Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Adding a Little Elbow Room

So last summer, just before we hit the road for our family reunions (literally the week before) Brian turned to me one night and said...

"Let's convert the garage into a playroom for the kids!"

And I said, "Heck ya!" because Brian rarely wants to do the same crazy home improvement projects that I want to do.  So before he could change his mind, we dove in and headed to the hardware store.

And that was about a year ago.

Yes, it took us close to a year to finish the project.  That's just how things roll when you have six amazing helpers like we do :)

The first part of the project went pretty quickly.  Over one week, we enclosed the garage so that one side was still for storage, one side was for the playroom, and the back was sort of the hallway that connected it all to the house.

Hurry, before he changes his mind!
Lots of helpers!

Our first wall down the center of the garage.  So exciting!

Grace drawing her architectural plans for the project. 

More helpers.

The supervisor.

And then we added a door!

Roughed in.
They were so excited they insisted on watching a movie in there together the first night.

Then it took awhile before we got around to painting.  After paint we laid the foam floor and hung those 2 super cool swing chairs!  I LOVE those chairs.

Getting her swing on!
You can get these at Ikea.  Every kid should have a swing in their house!
Foam floor, hanging chairs and super sized bean bags!
But the really cool part of this room is the castle in the corner. It's two levels high and runs from floor to ceiling.  It has a rope ladder on the inside and a ramp on the outside.  It is carpeted inside and at some point I want to paint in there, too.  And maybe add some curtains.  On the outside of one wall of the castle is our family art gallery, where the kids can create and hang any of their latest masterpieces.

There's really cool hidey hole under the stairs, too!
Our masterpiece gallery.
We have the Congo and China flags up along with some maps.  And of course, a giant spot to store shoes.  We have a lot of shoes!

So, there you have it!  A kids paradise.  A place to swing, a place to climb, a place to pretend.  And a place to put on your shoes!  What more could we ask for?  Hmmmmm?  Maybe it's time to start converting the attic???

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"I'm Getting Bigger and Bigger and Bigger...."

July is birthday month for our sweet JoJo.  And he grabbed that birthday and shook the life out of it. The days leading up to his birthday he had better behavior than any other time in his whole life.  No, I am not exaggerating.  If I could find a way to finagle it, I would give JoJo a birthday once a week!

To say that JoJo is a Spider Man enthusiast is obviously a small understatement.  So he was beyond thrilled with his Spidey cake and lots of Spider Man themed gifts.  Grandma even came through with one of those super cool pair of Spiderman gloves that make the super annoying web-shooting noise that makes Mama want to stick a fork in her ear.  But my oh my, do they make JoJo happy!

Because we are a large family on a small budget, we stick to family only parties for the most part.  So if you weren't invited to the JoJo shindig, don't be offended.  No one else was either. Except a few choice brothers and sisters! And one special super hero.

The next morning JoJo decked himself out in every last piece of Spider gear he could.  I think he might even be wearing Spider Man underpants!

Once he was in the proper attire he went on to teach all his siblings all the right moves and facial expressions for professional web shooting.

JoJo just got back from his well kiddo doctor visit and he is well! And he got no shots, so it was a really good visit.  He is in the 38th percentile for height and the 83rd percentile for weight.  This might sound like short and fat, but he is actually short and all muscle!    He apparently has a body made for scaling walls!  So this Spider Man fascination is all starting to make sense.

Happy Birthday Peanut!  We love you so and look forward to an amazing year five.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Four x Three = The Crazy Month of June

Each year for the month of June I have three kids that are the same age.  When Louise has her birthday at the beginning of June and we wait for JoJo's birthday to come in July, we have our month of CRAZY! As of this moment Louise, JoJo and Manny are all 4 years old!

Louise's birthday was a pretty low key affair.  All she wanted for her birthday was a cake and a new dress.  I'm sure her demands will get much bigger as time goes on.

I'm not suggesting that Louise is not demanding!  Holy smokes, does this girl have a mind of her own!!!

Louise is intense.  She laughs hard, cries hard, plays hard, fights hard.  

She also loves with all her heart.  She is the first in the house to share food or a toy, or come running with a band aid or a big hug when someone is hurt.

She LOVES clothes and many mornings she arrives at the breakfast table all decked out like she is headed to prom.  But she is not prissy or delicate.  She is just as likely to wear that fancy dress out in the backyard to jump on the trampoline as she is to dance around like a princess in front of a mirror.

She also LOVES to have her picture taken.  Below are some shots of an impromptu photo shoot after a long day in the pool.  Please don't judge the hair.  Just concentrate on those eyes.  Jeez Louise, she has got some eyes!

Happy birthday to my stunning little beauty.  Sometimes you make me crazy, but you always fill my heart!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

For the Love of a Boy...and a Bird

Yesterday something weird happened at our house.  Weirder than normal.

As we were all out playing in the pool a bright green tropical bird landed in our backyard.  It perched right on the edge of our roof.  Then it took off and flew around the yard. Then it nearly landed on my lap.  Then it flew inside our house.

Clearly this was someone's pet.  A pet lovebird.

Once inside our house Brian managed to catch it and put it in our guest bathroom.  I put out a Facebook message to our neighborhood group and Brian went door to door looking for the owners.

Our kids started asking immediately, "Can we keep it? Can we keep it?" JoJo was especially excited about the bird.  He kept trying to sneak in the house and take peaks into the bathroom.

No, this wasn't our bird.  It obviously belonged to someone else.  And we didn't need a bird. Really, we didn't need a bird.

But as the day dragged on, no owners came forward.  We couldn't just keep the bird locked in our bathroom.  We found a few people who said they would take the bird, but none that could come straight over and pick it up.

So Brian headed over to the local Pet-a-rama and picked up a cage and some food.  It was starting to look like we were going to keep the bird.

Brian got home and we tucked the bird into its new cage and we all sat around staring at it.

Then one of those magical parenting moments happened. Sweet little JoJo, who hadn't taken his eyes off the bird for a second started to sing it a lullaby.  OMGoodness.  The tenderness in his little voice got me all misty-eyed.  And then.....he asked if he could say a prayer for the birdie.  Ahhhhh.  It was almost as if a little halo was lighting up over his head.  He sang in his froggy little JoJo voice:

"God our father, God our father, we thank you, we thank you, for our many blessings, for our many blessings, Amen, Amen."

Too too precious.

And then 2 hours later the bird was dead.

Oh yes, dead as a door nail (whatever the heck a door nail is). Apparently the stress of living in the wild, or encountering my family, or who knows what were just too much for this little birdie. Luckily, by then all the kids except for Grace, were asleep.  Grace was disappointed, but she's a little scientist.  Brian disposed of dead bird and then we started to panic. What would we tell the rest of the kids???  What would we tell JoJo?  He would be crushed.

At about 7:30am JoJo arrived in my bedroom.  "Where's the bird?  Where's the bird?"  Brian was out exercising.  I told JoJo the bird got very sick and had to go home to his Mama and Daddy.  JoJo seemed completely good with that explanation.  But right away he asked, "When is another birdie coming?"  Oh, boy!

Brian got home and of course the bird issue had been weighing heavily on him while he walked. JoJo and Brian have a very special bond.  Something about JoJo really pulls at Daddy's heartstrings.  And JoJo had responded to this bird in a way that we hadn't seen him respond to much else in the world.

I mean people, he was praying for the bird.

So Brian decided to forgo his special Father's Day festivities.  He didn't go out for a fancy meal.  He didn't spend the day laying around on the couch.  He didn't splurge on anything for himself.

He went out and found his baby boy a new bird. We named him Mango Bolingo.

Mango, a strange fruit name that Grace just picked for no apparent reason, and Bolingo, the Lingala word for love.

That is the love of a really special father for his son.

Oh, my heart. I love these guys.

**Luckily, as it turns out, lovebirds are pretty inexpensive.  I was sort of freaking out about the cost of cage and bird, but Brian said it was about the same as a trip or two to Chik-fil-a.  So it's all relative.  A 20 pack of chicken nuggets or a bird to keep.

Happy Father's Day!
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