Sunday, March 30, 2014

Our Newest Addition

I am waaaaay behind on this announcement, but I wanted to get some pictures together to show you guys and so I am ready now. Drumroll please…. I have a new baby niece.

Photo Credit: Brandon Weaver 

She is actually about to turn two months old. She is a precious little bundle and we are so blessed to have her as a part of the family. This makes 6 grandchildren in six years for my parents.  

1. 2007

2. 2010

3. 2010

4. 2012

5. 2012

6. 2014

So, both of the "Jeremy and Natalies" have 3 kids now. The baby tag team system has been great, and I know people are used to having at least one of the two Natalies pregnant,  but I just want to put the rumors to rest and let everyone know that I am not expecting. It sure is nice having a teeny tiny around again though. These cousins are barrels of fun. It just keeps getting better. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Throw Up Thursday

I am sure you are all familiar with the increasingly popular "Throwback Thursday" where you post an old picture online on Thursdays. But have you heard of lesser known "throw UP Thursday"?


Yeah, I don't see it catching on quite as well,  but that is what my kids did all day yesterday.

Let's rewind to Tuesday because I want to disclose all details of this as if it were an official investigation. I am open to any and all theories about what the cause of the outbreak may be or if you have ever experienced anything like it.

Tuesday evening I met a couple friends at Chic-Fil-A (one of them was my sister in law) in Northern Kentucky. There are 10 kids between the 3 of us. It did get a little crazy, but what' new? Afterwards we went home and got ready for bed because Z had to be at the airport at 6:00 am the next morning to fly to Washington D.C. with my parents.


Wednesday morning, everything was great. Z flew off and got to see the capital and had a grand ol' time. Back in Ohio my two youngest kids were fine and dandy until Ezie woke from his sleep at 10:30 pm and started to vomit. He has never thrown up before. And it just kept on coming for the poor little guy. I'd clean him up in the bathtub change him and changed the sheets and then it would happen again, although after two times I wanted to make sure he was done so I went ahead and let him relax in the tub for a looooong time and it appeared he was finally done puking. Then when I got him out and wrapped him in a towel he threw up again.


 We were up until 4:00 am and then I slept in his bed with him. I awoke to the news that SJ threw up. Then I got a text that Z had been throwing up in D.C. all night too! What in the world?! I texted my friends that had been at Chic Fil A and one of them hadn't experienced any illness other than some diarrhea from a  toddler. My sister in law on the other hand said that my niece, nephew, and brother were all puking!

I know that story was probably hard to follow, but here are the clues

1. 10 kids were playing at Chic-Fil-A Tuesday night (more than 10, but those are the ones I was with).
2. Approximately 36 hours later 5 out of the 10 kids were vomiting, plus one dad who wasn't even at Chic-Fil-A.
3. Side note: When the illness manifested the kids were scattered amongst three different states (Ohio, Kentucky, and D.C.).

I just find it interesting. It's like this "bug" jumped on all the kids at one point and simultaneously manifested way later. I would say food poisoning, because it reminds of the time everyone from our church got montezuma's revenge on a mission trip, but there are some problems with that theory, like not everyone that had it ate at the restaurant, and I don't think food poising takes that long. I do understand how illness works and it's common for groups to get sick together, but I have never seen all of my kids suddenly come down with something at the exact same time. They usually pass it along in more of a domino type fashion. I also didn't think it would take a full day and half to show symptoms.  If you are a germ expert this is your chance to educate me on the life cycle of a virus.

The good news is the sickness only lasted about 18 hours and everyone is better now. Time to finish another round of laundry and disinfecting the house. Yippee!

*SJ always stands really funny when she is assuming the puke position. It's funny, one time her legs were so far apart she was almost doing the splits, but I am always by her side comforting her. In this case it was a false alarm and she was fine, so that is why I snapped the pic. *

**Z signing I love you as headed off to the airport**

***Pajamas snuggles with my sick boy. At least I had an excuse to be alone with him and stroke his silky little baby curls.

Monday, March 24, 2014

I Want Apple Juice (and other glorious statements)

I feel like SJ's been tattling on Z since birth. One time, before she could ever talk at all, she came running into my room crying. Z came following right behind her yelling "she's lying". Hmmm. That sounds suspicious. However, she has come a long way in the past 6 months and the progression is evident in the way she and Z bicker. In October she went from just pointing at Z to actually being able to say his name.

It really was a major milestone. Then in December she started piecing two words together and saying "Z hit!" (or Z push, Z hurt, Z boo boo, etc.) Her latest achievement is the 3 word combination such as "Z hit me". I hate to be so enthusiastic about sibling rivalry, but it really is exciting to watch her build her communication skills!

There are other things I am sure would annoy most parents, but I am just thrilled to hear her talk. For example the other night we had cut off juice for the day and told her she could have water. She didn't like that and she just kept whining JUUUUUUICE. Then when she was given a cup of water she said "No. I want apple juice." Perfectly clear. How am I supposed to respond to that? I didn't give in, but I did smile and maybe clap a little.

She has said several other sentences recently like

"Mom, I hear phone"
"I hear it"
"I want pudding"
"I will do it"
"Daddy sit down."
"Baby Ezie's turn"

She can also count to 5 and knows several colors.

She sang 5 little monkeys along with her class for a school presentation. Here is a video of Z and SJ practicing.

Last week she was in The Very Hungry Caterpillar play and said her line perfectly, which was "I eat hotdog", without any cue.

 Way to go SJ!

She is making great strides. Even her bedtime routine has made a complete 180 degree turn since I last complained mentioned it. It's hard for me to capture her talking on video. I always have my hands full, and you know how kids are, they stop the moment the camera  is ready. However, the webcam helps some because she seems to respond well to the computer. That's how the video above was recorded (Z changed the background to fish), and this one is her showing some of her vocabulary word pictures. In it she says over 20 words. I know she is very difficult to understand. There are a lot of sounds she can't make yet, like the "C" sound which is why car sounds like "har". She understands so much though and she is able to articulate more and more each day.

That's just a small portion of a ten minute video! That girl is on fire. It was this time a year ago that she said her first word and now she knows a couple hundred words. For 6 years Z was the only one talking and it won't be long now that I will have three chatter boxes on my hands. Bring it on.

Captions for the video:
Bird, cow, dog, rabbit, hand, ear, feet, eye, horse (twice in a row), bug, strawberry, hamburger, kitty cat, bike, cow (which she calls horse at first), sink, hotdog, crackers, pizza, chair, cup, bed, spoon knife, fork, boat, phone."

Friday, March 21, 2014


First off, let me just say that this isn't supposed to be a Look-at-what-awesome-parents-we-are-and-how-we-blissfully-utilize-every-moment-to-cultivate-our-brilliant-child's-mind post. Z is at a new stage that has been challenging for us, and we are always second guessing and restructuring to try and make things work. I just want to put that out there so that I don't give the impression that we've got everything figured out. In fact, if you want me to air out my dirty laundry you can give me a call, but this post is focusing on some of the positive aspects of our role as parents.

Now then, what I wanted to touch on today is how, like most of us, J and I both have a love for discovery and learning, along with a desire to foster that same curiosity in our children. I went to a parenting workshop the other day about Raising Responsible Kids and they asked each of us what we felt like our children would remember fondly about us in our parental roles. I thought about it for a moment. I would like to believe that my children would remember the fun we had creatively learning through art and play.

Lately we've been frequenting the Cincinnati Nature Center because we got a pass for Christmas and we can't wait on the weather to cooperate any longer. So whether it's snowy, sunny, freezing, or muddy we just go for it and one of my favorite parts is watching J teach the kids as we hike along the trails.

"Hey! You guys come over here and take a look at this! Do you know why this pile of dirt is here? It's from a MOLE. Take a stick and see if you can push into the ground." Each of the three children can easily plunge their stakes into the soft dirt. "Now try over here" J said, pointing to the part of the path where the ground hadn't been tilled by the critter. The children continuously jab at the ground, but are unsuccessful in their attempts to pierce through the hard layer of earth. J goes on to explain where the path of the mole is, why it's softer, and how it makes it's way underground. Every time we go hiking J takes the time to observe and point out nature to the kids. His favorite subject when he was younger was science and you can still see the boyish intrigue as he points out quartz in the rocks, the age of the trees, or a tadpole on it's way to froghood.

It's the same excitement I recognize in myself when I do arts and crafts with them. I have always known that J and I were a great match. Okay, maybe I have wondered at times, but for the most part we compliment each other. It was when we were in the woods the other day that I realized just how well we work together at teaching our children. I could never be as good of a nature guide as he is, but there are other activities where I am the one that leads the way.

One of Z's latest fascinations is with history. A couple weeks ago we learned all 44 presidents to the tune of Yankee Doodle. Learning through music comes naturally to me. For example a lot of the Bible verses I know are through songs. The Greek alphabet and the countries and capitals of South America were things my teachers taught by using simple melodies and now 20 years later I still remember them (at least for the most part). If it weren't for the songs then I guarantee the information would be long gone. When Z showed interest in the presidents I realized I didn't know them either, so we've worked on this project together. We play a game where I say one and he says the next one until we go through all of them. When my dad was visiting he got in on the fun too. There are several presidents that Z knows the first names and historical facts to go along with it, but this little clip is just of the song he learned.

J was out of town when we did this, but once he returned he got out an old book that he has, which talks about the life of each of the earlier presidents. Z was really excited to hear all about it, but in the end you could tell it was a little over his head. This photo is from one night where he drifted off to sleep listening to J read. Priceless.

 J suggested they should go to the library and find a book for kids that talks about each president. Then he said "And if we can't find one we'll just have write one ourselves" to which I thought Wow. Will you marry me? Oh wait, you already did. Perfect.
 God knew what he was doing when he put the two of us together because we bring different things to the table and together it makes a complete meal. All I have to say is I've got dibs on dessert.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fun With Fruit!

I'll admit it, I like to play with my food. As a young girl I would use toothpicks and build little creatures out of fruits and vegetables. I don't have any photos because that was the 80's when photography was reserved for vacations, birthdays, and yearbooks instead of every single little thing that kids do every single day. I am not complaining about either era by the way. The point is, I have fond memories of this activity and have continued playing with my food ever since.

Not to imply that I sculpt jaw dropping works of art from produce like Carl Warner or Saxton Freyman do.

Carl Warner's Lettuce Scape

Saxton Freymann work from the book "Gus and Button"

These guys are very inspiring, but I am talking about super simple fun with fruit. Anyone can do this stuff that I am about to share. Consider it one step up from the funny face pancake at IHOP. 

Let's start with one that would be the most pertinent today. 
The gold at the end of the rainbow! 
Then there is Bert and Ernie 
How about some decorative fruit pizza with a message? 

Things really start rolling at Christmas time.

Last but not least, a little throw back from when I made this flag cake for 4th of July 13 years ago! 

I know some of these most of these are dessert items, but I would really like to focus on the fruit and veggie part more. I am thinking about starting an elimination diet to see if baby Ezie is sensitive to certain foods. He's been dealing with really bad eczema for a while now and I just can't seem to get to the bottom of it. Even if it's not food related, I need to get my family back on track when it comes to eating right. I will keep you all posted as I play around with the idea of eating more whole foods. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Donut Party

When I was pregnant with SJ (Sedona) we told her brother, who was two at the time, that his baby sister's name was Sedona. I don't know if he misheard us or if he couldn't pronounce it, but for the longest time he called her "donut". Throughout the pregnancy he actually told people that there was a donut in my belly. In honor of this nickname I decided to give her the ultimate donut party!

Here are the top 10 special touches from the big day.

1. The Donut Invitations

The real invite had all the information on it, but I didn't think my brother would appreciate me broadcasting his home address on the internet. 

I just put together a simple design using her school photo along with this free donut stock image, and this free font. I had them printed on 4x6 photos from Costco. Very affordable!

2. The Menu

We had "brunch" food items including breakfast casserolefrittata, sausage crescents and some other sides.  I did my research to try and come up with the tastiest recipes so feel free to check out the links.

3. The Birthday Cake 

I just used strawberry cake mix, baked in a bunt pan, and topped with icing the way a donut would be. I figured if you are going to make a cake look like a giant donut then the sprinkles need to look giant too. So I used "Mike and Ike" candy as sprinkles. Tasty!

4. Tent Cards 

 I labeled everything using a really simple printable template that I found online. This site has tons of themes to choose from including the one I used for Ezie's One Happy Camper party. The design I used this time was actually intended for easter.

The thing I love about party tent cards is that they are SO easy and I feel like they make any occasion more festive. However, if you ever come over and I have tent cards labeling everything in my home then someone arrange an intervention, okay?

5. The Book

 For SJ's 1st birthday (cupcake theme) we gave her "If You Give A Cat a Cupcake" and her 2nd birthday (Green Eggs and Ham theme) we gave her "Green Eggs and Ham". This year we gave her "If You Give a Dog a Donut" and I had all the guest sign it inside.

6. The Donut Balloons  

Okay, so maybe there weren't any balloons that actually made it to the donut party. I did decorate the balloon shown above using this tutorial, but if you haven't already heard about my pinstorsity you can read all the devastating details on "When Your Pinterest Idea Flies Out The Window (literally)".

7. The Donut Piñata

This was my FAVORITE craft for this party and I put a lot of work into it. After having so much success with the Bob tomato piñata, and batman piñata, I decided why not try a donut? And it was a hit!

I took things up a notch this year by introducing the matching piñata stick.

If you read the story about my donut balloon fail then you know that I had a bunch of left over paper sprinkles. I had already designated a poster mailing tube for the piñata stick (not so hard that it's dangerous, but not too flimsy). Then at the last minute I went ahead and covered it with tissue paper and glued sprinkles to it making my first ever coordinating stick. It's the little things that get me excited.

8. Punch with mason jars

Mason jars with paper straws are so popular right now and if you already own some it's cheaper than buying disposable cups. So I went with that idea and made sparkling pink punch using frozen lemonade, white cranberry juice, and club soda. Yum!

9. Party Favors

The party favors were the bags of candy that the kids filled up from the piñata, and Dunkin Donut bags to fill with donuts. I also always like to have a current wallet sized photo of the guest of honer so we did that too.

10. DONUTS! 

What would a donut party be without donuts? We had an assortment from Dunkin Donuts. Sprinkled ones for the kids and a little more variety for the grown ups.

We also had fruit kabobs with powdered donut holes. I ended up using all berries (strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry). By the way this would make a lovely addition to a 4th of July party with the red, white, and blue.

All birthdays are worth celebrating, but this one in particular was special because SJ turned 4 on March 4th of 2014. The party planning was a bit of a roller coaster as far fun versus stress, but all in all it was a huge success and I am so happy for my little donut.

For more donut ideas you may want to take a peak at my donut party Pinterest board

Friday, March 14, 2014

Before and After SJ's First Haircut

Yesteray was the big day. March 12, 2014 SJ had her first haircut. The whole process was really special, but pretty uneventful as far as haircuts go. Here she is before.


And here are some pictures during the hair cut.

The stylist was fantastic. She was totally comfortable and familiar with the cochlear implant and she even signed "beautiful"when SJ was done. 

SJ was shocked when she saw her her ponytail and it was no longer attached to her head.

But, she seems to be happy with the results.

Here are a few I took that evening

I didn't set out to make a wig out of my daughters hair. It wasn't even a thought in my mind that I would have her donate her hair like I did last year. However, I mentioned in my last post that we planned on cutting it to the match the length of the regrowth from when her head was shaved for the surgeries. So that is what we did, and it turned out we had just enough to donate to Locks of Love. Having lost a brother to Leukemia I am even more moved to do whatever I can in helping other children with cancer. SJ doesn't understand all that yet, but she didn't have any use for the ponytail so Locks of Love it is! 

It was a memorable evening. Her hair is way easier and she looks super cute, as was predicted. I will be happier when it is a smidge longer because she is dead set on having a ponytail, but other than that it's all been a very pleasant experience.