Friday, December 16, 2011

Family and Friends

We had such a great time on Thanksgiving weekend.  Our friends Hans and Jodi, and their four children, stayed for the weekend.  When my three kiddos came back to my house, after celebrating Thanksgiving with Daddy and Nikki, there were even more adventures to be had.

Sophie, Heidi, Hans and Emma took a few bike rides through the neighborhood and fed some very grateful obese ducks.  Jodi and I braved the crowds and took Charis and Hannah shopping at midnight on Black Friday!  This is tradition for me and Charis, but Jodi and Hannah had never lived through enjoyed this experience before.  And it is truly an experience.  We always stop and get coffee for me and a Monster for Charis....Hannah chose the hot chocolate route and Jodi went straight for full caffeine soda!  And then it was off to Walmart, Target and Kohls.  By 4 am, Jodi and I were done.  I'm not as tough as I used to be.  By the time we arrived home, Papa and Grandma had arrived (around 1am) to stay with us for the rest of the weekend.  So at 7am, Grandma took the second shift and took Charis and Hannah out for some more shopping at Five Below!  Those girls have stamina like only 14 year olds can!  I wish that kind of energy could be channeled somehow!

Emma, Heidi and Soph....biking buddies

Hannah and buddies

Grandma, Charis and!

We loved sharing time with all of you and building memories together!  This was such a treat!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Thanksgiving Turkey Fry

I never showed off our Thanksgiving festivities....beware....some of these pictures are rather graphic and are not intended for viewers with a sensitive stomach.

I'm not a fan of raw poultry.


I do what needs to be done to prepare it for cooking, of course, but sticking my hands inside a raw, dead bird is not high on my list of favorite activities.

On the other hand, not only does Rob have a stomach of steel, he also has a great sense of humor.

Picture this:  a room full of children innocently watching TV.... and in flaps a dead, skinless, headless bird, whirling through the room within inches of them at lightning speed.....their screams could probably be heard in Massachusetts....and so could Rob's laugh!

So after performing a few tricks, we got this bird ready to go in the fryer!

The fryer was a new experiment for us.  Neither of us have ever fried a turkey before....but we have heard great things.  And of course, there's nothing like the adventure of experimenting with food when you've invited friends to your house for Thanksgiving!!  (I had a huge ham in the crockpot as the back up plan, FYI)

Fortunately, our friends Hans and Jodi and their four kiddos are always up for an adventure.  And, God bless them, they don't even look at us strangely when we propose these off-the-wall ideas.

Let the frying begin!

Oh my was fabulous!  This was a fifteen pound turkey and it cooked completely in 45 minutes.  My oven was free to bake other things the entire time.  And to top it tasted amazing!  This was the best turkey I've ever eaten, hands down.  Crispy outside, moist and juicy was perfect.

I'm sold.

This is our Thanksgiving tradition from now on.  We may even do this for Christmas!

Rob, Hans, Jodi, little Hans, Heidi, Charis, Sophie, Heidi and Hope.  And of course, I'm behind the camera.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Friday!

It's Friday night, and I'm curled up on the couch with Abby and Nate watching The Grinch (the non-cartoon version).  (Emma is at a friend's house having a sleepover, so I just have the little ones tonight.)  I love this.  We're in our pajamas. Lots of snuggling.  Talking over each other in an effort to tell me everything that's happened in the past week.  Commenting on the movie we've probably seen 50 times.  I love this moment:  the beginning of a new week with them.  I love that they are still young enough to snuggle. I love hearing their stories.

We have so much to do this weekend:  put up the Christmas trees, assemble the Christmas train under the tree, make Christmas cookies....

But for now, we are snuggling, watching a familiar movie, and enjoying the moment.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Am Thankful....for Sophie

What I love most about Sophie is her strong sense of self.  She is confident in being her own person and doing her own thing.  And she is endlessly creative.  This combination can lead to some pretty unusual and amusing circumstances at times.  She is at such a great age, where so much of the knowledge that she's been accumulating throughout her life is starting to come together and click for her.  And whatever piece she might be missing in the knowledge department, she more than makes up for with enthusiasm and creativity.

Sophie is the peacemaker....ok, not always, but most of the time.  And she is more introspective than most children her age.  This is a double edged sword for her:  she generally thinks things through pretty well before making a decision (which is unusual for an 11 year old), but it also means that she can be pretty hard on herself sometimes, even when it's not warranted.  I am thankful for all the ways that she has grown this year.  She has grown almost a full 2 inches this year....she is becoming more and more accomplished on the flute...volleyball has clicked for her....she is learning perseverance through her running club....she is improving on her rollerblades and her bike....and even has a passing interest in her unicycle every once in awhile.  Yes, I said unicycle.  I told you she was unique.

I am thankful for Sophie's peacemaker's heart.
I am thankful for her creativity.
I am thankful for her ability to make people laugh.
I am also thankful that she senses when people are hurting.
I am thankful that she is learning to try new experiences.
I am thankful that she is learning to meet new people.
I am thankful for her great math skills.
I am thankful for her pragmatic view of the world.
I am thankful that she eats vegetables without complaining, even though she doesn't like them.
I am thankful that she can pack her own lunchbox.
I am thankful that Sophie always tries to do the right thing.
I am thankful that she is truly an amazing gift to our family, and I am so grateful that I have the priveledge of loving her and taking care of her.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Am Thankful...for Charis

I'll be the first to admit that Charis and I got off to a rocky start.  Afterall, who wants a step-mother?  Nobody.  Step-mother's get a bad rap.  That's undeniable.  And Charis was 11 when I met her.  Old enough to have a lot of very strong memories of the way life used to be.  And young enough to believe Walt Disney's depiction of step-mothers.

I've never had a step-mother.  I've never been through the pain and loss of my parent's getting divorced.
But, I have been through pain.  I have been through great loss.  And I have felt the helplessness of being unable to stop it.  Even though we have not been through the same circumstances, we have both experienced some of life's greatest pain and helplessness.  And so Charis and I have started to bond, every so slowly, not over traditional "mother-daughter" things, but over a common understanding of pain and how that changes your life.

But with great pain, can come an even greater understanding of God's ability to heal and restore.  I have received mercy and healing and hope in ways that I do not even understand.  And that is my prayer for Charis.  I pray that God will do for her what He has so graciously done for me, even though I didn't deserve it.  He continues to heal.  He continues to extend grace.  He continues to turn every situation into something good.

I am so grateful that God has brought Charis into my life.  She is not my daughter.  She never will be.  She already has a perfectly good mother, and does not need another one.  And so I have a unique role in her life.  I stay home with her when she's sick.  I buy her clothes and books and shoes and makeup.  We've laughed, we've cried, we've shopped.  And yet, I am a caretaker and guardian without being a parent.  I am a teacher and encourager without being a disciplinarian.  I love her as a daughter, even though she will never be mine.  My heart aches for her the way it does for my own children in the losses they all share.  And I am delighted and proud of the girl that she is and the young woman that she is becoming.

I am thankful that Charis actually enjoys school
I am super grateful that she can do her own laundry...and prefers it that way (you should see the notes and instruction lists that I get if I try to do it for her! seriously.)
I am thankful for her sense of humor
I am thankful that she takes the role of big sister very seriously
I am thankful that she is growing in her understanding of who God is
I am thankful that she loves youth group!
I'm thankful that she loves to bake...and is learning to clean up afterwards
I am thankful for her compassionate heart
I am thankful for her kindness to Abby
I am thankful that when she found Cheerleading, she found something she loves
I am thankful that she continues to be a runner, even when she doesn't feel like it
I am thankful for her flair for the dramatic (ok, not all of the time, but I'm trying)
I am thankful that she is always willing to paint everyone's nails
And I am thankful that even though she is not my daughter, she is an amazing gift to our family

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Am Thankful....for Nathan

This boy is the light of my life.  Just look at that grin!
He has grown so much this year...not just his height and his crazy shoe size which is bigger than Abby's.
He has grown in his interactions with adults, teachers and Sunday School teachers.
He's developing friendships at both his schools.  He makes friends out of strangers on the playground all the time.  He can ride a bike, roller-blade (really well!), whistle, snap his fingers (a new, endearing hobby, let me just tell you), swim, count into the 80's before he gets tired of it and just quits, spell three letter words, cook pop tarts and he can collect and take out the trash and the recycling (and he does it without complaining!).  He has such a "servant's heart" and loves to take care of everyone.  Nate is one of the most loving children that I have ever known.

Nate was the little boy hiding behind my leg with a binkie in his mouth...and it feels like that was just a month ago.  In reality, he has been growing and changing and growing-up right before my eyes. He is only half an inch shorter than Abby now, which causes her no end of consternation.  He loves to tinker with things....Nate has never been into trains or action figures or transformers....he likes them, but he would rather take a random group of small objects and put them together and take them apart.  I don't really have an explanation for this, but he loves to tinker.

I am so grateful that God gave me a boy.
I am  thankful that Nathan has a grateful heart.
I am thankful that Nate is making friends.
I am thankful that he is learning to read and write and color and count.
I am thankful that he is learning to persevere.
I am so thankful for Nate's love for all his sisters.
I am thankful that he still likes to hang out with me.
I am thankful for Nate's enthusiasm for life.
I am thankful that he can zip his own coat and tie his shoes.
I am thankful that his sister's have a defender.
I am thankful for the balance he brings to our lives.
And I am so thankful that he is my son.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Am Grateful ... for Abby

Abby is my spunky, sparkly girl.  And I don't just mean her clothes.
There is a sparkle deep inside Abby....a light, a delight, a joy that runs in her heart and soul.  Sometimes she keeps it under wraps, hiding under her frustration with reading or her frustration with having a little brother....but it slips the big and little moments of her life.  There is a zest and a passion in her that I hope and pray she never loses.

Abby sees the world a little differently than a lot of children her age....she sees the details, the things that other people miss.  She sees the hurt hiding in people's faces.  She sees (or feels) people's emotions very clearly.  She sees the amazing creativity of God in the minutia and the grandeur of creation.  She will sketch or draw something that she has seen recently, and the drawing will focus on a detail or a piece that I didn't even see at all.  Probably because of how clearly and distinctly she sees the world, she also has very vivid and detailed dreams, which can be both good and bad.  I think she dreams in color.

I am grateful that Abby is competitive but is also a team player
I am grateful for her amazing creativity
I am grateful that Abby is amazing at math
I am so grateful for her unique view of the world
I am grateful for Abby's sense of justice
I am grateful for her contagious laugh
I am grateful for her energy (I'll admit, I wasn't so grateful when she was a two year old, but as an eight year old, it's now a gift and I am thankful)
I am grateful that she is a fighter (I know that sounds negative, but this is a
strength that can serve her well in life if she uses it the right way)
I am grateful for Abby's ability to make friends wherever she goes
I am grateful that she is fearless about joining a group even when she doesn't know anyone
I am grateful for her willingness to be a tryer!
I am grateful that she loves vegetables!!  Amen!
I am grateful for her sense of humor
I am grateful that she is my daughter

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Am Thankful....for Emma

Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE having a 10 year old?! 
It's one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
For years, my parents have loved this age group (you can't be fifth grade teachers for 30+ years and not love 10 year olds.  seriously.) 
But until I had my own, I didn't truly get it.

Emma can make her own breakfast, do her own laundry (with great weeping and wailing and a list of excuses a mile long, of course, but it can be done) and can pour milk from a completely full gallon jug without spilling a drop.  This is magical.

I'm sure that when my parents see Emma, they have serious flashbacks....she is even more of a voracious reader than I was at her age....and that is truly saying something.  The girl tears through books, reads multiple books at a time, is constantly bugging us for more books, wants to know if she can read Charis' books or my books, and is pulling the age old "just one more page, Mom" at bedtime! Yup. Flashback.  I just told her the other night that I wrote the book on that trick....ask if you can finish the page, and then speed read through the next 2-3 pages as fast as possible before mom notices.  I got a sigh and a roll of eyes as she put the book down.

I am grateful that Emma is such an amazing student in school
I am grateful for the frienships she is making
I am grateful for youth group for her this year and the reinforcement it gives to the things
we are teaching her at home
I am grateful that she is learning the value of kindness...particularly to Abby
I am grateful for her leadship skills that are already starting to blossom
I am grateful that she can have a comfortable conversation with anyone. seriously.
I am grateful that she is gracious
I am grateful that she has a thankful heart
I am grateful that she is interested in absolutely everything
I am grateful that she likes to try new things and meet new people and make new friends
I am so grateful that "new" things aren't worrisome for her
I am grateful for her sense of humor
I am grateful that she is my daughter.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Nathan

First, try and pretend that today is October 27th...

It's a BMX bike!!
And just the right size....finally!

(The minute we gave him the bike, it started to POUR outside....go figure.  He got to ride up and down the hallway and through the dining room!)
And some hex bugs from his sisters....
and some Super Mario Legos....
And of course, pumpkin pie (instead of cake) for dessert!

Could this six year old be any more delighted that it's his birthday?  When I went in to wake him up this morning, he was already awake and wanting to know "is it morning yet?"  We had covered his bed in balloons during the night, so that he was surrounded when he woke up in the morning.  At his preschool in the morning, he celebrated by bringing in ice cream cups....and he got to wear a birthday crown.  In the afternoon at Kindergarten, he celebrated again with brownies...and yet another birthday crown!  For dinner, we celebrated at pizza hut (and I remembered why I consider it a personal sacrifice to take my children to pizza hut...bleh!  But Nate loved it!)  And then we finished up with pie. 

By that point, Nate was still so excited and thrilled...the way that only a six year old can be....and I remembered how important all these simple joys are to my boy.  Simple things...a bike, balloons, ice cream, pizza, pie, a birthday crown, celebrating with family....and yet they brought such joy, excitement and delight to Nate.  Look at that face!
Nate you are truly our gift from God.  Your joy is contagious and your sweetness, generosity and loving heart are a blessing to everyone in our family.  Your place in our family is unique, as the only boy, and I am so grateful for are already trying to become your sisters' protector.  I am so proud of the young man that you are becoming...of all the things you are learning...of the strength you are developing...and the character that is growing within you.  You are God's gift to me.  And I love you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One last Hurrah for the mini-bike

 We don't have a great place to ride we're putting it up for sale

 But of course, we couldn't let it go without making sure that it's in good working order...

Being the test driver is very serious business.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Carving with Cousins

This is not a job to be taken lightly..... requires concentration

 ....fine motor dexterity...

 ...and a true artist's eye...

 ...and sometimes, even a helping hand...

But the results are a lot of fun!

 Cousins Lila, Silas and Eli joined us for the annual tradition of creating
pumpkin art.  Even Abby's best friend, Hannah, joined in the project! 

Eli's contribution to the pumpkin line-up was slightly more understated.