Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Aubrey's Night Owl Party

Aubrey has been begging to have a sleepover with her friends.
This is coming from a girl who has had a strict bedtime since she was six months old.
If you keep her up past a certain hour, be prepared for a total meltdown.

So, while sleepovers sound soooooo fun, I know Miss A wouldn't handle it well.
And, truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of sleepovers.
Especially not in kindergarten.

But, when possible, I try to find a compromise...

Dilemma: Aubrey wants to have a sleepover / I don't want her to have a sleepover.
Compromise: Aubrey gets to have an "almost" sleepover.
Translation: She gets to invite a couple of friends over to do all the fun "slumber party" things, only when it's time for bed -- everyone goes home!

Aubrey was happy / I was happy, and the "Night Owl Party" was set!

As with most things, Aubrey gets in her mind how she wants everything to go down.
She started working on the decorations that day. She was drawing, coloring, and cutting out stars all afternoon.

We hung up one of her sheets for a backdrop and taped up the cut-out creation.

This was all set up in the basement. We were supposed to have new flooring the week before this shindig, but due to a random snow storm the flooring shipment was delayed. The basement had been cleared out, and old carpet had been pulled up revealing an old, gross brown tile floor underneath. We just had to make due with the circumstances! Good thing 6 year-olds couldn't care less!

The girls each received a plush owl to snuggle and a little bin to fill up with all their crafts (color-your-own pillowcase, grippy socks, and homemade lipgloss) and trinkets from the party (a compact brush/mirror, faux owl nails, clip-on book light, and owl mask.)

Aubrey had created a list of crafts she wanted to do, which was good because we had from 3:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (staying up a full hour past bedtime) to fill up!

The first thing on the agenda when the girls skipped off the bus after-school was make their own lipgloss! I picked up these cute little containers from the bead section at Hobby Lobby for 4/$1. All you do is mix some un-petroleum jelly and to-go singles of a drink mix. While they mixed their lipgloss, we talked about how only "sweet" words should leave our mouths. :)

Next, the girls wanted to make their own grippy socks.
Just DollarTree socks 3/$1 and some puffy paint! 

Around 5:00, the girls decided they wanted to change into their jammies (they just simply couldn't wait any longer!) and ran around the basement with their owl masks.

After all that, their bellies started growling. Aubrey wanted to have breakfast foods for dinner since the girls wouldn't be waking up to have breakfast at our house. Funfetti pancakes, mini cinnamon rolls, donuts, mini waffles, scrambled eggs, and bacon along with chocolate milk! Whoooooo's hungry?!

Once tummies were full, the girls decorated their own owl pillowcases...

Before watching a movie, we played "Prancing Pedicures". I just set the nail polish around in a circle and sat in the middle playing music while they "pranced" around. When I stopped the music, I would paint one of their toenails the color they were standing by. 

Once all the little piggies were painted -- they all danced and ran around to "help" dry their polish. We turned on a movie and passed out pink popcorn to help wind down the evening. 

It was a fun and exhausting night with these little night owls!
They were certainly a HOOT! :)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

CNY 2015

I love Chinese New Year.
It makes me super emotional, over-joyed, sappy, teary-eyed, and abundantly thankful.

I think about Mina's birth family and mentally obsess over how they are preparing for the big holiday. Wondering what traditions they honor, who does all the cooking, what they're wearing, conversations they have, and deep down I wonder if they think of Mina and what she's doing on this occasion. I fantasize about us all sharing a meal together one day. 

A few weeks before CNY, I usually pull out the suitcase we bought in China and filled with all our Chinese goodies. The silk dresses and outfits for the girls are by far one of my favorite things...

The girls squeal and beg to try some on, which I never say "no" to...

Then the big day of feasting arrives, and we get ready to chow-down and par-tay!

Hey Mina, guess what we're going to have LOTS of for Chinese New Year?


She gets so insanely excited about dumplings.
A toast, to all the dumplings that will be going in my belly!

(Aubrey, as you can see in this photo, surprised us all by coming to the dining room wearing make-up for the big event. ?!?!)

Oh these girls. They are certainly my favorite dumplings of all! :)

Each year, it is my goal to try and make a Chinese dish with Mina.
The girls both love egg drop soup, and I found the best / easiest recipe here.
It was such a great day of celebration and family traditions!
Happy Year of the Goat!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

That Lovin' Feeling...

I'm typing this post after the SIXTH day school was canceled due to "inclement weather".

As I looked back at our Valentine-y pictures, I realized how far I had drifted from all the warm, fuzzy, lovey-dovey days to the dear-Lord-help-me-not-completely-lose-my-mind days.

In other words, I had Lost that Lovin' Feeling...

I think it would be therapeutic to mentally travel back to a happier time, back before snow days started threatening my sanity...

So, first up -- Making Valentine Love Shacks with my love bugs!

The Christmas season flew by without gingerbread houses getting checked off my holiday to-do list with the girls. I decided Valentine's would be just as fun with all the cute candies.

I set up little pre-made houses and filled muffin tins with all the candy decorations...

Most of the time I set up a craft for the girls, but I never actually join in.
This time I decided to get in on the fun, which they both loved and (truth be told) I loved too!

We came up with lots of names for our Valentine version of gingerbread houses.
Love Shacks, Cupid Cottages, Heart Day Chalets, Chapels of Love, and when we lined them all up Aubrey said, "It's 'Lovely Lane!'"

Whatever you want to call them, I definitely want to do this again next year.
It was much less hectic doing in it February rather than December!

Another little Valentine-y thing we did one day was make a giant geometric heart for the girls' bedroom. Aubrey had been learning all about 2-D and 3-D shapes at school, so I thought this would be a fun thing to make. Super easy -- just cut scrapbook paper diagonally and tape to the wall.

Oh, and this little treat was a HUGE hit in our house...Valentine strawberry brownies! Delish!

I made these for an after-school playdate when Aubrey requested something "girly" as a treat for her and her little friend.

We always have Family Movie Night on Fridays, so on Valentine's Eve I thought it would be fun to spice up the basement a bit. The girls flipped when they came downstairs for dinner and movie!

I made pink popcorn to munch on for dessert after dinner and during the movie. 
All you do is pop your favorite popcorn, microwave some candy melts, drizzle it over the popcorn (after you've picked out all the un-popped kernels), and mix it all around to coat the popcorn. Yum-O.

Candlelight dinners are certainly different after you have kids... ;)

The next morning, the girls woke up to a Valentine breakfast and packages waiting for them from their grandparents.

Daniel is famous in our house for his Saturday morning pancakes, but on this particular morning he surprised us with heart-shaped waffles (with chocolate chips, of course...).

And he snuck out before lunch to pick up a special "bouquet" for the girls. They loved it!

Everything was so lovely and fun...and then the snow hit.

 Which Miss Aubrey absolutely LOVED.

I mean really  LOVED...

While Mina and I decided we preferred being indoors with our big ol' mugs of hot chocolate!

Little did we know this would be the theme for the next FULL WEEK.

Thankfully the girls finally went back to school, and we've all officially started our countdown to Spring! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2 Years Together

I can still remember that day two years ago in the hotel lobby in Nanchang, China.
Waiting for her to arrive after the long 5+ hour drive with the orphanage director and two nannies.
That palpable excitement and nervousness of meeting our daughter for the very first time.

And then there she was.
More precious than I imagined.
Overwhelmed by the love that filled my heart.

She cried, screamed, arched her back, and tried everything she could to bust out of my arms after one of the nannies handed her to me. 

When we took her back to our room, and she began to realize I wasn't going to let her out of my arms, she locked eyes with me. It was a mix of searching for answers and grasping for understanding of who I was. I remember at that moment praying with tears running down my cheeks and nose, "Jesus, let her see You." From that moment on, she never once tried to escape from my arms. In fact, it was the place she preferred to be. 

And, two years later, it still is.

Praise God.
What a joy and blessing it is to be her Mama.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Keepin' It Real Christmas

I've been trying to conjure up the energy to tackle the "Christmas" post.

As I scrolled through all my iphone photos (kicking myself for never once taking out my "good" camera), I realized why I took down all our Christmas decorations on Dec. 26th.

This year's holiday season felt like being strapped on a non-stop roller-coaster.
And, truth be told, I'm glad it's over.

As a time saver, I thought about just dumping all the Christmas photos into this post and calling it a day.
But then I realized it would give the appearance of a happy little Christmas holiday where everything went perfectly wonderful.
And that was not the case for the majority of our holiday season.

Nothing truly "bad" happened, but it just seemed like a lot of the happy was followed by a downer.

Here are just a few examples:

Happy: Christmas Break!
Downer: Aubrey getting her very first ear infection the first day off.

Happy: Christmas cards!
Downer: Realizing I didn't order nearly enough 5 days before Christmas.

Happy: Visiting our cute, decorated downtown and getting to sit on Santa's lap!
Downer: Waiting for over 45 minutes next to the world's most annoying stranger in the freezing cold for the free carriage ride that lasted all of 7 minutes.

Happy: Impromptu tickets / date with Aubrey to a musical performance of Rudolph.
Downer: Aubrey crying buckets of tears because we didn't get a "Clarice" stuffed animal during intermission.

Happy: Drive-thru Christmas light displays!
Downer: Arriving an hour too early, having to go back home and come back later.

Happy: Deciding to put up Christmas lights outside!
Downer: These two coming home with this and (unrelated to that multi-light tree) our outdoor electrical unit shorting out -- again.

Happy: Fun treats for Aubrey's class Christmas party!
Downer: Making them the day before and noticing the next morning that the bananas had turned brown and the marshmallow tops were super soggy thus having to redo it all.
Happy: Traveling and spending Christmas Eve with family!
Downer: Coming down with a horrible cold that day.

Happy: Waking up on Christmas morning!
Downer: Waking up on Christmas morning. ;)

See what I mean?

Well, let's end on a few good notes, shall we?

I'll start it off with my absolute favorite part of this Christmas season...

Our Tree!

Aubrey came up with the idea to make a "Fruits of the Spirit" Christmas tree. 
So instead of pulling out all our ornaments -- we dried some fruit in the oven, made cinnamon ornaments and stamped out a fruit of the Spirit on each one, hot glued some cinnamon sticks together for stars, and strung popcorn and cranberry garlands.

And even this project didn't go smoothly! Our first batch of cinnamon ornaments had to be thrown out and remade because I somehow managed to botch the world's easiest 2-ingredient recipe!

But who cares...seeing her happiness in this photo made it all worth it. 

Some other positives over the holiday season...

These girls (despite having sibling quarrels at least once a day) loved getting to be home together. This is one of the few photos over the break of them NOT still in their jammies. 

Going to Patti's to see the lights and Santa again...

and Ms. Claus...

Two school Christmas programs with the cutest donkey and the prettiest dancing snowflake...

Christmas night...

 (Aubrey: telescope, accordion, craft kit, make-up kit, And Then story starters, and Clarice ;)) // (Mina: unicorn scooter, helmet, snow glow Elsa, Elsa/Anna Barbies, The Whale and the Snail, and Rudolph) Not Pictured: Cardboard Castle / Pirate Ship

And Christmas morning...

And our traditional scraggily family Christmas morning photo...

 And, of course, we cannot forget...

As I started to feel sad about how a lot of things didn't go exactly as I had hoped, I thought about the very first Christmas hundreds of years ago...

I'm guessing Mary didn't envision giving birth to the Messiah mere feet from donkey manure, so obviously I am not the first one to have a few crappy moments during the holidays.

Now can I get a CHEERS! for 2015?!

Less than a year away from the next imperfect Christmas! :)