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January 28, 2010

Seven years ago we welcomed a little man into our lives and into our hearts.  From the moment I laid my eyes on him I was full of all kinds of love. 

It didn't hurt that he was a particularly good looking little guy.

Michaela was fascinated by him..."It's a baby!" she said.

She was a sweet helper, but who could resist such a face?

I have a feeling that won't be the last time I hear that sentiment.

Do you know what I like about this picture?  You can see his dinner plate; he does not eat vegetables anymore.  There lies his broccoli and carrots as evidence of this fact, in his seventh year, entering his eighth.  (Shut up.  Seriously.  You did not just say that he is going to be eight, did you?)  (Why, yes I did.)  (Thank you for the heart attack.  I'll be fine, don't worry about me.)  Also, note the black object that is sticking up next to him.  It is my potato masher.  He was using it as a gun.  He is very much a boy.  Just an expert documenter here, that's all.

The truth is I can't believe he is seven.  Seven seems much different than six, more than just a year.  Seven seems very big.  But I cannot escape the fact that he will continue to get older.  It is bittersweet. 

He still likes to snuggle, though.

I am in the process of getting ready, along with Mike, for his birthday party tomorrow.  We are picking up his class and bringing them back to our house for a dinosaur party.  I have a fantastic cake planned...and icing that needs to be colored...and fondant that needs to be rolled and cut.  Holy moly.  I've got a lot to do.  That's not even mentioning the mess to clean up. 

It will be fun.  Right?  Mike said so.


Cleaning Up?

 Christian got out the Tinker Toys the other day; he can create some pretty cool things.  He seems to have an engineering kind of mind. 

You can't tell from the picture, but this contraption does all kinds of stuff; it has moving parts, things that can get shot out of it, and a way to keep it all intact when not in use.  He put a lot of thought into it.  I took a picture of it so that when I asked him to put it away it wouldn't be so hard; it would be documented!

I let him leave it up for a couple of days, and then asked him to put the Tinker Toys away.  This is his version of completing that task...

This is why it takes a long time to get any semblance of order/clean around here. 

I can't say I'm any better at the job.


The End, For Now

Christian's soccer season is officially over...early on, several games were rained out, so the season lasted a bit longer than it normally would have.  The weather for the last couple of games was beautiful, though.  Their final game was last night and they played so well.  The boys really put forth a great effort each game; they played as a team, passed the ball, and worked together for the most part.  It was wonderful to see them improving all the time.

The last three games Christian came out of his soccer shell, so to speak.  I think it was the game before the last one that he scored a goal right off the bat (oops, wrong sport!) and after that it was like someone lit a fire under his rear!  He was never far from the ball, and he tried hard to get it out from the middle of any given pack of boys (when first-grade soccer turns into rugby...) and then kick and dribble it down the field in order to score.  He would slide into the ball to avoid colliding with fellow players.  He would put his foot on top of the ball and pull it backwards (I'm sure there's a technical soccer term for that maneuver, I just don't know what it is).  It was so fun to watch him play aggressively and have such a good time.

Here are some pictures from the last game.  Grandmas and Grandpas, enjoy!  Other folks can enjoy, too, if you are inclined to continue!

Watch carefully...

Did you notice?  Yes, he kicked his shoe off, and kept right on playing!  He didn't stop to put it back on for a couple of minutes...the coach actually brought it over to him and made him stop running so he could slip the cleat on.

One thing I heard several of the other parents say is,"He's so fast!" 

He is fast...he would zip down the field ahead of everyone...

and he could control the ball pretty well, too.  His skills improved so much this season; it was amazing.  I didn't get any great shots of this, but he really seems to like, and be good at, defending the goal.  At this stage there is no official goalie, but there were several times when he literally came out of nowhere appearing right in front of the goal in order to knock the ball either out of bounds or to the side.  He was so speedy! 

Like each boy, he received a medal and a trophy...he was so proud.  This was his best season so far, and I'm looking forward to many more years of shin guards and cleats! 


Do You Want to Walk on the Wild Side?

First I would like to say that I did not have to clean up any sickness messes, and not just because Michaela made it to the toilet...there never was a mess.  Phew.  Thank you for your sympathetic comments.  No one likes the prospect of a sick child, nor the aftermath!  There were some leaning-over-the-trash-can moments, but nothing ever came of it.  She slept through the night, and was relatively fine today.

Last night I thought that I was not going to be able to go to the dinosaur show since she was going to be sick, but this morning we decided that she would stay home with a sitter and Eliana, and I could take Christian.  Then someone in his class called and asked if she could buy the extra ticket and I said,"Of course!"  I'm glad we didn't have to eat that.

I had canceled with the original babysitter, and then called back to say how about two kids, one who's possibly sick, and her mom said that she would see how she felt after her ACT exams!!  I thought about it and decided to ask another woman from our church to come over; she loves on the kids every day.  Literally.  They go visit her in her office, and she has some treat for them, and she wants to know how they're doing, and they give her hugs, and she feels like a grandma, and everyone is so happy.

She was totally willing to come even though it was last minute.  Christian got dropped off from his campout (they had to return early for the field trip, but he managed to get pretty good and dirty in just 24 hours.  I can't imagine what he would have looked like after two days.  And they said to pack soap and a towel.  Why?!  It's not like it gets used for its intended purpose.  Maybe they do a soap carving and use the towel to catch the shavings?) and I popped him in the shower so that he could scrub off the layer of mud that had accumulated all over. 

Can I just say how thankful I am that we live in a place with clean water and soap?  I am.

Once we were ready (I even showered!) we slipped out the back door while our sweet friend was entertaining the girls in the living room.  Eliana never knew I left, until later, and she was fine. 

We arrived safely and in plenty of time (this is a concern whenever I drive in any downtown...I almost always get lost).  The lights went down, and the show began...


Walking With Dinosaurs...

The action took place in an arena (normally for basketball, but for now the dinosaurs were in charge).  There were also screens so that those who were far away could see close-ups of the narrator as well as the dinos.

The show takes an old-earth stance for obvious reasons, so for now we'll go with that. 

The narrator (let's call him the paleontologist) spoke of a time when the world was without flowers, as well as hairless mammals (that would be things like us), and of a time when the continents were actually joined together in one giant land mass, Pangaea.  (I was so excited...I remembered learning about that in school!  I felt smart!)  Anyway, he explained that everything back then came from eggs...

The first action we saw was the hatching of some Plateosaurus eggs, which were promptly discovered by a meat-eater, the Liliensternus.

(A disclaimer:  I began taking pictures with a telephoto lens, but with no flash-not allowed-and because the dinos were almost always moving none of the telephoto shots turned out clear.  The above is hard to make out, but it is one dino sniffing out the eggs which are in the tip of that rock looking jut-out thing.  I switched to the other lens which is better for low-light/no flash photography, and did much better, but got no really zoomed in shots with that one.  I picked a couple of the blurry ones, just because for some of the dinos it's all I had, but most of what I will put on here is taken with the other lens.  Sorry about the blur.  It was a cool action shot, as is the following...)


Unfortunately, one of the hatchlings met an early end.  This was life, and death, during the Triassic period.  (Although blurry, if you look closely, the Liliensternus has the Plateosaurus in its mouth).  The rest of the babies were saved by their momma, however, who came after the Liliensternus, even though she was a plant-eater.  She was fierce when it came to protecting her little ones.

Because of her size she was able to run off the predator.  It seems that early on the plant-eaters had the advantage since their bodies were so large...they were able to defend against the smaller meat-eaters.

Time passed (like 30 million years or something) and the climate changes and global plate shifting and stuff like that made for new vegetation; and new dinosaurs dominated...

like the Stegosaurus.  (You can see how big he is next to the paleontologist-kind of above the dino's head in the picture).  The Stegosaurus had all those funky plates, which scientists think may have been for body temp control, and of course his spiky tail to ward off any Allosaurus which may have come along to attack!

The Jurassic period was just as fraught with danger as the Triassic!

The Allosaurus tried to sneak up on the Stegosaurus, who really was just minding its own business, eating peacefully...

They confronted one another, and roared and waved their heads about threateningly, but before they could finish their fight something else came along and created danger for both dinosaurs...

As the climate continued to change and the plates continued to shift the dinosaurs faced challenges which affected their very survival.  The Allosaurus was a survivor.  Toward the latter part of the Jurassic period the Brachiosaurus, one of the largest animals ever to live on the earth, thundered across the land, and as the Stegosaurus had, also dealt with the attacks of the strong Allosaurus.

However, the smaller dinosaur was no match for a Brachiosaurus with a friend...

and the two gigantic plant-eaters were able to run the carnivore off.

Christian thought all of this was very cool.


Next, we got a glimpse of some raptors that had successfully defeated another dinosaur...

They may have just called it getting lunch.

The Utahraptors didn't eat all together, though.  There were those who went first and then those who had to wait.  And you'd better not try to go outside of the proper order, mister, or you'd get slashed.

The Utahraptors were among the dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous period.  This was a long, relatively warm and humid period.  This period saw a great deal of volcanic activity and plate movement; the land masses shifted further and further apart during this time.

We watched as the climate underwent significant changes, and the landscape sprouted lush vegetation and flowers for the first time.

The paleontologist introduced us to a new dinosaur, the Torosaurus.

He was a big guy.

Our paleontologist friend described the Torosaurus' horns and crest and voiced the question,"Who could threaten or challenge this well-armored dinosaur?"

Then he ran to get out of the way...

and answered his own question with,"Only another male Torosaurus, challenging the authority of the leader..."

The two dinos fought horn to horn, and the younger Torosaurus defeated the elder and took his place as the new leader of the herd.

Another well-armored dinosaur of this period was the Ankylosaurus.  He was like a tank walking around with a giant mace attached to the end of his tail.

The Torosaurus and the Ankylosaurus met one another and recognized that they posed no danger to each other...

They snorted a greeting and went on their ways. 

They carried around a lot of armor on their bodies, but the herbivores needed all this protection.  You never knew when a mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex would come around and try to eat you up...

Well, he's awfully small!  And the big tanks were not even phased. 



bit...(they had him cornered here, but he still thought he could take them)


one angry momma appeared on the scene!

She came roaring out of the dark, in order to protect her ambitious little one...

Don't mess with Momma's baby...

The Tyrannosaurus Rex was successful at redirecting the attention of the two other dinosaurs from her baby.  But, the Ankylosaurus actually knocked the leg of the T-Rex with its armored tail before the two plant-eaters went away, escaping the anger (and possibly the hunger) of the King Queen of the dinosaurs.

She did what any good mommy would do...and checked on her sweet infant.

Then, just to prove that she was indeed bad to the bone, she went around and roared in all of our faces.


It was loud, and it shook the arena.  Her little one was copied its momma, as most babies do, with all of the fierceness it could muster...


It sounded like an angry little kitten!

Although I'm sure it could have eaten me in one gulp.  So, I wouldn't laugh in its face or anything.

In spite of its tiny little roar, it shared a great big love with its momma...

and together they faced a danger greater than any dinosaur they could have come up against...

a comet that slammed into the earth, annihilating the dominating dinosaurs forever...


It was quite a show.

(Another disclaimer...I wrote this based on what I remember, and a little googling, so please take it with a grain of salt.  It really was a fun time, and I'm so glad we were able to go.)


They Had Me in Stitches

Last year Christian started school a week later than everyone else so all of the volunteer sign-up sheets had been filled out.  Mike and I ended up doing a handful of things for a couple of parties, but were never exactly in charge of anything.  I like it like that...I don't like to be in charge (you can imagine the consequences this has for parenting sometimes...), especially of collecting money or putting some big shindig together whether it's a party or a field day.

This year, however, we were around for the sign-up sheets.  Our names are on several lists, which is as it should be.  Do you know how much the first-graders love to have their mommies and daddies in the classroom?  Their little faces light up, radiant with joy that mom or dad has come to spend that time in the morning with their little boy or girl.  Christian's classroom has morning centers and his teacher this year loves for parents to come and help the kids out at the different learning areas.  It's a very hands-on, parent-involved, make-learning-fun environment.

So, on the sheets there are always blanks that get filled in quickly:  there are moms who love to organize the parties; there are parents who know they will be available to drive for field trips.  Then there are those spots that remain blank until the very end of the parent-teacher meeting, the spots no one particularly wants to take.  I noticed on one of the sheets that there was a spot such as this, an as-of-yet unclaimed responsibility.  It was called Friday Stitchery.

Mrs. C. also noticed this blank and brought it up to all of the parents at our meeting (before school started they had a little coffee for the parents to sign up and get familiar with the classroom and the curriculum).  We all looked at our feet, checked our nails, admired the maps and the White House poster.  I could feel my heart start to beat faster, and I knew, I just knew, that I was supposed to do that job. 

I can't say that I was initially overjoyed with this sudden and certain knowledge. 

I put my name on the list and decided I would stay after the meeting to make sure the teacher knew this was a tentative commitment (is there such a thing?).  I had a feeling, however, once you sign the sheet there is no going back.  Kind of like Mr. Anderson with that pill in The Matrix.  Well, I swallowed the pill.

I brought home the crate with all of the supplies from last year.  I looked through it, searching for instructions or any helpful info.  The teacher had made it very clear that while she loved for the kids to do the stitching, she had nothing to do with it.  Meaning her input was ZERO.  What I did know about stitchery was that each child worked on their own set of nine squares, stitching a basic outline on each one that would represent a different aspect of their school year.  For example, the outline of a triceratops for the dinosaur unit, or a Texas state flag for the unit on our state.  It was the responsibility of the Stitchery Mom to cut the fabric squares and get the designs onto the squares (think dot-to-dot, but with a needle) for the students to sew on.  In the crate I found embroidery hoops and leftover material, as well as thread from last year.  Needles were already in there.  But I saw no instructions about specifics.  How big were the squares supposed to be?  Was I supposed to use particular designs?

I called the mom who was in charge last year; we're friends.  I made her go out to dinner with me so I could pick her brain.  She told me about her experience, some of the things she did, but really what I was left with was that I could do whatever I wanted.  Oooh, the power went straight to my head!

I went ahead and bought new fabric; I was going to need 108 squares total.  (And somewhere along the way someone reminded me that there was a new student in the class which actually meant I would need 117 squares, but I think it will all turn out fine in the end.)  I got the first set of squares cut out, and then I went about the business of figuring out the design.  I thought it would be nice to start with one that reflected the Christian nature of their education, as well as one that hopefully pointed to the importance of their relationship with the Lord.  I looked up a couple of things online, and finally settled on a design that I thought was simple and meaningful.  I sent it to the parents to get opinions and everyone thought it was good.  I then began the process of marking the fabric with a water-washable pen...

I enjoyed this process.  It was therapeutic in a way, repeating that pattern over and over until all thirteen were done.  I began early in the day so it wasn't that late when I finished.  And getting to the end of the pile left me with a great feeling. 

Somehow I ended up with an extra one; it was providential, I suppose.  (Apparently, I'm crafty, but not so good with Math.)  I decided to experiment a little with the thread to see what might work the best. 

I tried doubling it, not doubling it, and also dividing the six strands in half.  I tried out different thicknesses in needles as well.  I was a little worried that if I took a square to the class that a grown-up had worked on the kids might think,"Oh, I can't do that!  That's so good."  I don't think I had anything to worry about!  (Maybe not so much on the crafty, either!)  It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.  The thread and needle combination that I used at first wasn't quite right.  But I finally got a combo that I thought would work well for them.

I put each of their squares in a Ziploc baggie...

and then realized that I wanted to put the squares in the embroidery hoops so that they could get started right away.  So, I did that, and got everything back in the crate, all the bags, all the thread, all the needles, and my camera!  I set it by the front door, where Christian's bag hung on the door knob, so we would be ready to go in the morning.

I have to confess, I didn't sleep very well last night.  I think there were lots of reasons (I never sleep well, actually), but I was so nervous about trying to teach all the kids what to do.  I don't remember my phone going off at all (it's my alarm)...I just remember sitting up all of a sudden, hearing Michaela upstairs, and saying out loud,"Oh no!"  I knew that I had slept right through the first day of stitchery.  I grabbed my phone and it said 7:16.  Phew!  It was all right.

I got Christian up, we all had breakfast, I even showered!  Mike stayed home with Eliana and Michaela went to Christian's class with me.  I grabbed up the crate and we arrived a couple of minutes early to class.  Mrs. C. said to us,"Well, there's the Stitchery Mom!  Christian, where is your bag?"  Well, of course we left his bag hanging on the door!  But I had the stitching stuff, darnit.  My sweet Michaela ran home and grabbed Christian's bag for him (we live very close to his school) and brought it back so he could turn in his homework.  And we all had a chuckle about my feeble mind.  I am getting older, you know.  My birthday is at the end of this month; I'll be turning the ripe old age of 35.  And believe me, I can feel it in my joints and in my bones.  I don't even want to talk about my gray hair. 

I was so grateful for the six other moms that showed up to help.  And they all thought I was amazing for having everything ready to go, for being so organized.  If everyone only knew how funny that is. 


Between the moms, Michaela, and the two teachers in the class, all of the kids at least got a start.  There was a bit of pulling out of stitches, and redoing this and that line, and wrapping the thread all the way around the hoop, but overall I got the impression that things went well.  As they get used to the stitch (a backstitch) it will get easier.  At least, I hope that is true!  This is going to be a wonderful project for them, and something they will be able to take a lot of pride in.  I'm looking forward to working with them throughout the year and seeing them get closer and closer to their goal of a finished quilt.  Oh, I don't think I mentioned  that earlier.  The nine squares will be put together into a quilt that they will get to take home with them (probably after the summer); it will be pieced by a professional-someone who knows what they're doing.  I'm not that good! 

So, today we began the journey...and it was a great deal of fun!  I will say that I never knew sewing could make me sweat.