Saturday, December 29, 2007

Comic Book Bible

I bought this cool bible from our church as a Christmas gift for all the kids. Danya, Gloria, and Latte have enjoyed reading it together and with me. It's a chronological story bible written like a comic book. It's the kind of art work you see in an adult comic strip, not a little kid one. The pictures are very good and it also has maps so you can see the area they are talking about. It's called the Picture Bible and you can get it for $12 or less online. I first heard about it when someone at church said that this was the pastor's daughter's very first bible. She's grown now and teaching a children's church program called TruthQuest that she and her husband created.

Car Accident

The day after Christmas I had to take Latte to a visit with her mom. There was a slight mixup because they didn't have a caseworker there to supervise the visit, so I had to stay a while until they could find someone available. On the way home I was trying to carefully follow Daniel's directions.

Every time I turn into or out of our driveway the whole van slides. I talked to Daniel about it and he said that the problem was that I let off the gas as I'm turning. He said I need to slow down and then give it a little gas as I turn so that the tires will have traction. I really tried to do that. But I slid anyway, and this time I was accelerating so I ramped up onto the rocky hill next to our driveway and popped the front tire.

Daniel couldn't get the lug nuts off, so we had to call the caseworker and ask her to give Latte a ride home. Meanwhile, a couple from our Sunday school class had just recently given us their phone number (he's a mechanic, she works for Napa Auto Parts) in case we have another situation involving the van. So I called them and they came out with their tools and got those lug nuts off in no time. It turns out that he races cars and has all the tools for a pit crew. We sure appreciated the help since this is our only vehicle!

Little Mother

Danya's favorite gift this Christmas was a doll baby that will drink real water and wet it's diaper. It even comes with a potty chair. Danya has been treating it just like a real baby and giving it baths in the sink. It comes with it's own tiny baby towel. Currently she's trying to find some tiny clothes that might fit the baby because it only has one outfit.

Future Chef

Gloria has been enjoying her baking tools and materials that she got for Christmas. She originally said she'd like to get an Easy Bake overn like Danya used to have. But when we reminded her how expensive it was and how little food you got as a result, she agreed that real baking supplies would be more fun.

We went all out on this gift! It was so much fun selecting different cake mixes, icings, decorations, interesting muffin pans, bowls, measuring cups and spoons, chocolate chips, and jello mixes. She is set to be able to make quiet a few different concoctions. She can also use her allowance money to buy more edible materials as she uses up her supply. She has such a good heart and includes all the other kids, even Kevin, letting them use all her tools. I said she'd be a great baker or cook someday. She said, "No, Mommy. I'm going to be a great chef!"

Thursday, December 27, 2007

THE gift!

This is the ONE gift that Gloria said she just could not live without this Christmas. It's a Princess Genevieve Barbie from the 12 Dancing Princesses movie. It was the only gift she talked about non stop over the past few months.

She was so excited when she opened the box it was in. She just grinned from ear to ear, bouncing up and down. Unfortunately we didn't think to buy the 4 triple A batteries that it needs, and the snow has been so heavy that we haven't gotten out to get any yet. So she hasn't been able to watch the skirt light up and spin yet.

Grownup Gifts

This year Daniel and I got a few nice gifts, too. He got some much needed new jeans, a large skillet so that we can make Hamburger Helper without making a mess, some bible software, and some containers to take his dinners to work in.

For me, my best gift was an excercise bike which I've already been enjoying using while watching movies or reading. I also got some new acrylic letter stamps and the final book in a sci-fi/fantasy series I've been reading called "Earthborn." Jennie also sent me a book about living frugally.

Gifts from Aunts

Aunt Jennie and Aunt Christina sent us some gifts that arrived last week. We tortured the kids by making them wait until Christmas to open them, but I think it made it more fun for them to have more gifts under the tree since they were only getting 3 each from us.

Here are a few random photos of the gifts they got from their aunts. Jennie also sent Daniel and I the movie "Miss Potter about the author of the Peter Rabbit stories. It was an adorable movie!

Silent Night

Christmas Eve we had the kids in bed and the presents wrapped. All we had to do was stuff the stockings. Before the kids went to bed we helped them put their names on their stockings with foam letters that I ran through my Xyron X sticker machine. They didn't stay on long the next morning, but it made the kids happy to see their names on their stockings. We never did find our box of Christmas decorations.

I took this picture with the light meter turned all the way up and the flash off on my camera. Then I used my software editing program to blur out Latte's name on her stocking. I think the wall looks really pretty in this picture.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

On Christmas Eve we always let the kids open one gift. They each get a new set of pajamas. This year Danya and Gloria got Dora p.j.s, Kevin got Cars, and Latte got snowman pajamas. They were all very happy, which surprised me a bit. I was worried that Danya would feel like she was too old to wear Dora clothes.

After we opened gifts we gave the kids some oatmeal and let them go outside to throw out some reindeer food. I wanted to mix it with glitter, but I couldn't find any in the house. I looked everywhere. Latte was the most excited about feeding the reindeer. She was outside throwing oatmeal onto the snow and yelling, "Here, reindeer! Get your food!" It was extremely cute.

Gone Tooth

Danya lost another tooth recently. She's got three gaps now, with one of them about half way grown back. Gloria always says, "I have a 'gone tooth' and Danya has a 'gone tooth' too!" I've tried telling her that she has a missing tooth, but she likes saying "gone" tooth.

Latte is the same way. No matter how many times we tell her that we are eating spaghetti, she always calls it "spaghetti-o" instead. Kevin's favorite new word is "kay." Anything you tell him he always answers, "kay." I think he gets it from Latte who always says, "okay" after we tell her something.

Doo Doo Drops

We were given a box of odds and ends of food from our county last week. It had some cocoa powder in it, so Daniel and the kids made "Doo Doo Drops" which are sometimes referred to as "no bake cookies." I've been calling them doo doo drops since I made them for the first time with my mom's friend when I was five on the day my little sister was born. They were yummy. Definitely not healthy food, but they tasted good.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our Song

Today I was driving home and on the radio I heard the song that Daniel and I consider to be "our song", the same song that we played when we renewed our vows at a special ceremony on our 5th anniversary. I love this song!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Box O' Kevin

Kevin thinks everything is a car. Anything he can conceivably sit in and get someone to push him around the house in is automatically a car.

Today I heard vroom vroom noises coming from his room. Then I saw Latte pushing Kevin down the hallway while he was sitting in side his toybox. I'll have to send the two of them in to clean up all the toys they dumped out soon, but for now they are having way too much fun. They also have become fascinated with playing "Choo Choo" lately. They'll line up all their little chairs and fill them with dolls. Then they'll each take a seat and Latte will pretend to drive them to different places. Every so often she'll say, "We're here! C'mon Kevin let's go!" and they'll take a tour of the basement together before getting back on their train. They are so cute!

New Gifts, Old Favorites

Danya finally got a pair of "feety pajamas" just like Gloria's, but in her favorite color. She loves them. Since Anna had brought feety p.j.'s to sleep in on Thursday night, too, we took a photo of the three of them. Of course, now Latte wants a pair.

While the older kids were opening gifts, Kevin brought an old favorite out of his room. My cousin, "Uncle" Shane Fitz gave Danya this Pooh bear when she was about 6 months old. It's been special to all of our kids. We never see Uncle Shane Fitz (We use his last name because my brother is also Uncle Shane) anymore because he lives out in the panhandle of Oklahoma and never happens to be visiting his mom at the same time that we are. He is an honorary uncle to our kids because he is an only child, so he asked if we'd make him an uncle. He's my favorite cousin and I sure miss him.

Friends at Christmas

We invited the Caulkins kids over on Thursday to spend the night and have a gift exchange. They love getting little gifts for our kids. All the kids were excited to get to open a few gifts early. We've received wrapped gifts this week in the mail from Aunt Jennie and others, but they won't get to open them until Christmas.

Danya really wanted to give Anna a gift just from her so she gave her a Create a Bear that she had received last year and never opened. We also got her a few little things. Shannon and Sarah gave us a very helpful gift... free babysitting! Daniel and I went to go see National Treasure 2 and it was awesome! I would recommend that movie to anyone. I think we'll end up buying it when it comes out on DVD. Here are a few more photos from our gift exchange:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Somewhat Famous

There is a scrapbooking website that has my blog linked and listed as a source of organization inspiration! Can you believe it? I've been getting a ton of new viewers every day who are linking from Organized Scrapbooks. If you click on the link and go about half way down the page you'll see the article about Scraps of Home!

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Favorite Hobby

I have several hobbies that I enjoy. I like drawing with pencils, pens, and charcoal. Playing my trombone makes me happy and is actually useful. I crochet and am working on a gift for a friend right now. Scrapbooking, however, is my favorite because I get to make something beautiful that my kids will treasure and hopefully pass down to their children.

Chelsea recently asked a few questions on a previous post:

1. Do you use a certain brand of supplies? The answer is "not really." I just buy whatever looks interesting. I do have a huge stockpile of materials from the Storytellersclub since I got their monthly mega kit for years. I love those! One thing I really enjoy is cardstock stickers that already look beautiful and elegant and are ready to go on my page. I used to spend a lot of time creating my own elaborate tags and titles and journaling boxes. Now I just collect these. Some companies that make them are Bo Bunny and Pebbles, Inc. (which I use for card making).

Do you have a die cut machine? Yes, I have a Sizzix collection that I began buying about 6 years ago. I've got several of their alphabet sets, which is by far the thing I use most. I don't recommend you run out and buy a die cut machine. I haven't really used it enough to make the investment worth it. Mostly these days I use it for homeschool projects. That could be a whole other post. I also have a Quickutz die cutter with a few dies and one alphabet set. I wish I could afford more of these!

Where do you get your inspiration? For years now I have loved everything by Becky Higgins. I'd say my style most closely resembles hers. Many of my layouts are direct "scraplifts" from her pages. I also like those books that Creating Keepsakes publishes called Scrapbooking with Lisa Bearson. She goes on QVC and sells products and during the show they display scrapbook pages made with the products. The pages are so good that they put them all into books each year. I get a lot of ideas from them.

AND what type of camera do you have? This one: Kodak Easy Share It's not one of those top of the line ones. Although I admire those cameras, I just can't afford to replace it when one of my kids spills a can of pop on it like they did with my current one. I cleaned it the best I could, but the pop up flash still gets stuck sometimes. This one has 7.1 megapixels which means I could enlarge a photo to 10 x 8 and it would still look good. It also has a 10x optical zoom which means I get nice pictures from far away without having to use digital zoom which can make your pictures look grainy.

What We're Reading Now: Civil War on Sunday

We've been steadily working our way through the Magic Tree House Series. We just finished "Civil War on Sunday" which turned out to be perfect timing because we are also working on making sure we've covered everything in our "What Your First Grader (and 2nd Grader) Needs to Know" books. We just finished reading about how slavery began in the U.S. so it worked out nicely that we also read this book about how it ended. I think if the author or publisher of this series ever decides to market a series of unit studies for each book they could make a fortune. They do have "Research Guides" that are good, but I'd like to see something that has an actual lesson plan with vocab words, science experiments, math, etc.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cutting it Short

Some day I'm going to make a scrapbook page showing the many many different hair styles I've had over the years. It's amazing how much it changes my appearance. I took both of these photos tonight to show my new hair cut and couldn't decide which one to post. So here's both!

Music Phobia

Tonight I was pulling Sunday's music from my giant 3 ring binder just before band practice. Yes, I should have done it yesterday or this morning, but I procrastinated. I took one look at the music and almost decided to skip this week. You can see by this picture that it's very fast with a LOT of notes. I'm glad I didn't chicken out though, because the music is very fun and features the brass section.

Tonight at practice, since both AWANA and Wednesday night service were cancelled, very few of us showed up. It was basically the rhythm section (piano, guitar, drums) and the brass. We had so much fun! It didn't feel like practice, it was more like just a few friends enjoying making music together. I'm looking forward to Sunday. While we were there I asked about the special music for January. I was told a while back that the praise band will be doing all the music during offering time next month instead of having individual soloists singing. Ron (the other trombonist) says he suggested a piece to Dean (our leader) that features a trombone duet. I asked him who he got to play the other trombone part... Actually, if I can still hide in my little corner behind the curtains then I don't mind. But if they are planning on having us stand up front on the stage like those soloists do there is just no way. I'm not that confident.

All I Want for Christmas

Here's a scrapbook layout I finished yesterday during Kevin's nap time. I found a collection of photos of Daniel and I reading to the girls at all different ages. I'm trying to use up several years worth of monthly kits from the Storytellers Scrapbooking Club that I was a member of for so long. I love their kits and only cancelled my membership because it was $35 a month and we were finding ways to cut expenses.

For Christmas this year I've asked Daniel for 3 things. The first thing is absolutely free. I just want him to take over "kid duty" for one day and let me have the basement to myself to work on my scrapbooks. It's like a free vacation without going anywhere. The other two things I'm longing for are:
1. Some sort of exercise equipment, preferably a stationary bike
2. Contribution towards a new (used) trombone with a trigger. I've been looking on Craig's List and they do occasionally list a good one in the $500 price range. Daniel says maybe we can save up for one by Valentine's Day. I'm not picky (much). I just prefer one with a trigger, open wrap, and a tapered bell.

A Taste of Mexico

For lunch today I made tacos. Nothing new there. But for dinner I made a Beef Taco Skillet recipe from my Campbell's 1-2-3 Dinner cook book. It was yummy and used up the leftover tortillas I had in the cabinet. I'm starting to venture into the world of Mexican cooking more because it's quick, cheap, and fairly easy to make. Gloria grated the cheese and ripped the tortillas into pieces.

Here's the recipe:
1 pound ground beef
1 can (10 3/4 oz) tomato soup
1 cup picante sauce
1/2 cup water
8 (6 inch) tortillas cut into pieces
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Brown the beef and drain it.
2. Add everything in except half the cheese. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 5 minutes or until hot.
3. Top with remaining cheese.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gingerbread Creations

Friday Daniel and the kids made gingerbread cookies from the kit that my friend Jennifer sent from Arizona. We've never made these before, so the kids had a blast. We whipped out our entire collection of cookie cutters (that we usually use for play dough) washed them off and let the kids go nuts.

They did a great job! Gloria shared her sour candy strips to use as added decorations. They saved me a few cookies for when I got home and they were delicious. The sour strips were a bit too much for me though. I traded cookies with Gloria so she could have those. I was so proud of Daniel for remembering to take lots of photos of the whole process while I was gone.

Living With Snow

Although we don't have nearly as much ice to deal with as our family in Oklahoma does, we do have a lot of snow. It's starting to melt, but there are lots of icy patches everywhere. Latte slipped and fell on our front step Monday as we were heading out to meet her mom. The van slides sideways or fish tails almost every time I pull in or out of the driveway.

The day I had available to do the majority of our Christmas shopping last week (Friday, I think) it was dumping snow again. Daniel stayed home with the kids to make gingerbread cookies while I braved the weather. I hate driving in snow. Daniel and the kids love it. He acts like he's some movie stunt driver or Evel Knievel and the kids, even Kevin, are in the back yelling "Wheee!" the whole time. Meanwhile, I'm clenching the seat in a death grip and praying through my gritted teeth. Not fun.

I did manage to get most of the shopping done, though. One gift that arrived in the mail this week is the one that, if absent on Christmas morning, would have left Gloria devastated. She has spoken of pretty much nothing else and Daniel and I could not find it anywhere except online. We are trying to give the kids each 3 main gifts this year like the wise men brought to Jesus when he was a toddler. I think that's a good tradition to start. It really makes us be selective and put more thought into gift giving. Of course, they'll still get lots of litttle things in their stockings, too. After loading all the gifts into the car and then unloading them at home my poor hands were numb. I've also been in charge of shoveling the driveway, sidewalk, and path in front of our house. Maybe I should buy some gloves?

Chaos Before Christmas

This past week has been chaotic. Kevin has been fussy all week and we found out today that he is back to a diagnosis of double ear infections. They put him on "super powerful" antibiotics that cost us $56 and may or may not even work. If this fails they will send us to a specialist to discuss getting tubes in his ears. That seems a bit premature to me since this is his first ever long lasting ear infection. He's normally healthy as a horse.

However, that's just the most recent chaos. Last Tuesday our caseworker came out when I wasn't expecting it. I was sick, Danya was sick, Daniel was working overtime during the days, the house was an absolute wreck, and I totally forgot she had scheduled an appointment for that morning. I was at least dressed when I answered the door, and that's all the good I can say about it. Hopefully she understands that wasn't a normal state for us.

Wednesday, we were all focused on the events at AWANA that night, Daniel's OT day shift for training, and getting my music ready for band practice. I completely spaced and forgot about Latte's visit with her mom. I had informed her caseworker the week before that she would need a ride since I wouldn't have the van, but she got a new caseworker that week who was out of the state, so she missed her visit. That means that this week I get to take her to two visits. The first one was Monday and the second one is tomorrow morning.

I made sure I didn't forget her Monday morning visit, but I had a brain lapse and forgot to take Kevin to his doctor's appointment that afternoon. So we took him today instead. Copay: $25, Previous Money Owed: $10, Prescription: $56, Kevin sleeping through the night: Priceless! And just to make everything more fun, Daniel is working 10 days straight with all the training and overtime. One nice surprise though, is that a co-worker of his volunteered to swap a day and work Christmas Eve so that Daniel can be home with his family Christmas morning.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Crazy Hair Night

Wednesday night was Crazy Hair Night at AWANA. It was also the Christmas party. It was kind of chaotic due to poor planning, but the kids enjoyed it overall. Daniel has been working the day shift all week for training, so Wednesday night he just flew in, ate dinner with us, and rushed everyone into the car. We barely made it in time for band practice.

While I was doing that, Daniel helped the girls come up with crazy hair styles. Some of the kids that night tied toys, feathers, and ornaments into their hair. A lot of kids sprayed their hair a crazy color or spiked it. To make the night even more hectic we found out at the last minute that the other two AWANA leaders in our group weren't coming. So we were in charge of the first and second graders on the blue team. Our team actually won for the highest points score for the second week in a row!

It was also store night which means that the kids got to spend their AWANA bucks. They get a buck for every two verses they memorize. Gloria had saved up 17 bucks and spent 16 of them on a Christmas present for Danya. She is such a great kid! After store time they split the kids into two groups, one making crafts and one eating a cookie. We had the cookie group first and since there were no activities planned during that time they were all wound up with nothing to do. So I got them to sit on the letters and numbers on the big blue rug in this picture. Then I just thought up a bunch of games and kept them occupied until it was their turn to make the "stained glass" manger scene craft. Can you spot Danya, Gloria, and me in the photo?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blue's Clues Buddies

Aunt Christina sent the kids an early Christmas surprise...a whole box full of warm long sleeved shirts. They were so excited that they wanted to wear every shirt as they pulled it out of the box.

The overall hit though, was the green striped Blue's Clues shirt that fit Kevin and matches a shirt that Latte already owned. When we put Kevin's new shirt on him Latte immediately ran to get hers on so that they could match. She was so happy about their shirts! She kept snuggling up to Kevin and giving him her prettiest smiles. It was some sort of bonding moment for her. Danya and Gloria really needed those sweaters and turtlenecks. They've been wearing them all week. Thanks, Aunt Christina!

Snow for Kevin

All this snow is really a new experience for Kevin. Last year he was too young to enjoy it. This year he practically hyper ventilates every time he sees snow. He points and yells, "snow! snow!" He despises the gloves we make him wear. He already lost one of the new set we got him, so he's wearing a mismatched pair. The first chance he gets he will pull them off so that he can feel the snow on his bare hands. Then he gets mad because it freezes his fingers. He also dislikes his hat.

This week we got a surprise card and gift in the mail. It was a gingerbread bear making kit for the kids and a gift card to Target from my high school buddy, Jennifer W. It was totally out of the blue, but perfect timing. Our bank was closed by the time Daniel got home from work so we couldn't cash the check from our church, but Kevin still badly needed a coat and snow boots. So now he is warm and toasty and has been enjoying the snow. He's not sure what to think of the hood on his new coat yet, but he adores the boots and would wear the coat to bed if we let him. We've had over 6 inches of snow so far and are expecting more by Friday. I can't really complain though, since we didn't lose our power in that massive ice storm that hit our family members living in Oklahoma. Instead, (in my most Martha Stewart-ish voice) I just want to say having friends who care about's a good thing.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Spitting in Church

We've been at our church at least once a day every day for the past nine days! What with orchestra practices, concert performances, AWANA, and Sunday worship service we feel like we should be paying them rent!

Ever since last week the orchestra has been moved down in front of the stage. Hopefully now that the Christmas concert is over we'll get moved back up onto the stage so I can go back to enjoying hiding behind the big red curtain when we play on Sundays. It's bad enough emptying my spit valve out of sight up there, but having to blow spit onto the church carpet in front of the entire congregation is awful.

Through years of high school band and practicing at home off and on, I've gotten over the initial revulsion of the idea of emptying spit onto the floor. It's not a lot of moisture and it dries quickly. Somehow, though, the thought of spitting on church carpet rather than my carpet at home or really anywhere else seems wrong. It's not like it's "holy carpet" or something. I have to just remember that the "church" is the people, not the building. You don't not change a baby's dirty diaper at a church just because it's a church. While I'm continuing to tell myself that it shouldn't matter, I will still be much happier when I'm at least not spitting in church in front of an audience.

Christmas Blessing!

Although we were trying to make the best of a bad situation, our whole family has been disappointed about having no money for Christmas gifts. Also, we were wondering what we were going to do about basic needs like gas, food, and warm winter clothes for the kids. The huge unexpected van repair bill on top of everything else lately (vacation, 3 sick kids, etc.) really hit us hard.

Today Ron, the other trombone player in our church band, and his wife took Daniel and I aside at church. They told us that the orchestra and choir, when they heard about our situation, all took up a love offering for us. I'm sitting here crying again just thinking about it. We've never had anyone do something like this for us. We had completely handed this financial burden over to God because there was no sense being depressed about something so totally out of our control. He is so amazingly wonderfully able to meet all our needs!

Right after church we took the kids out to Fazoli's and told them that Christmas was offically "un-postponed" and that they could start making a list of things they might like to have. Then we took them shopping at Walmart for some warm things. We got Gloria and Latte snow boots and Latte also got a snow suit. As soon as we got home they put their new things on and went sledding with Daniel at the park! Our next purchase will be a coat for Kevin who has been making do with just a zippered sweater, poor guy. We're going to be very careful and make this gift stretch. In the meantime I'll probably be wearing out a few boxes of tissues since every time I think about this I get all weepy again. God is good! We are so thankful to have a loving church family and friends.

Mommy's Boots

Kevin wanted to wear my boots the other night. He was so cute saying, "boos" and flopping them around on his hands. It took me years to learn to walk properly in high heels, but Kevin managed to at least stand in them in just minutes.

This kid is a shoe lover, it doesn't matter what kind or size. I wonder if he'll grow up to work for Nike?