Monday, November 25, 2013

The Last Pine Cone Turkey

When my 5 year old daughter brought home a pine cone turkey from preschool last week, very similar to the pine cone turkey one of my 4 children has brought home from preschool at Thanksgiving time for the past 8 years, I sniffled a bit realizing this may be the last one!  The last pine cone turkey!

They don't seem to make them in elementary school, at least not the elementary school my older 3 kids attend and where Little Girl will go next year.

There are so many aspects of raising children that have been mainstays in our life for so many years now, having 4 children one right after the other.  Things like strollers were just part of life, nearly anywhere we went we needed a stroller, the question was just which one -- the single, the double, the jogger?  And then they were gone.  Just like that!  We never use a stroller anymore!

But, the strollers I don't really miss (except occasionally as a place to stash a bag and not have to carry it) -- good riddance, life is easier without you!   The pine cone turkey, however, will be missed!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Can you spell "cornucopia"?

My 3rd grader's spelling words this week:

I love the Thanksgiving themed words, but just being honest here, I had no idea that was how you spelled "cornucopia"!


We got to preschool early one day this week.  I know, I was surprised, too!

Little Girl used the extra few minutes before school started to crawl around exploring every inch of the car.  She found the sunglasses she hadn't seen in months and was delighted!  And now, it's all about the sunglasses!  In fact she insists on wearing them right up to the door of her preschool class and only then will she take them off and hand them to me to "keep safe" while she is at school.

Ever wonder what it would be like living with a rock star?

I think like I kind of know what that feels like.  We certainly have the drama and attitude down, good thing there is all the cute as well!


It's Friday and my house is a mess, so that's all for today.

Happy Friday, Friends!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Grace For Those Days

Originally published November 2012:

It was one of those days.  You know, THOSE days.  The kind where you are just done, DONE by 7pm.  The kind of days as a mother when you see your children less as the precious, adorable gifts that they are, and more as the most annoying people on earth.  The kind of day when there was such a string of frustrating events that you just want to get in bed and pull the covers up over your head, but you can't, because there are four children to put to bed and your husband is working late or out of town.

Somehow we made it through baths and pajamas and teeth brushing and lotion.  I was short with everyone, impatient, and just no fun at all.  Whereas many days I might delight in their stories and antics, today it all just brought irritation.  I could not wait to get them in bed!  But first it was storytime and Little Girl reached to pick a book from the 3rd shelf, the one with the longer books, "No, pick one from the bottom shelf."  I quickly corrected.  The bottom shelf has the board books, the super short, one sentence per page with a total of 8 to 10 pages.  

I read too fast, hastily turned off the light, started her music, and settled Little Girl in my lap with her blanket to rock for a few minutes.  On this night there were no feelings of awe or thankfulness for this little girl who we were desperately trying to bring home from Ethiopia this time last year.  I just wanted her to go to sleep.

I said a very quick prayer and then she asked, "Can I pray?"  I sighed way too audibly.  I mean wasn't it just a stall tactic?  But a very advanced tactic for a 4 year old because who can deny a child who asks to pray?  

"Go ahead" I said wearily.  

And she prays (she used her own name in the place of "Little Girl" but since I don't share my kids real names on this blog, I'm substituting), "Dear God, thank you that Little Girl is so happy in her family."

And suddenly I can't breathe.  God's mercy and grace pouring down.  She prayed thanking God that she is so happy in her family!

"Oh Lord, I don't deserve this!"  Really, I don't.  I deserve her to pray, "God, next time please give me a nicer Mommy."  That's what I deserve.

It's why I cringe when people tell my husband and me how great we are for adopting Little Girl.  Because we are not great.  It is God who is great.  Our Little Girl is thriving despite us.  God did that.  He set her in our family and He is an amazing healer and creator of families!  We fail so many times in so many ways, like on my "choose a book from the short-book shelf" night.  We run out of energy and patience and thankfulness and get caught up in our own selfishness.  But, God?  He is good.  All the time.  Even on THOSE days.  Especially on THOSE days.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Cure for the Uneaten Lunch

There is nothing quite like the experience as a mother of carefully packing a homemade lunch at 7am, sending it off to school with your little darling, and then having the exact same lunch return to you pretty much untouched at 3:15pm to make you feel like your work is in vain!

Over the past 6 years of having a kid in elementary school and now with 3 of them there, all my kids have gone through phases of not eating their lunches.  I've tried everything from polling them about what they would eat in their lunch, to going to eat lunch with them to observe just why they are not eating their lunch (their complaint of not enough time I observed to be just too much talking and playing with their neighbor in the lunchroom and not enough eating!), to even threatening that they were going to have to start buying the cafeteria food for lunch!

Mostly, I have happened upon some combinations of lunches that they will eat and I feel are healthy enough.  But, really nothing has quite addressed the problem as efficiently as our newest solution.

At the beginning of the month, my husband let the kids know it was now their job to clean out their lunchbox in the afternoon or evening.  Before they were just required to put their lunchboxes by the sink and he cleaned them out when he did the dinner dishes.

His motivation was transferring some work to them but the added benefit is best summed up by what my 6 year old said (who is currently my worst not-eating-his-lunch offender), "Now I try to eat all my lunch at school.  Do you know why?  Because that way it makes it easier to clean out my lunchbox!"

Of course!  It is just that simple!  Why didn't we think of this before?!!!

Here's that little guy cleaning out his lunch box before bed:

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

We Survived Family Pictures!

Every year since my 3 oldest children were 4 years, 2 years, and 5 months old, we've done a family photo session with a professional photographer (so 6 years now), where we meet her at an outside location and she shoots tons of pictures over an hour time period and later sends us electronic copies of the 30-40 best pictures to print and reprint and use however we want forever.

It is not cheap, but even me with my frugal tendencies can say those pictures are SO worth it!

I treasure the really great quality photos of my kids from those professional photographer sessions.  I love that I have captured in beautiful pictures these years when they are growing up so fast!

Just look at them from the 1st session in 2007:

Oh my heart!  Where have my babies gone??

Sadly, two years ago the photographer we'd been using and loved moved over seas.  I half debated flying to Europe to get our family pictures taken because she was just that good and had such a sweet way of interacting with my kids and getting good smiles out of them.

But, happily we did find a wonderful new local photographer who took our pictures last year and again today.  She, too, takes beautiful pictures and makes the sessions pretty stress-free.  She's a mom of 2 kids close to my kids' ages and so she's realistic about what to expect from kids.  I have some stories about those mall photographers and photo sessions with my oldest when he was a toddler -- not good, at all!

Here's a sneak peek from today and our urban shoot in front of some abandoned old businesses (my husband snapped these photos with his phone):

Here the photographer is talking to my 8 year about the pose:

She said, "Give me some sass":
That daughter has to be coached to add the attitude, but Little Girl (my 5 year old daughter) has it built-in and didn't need much coaching, "Wow, she is a natural!"  the photographer commented.

Of course, there was a bit of time she was taking some pictures of the kids and they were getting tired of the whole thing and she was trying to get them hugging each other and one ended up hugging so hard another fell over and there was some fussing.  The photographer just kept snapping pictures saying "how cute" the kids were and I was laughing at the ridiculousness of it and told her, "Good thing there is no audio to these pictures!!"

But we survived another year of family pictures, and I can't wait to see what the photographer captured!

Really the biggest marvel is probably that the photographer survived our family of 6!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ever eaten your lunch in alphabetical order?

My 8 year old daughter told me one day this week that she got to "eat my lunch in alphabetical order".  I looked at her confused.  She explained, "I ate the carrots first, then pizza, then strawberries, then sugar cookie, and water.  Alphabetical order!"  She was very thankful that I'd packed her a lunch conducive to the ABC order!


I walked in on this happy little scene my 5 year old had set up to read to all her little stuffed friends:


Every Friday I do a "special snack" for the kids after school.  The rest of the week is fruit or granola bars or whatever happens to be around, but on Fridays I plan something a bit special that I know the kids will love.  Last week I was too busy to make anything but did plan ahead enough to grab three bags of popcorn while I was at Trader Joe's, one regular, one cheese, and one kettle corn.  I set up a "Popcorn Bar" for the kids and they LOVED it!   So easy!


In a throw-back to the 1980s, the 10 year old has gotten into the Rubix cute lately.  My husband was quite the Rubix cube expert in his time and has taught the 10 year old some of his tricks to solving the Rubix cube.  Then this week, a 2nd Rubix cube arrived in the mail.  My husband ordered a 2nd one so that he and the 10 year old can have Rubix cube races.  Here's one that happened after the 10 year old's swim practice tonight:

I love the serious face on my son!  My husband won, solving it first in about 5 minutes, but I give the 10 year old just another month or so before he'll be beating his dad!


Happy Friday, Friends!  Try eating a meal in alphabetical order this weekend!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How God Feels About Orphans

Orphan Sunday was Sunday, November 3rd.  I helped with a few events at our church the last couple weeks related to adoption and caring for orphans.  But, I realized I hadn't posted anything on the blog yet.

Instead of sharing my own views and beliefs regarding orphans, I want to defer to God's words to all of us:

"Learn to do good; Seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." Isaiah 1:17

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

"When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." Deuteronomy 24:19

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5

"God sets the lonely in families." Psalm 68:6a

“I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you." John 14:18

"To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more." Psalm 10:18

"Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow's cause does not come to them." Isaiah 1:23

"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute." Psalm 82:3

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." Deut. 10:18

"And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do." Deut 14:29

"But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless." Pslam 10:14

"The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked." Psalm 146:9

"Do not move the ancient boundary or go into the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you." Proverbs 23:10-11

Can we call ourselves followers of God and ignore these verses?

There are 147 million orphans in the world.

"2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left." from Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis

So what can you do?

Love them, pray for them, visit them, feed them, speak out for them, care for them, provide for them, adopt them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oshin really is a better way to spell it!

My 6 year old has a saying, "my worst favorite" that he uses often.  For example, "My worst favorite day is Monday."  I LOVE this saying of his and think it is the cutest thing!  Maybe it is because he is my 3rd child and I KNOW just how fast they grow up, but I have no desire to correct his grammar and am confident he will not be saying it forever.  Also, I think it is a much nicer way of saying he doesn't like something.  Instead of him saying, "I hate _______,"  He says, "_______ is my worst favorite.  It puts a whole positive spin on things in my mind!

Tonight at dinner he told us that, "His worst favorite part of school was DOL." (DOL stands for Daily Oral Language.)  My husband began to correct him, "You mean your least favorite."  But, he could not really get the words out because of my loud, "SHHHH!"  And then my whisper to him, "Do not correct him, that is the cutest saying ever and I am not ready for it to go away!"

Then, after the kids were in bed my husband and I were looking over the paperwork that had come home and we came across some of the most delightful little stories our 6 year old son wrote and illustrated at school.  The phonetic spelling had us consumed laughter.  "Wus thar wus a Oshin." translates to "Once there was an ocean."

But honestly, why is ocean spelled like it is instead of "oshin"?  I think my 6 year old is on to something!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Enthusiasm for the "Fall Back" has dwindled!

I spent the day at the zoo with first graders helping to chaperone a field trip.  As you might imagine, I'm just a little tired now.  My group was all boys since it is one of my sons that is a first grader right now.  A friend and I laughed at the difference in having a boy group versus a girl group!  But, I did not lose anyone, there was only a little blood (One boy's lip got dry in the cold wind and began bleeding.  He got blood all over both hands before I realized where is was coming from!), and we had fun, so the day was a raving success!


We showed my daughters the recording of the world championships of women's gymnastics recently.  They loved it and proceeded to watch while imitating the various gymnasts.  They were very cute, but I have no idea how the TV did not get kicked over during their stunts!


In other news, we had to get a new kitchen faucet recently and it was unexpected.  The plumber showed me all the ways our old faucet was beyond repair and we were better off replacing it.  And then he regretted ever being assigned our house that day because I could not for the life of me chose a faucet!

There were just SO MANY CHOICES in his book and I was unprepared for such a decision and I really don't spend much of my day thinking about kitchen faucets until mine doesn't work and then the only feature I really need is "one that works".  Finally, I begged the man to please just choose for me!  He seemed surprised that I didn't have more opinions about faucets or want to look around at some stores or drive to their showroom to see choices and talk about features.  "Oh, I just don't have time, and even if I did, I'm not sure faucet shopping is how I would choose to spend it!"

He installed a new one and it works so I'm happy with it.  And then I talked him into re-caulking around the bottom of the toilet in my kids' bathroom that had gotten stained from years of little boys and their bad aim, which he did without charging me extra.  He's my new hero!


Remember how excited I was to "Fall Back" last week?  Well, after a week of my kids waking up 1 hour earlier than usual, my enthusiasm for the "Fall Back" has dwindled.  Gaining one extra hour is not a good trade for all four kids awake at 6AM every morning!


Happy Friday, Friends!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Nearly Perfect New Recipe!

Here are the things I love in a recipe:

1.  Healthy

2.  My kids will eat it

3.  Easy (I love me a Pioneer Woman recipe but not for weeknights, then I really appreciate simple!)

4.  Can be cooked in the crockpot (So if we have soccer practice until 6:30pm, we can come home to dinner ready to eat!)

Do you think I ask for too much?  Can no recipe really live up to all that?

Well, I have a small arsenal of ones that do and they get replayed around here so often that we get sick of them (I am talking to you, Taco Soup!).

But, today I tried out a new one and it is a keeper!  Totally fulfills the quadruple crown of recipes!

Do you want to know what it is?

Salsa Verde Beef (click for the recipe)

I served it wrapped in whole wheat tortillas (made fresh at HEB) with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and extra salsa verde.  It was yummy!  AND all 6 of us ate it happily (three-fourths of the children did not have tomatoes with theirs).  This recipe is going to get worn out, I can already tell!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is there anything cuter?

Is there anything cuter than a little girl and her doll in matching pajamas?

No, I don't think so!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Unstuffed Dog

The carnage in my kitchen:

Poor unstuffed dog!

Madeline the goldendoodle is very sorry, she couldn't help herself!  There are few things more fun to her than ripping the stuffing out of something!

Here's to hoping that dog really is unstuffed this time, he's been losing his stuffing all over the house for weeks now!  Just how much stuffing could they fit inside that guy?