Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tag-Team Cookie Baking

Here are some of the pictures from the BAKING portion of our day. There might not have been "fluff" involved... but these smart bakers already know how to lick the batter from the beaters. McCaleb was especially helpful - if he wasn't unplugging the mixer, or pushing in the "reset" button on the ground fault plug, he was making major repairs with his new hammer and drill from Mr. David, Mrs. Joanna and Ashley! (Joanna... apparently we have not put the fear of God in him well enough...) Lucky for us - he has pretty good aim with that hammer. No fingers or toes were injured during the remodeling process.


OK... so those of you that have known me for YEARS and YEARS know of my love of Marshmallow Cream. It all began when we were living in New Jersey... my sisters actually would eat the "fluff" as we called it on (ick... hold your breath...) Peanut Butter sandwiches. (It seems to defile the "fluff" in my opinion, but I find that there are even those of you out there TODAY that do this same strange, hideous thing...) We grew up calling those sandwiches "Fluffernutter" sandwiches. I, on the other hand, would eat the fluff... straight from the jar preferably... by the spoonfuls. However, to maintain some degree of "order" Mom preferred if I would spread it on bread (ALONE) or on crackers. Thus began my love of Fluff and Ritz crackers... which is still one of my favorites today. Well... back in the good ol' days... we had baking days at Christmastime. We made cookies, divinity, fudge (the old way...) and Cinnamon Hard Crack candy. It was the most fun... and I knew that this year we could all enjoy a baking day together. We made chocolate chip cookies, butter cookies... and Orange Cream Fudge...NOT the old fashioned way... but with FLUFF! The girls had tried fluff once before when they first came home - and were not impressed... but this year... they changed their tune. Aren't they adorable? I really prefer black and white pictures... but you have to see these in color to really appreciate the fluff all over their faces!

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Blessings We Have

I have so many things to be thankful for...and so many things I want to share with my children. I want them to know the fun and excitement that we experienced on every holiday... and I want them to love each other and appreciate family as much as I do. They are such wonderful kids. We are so blessed! I have had more people tell me how "lucky" the kids are... but really Tim and I are the lucky ones. They give us so much more than we will ever be able to return to them! They give me such joy - to watch them play and sing and dance... to sit with one another and pretend to read stories to each other. They are just fun. I have such pride for the compassion and the care that they show other people (and most of the time, each other). They love the simple things... and I really admire that in them. They don't have to be entertained...they ARE their own entertainment. I love that about my kids! I love the way they squeal for joy when their Daddy pulls into the driveway... and how they thank me for dinner... even if it's Hamburger Helper. :) They are cute - they are sweet - they like to cuddle... and I really love that. But what I like the most - is that THEY LIKE EACH OTHER. They get up in the morning... looking for each other. It's adorable. They keep me enchanted with their zest for life and their HUGE hearts. They also keep me young... because we never slow down. A friend of ours was over recently to vaccinate the dogs and horses... and he kept saying...I don't know how you do it. It's chaos. :) It might be chaos... but I love the chaos. I'm sitting here typing at 2am and all I can think of is that the house is too quiet. Tim is out with the Youth Group (Lock-In) at WalMart shopping for our Christmas angels we have adopted this year...bless his heart. I do have so many things to be thankful for - and I hope that I savor every moment of this roller-coaster ride called childhood!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cabin Fever + Three Sick Little Ones = Time on the Naughty Spot!

We are suffering from some real CABIN FEVER here at the Hanks House! I got sick back at the beginning of November... and could not shake this nasty cold. I did however, share it with Tim. None of the kids were sick... until this past weekend... when McCaleb and Ali both caught the cold (Daddy decided to share, too) and I GOT IT AGAIN! What is up with that? At any rate, we have been inside a lot lately. A LOT. So the other day - it was pretty warm out... and I told the kids we were going outside to play. You'd would have thought they hadn't seen the outdoors in MONTHS. They went totally nuts. I mean really - NUTS. I should ahve seen the problem coming... but hindsight is 20/20. It didn't take long... and the trouble began. I should have timed it... next time I will. The first offense occured within minutes of being out. The perpetrator: Ali. The weapon of choice: the bat. You can use your imagination on what happened. She scored a quick time out. But she wasn't alone...for long. The second offense was about 10 minutes later... Ali was still standing because she refused to apologize... she actually wouldn't even make eye contact with me OR her victim... which sort of became hilarious. (Sometimes I have to take a time out and walk away just chuckling...) The second offense involved the little pink and blue scooter bike. Perpetrator: McCaleb Target: Ali I think there was a little payback for the bat incident... but I'm not sure. At this point, Rachel thought she was pretty hot stuff... as she had the slide to herself. Then... once McCaleb apologized (which was hard, since Ali still wouldn't make eye contact or speak to anyone...) he decided to go slide some more. Rachel was not such a happy-go-lucky person about that. Which is surprising since she is usually the best at sharing and playing together. McCaleb clibed up the side all by himself... and Rachel gave him a litle extra shove down the slide. I didn't know he could fly so far through the air on the little slide... but needless to say -McCaleb had the slide to himself after that. Finally... I negotiated a peace treaty among the three of them. Apologies and hugs all the way around. Everyone was happy - and they all decided to go under the slide in the "house" to play "Honey and Tim". Big mistake... I should have seen that coming. It was like three cats in a box... lots of screaming, clawing, crying...and the slide was bouncing all over the place. Finally - after 45 exhausting minutes of OUTDOOR FUN... we marched back into the kitchen, I laid out their three "naughty spots" (an arms length away from each other) and gave up. You know... even in time out... their still cute. ;)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"All I Got was a Rock"....

Ali turned 5 on December 2nd. I FINALLY got her pictures back from Wal-Mart... no, they weren't lost...the camera battery died with another roll of film inside. This is how it seems to always happen for me... and you would THINK I would remember what size batteries we need. But I don't... and I never seem to remember to take them with me. So several sets of batteries later, and several more trips to Wally World... I am finally able to extract the film from the camera. (One of the "cons" to the real film process... but I still like REAL film better.) Sadly... she is going through this goofy phase, where all her pictures end up with a silly face that usually involves her eyes being closed. So much for the sweet angelic little girl that stole my heart away. ... More about THAT GIRL later. All in all Ali had a wonderful day where she was Queen Bee. We celebrated with her several times... once with the entire family, cousins and all... and once with just the FIVE of us, which tends to be my favorite time of all. For her Birthday, she chose to have FAMILY NIGHT - where we all lay on the floor and watch a movie. We decided to give her presents to her then...and she was really funny. We had been teasing that I was going to give her a rock for her Birthday (like Charlie Brown...which we had been watching daily for the past month and a half...) So Tim found a great big rock, and we wrapped it up. In the meantime I hid her real present in the Dining Room by Rocky's cage... Present time came, and she was so funny about the rock. She laughed... she said THANK YOU... and she just kept giggling. Finally we told her to go look by Rocky's cage. She got the Fisher Price "I Can Play The Piano." It was a bit hit. I just didn't realize that she thought the RABBIT gave it to her until bedtime when she ran over to his cage and said "Thank you for my piano, Rocky!" Oh well! She also made her own cake...and licked the bowl to boot! She didn't want the traditional Birthday candles... she had already had those... and I meant to get her trick candles... but she really wanted something BIG. Mental note: save sparklers for her #6... However, we found tea candles and she liked those because they were BIG. She is a hoot. Ali has really blossomed... if only you all knew just how much!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving from Our House to Yours...

Thanksgiving has always been such a special time. When we were little every Thanksgiving we spent with Uncle Joe and the boys... either at our house or theirs. Some of my best memories were the times we spent together... all 8 of the cousins. This year was our first year without Grandpa. I knew it was going to be hard... but I also didn't know how much being away from my family would bother me until the week of Thanksgiving rolled around. Mom and Dad went to Ohio to Amish country...Jean, Chris and Tabitha are WAY OUT IN ARIZONA (hint-hint)... Daddy, Frances and Kelsey were in Memphis since Grandma Goff was in the hospital... so Jamie, Jodi and I were all just doing our own things separately. By Tuesday, I was pretty SAD. However, after a little plotting and planning... and a special surprise of Mom and Dad coming home from Ohio early...we all met at the movies in Georgetown to go and see "Happy Feet" at 5PM on Thanksgiving evening. It was a lot of fun... the girls were only mildly traumatized by the scary birds that tried to eat the baby penguin, and the mean seal that chased him... and the "bad fish" (aka the killer whale)... Overall, though they really enjoyed the movie and thought it was great fun that we took up an ENTIRE row at the theater! (Although, Jean and Chris... there were several seats there is plenty of room for you to join us next time!!!!) Family is important to me. It always has been, and always will be. They can be the first ones to make you crazy - but they are also the first ones there to defend you, to encourage you, to pick you up when you are down... and to love you unconditionally like only a family can do! My family is very important to me... and on this Thanksgiving I want to say THANK YOU Mom, Dad, Daddy, Frances, Kelsey, Jamie, Chuck, Briana, Jean, Chris, Tabitha, Jodi, Chad, Austin, Bryson... and of course Tim, Ali, Rachel and McCaleb for being the wonderful family that you are! Each of you have added something special to my life - and for that I will be forever grateful. I love you all very much...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Having her cake...and eating it, too!

Birthdays are always eventful around our house. Tim has made a great effort to be off and spend the day with each of the children on their special day... and we usually do something fun as a family. On Rachel's special day this year - he made her feel like a Princess all day long. He kept telling her that she could certainly decide what we would do - it was her Birthday...sure, you can pick out what you want to's your birthday. You get the idea. :) So, this year we had lunch at Chuck-E-Cheese with Mamoo and Papoo... and they even brought a cake! We planned to follow that with a movie and then dinner before returning home. This was a big deal that we built up quite a bit - since last year we weren't able to make it to Rachel's birthday movie - as we were taking her to the dentist for a tooth injury from playing too rough! It also meant we didn't get to go to Chick-Fil-A for dinner, but had Chinese food instead so that she could have soup. (Her tooth was knocked loose... there was no chewing for her for quite a while...) Well... the movie didn't start as early as we thought - and we decided to kill time at Target... when Rachel began asking about her Birthday Cake. I told her that we had a cake, but that I didn't make is yet since Mamoo brought her a cake to Chuck-E-Cheese. Well, being the Princess that she is...she decided that she wanted to go home and make her own birthday cake instead of going to the Movies... so that is exactly what we did. Tim then proceeded to ask her what she wanted to do about dinner..."It's your birthday, he said... you can have WHATEVER YOU WANT." (Big mistake...) Rachel replied so very sweetly..."Oh... Ok... I'd like spaghetti." (Daddy was not so very happy...he and Aunt Jamie have the same opinion of spaghetti...) That's when I smiled sweetly and said...maybe with just a tad bit of sarcasm... "It IS her birthday, honey."

Rachel's Big Day...

Rachel's Referral Photo! 4 Days Old...

Rachel the Four-Year-Old!
Rachel turned 4 on November 1st. I took it terribly hard - she, on the other hand is trying to figure out when she turns 5. I have been wondering why it was so difficult for me... and I think that I finally figured it out on Friday. (I've been home sick for a week... so I've had lots of time to lay around and THINK.) When we got our referral on the girls, Rachel was 4 days old. Ali was already 11 months old. As the pictures would come in and the girls would grow... Rachel went through all the "baby" stages. Ali seemed to change to a little, tiny adult... she was so grown up the day they brought her to us . (The differences of being in a different environment in the beginning...? Or just her personality...?) At any rate - when we first met Rachel and Ali, Rachel couldn't even walk. She could pull up and hold onto things... and she was crawling like crazy. With McCaleb, our referral came when he was 8 months old... so we missed out on the beginning stages with him, too. Although we did receive many updates and photos of him, as well as a video. For that we are truly thankful! So I guess that even though Rachel isn't our youngest child... she was the youngest when we fell in love with her and accepted our referral... and the youngest when we were able to bring her home. We've certainly seen the most changes with her - even if we weren't "there" with her during all those changes. Rachel is such a preciuos little girl. Very unassuming and kind... and generous and loving. She is quick to cry if she feels she has been hurt or disappointed...(if you were at church this Sunday... you would have seen that first hand) and she cries just as quickly if she hurts your feelings. However, she is also very funny - and loves to make you laugh. Just ask Miss Joanna at the office! I guess I simply hate seeing these "toddler" stages fade away - and her grow into this little person. It's a bittersweet happiness about her special day! More pictures to come... once I scan those in! :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Jamie/Maggie Connection

While I plan to put an entry in for Rachel's birthday... which was last week...I still have that whole "memory stick is full - don't know how to clear it" dilemma. The problem? All my birthday photos are on FILM... which needs to be DEVELOPED... and then SCANNED. I really don't like digital cameras... except for the fact that you can see the pictures right away - and utilize them, as well. So to fill the time...stretching, if you will... I will answer one of the questions that has been asked from my past posts. Why do I think that Maggie looks like Jamie? We weren't really in the market for another dog when little Maggie was brought into our lives. We had just put Hunter (my old, faithful, toothless companion) to sleep in January at the ripe old age of 14. We had JD and Molly - and life was good. We were content to go horseback riding and camping, without many cares... and both JD and Molly loved to go on trail rides with us. I always said that the next dog would be a yellow lab names Maggie. In June of 2000 - right before our family went to Arizona - we drove out to Perryville to see this adorable, little, bossy puppy. It wasn't the bossiness that made me think of Jamie. It was her eyes. She was adorable - and when she furrowed her brow just the right way... she looked exactly like Jamie. We left for Arizona, trying to decide if we should bring her home. (Of course we knew she was ours the moment that we saw her... it was kismet. She was the only yellow female in the litter, her mother's name was Maggie... and the girl selling her was named Mollie. Kismet.) So on July 4th we drove BACK down to Perryville and picked up this little fireball. She is a pistol. She loves to chase balls, to run, to chase balls, to swim in the pond, to chase balls, to jump off the dock, to jump in after balls, to catch balls... and lets see... did I mention she is OCD about balls? I buy tennis balls by the 2 dozen! Her favorite person in the whole world is Matthew...although she is beginning to like the kids... now that they can (almost) throw balls. So how else does Maggie remind me of Jamie? Well... she is very task oriented...obsessive about some things...compulsive about others...but mostly she is LOYAL to a fault! OK - so here is one of my favorite puppy pictures of Maggie... look closely at those eyes (make sure you enlarge this one)... do you see the resemblance???

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Family Fun...!!!

Every now and then - we try and have a family movie night. Since it's (almost) Halloween... this seemed like the perfect time for Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie! And since we tried on our costumes today... it seemed like the perfect "theme" for our day! We had dinner... made caramel apples (YUM! although they aren't as good as the ones the Mike and Brenda send home each fall...)... and then we watched Pooh's Halloween movie. McCaleb hasn't been able to make it through an entire movie at night - until this time. It took a lot of coaxing, a lot of shhhhhh-ing, a lot of "sit still's" and finally 66 mintues later... he was READY for bed! I was just thrilled that Ali's eyes were open in all of these pictures!!! She has blinked or turned her head in every photo the past 2 weeks... and look how beautiful she looks tonight - WITH HER EYES WIDE OPEN! :)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Fairytale Reality

I live a pretty charmed life... and I count my blessings because of it. But don't let me kid you --- we aren't the Cleavers. I'd like to think that I have three very well-adjusted and happy children, that play well together and get along at all times, constantly thinking of others and putting off their own needs in deference to that of their own siblings. That our home would be a constant example of order and sanity ... from being clean and organized... to running on a tight schedule maximizing each moment of every day. That the kids would be playing quietly (and with one another) - when their Father returned home at the end of a very hard day... to dinner ready and on the table... soft music playing... and his wife dressed and wearing pearls. No discord, no disorganization, no disharmony, no disarray.

Well... NO WAY.

Our life is so far from that picture... that I think the only part that can possibly apply, is the three, happy and well adjusted kids. The Cleavers we are NOT. However, it got my mind to thinking... how can I adequately describe this crazy, fun, roller-coaster ride that we are on to those of you that we don't get to see that often? I have been racking my brain - and I cannot come up with the perfect comparison just yet. But there are glimpses of many things that REMIND me of our life at home...

Today's winner: Rachel starring as George Kastanza from Seinfeld.

So here's the scenario: Friday morning poor little McCaleb wakes up, sad and still uncomfortable. Right now - the LAST thing he wants to do is have his diaper changed. And who could blame him, really?? So the girls have been really good sports of trying to keep him happy... and helping out with all kinds of little chores. I have McCaleb on my bed, getting a new diaper. Rachel has taken the WET (really wet) diaper and is going to throw it away. Ali is supervising every move I make. (The typical big sister...watching over little brother and saying supportive things like: "Oooo. THAT had to hurt.") Suddenly we hear screams from the bathroom:

Rachel: Hey Mommy! There's clothes in here!!!
Me: (assuming that she means there might be dirty clothes left on the floor...I half way ignore her and say something like) Oh. OK.
Rachel: Can I have them?
Me: What?
Rachel: Why, look! It's a perfectly good T-Shirt!!!!!!!!
Me: Rachel, what are you talking about?????
Rachel: (comes out carrying her new trophy) Look! This perfectly good T-Shirt was in the trash!!! Can I have it?
Me: Rachel, what are you doing digging in the trash?? (Suddenly I realize that it's a white work T-shirt that Tim was throwing out because the neck was fraying...and I'm now thinking - I hope he didn't clean out his underwear, too...)
Rachel: Well.. that diaper was really yucky (her new favorite word) and I wanted to make sure I wasn't throwing it on anything good. (because, apparently we must keep lots of good stuff IN THE TRASH...)
Me: (stunned silence. Yes, I was left speechless... standing there with visions of her going out rummaging through OTHER trash cans, eating half-eaten eclairs...or WORSE...)
Rachel: (huge smile - very proud of herself at this point.) So... can I keep it? (again - another big grin...)
Me: (still partially speechless...) Sure. Why not?

She wore that poor shirt (holes and all) all morning over her PJ's, then after breakfast when she changed her clothes, she wore it OVER her sweatsuit... all day. At bedtime, after her bath she was digging in the clothes pile trying to find it to sleep in. Fortunately for me (and Ali, who sleeps with her) she got Mac-N-Cheese on it. So it really needed to be washed. (Besides... did I mention it had BEEN IN THE TRASH????) Bless her heart. She was very proud of her new "cinderella". This is what she calls dresses and gowns.

So I guess in some ways, our life can be similar to Seinfeld. We have Rachel - and her Georgeisms. We do have a lot of close talking...for some reason especially after they have eaten Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. There are definite similarities to the Soup Nazi... they all watch to see who got what to eat and how much. (And they are quick to point out and overages or shortfalls...) They all three think they are stand up comedians... and love to perform. (Just ask Joanna... she can't keep a straight face at the office.) And like the Junior Mints scene... there are many things flying through the air around here at various times. But there is one HUGE difference between my life and Seinfeld. The entire premise behind Seinfeld was that it was a show about "nothing"... and I have to say... these three little ones are definitely SOMETHING.