Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lost Teeth

The Tooth Fairy has been to our house twice in the last week.

First, my little Griffin lost his first tooth Saturday night.

My niece Layla was the one to pull out his tooth (although it was so loose it would have fallen out if he exhaled too hard!).  Layla has a special talent for pulling out teeth.  We have a running joke that she's like a shark who just keeps regenerating teeth because she seems to have lost about 57 teeth so far.

Layla put Griffin's tooth in a baggie and labeled it.

Griffin wrote a letter to the Tooth Fairy and put it under his pillow along with his tooth.

Dear Tooth Fairy, this is my first tooth!  Layla pulled it! Because it was ready

and I was not scared.  And what is your name?  Love, Mr. Glitch and Griffin

Griffin called himself "Mr. Glitch" because he is obsessed with finding glitches in his favorite Mario video game.  It's one of his favorite things in life right now.

Griffin happily received $1 for his missing tooth.

Two days later, while the boys were home from school due to dangerously low temperatures, Nolan pulled out his fifth tooth.

I think he was a little inspired by Griffin's tooth loss success.  I forgot to take a picture of his letter to the Tooth Fairy, but it included a few requests.  He asked for a Skylander or a Marvel comic book instead of money.  He also asked for a blue toothbrush for his brother.  The Tooth Fairy regretfully informed him that she only carries $1 bills for teeth but would be happy to provide the tooth brush as it was both a kind brotherly request and an important part of dental hygiene. 

I remember feeling a bit heartbroken when Nolan lost his first tooth.  I recalled the difficult process of teething to get those teeth in!  I was sad that he was growing up and that his smile would look different than it always had.

Now I am excited for the boys as they are proud of their own bravery and excited to show everyone the holes in their mouths.  I can embrace their growing and changing...in baby steps.

I asked the boys if I could get a picture of their cute little holey smiles, and they actually cooperated!

And lest you get too warm and fuzzy, this is the other shot I got:


Monday, January 27, 2014

Nora's 4th Birthday

*Update:  This post has been awarded the "Best Decorations" badge by PartyPail.com!

It has come to my attention (ahem) that I forgot to post pictures of Nora's birthday party.  Woopsies!  Poor girl.  Her birthday is December 27, so it's right in that crazy Christmas mix.

She really wanted a tea party for her birthday party this year.  We still do family-only parties, and I knew some of the men would not appreciate cucumber sandwiches and tea.  So I decided to make soups and sandwiches and serve all sorts of hot beverages.

Somehow I forgot to take pictures of the actual food.  I made a Crock Pot full (to the tippy top!) of chicken and noodles, which has been a huge hit with my family in the past.  I also made a giant pot of Weight Watchers Cabbage & Vegetable Soup because several people are watching what they eat (and it's warm and delicious).  For sandwiches we just ordered regular gondolas and turkey gondolas from our local LaGondola and cut them into individual sandwiches.  Hey, a girl's gotta take some help where she can.

Nora chose her own outfit for her party:

Then she applied the makeup she received from us for Christmas.  It's the kid stuff that looks colorful and sparkly in the container but goes on practically clear.  She LOVES getting to wear her makeup, and she talks funny when she has lip gloss on.

We set up seating, used colorful tablecloths and decorative napkins, and hung up a girly birthday banner.

Jared's adorable grandma kept me company while I finished setting up.

I ordered the tea party and plates and napkins from Oriental Trading and bought the silver plastic spoons (just to be extra fancy) at a local store.

Dinner plates (and you can barely see the sandwiches on a silver platter)

Dessert plates
We found cute heart candles to go with her desserts.

Nora doesn't really like cake, so I made Tea Cookies (the kind with the thumbprint in the middle filled with frosting).  The purple frosting was almond flavored and the pink was vanilla.  I also made some chocolate chip graham cookie bars and cut them out with a heart cookie cutter (which ended up being a bit of a chocolatey mess).  We also had ice cream (not pictured).

We served several hot beverages.  I had a pot of hot water and a variety of teas.  I made the Duck Dynasty recipe of homemade hot chocolate and served it in my sister-in-law's black carafe.  I also brewed a big pot of coffee and offered a wide variety of creams.  We used a set of tea cups that my mom bought for us as well as some cute clear plastic disposable tea cups that looked fancy (they're hard to see in the picture).

The kids squeezed together at one table.

The adults sat together in the kitchen.

And our niece Addison roamed back and forth between the kids and adults.

Nora sat on Grandpa Dan's lap while we sang "Happy Birthday" to her.

Nora and Jared did a pinky cheers with their tiny tea cups.

I love her smile here!

Then we all headed downstairs so Nora could open her presents.

Our niece Layla helped Nora with her presents.  Nora absolutely adores her big girl cousin, and I love watching them together!

My brother was busy playing with the claw machine toy we bought Griffin for Christmas.

Griffin found a snuggly place by Grandpa Dave.

Nora ended the party by trying on her new leotard from Grandpa Dave and new tutu from Uncle Erik and Aunt Bree.

She did some ballet with Layla and played with her new toys.

It was a very fun girly birthday party!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Not For Sale

Last week while the kids were home for a snow day, the boys decided to turn their room into their own store.  Griffin hung this sign on the wall in the hallway:

They were so cute making price tags for items and pretending to sell stuff to each other.  Griffin walked out to me with his ornery I've-got-a-secret grin on his face.  I noticed a sticky note on his shirt.  Apparently he had priced himself at $100.

I told him I'd buy him up in an instant!  I also told him I'd pay waaaaaaay more than $100 for him.  He kept raising the price and I kept affirming I'd pay it.  We got to one quintillion (his favorite number) dollars, and I still said he was worth more.  It was a great mother-son moment to tell my Griffin that he's priceless to me.

I'm pretty sure the moment was then ended by some other sibling quarrel or someone getting hurt or at least crying.

Fast forward to this week (Tuesday).  Great day for the kids, decent evening.  Jared was gone until late for a church board meeting and then the church basketball league, so I had to take all 3 kids to Nolan's basketball practice.  It all went fine until we were leaving.

Then Griffin made a series of bad choices.  It was one of those times when I was fuming and swore a punishment was a-coming, but I just couldn't think of an appropriate punishment right that minute.  Ever have those?

Anyway, it was a rough time trying to get the kids ready for bed.  We had to wait for Nolan to finish up his shower and teeth (the younger two showered before practice), so I made Griffin come sit with me to discuss where things went terribly wrong.

It wasn't the most pleasant conversation.  I'm not sure if we made any progress in the grand scheme of me trying to teach him how the world works and how he should behave in it.  But at least I stayed calm and tried my best to go beyond offense-punishment to actually discussing his behavior.  I also tried to maintain physical contact with him the entire time to let him know I love him, even in the midst of a frustrating conversation.

At the end of the conversation, I said something like, "I know I'm not a perfect mom, but I'm doing my very best."  He said I hurt his feelings by saying I'm not a perfect mom.  I explained that everyone makes mistakes, including me.  Then I jokingly asked if he wanted to get rid of me or trade me in for a different mom.  He said no and then ran off.

I busied myself with getting everyone settled in bed, and Griffin ran back to me with something in his hands.  He stuck a piece of paper on my back.

As he climbed into bed, I twisted my shirt around to see what he had written and taped to me:

Not for sale.

Griffin isn't looking to upgrade me just yet.  I may not be a perfect mom, but I get to keep my job. 


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Holding It Together

I've had quite a week.  I've managed to hold it together through a series of circumstances that should have made me panic.  I held it together through parenting difficulties and even worked to make progress with some kid struggles.  I held it together through all the big stuff, only to crack this morning over a tiny thing.

First, the big stuff.

You should be warned: this blog post contains embarrassing details from my life.  Proceed with care.

This may be a bit awkward to blog about, but we had a bit of a pregnancy scare.  I mean no offense to any of you who would give anything to find yourself pregnant, but that news wouldn't be a pleasant surprise for me and Jared.  We are terrified of screwing up a fourth kid.  We are very satisfied with the size of our family.  We have already taken measures to keep our family the size that it is, the size we feel God created it to be.  However, I've heard plenty of stories of surprise pregnancies even after surgical preventative measures have been taken.  After enough time had passed without, uh, monthly evidence that I wasn't pregnant, we had to consider the possibility.

Panic started to creep in, so I prayed.  I felt God say, "Timing.  You have to trust my timing."  Then my Scripture reading for Monday included Psalm 27.  Verse 14 says, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."  So God's peace won out over my threatening panic.  And in case you're wondering, I'm not pregnant.

Next was Tuesday, the day I had an important doctor's appointment.  I had found a lump in my breast the week before, and Tuesday I saw my doctor about it.  (By the way, I think "lump" is such an undignified word.  How did that become the term used in these cases?)  I had spent a week thinking about the possibilities and settling my mind and heart on whatever might happen.  In case you don't know, my paternal grandmother and great-grandmother both had breast cancer and my maternal grandmother currently has it. 

Even though panic should have been high on my list of possible reactions, it's not the one I went with.  From the moment I found the lump, God whispered to me that everything was fine.  I chose to hold on to his peace through the time waiting for my appointment.  (If I had all female readers, I would write you a hilarious post relaying the details of how things went at my appointment.  Like when the nurse asked me the date of my last period and I practically did a choreographed cheer because I'm not pregnant.  Or what it was like to sweat wearing nothing but a paper vest while waiting approximately 7 hours--give or take--in the exam room with nothing but a magazine I'd already read.)

Anywho...good news from the doctor.  All is well.  (Aren't you glad I took this time to discuss all my private parts with you?)

Finally, on the same day as the Lump Appointment, I lost my wedding rings.  Believe it or not, this little situation is the one that caused me the most panic.  I managed to take a breath and calm myself down before I went looking for my rings.  I calmly searched and found the rings on my bathroom floor.

So all of the big stressful stuff turned out fine.  And I think I managed to hold myself together and trust God to work it all out.

I shielded my kids from all of this stress.  I prayed for help as a mom, and God gave me some new ideas to make progress in my relationships with my kids.  I felt good about the mom I've been this week.

Then this morning I ended up snapping.  Over one little thing that one of my kids did.  I screamed at said child in the car on the way to school.  That's the absolute worst time to have a fight with a child.  I had to put on a happy face, kiss and hug him, and send him off to school to think about what a crazy yelling monster his mom is.

So after holding it all together all week, today I just feel tired.  Tired of spending all my free time exercising (bleh).  Tired of counting my calories/carbs/protein, and I'm tired of it not making a difference in how my jeans fit.  Tired of glancing at my white board to-do list that doesn't have any white space left on it. 

But there's still plenty of this week left, so I'm going to pretend that I don't desperately want to lay on my couch and eat cookies and be lazy.  I'm going to go back to doing all the things I'm supposed to do and trust God to take my measly efforts and turn them into what He wants me to be.  In the big stuff and the small stuff.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Basketball Win

I can't tell you about how Griffin's first basketball session went and then not tell you about how the second one (last Saturday) went.

I was hoping for some improvement.  I was hoping for less or no crying.  I wanted him to participate.

Wanna know how it went?  In a word, it was...perfection!

Griffin participated.  He ran after his ball when it bounced/rolled away from him.  He followed all directions.  He practiced his dribbling.  He high-fived the girl coach who helped him the first week (by the way, I did track her down and thank her).  When the kids sat together so the head coach could talk to them, Griffin raised his hand and answered a question.  Seriously!

I held my breath on two occasions.  The first was when he jammed his finger on the basketball.  He shook it off, showed his coach girlfriend, and went back to playing.  The second was when the helper coaches were running the kids through defense drills, and someone other than the girl who always helps Griffin called him over to run the drill.  I wasn't sure how Griffin would handle working with a guy he didn't know, but he did a great job!

I was so thrilled.  Jared, my dad, and I were BEAMING up in the stands.  We gushed all over Griffin when he was done with practice.  He's been working hard toward a behavior goal to earn a prize, and we gave it to him early.  I literally didn't have one complaint about how Griffin did at that second basketball session, and I wanted to make a big deal about every little component of his success.

Now I have to get my mind and expectations right for this Saturday.  I can't expect Griffin to do a perfect job every single time.  I have to make allowances for him to be a human, a kid, and a boy with some pertinent struggles.  I don't want to go backwards, but I know that my expectations of Griffin have to be hopeful but realistic.  

See?  Sometimes tough stuff gets better (even temporarily).  I like to celebrate the small victories to keep me going towards whatever is ahead!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Quick & Easy {Envelope Back} Pillow Covers

I wanted to put a little color on our living room pillows, and I had this idea of using a fleece Christmas blanket to make cute seasonal pillow covers.  I chose a blanket with snowmen so the pillow covers could be used all winter.

I wanted the pillow covers to be removable but didn't want to take the time to sew in zippers.  I just wanted something quick, easy, and cheap.

I browsed the internet and found a few good tutorials for envelope back pillow covers:

Armed with the knowledge I gained from these tutorials, I got to work making my own pillow covers.  I didn't reinvent the wheel or anything, but I'll show you what I did.

*The biggest difference between my procedure and all the tutorials available is that I utilized the finished edge of the blanket for the finished edges on the back of the pillow cover.

I started with two 18-inch by 18-inch pillows that I already had, and I bought a fleece blanket from Walmart for $4.97.  The only other supply I needed was thread, which I have plenty of on hand.

The blanket has rounded corners, so I started by cutting off a strip from one short side so I had square corners.

*Important note about cutting a fleece blanket:  The fleece stretches easily, so it's important to line up two perpendicular sides of the blanket with the lines on your cutting mat.  This will give you the best chance at getting accurately measured and cut pieces.

My blanket was 60 inches by 50 inches, so I sketched it on the back of a random piece of paper and figured out the best way to cut my pieces.  For two covers for 18-inch by 18-inch pillows, I needed two pieces cut 18 inches by 18 inches and four pieces cut 18 inches by 12 inches.

With my game plan settled, I got to cutting.  I cut the two 18-inch-wide strips and then cut those into the smaller pieces (each strip had an 8-inch tall scrap that I didn't use).

The most important part is making sure all of your 12x18 pieces have one 18-inch side with the pre-finished stitching.  Let me rephrase that:  cut each of your smaller pieces from the edges of the blanket so the stitching is on an 18-inch side.  Did either of those make sense?  If not, just follow my drawing. :)

Most fleece blankets have the same design on the front and back, but usually one side is a little smoother and the other side has more nap (it's furrier).  I decided I wanted the smoother side to be the "right side" of my fabric.

Assemble your pieces with an 18x18 piece right side up:

Then lay two 18x12 pieces on top, right side facing down:

Be sure that you have the pre-finished edges overlapping (the pre-finished blanket edges are in the middle of the cover back, and the outside edges of the square are all freshly cut).

Sew around all 4 sides of your cover, using a 1/2-inch seam allowance.  Either backstitch at the beginning and end or simply overlap your stitching when you come back around to your starting point.

Cut the corners off, being careful not to cut into your stitching.  This reduces the bulk when you turn the cover inside-out.

Turn your cover right-side-out and insert your pillow by shoving it between the two back flaps.  You'll have to do a little adjusting and fussing to get the corners poked out and the pillow lined up inside the cover.



Crazy-haired Nora modeling the newly covered pillows

You could do this with all sorts of seasonal blankets, decorative blankets, or even blankets with your favorite sports team.