Monday, March 31, 2014

When There is Sword Fighting In Your Kitchen

There have been several things lately that people have wanted me to do and I have had to apologize and say I just couldn't due to an obligation with my children.  But, a mantra I've now begun even saying out loud to these requests is this, "It is a short season, this life with young kids who need me so much.  It won't always be this way."

And it's true, even next year will be very different with Little Girl in big school!  

So, for now?  Many! Of! The! Things! I just will not do.  I'm enjoying this season, being present in the now that will not always be.

I was working on some dinner just tonight and there was a real life sword fight right there in my kitchen!

I could have insisted it was too much mayhem for a kitchen of all places!  But, instead I stopped chopping potatoes to watch and snap some pictures, because this season of sword fights in my kitchen is short.

 (The facial expressions are my favorite part!)

It is a short season, right?  The sword fighting in my kitchen?  They will not grow up and still be sword fighting in my kitchen as 6 foot tall men, right?  RIGHT???

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Our L.A. Trip - The Outtakes

In the airport on our way to L.A. last week, the kids were so entertained by the moving sidewalks that I joked, "No need to go to Disneyland now, this is all the excitement we need!" 


In perhaps the epitome of my frugal tendencies, I may or may not have had my daughters bring the stuffed Mickey and Pluto we already had at home with us on the trip, to ward off them asking to buy more stuffed Plutos and Mickeys in Disneyland!

Instead we ended up with a bow and arrow set from Brave (the 8 year old's choice) and a Minnie Mouse set that included a little Minnie and various outfits you can dress her in (the 5 year old's choic).  But, I was successful in limiting the kids to the rule of "We will spend $25 on each of you for souvenirs on this trip, so choose wisely!"  The $25 part worked out, but not sure about the wisely, the boys came home with action figures and realistic toy swords.  I didn't realize we were bringing back an arsenal of weapons with the 2 swords and the bow and arrow set until I was packing the luggage for the flight home -- "Hmmm, maybe this stuff needs to go in the checked bags!"


Do you know what happens when your husband cannot handle rides that go 'round and 'round in a circle?

You find yourself crammed into one flying elephant with the 2 youngest of your children that need to be accompanied by an adult on the ride.  (That is a picture I took of us with my cell phone, hence the up-close view.)  There was no extra space in that elephant, I tell you!

The 8 year old enjoying an elephant all to herself:


The weather was gorgeous the whole time we were in California, but the smog in L.A. was terrible and had me happy for where we live even with our rainy days and our muggy days, at least we don't have that kind of smog!!

Please notice the smog in the background of the picture of my kids on Mulholland Dr. and not the sign next to them that clearly reads, "NO parking, stopping, standing any time"

We are rule followers if nothing else!


Last, the look on my older daughter's face in this picture of my kids with Mickey Mouse cracks me up and reminds me of McKayla Marone's "Not impressed" face at the last summer Olympics.


Happy Friday! 
Half-Past Kissin' Time

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dear Pottery Barn Kids, The world does not actually belong to Preston!

I will be the first one to admit that I like Pottery Barn Kids stuff.  We own several items bought from Pottery Barn Kids. But, as I was flipping through their recent catalog I stumbled on something so ridiculous I just had to share it with you:
In case it isn't clear, the wall art reads, "Dream Big Preston . . . The world is yours."

Can you think of any WORSE mantra to plaster onto the walls in your child's room?

I believe that one of the worst things we can do as parents (and a mistake many modern parents make) is to make our kids think they are the center of the world, that everything revolves around and caters to THEM!  So, to tell a kid every day in a 28 inch by 16 inch canvas on the wall in their room that the world is theirs is about 48 kinds of wrong to me.

And, what happens when precious Preston figures out the world is not actually his?

Because it's not, it's just not!

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." Acts 17:24-25

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

L.A. with kids, Our Itinerary

 I'm still fighting re-entry after our California vacation and feeling like I need a vacation to recover from our vacation (I know, 1st world problems!), so I'm not going to go into a lot detail today, but just share an overview of our trip and then later I'll go into more detail on the parks and maybe share some tips for anyone else considering tackling the same trip with several kids.

During our spring break last week we went to L.A. with our 4 kids, ages 11, 8, 6, and 5 years old.  Since becoming a family with 4 kids a little over 2 years ago, we've stuck with car trip vacations, so this was the first time for us to fly with all 4 kids.   Thankfully my husband doesn't have to do much travel for work where he's gone from us overnight, but he did have enough day trips last year to rack up the airline points, so all 6 of our airline tickets were free!

We arrived early enough on day 1 to have a full half-day at Disneyland even after checking in at our hotel.  And somehow after all that the kids still had energy for a late night swim in the hotel pool!

Then, on day 2, we drove about an hour to Legoland.  We debated this many times before our trip, but I'm really glad we ended up doing it.  Our 6 year old is a HUGE Lego fan and that's what put us over the top to making it a priority, but we all had fun at Legoland.  It was much less crowded than Disneyland and therefore a little less stressful!  I actually have more pictures from our Legoland day than Disney because I was too busy during our Disney days to get the camera out much!


Day 3 was Disney all day long - like 9am to 10pm!  But we got to do nearly everything we wanted to do.

Then by Day 4 we (and by we, I mean my husband and I) were ready for something different than amusement parks so we drove into downtown L.A. and saw Hollywood and then the beach!  We ate lunch at a open-air restaurant right on Venice beach!  The water was pretty cold for actual swimming, but the kids enjoyed a little sand and surf.

Of course, with 4 kids at the beach in their clothes that you plan to eat lunch in, someone is bound to get really wet!  Notice my 6 year old son on the right in the picture below:

He squatted down just before a wave rushed in and kept insisting he didn't know HOW he got wet!  Day 4 was again capped off with swimming in the hotel pool (do you notice a trend here?).

Then Day 5, after breakfast at our hotel, my husband took the kids to the pool to swim so I could pack up.  We flew back that afternoon.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Family Spring Break Trip 2014

We survived Family Spring Break Trip 2014!

This spring break trip did not involve camping with many young children as spring breaks in the past have, but there was a whole 'nother set of survival skills needed as we flew with 4 kids, stayed in a hotel with 4 kids, and braved multiple amusement parks with 4 kids!

We only lost 1 of them, temporarily -- the longest 5 minutes of my life!

But, we did make it home with all 4 kids-- praise God!  And had a wonderful vacation!

We were gone for a full 5 days and the re-entry today with the kids back to school, a 2 hour change in time zone, picking up the dog from boarding, restocking groceries, and THE WASH (Oh my, now I know why I typically do a load a day!  My washing machine has been churning all day long and I'm still not caught up!) has about done me in, so no more trip details today, except, this one.  Where did we go?

A big, clue:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What was life like 3 years ago?

One thing I love about having a blog, is the electronic scrapbookness of it.  If I begin to wonder what things were like a few years ago, I can go back and read the archives!   Here is a post I did 3 years ago when I participated in a blog party where everyone introduced their blog.

Originally published March 31, 2011:

Feel free to grab some ear plugs at the door; it's always LOUD around here!

And I must warn you against eating any of the cake!

The ice cream, however, gets rave reviews!

To introduce ourselves, we have 3 biological children ages 8, 5, and 3 years old and are in the process of adopting a little girl from Ethiopia.

As if having 3 young children and an adoption in progress wasn't enough crazy, we recently added a puppy to the chaos. Madeline is a 16 week old golden doodle puppy who really, really loves taking baths, in fact just this week she's discovered a new tactic that nearly guarantees her a much coveted bath:

Yes, that is mud covering her furry blond feet. Sorry for cutting off her head, as it turns out children may be easier to photograph than puppies! And for the record, the puppy is now getting a bath and blow-dry more times each week than I do!

So what's up with the name? Is it really chaos?

Well, there are occasionally backwards jeans.

Teeth have been known to fall out! And we anticipate losing 60 or more in the next few years! And our tooth fairy is way stingier than the tooth fairy for my kids' friends, so I don't know what's up with that! I tell my kids, "Well, their teeth just must be better than your teeth, maybe they brush more!"

I got a sewing machine for Mother's Day last year, The Internet has taught me to sew, and now I make more than half of my daughter's clothes, like this dress I made with this tutorial this week. I delighted in how sweet and girly my daughter looked in it. Then after school, she came home and made mud pies with her brothers while wearing it! Awesome!

There may or may not have been a moment this week when I called my husband at work and said, "All 3 kids are muddy, the dog is muddy, the 8 year old needs to be at soccer practice in 30 minutes, and I really just wish the mom would show up and deal with all this." Yeah, I know I AM the mom, and I did suck it up and deal with it all, even making it to the practice on time.

But the really crazy thing about the mud that made me wish I could turn-over my mom position just for an hour or so? Is that it hasn't really rained here in I-don't-know-when! My children created the mud by toting water from our outside faucet to the dirt under their swing set with buckets!

Back to the "Is it really chaos?" question.

Random face decorating is common around here.

There's usually a science experiment going on.

And somehow my toilet paper always ends up looking like this:

It used to be a toddler wildly unrolling the t.p. and this frugal momma rolling it back up (I mean it's not really used t.p., just unrolled)! Now, the puppy is the culprit!

My in-box pretty much always looks like this:

And while sometimes being the main manager of all the chaos leaves me feeling like this very tired bear.

I wouldn't have it any other way!

This blog is about sharing the crazy journey God has us on -- the messes, the fun, the joy, the pain, the struggles, the crafts (for the uncrafty, of course), the cooking from scratch, the attempt to live frugally for a greater purpose, the learning, the loving. The chaos! But, as the Sanctus Real song says, "It feels like chaos, but somehow there's peace." The peace comes from the only thing truly good about our home, and that is Jesus. I am so glad that He's "up to something bigger than me"!

Thanks for joining our party! Feel free to come back any time for a front row seat to all the chaos. And the best part? You get to enjoy it without having to clean up from it!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Sign Your Child Might Be A Math Person

This happened three and a half years ago, but something today reminded me of this story, so I had to dig it up.  (And that 7 year old is now 11 and STILL a math person, although thankfully he does love to read, too, but spelling and handwriting are NOT his strong points!)

Originally published October 12, 2010:

You don't have to interact with people for very long in this life to realize there are people that are math people and people that are not.

For math people, math comes easy, they enjoy manipulating numbers, and they see life as a series of mathematical equations.

I believe my 7 year old may be a math person.

Actually I'm absolutely convinced my 7 year old son is a math person!

I've had several clues throughout these past 7 years to lead me to that conclusion.

Clues like him insisting that I tell him exactly
how many toys to clean up, rather than just telling him to clean his room.

Clues like, him asking me, "What is the percentage between zero and one hundred chance that someone would throw up if they went swimming after drinking Sprite?"

Yeah, you try answering that question!

But, my most powerful clue that my oldest child is a math person came just recently as I watched him practicing some of the spelling words he'd had trouble with when I was quizzing him. This is what he wrote:

To my son "watch" is not spelled watch, it is "catch - c + w = watch"

and chalk?

Of course! "ch + all - l + k = chalk"

That's perfectly normal logic,

For a math person!!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

From a Foster Child's Perspective

After doing volunteer work for 10 years with foster children in my area, I can say they have my heart.  I wish they could all have loving homes!  I don't think most people understand what foster children really go through.

Watch this video to get a glimpse.  Be sure to watch all the way to end, it's the best part!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Blessing of Nothing Unusual at the Dentist With Four Kids!

I survived taking all 4 kids to the dentist today for cleanings and check-ups!    Four kids and NO cavities -- hooray!  And not even a meltdown!  We have come a long way, that is for sure!

Something that struck me later is just how normal it is to me now, having these 4 kids.  When Little Girl first came home, and really for at least a year after, I told pretty much everyone we met that we adopted her from Ethiopia.  I was self-conscious about people staring at us and the fact that we look different and just felt like I should address everyone's wondering and settle the issue about why I, a white woman, have a black child.

But, now after 2 years, I find myself not telling people so often and not because it's something I don't want to share, it's just I don't think to share it as much.  To me, now, these just are my 4 kids, and honestly sometimes I forget there is anything unusual about it!

Today we had a new dental hygienist, someone we'd never met before.  She cleaned all 4 kids' teeth.   I sat right by the exam chair with Little Girl on my lap while the older 3 kids had their teeth cleaned and never thought to explain anything.  It wasn't until an hour and 45 minutes into the deal (yes, that is how long it takes to take 4 kids to the dentist complete with x-rays, cleanings, consults with the dentist, and 2 re-applied sealants) as we were leaving and I was gathering up my children, that it even occurred to me that someone might see my group as odd!

These are just the children whom God has graciously given me! - Genesis 33:5

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rodeo Fun, Pet Ants, and Barry Manilow all in the same week!

 It's rodeo time in our town!

There is a midway with games and rides at the rodeo and we went early enough in the day last Saturday that hardly anyone was playing the games, so you had a lot higher odds of winning at some of them where you compete against other players.  The kids were thrilled they actually won fairly large stuffed animals and with just playing a couple times!


In other news from the week, we had some ants making their way into the house.  My 8 year old daughter discovered them covering a windowsill, upstairs of all places!  She was horrified that they might get on the toys that also live upstairs nearby the window where the ants were squeezing through.  So there was a lot of drama from her and I ended up calling our pest control company right then and scheduling a re-spraying just to satisfy my daughter.  Once the 8 year old calmed down, I went back downstairs to work on dinner.  A bit later there was more squealing of "MOM!!!" from the playroom and I thought, "She needs to get over this, they are just a few little ants!"  But, then I realized now the commotion was excited shouting this time, the 8 year old had successfully caught two ants in a Ziploc bag!  "Look, my new pets!" she gleefully told me.

I'm glad the ants could at least provide some entertainment while they were here!  Also I'm glad those ants did not survive long in that Ziploc and Jim - why, yes, I am on a first name basis with my pest control man - was out today to treat for the ants!


Do you use Spotify?  It's free Internet music and they have pretty much any song (or at least every song I've thought to search for) and you can create your own playlists all for free ('course you do hear commercials every now and then).  I've used Pandora for a while, but Spotify is fun for finding a specific song or album you really want to hear.


However you listen to music, what songs would you never admit to listening to?  And of course I'm asking you to admit them here, publicly!  My guilty pleasure?  Barry Manilow!  You know, "I Can't Smile Without You" and "Even Now" and "I Write the Songs" and, of course, "Mandy"?!!

My husband is quite the music guy and he hates Barry Manilow, and will probably be embarrassed FOR ME that I've admitted to the world that sometimes I listen to Barry Manilow!  I blame one of my old college roommates.  Well, she wasn't technically our roommate, but she was at our apartment enough that my roommate and I adopted her as a roommate  She lived in the sorority house and, you understand, a girl just needs to get away from that place quite a bit!  Anyway, she loved Barry and converted me!  My husband and I have been married almost 15 years and it still amazes me that he married me after finding my mix tape collection!

Well, my husband was out of town one night this week, so it was Barry Manilow from Spotify for an hour while I worked on some things.  I don't like my husband to travel, but I have to say it was a little awesome to listen without anybody making fun of me or walking in and pretending to die from the Barry Manilow!


May your weekend bring all manner of blessings, although not everyone can have rodeo stuffed animals, pet ants, and Barry Manilow!  Just setting some expectations!

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Celebrating Lent

I'm a Christian but my church doesn't really practice Lent.  Not like some faith communities do, anyway, with the ashes on the forehead and the giving up something for Lent.

Yet, still, I wanted to do something this year.  I love the idea of the 40 days of Lent being like walking alongside Jesus during His 40 days in the wilderness and a period of preparing one's heart for Easter.  

Anything to draw closer to Him!

So, we are doing something I've started with my kids before and stopped too soon, but this time we're going to stick with it!

We are listing gifts (click here to get Ann Voskamp's printable blank list).

Thanking God for them.  Seven each day, and my plan is to continue on past Lent for 21 weeks to count over 1,000 gifts.  Although some of my children are skeptical.  "You think we'll run out of gifts to list?"  I ask them.  We'll see!

We sit 'round the dinner table and over dirty dishes the kids shout out gifts they want me to write down.  They think of more than 7 and beg me to start in on tomorrow's list!  But this is a marathon not a sprint, this walking with God, so I stop them at 7, and, besides, tomorrow will have it's own blessings, no need for it to borrow from today!

The Thankful List is sweet at times: food, our house, Daddy, Mommy, my teacher, school, flowers, friends, my bed . . .

And amusing at times:  my other eye (?), Legos, Furby, cereal, my nose . . .

But, we are counting.

Also, for Lent I've decided to memorize all of Isaiah 43 before Easter.  

Which probably means I'll make it about 4 verses in and then fall off the wagon, but hey, that's 4 verses I didn't have memorized before!

So far it's been a week and I've got Isaiah 43:1 and 2 down (from the ESV):

But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel:  "Fear Not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Is 43: 1-2

I love the part about "You are mine"!  How awesome is it that God says that to us!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

High Protein Snacks

In our adoption training we learned that children from hard places are more susceptible to mood swings due to changes in their blood sugar levels thus it's recommended to provide a high protein snack to keep blood sugar levels stable.

I've found this is a good practice for all children, hard places or not.

But, coming up with healthy, convenient snacks that are high in protein that my children will eat can be challenging, so I thought I'd share some I've figured out that work for us.

- Homemade snack mix
This is Little Girl's go-to snack most days for preschool.  It consists of almonds (her classroom is peanut-free but thankfully other nuts are fine), raisins, and then I add in something else like a few goldfish or wheat thins or some dry cereal.

- String Cheese
I get the most all natural I can find.  There is a surprising amount of protein packed into a little string cheese!

- Boiled Eggs
I don't pack this snack for preschool, but at home it's a great way to get some protein in your kids

- Edamame
I do have to sprinkle it with a considerable amount of salt, but then all 4 of my kids gobble up this stuff!

- Greek Yogurt

Regular yogurt has some protein, but Greek yogurt has even more.  One of my kids really loves yogurt parfaits, where I layer yogurt, sliced fruit, and granola.

Do you have any high protein snacks that work for your kids?

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Guess Who's Ready For Kindergarten?

Recently my husband and I sat in a conference with our 5 year old daughter's pre-K teachers, the Little Girl who we adopted from Ethiopia just a little over 2 years ago.  Her teachers had such nice things to say about our Little Girl and as they announced she was "ready for kindergarten" and went over the checklists of physical and social and and verbal and emotional and behavioral skills and how she well she was doing in these areas, I couldn't help but again be completely washed in awe for our God! 

This is a little girl who lived the first 3 years of her life in a 3rd world country, who suffered from malnutrition, who lost her first family, who lived a total of 13 months in 2 different orphanages, who was adopted as a 3 year old and moved to a different country with a completely different culture and language to live in a family who were strangers to her!

And to think now just 2 years later she is on par or exceeding the abilities of her peers who were born and raised in America, have spoken the language since birth and were privy to the best nutrition (even starting with prenatal vitamins!), medical care, and stability of their birth family!  It is amazing!  Only God!

When I think back to the tiny orphan we first saw pictures of:

 To the first moment we laid eyes on her in Ethiopia:

To that room she lived in for a year with the cribs lining the walls:

Sometimes it is honestly so hard to believe my Little Girl today is that same little girl:

 Our God is a God who redeems lives!

"Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things." Psalm 72:18

Thursday, March 6, 2014

At least there is not a toilet paper shortage!

 I've started ordering our toilet paper in bulk from because I save 20% and the more I can have delivered, the fewer errands I have to run. 

A big box arrived today and the kids were wondering what was inside.  As I was opening the box and saw the contents, I started cheering that it was really exciting.  Then I finally announced that it was TOILET PAPER!!!

My 8 year old daughter said that wasn't very exciting, to which I replied, "If there was a toilet paper shortage and you had to do without toilet paper for a few weeks and then suddenly a big box of toilet paper was delivered to your front door, you'd be excited!!

She was, however, excited about the box.  "Look, Mom, I'm a robot!"


My oldest child is very disorganized and messy.  He's super smart and tested as post high school in many areas of standardized testing last year as a 4th grader, but finding his work and keeping up with his stuff are often his biggest challenges at school.  He's in 5th grade now and will move to middle school next year and have to manage 8 different classes with moving classrooms each period.  In preparation, my husband and I have been coaching the boy quite a bit on some organization strategies to use this year while he's still in the comfort of elementary school, so you know, middle school doesn't eat him alive! 
After the Christmas break I even sat down with my 10 year old and went through his school binder that also has a file section.  We cleaned everything out, set up a tab for each subject, even created a special section for things that were to be turned in at school so he'd be able to find his homework fast when the teacher asked for it.  Then we've even had him maintain the system by filling loose papers once every week or so.

Today I sat with the kids as they had snack and started homework, the 5th grader unzipped his school binder and this is what I saw:

Clearly, all the organization lessons have paid off.  Not!  We need an intervention and some remedial help and probably I'm going to need some different stress management strategies to survive that child attending middle school next year!


The past 2 years in a row our spring break has been the week right after the spring forward time change, which was so nice because when the kids woke up at their usual 7am, it was really 8 am and I got to sleep in all spring break, but this year we still have another week of school before spring break arrives, so I'm totally going to miss out on all the sleeping in days post time change and instead I'm going to be serving 4 breakfasts and making 3 lunches at what is the equivalent of 6am every day next week!!


I do like the spring forward, overall, though.  I am much more productive in the evenings when it stays light later.  When it gets dark early and it's cold, I just want to curl up under a warm blanket!


Happy Spring Forward, y'all.

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Best Gift For Kids Who Love To Build

Christmas was over two months ago, so which toys are your kids still playing with?

We have a clear winner at our house from this past Christmas.  It was a gift my husband and I got for our 6 year old son who loves to build.  Of course he LOVES legos but we have many of those and I wanted something different and did a bunch of research on the Internet and came across Kapla Blocks.   I liked the concept of many solid wood planks all the same size to build with and hoped my little builder would like them, too.  Sure enough!  This toy has gotten played with a ton since Christmas by all 4 of my kids and I can see it entertaining them for years!  We started out with the 200 blocks set, but may add to it with another set for the 6 year old's birthday because he does sometimes want to build something bigger than our number of blocks allows.

Some pictures of the Kapla blocks in action:

Each plank is the exact same size so it is pretty easy to build towers and structures since the blocks stack so nicely.

Here the Kapla Blocks and the Legos are playing together!

 I loved the Lego guys sleeping in the side of that building!

There is no end to the creative possibilities!

(Please ignore the flour all over my pants in that picture!  It was Christmas morning and we always make homemade doughnuts!)

These blocks are a bit pricey, especially when you think they are just small, wood planks.  But, they are real wood, precisely cut, and perfectly sanded.  Also, I feel better spending money on something like this than a plastic toy that will break.  God willing, my grandchildren could be playing with these Kapla blocks some day!  The other thing that is great about this toy is that you as an adult will enjoy playing with it with your children.

****Disclaimer:  I am an affiliate and will receive a small portion from the sale should you make a purchase with one of my links, but I have not been compensated to endorse or review Kapla Blocks.  I only recommend products we truly love and use in our home.****