Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's a Magic Door!

With the 2 ice days in the past week and an early dismissal for teacher training, it doesn't feel like Friday at all, our schedule has been so off!


New and exciting this week, we now have a "magic door" in our house!

We had our central vacuum repaired a couple months ago and I asked the guy how hard it would be to add to our system one of those doors in the baseboard that you open up and can sweep all the crumbs in and they are suctioned right into the central vac. pipe and whisked away into the metal drum in the garage.  The price he quoted was much lower than I would have expected for such a thing and my husband and I decided with all the floor mess created by our 4 kids and 1 dog, it was worth it.

This week the installer came.  Only they never actually told me when my appointment was or called with a 30 minutes before call.  So the vacuum system guy arrives on my doorstep at 4pm one afternoon, totally unannounced, meaning the house was in disarray.  The kids had recently gotten home from school, there were lunchboxes and backpacks and shoes everywhere.  I'd promised the kids hot chocolate that I was mixing up and they were adding whip cream and sprinkles, so the kitchen was not clean.  But, bless his heart, that installer hung with us all afternoon, through the 3 different grade levels of homework, 2 kids conversing with each other over walkie-talkies, dinner prep., laundry, disputes between children, a barking dog, the phone ringing, multiple costume changes by my 2 youngest children, 1 child's bumped head that required ice, not to mention squealing and screaming when he used his wall cutting tool.  Honestly I'm pretty sure that young man will never have children now!


The poor man had to cut a couple of holes in the wall to do the installation and he kept describing to me exactly what he had to do and where the holes would be and what size, he seemed really concerned that I would be upset about the holes, and I just kept thinking, "Do you see the chaos of this house, really I'm not worried about a few holes in the wall?!"


So it's done and we do indeed have holes in the wall, but who cares, because -- MAGIC DOOR!  Really it is fabulous!  With the flip of a lever (that you can do with your foot), a little suction door is opened up along the baseboard in my kitchen and I can easily sweep the kid and dog debris right in and it is whisked away!

One child and the dog are still a little fearful of the magic door, afraid they'll be sucked away.


Today there was more excitement, a much-anticipated package was due to arrive with a toy my 6 year old ordered with his allowance.  Here are my boys ready to pounce on the UPS man:


Thankfully now that I have a 10 year old son this year I DO actually know who is playing in the Superbowl this Sunday, in previous years I had no idea until the big game.  But, now I get an earful from football-loving boy.  Will you be watching  the big game?


 Happy Friday, Friends! Find more Friday Fragments here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Life lessons From The 500 Freestyle

The 500 freestyle.  

It is a dreaded event for many swimmers.

A right of passage for every swimmer, some say.

As a former swimmer myself, I remember well the dread of an event.

The one your coach entered you in and is convinced you can do, but you?  Think you will die!

My 10 year old son was entered into the 500 freestyle for the first time a few weeks ago.

From the moment we found out his events for the upcoming meet until the event 4 days later, he was filled with worry.

20 laps of the pool!  In a race!

I reassured, "Your coach would not have put you in this event if she didn't think you could do it."  

I downplayed, "Just think of it like practice.  You've swum that far in practices before.  Just go nice and easy and you'll be fine."

I encouraged, "Since you've never done this event before, all you have to do is finish and you'll get a personal best time!"

But really there was nothing I could do to make it better.  This one he needed to live through.  We prayed together about it several times for God to give him peace and strength.

Come meet day, there were several kids his age from his team in the same boat, swimming the 500 free for the first time.

And they all hated it, looked white as sheets, and nervous as turkeys at Thanksgiving, BEFORE the 500.

But after?  They were all smiles!  They did it!  And they were so proud of being able to do something hard, something they'd never done before!

My son even said he'd swim it again, someday.

My view from behind the starting blocks watching my son swim.  The counter that would be stuck down in the water to show him he'd done 11 laps so far!

I told my husband later, "I don't know who had the harder task, him swimming or me watching.  Man I was exhausted when it was over!"

I am so proud of my son for tackling this feat!  For doing hard things.  Not because of a swimming event, but because to do life well, you have to do the hard things sometimes.

Then today I picked him up from school and he was pale, distant, and clearly rattled.  "What's wrong?"  I asked.  No clear answer.  "Did something happen?"  "Are you sick?!!"  Nothing.  So I let him be for a few minutes.  Then a bit later I prodded some more because that's what we moms do.  "Did something bad happen at school?"  "Not really," he replied slowly, forcing me to go through a long list of possibilities that at least got him laughing.

"It's something you will think is good,"  he then told me, confusing me all the more.  Finally he told me he was among 3 boys nominated for Safety Patrol Captain and he has to give a speech in front of a few teachers and his 30 fellow safety patrols (other 5th graders) at school tomorrow and then the kids will vote to decide the winner.

"That's great!"  I said, "It's an honor to be chosen.  Since the kids vote to pick the nominees, that means you are well respected among your peers!  Congratulations!"

"But the speech, Mom.  I'm worried," he said with dread in his voice.  "I've done speeches in my class at school but this is bigger."

"The speech,"  I said, "Is just like the 500 freestyle.  Everybody is afraid to do it.  But once you finish, you'll feel great to have tackled that challenge.  And the more speeches you give the more comfortable you'll get with them, so this is a great opportunity!"

He's only mildly convinced of my logic, but he has a notecard with some notes he jotted down.  Now if I could just be a fly on the wall in that cafeteria tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ice Day, Take 2

School is so very rarely cancelled due to icy weather in our area, like once every 5 years or so, and in the past week we've had TWO days of school closures!  Last Friday and again today the kids did not have school.  It is so crazy!

Because these were not snow days as in fluffy snowflakes, snowball fights, and kids making snowmen, but rather, sleet with no pretty white stuff, just some icicles hear and there, I have no pictures to mark the fanfare.

Except there is this from today:

Yeah, that pretty much sums up our ice days!

Monday, January 27, 2014

What I Buy With Amazon Subscribe and Save

I know I posted a while back about how I get breakfast delivered to my front door, but since then it's gotten even better!

Amazon Subscribe and Save is adding new products all the time and best of all, I recently learned that if you have 5 or more product subscriptions arriving in a month, then you save 15% off the entire order!

I only order things through Amazon Subscribe and Save that are the same price or cheaper than I would pay at the grocery or Target, but to save 15% on top of that is huge!  And the convenience of having the things we use up regularly replenished with delivery right to my front door is awesome!!  Who doesn't want fewer errands to run?!!

You can schedule things to arrive every month or every 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 months, to account for how fast you typically use up an item and you can change your subscription at any time.

Because I'm always curious about what other people buy at stores like Costco,  I thought I'd share with you what I'm currently buying through Amazon Subscribe and Save:
  • The lotion I use on my face at night
  • My husband's hair gel
  • The Vanicream (thick lotion) I use on my kids -- it keeps the eczema away!
  • The lotion I use on my hands
  • Cracklin Oat Bran Cereal
  • Kashi Go Lean Crunch Cereal
  • Kashi Go Lean Honey Almond Flax Cereal
  • Puffs Plus Lotion Kleenex
  • Cottonelle Toliet Paper
  • Cliff Mojo Bars
Do you want to go see if your family's favorite products are available through the Amazon grocery?

Click here (Disclaimer: I am an Amazon affiliate, but also a satisfied customer!).

Grocery Shopping made super easy!

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tizzy is a Word! It is!

You know you've got yourself some 1st world problems when your day is thrown all in a tizzy (yes, that is a real word, it looked funny written, so I looked it up) because the groomer called to cancel your dog's grooming appointment.  

But, really we were in a state of dire grooming need!  

First I called too late into the Christmas season and they were all booked up until the new year.  We attempted to bathe/groom the creature ourselves, it did not go well, so I called again early in the new year and was only able to get an appointment for my dog for 3 weeks later.  I was literally counting down the days until she could be groomed.  She was a matted, filthy mess, and worst of all, her long fur kept bringing in a multitude of leaves from the backyard that she would then scatter all over the house!

So, when they canceled due to a family emergency and could not give me a clear reschedule date, we were forced to find another groomer.  Stat!  Thankfully, we did find one and we finally have a presentable dog again!

Before (with a particularly leaf-encrusted face):


'Course she's been fussing at me all day because now she is only wearing her lightweight coat and it's 30 degrees.  She told me, "You know I grow that heavy fur coat for a reason!"  Okay, so my dog does not actually talk to me with words, but look at that face, it says it all!


One day last week when I dropped Little Girl off at preschool she was talking to her teacher about her snack and about how she got the snack out of the pantry at our house.  Then as I was walking off I heard her tell her teacher loudly (because that's how she always talks), "WE HAVE BUGS IN OUR PANTRY!"

I wheeled around and said, "That was ONE time SIX MONTHS AGO!"

"Seriously,"  I told my friend that afternoon, "She has lived with us for over 2 years now, and for like 4 days of those 2 years there were bugs in the pantry, yet that's just how she sums up the state of our pantry!"

That friend then proceeded to tell me that her 3 kids had lice a few months ago, it's totally gone, but now anytime someone comes over her kids tell them, "Watch out!  We have a lice a problem!"

I was rolling on the floor laughing!  Kids, man, they keep you humble!


Okay, so the pantry comment was last week, well fast forward to this week.  I was cleaning out the pantry and noticed this fine crumb coating, like small brown grains.  At first I thought someone had emptied the remnants of the cereal box in the pantry because that could totally happen with 4 kids around here.  But, then it hit me, "These are probably not crumbs.  What if they are BUGS?!"  

Sure enough, I Googled it, "Grain-like pantry bugs" and there is such thing as a grain beetle and the bugs are as tiny as a small grain!  They love to get in things like flour, oatmeal, grits, spices, etc.  They are typically in the food when you bring it home from the store.  And sure enough, I found them in a canister of quick-cooking oats and a nearby bag of grits that was sealed in a Ziploc bag!  Thankfully most of the stuff in my pantry is sealed well in jars or plastic containers, but the quick oats were in the cardboard canister I bought them in.  Needless to say I will now be emptying those type of store-bought packaging into my clear, plastic containers before they ever go into my pantry!

Gross!  But, on a positive side my pantry is now super clean and totally purged as I threw away many old things just on principle!

And now Little Girl has an arsenal of bugs-in-our-pantry stories!  Good thing I have no shame as evidenced by the fact that I am telling the entire world about the bugs in my pantry!


We have some "wintry mix" forecasted for our city tomorrow, which happens less than once a year, so the kids are very excited about the possibility of a snow day tomorrow!  We shall see!  I know I'd be happy to not have to leave the house tomorrow.  Really anytime the temperature drops below 50 degrees I don't think I should be expected to go outside!


 Happy Friday, Friends!  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Reading With My Daughter

One of my favorite things the past couple years has been reading classic girl chapter books with my older daughter (she is 8 now).

She loves books as much as I did as girl and it is such a joy to see her delight in the stories I read at her age!

After I read a book to my two younger children and tuck them in, I climb up into the top bunk bed with my 8 year old daughter and we read aloud for 15 minutes or so.

We just finished Anne of Green Gables and it was even lovelier than I remembered!

In fact, my daughter and I both fell so in love with Anne, that I've now purchased the box set!

It was fascinating to me to read Anne of Green Gables now as an adoptive mom.  I felt so sad for Anne when she was delivered by mistake to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert who had requested a boy and they contemplated sending her back!  But, oh how I related so much to the quiet Marilla as she parented the spirited, talkative Anne!  Because parenting a child with a personality type so opposite your own is exhausting!  And how many days has the constant chatter from my younger daughter adopted as a 3 year old also led me to tell her to stop talking.  But, oh how well the book illustrates the ultimate gift of opening your home and heart to a child and how those spirited little girls can bring such joy!

Reading with my older daughter is not always easy, sometimes by 8:15pm at night I am so spent from the demands of my family and the day that I just want to have some free time and be done with kids.  But, I'm so glad that I've made the time most nights.  It's precious one-on-one time with my girl and when I look back over the past couple years those moments reading with her definitely stand-out as the good stuff!

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How the Fourth Child Learns to Ride a Bike

This past weekend the weather was gorgeous, the kids were all riding bikes outside, and my husband and our 5 year old daughter (our 4th child) decided it was time to take the training wheels off her bike.

My husband informed me of their intentions and asked me if I was ready to help.  My mind immediately went to all the chores I had waiting for me inside, but I resigned myself to assisting with what I imagined to be a good hour or more of steadying a bike, encouraging a child, and bandaging knees.  We have taught our 3 older children to ride bikes and although the 1st was the hardest by far, they all took some training and helping and encouraging to learn.  Some of them even got training wheels back on for a while because they just couldn't seem to get it and we all decided to take a break for a few months before trying again.

And I can't even count the hours I've spent holding the back of a bike steadying a new rider, walking/running alongside when they didn't want me to let go.  There was a time in my life I wished for a camp that taught kids how to ride a 2-wheel bike; I was willing to pay money to send my child!

My husband got out his tools, the training wheels came off, and Little Girl got on the bike . . .


That was it!  Seriously!  No falling! No parent holding onto the back!  No tears!  So easy!

And that, my Friends, is how the 4th child learns to ride a bike!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's Been 4 Years and I Can Only Now Consider Disney Again

A little over four years ago we went to Disneyworld.  It was a very fun trip with many precious memories made.  But, it was also an exhausting vacation!  My husband was ready to go back to Disney right away.  He loved it!  Me?  Well, for the past 4 years every time he's brought it up as a possible vacation destination I've groaned and said, "That is NOT a vacation, that is WORK.  Give me a beach and no agenda for a week, THAT's a vacation!"

Four years and finally I can consider Disney again.  Mostly because now our youngest, our fourth child, adopted 2 years ago from Ethiopia as a 3 year old has never been and she is getting to the height of the princess/character phase.

But, also, I'm telling myself, "When we went to Disney before the kids were 6, 4, and 2 years old.  That is really young to do such a big trip with, and that 2 year old was miserable waiting in line even 15 minutes for a ride or a show and that 4 year old could get pretty whiney.  It would be so much easier with kids ages 11, 8, 6 and 5!  Also, there was a kid throwing up in the middle of the night that first trip and we used up all the hotel towels cleaning it up and I just longed for my home and washing machine.  But, surely nobody will throw up this time!  Also, that first trip we were determined to cram in as many experiences as possible -- rides, parades, shows, character dining, etc. -- this time we'd take it easy a bit more."

Maybe Disney will win me over this time, maybe it really IS the happiest place on earth and somehow I missed that while lugging 3 small children around multiple theme parks 4 years ago.  Maybe. . .

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What's not to love about a doll with a dirty diaper?

My older daughter got a Baby Alive doll for Christmas.  She's been asking for one for a while now, but she has so many dolls and I thought this one seemed too gimmicky and prefer the classic baby dolls.  But, when it appeared on her Christmas list again this year, I sadly realized the day may come too quickly when she's too old to put a doll on her Christmas wishlist, so I got it for her.

She was excited when she opened it!  Then when she told my 10 year old son it was a doll that you can feed and then it goes potty, he asked incredulously, "What is fun about that?!"

But it has been fun, for me and my daughter!

And all my kids have learned the life lesson that when a baby eats green peas, the dirty diaper produced later will be, well, green!

My daughter has also learned just how long it takes to feed a baby.  Baby Alive is pretty realistic that way, it seems to take 20 minutes or so for a feeding of her, then you have to clean her up.  I told my daughter that's the way it is with real babies too, only they have to eat every 3 hours!

We've had some sweet moments with this Baby Alive!

Monday, January 13, 2014

How To Organize Lego Instructions

I'm truly not too proud to admit when something isn't working.  And call it January, but I'm renewed in my mission to make my house work for me.  So, I've been assessing some things lately, things that could be better.

Last January (do you see a trend with the January?) I blogged about our newly created Lego storage solution, and I have to say, 12 months into the deal and the solution was mostly good.

I love the separate bins for all the Lego pieces.  A year ago I would have said and probably did say to my husband as he sat on the floor for forever with the children and sorted ALL! THE! LEGOS! that it wouldn't last, that the Legos would get mixed back up in a matter of weeks, certainly the color separation would not last A YEAR!  The It Feels Like Chaos Household could NEVER manage color sorted Legos!

I was wrong!  The color separation has lasted an entire year!  The kids actually DO put the Legos back into the right color tray.  Their dirty clothes in the hamper is an entirely different less successful story, but this?  Blue Legos with blue Legos, they will do!

Now, the surfaces that I envisioned as building areas atop the Lego storage drawers and on the nearby table are really mostly used as display areas for all the random Lego creations my kids build and then cannot bear to take down EVER.  They seem to build on the floor and the table is always messy looking.  I would much rather the table be an open white space just ready and waiting for whatever creative thing they wanted to build that day and then take down so that the next day or for the next person that lovely white, open space was available.  And to be honest I'd love to see the clean, uncluttered table every time I walked into the playroom.  

But, that is not reality!

There is give and take here.  We have started working with the kids to clear off the table when it gets way too cluttered.  But also, they play with the random creations on the table that look like clutter to me.  So, I've learned to let it go a bit, my desire for the clear, white space.  They call it "Legoland" and now that the girls have their girl Legos all 4 of my kids have fun playing "Legoland" where they make up adventures and stories to act out with their Lego people and Lego buildings and Lego vehicles.

There was something that was not working at all, though, for any of us and it was the binder idea to store all the instruction booklets for the Lego creations.  It was a great idea in theory, but in the practice of our lives this happened:

The binder rings stopped meeting properly in the middle (4 kids will do that to the best of them) so pages kept coming partway out.  Also, some of the books would fall out of their protective sleeve if the binder were turned and held the wrong way and it was hard for the younger kids to get the books back in.

So, out with the old and in with the new!  This weekend I took all the instruction books out of their  protective sleeve binder pages 

where they were sorted by type of Lego 

and piled them all into one stack and put them into a plastic bin with a lid!

I slapped a label on that baby and slid it under the Lego play table.  DONE!

So simple that it made me smile!  So much easier for the kids to rummage through without fear of messing up a system and so much easier for them to put all the books back when they are done (or I refuse them dessert until they clean up their mess).

It reminds me of a question I ask myself often, "Why do I make things so hard?"  Really, usually, the simple solution is the best one!  Save yourselves the effort and go straight to the bin!

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.
A Bowl Full of Lemons

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I didn't blog over the Christmas or New Year break and now I don't know how to get caught up, so for today, I'm focusing on today.


This afternoon I smiled finding these two cozy creatures in our playroom tucked into little beds created just for them by my daughters:

The white one is "Sheepie" and she is a sheep (I know you'd never have guessed from her name!) my 5 year old daughter has been playing with a lot lately and then the purple one is "Beauty", my 8 year old daughter's stuffed horse.  The girls have been caring for these two particular stuffed animals for several days now, dressing them in doll clothes, pretending to feed them and read them stories.  It is all very cute and this image of the two animals tucked in together just made me appreciate anew the sister relationship and friendship my girls have with each other!


Speaking of sibling relationships, part of my 6 year old's homework packet this week was this new year activity and one question was "This year I want to. . ."  and the kids were supposed to write something they want to do this year.  My little guy wrote, "Play with (and then listed the names of his big brother and big sister)."  He could have said travel to New York, go to the moon, eat ice cream for breakfast every day, anything!  But, he just wants to play with his big brother and big sister!


Something slightly less heart-warming came home from school today with my 5th grader, but it did still make me smile.  A desk citation:

My 10 year old is by far my messiest kid and he's always had messy desks at school so really I'm just surprised this is the first one I've seen this year.  

But, I love the ingenuity of his teacher!  Each kid in the class has a job that they applied for and earn a salary for doing.  My son is a banker.  There are computer techs, greeter/hospitality person, a zoologist (to handles the classroom pet), a security guard, a meteorologist, a clerk, a librarian, and custodians.  The custodians hand out the desk citations.  And the fine is a stiff $100 deducted from your account.  I hope my son can still afford the rent for his classroom desk and chair that comes out of that account!  Oh, and he applied for the banker job because it was the highest paying job in the class, but now after doing it for a semester he's decided it's "not worth it because it's too much work".  "Well, " I said, "Remember that lesson in the real world, the highest paying jobs are not always the best ones!  Money cannot buy happiness."


I hope your today is awesome!  Find more Friday Fragments here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

We Survived Two Years of Four Kids!

On Christmas Eve we celebrated two years of being a family of six.  Two years since we brought Little Girl home from Ethiopia!

We have decided to celebrate the anniversary of that day when we stepped off the plane from Ethiopia with our new child and were finally all together as a family of 6 every year with a fun family outing.  

This year the weather was beautiful so we decided to do the same thing as last year.  We had a picnic at a park and then rode the pedal boats around the lake.

My husband and the boys were in one boat and I was in another with the girls.  

My girls giggled about the duck with the "crazy hair"! 

Do you see him 3rd in line with a puff ball on the back of his head?

Here's his (her?) close-up:

Then we spotted a turtle on some pontoons and petaled over to get a better look, but as we got closer, this large rat-looking creature that we later learned was a nutria, suddenly swam over and climbed onto a pontoon!

We followed that guy all around the lake when he got in to swim

I'm not sure if he's cute or one of the grossest creatures I've seen, but he sure made our day more fun and exciting!  And educational as we went home and researched nutrias, also known as coypus or river rats!  Apparently they have become quite the pests as they eat so many plants around the wetlands.

It was a great afternoon and then we went home and cleaned up for Christmas Eve church!

Adding a child older than the age of infancy to your family through international adoption is such a surreal thing.  I really cannot describe accurately how we feel about two years because it all just contradicts itself.  In some ways two years feels like too small of a number, it seems like Little Girl has been with us much longer.  "Really, she's only been with us two years?" we sometimes think.  But, in other ways it seems like just yesterday that we brought her home or that we were in Ethiopia with her.  

And then in so many ways, most ways, she has adjusted amazingly well to living in America, being in our family, and speaking English.  But, then sometimes there are still things, like what I call "orphanage behaviors" that crop up and I think, "Really?  We're still seeing this?"  But, I think both realities are normal.  She has come a very long way, yet to some extent her past will always be a part of who she is.

Two years in and having four kids is still very busy, messy and loud (it is funny to go back now and read my post "4 Weeks of Having 4 Kids" and my views then about color-coded cups and less stuff are absolutely still true!), but the blessings are magnified, too with four children!  Mostly we are just so thankful we get to be a family!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"How I Spent My Christmas Vacation" by my husband

In the 2 nights leading up to Christmas my husband spent 14 hours assembling toys!

One large dollhouse from Costco and one foosball table.

He got them done and the kids were super excited on Christmas morning, but note to self for next Christmas:  Only "no assembly required" gifts for the kids!

Monday, January 6, 2014

What's new?

It's a new year!

I know this because in the last 6 days I've exercised 4 times, done some organizing, am already behind on my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan, and have had more than one green smoothie!  All that can only mean one thing, it's the first week in January!

The new year is so like a set of empty storage bins, the possibilities are endless!

In this new year what's new here on the It Feels Like Chaos blog?  (Hint: If you are reading this in a reader, click over to the blog to see.)

I know!  It was more than time for an updated blog header!  Nothing like being 2 years late to allow my header to reflect our family of 6 rather than 5!  And while I do think the change is better, it's not perfect.  I am not a blog designer.  But, the imperfection?  It suits us here at It Feels Like Chaos.  Perfect would not feel like home!

We rang in the new year in our traditional style with sparklers and sparkling apple cider (that Little Girl insisted on calling "wine", no matter how many times I corrected her -- if you are her preschool teacher, just know we did not actually give her wine although I'm sure she will tell you we did!).

But, in this new year, what really matters are the new things the Lord has for us.  Because He's always up to something new:

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19

So, I'm not only asking questions like what to fill my empty storage bins with, but what does God want me to fill 2014 with?

Happy New Year, Friends!  If you are like me and have already broken a resolution, remember that truly every day is a new day. "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23