Tuesday, December 13, 2011

First-ever Preschool Pictures

Markos is becoming such a big boy.  I was just reminded that I will soon have to register him for Kindergarten for next year. Yikes!  Hard to believe that he's come so far in such a short time.  

Even harder to believe that one year ago, today, he was still waiting in an orphanage in Ethiopia for us to return to bring him home.

Today, we got his first school pictures from preschool. They're really not that great given how amazingly photogenic he is. He looks a little stiff, scared, and well, just not his mostly-happy self.

The one exception is his group class picture. It kinda cracks me up. You can totally see his ornery-ness. 

(Dear God, thank you for preschool teachers who love kids, love God, and have lots of patience!)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Haiti Trip Video

OK, so we got back from Haiti exactly 3 months ago and I'm just now FINALLY finished putting together a video of the pictures from our trip. I've been a little busy with school, Markos, the kids' activities, Markos, the house, Markos....you get the idea. ;-)

The trip was really amazing and I'm hoping to return again this summer, taking a bunch of others with me. (Hopefully more on that in the future!) In the meantime, here you go...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kennywood Holiday Lights

What a fun night!

I don't know if we've just never known about it, or if this was the first year that they've done it, but tonight we went to Kennywood for their Holiday Lights Display for the first time.  It will definitely not be the last time though.

First, it was the perfect night to go.  Who would have thought - sweat shirt weather on a December night in Pittsburgh?!  Second, you know the night is going to be great when the first thing you run into upon entering the park with your hockey-loving son is Iceburgh, the Pittsburgh Penguins' mascot! 

Daniel and Markos with Iceburgh
Iceburgh biting Daniel's head
There were lights everywhere and it was very beautiful!  Rides, buildings, trees - everything was covered with lights.  The lights and light displays around the lagoon area were set to music.

Two teen girls - prettier than the lights
The Reason for the Season

They had special activities around the park.  The kids all decorated a cookie - which Daniel and Markos happily gave to Eric and I since Daniel can't eat them and Markos doesn't like sickening sweet things (yet). While we finished eating our cookies, we walked around the big train board display.  Lots of cute Pittsburgh details -- Heinz train cars, Steelers trains, etc.

Decorating cookies

The First-Ever Christmas Cookie by Markos

Mackenzie's Masterpiece

There were "characters" all around the park.  When we left the building where the kids were decorating cookies, Mrs. Claus was sitting on a bench outside.  Markos immediately ran up to her and said, 'I've been good!"  (I choked back the cough/laughter/sarcasm!)  She reminded him that it was still 3 weeks until Christmas so he had to continue to be good and I chimed in with a hearty, "yeah! did you hear that?!"  :-D

Markos telling Mrs. Claus that he "was good"
Daniel & Markos with the Gingerbread Man

There were some rides open throughout the park.  I kinda forced Markos to ride the Kangaroo.  (In my defense, I did so because he rode it when we went this summer and loved it and insisted that we ride it again.  Tonight, he was all freaked out and kept asking if it was scary for some reason.  I knew he'd love it if he just got on it.  Plus we were all riding, so he had to ride or one of us would have had to sit out.  Glad I did, too, because when we were leaving and I asked him what his favorite part of the night was, he said, "the Kangaroo"!!)  We also rode the Carousel - another favorite of Markos'.  Almost every ride in Kiddie land was open, so I had the unfortunate privilege of taking the boys around to ride everything while Eric took Kenz and her friend off to get food.

Markos on the carousel
The entrance to Kiddie Land

Markos riding the helicopters

Sweet Danny boy still likes to ride some of the kiddie rides

Markos, the developing prankster, says, "Hey Mom!  Look, I'm Santa!"

Markos finally decides to brave the "Pounce Bounce" and after being strapped in twice, they got all the kids off and said it was broken.  Nice.

Getting ready to ride the train (aka The Gingerbread Express) - Markos refusing to cooperate with the girls pleas to "smile Markos".
But he did smile a lot throughout the night.  We all did, actually.  A fun night out getting ready for the holidays.  Definitely going to be a new family tradition...for the next few years anyway...until the kids are older and refuse to go with us!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Calendar Cyber Sale!!

In the spirit of Cyber Week for holiday shopping, and because it's already December and I still have a few calendars left to sell, I am reducing the price of the remaining beautiful 2012 Amharic Kids' Ethiopia calendars that I'm selling to help my friend Chrissy bring home a sibling group of 5 from Ethiopia to $15 (which includes shipping costs).   All proceeds will go to the Jensen families travel fund.  They will need to purchase 4 round trip tickets, plus 5 one-way tickets in all!!  Cha-Ching!!!

The new Amharic Kids' 2012 Ethiopia Calendar!

 The Jensen family - Chrissy, Paul, and their 7 (soon-to-be 12!!) kiddos - live in Tennessee.  They are currently awaiting a court date.  You can read the story of this most recent adoption here and follow along as the story continues to unfold on Chrissy's blog, Injera and Chocolate Gravy.  Also, if you feel called to do more than buy a calendar, you can donate to their adoption fund on their blog!

If not, you know you need a calendar for 2012 and January is rapidly approaching, so buy one here.  It has beautiful pictures from Ethiopia each month.  They'd make a great Christmas gift for your older adopted kids, or families who are waiting!

To purchase your calendar, click on the PayPal button on the right to pay and then either leave a comment or email me at lori.stark@gmail.com with the mailing address where you want the calendar shipped.  

Calendars for a great cause!! At a great price!

Happy shopping!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Month of Gratitude - Day 18

My friend, Brandy, and I have been trying to get together to walk, talk, and visit since she moved a few months ago.   Seems like every time we make plans, something happens with one of our kids, cars, husbands, or houses.  When we made plans to meet today, I jokingly said, "OK, I'll see you at 10:30 on Friday.  Pray that nothing tragic happens for either of us between now and then." 
 So, the fact that I had to cancel shouldn't have come as a surprise. 

Daniel has been sick the past week or so.  Just a cough and cold.  Then a few days ago, his stomach was hurting, but only for a few hours and nothing serious.  Then, last night, while we were eating dinner, I was sitting across from him.  I literally watched a small hive appear on his cheek, and then watched as the redness around it grew throughout dinner.  At first, I didn't say anything.  Then, he started scratching at it so I asked him about it.  (While panicked thoughts filled my head, 'oh no!!  What could he be eating NOW that he is developing an allergy to?!') 
"Dan, does your cheek itch, because it looks like you're getting hives?"  To which, he jumps up and says, "oh yeah, that reminds me - look at my leg," as he pulls up his pants' legs to reveal hives all over his calves on both legs

My initial reaction:  "what did you eat today?"  "are you sure you didn't eat something you shouldn't?"

Nothing we could figure, so he took his prescription medicines for all his allergies, along with a double dose of Benadryl and went to bed.  This morning, he woke with hives all over his face, legs, arms, chest, back, even his poor little ears!  :-(  And so, off to the Dr. we went.

The doctor, whom I like a lot, said that it's basically a secondary allergic reaction to the virus that he probably had last week, or as he likes to call it,
"SSR as a result of SSV"
(translation:  Some Sort of Rash as a result of Some Sort of Virus) 

My poor little buddy.  It's always something with him.  He really hasn't had it easy with all his food allergies, environmental allergies, and sensory issues.  But the thing is, you'd never know it.  He rarely complains.  He rarely acts miserable.  I know he's going to be the child of mine who ends up with a broken bone someday, which I don't realize until days later, and then end up feeling like a schmuck when the doctor asks when he did it. 
When I reel off the list of all of his food allergies, people often say, "oh, poor kid".  His friends' moms call when they're having birthday parties and feel bad about not having anything that he can have.  When we go trick-or-treating and he can't eat 99% of the candy that he gets, the other kids feel bad for him.  And yet, most of the time, Daniel is totally fine with it.  Occasionally, he'll whine that he can't have something, but usually, he just takes it (and everything else) in stride.  As his mom, it's hard to manage all the allergies, but truthfully, he makes it SO much easier than it could be just by his very nature.

Today, hives and all, I am thankful for my middle child, Daniel.

He is:



You mean your kids don't get thrilled over getting their own laundry basket filled with tinker toys and empty toilet paper tubes for Christmas?!


Hey!  So what if I play hockey but still drink from a sippy cup!  I like it!

Who doesn't paint in nothing but their underwear and a smock?
For my next masterpiece, I shall dump all the crayons and markers, use them to draw all over the table, and then stand on it!










And Such A Blessing!!