slide show

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tonto Nautral Bridge (AKA One of my favorite places on the planet!)


Last week I took the kids on a little day trip up to the AZ mountains.  Truth be told, the older boys went kicking and screaming, or at least complaining and eye rolling.  But some things in life aren't negotiable so we went all together and much to their surprise, they actually had a good time!  
Tonto Natural Bridge is off AZ SR 87, which if you are traveling around Sedona, is a quick and pretty drive.  Or if you come up from Phoenix, it's about an hour and a half up into the gorgeous forest.
First we stopped and picked up some subs and had lunch at the top before our hike down into the "bridge."
Do you see that little stream of water?  And how it seems to be going nowhere?   Keep that in mind, cause we'll see it again later.
It looks like a big cave here, but it you look closely, you'll see some light at the end.  It's actually a pass through on to the other side.  And it's MUCH bigger than it looks here, compliments of a 16mm focal length.
So we hiked down. Because down with 2, 7 years olds, a 4 year old and my big girl camera is always easier than up.
Once you climb all the way down you can see through the "bridge."  Look at the pic just above this, and you can see the little people at the bottom of this pic?  And look up toward the very top where the bridge meets the blue sky, and you'll see the water from that little stream we saw earlier coming off the edge and falling down below.  In the very first photo in this post you see all the water coming down too.
Inside it is layers of limestone that is wet and VERY slippery.  Everyone, kids and adults alike, usually resort to crawling on all fours and still everyone usually falls on their bum once or twice.  It was pure paradise for my fearless ninja who loves to climb.  She tried so hard to keep up with the big boys!  Actually she did keep up with them no problem. I love the last picture in this set.  It's like she's has little suckers on her hands and feet!
Mimi got fireman carried by our resident boy scout, Patch.  She was his buddy most of the time and when the climbing got tough, he just slung her over his shoulders and she hung on, clinging with her arms and legs squeezed around his arms while he climbed.  They made and excellent pair!
This place is so so special to me because long before it was a state park, my father used to take me here when I was Mimi's age and all through my childhood.  Of course there were no park rangers back then, and I remember climbing all over, exploring, falling on my bum, swimming in the pools all day long, while my papa would play his guitar and the singing would echo off the walls. This place is part of my childhood and to bring my own children back here, (even though there is now an entrance fee, lots of signs, no swimming allowed and park rangers) is such an wonderful little trip.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Photo Gallery (Hibiscus)


Is the weather in your neck of the woods starting to cool off?  Is it getting nippy and all the leaves have fallen or all falling off the tree?

Not here.  Not in the desert.
Over here in the desert, we're all starting to peek our heads back outside and loving the great outdoors again. Which of course means it's the start of the season where I show you lots of pics of green grass, people wearing flip flops and shorts and lots of lovely weather.  It's fair for what we endure over the summer months.

And of course the pink hibiscus in all their loveliness are in full bloom.
100mm, ISO 3200, f/4.0, 1/60th

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A little favor to ask...


Papa and I are again traveling to Pennsylvania to attending the Together Called conference in March next year.  We've honored that we've been asked to do a break out session again and we after some brain storming have decided that the topic of our session will be one of the questions we get most often about adoption, which is "How did your kids handle it?"  It referring to adoption and adding to siblings via adoption... I think.  The breakout session will be called, "Adoption: A Sibling's Perspective."

So with our children's permission, we're going to skip the middle man and asking our kids these questions directly.   Literally the kids are going to answer your questions and we'd really like YOUR help please!   Do you have any questions re adoption that you'd like to know a sibling's perspective of? Is there something you'd like to ask them about their adoption experiences?  We are looking for our children to give real answers... even to the tough stuff.   We're lucky that 2 our oldest children are now adults and can field questions some of the tougher questions.  We may re-word the questions or group them together and ask the questions to the right kiddo.  So anything goes.  

We'll be making a video of their replies for the conference and I'm really hoping that we'll be able to show it here on the blog too. 

So could you please comment with any questions you'd like the kids to answer?  

And what's a post without a pic... just keeping it real. 
Headlock and all.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dear Sunny...


We went to the Mekong market this weekend, and I thought of you.  The only reason we went was because Jude needed a hair cut.  Need?  Well not really need.  But he likes the feel of the back of his head when it's cut really short.  Like this, Papa. he says as he rubs his hand up the back his hair.  And so a hair cut was in order because you know your papa says no to almost nothing where his loves are concerned.
Luv that you can see Papa texting on his phone while he stays with Jude to get his hair cut!
So we went to Mekong to immerse ourselves in the middle of the Asian community, to be a minority. 'Cause you know how important it is to periodically immerse yourself in a world where you're the one that looks different, right?  Did I teach you that while you were here?  I hope so.  It's important.  I know you have a large Hispanic community where you are.  Be in it.  Feel how it is to be the Caucasian girl in the middle of dark skinned people. It's good to do that.  God makes us all the same on the inside you know.
So Papa, who speaks only 1 word of Vietnamese, (Thank you. Okay maybe that's 2 words.) pointed the the man that cut Jude's hair last time and then pointed to the haircut in the book that Jude wanted  and that was that.  Me and Papa, the two white people in a world of Asians.  I'm not sure if Papa actually said thank you in Vietnamese or not when it was done.  I hope so.  Sometimes it feels like we have so little to pass on to the little ones about where they came from.
See... the same ol' counter where we used to order boba smoothies together.  And the same ol' sign we still can't read either!
Mimi was bored of course, and I was thinking of you.  So the two of us headed over to get a boba smoothie at just the same place while we waited.  It hasn't changed any.  There are still about 30 types of smoothies and only 1 or 2 of them don't sound like seriously odd flavors.  So I stuck with my standard pineapple coconut just like you and I used to get.  It's funny that Jude just doesn't like boba.  He just doesn't get it, slurping up those gummy balls through the straw in his drink.  Thank you for making them when you lived here.  Boba always reminds me of you.
Jude is still quite unable to sit in a chair without falling out from all his wiggly and giggly.  Many things haven't changed. 
Then we had lunch a couple doors down.  There is a new Thai restaurant that they put in right next to the bakery.  It was good and had the prettiest Thai iced tea complete with rosette flower straw wrapper.  Papa had the curry, I had wide noodles with broccoli, Jude had fried spring rolls and we asked Mimi what she wanted and she said plain white rice.  So we got her Pad Thai, but she wanted nothing to do with it so we ordered her plain white rice later.  I have no idea what we were thinking getting her noodles.  Parenting kills brain cells you know.  I'm sorry about that.  You were our first and we didn't actually know what we were doing a lot of the time when you were little.  Still don't actually.
Papa getting us a very small 25 lb bag of rice from the rice isle. 
Then we went and did a bit of shopping.  We needed rice and you know how big the rice isle at Mekong is!  Of course there's lots of fruits that are all shrink wrapped too.  And as you remember it's always pretty crazy packed in the produce section.  And we also needed to stock up on coconut milk, and this is the cheapest place to get it.  $1 a can compared to $3 a can if I get it up at the market by the house.

And I know you remember the little bear cookies!  Tess has become the chocoholic of the family so she gets the chocolate ones with chocolate filling every time.  I urge Mimi to get the plain flavor ones with chocolate filling because they are my favorite, and you know I'm gonna sneak a few of course.  My bad.  And Jude tries to like them, but he really doesn't like them at all.  Crazy boy loves his fruits and veggies diet no matter how much I try Americanize him and make him like crap food!  It's odd.  I got you a box of these cookies to put in your next care package.  They did make it home, but I'm sorry, someone sneakily ate them.  As usually I can narrow down the suspects, but can't say who ate them for sure. So I'll get you a couple more next time I visit MeKong.

And I also got you a couple cans of Thai Tea.  Do they have these in New Mexico too?  I know you love them!
They also made it home, and they too are also missing.  Maybe nobody ate the cookies at all.  Maybe yours truly just can't find stuff.  Both scenarios for the disappearing stuff are totally possible and probable.

Then there is the noodle isles pictured below.  They are still packed with more types of noodles than we even knew existed.  Do you see those bowls of noodles in the bottom right of the pic in the round bowls?  We discovered how good they are in China.  They are like really good Top Ramen.  If they have any at your little Asian market, give them a  try.  There's really nothing in them that's good for you except surely sodium and MSG, but they are fast and easy.  Beware that the hot ones are HOT.
Your favorite squid salad!  I can't pass it without thinking of you. 
And just like always, a visit to the Vietnamese bakery for coconut bread is last. Oh my. I am still addicted to it!
It's been a year and a half since we said our goodbyes, and I'm still quite at a loss without you.  There's this hole in my heart where you're everyday life used to be.  And where I used to be right next to you in it.  I've been told that that hole actually never goes away.  I miss your company, sweet daughter.  I miss the crazy gene that I'm obviously passed on to you since you're father obviously isn't responsible for it.  I miss dance parties in the living room and the stories you'd tell.  Okay truth be told, I don't miss the piles, but I sure would be willing to get past them to have you with me.

I know from our talks and texts that nursing school is kicking your butt these days.  Although I have to say that you look SO cute in scrubs!  Please remember that the best most wonderful things can come from the things that are hard.  There is nothing wrong with hard work.  It will end.  Keep persevering and not only will you get through it, but the rewards will be everything you've hoped for and more.  I know that you already know this, and I also know that knowing it and doing it are two very different things indeed.  You can do this.  Yes, you will make mistakes and that's to be expected.  Learn from them and move on.  That's all anyone can ask. In someways I know you better than you know yourself, and you have absolutely everything in you to finish this strong!

Send my love to the Airman too.  I already love him so much.  We have no doubt that he is a wonderful man!  You and he are good together, knit from the same cloth of dreams, aspirations and action.

All my love,

Mama

Monday, October 20, 2014

Photo Gallery {our little butterfly}


“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, 
but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ~Maya Angelou

We walked into the store in early September, she saw the wings and of course the decision to be a butterfly for Halloween was made right then and there!  So of course I bought the wings!

And almost as soon as I got home she decided she wanted to be a princess!  I should have seen that one coming.

But we were financially committed to the butterfly at that point, and she was okay-ish with that... eventually.  So I spend the next 2 months gathering up the extra items for her costume, and she spent the next 2 months asking me to try them every day.  Eventually I relented 'cause really could you turn that sweet face down?!

Look out Halloween neighbors!
Here come the cutest butterfly ever!



PS She likes gummy bears and anything chocolate.

PPS I have no idea what tutus have to do with butterflies, except it's another excuse to wear a tutu!

PPPS I'm pretty sure she's gonna insist on being a princess every year for the rest of her life. I take full responsibility for scaring her.

PPPPS I prefer to use the term parsimonious.  Not cheap.  Or cheap skate.  But ya, I totally am.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"I see other families that seem perfect and happy, and then I look at mine."


On the Q&A Carol asked the following question:


Nancy-

I'm having a hard time with my 15 year old daughter. When I have lunch with other moms, they talk about their teens and I just sit there thinking, "Her daughter's worst day is better than my daughter's best!" She doesn't do anything too bad, like drugs and sex, but she is strong willed. By strong willed, I mean that she doesn't like listening to our instructions and she argues with us about everything. She is rude to adults sometimes. 

I bet you didn't see my mother of the year award, 'cause I sure didn't get nominated. I have definitely yelled back at her, said some things no teenage girl should ever have to hear (I don't want to talk about that.), and I have made countless impulsive decisions. I hate saying this. I have thought to myself many times, "what the heck have I (done) to create this monster?" Around the clock I am begging for God's grace. I am not qualified to be her mother. 

I am at loss for words for how I feel. I see other families that seem perfect and happy, and then I look at mine. 

What is the secret formula to getting through those tough teenage years? Are all teens like that? Is it easier with the second, third, then fourth teen? Like I said earlier, I am not qualified to do this. What do you do with the strong willed children?

The timing of your questions hits me square on the head, Carol.  I have a dear best friend who I've been meeting with weekly for the last couple months. We seem to both be dealing with some pretty big stuff lately, (like big ginormous stuff) and have been getting together regularly to cry it out, be a voice of reason, assure the other that we are not going crazy and that we are continuing to do the best we can even though if we're honest it often feels like that's not nearly good enough.

You say, "She doesn't do anything too bad, like drugs and sex..."  I'm sure you are a very wonderful and approachable woman, but I hope you appreciate that a mom whose child does do drugs and has lots of sex, would have equally hard time confiding her parenting issues with you or anyone for that matter!  She's not likely to share these difficulties around the lunch table with other moms. So much of it is perspective.  Around that lunch table, we are all trying to put our best foot forward and/or hide the really hard stuff.  But because I've been so open on the internet with the issues we've encountered, I've been very surprised by what other moms have shared with me.  There is an anonymity to sharing the hard things with a blog stranger.  So what I've heard has assured me that I am NOT the only one to be faced with these teen challenges. And I assure you, neither are you!  It's just not talked about very openly because it is so so hard.  

Don't get me wrong.  I'm sure that there are wonderful moms that do have it all together with few to no problems. Moms that do have all the answers and do it all right... although I haven't met her yet.  I'm sure that there are teens that grow up with little to no boundary pushing and eye rolling.  Although I haven't had one yet.  But I really believe that the majority of families have their fair share of issues, yet on the outside, they look like they have it all together. But we know that life isn't always like what it looks like on the outside.  And the inside stuff isn't shared casually, nor should it be.  Our teens, just like us, have the right to fail without it being broadcast.  I would expect nothing less for myself after all. 

So Carol, what I'm trying to say is that in reality what's being discussed around the lunch table, (or at a PTO meeting, or over coffee or insert any event moms get together here) although it may be the truth, isn't necessarily the WHOLE truth.  I remember when my children were younger and the discussions between moms were quite different.  We shared the tribulations of raising younger children more easily.  
Biting
Defiance
Throwing sand at another child
A struggling student
The short comings of young children are easier to talk about around the lunch table, maybe because these tribulations are expected and are still considered a part of growing up and not a reflection of parenting.  And heck it's often cute when they're little.  I will easily tell you about the time our Patch was in 1st grade and was following a little girl who was climbing the ladder to the slide.  When she wouldn't go up (fast enough?) he bit her on the butt.  It's sad, and it's totally wrong.  And it's also kinda funny! 

But will I tell you now specifically what we deal with in raising teenagers?  
Will I tell you about drug abuse, sexual experimentation, promiscuity and self injury?  
No.  
Will I tell you about the amount of money spent on counseling and the nights of tears, decisions to medicate or not and inpatient treatment centers. 
No.  
Will I discuss around the lunch table suicide, eating disorders and punching a hole in the wall... again.  
No.  
No longer are the mistakes of teens considered a regular part of growing up. Somewhere along the line these actions become a reflection of not only who our child is but of our parenting skills. And that's not something soccer moms are going to talk about in casual conversation.  (The above scenarios are all things that I and my closest friends have dealt with recently.)

All this to say that I think what you're experiencing is more normal than you think.  Not fun but normal.  In in the face of such stress I too have failed miserably.  I have yelled.  And felt the guilt right along to go with it. I have said and done things I regret.  And I've tried to change my ways... only to fail again.  We are moms, not saints, and we are fallible especially when confronted with repeated mistake, lying, in-you-face aggression, insolence, defiance, hostility stress.  

But I do know this, (and maybe I'm talking to myself here more than you or anyone else!)  God picked YOU to be her mother, and God does NOT make mistakes. You are the perfect mother for her, faults and all.  He has given you exactly what you need to be the mom your daughter needs, faults, shortcomings and all.  As for forgiveness, try to do better with all you have, get help when you need and keep parenting with all you have.  Isn't this exactly what you ask of your daughter after all?  You don't expect your daughter to be perfect, and as a mom you are not without fault either.  But rather than be perfect you want her to own up when she makes mistakes, ask for forgiveness, ask for help when the going gets tough, then keep living life, learning, growing and developing into a young woman that's not perfect but learns from mistakes and makes herself and her world better because of it. Role model that with all you have!  Own up to your mistakes, and ask her to forgive you when you mess up.  Do better the next time even when it's hard.  Especially when it's hard!  You may not see it reflected in her for years to come, but it absolutely will sink in.  They will hear what you say even if their actions and words don't reflect it.  And with patience, repetition and time, your parenting pays off eventually.  But you do have to keep at it. 

I also know that there is no secret formula, Carol.  A fabulous support system, a solidly rooted marriage, a firm foundation built in the 12 years before they become teens all definitely help, but I wouldn't go so far as saying it's a secrete formula that assures smooth sailing in the teen years.  We've had 3 teens so far, and will be adding a 4th in the next year, and I cannot tell you how HUGELY different our experiences with all 3 have been.  and no, it didn't get easier.  All of them have had trials, that have put us through the wringer, but in very very different ways.  And like I said, I'm sure there are teens that go through puberty and growing up under smooth sails, but I think they are rarer then it appears on the surface and we certainly haven't had that experience.  

Remember that friend that I told you about in the beginning.  As we talk at our weekly meetings, we are constantly in a state of shock that the "issues" that we encounter with raising our teens, are far from the ones that we thought we'd have to deal with.  We mentally prepared for what we though would be the worst case scenario, and we even subconsciously made game plans to deal with those issues.  But part of parenting is the unexpected crappola that pops up out of nowhere to throw your parenting for a loop.  And OH MY HANG ON TO YOUR SEATS when it does. Because not only is it a big deal, but mentally as parents we were totally caught off guard and left with the emotions of denial, embarrassment, anger, frustration, fear, resentment, exhaustion and total hook-line-and-sinker love, all rolled into a ball of parental stress. In addition to keeping your marriage strong, the next thing I recommend is to go to a GOOD friend, and I mean your very bestest friend, (maybe it'll even be relative, your mom, aunt, grandparent... that you TRUST with all you have and can confide in and will be honest with you.  One that you love and one that you knows loves you and thus your children too. You know the friend because she's the one you can tell anything and you still feel totally safe.  She's also the one that risks by sharing with you.  I'm a firm believer that without reciprocation it's not a balanced relationship.) and talk to her.  She loves you and your children after all and thus has your children's best interest at heart.  

I don't think I'm any more qualified to deal with strong willed teens than you are. I don't think any of us are, Carol!  There's just too much prepare for when parenting teens in this day and age.  I totally feel like I'm wingin' this parenting thing most all the time.  But I have come to an acceptance with the wingin' it feeling.  I do my best.  I own up when I'm wrong.  And I try with all I have to do better the next time.  And in the end, that's exactly what I want me children to learn to do! 

And a glass of wine and looking at pretty things doesn't hurt either!  So even though it's totally unrelated and because it's my blog so I can post totally unrelated randomness if I want, here's a pretty thing to look at.  

If you'd like to ask me a question and get your own totally random answer that may or may not be relevant to the original question you asked... click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"I'm definitely up to something"


...and that something is playing with Lego's on my bed, and this something can go on for hours and hours if nothing stops him.
Given a box of Lego's and no little people to take the favorite pieces, Jude will build and "fly" his spaceship over and over over.  
He's such a sweet boy with a firm sense of right and wrong and justice.  He's earned the title of Crazy 9 hall monitor, reporting every infraction of rules he sees. 
Despite the huge lack of Tiger mom in me, daily he eagerly studies spelling words, trying so hard to earn a perfect grade on his spelling test each Friday.  
And truth be told, he's very rarely "up to something" since he's mostly a linear, rule- following kind of guy!  
Wasn't it just yesterday when he was only 1 year old, his surgery complete and he had chubby cheeks to die for?  The years pass far too quickly. 

I know that gonna miss this season of Lego's some day!  

Monday, October 13, 2014

The dragon slayer & the princess


I picked up Tess and Jude from school   The remnants of a storm were clearing out, and the clouds were pretty awesome so I couldn't resist snapping a little Instagram pic of Jude.  I looked at the image on my phone and knew I HAD TO come back with my big girl camera.

By the time I got back, Jude no longer wanted to do anything with me, Mimi and Tess had transformed into their after school super hero personas, and the sun was starting to set.  It was perfection.
I've decided to have the bottom 3 images printed big on canvases and hang them in the little girl's room. Truth be told they won't go with any of the decor of their room.  And that's gonna be totally okay because capturing these images are such blessing for me, not to mention a total representations of where my little girls are right now.  And I think that makes it pretty stinkin' perfect!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Photo Gallery {Dragon slayer}


We used to have Fire Dog with us.  But time passes and things change.

And now we have a ninja.
Tess's obsession with ninjas has been going on about a year now.  
Her favorite color is black.  
Her favorite birthday gift was a ninja costume.  
There's a lot of what's going on in the above photo  going on at all times. 
We enrolled her in Karate classes... cause she's a ninja and all so that seems kinda totally appropriate to do so.  

Ya, I'm kinda seriously morning the passing of our beloved Fire Dog, which if you weren't around in our Fire Dog days and have no idea what I'm talking about, you can see what I'm talking about here. Now obviously we're still feeling equally as safe against invasions from general urban marauders since we've transitioned to our own personal ninja and all.  But Fire Dog season has passed and is yet another reminded to savor the here and now. So onward and upwards to embrace my ninja girl!

I asked her what she was doing in this photo. She looked at me like I had just sprouted a second head.  Killing a dragon!  She exclaimed. 

Dragon slaying.
I'm adding that to her resume.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

365 Project (September)


This summer I started participating in a 365 project.  That's where photographers {try} to post a pic every single day for a whole year!  I've attempted them before only to embarrassingly give up a couple weeks later. It's harder than it sounds. Some 365 groups have themes or strict rules wanting specific subject matter.  The one I'm doing right now has next to no rules, except that we try to shoot a pic Every. Single. Day.  Sometimes it takes me a week to get the pic posted to the group, but so far, I'm still doing it and haven't missed a day yet!

But.... like I said, it's
not easy!  The problem is that I'm not often "inspired" to take a pic everyday!  And so the day is coming to an end, the light it getting low and Oh NO! I still need to take a photo today!  So finding the beauty in the ordinary everyday becomes my real objective.  And challenging it is!  But like any skill, practice helps, and lately I've been noticing some serious photography skillage in this group of ladies that are in the 365 project that I'm in!  One of the GREAT advantages of doing a project like this in a group is that everyday I get to be inspired by everyone's ordinary everyday!  The images I see this group of ladies post are so gorgeous, varied and beautiful!  Serious ladies, plain ol' life is beautiful!  From the Arizona desert, to Amish Pennsylvania, all the way to Scandinavia!  Our everyday ordinary lives are blessed, abundant and wonderful!

So here are just a small smattering of our 365 project from September.  I hope you find inspiration to see the beauty in your everyday ordinary too!  And maybe it will even inspire you to pic up your camera every day too and snap a pic or two!  

 From Christy, taken in the Pacific Northwest
From Amy in southeast Wisconsin
 From Dawn in Michigan
 From Deb in NewYork
 From Erin in the Appalachian mountains in Pennsylvania.
More of her beautiful pics are here
 From Kristen who was attended the First Annual Dragon Boat Festival in Cary, North Carolina
 From Lill-Karin in gorgeous Norway!
This is the view from her office... oh yes it is!
 From Michele in Minnesota
From Elaine who lives on a beautiful hobby farm in southern North Carolina.  
More gorgeous images from her are here
 From yours truely (still in the Arizona desert!) 
 From Saina in Virginia
 From Senni (Saina's sister) in northern New Hampshire.
More of her gorgeous work is over at Our Mothership Adventures
 From Shannon also in North Carolina
 From Tyrie out of Chicago
Watching the growth of the women in this group has been so amazing!  Thank you ladies for continuing to inspire me every day!

If you've been bitten by the photography bug, I can not recommend a 365 project enough!  Picking up your camera Every. Single. Day. is a wonderful way to not only refine your skills, but define your own style. 

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