Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pictures Brought To You by Technology.

 Once again I've been very bad with the camera but I do have a few cell phone shots from the past week:) What would we do without cell phones....

This is a cloud that Samuel spotted on our way to OH last Saturday. It looked just like a dragon with an open mouth and a long tail! Click on it to make it bigger and see if you agree...

My Aunt Judy was so sweet and brought over some bubbles and sidewalk chalk to entertain my crew! That gave them something fun to do during the brief times we were hanging out at my Gma and Gpa's house. Bubbles are a timeless entertainer!!

A "small" pile of books B returned to the library on Friday:) Only 100 or so.....The boys had a lot of fun helping him load these up! And our basement bookshelves are looking a little barren....

Eliana took full advantage of having Baby C's baby gear around on Friday! For Baby Anna, of course:) Baby Anna got the royal treatment with a nice bouncy seat and a very cool carseat. She's a lucky doll!

And yesterday, the boys decided to build a fort. They went up and down the stairs carrying loads of pillows, blankets and stuffed animals (why, I am not sure!) and Eliana got into the excitement. While they were excitedly discussing their fort as they haphazardly threw it together, she was going on and on about the "tea party" they were having! Ha! The difference between boys and girls:)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Back Together

We are home again! I had a plan to leave by 10am (OH time) yesterday so I specifically would not hit traffic in Chicago. Amazingly, the kiddos and I were able to pack up and check in on my mom and leave only 20 minutes behind schedule. Not bad!

I knew we were being "prayed" home by several people and I saw very clear evidence that we were protected! One, I almost ran out of gas on the highway and thankfully and exit came just in time. Two, a semi started to swerve into my lane right in front of me but caught himself in time and swerved back. He waved an apology. Three, a huge black SUV almost crashed right into the back of me TWICE but thankfully, caught themselves in time. And I was SO very tired from a busy week and not the greatest sleep but a McDonald's frappe (first one ever and it was delicious!) and Eliana crying before giving up for a nap helped wake me up.

Anyways, we were so very thankful to arrive home safely and unscathed. I was so exhausted that I crashed on the couch around 6:45pm while B read to the boys. A couple good night's sleep and I ought to be back to normal!

I absolutely know I made the right decision to go back and help my mom and stepdad. They needed help so badly and it made me so happy to be there, even if it was tiring. My mom dropped everything to care for my family and I last year and I know she would do the same for every one of her children. I am so thankful I could do the same for her! And I got to spend extra time with my grandparents and get filled up by their love, which was special:) It was very hard to leave yesterday.

The boys helped out, too, with Winston, my mom's dog and some other small chores. They got to earn a few dollars, which made them so happy:) It helped Samuel to be distracted and have something to do, as he suffered so with being away from his Daddy. And on Wednesday B's mom came to pick them up and whisk them away for a day of fun. Boy, were they happy when they came back with all sorts of special gifts and stories! Grandma sure knows how to make their day:)

Today I started a new babysitting job! I will now be watching an adorable 2 1/2 month old baby boy a few days a week. He did great today and was duly admired by my three munchkins. Samuel could not get enough of him! He kept stopping by to talk to him and get smiles and kept telling me over and over, "He's so cute, mommy!" Eliana only had a brief period of jealously, when I put Baby C into my moby wrap. She said, "No, mommy, take him out of the mody wap!" And she cried and got so upset with me. But after he fell asleep and I got down on the ground to play with her and offer her lots of cuddles and hugs, she was totally fine. She enjoyed using his bouncy seat and car seat for Baby Anna today:)

Ben took the boys with him for a few hours while he returned a ton of library books and got a few hours of work in. They didn't want to leave their daddy again!

It's nice to be back together:)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Is this thing on?

Hello? Anyone there? I did not walk off the face of the planet, although it may seem so! I actually made a very (very) last-minute decision on Saturday morning to travel home to Ohio to take care of my mom and step-dad, who were in desperate need of help.

I did a few loads of laundry, packed up my trio, and made the long trip by myself. Samuel has had a very hard time being away from his Daddy but they have been able to talk on the phone and Ben was even able to read a bedtime story to the boys over Skype once. Eliana stayed dry the entire drive here, which was amazing! We only had to make 3 brief stops to use the bathroom. I was so impressed! She is fighting a cold and has been a little off and not sleeping as well as usual. Zakkai seems totally oblivious to everything and is just enjoying seeing family and helping to walk my mom's dog:)

I am so insanely busy that I feel like I have half a brain most of the day! I keep starting things and not finishing them, like texts back to people and am wiped out by the end of the day. But I am so happy to be here and be helping, especially seeing how much they needed someone.

We'll be heading back Thursday morning so please pray for a safe trip for us and for continued healing for my family!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In a Nutshell..

Seems like it has been a long week! I already dozed off after tucking the kiddos in bed and had to force myself to wake up so I can go to bed properly in a few minutes!

*Eliana is still doing pretty awesome with potty-training! She has stayed dry to/from VBS all week and this afternoon we made our first foray out into "public" to meet some friends at the park. I brought her little potty in the car and she was able to use it and stay dry over the 2 hour period! One funny thing that happened was Ben helped her put on some new panties after a minor mishap earlier this morning and he said, "Boy, her panties are so tight! Poor thing." About 5 or so minutes later, I was walking by and glanced over at her while she was playing and noticed she did look pretty stuffed into her panties. Something wasn't quite right.....I went over to investigate and burst out laughing when I realized Ben had put them on sideways! I'm not sure how he accomplished that but it was pretty funny.

*The boys only have one more day of VBS. They are so excited because tomorrow the parents get to come 15 minutes early to hear the kids sing songs they have been learning all week. I think they are going to sing at church on Sunday, too. I am so glad they have gotten to take part in this! The theme this week is basically following God through the ups and downs and staying strong. A good lesson for all ages!

*Some good news I forgot to share is that Ben is now under contract for a book! His dissertation is being published and he is hard at work revising his monstrosity of a dissertation for book form. If he meets all deadlines by Sept 1st, then his book should be out by November, which is just in time for the big biblical conference held each year where a lot of interviews are conducted! He jokes that his book will be multi-purposeful. Good for killing flies, curing insomnia or learning everything you didn't want to know about the Books of Kings:)

*I finally got back into crafting today after a long break. I have been very unmotivated in the past months to work on projects for a few reasons so it felt good to be back at my sewing machine. I'm working on a (hopefully) cute outfit for Eliana. And I hope this will get me going to work on some gifts for some upcoming babies!

*I talked to my mom today and she sounded pretty good, although a bit "puny" sounding. She says she is doing well and is ahead of the game. By early this afternoon, she had already had 2 PT sessions and had walked a bit with her walker. Her blood pressure was pretty low last night but it was back to normal today, thankfully. She should get to go home tomorrow.

*I made a different dinner tonight and it was really good! I needed something quick to go with our fresh farmer's market broccoli. I went off of a recipe that I found on pinterest. You prepare linguine noodles and while they are cooking, you sauté some minced garlic in a little olive oil for about a minute. Take the pan off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes. Then add some breadcrumbs to the pan and put it back on the heat. I used maybe 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs? I added a little bit more oil and mixed it up well and browned it over the heat for a couple of minutes. Added a little bit of parsley and then when the noodles were done and drained, added the breadcrumb mixture and tossed it all around with about 1 TB of butter. We added some parmesan cheese on top and it was SO good! Eliana gobbled it up and she can be a little finicky about dinner. I will definitely make it again.

It's been much easier to cut down on meat than I thought it would be. And it's been very helpful to our grocery bill!

(picture from

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


 I am sitting here basking in the silence of my home, waiting to inhale the scent of baking brownies and feeling pretty good about how potty-training is going!

Miss Thang is doing awesome! Only one minor accident that she caught, tons of stickers on her chart and more M&Ms to fuel her addiction:) I am hoping to wean off the chocolates soon. We are still waiting for the big #2, which she will receive a "big" prize for (a necklace from the dollar section!). She tried today but no such luck.

Pretty much all week she has pottied and played with Baby Anna. She is nuts about this little doll! Lately, she thinks it's pretty cute to wedge Baby's thumb in her mouth and then walk her around in the stroller, stopping everytime she gets to me and saying, "Aw, isn't she cute? She's sucking her tum!"

Mugga brought a special surprise for Eliana this weekend!! Matching dresses!! About a month ago, we were in Target and for whatever reason, were talking about clothes for Baby Anna. I told her that her jammies couldn't come off but maybe we could ask Mugga to make her a dress. Mugga went a step further and made one for Eliana, too! Aren't they a cute pair??

The boys are sad that they are over halfway done with VBS already. I'm sure all the volunteers and staff will be exhausted when the week is done! They have done such a great job! The boys come home with a fun new craft each day, new songs they learned and a new verse.

Today Samuel had a rough day. He feels emotions so deeply and doesn't always know how to put them into words. He was really missing his Daddy, who has been working the past 2 days, which caused a lot of tears. Plus I think all of our family leaving and doing VBS has made him more tired and a little more emotional. It was hard to watch him be so sad today:( I really hope he has a better day tomorrow ~ especially after he gets his Daddy hug!

And my mom is doing really well! She came out of surgery well, was sick for a while but they were able to correct it and get this, has already been up walking! I think that is just crazy that they made her walk only hours after getting a full knee replacement but I think it helps with the healing or something. Hopefully, she will get released from the hospital on Friday and will get to heal in her own home. Prayers for her and my stepdad would still be appreciated! And also for Ben's grandma, who is recovering from her own ankle surgery. My, we know a lot of injured people!

I tucked everyone in bed and came down to tidy up the kitchen. I heard Eliana yelling and talking about things like how much she likes her baby and where are her brothers. And then I heard something different and I paused in my cleaning to listen. And this is what I heard...

"Heidi? Heidi, are you there?! I need you, Heidi! I need to ask you!"

There are no shortages of smiles around here!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Potty Chronicles

Day 2 of potty training survived!!! I was feeling discouraged yesterday, although E ended the day with 2 in a row.

Today, however, E rocked!! She barely went this morning so I must not have given her too much to drink. I was a little worried that she would pee on me as I carried her to/fro VBS but thankfully that did not happen!! But the turning point came when she started to wet her panties, stopped and continued in the potty!!

She may develop a slight M&M addiction now but this girl is doing AWESOME!! It did get a little crazy towards the end of the night when she went 5 times within less than a half an hour. I'm assuming having her brothers doing the potty dance with her and giving her M&Ms might have had something to do with it...:) Hey, whatever works!

Here's a little video of her potty dance!

Here are a few pics from this weekend that I stole from my Gma! I hope to have more as soon as people email me their pics! I know you may be tired of them but I'm not!! ;)

My handsome boys and cute little miss!!

I just loved this picture!! My Gma had us all line up on the bench and I think it turned out so cute!!

If you have a moment, please say a prayer for my mama tomorrow, who is having a knee replacement. She is understandably nervous but the hardest part is that my stepdad has also severely injured his knee and is on crutches so they are a mess! They would be so thankful for your prayers, as would I!

Monday, June 17, 2013

I am Crazy. The end.

Ben and I were like little school kids yesterday, waking up and wanting to check his diploma to see the words "Doctor of Philosphy" in those big letters again! What a thrill. We are just so thankful for our family coming in town to celebrate with us. It wouldn't have been the same without them! They helped make it so very special for us.

Today when Ben checked his status at school, his degree was officially conferred on him in the computer system which was fun to see:) Hey, it's the little things in life!

This week is a fun week for the boys! They started VBS at our church. Both were a little nervous, not having been to VBS before but they came home so happy! They loved it so much and can't wait to go again tomorrow! They will go all week from 9-12pm. Eliana cried when we left them there:( She's loved having her brothers home!

They stayed at the hotel with Mugga and Grandma on Saturday night and she missed them then, too. I heard her call out from her room, "Bring da boys home!" before she collapsed in exhaustion and we never heard another peep til morning:)

And while big brothers are being occupied at vacation bible school, Eliana is being potty-trained! Oh, yes, you read that right. It should be alternately stated: Eliana's mommy is crazy! Everyone keeps telling me how easy it is to potty train girls and they can be trained so early and blah, blah. I have been putting it off because of the nightmare of potty training my sweet Z-man (sorry, buddy!) but she has shown so many signs of being ready lately, including not being able to keep a stitch of her clothing on when in bed (!!!) that I knew it was time.

We ran to the store to grab a little pack of M&Ms and stickers and headed home to begin. She whipped off her diaper so fast it wasn't even funny! Or it was:) We started out with some Minnie Mouse underwear and she plopped down on her little Ikea potty to watch some Sesame Street, in hopes of earning her 2 M&Ms.

Within a half an hour we had success! I made a big deal out of it and gave her the M&Ms, a sticker on a little chart (which she got to put on) and was SO excited! And then it went downhill. She sat on and off for awhile and then went and peed all over the floor. Then, by the time it was time to go pick up the boys, she was in melt-down mode and refusing to even look at the potty! I almost threw in the towel right then and there.

Now, I know you are not supposed to leave the house when potty training but I needed to get the boys and Ben talked me into making a quick stop to the store to get something. So, I loaded the car with a pad on her carseat, the potty chair, stickers, the M&Ms, the chart, etc. And Eliana, half-dressed. She sat on the potty before we left the parking lot, when we got to the church (didn't go both times), and right before we walking into the store.

And promptly peed all over the store floor literally 2 minutes later. So back to the car we went and got changed and sat some more and I felt so frustrated! She didn't nap because she kept stripping herself down to her birthday suit (which is awfully cute!) and threw her diaper across the room. The afternoon consisted of 2 accidents on the floor (including a poop that I didn't catch in time) and I was feeling SO done!

And then she went twice in a row in the potty. Go figure. We'll see if I can gear myself up to keep going tomorrow. I really wish there was a manual for this!!!!

Saturday, June 15, 2013


 When Ben defended 6 weeks ago, he texted a friend to tell him and wrote accidentally, "I'm a docotor!" He immediately caught his mistake but it made us laugh so much and has become our silly joke with each other. Ah, Docotor...

Our family came in town yesterday afternoon and our home went from quiet to filled with love and laughter within minutes!! We had dinner together and strawberry shortcake and then all the tired peeps (everyone over the age of 35!) went back to their hotel for some shut-eye and we settled in for a restless and nervous sleep!

We were up and out of the house by 7:30 morning! We got all gussied up and headed down to campus with Ben's mom. Ben had to line up at 8:15 so we had him put on his gown, posed for a quick picture and left him with hugs and a prayer!

They were handing out the programs (a half an inch thick book!) in bags with fans and ponchos, as the forecast was pretty dim. We found some seats under a tree where we were mostly protected and settled down to wait. At 9:15, just as a light rain began to fall, the bagpipes sounded and everyone stood to watch the procession file in!

It was a very formal convocation, with flags, singers, the bag pipes and about 20,000 people, faculty and graduates! Wow. It was a long 2 hours but the kiddos (who begged to come to the whole thing!) were SO good and well-behaved. Eliana ate a snack, hung out in her stroller taking her shoes off and playing with Baby Anna and the boys looked at the program, put on their ponchos and watched everything with interest. They were a bit bored when there was an hour left (as were B's mom and I) but it was exciting when the president of the university started conferring degrees on the different schools. That was my first round of tears/lump in my throat!

We waited on the corner of a street for the rest of our family to arrive and to meet Ben, looking quite regal in his doctoral regalia! Our family had a bit of trouble with the one-way and blocked off streets but finally made it in time for the luncheon. I had all of the invalids get out of the car (which was everyone!) and I took the van and parked it in a reserved parking spot. Thanks to my grandpa's handicapped parking permit, we were able to get help reserving a spot, which helped SO much. I parked and walked back to find everyone having a great time under the tent, eating lunch!

My beautiful Grandma and Mom!

The happy candidate and daughter!

The very proud Mama and her son!!

After a bit, Ben had to leave with all of the other graduates (in his area of study) for the second ceremony. All of the schools had individual ceremonies throughout the afternoon to give diplomas. We took lots of pictures while waiting for the doors to open. Here's Mugga with a few of her grandbabies:)

We made it through the crush of people and sat down to await THE big moment! The bag pipers came down the aisle with the Division of Humanities banner and all the graduates receiving Masters and Doctorates followed.

The faculty helping to hood the doctoral students sat on stage. Each professor wears the robes of his/her school that they graduated from.

They went through the Master's graduates very quickly (thankfully!) and then the doctoral students lined up. Ben is the tall one:) I kept trying to point out to Eliana where Daddy was and she didn't see him at first until he started waving. Her face lit up and she yelled, "There's Daddy!!!" and started waving frantically! She kept saying really loudly, "Do you see Daddy?!" which cause several people near us to turn around and smile:)

I started blinking back tears as I watch Ben get closer and closer and lost it when it was his turn. My sister took pictures for me while I tried to take a video but my hands started shaking so bad that the video is awful! It must've just been all of the emotion of eight years coming out:)

Here he is being hooded by his academic advisor. They said, "Benjamin David Thomas. Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Dissertation titled, 'Hezekiah and the Compositional History of the Book of Kings', committee comprised of x,y,z, being hooded by Dennis Pardee."

The blue velvet of his hood stands for Doctorate of Philosophy. Different fields get different colors. We rented his gown and hat since to buy it is costs....are you ready? $800!! We didn't know he got to keep the hood until he went to return the gown. We were really glad he got to keep that!

He looks so regal!! We did a lot of clapping and cheering and then I burst into tears:) Samuel kept looking at me and then much later he said to me, "I just don't get how people cry happy tears! I thought you only cried when you were sad!"

We made our way through the throngs and found our newly minted Doctor waiting with lots of hugs. Enter more tears on my part and lots of smiles!! We posed for lots of pics. I'm not sure that any of us were looking in the same direction since 3 people were taking pictures at the same time!

Ah, what an amazing day!!! So honored and blessed that so many people supported us with prayers and love along this whole way, including the amazing family that came to celebrate with us this weekend!

It's official! No more hoops to jump through! Ever again!

Thank you, God, is all I have to say for this day! As Ben's mom texted me this morning, "This is the day which the Lord hath made. Rejoice and be glad in it!"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Do!

 I haven't had a real haircut in over 2 years. Seriously. I've trimmed it myself a few times and got a quick (less than 10 min) trim at my MOPS spa day when I got 3 inches cut off. My hair grows fast and it's really thick. It's been longer this past year than I've had it since I got married!!

It was starting to get tangly and hot and heavy. So....I cut it! Well, I didn't cut but I went an actual haircutting place. Gasp!

Before. Super attractive, right? I was constantly just trying to pull it back out of my face because if there is one thing I cannot STAND, it is wet hair hanging on me or in my face. It was time!

After! It's not a great shot. Apparently you have to pay extra to get your hair styled and blow-dryed these days. Really? But still, I like it! I have some bangs and angles to break up this long narrow face of mine and I lost 3 inches of it so I'm feeling a little lighter:)

Nothing like a new do to make you feel a little better! Can't wait to post graduation pics in a couple of days!!!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Shedd!

 We had a fun day today! We actually made it downtown to the Shedd Aquarium, which let me tell you, is no small feat. We used to go to the museums a lot when we lived down by campus because it was SO easy to hop on the Metra or a bus and go downtown. Now? If you want to get there early enough not to stand in a humongous line or find some parking, you have to leave crazy early to avoid traffic.

Which we did not make. We had to turn around, kill some time at home and leave after rush hour. (one of many rush hours in Chicago.) Thankfully, people with strollers get in the accessible door which is a WAY shorter line than up the steps. Those people literally stand in line for 1-2 hours!! Thankfully, we only had to stand in line maybe 15 minutes to get inside.

Wow, they look so big in this picture!!

Little Moose reading her map:)

They had several different kinds of stingrays and the patterns on their backs were so pretty! Circles...

Paw print shapes...

Animal print....

And hello Mr. Stingray! He looks like he's saying, "Help! Get me out of heeeerrrree!"

 And can you blame him, with neighbors like this?! This is an Anaconda. A very small fraction of the anaconda. We never did find his head.....The plaque said he reaches up to 26 feet long and up to 400 lbs!!! I am never going to the Amazon....

Look how big some of these fish are!

That's a meal and a half! If you look carefully behind Mr. Big Fish Dude, there's an even bigger fish. A 15 foot long fish!

Pretty blue fish! Amazing that the fish come in so many colors and sizes. We saw one inch fish all the way to 15 foot long fish! Blue, red, orange, neon, striped, you name it!


Whoever says God doesn't have a sense of humor, has never looked at some of the creatures He created....This is a sea urchin!

This Spider Crab totally freaked me out. The only reason he gets a picture and an honorable mention, is because Ben and the boys loved him. I'm terrified of spiders and he looks like a giant one. Yuck. Moving on...

Glow in the dark fish!

Sea Horses are one of those creatures that don't seem real. Everytime I see one (which is SO often), I think, "Oh yea, sea horses are real!" There were "no flash photography" signs everywhere and my camera hates to be told what to do. It rebels completely against no flashing and sea horses are surprisingly fast, hence the unclear picture!

After we got a little tired of the fish and heard a million complaints about hungry tummies, we headed outside to enjoy the sunshine and feed the children. First we admired the boats!


Even better, boats with Daddy:)

We ate on a park bench and while we were eating, a runner nearby had an asthma attack. People were running through the area asking everyone if they had an inhaler. They ended up having to call a fire truck and ambulance. We could hardly tear Z away from the action but finally we did. And then I made Ben call the drs and ask for a refill for his inhaler, as he has been having more asthma issues in the night and with the summer weather.

After that, we decided to walk and ended up at the Buckingham Fountain!

So beautiful! We actually and embarrassingly have never been here before. So close and yet so far....It was really beautiful! That's Mr. Z in the green shirt:)

Cutest boys I know!

E enjoying the water with her main squeeze:) We stood there for quite awhile just looking and enjoying being in the sun and outdoors. And together;)

Eliana just "hangin' around!" I said, "Are you a monkey?" She said, "No, I'm a hanger!" She loves to hang off of things and it's so funny to watch her little body swing. Such a squirt:)

It was nice to have a little fun day in between lots of busy days. I can hardly believe that 6 weeks have passed and graduation is here! We are so excited to see our family, although a little worried since they are quite the motley crew. No offense:)

We have a gaggle of injured, gimpy people coming! You think I'm joking? I'm talking people with upcoming knee replacements, surgery, crutches, hip problems, back problems, you name it. Ben and I are a little worried about our crew but incredibly thankful that they are hobbling their way here to celebrate with us. We couldn't ask for a better family!