Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Birthday Tradition?

Tonight there are three extra third grade girls "sleeping" at our house. We have done fairly large birthday parties for Harper since she turned five and it felt like a good time to scale back.

No party room, no decorations, no second cake, no goodie bags, just four friends (including Harper), ice cream sundaes, and sleeping bags.

It wasn't until after we made this plan that I remembered that my mom and dad surprised me with a birthday sleepover when I turned nine.

My babysitter drove my sister and I to see a movie, The Journey of Natty Gann, and when we got back my friends were at my house! It was a great surprise. Incidentally I also remembered that it snowed that night. 

I don't feel right about posting pictures of Harper's friends without their parents' permission, but I found some old photos and I have no qualms about posting photos from my birthday celebration...

The girl standing is my sister, then from left to right on the floor are Rebecca, myself, Kristen, and Laura. Please note that Laura was holding a gumball machine which someone had given me. I was thrilled but, in retrospect, I wonder if my mom loved that gift. 

My mom also took a picture of all of us sleeping that night, but since you can see someone's underwear I decided against posting that particular photo.

I realize I never revealed what the mystery cake from Harper's family party actually was:

It WAS a pair of poorly executed pair of ballet slippers... so if there was a prize Swistle would be the winner. And, it did sort of look like the image I'd been working from. If I could find it again I would post it for comparison. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Three Year Christmas Mystery - SOLVED

We have this Willow Tree Nativity that I just love. I can't remember how many years we've had it, but it is one of my favorite things to pull out of storage when it is time to decorate for Christmas.

Exhibit A:

The last couple of years something mysterious has been happening with one of the Wise Men, specifically the one holding the box.

Exhibit B:

At some point in the day, most, if not all, days leading up to Christmas, I would look up and see that he was facing the wrong way.

Exhibit C:

I grilled both Harper and Matt (Michael was too little to reach) about it over and over, convinced that someone was playing a joke on me. It drove me crazy. But what was worse was that they were both pretty convincing in their denial. I jokingly said that it must be our Christmas ghost, but when it started to happen again this year I will admit to feeling a little nervous about the whole thing. 

Then, yesterday, while we were finishing decorating the tree, I noticed he had moved again, but this time we'd all be in the room together and I knew for certain that no one had touched him. 

Now the entertainment center the Nativity rests on is the kind that comes flat in a box and requires some assembling. It serves its purpose very well but isn't the sturdiest thing in the world. You can hear some of the knick-knacks rattle when someone, even a child, walks past. It rests on hard flooring, not carpet, so there isn't much in the way of shock absorption... can you see where this is going?

I realized, while we were decorating, that the bottom of that particular figure must be just a little uneven. When the shelf vibrates from someone walking by the figure rocks and turns just a little. If you stand near the corner of the entertainment center and shift weight from one foot to another you can actually watch it happening.

Case closed.

A Visit With The Mouse

I sort of thought I would post while we were on our trip to Florida with Michael. Unlike the previous times we've visited we were in a standard hotel room. It was easier to just give in and go to bed at a decent hour than to stay up late blogging when Matt and Michael were trying to sleep.

A few weeks ago came across a draft post I started to remind me of what I'd wanted to remember from our trip. It said: my very first real live dolphin, frog check up, slip sign, honchos, finding dinosaur clues, id card/watch indiglo, wishing in the fountain for Harper, "I just want everything!"

So I'll see if I can cover some of those if I can remember what they were about... and share some random photos as well.

In a moment of brilliance we purchased some noise cancelling headphones for Michael to wear so he might be less scared during loud shows and fireworks. It turned out to be a great idea. It didn't mean he was never afraid of anything, but it did help his anxiety some. I think they were like a little security blanket and helped him feel like he could try things out.

Oh our sweet boy, he loved all the Disney Junior stuff, even though he is a little older than their target demographic. He adores Doc McStuffins and I thought he would lose his mind when she was part of a show we saw.

I love Michael's obvious joy in this photo... and I used a bunch of stars to cover up all the faces because I really wanted to share but felt funny about putting very clear photos of children we don't know on the internet. 

Michael saw several tourists making the peace sign in their photos and started doing it as well. He has no idea what it means.

Michael got to demonstrate a lion roar during the Lion King show we saw at Animal Kingdom. I thought he'd be too shy to do it, but he was great.

I think this area is called "The Seas with Nemo and Friends." It is at EPCOT and it is one of the places Michael and I went back to revisit on a day that Matt was working. Harper was always kind of in a hurry to get to the next thing and wouldn't look very long, but Michael was fascinated and stayed at each tank for fifteen or twenty minutes. One of them had a couple of dolphins swimming around, prompting him to say, "It's my very first real-live dolphin!"

This was the fountain in the lobby of our hotel. The very first day, while Matt was checking in, I gave Michael a coin, telling him to think about our trip and make a special wish. He closed his eyes and threw his coin in. Then, clearly uninformed about wishing protocol, he looked up at me and said, "I wished Harper would have a good time with everyone in Ohio." I got all choked up in that moment - what a sweetheart!

One of the neat things about being on a solo trip with Michael was witnessing his imagination. Harper has often had imagination to spare, but we haven't always heard the inner workings of Michael's mind. Throughout the week he had some elaborate pretend game going in his mind and it involved looking for clues, either about dinosaurs or about where we should head next. It was cute, although it drove Matt especially crazy because Michael would just stop walking and squat down to examine something on the sidewalk without warning, making it difficult not to step on, or trip over, him.

Michael was a little flirt with the princesses. With each character that signed his book, he would tell them that he was going to give it to me when they were finished. It was like he was afraid they were going to run away before we could take a picture.

We went on a riverboat ride that lasted a good fifteen or twenty minutes and Michael bossed Matt and I around the whole time, pretending  he was the captain of the ship. It involved a lot of saying, "Aye, aye," and being told to check on things. 

"Slip sign" was what he called those yellow "slippery when wet" or "caution wet floor" signs. "Careful!" he'd say, "There's a slip sign!"

One day we got caught in a terrible downpour and Michael said, "We need our honchos!" He used this word, instead of "ponchos," often throughout the week.

The first time we rode on a ferry the driver gave Michael a little transportation card - he pretended it was some kind of ticket or pass throughout the week. He wanted to be able to scan it, like we did with our passes to get into the parks. When we used our park passes to enter the parks there was a little Mickey Mouse shape that lit up... Michael wanted his to work this way when he was pretending so he would hold it up to my watch and hit the indiglo button. I have to admit I thought that was kind of genius.

Another thing that was sort of funny because it is so out of character for Michael was how he handled the shopping. He had a little money to pick out a souvenir. Michael is not a child who talks often about stuff he wants (unlike his sister), but he was a little beside himself about the choices at Disney. He would look around and exclaim, "I just want everything!"

The frog check up (the only thing from the above list that I think I haven't addressed) really deserves its own post. Maybe I'll get to that in December, this is long enough for now!

Missing Teeth

I remember being so emotional when Harper lost her first tooth and for some reason it isn't hitting me the same way with Michael. His first tooth came out about a month/six weeks ago...

We had to write a note to The Tooth Fairy because we didn't actually have the tooth...

The above note says, "Dear Tooth Fairy, Sorry we do not know where my tooth is. -Michael" 

He was with Matt and Harper at a roller skating birthday party for one of Harper's friends when it fell out. We are pretty sure he ate it with his pizza.

Then, not long after, he lost the other bottom one. We, er, didn't have that one either.

"Dear The Tooth Fairy, We lost my tooth. We think I swallowed it. I ate it with a taco. -Michael" 

He was very tired when we were writing that note, which is why I finished up for him.

The two teeth out at the same time worked very well for our family photos...

(Thanks again to Danielle of Chocolate Pudding Moments!)

It's funny how things worked out. Harper would have been so upset not to have her teeth to leave for the Tooth Fairy, but Michael wasn't really bothered at all. The notes worked just fine. 

Should I be worried that he had two teeth come out in his mouth without really noticing? The second time I just jokingly asked after dinner if he still had his tooth and the answer was no!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Something There That Wasn't There Before

Ok, so, for Harper's dance competitions all the girls have to wear the same pair of blingy earrings. They come in both clip on and pierced varieties. For her birthday Matt and I gave Harper a box with three pairs of the earrings in them. Yes, three, we have to use them for all performances from January until the end of May and I am told it is very hard to get your hands on more mid-season. 

Anyway - we thought buying two clip on pairs and one pierced pair would be a fun way to let Harper know we were going to let her get her ears pierced. 

We gave her the gift of earrings when the family was over to celebrate her birthday last Saturday. I already had an appointment to get them pierced this past Wednesday.

Harper and I went to Chipotle for lunch before the appointment so it would feel more like an event. The lighting isn't great for this photo (she looks so tired!) but please notice her unblemished ears.

Through I friend I found a pediatrician that pierces ears (ours doesn't) and was willing to do it, even for someone who wasn't a regular patient. I had heard some unfortunate stories about the cleanliness, or lack thereof, of mall places. Since my children seem to have temperamental/reactive bodies (see allergies, asthma, eczema) this seemed like the best way to go. The only problem with having your ears pierced in a pediatrician's office is that it goes much like an actual pediatrician appointment, complete with paperwork, answering lots of questions, and lots and lots of waiting. 

Harper was so nervous!

If there was a downside (other than the paperwork and the waiting) to going the pediatrician route, it's that the only choices for earrings were silver or gold hearts or circles. Harper chose silver circles. I think Harper was hoping for something a bit more sparkly, but she only has to stick with this pair for the first couple of months. 

The pediatrician was very precise about the placement of the earrings and explained that she pierced so that the earrings were even with each other, rather than in the exact center of each particular lobe. Did you know that most of us have uneven earlobes? I did not.

I present, a nine-year-old with pierced ears!

They grow up so fast - sniff, sniff.

And It's Not Even All Of Them!

One of the reasons the children and I joined Matt on his most recent business trip was the fact that two of my best friends in the world, and their families, live in St. Louis. Tracy and Erin are friends from college and even though it isn't really all that far from here to St. Louis, I don't see them nearly often enough.

It was interesting to get all of the children together - Tracy and Erin and their husbands each have four! My children hadn't seen Tracy or Erin's children in a long time, I wasn't sure how they would do together. As it turns out they children had quite a bit of (loud and rambunctious) fun, and they are mostly old enough that they could run around together while the adults sat in the kitchen and chatted.

We were only ALL together for a couple of hours. Harper and Michael were already operating at a deficit because my family had been in town up until the morning we left. Being already over-tired and sort of birthday-ed out, then spending several hours in the car, and then running around with eight unfamiliar-ish kids is probably not a recipe for everyone being on their best behavior... Even so, I am looking forward to a return visit soon. Maybe when the weather is warmer and the children can go bananas outside?

As we were getting ready to leave Tracy's house we decided to try to get all the children together in a group shot - three of us were standing there snapping away on our phones (I'd left my actual camera in a suitcase).
I believe the ages went like this: a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old (almost eight!), two six-year-olds, a five-year-old, a four-year-old (almost five!), a newly four-year-old, a three-year-old, a two-year-old, and a one-year-old...

This is not a good picture, but doesn't it look like the sort of exposure that might accidentally happen with a film camera?

I hope one day all six of my closest college friends, our spouses, significant others, and children can be in the same place together - I'll be sure to get a picture when we do.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lost Days

Technically I am doing a terrible job with this post every day in November thing... however, I still think I can hit 30 posts for the 30 days and we'll agree to count that as success. Because I said so.

So where have we been? 

We had family in town and then left town ourselves - more about both of those later. For now, here is a photo of the kids in a hotel pool in Evansville, Indiana, taken sometime yesterday morning:

By child's definition a road trip is worthwhile if you get to swim in a hotel pool... right?

Don't forget to enter the Christmas music giveaway!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Almost That Time of Year

I'll gently remind you that we have a strict No-Christmas-Before-Thanksgiving rule in these parts, although this time of year it can get.... difficult to resist because I do love Christmas so. I got some new Christmas music for my birthday which, as far as I'm concerned, is an excellent perk to a November birthday. 

I have probably posted this to the blog before, but here is a photo of some of my Christmas music collection:

This is actually just a portion of my Christmas music collection...

I took this a couple of years ago when Michael wanted to share at preschool about our Christmas collection. We bring out the music, books, and movies when we decorate for Christmas as well.

If you've been reading here for a long time you may know where this is going... I think it is time to resurrect the Christmas music giveaway. 

Here's how it works - if you'd like me to make you a Christmas CD just leave a comment on this post. In a couple of weeks I will randomly choose a winner and then contact that person with a handful of questions that will help me make a CD to his/her personal preferences. If you think I might not have your contact information, you should leave your email in the comment as well. In the past I'd said I would make one CD for every twelve entries. I don't think that will be an issue this year, but I'll do it again if that many people happen to comment. 

I'll leave the contest going until Monday, December 2nd. I want the winner to have time to enjoy the CD before we have to put all the Christmas items away again!

To sum up:

1. Leave a comment letting me know you want to enter.

2. I will draw a winner for a Christmas CD (or more if there are more than twelve entries) on Tuesday, December 3.

3. You will received the best Christmas CD ever in the mail the next week.

Enter away!

Birthday Raffle

For a week, maybe two, Harper has been making her own plans for our day of celebrating her birthday. Like many others, we've been gripped by the Rainbow Loom bug in this house. Harper decided to make enough bracelets for the number of people who would attend the party and then raffle them off!

She made a box for each bracelet, and numbered them.

Please notice the tool belt she re-purposed as a raffle ticket holder... we each had a roll of five tickets, which she gave out and then thoughtfully provided pens for us to write our names on our five tickets.

We had to put the tickets into the boxes for the bracelets we were interested in winning. 

Then she drew names and announced the winners... I have to give so much credit to our family members who cheered when they won, and who pouted (my brother, Jamie) when not called at all. 

I think it all went off just as Harper imagined.

Except maybe for the fact that Michael won three times.

Thanks for playing along, everyone!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Any Guesses?

Today several family members are coming over to celebrate Harper's 9th birthday. I followed her seemingly simple request for a cake this year. Once again, I have over-estimated my ability to draw with frosting! I really don't like the taste of fondant but I may have to rethink that one of these years. Oh well... The purple polka-dot candies were a nice (nut-free!) touch. 

Can you tell what it is?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bedtime Music

When I was in high school a friend's older sister had a mix tape that was like a magic bullet for falling asleep. I think we called it, "The Sleep Tape." I used it several times when I was all wired and couldn't settle down (I think this is a night owl trait) and never successfully listened to the entire A side or the entire B side without drifting off to sleep. I was thinking that it might be nice to make a CD or playlist version of that cassette or something similar. I have a ton of mellow music that I think could be powerfully sleep inducing if combined correctly...

Two nights ago Michael was sitting in a chair in my bedroom while I folded laundry. I put a CD in and walked out of the room for a minute. When I came back he looked like this:

The CD was Joshua Radin's We Were Here, in case you want to induce sleep in any of your children, you might give it a try.

That picture, by the way, was taken at 6:50 p.m. I got him into his pajamas and into bed by 7:00 and he didn't get up until 7:00 the next morning. I guess he was tired. 

And I know where to begin with that playlist.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In the Kitchen

As I was preparing our dinner tonight I was struck by this thought about the year I spent working...

If you are anything like me, the first time you try a new recipe it feels a little cumbersome and awkward. Maybe it seems like more trouble that it's worth. You don't mind the process, exactly, but as you are doing it that first time, you are already thinking that this recipe might not be a keeper.

However, if dinner turns out really well, and even 3/4 of the people around your dinner table enjoy it, you might give it another try. Eventually it becomes a family favorite and you can make it without even glancing at the recipe. That first time you made it is sort of a foggy memory and you laugh a little at your past-self for finding it so challenging.

The time I spent working last year? It felt like making the recipe for the first time every. single. day.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Earlier this month I wrote about going to have our photos taken at an arboretum near our house. A couple of weeks ago we got to see a few sneak peek photos on Facebook, but tonight we were able to click through all the images on the photographer's website. Oh my...

I am still not a fan of having my photo taken but I love the job Danielle did of capturing our family. I am going to hold off on linking to her website right now, just in case you can see our last name with the photos. HOWEVER if we know you already please ask for her information and I will share, I will also share it on Facebook eventually.

Here is one of my favorites of the children:

(Taken by Danielle)

I cannot say enough good things about working with Danielle. I hope she keeps taking photos in our area for a long, long time because we certainly plan to work with her again.

UPDATE: Danielle did a clever thing on her website and just called us, "Midwest Mom's Family" no last name needed.! You can find her online at Chocolate Pudding Moments.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

At Nine

Dear Harper,

I'm afraid today wasn't your favorite birthday ever. Last night ended with you in your room, crying, talking, crying some more, until about 10. You were already declaring that you didn't want today to be your birthday, saying you knew it would be a bad day. Poor girl.

I think you were having some moments of feeling overwhelmed. You've been a busy girl this year, with lots of time devoted to extra curricular activities. Activities you've loved, but I think they've also had you feeling a little un-moored, missing some of the family time that we've sacrificed.

And then today turned out not to be so bad, until we were getting ready to leave your grandparents house and ended up huddling in their pantry when we realized the tornado sirens were going off. You lost your mind a little bit and I take 100% blame for that because you most definitely inherited/learned your storm anxiety from me.

Dance is pushing you this year, really pushing, because of the time it takes up and because it is forcing you to feel physical limitations you haven't noticed before. It's actually kind of remarkable that you are a competitor in only your third year of dancing (at six, you apparently got a late start...), but all you are feeling right now is that you are not as accomplished as some of your peers.

As much as I hate to see you upset I also know how much you are growing from this experience. Things have come easily for you in the realm of school and you don't have a lot of practice with not excelling. The truth is, as wonderful as you are in so many ways, you just aren't going to excel at everything. The sooner you learn this, the better. Although I suspect you'll actually have to learn it over and over again.

While it has been the source of some frustration for you, I have loved watching you dance this year. I have been so impressed by your poise and how quickly you make adjustments. You are learning all the time. I hope you are able to find some patience for yourself and not drop it at the end of this year because of the challenge. However, if you decide you don't want to compete and you want to take class just for fun, we will love and support that, too.

At nine-years-old you are already practicing the art of eye-rolling, foot stomping, and door slamming. We argue over the state of your room, your attitude toward your brother, your propensity to leave your things strewn throughout the house, and whether your hair should be up or down. The teenage turmoil... it is coming.

I'm cringing at some of the moody changes in you, despite knowing how necessary and unavoidable they are, but I'm also really enjoying the things we can share as you mature. We've been watching movies together - some favorites from this year include Hook, Fairy Tale: a True Story, and The Princess Bride. And we've been reading fun books together, we just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone tonight. We play interesting games (Pretty, Pretty Princess might be a thing of the past for good) and have thoughtful conversations. You are developing a quick wit and sarcasm like your father possesses. This is probably not great in your third-grade classroom, but I bet it is something your friends will enjoy about you when you're older.

Nine was one of my favorite years as a child. When I was nine I sort of felt the responsibility of getting older, but I still felt free to enjoy lots of childhood things. As we find our way throughout this next year, I will commit to remembering this and do my best to give you plenty of space to just be a child. I will remind myself to be patient with both of us. And I will make sure to just sit with you once in a while so you can still climb up in my lap, curl into my arms, lay your head on my shoulder, and hear me whisper, "I love you," whenever you need it. Because I do, and I know you will always need me to tell you.

I love you, Harper.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Elf-Help and Pre-Pre-Teenage Breakdown

First of all, let me just issue a friendly reminder... IF you choose to Elf on the Shelf things this year, please accept this gift of permission for your elf to just show up and then show up somewhere different the next day. If you are the type of person who likes to use your elf to create a mischievous holiday tableau day after day, by all means, do. But if you aren't - do not let Pinterest shame you!

This message brought to you by the Society For Sane Parents.


Ho-boy did we have ourselves a melt-down of epic proportions this evening. It started with our sort of ongoing battle over the state of Harper's room - which seems to swing wildly back and forth between perfectly clean and holy $hit did a small tornado tear through the corner of the house?! She has, I fear, more than the typical child propensity to leave things all over the place. I find her socks throughout the house. Or gum wrappers in her desk drawer - when there is an actual trash can beneath the very desk! It is perplexing to say the least. 

I get that some of this is human nature - she is less concerned with order in her surroundings than I am. And I have really, REALLY tried to temper my expectations for what happens in her bedroom because, well, it isn't MY room. But things have reached a point where I really feel like if we don't insist on some basic skills like, I don't know, not dropping things wherever you happened to be finished with them and walking away, we're going to be seeing her on a hoarding show in about twenty years. 

Is this a nine-year-old thing? A kid thing? Or just a Harper thing? My bet is at least a little on the latter because I have been picking her socks up from all over the house since 2005.


Yesterday I turned 37 years old.

It was a quite birthday. Matt and I were actually supposed to take Harper to Columbus to celebrate her birthday, just the three of us. Unfortunately both Matt and Harper were feeling a little under the weather so we decided to postpone the trip.

Instead we got into our jammies and snuggled under several layers of blankets and watched two movies in a row. The first was Despicable Me and the second was The Princess Bride.

Despicable Me was Harper's choice. The Princess Bride was mine - and it was a first viewing for Harper and possibly for Matt as well. At least he doesn't remember seeing it... The Princess Bride is my absolute favorite movie.  Harper's verdict was that she liked it but had trouble understanding a lot of what they were saying. Was it the accents? The late 80's dialogue? Who knows. Matt felt it necessary to comment on the acting, which he found sub-par. (What?) Harper also though it looked like it was definitely an old movie...Matt might be a lost cause, but I bet it will grow on Harper as she gets older.

All-in-all it wasn't a bad way to spend my birthday.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


How about some home improvement updates? While it isn't anything horribly exciting, we recently had our exterior doors replaced. Here are some before and afters...

The main front door:

Interior before... notice the lovely stained glass window... the panes are sitting in our basement if you want them. This door was a pain because you needed a key to lock and unlock it, even from inside. And it swelled in the summer so you couldn't lock or unlock it at all. (It was locked for three months.)

New door! With locks that work easily! Now that the door functions we took some furniture out of that space - it used to have a small book shelf and desk, and can actually use it as an entry way.

Here's the old door from outside... 

And the new front door we can actually use!

The secondary front door - next to the garage:

This is the door we use most often - the coat hooks were cleaned off to get ready for the door guys.

The new door works great and lets in a little light.

The old door from outside, this is where most everyone came into the house and probably still will after nearly nine years of building the habit.

The comparison would be better if I had taken the photos from the same angle, oh well. Here's the new door.

The patio door:

This door goes out to the back patio and yard - it's an important one because it is the door we use to let the dog in and out 95% of the time. The dead bolt on this one stopped working a while ago so we had to keep the door knob locked and try not to lock ourselves out when we used the back yard.  A nail in the frame for the storm door would frequently work loose and the door would get stuck on it, making it impossible to open or close. That was fun.

The new door, also in working order, it's amazing how happy this makes me.

And the patio door from outside... 

The new door is pretty and functional, and, so far, we never have to be worried that it won't open!
We also replaced the door that leads into the backyard from the garage, but I didn't take before pictures of that one... the door was actually splintering and warped at the bottom from the weather exposure. All the doors we replaced were original wooded doors and were about 60 years old. The new ones have a lifetime warranty, so this is one project we're hoping to be sort of done with forever. 

Now we just need to replace all of the (46!) windows, repave the driveway, renovate both bathrooms, have the roof replaced, finish the basement...