Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why I said "yes" to Nepal

Brad is currently in Nepal. He's hiking. For 3 1/2 weeks. When I reveal these details (no, it's not humanitarian and yes, he's there for almost a month) jaws tend to drop a bit. Brad said to me one night "My friends are in awe of you that you are letting me do this".  I told him "My friends are in awe of me to for letting you do this!" as I laughed. Even after being married for 13 years it still strikes me as odd.  This notion that even as an adult we are in a place where we need permission to do certain things. I get it. I'm not saying that it's not valid. It just feels strange when you think about it. My kids say that they can't wait to grow up so that they can do whatever they want. That's not always the case though.

Brad has always watched shows about Mt. Everest. He hiked the Appalachian Trail when he younger and made a couple of attempts at long hikes as an adult. I know that when he is in the woods and hiking he finds a kind of peace that is hard for him to find elsewhere. (Personally I'm able find that kind of peace on a massage table!) When he told me almost a year ago that hiking the Annapurna circuit in Nepal is something that he hoped to do in 2014 I asked the usual questions.  Is it safe, how much does it cost, how long? I thought about it for a minute and then said "Okay". He looked at me skeptically. "Really? I didn't think it would be that easy." I didn't think it would be either. Granted, it's not a foreign concept for Brad to be gone for long periods. When he was in grad school he spent about 8 out of 16 months in Maryland and West Virginia, although he typically came home on the weekends. That was also 4 years and 1 kid ago. But the kids are older now and life is a little easier in terms of the physical labor of kids!

I've been trying to figure out why it was so easy for me to agree for him to go. I can't really come up with a solid answer other than it just felt like the right thing to do. He encouraged me to go to Uganda last year when I faltered about the difficulty of arranging childcare. I knew it was a life long dream of his to see the Himalayas. Marriage is a work in progress. Sometimes you have to put in more work to make progress. I guess I agreed to work a little more knowing all that he would get out of a trip like this and what the gesture could do for our marriage. It was on opportunity for me to "fill his bucket". I know that Brad's realistic enough to not ask for something this "big" very often and he has expressed his gratitude and appreciation almost daily. It felt well worth the sacrifice to help him achieve a bucket list item.

**Post note: This was obviously started a little while ago and I'm just now finishing it up! Brad came home a little early because he missed the girls and me a lot. Once he saw the Himalayas and finished his trek it felt like it was time to come home. I'm glad that he got what he needed. My time was fairly easy actually with lots of good girlfriend time! One week after Brad went through the Thorung La pass there was a a freak blizzard that killed many trekkers. There is almost never precipitation this time of year on the trail. It's scary to know that had his days been off by just a bit... I'm praying for those hikers and their families.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The downside of Disney's Frozen on Ice

A few months ago I saw tickets for Disney's Frozen on Ice go on sale. Even Sierra loved the movie and they have watched it countless times in the car and we have listened to the CD to death (possibly my death!). Brad suggested that it might be a good "girls night" so I talked my sweet friend Lisa into joining us! I'm not gonna lie... it was pretty awesome! Great skating, cool effects, happy kids. What's not to love?

And this. This is why I love Lisa!

Very cool monster effects

Beautiful costumes

Don't deny it... You just started singing "Let it go"!

Cadence catching "snow" as it fell into the audience.  
We later discovered that it was actually bubbles. 

And this... what can make one happier than Olaf?

Except a particularly adorable 5 year old who loves Olaf!

And this sweet smile (I'm not neglecting Sierra, sadly she just stopped hamming it up for the camera a few years ago)

A little smile from her

Unfortunately though, while all of this kids looked like this:

I was sitting next to them feeling like this:

Why?  Because these days are numbered. And going fast. So, so very fast.  I feel like it was just last year that we took Sierra to go see Dora when she was two years old. I don't even think that she understood exactly what was happening on stage but when everyone else clapped you'd have thought Sierra just watched her favorite Olympian take the gold! She was so freaking excited! I swear, we did that just last year. Then last month we brought Cadence home from China as she toddled around with her big, beautiful cleft smile. Yet somehow this morning she hopped out of my car with her oversize back pack and walked right into kindergarten. It. Makes. My. Heart. Ache. 

Don't get me wrong. Brad and I already talk about the trips that we will take and the things that we will do in 13 years when the last one heads off to college. However, I'm already getting a strong taste of teenage-hood. And I have to admit that I kind of prefer a preschooler meltdown to it. I know, I know, there are lots of good things about the kiddos growing up. And that's what we brought them here to do, right? To guide them through this world, hopefully get some of it right and send them out on their way to be good, kind, contributing members of society.  I just want it to slow down a little bit. Maybe a lot. I want to know that someone will always be there to excitedly throw her arms around my neck when I get home. I want to have a little one to cuddle in my lap when I read a book. I want sweet, homemade cards with hearts all over it "just because". I want it all for a little longer than it's going to last. It's almost enough to think about having another. We did actually start the paperwork for a second adoption this past winter. Then reality smacked us in the face when we realized that most days we barely keep our heads above water with three. So, we stopped. I think what I realized is that I don't necessarily want another child, I just want more time with the ones I've already got. 

So instead of lamenting I'm going to try and be more intentional with my time with my girls. While there are certainly days when I count the minutes til bedtime (and I won't pretend like I shouldn't ever feel that way) these days are flying by. It's time to put more focus in the right places.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First day of school - 2014/2015

The girls started school last week. ALL of the girls! For the first time in 12 years I don't have a sidekick at home with me. Even though Cadence was in preschool 3 days last year the mornings flew by and then she was home. Most of the time I really enjoyed having her here. She's a fun kid! She laughs, she's silly, she's easy to have around when I ran errands. Early August I started mourning the start of school and all of the girls being gone. I just can't believe it's here already. I can't believe that a major phase of our lives is over. No more morning playgroups or library story time. Things that have been a part of my life for many years just won't happen anymore. That feels worthy of a few tears (and there have been a few!). I can envision the laundry list of projects that I will finally have time to get done. Maybe even some lunches with my friends who are home during the day. But I'm sure going to miss the girls.  I'll miss the sleeping in and not worrying about papers or lunches. I'll miss pool time and just feeling lazy. The start of school is here, though, and there's nothing I can do about it.

Cadence's teacher is Mrs.Ablle. She's the grandmotherly type who gives out lots of love and hugs. Cadence had a hard time at a teacher/ kindergartner play date. Okay, she had a complete meltdown. I think she was overwhelmed with the whole situation. Mrs.Ablle called me two days before school started and asked if I wanted to bring Cadence in to the class before the first day of school so she could get used to the setting without the chaos. I fell in love with her right then and there! We went in the next day and she read Cadence a book and let her take home a stuffed animal. It completely put me at ease. I know that Cadence will have a good year! I wasn't so sure about the bus. I had a feeling the bus doors could open and that Cadence would totally fall apart at that moment. The first day she did great! The second and third days there were some tears but she did get on the bus with Laurel without too much protest. Hoping it gets better!

Laurel has Mrs.Gibson. I don't know much about most of the teachers since we are still relatively new here. Laurel had such a great group of kids in her room last year, I just wish they could all be together again! She has one good friend in her class this year. Hoping for a good year for her.

Sierra is off to 7th grade. Six more years. She will be home for only six more years. How did this happen? It hurts my heart a little to know how fast it will go by. Again, we don't know the teachers. We do know that she got drama as one of her electives. She definitely did not choose it! We are trying to decide if there might be some benefit that will outweigh the anxiety that she will have with each class. It will really be tough for her. Luckily it's not until the second 9 weeks, so we have a bit.

Feeling a bit like supermom to actually get up early and make pancakes! 
We're generally a cold cereal type of family!

My big kindergartner

Mrs.Ablle, and Cadence wants to be a dentist

Mrs.Gibson, and Laurel wants to be a vet

Sierra has Mrs.Kooken for homeroom, and Sierra wants to be a teacher
I made Sierra get up early and get ready so I could get a picture of all of them together.
Despite that, I still got a smile!

Love our bus stop, right outside of the coffee shop!

And they're off!
(Sierra would kill me if I followed her to the bus!)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Anatomy of a family portrait

We decided to take some family pictures at the beach.  I scoped out the timing for perfect lighting for a few days, waited a few more while it rained, and finally we had a "The" evening!  

When I attempt a posed portrait with my girls it's goes a lot like this... "Put your arm around her. No, gently, not like a tackle. Not so tight. Stand up straight. Not like that. Okay, now smile. Nice smiles. Not silly pictures yet, at the end. You look like you're in pain. Think of something funny. Nice smiles. Give me some good ones! The better you do with this the sooner we'll get it done. Maybe ice cream afterwards? Okay, stop acting like you're tackling her. Okay, a real smile. Look at me. Is this really that hard?! We'll work on it all night. What do I need to take away? This isn't that hard. Come on....!!!"  And so it goes.

It's a painful process.  Especially to get three (or five) good sincere smiles, no closed eyes (I'm looking at you, Brad!), and everyone looking right at the camera. Little did I know that we were going to have a semi-professional smile inducer with us! I took pictures of the kids and then for our family portraits I posed everyone, checked exposure, then handed the camera to Theresa and told her to just keep snapping. Out of a hundred pictures we should have at least two or three frame-able ones, right?

Once the typical conversations ensued Shawn was awesome enough to step in!  He was an absolute lifesaver. I can't imagine another family picture without him! P.S. He might be for hire! (Cadence managed to pick up some of his best moves and she comes cheap!)

The depth of sisterly love is palpable, right?!

There's always one.  How do people with big families do it?!  

Notice Cadence's mischievous smile?

And the big girls realize what she did...

But she looks pretty pleased with herself!


Post-Shawn... much better!

Not sure what Laurel thinks of his moves.  *cough, cough* Um, Brad!

It was non-stop... probably the most fun I've ever had doing family pictures!

Why is she growing up so fast?

Portrait intermission

Get the animosity out of the way


This one is definitely a keeper!

Are we done yet?!

Little better

I attempted to get some "frolicking in the ocean" pictures but by then we were all kinda done

This dog wanted to get in on it!

Sierra can be a pretty awesome big sister!

Can you have the nice without the silly?  Probably not!

So what was Shawn doing exactly?


Friday, July 11, 2014

OBX 2014

**Picture alert - massive quantity**  First I'm a little excited that I'm actually posting this within a month of coming home... rather than a year later!  It's the small things!  For the second year we went to Outer Bank, NC (Corolla specifically) with our good friends from Ohio .  We had 20 people in the house but it never really felt too crowded.  Seven kids and four sets of grandparents kind of evened it out.  I was going to copy and post some of Theresa's great pictures but just decided to link her blog about the beach instead.  This year we got a house with an elevator to accommodate my mom's mobility issues and it made a HUGE difference.  I was so happy that she was able to get in and out of the house so much easier and wasn't trapped on the 3rd floor.  Not that being trapped on the 3rd floor with an ocean view is a horrible place to be... it was just so much better for my mom. 
This year we had the same crew as last year plus Theresa's mom, Theresa's brother and a friend of his.  Everyone really gets along so well it made for a pretty perfect week.  And it started out with a bang!  I was hosting an end of the school year party for Sierra and six of her friends and hadn't even started packing on Friday evening to leave Saturday morning.  Theresa called to say that Shawn had to fill in for someone at work Saturday so they couldn't come down til Sunday.  I was completely shocked and so bummed I didn't even know what to say.  She  got off the phone pretty quickly.  A few minutes later I heard male voices in my backyard and looked from our upstairs window to see two teenage boys walking through my yard.  I was pretty concerned since I had a house full of girls.  I ran downstairs and there was Shawn standing in my kitchen.  I was so completely confused for a few seconds.  Then I put two and two together that they were surprising me! (The teenage boys were Theresa's brother and his friend)  I kinda freaked out!  They were totally speaking my love language!  I love, love, love surprises!!  Apparently they had been planning this with my parents for a couple of months!  It was the absolute best way to start out our vacation.  They spent the night with my parents and we all got to caravan down to the beach together (until some of us *cough, cough* got a little misguided).
The rest of our trip was just about as good.  The house was perfect for us.  Our first full day was gorgeous and we got sunburned.  Most of the week was sunny and cloudy mix with some rain here and there.  Nice enough for us to be outside when we wanted but rainy enough to not get fried again.  We found an awesome little beer garden just down the road from the neighborhood that we managed to get to three times.  The "young" adults got a night out for dinner.  Plenty of trips for ice cream and Duck Donuts and nights out to crab hunt.  Some of the crew went crab fishing while my dad and I took a 9 mile bike ride. Theresa and I got to run a few times.  The four older girls are pretty self sufficient when they were in the house and the three littles had a lot of fun playing together with minimal drama.  It was probably one of the most relaxing vacations that we've had since we had kids... and we got to do it with some of our favorite people, our framily!  We really can't ask for more.
Loved getting my mom onto the sand

Lots of boogy boarding

Collecting water for the castle

Shawn and the littles

Happy heart

It's a good thing we brought all of the noodles for the kids

Completely unintentional but this made me crack up when I saw it

These kiddos got a lot of joy out of shooting us onlookers standing on the upper deck

A lot!

What's a beach trip without a bike ride?

Testing out lighting for family pictures the next day.  I had a great model to work with!

Hunting some crabs

The turtle gang #thuglife

Another favorite... bumper cars

These girls were vicious on the track

Timbuck II ice cream

Luau cuties
Theresa went all out for her Hawaiian themed dinner

Getting creative with the camera.  Or something.


It was cold this day!

I feel like we should see Pamela Anderson in her red suit running behind Cadence!

This girl loves to write her name

Wait?! Is that Kevin digging a hole?!

These dolphins came out to play.  I've never seen anything like it at the beach!
It's hard to see but that's two jumping at the same time


Beautiful moon

They came so close

Loved the sun's reflection on the horizon

 Got up in time to see the sunrise
Clouds obscured a bit but it was still  pretty

...and quite zen

I think they may have been doing yoga

And throwing sand at the ocean

The young adults going out

It was a full double rainbow... so cool!  Mother Nature's gift after the rain

Deep conversations

This either ended in hysterical laughing or tears

Went on a tour with Corolla Wild Horse Fund

Pretty neat

Someone getting a shower?


The girls loved hanging with Grandma Carol

Infamous Beer Garden

Can't miss the ice cream truck

Sunrise on our last day. Can't wait to do it again next year!