Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009

For Halloween the kids were in the costume parade at my Jazzercise class, then they trick or treated at a shopping center with friends (even though we all got the day wrong, so there wasn't much candy left), and finally went to the fall festival at church to play games and bounce on inflatables. Despite some costume issues, it was a good day overall.

Daniel was a cowboy, Danya and Katie were Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit, Gloria was a geisha, Brianna was a cheerleader, Shane was Batman, and Kevin was a race car driver.

Barbie 3 Musketeers Party

For Gloria's 8th birthday she wanted to have a Barbie 3 Musketeers party. It was tougher than we thought it would be simply because we couldn't find a store that sold any Barbie birthday decorations. We thought that would be a classic, but it wasn't.

Since there is a masked ball in the Barbie movie, we told all her guests to come in costumes with masks. One kid's mom went all out on his costume. We were very impressed. There's also a hot air balloon in the movie that the prince flies in, so we made her cake in the shape of a hot air balloon. She loved it.

Aunt Jennie: Patron of the Arts

Aunt Jennie fueled Brianna and Gloria's budding desire to become famous artists by sending them fun craft kits for their birthdays. They were very wise, knowing that I tend to shy away from messy projects that I'll have to clean up, they talked their babysitters into helping them use the kits while Daniel and I were out on a date.

They both thoroughly enjoyed their crazy projects and I'm still finding pieces of the kits in strange places around the house months later... like under the toaster and behind the microwave. Thanks, Jen.

Her Royal Carriage

On a long bike ride one beautiful day in October, her ladyship, Princess Katie, and her loyal guard were pulled along in her treasured family carriage that had conveyed her two oldest sisters many times before on similar journeys. Her Daddy, of course was the horse that pulled her carriage.

Daniel took the kids on a fun bike ride and our old trusty bike cart hung in there for one last Elliott baby. I still remember when Danya and Gloria were 3 and 2 and would yell, "Faster, Mommy, faster!" as I forced my shaky legs to get them up just one more hill. Two kids in a cart behind your bike is quite a work out. Luckily, this time Daniel got to go slow because the older girls still aren't very fast on their new bikes.

Brianna begged repeatedly to get a new bigger bike since Danya and Gloria just got bigger bikes, but we couldn't afford another $60-70 bucks at the time. That's why it was such a nice surprise this Christmas when Gloria won a bike in a raffle at Fazzoli's, the Italian fast food restaurant we eat at on Tuesday nights sometimes for their "Kids Craft Nights". Now Brianna can have the bigger bike that we just bought Gloria this past summer.

Three Letter Words

Kevin is picking up this whole pre-reading thing pretty fast. Daniel thinks he'll be reading before he turns four this summer. He already recognizes all the kids' names when he sees them written and has been spontaneously reading little things. For instance, Gloria wrote a sign and hung it on her door this week. Kevin walked up and pointed to the words, saying, "No Kevin. No Shane." Then he turned to Shane and said, "We can't go in." We've decided that we can't teach the boys together anymore, accept for fun crafts and physical skills like learning to cut with scissors. But even in that, Kevin is way ahead.

Shane is really struggling with every step. He can't say the letters in his name, count past five, or remember how to hold scissors. This week we've been working on teaching him his left from his right and we're considering putting dots on the outer sides of his shoes since he consistently puts them on backwards and can't tell the difference. On the plus side, he can make his bed and take out the trash. My hope is that by the time he reaches adulthood it won't matter that he took longer to learn all the basic skills that have been so easy for other kids to pick up. At least he tries hard and has a good heart. That's something that can't always be learned.

Baby Style

Katie is benefiting from a large selection of hand me downs given to us by various friends at our church. This is one of the cutest things, in my opinion, that she has received so far. I've always wanted a baby that would let me put hats on her and I finally have one. I keep telling her, "Baby, you make these look gooood."

Mastering the Spoon

There are two steps to mastering the use of a spoon. Since October, when this photo was taken, Katie has slowly been learning how to eat off of a spoon full of food that is fed to her. She still hasn't figured out how to scoop and lift food to her own mouth, though. Sometimes I think we didn't do enough of the classic "parent opening their own mouth wide while offering food" maneuver, because she only opens her mouth the minimum amount necessary to get some of the food in. But at least she doesn't spit it at us like her siblings used to do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grand Re-Opening! (of our house)

Today we officially completed the requirements for recertification and upgraded our license to become an emergency intake home. Our caseworker says she put our family on the list showing that we are available to take up to two kids between the ages of 4 and 9 any time day or night. So now I'm sitting here wondering if I should go to bed or clean up the house a little more. I mean, it just wouldn't do for a new kid to arrive and see dirty cups in the sink, would it? : )

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Snow of the Season

We had a day of snow fall that just looked pretty, but didn't stick. Then we had a day where there was actually enough to call it a snowy day. All the kids got their winter stuff on. Daniel found the hats and gloves box in the garage, and Katie got to try on her first snow suit.

Now, technically, I believe it snowed last Spring after Katie was born, but she was much too small to be out in it. Mostly, I just remember trying to hobble past the melting puddles on my crutches. This time, though, Katie was able to go outside and feel it falling on her lashes, stick her mittened hands out to catch it, and laugh herself silly watching the other kids slip off the snowy slide at the playground. It was snow much fun!

Musicians without Instruments

The former band leader and piano player for our church, Dean, came back to Colorado for a visit recently. He and his family moved way off to the West coast last Christmas and haven't been able to come back to see us much. So Ron, the other trombone player, decided to throw a party for Dean and his wife while they were here.

Shannon babysat the kids for a couple of hours while Daniel and I went to the dinner party. They had chili, yum. It was fun sitting around swapping stories and just enjoying some adult conversation. There were other kids there, but they weren't demanding my attention, so it was great. I wasn't sure I would go at first, since I'm not one of the group that's been friends for EVER, but Daniel rightly pointed out that I'd never feel like part of that group if I didn't attend these sorts of events. I love that man.

Friendly Picnic

Some friends of ours from church invited us to a picnic at a park near their home. This is the second time they've hosted an event like this, but a LOT more families came this time. We were surprised at how many people we knew were there. Many of the kids' church friends came, so they all had a fantastic time exploring the pond and feeding the ducks.

James made some wonderful steak fajitas that were much better than any I've ever had at a restaurant. Katie even had a good time, because she got to sit and babble with her friend, Elizabeth, who was born a few weeks after she was. I hope our friends have more events like this one. It's nice to see friends outside of church.

Toy Story 3D

Proof that advertising works. In my email box I got a notice that Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were playing in 3D at the local IMAX theater for a limited time. So we hired a new babysitter to watch the three youngest kids and took the older girls to the movies.

It was fun watching them in 3D, although since we own them I've seen them so many times I think I could have lived with only watching the first one. We also got a sneek preview of the new Toy Story 3 that's coming out. They end up getting donated to a day care center and trying to escape. I can't imagine how they end up there, since the whole point of the other movies was how special it was to be loved by little Andy. I think it will probably be a movie we rent. I'm glad we got to have some special time with the girls, though.

Trains at the Library

We really lucked out when we took the kids to the Broomfield library the other day. When we arrived there was a performance going on in the auditorium. Since we'd missed the beginning, they let us in free to see "Math in Motion". It was a dance group of teen girls that did dances and skits that explained math concepts. Our kids really enjoyed it.

Then we found out there was also a model train display temporarily on exhibit in the kids' section of the library. It had buttons that made things move and whistles blow. There were even scale size Lightning McQueen and Mater vehicles on the streets. Kevin and Shane were ecstatic.

We borrowed several books while we were there. All the kids are participating in the Pizza Hut Book It! program again this year. Danya and Gloria are reading so much faster than I expected them to. We set their October goal at 50 pages a week. They finished so fast, that we're increasing their November goal to 100 pages per week. Brianna is doing really well, too. All the kids already earned their first month's free pizza certificates. We're really proud of them.

Options Track & Field Day

We bought the obligatory school t-shirts and took the kids to track and field day at a park near their Friday school. It was incredibly windy, but overall went well. I pulled Kevin and Katie around the enormous park multiple times trying to get pictures of all the kids at the different events. They switched events every time the air horn went off.

Danya won first place in the jump rope contest. She jumped 144 times in two minutes! Brianna managed to jump a rope for the first time. I worked with her for the whole two minutes and she managed to jump it twice. Not bad for a kid with low muscle tone who's in physical and occupational therapy to improve her ability to do those sorts of things.

The events included, volleyball, sack races, bean bag toss, long jump, soft ball throw, hula hoops, foot races, ladder race, penny toss, jump roping, and some silly games. They had a great time and all won ribbons.

Purple is Fun

A couple of months ago Daniel bought me an old beat up blue cabinet at a garage sale. It didn't look like much, and it didn't cost much, but I knew it had potential.

We recently got around to refinishing it together. On one of our infrequent date nights Daniel and I went to Home Depot to pick out some primer and some paint. I chose purple because it's my favorite color (besides blue) and because it continues my habit of choosing just a few special purple accents to brighten up my home. I have a purple desk chair in my scrapbooking room that I also love. They go nicely against my yellow basement walls.

Daniel stripped the cabinet down while the kids and I were in Oklahoma. So all I had to do was some touch up and then prime and paint it one windy day in September. Danya helped me choose new knobs at Lowe's and she and Gloria both helped me spray paint it. It turned out very nice and currently is holding homeschooling supplies and diaper changing supplies. I love family projects!

God's Promises

The other day there was a big beautiful rainbow right in front of our house. The kids and I decided that our yellow house was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In the bible, the rainbow is God's promise that he will never completely destroy the world by flood again. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about God's promises to our family.

When Daniel and I got married we both felt that God was telling us that we would have a large family with lots of kids and that we would become a foster and adoptive family. We felt that His plan for us was to help many many children and teens. We actually first realized that God might intend for us to be together when Daniel overheard me telling his mom that I thought God wanted me to someday have a special group home for teen girls where I could help them learn life skills. He was surprised because that was the exact same vision for the future that God had given to Daniel. Before that day, Daniel and I had barely even been friends. It was more of a "friend of a friend" relationship.

Here we are 13 years later. We're seeing the beginning of God's plans unfolding in our lives. So far we've fostered 17 kids and adopted two of them. At the end of this month our foster care license will be renewed and we'll officially reopen our home as an "emergency intake home" so that we can help even more kids. Will we someday have a group home for teen girls like we thought we would so many year ago? I believe so, because God is faithful to keep His promises. But I also think, seeing the world and our country change so rapidly this past year, that the reality of our future may be very very different than anything we imagined back then. I'm excited to see what God has in store for us and how it will all turn out! Lord, help me not to be a worrier.

Friday School

For their first day of school I tried putting curlers in the girls' hair with mixed results. The second week we didn't do curlers, but I did actually remember to take a photo of them outside their school.

It's going really well so far. Danya loves her journalism and choir classes. Gloria thinks her Snap Circuits class is great. Brianna is excited about her dance class. Shane is just happy to be there. He especially liked the day that they all got to bring blankets and flash lights and make tents in his Kindergarten class. They ate lentil soup and pretended they were nomads.

Meanwhile, I've been discovering just how smart Kevin is. With time to really work with him, one on one, he's been showing off all the things he's learned that I didn't even know he could do. I found out that he already knows how to measure things with a ruler. We've had lots of reading time, learning games on the computer, and playing store together. It's been great.

Poor Danya, though. Last week her journalism class published their first school newspaper, but she missed it because all the other kids had the flu, so I didn't let any of them go to school. Ah, the tragedy of her young life.

Katie at 6 to 7 months

Just a random group of photos of Katie. I'm going to be adding some almost 8 month old photos of her soon, so I thought I'd better put up some of these first so the blog photos stay chronological.

At about 7 months Katie learned to sit by herself without toppling over (unless she was reaching for a toy) and she learned to spin around about 180 degrees on her tummy. She played with her toys more, learning to shake them and also to shake her head side to side as if she was saying "no" although she just did it to mimic us, not because she knows what it means. She also loves to grab glasses off of faces and throw them on the ground. Eating baby food is no problem and she is slowly trying out new solids like cereal and bread. She's also getting more clingy and having trouble being left in the nursery or with a baby sitter. Last, but not least, we put a tiny rubber band in her hair and Katie had her first official top knot. Too cute!