For Cerah

I have a fan out there! These pictures are for Cerah who keeps patiently asking for a new post on my blog with pictures of the kids. I've gotten slack with my blog posts because life is just so busy (I know, likely excuse). Maybe this should be one of my New Years Resolutions along with exercising, not eating after 8:30 pm, and writing in my journal. Unfortunately, my track record for all of those resolutions is not very good.

These pictures are of Halloween, Great Wolf Lodge (Williamsburg, VA),
snow in NC in December (!?), and our sweet Christmas elf.

Surprise at the Mall

This is the coolest thing ever! I wish I'd been there. Just wanted to share.
(I know, I know. I don't post in forever and then I post a video. Trust me. These people are more entertaining than me).

Standing O

After a long and arduous WalMart shopping trip for two weeks worth of groceries, after listening to crying from two little girls and additional whining, after keeping a smile on my face and a good attitude in the mix, after saying "no" with a smile to a 3 year old who would like to buy everything in her line of vision, after getting good deals and not buying or spending too much while all of this is going on, I often hope to roll my full cart out into the parking lot to a standing ovation.

Family Picture Time

A sneak peek at our family pictures we had taken yesterday. There are lots more to come ...

The Sound of a 3-Year Old

Our kids have really gotten into The Sound of Music. They love it! We have the CD and they listen to it in the car, in the house ... in our sleep. I have chuckeld to myself as I hear Kate sing, "I need someone older and wiser telling me what to do" or "totally unprepared am I, to face a world of men". Wise girl.

Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo

We took our three little sweet crazies on a trip to Nauvoo last week. We were lucky to be able to fly instead of drive. Although honestly, the airports have gotten to be such a traumatic experience that maybe it wasn't easier at all. Here we are in the Chicago O'Hare airport on our way. This is by the exhibit of Mr. O'Hare himself. (Kate is showing off a "funny band" as she calls them)

Elaine was elated to be on a family vacation at her young age. You can see that she took every advantage to enjoy her surroundings in Nauvoo.

Hayden and Kate LOVED the Pioneer Pastimes area where they could dress up and play pioneer games. Kate is looking westward preparing for her journey across the Mississippi. (Actually, the sun was in her eyes and she was trying to look at me)

The stick pull was a favorite game. Guess who won this match? Hayden challenged me to a game of stick pull. After I easily won, he then challenged me to use just one hand. I still won. It's always fun to humble your children. We took the opportunity to go to several vingettes put on by members of the pageant cast. They were excellent! One was in a grove of trees and (the cast member playing) Joseph Smith came and gave part of the King Follette discourse. Afterwards, in jest, Cletus challenged him to a game of stick pull. Everyone gathered around to watch. I won't embarrass Cletus and say that this guy won in about 2 seconds both times with Cletus flying over his shoulder. I'll just say that .... Cletus was a good sport. Wish I had a picture of that, but we'd left our camera in the car.

Here is our little domestic pioneer. She loved doing housework in this little log cabin. Her favorite activity was making strawberry jam and strawberry lemonade. She and another little boy pretended that theie log cabin was on fire and started throwing the furniture out the front door. How cute.

We were excited to take Hayden to Nauvoo because I think he's finally at an age where he'll remember this trip and where it actually meant something to him. He absorbed a lot of historical information as well as feeling the Spirit several times through our activities. It's amazing to think that boys his age were leading the oxen alongside their families' wagon and some of them were drivign teams of horses.

Elaine was a trooper most of the time on our trip. She was taxi-ed around all day and night and had to eat and sleep on the run. Still, she was all smiles a lot of the time. When I took this picture, she was talking to me. I love hearing her "talk". She is such a little beauty.

We attended several performances: The Nauvoo Pageant, of course (3 times), Sunset on the Mississippi, High Hopes and Riverboats, and Just Plain Anna Amanda. Here we are at Sunset on the Mississippi: the pioneer version of a Stake Variety Show. It was so much fun! One of our favorites for sure. If Elaine looks a little worried in this picture about who is holding her, she probably is. And she should be.

Kate loved being pulled around in this handcart. And, I thought it was pretty fun as well - she only weighs about 30 lbs. I don't think this experience was anywhere close to what it was really like to pull a handcart.

Hayden is learning how to dance a Scottish jig. He picked it up pretty quickly. There were so many activities to do! We were there a week and still didn't manage to see and do everything. We introduced ourselves and our family so many times to people that Kate said in her sleep one night at the hotel, "My name is Kate". Which is ironic because she was playing shy and wouldn't talk to anyone, dance with anyone, and hid her face if anyone talked to her. Strange for a little girl who, a week ago, went to our neighbors house at night (without us knowing, of course), and asked them to help her put on her pajamas and her diaper.

Cletus finally lured Kate out on the dance floor with a jealousy tactic. He danced with me and then she was very eager to get out there and dance with her dad.

I bought Kate a pioneer bonnet while we were there and she wouldn't wear it! However, the dress-ups in the Pioneer Pastimes house were the neatest things she'd ever seen. Oh well. Here she is tending to her sheep.

We walked down Parley street reading the signs and ended up at the Mississippi River. It was amazing to be there in that very spot where so many people made such sacrifices. I was grateful to be there and to have the perspective of being a wife and a mother, leaving my home and taking my children into the unknown. I am awed by the faith that was required for such a trip.

We quickly dropped by the limestone quarry where the Saints got their stone for the temple. Here are our two Nauvoo boys. Hayden's shirt doesn't say "Mountain Dew", it says, "Mormon Dude". Probably one of his highlights from the trip was getting that shirt.

It was a wonderful, busy trip. So glad that we went and so glad to be home.

I can't think of a creative post title

So, for all of you bloggers who can witty and funny on all of your posts ... I'm jealous! I barely have time to upload pictures and type out a few sentences. There is no way I can be funny too. You'll just have to bare with this humor-less yet informative post. Here's what we've been up to:

Kate had her first real haircut! Yes, she has beautiful blond curly hair. And, yes it seems a crime to cut it. But it only seems fair that the person who washes it, brushes it, fixes it, and battles the daily hair battle should get to pick the length. It still looks beautiful. I mean, look at that face ... any length of hair with that face will look cute.

We took a trip to the beach as a family a few weeks ago. It's probably half-insane to go to the beach with a (then) 5 week old, but we did it anyway. I bought this tent thinking it would be great to shade Elaine at the beach. But, it just couldn't hold up to the beach wind. Either one of us had to be sitting inside of it or we had to weigh it down with all of our stuff. We need longer tent stakes .. or we need to bring some bricks next time. But, the kids had a great time anyway. They always do. And, yes, that's our baby in the laundry basket.
Hayden continues to be a great big brother. He is such a helper with Elaine and can calm her down with his voice. He even has the "baby bounce" down and can get her to stop crying by holding her and walking around. I found him multi-tasking here and took a quick picture before I rescued the baby.

Elaine is such a sweet baby and we all compete to see who can get her to smile. She loves being outside!

Kate loves helping her dad in the garden. Her favorite activity is picking the potato bugs off of our plants, putting them in a plastic sandwich bag and then squishing their guts out. I don't see the appeal, but she loves it. Here she is with .. well, a tomato cage on her head, of course.

Hayden finished yet another year of piano lessons. He continues to do a great job and is getting really good. His recital was a bit traumatic because I drove him to the wrong church building, realized what I had done, raced him over to the right building to arrive 30 minutes late. Poor kid. His mother is a bit distracted and flustered. Thanks for being such a great piano teacher, Leah!

And, finally, Elaine was blessed in church this Sunday and was surrounded by LOTS of family and friends. I don't think I've ever seen that many men standing in the blessing circle before. She sure is lucky.

We had a few quick pictures taken after we got home from church. I liked this one the best. Cletus and I are about to celebrate 11 years together ... it just gets better (and busier) all the time.

Other than the squinting, this one is also a good picture. I'm squinting the worst, but everyone else looks pretty cute. When I asked Cletus if he was nervous about blessing Elaine or if he was use to doing a baby blessing after the first two, he said: "no, I'm not nervous. I'm just trying to decide what to name her". Ha! For any of you who know us well, you know that we had a ridiculously hard time naming Elaine. My great-grandpa actually did surprise everyone - especially his wife - in the baby blessing and named the baby something different than what they'd decided on together. Cletus wasn't quite that brave. Smart man.

Feeling Appreciated

With the arrival of baby Elaine, my workload seems to have quadrupled. I find myself wondering in my 30 minutes of free time whether to shower and brush my teeth or to sleep. Life has gotten busy enough that I have found it necessary to prioritize things that came to me so easily before. Our house is rarely clean, laundry is a mountain, and it seems that everybody needs me. The result: a sulky me feeling unappreciated.

I read this in the Ensign today and I thought I might share it with all of you who also might feel unappreciated once in awhile ... or, every day.

Women should be women and not babies that need petting and correction all the time. I know we like to be appreciated but if we do not get all the appreciation which we think is our due, what matters?We know the Lord has laid high responsibility upon us, and there is not a wish or a desire that the Lord has implanted in our hearts in righteousness but will be realized, and the greatest good we can do to ourselves and each other is to refine and cultivate ourselves in everything that is good and ennoblingto qualify us for those responsibilities. -Eliza R. Snow (Quoted my Julie B. Beck)

That was exactly what I needed to hear. Nobody knows the sacrifices and the difficulties I have every day, but nobody needs to. The Lord knows and He is making me into what I need to be through my efforts, my struggles, and my faith. My responsibilities, although they might feel heavy at times, are mine to bear and to value. I am thankful for the respobsiblities that I have. They are where I have found my greatest happiness.

Announcing ...

Elaine Ruth Simpson
7 lb 2 oz, 20 inches

After waiting a week after my due date, we welcomed a planned induction. She was still the smallest baby we've had and looks so tiny to us. There are a few things I've learned in the week and a half since she's been born:

3 children feel like about 10 children a lot of the time

oatmeal can clog up a toilet

people who are willing to bring food to us are truly lifesavers

a 3-year old who is being ignored will find interesting and sometimes destructive things to entertain herself, like coloring with crayons on our bathtub

if i'm sleep deprived enough, i can get drenched from spit up in the middle of the night and roll over and go back to sleep - wet

an 8-year old feels the changes of a newborn baby as much as a 3-year old does - and he's going to show it

there's no way i could do this by myself. i'm going to be more proactive in helping other people when they need it from now on. people who help - not just offer - have been angels to me the past week or so

a husband who is a bishop and who owns his own business is seldom home, even with a new baby, and even if he wants to be. this makes both of us stronger (darn it)

elaine is a sweet, sweet blessing and we all love her to pieces.

The Name Game

I realize it's been 4 months since I last posted. I just lost my enthusiasm. I have still loved reading all of your blogs, though. I read them, I enjoy them, but I don't comment. Sorry to be so lame. I guess I'm a selfish blogger. This picture is from a spontaneous trip we made to the Outer Banks a few weeks ago. It's the only picture I have of being pregnant. I should probably take a more flattering picture of myself as an expectant mother. Although I think that now I've waited too long. We are in the two week countdown!
Cletus and I have had many discussions about the name of this baby. We still haven't come to a definite conclusion. So, I was thinking that it might be fun to get some feedback. The following is a list of baby girl names. Some are ones we've talked about and some are totally made up: the decoys. Let us know which ones are your favorites and which ones you don't like. Be brutally honest. We can take it. The more honest your feedback the more fun it will be. And, if you are family and you've heard us mention some of these names, don't give it away for anyone else. We're interested in everyone's vote.
Here they are:

1. Emmeline Mae
2. Emma Pete
3. Hazel Sue
4. Lula Mae
5. Elaine Ann
6. Bella Christine
7. Alice Ann
8. Claire Alice
9. Ruth Marie
10. Samantha Rae
(11. Cinderella Baby, for those who have Kate's tase in names)

... or any combination of the names above.

What's your vote?