Thursday, December 29, 2011

Short but sweet

We had a short Christmastime this year.  Normally Andy would have at least two weeks off of work, but since he just started a new job he actually has to be at work.  He was home for 3 days, then back to Chicago for work.  

The kids and I spent Christmas Eve making sugar cookies. I baked and frosted, and they decorated.  They did a really good job this year, because I told them once we were done we could eat some. They were very motivated to help. 

Christmas morning Santa brought Faye a new Harry Potter book. It was the very first thing she opened, and I think she could have cared less about opening any other presents.  She had READING to do(she is over half-way done in 2 days)!

I think Velvet was wondering why we were all up so early.  As much as she loves getting presents, she likes to sleep in.  Check out that yawn!

Legos (and of course Mario toys) for the boys...
A beautiful Barbie...

And a new camera for me! 

Andy gave me a Nikon D5100, which I used (Andy took a few of them) to take all these pictures. I have no idea what I am doing, but I've read more about photography in the past 5 days than I have in my life. Apertures, ISO, shutter speed, metering, white balance, depth of field, oh my! I didn't even realize how little I know about taking pictures, but I'm determined to figure this out. Give me about a year or so.

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Songs by Alex

The kids have made my aerobic step into a mini stage. Here is Alex singing his favorite song from preschool, 5 Little Hot Dogs...

He also sang his ABC's, which I think is the first time I have him singing the ABC's on video.

Alex's preschool holiday party was this morning, and he sang a song for us.  I wish I could have been on the other side to get a better video, but you can sort of see him singing.

Making a craft with Grandma

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rudolph Cupcakes

Our morning project...

Rudolph cupcakes
Alex LOVED helping me make these. They look a little wonky because a 3 year old helped, but I think Faye and Drew will still eat them. The most difficult part was trying to break the pretzels into antler-like pieces, but otherwise it was a very simple project.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Candy wrappers

At dinner last night:

Me: Does anyone know anything about the candy wrappers under my bed?
Alex: Not me (immediately looking very guilty)
Kids: What candy wrappers?
Me: I found lots of empty candy wrappers under my bed when I was vacuuming.
Kids: It wasn't me.
Alex: Not me (still looking really guilty)
Me: Was it you Alex?
Alex: No.
Me: Well, who was it then?
Alex: Mmm. I don't know. Probably Velvet.
Drew: Alex, I know it was you, I saw you taking candy upstairs.
Alex: Drew, don't say that. I don't want mom to know it was me.
Kids: Alex!! (laughing hysterically)
Me: Alex, you know you shouldn't have done that.
Alex: I know mom, but it was so good!

I need to rethink this stocking advent calendar thing.  Way too tempting for a 3 year old!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Family Fun Snowflakes

A project from the magazine Family Fun...

They were simple and quick and only required 3 items: glue, cotton swabs, and glitter. Alex needed a little help with his snowflake, but I think a 4 year old could do this without much help. The only messy part is glitter, but I don't mind a little glitter around the house.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Music concert

Faye and Drew had a music concert at school a few weeks ago.  I should not have been taking the video, because I was laughing and shaking the camera all over the place, so ignore the shaking camera if you can.  But it was really cute and the kids all did a great job!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blue shirts

I love to re-purpose clothing and fabric.  I'm having a hard time taking any clothing, curtains, sheets, etc. to Goodwill, because as soon as I decide it needs to go, I think, oh, I could make something with that.  I have lots of could be somethings sitting around in boxes now, waiting to become something new. And with our upcoming move, I don't really need any extra boxes.

One of my favorite fabrics to re-purpose is men's dress shirts.  The fabric is soft from being worn and washed, and no matter the size, there is a lot of fabric in a long sleeved dress shirt. Previously Andy did not dress up for work, so I only had some goodwill shirts to work with. Andy's dad wears a blue shirt to work every day(I think), so I mentioned I'd be glad to take the worn out ones, and now I have some great fabric!

I made this stocking advent calendar for the kids with one of Grandpa's blue shirts and some clearance Christmas fabric.

I got the idea from a book or magazine I was browsing in the library. I thought it would be cute to put a little toy or chocolate in each day for the kids, but I had no idea it would be such a hit with the kids. First thing they do every morning is check to see what is in the stocking.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011


If you haven't heard the news, we're moving to Chicago!  Andy accepted a job at the University of Chicago, as HPC system administrator.  Congratulations to Andy on his new job!!

We've been thinking about moving for a long time now, whether it was to a new house in the Champaign/Urbana area, or to some other city, but we had to wait until the time was right.  We considered moving two summers ago, but Faye and Drew were two weeks from starting Kindergarten and Andy had just started his masters degree in CS. About 4-5 weeks ago he decided to apply for a job at the University of Chicago.  We figured it would be at least a couple weeks before they would contact him, a couple more for an interview, and if he was offered the job we'd be there around January.  He was contacted in three days and had an interview in less than a week! This has all gone so unbelievably fast, my head is still spinning.

I'm excited for Andy to have this opportunity at this wonderful college. It is really beautiful too, have you ever seen the campus? 

It will be an exciting adventure, but I'm also very freaked out!  Moving to Chicago with three little kids?  Not something I ever thought I would do.  I can't say for sure what our plans are for now, or where we'll live, because we haven't completely decided yet.  We've changed our minds about where we'll live just about every day since he accepted the job. But hopefully soon we'll get it figured out - he starts working in one week! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ginger man and Sugar friend

These are the strangest things I've ever made, but also my favorite. They are from Fa la la la Felt, which is one of my favorite craft books. The projects in the book are simple, cute and don't take much time. I'm planning on making a whole family of these, or as many as I can until Andy makes me stop.

Monday, November 7, 2011

While waiting - I knit

We're expecting a phone call tomorrow that could change a lot of things for us.  Andy and I have been talking about it for a long time, and especially the past couple days.  I'm really stressed out, sometimes waking up and finding it difficult to breathe, let alone go back to sleep(I'm a worrier, I'm sure not everyone would be as stressed as me). I'm sure I'll have more to say about this later, but for now I'm trying to keep my mind off of it until we know more.

What do I do when I'm stressed?  I have to find something to do, something to keep me busy and hold my concentration. This time, my project is knitting a sweater.  I have to say that I am not a knitter.  I've knit two scarves, so knitting a sweater was a rather risky next step, but the whole reason I want to learn to knit is so I can knit sweaters, so I might as well get started.

I picked this pattern from Quince and Co. for several reasons.  It looked like it might be simple to knit, and I really liked it. I didn't use the yarn suggested, but I went to the local yarn shop, Klose Knit, and they helped me pick a similar yarn.

As of right now, I'm on attempt number 3. I plan to get this done in 5 attempts or less, but it may very well take me 10 tries before its perfect.  My first try I completely read the pattern wrong.  My second time around I had figured out the pattern. I worked most of the body of the sweater, tried it on, and decided to alter the pattern a bit so it would fit me better. And no, I really don't know how to alter knitting patterns, I'm just winging it.  So here I am an attempt number 3....

This pullover sweater is worked from the top down on circular needles, with a bulky yarn, so it works up rather quickly.  The sleeves will be finished last, on double pointed needles, which I've yet to use, so I'm sure they'll take several attempts too.  If I ever finish this, and its wearable, I think I'll wear it all winter long.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It was time (again already?) to look through all the photos on my SD card and figure out what to do with them.  I've been so lazy about taking pictures and posting them this year. I'm going to try to do better the rest of the year.

I think Drew got a hold of my camera one day back in July....

I found no less than 30 pictures of Mario, all from different angles.  I think he must have had a great time with his Mario photo shoot!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

World geography

I love maps, so when I saw this panel at the fabric store it was an easy decision for me. I had no idea what I would do with it when I bought it, but then it occurred to me that I could make a very easy lap quilt/play quilt for the kids. What better way to teach the kids some geography than to cuddle under a world map?  

I machine quilted along the latitude and longitude lines, added a small border and made some matching bias, and it was done! Faye was thrilled when it was done and sat and named off countries for quite some time. Alex only wanted to know what the red parts were(red being his favorite color), and Drew just looked over at it, "eh", and went back to what he was doing. Maybe another day he'll actually look at the map.

Monday, October 17, 2011

1st swim lesson

Alex had his very first swim lesson this afternoon.  He was not excited about going, even though he loves swimming.  He has absolutely no fear of the water, which is why I wanted to get him into class as soon as possible after he turned 3.  When I take him swimming, he'll just jump right in and expect me to be there to pull him back out from underneath the water.  Its a little scary - for me anyways. He usually seems to enjoy himself.

The classes at the Y are usually ridiculously small, maybe two or three kids per class.  There is a reason for it, the pool is old and quite disgusting. Next spring they will open the new YMCA in southwest Champaign, and while I look forward to it, I think there will be a huge jump in numbers.

There will only be one other little girl in Alex's class, but she wasn't there this afternoon.  So, yep, it was just Alex.  He was very nervous and didn't want to get in the water. But eventually he did get in, swam around a little on his own, avoiding his swim teacher Emily as much as he could.  She was very patient and followed him around while talking to him.  He kept giving her strange looks, but never did talk to her.

She told me she's been teaching for 11 years(she is a really great teacher so I'm glad we got her) and has never yet met a kid like Alex.  No kidding.  This child is the most stubborn child you can imagine.  Wonder where he gets that from?

Staring down his teacher

Jumping in

Jumping in the leaves is a favorite fall activity for my kids. Unfortunately we have only a very small tree in our front yard, and a walnut tree in the back.  But our neighbor has an elm tree that hangs into our yard, leaving us with just enough leaves that it doesn't take terribly long to rake, but enough to make a pile for jumping.

But what is even better than jumping in the leaves?

Getting buried in the leaves! 

See them?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another sign

Faye made another sign for her room. This one she colored and taped on the outside of her door.  Life with two little brothers can be difficult at times(I sometimes wish I could tape a sign on my door too)! Too bad one of them can't read, but I think he's been told several times what it says.  I did notice there is a girl on her sign as well, so maybe I am also banned from her room? She is crazy about reading, comes home from school, goes up to her room, closes her door, and reads. She'll stay in her room all afternoon/evening reading if we let her.  She actually gets in trouble for reading sometimes - there is such a thing as too much reading!

I try to keep the boys busy with things to keep them out of trouble - and here is one thing we worked on last weekend.

Drew got this Mario puzzle from Grandma for his birthday.  He was driving me crazy asking me when we could put it together, so we finally dragged our card table upstairs and we started working on it.  I don't think he understood that it would take awhile to make it, being 550 pieces.  But with all the bright colors, it only took us two days to complete it.  He was really good at picking out the right pieces, and it kept him busy for several hours, so we may try another puzzle. Or if I know Drew, he'll want to put this one together again.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What I've been up to

Last weekend we had our very first frost.  I decided I had better get busy and get the plants I would like to keep for next year inside; my rosemary, hibiscus tree, and stevia.  The rosemary did great inside all last winter, so we brought that back inside.  It is about double the size it was last year, so I'm thinking that by next winter it might just be too big to bring inside.

I also brought in two basil plants, and we made pesto with the rest of the basil.  Basil really doesn't like to be cold, so I don't think it will last long in our house, but I figure it is worth a try. It was droopy for a couple days, but it appears to be perking up a bit.

This is the first year I've grown stevia, and it didn't do great, but it survived.  I wasn't sure if I should bring it inside or just chop it down and hope it comes back in the spring.  I decided to bring it inside and I am going to try to start a few more plants. I've read mixed reviews about the health benefits/concerns of stevia, but overall I'm really not concerned.  I don't plan to use it as a replacement for sugar, I just think it is really awesome to pull off a leaf and taste the extreme sweetness (Faye loves it too)!

I finished an ABC crewel sampler last week, and framed it on Sunday. It was designed by Alicia Paulson, and you can buy the pattern here. (I started reading her blog years ago, but just recently learned that she used to live on our street!  Its such a crazy world!) Faye asked me to hang it in the playroom so her and Alex can practice the alphabet. She is wonderful playing with Alex and teaching him!

I thought I was doing great stretching the fabric evenly, but as I'm sure you'll notice the 4th line down is really stretched to the right.  I didn't have the time or ambition to redo it, but it will have to be done at some point. Unless I just decide to leave it all wonky.  

After the frost last weekend, we are now having a warm-up, which we are loving!  Alex and I met Andy at the park for lunch yesterday. Alex didn't eat more than a bite of his food, but he really had a good time.

Andy showing Alex how to swing

Friday, September 30, 2011

9 hours

Now that Alex is in preschool 3 days a week, I'm left with 9 hours all to myself. Every week! This is the first time in over 7 years that I have actual free time all to myself. I was very nervous about leaving Alex at preschool for the first time, but I was also looking forward to having time away from the kids.

As it turns out, 9 hours is really not that much time, but I'll take what I get.  Honestly I think I need an extra couple hours each day to get everything done I want to get done, but obviously that isn't possible.  I had to give up on running this summer, there just was not time for me to run on a regular basis.

With my extra time, I drop Alex off at preschool and head to the YMCA.  The first week back I overdid it big time.  I think I ran 8 miles, and walked and biked several more.  It felt so good, running again, until Saturday morning.  My knees were so sore! I decided I should probably take it a bit slower at first, so I've been taking it easy the past two weeks. I can see how running gets very addictive. My legs feel great the days I run, and the days I don't run I'm missing it and looking forward to my next run.  I would love to get a 4th day in each week, maybe this winter, but for now I'm happy to get three days. This takes up about 3-4  hours of my free time by the time I work out and then shower, but it is worth it.

I still have days where I think about coming home and going back to bed after dropping off the kids(I really need to start getting to sleep before 1am), but so far I've been motivated to run.  I might be ready for the 10k or half marathon next spring!

Velvet being lazy