Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pics of my kids in pajamas - just because

Whenever Ellie is here, I have to be sure to get pics of the kids together, even if the pictures are less than stellar. I've finally decided that the on-camera flash is not completely evil. I'd rather have the pictures than not. This was Ellie's last night with us (for this month anyway) and it was bedtime, which always makes for questionably cooperative subjects.

Tate was completely enthused by this idea, can you tell?

It takes a million attempts to get one picture with eyes open and mouths somewhat normal. How did parents do it with only film? How did I manage with Aeryn and a crazy slow digital camera that used floppy disks???

The girls think they are helping when they get in his face and "cheer him up." I think sucking his thumb is how he endures having sisters.

This is where it was hitting Ellie that it was almost bedtime and she was getting on a plane a few hours later. The first and last days are always the hardest because emotions are so strong.

Bedtime snuggles are always appreciated.

Our silly kids. Gotta love them.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

50 Things I'm Thankful For, v.2014

This year is so incredibly beyond description. There have been so many amazing things, from bringing Tate into our family, Ellie getting baptized, Jim reaching ABD status, Aeryn starting middle school, and me returning to work. It's hard to truly contain everything I am thankful for at this time. Listing 50 things feels so petty this year, as I could easily go on and on.

I never expected the changes in mentality that are going along with getting older. As 40 gets closer, I expected to lament the loss of my youth a little but instead I'm finding that I am simply becoming more content with my life. I still have dreams and ambitions, fears and insecurities, worries and regrets, but they are taking the backseat to living in the moment. Surely a part of this is having a baby - which sort of forces a person to live in the now - but a part of it I think may also be (dare I say it) maturity.  That word used to sound so uninteresting and boring. Now it screams of mental security and desirability. I felt a difference when typing this years' list. I am still thankful for things like fuzzy socks, butterfingers, and girl's nights watching trashy TV, but I think my list has grown up somewhat.

So without any delay, here it goes.

50 Things I'm Thankful For, v. 2014 
  1. A job that challenges me daily
  2. My beautiful children
  3. Getting to know the experience of having a baby one more time, when I didn’t think that was possible
  4. Childproofing products
  5. Hearing the girls giggle and laugh, especially after they have been bickering
  6. A husband who shows me every day how patient and respectful love can be
  7. Getting better with my camera
  8. A strong sense of community in our graduate school life
  9. Friends I value so much I consider them to be family
  10. JCrew factory deals
  11. The fact that despite my moments of serious incompetence, my children are somehow growing up happy and healthy
  12. Discovering food allergies before they become a serious problem
  13. A first teaching job that spoiled me, giving me a love for the occupation that I can’t really explain or justify away even on the really tough days
  14. Moments of complete contentment
  15. The seemingly never ending rainfall in Oregon
  16. Waterfalls
  17. Natural spaces to explore that are just minutes from our front door
  18. The way this crazy patchwork family seems to come together as though it was always meant to be this way
  19. The soda machine at work with $0.75 cans of Pepsi
  20. No longer needing quarters to do laundry
  21. The dream of actually completing my MS being on the cusp of reality
  22. My phone somehow still working despite getting wet, having a smashed screen, and being dropped almost daily
  23. Fitting into multiple pairs of my pre-pregnancy pants
  24. The chance Jim has to pursue the education he wishes and the blessings already in our lives as a result of this journey
  25. Starbucks hot cocoa
  26. The hubs’ charcoal grill and the tasty eats that come off of it
  27. Fall in Oregon; there is nothing else like it
  28. Tall boots and sweaters
  29. Realizing that I’m not that far from being “middle-aged” and feeling completely ok with that; gray hair, wrinkles and all
  30. Having faith in the future despite having no idea how things are going to actually work out
  31. Lindt truffles for a quarter at the local grocer
  32. Extended family that cares about building relationships with our kids
  33. Frozen pizza for when *those* days happen
  34. The way Tate sucks his thumb when tired or needing to calm down
  35. Living in an apartment complex that is incredibly well maintained and staffed by genuinely kind people
  36. Sweet pork tacos from Mucho Gusto
  37. Beautiful sunrises on my way to work
  38. Burning desires for temporary non-essentials being replaced with quiet contentment
  39. Ice cold water to drink
  40. Handwritten thank you notes
  41. Slideshare and other methods of sharing curriculum so I don’t have to design all four of my classes from scratch
  42. Friends who pitch in to help on a moments notice, with no thought of how it may or may not be convenient
  43. The instant gratification of spray paint projects
  44. Being friends with our pediatrician and being able to text about medical concerns instead of needing to make appointments for every worry
  45. People who share inspiring messages on social media and inspire me in the most unexpected of moments
  46. Little cans of Dole pineapple juice
  47. Sea Turtles
  48. Mini vacations with my husband
  49. Snuggling other people’s babies
  50. Feeling every single day, no matter how hard that day may be, that I wouldn’t trade my life for anything in the world

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Random Moments of the Day

We are all together again and it is a good kind of crazy.  The energy at home seriously triples (at least) when Ellie is here. She and Aeryn have been having a blast together, in between each of their meltdowns. I can't believe I thought meltdowns would be less frequent as they got older...

I've decided that I need to get some daily life pictures so they can look back one day and say "remember when we lived in that little apartment with no closets and we had so much fun?" Or "man, I really didn't clean my room as a kid. My poor mom." I know that last one is a bit of a stretch, but a mother can dream.

Aeryn is getting to the point where she just has the "why?" expression every time I ask her to smile. In some ways I find it terribly funny. In others, I'm terrified. Ellie, on the other hand, will still pose and act ridiculous when the camera comes out.

As for Tate, I just think he doesn't know any differently. He hardly notices me and is definitely not motivated by my pleas to look my direction.

He has a blast outside on the little playgrounds that are near each building of our apartment complex. He can climb the stairs up to the top of the slide and I swear he'd go down by himself if I looked away for even a moment. It's really fun having the girls here to slide with him. He loves it.

I have no idea where Ellie picked up the squishy lips thing but she wants to do that every time I'm taking pictures. Then she wants to see the image and gets all excited about how she looks. It's like she's eight going on eighteen...

Gosh, I love this picture. Tate and his serious, concentrating face. He gets very focused on his surroundings and wants to take in every little thing. Today it was the water spigot and the grass, along with the cute girls playing just feet away from him.

It's such a blessing to have the sense of community that we do. So many remarkable people and so much fun to be had. I know Ellie loves to run around with some of our neighbors. It won't be long before Tate is chasing her as she does.

Aeryn is getting to where the little kids aren't quite as much fun as they once were. She still loves them dearly and will play with them, but the games don't hold her attention the way they once did. She still loves to "take care" of the smaller kids and she drinks up the fact that they really like her.

Little dude looks so big. He's 10 months old now and is a force to reckon with. He loves to flush the toilet, climb on the couch to look out the window, dig in the kitchen cupboards, watch his sisters sing "shout," go to daycare (his teacher is the best), and go running with daddy. His favorite foods are gerber yogurt melts, mashed potatoes, graham crackers, wheat toast, and ice cream - not that he has had more than a bite or two of ice cream. Seems we have a little carb addict on our hands.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


How did it get to be Halloween already? I mean really, isn't it still August? This is the first year ever that I haven't had any desire to decorate or even bake (gasp!) for Halloween. When I finally pulled the HW box out on the 30th to look for a wig Aeryn wanted to wear my gut reaction looking at everything was "Ugh. I so don't want to look at any of this stuff." My fall has been spent thinking about Ellie's birthday instead so Halloween has just felt like a little bit of a nuisance that happens between her birthday and Thanksgiving. I blame working. Well, working and a lack of dark chocolate in the house.

Though admittedly there has been a bit of crazy excitement for Tate's first Halloween mixed in with my indifference. I mean, I may be stressed and busy now but I'm still a completely sappy mother.

Tate was a tiny T-Rex. It was pretty darn cute, even if it did look almost exactly the same as the million or so green dragon costumes we crossed paths with.

Aeryn wanted to be Catty Noir from Monster High, but the costumes for sale don't come large enough for her anymore and she didn't get super excited about me making it for her. We went looking for fabric and picked some out but ended up leaving without it because the cutting line was ridiculously long and slow moving. In the car on our way home the creativity started flowing.

I had suggested being a Vet, since she loves animals to an extreme level, but it was quickly vetoed. Then we got home and Jim suggested being a Vet and she jumped all over that idea. It seems mom's ideas are just not cool. Somehow it was all forgotten though and she decided to recycle last year's Aphrodite costume with one small change. Instead of the pink scarf and blond hair she wanted a blue scarf and brown hair. I was a bit of a stinker though and wouldn't buy a new wig. In the end her Athena costume looked pretty much the same as her Aphrodite one and I was glad that all my challenges sewing the dress last year actually proved to be worthwhile.

Our ward doesn't throw Halloween parties. Well, they did, until last year when some unfortunate scheduling put the ward party on the same night as a Duck football game and we had to cancel. That was the end of the ward Halloween festivities in these parts. One family decided they wanted a gathering anyway and recruited ward contributions to put together a little celebration complete with chili cookoff, games, and trunk or treating that took place in the building classrooms instead of the parking lot because of rain.

Tate spent most of the evening playing with the bars underneath this table and Aeryn ran off with friends and did her own thing. It was really fun and I think the activities committee was happy to enjoy the party without the stress of running it.

We walked around with Aeryn and a bunch of our neighbor friends trick or treating in our apartments. Every year I am surprised how many people make our apartments a key destination in their trick-or-treating because they are filled with BROKE COLLEGE STUDENTS. It's not like we're the ones handing our super amazing candy. Half of the residents are international students who don't really understand the point of this holiday (truthfully, I don't either) and give out completely random stuff they find in their kitchen cupboards. It is always an adventure.

Evidently we were the "big candy" apartment this year because I bought boxes of rice krispy treats from Costco to give out. I thought I was being cheap because it cost less than the good chocolate, but I suppose the larger size was impressive to some of the cute little ones. The only problem is that my hubby doesn't get to raid any Halloween leftovers which makes the cheaper choice a failure on that count. Lesson learned. Next year I'll buy both and hide the good stuff from the kids.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ellie Turns Eight - The Baptism Edition

What a lovely day it was. Ellie is so lucky to have such a large family and circle of friends who all band together to support her. She stayed with us the night before, after the birthday party, and then we got everyone ready and headed to the church Saturday morning. I'd planned a small reception after the baptism so friends and family would be able to linger, and because the only thing Ellie had said she wanted for her birthday was cake pops it seemed fitting to serve cake pops following the service.

Jim was able to baptize her and I know it was a beautiful moment for him. It was absolutely palpable. I'm not sure there were many dry eyes in the room as everyone who spoke or participated in any way was incredibly gracious and expressed such love for Ellie.

Many thanks to my FIL for the photos. I didn't even take a camera to the church, which is not like me at all.

Since the night before was occupied with party stuff, the morning of the baptism ended up being a little busier than I had meant for it to be. I'd waited until morning to make the cake pops and it ended up consuming the better part of the morning. I made two batches of vanilla and two batches of red velvet, because Ellie LOVES red velvet cake. Aunt Kristi was kind enough to agree to do Ellie's hair and it turned out so darling in these pretty french braids.

Ellie has been so excited for her two brothers to meet. Here she is holding Roque while Aeryn holds Tate.

The group family shot is pretty remarkable to me. Having lived through two divorces (mine and my parents) and seeing first hand the chaos that unresolved emotions can cause, I am amazed that this group of people was able to put themselves last and focus on Ellie and the significance of the day, treating each other with kindness and respect. It's a beautiful thing.

She looked so beautiful in her fancy white dress, and she was just so very happy. I'm so grateful to have been a part of this day in her young life.

Ellie Turns Eight - The Friend Party Edition

I'm falling painfully behind in blogging yet again. It seems that teaching, having a baby, working on the final class for my M.S. and serving as the visiting teaching coordinator makes blogging take last place in the list of my daily priorities. Not to mention birthdays and holidays and the other things that go on, or Jim working on his dissertation proposal. Life is cray-cray - as the kids say.

One of the highlights of this fall has been Ellie's eighth birthday. Her mom let her choose whether she wanted to get baptized in Cali or in Oregon. She chose Oregon since she "has more friends" here. We were thrilled, to say the least! Any time that little girl can be out here is a good time. It did mean that I was in charge of both her baptism and birthday party planning, which gave me ample reason to stress out. I am, after all, a "little bit Monica" as my husband pointed out. I felt a lot of pressure not the least of which was because I had never met her mother and naturally she would be here. I have always felt like I had to be extra on top of things because the way her mom felt about me could influence how she felt about Ellie spending time with us, and I didn't want to cost Jim any time with her.

Long story short, I spent a lot of time planning and trying to get things just perfect. I'm pretty proud of the fact that for the most part I rolled with the punches on the things that didn't quite pan out like expected.

She asked for a Lego party. We had a Lego relay race, played Lego bingo, and I spent way more hours than I'd like to admit drawing this Lego block photo backdrop. 

It's a testament to the fact that I let things slide that I didn't keep rehanging it so the seam was perfectly level and matched up.

We had a yellow Lego head pinata that made me cry because it wasn't as Pinterest-worthy as I'd intended, but when Ellie had a blast smashing it open with three wallops that was all forgotten.

I spray-painted baby food jars to look like Lego heads and filled them with candy blox to use as bingo markers, but the paint clearly hadn't cured as much as I thought because all the lids ended up glued on from the paint. We spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get them open.

We served pizza, fruit kabobs, juice boxes dolled up to look like Lego blocks, mini cupcakes, and way too many flavors of ice cream for one party.

The cousins were able to come down, and every single friend who was invited made it. We ended up with fourteen kids and it was a blast. Honestly, just feed kids and let them run amok and they are happy as can be. All the grownups behaved themselves and it was a really pleasant evening, despite some of the potentially awkward moments that could have surfaced with biological parents and step-parents, grandparents, and step-grandparents crammed into the same room. Ellie was spoiled silly and she was so happy that everyone had come. It turned out fantastic.