the first of 2015

Last year’s first post told the world that my resolutions were to bring a baby boy into the world, transition to a family of six, and make it there and back again from Colorado. Done, done, done, and done.

This year I just chuckle when I think about whether or not I should try to set any lofty goals. Or even not-so-lofty goals. I think I’m going to take a pass and then surprise myself if I find myself accomplishing something out of the ordinary. I’m afraid that all the resolution-type goals I’d love to set would distract me too much from daily life. And right now daily life requires most of me.

But I love reading other people’s resolutions and goals. They give me ideas and often more books to add to my to-read list.

2014 was the year of Asa and of Colorado. Those are the first things that spring to mind. The biggies. But this was also the year that the boys became truly proficient at reading on their own, and thus homeschooling took a new turn. This was the year Lenna became a swimmer. This was the year that I found myself back in the (virtual) classroom. Back in the days of Latin classes and ancient Egyptian art classes I would have never dreamed that at 34 I would be in the middle of my second law class on immigration, and well, here I am. Quiz me on visa bulletins next time you see me.

I guess I do have something similar to a resolution, but I see it taking 2 to 3 years to complete. A few days ago I found the Palm Beach County parks map that I got about six months ago. I opened it up for a look and then decided that it would be fun to visit all 70+ parks with the kids. There are parks with beaches, bike paths, water parks, playgrounds, kayaking, snorkeling, and on and on.

And while we didn’t set out to cross one off the list today, we did. #1 was Coral Cove Park in Tequesta. Rocks were climbed, waves were splashed in, and 4 out of 6 of us got soaked.

Happy New Year, friends.


the business of partnering and serving

A friend asked me some questions about my marriage. Partnering and serving came to mind. Prayerfully striving to be a partner and servant to each other are our goals. And doing so in tangible ways. Ways that often times are not glamorous. Ways that look like this morning.

He told me to take the day off. Come home to nurse Asa but then just go.

So I stood in the bedroom getting ready to just go. The kids were at the table. A certain daughter became unhinged when she was told there were no more frozen blueberries for her oatmeal.

“But!…But!…(sob)…My oatmeal won’t turn purple now!! (sob sob)”

He breaks out the freakishly colored food colorings. Boom. Girl had her purple oatmeal, one boy had blue oatmeal that tinted his teeth, and the other chose green which turned his gloopy oatmeal an awful color that reminded me of things we don’t need to talk about.

He says he’ll take the kids to Costco. They’ll love him for it, even on a Monday morning when the samples are sure to be scarce. They’ll talk him into pizza. And he’ll love caving to them.

One boy coughs and hacks and we use up the last of the expired medicines. So he says he’ll take him to the doctor for a quick checkup. With the others.

“Now he’s just showing off,” I think to myself.

But I laugh knowing this is not true.

This is the man who took all four kids to Costco when Asa was just a two week old. I woke up from a nap and everyone had gone off sampling.

I’ve never taken all four to the doctor’s office by myself. I think I’ll continue to try and keep up my streak. He’s more adventurous than me.

I know that what serving and partnering look like will change through the course of our years. But for now, food coloring the oatmeal, doctor visits and the like are where serving and partnering take us. And I love him for it.

the 10th in photos and words

Four years ago I wrote a post that informed the world that Omar and I were going to go on a big trip for our 10th anniversary. It came across like perhaps we would be bringing our children on this trip. Oh, no! I was quick to clarify. This would be a kidless trip. A big, kidless, international trip.

There was a trip.

Not kidless.

Not international.

And it came with a mortgage in our back pocket and another baby on our hip.

It was a good trip. A wonderful trip. A trip we could have never done on our own.

The big, kidless, international trip will come.

Instead, I spent the morning cutting up pancakes, downing Howley’s crab hash, and sipping mimosas so orange you’d think they were made with Tang (they weren’t) all while dodging drool from the littlest. The kids loved that we celebrated with them. We loved that we had a coupon.

And the rest of the day was just utterly ordinary. A trip to Target. A mid-morning coffee break. Phone calls. Reading. Settling of disputes. Swimming in the pool. Bedtime routines.

Omar had to work tonight which is perfectly fine. I get time to pour a glass of wine and reflect and be thankful for 10 years with him.  And lest you think this is all peaceful and solitary, one of my kids is drawing a picture of the wineglass and another one is peeking out the window onto the back porch so she can watch me.

Happy 10, Omar. I love you.



recovery and my kitchen

Asher at High Point Creamery in Denver

The whole needing a vacation after your vacation? That almost held true for us. And we kind of got it. Omar took off the whole week once we got home. It was perfect. I don’t remember anything we did, and I’m pretty sure it’s because we did nothing.

Monday will mark two weeks since we got back from Colorado. Back from a week of playing and hiking and exploring. And not making meals. You know you’re a mother of four when the first thing that pops into your head when asked about your favorite part of Colorado is, “Not! Making! Meals! For Five! Days!” But then I recover my thoughts and say something about mountains or elk.

Thank you, kitchen staff of the YMCA of the Rockies. I love you.

But now we’re back in the routine of our days, and feeding kids and kitchen things are back on the brain. Things like this timer app called Thyme that has a timer for everything on your stove and in your oven. It’s brilliant, and I see it ending our kitchen conversations about which timer was for which dish or pot.

I had s’mores on the brain while we were out there, but somehow it just never happened. And then this morning I saw this – skillet s’mores dip. And while I should be detoxing from vacation food, it’s high on the to-make list.

And lastly, all transitions back into post-vacation reality would be made easier with a KettlePizza. I’m not usually excited by grills and grill accessories, but this. It turns your Weber charcoal grill into a pizza oven. What’s not to love?

More Colorado photos and stories to come.

hey, Tuesday!

You were waking with the sun.

You were coffee delivered in bed while the littlest stirred awake.

You were hours spent on the couch reading The Penderwicks to little people who offered to rub feet and brush hair in appreciation.

You were siblings arguing and fussing and forgiving. Repeat.

You were a friend stopping by to have a much needed 1/2 hour of adult conversation. Even if that 1/2 hour included holding my baby who gifted her with drool upon drool.

You were an extraordinarily napping Asa.

You were swim lessons and splashing under a cloudy sky.

You were cookies.

You were a girl who watched her brother suddenly stop screaming when put in the sling and said in all seriousness, “Well, that was magical.”

You were a completely below average dinner.

You were a boy feeling queasy who just needed to fall asleep on the couch. I think I believe him, but who plays around when it comes to queasiness?

You were that perfect mix of good and hard.

asa joel ortiz in pictures

He came quickly on a Friday morning. And like those that have come before him, the Ortiz genes beat out mine in the facial features department. But he can always say he got long fingers and skinny, big feet from his mama. Nice. Omar and I placed bets on his weight. We both undershot and lost. There turned out to be 9 lbs and 2 oz of baby boy tucked up in me.

What follows are pictures upon pictures. Our hospital room had spectacular lighting, so the camera came out more than with any other kiddo. They told me I could possibly go home the day after I had him. When I started laughing they agreed to another day. I love the quiet and nothing-to-do-ness of the hospital. And if we hadn’t had that second night, then Omar and I wouldn’t have had a “date” after the visitors left complete with wine and cheese and a most romantic viewing of Clear and Present Danger.

The kids love. LOVE. this new little guy. Asa will never know what “personal space” is, but I think he’ll be ok with that. He has yet to flinch or be startled when they burst into a room or hold him in awkward positions. Perhaps he really is familiar with their voices. What does startle him? Me eating nuts. Gets him every time.

The nurses were fantastic at the hospital. The oldest three were fascinated with the many bracelets Asa and I wore. And when they saw Omar wearing one, they asked if they could have one, too. A kind nurse obliged and made some up for them. The photo below is proof of their excitement.

Asa’s already a regular at a favorite restaurant of ours. A restaurant where we ate on my birthday just the day before he arrived and where we returned four days later so I could enjoy a beer rather than a milkshake.

I remember the nights being the hardest with the first kiddos. With Elisha it was figuring out the whole parenting, nursing, sleeping, everything. With Asher there was a toddler in the house, and well, I get exhausted just looking back on it all. And Lenna? There was a 2 year old and a 4 old. Again, makes me tired just thinking about it. But now that the youngest is almost 4, there’s a lot less “neediness” in the house and a lot more independence. Now I look forward to the nights. The house is quiet, and it’s the time we get one-on-one time with this boy.

I am so glad you are here, Asa Joel.


on a saturday night

trying to establish a more consistent and calm Saturday evening routine
stories with kids
back scratches with kids
putting kids to bed on the early side
listening to kids read and chat because it’s on the early side
ironing clothes
lining them up
folding some laundry
leaving some laundry
Omar prepping
me praying
sabbath thinking
coffee waiting for the “on” button
oats soaking
colored bowls all in a row

2013’s advent calendar

Here we go. This year’s advent calendar. An advent calendar with little bags that allow me the option of filling them with a little wooden coin with an activity written on it or, on those days when doing any extra activity would put me in a decidedly UN-adventy mood, candy.  The cheap side of me wanted to fill ’em up with leftover Halloween candy, but since I’ve already eaten most of the good stuff, I figured I’d splurge a little on some special candies for them. As for the activities, they range from watching a Christmas movie to decorating their rooms. We’ve also been working with the kids on earning a commission/allowance for doing work around the house, so this year one of the activities will be for each of them to go out on a little mama/papi date and buy their siblings a little gift with the money they’ve earned. They’re actually really excited about this part.

The scrapbook paper circles and mini clothespins are repurposed from past years’ advent garlands. I couldn’t figure out how to mark the days until I saw a surprisingly similar calendar pop up on this blog. Of course, number stickers. And now we’re set.

This calendar is the treat side of our advent celebrations. We also read from a variety of resources during the season. This year I’ve got 2 new books to go through: Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader with accompanying cd and Elyse Fitzpatrick’s new book Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional. Fitzpatrick’s includes daily readings for both adults and kids and one activity/craft per week. And each night we try to remember to read from one of the mini book ornaments that comes with The Story of Christmas. Evidently I have an advent book buying problem. For the past few years I buy a new one at the beginning of the season and then unearth one I bought on sale at the end of last year’s advent season. Some past reads are Nancy Guthrie’s Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas and Phyllis Tickle’s Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from the Divine Hours

We never do each thing every day. Some days life just goes by too quickly and on others I simply forget, though the fact that this year there is a possibility of getting chocolate, I’m sure the kids won’t forget to remind me about the advent calendar.

a house called 2012

this morning i was trying to remember the first time i really realized that our house number is the same as the current year. i don’t think it was until a few days into the process. there was no house number displayed on the house at the time, and the previous mailbox was so worn out and faded that the number didn’t jump out at you.

but as the days have now turned into months since i’ve realized 2012 will always mean more than just a year to us, i’ve become thankful for something as small as this. i like to think that when we are much older it will always be easy to remember the address of our first house and when we bought it and thus a bit easier to remember more of the details of this year.

for us 2012 is not just a year, it is a place: a place where we hope friendships start and deepen from this year on, a place where our kids will form attachments and make memories from this year on, and a place we are privileged to live in and care for.

november twenty seventh – advent ideas

i’ve been spending the past few days trying to figure out what we are going to do for advent. the garland that has been loved for the past three years is still around, but i’m wondering if there needs to be a little change-up this year. but i’m still trying to figure out what that change is going to be.

it doesn’t help that every time i see a magazine or a blog or listen to or watch the news, everyone is telling me ways i can get back to eating better and lose that holiday weight. what? it’s still november! where is the party spirit? i’m still trying to figure out our christmas schedules and gifts and parties and most importantly, how to eat more holiday treats (like tonight’s apple, pear, ginger crisp smothered in whipped cream) in the next five weeks. we are so focused on the next thing that we can’t seem to even enjoy what’s right before us. omar and i try so hard to communicate to the kids that this is indeed a time of celebration and partying. it’s such a great time to explain to them who this jesus is and why he needed to be born.

here are a few resources we are using and/or would like to check out:
What’s In the Bible? Everyday Emmanuel – we’re fans of buck denver and the gang (they’re like muppets meet sunday school), and i was very excited to see this.

Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader – if only i could find this for less than $40. i’m on the hunt…

Sally Shim’s Pinterest board – this is a christmas board of a blogger i follow. she finds the greatest things and ideas. i love her style, and that chalkboard christmas tree? love. love. love.

2012 Advent Guide – this is the guide that we’ve used for about the past 8 advents. we do it as a family, and it’s not too long for even the littlest ones. if you’ve never tried following an advent guide, it’s a great way to open the scriptures to your kids (and yourself!) and teach them classic christmas songs. if you’d like a free copy, click here and scroll down to the bottom.

november thirteenth

one day i’m watching ice skaters in the park and listening to choirs sing in old churches and hunting down restaurants in soho. the next day i’m curled up next to a boy of mine who asked for some cuddle time and wanted to know what we did each day, and then the next day i’m standing in the kitchen mixing cookie dough with the littlest one.

it’s good to be back.

kid dates: asher

on monday omar and i ended up with a little one-on-one time with this guy. we talk a good talk when we say we want to make sure we get time alone with each kid on a regular basis, but we’re not so great in the execution.

he loved it. we loved it.

he was in need of a little solo time with us. he’s our kid that takes a bit longer to adjust to big changes in life. the transition to the new house was a big deal for him. let’s just say that boundaries have been pushed. for example, the new backyard has been a land of freedom and temptation for him. in one afternoon i heard myself say the following:

“asher, don’t use the ladder to pick the neighbor’s lemons!”
“asher, don’t dig mud pits next to the house!”
“asher, don’t swing from the clothesline!”
and on. and on.

he got to talk to us without two others interrupting. he got to tell his papi about things he’s learning in school. he got to eat a cookie that wasn’t broken into thirds. he got to help omar clean out the utility room and then take a sip of his beer, because “that’s what working guys do, mama. and i didn’t even need to take a sip of water after!”

sweet times.

7 days in

day 1 – exhaustion. but not exactly the physical kind because we actually paid for movers this time. best. idea. ever.

day 2 – the kids spend the night and declare their love for their new home.

day 3 – the first of what is expected to be many kitchen glass and dish casualties due to our terrazzo floors happened.

day 4 – we learned that our dishwasher is the loudest one in the universe.

day 5 – on a whim, asher asked to learn to ride a bike. and did on the second try. we thus welcomed ourselves to the neighborhood by standing outside shouting and cheering and being those people.

day 6 – the washer and dryer came.

day 7 – the first day of school combined with the arrival of the internet makes it officially feel like home.

in the news

there is no need to cram in as much pool time as possible because the new house has a pool.

it actually looks like there is going to be a new house because we’ve jumped hurdles, spent hours on the phone, and have filled out more forms than we thought was possible.

there is cause for much rejoicing beyond the obvious celebratory “we’re buying a house!” cheers. rat #5 was snapped to its death the other night, and new house means no rats (or so we hope). five. rats.

my mind is now tentatively switching from obsessing about 4pt inspections and appraisals and electrical work to paint colors and light fixtures and kitchen cabinets.

my mind is also thinking back over the past three years in this home. while our new place has a pool, i love watching our boys swim in this pool. they were 1 and 3 when we moved here. they didn’t know how to swim, and they were content to splash on the steps. now they are much bigger, love to run from the front door, through the kitchen, out the back door and jump into the pool. there was lots of growing around here over the past years.


it’s been a busy week. the contract on the house was signed (!). we made our way up to orlando to see family for a night and play with cousins. we have our house inspection this afternoon. i’ve printed and signed yet another stack of mortgage papers (third time is hopefully the charm).

and like every time that we get ready to pick up and move, be it across town or to another town, i start thinking and questioning and remembering everything about previous moves and previous homes.

my initial move to miami was hard. i just wanted to get out as fast as possible, and i hated that feeling because i had never felt about a place like that before. but then my heart softened and i grew to love it there. i looked back on this post today from almost exactly four years ago to the day. i can feel my excitement in those words. i was excited to dig in and really live there. the housing market was still absolutely crazy so there was no way we could buy something. we were so committed to that termite infested, beautiful, strange old home and the neighbors and shops around us, and you couldn’t beat the view. it still hurts a bit to read back over it and realize that it just wasn’t meant to be. we lived there less than a year before we lost our job and found a job 60 miles north.

and here we are three years later. about to leave one neighborhood for another. we have several good friends less than a mile from the new house. our church is 0.4 miles away (a beautiful distance to a family with one car). there is space to play and grow.

i have always been a firm believer that renting a home is a good thing because it is just that, a home. over the years i can’t tell you how many people have told us we are throwing our money away by renting. we weren’t (aren’t). we are putting a roof over our heads, cultivating a family and relationships under that roof, and living under that roof. but i have had an unfortunate tendency as a renter (other than our time in downtown miami) and that is to not develop as many relationships with neighbors. i always thought that we were just passing through. i’ve been much more mindful of this living where we have the past three years, but even so, it’s been my default mode. i’m praying that buying a house where we (hopefully) are will end that.

i’m ready to love that neighborhood and the people in it. and in the spirit of neighborly love, wouldn’t we be better able to foster such a spirit if we were not just the neighbor who would lend you an egg but who had the endless supply of eggs??