Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rose colored glasses...

A week or two ago I was driving down the road on a sunny fall day and so I put on my sunglasses that I keep in the car.  I began to notice how beautiful and vibrant the leaves on the trees were.  Once road near our house was a stunning shade of red dotted with burning orange trees.  Another day driving down that same street I noticed that the leaves were mostly brown and dull.  Had they really changed so quickly.  Then I remembered the glasses and put them on.  Once again I saw beautiful trees and stunning fall leaves.  I had found my very own rose colored glasses!

Since then I have been using my sunglasses more than is probably necessary, but I am loving the colors these glasses bring out.  I have also been reflecting on the idea of wearing rose colored glasses, of seeing the good in life even when all that is really there are dead leaves.  It's a habit I'd like to work on, a habit of being more positive and content with the potential in things/situations/people instead of just the current reality.

And now due to time constraints here is a quick photo summary of the past few weeks:

Peter got a really yucky stomach bug, the worst any of our kids have ever had, throwing up 11 times within 18 hours.  He has been fighting his naps lately, and then with the bug he was exhausted one day, fell asleep in his bed, woke up and came down stairs, then fell back asleep in my arms and transferred to the couch were he slept for a while longer.

Joanna is in a stage of "take a picture of it!" At least once a day she asks me to take a picture of her with something. This is her and a small pretzel.  I think she was interested that the end of the pretzel was slitghly squished.

One day when I was staining wood signs in preparation for super Saturday Joanna and Peter wanted to paint too.  I let them do so and once I got them started and took this picture I ran upstairs to use the restroom with explicit instructions not to touch anything.  When I came down Peter had painted both hand (carefully with the brush) blue.  Well, he didn't touch anything, and it could have been much, much worse.  No more painting without mom in the room.

Our RAs organized a Michigan string art night where we learned how to make this.  It was fun and I met some new neighbors.  Now we have this hunk of wood to remember Michigan/Northwood. Go blue!

I am trying to learn how to digitize my hand lettering using inscape which is a free program.  This is the first piece I have done.  I am pleased with how it turned out although it took a really long time on the computer! The bottom is a printed copy of what I digitized.

Super Saturday was great!  I went to a cookie decorating class first taught by a sister who has a degree in culinary arts and worked until recently at a bake shop.  Now that I know how to do these type of cookie icing the pressure is on to have beautiful cookies every time I make sugar cookies. :)
The basic idea is royal icing slightly watered down, flood the background, dots and toothpicks.
I taught the hand lettering class and participants made a wood sign.  I loved seeing what the ladies came up with and the excitement they expressed in learning a new skill!  Twenty people signed up for the class and we had a blast.

We are getting to the end of the Halloween candy that we let the kids keep.  Isaac ended up donating a bunch to the troops oversees and a bunch was hidden in the freezer for gingerbread houses in December.

I have written (and submitted on Friday) my first freelance piece for Ann Arbor Family Magazine! And this picture of Joanna and Scott that I submitted with my application was published in this month's edition.

We got a piano! I had an alert from craigstlist set up for "free piano" and got an email last Sunday. To me the pictures looked like a Northwood apartment.  I called the guy and yes, he lives in our neighborhood but is moving and needed the piano gone. So we borrowed a flat dolly from the community center and with the help of our friends Amilcar and Yabethsa we moved it across two parking lots and down the main street at 10:30/11 at night.  We are thrilled with this piano and it is getting a lot of use! Amy had her first piano lesson with our next door neighbor this week and has been playing Yankee Doodle non stop.  John is working on the simplified hymns, I have loved pulling out my old  music and playing through it and the others just like to play it.  We figure it is form the 1930s or 40s because of the ivory keys and what I could find on the internet.

Took Peter to a different grocery store that has little shopping carts and wide isles. He was in heaven and insisted on unloading everything at the register.  Such a good helper!

Another one of those "take a picture of me!" moments, finishing the bottle of juice.

Creating animals with stickums.

And I recovered the piano bench with some free fabric I found at the dumpster.  It was neat to see all the layers of fabric on this thing, at least 5 that I could see.

The skirt I was debating on wearing today to church.  I made it out of fabric I found at the dumpster that was actually a curtain which I took apart.  I was really proud of myself because it was my first time sewing an invisible zipper and making up darts and a small slit in the back.  But then last night as I was doing the final iron I didn't check the setting on the iron, let it get to hot, and melted a hole in the back.  Oh well, guess I'm not going to be wearing my curtain skirt after all.  Maybe it's for the better because there is a really good chance that the curtain originally belonged to someone in my ward.

I love this sleeping position!

This boy loves sticks! And the freedom of walking!

Amy and Yankee Doodle are best buds...

These boys are going to be great playmates as they get older!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Halloween 2016

Boy did we celebrate Halloween this year!  By the actual night of Halloween I was ready to be done and as soon as the kids were in bed John and I took down all of the Halloween decorations and pulled out our few Thanksgiving things.
We went to/did several Halloween activities including Kroger kid's night with our neighbors, trick or treating at John's school, the ward chili cook off/party, making brownie haunted houses, pumpkin craft night at SPH, pumpkin carving and finally the parade and trick or treating in our neighborhood.  Whoo!
Our costumes included:
John: Police officer (which came in handy when he went after a few middle school boys who were taking way to much candy from unattended bowls on door steps in the neighborhood.)
Janice: chef
Isaac: Shiftry Pokémon and a knight
Amy: Pioneer (and then a vampire pioneer when she received some vampire teeth while trick or treating.  It was quite the juxtaposition!)
Joanna: Pug puppy, and then a butterfly for Halloween night
Peter: himself and Spider-Man
Scott: a lion and an elephant, at different times and for different events

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Amy is 7!

This year Amy was delighted that her birthday fell on a Saturday because not only could she have her birthday party on her actual birthday, but our ward Halloween party was on her birthday as well.  Double celebrations! And then it turns out that our neighbor Sooah shares the same birthday, so we ate cupcakes and Korean chocolate cake roll with her in the afternoon.  We had a lot of treats on Saturday!
Amy had her birthday planned several months ago.  She wanted a pajama party in the morning and knew what games she wanted to play.  She wanted a donut cake which we created with mini donuts covered in whip cream and sprinkles.  The girls had a blast and it was fun to see them all together and their unique personalities.  I am really grateful for the neat group of girls that Amy gets to spend time with at school, church and in the neighborhood. (And Scott gets the gold star for sleeping through most of the party!)

Things about Amy at age seven...
 1.  Amy loves crafts and creating and apparently her friends and family know her well because she got many presents that reflect this love! 
2. Amy is a natural nurturer and I think she will love babysitting when she is older.  This afternoon she was crying because she didn't get the chance to get Scott out of his crib after his nap.  I told her we would have to practice because I don't think she has ever gotten him out before.  Also this week she made a special play place for Scott out of chairs and filled it with toys and pillows for him then sat in it with him and played.
3.  Amy has a sensitivity to the Spirit and enjoys Spiritual things.
4. She likes music and singing and if I could get organized enough to fit it into our schedules, she would like to learn to play the piano. 
5.  When I went into Amy's class on her birthday to read a book and hand out the treat (glow sticks for everyone!) any one in the class could share an "appreciation" about Amy.  It was so sweet to hear Amy's classmates say things they appreciate about her.  Many of them were about how kind she is, how she plays with them and how she helps them.  Amy looks out for others.
6.  Amy has her own sense of style and sometimes I just have to smile as I send her off in some very creative color combinations!  I love that she is confident and chooses what she likes regardless of what others may think.
7.  Amy also runs on her own pace.  If you want her to speed up that probably isn't going to happen. 
8.  Amy is fun to be around!  She is a good listener and conversationalist and I enjoy taking her with me to run errands, reading books with her, doing crafts together and just being with her.

Happy Birthday, Amy!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Life lately

Disclaimer: I'm writing this post on my phone as John is out of town and has our computer. Sorry about any errors!

Last week John went to DC and right now he is in Vancouver, BC and while there are definitely down sides (lots!) of having him gone, there are a few upsides. 1) I get a lot done after the kids are in bed (I'll elaborate later) and 2) the service people have given our family has been amazing. My visiting teachers brought dinner (3 times!) because John was gone and Peter had his tonsils/adenoids removed. Then my amazing visiting teaching companion and her husband sat with us today during sacrament meeting which was perfect because I spent most of the meeting in the halls with one or both of the little boys and it was reassuring to know my older ones were in good hands and not doing somersaults in the pews!

Back to the night time productivity...I just took an online intro to hand lettering course(so fun!) and have been working on the projects I'm going to teach for our Ward's Super Saturday next month. I also started an Instagram account to record these things I make (@janice.creates) Having a creative outlet has been very fulfilling and I am enjoying the process of learning something new.

I also applied and was hired to do some freelance writing for a local publication. Ann Arbor Family Magazine. Turns out the editor who hired me is a member of the church too. One of the writing samples I sent her was an edited version of what I posted on this blog about our experience helping Syrian refugees in our area. I thought I had edited to remove the Mormon context/words, but I guess I forgot one because during our phone interview she said, "So you wrote "ward", what ward are you in?" Oops. I don't think that's why I was hired, she says it's because I wrote for another similar publication and really understand the target audience. That refers to the reviews I used to write for Washington Family Magazine back in Maryland. When I was making my resume to submit I looked up that magazine and my reviews are still available online! The first article she wants me to do is on refugees in our community and I'm contacting a local organization our church worked with. I watched a video on their website and once again was struck by the magnitude of their plight. I hope I can meet with some local refugee families and tell their stories.

Other than those two big projects I've been trying to figure out how to best understand and meet the needs of each of my children. This is a continuous process.  Lately bed time has been the craziest time and my least favorite part of the day. During church today I was thinking about it and praying for direction on what I can do differently to help bed time be better.  Then tonight when I was putting Peter down (one of the worst bedtime offenders) I had the thought (ie- inspiration!) to give him more autonomy. Instead of standing beside him as he gets his last drink, brushes his teeth, etc. I told him to do those things and I'd be right in to pray with him. It worked so well for him! He did those tasks alone without complaint and then we prayed and he sang with me as I left the room. It was the easiest Peter tuck in I've had in a long time!  (We won't dwell too long on Joanna's tuck in tonight which consisted of her crying in my bed for 30 minutes before zonking out with a baby lock on the door because she didn't want to go to bed and she did want more gummy bears (which she didn't earn). You win some, you loose some.)

That is entirely enough about me for one post! Now on to the rest of the family...

Scott is using walking as his main mode of transportation these days. He can stand himself up when he falls down and really gets to where he wants to go.  He knows where the sandbox in our courtyard is and usually makes a beeline for it when outside although he can be detoured by a good stick on the ground. Here's a peek at him getting around outside: (I'm not sure how to embed it from my phone so it's just a link for now)

Peter had his tonsils and adenoids removed a week ago from last Friday. I am glad we are getting past the recovery part of this. Surgery is hard and seeing your kid go through it is also hard. Wednesday Peter decided he no longer wanted to take liquid medicine and even resisted my trick of mixing it into ice cream. (Did he somehow know?!) I had the thought (inspiration again I tell you!) to try chewable Tylenol and that has saved the day. Yes, I have been calling them his "candy" but in this situation it is whatever works! He is slowly weaning off of medicine now.

These pictures were of surgery day, after Peter had some medicine to relax him before they took him back. That stuff was amazing. He went from not smiling or talking to laughing and playing in less than 10 minutes.

Yesterday was cold and windy and it reminded me that winter is coming and that made me a bit sad and slightly panicky. Long, cold Michigan winters are hard, especially with two little boys who love (and do so well with) daily time outside. Thinking of our indoor weather induced confinement that will surely come is daunting. But then today was a perfect fall day: sunny with highs in the upper 60s!  We took full advantage and went to Parker Mill for a walk after Scott's nap. The mill is actually open Sunday afternoons so we got to see inside and learn a little from the guides which we had never done before.

We also walked the trails and threw leaves in the river. An older couple was walking behind us for a while and when the kids stopped to spread corn meal from the mill around for the birds the wife came and talked to me. Turns out they had 5 kids, two girls then three boys, all in 7 years. She said watching our family brought back memories of when her kids were little. She was so kind. I always appreciate a kind word when I am out with the kids, those kind words mean a great deal to me and offset the less than supportive looks we also get.

I learned tonight that letting the kids roll down the hill in their church clothes probably wasn't the best idea. I'm going to try bleach on all their white shirts in the morning.

This week Joanna's neighborhood preschool went on a field trip to a park close by. We took the kids on a walk, ate a picnic lunch and threw sticks into the river.

They made a little line and marched themselves through the butterfly garden.

These stairs lead to the top of a tunnel slide. There was no keeping Scott off of that slide. As soon as he got off the bottom he was crawling to the top, cutting the line and going down again!

I love fall and the changing colors and crisp air!

And we'll end this crazy long post (remember John isn't around for me to talk to so I need some form of connection with the outside world:)) with a preview picture of Joanna in her Halloween costume. So far we have plans to have a Shiftry (it's a Pokémon, don't worry, i didn't know that either), a pioneer, a pug puppy (very specific!), a super hero or an elephant and possibly a lion (if it fits) in our family.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Preschool times

It is interesting how life changes with the ages of children at home.  With Isaac and Amy at school all day the main activities the little ones and I do at home are more likely to be play dough and puzzles rather than something more geared for the big kids.

Joanna attends a local Lutheran preschool on Wednesday Friday morning.  A few weeks after her school started a group of moms in the neighborhood organized a coop preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  After debating I decided (and the other moms graciously agreed) to have Joanna be part of the coop on Tuesdays.  The three days seems to be a good balance and mix, one day with her neighborhood buddies and two days of structured school away from home.

So now our daily schedule is something like this:
Monday: institute
Tuesday: Joanna coop preschool/ Mom and the boys library story time/ward Morning Out
Wednesday: Joanna St. Paul preschool/Mom and the boys play and grocery store
Thursday: help with English conversation group
Friday: Joanna St. Paul preschool/Mom and the boys play or errands

Another little boy from church goes to the same preschool so we have started carpooling.  His mom takes them in the morning and I pick up at 11:45.  It has worked quite well because Scott is usually napping during the morning drop off time.

With Joanna's preschool we went to an apple orchard this week and participated in the school fun run last week (where we got drenched as it started to rain at the end).

Scott loves apples but he has a hard time eating them unless someone takes a few bites out of it first.  He sure worked hard on this one!

All ready to run.

Can you spot Joanna and her friend Aubrielle running together? They did at least one whole lap holding hands.  She let me run a lap with her and then told me she didn't really need me to run with her.

After the fun run we stayed and played for the last 45 minutes of class.  Peter loved it and wants to go to Joanna's school again!

While the others were at school the little boys and I went on a hike in the woods one morning.  Scott was not interested in staying on the path.  I would try to hold his hand and have him walk but he would just veer off and try to get to the sticks and leaves along the path.