Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lake Carl Blackwell

This is the lake I used to go swimming in with my family as a kid. We don't go often, but I remember the ooey gooey mud and the dark brown water that might hide toe nibbling fish or any number of other mysteries.

The kids and I went there with Grandma and Grandpa Elliott the day we headed home to Colorado. It's a good thing we didn't have more than an hour or so to swim because the kids treated Grandpa like their own personal pool toy. At one point he was exploding up out of the water like a sea monster with four kids clinging to his neck and back. Shane didn't seem to understand that Grandpa wasn't going to let him drown so he had his arms in a death grip choke hold around Grandpa's neck. I started to actually fear for Grandpa's safety! The kids got incredibly dirty and then showered there before we left. It's definitely something we should do again next year sometime when Daniel is with us.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Library Story Hour

I used to take Danya and Gloria to story time at the library in Owasso all the time when they were little. Now it's an extremely rare event since my kids are all different ages and the librarians divide the kids by age so that my 5 year old could not be in story time with my 3 year old and the baby has her own time slot. It's just not designed for homeschooling families that have children of all ages with them.

That's why it was so nice while we were in Oklahoma to get to go with Glenda and her kids to the Cushing library story hour. They let all our kids be in the room, although the baby and the oldest two sat in the back of the room with me. They read some silly books including an expanded version of "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" that I'd never seen before. Since we got back home I've promised Danya and Gloria that we can try to get back into the habit of attending the "Pen and Pencil Club" that meets at the library once a month.

We missed this month's club meeting because we were in Loveland, CO at a Christian book store there that sells Pathway Readers which are my current favorite reading and grammar materials. You can buy them here, but there are some cheaper used ones on ebay. Amazon's prices were terrible. One of the great things about these books and workbooks is how inexpensive they are. The hardback readers are about $6-8 and the workbooks are around $2. All of our kids (except Katie, of course) absolutely love the stories and enjoy the workbooks, too. We decided to go ahead and get the rest of the series that we didn't originally pick up when we found these at the homeschool convention this summer.

Hospital Invasion

We visited Aunt Robin at the OU Medical Center while she was enjoying the sweet life, lazing about waiting for baby Chloe, her eighth child, to finish percolating. She was there for weeks and was on the verge of climbing the walls by the time we came. Between our six kids and the seven she currently had, plus her husband, me, and her parents that hospital room became a bit claustrophobic. The kids didn't seem to notice, though. They were too busy seeing who had grown taller in the past year and telling each other all the cool new things they've been doing.

Baby Chloe arrived last Thursday and was able to come home from the hospital on Saturday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

States of Matter

We're trying to come up with different uses for all the empty baby formula cans that we're collecting as Katie uses them up. Danya and Gloria got a kick out of racing to place cards into the different "states of matter" cans this past week.

Kevin used one of the cans for a clothes pin counting game. I filled the can with several cards with numbers on them and an equal number of dots. Then as he pulled a card out he'd have to either add or remove that many clothes pins.

The Women in My Family

Katie got to meet the women in my family while we were in Oklahoma. She took turns being passed around by my sister, Toni, my mom, and my Aunt Kathy. I figure Katie fits right in with all the rest of us. She loves to laugh at the drop of a hat and breaks into smiles at the slightest hint of a grin from anyone else. When my mom, Aunt Kathy, Toni, and I get together we just laugh the whole time. They are some of the funniest women I know.
While they were visiting, Grandma Nancy offered to watch the kids while I had dinner with my family at Chile's. We scandalized the waiter and generally had a great time. Katie has quite an interesting family to grown into.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Options Homeschool Picnic

It was somewhat amazing to see how many homeschoolers attend this little one day a week program called Options that our kids have begun going to this year. Technically it's a two day program, but some families go Mondays and some go Fridays. We're on Fridays. The picnic was about getting to know other kids and families who will be attending on the same day before school officially started.

There was a scavenger hunt so the kids could break the ice a little. I was surprised at how quickly all our kids made friends. Even Shane, who had trouble communicating, found a group of boys who wanted to dig in the dirt with him. They began their first classes this past Friday and all the kids came home raving about how much fun they had. Brianna made bubbles and did experiments with them in science and excitedly told us that next week they are making play dough. It's a "CSI" themed science class and she loves it.

Danya is stoked about her journalism class. She says that the name she came up with for the school paper was the most popular one and will probably be chosen as the official name. She spent this weekend on the kids' computer downstairs working on articles to submit next week. Meanwhile Gloria loves snap circuits and her drama class. Apparently P.E. was also a hit with everyone except Danya. She said her class is mostly calisthenics. She's got it rough because she's been put in with much older kids and she is one of the smallest in the class. Her choir class was apparently very fun. Danya keeps singing songs from her warm up music. It's jazz music, so I've been talking to her about how notes are stressed differently in jazz.

I was worried about how Shane would do in his first all day Kindergarten class, but he seems to have done well. The assistant teacher fell in love with him and came outside after school to tell me how adorable he is. He really is a charmer. And it sounds like this program for homeschooled kids is going to work out for our family. One really nice benefit is that Kevin and I now have a one-on-one learning time. He worked on adding and subtracting clothes pins and we played games with finding and counting chalk shapes outside on the side walk. We also got to read lots of books at the library. Katie thought it was great, too.

African Masks: Elliott Style

We were reading about African dynasties that flourished just South of the Sahara in our Story of the World book recently. The girls had fun creating their own "African Masks" but I think I made a mistake by not showing them pictures of African masks ahead of time. They made what amounted to cute little animal puppets with fringe. I'd like to take them to the Denver Art Museum to see if they have some authentic masks so the girls could get a better idea of what we were talking about. It just isn't the same looking at a picture.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Absolutely Beautiful

My friend Glenda's daughter, Liliana, is so beautiful. She makes the sweetest little shy expressions. Now that she's getting older she also speaks in an adorable little voice. She's just such a little lady. With so many brothers you'd think she'd be more rough and tumble. She can climb a rock wall with the best of them, and then quickly turn around and play house with my daughter, Gloria. She's the kind of little girl that everyone loves to watch in movies. I can't wait to see what she's like as she grows into a young woman.

The Next Generation of Friends

Christina, Glenda, and I have been friends since just before our Senior year in high school. Over the years we've seen each other get married and start families, change jobs and homes, and even prayed for Christina's husband as he went off to war multiple times. I hate that I don't get to see them as often as I'd like since we live so far apart. It will be worse now since Christina is moving to Virginia at the end of this month.

This past week in Oklahoma we were able to spend Monday with both families and say goodbye to Christina and the kids. We went out to eat at McAlister's which has become our traditional spot over the past few years. It's right next to Strickland park so we can walk over to play there after lunch. Seeing the kids play together is so much fun now that they are all getting older. The girls were pretending that they went to McDonald's and Hope was the cook. The boys were showing off how high they could climb. Shane and Qorban both made it to the top of the rock wall. Poor Kevin got stuck climbing some bars and ended up hanging by his elbows and yelling for help. Danya just followed little Christopher around as he toddled and crawled up and down the ramps.

The rest of the week we had opportunities to go to the library and the park with Glenda's family. She also let us check out some kids' bible videos she has and the workbooks that go along with them. Daniel and I are considering getting some of them next year as part of the kids' bible curriculum, but we aren't sure yet.

A Week with Grandparents

The trip to Oklahoma with just me and the kids went fairly well. We had a few crazy days, like Shane regressing on potty training at the worst possible moments and Kevin tearing up Grandpa's garden and throwing the dirt in Brianna's face just when we were trying to load up to leave.

Overall, though, it was a lot of fun. We were able to see friends and family and enjoy some small town fun. We took trips to the park, swam in the lake, enjoyed library story hour, had a girls' night out, went to church, and had breakfast at the school so that we could see Grandma working in the lunch room. We even got to take a tour of the schools where Grandpa works as head of maintenance and see all the projects he's working on and those he's recently completed. Despite running out of pull ups, missing my turn onto I-70 and driving a couple hours out of my way, and Brianna getting hit in the head with a wooden swing that she fell out of, it was a good week.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Half a Decade

We celebrated Shane's 5th birthday with a big party this year. It was his first birthday with us, so we did it up right. We rented a bounce house and hired "Mr. Ron the Magic Man" (my trombonist friend from church) to do a magic show and balloon animals for the kids. He even researched online how to make Spiderman out of balloons. Shane was ecstatic. The party went well. The rain stopped just in time. Shane especially enjoyed his Spiderman cupcakes. Overall, I'd say it was a birthday party to remember.

Adams County Fair

We got discount tickets to the Adams County Fair and a TON of free food tickets, so Daniel and I took the older kids while Sarah babysat the younger ones for us. It was a beautiful night. We ran into a friend of Gloria's and her family. We let them take Gloria with them for an hour or so. She felt so grown up being off without us. Daniel and I were both sad about saying goodbye to Miss Lady and Thumbelina, so we kept finding fun things to do just before they went home. We rode almost everything at the fair. The worst one the kids talked me into was one of those rides that lifts you straight up into the air and then plunges to the ground. Never again. Not ever. Seriously.

Sunday School Teachers

Since the children's church leaders recently announced that they were in need of some new Sunday school teachers for the 3 & 4 year olds' class, Daniel and I volunteered. We figure since two of the approximately 14-20 kids in the class belong to us, we were sort of obligated to help. So now on the second Sunday of each month, instead of playing in the band, Daniel and I teach Shane and Kevin's class. We've only done it once so far, but it was fun. Shane and Kevin really seem to enjoy having us there.

Old Thrills

We finally took the kids to Lakeside. We've been meaning to go for almost three years now. It's sort of an icon here in Denver. The rides are ancient, the prices are crazy, but the kids loved it and so did we. It's sort of like a giant version of the fairs that come and go every year, but it's been in the same location for ages. The best two rides in the kiddie section were the Frog Hopper and the roller coaster. In the grown up section we loved the bumper cars. We rode them repeatedly, smashing together and chasing each other in circles. It was great.

Movie Walk

Here's a photo of Daniel and the older girls on are loooong walk to the Cinnebar movie theater to see the Harry Potter movie. We went on the same day that we did the dentist photo shoot. It's a pretty little trail with lots of flowers, giant trees, and too much of steep hill at the end. We had to move fast to make it to the movie on time.

I'm trying to catch up on some of the photos I had prepared for my blog and then never got around to uploading. So there will be several that are out of date. I'm working on photos from July right now. I miss my girls!

Our Brief Modeling Career

I don't know if I've mentioned previously that our family was chosen to be in publicity photos for our dentist's office. They called us up one day and said they wanted to have a professional photographer come out to their office and take photos of some of their patients. Several of the office staff recommended our kids. Probably because we have so many. They offered us a free family portrait and a copy of whichever photo they use. They plan to blow it up to poster size and hang it on the wall of the waiting room.

Normally, we would have had to refuse because of the privacy rules for foster kids. We were in a unique situation, however. By the time the photos were published, none of our four foster children would be in foster care any more. So we were able to get written permission from the dad of two of the girls, and we got approval from the county for Brianna and Shane. The photographer emailed me this group photo so that I could identify each kid in the photo.

They also asked for personal information about the kids' teeth and their experiences with the staff at Small Smiles. I think there's going to be a small bio at the bottom of the poster. I can't wait to see it on the wall.

My Nemesis

The ever present enemy: laundry. It lurks around every corner in my home, ganging up on me, waiting until that moment when I think I've conquered it to surprise me with a hidden pile in the downstairs bathroom or a monstrous stash horded for weeks under Brianna's bed or in the dark recesses of Gloria's closet.

Sometimes, I'm lured to the downstairs bedroom by a strange malodorous smell that I slowly track through the basement, sniffing the air like a hound, until I locate it coming from some exotic new location like the bottom of Danya's toybox, or hidden inside a board game that was roughly tossed into the closet.

On the days when I am completely overwhelmed, rather than surrender, I and my family gather up every single article of clothing of vaguely suspicious cleanliness and outright dirty status and pile it high in the back of the van. Then we haul it off to the laundry mat where we can line it up as if in a firing squad and attack it all at once for the price of some laundry soap and my life savings in quarters. But despite my best efforts, the laundry always wins in the end. For even though I have succeeded in washing it all, we are then too tired to put it away, or there is no room in the drawers. So there it sits, gloating in the laundry baskets, as it slowly transfers from the clean piles into the dirty hampers, reminding me that, when it comes to the war on laundry, the only true winners are the happy people on nudist beaches.

She Likes Carrots

Katie has been trying out quite a variety of new foods lately. Some of her favorites are bread, marinara sauce, and any kind of fruit. She also likes carrots, but they don't seem to agree with her. I'm not too thrilled about the orange diapers.

She's also been working on foods that she can hold and bring to her mouth like biter cookies and graham crackers. She's a good eater. Sometimes she's too good. We have to watch her carefully to make sure she doesn't tear off a piece of whatever she's eating because she might choke on it. She still doesn't even have any teeth yet, but she can gum her food ferociously.