Aug 30, 2010

Keeping Ourselves Entertained

So, how did we spend our summer? Well, Cille and I enjoyed playing with the camera...
Today is my first official day back to school. While I am super sad to leave my biological children with someone else, I am also looking forward to meeting the hundred or so children that I will be borrowing from their parents this school year. I know that God has a special plan for all His children, and though it will be a big adjustment for Stella and Cille, I'm honored that God has trusted me to be His hands and feet to 7th graders at LES.  Please pray for all my babies this year, the big ones and the little ones.

Aug 29, 2010

Crafty Kids

After devouring their cupcakes, our crew "moo"ved on to cow themed activities.  First, construction paper cow heads using one of our favorite things: glue sticks!
Stella's was kind of an art-deco cow...

Next, the kids painted brown spots onto their paper plate cow bodies while I regaled/bored them with fun facts about cows having multiple stomachs and chewing their cud...

I'm not sure if Stella is making this face out of frustration at having to share the paint or because of my lame retelling of the golden calf Bible story...

Molly has an unfair advantage since her dad is an art teacher.  Check out that technique...

My little Picasso in action...

I think these original pieces should soon be up for auction.  Where should we start the bidding?

I love how there's not really a big difference between the plate they're scooping paint off of and the ones that they are actually painting...

Look!  They're sharing! 

Our final cow-themed activity of the day was teaching the kids how to "milk" a rubber glove full of water into a mop bucket. As you can imagine, their sharing skills became even more important during that exercise. Thanks, Emily and Cohen, for letting us share an "udderly" amazing day with you!

Aug 28, 2010

Cupcakes...Yummy!

Emily Raney made a crucial mistake on Tuesday.  When we debated over a location for our cupcake and craft time, she said, "Why don't y'all just come over here?"  My sincere apologies to her kitchen floor.  Her son managed to get most of this cupcake in his mouth rather than under his chair.  Cohen is not a waster of food...
Molly was very prim and proper with her cupcake.  She wins the award for least mess...

Guess who wins the award for MOST mess?

Cohen liked the cupcake so much that he decided to lick the wrapper just in case there were any crumbs that he missed.  If you ever need a self-esteem boost about your baking, just take your homemade treats over to the littlest Raney...

Aug 27, 2010

Hug Me!

This is Cille's inaugural wearing of another one of my favorite hand-me-downs, the "Hug Me" onesie from Linzi Lawson...
I love this picture of Cille smiling at Stella's antics.  You can even see Stella's bed hair in the top portion of the picture as she leans over to entertain Cille.  She's such a great big sister...

A little later in the day (following a diaper malfunction and a quick wardrobe change) Cille decided to visit Stella in her "big girl bed" and tell her that nap time was over...

Aug 25, 2010

Lost Diaries 14-The Final Chapter

Friday, July 22 (continued...)

So, as I was typing five years ago, we took a bus from Cork to Waterford. It was not a tour bus like the one we rode in Scotland, but instead just the public transit system for Ireland. It was an interesting experience. Since the rail system in Ireland is not very well developed, lots of people use the bus for transportation cross-country. Many different classes were present on the bus, but it seemed that "high class" was not receiving the lion's share of the representation. Also, the roads are not very well developed or well kept. In some places they are so narrow that only one car can pass and every mile or so the road widens a tiny bit to give cars going opposite directions a chance to pass by one another. It was crazy. The foliage grew right up to the road, also, and we saw tractors bushhogging the bushes on the side of the road. It was strange. Maybe that's what a hedge is? Who knows. Anyway, in Waterford we luncheoned at the authentic Irish McDonald's and then took a town tour led by a colorful local. We also toured the Waterford Crystal factory, where we picked up a souvenir for Damon's mom and learned that the craftsmen actually memorize the patterns that they cut in the crystal. It is all done by hand. After the tour, we took the bus back to Cork where we had a bowl of Irish stew at a pub built in the 1700's. The pub was cool; the stew was hot, but mediocre. After filling our bellies, we crashed at the hotel.


Saturday, July 23

We took a bus tour of Cork and Blarney Castle in the rain. Blarney Castle could more accurately be described as Blarney Pile of Rubble, but we kissed the famous stone anyway. You have to lie on your back and hang upside down off the side of the castle wall to accomplish this, so the slippery, rain-soaked stones added an additional degree of difficulty to this feat. We also picked up a souvenir for mom at the wool mill near the castle: a claddagh sculpture made from peat. Back in town, we had lunch at Quizno's, packed up, and took another national bus to Dingle. Rick Steves had raved about Dingle in our guidebook, and it sounded like a small but interesting town. We made two mistakes. First, we overestimated the amount of hotel accommodations available in Dingle, and second, we underestimated the popularity of the destination as a weekend getaway. This resulted in us arriving at nightfall in a rain storm and calling 30 hotels and bed-n-breakfast joints before eventually filling up the pay phone we were using and having to trudge through the rain to a new location to keep dialing. Our plight was so hopeless and pathetic that a man leaving the grocery store actually offered to make us a pallet on his floor. It was very sweet, and we almost had to take him up on the offer, but we eventually found an empty room at a bed and breakfast WAY outside of town. When we arrived there, we were wet, cold, and starving. The nice owner of the bed and breakfast made us sandwiches and tea and we collapsed into bed.

Sunday, July 24

Rain greeted us in the morning, so we took our time getting ready and enjoyed a traditional Irish breakfast: fried egg, toast, sausage, ham, and "pudding."  The pudding looked more like dark brown/blackish muffins.  It was palatable, however, and I was relieved to see that tomatoes and ketchup were not a part of the tradition in this corner of the U.K.  After breakfast we relaxed for a few hours and terrified the poor innkeeper's toddler son.  He spoke mostly Gaelic and was very shy, so our attempts to be nice and play with him went over like a lead balloon.  His favorite pastime was watching home videos of himself.  We road into town with our hostess and rented bikes to complete the 30 mile tour of Dingle recommended by Rick Steves in our guide book.  You would think that by this point in the journey I would have learned my lesson about Rick and his suggestions, but he got me again.  At mile 13.5 I threw in the towel and we had to call a cab that could accommodate me and my bike.  The only one to be had was driven by a rather grouchy sheep farmer.  I had apparently interrupted some urgent sheep-tending business and put him in a foul mood to begin with.  I then made the further mistake of telling him that our next destination was to be the fair capital of his country.  He was totally incensed that I would be so daft as to look forward to a visit to "fekkin' Dublin."  I spent many minutes in fear that I would be thrown from the moving vehicle, such was his wrath.  I feel the need at this point to clarify a few minor details of the cycling conditions.  These were not mountain bikes, or road bikes that we were on, they were cruisers.  Big, heavy, one speed, upright cruisers.  Also, the majority of the route was on the windswept coast, and I emphasize WINDSWEPT.  No matter which direction you were pedaling, you were contending with gale-force winds that relentlessly assaulted your face.  Lance Armstrong himself wouldn't have blamed me for quitting.  Another high point of the ride (while I was still on it) was when we passed large herds of sheep grazing in mountainside fields.  We thought it would be funny to baa at the sheep.  It was pretty funny as long as they just looked at us in confusion.  It was decidedly less funny when a rather large male sheep hopped up over the stone fence and proceeded to chase us.  For over a mile.  Anywho, after the cheerful cabbie dropped me off in town I found a seat in a pub where I tried to avoid the locals and their questions while I waited for Damon.  Emphasis on the "tried."  By the time Damon finally found me I had been forced to share my life story at least three times.  The scenic but "slightly challenging" bike tour?  Yeah, that took Damon 6 hours and 15 minutes.  Thanks, Rick.  You rock.  We grabbed some pizza, locked the bikes to a street sign, and took a taxi back to the B&B, which interestingly enough, was about 100 yards from one of the points of interest on the bike tour.  If I had stuck with it for a few more miles, I could have quit at the comfort of our lodgings.  Go figure.  My final observation for the night was that the shower was lousy and had about the same water pressure as spit. 

Monday, July 25

We got up early and explored a couple of nearby points of interest before taking a cab into town.  At the ruins of a nearby church there was a swearing stone where people would touch fingers through this hole in the rock and make promises to each other.  Damon swore his undying love to me, of course.  Back in town we retrieved the bikes and returned them.  We grabbed some muffins for the road and boarded a bus to Tralee.  In Tralee we used the internet for a few minutes before hopping a bus bound for Limerick, where we changed buses for the final leg of our journey to Dublin.  We checked into the Harding Hotel and ate at the All American Diner down the street, used the internet to catch up with home some more, and hit the sack. 
Sidenote: Our hotel room in Dublin was very unique.  It was on the top floor of the hotel and oddly shaped because of dormer windows on the roof.  It looked out onto a beautiful church. 

Tuesday, July 26

We slept in a little and started our day at the All American Washeteria where we attempted to de-stink-ify the few outfits that we had been continually recycling since leaving France.  We went to Christ's Church and toured the church and the crypt.  Next we toured the Kilmainham Jail or "Gaol," where men, women, and children were all locked up together 5 to a cell and the leaders of the Easter Rising were executed.  We toured the Guinness Factory, which ironically enough is located on Crane Street; no wonder most of my relatives like to take a nip from time to time.  Damon was embarrassed because I told the employee who assisted us with the beer tasting that it all tasted like burnt coffee to me.  Anyway, that night we went to the Abbey Theatre to see The Importance of Being Earnest performed by an all-male cast.  It was truly one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen.  Not so much because of the play itself, I am ashamed to say, but because of one particular actor who was portraying one of the young ladies in the cast.  He was tremendously cross-eyed and used it to his comedic advantage in a shocking way.  In a final note, our meals for the day were procured at Snax in the City for breakfast, lunch at the Tramway, and dinner at some Italian place. 

Wednesday, July 27

Slept in again.  Noticing a pattern?  Used the internet and had breakfast at Bagel Haven.  Went on the Dublin Castle tour.  Visited a few bike shops so Damon could drool over road bikes.  Did a little shopping, including grabbing some hurling sticks and balls for Lance and Austin.  Went to see The Fantastic Four, or as they say in France, Les Quatre Fantastiques.  So nice not to have subtitles on the movie.  We capped off the day with dinner at the All-American Diner.  Guess we were getting a little homesick, or at least our bellies were.

Thursday, July 28

We woke up early and took a cab to the airport, where we hopped a budget flight to Edinburgh.  Also on the plane: 100 Irish boy scouts.  Fun times.  We found a decent hotel, then toured the Museum of Childhood, which was basically just a bunch of old toys.  Next we toured Giles Cathedral, and finally, Mary King's Close, which I was a big fan of.  The tour guides were dressed in period costumes and pretended to be historical residents of the close, so it was neat in an educational and dorky way.  We went back to the room for a while to rest and write postcards.  Did I mention it is FREEZING in Scotland?  Take out a globe and you'll find it is pretty much IN the Arctic Circle.  Oh, and all of our warm clothes were IN FRANCE.  We decided to go back out and buy some coats.  Only had to drop 24 pounds for that, so we considered it a great bargain.  As evening fell, we went on the Ghosts and Ghoulies Tour.  It was fun, but several times I got a little freaked out and wondered why I had wanted to participate.  We grabbed some Pizza Hut to go (God bless American fast food!) and stopped by Ladbrokes on our way back to the hotel to bet on a dog race.  We lost.  We set up a tour of Loch Ness via email and hit the sack.

Friday, July 29

Rain...cold...misery.  That pretty much sums up Scottish weather.  We ate breakfast at a local tea room down the close.  Damon had a proper English tea and I had toasted teacakes and Scottish shortbread.  We took a cab to the movies where we watched Madagascar.  Yes, we were that cold and miserable.  After the movie we ate and played video games.  Then we watched The Wedding Crashers.  We took a cab back to the room where we watched the British Big Brother Live Eviction.  Pathetic day of tourism.  Went to bed.  Still cold... 

Saturday, July 30

We had a breakfast muffin at the Bean and Grape.  We took pictures in the very photogenic Advocate's Close and a phone booth.  We went to Edinburgh Castle and toured the military museum, and saw the crown jewels, the prison, and the chapel.  On our way back down the street we saw that kid who plays Ronald Weasley in the Harry Potter movies filming a scene in Advocate's Close, the same spot we had been taking pictures in earlier!  The crowd of gawkers claimed that the scene was for an upcoming Potter movie, but seeing as I am writing this years later and almost all the Potter movies are out, I think they were lying because I have never seen Weasley run down Advocate's Close and ask a policeman for directions in any of those movies.  Oh, well.  Next we went to the John Knox house.  We grabbed some McDonald's and hopped a bus to St. Andrews to play 9 holes.  Just kidding, we just saw the 1st and 18th greens and toured the British Golf Museum.  We took the bus back and had dinner at Relish-Gourmet Burgers before retiring for the night.

Sunday, July 31

We left on a bus tour like two retirees at 8 a.m.  Along the way I learned that: Edinburgh has 27 golf courses.  Caledonia was the Roman name for Scotland, and Pontius Pilate's father served there as a centurion.  Our first stop was for breakfast.  Damon had a hot bacon roll and a hot sausage roll.  I had a scone.  We stopped for pictures at Glencoe, site of the Campbell massacre of the McDonalds.  Lunch was Scottish soup and a sandwich along with whiskey tasting.  We toured Urquardt Castle and took a boat ride on Loch Ness.  Loch means "lake."  We did not see Nessie on the lake, but managed to capture her in a box to bring home while perusing the shelves of the conveniently located gift shop at the end of our boat ride.    We had dinner at the Tipsy Laird and were "home" for 8:30.

Monday, August 1

This is where it gets a little fuzzy.  I quit taking notes, and since I waited 5 years to write the final diary entry, I really have no idea what happened.  I know that somehow we made it back to Paris.  I know that we had to ride trains all over the city to reclaim all of our luggage, since we were unable to store it all in a central location.  (We had a box of wine and the main train station would not store liquids because of 9-11 regulations.  Stupid terrorists ruin life for normal people, but I guess that's their goal, huh?  Jerks.)  We spent the night in one last Frenchy hotel in which you had to insert the room key into a slot in order to make the electricity come on in the room.  They call it environmentalism, I call it being a cheapskate.  We had to dump all our toiletries and consolidate bags in order to make our luggage manageable for the return trip.  We flew out of Charles de Gaulle and landed in Washington, where long lines in customs almost made us miss our flight to New Orleans.  We almost died on that flight due to extreme turbulence.  Seriously, the pilot came over the loud speaker and screamed, "Put on your seatbelts NOW!"  Apparently, no one had schooled him on the whole "remain calm in order to not freak out the passengers" thing.  I just knew I had made it through two international flights and would die on a domestic one, but God had other plans for me and we landed safely in New Orleans.  It was the trip of a lifetime and I would go back in a heartbeat and do it all over.  I hope that some day I can take my girls to Europe and show them all of the places that we loved.  And maybe even some of the ones we didn't.

The end.  

Aug 24, 2010

Milk and Cookies

After her doctor appointment and all those pictures, Cille decided to slip into something a little more comfortable. She chose one of my favorite onesies of all time, the Milk and Cookies onesie that the ever-thoughtful Matt Abbrecht gave Stella for our first Mother's Day together...

The irony of this onesie is that due to food allergies, Stella could have neither milk nor cookies for the first two years of her life, but she is making up for lost time now.  Cille doesn't know about allergies or chocolate chips, but she does know how to ham it up for the camera...

Aug 23, 2010

Smile for the Camera...

Today Cille turned two months old.  She celebrated by going to the doctor and having immunizations.  She and Stella took the outing as an opportunity to rock their precious matching outfits from the Millets, so when we got home I couldn't resist capturing their cuteness in a mini photo shoot by Mommy.  I love the way Cille is resting her arm on the armrest like an adult...

Now she's giving me a hint of a smile...

Stella wanted to change poses...

Cille was trying to figure out why I was acting so goofy, then she remembered that I always act that way...

My absolute favorite picture from today...maybe of all time...

Cille trying out her Elvis impersonation...

Cille was finally getting the hang of smiling for the camera...

I think we might have another Alaina on our hands.  She loves the flash...

Aug 20, 2010

Stylin' and Profilin'

Stella has been trying out a few new hairstyles recently. (Yes, we are getting a little bored from never leaving the house for 2 months.) She was pumped about her pigtails...


And she managed to sit still long enough for me to French braid her hair! 



As it turned out, the bigger challenge was photographing my work.  Stella was very reluctant to turn her back on the camera...



Aug 19, 2010

Hoppy to See You!

Fashion show time again. Here's Cille's new dress from Mawmaw Shirley...


Poor Stella was still in her p.j.'s when I was taking these pictures, and she had bed head.  I had to pretend to take pictures of both girls so she didn't get her feelings hurt.  In this one you can see the cute design on Cille's dress...


This is her attitude close-up.  I just love these bows!  Thanks, Talia!  Hand-me-downs rock...

Aug 18, 2010

Your Mommy's Stroller

We all know that Stella has waaaaay too many toys.  These days her favorite ones are her babies and their accessories, which I think has a little to do with Cille and her accessories.  Often Cille's accessories get commandeered for Stella's babies.  When Stella plays, she always tells me, "You are StellaRaynePourciau.  I'm your mommy." Then whatever item she has at the moment becomes property of "My Mommy" and off limits to me.  Such as, "This is your mommy's stroller.  You can't touch it."  I have always heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it's less than flattering when she threatens to pop her doll's booties if they don't do what she says.  Here is my mommy with her stroller...(apparently I have multiple siblings)

A close-up of the stroller reveals that she travels like every other mom in the universe: with assorted baggage hanging from the handles of her stroller.  I love the fact that she packed a swim diaper in her diaper bag.  We always try to be ready for anything...

You may also notice that Stella's purse fetish is a little out of control on the stroller.  Apparently, she needed not one, but three purses PLUS a diaper bag for this outing...

Aug 16, 2010

Just Bee-ing with Friends

Mrs. Emily and Cohen recently hosted another themed craft day and invited Stella and Molly over to share the adventure and learn about bees.  The coordinating Bible story was the BEEattitudes.  There was even Honeycomb cereal for a snack, but we accidentally forgot about it.  Anyway, here are the kiddos having tons of fun with their bee finger-painting craft...


Molly was smiling from ear to ear when it was her turn to get her hands dirty...


Mrs. Emily delivering her lesson.  I totally think she has a future in preschool education...



I love this picture of three pairs of pudgy little hands covered in smudges of paint and wielding glue sticks.  Emily is sooo brave...



Stella and Cohen concentrating on perfect placement...



Molly took time away from her project to pose...


They are so intense...



Stella trying to make hers look just like the picture...



Craft time wouldn't be complete without one more risky move...Emily gave them all real markers...AT THE SAME TIME...(gasp!)



I think Stella was trying to give her bee compound eyes...


After craft time, Emily helped all three kids wash their hands.  Molly just knew that this hand washing was not aimed at removing the paint; it was really preparing her to hold Cille!  Doesn't Cille look happy?


The girls were able to talk Emily into reading a book.  Okay, actually several books.  Cohen made sure to stake his claim to Mommy's lap and let the girls know that this was his territory.  He is willing to share just about everything except his mommy...



Since Cille was too little to experiment with paint, glue, and markers, she decided to extend the theme by rocking her new bee dress from Mrs. Cheree.  Isn't she cute?


Thanks, Raneys, for another fun craft time!