Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

Well, I haven't been blogging lately because my husband has introduced me to the Harry Potter movies, and I have gotten completely sucked in. If you're thinking, "Huh, I wouldn't have guessed Mandi would be a Harry Potter fan," well, join the club. I didn't really think I'd be a fan, either. But, I love the creativity of the stories and am totally engaged. If you're thinking, "Wow! Didn't those movies come out over a decade ago?!" the answer is "Yes." We are VERY far behind the times in our movie watching. Having kids will do that to you.

But to make up for the literary genius you've no doubt been missing on this blog, I will leave you with pictures of a really cute baby, which always covers a multitude of sins.

the law around these parts

Toughness personified


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How we're spending our Saturdays for the foreseeable future


Hoop it up

making her way to the basket
jump shot

Max is also playing, but given the choice between going to the ranch with his grandparents for the weekend and playing in the basketball game, he quickly chose the former! We'll get some action shots of him next week. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The only necessary piece of equipment

One of the excursions we had scheduled while we were on our cruise was a snorkeling adventure in the middle of the deep, blue sea near Key West. Since my in-laws were traveling with us, we had enough adults to put one with each child. Jeff wasn't feeling well, so he volunteered to stay on the boat with Clay. Ruth selected her Grandpa as a partner; Weston selected Mimi; and Max selected me. It was a rare moment of everybody getting what they wanted, without arguing or whining. I had some trouble getting the right equipment, so Max and I were the last of our group to leave the boat. The water was pretty rough, especially at the point where the stairs met the water. I was feeling a little nervous about the whole thing anyway, having never snorkeled in deep water and not liking to step out of my comfort zone. But, the moment Max felt the splash of the cold water on his skinny little body, he absolutely panicked. He was screaming and crying and clinging to me for all he was worth. And, then, I felt it, too: an all-consuming, utterly paralyzing panic. The kind of panic Peter must have felt when Jesus called him to walk on the water, and then he started to sink. I ceased to care about the underwater view I was missing. I no longer knew how to swim. I forgot how to breathe. And, I certainly lost faith in my floatation device, which interestingly enough, the captain insisted was the only necessary piece of equipment for those wanting to swim with the fishes. But, as the adult, I had to act like everything was o.k. I should have won a Grammy for that performance. Fortunately, the lifeguard noticed our situation right away (probably because of Max's screaming) and quickly got us back to the boat. For several moments, as Max continued to whimper, I just stood there shaking--more from fear than cold. My inclination was to sit my rear end down in the seat, snuggle up in my towel, and never think about this harrowing experience again. Instead, I slid my mask back down over my face and inserted the breathing tube in my mouth. And, as I descended the stairs for the second time, I decided to forget about even trying to see anything under the water. My only goal was to relax and to believe the floatation device would hold me up. That's it. I just needed to know for sure that I wasn't going to drown. This was a pretty lofty goal for me, since I'm pretty sure I don't even relax when I'm sleeping. After several long moments of focused relaxation in the water, I allowed myself to put my face in. Again, I felt that panic creeping up. So, I decided to just have faith that I would actually be able to breath through the tube. Finally, my breath began to come easier, so I flicked my flippers to move myself closer to the coral and opened my eyes. There, I saw a whole other world. And, then, before I knew it, the captain was telling us we needed to make our way back to the boat. Finally wrapped in my towel, I took a moment to reflect. And that's when I thought about Peter. Peter wanted a better view. He wanted to step out of the boat and see what Jesus saw. And, I think he really believed that Jesus could keep him on the topside of the water. He believed it with everything he had...until he actually set foot on the water. It wasn't what he expected. It was harder, less comfortable, and he panicked. Instead of relaxing in the arms of the One who controlled the sea, he got distracted by his own thoughts, and that's where his trouble began. And, then, just like that, he was back in the boat, safe and sound. And, he could have chosen to stay there for the rest of his days. After all, as a fisherman, that was where he was most comfortable. But, he didn't stay there. He took control of the panic and allowed himself to be moved by the Holy Spirit. His eyes were opened to a whole new world. But, it didn't happen all at once. He struggled with doubt and fear, just like the rest of us. And, I'm sure that like me, there were some days where all he could do was to believe that Jesus is and He can. ("I'm wearing the floatation device and it can hold me up.") And, I'm sure that sometimes taking the next step (like putting my face in the water) was terrifying in a new way, but Peter decided to have faith that doing so would would provide a better view and be more fulfilling in the long run. Eventually, Peter got pretty good at trusting the Lord. And, perhaps with practice, I will get there, too, one baby step at a time. I can't tell you the snorkeling trip was the most enjoyable thing I did on my vacation, but I can tell you it was probably the most necessary.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A face only a mother could love

Have you ever seen anything so pitiful? This kid has literally been taking it on the chin lately. It started with the chin-splitting incident out at the ranch, just before the new year. Then, the day we got home from the cruise, Max eagerly worked with Jeff to set up the zip line he got for his birthday. He took to that like he takes to everything: full force. Unfortunately, the lower part of his face was the first part of him to meet with the tree. (As an aside, let me just say that the zip line was one of those really challenging gifts that put my mother's desire to give her child a gift he would REALLY love at odds with her desire to keep him safe. In truth, it was his father who pushed me to buy the unsafe, but super-fun gift, which is now off-limits until it can be made a bit more safe or until the users can figure out how to stop themselves with more reasonable body parts.) Today, he managed to take a swing to the face, which reopened the busted lip and put a nice little bump on his forehead. And not an hour later, he had bumped his chin and reopened yet another wound. There has been a tremendous amount of crying and bleeding. It breaks my heart. But, seriously, I do love this face!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Caribbean Cruisin'

On Jan. 13, in the midst of some crazy cold and wet weather, we boarded the Carnival Magic and took to the open sea. And, I guess that ship really is magic, because when we woke up the next morning the cold and wet were gone and had been replaced by blue skies and sunshine! The 14th was a "Sea Day," so we spent that day enjoying all the features the Magic had to offer: water slides, lounge chairs, jogging track, a wide variety of music, gigantic chess board, mini-golf, sport court, Foosball, food and drink aplenty, towel animals, shows and so much more. We came in to port at Key West, FL on the 15th, where we were scheduled for a snorkeling adventure. That was a little wild at times, but mostly, we had a great time. The kids were ready to get back to the rope course and water slides onboard the ship when it was over. On the 16th, we came in to port at Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island. The port wasn't much to look at, since it was primarily an industrial area, but we took a short bus ride over to the Garden of the Groves, which was beautiful and relaxing and lots of fun for everyone. We also did a little shopping while we were ashore and took ourselves over to a pristine beach, so we could get our toes in the luxurious sand and the crystal clear water. Then, it was back to the ship for more crusin' fun. We arrived in Nassau, Bahamas on the 17th, where we hopped on a bus for a short tour of the city. Then, we switched transportation modes and boarded a water taxi, which took us past some amazing vacation homes and yachts of the Rich and Famous (like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Mick Jagger, and Chuck Norris) on our way to meet a mini-sub for an underwater ocean tour. We all really enjoyed getting to see the sea life up close and personal. We saw some beautiful tropical fish, several sea turtles, a couple of nurse sharks, some sand-covered crabs, and lots of lovely coral. When the tour was over, we had lunch at a fun, local Bahamian restaurant. The next two days were "Sea Days," so we spent our time relaxing on the ship and nursing a couple of sick kiddos. Ruth and Max developed sore throats and started running fever, but the onboard medic was able to start them on some antibiotics, and by the time we disembarked in Galveston yesterday, they were both feeling quite a bit better. I am happy to report that the intense sea sickness I felt on the last cruise (when I was pregnant with Clay), was almost non-existant on this cruise. And, even despite some of the kids being sick the last couple of days, we all had a wonderful time, and we would definitely recommend a cruise like this for other families looking for a family-friendly vacation. I took almost 400 pictures, so obviously, I cannot share them all. Instead I will leave you with just a few photo highlights.

water slide fun
a splahin' good time

getting in a round of golf

up above the sea so blue

towel animals take over the pool deck

all dressed up for dinner

posing with Mimi and Grandpa

"Cruise Elegant"

snorkel queen

"Let's do this, Baby!"

geared up, but not quite prepared for the rough water

working the labyrinth at Garden of the Groves


lots of fish to see from the mini-sub

Cruisin' Cutie

cruise face

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Robot Party

Create-Your-Own Robot

Pinata Time

Questioning a suspicious clue during the scavenger hunt


Happy Robot Cake

Make a wish


The Big 5

Hey Mac-O! You are 5, and while you've always been a hand full, now, it's official! This year has been super-fun, and I have enjoyed watching you learn and grow and develop even more into the wonderful little boy that you are. 

You have had an amazing year! You got your yellow belt in your martial arts class in the spring. And then, you decided you would rather pursue other opportunities. So, in the fall, you took swim lessons. You did a great job, and with just a little more practice, you will be swimming the length of the pool all by yourself and jumping off the diving board. You are looking forward to working on your skills while we are on our cruise next week. You also learned how to ride a big boy bike, and I'm sure it won't be long before we can take the training wheels off and watch you take off. Athletically speaking, you constantly impress us. You are one of the fastest runners I have ever seen, and you are not limited by your footwear. I have seen you beat half of Weston's football team, all of whom are at least two years older than you, while wearing boots, flip-flops and even barefooted. Running is not only something you love to do, it's something you need to do. You just can't help yourself. We signed our whole family up for a Color Run 5K in March, and you are so excited and look for opportunities to practice. You are also about to start playing basketball. I can't wait to see you tear up the court!

But there is more to you than athletics. This year, you officially joined a CC class and became the third student to enroll in Watts Homeschool. You love the time you spend at CC with your friends, and you often amaze us with the information you are able to recall.  You seem to especially enjoy the presentations each week, and you have regaled us all time and again with your "Wide Mouth Frog" story. You have learned how to read this year, and you excel at it. You seem to have an intuitive understanding of words and how they work, and you have completed quite a few reading posters. You have also been working on writing and numbers, and are often eager to sit in with your older siblings, trying to pick up some of what they are working on as well.

In the fall, our family acquired a very sweet little kitty, who instantly became your very best friend. You two were inseparable when you were outside playing. That cat would even get up on the trampoline with you guys and happily let you bounce him around. Unfortunately, when we went out to the ranch at Thanksgiving, Rocky decided to seek companionship elsewhere. His departure sadden you, but you were convinced that he had simply followed us to the ranch, and you were certain you had seen him at the feed store in Iraan. When I asked you if you really thought he could walk all that way, you looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Well, he probably had to take a few breaks!" For weeks afterward, you would keep an eye out for Rocky, because you just knew he was going to come home. And then, yesterday, you ran in from outside and ecstatically proclaimed, "The good news is, I found Rocky!" You were so confident, that I couldn't help but feel that it might indeed be him. Upon inspection, though, I found only an armadillo, digging around under a bush. You were disappointed for an instant, but then quickly found your enthusiasm again for the new adventure, which had just presented itself. You chased that armadillo around all over the yard, and when he escaped into his burrow, you staged a stakeout. You resumed your watch this afternoon, and with the help of your older siblings, actually caught the thing. I believe Weston actually nabbed the critter, but you assured me that he couldn't have done it unless you had found it for him.

Recently, you have become very interested in cooking, and it's fun to have you helping out in the kitchen. You even have some of your own equipment, which you are very proud to offer when a meal needs to be prepared. And, I didn't know until a couple of weeks ago that the sound a spatula makes is "Spatch, Spatch, Spatch." You actually help with a great many things around the house, and you are always happy to flex your muscles when there is heavy lifting to be done.

You are such an amazing little boy, brimming with life and passion, and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to be your mom! Dad and I are so very proud of you, and we are so excited that you are five! I'm looking forward to more fun and adventures with you this next year. I love you so very much!



Monday, January 07, 2013

Holiday Highlights

It was a rough leap back into the real world today, so I think for the sake of positivity, I'll just stick with the highlight reel from our break:

We left here on Dec. 21 and headed to my parents' house in Belton. We had a blast seeing our favorite characters from the "Cars" movie, playing at multiple parks, shopping, cooking, eating, reading,  opening gifts and spending some quality time with our extended family.

Hangin' with Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater

A blessed Christmas with grandparents, great-grandparents, and cousins
(not to mention aunts, uncles, great-aunts and uncles, and parents)

The Watts Four and Sweet Baby Tyler

On Dec. 27, we left Belton and made our way to Round Top for the Burnett Reunion. There, we enjoyed a roaring fire, wonderful food, fellowship with family we see all too infrequently, a jam session with a local band, a very silly talent show and a cozy bed and breakfast.

Front Row Seat

Dancing the night away

Impressing the crowd with the "Interrupting Cow" joke
and a "Pickles and Chee Chee" story

The lovely and talented Miss Ruth

Regaling the group with "The Wide Mouth Frog"

Charlotte's famous dancing man

Having some fun with Charlotte's little friend

On the 28th, we pointed the caravan west, toward the ranch. We spent the next several days with Jeff's parents, brother and sister-in-law, and aunt and uncle. We played lots of Forty-Two, Mah-Jong and Scrabble, ate one delicious meal (and dessert) after another,  received news of a new niece or nephew/cousin coming this summer, broke bread with most of the extended Watts clan, made the excruciatingly long trip to the nearest ER to repair a bone-deep cut, rode around in the new limo-like Ranger, hunted, got dirty, did a little running, snuggled under blankets, read books, made New Year's resolutions, and watched the snow fall. It was a really wonderful time!

The expectant parents

Max got his very own cooking gear, which he is stoked about

Showing off the special blanket Mimi made
Piling in the Ranger

A-hunting we will go
Tough Guy

Hot Forty-Two game

Books, Balls and Brothers

Guarding the feeder

Big Helper 
New Year's Resolutions

On Jan. 3, it was back to Belton, where Max got his stitches out, I had a much-needed pedicure and Jeff and I got to don our fancy duds for a swanky party honoring my mom's installation as the president of the local Board of Realtors.

"I hereby dub thee..."

The Girls

Basking in the moment 
Party People

We are so thankful that we got to share our holidays with people who are very special to us, doing things that make us happy! And, our hope is that you had a wonderful holiday time, as well.