Thursday, April 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Gabby!

How is it that my baby girl is SEVEN today?  It is such a weird feeling. . .she is my fifth to turn seven and seven isn't really that big of a deal, but for some reason, her turning seven today has me kind of off kilter.  I am overcome with love and joy and thankfulness for this adorable and loving and compassionate and funny little girl in my life. . . .  At the same time I'm floored that that same little girl is growing up so quickly.  I want to savor every  moment with her and I feel like those moments are slipping away too quickly.  Maybe it is because she is my baby.  Maybe it is because she is such a joy and a blessing.  (Maybe it is because I am nearly 40 and everything is seeming to blur by these days?)  Whatever it is, I cannot believe that my Gabby is seven today!

As I so often do, I want to give a shout out to her tummy mommy.  She is probably out there somewhere and I know that today (probably not really today, but whatever the actual BIRTH day is) she is thinking of her daughter.  I love Gabby's tummy mommy.  I truly do and I cannot wait to wrap my arms around her neck in heaven (maybe before?) and thank her for the gift of her daughter.  What a brave woman she must be.  I love telling Gabby about her tummy mommy.  I think about her all of the time.  (Sorry, to her bio father, because I don't think of him much--just that mommy bond.)  I wonder if Gabby got her sense of humor from her?  Did she get her huge heart from her?  Did she get her compassion from her? Did she get her sas from her?  I'm not sure what came from her other mom and what has grown on her from us, but today I am thankful for that lady in Rwanda who brought Gabby into the world.  Thank you for being brave enough to bring her into the world and then to leave her at the gate of the most wonderful orphanage in Kigali!

And then there is my Gabby.  You are my joy!  You have made our life more complete, more fun, more three demential!  I cannot imagine life without you.  I love the laughter you bring.  I love the spice you bring!  I love watching you with each of your siblings--you and Maggie are kind of the glue that holds this family because you both can get along with everyone so well.

So, Happy Birthday, my dear baby girl!  You are a blessing and I cannot describe the deep and unbreakable bond we share and the love I have for you.  It is irreplaceable and indescribable and I am so thankful that it is kind of my little secret that I get to cherish due to the fact that I cannot express it fully!  I love you, Gabby, and my life is better because you are in it!
This is one of the first pictures I received of Gabby.  Who could have ever imagined how she'd turn my heart inside out!
This is a pic of Gabby while we were in Africa before I brought her home.
This is one of my favorite early pics of Gab.  She was in our living room a couple of weeks after she came home.  By then she had all of us around that little finger!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Family Car

Today we bought our "family car."  (This is kind of just one of those posts "for the books"--a post that I really don't need to be posting for any other reason, than just for me as I look back on the years.)  It has been quite the surreal week of test driving and buying for my soon-to-be sixteen year old son.  I remember thinking about when this time would come and feeling like it was an eternity away and BOOM! today was buy the family car day.  How in the world?!?  So, we got a great deal on a great car that will hand down nicely from Hays to Maggie to Tiki to Dax to Gabby (in the ideal world--the world free of fender benders and other nonsense).  We feel very lucky to have found the car and the very Type A owner it had (with every oil change receipt in a nice file).  For now it will be sitting in the drive way.  In just a few months it will be the vehicle that brings major change to my life--when one of the five can drive (and help out?).  That is a future blog post.  But for now, we're a three car family and that third car carries so much underlying meaning and emotions.  Wow!  Life is changing as my kids are growing!
Hays test driving it yesterday!  Needless to say, he was/is on Cloud 9.  (It's going to be a long five months of looking at it in the driveway each day!)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Their Hallways

So, we got to spend the weekend with the Hall Family again and it was SO MUCH FUN!!!  Remember, their blog is and you can read about their year of road schooling around America!!!

We've had a FULL weekend of white water rafting, mountain biking, hiking. . . we've been all over Durango and up to Silverton and Ouray!  It has been a ball!  I've loved it!!!

It has been so good for me to be with friends!  I have seriously loved every minute!  Talking and laughing and just being with people who have known me for twenty years.  It has been fun and refreshing--we have laughed SO MUCH!  The Hall family has been such a blessing!

On top of all of that, we've had super Braner family time and we have loved having Andy home.  It is fun being Party of 7 and the moments we get to spend together are moments I treasure!!!
That's Hays guiding that raft through Smelter

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Longest Saturday

I was driving to town to get the kids donuts this morning (we have a house-full this weekend) and I started thinking about this Easter Weekend and how yesterday being Good Friday is a very big deal day and tomorrow being Easter Sunday is a very big deal day, but today is just in the middle.  Then I started thinking about the people who loved Jesus as son and brother and friend.  Today must have been a strange day with the rip-you-heart-out sadness of loosing a loved one mixed with the hope of what if what He said was true and he will rise.  So I was thinking about this Saturday.  Loss is painful.  And hope is exciting and even a little unnerving at times because it is unknown.

I was thinking about the "longest Saturday" in my life. . . a time filled with sadness and mourning and yet very hopeful.  I think we all have these longest Saturdays.  Whether it be the sadness of something heartbreaking happening in my marriage but being hopeful that the best is yet to come and through love and trust and perseverance "Sunday" will come in my marriage.  Or if it is the frustration and confusion of a difficult child and knowing that "Sunday" is coming or the moods of a teenager and wondering where in his life you fit now, but knowing with hope that "Sunday" is coming.  I think we all have long "Saturdays" in our life due to loss and heart break and betrayal and disappointment, but in many situations we are hopeful that "Sunday" is coming.  We are sad and lost and desperate, but we believe that it will pass as we persevere with love.  "Sunday" is coming.

I don't mean to take anything away from this Easter weekend.  I don't mean to say that my "Saturdays" are anything like that weekend nearly 2000 years ago.  And I don't want to take away from the magnitude of this weekend.  The fact that my Savior died for me, was cut off from His Father for me and then He rose again on Sunday.  Nothing can compare.  But it just made me think about today for His mom.  How sad and dark today must have been but with that glimmer of hope wondering and hoping beyond belief that He would rise tomorrow.

So, in my "Saturday," I choose to believe that "Sunday" is coming and that is HOPE!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wheat Free Test Results

This is what the counter top looked like. . . twelve items to taste test.
So, I conducted a wheat-free snack test today and it was a much bigger success than I ever imagined. I had visions of Dax hating everything and Tiki liking most, but deciding to not like it to be like Dax. Well, it was such a smashing hit that all five kids wanted to be involved.  I'm so excited--excited because it was fun and because they have some self-proclaimed "yummy" options!!!  This round was simply snack food and lunch box items--not cereal and pasta and bread yet.
I put each item in a baggie because I knew if they (mostly Dax) saw that package, his taste buds would be swayed!
Below are the twelve items we taste tested.  The number on the package was my "secret number for the clear baggies.  The initials on the bags/boxes are who thought that snack was a "yes."  I'll keep you all posted on how the bread, tortillas and pasta test goes when we do that one!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Wheat Free Twins

So, we are taking a trial week of wheat free for the "twins."  Why?  Well, for a few reasons. . .  where to begin?

First of all, wheat isn't great for us.  It just isn't.  When I stay away from it, I feel so much better.  That is one thing I've realized on these products and with this new healthy lifestyle.  When I stay away from the things that aren't good for me (like wheat), I just feel better.  Do I still eat wheat?  Some.  I'm not really the die hard type when it comes to food.  But I feel awful when I eat it.

Secondly, I have read and heard that taking wheat out of his diet could be great for Tiki.  I've heard it from other adoptive parents.  I've heard it from other parents of children with some issues.  I've read about it.  I actually tried to be wheat free for Tiki, but that only lasted about 6 hours.  I just didn't have the motivation.  There was a will, but it wasn't strong enough and so I didn't really make the way.

Third, Dax has been struggling with major tummy issues as well as skin issues and this really annoying habit of sniffing all of the time and he doesn't even realize he is doing it.  Well, yesterday I was talking with a girl friend and she told me that they have tried to go wheat free for one of their boys because he was sniffing all of the time and his skin was weird. . . .

So, I have me and Tiki and Dax all maybe needing to be wheat free.  We're going to try.  We're going to give it a week.  For this week I'm going to try to be wheat free for the twins.  Will I be able to tell a difference in a week?  I have no idea.  I'm hoping for some sign that it is working either with Tiki's behavior or with Dax's sniffing or skin or tummy.

We'll reevaluate after this week.  Will I ever be a 100% stickler?  I doubt it.  But let me give it a week before I make any drastic statements.  I think, like with most things, moderation is the key.  I don't think being extreme is wise.  I don't think saying "ever" or "never" or whatever is wise.  I just want to see.  What is wheat doing to my boys?  Can I be consistent?  So many questions.  We'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Israel & Palestine

Andy and Hays had the best time in Israel and Palestine last week.  As they've gotten over jet lag, more details have come out and both sets of eyes light up when they talk about it!  The trip was SO MUCH MORE than just a steps of Jesus time.  Andy really used the trip to show the Kivu kids and parents the steps of Jesus and then how to actually love the way Jesus told us to love as they crossed the border into Palestine and saw what the news never shows in terms of what is truly happening over there.  One of Hays's many highlights was spending time with his friends from Bethlehem.  They went caving together and had a surprise birthday party for one of the girls together and ate together.  How fun to get to visit your Palestinian friends as a fifteen year old?!?!?  Hays literally is on cloud nine and is hoping to do an exchange program next school year.  I'm all for it for him!!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Hall Family

So, one of Andy's best friends in college is staying in Southwest Colorado with his family for several weeks and they headed our way today (we are SO thankful that they will be "heading our way" several times over the next three weeks).  His family sold just about everything and bought an RV and they are touring America with their 4 kids.  Their travels and adventures are unbelievable!  You can see their journeys HERE.  So fun!!!

Anyway, they came over today and we headed to Molas for some sledding.  It was cold and snowy and weather you'd only go out in if you were from out of town!  We hit the mountain anyway!!!  It was a blast!  No one noticed the cold and we stayed up for hours!  Then we headed home for dinner and playing.  The kids got along so well and it was so refreshing to be with old friends!

There will be many more posts to follow about our adventures with the Hall family, I'm sure!!!
Mike and his wonderful wife, Heather!
The boys (Hays & Andy are still traveling the world).

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dance, Staycation 2.0 & Catch Up

I keep getting behind in my blogging this year.  I have so much to say about so many things.  I love my family and my life and I am so busy loving them that I forget to update. . . but I for sure need to keep up because this week I deleted ALL of the pictures off of my computer and my blog is my only back up, so I realized this week how thankful I am for this space!!!

Spring Dance
Maggie's Middle School Spring Dance was last night and she looked so beautiful and so happy!  She and her best friend, Lexy (who just moved here this year and we are so thankful that she and her whole family are here) got ready together at our house.  I love Maggie.  She's so down to earth and so fun and sweet and compassionate.  She's great.  Lexy is wonderful, too--always one to tell me that she loves me and to give me a big hug.  They were so fun to watch and to help!  Seventh grade is almost over for her and I can't believe that my baby girl is getting so old.
I had to take this picture because Maggie thinks its funny that I have a "putting on make up" picture from all of her dances.  Also, I just loved the back of her top, so it killed two birds with one stone!

Staycation 2.0
I never finished catching up from the rest of our Staycation.  Well, it truly was a STAYcation.  The kids stayed in their jambes most of the time and relaxed.  Even though I was frustrated, they really needed the down time and I think each one of them preferred the stay cation to a vacation this time!!!
It was so nice to have Andy home with us!  I love him!!!  (The hat was Maggie's compassionate gift--Andy was cold after a 40 mile bike ride so Maggie gave him her hat.)
Staycation meant some long overdue Honey-Do projects!
At one point all of these kids spent the night.  It was SO FUN!!!  The older boy on the far right is a friend of ours from Cabo (he lives in Arkansas).  We met his family when the kids were toddlers and we have been with them in Cabo each year since.  He and his friend came to Purg to ski and they met up with Hays.
The boys hit the slopes for the last runs of the season with 7 inches of fresh pow.  Staycation--we live at a ski resort.  We are so blessed!!!
Girls had a bowling day.

Catching Up
Andy and Hays have been in Israel and Palestine this week and it has been really fun and quiet and relaxing with just the five of us.  We've decided to walk 50 miles as a family between now and camp, so we take walks after dinner around the neighborhood.  Its been fun.  One night we even grabbed the Greenbergs (neighbors) and had a two family walk.  I buzzed Dax's hair the other night.  He has issues with going to sleep at night and when Andy is gone it is "worse" because he wants to sleep with me.  So, that night I told him he could only sleep with me if he let me buzz his head (thinking he'd say no).  He said yes.  Needless to say, he's worn a hoodie every day since.  The littles love Baylor.  He's their play toy.  So yesterday they dressed him up in Dax's hoodie and made him leave it on.  Poor guy.  At least he is a sucker for physical touch and attention!
Standing in my tub while I buzzed off his hair!