Monday, March 17, 2014

All Aboard the Potty Train!

This little lady has been doing some great work on the potty!  We started potty training about three weeks ago, and I'd have to say she's pretty much accident free at this point.  She's wearing her big girl pants every day, even when we head out of the house.  To be honest, she's even dry at night, although I'm keeping a diaper on her just in case.  She still needs a little help with some of the details, but I've been so impressed with how quickly she caught on. Of my three kids, she has been the easiest by far.  All it took was some Twizzlers and a few mini marshmallows, and Holland was SOLD.

I guess I've purchased my last diaper, which actually breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces. I know people who long for that day, but I have dreaded it.  Saying goodbye to baby-hood is so, so hard for me.  But I can't stand in the way of progress, and she was ready for this next step.

Good job, sweetheart. Mommy is so proud.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Snow daze!

Well, we've been told to expect a very snowy winter and so far, predictions seem accurate!  We've already had FOUR snow days this year, and we've got two more months of chilly days to go. Here are some pictures from our first snow day, back in early December.

I happen to know the cutest snow bunny ever!

It was really, really cold, but these little people couldn't get enough! They're actually standing on the deck in this picture.  I narrowly avoided that snowball.  Phew!

Another favorite play spot - the truck bed.  I'm not sure why, but the kids love hopping in the trunk and playing with the snow.  This particular storm involved some pretty serious ice, too.  Holland tried to scrape it off Daddy's truck, but that turned out to be a tough job, even for grownups.

We finally came back inside for some hot cocoa - personally, my favorite part!

I love a snow day at home with my babies.  Looks like I may have a few more of those before spring!  No complaints here.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Two helpers and one undoer

What do you get when you take this crew out to rake leaves?

You get two mildly enthusiastic helpers and one completely dedicated undoer.

One thing about living in Ohio: you're guaranteed to have many memories of leaf raking. I can remember raking leaves in our yard growing up, and then hauling them around on a sheet to mulch them or carry them out to the street.  Good times.  Lots of blisters!

I took the kiddos out to rake with me.  Mason and Daniel were helpful... for awhile. Holland's job was to kick leaves out of our piles, run through them, and then sit in the middle.  She took her duties very seriously.

Soon, even my helpers fizzled out and spent the rest of their time stuffing their sweatshirts with leaves.

"We" raked for two hours, until Dad came home and helped bag them up.  I've since raked two more times!  I think we're finally about done.  You've got to love autumn in Ohio!

It really is beautiful, until you have to rake it all up.  Here's a picture I took of the sunrise one morning recently, from our office window.  I'm up before dawn every day, and the only good thing about it is that I get to see the sunrise.  Some days it's truly spectacular.  This picture doesn't even do it justice!

Happy fall!  And enjoy your raking!

Our little scientist

Mason read a book for school about a boy who made an electromagnet and he came home completely determined to make one of his own.  Lucky for him, he has a Dad who can do almost anything.  The two of them disappeared into the basement and came up later with... an electromagnet.  Mason was so proud!

He made his electromagnet with a nail, some insulated wire, and a battery.  See that paperclip?  The force of the electromagnet is holding it suspended.  Pretty neat!

I love that Mason loves science and is so eager to put his knowledge to practical use.  He wanted me to share this picture with his teacher, so I sent to to her in an email.  She shared it with the class!

We're so proud of our little scientist.  Keep up the good work, Mason!

Big winners!

Every year, Mason's elementary school puts on a carnival as a fundraiser.  It's a major event!  Volunteers convert the entire school into a carnival, with games and activities in different classrooms.  Kids buy tickets for the raffle or the games and then have a blast.  It's very well attended, and just a little bit NUTS.

This year, as the room mom in Mason's room, I helped put together the raffle basket for his classroom.  We collaborated with another class and together we came up with this basket with a "Taste of Mason" theme. Parents contributed money or other items, and then we shopped for other things to fit with the theme (which was assigned). We presented our basket in a stock pot, with all kinds of gift cards to local eateries displayed on wooden spoons.  I took the basket to a local sweet shop and filled in the extra space with some tasty treats.  We thought it turned out great!

After having spent so much time on the basket, I figured we'd better go to the carnival!  I brought exactly $20.  We bought 5 raffle tickets and 15 game tickets.  And that was it!  I gave each kiddo one raffle ticket and let them decide where to put it.  Mason and Daniel both put their tickets in for an awesome "Nerf" themed basket.  Holland picked a basket of dolls.  I had the remaining two tickets, and I picked this "Let's Play School" themed concoction.  I mainly picked it because I looked in the bucket and it seemed like it had less tickets.  I thought we might have a chance.  Well....


Yeah, I couldn't believe it.  We showed up late to the drawing, so I didn't hear our name called.  I asked the principal afterward if they were going to post the names of the winners, and he asked me our last name.  When I told him, he said, "Oh, yeah, you won something!"  I was so excited!  I never win anything!!!

We high-tailed it to the raffle room and discovered we'd won the school basket. It was actually really heavy - it had an entire wooden desk and chair in it! We had to call Brandon to come bring the truck to get it home.

Here are the big winners!

Isn't it cool?

The kids literally spent the rest of the day playing school.  The basket was just packed with all kinds of fun things: paints, dry erase markers and a white board, a stapler, a tape dispenser, pencils, pens, markers, paintbrushes, books, stickers, notepads, erasers, a play money set, stamps, sticky notes, a teacher's record book, a play clock, a bell, a Mason tote bag and key chain, several sets of flash cards, rulers, scissors, sidewalk chalk, highlighters, EVERYTHING!  I may never have to buy school supplies again.  I love it!

Even Pippa got in on the action.  She sat right down in the middle of our haul.  And check out that awesome desk!  It is just perfect for Holland.  The lid lifts up but doesn't slam down, so little fingers are safe.

Anyway, in case you can't tell, we were pretty darn excited.  I still can't believe we won.  Woo hoo!

Celebrating 7 years with Daniel

Daniel is 7! How can it beeeee?  I say that with every passing birthday, it's true.  I just don't know where the time is going!

This year, Nana and Papa Kay made a special trip up to celebrate Daniel's birthday with us.  It was so wonderful to have them here! We made quite a weekend of it.  Friday night, we had planned to go to Dan's restaurant of choice, Red Robin.  Sadly, by the time we got there the wait was too long and it was too close to a certain little sister's bedtime.  This was Danny's face when we aborted mission to Red Robin:

BUT we managed to save the day with pizza from Jet's instead!  We picked up some pizzas and salads and headed home to enjoy.  Danny recovered from the initial disappointment and ate plenty of pizza.  Don't you worry!

The next morning, we had waffles for breakfast at Danny's request.  He originally wanted to eat them in bed, but later decided that it would be easier to eat at the table.  We did light a candle in the waffles, though, just to make sure we got the day off to a good start!

Daniel wanted to open presents right after breakfast, and we figured, "Why not?"  Here's the birthday boy, eager with anticipation:

And here's a snapshot of Holland, who was sitting on Nana's lap, anxious to see what was inside those boxes!

Daniel was REALLY excited to receive a Rainbow Loom, for making rubber band bracelets. This is clearly the "hot toy" this season, and Daniel had been talking about it for weeks.  Oh, he was thrilled!

He also received a rock mining kit, a set of Junie B. Jones books, "footie" pajamas (he wanted them!), and a stuffed Odie.  Garfield is really popular around this house!

Nana and Papa Kay had yummy waffles with us and joined in the fun!

Holland used all her muscles to try and carry around Papa's briefcase.  She didn't get very far.

The birthday boy spent the rest of the day making bracelets on his loom.

Later that night, we went back to Red Robin to try again.  This time, we made it!  Daniel's greatest dream was to have the waiters sing Happy Birthday to him, and they did.  He loved it!  This picture was snapped, mid-song:

We came home and had ice cream cake, which Daniel had requested.  I make this with ice cream sandwiches, oreo cookies, three kinds of ice cream, and cool whip.  The trick is in the assembly, as there is no "baking" involved.  It's Dan's favorite.

See the layers? Dan chose Graeter's raspberry chip (which, if you have not had, you have not really lived), vanilla, and chocolate).

We lit the #7 candle and sang once more to our Daniel.  See those bracelets on his wrist? He made those the first day! 

Daniel Gates!  What can I say about you on the occasion of your seventh birthday? You have always been, and continue to be, a ray of sunshine in our family.  Your smile and enthusiasm for life bring such a welcome energy into our home.  Your love of school and learning is apparent and your teachers always say you are a pleasure to have in class.  You amaze us with your ability to learn new things all by yourself.  You are so incredibly loving with your little sister and such a good friend to your older brother.  You love waffles, the zoo, the museum, eating out, tae kwon do, Garfield comics, playing Minecraft, macaroni and cheese, and stuffing your shirt with leaves while we're trying to rake.  You throw yourself wholeheartedly into everything you take on, with commitment and diligence that is beyond your seven years.  You are a gentle and generous soul, willing to share what you have to make others happy.  You are an example to us of unselfishness.  You are amazing!

You are my sweet, cuddly boy and each birthday is thrilling and painful for me all at the same time.  I sometimes tell you to stop growing up, but I don't really mean it.  Of course I want to see you grow up to be an honorable young man and develop your talents and meet every milestone - what parent wouldn't? But a little part of me would just love to freeze time and keep you forever just like this - eager to return my hugs and snuggle in bed and still wanting me to sing you songs at bedtime.  We love you more than we can say and are so very grateful for the miracle you are in our family.

Happy birthday, Daniel!


Halloween this year was a wet and windy adventure. The weather was, by all accounts, nasty.  Some cities even postponed trick-or-treating a day to avoid the storm, but not us.  "Suck it up," said the township.  So we did.

I should back up and say that, a few days before Halloween, we went to pumpkin carving night at Mason's school and created our spider masterpiece.  Sadly, I don't think I have a single picture of the completed pumpkin!  So you'll have to trust me when I say it was awesome.  I mean, look at this concentration:

On Halloween night, we started the evening with a spoooooky meal: mummy dogs, witches fingers, and eyeballs - delish!

This year we had a ninja, Harry Potter, and a little Dutch girl:

This is actually Mason's third year straight dressing as a ninja. It's his third ninja costume, though. We like to switch it up somehow! Danny already had the Harry Potter robe, glasses, and wand, so we just added the tie to complete the look.

As for Holland, I thought it would be cute to dress her in homage to her namesake country! I bought a pattern online and sewed the traditional Volendam hat.  I wanted to make the entire dress, but given my limited time, I opted instead to make a simple skirt and apron.  We added Brandon's childhood wooden shoes from Holland to complete the look:

Holland couldn't actually walk in the wooden shoes. Not well, anyway.

So we left those at home for Halloween.  In spite of the yucky weather, these little trick-or-treaters were out for at least an hour and came home with quite a haul! Holland got the hang of the process and was thrilled with her bounty. A good (and wet) time was had by all.

Until next year!