Sunday, December 25, 2011

Of Course It's Still Christmas -- Just Look at the Post Date!

Yes, I know there are other moms out there who don't get around to writing Christmas blog entries until February.  Slackers.  Good thing that's not me! Heh, heh, heh.  See?  I am writing this on December 25, 2011.  As soon as the Christmas festivities were over, I lost all focus, got waaaaaay behind in the laundry, and spent far too much time crocheting and messing around with my new Kindle Fire for two months ran right to the computer to document Christmas 2011.

Funny, though, Christmas was such an exciting time that my brain got a little fuzzy and I don't even remember all of it that clearly...almost as if it happened months ago.  Oh, well, here's what happened back in December over the past few days:

Opening Christmas pajamas the night before Christmas

Sprinkling reindeer food on the front lawn

All cleaned up and jamified!

Reading A Visit from Saint Nicholas

Silly Mommy left all the nice Christmas cookies at Grandma Betsy & Poppa Keith's house.  Good thing our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of Chinese takeout came with some fortune cookies!

Santa did not seem to mind...

Christmas morning finally arrived!

After all the fun at our place, we headed over to the granparents' for some big family fun.  That's a post for another day...say, December 26?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Adam the Six-Year-Old

Adam, you are six now.  Your dad and I cannot believe what a year of unbelievable change this has been for you.  You have come into your own in so many ways, and you make us laugh with your funny little mannerisms and sayings.  You are growing so fast that Andrew is getting nervous.  You are learning to read.  You can make the  /l/ sound (when you want to -- we still have to remind you to do it!) (And I have to admit that I will miss you calling your wittle sister Wibby even though I know we couldn't have wet you go through wife wike that.)  You have all sorts of quirky little interests that absolutely delight me and choke me up all at once.  So, before I tell you "Happy Birthday," I want to capture in print the things that captivate you right now as you turn six:
  • Goons
  • Wallets
  • Rednose the Reindeer
  • State and World Flags
  • Clubs
  • Cutting the Cheese (sigh)
  • All Things Chocolate
  • Legos
  • Anything Andrew's Doing
  • Cleaning Your Room Very Late at Night After Your Father and I Thought You Long Asleep
  • Making Lists (I Wonder Where You Get That)
Happy, happy birthday to our precious wittle little Adam.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Jophes and the "Wise" Man

This morning was the annual children's Christmas program at our church.  Every year the kids dress up as characters from the Nativity and sing Christmas songs.  This year Andrew was excited to have been cast in the role of "Jophes."  (For some reason none of the children in this home can say "Joseph."  They all say "Jophes."  We try over and over to get them to say it correctly until we are ready to pull out our hair just go with it.)

Adam was originally supposed to be a shepherd.  However, this morning they came up one wise man short, so the honor fell to Adam.

He got to wear an awesome crown.

Which proved a little tricky.

Here they are:  Jophes, Mary, and the "Wise" Man.

Unfortunately this morning Libby woke up covered in an alarming-looking rash, so we ended up at the pediatrician's and had to miss church.  So sad.  But L's rash turned out to be crazy hives brought on by the double ear infection we had no idea she had.  Her consolation prize for missing the Christmas program was winning the morning record for diagnoses circled on her checkout sheet at the doctor's, according to the receptionist who checked us out.  Score!  Wait a minute...

Happy Birthday, Quacky!

Dear Andrew (or should we say, “Quacky”?),

Eight years ago we were so very eager to meet our new baby.  We didn’t know if you would be a boy or a girl, so there was a lot of suspense!  Finally, on a dark November night, you were born…and we had a little boy!  Our Andrew.
But before very many days at all had passed, you had another name!  You see, during the months we were waiting for you to arrive, our family and friends brought us many baby gifts.  Since they didn’t know whether our baby would wear blue or pink, they brought yellow --  lots of yellow – so either a baby boy or a baby girl could wear it.  And do you know what cute baby animals are yellow?  Yep.  Ducks.  So pretty much all the sweet little baby clothes that were waiting for you had ducks on them.

One of the little outfits was a white terrycloth pair of pajamas with a (yes, you guessed it!) DUCK on it.  Underneath the duck were written the words “Quack Quack.”  Original, right?
May we mention another thing here?  You cried.  A lot.  For about six weeks solid. 

So, anyway, when Mom would dress you or change you or play with you, you would cry (because that’s sort of all you did for a while there!)  And you would be wearing your little “Quack Quack” outfit, and Mom would say, “Oh, quack, quack, quack, is my little Quacky quacking?” 
Moms say silly things sometimes when they have new babies.

Pretty soon Mom was calling you “Quacky” as much as she called you “Andrew”!  And that’s how you got your nickname.
So, fast forward eight years.  The good news?  You stopped all the crying.  The bad news?  You won’t let us buy you clothes with ducks on them anymore.

We still can’t believe how that tiny little baby we brought home eight years ago has grown and changed.  We are so proud of all that you are and all that you are becoming.  You are your dad’s best buddy.  You are your mom’s heart.  You are your little brother’s hero (even if he doesn’t realize it yet).  You are your little sister’s prince (because, you know, she thinks all the princes are the princesses’ brothers). You are funny and bright and full of promise. We are excited to see what God has in store for your life.
But no matter how big you get or where you go in life, remember this, Andrew:  You will always be our little Quacky.

Mom and Dad

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Andrew's Been Reading Lately (Or, Why I Almost Had a Heart Attack When I Looked on His Nightstand)

What I saw at first glance:

After experiencing some initial shortness of breath, I thought, "Wait.  This is Andrew," and moved the noisemaker to reveal:

...A very poorly titled page about red-footed boobies (birds!) in National Geographic Kids magazine.  Some editor clearly didn't think this through.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Wallet

One of Steve's old wallets has been flying around here for the longest time.  He gave it to the boys to play with forever ago, and it just got absorbed into the toy jungle and forgotten.

Until recently.

Adam re-discovered the wallet last week and claimed it as his own.  Since then he has carried it with him everywhere and has made sure that it contains all the things a wallet should.

You know, like an expired Kohl's discount card.

And a card he made me write "rednose reindeer" on. (He would not let me write "rednosed" with a "d."  It had to be "rednose.")

A picture of the Mario Bros.

And, of course, an identification card.  Adam was very sad that he didn't have a Ranger Rick membership card like his big brother Andrew.  So Steve made him a (laminated!) Avengers ID card for his wallet.  And Adam could not be happier.

My favorite story about the wallet?  Steve took the kids Christmas shopping for me the other night.  Apparently when they all got to the checkout counter, Adam very solemnly whipped out his wallet, pulled the "Rednose Reindeer" card out, and tried to pay for my gifts with it.

Turns out that a "Rednose Reindeer" card is not accepted as currency at that particular establishment.  That's OK.  They just don't know its real worth.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Big Dig 2011's been a while since I've updated the family journal.  It's not that we haven't had anything going on.  Au contraire.  So far I've missed a home improvement entry, a birthday entry, a Thanksgiving program entry, and a major holiday entry.  Why?  Well, the whole "3 kids in 3 different schools" thing has turned out to be a bit bonkers.  Definitely worth the sacrifices -- not complaining -- just bonkers.  (Please, please...pray with us that Adam will get  into Andrew's school next year.) 

Furthermore, we're deep in the heart of birthday/big holiday season around here.  Always a crazy time.  And I am even behind in that because...

Finally, after a year of being completely confounded by all the little loops that previously all looked exactly the same and HOW CAN ANYONE POSSIBLY DO THIS?, I have finally unlocked the secret to crochet.  And my inner 80-year-old is having a field day. She refuses to put down the yarn and crochet hook and get off the couch to do anything.  She does not care if the family blog is updated or not.  She can wait till another time to do frivolous things like "laundry" and "dusting."  She doesn't even really care if the kids' faces *might* look a little dirty.  But I've had a stern talk with her about putting down her crochet and moving over to make room for 37-year-old mommy.  So, before I go give Libby's face a quick swipe with a soapy washcloth, I give you "The Big Dig 2011."

For quite some time Steve has been wanting to add a little brick walkway up the side of the drive.  After thoroughly researching the project, it was time to begin.  He began by digging out the area to be paved.  Soon, he was joined by little helpers.  Lots of little helpers. At one point he had six boys from our street out helping him dig.  Sadly, the only picture I got of this was on my phone, and I am too technologically impaired to figure out how to upload it.  But here are Steve and our boys toward the end of Phase Dig:

After laying gravel and sand and tamping, smoothing, and leveling the whole mess, it was time to lay the bricks:

A little more sand, and voila! The finished product:

The boys could not have been more thrilled to be part of the project, and we could not be more thrilled that they were actually quite helpful!

Stay tuned for the next installment of Pirates and Petunias, coming soon:  "Andrew's Birthday." 

And somebody, please...hide my yarn bag.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wee Wee Wee

Setting:  The minivan.  Libby is crying over something random.

Steve (trying to use reverse psychology to make her stop):  Libby, can you cry all the way home?

Libby:  NO!

Steve:  Why not?

Libby:  Because I'm NOT a little piggy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Libby's Lunch Order

Me:  Libby, what do you want for lunch today?

Libby:  A hot dog and no nap!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Halloween Events of 2011

Halloween 2011 began with a fun kindergarten pumpkin night at Adam's school. All the kindergartners and their families brought their pumpkins to be measured, weighed, and carved. Then everyone took the pumpkins outside, lit candles inside them, and lined up all the jack-o-lanterns in the dark. What a neat family night! Libby even won a prize for having the lightest pumpkin!

Adam's next fun event was Book Character Dress-Up Day at school.  Steve and I tried desperately to convince him to dress up as Hedgie the Hedgehog from the book Hedgie Blasts Off -- to no avail. So Adam went to school decked out as Darth Maul from the classic (ha ha) children's book Lego Star Wars: Darth Maul's Mission.

Our Halloween feast this year was quite spooky.  We had Witch's Hair with Frog-Gut Stew (black and white pasta which looked super creepy but was actually pretty tasty with spaghetti sauce) and Jack-o-Lantern Whoopie Pies.  I brought out a side of garlic bread and asked the kids to guess what it was.  They decided to call it Vampire Repellent, which was quite creative, especially in light of the fact that I was just going to call it "Regular Old Garlic Bread."

However, if you ask the kids, the best part of Halloween Dinner was the Witches' Brew -- root beer floats.

Libby the Sunflower 

Captain America

Darth Vader

Libby could not wait to go trick-or-treating with Ella boss Ella around all night.  Ella seemed to take it all in good stride.  Thank goodness she is a patient little friend!

And Halloween wouldn't be complete without the annual photo of the usual suspects getting ready to shake down the neighbors for some candy...

And that, folks, is our Halloween from soup to Zagnuts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


In accordance with my rabid dislike of cooking and food preparation, I thoroughly despise packing school lunches.  Trying to come up with a balanced meal and healthy snack every day that is both portable and edible is not my idea of a good time.  Throw in a picky kid (I don't know where he gets it...ahem), and packing tomorrow's lunches can suck the joy right out of my evening. 

After two years of packing school lunches for Mr. Picky Andrew, I have learned to run certain items by him before tossing them into the lunch bag unless I want to find out they were tossed into the trash at school.  So last week as I was packing lunch for the boys, I was doing my usual preventative questioning as I went: 

"Andrew, peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and honey? Granola bar or graham crackers?"

Andrew gave his specifications to the nth degree, as usual.

"Adam, sandwich or ravioli?  Peaches or applesauce?  Do you want green peppers for your snack? Chocolate milk or Capri Sun?"

Finally Adam looked up at me, heaved a great sigh, and said, "Geez, Mom, I don't care.  Just pack somethin'."

Wow, lunch packing just got easier by half.  Thanks, Adam!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Libby the Philanthropist

All the kids at preschool were asked to bring in a gently used book to donate on Friday.  When I told Libby about this, her immediate response was, "Not one of my books!"

After I spent a moment basking in the glow of that proud, proud parenting moment, I explained to Libby that we were going to share a book with a child who didn't have any books.  As I spoke, I could almost see a light bulb turning on in her brain.  She said, "I know!" and ran off.  Phew!  I haven't raised a completely selfish monster, I thought to myself. 

A minute later, Libby walked down the stairs carrying a whole stack...of Andrew's books.  "We can give them Andrew's books!"

It is so easy to be generous with other people's stuff.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Hedgehog Returns...Minus a Tooth

It's been a big month for Adam!  In addition to starting kindergarten, he lost his first tooth!  I caught a glimpse of something white in his mouth one night; and upon closer inspection, I found his new "adult" tooth growing in quickly behind the baby tooth he had not yet lost.  Within a few days, the baby tooth was ready to come out.  It's actually a little difficult to tell that Adam even has a missing tooth since the new one is practically all the way in already!  Adam was so excited that the tooth fairy visited that he came in to tell 5:30 am.

In other Adam-related news...THE HEDGEHOG HAS RETURNED!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Project Runway

Our fashion designer Libby is modeling her own entry in tonight's runway show.  For this challenge to make a ready-to-wear item using only craft supplies, Libby has created an A-line asymmetrical skirt made of drawing paper and tape.  We think the hand-drawn marker design on the back gives it a more expensive custom look.

Libby has completed the look by using the Piper Lime accessory wall thoughtfully with watermelon boots and a polka-dotted hairbow.

Way to make it work, Libby!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten

Somehow it is time for Adam to start kindergarten.  He is ready to go, reflective backpack straps and all! 

(I love this picture with all my heart.)

I really can't believe he is old enough to be in this classroom.

And I won't lie...I was awake the entire night before Adam started kindergarten worrying praying.

But when we walked into the classroom, his teacher gave him a big hug.  And I felt much better.

...And much better still when Adam came home.  He wouldn't tell me a thing about his day.  He didn't learn how to read.  But there was no note from the principal demanding explanations or reparations pinned to his shirt. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Andrew's Village

We have a really great school in our area. People apply for admission by the hundreds, and the school has to hold an annual lottery to determine fairly who will be able to attend. For three years we have entered Andrew's name into the lottery. For three years, no success. For three years we have prayed fervently, unceasingly, that one day our children would be able to go to this school.

Last spring, Andrew's name was higher on the waiting list than it's ever been, but that didn't mean much (we thought). He still wasn't "in." Another disappointment. Until Friday, when we received a very extremely WILDLY unexpected phone call. School had started over a week ago, but there were some children who didn't show. Were we still interested in having Andrew attend the school?

Um, let me think abou----YES!!!!!!!!

I did not come up for breath all weekend. We had two and a half days to get Andrew ready to start school on Monday. It was tax-free weekend here, and I had purposely planned NOT to go out because it. is. a. zoo. But there I was, with all the other raging crazies lovely, well-mannered people frantically buying school supplies, uniforms, and shoes. I mean, I went to Target. I went to the mall. I went to Walmart. On tax-free weekend. That's how much we wanted this school for Andrew.

In all the excitement and happiness and frantic filling out of endless paperwork, there was one tiny fly in the ointment. Andrew. For some reason, he was not happy to hear that summer's over! a month early! and that he has to go to a new school! and make new friends! and, oh, by the way...he gets to wear church clothes (uniforms) to school every day! including a belt!

There were many, many tears. And my heart broke for him. Really. I understand. I've been in his shoes. We moved a lot when I was young, and I attended six different elementary schools. Ultimately, though, all my stories and empathy could only go so far -- Andrew had to do this himself.

Sort of.

Andrew's little "village" of people who love him and who come alongside us to raise him stepped in in a big way. Our phone has rung non-stop for three days with grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors calling to check on him and offer him encouragement. People have come out of the woodwork to help in ways big and small.


Thank you to our small group, who rejoiced with us and prayed for Andrew.

Thank you to our parents, who have called Andrew to encourage him.

Thank you to the aunts and uncles who have offered bribes tangible incentives to Andrew out of the kindness of your hearts and your desire to take away Andrew's sadness.

Thank you to our neighbor, who graciously kept Adam and Libby at 7:30 in the morning so I could take Andrew to school for the first day without the hyena circus in attendance.

Thank you to everyone who has called or e mailed. Forgive us if we haven't called you back. It's been a little nuts.

Of course, Andrew doesn't really understand all this...well, the bribes...he got the bribes. Even so, this is what he looked like his first morning of school:

So sad.

Thank you most of all for praying. I know some of you were praying for his teacher, for his friends, for his fears...I don't know what all everyone prayed for, but here's how Andrew came home at the end of his first day:

It wasn't so bad!

Welcome to second grade, Andrew. You've got a lot of people pulling for you!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Polite as a Princess: The Sequel *New with Captions*

One of Libby's favorite new books (and mine!) is a little picture book called Polite as a Princess. It features various Disney princesses in little scenes showcasing good manners: "Snow White always waits patiently for her turn...Cinderella always covers her mouth if she coughs or sneezes...etc., etc." It is so cute and well done. Libby totally takes it to heart, so it is really helpful to talk about being "polite as a princess" in daily situations.

However, the author of the book left out a few key lessons about manners. So I humbly submit Polite as a Princess: The Sequel for little girls everywhere:

Page 1
Jasmine never refers to her rear end in public. She would never shout "I'm shaking my booty like a chicken!" in Target the bazaar.

Page 2
Nor would she loudly whisper it when her mommy told her that wasn't very polite and begged her to stop.

Page 3
Snow White patiently waits while her mommy is on the phone. She would never interrupt a phone call to a doctor/therapist/business associate of her daddy's/*name any professional* unless one of the dwarfs was bleeding or on fire.

Page 4
Cinderella *always* at least tries to go to the potty before leaving the house. Cinderella knows that public potties are filthy and disgusting and that they completely skeeve her mommy almost to the point of panic attacks.

Page 5
Ariel believes her mommy the first time when her mommy tells her she has no idea who that strange man riding a lawnmower by the side of the highway is. No, Ariel, Mommy doesn't know why he's riding a lawnmower. Sorry, Ariel, Mommy really doesn't know his name. Ariel, Mommy is trying to drive here. No, Ariel, Mommy can't look! We don't want to get into an accident! FINE, ARIEL, THE MAN'S NAME IS BOB! BOB, OK?


Page 6
Sleeping Beauty loves bedtime and goes immediately to sleep when her mommy and daddy turn out her light. After asking for and receiving one cup of water once she's in bed (which Sleeping Beauty and her parents all know she's not really thirsty for in the first place and is just using as a stall tactic), she would never dream of asking for another. Or another. Or another after that. Sleeping Beauty is intuitively aware that she is overtired and her mommy and daddy are D-O-N-E by about 7:30 every evening and is careful not to press her family's buttons once she's been put to bed for the night.

I think this book has the potential to do really well in the marketplace.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

50 Years

Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary to Steve's grandparents, Bill and Charmaine! The whole Nichols clan traveled to London, Kentucky to celebrate with Pop and Granny and many of their friends and extended family.
On Friday when we pulled into the hotel, I was beyond excited to see a Frisch's Big Boy restaurant in our parking lot. I haven't seen a Big Boy in years, and I realized when saw the grinning checkered Big Boy statue that my children have never eaten at a Big Boy. (Another Midwestern Mommy fail.) So Steve, his brother, and his brother's wife, and I all took the kids there to eat dinner. Before we knew it, the rest of the extended family trickled in little by little until our original party of eight became a party of sixteen. We kept apologizing to the waitress, but she took our crazy family in good stride. And now my children can move on with their lives, having finally experienced a Big Boy restaurant.

Friday night was spent gathered together in a couple of our rooms playing games (the kids) and making jewelry (the women). Libby made a bracelet with Aunt Carol, and it was the pride of her weekend. I made a bracelet with Aunt Carol, and it was the pride of my weekend!
The next morning we went to a nearby state park with the kids. While we were there, we saw these awkward fowl. Were they turkeys? Ducks? Chickens? Turduckens? They had webbed feet like ducks, that gross red skin all over their faces like turkeys, and feathers and spurs on their legs like chickens. Steve's brother googled "turkey duck" and found out that they were Muscovy Ducks. Creepy looking, aren't they?

Sadly, I took more pictures of those ducks than anything all weekend. Why? Because mutant ducks will pose for pictures with less hassle than my children. Plus there was a professional photographer at the anniversary party. I figured she could stress over who was sneaking a finger up a nose or making bunny ears in the family pics while I enjoyed myself!
Uncle Jon, Aunt Annie, and Cousin Oliver

The boys -- Adam, Cousin Logan, and Andrew


Unbelievable -- my boys looking at the camera and smiling NORMALLY! Hallelujah!

The Nichols grandkids -- the best we could do!
You may also notice that the subjects of my pictures are randomly dotted with little specks here and there. No, our family members aren't just messy eaters. (Well, OK, some of them are...but that's not the problem here.) Libby spent the weekend plastering everyone in Strawberry Shortcake stickers. I think probably half the adults didn't even realize that they were wearing Strawberry and her gal pals everywhere they went.
Later that afternoon we attended the anniversary party for Pop and Granny. The details at this party were much planning went into it! Watching the slide show and seeing Bill and Charmaine's courtship, marriage, and family through the years was so touching. I kept thinking how blessed I am...through the covenants of adoption and marriage I get to call this very special family and their legacy of faith my own. That feeling continued through the evening as we all stayed up late reminiscing and laughing together. (Seriously, I haven't laughed so much in a long time!)
Steve and his grandfather

50 years together -- Bill and Charmaine (Pop and Granny)
Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. Psalm 71:17-18