Monday, July 28, 2014

Photographing Four Children

I was going through pictures recently, and I came across these taken after my oldest son's 5th grade graduation at the end of May.

This string of pics can otherwise be known as why I hire a professional photographer once a year -- to get just ONE GOOD PHOTO OF THE FOUR OF YOU!  Is it too much to ask, really??!







Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jeans Shopping With My 11 Year Old Son

I fell into a panic last night that our Ethiopia trip was coming up so soon and I was not ready, so rather than blogging I spent time last night ordering 24 bottles of nail polish, 10 soccer balls, 300 balloons, rocket balloons, bottles of bubbles, and jump ropes.  

What?  Doesn't everyone take 24 bottles of nail polish with them when they travel to Africa?!

We'll be spending time with kids in the different care points so the nail polish is for painting the kids fingernails and all the other stuff is for playing with the kids.  Nothing breaks down language and cultural barriers and allows connection quite like nail polish and rocket balloons!

Oh, and travel toilet paper!  I ordered some travel toilet paper.  You know you are in for an adventure when your packing requires travel toilet paper!

 

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Then this morning I panicked again when I realized that the 11 year old, who is going with us to Ethiopia, had outgrown all his jeans, and jeans are pretty much what he needs to wear every day of our trip.  Guess I should have thought of that little detail sooner, because it has been months since we've worn jeans around here, but really, for none of them to fit, the boy has done some growing!

So, tonight after dinner, the 11 year old got the pleasure of me taking him to Old Navy to do some jeans shopping.  Typically I buy the kids clothes over The Internet, once they ship I have the kids try them on at home, and then I return to the store what doesn't fit.  Therefore, my kids have been totally spoiled and have not spent much time in dressing rooms or hunting for their size at a store.

My son got an education tonight!  He is now very well versed in the different sizes and styles of Old Navy jeans.  You have the 5 different styles - super skinny, skinny, straight, boot-cut, and loose.  Then within each style there are sizes (like 10, 12, etc. that correlate loosely to the child's next age).  AND THEN there is the further break down of each size into slim, regular, and husky!

Needless to say, I had the boy try on about eleventy-million pairs of jeans before we figured out exactly which combination was right for him!  12 regular boot-cut, 14 regular straight, 14 slim boot-cut, 12 slim loose fit, and on and on!

All while I stood outside the dressing room door.  Because he's an 11 year old boy, you don't get to go in there anymore as his mom, which is a little sad.  But, OF COURSE I was right outside the door to his dressing room and he had instructions to come out as soon as he had the jeans on.  I certainly wasn't leaving the judging of acceptable fit up to my son (my daughters, yes, my sons, no)!

So, while I stared at this:

A lady walked by holding her baby boy and I thought, "Just wait, you blink and he'll be trying on jeans with you on the other side of the door!"

Really, my son was good-natured about the whole thing and even suggested some of his own size combinations to try, "Mom, maybe I should try the 12 slim loose fit."  Don't even get us started on the fact that there is such thing as a slim in the loose style or a husky in the skinny style!  

I think it would have been less complicated to become rocket scientists, but we did discover the 11 year old's best size right now is a 12 regular in either the bootcut or straight fit.

My boy reached his personal wall in shopping with his mom when I began laying out various jeans accross the floor in Old Navy so that I could compare colors once we'd definitely decided on the size and style we needed.  "Look, this one is darker.  And this one has the faded parts there along the thigh." I said as he began to twitch and looked around to see if anyone was staring at us.

Then as I dug way into the back of the shelves to find certain colors I deemed best in his size, he began begging me, "Mom, let's just get these!  I like these!"

When I complained that one pair had what I referred to as a "wrinkled fly" and we needed to look for a different pair, I sensed that I was pushing the whole shopping thing a little too far.  I saw the look in my son's eyes that I've seen in my husband's eyes many times over the years.  It is the I-have-to-get-out-of-this-store-right-now! look and I knew then that it was indeed time to go.  I brandished my 20% off coupon and headed to the check-out.  As we left the store with count them THREE pairs of jeans that fit the boy for a total of $36 with tax, I congratulated both of us on a successful jeans shopping expedition!


May your weekend be as merry!  


Half-Past Kissin' Time

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Load Your Own Dishes In The Dishwasher

This summer I decided to up the expectations for my kids.

For one, it is no longer acceptable to just clear your plate after lunch, leaving it by the sink as you run off to play.  Now you must also dump the contents of the plate and load it into the dishwasher!

I taught them all the proper plate positioning for our dishwasher.  My 7 year old demonstrating the technique:



I have no idea why I didn't start this sooner!

Find more Works For Me Wednesday here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I finished a book!

I loved to read as a kid and read a ton just like my kids now do.  But, me, now I read to my kids, and I read the Bible, but otherwise I do not set aside much time to sit down and read a book for myself, to myself.  And it doesn't help that I'm always "reading" about 8 books at one time, no joke.  There is the Bible studish book, the Christian living book, the solving world poverty issues book, the adoption-related book, the parenting book, etc., etc.  And I typically don't finish a book, I just read a bit of each of them over the course of months.

But, another lovely aspect to our week-long vacation a couple weeks ago, was that I actually read an entire book!

And it wasn't even in a book I read in during the car trip, there was another I read then.  This book I started on our first full day at the beach and finished it by day 5!  It was that good and it helped that I had the time to read while on vacation!

Here's what I read:



It is a fiction book, but based in fact, from the 1850s to 1920s there really were trains that carried orphans and homeless children from crowded Eastern cities in the U.S. to the rural Midwest in the hopes of finding homes for them.

The book was a fascinating read and right up my alley as a person with a heart for orphaned children, but this book would appeal to a wide audience.  

Reading this book cover to cover in just a few days was so enjoyable and inspired me to make reading more of a priority even in my non-vacation life!

****This post contains an affiliate link, but I truly did read this book and would strongly recommend it to my friends and family!****

Thursday, July 17, 2014

In case the chaos wasn't high enough already, we now have a bright blue dog!

Right now I'm in the uncomfortable situation of re-entry into the real world after an awesome week-long Florida vacation and simultaneously, furiously planning and preparing for our upcoming Ethiopia mission (vision) trip.  The worlds coul not be more opposite, and I do feel huge gratefulness at being able to experience both.  But, the abject poverty so many people live in, children very much like my youngest daughter who was born in Ethiopia, has a way of making you feel guilty for your excees.  But, I'll take the uncomfortableness of stradling both worlds because really I see God there in the need more abundantly than here in the excess.

On to a lighter subject,

I taught my 11 year old to make quesadillas, which happens to be the favorite lunch of all 4 of my kids.  Can you appreciate the awesomeness of this situation?




And for a really, really huge 1st world problem:

The dog went to the groomer this week.  She left our house looking like this:

and returned looking like this:



Quite the transformation, right?  It's her "summer cut" I keep saying, but really it's her my-fur-was-super-matted-and-my-human-did-not-want-to-pay-the-comb-out-fee cut.

But, here's where the 1st world problem comes in, we did not even get to enjoy our clean, crisp dog for 18 hours before she somehow managed to get a large blue spot on her backside!




No, that is not a glare or blip from the camera.  Her fur is really bright blue in a large spot on her hind leg!

What in the world?

The 6 of us humans have put our heads together and the only explaination we can come up with is that she rubbed up against our chalkboard wall that currently has a large blue drawing!

But, unlike typical chalk, it does not rub off the dog!

Really, the ridiculousness of my life never ceases to amaze me.
 
Half-Past Kissin' Time

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tips For An Easier Beach Vacation With kids

We just got back from a beach vacation with our kids and I have some tips that made the travel easier.  We've done this same vacation the past 3 years in a row so we've learned some things.

I laughed when I saw this funny article about a mom on a beach vacation with her family, but it can be true if you are not careful, the "vacation" can turn out to not really be a vacation for the mom (or really both parents)!  We've certainly done trips in the past with 4 kids or even when we had 3 kids where it felt like even more work than being at home and I was exhausted at the end of the trip (yes, I'm talking about you Disney!).

So, here's a quick list of tips that help the beach vacation actually BE a vacation for the parents:

  • If you are driving and leaving early in the morning (we left at 4:30am), put the kids to bed the night before in the clothes they will wear on the trip (you'll want them wearing comfortable clothes in the car anyway).  This way you just get them out of bed, have them visit the potty, and then put them straight in the car -- so easy!
  • Leave in the wee hours of the morning and the kids will be sleepy, disoriented, and most important, quiet for the first couple hours of the trip before the sun comes up!
  •  Rent a beach house with a washer and dryer.  I know, wash equals work while on vacation, but it is tons easier than packing enough clothes for your family to survive the week without doing wash and plus it's nice to return home and not have a mountain of vacation laundry to tackle!
  • Before you leave home, write up a grocery list of things to buy once you arrive at your destination.  Plan to have easy breakfasts and lunches in the beach house to save cost and hassle of eating out every meal and then splurge on dinners out. 

  • I plan for one super easy dinner in, that way if it is raining one evening or we're all too tire or sunburned and don't feel like going out to dinner, there is a meal I can make at the house.  This year I boiled pasta added a container of store-bought pesto sauce and a package of those pre-grilled chicken strips for an easy pasta dinner.
  • Eat on paper plates.
  • Every year we turn our beach vacation week into junk food week as well.  You know the sugary cereal I say "No" to the other 51 weeks of the year, I allow during the one week at the beach.  Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms -- sure, but just for this week only and nobody let me read the list of ingredients!   Also, things like Twinkies that were staples in my childhood, but my kids have no idea about, we expose them to it during beach vacation week.
  • With big families where you don't want everyone drinking after each other (I'm a freak about containing potential cold and stomach virus germs to one member of the family as much as humanly possible; you never know when someone is about to get sick and already contagious before you even know they are sick), label water bottle lids.  My system is to label "Mom", "D" for Dad, and then numbers 1 through 4 for my kids, with 1 being the oldest, 4 the youngest, etc.

  • Pack bleach wipes and have kids quickly wipe down bathrooms and empty trash every other day, this way the messes don't pile up.
  •  To make the sunscreen application process easier (and when you have 4 kids and need to reapply every 80 minutes, you want anything to make it easier!), we used these Wet Skin Sticks for the kids' faces.  It goes on quick, they don't have to be super dry so it's great for re-applying while they are swimming, and with a stick instead of a liquid you don't have to worry about it getting in their eyes!
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  • It's a family vacation, but that doesn't mean you have to spend every single minute together!  Trade off childcare with your husband so you each can go on a bike ride or shopping alone for an hour or two.  And we had rest time nearly every day of our vacation where we came back to the beach house and everyone was expected to rest or read quietly in their bed for 45 minutes to an hour.  That time definitely helps bring some parental peace!
  • I pack each person's clothes in one of these packing cubes, that way I am not having to help each child find their clothes and pajamas.  They have their stuff separated in their own cube.


  • Really I think the number 1 thing that made the trip so easy this year and a real vacation for me the mom was that we'd done this vacation 2 times already.  I knew the layout of the house, knew the amenities, and how to get everywhere in the little beach town.  We knew how to rent bikes and have them delivered to our rental house.  We knew the restaurants that were good to eat at and even what to order!  Sure, there is something exciting about a new adventure, but with 4 kids there is nothing restful about a new adventure! 





 
**** This post contains affiliate links, but I only link to product I own myself and truly love.****

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Favorites from our Seaside Vacation

The House.  We've rented this same house for our vacations the past 3 summers.  The kids refer to it as "our beach house".  Ha!  We can dream!


 Beautiful beach with crystal clear water

 Relaxing!

Bodyboarding!  Even I figured out how to ride the waves this year.  Such fun!


We rented a kayak one day.  The boys had their turn first.  I asked my 8 year old daughter if she wanted to ride next and she said, "If nothing bad happens to them, then I'll think about it, but if something bad happens to them then I'm not riding."  Smart girl!

The boys survived so the girls and I took over the kayak.

Watching my kids bury each other in the sand is always fun!

Eating dinner at a restaurant and having this view:



Girls in white dresses:


 A pool with no rule banning inflatables like our hometown pool does:

Watching frozen in the outdoor ampitheater

 Sandcastles

Tetherball was a hit with my oldest this year


And last, but not least, walking or riding bikes everywhere for the whole week!

We drove 10 hours to get to Seaside from our home, unloaded at the beachhouse, went to the grocery store to stock up for the week, and then parked our car and did not drive again for a full week!  We were able to walk to the beach and pool and restaurants and shops.  It was such a great break from our regular lives where we are always running around in the car mulitiple times each day!