August 30, 2012

Pillow Caves

Our family is girl heavy.  My mom and dad both have 3 sisters.  Everyone has girls.  And if they had any boys (with the exception of one of my aunts) they only had one.  So I never really got to see how brothers acted growing up. 

Good Lord.  Boys are complex beings.  My boys are best friends and worst enemies and that dynamic changes on a dime.  They'll be playing and then all of a sudden one will punch the other in the face.  Then they'll help the hurt one stop their bloody nose.  It's very weird.  I can hardly keep up with the love/hate fest.  But sometimes... sometimes it is total love fest.

I've talked a couple of times about my boys and their affinity for pillows.  They used to spend hours making the perfect "pillow stack" to jump in- like a pillow pool.  But these days they are getting smarter.  Their capacity for engineering has taken a huge leap and a pillow stack is no longer cutting it.  Now they are into "caving". 


All over my house are these intricate cave systems made out of pillows.  The pillows are carefully stood on their ends and balanced perfectly- the big ones supporting the little ones.  Sometimes these caves get very elaborate with each boy getting their own "bedroom" in the cave.  One cave even had a storage unit to put their games and snacks in. 


I'm trying to get over the fact that these tunnels and caves make my house look like a disaster and block my path to the kitchen and the bathroom.  It's hard to be mad when they are having so much fun.  I think my favorite one of their cave houses was this one:

Please ignore my mess.  I thought about cropping it out, but I figured as long as my undies weren't spilling out of the hamper, then showing our real life wasn't so bad!

The reason it's my favorite cave house is because of this:


That pillow case draped over the laundry hamper is their TV.  For two straight afternoons they stayed curled up in their cave "watching" this TV.  The programming must be riveting.





Now, if I can just figure out how to keep them from beating the crud out of each other, I'd be in business!  About ten minutes after this was taken, one jumped off the bed on top of the other one WWE style and nearly crushed him.  I will never figure out the complexity that is the brother relationship.  Love/Hate.  Brothers. Best friends.  I LOVE it (96% of the time)!  


 

August 28, 2012

The Closest Thing To Our Bering Sea

We are major Deadliest Catch junkies.  If it's on, we are watching it and all texting each other about what we are seeing on the screen.  We've long since decided that my dad is Kentucky's version of Captain Phil.  His years of hard livin', anxiety, chain smokin', foot twitchin' are a spot on match for my dad.  But so are Phil's big heart and his overwhelming love for his family.  Yep- that's my dad.

After a night with all of us at his house, my dad looked a little like he'd had a long day on the Bering Sea- still handsome as ever, but a little worse for the wear!
 Let's just back up a bit and see how this all played out, shall we? 

My aunt Vicky and cousin Josh were in visiting (from Jersey and the OC respectively) for the first time in 5 years.  We decided to have a little reunion out on my dad's farm.  It started out very innocent- just lots of being together and reconnecting.
My dad, my Mamaw, dad's sister Vicky and my GranGran

My kids met and fell in love with my cousin Josh almost instantly.  He's a surfer/skateboarder/artist and just uber cool in their eyes.



There was good food and good hammock swinging...

 
...and just lots of great time being together.


And then it all got crazy.  My dad loaded most everyone on the four wheeler and whispered to me,"Go stand over there, you're gonna wanna record this."  It was the crazy Captain Phil coming out in him.  He didn't care that my 74 year old grandmother was in the front seat or that my little ones were in the back.  He was ready to make some memories.  And oh, what hilarious (and wet!) memories they are.  This is what happened in picture progression:







It was gloriously hilarious.  Especially the aftermath:

 Oh, my dad. He was only slightly excited at the giant prank he'd just pulled off.

And this?  This has to go down as my favorite picture ever taken of my Mamaw: soaking wet, stinking of dirty creek water and happy.  Blissfully happy.


Drenched.

The kids did the typical, "Do it again, Papaw!" and he was all too happy to oblige.  This time, I caught the live action and it just makes me smile- especially seeing how happy my Sadie is. 


And that's how it came to be that Captain Phil Papaw Johnny looked like he'd had an epic day on the Bering Sea Waddy Creek.


In my lifetime, my dad's side of the family hasn't always been close.  All of his siblings are scattered all over the country and we don't all get together very much.  I think the older we all get, the more we recognize that these are the connections that matter.  I can't even begin to describe how much it means to me that I've been able to get to spend time with my grandmother and know her heart over the last 5 or 6 years and marvel at how she has become such an integral part of my children's lives.  And I can't even begin to describe how fun it's been to get to know my aunts when they come in to visit.  And how reconnecting with my cousins has given me such joy.  And how watching my children play giant games of hide and seek with my cousin's children has been a major blessing in my life.  Maybe I'm just feeling sentimental, but I'm so grateful for the gift of family that I've been given- even if this side of the family was a late in life gift.  I think it makes it mean more.  I'm just grateful.  And I'm grateful that when I get in the van with my husband after a wild night like that and I lean over and say, "Thank you for loving my big, giant, redneck family," that he says, "Ummmmm, have you met MY family?"  

Good people.  Good times.  Memories that will last forever. 

The beautiful sunset that capped off the night.

August 24, 2012

Sadie Shares

Over the summer, the adoption clinic that we took Miles to when he got home, hosted an essay contest for adopted children and siblings of adopted children.  I loved that they recognized siblings as part of their contest because adoption affects every member of the family. Sadie decided to give it a go and today I wanted to share her thoughts.

PROMPT:  The term "family" is often described differently.  What does family mean to you? 

Hi,

My name is Sadie and I’m 8 years old.

My little brother, Miles, was adopted from Congo. At first it was a little different, but when we got used to it we started to have lots of fun.

It was different because he would hide food in his shirt because he never had enough food in Congo.

And in first grade when Miles came to eat lunch with me a kid in my class said “He is not in your family! He is black and you are white!”

What family means to me is that when you think you don’t like someone (they have different color skin) you really do. We are the same. We still love them no matter what. And now that I think about it we go to church together and play together.

That’s what family means to me.

Love,

Sadie
Family


August 23, 2012

I'm Lovin It



Wecome to the latest edition of all the things (products, pins, blogs, etc.) I'm loving right now!

Current faves include:

Favorite pin on pinterest:
I try not to ever actually make any of the recipes that I pin on Pinterest because, let's face it, I only pin "sometimes" foods and never veggies or salads.  But we are all obsessed with the Louisiana Chicken Pasta dish that they serve at the Cheesecake Factory.  We made this last week and it was delish!  And since it requires about 45 gallons of cream, it will probably be a while until my arteries want it again. However, it was worth every calorie.

The original pin can be found HERE.

Favorite Blogs:  Right now, I am really loving Abbie's writing at 5 Days, 5 Ways.  She's hilarious, down to Earth and VERY pregnant with twin girls.  She also got more style in her pinky finger than I could ever have and I'm gaining tons of inspiration from her sight about how I'm going to overhaul my fall wardrobe.

I'm also really digging Anissa's writing at Free Anissa.  She's an adult adoptee (which plays out very little in her writing) who had a stroke a few years ago and is now wheelchair bound.  Anissa's writes from the heart and gives me a great perspective of what her life is like from her chair.  She's such a gifted writer and good person and I can't help but love everything she posts.

Favorite BookThe Adoptive and Foster Parent's Guide: How to Heal Your Child's Trauma and Loss by Carol Lozier

I've read an obscene amount of adoption books but this is, by far, one of the best ones I've read.  (For those entrenched in this world, I put it right up there with Parenting The Hurt Child - yep, it's that good.)  Not only is this book chock full of information about the whys of attachment difficulties, but it's also crammed with ACTUAL REAL LIFE strategies.  The author is a social worker who has been working with families in tough adoption/fostering situations for over two decades.  What I love the most about this book (besides the great info and easy to understand writing) is the format.  The author calls it "magazine" style and it makes it easy for us busy moms to be able to read for a few minutes at a time between distractions and still pick up TONS of information.  This book hits on everything: loss, triangulation, birth parents, case studies, self care for parents, and everything in between.  I'm adding it to my list of mandatory reading for those of you who email and ask what you should be doing while waiting for your kiddos to get home!  This book is a gem. (I'm also giving away a copy at the bottom of this post!)

Favorite Target Dollar Spot Item:
Because seven hours a day at school isn't enough, my kids play "school" almost all afternoon.  With all the teacher items on sale right now, I took my daughter- aka, the permanent teacher, to pick out some new things for her bedroom classroom.  We got a lot of junk, but our favorite thing by far are these cute little Cat In The Hat whiteboards.  These things have been erased no less that a billion times this week and they are still just as white as they started out.  Plus- they make practicing writing your name over and over SO much fun!


Favorite Etsy ShopMore Love Mama.  Cute,, authentic African fabrics made into precious things.  Doesn't get much better than that.  Except it does- huge chunk of the proceeds help kids in the Congo.

Favorite Beverage: Once again, I've given up my beloved Diet Pepsi (I've actually lived without it for almost a month which is a new record for me!).  I used to give it up and not replace it with anything.  But the addict in me had to replace it with something.  Here's what I'm now hooked on:

All the yumminess of fresh iced tea without having to brew it!  It's really helping me kick the soda.

Favorite Site For A Good Deal: Two Frugal Mamas.  Every Monday, these ladies put out a HUGE list of all the books that are available on Kindle for FREE.  I've found some great reads that way.  They also post lots of other super deals from all over the internet.  (And none of those crazy things like how they started making their own cheese to save money like so many of those other extremist deal sites!)

Favorite App: Kids Eat Free.  This one lets you put in your current location and it will tell you where you what restaurants are around you where your kids can eat for free.  The app costs $.99 but has saved us TONS.  

Favorite Girl:  This one right here. 


And now on to the giveaway.  Enter to win a copy of THE ADOPTIVE AND FOSTER PARENT GUIDE:  HOW TO HEAL YOUR CHILD'S TRAUMA AND LOSS using the rafflecopter widget below.


August 21, 2012

The Level Ten Tantrum and The Alien Head Wrap

We are finally getting settled into our back to school routines.  Well, almost.  Noah can't quite get used to going to school all day so he falls asleep in various places almost every afternoon.  It's kind of precious.  Except for the fact that since he never knows he's going to fall asleep he doesn't remember to go to the bathroom first.  It makes for a good bit of scrubbing when he wakes up. 

Sadie has also been a little tired.  This is evidenced by the stand off that she and I had this weekend.  Y'all, girlfriend was out of control.  If this was a window into her teen years, than boarding school is definitely in that girl's future.  I can't even remember what started the fight, but she got very diva and disrespectful and I *may* have gotten all flustered and reminded her that she's not too big for me to throw over my shoulder and slingshot into Alaska .  It was not pretty.  She had to go to her room so I could cool down she could cool down.  While she was there, she *may* have had to write an essay about what was going through her mind.  She *may* have titled it "The Day of The Level Ten Tantrum".  Then she took a three hour nap and woke up good as new and we had a good laugh at how ridiculous I look when I loose my temper with the kids.  Noah said I was like the moms on the cartoons who start turning red and then smoke comes out of their ears.  It's true.

In between all the tiredness, we had to say goodbye to our good friends, the Bidwells.  They just left for Haiti to be missionaries.  No amount of tear blocking anti-depressants could hold back the waterworks that came when saying goodbye to them.  You know how sometimes friends come along at just the right time in your life?  That was the Bidwells for us.  A few weeks after Miles came home, I met Monica at preschool pickup.  She was all cheery and said, "We just adopted our little guy, too!"  At the time, we didn't have any local adoptive families that we knew and out of that one simple sentence, our families grew together.  Noah and their Kilee are the best of friends.  And Miles and their Josiah are partners in crime.  We will sure miss our nights of fire pits in the backyard and weekly pizza buffet lunch runs with them, but we are so excited for them and this new journey they are on.  Plus- we can't wait to go to Haiti for spring break to visit!  (You can follow their blog HERE)

   
In the midst of my crying and falling apart as a parent, the man of our house, went to New York City for a four day business trip.  This means that we had lots of cereal for dinner and went to bed extra early. (I'm just making myself our to sound like the world's best mom ever, right?)  We redeemed ourselves by having an afternoon at the park when he got back into town.  It's beginning to feel like fall here and it was lovely playing soccer and kickball and pushing the kids on the swings.  The boys, especially, wanted to soak up the sunshine.




Miles starts back to preschool next week.  We took a little trip to the beauty supply store so that I could get the things I needed to put some twists in his hair since that's less daily maintenance for school days.  For the record, he loves his giant hair.  The bigger the better.  Last week he got out of the tub and spent a looooooong time looking at himself in the mirror admiring his "afro circus". 


As I was gathering the things I needed at the beauty store, I decided that I should pick up a new sleeping cap for Miles to protect his style from fuzzing up in his sleep.  I kid you not, this is what we found:

This is the one we bought because it was the only one small enough for his head.  But seriously?  Do not doubt that I will be writing their marketing department about their packaging.  Shorty?  Lil brotha?  Ummmm, stereotype much?


I also bought this on impulse, partly because my arms always fall asleep setting Miles hairstyles with the blow dryer, but mostly because I think it will be hilarious to see him in this alien like contraption.  I have a feeling that my children will fight over who's Halloween costume needs this gold head heater most. Good times.  Good times.


August 17, 2012

Remembering

"Mommy, do you wememba when you comed to pick me up in Afwica and bwing me home?" my little 4 year old asked while he was happily spinning the wheels on his Lightening McQueen car.

"Yes, baby.  I sure do.  I'm so glad we brought you home."

For a moment, he looked happy and proud and then his whole face changed. 

"When I was in Congo, I didn't have no cars to pway with."

My heart sank.  Oh, sweet baby boy.  Miles rarely talks about the two years of his life he spent in the Congo before coming to be a part of our family.  When we talk to him about his birth country, we talk of how beautiful it is and how amazing the people are and we tell him wonderful things about the people who took care of him while we were waiting to come and get him.  But he still remembers the bad things.  As he gets older, he has begun to make sense of his life in Congo and sometimes he tells me stories about it- like today when he told me with such sadness that he "didn't have no cars".  He remembers.

Every little boy should have a car to play with.  There are times in my house when there are so many cars rolling around on the floor it looks like an elaborate booby trap that kid on Home Alone would design.  I step on them and kick them and sometimes mutter under my breath that one day I'm just going to pick them all up and throw them away!

But Miles loves every single one of them.  They each have a name.  He knows where every one of them is at all times.  He spends hours and hours lining them up, inspecting their wheels, and driving them all over the house.  I always thought that is seems like little boys are just born knowing how go "vroom vroom" when they see a car/truck/tractor.  Now, I realize that maybe that comes as a result of opportunity.  When I heard my tiny, car lovin' little man talk about how he didn't have something that means the world to him now- I can't help but think about the millions of little boys around the world who don't have a little, toy car to push around. 

Or food in their bellies.  Or a warm blanket to cover up with at night.  Or a roof over their heads.  Or a mommy to tuck them in and greet them in the morning.  Or, or, or.

Sometimes in the rush of our every day lives, we forget the magnitude.  The magnitude is enormous.

Because I know, that same little boy who at one time lived on the street and who is worried about how he didn't have a toy car will one day turn that conversation into:

"Mommy, do you remember when you comed to pick me up in Afwica to bring me home?"

"Yes, baby.  I sure do.  I'm so glad we brought you home."

"When I was in Congo, I didn't have a mommy and daddy."

Sometimes the gravity and reality is heavy.  The hurts are real and tangible and present.  The magnitude is enormous.

Meeting Miles- Feb. 2010

August 13, 2012

Snapshots

A little bulleted blogging on this fine Monday...

*  It's a little bit weird around here with the two big kids in school all day and only having Miles at home.  Miles is a completely different kid when he's one on one.  He's such an attention seeker in every. single. situation.  When there is no one here to compete for attention with he is the most delightful child on the planet.  He's quiet and well mannered and easy going and low maintenance.  Miles and low maintenance are words I never thought I'd put together in the same sentence.  He's having so much fun not sharing his stuff or his mama.  He's content to just get out one little car and push it around in a circle for HOURS.  (Which is weird because when the other kids are around he can't be still for 3 seconds) It's been just awesome to spend time with him one on one all day.  Then at 2:30 when the kids get off the bus it is game on and he's back to hell on wheels.  But for 7 hours he is pure angel.


* Miles starts back to preschool in 2 weeks and then he'll be gone for half days.  This will be the first time the kids will all be at school at the same time.  Whatever will I do with myself? My husband thinks I should sit down and actually type the book that's been written over and over again in my head and then sell it for a gobzillion dollars. (yeah right) I think I'd like to take a nap.  A nap that lasts for a solid month.  And then I'd like to become that mom that I always thought I'd be in my head: the one who gets a nutritious meal on the table every night and who has a house that is clean enough that you wouldn't be mortified if the preacher decided to pop in.  I'm not setting those as goals because I may just decide that when the kids are gone that I want to watch TV in my underwear and I wouldn't want those stupid goals hanging over my head.

*Speaking of clean houses...  You could actually eat off of my floors today.  But hurry by if you want to see it because I give it about 2 hours before it's completely destroyed again.  Yesterday, we had an open house.  We landscaped and pressure washed and I even painted the porch columns.  I cleaned out every single closet.  I bought a new vanilla scented candle to burn in the bedroom because a website told me that vanilla in the bedroom would make buyers think they were going to get lots of sex in that bedroom if they bought my house.  We worked for days getting this place in tip top shape and then... NO ONE showed up for the open house.  Shoot me now.  On the plus side, I did splurge on one of those Shark steam mops to get the floors extra clean.  I love it so much I may just steam the floors for fun.  (Not really, but it's pretty awesome)

* We are soaking up the last of pool season.  Sob.



* Almost 9 months into this process and we still don't have any foster kids.  Just to recap, in what seems like a lifetime ago, we did a homestudy, went though court in a third world country and traveled to Africa to bring home Miles in less time than it has taken to get kids in our home through foster care.  I'm trying to be patient.  I know that part of the reason it is taking so long is because we only have room for one extra bed in this house and so we can only take kids that aren't part of a sibling group- which really limits who they can call us about.  Y'all, I'm just ready to get this show on the road.  Sometimes I think the anticipation of starting something is more brutal than doing it.  The anticipation is killing me!

*  The Olympics took over my kid's lives.  Now they can't make a move in the house without asking me to "score" them.  "Mom, I'm going to skip and then somersault over to get my backpack.  Score me."  It's very cut throat.  Also, they now want to be platform divers.  Something about letting them hurl themselves off a three story platform at 35 miles an hour toward the water does not appeal to me.

* Remember how our dog sprained her wrist a few weeks ago?  I know, lame right?  Well, two days after the sprain she couldn't walk on a different leg and we had to take her to the emergency room where it was discovered that she had a flesh eating bacteria.  (It was all very Grey's Anatomy for animals)  She almost lost her life. Then she almost lost her leg.  And then, in miraculous fashion, she turned a corner and now just has to go to the vet every single day to get a new bandage on her leg.  But she's going to make it.  She's not that happy about it, though, because she is sporting a cone of shame.  I thought for a while she was on so many pain killers that she wouldn't even realize that she was in the cone, but she knows it.  Poor girl.  She is the most high maintenance outside dog that has ever lived.  And also the smelliest.



*  Sadie has recovered from her belly troubles.  It took a trip to the ER to clear out the blockage from her intestines.  That's all that she's permitting me to write about it on here.  So you can just catch my drift about how they removed that blockage.  Good times!

* Three nights last week, I had dreams where world peace depended upon me making out with various celebrities.  One night it was Sting.  The next night it was Jennifer Aniston.  The third night I was in Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and I drew the line at kissing Gary Busey.  I will now take the blame for the lack of world peace.  A girl's gotta have her limits.  Evidently Gary Busey is mine.

*And lastly, how cute are these two waiting for the bus?

August 09, 2012

Empty Nest

There is something about the first day of kindergarten that just destroys a mama.  When Sadie started kindergarten a few years ago, I was a wreck.  I had been a stay at home mom for so long, I didn't know how to function when all my little ducks weren't at home.  By a few weeks into school, we hit a groove and Sadie loved it so much that it was a joy to watch her happily get on the bus and go to school.

Then this year rolled around and it was time for Noah to go to kindergarten.  Since this wasn't my first rodeo, I didn't think I'd be hit like a ton of bricks when the day finally came for him to leave the nest.  It hurt just as bad as the first time.  For days leading up to it, I'd get weepy for no good reason. Every time they'd show someone's mom on the Olympics, I'd bawl my eyes out and think of my little Noah going off into the world and me having to support him from the sidelines.

But he was pumped about going to school.  He's been wanting to go to kindergarten since his big sister went.  It's been his biggest life goal.  He has Sadie's same incredible teacher and one of his besties in his class and he felt totally comfortable and excited about the whole thing.  I put on my brave face in front of him, but fell apart frequently anytime anyone even mentioned kindergarten.

The big day finally came around yesterday.  The kids put on their new outfits and new shoes. (Sadie asked me why it makes you feel so good to wear a new outfit and I told her it was one of life's greatest mysteries)  They had giant smiles on their faces.  We loaded up in the van and went to breakfast- which is our first and last day of school ritual.  Then it was time to drop off.  They walked into school with confidence.  I took Noah to his room and he gave me a giant, tight hug in the hallway and in he went.  I felt so much in that hug: an era ending, the years marching by, and love.  So much love.

Then I took Sadie to her room.  She's a professional at this now and so she walked in her room like she was 16 instead of 8.  Where is time going?

They ran off the bus yesterday afternoon full of excitement and talking about all that had gone on with their day.  Noah said he learned how to read "all the words, every one of them" on his first day.  Sadie was happy to be back with all her friends.  Sometimes I have to remind myself of how happy they are and that gaining independence is natural and a GOOD thing.  But oh my goodness- it still hurts this mama to let them go!




 Heading out.  Kamron picked on me for taking this picture.  I explained to him that one day, this picture will be the equivalent of seeing pictures of our great grandparents in front of the horse and buggy.  That further cemented my lameness.

Ready to take on the world!



The first day wore them out so much that all they had the energy to do was lay around when they got home.  After bath time last night, I walked in on this snugglefest happening in the living room.  The Olympics in your skivvies, with a big bowl of popcorn and your siblings around you looks like a perfect night to me!

  
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