Engagement announcement

Perry and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary last Wednesday, August 1.  Monday, July 30 was the 22 anniversary of the day we were engaged.

On Sunday, July 29, our oldest daughter Deanna was engaged to Tyler.  She is 19, the same age Perry and I were when we were married.  Tyler is 22.

No, this wasn’t the actual moment he popped the question.  She had to do some major sweet talking to get him on one knee for the camera.

But they’ve been friends for quite a while, so sweet talking worked and she got her way.

I think it may happen that way a lot.

Of course it helps that he really, really seems to like her.

I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual.

They waited a long time for permission to make it official, so now they’re understandably eager to tie the knot.  Our first experience in wedding planning should go down in a total of about 6 weeks, and we’ve already spent a week of that trying to nail down facilities.  I could easily panic, but I’m also relieved that I won’t have 6 months to sweat it out and plan the perfect wedding.  I’ll do the best I can in my 3rd trimester and everyone will make excuses for me.  In years to come, we’ll be amazed at how it all came together – I hope.  It helps that Deanna wants something fun, slightly quirky, and not overly formal.

So now we’re spending obsessive amounts of time on Pinterest garnering ideas, Kaitlyn has designed Deanna’s dream invitation in Photoshop, and by the end of the day I hope to have confirmation on the date & building so out-of-towners can start making their plans and reservations.  Tomorrow we go dress-hunting with the groom’s mother.  Deanna already found 2 that she loves online, but I want her to try some on in real life before she makes a decision.

If anyone knows how to plan a beautiful, quirky, and speedy wedding on a budget, I’m all ears.  Oh, and if anyone wants to loan us about 20 tablecloths in blue and/or white, you’ll be my new best friend.

Happy birthday, Parker!

Today is 2 great holidays wrapped up in one: National Chocolate Ice Cream Day and Parker’s 2nd birthday.  Ice cream was one of Parker’s first words and favorite foods: he often shortens it to just ICE, which explains why he used to be so disappointed when he asked for ice and we gave him a cup of ice water.

He also loves chocolate.  Yesterday, he asked for a cup of milk, his favorite drink.  He knew some of his siblings had milk too and strongly suspected it was chocolate.  When Deanna handed him a cup of plain milk, his face fell and his verbal skills exploded: “No, Nanna!  Chocolate!  Guys: chocolate.  My chocolate!”

Of course we celebrated with chocolate ice cream sundaes.  Unlike most people, I think Parker’s birthday suit is chocolate ice cream.

A few things about Parker:

Most people say Parker looks like me – his mom – while PerryBoy looks like his dad.  See?

Photo: True love  http://instagr.am/p/LbrTeiploO/

Here’s the funny thing: PerryBoy looks like his dad now, but not at all like his dad as a little boy.  He looks far more like his [paternal] grandfather did when he was a little boy.

Parker, on the other hand, looks very much like his Dad did as a toddler and not at all like me.  Observe:

He’s a charmer.  He like to test people and push boundaries, but he does it in the most charming way possible.  If we catch him doing something bad, he smiles sweetly, apologizes enthusiastically, gives a hug and kiss, and inquires politely about forgiveness.

If we catch him at something so bad we can’t keep a straight face, he dispenses with apologies and poses for the camera that he knows is coming.

He’s a momma’s boy in spite of my best efforts, but that’s ok.  He’s the good kind of momma’s boy.

He loves his brother dearly, and does his best to be big like him.

batman1 Superheroes among us

He is enthusiastic about everything in life, and makes us laugh every day.  We love our little guy!

Happy Birthday, Megan!

Today is Megan’s 14th birthday.  While people are not defined by their possessions, we think some of Megan’s favorite things tell a lot about who she is.  Here are 14 things that we think she would number among her favorites:

  1. Her Kindle.  She reads voraciously on a very wide variety of topics, and I love to see receipts for her new “purchases” come through on my email account.  They’re nearly always free from Amazon’s Kindle store, since she prefers old books.
  2. Her vintage suitcase.  She paid way too much for it at a thrift store, and never regretted the decision.  It’s so her.
  3. Her camera.  She has a magic eye when it comes to photographing children, and her sisters pooled their funds for Christmas of 2010 to buy her a very good quality DSLR camera.
  4. Her owl ring.  She bought it on Etsy.  It’s cute and quirky like she is, and she loves it so much she kept it even after it broke.
  5. Her short stories.  They’re funny and smart and nearly always have a surprise or two, and they provide a fascinating glimpse into what she was reading at the time.
  6. Her red high-top Converse.  After her Dad, she was the first to get the Converse bug.  There are now something over 20 pairs of Con’s in our house.
  7. Her “Complete Works of Lewis Carroll.”  Inspired her checkered duct tape (see below)
  8. Her checkered duct tape.  Kaitlyn bought it for her because she knew it was perfect, and Megan carries it in her purse because she dreams of using it against bad guys.  It wouldn’t be the first time; she’s read it in the news.
  9. Her trenchcoat.  She wanted one for years, and was excited beyond words when she finally found one at Plato’s Closet for just $12.
  10. Her purple zebra-striped fuzzy blanket.  She wakes on crisp mornings with a smug grin and inquires, “Did you sleep well?  Did you stay warm last night?  Because I did!
  11. Her music.  She has a talent for discovering quirky, folksy artists that become favorites among her sisters as well, until everyone is sick to death of hearing them.  Then she discovers a new one.  Johnny Flynn, Mumford and Sons, and Jenny & Tyler are some of her discoveries.
  12. Her handmade leather journal.  An early birthday gift from Kaitlyn, purchased in Seattle at the Pike’s Place Market.  Even the paper is handmade, and the cover smells better than any dead cow I’ve ever sniffed.
  13. Her hair.  Her super-thick supermodel hair with its lush waves and ringlets is the envy of her sisters.
  14. Her old-fashioned manual typewriter.  She doesn’t have one yet and nobody bought one for her birthday, but we’re sure she’ll own it someday because she already loves it so dearly.

Happy birthday, Megan!  We love you!

Happy belated birthday to Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn turned 17 last Friday, and since I’m campaigning hard for the Worst Mom of the Year Award I decided to wait and do her birthday post 3 days late.

To strengthen my campaign, I let her spend most of her birthday sewing new swim shirts for most of her sisters and making chocolate dipped marshmallows from scratch for her birthday party.  She insisted that she wanted too, but it still sounds bad, right?  I’m pretty sure I’m going to win this year!

I hope my birthday posts don’t sound the same every year, but I’m going to sing Kaitlyn’s praises once again.  She’s a special girl with a heart of gold.  She delights in serving others and works hard to do it.  She’s a lot like her dad in that way.

It’s been a pleasure watching her grow and mature over the years, from a wee lass…

…to a big girl…

…to a beautiful young woman.

Oops.  I mean, to a beautiful young woman:

Answer my poll to help end procrastination one step at a time

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Have I ever mentioned our birthday wall?  It’s a long line of framed, matted photos: one for each member of the family, taken on or around the first birthday.  It starts with Perry III and proceeds in order all the way to Perry IV.

The statement above merits two corrections:

  1. Since it begins with Perry III, it doesn’t proceed precisely in order.  I’m older than he is.  Who knows how much older I am?  Now who is going to keep their mouth shut about it?
  2. Since it ends with Perry IV, it doesn’t include one for each member of the family.  Since Perry IV is only 6 weeks old in his 1st Birthday Photo, one could even argue that it doesn’t technically include him.  Does the phrase ovarian guilt seem appropriate here?  I think it does.

This week, I’m going to stop procrastinating.  Well, I’m going to stop procrastinating on that one particular project.  I’ll stop the other procrastination later.

I dug up all the best photos I could find that were taken around Perry and Bethany’s first birthdays, and am trying to decide which to use for each of them.  Parker will be easy since his birthday was just a month ago and we now have an awesome in-house photographer who specializes in close-ups of young children.

Why am I telling you all this?  Not just so you can feel superior because you took 1st Birthday Portraits of all your children.  I’m telling you because I want your input on which photos to use.  Just have a look and use the poll below each group to tell me which one you think best captures the child’s personality.  After all, if you read my blog you probably know as much about my children as I do.  At least you know the good stuff about them, which is what we want to remember.

Bethany #1

I love the happy, relaxed look of her smile here and the blurred background.  I can tweak the color if I use this so she doesn’t look green.  I could have tweaked the color before I showed you the pic so I wouldn’t have to explain, but I was procrastinating.  It’s my super-power.

Bethany #2

I love her eyes here.  Can you see the combination of brown and green?  Her eyes are still so mixed it’s hard to say what color they are.

Bethany #3

A little bit of an odd pic, but the faint crooked smile with thoughtful eyes is a common facial expression for her.

Bethany #4

I love Bethany in this one, but Kaitlyn might want to cry or die or kill somebody if we post it on The Birthday Wall.  The fact that Bethany is partially or entirely sans clothes is also very typical of the child.  Lord help us.

Bethany #5

Her pensive look.  Isn’t she sweet?

Bethany #6

The composition isn’t great on this one, but I love, love, love the expression on Bethany’s face in this one!

So which is your favorite?  Keep in mind, I can tweak the color, possibly soften the background and remove small elements here and there, but since I pulled them from web versions we won’t be able to crop them.

[poll id=”31″]

And now for The Boy, who is no longer the boy, but one of the boys.

Perry #1

Busy background, but that’s my boy.  Busy, and smiling.

Perry #2

With his Grandma C.  It would be nice to have a pic of her on the Wall of Fame.

Perry #3

In his suit at Miss Peanut’s wedding, Perry’s cousin.  What a little man!

Perry #4

This one is busy too, but I think he’s highlighted enough that it would work well matted and framed.

Perry #5

Two of my favorite, most handsome guys in one pic.  It’s a double feature!  This is my favorite.  Am I right, or am I biased?  Maybe both.  What do you think?

Perry #6

I love that he’s smiling in this one, and I love the incongruity of a man in a suit lying in an infant seat.  But – tell me I’m weird – does it look like he’s being laid in a coffin?

Perry #7

His expression in this one makes me laugh every time I look at it.  Is that enough of a reason to choose it?

[poll id=”32″]

Help me out, friends.  What do you think?

Independence Day

On our schedule for today:

Taste of Home’s Flag Cake, made extra big in a 10×15 pan instead of 9×13.  Kaitlyn created this piece of art from scratch instead of a mix, and says it was easier than it looks.  She’s modest.

Some fashion fun

Thumbs are reserved for a special purpose:

We’re off to Mother Hen’s house for a cookout and fellowship, but first we read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety, complete with commentary by Dad.

Complete text of the Declaration of Independence

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness…read the rest.  Now, so you don’t forget.

10 Things You Might Not Know About America’s Independence

We Are Not a Democracy: People often associate democracy with freedom. We hear this word used all the time by our politicians, by our neighbors, even sometimes by our educators. But the fact is we are not a democracy. We are a republic. Our Founding Fathers deemed this an important distinction to make and discussed the matter quite a bit. In the end, our Founding Fathers claimed that a democracy was both extreme and dangerous for a country as it would most assuredly result in the oppression of the minority by the majority. Take this one example from Founding Father, Elbridge Gerry: “The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.” And Thomas Jefferson said that democracy should never be practiced outside the limits of a town. Our Founders were very wary of power no matter who had it and thus limited it as much as possible — this is why we have such a unique system of checks and balances…read the other 9, especially about the Pledge of Allegiance.

Wikipedia on the Declaration of Independence

What’s on your agenda today?

Happy birthday, Perry Boy!

Perry is 5 today, and he’s feeling his age.  He was all business  when he came into my room early this morning for some work clothes so he could go with his dad.  After a late-night party he woke up in shorts and a polo shirt, but he knew that wouldn’t do.  Even when I grunted something about his shirt still looking clean, he was unconvinced.

“Mom, I need a button-up for work.”  And jeans, definitely jeans.  A shiny new cap gun in a leather holster just doesn’t hang right on khaki cargo shorts, and the boots and spurs would look all wrong.  The boy needed jeans and a button-up for work.

Going to work with Dad is part of the birthday tradition in our house, but rumor has it one of the guys at work also provides chocolate birthday donuts.

Like his sister yesterday who had a birthday yesterday, he opted for a high-end lunch at an establishment with an atmosphere appropriate to the occasion at hand.

Of course they both conducted themselves with the utmost dignity.

And because it’s the big event in his life right now, a few shots from Perry’s upcoming gig as a young Sinatra impersonator.  He plans to lip-sync “You Make Me Feel So Young” at our church talent show in a couple of weeks.  Last night was his first semi-public performance, in front of his grandma, a few aunts and uncles, and some cousins.  Call me biased, but I think he’s going to be the next YouTube viral video.

The boy has talent.

Look at him croon.

Now’s he’s belting it out, caressing the microphone.


Oh, it’s the smolder.

That’s my boy.  He makes me feel so young!

Happy birthday to Bethany!

Our sweet Bethany turned 3 and got to celebrate her first day at work with Dad!

at work with Dad

She also had a birthday lunch with Dad at a place with a puh-lay-ground!

Bethany's birthday lunch

And on the way home, Dad bought her 2 new duh-ress-es!

[pics to come]

I can’t help but share a few of Megan’s photos of Bethany, too.  I just can’t get enough of these eyes:

beautiful eyes

And that laugh


and the smile

looking down

Bethany smiles

But the eyes?  Wow!

beautiful eyes

All About Parker

my handsome little manSince today is Parker’s birthday (and since Suki asked), today’s post is all about Parker.  This is my substitute for a baby book and will serve as my memory in years to come, but we hope you’ll enjoy it too.

Today is National Chocolate Ice Cream, and it’s also Parker’s first birthday.  Please don’t think I’m a bad mom because I put the ice cream first.  After all, it’s chocolate.  Wait, I meant to say that I was going from least important to most.  That’s what I meant.

We can’t believe it’s only been a year since we met Parker.  He’s such a personable little guy, he makes everyone feel like his best friend.  I mean that quite literally.  I can’t count the number of people who have told me, “I think I’m his favorite person!”

His charm puppy dog eyes

He’s quite popular everywhere we go, and it’s not just because he’s a baby.  He’s also a shameless flirt.  I often catch him scanning the crowds, trying to catch someone’s eye.  It’s always a girl or woman, and when she looks his way he flashes his brightest, sweetest smile.

My sister told me his smile looks like when Squints smiles at Wendy Peffercorn in the movie Sandlot, and I can’t deny it. In the store, in the parking lot, in the fast food restaurant (who? me?)…every time I take him out I hear the ladies around us giggle and whisper.  “Look – he smiled at me!  He likes me!  Did you see him?  He’s so cute!”  It’s like being Justin Bieber’s mom.

At large gatherings of people we know, he’s passed around so much I have to hunt him down for feedings.  “Ladies,” he tells them in a svelte voice. “There’s plenty of me to go around.”  At a recent wedding I asked Mother Hen’s hubby if he knew where Parker was and he replied, “Oh, he’s off body-surfing the crowd somewhere.”  That’s my little rock star baby.


He is a very pleasant guy, always ready with a smile, but it’s unbelievably hard to make him laugh out loud.  The only reliable way to get even a chuckle is to eat his ribs.  A backup method that sometimes gets good results is to help him punch and kick his brother.

Nothing pleases him more than to understand and be understood, and he loves to be in the middle of everything.  As a tenth child, he can sleep through anything but silence, and he gets nervous and clingy when not surrounded by a crowd of loving family and friends.

At first glance many people think that Perry Boy takes after his dad, but in reality he looks like his dad now. He looks nothing like his dad did as a little boy.  Instead, Parker is the spitting image of his dad at this age.  From what I’ve heard, the personalities of our two boys work the same way.  Parker is friendly but quiet and laid back like his dad was as a little guy.  Perry is gregarious, fun and just a little bit crazy like his dad is now. 🙂


As of his first birthday, Parker is not crawling and it seems safe to assume he won’t until he’s old enough to do it in play.  His primary mode of transportation is the butt-scoot just like his older brother did.  It’s just as fast as crawling and even more efficient since it can leave one hand free if he wants to carry something with him.  It’s not completely hands-free like Bethany’s mode of transportation was, but it works for him.

He cruises around the furniture with ease, and loves to cling to our legs and tug at our skirts.  Elastic waistbands, beware!

He can stand unsupported for a few seconds at a time, and his sisters are convinced that he could walk if he just tried hard enough.  He objects vociferously when they try to force him to take steps on his own, but I’m sure he’ll be walking very soon.


I seem to remember that a baby has an average of 20 words on his/her first birthday.  Some of our children have hit the average, while others were far more verbal.  Deanna regularly used over 150 words by her first birthday.  She was my first, so I have the actual list.

Parker is bright and observant, but I don’t think his list of words is up to 20 yet.  His people skills outweigh his verbal skills, which is fine.  We enjoy his charm. He tries to say many of his siblings’ names, but here are the words he uses unprompted:

  1. mama or mom (he uses both)
  2. dada or dad
  3. boo (when he wants to nurse)
  4. dog
  5. this
  6. that
  7. hi
  8. bye
  9. outside
  10. guys (our term for siblings, as in “Where are your guys?”  I think it’s a north-western thing left over from my first 13 years in Oregon.)
  11. thirsty (he learned to say this very soon after he learned the sign)

Parker does the sign for "more"I love to teach my babies sign language, and Parker has quickly picked up a few of the most useful signs when I remember to introduce them and uses them with enthusiasm.

If we count sign language he’s much closer to 20 words, and he’s very good now at making his wishes known, something he thoroughly appreciates.

  1. no
  2. please
  3. hungry
  4. thirsty
  5. more
  6. yes
  7. poop (our made-up sign resembles the letter P and he added some appropriate sound effects)
  8. thank you (just beginning to get this one)


  • weight: 21 lbs.
  • height: 28.5″
  • teeth: 7 (4 on top, 3 on bottom)
  • shoe size: 3
  • clothing size: 6-9 mos


I loved and used blanket training for some of my older children back when I didn’t have so many helpers.  Now Parker has eyes on him everywhere he goes, nearly every minute of the day so he has learned his boundaries differently.

He knows that there’s one cabinet he is allowed to play in – the one that holds all the plastic bowls, containers, lids, etc. – and he knows not to eat the dog food or play in the dog water.  Well, at least in theory.

He understands and obeys when we tell him no, and he even tells himself no (in sign language) if we catch him where he shouldn’t be, doing what he shouldn’t do.  Then he smiles disarmingly (“See?” his eyes say.  “We agree!”) and scoots away.  Oh, he’s a charmer, he is.  This houseful of women is in trouble.

Sleepbeautiful sleeping baby boy

Parker has just begun reliably sleeping through the night.  This is utterly unheard of in our household.  Rachael occasionally woke up during the night after the age of 6 months, but all the others have slept 7-9 solid hours starting somewhere between 6 weeks and 4 months.

I think at least two factors have contributed to this:

  • I’m getting soft in my old age. One of my basic principles for teaching a baby to sleep through the night is to let them work up to a real cry before I get them out of bed.  This doesn’t mean I let them cry it out, but it does mean I don’t pick up a baby who is just fussing and might easily fall back to sleep.  In Parker’s case, he fussed and fussed and fussed…never a real cry, but just enough to keep me awake for a long, long time.  I don’t know if I would do it differently now, but after a while I just started getting him up as soon as the fussing began.
  • He’s always been a scrawny guy. Several of my babies have been very wiry and were very good sleepers, but when a baby is on the small side we all want to play it safe.  If he woke up during the night and said he was hungry, I didn’t make him work to convince me.  I took him at his word much more readily than I would a chunkier baby.

Now he’s eating a lot more solid food, and while he still looks more like a spider monkey than a chunky monkey, he has begun sleeping for longer stretches.


His name is Parker Cromwell, named after my dad Stephen Parker Brown who passed away just over 2 months ago at the age of 58. We’re big on nicknames and I can’t begin to list all of his.

His most commonly used nicknames include Pickle (from Bethany’s pronunciation of Parker), Buddy, and Doodle, which he has nearly outgrown.   I’ve also called him Milkman, Monkey Boy, Booby Boy, and Poop Monster when it suits the occasion.

Favorites parker loves outside

He loves to play the keyboard, ride his brother’s pedal car, play in the plastics cupboard, watch movies with his guys, share earbuds with his sisters, read books with or without a narrator.

Our huge 11yo cat, who should be old and cranky by now, is strangely tolerant of his attentions.

He loves to be outside and is fascinated by wind, trees, the moon and all the other wonders of creation. And he loves me.  I think I’m his favorite person!

Happy Birthday Beloved!

Happy Birthday to the prettiest girl in the world. (and a darn good blogger too)

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Kim

She's mine!