Monday, December 25, 2006

What Not to Wear

Daniel took me shopping for a new outfit to take some family photos in. I've been watching TLC's What Not to Wear faithfully for a few months now. I'm trying to follow Stacey and Clinton's advice.

Since I'm losing weight, it was exciting to get to shop in a smaller size. I'm down to a size 14 for the first time in years. The WNTW tips I'm utilizing in this outfit?

1. fitted jacket to slim my waist
2. layers with a neutral camisol under a blue jacket
3. straight leg slacks to make me look taller and proportionate
4. pointed toe shoes with a little heel to elongate my foot

I got all the compliments on my new slimmer sleeker look that I could have hoped for. My sister, Toni, however knew immediately where I was getting my fashion advice from. She said, "You've been watching What Not to Wear!" the minute she saw my new outfit. Yup, I was busted! The family photos came out great, and I felt beautiful all evening, so "Thanks, Stacey and Clinton."

Dang, Sis!

We took some photos at my Mom's house with her and my sister, Toni. All I can say is, "Dang, Toni!" How did you manage to look so good in all those photos? I take 20 pictures with me in them and am praying that one or two are just "okay".

You know, you could do one of those talk shows where you show pictures of you as a cute, but geeky little kid with glasses and freckles, then burst through the giant photo as this amazingly beautiful adult.

Have I mentioned that you, my baby sister, are my current inspiration? I'm talking about the way that you managed to lose weight, get fit, and turn into a bombshell all by yourself. You gave me hope, originally, that I could do the same thing. It was such an encouragement to see that someone I know really can do all that without surgery or some crazy diet plan. You just worked hard and ate less. Hopefully, our family photos next year will be more balanced and both of us will look as good as you do now. Love ya, Sis!

That Thing You Do

My mom has a way with kids. When Danya was a baby, Mom made her laugh, a real true belly laugh, for the first time by saying silly nothings like "bubba-lubbers" and "Wookie" in a surprising way. When we were at her house last week, she had an instant raport with Kevin. She had him smiling and laughing in no time.

Whenever I'm playing with my kids, being silly, singing goofy songs, dancing around the living room with them, and generally being a fun mom, I give a silent little thanks to my mom, who did all those same things with me when I was a kid. So often, I hear my mom's words, my mom's voice, coming out of my mouth. Some of the often heard "mom-isms":

1. Is that money burning a hole in your pocket?
2. I'm not Mom anymore, I'm changing my name.
3. You'll get glad in the same boots you got mad in.
4. "But, but" is what you sit on.
5. Yeah, I'll just use my third arm to get that for you.
6. So is Christmas. (after the kids say, "I'm coming!")
7. Nice to meet you, Hungry. (after the kids say, "I'm hungry.")
8. Don't make me come over there!
9. Do you think money grows on trees?
10. I'll just take that out of petty cash.

The "Greats"

We spent some time visiting with the Moffett great grandparents while we were in Oklahoma. They gave the kids some new stuffed animals, and played dominoes with them.

When I looked at the photos we took, I saw this one of Kevin and Grandpa Joe. I'm just amazed at the family resemblance. Their expressions, their ears, even their hands have a remarkable similarity. Kevin, buddy, you may be able to see your future here.

My Favorite Aunt

Aunt Kathy has always been my favorite aunt. She moved to Oklahoma when I was about 11 years old. She gave me one of my all time favorite Christmas gifts one year. It was a instant polaroid camera, and I loved it! I think that's where my love of photography started.

We took pictures with Aunt Kathy, her son Shane, and his wife Rachel last week. Aunt Kathy gave the girls an awesome toy. It's called a Crayola Cutter and it cuts out any shape the girls draw. You can even cut photos with it. I think I had as much fun with it as they did!

It was really good to see cousin Shane again. I've always loved spending time with him. It's a shame that we live so far apart these days. I really wish Daniel could someday find a job in Oklahoma City so that we can be closer to family.

Our Father's House

Sunday was quite an experience. We all went to Daniel parents' church, New Covenant Fellowship, in Stillwater. Grandma Nancy was so proud to have all of her children and grandchildren to show off!

We also got to see our friends, Glenda's family and the Haley's there. This picture is of Glenda & Eric's crew and their two nieces.

Kevin was so funny at church. He kept babbling through the service until he had to be taken out. At one point he seemed to be having a conversation in baby talk with the baby girl of our friend, C. J. New Covenant is the church that Daniel and I went to as teenagers, so we got to show our pride and joys off to alot of people who knew us when we were younger. After church we went out to eat with friends and family. At the restaurant we had to ask for a "table for 27"!

A Very Brady Christmas!

We had so much fun taking family photos with my little amateur photography studio. We got sibling pictures of Daniel, his brother Ben, and their sisters Jennie and Robin. I had them pose in lots of different ways, and then we took a few pictures of them doing the "Brady Bunch" thing where they look around at each other. We were all cracking up the whole time. It was great!

I especially liked how the colors they were wearing looked so perfect in the photos. We couldn't have planned it that good if we had tried. We got some really excellent photos of Daniel's family. We've already printed a few out and put them in the picture frame I got for Christmas.


We lucked out this year. First, our gift for our niece, Shalom, was a hit! She liked it so much that her parents had trouble getting her to pay attention to all her other gifts. We gave her an Elmo/Cookie Monster phone.

We gave Kevin some similar gifts. He got a little ball that has Elmo's face on one side and Cookie on the other. They both giggle and shake. Then we got him an Elmo hammer that lights up and makes music when he shakes it. He also got a baby Elmo that sings and hums when you give him his pacifier. Kevin keeps trying to suck on Elmo's pacifier.

At my brother, Ricky's, house I somehow lucked into being his daughter, Riley's, favorite person for the night. She kept running up to hug me and be held. She even cried and fussed when I would hand her back to her parents! She's about 14 months old and incredibly loving and sweet. It was a fun surprise to be an instant favorite!

A Little After Dinner Snack

I guess Kevin was still hungry the other night because he decided to chew on his cousin Bekah's forehead for a while. She gave him a hug and he started rubbing his gums on the top of her head just like he does with his favorite teether toy.

She was laughing and letting him chow down even though drool was running into her eyes and down her face. If that's not love, I don't know what is, lol! We recorded Kevin munching on his cousin and took a few cute pictures. I'm sure this will be one of those weird stories he hears about when he's older.


Grandma Nancy and Grandpa Wayne had all eleven of their grandbabies at their house last weekend. They even have #12 on the way in this picture, that Diana is expecting in about 8 months.

Their oldest grandchild, Judah, will turn 12 next month. It's fun to try to imagine how many grandchildren they will have by the time he reaches adulthood in a few years.

My parents only have 4 grandkids, my 3 plus my brother's son. So I guess we better hurry up if we want to help them catch up to Daniel's parents!

The Great Outdoors

The best thing (in the kids' opinions) about going to their Grandparents' house is getting to play outside. They can get dirty, swing on the tire swing, play in the leaf piles, and generally run amok.

The kids begged and begged to go outside, but we made them wait until after we took family photos. A bunch of us got together to play touch football, too. I dubbed myself the sports photographer and Uncle Matt declared himself the permanent quarter back for both teams. Even little Jason played, and did a great job. He is one tough little boy! He didn't even cry when the football nailed him in the head.

Tuesday night I played hide and seek with Jason, Rhema, and my girls. We played at dusk, and we actually played reverse hide and seek, which is where one person hides and everyone else tries to find them. Then when someone finds them they hide with them until the last person finds the whole group. When I was a kid they called it "Sardines" because you end up packed together in a tiny little hiding spot. The weather was perfect, just barely chilly at all. The kids even managed not to get too terribly dirty all week.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Away in a Homemade Manger

The Maxwell kids perform the Christmas story every year for the family. This year was no exception. They called and informed us that our girls would get to be angels and asked if we could please learn "The First Noel" and "Silent Night" in sign language.

Well, I looked up the signs in my old book from the class I took years ago at Rogers State College. We learned the signs and the words on the drive from Colorado to Oklahoma. Then Danya taught her cousins the signs when we got there. They all did a great job with the play and the songs. The Maxwell kids sang "Silent Night" in the Spanish version for Aunt Diana's benefit, since she doesn't speak very much English.

Grandpa Wayne even built a wooden manger for the play. Kevin was supposed to be baby Jesus. He even tried out the manger, which was a little small for him. Unfortunately he fell asleep just before the play started. So his under study, the plastic baby doll in the above group picture, filled the role for him.

The Gangs All Here

This is one of the better photos we took as a group outside. In this shot is Daniel's brother Ben's family, his sister Robin's family, his other sister Jennie, his parents, and of course our immediate family. For this shot I just set the timer and ran to get into the photo.

I'm really surprised that we managed to get almost everyone looking. We have another photo where everyone is looking but you see less of Jennie (in the ball cap on the right). Ben surprised his mom, or attempted to anyway, by flying in for the weekend with his family.

Little Gymnast

My niece Bekah is an amazing little gymnast. While we were in Oklahoma celebrating an early Christmas with family, she showed off some of her moves.

She performed her gymnastics routine for us and showed us the cool flips and jumps she can do. I set up my little photo studio in the game room of Daniel's parents' house and had Bekah do some of her tricks while I took pictures in action mode.

She is just simply amazing. I don't know if she'll end up an olympic hopeful or a college gymnast, but I know that she seems born for gymnastics. She seems to light up when she's leaping and twisting and doing her "thing". Bekah-boo, I'm sure that someday I'll be proudly jumping up and down yelling, "That's my niece!" Then again, I'm already pretty proud of you.

A Hiking We Will Go!

"It's only 10 minutes away, Jess."
That's how it started. Daniel tells me about a pretty little hiking trail with a great view of the mountains. He just wants me to come with him and take a tiny little walk around.

The weather had warmed up just barely enough that it sounded like fun. Almost an hour later we arrive at this wide open area with gently rolling hills. The sun has started to set, the temperature has dropped 10 degrees, and the girls and I are shivering and flapping our arms to warm up. Poor Danya was not dressed for a chilly walk. She begged the whole time to go home.

It really was beautiful out there. I'd love to go back sometime when the weather is warmer.

Kevin's First Christmas Gift

We exchanged gifts with the Caulkins' kids before our trip to Oklahoma. They gave Kevin his first ever Christmas gift, a soft brown teddy bear wearing a Santa hat.

It was love at first sight...or is it "bite"? He immediately, hugged, snuggled, petted, and slobbered on his bear. He gets excited every time he sees it.

We gave Shannon and Sarah new scrapbooking kits, and Brandon got a new LOTR video game. They gave us cards with free babysitting coupons, and some other neat little toys and things. It was nice for Danya and Gloria to get to open a few gifts early, since they've been staring longingly at all the gifts under our tree for weeks now.

Seeing Each Other

Daniel and I took an evening while the kids were in bed before he had to leave for work, to play with the new backdrop and take photos of each other.

The lighting was off, so the colors came out wrong, but the photos don't look too bad in black and white.

I did, however, learn one important thing. Make sure to remove watches for future photos shoots.

On a side note, thanks for the new shirt, Jennie. It looks great on me!

The Good, the Bad, and the Silly

Daniel got me some new photo backdrops and a stand for them. We've been having alot of fun trying them out. Some of the photos have come out less than stellar, but there have been a few really good ones.

I even let the girls and the neighbor kids play with the backdrops and my old camera. They took all kinds of silly pictures and giggled up a storm!

It's going to be great taking monthly photos of the kids. My favorite is the white background, but the black creates a neat effect, too.

Land Rental?

We found a place north of here selling homes in our price range. We went up to have a look and found out that they were manufactured homes (think trailers) on concrete slabs. They were actually very nice.

One catch though. They don't sell the land the houses are on. You have to pay about $400 a month in rent! Talk about a scam! We had fun anyways playing at their park and building a snowman with Gloria.

It never ends

I like the fact that our van is completely paid for and that it only cost about $5,000. What I like less is the endless stream of repairs and general maintenance it requires.

We took the van to Grease Monkey for the supposed 10 minute oil change. The girls and I took a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood while we waited. I'm glad the van was ready for our trip to Oklahoma for an early family Christmas. I wish, though, that we could get the electrical system checked so that we could plug in the girls DVD player.

Daniel thinks that maybe we blew a fuse when we tried to use the DVD player and the laptop at the same time back in September. It sure would make the drive to Oklahoma easier if we could get that thing fixed. It costs almost $100 just to get a diagnostic done on the van, so we haven't had it looked at yet. Oh well. The joys of automobile ownership, right?

Making Changes

Well, I got in one of those moods where a woman just HAS to reorganize something. I got the girls to help me come up with some room layout designs, and then we enlisted Daniel's help for the heavy lifting.

I really like the new flow of the living room. The only hitch was when Daniel tried to lift the whole Christmas tree and left it in the middle of the room for a minute. Then he bent down to move a drawer and accidentally knocked the whole tree over. The ornaments fell off one side, but the tree survived.

Experimenting with Black & White

We took some photos of Kevin in the buff on the spur of the moment before his bath today. We set him on top of the kitchen table with a blanket on it. I think he looks great. There's just something about black and white that lets you focus on his shape and his great expressions.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Digitally Speaking

Daniel bought me the Paint Shop Pro X software a few months ago and I've been struggling with it ever since. It was starting to intimidate me. I just couldn't seem to figure it out. Even the guide book confused me. Today, though, was a break through. I just spent a couple of hours fiddling with it and suddenly I got a few little things to work. I made this "Baby Blue" page and was so proud of myself I about burst!

Then I picked the guide book back up and it started to make more sense now that I understood what a couple of the basic tools do. I made a second page using a kit downloaded from Shabby Princess and only ran into trouble when I couldn't figure out how to change the font color. Other than that, I'm learning by leaps and bounds!

Daniel has ordered Adobe Elements 5 for me for Christmas. Once I master that one, there shouldn't be anything I can't do! My dream is to someday be able to make those digital page kits like they sell at Shabby Princess and other places. I've been able to make some simple things with my old basic software, but I'm hoping to be able to do all the advanced 3D embellishments with these new software programs. All I need is time to practice.

Magnetic Reading

I got a refund check in the mail recently, and yesterday we spent it at Barnes and Noble. I got 4 new books by Terry Brooks. Okay, technically they are old books, two that I read a very long time ago and two that I never read.

I also got Danya a math drills for second graders book. We told her that when she finishes it (all 60 pages) she can invite some of her friends from her homeschool charter school over for a "girl party".

For Gloria, I found magnetic poetry "First Words" for beginning readers. It has large tiles with big print and easy words. The toughest words are "monkey" and "teacher", so I know she can read them all. We all played with them together last night for her special time. We made silly sentences like "The bad blue dog ate my teacher." Then we would change the sentences a little bit at a time by overlaying another word over a word in the sentence. For instance, Gloria substituted the word "good" for "bad" and "mom" for "teacher". She absolutely loved it! The only hard part for her was having to share with her sister the next morning.

Fazoli's Kids' Night

On Tuesday nights kids can eat for 99 cents and they have crafts, too. So Danya begged us to go and we caved. They got to color, eat all the breadsticks they could stomach, and flip fake meatballs at a spinning pizza chef with plates on his hands covered in velcro. Every kids dream, right?

Kevin tried to chow down on a breadstick but forgot that he hasn't learned to swallow anything that isn't pureed to a soupy consistency. He just gets so intent on shoving things into his mouth. Poor guy, he really needs some teeth. I, on the other hand, am hoping he doesn't get them for a while. At least not until I'm ready to wean him.

We let the girls have plenty of time to do the crafts, but really it was mostly just coloring. They had an origami shirt they could fold, but they just took the pattern home with them. At least they can say they've been to the kids' night once, now.

3 Cute Kids

What We're Reading: The Boxcar Children

Aunt Toni, my sister, sent the girls the first four books of The Boxcar Children collection. I remember reading these when I was little. It's written in a simple style so that Danya could probably read it by herself, but we're reading them aloud.

We're participating in the Book-It! program from Pizza Hut and we're counting the first Boxcar Children book that we just finished reading as part of the four books a month each of the girls has to read.

They both really like the books so far. Gloria likes that the youngest child, Benny, is her age. So, thanks Toni for the great gift!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Baby Blue

I took this picture yesterday morning with my new camera. We moved the kitchen table out of the way, opened up the blinds in front of the sliding glass doors, and hung Kevin's blanket over two kitchen chairs. We put the Boppy pillow under the blanket, too, for Kevin to lean against. Then I turned off the flash and took these using the morning light coming in through the glass doors.

Kevin is trying hard to learn to sit up on his own. He sort of slumps forward and pushes up with his arms. He's still working on the stomach muscle control he needs to stay sitting up. We're hoping that with practice he'll have it figured out soon.

This blanket from Linens N Things is just perfect for a drop cloth. I'd really like to get a real photographer's background stand eventually, but this works for now. I'm thinking of getting a few more of these blankets in different colors. They are incredibly soft and catch the light beautifully. Of course, with a baby boy this adorable, who's going to notice the background?

The Millers in Colorado

Oh happy day! Our friends, the Millers, are in Colorado for Thanksgiving and a wedding, and we got to see them on my birthday! We drove to Littleton to meet them at Mike's parents' house.

The girls were so happy to see each other! They played non-stop. They especially liked taking pictures with my old camera. Since I have a new one, the girls get to use the old one. It has a 1 gig chip, so they took 210 photos. They didn't even fill the chip. They also played Disney Monopoly. We all had burgers fresh from the grill for lunch.

Betsy and I got to hang out and talk while nursing our babies together. Her daughter, Rachel, is almost 2 months old. Kevin looked like a toddler next to her! Danya took this picture, by the way. You can see Glory looking stylish in her new camo shoes. Danya has new Mary Janes, and I'm wearing new boots. On Black Friday I also got a new soft brown jacket and 3 shirts on sale, so I feel like Christmas came early for me. Or maybe just a wonderful birthday. I told Betsy that I am so homesick. Betsy gave me a beautiful poinsettia plant for my birthday, but getting to see her and her family again really was my favorite birthday present!

My 29th Birthday...Yes, Really!

I turned 29 on Sunday. I'm not sure anyone will believe me since it's the age that every older woman lies and pretends to be. I'm going to enjoy the last year of my 20's. Daniel says he likes being married to a 20 something year old. I told him to enjoy it while it lasts.

Gloria took this picture of me with my new camera that I got for my birthday. If it looks just like my old camera, that's because they are almost identical. The difference is that this camera is a 7.1 mega pixel, lets me crop photos IN the camera, and has a few new tricks like a light meter to help me take better photos. I also got a mini tripod, which I've wanted for years, a new scrapbooking idea book, a 2 gig memory disc, and a new camera bag. Daniel also took me shopping at the scrapbook store the night before where I got some new paper and stickers.

The 2 gig disc is amazing. I can take 1,000 photos before I have to download the disc. We also went out to eat a couple of times to celebrate and Daniel took me out to a movie. We went to see "Deja Vu" which was an excellent action flick. I'd say I had a fantastic birthday!

First Christmas

Kevin loves to rip open wrapping paper, so his eyes are lighting up at all the gifts under the tree. I'm sure he thinks they are all for him! He also got a kick out of watching the girls decorate the house and the tree. We still haven't gotten the perfect picture of him next to all the gifts, but this one is close. I just had to share since he looks so incredibly cute!

Alone on Black Friday

On a whim, early the morning after Thanksgiving, I decided to sneak out of the house alone and catch some Black Friday sales. Since we had our Thanksgiving dinner the Monday before, we did most of our Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving day. Kmart was having alot of good sales that day.

Friday morning I fed Kevin at 6:30 am, laid him back down in his crib and googled Black Friday sales on the computer. Then I hit Target. It was so much fun and so relaxing to shop alone. I never ever get to do that anymore. Since I got there at 7:30am I missed all the crazy people who rush to the stores on Black Friday at 5 am, but I beat all the people who sleep in and then start shopping at around 9.

When I got home I finished wrapping all the presents. I had already stayed up until 11pm the night before wrapping most of the gifts. I think we are prepared now, and shouldn't have to do any more Christmas shopping. That's good since we are celebrating Christmas early around December 16th with Daniel's family in Oklahoma.

Lost in Suburbia

Kevin, the girls, and I went for a long walk last week through the residential area near our home. This was the first time I carried Kevin in the baby carrier. Usually Daniel does that. You know, an almost 20 lb baby in one of those things can really strain your back! I was attempting to find a nearby lake with a walking trail and playground that we went to once before.
Instead, I got lost, we found a school playground for the girls to play on, and we took the scenic route back home. We finally found a 7-Eleven and asked for directions. It turns out we were only a few blocks from home by then.
The weather was perfect, Kevin was happy the whole time, and the girls enjoyed getting a drink at 7-Eleven, so overall it was a really good walk.

Mountain Adventure!

During our Thanksgiving dinner, Brandon mentioned how much he wanted to go sledding in the mountains. His dad is disabled and couldn't go, so I sort of volunteered Daniel. He and the girls have been wanting to go, but flying down a rocky slope while freezing my begonias off doesn't sound fun to me.

So Daniel, Brandon, and the girls went to Estes Park. It took a long time to find a good sledding place, but they had fun once they got there. Poor Gloria slammed into the only big rock on the whole slope and gashed her head open. Daniel convinced her to go down one more time with him on the sled so that she wouldn't be too terrified to ever sled again. (Or at least, that was the "guy logic" he explained to me later...)

On their way back home they stopped when they saw Elk on the side of the road. They got out and tried to feed them handfuls of grass. One of them scared Brandon when it came too close and acted threatening. Danya wouldn't even look at the camera because she wanted to keep her eyes on the big scary animal only a couple of feet away. Daniel said he thought it was the best part of the trip!