Thursday, September 29, 2011

Three Days of "Unlawful Absence"

Last week we got to spend three days living it up at Penn State--J got to go there for work.

We keep trips like this hush-hush until right before we leave--it keeps the excitement level a little more under control. :)

Us: "Family announcement!" 
Them: Come running into our room where we're packing.
Us: "We're actually not going to Nana and Pop's." 
Them: Silence.
Us: "We're going to Penn State."
Them: Silence
Us: "We're staying in a hotel."
Them: "Ahh!" Ear-piercing screams.
Us: "For three nights."
Them: "Ahhhhh!" Even louder ear-piercing screams.
Us: "And it has a pool."
Them: "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" Un-conceivably even louder ear-piercing screams.

Yeah, they might like hotels...with pools. :)

While Daddy was at work, I spent one afternoon with my mom (one hour away).
My parents' house is tucked in the mountain just up the road from that Church.  The little crew and I took our first ever walk there together to see the beautiful inside--where, once upon a time, I went to school.

I spent another afternoon visiting my sister and new nephew.  (An hour and a half in the opposite direction.)
Awww...what a cute picture with the baby. ;) Seriously, what is up with that face?!

And on the way back from her house we took a car break at a cute little park.

The leaves there were already turning colors.

On our last day there we did all things Penn State.
We visited the Nittany Lion Shrine.

Yes, I was there, too. :)
Where did she learn that pose?

We visited our favorite farmer's market for fresh organic raspberries after meeting my cousin for bagels.

And had a lunch of ice cream at the Creamery.

And on the way back home then next day, we stopped at the Amish store for pumpkins.

Fun Fall trip!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Result of Picture Day

 Is a little girl who has spent the day posing her stuffed animals for class pictures with our old camera.  

 She learned how to use the "timer" feature tonight and J hooked her up with a tripod.

But first she makes sure that their "hair" is just right.  Her teachers thought her hair needed a little help this morning and they spent a bit of time working out the tangles and putting in her barrette just right.  :)  Apparently I miscalculated the importance of "picture day." :)

Nothing like an impromptu family photo at the end of the day (Beza was already in bed.)

Every few months we download her photos--always fun to see just exactly what she's captured.  

Besides her stuffed animals, the most common object of her affection is Riley the cat.

Or other still life in our home--showing it like it really is.
Bags of garbage by the front door.

There are sometimes some of us.

Some of them are from unique angles (sharing this one instead of the lovely amount of ones taken of me early in the morning.)

She gets up close and personal with her subjects.

And she captures their eyes.

Love her point of view...
 Her reflection in the water at the bottom of the grate.

In this last month of her being 5....

Love seeing the world through her eyes. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Plastic Clay

In my mom's group we're reading The Power of a Positive Mom by Karol Ladd.

I love the reminder in this poem about the powerful role of a mom in this stage of life...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Scheduled ( is NOT shampoo!)

The new school year is just two weeks old and we've been spending these past two weeks working on getting organized.  Or maybe a better word is "scheduled."

Funny thing is that schedules make me cringe.  I LOVE being organized, but there is something about being "scheduled" that makes me feel like I'm a slave to time.  It feels like such a restrictive word. Funnier still, I live a pretty scheduled life--I just don't write it down (hmmm...maybe that's why my library books are always overdue.).  I think that maybe I've been afraid that if I actually wrote down a schedule of any kind (daily, menu, etc), that if I didn't accomplish everything at the right time or in the right order I would feel like I had failed.

But I am learning to fully embrace the "schedule"--the "flexible schedule." :)  And what a great time of the year to start some new things!

Here's a bit of what we've been working on:

Inspired, once again, by Pinterest, I made this hanging chalkboard (using spray paint) on an old wooden box and wrote some fun things to do each day with the gang. (
Yes, they are learning how to do laundry and garbage!  (Tuesday Towels & Trash--gotta love alliteration.)

And when by Day Four of school we had already had the "Forgot-To-Use-The-Potty-At-Home-And-Majorly-Dislike-Public-Restrooms" Fiasco and the forgotten backpack, I made our own handy little schedule cards (hmmm...wonder where I got that idea? :).

Some of the cards are upstairs...

The rest are downstairs under the new Menu Board.

SO excited about this board!  My neighbor sent me a link to the "30 Meal Plan" over at NannyGoat.

I went through all of my recipes and printed out 30 of them using these templates. 
(Bonus: Now I can just print a copy to share.)
I am totally loving this recipe card set up--it makes it so easy to quickly see what ingredients I need from the grocery store for the week.  And when it's time to make dinner, I just bring the card into the kitchen--I don't have to look for the recipe in my cookbooks. 

My favorite recipe card:

I snagged that board at a yard sale for $2.00.  In keeping with my "small children and tacks don't mix" philosophy, I found ways to use clothespins to hold almost everything in place.  I had birds left over from this project and just glued them onto the pins that are clipped onto some yarn.

Then I found these fun printables to add a little character:
T is a green bean addict and M always says, "I will never, ever stop loving you."

To help us get out the door on time, I set this alarm clock near the front door to go off 10 minutes before we leave.  That's our signal to get our shoes on and have our school bags/coats ready to go.  (Don't faint, Mom, but) So far, so good on getting there on time. :)

Loving these new things to help keep us on track.  It doesn't feel restrictive at all!  And believe me, we have had plenty of opportunities to keep it "flexible."

Because there are curve balls that look a little like this:
M: Mommy, T has soap in his hair!
Me: What?  He's just washing his hands.
(Walking into the bathroom:)
Me: T!  That is NOT shampoo!
T thought that the marshmallow handsoap bubbles were an awesome addition to his morning routine.

The result: A completely "unscheduled" pre-preschool bath. :)
(And a little boy that smelled like marshmallow for a good three days.)

Linked up with:
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Funnies: Growin' em Strong

Or something like that. ;)

So...I saw this pose on Pinterest and found the perfect opportunity to give it a whirl outside a church at Penn State this past week.  

This shot requires willing participants and a set of steps with a large connected sidewalk (to look like a wall).  It also requires a skilled photographer. ;)  Hmmm...working on that one. :)  Anyway, while the angle is a bit off, thought these were kind-of fun. 

"Jumping" for Joy! ;)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Forever-Young Sister (A Guest Post)

I am the oldest of four girls.  Some of my very favorite memories were made with my sisters.  MB is two years younger than me--she has a compassionate heart and is one of the fastest readers I know.  Bubsy is three years younger than me and she's the sporty version of myself. :)  And J is a whole six years younger than me.  She is one of the most creative and imaginitive people I have ever met.  She brings a light to our family that has shaped who we each are.

My mom recently wrote a short story about being a mom to our forever-young sister--J. And I wanted to share her story. 

(She changed the names--presumably to protect the innocent (or guilty). ;)

(A Christmas Photo: MB, Mom, J, Bubsy, Me and M)

Tuesday Evening
by My Mom

It is about seven on a sunny, cool, breezy evening in the middle of the week. The radio is playing soft music in the background, the refrigerator is humming, the clock on the mantle is tick-tocking to its own rhythm and Lynn is coloring.

I am sitting on the chair I recently refinished on a worn-out cushion in the same shade of green as the floor tiles. Looking out the patio windows at the artistic display of multicolored blues, pink, yellows, purples, light and dark oranges in the thick flower bed around the patio, I hear the wind gently making the wind chimes tinkle.

Whew, it’s another day of doing pretty much the same and I decided Lynn and I would not turn on the TV this evening; it is too peaceful. I watch Lynn choose carefully what color to use on her picture. Each detail must be exact. She pays close attention to the fine details such as eye color, hairstyle, hats, glasses, shoe design, shirt, and activity for each masterpiece.

Lynn is my youngest and fourth daughter with a sweet disposition and she loves to use her imagination. We get swept up spinning make-believe tales about her three older sisters, friends and even inanimate objects. She has renamed all of her friends and family with animal titles that appear to resemble the so-named.  Initially, she dubbed me "Hippo" but I made her change it! I now go by "Green Eyes."

Lynn’s sisters are very loving and attentive to her and we make up many pretend stories about them throughout the day. Kangaroo, Bear, and Platypus are their names and of course their family members have special animal names as well. Let me just say that Lynn’s Gram was called "Squirrel" and that moniker was a perfect fit. 

I wish you could meet Lynn. She may clap, smile shyly, put her head down and be silent or chatter. Lynn is referred to by the world as "special needs."  When I was growing up, people like Lynn were called "mentally retarded," but "special needs" fits so much better. I don’t recall contact with kids like Lynn when I was in school. I don’t remember where they went. 

Lynn is now 27-years-old and her three older sisters are all married and live in different towns. Lynn, her dad Joe, and I now have a tightly knit family. Joe works long hours in construction but Lynn and I wait and watch for his truck to pull in the driveway so we can eat supper together. We listen for the sound of the stones in the driveway to announce his coming. We only use half of the dining room table now and the three other chairs sit empty.
Joe and I have been married over thirty-seven years. It doesn’t seem that all this time has passed so quickly from the first day we moved into this home with a few pieces of furniture and plastic printed curtains at the windows that I purchased from the five-and-dime store. I chuckle at how we painted pictures and slogans on the bare walls and the difficulty of trying to paint over it later. It is a calm light wheat color in the dining room now but I can still see the crazy pictures in my mind.
On evenings like this I gaze around at all the family pictures on the walls showing us through the years. The smiles, clothes, funny haircuts, and places make me laugh. The group picture, almost life-size, of the girls and their dad stares at us at every meal.
Lynn is very active and goes to a sheltered workshop through the week. I work very part-time around my husband’s schedule so I don’t have to find a sitter for Lynn. Lynn has gone to the workshop aptly called ‘Hope’ for about five years. The first year was difficult with times of adjustment, fears, and crying. Now she never wants to miss. After work she loves to go bowling and to dance class with some of her peers. They encourage each other with high-fives and hand clapping for each other. Many evenings, Lynn draws and colors pictures of the day’s events. 

She is also an avid Penn State fan and gazes at football magazines at all the pictures of Joe Pa and the football players. She could be president of their fan club. She calls the mascot her brother. One of her aunts shares tickets to one home games every year, so some of her sisters take her to a game. She gets all dressed up in blue and white, wears pompoms and face paint, and revels in tailgating and the excitement of the game.
As I approach sixty years, I occasionally ponder my time now. I have many friends who also have children with special needs. Each of their children, like all of us, has their strengths and weaknesses. Our schedules are dictated by our role as caregivers to our adult children.
Lynn functions at the three- to five-year-old level and I assist her with all the daily activities we take for granted. I make sure she eats good food, dresses appropriately, is clean, brushes her teeth, etc. I really usually function on auto-pilot, but, sometimes, I get frustrated if I am in a hurry and running late. I have learned to organize my time to get both of us ready. Since I used to get four girls ready, I should surely be able to manage just one now.
After spending time with Lynn and her friends at one of her activities, I count my blessings because I don’t need to watch for seizures anymore, check blood sugars, change her diaper, push her in a wheelchair, or feed her. I have also been able to provide my home and my time to others that need daily help. My schedule has made me available to help others in a way that has been an unforeseen treasure. Sometimes when I am doing something for Lynn, I feel so content and fortunate to be able to provide for her.
I doubt many of my friends around my age have as much fun in life as I do thanks to Lynn. I don’t know how they spend their time and I am sure they have mundane days just like me. However, because Lynn is fixed back in the early years of her life, I am there with her. For the most part it is a delight and gift. I am proud to be Lynn’s caregiver and mom.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Made-It: The Art Wall

Do you, like me, have a million bazillion pieces of children's artwork?  What is the answer to the age old question, "What do I do with it all?"

Honest answer--toss most of it when no one is looking. ;)  I do keep the special ones dated with a small explanation of what it is and tuck them away in a special box (a box that just might have to grow over time ;).

But I was thinking that between the time of masterpiece completion and the decision to toss/keep--maybe I could use that huge wall upstairs where we used to keep our referral countdown as an "art wall."

I love the idea of framing their work--but that costs money.  And turning that wall into a huge cork wall is also a fun idea--but tacks and small children who eat things off the floor don't mix well.  :)

And just as I was getting more confused about what to do, I found Pinterest and this idea(go here for the tutorial).

In case I've never said this before--I love to do "projects" because they are a tangible way to show that you've "accomplished" something--but I never take these accomplishments very seriously.  I definitely am no expert in anything crafty.  I just love to find inexpensive (and even better--free) ways to make our house a fun place to create and inspire memories. :)

Okay, so the "Art Wall."

 (Sneak peak.)

The inspiration one was made with fabric.  Because I didn't think that I had enough fabric and/or patience to do all of that sewing :), I dug through the craft closet and found fun coordinating scrapbook paper.

And just because the camera was sitting on the desk while I was working--don't you know, I took some photos to share the whole process--aren't you lucky? ;)

1. I cut out 22 triangles and flags from the scrapbook paper.  

2.  I cut two pieces of ribbon ($2 for two spools) for each "flag."  

3.  I laid it all out on the bed to create just the "right" pattern. :)

4.  Using a guide, I stapled each ribbon onto the flags so that they would each hang down the same amount from the rope (4 yards for $1.20).

5.  I added some flair with some paper and button flowers that I made eons ago and that were just looking for something fun to do.

6.  I meticulously strung each flag unto my rope.

7.  I attached it to the wall with nails.

8.  I added a few pieces of artwork with clothespins with lots of "room to grow." :)

And this is one of my favorite pieces by T (it's in my "keep" file).  I call it the "Accidental Bluebird."  He was just doodling/scribbling and it unwittingly looks just like a bluebird (eating a blue worm/smelling a blue flower?). 

And there you have it--the Art Wall--a fun decorative place (even when there is no artwork) for all of their creations...for now. :)

Linked up with:
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Tomorrow is the special guest post from my mom about my youngest sister--bring a tissue. :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Funnies: Quite Observant

Earlier this week T told me that he wanted to toss a crayon that wasn't working very well.  
Me: Oh, no.  Keep that one--it's the one you can use to make some people.

At our "Mommy and Me" group we pulled into the parking lot and T exclaimed, 

Then, at the grocery store, he keeps asking me about this sign--he is visually appalled that it is missing a parent.
(Please excuse the view through a window that is in obvious need of a good scrubbing. ;)

I was paging through a magazine when T asked,
Though the resemblance is striking--It is not.

A few things: 
1.) The small crew likes to run errands with me on the weekends.
2.)  We have two male black cats--Billy and Riley.  We gave them middle names after our friends, Ben and Erin.
3.) Billy lives under our bed.  He makes brief guest appearances at the "watering hole."
4.)  M loves Billy.
5.) Why this is relevant:
M: Billy's name, Billy "Erin" is perfect for him!
J: Why do you say that?
M: Because he runs quickly from one place to another just like when we run errands we go quickly from one place to another. 

Oh, they are observant! :)