Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday 7 x2

1. Last week I didn't blog because we were traveling home from spending Thanksgiving in Kansas City. We have a family tradition of emailing around our favorite memories after a get-together, and this is what I wrote:

Running and playing games with everyone in the big field 
Singing our Thanksgiving hymns
Eating so. much. good. food. 
Talking with Shelley {my SIL} about what we’ve been reading lately
Going for several exercise walks with different family members
Seeing Daryl (my brother & sister in law's foster kiddo) fit seamlessly into the cousin time
Playing games with adults AND kids (4 on a couch, Egyptian, Mafia, Pictionary etc!) 
Meeting Cha's family (this is Dan's youngest sister, who recently remarried into step-kids)
The thoughtful and intellectually challenging conversations I shared with different people
Sitting around in the evening and laughing as the Block siblings and parents reminisced about times gone by

There's so much else that I didn't write about, but suffice it to say that I have so much to be grateful for. SO, so much. 

2. Lately I've been in Christmas scramble mode. I realized a few days after we got home from KC that since we would be leaving in 10 days for Honduras, I needed to get Anna's and Kennet's gifts squared away earlier than I usually do. Then I realized that my younger sisters would be leaving for Rwanda to see Emily & Shami before I would have enough time to mail all their gifts after we got home from seeing Anna... which meant I had an additional 7 people to purchase Christmas gifts for (and a few bday gifts as well!) and I'd need to get them all wrapped and packaged and sent to Florida before we head out. Yikes. Thankfully Amazon prime has not let me down yet and as long as everything arrives in one piece in FL, I'll be in good shape. 

3. Tonight is our annual community progressive dinner. I'm excited to see friends and neighbors I haven't seen much of since our lake days this summer! Dan got called to go to Pgh last night so he's gone all day today. Hopefully he makes it back in time for dinner! 

4. The sun is out today after a week of clouds and rain. I think I might take the kids for a hike even though the wind is whipping something fierce.  

5. We got our tree last Sunday and already have a few gifts wrapped under it. The kids LOVE Christmas season so much and it's fun to experience the magic with them. (Although I love it too... not gonna lie. ;))

6. Olivia officially turned 7 on Monday. She requested shrimp cocktail and mac n cheese for dinner and afterward we all told her what we love about her. She was beaming and adorable. (And I can't believe my BABY is seven.)

7. I met four friends I rarely see for dinner this week. We laughed and talked and cried and shared good stories and hard stories until the restaurant closed down. Good friends and laughter are such a gift. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Saturday 7

1. Yesterday I was in town running errands and the car said it was 71˚. Today we have 6" of snow. Yesterday I sat in the sun sewing while I chatted with Dan while he washed the car; he was in a t-shirt and I was wearing a thin long sleeve shirt. Today I went outside in a flannel shirt and my down winter coat and I was freezing. SO sad fall is over! We have a lot of months of weather ahead. *sigh*

2. I've been meaning to find a new PCP for awhile since my much-loved doctor retired a couple years ago. I finally bit the bullet and got a recommendation from a friend and went for a physical on Weds. She was great-- so friendly and helpful and said I should feel free to email her anytime for any reason. What a relief! Finding good doctors is so hard.

3. Dan and Will went to Haiti for three days at the end of the week. Dan was asked to do some security work for his old employer and we decided to pull Will out of school and let him go too. They had a good time (although Will was up sick in the middle of the night last night so ... hopefully it's a one-time thing and he didn't bring home any nasty bugs).

4. Yesterday we had a birthday party for Olivia-- her first official birthday party with friends. She is by far our most social child so it was no surprise that her invite list included 17 people! We decided to go with a low-key party with simple decorations (balloons and streamers for the win!) and simple food (hi, pizza pasta bake and veggie tray!) and invited them all. We didn't have fancy invites or party games or a "theme"... but we had a piñata and an ice cream cake and a house full of kids who love Olivia and they had the best time for three straight hours! Tristan and the boys had a nerf war in the yard and the girls did karaoke and played games. Olivia went to bed happy and celebrated... we are sure thankful for her presence in our lives! Hard to believe she'll officially be 7 in a week.

5. There is a build-a-bear workshop at a mall about an hour away from us. None of our kids have ever been to one so I decided to take the younger three in honor of Olivia's birthday while Will and Dan were gone. They had so much fun. It's definitely overpriced for stuffed animals but the staff is great and they do a great job engaging the kids and making the whole experience fun. It's not something I would necessarily do again, but the kids love their bears and I'm glad they got to do it once. Soon they will be too old for stuffed animals...

6. Dan left tonight for an early job tomorrow morning a few hours away, and then he will be in Pittsburgh tomorrow and Tuesday. We all leave Tuesday night for Thanksgiving in Missouri! Hurrah for families and togetherness and holidays.

7. Olivia got a game called Googly Eyes for her bday and as I type this, she and the middle two are playing it together at the table in front of me. Will is lying next to me on the couch working the timer (his contribution even though he is still feeling sickish). The wind is howling around the eaves and my back porch wind chimes-- so pleasant and cheerful in summer-- sound cold and faraway, yet somehow still friendly. It is only 7:15 but outside it is fully dark, yet our home is warm and cozy. The outside wood furnace is fully stocked for the night and shortly I will take my four beautiful children upstairs and tuck them into their beds. On this Thanksgiving Eve, I am so thankful and grateful for this beautiful life I live. Thank you Jesus for all your goodness to me; may I never, ever take it for granted.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

adoption thoughts

A friend of mine asked me to do a write-up about our experiences with adoption since this is National Adoption Month. I procrastinated for several weeks... then finally made myself sit down and just do it. I am (am I'm sure most writers are) my own worst critic and after an hour of writing, erasing, writing, editing, shifting sentences around, etc. etc., I called it a day. Here is what I wrote.

A few things I have learned since we adopted our daughter: 

Being pro-life is more than just a political statement or a theological belief; sometimes it requires you to actually do something. 

The world of adoption is fraught with beauty and with heartache. Adoption by its very existence begins with brokenness and loss, and although adoption is beautiful and needed, it does not “fix” the brokenness. It is necessary, but make no mistake— it is hard. 

Trans-racial adoption has made me look hard at race issues in our country. It’s made me a more outspoken advocate for racial equality, justice and awareness. Speaking up makes people uncomfortable, but keeping quiet helps enable the problems to exist unchecked. I’d like to think I would have been an advocate anyway— but to be honest, I likely would never have faced these issues if not for adoption. 

Adoption has made me have to face the realities of “have” and “have not” in our society and the world. When my beautiful, smart daughter looks me in the eyes and wants to know why her birth mom couldn’t keep her, or when she cries at night, missing her real mom, I am broken. Because what answers can I give, that would even make sense? The brokenness goes deep, and it makes me want to do more.

Adoption has brought us light and laughter and joy. It has given our family a beloved sister and daughter, granddaughter and niece, cousin and friend. (The weight and beauty and depth of that is difficult to wrap my head around, let alone express in words.) Our daughter is so loved, by so many. She fills holes in our lives that we didn’t even know were there!

Adoption has given me an unimaginable gift in my spunky, adorable daughter. I am lucky in every way to call her mine. She is a fighter, and has overcome unimaginable odds in her young life, and does so with all the spice and grit in the world. She reminds me every day that hard things are worth fighting for, and that beauty can and does rise from the ashes.

I am so thankful that we said yes to adoption. It has rocked my entire life and has given me a window into a world that I never would have known about. It has opened my eyes to many things that have changed me forever. I would gladly face every hard thing a dozen times over for the privilege of getting to be her forever mama.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Saturday 7

1. Well we have a new president! I don't think it's any secret that I was not (am not?) a Trump fan. There are soooo many aspects to his campaign... who he is...  things he's said and done... who he surrounds himself with... that I am not a fan of. But it is what it is, and I am committed to supporting the president, whoever it is, and for praying for him. But I absolutely will stay in the game and call out problematic material if and when it arises. You're welcome. ;)

2. The kids had a half day Thursday before their day off Friday. I helped with my first-ever PTO volunteer hour (I know, I'm lame), distributing chocolate from the school's fundraiser. Before that, I had first-quarter parent-teacher conferences and (drumroll please) both kids made the honor roll! I was so happy for Hallie; Will makes it every quarter, but this was her first time and she worked hard for it... I'm just super happy for her. She also was the top seller in the whole school with the chocolate (big thanks to everyone who bought from her!) and earned a fitbit, which she has proudly worn every day this week, tracking her progress on the iPad religiously. :)

3. I met a friend for lunch last week while my younger kids were at gym class. I got the most amazing sandwich: a tuna melt with tomato, jalapeños, and swiss cheese on sourdough. It was delish. That is all.

4. My friend (above) mentioned over lunch that she is almost done with her Christmas shopping. I nearly choked ... then shared that (at that point) I had not bought a single present. So I have been doing my amazon thing since then... I really really dislike shopping and am at my christmas happiest when I can click my way through an order, close my laptop, and pick up my latest novel for the remainder of the evening.

5. I finished my Nov. embroidery hoop today! I love and I'm so happy with how it turned out, except for two things. One, due to how I placed the text on the hoop, I had to move one of the pencil-drawn leaves over slightly, and I can't figure out how to get the pencil lines out of the fabric. Two, I accidentally used a cheapie thread on a few berries in the design, and when I ran the hoop under water to wash out the tracing ink, the thread bled and now I have red dye on the hoop background. Grr. I've learned my lesson with the thread (and the pencil!) but it doesn't fix this one... oh well.

6. I'm reading a Gentleman in Moscow and loving it. Amor Towles wrote the runaway hit Rules of Civility last year, (which despite all the hoopla and checking it out of the library!) I never read, but I probably will after this!

7. I turned 35 on Sunday! It was so nice that it happened to fall on a weekend day, as we were able to spend the whole day together a family. We went for a hike, Dan & I took a nap, I read & sewed, I did no dishes or laundry, we went out for dinner... it was the perfect day. :)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday 7

1. Halloween is over and we still have so much candy left in bags, which, I am actually having a pretty proud parenting moment about. My mom believes in healthy eating (which isn't a bad thing necessarily! I believe in it too, generally) but growing up, my all-but-complete lack of access to candy or chocolate of any kind left me with what will be a likely lifelong struggle with WANTING ALL THE GOODIES ALL THE TIME. I cannot walk past a candy dish. I love candy way too much than is appropriate for someone my age. I struggle with self-regulation: if it's available, I want it, regardless of whether I've already have a piece (or 10). It's not out of control, obviously, but it's something that I deal with whenever I'm around the possibility of having candy or chocolate. I go right back to that kid who, if the opportunity wasn't seized, would "miss out" again for who knows how long.  I knew going into parenting that I wanted to do this differently; I wanted my kids to be able to not feel the need to "get it while you can". So I've taken a much more laid back, moderate approach. For awhile I had to remind them a lot about making good choices, and "just because it's there, doesn't mean you have to eat it." (Preaching to myself, lol) But now I can have candy dishes around at holidays and they don't disappear in 10 minutes. I let the kids self-regulate their consumption with their candy after Halloween this week and more than one has forgotten all about it! Tristan dumped a bunch of his in the trash, saying he's "not much of a candy guy". Of course they still eat it and enjoy it and trade each other for their favorites-- they're still kids! But they don't obsess over it and half the time, they don't care if they have some or not. Or they'll eat one piece and walk away, on their own, knowing full well they could have more if they wanted to but they don't. I don't feel like I get everything in parenting right... but this one is a big win. :)

2. I signed up for a stitch club. The colder seasons always bring out my inner crafty person and I start thinking about quilting and stitching and sitting by the fire for hours. (My dreams don't usually match reality lol.) Anyway, every month I get a needlework kit sent to me and I just got my November one a few days ago! I am super excited to start it. :)

3. Dan's been working long hours. Last week he was gone in VA for two days. This week he is in Pittsburgh today till Thursday and then, thankfully, he is home/off Friday (which I am calling my honorary birthday celebration [my birthday is actually Sunday]) before he spends Mon-Tues again in VA... and then he and Will head to Haiti Wed-Fri! Speaking of travel, we then leave the following Tuesday (4 days later) for 5 days in KC for Thanksgiving week with Dan's entire family. And then a week and a half later we all head to Honduras to spend 5 days with Anna and Kennet. Crazy, I know. The good news is that, after that, we are HOME until the new year! And the kids are off the whole week between Christmas and New Years, which I plan to spend *the entirety of* hunkered down at home by the fire, reading and stitching while the kids play with their new gifts. Yay dream life. :)

4. Tristan's soccer season came to an abrupt end when they lost their shootout Saturday morning. It was a disappointing end to a great season... but also good prep for life.

5. We hosted a pig roast for about 50 friends yesterday. It was so much fun! The weather cooperated perfectly and we had a bonfire and so much good food brought potluck style by all our amazing friends. The kids played football and frisbee and manhunt and had a massive airsoft war. We made s'mores and laughed and talked well into the night. I know I often say how much I love our community, but truly, they are the best people. We are the luckiest.

6. Thank goodness the election will be over in two days. I have been so disillusioned by so many christian's embrace of Trump. No I don't think Hillary is better. There are two terrible options here. But I just don't understand... I see almost no Christians supporting Hillary. Fine. But SO MANY are behind Trump! What gives?! We Christians represent Christ to this broken world. We are called to a higher standard. We are called to stand with the poor, the needy, the downtrodden. All the people Trump speaks so disparagingly of. It makes me so sad ... I hurt for my minority friends and all the people who are facing ramped up discrimination thanks to Trump and his inflammatory rhetoric. IMO we have two candidates filled with poison, and I'm going to walk away and vote for someone who I think actually would make a good president. *sigh* Two more days.

7. It's birthday month! Anna turns 25 on Tuesday, I turn 35 on Sunday and Olivia turns 7 at the end of the month. My brother Nate also turns 13 next week! And my niece Katie turns 4... she and Olivia share a birthday. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday 7

1. This week has flown by! I knew it would after I'd been gone most of last week, but really. Here we are at the end of October and at the end of our travels!... until next month. ;)

2. Last week was just a whole bunch of catch up for me. Schoolwork, cooking, dog to the groomer, soccer practices (though we're done now-- hooray!) and that twice-yearly evil: switching over the kids seasonal clothes. Which, really, needs its own number...

3. Switching out the kids' clothes! Gah! I always start small... I think to myself, I won't tackle it all; I'll just do this one little part, right here... and then 6 days later, after 4 kids closets have been overhauled and rooms decluttered and rearranged (and several meltdowns later... on all our parts...) we are ready to go for another new season. This year I actually sorted the outgrown stuff of the older two and boxed it up for the younger two in a couple years. I always save most of their stuff to hand down but I don't usually sort it by size as I go... I think this new system will be a big help to me next spring. We shall see. I love being done  with the process; and actually, the work of overhauling I don't mind overall; the problem is that it quickly becomes an enormous project that takes over all my free time. This also means we are eating rather crummy dinners for a week, as I am so engrossed that I'm popping out of closets at 5pm, with nary a thought of food for the family...It's so nice to be done though! I also went through all our snow gear, so I know what we need when we head to Cabela's on our annual pilgrimage in a few weeks. ;)

4. I've rearranged our living room furniture as well. It must have been all the upstairs work that got me going! I don't touch anything for a year, and then suddenly I'm buzzing around like a tornado. LOL. My poor family. ;)

5. Tristan's soccer team entered a tournament last weekend, and improbably, they are advancing to the semifinals next weekend! They had a decent season, but after losing their first tournament game (and now being the leaders of the "losers" bracket) they are one game away from playing the  winner of the winner's bracket for the top spot! Their second game got rained out today but they will likely make it up this week. Tristan has a great encouraging spirit and celebrates all his teammates'  achievements as if they were his own. He is incredibly enthusiastic and puts his whole heart into the game. It's super cute!

6. I'm currently reading Hillbilly Elegy, and really enjoying it. It was recommended to me by several people I trust with book recs and it has not disappointed! I'm about 2/3 the way through and have to fight the urge to pick it up when I know I need to be doing other things... that's the sign of a good book!

7. Last night was our community night of halloween trick or treating. Will was Harambe the gorilla and carried a sign saying "gorillas have rights too". LOL. (He totally came up with the whole thing on his own; he's incredibly creative and funny!) Hallie glued rolls of smarties on a pair of old sweat pants and went as "smarty pants". Tristan was a viking and Olivia wore me down and went as a witch... but a good witch. Have you seen Wicked? haha. It was so much fun. Ten host houses had candy for the kids and food and drinks for the adults and after we caravanned around the neighborhood, we ended the night at a neighbor's house for more food, drinks, and a bonfire. It's this kind of night that makes me so thankful to live in our small, kind community! It was easy and chill, full of laughter and friends... so much fun... totally my kind of night. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Saturday 7 x2

1. So the last few weeks have been kinda crazy around here. For the first time (I think ever) I have been gone from home for 3 long weekends in a row. I loved all of it but am happy to now be home... doing my housewife thing... getting my babies off the bus, reading on the couch by the fire, spending hours sorting through tubs of clothes for the next season (this twice yearly event nearly sinks my ship every. single. time.)... making lunches ... doing all the homey things. I realize how lucky I am to do what I do (and love what I do) so I never want to take that for granted!

2. Two weeks ago we went on a camping trip with two other families in Ohio. We have 10 kids between us and although none of them had met before, they hit it off fabulously and spent hours and hours playing the woods, making forts and being adventurous. It was all around a really really fun time. I love camping! And reconnecting with old friends was so great as well.

3.  When we got home Sunday night from camping I had 2 days to unpack all our camping gear, get all the laundry caught up, restock the fridge etc. etc. ...and then repack (this time all in my hiking backpack) for a 5-day (much planned & anticipated!) overnight backpacking trip to Canyonlands National Park with my SIL Liz. I was in a slightly elevated state of anxiety all Wednesday morning... sweaty pits and all. Rabbit trail: Ever since my botched start to our Rwanda trip three years ago (recap here for my newer readers) I get anxious about the beginning of trips. Once I'm actually through security and ON the plane, I'm fine. But up till then I am increasingly nervous. What if my ticket is somehow for next week? What if I'm an hour off due to a time zone change? What if there's a accident on the highway and I can't make the flight? What if security is slammed and I'm stuck in line when my flight closes? Haha. I realize these are very privileged problems and since I am usually a very chill person and don't really worry about much else in life, I'm kind of resigned to the fact that having had issues with travel in the past means I will stress about it in the future. I'm blessed to be be able to travel and having sweaty pits the day of isn't the worst thing in the world.

4. For all my pre-travel stress, ironically I made all 3 of my flights without a hitch... while Liz got stranded in Denver overnight! This meant that we would have a late start to our hike on Thursday, but it also meant that I was able to get our camp fuel (can't fly with it) at REI so when I picked Liz up later we could hit the road west. We were able to start our hike around 5pm, and with 6.5 miles ahead, this meant we would be hiking into the dark. We got to our backcountry campsite around 8:30, at which point we made a quick dinner, and hopped into our sleeping bags & tent. Once the sun goes down it gets cold fast!

5. The next day we hiked 13.5 miles through the canyons (with a quick spur hike to see an arch/refill our water. We were moderately dismayed at one point to find that we had hiked a half-mile past our stashed packs on our way back to the main trail so we had to backtrack to retrieve them. Could have ended badly but thankfully it didn't! When we got to our campsite that night there was another group already there... they had accidentally hiked to the wrong site and had another 2 miles ahead of them! (We were just happy that it wasn't us, lol)

6. The final day we had a short few miles of hiking out of the park. We were only about 1.5 hours drive from Arches NP (and had to pass it on our way back towards the airport anyway) so we poked around there for a few hours. The landscape out west is so unbelievably unique and awe-inspiring. I can't wait to go back!  Zion NP is next on my list. :)

7. I ran into my dad in Phoenix! He and randomly had the same connections home through Charlotte. :)  Since I was traveling sans kids, I got to watch two movies uninterrupted (Julie & Julia and The Theory of Everything--the first was cute; I loved the second!) I also listened to the 4-hour Broadway soundtrack to Hamilton ... twice. Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius; that is all.