Thursday, June 30, 2011

Icecream and Orcs

For all three nights of our staycation we had a Lord of the Rings marathon. We watched one movie each night, staying up way too late. The first night we also had a banana split party. The kids were so tired, though, from a long fun-filled day, that they were falling asleep over their bowls of ice cream. We also let them buy "movie theater candy" for the second night and had popcorn the third night. "Junie B." and "Boo" had never seen the Lord of the Rings, and the other kids got to see it with fresh eyes due to greater maturity this time. Daniel and I saw the very first LOTR movie in the movie theater with Danya when she was just six months old. She slept through the whole thing.

Staycation Day 1: Brighton Rec Center

Our plans to go to Oklahoma for the 4th of July got cancelled at the last minute because the county where Daniel's folks live decided to ban fire works the night before we were going to leave. So, instead, we took the money we would have spent on gas and fire works, about $700, and used it to have a massive staycation right here at home.

We sat the kids down and explained our decision. There were some tears because everyone wanted to see grandparents and cousins. Then we made a list of fun things we'd all like to do. Top on the list was going swimming. First stop, the Brighton Rec Center pool. It has a huge slide that kids over 7 can go down alone and younger kids can go down with a parent. It also has a little alligator slide and a shallow play area with fountains for the little kids. The part that Daniel and I like is that we can get the whole family in for about $30.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Like Father, Like Son

Video Game Junkies. There's no cure. Today (8/20/11) I overheard this from my boys who were playing LEGO Star Wars III.
Shane: "Oh yeah! Show me what you got!"
Kevin: "I just killed you, Dude. You should be sad."

Peter Pan Park

Some friends invited us to join them at this splash park one Wednesday morning. I don't know it's real name, but it's known locally as the Peter Pan Park because it has a large clock tower, a pirate ship, a rope bridge, etc that is reminiscent of Peter Pan. It also has fountains and a stream running through the middle that's just deep enough to cover the kids' feet. Katie Grace likes the hollow logs you can climb inside.

Monday, June 27, 2011

True Date Night

With a family as large as ours and a schedule that seems full no matter what we plan, the times when we have a babysitter are usually not so that we can have couple time. Often, we end up getting groceries, or things for someone's birthday, or attending foster parent training, or supplies for a project, or a host of other things.

But every once in a while we get a chance to go on an actual date. To see a movie, or eat at a place that doesn't have a dollar menu, or just do something fun together. It's fun, but we always feel guilty about the expense. If you add up a few hours of babysitting, plus a meal or movie tickets, it adds up fast. Sometimes we ask the babysitter if she'll just play with the kids at the nearby park, or downstairs, so Daniel and I can watch a DVD or play a video game in our room. Sometimes we park somewhere a few blocks away and then take a long walk around the neighborhood. I've tried planning special time when the kids are asleep, but someone always either wakes up or ends up being sick.

It's almost impossible to plan time in advance. We never know when someone involved in our foster kids' cases will call and tell us that they need to come see the kids in our home or we need to take them somewhere or we need to rush paper work over to them. During the school year it's even worse, because the school adds it's own list of things that we MUST do. Recently, "Junie B.'s" caseworker signed us up to participate in a study by Denver University psych students. After the interviews are over, if they choose "Junie B." to participate further, she'll have two nights a week that she has to be at workshops with other "at risk" kids. On top of parent visits and counseling, that will leave one day a week for her to do all her home work and will mean that she doesn't have a day left to participate in AWANA. And this is supposed to be beneficial to her?

I don't know how other foster families make it without a good list of babysitters to help them get an occasional hand with the insanity that is their weekly schedule.

New Babysitter

We're breaking in a new babysitter named Alexis. She's 14 years old, a home schooler, the oldest in her family, and very responsible. Best of all, she knows how to be fun, but firm with our kids. I told her to be prepared, because some of our kids might just be on their best behavior the first few times she watches them, and show their worst once they feel more confident that she's not going to hurt them.

It takes a special person, and a very special teen, to be able to handle 8 kids. We've had adults who have watched them once and politely declined to ever watch them again. Not because they were bad, but because it takes a lot of patience and energy. Alexis did really well and the kids have all said they'd love to have her back. We're trying to be prepared since our regular babysitter is starting her senior year this Fall and won't be as available any more. I'm looking forward to the day that Danya turns 14 and is old enough to occasionally watch her younger siblings. It would be nice not to have to hire a babysitter just to get groceries. Sometimes I take the kids when I go, but it's a lot bigger job with that many people to manage.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Yard Sale 2011

We had our first yard sale in our new home at the end of June. It went well. There was supposed to be a neighborhood wide yard sale, but we only saw one other one in our area. We let the oldest girls be in charge of the money. By the end of the second day we'd made over a hundred bucks. We possibly could have done better if we'd sold kids' clothes, but we had so many bags and boxes of it out in the garage, that I really didn't want to mess with it. So we loaded them all up and took them in two trips to the Goodwill. We even sold our old light fixtures. My garage seems much larger now. I also used the opportunity to clean the garage out.

We went through every single box, including ones that had never been opened from our last move, but had been transported to our new house. It was amazing how many bags of trash we took out. I even found two old pay checks that I had never cashed. One of them was from the 90's! Probably no good now, but it definitely showed me that not taking care of my paperwork is hurting me. It was a relief to be done with the garage almost 9 months after we moved in.

Sadly, I had set aside several books and things that I wanted to keep and put them on top of a plastic box near the big garage door. Then the kids left the garage door open after riding their bikes when the yard sale was over and we had a massive thunderstorm come through. Everything got soaked. Maybe it was God's way of telling me that I didn't need to save any of the junk we found out there if it wasn't worth taking immediately into the house.

Tooth Two

Shane is losing teeth fast now. He thinks it's great. It's not helping his speech any. But he sure looks cute.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


This year, our church's vacation bible school theme was DRIVE!. It was about pushing on to win the race to receive the reward that God has for you if you live a life dedicated to Him. The kids had a fantastic week. On the last day Danya brought her friend Alecia. There were some seriously fun and funny moments. I enjoyed the one on one time with Katie. Since Daniel was working during VBS, I couldn't volunteer because I needed to be available if any of my kids had a problem.

During the day, before VBS, I was working on getting through school work with all the kids. We home school year round, and now with "Boo" and "Junie B." also doing math and reading with us, I've found myself rather busy. I run from one kid to the next trying to help everyone. I've learned that it's best if I tell the older kids to skip something they don't know and come back to it after I'm done working with the younger kids. Otherwise I can't focus on one task long enough to get anything accomplished. It's been slow but steady progress with "Boo", Kevin, and Shane's reading. With Shane especially it's been two steps forward, one step back. He has trouble retaining knowledge that he had a day or sometimes even hours before. "Boo" can read a word correctly three times at the top of a page, but by the time she gets to the bottom, she no longer recognizes the word and has to tackle it as if it were new to her.

Kevin doesn't really have any trouble with the actual reading, but he has a bad attitude and will often refuse to try. Shane gets overwhelmed at the slightest difficulty and breaks into tears and starts whispering his answers. Thank goodness the older girls have gotten to a point where they can work independently with just a little direction. Although, Brianna will often do an entire page of work even though she has no clue what she's reading. She seems to just write random answers and we end up having to erase it and do it all over again when I check her work.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Odd Father's Day

This year the youth group at our church had a Father's Day cook out and classic car show as a fund raiser for their upcoming mission trip. Since we normally don't do anything specific on Father's Day, we decided to attend. Afterwards, since I had failed miserably at finding time to get Daniel gifts, although we had made some homemade ones, we ended up going to the mall.

The kids were very excited since we only go there a couple of times a year. First Daniel got to pick out some new used video games at the Game Stop. Then we had lunch in the food court. But, oddly enough, we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon looking at curtains and shopping in household goods areas to try and find what Daniel really really wanted for Father's Day... new pots and pans.

Yes, my husband is the main cook in our family. I have a few tried and true dishes that I can make, but Daniel enjoys the process much more than I do. Unfortunately, all the cookware we found that was large enough to make a meal for our family of 10 was also too expensive. Daniel's quest is not yet over.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cookout with Friends

Our friends, Brandy and Jim, invited us over to spend the day and have a cook out. They are such amazing people. I feel like I learn something every time I talk to them. And they aren't overwhelmed by out large family. Their five and our 8 get along so well together.

Friday, June 17, 2011

So long, Music Man!

Irish Blessing:
May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

We said good-bye to "Music Man" at the Children and Family Services building. We got to meet his father who he will be living with in another state. What must it have been like for that man to suddenly learn he had an 8 year old son? He said he's not sure how to raise a boy, since he and his wife only have a preschool age daughter. His caseworker says he's a good guy and will do fine. I hope so. For "Music Man's" sake. He's had enough heart ache for one life time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pirates Cove

For his good-bye party, our former foster son "Music Man" wanted to go to Pirate's Cove. We'd never been there before, but it was fairly inexpensive, so when his caseworker called and told us he'd asked if we would come, we agreed. All of the support staff from his case, his GAL, CASA, caseworker, birth mom, and former foster families were supposed to come.

The week that he was supposed to leave things went very badly in the home he was in, so we got the call that they wanted to place him with us again. They had to get a waiver to allow us to have over the 8 child limit since our house was already full. He stayed with us that week, and we transported him back and forth to visits every day with his birth mom. That Wednesday we took him to Pirate's Cove and met up with his other former foster family. Everyone from the county involved in his case had canceled, and so had his birth mom who had given birth again just a couple of weeks before.

We all had a good time, but got horribly sunburned. I forgot to put sunscreen on the tops of my feet. We brought our babysitter, Sarah, with us so that she could watch the kids for the last couple of hours they were there. Meanwhile, Daniel and I had to leave early to go to an adoption match party down in the Springs. We'd never been to one before, but were hoping to meet the caseworker for some kids we were interested in. They told us to go to the next party at White Fence Farms and they would bring the kids for us to meet.

Shane and Kevin got so burnt on their backs and chests because they don't normally go outside without shirts on. We let them run around shirtless in the house for three days afterwards while I constantly reapplied aloe. They loved the freedom, I think, because Shane has repeatedly asked if he could go shirtless again.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Raging Rapids

"Come swimming with us," they said. "It's a nice little river where the kids can float down on tubes."

HA! Translation? It was a raging rapid of icy cold death rushing across giant rocks. So, while most of us stood on the side, sucking up our courage to get our feet wet, Daniel and Jim took a few of the big kids further upstream. Danya and Gloria did alright, though they didn't make it very far. Daniel and Brianna came racing past us... without their tube. They had flipped out and been carried away in the current.

Daniel managed to eventually get himself and Bri to the side, but the tube was gone. Luckily, a stranger found the tube and gave it back. Daniel ended up hurting his legs pretty badily when he smashed into some rocks. Almost two months later they are still covered in scabs and healing slowly. He may have permanent scars. All I can say is thank God he and Bri were safe and next time I'M picking the swimming location.

Monday, June 06, 2011

First Tooth Fairy Visit

Shane has lost his first tooth as of June 6th, 2011. He was so excited to enter the big kid club. It wasn't long before the other front bottom tooth followed. My little boy is growing up.

Scrapbooking Party with Shannon

Our babysitter, and daughter of my heart, Shannon, gave Danya a scrapbooking kit for her birthday this year. Danya really enjoys it, but her mean mom doesn't often share her supplies. So this was a good opportunity for all the girls to get a chance to make their own album pages. It was messy and chaotic, which meant I didn't get anything done, but instead ran around helping everyone else. I enjoyed helping the girls use my tools to make some neat additions to their pages.

Normally, it's just me up in my loft, being intimidated by stacks of photos and trying to get pages done in 30 minute increments of time before the kids need me again. I'm working on 8 different albums currently. Each of the kids has their own in their color, except "Junie B." and "Boo" who share one. Then there is one for Daniel and I together. That's the most neglected one. Although, I looked through them recently and noticed that, for some reason, I keep neglecting Katie's album. I do about half the number of pages for hers as I do for the older kids. I'm including a photo of a layout I did today (when I'm typing this, July 21st) to illustrate what I think of as the two most important tips for scrapbooking moms with lots of kids.

1. Keep it simple and cheap.
2. Get as many photos on the page as possible.

These things are crucial for several reasons. Lots of kids means you can't afford a ton of supplies and you wouldn't have time to use them anyway. I prefer to invest my money in tools that can be used for endless numbers of layouts. My favorites are stamps and die cutting tools. I only use about 5 punches regularly: border punches, letter punches, a heart punch, and a corner rounder.

We print our photos at Sam's Club. We checked out Costco, but Sam's is better. They let you make two wallet sized 2.5 by 3.5 photos for 13 cents. You can't beat that. So this page I did for Shane's album includes 18 photos that only cost me $1.26 plus tax. I buy my paper in bulk packs, too, so that it costs about 6 to 8 cents per sheet. I often use one sheet for two to three layouts. Our kids albums are just standard binders with basic page protectors. Scrapbooking can be an expensive hobby, but the enjoyment I get from making them and the joy I see in my kids' faces as they flip through them, almost daily, makes it worth it. Daniel appreciates the memories we're recording and the fact that I try to keep the cost within reason.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Danya's 11th Bday Golf Party!

This year for Danya's birthday she had a very hard time deciding what she wanted to do. She knew that she wanted to go out to eat with her friends, but didn't know if she wanted to go fancy or not. She said definitely not to any kind of amusement park because she'd already done Elitches one year and we were in Disneyland on her birthday another year.

She finally chose to play mini golf, which she'd never done before, go out to eat at a buffet style restaurant, and have a sleepover... which to me sounds like she couldn't make up her mind and managed to fit three events into the cost of one. We let her know the budget we had and then she filled it. Luckily, mini golf was fairly cheap. On the down side, our other kids were invited to a birthday party at the same time, so we had to split the kids up. That meant two vehicles, and due to bad planning on my part, we ended up having to include Katie in Danya's party, since I needed the van and Daniel can only fit four kids in the car. Katie was the only one young enough to get into mini golf free. The party was a success overall. Hopefully Danya is planning ahead for next year instead of waiting to panic at the last minute again.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Mother Daughter Tea

My friend from church, Kirsten, organized several of the women I know to do this book called "8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters" by Danna Gresh. We'll do them each on our own with our daughters, except for the 6th date. For that one we'll all meet at a mall in September and do it together since it's about having friends who will keep each other mutually accountable in regard to clothing choices.

All of the dates are an introduction to biblical womanhood for young girls around the age of 10 to 12 or so. The first one was a tea party. Another friend of mine recommended this British tea room called the Wildflower cafe. It was perfect. We all dressed up in beautiful floral dresses. The girls had the princess tea and I had "high tea" which basically came with things like tiny cakes, scones, different flavored teas, and little stuffed shrimp crescent rolls. We even had real tea cups, each one unique.

Then we talked about how we treat ourselves and how we let others treat us and what that says about us. I asked the girls if they wanted to be special and priceless like fine china or something disposable like Styrofoam. All three of my oldest girls, Danya, Gloria, and "Junie B." really seemed to understand the lesson. I've heard them talking about it a few times since. We've also gotten a lot of questions about what we're doing and a lot of mothers interested in trying it, too.