Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I hope your Halloween was as enjoyable as ours. Ava's caterpillar costume was second-hand, Liesl's butterfly costume was new...after I saw a "Bo-Peep and sheep" costume ensemble for a preschooler and a baby in a catalog, I of course had to go with a "theme" for the girls' costumes while they are still young enough to let me choose. :-)

We three girls were just a tad sick, and I was apprehensive about taking everybody out (including me) while we weren't up to par, but the weather turned out to be cooperative. Can't remember a nicer Halloween, and I'm glad that Daylight Savings Time got postponed--it meant we had a solid hour of daylight to trick-or-treat in.

We 3 girls are going to Grammie and Papa's house on Sunday, which is Papa's birthday. We will take the costumes with us and give G&P a bug fashion show.

Both kids were on their best behavior. Hallelujah.

The family. :-) Thanks to Dave (Ethan's Daddy) for offering to get a family photo.

Trick or Treating at Ethan's Pappa's house -- we call him "Pappa B." He lives just down the street.

Getting treats from Mrs. L. Very kind neighbors, always make a fuss over the girls. :-)
For those who have been to our house, Mrs. L. is the one across the street with the absolutely gorgeous flower gardens.

Examining the loot...90% of which they will not be allowed to eat.
(We'll have to help them with that.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Future occupation: Plumber.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Go Green! Go White!

This was the day of Ava's birthday party...the day after MSU totally embarrassed UofM on the football field. Oh, life was sweet that day.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday to Darling Ava

Sweet, precious, darling Ava turned 1 year old today. Oh, it's so bittersweet to see my little baby become so big. She delights nearly everyone she sees with her sweet, toothy smile and tiny red curls. She has such a deep belly laugh, a chuckle that seems to take forever to escape her round little tummy. She amazes everyone with her near-perfect walking--a skill she's been working on for 3 weeks now. While Tom is just thrilled that our little baby has grown so well, I have been feeling such a strange mixture of melancholy and joy all day. It's been as varied as the weather today--sunny and bright one moment; rainy and dismal the next. How can I ever let go of something so small and so sweet? But how can I not look forward sharing the amazing discoveries she will make in the next exciting year?

I love you so much, little Ava. I have tears streaming down my face as I write this. Your birth was such an important, empowering moment in my life. It seems impossible that that tiny, wrinkled, wonderful creature has turned into the toddling little dumpling that circles my feet these days. You are such a joy to all of us. I am so thankful that God trusted me so much that He put you in my care. You and your sister are such a blessing to your Daddy and me.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Unlikely...but not impossible

Ava's birthday bash is today. We are ordering pizza and salads, but I decided to make the birthday cakes myself. I baked three* cakes and made 24 cups of icing on Friday. And Saturday morning, I went to Weight Watchers and weighed in. I lost 3.2 pounds last week. I'm pretty impressed with that...given that I have a tendency, to, uh, test the icing to be sure it is fit for human consumption....

Another icing father-in-law swore up and down that I'd made way too much icing. Ha! I almost ran out. I used almost every smithereen of it. (What wasn't eaten by me or the family, that is. I gotta say...baking and cake decorating are very stupid hobbies for a Weight Watcher. At my request, Tom dropped me off at my Weight Watchers meeting yesterday in my running gear, and I ran home after the meeting. Talk about an incentive to exercise....)

Oma and Opa have been in town all weekend for the bash, and were a HUGE help watching the girls while I played with icing in the kitchen. They weren't really given a choice...but somehow, I don't think they minded. :-)

Pictures of Ava's cakes and the birthday bash will probably show up here tomorrow. My little Pumpkin Pie, my little Smooshy-Wooshy, my sweet little Funny Bunny is almost 1 year old! I can't believe it.

* I actually baked four cakes...but promptly dropped one of the perfectly-baked layers in the oven as I took it out. The cake pan flipped upside down INSIDE the oven. The fluidity and ingenuity of the cursing that followed was actually quite impressive. I would've written some of the more inventive phrases down, had I not been busy shoveling loads of freshly-baked cake hunks out of the hot oven onto the floor and inside the storage drawer under the oven. Props to Grammie for helping me clean that mess up. I had to bake another cake. We now have one odd, lonely cake layer hanging around, with no home or intention. Any takers?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Congratulations to Karen and Robert!

Karen and Robert are getting married! Yippeeeeee!

For those that don't know our family personally, Robert is Tom's brother, who lives in Illinois. We found out this weekend that they had just gotten engaged (or did they do it earlier and decide to keep it under wraps for a while??? If so....hmm...I think they're on to something here....)

Karen has very graciously asked Liesl to be her flower girl for the wedding. I am so touched, and I know in her own preschooler way, Liesl will be as well. Liesl adores her soon-to-be-Aunt Karen, and for good reason--she's an absolute sweetheart with a great sense of humor. (Thank God. She'll need it.) I am very excited to have a new sister-in-law!

I'm so happy for you guys. Karen, you will be such a beautiful bride. Congratulations, you two crazy lovebirds!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Music Time

Music became a very large part of our lives, very quickly, over the past few months. Even before we became parents, I had always planned on learning the violin with my children when the time came, but I didn't realize it could be so soon. I had figured that they would take it up in middle school. Then, last August, we talked with other parents who started their children very early in the Suzuki method for violin. The more we read and heard about Suzuki and other methods, the more excited I became. I quickly found a Suzuki teacher in our area and looked into the idea of starting Liesl now. The plan we came up with was for me to learn the violin for a few months before Liesl so that I could be of better help during her practice. But now that I am learning myself and enjoying it so much, I am sure that when Liesl begins formal instruction, I will continue to take private lessons myself (as long as I can keep getting a few interpreting assignments a month--private instruction is an expensive investment.)

Our violin teacher, Miss Sharon, is absolutely terrific. She is a physician who decided she'd rather teach violin than practice medicine, though she does keep her licence up. I can't believe the amount of work she puts into her students behind the scenes, outside of our private sessions. She is a very hands-on teacher, she makes herself available outside of lessons to all of her students via phone and email if you are having a problem during daily practice. She puts a tremendous amount of time in on monthly recital classes and rehearsals. We also have an open invitation to drop by the studio any time we want to observe other students' lessons. (Which means that all the other students have the opportunity to observe MY lessons as well. EEEK!)

In addition to the violin, we started our Music Together classes with Miss Karen in September. (This one's really for the kids, folks--but I honestly think I am enjoying the classes, songs, instruments and activities as much as any kid in the class.) Both Liesl and Ava are "students" in the class, which is based on exposing very young children to more diverse musical experiences than most popular children's music CD's. Heck, even I have learned things I didn't know (or remember) from when I studied music as a child and teenager. The classes are also an investment, but now that I see the benefits they offer (not to mention the fun all three of us are having during class), we will continue to take them for the winter and spring sessions. Thanks to our Music Together experiences, we have started a nice collection of used rythem instruments (including some that we made or discovered ourselves.) I also see a few more instruments on the horizon for birthday and Christmas gifts.

So, add these two big parts of our lives up and we now have a daily practice session we call "Music Time." After breakfast is cleared, us three girls head into the living room (where I barricade Ava in with suitcases and other large items.) I get out my violin and practice, Liesl and Ava get out their musical instruments and give Mommy a headache practice as well.

(Never mind the naked kid...we are also potty-training. We just loooooooooove multi-tasking in our house.)

This next video will show one of our newest and most welcome Music Time companions:

...Thanks to the coffee-can drums--which, as Ava discovered, are much louder if you turn them upside down--I stopped using a free online metronome and bought a simple model that had sweeping lights. The lights help me keep my rhythm much more now that Ava has figured out how to turn the coffee can drums over. I'm thrilled she's making discoveries--but I can barely hear my violin, much less a metronome, over the racket. :-)

We usually play for 15-20 minutes, then pack up the violin and instruments and wrap up the session with a quick visit to YouTube for Liesl and I. Miss Sharon told us that if Liesl were to see a video of a concert violinist each day, she would become a better violinist herself. So we usually watch for a few minutes--rarely finishing a video because she starts to fidget after 3 or 4 minutes--but I have been learning a lot along with her. My favorite violinist is Rachel Barton Pine, and Liesl's very favorite video clip of all time is Rachel's Happy Birthday variations. Rachel is a lovely, fun-loving, talented musician with a very interesting past and story.

In addition to morning Music Time, I try to grab 10-15 minutes of "solo" practice time in the late afternoon or evenings. Sometimes right before dinner, sometimes while Tom is giving the girls a bath. Practicing on my own is a hugely different experience than practicing with two little girls at my feet. Both kinds of sessions are fun, but in different ways. People ask me constantly how I manage to practice so much with two little girls. It's easy: I love to practice. (My neighbors aren't quite as thrilled as I am, but, what the heck. They can close their windows.) If you really want something bad enough, you'll find a way; if you don't, you'll find excuses. The whole purpose of my studying the violin was to expose our kids to it, so I make them part of it. And Liesl "helps" me by rosining the bow, by making sure my bow arm is straight, and by letting me know which version of "Twinkle" she'd like to hear first.

I'll post videos of me practicing when I figure out where the heck our tripod is. I plan to keep a video "diary" so I can see how much I progress over the years. It won't be Stravinsky or Brahms to begin: it'll be several variations of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and it'll be quite squeaky at first. :-) However, according to Miss Sharon, I'm progressing very well, especially for an adult (translation: An old person whose limited brain cells are more focused on potty vocabulary than musical aptitude.). I have my high-school band director to thank for that--Mr. Jones was a tremendous teacher, and his lessons have stuck with me all these years, even as my music skills lay dormant and my piano and clarinet have collected dust.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Potty Training: A summary

Laundry, toilet paper, repetition, gritted teeth, hand washing, naked kid, praise, suppressed frustration, tiny panties (not the Victoria's Secret kind of tiny panties), ridiculous dancing upon successful pottying, more hand washing, endless discussion of elimination and anatomy vocabulary, excited phone calls to grandparents, still more hand washing.



Repeat aforementioned cycle about 5-6 times in one day. Put child to bed--in a diaper--and retreat to kitchen. Locate giant bottle of vodka. Swill until your eyeballs float.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pictures of the last few weeks

My big girl riding her bike!

An impromptu picnic at the Franklin Cider Mill


Our Raspberry Monster

Ho boy.

Such a charming sweetheart!

"I want to help."

Liesl, Julie, and Tyler

Ava in Music Class

Argh, matey! Walk (or crawl) the plank!

Liesl reading a story to Teddy Bear

My big girl!

It's hard for the adults to keep up!

My first cake for decorating class. The stars in the rainbow, as well as the bottom border, are individually piped. I obviously need to work on writing with icing, but the rest of the cake was really fun. (And tasty!)

2nd cake. The clowns were a practice in figure piping. I also practiced color striping of the pastry bag, which is how the clowns got their red and blue stripes. I didn't get to eat any of this one. It was chocolate.

My 3rd cake, which I used for my parents' birthday celebration. The roses took a lot of practice and they're still not anywhere near as neat and careful as my teacher's roses. The cake was chocolate and it was delicious!

The TREMENDOUS bake sale at the FAMC Mom 2 Mom sale (see my green cake?)

My kitchen...after my friend Julie "helped" me practice my icing roses (that is to say, she ate them when I was done making them. She kept telling me it was like a dream come true to just sit and eat icing roses. Then again, she did swipe the rose off of my piece of cake at Ava's baptism party. Right under my nose, in full view of...everybody. She's a size 6, too. Doesn't it make you SICK!??!?)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I've had several people ask me why the heck I haven't updated my blog in over a month. In a nutshell, our weekly schedule has become quite busy. The girls have music class on Tuesdays, and Liesl and I have been taking Suzuki violin lessons on Wednesdays. I took an interpreting assignment from 6:00 -10:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, and I recently finished a 4-week Wilton cake decorating class at Michael's. I was also rehearsing and preparing for my shadow interpreting role in "Roland the Minstrel Pig" with Wild Swan Theater, which opened this morning. There have been lots other activities as well: Mom's club events, birthday parties, Oktoberfest at our church, and the like.

So between packing and bundling up the kids and driving to all these activities, and also practicing my violin 30-40 minutes a day (usually with the girls at my feet), plus those annoying requirements like cleaning, paying bills, and doing laundry--my Internet time has decreased significantly! However, the activities are both educational and fun, and the extra money that my work brings in is very welcome with the higher costs of food, gas, and our new extracurricular schedule.

There have also been difficulties, illnesses, and problems--as I'm sure all families encounter. Tom is working feverishly on his 1995 Impala SS so that we can get it running, out of the garage, and possibly up for sale...but the best part of that would be I could finally park my van in the garage, making it easier and safer to load and unload the kids and all of their gear. We've also lost electricity several times, long enough for it to be a concern and an inconvenience; had leaks in the kitchen sink and the roof, meaning we had to stop everything to do repairs; and have been concerned about the economy and the future of Tom's employment at General Motors. We weather the storms, but there have been some rough times in our home as well.

Even though the traditional harvest season is September, our gardens are still hemorrhaging fresh produce for us. Tom harvests raspberries about every other day, and then weighs them...we have been getting about 2 pounds of raspberries (yes, I said pounds) at every harvest. Liesl's new nickname is "raspberry monster," seeing that she eats about 1 full cup of raspberries with her lunch or dinner every day. We usually eat 3-4 bell peppers per day, and we give a lot of them away to family as well. The tomato plants are not as tall as they have been in previous years, but they still continue to produce tons of fruit. We are ready to make salsa for canning...if we could just get someone to watch our kids as we weigh, dice, cook, and can. Any takers?

Liesl and Ava have both had many milestones. Liesl had her first haircut, in which I watched rather than focused on taking totally perfect pictures, so the photo record is quite limited. She is also riding her bike, a two-wheeler with training wheels, all by herself. She is dressing herself more, though it usually takes 10 times as long as it would if I did it myself. (Still, that's why I decided to stay home.) Darling little Ava has 4 teeth, is walking (tentatively, having never really had a "cruising" stage), and signs furiously when we are not quick enough to give her more cheese at mealtimes. She is saying some words, we think, but we are not quite sure.

Between my show, my work, the girls' activities, harvesting/canning, and several birthday parties during October (hint: guess who will be 1 year old at the end of the month...I'm going to cry), I probably won't update the blog as much as I used to. Things will settle down a bit in November (I hope.)

Thank you for thinking of us and stopping by. Pictures soon!