God parts the Red Sea so the Israelites can cross to safety and escape from Pharoah.

Exodus 14 and 15

When circumstances seem hopeless, trust God. He has a plan and will make a way!

Our new addition is adapting nicely to life in our family and we are all adapting our routines and expectations to blend with his needs.  He is a flexible, laid back baby and everyone loves him!  

While I did not notice significant differences in myself between having 1 child or 2 children, I have definitely noticed some with the 3rd.  

#1    I am WAY more exhausted.  Waking up 3-4 times a night to nurse is taking a greater toll now that I am also entertaining, teaching and caring for the older two all day long. Not to mention, how out of practice I was at living off severely interrupted sleep.  I didn't have time to get used to sleeping through the night between Aubrey and Jackson.  This time around, I've had a solid 1.5 years to enjoy my sleep. 

#2    I have a greater appreciation for coffee.  We enjoy each others company at least 2-3 times a day!  (See #1 for more info)

#3    I am not pushing myself (or him) to develop a schedule.  I am more confident in my ability to accurately interpret his needs and why he is fussing, particularly in regards to eating and sleeping, and I am enjoying meeting those needs at his demand.  I also have the luxury to be with him all day, every day, so I don't have the pressure of creating a schedule for a caregiver to follow.  We follow a loose routine of eat, play, sleep and I leave it for him to decide when he wants to eat, how long he wants to play, and when he is ready to sleep.  I am finding I really enjoy this on-demand "schedule."

#4   For every outing, its worth weighing the option of staying home against going out (specifically going out without the hubby).  For instance, getting everyone up, fed, dressed and out the door to head to church is worth it because once we get there the kids have a great time, learn valuable lessons, and I get an almost 2 hour break. ;)  Outings to parks or other outdoor venues are good too because the kids are free to run and play in a safe area with boundaries and there are very few ways for them to get into trouble.  A shopping trip to the mall is currently NOT on my list of things worth doing. Three kids, a stroller that seats two, maneuvering through tight stores and keeping everyone happy sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

Overall, having 3 is great!  Everyone has done so well with the adjustment.  Our days are fun-filled and busy. We are getting back into old routines and creating some new ones.  I love seeing how each child is growing, learning and developing. Life is filled with experiences that stretch and mold us.  It is neat to watch Aubrey grow as a big sister, Jackson learn how to be a big brother, Brandon and I refine our parenting, and Tyler take in this big, new world all around him.  

P.S.  #5  We are still taking tons of pictures (so none of our children should ever feel like, "why are there only pictures of the first child"), but I didn't send a big birth announcement out.  With Aubrey, I feel like we sent a birth announcement to practically everyone we knew.  With Jackson we mailed out about 75 announcements; primarily to family.  For Tyler, I ordered 50 announcements with the intent of sharing the news with family members and friends who were not on Facebook (and worried that was too many).  Can we say, "Third child syndrome meets the technological age?"  Below is your baby announcement. ;)
Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.
We started school at the end of August along with the rest of our county.  The kids were really excited and they have been working hard since.  They are so eager to learn!  This year, we are attempting to have more routine and structure to our day.  For starters, we all get up around 7:30am and have breakfast together.  This works out really well!  Previously, Jackson and I were up well before Aubrey.  By the time she was getting up Jackson and I had eaten and dressed.  Then, I had to feed and dress her.  It is nice not to draw out making breakfasts and dressing kids.  Now, we are able to begin school as soon as breakfast is over. We start with our morning devotion and "work" for about 2 hours. Then, we go out to play until lunch.  After lunch, we have rest time and then we finish up our school day (about 45 min).

Our school day consists of morning devotions/bible lesson, handwriting, math, technology, craft/cooking activity, language arts and science.  We are very hands-on holding to the belief that learning should be fun.  I do have the kids complete paper/pencil work as well; tying it to the hands-on learning.

Our major themes for the first 2 weeks:
Bible: Abraham
Math: Counting and Representing numbers (Jackson to 12 and Aubrey to 30); Sorting objects into groups
Science: Apples
Language Arts Skills:
   Jackson- Letter Sounds; writing name; word recognition- mom, dad, Aubrey, see
   Aubrey- Blends; journal writing; sight words; using picture clue with knowledge of phonics

Some books we read:
Ten Apples Up on Top
How Do Apples Grow
Apple Picking Time
Apple Cake
123 Peas
Numbers: A Lift the Flap Book

4 Playdates
Storytime @ Library
Apple Orchard

Letter ID- upper and lowercase
Letter Sounds
Dolch Pre-Primer Sight Word List

We finished up our apple theme in mid-September and then, took 3 weeks off when Tyler was born.  October's theme has been Fall- leaves and pumpkins.  Look for a more detailed post coming soon...

Finally, for your enjoyment, here are 2 videos of the kids performing the nursery rhyme from the first week: Little Miss Muffet.  We each took a turn playing Ms. Muffet, the spider and the narrator.  Both kids did a great job narrating and they had fun acting it out!

All-Natural Pops

Popsicles are a favorite treat around here once the weather warms up.   Who doesn't enjoy eating a cold, tasty snack off a stick, outside.  

My favorite part is I can sneak almost anything into them and the kids will eat it without even noticing. Just blend up some fruit and add in the extras.  Sometimes we add plain yogurt and honey, but other times we just blend fruit with a little bit of juice.  I always try to have spinach on hand to add in too.

There is no right or wrong.  Have fun experimenting with fruit, yogurt, veggies, juice, etc.

A Yogurt Pop "Recipe"

1 handful of strawberries
1 handful of peaches
1 banana
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 large handful of spinach leaves
1 small squirt of honey

Stir ingredients gently with wooden spoon.  Blend until smooth (I love using my immersion blender).  Pour into popsicle molds.  Freeze and enjoy. :)

Strawberries don't last long in our house, so with strawberry season upon us, we decided to take the kids strawberry picking.  What better way to enjoy fresh, delicious berries!  Maybe we will even have enough extra to make some jam and special desserts. ;)

We were prepared to drive out to Markham, VA to one of our favorite u-pick farms (Hartland Orchard), but everyday as we drove into town, we passed a strawberry picking sign along the roadside. Every time, my husband would suggest we check it out.  I was not convinced by the "random" strawberry picking sign that had popped up so close to our home and was sticking to the plan to load up and head out to Markham.  Luckily, our schedule has been so busy, we never made it out to Markham.  ;)  I was determined to pick strawberries before the season was up, so I relented to trying the strawberry place by our house.  It was a wonderful experience!

It is not a random patch set up on the back part of a local resident's acreage like I imagined. :P  Hidden behind the houses along the road is a full size farm called Messick's Farm Market.  The farm is run by a family committed to the sustainability of their farm.  This has driven them to be creative and innovative.  They are transforming their family farm into a u-pick farm and farm market.  This season they have a number of delicious fruits and vegetables available to pick or buy pre-picked.  They share recipes and ideas, are friendly, and willing to answer your questions.  One of the farmers walked us out to the strawberry patch personally and shared information about the farm and the strawberries they've grown.

They grow their crops using organic principles and you can eat/allow your kids to eat straight from the field without worry.  They have a vision to build and develop their farm so they have fresh produce and healthy local foods available throughout the year.  Already they have a number of crops growing that I am marking on my calendar so I don't miss taking the family over to pick our own.  Their farm market building is under construction and promises to be a wonderful place to stop in and buy local produce and foods.  Who could ask for more- friendly people committed to growing organically, running a farm right by my house (literally a 2 minute drive)!

If you live in the area, I encourage you to check out Messick's Farm Market!  You can also like them on Facebook so you can keep up with what's new.

I cannot believe how close we are to seeing a sweet little face sleeping away in this swing again! Now that we have passed the halfway mark, it is an exercise in self-control not to start getting baby gear out and going through the tubs of little clothes in preparation for our new little one.  I know many of our friends are wondering just what clothes will we be sorting through; clothes for girls or clothes for boys. :)

Brandon and I debated on whether to find out the gender at the 20 week ultrasound or wait until delivery.  We enjoyed waiting until delivery with our previous two sweet babies.  Both of us had fun with the 9 months of building anticipation and the excitement pulsing through the air as the doctor made the eyewitness announcement.  This time around, we took into account the fact that we have 2 children who understand to some degree that we are expecting a new baby and how finding out the gender ahead of time might aid in preparing them both.

We chose to have the gender revealed to us because we felt it would help each child in a different way.  Our daughter was certain we were having a little girl and she would be getting a little sister.  After watching a video online of a family revealing their new baby was a boy and watching the 4 year old sister dissolve into tears of devastation and disappointment, we decided that Aubrey might need time to accept and adjust if the baby is a boy.  Jackson didn't seem to be really understanding at all that a new baby was coming and we thought the more details we can provide him, the more prepared he will be.

I wanted a girl and a boy.  Too bad twins aren't in the genes. ;)  I wanted Aubrey to have the sister she desired, to see all those cute little clothes get reused, and know that Brandon and I could easily agree on a girl name.  I wanted Jackson to have a brother who would grow into a buddy he could horse around with, play rough and get dirty with.  I wanted to see those baby baseball caps, rock star clothes and cool shoes get used again (I love all baby clothes. ;) Lol!).

We scheduled the ultrasound for Saturday so we could all go together and not be rushed.  The kids were excited, Brandon was ready, and I was eager to see the little one on screen, hear that everything looked good and the baby was growing and healthy.  The kids were attentive for the first part of the scan, but quickly lost interest.  The technician was the worst I've had and just took the pics and measurements she needed in silence, so there was little to add to what the kids were seeing to help keep them engaged.  She did make the announcement when she checked the gender.  Good thing, because we'd of never guessed that's what we were looking at!  The big news is it's a BOY!  

We are all excited.  Aubrey took the news very well.  She was happy as soon as she heard.  No drama, no tears, no disappointment. :)  Jackson likes to say, "It's a boy like Jackson!"  He makes the cutest face when he says it too. :)  Now the hard part...agreeing on a name.  This is going to be a process.  Brandon and I seem to have very different tastes in boy names and we were lucky to have found one for Jackson.  If we announce in September that we welcomed Baby Boy Gibson into the world, you know why. LOL!

Yesterday, I decided to push everyone outside their mealtime comfort zone by planning to serve a new recipe that I honestly expected to be disliked by all. I came across this recipe for fish tacos (with a nicer picture than mine too) and thought it sounded interesting.  Over the weekend, I shared the menu for the week with my husband.  He was not excited about the fish tacos, but is a good sport and is always willing to try new things. :)  As I prepped the fish and cooked, I talked up our dinner with the kids.  Thankfully, I have 2 kids who are willing to try new foods and even retry foods they previously disliked.  

The fish tacos were actually very quick and easy to make.  I made the fish spicy for the adults and left out the red pepper on the kids' fish.  I also left out the onions on the kids' tacos and just gave them some of the creamy cilantro sauce the onions were in.   To my surprise, the kids liked the fish tacos and ate their entire taco.  I thought they were good as well.  Brandon ate his without complaint, but I think he would be just as happy if I left them off the menu in the future.  I guess I'll just have to make them for lunch for the kids and I on occasion. ;)

September is always an exciting time around here and this year proves no exception!  Aubrey was born in September 2009.  Then Jackson came along in September 2010.  We enjoyed celebrating their birthdays and the blessings they are in September 2011 and 2012.  This September, we look forward to celebrating with Aubrey and Jackson, AND welcoming a new little one!

We had some bumps along the way, but God has been faithful through it all.  We are so excited and look forward to watching Aubrey administer her mothering skills on a live "doll" while Jackson tests all the baby gear, figures out how to turn the swing into a fun ride, and uses the pack 'n play bassinet as a jumping platform. ;) It's going to be fun!

Hopefully, we will get the big reveal in early May.  We will keep you updated through Facebook and this blog. 

We are on a journey to live healthier.  This has involved many changes and will result in many more.  It is not something we have done overnight.  Instead we have tackled one area at a time and then moved on to another.  This has involved lots of reading and evaluating claims regarding what is healthy, safe, best, etc.  I may blog more about this ongoing process at a later time, but today I want to share a recipe that is great for quick breakfasts or a healthy snack: Breakfast Cookies.  My sister came across it and passed it on to me as a great "kid friendly" recipe that only uses real food!

Breakfast Cookies

3 mashed bananas
1/3 c applesauce
2 c old-fashioned oats
1/4 c milk (I used organic, but almond or coconut milk work as well)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Any mix-ins you prefer such as raisins, cranberries, nuts, dark chocolate...

Bake 350, 15-20 minutes.
Mash bananas.

Add the rest of the ingredients. (I didn't use any additional mix-ins.)

Drop spoonfuls of cookie mix.  Pat down a little. (The cookies will not flatten or spread during baking, so they will hold whatever shape you put them on the pan.)

Bake 15-20 minutes. (Mine needed 20 minutes)  Let cool and enjoy!

Freeze the extras for a quick breakfast or snack you can feel good about.  Just take out however many you need and warm for 20-30 seconds in the microwave.

In our house, each day is filled with learning.  We have fun playing educational games, using technology to reinforce various skills and taking advantage of learning opportunities through conversations and hands-on experiences. They are developing strong social skills and the ability to participate in a structured environment through outings, playdates, weekly story time, Sunday school and weekly Rainbows class.  I have been blown away by how quickly both little ones have absorbed knowledge and developed skills.  

That being said, I am looking forward to facilitating daily lessons in a more purposeful, planned manner next school year.  Aubrey is starting to read and is ready to start basic addition and subtraction.  Jackson can identify 95% of the letters and can count to 12.  He knows his shapes and colors(finally) and is eager to learn more.  Both love to learn about the world around them.  They are capable of so much and make learning together fun! :)

I have been surprised by how many complete strangers have asked Aubrey if she attends preschool.  She just answers with a polite no, but internally I am holding back from jumping in and explaining to them why going to preschool is not necessary in order to master preschool academic and social skills.  There is certainly nothing wrong with attending a preschool and many parents opt to send their children to preschool for a variety of good reasons.  We are opting not to and our children are flourishing despite this neglect. ;)  Seriously though, if you are thinking of helping your child master preschool expectations at home and ensure their readiness for kindergarten (whether that be homeschool, public or private school), there are some great resources out there and tons of free/inexpensive technology sites/apps.  Ultimately, its all about making learning fun and having fun learning together!

Our school year is going to be organized around fun themes (seasons, holidays, social studies/science topics, etc.) with hands-on learning, crafts, basic skills, technology and field trips to support them.  My hope is to post the themes we are focusing on each season, along with resources, ideas and field trips we have planned.  Here are some great resources to get started.

Planning and Goals:
VA standards provided for public school preschool programs.  Provides a helpful overview of areas to focus learning in. 

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist- provides a list of specific skills that should be mastered during preschool in a format that allows you to check off when mastery is achieved.

Milestones by Age allows you to get a feel for what your child should be doing and help select areas to focus on.  Be sure and incorporate the skills they've already mastered too!  We want to keep up their confidence, maintain skills, and allow them to make connections and extend their learning.

Let each child guide your plans.  Provide opportunities for learning that meet them where they are and keep learning authentic and fun

Gathering Ideas:

Pinterest- search hands-on activities or preschool activities

*Google and Pinterest are 2 of my favorite go to places when looking for fresh ideas that support literacy, math, thematic units, etc...