Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gingerbread Pops and Brussel Sprouts

Today was such a great day. The kids and I took down ALL of our Christmas decorations and against Ben's request of waiting for him to take the tree out the door....the boys and I took care of that. He just didn't want me doing it alone, so I recruited some help. My home is ALL put back together, clean and we are on the upswing of all of us getting a very "fun" virus over the past 1.5 weeks.

The kids played outside and rode bikes for a good hour while I fed Hannah breakfast and cleaned the kitchen. It was hilarious, I wasn't really paying any attention to Miss Hanns when I looked in her direction and noticed that she was fixated on me, with the widest smile her sweet face could muster. She melts my heart!

Later in our afternoon, after laying Hannah down for a nap, I kept the three older ones up to make gingerbread cookie pops. These were so cute and fun to make. The first part was to layer the icing between two of the gingerbread cookies in order to make a hard glue like fastener. While we waited the 30 minutes for this part to harden, the kids and I headed upstairs and sorted, folded, and put away six loads of laundry. It might have been more but honestly, anything over three is just an exurbanite amount of clean clothes and towels.

We then, came back downstairs so the kids could  decorate their cookie pops and I read a chapter from Little House in the Big Woods. The day was a GORGEOUS 75 degrees and after Hannah woke up we all walked down, in a tank top ( for myself), to the park and swung, climbed trees, ran, slid down the slide and walked in the beautiful, warm sunshine.

Ben has to work tomorrow so I wasn't planning on doing any special dinner for New Years Eve- wrong idea Amanda, next year plan something special...everyone was looking forward to it! Instead, hahaha, I decided to experiment with a new dinner recipe. Ready?? Drum roll please!!!! Brussels Sprouts, Basmati Rice and pecans. Yes, folks, you read that right....never fear, after everyone giving me VERY disappointed looks I ran to the store and bought cookie dough and moose tracks ice cream- you are WELCOME :)

Finally, Ben and I relaxed after putting the kids to bed, then he had to go to bed for work and I decided to stay up a few extra minutes to watch the Times Square Ball drop. Super exciting night- but that is honestly how I wanted my evening to go, at home in my comfy sweats, relaxing with my family and looking forward to what God has for us this year and thanking Him for His hand in our lives this past year.

The icing on the cake, for me, this evening, was Hannah waking up around 9:30 and me getting her out of bed, our home was silent, we sat under the light of the lamp by her toys and played with her barn animals, her blocks, pretend phone, read some board books, I tickled her and listened to her laugh- just listened and in my heart I am thanking God a million times over, and whispering, underneath her laughing- thank you God...just thank you. You saw this moment, two years ago, when all I saw was death and devastation. Thank you :')
Why Mama, I love playing with you only you at night, after I pull my hair ties out and the birds have gone to bed.


up close, drooling and way too personal :)

Goals For Myself in 2012

There are certain times of the year that I enjoy setting goals for myself, New Years being one of them. I never beat myself up over not attaining this goal or that goal because I set pretty realistic and attainable ones. So, without further ado, here they are:

1. Take life slowly
2. Do a craft a month
3. Read a book a month
4. Read through the Bible this year with Ben and Jayden
5. Buy Managers of their Chores to take the frustration out of messes
6. Run a road race this year
7. Take a couple of fun, exciting vacations
8. Pray for more patience and a gentle heart
9. Be easier on myself and not so critical
10. Learn a new baking technique or recipe each month
11. Be involved in an outside ministry ( I already have an inside one), with the family
12. To keep working hard with the kids in school and to be diligent in their studies, making it fun and enjoyable.

There you go, please pray for me, as I will pray for you, in this upcoming year. That God will bless you and keep you, that we will walk in integrity and separate ourselves and our actions from the world. That we will walk boldly and with confidence in our Maker. May God bless you this upcoming year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Let Go of Expectations

This past Christmas season has been wonderful for my family. We have pretty much done everything we wanted to do. Embraced Thanksgiving , Advent and Christmas as much as we possibly could and that is a far cry from last year. I really struggled with Christmas last year due to a couple of situations in our lives, at the time. However, this year I promised myself, and my family, that no matter what- our focus would be on Christ and family- for better or worse.

If you remember our polar express experience, not quite what we had anticipated, we now laugh about it and say that it was one of our most memorable and funniest moments of December. I have made about 18 dozen cookies, mailed zero Christmas cards, wrapped countless presents, enjoyed adopting a couple of families, sang Christmas carols, had the kids sing at a nursing home, listened to Christmas music, did our advent and bought a Christmas tree.

I did everything in my power to provide an ambiance of tranquility and peace for our home. Yet, somethings are out of our power. You cannot control family members getting sick ( Riah last night, Ben today) or other events that define or change that Christmas season. I think, so many times, we sit and wonder I wish I could have done this differently, or changed this.

This year, I have no regrets, I gave it my all and life happens. Next year, I will give it my all again. I love creating memories, Some are more abundant than others, depending on the year. Yet, in the midst of joy, laughter, sadness, loneliness, and anger- regardless of how you feel this Christmas season- Christ still came to take away the darkness. If you have nothing else worth celebrating today, celebrate this! If you need someone to pray for you, I will :)

I am so thankful for Christ and for his abundant grace in my life. This season has allowed me to give of myself, despite an ever changing tide of life and for that, I am grateful. As I pick up all the wrapping paper and put away a breakfast that Ben was not able to enjoy I am thankful that in serving I am doing exactly what Christ came to do! Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Away In the Manager

The other night, I heard Riah moving around upstairs and decided to go check on her. Here was the scene:

Her room is dark, closet light is on, her back is to me and she is rocking a baby doll gently in her arms. Her sweet, melodic voice is singing "Away in the Manager" and she is kissing her baby gently on the head. She quietly talks to her baby after her song is done and bounces her to the bassinet where she gingerly lays her down for bed. Then she turns around, looking at the other dolls in her closet and  says, " ok, what should I do now?"

Thank you God for a little mama, for a very passionate, kind, loving, gentle spirited daughter. My heart swelled with so much pride watching her mother her babies. Such a beautiful spirit coming out of Moriah. Moriah- Jehovah is your instructor. You bless me, sweet, sweet growing up too fast daughter of mine. " I want to hug you"

Friday, December 9, 2011

All Aboard the Polar Express!

So we have arrived home from a very memorable 24 hours up north. Let me preface this all with the simple fact that I went into this weekend with very grand expectations- very grand, like if you could put a dollar amount on my expectations we would be talking in the millions.

We started off a little later than expected but that was not a big deal. Our Polar Express train ride did not take off until 5:30 that evening so we had plenty of time to drive up north, grab some Starbucks, some snacks and laugh our way up north . I ran into Walmart for a pair of boots, some chex mix and gloves while Ben drove through Starbucks for some breakfast sandwiches and mochas. He picked me up at the door and off we went. We shared with the kids what our plans were. " You guys! We are going up north, going to ride the Polar Express, drink hot cocoa, eat cookies, play in the snow, stay in a hotel, go out to eat....its going to be amazing!!!!!" The kids went wild in the van, clapping, cheering and bouncing up and down. I turned around in my seat, smiled at Ben with a very accomplished and expectant smile and settled in for a 3 hour, scenic drive up north. 

We had hardly exited the city when Hannah started screeching, " mama!mama!mama!" over and over and over. She refused to stop or to take a nap and for the next three hours- our quaint little drive was over taken with screeching, crying, and a short five minute nap where everyone in the car was warned with "the eyes" not to talk.

The scenery faded from saguaros to pines, from desert to snow covered mountains and it was breath taking. I looked at Ben and stated, " Honestly, there is NOTHING that can ruin this trip....we are all together, its perfect already."

We arrived up in Flagstaff around one o'clock. With no ability to check in early, we went to the local Walmart to try and locate some sleds to use the following day. Walking into the store, I should have known things were just not going to go quite as planned as Hannah refused to stop standing in her seat. Buckle or no buckle, the little chica looked at me with her beady eyes and a sweet smile while slowly crouching and standing. " No, Hannah sit!" She would sit and then the scenario would repeat itself. IF she wasn't trying to stand she was crying. Remember, no nap was had by Hannah Lou.

After we had located the sleds we were very disturbed that they were around $30 a piece and for such a short trip and the fact that we have no snow by us, spending that much money seemed like a waste. So we left Walmart, a tad frustrated. No fear, let's find "somewhere" else to go. Well, we began to aimlessly travel southeast- not quite the direction we should have been headed. So, we turn around and try to find our hotel. Somehow the roads are not quite matching up on Ben's GPS. Ok, now its 2:45pm and we located the hotel. Bonus, it was a great hotel, great price and very cool bunk-beds. The snow covered the ground and things appeared to be looking up. We needed to leave in an hour for the Polar Express so we turned the tv on and tried to relax for just a minute.

However, some 16 month old had other plans. Hannah located the Kleenexes in the hotel room and within seconds, all the while screeching, she throws them all over the room, then trips and falls and cuts her lip open. Ok, nothing we can't handle, just not quite the relaxing trip I had envisioned, thus far. No problem, things can only get better :) We leave for the Polar Express, its about 40 minutes away so we drive through a restaurant and are thankful that we didn't' have to search for the food. Off we head into the winter wonderland.

Outside, it was breathtaking. Snow covering the pine trees, stillness, and quiet- I almost wanted to jump out of the car and start making snow angels on the side of the road. Unfortunately, someone who felt that it would be much better to throw her roast beef sandwich around my van kept catching my attention.

We made it up to the Polar Express on time, checked in and truly enjoyed the waiting period before loading the train. The kids were playing in the snow, we took pictures by the train, the little "north pole" and were standing in line, in our pajamas ( well, the kids atleast) and ready for our first train ride! Right before loading, Hannah tripped over her blanket and added a scraped up face and fat lip to her already cut chin. Poor Lou! We marched up the steps, handed the chef our tickets and located our seats. They had us all sitting together except Ben, his seat was across the aisle. Sorry buddy, not getting off that easy :) We figured out  a way to have us all sit together as a family AND a quaint little family of three had ample room across the aisle from us now. You are very welcome!

Ok, so the chefs get on the microphone and start telling us, " no inside voices allowed, only outside ones- I want to hear you - are you excited??!??!?!?" Everyone starts cheering, I cheer- shoot let's enjoy this ride, Hannah is clapping and everything is going to go great! I mean, we paid a ton of money to have this experience. I was so excited for the cookies and hot cocoa they were to service, listening with the kids the book being read and even though my kids could careless about Santa, playing along for the evening that we were going to the North Pole was all pretty fun.

Hannah, however, had other plans. I mean shoot, she didn't pay for these tickets and I think she knew that her ride was free. She took every liberty upon herself to partake in the cheering and clapping and then, when that part was over she went berserk until the next cheering and clapping session came on. She wriggled, screamed, twisted, made her body limp, screeched and any other noise or body motion she could make to let the world, on that train, know that she was very unhappy and beyond exhausted. Due to her refusing to take a nap that whole day, I knew at that moment, we were in for a ride. I told Ben, " she has the wild eyes."

The chefs passed out the cookies, huge dry snickerdoodle cookies. Hannah grabbed mine, no problem I didn't want it anyways. But then Ben, to be so kind, gave me a sliver of his and Hannah now wanted a gigantic cookie in one hand and my sliver in the other. When she didn't get her way she screamed. Then, they passed out the hot cocoa. I was expecting thick, creamy hot cocoa with whip cream piled high and chocolate shavings in porcelain mugs. Umm, no, it was in a Styrofoam cup that tasted more of watery swiss miss than the hot cocoa described in the book.

NO problem, let's just keep a positive attitude. I loved watching the faces of our three older kids enjoying their cookies, the hot cocoa and watching out the window. That, now that, was priceless. Austen's smile was so sweet and excited, Jayden's look of amusement when the chef came by and asked us, " Do you believe?". Those were precious moments.

However, with the very bright lights and the screaming of Hannah and the screaming in the microphone of the Christmas carols that had everything to do with Rudolph and Santa totally did not meet my expectation. Later within that 24 hour period, Ben said to me ( which shows how much he knows me), " You were expecting a dimly lit train ride with a fire crackling in the back of the train, soft Christmas music playing, warm cookies and huge cups of cocoa, all quiet with only the sound of the train rumbling through the darkness." I'm like, " ohmigosh, you are exactly right!". The Polar Express was fun, it was exhausting due to Hannah, it was memorable and it was a once, and only once, in a lifetime experience for us :)

We enjoyed the ride back from the North Pole, despite Hannah screaming in anger. She tried to grab everything in reach, successfully grabbing a plastic cup full of water and crushing it in anger as all the water spilled on Jayden and I. Then, somehow, later in the trip, getting a hold of another cup and repeating the sequence again. Ohmigoodness! We unload off the train, find our car, all buckle in and Riah states, " I am going to pee my pants!!! ITS coming!" I whip around, " Moriah, seriously, hold it!"
" I can't! My brain says I can't!"

Thankfully, Ben maneuvered the car quite quickly, I might add, in front of the depot and I was able to unzip her coat, her footy pjs and have her go into the bathroom stall to do her business. She then successfully locked herself in ( with a million people waiting in line to use the restroom) and had to crawl out the bottom of the door as we left a perfectly good stall completely unusable. Lord, help me!

We drove home, Hannah fell asleep and Ben and I commented on how thankful we were that from the beginning we have always focused on Christ and not on Santa. It almost made sad when not one song in the carol songbook was Christ centered. I understand this was  the Polar Express but there was not " Oh Come All Ye Faithful" or "Silent Night" songs that would go perfectly with the Polar Express theme. Anyways, we arrive home and find that Hannahs' pack n play does not fit in the bathroom so she is almost beside herself with lack of sleep and we are trying every which way to get this thing to fit in and be able to close the door. Finally, Ben put a blanket up and we turned the fan on with her falling asleep immediately.

The problem now is that we have three more children who need to use the bathroom multiple times a night and we have a child sleeping in the bathroom. So, at midnight I carted a child to the main bathroom a building away. No problem. We will have fun! That night, around 1230, as I slowly drifted off to sleep I felt someone breathing on me and it was dear Moriah who wanted to cuddle. Sure, sure, well she moved the bed for the next there hours and around 3:30 am we both fell asleep. We woke up at 7:15 am.

Needless to say, it was a long night and morning came all too soon. We decided to make use of the continental breakfast, Hannah did great- all chipper and bright eyed. Maybe the fruit loops, yes I said fruit loops, had something to do with it. We packed up, drove south to an area that we have spent a couple of 4th of July's and knew that there was a park nearby. There was not enough snow to really go sledding at this point but it was 22 degrees and perfect to experience the cold and snow.

We arrive off the highway and were so excited! The golf course and park were almost untouched by small hands creating a perfect canvas for us to make some great memories. I looked at Ben and said, " Aww, I think this is it, I think this will be the icing on the cake- best moment of the trip." We drove past the park, Ben turned around to park next to it, drove a little to far down and we put the van in a ditch. Yes, I said ditch and we were 100 % stuck with only my tires spinning.

All this was so surreal to me. I had the park within 10 feet but we were all trapped inside a van which was stuck in a ditch and there was no sand around. I reversed ever so slowly as Ben rocked the van back and forth yet, nothing.  Finally, before calling a tow truck, Ben dug through the rock hard, frozen snow to the dirt below and began placing it behind the tires. Somehow, someway - probably through the prayers of a 5 and 7 year old, our van was able to get out of that ditch. Thank you God!

We then spent the next 25 minutes trying to outfit four children into snow gear from head to toe all while Hannah tried to crawl and maneuver around the van like she owned the place. The kids had  no clue how to wear all this gear, so we were shoving boots on, stuffing gloves on, accidentally zipping up chins, tears, Ben slamming his head into my van accidentally and denting it, and cries of frustration from gloves that fell off.

Finally, I manage to capture Hannah and I had just completed zipping her jacket up when a very rank smell came wafting out of her rear end. Sorry Lou-lou, you are playing in a dirty diaper. I stuffed her in a swing, gave her a kiss and swung my sweet, kind hearted, adventurous little soul.

All three boys had a snow ball fight with rock hard snow and Riah tried very hard to make a snow angel. The ground, again, was so hard that her body did not even sink in. Ten minutes into us playing, maybe a tad longer than that, Austen announced that he needed to go " stinkies". Ben and I both just stared at him in disbelief as there was no bathroom in sight. Soo, we called it a day, loaded the kids in the van, piled out a 1/2 mile later and had everyone use the bathroom. The kids watched dvds the whole ride home, Hannah slept and Ben and I held hands.

A moment, after we loaded all the kids into the car, Ben asked me to stay outside and asks, " How are you doing?" I started laughing hysterically, I was laughing so hard I was shaking and crying. I was thinking of all my expectations going into this trip, I told him, " all my expectations were murdered." This was stated through my hysterical, crazy laughter. I couldn't help it, it was either laugh or cry- so I chose both.

I learned a few lessons from this trip. Memories are made everywhere, even hard memories can be made into good ones if you can laugh about them. Do not have any expectations when a one year old is involved. In general, just go without expectations because they will break you each time. I said to Ben, " 30 years from now, we will come back to this park, alone, and sit on the bench and stare at the swing, the bridge and the playground and say, ' Where did those years go?' and we will cry and laugh because we will remember and we will be together" That's all that maters in the end.

On the way to the Polar Express!

She has "wild" eyes

The kids loved the Polar Express and the snow. They dealt with our frustrations and saw that we are human and have emotions like they do but we tried to display healthy ways of dealing with a very frustrating situation. Life is a ride, and sometimes you just need to let go and laugh.

Fun Time With Nana!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bananas, Mangoes and Coconuts!

"Aruba, Jamaica, ooo I wanna take ya to Bermuda, Bahama, Come my pretty Mama..." Now that I have that song stuck in your head I will begin :) I think buying a coconut at the store for our week was one of my highlights! I have never purchased a real coconut and had so much fun thinking of all the activities that we would do soon. Yesterday, after the kids enjoyed bike riding for about an hour we started in on our lessons. Our theme this week is centered around the book, " Call It Courage". It is about a boy, Mafatu, who has an intense fear of the ocean due to losing his mother to it when he was a young boy. He is growing up a couple of hundred years ago in the Polynesian Islands where the ocean is their life. He decides to show everyone, as a now older boy at age 12, that he can move past his fear by confronting it. So, on a solo journey into the South Pacific he begins with only his dog Uri for company.

While reading each chapter, or half a chapter, we are enjoying a light snack of mangoes ( Hannah's new favorite), bananas, pineapple and yesterday, coconut. I placed the coconut high up in a tree where the boys had to think up a way to maneuver it down or climb the tree to obtain their source of food and water for that moment. They were pretty cute to watch, commenting back and forth on what they felt would work and shimmying up the tree like monkeys.

After they retrieved the coconut, we drilled one hole and then two holes into the shell to get the coconut milk out. We talked about air flow and why two holes allowed a faster flow of milk. Finally, much to the boys delight they went out front and smashed the coconut on a rock to break it open. They brought it inside to eat as we read.

Today, I had the kids close their eyes and using each sense: taste, touch, feel, hear and sight describe what their deserted island looks like. What they hear, the birds, animals rustling in the bushes, what they see, etc. We then made a list of what we would need to be able to survive on the island if we were all alone. Jayden immediately thought of knife, Austen mangoes and Riah drew some pretty intense pictures but I'm not quite sure what they were of :)

Finally, after each reading yesterday and today, I am having the kids color pictures of what I am reading about ( this book is a bit above Riah and probably some of Austen's level) and describe it to me when I am finished. Today, we talked about how we would feel if we were Mafatu, stranded now in the middle of the South Pacific, after a huge storm with no sail, mast, knife, coconuts and fishing spear. Hopefully, if I can keep track of all their pictures I will make a little book of what they were able to take away from the book, when we are completed.

Now, off to put makeup on for the day- its a new record, makeup and shower before 2 pm! We will then finish math and language arts and Spanish.