Friday, December 31, 2010

First Snow in December 2010

The winter weather kindly held off for a few days after Christmas so that the kids could enjoy their Christmas presents outside. But when it hit, boy was it a doozie! Daniel and the kids wasted no time running out to have fun with their snow shovels. Last year Daniel got them all kid sized shovels, so they get to "help" him clear the driveway and sidewalk. They had more fun burying Danya in the snow. Katie was fascinated by it all and kept walking into the deep drifts and then yelling out, "Ayuda me!" which is "help me" in Spanish (Thank you, Diego and Dora).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas on Wheels

This Christmas was all about wheeled gifts. Danya, Gloria, and Brianna all received roller blades. Shane got a Spiderman skateboard and gear, and Kevin got a Superman bike, his first two wheeler. Katie didn't exactly get anything to ride on, but she had a large collection of Little People that came with vehicles. She also got a kitchen that the kids play with pretty much every day.

We were also blessed with a snow-free Christmas, which meant that the kids all got to run out and try their new Christmas presents right away. After helping them for about half an hour, the girls seemed to be doing alright on their own. Danya and Gloria used to have shoes with wheels in them called Heelies, so they were pretty confident in their skating abilities. Maybe a little too confident.

A short while later Danya ran screaming into the house that Gloria fell and broke her arm. I ran out to find one of our new neighbors helping Gloria to take off her roller blades. She was cradling her left arm and crying hysterically. Nothing seemed to be broken, so we just gave her an ice pack and made her take it easy for the rest of that day and the next. Monday it was still hurting her, so we took her for x-rays at the hospital in Brighton. It turns out she buckled the bone near her wrist. It's not a true break, more like it's jammed and the bone has bumped out a little. She had to have a cast for several weeks, just to protect it while it healed, and she couldn't do any lifting with it. What a crazy end to Christmas this year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve PJs

Continuing our annual tradition, we all got new p.j.'s for Christmas Eve. Katie opened hers and yelled "cookie pants!" Shane and Kevin were excited to get Batman and Superman. Gloria of course had Bobby Jack monkey p.j.'s. For Danya, though, we were a bit stumped. She has informed us that she's too old for Tinkerbell now. So we took a gamble on Hello Kitty p.j.'s. They were a hit! She loved them.

Then Daniel surprised me with a set of super soft purple pajamas and we surprised him with two new pajama tops. One was Popeye and the other was Mighty Mouse. He loves them and wears them everywhere. I sort of wish he'd keep them just for sleepwear, but he does look adorable in them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WOW! Free Membership!

Our foster care family worker hooked us up with a free one year family pass to the WoW Museum in Lafayette. We'd been there once before a few years ago with friends, so we knew it was great. When the family pass arrived we invited our friends, Brandy and her kids, to come with us.

The kids all had a great time checking out the new centers that had been added and revisiting some of the classics like the bubble maker. It was especially fun enjoying the museum with friends. Daniel, the kids, and I all worked together to build a log cabin out of giant wooden connector pieces. But the most fun part, according to the kids, was the room with the balls that taught them about ramps and inclines.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Homeschool Scavenger Hunt

After weeks of learning with workbooks, CDs, computer programs, and simple crafts, the kids were starting to get a bit bored. So to rekindle the excitement a little, while secretly testing their information retention, I created a homeschool scavenger hunt.

The kids followed a series of clues, each relating to something we recently studied. We covered math, weather, animal reproduction, etc. There were a few clues that had them temporarily stumped, but they all worked together, and eventually they found the prize. A bag of coins with just enough money, once they added it up, to buy them each a McDonald's icecream cone.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Babysitter Gift Exchange

Sarah and Shannon are our favorite baby sitters. They've been taking care of our kids since 2007. They started when we only had 3 kids and have grown with us in the ability to handle a crowd.

We've known them since they were young teens, and we spend so much time with them that we consider them to be extended family, often referring to them as "our oldest daughters". It's become a tradition to exchange Christmas gifts with them a week or so before Christmas each year. They have fun finding little things for each of our kids and we usually get them something cute like Christmas ornaments with their names on them.

By far, though, the best gift we get each year from them is two coupons for free babysitting. At a time of year when we are especially broke due to buying Christmas gifts, it's something we've come to look forward to. Sarah and Shannon have said that they consider babysitting, for a very low hourly rate, for our large family to be a kind of ministry. They help us so that we can continue to be a strong foster family. Sarah and Shannon, we thank you, and our marriage thanks you!

Sunday School Teachers

Daniel and I teach the 3's and 4's class during second service on the second Sunday of every month. We have on average about 20 preschoolers in attendance. They are some of the wildest, loudest, kids I've ever met. Maybe it's something about the freedom of being in a mob of other kids their age who are also all yelling and running around grabbing and discarding toys at lightning speeds.

What I'd really like to know is why kids seem to lose the ability to sit and listen to a read aloud story in direct proportion to their increasing age. My almost 2 year old, Katie, can sit for half an hour handing me book after book, demanding that I continue reading. This class can make it about 20 minutes. But just try getting older kids to sit and listen to someone read out loud. Now, I don't lump my own kids into this category, because I've trained them to enjoy listening to me read from exciting adventure stories. But I've seen it with their friends and with foster kids who seem to have the attention span of a gnat.

Kevin will be graduating out of this classroom in July of 2011. We've asked the children's church director if we can move also to teach one of the classes that our kids are in. With 8 kids, we feel obligated to volunteer to teach, but I'm really looking forward to having an older, hopefully calmer, group.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Good Behavior has it's rewards

We've been trying out a new good behavior reward system with the kids for the past few months. Each day that they manage to get their jobs done and have a good attitude, and we get a good report from teachers if we aren't there, they "win" for the day and get to stay up late to do something fun. One day in December all the kids had done particularly well. Since Daniel and I had to drive south of Denver to pick up some Christmas presents we found on Craig's List for the kids, we decided to reward them all. We found a Chuck E. Cheese that we had never been to before near our destination and surprised them when we pulled up in front of the building.

We used some internet coupons so the kids all had a ton of tokens and got to go nuts for about two hours. Katie, as usual, loved the rides. Gloria likes the Virtual Roller Coaster, and the boys just love putting tokens into the slots, no matter what the game is. Daniel and I liked the price, only about $30 bucks to entertain all 8 of us.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Options Christmas Party 2010

The Christmas party for our kids' one day a week Options program for homeschoolers was held at the Westminster Rec Center this year. Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my camera battery ahead of time, so I only got about 4 pictures before it died.

The kids really enjoyed swimming. I was too self conscious to wear a bathing suit among that many people I knew, so Daniel went in with the kids while I kept an eye on things from the sidelines. After they'd been swimming for an hour or so I noticed something strange in the water. That's when I spotted the feces on the side of the pool and alerted the life guard. They had to get everyone out and drain the pool. Luckily, our party was wrapping up, so we just headed out at that point.

We also received some coupons for free Chick Fila kids' meals. I read the coupons wrong, though, so I only got a box of nuggets for each of the kids. That's what I get, I guess, for always teasing Daniel about not reading things thoroughly.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Manger Scene Night

This year the AWANA club at our church came up with a new idea for a special night. All the kids got to dress up as something from the Nativity. Danya, Gloria, and Brianna went as a group costume. They were Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Can you spot Brianna and Shane in the big group photo? It's like a Where's Waldo game.

We also came up with a new idea this year for the kids to be able to exchange gifts with their church friends. We had pre-loved stuffed animal swap. All the kids chose some of their most gently used stuffed animals and then did something special like crochet a tiny scarf or make a friendship bracelet or tie a ribbon on it, then they swapped with their friends. So now instead of a random mountain of stuffed animals, they have special ones that are from their best friends. It turned out to be a fun, almost no cost, idea.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Holiday Play Date

Katie's best friend, Elizabeth, and her two brothers came over for a play date a few weeks before Christmas. Their mom had to go to a cookie baking party, so we got to enjoy them for a few hours. The boys quickly disappeared downstairs to play video games with Shane and Kevin.

Elizabeth and Katie explored the upper floors of our house. Elizabeth showed Katie how to squeeze behind the couch and how to take ornaments off the tree. Then they giggled up a storm while shaking the ornaments like jingle bells. Then Katie showed Elizabeth how to climb onto the entertainment shelf. At one point Katie got stuck behind the couch and scraped some of the skin off her cheek. It was quite an eventful afternoon. We're really looking forward to having them over again some time!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Anywhere but her Bed

Katie seems to have an aversion to sleeping in her own bed. She would rather put herself to sleep on the floor, the couch, or pretty much any location other than her bed. When I tell her it's time to go to bed she stomps her little foot and yells, "Idoh WANT to go to bed!"

When I'm putting the other kids to bed, singing lullabye and saying prayers, she sneaks into their beds and pulls the covers up to her chin. But if I start to leave and shut the door she pops back up and runs to the door yelling, "I NOT go nigh-nigh, Mommy!" She'll very sweetly give hugs and kisses to all the other kids and tell them that she loves them. But she refuses to do anything that even looks like it might mean she's going to bed. She fights me over getting p.j.'s on, denies that she needs a clean diaper, and won't even let me take out her rubber bands. Daniel and I have instituted a bedtime for her finally, but she screams and fights it for an hour. I'm hoping this isn't a precursor of things to come.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Last Year of Cubbies

Kevin has been a cubbie in the AWANA program for the past three years. It's hard to imagine that next year he will graduate to the Sparkies. My baby boy will no longer be considered a pre-schooler. He's been doing really well this year... when he wants to. He's very pig headed and stubborn, like his parents, so sometimes he refuses to participate.

In general, though, he's done much better this year. He can repeat the verses easily and has been acting more like a leader in his class. He also seems to be outgrowing the separation anxiety he was going through last year. This year he is more interested in knowing what each of the patches he earns is for and asks me to sew them on for him. Last year it didn't really matter to him. Last year I also attempted to be one of his Cubbies teachers, but that didn't work out very well. I think it's good for him to have to adjust to teachers other than his mom since he has me as his teacher all day long. I'm proud of him and sad at the same time to see him growing up into such a confident young boy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Curriculum: Bible for Little Ones

A few people have asked me what curriculum I use to teach the bible to my younger children. Since Shane and Kevin are still just beginning readers, we use the Rod & Staff bible stories and coloring book. The boys, and Brianna, each have their own copy of the coloring book and they color a picture based on the bible story while I read it aloud to them.

I like this set because it has a chronological series of bible events from Adam and Eve all the way through to Revelation. It introduces my youngest ones to important figures from the bible and tells their story in an easy to understand way. The story of Jonah even has an interactive puppet to cut out and use with the book. For a few of the stories that they didn't explain in enough depth I read to the kids from Brianna's New International Reader's Bible. This is the version we've given each of our older girls. It's still accurate, but written for young readers.

Danya and Gloria are good readers, so for them we use a more advanced bible study program. We like the Kay Arthur series of study guides. They are written for the kids to follow on their own, with fill in the blanks, and instructions for how to really study and understand God's Word. Currently they are working their way through "How to Study Your Bible For kids", but this Fall we participated in a Mother/Daughter bible study at our church using the "Wrong Way, Jonah!" study guides.

Deck the Tree

I don't know why we bother buying ornaments for our tree. The kids seem to enjoy the flimsy paper ornaments that they made years ago the most. I suppose I should take the time to have them make better ornaments since they treasure the hand made ones so much. I've never bothered with elaborate crafts or things that would make me cry if they got broken. Maybe next year we'll try making some of those Styrofoam snowmen ornaments or baking clay ornaments.

At least the soft ornaments on our tree didn't hurt Katie when she pulled the whole thing over on top of herself. The fake tree branches actually did more damage, cutting her in about three different places on her face. Daniel says that next year we can buy a new, much bigger, tree because this one is very old and way too small for our new living room with it's 20 foot ceiling.

Friday, November 26, 2010

1/3 of the Way to 100

Turning 33 wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I got to go shopping with Daniel for Black Friday and he bought me not one, but two ice cream cakes. I even got a few nice gifts including a new book and a treadmill that I'd been wanting. I really enjoyed getting to go shopping super early in the morning without any kids. Daniel and I hit the stores at 4 a.m. and went until about 8 a.m. We got a big chunk of our Christmas shopping knocked out that day. It was a sad day, too, though because lots of Daniel's family were heading home. It was a crazy week, but one I will always remember.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holding Hadassah

Katie and Kevin both enjoyed getting to hold someone littler than them. They were fascinated with her, even though she can't do much yet. She is so pretty and such a content little girl.

All the talk of babies and getting to hold everyone else's babies lately has made me get that old familiar longing for another one. I told Daniel that if we can adopt one more time first, then I'd be ready to try again. That may be two years away at least, but it makes me feel better knowing that Katie isn't necessarily the last. We'll see what God has planned for us.

A House Full & A Heart Full

We had the best Thanksgiving this year! Daniel's entire immediate family agreed to come from Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida to spend the week with us in our new home. We had 19 kids and 10 adults all under one roof, and all but two of them actually slept here! Every room was full to bursting, but the kids had a great time and Daniel was so proud to welcome his family into his home. We've never owned a place big enough to fit this many before.

I'm still amazed we managed to fit everyone onto the stair case for our annual group photo. I was also happy that our former foster daughters, Smaly and Selina, were able to be with us again for Thanksgiving. This is the third year they've joined us. Daniel had to climb a chair and brace the tripod and camera on the kitchen counter to get this photo. Then, while I was holding Katie up on the stairs I somehow managed to twist my back and pull a muscle. I couldn't lift my arms or carry anything and it hurt to move for about two days afterwords.

Daniel printed an 8 x 10 of this photo and I framed it and hung it... you guessed it... on the wall of the staircase.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nos Familia

During the week of Thanks giving we were so blessed to be able to have Daniel's brother, Ben, and his family come all the way from Texas to stay with us. They drove to Oklahoma and then flew the rest of the way here to Colorado. That's quite a trip with three kids including their sweet new baby girl, Hadassah.

Ben teaches high school Spanish in Del Rio during the school year, and then he packs up his family during all the breaks to lead mission teams into Mexico. His wife, Diana, is native to Mexico. Her family runs an orphanage just across the border in Acuna. She is learning English much faster than I am learning Spanish. She even substitute teaches sometimes for Ben.

While they were here, they let me take portraits of their family. Little Nehmi never smiled once. I wish I knew what he was thinking behind those big brown eyes. Also during their stay, Ben took a long run every morning. On Thanksgiving morning he was gone for four hours and we all thought he got lost. He hadn't brought his cell phone with him, so we all went out in teams looking for him. We needn't have worried. He timed his run perfectly to be back in time for the important part, food!

Brewery Tour

Okay, so it's not the first place Daniel and I would think of spending an afternoon, but Jennie and Matt's idea to visit the local breweries in downtown Denver was kind of fun. We got to see a part of the area we live in that we don't normally take time to appreciate.

We are not beer aficionados, so this was a unique experience for us. We learned a lot from Matt who really knows his beers. He even bought me a pint. When we went out later that evening with Daniel's two sisters Jennie and Robin and their two husbands, both named Matt, we visited another microbrewery and had even more to drink, then we played trivia for a few minutes at Dave & Buster's. Overall, I think I was reminded, rather well, why I should never take up drinking as a hobby.

My two favorite parts of the day were taking a photo with Daniel in the phone booth outside a British pub, and enjoying the beautiful Denver architecture, especially the old brick buildings. It was also fun to have some time with just adults. We really appreciated Daniel's dad, Wayne, being the designated driver so we could all taste the strange brews.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quite Simply... Daniel

This man still drives me crazy. No one else makes me as happy or as furious, as sentimental or as excited. Some days I think my world revolves around when he will be home and when he will wake up. I still get butterflies when he crinkles his eyes at me and my eyes tear up when I see him snuggling and loving our kids. I love the way he loves us!

When we were younger I remember him driving the car while I leaned the seat back and just watched him, grateful to God for placing this amazing man in my life, and thinking how much I did not deserve him. I would sing to him sometimes as we drove along, "You are the love of my life, quite simply the love of my life!" He would smile that shy quiet Daniel smile at me and reach over to hold my hand. To this day I still can't believe how blessed I am to be married to this man.

Better than Paris

Danya took this photo of Daniel and I. She said it looked like one of those "Paris photos" where a couple is sitting next to a window with the city of Paris outside. Daniel and I used to talk and make "someday" plans about taking a trip to Europe, maybe for our 15th or 20th anniversary. I've always wanted to see Ireland and Italy. We even planned online how we'd travel by train from Paris to Rome. But the money always seems to be needed elsewhere.

The vehicles break down, plumbing or electrical problems spring up, the kids have endless needs, the schools come up with new things the kids MUST have, or we get new foster kids who arrive with so little and need so much. We realized that it just isn't important enough to us to live on nothing so that we can save every penny to take a one week trip. So in the mean time I'll remember this poem that I read in 2000, the year Danya was born, and has meant so much to me over the years:

"You are the trip I did not take; You are the pearls I cannot buy; You are my blue Italian lake; You are my piece of foreign sky."
-Anne Campbell

My children let me see the world around me with new eyes. They reawaken me to the wonder and possibilities in every day. Why marvel at what others have done long ago when I can be excited by what my children are doing each day?

Fall Photo Shoot 2010

This was the first time I got to break out my mini home photo studio to take portraits of our kids in our new home. We moved the kitchen table and set everything up by the sliding glass doors. I'm still trying to find the best lighting, but I think they turned out alright.

We all wore red shirts because Daniel's family was coming that week for Thanksgiving and his sister Robin had suggested that everyone wear either black or red. Since I like to take portraits at Valentine's Day, Easter, and Christmas every year, I think I'll need to make the guys all wear pink for Valentine's Day in order to distinguish those photos from these. Of course, I may have to drug Daniel to get him to agree to it...