Thursday, May 29, 2008

Digital Crafting

Last night I decided I really needed to get some scrapbooking or card making done. I went to stamp, and then realized that my roll of paper towels was AWOL. All my crafting stuff is currently upstairs in our room and the rolls of towels are downstairs in our laundry room. I was just too lazy to want to go downstairs to get them, so I decided to update my screen saver instead. I do this by digitally scrapbooking. I justified this in my head that I was really accomplishing something that needed to be done (it was about #356 on my to-do list). But, at the same time I was fulfilling my crafting cravings.

I really do like to play around on the computer and do this digital stuff. No, my hands don't get all messy and so I don't think there's any chance of me giving up the paper scrapping completely. But, making new screen-savers for Mike and I and stalking my family at Christmas or births to make announcements gets me through just fine.

So - here's what I had on my screen:

And here's the new screen saver:

This picture is actually taken from last August. I realized when going through my pictures that I desperately need to take the kids out and get some updated pictures of them together. But, this is one of my favorites and always makes me smile - so it's perfect for me to look at whenever I open up the laptop - which is about 25 times a day. That's a lot of smiles!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Reading Monsters

"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” - Victor Hugo

I love to read. I think Mike may secretly despise times when I get a good book. I simply can't put it down until I'm finished. My last big read was truly big - almost 700 pages. I loved it ("The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins) but it also meant that a lot of things got put aside until I finished it (cleaning, dishes, dusting...). I'm sure Mike would prefer I stick to 100 page books. Much more manageable and as a bonus - a visitor would still be able to see our floors if they stopped by.
Recently Jake has really taken off in reading. He's in kindergarten and has discovered chapter books within the last week. Correction: he's discovered that he can read them and understand them. He's QUITE excited about this and talks about it a lot during the day. He informed me that he was going to read ALL the Treehouse Mystery books, ALL the Junie B. Jones books, ALL the Cam Jansen books, and also the Hardy Boys and some Nancy Drew. Keep in mind his reference for chapter books is only limited to what he's known Maddie to read. Tonight I told each of them they could read if they were ready for bed in 5 minutes...great incentive! Jake, who normally moves slower than a snail moves like lightning if he's given the chance to read in bed. Tonight this was the scene I found when I went to kiss him goodnight. He wasn't actually reading out loud to all his friends, but I guess they really wanted to see the pictures too.

Maddie's recent reading adventure takes on what many young girls still love from years ago...Nancy Drew! (Trivia side note: did you know that the author of the Nancy Drew books - Carolyn Keene - was not a real person? The books were actually written by a group of women working for a publishing company that needed to have some articles/books for young women!) I don't remember loving to read as much when I was her age as I do now, but I do remember LOVING the Nancy Drew books my mom had from when she was young. She's reading them in order and is on #13 - each seems to get better and better! And she reads them so fast - a couple days at the most for each book! I have to say though - Maddie has me beat by a mile in terms of being a fan. In fact, the other night as I was tucking her into bed and she was raving about the latest plot twists and turns she said, "Mom...I LOVE Nancy Drew. Like, if she was here, in person...I would be like...oh! oh! oh! oh! I....I would be speechless!!"

I loved "Trixie Belden" books too...more mysteries and hopefully I'll be able to introduce those to Maddie when she runs out of Nancy Drew books. There are about 60 in the series; that should take her a couple weeks.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Making the most of a LONG weekend!

Whew! This weekend was "busy" as Mike put it. "Exhausting" would be my word. It was filled to the brim with activity - I'm definitely taking a Sunday Siesta after this!

Friday night was a ladies night for me with my sister, Tracy and our friend, Stacey. Stacey hails from Missouri - she's our Southern Belle who doesn't like not having family in the area. So, she's claimed us as her second cousins. The three of us read the book, "The Other Boleyn" (great!) and planned to see the movie a month or so ago. Well, this was the earliest we could get together, and the movie is out of theaters. So, we changed our plans, ate dinner at Fuddruckers, mini-golfed at Centennial Lakes and headed to the Cheesecake Factory for dessert. It was prom weekend for some city so Centennial was packed with picture takers, other than me. And yes, I was completely tempted to take some pictures of the dresses to show Madison some day that, "no...this is NOT what you will be allowed to wear!" Of course we gawked and made appropriate people watching comments - but that didn't digress from our game! 9 holes - I shot a 41. Go me. I won't mention what the other girls got...but we were all within 7 points of each other and I lost. And no, we did not ALL shoot our balls into the water on the eighth hole...that would be ridiculous.
Saturday I was bound and determined to finish the kids' bathroom. Mike had been in Chicago last week and I took on the project to FINALLY paint their bathroom. That's right - in six years it had never been painted. It held the shower curtain, wastebasket, and picture that we put in our original bathroom when we were married almost 12 years ago. It was time to retire the emerald green with gold accent decorations. Honestly, I was very excited when I received it as a gift (courtesy of mom through one of the bridal showers) and over 12 years it has been used in two apartments and two houses.

I have had this bathroom idea for quite awhile...I'd even venture to guess at least a year. I've had the sample colors sitting in the kitchen almost 6 months, along with the shower curtain, rings and rug I purchased on sale almost 9 months ago. I finally slapped myself and decided it was time to get off my duff - the magical elves weren't coming out at night to get it done.

So, I painted. And painted. And painted. This took all week. It will easily be another six years before I want to take on this project again. But, I'm pretty excited with how it turned out. It didn't start out on the highest note - while shopping on Tuesday for paint at Home Depot, I thought I'd be easily able to carry a gallon plus 3 quarts of paint to the counter. I dropped one and it didn't break open...I let out a loud exhale of relief on that one, then I bent to pick it up and the next quart toppled over - this one DID bust open all over their floor. Luckily the paint guy was incredibly nice about it, but it wasn't my ideal way to start the day. Things did improve from there, but slowly! When Mike got home later in the week and saw my painting attire he asked, "how could you possibly get so much paint on you?" Little did he know. But, honestly, painting these circles constantly required me to smudge what paint got out of the lines - so I'd wipe it on my clothes. And you know what I secretly love about projects like these? Getting messy. It's one of the reasons I love stamping - when I get ink all over my fingers from smudging or whatever and I have these cards that I love -
I'm in heaven. So, I almost treasure my paint stained clothes now.

Saturday it was the kids' turn to paint. My other idea for this project was that the bathroom art would be two canvases - one painted by each kid however they wanted; my only stipulation was that they had to use the colors I'd already used in the bathroom. Once Jake got started there was no stopping him! Now, this is where my secret vice comes in. Jake was really taking his time painting and said, "I'm doing my best mom...I'm taking my time and pretending I'm that painter know, the one we like to watch?" He's talking about Bob Ross - on PBS. This is the painter guy from the '70s with the afro. I LOVE to watch these shows. There-I've said it. I do, and I've dragged Jake into this painting world with me. You will find us cuddled on the couch on a miserable outside day watching Bob paint. He tells us things like, "in your world there may be a tree..." (there's always a tree in Bob's world). Now, Bob generally uses some darker colors than turqouise, lime green and orange (I've decided Bob's world might contain a few dubees at times as well...). But, I have to say when I looked at the colors that were put into my white quarts and saw that they used "Thalo Blue" first thought was, "Bob Ross uses these same colors ALL THE TIME!!" So, Jake and I pretended to be on our favorite painting show.

Maddie wasn't so thrilled with the project. She must have drawn out 15 different designs before finally just pulling out a brush and starting on something. She's our perfectionist and I know it's going to be a source of pain in the future. But, she came up with a design that is very "her" and she was happy to be done and be allowed to go outside and play with her friends.

Sunday we invited our family over for a little swimming and BBQ. Both kids were so excited to finally get to swim! They had been asking us every single day - often more than once per day - if we could swim yet. Unfortunately for them their parents aren't real fond of hypothermia so we hadn't been able to indulge in our backyard oasis.

But, Sunday - the first jumps of the season commenced and they were off and kicking!

Our kids are fish; but what surprised us all was that Madison outlasted Jake in the water on this day. Mike joined them for a bit and tossed and bounced them around until he finally decided to warm up in the sun a bit.

Me? Bwaak...bwaaak...bwaak! The water was about 82 degrees...I feel much more comfortable with it being at least 85...but along with that, I'd generally prefer that the air temperature not be the same as the water temps. Picky!!!
Mom and Dad, and the Runchey's came over later. No swimming by my parents, but they did enjoy some "beverages" by the pool. My mom generally held her breath whenever Jake went underwater. Jake has a great ability of holding his breath a long time and it constantly makes my mom want to jump up and see if he's still alive.

The kids ended up going home with my parents who were also babysitting Ellie & Austin - quite a sleepover and I'm sure my parents are enjoying some peace and quiet today!

This afternoon we decided to take the kids to a park in Shakopee and have a picnic. Mike and I were working in the basement so Maddie and Jake were in charge of preparing our lunch menu. We dined on PB&J sandwiches, chips, A&W rootbeer and their secret addition of granola bars (for dessert). It was actually chilly and our pessimist Mike thought we would be rained out. But, we enjoyed a couple hours outside and even tossed a couple frisbees around. We could all definitely use more practice in that sport, but it did cause quite a few laughs.

In between all of this, Mike has been working on the sheetrock for the basement. Two weekends ago he was assisted by my dad, my brother, and our neighbor, John. This past weekend he was helped out by dad, my brother-in-law and me. Yes...ME. I donned my painting garb (I'm only willing to sacrifice one pair of jeans to creative messiness). I've only been working on it a couple days and I'm already sick of it. I can't even imagine how he or anyone else that's helped feels about the messy stuff. But, the end is definitely in sight and I'll post some pictures once we get to that point.

But for now, I'm ready for that nap.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Babysitting the little 'uns

Yesterday Tracy's kids came over to play and have lunch with us while Tracy had a meeting. Austin & Jake play well together, and Tracy informed me from a couple days before that she noticed how Jake and Austin are much more rough and tumble than they used to be. She wasn't kidding! While they still play great together, the occasional wrestling tournament does exist now. In between - we still managed to enjoy a few quiet moments:

Jake wanted to read Austin the book - actually read to him. Austin just giggled along with the funny story. Then "Word World" came on and both boys were mesmerized in their pillow fort.

Then there was Ellie. She was so happy to just be walking around the ottoman...and around...and around. And then when I pulled out the camera, I kid you not - that girl started to light up even more - and I think she almost was posing at some points.

But poor Ellie - it was getting late and she was getting so tired. At one point while sitting on my lap I started to notice her whole body droop, then prop up very quickly. Then droop, bolt up. I told Jake to watch her and we realized she was falling asleep sitting up. We were thoroughly entertained watching her battle her sleepiness!

Right before Tracy got there Austin told me, "It's been nice that you invited me to your house." This kid is always welcome with manners like that!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Musical Geniuses

This past Sunday Maddie performed her own piano recital. My students had their recital a couple weeks ago. However, Maddie had the stomach flu and was not able to play in it. Jake had just been to the ER for his own bit of stomach flu (had to get "refueled" so he'd stop throwing up) but recuperated in time to play in the recital. He did great for his first recital!

My parents, and our friends, the Menzhuber's, from church all came up to the balcony after the service to hear Maddie. She did a lovely job. Jake couldn't stand not letting everyone hear his pieces also; it was a good thing his mom had looked into her crystal ball to know that would happen. I had packed his music as a precaution.

Jake played "Star Wars" and "Wagons on the Plains". Madison performed "Music Box Melody" and "The Wild Horseman". I intended to include a video of each of them playing. However, I'm not that savy yet in hooking things up so that won't be happening. We'll try again next year.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's a Zoo Here

This Saturday was a bit crazy - at least as far as Jake's schedule was concerned. I mostly chauffered. I know -you seasoned moms are thinking, "she hasn't even started that yet..." True enough.

Jake was invited to two birthday parties in one day. And, we blindly agreed to let him attend both. I shouldn't say blindly. We were completely aware of what the after-effects would be. He would be exhausted and cranky at day's end. We knew this from past experience with Maddie. So we didn't head into it blindly - we just headed into it knowing we would regret this decision.

Birthday party #1 was in Chaska from 11:30am to 1:30pm. At 2:30 our schedule had us attending birthday #2 at the MN Zoo (Apple Valley). Maddie and I picked him up at 1:30 on the dot and proceeded to travel across the southern 'burbs to see their cousins, the monkeys.
All went great through these first hours. Jake loaded up on sugar and energy at birthday #1 and there seemed to be no crash in site. We managed to make it to birthday #2 with 15 minutes to spare. Jake was dropped off, I wished the parents good luck (knowing they'd need it...) and Maddie linked her arm in mine, pulled and said, "Great. Let's go have some girl time." How could I not love that moment? She and I headed on the farm trail to be there by 3pm. We made it in time to watch Dixie the cow being milked. We both agreed that while very informative, it definitely had an interesting smell. I have to be honest though, when I watched the poor cow get hooked up to the sucking machine - I cringed. Memories of attempted breast-feeding my new-born children flew through my mind. Nightmares actually. However, I almost hated her after we watched her for 5 minutes as she pumped out around 4 GALLONS of milk. Less than 5 minutes! In former years it was a momentous experience if I managed to get 4 OUNCES in 30 minutes of my own little pumping machine. So, after this 10 minute exhibition we left and I sneered at the cow and mumbled, "show off" as we walked out.

Maddie and I perused the rest of the farm and power-walked back toward Jake. We stopped at the tiger exhibit. Really, this was the only animal I found interesting. And that was slight. Here is Maddie "with" the tiger.

We got to the birthday crew and the mom was basically shaking her head saying how she was going to have to send me some pictures - insinuating that something had gone on with Jake, but not giving any clues. Knowing that the little girl whose birthday it was is also the same girl Jake has a small crush on flashed through my mind and I looked at my Casinova and said, " weren't putting the moves on anyone, right?" The mom howled and nodded. In Jake's defense the other mom said they find notes around their house written, "I love Jacob". So, after what these lovebirds called hug #350 (literally - that was Jake's words), we left. Maddie and I were ready to head for the car and we really made a good effort. But, two parties and being in a zoo were not going to stop Jake from meltdown #1. He hadn't seen any animals - I offered up the Como at some point during the summer. Not good enough and meltdown commenced. I did see his point - so I said we'd go see the tigers and then leave.

Jake pouted all the way to the tiger lair. Jake's "pout" literally consists of this gigantic pout/grimace accompanied by his arms folded across his chest and small foot stomps. Fun stuff. We got to the tigers and he saw them for 5 seconds and started to walk away to read all the museum stuff. (Right now my dad is grinning ear to ear with pride reading this). Unfortunately that meant Jake missed the tiger walking close-up and also the two tigers getting in a small tussle. Maddie and I were yelling Jake's name to not miss this and he was getting madder because we were interrupting his perusing.

Finally we got him to see the statues of the tigers. He wanted his picture taken with them, but not together with Maddie. This is "happy Jake" getting his way.

Not to be outdone, Maddie climbed on top of the tigers too and posed with her loveliest smile...however, she DID want a picture with Jake.

Tantrum #2. Jake only wanted to take a picture with Maddie if he could sit in front. She, however, was already up there and not moving. In comes my part. I'd already given in to actually seeing the tigers - there was no way I could let him get his way AGAIN just because he resorted to pouting/crying/whining/foot stomping/arms crossed. After 2 minutes of back and forth and me reassuring him repeatedly that despite what he wants, he does not always get his way....he climbed on the rear.

See arms crossed? These so-called smiles are forced, can you tell? I threatened to not take the picture at all if I didn't see some happiness.

Finally we were able to leave - Jake mumbling the whole time about how unfair this whole thing was. I finally got down to his level and said, "Are you kidding me? You've been to two parties, had two pieces of cake, two ice creams, two pops. You've played games and gotten to run around. DROP IT." So, he stopped mumbling, but still walked arms crossed, foot stomps.

Then I heard the plop and the scrape and looked down and Jake had tripped. Not today of all days! He was already at his wits end with patience and fatigue. In comes blood. So, I got him to stand up and assured through his wailing that we'd get it wiped off and I in fact had band-aids with, all would be well again. He literally limped his way to the bathroom and screamed as I wiped off the dirt and applied the bandage. We then headed to the car. The entire time he's crying, gulping air stammering, "I...just...don't...think...I can...get...there." I looked at him and he had his hands on his SHORTS pulling them up to where I could practically see his underwear; all so that his band-aid covered scratch (below his knee) would not get hurt more. We had about 50 feet to go to get to the car and I had all I could do not to scream myself!
We managed to get through the rest of the evening. I think I kissed Jake goodnight at about 7:58. Mike was in there less than 5 minutes later and said Jake was out cold.
That quiet reminded me of this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I have in my scrapbooking stash:
"There never was a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him asleep."


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Target Comes Through Again!

I had no idea that kids could eat so much cereal. Ridiculous amounts, honestly. At least it's that way with my kids. In the past year they've each started eating multiple bowls of cereal - like 3 bowls each, and that's me cutting them off each morning. The other problem we run into is two-fold. My kids only like a limited number of cereals. Refrain: Maddie likes ONE type of cereal. Jake is a little more open-minded and has narrowed his choices to about 3 or 4 types. During the course of the school year Maddie discovered she really only likes "Cocoa-Pebbles" - that chocolate rice krispy stuff. Jake is highly preferential to Cocoa Puffs, but will also gobble up Cheerios, Chex, and Cocoa Pebbles as well. Sure, I can toss in the occasional Lucky Charms or even regular Rice Krispys - but consistently? They'd vote in a new mom first.

So the second part of that problem is cost. Good golly cereal is expensive. And at 3 bowls times 2 kids times 7 days a week? I finally put a kabosh on the expensive stuff and told them they'd have to try the store brand. I cringed at first because - I guess I'm a cereal snob, but I thought it would taste different. Turns out they like it just as much. The best part? Cub's brand is about $2 per box compared to $2.50 (with the coupon). The downside was for Jake - no Cocoa Puff generic. He was stuck eating Cocoa Rageous ("Cocoa Pebbles" remake) with Maddie each morning.

Enter Target. (Cue singing angels!) While perusing their cereal aisle I came across their generic brand a few weeks ago of "Cocoa Pebble/Cocoa Rageous". It was $1.67!!!!! Same size box! I think I bought 4 of them. Unfortunately they didn't have the Cocoa Puff generic either. But, for the last few weeks, I've been treking to Target for our cereal. A couple days ago I was there and lo and behold - GENERIC COCOA PUFFS! I was up for mom of the year on this find! It too was $1.67. However - sadly the Cocoa Rageous/Cocoa Pebbles-whatever Target calls it is now at $1.77. I apologize to everyone else who buys this and saw the price hike. I'm certain it was due to our bulk purchases of it. I did pick up the generic Lucky Charms for $1.77 (marshmallows are expensive). I also got their version of Rice Krispy's - I think $1.67.

I know many people are thinking, "You Fool! Sam's Club! Cheaper yet!" I agree with cost comparisons, but the bags annoy me and I don't have space to store those giant boxes. And for some reason once the cereal comes out of the box, my kids think it has cooties and stop eating from them.

So, while most households are going green - we're going red.
On a side note - I have an ear infection. Now - not a lot of adults get ear infections, but us Smith's are medical anomalies. Mike picked up my meds yesterday. HORSE PILLS! I'm not kidding - these things are HUGE. I actually held it up against my thumb - they are as long as my thumb tip to my thumb knuckle and as wide as my thumb nail. I know - super scientific. Really - I told my sister that if these were given to old people in nursing homes they would die of fright! I showed everyone at dinner last night. The kids sat gaping as I put one in my mouth to swallow. I think they thought I was going to choke. Mission accomplished though - down the hatch it went.

Then I read the label - must take with food. Guess I better go buy another box of cereal.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

This has been a fun day. I didn't have to play for church which meant I got to sleep in past 6:30am on a Sunday! That alone is a great gift! Mike and the kids made me waffles and I got to eat breakfast in bed, read the ads and open gifts. If only every morning could be like this! I got jewelry all around from my family - do they know me or what?

I am going to share a story from a couple days ago. It's destined to become one of my favorite "Jake stories". Last Wednesday Mike needed a caffeine break from work so we treated ourselves to Starbucks thanks to a gift certificate I'd been given. Anyhoo - Jake was home from school and accompanied us. While there Mike mentioned that the kids already had their Mom's day gifts bought, but that he still had to shop and wanted to know what else I wanted for Mother's Day and Jake piped up: "Yeah, mom. What do you want? Like...(dramatic pause)...would you like a necklace....or something??" After this question he looked at me with these innocent eyes. I replied while trying to hide my smile, "Jake...I always love necklaces." Ever so slowly Jake turned his head towards Mike and gave this drawn-out, sly wink towards his co-conspirator then proceeded to drink his hot chocolate. I looked at Mike whose chin had dropped to his chest and who was now shaking his head.

Guess what I got from Jake.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Can anyone even tell me how many days has produced the sun. I miss shadows!
All week long actually, we've been anticipating the rain. Whenever the kids were inside we have been telling them, "Get out! Play outside! The rain is coming at some point this week!"
Yesterday Jake and I took advantage of the weather and went to the park for a bit.
Jake's bike had an accident a week ago - and none of it was his fault which he likes to remind us. Maddie (for some unknown and not fully investigated reason) was riding his bike. Mike was loading his truck and went inside for literally 15 seconds and came out and backed up. In that 15 seconds Maddie returned and dropped Jake's bike on the ground right behind the truck. One of the tires took a beating, as did Mike's heartbeat. Until we get this fixed/replaced, Jake's one-legging it on the scooter!

Jake was pretty excited to master this move all by himself this year - proof he's getting taller! (Wow! - That is some glare off that belly!) He wanted to make sure dad saw this picture IMMEDIATELY when we got home. And, sure enough, it was the first thing he ran upstairs to show Mike when we arrived home...and AFTER we had put the scooter in the garage...where all things with wheels are supposed to go.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Jumping In...

To say I'm a little leery about posting one of these things - that might be an understatement. My new greatest fear may become that I will go weeks with nothing to write, and out of obligation I will post the weather changes (I am from Minnesota - and we do love to watch the weather!).

I've thought about this for a couple days - I think it's going to start out pretty general. Yep, I'll definitely post about the family - that's a given. But, it may morph some days into my general thoughts for the day. Warning: I can have some pretty random thoughts. Maybe it will cover the crafts I love to do or learn about (new ideas arrive weekly to me, much to Mike's chagrin). It may cover the home improvements we seem to undergo constantly.

Hopefully if not at least slightly entertaining it will keep everyone updated on us Murphy's.