Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Count Your Blessings, Dammit!

I have found myself opening story upon story on my computer this week filled with heart ache and tragedy.  A family lost their daughter adopted from Ethiopia in a tragic car accident.  A minister and his family were detained at the airport in Kinshasa, DRC because he participated in a peaceful protest and he is still being held. Another airplane crash in Indonesia. And on and on and on.

Plus, its that time of year when the media starts to run those lists of famous people lost in 2014. Some of them far too young.  Some of them because of drugs, alcohol, depression.

Closer to home I have friends who are facing some really hard stuff.  Death of family members, divorce, job loss.  And all my friends with kids from hard places are struggling through the holidays!

In my own life, it is sometimes hard to see the sunshine through the very bleak, rainy, crummy weather we have had for 2 weeks straight.  My kids are getting stir crazy, my husband is getting cabin fever, our house feels like it is shrinking around us, and I am getting grumpier by the minute.

So I need to stop and count my blessings. No really, I need to count them, and dwell on them, and savor them.  Because my life does not suck.  My life is filled with long stretches of humdrum (which is really good) and then sudden bursts of terrific.  And when I have a sudden burst I need to roll around in it like a happy dog!!!

So here are some of the blessings I am thankful for right at this moment:

  • No one in my house is seriously ill at this moment.  Our most sick kid is Katriel and her perpetually running nose.
  • My heater is working.  
  • It is really quiet in my house at this particular moment.  And not the bad kind of quiet, when you start to panic about what the kids might be breaking.  Real restful, everyone is quietly watching movies or playing games kind of quiet.
  • In a pinch, if Brian and I were both lying in our bedroom throwing up, Grace could make everyone cinnamon toast to eat and Manny could pour everyone a glass of milk.
  • My super amazing husband STILL gets up every morning and makes me breakfast, packs my lunch, and cooks me dinner every night.  WOW!  He is right this minute at HEB getting the fixings for homemade won tons for dinner tonight!
  • Of course, my biggest blessings are the 7 wonderful people that I share my house with!

The coming year will no doubt have its ups and downs, its highs and lows.  But through them all I just need to stop and count my blessings, dammit.  If I can remember to do that it will probably get me through some of the tougher times.  

Like today, when I have had to clean up pee.....5 times and counting......

I just need to keep counting those blessings..........and counting........and counting..........

Here are a couple of videos that have blessed me this year.  Happy in Congo and in China!

And a Happy New Year to all of you!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Who Was the Idiot That Invented Ginger Bread Houses?

Grace lost a tooth a couple of weeks ago and she asked that her "Tooth Fairy Treat" be to build a ginger bread house. We don't believe in the tooth fairy, but my kids definitely don't want to be cheated out of treats like other kids get.

We're ready to build!!!
So this weekend I found a kit on sale and we built a house.

It was special kind of Christmas torture.

The first problem, of course, is that 6 children cannot build one ginger bread house.  But I was not going to shell out $60 so that each kid could have their own. We all crowded around the table so that Mama and Grace could assemble the house and then the Little's could help decorate it.

The master builder.

Her faithful assistant!
The next problem with this particular kit is that it came with several "decorating ideas" that you could use for your house.  But these extra fancy, super cool, extremely detailed designs can only be achieved by professional cake decorators.  Not my 7 year old and not by her very inept-in-the-kitchen mother! The makers of this product just set us up for failure from the get go!

Our ridiculously ugly house.  It looks like its held together with Elmer's glue!
Finally, the whole nature of ginger bread houses is puzzling and irritating.  We build something covered in frosting and candy, but we're not supposed to eat it.  It is a "decoration".  When Christmas finally does come and we are allowed to eat the house, it is stale and gross.  What kind of lame tradition is that?????

Proud of their creation.

And ready to eat it!

OK, maybe just one taste.

The next day we discovered that Louise had been eating the decorations off the roof and took a bite off of the eaves! And I imagine she discovered it was stale and gross!
Next year I think we will skip the ginger bread house and just go straight to a can of frosting and six spoons!  Hope your ginger bread houses and your Christmas will be merry!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Camping Party of Eight: I can see my breath!

Our very favorite adventure this fall was a weekend camping trip to Lake Livingston State Park.  We loved camping so much this summer, but it was too stinking hot out to camp much in Texas so we wanted to give fall camping a try when the weather was a little cooler.

Boy howdy, was it cooler!!! The kind of cold where you see your breath and you can't feel your toes.

We planned a trip for Halloween weekend and I was really glad to be away from the house for that holiday.  It's not that I am opposed to Halloween, there are just a lot of things about it that I don't like. Like trying to wrangle up costumes for 6 kids, and all that scary stuff that freaks my kids out, and people ringing my doorbell for several hours in a row, and all the candy in the house, and .......well, anyway, its not my favorite. So we got to skip it.

The Woods, the Solbergs, and two random white kids!
Joining us on our camping adventure was the Solberg Family.  Lauree Solberg is one of my dearest friends.We traveled with the Solberg's and their oldest son Cade, to China to bring home Grace and their daughter, Jenna.  Since that trip they have also adopted Chloe and Luke from DRCongo.  Their family looks just like out family and my kids adore their kids.  It's just like having cousins living right in our neighborhood.

So the weather reports said it would be clear and cool.  But I didn't catch the part about it being freeze-my-tail-off-cold. And we weren't exactly prepared for it.  We packed sweatshirt jackets, not winter parkas with coats and gloves.  We had blankets for our air mattresses, but not sleeping bags rated to 30 below (or electric blankets, like Lauree brought).

Luke and Louise were cold!

Kat was cold!

JoJo was cold!

Until he found a snake!
Grace was CRAZY cold!
But in spite of the cold, it was a BLAST!!! Our kids were in heaven.  We had the perfect camp site. We shared a fire pit and we backed up right into the woods.  There was a giant pile of downed trees to climb, bugs to dig up, flowers to pick, kindling to collect, and dirt to roll around in!

Crafts in the woods with Chloe, Luke, Grace, and Jenna.

There are the two cutest.......

......little tree huggers I know!

More craft time with Haven, Katriel, and Manny.

Don't mess with Grace, she has a big stick!

And a little flower!

It was pretty cool having the kids cook their own dinner!

Luke, Manny, Haven, and Jenna are hungry!

Climbing our mountain of logs.  Yes, Louise is barefoot and she was for most of the weekend.  That's just how Louise rolls!

We went on a long nature hike, did crafts with the park rangers, drank gallons of hot chocolate, and roasted dozens of marshmallows.

Ready for our nature walk.  It was a great success.  No one was lost and no one got eaten by a snake!

But mostly, we did nothing at all.  The kids played and the grownups chatted.  The phone didn't ring, the TV wasn't on, the computer was unplugged.  Even my phone didn't get a signal.

Yes, it was cold (so cold that I didn't change my clothes for 3 days because the thought of being naked sent me into a panic).  Yes, you could see your breath pretty much every minute of the trip, both inside and outside the tent, but what an amazing weekend it was to stop and take a breath!!!

Thank you Solberg's for our family weekend.  JoJo wants to know when we're going again. We all look forward to many more trips with you guys!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

So Where Did Autumn Go?

It seems that the gaps between my blog posts are getting longer and longer.  The school year started yesterday and now Christmas is tomorrow.  At least that's how it feels.

But in reality there has been a long stretch of days filled with nothing in particular and non-stop activity, all at the same time.  At the end of most days I am simply too tired to be creative and I can't crank out a blog post worth reading.  but I feel like I'm missing something.  By not recording our day to day comings and goings, I'm not stopping to treasure them.  Those precious moments of mommy-hood are just passing me by and if I don't write them down I might lose them forever.

For instance, tonight we made cupcakes.  Just because it was Wednesday and JoJo was in a terrible mood and needed a pick me up!  It wasn't anything special....but it was really special!

So I'm going to try and do some catching up and slowing down.  I'm going to try to stop and smell the cupcakes and then write about their sweet scent.  I'm going to try and chronicle the little things for my children so we can look back on them together and appreciate this big beautiful family we have and the big beautiful life we're living.

Below you will find a few of our sweet Autumn moments.


...especially when they're sleeping!

They just don't sleep nearly enough!


Don't tell Manny I told you, but he wet his pants at the park.....

....and Daddy fashioned these totally hip leggings out of Grace's hoodie.  Don't tell Grace either!


Modeling my headbands.

Kit Kat wanted to help, too.

She is...

a natural born....


Manny just wanted to wear the totally hip head band.... that he could look more like a rock star!

He plays a mean....

.....air guitar!

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.

Look Mom, I'm a reindeer!

Louise loves to have matching locs with Haven!

Eye Eye Eye!

Heads together!

The mustache is great, but the shoes make the look!

My Six Pack!

Selfie Two

He's got the whole world in his hands....




We are ready for Christmas!!!

Photo Bomb!

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