Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 To Do List - And 2011 Report Card

I'm continuing my tradition of looking at the goals I set for myself over the past year and grading myself based on how well I stuck with them. I also came up with some new goals for this next year.

1. Lose weight. C 
I lost the 10 lbs that I'd been trying to lose for the last few years. My clothes felt looser, I felt fitter and had more energy. And then I gained 5 lbs back because I stopped being careful about my eating habits and slacked off with my running. Boo.
2. Decrease Internet time. B
My overall success with this was good. For the most part, I've been good about not mindlessly browsing the web when I should be doing other things (like losing weight). But there were a few weeks here and there that I wasted way too much time on the web.

3. Read the whole Bible again. B
I read the Bible just about every day, but didn't get through the whole thing again. I stopped doing my reading plan for a few months to try a few other methods of study. One method was to read the same portion of the Bible each day for a month. There are some great advantages to reading the Bible this way, but I really missed going through the whole story this year. 

4. Take part in a Photo-a-Day project. F
I dropped this back in January because it conflicted with goal #2.

5. Read more good books. A+
I was able to read lots and lots of good books over the past year. Some of my favorites are:
Raising Real MenThe Read-Aloud HandbookJust Do SomethingAdopted for LifeThinkHow to Read a BookPositive Discipline and Bossypants. Okay, so that last one wasn't really great literature, but it certainly was entertaining!

For 2012:

1. Run a 10K. I ran a 5K last July and am planning on running another one in March. If I do two more 5K races the few months after that, I think it's within the realm of possibilities to squeeze in a 10K by the end of this year. I've started doing training for 10K using an app on my phone, which will hopefully get me back in the groove of running and help me with my next 5K. I'm on Week 4 and it hasn't been too bad. It is longer than I'm used to because the run/walk cycles go for 50-70 minutes instead of 30-40 minutes that I was used to with the 5K training.

2. Spend at least 10 minutes one-on-one time with each of my kids every day. Something that I've been slacking off on the past half year is spending quality time with each of my kids. We have plenty of quality time all together, but not much with each of them personally. This is partly because we've been busy. But mostly it's because they love spending almost every minute of their day playing together, so there's hardly a time when I can get them alone. But since I've been thinking about this, I've noticed that there are actually small pockets of time when one boy is off doing something and the other one is still in the room with me. I want to be more purposeful about snatching up those moments and starting a conversation or do something fun with them. 

3. Commit to eating only real food. Using the 14-step plan from this website, I want to try to cut out all of the processed foods and extra junk from our diet. We generally eat healthy and we get most of our fruits and veggies from local organic farms. But there is still so much room for improvement. Some of the items on the 14-week plan will be easy (like giving up sugary juices - we only drink water and milk anyway), but some others will a lot harder, like Week 3: Eat Only Local Meat or Week 12 - No Extra Sweeteners: I wonder how my kids will eat their oatmeal when it's not drizzled with honey? Or how I'll eat my oatmeal without honey!

4. Read the whole Bible again. I plan to use my favorite reading plan, from Discipleship Journal and stick with it this time. :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

We had a very enjoyable Christmas weekend. On Christmas Eve we just hung around the house, visited family, and had a relaxing day. We went to church in the evening and took part in West Hills' beautiful Christmas Eve service.

We put our gifts out on Christmas eve 

 Christmas Eve pancakes: gingerbread pancakes with sprinkles (and others had crushed candy cane)

Christmas Day was a lot of fun. Mark's parents and grandma joined us for Christmas morning and enjoyed watching the boys open their presents. The boys loved having their grandparents over for Christmas morning.

 Present opening

One of the boys' favorite gifts was a pack of water guns which, I have to admit, we didn't even buy. Throughout the year, Mark's mom will give us thrift store and garage sale finds for the boys - stuff she finds that she knows the boys will love, and that she got at an incredible discount. Sometimes we'll give the stuff to them right away, and sometimes we'll tuck it away to save for later. These water guns were one of the things I tucked away and totally forgot about. I didn't remember them until I was doing some pre-Christmas purging and found them in the back of a closet. Tommy immediately filled his with water and headed outside to 'test' it. The boys played with them the rest of the day.

After present opening, we played with our gifts (the boys played with their guns, I played with the ice cream maker Mark gave me and made some strawberry ice cream ;). We took a walk through our local vineyard - the boys brought their water guns and shot everything in sight with water. In the evening we had dinner with Mark's family. It was a relaxed, low-key day, but still very full and a lot of fun.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Doing Christmas Things

For some reason, I haven't been able to get into the "holiday spirit" this year. All month it hasn't bothered me too much; I think I was hoping that the closer we got to Christmas, the more I'd get in the spirit of things. But so far, it feels like a normal month, just with more stuff to do. Since I've got kids who are old enough to remember doing fun things last year at Christmastime, I haven't been able to get away with actually pretending it's a normal month (not that I would actually do that. Ahem.)

So, here are some of the fun Christmas things we've been up to:

Cutting down our Christmas tree at a local tree farm.

Decorating our Christmas tree. This year we let the boys have full autonomy with decking it with ornaments. So what if all the ornaments ended up in the bottom four feet of the tree?

Fast forward two weeks. The tree in the above photos died. It was really depressing having a completely dead tree with two weeks left until Christmas, so we got a cheap replacement from Home Depot. That'll teach us to keep a closer eye on the tree's water level! Sidenote: Don't these LED lights make our living room look like a disco?

Making Christmas cards for family.

Rolling molasses cookies. I love that the boys are old enough to be able to help with useful (and tedious) things like rolling cookie balls. 

 Frosted and sprinkled molasses cookie. Not sure why the cookie maker was so somber.

Glitter snowflakes. 

One night we surprised the boys with driving around looking at Christmas lights. Mark researched all the good spots in San Jose. As you can see, some of the houses were just incredible.

I'm thankful that the real reason we celebrate Christmas isn't about cookies or twinkle lights or presents. When I think about it, much of the 'Christmas feelings' that I'm missing out on are just associated with cultural traditions. The real purpose of Christmas is to celebrate and be thankful that God sent us his only son, in the humble form of an infant, who would grow up to be our savior. It's about more than being in 'the holiday spirit'; it's remembering every day throughout the year that Christ has saved us. When I think of Christmas in that way, it doesn't bother me so much that I'm not feeling so holly-jolly.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Licensed for Foster Care!

As of November 30, we are officially licensed as foster parents! This means that we can start taking in children, however, our licensing social worker recommended that we hold off on accepting kids until our adoption home study is complete and approved, so we probably won't get The Call for a child until after the new year. Thinking about all the unknowns can be overwhelming - we have no idea of the age, sex, health conditions, or emotional temperament, let alone that we don't know when we'll get that call. We're praying that God would give us what we can handle, and that he would give us the grace to handle whatever he gives us. It's both really exciting and a little scary waiting for that first placement.

This whole process has been confusing as we have gone through it, but it makes sense now that we're done with it. When we started, I don't think we realized how involved it would be. To get a bigger picture of the process, here's a complete list of all the steps we've gone through to complete this process:

1. Attend foster parent orientation (August 23)
2. Complete 10-week long PRIDE classes (October 18)
3. Hand in applications for foster care and adoption (November 8)
(This step included many appointments for fingerprinting, TB testing, physical examinations, CPR training, and other things that are too many to list!)
4. Home inspection for foster care (November 16)
5. Foster care license issued (November 30)
6. Joint interview with Mark and I for adoption home study (November 29)
7. Two-hour long interview with me (December 6)
8. Two-hour long interview with Mark (December 7)
9. Home visit for adoption home study (December 9)
10. Homestudy submitted and approved (Hopefully sometime in the next two weeks)

 We've been getting the house ready for a new little one. The Baby Room furniture was ready a while ago, but now things are really ready. The closet is filled with cleaned baby gear and boys' and girls' clothing sorted by size from 0 to 24 months (which are the ages we're accepting). Everything is organized so that we can grab what we need at a moment's notice. When we get the call to go pick up a new little one, we'll only have hours to scramble to get ready for his or her arrival. 

Baby toys sorted and sanitized. 

 Baby and toddler books - I'm looking forward to re-reading these favorites.

 Our new baby crazy son who played baby all morning after I reattached the side to the crib. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Beach Friday 2011

This year we continued our tradition of going to the beach the day after Thanksgiving. We went to the aquarium first, then had a yummy lunch at a cafĂ©. After lunch we headed to the beach to frolic in the tide pools. 

Ben got completely wet from jumping in the beach puddles. Good thing I learned from past experience to bring several changes of clothes.

Pointing at a tiny crab, who is trying to escape the sticky suckers of a sea star.

We had a wonderful time at the beach this year. On Thursday night we were exhausted from cooking and cleaning up from our meal, and I was thinking that I didn't even want to go to the beach this year. But by Friday morning, I couldn't wait to get out of the house. The timing each year is always perfect. We've all been cooped up in the house all week preparing for the Big Meal, so by Friday morning, we can't wait to get out of the house and go on an adventure.

There were a few moments on our drive home from the beach (it was around 4:30pm) where I was trying to figure out what we'd have for dinner when we got home. Then it hit me: Duh. Leftovers! We got home and had a feast of Thanksgiving leftovers and put tired little boys to bed with tummies full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. It was a great day.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Life on the Knapp Farm

I use the term 'farm' tongue-in-cheek, because I know we don't really have a farm. But it's fun to pretend we do. :)

My winter garden is low-key this year. We're getting some carrots, beets, and chard, and we're still eating the leeks that have been growing since the spring. This is my third season growing a garden, and I think I've gotten a good handle on what grows well (doesn't get too buggy) versus what we actually eat. For instance, we eat a good amount of broccoli, but it gets way too buggy. Since I want an organic garden, but don't have the patience to practice the organic methods of pest-control, I chose to get our broccoli from our CSA and grow something else that is more pest-resistant. I found out that I love butternut squash and use it a lot, so I'll probably be planting that come spring to use for next fall.

There isn't really much going on with the animals these days. The chickens, who once provided us with enough eggs to have scrambled-egg breakfasts several times a week, have gone on strike for the winter. Hens stop laying when the plentiful sunlight of summer fades, and ours are no exception. I actually had to buy eggs at the store the other day, for the first time in months! I was a bit sorrowful as I cracked open each store-bought egg and saw its pale yellow yolk fall into the bowl.

This is what our property looks like early in the morning when I walk out to let everyone out of their respective dwellings.

 One of our eleven hens. This one always tries to beat me to the gate and so she can make a run for it when I come to let the goats out. Silly girl.

 Finding noms in the ground.

 Our faithful rooster, Mr. Roo. He's good at his job of keeping the hens in line and protected from wandering cats, but this guy makes me nervous whenever I'm around him. He does his rooster thing of flapping his wings and puffing himself up whenever I'm near him or 'his' hens. He's jumped at the kids a few times and scared the daylights out of them, so I'm always on edge when he's close by.

The goats (the blue-collared one is Swingtail). There's not much growing in the way of weeds, so they're just hanging out eating alfalfa hay while we wait for more weeds to grow for them. Our loose plan when we first got the goats was to breed one of them so they would would birth a kid and give us milk (and thus yogurt and cheese). But we're still wary of taking that step quite yet because of the work involved. I can't picture what life will be like with a foster child and having to milk a goat twice a day, not to mention having to process the milk into cheese and yogurt). But the idea of fresh and free milk sounds so good

Friday, November 18, 2011

Preschool Weeks 10 & 11

Clay caterpillar. Made mostly by Tommy. I just attached facial features.

Days of being cooped up inside are perfect for making nests and caves.

Ben started reading simple words. It astounded me when he found our magnetic letter sent and started making and sounding our words. I didn't know he could do that! He can read any 3-letter word, and some longer words where the vowels sound like themselves (like 'still' and 'open'). I completely credit Letter Factory for this.

Reading our new library books by the fire on a chilly day.

 Making birthday cards for Mark (we celebrated his birthday this weekend). I got the idea from this website.

Homemade bow! I was the coolest mom that day. :)

I decided to put down our chapter book, The Magician's Nephew, to be picked up again at another time. We got about halfway through the book, only because of my own willpower to muscle through it. I finally had to put it down because the the kids had a hard time staying interested. They did learn a few interesting new words like minion and treachery, so I suppose our time wasn't totally wasted. We've been enjoying books by Rosemary Wells, particularly those about Max & Ruby a bunny brother and sister, and Yoko, a Japanese cat who has adventures at school.

I've been feeling like we need to get out of the house and go someplace fun. It's been a while since we've had a 'field trip'. Next week is Thanksgiving, so I doubt we'll go anywhere then. But hopefully we'll continue our tradition of going to the beach the day after Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Preschool Weeks 8 & 9

We somehow managed to slip back into summer mode in the past two weeks. Maybe it was visiting the beach a few weeks ago that did it. Or maybe it was just the fact that things have calmed down a bit and it's been too easy to let the kids play their own made-up games all day. For whatever reason, we've been having a lot of free play time and not much "preschool" time. 

We did manage to do a few preschool-ish things: 
- finished reading James and the Giant Peach and started The Magician's Nephew. This is by far the most complex book I've read the boys. It's taken about four chapters for them to warm up to the story, but now that the story is getting more interesting, they're more into the book. I've been itching to read them The Chronicles of Narnia for awhile now, so I really hope they enjoy the story. If not, we'll put it off for another year or so.
- Read and re-read (and then read again) The Red Chalk and A New Coat for Anna, among other library books. These were particular favorites this week. 
- did lots of self-directed crafts. It's amazing what a 3 and 5 year old can come up with using just tape, paper, glue, markers, and scissors. 

 Wrote thank-you cards to family members for birthday presents. I wrote out a simple message lightly in pencil and Tommy traced over each letter and drew a picture for each card.

Both boys practiced writing. Tommy practiced lowercase letters and Ben practiced uppercase. He only recently has become interested in writing and it was fun to see him take to it so easily.

A small glimpse into their free time activities - the "city" they built one rainy afternoon this week, complete with train-track freeways and army men citizens.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday, Tommy!

You don't even know this blog exists, so when I write to you on here, it's really in hopes that someday you'll be able to read about yourself in our family books.

You are five years old today. On one hand, I have to believe it because it says so on the calendar, and because 2011 minus 2006 clearly equals five. But on the other hand, I really can't believe it because it truly feels like we just brought you home from the hospital just a little while ago. 

I look at pictures of when you were first born, and when you were a tiny tot, and it feels like those days just happened. You'll probably hear us say that more as you get older, and you might hear other parents say that, and you'll probably roll your eyes. But really, until you have children of your own, you'll never realize how quickly time goes by. Someday I hope you'll know what it's like to look at your big five year old and wonder where that chubby giggling baby went. Or the tiny peanut who lay in his crib sweetly (that is, until a few minutes after this picture was taken):

But onward to topics about yourself that you'll care to read about someday:

Personality: You are a classic first-born. You are a rule follower. You are cautious. Ben's fearless activities make you nervous and you often implore him to be careful. Strangely, though, you're very brave and daring when it comes to climbing and jumping over rocks, even (or maybe especially) rocks that are piled high next to the Pacific Ocean.

You're a caring big brother. You continue to love babies. You'll find toys for them to play with, play peek-a-boo, and will push them around the deck in our Little Tikes car. You're so in love with your new baby cousin, Aaron. After visiting with him the other day, you told me, "Mommy, I love Aaron so much. He's so sweet."

You can be quiet and contemplative at times. When we went to the beach recently, you would just stand and watch it for a few minutes. At other times you're a stereotypical crazy, rough boy. There are times when you think about things a bit too hard and overanalyze them. You'll start your sentences with "I'm afraid that..." or "But what if...happens?" I think this comes from your engineering nature. You have a great ability to think about things from all different angles and a few steps ahead. 

You are a joy to be around. We have a routine now where you and I spend about thirty minutes together between the time you get up from your quiet time and when Ben wakes up from nap. We'll read books, play games, or just draw together. I look forward to that little pocket of one-on-one time when we can have fun conversations and I can get to know you a little better every day.

Likes/Dislikes: Your least favorite food is cooked spinach (or any other greens). You actually love raw spinach, preferably surrounded by cranberries, feta, and salad dressing. Watermelon is your favorite food ever. You could eat half a watermelon if we let you.

You discovered a love geography this year when I hung on our wall a map of the world so we could see where missionaries live that we were praying for. We realized that you had a knack for geography when you started to remember the names of most of the countries that are outlined on our map. Geography is often a topic of conversation at meal times since you can look over at the map and ask questions about what the other countries are named, what people there are like, and how long it takes to get there.

Abilities: You are slowly learning to read. You really want to learn how to read, but you get frustrated easily by the drudgery of sounding out all the letters. So we're slowly going through our Bob Books whenever you're in the mood to do some reading. I'm realizing that the way you like to learn is to be shown how to do something a few times and then be given time to figure it out own your own. You always have a stack of books to look at during your afternoon quiet time and I think that's when you apply your reading lessons. Weeks after a reading lesson, you'll read a sentence that I didn't know you knew how to read, and it always surprises me!

I've been working with you on learning some independence around the house. You can make your own lunch now, so long as it is peanut butter and honey sandwich with sides of cheese and fruit. You can also do your laundry from start to finish (although you're enthusiasm for this is seriously waning).

Tommy, I know that some day you're going to be a strong, good man. You have a good work ethic and you enjoy being helpful to others. My main prayer for you is that you would grow up to love and serve God, and I also pray that you would be a godly husband and father someday. Happy birthday, Tommy!

Sidenote: All day today you kept saying things like, "I can't really believe I'm five!" and "I'm not used to being five yet." I have a feeling you're going to enjoy your new year. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birthday Interview with Tommy - Age 5

We're continuing the tradition of interviewing our children for their birthday. I'm finding that as they get older, their answers are getting funnier! I have a feeling that Tommy is going to make himself laugh someday when he reads this interview.

So how do you think it'll feel to be five?
I'm feeling very excited because I'm bigger, and finally I'm five.
What kinds of things can you do now that you’re almost five that you couldn’t do when you were littler?
I can pick Ben up.
What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite food?  
Um, maybe strawberries. (What about watermelon?) Oh yeah! I love watermelon!
What is your least favorite food?  
Chicken. That's boring to eat.
What is your favorite book?
Wacky Wednesday. And Anna's New Coat.
What is your favorite toy?
Matchbox cars
Do you have any friends? Who are they?
My natural friends are Eliana and Kirsten. All the people that I know are my friends.
What is your favorite thing to do?
Wrestle with Daddy.
What is your favorite thing about yourself?
(After much explanation about what exactly this means...) How I can draw really well.
What is your favorite thing to do outside?
Usually it's to play in the sandbox.
Where is your favorite place to go?
Gilroy Gardens!
What do you want to do for a job when you grow up?  
I want to be a worker. (What kind of worker?) Like, to make houses. And I want to be a daddy.
Where do you want to live when you grow up?  
I want to live with Hannah. She will be my wife. We'll live in Spain. (Why Spain?) Because it's fun.
(Ben: "I wanna live in Candyland!")
Do you think you’ll get married when you grow up? Who do you think you’ll marry?
Yep. Hannah.

How old will you be when you get married?
Sixty or seventy. I prefer seventy because that's older.
Where do babies come from?
(Ben: "Tummies!") God designed that babies come from girls.
Is there anything you’re afraid of?
Tigers, if they're out of their cage. Oh, and our rooster because he attacked me. I'm going to call him 'Stinker' because he's so mean to me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Preschool Week 7: Beach Edition

We had a busy week Monday through Friday and didn't do much of anything in the way of structured learning. But we did go camping at the beach this weekend. So that has to count for a lot, right?
Some highlights of camping this weekend:
Boys running freely up and down the beach and playing in the ocean.
Finding interesting treasures in the sand, like crab legs, holey rocks, and pieces of glass with rounded edges.
Climbing a huge gnarly tree near our campsite.
Rolling down sand dunes. Again. And again.
Watching the sun set on the ocean together. 
Building a campfire...roasting marshmallows...making s'mores.
Creeping down to the deserted beach in pitch darkness. Stargazing. Seeing the Milky Way for the first time.
Sleeping with the sound of the roaring ocean just outside our RV.
Playing on the beach before sunrise. Watching the sun rise.
Having pancakes for breakfast, at the beach.
Playing in the [freezing cold] ocean until your teeth chatter and you can't feel your toes.