Monday, November 28, 2011

I Don't Mean to be Mean, But...

"...I think that looks more like winter than Christmas.  I think it needs more red," said M gently, describing my attempt at decorating the mantle for Christmas last night.

It's a work in progress.  As a lover of all things neutral, red is a stretch.  :)  

However, in an attempt to make it more "Christmas-sy," I added just a touch of red to this photo and framed it for the mantle. (Inspired here.) It's a start... :)

And while I was at some word-art fun, here's our bucket list for this Christmas Season.

It's seriously time to get working on that Christmas Letter.  In my countdown to that feat--here's a look back to 2006...

Hmm...I see a pile theme...

Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Are we there yet?

A little photo diary of our trip back to the red house.

While J was with Beza at Urgent Care we hung out at Starbucks for 2 hours. Someone told me it was nice to see children enjoying themselves so much. :)

(Then I randomly ran into my mom at Subway. :)

Now Beza is conked out and the rest of them are, for the most part, quietly coloring--while listening to Veggie Tales Christmas music on repeat. (They can't wait to go decorate that tree that is sticking out between them.)

Two hours down--two more to go!

(Randomly ordered photos...)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving! :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Tricked Out Van--Toddler Style

The key to any good car trip (besides making sure everyone uses the potty before you leave the house), is a well stocked vehicle.  Ours is definitely stocked. :)

It's an ever-changing tetris of children's paraphernalia--but here's a peek inside our hot ride.

Front Console
Coffee.  Tissues.  Wipes.  Lip gloss.  Spare hair clips for Beza--always have to be prepared to accessorize. :)

Driver's Door
Phone Earpiece.  Hand Sanitizer.  Tire Pressure Gauge. Walkie talkies.  Flashlight.  Small Tool for slashing our seatbelts and busting out of the windows in case we find ourselves submerged in water (gift from my parents. ;).

Passenger Door
Coupons.  Hand Sanitizer.  Blankets--the driver likes to cruise in arctic temperatures.

Glove Compartment
A bunch of stuff on top of the vehicle information booklet.  J loves to dig through here. ;)

Back Seat
Three Seats.  One stained floor.

Back Seat (Passenger Side)
Extra Diapers.  A LOT of extra diapers.  (There are more under the front seat.)
The Snack Bag--granola bars, fruit bars, goldfish, sandwich bags (for distributing goldfish), Goober (gross-but shelf stable), plastic knives (for spreading Goober).  Just add bread.  Oh, and water.

 Back Seat (Driver's Side)

The Wayyyy Back
 Neat Sheet (for spontaneous picnics).  
Foam "Seats" to make the back of the grocery cart a little more comfortable for little bums.  
A basket with a complete extra outfit for each child, warm blankets, extra wipes, a potty (lined with a bag when rarely used, then thoroughly cleaned before being returned to the basket)--awesome in an emergency, and butter.  I kid--those are crayons.  Of course.

On top of that basket:
The Diaper Bag
A bottle.  More diapers.  More wipes.  A Medicine Kit for Little People with fever and pain relievers, a thermometer, first aid creams, and an assortment of character band-aids.  
I NEVER use the diaper bag--but it's there if I need it. :)

Beside the Diaper Bag
The Toy Bag
Cars.  Dolls.  Coloring Books (hence the crayons).  Travel Magna-doodles.  A fabric car playmat.
The toy bag was definitely utilized for all of those trips to the post offices, courts and police departments for adoption paperwork.

The WHOLE Back
Bugspray and Sunscreen--you just never know when you might need them.  Three Strollers.  I only have two arms, but there are three strollers (two singles and a double) in there.  Really, it's just a convenient storage place and that way we're always prepared. ;) Oh, in case three strollers won't cut it, there is a big back carrier in there, too.  And I'm not done yet.  We also travel with a baby booster seat (traveling high chair).  And, sometimes, the pack-n-play joins the party.

Seriously, what did we do before the van?

Here's a peek back to Christmas 2005--when the word "van" had four letters.  :)

I would love to hear how you make your cars work for your families. :)
Happy Monday!

Linked up at:
Home Stories A2Z

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Funnies: Thanksgiving Smile

I found this on my porch on Friday morning. 

It's part of a Thanksgiving placement from T's school (Becca dropped it off because T was absent with a fever on Friday). 

I laugh every time I see it.  I can just picture the teachers asking him to smile.  And that's his little smile. Cracks me up!--Love that guy...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Not Your Barney Clean-up Song

Okay, so the room messes around here.  Epic as of late.

And I can hear myself saying the same things every day (or so) about cleaning up.  I'm tired of hearing myself say those things.  I can only imagine how tired they are of hearing it, too.

When I get frustrated, I produce a good lecture, eat chocolate, put myself in a time-out and then eventually, I brainstorm.  Surely there must be an easier way to go about this.  To not nag. 

Then I started to think that really it just needs to be fun.  Doesn't music make things fun?  Hey, what a great way to let everyone know that it's "Clean Up" time without words!

But the clean-up song--well, it's just a little bit too Barney.  (The key is to read that without singing it, because like the peanut butter all over T's pants before school this morning--once it's there--it just won't go away.) 

The answer to all song questions (except for the "I'm going to Kentucky, I'm going to the fair" song that T keeps singing) is YouTube.  And do you know what they have?  A robot cleaning up song.  No kidding--a robot.  They LOVE robots!

I waited for a really good mess--the kind where you can't walk without stepping on something (I didn't have to wait very long ;)--and then I turned it on.  They were just as impressed as I hoped they would be--and, boy, did they ever move!  (The robot does a little countdown at the end--totally motivating.) 

Not only did they love the song and clean up the whole first floor.  But they also begged me (for real) to let them clean up their rooms with the songs on.  How awesome is that?

I know this song magic won't work forever, but it sure is fun for now. :)

These are three of the songs that make the messes disappear and that create some hilarious spontaneous dance moves. :)

(When you push "play," it takes a few seconds for the first song to start.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's a Good Thing They Don't Judge Us

on parental fitness by their hair.

Exhibit 1: The every-day knot right in the back of M's head.  It's a tear-producer (for both of us).

Exhibit 2: T's bed-head and randomly long pieces of hair.  Thankfully, this look is a bit more "in"--or at least I pretend that it is.

Exhibit 3: And Little Beza--well, whew, we're still working on getting hers just right.  I use headbands as a distraction from the mess in the back.

Right now she's in "hair therapy."  We've been trying to be much better about conditioning it all day, hence the little scarf on her head.  She wears it well, sweet girl! :)
(Friday afternoon Mary Poppins.)

Someday they'll be in control of their own hair--hmm...that could make things even more interesting! ;)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I NEED this Book (and check out this Giveaway!)

I can NOT wait for this book!

And you definitely need to check out the awesome Basket of Love Giveaway over here.  It is an AMAZING basket of beautiful and fun stuff that will help to bring a little one home--a win win. :)  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Made-It: Goodbye Florals and "Pile Talk"

Every once in a great, great while, an actual card makes it's way out of our house and into the mailbox.  Cards and letters are not my strong point.  But it is not for lack of my mother's trying. :)  (She is amazing at that stuff!)

When we got married she gave us this box of cards to send to other people.  

While the exterior is definitely cheery--it's just a bit too floral for my taste.  So it's been tucked away in a closet.  (Maybe that can be my excuse?)

Eleven years later, I have finally refurbished it.  Now it's on our desk.  (Bummer, there goes my excuse.)

Also in this box are all of our old Christmas letters.  When I was putting all of the contents of the box back inside, M and I reread those old letters.  There was some funny stuff in there.  

Because it's that time of year, again--the time to start working on this year's letter--I thought that it would be fun to "re-post" those old letters.  I think of Christmas letters as our once-a-year opportunity to "burst into" our friend's and family's homes--so I try to make them show a bit of our personality. :)

This was our very first attempt to write a family "Christmas letter."  Just a simple little one-pager with a lot of apparently inside jokes (my dad says that line in the letter to my mom at dinner to make her mad) and "pile talk."  We had been married for 3 years--I had finished 2 years of grad school that summer and had just started my first professional full-time job and our cats were our kids.
Happy Monday! :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Funnies: The Lingo We Love

Using his (notably unsyruped) pancake as a mask.  Of course.

Little Dude has recently become aware that his "Are me going to school today?'s" are grammatically incorrect.  (Today he changed it to "Are I?" ;)

Here are some of his other latest and greatest that are quickly fading.

Rootbeard: Rootbeer
"I wuv rootbeard wowwipops."

Pickle-axe: Pick-axe
"My guy is using a pickle-axe to dig in the dairt."

Hwahmp: Swamp
"What wivs in a hwahmp?"
(Sometimes it takes quite a bit of time to figure out what he's talking about.)

Jams: Germs
"There are jams all over Mommy's tissue box in the van."
(He's told several people this.  After they figure out that it's not strawberry preserves, it still sounds pretty enticing, huh? *Sigh*  The box is covered with illustrations of germ-monsters.)

Foo: Who
"Foo ate the wast brownie?"

Griwls: Girls
"Naiwlpowish is for griwls."

To help them learn how to spell their names we sing a little song that kind-of sounds like the Mickey M-O-U-S-E song.  But for poor T we've (when I say "we" I really mean "J.") started to sing it like this, "T-_-_-_-_  smells T, smells T..."  It makes him laugh.  And he knows how to spell his name.  (Poor kid. :) 

He puts his dirty laundry in J's laundry basket because he's "a daddy, too!"--a  Beary daddy.

Playing a game from his favorite--"P-B-S kids dot org"--on J's iphone.  
Photo taken by M on my iphone.

Love this crazy guy who throws his entire self into what he's playing and how he makes us laugh. :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When Home is Hurting

Darren Rovell's photo Penn State's logo today (via @Quickish, @n2st)

This past week the news from a place that is "home," --the place where we made huge, fundamental life decisions, life-long friendships, and unforgettable memories--has left us deeply broken-hearted.   

We have shed tears as we've grieved for the victims while reading the allegations, walked around in silence as we've wrestled with the news, and experienced a range of emotions from sadness to anger to hope.  

I have been surprised at our feelings of hurt and betrayal...but upon reflection we've realized that a part of us expected our dear alma mater to be a little piece of heaven.  Yet, we can't read the details without examining ourselves--not to condemn--but to recognize that in our humanness this world will never be perfect.  Even when part of us expects it to be.

That expectation has made the realities of this week's events chip away a bit more of the allure of this world. 

Today we struggled to find the words that would shatter a bit more of their innocence as we explained the magnitude of today's game to M and T.  But, in the midst of the depths of this tragedy we were also overcome by the solidarity of two opposing teams bowed together for the victims of abuse.  Hope rising in a broken place.  

The Amazing Creator of this World created us to freely choose love.  And with that choice comes the equal opportunity to chose the opposite.  In each of us lies the ability to make that choice.

This morning we filled our shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  We talked with M and T about how amazing these gifts are for children who barely have what we consider necessities.  How it is a picture of God's amazing grace towards us.  He offers us an abundant life, but we need to choose it. 

We know the living, moving organism that is Penn State to be immense, diverse and passionate.  Those passionate hearts can swarm together to create chaos but more often the Penn State we know swells together to create tremendous good.    

It is our ardent prayer that from this there would be great healing.  And that we would put our hope in What we do not see and from His great love for us learn to love more fully moment by moment.  In the easy and in the incomprehensibly hard.  

(As we've been processing this week's events, we were moved by this perspective shared by the director of Cru at PSU.  You can go here to read his talk in it's entirety or here to listen.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Living it up in the land of monopoly money

This is our story...the story of how our hearts are being moved.

In early October J and I sat down with a fun stack of papers.  Money papers.  The details of our financial world right there in our faces.  Good, good stuff...

Enlightening for sure.

We are goal-oriented people.  We like checking successes off of our lists.  We like a good financial plan.  And we have been really good at making those plans.  They work something like this: Sit down and look at the sobering reality of where our money is going--house, cars, college funds, savings, retirement, utilities, food, clothes, giving, etc.  Talk about and make changes to our giving and savings goals.  Go about our regularly scheduled business.  When the credit card bills start looking a bit high, just cut back a little.  We're living the "American Dream."

Grocery shopping with a superhero.

The problem is that so much of this is totally wrecking us.  How do I go on living in my own little world when I KNOW that this is the reality for so many.  Really it haunts me--truly, what if it were me?

I (We) have this one life to live and we are beyond blessed that we get to chose what to fill it up with.  I am so disturbed by posts like this, that I can not keep going the same way.  Stuff is not bad, but consuming my heart and time with it is not so good.  And ignoring the genuine pleas of help from so many is not okay with me.

I want what we do to be about more.  I want to live more generously.  I want M and T's heart that says, "What?!  They don't have food?  Well, give them the money in my piggy bank.  I don't need any of it!"

And so, we've hunkered down to become more intentional.  I'm not a fan of the word "intentional"--it's too, well, formal and...disciplined.  To me it's not, shall we say, very romantic--it lacks a certain...spontaneity.  But sometimes, it's what I need to readjust my habits.

We've turned those financial goals into an actual budget.  And we're doing it with monopoly money. :)

And the Ethiopian princess. :)

The nitty gritty--most of our expenses are already determined, but there are a few things that have a bit more variability--Food, Household (clothing, gifts, entertainment, etc) and Home Improvement expenses each have a wad of available paper money in a marked envelope.  We use credit cards for almost everything and then we we come home we take the money from the "available" envelope and put it in the "spent" envelope.  When it's gone, it's gone.  (PB&J for dinner, anyone?)

The oh-so-glamorous envelopes. ;)

The goal is that by having a better idea of where our money is going dollar by dollar, we'll be able to make wiser decisions and we'll be able to give more spontaneously without that nagging notion that, "Hmmm...well, I don't know...if I donate money now, won't that make the end-of-the-month statement sky-high?  Maybe I'll do this later..."  Then out of sight, out of mind.

We are so, so not perfect.  Definitely not even close.  In fact, we're a bumbling mess.  But it is our heart's desire to use what we've been entrusted with to the best of our feeble abilities. 

And so it is that we are taking these tiny baby steps to respond to the faces and stories that God has been using to nudge us.  Totally laughing at our colored paper money, yet absolutely discovering how unexpectedly fun it is to find ways to save money when you understand the power it has to make a difference to someone else.  And doing it together. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Starting to Make those Christmas Lists

And this is totally helping me to keep it in perspective...

Operation Christmas Child (with Samaritan's Purse) National Collection Week:  November 14-21

You can watch Oksana's story here (a young girl who received a box as a child in an orphanage and who was recently able to deliver shoeboxes herself.).

Made-It: Thankful Leaves and Thanksgiving Mantle

Our Thanksgiving mantle. 
 (Can you believe that Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away--how is that possible?!)

To help cultivate those "thankful hearts," the little crew and I tea-stained a few index cards last week.  (Fun project!)

Then, in an ideal world, every night we each write something that we're thankful for on the cards.

We've been clothes-pinning them to these metal leaves that have been there forever.  (I might have a slight obsession with clothes pins--more are on the grocery list this week.  And the metal leaves remind me of the metal lampshades like this or THIS that I once saw with recipes pinned all over them and loved it!) 

Today I am thankful for a school day off to hang out with the small crowd. :)
Happy Election Tuesday!

Linked up at:
Home Stories A2Z

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunday Funnies: Survivor Hair (and other more serious stuff :)

Because he just never knows when the wind will mess with his tresses...
(Posted with permission. ;)

The girl on his head on the other hand--now that he could use some protection against. :)

But, seriously, on this Orphan Sunday, today (like so many days) we are reminded of her story.  And that there are so many hundreds of thousands more like it.  The little faces behind the numbers who wait for a full belly, a warm bed, medicine...and a mom and dad. 

Go here to find a huge list of organizations involved in Orphan Care--love that there are so many ways to get involved.