Friday, September 27, 2013

Giddy up!

We finished up our two week unit study on the United States with an old fashioned trail ride.  This counts as school, right?
Sammy's horse was named "Danny," and Owen's was "Benny." Mine's name was "Rock." 

For the last two weeks in science we've learned about the different types of forests in North America, so I didn't miss the chance to ask Owen what this one was as we were riding through it.

(He answered right away, "Coniferous."  Good boy!)

The weather couldn't have been more perfect.  At 10am, it was about 65 degrees with a soft breeze.  Look at that sky!

What a great end to the week!

Birthday Cake

Last post about Luke's birthday - I promise!

We had our neighbors from behind us, Nick and Erin, over for cake and ice cream.  They are ALWAYS up for a little dessert!  And last-minute I invited the neighbor girl, Ashlyn, and her mom because I always hated kid parties where there were only adults.   
Luke loves Ms. Erin and the feeling is mutual!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mini Me

I think by the time William was a year old it was pretty obvious who he looked like.  Here are a couple of side-by-side comparisons.
William, age 3, and my kindergarten picture

William this past Friday and me, about two years ago - uncanny, isn't it? 

He is so much like me in other ways, too.  What a PISTOL if he doesn't get his nap!  Yes, STILL!  But most of the time, he's an absolute doll and SUCH a charmer.  My mom used to recite a nursery rhyme to me that I, in turn, have taught William:

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good
She was very, VERY good...
But when she was bad
She was HORRID!

School Daze

It's so amazing (and scary!) to think that next week we'll be into October.  September just got here!  We're into our 4th week of school already and it's just flying by.  Last week and this week has been spent studying the United States.  With the curriculum we're using, we just touch on the basic geography of each country and some of the cultural aspects of life in the country. 
I was really encouraged this week when I gave the boys a test to see how many states they could identify.  Sammy got 44 out of 50 and Owen got 40 out of 50.  I had given them the same quiz last week and they both scored in the low 20's, so this is a major improvement in just a week.  It's so heartening to feel like they're really learning something - and from ME, no less! 
We have packed a lot into the last two days because the rest of the week is going to be a bit hectic.  We have dentist appointments tomorrow and that means 2 hours in the car, so not a lot of time before or after for school.  Thursday the boys have their weekly gym class at the park, which doesn't give me much time in the morning to do their lessons.  We still hope to be done with everything by Friday, though, because I have a little surprise planned for the two older boys (stay tuned - I will have pictures!)
We had our weekly nature walk today and I snapped a couple pictures with my phone.  The boys were VERY wimpy about the hike ("It's too hot!" "My legs are tired!" "Do we REALLY have to do this?") but Scrabble was thrilled to be off-leash and enjoyed every minute of it.

William picked me some flowers.  Isn't he sweet?
I had to work on Sunday - a bat mitzvah - so it's been hectic trying to get school ready and organized for this week.  I have to perform two ceremonies this Saturday and have a few work appointments between now and then.  Sunday is the big bridal show on the Lake Geneva boats.  I am soooo ready for the wedding season to be over so I can focus almost completely on school for the boys.  Yes, I'll still have my existing 2014 brides, but at least there won't be functions to attend on weekends.  So far, I have three weddings signed for 2014 (May 3, May 31 and July 4) and another one in the works.  With the show this weekend, I hope to get a few more by the end of 2013 but not too many.  It's really hard to keep up with everything!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Luke's Birthday - Part Two

Shhhh....we went to a super-secret place for lunch yesterday.  It's hidden down an alley in downtown Milwaukee and you have to know a secret password to get in.  See the sign below?  That's the only sign outside, letting you know you're in the right place.
When we got there, we didn't know the password so we had to prove we were really spies, worthy of admission to The Safe House.  They made us make bunny ears, hop around like bunnies and even wiggle our bunny tails.  We passed the test and got in to have lunch.  (Good thing, cuz it was 1pm and the boys had basically just had jelly beans so far that morning!)  The bookcase in the small lobby dropped away and we went down a secret passage to the hostess who sat us at a table and gave us our secret mission, a list of things to find around the restaurant. 
Here's Luke showing me what he had to do to get in.  The older boys were pretty embarrassed when they found that the lobby area where we were doing the bunny dance is under surveillance, so everyone in the restaurant watched us on monitors.  It was pretty amusing to watch other patrons have to do similar things while we ate.

The boys really, really loved this place.  The food was pretty good, but it was the experience of it that really made it so worthwhile.  I even got to lock the boys in a cage!

The last "clue" on our secret mission assignment was to find the secret passage out.  We had to put a quarter in a pay phone for the password, which opened a wall and led us down a dark stairwell.  The boys almost felt like they were in a haunted house.  We're definitely going to have to go back!
Next stop was a large Halloween store at State Fair Park. 

Then we went to a mall - yes, a mall.  It may not seem that exciting but it definitely was entertaining to our country boys.  They were fascinated by this water feature...

And the interactive dance floor....

I love that their favorite store in the mall was the super-sized Barnes and Noble.  We started there and had to drag them out, then went back after exploring the rest of the mall.  They even wanted to go AGAIN after dinner!  I love my little readers!
While we were there, Chris and I thought this book was funny and showed it to Owen and Sammy:

Ten minutes later, they were both sitting on the floor with their own copies, devouring every page!  I got a TON of Christmas ideas while we were there.  There are so many great things about living in the country, but not having a book store around is NOT one of them.
After dinner at Red Robin, we called it quits and both little boys crashed almost as soon as Chris turned the key in the ignition.  It was a wonderful family day for us and Luke had a great time. 

Happy Birthday to Luke!

Luke's Birthday Stop #1: Jelly Belly Factory in Pleasant Prarie, WI

Well, it happened:  my baby turned 4.  It was bittersweet for all of us, but almost especially for Luke.  He breathlessly anticipated his birthday for about a week, watching me cross of each day on the calendar and getting ever closer to the BIG DAY!  So when the big day came, he almost didn't want to admit it was really here.  At such a young age, he realized that looking forward to something you really, really want is almost better than actually getting it. 
But, at any rate, we had a birthday to celebrate and Chris had the day off so we loaded up the van and went to it.  First stop:  The Jelly Belly Factory in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.  We got there just in time to don our paper hats and take the 1/2 hour tour.  The kids loved it!

The tour had many displays of mosaics created out of jelly beans and these great dresses, also made of jelly beans.  Lady Gaga needs to get in on this!

We learned about how jelly beans are made (it takes 7 days!) and how they come up with their unique (more on that later!) flavors.  Jelly Belly also makes taffy and several other confections.  At the end of the tour, you get to keep the paper hat AND they give you a bag of Jelly Belly's.  Not bad for a FREE tour, eh?

The boys LOVED the sample bar in the store.  You can try anything you want.  I went for a Dr. Pepper Jelly Belly and a Frosted Cupcake piece of taffy.  The boys and Chris were a bit more adventurous:

Check out some of these "flavors."  Pencil Shavings?  Baby Wipes?  BOOGER???  Chris tried quite a few, including dirt, but the only one he spit out and barely recovered from was Canned Dog Food.  Why on earth anyone would even TRY some of these flavors is BEYOND me.  Must be a boy thing.

 I was weirded out enough by these flavors of fudge.  Jalapeno Mango Fudge?  I asked about the Kicking and Screaming flavor, which looked like a harmless chocolate fudge but she told me it has crushed red pepper flakes.  Ew.  I prefer mine with walnuts, thank you very much!

 Of course Jelly Belly had to pay homage to perhaps the most famous of all jelly bean lovers:  Ronald Reagan.  They mentioned him during the tour and had a beautiful display of memorabilia.  I especially loved the quote....

"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit."
It was the first of a few stops on our whirlwind celebration day yesterday.  The boys gave this one two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New shoes and taking time to play

We had to go shopping for shoes the other day.  Sammy TEARS through his.  I have shoes that can go from Owen to William to Luke and still be in better shape than a pair that Sammy wears for just one season.  I don't know what it is with him!
I'm so thankful my kids don't (yet?) throw a fit when only one or two of them get some new article of clothing.  They would ABSOLUTELY throw a fit if just one of them got a toy, but clothes and shoes are irrelevant in their little worlds. 
I broke down and bought these gems for early birthday present:

He has ALWAYS loved Superman and with the movie that came out this summer, there is a lot of merchandise out there to choose from.  He loves the light-up feature, something he's never had before.  The morning after I bought them, I found him watching TV in the morning on the couch wearing these shoes with his PJ's.  So cute!

As I go to bed tonight, I am feeling a real sense of accomplishment around today.  It was a decent day of school and I got a few things done work-wise, but it was the hour of dedicated playtime I spent with Luke that has changed my perspective on today.

I had about 1/2 hour before dinner while the older three played on the trampoline and then another 1/2 hour after we ate when they ran back outside.  We played "guys," made towers with the extra large Legos he's been enjoying lately and read some wonderful library books we got yesterday.  Every so often while we were in the midst of playing, Luke would stop whatever he was doing and throw himself on me with a hug and a kiss; I could tell he was THRILLED to have me all to himself for a change.
It's so hard to believe that he will be four in just a few days.  This poem is posted on my refrigerator to remind me to sit down on the floor and just ENJOY him every so often - all of them, really. 

My hands were busy through the day
I didn't have much time to play
The little games you asked me to.
I didn't have much time for you.
I'd wash your clothes, I'd sew and cook,
But when you'd bring your picture book
And ask me, please, to share your fun,
I'd say, "A little later, son."
I'd tuck you in all safe at night
And hear your prayers, turn out the light,
Then tiptoe softly to the door.
I wish I'd stayed a minute more.
For life is short and years rush past,
A little boy grows up so fast.
No longer is he at your side,
His precious secrets to confide.
The picture books are put away,
There are no children's games to play,
No goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear,
That all belongs to yesteryear.
My hands once busy, now lie still.
The days are long and hard to fill.
I wish I might go back and do
The little things you asked me to.
-Alice E. Chase


We had haircut night again last week and this is the kid that I thought needed it most:
Chris had been trying to let all the kids' hair grow out a bit and Luke loved styling his.  He would wet a brush with water and brush it at least twice a day.  When I asked him what he was doing, he would say "Giving myself a haircut." 
Although I don't approve of buzz cuts on any of the other boys, that's my FAVORITE look for Luke.  Something about his perfectly round little head and big brown eyes - oh, and the expressive brows - makes him able to pull it off.  So Chris grabbed the clippers and went to it...

Here's the after shot - don't you love it???

Problem is, Luke HATES it!  Although he's all smiles in this picture, by the time he got up the next morning he was crying, saying "I don't want to look like this!"  He won't even look at himself in the mirror anymore and would barely go to church with us on Sunday.  He cried and cried, saying the kids were going to laugh at him.  He insisted on wearing his coat with the hood up through the entire preschool class.  I had to go in and tell the teacher that they should not under any circumstances mention his hair because he is EXTREMELY self conscious.
Chris is RIDDLED with guilt over the whole thing and I feel badly, too. Poor little Luke! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kitchen Re-do

Saturday was a BEAUTIFUL fall day and I spent the whole thing cleaning.  Now, now...don't feel sorry for me.  Although it's not my FAVORITE thing to do, I do LOVE the feeling of a clean house and almost never get to enjoy it ALONE!  Chris took the boys away for the whole day (six hours!) and I was able to just get to it.  Ahhhh, that last hour felt great when I got to put my feet up and just savor the cleanliness.  I actually considered going out and getting started on the garage, but I gave myself a little break instead. 
Once the living area was all cleaned up, it looked so nice I decided to take a few pictures.  I don't know if I ever updated the blog to include all the projects I took on in the spring/early summer but the living room/dining area was a big one.  I fell in love with a fabric from Hobby Lobby and went from there...
 The associate cutting the fabric to fit my old cornice boards advised me to make new ones because the other ones were so thin and this particular fabric, with its large print, wouldn't look good on them.  I made them out of foam core board, cut to order at Lowe's, and I think all in all they cost me about $20 for both - that's before I put the fabric on them, of course. 

I made the one over the doorwall (there's that Michigan word again!) about 18" wide and the one over the window just 12" wide.  I didn't want the one over the window to be higher than the cupboards to the right.  I deliberated on the curtains FOREVER but eventually just went with a chocolate brown.  There was already enough color in there between the paint and the cornice boards.

 To make the rooms seem cohesive, I brought that blue in on one wall in the living room and also the curtains in that room.  You can see in this picture that the blue goes all the way up the wall to the ceiling in this room, but stops short at the height of the cupboard as you go into the kitchen.

I painted the area behind the desk in the kitchen, but didn't want to go up to the ceiling.  Our ceilings are high and I thought it might be too much trouble, but now I'm reconsidering.  What do you think?

I still have to paint the backsplash because it's red, which was our old color.  I had visions of doing that in the week Chris took the boys to MI this summer, but between my big wedding and all the other stuff I did (like paint BOTH the bathrooms!) I just didn't get to it.  Maybe next summer?

I had leftover fabric from the cornice boards so made backings for the two bottom shelves of each bookcase.  I really like how those turned out!