Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rollin' Nolan

For some reason, "Rollin' Nolan" has become one of Nolan's nicknames. It is usually used in silly song fashion to an old Western theme song called Rawhide. (Thanks to the helpful comments of Trillium, I was able to learn the name of this song and add it to the top of my playlist for your enjoyment.) The version we sing goes like this: Rollin' rollin' Nolan, see that Nolan rollin', rollin' rollin' rollin'---Nolan". Lame, I know... but we all get a kick out of it. To think of it, the rolling reference probably came to mind due to Nolan's huge, very round head, which we often tease him about. (In a loving way of course.)

In truth, we believe that Nolan's extraordinary large head was made to accommodate his extra large brain. (A fact which he does not refute, I might add.) He truly is an intelligent child; who isn't afraid to ask questions, make observations, or do what ever it takes to learn about new things. I remember when he was younger, he would often get into fights with his older brother and sister about things he knew nothing about. Soon after that, Nolan would state the exact same facts that his siblings had given him, nearly word for word, even though it was obvious he didn't really understand everything he was saying. That is when I figured it out: he was purposely starting those fights in order to get his brother and sister to teach him what he wanted to learn.

Although Nolan doesn't fight as much as he used to, he is still getting others to teach him what he wants to know. Now he uses questions instead. "Dad, are you speeding?!", "Why did you go when the light was red?" (it was a right hand turn), "Are we going West?" are some of the typical questions he asks in his bossy voice. Nolan wants to know the who, what, why, when, where, and how of nearly everything. The kid has a natural drive to learn, what more can I say?

We've concluded that after housing Nolan's massive cerebellum, any remaining head space must then be used as a place for stockpiling spare calories, as Nolan certainly doesn't store them by traditional means. For the most part Nolan eats like most other kids, that is until something extra tasty like pizza, brauts, or hamburgers is served. That is when Nolan has been known to out eat everyone, except perhaps his dad. When you watch him eat, you can't help but wonder where it all goes because he is so skinny. (He even sports a nice 6 pack to prove it. Boy am I jealous!) It will be interesting to see how long he can keep it up though, as most veggies and him don't seem to get along that well.

One of Nolan's healthier habits is the fact that he is the most active person in our house hold. He loves sports and is a very fast runner. Right now his favorite thing to play is kick ball. Sadly, the poor child has been asked to make some sacrifices this year, as last year he slid huge holes into all of his school pants and was asked not to do so again.

Another of Nolan's passions is fishing, though it's been a while since he last caught a fish. His most recent catch was a large turtle, believe it or not. It was so funny to see him scream and jump with enthusiasm! (The boy giggled until he was nearly blue in the face.) The good news is: the turtle got away. The bad news is: he got away before Dave could remove the hook. Oops!

As for talents: Nolan has been gifted with a super memory, advanced reading skills, the ability to motivate himself, and very healthy lungs (so as to make himself heard). As the years go by, more talents are bound to emerge I'm sure. Nolan has also been blessed by the taller side of the jean pool, and will likely surpass his older brother's height in a few short years. It will be interesting to see how much the dynamics of their relationship change after that.

As for now, Nolan is looking forward to following in Matthew's footsteps. He is especially eager to turn 8, as that means getting baptized, getting his own new set of scriptures, having grandma and grandpa come and visit, and joining Scouts etc... I've no doubt that soon after all of that Nolan will talk of the day when he too will be able to join band, or do some other big boy thing that he has seen his brother do. I only hope that he will endeavour to add some of his own unique twists and turns along the way and make that path his own.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Princess Christina

Christina is the jelly of our family PB&J sandwich; she is the sweet sticky filling that makes the sandwich irresistable and helps hold it together. She is always making things for others, giving things away, and sharing. She nearly always has a beautiful smile lighting up her already pretty face. Any visitors are bound to have her sidle up to them and make them feel welcome. In addition to hugs and cuddles, she makes sure that they are offered something to drink, or whatever else she feels they may be in need of. She is also usually the first to welcome most new families to the neighborhood with younger kids. (Her parents have to keep a constant eye on their precious, unabashed, and impromptu wanderer though!)

Some of Christina's favorite activities are: playing with friends, crafts, painting, drawing, writing songs or stories, talking, and exploring the wonders of nature. Much like her mother, she loves animals, flowers, trees, rocks, and so on. She also loves clothes, shoes, and anything girlish.

Christina's favorite movies are the typical Disney princess style stories, though she's moved on to the slightly older, non-cartoonish story lines lately. (Stuff like Princess Diaries, Aquamarine, Ever-After and so on.) She also loves to watch the Harry Potter movies, as she thinks Hermione is the best. Her favorite books are The Tiara Club series, in which she claims to be learning how to behave like a proper princess. Her favorite foods are salad (especially with feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette), pizza, and pasta, and much more.

Additional talents with which Christina has been blessed are: gymnastic abilities, singing, dancing, an eye for beautiful picture making, and a creative mind with which she invents her own amazing craft items. She is also a natural babysitter in the making, as she enjoys changing diapers (the non-nasty type of course), feeding, and entertaining the 2 young children that her mother watches every weekday.

Sadly, Christina has also had some difficult trials through which she has had to work these past few years, and from which she will likely continue to struggle with for years to come. She's a trooper though, full of optimism and determination to turn her Dyslexia into a stepping stool. What a relief it has been for her to know that there is nothing wrong with her and that she just needed to be taught how to read in a different way than most kids. Now she is in a wonderful, highly successful reading program which is helping her retrain her own mind. She finds it encouraging to know that many successful people (such as Tom Cruise) struggled with and overcame Dyslexia.

In addition to Dyslexia, Christina's parents and teachers are fairly sure that she may be suffering from ADHD as well, though she hasn't gone in to get an official diagnosis yet. For now her parents have been trying different lifestyle and dietary changes rather than seeking the aid of the often pill dispensing professionals. They are also trying different teaching and reward methods to see if any of those prove effective. So far Christina has been very patient and forgiving of other's frustration with her when she has a hard time staying on task. Once again, Christina has proven to be a loving trooper who finds hope and relief in knowing that both the brilliant minds of Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were able to prosper in life despite having ADHD. Who knows the wonderful things she will do with such a creative mind and giving heart!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Matthew and his passions.

I've decided to do a little blurb about each of the kids this coming week, so that you all can get to know them a little better. Since Matthew is the oldest, I thought I would start with him first. I must warn you though, if you know Dave, you know Matthew a great deal better than you thought. It is hard to tell what exactly has been passed down by genes, environment, upbringing and so on at this point. I anticipate that as Matthew learns who he is, the more we will get to know the real Matthew. As for now, this is the Matthew we know:

This year is Matthew's first year of Jr. High and he loves it so far, especially since he gets to start picking the electives that interest him most. As mentioned in a previous post, Matthew has decided to learn to play the oboe. During Elementary school he had so much fun in the Percussion club and learning the recorder for music class, that he thought he would keep moving in a melodic direction. Curiously, when presented with the opportunity to try out all the instruments to choose from, oboe and french horn were said to be the best candidates for him. (He had no idea that those were the very same instruments his parents played when they were younger, although I did play the clarinet for a short while before changing to the french horn.) It will be interesting to see how far he goes with the oboe. Either way, it's nice to see him eager to learn something new.

When it comes to spare time, Matthew would rather play video games over anything else. His most favorite games are the online ones, such as World of Warcraft, Talisman, Rune Scape and so on. (Matthew would gladly add more mature games to the list, such as Ghost Recon and so on, however his parents don't feel it's appropriate.) But since game time is limited in our household, except for the dad of course, Matthew has had to discover a few more things with which to occupy his time.

TV and movies have then become Matthew's next favorite way to pass the time, though they too have been restricted by his meddlesome parents. Fantasy and action are Matthew's preferred genres, with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies topping the list.

If Matthew can't be found doing either of those things listed earlier, he can most likely be found reading his favorite Fantasy titles . In addition to the titles listed above, Matthew has found the Lightening Thief series and Jack Sparrow books to be among his preferred reading material. Lately, Matthew has expanded his palate to Naruto, a popular series of Japanese Anime. (Boy does he burn through those fast!) In addition to all of the pictures, he gets a kick out of the reverse order of reading.

Favorite foods include: pears, kiwi, black olives, ham and black olive pizza (without sauce), and plain hot dogs and hamburgers. Matthew also loves most types of chips, candy, soda, and junk food, though he doesn't get to eat them as much as he'd like. For the most part, Matthew is a picky eater. (You can only guess what a shock it was when we discovered that he loves sauteed mushrooms. Who knew?) :)

Other hobbies include: antagonizing people (especially his younger brother), semantic games, debating, as well as harassing Nolan some more. He also loves playing with Pierce, the cute 1 year old baby boy I watch during weekdays. (He is actually quite good with him.) If only he were as good with his own brother!
So there you go, that's the Matt we know!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Coupon Crazy!

Dave and I have never really been "coupon clippers". We've used a few up until recently, but never enough to be giddy about. Don't get me wrong, we price compare and search out sales and so on. Organization was part of the problem, I'll admit. Then there is the time you spend cutting. Well, with all the crunch lately, we've started trying our hand at this craft to see if we could make it worth our time.

We researched a few websites that offered helpful tips and learned a few things that we didn't know before. Such as Krogers has clip less coupons you can have electronically added to your Kroger shopper's saving card, and that you can print up a 1 page summary of the ones you have on your card if you need to reference them. (Other stores do this as well.) We also learned that they do double and triple certain coupons, as long as they add up to no more than a dollar.

It turns out that you can walk out of Krogers for less than Walmart if you are careful about things. I had tried a few coupons at Walmart, and it was tedious, as the cashier had to shuffle back through all of the bags to make sure I actually bought what the coupons said. Then, if that wasn't enough, they sometimes lost them. I was about ready to give up when we learned all of that stuff about Kroger. So, I decided to give it all a try.

First of all, I actually organized my coupons so that they would be easier to find what I was looking for. To do that I took several legal sized envelopes and sealed them before cutting them in half. I kept one of them open and uncut, which became my actual coupon holder. Then I took all of the other ones that were cut in half, rotated them, and labelled them near the opening that had been cut into place (what used to be the middle of the envelope) with general sections of the store where similar items could be found. For example: refrigerated section, cereal isle, soup isle and so on. Then, after sorting my coupons, I place the corresponding coupons into their designated pocket and then filled the main envelope with all of the sections that I had created.

Once we got to the store it was rather easy to find what we were looking for. I didn't have to rifle through all of the coupons every time I needed to find a certain one, just the ones that applied to the section we were currently shopping in. That saved us a lot of time. Then we went to the check out. This was it. How well did we do? Our total would have been $128.93, but after the coupons, in store sales, and so on, we saved a whopping $50.79! That means we only had to pay $78.14 for all of that food. Not bad for amateurs eh? Not only that, but Krogers appears to have some kind of electronic system that keeps track of what coupons can in fact be used, so all that the checker has to do is scan them at the end. Hurray!!!! :) I'm giddy now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Photos of the kids.

Boy do kids grow up fast! (Especially when they are someone else's.) Here are some semi resent pictures of Matthew, Christina, and Nolan for all of you who haven't seen them in a while.

Here we have Nolan (age 7) having a play date with Shelob's youngest.
(This was taken around Halloween 2007.) This is when we first discovered that Nolan is in fact a muggle, and was therefore unable to transform Helob Jr. into a Hershey's chocolate bar. Can you believe Shelob tried to dismiss her son's behavior as instinct? "Misunderstood" my foot!

Ah yes! Here we have the lovely Princess Christina, disguised as a commoner, being taken captive by that aggravating bully known as the Grimm Reaper. Thankfully her charms won him over and he decided to show some brotherly kindness for once by setting her free. (Or, perhaps he knew his mother was watching and would haunt him to the ends of the earth.) Anyhow, now she is back to reading her "Tiara Club" princess training manuals, singing, dancing, and sharing as if nothing had ever happened. That's my girl!

Lastly, we have here Sir Matthew the constructive (age 10) as he displays a model of his future popsicle stick mansion he hopes to live in one day. (It was one of the requirements needed to complete his Webelos' art pin.) Bid our brave knight farewell as he ventures on to his next mission, in which he will tackle the mighty oboe dragon from the world of Beginning Band! (Hopefully his father can give him a few good pointers.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Who's that Girl?

Whoa!! Click on it to McSupersize it!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

African Violets

Lovely, and in nearly constant bloom, these tempermental plants have won their way into my heart and perhaps into the souls of my children as well. You see, I have fond memories of my mother's humble collection when I was younger. I recall here swabbing the pollen from some of the blooms with a Q-tip, attempting to pollenate another specimen in asperations of creating a new variety with which to accessorize her home. I recall her talking about how many of her family members back East had even larger displays of their own, and how some were even active members of the African Violet Society. Somehow their passion had made its way into her being, just as hers has done to me.

Years later I see that same enthusiasm brewing in my own children. "Mom, look at these!" Christina declares at every store selling African Violets we shop at. "Can I have this sucker?" they all say regaurding a new plant shooting off the side of an older one. (It's not everyday that you meet a child who knows what to "propagate" means, much less how to do it.) Lets just say that at the rate we are going I wouldn't be the least bit suprised if we had someone in the family decide to go into horticology in the near distant future!

How many of you have similar sentimental interrests? Have the hobbies of your loved ones not only impassioned you, but shaped your destiny as well? I'd love to hear from you and know!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bunny crazy!

Peter that you?

In addition to it's human population, newer neighborhoods in Texas are commonly inhabited by wild cottontails. And, much to our household's amusement, ours is no exception. Though many people find them a nuisance we fully enjoy watching them, feeding them, and anything else these wildly nervous creatures allow us to do. What a priveledge it was, when the rare chance hopped our way to experience a more hands on relationship this past year.

It all started with Christina's emphatic declaration that the ground "chirped" at her. Thinking it to be some odd bug or phenominum, I went to the back yard to investigate her claims. Kneeling upon the ground, I listened as she applied pressure to various places until she again found the spot that had perked her interrest. Sure enough a small squeel of sorts made its way up through the ground.

Now, more curious than ever, I proceeded to slowely remove the top layer of dried grass to reveal a layer of loose fur mingled with dirt. Then, to our excitement, we saw what looked like naked newborn chipmonks, or something similar, blindly wiggling around, desperately trying to hide beneath their nearest companions.

Baby bunnies nestled in their "form" a few days after discovery.

Riddled with amazement, we determined that since we had already tainted the area with our scent unintentionally, we should at least make sure that none of them had been harmed. By now Nolan and Matthew had figured out that something eventful was taking place and had joined us in our little venture. Towel lined shoe box in hand, we proceeded to relocate the precious animals one by one, checking them over for undue stress or injury.

All 8 sleeping critters nestled together.

It is during this examination that we realize that not only did we have baby bunnies in our yard but that we have 8 of them, all of which were thankfully unharmed. Oh's and awe's aplenty, we venture to the computer to figure out what, if anything, we were to do about it. We soon find out that they are very difficult to raise by hand and that if they are to have any decent chance for survival they should be placed back in their "form" (nest like depression in the ground where we found them). We also found out that it is illegal to raise them unless you are a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator or are unable to find one and the situation merits human intervention. By now the kids are sad because they had hoped to take care of them and perhaps keep them as pets. After explaining to them the harsh realities of nature, they reluctantly agreed to help me put them back the way we found them.

As recomended, we placed small sticks on top with a tic-tac-toe like pattern so that we would be able to tell if the mother had been back to tend her young. The next day it was obvious that she hadn't returned, so we brought the babies in and tried to feed them the recomended formula from tiny bottles procured from our local pet supply store. They ate nearly nothing. In desperation, after spending hours unsuccessfully trying to feed them amid a lack of unreturned calls by our local Rehabilitor, I placed them back outside in their form hoping and praying that their mother was okay and would return to feed them.

If you enlarge this photo you can see the markings on the covered form.

Much to our relief the momma rabbit returned that night and fed her babies. (You could tell because the markings had been rearranged over the nest and the bunnies were very fat.) It turned out that unlike all the web articles I had read, this mother didn't return every morning and/or night to feed her young, but every other night as we observed on more than one occasion.
As the days went by the bunnies quickly grew. Their eyes opened less than a week after we first found them. We would sometimes check up on them, take pictures of their progress, or show them to neighbors or friends. We were even lucky enough to see their mother feed them twice! (Too bad we couldn't get that one on film.)

Within days the young rabits left the form and started hiding around the yard, slowly increasing their perameter as they grew more and more independent of their mother. Within weeks they were all grown up and on their own. We often wonder if they remember us, or if any of the bunnies we see were the ones we helped watch over in our back yard.

I spy.....a bunny?

What a memorable experience for the kids! Hopefully they will remember how hard it was to let the rabbits take care of themselves, but how necessary for their own survival, when they themselves aren't bailed out of difficult situations in life by Heavenly Father or their parents etc... Perhaps they will realize that they too have been given the necessary tools and freedom to meet their own individual needs, but are being watched over, prayed over, worried about, and loved by others who care enough to do the right thing despite how difficult it may be.