Monday, May 15, 2017

You Know You Have A Large Family When . . .

You know you have a large family when your drive-through order looks like this:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

More Birthdays

Patrick and James both had birthdays in March.  And it's May now, but May is also an "M" month, so I'm not really behind, right?

Patrick and James were born 19 years apart.  You've heard the story of how we nearly gave James an aren't-you-too-old-for-that-heart-attack when we told him the news.

He thought we were joking.

We weren't.

But he took it in stride, like he tends to do in life, and has been an awesome biggest brother!  You can understand with the photo above why Patrick loves sports as much as James.

For James' birthday we were in California, so celebrated with Mickey, and later with dinner.  It was also my mom's birthday, so she joined in the celebration.

James still loves the wine business, manages a fancy-shmancy restaurant, loves basketball, hiking, trips to the cabin, fishing, and adventure.  He's as laid-back as they come, kind, patient, funny, and smart.  He isn't with his girlfriend anymore, so we keep asking him if he wants us to set him up on a blind date, but so far he doesn't seem to trust the old-fart parents to find the winner-winner-chicken-dinner.

Patrick turned 15 two weeks before.

Patrick wanted some expensive headphones for his birthday, along with a big soft blanket.  Can you guess what is in the package?  And can you guess what is in the bag?  Well, actually, you aren't as smart as you think because what's in the bag is actually an Amazon gift card.  But not enough for the headphones. And what we were thinking was that Patrick could combine some birthday money with the gift card for the headphones.  And Patrick seemed perfectly happy with his gifts.

But here is what happened later.  Vu took me aside and told me that I really need to step it up a notch on birthdays.  Vu, our emotionally intelligent genius, picked up on Patrick's disappointment that I didn't, and Vu told me we probably should have ditched the blanket in order to spend the cash on the headphones.  He said, "I mean really Mom, a kid only turns 15 once in his life."  As much as I love Amazon, I have to admit it's not the same to have to order your own birthday gift, and then wait several days for arrival.  Duly noted Dr. Vu.  Patrick, I'm still learning not to be a slacker mom.

Would I be an even worse mom to say Patrick may or may not have been the most beautiful baby in the world?

I'm happy to report he morphed into a handsome dude.

Patrick is blossoming in high school.  He's a busy guy with marching band, basketball, track, and AP courses.  And the occasional girl friend.  Lord help me.  He's currently single and I'm hoping he will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

He has mellowed so much since his toddler days, when I worried he would grow up to be the next unabomber.  He loves speech-and-debate, science, history, video games, sugar, and wants to be a pediatrician when he grows up.

My babies continue to grow bigger and more independent.  I miss the old days, it gets quieter and quieter around here.  

But I also look forward to all the future holds.  Happiest of birthdays Mom, Patrick, and James!  May your year be filled with all  the goodness life has to offer!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lessons On A Budget

Since we're on the topic of finances, let's talk about lessons.  Obviously, they can be expensive, especially when raising a passel of kids.  But it is possible to make it work, especially when it's a value of money well spent.

When I was young I was raised for many years by a single mother.  My mom was a teacher, so I am sure that by the time she paid for all the basics, including child care, there wasn't a lot left over.  It was a big deal to eat out, and we only bought new clothes at the beginning of the school year after the Sears catalog arrived.  I kid you not.  Yes, I am old. My grandmother also made us beautiful dresses, 

and we would occasionally get something special like a new pair of jeans for the Pendleton round-up. 

I am quite sure I was a fashionista girl.  Check out those crazy pants!

But back to affording lessons.  I don't know how my mom did it, but we all had various types over the years, especially music, swimming, and art. Sidenote: I didn't take riding lessons.  I grew up near my grandparents' cattle ranch and riding was a part of life, no lessons needed!  

We had art lessons from a nun at the church and I fondly remember my piano teacher.  Thank you Mrs. Coates for all your patience and love.  

When my own kids were born, I discovered how challenging it can be to find affordable lessons. What I've learned is don't give up!  There are so many ways to do it. 

Sometimes a trade can be worked out.  I watched the violin teacher's children one afternoon a week in exchange for half-price violin lessons for Paul and Lizzy.  We won't talk about the time her son accidentally got hit on the head with a hoe and had to get stitches!  Kim and Paul attended piano lessons on an every-other-week schedule, which honestly worked out fine.  Especially when they are little, one of the main points of lessons is just to have someone to keep practicing on task.  Vu got started on the guitar from a person down the street--I asked on our neighborhood Facebook group if anyone would trade homemade cookies for guitar tuning and a beginner lesson.  In the process we met someone new.  A sweet friend gave us low-cost Spanish lessons.  You-tube is now an awesome place for beginning lessons.  And it's free!  And finding a talented teen can also be an inexpensive way to start lessons.

The key is just to ask!  And not just for lessons, a friend of mine found greatly reduced orthodontics by offering to clean the orthodontist's office in an exchange.  Many years ago, our piano was given to us by a beautiful soul at church who heard we were looking for a piano and wanted to see hers go to a loving home.  I am still awed by how God worked that out.  And how cool is it that the brand comes from Korea?

Our parks and rec has been a phenomenal resource for inexpensive lessons--ballet, tap, guitar, gymnastics, golf, and swimming.  I will say that with swimming, if a child is really ready to swim, money is better spent on semi-private lessons.  The group lessons are great for just getting kids used to the water (they spend a fair amount of time holding the wall) and for kids who already know how to swim and will be swimming laps, learning technique.  Swimming lessons aren't cheap, but they are an absolute safety need, especially when living in a state with so many water risks.  In Arizona, a friend with a backyard pool hired a swimming instructor to come and give affordable lessons for neighborhood kids.

Other ideas are to check out books and videos from the library, and grandparents sometimes enjoy providing a gift of lessons.  Local schools and churches often have after-school enrichment, art, music, or sports activities.

Lessons--keep looking, be creative, and find options!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

I Can't Afford That!

How many times have we heard that come out of our mouths?  And how many times have we heard it from others?  I don't say it anymore, and not because I can afford everything I want, but because I've learned it's often about choice.  I tired of hearing the same sentiments from acquaintances over the years, especially the words, "You're so lucky!  I wish I could afford to stay home with my kids," or the age-old "I wish we could afford to adopt."  It's a rare family that has money laying around to adopt.  It usually takes creativity and sacrifice.

We're a lot more comfortable now, but I also know what it's like to be scrounging for loose change on the floor of the car to buy a gallon of milk.  I remember the worry of living in Georgia, with nothing in savings, living in a cockroach infested apartment, and wondering how we would make rent (we found a couple to move in with us). When we lived in snowy Munich, I had no boots.  And we couldn't afford to use the air conditioning in our apartment when we lived in sweltering Washington DC. In Arizona it was a big deal to eat out, usually only for a birthday.  My Bigs still joke that they didn't even know what a Happy Meal was when they were little--it was the Family Meal of 20 piece McNuggets, 1 large fry, and 5 cups of water!  And our first adoption was funded by selling a car, doing daycare, and getting most of the kids' Christmas presents from garage sales.

And you know what?  It was hard.  But in the end it was fine!  

I do remember one particularly drastic day when James and Joe were little  I was driving home from playgroup in Maryland.  Oh, how many wonderful playgroups we've had over the years. LOVE!

Don't be jealous of those overalls!  Anyhoo, I was driving and Joe started crying in the backseat.  I thought he was just hot, even though I had the windows down as far as they would go.  James was trying to tell me something, but I could only figure out it had something to do with a shoe.  Well, before long I discovered Joe was crying because he had accidentally dropped his brand new shoe out the window!  Brand New I tell you!  And shoes were something we saved up for.  It was a BIG DEAL when the kids got shoes.  I took the next exit and drove back up the freeway, then back the same way, desperately searching for a red leather shoe.  Until that day, I never noticed how many red things are on the side of the road.  But no shoe.  Oh man!  I cried.

You will be happy to know that I do still have the remaining red, size 7 Weebok. Memories.

Yes, times were tight.  And I'm sure I often said that I wished I could afford something or other.  But we learned to find what was free, like the zoo in Washington DC.  And we relished the chance to go to special events at the White House. I especially remember the Christmas party and when Gorbachev visited.

Trust me, I wore the same dress to every event.  But you know what I know now?  It was okay!  And it was ultimately our choice to live on a small budget.  I could have worked. We both could have worked a second job.  We could have robbed a bank (wait, bad idea).  But we could have rented out a room or lived without a car. Actually, come to think of it, we didn't have a car for two years.  BUT, guess what?  Even though it was hard, it was okay!  We survived!  And again, it was about choice, and I will forever be grateful to have a car now.  And I will forever be grateful to have a washing machine after all the years of laundry mats!

We made choices.  And I fully recognize that not everyone who is struggling has choices.  But we did.  We chose to have a bunch of kids with a stay-at-home mom, on a shoestring budget.  At first we were poor college students, and then a low-income military family.  We didn't have a lot of things, but I have no regrets.   We chose to adopt a bunch more kids, even when we didn't know where the money would come from.  We pinched and squeezed and made it work.

I made my dress and Lizzy is wearing the baptismal gown I made for James when he was born.  Unfortunately, I used cheap fabric for the gown.  Trust me.  Spend the money for good fabric when sewing something to be treasured! 

Now, life is a lot easier, at least economically. We both work.  And you know my part-time social work position is bringing in the big bucks.  Ha!  But Hubby's hard work has given him a solid management position.  And our kids are growing up and becoming independent adults.  Of course, having a houseful of teenagers isn't cheap, and there are still things I would like to buy, or have, or do, but instead of saying, "I can't afford that," I try to say, "I am choosing to spend my money in a different way."  Because really, that's the truth.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Be Fearless And Journey

 Every morning I come downstairs and make a pot of coffee.  I love grasping hold of my mother-in-law's sugar bowl.  How many days did she do the same?  I usually pick a Destination mug, but today I needed some inspiration from the never-ending grey that has fogged my brain.  I reached in the back and pulled out this treasure from Kelly Rae Roberts.  Years ago I bought matching for each of my sisters, and today I thought of each precious sibling as I sipped my morning love and drank in fresh inspiration.    

Embrace Possibility ~ Wear More Skirts ~ Be Fearless ~ Surprise Yourself And Do The Things You Didn't Think You Could Do ~ Believe In Healing ~ Speak Of Your Gratitude ~ Ask Questions ~ Explore The Night Sky ~ Seek Joy ~ Take The Journey Back To Your Self ~ Be Quirky Be Yourself ~ Begin ~ Share Your Story ~ Dance In Your Livingroom ~ Acknowledge Your Talents ~ Surround Yourself With Beauty ~

Monday, April 24, 2017

Quite Possibly The Cutest Post Ever

Meet our newest family member, an adorable, playful, and very sweet kitten named Mojo.  We haven't had a cat for a loooong time, because of Patrick's asthma, but Patrick seems to have outgrown his allergies so we are now proud owners of this sweet little ball of fur.  

I've always considered myself more of a dog person, but Mojo has converted me, and I am now a full-fledged cat lover.  I even missed a day of work because I was worried he would be lonely in his new home.  Is there such a thing as bonding leave with pets?  And does this question put me on the trajectory for becoming a crazy cat lady???

Saturday, April 22, 2017

He Is Risen Indeed!

Easter is the promise of new beginnings and new hope.  Ours was especially meaningful this year because Mei Mei was baptized in a beautiful candlelit Easter Eve service, followed by Easter brunch the next morning.  Happy Easter!  The Lord is risen indeed!

Congratulations Mei Mei on officially becoming a member of our family of faith.  You are surrounded by love, and always will be.  You have such a precious heart for God and goodness. The priest was right when she said you are one of the most joy-filled people to ever be baptized. We are blessed to have you in our family and WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!!