Wednesday, December 23, 2015

DPP Day22

You know a day is going to be alright when you get to enjoy the sight of this first thing in the morning:

He got himself up and dressed for school today and his outfit was awesome.  :)  My little minion makes me smile most days and today was no exception.  He got quite the response from school today so I am sure we may see this outfit again.  It also cracks me up that K looks like she is doing a model hair flip in the background.  Always camera ready.  
While I would have loved to keep the Littles home and play, bake, and goof around all day - that will have to wait for tomorrow.  There is so much I love about my job but it has an overwhelming and never ending to do list.  Most of the time that to do list can be flexible but other times things have to be done before a semester can end or begin.  This time around it is the final touches on a book chapter that I am writing (I am as shocked as you are) before it is due.  Truth be told - this is my extended deadline that I am trying to meet - so I best not be missing it!
Elizabeth spent her day creating to give everyone a hand made gift on Christmas.  The list she is working on is dauntingly long but she is determined.  She is sitting here in front of YouTube learning to make all sorts of holiday specific rubber band creations.  She has such a heart for creating and art.  But what I love most is that she is so concerned with whether or not people will like what she makes them.  She sat and thought long and hard about what each person should get and why they might like it.  I hope, those that are on the "list", realize that though the item may be small and not have an obvious use, there was a lot of love in that gift.  As a mom, I am just so proud of her hard work and thoughtfulness.

In this next set of pictures - you can see that she is involving all of the kiddos.  This is a bigger project she is working on for her grandparents.  No peeking - Omom and Pawee!  Grandma watches and was at the ready to deal with paint covered hands. 

 Putting on the finishing touches.  (Notice that she is STILL in the pjs that Grandma gave her.  It is going to be a struggle to get those into the dirty clothes)

A fancy Jimmy Johns dinner since Mom, Dad, and Elizabeth were going to A Christmas Carol.  Leave it to this kid to roll up all the bread from inside the bread into a ball and then eat it dramatically.  He would make all of his food a toy if I would allow it. 

And so it begins......

Speaking of phone calls - we got a VERY special phone call today from one of our dear friends who lives half way across the country.  He is coming for a visit!!  We can hardly wait.  We had a little dance party in his honor and we will be practicing our best moves for when he arrives. 

We got a special date night with our eldest girl.  I am not sure that I have seen the Christmas Carol since I was in it a LONG time ago.  It was fun to go and see it.  Some things have changed - but I found I still knew the songs and the dialogue as if it were yesterday.  Elizabeth loves to go to musicals, symphonies, and the like.  Most of all - she loves to get Mom and Dad all on her own. Being the oldest and little miss independent - she can get lost in the shuffle sometimes.  Mom and Dad love this time to focus on her and all her gifts too. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Day 21 - Reunion

Well - this is how we ended the day. . . which was far more fun than how we began it.  :)  Snuggles with Ben always seem to end in tickles. . . .maybe because snuggles are all too much holding still.  And while I love snuggles - I love Ben's spirit even more - so I adapt.  He is big into "not being ticklish" now.  The look on his face is priceless.  He is trying so hard to hold it in!  Brandon is hiding - knowing his turn is next. 

Today started with a trip to the orthodontist.  A Monday and an orthodontist trip - that seems a bit extreme.  Lucky for us - we really like Elizabeth's orthodontist.  Today was just a lot of imaging.  We will hear in a couple weeks what is in store for her teeth.  I am not sure who is dreading it more.

The lack luster day continued for Ben and Elizabeth with a trip to Mom's work.  They did great - well, as well as any two kids could do being confined to a small office without much to do.  We had planned to go ice skating at UNMC when we finished up - and we walked over to do so and they were closed.  The disappointment was almost more than Ben could bear.  So now I have to remember that I promised him an ice skating or roller skating trip coming up here soon. 

So when we arrived home - they were both ready to do some things that interested them.  And I just stayed out of their way.  I still had work to do and I figured they had earned it. 

But tonight was a really special night.  We got to meet Asher - Nanny Erin's sweet baby boy.  Nanny Erin was our nanny when I first went to work at UNMC.  She is the best!  All of the kiddos love her and Rich and I are big fans too.  We would have kept her for our nanny forever - but she is doing great work as a nurse and we are so proud of her.  Though - Elizabeth was trying to recruit her back.

 Asher is the sweetest little thing.  He is handsome and snuggly.  I got to have lots of baby snuggles with none of the sleepless nights.  It was perfect.  He is perfect.  I was able to hold him so that Nanny Erin could eat a meal while it was hot -- mostly because I remember that being such a luxury at that stage of life.  Erin is such a great mama - like we knew she would be.  It is so fun to watch her enter this new phase of life.  One that I know she will excel at.  Asher is one lucky dude to have her for a mama. 

One funny story:  Ben, at dinner, began asking questions.  A true sign of a family that is VERY comfortable with breastfeeding. . . Ben simply stated, "So - does Asher eat food or just drink milk from your boobs?"  He then proceeded to tell Nanny Erin a story about when Brandon was a baby and tried to nurse Ben. I am surprised he remembered that - but I guess that would leave an impression on a guy.  We all had a good laugh.  Rich and I also had a moment being thankful that we know Nanny Erin so well.  Ben always has been a kid who tells it like it is.
We miss seeing Nanny Erin every day.  But she will always have a special place in our household - and so will Asher!  (And Jason too - of course.  Rich was SUPER bummed that he wasn't coming for dinner tonight.)  She has had such a positive influence in our lives.  She helped develop the artist in Elizabeth, the athlete in Ben, the charmer in Brandon, and the little mama in Katie.  And for Rich and me - she provided us with the best gift anyone could give - a year of safe, nurturing and wonderful child care and many babysitting nights after that.
We love Nanny Erin and Sweet Asher!
I do admit - I spent about 5 seconds feeling sad to be exiting the new baby phase of life.  But then I realized - now it can be my turn to offer my help to those who are just entering it.  Call us, anytime, Nanny Erin!  We stand ready.  :)

Day 20 - Christmas at Grandmas

We love this day each year.  Grandma always picks a day away from Christmas day to have everyone to her house for Christmas.  I L.O.V.E. it!  As many know - figuring out the holidays between sides of families can be so stressful and often impossible to ever feel like you are making anyone happy.  We are even lucky enough to have both sides being kind and patient as we figure it out.  We do not have anyone placing demands on us.  The demands merely come because we want to spend time with both sides of the family.  So the holidays are just packed.  You spend so much time watching the clock, trying to be equal, trying to keep people from having to wait on you, and then, if you can, trying to enjoy yourself.  By the time the holiday is done - sometimes I feel like I didn't get any quality time with anyone and all we did was hustle one way and bustle the other.  To me, it defeats the purpose of trying to get together with family in the first place. 

But not this day.  This day is slow, leisurely, time to play, time to talk, and most importantly, no where else to be.  Today was extra special because Rich's Uncle Marvin was in town for it.  Uncle Marvin is someone we don't see nearly often enough and he is a joy to be around.  A true Nebraskan farmer, through and through.  The kids had time to play, we had a lovely lunch - Marilyn is a great cook, and we opened packages - one at a time, so that everyone could see what was given and from whom it was.  No sense of urgency.  There was time to open toys to be played with right away.  No need to pack up the moment we were done.  We just enjoyed the day, the family, and the space.  I need to find a way to make each holiday as nice as this one was. 

The boys playing outside.  Many adventures and battles were tackled on this afternoon.  The imaginative play only intensified after they received matching power ranger swords to ward off the evil enemy. 

I suspect this is a memory that we will all have of Grandma's house.  Gathering in the kitchen to chat, laugh, and enjoy each other's company (and eat the relishes that Grandma sets out).  Elizabeth and Sydney (the kids' cousin) were having a lovely time teasing Grandma about burning some cheese bread that set off the fire alarm.  However - the steam seen in this picture is merely coming off the hot noodles.

This will be today's selection for DPP as it best depicts what I love most about our get togethers. 

Elizabeth worked really hard to make this present for Billie.  She wanted Billie to have something made by her for her new cabin.  The kids LOVE to go visit Billie's cabin and Elizabeth picked up that Billie has a beach theme throughout the cabin.  These types of things make a mama proud.  She noticed, she remembered, she acted, and she gave.  If I teach my kiddos nothing else - the ability to see another person's passion, remember it, and use it to show kindness to them in some way would be a really good one to have them walk away with.  Truth be told - it wasn't me teaching that lesson.  That is Rich, all the way.  :)

 This picture was a MUST.  Most people know, that when a kiddo receives clothes for Christmas - they typically get cast aside without a second glance.  Not Katie.  She wouldn't let the clothes go.  She was so excited and kept trying to put them on right away.  This has me concerned for her teen years.  :)

Brandon has a knack for commanding the attention of a room.  I am not sure what he was telling Rob about here - but it clearly is impressive enough to hold the attention of Marvin, Marilyn, and Billie too. 

Elizabeth would be in pjs 24/7 if she could get away with it.  And so the moment she opened these pjs - she was in them.  They are super soft - so I can't really blame her. 

When we arrived home, we didn't have much time until bed time.  Especially for Katherine who missed her nap.   But Elizabeth had new canvases and wanted to get to work on her next project. 

I can't help noticing that I have asked her at least 1000 times not to paint without newspaper under her project and there does not seem to be any newspaper.  . . .

Brandon had to open a package of Legos the moment we hit the house.  Here he is concentrating on getting those little pieces together. He LOVES to build Legos.  He will sit down to work on it as many times a day as he can. 

Ben joined Brandon in building Lego time and is studying the book to know what to do next.  I love his focus and concentration here.  They are building the same set.  It will be interesting to see how they are the same and how they are different. 

Day 19

Day 19
The weekend was a whirlwind but full of free space for the children.  We welcomed Christmas break in with one early basketball game and then a day full of play.  There was time to be lazy and stay in pajamas.  Time to create, imagine, and explore. 

Daddy and Katherine play time is always full of giggles and snuggles.  She will come to him and say "Tickle me, Daddy!" and the fun begins.  The best thing about four kids is that it forces both the children and Rich and me to be equally invested.  I am guilty of having done most of the caretaking with Elizabeth and Ben when they were babies and I can see now how much better we are as a team.  God knew this control freak needed to be pushed to her limits to learn to ask for help because Rich has always been willing.  Helping is what he does.  :)  The rewards are endless but this picture definitely captures some of them. 

Soooooo, she is not a morning person.  :)  This is Elizabeth's standard Saturday morning move.  It is likely about 10am here and she has just rolled out of bed.  She curls up on the chair, covers up, and tries to continue to sleep upstairs.  :)  Working her way to her teen years in fine form. 

Star Wars fever has hit the Hoffman house just like everywhere else these days!  They have great Star Wars mentoring from their Uncle Tev and they soak up as much as they can possibly get.  Brandon has no idea how to play this game (and neither does anyone else that we know of) but he enjoyed playing with all the pieces anyway. 

The boys like to play Mario Cart on the Wii and here they are in full concentration.  They will sneak away to play a game on the Wii any chance they get.  Since it is in the basement, they are frequently quite successful.  The injustice of the extra screen time is more than their justice seeking sister can handle some days. 

These are the Saturday morning moments we love.  Everyone in their pjs, mom and dad snuggled up on one chair with coffee in hand, kids lounging and playing wherever they want.  Doing life as a family of six with two working parents. . .the slow moments are few.  But we always take some - whether there is time for them or not - we take our slow moments on Saturday or Sunday mornings.  On a good weekend - both.  :)

**This will be my DPP picture for today. 

After a lazy morning - the kiddos had play time like crazy.  Rich and I worked away on wrapping gifts and getting organized.  I put away laundry - again.  Always with the laundry!  Ick.  Then the littlest three went to my mom and dads so we could be a bit more productive with the wrapping.  It was a HUGE help.  They had a wonderful time.  Mostly with my mom and dad because Kevin isn't feeling well.  But the boys did get to hang with him a little bit - playing even more games.  I can see that screen time regulation is a bit out of whack today!  Omom and Katherine played house under the stairs for hours.  Hard to say who is better at playing babies - Omom or Katherine.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

DPP Day 18

Today was graduation day for the Physician Assistant students that I have the privilege to teach at UNMC.  I am such a sap for things like graduations, award ceremonies, and the like.  In fact - I have been known to get misty at an award ceremony where I don't even know anyone getting an award.  (You can imagine how I am when I do know the person getting the award!)  But this graduation every year is so bittersweet.  I am so proud of the graduates and the transformation they have made from where they began to the polished professionals they have become.  It is fun to celebrate with them and meet their families.  But it is also good bye - many, if not most, I won't see again.  And after 28 months, it is hard to see them go.

During one of the speeches today - it was mentioned that the graduates should reflect each day on what they did well, what they could do better, where they got it right, and where they needed to improve.  It was a message that it is within these types of reflections that the learning and growth begins.  I couldn't agree more.  This is something I do every day - usually instead of falling asleep.  But I also recognize that it is one of the upsides to sitting down here each evening - to look through the images that found their way onto my camera in a day, to think about the things that happened today worth remembering and documenting, and most importantly, taking time to find the good, the happy, the treasure in each day.

I took a bunch of pictures today at graduation - one of which I will share below.  But here - I like to share the moments with my family the most. 

I owe my mother-in-law a debt of gratitude.  She was on grandma babysitting duty for nearly 24 hours straight.  She tackled the four children morning routine (fortunately only having to get two out the door) and she did it with grace.  No matter how perfectly things go in the morning - it is organized chaos on a good day and war zone chaos on a bad day. As I understand it - today was not perfectly smooth - yet everyone was to school on time, dressed in their pj best (celebrating the last day before break), and ready to finish this semester.  She then spent the day with the two littles and the new puppy (probably. . . no, definitely the highest maintenance of the three).  She was here to let the Bigs walk home from school and she kept things running smoothly until I arrived home.  She even let Ben have two friends over.  And once I did arrive home - she had all the dishes done, the house picked up, and was asking me how she could help me.  Unbelievable.  I take lessons all the time from my mother in law.  She is quick to jump into action and offer help in any situation.  She is the first to make daily visits to someone in the hospital - no matter how peripherally she knows them.  She would give the shirt off her back to anyone who needed it.  She is generous in every sense of the word.  She passed these great qualities to her son as well.  And I can see that being in their presence continues to make me better.  I have so much to learn from their ability to see what needs to be done, who needs some help, and how to quickly jump into that action.  I am REALLY wishing I would have grabbed a picture of Marilyn with the kiddos or at least doing the dishes. ;)

Shortly after Marilyn left, my sweet hubby returned home.  He is back where he belongs and it is a palpable difference in this household when he is absent.  The minute he returns, I feel myself relax - though I wasn't aware I was tense.  A wave of happy hits the house - the kids come running, the dog is barking, and I just can't help but smile from ear to ear.  I love this picture - because this is his wind down spot - Homer slippers and all.  It is him, all settled in at home.  Right where he belongs. 

After being up most of the night last night, Katherine was in fine form.  Running interference on her was a full time evening activity.  So once all were in bed - I decided to grab the pictures that I had really hoped I would get last night.  I take these pictures every year for this photo challenge.  There is just something that I adore about sleeping pictures.  So peaceful and so sweet. 
Finally resting. . .

She is so often a lump mixed amongst as many stuffed animals as whomever put her to bed will allow.  She tucks each and every one of the creatures in her bed in before she goes to sleep.  Many of the "regulars" have their own mini blankets that will get laid ever so carefully over them each night. 

This picture is sweet because it is a sleeping picture.  But what is wrong with the picture is that it is my bed he is sleeping in.  We will frequently get a visit from this little man in the middle of the night - but this is a first.  He was in our bed before 10pm.  Little stinker.

I also love the marker on his face from his time doing arts and crafts all afternoon - one of this favorite pass times.  Coloring, writing letters, art projects, and (his all time favorite) doing "homework" - which is him working in a preschool workbook.

This will be the DPP post for today.  Partly because the lighting from his nightlight was so perfect I didn't even have to use a flash.  Partly because the fact that his pillow case, his blanket and his fitted sheet are all different characters and needed to be documented as it is so perfectly in line with Ben.  But mostly because he is so active, outgoing, and busy that I don't get so see this kind of quiet and peaceful on that handsome face very often.

Elizabeth is missing from this post of sleeping children - because she is not sleeping.  She got to enjoy a special date night with her Omom and Pawee.  Should have taken the picture with the three of them too!  I have GOT to get back on my picture taking game!  What a treat for Elizabeth - any time - but especially when you are one of four - to get to be the center of attention for an entire evening.  They went to the Symphony for the Christmas concert. She was able to see what all that time practicing cello, flute, and piano could lead to if she wanted to apply herself.  The best part for me was how obvious it was that she had a wonderful time.  She was able to sell her Pawee on getting her some ice cream on the way home too.  If you don't know my dad - that isn't a hard sell. . . at. all.  She came home telling me that she could tell which kid on stage was the one that was like me.  I think it has been said before that Elizabeth is a bit reserved. . . and I am pretty sure that is an adjective that has never, ever, ever been used to describe me.  And Elizabeth - in a demonstration that she can imagine fairly accurately what I must have been like as a kid - described a girl that was doing the choreography with a little extra flair and animation.  And when it was time to leave the stage, this girl was blowing kisses to the audience.  Elizabeth giggled and said, "That was totally you, Mom."  I couldn't really argue. 

Here is a picture my dad took and just sent to me.  

And again - how wonderful do my kids have it to have such wonderful grandparents?  How lucky Rich and I are to have a pretty rock star village to help raise our kiddos.  Omom and Pawee are so great at providing opportunities that coincide with what the kiddos are doing.  Tonight's concert came only weeks after Elizabeth's music program.  Omom and Pawee provide these fun opportunities, help with babysitting, offer work opportunities (for those requesting money), and really help with whatever things we ask of them.  They provide such an example of intentional family time, making time for travel, and they continually challenge me (mostly by example) to be the best parent I can be.

So as I reflect on this day - I will go to sleep reflecting on how I could have shown more gratitude to the parents that raised us, shaped us into the people that made us perfect for one another, and continue to invest in their grandchildren's lives in such meaningful ways. 

It must be getting late as my eyes are getting droopy again.  Here is the promised graduation picture mentioned above.  Otherwise - on to tomorrow's fun activities!

Friday, December 18, 2015

December Photo Project - Day 17

Today's submission is coming to you from the rocking chair in my baby girl's room.  Tonight, after returning home from a dinner, I was ready to tackle teacher gift assembly, laundry, dog training, plans to take sleeping kid pics for this blog and a nice long shower.  But I came in the door to hear whimpering and crying through the monitor, "my ears ouchie gramma". I took the dog outside quick and headed up to check on her.  When your mama looks at kids ears for a living - she better be ready to do it at home. Sure enough - she has both ears that are infected and looking pretty rough.  Ibuprofen and off to snuggle in the rocking chair.   I think she is nearly asleep now - but she is still doing that irregular inspiration that comes after a hard cry.  Poor thing.  

By the way - today - I am thankful for my village.  For the neighbors that helped to get kids to school today and tomorrow - for parents that come in the middle of the day to let the dog out and for my mom in law - who came up to babysit while I was at my student's graduation dinner and is staying overnight so that I can be at graduation on time early tomorrow.  And now I do not have to worry about what to do about school for little miss ear infections.  We are truly spoiled by the amount of outside help that is ready and able most of the time. 

Today is short and sweet.  I am ready for some sleep.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

DPP Day 16 - Love

The greatest gift we give.
My DPP picture is a good reminder for what really matters in a season that it is easy to get lost in what doesn't matter.  I am just like everyone else - endless internet searches and pounding the pavement searching for those perfect gifts.  Trying to select something that will let someone know that they are special to me.  But ultimately, isn't the way we let people know we care is by loving them well? 

This picture is my picture because it got to the end of the day and I hadn't take any pictures.  So I played around with my camera taking pictures around my house.  Exercising a little of my artistic side.  I didn't get a lot of pictures taken because my evening went completely haywire.  When confiding with a friend, I may have labeled it a complete mom fail.  I picked up my kids at the last possible moment (which they hate because their Daddy is usually one of the first to pick them up) - I got a little bit of a late start but traffic had really held me up.  Their faces were kind but disappointed.  It is a painful mixture of love and excitement to see their mama - mixed with that look that lets you know they have been looking for you. . . for awhile.  Their lack of complaining tells me that they read my face - that I was hurrying, that I was sorry, and that I wanted to see them a long time ago too.  E had basketball at 6:00.  We arrived at 6:30 - and practice is 20 minutes away - so coming home would have just meant we turned around to come back.  So we had a barely able to be called food dinner, sat in the car to eat it, and watched movies.  A hustle home after practice, to rush through spelling and homework, bathe all the kiddos, and get them off to bed.  I am not sure I would make it as a single parent.  So - it was no surprise the camera never made it out.  Truth be told - I am just impressed that I got all the littles bathed after the way the rest of the night went.  ;)

But today was a good day and I sit here happy and fulfilled. There were lots of things to love and lots of love to give throughout the day. 

The morning routine this morning was smooth and snuggly.  Lots of love being shown by everyone.  A little parade through the house trying to find Windle (our elf).  Big hugs and kisses before everyone went out the door.  And no shouting. . . I love it when there is no shouting.  Love.

A special gift from a mama that I love.  She had a conversation with me quite awhile ago and clearly remembered, took the idea, added one of my favorite things - in quite the elaborate way, and brought me a gift that is so perfect I can hardly stand it.  The fact that it involved two other pretty amazing ladies that I love - only makes it better.  Love.
Thoughtful in every way.
A friend who provided a listening ear and a reassuring word when I was frustrated and feeling like a bad mama.  Sharing fond memories from childhood that mirrored the crazy evening we were having.  And reminding me that it doesn't matter what I am doing with my kiddos. . . even if it is eating by the light of the DVD player in the car  . . .I can still make it special.  Friendships that pick you up when you are down.....Love.

Today - I got the giggles. . . at the most inopportune time.  It is not surprising that this happened.  I have been burning the midnight oil for a couple weeks now and the sleep deprivation is starting to add up.  I am so sleepy and tired.  During a meeting today - I said something silly. . .but not really all that funny.  But I cracked myself up. . . and could. not. stop. giggling.  But you know what?  I LOVE those types of giggles.  I love the laugh until your eyes water and sometimes you even snort (Sadly - yes, that did happen) giggles.  I am SO fortunate that I work with such fun people that tolerate my sleep deprived hysterics.  And those same people - make me laugh, mold me to be better, keep me on my toes, challenge my abilities, support me the whole way, allow me to do the same for them, and have become some of the best friends I have ever had.  Love.

Hearing that my brother's nephrologist is going to bat for him.  Advocating for him the way we hope our medical providers will do for us.  Giving my brother some hope after a long season without it.  Love.

Leftover cupcakes.  Enough said.   Love.

Bedtime routine.  Truth be told - there is a love/hate relationship with bedtime routine.  It drives me crazy to keep reminding them through the same steps that we take every night.  And when you remind them of a step they missed (BRUSHING TEETH. . . .every. single. day.) - they act surprised that it is expected.  But the payoff comes with reading stories all snuggled up together.  Hearing the little details about their day that waits for this quiet time at night.  Sometimes these are when the heartaches and the sad moments are expressed.  While I don't love the struggle times anymore than the next mama, I treasure that they share and allow me into their experiences, both good and bad.  Tonight was all happy reports. They had great things to tell me about their day, things they loved, successes at school, a pick at recess football, and even a "thank you for letting us have dinner and watch movies in the car".  As if it were planned all along.  Guess my friend was on to something. . . And then - the grand finale of lullabies (they each have their own special lullaby that they decided when they were young that they liked best:  Elizabeth:  "No one like you"  Ben "Goodnight My Someone"  Brandon "You Are My Sunshine"  and Katherine "Daydream Believer"); kisses and hugs, and then lights out.  Love.

Getting all the laundry put away.  Lov....well - I don't love doing that.  It is my least favorite.  But - I love that it is done!  :)

Finally - it is the end of the night conversation.  Hearing that voice that I love to hear the most.  Inquiring about my day, asking about the evening, telling me about his day.  Love.  A great big Love.

Here are a couple more shots from my playing with my camera. 
Lots of ornaments.
A gift from my favorite supervising physician.

The Reason.