Monday, December 24, 2012

This will have to do

Hello dear blog. Will you forgive me my neglect of the past several months? And can I use you as a quick and lazy way to send Christmas greetings? You see, these past several months have been rather crazy. After finishing one big building project, we finally jumped in to work on our own unfinished house. Oh, and grandpa came from France for a two months visit to help. So between homeschooling and keeping house and having a house guest and working at the other house and two terrible rounds of the stomach flu in a month and getting ready for the holidays whilst sleeping, all six of us in one single bedroom, I needed to let something go. You were a victim. And I can make no guarantees that I will not continue to neglect you in the coming months. But for now, I will post some pictures on you for others to see.
This was the closest thing we got to Christmas photos this year. Being at the house has been something like a boys dream come true. I am not sure I can say the same for myself..... Endless piles of dirt and heavy machinery and rides in a digger! I won't mention the endless laundry piles. At any rate- Merry Christmas to all and sundry from the crazy Lewin family!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sweet and Squishy

These are two words we use to describe the little boy in this house who turned 4 yesterday. Sweet, 'cause he is just really sweet, and squishy 'cause he so soft and cuddly and tender hearted and, well, you get the picture. Unfortuanately, sickly is another word we have to apply to my little Seb. I always love the change to cooler weather, except for the fact that it brings on his asthma. It was so bad this time around that we ended up in the ER last Wednesday, hooked up to breathing machines and being ex-rayed for pneumonia. Thankfully it hadn't gotten as bad as that, but it was a long day, and we were thankful to be released that evening. He felt better by yesterday however, and was able fully to enjoy his birthday festivities.

These pictures were taken at 0 dark-thirty, because we had a busy day doing some non-birthday related activities. Thankfully, when you are four, you don't feel cheated when you have to spend your birthday at Daddy's worksite. We had cake and gifts with Aunt Vee when we got home last night, but I didn't get any pictures since Steve filmed it. The video is way too long to upload here, but rest assured, he did manage to blow out all his candles, even with his puny lungs.

Waiting for the great balloon cascade.

Boys and Balloons- need I say more?

Mommy reveals some amazing balloon twisting skills.

Homemade donuts were the order of the day.

Happy Birthday Sebastien!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My own little Calvin

Aunt Aubree gave James a book of Calvin and Hobbes for his birthday in June. Still not sure if that was a great idea, but it has been entertaining.

This was the not so original idea he came up with while I was making lunch today.

I tried to give him a pretend quarter to see what his great ideas were, but he wasn't having it, so I went on making lunch while he continued to hawk his wares. After a few minutes and still no takers, he changed his prices.

Still nothing. So he started issuing blank checks to his brothers so they could pay him.

Etienne paid for the great idea of cleaning the windows. Much to my surprise, he dutifully cleaned windows for the next ten minutes. Who knew that would work?

He finally knocked his price down so low that I couldn't refuse. I gave him a real penny and he "randomly" selected this particular piece of advice for me.

How could I refuse? I made him a popsicle.

And just for fun, here are a few more Calvin sales pitches that I hopefully won't be seeing around my house.

Have a happy day!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Coming up for Air

Summer used to be my favorite season. No school, warmer weather, vacation- you know, the usual things most people like to think of when they think of summer. Now that I live in the south, summer time seems to be a time of fighting bugs, warding off heat and humidity, and being stuck at home trying to think of indoor things for the kids to do, without the usual distractions that church and school bring.
This summer has also been difficult for other reasons, and I find myself longing for a new start, for the beginning of routine and fresh air. Our family has been plagued with injury, illness, and even death. Constant struggle and upheaval does not make me want to rise to the challenge- it makes me want to hide in a corner, especially when it is 100 degrees outside. I feel like I am sitting around, waiting for the next blow to fall, a blow like last week when a young cousin was diagnosed with cancer.
I have been putting things off- like coming to grips with the fact that I am going to need to homeschool this year, and not wanting to do it. In short, I guess I have been living in fear, stagnating for want of action.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I would shake off dull sloth and do a dry run of our homeschool day- just to see if I could sort out a schedule and figure out what other books I needed to get. I was ambitious- I set my alarm for six am and had charts and printouts and what not ready to go. My alarm went off- I woke up sick. Very sick, and the following sinus infection is still dogging my steps. It was like starting a race by running straight uphill. I was tempted to give up- I mean, how necessary is an education really? But life goes on, hope is still there, and perseverance is necessary, even when I don't feel like it. It is September- I am starting school in earnest tomorrow. I have my alarm set for six am again. And fall is coming, with its reminders of change and new perspective.

This has been a darker post than usual, but it has been a darker time for us. I write this I suppose, for the future, so I can look back and see how God has brought us through the good times as well as the bad. My next post will be cheery and full of all the amzing ideas I have found for homeschooling on Pinterest. Lord help me, I finally got sucked in to Pinterest. Ha! Until then...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Let's Pretend

Let's pretend I have caught up on my blog by now. Let's pretend that I finished posting pictures of the rest of our wonderful vacation and a family reunion with 11 adults and 14 kids(the average age was 4- can you say exhausted?) Let's pretend that I have updated all the changes in our life right now, the most significant being my sister moving to town to be with us! And let's pretend I took tons of great shots of all our recent attempts at various pools and watering holes to avoid the 108 degree heat. Oh, and a fantastic fourth of July! Now that we have done that, we can relax on a cooler rainy day (thank you Lord!) and catch up with the garden.

Just one pic today of our afternoon project- Canning Mango Salsa! The only problem is, most of my jars are still filled with strawberry jam. Hmmmm. Does salsa freeze well?

I am proud to say that the only thing I didn't grow in this picture is the mango. And I did have to buy cilantro this morning because mine got scorched to death in the heatwave. Oh, and garlic- had to buy that too cause mine rotted. Okay, so we are not quite a self-sustaining farm yet, but we're working on it. We just need a cow, and well, some land.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First half of vacation

Well, we made it to grandma's two weeks ago. The flight was relatively uneventful, other than arriving at around 1 am, which was of course 4 am to us. Needless to say we have been tired, and fighting the early mornings thanks to a sun that rises at 5 am here. I finally had sense enough to black out the windows with blankets, so we have all been sleeping much better and are getting our energy back. It only took two weeks! We have also been very busy with cousins and what not, so I thought I would post a few pictures before I got overwhelmed with a full month's worth.

At the airport, waiting for our first flight.

I kept getting looks from everyone we passed like I was crazy for flying solo with four boys or something.

A little happy birthday to me (and my big sister.) We are a year and a week apart, and always used to have our birthday parties together.

A Saturday picnic down by the water on a day so beautiful, I wonder why we ever left this place.

Collecting crabs!

And a chilly, drizzly morning at the playground, which helps remind me why the South isn't so bad.

All in all, it's good to be home.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Peter Pan Syndrome

Steve left for France this morning. In his prayer over breakfast he said "Lord, help the boys to be good for their mommy- Help James not too be so bossy, help Etienne not to be so rowdy, and help Sebastien not to be so whiny. I'd say he knows his boys pretty well, although I asked him to add a quick prayer that Christian would be through teething soon. I hope his prayers are answered for the sake of my sanity because it has been a rough week for me and my family. Being so far away from my folks and sisters, and Steve being gone makes hard times that much more difficult. There are days when I long for the old and simpler days of childhood- the days when my mom took care of me,and major crises were about things like what we were, or were not having for dinner. Instead, I wake up each morning with the responsibility of trying to figure out what makes these four little men tick. For instance-

The other night, as I got the boys ready for bed, I looked up at Etienne and noticed how grown up he was looking. In a mock severe tone I told him he absolutely had to stop getting so big- that he was not allowed to keep growing. Instead of giggling in response as I had expected, his face got all contorted and a tear or two escaped. I quickly hugged him, assuring him I had just been joking, but he wrapped his arms around my neck and burst into tears. It took me a while to figure out what he was saying, but the gist of it was that he never wanted to grow up. He just wanted to be a kid forever. I was a bit flabbergasted. I mean, all James can ever talk about is being old enough to drive a car, earn some money to buy whatever he wants, and play video games whenever he can. And here was my second born clinging to the present, seemingly terrified of an unknown future, and wishing he lived in Neverland.

I tried to convince him of all the great things he could do when he got older, but he wouldn't be convinced. I waxed eloquent, bringing all of my hard earned wisdom to bear, and trying to ignore my own recent longing for the simplicity of childhood. It all proved futile. So I just sat and held him. He only stopped crying when James, annoyed by his incessant weeping, walked by doing a weird dance and making farting noises with his mouth. In fact Etienne went straight from sobbing to laughing out loud which turned into a strange kind of hysterics. But he jumped off my lap to join in the dancing and rude noise-making. Problem solved.

Oh boys, will I ever figure them out? Then again, if I had known the solution was so easy, would I have used it? I guess I am just not yet used to employing crude humor as therapy. Nor am I sure it's the best way to go about fixing things long term. But I'm learning day by day- that's part of growing up, right? And whether I want to or not, I might as well accept it, because "All children, except one, grow up."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fourth baby

I'm trying to think of alternate titles for this post. Perhaps 'The Egg' because of the hideous lump on my baby's forehead, or 'Worst Mother in the World' because I didn't even see this happen, or 'Keeping Up', because he got the lump from trying to catch his brothers. In my defense, he has a large vein that runs down the middle of his forehead, so bumps in this location always look worse than they are.
I feel like this kid, more than any of the others, has something to prove. He is way ahead of his brothers when they were this age- walking, trying to talk, and just trying to be a big boy way too soon. I often find him turning circles in the middle of the living room as his brothers race past, trying to decide which way to go so he can join in. But he is always too slow, and he gets so frustrated he just screams. Another difference with this baby is that he is his daddy's boy all the way, and not just in looks. He prefers Steve over me any time. If daddy is at home, then daddy is the one he wants. I am not sure why this is- but it is kind of nice for a change. I'm just a little worried that he's going to flip when Steve leaves next week for a month. Yep, that's right- Steve gets to go to France to see his family for the month of May. I was so jealous of this fact that I booked myself and the boys some tickets to go see my family for a month. So hah! Wait, who wins in this situation? Did I just commit to a five hour plane ride with four boys? Without Daddy? Gulp. Oh, but Grandma is at the other end.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hide 'n Seek

This game has become very popular around our house since Sebastien can 'count' now. The rules are basic. Hide under mom's covers for an indeterminate amount of time, mumbling random integers and then go find your brothers who are almost always hiding in the same place. Who knew life could be so fun? And who knew sixty-hereIcome was a number?

Untitled from nicole lewin on Vimeo.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Etienne and Easter

This year Easter week coincided with Etienne's 5th birthday, which it hasn't done for the last few years. It made for a very busy week which I am still recovering from- hence the late photos.
We had a quiet party for Etienne. His breakfast of choice?- cinnamon rolls. I asked him what kind of a party he wanted, and all he said was he wanted to be king for the day. So I made him a crown made out of tin foil. He was thrilled. I wonder how long that kind of excitement will last. We also had a picnic at a local park to feed the geese and walk along the edge of the stone wall surrounding the lake. Again- how long will the thrill of such an outing survive? I mean, they just couldn't get enough of walking the edge of that wall. He is so easy to please, that boy. Whenever I ask him what he wants to do for his birthday, he gets overwhelmed by the number of options and gets a little panicky. In the end, he said he didn't care what kind of a cake he got, just so long as there were m&ms involved.

Saturday morning was a church-wide breakfast and Easter egg hunt. Well, as James noted, it wasn't so much of a hunt as a race. The eggs were just lying on the ground everywhere, so the whole hunt took about 45 seconds. They had a blast though. Some dear friends had invited us for Easter Sunday, so we spent Saturday afternoon at their house helping preparing Easter dinner. Easter day itself was really lovely- 72 degrees and sunny. The perfect combo for an outdoor feast of lamb and many other goodies. There was also another egg hunt for the kids, and a wonderful afternoon of good company and quiet conversation. I wish I had taken better photos, but here is a quick slideshow if you are interested. Hope you all had a wonderful Easter!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow

Well, since we didn't get any snow this year, or any cold weather for that matter, our first garden post is a good deal earlier than last year. We kept waiting for the cold to come and finish off the final remnants of our last year's garden, but it never did. And I am still nervously watching the ten day forecast for any freak April freeze that could destroy what we have planted. But it looks like we should be pretty safe. I hope so, cause things are coming up like there's no tomorrow.

Here's a little tour if you are interested. As you come through our front gate you will be greeted by these sunny poppies that I planted last April.

Yes, you heard that right- last April. I planted them along with the sunflowers, but the sunflowers grew so fast and big that these little guys didn't stand a chance in their shadow. After we cut down the sunflowers, they tried again, and managed to grow some leaves before "winter" hit. Then they just waited patiently for several months until this spring, when they were glad to see I decided against twelve foot monster flowers and exploded into life. They have made an impact I guess. I was walking the other day about six blocks from my house, and a woman I had never seen greeted me with a "Hey you! You're that lady aren't you? That lady with the poppies!" I had to laugh.

Along the other side of the fence are the green beans and of course zinnias.

I had saved some dried beans from last year's crop and was very pleased to see them spring up right away this year. I felt so frugal, you know, saving a buck-fifty or something. And also very pioneerish. I mean, if the worst happens, I know that I have an infinite supply of green beans to feed my family, right?

Our potted plants have increased in number and variety.

It's kind of bad that we live about two blocks from the best nursery in town, because it is always tempting to stop by on the way home, just to grab one thing of course. Yesterday, Steve brought home a fig tree!

I never know what that man is going to bring home next.

This is a funny little tree that is very special to me.

Once when my mom and dad were visiting a cousin in California, they noticed her curly willow tree and really liked it. My cousin gave them a cutting to bring home with them, and it rooted and grew like crazy. When we moved away from that house, they took a cutting with them and planted it at the new house, where it is now a rather large tree. My older sister wanted one too, and took a piece home with her. When she came to visit last March, we asked if she could sneak a few cuttings from her tree in her baggage. They survived and this is the result in just a year. It's the tree that keeps on giving.

My irises made a much better showing this year than the last.

And I know, like we didn't have enough strawberries already.

Our planter boxes are similar to last year- radishes, beets, lettuce, chard, brussel sprouts, onions, peppers and of course tomatoes.

What we planted in the farthest box was kind of an accident.

We had been steadily adding to our compost for over a year, and it was finally ready to add to the garden. The last box had a lower dirt level so I threw it all in there and mixed it up. I guess we didn't let it compost fully or something, because after a couple of weeks we started seeing serious growth going on, and it wasn't weeds. I do not exaggerate when I say there were at least fifty tomato plants starting up, well over fifty squash (at least we think it is squash- could be cantelope or cucumber as well) basil plants, sunflowers and zinnias and even two or three peach trees from discarded pits. (The big bush is my rosemary that survived the winter nicely.)
We toyed with the idea of letting it all just grow and see what would come, but remembering last year and the explosive growth of the squash and tomatoes, we decided to let the squash (or cantelope or cucumber) win the battle early. I did transplant the peach trees though. They are so cute and I am curious to see if anything will come of them. Gardening can be such an adventure!

As I was coming in from watering, I just had to snap this shot.

All my little kiddos boots all in a row, ready to put on little feet that can't wait to help mommy dig in the dirt. Do you like Christian's little yellow boots? My older sister gave them to me because she was done having kids. Do you think I should give them back?

Happy gardening!