An Observation

Children love to be praised.  

Oh, Kalen, you cleaned up so well.  Thank you.”

Madelyn, the tofu and mushrooms you just cooked are amazing.  You are such a good cook.

Julian, you are an amazing reader.  You are incredible!”

Brayden, it was such a long first full day of kindergarten.   You are so brave.  You did so well, and I am so proud of you!”

Their faces light up with praise.

Their demeanor changes.

They feel loved and it shows.

Brady’s First Day of Kindergarten

Today was a big day for Brayden Kenneth (and a big day for mama).  He started Kindergarten!

Here’s Brady wearing his nervous face.  We had just arrived just outside his class.  His teacher had showed him his hook.  Isn’t he cute?

 

After Brayden talked with his teacher and she showed him around, he went straight for the play-dough. Many of his fellow classmates were still coming in.  He is still wearing his happy-nervous face in this photo.

Brayden drew this for me the day before yesterday.  Little did I know that I would be clinging to it for the entire three hours he was at school this morning.  It was an emotional day for me.  I was happy, excited, sad, scared, worried, and just plain torn up.  This is normal right?  I cried all the way home from school this morning and was sniffing for much of the day.  I was comforted by the fact that he has an amazing teacher, his big brother Kalen’s class is next door, his very protective and caring sister’s classroom is right above his, and the school is so cool.  I am thankful Brayden has the opportunity to give this a go.  My heart breaks a little thinking about how I am letting go a bit.  Letting go is hard.  When I picked up Brayden and we had a back and forth for a few minutes, he asked me if I cried.  I told him I totally did!  He told me to be okay tomorrow.  He said it would be okay.  Don’t we all just want to be told that sometimes?

Brayden said it was a thumbs up day at school.  This made me smile so much.  I loved hearing about the details of his morning.  He will have another half day tomorrow and start full days next week.

First kindergarten painting

Special treat for such a big day

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school for our Madelyn and Kalen.  Madelyn started fourth grade today and Kalen began second grade.  For those just tuning in, they attend a year around charter school.  This is our second year learning within a school outside our home.

Not many people can pull off wearing a wrist sweatband.  Kalen found this one awhile back when he was rooting around in Scott’s old stuff at his Nana and Grandpa’s house.  It cracks me up that he likes to wear it.  I love that he thinks it is cool and fun to wear.  🙂  Are you giggling yet?

Everyday after the kids have piled (literally) into the van after school, I ask them if it was a thumbs up day or a thumbs down day.  After they give me the sign, they then start rattling out all sorts of details from their day.  Clearly, this was a good day.

Brayden smiles and awaits his big day tomorrow.  Eek! (says the mama taking the picture)

Oh, I forgot to add that Julian, Brayden and our foster duo were home today during school hrs.  It was interesting having those four home with me.  Kalen and Madelyn were definitely missed.  We have enjoyed our school break this summer.  Some days have been intense with so many voices and bodies around, but each day has had golden moments.  It was bittersweet sending them off today.  They were so excited to see all their friends and get in their new classrooms.  That helped me.  We had met their teachers individually last week.  I think it is really neat that before the school year starts, their teachers come to visit us at our home and tell us about what they will be doing with their class this upcoming year. They all have wonderful teachers.

Julian will start school next month.  He will be on a traditional school calendar at a local Montessori middle school.  Gulp!  Our Julian will be a middle schooler!  Ready or not….

Little mister Brayden will be starting Kindergarten tomorrow.  I tear up just typing that.  He is excited.  He has his new backpack and lunchbox all ready downstairs.  I am predicting that I will be a mess.  I will be posting about his big day.

Baking with Our Kids

One of the things I love most about being home with our kids has always been cooking and baking with them.  I love when they are able to help out in the kitchen.  Before I go on, of course, I must admit that some days I decline offers of help in the kitchen, because sometimes I just need some space.  That aside, our kids and I enjoy being around food together.  It is amazing the types of conversations, sound effects and laughter that can come from a food preparation episode in the kitchen with kids.

Lately, with six kids underfoot, I have opted out of the whole cook with your kids scene.  Call me crazy, but tater tots, canned green beans and tofu dogs are pretty easy for one person to prepare.  Yep, we have had to go super easy with meal planning around here.

Scott’s birthday was at the end of June and I was not able to bake him the special cake I had in mind.  Life is just so constant these days caring for our children, and a store-bought vegan cupcake was just easier.  (I almost gasped as I typed that.)  See, I have been on a journey of letting go as of late.  Sometimes it is not easy for me to admit my limits and throw up my hands surrendering to the reality of the moment.  I don’t know when it was, along my journey of life, that I thought perfectionism was the key to a life of satisfaction and success.  Boy have I hit a wall the past few months in realizing my limits.

With all laundry folded this morning and our littlest one napping,  I started gathering children to the kitchen and pulling out ingredients for our Sweet Potato Cake with Spiced Buttered Rum Glaze. Yes, I will have to admit I was holding my breath a bit, waiting for a break down or catastrophe of some sort.  I decided to be hopeful and adventurous, determined to have a mommy moment with my kids on this day.  One of our friends had given us some of this cake awhile back and Scott (and our entire family) loved it.  I had been itching to make it.  I got Brayden and our little foster guy busy with Play-Doh and the rest of us went to the task of making this yummy cake.  Here’s the recipe and some pics of our adventures in baking from today.  I highly recommend (as often as you can tolerate it) cooking with your kids.  There will be more mess, but lots of laughter, full hearts and smiles to go along with it.

Sweet Potato Bundt Cake with Spiced Buttered Rum Glaze (yes, it’s vegan!)

For the batter:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potato meat (about 2 sweet potatoes)
  • 3 eggs ***(I use 6 tbsp of coconut milk and 3 tbsp of corn starch whisked)
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 c craisins or golden raisins
  • 1 c shredded coconut

For the glaze:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter*** (I use the Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons rum
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Lightly grease a 10-cup bundt pan.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set the mixture aside. In a separate large mixing bowl, mash the sweet potato, leaving only a slight meaty texture. Whisk together the sweet potato and the “eggs”. Whisk in the warm water, then the sugar, then the oil followed by the vanilla extract.  *** (I put all the wet ingredients in my blender. I then add the blended ingredients to the dry in my mixer.) Stir in the dry ingredients until homogenous then fold in raisins and pecans/walnuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let the cake cool in the tin for 15 minutes and invert onto a serving platter or cake stand.

Meanwhile, make the glaze:

Melt the “butter” in a medium saucepan with the rum. Pull from the heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

Pour the glaze over the cooled cake. Slice and serve.

Enjoy!!!

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Me and Mads

Recently, my daughter and I went out for an evening together.  Every time we do this, I am reminded how it gives life to both her and me.  For this special time together, we chose a local bookstore and a cute little dessert cafe.

Maddie used her money to buy a book called Just Mom and Me.  It is a clever little book for little girls to go through with their moms.  We had a good time taking some quizzes about each other.   For example, down below you will see a page that I had to fill out.  I would check the things that I would rather have; chocolate or vanilla, dog or cat, etc.  It was neat to study each other in this fun way.

Madelyn has a beautiful spirit.  In these moments with just me, she definitely lights up.  She loves the one on one attention.  She talked the entire night.

I am currently reading a book entitled Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble.  With every page turned, I think of Madelyn.  I think of all the things I want her to see, experience, love and know.  I know for sure that I don’t want to take one day with her for granted.

Braving the Beach

We said yes.  We jumped on board with the Kirby clan and headed to the ever populated Myrtle Beach the week of July 4th.  Scott and I were a bit hesitant to attempt a week-long vacation, but we decided to take the plunge.  This would be a family event.  My dad, Sally, and my brother, Ryan, and his family were all going to be there.  There would also be a few more from my dad’s side of the family that we would be able to see and hang out with.  It was well worth it.  Family is so important.

Sidenote:  I love the beach.  You don’t have to twist my arm too much to get me to go.  I think I could live there.  I joke with my kids and tell them that out of all of them, someone needs grow up to be rich enough to by his/her mom a house at the beach.  🙂  I just feel home there.

We packed up both of our vehicles and headed east.  Scott and I knew it would be work and indeed it was.  But that work was well worth it.  Six kids at the beach is pretty busy, but so fun.  We made so many memories.

I’ll share many photos down below and try to do a little narrating along the way….

Madelyn Virginia

This was the view of a marina from our condo.

We were lucky enough to be able to see this from our balcony as well.  The kids loved watching the bridge move for the boats.

We believe this was our foster baby girl’s second trip to the beach.  The first time was back in March when we took her camping at Hunting Island, SC.  This trip, she was fearless again and not afraid to get down and dirty.


This is a photo of my nephew, Grayson, burying our Brayden.  Boy did our kids have fun with their cousins.

Kalen was in the ocean most of time.

We let Madelyn and Julian stay up with us to watch fireworks.  Our little ones passed out plenty early.  We had a great view of a late night firework show at Barefoot Landing.

We went out one night to P.F. Chang’s.  This is one of our favorite restaurants.  It was fun to experience it at the beach with our big family.

Here’s my brother, Ryan, and Stephanie

Sally and Dad

We went over to Broadway at the Beach and Dad paid for all the kids to ride some rides.  It was very cute.  Here’s Brady and Grayson on the death defying Willy the Whale ride.  🙂

This was huge.  Our Julian and Kalen rode this pirate ship with Ryan and Anna Kristin.  Fun stuff! (As my brother would say.)

Great picture of Ryan and Steph

Anna Kristin (my niece) with Maddie.  They were born only 10 days apart.  They were buddied up during our vacation.

What’s better than a baby falling asleep on the beach?


Brayden acquired a new net that allowed him (and others) to catch some jellies.  On this particular day, there were a lot floating around.  Brady was so proud with each catch.

This is one of the only pictures I have of Julian on the beach.  He spends most of the time in the waves.  Julian loves being in the ocean.  It is really neat to watch him.

Scott took a turn or two going out with the boogie board.  The waves were pretty fierce the last day, but he got right there in the middle of them.

I took this picture just to show you how crowded this SC beach is this time of year.

This is a picture of my dad with sister, Kay, and Sally.  We went out to eat at a fun Mexican restaurant for Sally and Ryan’s birthday.

Maddie girl was so delightful on our trip.  All our kids are just growing right up before our eyes.  Vacations are so refreshing because you can get away from your normal routine and just immerse yourself in celebrating family life.  We have a lot of lives to celebrate!

I don’t have any pictures of our little foster boy to share.  All the photos I took show his face and I can’t really get away with that.  It could have well been his first time to the beach.  We discovered he doesn’t like sand and the ocean water.  This was interesting to find out and deal with.  We tried to be as understanding as possible.  He did sit with his feet (in his shoes) in the sand a couple of times.  Mostly, he hung out under the tent with Papa.  He was a trooper.  We were thankful to be able to share the ocean with our two foster kids.