Thursday, August 9, 2018

Five on Friday: Things to Keep When Packing for a Family of Seven

It's road trip time! My preparation process has gotten somewhat streamlined, which is particularly good since I'm too busy these days to spend a week packing. Everything goes much smoother as long as I keep calm and keep:

1. All the camping gear together in bins in the basement so I don't have to find and gather it all every single time.

2. A note on the top of the bin to make note of anything that needs to be added (things I don't want to permanently store in there like the good flashlight).

3. A note on my computer on what worked or didn't on each trip (previous notes include things like: better long sleeve options! Fewer toys, more notebooks and pens for the ride!) Sometimes things change and I know I won't remember what they were.

4. The travel candy well hidden so I don't have a "I've been on my feet running around all  day and I totally have PMS and goddamnit I'm going to have my period on vacation I need candy" freakout the night before and eat most of it. 

Okay, fine, I'll do this one next time.

5. Reminding myself that anything I forget we will either live without or purchase while on vacation. So I just need to relax . . . vacation is starting.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Five on Friday: The "Signs" of Summer . . .

No, I don't mean things like wet bathing suits left on the floor after I asked you at least a hundred times to please hang them up immediately. Though we have plenty of those signs of summer around as well . . . I mean actual signs.

Last night I was searching through my pictures to try to find one in particular. I never found it but as I was looking I realized that I've taken a lot of pictures of funny signs I've seen this summer . . . does everyone do that?

If you don't (or even if you do!) I'm going to share mine with you for today's Five on Friday list:

1. If you looked at just the top portion of this sign hung outside a campground pool, it seemed pretty funny. So that's how I cropped it:

We actually prefer swimming with toilet-trained people

2. From the same campground, this was hanging on the wall and presumably was meant to have . . . anything else inside of it.

In case you wondering what this was, read the sign.

3. At the local pizzeria. It struck me as very sweet, hope this Jack of all Trades has found a great place to live by now:

Good luck, Jack.

4. Seen at a friends' home on the Fourth of July:

It is a good day for a good day!

5. While kayaking at the lake, my niece said she could see a sign in the water. Our collective interest was piqued and the kids got to work trying to find it and pull it out. When they did, this is what they found:

You don't say . . .

Friday, July 27, 2018

Five on Friday: Solo-ish Weekend

It what might be a first in this family, Daddy-O is away with the three youngest kids for the weekend. We all wanted to get away but the teenagers have weekend jobs and Mama thought maybe it'd be nice to get a break from the littles for a few days.

It's been about nineteen hours now, eight of which I spent sleeping without anyone waking me up, and it turns out I was right: it is nice to get a break from the littles.

Here are the things I am and will be doing in their absence:

1. Enjoying the break from the constant bickering and food making and the small child patting my stomach and asking me if I'm having a baby.

2. Spending time with my teenagers one-on-one. I took a hike up the mountain at sunset with my daughter last night and, unbeknownst to my son, have some plans with him tomorrow night.

3. Getting some long-neglected gardening done. I know this sounds like a chore to many people but I thoroughly enjoying being outside, getting dirty and making things look pretty.

4. I will NOT be doing any major house cleaning. Lest you think this is because I don't want to be a boring old lady who enjoys my kid-free time cleaning, I'd like to set the record straight: it's actually because I already spent two hours cleaning the house on Wednesday. However what I WILL be doing is appreciating the fact that it's not getting totally messed up again every five minutes.

5. Feeling thankful for this weekend not only for myself, but for my kids who are already having a completely magical time (and for modern technology for allowing me to see pictures immediately)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Five on Friday: The Pole Poll

Everyone’s got those friends . . . you know, the kind who gladly take your five kids and even the dog overnight (sometimes when you don’t even need them to, just for fun!). If you don’t have friends like those, I highly recommend getting some. They make life and parenting so much easier and more enjoyable. These friends of ours also recently stopped by with a super surprise: a creative family project that will be enjoyed by us for years to come.

It’s a DIY directional post! You know, the super whimsical kind with colorful arrows pointing in all directions. BUT WHEREVER SHALL THEY POINT TO? This part might be harder than finding the time to assemble it and get it in the ground.

It came with this card. Apparently they appreciate our assistance and friendship, too.

So I'm conducting a poll pole for suggestions on what to include. All locations will be considered, including nonsensical and fictional. We've already had friends chime in (with some real gems like our friend's 10-year-old suggesting that we add the local chain pharmacy).

It came with eight arrows (because our friends know that eight is great!) but I’d be really happy if we could start with at least five and add on more later. Here are the top contenders thus far:

1. Shindig That-A-Way: I used to have a wooden sign that had those words painted on it. I loved that damn sign and I regrettably have no idea what happened to it. Since we’re fond of hosting a variety of shindigs, this could point directly to the house or backyard.

2. Silver Bell Wedding Chapel 2484 milesThe name of the chapel in Las Vegas where we eloped to.

3. Meme & Poppy’s Lake House, 41 miles: Lots of happy memories are continually made there each summer.

4. East Sandwich, 303 miles: Somehow we're lucky enough to have TWO vacation homes in the family! (This is also highly recommended.) Meme & Poppy's as well as Aunt & Uncle's cottage on Cape Cod. It's specifically located in East Sandwich, which I think would be much more fun to put on the sign than plain ol' Cape Cod.

5. The city where our adopted kids were born & lots of their family still live: This city will always hold a special place in our hearts, of course, so it might just earn itself an arrow!

What do you think? Keep these? Ditch any of them? Any other suggestions? I'd love to hear!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Five on Friday: Sister Week

If there's any benefit to biological siblings not living together, it's that when they do get to spend time together they have so much fun and don't get to the point of getting on each other's nerves. At least that's been our experience in spending time with big sister one week at a time over the summer. It's all giggling and no bickering, which is beautiful music to this Mama's ears.

(By the way, her week with us isn't over yet so I reserve the right to make another post about this magical time next Friday.)

But so far, these were some of the best things about her visit:

1. Our very first meal together was sandwiches. My boys started yelling that their younger sister "likes mayonnaise now!" I immediately saw what was happening: she was constructing her sandwich to be exactly like her big sister's turkey with mayo, onion, lettuce and tomato. When I asked if that was what was going on, little sister saved face by declaring,  "Actually I don't want tomatoes right now."

2. However, the next night at dinner, little sister constructed her plate exactly like big sister's again. She whispered to me, "Don't tell her but I'm only eating it this way to be like her."

3. One night I went to check on the kids before I went to bed and found big sister snuggled into a twin sized bed with her younger brother. (Of course the next morning he was on the floor but it sure was cute while it lasted!)

4. Playing: in sand, water, lawn and house. Decorating each other with hair chalk. Movies. Board games. Just all the silly little fun togetherness that at one time I never dreamed would be possible . . .

5. Recently Facebook reminded me that it was the anniversary of our youngest child learning to walk. I had commented then that it was still magical to witness, even the fifth time around. The next day I brought Sister to meet her Great Grandmother. It was, actually, the fifth time I had the pleasure of witnessing Great Grandma getting to meet one of her Great Grandchildren that she prayed for and loved from afar . . . and it was just as magical as the first.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Five on Friday: The Bickering is Ridiculous

A few years ago, just when I had thought that maybe my kids were freaks of nature that all got along really well, my youngest two children discovered bickering.

Oh how I rue that day.

They're now ages 8 and 10 and still pretty bad with it . . . and so is my reaction. I try to ignore them but it really gets under my skin. As soon as I hear the first little argument of the day, it's as if I've already been listening to it for hours (maybe because I had been, the day before.)

Lately they're really upping the ante, starting to argue about the most ridiculous things ever. Five recent examples that I'm sure will be hysterical some day:

1.  THE TOOTHBRUSH INCIDENT: His toothbrush fell. Nobody saw it happen. They decided to fight about it. Names were called, tears were cried.

2. TABLE TAPPING: She was doing a little game at the breakfast table that involved clapping and then tapping the table. He despised it and told her to stop. I've been trying to teach him about choosing his battles but I agreed with him on this because I didn't want any drinks to be accidentally knocked over. I asked her to go in another room to do it. Victorious, he began tapping the table himself. Teachable moment! Let's learn the word hypocrisy, son! That did not go over well.

3. TAKING A SEAT: Some of you may remember that we have a stupidly big van, Overkill Jones, that's mainly for our epic summer road trips and driving a slew of local kids to the lake. 

Now that our oldest daughter has a license and is frequently driving our other normal-human sized car, John Stamos, I'm using OKJ a lot more. Twice recently I've had ONLY my youngest two in the van and they've argued over seats.

It is a fifteen-passenger van. 


4.  TALKING TO ONE'S SELF: On Wednesday I experienced what can only be explained as a Fourth of July miracle: they decided to play on the deck together making slime. Soon enough, though, she came in asking me if she was allowed to talk to herself, because her brother said she couldn't. He shouted from the deck, "SHE'S BEEN DOING IT FOR LIKE TEN MINUTES. IT'S SO ANNOYING" So that was the end of that.

5. TAKING TURNS: Yesterday they were talking about how they'd spend their screen time. At first they argued over who'd play on what, which was a problem (surprise!) because they both wanted the iPad. We talked through solutions and decided on splitting it up with a timer set. Naturally a new argument was started, over who would get to use the iPad . . . SECOND. Not first. Second.

"Are you really arguing over who gets to use it SECOND?," I asked my daughter, adding, "You realize this is why I'm insane, right???"

She looked at my very seriously and nodded yes.

Proof that they got along once. Once.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Five on Friday: BALLS OF POWER

For this week’s Five on Friday, I’m going to do something totally new: a recipe along with some facts (some helpful, some quirky) about a favorite snack around here, especially in the summer. 

1. THE NAME: Power Balls. We are in the stage where everything “balls” is uproariously funny but for some reason it hasn’t occurred to them to laugh at this yet. I think they’re too used to hearing it, so they don’t hear the “balls” in the name. Like how my friend when he was younger had no idea there were carrots in Carrot Cake. I imagine this bliss will be short-lived, though, and we’ll need a new name soon. I'm thinking "Balls of Power" to up the ante on hysterics around here.

2. WHY THEY ARE GREAT, PART ONE: They have a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips in them so the kids think they are a special dessert-like treat. But every other single ingredient is something good for them so WHO WINS NOW, KIDS? Oh right. You do. Again. You're welcome.

3. WHY THEY ARE GREAT PART TWO: They pack a protein punch, which isn't always easy for me to get into my kids when we're on the go and one of them "likes cheese but only melted" and fun things like that.

4. BUT THE BEST THING ABOUT THEM: Let’s say you packed ten power balls for an outing so each kid gets two. But then you realize you’d like a little snack and they look so yummy but if you eat one someone else wont’ have the same as everyone else and that's not faaaaaaiiiir. Not a problem with these soft little guys! Just pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch a little bit from each one and make your own little snack. The ones you pinched from can be rolled back into shape and the children will be none the wiser. MWAH HA HA HA HA!! Mom wins this one, kids!

5. THE RECIPE: Yes, they’re made with peanut butter. No, I have never tried using another kind of nut butter but I imagine it could also work. Yes, I always double this (and every) recipe. Yes, I have a tip for rolling them: wet your hands when it gets too sticky. Yes, I have a tip for packaging them: put them right into snack containers filled with the number of children you usually dole snacks out to times two. Place in fridge, grab one on the way out the door. Et Voila.

Modified from a recipe found on

1 c oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup chia seeds (which are expensive so I usually use a cheaper yet still good for you flax-chia seed mix and then frequently toss in a little wheat germ for fun)

1. Put all of the ingredients in the food processor and blend until well mixed 
(also possible with bowl and spoon)

2. With clean, wet hands, roll into 1.5 inch balls 
(you may need to wash/wet your hands again half way through)

3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Keep in fridge for up to a week if they last that long.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Five on Friday: A Little Kindness

For anyone who has ever loved a child,
For anyone who has ever adored a parent,
For anyone who has ever had to leave under the cloak of night,
For anyone who has never had to imagine what that might be like,
For anyone who has a heart . . . . this week's been rough.

I'm particularly feeling a little ache in that Adoptive-Mom-Happy-Sadness part of my heart with each "families belong together" image I see. Because I believe that, I support that 100% but it drives home the fact that three of my children have experienced that loss. Many times I feel like I carry that pain for them until they're ready to acknowledge it. At the same time I know I'll never truly understand what that pain is like . . . this week's been rough.

These are the weeks I try a little harder to notice the good, the kindness, the sweetness and the love around me. For today's list, I'm going to share some of them with you:

1. Boom! Summer is really here and all the things I love about it, too. A gaggle of kids in the yard on the slip and slide. The gardens are tended too and exploding with color. Grandma's church carnival, an annual tradition, had perfect weather this year. Sparklers and ice cream and dirty, dirty feet. It's good for me to take a moment and feel grateful for these things I love so much.

2. We were recently the recipients of extremely generous gifts from two different families in our community that will provide family fun and entertainment for our entire family. Both were complete surprises that will be very enjoyed by all of us. I'm so thankful for both of them.

3. I was paid a wonderful compliment on my parenting by our family doctor the other day. I'm going to pay a wonderful compliment to someone else now when I can because that felt really good.

4.  Truly feeling like part of the community. From bigger things like easily getting kid care and carpools very easily arranged to little things like loaning mayonnaise to neighbors and catching up with my favorite supermarket cashier on her upcoming surgery. It's good to feel connected to the people around you.

5. On my drive to work, I frequently see an older woman who walks with a walker out with her dog. I always notice her and worry that the frisky little pup is going to pull her right over! On my drive home the other day, I saw her in her front yard. The dog was nowhere in sight, but the mailman was there and he was holding her hose, watering her front plants for her. Witnessing kindness, even when I'm not the recipient, really does feel like a salve to my heart. It's good to see people being good, isn't it?

I hope you've witness some kindness, peace and good this week. Now let's get back to fighting for what's right.