Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Story Time

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Recovery Week

This week we're laying low and trying to recover from wedding weekend/Christmas week. We had wonderful visits with extended family, but almost everyone battled illness at some point last week. Daniel and Mikea had fevers the day before Christmas Eve, the baby had fever and lots of fussiness Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Joe had fever and vomiting on Christmas Day, and Billy's been dealing with asthma issues for over a week. So far I've been spared, except the past two evenings I've had body aches and chills.

Here are a few images of our Christmas celebrations: (Kretzmanns and former Kretzmanns will recognize the traditional Christmas Eve foods, complete with Christmas tree cookies.)
Opening presents on Christmas Eve:

More presents and stockings on Christmas Day:

Note the undecorated Christmas tree. It wasn't until the morning of Christmas Eve that I finally conceded and made the decision to leave it bare. All in all it was a good decision because we didn't have to pester the kids to leave the ornaments on and taking down the tree will now be a snap. All I have to do is yank of the lights and watch the dried pine needles fly!

Monday, December 21, 2009

500 Babies Go To A Wedding

As you might guess, taking the 500 Babies to a wedding is quite an undertaking. Billy's sister got married this weekend, and thanks to Nanny Cousin Lydia and our friends the Rancours, we were able to keep the kids from disrupting the ceremony and destroying the reception area. We arrived about 40 minutes early (highly unusual for us), which was a good thing because shortly thereafter a 3-alarm fire broke out in an apartment complex across the street and the roads were then blocked off.

Our secret weapon in keeping the kids quiet during the ceremony was lollipops. It worked for Daniel and Joe, but Mikea was determined to be as wiggly, silly, and loud as she could get away with. She wasn't too terribly bad, we just didn't want her to ruin the wedding. A cute moment was when during one of the readings Mikea heard the word "angel", and then she said out loud "Angel? Baby Jesus!".

During the reception, the kids had the best time running around the room and the dance floor, where they took part in a combination of dancing, frolicking, and chasing each other around. At one point I spotted Daniel heading straight for a tray filled with champagne glasses. I darted after him, but didn't get there before he grabbed a glass and tipped it to his mouth. Fortunately, the glasses hadn't yet been filled and everyone had a good laugh.

I didn't take too many pictures, but here are a few:

The last picture is Kiki and Mr. Rancour, or Uncle Jacques as our kids call him. He and his wife, Aunt Gina, are our very good friends and lifesavers as one or more of our kids were in the laps (or shoulders!) the entire night. I think poor Aunt Gina even got spit up on by Baby A.

All in all it was a great evening of fun and festivities. And of course we want to wish Lani and Joel congratulations and God's blessing on their marriage!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Littlest Cow

***UPDATE: Jamie has videos of the kids singing on her blog here. You can see Joe in the first one ("Hush Little Rooster"), but somehow he ended up in the second row for the rest of the songs and you can't see him at all. But Naomi is really cute so you should watch the other videos anyway!

Joe may not have sung any of his songs and he may have looked completely miserable while standing on the stage, but our little cow gave it a good try. We knew from the practices for the Children's Christmas Program at church that Joe probably wasn't going to sing. All we were hoping for was that he wouldn't cry. He came close, but managed to stay tear-free for the entire program.

Afterwards, there was a birthday cake for Jesus:
A dozen little kids then blew out the candles:Billy assured me that our pieces came from an extra cake, one not covered in kid saliva and candle wax!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Then and Now

Alamo Cafe is a popular restaurant for special occasions. It's where Billy and I held our wedding reception, and it's where Billy's sister and her fiancee held their rehearsal dinner last night -which just happened to coincide with our 5th anniversary!

At our reception we loaded up our plates but didn't get to eat very much because of the excitement and business of it all . . .
Five years later, we got to eat a little more, but there was still plenty of excitement, courtesy of the 500 Babies: play fights, coloring tortilla chips (and then eating them), and diaper malfunctions.
But we came prepared with our weekend nanny, Cousin Lydia, who was a huge help:
Here's Lydia at our reception in 2004:What a difference five years can make!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Five Years

Five years, four kids, three houses, two dogs, one busy life! I am so blessed to share it with such an amazing husband! Happy Anniversary, Billy! I love you!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Christmas Story

Billy and I weren't sure we'd ever tell the following story. It's not one of our finer moments of parenting. But through the passage of time we've forgiven ourselves and even have a good laugh about it now.

It was mid-December of 2007. Billy and I were still reeling from going from 0 to 3 children in less than 30 days. We were sorely sleep-deprived, trying to juggle night-time feedings of a one-month-old and a three-month old, and getting a 15-month-old adjusted to life in our home after having been uprooted from the only other home he'd known. The Christmas season was in full swing and we were trying our best to celebrate despite feeling completely overwhelmed.

We needed to make a trip to Wal-Mart, and so for only the second or third time since getting all of our children, we bundled up and took them all with us. We put Daniel and Mikea in the double stroller, and Joe rode in the cart. Wal-Mart was packed, and I remember feeling like I was sleepwalking as we pushed our way through the store. We went to the garden area where most of the Christmas decorations were stocked, and after making a few selections, we walked out of that section into the main part of the store. We then paused to discuss where to go next.

Suddenly, it hit both of us at the same time. "Where--???" I stammered.

"GO, GO, GO!" Billy shouted.

I sprinted back to the garden area in a panic. We had left behind the stroller containing Daniel and Mikea.

When I got to the aisle where we left them, I quickly composed myself and walked up to the stroller as if I had been there all along. I sheepishly pushed it back to Billy where we congratulated ourselves on being the Worst Parents of the Year. All I could think was that somewhere within the bowels of Wal-Mart, a security officer had been watching the whole thing transpire.

The babies had been alone for no more than a minute, yet it felt like forever. Certainly long enough for someone to notice. Billy and I were mortified. I know I questioned if I was even qualified to be a parent.

But we've forgiven ourselves, and know that while it may have been the first, it's certainly not the last Parenting Fail we'd have. In fact we may have a few more stories to tell . . . when the time is right, of course!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Photo Outtakes

The quest for a perfect Christmas photo of the 500 Babies is not for the faint of heart . . .Bribery with cookies may or may not have been involved . . .

Cheesy poses may or may not have been involved . . .

And getting one child in particular to look at the camera was next to impossible . . .

In the end, however, a good time was had by all! (Except for the photographer. She now has a headache.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Once every 4 or 5 months I temporarily lose my mind and decide to go out shopping with all of the kids by myself. The experience is usually so exasperating and back-breaking that I don't attempt it again until enough time passes that I either forget how hard it is or think somehow it will be easier this time. Today I took all 4 kids to Hobby Lobby and Wal-Mart. I put a lot of thought into how I'd transport them. (We have 2 double strollers and a baby-pack-thing that you strap on to carry baby hands-free.) A lot also depends on the size of shopping carts available. At Hobby Lobby the carts are so small that the best I could do was put the baby and Mikea in the stroller and let Joe and Dan walk free. We got lots of smiles, a few nice comments about my "helpers", and one or two glares. By the time we made it to the checkout, everything was falling apart. Mikea was crying for someone to hold her hand, and Dan and Joe were doing everything but standing quietly next to me, which is what I wanted. I don't like looking like I can't control my kids.

This is what we did at Wal-Mart: Pro: Everyone was contained. Con: Everyone was so close to each other that there was unending kicking, poking, and hat-grabbing. I did notice at least two other moms with 3 kids of similar ages to mine all piled into their carts. This made me feel less crazy. Until I had to take Joe to the bathroom. I had no idea how I was going to do it until I found the "Family Restroom". God bless the inventor of the Family Restroom. The entire cart fit inside and I was even able to go myself!

To top it off, the van started acting up and then one of the warning lights came on. I have no idea which one. Fuel pump? Who knows? I said a lot of prayers and thankfully we all made it home safely. Needless to say, it'll be a looong time before I go out solo again with the 500 Babies.

Christmas Cards

To send, or not to send; that is the question. I am the world's worst at keeping in touch with family and friends. Plus, the fact that I've had seven different addresses in the last 10 years means the friends I have left probably can't even find me. I sent out a Christmas letter through email last year, and this year I still have every intention of sending one out the old-fashioned way.

Yesterday I was joking with my mom and sister about how last year the only Christmas card we received in the mail was from the zoo. Well, today our first Christmas card of 2009 arrived. It read, "SeaZOOn's Greetings." It's ok, you can laugh. I did.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kids' Ornament Swap

A few weeks ago I signed up for the Kids' Ornament Swap over on The Crafty Crow. You and your kids make and send an ornament to 5 other participants, and you receive 5 handmande ornaments in return. This year's theme was Fairy Tales. I surprised myself by coming up with what I thought was a pretty good idea: Princess Hats! But then I imagined a little boy somewhere in Timbuktu opening up our package and finding a pink hat and realized that probably wouldn't go over so well. So we made some wizard hats as well and are sending one of each to our swap partners.

I overestimated the difficultly level of this project and therefore the kiddos didn't really get to help much. I realize that's the whole point, but they didn't seem to mind too much.

Our swap partners are from California, Washington, Florida, Massachusetts, and Maine. We can't wait for the ornaments to start arriving!

Friday, December 11, 2009


I haven't been posting much on Baby A. No particular reason except for the fact that I hardly have more than a few minutes at a time to put any coherent thoughts together.
He's a great little guy, or as Joe would say "cool awesome". He's been rolling over for several weeks and is really good at holding up his head. A developmental therapist and an occupational therapist from ECI each come out once a month to see him. He's got some high muscle tone (which Dan and Mikea also had so I told the ECI ladies I don't notice it because I don't know what "normal" tone is supposed to feel like.) We do some massages and are working on reaching out, getting ready to sit up, and getting ready to crawl.
A. is easy-going, content, and a charmer. He's got the biggest smile I've ever seen and is always ready to show it to you. He loves when his big sis and brothers talk to him and they love playing with him, holding him, and feeding him.
As far as his case goes, we received a little bit of bad news this week. After over 4 months, his birthmother finally contacted CPS to begin working services. Our caseworker thinks it's still unlikely that she will be successful (the family wouldn't let the worker into the house when she came to visit), but if nothing else this will delay an eventual adoption. We know normally we're supposed to be supportive of returning the baby to his bio family, but not in this case, not any more. We know too much history, his brothers are ours, and taking him away from us will break apart OUR family.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, he's NOT Chinese, or any other Asian nationality for that matter. Almost everyone who meets him says he looks Asian, which is kind of funny because we used to joke about needing to adopt an Asian child to complete our "set". So, you see, Baby A. fits in just perfectly with our diverse little tribe of children!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Toddler Art

I have to try extra-hard to walk the fine line between guiding and controlling whenever I do "projects" with the kids.

Last week we stuck fun foam stickers on Christmas trees, and when the kids finished way sooner than I wanted them to, I brought out sequins for them to glue on. Joe wanted to glue his on the back and at first I was like, no, they go on the front. Then I realized it doesn't matter and I let him do it.

I took great pains to show them how to just use a little dot of glue, but as you can see, most 2-year-olds would rather glob on as much glue as possible. It was messy, but in the end it dried clear so again, what does it matter?

Surprisingly, Dan was much more self-controlled with the glue and didn't make that much of a mess. He's always been a "less is more" kind of guy when it comes to art projects. I always have to encourage him to keep going, add a little more, etc. But maybe that's another way I'm being too controlling? Or maybe I'm overthinking this. Wouldn't be the first time!

In the end, everyone had fun and I need to remember it's the process that matters the most!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Little Helpers

Mikea loves to help me in the kitchen. Whenever she sees me getting ready to make a meal, she grabs a chair and drags it over to the counter. I try to find little jobs that are safe enough for her to do, like dumping in ingredients and stirring. She just can't resist sticking her fingers in and tasting whatever's in the bowl. I let her set out the kids' plates and utensils on the table since they're plastic, and sometimes she puts the food on the plates. The other day I told her to give everyone three carrots, which she did until she got to her own plate and dumped out the whole bag.

The boys enjoy helping in the kitchen as well, and when I bake something like cookies or muffins, we'll gather round the island and take turns putting in ingredients and stirring. I always have to be especially careful around eggs, of course. Joe knows we don't eat "rotten" (raw) eggs, but I'm sure Dan and Mikea would eat them if they could!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Crafts (Yes, I Know Thanksgiving is Over)

No one wants to read about Thanksgiving crafts on December 1, but since I never got around to posting this sooner, this is what you get for reading my blog. And no, this isn't turning into a craft blog. I wish I was talented enough for this to be a craft blog, but that's never gonna happen. I lack the skills and I lack the patience. But I don't lack the desire, and when the crafting bug hit me the week before Thanksgiving, this is what I made:

First we have "The Give Thanks Banner", one of my few original ideas:
I know, I know. It doesn't take a crafting genius to print letters off the computer and glue them to paper. And clearly the "I" is a different shade of brown. And the "H" and "S" are disproportionately smaller than the other letters. Ok, moving on . . .

"The Tree Pillow", inspired by this.

Clearly mine doesn't have quite the same stunning effect as the original, but I think that's because I made the leaves too big and couldn't fit very many on the pillow. Also, after ironing on the leaves I had no desire to sew them on like you were supposed to. But now they're starting to peel off, so I guess that's a shortcut that I shouldn't have taken. Oh well.

Here's the back:

Overall I really like how this turned out, considering the fact that the fabric I originally picked out for the front shrunk when I washed it and I had to go back out buy more (the one time I pre-washed the fabric because I was trying to do things the right way.)

Next up is "The Leaf Wreath", inspired by this:

This thing gave me the most headaches of any of the projects. I had to start over 3 times because I couldn't get the circle circular enough (even though I was following a traced line). Again, not as great as the original but good enough for me.
Finally, the best for last! May I present "The Butterfly Picture":

I know what you're thinking, isn't that just a piece of paper in a frame? Well, yes it is. But I love the way it looks and right now it's my favorite decoration in the house!

Stay tuned for Christmas Crafts, coming in mid- to late- March!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Detailing the Bike

One of the things the kids love to do is get a baby wipe and "clean" the house. They ask "one wipe?" "one wipe?" and I know this is what they want to do.

The other day we were outside when Joe became concerned that the wheels on his motorcycle were dirty. I tried to convince him that this was ok, but I could tell he wanted to clean them so I gave him a wipe. I was amazed at how engrossed in the task he became.
So if you need some detailing done, you know who to call . . .

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Within the first day of moving into our new home, it was clear we were going to have to devise and implement new systems for getting things done. For example, the morning routine. Back at the old house we had all 3 kids in one room, with 2 of them confined to cribs. The kids would all wait patiently (ha) in their beds until I went in to get them. Here at the new house, everyone is now in a "big kid" bed. We didn't care for the idea of 3 toddlers roaming the house at 6 am, but we also knew we couldn't make them stay in their beds. So we allow them to get up and play, but they have to stay upstairs until I say they can come down. This is what my mom used to do, so I figured it must be good. For the first few days the kids tried to come downstairs before I was ready for them, but now it seems they've finally caught on.

Another system is laundry. I don't do well with laundry. At the old house, I could never seem to conquer the piles of laundry that covered every surface in our tiny laundry room. It would take an entire day just to get caught up. It wasn't until we moved to the new house that the light bulb finally came on. You ready for this? I wash, dry, and fold one load every day! Between the six of us, we dirty up enough clothes/towels/etc. for one load of laundry a day. So that's what I've been doing. It's so ridiculously simple, I don't know why I never figured it out before this.

As far as clothes storage, we decided the simplest solution is to keep the kids' clothes in the laundry room, like this: (thanks for the idea, Sarah!)
Until the kids are old enough to carry their clothes upstairs and put them away themselves, this is what we think will work for us. We don't have dressers for their rooms (except for the baby), but at this point we don't need them. I hang their nicer clothes up in the kids' closets, but everything else goes in the baskets, organized by kid and type of clothing.

You're impressed, aren't you? Well, don't be. 'Cause here's my system for socks:

And I don't see it changing anytime soon!