Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Fabulous Year 2012

 Our first ever New Year's Eve party was a success.  We had two families join us (which is plenty when you add in all our kids) and we celebrated at 10pm which is when the New Year arrives in New York.

We played Minute to Win It games that came in a board game that Daniel got me for Christmas.  The kids had to do things like toss a shoe right side up onto the coffee table with their toes, balance an egg on their heads, and generally do funny moves that we all enjoyed laughing at.  Daniel did a few of them, too.

Then, at midnight, we used our computer to watch the ball drop online and then Daniel and another dad dumped balloons and confetti on the kids.  It was a really fun party, but I think the preparations were just as fun.  We blew up 75 balloons, decorated the house, took photos of each of the kids in a fun New Year hat and made silly appetizers.  The kids used mini cookie cutters to cut shapes out of bologna and I divided biscuit dough into thirds to make little sausages into mini pigs in a blanket.  It was the best New Years we've ever had.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Fun 2012

 We were so excited that our former foster daughters, Molly and Lina, got to join us for Christmas weekend.  Their family is Buddhist and does not celebrate Christmas, but they didn't mind if we included their girls.

On Christmas Eve we went to church about 4pm for a short service.  Or, I should say, Daniel and nine of the kids went.  I got stuck at a Supercuts waiting for Molly and Kevin to get hair cuts.  We came in ten minutes before three.  They said we could get done by 3:30.  They didn't START until 3:30.  So we missed most of the Christmas Eve service at church.

The part we did get to enjoy was very nice, though.  It was fun having all our kiddos there, although we were all missing our other two girls who left in August.  Afterwards, we went home and opened our traditional Christmas Eve gifts, which are always new PJs so the kids will all look nice on Christmas morning.  "Hoops" especially loved her Pink Panther PJs, jumping up and down, smiling and laughing.  She said it was the best Christmas ever... before it was even Christmas yet.

We also did a special family lunch.  I prefer to do the big meal on Christmas Eve so that we can all relax on Christmas day.  I spent most of the week leading up to it wrapping presents every night until midnight and then most of December 24th working on it, too.  Christmas was much more relaxing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Reason for the Season

So many people talk about remembering the Reason for the Season every Christmas.  They put up little manger scenes in their homes and yards and make sure they send out Christmas cards with some sort of Christian message.  And yes, Christ's birth is important.  But if He'd only been born and lived and died, there would be no "good news", no salvation from sin and death, no eternity in heaven with our Lord.  This year, I'm reminded even more of the importance of what Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection means.  Because this year, my son Kevin asked Jesus to be the Lord of his life.  This very night, my only begotten son has also become my brother in Christ.  And just like the night our savior was born, there are angels rejoicing in heaven this very night.

Fun with Friends

My friend, Deanna, called yesterday while Daniel and I were out Christmas shopping.  She invited our whole family over for a play date today.  Now, anyone who willingly and without nudging, invites a family of 11 to their home, is a good friend and should never be turned down.  It's not like we have droves of people asking us to descend with our horde upon their house.  Deanna's house is not overly large, either, which makes it interesting when we arrive.  Just getting in the door can be tough with that many kids trying to get out of snowy boots and coats.

The kids had fun playing dress up and Wii with their friends.  Katie and "Happy" had some difficulties sharing with two year old Elizabeth, but they worked it out.  Katie especially loved taking care of nine month old Braeden.  She held him and fed him some baby cereal.  She played with him in his walker.  She's going to be a very good mommy someday.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Braid Envy

 I've been spending so much time braiding "Hoop's" and "Happy's" hair these past couple of months, I think the other girls are starting to get a little envious.  It's true, their hair needs do mean that they get hours of one-on-one time with me weekly.  Just recently, Brianna and Danya asked if they could have their hair braided special, too.  I gave it a shot, although it's really not anything like braiding the other girls' hair.  What I'd really like to try is braiding all six of my girls' hair in the same style sometime.  Maybe I'll do it on a Saturday night, so they can match on Sunday morning.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tbone Talent

Danya, my little trombonist in training, had an end of year test of sorts.  She had to perform a piece, all by herself, in front of the class, accompanied only by a background CD.  She was nervous, but she did fine for a first year player.  I was very proud of her.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Options Music Concert

 Danya's drum class performed a special for Christmas.  Danya played the drum that she designed and built herself.  She painted a bible verse, Matthew 4:9 "He who has ears, let him hear", on it along with suns that swirl around the base.  She stretched the hide across the top and wrapped the ropes herself.  The bottom is PVC pipe and the top is a flower pot.  Danya even had a solo during one of their pieces.

Brianna also performed with her Hands on Music class.  She did a little dance and played the hand bells.  The auditorium was dark, so it was hard to get good photos.  They both had a great time, though.

Occupational Tree Therapy

Every Tuesday, "Happy" has occupational therapy with Miss Christine.  She works on things like fine motor skills and sensory issues.  Last week, Christine tested "Happy" with finger paints.  Apparently, this is something that "Happy" used to have an extreme aversion to.  Now, although she doesn't smile while touching the paint, she does allow Christine to press her hand into it.

After "Happy" made a finger paint Christmas tree with sequins for decorations, Miss Christine allowed Katie to make one, too.  Katie gets so excited watching "Happy" during her therapy sessions.  It's hard for her not getting to participate most of the time.  During speech therapy we have to remind Katie not to tell "Happy" the answers to questions.  But during occupational therapy, Miss Christine often asks Katie to demonstrate how to do something.  Then "Happy" will follow her example.  I think Katie has been a very good influence on "Happy".  Miss Christine agrees.  She's only going to come every other week from now on, since "Happy" has improved so much.  She's amazed at "Happy's" progress.  We are, too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Yarn Extensions

I attempted a new style this month.  We put in extensions using black yarn.  Yup, that's yarn.  It's just your basic cheap soft Red Heart yarn from Hobby Lobby.  But when they wear it, it's hard to tell that it's not their real hair until you look up close.  You can tell my first attempt on "Hoop's" hair was a bit uneven.  About a week later we redid the short ones so that they're all more uniform in length.

Both girls really love the extensions, although, after three weeks, "Hoops" is ready for a change.  I still can't believe we got "Happy" to sit still for the hour and a half this style took to put in.  That's not even counting the time it took to take out her previous style, detangle and wash her hair first.  She swings her extensions and grins so big her face may split.  And she doesn't mess them up, either, which is nice.  This may be my new favorite hair style for "Happy".

Friday, December 09, 2011

Hair Bravery

 I'm trying to do slightly more interesting styles on "Happy" lately.  I feel guilty when I just leave it in poofs.  But it's intimidating.  She moves so much while I'm trying to do her hair and it just doesn't seem worth all the effort when she's going to ruin it the first day.

I'm also trying a few ideas of my own, rather than just copying straight off the internet.  This is a new style.  I did three flat rope twists on each side going back into double pony tails.  It took about 40 minutes to do.  We'll see how long it lasts this time.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Drama Drama Drama

 So, I was informed on Tuesday that my three girls' drama performances were actually scheduled to begin at 4pm, not 4:30.  Which meant that there was no way I could be on time.  You see, normally, our babysitter Shannon comes to our house after school on Tuesdays so that I can pick 5 of our kids up at 3:30 from Options and she can be home with the two youngest when our other two kids arrive from the nearby public school at about 3:45.

That wouldn't work this time, because we wanted all the kids to get to come to the performances.  So I arrived about 10 minutes late (it's a 30 minute drive) and was immediately bombarded by a teacher coming to tell me that my son Shane had an accident and had a giant goose egg on his head from colliding with  another kid.

Then I went up to see the show.  But "Happy" was not so happy and kept fussing and climbing and squirming.  Kevin and "Lego Man" wouldn't stay sitting where I put them.  I couldn't get a good photo of the stage without getting in front of people.  Ugh.  It's so hard attending events without Daniel.

Then, as I was rounding up kids and costumes and clothes and accessories, I saw a strange man talking to some of my kids.  He was telling them that he'd taken lots of photos of them. ?!*?  I asked him how he knew them and he said he wasn't a parent or a teacher... but he had a nephew there.  Still didn't explain why he was taking pics of my kids...  But it turned out that the nephew was named Lucas and was in Shane and Kevin's class.  That's the name of a kid who has been bullying Shane since school started!  I had the man point out Lucas and his mom and went over to meet her and see if we could find a solution.

Turns out, it was the wrong kid.  There are two boys named Lucas in the class.  Okay, not a problem.  So, I talked to the mom a few minutes.  She told me about another kid in the class who has been fighting with her son and asked what was going on with Shane and the other Lucas.  We laughed about something my 2 year olds were doing.  Then I left.  No big deal, right?  Apparently, though, the lady and her husband told the director of the school a very different story.  I got a stern email saying she hoped "none of the other students had witnessed" what happened and that she expected parents to set an example.  HUH?!? I have no idea what the mom must have said, but I do know the uncle had jokingly said that for a minute there, when I'd gone to talk to the mom, he thought I was going over to hit her.  Who even thinks that way?!  What kind of adults do they normally associate with?  I'm baffled.  I explained the situation to the director who apologized for pre-judging and I let her know she could give my email and phone # to the correct Lucas' mom so we can set up my plan of play dates or something so the boys can become friends outside of class.  I'm starting to miss the old Options program.  Much less drama.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Unexpected Christmas Surprises

Good surprise?  We really wanted a bigger better Christmas tree but couldn't afford a new one.  Then we found out some friends were selling theirs for $50!

Bad surprise? We found this lovely little note on our front door.  He smashed in the grill on our 15 passenger van. But on the plus side, we took it in for an estimate and the guy said we could go to a parts place and replace it ourselves for under fifty bucks. At least our next door neighbor was nice enough to tell us he did it.  He wrote on the back of his business card so we can get in touch with him... because walking over and knocking would be awkward?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

On the Nice List

The kids have been bringing me their Christmas Wish Lists written on 3x5 cards so I can easily carry them in my purse. Clever idea. The not so smart part? Putting things on the list that we can't possibly afford. Try explaining to a five year old that he's got a $100 total gift budget. This year we're including our former foster daughters, Molly and Lina, so we're looking at a minimum $1,400 bill. There is no room for a new Nintendo DS because your old one has a cracked screen. And you're not getting a puppy or a pony. Why do I suddenly feel like the Grinch?

Cancelled Cookie Party

 I got up before six am on a Saturday morning to start getting ready for the mother/daughter cookie swap at church.  The girls and I spent hours mixing, rolling, cutting, baking, and decorating three dozen cookies.  It was my first time ever making these, and we had several unfortunate failed attempts.  I learned that you need extra flour to make them solid enough and that you shouldn't lay wax paper under the rolled dough.

I also learned that if you try to add candy cane hooks so that they can double as ornaments, you must make sure the candy canes are in the oven for less than a minute or they will melt and harden onto the pan so that you need a jackhammer to remove them.  Kind of frightening to

think what they do inside your stomach after you eat
them.  Anyway, after all our work, Daniel pointed out that it had been steadily snowing all morning.  He took the van out for a test drive around the neighborhood and declared the roads to be too dangerous to drive.  We were literally bundled up, carrying our containers of cookies, ready to walk out the door, when he came in and made this announcement.  It was quite a disappointment.  But then we thought about it... and realized that we would get to eat all three dozen of the cookies we'd made and not have to give them away.  Ah, sweet disappointment.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Home Made Ornaments

 We baked our own ornaments this year out of flour, salt, and water.  The kids enjoyed rolling out the dough and cutting out designs.  We had so much fun that we decided to make sugar cookies the next day.  They painted them and then waited anxiously for them to dry.

Conveniently, their Wednesday night church AWANA club was having an ornament contest the following week.  Danya entered her angel.  Gloria decided, instead, to crochet an ornament.  It was a neat little red and green ball.  She filled it with coins so that it would jingle.  I'm constantly impressed by the things she makes.

Poor "Hoops".  Her ornament broke before she even got
to paint it.  "Happy" dropped it on the table.

Snow, Right on Time

I was really hoping we wouldn't get snow for Thanksgiving.  My wish was granted and we had absolutely perfect Fall weather.  It didn't even rain until the drive home.  Then, a week later, we got a perfect snow.  The kids were able to make snow men and throw snowballs, but it wasn't so bitterly cold that they didn't enjoy being outside.  It's days like these when they really enjoy being homeschooled.  We can put the books aside for an hour or two in the middle of the day when the sun's nice and warm and just go play.  I'm looking forward to next year when all our kids will be home.  "Hoops" and "Lego Man" missed out on some serious snow fun.  But "Happy" and Katie had a blast.  The kids favorite activity?  Eating snow, of course.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My 34th

34... not nearly enough years to have enjoyed this wonderful life yet.  Plenty of time to feel blessed and happy and thankful.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Party

Okay, technically, it wasn't supposed to be a party.  But we invited two large families of our friends, there was food, and a pinata.  What would you call it?

My best friend from high school, Glenda, brought her crew of four (and a half if you count the one on the way) and later our former youth pastor and his wife brought their five (or was it six?).  Daniel and I became friends through that youth group when we were teens.  We didn't go to the same school.  Glenda and I also met there.  It's hard to believe that was about 18 years ago. 

CJ and Lisa were a really great youth group leadership team.  I find myself repeating a lot of the wisdom they taught us to my daughters.  I was also happy to see how quickly our son "Lego Man" made friends with their 8 year old son, Benjamin, and Glenda's two boys who are about the same age, also.  They were inseparable almost within minutes of meeting each other.  Glenda says that her sons have been asking when they'll see my son again.  The feeling is mutual.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Big Crazy Happy Thanksgiving!

 Thanksgiving 2011 was quite the event.  I figured out that Daniel, all by himself, brought 15 people to his parents' house this year.  Then his sister, Robin, brought her crowd of 10, and his brother, Ben brought another 5, and then Daniel's parents' invited a friend from church.  We had quite the full house!

I had prepared my mom ahead of time, letting
her know that our soon to be adopted daughter is 9 years old, but she's as tall as a
preteen.  So, my mom walked in and saw
 Grandma Nancy's young African American guest.  She said, "Jessica said you were tall! I'm your new grandma!" and she gave her a big hug.  Whoops!  Oh well, everyone was laughing as they explained who was who.  "Hoops" instantly liked her new grandma and wanted to take pictures with her.  And my mom, known as "Granny Jo" to the kids, managed to get "Lego man" to let her give him bear hugs and sit on her lap on the couch while they got to know each other a bit.  My dad, a shy man in big group settings, grabbed some pie and went out back for a tour of
Grandpa Wayne's green house.

I have to say that it felt a bit like the miracle of the loaves and fishes where Jesus feeds a crowd of 500 with a little boy's lunch.  Somehow, what didn't look like nearly enough food, managed to stretch to feed everyone and still have some leftovers for dinner that night. I'm always amazed how that works out.  Guess I'll add it to my "Things I'm Thankful for" list this year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We *heart* Oklahoma!

 There is just something magical about Oklahoma in the Fall.  It's my favorite season there.  And Grandma and Grandpa's house is the perfect place to be.  They're just far enough out in the country to enjoy the wide open spaces, and just close enough to town to be able to run to the convenience store.  Far enough away that you aren't tempted to pick up McDonald's, but close enough that there's a park to walk to.  We all especially love the horses that roam the neighbor's pasture!

One of the absolute best things about their house is the yard.  They have three acres that are beautifully maintained, including a mini forest that they keep mowed during the summer, so you can stroll among the trees and play in the leaves during the Fall.  Grandpa's new green house is interesting, as all his projects are.  They have a

 boat and playset and toys in the backyard and of course the obligatory tree swing.  The kids would live out there all week if we'd let them.

The very best thing, though, about their home, is the love and the welcome that's always waiting there.  I know that's why our former foster daughter, Molly, enjoys coming back with us each year.  She pointed out that Daniel's parents will be her baby's only living great grandparents... and what GREAT
great grandparents to have!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Off to Oklahoma!

 This year we made the 12 hour drive to Grandma's house in Oklahoma with 11 kids!  I fully expected it to be a nightmare.  We had two 2 year olds and one pregnant teenager with us.  I figured we'd be making bathroom stops about every 30 minutes.  Instead, everything went smoothly, there was almost zero complaining or fighting, everyone played nicely together and enjoyed the activities we brought along for the trip.

The only bad thing that happened was that, when we stopped for lunch at McDonald's, I left Danya to guard my phone while I took "Happy" to the bathroom.  She messed with it without permission and ended up accidentally putting a coded lock on it.  We couldn't figure it out.  We called the phone company who couldn't help us, either.  All they could do was tell me how to do a complete reboot of the system.

Everything was lost.  It wiped my sim card (which I forgot to take out first) and deleted all my apps and downloads.  I had just bought a new $13 e-book.  That was gone, too.  I almost cried.  Then I got over it.  And started the slow process of trying to get my friends' phone numbers again.  I'd like to point out that I've had a cell phone for over a decade... but I've never lost all my phone numbers until we decided to buy a phone that had games on it that my kids actually want to play. Thank you very much, evil technology monster.

Monday, November 21, 2011

First Hair ART

 I didn't get to be there for my son's first hair cut.  I did, however, make sure I was the first one to take him to get some super cool "hair art".  You can see the before and after photos here.  I searched online and asked several hairdressers for recommendations.  The important thing was to find a place that really knew how to cut African American hair.  The place we found was "Freddy's Barber Shop" in Westminster.  They have a whole book of designs to choose from, or you can bring in your own drawing or clip art.  "Lego Man" was nervous at first, but he really liked it when it was done.  The sad part is that it only lasts about a week and a half before the hair grows out too much to see it.

We got this done the day before we were supposed to leave for our trip.  At the same time, Daniel took our big 15 passenger van to get new tires.  We knew it was going to cost about $600.  What we didn't know was that the shop was going to find a wobbly ball joint and say it would cost another $900 to replace it.  Eeek!

Daniel called our friend, James, who told Daniel to meet him at a different mechanic shop.  That place told us that the ball joint had been incorrectly installed originally.  They just reattached it and tightened it... for no charge! God is so good.  We're so thankful for the friends He's brought into our lives through our church who have helped us out in so many ways.