delightful flurry

CHRISTMAS 2011, Yakima, WA

SO. MUCH. FUN. We haven’t had two weeks of solid family time in years. Actually, make that, Never. This Christmas was the perfect opportunity for our family to have some real time together. Here are a few highlights:


SLEDDING…lots of sledding


ZOO LIGHTS…Point Defiance Zoo

SEATTLE SCIENCE CENTER…worth every penny



CHRISTMAS EVE…program and pajamas

1. two treasured visits with Jes
2. a birthday party for six of the 14 grandkids (where are those pics?)
3. a visit to great-grandma and great-grandpa’s in Tacoma
4. four-wheeler rides
5. lunch and shopping with my favorite high school buddies
6. and last, but certainly not least, playing Santa to a family with eight children, whose dad lost his job two month previously. Adam even dressed up in a Santa suit for the occasion.

The whole Penning tribe pitched in so that we could not only provide Christmas dinner and presents for the children, but also, extra groceries, clothing, toys, books, gift cards for the parents, and new outfits for each child. For such a large family, it took the entire back of our Suburban and Papa Penning’s truck to carry it all. It was the sweetest and best highlight of the entire two weeks…watching our whole family work toward a common goal that reached past our differences and divisions, as we focused on something greater than ourselves….something that really matters.

As the four older girl cousins were helping me finish wrapping the gifts the day of the delivery I asked what their favorite part of planning for the family had been. Brooklynn said, “I am most excited to see the girls’ closets fill up with the clothes and things like I have.” The others chimed in saying they were sure the kids we had bought for didn’t have as much in their closets as we did and they were glad to share what they had so that someone else’s closet could be just as full. It made this mommy/auntie very proud of all our Tweens!

My other favorite moment was when Annie came in the living room with her brand new black leather church shoes and asked if she could give them to the three year old little girls (the family has twin girls). How could I refuse such a sweet and simple request. We wrapped up a couple of special things and Annie hand delivered them to the girls’ bed for them to open when they woke up. I think that will be one of Annie’s first real memories as she grows up, which makes me smile. I hope I can be more like that in my everyday living and doing.

Christmas was REALLY good this year! Christmas cards might not be sent out yet. My body may feel broken from the 17 hour drive. And my phone is lost somewhere between here and Ogden, but it was all worth it. And we’re home safe, looking anxiously into 2012. :)

two adoptions and seven kids later… :)


Our three foster children: Joseph, Brian, and Adriana were officially adopted into the McCracken clan on Thursday, August 11, 2011. We adopted them from Clark County Foster Care here in Las Vegas. We are so happy to have an official day to celebrate and commemorate their inclusion into our family. The three Littles have been with us for almost a year now, and we have considered them “ours” from the moment we got them. But there is something about the adoption decree that allows us, the parents, to exhale that last bit of breath. You know, the “what if” breath that we don’t even know we are holding until the judge says, “YES.”

At the courthouse…we had so many friends and family members in attendance. In addition, there were many dear workers from Clark County, whom we consider friends, who have been involved in this wonderful placement. Joseph kept wrapping my arm tighter and tighter around his tummy. Brian wouldn’t let go of Adam. And Annie, well, she’s just smiley bubbly Annie…happy to be along for the ride. :)


We’re guessing most people are not excited to see their name listed on a docket at Family Court. We got quite a few stares as we were taking pictures of it.


And look at all the amazing people who came in support of this awesomeness:


It was obviously a beautiful day. Thank you, to everyone who attended, and who continue to support our growing McFamily!

Welcome (officially), Jo Jo, Brian, and Annie:



two weeks till christmas

Everything is bigger this year.  Imagine? :)

Bigger family. Bigger shopping list. Bigger rolls of wrapping paper.  And it is so fun. Raising seven is just like raising four…just bigger. Right?

The best part of this particular season is continuing to go and do, even with the larger number. There is so much wonder in the little ones. It has been neat to add their joy to the ninos’. Last week we…

Trimmed the tree:


Enjoyed a Christmas concert at UNLV:


Viewed the Live Nativity (so glad it’s back):



Attended Zoe and Miranda’s Christmas Programs:



good little backpackers


Labor Day Weekend 2010 found us at Zion National Park on our very first backpacking trip–with the ninos. We have waited two years to be able to go, and the two littles are finally big enough to fit into backpacking packs. Each nino carried his or her own water, clothes, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Each of them also helped to carry parts of the two tents, food, and cooking items. Actually, my pack was the lightest it has ever been due to this help. I am thinking this is totally the way to go! :)

Adam and I slipped out of our tent the next morning for a quiet sunrise together:

So we only went a whopping four miles round trip. But for the kids’ first time out, it was a huge success. We have The Grand Canyon’s North Rim on our October docket. We are going to try for five miles this time.

the mccracken greats meet the ninos

Great Grandpa and Great Grandma McCracken
Redding, CA
August 2010

We were met with a delicious dinner, delightful smiles, and crafts galore from grandma and grandpa. They were so excited for us to arrive, and we were so excited to finally be there. This was the first face-to-face meeting between the ninos and these particular greats. We will cherish this long awaited memory for a really long time.

Mt. Shasta
Such a pretty drive from Portland to Redding. It doesn’t get much prettier!

farewell, seaside

Farewell, lovely beach house. You served us well.I will not miss your four flights of stairs. I will not miss your drunken neighbors. I will not miss the sand in my clothes and shoes and hair.
But I WILL miss:
*Double Boggle! (the word game we made up during our trip…mind-blowing nerdy word snob game of champions, totally addicting)
*Walks on the beach!
*Adam totally unplugged for a week! (well, mostly)
*Bonfires galore!
*Games until 1:00 a.m.!
*Midnight runs for ice cream!
*The Outlet Mall!
*Family and cousins and all around fun!

Here’s what the kids think about our trip:

grandparents the great


Meet great-grandparents Penning!

The whole Penning tribe made a very special day trip to Point Defiance Park in Tacoma to spend some time with them. I am so glad we got pictures. Let’s face it grams and grandps…you’re no spring chickens anymore. :)


We also celebrated Danny’s birthday…the Nerf bow-n-arrow is something Danny’s has been asking for for 18 months. he LOVES it.

We all had a great time. Hopefully, the kids will remember the experience for a long time to come.

JULY 2010

zionfest 2010



1st annual talent show

complete with video crew, spotlight guy, and MC


Yummy Food

 Lots of Cool Messes

And good all around fun

We love our tradition we have created for our family. We look forward to many more Zion trips in our future. Here are more pics!

looking forward

Summer will quickly be upon us here in the desert. And you all know how cranky I get when summer comes. So I try and make the summer as busy as possible for myself so that I can endure the baking hot sun.

Here is what we are planning:

Zion Nat’l Park, of course. Year six. We leave tomorrow.

Spring Mountain Ranch, Willy Wonka. Planning this outing for months now with friends. So excited to take the kids to their first official play.
Camp Invent. Danny is going to his first invention camp with a buddy. He is totally stoked.
Bear Lake. The kids and I are planning a week at the lake with my mom and sister. (Adam will be in China on business–boo, boo!)
Swim lessons. Hopefully we can squeeze a couple of these in. :)

Grandma Penning Visits. YAY!
Relay for Life. We are going to Oregon to participate in Team Georgie this summer. So Excited!
Washington. Oh how I love escaping the desert heat, trading it in for two weeks in Yakima. I can’t wait to hang with my family, scrap with Jes, camp at Rainier with cousins, and see old friends and their children.

The Beach. Yes! Who love the Oregon Coast? We do. We do. We have been planning this vacation since Thanksgiving with my parents and siblings. One whole week in Seaside with my family. The kids are going to learn to body surf this time around. Can’t wait for vacation with my hubby and kiddos.