Monday, June 30, 2014

Blueberry Picking 2014

We've gone blueberry picking every year for the past 7 years and this year we picked the most ever! Nineteen pounds!!

We woke up before the crack of dawn to get the best blueberries and get done before it got so hot.  I am so impressed with us that we were able to arrive at the blueberry farm (a good 50 minutes from our house) by 6:30am!!  Did I mention my husband and I are not morning people?  So, you can truly appreciate the motivation and effort!  But it was worth it, it was so nice picking before it got hot! 

I filled my bucket first:

Just to keep it real, it is was not all peaceful bliss picking blueberries with 4 kids, all 3 of the younger kids spilled their buckets at some point in the process, which brought some drama.  Thankfully 2 of the kids it was early on before they'd picked much, but the one who spilled his rather full bucket was very upset and I told him I'd help him fill it back up.  He said, "But, Mom, I don't think you can pick enough to fill my bucket before we leave."  That was all I needed to hear!  Those were challenge words and I was determined to fill his bucket!  Since my family did not want to stay in the blueberry field much longer and they knew I wasn't leaving until the little guy's bucket was full, everyone began picking to fill up his bucket, which we did.

So, what do you do with 19 pounds of blueberries?  Well, we had blueberry pancakes for dinner, made blueberry bread:

Blueberry pie:

And tomorrow blueberry bars are on the line-up!  I'll freeze a bunch too.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Week That Summer Made

We did the coolest, easiest science experiment this week courtesy of my son's awesome 1st grade teacher who sent home a packet of things the kids could do over the summer complete with all the supplies to do it!

The experiment is proving that water can "walk" and you just put some water in a small cup (or I used a small jar), dye it with food coloring (Use any color you want; my little guy's favorite is blue), and then drape a strip of paper towel from the small cup with the colored water to an empty cup and check back periodically over a few hours to see the water walk!

It was amazing to see how much water literally moved from the full jar to the empty across the paper towel!  The water levels eventually reached equilibrium:

I'm going to send his teacher that picture!


The only way to top the excitement of walking water was to break out the bubble wand I bought that promises the world's largest bubbles.

That is a really big bubble!


There was backyard soccer with siblings :


And a pediatrician check-ups for the boys where I learned that my oldest is only 1 inch shy of 5 feet tall!  How is it possible that he is that big?  

Of course, there are benefits to them being big, it was like a reunion at the pediatrician's office because we literally had not been in there in 9 months -- so amazing considering there was a season of life when my kids were little that I was at the doctor with them every 2 weeks!  Our pediatrician is the same one we've used since the beginning, the same one who visited the children I gave birth to when they were just a few hours old.  And now over 11 years later he hugs and kisses my kids and dotes over them like a proud grandfather and it makes me so glad we chose the pediatrician we did all those years ago when I was pregnant with my first child!


We had count 'em up THREE swim meets this week but now the summer swim team season is over!  The end of season party was tonight.  

And good thing because I have been packing my family of 6 a nutritious picnic meal for each swim meet complete with homemade pasta salad, fresh fruit, and a healthy dessert like blueberry bread.  But, by the 3rd night of swim meets this week I just didn't have it in me to pack dinner and haul the cooler into the meet so they were relegated to eating hot dogs from the outside grill at the swim meet.  And really it should have been no surprise that after dinner of hot dogs and Sprite, the 8 year old immediately felt nausous!


Saturday is one of my most favorite day's of the year -- Blueberry Picking Day!  Which always means blueberry pancakes for dinner Saturday night!  I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nose in a Book

My kids are readers, all of them.  And for that I am so grateful!  Just today between my 4 kids, we checked out 34 books from the library, super long chapter books for the oldest child down to easy readers and picture books for the youngest!  All the books will likely be read by next week and we'll return them and get more!

I happened upon this precious scene this morning:

Yes, even, Madeline the dog is getting in on the reading (only she must rely on the mercies of a pajama-clad 8 year old to hold the book and turn the pages for her)!

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." ― Dr. Seuss

"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home." ― Anna Quindlen

 "Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo 

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book.” — Marcel Proust 

"You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." –Paul Sweeney 

 “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” — Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Mother-Daughter Ice Skating Date

I had the pleasure of taking my 8 year old daughter on an ice-skating date last week:

She'd never been before, but she mastered roller-skating recently at a friend's birthday party, so I thought she'd be able to catch on to ice skating.

Truly I was worried she'd be skating circles around me, it had been ages since I'd ice-skated.

But, I was really thrilled that all my old ice skating skills came back to me!

My daughter did a lap holding on to the wall, then a lap holding my hand and then she was ready to do it on her own, slowly at first and then faster!

I love seeing this side of my girl.  She is quiet and most people think reserved, but when it comes to daredevil-type physical things, she's all in!  Roller-coasters, rock-climbing, spinning or swinging, this girl loves it and can't go fast or high enough!  And I saw that kick in with the skating.  She was determined to get it and not timid about trying and trying until she mastered it, which she did and then she did not want to stop skating!

We had a blast and the whole evening reminded me of just how important individual dates are with my children.  It is a treasure to get one-on-one time with them.  And something like ice skating is just too much right now for me to do with all 4 kids.  I remember the time a few years ago that I took 3 of them roller-skating and none of them could skate -- they were all clinging to me and couldn't even keep their feet under them -- it was a very long hour and a half (and probably made me gun-shy against doing anything like that again)!  But, helping just one child learn to ice skate was totally doable and even enjoyable!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Week In Review

Summer is already flying by!  While I haven't yet had the rest and relaxation I would like (that is coming, though) and we've still been pretty busy, we have had fun!

Mostly we've done this:

Swim team!  It is fun, and great for them to get such good exercise when it's so hot out, but 7am practice comes awfully early!  And swim meets that start for our youngest at 4pm and end for our oldest around 9:30pm are exhausting, but the summer league all four of my kids are in is over next week, so the swim season is busy but short.


There have also been a lot of games.  This was a marathon Monopoly game that lasted through 2 days:

 It's fun that all the kids are old enough to play!  Apples to Apples Junior is a current favorite:

And we have a Puerto Rico game going with my husband, the 3 oldest kids, and me that we hope to finish tomorrow night.


The 7 year old lost a tooth this week:

He was very excited to catch up a bit, considering his little sister has lost more teeth than he has!


And this week my husband and I spent much time coaching the 11 year old through swallowing a pill.  We went to the travel medicine doctor last Friday.  The typhoid vaccine our son got before our last Ethiopia trip was no longer good and the nurse said if he could swallow a pill he was now old enough for the oral typhoid vaccine and could avoid a shot.  He'd never really successfully swallowed a pill, although we've tried a few different times, but she assured us all that it was tiny and there were only 4 pills total to take spread across a week.  Easy enough, right?

Well, there was quite the drama and consternation getting that first pill down and we were all just wishing he'd done the shot!  It was a good 45 minutes of coaching from my husband and I as far as techniques and encouragement.  He finally ended up swallowing it without water -- so gross, but he just couldn't do it with the liquid!  The 2nd pill on day 3 was better, but still took several tries and drama of "I can't do this!" but it went down in about 20 minutes.  Then the 3rd pill on day 5 was a record 5 minutes.  The 5th and final pill is tomorrow.  Here's to hoping the 11 year old has finally mastered swallowing pills!

Especially considering we need the malaria meds for our trip this time as we are going to a high malaria risk region of Ethiopia and the malaria medicine?  Doesn't come in a liquid form!  Pills only!  For ELEVEN days!!


Is it hot where you live?  Here we've achieved the temperatures where I wake up, put on exercise clothes, take kids to swim practice, work out, shower, and PUT CLEAN WORK-OUT CLOTHES on, not because I intend to exercise again, but because it is just too hot to be wearing anything but the sweat-proof clothing!


Have a wonderful weekend!
Half-Past Kissin' Time

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Her Real Mom

The words came tumbling out one day a couple months ago.  I knew they would eventually.  I guess I expected to hear them in anger when I'd done something she didn't like, but that's not how it was.  There had been an intense couple weeks where my daughter, adopted as a 3 year old and now 5 years old, wanted to talk a lot about Ethiopia and began sharing more than ever before about her life before us.  During those intense few weeks, triggered by I know not what, we had several really good but hard conversations.  I was thankful for the new level of bonding, but also emotionally exhausted!

And then it came from the backseat one afternoon as I drove her to gymnastics, my 5 year old daughter said very matter-of-factly, "You know you're not my real mom."

Whoa.  Deep breath in, and out, quick prayer.  And the decision only enabled by God,"I am not going to take this personally!"

I responded in just the same matter of fact tone she had used and assured her that while I was not her birth mom, I was in fact her real mom.

We'd used those terms many times before but you never know what a child is really understanding and they process things differently at different ages.  We talked more and I truly believe she just wanted some reassurance about my role in her life.  Her comment was not intended to hurt me and it was not a reflection on my performance as a parent or our degree of bondedness, but I could have easily taken her comment any of those ways.  I could have gotten my feelings hurt and in the midst of my pity-party or anger, missed the opportunity to react in a way that nurtured my girl.

It's not easy, y'all, when you have poured so much into a child and then to hear that, but trust me, it is much better if you can repeat the mantra inside your head, "It's not personal.  It's not personal."  and then set to the business of seeing your child's heart and addressing the real reason for the real mom comment.

Hugs to all you real mamas out there!  Anybody ever seen a fake mom?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Our breakfast table scene -- look the other way (or take pictures)

This may or may not be a fairly regular scene at our breakfast table. . .

A dog!  Sitting in a chair like a person at the table!

(Only this time she's actually resting her head on the table which is slightly unusual and cute and thus picture-worthy.  Usually she just sits there on a chair looking around.)

I know.  The dog trainer we hired for private lessons in our home when this dog was a puppy would be absolutely horrified! 

Sure, if there is food there at the particular spot at the table we immediately order her "OFF!" and she does.  But, if there is no immediate food in her grasp we often "let it go".  Really what happens 99% of the time is that the kids remaining at the table joke that whoever it was that just vacated the spot at the table that the dog now occupies is "looking really furry today"!

Clearly we are in the wacky camp of people where the dog is considered a member of our family and perhaps our line between human and dog has moved too far allowing the dog a bit of time at the table when nearly everyone is through eating!

From another angle, look how cute and innocent she looks!!

I think, though, it all boils down to this.  In my life I have bigger battles than this.  A dog at the table?  I shrug, perhaps shake my head, look the other way, or some days take pictures.  But, what is golden, and really the main reason we have a dog and I hope will always have one, is that when she does this it always brings a smile to all of us, always! 

The dog at the breakfast table disgusts and disturbs me a lot less than nearly all the news in those newspapers!

Find more Wordless Wednesday here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Making Her Hair Dreams Come True

Last week I said that Little Girl had requested a mohawk sprayed with colorful hair paint for crazy hair day at our VBS.  If you have ever been in a vicinity of 50 feet from my little girl then you know that she is a girl who knows what she wants, is not afraid to ask for it (loudly) and keeps asking until she gets it.  As soon as she learned about the crazy hair day theme she made her hair desires very clear to me.

Well.  Let me tell you I had literally 25 minutes from the time Little Girl got out of the water after swim team practice to get her bathed, dressed for VBS, and also make her hair dreams come true.  And I really was not even quite sure HOW I was going to get Little Girl's hair into a mohawk!  Talk about tricky!

But, thankfully a great idea came to me to put her hair in 4 different little ponytails along the middle of her head and it ended up working perfectly to create the mohawk look.

Then I spray painted the mohawk with purple spray paint because why not?  Crazy Hair Day at VBS is the kids one day out of the year to have a wacky hair style, so go big or go home, right?!!

Several people at VBS told Little Girl how great her hair was and moms were asking me how I did it -- ha!

My other 2 VBS kids sporting their versions of crazy hair (notice the 3 different colors of hair paint - pink, purple and blue - where did these high-maintenance children come from?):

My oldest had water day at VBX that day and wore his swim suit and swim shirt.

It was  about half-way through the morning at VBS while I was helping forty 2nd graders with a craft that I realized I planned to run by Trader Joe's for a few key items (like Ethiopian coffee -- we CANNOT run out of coffee) on the way home from VBS and I'd have to take my 3 crazy hair kids plus my 1 kid in dressed in a swim suit into the store with me!  Talk about a spectacle!

But, I did not want to go home, get everyone cleaned up, and go back out again!  Also, I remembered that I have no pride remaining when it comes to being out and about with my kids and people staring or thinking weird things about me, so I took them into the store and we walked around as if there was nothing unusual!  A store employee told my little kids they had "cool hair"!

Thankfully that hair paint washed out on the first try!

This week with VBS over, Camp Mom has been in full swing.  And remember from last summer I explained Camp Mom is not where I go to camp and get to sleep in and have manicures and pedicures and massages.  No, Camp Mom is where I attempt to entertain/occupy my 4 children during various weeks of their summer break instead of sending them to camp I have to pay for, to be enterained/occupied by someone else.

We've done science experiments, like this one where you sprinkle ice cubes with salt to get them to stick to a piece of yarn.

A perk about going to Camp Mom is that jammies are totally acceptable attire and even encouraged -- less wash to do!!

We've gone to a free play put on at our local outdoor theater, we ate lunch while watching a movie at a movie grill place, we've gone to the library and signed up for the summer reading program, we've done some handwriting practice and a bit of schoolwork to keep everyone fresh over the summer!

Then today at Camp Mom, my kids were able to assist and witness a surgery!  "Beary" had a large gash in his side that needed several stitches:

A needle and thread fixed him right up.  The 11 year old insisted on taking pictures!.

Beary is now resting comfortably in the 5 year old's bed.

I'm ready for some rest now.  Early swim team practices combined with being all on all day with my four kids plus one night my husband was out of town have left me a little worn out!

Happy Friday and Happy Father's Day to all the dads in your life!

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our Father's Day Treasure Hunt Tradition

Our Father's Day tradition is to send my husband on a treasure hunt for his presents. The clues relate to memories with the kids throughout the past year and send him all over the house until the last clue leads him to his presents!

I do around 6 clues and now that my kids are able (I actually started this when my 1st was a baby) they help with ideas and hiding the clues.

Examples of some past year's clues:

clue: "Don't Let Fool's Landing Sink"
location: Inside one of our favorite family games, Forbidden Island.

clue: "Dr. Wink looked at me and said, 'You have a very rare and acute case of Pinkititis.'"
location: a sticky note leading to the next clue will be found on the page containing that sentence in the Pinkalicious book my daughter has had us read a hundred times and memorized herself."

clue: You pulled my 1st loose tooth here
location: Presents will be found on my 6 year old's top bunk bed.

It is really fun coming up with the clues, hiding them, and, of course, watching the hunt! My kids and I follow my husband around as he follows the clues.

This little tradition makes Father's Day more fun and special!

Here's my 3rd child's favorite lovey, his Big Duke stuffed bulldog that was holding a clue one year:

And my older daughter's favorite doll was the answer to the very last clue and held the present!

All the clues from one year on sticky notes:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

When the Foster Child Goes to College

This evening I spent a few hours downtown at the Juvenile Justice Center as part of my volunteer work as a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for children in the foster care system. 

My favorite aspect of the particular courtroom I was in, is the unwritten rule, "Don't sit in the front row as that is where the prisoners sit!"

That's some GOLDEN advice right there, folks!  'Cause there's just nothing like sitting next to someone for a good half hour before you realize they are actually CHAINED to the bench, which may or may not have happened to me when I was a rookie volunteer 12 years ago!

But, in all seriousness, I want to share a true story a judge shared with my group tonight.  He was talking about a policy that the state of Texas has had for a few years now where they pay the college tuition for former foster children to be able to attend a state university and even graduate school if they complete it within a certain number of years.  

Obviously this is a great and much-needed thing, but it is not enough.

This judge told us about a young woman he knew of who was in foster care for many years, aged out at age 18 and was one of the rare successful ones who actually used the state money to pay for her college and even her graduate degree, but when the dorm closed for Christmas she had nowhere to go and often ended up sleeping in her car.

Y'all, it makes my heart hurt just thinking about that college student with NO FAMILY, nowhere to go for the holidays!

My state is working on some things to do better by these kids, because really WE MUST DO BETTER, turning kids out on the streets from foster care when they turn 18 just is not working.  Many of those kids go on to be homeless, caught up in prostitution, in jail, or have children of their own in CPS custody within just a few years!

My new role with CASA that I'm gearing up for will be with older kids.  It's going to be a stretch for me as I'm used to little ones, little ones I know, but if there's a teenager out there with NO ONE that cares about them, then I'm going to be that person even if its hard for me.  Because they are worth it.  I don't even know them yet, but I know God created them in his very image and loves them just as much as He loves me!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

She's NOT Wonderwoman!

Today was "Disguise Day" at VBS:

That picture is minus one child because he is now too old for VBS and has moved on to the world of VBX and Youth Group.  Youth group, I'm finding, is much like middle school -- a whole 'nother world that I am not ready for, but he is!

Oh, and whatever you do, don't tell Little Girl she looks like Wonderwoman.  Or you'll get this face:

Yes, I know, she is dressed in a Wonderwoman costume (that SHE chose from our costume bin, no less), that is what makes the whole thing so tricky, but she wanted to be "cooler and fancier than Wonderwoman".  I ran out of time to help her tweak the costume to her specific desires, so she had to settle for the glasses to make her "fancier than Wonderwoman".

Did I mention that it was 8:00 am when this whole Wonderwoman negotiation was going on?!!  And that I'd already gotten 2 children to swim practice and needed to pick up 2 more children from their swim practice and get them dressed for VBS??

So, just trust me on the whole thing and don't tell her she looks like Wonderwoman and everything will be fine!

I just wish my 8 year old daughter had followed my advice.  She ignored my shushings and demanded, "Well, if you didn't want to look like Wonderwoman, then WHY did you put on a Wonderwoman costume?!!"  It was a valid question but only if you are dealing with a rational person, which 5 year old's are sometimes not!

Tomorrow is crazy hair day and Little Girl has requested a mohawk sprayed with colorful hair paint.  Being Little Girl's personal stylist/assistant is exhausting!

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Keeping a Blog Comes In Handy Sometimes

I have seen people who are super organized.  I just met a woman this week who kept a paper log of every wet and dirty diaper her infant had for the first two months (AND it was her SECOND child -- NO WAY!  P.S.: Don't ask how this fun fact came up in conversation.)  Then there are people who keep detailed records of every doctor's appointment they or their children have.

I am not one of those people.

I think I made it about 5 days of recording every wet and dirty diaper for my FIRST baby.  Then by my 2nd baby I couldn't even keep track for the 2 days I was in the hospital after she was born, the nurses would come by and ask and my husband and I would make up answers so we didn't seem like bad parents, but honestly we'd forgotten to record a diaper in the middle of the night!

So it should come as no surprise that when I was on the phone today with the travel medicine clinic regarding our upcoming trip to Ethiopia, I didn't have a record of the date we had our last round of Ethiopia travel vaccinations!


Didn't I blog about that?

A quick 5 second search of the good ole blog revealed the EXACT date of our last travel vaccinations AND how many shots we got -- so handy!!

From September 20, 2010: 

147 million orphans in the world

our family's mission?

to make it 147 million MINUS ONE!

1 Day off school on Friday

1 Appointment at the Travel Medicine Clinic

15 shots between the 4 of us

the 3 year old will not be going to Ethiopia (so no shots for him)

20 hours on an airplane with him would = nightmare for all involved!

5 shots for my husband + an oral typhoid vaccine taken at home

5 shots for me + an oral typhoid vaccine taken at home

3 shots for my 7 year old

2 shots for my 5 year old

0 days the kids were in pain after the shots

2 days my husband and I needed Tylenol to even remotely be able to lift either arm!

1 little girl in Ethiopia we have never met, but still know she's way more than worth it!!! We don't know when, but we're coming, Baby!

**Updated:  That Little Girl in Ethiopia is now home and has been for well over 2 years and she IS way more than worth it!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


We rang in the first day of summer vacation with the slip n' slide, water guns, and a picnic on the patio!

And then we moved on to the craziness of 2 long swim meets only 2 days apart, including Monday night's meet that lasted until 10pm (hence no blog post for Tuesday!), and VBS every morning this week!

All this leads me to my main point, while I'm soaking up every bit of life with my people, I may not be blogging here as regularly as usual.  I'll be in and out.  Thank you for bearing with me.  Happy summer!!