Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Chuck E. Police

We got some coupons that expired just after Christmas, for 100 tokens for $10 at Chuck E. Cheese. So we took the kids out there at the end of December. They had a fun time, especially Katie, who was really enjoying all of these rides and games for the first time now that she's big enough to play.

The evening got a little more interesting when it was time to go. We were hurrying because Daniel still had to get to work that night, and we accidentally left Kevin's prizes behind. So just as we were leaving the parking lot he started crying and we turned around to go see if they were still there. Daniel pulled up in front of the entrance and I hopped out just as we both noticed flashing red and blue lights behind us. We figured it was parking lot security for the shopping center getting ready to tell us we couldn't park there.

Nope. Turned out to be the police. We never did figure out why they stopped us, but they were annoyed that we didn't have proof of registration or insurance on us. I don't know what happened to our registration, but we'd only owned the vehicle for a month, so it probably got carried in when we were cleaning something up. As for the insurance, we've been fighting with the company to send us a copy for months now, since July or August. They keep saying they will, and then not doing it. So we got a ticket, and have to force them to send us proof that we were insured before the court date.

When I got Kevin's prizes and came back to the van, the younger police officer tried to stop me from getting in, because he thought I was just trying to chat with Daniel because I knew him or something. When I said I'd been there at the beginning, he griped at me for "leaving the scene". The whole experience was surreal. I'm glad Daniel kept his temper through it, since I knew he was getting frustrated by everything and the fact that they wouldn't tell us why they'd stopped us.

O R E Oh!

Melted Pipes

So, we had a major leak from a water pipe next to our sink that leaked down the wall into the laundry room and quickly started to form mold because of the heat of the dryer running.

We're praising and thanking God that when we asked for prayer about it in our Sunday school class, our friends the Rushton's volunteered to help us. Jim is a former plumber. He came over and spent about 7 hours cutting out the walls, finding the leak, replacing and re-routing pipes, and removing the moldy parts. And he did it completely free of charge, wouldn't let us pay him at all. God is good. We are so grateful. It turns out that a previous person badly patched a PVC pipe that was damaged and now it was leaking. Daniel suspects it might have been the guys who installed our new heating/air system two years ago since the damage is right beside one of the new copper lines they installed. But there's no way to know for sure. I'm just grateful it's fixed and that Daniel has gotten the holes fixed and my walls repainted.

The Princess and the Frog

We gave Brianna a Tiana Barbie for Christmas. She's the new Disney princess. Then we took the kids to see The Princess and the Frog the Sunday after Christmas. We also brought our younger babysitter, Shannon, with us to celebrate her birthday. Her big sister, Sarah, babysat Katie and Kevin for free to help with the cost of Shannon's ticket. I hope my girls love each other like that when they are teens.

The movie was better than I expected. It looked a little lame in the previews, but I knew the kids wanted to see it. The music was interesting and of course, the bad guy was all about magic and dead things, which seems to be a theme with Disney villains. At first I wondered why they didn't make the first black Disney princess be from Africa, but then I remembered that they already based the Lion King in Africa and probably didn't want to rehash that idea. But, if that's the case, why did they make the prince just another version of Aladdin? So, my prediction is that the next Disney princess will be from some place like Mexico or South America.

Oh, and on a funny side note, the first theater we went to was sold out for that show time. We ended up going home and then deciding to drive to a theater we'd never been to before south of here. But this time we called first to verify that they had plenty of tickets left.

Baby Splits

How does she do that? This kid is so limber she could scratch the back of her head with her toe nails if she wanted to. I'm constantly amazed at the contortions she can perform. Also, her nails grow incredibly fast. I wonder if it's something in her formula that gives her these nine inch claws a day after I finish trimming them?

Painting Postcards

One of the things we put in the kids' stockings this year were little wooden postcards that they could paint. We're planning to mail them out, since all they need is a little extra postage. We'll see if they make it to their destinations. The only snag was that Kevin got a hold of Brianna's postcard and scribbled on it and his, too. So, since his was slightly less bad we gave it to Brianna and told her to pretend that the green was grass peeking through the snow.

Crazy Christmas 2009

Daniel was working straight through Christmas and New Years with some overtime in between. So we decided to celebrate Christmas a few days early on his days off. The kids sure didn't mind when we announced on Monday that the next day would be Christmas for our family. The best gifts of 2009? Danya and Gloria each got a Nintendo DS as their one big gift. Shane got a Batman car that races across the floor and knocks down barrels. Kevin got a Disney Cars truck that carries other cars. It was the one thing he specifically asked for. Katie liked everyone else's toys, but she's played a lot with some stacking cups she got. Daniel got a dad shirt with all the kids' names on it, and although I like the socks with music notes on them that I got, my favorite toy has been the second hand Nintendo Gamecube that we gave the kids. I've enjoyed playing games with them and Daniel, especially Paper Mario.


The kids all loved their new p.j.'s and couldn't wait to try them on. They get new ones every Christmas Eve as the one gift they get to open. I think they've figured out my secret plan to have them all looking cute for photos when they wake up on Christmas morning, but it doesn't stop the fun of finding out what their new p.j.'s look like. This year Danya got her favorite character, Tinkerbell, Gloria got her favorite animal, monkeys, and Brianna got penguins which is a new interest since one of the girls got a penguin Webkinz a while back. Shane had Handy Manny on his p.j.'s and Kevin, of course, got Lightening McQueen. Katie's were just cute pink and blue, but they didn't last long. The kids slipped her something sticky for breakfast so they were yucky before we took the first Christmas photos. Oh well.

So Long Music Man

On Music Man's last day with our family Daniel took the kids to the Children's Museum as a special treat while I frantically worked at home trying to get his scrapbook album finished and his things packed. His new adoptive family came that afternoon just before dinner time. It was hard saying good-bye, but this time we knew we could stay in contact. We've got all their info and the family is fine with exchanging updates now and then. He really enjoyed the children's museum and liked his album. I was extra glad that I made it instead of just handing them a pile of photos, because his new mom doesn't scrapbook. But they seem like a great family and I think he'll do really well with them. They spent a week driving back and forth to see him and let him visit their home and have a sleep over before that last day. It was very unusual for a foster child to move to a new foster home just three days before Christmas, but this was a special circumstance.

She Lights Up

Katie enjoyed all the wonderfully strange new things that happened in the month of December. The singing, the lights, the wrapping paper, the snow, the candy canes that turned her whole face blue, every bit of it was an exciting new adventure to her.

I love to see her light up when we smile at her and that wicked grin she gives us when she's having fun. Recently she even practiced squinting her eyes at me and winking because she saw us doing it. The funniest thing is that when she does something she shouldn't we've always said, "Heeey!" to her, and now she says it, too. It's so incredibly cute.

10 Months: On the Move

At 10 months old Katie is discovering all kinds of locomotion. She can sit in her walker or on Kevin's fire truck and push herself backwards across the house. She spins herself in circles while hanging in her "Johnny Jumper" in her bedroom doorway. She's even learned to go from a sitting position , lean forward, and get onto her stomach so that she can lay her head in someone's lap.

In the food department, she has discovered all kinds of terrible things like marshmallows and beef jerky. All I can do is shake my head and point at her father as the culprit. He even gives her hot dogs to eat. I think his sister, Jennie, the nurse practitioner should back me up in yelling at him for that one. (You hear me, Jen?)

She is learning new things every day. Today Kevin taught her how to yell into an orange toy traffic cone to make her voice sound louder. And Danya taught her this week how to rock in a tiny rocking chair and say, "Rah, rah". She can also roll and throw a ball back and forth with us and grabs our hands to force us to play Patty Cake with her. But her newest, cutest trick, is to give Eskimo kisses.

Homeschool Carolers

Our homeschool group "H.U.G.G.s for LIFE" met together to sing some Christmas carols at a retirement village shortly before Christmas. After we sang, with Anna Gilmer accompanying us on her guitar, we let the kids have some cookies and mingle with the residents.

Katie was quite an attraction. She played peek-a-boo, smiled, babbled, and laughed. I sat her on a table surrounded by grandmas and great-grandmas and she just lit up the room. It was a nice night.

Katie meets The Big Guy

Katie seemed sort of vaguely interested in Santa when she met him at Fazoli's about two weeks before Christmas. She checked out his beard, but mostly was distracted by the kids coloring at the table next to her. I guess she's just used to being passed around a lot. And as everyone discovered at Thanksgiving when she threw a fit if any women tried to hold her, she definitely has a preference for men. I guess she just figured this white haired guy must be another grandpa.

Options Christmas Program

Danya and Brianna were in the Options Christmas program this year at their Friday school. Danya performed with the choir, one of only two younger girls who sing with the highschoolers due to scheduling reasons. She loved pretending to use a microphone and dancing while singing "Java Jive". Danya was especially excited when I surprised her with a sparkly new outfit for the performance. Brianna danced in the 12 Days of Christmas as one of the three French hens. They were so cute doing their little "London Bridge" dance in their hen costumes.

Painting Ornaments

We still don't have many real Christmas ornaments since we lost all of ours in the move to Colorado back in 2006. So we use a lot of homemade ones each year. This year the kids all got to paint their own ornaments. It was messy, but fun. We even painted a couple for Katie.

Minus One More Tooth

Brianna and Gloria seem to be taking turns loosing teeth at an astonishing rate. The tooth fairy is quickly going bankrupt. I wonder if she could get a government subsidy for that?

AWANA manger scene night

A fun new idea at AWANA this year was "manger scene night" where all the kids were told to come dressed as anything from a manger scene. We pulled our costumes together at the last minute as usual, but the kids looked really cute. Brianna and Gloria were both angels. Music Man was a horse. Danya was Mary with her baby Jesus.

It was only for the older kids, so we didn't have to put the boys in a costume, thank goodness. As it was, we were scrambling to find wings and something for "Mary" to wear on her head. She ended up using a baby blanket. One girl actually came dressed as a manger wearing a box with hay in it.

Christmas Decorating

Since October of 2008 we've been sort of creating our own strange little tradition. We've been making crafts to hang current photos of our kids on the wall in the living room that change with each season or holiday. So in October they make pumpkins, near Thanksgiving they make turkeys, on the fourth of July they make flags, and other holidays have standard things like four leaf clovers, hearts, and such. This Christmas they made angels to hang their pictures on. The kids all really seem to enjoy showing off their pictures to everyone who comes to visit us since they are displayed right next to the front door.

We also followed our usual strange tradition of wrapping pictures that hang on our walls. Although this year I didn't have time to wrap all the kitchen cabinets like I usually do.


Some of the Cast for our church Christmas play "The Ornament"

I was Cynthia, the mom. The two girls in the first photo played my daughters the second night, "Ann and Charlie". Danya was 8 yr old "Charlie" on the first night, Gloria was a Christmas caroler, Ray the piano player was Cynthia's dad Grandpa Henry, Mr. Lockwood (the director's husband) played my big brother "Zack", my pretend younger brother "Lucas" was played by a teen named Jake who we had to age for the part since he was supposed to be in his late 20's. Cynthia's husband Jake was played by our other trombone player Ron, and Lucas' shocking new girlfriend "Shasta" was played by Sherry Voigt who did a hilarious job.

I've also included pictures of the guys who played "The Pastor" in the soup kitchen and a homeless guy named "The Count". I didn't manage to get good pictures of anyone else. We had such a wonderful time putting on the play. I had a hard time practicing crying on stage and trying to make it look real, but otherwise it all went well. We had a good turnout in the audience both nights. I wish I knew how many people made a decision for Christ those nights. All we can do is trust that God used it to work in people's hearts. I'd love to do this again some day.

9 Months: My Favorite Gift

My favorite gift, and the best thing under our tree this year, was Katie. Even though it's been a rough year for all of us, she made us smile and laugh all through it. She just has such a joyful spirit. She loves to laugh and sing and dance.

Watching her learn to scoot across the floor has been so funny. She absolutely refuses to crawl. We've tried putting her on her knees, and showing her how, but she hates that. Instead, she sits on her bottom and leans forward to inch across the floor. She seems to understand the process of walking, at least. She carefully lifts each foot and steps forward with her right and then her left foot when we hold her hands and let her practice walking across the room.

She also has developed a cute habit of grabbing hair brushes and brushing her own hair and even other people's hair. She doesn't like sippy cups yet, but she's eating more solid foods. She's very good at putting things in holes. She can put her farm animals into the window in the toy barn and then lift up the door at the bottom to pull them out and do it again. She only rarely says "Mumma", but she has learned to call Danya, "Daya" and she mimics a lot of the words we make. It's hard to believe how big she's getting!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Like a Fine Wine...

Like a fine wine that gets better with age, Daniel continues to show more each year how great he is as a husband and father. This year he doubled the number of children he claims as his own without batting an eye. He also managed to become a "Mr. Mom" taking care of the house, the kids, his job and everything in between during the time that I was laid up in the hospital. He's patched up our crumbling home numerous times, and propped up my faltering confidence when I've gotten overwhelmed at the prospect of teaching so many kids at different grade levels while dealing with a new baby. And in his spare time? He teaches children's Sunday school and AWANA classes and cleans the church. He's my super hero husband and I wouldn't trade with any woman in the world. Happy 33rd Birthday, Sweetie!

Overwhelmed by Food

Daniel and I decided after November that we're no longer going to get a double order of food from the foster family food co-op. When we had two extra older kids as part of our family it made sense, but we just can't seem to eat most of what we're getting fast enough. Our garage is starting to look like it's own food bank. It's especially difficult to deal with since it's the middle of winter here in Colorado and we can't drag stuff out of the garage to reorganize it all as easily as we do in other seasons. I hope next month we get more cereal, though, because that is one food that we never seem to have enough of with this many kids eating it. Even Katie eats Cheerios and other small cereals now.

Thankgiving Firsts

There were a lot of firsts for our family this past Thanksgiving. It was the first year that I stayed home and let my family travel to Oklahoma without me. My birthday fell directly on Thanksgiving this year, so as a gift I got to have about 5 solid days to myself to work on projects around the house that I haven't had time for. It was also the first time that Jennie, Daniel's little sister, got to meet Brianna, Shane, Katie, and Chloe, her newest nieces and nephew. And of course our kids got to meet their cousin Chloe for the first time. Finally, it was the first time that Brianna and Shane got to enjoy Thanksgiving with the Elliotts as official Elliotts themselves.

Two special additions to our crew visiting Oklahoma this year were our foster son, "Music Man", and our former foster daughter, "Molly", who asked if she could come. This was her second year to make the trip. I hope she comes again some time in the future since her family doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, as most of them are from Cambodia or Laos.

Grandkids Galore

Daniel's parents have more grandkids than anyone I know. And this isn't even all of them! Now, technically Molly and Music Man aren't their grandkids, but we always say, "When you're here, you're family."

Robin, Daniel's big sister, just added the most recent grand kid to the herd this past fall. Baby Chloe displaced Katie as the youngest. She's Robin's eighth child. Katie, at nine months, managed to make little Chloe, who is a premie, look even tinier by comparison.