Monday, October 29, 2012


Changing seasons around here brings birthday season!  Both boys have birthdays in the autumn.  They are separated by five weeks, so we really don't have the temptation to lump them both into one party.  However, they are definitely close enough that Jacob remembers exactly what happened for Nathan's birthday.... Which could prove tricky when they are a bit older.
Nathan turned 5 on September 14.  We had a little party for him; I was just planning on a small family-only party (which is still 15 people), but about a week before Nathan gives me this line (not trying to manipulative, truly sincere): "Mom, I like Charlie.  He's my best friend.  He really is my best friend."  Then later repeated a similar declaration, followed by, "Can Charlie come to my birthday?"  How can you say no to that?  So we invited Charlie's family.
We don't do much in the way of parties (themes, decorations, etc).  All birthdays have the same theme:  food.  But I do try to make them whatever type of cake they ask for.  (I figure even if it's lame, the made-by-Mommy touch is worth something.)  
He had been saying for months that he wanted a Tonka Truck cake.  I figured I'd find an easy idea online, but.... No such luck.  When I Google'd "Tonka Truck Cake," mostly all I could find was cakes with a toy stuck on top.  I wanted to do something a bit more original than that.  (Not that I didn't do just that for his first birthday.  And his second.  We just don't need any more toys!)
My sister Lurenda told me about something called a "sugar sheet," which you can print designs on and then just lay on top of the cake.  AWESOME!  After I bought it, I read the instructions.  You are supposed to use edible ink.  Uh oh.  But then I thought, if my kid ate a piece of paper that had ink on it, I wouldn't take him to the emergency room - what's the difference?  They printed off great, but didn't dissolve into the top as well as I thought it would.  We called the printed out things "stickers" and told everyone they could peel them off if they wanted to.  (FYI, the sugar sheets taste like paper that dissolves in your mouth.)  He requested a chocolate cake, and I forgot to buy a mix, so I made a from-scratch chocolate cake.  Triple layer.  It was massive, and had to weigh at least 10 pounds.  I don't think we even finished half of it.  (It's in the freezer for another day.)

I decorated it the night before, so it had bled.  

I had leftover batter, so I made cupcakes.

The Munchkin convention.
Nathan and Jacob, my nieces Lena and Mackenzie, and Charlie is on the right, along with his older brothers, Clayton and Willie (who are also pals to our boys and nieces).

I had to have Paul re-light them like 3 times to get this picture

Jacob turned 3 on October 21.  His birthday came at kind of a bad time.  The boys had been sick all week.  Like can't-get-off-the-couch sick and fevers all week, and by Sunday, Zadie and I were also getting sick.  We also were having a worship night at church the night of his birthday, which I was leading.  It was a busy weekend, and Sunday after church was the best time to squeeze in a party.  We again did a family-only thing.  And he was still sick enough that that was about all he could handle.

We made four of these for his party, and cooked them on the grill.  We made them Saturday, and rewarmed them at the church on Sunday.  Absolutely a-freakin'-mazing.  Best yet.

Jake had been saying he wanted a elephant cake.  He really likes elephants, and had 3 in his stuffed animal rotation.  I was planning on doing it... somehow....  And then he asked for a mouse cake.  And a worm cake.  I made him stick to his original request.
I was not sure how to do it, and finally went for free-handing it.  I wasn't positive how we'd do the fill inside the outline.  We were going to "star fill" it (I have no idea what the official cake-decorating terms are), but then decided to paint it in using food coloring and water.  Much easier.  Plus, I was super-tired, getting sick, and stressed out about the upcoming worship night.  So I was happy with anything, just as long as it was done.
It was not supposed to be this purple.  It was supposed to be more of a gray-blue-purple.  But I was still pretty happy with how it looked.

First shot!  (Him and me!)

......And as I tried to remember what we'd done for Jacob's cake previous years, I went back and looked at old blogs.  No pictures.  Of first OR second birthdays.  Not even any mention of his birthday, both years.  HORRIBLE. MOTHER.  Oh my gosh!
His first birthday we were in Colorado.  We got him an ice cream cake.  I'm sure we have pictures, but they're not on my laptop.
I think I was planning on a grand post featuring his cake last year, because it's probably one of my best.  But I was pregnant.  (That's my excuse, anyways.)  Last year, Google really paid off in the idea department. He'd asked for an owl cake, and it turned out awesome!  (Cupcake cake.)  (Now that I think about it, I think we did do a first-birthday party for Jacob after we got back from vacation, and we had cupcakes for it, too.)

So, a year late, there's Jacob's 2nd birthday pictures.  And his 3rd.  And Nathan's 5th.  That's just how I roll.  Better late than never, I guess. :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Refinancing.... Again.

We're in the process of refinancing our house again.  Rates are currently 3.5%, which is over 1.5% lower than our current rate, and we can save something like $30,000 if we can get the lower rate, not to mention saving over $100 per month with a lower payment. Worth the hassle, totally.  I wasn't thrilled about starting over on 30 years again, but they gave us the option of continuing our current payment schedule, just at a lower rate - awesome!
I'm not sure if I've given them a shout out on here, but I have so loved our experience at Citizen's State Bank of Paola.  Our original loan when we bought the house was with Bank of America.  (Boo!  Hiss!)  That was NOT a good experience.  We'd get our monthly statement, and the amount had changed, due to a change in escrow amounts.  Or we'd get a "additional escrow needed immediately" statement.  Or both.  They called all the time to try to get us to refinance, apply for a home equity loan, or open a credit card (not to mention the junk mail).  Whenever I called to talk to them, IF I could get through the phone system, the person couldn't really help, "That's just the way we do things."  We had to pay $70 a month of mortgage insurance (which would pay our mortgage if we didn't - you know, because they can't take the house or anything like that), and kept saying we could take it off after such and such point, but wouldn't do it, even when we had a appraisal that showed we owned over 20% equity.
NOW, when I need something, I call the bank at Paola, a real person answers the phone, and transfers directly to whoever I need to talk to.  In the two plus years we've been there, I've needed something maybe twice, and it was resolved instantly.  No junk mail.  No phone calls.  We do our own escrow (setting money aside to pay yearly taxes and insurance), so there's no surprises.  They carry the loans, and don't sell them to national companies (which is how we ended up with Bank of America, even though we went to a local bank).
So there's my internet shout out.  I love this bank, and I highly recommend them to anyone looking to refinance.

Six Months, One Tooth (Finally!)

It feels like I haven't updated in so long.  And it has been a couple weeks, but really not much has been happening.  We had a 10-day stretch of sickness, so that was a chunk of time where there was lots of movies and days spent in PJs.
Teething bites.
Zadie passed the 6-month mark last week!  She is such a big girl.  Her first tooth FINALLY made its appearance.  She has been working on that thing for, I'm not even kidding, three months.  Unfortunately, it's twin is still struggling to make it's debut as well, and now when she bites while nursing..... YOWCH.
Zadie has been sleeping through the night since she was about two weeks old.  I got used to that real fast.  Now she's waking up at about 4 to nurse, and sometimes then again at 6.  Killer.  If I put her in bed with me, she will nurse for a solid hour, until my alarm goes off at 7:15.  I'm sure it's because she's growing and needs more calories.  I can't get her to go crazy on the solids.  And frankly, I don't blame her.  She still needs the smooth texture, or else she gags, but the simple foods are so bland.  How long til she can eat Mexican food, seriously?  Jacob didn't eat solids til he was 8 months old and could pick up finger foods to feed himself.  I'm hoping we're not headed for that again.
First food!
We really need to get a high chair.  Meal times usually consist of planting her in the middle of the living room, wrapping her in a tea towel, and feeding her.
She's sitting really well on her own, and really, really wants to figure out how to crawl.  She leans forward from sitting and gets her legs mostly under her but then can't figure out what to do from there, and then gets frustrated and starts hollering.  She's starting to try to pull up to stand.  I am so not ready for her to be mobile.  More so, the boys are not ready for her to be mobile.  The Legos will have to go when she starts crawling, plus who knows what else.  In general, she's been kind of high maintenance.  I think she's discovered that there is worlds beyond her little field of vision, and she wants to see it all.  Right now.  She likes spending time outside.  It's been so warm out here, that hasn't been a problem.  Unfortunately, it just turned cold, so I'm not sure what we'll do this winter.
Trying to pull up.
Oh my gosh.  I've got the TV on while I type (Office reruns).  I hate it when they have restaurant ads that show steak.  Now I want steak.  I think Paul's going to be cooking on Monday when he's off.
Mommy and sister.  (In all my morning glory.)
So that's the update on the little miss.  I've got other stuff, but I'll let this post be just for Zadie.  Except for the steak comment, of course. :)


We don't speak Whinese.

Paul, after I told Jacob he needed to stop whining and speak clear English.  Jacob is really bad about instantly switching on the "Whinese" when he's upset about something (which usually doesn't merit the drama he applies toward it) where we can't understand a single word he says.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sick Day Muffins

We're sick around here.  It's Paul's fault, really.
No, not really.
But Paul was the first one to have sinus stuffiness.  Then Nathan got sick Friday afternoon, and has pretty much not moved off the couch since then.  Fever of 103.  Jacob came down with it on Sunday (we stayed home from church - for once they were sick on a day convenient for me to skip!).  I'm trying to get sick, but I am hitting the Zicam pretty hard.  I can't get a cold this week!  (Our worship night is this Sunday.)
Nathan has me concerned.... The high fever, complete lack of appetite, and the just laying around all the time.  I can't get him interested in doing anything, and then he acts like he can't concentrate if I do get him to try to attempt something.  I keep going back and forth whether to take him to the doctor.  First off, it's $20 just to walk in the door.  We don't really have that right now.  And if it's just a virus (which I'm pretty sure it is since we've all got it in some form), the doctor will send us back home with a "just keep an eye on him."  So $20 wasted.  Plus, there's the chance that we'll pick up some other vile disease while we're there - which has happened before, more than once.
I was really hoping that today is the turnaround day.  So I thought I'd tempt them with something tasty to eat.  It worked, sort of.
These muffins were a variation of a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe.  The first time I made them like this (last week), Paul ate 5, Nathan ate 3, and Jacob ate 2.  Then the boys both wanted another for their mid-morning snack.
So I tried them again.

3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup wheat flour
1/4 c(ish) oatmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp(ish) cinnamon
1 beaten egg
3/4 c milk
1/4 c oil

Mix dry ingredients.  Stir together egg, milk, oil and pour into dry ingredients.  (May need to add more water or milk to get it to right consistency - not as thin as cake batter, but not so thick it clumps up in the whisk.)
Divide among 12 muffin cups.
Top with streusel:

1/4 c (half stick) butter
1/3 c flour
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp(ish) cinnamon

Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon.  Cut butter in using a pastry knife.  Sprinkle by the tablespoon full over the unbaked muffins.

Bake at 350 for 14-15 minutes.
*(ish) means I didn't actually measure it.  Just a guesstimate.

Nathan actually asked for one.  He ate the streusel top off of it, and left the bottom half.  Jacob ate one for breakfast, then wanted another for lunch.  When they're sick, I'm like whatever.  As long as they'll actually eat - it may not have lots of nutrition, but it has calories, which is energy to fight illness..... right?  Nathan's pretty much just ate Cheetos and cookies for the last 4 days.  I'm just happy he'll eat that much.
So we'll see if today is the turnaround day.  Nathan voluntarily went to take a nap at 11.  But so far, no fever.......

Monday, October 8, 2012

And here it is!

As promised…. An update!
Paul is off to work, and all 3 kids are watching a movie.  I’m not so sure about how I feel about Zadie watching TV, but she’s happy, which is a change from the last hour.  She’s not watching much, but is sitting on the couch with the boys, facing the TV while playing with her toys.
As I said, she’s become a little high-maintenance lately.  I don’t mind it mostly, but when I’m trying to get stuff done (like supper), it’s a little exasperating.  Especially since I know she doesn’t need anything (food or diaper), but she’s just bored.  But boy, can she scream!  She’s been so laid back since birth, this is a new thing.
The boys are getting so big.  I think they both went through a growth spurt at the end of summer.  Sometimes when they walk into our room in the middle of the night I second-guess which one it is.  It seems like Nathan should still be Jacob’s size, and Jacob should be a lot smaller than he is.
However, they are also getting some BIG attitudes.  The arguing between the two of them has reached epic proportions – about EVERY.  LITTLE.  THING.  And I’m not sure how to deal with it.  I don’t feel like wading in and beating them is the thing to do (although that’s what I really feel like doing when it’s the eightieth argument I’ve broken up before 9 AM), but they just don’t listen when I tell them to stop.  Nathan will keep it up under his breath, which he thinks I can’t hear, then Jacob will start yelling at him or wailing.  Who do I spank?  Both of them just for principle’s sake?   So there’s been a lot of yelling. 
I’ve started a chore chart with the boys.  They are old enough to start pulling some weight around here.  Their chores are to daily pick up their toys, clothes, shoes, etc.  Nathan unloads the silverware from the dishwasher and takes out the scraps to dump on the garden as compost.  He also helps with the trash on trash night.  Jacob feeds the pets and takes the recycling from the kitchen to the back porch when I have empty cans or milk jugs in the kitchen.  I love the fact that they are still motivated by getting stickers - it makes convincing them so easy!  They’ll get stickers until they own their jobs and start doing them as a course of habit.
I struggle with balance between serving my family and expecting them to do things how I want them done.  They boys know where their coats go.  Is the floor beneath the hook close enough or should they be hanging them up?  (They would have to move aside the bottom of Paul’s jackets to hang them on the lower hook.)  Should I let Paul hang his coat on my hook, or make him hang it on a hanger, since he only wears it every other week?  I have sock clips to keep socks matched in the wash – should I make them clip them together, or do it myself since I’m the one who benefits from it?
As for individual updates on the children:
Nathan has been doing school for 23 lesson days.  His math is supposed to be done 3 days a week, and repeat the lesson on the off days, but most of the concepts he either already knows or easily grasps.  For example, one of the lessons was counting to 5, and he can already count to 20.  He’s working on acting out story problems (Three teddy bears got on the bus, then one got off.  How many are left?), and graphing, which seems advanced for a 5-year-old, but he’s getting it, so…  But at this rate, we’ll be finishing the K math by March.  I think we may just move right on to 1 Math, and do it on through the summer.  He just seems to have a good head for math, and it makes sense to him.  Definitely does not get that from me.  Phonics seems maddeningly slow for me.  I don't know how much I should push him.  He knows all of his letters and their sounds, but putting them together either truly doesn't click or he just doesn't see the point. But I don't want to rush on, because I want him to know and understand very well. We have seen a rapid improvement in his violin with daily lessons.  He knows “Twinkle Little Star” theme, and 5 variations of it, “Old MacDonald”, a song we call “Walking Fingers” but is actually a simplified fiddle tune, “Boil the Cabbage Down”, and is learning “Joy to the World.”  He plays pretty good by ear; Old MacDonald he learned in pretty much one day.  Again, doesn’t get that from me.  He started in Sparks at our church’s AWANA program.  He was actually still 4 when it started in September, but he was in Kindergarten, and he moved up with a bunch of buddies that had been in Cubbies with him last year, so he was in good company.
Jacob started in AWANA Cubbies this year, sort of.  With a late October birthday, I don’t think he’ll be ready for Sparks yet the fall that he turns 5, even though we will probably start Kindergarten with him around that time.  So we call him a “Junior Cubbie.”  He wears Nathan’s old vest and memorizes the verses, but I’m too cheap to buy him the $10 book if he’s going to be in there for 3 years.  (Next year they are changing the whole program, so he wouldn’t be able to reuse the book when he’s older.)  Jacob wants to do school with us every morning.  So his school consists of cutting paper, coloring, writing on the dry-erase letter books, or playing with whatever math manipulatives Nathan uses for his lesson.  He kind of does his own thing; he’ll wander outside on his own (I’m a great mother).  Jacob is fearless.  Not in a macho, I’ve-got-something-to-prove way (read: short man syndrome), but more in a “Yeah, this looks fun.  I think I’ll do this.”  This week he jumped off the tailgate of the truck onto a log, which rolled beneath him.  Stuff like that happens daily.  He's still a snuggler, and likes to snuggle up against you when we read or watch TV.  He tries to end up in our bed whenever he wakes up at night.  (I don't want to admit how often he actually succeeds.)  He turns three later this month, and is pretty excited about it.
Zadie is nearly 6 months old.  She may be bigger than the boys were at this age.  They tended to be 90th percentile for height/75th for weight.  She's 100/90.  She was nearly 17 pounds at her checkup last month.  She's sitting up really good now on her own, where I don't have to put pillows around her.  I think she wants to crawl, but can't quite figure it out.  She rolls over onto her belly really well, but has yet to figure out how to roll from her belly to her back.  She's trying to change up her sleep pattern by giving up her morning naps.  So I know that's part of the problem with her attitude and needing attention.  We've had some big scream-fests at night.  She knows she's getting sleepy, and so will fight it.  After so long, I just get tired of the nurse-yank away-nurse-yank away.  I'll try rocking her, and if she doesn't relax, I just put her to bed.  Sometimes she'll scream and scream, other times (like tonight) she gives an obligatory squawk or two, but that's all I hear the rest of the night.  She started cereal this week.  The first time, she did pretty well, with not much tongue-thrusting and spitting out.  The last two times, she has attacked it with gusto, leaning forward and practically putting her face in the bowl.  I'm going to try green beans tomorrow, and see what she thinks of that.  Paul calls her a "show stopper."  Everywhere we go, people comment on how pretty she is.  I think it's the dark skin and the big blue eyes.  She is a beautiful girl.  (But of course, as her mother, I would never think otherwise!)
We had our first freeze this past weekend.  We were still getting watermelons and canteloupe - in October!  I didn't even try to save anything.  I was done with gardening.  With a capital D.  And it finished off the garden, big time.  Yet my roses by the deck were fine.  I don't get it.  I was happy with how the garden did, considering the type of summer we had.  Thrilled actually.  My tomatoes were a big waste of time and water, though.  I don't know if it was the year or the breed, but the most I got in one picking was a half a bucket.  Not even enough to put up.  My mom combined them with hers and got some sauce and salsa put up that she gave to me, so I do have something on the shelves at least.  The canteloupe were amazing - I think we were on our 5th or 6th round of pickings, and they had finally backed off to a normal size (as opposed to the first couple rounds of basketball-sized melons).  I even had a cucumber plant that held on.  It almost died in August, but then the tiny little bit that was still alive when it cooled down in September, started producing again.  I had about 12 bean plants that came up for my fall crop, and they were thisclose to being ready when it froze.  I told Paul next year, no matter what, I'm heeding my grandpa's advice of putting the fall garden in "the 25th of July, wet or dry."
Well, that's it for tonight.  I'm going to be responsible and go to bed, because, after all, being caught up on housework and laundry is way overrated.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Still Alive.....

We're still here.
School has started full-swing.  We've been "in session for a month now, and it's going pretty good.  But it's another hour out of my day.  (And yes, it only takes about an hour when you charge through it start to finish with no play time or breaks.  With a boy, it seems to work better that way.)  Also the little miss is becoming very demanding.  I think she's finally realized there's more world beyond just her little area that she happens to be in, and she wants to see it.  RIGHT NOW.  In Mommy's arms, of course.  It's not enough to just move her to the room I'm in - she wants to see what the world looks like from the altitude of 6 feet tall.  And I've been trying hard to avoid the siren call of the internet to lure me away from engaging with my family and being productive around the house.
I'm breaking my own media Sabbath, but I got online to do some "training" for a worship night we're doing at church in two weeks.  I'm trying to decide what theme and flow I want to establish, and what the main goal of the night is.  I think there needs to be something a little more substantial than "having fun," although that was originally the main motivation for getting together.  I want it to be a powerful night of worship, but not only do "power songs" - balance out with some quiet songs of meditation.  Decisions, decisions.....
Anyhow.  I need to get to bed, but I will try to make it a point to post an update in the next two nights while Paul is working.  And add pictures. :)