Thursday, May 30, 2013

The queen's visit, Tony Nails, Kazoos, and the Elusive Green Shirt

My kids told me one evening this week that the queen was coming!  They were very excited and I had no idea what to expect -- Queen Elizabeth lives a long way away, so I was fairly certain it wasn't THAT queen and good thing because the house was a wee bit messy!

I give you my 7 year old queen:

I will miss scenes like that some day.  So I'm telling my daughters that even when they are grown-ups they need to show up in my kitchen from time to time wearing a princess dress and butterfly wings!


My 4 year old Little Girl loves for me to paint her toe nails, only she calls them tony nails.  I think it is so cute and shush her older siblings when they try to correct her!

Notice the yellow kazoo in Little Girl's mouth in the above picture?  The 10 year old won a few small prizes from school for reading achievements and one prize was a 4 pack of kazoos.  At first I was really touched by his generosity when he came home from school, opened the package and gave one to each of his siblings, keeping only one for himself!

But I only had half a second to soak up the generous gesture.  Because then I was overwhelmed with the sounds of 4 children playing kazoos.  Loudly.  For what felt like forever.  And now 3 days later those kazoos are the gift that keeps on giving!


Amid all the other end-of-school-year crazy, I spent a solid 30 minutes last night searching for a green team field day shirt that my 2nd grader needed to wear to school today for the pep rally and again tomorrow for field day (I guess they are counting on stinky kids or moms washing in between?). I found my 4th grader's white team field day shirt, no problem, and even the kindergartener's shirt, but I could not find that 2nd grader's green team shirt!

I searched all 4 kids' hanging clothes and dresser drawers in case it got put away wrong, the dirty clothes hamper, the laundry basket of clean clothes waiting to be folded, even under the beds. You would not believe just exactly how many green kid t-shirts I found (I truly lost count) but none were the RIGHT green t-shirt.

 I could literally feel my hair getting grayer as I searched and then searched every place over again! My husband was all, "Just let her wear any of those green t-shirts, it doesn't matter if it's not the 2013 Green Team Field Day one!" Deep in my mind I knew he was right that I should let it go (I mean, HELLO first world problems!), but I couldn't.

I FINALLY found it. In the bin of dress-up clothes! Because, OF COURSE, why wouldn't it be there?!! I'm suspecting a certain 4 year old was cleaning and gathered random clothes from the floor and tossed them all in the dress-up bin.


Only 5 more days left of school and next Thursday, the last day is a half day!!!!!  Y'all, we just might make it through!  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Best Way to Celebrate 14 Years of Marriage

Today my husband and I celebrated 14 years of marriage.

By eating Tres Leches cake and watching our wedding video with our 4 children!

It was perfect!

We went out to a nice dinner nearly 2 weeks ago for an early celebration when our church had Parents' Night Out, meaning easy, cheap babysitting!  (With 4 kids flexibility about not needing to celebrate actually right on important dates is key!)  When we were seated at a window table for two at that restaurant, our waiter excitedly motioned to the young couple sitting at a table just outside our window on the patio.  "I hear that is a wedding engagement about to happen over there.  Word is he's about to pop the question, so you guys may have the best seat in the house!"

And we did!  Just after our meal as our dessert was served we got to see the whole thing, complete with the man leaving briefly and returning with his dog (dogs are apparently allowed on the patio of this restaurant) who was carrying a package tied with a bow around it's neck.  The package turned out to be the engagement ring!  I know!  The guy definitely gets extra points for creativity and for having a really cute dog!  She said "yes" and then his parents and her mom suddenly popped up and were taking pictures and hugging the newly engaged couple!

It was like a movie!  Sweet and beautiful, even.  But, I couldn't help thinking, the really beautiful stuff of marriage comes when the movie is over, reality has more than set in, and it is still good.

We ordered a new dining room table this past weekend after years of eating on a too small, totally beat-up by kids table for too long, so as I hit the confirmation button on the computer purchase screen, I looked up at my husband and said, "Hey, I know!  This can be our anniversary present TO EACH OTHER!"  My husband said, "Awesome!"  Which is why we are a perfect match!  I'm so glad neither of us has the love language of gifts!

Then tonight, at our actual anniversary dinner on our still-beat-up-until-the-new-one-comes-in dining room table with our 4 loud children, some of them still in their swimsuits from swim team practice, my husband asked each child what they were thankful for and the littlest one, the 4 year old we brought home to join our family from Ethiopia 17 months ago, she said she was thankful for her family.

And it was obvious to both my husband and I, that what we have is the good stuff!

This marriage, this family, all that God has blessed us with. . . 

Even later after we'd answered a million questions from the children about engagement rings and bridesmaids and bouquet tosses and just when you know it's the right time to ask someone to marry you and they were all in bed and my husband was elbow-deep in dishes and I was scrubbing stains out of laundry, he joked that this was "quite the party".

And it is!

Find more Thankful Thursday here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Coming Soon: Summer 2013

Our summer officially starts next Thursday when school is FINALLY out for my oldest 3 kids.  And I can't wait!

The plans?

1 week of VBS at our church, 1 week at our favorite spot in Florida, and a 1 week mission trip to the Dominican Republic for my oldest 2 kids, my husband, and me (the littles will stay with Nana and Papa).

BUT, other than those week-long things and swim team practice and meets during the month of June, we have a lot of BIG plans like:

- days of wearing our pajamas ALL DAY LONG and not getting in the car once!

- blueberry picking!  Followed by blueberry pancakes for dinner!

- checking out tons of books from the library and seeing just how many we can read this summer

- letting each of my oldest 2 kids take a night of dinner each week and cook it with me assisting

- teaching the 10 year old to do wash!

- visiting our children's museum, the zoo, the pool, the SeaWorld waterpark, the pediatrician (for those overdue well-child visits!)

- organizing the kid closets and rooms

- having our annual family "Outdoor Day"

- letting my kids practice their typing and Bible verses with

- reading chapter books outloud (my 10 year old is lobbying for the Narnia books)

- working on handwriting practice for all the kids (I bought these workbooks)

- helping my kids write and illustrate their own books (using these: Create Your own 3 bitty books)

- sewing with my 7 year old daughter

- Doing this fun idea I found on Pinterest - save Batman and Robin by melting Mr. Freeze's ice with water guns!

- And this idea for Scrap Fabric Paper Dolls (I certainly have a ton of scrap fabric!):

- Making a lot of homemade ice cream and popsicles

- Creating elaborate Lego creations

- Family game nights and family movie nights (complete with popcorn)

- Re-discovering the joy that is shopping with 4 kids!

Yes, that is one of my children reading on the bottom tier of the cart.  If you happen to run into us in the Target this summer, feel free to point and laugh!

There you go, 18 ideas for summer.  If you want even more ideas, here's a link to my 2009 Summer Fun List with 36 items.

Apparently the 2009 version of me is way more ambitious than the 2013 me!

Find more Works For Me Wednesday here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Day of "Get To"

I'm not going to lie, today I woke up not excited about the day's agenda.  Make 3 lunches, Get 3 kids off to elementary school (at 2 different times due to 10 year old's safety patrol duty), change sheets, start wash, exercise, take the car for an oil change/entertain Little Girl in the waiting area, grocery shop with Little Girl, unload/put away groceries, feed her lunch, pick up the 7 year old early at school and take her for an allergy shot (again with Little Girl in tow), then pick up the boys at school and quick feed everyone a snack before swim team practice for the oldest 3, getting home just in time to fix dinner during time kids are typically whinest and most demanding.

It wasn't hugely busier than a typical day but I think it was just one too many not so fun activities crammed in for my taste, and I'm still adjusting to having Little Girl with me all day every day as this is her first week without her 2 mornings per week preschool.  I love her spunk and energy but it can be exhausting to parent and those 6 hours each week sure were nice to get things done without all the drama that comes with Little Girl!

But, even if I knew where it was coming from, I quickly got annoyed with my own bad attitude and prayed for God to help me feel more positive about the day.  Then I decided to take a bit of my own medicine, when the kids complain, "Why do I HAVE to . . ."  I always reply like this, "Oh Sweetie, it's not HAVE to, it's GET to!  You GET to take a bath!  Think how good you'll feel when you're all clean!" or "You GET to take a nap.  I wish I could take a nap!"

It worked!  I DID feel more positive about the day.

I GOT to take these 3 grocery shopping with me - Little Girl with Pinky and Beary (feel free to admire her CREATIVE names for her pink dog and stuffed bear)

Just think how many women in the world don't even have enough food to feed their children and I have an entire grocery store's worth of selection!

We picked up big sister early at school to head to the allergist complete with a visit to the treasure chest and left with extra large green glasses!

Every day is better with extra large green glasses and little girls giggling and asking over and over "Why is your hair green?  Why is my hand green?  Etc.  Etc." 

It IS a privilege to have special girl time with my 2 favorite girls!  We even managed to make it out of the allergist with time to stop by Sonic for chocolate shakes for the girls and a Coke Zero for me (I know I gave it up, but this was a special occasion!)

The girls had fun spinning in their matching dresses that I scored for cheap at Costco a couple months ago:

And after swim team practice (hence the 10 year old's sporting of a swim suit with his polo shirt),  I was making dinner and looked out the window to the cutest basketball game going on between my 4 year old daughter and 10 year old son.  They played for a long time, were BOTH having fun and I'm betting if Little Girl ever gets on a team with girls her own age she'll dominate after all the practice with her biggest brother!

It turned out to be a fine day.  I got a lot done, enjoyed my people along the way, and am so thankful I GET to live this life!

Find more Friday Fragments here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Legos, Legos Everywhere!

Last weekend we went to a Lego Kids' Fest.  I've never seen so many legos before in my life!  I didn't intentionally steal a lego, but when I got home, there was a stray yellow lego that managed to find it's way into my purse!

Lightning McQueen made entirely of lego:

Little Girl buried in lego:

 The Monochromatic build area was my favorite.  Maybe because it appealed to my inner organizer?  A never ending supply of lego pieces, all the same color and size -- free to build whatever your imagination dreams up!

I just love that big ole' tub of legos!

Things other people built:

Reading books about legos:

There was tons more to do, I just didn't get pictures of all of it.  I was too busy counting my children!  It was pretty crowded!  BUT, I have to say having the boys dressed alike and the girls dressed alike and not just a solid color, but a bold stripe, really helped me keep track of my kids in the crowd -- I could always spot them!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

There is Still No 5 Year Plan!

Our hearts go out to those affected by the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.  Our family is praying for you.  May God's comfort be felt in tremendous ways for you today and in the coming weeks and months.

The following post was originally published in October 2010, but it is still true today (except now we've been married nearly 14 years!).  We still do not have a 5 year plan, and in fact have found that life is better without one.  Just desperately seeking God's plans!

Some time very early in our marriage (or perhaps even before we got married, I can't remember now, it's been over 11 years) we had a long-term plan.

Very long-term, stretching a good part of 25 years or so.

It was detailed, too, with things like exactly when we'd buy our first house, have our first child, have our second child. . .

There was no third child in that plan!

And certainly no fourth child!

There was probably a trip to Paris and Hawaii in there, but definitely not to Ethiopia.

And adopting a child from Ethiopia? Would have been unfathomable to us eleven years ago!

My husband had in the plan one of the two of our hypothetical children getting a full scholarship to college (wishful thinking!), which helped the finances look a little prettier.

Then as life happened, which it always does, I think the plan evolved into more of a 5 year plan.

And as we more and more let go of our plans and began to earnestly seek God's plans for our lives, even the 5 year plan melted away!

And now?

I don't think there is even a 1 year plan!

We pretty much have no idea!

When we went to get our travel shots a few weeks ago the doctor talked about a certain vaccine we wouldn't need just for the 2 one week long trips that were on the agenda, but we'd need if we planned to spend any large amounts of time in Ethiopia in the next 10 years. I looked to my husband questioningly and he nodded that absolutely we should get the extra shot, so that when it's time for us to go be missionaries in Africa we'll be all ready to go!

So now instead of intricately planning our our lives, we are praying to "live a life worthy of the calling we have received." Eph. 4:1

But, the amazing thing to me is that as God has changed our plans, He also changed our desires. Things we wanted for our life eleven years ago not only don't matter anymore, but are actually things we don't want now!

God changes hearts and replaces earthly desires with heavenly ones. That helps to explain lines like this one from the Steve Camp song, "Run to the Battle": "Some people want to live within the sounds of chapel bells, but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of Hell."

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Surviving My Kids' School Projects

I don't enjoy school projects.  Thankfully our elementary is not as heavy on them as some that my friends' kids attend, but still, there are some.  And there have been times I've started to hyperventilate a bit as I wonder just how I'll survive the projects times 4 kids! 

When my oldest was in 2nd grade I made the decision that I was not going to do school projects for my kids, even if other parents did and even if it meant my kid would have the ugliest poster/science fair presentation/cereal box/etc. in his grade.  But, still, even just assisting in school projects (that should be "child-led" as the teacher instructions often say) is time-consuming and can be frustrating when your child has an idea in his or her mind of what the project should look like but neither of you can figure out how to actually create it!

Was I doomed into spending my Saturday and Sunday afternoons buried in a pile of craft supplies along with a frustrated elementary-aged child?

This weekend as my kindergartener worked on his project to create a shoebox diorama from his assigned book - Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel - I figured out the answer to how I'd survive mothering through school projects for 4 kids.

My 2nd grade daughter came over to the table where I was helping my kindergartener and she started helping because she wanted to.  It wasn't long before I was able to mosey over into the nearby kitchen and start working on dinner while my 2nd grader helped my kindergartener with his project!

There it is folks.  Tangible proof that having 4 kids is not always exponentially harder than having 1 or 2 kids!

Find more Wordful Wednesday here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

R.I.P. Sally the Ladybug

Today my 7 year old daughter asked me if I wanted to come to the funeral for Sally the Ladybug.  I agreed to come after I finished helping the 6 year old with his homework.  But as I walked into the backyard my head was full of questions, "Did we have a ladybug named Sally?"  "Did she die?"  "Did you bury her?"

And the answer was "yes" to all those questions.  Apparently I'd lost track of the bug pets my kids have been keeping and rotating in and out of our outside bug habitat and we did lose a ladybug.

I've never been to a ladybug funeral before so I have nothing to compare it to, but I have to say, the best part was when my 7 year old said we needed to "have a moment of silence while you think about Sally the ladybug."

Excuse the blurry picture, but the circle of brown leaves below shows the burial site:


I chaperoned a field trip for second graders today all day and my brain is mush, right now I actually don't even remember the rest of our week, it's a blur.


One thing I know, it would be all kinds of awesome to have this playhouse/slide in your backyard!


And this:

Source: via It on Pinterest

I used to think my kids were the only ones who called hand sanitizer "hanitizer", but no, my 6 year old's entire kindergarten class calls it that!

I'm going to bed!  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

15 More Days Left of School!

There are 15 more school days left until summer break, but who's counting?

Me!  That's who!

Each year I really don't know who is more excited about summer getting here, me or the kids!  They really like school but for me the effort to maintain the logistics of it all can be pretty crazy.

I'm craving a freer schedule, time to just hang out with my kids, time to play, some lazy days, no lunches to pack, no school projects to stress about, no agendas to sign or feel guilty about forgetting to sign, no school drop-offs/school pick-ups, and wash that consists mostly of swimsuits and pajamas!

We are in the home stretch!  Summer will be here soon!  Only 45 more lunches to pack . . .

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Green Smoothies My Kids Love!

My kids are pretty good eaters, but I'm still always looking for ways to get extra veggies in them.  Several months ago I figured out a green smoothie recipe that my kids love and have made them several times each week since!  I even figured out a way to pack the smoothies in their lunchboxes using these little plastic BPA free bottles from The Container Store.  They work great and are freezer and dishwasher safe!

My smoothie recipe is totally made up and the amounts of ingredients are pretty imprecise.  My apologies, but play around varying amounts until you get the taste you prefer.  Here is the rough recipe I use:

Chocolate Green Smoothies

24 oz. Vanilla Yogurt (I use soy vanilla yogurt)
2 or 3 large handfuls of raw, leafy spinach (washed first)
2 or 3 frozen bananas 
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
2/3 cup milk (I use almond milk)

Combine all ingredients in the blender (I do not have a fancy, super expensive blender, you do not need one for this smoothie) and blend/puree/liquefy (whatever it is your blender does, I just hit the highest setting for 30 seconds or so).  You can add more milk if you want it a thinner consistency or add more frozen bananas for a more ice cream shake type of texture.  Add more honey or bananas if it is not sweet enough for you. 

That's it!  Pour into cups (or bottles for packing later) and enjoy! 

Makes about 6 servings.

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

When An Orphan Becomes A Daughter

I really just never get tired of talking about this, marveling at how BIG our God is!  I see it so often in the life of our Little Girl.  Seventeen months ago she lived in an orphanage in Ethiopia.  This past Saturday she danced on a stage in front of a large audience in America at her ballet recital, with her mom, dad, sister and 2 brothers cheering from the 4th row!  She did an amazing job, wasn't scared at all, performed her dance nearly exactly as her class had practiced (with a bit of her own adorable flair, or course), and had so much fun that she wants to do it again!

God did this.  He is in the business of transforming lives.

There is just no way to go from this:

To this:


without a whole lot of God!

She was a female orphan over the age of infancy in a 3rd world country. A pretty low state of being by the world's standards with typically a terrible life prognosis. So, every time I see her achieve a regular-American-kid milestone, like performing in a dance recital, it leaves me in awe of our miracle-working God! She has come so far! Anyone who has spent time with her would tell you, this little girl can take on the world. 

She has a future and a hope, not only with her Heavenly Father someday, but here on this very earth, this side of eternity! Without the chains of poverty or the stigma of the term "orphan" and with the security and love of a family, a whole new world was opened up to her. 

He redeemed her life. Not us. Him! 

Please hear me out on this. We fall short every single day. The only thing we did out of the ordinary was say "Yes" to an extraordinary God.

And now we get front row seats (sometimes it's 4th row, but we'll take it) to witness God's miracles!

Find more Gratituesday here  and Wordful Wednesday here. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Motherhood: It's a Glamorous Life!

It's Mother's Day weekend and I want to give a huge Thank you and pat on the back to all moms!  In honor of the occasion, I'm celebrating the glamorous life of motherhood! 

Have you ever been to Disney with kids?  Well, if you have then you know all about the character dining.  I mean, they are THE thing to schedule at least 6 months in advance of your visit.  We did Disney once years ago and had 2 character meals, one dinner with princesses and a breakfast with Mickey, Pluto, Lilo and Stitch, etc.  

But, I have a friend that goes regularly and is an expert on the character dining.  I think they do each and every meal for an entire week with a character!  Honestly with all the hype, the stress of scheduling the meals in advance and the cost, I can't help screaming inside my head -- FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS!  Which is why we haven't been back to Disney.

I have a point to all this, I promise.  
This week I got to have a private breakfast with Princess Belle right in my own dining room FOR FREE!

Then I got to take Princess Belle to swim lessons and to Target!  She even went with me to the elementary school to pick up the big kids and was quite the hit!  I know!  I AM blessed, not everyone gets to spend their day with Princess Belle!


As if that weren't cool enough, this week I had my driveway illustrated by 3 talented artists!

Not everyone gets to drive over original works of art!


Then I had these happy guys popping up all over the house:

You can't help but smile with them around!


Because we don't watch much TV/don't have cable, I haven't ridden the cooking show bandwagon.  But, the one show I saw years ago, the cook had a challenge of creating gourmet box lunches for a bunch of construction workers.  

Well, this week I got to create a grand total of 16 lunchbox lunches (5 each for my 3 oldest kids and 1 preschool lunch for Little Girl) from whole ingredients - no prepackaged fake food, yet still things my kids would eat!  All while remembering who likes white cheese and who likes yellow and who is allergic to peanut butter and who is "so tired of sandwiches" and who doesn't like bananas and who doesn't like to eat any kind of pasta cold except "Cold Pasta"!

Iron Chef, I dare you to try tackling a typical day-in-the-life of a mom and the meal preparations that go on!


Motherhood, it is a glamorous life!  And I haven't even touched on the potty training phase!

Truly, it is the messiest, hardest, most frustrating job on the planet, but also the most beautiful, most rewarding, best job ever!

Happy Mother's Day!  Have a wonderful weekend!


Find more Friday Fragments here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sanity Saving Shelves!

I posted a long time ago about our new shoe/coat/backpack shelves.  But, I thought I'd give a little update because that post gets a lot of traffic from Pinterest.  You won't find a lot Pinterest-worthy here on this blog, but these shelves?  Really are awesome.

They may not look super stylish and I know a few commenters have sweetly suggested I could add some crown molding to make the shelves look built in, which sounds great to me, only way, way beyond the zone of my abilities!  But, these shelves really preserve the little bit of sanity I have left here mothering 4 children in the midst of the busy May-end-of-school-year season!

Here are the shelves as they look today (I cheated and took this while the kids were at school so they are not as cluttered without the backpacks.):

Remember the issue?  We needed a spot near the backdoor to house the things our 4 children needed each day for school and other activities.  We needed mudroom shelves!

But, alas, our house was built in the 1980s before builders realized that people like big laundry rooms!  So, our laundry room is exactly big enough for a washer and a dryer, nothing else!  My husband offered to hire someone to add on a mudroom to our house.  But, I am cheap and also don't prefer living in a construction zone for any amount of time, so we got creative.

We bought 4 Ikea narrow Billy bookcases, screwed them together, left off the middle shelf, and added hooks.  (We also attached the whole unit to the wall because I have no idea what age you stop worrying about your children climbing the furniture, but we are not there yet!)  And we put the shelving unit/mudroom lockers IN OUR BREAKFAST ROOM!  I know!  It's pretty crazy!  But, we don't actually use the room for breakfast because we eat all our meals at the only table big enough to hold all 6 of us -- the dining room one.  So the breakfast room is really more of a work/game/craft zone for the kids anyway.

You can find out more details about how we did the shelves and the 4 red canvas totes I made here.

Back to the shelves in action now 18 months after we got them:

From the top, the grey buckets were a cheap find at Target and they house things like winter gloves (that my kids need all of 2 days each year), swim goggles, ballet shoes and sunglasses.

Next shelf down are plain white boxes that perfectly hold 8.5 by 11 inch papers, so that's where my kids keep homework packets they are to work on over the course of several days before returning to school or instructions about projects, etc.  It's a work-in-progress type of box!  And when the kids remember to put their work in their box then it doesn't get colored on by a sibling or lost.

Next, is the shelf with the red totes that I made.  The black chalkboard label has each child's name written in chalk-ink but I smeared the names out for displaying on the blog.  However, the very visible names has made it so our 4 year old little girl can now write the names of her brothers and sister.  Even while she was at preschool today she made a note for her sister and because she's seen her name so often was able to pretty correctly imitate the letters all on her own!  The totes hold random treasures the kids want to keep but I'd rather toss, like party favors, prizes from school, etc!

Then there are the hooks for backpacks, jackets, and hats.  And then the shoe shelves -- obviously my girls have more shoes than the boys!

These shelves definitely work for us!  The kids can nearly always find what they need and we are not tripping over 8 different shoes each afternoon.  Although, I do still have to remind the kids of the shelf when the shoes somehow land 6 inches AWAY from the shelf!  I usually tell them their shoes are crying, "Please put us on the shelf!  We are not where we belong!"

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

We have not forgotten . . .

As we celebrate the wonder of every day, ordinary, blessed life in America with our 4 children, including our Little Girl adopted from Ethiopia 16 months ago, we always remember the faces of those we left behind.  The children of Ethiopia that we met, fell in love with, ached over the hardships they endure, and marveled at their ability to have joy even in the midst of terrible circumstances!

We have been involved in the work of a few different organizations to help these children, but recently we began something new.  Something we are really excited about!  I'll share the details soon, and a way you can help, too, change the lives of Ethiopian children.

When we look at the faces of those precious children and then into the face of our Little Girl, we cannot help the realization that they could be our sons and daughters.  They are God's children! 

Find more Wordful Wednesday here.