Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best "Nap Drive" Reads of '09

I am afraid that I am about to bid a fond farewell to a close friend the toddlers are quickly outgrowing: naptime. 2009 was the year of the nap drive. At the beginning of this year I quite blissfully discovered that if I drove the kids around for a while I could ultimately park and get up to a 2 hour simultaneous nap out of them, equaling 2 hours of quiet reading time for me. I can't begin to explain the impact this has had on my life, however, I will say one great perk was that it provided me the opportunity to read quite a few incredible books. Because I LOVE when people recommend books to me, I thought I would share my list of favorites by genre (but in no particular order):

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years - Donald Miller
Prayer: Does it Make a Difference? - Philip Yancey
Mudhouse Sabbath - Lauren Winner
The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis
Same Kind of Different As Me - Ron Hall and Denver Moore

There is No Me Without You - Melissa Faye Green
What is the What - Dave Eggers

Racial Discussions:
I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla - Marguerite Wright
Why Are All of The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? - Beverly Daniel Tatum

Raising Cain - Kindlon and Thompson
Raising Strong Daughters - Mc Minn
How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen so Your Kids Will Talk - Faber and Mazlish
Mask of Motherhood - Susan Maushart
Einstein Never Used Flashcards - Golinkoff Ph.D., Hirsh-Pasek Ph.D., and Eyer Ph.D.
The Power of Play - David Elkind

Historical Fiction:
Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Minister's Wooing - Harriet Beecher Stowe
Lineage of Grace - Francine Rivers
The Centurion's Wife - Oke and Bunn
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Hosseini

Now, it is your turn to post some suggestions for 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Twas the Week Before Christmas...

Amidst all of the excitement, sugar, nativity story-reading, advent calendar chocolate eating, and sheer pleasure over receiving interesting mail,* here are some of the happenings at our house over the last week or so...

*Note: Our kids are obsessed with holiday photo cards, they pour over them and trade them and look at them again. It's pretty hilarious. If you sent us one, be sure it was quite closely examined and prized!

Making letters out of peanut butter play dough (this was way more fun than I imagined it would be)

A fun visit to the Zoo with Grandma that was eventually rained out (Thanks SO much for the passes, Nana and Papa!)

McCormick Train Park Christmas Lights night with our fun friends, the Hedricks.

Baking a birthday cake for Jesus ( I am not sure why T suddenly is shirtless and angry in the frosting picture - but apparently a lot can happen while a cake is baking :)

And last, but definitely not least, one of the most special happenings this week took place while Daddy and Papa were out back staining some cabinet doors for us, and T ran through the wet grass which had unbeknownst to us turned some dried up red paint into fresh, perfect-for-running-through red paint. Then T ran, "really way fast" through the house in his red boots creating a very festive figure eight of red paint throughout the entire family room. Here he is showcasing (that's for you, Ry and Didi) it as I was cleaning (or rather creating giant pink blotches all over) the carpet. B tells a pretty great version of the story if you have a while :)

We are all pretty excited for Christmas and hope you and yours have a blessed one, too!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

He's Back!

Daddy is officially back! We were so happy to have him home! He took off Friday and Monday giving us lots of time to reconnect after being away for so long. We caught up on the fun Christmas activities we had planned to do, and we took lots of long naps since he and I were both feeling a bit under-the-weather.

Our first activity was making gingerbread houses. I decided that maybe we would try a new kit this year which was made up of a "mini-village" of gingerbread houses. Last year, J had put on red frosting which dripped down all over the door of our other house making it look more like Passover than Christmas, and the kids had just focused on eating the frosting, so I thought maybe something new would be good. Well, that was not the case, since these things were tiny and impossible to assemble (who are these people kidding?) We ended up decorating one-dimensional pieces of houses.
Looks just like the picture, right?! :)

That night we made hot caramel apple cider and took it with us to see the Christmas Lights on Natal Street, which was a lot of fun!
B LOVED the cider and you can see her proudly carrying it with her.

The next morning, we continued our "sugar-fest" by cutting out, baking, and decorating sugar cookies. Then we consumed them in what must have been record time.
Our last special activity was our trip to the Science Museum where the kids saw their first planetarium show, which they enjoyed (once the guide started letting T push the buttons so he would stop asking to leave.)

Having J out of town sure makes us appreciate each other and our precious kids even more. It makes us excited for our holiday time coming up, too!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

While You Were Out...

And so we are in the home stretch of J's latest trip to Africa. It was 10 days and 9 nights, but I can happily say that this was probably one of the least painful ones yet! That can completely be credited to my in-laws and my parents who very happily gave me lots of little breaks which literally saved my sanity. They were so amazing, the kids adored their time with them, and I had some time to recharge a bit. We also had some fun evenings and playdates with friends that helped pass the time right along. Anyhow, from our old youth ministry days, J and I still like to do "highs and lows." I thought I would post our list for Daddy with some accompanying pictures.
I'll start with the ugly :)

Missing J and wishing I could call him a million times

Waking up several times a night (once in a bed freshly wet by a toddler)

Trying to sleep while squished between two flailing toddlers

B's "Whine when you say anything" day

T holding a special week of tantrums anytime something was not done in his exact way (ex. the show-down with the lady at Hallmark because he wanted to put a card back, the battle in the parking lot of Ross when HE wanted to unsnap his stroller seatbelt even though he isn't capable of that, the fit when B got out of his door of the van, and the general grumpiness at the Tree Lighting we went to - see angry face in the background below.)

Watching a Christmas movie while snuggling with the kids in their fleece footie pajamas

Reading books by the light of a Christmas Tree

Making Christmas treats with the kids

Zoolights with my parents and brother

Family Christmas party with my in-laws and first gifts for the kids of the season

Grandparents babysitting so I could go to the gym and read an interesting book on Africa

Snuggling in bed with two of the most precious toddlers in the world.

Waking up to T saying "How was your day, mom? -Good T, I'm sleeping. -How was my day, mom? - I don't know T, how was your day? - Umm, cold. -Do you want to snuggle, T? -YES!"

Finding B alone looking at herself make faces in the mirror ("This is my happy face!, This is sad...)

Playdates with friends

Feeding Trout at Bass Pro Shop's Winter Wonderland

When T grabbed me by the face and said, "Mommy, you're a pretty girl."

Sweet Friends having us over for dinner.

Knowing Daddy will be home soon!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It Doesn't Get Better Than This...

Last week, I had one of those magical mommy moments where you know something has just happened that you won't forget for a long time and that you will probably retell for years to come. This is one of those incidents that true motherhood is made of.
We had just finished making our candy corn turkey cookies for Thanksgiving when I walked out of the room for a moment. Suddenly, I was experiencing the ominous quietness that any mother of small children will immediately recognize. So, I quickly walked back into the room to discover B and T still standing at the counter where we had made our cookies. B immediately started giggling hysterically, which I realized was prompted by the fact that she knew her brother had just done something very wrong and very funny.
He had rubbed gobs of butter in his hair. I mean tons. In fact, I was able to watch his open fist grab out another handful and smooth it on top before I could stop him.
Wow. I was pretty floored, as this had to be one of the best stunts yet. I couldn't do anything but laugh, and wonder why in the WORLD that had seemed like a good idea. But, the two of them were so ridiculously cute and absolutely in stitches over it that I couldn't help but grab the camera before I began the clean-up which was rather extensive.
It was all rather hilarious and rather greasy for that matter...but after a good impromptu mid-day bath T was as good as new. And, he definitely didn't need any conditioner. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts...

We are quite excited for Thanksgiving this week. The placecards are made, the cookie supplies have been bought (so we can make them look like cute turkeys with candy corn and frosting - watch for pics :), and best of all there is gas in the car so we can drive over to Nana and Papa's house on Thursday to have a delicious Thanksgiving meal (it would have been described with an adjective other than delicious if I were in charge of making it.) We are looking forward to hanging out with some of the people we love most in the world that day!

As I was laying in bed with T the other night listening to him chat away about playing at the park, exclaiming how great it is that Jesus scares monsters away, listing off the people he loves, and asking me to snuggle him, I was thinking just how thankful I am for him (and for his precious sister, of course!). I am beyond thankful that T was there in his big boy bed with me rather than struggling as street child or longing for a drink of clean water. I literally cannot imagine that sweet boy having to deal with the harsh realities which so many children all over the world have to deal with. It is just not right.

What is right is that people are doing things about this. You can check out LIA's trailer for their new documentary about street children that premiered at the fall banquets. If you purchase it all proceeds go to helping empower the children, youth, and caregivers of the Merkato community in Ethiopia. Also, our adoption agency is partnering with LIA to dig a well which will provide clean water for an entire community in Ethiopia. If you are interested in donating you can find more info here. So many of the diseases that plague the country are related simply to not having access to clean water. Can you imagine? What better way to say thank you for our blessings than by blessing someone else. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our First Phoenix Fall

This past weekend we visited Pasadena for the first time since our move. J had a bunch of work to do, which left the kids and I with lots of time to get together with friends (the best!) We were quickly reminded of what a blessing it was to live there and connect with so many great people for the last two years. You should have seen the toddlers play with their friends - they were so happy to see them again! It caused us to reflect a lot on what we miss from there, and also to appreciate the things we can now enjoy in Phoenix (family, old friends, the chance to go on a date, help when J travels, and having a backyard!) Though this doesn't make up for missing friends and being on an adventure in CA, it shows us that we did the right thing by moving here, and that feels good. Nevertheless, here are some pics of the things we did to celebrate our first fall here :)

Milking a fake cow at the pumpkin patch...

Our pet pumpkins

Here is the impromptu dance party which took place while I was taking the seeds out of the pumpkin. We had high hopes of playing with the goo, but it turned out my other three family members were too disgusted to touch it. Not pictured are the pumpkin seeds I attempted to roast. They are not pictured because we are trying to forget they were so awful.

Making pumpkin muffins and reading pumpkin stories

Petting the horses at a ranch in Wickenburg

Desert Botanical Gardens Free Day for the butterfly exhibit

B shopping with Mommy for the Thanksgiving Dinner for our church's donation boxes (she loved the mini-cart at Trader Joe's!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Big Week for B

Two firsts occurred this week. Throughout the post you will see pics of B's first hair cut, which she sat through somberly, but now remembers fondly. :) They gave her some layers and her curls are even bouncier. Super cute!
But more significantly, last Thursday, B decided that she was going to start dancing around when she needed to go to the bathroom making it significantly more obvious than it had been. So, I ran her in to the bathroom a few times and she seemed to be getting the hang of number 1. The natural progression was to princess undies, and I am happy to say that she has only trickled a couple of times and had 1 #1 accident since then. So many people had told me, "Just wait...they'll do it themselves when they are ready..." And I skeptically listened and took their advice just because it meant I could put it off longer. But, I think they were right on some level.
She definitely initiated the process, however, it hasn't been effortless for me. I still have to spend lots of time sitting in the bathroom and insisting that she try to go every 3-4 hours (she really holds it at least that long! It's crazy!) She isn't about to stop playing to potty, but she also isn't wanting to go in her undies, so overall a big win! She hasn't had an accident at night either. I literally feel like I had no idea how this all happened, but I am happy.
I am wondering if this is like a lot of other things in life will be. Not pushing her to do things and just kind of maybe making a suggestion here or there and doing a lot of waiting, but then being supportive and celebrating once she makes a choice. All that to say, we are still definitely working on being successful with #2. And, we have another little person who for the first few days would copy his sister and sit on the potty until he went and got M & M's, or he would force out a little bit for his treat, but he seems to have lost interest. But I am just happy that we are a lot closer to potty trained than we were 5 days ago. Maybe the end of diapers is in sight!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Very Different Cabins

J and the kids and I got away for this past weekend to J's parents' cabin in Vernon, AZ (a very small town outside of Show Low.) We had a great time in the cooler temperatures, where we went on lots of nature walks looking for animals and muddy footprints. The kids' highlights were our walk at night with flashlights, petting their great-grandmother's lawn gnomes, the sprinkle donuts they got for breakfast, and getting to see the neighbor's horses. J's and my highlights were all of their cute comments on our walks, needing jackets and hot drinks from Starbuck's, and extended nap times. We also got to visit with great-grandma Noni which was also very special for all of us!

Nature Walk (yes, B is wearing her baby in her jacket like it's a Baby Bjorn)

Checking out/Riding Lawn Gnomes :)

Interestingly enough I had also just finished the book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was not at all like our experience this weekend, but happens to be one of the best books I have ever read so I had to mention it. It is a brilliant portrayal of the horrifying nature of slavery, the redemptive side of humanity, and a beautiful challenge to Christians to be what the church was intended to be. I can't believe I haven't read it until now (when my friend, Anna, recommended it), however I don't know if I had read it at an earlier age if it would have meant as much. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it! Here is a glimpse of it...

Upon arriving to a Quaker home where they sheltered fleeing slaves like George, "This indeed was a home - home - a word that George had never yet known a meaning for; and a belief in God and trust in His Providence, began to encircle his heart, as, with a golden cloud of protection and confidence, dark misanthropic, pining, atheistic doubts, and fierce despair, melted away before the light of a living Gospel, breathed in living faces, preached by a thousand unconscious acts of love and good will, which like the cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple, shall never lose their reward." p. 141.

Ah, the beauty of time with family and a good book!