Tuesday, August 31, 2010

12 Years, Really????

My baby is 12 years old!! It really is so hard to believe. So much has happened in our lives over the last 12 years. He has lived in 5 different apt./ homes and 2 different states. He was born in Dallas and is a Dallas Cowboys fan just like his dad. He has started playing football this year. We are so excited to see him play. He also loves watching the Cowboys play with Rick. That is something they are now enjoying together.

Since Cody's bday was on a school day and football practice day this year, we did most of our celebrating over the weekend. He, his dad, and his two friends, Harrison and Cody went to play laser tag on Sat. Afterwards they got Blizzards as a treat.
On Sunday night, we had a family bday dinner for him. He chose fajitas. All the kids had sodas for dinner which is a rare occurrence around. A decision we regretted when it was 10:00 and everyone was still awake!! Cody chose Throwback Mountain Dew.
Here is a sample of his plate
He also requested chocolate cupcakes. I found a really good gluten free mix for the cake and frosting. It was so good that we all loved it!!
After dinner, Cody opened gifts.
Here is the whole crew!!
Sam got him camouflage duct tape
Abby got him football cards
Lauren got him Magic cards and Milk Duds
Rick and I got him a snowball blaster
Papa and Grammy got him some clothes along with some cash
He is a man that likes cash. He got cash from us, from grandparents and gift cards from his friends. Now he is planning how he will spend his money.
This picture makes me laugh!
Today, he woke up to gf cinnamon sugar donuts. I also took Icee pops to his class for a treat. After football practice, he came home for dinner and got to play his new video game that he bought with some of his bday money.

Cody, I am so proud of you. I love your sense of humor. I love your creativity. You have such a gift for drawing and creating. When you got your snowball blaster, you looked over it and said that you could have invented that. Your mind works that way. I love seeing how you have taken ownership of your relationship with God in a deeper way over the last year. You have started football and drum lessons this year. Now, you are in 6th grade and adjusting to a new schedule and new school year.

I see how God has made you into a leader. I pray that you will embrace that aspect of your personality and gifting and use it for His glory.

"You will always be my little man, I'll love you the best that a mama can."(words from Cody's song that I chose for him, "I Love You Up To The Moon."

Monday, August 30, 2010

September Challenge

If you have been reading my blog all year, you may remember that I declared this a year of challenges. I planned to do a different challenge each month throughout the year. I decided to take the summer off, but now I am ready to begin again. Let me recap the challenges we have done:

January - Spending Fast - I only spent money on absolute necessities. I saved a ton that month!!
February - Kindness Challenge - It was my goal to do an act of kindness for at least one of my children each day.
March - Bible Reading - To read my Bible every day of the month. I only missed 3 days.
April - Dietary Changes. - We eliminated High Fructose Corn Syrup, Trans fats, and Artificial Sweeteners from our diet. We added Hormone free milk, flax, fish oil, and healthier eggs. I am happy to say we have stuck with these changes!!
May - Exercise - I had a goal to exercise regularly. I also added a green drink to my diet!!
June, July, August - Took a break. Although you could say having all the kids at home all day for the summer was a challenge!!

For my September challenge, I am going to do a pantry, fridge and freezer clean out. I am hoping to prepare our meals according to the food I have and get these areas cleaned out and reorganized. I currently have two refrigerators and one big freezer. I need to empty out the big freezer so that I can defrost it. I also need to use the food that is collected in there. Rick is always saying, "Why do you need to go to the grocery when we have so much food in this house?" He is very pleased to find out that I am going to use some of that food up. I will let you know how it goes.

I hope that in my efforts to use up food, I will also save money in my grocery budget. I am way over. I need to catch up from the summer.

So, there you have it. Does anyone want to join me? By the end of Sept., we may be eating meals that consist of marshmallows, croutons, and bbq sauce!!

First Day of School

I have shared what my kitchen looked like on the first day of school. Now, I willshare the pics of the kids. Our day started with pancakes. I wasn't going to do them. I was tired and afraid we were going to be late. The kids were so disappointed when they heard, that I just had to.

Sam was so excited to finally be going to school all day long. He also couldn't wait to eat lunch at school. Every day since he started, he has come home with a big smile on his face saying how great his day has been. I am so glad. He feels confident. That is huge because he struggled at the beginning of the year last year. I think he will do great!!
Abby is in second grade
Lauren likes school even though she wouldn't dare admit it, especially in front of her older brother. She got the teacher she was hoping for and one of her classmate friends from last year. The backpack she has on in this picture tore up after the first day of school. She got a different one that she took for the first time today. When looking for backpacks, it was very important to her that she have one that would still be cool in 5th grade because we use them for 2 years.
Lauren is in 4th grade
How do you think Cody feels about school? I'll give you one guess. He is so smart. He is also really social. I think he likes it better than he lets on. He misses it when he doesn't have to go. At our school, middle school begins in 7th grade so he is still at the elementary campus. They do begin transitioning them by doing a block schedule so he gets to move to different teachers for different subjects. I think he likes it. He also has his 2 best friends in homeroom with him!!
Cody is in 6th grade
This is my sweet year for school. Everyone is at the same campus all day. I drop the 4 big kids off at 8:00 and don't have to pick them up until 3:30. It really is a beautiful thing. I have had several years of kindergarten pick ups which really mess up the day. Also, next year, Cody will be at a different campus. I am really trying to soak up and enjoy this "easier" year.

On the first day of school, about an hour after I dropped off the kids, Laila, Isaiah and I were shopping. I stopped in the middle of the store and just thought about how easy this is. I immediately sent Rick a text that said, "FREEDOM!!" Don't get me wrong, I love my kids. I just also love that they have a great school to go to, and I can use that time to pour into Isaiah and Laila and keep our household running smoothly.
Where did all these big kids come from? They will always be my babies!!
Daddy and kiddos
We are off to a good start. They all look so big to me. I know at the end of the school year, I will look back on these pictures and be amazed at how much they have grown over the year.

Meet and Greet Pics

The day before school started, we went to the school to meet the kids' teachers, find their classrooms, and take in their supplies. This is always an exciting day. It is fun for them to see which friends are in their classes. I also like to get pictures of them with their teachers and at their desks because they don't want me to go in on the First Day of School. That would just be too embarrassing!!
Sam at his desk
Abby at her desk
Lauren at her desk
Cody at his locker(because lockers are way cooler than desks!)
At the end of the time, the school was having an ice cream social in the lobby. This was Isaiah's Laila's favorite part!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

4th Annual Swazi Walk

We did our Swazi Walk today.

We walked 6 miles to raise money so that children in Swaziland can go to school.

All 6 of my kids participated. Isaiah and Laila rode in the wagon and the rest walked the WHOLE WAY(okay, Sam did get pushed in a stroller with a friend for parts of it, but he did a lot of the walk.)

Cody was actually the 3rd person to finish out of 67 people. I was pretty impressed with that.

Lauren was 6th and Abby was 8th.

Sam and I were very content to be near the end placing in the 60's.

I will share pictures and also let you know how much we raised. It will be at least a week before we have money totals.

The really cool thing is that lots of families walked. They also got to experience some of the things that Swazi kids deal with every day.

They stood in line to way for a cup of rice.

They got food and water at "carepoints" along the way.

They carried backpacks with rocks in them.

They walked barefoot for 5 minutes of the walk.

They made "soccer balls" out of plastic grocery sacks.

It impacted them in so many ways, and what a sense of accomplishment my kids had when they were done.

On the way home, they were all asking, even Isaiah, "How soon before we do that again, Mom?"

That just warms my Swazi lovin' mama's heart!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Girl After Her Mama's Heart

If you read the post "Processing With Isaiah," then you know that after bath time has become a time for me to cuddle him and talk about Swaziland, his birth mom, and his place in our family. Laila has seen us have some of those conversations.

Today, when I got her out of the bath, I cuddled her up like a baby and said, "Laila, would you like to talk about Swaziland?" She said, "yes." I said, "What do you want to talk about?" Her response, "chips." I laughed so hard.

This girl loves her some chips. That is what is important to her right now. So, we had a discussion about chips and how she is going to have some at lunch today. It was beautiful.

It makes me chuckle, because this girl has the same passion for food that her mama does. We both love it. We both enjoy it. We both like to talk about it. Who says you have to be blood related to be connected within your soul?

Pray for us today. We are going to try to get a picture again. She is claiming right now that she is going to cooperate. Who knows what she will do when we get there. Regardless, I am coming home today with a new picture whether she is happy or sad in it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A New Challenge

I started this year with the plan to have a new challenge each month. Jan. - Mid June was great!!

Then, took a break over the summer.

Actually there was an unwritten challenge that I faced during the summer months.

I had to entertain, feed, and maintain our household with all 6 kids home all summer.

There is no way to really measure that one. We all survived. I guess that means I was successful.

I am contemplating my September challenge and will share it very soon!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Processing with Isaiah

Rick and I have been reflecting over our 1 year and 5 months with Isaiah and Laila. Examining where they are in the bonding process. Figuring out if and when they are grieving their losses(yes, little ones can grieve, even if they join you at birth!). Watching how they have so perfectly fit into our family like two little puzzle pieces that were missing.

Isaiah was 2 years 3 months old when he joined our family. Laila was 9 months old. Isaiah was very fluent in his language but only knew a handful of English words. Language was definitely a barrier between us. He was so verbal and there were so many things that both of us were saying to each other that neither understood. Our conversations would often end with him(or me) screaming in frustration over our lack of ability to clearly communicate. With Laila, it didn't matter. She was a baby. Her language at that point was love. That was oh, so easy for me to speak. She attached to me immediately. It was like she had been waiting all of her 9 months for me, her mama. When we were still in country, women would try to take her and hold her. She would have none of that. She only wanted me! She didn't even have the opportunity to know her birth mother. She was only a week old when she died.

Isaiah on the other hand was 18 months old when their mom died. He had a year and a half of his life with her. She was his make(pronounced ma gay). Then, one day she was gone, and he hasn't seen her since. His little mind couldn't process why she was gone and that she didn't choose to abandon them. He couldn't wrap his little mind around any of the realities that surrounded him at that point. In just a few short months, I will have been his mom as long as his birth mother. That feels significant to me.

After having a discussion with Rick, I decided to bring up the idea of Isaiah's birth mom with him. We were concerned that he might feel like he couldn't talk about her if he wanted to. I didn't plan to pressure him, just put the feelers out and see what his response would be. Don't get me wrong, we talk about Swaziland all the time with him. We don't shelter him from that or try to make him forget it. It is important for him to know about his country even at a young age. We love his country and spend a great deal of time investing in the people there who have become dear friends to us. We just hadn't really addressed the topic of his birth mom because he has never brought it up.

Two Sundays ago, the opportunity presented itself. Sometimes he likes to pretend he is a baby boy, and I will hold and cuddle him accordingly.(That is really common for children who are adopted and missed out on that phase with their adoptive parents. It helps them to heal by reliving some of those activities.) After his bath on this particular Sunday, I had him all wrapped up in his towel holding him like a baby. He looked at me and said, "I'm a baby boy." I replied by saying, "Isaiah, when you were a baby boy, mommy did not get to hold you. I don't know what you were like as a baby boy. You were in Swaziland." He nodded. I then said, "Do you remember your Swazi mama?" He said, "yes." I said, "Do you want to talk about her." He nodded, yes. I then said, "Isaiah, she was a good mama who loved you very much. She took good care of you. Any time you want to talk about her, we can." He nodded to me and smiled. I said, "Do you miss her?" He nodded, yes. Tears came to my eyes. I said to him, "I am so sorry that you don't have your Swazi mama anymore. God brought you to our family so that I could be your mama now." Then, he said, "You and Daddy come to Africa on a plane and get me and bring me home." I said, "Yes we did."

Then, something very profound happened. It was one of those moments I won't forget. He looked up at me, held my face, and said, "I love you, Mama." Now, if you are reading this, you might say, "oh, that is so sweet." And it was. But, the really profound part is that this was the first time on his own, without being prompted, that Isaiah chose to say that he loves me. Before that I would tell him I love him and then always have to say, "do you love, Mama?" His answer was always, "yes," but he was always responding to me, not initiating. This time, he chose on his own without any prompting to say those precious words to me. It felt very significant.

I shared this story with Rick, and we could both tell a difference in him after that experience. He just seemed happier and more settled. Fast forward a week to Isaiah's Sunday bath. I was holding him again and said, "Do you want to talk about something?" He responded, "Yes, my Swazi mama." So, we talked about her. I just reassured him of how much she loved him. Then, I said, "Did you have a Swazi daddy?" He said pretty strongly, "NO!" Then he said, "My daddy come get me and take me on a airplane and bring me home." At the end of our conversation, once again, he held my face and told me that he loves me. Wow! This kid has understanding beyond what I would expect.

Later that morning, Isaiah said something about his "Swazi Mama." Then he looked at me and said, "You my Swazi Mama now." My heart absolutely melted. I am so glad that I talked to him. I am so glad he opened up to me. I know there will be many more conversations to be had. I know that there may be times where he struggles with having me as his mom. For now, I am thankful that God is working in our relationship to bond us together as mother and son. I will continue to talk to him about his time before he joined us and always give him the freedom to talk about the woman who literally gave her life so that Laila could be born. What would my life be without them? I can't even fathom that idea.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Not Much To Say

I haven't posted in a few days. We had the craziness of school starting on Thursday.

Then, there was football practice and a picnic for Cody. Rick did tons of outside work.

The night ended with a really refreshing time with friends. The kids clicked with their kids. It was easy and comfortable. It was one of those times for me that I needed, badly.

Sunday was non stop as well. Church. A picnic with Lauren's class. A Swazi team picnic.

We met with all those that went on this year's Swazi trip. That was good, too.

Talking about Swaziland and hearing how God has impacted them through the trip is like food to my soul. It is good to be around others who get it.

Hearing their hearts brought tears to my eyes, and even after 4 1/2 years, I am broken. I am not going to get over this one. It is who I am. It is a part of me.

I don't know what God has in store. I believe He is working. I am begging Him to reveal His plan.

I started out by saying there was not much to say, but it doesn't really take a lot of words to say a lot. There is a lot going on in my heart. Enough said.

Oh, I have to say that this "quick" post(that should have taken a couple of minutes) took me almost 20 min. because of the various fights I had to referee, owies I had to kiss, and questions I had to answer. I'm just sayin'. I must go now and referee another little disagreement.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Made Me Laugh

I just had to share the comment on my last post that made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants. Here it is:

Lori Kennedy said...
Hey, someone forgot to pack their watermelon in their lunch box!

Thanks, Lori. I needed that laugh.

I could not get the picture out of my mind of one of my kids walking into school with that watermelon.

I mostly thought about Sam because he is the littlest of the school kids and ate lunch at school for the first time today. He would be the kid that would want to take the watermelon.

As a matter of fact, he actually bought me a watermelon for my birthday one year!! That made me laugh, too.

It was one of those baby watermelons, and Rick said the minute Sam saw it, he knew that was the perfect gift for me!

My fridge is so full right now, that I couldn't fit it in. It is quite a prominent fixture in that second picture.

First Day of School - Morning Aftermath

I bet you thought you were going to see a sweet picture of my children in their school uniforms. Don't worry, those are coming. I just had to share some "real" life with you first. This is what my kitchen looked like after everyone ate breakfast and made their lunches this morning. The really sad part is this is after I scrambled to put away all the perishable foods that were left out.

Now, don't you all feel better after seeing our mess. I know I feel better when I realize I am not the only person whose house is not perfect all the time. It's my service to you. Enjoy!



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Today's Random Happenings

-I have cleaned 5 spills today of various fluids.

-I have wiped snot at least 30 times from various children's faces.

-I have labeled individual pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils, glue sticks, etc. for 4 children.

-I have asked for my scissors that belong in the kitchen at least 5 times today.(I am convinced that those scissors have legs. They are NEVER in the holder.)

-My palm pilot(Yes, I know, old school. My cell phone is actually just a phone) seems to have died. This is serious, people. I maintain the lives of 8 people with that device. If I cannot retrieve that info we are in big trouble. If we do not show up to something we are supposed to be at, you know why. I have at least 5 items on my "to do" list that I cannot do now because they involve dates and times.

- My quads in my right leg are so sore today from my towing adventures yesterday that I can barely walk up and down the stairs.(I know that means I am really out of shape. I admit it.)

-I get to take 6 children through a large crowd of people today pulling a wagon with 2 children and carrying at least 15 bags of school supplies to find each child's classroom, all the while taking pictures, creating memories and greeting teachers.

-For some reason today my children have decided they need to work on Halloween costumes. "Listen, kids, mom can barely survive one day at a time. Do we really have to work on something that is over 2 months away?" We currently have a 2 princesses, yoda, a bat, a dragon, and a Dallas Cowboys player walking around my house.

I do believe I need some cookie dough.

Now, Wasn't That Fun!?!?

Oh, how I wish I had my camera with me yesterday. It was quite the day. My words will have to create the pictures for you.

The day started with a visit for Abby with a pediatric cardiologist. Abby has been having horrible headaches for almost a year now. We have run almost every test imaginable on her. Because she had some heart issues when she was born, we needed to check out if her headaches could be a symptom of a bigger problem. After an EKG and an ultrasound on her heart, I am very relieved to say that her heart is working just fine!! At this point, her headache diagnosis is migraines. How sad it that? An 8 year old with migraines.

After our dr. visit, we took Abby on her very belated bday date. She chose On the Border. It was a great lunch. I was soooo sad not to have pictures of it, but the opportunity arose to take her and we had to take advantage of it. Little did we know, our adventures for the day were just beginning.

As Abby and I were heading to pick up Lauren, Laila, and Isaiah, who were at Bria's house(thanks, Bria), my truck stopped. We were sitting at a stop light and it died. It would not restart!! I called Rick, and thankfully he was still at the office. He came to rescue us. Seconds after he arrived, a friend was driving by and had his big truck(thanks so much for stopping, Dave!!). He and Rick got things set up so that he could pull me to the garage that repairs our vehicles.

I don't know if you have ever tried to steer, brake, and be pulled by another vehicle, but it was so hard!! I had to keep the strap from loosening and had no power brakes are steering. So, I was having to press my foot into the brake non stop with all my might. I was a nervous wreck the whole time. By the time we got to where we were going(did I mention that there was construction along the way making the drive even more complicated?) I was shaking all over. It was also pretty hot and of course we didn't have any air conditioning.

Rick brought Abby and me home. He then went and got the other 3 and brought them home. It felt so good just to be home. Then, we got the call. It was the fuel pump. Between the fuel pump, cleaning out all the fuel lines, and the labor it was over $900!!! I don't know about you, but if I am going to spend almost $1,000 I really want to enjoy it. This, quite frankly, was not all that enjoyable. Oh, well.

I can look back and see God's hand in so many ways. Rick was in town. He was nearby. Dave showed up. I only had one kid with me. I was fairly close to the garage we go to. The kids didn't have school. Bria was willing to watch the kids as long as needed. Another friend, Michelle B., "happened" to be driving by and offered to help as well.

When we got home, the kids had some work to do. Let's just say, they weren't too thrilled. There was much whining, weeping, wailing, you get the picture. After my day, I was just done. I just wanted to run or scream or punch something. The little ones wouldn't take their naps. It was lovely, really.

One of those days. We all have them. The most important thing is that Abby is okay. Her heart is healthy. I would take an unhealthy truck over a unhealthy child any day.

Guess what? They had our truck fixed by the evening. We were able to go get it and not have to worry about vehicle issues today or even the rest of the week as school starts. As I was driving home the song "Bad Day" came on the radio. I thought that was fitting.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Lil' Licious
Don't you just want to eat her up?
It has been a hard day around here. I will share more in my next post. For now, we need a few laughs.

I went to get Isaiah up from his nap. He wears a pullup during nap, but seldom is it wet. When I walked in, this is what he said to me:
"Laila freaked me out and I pooped my pants!"

Thanks, saiah, I really needed that laugh today!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Football Picnic

Cody is starting football. He has been to camp and has now completed his first week of practice with his helmet. This week begins the challenge of practice in full pads and gear. Let me just say it is hot out and Cody has sensory issues. Rick will be helping him as he adjusts this week. I have no idea which pad goes where!

On Sat. we had a team picnic for families. The boys and dads played 2 on 2 football. The final game came to Cody and Rick against Chris and Harrison, good friends of the family. That is so funny! They haven't played the final game yet.

It was a lot of fun. I got to meet some of the other moms on the team, and got to catch up with some friends as well.
Fowlers vs. Clapps
On the field
Cody has 2 of his friends on the team, Harrison and Micah. This means that my girls have two friends to play with while at the games, Micah and Maddie. They built a tent with chairs and blankets and had a blast.
They are all in the picture, you just have to look carefully to see
Maddie between Abby and Lauren.
This was probably one of the first times that I got no pictures of Isaiah and Laila. Oh, well, I was too busy trying to feed them, keep an eye on Isaiah, and had Laila crawling on me most of the time.

We are looking forward to cheering Cody on in his first season of football. I feel like we have entered a whole new world!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Baking Bread with Abby

It was Abby's turn to bake bread. We decided to make it on Friday afternoon so that Rick could come home from his week away to fresh baked bread and cinnamon rolls. Rick got home early which was a treat, but we had to finish the process we started so we couldn't give him our full attention right away. We also really wanted him to be greeted by the amazing aroma of the baking bread when he walked in. Oh, well. We had fun and the results were delicious.
Abby and me in our Africa aprons
After taking that picture, Lauren decided that she didn't want to be the photographer for the baking session so I took over that role.
Pouring the wheat into the grinder
Vital Wheat Gluten
Dough Enhancer
Measuring the flour
Bread loaves ready to rise
Abby working with the dough to make the cinnamon rolls
Cutting the cinnamon rolls with dental floss
Cinnamon rolls before baking
Fresh from the oven

Park Fun!

We are trying to squeeze in as much fun as we can before school starts. I have been wanting to take the kids to America the Beautiful Park all summer. We finally made it, and when it was over, I was kicking myself that we didn't do it sooner and more often. One of my frustrations with CO is the lack of outdoor water to play in. The kids really had a blast, especially since the Schwarzs met us there!!
Laila, Lauren, Maddie, and Abby
The really cool thing about this park is the fountain. It pours into this area that creates the perfect place to play in the water. It is really good for the little ones because it is not very deep.
Isaiah kickin' in the water
Laila kickin' in the water
Cody and Micah
Isaiah insisted that I take this picture
It really was the perfect day. We loved the weather. The water felt great. We ate a picnic lunch. The big kids road scooters and played on the playground. As we were loading the truck, the wind was picking up, the sky was getting dark and the drops started hitting us. We left just in time. The result was the perfect afternoon storm for the little ones to take a nap.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How in the World Did My Son Get This Big????

When you see your kids every day, you don't really notice the growth and changes they are going through. When you slow down, take pictures of them, and then REALLY look at them, you go, "What the heck?" That is how I felt about these pictures. Cody is turning 12 at the end of this month. I know he is growing up. I know he is getting older. BUT, looking at these pictures really opens my eyes to it.

Getting his picture made is not one of his favorite things to do. He did it, he survived it, and now we can move on with life. He did a good job and suffered for the sake of his mom who will always treasure the pictures I have of him from each year of his life.

Cody is playing football for the first time this year. He has been to football camp, and this is his first week of practices. They are practicing in their helmets this week. Next week, they will add all the pads to their practice. I can't get over how serious this stuff is even in 6th grade. They have practice 4 times a week until games start, and then, once games start, practice 3 days a week with games then on Sat. I thought maybe we could ease into this slowly, but oh no. By the end of the season, he will know for sure if he really likes football or not.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Sweet Abby

Abby is 8 now so we had her pictures made. Can't believe this girl is growing up so fast. I love seeing her blossom and become the little lady God has made her to be.

She will be in 2nd grade this year!! Love ya, girl.