Sunday, October 30, 2011

Little baker

On Friday I announced I was going to bake some brownies -- a treat I hadn't made in over a year.  Rayna heard me say this and a few minutes later I came into the kitchen and found her saying she had "gotten everything ready."

She had pulled out:  a small mixing bowl, a loaf-pan baking dish, a measuring cup, some baking soda, baking powder, salt, extra virgin olive oil, sugar and Magic Shell ice cream topping.
I was pretty impressed with how well she had thought it all out.  Too bad she was supposed to be brushing her teeth and getting ready for school.  And also too bad that I was just going to use a boxed-mix for the brownies.

This girl is always trying to be helpful!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Colsen and Calvin

 Each night for the last couple of weeks, we've heard gales of giggles coming from Colsen after bedtime.  He loves to read these big "Calvin and Hobbes" books.  We thought it was weird, since he can't actually *read*, but now I just think kindred spirits don't need written language to communicate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Expensive age

Over the last few months I've realized that I've been spending more money than I ever have on things like skincare and make-up.  This fact has not slipped by Pete, either.  So last night we were having a nice little conversation about it, and I shared with him my philosophy (not my Philosophy products... just my perspective).

The way I figure it, early in my life I didn't spend much money on my appearance.  This was mainly due to 2 reasons:  1.) I didn't have much money  and,  2.)  I was young:  I didn't have wrinkles, didn't have these gray circles under my eyes, and didn't have this permanent intertube around my waist.  I was still making collagen in my face, and was not yet making cellulite elsewhere.

And, also the way I figure it, I may end up not spending much money on improving my look once I'm officially OLD.  Sooner or later I'll have to give in to a wrinkly face, right?  And I'll switch to elastic-waistband pants from Wal-Mart and call it a day.

But right now, I consider myself in between.  I'm not young, but I'm not completely old yet either.  And these are the years that count!  I'm not ready to give in to the encroaching gray hairs and deepening "laugh lines."  There is still battle to be fought on this frontier!  So, now is when the dollars must be spent, in my view.
Here is my graphic representation of this:

As I explained to Pete, I am at the point indicated by the star above - at the peak of my "beauty" spending. (Hopefully this is the peak, anyway....  although if I ever break down and start having my hair colored professionally, I guess there could be a whole new slope to ascend.... Well, I didn't bring that up.)

Pete just sighed and shook his head resignedly as I told him I was in the critical period.  And his response was, "Ok.  As long it only lasts for this Fall."

Ummmmm...... I think the time frame will be slightly longer than that....  But I just smiled, and tried to look pretty.  And glowing, and radiant, and thin, and wrinkle-free.  Just like all the packages say.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunny Saturday

"Yay!  We made it through the corn maze!"

On Saturday, Colsen, Rayna and I met Nonna, Poppa, Kai and Addie at Aw Shucks farm for a fun little outing.  It was a perfect day for it!


It's always nice to spend time with cousins and grandparents!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My boy is growing up....

Today is one of those days when I realize time is going by and the kids are changing.  Strider, in particular, is getting to experience some new things this year -- and a lot of the activities are on Thursdays. 

So this morning, after he spent some time racing around finding his lost math papers and lost writing papers, and printing out latest drafts of reports and remembering at the very last minute that he needed to bring pictures of the four seasons to class today.... we finally got out the door and I drove him to his writing class.  He's been going once a week to a Writeshop class with 6th-8th graders, and the teacher keeps them busy with assignments throughout the week.

Then he came home and we read a couple chapters of "Swiss Family Robinson" together, he quickly ate some lunch, and then he was out the door again.  This time he rode his bike up to the community center in the neighborhood where a group called MathCounts has been meeting weekly.  This has been a fantastic group of mostly boys, led by a wonderful teacher, and I've never seen Strider so excited about Math before!  He does all kinds of challenging problems throughout the week and then they get together to go over more strategies.  The team is preparing for a competition in February, so Strider will miss that because we'll be gone, but he's been enjoying the practice times anyway.  They're also putting together a video for a side competition, and he does get to participate in that, which is fun.

After MathCounts, he walked outside to the tennis courts, where, conveniently, he has tennis lessons.  The teacher is amazing -- very generous and kind and helpful.  I'm glad Strider is getting the chance to learn some of the basics of one of my favorite sports! 

Then he rode his bike home for a quick dinner, changed into his uniform and was off to his last regular-season baseball game.  Since I had to work this afternoon, I didn't even get to see him for dinner, so it's been weird to have him be gone for so long!

Yes, my boy is growing up!

Special guest teachers

Yesterday the students at Poplar Streams Academy had the extraordinary experience of having some visiting teachers come to do a lesson.  Bearing striking resemblances to Nonna and Poppa, Professor Popcorn and Mother Marshmallow* arrived all decked out in their (academic?) regalia.

Along with actual popcorn and marshmallows to eat (which instantly granted them Most Favorite Teacher status for the year), these teachers also brought a whole lesson planned out about dolphins.  The kids got to hear all kinds of interesting facts and stories!
(Milo never quite got past the interesting costume)

To make a weird day even weirder, around lunch time when my mom and a couple of the kids were outside, a woman walked by with some reins and a bridle and asked if we had seen her horse.  Her horse!  Apparently it was loose and lost in the neighborhood.

(My mom said later she wished she had answered the woman saying, "Oh, is he yours?  We brought him inside because we weren't quite sure whose he was.")

I thought this scene was funny, too....  My dad took a phone call at one point after lunch and was having a serious conversation with someone, (maybe about work?), and this is what he looked like:

Too bad the caller couldn't actually see him!

We sure love a good adventure at Poplar Streams Academy.

* When I was little my favorite assumed name for myself was Maria Marshmallow.  I also made my siblings be Melanie Marshmallow, Mark Marshmallow, Matthew Marshmallow and Marsha Marhsmallow.  I know they all loved it.  I've continued using the pseudonym into adulthood, too....  Whenever I do Preschool time with my kids, I make them call me Mrs. Marshmallow. 
So, I guess crazy Food Names run in the family.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Small world story

Lately we've been in touch with a few ex-pats in Moldova, hoping to gain some insight into what may be in store for us in a few months.  I've corresponded with two women, one from England and one from Germany, who have been very helpful and kind.  But we also wanted to try to find some Americans, and ideally, some Christians who could recommend a good church or ministry which we could connect with.

Well, through the wonder of Facebook, my friend who is in Kenya told me she knew a missionary, Leila, who used to live in Chisinau (the city we're going to) and is now in Mozambique.  Leila then put me in touch with a woman who is currently a missionary in Chisinau (along with her family), and I started emailing with her this week.  As it turns out, this woman, Robin, is actually from NC, and she and her husband attended a church right near here (Calvary) for 10 years before they went to Moldova!

So -- to recap -- my friend in Nairobi connected me to her friend in Mozambique, who connected me to her friend in Chisinau.... who used to live in Charlotte!  How cool is that?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Almost like camping

Friday was a perfect Fall day, so Pete took the 3 older kids to Morrow Mountain.  He had originally intended on camping overnight, but then remembered that his sleeping bag had been stolen the last time they went camping... and 2 of the kids don't have sleeping bags.... and our tents are wearing out... and it was going to be pretty cold at night....  So they went for the day instead.

(In my opinion, that's the best way to to do it... still get the time in beautiful nature, still get the campfire and camping food.... but no lying awake all night in a tent that leaks and does not provide good protection from bears!)

Before they left, Colsen kept asking me if he was going to get to see a deer.  Turns out he did!
Some more pictures from the day....

The kids were all able to handle the "strenuous" hike -- a 2-mile trail that was pretty steep at parts. Other than a 25-minute period when Pete and Rayna could not see Strider and Colsen (during which Pete got pretty freaked out), and a few minor falls, the hike was great.

Afterwards they built a fire and roasted hot dogs for dinner, and enjoyed the view! Sounds like it was a great almost-like-camping day.

(Colsen came home and announced that he is now a hiker and a mountain-climber.  He said, "Let me show you how I climb Mount Everest.  I walk real hard like this one day, and then I do it again the next day, and then I do it again the next day, and then I get to the top!  And then I have a bike at the top, and I ride that back down.  And sometimes I just take my car.")

Friday, October 14, 2011

Yet another chapter in Life With Boys

Living with 3 young boys sure is interesting.  Here's some of what I've experienced this week...

There have been zany games:
Strider was vacuuming the other night and he somehow made it into a game: "I'm trying to jump across the room and turn it on without touching the floor!" he gleefully reported.
Only an 11-year old boy would think of this.

There have been scares:
This morning I realized Miles was not in the house. I went out to look for him... in the yard, up the street, down the street. Then I heard his little voice, "I'm up here." I went into the garage and found him at the top of a tall ladder Pete had left set up for a handyman. And I wasn't even surprised.

There have been power trips:
I went outside yesterday and saw Colsen had a bungee cord attached to a tree.  When I asked him what he was doing, he answered, pointing, "I'm trying to move this tree over there."

And more power trips:
As Rayna, Colsen, Miles and I were driving in the car a couple mornings ago, Colsen piped up out of the blue, saying, "I'm the strongest person in this car."  "Really?" I questioned.  He quickly modified, "...That's not driving."  This boy seems to spend a lot of time thinking about how strong he is relative to everyone else...

Boys sure are weird.  And fun.  And cute.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Shower Project

On July 27th of this year, Pete announced he would be starting our Shower Project.  The shower in our master bathroom was getting quite old and gross, so we had decided to go ahead and remove the fiberglass insert and create a new, tiled shower area with a frameless glass door.  (This was actually the scaled-back version of what Pete wanted to do... which involved knocking down walls....)

Anyway, after giving it some thought and doing some research, Pete concluded he could handle this project on his own, and it would take "approximately 10 days."

I am happy to report that the Shower Project is now, as of yesterday, October 10th (still 2011) COMPLETE.  The bad news to all this was that it took slightly longer than his original estimate.  And it also cost slightly more than his original estimate.  And it took many more trips to Lowe's than originally estimated.  (This, after all, was just the beginning of it....)  As it turned out, the tiling part was the easiest and quickest element of the whole thing.

But the good news was throughout the process we had the opportunity to get to know several of the very skilled men in our area (plumber, handyman, tiling expert), who came in to rescue us when unexpected things kept happening (as they always do!).  The bad news was some of these very honest, hardworking men did need to be paid.  But the good news was they all gave us major discounts.

The other bad news was that all 6 of us had to use one shower/bathroom for 3 months.  The shower curtain in there now needs to be replaced from over-use.  (And THAT is the extent of any renovations planned for that room in the foreseeable future).  But the good news was this was good practice for us -- to start getting out of our "comfort zone" maybe.

And the very good news, of course, is that the new shower is DONE, and it's beautiful!  I'm very happy with the outcome:
 The floor that our friend/tiling expert ended up helping Pete with (He helped slope the shower pan -- Pete did all the tiling work himself):

It all turned out great.  I'm very proud of Pete's skills!

And if I have to have a "window" that goes from the back of the shower into my closet that's only a little bit closed with drywall at the moment, that's a small price to pay, I guess.

What a project!

Field trip with the little guys

Pete was on his Fall Break yesterday, so he took the little boys up to Huntersville to go to Discovery Place Kids with my parents.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  BUT, Plan B ended up being pretty fantastic -- a trip up to Lazy 5 Ranch with Poppa!

The boys loved seeing all the animals up close -- REALLY up close.

 I'm not sure who was more intrigued:  the characters outside the car, or inside the car.
Afterwards they got to feed a few other creatures, which they loved!
What a fun, impromptu field trip!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fall Festival Fun

Today's weather was perfect for our neighborhood's Fall festival!  Pete is in Ohio this weekend (so of course a slug made it into our house last night and I had to deal with it by myself!), but the rest of us saddled up our bikes and rode to the park this morning for some good Fall fun.

For Strider, the big highlight was having 2 of his best buds join him this year.
For some reason I can simply not comprehend, the 3 of them LOVED going on this nightmare of a spinning ride:

And the trampoline was also a highlight:

I didn't see the 3 boys much -- just enough to capture the photos above.  The rest of the time they were off on their own, rock-climbing, boxing, sliding, and Italian-ice eating. 

Meanwhile, Rayna loved absolutely everything she got to do....

Side note:  Miles watched Rayna play the game above and then looked at us as if we were crazy.  He had a much better strategy for getting the bean bags in the hole:

For Colsen, the festival was a bit overwhelming, and he approached the various games and activities with a litte more seriousness than his sister.  But overall, I think he had a great time!

And Miles.... well, he had just fun exploring anything he could:

....even trying to make his own adventures when he tired of the "normal" rides:
And he also enjoyed hanging out with some characters with interesting hair... and interesting morphsuits! 
(Colsen saw the guy in the black suit right when we arrived, and that could have contributed to his cautiousness for the rest of the morning!)

All in all, though, it was a wonderful Fall day!