Wednesday, August 3, 2016

When I wrote a couple posts in April of this year I had fully intended to resurrect this blog and be better at keeping track of what our family has been up to. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Obviously. The end of the school year and then summer came and it has gone in the blink of an eye and we are now staring the start of another school year right in the face. But, to be honest, I am entirely ok with that and maybe a bit (or a lot) excited. As are the kids. We are all ready for our forced routine and seeing friends and all the things that fall brings.

So, to kick this back off *again* and since it is August I'll share eight bullet points. Because August is the 8th month and because there are 8 people in our family.

  1. Olivia. Olivia is three but in her mind she is a BIG kid and never wants to be left out of anything. She is only 22 months younger than the twins but sometimes that age gap seems so huge. She is SO excited to go to preschool full time this fall and will talk your ear off about it if you ask her. STILL trying to get her potty trained - she's got zero interest so that doesn't help anything. Hoping for some positive peer pressure this fall and some great encouragement from the teachers she likes! She has been a busy cheerleader this summer tagging along to her sister's softball games, her brother's soccer games and her sister's T-ball games. She is so looking forward to having her turn! She starts dance classes in September and already cannot wait to get her pretty recital outfit on and dance her heart out!!
  2. Kailyn. Kailyn played T-Ball this summer and said she loved it. Although I have a plethora of pictures showing her sitting on the bases and digging in the dirt while a ball whizzes passed her. Here's to hoping she is more into the game when she plays softball next year - she claims she is SO excited about this. It should be a good change of pace - the softball program is more organized and well put together. The T-Ball program leaves a bit to be desired. In my opinion. BUT she still had a great time which is what really matters. She absolutely cannot wait to go to Kindergarten. She has watched both of her brothers and her sister LOVE Kindergarten and now it is finally her turn and she is counting down the days!
  3. Adelyn. (5) Adelyn played T-Ball as well this summer. She was VERY into racing the other kids for the ball no matter where it was hit on the field. She was so proud of herself that she could play without Dad having to be on the field to coax her along. Dad very much enjoyed spectating this year and was proud of her (and her sister) for playing hard and having so much fun. Adelyn is a girly-girl through and through. She loves all things dresses and glittery and frilly and fancy. She does NOT like being told she can't wear a fancy dress to play outside in. Adelyn also CANNOT wait for Kindergarten. Her and Kailyn know their teacher through their older siblings and church and are so so so excited to be in her class. Mom is not so secretly glad they are together as well - it would have been an awful awful awful year if only one of them got to be with this particular teacher. Plus, these two will absolutely thrive in a classroom together. I feel pretty confident about this. 
  4. Graham. Graham is my 100% completely and totally ALL BOY 6 year old. He does everything at 110% with much gusto. He loves hard, plays hard, and lives hard. He absolutely thrived at school this year. He is fluent in English and reading so well already. He attacks everything in his path with complete confidence he will be successful. There have been some challenges in adjusting and attaching with him but those challenges pale in comparison to the joy he brings to me and our family. Sometimes I just look at him and I am in complete awe that I have been entrusted to be his mom and that I get the privilege to raise him and point him in the right direction. Also, he is probably one of the most athletically gifted 6 year olds I have ever seen. It is so FUN to watch him play sports and excel and learn and he oozes joy especially on the soccer field. This boy. He is going to change the world. I just know it. And I am incredibly blessed and humbled to be along for the ride. 
  5. Hadley. This girl has oozed sweetness since the day she was born. Her heart, especially for the hurting or marginalized, is bigger than I have ever seen in a 6 year old. She is wise beyond her years. I remember someone describing her as an old soul when she was just an itty bitty baby and as she has grown I have realized over and over how true that is. Kindergarten was a phenomenal year for her and she had such a hard hard hard time saying good-bye to it at the end of the year. I am realizing that 6 years old is one of my favorite ages so far. There is a lot of maturity and independence learned at school but they still have a lot of the sweetness and need for mom from the pre-school years. I am loving the stage that her and her brother are at but so looking forward to see where these two "twins" go in the future. 
  6. Elliot. Somehow Elliot got to be 8 years old. I'm still trying to figure out how 8 years went by so fast - it feels like yesterday that he was a silly sassy toddler and now he's half grown. There are days that he can drive me absolutely insane especially as he is trying to assert his own opinions and wishes and independence BUT it has been pretty amazing to watch him grow into a unique little man. His personality and mine are entirely different and sometimes that leads to the butting of heads but then there are the moments where he is still my baby boy who will cuddle up on my lap. I try to soak up all those opportunities because I know they are getting fewer and fewer. He has been taking karate classes with his dad and has learned so much. He tried out for the all school talent show this year and secured himself a spot! I was SO proud of him (there were tears involved). We were able to go watch him do his routine that morning in front of everyone in his school and parents (more tears from me). I still reflect back on those scary days in the last weeks of my pregnancy with him and those days in the NICU and then I look at him now and I am just amazed at the blessing that has been rained down on us. He is my kiddo that is least excited for school to start this year. I think he knows that 3rd grade is going to be a whole new world of homework and learning. His second grade year was phenomenal and he ended it on such a high note - he discovered confidence and a love for reading and I keep finding him curled up in random places with his nose in a book. LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!! 
  7. Erin. Me, myself and I. ;) As my kids transition out of the uber demanding season of babies, toddlers and preschoolers I am discovering a whole new realm - one where I can turn over a number of responsibilities to the kids and have a reasonable amount of confidence they will be successful. They dress themselves, take themselves to the bathroom (hopefully Olivia will be included here soon), and feed themselves breakfast. They can put on their own shoes and pack their own backpacks. For a long time it felt like I would be forever buried in never ending tasks that included a lot of poop. I have actually, for the first time in YEARS, scrapbooked. I cannot tell you how good that was for the soul. I have discovered a whole slew of books that have been transformative and I have a list a mile long of more I want to to read. The cool thing is that I now live in a season where that is possible!! I am learning more and more about myself, what I need to feed my soul, recharge my spirit, and be a good mom to my kids and wife for my husband. I am discovering things I am passionate about and learning that it is ok to say no to things that wear me down or don't feed me. And that is so freeing. There are many things I do miss about the baby days and the sweet little toddler age but I am also SO excited to see what is next for my kids and what they do with life. 
  8. Mike. His days are kept very very busy with work. He has transitioned into a new position at Deere in the last couple months. It seems to be a good fit and he seems excited to go to work. He has kept busy doing karate with Elliot this year and rushing out the door to a kid game right after getting home from work. As well as doing a bunch of cooking this summer (wahoo!!) Both him and I are looking forward to being able to have lunch dates ALONE and KID FREE this fall after school starts. He's been super busy the last week or so working to clean up a lot of the overgrown bushes and trees in our yard. There is still much more to be done but already it is an improvement over what it was! We've both agreed to go with simple and very low maintenance landscaping from now on. At this stage of life neither of us has the time or the desire to spend free time keeping up extravagant landscaping stuff. In just over a week we will celebrate 9 years of marriage - feels like it has flown by in the blink of an eye. We escaped last weekend for some time alone while the grandparents were on duty. It was fantastic and so good for us to get some time away without any big plans or agendas and to just be. Love doing life with him and getting the chance to recharge once in awhile is so necessary. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Weekend of Fun

 This past weekend we were able to enjoy some family time with Mike's side of the family. Not very often are him, his parents and all of his siblings able to get together. Distance and busy schedules tend to get in the way of that happening too often. So, when we get a chance for everyone to come together we grab it!!

We headed up on Thursday afternoon with hopes of being there in time for supper. We rolled in with enough time to wash hands, use the bathroom and sit down at the table. Elliot's first order of business as soon as supper was finished was diving into Grandma's Lego bin. He and his brother also got their Uncle Dan to build Legos with them. The girls were excited to dive into the tubs of toys Grandma had waiting for them. The toys are Grandma's house are just the best apparently!!!

There was plenty of time for several card games. Mostly we stuck with Hand and Foot although there were several people that gave it their best go at teaching me Rook. We'll have to see if I remember much when we get together again ;) And, as always there was never a shortage of food. Kailyn was even able to help Grandma get some pudding ready for a dessert one day. She was so thrilled!!!

Last year during one of our visits the kids painted pictures at the church and they were later 'auctioned' off - Grandma won of course ;) This year she decided she needed some new paintings to hang on the wall so out came the paint!! The kids had a blast completing new masterpieces to hang up at Grandma and Grandpa's house!!




We were also able to get a little healthy family competition in with a few bowling games. The kids had a blast! Olivia mostly helped Grandma before watching a movie on the iPad. The girls lasted about a game and a half. The boys played two whole games and then finished up for their sisters. It was good practice for the Kindergartners who are going on a class bowling trip later this month. 










We ended the weekend with a little impromptu celebration of Olivia's birthday. This little girl is so loved and so precious.



Blast From the Past

A blog entry from this page popped up on my Facebook memories today. So, in my natural curiosity I went to check it out. And realized it has been nearly 4 (FOUR?!?) years since I've posted on this blog.  I had kind of forgotten this slice of cyberspace existed. But as I scrolled through the titles of the posts and read a few of them all sorts of memories came flooding back for me and I was overwhelmingly grateful to have recorded thoughts and experiences and memories that have faded a little with time. I had forgotten all about blogging my way through my twin pregnancy (I have blocked much of this from memory for a reason ;) ) but I am excited to re-read through those posts as my girls approach their fifth (How is that possible???) birthday.

So much has changed since I last posted on July 5, 2012. Reading through these posts reminded me how much I loved writing and recording memories and sharing tidbits of our life with people. Writing is good therapy for me and who can't use some good therapy?!

To kickstart this back to life I am going to share 31 things that have changed in the last four years since I am writing this on the 31st of the month. No guarantee it will actually get posted today though as I should be packing and preparing my family of 8 to head out this afternoon. Much has changed in 4 years but my procrastination skills are still wholly intact.

1 - First off the kids are all so much BIGGER than they were in 2012. Elliot is 7, Hadley is 6, Adelyn.  and Kailyn are four.

2 - We have two additional kids. In July 2012 we were quietly in the beginning stages of adoption. We didn't share publicly until December 2012. Graham and Olivia joined their forever family on October 22, 2014. He is now 6. She is almost 3.

3 - We sold our house in Peosta. With the addition of two more kids we didn't feel like that house was going to fit our needs appropriately anymore. We were nervous about putting it on the market but it sold in 2.5 days. Praise Jesus!!!!

4 - We bought a home in the Barrington Lakes subdivision. We had hoped to be closer to John Deere but that's not how it worked out. We call our home the 70's spectacular. We closed on September 6, 2013. Coincidentally the exact same day we received USCIS I600 approval for our two Congolese kiddos.

5. Mike has changed positions at Deere twice since originally beginning his job there in February 2012. We are hopeful a new opportunity within Deere will present itself soon.

6. I have recently rediscovered my love of reading and have been devouring books at any chance I get which is not nearly often enough! Waiting for the bus after picking up my preschoolers usually provides me with a good 20 minute chunk of time.

7. As of February 2016 we are officially puppy parents. I lobbied for YEARS (literally) for a sweet little kitty. Petey always said no. I called him a Funhater. We finally settled on getting a dog. He located a breeder not too far away with three puppies available of the breed we wanted. So, my parents came to watch the kids for a night while we went to meet and pick a pup. We maybe might have failed to mention to them we were going to look at puppies. The kids spilled the beans but Mum-Mum & Papa didn't believe them. Until I sent them a picture of their grand puppy. SURPRISE! Edison is a sweet sweet little Cockapoo who has been a good fit for us. Love him to pieces already.

8. I'm a soccer mom. And a softball mom. And a dance mom. And a gymnastics mom. And a karate mom. I'm sure there will be more to add in the future. Seriously, all I can do is just laugh at myself sometimes because it sounds so ridiculous and chaotic. And it can be that at times. But watching your kids discover and develop talents and abilities and a love for something is pretty awesome. And I have 6 little people so there is a lot of trial and error in first discovering what they love and have a natural bent towards. We have 5 kids playing soccer this spring - maybe pray for us?!

9. I've always loved slideshows and making slideshows but I discovered this really awesome website that will essentially do it all for me after I drop in the pictures and the music. Voila. Life changer. And I love it. I'm sure I'll upload one or two or ten to this blog at some point.

10. We have had to buy two "new" vans since July 2012. We bought our Ford E-150 in October 2012 in preparation for welcoming home two new children. We had no idea it would take two more years before we really needed it. We bought it from Enterprise Rideshare and its the size of a 12 passenger with a better seating configuration. We can seat 9 & have an aisle down the middle for easy access to all of the little people. I never knew I could love a van so much.

11. Our faithful Buick finally betrayed us late last year and we were on the hunt for a reasonably priced mini-van for Petey to drive for work. We happened upon a fantastic deal on a newer than we anticipated we'd be able to afford van. The dealership had an overabundamt stock (like 30+) & we're offering deep discounts. It came at the perfect time for us and now we have a trustworthy second vehicle to haul most of us around.

12. After 6 kids I can now better handle puke. It helps that most of the kids can also hit a bucket when the need arises. I used to just gag at the mere thought of someone puking. Now someone can puke all over me and not only do I not gag but I jump into clean up mode without even thinking about it. This might not be a big deal to most people but for me this HUGE progress.

13. We are Lego fanatics. I think in 2012 we were maybe on the cusp of being full fledged Lego fanatics. We may have declared 2012 the "Lego Christmas" (or maybe it was 2013) and we naively believed it would be just that one Christmas dedicated to building Elliot's Lego collection (we also naively believed he would be the only Lego fanatic) Well, needless to say every Christmas (and birthday) since has included a plethora of Legos. We keep having to expand the Lego play space so there is enough room for all 6 of the kids who love Legos and their creations. It is so awesome and fun to see them use their imaginations to create. Love it. We have convinced ourselves they are an investment and we plan to keep them forever ;)

14. We took a trip to Disney World. This was something we weren't sure we were ever going to be able to do because, well, cost. But Mum-Mum & Papa gave us an offer we couldn't refuse. So in November 2012 they drove Elliot & Hadley down to Florida. Mike and I flew down with the twins a few days later. I wish I could say flying with 18 month old twins was fun. But, I cannot. At any rate it was a great time and we made a lot of fantastic memories.

15. I flew back and forth to Africa three times in 10 months. When we started the adoption process we planned on one trip of 7-10 days. Well, things didn't work out the way we had hoped and planned. The first trip of 10 days was the meet and visit our kids in Congo. The second trip was 5 weeks long and was supposed to end with me bringing Graham and Olivia home but, yeah, that didn't happen. The third trip was only a few days long and this time I did successfully return home with my kids. What a whirlwind!! But I loved my time in Africa and, on occasion, feel homesick for it. I left a piece of my heart there for sure.

16. We have seen and experienced more darkness and evil in the world than we ever imagined we would. I don't really want to elaborate here at this moment but I'll just say the Lord has been faithful and overwhelmingly good to us.

17. We were on TV. I never in a million years could have seen us telling our story on TV but when you're kids are being withheld from you for no apparent reason you do things you never dreamed of doing. Like going on the news and sharing your story and pleading with people to help.

18. Along the same lines we were on a first name basis with several staff members from our Congressman's and our Senator's offices for awhile during our fight to bring Graham and Olivia home. I traveled to Washington DC to have meetings with them and several other Members of Congress.

19. To get to either of our parents we have to sit in a car for a long time. We have learned ways to make this easier and our kids have learned how to just be - for a little while at least. Now, if we could only get Hadley to actually sleep in the vehicle once in awhile.

20. In June 2013 my mom and I braved Branson, MO on our own with four kids. The highlight for all of the kids was the Chinese Acrobat show. They still talk about it almost three years later. Not far behind that for highlights was watching them all try to re-enact the show when we got back to the condo. The lowlight was me getting really sick and Mum-Mum being on her own with 4 kids. Also, it was really hot. I hate hot.

21. In August 2015 Petey and I got to escape for our FIRST only us grown up vacation. We have been blessed to be able to have several long weekends throughout our marriage but this was the first time we were able to fly somewhere for an extended time and just be together - no big plans, no agenda, no stress, just us together enjoying life. We flew into San Francisco, spent a few days there, and then ended our time with several days in Monterey. It was absolutely fantastic and I cannot wait to get away alone with my man again.

22. Petey successfully got me to watch Star Trek: Voyager. I did so kicking and screaming and ended up really really liking the show. He has been much less successful in getting me to watch and enjoy pretty much any other Star Trek shows. He doesn't like that I keep falling asleep during them or something???

23. We used to brave restaurants fairly regularly with 4 kids. Now, we only do so if its a special occasion, cheap or we have no other choice. Drive-Thru's are our friend and we have gotten so much better at quick easy meals at home. Live and learn I guess???

24. Coffee. We used to be very occasional drinkers. I think our first package of coffee filters we bought when we first got married lasted us something like 7 years. And it wasn't THAT big of a pack. Now, coffee is consumed on an almost daily basis. Except for that one day I found a spider in the coffee pot. I splurged and went out and bought myself a good coffee after that near heart attack.

25. Peanut Butter. Those of you who have known me a long time would know of my, let's say, HUGE distaste for peanut butter. Seriously, just the thought of it growing up made me want to gag. And I carried that into adulthood with me for the most part. I learned to enjoy things that had peanut butter cooked into them - like cookies. And I developed a taste for peanut butter cups and peanut butter m&m's. But a plain ol' PB&J??? No way Jose. That was just the way I was until I spent several weeks in the Congo where I did not have a way to refrigerate food (I had to choose a refrigerator or the ability to charge electronic devices - the fridge didn't win) and going out to eat was astronomically expensive. But a loaf of bread was sixty cents and a wheel of cheese was $1 and peanut butter was easy to come by. As well as nutella. So I learned to like it. And I probably ate a lifetime's worth of the stuff in a few weeks. Bonus was Graham and Olivia enjoyed it as well and it was a super easy and super quick meal that did not require much prep or clean up. It was a win all around.

26. We thought for sure we would be D.O.N.E. after adding two more kids to make a total of 6. Now, we are a little less decided. We have no immediate plans other than leaving the door open and seeing where God directs us.

27. We have discovered several of our kids have a love of cooking. Usually their dad is the one who lets them help - he seems to have more patience for that sort of thing than I do.

28. Along the same lines we have discovered a new genre of show to enjoy as a family - cooking and food competitions. As the kids get a little older they are enjoying this type of show more and more and it has become a fun thing for us all to watch together.

29. Our village has grown and bloomed and we have been blessed with some great people around here to do life with. This is especially great since we do not have family in the immediate area.

30. Over the last four years we have had our faith in God stretched and deepened. Through many of the trials we experienced he become more and more real and precious to us and we are so thankful.

31. Four years of life has grown our marriage stronger and our love for our kids deeper. I am so blessed to call this crew mine!!!

October 2012

 October 2013

October 2014

June 2015

Easter 2016