Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween creation: popcorn balls

I started making popcorn balls last year.

I've always loved them, and they're so festive, and really super-duper easy to make.

This year I tried a different recipe that I found on, titled "Grandpa's Popcorn Balls" (which makes me giggle.  Not gonna lie.)

SO, last night I set to work.

You will need:

2 cups white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

You will also need a glass of cold water to stick your finger in when you burn it by sticking it in the concoction to taste it.  How ridiculous am I??!!!  Clearly wasn't thinking. 


First pop your popcorn.  I love my trusty air popper--a wedding gift eight years ago from my dear friend Lara.  I think of her every time I make popcorn.  Love it.  Love her.

"In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter and water. Stir and heat to hard-crack stage or 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Remove from heat, add vanilla; mix well."

I will add that it is SO KEY to get it to 300 degrees F.  That's the secret to good candy and fudge.  Consistency is everything.  Get yourself a candy thermometer.  So inexpensive and so worth it.

"Pour slowly over popped popcorn while stirring. Wait 5 minutes and shape into 3 inch round balls."

I now have to tell you that basically I waited too long to shape it into the balls...the popcorn on the bottom basically stuck to the confection-y stuff and so some of it went to waste, because it couldn't be shaped into balls. 

It tastes GREAT though, just like caramel corn, and it's nice and crunchy.  Perfect consistency.  Yay!

And two more essentials for fall baking:

1.)  I LOVE pumpkin-scented candles.  They make everything seem more Fall-ish.  These ones from Target are wonderful.

2.)  I am so blessed to have a big daughter to bake with, and a baby at my feet.  It makes for such a happy kitchen!

*I'm linking up with SITS for a few Halloween-themed posts.  Happy Halloween, friends!*

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween past

So check out this kid.  Our Kaitlyn.  In 2008.

Oh how I love her.

And the fact that she dressed up as a gorilla for Halloween two years ago.

And carried an old Easter basket because we didn't have another plastic pumpkin bucket for her.

It was soooooo heavy, but she INSISTED on carrying it all by herself. night.

It was our first Denver Halloween, and we loved trick-or-treating in our neighborhood with the sound of crunching leaves under our feet.

Even without the festive porch decorations, the old brick bungalows and tall Victorian homes on our street set the perfect tone. 

So did watching It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown in our pjs, eating candy.

I love seeing life through the eyes of my kids, and helping them make memories and start traditions that will last a lifetime. 

*I'm linking up with SITS these next few days for some Halloween-themed posts.  So fun!*

Friday, October 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday {#11}

1.  HUGE answer to prayer: if you recall in this post (you know, the one that has a funny picture of Kenny Rogers that cracks me up every time I look at it), I talked about how we were up against a hard-and-fast deadline with an adoption grant, because something we need for it has not arrived.  Well, Kevin called the grant organization and lo and behold, they agreed to wait for it and NOT disqualify us!!!  SUCH great, wonderful news.  Rejoicing over God's provisions, even in the little things.  Guess I'll visit Tennessee another time.

2.  I got up at 5:30 AM yesterday to:

frost cupcakes
do three heads of hair for crazy hair day.

Standing-ovation worthy, dontcha think? 

Look, if you  know me at ALL, then you KNOW I am NOT a morning person.  In the least.  This may or may not be why I love homeschooling so much.  Thursday mornings though I DO have to get up early because I take my kids to their homeschool program and it's a half-hour away.  Well yesterday was Yosef and Biniam's birthday (!), AND crazy hair day, so this mama was out of bed at 5:30.  Goodness.  We managed to get out of the door on time: two boys with bright green hair and one girl with six bright green ponytails and me with a bunch of cupcakes and stickers to hand out.  Oh yeah, and two other little girls coming along for the ride too.  Sweet success.  And all the more sweet since we didn't run out of gas on the way there!  Nothing like driving 35 mintues with the "empty" light on the whole way, brainstorming about what you're going to do when you're pulled off to the side of the highway in 32 degree weather with no gas, three kids with bright green hair, two littler kids, and a bunch of cupcakes.  (I think I'd probably just sit and eat the cupcakes.)

3.  I'm still a bit under the weather.  Boo.  I need to be well by Sunday because hello, it is Halloween, and I want to eat my kids' candy go trick-or-treating with the kiddies!!!  I LOVE watching my kids ring the doorbells and get candy.  I don't know why, but they have so much fun and it's super cute.  They love going to the neighbors' houses and seeing neighbors that we know.  It's also downright hysterical watching Kaitlyn lug around her big pumpkin-container full of loot.  There will also definitely be the annual viewing of It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown whilst sipping hot apple cider and eating popcorn balls.  One of my all-time favorites!

4.  Is Donald Trump really thinking about running for President in 2012?  Are some of the polls actually showing favorable results?  Would YOU vote for the Donald? 

5.  The cooler weather we've been having has been so fun.  I LOVE cozy sweaters, my Good Earth cinnamon herbal tea (it is seriously like drinking Red Hots but there is no artificial anything added!!!), and bundling up under a blanket in the evenings.  BUT, cooler weather ALSO brings with it what I will hereby refer to as, "The Battle of the Heater."  Maybe more like a war than a battle.  See Kevin doesn't like me running the heater as high or as often as I do.  But IIIIIII don't like being in a drafty, freezing cold house all day.  So I inevitably get all sorts of grief for how I heat my home, but at this point I say too bad because this is where I am all day.

6.  Mary is eating so many solid foods now, it's crazy.  She eats what the rest of us eat, more or less.  And I have to confess that food-wise, this stage is SO HARD for me because of the MESS!  Yucky high-chair, yucky crumbs (aka huge pieces of food) all over the floor, ugh.  Thankfully Yosef does a pretty mean job with the dustpan and broom and is most always happy to help.  But, yeah, not my most loved "eating stage" of childhood.  (Though I do appreciate the convenience of her self-feeding, as opposed to me spoon-feeding her purees.)

7.  My cousin posted something wild on Facebook yesterday: that clip from the Charlie Chaplin movie where it looks like a woman walks by talking on a cell phone!  Have you seen it?  CRAZY!  What on earth?!  Some people are claiming she's an actual time-traveler, but I don't believe in that, and yet I have no explanation for it.  Because it really does look like she is, indeed, talking on a cellphone.  In 1928.  Yet another one of those things that makes you go, "Hmmmm."


I hope you have a great weekend!  If you want to participate in 7 Quick Takes Friday, go to Conversion Diary and link up!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's kind of like "The Gambler"

Does anybody out there remember that old song by Kenny Rogers?  You don't have to be brave like me and admit it if you do.  But the whole "you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" business is so relevant to a myriad of life circumstances.  (Has anybody seen the cheesy MOVIES based on that song?  I actually kinda liked them.  Weird, because I normally HATE westerns.  Oh well.)

Anyway, we are scrambling right now--scrambling, I tell you--to get an application packet in the mail for an adoption grant.  We've worked hard pulling all the pieces together but at every.single.turn, something goes wrong.  And we're up against a deadline.  Which is Monday.  If you don't believe me that everything has gone majorly wrong, check this out:

--We needed a letter of recommendation from our senior pastor.  Our church currently has no senior pastor.

--I needed to copy and print various things out on our printer.  The printer ran out of ink before I could finish it.

--I went to hook up a DIFFERENT copier/printer (that someone just gave to us).  The printer has no power cord to go with it.

--Finally I hooked up our trusty old printer.  It is also now suddenly and randomly out of ink.

And now for the real kicker:

--We need a letter from our placing adoption agency verifying some things.  The woman who writes these grant letters was out of town, but said she mailed it Monday.  IT.HAS.STILL.NOT.ARR.IVED.

I am seriously on the brink of a heart attack.  Anything that could go wrong with this thing pretty much has.  At this point I am seriously wondering if I will be making a road trip out to Franklin, TN this weekend.  Will we get bonus points if our application packet is hand-delivered?  With five small children in tow?

As I look back on this whole entire adoption process in has been one big setback after another.  And I'm not complaining (promise!), just observing. 

--We set out to adopt two specific children...but that didn't happen because of some really horrible circumstances.

--We made the decision to adopt two DIFFERENT children...and had to fight tooth and nail over some weird stuff with our homestudy agency.  Who all of a sudden thought we shouldn't be adopting because we have five children and we homeschool.  AT THE END OF THE HOMESTUDY FOR WHICH WE'D already BEEN APPROVED.

--We submitted our I 600A form...and it was rejected (and mailed back to us) by the US government because one of our agencies (not even sure at this point if it was our homestudy or placing agency) gave us OUTDATED FORMS.

And now there's this issue with the grant.  Which we are attempting to pull together as I battle the remains of a short-but-not-fun stomach virus that I no doubt picked up at the the thrift store Saturday night.  I got more than I bargained for with that coupon, that's for sure!

Like I said I'm not complaining per se.  I'm in a great mood, I know God is in control, and if we miss out on a grant, well, this will be funded one way or another.  But I think sometimes it is hard to know what type of signal God is trying to send.

Should we just plain not be doing this?  Or is something else going on?

I really do believe that there is evil in our world.  I believe that Satan is real and wants to discourage and destroy.  I know full well that the two little girls we long to bring home are prime targets for whatever you want to call it--spiritual warfare or attack or whatever.  (I hardly ever talk about this type of stuff because I don't like to dwell on such things, and I'm really not charasmatic charismatic--I go to a liturgical, reformed church after all.  Heck, I don't even know how to spell the word.  AND God is so much bigger.  But sometimes you just gotta say it like it is.) 

The thing is that these girls are vulnerable.  Because they are orphans without parents.  And because they have that sweet extra chromosome.  Most of our own country doesn't believe children like them have the right to be born, much less to live.  And while they weren't born here, they do live in a country with limited resources and where many mothers and fathers are unable to care for their own child.  So maybe it's foolish for us to assume that we can participate in God's redemptive in-the-trenches work without setbacks.  Maybe we should expect the stars to align in such a way that we are left feeling discouraged and asking questions like,

Are we up for this task?
Did we misunderstand God's voice?
How will we manage?

It's really a lot like Kenny's song.  Do we persevere, fighting for our children, justice, and goodness, or do we essentially close up shop and step away?  I'm sure that sometimes "folding" is the right thing to do.  Go back to square one.  Acknowledge that it wasn't God's plan afterall.  Us not adopting the first set of children is an example of this I suppose.

But I am fairly certain that in this instance, as we work to bring home these two precious little girls, all the setbacks and frustrations and discouragements are mere reinforcements that we are, indeed, doing the right thing. 

And that it's ticking somebody off.

Oh how I want to start taking heart in this.  Not being so surprised when our efforts are occasionally thwarted.  I want to, instead, draw strength from knowing that when I align my heart with the Lord's, doubts and roadblocks and the like may start creeping in.  To the point where it all seems too much to JUST be a coincidence.  (Kidney stones, anyone?  Seriously?  So random.  If you've ever had them, then you know that they really are from the pit of Hell.)

Basically I'm here to tell you (if you didn't know already) that adoption is a battleground.  God loves redemption.  He loves hope and He loves healing.  Because, well, He IS love.  And God wants children raised in families.  But the devil hates what God loves.  You do the math.

All of this to say that we will keep on keepin' on.  No folding for us. 

And with that, I'm off to go listen to something that will get Kenny Rogers' song out of my head while I map my route to Tennessee...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Room sharing: what to do?

Here is a lesser-known fact about me: I am an only child.


I am mother to five, almost seven (!), children, and I have nary a sibling.

People make lots of assumptions about you when you're an only child.  I cannot tell you the number of times I was asked growing up, "Do your parents buy you everything you want?" (um, NO!  Bummer!), or was told "Welllllll, you don't SEEM like an only child" (and what DOES an only child "seem" like?  Gosh, people are rude.)  I actually think people were skeptical of my character or something because I didn't have any brothers or sisters to teach me how to be a civilized, humane citicizen.  Blech.

Funny thing is, times have changed, even from the eighties, which is when I was growing up.  NOW, I think if you decided to stop after having only one child, you'd get fewer weirdo comments than the person having three or four children.  Maybe not, I don't know, I guess I'll NEVER know since the we're-only-having-one-child ship has long since sailed away from here.

Oh and do NOT assume that my having so many children has anything to do with having grown up a sad, "lonely only".  I was neither sad NOR lonely.  I had a great childhood.  I have a great relationship with my parents.  No regrets.

So.  On to more important business.  The first time I ever shared a bedroom with someone was in college, in the dorm.  I thought it was so awesome to have a roommate, and it really was.  I shared a room the following year too, but my junior year went back to having my own room.  Then I got married, and ever since then I have shared my room with a boy.

Anyway, my kids share rooms currently, all except Mary, because she of course is awakened the easiest, so she has her own room.  Anna shares with Kaitlyn, and Yosef shares with Biniam (they however are SO the odd couple.  Really.  If they ever decide to remake that old show my sons will star in it for sure.)  They all, for the most part, love sharing rooms.  If one of the girls is sick and sleeps on the floor in our room, the other girl is SO SAD.  "IIIIII'mmmmm LONElllyyyyyyyyyy", she'll declare.  It's really the sweetest thing ever.  I love that every.single.night. at my house is like a mini (or not so mini, good grief we have five kids) slumber party.  Each of the kids feels so safe and cozy with a brother or sister keeping them awake sleeping sweetly in the bed next to theirs.  So, so precious.

But as you know, we have two new girls joining our family in the next several months.  Which means there will be some shuffling around of rooms in our five-bedrooms-for-nine-people home.  (I quickly want to say that this house is MORE than big enough for our soon to be family of nine.  Truly.  We are so blessed to have so much, when we think about the rest of the world or about the impoverished in our own country.  We want for nothing.)

I honestly am not sure WHAT we'll do.  T. is roughly Mary's age, so it would make the most sense for them to share.  M. is around Kaitlyn's age...but...Katilyn shares with Anna.  I don't know if I really WANT to split up Kaitlyn and Anna.  And give Anna her own room.  It would make good sense for a lot of reasons (Kaitlyn is such a night-owl and Anna, while she was at Kaitlyn's age, is so not now.  There would also be no more than two children per bedroom, which is nice too.)  BUT, we'd lose our guestroom.  AND, Anna would have her own room.  No more sharing with sweet Katie Jane.  That makes me so sad for some reason!  These girls have shared a room ever since we moved to Denver.  Prior to that, when Kaitlyn was a baby, Anna would beg, BEG, to share a room with her younger sister.  So it has been such a special thing.

But we have an odd number of girls we're working with here and I'm honestly not certain of what we'll do.  The other options are to:

--Stick Mary, T., and M. all in one room (the one that has a huge closet) just for now, and later divide them up.  Anna and Kaitlyn would continue sharing and we'd keep our guestroom.

--Get bunkbeds and put Anna, Kaitlyn and M. all in one room, and have a room for "the babies" (Mary and T.)  Guestroom remains as is.

--Move to a house with ten bedrooms.

Haha.  Just kidding.  Sort of.

I honestly do love the idea of kids sharing rooms.  On the other hand our guestroom does sit empty most of the time.  (Hint, hint California friends, come visit!  :) )  But yeah, I don't know.  Hoping after we meet our girls that inspiration will strike and we can get things in order before they actually come home!

And none of this matters THAT much anyway because M. and T. will both sleep in our room in the beginning anyhow.  They are so cute and I cannot WAIT to have them here, sleeping soundly in their beds.

I'm just trying to plan ahead. 

Because you do these sorts of things when you're waiting on a court date to bring your sixth and seventh children home!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Good literature

Goodness gracious, at any given point in time we have a pile of these books in our home.

Anna loves them.  Thus she likes to photograph them.

I do not.

There's nothing inherently WRONG with them,'s just filler.  No great plots, or characters, or new vocabulary words, or even silly laughs.  No redeeming qualities at all, except that they are entertainment, I suppose.  "Light reading" for a six year old.  (Picture me shaking my head.)

Part of my issue is that Anna's reading level is far beyond these books.  But she adores them.  And any time Kevin takes her along to pick up our latest bounty at the library, she somehow knows where to find them and comes home with several in tow.

And proceeds to read every last one of them, in rapid succession, when she walks through the door.

No joke.  She plants herself either on the floor or on the couch, and doesn't get up until all of them are done.

I guess you can tell that I'm not one of those moms that will be rejoicing over my fourteen year old reading Cosmo, saying "Well at least she's reading!"  Nope, not so much.

Content matters.  It matters in what we read, what we watch, and in our hearts.  Funny how those things are all linked together.

The truth is that I love children's fiction.  Some of my fondest memories of childhood include good books that I read.  I love silly kid books with lots of pictures and I love the classics like Treasure Island or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  I love more recent classics like Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and stuff by Scott O'Dell or Roald Dahl or Elizabeth George Spear. 

But I'm not as in love with fluffy-ish books like these.

However, because Anna reads tons of good books otherwise and there's NOT anything particularly wrong with the fairy princesses (or whatever they are), we let her check them out.  She has a good time and because she blows through them so quickly, she doesn't actually spend that much time reading them.  And, I have to admit that I had quite a penchant for The Babysitters Club books as a kid, and I don't really think one can argue that those are in any way quality literature.  Even though I loved 'em, and may or may not have a huge collection sitting out in my garage right now.  (I liked Dawn and Kristy the best.  How about you?  And don't try to pretend you didn't read them, because I know that you did.  So stop it.)

Our family has slowly-but-surely been going through L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and we only have one chapter to go.  Such a fun story.  Not sure what we'll do next, but you can bet it will NOT be about any sort of Valentine fairy! 

(Though I do need to mention that the upside is, when Anna reads these, she's not asking me why Abraham lied about Sarah, saying she was his sister.  That only happens when, um, she's reading the Bible.  Which contains various things that are just not kid-tested or mother-approved!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fear, life, and fullness

I just read a really interesting blogpost the other day.  I thought it was amazing food for thought and I'm actually still thinking about it.  It's written by a formerly-atheist-but-now-Catholic mom to four.  Good stuff. 

Here are some random things rolling around in my head after reading:

--It makes me think about some different families I know.  Really, truly, amazing families.  Raising children from hard places, waking up every day and looking grief and trauma and medical needs square in the eye.  Life is messy and loud and hard, I am sure, but there is life.

--It makes me think about my own children, and family life, and how we're growing our family by two, and how oh my goodness there are going to be NINE of us living in this here house (in the city).  Things will be crazier and there will be more of just about everything...including life.

--Jesus said "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  Life to the full.  I don't think Jesus meant to imply that we'd be leading super independent, sterile, controlled lives that are overflowing and filled with STUFF.  Or money or approval or ______.  I wonder if He really meant, well, exactly what He said.  Lots of life.  The very thing I find myself running from half the time.  Because it's hard or overwhelming or I'm too introverted or whatever. 

--You might assume that someone with five-soon-to-be-seven children is all about loud noisy crowds and chaos and lots of stuff going on at all times and adding kids to the family for the heck of it.  FAR FROM IT.  I like peace and quiet, I hate crowds, and I prefer sipping coffee with a small-ish group of friends to a huge party atmosphere.  And every.single.time. we have added to our family (save for our first child, because she really was an easy baby and our lifestyle really DIDN'T change all that much), it has been a challenging transition.  But I think what what I'm beginning to embrace is the fullness of life that Jesus was talking about.  Or at least I'm wanting to.  Sure He was using the term broadly, and children is but a subset of that, but I think it applies oh-so-well.  Our home may be chaotic sometimes, but it is most always filled with life.

--A full life is a GOOD we should stop bemoaning the symptoms of a full life.  I know there are plenty around my house.  Overflowing piles of clean laundry to be folded and put away, a dishwasher that needs emptying and reloading on a much-more-regular-than-I-would-like basis, a bunch of junk dumped in our guestroom at the moment because it needs to be organized, needing to figure out how on earth we're going to configure bedrooms once our girls come home (do we ditch having a guestroom altogether and give our oldest her own room, and all the other kids being two-to-a-room?  Or do we stick three girls in one room?)...yes, lots and lots of signs that life is happening here.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for getting rid of clutter and having a (relatively) clean space, mostly for my own sanity (not gonna lie--I don't do it primarily for my husband or for my kids.  No I don't feel ashamed.  And yes there's far more to a good marriage than how well we ladies mop our floors or do our hair.  Another blog post for another day, friends.).  BUT, my goodness, maybe it's pretty sweet that we're all living and eating and playing and learning here together.  A museum doesn't sound very cozy or homey to me.

I look forward to processing through these ideas some more in the days to come.  It's so counter-cultural, both inside and outside of the church.  And while I do think "community" is the trendy/missional/emergent-ish/progressive thing to talk about these days, what we usually really mean is community without a cost.  We may be okay with the idea of togetherness, but not when it comes at a sacrifice.  And not when it spills over into our homes and involves a difficult child or a sinkful of dishes or a marriage that we have to keep working at day in and day out.  But all that stuff?  It's really just life, and I want to embrace it to the point where I enjoy it.  Think of all we could do if we were not afraid of life!

Friday, October 22, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday {#10}

This really will be quick, because I have a ton of stuff to do in the next two hours!

1.)  I took all five kids to the dentist today (only the oldest four had appointments, though.)  And, NO cavities!  Woohoo!  Maybe seems like it should be a given or something, but when you have that many kids, you figure that odds are in favor of at least one cavity.  But, not so much.  Our pediatric dentist is great, they get us in and out and do all the kids at once pretty much.

2.)  Tonight we're having a little party for Mary's birthday.  The kids are all excited and I am too.  How is she already one year old?!  I still need to get me and the kids all bathed, frost the cupcakes, and clean the downstairs bathroom.  Lots to do, and I'm so stressed out because I was gone all day yesterday and spent much of this morning at the dentist.  But it should be fun nonetheless!

3.)  We have been getting SO many campaign phone calls leading up to this election.  I am still clueless when it comes to Colorado politics--I don't know any of the names or the people, which is strange because I always knew what was going on in California.  (In part because I worked for a legislator for three years.)  The funny part is when you get an add in the mail saying NOT to vote for someone because of X, Y and Z...and you AGREE with their stand on X, Y and Z.

4.)  I'm so bummed because I am LOVING the book The Help, but it had to go back to the library!  I put another hold on it though and should get it back soon.  So frustrating though because I really want to read it!

5.)  This is related to #2: entertaining stresses me out like you would NOT believe.  I'm not fancy, I don't know how to make fancy things, and I'm not a great party-thrower.  Parties around here usually include pizza and cake and a bunch of people packed into our house.  That's it.  No games, no more than about one or two festive decorations.  The kids of course couldn't care less--they love it.  And we always have a good time.  But the whole party I'm wondering if everyone thinks I'm a loser because my daughter doesn't have a fancy Barbie cake and my house doesn't look like the inside of Martha Stewart Living.

6.)  Related to #5: I think this is so lame and so ultra vain, that I even think those things.  Hospitality is such a lost art in our society and I wonder how much better we'd be at if we got over this invisible standard of entertaining.  If we got it into our heads that people don't actually CARE about the decorations or games or whatever.  I'll speak for myself and say I'd be MUCH more prone to having people over.  This is something I need to work on.

7.)  I can't believe so much time has gone by without me sharing any more about our adoption or about Down syndrome!  Life has been SO busy lately and while we're growing more and more excited, I apparently haven't found the time to write about it.  And now Mary Lu is crying, and I need to clean that bathroom.  Have a great weekend all!


If you want to do your own 7 Quick Takes Friday, head over to Conversion Diary to link up!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Girls' night

Oh how I love getting away for a few (or more!) hours to have dinner and drinks with dear friends.  After I spent yesterday doing meal prep, homeschooling, and working on various projects around the house, this was majorly precious time for me.  Incidentally, between the six of us, we have 30 KIDS...and that's NOT counting our two sweet girls that we're bringing home.  Wow!  (We also all have blogs.  How fun is that??!!)

One of the main topics of conversation last night was actually the concept of eternal punishment.  Yay or nay.  (Okay not that anyone feels "yay" about it but you know what I mean).  Are there theological/religious topics that you wonder about, and discuss with other people while drinking a mojito?  Maybe that's just me.  Anyway, I won't out anybody on their views.  But if you were at the Littleton CPK last night, you now probably know what each of us thinks about the whole life-after-you-die thing.  And that we don't all agree.  And that I can hold my pee in for unbelievable periods of time because I don't want to miss out on any of the conversation.

If you know me you probably know that I am SO unmotivated to leave my house at night.  Really.  Because I'm usually ready to cozy up in my pjs next to Kevin and lay down on the couch with my laptop or a good book by about four p.m.  (If I've even changed out of my pjs at all.  Homeschooling rocks.)  BUT you can be sure that I look forward to these girls' nights like it's nobody's business!

Thanks to Angela, Cassie, Jennifer, Jody, and Tisha for a fabulous, entertaining evening!   :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Upcoming review

So I was contacted recently and asked to review some products/websites.  So fun!  Yesterday I enjoyed visiting the different sites, which offer lots of choices, at various price-points.  You can get everything from an end table, to a nice set of pots and pans, to shoes, or even luggage.  So far it seems like a convenient way to shop online. 

I'll do a follow-up post once I've actually received my stuff to review.  (Do you like reading peoples' reviews?  I totally do, whether it's books or cleaning products.  Not sure what the allure is, but I love hearing what people like and what they use and why.  So, I'll keep you posted!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mary Lu is ONE!

Happy Birthday to my sweet Mary Lucille!

One year ago today I got to the hospital, and one hour later delivered sweet Mary Lu.  :)

She has kept us on our toes ever since.

I love her sweet smiles, silly laughs and the way her face lights up when a sibling walks into the room.

I've discovered that no matter how many children you have, each new baby is a UNIQUE and DELIGHTFUL gift.

I've also discovered that in many ways, having other children already helps you more fully savor and delight in a sweet new baby.  I think I take more time to simply "be" with my baby girl, to appreciate her cute little fingers and toes, to be profoundly grateful for the gift of breastfeeding.  Perhaps moreso than with any other baby.  So, so precious.

Mary has brought such JOY and FUN to our home this past year.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARY LU!!!  We love you!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Adoption, Us, and the 21st Chromosome

I FINALLY have some really, really, really exciting news to share about our adoption!!!

But first some backstory.  :)  Because the exciting part of the story simply wouldn't be complete without a big-picture understanding of where we have been.

In a nutshell, God has led us down a twisty, turny, upside down and inside out sort of path over the past several  months.  We have felt confused, frustrated, uncertain and directionless.  Mostly directionless.  It is hard having God slam a door shut, with not even a small inkling of what to do next.

We began the adoption process this time around to bring home two specific children, who we had met in 2006.  They'd been waiting so long for a family, and quite frankly, time was (and is) running out.  These children are older than our kids, and both are HIV+.  Our decision to adopt these children was not something that we ever expected.  When God  began quietly speaking to my heart about this possibility, I brushed it off.  Ignored it.  Assumed it was just too crazy and that it was not something we could do.  We assumed we would eventually adopt children with medical needs, including HIV, but hadn't anticipated moving forward with the adoption of older children. 

I DID commit to praying for these kids, however, that they would find a family.  I just didn't see how it could possibly be us...even though the idea kept nagging me in the back of my mind. 

And yet months later, during a discussion about adoption, Kevin said he didn't see how he could return to Ethiopia and NOT bring home these particular children.  Who we'd met and prayed for all all these years.  I was shocked.  Floored.  I'd never, ever, ever mentioned to him about my prayers, or about how God had stirred my heart.  Completely independent of me and my thoughts, God brought my husband to this conviction.

So the prayers and discernment and seeking of counsel began.  We spoke to many people who have walked the difficult road of parenting older children who come from trauma.  There are some seriously wise mamas out there and I am so grateful for their insights, wisdom and support that I received during that time.  We prayed and felt that the Lord confirmed that yes, we were to move forward and begin another adoption.  We felt certain that this is what we were called to do.  Crazy?  Sure.  But sometimes God likes crazy.

We chose an agency to do our homestudy and began getting our paperwork in order.  We mailed in our application to AAI (our placing agency), paid various fees, spoke to their social worker about the challenges that we were sure to face.  I felt nervous, and a little afraid, but at peace with the fact that God had us on this path for a reason.  We knew that it was Him putting this on our hearts and our minds, that it was Him asking us to follow Him into this process and into the lives of these two children.  I wholeheartedly believed, with everything in me, that the Lord would not call us without equipping us.  So we continued to follow.

I suppose that it was around this time that I became aware of the work Reece's Rainbow does.  And fell in love with this blog.  (I seriously canNOT get enough.)  And fell head-over-heels-crazy-in-love with "chromosomally enhanced" kiddos.  Children born with Down syndrome.  I began learning about the plight these children face. 

In the United States, all but 8% will be aborted.  (Yes, roughly 92% of babies with Down syndrome are killed prior to birth.)

In Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, they are moved from the orphanage to an asylum at age four...and generally end up dying there.

In Africa, there are simply very few, if any, services available for these children, and resources and medical care are limited.

And on it goes.

My heart felt touched, and moved, and broken for these precious little ones.  Kevin's too.  We found ourselves drawn to this small corner of the adoption world, but of course knew that if we ever did adopt again after bringing home these two older children, it would not be for many, many years.  Still, I found myself reading blogs and articles about Down syndrome.

It was in May when I received the phone call saying we could not, in fact, move forward with the adoption of the two children we'd been pursuing.  I was devastated.  Totally sad.  Shocked.  And the reason WHY we could no longer bring them home was the worst part.  Some things had come to light indicating that it would not be a safe placement for our family.  Even if we'd WANTED to move forward, our agency would not have allowed it.  Because we have young kids in our home.  Even now when I think about it I feel so incredibly sad for these two children...and what they have faced...and what they will surely continue to face.  At the same time I feel so grateful that God stepped in and protected all of us--our children AND these two waiting children--from a bad situation.  He is faithful.

Our feelings about the whole mess have always been hard to describe.  They still are.  We felt really sad...but not as much for us...moreso for these girls, who are victims of a hard world that you and I probably have no concept of.  Will they ever have a family?  I don't know.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Time is running out.  And in addition to all of those heavy thoughts, we felt confused...because really...

We hadn't planned to adopt again so soon.  We truly hadn't.  We'd thought we'd begin the process sometime in 2011 maybe, if not later.  Both because of finances and because of our unique situation, having so many young children.  But God had spoken to our hearts.  And we'd been certain that He'd asked us to move forward towards pursuing these girls.  Which meant beginning the paperchase right away.

So where did all of that leave us?  Mid-homestudy, several thousand dollars in, and no CLUE what we were supposed to be doing.  We'd always anticipated adopting waiting children with HIV, but due to some circumstances out of our control (that had nothing to do with HIV itself), that now seemed unlikely.  This was hard too...something that we'd felt so passionate about for the past five years became another dream lost. 

And I hated that.

I know, I know.  This may seem really silly to you.  But honestly, when we were in Ethiopia in 2006, we swore we'd be back.  We'd be back to adopt kids who'd been born with a stigma- and shame-inducing status that shouldn't matter as much as it does in Africa.  Kids who at that time weren't considered adoptable.  But things were changing.  We have lots of friends in real life, that we see on a regular basis, who are raising children born with HIV.  There is such a community of these adoptive families in the Denver metro area.  It's nothing short of amazing.  We have access to a top-notch pediatric HIV clinic where my friend is a nurse.  I'd even joined the Community Advisory Board at the clinic where I attend meetings every other month or so.  I'm a volunteer with From HIV to Home.  We felt ready, equipped, prepared to parent HIV+ children.  And we've felt that this was inevitable, for years now.

So needless to say, Kevin and I were forced to take a good, long hard look at our motivation for adopting and at what this whole proecss was about.  We made the decision to take a break and catch our breath, to process all that had happened and changed.  I contacted our social worker and told her that we'd continue gathering paperwork, but that we'd be going slowly.  We requested she make sure that we were approved for a broad range of medical needs, since HIV was no longer probable.

And we didn't discuss adoption with each other all that often anymore.  It was sort of this latent stress in our lives.  "What are we going to end up doing?" one of us would ask the other every so often.  "I have NO idea" was the standard response.  Really we were just exhausted--weary of the tragic situation currently happening in Ethiopia with these girls, tired of not knowing where we were heading, sick of being in process but not being that excited about it because we had NO desire to sit on a list, waiting for the referral of a child who had lots of families lined up for them.  But what need could our family meet?

Little by little though we inched closer to being done with our homestudy.  I made it known to our placing agency that we were open to kids with pretty much any and all medical needs, though all the while my heart still felt drawn to children with Down syndrome.  But you just don't see it that often among orphans in Ethiopia.

Sooooooo...I was shocked when I received an email from our agency asking if we were interested in seeing the file of a baby girl, T., who'd been waiting for a family (she'd had one lined up at one point, but they fell through.)  This little girl was overall pretty healthy.  Nothing too earth shattering in her file.  And she'd been born with Down syndrome.  She was BEAUTIFUL.  Huge brown eyes, chubby cheeks, thick curly hair.

Total no-brainer.  We emailed back and said we were interested.  :)

Even though we'd been approved for two children, we couldn't sit around and wait for another child to come into care who met our specifications.  This sweet baby girl needed a home and a family who could move on it quickly.  So we adjusted our expectations yet again and started growing accustomed to the idea of bringing home just one little one this time.

Until our agency emailed again, some number of days later.  ANOTHER little girl with Down syndrome, M., who they'd believed would NEVER be adoptable, 3-ish (probably older) years old with a big grin and sweet eyes, had suddenly, pretty much miraculously, had her paperwork issues resolved.  After many months of waiting, with little hope of having a family, she could now be referred to adoptive parents.

And we began praying like crazy.  One vs. two.  We'd initially PLANNED to bring home two children, but these were YOUNG children living with developmental delays, potential heart defects, and the general unknowns that come with adoption.  What was God wanting for our family, for these girls?  I'd totally wrapped my head around just bringing home one baby.  I'd convinced myself it made so much more sense for our already-large-ish family.  We wouldn't have to buy a bigger van.  Logistically much simpler.  Lots and lots of reasons why one child is preferrable to two.


We serve an amazing, huge, sometimes (usually?  always?) surprising God.  He showed us, over time, that He wanted us to say yes to loving and parenting this precious little one as well.  (She is so stinking cute that it wasn't hard from an emotional standpoint to say yes.  :) )  He showed us that He is in the details.  That this will probably be our last adoption, Ethiopian or otherwise, for the next many years (if not ever--though we will NEVER say "never" when it comes to adoption.  Or biological children for that matter.)  And that He is the One who had orchestrated this process from the beginning.  He knew all along that two precious little ones would be in need of a family right when we became paper-ready to adopt.  He knew that our family, who all along had planned to bring home waiting children with HIV, was intended to adopt children with Down syndrome.

So.  Today we mail off their placement agreements.  And now we wait for everything to go to Ethiopia and will eventually be assigned a court date, for which we will travel. 

I've so loved the past few months of praying about and researching Down syndrome.  We've read books, watched documentaries, talked to families parenting these sweet little ones.  I feel ready--as ready as one can--and am so anxious to get our girls HOME!

And, yes, I'm nervous too.  I can't predict how things will go, what health issues may arise (both girls are said to be healthy, but who really knows?  We could have two children needing heart surgery in our future), what our therapy schedule will look like or how it will be meeting these various needs. 

I DO know that our kids are SO.VERY.EXCITED. to meet their new sisters.  We told them the news Saturday night.  Sat them down and announced it.  They got to see photos on the laptop and even a short video we have of one of the girls.  They are over the moon thrilled.  Every last one of 'em.  The dinnertable that night was a flurry of excitement and questions and chatter over where they would sleep, when they'll come home, and the many hugs they will get.

My heart is so full. 

God is good.

I'm sure people will have questions.  And opinions.  :)  I know we are taking on a lot, and I assure you these decisions were NOT made lightly.  It's been a months-long process of discerning God's will and evaluating our family's strengths, weaknesses and capabilities.  I look forward to exploring various aspects of this adoption and decision-making in the coming weeks here on my blog.  I will quickly just say that I think having an empty nest is overrated and that the love and joy that comes with parenting a child far outweighs any of the potential challenges.  This is true of my biological children, of my adopted children, and will be true of my adopted children with medical needs. 

Historically, people with Down syndrome have been misunderstood and underestimated.  And thanks to a whole host of unideal circumstances, including a medical community that continues to perpetuate these myths, this will most likely continue.

The truth is though that these girls will most likely grow up just like my other children...they will play games, go to school, most likely learn to read and write and sing and dance.  They'll laugh and cry and yes, disobey.  They will however go at their own pace.  There may be things they CAN'T do.  They will face prejudice and social stigma.

Maybe they will live with us as adults.

And that's okay.
I consider myself a parent to my children whether they are 6 or 26.  We'll do what we need to do.  Because we love our children.  I will never, ever be a mom who counts down the days until every last one of my kids is out of my house, when I can take trips to Paris or live in a Florida retirement community.  Even if I feel like it from time to time.  :)  I believe children are blessings, family's important and motherly duties change over time, but they never go away.  And I can't painstakingly plan out each and every detail of my life based on the future.  Because I don't know the future.  So I live for today like God tells me to, and today, there are two little girls without a home.  They happen to have Down syndrome. 

So that is our story, or at least the latest in a series of chapters in our story.  I cannot, sadly, share photos or names of our girls on my blog until we've gone to Ethiopia and passed court.  Bummer, I know.  But they are cutie pies, I assure you!  :)

And they've been waiting, and it's high-time they have a family.  We are that family.  I feel so incredibly blessed.  And...more than a little nervous too. 

But there is such peace.

God created these precious girls in His image, just as He wanted them to be.  Extra chromosome and all. 

I love it.  Love, love, love it. 

And so we are bringing them home.

Friday, October 08, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday {#9}

1.)  I just made an appointment to see a urologist next Tuesday morning.  Ever since my THIRD kidney stone episode nearly two weeks ago, I've had some ongoing, related symptoms and I think that I have not actually fully passed that stone.  Ugh.  I really hope I don't require some sort of  horrible intervention.  My general way of doing things is to wait stuff out and NOT see a doctor (oh how I hate going to the doctor!), but I'm wanting to know what's going on, if I have more stones to pass etc.  It's a little frustrating because I had a CT scan done in the ER and was told I had no more.  Well, obviously THAT was not the case considering the fact that I passed (or at least partially passed) two more in the following days.  Ever since that first time, I have been drinking water like a madwoman.  I average 9-10 glasses per day.  No joke.  I like the idea that I'm being consistently healthy about what I drink, but I DON'T like the resulting many, many trips to the bathroom that result.  :)

2.)  It feels as though I've lost my homeschooling groove.  To be honest, I think it started when I began having my health issues.  We were in a good routine, but then that got disrupted, and I'm having a hard time getting back into it for some reason.  Ultimately I think I, and the kids, have gotten a bit lazy.  It seems the recipe for a great day or week of homeschooling includes getting up and getting going in the morning, having things done by lunchtime at 11:30 or noon.  But I've been dragging and so have the kids.  I'm planning to change this and reinstitute some structure around here, because I don't like how things are going right now.

3.)  Speaking of kids, my son Biniam won an award at school yesterday!  Each week, one child in his Kindergarten class is chosen to receive this award, which can be earned for various things.  His yesterday was for "always trying your best."  The MOMENT I showed up in the afternoon, he RACED over to tell me he won an award.  Honestly I was so, so proud of him.  I know all the kids will get one over the course of the year, and it's not the Nobel Peace prize or anything, but really meant a lot to him, and made me so happy.  He's a great kid, but due to early childhood trauma that has resulted in some ADHD-ish issues, he can be more distractable than the average Kindergartner (if that's possible!)  He's also not particularly academically advanced.  He'll get there, but it's just not his time yet.  So for him to win an award for always trying his best, well, that makes this mama very, very proud.  It's hard to imagine your child winning an award at school for anything better than that.  Isn't that what we want from all of our kids, afterall?  And, it's true.  Biniam's nothing if not enthusiastic and willing to try.  Thinking about how he began his life and how far he's come makes it all the more sweet.  One of the many major blessings of adoption.

4.)  What is the deal with these Silly Bands?  Do your kids have them?  Do they swap them with friends?  My kids are only at school ONE DAY A WEEK and they are crazy for these!  Anna got one from a friend, Yosef did too, Biniam scored TWO (but gave one away to his buddy yesterday)...what is up?  Where do you even buy these?  It's hilarious because I'd read some article recently about Silly Bands being all the rage and then lo and behold, my own kiddos are coming home proudly sporting them on their wrists.  They want to buy a pack, but yeah, I have no idea where you would get them.  I also have no idea if I want to buy them, because I can only imagine that they would get scattered around my house and make a huge mess.

5.)  Yesterday when we were leaving the kids' school, Biniam said goodbye to--and hugged--a classmate.  Who happened to be a girl.  One thing you need to know about this little guy is, he's quite affectionate.  We used to think he had signs of attachment issues, but I think our attachment is actually okay, he's just a hugger.  We've set some boundaries with him and he's happy to oblige.  Anyway, yesterday when he did that, the girls dad joked to his other kids who were standing there, "We'll have to keep our eye on him" or something like that.  I don't know if he didn't realize I was there, or didn't care if I heard, but I was SO embarrassed.  The dad wasn't mad or anything, but he didn't seem accustomed to friendly people like my son.  Biniam likes having friends and giving them hugs.  It has NOTHING to do with gender or romance.  Really.  I try to remind him to ASK FIRST about the hugging, but being the impulsive child that he is, he sometimes forgets.  If someone isn't wanting the hug, he doesn't force it or anything.  He just happily doles them out.  Funny thing is a couple of weeks ago, a mom told me something like, "I think your son is enamored with my daughter."  I almost burst out laughing.  Really.  I just replied, "Yeah, he's really friendly."  It was funny because this is not someone I know very well, therefore she must have noticed Biniam interacting with her child and ASSUMED that he was really into her.  Which I'm sure he was--it's not that he's insincere--but he treats everyone that way.  Boys too.  His "best friend" in his Kindergarten class is a little boy that he talks about all the time and held hands with at the berry farm.  At any rate, it's all pretty innocent and I wanted to tell the dad, "Look, he's FIVE.  He's friendly.  And tactile.  I can assure you that if he could, he'd be giving out hugs like candy."  Instead I slunk away, making a mental note to tell Biniam NOT to hug kids at school.  Lest people get the wrong idea.  About a five year old.  (Incidentally I myself am NOT a huggy, touch-feely sort of gal.  I think Biniam probably SHOULDN'T be hugging kids at school, because not everyone wants to be hugged or touched.  But to imply that it's anything more than friendliness is just silly.)

6.)  Do you have any plans for the weekend?  I do.  An all-day adoption training tomorrow that I momentarily, blissfully forgot about.  I was about to say I DON'T have plans, but I do.  Bummer.  My wonderful, sweet friend has offered to watch my four bigger kids for us so we can attend.  I am soooo grateful!  It's our last training and we positively have to be there.  I have to tell you that I'll be so happy when it's done.  The adoption agency, which overall we have been less than pleased with, actually does a great job putting these on.  The information, which is for first-time adoptive parents, is excellent.  But it creates such a hardship for us because we have FIVE KIDS.  (And we're NOT first-time adopters.  I could be GIVING these presentations.  NOT because I'm so great, but I've read the books, know the research, and don't need practice responding to people when they say, "where are your kids from?")  So we've had to find people to watch them for the various trainings (well, all except Mary, who comes along, even though our social worker at one point tried to say that might be against the rules and suggested we call the office to find out what we "should do".  I refused.  Mary's still nursing, and is not disruptive, so they can deal with it.  :)  )

7.)  I've gotten more vigilant about bathing my kids lately.  No clue why.  I like having freshly bathed little ones, but by the end of the day, I'm so wiped out.  But I've been making myself be better about it and am so happy.  Now it's more a part of our routine and it doesn't feel like "more work" so much anymore.  ***I need to clarify that I WASN'T neglecting their hygiene previous to this new leaf I've turned over, but if I let a couple of days (or three) go by without a bath, I didn't freak out.  Now though I would, because it's every other day for all five of 'em.  If I could, I'd do it every night, but I'm not ready for that yet.  Maybe soon.  Then I'd be a REAL overachiever.  And I'm really looking forward to when my three oldest can bathe themselves--but so far, Anna is just not competent in getting all the soap rinsed out of her hair, so baths are still a mommy job around here.  And by "bath", I guess I mean shower--all my kids get in the tub, I turn the shower on, and bathe them that way. Well, except for Mary, who gets a regular bath so she can splash and play with the toy sharks.  She loves it!

BONUS 8.)  Yesterday I had some soda (for the first time in weeks).  Which contained caffeine.  (Also the first time I've had it in weeks.)  And, as a result, I had a HORRIBLE night's sleep last night, and felt all anxious.  I hate when I do that!  Seemed like a treat at the time, but then I paid for it later.  Really I'm paying for it TODAY, because I'm EXHAUSTED.  Perhaps a nap is in my future?  Oh, how I hope so!  We were thinking about going to the pumpkin patch today with our homeschool group, but that is just not going to happen.  (I'd already decided against it before I had the rough night's sleep.)  We need a day to be home, I think, re-finding our routine and just relaxing.  Hopefully we can still make it to the pumpkin patch sometime this season!

*If you want to do your own "7 Quick Takes Friday", you can link up over at Conversion Diary.  I hope you have a great Friday!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

But I have twins too!

Want to know something really, really strange?

Well, I think it's strange, anyway.

Here's the thing.

I have TWIN SONS.  Twin boys.  I've had these boys since they were 16-months-old.  So, awhile.

And yet...I don't think of myself as HAVING twins.

I never refer to them as twins.

I don't think of myself in the same category as parents of twins.


There's a mom at church with twins.  She goes to a twins playgroup.

And not only have I NEVER made the connection that we BOTH have twins, and thus share a relatively rare commonality, but I would NEVER have thought about joining a playgroup for twins.  It would never have occurred to me that one might exist.

What do people talk about at these playgroups?

What am I missing?

I have twins, but I'm not in the club!

Am I an abnormal twin-mom?  Am I SUPPOSED to think of Yosef and Biniam as twins first, human beings second? 

Is it weird that my twins are NOTHING alike, personality-wise?  Or looks-wise? Are these the sorts of things twin-moms discuss over coffee while the kids run around two-by-two?

Maybe if they were identical twins, I'd embrace this identity more.

But I just don't ever think about it.

So there it is.  Something strange for your Thursday. A neurotic mom-to-twins who never thinks about how she's a mom-to-twins.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Field day + sports aversion

A week or so ago my kids' school program held their annual Field Day.  (Yosef was amazing at this event by the way.  Some majorly superhuman strength going on there.)

My kids were so, SO excited.  They bounded out of bed in the morning, and spent some time "practicing racing" in the backyard.  Heehee!

The day itself was great.  I thought the parents who put it together did a great job keeping things moving and organized.  (Check out Anna kicking the soccer ball!)

But oh, was I exhausted. 

Running back and forth between the Kindergarten and First Grade classes, trying not to miss my kids in their events, with a three-year-old and baby in tow, was HARD!  I was so tired!  (Biniam was so excited to start the day.)

But it was worth it.  They loved it.

I have to confess that we have not entered the "sports phase" yet with our children.  None of them, not one, has ever played an organized sport.  Sometimes I feel a little guilty, but mostly I just feel happy when Saturday rolls around and it's a free day to do what we want.  :)  (Kaitlyn loved watching her older sister and brothers!)

When I was growing up, I played t-ball for one season, and that was it.  I didn't do sports.  I'm horribly unathletic and never really felt like I was missing out.  I had other interests I suppose--really exciting stuff like reading, and writing poems.  :)

In junior high, I was involved in student council and choir, and 4-H.  (I was the president of our club.  Ah yeah.  It was actually a lot of fun, although I HATED having to wear the green hat and scarf to lead the meetings.  Heehee!)

By high school, I was participating in choir, 4-H, and FFA.  (Yes, I just admitted to that.  It was awesome and a lot of fun.  Someday I will post about my various exploits, complete with photos of me and my prize-winning pigs and sheep.  Something to look forward to, for sure!)

But not sports.

And, that was okay.

Because I preferred just hanging out with friends and going to their houses after school and eating lots of food.  SO much more fun than running around being active!

I'm all about helping my kids to achieve their potential and explore their interests.  But I'm also all about us sitting around the dinner table each night, together, enjoying a meal.  I'm all about being home and not living out of our car.  I like relaxed weekends that, if anything, involve spending time with people we love.

So I'm honestly not sure where sports will fit into our family.  I'm certain this makes me horribly sexist but I think I feel more compelled to get Yosef and Biniam into Little League or something than I am in putting Anna in sports.  Weird, I know.  And I want to say I'm not AGAINST sports, or against spending the weekend at the baseball diamond/soccer field/football field.  AT ALL.  I think it's GREAT, kids love it, it's a great self-esteem booster (unless they are like I was, and horrible at sports, ha!) and surely great family time.  But I don't think it's probably right for OUR family, at least not at this stage in our lives.

I THINK, and this could change, but I THINK, we will start with swimming lessons for the four bigger kids at a rec center.  I'd hoped to do that this fall, but I waited too long to sign up, and the class was filled.  Sniff, sniff.  We have adoption travel sometime in the future and I guess I want to get a better handle on that before I sign them up.  But I think my kids would enjoy it, and it would be good for them.

After that, we'll see.  Money is of course also a factor.  Thankfully Denver Rec offers a TON of sports that are so, so affordable (even though it does add up for multiple kiddos!)

And, yes, I'm also interested in checking out Denver County 4-H when my kids are a little bigger. (Yes, urban areas also have 4-H.) I think it can be a great thing for kids and a wonderful educational experience. I'd love my kids to learn neat skills and get to enter their photography, sewing, baking etc. in local fairs and competitions. I think 4-H is a GREAT avenue for this type of thing because kids can pursue their own interests. So we'll see.

As for right now, my kids, in addition to their one-day-a-week homeschool program, do participate in one "extra-curricular".  On Wednesday nights, they are part of a church program across the street from our house (!)  The boys go to a 4s and 5s class where they color and hear a story.  Anna is part of a GEMS club (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior.)  They have snacks and play games and learn Bible verses and do crafts.  I love that she is getting fellowship with other girls her age.  We're still able to have a regular day, have dinner together at home, and then one of us walks the kids over.  Low impact for us, super fun for them.  (And some sweet time for us with our two littlest girls!)

How about you?  How do YOU navigate sports in  your family?  I think if we only had two children this would be a lot simpler, but with a bigger family, it's a bit of a balancing act.  The thought of kids on different teams playing at different fields around the city  I DON'T ever seeing us being a die-hard "sports family", if that makes any sense.  Come to think of it I don't know what we'll be.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I should get this figured out!  :)  (In the meantime, I love the relationship between these two sweet girls.  Kaitlyn LOVES Mary.  Loves, loves, loves.  She was great at holding her younger sister and keeping her entertained throughout the day.)

And bonus points to any former 4-Hers out there (I KNOW there are some of you) who can remember the 4-H pledge...

AND, for a final photo of our afternoon, evidence that the kids were having fun and working hard  :) :


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