Another 30 Days of Nothing

We got our utility bill last week. It... was... not... pretty. It has been very cold in Colorado this winter, and although we're not keeping our house at sweat lodge temperatures, it turns out our beautiful vaulted ceilings come with a price. Heat escaping through the roof. Thankfully we are blessed with employment, a home, food, and coats--more than some can say this year. So I don't bemoan the utility bill; I feel thankful we can pay it. But it reminds me that heat and shelter and food are what comes first in our lives. Clothes and DVDs and ice cream come last.

Participating in 30 Days of Nothing in November was so thrilling because I felt in control of the little things. Being able to say no and doing without is a good practice for anyone at any time in their life. I want to participate again in January because it seems like a fabulous way to kick off the year, and it will jump-start some of our savings goals. Mostly, vacations. We don't take a lot of them and we want to.

I know there were several of you who mentioned you wanted to try 30 Days of Nothing and if you do, please let me know. I will link your posts here and I would love to discuss what your thoughts are. If your blog is private, I'll cut and paste your thoughts without having to link you. I won't talk about myself as much--since you already had to slog through it with me in November and you're probably rolling your eyes at the thought of another 30 days of reading my anti-buying propaganda!

One of the most amazing mommies I am blessed to know, Melodie, is already talking about gearing up for her month of nothing. You can read about it here.


Merry Christmas!

All the mess, all the drama, all the hyperactivity, all the sugar, all the wrapping, all the batteries, all the assembly.... so worth it! I learned a few things this year. I learned that the messes are worth it and truly letting the kids pick out what they want to give to each other (not what I want them to give to each other) brings the most joy.

Cookie decorating. Look at those smiles? Worth the mess.

Zinabu's reaction after opening his present from Lily. Pure joy. Worth every minute she spent at the store agonizing over what to choose.

The annoying, musical electric guitar Carver picked out for Zinabu. Zinabu's favorite present. He slept with it last night. Worth it.

All Lily wanted for Christmas--crutches. Found them after digging through several thrift stores. She hasn't put them down yet and will probably develop blisters on her armpits sometime today. But worth it.

Living with my mom and being together on Christmas morning. Worth it!


I am not a gourmet chef.
I don't know how to knit very well.
I am not good at math--at all.
I confess that sometimes I'm so tired at night I just sleep in my clothes.
I love sugar way too much.
I don't really like opera. Am I supposed to?
But I can braid the heck out of Lily's hair.


I am sitting here at our dining room table (well, it's my mom's table but you know what I mean) and thought this scene pretty much sums up our week so far. I'm drinking endless cups of coffee and tea, we're playing endless games of Uno, and we're putting together a big puzzle whenever we feel like it. The days are leisurely and sweet. We are beyond fortunate that David works for the same school district our kids attend, so he has the same "time off" that they do. I use the term "time off" loosely because he keeps going back to his office to get stuff done, but in theory we're all on vacation mode.

Tonight we will make our annual donut run and tour the city for Christmas lights. We usually do it in our pajamas, since that adds the flair of illicit behavior. It's supposed to begin snowing this afternoon and continue through tomorrow. Hoo-double-ray! I love the snow. It will probably be 55 and sunny by Christmas, but for now we'll take the winter weather.

Carver has rebounded after the stomach flu. So far (am I jinxing myself by even mentioning this???) no one else has gotten sick. We're grateful for each other, grateful for the Season, and grateful for food, a home, and heat. My heart is heavy for Ethiopia right now and the thousands and thousands of children who still need a family. And the children in every other nook and cranny of the world who need a family.

Have you considered adoption? Would you consider it? Please????


Rated PG for Positively Gross

I have a lot to blog about... treadmills, biological families, helping my kids "pick out" presents for each other, pulling things out of my dog's mouth, my antibiotic pills that are the size of a shoe, and yummy desserts. But for now I'll tell you about our "don't vomit on the new carpet" policy.

At our old house we had hardwood floors everywhere. You could pretty much make any mess you wanted and all I had to do was walk behind with a broom or mop. Bada bing, bada boom. In our new house we still have mostly hardwood floors, but we have CARPET in the boys' bedrooms. So before we even talked about a fire escape plan, I cracked down on where to vomit, how to vomit, and how to NOT vomit on the carpet. The plan was to just go ahead and get sick on their covers--which I can easily wash--and not be tempted to lean over the side of the bed and splatter the carpet in any way, shape, or form. (Because not once, in all my years of parenting, have my kids thrown up during the day. It is always at 1:00 in the morning.) Every few weeks or so I would remind the boys of our plan and remind them what to do in case of an upset tummy.

I am so proud to tell you that Carver remembered the plan, executed the plan, and passed with flying colors!


When I am old and grey, I will always, always, always go to an elementary school on the last day before Christmas break. It is, quite possibly, the most exciting place ever. The energy, the sugar--it's enough to make you swoon with joy.

My kids are in bliss.



I am sick. I am pretty sure I have a sinus infection, so I get to go to the doctor tomorrow and wince while he presses on my sinuses and asks, "Does this hurt?" We used to go to the doctor all the time. When the kids were younger, they had everything. Ear infections times 1 billion, strep throat, tonsils out, adenoids out, spider bites, fevers, let's not forget the mumps, rashes, dehydration, and the general well check ups and vaccinations that come along with being a kid. Fortunately for us, it's been a slow year in the medical co-pay department. Gee. I've kinda missed the old doc. I'm happy I get to mix things up a bit.

David asked me how could I possibly know if I had a sinus infection. I asked him what else would make my sinuses feel like they're about to explode in my head. Even my teeth hurt. He has since kept clear of me for fear of my horrible temperamental attitude.

Also, I've tried to get through the whole day without bending over. Bending over hurts my head in ways you cannot imagine. Don't you think that's a clue?

I haven't had much of an appetite today, but then out of the blue I'll get a weird craving for food--like bread slathered in butter. Yes, I mean slathered. Who eats bread slathered with butter for no reason? Slathered is the key word here, folks. It tells me something is up.

It is still so funny to me that my kids don't a) believe me when I tell them I'm sick, or b) don't care when I tell them I am sick. They have the same expectations of me regardless. They want me to juggle, tell jokes, cook their favorite food, and sew costumes--all in 12.4 minutes! Those little stinkers.

So I am putting myself to bed, in preparation of my sinuses getting felt up tomorrow. Nighty night.


The Christmas Tree--2009 Edition

We like to wait until mid-December before we break out the Christmas decor, so Sunday was the day we went to get our Christmas tree. We did something different this year. We drove into the mountains to chop down our tree. The forest service sells $10 permits and gives you a map of areas that are designated for cutting. Our little environmentalist, Lily, was horrified that we would be cutting down some animal's home until we explained that that forest rangers want us to do this to prevent forest fires, which would result in mass destruction of all animal homes and the poor squirrels and birds would be devastated*, and she was mollified. (*yes, we stretched the truth there but it was either that or watch her chain herself to the tree we selected.)

We bundled up and for some reason all wore Santa hats. I wore one, too, which is why there are no photos of me. Here are my little elves.

And big daddy-o. Does he look happy or what?

On the drive up the pass. Who is having the most fun in this photo? The dog, because he has a whole seat to himself.

Walking in to choose a tree. In a fine family moment, Lily is hitching up her snow pants. That girl's waist is the size of a toothpick and she spends a lot of her waking moments pulling up her pants.

We were not looking for the perfect tree. To be honest, when you cut down a tree in the mountains they're all a little sparse in the "branches department". We went for height, because we have huge vaulted ceilings in our living room.
I don't know if it's legal to post this photo. Carver is wielding an axe. He was VERY proud of himself because he chopped the tree down all on his own.

Triumph! He was a huge help

Lily helping.

Zinabu helping.

The piney woods. It was a gorgeous day.
The final product at home.

This tree is huge. Almost 12 feet. It is gangly and dorky, kind of like our family so it's actually a perfect fit. What I love about it is that every time we look at it we think of our shared experience of cutting it down and spending the afternoon together. You can't beat that.


Recently Overheard

Me: Zinabu, I still can't believe you're 6 years old. Do you feel like you're 6?

Zinabu: What do you think, Mom? I can eat 2 hamburgers!!!


It's Really Cold

See that number on the bottom of our thermostat? Minus 12 degrees. The big storm that is attacking most of the country came through Colorado from Sunday through Tuesday. And the temperatures have not been kind. We've had a lot of snow (which I love) and bitter cold (which I thought I was done with when I left Minnesota). The kids and I have loved the snow day and delayed starts. I'm a much better person when I have a slow morning and don't have to make everyone's breakfasts, snacks, and lunches by 6:45 am. But with hunkering down comes cabin fever, plus our 30 Days of Nothing in November, and we haven't been out to do much lately. So I told the kids we would go somewhere fun after school. Somewhere warm. Which resulted in the following:

Indoor mini-glow golf. For reasons I can't explain my children love this place. It gives me a headache. It also gives me a chance to examine all the lint on my clothes that shows up under that black lights.

We got hot chocolate, looked at the mall Santa (who my kids think is hilarious) and played golf. We even snuck in a little shopping time for Nana. I had to steer them away from the glass dolphin they all insisted she would love. I think I convinced them it was breakable and Buddy might eat it. They solemnly nodded their head in agreement and we chose something much more... uh, practical.

I hope you're all staying warm.


Last night I couldn't sleep. I was lying awake--thinking about everything and nothing. And I began to think about Zinabu.
Days lived in Ethiopia = 1300
Days lived in The United States = 900
He has still spent more of his life without us than he has with us. That is mind-boggling to me. It feels like he's been with us forever, and it hurts my heart that he had years without us. True, he was with his biological relatives for those first years, and that is beautiful... but we still mourn the fact that his life has been divided.
On the days that Zinabu pushes me to my limit, when he exhausts me (ok, like every day) I often wonder what he would be like in Ethiopia. Would he be as loud? Would he talk all the time like he does here? Would he collapse into bed each night from sheer exhaustion? What would his favorite food be if it wasn't blackberries? Would he hate being told "no" the same way he does now?
I'll never know... but I love him lots. I can't wait until we can celebrate the fact that he's been with our family longer than anyone else.


Time With Carver

Carver is a great kid. Just an all-around great kid. I can't relate to other parents when they discuss their children's personalities and temperaments in relation to their birth order. Like "Billy is such a firstborn--he's such a perfectionist!" etc. My kids were born in one environment and thrown into our family with no rhyme or reason to birth order or oldest, youngest, or middle. They're just kids. And Carver is about as easy as they get. He's sweet and sentimental and silly and kind. He's also the best at forgiving me when I screw up.

The afterglow of Thanksgiving was quick to wear off this week, and I am time-crunched myself with a work deadline that is going to be the death of me. Somehow the kids sensed my lack of availability and were downright wicked to each other. It has not been pretty.* I knew the kids were just wanting more time with me, so I spent all of today making sure I got one-on-one time with each of them.

Carver, of course, wanted to go to the skateboard park. That wasn't exactly what I would have chosen for quality time, but it was his choice.

Carver, ready to skate.

Me... ready to rob a bank?

The view from the skateboard park. Not bad.

After an hour of me applauding his drop-ins and ollies and other what-nots, we went to get some peppermint hot chocolate and browse books. Now, Carver is very well read. He's a literature geek and we had a ball oooohing and aaaaahing over new books. But then he found the following:

What is it with 11 year old boys and inappropriate noises? This book not only looked funny, but it had ten (yes, count them... ten!) different accompanying sounds. They were loud and we drew the attention of little old ladies who were buying picture books for their grandchildren.

A day like today exhausts me, but I hope when my kids are grown up and living somewhere else they'll remember that I invested time in them, and watched them fall off their skateboards, and giggled over fart books, and sipped hot cocoa with them, and tried to keep the sibling rivalry at bay.

*this is not one of those blogs where i lead you to believe my children are perfect.


I just gave the woman that cuts my hair the biggest tip of her life. Man, that felt good! Then I treated myself to a huge portion of Kung Pao Chicken.

Hello, December!


Wrapping Up 30 Days of Nothing

Lest you think avoiding stores has kept consumerism at bay, Lily likes to leave the above signs all over the house--attached to sticks. She likes to make hats and masks and necklaces, etc., and sell her wares to anyone willing to part with their nickels and dimes.
I have 2 more days to go in my challenge. Since I began on Nov. 3, I am ending on Dec. 3. I have a haircut appointment on Thursday afternoon, but it's close enough. And who's really counting minutes?
All of my kids need pants in one form or another. Carver needs a new lamp. (His blew a fuse--of course.) The car desperately needs to be washed. I want a peppermint latte. I need socks. We have no vitamins. I owe my mom stamps. I missed some killer deals at Amazon.com. My hair makes me look like a wookie. However, we saved way more than I expected and I don't really need to go out on December 4th and replenish an entire household of goods. I want to make sure that when I do start spending again, it's not a knee-jerk reaction and that I ease back into the consumer world with care. I'm just saying.
I had a head-smacking moment yesterday. The kind where you're jawing about something and, ping! A lightbulb goes off over your head and you realize you've acted like a noodle-brain. I was jealous of someone else's wealth. Someone I know that was able to afford something extravagant that our family cannot. And I was grumbling about how lucky they were and wishing I could have some of what they had. And it hit me. I was being ungrateful and, in a word, lame. I reeled in my wayward thoughts and recalled that I have enough. More than enough. And to just shut it, already.
I am already considering repeating 30 Days of Nothing in January. Apparently, I still need the lesson.

By 2010, there will be approximately 18 MILLION AIDS orphans in Africa.