had no use for any longer.  We donated them along with some odds and ends to the event.  This morning Mike, Joe and Chrissy got up early and ran up to church in an attempt to help set up the garage sale.

I stayed home and made breakfast tacos.

They return home a little while later.

He walks in with a new-to-him camping backpack.  He tells me what everything is used for as he shows me all the cool pockets and zippers.  Then he opens up the inside and tilts the backpack toward me so I can see inside.  Lying in the bottom was the hideous 12 inch Ninja turtle doll I had donated.

"Is this mine?"  Mike asks.


"And why was it up there?"

"You never play with it anymore."  I defend myself.

He didn't say any more, but instead turned and spoke to the boys: "Look what I found there.  Mom tried to get rid of it."

Ty: "Why?"  (in awe)

Mike:  "I don't know.  I'd check your stuff if I were you."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

50¢ corn dogs

The minute I saw the banner displayed at Sonic I saved the date in my phone.

"50¢ corn dogs May 23!"

Apparently the shindig is for national get out of school day --which is a little depressing since everyone I know is still in school and will be for at least a week.

Whatever, we'll take it.  I'll use anything as an excuse to not make dinner have a party  --I'm just that fun.  (The more often I say it, the more I believe it.)

BTW we ARE going to have fun this summer.  I have been on pinterest looking for fun activities, we have Mike all to ourselves for the first half and we have the blazing heat PLUS 90% humidity to keep us company all through July.  It's going to be awesome.

"BEST SUMMER EVER!"  I'm expecting to hear those words from my children at least 10 times in the next 60 days.  I digress...

Corn dogs.

I've been talking about it all week.  And no, it's not sad that this was our mid-week highlight.  Deep fried corn dogs are one of God's gifts to mankind.

It was to be a fun family outing.

Then my friend left town which left her husband (who happens to be Mike's bff) available for man time.  We quickly put that on our schedule which took him out of corn dog night.  So me and the kids.  No problem.  We're good at this game.

Brady needed a snack about 45 minutes before we left.  I gave him carrots.  He likes carrots.  This wasn't a punishment or anything.  For ten minutes he gnawed on carrots.  I don't think he digested a single one --I'll let you know tomorrow.  There were carrot chips all over the floor, down his shirt and in his high chair.  I decided that since he intentionally dropped several on the floor I should have him pick up one or two for the sake of forming good habbits.  (All my newbie parent friends make their kids do this so it seemed like something I should probably enforce.)

"Brady," I say, pointing to the carrot, "put the carrot in my hand."

He pretends he doesn't know what I'm asking him.

I do it again.

I demonstrate.

I guide his hand toward the carrot.  He pulls back.

I ask him again.  I point. I demonstrate.  I gently take his hand and put the carot in it.  He throws it down.  I pick it up and bring it toward him.  He knocks it out of my hand.

I swat his leg.

I ask again (yes, I tried asking nicely).


Austin demonstrates.

We ask again.

He refuses.

He gets another swat.

We try and try to help him obey.

Jack comes over, bends down and talks sweetly to him, making the carrot picking up look fun.

With all that Brady still refuses to obey.

He gets madder and madder and at this point is crying pretty hard.

I have him sit there in front of the carrot. 

"I'll let him think about it for a while"  I decide.

He sits in front of the carrot for at least 5 minutes.

We try again to help him obey.

It's a no go.

"Great.  I can't quit now.  Then he'll win.  That's worse then ignoring the problem."  I think through my situation.

I decide to put him in bed, while we go get our dinner.

Mike says he will stay with him.

All the kids get ready to go and put shoes on.  This is noteworthy because this morning we took a trip to Home Depot. When we got there I realized none of the kids had shoes.  We went in anyway.  Hey...  We live in Arkansas.

On the way to the van the oldest two start bickering.  I ask them to stop.  I got excuses.   "I didn't start it."  "It wasn't my fault." You know how it goes.  I tell them to drop it.  We drive off.   Not 50 yards down the road they begin again.  I stop the car, turn around and drop off the oldest two at home.

Woo hoo!  50¢ corn dog night!!!  Par-TAY!

"Looks like it's just you and me tonight."  I tell Austin.

He doesn't respond other than a glassy-eyed stare.  He didn't have a nap today.  It's about the time of day he gets really drowsy.

We arrive at Sonic.

I order four corn dogs and a large cherry limeade.  (Don't judge me.)

Austin joins me in the front.  Just me and my third-born on a little date.  He's playing with the window controls, I'm trying to decide if I should kill the car or not.  I do.

It was quiet for a few moments.  I'm really not sure what Austin and I talk about when everyone else is absent.  I asked him how he liked being three.  He nodded.

I asked him if he liked playing in the water today.  "Yes."  Was his one word answer.


Good talk Austin.

Pretty soon the order arrives.  The moment we've all been waiting for!

I give the cute boy a sip of cherry limeade, hand Austin his corn dog and set him up with an awesome ketchup dipping plan. 

It was then he tells me in his sweet, high-pitched innocent voice:

"I no like corn dogs."



Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day 2008

This mom of two toddlers was really looking forward to the day.

 It was going to be perfect. 

The previous year (on Mother's Day) I was in a new home, Mike was to follow in a week or so.  I took a test that morning and learned that we were going to have another baby.  It was a happy day, even though Mike wasn't there, the news was enough to make it enjoyable.

But this year.  This year, with two in diapers and only one sleeping through the night, I'd really earned it.  It was going to be glorious.  I was as excited as a teacher on Friday. 

Sunday morning I woke to the normal sounds of children's cries.  I wait a few moments for the sirens to alert my husband that it was time to get up. 

I keep waiting.

I nudge him and wait some more.

"Mike.  The baby's crying."

Mike groans.

I nudge him again.

"what?" he asks in a sleepy voice.

"The baby is crying.  It's Mother's day.  Go get him."  And we're off to a not-so-good start.

He's just sleepy, in a moment he will come to and be dashing around that kitchen whipping up something amazing for my breakfast.  I sigh as I snuggle up to my pillow once again.  "This is the life.  Even if it's just for one day.  But by golly I had this day coming."

I must have dozed off again, cause I wake up in a few minutes to Mike's voice: "Um.  Want me to make breakfast or something?"

"Yes." was all I said.  I sounded a bit annoyed.  Can't remember if that was on purpose --who am I kidding, it was.

He made breakfast.  Eggs and toast.  There wasn't any bacon.  I hadn't bought any.  I'm not sure where I expected him to get the ingredients for this gourmet breakfast I was envisioning. 

and... there was no card.

I didn't speak much as I helped dress the kids for church.  This wasn't what I had planned and hopefully my silence would convey that to him:  "Mama's not happy."

There was nothing different about this day than any other day. 

All I wanted was to not have to be a mom for the day.

We arrive at church after a long quiet car ride.

We walk in and drop the kids off at their classes as usual.  In the hallway stood my good friend Anissa.  I faked a smile and told her "Hi."  She started talking to me and as our conversations go, we didn't chatter on about surface things.  This was her first mother's day since losing a child.  Six months earlier she delivered a stillborn. 

She tells me about a man in our church who for the last --I don't know how many years, on Mother's Day has come to church with a handful of flowers.  He would hand them out to the women who had taken care of or taught his boys to the women who served as "mothers" to his sons.  He was raising 5 boys alone.  His wife had passed away after a battle with cancer.  He would hand out the flowers, smile and say "Happy Mother's Day" to each woman.

I swallowed the lump in my throat.

Anissa went on to say how that had touched her so much.  It put things into perspective.  She told me that on this day, she was thankful for the chance to get to be a mom.  No doubt she was thinking of sweet little Lia, the daughter she didn't get to raise. 

Wasn't the gift of a child enough?  Why did I feel I should ask for more? 

Anissa twirled the carnation in her fingers as she spoke.  "Walt no longer has his wife with him.  Yet he honors so many mothers every year.  Me, I don't want a day off.  I don't want a bunch of presents.  Today I just want to be a good mom.  That's all.  I just want to be a good mom." 

I looked her in the eye, swallowed again and nodded.  The conversation ended shortly, we both had places we needed to be.

I walked away with a new perspective.

I had been given a couple babies to raise.  I wanted recognition.  Anissa had been given a couple babies to raise.   She wanted to do her job well.

I know mother's day can be a sensitive time. There are those who couldn't have babies, or didn't. Those who lost babies or have lost grown children.  This isn't about me or about you.  It's about all of us.

All of us have been created to do work --some sort of work.

And when we do it, we need to ask ourselves:  "Am I seeking recognition?  Or "Do I simply want to be found faithful in the work God has set before us?"

I hope I will remember that it's not about me.  I work for a great boss.  My goal should be the words: 

"Well done, my good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master."

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day present

Yesterday a package came.  It was addressed to me. So, well, I opened it.

Isn't that what everyone does when a package arrives with their name on it?

The return address showed the package came from Texas, so I knew it was going to be something special and wonderful and better than anything from any other state --ever.  I couldn't wait to see what it was as I didn't remember ordering anything recently.  Also, Hannah's name was on the package, giving away the fact that she'd ordered it.  She buys quality folks --this was (yet another) good sign.

I opened the package to find a small box from James Avery.  (Everyone gasp)  I don't have grown daughters and I no longer wear a charm bracelet so it's a rare day when a package from James Avery arrives.  At that moment it didn't occur to me that Mother's Day was just around the corner.  In fact, I hadn't thought of it in probably 3 weeks.  The last time was when I was at the hardware store buying things for this awesome homemade gift I was going to make and give my mom.  It isn't finished yet.  I've failed my mother yet again.  (head hanging).

Back to the happy part of this story.  Let's see... oh yes.  Me and a small package...  I open the box, pick up the small cloth bag and let a beautiful chain fall into my palm.

I smile.

Mother day at our house is... and I'm trying to find a way to say this that doesn't look bad on Mike... well, it's rarely a big deal.  In his defense, Father's Day has never been as much of an event as Mike (world's greatest dad) deserves.  A couple of times I had really high expectations (think Hallmark commercial) that couldn't be met.  Those were bad days.  I decided that never again was I going to expect breakfast in bed at 9:00, fresh flowers, homemade cards, an immaculate house, bubble baths, quiche and a romantic comedy to finish off the day of lounging around.  After I changed my "it's all about me" attitude life was waaaaaay better.

One year I bought myself the movie "Enchanted" for Mother's Day.  One year I bought myself some plants.  I can't remember last year.  This year I had decided I was finally going to get a long chain from which to wear two beautiful pieces of jewelry I had gotten years ago --but never worn due to not having a long chain.

I tried three times this spring to make it down to Little Rock to the James Avery store where I was going to buy myself this gift (my children would want me to have it).  It never worked out, there was always more immediate needs that had to be taken care of during my babysitting hours.

I'd casually mentioned to my kids and Mike that my mother's day present was going to be a chain.  But really, was it going to happen?  Probably not.

The chain in my hand was beautiful.  I tried it on.  The perfect length.  I went upstairs to where the kids were and asked them:  "Am I supposed to be getting a present in the mail?"  Their eyes brightened but their lips stayed shut.  Finally Jack says with a smile, "Yes, but that's all I'm going to say about that."  "What's in it?" I pester.  This time Ty spoke, "We can't tell you anything about it."  Well this is a first.  Why did they have to pick this time to finally keep a secret a secret?  I tell them I can't wait till I find out what's in it.  I hadn't yet decided if I was going to let on that I knew what was in the little box.

Today, while walking into Target, Ty asks me what we are going to buy.  I didn't want to tell him I was looking for undergarments, so I answered his question with a question.  "Are you going to buy me a mother's day present here?" 

He laughs, "No Mom, I already got you one!  Can you guess what I got you?"

"Hmm... a new broom?"


"Let's see... some flowers for the garden?"


"New tires?"

"No!" he answers, laughing. "I'll give you two more guesses"

"umm... new shoes?"

"No, one more guess."

"Windshield wipers?"

"Ok.  One more guess.  And it's something beautiful."

"A ring!"

"Nope.  (pause)  One more guess."


"Oooo!  Very close!  One more guess."

This was the part when Austin says, "A necklace!"

"Austin!!!  You're not supposed to tell her!"  (the irony)  "It's a necklace..."  He pauses a second then continues, "...can you forget about it now?"

I laugh.

"Well fine, it's a chain for your necklace."  He blurts out.  If it's out, it's out.  He might as well be accurate.

Needless to say, it's still several days away, but already feel appreciated and loved.  Ty told me earlier, "Mom, I got you a present for mother's day because I love you so much."  I feel it Ty.  I definitely feel it.

Words are powerful

Last night I told Austin he was tough.  Jack was in the room.  He hears what I told Austin and quickly speaks up:  "I'm tough too."
"Oh yes.  You are my toughest son."  My comment quickly hushes him.
We went on to talk for a moment about what toughness was and that it's like when you get hurt and you don't cry for a long time, but instead just say, "Ouch.  That hurt."  Conversation was over, we moved on.
Two hours later...
Jack is lying in my bed hanging out with me for a little bit.  I sit up straighter in the bed and when doing so, whack him in the head with the end of my elbow.
“Sorry Jack.”  I apologize.
Jack's response: 

“It’s ok.  I don’t even care.  When you hit me on the head, I’m so tough it doesn’t even feel like anything to me. (pause while thinking)  It just feels like tiny drops of rain....  Well, maybe 33 drops of rain.”

10 minutes later...

"Mom, I'm so tough I pulled this finger apart (popped it) and put it back.  It's just cause I'm so tough."

"I feel like my whole body is a miracle."

The next morning....

"Mom, if I hadn't been born 5 days late [past my due date] I probably wouldn't be so tough.

Just think if I had told him he was weak, or a baby, or a good-for-nothing.  Those words would have stuck and probably stuck harder than longer than the affirming words I said.  I was glad for the reminder to always guard my tongue and to speak life to my children --and everyone else.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I wonder what it would be like to...

Thump thump thud!

The particular tone to that banging was uncommon for this home.  I perked up my ears.  What I heard next was Jack's voice moaning "ouch, ouch ouch!" 

I bounded up the stairs.  The noise alone didn't sound good.  The fact that it was coming from my toughest child was another concern.  It must be bad for him to cry out like that.

"Jack, what happened?"  Jack had been upstairs taking a pre-dinner shower.  The shower was over and he was standing in a dark bathroom.  I flip on the light as he answers.

"Well, I was up here..."  he pats the counter top, then continues.  "...and I was wondering what it would be like to not have any arms..."  This is going to be good.  "...and I was trying to turn the light off with, you know, my head."

I turn my face to hide the grin. 

"My feet slipped and I fell off.  I think one of my bones is crooked." 

So you wanted to know what it would be like to not have any arms?  Why don't we just cross that bridge when we come to it.

Jack seemed to understand so he took his crooked body into his room where he put on his pjs.  


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Toad Suck Daze

Well because we live in Arkansas of course.
What else would we be doing on the first weekend in May other than walking the streets of Conway while wearing frogs --I mean toads on our heads?
Also, because Hannah came to visit.  And she's a SUCKER for fairs or festivals.  She's actually the reason we went out in the 40 degree weather --in the rain.  I'd of called it off, but not her.  She drove five hours to come see us.  I'll walk around in the rain with my children till she no longer thinks it's an awesome idea.

Notice the train not twenty feet behind us?  It was moving.  Only in Arkansas would they plan an festival around a buzzing train line.  Whatever. It's cool.

The tall green fellow trying to strangle Hannah was not with our party.  He just jumped in for the photo.  Kind of creepy.  We didn't linger.

As you can see it stopped raining.  Austin poses next to the fish tank on wheels (again, only in Arkansas).  Oh and it's camo.

Jack chose the rock wall as his one ride.  I was so proud of his choice.  He climbed up it twice, but got stuck on this ledge.  He told me tonight as we were looking at this picture, that his bravery just comes and goes.  Never know which one it's going to be.  I nodded and told him I understood what he was saying.

What's a festival without a fire truck to climb on?

I was equally excited about Ty and Austin's much cheaper choice of attraction. Bumper boats! How fun is that? I want to get on eBay right now and buy me for of them. Only we don't have a lake. I'm hoping maybe Phillip and Leslie will get some? (hint hint?)

Look how eagerly Austin is stepping up to the boat.  I think the guy who was helping him (bless his heart for those cold feet and legs!) was afraid he was going to walk right in the pool.

This was Brady's ride.  woo woo!  It spun around, went backwards and forwards and even splashed a little water up every now and then.  He wins for cheapest attraction.

The boys wanted to participate in the toad races.  Hat's off to Conway for making this so much fun for the kids.  The festival provided toads to any kids who wanted to race.  Simply stand in line, put on your free awesome headgear, get your toad then wait till your heat to race. 

Jack meeting "Spurs" for the first time.  (It was recommended that you name your toad.)  I asked him if he named it after the basketball team in San Antonio.  He said, "No.  I named him after the spur on the rooster's foot."  Creative.  I guess that's what reading Hank the Cowdog will do to you. 

Ty named his "Speed Racer."  Fitting.

 See us on the front row?  We sat through 4 heats in order to see the big kids race.  Austin was pretty interested.  Brady was dying to walk in the puddles.  He was also overly tired from his missed nap.

Here we are again.  The moment we've all been waiting for.

If you can zoom in on this picture, do it.  It pretty much sums up the event:  The announcer guy stopping at every kid, getting the child's name and his toad's name;  Jack and Ty excited about the race; Austin chewing on the rope boundary; Brady throwing a fit in my arms; Me ignoring Brady while giving the other boys the "I'm proud of you" thumbs up; oh and Hannah documenting our lives.  (we love her) 

And they're off!

Jack's toad wasn't too excited about the race.  I think he'd had quite a few races already that day.  Jack was busted by this photo evidence of him throwing the toad down toward the finish line.

And is this not the most adorable picture you've ever seen?  They loved the event.  They loved the whole day.  This must be why Hannah insists we go to festivals in blizzard-like conditions.   

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Brady at 15 months

I know a lot of you are wondering how an innocent little baby adjusts from life inside the womb, all warm and cozy and quiet to... well...


This was taken during Brady's first week of life.  I wondered then if he was already questioning God:  "Why me!  Why!  Why here?  With them?  Do you have any idea how loud it is in this place?  Look!  That one-year-old is jumping off the edge of the couch!  Get me out of here!"

After more than a year of observation, I'd like to report, regardless of Brady's first impressions of the Ellis family, he has adopted the "If you can't beat 'em join 'em" mentality.

The last month Brady has just come alive.  We have gone from having a baby to a toddler.

He has 8 teeth  --make that 12.  Between the writing and press time we have broken in four more molars (It's been super fun around here folks).

Brady started walking right around 14 months.

He now has a big boy haircut.

He jabbers a lot, I think he does it cause he's been feeling like he wasn't pulling his weight when it comes to keeping the decibel level up.

He's started getting mad when we don't understand what he wants.  The good news for him is that he can now communicate (decently) when he wants a drink of water.  That's always the point in my kid's lives when I feel they are going to make it.  When they don't have to rely solely on the hope that I will remember to give them a drink at some point during the day.  

He can say the names of all his family.  Favorite names are Daddy and Austie.  Once or twice he's said, "cracker" --I think he was referring to the food.

No problem ascending and descending the stairs.  He had that down months ago.

Favorite foods are fruit, cheese, tomatoes, avocado, soups, barbecue...  (He loves pork barbecue.  I've got to remind him he's from Texas, and make sure I never give him any sweet bbq sauce)

Finally, this child, more than any of my other kids, LOVES to climb.  He loves to dig into drawers and cabinets.  It's not unusual for me to see him walking around with a plastic pitcher from the kitchen or tweezers or nail clippers he's swiped from the top drawer in the bathroom.  He seems to have no fear.  Mike made a comment under his breath yesterday, something about me and paying for my raising.  I have no idea what he's talking about.


When I found Brady he was standing on the top of the stool holding onto the canned goods shelf.  He looked worried.  I'm not sure if he was upset that he couldn't find his favorite vegetable or if he was scared of the height and the fact that there was no safe way down other than Mom helping him.

He offered me some of his yogurt.  Well, it was actually Ty's yogurt that got left on the table. 
Waste not, want not.

Practicing his flying with Mr. D

We went to Faith's (our babysitter) track meet.  Everyone loved it.  When Faith was done with her event she stayed with us while we watched other athletes compete.
So yes, Brady has not only survived, but has joined the ranks of fun, loud curious boys.  We are enjoying him much.



Austin's favorite part of our camping trip --hands down, was the waterfall.  Even before this trip he's been obsessed with waterfalls. Everything is a waterfall to Austin, especially peeing   Petit Jean has a pretty impressive waterfall you can hike down to or view from an observation deck.  I chose the observation deck as it was handicap accessible.  Austin couldn't get enough of it.  On day two he asked me over and over again if we could go see the waterfall.
I promised him we will go back to see the waterfall again even though it was inconvenient at the time. (Never forget this ok Austin?)   It was clear that this was important to him.  As soon as we got out of the van, Austin was raring to go.  I told him he could go a little ways ahead as long as he would stop when I yelled to him.   I figured if he got too far away and wouldn't stop I'd just send Jack down to tackle him. Jack can catch him. He's fast.
We were super slow going down the path since Brady wanted to walk. Austin had a walking stick ($9.99 at the lodge) we bought for Ty. Whenever anyone came up to us and was about to pass us on the path, Austin held the stick, posed and gave them the bravest, most daring face he could muster. (I was afraid.)   He did the same thing even before he got the stick, only he laid on the ground with his arms and legs spread wide and held them up off the ground, looking daringly into the eyes of whomever considered passing.  He was as still as a statue till the hikers had all shuffled past.    Reminded me of the part from Lord of the Rings where Gandolph yells "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!" I wished Austin had seen the movie so he then could have quoted it right then.