Saturday, January 14, 2017

Two Week Recap

1. Last week was our first week back to school. It was rough on all of us! Thursday was the first night I had to leave the house for running kids around for evening activities and I was in such a funk about it. Haha. Christmas break should be a monthly occurance!

2. Dan and I have been trying to be better about going on dates. We have gone out twice in the past 3 weeks and it's been so fun. We've decided to go somewhere new each time, and it's been fun researching hole in the wall places that have fun drinks and yummy food. Also the kids keep asking me when their favorite sitter can come back again, so that was kind of a kick in the pants to call her ...and get out the door! ;)

3. New years' resolutions! I love them. I have a bullet journal that I utilize and I am all set going into 2017! I aim for progress, not perfection, and try to set goals that I know are attainable if I actually put effort into it. Like... one of my goals is to workout 3x/week. I know if I aimed for 5 days a week, I would fail, and get discouraged and possibly quit altogether. But 3x/ week I know I can do! Half the battle (for me) of successfully completing goals at the end of the year is setting myself up with realistic goals at the beginning of the year. I'm feeling optimistic and ready to take on the year!

4. Yoga. I decided to (in addition to working out 3x/week) try to do yoga once or twice a week. I am seriously inflexible but I have loved the few yoga classes I've tried! I found some online yoga thing that I can stream to our appleTV. It's sad because I can't do any of the poses well (yet) and my balance is atrocious (this cracks me up, because I can snowboard just fine but I can't hold a yoga pose?! What gives?!) but I'm planning to "harness the power of incremental change over time"  ... progress can't help but follow, right?! I can sometimes talk one of the kids into doing it with me too, which is fun. :)

5. January decluttering! I got the purge bug this year and am doing this one-month declutter challenge.  It's been great so far! I have taken a bunch of stuff to Salvation Army and passed more on to friends... I don't know how STUFF seems to reproduce out of nowhere, but it sure is nice to get stuff thinned out and organized!

6. Homeschool ski club has started up again! This week the big kids had a snow day so we all (plus two friends!) hit the slopes for the day. It wasn't too cold (unlike last weekend when it was about 8* and we were out there!) and the kids had a blast. I'm working on focusing on improving my boarding technique (instead of just trying to keep up with the kids!)... hopefully it will pay off in the long run. ;)

7. Our kids are 7, 10, 11 & 13 right now. They are (mostly ;)) delightful and interesting and fun to be around. The boys and I play card games together ... Hallie and I go for pedicures & have interesting conversations, and Olivia bakes box mix brownies in the kitchen by herself. And our entire family can ski together for a day! This is what I dreamed of before I had a family, and here it is-- I'm smack in the middle of my dream. I thought I would miss the baby stage but I am SO loving this middle stage. I am so entirely grateful for this life and these people.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year (Reading Recap)

In 2015 I read 82 books.
In 2016 I read 60 books.
My goal for 2017 is 75!
I'd like to say this was because I was so busy doing other, more important things, but I think the truth is that I just didn't get sucked into the plot of as many books this year as I did last year. I read a lot of good books but for me to have really high numbers, I need to be reading obsessively-- while I'm stirring a pot of soup, while I'm walking down the driveway to get the kids off the bus-- and that didn't happen much this year. Which is ok! I'm not all about the numbers anyway, I just think it's interesting to note the differences.

Anyway. Here are my top 10 favorite books I read in 2016.

1. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
2. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
3. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
4. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
5. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi
6. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
7. The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
8. The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee
9. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
10. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacquline Woodson.

My family wants me to come make waffles now so I may or may not come back and update this with summaries of why I loved each book. :)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Week

This has been the first year in a few that we have been home "alone" for Christmas. I have to admit, I was not at all dreading it! I cancelled everything routine on the schedule for the whole week and planned a week-long staycation. It's been fabulous so far (except for a few sick kids... but what can you do.)

The big kids had a half-day Friday so we kicked off Christmas break that afternoon. Saturday night we drove to Philly to have dinner with a bunch of my extended family on my dad's side. It was so nice to catch up with relatives I haven't seen in months! And they have the best old family traditions-- a big family feast, reading the Christmas story, lighting real candles on the tree while listening to Silent Night sung in German by an Austrian opera singer, and of course, caroling. My uncle Fred plays the organ amazingly well and he leads us in singing all our favorites. For someone like me, who adores family & traditions & holiday magic, it is a night simply dripping with goodness.

The past week Dan and I have sat around talking and drinking coffee for several hours.

Hallie spent several hours over 3 days helping neighbor moms out with their babies.

Our boys shoveled our neighbors sidewalks and they & Hallie drove the ATVs all over our yard and woods for hours in the snow.

Olivia had a nasty cough and cracked herself up every time she got to tell someone she had the "coffees". She also watched Alvin & the Chipmunks on repeat. You can imagine how I feel about that. ha!

I cooked & baked a ton! Cookies, muffins, soups, you name it. Somehow it's so much more fun when we have no schedule and I can be in the kitchen when I feel like it, making what I feel like. haha!

I am currently reading 4 books (Swing Time, At First Sight, The Secret Keeper and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things) and I'd really like to finish at least one before the new year. haha. I've been reading a lot this week but really... is there ever enough reading time?!

We watched a bunch of movies this week. We all watched Arthur Christmas, Elf, The Polar Express, and What About Bob. Dan and I watched Sully with the older three. The boys and Dan & two friends watched The Magnificent Seven. The kids watched Storks (on Vid Angel-- before it got taken down last night! Ugh!) We usually watch maybe one movie a week, so this was quite the week for screen time around here. It didn't help that Olivia and Will were both pretty sick and low on energy going into the week, so no one wanted to do too much.

I'm a big NY's resolution girl, so I'll be reviewing my list from last year and making new ones soon... I guess I'll post about that next week. :) I think a grand total of two people read this blog, but... I hope everyone reading this has a blessed year ahead-- with grace to deal with our struggles and mercy for those in our lives who are struggling as well.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Saturday 7 (x2)

1. We had the best trip to Honduras and Guatemala last week! We got home Monday night around 12:30am and the week since then has basically been been me trying to get back on top of laundry, homeschooling, groceries, christmas prep, etc. etc. Crazy-ville... but totally worth it!

2. Thursday Dec. 8: (My sister Emily turns 28!) On the other side of the world, we drove to Philly the night before and stayed in a airport hotel before our 6am flight out to Atlanta that morning. We arrived in San Pedro Sula around 2pm, got through customs and rented a little truck and drove 1.5 hours to Tela, a town on the northern (Caribbean) coast of Honduras.

3. Friday: We spent all day at Telamar, a resort on the ocean. I think the kids loved the lack of restrictions on the waterslides the best of all! :) We did human trains down the slide, slid backwards, upside down and on our knees. We timed each other ...and had the best time!

4. Saturday: After packing up and heading out for SPS, we ended up getting caught in a deluge, so we stopped and bought a tarp to put over the suitcases in the back of the truck. We then drove the hour and a half back to SPS. We stopped at Kennet's parents' house and packed up Anna's fridge and washer, and then headed out for Copan.

5. It took us way longer than the usual 3.5 hours to get to Copan, thanks to the always-reliable rush hour traffic. *sigh* But we finally made it!

6. Sunday was our last day to do anything, so we packed it full: we drove with 27 people (in our 5-seater truck) to a rural mountain church where we passed out bags of school supplies and candy to the kids. Then we drove into Guatemala to some volcanic hot springs and on our way back, stopped at the ancient Mayan ruins in Copan Ruinas. They were fabulous. My first experience with ancient ruins did not disappoint!

7. Monday: We packed up, grabbed breakfast and hit the road for SPS by 8:30am. Anna and Kennet were continuing on to her home in San Juan in Guatemala, so Dan drove the 3.5 hours back to SPS with only my limited spanish skills for navigation. Thankfully we made it just fine! Hallie and Tristan rode the whole way back in the back of the truck, playing spies... old school style! ;) We flew back through ATL to PHL and then drove home from PHL... finally getting home late that night. The trip was way too fast but it was totally worth it. It was awesome to finally meet Anna's fiance Kennet and get to see Anna on her home turf. :) Kennet is a great guy and I can't wait to have him be part of our family! I'm so happy my sisters have (so far ;)) found fantastic people to love.

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 piƱata 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.