Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Operation Hair Braiding

Yes, people, it is hair week around here.

Abby and I have been working furiously getting Laila's oh, so tiny braids out.

They are cute, but boy, do they take a long time to remove, each little strand, one by one, with a toothpick and spray bottle.

I completed Phase One: Taking out the braids on Tuesday (7 hours).

Tonight, I completed Phase Two: Wash, Condition and Detangle(1 hour) and Phase Three: Blow Dry and Put in a few really big braids to keep it stretched out(30 minutes).

Tomorrow, we will finish with Phase Four: Braiding(approximately 4 hours). I am leaving that phase up to the professional. Honestly, it is exhausting sitting there for the 4 hours keeping Laila occupied, calm and fed. I can't imagine if I actually had to braid it, too.

Once it is complete, I will have 2 glorious months of pretty much no-maintenance hair.

Now, that my friends, is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weekend in the Mountains

The kids had a long weekend(Fri.-Mon.) Presidents' Day weekend, and we were blessed with the opportunity to stay in a cabin in the mountains. It was really just what our family needed. We have been going in so many directions. It was great to be all together and mostly unplugged for a whole weekend.

As we were preparing for the trip, the kids had lots of questions about where we were going. They wanted to know where it was, what it was like, what kinds of animals we might see, etc. We assured them that bears should not be an issue because it is winter. At one point, Sam asked, "Are there deers?" I responded, "Probably, but you don't really need to worry about deers bothering you, Sam." His response, "Mom, have you seen 'Are We There Yet?'" I just laughed because in that movie, they basically get attacked by a deer. That boy is ALWAYS saying the funniest things.

We began our trek on Friday afternoon. It was a nice, easy drive. We made a stop in Woodland Park for dinner, then headed the next 30 minutes to the cabin. We drove through the Hayman Fire burn area. It was amazing to see the destruction that can occur. The kids were very intrigued and asked a lot of questions.

As we entered the "neighborhood" where the cabin is, there were lots of ponds. One of them had footprints on it. The kids were speculating about who or what had been walking on the ice. Then, one of them piped up, "Maybe Jesus was walking on the water!" Once again, a good laugh for me.

Here is the cabin where we stayed
The view from the deck
We did a lot of fun things throughout the weekend that we don't normally have the opportunity or take the time to do.

Rick and Cody cut our firewood for the wood stove

The kids went sledding. Laila and I stayed at the cabin
As you can see in this picture they were ready to come back in for hot chocolate!
We watched lots of movies.
Popcorn delivery for movie night
Watching Lion King as a family. Isaiah and Laila had never seen it.
There was some video game playing
Being toasty by the fire
View from the dining room/living room/kitchen
Lots of game playing
The kids loved the game "Loopin' Louie"
Chillin' (literally) on the deck
On Saturday morning, we headed to Woodland Park for a donut meal at the Donut Mill

The donuts were HUGE!
This one is as big as Abby's head!
This is what you call a "donut coma"
On Saturday night, we had our family Valentine's Dinner

Heart-shaped Pizza
Valentine Bingo and Sweetheart Chopsticks Challenge!!
Cards with cash from Papa and Grammy
Yes, I am wearing my jammies. I wore them ALL weekend.
It was glorious!
On Monday, it was time to head out.
Laila helped us clean.
Abby is such a little worker bee
We had a great weekend. We played lots of games, spent lots of quality time together, ate lots of yummy food, and got away from the craziness that our life often is. We are so grateful that we could do this. It was an opportunity to create memories the kids will not forget!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snow Day

Sam had an omelet this morning. He came to me with this:
He said, "I just cut off a bite and this is what it looked like."

Yesterday we had a snow day. I decided to make these. The comments about them said that they taste like Krispy Kreme Donuts. I wouldn't go that far, but they were really good, really easy, and made with basic ingredients that I always keep on hand. I will make them again for sure. Can you see my cool mug in the pic? I got that for free from Shutterfly. I LOVE IT!
A snow day was just what I needed yesterday. I have not slept well in almost a week. Once I found out about the delay and then cancellation, I headed back to bed. I spent the day doing some decluttering and cleaning that I don't normally get to. I spent 1 1/2 hours cleaning my fridge and am still not done! I usually just spot clean it, but I took everything out and took the whole thing apart. It was shocking!
I found these two like this when I came downstairs a couple of days ago.
I love the bond they have.
I have mentioned that Cody is wrestling. Here are a few pics from Rick's phone.
Cody is in blue

He is really enjoying it, and I am praying that he makes it through the season without any major injuries.

The big kids and I watched "Courageous" last night. Honestly, I was skeptical. I think that usually the "Christian" movies are cheesy. I thought it was really good, and the kids loved it. I still don't get the PG-13 rating. It is for violence and drug related content, but I was completely comfortable letting Sam see the movie. We were crying throughout the movie.

Rick arrived home last night. It is so good to have him back. We just don't function as well when he is gone.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chore System

Let me start by saying, this system would work way better if we had 2 more kids. I am not saying we are going to have 2 more kids, I am just saying I would love how this system worked with 2 more kids in the mix.

For many years, we have done a system of responsibilities and privileges based on days of the week. Each kid was assigned a specific day where they did certain chores(sweeping the kitchen floor and emptying the dishwasher) to help around our house. They also had jobs that never changed and they did weekly(Cody was in charge of taking the trash out, Lauren set the table each night, Abby vacuumed the main level, and Sam cleared the table) On that same day, they got certain privileges like choosing what we listen to in the truck as we drive, what TV show is watched when they are allowed to watch TV, etc. If there was ever a dispute on who got to pick something, we deferred to whose day it was. The 3 big kids had 2 days and Sam had 1 day. We also had the order of taking showers each night based on whose day it was. If you are interested in knowing more about the old system, message me, and I will share.

It was a really great system. It worked well for a long time. It was time for a change. I also realized that I needed more help around here, and I wanted to train the kids to clean every part of the house. This new system does both of those things.

Our new system is based on "Zones". I divided our house into 4 zones: Kitchen, Bathrooms, Main Level, and Basement. The 4 big kids each take a different zone each week. I took each zone and created a document for it that describes all the details of the daily and weekly cleaning of that zone. I put those documents in plastic sheet protectors so that they would last and also so they could use a Expo marker to mark off the work as they go throughout the week. When the week is over, they can just erase it and pass it on to the next person. (I would be glad to share these documents with anyone who is interested. They are specific to our house, but might help if you wanted to create your own. There are 6 documents total, way too much to show here.) The Zone assignments are in effect Monday-Friday. On the weekends, the whole family works together to keep the house in order.(We wanted to also have the "team element" in our system.)

In addition to their Zone, they each have Daily Job Expectations. These include things like putting away their shoes, backpacks, coats, etc., cleaning their rooms weekly, and cleaning up after themselves(putting away toys they played with, cleaning up their plates and mess at dinner, laundry, etc.)

The final aspect of this system is what we call "Opportunities for a Job Well Done" and "Consequences of Neglect." By completing their jobs each week, they can earn "Mom Bucks." These can be redeemed for things like a sweet drink/treat, a playdate, sleepover, TV/computer/ video game time, etc. There are different amounts to earn different privileges(also all listed in a document). Neglecting their jobs results in various consequences. They do not earn their "Mom Bucks" for the week, and someone else gets an opportunity to do the job. The one who didn't do the job must pay the sibling who does the job, but if I do the job, they have to pay me double because I have a Master's Degree and my time is worth more!

Those are the basics. We have been doing this now for almost 2 months. The two younger kids are not really included in the "zone work" right now. Isaiah has certain jobs like hanging up his laundry, emptying bathroom trash cans, and folding towels. Laila will begin with specific jobs once she turns 4 this summer. Right now, she just does jobs on demand and helps me. If I had 8 children, I would assign 2 per zone. That is why I think it would be better with more kids. I am not sure if I will have Isaiah join the zones when he starts Kindergarten or First Grade. When he does, he will have one of his siblings "mentor" him and he will assist them in the process.

The hardest part for me in this system is the consequences. That has been surprising to me because I tend to be pretty strict, but I have struggled with giving the consequences. I have given more grace than I normally would.

The good part is that my house has been consistently cleaner and tidier than it used to be. It is nowhere near perfect, but there is a system to clean it. It was hit and miss in the past. The really great part is that each kid now knows how to clean every part of a house. That, I believe, will greatly benefit them when they are older.

So, there you have it. I would be glad to answer any questions you might have or share my documents with you. I would also love to hear any plans, systems or tips that have worked with your kids. This will be an ever-evolving process for us. For now, I feel like we have a good structure in place to work on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


We had the opportunity to go to the mountains as a family for the long weekend.

It was great to have no cell phones, no computers, and only movies we chose to watch together.
We arrived back in town on Monday, and Rick left right away for a business trip to Dallas.

Yes, you read that right, Dallas, one of my favorite places on earth.

As if reentry wasn't hard enough already, I am doing this week on my own while he is eating Tex-Mex and enjoying warm temperatures in Big D. (No, I am not bitter.)

This is a crazy busy week, wrestling practices and duels for Cody, bball practice for Sam, piano lessons for Abby, Life Group for Cody, school for the 5 big kids, MOPs for me, and all my usual daily activities like grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.

I drove 115 miles today just getting everyone to their various schools and activities.

I watched Cody wrestle with the middle school team today for the first time. I was a bit traumatized. I came out of there all stressed out from all the anxiety of watching those boys beat up on each other. At one point, I was pretty sure one was going to pass out as he was being choked and his face was turning purple. There were multiple bloody noses and some pretty hard body slams. It is going to take me some time to get used to this sport, especially when it is my son or one of his friends in the match.

I have pics to share from our weekend away.

I have a chore system to share as well.

I am hoping for good sleep tonight after tossing and turning all night long last night.

God is stirring some things in me. He has done some amazing things in my heart over the last 2 months. All I can say is, "Every step we are breathing in His Grace."(one of my favorite lines from my theme song for this year, "Never Once.")

That inhaling of God's grace and forgiveness in my own life is allowing me to exhale it to others. It is a very freeing thing to be able to forgive without the need to right the wrongs or the expectation of a "sorry" or "I was wrong." I place it all in God's Hands to work out His will as He sees fit in my life and the lives of others.

I am able to move forward with a burden lifted. I am able to seek God unhindered by the weight of bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness. It is a new concept for me. Every time I feel that tug to go back and remember the wrongs, I remind myself of the bondage they held on my heart, and I inhale and exhale that grace once again for me and for others.

There have been many tears. Tears of mourning and grief over the wounds, pain, and losses of the last year and a half. I am trying desperately to cling to God and His purpose in it all. He has a plan for me, for us, for our future in all that has happened. I am getting glimpses, teasers, you could say, of what is to come.

I CHOOSE to believe. I CHOOSE to move forward. I CHOOSE to hope. I CHOOSE to follow.

Every time I make those CHOICES I experience more freedom and more of Him.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day was a bit different around here this year. We have postponed our family dinner until Sat. when we will all be together. Cody had a wrestling dual and Sam had bball practice on Valentine's night.
My day started with a burn that formed a blister on my finger when I was toasting a bagel.
What does that blister look like to you?
Africa? Coincidence? I THINK NOT!!
Laila and I spent the day party hopping. I made 4 trips to TCA East Campus. We attended 4 different parties. I drove over 75 miles throughout the day trying to make it all happen.
First stop, Lauren's party at lunch time
Lauren's Valentine Box
The net is where the Valentines are put in!
I love the trophy on top.
Back View
Laila got lots of treats and got to do lots of crafts!
Isaiah got to go to Lauren's party, too!
At 2:30 was Sam and Abby's parties.
Decorating a Valentine bag
Silly Boy!
Abby was playing Valentine Bingo
The kids love having Laila come to their class
Last stop, Isaiah's party. (His preschool is at a different location)
We actually came in right as it was ending. He didn't seem to mind.
I woke up to a sweet card from Rick. He and the other life group guys really outdid themselves on Sunday for our group. They did a special dinner and time for all the wives. I will share those pics once I round them up. I didn't have my camera.

I tried to do a date night at home for us with a movie and Blizzards. It had many kid interruptions and the movie was horrible. We both agreed it was the thought that counted.

Speaking of that horrible movie, I searched everywhere for it all day to return to Redbox. It was a free rental, and I did not want to spend a dime on it. I finally found it last night in the fridge. Really?!?!

I am excited about our Family Valentine's Dinner coming up on Saturday night!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Living Life

It seems our days are filled around here. I try really hard to take pictures when I remember. I know I will cherish them when I look back. I don't want to just capture the "big events." I want to get the everyday stuff, too! This is one of those posts showing the last 1 1/2 weeks. I actually downloaded my pics backwards so we are going to start with the most recent and go back.

Sam had Civil War day at school on Friday. I so appreciated that this was a non-costume event. I didn't get to attend, but Sam brought this home, and it cracked me up. It is a letter from him as a soldier in the Civil War. The picture in the lower right corner of the note is actually him dressed up in a uniform.
In case you can't read it, it says:
Dear Dad and Mom,
Here is a picture of me in my uniform. I don't usually look so well. This war is an ugle(ugly) war. I am healthy, but tired. I miss your biscuits and cake!
I love you

Speaking of Sam, even at 8 years old, this boy continues to make me laugh every day with something he says. On Sunday, Rick was teaching him to crack eggs for breakfast. The first one that Sam cracked went all over the stove. As they were preparing to try again, Rick said, "What do you think you should do differently next time?" Sam responded, "I guess I shouldn't close my eyes." That might explain why it went everywhere!

Introducing: Isa. I. Am.
This kid came down the stairs dressed like this for Sam' basketball game.
Doesn't he look like he should be in the "Black Eyed Peas"?
"Everybody say, "Boom, Boom, Boom!"
Abby being silly with some crafty eyes
One of the favorite things to do in this house is get in sleeping bags and pillowcases and slide down the stairs.
Here they go!
Crash landing at the bottom
Yes, I am sure one of them will get injured at some point.
For now, I am willing to take that risk.
Cheetah Girl Rock Star!
Every once and a while, Laila will randomly say to me, "Mommy, you are wock star." My response is always, "Thanks, Laila. I think you are a rock star, too!" She will then say, "We are wock stars togeffer."
Since the Science Fair was cancelled, Cody's school hosted an evening for the students to present their Science Fair Projects. Cody was dressed all "snazzy"(as he would say it). He did a great job presenting his project to the parents as they came by.
Isaiah and Laila "enjoying" Sam's bball game.
Abby "enjoys" the games, too!
We had a snow day a week and a half ago. The kids had to get in some play time outside.
Gotta love the Pirate Pose
Sam was sledding down the levels in our backyard.
That had to be painful to make that big drop.
He loved it!! I couldn't watch.
Abby being as stylish as ever.
Her boots didn't match her snowsuit so she put on the scarf to tie the whole outfit together.
Little Snow Bunny
This was Rick's hat from East Berlin, Germany that he got when he lived in Germany as a teenager. He got it before the wall was brought down. Cody thinks that is so cool and has now adopted it as his own.
Lauren says her hat is still cooler.
If you notice, there were no snow pictures of Isaiah. He really didn't care to participate. Even when he does go out in the snow, he doesn't last very long. He and I have that in common. We would rather stay inside where it is warm!!