Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year 2009

Brooke wants to wish you all a healthy and very Happy New Year!

Maddie asked if she could stay up late until "the clock strikes NINE so we can party all night long." Thanks to her teachers who must have told her that 9:00 is when you scream and yell, "Happy New Year!" I suppose they could have been evil and told them it was really midnight.

Cheers to a great 2009! See you next year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas 2008

After putting some cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve, Madison woke up about 6:00 ready for Christmas to begin. We managed to convince her to watch a little TV in bed with us while we tried to catch a few more Zzzz's. At 7:30, Papa and Susan had called us on the phone letting us know that they had been outside (even though my dad has a key!) waiting in their car for us to get up for over an hour. Maddie ran downstairs while I tried to find the camera and while Zak woke Brooke. Maddie was excited to find some unwrapped gifts:

A few minutes later, Brooke and Zak came down. Brooke was mostly glued to my leg (which is why she's out of the video) or she wanted to be near her Papa:

After all the presents were unwrapped and our bellies were full of breakfast, Maddie's most cherished gift was a pink too small fleece hat and mittens, and feather Disney princess slippers (both purchased on a whim for last minute stocking stuffers by Santa at the grocery store).

Brooke seems most impressed by her new Step 2 Lifestyle Deluxe Kitchen, books, and just having her Papa there to make fish faces with:

On Friday, we went to the Lake House for a few days where we were just happy to spend time together with our little family of four, collecting sticks, throwing rocks into the lake, and building "camping fires" in the fire pit.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

Our Christmas card this year was designed by Sara Luke from Life Less Ordinary Designs. She's awesome so go buy a photo card, announcement or invitation from her etsy shop.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the night before Christmas 2008

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house both creatures were stirring enough to scare away all the extended family a mouse.

We tried to wear them out by playing outside at the park

and then we tried to take them for a long long walk.

After one last chance only a smile for Santa will do... with a hope and prayer he will come see you too.

Let's hope they go to sleep, but sleep? Sleep is only for the weak.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kid Art December 2008

Have you ever visited this website that makes fun of Kid Art? It is hysterical, and every time Maddie or Brooke brings home art work (which is everyday), I think about this website (and it may not be safe for work).
In Maddie's four year birthday letter, I discussed her coloring skills. Here is a sample of her meticulous coloring:

She tends to use just one or two colors per paper. Had she known this was going to be displayed in the Internet, she would have insisted it be perfect. There are several spots where she colors outside of the lines, and don't worry, I will punish her later for this transgression. It is also very appropriate that it is from Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The original version that is on TV is her favorite. The Jim Carrey feature film version scares her and gives her "bad dreams."

Brooke, on the other hand, is at the age where the teacher does all the art work, but they use hands and feet of each child as a stamper as evidenced by this pre-school standard Thanksgiving turkey:

Because we get so much art sent home, I will begin to post it more regularly. I also will got back and postdate some artwork (my favorites I've saved from this year), but will link them in a current post so you don't miss anything. God forbid you missed ANY of my posts...especially the art from my little Picasso's!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maddie is FOUR!

Dear Maddie,
Happy Birthday! Today you are four years old. You've been waiting for this birthday for a very long time. Now that your concept of time is relatively established, it cannot pass fast enough for Friday, a Holiday, your birthday or most importantly, Christmas!

Just like your mama, we follow the Birthday Rules, which means we've been celebrating for two weeks now. Our celebrations started with your Fourth Birthday Party. You had a grand ole time with all your friends, family, and teachers. Yes, teachers. Three of your pre-school teachers came to your party this year.

Everyone in your pre-school class loves you, and this even includes your teachers. I can see how this may be a problem as you get older because you take advantage of this fact to get your way. Hey, I can't say I blame you, ya gotta use what your mama gave ya! You have a charming personality and everyone wants to be your friend. I worry that sometimes YOU don't want to be everyone's friend, and may turn into one of "those girls" at school who rules the social circles. In order to stop this from happening, you get daily lectures on what it means to be a good friend. Congratulations, you're lucky because I'm good at lecturing!

You are the smallest little thing at just 33 pounds, and your waist is barely able to keep your size 3T pants up. Unfortunately, they're three inches to short because your legs are so long. Skirts and dresses are still a favorite in your wardrobe, and you still refuse to wear anything with a button (including coats with buttons).

Shoes are also a problem. For the past six months, you've lived in your black Crocs. You wore them nearly everyday despite having many other options until someone at school told you they were "boy shoes." That was the end of your Crocs obsession. If it's not pink or girly, it must be for boys. A few days later, I went on a shoe shopping spree without you. (Had I taken you with me, we would have 10 pairs of princess shoes). The problem occurred when we got home and you did not like what I bought or the shoes were too big. The next week, I took you with me to the store. You insisted on pink ballet slippers and pink glittery Cinderella shoes (picture Dorthy's ruby red slippers, but in pink). Once you wore the pink shoes out of the store and once we got home you decided you didn't like them anymore and have refused to wear them again. Then, my head exploded.

You are the queen negotiator and will try to weasel talk your way out of any situation that you don't like. For example, when it's bedtime, you'll say, "Mom, okay, but here's the deal...we either go out for ice cream or make some brownies right now." And, I'll say, "No, it's time for bed." You say, "Okay, then I'll get my shoes on so we can go out for ice cream." " No, BED." "Alright, fine, let's just bake some brownies at home." It's like we're not even in the same conversation. While it is completely annoying that everything is a negotiation, I really appreciate this quality in you and know it'll be a great trait one day. When you're 30 years old negotiating for a salary increase. That's my girl!

So when you're negotiating and you don't get your way, a meltdown will occasionally occur. Sometimes it's strait out defiance. The key to a Happy Maddie is positive reinforcement for desirable behavior (e.g. Great job picking up your toys! Thanks for being a great helper.) If you are ever given negative reinforcement (e.g. Pick up your toys right now or you will not get to play at your friends house) all hell breaks loose as you argue, yell, whine and negotiate your way out of a potential punishment.

Soon after I discovered this method, we immediately put up a 'points chart' to reflect all the GREAT things you did during the day. You earn points for cleaning up the living room, following directions, taking a whine free bath, being nice to us and Brooke, having a good learning day at school, and using your 'big girl' voice. It's all about catching you doing something RIGHT instead of getting on you when you do something undesirable. When you're caught doing something RIGHT you earn a point. Everyday as points accumulate, you get to cash them in for a 'prize' from the 'prize bag' (this is just dollar store junk, but you love it). At the end of the week all the points add up to a special treat (like going to see a movie, having a friend come over, getting some new ballet shoes).

This new method of parenting you caused a drastic change in our quality of life together (and my sanity). Sure, we sill have problem times that we are working on, but we're all much happier. Even Brooke is into the spirit and earns her own points for good little sister behavior.

I just need to figure out a way to award you points for sleeping in to 9 a.m on the weekends. You are in our room every morning at about 6:00 chipper and ready to begin the day. You usually take short nap (30-60 minutes) and go to bed about 8:30 every night.

I used to brag that you would be in bed by 7:30 every night, and I would love see you get back on that schedule. Mainly so I could have some alone time with your dad so we could talk. You don't let us talk because you are CONSTANTLY talking. You're like a never ending motor mouth. Sometimes I ask you to stop talking just so I can think for ten seconds. Not only do you talk a lot, but you talk VERY LOUD so the entire restaurant hears you when we go out to eat. I'm sure they're really happy about hearing your poop stories. I've been told that this is entirely age appropriate but OH MY GOD PLEASE let this phase end soon.

The one thing you don't talk very much about is what you did in school on any given day. I only know from what your teachers tell me, the work that you bring home, and the snippets I can get out of you. I do know that you have mastered all your phonics for every letter and have begun to blend letters using phonics. You are essentially on the verge of reading. Apparently this is a little advanced for your age because your teachers seem to think this is a big deal.

You also get compliments from teachers on how well you color. When I first heard a teacher say, "Maddie colors very well" I asked her to repeat herself. I didn't know a measurement of pre-school success was coloring, and I didn't know that this was a unique skill. You're always in the lines. Sticking to just a color or two. Very detailed work. This is not at all in my DNA that I passed on, so your dad's obsessive compulsive gene must have made it through. I still don't see much of a purpose doing anything neat, orderly, or within the lines.

The relationship you have with Brooke is blossoming into a true sister relationship. In other words, you love each other and can't stand each other in the same sentence. One minute you two are yelling, and the other you are laughing hysterically together. It's charming to see this develop. I try to stay back as much as possible to let you work it out, and only insist that sisters are NOT ALLOWED hurt each other (feelings or physically) on purpose. Ever. Even in retaliation.

Whenever I take Brooke on some errand without you, she asks, "Dee Dee?" and points to your chair every thirty seconds. Even when you're at school, teachers report that you run to each other on the playground to exchange hugs and kisses. One time, when you were not permitted to go hug her on the "baby playground," both of you had screaming crying fits. The teachers haven't denied you of this privilege since then.

You do a great job of making her laugh when she's cranky, singing to her when she is crying, and translating for her when we can't understand what she wants. Like I always say, "sisters are forever and ever" so you better take care of each other forever.

Maddie, here are some pictures of your third year:

Loving on your baby sister in the bath in January 2008

Still sucking your thumb in February 2008 (now that you're four, you've promised that you will stop.)

At the beach in May 2008

At the Lake House in June 2008

Laughing in the corner as you torment your sister in July 2008
Laughing with your dad in August 2008

Riding on your pet deer (as your pet Bear looks on) in September 2008

Monkeying around with Brooke in October 2008

A pirate in November 2008

Leaping for joy in December 2008

Lovin' on your mama at your birthday party in December 2008.

Happy Birthday! Booya, Peace Out, I love you, Gotcha.



Monday, December 15, 2008

The best Christmas card of the year--2008

Every year we are lucky enough to get lots of Christmas cards from our friends and family. I always look forward to photo cards, especially if kids are involved, mostly because I can appreciate how difficult to whole Christmas card process is to complete. It seems simple, yes, but it's not...

In October you need to schedule a photo session, buy Christmas clothes or figure out what you can wear from what's in the closest, and get haircuts. In early November, you get your photos taken and hope that no one is cranky, sick, or uncooperative. If you have a baby, you pay extra attention to their razor sharp fingernails because they will likely scratch their little faces a day before the photo shoot.

So, let's say that you have not done any of this by're too late. Now, you will need to go through your photos from the year, and piece together a card using some online photo card website (like I did this year). After you place your photo card order, make sure you have all your addresses ready to go (labels if you're extra awesome). Oh, and stamps, that's always an unforeseen purchase. I think I spent $100 on stamps this year!

Once your photos arrive in the mail, you'll need to assemble and stamp them all. Preferably without two little ones demanding to "help" or insisting your attention be 100% on them. Maddie got excited and yelled that she found some "new Christmas stickers to play with." I stopped dead in my tracks realizing that there were no new Christmas stickers. I ran down the hallway and found her playing with her "Christmas Stickers" that I call STAMPS!

Maybe it's just me, but no matter how much planning I do, I cannot complete this process in less than 3 weeks. I did all the Christmas card planning again this year. Zak says he just doesn't think about cards and would never send any. Ever. Zak did help with the labels after I nearly threw the printer out the window in frustration. Last week I threatened that I wasn't going to send cards in 2009, Bah Humbug!

I am always particularly impressed when people do something extra than a a Christmas letter, creative rhyming poem, or the year in review to the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas." Because that takes forever!

So this all leads me to the point of my post....My favorite Christmas card for the year. (I know it's only December 15, but I cried when I read this letter, so it's the winner).

This year's favorite card is from our friends from Chicago, Jack and Michelle (and their kids, Lily and Jack who are close in age to Maddie and Brooke). Their letter begins with how busy, demanding and crazy life is and how they just want peace, quiet, and order. Then they are reminded that in all the chaos, there are hidden blessings:

"Trying to wake the kids in a good mood, and get them dressed and out the door every morning on time....means we're blessed to have jobs to get to in the morning."

"Not being able to sneak out of the house to to go the store alone anymore means....I am blessed to be able to go shopping with my best girl."

"Being woken up at the crack of dawn means...We are blessed to have a darn good reason to start the day."

[this is where I started to cry as I saw my family in the same light]

"Having little to no time to check things off the ever-growing list of things to do means....we are blessed to have such a great circle of family and friends to enjoy fun times with."

"Falling asleep on the couch before our favorite sitcom of the day is even over means....I am blessed to never know boredom. "

"Refereeing the 'sibling wars" of sharing means...we are blessed to have a family."

"Having a messy house and no time to clean it means....we are blessed to have more important things to do.

Well, it was obviously so touching to me because it hit home. Hard. It's so easy for me to get frustrated with my endless to do list, my messy house, and endless demands for my undivided attention. Jack and Michelle reminded me, just when I needed it the most, that these are things to be THANKFUL for and will pass way to quickly. It won't be long before my Girls will be too busy with their own lives to pay any attention to me!

Thank you, Jack and Michelle. I miss you guys SO MUCH.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Maddie's 4th B-Day party

Madison's actual birthday isn't until December 17, but we always celebrate her birthday a week or two early. Mainly because I still feel terrible that she has a holiday birthday. I make a special effort to distinguish between the two events. In addition, people are always so busy during the holidays, and going to a child's b-day party are the last thing anyone wants to do.

I rented out this place called Dynamoze for 20 of Maddie's friends. Many of Maddie's friends have siblings that are close to Brooke's age, so Brooke had lots of fun with her friends too!

We had been to Dynamoze once before for a party, and I decided it was the perfect place for kids aged 6 months-7 years because there is something for everyone...including the adults like this monster tricycle course (featuring Aunt Terra and her boyfriend, Pio):

I was worried that Maddie would be intimidated by all the attention, but she did a great job of greeting and playing with all her guests.

Ever since her 1st b-day I've insisted on making her cake. This year, however, I did not:
I suppose I didn't need to confess that I didn't make it. I assume you would have figured that one out. She saw this at our local grocery store, and LOVED it. I ordered it with vanilla cake and white frosting, so I decided to make some chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting for the chocolate lovers in attendance. I'm so glad I did because had I not, we would have not had enough cake!

She got a ridiculous amount of gifts, and people spent entirely too much money on them. Since Maddie wanted a "princess party" we got a zillion Disney Princess and Princess Barbie type gifts. I was shocked to see how generous people are, and I realized that I must look like a total cheapskate when I buy birthday gifts for kids. People easily spent about $40 per gift! Am I cheep or is that crazy? After she opened them, we hid most gifts to pull out for a rainy day. Thank goodness that she still forgets quickly.

We shot this video of the Happy Birthday song just in case you couldn't make it to celebrate her big day:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Neil Diamond Christmas

Have I ever told you how much I love Neil Diamond's Christmas Album? Oh, that's right, I've only told you about my other favorite 70's singer.

Anyway, Neil rocks, and I highly encourage you to take a free listen to these songs to inspire your holiday cheer.

Neil Diamond made my all time fav Christmas Album. Here are some highlights of the most rockin' songs.

Santa Claus is Comin to Town

Jingle Bell Rock

White Christmas

And his Little Dummer Boy version just makes me laugh

Zak and I try to out perform each other with our Neil Diamond style impersonations. Zak always wins. It's his favorite party trick, so be sure you ask him for a demonstration the next time you see him.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Lake House Weekend

We spent the Thanksgiving weekend at the Lake House, and we had the pleasure of Aunt Terra for a night. Maddie and Brooke love her so much because she's always willing to participate in any and every shenanigan that they suggest.

When I was a little girl, I absolutely adored my Aunt Diane (I still do!). She is 8 years younger than my mom, so she was instantly more cool and fun to be around. I remember that she would take me to the movies all the time. She would buy my brother and I our own popcorn, drink, and box of candy. This was 300% more than my parents would allow, so needless to say, she was PERFECT!

Even as adults who lived half way across the country from each other, we still maintained a close relationship. I don't see her or talk to her nearly as much as I wish I did. When we do talk, it's like nothing has changed and I just spoke with her the other day.

The fact that Maddie and Brooke love their Aunt Terra so much warms me to the core. I am SO thankful that when we decided to move back to Texas, she decided to do the same. She moved from California to Texas (primarily) to be close to us.

I forgot my camera last weekend, so only had access to my semi-crappy cell phone camera. Terra emailed me these pictures today!

On Saturday night, we (or actually Zak and Maddie) built a fire in our back yard pit. We fully intended to roast marshmallows (and drink some adult beverages), but it was so cold** that we only lasted about 45 minutes. Maddie got her grubby hands on the bag of marshmallows and ate about four of them before I figured out what she was doing. She went crazy and bounced around for about 30 minutes entertaining us. She was singing, dancing, laughing, and talking like a sugar high maniac.

She loved Terra's winter hat, and insisted on trying it on. It looked adorable on her, but was too big and covered her eyes.

And also? If this picture doesn't scream TEXAS! I don't know what does. Maddie's sitting on a fake deer (not a Holiday decoration, but year round concrete "deer yard art" left by the previous owners that we are too weak to move) like it's a horse and fake FISHING with flip flops on in a light jacket.

**Okay, Chicago friends, it was only about 45 degrees and windy. But...look at us! In fleece, PJ pants, Crocs and flipflops! We had no hats, gloves, or regular shoes. Don't hate the playa...hate Chicago weather (and come down for a visit!).

Monday, December 01, 2008

ETSY--my newest obsession

Have you ever heard of It is the coolest, most addictive website on the planet (or on the Internets). Their tag line is "your place to buy and sell all things handmade." You can find ANYTHING for ANY price on etsy. You can also ask for something and people send you emails wanting to make it for you!

I'm doing lots of Christmas shopping here. First of all, it's not the kind of homemade crap that I would make and call a craft. These are actual talented people. Second, I feel good that I'm supporting local artists. Third, it's totally one of a kind unique gift.

So far, I've purchased:
1. A custom Christmas card design--completed by a graphic artist for $15. I printed 50 of the cards at Shutterfly for free. FREE! I just need to mail them off to you for your enjoyment. The stamps will cost more than the design and cards!

2. Ten handmade hair clips for the girls-- $6.50 and free shipping.

3. A very special Christmas present for Zak that I will write about later. It is custom made from and idea in my head. An artist interpreted my design and will create a special something for him.

4. Leg warmers for the girls--$12 for two shipping! I know, you're thinking....Leg Warmers? Huh? Trust me...they are cute!

I'm looking for:
1. clothes (skirts/dresses) for the girls (no buttons!)
2. Texas Tech junk (for obvious reasons)
3. Hand blown glass art (cause I like it)
4. jewelry
5. vintage clothing
6. baby gifts (for some expecting/new moms I know)
7. homemade soap and lip balm
8. purse
9. a new banner design for this boring looking blog

It's kinda turning into an addiction. You should go take a look!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tweet! Tweet! November 2008

I'm not sure if Twitter is going to keep all my tweets forever and ever. Because they are often little snippets about my daily life with The Girls, I will preserve them on this blog monthly.

Tweet! Tweet! November 2008:

At 22 months, Brooke already demands that I fast forward through any commercials on TV. from txt

Built a camp fire with Maddie, Zak, Terra. Maddie ate 4 marshmallows and has a serious case of the sillies. from txt

Savoring the moments: at a X-Mas tree farm with the family. Soaking in the baby-ness of both of them while it lasts. from txt

Maddie: "Mom, once this purple marker runs out of energy, then I'll use this blue one instead." from txt

I am soo stuffed. My non-traditional dessert of brownies with ice cream (instead of pie) was a hit! yum! from web

Honey baked ham for dinner! For the next five nights! from txt

Just found out my monthly health care costs for my family are going from $268/month to $656/month. A MONTH. $388 increase. A MONTH. from web

Maddie and Brooke found the hiding place that contains all their Christmas gifts! That was tough to explain. from txt

Yesterday, Zak fished out Brooke's poop from the tub. Today, she puked on him. All while I'm on my way home from work. Poor kid (and dad). from web

In doctor's office waiting room hell with both sick girls. 45 minutes and no doctor! from txt

Brooke pooped in the tub with Maddie in there! Zak was alone on bathtub duty and I was on my way home. Usually these things happen to me! Ha from txt

Maddie, I'm looking forward to you being four, because your sassy third year...? Is kicking my ass. from web

Just ordered invites for Maddie's b-day party! You may get one if you're brave enough to spend 2 hours with a a bunch of 3-4 year olds! from web

Bought Maddie some rain boots. She excitedly tried them on, but screamed for me to TAKE THEM OFF! Still rockin' the flip flops in November! from txt

It was like pulling teeth to get the Girls to leave school today. You'd think they'd be excited to see me. They love their daycare! from txt

Brooke points and screams, "Oh NO!" when the TV isn't on. Do you think that's a sign we watch too much TV? from txt

From the bathroom,Maddie says: I got some poop on my hands, but it's okay, I just wiped it off.She then argues she doesn need to wash hands. from web

Driving thru "boys town" in Dallas, my cab driver made the most hateful anti-gay statement I've ever heard.What if I was gay?No tip for him. from txt

I wondered out loud why the flags were at half staff, and a stranger quipped, "because Obama just got elected." Blah. I shot a dirty look. from txt

In St. Louis and it's COLD. My Texas year round open toe sandals and skirts aren't cutting it back in the good ole Midwest. Brrrr! from txt

YES WE DID! America, I am so proud of you! Smooches!!! from txt

Even my 86 year old Grandma J is hip to the message of CHANGE and HOPE as she cast her ballot for Obama in California! from txt

In line at Starbucks waiting for my "FREE (because you voted) coffee!" Yum, thanks Starbucks...just one more reason to love you. from txt

I sat with Maddie and watched Barack Obama vote for himself live on TV. This is historic, and I shed a few happy tears. from txt

I sat with Maddie and watched Obama cast his ballot for himself on TV. She asked me why I was crying. "Happy tears," I said. from web

Happy Birthday, Aunt Terra! May it be the most historical day of our lifetime! Vote!! from txt

In the waiting area in a Dr. office, I remind Maddie of the BIG day and ask who she's voting for. "Barack Obama" Without skipping a beat. from web

Daylight savings did a number on the girls! Late naps, far too late bedtimes, and early mornings. from txt

In Houston with Zak for David and Francie's baby shower. The Girls are home with their Grandma. Thanks Wendy!! from txt

Go Tech!!!! I thought that Zak was gonna have a heart attack. Whew! from txt

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008!

We've enjoyed a great day together...just the four of us. We went to see Madagascar at the movie theater. Brooke did very well, and Maddie loves going to the movies and her only offense is the loudest stage whisper ever when she requests more popcorn.

Afterwards, we headed home for a looong nap. Then, Maddie and I baked some brownies, which resulted in the cutest picture in the universe.

We had the dinner I discussed in the previous post, except the green bean casserole was more awesome this year when Zak added chopped BACON! FLAKED RED PEPPER! and Gruyère CHEESE! to the regular recipe. This dish, my dear relatives, is one you should really be sad that you missed. During dinner, we discussed what we were thankful for:

We went for our regular-our-bellies-are-stuffed-we-must-move walk, and ran into our awesome neighbors who invited us in for some wine and offered great tire-the-kids-out play time. So...we didn't walk, but instead consumed too much wine and had a lovely evening.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008--ditched

Apparently either:

1. no one loves us
2. everyone is scared of a 22 month and nearly four year old
3. people are too busy
4. no one wants to travel
5. everyone just sucks

BECAUSE...we've been ditched by all family members for this Thanksgiving! NO ONE is coming to visit and eat my overplayed Green Bean Casserole, store bought Brown and Serve Rolls, and Stovetop stuffing. I did buy a delicious Honey Baked Ham too (.....any takers? hello? Bueller?)

For dessert this year, I skipped on the pies (since the girls won't eat it, and Zak and I just really don't need to consume a whole pie in two days) and we're having fresh baked BROWNIES with ICE CREAM and CHOCOLATE SYRUP for dessert.

Did I change your mind? No?

Well....fine, then. I'll just document this in history so Maddie and Brooke know that their family, who almost ALL live in Texas, ditched us!

Okay, Aunt Terra did say she was going to come on Saturday....but, humfpf to the rest of you!

And also? Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I'm grateful for my little family gathering with less cooking and fewer dishes to wash! Yea!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Brooke and her sunglasses

Brooke is really into her sunglasses, and demands them even on a cloudy day. She hasn't really figured out how to put the glasses on her face to block the sun, but she knows how to put them on top of her head.
It's the bad hair day, haven't washed my hair today, gotta get it outta my face look. Just like her mama.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Painted pumpkins

I had a crazy and not-very-Amanda-like-idea for a crafty fun weekend project: Pumpkins Painting. We did this around Halloween, but I just recently found the pictures.

Okay, so the problem with painting pumpkins is as follows:
1. Paint = messy

2. Back yard = mosquitoes

3. Me = anxious about paint mess and paint toxicity

So, Brooke immediately fueled my anxiety out by licking her painted hand. Maddie (much to my dismay) dipped her brush into TWO different colors, forever mixing the paint.

Brooke, in her silly baby-hood, first used the wrong end of the brush to paint, then the used her hands. She finally agreed that the bristle end was best after I showed her how to do it.

I put the girls in their Home Depot smocks to protect their clothes (and took off Maddie's shirt...hey, topless pumpkin painting!), and I laid out a magazine and a plastic bag as "floor protectors" for the painting. However, duh, I didn't think about the drips, or the fact that once they got paint on their hands, they would get paint EVERYWHERE.

Thank God they do lots of art and craft projects in daycare. It was evident that they've painted before and I didn't have to show them much. I had nightmares of doing this with a room full of similarly aged kids, and vowed to never ever think of running a daycare. Surely the parents expect arts and crafts, but my God, the MESS! I'm such a wuss, and will stick to crayons and washable markers in the future.

And, oh yea, turns out the paint I used WASN'T washable! I'm really not cut out for this type of work. Parenting, that is.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day 2008

Happy Veterans Day! Above is a picture of my grandfather, Pops, as a young man. He was a Prisoner Of War in WWII. While on a mission, his airplane was shot down, he parachuted to the ground and was captured by the Germans. He remained a prisoner for nearly a year until the end of the war. You can read more about it from a previous post I wrote in 2006.

Pops lives in sunny southern California with his wife, Pat. He likes to putter around the house, garden, travel, surf the Internet, and enjoy time with his family and Pat. I hope you have a great day. Love you!

Remember to thank your favorite veteran (and any other military personnel you see) today!

Carl Heimaster

Crew 6, 724th Sqdn, 451st Bmb Grp, 49th Wg, 15th AF, USAAF
       At the Induction Center at St. Louis, the usual batteries of tests were given where I was found to be in excellent health, mentally strong , and as a hobby enjoyed hunting, the Army decided that the Air Force was the place for me.  
     Basic training at Miami Beach was very minimal, just the usual close order drill, cleaning a rifle that had no ammunition and had never been fired, but most of all how to obey orders! A decision was made by the Army that I was to enter a flying status, and they sent me to Denver Colo. to study armament i.e. bombs, how they worked, Fuses and how they were activated to detonate the bombs.
     Passing this phase I was the sent to Larado Texas for Gunnery School. We were taught to shoot all types of hand-guns, rifles, machine guns at stationary and moving targets. This Missouri country boy had never flown in an airplane so when I was told that the next part of our training would be firing at a target being towed by another plane, I was petrified!! The plane was a single engine, two seater, I was fitted with a seat type parachute with a safety strap through the harness, riding in the rear seat facing the rear with a machine gun which had stops to prevent me from shooting the tail off our plane!!! To compound my apprehension the gunner before had become air sick all over the rear seat, this didn’t do a thing to settle my stomach!!  
     The Air Force was building the 15th Air Force to be stationed in Italy. Several Groups were in the process of being assembled in different areas of the United States. I was sent to Wendover Utah to be part of the 451st. Bomb Group of which there were 4 Squadrons of 10 planes with 4 officers and 6 enlisted men in each plane. My crew was formed and we were given a B-24 which we named the American Beauty....What a great crew!! The Pilot and I were the only members that were raised West of the Mississippi, the others from NY, Penn., Ohio we bonded together like family.
    The Corps of Engineers had preceeded us to Italy and had built an air strip of steel matting, along with all the support building, ammo storage, and fuel depot to conduct our missions of destruction on the enemy. It didn’t take long to get started. The middle of January 1944 saw us in the air doing what we had been trained to do. Help Destroy The Machine of War .
    Our days became a blur, delivering our bombs for two days, resting one then repeat. Targets of rail- yards where box cars, oil cars, troop carriers all would fall victim to our bombs. Often our targets would be the oil rich fields of the Balkans- our greatest danger would come not in the form of fighter planes but the anti-aircraft fire called” Flak”.
    The shells would burst all around us sending flying pieces of steel in every direction, sometimes direct hits on a plane, or maybe a small piece the size of an walnut tearing through the plane not caring whether it hit man or machine. Such was the case with our plane, American Beauty, on June 23 1944. A piece of shrapnel severed an oil line on the left side, number 1 engine, all oil was lost so it had to be shut down. This created an extra load for number 2 engine and after 20 minutes it also failed. When your plane is losing altitude and you are unable to climb to clear a mountain range, we had no choice but to abandon our American Beauty to her fate in the side of a mountain, while we had no choice but to parachute to earth. THUS BEGINS ANOTHER SAGA!!!
     Our pilot called on our intercom to bail out starting from the rear forward and being the tail-gunner I was the first one to “hit the silk”. My parachute caught in the top of some trees and I had to stand on tip-toe to reach the ground. I traveled down a dry creek bed, turned around a point and there stood a group of German soldiers!! I was a Prisoner of War...After 41 missions my fighting war was over, but now mental war would begin. That evening our entire crew was crowded into a root cellar where we discussed our injuries and wondered at our fate. Some time in the night our nose-gunner Joe Klubert either was taken or he left on his own but the next morning they, the Germans, told us that Joe was shot while trying to escape. We do know that he had an injured ankle but we never saw him again so we never knew his fate.
      The next stop of our rail journey was Budapest, Hungary a gathering place for all captured air-men on their way to a P.O.W. camp in northern Germany. We were placed in solitary confinement for a week, with greasy hot water for breakfast, a bowl of soup and a piece of bread for lunch, the dinner soup was a little thicker. Their reason for this confinement was to question us one at a time about a new night fighter that was appearing in the skies, which of course being on a bomber we knew absolutely nothing about. It was while I was in solitary that I realized that it was the 4th of July!! Happy birthday America!
     Now our box-car was attached to several others and we were now a P.O.W. Troop Train. We moved rather swiftly North with out any other stops, potatoes, bread, and water was provided us while confined to our car. Personal hygiene were conducted through a partially opened door while on the move, exercise was allowed before the evening “meal” then back in the car to a bed of straw with 20 or 30 others, and we sped through the night. We arrived at our destination sometime in the latter days of July. We were met there with the usual “escort” but this time they had “ Canines”, I mean big angry, snapping, snarling, biting dogs!! The guards would ease off their leashes enough for the dogs to bite the unfortunate ones in the buttocks, needless to say we were glad to get into the safety of our barbed wire enclosure. The official name of our camp was Stalag(prison) Luft(air) 4. The camp was laid out in a square divided into quarters, in each quarter there were 13 barracks a cooking building (not to be confused with kitchen) where potatoes were cooked with some times meat of an unknown origin.
     Time hung heavy on our hands but it also passes so quickly. Thanksgiving passed then Christmas arrived and with it we could hear heavy artillery to the East of us and knew that the Russians were pushing the Germans back. Tension mounted inside the camp as to our fate and our guards were nervous also as to their fate.
     Those prisoners who had trouble walking from wounds suffered in battle were transported to another camp where medical attention was better. Each time a group left camp we wondered where they were going and what was to be their destination. Up until now we thought we were prisoners of war but now we could see that we were also Pawns of war. Starting the last week of January our camp started its evacuation, I left camp the 2nd of February, we each carried what we thought we could carry and or what we would need. Of course we were not told where we were  going or how long the walk would be therefore almost every one discarded items that we thought we would need only to find the pace of the evacuation was so fast and we were so out of shape that after eight miles we were down to the bare essentials, Our blankets, and food nothing else.
    On May the 1st we were told that soon we would be liberated of course this rumor was ignored but sure enough on May the 2nd at 9:30 AM a British Tank Corp came down the road!!!!! After 333 days of incarceration, walking more than 600 miles in three months, we were free!!!
    A near-by Army Post gave us a shower, a tooth brush, clean clothing, new shoes, good food, none of which we had had for the three months of walking and de-lousing what a relief to be rid of the lice!!! ( Through the years I have never wasted food and am amazed at the food on the shelves of our super market, which so few people appreciate).
    The rest of May is rather a blur as we were moved from one base to another, always moving westerly toward the debarkation point called "“Camp Lucky Strike"” along the west coast of France. Here our time was spent eating high protein foods, steaks, ice cream, candy, milk shakes and sleeping. The Army was trying to get some weight on our “skinny” bones. I had lost 40 pounds, and, except for bleeding gums, was in pretty good shape physically. Mentally, I don’t know to this day whether it has affected my life. I would like to think that it has not .
     The latter part of May we were placed aboard a freighter that had been modified with hammocks and lots of food to return to America. Our previous crossing with our air plane took 10 hours, to again cross the Atlantic it took 14 days but we didn’t care we were going HOME!!!!!!
     The Army base at New Port News, Va. was overwhelmed with returning solders, to lighten the “crunch” we received a 90 day furlough and sent on our way. The trip home to the Ozarks was so calm, quiet, and peaceful without the worry or concern,where our next meal was coming from or when!! Upon arrival at Lebanon, Mo. I met my High School Math teacher. We had a joyous reunion right there in the Greyhound Bus station!! Because I did not know when I would be arriving home I was unable to notify my family and since we didn’t have a telephone, I ask the ‘ole’ math teacher, Mr. Peterson if he knew some one who could drive me the 11 miles home. No he said “ I’ll do it myself” so he called his substitute to fill in for him at the station and away we went!!
     He started honking the horn some distance from the house and I think the folks guessed or knew what was happening because they were there in the yard when we drove up.
     HOME SWEET HOME but the home-coming wasn’t complete! My war time sweetheart, Mary, lived in Kansas City 200 miles away, arrangements had to be made through the Ration Board to get enough gas stamps to allow us to drive up to see her. We were still at war with Japan and the critical items were still being rationed (i.e. gas, tires, sugar, coffee, and other things) plus a 35 MPH speed limit!!! I called her when we were in town to let her know I was on my way, the phone lines were wet with tears of joy from both of us. The trip took one of the slowest 8 hours I ever spent but at last we were united; married July 9th 1945 and spent the next 50 years loving each other until she slipped away from me in 1995.
In June of 1999, after years of lonliness, I met my current Love, Patricia, who became my wife in 2003.  We are having years of happiness together! 

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Yes We Carve

I submitted my carved pumpkin (with the Obama symbol) to a website called Yes We Carve.

I'm on the front page today....take a look! It is titled "Amanda (San Antonio, Texas)."

Mine is by far the least original style compared to some of the cool ideas that people used to show their support for Barack Obama.

FYI...this is my last Obama post. Promise. (Until 2012).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The 2008 Presidential Election

Dear Madison and Brooke,

Yesterday Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States. Both your dad and I voted for him, and we watched as history was made last night when he was declared the winner.

When we lived in Illinois, and when Maddie was just a baby, I voted for Barack Obama to be a Senator for that state. I've supported him because of what he stands for, what he believes in, and his plans for our country. When I found out he was going to run for President, I was reluctant, "it's too soon," I said. As he pushed forward and gained more and more momentum, I was torn between supporting him or Senator Hillary Clinton. I picked Obama because I valued his platform and believed he could be elected. I felt his administration could make a difference in our day to day lives, and more importantly in the lives of our fellow Americans.

You see, girls, it's just not about us. I always say, "It's not about you all the time" when you're complaining about something, and it goes for Presidential Elections too. Sure, our family's taxes might go up, but that's okay because it's not about us as individuals. It's about our community, our country, and our world. If another family in our country has life a little bit better because of the economic or social changes that the next President will usher in, we all win.

Maddie was able to learn and talk about this election, as she said she "voted for A Rock Obama" for President. We bumped fists and gave a each other our Peace Out sign right after I voted. She watches him on TV and yells, "Hey mom! A Rock Obama is on TV!" and is disappointed when a commercial appears.

Because this blog serves as your baby book (in addition to my other rants), I felt it appropriate to share my thoughts of this historic election this with you both. In the next several to a hundred years, history will look back on this historic election and decide whether or not Barack Obama lived up to his hype, but I have hope that he will.

Another thing that this election should teach you is that your life as an American has limitless possibilities. It doesn't matter what you name is, if you are a man or woman, or the color of your skin. YOU have a chance to become whoever you want to be in this country as long as you make good decisions and work hard.

I love you both very much, and I promise to be there for you both as you each make your way through this amazing world.



Tuesday, November 04, 2008


--designed by Shepard Fairey