30 December 2010

Six Years Today

All day we've regailed Amelia with stories about our "temple day," looked at photos from the day, and enjoyed hunkering down while a blizzard rages outside. Justin anticipated the blizzard so we took a couple hours off yesterday to drive to Cheyenne for sushi and pleasure shopping. Alison watched the kiddos for us. Justin let me browse Hobby Lobby for an hour, *smile*. Oh man, sushi was heavenly. I even enjoyed my favorite seaweed salad. I am craving hot and spicy foods during this pregnancy, the sushi was not so spicy. We hit TJ Maxx, Ross, and Walmart just for fun. We finally scored a nice wok from TJ Maxx. By 8:10 we were back in Sidney. Alison put the kids to bed and fell asleep on our couch while we caught a late movie. Earlier in the week I thought this was our 5th wedding anniversary, guess time flies when you are having fun.

Tuesday Ella and Brayden spent the day with us while Alison and Matt attended a wedding in Denver. The weather seemed relatively temperate until the blasted wind kicked up. Still we braved the wind and played at the park for 45 minutes. Phillip was so excited. He chattered away like a squirrel talking about the park. I could hardly keep up with him! Brayden amused himself throwing rocks at the frozen fish and numerous geese. We all met Justin at McDonald's for lunch. I miss being outside. After noon I let the kids play with Amelia's Moon Dough Santa brought her. Santa thought maybe Moon Dough would be superior to play dough. Oh My Goodness. It was worse. The Moon Dough claims to never dry out, that claim is true. It crumbles horribly and makes a fantastic mess. Course, the kids had a blast on my studio floor. I think a quarter of the dough ended up inside the vacuum.

All week my Uncle Scott and I enjoyed emailing about photography. I finally put my pride aside and asked for help. Scott gave me some amazing advice and information. I put one major piece of advice to work on Wednesday for a photo shoot planned several months ago. He suggested I use an 18% gray card to calibrate my camera for both exposure AND white balance. The gray card worked like a charm. My poor gray card sat in my photography supplies for 3 years not knowing how to use it. The card warmed up my subjects perfectly even though the day was gray and gloomy. Thanks so much Uncle Scott.

Today Amelia helped me hang some decorations for the inside of her playhouse. I fleshed out her rose boxes with the same roses found at Walmart (phew, that was almost an emergency). I also used my cousin Jessica's tutorial to make a new cover for my ironing board with fabric from Hobby Lobby.

26 December 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas day. Phillip woke up at 7, crying and screaming with out his binky. We woke up Amelia soon after. She cried a little at first saying Santa forgot to come...then she noticed her bulging stocking. Justin helped her open the stocking stuff while I light candles and got the Christmas magic going. The first thing she noticed were the many balloons stuffed into the tree. When Santa visited the Bruce Call kids he left balloons. Phillip pulled the balloons he could reach first thing. After a couple minutes Amelia spotted her purple unicorn pillow pet under the tree. She immediately plopped down and snuggled it. The dang thing is pretty cute! Phillip watched us rip open a few gifts then proceeded to enjoy his gifts. I love his little expressions, he loved the fire truck from the Call grandparents. After that he got a little overwhelmed. Justin was helping the kids rush through their gifts awfully fast. I was thinking, "geepers, what is the hurry man?!" There were only a few gifts left when he popped up and said Santa left me a present in the trunk of his car. Well, my thoughtful husband got me a monolight/strobe set for Christmas. I saved my pennies for six months and ended up spending it all on a new computer out of necessity. He got the kit back in November. He surprised me to the point of losing my words and silly quips. Wow! Spoiled! He definitely made the best spouse of the year.

Justin made traditional sausages and non-traditional eggs for breakfast. After eating we told Amelia that we had a present so big we could not wrap it down in the basement. I tied a blindfold around her head and lead her into the craft room. She was turned around facing the bed when the blindfold came off. Her expression said, wow, your room is clean for once...MOM. Once turned around she was sort of stunned into silence not really comprehending what she looked at. Then we told her to open the door to her new house, it was all over then. Both kids ran in and out, around and through the little space. She was delighted with the jewels in the mailbox, her babies, and the kitchen. Phillip was delighted peeking out the windows and opening the door. I still have plans to built an awning over the door for some dimension and a couple decorations inside the house. For amateurs Justin and I did a great job! Check this link for playhouse photos.

We all got a nice nap, ate snacky foods, stayed in our comfy clothes, and watched too many movies. Amelia and I went to the park for a spell and took her pillow pet outside so she could "lay on my pillow pet in the grass and watch the clouds." The temperature was nearly 55 degrees outside with clear, sunny skies. Justin helped me make egg rolls and hot & sour soup for dinner. I played with my new light using Amelia and her pillow pet for subjects. Strobe lighting is an entire new beast to learn about and discover! So excited! Our evening turned a little sketchy at bedtime. All the excitement of the day caught up with Amelia and she melted diva style. She finally calmed down enough to get some snuggles. She told me the following:
            Mom, my heart is broken because my binkies went to the baby elves. Do you think we can go to the
            North Pole and get them. Phillip's heart is broken too because he likes to suck on binkies. He needs
            his binkies because he is little. Oh, my heart is soooo sad. I don't like sucking on plastic toy bandaids,
            thumbs, or fingers, just binkies. I then suggested we say a prayer that HF and Jesus would help her
            heart feel happy again. She prayed that Jesus would bring her back her binkies and give the baby
            elves new binkies from Walmart.
It was unbelievably hard to hear her describe the way her heart was feeling. I actually had wet eyes after doing my best to comfort her. The rest of the night was not so fun, nothing out of the ordinary. Phillip had another rough night, but not so bad as the previous night. He has the hardest time waking up happy for the time being.

Just a note: I finally weaned Phillip down to one long afternoon nap. Our mornings are still a little rocky but getting better as he sleeps longer in the morning and at his nap. Once this new baby comes we will have naps under control and no binkies to pass around, just the new baby's binky.

24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

 The excitement is raging in our little family. The playhouse is done...last night! Santa cookies made, shopping done, bread and clam chowder cooking, kiddos clamoring, and Christmas music jamming the airwaves. What a perfect, lazy day. Can't wait for tomorrow.

Yesterday I made a monumental decision. Santa is picking up the kid's binkies for the crying, baby elves in the North Pole this evening. We are going to wrap a box Santa can take. Phillip started throwing his binky across the room and screaming for me to come give it back, over and over, throughout the night. I came to the point of entertaining the thought of pinning his binky to his PJs, then thought about my THREE year old daughter, nearly four, still sucking hers. I am dreading this step, but the lack of sleep cannot get much worse. Both kids are waking up 4-8 times per night, often alternating. I crave a night with no interruptions. Wish us luck! The baby elves are going to give the kids a cute note and maybe even a little surprise. Amelia went to bed sucking on a plastic bandaid toy. Phillip cried for over an hour, poor kid he gets the boot by default.

Last night Ella and Amelia exchanged gifts. Amelia exclaimed that Ella's gift to her, "was the best first gift I've ever gotten!" I snapped a photo showing the height difference between my shrimpy Amelia and the tall Ella. Cute gals, eh?! Amelia is about 10 days older. Alison gave me a cute watch band and a gift certificate for some luscious fabric. The best part of her gift was securing some time with a local photographer. I assisted Kelly Highby photograph a set a twin boys last Friday. Alison picked up my kiddos and let me play for a 3-4 hours. That was a super fun time.

Wednesday our ward had our Christmas party. Right before the party I got a stinkin' cute hair cut. Amelia told the guy who cut my hair to make my hair straight like hers. He did with super cute results. Amelia took some photos of me. I may need to hire her services, she did a good job! The dinner was potluck. Our gym was jam packed with folks. Christmas brings out a lot of folks we don't often see. I think for the first time most of the food was consumed. I did not take any stew home! After dinner we had a little program. I sang "Immanuel, Immanuel" by Sally DeFord. My first solo in MANY years. I felt just a tad bit nervous, ok multiply that by about 100.

21 December 2010

Doughnut Eve

Growing up my Mom made (makes) fantastic doughnuts. I have a strange and strong craving for doughnuts just about 10 times per day. I grieved after discovering Sidney has a scrumptious doughnut store, it means restraint. Once a year I make doughnuts to eat and pass out to friends, usually around Christmas. The Haley's were kind enough to come eat doughnuts and spend FHE with us. With the four extra kids we played out the Nativity Story.

Drew: Joseph
Ella: Mary
Cassie (Mia's baby doll): Jesus
Phillip: Shepherd
Brayden: Monk-eep (a sheep in a monkey towel)
Amelia: Angel
Morley: the embodiment of all 3 wisemen

Justin narrated the story for us, with me butting in every so often. Then we ate about 6 doughnuts per person. This year I made two new glazes, raspberry and almond vanilla. Not much is better than a fresh, hot, gooey doughnut.

Saturday Rose watched Amelia for us all morning. We got the playhouse wall up and several plans going. Yesterday and today I painted the structure. Justin worked on assembling the roof. Alison gave me the idea to use tissue paper and paint to texture the outside wall. It looks soooo amazing! Before Christmas we need to get the trim up, the door hardware, the roof finished, and the curtains hung. I think the rest will wait until later. We are calling this a work in progress. Amelia and Phillip will never know!!

16 December 2010

Letter M, Christmas, and Stars

This week Preschool was at our home! We learned about the letter M, our theme was Christmas, and our shape was a star. I totally did not get any photos on Monday. We were that busy having way too much fun. The cutest part is the Pledge of Allegiance. The kids pretty much know all the words, they get their right hand over the heart mixed up, still pretty impressive. Monday we sang 5 Little Monkeys in a Tree and several Christmas songs. Amelia and I made muffins for snack. We used a mini muffin tin to make our own crayons. While the crayons set I helped the kids write a letter to Santa. Crack me up! Little Bryn said she was a grumpy girl and not a good girl. Zane wanted Santa to bring his sister some new barbies, a helicopter, and a purple pillow pet. I think there was some peer pressure involved. The kids had a blast playing dress the bear, pin the tail on the donkey style. The blind fold really threw them for a loop.

Yesterday we repeated the same songs from Monday. Zane and Lily were excited about our scientific observation. I placed about 20 different objects on the ground to sort into magnetic and non magnetic piles. Then we tested our piles with some magnets. We made star wishing wands with glitter foam, curling ribbon, and dowels. While I helped the kids put their wands together I had them reenact the Christmas Story with Amelia's Nativity. It was funny to watch them interpret the story as it unfolded. Our treat was decorating and eating sugar cookies shaped like stars and other Christmas shapes. I honestly was a little grossed out watching the kids lick the knives and double, triple, and quadruple dip.

My new VT companion, the kids, and I drove to Potter to visit our ladies after preschool. Stacey was working at the library so we were finally able to meet with her. She does an amazing job running a cute little library. Next we visited Camy and little baby Addison. Camy let Amelia hold Addy for a little while. She was bursting with pride!

Tuesday we finally got the wood for the playhouse project. I hope we can finish in time! Justin cut the windows out last night. I hope to paint and finish the outer curtains before Saturday. Rose volunteered to watch Amelia for a couple hours on Saturday, our only day to get the walls up.

On another note, I decided to close my photography business for an undetermined amount of time. I am getting very frustrated with my results of late. My camera, editing process, prints, and skills are not producing results I am very proud of. Geesh, the waterworks burst open on Tuesday. Sometimes a good cry is just what I need to clear my mind. I found out Tuesday afternoon that my newer fancy monitor does not read/interpret the red channel properly. My prints are always a little on the red/orange side. In spite of all my attempts to follow the directions given by the printing company my results are always off. Justin helped me calibrate my monitor to no avail. I could see specific color aberrations on my old monitor but not the new one. The old monitor does not interpret white/dark very well my new monitor has color issues. Shoot Dang. I need a break to sort through and organize the 20,000 photos now sitting on my new computer. Add another 5,000 of photos stored on disks and I have a big project. Once I finish sorting maybe a new solution will come to mind. Boo-hoo.

13 Days of Christmas

Obviously, this post is a couple days late since Christmas is less than 13 days away. James and Miekka had our family for Christmas this year. Miekka found and wrapped 13 Christmas stories for us to enjoy. Amelia is loving that she can open a present and read a new story for bedtime. The second night was not so fun because she was tired and cranky, but still after the melt down she enjoyed snuggling with me and a new book. I love this idea! I think Miekka inspired a possible new family tradition.

Monday evening we decorated a gingerbread house for FHE. I did the frosting and Amelia helped me decorate. The men folk watched and mostly ignored our attempts. I love pre-fab gingerbread kits. Each day Amelia and I sit down and use her nativity set to go over the Christmas Story. She seems to understand a bit better that Christmas is to celebrate baby Jesus' birthday. We are working on the giving factor...probably will for the next 10 years or so!

12 December 2010

Santa? Again?!

Justin was gone hunting water fowl yesterday morning. I made the mistake of telling Amelia that Santa was at Cabela's around 10 am. Lately she only wants to do new things. She will only watch new movies, only go to new parks, new Walmarts, wear new clothes, eat new food, etc. In the end she always picks something she's done before. I guess her little world is expanding and she realizes the possibilities of other places and things. So after telling her that Santa was at Cabela's her first response was, "not that Santa...again! We need to see a new Santa, not the same one." Then she decided that seeing Santa in Sidney was a little limited and thought that any ole Santa would do. From that moment until we left for the store she mapped and planned out her visit. We left around 2:30 once Justin got home. I spent a good hour trying to get my serger threaded with white thread. The tie on method has not worked for me yet so I usually end up rethreading the dang thing about 30 times until it works. Next time I am getting a self-threading machine. I made curtains for the inside of Amelia's play house and finished laundry while waiting for Justin. Amelia wanted to bring Apple and Bunny Gunny so Santa could meet them. Amelia ended up sitting on Santa's lap for a good five minutes. The ladies manning the photo desk wanted to take a photo for something else so we waited a little while. First, Amelia introduced her animals to Santa then sat on his lap talking his ear off. I heard part of her conversation:

Santa, I want a ball, purple, a purple ball that my brother Phillip won't like. I also want a pillow pet, the furry purple kind, with a sparkly horn called a unicorn. I want to unzip it and take it outside in my tent to watch the stars, the soft pillow unicorn under my head, then fall asleep. Maybe I can even have rest my leggies time with my unicorn pillow pet. What are you getting for Christmas, Santa? Candy canes are my favorite. This is my brother Phillip, he does not like you very much.
 It was super cold and blustery yesterday. The city Jaycees hosted a Christmas party out at the fair grounds. First, there was a short (thank goodness) light parade. Phillip was quiet most of the time, his huge eyes the only telling part at how much he enjoyed the parade. We trekked to the fair grounds for chili, cinnamon rolls, and hot chocolate with about a quarter of our little community. The kids could decorate little ornaments, listen to Mrs Claus read a story, and sit on Santa's lap again. It was fun to do something a little extraordinary to bring in the Christmas spirit.

I am constantly finding shrines around the house. Yesterday Amelia took her clothes hamper, tipped it upside down and made a shrine on top. The shrine was a little basket, a photo of her, and a blanket covering her bottle of peppermint lotion. In the living room is a shrine to the snowman. All the snowmen are in one location smooched together so they cover a tiny baby snowman. On the couch is a candle lid, filled with water, covering a penny, sitting on top a napkin, this ensemble is all covered with a towel. Her newest shrine is shown above. She taped the piano to fix it. What you can't see is that in between some of the keys are tiny spangles from a Christmas decoration. I am sure at one time a nice towel or blanket covered the keys as well. Next time you are over see how many Amelia shrines you can locate!! LOL

11 December 2010

Slow-Simmered Pork with Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno Vinaigrette

Several folks requested this delicious recipe. It is one of my favorites! The recipe can be found in the Classic Recipe book, Better Homes and Gardens, 2005, pg 210.

1 4-lb boneless pork shoulder roast

5 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground with a mortar and pestle.
1 Tbs brown sugar
1-2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp pepper

combine seasonings in a small bowl, rub mixture onto meat. In a slow cooker combine

2 medium onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
12 oz of cola

cover and cook for 9-10 hours on low, 4-5 on high until meat is tender.

1/4 cup oil
1 lb roma tomatoes, diced
1 12-16 oz jar of pickled jalapenos
2/3 cup cilantro
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

in a large skillet, heat oil, add tomatoes and cook. Drain jalapenos, reserving juice, add juice and rest of ingredients. Dice a handful of jalapenos and add to mixture. Cook until the tomatoes are reduced and thickened.

I shred the pork, remove onions, and place on a platter. I serve the dish with corn tortillas, warmed in a pan, two tortillas paired with cheese in the middle, melted in the pan (like a corn quesadilla). Add meat, fresh cilantro, tomato-jalapeno sauce, and more jalapenos...and limes. Let the burn come! Enjoy.

10 December 2010

And Now We are Five

 Apple, Flower, and Bunny Gunny
Amelia modeling her Christmas PJs from Grandma Debbie

So most of you have heard or figured out that I am pregnant! Yippee! I included this tidbit in our Christmas card, so maybe it is time to announce it here too. The new baby is due around 10 June 2011. This one turned out to be a surprise, at least time wise. It took us a while to get pregnant with both Amelia and Phillip, this one was well less than a month. Guess the new baby is anxious to join our madness. Amelia is convinced I am having twin girls, Belle and Aurora. I think she is right about a girl, wrong about the twins. Morning (aka 24 hour) sickness is mostly passed. This time around morning sickness was super uncomfortable and prolonged, paired with nasty migraines I was laid low most days. At the magical 13th week I started to feel human again. Earlier this week Amelia and I watched some videos about fetal development. At one point the video showed an animation on the umbilical cord with blood cells flowing. She is most pleased to tell anyone that she had a long, long, long, long, long Dee-Doo (our word for belly button) with cheerios in it. Perfect example of a child indexing new knowledge into an existing category. Too funny.

Monday I spent the entire day in Scottsbluff shopping and attending two Dr appts. Amelia stayed with Alison and Ella. I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of shopping with ease and finishing Christmas shopping without knowing eyes. We picked up Fork from Walmart after doing some shopping there. Amelia renamed Fork, she is now known as Bunny Gunny the girl Reindeer. Phillip wiggled himself out of the cart seat belt and nose planted himself onto the hard floor. Poor kid had a fat lip and bleeding nose. He cried for 10 minutes then resumed flirting with anyone who paid attention. One sweet couple gave Phillip a dollar and bought him two large packages of M&Ms. Oh, the delighted chortling from that kid! The M&Ms did get us through the rest of the day. I met with an Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor first. He suggested cauterizing my tonsils first before considering removing them. He stuck a huge match into my mouth and cauterized my right tonsil. Strange sensation! I will visit him another couple times until my tonsil crypts are all cauterized. Next we saw the OBGYN. Took about 5 minutes, peed in a cup, listened to the heartbeat, chatted for a second, and left. The Dr was a little concerned I had not gained weight. Dude, I have an active 16 month old, who would gain weight?

The rest of our week was pretty laid back. Justin worked on setting up my new computer. He transferred ALL of my photos into my new system. Guess it really is time to organize everything. Overwhelming!! Sleep was hard to come by this week. Phillip was awake most of Monday night, due to a headache from his fall. Amelia is having growing pains again. Last night she complained of: itchy leg, hurting mouth, fever, achy leg, then a twitching little toe. After each pain, all at different times during the night, she requested to sleep with me. I think she just wanted to sleep with me so tried to think of painful things. I thought the twitchy toe was inventive. 

05 December 2010

Great Expectations

My poor craft room gets quite the rough treatment most days. I play up a storm of fabric, thread, and accessories. After I am finished playing I usually shut the door tight and wish for the Shoe Maker's Elves to pay me a visit. They never, ever come. Monday, I finally faced the truth...I made a HUGE mess. Time to clean up. As I drudged through fabric scraps my heart sank, but my mind was spinning new projects. It was super hard to just clean. As I cleaned I thought about my winter project: to finally declutter and dejunk after two moves. May as well start with the craft room. Monstrous task is an understatement. Amelia and Phillip played house in the corner while I sorted. Suddenly a brilliant idea occurred to me. I wanted to make a play house for the kids in my craft room for ages. While studying the logistics I realized that the North-East corner was perfect. All I need is a big piece of wood, L brackets, and some elbow grease. The corner above is my next project. It took me a couple days to move my gigantic crafting table and finish cleaning. I was a little hesitant to break my idea to Justin, oddly, he totally took my idea in stride! Yipee!! Alison helped me figure out a couple things. We plan on at least having the wall, door, and windows up in time for the kid's Christmas present. I want the outside of the play house to match my craft room colors, red and black. The inside will match her little play kitchen colors of purple and yellow. I spent a couple bucks and finally got a new bedspread to match my decor. I am totally proud of my first chair reupholstery project. I took my old chair from hotel cast off to red and black glory. Can't wait to sit my buns down and sew! Pretty much the whole week was spent in my craft room cleaning and planning.

Friday my five piano students participated in our Christmas recital. I hosted the event at our home, where the kids were a bit more comfortable. Each child earned points for practicing the piano each month. At recital time the kids are rewarded with their point treat (this time the kids wanted candy bars). After the recital we had a chocolate and cheese fondue party. Each student recited two piano pieces, most with a Christmas theme. I am so proud of all my students. They are making wonderful progress! Earlier in the day Phillip helped me clean the bathroom by climbing into the toilet bowl. It was flushed clean and full of lovely blue water. He was quite pleased about taking a bath all by himself. I was so disgusted I forgot to take a photo! Yuck-o.

We also had Ella over on Thursday for a little while. Tomorrow I am off to Scottsbluff to pick up Fork, the girl reindeer and go to another Dr appt for my tonsils and such. I am a bit excited to leave Amelia with Alison and do some shopping with my little chatter monkey beforehand.

This evening we enjoyed dinner with two families from our ward. I made my super delish pulled pork with roasted tomato and jalapeno sauce. We all watched the Christmas broadcast. I plan on getting my Christmas cards out sometime this week.