Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Park days

So, you've all probably realized by now that I like to do comparison pictures of my children. I mean, when you have three girls, it's just too hard not to! is one of each girl around 7-8 months old wearing the exact same outfit in front of the exact same playground at the park we've played at multiple times a week since AK was about five months old. 

Definitely sisters, but I love their distinct expressions, too! And FYI, they were in birth order in this post (Anna Kate, Caroline, Eleanor). 

Happy 8 months, Eleanor!

Eleanor Grace, you are eight months old today. You are growing and changing right before our eyes and we are loving every minute of it. You have always been sweet, but you're getting to be so much fun to be around. You have definitely found your place in this little family and we hardly remember what life was like as a family of four. As for your news this month...

- You are officially crawling. Everywhere. Fast. We've started to have to close the baby gate at the top of the stairs when we're up there, and I'm sure we'll be putting up the one at the bottom here pretty soon! You love crawling from room to room following Mommy around.

- You have decided that your favorite game is to get into everything you're not supposed to get into. You've figured out how to open cabinets and drawers this month. I also found you the other day ripping up an entire roll of Christmas wrapping paper. You were just as proud as you could be!
- While you're still a pretty easygoing baby, you've definitely developed a little more of an attachment to Mommy lately. You cry right when I leave you (in the nursery, for example), but then you're happy for about 45 minutes. And then you're done. And only Mommy (or Daddy!) will suffice. You sleep pretty well through sermons though, so you're not very difficult to have with us =)
- On Monday mornings, while Mommy teaches Spanish, you do go over to our friends the Chestnuts' house for an hour. You have a lot of fun with Courtney (their 15-year-old), and they've found that if you get fussy, you really like their vacuum!
- Your daddy knows how to get the best giggles out of you. You love it when he tickles you by kissing you under your chin. You just laugh and laugh and laugh.
- You are still enchanted with your sisters. You just watch them in amazement. They play really well with you, and especially like to hold you and read to you.
- You are eating quite a wide variety of food now. You still love all your favorites from last month, but a few new favorites are pureed pumpkin, black beans, and chicken pieces. You like to be fed from a spoon if I keep it coming fast enough, but you really like to have control yourself and pick up your own little bite-sized pieces. You've finally developed a good enough pincer grasp and hand-mouth coordination to do it yourself!
- You have a great nap schedule. You go down for about an hour nap in the morning somewhere between 9:30 and 10. Occasionally this nap is in the Ergo on Mommy while we run around to soccer, or grocery shopping. Then you nap for another 2-3 hours in the afternoon in your crib. No swing necessary! You also sleep pretty well at night, just needing Mommy once or twice =)
- You love the park. You really like the swings, but you especially like to try to eat the grass. You must think it's a really funny game to see how quickly you can grab a fist full before Mommy snatches it away.
- You are just starting to try to wave to people when they say hello. You've even said "hey" back a few times, but I'm not sure it's consistent enough to call it your first word yet!
- While you don't have any official words in your vocabulary, you are certainly talking a lot! You have become extremely noisy and vocal over the past few weeks!
- You definitely know your name. You look up and respond immediately with a big smile when you hear Eleanor or Ellie.
- You have no teeth yet, but your upper gums are quite swollen. I wouldn't be surprised if you get a couple of top teeth before you get your bottom ones (just like Anna Kate!).
- You love music. You love watching and listening to mommy play violin, and your whole body starts to bob up and down any time you hear singing.
- You give the best kisses to Mommy and Daddy, and even your sisters. You'll grab both sides of our faces and pull us close and slobber all over our cheeks with your big open mouth. It's pretty cute.
- And last, but not least, that thumb-sucking is here to stay =)

Eleanor, you are the best. Seriously, though, I just asked your Daddy if he had anything else he wanted to add to this post (he already helped a bit with the list), and he told me to just say that you're awesome. Because you are. You're the sweetest baby ever and we love you with our whole hearts.

And here are your pictures!

Eleanor - one month

Eleanor - two months

Eleanor - three months

Eleanor - four months

Eleanor - five months

Eleanor - six months

Eleanor - seven months

Eleanor - eight months

Caroline - eight months

Anna Kate - eight months

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pre-schooling at home!

September is here and the school year is in full swing. I know my girls are still very little, but I really wanted to do a bit more in the way of "official" preschooling with them this year. Mostly because I don't want to feel like I'm being thrown in the deep end next year when we start kindergarten and it actually counts! We go to our little preschool on Mondays where I teach Spanish, but we are at home the rest of the week. We've always tried to do some "learning time" in the mornings, whether that was Alpha Phonics, or educational games, or fun worksheets or crafts, but this year I actually have a plan =)'s what we're doing for K4 with Anna Kate and K2(?) with Caroline.

Anna Kate is doing Math-U-See Alpha. We started it a couple weeks ago and she is loving it. It comes with fun brightly-colored manipulatives, and a big workbook (her favorite thing ever). She also likes to watch the 5-10 minute video at the beginning of each weekly unit.

Caroline is also working on math skills using Unifix cubes. She can count them, match patterns that I make, or create her own patterns.

Basically my plan for Anna Kate is to just keep getting library books as fast I can. She LOVES to read and goes through quite a few books each week. Her favorites right now are the Betsy and Eddie books by Carolyn Haywood. We also do dictations from Scripture passages in her handwriting book.

Caroline and I do lots of letters and sounds games using flashcards, puzzles, toys, etc. She knows all of her letters and most of her sounds, but isn't quite ready to sit through phonics lessons. When I feel that she's ready, we'll start Alpha Phonics. For now, we'll just do lots of reading out loud!

Other than Math and Phonics, the only other official curriculum we're using is Five in a Row. This is a literature-based curriculum for 4-8 year olds (although Caroline enjoys participating as well!) that covers language arts, math, science, social studies, and art. Basically it takes a classic children's book each week and uses it as a springboard for a few lessons in each of those subjects. We have now completed our fourth book and the girls are loving it. Last week we read the book "Grandfather's Journey" which is set in Japan. To finish our unit, we had an authentic (take-out) Japanese dinner at our house, complete with chopsticks and sitting on the floor!

Of course, we also do a number of other subjects, like PE (soccer, park days), Music (violin, church children's choir, pitch/rhythm games with Mommy), Spanish (circle time at the preschool on Mondays, DuoLingo on the iPad with Daddy), and Bible (morning devotions, and family worship).

And just to keep it real, usually while we try to have school time, I'm also having to chase around a very mobile and mischeivous 8-month-old.

Mischeivous babies

I was trying to get a little housework done this morning and I left Eleanor on the floor in our bedroom for a couple minutes. When I returned, I found that she was happily ripping up wrapping paper.

It reminded me of a picture of Caroline emptying her book basket one at a time and feeling quite proud of herself.

 Which reminded me of a picture of Anna Kate happily making a mess of her toys on the living room floor!

Oh how I just love those chubby, fuzzy-headed babies!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The good life

I am treasuring these days. Don't get me wrong, many of them are difficult. And we collapse in exhaustion after we put the girls to bed each night. And we have the same discipline issues that every parent of preschoolers has. But life is good and we are so blessed. We've really had so much fun this past month that I haven't had the time to do much blogging. So here's my attempt at remembering the sweet moments.

Our friend Henry (and his mommy and daddy, Will and Caitlin!) came to visit for Labor Day weekend. And we cheered for the Clemson tigers!

Anna Kate started soccer and is having a blast. Two of her best friends (Colten and Paisley) are also on her team, and she has the best coach ever (Paisley's mom Ashley) and best assistant coaches ever (Colten's mom Lisa, and Luke)!

We've spent some fun times with our good friends Nora and Ava.

The big girls have snuggled Eleanor (a lot).

And they've read her lots of stories.

Luke took Caroline on a Daddy-daughter date.

I took the girls on a spontaneous trip to the zoo with our park friends.

Love this picture of AK, Colten and Paisley - these three are inseparable!

Daddy entertains the girls while Mommy teaches violin and/or cooks supper.

And, I have had lots of fun playing dress-up with my three real-live baby dolls. We are so blessed by friends who give us the prettiest hand-me-downs!

But seriously...I look at those three faces and I am overcome with thankfulness.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Love that Lasts a Lifetime

My grandparents celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary last month.

I just love this picture of them taken on their wedding day. Sixty-five years...amazing! A big celebration was planned, and I had resigned myself to the reality that we would just have to celebrate with them from afar.

But then at the last minute, we were able to get a deal on a ticket for me to go out with just Eleanor! My grandparents met Anna Kate and Caroline last summer, but they hadn't met Ellie yet, so we were so excited to have the opportunity to go. Here's Eleanor helping me pack!

We had such a great time seeing family, meeting and introducing new babies, and of course, celebrating the special couple! I took way too many pictures to put up on the blog, but here are a few of my favorites.

Great-Grandma rocking Eleanor in a family heirloom rocking chair

Great-Grandpa with Eleanor

Grandma and Grandpa with #13 (Rebekah) and #15 (Eleanor) of their seventeen great-grandchildren!

My sister Sarah said she never gets to take girly Rebekah and Eleanor were good sports!

This child's rocking chair has been at my grandparents' house forever. All of their children and grandchildren and now great-grandchildren have rocked in it!

Playtime with Grandma

Playing with cousin Archer (just a few weeks apart in age)

Eleanor and Bekah

Getting ready for the big party with Great Aunt Patty

Display of memorabilia about my grandparents' wedding, honeymoon, and lifetime together

The wedding dress that my grandma made herself!

As my gift to Grandma and Grandpa, I wrote a song entitled "Love that Lasts a Lifetime". My brother was gracious enough to accompany me on piano while I sang it at their party.

Love that lasts a lifetime

For my grandparents, Glen and Georgia Burgin

on the occasion of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary

August 15, 2014

As college kids, he won her heart
Always playful, right from the start

They knew nothing

would keep them apart

So began a love that lasts a lifetime

Time went on, a family began

Three children given by God’s own hand

Memories made on the river and sand

So remained a love that lasts a lifetime

Thank you for your example of love

A portrait of that Christlike

love from above

Thank you for your example of love

An always giving, faithfully serving

Believe the best, forgive the rest

Picture of a love that lasts a lifetime

As years went by, their love multiplied

Grandchildren brought such

joy and pride

A new generation to teach and to guide

Living out that love that lasts a lifetime

Yet another season of life

Now we’ve come to year sixty-five

Seventeen greats for this man and his wife

The legacy of a love that lasts a lifetime


Of course, when Anna Kate heard that I was writing a song, she wanted to write one too. I explained to her that she might want to make it a poem instead, since she wouldn't be there to sing it and we wouldn't know the tune. Without missing a beat, she responded, "No, Mommy, it's a make-up-your-own-tune song and Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa can make up their own tune!" They were happy to oblige and we videoed it for her!

A Make-up-your-own-tune Song
for Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa
By Anna Kate Tolbert
You’ve been married for sixty-five years
We’re so glad to see you’ve been married for sixty-five years
We love you
We’re so glad to see you’ve been married for sixty-five years
You are a fantastic great-grandma and great-grandpa
We love you
We love you Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa

After the hustle and bustle of the weekend, we had a couple of quiet days with just a few of us left at Grandma and Grandpa's. My dad took Stephen and Rebekah (my brother and niece), and Eleanor and me on a nostalgic drive to a couple of places very near and dear to our hearts.

The Columbia River Gorge

Crown Point

Stephen and Rebekah looking up at...

Multnomah Falls

Introducing Eleanor to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest

On our last day in Portland, we rode the Max downtown.

And went to Powell's - the largest independent bookstore in the world.

And then we walked around Pioneer Square - "Portland's Living Room"

Ellie wanted to take a selfie...

After a wonderful 5 days, it was time to head home. We sure missed Daddy and the big girls! Ellie got a nice bath in a big Tupperware container in the laundry washbasin so she would be nice and clean for our airplane ride home!

Speaking of airplane rides, Eleanor did fantastic flying out and back. She was really in a great phase where she wasn't mobile yet (that's changed in the last 3 weeks!). So keeping her entertained in my lap wasn't too difficult. All in all it was a wonderful trip. Happy Anniversary, Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa! We love you!