Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

As Ben and I ate lunch today, he asked if I knew what I wanted my 2011 resolution to be yet. Honestly, I haven't given it much thought. I was doing really well with most of my 2010 resolutions until I started graduate school, at which point basically all of them bit the dust. I think that 2011 is going to be a plenty big year for our family, so maybe my resolution should just be to enjoy it with as minimal stress as possible. We invite you to come along for the ride with us! In the meantime, here's my final check-in on my 2010 resolutions:

1. Read the Bible.Incomplete. It's really too bad that the "Bible in one year" plans always start with the Old Testament.... I'll be trying a new reading plan in 2011.

2. Read at least one pleasure reading book per month.Almost complete. I did not read a book in October, but I did read a total of 28 pleasure-reading books for the year. I'm keeping this goal for 2011.

3. Join some kind of musical group (a band or choir) and perform with them.Complete. In addition to the concerts that I've already mentioned, I had one in November (on my birthday, no less) and two in December. We're now on a month-long break and will pick up again in February. I'm really enjoying being back in a band again!

4. Blog daily (at least a picture).Incomplete. Did really well until I started my two grad classes online, and then spending any more time at the computer than absolutely necessary started to sound really unappealing...

5. Get back down to (at least) my pre-pregnancy weight.
Complete. Back to pre-pregnancy weight, and then down a bonus 20 pounds!

6. Get involved with some kind of theatre group and help out with at least one production.Incomplete. I'd still really like to do this, but I just never found the time.

7. Teach Bryn to read.
Incomplete. She can read a lot more words than she could a year ago, but I think that's really just word recognition rather than true sounding-it-out reading. She still loves learning and reading though, and I think that's what's really important.

8. Potty-train Shay.Incomplete. My stubborn little girl absolutely refuses to finish up the process. She is fully capable of doing it, but it equally uninterested in doing so. And thus the process continues...

9. Finish up some of my murals.Somewhat complete. Did some as gifts and have progressed on some of our own. Still at work.

10. Frame our portraits.Complete. At least the ones that I was referring to when I made this goal are complete.... We've recently gotten some cute new portraits of the kids that I could stand to get framed too!

11. Paint the kids' bathroom.Incomplete. I actually gave up on this one. New plans.

12. Get Shay into her big girl room.Complete, way back in January.

13. Breastfeed this baby.Complete. Nearly 10 months later, I'm still pumping and giving Liam 100% breastmilk. No formula for my boy! Two more months to go, and then I can be done and he can move on to cow's milk.

I hope you've all had wonderful 2010s as well. Wishing you all the best in 2011!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

It's A Jungle Out There

A week and a half later, I'm just now getting around to posting pictures of the girls' birthday party.... This year was actually the first time that Shay was slated to have a birthday party, since the first time that we let Bryn have a party was when she turned 3, so we were playing fair and doing it that way with Shay too. So we were a bit hesitant when the girls told us that they wanted to have their party together, wondering if we should do something special for Shay since it would be her first party and all, but since it was what they wanted, okay. Since they're in preschool together this year, they have mostly the same friends, which will probably not be the case in the future. With two November birthdays (and a stressed-out mommy in end-of-semester grad school crunch time), a combined party seemed like a great way to save time and money. Thus, the Great Diego and Dora Adventure Party was born.

My pictures posted in backwards order, but you get the idea. Here's the highlight reel of the party...

Shay taking a swing at the Diego pinata. We actually had both Diego and Dora pinatas (compliments of Nana's resale shop), so all 16 kids (we invited 22--yikes!) got to hit several times, as well as take home a good bit of bounty:

Bryn and Billy (yes, THE Billy) "rescuing" some animals--those little tablets that you put in water and watch turn into various kinds of animals:

Snack time with orange kool-aid, popcorn, and gummy worms--all snacks chosen by little rescuers:

Shay as Baby Jaguar and Bryn as an elephant--all the kids got various animal masks, printed by my dad and cut out by me and my mom (with many resulting scissors blisters):

"Rescuing" animals from the sandbox:

Part of our front room, all "jungled" up for the party:

Delicious chocolate Diego cake, decorated largely freehand by Ben's mom:

Equally delicious yellow Dora cake, decorated with slight aid of a computer printout by Ben's mom:

Shay watching Nana decorate the cakes. Can't you just hear her thinking, "My hero!"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Birthday to Shay!

It's hard to believe that in three short years, my sweet Shaylee Grace has gone from this... this... this... this!

Happy 3rd birthday, Shay! We love you!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Growing Up at CEC

On Bryn's birthday this year, I posted a picture of her and Ben and Chuck E. Cheese. Our actual family tradition is to take the kids out for a family outing to the birthday child's location of choice on their birthday night.... Thus far, the "location of choice" for Bryn has always been Chuck E. Cheese. I know I get a kick out of looking at her "grow up" through this series of pictures, so I thought you all might too. Happy birthday Brynie, years 1-5. Which years do you think show the greatest change?

Friday, November 05, 2010

October in Review - Amy

1. Read the Bible.
Still reading.

2. Read at least one pleasure reading book per month.Fail. I was supposed to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett for my book club, but because I've been so busy, I haven't been able to finish it yet. I guess that *kind of* works out though, because I was also too busy to attend my book club meeting with all my wonderful friends last night. :(

3. Join some kind of musical group and perform with them.As I said in my last update, we had my second concert on the first weekend of October. I then gave myself two weeks off rehearsal (which gave me some much-needed study time), since I had a conflict and wasn't able to perform in our mid-October concert. I'm now back at rehearsals and getting ready for next week's concert!

4. Blog daily.I've given up on this goal, and I have two reasons to justify it. :) The first is that when I look back at old posts from before this year, they have lots of comments on them. This year's posts are pretty barren, most of them having no comments at all. So that leaves me to think that either no one is reading anymore (except the grandparents, who usually see all my pictures sooner or later anyway!), or that my readers are so overwhelmed by the volume of posts that they don't read them all. So I'm thinking that in either case, it's fine to cut back. Secondly, both of my grad classes* are online. I spend so much time working on them that by the time I'm done, the last thing I want to do is launch into another online project. Really all I want to do is slam the laptop shut and go cuddle my husband and kids.

* Speaking of cutting back, I am thrilled to report that I will only be taking one class instead of two next semester. I am hoping that this will greatly reduce my stress level. In the meantime, I am counting down the weeks until the end of the semester and Christmas break. If anyone is interested, there are five more....

5. Get back down to (at least) my pre-pregnancy weight.Did that. :)

6. Get involved in some kind of theatre group and help out with at least one production.
Maybe next year. Or when the kids are in college....

7. Teach Bryn to read.Her favorite "game" this month is sounding out words to spell them. She also likes having me read her chapter books during naptime (when I should be studying...). She also loves "reading" books to Shay and Liam. I think this one has inherited my love of reading!!

8. Potty-train Shay.
We've had such an up-and-down journey on this. Bryn was done in a single day (at age 3 1/2), but Shay is much more of a process. Huh, it's like they're separate kids or something.... ;) Although she was doing great last month, she really seems to have lost interest lately. Right now she asks to go as a stall tactic at bedtime or naptime, and she has actually requested diapers over Pull-Ups for the last few days.

9. Frame our portraits.All family portraits have been framed. Next job is to put together our "Year Six" anniversary frame and frame Liam's cute 6-month portraits.

10. Finish up some of my murals.
Still working on Noah's Ark. And by "working," I mean "looking at occassionally."

11. Paint the kids' bathroom.This project is officially on hold.

12. Get Shay into her big girl room.
Achieved in January.

13. Breastfeed Liam.In addition to pumped bottles, Liam now eats rice and oatmeal cereal, bananas, apples, pears, green beans, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, and vanilla yogurt. He has a very strong preference for fruit over veggies, to the point where he actually gags himself if we give him veggies straight up and has even made himself throw up a couple of times. Luckily he loves rice and oatmeal cereal, so if we mix the veggies with cereal, he eats them with no problem. He eats a ton at each meal though--that kid is a bottomless pit!!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Big 0-5

Happy fifth birthday to my sweet Bryn! She was completely thrilled with her day full of festivities...

... and presents....

... including a new hat and mittens.
We also made our annual family outing to Chuck E. Cheese, where the girls got to hug the Mouse himself...
... and we took our yearly picture of Daddy and Bryn in the entryway.

Me and my big girl!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Twosday Giraffes

It has been a while since I've done a Twosday, but I thought these pictures were well worth it. Anybody need a double-take on these giraffes?
Hint: 2 of them are not from Halloween 2010.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Carving scary pumpkins--

Our two butterflies and their Very Hungry Caterpillar brother--

Butterflies in pink and purple--
And our little giraffe--
Happy Halloween, everyone!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fire Truck Day

October always holds Fire Truck Day at the girls' preschool, and while Bryn spent most of this year's event snuggling up to her crush (see yesterday's post for photographic proof), they did still manage to take in the big red truck in all its glory.

Preschool cuties--look at them all well-behaved in that straight line:

Shay and friend Christopher:
Class portrait with the brave firefighters:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Best-Loved Boys (Part 3)

I'd better enjoy doing posts like this while I can, because it won't be too many more years (or maybe just months) before Bryn will likely forbid me from doing so. But for the time being, she considers her crushes to be conversation for all, so I feel safe in doing the same.

Anyway, check out this cuteness. I got some adorable pictures of the class on Fire Truck Day (to be posted next) and couldn't resist taking a few of Bryn and her (perhaps unknowing) beau as well. There's some definite cuddling going on there.

And yeah, she's wayyyy closer to Billy than to the kid on her other side. Preschool love connection?

Ben says I shouldn't even entertain thoughts like this. I don't think he understands little girls. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Falling Into Fall

So, so much to catch up on. Time seems to be slipping by so quickly these days. Perhaps it's my two grad courses sucking up all my time. Or maybe it's the three weeks I just spent grading SAT essays online. Or maybe it's my three children under the age of five (although not for much longer!). Whatever it is, I'm running behind (as usual).

To begin--fall is officially here. The unseasonably warm days are now behind us, and the leaves are changing color and falling off the trees. The girls love to hear the leaves crunch under their feet, but even more than that, they love to throw heaping armloads of leaves onto each other. Thankfully, they both greet this trick with peals of happy laughter--although I do have to keep reminding them that not all of their friends feel the same way. Our new-construction neighborhood has basically no leaves, so they think that the leaves on the lawn of their school are the greatest. And oh boy, you'd have thought they'd died and gone to heaven when we took them to Eagle Creek Park last weekend!

Here's the girls and their friend Christopher, rolling around one day after preschool, unable to contain their joy at the miracle of fall:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Over the (Blue) Moon

One final note about our trip to Peoria before moving on to the rest of our (last) week. While we were there, my mom took us out to lunch at The Spotted Cow, this great little restaurant that also happens to feature awesome ice cream. Given the promise of being able to choose any flavor ice cream they wanted, the girls obediently devoured their lunches, which is a pretty impressive feat for my picky little eaters.

My mom took Shay up the counter and started reading her the names of the flavors..... and next thing we knew, Shay had a heaping cone full of bright blue ice cream! Apparently the years between "mom" and "grandma" created a little forgetfulness in Mom's understanding of a child's psyche, because she insists that all she did was read the names of the flavors. To which I reply, yes, but saying, "Ooooh, look at that blue one.... it's called Blue Moon..." is more temptation than a 2-year-old can handle. LOL!!

Photographic evidence that Grammy was totally responsible for the ice cream mess -
Shay was over the moon with delight at her Blue Moon ice cream -

Bryn opted for a more traditonal strawberry -
Seriously, though.... We love you, Mom. Thanks for a great weekend (and for putting up with our good-natured teasing). :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our Trip To Tanner's

Last weekend, we went to Peoria to visit my family. This was kind of a red-letter event, as it was actually our first trip to Peoria since Liam was born.... 7 months ago. It's not that we're squeamish about traveling with a baby; Bryn traveled for her first Thanksgiving when she was 3 weeks old. It's more that the mechanics of travel have gotten much harder now that the kids outnumber the parents in our family. Furthermore, Shay stopped sleeping in a crib around the same time that Liam was born, and unlike Bryn, Shay is a bit of a nighttime wanderer. Basically, Shay needs constant supervision while traveling, and the lucky parent who supervises her doesn't end up getting much sleep. Then we also need someone who can get up with Liam in the night, since he still does that occassionally. And ideally, those two someones should not be the same parent, so Shay and Liam don't wake each other. And most places that we would travel to don't have enough space for us to spread out enough to separate each kid into a different room to allow them all to sleep, thus our utter lack of overnight travel over the last seven months.

But I digress. The point is, we finally made a trip to Peoria, and it went just fine. We isolated Shay in my sister Kristin's old room, and while she did utterly trash the room (sorry, Sissy) and I did have one panicked moment where the video monitor revealed that she was attempting to climb out the window (which was thankfully closed and locked, so she failed), everyone else got good sleep. We also had a great visit with my mom, as well as short side visits with my dad and stepmom, two sets of my aunts and uncles, and some old friends from my church growing up.

The absolute greatest thing to do in Peoria in the fall is to go to Tanner's Orchard. I'm sure that everyone else who grew up in Peoria will back me up on this.... after Tanner's, pretty much every other apple orchard in the world is a huge letdown. So I was especially excited that even though we haven't been to Peoria in a while, we were able to work a visit to Tanner's into this trip. Oh, and did I mention that it was 85 degrees and sunny? Here's some of our highlight reel:

Bryn and Shay driving their tractors -

Froggie teeter-totter... so handy to have a sister as a built-in partner! -
Grammy Tina watched Liam while the rest of us checked out the "dirt bikes"..... don't worry, it's all pedal power -
Shay and Bryn both found their way out of the corn maze all on their own -
Tanner's actually has dozens of gourd-headed scarecrows done up in the guises of all kinds of famous characters, but the girls liked Minnie and Mickey the best -
My favorite part was coming home with a trunk full of apple cider, apple fritters, carmel apple pie sprinkled with nuts, apple cider doughnuts, and apple butter, not to mention the apple cider slushie I got to sip on the way home. YUM!! Apparently my family agrees, because Ben has already demolished the entire carton of apple fritters (I didn't get to eat a single one!), and Bryn liked the apple cider doughnuts so much that when we ran out (in record time!), she insisted that I call Grammy (while she was listening) and ask her to bring more the next time she comes to visit. Yep, Tanner's is always a hit!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Visit from Sunny

Each year, the kids' preschool has a "class pet." This year, it's Sunny (aka Sunshine Bear) because the theme for the year is sunshines. Each kid in the class gets a turn taking Sunny home for the weekend and recording Sunny's adventures in the class book. This year we are extra lucky because Sunny will get to come to our house twice! Here are some of the fun things that Sunny did on Shay's weekend:

Played in Shay's "house" on the school playground -

Got to eat a delicious bowl full of dirt -
Got to play in our yard with Shay on an ujnseasonably warm day -

And got to go out to lunch at McDonald's with Lilly, Christopher, Bryn, and Shay (all of whom are in our preschool class, and also the MOPS group that we go to on Fridays) -