Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Bucket List

It is nearing the end of September, and NO MATTER WHAT the thermostat says, fall is upon us.

Did you hear me, Fall? YOU ARE UPON US.

I love this time of year. More than summer, more than Spring, more even than Christmas time (I think).

I've got a few things on my Fall 2011 Bucket List, activities that simply must be done while the weather is bearable.

With the exception of last year, we have gone to the State Fair every year since the boys were old enough to smother their faces in Pineapple Whip. I have memories (and pictures) of going to the fair every single year growing up. I cannot wait for Emerson to experience it for the very first time. My girl who will eat anything will have her pick from fried oreos, fried funnel cake, and fried corny dogs. And my husband that will buy anything will have to show moderate restraint around the ShamWows!

We discovered this local gem last year, and just had the best time. Few places are worth us paying $8 per person for our family of six to attend, but this definitely makes the list. Don't know if we enjoyed the horseback rides, little train, or giant swing in the hay pile more.

3. Backyard campout and smores.

Another first for Emerson. It's a notable day in fall when it's finally cool enough to throw a tent in the backyard, light the chimnea, and grill hot dogs and marshmallows while pretending we're somewhere much more rustic than our lawn. It goes without saying that the boys LOVE this activity, and this year Emerson and Harper will be able to adventure also. Mommy might still sleep inside, though :)

Our favorite strawberry picking farm is offering a pumpkin patch for the first time this year, and we are anxious to try it out. We love a good pumpkin patch this time of year, and King's Orchard is a nice, spacious place that never feels "crowded". Hopefully their pumpkin patch will not disappoint.

5. Starbucks fall menu.

Pumpkin spice lattes. Salted caramel mocha frappuccinos. Enough said.

It's hot, spicy, and just can't be eaten in the summer. Because it's soup, and soup goes in the fall and winter. I'm mentally planning a date night involving my soup in a mug for dinner while Brandon and I watch NCIS after the kids have gone to bed. While sitting on the couch under a blankie in my comfy pants. Brandon and I are livin' on the edge.

Any "Fall Must-Dos" that I've forgotten about? What's on your Fall Bucket List?

Monday, September 26, 2011

In My Defense, At Least They Were Clean

Have I mentioned lately that I am loving my new job? I usually work only two days a week, which leaves us with a lot more time together as a family than we had been enjoying.

Last Friday was just such a day. I was home from work, Brandon was home from work, and we decided it was the perfect day to run a couple of errands together with the girls, and pick up some pieces for the kids Halloween costumes.

I know it's still September and 100 degrees in Houston today, but I am lighting my pumpkin candle, shopping for Halloween stuff, and WILLING the cooler weather to come. It WILL come. I WILL get to turn my air conditioner off (or at least adjust the temperature) sometime in the near future.

Back to Friday. We're running around the house, getting shoes on the girls and bows in the hair. Loading up the diaper bag and the sippy cups. Grocery list in the purse. I realize the new shirt I am wearing is cut a little lower than I had hoped, and decided to just throw one of my black tank tops under it real quick. As Brandon is loading the kids in the van, I rummage through the four loads of clean laundry in my living room, finally finding the black tank I was looking for, and quickly layer it under my new shirt before running out the door.

First stop? Our local costume store. For Halloween costumes? No, for face make up for a video Brandon is doing for church. I love our church and how well they indulge in my husband's creativity. Brandon was in this same costume store just last month, buying up "strong man wresting costumes" for the last video they did at church. He's in their so often, in fact, that the costume-store-guy recognizes him on sight and they chat about the church and the video and how Halloween business is at the costume store. Nothing like a little "spontaneous evangelism" while shopping for fake blood.

We wandered along, browsing the aisles, Brandon, Harper, Emerson, and me. And the costume-guy. We marveled at how many different costumes they could make for women that basically consisted of thigh-high stockings and something strapless up top.

Suddenly, costume-man stops in the aisle. Something in the aisle has caught his eye. We follow his gaze to see a pair of ladies panties in the floor. A pair of black, lacy ladies panties. Not really something practical, more like something that resembled the much more "adult" costumes in the other room of the costume store.

"Um, are these yours?" he says as he picks up the corner of the undies by his fingertips.

"No." I replied. Of course not.

"Woah! Maybe they're from one of the costumes. Maybe they were left in the dressing room or something!" my husband suggests.

"Hey, Misty! Check out what I found on the floor just now!" Costume-store-girl is not going to believe this.

Then I squint my eyes a little, and realize the object between his fingertips looks a little...familiar. My mind frantically goes back to those hurried moments of riffling through the laundry pile moments before leaving the house, and throwing on the black tank top before rushing out the door. Apparently, the little black tank top had a little black buddy static-clinging along for errand day, determined to make their costume-store debut to a slightly larger audience than they were accustomed to. I made a mental note to promptly fold and put away all clean laundry immediately from this day forward.

I started hyperventilating and sweating a little bit, as the costume-store guy walked away with my undies firmly in his grasp, saying a little prayer that my obvious distressed state would not reveal the true ownership of the surprise visitor. We continued to shop for a few more minutes, finally selecting just the right fake blood for Brandon's latest project, as my husband chatted to the oh-so-helpful employee/ underwear-finder about our church and our Halloween plans. To my credit, I made it all the way back to the van without vomiting. I debated never telling Brandon that the panties were mine, but then I realized I haven't blogged about anything other than qtips and football players in a while, and it's been even longer than that since I've used the internet to horrify my grandmother.

Please, please tell me that these things do not only happen to me. Please tell me that you, too, have unintentionally left a pair of saucy underwear in the costume store for an employee to find next to you and your small children while he was discussing fake blood options with your husband, the local youth minister.

Happens to everyone. Right?

Monday, September 19, 2011

15 Days Ago...

My family (minus my hard-working Mommy) descended on my house for an evening of calzone making, baby holding, cousin chasing, and, as always, picture taking fun.

After all, when there's a brand new cousin, there must be a new cousin picture.

We knew it would be a challenge to get a decent picture of all seven little cousins, age 7 and younger.
What with one teeny-tiny baby Nora, a cantankerous Harper, distractible Emerson, and toddling Jack, it's a miracle we even got them to hold still enough for a couple of shots.
And then a swarm of hungry, thirsty Houston mosquitos descended on the group, and we knew our picture-taking moments were numbered.

Finally, after 10 minutes, 3 cameras, several hundred pictures, lots of bribery, and a little photoshop magic...
Seven cousins.

Monday, September 12, 2011

No One Has Ever Accused My Husband of Being Succinct

Well. I didn't really intend to take a week-long blogging break, but I seem to have lost the ability to transmit cohesive thoughts onto a blog post. I have several posts drafted, with just pictures and no words, and a couple of posts in my head, but when I sit down at the computer, nothing happens.

Must be the computer. Technical difficulties.

I decided it would be the perfect time for my husband, Hot Brandon to jump in as a guest blogger and tell you about what the men of my family did on Labor Day.

Chances are, it's not how you spent your Labor Day. Unless you're the men of my family. Or Ethan "The Ross-a-tron" Berger. In that case, it is how you spent your Labor Day. Without further ado, here's Brandon's take on the day.

My father-in-law just happens to be the owner of a couple sets of huge risers that he had custom-made for taking football team pictures (He is a professional photographer after all), and these risers just happen to be the only risers like them in the world (I think it has something to do with the fact that he is the only photographer crazy enough to haul them around the country). Because of this, Pappy gets to take some pretty cool pictures. He has been hired the last few years to bring his risers to Super Bowls where they are used to take the team pictures. He shoots college football programs all over the country. And he happens to be the official, team-picture taker for the Houston Texans (Who are currently undefeated on the season – Whoop Whoop!). So Pappy decided that it was the perfect time to take Dane and Aidan, who just happen to be obsessed with football right now, to the annual Labor Day Texans picture extravaganza.

The morning started out as all mornings should…at the Cracker Barrel. After breakfast we piled into various vehicles and headed to Reliant Stadium.

Some of us were more excited than others.

Reliant Stadium has a grass field but the grass is grown on pallets that are removed and grown outside of the stadium during the off season. When we got to the stadium, we were able to drive the suburban with the risers into the stadium and onto the barren expanse of concrete that usually looks like a football field.

So all the adults on the trip (Dad (me), Pappy, Uncle John, Uncle Andy and Ethan “The Ross-a-tron” Berger) start unloading risers and getting them set up for about 11 and a half tons of football playing flesh to pile onto. While this was going on, the boys were free to run around on the concrete, play football, fly Uncle John’s remote controlled helicopter and just drink in the experience of being inside Reliant Stadium!

That lasted for about five minutes when the boys got “bored” and began filling the time by asking, “When are the players gonna get here,” about every 30 seconds and chugging Gatorade like it’s going out of style. Between them, Dane and Aidan probably backed down about 20 mini bottles of Gatorade in the three hours we were there (Seriously).

The closest bathroom facility from where we were was about 100 yards away. After the consumption of the Gatorade began, the boys inextricably worked out a system of having to pee about every 10 minutes. This may not sound too bad, but they weren’t on the same schedule…so every time I got back from the 200 yard bathroom trek the next boy would have to pee and it started all over again, meaning the three of us probably walked and extra 4 miles or so!!! I searched that “reliable” source of information – the World Wide Web (Thank you Al Gore) – for information about how long it takes water to pass through the body and found times from 62 hours (Those people have not met my kids) to 45 minutes. In my experience with Dane and Aidan, I think liquids simply fall right into their bladder because the turnaround time is almost instantaneous.

Somehow in between all the bathroom breaks, we were able to get everything set up for the photo shoot and the time had finally come…the Texans players began to arrive. Aidan decked out in his brand-new Andre Johnson jersey and Dane sporting Matt Schaub’s #8 had been instructed to follow Pappy around as he got the players situated on the risers.

The kids were in awe…they looked like two munchkins walking around in a forest of trees with 20-inch biceps.

6’4, 300lb. Shaun Cody saw Aidan and Dane staring open mouthed at their grid-iron heroes and came over to mess with the kids.

He knelt down and offered Aidan a fist-bump (His fist was about the size of Aidan’s head, on arms as big as my thighs), and just as Aidan went in to dap his knuckles Cody pulled his hand away and ran his fingers through his hair. Needless to say, Aidan thought that was AMAZING!

Pappy left the kids wandering around the players and went up to Matt Schaub and asked if he would sign Dane’s jersey (Pappy had the marker ready to go).

Schaub, who happens to be a really nice guy walks over to Dane, gets down on one knee and says, “Hey Dane, do you mind if I sign your jersey?” Dane, mouth open – unable to reply, simply turned and let Matt sign the back of his jersey. He regained the ability to speak just in time to squeak, “Thank you,” as Schaub returned to the risers.

Dane ran over to me afterwards and said excitedly, “I can’t believe Matt Schaub knows who I am.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the Pappy prompting…so my seven year old now thinks that he is household name among players in the NFL. That will help keep him humble…

Pappy then worked his way over the Andre Johnson (A man who many consider to be the best wide receiver in the NFL) and asked him to sign Aidan’s #80 Johnson jersey. And you have to understand, Aidan loves Andre Johnson. I told him a few years back that he was probably the best player on the Texans football team and that was enough for Aidan…Andre Johnson became his fav. He even named his favorite brown teddy bear after Andre and that bear terrorizes opposing defenses in Aidan’s stuffed animal football games.

Johnson who is also a really nice, soft-spoken 6’3 225lb. guy walked over to my tall-skinny 3’8" 48lb. Aidan and quietly asked if he could sign the jersey. It was so awesome to see the look of glee on Aidan’s face as the perennial pro bowler Andre Johnson knelt on the dusty concrete of Reliant Stadium and signed his jersey.

When I asked him what he thought about Johnson after meeting him up close later, Aidan said, “He was skinnier than I thought he would be.” Seriously Aidan? Andre Johnson is skinny? Um, I can touch my fore-finger and thumb when wrapped around your calves.

When all the players and coaches were lined up on the risers, Dane and Aidan were instructed by Pappy to sit inside an area right in front of the stands that was marked off by black tape.

The boys were able to sit in awe as the entire Houston Texans football organization was smiling for the camera as crazy Pappy yelled out things like, “Looky looky looky,” and “Yeehaw,” to get everyone looking at the camera simultaneously.

And of course, there was some wrestling in the taped off box as well. Who cares if you are 20 feet from a bunch of pro football players…there is always time for hand-to-hand combat.

After the players left we began to break the risers down and load them back on the trailers as Dane and Aidan, filled with gratitude about the amazing day they had just had thanks to Pappy, drove everyone crazy by messing with every possible thing they shouldn’t have, peeing three more times and complaining of the debilitating boredom they were experiencing.

Uncle Andy saved my sons from who knows what when he took half-finished Gatorade bottles left behind by the players away from them. The Texans are really nice, but I promise you I don’t want my boys drinking after professional football players…I don’t know where those mouths have been (Actually I do and that’s the scary part!) We piled back into various vehicles and headed home. As a fitting end to the day, five-minutes after leaving the stadium Dane was in desperate need of a bathroom. We made him hold it until he got home, where he and Aidan immediately ran to a bush outside of our garage and “watered” it…and that is the illustrious end to what was one of the best days ever for my 6 and 7 year old football maniacs. Thanks Pappy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Year Ago Today

We laid our eyes on this little girl for the very first time.

And our lives were changed forever.

She wore a little peach dress, and several little chicken pox.

She ate noodles and a banana for her very first breakfast with us.
She carried a bag made for her my my sweet friend Heather, and a year later, takes that bag to dance class every Monday morning.

She talked nonstop that first day, and has not stopped talking since.

She speaks English now, and sings in her bed after we turn the lights off.
She cut her own bangs a couple of months ago with a pair of scissors she dug out of the junk drawer.

She loves getting dressed, and usually requests "two bows" in her hair.

The other day she and her little sister made a game of throwing their baby dolls down the stairs, then screaming "Oh, No!" as they ran to rescue them.

She loves going to school and church.

She is very bossy, and has discovered that if she is confident enough in her delivery, people will usually do what she tells them to do. Especially little sisters.

She is nothing like what we expected.

She is not in any adoption book that we read.

Nothing about our Emerson matches up with what we know of her first three years of life. Her sass, her language skills, her appetite, her health, her outgoing personality, her confidence. None of this is consistent with what a child who spent three years in an orphanage should be like.

And we are so, so thankful for that. We are so thankful for the little girl that God made her to be, and we know without a doubt that He created her for us, and us for her.
Some days have been easy, some days have been very hard, but we wouldn't trade any of it for the world.

Happy Gotcha Day, sweet Emerson. We love you so, so much.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Before": Desk Edition


I think we might just survive this school year. Two weeks in, and we are starting to settle into a routine of sorts. The boys are both enjoying school so far. I don't have enough good things to say about Dane's teacher. She lets Dane read as much as he wants to at school, as long as his work gets done. She doesn't own a cell phone. She appears to have a story to tell for everything, and Dane comes home telling fun stories about Mrs. W. She doesn't believe in homework. She is the mother of six children, and she doesn't assign homework because she thinks that family time in the evenings should be spent doing other things instead.

Amen and amen.

Aidan's surviving kindergarten after a somewhat rough first week of rule-learning and boundry-testing. Attitudes were adjusted, a sticker chart was hung on our fridge, and Aidan's getting the hang of this whole "school everyday and I have to listen to the teacher" thing. A prayer for the his darling teacher Mrs. S. would not be wasted.

The girls are LOVING school. LOVING it. Emerson is disappointed on days when she wakes up to learn that she is not going to school. Based on a sticker chart of her own that I found in the princess backpack, Harper's teachers have tentatively engaged in the futility of trying to potty train her. Good luck with that. Here's how potty training at home has gone so far:

Step 1: Harper pees in diaper.

Step 2: Harper immediately takes diaper off, leaving it where ever she may be.

Step 3: Naked Harper runs to Mommy, declaring that she needs to go potty.

Step 4: Hopeful Mommy plops Naked Harper onto potty, then watches as Harper does. nothing.

Step 5: Proud Harper claps her hands, proclaiming "Yay Harper! Harper go potty and get candy!"

Step 6: Proud Harper denied candy. Nothing in the potty=No candy.

Step 7: Proud Harper becomes Angry Naked Harper, throws her naked body on the ground and screams for a bit, refusing to have diaper reapplied.

Step 8: Naked Harper relents, diaper reapplied.

Step 9: See Step 1

Needless to say, neither one of us is completely on board with the whole potty training thing at the moment. I think I expected her to be easy to train, since she is a girl, but I think we'll just let her go at her own leasurely pace for a bit longer.

We've had a few ongoing projects around the Outnumbered House (besides potty training), and my the state of my garage is about to drive me crazy. The dirty floor. The paint splatters. The piles of junk making the tool bench inaccessable. I've decided that Mother Nature and I are in a bit of a standoff, and I refuse to have a Garage Cleaning Day until the weather dips below 95. And I am standing firm.

One of those projects?

Some friends of ours passed on to us their (now grown) son's desk. We have been looking for something for the boys' room, and I'm always psyched to score free furniture. She warned us that he had written on the desk in a few places:

Bring it on.

I've got a team of helpers that are not intimidated by stickers and graffiti.
And a can of red paint, leftover from another piece of bargain furniture.

The "after" picture will come later. As soon as I dig myself out from under the disaster that is my garage.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

They're Reaching for the Stars

A few days before school started, the talk in my house turned to what kindergarten was going to be like. I had a very excited, yet a little anxious, soon-to-be kindergartener, and a verteran elementary schooler doling out hard-earned advice about kindergarten and even college:

Dane: "You're going to like kindergarten. The people are real...friendly."

(After being kicked in the crotch by his brother) "Aidan, when you go to college, the girls will not like you if you kick other people in the crotch."
"College is...hard. Like, it makes you think so hard that your brains fall out."

And according to Aidan: "You have to go to college to find a girl to marry. After I go to college I want to sell cars to people. I will sell a lot of cars, and get one hundred dollars so I can buy my own car."

A couple of weeks later, Aidan had to fill out an "About Me" paper for school, and one of the questions addressed "What do you want to be when you grow up". I though this would be an easy question for my Aidan. Needless to say, he had some opinions on the matter.

Aidan, what do you want to be when you grow up?

I don't know, ask me when I'm 18.

I can't put that on this paper. I thought you wanted to be a guy that sells cars.

Dad says that's the worst job ever.

What about a youth minister like Daddy?

No, that's too hard. You have to work too much to do that.

What about a policeman like Uncle Izzy? Sometimes they get to have a dog with them at work!

No, that's too hard.

Do you want to take pictures like Uncle John?

That does not sound fun.

What about a dentist like Uncle Jeremy?

No, that job is too...toothy.

Do you want to be an architect like Uncle Andy?

What's an architect?

They decide what houses and buildings are going to look like, then they draw pictures of them and help build them.

Yeah! That sounds really easy, I wouldn't have to work too much to do that.

Apparently kindergarten these last couple of weeks have taken quite the toll on Aidan's work ethic. And he has somehow gotten into his head that architects have the easiest job ever. I asked Dane the same question a few days ago, and got a somewhat different, yet all too practical answer from my biggest:

Dane, what kind of job do you want to have when you are older?

"Whatever kind is hiring."

Reach for the stars, my boys. Reach for the stars.