Friday, October 26, 2012

Understated Celebrations

Today was Eli's 6th birthday.

We are into lame understated birthday celebrations...mostly.  We make a big deal over the 13th...and 16th birthday (sometimes)...and well...I don't know what else.  We are just mostly into the understated kind.  

Our recent M.O. has been to offer our kids a modest "birthday budget" and allow them to decide how to spend it.  It's enough to have a small party -- if they desire -- along with a small present if they spend it wisely.  Mostly, they decide to skip the party and have a big present.

A few months ago, Eli informed me (as if I didn't know) that "friends were actually allowed to come to your birthday party."  So, we got to planning a skateboard party -- complete with 10 neighborhood friends.

But today wasn't party day.  It was his actual birthday.

Eli watching his adoption video

I'm not into celebrating twice.  Don't judge.  We have 5 children.  Multiple celebrations (you know, the "friend party" and the "family party" and the "birthday dinner" at a favorite restaurant)  get to be a little much.  If you choose to have a party in our home, we celebrate on the party day.  If not, I'm happy to cook your favorite dinner and we invite family only over to join us.  Sweet and simple.

But truthfully, who doesn't want their ACTUAL birthday to feel special too?  And, what mom can resist?  With Eli, it doesn't take much to make him happy.

He was up early, super excited because he was turning 6.  He used the word "birthday boy" to describe himself 999 times.  It was also Mother Goose Day - so we sent him to school, dressed as the spider who frightened Miss Muffet away -- with a pan of brownies and birthday napkins to share with his friends.

When he came home, mom needed to run errands, so it was off for a birthday Happy Meal (to entertain while in the Kinkos, the Bank and the Albertsons) and then a quick stop at Target where he got to use MiMi's birthday money to purchase 1 toy.  We came home a little later with the very first ever BUZZ LIGHTYEAR toy to ever make it's way in to the RamFam home.

Eli, "I really know a lot of facts about Buzz Lightyear".  Me, "Like what"?  Eli, "Well, he was in a movie called TOY STORY 3 and he has a laser that really works!"  Later he said, "Maybe he was in ALL the Toy Story movies"?  Maybe.

Buzz entertained wonderfully while mom had to work, after all, it wasn't moms birthday.

Around 6:30, I quickly threw together a "Birthday Dinner" of chicken and asparagus -- which we ate on paper plates with Buzz Light Year as our "centerpiece".  Eli's siblings took one look at the table, the paper plates...and began to tell me how lame it was.  To which I IMMEDIATELY put them to work.  Don't mess with mom! 

Eli however was in birthday boy heaven.  Loving the momentary center of attention, he was extra affectionate.  Kissing my hand, he said, "mommy I could just hug you all day".  Melt.  My.  Heart.

We cooked some cupcakes -- given to us in our BOO bag by the neighbors -- and sang a birthday song.

To complete our lame celebration, after dinner -- we headed to Walmart to purchase some supplies for all the other kids who are attending Corem Deo this weekend.  There, he was delighted to discover he would be allowed to pick out another toy with his money from Granga.  After declaring he really liked money, he picked a Jedi sword and a hot wheels car.

As we leave he asks, "Is it still my birthday"?  "Sure", I say.  "It's your birthday until bedtime".  Eli, "Then can I stay up late"?  Me, "Of course.  Today is special".

He smiled...skipped to the car even.  Lame?  Special?  It's all the eye of the beholder.

(And for those of you who may be worried, he still gets his Skateboard party on Sunday!)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall Break 2012

We've spent this past week on Fall Break.  For my Florida family and friends, it's just like Spring Break, but it's in the Fall.  We have fall here.  This is what it looks like...


And this....

We slept in, made pinterest crafts (well I bought the supplies for Victoria to make pinterest crafts), cooked beautiful dinners and ate at a decorated dining room table.

Billy and I had brunch together and took the kids to the Penny Arcade in Manitou - where every game is sure to cost at least a quarter.

All three of my guys playing Poll Position...

Bull Riding....sorta

Introduction to Pinball....

I spent a few hours each day reading.  I worked out and made sure I ate healthy.  I napped.  I relaxed.

I took the kids to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and enjoyed the day.  My 15 year old blessed me by tagging along and being totally delightful.  Yes, I bribed her by letting her drive us all the way to Denver...on the Highway...but still...

We found Eli a Halloween Costume for $3.99 at the Goodwill.

Some of us did a lot of this.....

And this.....

And this....

We ended the week by preparing for and having a family dinner for our youngest daughter's birthday.  Our friends Jamie and Mark let her spend her birthday on their farm, Sterling Acres, harvesting honey.

While she was away, we cleaned and made things look a little more "special" than they usually do around here...

We spent the evening watching old home movies and, Victoria ended up having a very good time with the Ramfam!

Tomorrow, we all go back to school and work.  Even though I understand that vacation is made sweet only in contrast to our hard working every day life, admittedly, we still aren't thrilled that it's over.  Fortunately, FALL is here to stay and I am making good progress on my FALL PLAY LIST.  Click here to view!

On that note, I'll leave you with a favorite vacation quote!  Until Thanksgiving Break....

To get away from one's working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one's self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change. - Charles Horton Cooley

Ode to my Mother....

Recently, my mother came for a visit.

She once described me as "laid back".  I'm sure I said something like, "What? I'm not laid back!  My family wouldn't describe me as laid back".  She said, "Well, compared to're asleep".

And such starts the list of differences between me and my mom...

But we're a lot alike too.  As I grow older, I appreciate this fact more and more.

My mom is a hard worker.  She likes to be prepared.  Yet she tempers her hard work with fun...and she cares that  those around her are having fun too.

Kitchen Knives

My moms "NON-LAID BACKNESS" causes her to be attentive to many details that I would simply over look.  While shopping for Benjamin's birthday party supplies she says, "You need to get some plastic knives".  I say, "Why?  We have tons of forks".  She says, "You can't spread mayonnaise with a fork.  Grown ups like knives and you have a serious shortage".  Plastic knives go into the buggy.

Shortly thereafter, she bought us a new set of kitchen knives.  Steak knives, chopping knives, paring knives.
We haven't had a new knife since we got married 18 years ago.  My father-in-law has tried on many occasions to sharpen the small, dull set we have, to no avail.  I always get strange looks when I ask a friend joining us for dinner to help by cutting a tomato with a butter knife.  We own 3 butter knives by the way.

Cereal Bowls

Mom looking through  my kitchen cabinets, "Shanna, do you own a cereal bowl?"  Me, "Sure".  My mom thinks I answer 'sure' a lot.  I then proceed to hold up a coffee mug.  Mom shakes her head no.  I hold up a ceramic chili bowl my grandmother painted (roughly 30 years ago).  Again, my mother shakes her head.  I push to the back of the cabinet and find a Christmas bowl.  "What about this one"? Now we are laughing.  That afternoon, I had a new set of cereal bowls.  Maybe our first set.  I'm not sure.

Triple E Width Shoes

Upon seeing the condition of my shoes, she insisted we head straight to the shoe store.  She announces loudly as we enter, "We need help!"  Sales girl runs over.  Mother, "Please measure her foot.  Bring every wide shoe you have in her size and try them on her feet"!  I got new shoes.

By the end of her visit, besides knives and bowls and shoes, she had bought us new blankets, pillows, a Kurig coffee maker and accessories, squishy bath mats, paid for her own birthday dinner at Red Lobster, lunch at Chick Fil A, pedicures for all the girls (including hot wax, gel polish, and my first ever toe flower/jewel), new cosmetics and left a check on the dining room table.

And I had a revelation.  She was taking care of me.

When you are a mother, in my case, a 38 year old mother of 5, you are busy taking care of others...all the time.  (And, I do mean all the time.)  You don't have chances to think about cereal bowls, knives or sometimes -- the condition of your own shoes.  Infact, it's easy to think on occasion  "Who takes care of me?  Who cooks  dinner for me or makes sure MY day is special"?  Let's face it, moms are easily taken for granted.

But, my mom was here -- taking care of me...and I deeply appreciated it.

This week, I mailed her a package of fall goodies.  A little something to make one of her days feel special too.

There is no great point here.  No moral to my story.  No wrap up of great revelation for YOU.  Just a few paragraphs to honor my mother -- from whom I've learned that it's good to give and to receive.  It's good not to take each other for granted.  It's good to take care of your family.  To say you're sorry...not to be brave...and that cereal bowls are far superior than mugs at holding Frosted Flakes.

Love you mom!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fall Play List!

I often make summer things to do lists.  You know, the fun kind of list.  This year, mine was rather short.  So short in fact I could keep it all in my head.  Something like...spend as much time in the pool as possible.  I succeeded.

Now, fall is on the horizon.  Can't say that makes me happy as of yet.  Mainly because school supply shopping, schedules and early bedtimes fall somewhere in there and those aren't my favorite.  So...I'm making a fall list of things I DO like to do...just so I can live in the moment and not miss any good thing!  Happiness!  Fall happiness!

So without further ado...

- Drink a Pumpkin Spice from Starbucks.
- Run the Turkey Trot.  Mostly run, not mostly walk.
- Plan homemade Halloween Costumes.  Plan a pre-trick or treat hot chocolate with my neighbors.

- Draw in Nature Journal.
- Carve pumpkins (Host a contest...with a prize).
- Be thankful.  Write it down.
- Read our Thanksgiving Book as a family.  Even if no one wants too.  They won't die.

- Make pumpkin bread.  Share with neighbors.
- Start Christmas Shopping
- Decorate the house for fall

- Put fall flowers by the front door.
- Make Candy Apples
- Find a Corn Maze.  Be smarter than Billy.  Beat Billy.

- Make Indian Corn Cupcakes
- Make pumpkin paper mache with Eli
- Convince the kids to bob for apples

- Spend a family day in the mountains.  Eat dinner at the Mason Jar.
- Plan birthday parties for Benjamin, Eli, Victoria, AND Billy.
- Purchase a Titans hoddie and enjoy Ben's football games.

Join me!  What's on YOUR fun fall to do list?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Parent Teacher Conference

Today was Parent Teacher Conference Day.  For Eli.

We show up, right on time, eager to speak with his sweet Kindergarten teacher and possibly the speech or occupational therapist.

Eli is at The Classical Academy's North Campus.  For those in the know, we suspected it might be a stretch putting him in TCA -- with his visual impairment.  The charter school we love is mostly great, but it is also, most definitely, ridged and set in it's ways.  When it comes to veering off the path laid out for the average child, they have a slightly "unaccommodating"reputation.  Still, we decided to go ahead and see how it goes.

As we entered the classroom, almost immediately the teacher began to tear up.  B and I look at one another.  She starts off, "It's been a challenge.  I've had to learn new things.  But, (tears flowing now), I just love him so much.  He's amazing!  He's such a blessing and you guys are amazing too!"  The speech therapist hands her a Kleenex.

B and I exchange glances.  Clearly, I'm not FB friends with Mrs. Garcia.  Otherwise, she would have known that yesterday I forgot my 8:30 am client (even though she comes at 8:30 am EVERY WEEK).  I was still in my PJ's when she knocked on the door!  I showed up at 10:20 am to teach the first of (6) one hour classes with the wrong lesson plans.  Billy's car broke down.  Elizabeth threw her $300 retainer in the trash AND lost her debit card!  My sub was running late.  Seriously, the last couple of weeks have been the scariest environment imaginable.

B says quietly, "In this case 'amazing' must mean...tired".  I whisper, "...and broke."  We both giggled thinking of all the other adjectives we'd like to throw into this back and forth conversation.  We could have entertained ourselves all day...but Miss Garcia was still having a moment.

She went on to explain her modified classroom procedures and that Eli was at the top of his game when it came to being patient and learning his phonograms.  

Finally, she cuts to the chase.  "I feel like God has been calling us to adopt," says Mrs. Garcia.  "I spent the entire last year praying about it.  We've finished almost all of the requirements to foster adopt and I think God's put Eli in my class for a reason..."

We both smile.  Shift in conversation.  Three parent-teacher time slots later -- we go home a little taken a back.

It's funny.  When you're running late in your PJ's...emptied your Dave Ramsey ER fund on car repairs for the 100th time...feel guilty for telling nearly adult daughter she has to pay for her own replacement retainer...have a "doubled-in-size-practically-overnight" business that you're not sure you're stewarding correctly (and even if you are -- it's making you tired)... and can't tell if your 13 year old son is retarded or just in puberty...amongst many, many other things....................................

Well, God can still use you.

And that's AMAZING.