Friday, September 30, 2011

Again For Sure

The Bigs recently had a first that will not be a last. They participated in a kids' triathlon sponsored by our local neighborhood. Neither of them had trained for such a thing, but could do all three events separately. Nathan took them out twice to practice the main idea and distances and then we gave it a good old Lino try. Girly Girl had to swim 25 meters, bike 1 mile and run a quarter mile. Toads' age division had to do double all of her distances. Swimming is not a forte of either of them, but they made it through. We tried to stress to them that being the best at one thing was not the goal, but watching all of the local swim team members roll up in their team suits was a bit intimidating. The transition was a whole experience on it's own due to some poor planning on the part of the event organizers. Let's just say this momma was not happy. Nonetheless, off to the bike they went. Biking is Toad's strong suit.  He made up a tremendous amount of time. Girly just learned to ride a bike a few months ago but actually did fairly well. Except for the volunteer sending her the wrong way on the course it was a good bike segment for her. She hit her stride on the run coming in second on that segment. They both finished the run up strong and had a great first race. We loved seeing their determination and watch them try something new. They are both all set to do another one. Training will be in order, but the Six Linos are up for the challenge.

The photos are not in order, but you get the main idea. A great time was had by all! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Must Take Pictures

three Parker kids: Derek , me and Drew - August 2011
I understand now why we always saw our parents taking pictures with their siblings whenever they were together. As time goes on, we get busier and our time together just doesn't come as easily. Now, my two little brothers and I take pictures together whenever we manage to get us all three in the same room. I love these two guys and wish we saw more of each other. They are both fabulous little brothers to this bossy big sister.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Fancier the Better

the fancy birthday girl and her big sister
Samoosa should probably be called girly girl. She is the one who really likes the girly things. She plays in my make up, is always wearing jewelry, wants plenty of accessories and loves to carry her purses everywhere. Her birthday was no exception. She has fallen in love with the series of Fancy Nancy books, so we threw a birthday soiree. The Fancy Nancy tea party was a big hit with this little birthday girl. I took many of the ideas from the books and she loved being fancy with her friends. The little people did beautifully with real tea cups and saucers - some even tried tea in addition to apple juice. The fancy cupcakes and cookies went perfectly with the parfaits, jelly rolls and tea sandwiches.....all eaten with 'pinkies up'.

Samoosa is growing into such a beautiful girl. She is a precious gift that brings such joy and excitement to our family. There is nothing she won't try and no opinion she won't express. She is confident, loves life and absolutely adores her big sister. She speaks the same language as her daddy....they are on the very same page and completely 'get' each other. She requires very little sleep and has enough energy for the six of us. She is our little lefty and thoroughly enjoys learning new things. She firmly believes she can do anything her older siblings can do and will go down trying if necessary. Her will is strong and determined. She has a goofy side that sucks you in to her world of dreams. She is spectacularly perfect in every way.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Only Three Times

only two were happy to be here

I have recently come to the conclusion that I will say or think "we get to do this three times" more times that I can count in my lifetime. Having the three little girls is just a big thrill. I love it. It is a bit petrifying a times, but absolutely fabulous. Girly Girl is showing us the ropes and Samoosa is not far behind her. Right now, they are age 6, 4 and 2. With each new dramatic moment or great memory I remind myself we have three amazing girls that we get to do life with. I wouldn't trade them for anything! I love these three.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

All About the Pose

Just had to post these two cuties.........they have a plan when ever the camera comes out. They learned it from their big sister. It was t-shirt and pizza day at school.


Friday, September 23, 2011

The Littles Are Getting Big

String Bean and Samoosa, September 6, 2011
It's nice having two pairs. The older two, aka Bigs, often go together and the younger pair, aka Littles tend to partner up as well. After sending Toads and Girly Girl off to school several weeks ago, it was time to get the Littles ready for their big day. Going to 'school' is something they both love and meets a need in all of our lives. They feel very independent and look forward to all of the 'big' things they get to do on school days.....take a lunch, carry backpacks, do work, play with friends. I look forward to accomplishing a long list of to-dos in record time. Tuesday and Thursdays are good all around. Here they are being big on the first day of school.

Just No Time

I have failed miserably at keeping up with any form of blogging. Just the few minutes it takes to write a post has been too much in my schedule for the past month. We have enjoyed such a busy season over the last few weeks. Truly, it was worth it. We had ten different evenings of member gatherings for coffee and cupcakes in our home. The NEHBC membership was invited alphabetically to join us for a time of just visiting and enjoying each other's company. There were people I had not even met before and it was such a blessing and reconnection for me personally. I find it very challenging to be what amounts to a single mom of four young children on Sunday mornings and still maintain some sort of ministry role to the people around me as well. This time together was just what I needed. Now that we are done hosting them, I shall attempt to get back to some blogging. Much has happened outside of our evening social calendar.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reminder of Differences

Girly Girl ready for day 3 of school
I was reminded again this week about the vast difference between girls and boys. It came in the form of our 6 year old girl and 7 year old boy. They started school this week and our start to the school year is a little different. Both Toads and Girly Girl are in a Spanish Immersion Program at their school and there is only one class of it offered at this school. When you commit to the program, you are committed for 1st through 5th grade. This means there are not the usual first day of school surprises....there is only one teacher, so you know who you have; the same kids are in your class each year, no new faces; and for us, your older brother is only a year ahead of you - same year, different child.

And the differences are immense in only the first few days. Toads had a wonderful year last year in Sra. Rudd's class and we could not have been more pleased with our experience. I had no idea what we had missed until the bigs got in the van on Monday. I did the usual 'how was it?' and Girly Girl could not get her words out fast enough. She gave me a minute by minute, blow by blow detail of every last bit of her day. She described her classroom and all that Sra. Rudd did in elaborate, storied details. She went on and on with such excitement that we were a little fatigued when she finished. Toads turned only resulted in a "I don't remember." That's not uncommon for him. He just doesn't have endless amounts of enthusiasm for recounting to his mother the intimate details of his life. He keeps it all to himself unless I pry some of it out of him. I remember thinking in the van how nice it would have been if Girly Girl was the older one so that I would know what all is happening in his classroom. I obviously did not have a clue about what was happening last year.

These two are a perfect example of how unique and different each one of us are - especially the male/female comparison. Our girl is all girl and our boy is all boy. They communicate differently, they respond to stress differently, they require different interaction with me. They are just wired very differently. God created them both with unique personalities and I am slowly learning to effectively navigate the parenting waters with a boy and not just this cute one, but three little girls. The little two talk just as much and with almost more dramatic flair than Girly Girl. Toads won't have to worry long about having to answer my questions as the girls fill in all of the air time. They are all four such a joy to parent.

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day Without Kindergarten

August 22, 2011
After two years in a row of dropping off a kindergartner the first day of school, it was a little different this year. First grade and second grade. Old hat. No big hugs. No help finding your name. No problem. We took Toads to his class first and then settled Girly Girl into her class which is Toads' class and teacher from last year. Their classrooms are right across the hall from one another, so they will be in view/ear shot of each other almost all the time. Toads probably could have done without the parental escort but Girly Girl was still a little interested in having us there. They have each other and for now, big brother is not too troubled by little sister being around all the time. I can already tell that they won't want us around much longer. They are confident, independent little Linos. I wouldn't have it any other way. I did manage to get a few pictures before they dismissed me.

1st grade and 2nd grade
Pine Forest Elementary - Sra. Fabela's class

Pine Forest Elementary - Sra. Rudd's class

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How We Made the Big Transition

This past Sunday, Nathan and I had the opportunity to see some sweet little NEHBC faces and talk to them and their parents about joining the NEHBC family in worship on Sunday mornings. It was so fun to see the new 4 year olds with wides eyes about what was happening and the looks on the parents’ faces too. Transitioning to big church can be very challenging for some families. It was for ours. It is also one of the most important things a family can do for the spiritual development of the children.

Nathan is long gone to prepare his heart and mind to preach by the time I wake up and start getting the Four Little Linos ready for worship each Sunday morning, so I have experienced this three times practically on my own. Toads, Girly Girl and Samoosa all transitioned to big church right at their 3rd birthdays. If I could visit with each family like we did in the group setting this past Sunday, this is what I would tell them about my experience…………..

The motto is “train and model.” Training and modeling requires sacrifice. In order to train and model worship of the living God to my child, I must be willing to put their spiritual well-being before my own. For a season, I will not hear every word of the sermon. I will not have any idea that we prayed for a particular people group in worship. I will miss the report of life change on a mission trip. I will not have all of my needs met in worship. The thing is, it’s not my needs that are important. Worship is not for me. It is not my break from my children. Worship is what I give the the King of Kings and what I am giving to Him right now, in this season of my life, is my children. My sacrifice of training and modeling is actually what He expects of me in my role as parent of the children He has entrusted to me.

So what does training and modeling look like? The idea is to let them see you worship and train them to do it for themselves. As a family, it requires a team approach. It requires planning ahead and being consistent. The attitude that Mom and Dad have about worship is what they will pass on to all the kids. Mom and Dad need to actively participate and communicate with each other. Let each other know how you think it’s going, what’s working, what’s not. Be excited about worship and talk positively about being with believers to worship your God. Get everyone on the same page and worship together as a family.

Lino training and modeling goes on all during the week. We have expectations for our children during that one hour of worship and we have explained what the consequences are for not meeting them. Some of ours are: not distracting others, not leaving the worship center to go to the bathroom, not fighting with siblings, standing and sitting at appropriate times, and so on. I always remind them of these expectations in the van on the way to church. There are no surprises or excuses. We talk about worship throughout the week and begin our ‘Sunday routine’ on Saturday. My goal is to do whatever it takes ahead of time to get us in our seats in worship with open, happy hearts and leave with happy hearts that have worshiped God in a way He wants to be worshiped.

To meet my goal of happy hearts before and after worship, these are some things I do:
·         Set out church clothes for everyone on Saturday night, even mine
·         Give ‘church baths’ to kids on Saturday night
·         Play worship music while getting ready on Sunday
·         Serve the same breakfast every Sunday (no time for discussing or disagreeing with the ever-changing requests)
·         Decide which service is best for your family – for us, it is easiest to arrive at the NEHBC campus and go straight to worship so that I don’t make us late by getting sidetracked in the hall talking or rounding up three children from different classrooms
·         Everyone goes to the restroom before finding seats in the worship center
·         Find a seat with a good view for children to see and know what is happening on the stage
·         Have a seating arrangement for the children that gives them the best opportunity for meeting the expectations and experiencing worship – for us, this means that the lefty of the bunch needs to sit to my left and all others on the right so that they don’t get in a fight when she continually elbows them with her writing hand; two personalities need to be split up because they talk a lot.
·         Decide ahead of time a plan for exiting the service if necessary – for what? Ours fall into two categories: defiant disobedience and major distractions
·         Everyone follows instructions of the worship leader and pastor – sit, stand, bow to pray, kneel when appropriate
·         Have a plan for the sermon time…..’big church bags’
o   The bag is only to be used during the sermon. Not at any other time during the service or at home. It is a special bag.
o   The child is responsible for the bag – it’s what they bring to worship like you bring your Bible. Have them carry it, pack it, take good care of it.
o   Using the bag on the floor is ok for little guys - they are probably lost and their hearts are not inclined to sit and listen attentively.
o   Put all kinds of nice, quiet age appropriate toys/activities in it – coloring books, pipe cleaners, stickers, sketch pads, washable markers to keep clothes nice, kleenex are a must. Make sure the activities are things they can do on their own and don’t require an explanation or help from Mom and Dad.
o   Change out the contents regularly.
o   Ensure that the bag is not being repacked during the response time but that children are participating in the response time and not being a distraction to others that are responding to the Lord.
o   As children get older, expectations change for the sermon time – not on the floor, take notes, etc.
·         Let children participate when appropriate – help pass offering bag, open Bible, pray at the altar with you, etc.
·         Whisper instructions or explanations during teachable moments of the service – Lord’s supper, point out instrumentalists, explain looking for references in Bible

Despite my best efforts, worship does not always go like I dream it will. That’s ok. Having perfectly obedient children is not the goal. They do make noises and distract others. We do have to exit on occasion. I am not locked in on those dreams. The hope and dream of having four little Linos that love the Lord their God and worship Him with all of the hearts is the one I’m working towards. My sacrifice, planning, praying, training and modeling is so worth it. Being the one to teach my child to worship their Creator is an awesome privilege. Parent, enjoy the opportunity you have been given and be faithful to your calling as parent of that precious child.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Life on the Beach

Six Linos on Navarre Beach - July 2011
Such good memories were made and lessons were learned on our 2011 beach vacation. Of course there are too many to include them all, but to name just a few...........

  • Heading out at 430am with four young children is the best idea - they sleep for half of the 9 hour trip.

  • Cooking in your condo is much better than going out all the time. Yes, I know it takes effort. I cooked some food ahead of time and took it with us. I also had a menu for all three meals each of the 14 days we were gone. We made several trips to the local grocery store. The trade off is that you don't have to spend them time getting the family of six ready to go out and risk poor service and bad food. We had great family meals around the table or on the patio that were not interrupted by waiters and trips to the restroom.

  • Ask the locals where to eat. We had super recommendations from the locals at Navarre....Shrimp Basket and Flounder's in Pensacola were our faves. Flounder's has great atmosphere and enormous amounts of good food!

  • Lino family walks on the beach are never dull. We usually don't go anywhere unnoticed. How can you when you have four young children? But our walks along the beach definitely turned a few heads. In the evenings, were were loaded down with buckets and nets to catch whatever was swimming by and all of the crabs racing around on the fine, white sand. There was often a spectacle when one of us spotted the smallest of crabs and then the boys went dashing to catch it. I know Samoosa and String Bean enjoyed the evening walks better than the laborious half mile walks to the pier. Those walks to the pier with this family of six took forever! You could see all the sympathetic moms sighing in exhaustion with me as I carried or urged the little girls to keep up with us. The promise of ice cream on the pier was the only motivation for Samoosa.

  • Vacation does not require doing 'stuff'. Over the course of two weeks, we managed to 'entertain' ourselves quite well. We made one outing to the Gulfarium in Ft. Walton where me met our friends from Arkansas who were also on vacation at the same time and then we went on a drive one afternoon where we found a British specialty store that made Nathan's day. Other than that, our family time was on the beach or in the pool. Each of the kids went on outings with Dad - to get a sno cone or watch the pier fishing. I went armed with library books and a DVD library with microwave popcorn for the rainy days.

  • 4 little Linos and 4 little Piles at the Gulfarium
  • Reading on the beach is only done without children. I tried to read on the beach. It's much more fun to play one-on-one volleyball with the 7 year old boy than read about Hillary Clinton's time in the White House. I'd pick building sand castles with the two year old or floating in the waves with three little girls over any of the books on my night stand.

  • There are many more memories to be made on the beach.....I can't wait for the next family vacation!

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Happy Birthday Girly Girl

    I have just been thinking back on the past six years with this little bundle of joy. What a marvelous gift from the Lord she is. I love this Girly Girl! Happy Birthday to the first of our three little girls.
    in the hospital - August 2005

    One Year - 2006

    Two Years - 2007

    Three Years - 2008

    Four Years - 2009

    Five Years - 2010

    Six Years - 2011

    A Glimpse of the Future

    My husband has the future all planned.....on the beach. I am not fully convinced yet since I really like to be in the snow, but two weeks on the beach was pretty amazing. The Six Linos made the trek over to Navarre Beach, Florida for the last two weeks of July. Just the six of us. A condo on the beach. Sun, sand and tons of fun. After thinking about it some, I think this was one of the best things we have done for our family. We had originally planned a one week vacation for just the two of us and then a shorter family vacation.
    Six Lino crocodiles
    After some debate, we decided on a full two weeks for all six of us. I knew going in that it was not going to be weeks of sleeping in and reading on the beach. I was still going to be in mommy mode and wiping noses. I was in mommy mode the whole time and it was fabulous. We did not have the routine of work and responsibilities that often call Nathan away. Our time was uninterrupted by phone calls, house maintenance, responding to mail and just the normal demands of life. The stage of life that our
    kids are in (2, 3, 5, and 7) made this so important because of the relationship building that came so easily on long walks or over sno cones. The benefit of the undivided attention that the kids got from us in this two weeks will last long into the future. We had two weeks of togetherness that is something I think we will all remember fondly.
    Sno Cones at Tommy's

    Back to the Real World

    It is such a shocker when you have to get back to the real world. School starts in less than two weeks. There is precious little time left for us to enjoy our time together as a family without the pressure of schedules and numerous appointments. I have been lagging on the blog because we took a much needed two week vacation to Navarre Beach, Florida and the icing on the cake was the private stay-cation that I had for the week following the family vacation. More to follow on that one! While routine will be nice, I have thoroughly enjoyed our summer.

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Stepping Up the Organization

    4 kids + 4 boxes = peaceful road trip
    I have taken my plan-ahead, be organized strategy to a new level thanks to another mom-of-four friend. If you have kids, then you know that a road trip can be exhausting. There are obvious reasons, but most moms spend the majority of the trip passing things back, refilling snack cups and navigating the 'I don't want this kind' waters. Usually, I have a large snack bag in the front of the van with a wide selection of snacks, napkins, etc. This time around, we are trying a new strategy. Each child has a box (the ziploc/tupperware variety) that will fit nicely under their seat that is filled with snacks that are prepackaged or in baggies. When it is snack time, they can pull out their box and choose a snack.

    I see many advantages to this plan. Everyone has a choice and complaining is kept to a minimum. . If you eat your oreos at the first break, then you can't complain that you only have crackers later when someone else is eating their oreos. You also can't complain that you don't like picked it out and packed the box with the flavors you like and colors you prefer. The box also includes napkins for quick clean ups. I think peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would be a great addition for the future. We skipped that this time since we are stopping for lunch. In preparation for the trip home, we have already packed the snacks in ziploc bags and they will be transferred to the boxes before we hit the road again. This eliminates the trip to the store to buy more car food because we ate it all in the condo.

    Best of all, mommy does not have to work so hard. I might get to the vacation destination with some energy to actually enjoy it!

    PS Thanks MD for the great idea!

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    No Girls Allowed

    Here is the boy - Toads. Our oldest. Our only son. If he has heard it once, he has heard it a thousand times......'you're the only boy'. People say it with such sympathy and often a 'that's just terrible' tone in their voice. There are times that I would have to agree. He is inundated with the feminine side of everything  - all the time. The summer in particular is rough for him. He's home with mom and three dramatic girls that like all things pink.

    I have to be very intentional in my efforts to keep the masculine side of things at the forefront for him. Of course I just don't 'get him' on many occasions and I will never be able to relate to him like Dad does, but I can do my part to not let the hormonal female majority at our house overwhelm him. These are some of the things I try to do:
    • Have plenty of boys over to play. The three girls rarely have guests over to play - they have each other. He has nobody! Just having another boy in the house eases many of the tensions among the little people.
    • Let him choose the entertainment. He can only watch Barbie: The Island Princess so many times. We have a nice selection of boy movies, dinosaur puzzles, monster books, war games, and more.
    • Don't worry about his clothes matching. I have to admit that I struggle with this one. I want all the girls in matching outfits with cute bows, so of course the boy should at least have on a shirt and shorts that match each other. I have had to learn to let it go......let him wear mesh shorts 6 out of 7 days, let him have on plaid shorts and striped shirt, wear tennis shoes with everything. I still make him look presentable for church and certain family outings, but I am getting much better about this one.
    • Let him get dirty. Being the oldest, I was naturally a bit cautious with him as an infant/toddler when outside. With age, came dirt, sweat, sticks, rocks, and more sweat. He smells like a boy in no time.
    • No pink or purple allowed. Strong masculine colors only - clothes, blankets, toys, bikes, plastic plates/silverware, etc. All the princess dress - up clothes are for girls only.
    • Never object to Father/Son time. We call it 'guy time'. Nathan is very good about spending time with him and being intentional about building masculine traits in him. I am so thankful for that significant influence! I do my best to never discourage or detract from that time they have together even if it means planning 'boring' things for the girls and I to do so that Toads is not interested in them.
    • Limit the girly activities. If at all possible, I make alternative arrangements for Toads when it's time for me to hit the mall or nail salon. This also means the little girls cannot make him play girly games all day in the playroom.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Seven Together

    Leffler - Lino cousins. July 2011
    While their parents were on vacation, the three Leffler (Nathan's sister's family) cousins came to stay at Granny and Grandpa's house. We have had a wonderful week swimming, having sleep-overs, boy time, and just lots and lots of play time. The seven kids range in age from 10 on down to 2. Just last night, Grandpa was saying how wonderful it is to have all the grandkids. It is equally wonderful to have amazing grandparents. It is such a privilege to have Nathan's parents so close and willing to spend quality time with the kids. We are very blessed to have them.

    Toads (7), String Bean (2), Girly Girl (5) & Samoosa (3)

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