Sunday, January 11, 2015

remember december

december is such a great month all around. as the kids get older, it's even more wonderful.  advent and the anticipation of christmas is more real and palpable with each passing year.  they ask questions about the Savior and His birth, why He came, what He came for and the gospel becomes more in view, more in focus.  and traditions are actually traditions... they remember from the year before and want to do the cookies and the tree and the music just like before.  

the ocd in me wants to do it all myself, but the kids really did all of this.  they rolled the dough, used the cookie cutters and of course, decorated all on their own.  so fun.

the parties and dinners for grown-ups are especially fun when you had a back injury for 1/2 of 2014

we love doing different things other than just the gifts that can be opened as part of christmas gifts.  this is a surprise trip to boingo bounce (blow-up bounce house place)
and these next pics are from a big part of hazel's christmas...a day with mom of pedicures, lunch date and going to see the new Annie movie.  not sure if she had more fun or if i did?!

my wonderful mother-in-law & i at a really fun diy night hosted by the awesome gals at 17th design

                              lights and lena!                                                 sweet sisters 

after watching the grinch, a change in hair was a must

cutest elf ever

anders' preschool chirstmas program wasn't as epic as the preschool talent show, but still, little kids singing and ringing jingle bells is pretty cute.  please note that a) anders may be the tallest preschooler in the universe and b) he loves friends and bow ties.

every year, as soon after thanksgiving as we can, we load up into the car, go grab hot chocolate, drive to the middle of nowhere arkansas where there is a christmas tree farm and let the kids pick out our tree.  this was THE best year yet.  a few years ago, anders peed his pants then last year lena was in a "cry-alot-in-the-car" phase and now, oh glorious now.  they were old enough to just have a blast.  after the tree is selected we get breakfast for dinner at cracker barrel and head home singing christmas carols. pretty great.

hot chocolate

the search is on for the tree

this is one of my favorite pics ever...hazel and anders found matt and i and brought us to this enormous one to tell us it was what they wanted.  they thought they were so funny and ya know what? they were!

the actual tree!

it truly was a great december i wanna always remember.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

lena is 8

lena's birthday is december 12.  born in gorlovka, ukraine in 2006.  she turned 8 last month and we celebrated with such joy.   and it's so much more than just a birthday.  we traveled and were in ukraine 3 years ago at this time of year.  we were there from december 4th, 2011 until january 14th, 2012.  so each year we not only celebrate her birthday, but we also remember those first moments with her.  we look back in awe and amazement.  i don't even know how we got here, weren't we just meeting this 5 year old, 27 pound, mystery of a child.
and now she is 8.  she is 53 pounds.  she is tall and rail thin but do not be decieved, she is strong as an ox.  she has long beautiful blonde hair.  she fights us on everything, but has learned to trust and signs "up" to her dad the second he enters the door.  how painfully difficult, both emotionally and physically the whirlwind of the last few years have been.  how triumphantly joyful and refining and beautiful they have been as well.

(december 2011)

(december 2014)

happy birthday, my dear sweet loved child.  not many get to see all the layers of all you are, but to those of us who are spectacular.  

the celebration started on her birthday eve with friends and pizza and the lights on the fayetteville square.  she LOVES lights, so this was a perfect way for her to feel happy and special and to have fun while walk, walk, walking!

(seriously, how great is that face?!!)

then on the actual birthday, we had balloons and gifts.  hazel and anders got to pick out whatever they wanted to give her {within reason}.  it was the first birthday that she understood the concept of opening gifts, and wanted the toys so it was really great....she equally wanted the paper and ribbon!

then, a few days after her birthday, we did our now annual ukrainian feast with family.  we cooked and ate varyneky filled with potatoes and some filled with apple for dessert, and authentic ukranian borsch, that i make less authentic by adding more chicken and cajun seasonings. ha!  then instead of pushing cake or cupcakes on a gal who just doesn't like sweets, we stuck a candle in her favorite thing: greek yogurt.  happy birthday Lena!

Monday, December 8, 2014

state of the mooneys, december 2014

i roast beets and the marinated chicken cooks in the cast iron skillet and i smile big.  i am allowed to bend lift, twist, push and pull after 6 weeks of not doing any of those things and now physical therapy for a few weeks and little things in life feel sweeter than ever before.  when the tide of struggle and intensity and the "i'm-barely-making-it" feeling subside a bit, it feels like we are coming up for air for the first time in a while.  and i am beyond grateful.  i am not 100% but i am on my way and just being on that road is side by side with some sanity.
one of the most amazing things about this back surgery season is the way the kiddos have all been sustained and have even thrived.  they have rolled with all kinds of amazing folks in and out of the house.  they haven't really even missed a beat.

anders will be 5 in january.  he is the tallest in his preschool class and when we visit hazel at her elementary school, the teachers  do a double take looking at him...trying to figure out where he belongs.  but, alas he is 4 and not a student there yet.  he is passionate and excited, tender and kind, rambunctious and wild.  he is the epitome of social and friendly and he will carry on a conversation with just about anybody who will give him some of their time.  with hazel starting kindergarten and lena not being in school for a full day, he and lena have had some sweet time together.  i'll look in the rearview mirror and he'll be rubbing her arm or hugging her head.  he is legitimately concerned about others in a way that sharpens and challenges me.  he's also as ornery as they come.  he's like a cartoon character in so many ways.  he takes piano at the university of arkansas every monday morning with a sweet college student from thailand.  she is strict with him and it is so good for him.  she will say "again, this time perfectly".  he may not be the next Rachmaninoff, but if he can focus and listen, he's pretty inclined to music.  although he has yet to do any sort of organized sport, he is constantly trying to decide between soccer and basketball as his favorites.  he wants to be a dad when he grows up...that's all, can't get any other occupation desire out of him.

hazel is growing before our very eyes.  not always, but many times she seems wise beyond her years. she is a lot like her dad and is into the school scene.  she's done great in kindergarten and i am so so thankful.  she's reading, she likes going, she likes her friends, she likes her teachers and all the systems and ways you can work hard to achieve something.  she entered the K-2nd grade spelling bee  and keeps me organized and up to speed on most of life. she does gymnastics and a local kids theater.  theater/plays/musicals are her favorite.  she comes alive.  her little class this semester at arts live was called create-a-play where the kids learned about developing characters and made up a story that they made into a play.  hazel, dear sweet hazel, created her character...she was "ms star" because, well, she said she wanted to be the star.  i'm not even kidding.

the picture on the left is her saying "i'm a star" and the one on the right is the face she makes for most pictures when you say's her ms hannigan face. the deep love for all things annie continues.
this was her play::

lena is in her last week as a 7 year old.  i can not believe that this little one we met 3 years ago is about to be 8! and what an amazing 3 years it has been.

she has done so great with my back surgery situation.  a lot of my love for her is how i physically care for her and a lot of that got adjusted and changed and i must admit that she did better than i did in the learning to roll it all.  and again and again, she is ever the teacher and i am ever her student.  lessons of patience and unconditional love and caring nothing of the approval of man and new mercies every day and the list could go on and on.  for a year and a half she has been at a small private school, set up more like a clinic.  they exclusively do a type of teaching/learning that is exactly what lena needs called applied behavior analysis.  if you are in the world of autism or disability, this is super familiar and if you're not then it's not.  ((a general idea of what ABA is can be found here. )) well, we love her school and her teachers and lena's experience there has been wonderful... due to a lot of logistics that have to do with insurance and tuition and policies that aren't sustainable for our family and blah blah blah, lena louise will be done with that school in december.  and i am sad about it.  and occasionally mad about it.  not at the school at all, we love those guys.  just at the whole system for kids who are not typical.  i sit in a parent-teacher conference for hazel and she is essentially getting all the education she needs.  whereas with lena, she's not.  and it's a fight, but a confusing one. 
what is next is still undetermined. but as with all of the mooney rascals, we hold her life with an open hand to the One who made her, who knows every detail of her heart, mind, body & soul, and is providing for her when i can't even see what's next.