Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Spectacular

No better word would describe our Church's annual time of learning for the young and old alike.  It is like VBS, yet not at all like any VBS I've ever been to.  "Summer Spectacular" is powered by hundreds of volunteers, many working for MONTHS to make this week a success.  I do not know the half of what goes on behind the scenes, but the results of it are quite apparent.  Kids (and I'd venture to guess, many an adult, too) come away knowing these familiar Bible Stories in a way that is colorful and alive to them.  It may be their first tiny glimpse into the idea that the Word is alive and relevant. 
That our God was so creative.  That He loves us.

And as a side benefit, all 6 of our little participants that week wore the same thing for three days, making one part of our evening preparations just a little bit easier.
(washed of course in between)

The whole crew loved their matching attire.
And requested, long after SS was over, to dress alike wearing these shirts.

But many evenings, only SOME of our crew actually made it to the big event.  We were smack in the middle of struggling through passing all kinds of colds and strep and coughs so only well ones got to go.

But when we did all make it, we certainly thought it was spectacular. 
And others thought we were quite a spectacle!
love the two-by-two approach, quite appropriate for the "Noah" theme, donchathink?
Look at those smiles.  THEY LOVED IT!
They loved the classes, they loved the Broadway-style-musical
(at least as long as their attention spans could hold-out),
The very favorite part for our little crew was the petting zoo.
(and therefore my favorite part was the hand sanitizer at the end of the attraction).

I cannot wait for many more years of Summer Spectacular.  Our family is just at the beginning stages of really being able to dive in to all that makes it SPECTACULAR and we already L-O-V-E it!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

REWIND: Some good 'ole races

So I need to do a few (or a 100, but few seems less stressful) rewind posts to get caught up on the last couple of months.  The first is going to be a pretty long toss in reverse, going all the way back to the end of February (gasp, I know...where does the time go).

RRL and I did two half marathons this spring.  And both, for different reasons, were amazing experiences.  Of the races we have participated in, these might be my favorites so far.

The first was the FTW Cowtown, in February.  It was awesome because it was only the second that RRL and I ran together.  We've both participated in several, but for various reasons, this was only the second time that it worked out for us to run together.  And the first kinda doesn't even count.  It was in Houston.  YUCK.  'nuff said.  So this was the first ENJOYABLE race that we did together.  He's my very favorite running buddy.  And if that weren't enough we ran "with" another family member, too! 
*our signs say "In red, white and blue we are...Running with Camp Eggers  Kabul, Afghanistan.  We love Lt Dan, USAF."

We found out, only days before the race, that my brother (then stationed in Afghanistan), was having a "Cowtown" race at Camp Eggers in Kabul.  Though it wasn't exactly the same day/time, it definitely felt like we were getting to do something with him and support him in an active way.  I'm already a SAP about family...and about finishing races.  So you can bet there were lots of sappy moments involved when I was already missing my little bro, and then finding out that a piece of us would be together in this way.  I loved that the Cowtown Marathon thought this was important, and sent tshirts, medals and supplies to my brother and other organizers, so that this could be something that families would always remember.  I know ours will. 

A local news channel also got wind of the story about a brother and sister and brother-in-law running this race together.
Which made it especially fun to be running along and have people read the signs our backs, recognize "Lt Dan" from the interview, and ask us to thank him for his service...while were running.  SO COOL.  Of course, we were more than thrilled to be able to pass along that thanks to him.  We are some of his biggest fans!

Our second spring race was ALSO extra cool because we got to do it with ANOTHER family member who worked SO hard to accomplish this goal.... My sweet Momma!  (Doesn't she look incredible for having just walked 13.1 miles in just a mere 3 hours and 2 minutes? She is awesome.  SERIOUSLY).
Remember the SAP part?  Well, letmetellyouwhat.  Crossing the finish line holding my Momma's hand on one side and my husband's hand on the other...a memory I'll always treasure.  And to make it even sweeter, this race was only a couple of weeks after our niece and nephews came to live with us.  I can't tell you how much I needed to have these few hours of time with two of my favorite people.  The Lord was so sweet to orchestrate this...we'd planned on it for months, long before we knew just how much we would value it.

And while we walked, of course, the honoree of our February race was still not far from our minds.  Here's Momma saying 'We love you Lt D!" as we passed under the flag he works so hard to protect.

So there you have it. 
The family that runs (and walks) together...
Well, we'd stay together ANYWAY.  But this sure was a fun way to do it!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Oh Happy Day!

 A very happy day indeed!  A day when we celebrate a great man at our house.

To the Love of my life,

Happy Father's Day

and Uncle's Day
to one of the very best that could possibly be celebrated today!

I love the way you treat Lou like a princess, giving her the best gift a girl could ask for- a Daddy who shows her what love is.

And I love the way you teach KJ and Cbug to protect and honor others, especially the ladies in their house.  Giving these boys the best gift, too, a Daddy that shows them how real men love deeply.

AND I love the way you walk beside me, step-by-step, as we raise these children.  You make me a better mother because of the father that you are.  Best of all you love me, in front of them, for them to see your uncompromising love for me...a great gift, indeed.

So on Father's Day we honor you, we thank you, we LOVE YOU.  And we have a clearer picture of our Heavenly Father's love because of you.  and that's

Happy Father's Day/Uncle's Day.  You are my very favorite one!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Princess Lou is TWO!

Guess who turned TWO today?
Two years ago, we had just been to night two of our church's VBS.  I was four days past my due date already and starting to feel certain that our sweet baby girl was going to live inside of me F-O-R-E-V-E-R.  I mean, not that I was dramatic about it or anything. Lo-and-behold, I didn't make it to night three of VBS.  PRAISE THE LORD.  The funny thing is that when Lou finally decided it was time to arrive, she came with a BANG.  No messin' around.  I should have known, then and there, that we were in trouble.  The best kind of trouble.  But trouble none-the less. 

Our sweet girl has been doing things on her own time ever since.  And when she decides IT'S better just watch out.  She's comin' through.  Take this last week for example.  Lou decided last Wednesday that she was done with her beloved pacifier.  Just when I was starting to wonder if she might go to college with it, she loved it so much...she decided to throw it away.  BAM.  Just like that and never looked back.  But nothing- NOTHING- could have prepared me for what she did next.  She 100% COMPLETELY potty-trained herself.  Instantaneously.  I'm really not exaggerating.  She decided while she was at the babysitter's house on Thursday that she didn't want to wear diapers anymore.  AND QUIT.   Number one, number two, day, night. EVERYTHING.  And not like, I run her to the potty every five minutes.  Like, she tells me when she needs to go and goes.  Just because she decided she could.  I'd say that pretty well sums up the way she walks through her little life.
As a side note... I don't want to give Lou all the credit for potty training. I do COMPLETELY believe that the Lord knew she needed that and that we NEEDED that.  On top of the current craziness at our house, I feel fairly certain if potty training #3 had been anything like her might have K-I-L-L-E-D us.  no joke.

Another word that would sum up our Lou these days is confidence (which might be a nice way of saying- she really LOVES herself).  I can't count how many times I've heard her say "You see this dress/you see this bow/you see these shoes?" or caught her looking at herself admiringly in the mirror.  I've already started teaching her the verse "I praise YOU because I am fearfully and wonderfully made" lest she start to believe that she had anything to do with her own amazingness.  As rough and tumble as she can be with the boys, she is 100% GIRL.  She loves to wear dresses, has her favorite pink leopard print Crocs, never leaves the house without a bow (and rarely without a purse or a baby) AND requires ice in her drinks whenever possible.  Her Daddy sometimes says she is high maintenance.  I think she just has a lot of confidence in who she is and what she wants.  That's different.  Right? RIGHT?

Sweet Princess Lou-
Oh how we LOVE you.  You make our home a brighter place and the Lord's timing in bringing you to us was so sweet!  We love the way you giggle, the way you dance, the way you wrinkle your little nose and (most of the time) we love the way you know exactly what you want.  You are CRACKING US UP these days with the things that you say.  I LOVE how you blend the things you hear your brothers/cousin say with the things of your girly play world, proving that your "dainty" 20lb self is a force to be reckoned with. You love to say "SUPER FAST" while being a super-hero princess.  You like to go "really higher" on the swings with your blond hair flying behind.  You LOVE LOVE LOVE anything that has a princess on it, and of course Elmo is still super high on the list.  You play pretend in your kitchen with CB and it always makes me laugh when you say "What you want to eat?....Sorry we don't had dat"  I love that you ask me at least 100 times a day "which one you fav-rite?" Likely because you ALWAYS know EXACTLY which one is YOUR favorite.  Do you wanna know what my favorite is, Lou?  MY favorite is when you say "DIS MUCH..." with your arms wide open for me to sweep you up and smother you with hugs and kisses.  That's my favorite.

You had a lot to give up in the last few months of your second year.  You are no longer the baby in the house, you aren't the only girl anymore, you share your room and even your bed.  But big girl, you have risen to the challenge and I'm so very very proud of you.  I know it hasn't been easy for you, but someday I hope we get to sit together as women and talk about how it made us stronger.  I have tears in my eyes as a write this because as the Lord works in our family, the world would say that a tiny blond two-year-old couldn't understand it.  But somehow, I know they are wrong.  I know you don't understand everything, but when I watch your tenderness toward your (nearly) twin cousin and your baby cousin, I know you DO understand His love- maybe even in a way that the rest of us are still learning.  I'm learning from YOU.  Thank you, sweet little sister.  May the Lord continue to bless you with abounding compassion, may He use your zeal for life and your determination to accomplish great things for His kingdom.  May you never forget that indeed YOU ARE fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are one of His works, and THAT makes you wonderful (Psalm 139:14).  You are wonderful- and you also happen to be one of my very favorites!

I love you baby girl.  How much?  THIS MUCH!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Everyday Adventures- Part 2

Yesterday, I started the everyday adventures post, but it got a little long.  Here are a few more worth remembering.

The Three Amigos
I thought life with two boys so close in age was crazy...add a third to the mix and things get down-right H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S. At the risk of toe-ing the TMI line...yesterday, after we came in from playing in the sprinklers, I sent the big boys to the bathroom to take a shower. After a minute or two I heard lots of giggling and then simultaneous shouting "Momma/Aunt A....we are all peeing at the same time". OH HEAVENS. They were so proud of themselves. BUT not nearly as proud as they were later that evening when Daddy/Uncle R fixed them up with these beauties of tatoos. Aren't they tough? Watch out for the three amigos. (Nobody tell them that they are way too precious to scare off anything, I need them to believe they are protecting all the ladies of the house).

A budding Engineer?
One of our favorite things to do when we are at home is talk to Nonna on the phone. Cbug was taking his turn recently and I suppose had heard about the risks of holding a cell phone too long. Maybe in an attempt to avoid cell-phone-cancer, or maybe just because he is Cbug, he invented this contraption. I walked into the laundry room to find him talking to his Nonna flat on his belly with the phone propped up in front of him. Budding engineer?

Our "class" at the Library
When my neice and nephews first came to stay with us, I made a mental list of adventures I just wouldn't be willing to try alone with six kids. I wanted to set some reasonable expectations for myself. But as time progressed, we've developed more of a system for traveling together and I'm more confident when I leave the house. High on the list of impossible adventures was the library. But last week I started asking what was the worst that could happen? We might have to buy a new book, we might be asked to leave if we got too noisy, it might not last long if I couldn't keep everyone contained. Maybe it was worth the risk AND it actually went really well. We didn't stay a long time, I didn't let the kids "wander" to pick out books like I did when there were only 3, and for the most part we just sat in the children's area reading stories like we would at home. BUT we did also find a few books on tape to borrow, and played with some dominos.

Two quick stories about our library time
PICTURE ONE: When I went to the circulation desk to ask about borrowing the dominos the man asked why wanted them. I'm not going to lie...I had a moment of panic. I totally couldn't tell him "um, my kids just like to see how high they can stack them" because it didn't seem "smart" enough for the library. Instead I made up something about learning about numbers and matching. It wasn't a complete lie- we always do some of that, too, but the primary purpose of the dominos at their age is building towers, making snakes or train tracks, whatever. I JUST WANT THEM TO SIT AT A TABLE AND PLAY WITH THE DOMINOS, ok? I knew I was busted when the man came walking over to our table with another lady. I totally thought we were in trouble for crashing our towers one too many times. Instead, he introduced me to "the assistant director of the branch" and said he just wanted to bring her over to show her how he had helped me with my "class". I didn't bother to tell them that these children weren't my class...they all live with me. Poor guy had been gullible enough for one day :)

PICTURE TWO: Another favorite library moment was when KJ went to find a "princess book" so that he could read to Lou. I love how he takes care of all of his little siblings/cousins. Really, he has totally stepped up to take on so much responsibility and done it with an amazing attitude. It is a very fine line, though, between being a good helper and him deciding that we need another parent in the house. He knows everyone's full names, and he isn't afraid to use them. We try to remind him to just encourage others to do the right thing...but we are a little outnumbered. I MEAN, not that we would let him parent or anything.

I hope to continue to document some of our everyday adventures.  It really does help keep perspective when I look back over these pictures and remember the fun times we are experiencing together- the crazy times, but filled with fun none-the-less.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Everyday Adventures- part I

I pray all the time that this crazy season in our lives will be one that all six of these kids remember as a blessing.  I KNOW this will absolutely shock you, but with six kids there are times when my patience isn't perfect, I make parenting decisions I regret, I have too high of expectations.  I pray all the time that HIS grace will fill in the gaps, that miraculously they will only remember that I love them, that they learned a lot, and that we had LOTS of fun! I pray that they'll see HIS glory in our parenting, and not our human-faults.  Here's hopin'

One thing I've been working hard at is keeping my camera available during the days.  I hope that these pictures of some of our everyday adventures will help remind all EIGHT of us about the good times that we were blessed with during our time together, however long it may be.  I hope these are some of the moments we will remember.

What was your favorite thing about today?
AB LOVES trains.  AND Woody.  Each night we go around the dinner table and ask everyone what their favorite part of the day was. He almost ALWAYS says "Play with Trains" or "Play with Woody".  This day, he was both!

Needing some "Me" time
Cbug has LOVED having a cousin so close to his own age to play with (they are less than one month apart).  He loves that sometimes HE gets to be the one to "take care" of AB instead of KJ always taking care of Cbug.  That said, Cbug likes his "me" time.  Just about everyday, I'll find him off somewhere by himself, playing alone.  I try to respect this and make sure the other kids give him a little space- although its hard to find a quiet spot when there are 5 other kids playing in 1400 sq feet.  This day he succeeded for a little while at is what I found behind his closed bedroom door.  All of his cars lined up in a "parking lot", organized neatly and all the other toys cleaned up...with music playing and Cbug happy as a lark.
*On a side note, Cbug is wearing his Daniel in the Lions Den shirt from our Church VBS.  HE LOVES THIS SHIRT.  I'd love to think it is because this story of a Bible Hero has impacted him, but he loves it because of another hero.  He calls it his "Uncle Daniel" shirt.

Throw and Catch
Sweet baby B LOVES balls.  It is hilarious to watch him drop them, roll them, chase them, bounce them, all over the house.  The hard floors make it especially fun and keep him entertained for long stretches of time.  Unfortunately for him, he doesn't get free reign.  I do barricade the back half of the house using the living room couch, ottoman, and his exercauser so that the big kids can play with "big kid toys" without having to fear that they'll be eaten by this hungry little cousin/brother.

Rainy day Monday!
Although our neighbors would likely disagree, I considered it a stroke of sheer LUCK that the city decided to dig up some pipes in our neighborhood on a rainy Monday morning.  What could be better for three little boys (and their tag-along sisters) than getting to use their umbrellas AND watch construction trucks. AT THE SAME TIME. RIGHT IN THEIR VERY OWN YARD.  Seriously, I could not have planned a better Monday morning activity for these three.  Unfortunately, it was on a randomly cold May morning, so we didn't get to stay out long.  But in the meantime, the construction workers were so thoughtful to wave, smile, show the boys how things worked, and let us watch. 

Do you have trains that move?
I love my job.  I really do.  I love that I get paid to do something I enjoy and that I get to only do it 3 days a week. The company I work for is amazing and my work family has taken really good care of me over the years.  When I had surgery, when I made the decision to work part-time, at the birth of each of my children, and once again this last week.  We were invited to campus for a special party for our house full of kiddos.  THEY LOVED IT!  They were on CLOUD NINE getting to see trains, eat cupcakes (and cookies AND punch AND fruit), have lots of attention...and did I mention there were TRAINS? All 6 (or at least the bigger 5) were so thrilled that they got to walk up the stairs of a real railcar.  They REALLY wanted to take a ride and were really disappointed that "my trains" don't move.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard since then "Momma/Aunt work at the trains, right?  You DO have some trains that move, right?" Someday I'll break it to them that I'm just a CPA.  But for now, I'll let them think what they think.  For now, I'll know the truth...whether I actually drive (or even ride) the trains doesn't really matter- I'm incredibly blessed by my work family.  Thanks so much to each of you that made Wednesday so special for us.


Fun times, for sure!  More "everyday adventures" coming soon.  I'm just too tired from all this fun to post about anymore tonight.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Last day of School

Although our preschool goes year-round, we still celebrated the "last day of school" before the summer program began.  The day before KJ's graduation, the littler kids (Cbug, A, and C) had a small end of year program.  Since I forgot to take pictures before they left that morning, for their last day of school, I snapped a few before we left for the program that evening.  I'm so glad I did- they were looking especially handsome/beautiful all clean and dressed-in-their-best.

KJ started at this little preschool two years ago, and we have loved every minute of it.  But I have never loved it quite as much as I did the day I sat in the school office, telling the assistant director about my niece and nephew.  They threw their arms open for these two, totally "bent" all the rules to make the best possible situation for their mid-year transition to the school, and walked step-by-step with them as they worked to adjust to the new place.  I'm so very thankful for the ladies that took care of all four of these precious ones while they were at school, especially in the midst of this crazy season for our family.
(When you see Cbug's picture with his teacher, would you join me in a unified song of praise that Mrs J has 3 boys of her own at home and just KNOWS how to love boys)

For comparison purposes, here are all of their first day and last day pictures.

First day
Bummed that somehow I didn't get a picture of KJ by himself on the first day.  I was so loving the boys excitement over going to school TOGETHER that I didn't think farther.  Ah well.

Last day

First Day
On A's first day, Cbug thought he might need a little extra encouragement and suggested that A wear the multicolored macaroni necklace that Cbug had crafted.  Nice touch to his first-day-of school attire, I thought.

Last Day

First Day

Last Day
I can see the biggest change in Cbug.  He has gained TONS of confidence this school year...not that these pictures would tell you that or anything (smirk).  Is it just me, or does anyone else see these and CLEARLY picture the ham-of-a-teenager that our Cbug will be? Watch out (and stick around for the fun)!

First day

Last day

 Aren't they the sweetest?  We are so blessed to have a place for them to spend a few days during the week where they are so well loved and learn more about Jesus!