Thursday, December 18, 2014 being to finish up

...some holiday gifts.

I knew this little toddler chair had potential...

When I learned my youngest nephew adored 'soft' things...

I envisioned just the thing...

After pulling out potentially hundreds of staples, a little sanding, a bit of staining (as you can see I don't really have any workspace anymore)...

and two IKEA rugs...I came up with this:

I think I would like to cuddle up in it.

Monday, December 15, 2014 find a few

...lost items

Me:  Looking for my phone.  Looking for my phone.  Looking for my phone.  Several hours later...

"Has anyone seen my phone?"

Abbey:  "Yes.  In my pink Bitty Baby backpack, in my stroller, in the living room."

Me:  "Why of course...that's where I must have left it?!?"  Grr.

Me:  Looking for the giant round circle punch.  Looking for the giant round circle punch.  Looking for the giant round circle punch.  Several hours later...

"Has anyone seen the giant round circle punch?"

Audrey:  "Yes.  It's downstairs, in the basement, in the sink, in my kitchen set."

Me:  "Why of course...that's where I must have left it?!?"  Ugh.

Mark:  Looking for his Tiger's hat...looking for his Tiger's hat.  Several days later....

We still haven't found the Tiger's hat, but we are certain it's tucked away in some strange location.

Sunday, December 14, 2014 download

...the photos off of my camera.

This little guy made me laugh.

I think they say the fatter the squirrels are the worse the winter is supposed to be... far (except for one cold snap) we haven't found this to be true.

In the meantime, we'll enjoy the mild days while keeping our fingers crossed for a white Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2014 continue with

...the holiday preparations and decorations and Advent experiences.

Day 5:  Family outing to Kerrytown in Ann Arbor.

This was such a fun family outing.  The little shops were open 'til midnight, the Farmer's Market was open, there was a children's paper lantern parade, and of course Santa was milling around for the evening.

Day 6:  Cottonball fight.

This event has been postponed day-after-day.  I think this is hands-down the kids' favorite activity of the season.  Unfortunately, Mark has an injury that has incapacitated him for the past few days...and we definitely don't want to do one this without him

The accident:  Mark and Abbey were playing one-on-one basketball after Will's game this past weekend.  Mark went to dribble the ball past her, she shot her arm up to block him, and her fingers...met his eyeball.  He has a 3mm tear on his cornea (about 30% of his eye).  I have never seen someone in so much pain.  Labor seems much more preferable to the torture he has been through these past few days.  And the timing...couldn't be worse.  Mark has his first final this Friday and can't see anything.

Day 7:  Big Hero 6

A good movie by Disney.  I thought it was a little deep for the kids but they enjoyed it nonetheless.  For the record, I don't like sad Disney movies.  This one was a little reminiscent of Up.  A movie I cannot watch without inconsolably crying.

Day 8:  Write a letter to an old teacher or friend.

Surprisingly, each of the kids really enjoyed our activity for today.  Signed and sealed.

Friday, December 5, 2014 start to use up the

...106 oz. can of pumpkin I ordered.

Just for reference most cans are 15 oz.

Ooops.  It's no wonder it was 'a good deal' on Amazon Prime.

That's a lot of pumpkin!

This morning I made chocolate chip pumpkin muffins...

I combined some of our favorite recipes (e.g., zucchini bread, spice muffins) to make these:

3/4 c canola oil
1 1/2 c sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 c pumpkin
3 cups flour
1 t salt
2 t baking powder
a couple shakes of allspice
a couple shakes of cloves
1t cinnamon
1/2t nutmeg
1 t soda
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes (till very lightly browned).  Cool.  Dust with powdered sugar.

They were a huge hit.

It's a good thing...since I have lots of pumpkin to use up!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 continue with the holiday preparations

...and there is only 22 days left.

Thanksgiving was a little late this year.  And Christmas is sneaking up a little too quickly.  I took the opportunity over the long holiday weekend to put up our outdoor lights and we managed to get our tree.

I think December is the kids' favorite month of the year.  We try to have a little more focused family time, we read holiday stories nearly every day, and who doesn't enjoy the pretty papers, lights, and promises of presents?

Slowly the house is coming together.  The stockings are hung, the lights are strung, the tree is decorated, and the first round of cookies have been baked.

I think the kids' favorite traditions is running to open the Advent calendar each morning to see what our 'activity' for the day is.  Looking for the Plymouth (our elf) is a close second.

December 1:  Making Christmas cookie cut-outs after school.

This activity required such concentration and so much creativity that Audrey got super hot (and super messy) and had to strip down to her tighty-whities.

I had no idea they would enjoy this activity so much and put in so much effort.  

Kudos goes to Abbey for not even taking one lick!  

(So she insists...I think this photo and evidence of her blue tongue many indicate otherwise.)

December 2nd:  Making snowflakes.

This is another family favorite each year.  And as a bonus it is a quick activity to do on an evening filled with other extra-curricular activities.  We hang them in the windows when they are done.

December 3rd:  Breakfast for dinner.

Sometimes I cheat and throw in really simple things that the kids will think are awesome.  This did not disappoint.  I even let them pick... pancakes or waffles.

Pancakes won.

December 4th:  Hot chocolate bar!  As in hot chocolate, whipped cream, and candy canes.  They'll think it's awesome and we'll be able to squeeze this in after horse back riding and before swimming.

Monday, December 1, 2014 set Audrey straight

...sort of.

Mark paid the kids their allowance yesterday.


It had been a few weeks since we've paid them.  

Some weeks we are better than other weeks about paying them on time.

This is a long winded way of saying Audrey had acquired 'a lot of buck' (this is how she references bills be it a one or a five.) and she was reveling in her good fortune.

I happened to be in her room when she came upstairs to put her money into her piggybank.  This was our conversation:

Audrey:  Oh...friends may come and go...but money is FOR-EVER!! (I think I may have heard her cackle.)

Me:  Um.  Audrey.  Honey.  I think you have that backward.  The saying is:  Money may come and go, but friends are forever.  Sweetie.

Audrey:  Nope.  Friends will die someday.

Me:  Speechless.  

I learned later from Isabella that Audrey picked up this line from a television show she had watched.  Phew.  Thank goodness.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014 celebrate an incredibly special day

...Thanksgiving AND Abbey's 7th birthday.

Still little hands.

We enjoyed a relaxing morning watching her open her present and enjoying a leisurely breakfast of cinnamon rolls.

We celebrated Abbey's birthday and Thanksgiving at Dave and Karen's and what a festive event that was!

What a feast!  Three turkey, dozens of rolls, 25 pounds of potatoes (speedily peeled by Uncle Don), and more sides dishes, appetizers, and desserts than I can name.  The kids had fun experiencing the annual Viele event for the first time.

Her is one of the kid's tables that was set up...complete with a present for the birthday girl!

Each of the 52 guests had their name assigning their seats...

Will even claimed a turkey leg!

My grandmother posed for lots of photos...

And Abbey even got her baby fix spending time with little Dean.

I think the day was perfect.  

Happy birthday little one.

We love you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 begin the holiday decorating

...this process is always so overwhelming.

So overwhelming that I usually like to do several other tasks at the same time.

  • Laundry
  • Cooking
  • On-line Christmas shopping (this is a time warp trap I tell you)
  • Cleaning
  • Fielding disagreements amongst the cherubs

Thus, the process takes much longer than it is supposed to.

I'm still not done.

There are still tubs waiting to be unpacked and treasured items (e.g., the Elf Merry Okee) to find a spot to put hide.

Lucky me.

Perhaps they'll forget about this particular microphone by morning?

Sunday, November 23, 2014 begin the birthday celebrations for

...this little lady

Soon to be seven!

This year she is lucky that her birthday is actually on Thanksgiving Day!

This means she will get to celebrate her birthday several times (the weekend before, the day of, and the weekend after her special day)!

My mom and Richard came down on Saturday to spend the day with us and celebrate the festivities.

We all got to see Will play basketball first...

And the girls had much more fun in the stands than usual!

The afternoon was filled with boardgames, a big dinner, a birthday present,

 and cake of course!

I can tell this is going to be a great week!

Thursday, November 20, 2014 say goodbye our very best friend.

These last few days were so awfully hard.

Timber was....such an important part of our family.

Mark and I have had her as long as we have been married.  Shortly after we married in July, 1998 we moved cross-country to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.  We found we were lonely.  We missed our friends.  We missed our family.  We decided to add our first addition to our family.

In August, 1998 we drove to a shelter in San Luis Obispo, California and Mark picked out the most poorly behaved dog that he could find at the shelter.  He claimed that since he had never in his whole life had a dog, that this was his opportunity to get exactly what he wanted.

That's the story of how we ended up with Timber.

Timber was a terrible young dog.  She was less than a year old, yet full grown mutt.  Mostly German Shepherd and we think part Sheltie.  We'll never really know.

We do know she was just awful.

She never slept.

She ate everything in sight.  Shoes, remote controls, rugs, video tapes...

And she would dart out the door the moment some unsuspecting soul opened the door.

She was never tired.

Timber lived this tempo of life until about the time that Isabella was born (over four years later).

At this point in her life she must have had some sense of 'maternal' instinct kick in.  Since this was about the time her meanie instinct toward other dogs emerged.

This was not her most spectacular trait.

In spite of these traits...we adored her.  She was athletic.  So incredibly soft.  Funny.  Empathetic.  Watchful.  Loyal.

She was our companion.  She has been here, home waiting for us each day for over sixteen years.

Tonight, our house is quiet.  There is no clickety clack from her nails on the floor.  She isn't pacing back-and-forth window to window.  She isn't barking at Will to get her a treat.

I wonder how long it will take before we quit looking for her in all her usual spots?  Until we stop calling for her when we drop food on the floor?  Until we stop expecting her to be in the window waiting for us when we come home?

We were so lucky to have been blessed with her for so long.

It was so hard to say goodbye.

We will love and miss her forever.

Monday, November 17, 2014 make a note

...that some days are harder than others.

Timber had a pretty rough weekend.

Bless her heart...

While we were working outside in the yard this weekend she took a fall off of the porch.  I feel a bit responsible.  Maybe I shouldn't have let her outside with us?  But she wanted to be outside with us.

And for the past month or so we have let her do whatever she wants to do.

She wants a french fry off of my plate?  Sure.
Oh...she would like an egg for breakfast?  Scrambled or fried?
She barks at Will to go and get her a treat?  How many?
She only wants to eat canned dog food?  What kind do you like best Timber?

While the last few days have been rough for her...she still has some spunk.

She still knows how to strategically interrupt a board game:

These past few days the little girls have been more mindful and careful of her...and the big kids are loving on her each time they walk past her.

And she still wants to be right next to Mark and I.

And we'll enjoy these moments.

Thursday, November 13, 2014 take my oldest horse backing riding...

...she sure has had a rough couple of days.

I think that being a middle school student is hard.

I think being a middle school student in a new school is harder.

I think being a middle school student in a new school in a new state with new glasses and new braces is probably the hardest...

Isabella has had a couple of whammies come her way yesterday and today.  Yesterday she found out she has to wear glasses.  If I had to guess...these are a life sentence for her.  You see I started wearing glasses around 11 years old and now I have terrible vision.  Having said that, they have come a long way with corrective vision surgeries.  Perhaps some day Isabella will explore her options.

Until then this is her new look...

Then, this morning, bright and early at o'dark thirty, we went to the Orthodontist.  I think we both had the impression she was going to be fitted with her expander appliance.  The end.

Well...after nearly ninety minutes of having her mouth pushed, prodded, stretched, and pulled on...she emerged with a full set of dark blue and light blue braces AND the expander.

She was sore, cranky, annoyed, and emotional.

Bless her heart.  It broke my heart to drop her off at school after this appointment.  I hated leaving her there, telling her basically to buck up and carry-on with her day.  I know that was the right thing to do.   I wanted to tell her she could go home, lay in bed, and read all day.

Instead, I confirmed her riding lesson and surprised her by picking her up at the end of her day.

This girl was in heaven.

I think horses make middle school life a bit more bearable.

P.S.  She wouldn't let me take a picture of her with her braces on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 make a special dinner celebrate our Veteran.

I'll preface this post with a note to our families:  Thank you to our parents and brothers (and their wives) for recognizing this they do each year.  Mark (and I) does appreciate your thoughts.

Having said that, this is the first Veteran's Day in many years that has come and nearly passed with little recognition.

It's a little weird not living in a military town...

Mark was in class all day and none of his classmates acknowledged the day.
I was at work all day and there wasn't a single mention of Veteran's Day at the elementary school I work in.
Our kids were in their respective schools as get the picture.  No mention of what a special day this is.

That's okay.  Mark didn't choose the career he did to be thanked.

Just the same, he and the kids and I, understand the significance of this day.

And we remember and appreciate all Veteran's.

We especially appreciate our own Veteran.  The kids' watch how dedicated he is, how hard he works, and the they see the role model he is.

And they live this life with him.

It was just six months ago the kids and I drove seven hours to Baltimore, to wait for him and welcome him home...only to hop right back in the car and drive him all the way back to our home at Fort Drum.


In some ways these pictures seem as if they were taken a lifetime ago...

ready to drive to Baltimore
#4 so happy...

#3 so loving...

#2 so overcome with emotion...

#1 so quietly hopeful things will be the same...

And thankful he's home safely.

Thanks to our Veteran...

and so many others who have and are serving.

Sunday, November 9, 2014 share our...

Weekend tidbits...

I took this photo of the Santa display at the mall on Friday.  I am not sure why I was so surprised by its presence.  The mall had Christmas music playing.  The holiday decorations were all over.  I knew I would see those things.

However, I was so surprised that Santa was there.   Posing and waving to all he mall patrons who noticed him.  I only wish I had been brave enough to take his picture.  

Instead, I felt sorry for him...that no one was sitting on his lap or even waiting in line to see him.  And then of course I realized that it was only November 7 at 2:00 in the afternoon.  

And there were no children in the mall.  

Maybe someone should let the marketing staff know that children are generally at school at that time of the day...and if they aren't in school than they are probably napping (because they aren't old enough to be in school).  

Yes, there may be some children who are the home-schooled in this area...but something tells me those children don't frequent the mall either though.

I think we'll wait a month or so for our annual Santa trek.

On another note...

We all worked in the front yard on Saturday.  Can you believe we filled nine bags from that tiny front yard alone?

I convinced Mark that the unsightly big green bush in front HAD to go.  A broken rope, a broken tow rope, and a super-heavy duty tow rope later we got that beast out.


It's looks so much better.  If only I had remembered to take a photo of it before it got dark out.

And finally,  I'll leave you with a photo of our sweet Timber.

Bless her old, nearly seventeen-year-old heart...She just wants to be with us.  She still doesn't want to miss one exciting household moment.  So much so that she has taken to sleeping while sitting up.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 set up a playdate

...for Abbey.

There are some things I am good at like baking cookies, working with children, and even swimming. There are other things I do because I have to like clean bathrooms, run on my treadmill, and brush my teeth every day.

Then there are things that I avoid...things like cleaning out the refrigerator, and arranging playdates for my children.

Let me define playdate:

A child I have to invite to my house at a specific day/time for a pre-determined length of time because I don't know the parent.

I have my reasons for not loving them:

  1. Been there done that.  Waayyy back.  When I was a good mom to Isabella and Will (when they were little).  
  2. My children are lucky to have live-in playmates...three of them.
  3. Inevitably the kids (mine and the playmate) create a mess.
  4. I, more than likely, will have to figure out how to entertain this child AND my own.  
  5. The child's parent, that I don't know, will probably want to stay.
I have started to step out of my box a bit.

I caved this week.  

And Abbey was beyond thrilled to have her friend Charlie over.  

It turned out more perfect than I could have hoped.  He was a sweet little boy.  He answered my questions and talked with Abbey while they did their projects.  And while they did make a mess, (Monopoly is still all over in the toy room),  I did not have to intervene with their activities once.  Unless you count having to bust out the iron for the fuse beads.  

And Charlie's mom only stayed for about fifteen minutes.  She was also very nice.


I helped Will with his homework.
Talked with Isabella about her day.
And spent some sitting by Audrey while she played with her doll house.

And I made dinner.

That's what I call a successful playdate.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014 share the little moments

...instead of waiting for something that is interesting enough.

When I started writing this Today I Wanted was as a journal of sorts.  A journal to share the things I had wanted to accomplish that day (and probably hadn't because I had four children underfoot all day).  When Mark deployed (the two different times since I started) it was a great way to share with him parts of our days that I might not have shared in our conversations.

In the past few months, things have gotten rather quiet here on my blog.  Not because I don't have anything to say, or because our life has suddenly become boring, but instead because I didn't think what I had to say or share was interesting enough...or funny enough.

But that isn't the point.  The point was just to share my thoughts.

Isabella told me last week that sometimes she will just sit and read a whole month, or two, or a year at a time of the posts that I have written.  I suppose that fact alone makes my thoughts interesting enough.

I'll start to post more on the little things...because those are the fun things to remember.

For tonight, I'll end with two snapshots I took this evening while I was making dinner.  Excuse my iPhone quality...for the life of me I don't get how some people capture amazing shots with their phones...mine always seem to turn out crummy.  However, I was too lazy to grab my camera from the dining room table...

(FYI:  My camera is out of sight just beyond the couch...I wonder if others' are lazy like me?  Probably not.  I knew the lighting was poor in the living room.  I knew I should have grabbed it.  But then, 'the moment' might have passed.)

I digress.

Today I wanted to share how I think five-year-olds are amusing.

Audrey has ten stuffed animals set out in front of the couch.  She has numbered each animal with a slip of paper in front of it.  As a reference, they have been working on groups-of-ten in school.

I find it quite amusing that she has carried this lesson over this way.

Now she's putting them on a roller coaster.

If only I could have thought of that...

Steps + banister = roller coaster.

It does make perfect sense.

Monday, November 3, 2014 attempt to take a family photo

...for our annual holiday card.

Here's a preview...

 Checking lighting...

Checking lighting...

Still checking the lighting...

And...It's actually pretty cold out.  Even though we aren't wearing coats.  We aren't wearing coats because I told my cherubs they had to take them off for the photo shoot...

You can imagine their...happiness...

Still checking lighting (we let them put their coats back on)...

More lighting...

Someone is getting tired of trying to find a spot where the lighting is good...

Can I mention that it looks all sunny and warm?  But IT ISN"T!

Hmmm...maybe this tree spot has the right lighting?

A freeze hug.  The spot is right...the lighting is good...

The photographer's steady hand?  

Family photo to follow.