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Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick AND Treat?

Oh, the fun of having a family!  Picture it: a five year old princess-to-be waiting for daddy to come home from work so we may conquer all that is Trick or Treating.  A one year old, not sure why she was so excited, but was excited nonetheless because her big sister was bouncing off the walls with excitement.  Two pups, chasing the girls around the house in an attempt to butter up their owners into letting them go on the outing that had the whole neighborhood buzzing with funny looking humans of all shapes and sizes.  A mommy watching the clock, hoping it doesn't take her husband too long before he gets off of work... worrying that if the children and dogs get any more riled up, they'll likely burst.

And then it happened.  I let the pups outside in the backyard to get some bladder relief (and, let's face it... a little bit of down time from all of the excitement) when I smelled it.  It was a smell like none other.  Then I heard it: gushing, gurgling, running water.  I stepped out onto my back porch and watched (in slow motion) as my chihuahua puppy ran right into a puddle.  There hasn't been rain for days here.  How did a puddle suddenly appear?  Then, pieces of a puzzle started to not only appear in my mind's eye... but connect.  

The spare bathroom in our house started to gurgle this afternoon.  Thinking one of the girls decided to flush way too much toilet paper down it again, I took a plunger to it.  The odd part to me was that there was fresh, sparkly water in the bowl.  More gurgling.  I plunged until my arms got sore.  No water moved.  I flushed.  Bad mistake.  The water moved, but not down.  I watched the water reach the very top of the bowl, and make that bubbled-over shape just before it starts pouring down the side.  God heard my prayers: no spillage!  Thinking nothing of it, I called the work order in and was told to close the bathroom off and not allow anybody to use it until they could come out to fix it.  They were short handed on maintenance people, so it may take a few days.  No worries.

Now, that very same gurgling sound was coming from my backyard.  Not only was it coming from my backyard, but it was ten feet from my back door.  The sound wasn't what did it.  It was the smell.  I could run a daycare, give half a pound of prunes to each child and their parents, wait thirty minutes, and hold them all hostage in the same bedroom and still not be able to come close to that smell in my backyard.  My stomach hadn't turned over completely until I saw my puppy do the Baywatch run toward the puddle and bathe herself in it.  
The gurgling...
I couldn't help but laugh.  I mean, really.  Who would have guessed?  Who could plan such an event?  Who would I have been justified to be mad at?  Nobody.  I called the housing office and got the very same employee who took my "non-emergent" work order for a backed up toilet.  Laughing, literally out loud, I asked her to move that work order up to "come over to my house in five minutes or less".  She asked why and I explained.  Literally five minutes later, my husband had come home to a bummed out five year old, a curious one year old, a poopy covered chihuahua, and a wife who was running around the house wondering how we'd be able to trick or treat and clean off the poop.  Oh, the fun of having a family!

Anyway.  Here are my precious angels just moments before we plundered the neighborhood for booty.  I thought about dressing up as a pirate, but was busy having poopy water spew all over my back yard.  Basically, I dressed the girls and we hit the road while Josh was stuck working with Roto Rooter.  What a wonderful husband I have!
The whitest Princess Tiana ever.  
The girl likes to strike a pose.
The love bug was not thrilled with photography today.
In an effort to hurry things up and get going, we tried our
best tantrum.  Didn't work.
I did get my smiles!
Happy Halloween everybody!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Early Halloween

Since the local Botanical Gardens had their annual Bootanica celebration last Saturday, we decided to get dressed up and celebrate the festivities.  I love a good, wholesome event where the scare is fun, not gory.  The atmosphere is open and spacious, and the DJ isn't afraid to call the holiday by it's name: Halloween.  It's not a fall festival if you have people dressing up in costumes.

Every year, SJ gets the choice of what she wants to dress up as for Halloween.  Every year, she runs to her dress up closet and picks one of the dresses we already have on hand.  Super convenient for me, and cheap since I don't have to fight the crowds during the dress-up season for cheap costumes.  When we get a dress up costume, we go for gold.  Only the best (because it's the sturdiest) will do here.  It has to... we wear costumes for school work sometimes.

It's a good thing Josh and I have been super studious on unpacking the stuff that sat in Colorado for three years while we "vacationed" in Guam.  I found the box of SJ's baby costumes, which means I have several to choose from for Christina this year.  They range from an adorable pink bear (my personal favorite... it was SJ's first Halloween costume which means it will only last for this year), to an almost just as adorable monkey (with tail attached), to a ridiculously LOUD (as in color) yellow duck, and finally and beautiful green alligator.  These are each very responsible costume choices for the lil one as it apparently gets cold enough to make an eskimo shiver around here and they are each made of six inch thick snuggly fleece and wool.

After Bootanica, we came home to decorate our pumpkins.  This was huge for our family, since it's the first year that I've actually purchased pumpkins.  I know, I know... mom of the year here.  Enjoy the pictures of our day!

Not posing for the camera.  Just taking it all in as we enter.
This monkey doesn't throw poop.  Go ahead and
hug to your heart's content!
At a craft table, coloring a book mark.  We were debating
the true color of ghosts.
She moved on to the pumpkin because I couldn't produce
a white marker for her to color on the white paper.
We ride in style.  Massive bike strollers are super
convenient at events such as this for the massive
costumes to fit.  Both girls enjoyed the use of this.
Story time with "Grandma Witch".  She was wonderful.
Both of the girls loved the story time.  I love Christina's
tail on this costume!
Vampire teeth.  Grandma Witch didn't like them.  SJ
loved the reaction she got when wearing them.
Christina chows down when food is around.
The squeezable Grandma Witch.  We loved her.
Exploring some of the kid's area at the Gardens.
What else is there around here?  We still haven't been
able to explore the whole place!
1 Princess + 1 Bouncy Ball = Awesome
1 Daddy + 1 Bouncy Ball = Visual of how old you're getting
Taking it all in...
Washing pumpkins before we decorate...
Gotta get them all clean!
My mommy is brave to give me paint on a glass plate
and free reign!
Painting is a serious matter...
My pumpkin.  I wanted a bold blue.  I guess I shouldn't have picked a
watercolor paint.  More on my pumpkin later...
Helping Daddy carve his pumpkin.
Daddy said, "Shh. Don't tell mommy that I've never done
this by myself before..."
SJ's pumpkin...
Fun with the "leftover" paint on the plates after.
We're not done with our pumpkins.  We just had to "table" them because the pups decided to take an unauthorized tour of the neighborhood.  Good times.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Perspectives from a 5 year old...

I know I just posted a blog, but I couldn't keep from posting another.  I've seen this picture on Facebook and my uncle emailed it to me recently.  I liked it so much that I put it as my desktop on my massive iMac.  It's beautiful, and it reminds me of things I need to remember in my weak moments.  Here's the photo:
If I knew the origins of this photo, I'd give credit.  Any ideas?
Anyway, I usually have some application that is open which covers my desktop photo on my computer so this picture was covered for at least for or five days.  Last night SJ came in my office to kiss me goodnight and have me put her to bed.  I closed out my active windows and was considering going to bed myself.  She saw this photo and froze.

It never occurred to me how a five year old would react such a powerful picture.  But once I saw the look on her face, I started to study the photo through her eyes.  Silently, she was studying one specific spot.  Josh and I have been talking with her about how he "fights the bad guys in other countries to help those countries out", and she seems to be grasping the concept.  She's never seen Josh in his full "battle rattle", and the biggest gun she's ever seen him carry was our pistols.  Here's our discussion:

SJ: Mommy, who is that?
Me: That is a picture of some Soldiers, like daddy, who are helping to keep those people safe.
SJ: Are they fighting the bad guys like daddy does?
Me: Yes.
SJ: Okay, but Mommy... who is THAT.  (She points to the child in the picture).

My mind was racing; I thought she was fixated on the weapons.  I thought she was worried about her daddy's safety since it meant he may have to be a human shield for a child one day.  I didn't realize that she was studying the child.  I didn't think I could put into words which a five year old will understand what this picture depicts.  I silently prayed that my children will never experience a war in their homeland.  I questioned if they'll ever have to endure the hardships and torment that comes with being occupied by the military of several countries.  I wondered how I could describe to her the duty of those Soldiers.  With a lump growing in my throat, this is all I could muster:

Me: That is a little boy who needs to be safe from the bad guys.  Those Soldiers are protecting him, and keeping him safe.

SJ's face falls for a second.  She steps closer to the computer and takes a good look all around the photo and puts her eyes back on the little boy.

SJ: Is that his daddy? (Pointing to the man who is holding the child)
Me: I don't know.  What do you think?
SJ: I think it is.  But where is his mommy?

I wasn't ready for that question.  It had never occurred to me that she is thinking about the whole family here.

Me: I'm not sure where the mommy is.  Where do you think she is?
SJ: I don't know.  But you know what, Mommy?
Me: What?
SJ: That little boy needs to be with his mommy.  She'll protect him better than those other people.

Oh, my heart melted.  Never underestimate the power of a mama bear!

Read during the thunderstorms

I am basically writing this more as a journal to refer back to.  You see, this week in homeschooling has been fantastic.  We have accomplished much, neglected little, and focused well.  I want to be able to look back during those rough times when everything goes wrong and it seems like it has been that way for a while.  I want to be able to remember that there are sunny days in homeschooling when it seems the torrential downpour will never end.

I love homeschooling my children.  At 18 months and 5 years old, my everyday life accounts for almost 80% of their "curriculum"right now.  Brush teeth, get dressed, do hair... that's personal grooming.  Important.  For those of you who have worked with a person who smells like they believe baths are a quarterly occasion, I'm sure you'd agree.  Make the beds, pick up the laundry, wash the dishes, menu planning, cooking: home economics.  Appointments, errands, grocery shopping: time and money management.  The list goes on.

But we do cover "The 3 R's": Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic.  SJ's doing great in her subjects, and loves her school time.  We dance and sing during our lessons (she is much like her mama: can't focus unless she's moving about), we get loud and crazy, and we tell each other secrets.  Today, the secret we shared was that 6+3=9.  Jealous?

Christina isn't left out of the loop.  I didn't put much thought into it until the other day when I was working out at the YMCA.  A woman who is old enough to be my mom was asking what I do for a living while we were waiting for our respective weight machines to be vacant.  I told her that I am a career homemaker and homeschool my children.  When she asked for the ages of my children, I told her.  Thoughtlessly, she said "Oh, well then you only homeschool one child."  How wrong that woman is!  Christina has her own chores.  She has dishes that she is expected to put away, laundry she is expected to gather and put into piles, and every shoe on the floor is put in the shoe closet by my excited 18 month old.  She feeds the dogs, washes dishes, loads the dishwasher, and helps wash the windows.  She has vacuumed the floors, then helped mop them.  Her thoroughness in some of her chores aren't up to my standards, but when will they be unless she practices?
The vacuum was actually attached before this photo.

When it's song and dance time, Christina participates in "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes", "The Ants Go Marching In", and our favorite song, "The Hello Song" (where you hold out your right hand, look at your friend, smile, and say hi).  During handwriting time, she gets to color, she listens in on our reading time, and helps with the manipulatives that we use for math.  Every day of her life is nothing short of an education.  Do I have lesson plans for her?  No.  Do I have written scopes and objectives for her?  Absolutely not.  But that doesn't mean I'm not educating her.  And that doesn't mean that I'm not bouncing back and forth between my girls as I educate them.  I am homeschooling two children right now.

On that note, I'll leave you with some pictures we took this morning for Daddy.  Just because he's not here doesn't mean we can't say good morning.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

(One of Many) Letter(s) to My Girls

At 15 years old:


My Dearest Samantha Jadyn and Christina Abigail,

Don't listen to what your friends think. Think for yourself. Never be afraid to make your own mistakes, own them, and learn from them.  Always be afraid to not try.  Don't lie to me about where you have been, what you were doing, or who you were with because in doing so, you will break my trust which will be much harder for you to earn back. 


Study hard and don't skip classes, unless it's to go on a great adventure with your friends once a year; those memories will mean more to you than the punishment you will serve for it. But believe me, you will serve a punishment.  Know that there are always consequences for your actions.  They can be good, and they can be bad.  One day, you'll realize that your idea of the "bad" consequences in my house have actually served to make you good. 


Don’t judge yourself on the grades you bring home… look at each subject you studied and be proud of each grade you earned for yourself. If a “C” is the best you can do in one subject, own that “C” and know that nobody can take that away from you. Go to college before you get married and have children. 

If you're going to drink, don't drive. Call me anytime, anywhere and I'll be there without judgment. But be prepared to pay the consequences for your decisions.  Before you down that first drink, ask yourself if the short term benefits of getting drunk outweigh the long term consequences of underage drinking.  I trust you are wise enough to come to a sensible decision.

Be nice to your sister. She may be the most annoying creature on the planet, but there isn’t a friend in the world that will ever be able to replace her. She has been at your side, going through this life with you for as far back as you can remember.  While your friend will tell you what you want to hear, your sister will tell you what you need to hear. Ignorant people will toss words around like "love", "friend", and "sister".  Those are powerful words.  Use them sparingly and appropriately.  


Wear your seatbelt. Call me if you're going to be home late.

Put all of yourself into everything you do, even if you hate it. Apply to lots of colleges. Don't follow your friends or what is safe. Do what you want, even if it scares the hell out of you. Remember that nobody is courageous without first experiencing fear. 

No one is better than you and you are better than no one else. If a boy breaks your heart, tell your sister. She’ll be there for you with raw cookie dough and a case of Jolt soda. Remember that you are God's creation.  Everything He makes is perfect, and that means you are perfectly made.  You are who you are because He made you.  Your eyes could be a different color, your hair a different texture, your body with more or less curves, but then you wouldn't be perfectly made.  Learn to appreciate the body God gave you.  One day, your body will be nothing short of a distant memory.

Spend your money on stupid things, like a car or new clothes. One day, you'll have bills and wish you were more free with your money in your youth. On that token, remember that an ounce of responsibility mixes very well with a cup of splurging. Always toss something in your savings account… even if it is only $10 that month.  And never forget that there are people in this world who will always have less than you do.  Give.  Attach no strings, and ask for nothing in return.  Not even a thank you.  Generosity will leave a mark on your soul that shines brightly when you need it most.  

Don't worry about the popular crowd. They're usually insecure and will grow up being assholes. Be nice to everyone, even the "weird" kids. Often, they will end up being the most loyal friends and interesting people you will have known. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim of your circumstances. If you don't like something, change it.

Call your grandparents.

Love,
Mom




Friday, October 14, 2011

Field Trip Friday: Pumpkin Patch!

Josh had to work during part of the 4 day holiday last week, and the lovely people he works with let him take today off as a comp day.  Oh what a joy it is to have him around!  I've been dying to go to a real pumpkin patch (can't remember if I've actually ever been to one) with the girls ever since we got here.  After spending a couple of hours online last night, scouring the internet for all possible nearby farms with pumpkin patches, we came across three that caught my eye.  The problem is that the drought that hit earlier this year, plus the tornadoes that hit in April has left farmers scratching their heads wondering when they'll be able to produce good produce again.

I called three farms, and all three of them pointed me to the one we went to.  We didn't quite mind the hour and a half drive to the farm; Josh had homework anyway, and the girls love catching a movie to pass the time.  I enjoy driving the great highways and county roads in our beautiful country, so off we went!  423 photos later, here are my favs:

They decorated a bale of hay to look like a giant spider.  Of course, the
spider was calling SJ to come climb him.
Could there be a more simple apparatus of fun than a slide set up to bales
of hay?  The girls couldn't imagine one!
Proof that I attended such fun!
A swing for two?  Perfect for sisters who love to play together!
Speaking of simple fun, how does a 2x6 on a rope sound?
Especially when it is tied to a tree!
It looked like so much fun that Mama Bear had to try.
Papa Bear was next... 
Christina was next.  Josh had a blast trying to get her on.

Of course, Christina's recollection of the incident was
quite different.
Big sister to the rescue!
Christina loved it!  (Once she figured it out)
And who can pass up an opportunity to try out the tire swing?
Sand box on a farm?  Nope!  Corn box.  
Samantha loved jumping in.  Literally!
She made a friend, and they would fall back into the corn.
Get ready for it....
FWOMP! 
I couldn't resist.  I had to get in on the fun.
Last week, Papa Bear got to do snow angels, now I get
to try out corn angels.  The end result was having corn in
places nobody should experience.  Love SJ's "upside
down angel".
Smooches for a corny mommy.
It's never too early to have deep meaningful conversations
with your babies.
There were slides EVERYWHERE on this farm.
My daredevil didn't think twice about going in head-first.  It ended well...
corn ALL IN HER MOUTH!
Who needs a featherbed when you can have a corn one?
Her head was lumpy from the corn, and almost purple from the blood that
rushed to it.  Good times.
Eating the corn or the apple?  If you look at that apple closely enough, you'll
notice corn kernels snuggled in nicely.  Building that immune system! 
She was super thrilled to have her picture taken.  
Christina didn't get the concept.
But if you beg your children enough, you may get them in the same shot.
Can't guarantee they will be smiling, or even looking at the camera, though.
Their petting zoo.  SJ, the pony whisperer.  No requests to have one of her
own, though.  That was my blessing for the day!
Christina learned that if she rubbed her apple all over her hand, the pony
would give her kisses.  She loved it.
The farm is nestled in the middle of a beautiful valley.
On the hay ride!  Christina couldn't have been more
confused.
SJ loved it.  She had a question about every square inch of the 2,000 acre
farm.  That's a lot of questions!
SJ took this picture for us.  Not bad, if you don't mind
a good, strong Heavenly glare dropping in.
Let's see if Mama Bear can do any better...
Here comes the pumpkin patch!
When I was young, my parents would take us to a Christmas tree farm every year.  My dad would walk around the farm saying, "I can hear one calling my name.  We have to find the one that's calling my name.  That's the one for us." I thought I'd bring that tradition into our pumpkin hunting.  
SJ listening for her name to be called.  
Listening to the pumpkin.  Is it calling your name?
Sure was!  This one's hers!
Christina was testing the durability of her would-be pumpkins.  She chose
to toss her pumpkins to see if they would stand up to the abuse she plans to
deal out.  This one did not satisfy her requirements.
Pumpkins for the offspring have been picked... now for the parents.
Daddy asked Christina if this would suit him.
The answer was no.
It's a lot of work to pick something up that is bigger than
your head.  She prevailed.
With our pumpkins safely nestled, we're off to make our way back to
the van.
Josh and I have figured out why we never seem to have
any water when we go places. 
Wagons were conveniently placed where the hay ride drop off location was
so we didn't have to lug all those pumpkins to the van.  How considerate!
Of course, Papa Bear didn't have enough to drag around.  The kiddos needed
to ensure the pumpkins didn't fall off!
Who could resist such an adorable photo-op?
MORE PUMPKINS!
We love our swings!
What are we looking at?  Couldn't tell ya.
She really does like us, I promise.
Their favorite shoes.  We wear these EVERYWHERE!
One more trip to the corn box.
This could almost be an advertisement for the corn growers in America...
SJ doesn't take crap from anybody.  Especially not scary
blow up decorations.
So there was our field trip.  We had a blast, and came home utterly exhausted.  I can't even describe the smell of the van on the ride home.  It was a mixture of sickly sweet corn, manure, pumpkins, and baby poop.  After changing the diaper, we were left with manure and corn.  All in all... very successful day!