Monday, May 26, 2008

Worth It

If I must eat brownies. If I must ignore any pretense at trying to lose weight. If I must succumb to chocolaty goodness. Let it be so that I can enjoy rich gooey homemade brownies baked with love by my sweet, beautiful, generous, talented little baker, Gloria.

These may very well be the best brownies I have ever eaten in my life. Sweetheart, you definitely have a future in the culinary industry if you so desire.

Memorial Day 2008

We didn't have a picnic or go to the lake. We didn't attend a special memorial service although we drove past one. We didn't really do anything specifically for memorial day today.

Instead we...

Had Shannon and Sarah, our babysitters, stay the night.

Took the older kids to a movie.

I went grocery shopping.

We cleaned the house in preparation for the two social workers who are coming over tomorrow to visit Snoopy and talk about his case.

Daniel and the kids made brownies.

We had dinner at Pizza Hut to try their new chocolate dippers.

Listened to a new Grammar Rock CD.

Nothing special, really. We simply went about the business of enjoying the security and freedom that the brave men and women of our armed forces provided for us by their sacrifices and by doing the job they chose to do. We could not be more thankful to them and awed by their gift.

Come home soon, Uncle Steven! We miss you!

Go, Speed Racer, Go!

This morning we took the girls and two of their friends to the movies to see "Speed Racer". It was much better than I had thought it would be, but I think it was too complex of a story line for anyone younger than about seven or so. We loved the old cartoon when we were kids, but frankly the details are a bit fuzzy by now. The movie was a perfect blend of serious and funny, real and animation. I do wish, though, that a couple of the bad guys had been a teensy bit less scary.

We've been promising Danya and Gloria that we'd do this special movie day for months now. We were originally going to go back when "Penny" was living with us in March. We ended up pulling it together sort of last minute and most of the girls they invited were unable to come. Gloria's new friend, Natalie, joined us though. Poor Gloria. She finally makes a good friend who goes to our church and lives only a couple of blocks from our house... and it turns out she's moving to another state in about a month. Danya brought her recently turned 11 year old guitar teacher, Anna. I think they all had a good time.

Hear no evil, See no evil, speak no evil

Go sell crazy somewhere else. We're full up here!

We Love Snoopy

Snoopy is becoming quite a favorite everywhere we go. He's just so adorable. His great big smile and excited laugh draw indulgent looks even from people he bumps into when he's trying to play "can't get me" at church or anywhere we go really. He likes to toddle off and hide behind or under something and then peek out to see if we are looking for him.

When he first came he didn't say any actual words, but he would occasionally wave. Now he seems to be saying three words, "bye-bye, yeah," and "mama". He and Kevin are inseparable. He wants to do everything his "big brother" does. Sometimes Kevin will get down on his hands and knees and make a scary "Rawr!" sound to act like a wild animal. Little Snoopy will get down right next to him and imitate the sound. They are so cute together! We're all going to be so terribly sad to see him go. If it weren't for the fact that we are wanting to adopt a sibling group we'd be hoping that by some miracle Snoopy would become available for adoption. We can't help but adore him even when we find him throwing stuff into the toilet or down the floor air vents again. Even his whine is endearing. He's definitely the sweetest foster baby we've ever had.

Pen & Pencil Club

Danya and Gloria have joined the "Pen & Pencil Club" for 6 to 11 year olds at the library. They meet a couple of times a month to share stories and poems they've written and talk about books. This time they had to write an answer to the question, "If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would you most want to meet and why?" Danya wrote that she'd like to meet Magellan and travel with him around the world. Gloria wanted to travel with Lewis and Clark so that she could meet Sacajawea and get to know her. She also wanted to find out if Sacajawea had a baby boy or girl with her on the trip. They both also won prizes for solving riddles during the club meeting. They can't wait for the next meeting!

Literacy Folders

At the used book fair we went to a couple of weeks ago there was a CHEC booth with several tables full of books for only fifty cents a piece. They were books that had been donated that CHEC doesn't have room to store.

I picked up several books on homeschooling. My favorite so far has been "A Patchwork of Days" that gives a day in the life of many different homeschooling families. Another book I found has a bunch of literacy games in it and instructions for how to make them into "literacy folders" like these. The instructions for the game are on the back of the folder and the pieces are inside. There's also a sheet to write your answers on. When Danya and Gloria need a fun break (or if the phone rings or some other temporary interruption comes up) I let them work on a folder. They really enjoy them. My favorite so far has been the one on homonyms.

Brand New Reader!

Latte can read! We've been working with her on letter recognition and learning the sounds that each letter makes for a long time now. She likes the "Leap Frog Letter Factory" video and watches it at least once a week with Kevin. Friday morning I decided to try letting her sound out some letters and put words together. We found this old book, "Hats", that Gloria used when she was learning to read. Latte read the whole book! She can sound out any simple three letter word now.

So we took her to the library Saturday and picked up a bunch of "Bob Books" that have very simple stories and words. She's doing so well! She is super proud of herself and can't wait to bring the book to her mom's house tomorrow to read it to her.


This is the basketball hoop we were purchasing the day that DCFS called us to ask if we would take Snoopy. The kids ask every day if they can go out and play. They don't even seem to mind having to chase the ball when it rolls down the hill in our backyard. We may not end up with any future NBA stars, but everyone's having a great time playing together.

Since there's not much room on our back patio, mostly everyone practices shooting and plays games like "HORSE" and "PIG". I'm guessing that eventually we'll draw some lines in chalk and add to our repertoire games like "Around the World" and "Hot Shot". We've got the hoop at the lowest setting. Danya is amazing. She's getting very good at making shots from lots of different directions. Now she and Gloria are working on getting more height when they stand further from the hoop.

The day after we got the new goal set up the kids were taking shots in the backyard when Snoopy's new caseworker called to see how he was settling in. While talking to her I paused and hollered, "Gloria! Don't shoot while the baby is standing in front of you!" The caseworker gasped and got really quiet. When it occurred to me what she must be thinking I reassured her, "She's shooting a basketball at our new hoop, not a gun." She started laughing nervously and said, "You had me worried there for a minute." Did I mention she's a very new young caseworker?

Riding in Cars

Do you ever feel like you spend some weeks just living in your car? Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to spend an entire day at home, not going anywhere at all. "Homeschooling" is such a misnomer. We are rarely in our actual house except to sleep and occasionally eat.

Snoopy decided that the car-shaped box that Kevin keeps his Hot Wheels in must be a ride on toy since it looks like a car. Meanwhile, Daniel and I are talking again about the need for another vehicle. We haven't owned two vehicles at the same time in years. We haven't really needed two since we were younger and both working at separate locations and times. Our current vehicle is missing a spare tire. The technicians at Firestone re-attached it badly and it fell right off the underside of our van without my noticing it.

Also, in a perhaps insane moment, we decided to submit our homestudy to Oklahoma for possible adoption of a very large sibling group. If we end up getting matched with them, and then they add two more siblings like the caseworker is considering, then we will need either two vehicles or a 15 passenger van because we would overnight become a family of 14. No, that wasn't a typo. We had previously been waiting to hear about a group of four siblings right here in Colorado, but sadly it turns out that somehow their caseworker never received our homestudy, and they decided to split them up for separate adoption, never to see each other again, because they had already been trying for almost a year to place them together and couldn't find anyone to take all four. To me that is heart breaking. We want to help kids stay together with the only family they have left. If it means a 15 passenger van in our future and three kids in every room, and that's what God has planned for us, then so be it!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Telcom Techs in Training

Daniel works for the phone company, Level 3 Communications. At work more and more he's been training the other techs since he's a bit of a "guru" whose been working in telcom for almost 13 years now. Even if there's something he's never handled before Daniel will figure out what's needed and find a solution. He's a natural problem solver and a good one-on-one trainer.

I didn't expect him to start training our boys in the field so young though. Today Kevin and Snoopy got hold of the girls' pink jump rope. I walked into the kitchen and found Kevin talking into one end of the rope while Snoopy held the other end up to his ear and babbled back. They carried it around the house continuing their conversation for about 15 minutes. When they stood at the window in Latte's room it looked like they were reporting on the weather. They are too cute! They've become best buddies, inseparable. They hide and play under the kitchen table together, crawl around the house pretending to be wild animals or puppies, and tackle our giant teddy bear until they fall down giggling and grinning at each other. Kevin even runs to tell us if the baby is doing anything he considers to be a "no no". He really looks out for his little brother. I'm so glad we agreed to take Snoopy.

Snoopy's Lawyer

Today we had a visit from Snoopy's GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) which means his attorney. She's very nice and seems extremely concerned about his well being. She came to our house just after lunch to see how Snoopy was doing. We were told a lot more information about Snoopy's family situation. It sounded like his attorney is very happy with how he's adjusting to life at our house.

We still have no idea how long he will be with us or when/if they want us to bring him to visits with his mom. She did say that she wants us to keep him long enough for him to bond with us so that he can have a good transition with our help to a more permanent situation if his case goes that direction. We also let her know that we'd be happy to take him with us on vacation if he ends up staying that long. He's doing amazingly well and is a joy to have in our home.

Meanwhile, our own "case" is up in the air. Our caseworker says that she'll be having a meeting this week with her boss and the boss above her which makes us nervous. They'll be discussing whether we'll get to continue taking foster kids in while actively searching for an adoptive match. Apparently we are a unique situation and they haven't developed a policy for that. On August 1st it will have been one full year since we were licensed. So if we don't get matched before then we'll need to renew our homestudy. Hopefully we'll find out in the next few days what they've decided.

What We're Reading Now: Indians and Puritans

We're reading several books right now, but the main ones are Pocahontas and The Strangers and The Witch of Blackbird Pond which is about a girl in Puritan times. The Pocahontas book is the girls' favorite so far. The other one may be a bit advanced for them. We'll see. So far we're only a couple of chapters into the book.

Last week we went to see the new Chronicles of Narnia movie "Prince Caspian" which was really excellent. This week we have begun reading the books together. We went to a book fair two weekends ago where I picked up a couple of copies of some of the Narnia books so that the girls could follow along and read them with me. We're reading Prince Caspian right now. I read it to them a few years ago, but we're all ready to re-read them and refresh our memories.

We also have the old British versions of the books on video tape. My brother gave them to me two Christmases ago. I feel like they were a bit more faithful to the books than these new flashier versions. My one complaint about the new movie is that they made Prince Caspian too old. He should have been closer to Edmund's age. We're definitely going to buy the movie when it comes out on DVD, though.

Feliz Dia de Madres!

Mother's Day was nice this year. I didn't get my usual breakfast in bed, but otherwise it was perfect. Daniel brought me flowers at church which he gave me between morning band rehearsal and first service. Danya and I matched somewhat. I was wearing the plaid slacks that my sister-in-law, Jennie, mailed to me a while back.

After church we went out for lunch at the new Old Chicago pizza restaurant that had only opened a few days earlier near our home. Then we went home to open presents. I got some new sleepwear including a pink night gown that says "Special Mom" on it. This year was unique because instead of just scrapbook supplies my family also gave me new music CDs of my favorite band "News Boys". We danced to those and had a silly afternoon. We also called our moms and my Aunt Kathy who is like a second mom to me. We had all the kids yell "Happy Mother's Day!" into the phone at once for each of them. It was a really good day.

Band Picnic

I've got a little catching up to do here. I lost my camera for several days and finally found it today. So I don't have nearly as many pictures of the past week as I'd like, but I'll make up for that in the coming week.

Here's a photo from last Saturday's Thornton Community Band picnic at the park next to our house. It was bitter freezing cold and actually snowed while we were out there. The wind was blowing everything off the picnic tables and causing my kids to turn bright red. So as soon as they finished eating we sent them back to the house with Shannon, our babysitter (in the photo above). Meanwhile, Daniel took Danya and Gloria to a "Diego" birthday party at their friend Harley's house and dropped Latte off for her visit with her mom.

At the picnic we discussed plans for next year and talked about what we'll all be doing this summer. It sounds like we may start the band back up next Fall and have a Halloween concert. I've been invited to join a couple of other bands for the summer, but I just don't want to add any extra commitments right now. Danya's guitar lessons have also ended. So it feels like we are all going to be able to relax a bit after this month. The Republican convention for our state is at the end of this month and then I'll be done with political involvement for a while as well. We're all just counting down the days until vacation!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Accentuate the Positive

Just for fun - a little Bing Crosby...

(Mister In-Between)

(Johnny Mercer / Harold Arlen)
You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

(To illustrate his last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
Just when everything looked so dark)

Man, they said we better
Accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No, do not mess with Mister In-Between
Do you hear me, hmm?

(Oh, listen to me children and-a you will hear
About the eliminatin' of the negative
And the accent on the positive)
And gather 'round me children if you're willin'
And sit tight while I start reviewin'
The attitude of doin' right

(You've gotta accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between)

You've got to spread joy (up to the maximum)
Bring gloom (down) down to the minimum
Otherwise (otherwise) pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate (well illustrate)
my last remark (you got the floor)
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they say (what did they say)
Say when everything looked so dark

Man, they said we better
Accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No! Don't mess with Mister In-Between

This has been a strange week. We are trying to "accentuate the positive" with Miss Latte who has been showing all the expected behaviors since she realized that she is going to be staying permanently at her mom's house soon... just not soon enough for her. We've been trying to be more understanding when she has mood swings because this is a lot to adjust to for a four year old. We've also been trying to have more one-on-one snuggle time with her so that she knows that we aren't just abandoning her.

On top of that we also got a call for a new little boy on Tuesday evening. We happened to be at Wal-mart buying a basketball hoop for the kids when they called my cell. We talked it over and agreed to take him very short term until they could find someone else. He's only 14 months old. So all we needed was to grab a few items like diapers and then we picked him up on the way home. It turns out that he's wonderful, the perfect baby. I was worried that he and Kevin would keep waking each other up all night long and that he would need so much attention that I wouldn't be able to get our homeschooling done.

I guess I should have listened to Bing Crosby because this little boy is a dream. He barely cries and even then it's more of a fuss than a cry. He sleeps all night long. He goes to sleep within 10 minutes of being put down at nap and bedtimes. He's snuggly one minute and completely independent the next. He's won the hearts of everyone in the house with his mischievous smiles and insatiable curiosity. I'm going to call him Snoopy because he doesn't say actual words but he speaks volumes with his actions. We love this kid to bits!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Director
Dr. David Kish was our director. He was funny and had a great ear. He could tell if one player was just a tiny bit flat in any section when the whole band was playing. I was impressed, to say the least. He was also kind enough not to do more than make a pained expression when I'd play something wrong. I'm glad he's agreed to direct our concert again this coming Fall.

The Band
The Thornton Community Band was pulled together quickly and only had 8 weeks to rehearse, but everyone did an outstanding job. I feel like I learned a lot this season. The music was challenging enough to really make me work hard to master it, but still fun to play.

The Trombonists
There were actually seven trombone players in our group, but I only managed to get a picture with two of them. Everyone else left too quickly after the concert. One of them, Mike (not holding a trombone in the photo) was the soloist. He was absolutely amazing. When I first met him I thought, "this is what a trombonist should seem like." He's just got a great persona, very laid back, laughs a lot, constantly encouraging others, and simply loves to play his instrument. He was one of the original organizers of the band, too. The other guy pictured here is Larry. He shared the second trombone part with me and put up with my teasing about his valve trombone. He's just a really nice guy, fun to know. I hope he comes back next Fall.

The Stage Hand
Kevin got in on the act after the concert was over. Danya and Gloria helped me flip the tops of the music stands over so they could be stacked in the racks. Kevin carried a stand across the stage to help put it away. It was bigger than he was, but he managed to carry it. I wish I'd gotten a good photo of him with it. He was fascinated by all the different kinds of percussion instruments and equipment. Then again, at his age anything you can bang on is cool.

"Leaving on a Jet Plane"

As we were getting the kids packed and having our last fun lunch at Mickey D's (at the request of Coach) on Wednesday I kept remembering that scene in that Bruce Willis movie, Armageddon, just before the men get onto the space shuttle and they all start singing to Bruce Willis' daughter, "Leave-in, on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again." They flew out Wednesday afternoon. I don't even know what city in California they went to. We're praying they end up somewhere safe. My heart's still breaking. Somehow I know that Coach and his baby brother will be alright, but I'm worried how Ma Bell will end up. I sent them with a letter for their new foster home and included our phone number. I wish that it weren't always so final when kids leave. We'll miss them a lot even though we didn't know them long.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mobile Playground

Dad: (noun) also known as a "mobile playground," the main source of childhood income, airplane rides, living room floor wrestling matches, stricter discipline than mom has the heart for, and guaranteed permission for messy activities such as playing outside on muddy days and crafts involving paint, glue, and power tools. Also see: First Aide - parent in charge of any and all injuries involving blood.

Kevin's Game

We call this game "Don't Kick Me!" and it's one of Kevin's all time favorites. Coach quickly grasped how it works, not that it's complicated, but he definitely mastered the game. It starts by giving Kevin a good push so he's swinging high. Then you pretend to be looking at something else or just smiling and talking to him. As he swings towards you he sticks his feet straight out and yells, "Kick!". You immediately make an "Oof!" sound and pretend that he's kicked you so hard that you stagger. Then Kevin laughs hysterically and the game repeats. After the first time you're supposed to sternly look at him and say, "Don't you kick me!" sometimes while wagging your finger at him.

Coach improved on the game quite a bit. He would pretend to be casually strolling past Kevin's swing and then do a dramatic backwards flying flop to the ground with a hilarious surprised expression. Then as Kevin swings back towards him again, laughing his head off, Coach would start to get up and pretend that Kevin knocked him down again. Then he'd turn around, brushing the wood chips off his shirt and pretend that Kevin kicked him in the backside. We recorded some of it. I wish I could post it on YouTube, but I can't because Coach is in it. Daniel and I were just rolling laughing watching the two of them play Kevin's game. I think Coach has a definite career in acting in his future.

Water Party

The twins turned 9 on Monday so we had a small water party at the park to celebrate. We didn't expect that they'd get to stay until their birthday, but I'm really glad they got to.

Daniel and I bought a ton of water balloons and gave each of the kids a water gun. We had a water balloon toss to start with and then just let them loose. We quickly discovered that we had to lay a few ground rules like "no aiming above the shoulders" and "no ganging up on a littler kid" but other than that it went well. They were all screaming and laughing and chasing each other around the park. It was great! Kevin just hovered near the water balloons picking one up one at a time and throwing it onto the grass to see whether it would break or bounce.

We also made a cake with the kids and gave them cases and new games for the new Nintendo DS they each got from their mom. They had their one and only visit with her the Friday before their birthday. Daniel also hooked up the Playstation 2 and found a pile of video games for it. Tuesday everyone spent absorbed in the games. I also used that day to complete a scrapbook of all three kids that I gave them to take to their new home in California. Coach really loved it. He wouldn't let it out of his sight. I think they had a good birthday that they'll remember for a long time.

Friday, May 02, 2008

It's Not Like California

It started snowing the other morning. No big deal really, except that it was the first of May. Then Coach asked if he could go outside. I started to say, "no" until he pointed out that this doesn't exactly happen much in california. How can I argue with that logic? At the time we believed the kids would be heading home to CA possibly as soon as the next day.

So I told them to dress as warmly as they could considering that they didn't have snow boots or warm coats, just light jackets. I handed out all the hats and gloves I could find. They were having so much fun that they would have stayed out all day if I'd let them. It was a wet muddy snow, but they happily built their dirty little snowman. I gave them a carrot for his nose. Then I made Kevin come in when his poor little hands started to change color. By that afternoon the snow had melted and even the snowman's nose had fallen off. Meanwhile, I was still scrubbing the mud off my kitchen floor that had been tracked in by 6 happy contented little ice cubes (A.K.A. - my kids).

Pump It Up!

Wednesday Daniel and the kids dropped me off at church for band practice and service. Then they cotinued on to find "Pump It Up!" which is a place full of giant inflatables to climb, bounce, and slide on. Unfortunately I didn't clarify the directions. I said it's just off of 36th on Wadsworth. I meant Highway 36 and Daniel thought I meant 36th street. TOTALLY different directions.

He finally called information and figured out where it was through a complicated series of phone calls. The kids got to play for about 45 minutes. Daniel chased them around trying to get a good picture or two. They came home thoroughly exhausted and ready to crash. All except Gloria, who still got to have her special time. She and I played tea party with the adorable tea set that Aunt Christina sent them a while ago. We used M & M's for our tea and snacks. Thanks, Christina!

Frantic Fazoli's

This Tuesday we rushed a bit to meet with our friend, Dawn, and her three girls at Fazoli's. She is one busy lady. She's a tax accountant who works free lance, so she's got a lot going on right now.

This was our three newest kids' first time ever at Fazoli's. Ma Bell seemed to really enjoy it. Coach wasn't particularly impressed. Linus just liked the lights. Meanwhile we spent half our time chasing Kevin around the store. He seemed to think tag was a fun game. He also loves to announce that he's going to the potty and take off at top speed to get there. Unfortunately, he managed that night to get his hand smashed in the bathroom door and dented his fingers pretty good. Ouch!

Afterwards we gave Dawn's kids a ride home in our "two ton tomato". It was fun filling up all 12 seats. I was really just returning a favor since Monday night I decided to take a long walk at around 7:30 at night. I ended up quite a ways from home when my knee went out on me again. It does that sometimes when I overuse it. I guess it didn't like that last huge hill I had to walk up. Since Daniel was at home with three kids already in bed he couldn't come get me. Instead I called and asked Dawn to come rescue me. She's such a good friend. She immediately came and drove me home.

Fun in a Hurry

Welcome to the wonderful world of foster care. They tell us Monday that the kids will be flying back to California on Wednesday. So we ask our friend, Tiffany, to watch baby Evan while we whisk the kids off to a whirlwind birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. They had a fantastic time and we gave them all a ridiculous amount of tokens.

Then the county tells us that there's been a change in plans. The kids will actually be leaving on Friday. Then they say that CA has decided not to take the kids back after all, so they'll be staying. Then Thursday they tell us that CA has changed plans again and the kids will be leaving next week sometime, it's just not certain when exactly. Then Friday, shortly after the kids' first visit with their mom the caseworker tells me that the kids will be staying in CO after all, so they're looking for a long term placement home that can take all three kids. Once again, they're not sure when exactly next week, but maybe Tuesday. I guess we'll wait and see.