A Christmas in Photos

Whoever is making toys these days just doesn’t understand boys….or at least not our boys. We tried some new toys this year and have not been impressed. My top goal is to find a sturdy remote control vehicle that lasts more than a couple days – I’m still hunting.

This Wubble lasted a couple hours, despite the claims to “bounce it, catch it, squeeze it, kick it.” Fortunately it has a lifetime replacement guarantee (“if you happen to pop” it, you can pay for another one, states the website….since our patch attempt with Ninja Turtle Duct Tape didn’t help :))

"Lifetime warranty"


IMG_8506Yet the replacement Wubble seemed to experience the same fate as the first (and the mom is not paying to replace it again!).




The “Smash Toys”  that splat against the ground and slowly reform to be thrown again also come with a free lifetime replacement….and lasted …oh….about 4 throws….(doubt they will be replaced either)







The tent survived almost an entire day before the poles were too bent to erect again….(guess it’s trash!)










So I am just thankful for Legos….every single time I open a box, I’m amazed legosat the quality (and the price tag! and the pain of an unsuspected Lego under a walking foot). This year, though, The Little Guy got his first set and he was thrilled (and persisted in putting together 5-6 pieces)!  And….we have a new record — of keeping a 400+ piece “construction” together for more than 3 days so far!  The Star Wars spaceship goes to bed every night with Mr. Ornery to “protect it” from the others!




And…lest you think  we have mice in the house (well, we do….but mainly in the kitchen)….most of the mess comes from 5 boys! (Um, one does not like chocolate. One does not really care much about candy. One is too young to figure out how to hide wrappers behind furniture. Hmmm…that leaves two with incredible sweet teeth and cunning mentality!)







Lastly, it seems pretty clear that the dog is just humoring me with a new toy, but she seemed to survive the chaos commonly known as dog-bearChristmas!






All in all – it was “relatively quiet” (ie, no broken windows) and the boys were “relatively happy” with their gifts (ie, very little thievery from each other….except of stocking candy), and the adults got “relatively” few moments to open some gifts as well. (Although, we have resorted to texting relatives to ask, “what did you get for so-and-so?” — helps in writing the thank-you cards that way!).

Hope you all had a great Christmas. Any gift joys or frustrations?

P.S. (added 12/29/14) – And….apparently….you shouldn’t submerge new watches in 8 inchesIMG_8511 of bubble bath water! Who knew?  (Actually, I’m not complaining about this one. First and only day the 8-yr-old wore a watch and I was vowing to never buy him one again! “Aren’t we done yet? It’s 11:47.” … “You said 10 minutes and it’s already been 12 minutes.” Never. Again!)

“I am perfect with everyone”

I don’t even know where to begin tonight….except to be incredibly thankful to be sitting in a warm living room, with a twinkling Christmas tree, toys still scattered over the floor, my favorite Christmas song (Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas Canon) just on, and the house otherwise completely QUIET!!  (A crackling fireplace sure would be nice….but I won’t be too picky tonight…).

It has been anything but quiet for the past few days. As you might imagine with 5 boys under age 8 in the house….Christmas day was a zoo:

Boys clamoring over
Presents strewn across the room
Looking for their names


Wrapping paper shredded
Grandma trying to gather it up
Toys inspected and passed aside


Where is the next one?
Are there any more for me?
Open this, please and put it together.


It needs batteries….
Mom, he knocked it over
Will there be more presents tomorrow morning?


Christmas day….
Such joy and excitement, that
We ALL were asleep by 8:30!


The day after Christmas, my three cousins arrived and spent the next 3 days with us. We thought about “going places”….doing something more structured….but it seemed just easier and nice to stay home and spend time together. The boys loved their older relatives because they had “energy” – they carried them on their backs, they chased them around the loop, they played tickle monster, they engaged them nonstop….and the kids really appreciate that. It’s amazing how they sense who is “kid-friendly” and how much they love the physical nature of play. It’s so important for them to have these other adults show their love and affection.

To top off all this excitement, we also hosted our “first” foster child for the weekend ….now age 9 and living with his adoptive family (who called to ask the day before). The boys love it when the Older “Brother” comes to stay. He doesn’t really have to do anything – he’s in the “cool” category just by virtue of being alive 2 years longer than Super Tall Guy and The Flipper. He’s very easy-going and engaged each of the boys despite the ongoing jealousy issues of wanting more time alone with him.

I worried about how all the excitement of Christmas and schedule changes and the chaos of 15 people within the house at times would affect Super Tall Guy. He tends to be pretty sensitive to changes.  As he got ready for bed tonight, he said, “Now I’m lonely with everyone gone,” and a couple seconds later he added, “I am perfect when they are all here.”  Huh – I suppose I didn’t need to worry – he seemed to cope pretty well (and likely better than introvert me).  So as I tucked him in, I told him how proud I was of his ability to  handle all of the intensity without throwing any (major) fits. He smiled and said “Slam me, Good Job”….Body slam! Good Job!!

Yes….”I am perfect with everyone here.” We all need each other. Family. Friends. Neighbors. We are more perfect when in relation with others. Good Job, Super Tall Guy. Good job.IMG_5281

Inspiring Hope

We put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving. The boys were so eager.

Hoping there's something awesome inside the box!!

Hoping there’s something awesome inside the box!!

Super Tall Guy asked about it from the moment he woke up. I reminded him that he had 3 hours of “upstairs time out” to do before he could participate in the tree trimming. Given his normal daily routine – he had that criteria met by 9:00 am! Silly boy.  (He still had to earn enough “star” points to be able to go to the afternoon movie, though. As you might be able to decipher, he was coming off a really (really) rough evening!).

Mr. Ornery was excited too when he woke up a few hours after Super Tall Guy. He bounced around the living room asking where the tree was. He eagerly put the branches in. He tried to help string some lights until my patience and his interest collided. He put ornaments up. And he asked where the presents were. I replied that they come on Christmas morning. And the next morning, he suddenly sat upright in my bed (yes, sometimes there’s two of them trying to pancake me!) and said “Are there presents under the tree today?”

He is hopeful.

I heard a talk by Richard Louv a couple months ago. I loved listening to him. He talked about how our whole body and spirit come alive by spending time in nature and how as a society we are drifting further and further away. It was depressing as well as challenging. But the point that caught me the most was when he talked about time that he spends on college campuses talking with students in the prime of their lives. And the one thing that he has noticed in recent years is a shocking lack of hope. He challenged and encouraged each one of us to re-instill that hope within all children that we have contact with. Hope for the future. Hope for good. Hope for relationships, for work, for the earth.

Little kids have hope. Little kids hope that there will be presents under the tree in the morning (at least that it will happen November 30th….and maybe again on December 25th). Little kids have hope for an extra frosted-covered donut in the morning. They hope for the 3DS video-game hand-held unit they so badly want for Christmas. They hope that we will move someday soon and get a dog. They hope Mom will play football in the house for “just 5 more minutes”….or build “just one more” Lego spaceship/aircraft for their fleet (and they hold out hope against all hope that we might find the microscopic heads for the countless Lego men laying around with just a peg jutting out of the torso).

We parents have a great deal of hope too. I hope that the boys actually grow up someday and move out of the house as happy, productive, joyful young men. I hope that they remembered to pick up the Lego pieces so I don’t walk on them in the hallway tonight (“why in the world do you HAVE to play in the hallway?!?!?”). I hope they sleep past 5:22 am….because that would make me so happy. I hope that someday we can get studio photographs done without them pushing each other off the crates, collapsing into giggly fits on the floor, or getting up and walking out before it’s done (because that SURE didn’t happen this weekend!!  The key is that I attempt these photo sessions in public….because having people around helps to control my behavior!!).

But we also work to instill hope in our children.  “I hope you have a good day at school, dear.”  “I hope you have much better behavior tomorrow.”  “I hope you have fun at the party.”  “I really hope you didn’t just push your brother off the couch for no reason (ie, I hope you come up with a darn good reason for that – fast!!)”

Tonight for Advent we talked about “waiting” and what we’re “waiting” for. Naturally the answers were mostly about what gift they were “hoping” for, but the important thing is – we were talking about hope. We were experiencing hope.  I’m going to try to keep up this theme this week. My wonderful mother blesses us (daily, for sure) and every Advent season with 24 Advent Bags containing fun little games or candy or toys for the boys. Every night they joyfully/greedily push and shove to find out what is in the bag that evening.  Of course, we forgot to do it tonight, so I just wrote notes in the little Advent calendar boxes to help them find their Advent Bags starting tomorrow, “Hope you can find your gifts by the piano”…. “Hope you brush your teeth after eating these” ….

Maybe it will catch on…..Maybe their little Hope candle will never burn out.

I can only hope.