Monday, May 30, 2011

Early Father's Day Present

We've been wanting a good grill for years. We used part of our tax return this year to buy one to grace our new deck. Daniel has been cooking up a storm on it. Now that we've had all the basic foods, I'm hoping he'll get a little adventurous and try shish kabobs and steaks. The best thing he's made so far has been bacon wrapped burgers. Mmmm. This grill is fun because it can hold a lot of food on it's five main burners and can cook a side dish on the sixth burner on the left hand side. It's got all kinds of fun features like holders for the metal shish kabob sticks it comes with. The important thing, is that Daniel seems to really enjoy it.

We went to a baby shower for some friends where Daniel met a man who gave him some grilling tips and advice like "always keep a spray bottle of water handy for when the grill flames up" and "pre-cook the chicken a bit in the oven or boil it to avoid serving raw chicken or having to blacken it." I love that Daniel isn't afraid to ask questions and take advice.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Garden of the Gods with Kids

Daniel and I hiked the Garden of the Gods last year for the first time on our anniversary. It was a very different experience from this year when we took all the kids. I'd say it was actually more fun. It was very hot out, but a lot of the trails were shaded by tall trees, so it wasn't unbearable. The kids climbed on every rock they could find and Katie jumped off of everything she could find. We passed horse back riders and joggers, but mostly it felt like we were alone. I took so many photos of wide open spaces, gorgeous blue sky above and strange rock formations. The kids started competing to get into unique locations on the rocks and trees and trail so that I would take their picture. I heard endless yells of, "Mommy! Look at me!" and had my heart in my throat most of the time fearing that someone was going to fall.

Daniel was in his element, loving every minute of it, and even helping Katie climb onto the tallest rocks since she was determined to get up anything the kids could get up on. We got lots of incredulous looks from parents who passed us with just one or two kids and already looked frazzled and exhausted. I just laugh when I see that, because there's something about being part of this big group that just invigorates us. It makes it all more fun. And it's hard for any one person to whine or complain when they see 7 other kids all toughing it out. The photos came out great. After I finished the scrapbook pages in our foster daughters' album, I let them take the whole thing to a visit to show their family. Their uncle seemed amazed at all the activities they've done and trips they've taken in the five months they've been here. But to us, it just seems like normal life.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Couch

Craigslist is one of the most amazing inventions of my time. Simple, yet incredibly useful. We've found everything from inexpensive Christmas gifts to large furniture items at ridiculously low prices. Recently, we found this new couch that has a fold out ottoman and a recliner built in for just $200.

Our friend, Jim, helped Daniel pick it up from the seller and move it into our house. They spent hours trying to disassemble it and our house in the hopes of getting it into the basement. No such luck. It was too wide to fit through the sliding glass doors, too long to go down the basement stairs. We finally gave up around 1 am the next morning and just replaced the living room couch, instead.

Our old couch and recliner had seen long lives. We bought the couch, our first big expensive piece of furniture, back in 2000 shortly before Danya was born. So it was 11 years old. The recliner we had found with a free sign on it by the side of the road one day a couple of years ago. It was stained and smelled of smoke, but we cleaned it up and it worked well for us. We listed it as a free item on Craigslist and left it in our driveway. A few days later the kids came from playing outside and told us a man was loading it into his truck. We had another guy stop by a few hours later to ask if it was still there. I hope it continues to be useful to another family for years to come. We sure love our new one. Finally, our whole family of 10 can snuggle up together on the couch to watch movies.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean in 3D

We were able to use some of the free prepaid tickets we won at the foster parent banquet to take our friends, Brandy and Jim, to see Pirates of the Caribbea: On stranger tides in 3D at a great theater. This movie theater has a long wooden bar in front of each row of seats where you can order food and drinks and have them while you watch the movie.

After the movie was over, we walked with our friends to a nearby Dairy Queen to have icecream. It was so much fun getting to have adult conversation without kids underfoot. Our babysitter watched their kids and ours at our house, so the kids got to have fun together, too. I'm looking forward to using the tickets to take a few more friends to the movies.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Home Improvement

Since we bought our new home in October of last year we've been steadily making changes. We painted the kids' rooms, all but one. The first weekend in May we finally painted the last one, "Junie B.'s" room. She chose "baby blue" her favorite color and helped paint it. We've now finally replaced every light inside the whole house on all three floors. Daniel had gone through last fall and replaced a lot of the smaller ceiling lights and put ceiling fans in the four non-basement bedrooms. With the first part of our tax returns arriving, we were able to replace the kitchen, foyer, dining room, and living room lights. The one in the living room had just been a bare bulb that hadn't been replaced since 2004 when the house was built.

The problem with that light was that the ceiling was 16 feet off the ground, right in the center of the room. So we needed to rent a 14 foot A-frame ladder from Home Depot to reach it. The ladder was also helpful for replacing the pendant light in the foyer (entry way) of our home. The old lights were all bottom of the line cheap gold builder's lights. The new ones are brushed nickle (except the dining room chandelier) with white opaque globes. They're so pretty, and instantly improved the look of our home. Those gold lights always reminded me of the fixtures in every trailer I ever grew up in.

We also bought some tan "bisque" colored paint for the dining room, some accent spots in the living room around the fire place, and the back side of the kitchen island. Next for us, is buying a few last curtains and replacing all the faucets. So far we've only replaced the faucet in the guest bathroom. We hope to eventually replace the carpet on the main floor and replace the tile with wood, but that may take a while before we can do all that. In the meantime, I'm loving my house more each day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Middle of May, we've learned to expect tornadoes in Oklahoma, but here in Colorado it catches us off guard. They don't call this part of the country "tornado alley" and it seems like almost everyone has a basement, whereas in Oklahoma the soil isn't right for basements, the water table is too high.

This year I was home alone with the kids when the sirens went off. We thought at first they were just testing the system again, so we ignored it and continued our home school work. When it continued a long time I went outside to listen to it, despite the rain. The annoying thing is that the whole message is said in Spanish first, so I had to wait through it to find out if we were in danger.

There was a tornado spotted nearby and an immediate order to find shelter. We brought the laptop into the basement bathroom and the kids kept their shoes on while we huddled inside watching a video on Netflix while checking the radar online every few minutes. It was about an hour of the kids trying to be brave while asking constant questions that I couldn't answer. Daniel called me on my cell phone and told me to stay hunkered down. He was going to drive home, even though I didn't think it was safe. After the hail stopped I took a photo. At least the kids got a real "tornado drill" unlike the regular kind where we all just pretend. I'm glad I don't live in tornado alley anymore, though, because it's so much scarier when you have children of your own.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Boo's Princess Party

"Boo" turned 7 in May. She is a big fan of all Disney princesses and especially loves the Little Mermaid. We went all out for her party. There was a treasure chest full of jewels for all the guests to wear, everyone came in costume, and there was even a treasure hunt to find chocolate gold coins. My friend, Brandy, loaned me a cake pan and helped me prepare the icing. I had so much fun decorating her. It was really a Barbie cake pan, but "Boo" absolutely loved it.

We had some special guests at the party. This was the weekend that we got to do respite for two little girls whose foster parents we had met at the foster parent banquet. They were adorable, although they reminded me of little female versions of Shane when he first came to us. The three girls from the foster family who provided respite for "Boo" and "Junie B." also came to the party. So, in total at her party there were 5 former foster kids and 4 current foster kids. The party went really well and everyone had a great time. I even took "Boo" to the beauty salon where she got a haircut and had rainbow sparkle foil strands added to her hair. I think it was a party to remember for "Boo".

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Danya and The Nightingale

Danya's 5th grade class performed "The Nightingale" this year. She was one of the main characters, the time keeper. It was a musical, and the girl who played the main character had the most beautiful voice I've heard from a kid. Danya is a very good little actress. She always does well in things like this. Like when they were supposed to be listening to the singing of the little nightingale, Danya actually used facial expressions that made you think she was hearing it. She wore Gloria's old geisha girl halloween costume and looked great in the play.

Gloria's Musical

Gloria was in a musical American history class at Options this year. They spent all year working on it and did a fantastic job. They sang about the fight for independence, westward expansion, the industrial revolution, slavery, the stock market crash, the great depression, and everything else. Gloria had some good lines and spoke her parts confidently. There was a funny part at the end when the kids accidentally spelled "AMERICA" with giant letters in the wrong order. After it was over the teacher lined them up correctly so the parents could take photos. Gloria is behind the "A" in this picture.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Marriage Workshop

We went to our first ever foster parent retreat in May during Mother's Day weekend. It was a workshop designed to help with communication and strengthening marriages. It covered better listening skills, keeping romance alive, and how to present a united front to the kids. It was really good, although some of the subject matter was a bit uncomfortable. We had lunch with some ladies who gave us information on a free camp for foster kids. Saturday night we went into downtown Evergreen to walk along main street, have dinner at a pizza place, and take photos.

Sunday afternoon, after the retreat ended, we went for a short hike in the mountains. It was beautiful, perfect 70 degree weather. We climbed rocks and strolled through the trees, raced up a hill and took pictures near some giant crosses that looked like part of a Christian camp in the woods. There was an old stone bridge over a running brook and very few people anywhere in our vicinity the whole time.

While we were gone, Shannon stayed with six of our kids while the other two were in respite care with another foster family. Since they were only two blocks away, they all got together and played at the park near our home on Saturday. It all worked out perfectly and Daniel and I very much enjoyed the night away.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Foster Parent Banquet 2011

In an odd coincidence, this year at the foster parent banquet we ended up sitting next to the foster parents who would be providing respite for our two girls the next day. They live just two blocks behind our house and their oldest daughter, Alecia, is one of Danya's best friends from school. They also have two other younger daughters, so "Junie B." and "Boo" had plenty of girls to play with.

The other couple at the table were looking for someone to provide respite for them soon. We said we'd be willing, but it would exceed the 8 kid limit, so they'd need to get permission from our certification worker. They called us a few days later and said that our county had approved it, so we watched the girls the next weekend. Then our certification worker came over to say that there was a mix up. She'd been out of town and the caseworker for the OTHER family with our last name was contacted about the respite. That family was approved, not ours, because they only have a few kids. Oops.

At the banquet there were several drawings and we won a bunch of free tickets to the Cinebarre movie theater. Daniel and I love to go to the movies! We decided that we'd use the free tickets to invite friends from Sunday school to go with us and just pay for our own tickets. So far we've gotten one couple to go with us, but scheduling has been a problem with the others we've asked.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Like Manna

When the Israelites were wandering lost in the desert back in the time of Moses, they were fed with a substance that fell from the sky and made a wonderful bread. They called it "manna", which literally means "what is it?" because they had no clue. To this day, we don't know exactly what it was.

Similarly, a short time after "Boo" joined our family, she developed a skin rash on her hands whose cause we could not pinpoint. We tried lotions and creams galore, changed our hand soap and shampoo, to no avail. Finally, we took her to the doctor who was also stumped. He said that if she was a mom he would say she had "dishpan hands", but that made no sense for her. He gave us a prescription strength cream that was a stronger version of something we were already using.

The cream cleared up the problem, but the doctor said it would probably come back since we had not identified the culprit. My theory was that the hand soap or antibiotic hand wash at the school was causing the problem. Since school ended the problem has not come back, which makes me think I was right.

Special Time with "Junie B."

For several months we've been choosing a winner each day who had the best behavior, got all their work done for the day, and went above and beyond in some way. Until Daniel's schedule changed at work, this worked out very well, because he was on day shift. "Junie B." won a good majority of the time because she is very responsible and a hard worker. She is often the first to volunteer to help with things, too.

This particular night we made cookies. Sometimes we've played board games or cards. Once "Junie B.", Danya, and I all walked to 7-11 to buy snacks in the dark. Special time is about getting to do something special with a parent and rewarding the child for their hard work and good attitude. All the kids love to win. The few times Shane has won we've tried to make it a really big deal, since he has such a hard time making it through a whole day without doing something he shouldn't. Danya has struggled sometimes when she doesn't win, because she is one of those kids who needs to be the "good kid" all the time. Kevin likes the concept, but thumbs his nose at the actual requirements. That's just Kevin.

A Day for Mom

I think a perfect Mother's Day would start with getting to sleep in, while the kids are completely quiet, maybe out for breakfast with their dad. Then I'd take a long hot bath while reading a book. Next, I'd spend the afternoon with my family, playing with the kids or going somewhere fun, followed by getting to scrapbook for a couple of hours before bedtime. Finally, we'd put the kids to bed and have some grown up time watching a movie or playing a video game together while eating something yummy.

This Mother's Day was pretty close to perfect. We celebrated a few days early since Daniel and I were going to be gone on Mother's Day at a foster parent retreat. I got some scrapbooking presents and got to shop at Michael's crafts for a little while, too. The day we celebrated just happened to be Cinco de Mayo.