Friday, February 28, 2014


A few Really?!?!?! moments from last week. I visited a store on the day after it opened. It's a Harris Teeter, which is the nicest and most expensive grocery store in our area. They have about everything you need, but it's not known for everyday good pricing. They DO run nice coupon sales though.

Because they were doubling coupons up to $2, I was able to get this box of dye for 2.69! (It was already on sale, + $4 off from the coupon +10% off from store opening promotion)
 This blew my mind though. Regular, plain ol' cupcakes. With nothing on them. $8 to buy and take them home to decorate. Wow. That was a whole $1 worth of baking supplies.
The closest we get to the Bulk Barn here. Notice the "whopping good sale" These are normally 9.99 p/lb. WHAT?! For some 'unknown reason' my children have never, and will never experience the joy of filling up their own bag of candy. Haha.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Flash Back

At this time in 2010 - We were expecting our little baby soon, and Kenna was about to turn 4.
Fast forward to now - that little baby is about to turn 4, and Kenna's about to turn 8! How quickly have these last years RACED past us?!


Sonny tells his mom that he never learns anything or does school..."just plays all day". Haha!! Ain't it nice to be a little kid?! I wish...

Some proof that they are gaining mastery of a few preschool skills! They are currently working through a Leap Frog book, which covers pretty much all the topics. They did a similar one in the fall, and I have new ones I bought in Canada last summer, which they will do when these are done. The new books will be a little more "grown up" and they separate math and reading readiness. Hopefully we'll start the new ones in April, if they can get through these.

 I would like to teach them to read next year, and do real kindergarten although it would be a year early for both of them. But they can totally do it, so why not get the jump on it all! I've been focusing a lot on the basics this year, like holding a pencil properly, tracing, letter and number recognition, and they really are doing so well, I think. Other than beginning to read, they are actually already on a K level in certain things. Their math sequencing and grouping abilities are off the charts!

They both have their areas of expertise. Grey LOVES to write things, but all by himself. He's not really into tracing anymore. And he's a lefty, so I'm finding his fine motor skills pretty good.
Sonny is not much of a writer, when it's all by himself. But he's a good tracer, and doesn't want to see to give up the tracing at all. When encouraged along, he can write things by copying them (like his Tuesday at the bottom), but he prefers to avoid that kind of hard work whenever possible;-) Sonny LOVES to follow instructions, and do things properly. Grey could take a few pointers there. He always has his own "better" ideas than the ones I am providing.

Grey's crappy tracing, right here. This one is funny though, because I asked them to put an X on the orange triangle. And he put his "on" it, as I was imagining they would cross through it in the typical way. Lol

Sonny is very meticulous with his tracing, so it takes him some time. But he always does a  really good job! Excellent fine motor skills. He put a few X's on his triangle. :-)
*Note: I told them it was the 24th. That was my fault, not theirs. Haha. At least I knew it was Tuesday!!

Uh Oh

Well, surely these are not exciting renovation updates by any stretch. But we've hit our first little "snag" with our Willow house. We took down the main bathroom wallpaper on Sat night - and although the wallpaper was fine (not molded or damaged by looking at it) we discovered this underneath it

Water damage from ceiling
Water damage around toilet

Water damage behind toilet
BOOO!! So, we've got some investigating to do - How old is the damage, is it getting worse, has problem been fixed...and fixing then up the walls. Thankfully, since I'm married to an expert on the subject, it's not a major concern or issue, but just one of those things you need to deal with.

Life is certainly made easier when their is no water damage:-)

On the bright side - and I say that tongue in cheek - our hallway is fairly blinding right now, when the lights are on. It's amazing how colour sucks the light from a space. Sometimes that is not a bad thing. Now I need to wear sunglasses in the house. Haha.

The reason for brightness? White paint!! Brian had a lot of Sherwin Williams paint left over from a job, and it's white. It's one of their high quality paints, so we decided to use it for a little free priming paint! It actually has a "name", it's not their untinted white, but it looks plain white to me.

This long hall used to be green

This front hall used to be paper on the top, and pink paint on the bottom
We are planning/hoping to paint all the trim in place, without removing it and putting it back up. We will have to paint it in a primer that will allow paint to permanently stick to the stain that is already there. We discovered, when taking the wallpaper down, that they stained it in place too - which is kind of weird. If this doesn't work (if the stain to paint transition will not work properly) then we'll replace all the trim with new white trim, but we'd like to spare that expense and just paint if we can.

Only two more rooms with wall paper to come down:
The kitchen

The master bathroom
 We're really hoping we don't find any more surprises under there!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pom Routine

It all comes down to this: The pom routine. This is Kenna's age groups performance. She walks on stage first, so she is the one on the front row, left side of screen:-) Apologies for my maniacal laugh, obviously I was right by the camera so its way too loud. But there were some really funny/cute moments.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Valentines Craft

I will preface this by saying - Brian thought these were ridiculous. {Perhaps only because I made him help me fill and tie the bags}. I think they're adorable!

The kids had to give out Valentine's to EVERY ONE in their age grouping at the co-op we attend. So I needed SEVENTY Valentines. When I was pricing them out at Walmart, I realized this could cost me a little bit of money! So I decided to go the cheaper crafty route.

The reason it was cheaper for me, is that all I had to buy was the goldfish. I got a large box for $7. Everything else was close to free. Incidental crafting supplies. Popcorn I popped myself. And I used off brand ziploc snack sized baggies, and cut the "zip" part off. This was because, probably about 2+ years ago I bought 200 of these in error, and we seldom use this tiny size. I still have about 190 left. So I thought maybe I could start using them up. Brian thought this was a waste of money - but really - I think it's creative usage. Right? I think Brian was just looking for any out that he could come up with to get out of his "chore". It didn't work;-)

Well anyway, I think these are just perfect!

Microwave Popcorn Recipe

Well, this is probably over-explained. But hey! That's my specialty! Actually, the reason I am being so thorough, is because I heard about this years ago. But I am afraid of fire. And I thought for sure I would cause one - so I didn't ever try it.

Have you heard that microwave popcorn is bad for you? The butter "chemicals" in there and stuff is, well, not real food by any stretch.

So you can air pop instead. We have an air popper. And when you turn it on, it sounds like a 747 is revving up for takeoff in your kitchen...and your livingroom...and the bedrooms. You basically have to pause all activities in your entire house and SHOUT while it pops. So microwave just seems easier, quicker, and quieter, and overall more appealing.

Mind blowing fact - you can pop popcorn in the microwave without Orville Redenbachers "this side down" seal of approval. All you need is popcorn and a paper bag. And it won't start a fire.

You need - a normal brown paper lunch bag and regular popcorn kernels that you would normally air pop.
A little less than 1/4C of seeds going into the bag
Fold the bag over a time or two
Place the bag folded side down in your {not clean}

Press the "popcorn" button, but do not stray far. Same rules apply as the "fake" popcorn - once the popping slows, take it out, or it will burn.
All popped! A personal sized bag! You can add some salt, melted butter or other topping as desired, give it a shake to distribute, and you're done.
It's easy! And quiet! And the kids love getting "each their own" :-)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thanks Grandma!

Some Valentine tattoos arrived in the mail from Canada! We had to give them a try right after bath time:-)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Minor Progress

Wall paper removal - It's time for some wall paper to make it's exit.
I'll say it again - it's 30 years old, and it's floral, and it's probably not anyones style anymore - however - it's well done, it's clean, it's held up well (no tears etc). So while ugly in one sense, (of being out of style), its not ugly in another sense (the house was well decorated and painted - it all matches well) really has to go!
Our front entryway - a smallish area we decided to tackle first.

We were unsure about how easily it would come off the walls. Brian sprayed it with white vinegar and water, since we didn't have any fabric softener. He used a wall paper scoring tool we purchased from Home Depot - and it really came down pretty easily!

It came off with no damage to the walls, and took about 1.5 hours (Brian doing it alone)

My picture "matches" the wall now! :-)

Pink on the bottom!
The next rooms we'll tackle

The Dining Room

The Main Bathroom
So what will we paint in absence of the wallpaper? I've narrowed it down to a general idea - but nothing specific yet!
I'm kind of leaning toward the Revere Pewter (5 warm greys pic) - but I'm tempted by others, like Anew Gray and Agreeable Gray.  
I know for sure we need - a black (doors), a white (all trim), a lighter grey, and a darker grey. I have yet to decide how bedrooms will be done. Chances are they will be neutrals that are interesting, and easy to decorate. Easy. HAH.


Valentines Day

It was a low-key celebration, as it is most years for us. I was given a giftcard to the Olive Garden for my birthday. We decided to go out to eat on Thursday night after bball and cheer, since restaurants are impossible on Valentines Day. The giftcard was enough for each kid to pick their OWN children's meal, which was a pretty big deal to them. They usually share a kids meal, or share with Brian or I. We boxed up most of the food they were served to bring home and eat the next day - which is why we never order them their own meals. It's basically a waste of money, when they don't eat very much:-)

But, ever since going to the OG in DC with the Kennedy family, they have been talking about it, as the best place on earth.

"Sometimes, they make you wait a really long time to go in, but it's toooootally worth it" - Kenna

So we had a special family night, and they each got to peruse the menu and select a meal - Kenna and Grey choose Pizza with a broccoli side, and Brooks was very torn between cheese ravioli, or the pasta and chicken fingers. He ended up choosing the chicken fingers, spaghetti, and broccoli as his side, and he enjoyed it. Although, he kept mentioning that he wished he could taste how awesome the ravioli would be:-) (Funny: My kids ALWAYS choose a broccoli side, when they are given the choice. It's funny! Other options usually include grapes or oranges, but all 3 of them prefer broccoli. It makes us laugh - who's kids are these?!) The kids adored every bite, even the bruschetta appetizer! The OG has never had higher praise than from my kids, I can pretty much guarantee that. They were even ecstatic about the manner in which they stacked the "skinny cups" (wine glasses, upside down in a pyramid).

On Friday I did a bit of baking - they were begging me for a giant cookie. "Each their own" like I did a few years ago...I said I would make one to share, and that was a good compromise:-)

I have been wanting to practice my icing freehand designs and stuff. I have never really done it, and I'd like to practice and perfect the skill. I thought the cookie would be a good chance for my first practice session.

I about died - and it didn't even look that great. My hands are NOT strong enough (my icing was not too thick), my forearms were killing me. Definitely a work out, and its really hard to get circular lines with no "pointy spots" - I will need a lot more practice. And perhaps a slightly bigger decorating tip.

Just for the sake of interest, I used the larger round tip (not a super sized one, but the normal round one), going over my small round tip design. It was soooo much easier to keep circles "round" and stuff. So perhaps a slightly larger tip for practice would be good - not killing my arms/hands and letting me get the hang of it:-)

It was pretty ugly but it tasted great!
XOXO cupcakes! yummy and cute. These are little tiny ones, not normal sized ones.
Valentines evening, Brian was supposed to be working late (another reason we choose Thurs to go out) - but he came home to hang out with me and watch Olympics instead, so that was really nice! We love the Olympics, and love spending time together! Win win:-)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

High Five

A Great Wolf Lodge moment one of the other families captured on camera. It's too precious not to share.
Brooks is giving our friend Tom a high five as he comes down a water slide.

Head Banging Grey

A side of Grey that people rarely see. He is so reserved and withdrawn around most people. He lets his hair down when it's just family though, and my oh my, does he ever let it all loose!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Brooks' First Piano Song

Brooks has started taking piano lessons. He's just had his second lesson on Thursday morning. And already he can play the Olympic theme song. Sorta. Well, a painfully slow and almost indistinguishable version of the piece, anyway.

His new teacher is here in Chesapeake, and she is starting him off (he has no knowledge of music notes etc), in a different way than Kenna's teacher started her off. It's interesting to see the different methods used. This teacher, Miss Jenny, starts off the kids by learning the timing of the notes (whole, half, quarter etc) and what that looks like, and then numbers them 1 - 5 for the fingers of the basic notes middle C - G. I don't know that I've seen that before - seems like most try to teach the notes and their placements, first. Then onto timing and other things. Miss Jenny writes out songs they know, so they can feel quite accomplished quickly too:-)

Since the Olympics is a fan fave right now, well, why not play the theme?! His main focus this week is the timing of the notes, and the correct fingering (number 1 - 5 are written under the note on the page). So far, I'm intrigued by this method, but I'm liking it!

(Kenna is still taking lessons from her regular teacher, we are committed there through the end of the school year, but since we've moved farther away, we'll likely switch her over for next year)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dried Cranberries

I had cranberries left over. A lot of them. I bought a bag because I wanted them for a spiced apple cider, over the holidays...and the rest of the bag just sat in my fridge for weeks. Finally I was looking at the cranberries...wondering how long they would last before they were rotten and I threw them away. What else was I going to do with them?

I didn't want to throw them away, it seems like such a waste. And the kids are totally into craisins right now (as am I). So I decided to try and make my own!
Wash the cranberries, and then pour boiling water over them. They will start to make a "popping" sound when the skins crack. After that happens, you can drain the berries.

Add some sugar to sweeten them. I didn't measure, I just dumped some on there and stirred it around.

Spread the cranberries on a cookie sheet, covered in parchment paper. Freeze for about 2 hours, and then place them in the oven. About 200 degrees and many many hours later (about 10, total?) - I had to "take a break" because I needed my oven for dinner, etc, and then just resumed the drying process, and they seem to have suffered no ill effects.
When they were dried out they looked like red raisins! And the taste is positively addicting! I bagged them up and put them in the freezer for safe keeping - we already have a store bought bag of craisins open that I want to finish before we eat these.
Other than time in the oven drying them out (which is not hard - it just "is" - it's obviously not an "instant" style of recipe:-), these are quick and easy to do...and really inexpensive too - a great and useful way to use up fresh cranberries after you've used hard any from that big bag over the holidays!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chinese Takeout Wars

Lest any of you think that now that I am older, and more mature - that I am somehow past my "blonder days" - let me set your admiring minds at ease. Some people just don't change. I happen to be one of those people I'm afraid. I try desperately, but somehow ditziness finds its way to me. Like a heat seeking missile.

A few weeks ago, Brian and I set out to have a date night. {As is typical for us, date nights are almost always "in" - since we only have 1 relative in town, and don't want to wear out our babysitting options there, for times when it's really needed:-) We could always hire a sitter, I suppose - but usually we don't have enough money in the budget to afford both going out AND paying for a sitter. So we amuse ourselves at home, which is really nice, actually. Mostly because you don't have to put makeup on.}

Our kids have always gone to bed at 7pm, so this gives us a good amount of alone time. We set out our plan for the night. Dinner and a movie. We felt like Chinese food and The Wolverine on Redbox.
We live in a new neighbourhood, and have not ordered Chinese food here before, so we looked up nearby places online. Sure enough, there is a Chinese place right next to the Farm Fresh, which houses our closest Redbox. We put a hold on the movie. We ordered the Chinese food. I waited the 10 minutes they suggested and set off.

When I walked into the Chinese restaurant, I noted that it said "CHINESE" in red lettering on the store front. I mentally thought..."hmmm, weird that it was called Jade Star online".

I told the girl behind the counter I was here to pickup my order. Insert note: I do not know why it has to be typical of all Chinese fast food - but they never speak English. All communication is usually accomplished with "yes" and eyebrow raising, nodding, pointing, and more "yes"ing. Anyway...I said I was here for my order, and she raised her eyebrows at me.

So I said "My order...Chicken Lo Mein and eggrolls?" She said, while pointing to the cook, "Yes, 10 minute". I said "10 minutes? But I ordered 10 minutes ago!"...they didn't appear to be busy, but the cook was fiddling around with something...She said "Yes, 10 minute". "Um, ok, well, I'm going to go pickup my movie, I'll be right back". "Yes, ok".

So I went back picked up my food, drove home, put in the movie, started eating the food...and the phone rings. It was fairly hard to understand yelling "in Chinese", but the jist of the conversation was "why didn't you ever pick up your food". Ooops. Brian was saying, I'm sorry! I'm sorry, We're leaving right now!

He hangs up and says, I can't believe you went to wrong place! I said I didn't! I went to the place we called! Well, apparently not. I wanted to go to the place that I did go to, but that was not where we called. Jade Star is in a different shopping complex across the street.

Pause the movie. Go buy more Chinese Lo Mein and eggrolls. It cost exactly the same amount. I apologized for taking so long and told her what happened, but I am not sure she understood me, entirely. Oh well.

So now that we had more food, we did a taste test comparison of both places. I liked the second place better, and Brian liked the first place better.

So next time, we might not agree on WHERE to order, but I least I know where they are, once we decide:-)

I got the first major blonde moment of 2014 out of the way. It's all downhill from here.


Great Wolf Lodge time again!! We went last February for the first time, and this year, we did it again! Thanks to a significant discount on the rooms, we were able to get a really great deal...most of the rooms were $140 per night. We got a more expensive room, which slept 8. It was 2 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, and a small kitchen area and livingroom. We shared the room with a family of 3, and split the cost...making it $125 per family, so even cheaper than the deal online! yay!! (This room is normally close to $400 per night. WHAT?! Who can afford that?!). Super glad for discounts! If you are ever interested to go, make sure you get a "homeschool" discount online (you don't have to be a homeschooler). The only disadvantage to it, is that you can't do it on the weekends.

So this time, we went with friends - 5 separate families. It was really really fun, of course!
Most of the girls. Out of 15 kids, there were only 5 girls (May is missing from pic)
I just thought this was of the families that went we don't know very well yet - new friends from church. Well Claire and Kenna really hit it off this week. Despite a "whooping" 2 year age gap. Funniest thing all weekend, Claire told her mom "I just love Kenna. Who would have thought that a nine year old and a seven year old would get along so well?" haha!! Age is just so ultimately important, now isn't it? It just made laugh
Claire and Kenna

Pink wolf ears on a little boy. Cute! He loved wearing them!
Ok, well to every delightful vacation, there's always a little drama, right? Well - usually not. But this time...{I'll set the stage for you}...

We left church when it ended and drove to Williamsburg, which took about 40 mins. We checked in. We played and played and played at the water park. Around 6:30 or so, it was time to feed the kids! So the men went off to get dinner for the adults from a famous bbq place down the road. We fed the kids food we brought from home. We got them cleaned up, bathed, they played, etc, and at 8pm, all kids in all rooms were in bed. The men went back to the park for fun without kids:-) All our rooms were close together (on the same floor, just down the hall from each other). So the plan was - all kids sleeping, all adults hang out in our room since we had a big livingroom (checking on the kids every few mins to make sure they were ok). The plan was going perfectly, and one other mom was already in our room, and our kids were out cold. It was 9:00pm. Then it happened. Ear piercing alarms started going off and strobing. Amy ran back to her room. We checked the halls - everything seemed fine. But the alarms were sooo loud.

Then an announcement came over the PA system "There has been an alarm emergency. Please find the nearest stairs and evacuate the building". The men were still at the water park, and when the alarm went off, they were not allowed to leave the park (they section off the hotel for safety reasons I guess). So it was up to the moms to get 15 kids OUT. Now. Chae grabbed her baby, I grabbed Grey and made Kenna and Brooks walk. They were totally out of it and definitely asleep. They couldn't seem to wake up and comprehend what was going on. We grabbed the keys and our phones, and left everything else behind. We started our "hasty decent" to the main floor (from the 4th). When a hotel is primarily full of hoards of children, compared to adults - any sort of fire escape plan is not going to be as quick as it should be.

We might describe it as "the trail of blankets being dragged down the stairwell". Parents lugging babies and toddlers, and older sleepy children being dragged along. As we began our decent, we could smell the smoke. That actually accelerated peoples speed a little - there was a real fire, this was not a joke! ...Although I noted that the smoke, while strong and thick/billowy (I didn't see that with my own eyes, but another in our group did) - smelled like burned microwave popcorn. As we approached the main level, staff was turning people back around - everything was under control.

So we started to head back upstairs, and then they changed the PA system report to "The threat has been cleared, please return to your normal activities". This instruction is easier said than done when the alarms are still BLARING. We were back in our rooms, but literally couldn't think straight due to the sound. The smoke reached the 4th floor now, and we could smell the burning popcorn.

We grabbed all our blankets and pillows and camped out on our balcony with the kids, with the patio door shut. The alarm was totally bearable like that. It sounded for probably 15 more minutes. The guys came up while we were on the balcony. Finally released from the "prison" of the water park.

Finally the alarm went silent, and we put the kids back to sleep. Mine conked right out again, but some of the other families, the kids were scared etc, so it really killed the adult fun of the evening, as every one had to snuggle their kids to sleep and assure them that we weren't going to burn up. I told my kids that this was quite an adventure! In all our lives, this had never happened to us before - a REAL fire.

At 2am, the fire alarm went off again, just for a minute. I popped out of bed and stuck my head in the hallway. Same old burned popcorn smell. I went back bed, assuming malfunction and not inclined to do all that over again. Then the alarm went off AGAIN for a bit longer. Grrrrr. Super annoying. Thank goodness my 3 kids were dead to the world. The extremely loud alarms didn't wake them at all. Some of the other families were not so lucky :-( So, kind of a crummy night and sleep for most of us.

Thanks to our experience the night before, Grey noticed this sign on Monday morning as we waited for the elevators. He said "Oh look! If you go down the stairs, you'll see a fire!" - Makes sense - since the first time we ever took stairs at a hotel...we went down and "saw fire". Haha.
At our Church they do a big Christmas Store for Awanas. Kids use their points to buy gifts for their family members, and the leaders wrap them. Brooks bought me a $5 Dunkin Donuts giftcard (Cause someone else already bought the Starbucks one, he said:-). I hadn't spent it yet, and GWL has a DD in the lobby, so we went down and bought a dozen donuts using up the giftcard (and a little of my own money too;-). He was very proud that his gift could buy so much to share with our friends too. That was fun.
Donuts! Thanks Brooks!

On Sunday, when going in the park the first time, Brooks didn't get "tagged" - as being too short for some rides, but Kenna did. He is slightly taller than she is, but they weren't measuring them, just eyeballing it, and they look the same height. Brian took them in initially, and didn't say anything, and I didn't realize this was the case. So Brooks got to go on the Tornado (coolest "adult" ride). But Kenna was too short to be allowed:-/ I told Brian to have them measure her for Monday, so she wouldn't get tagged again. So Monday, she got to do the Tornado for the first time!
She's waving to me, waiting in line with Daddy and her friend. She loooooved the ride!
It was a fun fun time, and thanks to a fire, pretty memorable too! Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures - last year we went with a family that had a waterproof camera and all my footage came from that...this year they didn't come, and my phone and camera were hardly out - its kinda hard to keep things dry in there, and I didn't want them ruined!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Awana Games

Kenna and Brooks have both been selected to represent our church in the Awana Games. The team will be comprised of 12 children, of various ages (although they will be among the youngest). They were chosen based on their athletic ability, memorizing skills, and obedience. So exciting for them to be chosen out of all the kids in the program (there are hundreds). So, from now until March 15th (the day of the big competition), they will take part in 2 hour practices each Saturday morning, from 8-10am. Adding this to their basketball and cheerleading...they will be busy little beavers! (uh, and so will I:-)

Rock Star in the Making

Brooks: So, when can you teach me, you know, the basics
Me: These are the basics
Apparently learning the names of the strings, and where to put your fingers, and playing single notes is insufficient. He wants full chords and long songs, right off the bat, and considers these quite basic:-)
We are having quite the "jam sessions" as you might imagine.

Teaching Kenna "Eddie Ate Dynamite...and I don't know the rest" - EADGBE are the names of the strings - Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie. Despite his enthusiasm, he has much to learn before something resembling a song comes out:-)