November 28, 2013

The Littles Count Their Blessings

I have so much to be thankful for!  Though life with four kids is NOT easy, it is such a blessing that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Every year I take a quick little video of the kids saying what they are thankful for.  It's so exciting this year to have a new, sweet little face in that video saying that she's thankful for Santa Clause and Jesus (and everything else in her line of vision at the time of filming!)

I'm just so grateful for these little people.

November 21, 2013

I'm Lovin' It (And A Giveaway)

The latest installment of all the things I'm loving lately...

* Stitch Fix!  Have you heard of Stitch Fix yet?  For people, like me, who are utterly helpless at fashion, this is super fun.  You fill out an online profile about your body, your style, clothes that you like, how much you prefer to spend on clothing, etc. and a personal stylist sends you a box of clothes in the mail.  You pick out what you like and send the rest back.  I tend to get stuck in a style rut (been stuck in the cardigan rut for years) and they send me some fun things that I might not normally pick out.  Sometimes they send stuff I LOVE.  Sometimes they send stuff that does not look like something I would normally wear (hello, tight red dress that my husband LOVED on our anniversary date) but it's kind of like having a friend go shopping with you!  I highly recommend it!  Check out Stitch Fix here!

* This Mug.

This is the view from my office this morning.  It's one of my favorite rooms in my house because it is QUIET.  And this "World's okayest mom" mug just makes me ridiculously happy.  I ordered it last week when one of our kids was doing all kinds of crazy in an effort to deal with it not being all about them on other people's birthdays.  In the 24 hours I've had this mug, I've drunk no less than 3 billion cups of coffee out of it.  There were several of these available online.  I paid a little more for this one because it was the only one that could be put in the dishwasher.  Note to sellers of these mugs that you can not put in the dishwasher- WHAT PART OF "OKAYEST" LEADS YOU TO BELIEVE THAT ANY "OKAY" MOM WOULD ACTUALLY HAND WASH IT?  Puh- lease.

* Books- I have two favorite books lately-

A Praying Life (which is changing my world, y'all) and this little gem, Devotions of Comfort and Hope for Adoptive and Foster Moms, written by my friend, Carol Lozier.

This book is such an encouragement!  I find that a lot of devotional books are a little too "if you were a good enough Christian than you would be happy all the time."  This one is NOT like that.  It's practical.  It deals with the REAL day to day stuff that our kids who have come from orphanages, unstable homes, trauma are going through and gets in touch with the emotions mothers go through in parenting them.  It's real stories, real behaviors and real hope without all of that "if you just love them enough" crap. (Do you see why Carol didn't ask me to write one of the reviews they put on the cover of the book?)  

It's like getting a mini psych lesson, followed by scripture and prayer.  One of the things that I love the most about this book is that while it deals with a lot of issues that our children go through, it also deals with issues that Moms and caregivers walk through- isolation, feelings of inadequacy, triangulation of the parents.  I feel like so many of these issues are usually glossed over and as moms we are made to feel bad about these things.  (If I were a better mother, my child would love me/not act this way/do better at school/not act our sexually/ insert whatever else insecurity we all have as moms)  Carol and Lisa turn these notions upside down.  They get to the root of the problem by explaining the whys but then also give practical, non-preachy advice for moving forward.  Carol sent me a copy of this book at just the right time.  I know that it is intended to be read one day at a time but I devoured the whole book and now flip through to specific topics when I need the encouragement.  I just can't say enough good things about this book.  

I'm also giving you the chance to win a copy of this book and the only thing you have to do to win it is be a fan of Millions of Miles on Facebook.  

* This corner in my living room.

These happy yellow chairs were one of the first things I bought when we started designing our new house.  I always thought that space by the stairs was awkward so I wanted to do some "run-off" seating over in that corner for when we entertain.  But I also didn't want it to look too formal- after all- 4 kids live in this house.  So I framed a picture of the kids in an old beat up window to kind of warm up the area and make it more inviting.  Our wedding invitation is in the small frame on the distressed side table.  It just makes me happy every time I pass this corner.  I don't know if it's the picture of the kids or the fun yellow chairs, but I just love this corner. 

Paint: Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore

Favorite kid conversation:  

Miles gets these notes sent home from school from time to time that say that he needs to complete his work at home because he was talking.  This never surprises me because Miles is a total talker and everyone just loves to talk to him.  

Yesterday, he got of the bus, head hung low, looking utterly defeated. and handed me a stack of papers with a note on the top.  It was written in red ink. 

Miles said, "Am I in trouble AGAIN?!  I got a note."

I glanced at the note and said, "No, baby!  It just says that I need to sign these papers.  You are not in trouble!

He shook his head and said, "I thought I was in trouble. I gotta learn to read."  

Whatever lights a fire under ya' kid!

TV SHOW- Parenthood:

I am so late to the Netflix party, but we just signed on to get a trial of Netflix a couple of months ago.  I started watching Parenthood and stayed up for days and nights on end until I had watched 4 seasons of the show.  I'm obsessed.  I find myself wanting to be Monica Potter's character almost as much as I wanted to be Winnie Cooper.  I go back and forth between wanting to be married to Adam and Crosby.  In other words- I'm totally sucked in.  If you have kids or siblings or just love watching human interactions, this is the one show you have to watch.  (And everyone reading this says, "Yes, we knew this years ago!)

*And, as always, these turkeys are my favorite favorites.

November 17, 2013

A Decade

Dear Sadie,

Sadie, Sadie, Sadie.  Yesterday you turned an entire decade old.  Part of me feels like you have always been an old soul so ten isn't a big deal, and the other part of me wants to hide in a corner at the thought that you are now only three years away from being a *gasp* teenager.

You are my kiddo who hates change.  You are just super anxious about the unknown and so this year has been really hard for you.  We have had more monumental life changes this year than probably any other year in your life.  This year we moved... twice.  We became a foster family... and then not a foster family.  You gained a sister on a days notice.  We lost your step-grandmother. You started a new grade and nearly all of your best friends ended up in a class without you.  You started from scratch on a lot of your friendships and I know that is not easy.  The dog that you've had your entire life passed away and that was so hard.  It was just a constant up and down this year.

We had many nights where we laid in your bed together and just talked about how hard coping is sometimes.  We talked about how kids your age start to be all drama all the time and how that's weird.  We talked about how even when changes are good how they can still be stressful.  The insight you have on life at 10 years old blows me away.

And then we had some really awesome experiences this year.  You went to your first concert (Taylor Swift- best. night. ever.)  You got to have your own room and decorate it just how you wanted.  You asked Jesus to come into your heart and you started in a Bible study group that has been an incredible time for both of us.  You went to camp.  You kicked butt on the swim team this summer.  You got straight A's and scored distinguished on those gosh darn stupid standardized test and they gave you a medal in front of all the other fourth graders.  You joined the choir at school and we discovered that you have a gorgeous singing voice.  You learned to surf in Hawaii and loved it!  We went on a weekend trip to Washington DC and had so much fun together.

You are growing up right before my eyes.  I'll admit, I'm just not ready for it.  This felt like the year that I just couldn't keep you wrapped up in a cocoon of innocence and it is hard for me let you navigate the world a little bit on your own.  I just want to keep you little forever.  Despite everything that has gone on this year, you have kept your sweet nature.  You are still the little girl who is always more concerned about others and who has the kindest most compassionate heart of anyone I know.  You are a good friend to everyone.  You work so hard at school and push yourself to greatness on your own free will.  I'm so proud of you.  Sometimes Daddy and I put you guys to bed at night and I think that I could have a hundred kids if they were all as awesome as you!

You are just so special to me.  I know that sometimes it feels overwhelming to be one of four kids now, but darling Sadie, you were the first and that is just something that can't ever be taken away from you. You are precious and wonderful and I just love you so much!    Happy Birthday, sweetheart!


**** The tradition in our home is for me to "interview" the kids each year on their birthday.  You can see Sadie's other interviews by clicking on 20122011, 2010, 2009.)  I love watching how their answers change over the years but how the fundamental aspects of their personalities stay the same. ****

Me: If a genie would grant you only one wish, what would it be?
Sadie: Hmmm... that's a tough one.  I would have to say that it would be that I could be nicer to my siblings.  It is SO HARD!

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Sadie: I'm thinking about being a doctor, like Dr. Church (our pediatrician).

Me: Do you want to get married when you grow up?
Sadie:  Yes.
Me: Do you want to have children?
Sadie: Um hum.

Me: Do you feel different now that you are ten?
Sadie: Nope.
Me: Last year you said that you felt taller and that your hair was a foot longer.
Sadie: *grins*

Me: What is your favorite color and why?
Sadie: I like purple and orange.  I like orange when it's the color of the sun rising and setting.

Me: Who is your best friend and why do you like them?
Sadie:  My best friend is Alexis because she is always there for me and she cares about our whole family.  I have a lot of other friends but Alexis is my best friends.

Me: I usually ask you "Now that you are x age, do you think you'll get a boyfriend". But, this year I'm just gonna say NO BOYFRIENDS!
Sadie:  Good rule.
Me:  Remember when that boy in your class asked you out and you gave him the palm and said, "Not interested?  I was so proud of you when you did that!

Me: What is your favorite TV show?
Sadie: Good Luck Charlie still

Me: What do you like most about school?
Sadie: My teacher.  She's nice and she's very understanding.
Me: What's your subject in school?
Sadie:  I like to write because that's when I'm most creative.

Me: What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Sadie: That I am who I am.  That I'm kind and funny and smart.

Me: What do you think is the most exciting thing that's happened to you this year?
Sadie:  Catching my first wave when we went surfing in Hawaii.  It felt pretty cool to just be standing up on a surf board for the first time.

Me: What is your favorite song?
Sadie: Timber by Kesha.  (Mom just died a little bit)

Me: If you could have any super power what would it be?
Sadie:  To fly!  I think it would be so cool.

Me: What is your very favorite thing to do?
Sadie: Play in the woods at our new house.
Me: And what else?
Sadie: I like to be outside.  But on rainy days my favorite thing to do is color.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Mommy?
Sadie:  That she takes care of me and loves me.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Daddy?
Sadie:  I would say the same thing for both of you guys but I want to come up with something more creative for him since he's so awesome.  He makes everybody laugh.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Noah?
Sadie:  That he's always looking out for me.

Me? What is your favorite thing about Miles?
Sadie:  That he's silly and that he's always ready to give me a hug.

Me:  What's you favorite thing about Scarlett?
Sadie: That she's enthusiastic.  But sometimes that is super annoying.

Food: Lasagna- still.
Book: A Wrinkle In Time and The Tale of Despereaux
Game: I like a lot of games, so just any games that my friends are playing with me
Movie: Disney Movies- it might sound funny but I liked the Planes movie a lot
Activity to do on one on one time with a parent: go get my nails done with Mommy and snuggle with Daddy
Activity to do with friends: too many!  Playing in the woods with my friends and hide and seek in the dark are my favorites.
Sport: swimming

Happy Birthday, Sadie!

November 12, 2013

What It's Really Like To Have Family Pictures Made

Let me just tell you a little bit about family pictures.  More specifically about having them done.  In theory, they are great.  In reality.  Oh, holy crap.  It goes a little something like this...

Two weeks before it's time to do the ol' family photo, I suddenly start looking at myself in the mirror.  I start at my feet.  Those are okay.  Then I go up a little bit.  And then it spirals out of control.  I suddenly start these thoughts that are all "I wonder if I can lose 40 pounds this week?  Surely it's doable?"  Followed by the ever present.  "Screw it.  I like McDonalds."

Once we get that out of the way, I start planning what we should wear.  I spend hours thinking about it, but don't ever actually go shop for it.  So by the time I actually do make it to the store 24 hours before the photo shoot, THERE IS NOTHING TO BUY.  What do you mean they don't have those perfect outfits I've planned out in my head???  I suddenly start these thoughts that are all, "I wonder if I can sew everyone an outfit from scratch in 24 hours?  Complete with boots that look just the way I want them to that come in wide calf.  Why in the hell are there so few wide calf boots?"  Followed by the ever present, "You don't know how to sew.  And you don't have a house elf to do these things for you."  Y'all may think I'm joking but at least daily I think about how life would be different if I only had a house elf.  Harry Potter has effed up my life royally.

So here's what happens.  I settle.  I buy 5 bad options for me because it's all there is. I pick out whatever I can find on the rack and just bring it home.  Half of it doesn't fit the kid it's supposed to fit.  And then there is NO TIME to change it.  I'm suddenly angry at the kids that their arms are two inches too short for that one sweater left in the store that even remotely coordinated.  I start thinking in my head, "Why are the arms in this sweater so long!?  BY GOD!  WHY CAN'T THEY MAKE SWEATERS FOR KIDS WITH T-REX ARMS!?!?!"  Followed by the ever present "Get on the google and figure out if t-rex arms on kids are terminal."

Then I start re-trying on my outfits and decide that I am 32 not 22 and everything I picked out makes me look like I think I'm Taylor Swift.  I realize that in the light of day a short cream lacy dress, turquoise necklace and cowboy boots make me look like I'm about to enter a midlife crisis.  Midlife crisis is not the look I'm going for.  I send this picture to my mother to see how it would coordinate with all the rest of the family.  She sends a picture or her leather jacket.  She's going to pictures as a biker.  At least I see where I get my lack of fashion sense.

Yep.  Definitely not 22.  Also- could that hair brush possibly have any more hair in it?  Yuck.

Meanwhile, a friend comes over.  I'm in jeans and a shirt instead of my usual bathrobe and no bra and my friend says, "Woah!  You look hot."  I instantly decide that this is the outfit I will wear and I will cling to it like a life preserver.  Coordinating with the rest of my family be damned.  Someone thought I looked hot.  My life is officially made.

I got my husband a sweater with some purple in it so that he can match the girls.  I do not tell him that just hours prior his sons made fun of his purple sweater.  His inner dialogue before pictures is "how can I grow a full, luxurious head of hair overnight."  Followed by the ever present reminder our kids give him, "Daddy.  I can see your skin on the top of your head."  Sometimes kids suck.

If this is not already wrought with more first world problems than a person can deal with, then the day of actually taking the pictures arrives.  In this case, my bestie was taking our pictures.  She came to our house to do them.  Along with 12 others sessions.  At my house.  For reals.  My kids were kinda losing it with so many people in and out.  When the first session rang the doorbell at 9am it's possible that I showed up like this.


I look super happy, no?  The day of pictures (or church or whatever else) usually goes like this.  I get up and do everything.  All the things.  Because everyone else in my family thinks that these beautiful things just happen.  They must also be delusional and think that a house elf does everything.  Oh wait!  Nevermind... I see it now.  I AM THE HOUSE ELF!  Damn you Harry Potter.  

So I'm dressing people and drying hair and finding missing shoes and ushering people in and out of the house in my skivvies.  I am sweating profusely.  When one is already sweating profusely, it is not the time to put on spanx.  But a photo shoot with no spanx is considered sacrilege in this house.  But with spanx, there is the delimma- Do I put on the spanx that separate my boobs but also make them look disproportionately enormous?  Or do I put on the ones that make my boobs looks the right size but also mush them into one giant uniboob?  These are hard problems, y'all.

Then it's our families turn.  My friend says, "Let's start on the couch."  So I go there and sit down.  I look to my left and my right and there are no people there.  They are in the kitchen.  Eating greasy pepperonis in their only clean clothes.  LORD HELP ME.

We start, it's fine.  It's cold outside and my kids from Congo are shivering.  If it's below 95 outside they are cold.  But the pictures are going okay.  Until we change locations.  And then Miles goes down like a rock.  He's our kid that is the ham for the camera and all of a sudden he was just not having it.  His MO became- make this scowling face in all of the pictures...

I call this face "Screw this!  What's the point of touching this fence and looking like it's fun?"

Miles just continues when we head inside to warm up and take a few more in the house.  He kept making a thumbs up in all the pictures.

The photographer said, "Miles, thumbs down!" and instead of putting his thumbs down, he took her literally and made a thumbs down (complete with frowny face) for the whole next series of pictures.

And then there is the "let me show you my chest hair" series of pics...

We take tons more pictures.  Some good.  Some not so good.  We have this pattern...  The photographer tells Scarlett to look at the camera.  Then the next five pictures are of Kamron staring at Scarlett giving her "the look"that says "LOOK AT THE CAMERA OR ELSE!"  Oh the irony.

My mom wanted to have some pics made of the whole family so my brother and his family and my grandmother came over for some multigenerational fun.  I think all that multigenerational fun took the last little ounce of goodness my  kids had left.  Our last little series of photos might just be my favorite of all times.  I think I'm going to frame these...

This one is the best one of the series.  Really.  I feel like this could be an ad for an after school special about drugs.  Only my kids look like the cautionary tale.  "Do drugs and you'll look like these kids". 

I just wanted a cute pic of their multi colored hands that said, "Brothers and sisters forever."  You'd think that marker I wrote it on there with was poison.  They said, "YOU ALWAYS MAKE US DO THIS!" "It's TOO HARD to hold our hands up." "We quit!"  It's possible that I may have lost it.

That's me jumping in to have a come to Jesus with my kids.  "I DO NOT MAKE YOU DO THIS EVERYDAY!  WHEN HAVE I EVER MADE YOU LAY LIKE THIS WITH WORDS ON YOUR HANDS?  NEVER!!!!  I NEVER ASK YOU TO DO ANYTHING.  THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME.  JUST STICK YOUR FREAKING HANDS OUT AND SMILE!!!!!"  The words that bubbled up inside of me were "Stop your crying or I'll give you something to cry about."  Somehow I had the wherewithal not to turn in to my father and spew that one.  I can remember being a kid and thinking, "If you want me to stop crying then why are you going to give me something to cry about?"  But I really wanted to say it....

But my come to Jesus did not, in fact, make them more like Jesus. Unless Jesus dissolved into a puddle of tears when his mom yelled at him.  In which case they became exactly like Jesus.

(This is the picture they are going to put in the background when I win my mother of the year award)  Actually, this is the picture I want on my tombstone because THIS will be what put me there.

And this is why I dread family pictures like the plague.  That is, until I get the disk of pictures in the mail and the good ones look like we didn't fight all morning.  It's a pure photography miracle.  

Sigh.  It's worth the whole ordeal to get those good ones.  It's also what makes us dumb enough to do it again every. single. year.  It's like labor pain.  Human behavior.  It's a crazy thing.

Major thanks to Ellen Joy Photography for our gorgeous photos!  (And the outtakes as well- those are my faves!)
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