Thursday, November 20, 2008

Catching Up: More Apples

Grading update: I have now eaten dinner at my desk, and 3 more essays are complete. My stack of grading and I are now going over to the other building to watch part of the dress rehearsal for the play, since I will not be able to make it to either of the actual shows this weekend. Then my grading and I will be going home to continue our fun-filled evening. Since the grading and I will be on the move, this is the last blog of the night.

However, I am very excited that I am now officially caught up on all the cute pictures that I have been wanting to post. Yay! I'll conclude with a few more of our trip to the apple orchard:

Catching Up: A Trip to the Apple Orchard

Grading update: my after-school hours are flying by far too quickly, by I am now 2 papers into my final class set. 15 more to go.

These pictures are from a family trip to a local apple orchard last month. They're just so stinking cute that I don't think I can limit myself to just one post; I may need to post on this topic twice just to show off all the cuteness!

Catching Up: Zoo Boo

Grading update: taught my afternoon classes and am now back at work. One more to go in this class set.

Here are Bryn, Shay, and their friend Chris at the Zoo Boo last month. The Indianapolis Zoo hosts this event every year, and it's so cute to see little kids roaming all over the zoo in their Halloween costumes. I love how Bryn is being all protective of Shay in this picture, and how happy they all look. It wasn't easy to get the princess, the giraffe, and Mickey Mouse to all line up on the bench and hold still, but we did manage to get a cute shot before they all got down and ran off to see more animals!

I just think this is too cute. During Zoo Boo, zoo employees hand out candy at various trick-or-treating stations throughout the zoo. Shay always wants whatever Bryn has, so she cried when she saw that Bryn got to eat candy and she didn't. So we gave her an unopened box of Nerds, and she happily shook it and teethed on it all night long--and it was still in good enough shape that Mommy could enjoy the candy on the way home!

We were pretty bummed that some of the animals went to bed or went inside for dinner before we got to see them--including the giraffes, which was sad because we wanted to take a picture of Shay in her costume with them. But we did take the girls on the train, which we had never done at the zoo before, so it was a big special treat. Here's the four of us at the end of our fun night.

Catching Up: Eerie Express

Grading update: Graded through lunch. 9 essays down.

Here are Bryn, Shay, and their friend Chris at the Eerie Express at the Children's Museum. Ben and I took the girls, accompanied by Chris and his mom Cathy, during friendly hours, when all the lights were on--which is good, because we agreed that several parts would have definitely been scary to both kids and adults in the dark! It's safe to say that the kids' favorite part was receiving a different treat from characters in each room of the haunted house. Ben liked the huge "whole world built of Legos" display by the exit and snapped dozens of pictures, intending to use them for inspiration for future plaster block projects. I think Cathy and I were largely just amused by the much baby cuteness!

Catching Up: Butler Homecoming

Grading update: Prep period is over, but I've graded six essays total.

Butler's Homecoming was at the end of October. It gave us a great chance to get up with some friends from out of town and meet the newest members of some friends' families. Since Krysten was here, of course we had to enjoy some Bazbeaux pizza. :) We even had a Butler band hang-out and game night after the Homecoming festivities ended. Okay, we didn't intend for it to be all band members, but what can we say? We were band geeks then, and we maintain a bit of that now. Apparently all our friends were in the band! (All the friends that came to visit that weekend anyway!)

Catching Up: My Little Pumpkins

Recently, I've been completely snowed under by the vast amount of work I have to do. For example, before 8:00 tomorrow, I need to grade 30 essay tests, approve or deny 30 project proposals, write two quizzes, and read approximately 80 pages Black Hawk Down. Yikes. I'm also feeling a large amount of burnout, and I'm having a hard time motivating myself to keep going and get it all done.

So you, my dear friends, are going to be both my reward and my accountability today. For every 3 papers that I grade, I will allow myself a five-minute break to post a few of my "catching up" pictures. So get ready to cheer me on--or just view the cuteness. :)

These pictures are from the week of Halloween. Ben's parents sent the girls these super-cute matching pumpkin sweatsuits. The girls wore them when we went on the Haunted Hayride (during friendly hours, of course) in our town. Don't we all look cute and ready for fall? The matching brown coats on Ben and I and his coordinating orange hat are just accidents though. :)
Here's our littlest pumpkin, ready for a snack after her big hayride. This was a few days before the haircut that I wrote about a few posts ago, so you can definitely see how badly she was in need of one. This picture also shows my absolute favorite thing about the sweatshirts, which is the adorable little stem on the hood.

And here's our bigger pumpkin, totally hamming it up for the camera. She loved her "punkin shirt" and wanted to wear it for the entire week leading up to Halloween. I had to sneak it down to a box in the basement when she wasn't looking to prevent her from wearing it all the way up to Christmastime! Luckily, hers is big enough that it can make a repeat appearance next year. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Next 30 Years

I thought this would be appropriate as a continuation of my last post. This is a song written by Phil Vassar (my favorite country artist) and made popular by Tim McGraw. I listened to it this morning on my way to school, and it put me in quite the good mood. Not all of the lyrics apply, but I love the sentiments.

"My Next 30 Years"

I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now its time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

Hey my next thirty years I'm gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I've done
Maybe now I've conquered all my adolescent fears
And I'll do it better in my next thirty years

My next thirty years I'm gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I'm doing here
In my next thirty years

Oh my next thirty years, I'm gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I'll remember my next thirty years

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years.

My Last 30 Years

Today is my 30th birthday. When I woke up this morning, my first thought was, "Wow, I'm old." While in the shower, I started reflecting on how I have spent previous birthdays. While I do have very good memory (Ashley would say freakishly good), I couldn't remember as many as I wished, or more particularly, which went with which years. So I then went on a quest through old scrapbooks, childhood diaries, and my baby book (thanks, Mom) to compile a list. I have scrapbooks from every year from eighth grade on (okay, the post-college scrapbooks are not actually assembled yet....). Clearly I get my scrapbooking/memory-preserving gene from my mother, who kept details accounts of my first 12 years in my baby book (which she gave to me when Bryn was born). So here it is: my chronicle of the past 30 birthdays:

1 - family party at our house on Hushaw in Chillicothe, Illinois. According to Mom's records, I got my first doll and a popcorn pusher, which is kind of funny, since I have a popcorn pusher in the basement right now, waiting for Shay's first birthday later this month.

2 - I could say that I was "two" and say "blow out candles." I apparently knew what was going on when my extended family came over for a party, and I was too wound up to sleep afterwards. That night, I climbed out of my crib for the first time.

3 - I moved into a new room and a "big girl bed" and had my first birthday party with friends. The party was at McDonald's, and the party involved, among others, Todd, Chad, Chris, Trent, and Mimi, who were the children of my parents' friends, and became good friends throughout my childhood, as we took many family vacations together.

4 - We had pizza at Blarney Castle in Chillicothe (a family favorite all through my childhood) with my grandparents, Hattie and Parky. Then I had a party at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour with kids--much the same crew as the year before.

5 - My grandparents on my dad's side, Bob and Mimi, visited from Florida. We went to Show Biz (now known as Chuck E. Cheese, the favorite birthday location of my own daughter). Apparently the big hit was a Smurfette cake, which I do have a vague memory of.

6 - I had a party at Pizza Hut with my friends, which this year included a few kids from my kindgergarten class. On my actual birthday, I was in Indianapolis (perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come?), having a family visit with several other family friends.

7 - I had a family birthday party at my great-grandma's house (which I do remember), and then with some school friends at Show Biz Pizza. I was big into the Princess of Power (She-Ra) and My Little Pony this year, and my gifts reflected it. This birthday was particularly notable because my dad wasn't there--he was in Philadelphia working at his new job, and we moved to join him a month later.

8 - This is the first birthday party that I have clear memories of. I mean, I remember being at McDonald's and Show Biz with group of kids, celebrating, but I can't place which year was which. This year is a bit easier for me to place chronologically, as it was my only birthday in Philadelphia. A group of my friends from school went roller skating at Cornwell's Skating Center in Philadelphia, and I was thrilled to receive Barbie and the Rockers as a gift.

9 - We had recently moved into our "new house" in Dunlap, Illinois, where my mom still lives. My parents hired a magician, and he did a show for me and my friends in our basement. I remember thinking that this was incredibly cool. This was the first birthday party attended by people who have become lifelong friends of mine, most notably my then-next-door neighbor, also named Amy.

10 - I went ice skating with a group of friends at Owens Center in Peoria. Most notably, this party was attended by Melissa and Caroline, who became lifelong friends. I also had my first sleepover party, with two girls who I have long since lost track of.

11 - I thought my birthday party was incredibly cool. I had a sleepover with several friends (most of whom I am still friends with now), and we stayed up "all night" (in the words of my diary, which probably means until midnight or something) playing Dare, Double Dare, or Triple Dare. This was my golden birthday (11 on 11-11), and my grandparents gave me a necklace with a real gold heart. I still have it, and actually even wore it about a week ago.

12 - I took a group of friends out to dinner at Agatucci's, my family's favorite pizza joint in Peoria (where I still insist upon eating during every trip home). Then my friends Melissa, Caroline, and Nicole slept over. I also got a box set of J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Lord of the Rings" as a birthday gift from my grandparents. I still have this set, and have recently been contemplating re-reading them when time permits.

13 - This is where my mom's records stop, and in my own diary, I was too busy agonizing over junior high issues to record anything. If memory serves, however, this was the year that Caroline scared the living daylights out of me by reading Edgar Allen Poe stories aloud at my slumber party.

14 - Much against my protests, my parents decided that I was "too old" for birthday parties. I went out to lunch at Vonachen's (another family favorite, now sadly closed) with my aunt and cousins, as well as several friends, including Melissa and Ashley. I got a brown leather jacket from my parents, which made me the epitome of cool.

15 - Completely disregarding the forced maturity of the year before, I started back into birthday parties by having the coolest one ever. My parents designed a clue hunt through the town of Dunlap and surrounding area, and my friends and I went out in several cars driven by parents to follow the clues through town. Afterwards, we all came back to my house and hung out. Also extremely notable for being my first boy/girl birthday party. It also featured the beginnings of the Dunlap Clan, who remain some of my dearest friends to this day: Melissa, Jolyne, Caroline, Nicole, Ashley, Meghan, Kelly, Maria, Derek, Chuck, Corey, Jason, Matt, Damon, and David.

16 - Also a contendor for "coolest birthday party ever." My mom drove me and five girlfriends up to Oakbook (outside Chicago) for an all-day shopping trip: the second-most ideal gift ever for a 16-year-old girl (the first-most ideal being a car, which I received that spring, when I inherited my dad's old maroon Lumina when he got a new car).

17 - Based on the success of my last birthday, we planned another shopping excursion, but I was hugely disappointed when a massive snowstorm forced us to cancel the trip. I moped around for most of the day, before my parents totally redeemed the day by allowing me to invite all my friends (quite a large group of both boys and girls, spanning from freshmen to seniors in high school) over for an impromptu party that night.

18 - Biggest birthday party ever. I remember opening windows in the basement because it got so hot with all the people down there. Tons of hilarious gifts from friends, including Anna and Nikki each giving me one shoe. My friend Amy also took me to see "Superman: The Musical" in downtown Peoria, as I was hugely in love with all things Superman.

19 - I was massively disappointed to learn that in Indiana, school is not cancelled for Veteran's Day, so my freshman year of college was the first time I ever had to attend classes on my birthday. I spent most of the day on the phone with my wonderful friends from home, all of whom called me. Jarrod sent the first of many "birthday trash cans," ordered from a local florist and filled with junk food of all kinds. The girls of 1E in Schwitzer Hall braved the tempermental oven in the basement to bake me a birthday skillet cookie.

20 - I got very sad about leaving my teens, but my wonderful roommate Amy (different Amy than my childhood neighbor) decorated our dorm room with 20 "20s" while I slept. Amanda, Lisa, and Julie took me out to lunch at Chuck E. Cheese to demonstrate that I could still be a kid even if I was technically in my 20s. Betsy helped me carry Jarrod's birthday trash can to our Brit Lit class in the afternoon, where the whole class feasted as we discussed literature. In the evening, my roommate Amy threw me a surprise party, complete with Jarrod arriving in a surprise visit from Peoria.

21 - Jarrod sent another birthday trash can, and then he and Tony drove over to celebrate with me. Many friends accompanied me out to what I termed "an adult Chuck E Cheese," and was actually called Gameworks, or something along those lines. Everyone was shocked when I elected to continue my trend of not drinking. We culminated the night with a Denny's run, including a table of Ken, Jen, Gwyn, and Sven (which was actually Tony).

22 - The fourth and final birthday trash can from Jarrod. This was the first year that Ben and I were dating, and Jarrod, Tony, and Derek drove over to celebrate with me and give Ben the official Dunlap Clan stamp of approval. These friends from home accompanied Ben, Amanda, and I to the Schwitzer Hall formal. We culminated the night by assembling many friends from the Butler band in my dorm room and playing Taboo into the wee hours of the morning.

23 - Post-college, the birthdays stopped being so fun. This was the first year that I actually had to work on my birthday. I was student teaching at a local middle school at the time, and I desperately hated it. I decided that being a "real adult" wasn't very enjoyable.

24 - This was my first year teaching at ZCHS. I was hugely depressed about some major conflicts at our church, which prevented me from continuing as a youth group leader and led us to change churches shortly afterwards. Not what I would call a fun birthday.

25 - My sister Kristin (then a senior in high school) came over to visit for the day, so I took the day off school to hang out with her. Ben took a long lunch from work (we were engaged at this point) to meet us for a festive birthday lunch at Steak 'n' Shake.

26 - My first birthday as a married woman. Unfortunately, not a good one. I again took the day off school, but for far less happy reasons this time. I spent most of the day sleeping and moping. The night before, Ben, our friend Elizabeth, and I had sat up until the wee hours of the morning talking with our Young Life committee members about some pretty major concerns we had about the direction our program was taking. This later led to all three of us resigning as leaders. Another not-so-fun birthday.

27 - Bryn was eight days old, and all I wanted for my birthday was a nap! I spent most of the day in bed with a migraine.

28 - Biggest present ever--I got a new house for my birthday! :) This was the day that we moved into our current house in Brownsburg. Unfortunately, Bryn decided to mark the occassion by coming down with her first-ever case of the flu and spent the whole day throwing up all over both me and the brand-new carpet in our brand-new house.

29 - I was two weeks away from delivering Shay, and all I wanted was to "get this kid out of me!"

30 - So here I am. I'm spending the day teaching at UHS, and my students have covered my board with "happy birthday" messages. I've heard guesses that I am anywhere from 25 to 37--some encouraging, some not so much! This morning, I opened my annual card from Mom R, Melissa's mom, who never fails to remember me. Over the past few weeks, I've had birthday visits from both sets of my parents and Ben's parents. Ben and I went out to breakfast together before work this morning, and Bryn is very excited about me opening my "big present" tonight, because, as she says, "Mommy, you want birthday!"

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Princess Brynderella

On Saturday night, we had Bryn's big princess birthday party. We had never had a birthday party for her before. When she turned 1, we were about to move to our new house. When she turned 2, I was hugely pregnant with Shay. So we figured that when she turned 3, it was high time for a party. We had over about 10 of her little friends. Here's one of my favorite shots of a group of them on the couch.... although, admittedly, it would have been far better if I had snapped the shot about 30 seconds sooner, when they were all sitting together adorably.

The theme of the party, of course, was princesses. What else would it be for Bryn, really? :) Yes, this is the point where all of those of you who knew me when I was pregnant with Bryn and said things about how my child would never wear pink, can all sit around and laugh.

We had such festive games as "pin the crown on the princess." The kids also colored pictures, made their own crowns with sticky foamies, and decorated their own cookies (with parental assistance). Bryn's "best friend" (this is what she calls him) Chris was the one and only brave boy at the party, and he was wearing one of the little girls' princess high heels by the end of the night. Overall, a very fun evening!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Catching Up: Haircuts

It had been over a year since Bryn's last haircut. We have been growing her bangs out and didn't see much reason to keep cutting the length while enduring this process. But Ben, Shay, and I all needed haircuts last week, so we decided that we might as well make a family night out of it. Because it had been so long, Bryn couldn't remember ever having had a haircut before, and she got a little nervous when we told her where we were going. She thought about it for a minute, and then declared, "Brynie cut hair like Mulan!" Apparently the only frame of reference she had for "haircut" was the scene in Disney's "Mulan" where the title character cuts her own hair with a sword in order to pass as a boy and join the army.... Well, we didn't go quite that far with the haircut, but it is now shorter, and very cute... she looks like quite the big girl.

And here's Baby Shay, getting her very first haircut. Bryn didn't get hers until she was over a year old, but Shay was already badly in need of one. Her "bangs" had grown ridiculously long and hung in her face, regardless of my best efforts to dry them going to the side or to clip them back with little barrettes. Since she kept getting both food and snot crusted in this long hair, and since people kept telling us that she looked like a little punk chick with the one chunk of long hair hanging in her eyes, we decided it was time for baby's first haircut.

Shay actually seemed to really enjoy the experience. She got to sit up in her own little "car" like a big girl, and she enjoyed getting to watch a video without big sister Bryn getting in her way. Thank goodness for Cookie Cutters child haircuts! We also had the stylist trim up the back of Shay's neck a bit, since she still had a faint trace of the rat-tail she sported as a 3-month-old. :)

And here's the finished product--my big girl! She looks great. I love being able to see all her adorable facial expressions without her long chunk of hair getting in the way. I have to admit that I'm not such a fan of the fact that the cut makes her look so grown-up.... she needs to stay a baby for a while longer!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Catching Up: Halloween

I am going to make a valiant effort to get caught up on blogging about the events of the past few months for my faithful readers who care about the day-to-day events of our family (meaning: grandparents). :) It will be mostly photos, but hey, if I make it through this, surely I will have developed the discipline to update in a more timely manner in the future!

I'm going to go in reverse chronological order when posting, if that makes any sense.
So here's my first effort at "catching up".... Halloween. Bryn went as a princess (what else?) and Shay went as a giraffe. Ben made it back from a work trip to Cincinnati just in time to trick or treat around the neighborhood with us. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

Shay was largely mystified as to why we put her in this silly costume that had a hood that kept covering up her face, but she loved carrying around her pumpkin, and she even enjoyed teething on some (still wrapped) candy. Love this shot of Daddy and his girl.

Here are the girls just before we set out for trick-or-treating. Our neighborhood had a party at the clubhouse, where many neighbors gathered to enjoy hot dogs, juice, and other snacky items before setting out on the rounds. Bryn was especially entranced with the large blow-up pumpkin on the front lawn. "Mommy, is a BIG punkin!" Here you can see Shay the giraffe, enjoying a snack of Cheerios while in her stroller, and the very excited Brynderella.

More updates to come!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bryn's Birthday Tradition

For Bryn's first birthday, we took her to Chuck E. Cheese, largely because we couldn't come up with anything else that would seem hugely festive to a 1-year-old. Then we did it again for her second birthday. So now, it seems, Chuck E. Cheese is our tradition on Bryn's birthday. We went last night, and she had such a great time, running around to all the games and putting her "moneys" in the slots. What amazes me most though, is how she has grown over the years. Check out these pictures:

1 year old

2 years old

3 years old
(apparently they don't hand out balloons and crowns anymore--this year she got a sticker and some free tokens)
My little girl is getting so big!!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bryn!

I can hardly believe that Bryn is 3 years old today. In some ways, the time has gone so quickly, and in other ways, I can hardly remember a time without her. Just look at how she has grown and what a beautiful, big girl she has become!

November 3, 2005: Mommy holds Bryn for the first time

November 2, 2008: big girl Brynie opens one of her presents from Grammy