Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wondrous Nature

I grew up in a rather large city, and lived there most of my life. I still consider myself a "city kid". That's probably why I have such an appreciation for the wonders of nature.
We live in an area that is not only described as a suburb, but we are in the middle of farm country. Behind our home there are fields as far as the eye can see. On the roads leading to our house, there are horses, cows, wheat fields, corn fields, etc. I'm constantly amazed at the things I see around here on an average day.

Here is the glorious sunrise I wake up to nearly every day. Our view is unobstructed because the land hasn't been developed yet.
I know realistically there will be more houses back there some day, but for now I am enjoying the view!

A couple weeks ago there were 3 baby bunnies on our patio. We all watched them from the glass door as they sniffed and checked out our yard. The kids and I were equally amazed. I also see bunnies every time I run outside. I guess they're mornings folks too!

One morning recently I went out to water the garden, and this is what I found. I couldn't get over how beautifully perfect and large this web was. I just had to run into the house and grab my camera. Think of the hours of work that spider put in that night. Amazing what I find in my back yard these days!

I try not to take the little things for granted. Nature is amazing, especially to someone who didn't experience any of this as a child or young adult. I'm feeling lucky that my kids are able to grow up surrounded by natural beauty. They are learning about different creatures, and to co-exist with them.

We even have a tomato garden this year. Here is Tia getting ready to water the plants. It'll be so much fun to show her the fruit and start picking!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tia's new Room; Parts 2 and 3

The time to paint Tia's room finally arrived. We were supposed to have a rainy day on Friday so D.R. took the day off from work and designated it a painting day. It actually ended up to be a beautiful day, and he was stuck inside painting the whole time. What a man will do for his little girl!
Tia had picked out the paint colors herself. It was supposed to be 3 walls of this really bright pink, and one wall a light, soft pink. Once she saw this color on the walls, she wanted the whole room that color, and there was no changing her mind. She was so excited she was dancing around! I just have to say...This is a LOT of pink.

The girls insisted on going upstairs to check on the progress, even though I tried my best to keep them away. We allowed them 5 minutes to "help" with the job, then I bribed them away with an ice cream cone. Here are the masters at work.

Note the size of Gia's paint brush (which she kept calling her tooth brush!).

Here's the almost finished product. This completed part 2 of the room transition, the biggest part. D.R. did all the painting himself, then I was left to put everything back in order, and decorate.

I 'stole' the curtains from Gia's room. Tia's were a solid pink panel, and I honestly didn't have the stomach for MORE pink. Since Tia doesn't nap anymore, I really don't have to worry about keeping the sun out, so the sheers work just fine for her.

Then today I started putting her pictures back on the walls, and adding little decorative details. It's actually still not done yet because this weekend she will be getting a surprise from Nonna and PaPa.
They got her a little vanity that she can sit at and pretend to do her hair and make up. It's been sitting in my basement for months, and we're finally going to let her have it. She's going to be so excited! OK, so is her Mom. I love that kind of stuff.

Tia wants to spend a lot of time in her room now that it's painted. I can't blame her. I think it's the best looking room in the whole house!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

They're growing!

I just had to update on the seed kit I did with Tia. I can't believe it, but in just a few short days, they're growing! I kept telling Tia "These things take time", as she was watching every few minutes to see if anything happened. Then, this morning I noticed the sprouts. I can tell you there is a lot of excitement in our house this morning. Now, Tia wants to know when they will get purple like the picture on the box!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

25 Books!

It was last year around this time that I proudly posted I had just read my 10th book of the year. Well, I don't know what got into me this year but I just finished book #25! You can see the complete reading list in the right hand column of this blog.
Some of the selections were fantastic. Some kept me turning pages, on the edge of my seat, well into the night. Others weren't so great.

My new found love of reading has affected other things in my life as well. It has gotten us, as a family, to the library a lot more often. The library has become a favorite place for my kids. Mom gets a book, the girls get a book and a movie. They love it. We are well known by the library staff now.
Reading has also gotten me to sit down. I realized that throughout the course of my day, I seldom sit down. However, if I have a really good book, I sit and read while the kids eat breakfast. I cuddle with them on the couch and read while they watch their favorite cartoons. It's amazing how I am able to sneak in a paragraph here and there throughout the day.

This year I discovered Janet Evanovich. She wrote the Stephanie Plum novels. I never read fiction before, and now I'm pretty sure I'm addicted! The first set of 3 books in the series was to my Mom from our friend in Germany. Mom gave them to me, then I passed them on to my friend Sheila. She has finished them and passed them on to our friend Michele. I am perpetuating the addiction, and happy to do so!

I already have my next 3 books picked out. My Mom gave me a huge box of books on one of my trips home to see her. I'm happy to have them.

Happy Reading!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Potting and Planting

My Mother in Law gave me this plant many years ago, before we moved to Illinois. I had to keep it on top of our entertainment center because that was the only place high enough where I could let it hang.

I've been looking for a small trellis so that it wouldn't have to be hanging down, and I could move it to a better location. It doesn't get much light way up there on top of the TV, not to mention it's quite an effort to water and prune it. I've been to all the garden stores and craft stores. I can't find a small trellis anywhere! Today I got this new, larger pot. I transplanted it but didn't want to put it back up in it's high spot. I decided to call on my (almost non existent) crafty side and make one of my own. I kept thinking "Uncle Harry could whip up one of those things in 5 minutes!". So, for lack of scrap wood around my house, I used chop sticks and glue gun. Can you see them? I sure hope not. I glued about 6 chop sticks together and wrapped the vine around them. Now I can put the plant where ever I like, without worrying about the vines having to hang down. Almost genius.

Tia has been getting the gardening bug lately too. We picked up a kids seed starter kit while at the craft store today. When her sister went down for her nap, we got into it.

I think it's a bit late in the season to be starting seeds, but it was a fun little project and it gave us something special to do while it was just the two of us.
Tia is proud of her seeds and has been checking about ever 2 minutes to see if they've grown! I really hope they take.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Early Anniversary Gift for Me!

OK, we aren't supposed to buy each other anniversary gifts. I think we stopped doing that after the first year. We usually just go out for a nice dinner. This year my in-laws will be in town so we even get to do an overnight in a hotel and see a show, a rare treat! However, for some reason my hubby decided to get me a gift this year. And here it is!

It's the Kodak HD Zi6. I'm not a techy person, and not exactly a big fan of Kodak products (even though I'm from Rochester, the Kodak headquarters), but this thing is adorable! It's a little (about the size of a blackberry) video camera. We have a video camera that is pretty small compared to what they used to look like, but it's still just too cumbersome to bring around with us, so we always end up leaving it home. Well, this thing fits in my pocket or purse, so I anticipate taking a lot more video of our kids. The memory card fits right into the computer so I can immediately upload and email our pictures and videos. No more little cassettes that have to be converted to DVD. And of course it goes without saying that the best part is that it's pink!

Now, the daunting task of finding a cool anniversary gift for D.R.! Ugh.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting a little More Crafty

We've been experimenting with taking Tia's naps away. She goes to bed easier, and sleeps all night when she doesn't have a nap. I'm not sure what to do with all that extra time in the afternoon now! I'm trying my best to come up with new and exciting craft ideas. Here was our first attempt. Tia absolutely loved this craft. We made 2 jars and would have kept going if we hadn't run out of glass beads.
Here's our project:

We washed out an empty jelly jar. The glass beads were bought from Wal Mart.
Tia picked out her favorite ones.

I used the hot glue gun and Tia stuck on the beads.

After a while I had to take over the gluing because Tia's finger got a little toasty from the hot glue. That's OK, she was fine with picking out each bead and handing them to me for placement.

Here she is proudly showing off her finished product.
This one is for Daddy's change, or so she tells me.

This is our second one. Much bigger this time. I believe it was a salsa jar.
Tia has decided this one is for her cousin Jennifer.

Ah, another day, another craft...tomorrow is another day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Angels Watchin' Over Me

Today I was out in the yard pulling weeds, and the kids were playing on the swings. Quite literally out of the blue, Gia said "Angels Mom, Angels!". I just said "oh, what are you talking about angels for?". Her response sent shivers up my spine and almost brought me to tears. She said "Mema sent them Mom, Angels!". (Wow).
I very calmy said "oh, Mema sent angels? What did she send them for?". And her response was "she sent them for ME. Next to me Mom". (Whoa).

I've always believed that small children can see things that we can't. They have innocent eyes, unclouded by public opinion. Everyone has their own thoughts on this subject but I believe she saw angels, and that her Mema sent them for her. If my 2 year old tells me that an angel is next to her, I have no choice but to believe her. I take comfort in knowing that my Mom is still watching over our family, and even pulled in some reinforcements by sending some of her angel friends.

Today my Mom was with us in our garden. She is always with us in our hearts.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

She's Got the Music in Her!

I grew up with an extended family that had enormous musical talent. Sadly, nobody in my immediate family had any of it. I can remember as a kid thinking how great it was that my uncles and cousins could play instruments, and of course wishing I could do what they did.
I've been wondering lately if either of my kids will be musically inclined. D.R. and I are always on the look out for what our girls have a natural talent for, so that we can encourage and cultivate that talent. I was sort of shocked recently when Tia and I were some place together where there was music playing over head. She said to me "Mom, that's a trumpet, do you hear the trumpet?". I don't know how she picked out the trumpet sound, how she knew the name of the instrument, or even why she would think twice about the "pumped in" music in the first place. I wondered then if she was developing an ear for music.
Tonight we took the girls to an outdoor concert. It was a great night. We packed our dinner, brought our picnic blanket and lawn chairs, and joined the crowd. I cannot begin to explain how excited Tia got when the music started. Then she saw the trumpet player and her face lit up and she screamed "I see it! I see the trumpet...Look, there's a saxophone!". She was jumping out of her seat. I asked her if she wanted to get closer to see the instruments. She jumped at the chance. I carried her closer to the stage and held her while she watched. I could sense she wanted to dance, so I put her down. I can't believe what came out of this kid! She danced, non-stop, for the rest of the performance. She attracted the attention of everyone around her. This shy little girl who lives in a virtual shell most of the time, broke through her barrier and just let herself go. The concert was free, but watching my daughter break out of that shell and let go was priceless. I was almost in tears.
So, I think we have discovered how to bring out the real Tia. She loves music, and she loves to dance. If those things brings out her confidence, then a dancer she will be!
I really wish I had my camera!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What's in a Name?

We spent a lot of time thinking about what to name our children. We felt we were careful, making sure their initials wouldn't spell out anything embarrassing, and that they were unique and special. I chose Giuliana's name myself. When D.R. and I were in Italy, I saw the name and fell in love with it. He chose her middle name, Grace. I remember when we announced the name, my own Mother was mortified by the middle name. She told us it was an old lady name. We went with it anyway.

Well, since bringing her home from the hospital, her name had gone through many changes and variations. Tia started it by calling her "Ju Ju". It caught on and stuck with her. My husband called her Gia. A lot of people followed suit, I'm guessing becaues Gia is easier to pronounce (and spell) than Giuliana. At some point we started calling her Gi Gi, and that morphed into Gi Gi Gracie. Well, lo and behold, our precious 2 year old told us yesterday, with all her conviction, "I Gracie, NOT Gia!". OK, I guess the decision has been made for us. So much for carefully choosing her name, she has decided what it will be. She has been reminding us throughout the day that her name is Gracie, not Gia, and not Giuliana.

I wonder why we went through all the trouble of coming up with a cool name. We should have just waited and let her pick it herself! Gracie it is.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bed time update

I am pleased to report that since putting up Tia's bed time chart, she has gone to bed and stayed in bed without a problem! It's only been 2 nights, but the deal is that if she does it for 3 nights she will be able to buy an ice cream from the ice cream truck (or "Skippy" as we call him on the East coast). She's never gotten ice cream from the truck before, but has been curious about it recently. We keep talking about the chart, and make a big fanfare about it when she wakes up. The best thing is that she has been sleeping in later than usual too.
Let's go night #3!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bed time Nightmare!

We've recently encountered some sleep issues with Tia. This is a bit of a shocker since she has always been a great sleeper. It all seemed to start when we were in Rochester visiting my Mom. Tia insisted that her Nonna lay down with her at bed time. Of course Nonna did it, because Grandma's do those things for their grand kids. That's part of their job description! D.R. and I didn't make a big deal out of Tia's behavior since we were not at home, and emotions were high with everything going on at the time.
When we came home, Tia kept saying she couldn't sleep and that her bed was too small. That's when we decided to make the transition to the big bed. At first she was doing well in the new bed, but now it seems we're back at square one. We go through our same bed time routine each night. She goes to bed with no problem. However, about 2 minutes later she emerges from her room saying she can't sleep. D.R. has to tuck her back in about 3 times, and then eventually will give in and go lay down with her. We can't keep going on like this.

D.R. called today and asked me if I would pick up some stickers and do a reward chart. Doesn't it figure. I'm the one with the Psychology degree, and a background in child development, yet my husband the engineer came up with the idea of a sticker chart! So today I made this chart (not exactly the artist in the family) and we'll start tonight. All I can do is hope for the best. I'm sure there will be an update in the near future!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Birthday America!

Our family has had a great 4th of July weekend. On Friday we took the girls to the local outdoor water park for the first time of the season. I think that was a great idea because they are starting their swim lessons there next week and they had a chance to get used to the water before that awkward first day. We all had a blast. I got sunburned.

After some quick mattress shopping, we took them to the Village of Huntley Family Fun Fest. It was really cute and quaint. D.R. and I are both from a pretty big city, so all this hokey, home town stuff cracks us up. They had face painting for the kids and lots of little games where everyone wins a prize. I wanted to get a picture of the kids with their faces painted but by the time we got home some of the paint had wiped off. We had plans to go to the parade, but sadly Huntley doesn't have one. I guess it's Memorial Day when they have the parade down Main Street. I think I was more disappointed than the kids. We decided to go out for pizza at Tia's favorite restaurant. We even got to sit at "the big table" as Tia calls it. I wonder what will happen one of these days when we go there and the table is not available. She sure does think it's our very own table!

After their naps Tia insisted that we were going to bake a cake. I don't know where she came up with that but she was pretty adamant that we were going to make a cake for the 'merica flag. Earlier in the day D.R. had tried to explain to her that we were celebrating the birthday of our country. I guess that discussion turned into the need for a birthday cake!
Well, she was pretty convincing so we headed out to Target and picked up some cake mix. I had just learned about replacing all the ingredients that go in the cake mix with a can of diet pop. That's right, no eggs, no oil, no water. Just one 12 ounce can of diet pop. It reduces the calories by half! That's my kind of cake. The kids thought that was so much fun, and as you can see here, enjoyed licking the batter. I normally don't allow them to do that because of the raw egg in the mix. Now with the can of pop idea, they can go to town!

Today turned out to be a beautiful 80 degree day. We filled up the pool for the kids and headed out. We discovered a nice little toad waiting for us on the patio table. D.R. said it fell out of the patio umbrella, and then wouldn't move. I pointed it out to the girls who of course went squealing across the yard and wanted nothing to do with it. Dad to the rescue, he scooped it up and put it in the garden for us. Here he is before D.R. moved him, probably scared half to death. Can you see him?

After the BIG scary toad was taken care of, the girls had a great time. Tia loves the pool, and Gia loves making a lovely mess of my garden. I had to take a picture of them in their patriotic bathing suits.

Overall we just had a really nice family weekend. Isn't that what it's all about? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Birthday 'Merica Flag!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tia's new Room; Part 1

We have promised Tia that she can have a new room for her 4th birthday in October. We told her she can choose the paint color (which will be pink of course), and that we will get her a "big girl" bed. Our plan got moved up a bit because she has been having trouble sleeping at night and keeps saying her bed is too small. That's probably true since she has been in a toddler bed which uses a crib mattress. She's 3 1/2 now, time to move up. We were all ready to buy her a twin mattress set until I noticed that her convertible crib said it converts to a Full size bed. Good thing we hadn't bought the twin set when I read that information!
So, yesterday when she woke up from her nap, I took the toddler bed apart and then moved the full size bed from the guest room, over to her room. Since I had no planning time in this venture, she doesn't have kid-friendly sheets or comforter. We'll do some shopping this weekend for those.
Of course Gia was very excited about the new big bed and had to get in it too. She has claimed a side, and a pillow! I think she would love to sleep in there with her sister, but there probably wouldn't be much sleeping going on.
The bed seems really big for her room now. Maybe it's just because I'm used to the toddler bed in there, and having lots of floor room. I guess we'll all get used to the new bigger bed/smaller room.
Tia loves her new bed but had a difficult time getting to sleep last night. I guess we all have to adjust to the big change.
My little girl is growing up!