slide show

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:


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.  
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?  
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. 
Will I discuss around the lunch table suicide, eating disorders and punching a hole in the wall... again.  
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. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Baby W & Red Thread Sessions

Did you notice that there is a new little blog bling over there on the side bar?  I'm now donating photography sessions for an amazing organization called Red Thread Sessions.  They are amazing and I am honored that I'd get to be a part of this wonderful group of photographers who are not only hugely talented but are willing to put their time and talents where to a wonderful cause, adoption.

Red Thread Sessions is a gathering of photographers all over the country that  have agreed to donate their time and talent by waiving their session fee to celebrate the beauty of your adoption through photography.  There are photographers all over the country!  And they offer 3 different type of sessions.

  • a homecoming session where the photographer meets the adoptive family at the airport
  • an open adoption birth session
  • an adoption portrait session taken within the first 3 months of a finalized adoption.
If you are in the process of adopting a child, and would like a free photography session, I recommend going over there and checking them out!
Baby W is 9 days old here.  Oh my.  Oh my my MY!
I've done 2 sessions so far for 2 amazing and incredible families.  This is the gorgeous J family that is adopting a Safe Haven baby, Baby W.  They traveled to Phoenix from out of state with big brother and big sister too, to pick up their new son, and are now a family of 5!  

Congratulations, J family!
Thank you for allowing me the pleasure of photographing your gorgeous family!
Your family is not only stunningly gorgeous, but perfectly made!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Travelin' Man (part II)

I can not tell you how much your words of advice, support, and just plain ol' cyber hugs meant to me yesterday.  Y'all showered me with an outpouring of advice via comments and private messages. Several of you just gave me a cyber shoulder to rest on, or encouragement that it won't be this way forever, or very practical ways to deal with this busy and sometimes lonely season.
Thank you.
I mean really really THANK YOU!
I read through many of those messages that night after all the kiddos were in bed, the kitchen was finally clean and the house was quiet, (and admittedly again the next morning 'cause they were that good) and I wept a bit to know that I was not alone.  I don't think I had even admitted it to myself how much it was bothering me that he's gone so much and what that does to a mama of 7 and the rigmarole of parenting solo more than usual.  Let's just say 1) it wasn't pretty and 2) it was okay to be honest with myself and let it out.
And in a strange way, y'all were there with me with an outstretched glass of wine, a cyber shoulder to cry on, and a prayer.  This cyber blog world is an odd thing isn't it?!  But you were there in spirit and got me through it.
Thank you so much for that!

I read every single one of the emails, personal messages, Facebook posts and blog comments, and (Well I was really humbled because you actually read my silly ol' blog!) I came to the conclusion that I have the smartest and most supportive readers around!  I heard you say some great stuff and honestly, it's starting to make a difference already.

What I heard from this fabulous group of women is that we are all busy.  Some seasons are even busier than others.  And some women are busier than others.  I should not complain one bit with what some of you told me you are going through.  Raising children with a husband deployed.  Raising special needs children while a husband travels.  Raising someone else's children in the midst of it all. So it's worth saying again... some women are busier than others.  And some seasons are even busier than others.

I heard you say to keep it simple while my husband travels.  Keep the meals fast and easy.  Use a crock pot.  Eat breakfast for dinner.  Make a big casserole for a couple meals.  Keep a predictable routine especially for the busy times, like the getting-everyone-off-to-school routine and clean-the-kitchen-after-dinner routine.  Eliminate the extra and don't feel pressure to do more, bigger, better...   You didn't say it, but I heard myself say to get off my butt and do the hard stuff, because with that comes the biggest rewards!

I heard you say that an ounce of prep before the fact is worth a pound or work when it's crunch time.  So I'm being more intentional about meal planning and grocery shopping, and prepping breakfast, lunch, dinner and a even snack the evening before.  Now for me all this prepping really just means having a plan for tomorrow's meals, and getting out the recipe, pots, dry and canned ingredients... So the following day there is less thinking.  And honestly so far this less-thinking thing has made a difference!

 I heard you remind me, from first hand experience, that the men in our lives are none too happy about being away from us and their children any more than we are to have them gone.  In the midst of all this meal prepping and car pooling, I often forget to consider his perspective.   He's working his booty off missing us at the same time.  (Still what I wouldn't give for a night away in a hotel room!  Grass is always greener on the other side I suppose.  And it's about time I start appreciating my own grass!)

I heard you say that supporting your man when he comes home, rather than giving him the whole sob story, looking for sympathy and expecting him to bound into action to solve the problem by doing dishes and fixing the car immediately is going to make things even worse.  I shouldn't forget about his jet lag and my promoting an environment of stress, nagging and guilt isn't fair to my man either.

I heard you say that it's okay to get the bigger kids to help out.  And I'm kinda lucky in that area cause they really already are.  They totally get the whole thing that mama sets the mood of the house and are willing to jump in with both feet to help clean the kitchen and get the little ones in bed when asked.  In turn some extra Starbucks are in order.  I'm okay with that too.

I heard you say that it's so so important to not let this season of crazy busy become a permanent way of life.  And that unless we're intentional about it, it's so easy to let "busy" consume us until we do think it's normal!  A season is okay,  but we must be deliberate to have a slower deliberate life with no plans occasionally and times to get bored and go slow.  How will we recognize the ordinary miracles if we're zooming by them so fast we forget to notice them?

I heard you say some pretty awesome things.  Thank you, friends, for all the wonderful advice and sweet words of encouragement!  They have been taken to heart and many are already being put into action!

On behalf of the Crazy 9 household, thank you!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Stormy sunset, horchata, and living with a traveling man

Did I mention Papa got a new job?  Uhhhhh ya,he did.  This summer.  And by "new job" I mean he got another job, to go along with his first job that he's of course keeping cause it's the one that pays the bills.  Like now he has 2 jobs!  Cause I guess one job just wasn't enough.  This two job thing is a significant contributor to the crazy busy factor we have going on around here lately.  

The aforementioned 2nd job, involves a lot of travel.  Papa says it's only a couple times per month, but looking at the calendar for both Sept and Oct, I'm seeing about 3-4 times per month for 3-4 days each time which in my crazy head = every week, which in my crazy head = he's gone half that time.  It's Crazy 9 math folks so just go with me.  I know he's not actually gone half the time, but golly it feels like it.  

Last week, after leaving on Wednesday, he was suppose to get home on Saturday, but a storm hit and his flight got diverted to Tucson when our airport tower was evacuated due to flying debris.  His 2 hour flight turned into 6 hours on the plane.  I'm just glad they landed safe and uneventfully.  But he was stranded 115 miles away in Tucson instead of home in Phoenix.  The big kiddos sprang into action and suggested I drive to pick him up.  They even suggested (Oh yes they did!  They so know how life works!) that we get a hotel room and return the following day.  So that's just what we did!   I jumped in the car and drove 2 hours through the storm in the midst of a setting sun and amazing skies to get him.  My two hour drive actually turned into 3 'cause I kept pulling over to take pics of the sky!  Papa and I checked into a nice hotel, then had a fabulous Mexican breakfast and drove home the next morning! 
This was the view outside our hotel window the next morning! 

And this is our new favorite Mexican food restaurant!  I just wish it was in my city! Oh well.  
My breakfast was chorizo con huevos with refries, a fresh flour tortilla to die for, and a glass of horchata.  (Tell me there's some horchata fans out there!  Takes me back to my childhood every time I drink it!)
Then we drove home and were home by lunch.  The house was not only still standing, but happy and relatively clean!
I know this plane-being-diverted-to-other-cities thing is rare and likely won't happen again.  Nevertheless, this traveling thing is new to our family, and it's kind hard!  Papa has never been a traveling job kind of husband.  Before this new job, he traveled a few times a year max, and 1-2 of those were for pleasure with his guy buddies. But now it seems like he's gone half the time, although it's not really half the time, but still!

So... I know that there are some ladies out there that are reading this that have traveling husbands. How do you do it?  Do you have any tricks for me?  Any tips that make it easier on the kiddos? Or me?!  I'm kinda at a loss.  As it stands now, I'm kinda good the first day. Then somewhere on day 2 I throw in the towel to preserve my sanity, stop doing much of anything with meals and housework, (except parenting which I think seems to keep going pretty well through out) and eventually run around like a chicken with my head cut off the day he comes home to try and cut through the muck before he gets home.  I have NO stamina to do it all, all of the time.
Got any advice for me?
I will gladly take it!

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