Saturday, March 25, 2006

Green Pudding?

Since we had to cancel our weekly homeschooling get together with the Millers last week, we did all our St. Patrick's Day activities and crafts this Thursday instead. We watched a Veggie Tales video about St. Patrick and found Ireland on the globe. Then the girls made Shamrock people. They accordian folded the arms, used a paper crimper on the legs, and attached little Sizzix die cut hands and some black boots that I freehand cut. Then they drew faces and clothes on them.

Next they went on a hunt for a pot of gold (chocolate coins), while Betsy and I gave them directions playing "hot and cold". Finally they got to shake up jars full of powdered vanilla pudding, milk, and green food coloring. They had that for a snack. The girls also played "Parcheesy" a new board game that Courtney got for her birthday.

Tile Tales

Thursday morning we went shopping for new tile and carpet. We found the ones we wanted at Lowe's. Then we went over to Home Depot to see if they had a similar tile for less. They didn't, but the girls really enjoyed driving around in their shopping carts!

When Daniel went to consult our neighbor, Shane, for advice we discovered that he and Missy have the exact same tile in their kitchen! He loaned Daniel a bunch of his tools and showed him what kind of cleaner to get for the floors before laying the new tiles.

When we told people we were installing new carpet we got the same advice from everyone, "Hire a professional!" So we have a guy coming out next week to take measurements and give us an estimate. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we'll get the carpets replaced. I'll post a picture when the work is done.

Moving Out, Moving In

We decided that the house we'd most like to live our own. As we looked at houses in the surrounding neighborhoods and compared their positives and negatives, and as we continued to de-clutter our home, we realized that our house is still ideal for us. So we are going to take the money we have available and the money we'll be saving by not having a larger house payment and utilities bills, and use it to invest in our current home.

We are replacing the tile and carpets, and then we'll start on a long list of other improvements. In the meantime, we are going to have a couple of massive yard sales and get rid of all the clutter we've removed from our home. With so much junk and excess furniture gone, our house is looking a lot bigger, so we should have plenty of room for Kevin when he arrives. We're also downsizing our homeschooling and scrapbooking materials. We're getting rid of everything we can't use or are unlikely to use anytime in the near future. Then we're going to store the remainder in two cabinets that we already own and not allow those materials to outgrow their cabinets.

Finally, I thought I'd add this pretty picture of our house that Daniel took this week when we had snow for about 12 hours.

Sara Sleeps Over

The girls have been wanting to have a sleepover with their friend Sara for a while now. Unfortunately they keep getting sick. So it's been postponed a few times. Last Wednesday it finally all worked out.

They played at McDonald's for lunch and then came home and spent the rest of the day doing "girl stuff". They came out of Danya's room in quite a few different interesting dressup outfits. They played classical music on their CD player and danced in ballerina costumes all around the living room. In this picture Danya was reading out loud to Sara while Sara was looking at the pictures through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars.

They had fun staying up late giggling and whispering in Danya's room. We took Sara to her daycare (since school is out for Spring Break) after breakfast. Both of the girls were already asking when they could have another sleep over!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

De-Cluttering or Nesting?

So about a week ago we went and took a look at our neighbors' house that's for sale. It's about four houses down from ours and twice the size. Ever since then we've had the "moving bug". Suddenly we realized that our house seemed way too small for us. We would like to have a separate room to put our homeschooling things and my scrapbooking things in. We'd like the girls to have a bigger bedroom too.

We have a realtor friend, Stacie Casler, in our Sunday school class and she came over and talked to us about our options and showed us what homes similar to ours were selling for in our neighborhood. She said that they are selling on average in about 60 days. She also said that if we wanted to sell our home we would have to seriously de-clutter to make our house look bigger. She recommended we get a storage unit and box up anything that wasn't absolutely essential. So we've been doing just that. Right now all the boxes are going into the garage, but once we are ready we'll get a little storage unit at the place a few blocks from our house. They are having a half price sale for the next few months. We also plan to ask Stacie to come over after we finish our de-cluttering and give us advice for what else we can do to make the place sell faster and better.

Above is a picture of the first room we've fully finished, Danya's room. The 'before' picture was actually taken at the half-way point. The top shelf of the closet was originally dangerous because you never knew when dress up hats, pom-poms, and toys might come crashing down on your head. We also removed about two garbage bags full of clothes that were too small for the girls. But we STILL had too many clothes to fit in their dresser, so we bought and assembled the tan cabinet shown in the 'after' picture above. We still have alot more work to do on the rest of the house, but it's good to see real progress!

St. Patrick's Day Fellowship

Happy St. Patrick's Day! This is a special day in our family for three reasons. One, my little brother Patrick was born on St. Pat's Day 24 years ago. Two, Daniel's little sister Jennie was married on St. Pat's in 2001. Three, I'm Irish on my mother's side. This year we had an extra special day because it was also the 20-somethings class fellowship night at our church. We played air hockey, ping-pong, foosball, basketball, and video games interspersed with gabbing with friends and eating ice cream. Unfortunately, the one thing I forgot to do was take a family photo of all of us wearing green.

Now for a funny family story about being Irish. A few years ago my older brother Shane went on his first ever business trip to NYC. He hailed a cab outside his hotel and asked the driver to take him to a bar, any bar, since he'd never been to NY before. The cabbie said, "You want an Irish bar, right?" My brother was confused and asked him why he would think that automatically. The cabbie said my brother looked obviously brown-haired blue-eyed brother with a slight Okie accent who doesn't look a bit Irish as far as we knew. My brother was still wondering what made the cabbie assume he was Irish, so the cabbie said, "I can tell you're Irish. What's your last name?" My brother laughed and told him that his last name is Shields, which is actually a German name. The cabbie just said, "Yes, but what was your mother's maiden name?" Then my brother grinned sheepishly and admitted that our mom's maiden name was Fitzgerald, an Irish name. Those NYC cab drivers are pretty sharp.

Incredible Birthday!

Last Thursday, March 16th, we attended the Miller girls' joint birthday party at Incredible Pizza in Tulsa. Megan is now three and Courtney is five. We had an awesome time! They gave out lots of game cards and the girls ran from one game to the next. They really liked playing putt-putt with Courtney and Megan.

One of the favorite rides was the merry-go-round because several kids could ride it at once. I liked anything that had a bench near it, so I could sit down while the kids played, lol.

Betsy made two amazing birthday cakes for her girls. They were both made to look like the dresses of a Barbie doll. You can see the edge of the yellow cake in the picture. Each doll was holding up a sign with one of the girls' names on it. We gave the girls books by Eric Carle for birthday gifts. Since they both, Megan especially, really liked reading "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" at the zoo the other day, we thought they'd like more of his books.

The Graduates - Danya and Gloria!

We finished our first year of homeschooling! Since we started in June of last year, we were able to complete the 180 day requirement early. Now we are taking a sort of long spring break for a couple of weeks.

As a celebration for doing so well this year we drove down to visit grandma and grandpa. We had dinner at C.C.'s Pizza and then went to see "The Shaggy Dog". We had planned to have a little ceremony at the library to give them their graduation certificates and take their picture, but we ran out of time. We all really liked the movies and the girls liked being the center of attention.

On the following Thursday they also got to tell their cousins that they had graduated. Daniel's parents, his sister Robin, and all the Maxwell cousins drove up in the R.V. to Keystone Lake during their spring break last week. We brought the girls' bikes and roller blades with us. So all the cousins shared those and had a great time playing together. Gloria fell off the top bunk of the R.V. and hurt her back, then she fell asleep in the van while all the other kids played at the park. It was an eventful day!

6 Months Pregnant

I fully intended to take a picture of my belly each month of this pregnancy. But with all the miscarriages last year I almost felt like I'd be tempting fate or something if I took a picture during the first few months. So now that Kevin seems to be doing great I'll try to get a picture once a month from here on out. Yes, here I am at 6 months pregnant in all my stretch-marked glory.

What's really weird is when I go to sit down or bend over and it feels like an arm or a leg of his is getting squished for a moment. He's moving so much lately that it feels like I swallowed a frisky puppy! I saw this pregnant woman at the doctor's office recently who's belly was more than twice the size of mine! She was this skinny young woman who looked like she was going to tip over at any moment! I already feel like a whale, so it's making me nervous to think I have a little over 3 months still to go...or should I say grow?

Friday, March 10, 2006

A Really Great Blog!

If you haven't seen this blog you should: Living a Full Life Today I read this person's blog for the first time and literally laughed so hard my sides hurt. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person who has some serious concerns about the state of our educational system. If you do, too, this blogger has a great post that you should read: Educational State But the absolute best thing I read was her post about the comments she gets about having a big family and her polite and not-so-polite responses: Rude Comments This blogger will definitely be added to my favorite blogs bookmarks!

Fancy Family Dinner

The girls and I made a special dinner for daddy tonight. While he was sleeping we cleaned the house and set the table with the best dishes. After we made banana bread we made meatloaf. The girls really got into squishing the ingredients together. Here's a picture of Danya forming it into a loaf.

After we finished preparing the meal of meatloaf, banana bread, and corn, we all ran off and got dressed up pretty. Then we put on a CD of love songs, turned down the lights, and woke up Daniel. We told him to put on a nice shirt and tie. He was very surprised and the girls were just beaming, grinning from ear to ear with pride. They also got to be special tonight using real glasses instead of plastic cups. Gloria said, "If someone came to our house right now they would think there's FOUR grownups at the table!"

Homemade Banana Bread

As a special surprise for Daniel, the girls and I decided to make banana bread. We had just the right amount of bananas that were about to go bad, and after a quick call to my favorite source of cooking advice, Betsy, we were ready to get cookin'! Danya and Gloria were excited to finally get to use their new aprons that they made last week. Here's the recipe we used:

Banana Bread
3 bananas mashed
1 C. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 C. vegetable oil
2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash bananas. Add sugar, eggs, and oil. Sift dry ingredients together and add to banana mixture. Pour in greased 5 x 9 loaf pan and bake 55-60 minutes.

Gloria liked making huge white clouds of flour while sifting it. Danya liked smushing the bananas and she kept singing, "Smush it like ya just don't care!" Me? I loved the heavenly smells filling the house while it was baking. It turned out to be absolutely delicious!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Great Big Love

Gloria sang with her pre-KICK choir last Sunday night at church. When she was singing...which wasn't the entire time since she was being a little obstinate, she sang adorably. They sang songs like, "I've got a great big love in my little heart for Jesus". It was extremely cute!

Every so often she would just completely quit participating, and judging by the expression on her face, I think she was just doing it to see if she could get away with it. I was in the second row giving her the "straighten up right now or else" signals, so she grinned mischievously and started singing and doing the motions again.

She's been running up to me and singing to my belly every chance she gets lately. She likes to hold her hand on my belly and sing to see if Kevin will start kicking. Sometimes he seems to be reacting to the sound of her voice! He's kicking ALOT lately. It's really fun to lay in the bathtub and watch my belly jump and the water move from the force of his kicks. Gloria likes to come into my room in the mornings and wake me up. Then she'll crawl into bed with me and lay down with her hand on my belly patiently waiting for the baby to kick. Gloria is definitely excited about becoming a big sister.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

YMCA Skate Night

Tonight we joined some friends at the YMCA for skate night. The only problem? We don't skate. We were able to find a pair that I picked up for $3 at a garage sale last year that fits Gloria. The girls and I went out this afternoon and bought Danya her first ever pair of roller blades. Then after dinner we took Daniel to buy a pair because he has completely lost his old pair. (Not to mention they were about 12 years old)

When we got Danya's skates I let her hold onto the shopping cart handle and skate all the way across the store to the checkout lane. The clerk cut the security wire off the skates and Danya skated out to the car. At the Y, she amazed us even further by skating all by herself! They were skating on a basketball court, so it wasn't as slippery. Danya encouraged Gloria, and she started skating on her own, too! I was soo proud of them! They even participated in a race! So did Daniel, which was amusing since he hasn't skated in a few years. I was impressed with how well he kept his balance despite spending most of the night with one or more little girls clinging to him and slipping and sliding all over the place. The Y is having another skate night next month and I hope we get to go to that one, too, even if I can't skate because of the baby. We all had a great time!

Jess Bloggin' Along

This is a picture Daniel caught of me updating my blog at the Haley's house in Texas. I have to's becoming an addiction. Since I know that people regularly check my blog to see what's new, I can't go more than a couple of days without adding something. If I have pictures sitting on my camera I feel guilty if I don't get them downloaded to my PC and then quickly added to my blog. I know it's nuts. The blog police aren't going to come looking for me if I don't update often enough...although Jennie might, lol.

I love looking at the little counter at the bottom of my blog to see how many people have viewed it recently. Currently it's saying that there have been 2,859 views. That's counting individuals, not how many times the same person has come back to view it again. That number is even higher.

I don't have any friends who blog...or at least not any that admit it. No, in my corner of the world it's my own private little addiction. My only wish is that more people would leave comments. It's a little egocentric, I know, but I can't help enjoying the knowledge that my words, my life, my blog, are affecting people...most of whom I don't even know! So, this is me. Blogging merrily along. Thanks for joining me!

Aprons and Bibs

We went to Hobby Lobby before heading over to the Miller's house. I was looking for shape templates, but didn't find any. What I DID find were $2 aprons and bibs that the kids could decorate and fabric markers were on sale! So each of the girls decorated their own apron, red for the younger girls and white for the older ones. The adults each got to decorate a bib for baby Kevin. I was thinking that bib decorating would be a great activity for a baby shower. Each lady could make one for the new baby. I might have to try that at my shower!

Betsy had some shape, letter, and animal templates that we all used and the fabric markers worked out well. We had originally considered buying fabric paint and letting the girls stamp images onto the aprons, but the markers were a much less messy option. I used the letter templates to put Kevin's name on one of the bibs. Then Danya drew hearts all around it. Even Daniel made a bib! The girls are excited about getting to wear their new aprons when they help in the kitchen!

Shape Race!

This Thursday afternoon it was our turn to provide the activity for our weekly homeschool get together with the Millers. I had planned to do a St. Patrick's Day theme, but everything went wrong. The shamrock stickers to make cards with fell out of our shopping cart and we didn't the cardmaking was out. Our computer decided to no longer recognize our I couldn't print out coloring sheets or activities. Argh!!

Instead we cut out a bunch of shapes and taped them all over the Miller's house. Then we had the girls race to find each shape. They absolutely loved it! Little Megan amazed her mommy with all the shapes she knew. They thought it was extremely funny sticking the shapes all over themselves. I was planning to do this with paper shamrocks, but I think the shapes worked out much better.

Church Job

Thursday morning we took a childcare job up at the church during women's bible study. We were helping take care of about 13 kids of various ages. A friend had told us the night before that they really needed extra help and we figured Danya and Gloria would enjoy playing with the other kids.

It went pretty smoothly for the most part. We got to snuggle some little ones in the rocking chair and deal with a few tantrums with background noise provided by Veggie Tales videos. Our girls each made a new friend and we all had access to all the goldfish crackers we could eat. Not a bad way to spend a morning.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Activity for Couch Potatos

What a day! This morning Daniel dropped off the van to get the brakes fixed. We were getting tired of listening to the annoying squealing sound it was making. They had to replace the front and back brakes, the driver side rotor, and the rear wheel cylinder. And now, happily, no more squealing!

The owner of the auto mechanic place gave Daniel a ride home. When it was time to pick up the van at about noon, we decided to walk. We walked the girls over to the local drop-in childcare center. On the way a giant dog without a collar followed us and scared the girls. Then Daniel and I continued walking, just over a mile, to pick up the van.

Next door to the mechanic shop was a pool supply store that had a little sign in the window that said, "Bookstore Upstairs". I, being the book junkie that I am, had to investigate. They sell used books and take trade-ins. We just happened to have a trunk FULL of books that we were planning to donate to the library. So we traded some of them in and got a little stack of different books basically free. Don't you love the barter system?

Next we had lunch and then went to Wal-mart to look for a new DVD player. Our old one was a birthday present for Daniel about 6 years ago and it keeps freezing up and the remote no longer works. Above is a picture of the new one we bought. It actually records DVDs, so we've hooked it up to our TV/VCR so that we can try to transfer some of our older VHS tapes onto DVD. The girls have some old "Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen" videos that are starting to wear out. I'm also thinking about recording "Grey's Anatomy", my new favorite TV show. I'm exhausted from all the walking today, so tonight sounds like an excellent time to try out the DVD player.

Special Reading Time

It was Gloria's 'special day' yesterday, so she got to stay up an hour late. At the same time, Danya gets 30 minutes to stay up reading on nights when we are at home by bedtime. In an unusual twist, last night Gloria asked if Danya could read to her for part of her special time.

Danya is at a strange stage in her reading. She can read lots of words, but still struggles on difficult words. That makes it tough during silent reading, because she isn't supposed to get out of bed to come ask us for help with words. The other night she tried reading a book about the medical profession, but they had words like "paramedic" in it, which she should be able to sound out. However, she gets intimidated when she sees longer words and we have to remind her to break it into smaller parts.

Speaking of reading, I just finished reading to the girls our latest book "Ramona's World" by Beverly Cleary. They liked it so much that I'm considering getting the other books about Ramona. I think reading books that are advanced for the girls gets them excited to learn to read better and faster so that they can read those kinds of books. So far it seems to be working.

Playdates and Park Adventures

Emma came over yesterday around 11am for a playdate with Danya. They thought it was great that they happened to both be wearing pink striped shirts. We went to McDonald's for lunch and let the kids play. While we were there, we bumped into an old friend of Daniel's and his family.

Then we went to the park to meet the Millers and let the girls ride their bikes. Courtney brought her brand new Strawberry Shortcake bike that she got for her 5th birthday last week. Emma impressed everyone because HER bike didn't have training wheels on it!

Pet Parade at the Library

Yesterday they had "Bring your pet to the library" day during story time. Danya brought Dusty, a dog that was Daniel's when he was little, and also her "Lovey Lamb" doll. Gloria brought the bear that we call "Bear in the Big Blue House" and one of her Care Bears. The librarian let Gloria wear a special hat.

Daniel videotaped the parade around the room with the kids singing "The Ants Go Marching", and if I ever figure out how to add video clips from my camera to this blog, watch out! Because we take a short video at almost every event.