Family Update :: January 2015

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This blog has obviously ceased to be a regular place of reflection for me. Four months since the last post?! At least it’s apparent that I’m not trying to win anyone’s approval, which is a good thing when it comes to online living, I think. I started this blog as a place to focus on the beautiful things in life. In the midst of a life of toddler parenting I craved beauty and peace in the chaos, resulting in posts about photography and crafts and the golden moments plucked from a hectic life. Then it became a venting place about our fostering and a place to grasp the faith that upholds us. I wonder what the future is for this spot. For today, it’s a place to share my thoughts about what’s going on in our family these days.

Big thought #1: We’re probably going to move Anthony out of the Spanish Immersion program. I love the program overall and it’s been amazing seeing Tyler become bilingual before our eyes. But Anthony has so much stacked against him: serious speech problems, probable ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, a non-existent academic foundation to build on, and difficulty handling challenging situations without melting down. As I’ve been substituting in the Spanish Immersion program often this year, I’ve become progressively more worried about whether Anthony will be able to take it…and that’s in the second grade immersion class! I see what Tyler’s doing in third grade and get seriously concerned. Not to mention that if he stays in the immersion program, I’ll be driving kids to four different schools once he’s in 4th grade, which will be right about the time school will be getting really hard. Will we be kicking ourselves in a few years if we don’t move him? He’s such a sweet kid and so enthusiastic about learning when it interests him. We’re thinking the Spanish component just might push him over the edge in a few years. But in immersion you can’t move in the middle elementary grades because you’ve missed out on too much English learning. (It evens out around Jr. High, when the immersion kids score higher on both Language Arts and Math portions of standardized tests than even the straight English program kids do. Amazing!)  Anyway, I’ve been pondering it, Greg is really leaning towards pulling him out, and we have a meeting with the teacher and principal soon.

Big thought #2: We’ve offered to put Midge into our local elementary school starting next fall in kindergarten and keep her M-F at our house. Her dad was initially thrilled with the idea. We’d give her a high performing school to go to, do the homework routine, take care of discipline, school interactions, and structure while he’d be fun daddy on the weekends and whatever weeknights he felt like taking her out. I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch. Yes, he was excited about it the first time I brought it up, but I told him not to make any decisions right away but to think about it. The last time I talked to him (not about that), he purposely brought up that he’s cracking down on discipline with her and that she’s been much better. I got the vibe that means he’s hoping he can handle her on his own. He says he is worried about their local elementary school which is super low performing, and he’s worried about her behavior. She’s become completely spoiled and out of control, wreaking havoc at both home and school. It’s bad enough that her preschool teacher tells her dad that her behavior at this age is a huge red flag (I agree! If she’s out of control at preschool, how will she be at age 12?!) But I’m not revisiting the subject until he gets a job (supposed to happen in February) and thinks about putting her in full time preschool/daycare. In the meantime, we’ll pray and let him see how things go with his best efforts at discipline at home.

Big thought #3: Christmas vacation was really great. This is the first time I was not aching to send the kids back to school before it was time. That alone marks a huge victory in our “new” family! Behaviors still come in waves, but overall, things are worlds from where they were a year and a half ago. I am SO thankful.

Big thought #4: Parenting kids adopted from foster care is hard. The relationships are so fragile – not anchored in years of attachment forged through sweet infant years. It often feels like rock climbing… just when you feel like you’re getting somewhere, you fall off the rock and it seems like you’re at the bottom of the cliff face again. You’re not really at the bottom, and if you look back at where you came from you’ll see it, but it still feels like it. Every day is a new chance to try to parent these kids well. And every day I fail them in some way or another. Yes, I know it’s like that for all of our kids, bio, adopted, and foster, but it’s especially fragile for the fosters, who are still trying to figure out if you’re really going to love them through all the mistakes (theirs and mine). Each of my mistakes is tearing down a delicate relationship that’s been so tricky to build. At first I thought if I tried harder, I’d do better, and there is an element of teeth-grinding effort necessary. But I also latched on to this verse: If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold, new things have come! If I want to show the kind of unconditional love and grace that Jesus offers, I need to be abiding in Jesus, not increasing my own efforts. I’m aware of two things: the way I love these kids will shape the way they think God loves them. That’s a huge burden. But secondly, God assures me that if they are meant to be His children, nobody can snatch them from His hand. I’m so thankful for that.

Please be praying for our family. That we’d have the wisdom to make the hard decisions and the love and grace to wrap around every child every day.

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Baby K’s Big Day!

A few Saturdays ago, we made the trek down to San Diego to celebrate my niece Baby K’s first birthday! Wow. This year is gone and she is one. We headed down mid-morning and had lunch at a new lunch counter downtown. Trendy little place that will be packed soon, but we were there on the first (or second?) day it opened so we got right in.

After lunch, we headed in to Petco Park (the baseball stadium area that is open to the public on non-game days) for the party. My sister Amy and her friend Melanie had stayed up way too late making the adorable animal cupcakes for the Noah’s Ark theme!

You know it’s our family when a one year old’s birthday party includes betting on baby (and kid) races. With kids wearing numbers. And adults competing for prizes based on the points they earned. A tourist passing by asked one of the party-goers what was going on. He was told it was a first birthday party, to which he incredulously replied, “And you’re betting on the babies?” The party-goer could only shrug sheepishly and reply, “Well, there’s no money involved…”

…betting on the total combined time it would take the older kids to run the (miniature) baseball diamond bases…

…betting on which baby would reach the finish line first (they are easily distracted and not highly motivated)…

…betting on which number the babies would end up sitting on…and the throwing of goldfish crackers onto your chosen number didn’t seem to help attract the babies there…

And of course, the first birthday cake. Kate was only slightly interested at first. But once she got a taste of that funfetti cake, she dove right in…almost literally!

Happy first birthday, Baby Kate!!!

Easterrific Tidbits.

Roses from my front yard are in bloom! Went to the Good Friday service at the nearby mega-church (my first time there)…interesting to be so anonymous at church. And strange to have the guy who wrote my ringtone, leading worship and singing my ringtone at the service! Water you turned into wine. Opened the eyes of the blind. There’s no one like you…none like you. Into the darkness you shine. Out of the ashes we rise. There’s no one like you…none like you. 

Neighborhood Easter egg hunt today. Put Midge in the dress her mom gave her, and it’s growing on me enough that I may have her wear it again tomorrow instead of the one I bought. Decorated eggs with just the four of us while Midge napped. Of course, we had to make the traditional plaid egg and the strawberry egg. Picking up an RV this afternoon for an Easter adventure!

Yesterday, I saw four teenage boys walking down the main road in town…straining under the weight of three huge, heavy wooden crosses. I almost cried. I think that’s my favorite Easter 2012 moment so far.

He is risen!!

Unexpected.

The boys and I got to talking this morning about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. (Full Disclosure: by “the boys and I got to talking,” I really mean, I talked, they seemed responsive, and they at least didn’t interrupt to ask me questions about Star Wars characters.)

From our pastor on Sunday we learned that the Jews had been long awaiting the day when their messiah would overthrow the Roman government. The disciples were probably constantly wondering when that glorious day would come and they could be big whigs in Jesus’ palace. So when he asked them to bring him a colt to ride into town (the traditional way that a prince ready to become king would enter), they thought this was it…their moment.

Their plans were finally coming to fruition. For the Jews, after years of oppression. For the disciples, after giving up so much and following Jesus for three years. What a great day it would be. Hosanna!

But somehow their plans didn’t match up with God’s plans. Instead, a few days later Jesus was dying on a cross, the disciples scattered and denying they even knew him. God’s plans are sometimes pretty stupid compared to ours, right? Am I allowed to even say that? I guess so, because I definitely think it too often. I need to remember that there was a whole story that the disciples and the Jews didn’t know at the time. He was victorious, even over death! I need to trust.

I know I’m a child without the full picture. I am trusting that when things don’t look like they’re going my way, that’s because they aren’t. They are going God’s way. He is still on the throne, even when it looks like things are out of His control.

Each day I am telling myself, “This is the day God has for me,” and “Jesus is on the throne,” and “He is my good shepherd and led me here for a reason.”

I ran across this C.S. Lewis quote the other day: “If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.” – God in the Dock, page 52.

Praise God for one more day to follow him wherever he leads me.

Vintage Carnival Party!

The parties are finally behind us around here. Jake’s Spy Training Party was first, followed by Greg’s big Super Bowl Party the next weekend, and here we have Tyler’s Carnival Party rounding out the trifecta of party weekends. Phew! I love planning and throwing parties, but three in a row is just too many for even me. However, I didn’t want Tyler’s party to be a big letdown after the other two great parties, so I rallied my energy (and my relatives’ help!) and threw one last shindig.

When the boys are only interested in legos, and we’ve had a lego party before, it’s tough trying to come up with party ideas they like. Pinterest to the rescue! Tyler loved the carnival idea right from the start. I wanted to give it that old fashioned feel, so I designed a collage to use on all of the game posters.

And with some of the full sheet label paper leftover from previous parties, I used the collage on labels for the drinks. The blue and green Jones sodas were my party splurge…they’re more than a dollar each!

We had five carnival “games” run by five different suckers, I mean, relatives who love Tyler. My mom ran the dart throwing balloon pop, because she has the teaching background, which kept anyone from ending up with a dart in the head.

Uncle Don ran the beanbag basket toss, and came up with all kinds of creative challenges for the kids to do, like throwing the beanbags over their shoulders backwards! My dad ran the knock em down booth with towers of cans and tennis balls.

Good ole Uncle Rob had the hardest job, running an obstacle course up on the third floor. I sent him up there with no instruction, and there he stayed, creating new courses in isolation up there for the entire party!

Aunt Krissy supervised my last minute addition…balloon faces. The angry birds (downloadables here) turned out to be the biggest hit!

At each station, the kids earned tickets which they could spend on prizes. I bought a few lots of small prizes from Oriental Trading Co., along with the lollipops to decorate the kitchen island. The bigger prizes were a combination of Target dollar spot items and Goodwill finds. I found a whole box of McDonald’s happy meal prizes that were the cutest miniature beanie babies! Can’t beat 28 beanie babies for $14! Then I added some stuffed animals we’ve won at the fair over the years…I’ve been saving them for future foster kids or as present toppers for birthdays, but I thought they’d make a fun addition to the prize table.

When we had to move the party from outside at the park to inside the house, I picked up two rolls of crepe paper to make the dining room reminiscent of a circus tent.

Of course, the birthday boy had a blast. Surrounded by as many people as humanly possible, our six year old extrovert had the time of his life.

As I said the other day, the rainbow layer cake was a hit, even if we didn’t even dip into the cupcakes. I sent those home with a neighbor mom when I found out it was her birthday!

Happy Birthday to my littlest not-so-little boy!

I SPY an eight year old.

Last week was the great eight SPY TRAINING party.

The planning for this party has been such family fun. The boys and I scouring the internet for party favors. The whole family exclaiming over Pinterest ideas. The headlamps and glow sticks and see-behind-you spy glasses arriving in the mail. Planning the “spy training stations” and deciding how many spy points would be awarded for each mission.

Jake was more excited for this party than I’ve ever seen him in his life.

I remember.

I remember the hours before Christmas Eve dragging out…the excitement so strong I could barely handle it. I remember anticipating trips for so many months that the excitement before the vacation and the remembering afterwards were almost more fun than the trip itself. I remember.

These days it seems that I don’t have a chance to get excited about our big life events until they are right upon me. I want to become like a little child again. Make space for anticipation.

But sometimes you can find the best fun amidst chaos, busy-ness, noise. And at the big Spy party, we certainly did. Here’s a recap:

The invitations above set the mood. They were easy to make by cutting apart file folders and distressing with brown ink. I love the spy picture of Jake that we paperclipped into the “file!” All the boys wore black or spy related gear, and we had mustaches on hand for disguises!

We started by choosing spy alias names by drawing adjectives and nouns out of two jars, creating code names like Agent Mozarella, and Camoflauge Pickle and Sneaky Knife and such. I put the names on nametags I had printed out from photoshop, along with the labels I printed for their individual secret agent tubs here.

Then we did the game where you see things on a tray and try to remember them after they are taken away. The boys all thought this was going to be a breeze, but most boys could only remember 4 or 5. Jake tied for first place by remembering 12 items! (Angie, I must tell you that Noah was the other top “rememberer!) What smart boys we have.

Then we started our spy training stations. At one station they took the worksheets out of their boxes and tried to crack codes, solve sudoku puzzles, do mazes, etc. Another station was the laser beam training. Take one hallway, add a piece of red tape at a time, and watch boys crawl and roll their way past the “laserbeams.”

Another station was the midnight mayhem darkness scavenger hunt. They each had headlamps and had to use them to look at all the toys on the floor of the theater to find eight toys with letters taped to them. Find all eight and unscramble the words, getting “spy points” for each letter you find individually, and more points as a group for solving it. It was pitch black, so obviously this was taken with the flash to see what they were up to!

The other rotating station was a daylight scavenger with rhyming clues that took them all over the house and backyard. I love writing clues for scavenger hunts at Christmas, so this was a lot of fun!

While all the rest of the stations were rotated with three or four spies at each station, we all met up upstairs for the bomb squad game, involving throwing balls from one side of the room to the other, trying to catch the other team with more balls on their side than you had on yours. We had a few minor injuries, but lots of fun.

After all of the stations, we came down for cake and ice cream and the boys ate while I tallied up the spy points. The cake was not my favorite homemade cake yet, but Jake said it was the best ever, with the bomb landing right on the words, “Happy Birthday Jake!” which he thought was great.

After the cake, we announced the top three spy point winners who got cool prizes. Planning ahead for disappointed boys, that was the moment I told them all that they’d be getting their own headlamps to take home, along with some “see behind you” spy glasses. It was nice that because the party was at home, we could use the extra money to give out cool party favors instead of paying for a venue to provide the fun.

And like I said, creating the party was as much fun as actually having it. The spy stations were such fun, and the end of the party, although total chaos, was a boys’ dream.

Happy Birthday Jakey!

Six is a whole lot of kids.

Phew. My day with all six kiddos is winding down. 20 months is upstairs in her crib. 2, 3, and 5 went home half an hour ago, and 5 and 7 are working on Daddy’s Millenium Falcon lego ship with him. My feet hurt.

What a great day. It was a major success with few time outs and no serious injuries. The house is clean although the children are all quite dirty. Perhaps if we had all six all the time, we’d figure out a bathing routine at the end of the day, but when it’s only a day here and there, it just doesn’t seem worth it to figure out that schedule! I offered to take the kids so their foster family could get some alone time with their teenage daughter and we could celebrate Christmas with the kiddos.

There was a pajama clad breakfast at IHOP where we picked the kids up, two walking/riding/scootering trips to two different neighborhood parks, a movie for rest time (again, not worth trying to get naps out of kids who aren’t in their own home!), wrestling with Daddy, and lots of craziness. And dirt and diapers.

Survival strategy: the children are your whole job. I did have about an hour during Cubby’s nap while Midge was at a visit with her dad and the older kids were watching their movie. I used it to clean up from the morning and chop vegetables and prep the crock pot for dinner. I felt like a marathon runner. Tired, proud, victorious.

I still don’t know what role we’ll be playing in these kids’ lives in the future. Both of their parents’ rights will most likely be terminated within months. None of their family plan to adopt them, and their foster family will keep them until they find a family, but the foster family isn’t planning to adopt.

Sometimes I feel a tugging on my heart to take them all. Sometimes I realize that I’m crazy. Sometimes I am surprised by what God gives me the strength to do. Sometimes I wonder if God would call us to do something that would so drastically affect our current children. Sometimes I remind myself that God knows ALL, even the futures of all of my kids. Sometimes I break down and cry when I’m sick or overwhelmed or too tired, and I know that I could never do anything for any extra kids, much less my own. And sometimes I realize that I can’t do any of this anyway, but God can.

And then I breathe out and thank God for the people whom He has placed in my home right now and the way He gives me emotional and physical strength to take care of them, even though fostering is way too heartbreaking and hard. And sometimes I’m just grateful for the quiet. Although the noisy chaos is a lot of fun, too.

Merry Christmas to All

A slow start to Christmas this year…days later than usual

Means that this season has soared past a bit too quickly.

One boy growing so tall and skinny with his bony knee knobs

One boy transforming from his preschool self into his boy self

One girl running and dancing and tantruming and smiling, but screaming on Santa’s lap.

Finding trees and decorating trees and smelling trees and seeing them undecorated from toddler’s height down.

Sweets. Lots of sweets. Maybe even too much for my own liking, and that’s a lot.

Feeling a bit more behind than I like. Wrapping presents and feeling better.

Knowing that the things I’m behind on aren’t really that important anyway.

Editing pictures. And taking more. Trying to capture this one Christmas with the kids that will never come again.

Knitting. Just rectangles, like I know how to. And sewing. Stuffing owls and helping our “daughter” make aprons. And weaving together strips of t-shirts into something new for Christmas. Lots of Christmas crafting.

Skipping the snowflake cookies this year. But not skipping the fudge. Never the fudge.

Thinking about the future. Hoping for the future. Praying for the future. Wondering about the future.

Lights. A street sparkling with lights strung across from house to house. Inside on the piano, the banister, the mantel, the trees. And from the advent candles on the table.

Not enough Christmas book reading. A little bit of bedtime Christmas singing, but I could have done more. Next year.

Beautiful Christmas cards that I managed to photograph (with help), design, print, and actually send this year.

Cold, windy weather. It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Hail and rain and thunder and lightning. Sunny and warm predicted for Christmas.

Sleeping in until seven on this school break has been heavenly. Oh, how I’m remembering our homeschooling days wistfully.

Celebrating with our little girl. I never would have imagined it even six months ago.

Smiling ahead to Christmas Eve night and reading Twas the Night Before Christmas, just like I did as a child.

Christmas morning coming. New birth. Joy. Christmas bread. A fire on the hearth. Christmas music. Legos. Lots and lots of Legos.

Family. Warmth. Home.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

From me and mine.

First Weeks of December.

We’ve been decorating. (I’m determined not to spend the whole season with boxes all over the house!)

We’ve been Disneylanding. (We decided to get annual passes again.)

We’ve been enjoying the unusual cold…no, I mean really cold. Like in the 30’s-50’s! (Lots of leaf throwing and wind!)

We’ve been hot chocolating. (Found this salted caramel Starbucks hot chocolate mix…so good and ethically produced cocoa.)

We’ve been searching for trees…

…and then trimming them. (Midge mostly likes undecorating.)

We’ve been busy, but happy. I can’t wait until school gets out next Friday so we can really enjoy each other.

Merry December!

December 1: A Happy Failure.

A cold snap brings us a little fall color! I can't bear to toss the pumpkins yet. Our wreath waiting on the left of the door for the winds to die down.

How did this happen? I spend most of the year looking forward to the Christmas season, and yet somehow it snuck up on me this year. I usually decorate the day after Thanksgiving, but I waited a bit this year, as pulling out boxes of decorations with Midge running around seems daunting. Then suddenly Tyler asks me how many days until Christmas and I hear myself replying with a number that is slightly over three weeks! December marches in without waiting for me.

Since I was a child, we have always had an Advent Calendar that includes an activity a day; a wonderful surprise rolled up on a little paper and put in a loop on the cross-stitched Advent Calendar. Luckily, the boys forgot completely about it, and although I couldn’t find the Calendar itself in our Christmas boxes, I thought up a (lame) activity for them to do after school today.

December: day one. And I’m pretty much a failure. A happy failure, but a failure nonetheless. For Christmas decorations, a wreath waiting on the front porch to be hung at a later time. Four window wreaths hung inside. And the Little People Nativity set brought out. That’s it. Midge spent the day eating the nativity horse and carrying it with her everywhere. And as it turns out, Jesus is a superhero baby who sometimes gets stranded on top of the manger, as he’s held hostage by a camel, while the wise men climb the palm trees nearby to rescue him, because “Jesus can’t get himself down because he’s just a baby. Maybe he’ll be up there until he’s a man and then he can just climb down because he’s God.” With that kind of excitement going on, how can I be disappointed that the decorations aren’t all up?

Even if I got nothing else up, these cheap little wreaths hanging in my family room make me smile.

As for the activity, it was lunch and playtime at Chick-Fil-A, followed by a “shopping spree” for the boys to spend money on somebody else for Christmas. Mostly because I’d heard that this warehouse sale that we went to would have lots of As Seen On TV stuff, and that’s the theme of this year’s Christmas gift exchanges around here. We scored with a hamburger slider maker, a zebra print Snuggie, those hair bump things that I’m sure are uncomfortable, and a few other things good for generic birthday party gifts. But I have to admit, Advent Calendar activity for day one was pretty weak.

Of course, I could have salvaged it all by remembering to read our Advent verses before dinner. Or remembering to sing a Christmas carol instead of a prayer. Or even remembering to pray at all. Instead, somehow I ended up loading up kids’ plates and doing the dishes I’d forgotten this morning while they ate. Greg was running late and we ate, standing up, around the kitchen island later. I didn’t even manage to put Christmas carols on in the car for the kids today, but resorted to using the DVD player to let them watch 101 Dalmations just because I didn’t want Midge to fall asleep, and we had to deliver dinner to a friend and the movie made for a peaceful drive.

My little "helper"...helping me make chocolate chip cookies for a friend with a new baby.

So day one, strike one in the parenting department. Oh well. The kids were happy, I was happy, I made it to Fresh & Easy to shop for Tyler’s school fundraiser, and now the house is quiet. Time to pull out that December Daily scrapbook. Another thing that I should have finished by now, but haven’t. But the weather is turning cool after the heat wave we had earlier this week. I can wear my hats and scarves, and I continue to make Christmas crafts for giving. I planned this week’s menu before shopping tonight, something I’ve dropped the ball on for at least a month, and I have lots of wintery vegetable dishes planned. Yum. I’m happy with the start of December after all.

Earlier this week it was in the eighties, and we had fresh squeezed lemonade made with meyer lemons from our own tree! Today, it was cold and windy and decidedly Winterish. I love California!

Halloween 2011

It really was a great day. Starting from the moment Tyler runs down the stairs and calls to me, “Mommy?” “Yes,” I answer, groggy from a lack of sleep. “Mommy! It’s Halloween!” Then he runs over to me and gives me a big hug and says, “Happy Halloween, Mommy!” Who could resist that?

Then, as we are getting dressed that night, Jake tells me, “Mommy, I am SO excited. Halloween is the best night of the year.” “Really?” I ask him. “Yes. Because Christmas isn’t at night, it’s in the morning. And this is way better than Thanksgiving.”

Although it takes us quite a while to actually make it out the door for trick-or-treating, we finally do it. Then Jake comes running up to me, sobbing. “Mommy, I can’t see at all in this mask!” Poor boy. Not willing to let him spend the best night of the year in tears and disappointment, I take him right inside for some mask fixing. Let everyone else wait, so I can make this night perfect for my boy. Apparently, the black fabric over his Jawa face makes things visible during the day, but not so much at night. I pull out the scissors and cut another layer of fabric out, and he says it’s much better.

Out we go again. But the stroller Midge is in has a flat tire. Very flat. Back inside for a different stroller. Meanwhile, Tyler is raring to get next door like a leashed dog. Well, like a leashed Ewok, I should say.

So we finally head down the street. I’m holding Midge because I’m not willing to make her cry in her stroller if I can cheer her up by holding her, even if that means trying to keep her elephant fingers off of my facial feathers.

But it is so much fun. Midge figures out that trick-or-treat means you get to “naw-naw” (knock-knock) on someone’s door, then they’ll hand you something, then you get to take that something to your brother and plunk it into a bucket. What could be more fun? She is so cute, and keeps her elephant hat on all night. I don’t think she ever realizes it’s candy that people are giving her. Otherwise she would have been begging for it all night, as a certain husband let her try a few skittles at our last Halloween event. Hmm.

Tyler was the biggest hit everywhere we went this year. The grown men especially loved him, saying he looked like a real Ewok from behind. And what do you know, our neighborhood did have a costume contest and he won! Which made all of the perspiring and being covered with sweaty fur in our hot weather worth it, I suppose.

At the school carnivals and halfway through trick-or-treating, Jake becomes a Jedi instead of a Jawa. He looks just how he imagined he’s look, and what more could you ask for on Halloween? I especially love his homemade paper towel roll gun, mostly because he loves it so much. It is such fun to watch your kids enjoy the magic of being alive and celebrating.

Greg wears his Jedi costume again, the only costume I’ve ever seen him enjoy. But I opt to put on some fake feathers which look really cool when I blink! I figured that since Midge wasn’t in on the Star Wars theme, I didn’t have to be either (although I do have my jedi robe in our Halloween box from last year when we were six jedis and a baby Yoda boy!)

Our crew is not a very hardy one, and after about two blocks, we head home. The candy sorting commences, which reminds me of the years of sorting and bartering candy with my brother and sister on Halloween night.

Meanwhile, every time the doorbell rings or we hear a knock, Tyler runs for the door and Jake runs for his pile of Sunday School invitations so he can invite everyone to church this Sunday. Talk about heart-warming. Not to mention how sweet he was being, asking everyone in the house if they wanted a candy, and what kind they’d like. Isn’t it great when your children behave like innocent little angels for a moment or two? Love.

Happy Halloween!

Thirty-five.

Boys who wish you happy birthday while you’re still in bed. Birthday cards that open backwards and have pictures of rockets and stick figures holding hands. Three happy, healthy children in our home. Donuts for breakfast, plus a hard boiled egg from the donut shop (genius!) Breakfast picnic in the canyon. (Full disclosure: crummy picnic. one boy is terrified of bugs right now and wants to sit in the car. the other wants to go to Target to spend his allowance money. the girl doesn’t complain, but won’t smile for the camera, gosh darn-it. we don’t last long.) Target run to spend money in the toy aisle. Nap time and Bionicle building time equals free time for mommy. Planning a quilt. Playing online. Lunch at the park with the whole family, including former foster kiddos and hubby on his lunch break. Foster kiddos fighting about singing happy birthday to me. I got the present I really wanted and didn’t even know it until it happened: a photo of Greg and I with all six kids. It took a little photoshopping, but we got it! Relaxing at home for the afternoon, then our favorite dinner from the local Peruvian restaurant. (Jalea: deep fried yucca, fish, calamari, squid, and shrimp, with lime-marinated red onions and tomatoes. Love this.) A family walk after dinner. Homemade ice cream pie: half oreo, half coffee. Lots of chocolate and whipped cream. Bedtime for kiddos and relaxation for us.

Hello thirty-five. You sound old to me, but I’ll take it. The thirties have been my favorite decade. Learning so much. Being open to wisdom. Feeling comfortable in my own skin. Raising a family. This is the life.

Mexican Independence? Why not? Let’s Celebrate!

When enrolling Tyler in the dual language immersion program to learn English and Spanish, we (especially Greg) were a little apprehensive about there being a disproportionate amount of celebrating Latin American heritage, to the detriment of celebrating American heritage. That remains to be seen. I admit to some confusion today when Tyler told me, “Mommy! We learned to say the Pledge of Allegiance today!” In Spanish, he tells me. What? Why in the world would they teach you the Pledge in Spanish? There are 5-10 minutes a day in English…couldn’t the pledge be 30 seconds of it? It just seemed so strange to pledge a country’s flag in a different language. The red flag in my mind was waving, especially considering our apprehension.

However, I must keep in mind that the information about school is coming from a not always reliable source. A five year old who sometimes blurs the line between reality and “what I wish happened” at school. As it turns out, there was no Spanish language pledge, rather a cute little song about the flag in Spanish. Phew.

But I did not complain last week when our language learning parent group threw a big fiesta/fundraiser to celebrate el 16 de Septiembre. Which, as I have learned, is Mexican Independence Day. (I always thought that was Cinco de Mayo? I have a lot to learn!) Whatever we were celebrating, it was a good excuse to get the school together for a wonderful evening in the courtyard. I am not going to complain when delicious carnitas tacos are served at ridiculously low prices. Sure beats the usual school picnic/barbecue fare, in my book. And these things…what are they? I need to eat a thousand more. And I think I ate at least five that night.

An evening outdoors with family…

and new friends…

What could be better? Oh yes, mariachi music. I LOVE mariachis! I guess it comes from being raised in Southern California and having a family who values other cultures. This evening was right up my alley.

This is a school where the conversation before kindergarten drop-off turns to which used clothing store has better prices on kids’ stuff. It’s a bit different from our other school situation. And I feel right at home…even if they do sing to the American flag in Spanish.