Surprise!!

As many of you may recall, last year my mom had her mastectomy on her 58th birthday. Obviously, a lot has happened over the last year so Alison, Denise and I wanted to do something extra special this year for mom’s birthday. We decided to have a surprise brunch with a number of her close friends. Now, let me just say that surprising MY mom is NOT an easy task. She likes to know exactly what is going on and continues to question and question until she knows all the details (I can say this – because I am just like her! Ha!).
The girls and I headed up on Tuesday to spend the week with her. My sister came up on Thursday – but mom didn’t know anything about that. We just told mom we would have lunch somewhere on Friday but she could decide where. She decided she wanted to stay in Morton so my dad and maybe my uncle Mike could join us. All week long she was asking me and Denise (my sil) if we would rather eat at Basta’s or Ruby Tuesdays. I think she asked us multiple times a day – and we didn’t care because we knew we weren’t actually going there.
We were having the brunch at my grandma’s house so my sister was going to head straight there on Thursday to get started on preparations. However, my mom made plans for us (the girls, me, Max, Denise, Contessa, Alex, my dad, my grandma, my uncle and herself) to eat Monical’s pizza at my grandma’s house on Thursday evening. Obviously, this totally threw things off because we could start setting up and we didn’t want mom to see Alison. So here are the rest of us eating yummy pizza together and Alison just ran some errands and then hung out alone at Max and Denise’s house until we were done.
Then on Friday after everything was ready, I ran to mom and dad’s (I stayed at my grandma’s with Daphne while the big girls stayed with my parents) to get my mom and Norah, Lucy and Contessa. I had dropped Daphne off at a friend of Denise’s – and just told mom that Abby said I could drop her off early. The plan was that I was going to tell mom that Grandma wanted to ride with us to lunch but she wasn’t quite ready so we needed to go back by her house to get her. Norah wanted to see the “Surprise” so she was going to just out of the car with my mom and run up to the door with her. That was the plan. When I got to my mom’s, she had just gotten a phone call that her car – which was being worked on – was ready and mom wanted me to run her to get her car and then she wanted to meet us at the restaurant. Now my grandma lives about 4 blocks from my mom so I tried to convince her that we should get grandma first. Since I was driving, we just went there, but my mom was not overly happy with that because she thought grandma still wouldn’t be ready. I told her to run in and get grandma. She headed to the garage instead of the front door so I had to shout something like, “Mom, I think I forgot to lock the front door. Can you just go in that door and check?” I am pretty sure she rolled her eyes at me – but she did. Thank goodness because everyone was standing right inside the front door!
Waiting to get the party started!

Grandma set and decorated the table.

Finishing touches

. . . and the “surprise!”
Mom and my Aunt Kathy – mom kept referring to her as her private duty nurse. Kathy spent many nights at the hospital with mom so dad could go home to get some sleep. Kathy went to many appointments with mom and really took care of her as mom tried to gain strength and do normal daily activities.
Waiting for mom to come in the door
Party guests
Singing “happy birthday” and opening presents
Dad stopped by on his lunch to check in on the party. The grand-daughters were obviously excited to see him!!

5 of the 7 grandkids (Ryan and Will couldn’t be there)
Lucy, Norah, Daphne, Contessa and Alex

Valentine’s Day Bust

Norah spent Valentine’s Day sick with strep throat and an ear infection. She was quite upset because that meant we couldn’t host/attend our homeschool friends Valentine’s Day party. Daphne and Lucy were at Mother’s Day Out so Norah was able to rest in a quiet house – never happens!! She had a hot chocolate and watched Ramona and Beezus. She also just turned a corner when it comes to reading chapter books all by herself (she has been reading chapter books for awhile but always wanted me there right next to her) so she read Piggy Party off and on throughout the day.

Even though we weren’t able to host the Valentine’s party, I still decorated a little for the girls. I hung balloons and cut out heart snowflakes to string around the dining room. The girls enjoyed eating dinner in the dining room that was overflowing with hearts!!
Really – looking at this picture you would think that none of the girls felt that great! Norah really is the only sick one!!

What’s in the Box Wednesday: Pre-K

As mentioned previously, we use the workbox system for school. Norah has a set of 9 drawers and Lucy has a set of 6.
Lucy’s drawers today consisted of:

Lucy’s introduction to her letters in always from Starfall. This week she is learning the letter ‘k.’ Lucy knows that when she has the ‘computer’ card in her drawer that it is time for Starfall.

handwriting – Getting Ready for K
I keep all of our handwriting pages (pre-k and kindergarten) in a binder in page protectors. Lucy uses a dry erase marker and writes directly on the page protector so we can erase them and use the pages later.

textured letter and ‘k’ pictures

‘k’ picture card page from My Father’s World kindergarten curriculum

math activity – recognizing 1-6 (pretty easy for Lucy but still good to review) while
practicing 1-to-1 correspondence

Lucy’s Bible verse (Bible verse card taken from here)

Tot School – Red

Our intentional Tot School time has been few and far between. We play, read and color a lot, but I haven’t spent a lot of time preparing any specific activities for Tot School.
This week has been different (so far).

coloring a Kangaroo with a red crayon (Lucy’s letter this week is ‘K’
this week so Daphne wanted in on the action)

building with Lucy

throwing red balls into a bucket

sorting red objects – sparkly hearts, red counting bears, red unifix cubes

Daphne’s first collage – attaching red items to contact paper! She worked and worked on this!!
Daphne is constantly trying to name colors but can’t identify any yet (totally normal, I know) so I thought doing a week of a specific color would give her an introduction to each color. Right now, almost everything is pink – imagine that! This week is RED! She still called everything pink – but I overemphasized that the objects were all red!

Lots of Random Things!

Norah is cheering again through the Upward program at our church. She loves it! For those of you who know Norah, you know that she is a relatively quiet kid. She talks all the time – but she is not loud. She can be sometimes, but overall, she has a very quiet voice. I often half to ask her to repeat herself – even if I am right next to her – because she talks so quietly. At cheerleading – she is totally different. There are some weeks at practice when she is the loudest one – and with 15 other girls on her squad – that is saying a lot!! Each week after practice Norah comes home and teaches Lucy her new cheers. They perform them for us all week long. Lucy can’t wait to cheer with Norah next year (although, I would be okay if they want to try something else).

Lucy and Daphne are going to the Mother’s Day Out program at our church. They both seem to really like it. Daphne is usually ready for me to leave so she can get busy playing – although, every once in a while she acts like she is going to cry but she gets over it quickly. We are learning a lot about Lucy this year through Mother’s Day Out. She relies on Norah so much in most situations that I think it has been good for her to have her own class to go to this year. Lucy tends to be an observer. I have to help her get involved in an activity or she cries. Her teachers have mentioned that she stands back and watches the other kids for a long time before joining in on an activity. She is making friends but it has taken awhile. I feel so bad for Lucy sometimes because she gets so nervous in new situations.
Kevin and I are both running in a half-marathon in April. Kevin has run in quite a few over the last 8 years (including one full), but I haven’t run that distance since before we had Norah. I am pretty sure at the time that I said I never wanted to run that far again. However, I wanted some sort of motivation/something to work towards so I would keep running this winter. The run is 8 weeks from today – and I have run up to 8 miles, so I think I should be okay. Although, I have to say that with all the snow we have had this year, I have run further on a treadmill than I ever thought I would. I am ready for more regular outdoor runs! In the fall I was running about once a week with my friend, Beka – and I love running with a friend! Other than the few times Kevin and I are able to run together, I usually only run by myself! Running with Beka is a great distraction to the distance I am running!!
After prayer and many conversations with Kevin, I have decided to become a certified personal trainer. Several reasons come to the top of my head: I really enjoy working out and enjoy the feeling of completely a challenging workout. We try to be healthy and want to teach our kids (and others) to be healthy but not obsessive about what they eat. Living in the obese society that we do – I think people just need some help to get going. Losing weight and becoming physically fit take EFFORT – it isn’t very often that people just try to eat better and walk a little more and actually lose the weight they want. You have to know WHAT you are eating, WHEN you are eating it. You also have to exert some serious energy to become physically fit. I know a lot of moms who say their bodies will never be the same after having kids – I disagree. If you are happy with your body weight – great! If you are not – I think that the body after baby thing is just an excuse to not put forth effort. I also think that so many people are not living the life that God intends for them because they are too tired to get off the couch. There are so many diseases that can be prevented by living a healthy life. All that being said, I am taking an online class and hope to be certified by mid-spring. I am really excited about the possibilities that personal training offers and that it is a way for me to contribute to our finances on a schedule that still allows me to homeschool.
In the fall Kevin and I did an herbal cleanse. I had read about different types of “cleansing” and knowing the number of toxins that are in our bodies and how tired and groggy I was feeling all the time, Kevin and I decided to try one. For us the best option was the Advocare Herbal Cleanse. Several cleanses that I read about tell you that you can’t eat much or anything other than your cleansing drink. To me that doesn’t sound safe. Your body needs fuel. My body needs fuels – to homeschool, to parent, to clean, to cook, to workout, etc – I was not going to do anything that requires me not to eat! Very few people eat perfectly all the time – we all miss out on nutrients that our bodies need. Advocare products seem to meet you in the middle. The company wants their clients to eat write and be active, but knowing that we can’t eat right all the time, they step in with their vitamins and supplements. If you need more energy – this may be something for you to try. If you know you need to lose weight and just need something to kick start you weight-loss journey – may be for you. If any of you readers are interested in finding out more about Advocare – let me know and I can put you in touch with the right person!!

Sunday Field Trips

Ever since last winter when Morrison’s went talked about their day at the zoo for the penguin walk, Kevin and I have tried to find a time when we could go – but with all the snow we have had this year, we knew it would have to be a spontaneous thing! We were heading downtown on Sunday anyway, so we decided to head to the zoo first. The temperature was perfect – about 41 degrees!

If you live in the St. Louis area and have not visited the zoo for the penguin walk – you HAVE to go. It is so cool! The girls were amazed that the penguins would walk right up to them!!
After the zoo – the main reason we were heading downtown – we went to the World Aquarium. I bought tickets, through Living Social (like Groupon), for buy 2 tour tickets get 2 free. I thought it sounded fun and Norah has been studying underwater life this week for school so it was the perfect field trip! This was incredible. First – we didn’t know there was an aquarium inside the City Museum, but we haven’t been to the City Museum in YEARS. Second – The tickets were for an actual tour and ours ended up being a private tour (I think there was supposed to be one other family with us, but they never showed). If you visit the museum – and buy tickets for the aquarium – you just walk around yourself not with a guide. Having the guide made it all worth it – even if you would pay full price. We would totally do this again even if we have to pay the $13 a person (however, we will be waiting until Daphne is a tad bit older – you will see why shortly). I can’t begin to tell you how great our tour was – totally hands on. The girls were able to pet/hold/feed about 3 times the number of animals you would get to if you just pay for a visit and not the tour. Our tour was about 2 hours – and Norah and Lucy did great. They loved EVERY minute of it!! Daphne did great for a while, but since she was going on no nap – the 2 hours was a little long.

Armadillo – girls were able to feed it.

Not sure what kind of frog this is – I had to step away with Daphne at this point.

The girls each had a turn hold the lizard.

Anteater – Norah LOVED this one!

This was OBVIOUSLY the highlight of my aquarium visit (not the sarcasm).

Starfish

Not sure why this is upside down – but oh well. Daphne was amazed that she could hold the starfish. Kevin is just making sure she doesn’t throw it!


Norah also loved the tortoises!
These were the middle-sized ones. We saw a HUGE one later – but my pictures didn’t turn out.

Chameleon

This guy greeted us as we walked in and Daphne kept shouting “too youd, too youd” (too loud).
Looking back at my pictures – I just realized that we didn’t get many pictures of fish! Ha! We did take some but there was often a glare on the glass. They also fed several other animals but I can’t remember what they were!! I know they fed a sting ray and touched a shark. Of course, we also admired all the beautiful salt water fish in the large aquariums.
If you haven’t been to the St. Louis World Aquarium – you need to go. If they are offering any tours that day – I say, go for it. You will not be disappointed. Just a tip, though, do not dress warmly. It was muggy and we were all layered up for the penguin walk! Whew!

Snow, Snow, and More Snow

The girls have spent some fun times out in the snow this winter. About 2 snowstorms ago – Norah was concerned that it would be the last so she begged everyday to play outside. I am not a fan of the cold or snow but I will happily send the girls out with Kevin anytime. I can take pictures from the door!

Ready for the snow!

Getting ready to go for a ride!

Face plant!

I have NO idea what Lucy is doing – but this picture cracks me up!

Norah – in all her glory! She could make snow angels all day!

That is a serious amount of snow – about 10 inches, I think.
I have to add that I have good memories of my mom playing out in the snow with us. In my defense, though, she LOVES the snow. She was disappointed this week when they only got 13 inches. I am pretty sure she played in the snow while we were all at school!! Ha!