Thursday, September 30, 2010

NBC News Comes to Forest Lake

In anticipation of the upcoming broadcast tonight (SET YOUR DVRs) on the NBC nightly news - we're all clamoring to see if we can get any hints about what (or who) will make the show.  Deonne was searching around - and came across the twitter account for one of the producers who came to Forest Lake.

Below are some of the pictures he has posted on his account - I can't wait to see the final footage!!!

@patsysocal The whole crew fell in love with these kids!!! ... on Twitpic

This is Anna showing @NBCNews Lester Holt how she uses comput... on Twitpic

This ADORABLE kindergartener welcomed @ProdJay & @Educati... on Twitpic

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Devil is in the Details

The Details:

Lollipop tree - each lollipop had a different adverb listed on it
Drinks - kids had their choice of milk OR juice, and water
Sugar Cookies - complete sets of the alphabet in each of the colors of her party - red, blue, and yellow - and two sets of numbers - red and blue (I ran out of dough to make a yellow set...)

Cupcakes - the second attempt at cupcakes - with handmade cupcake toppers that included various phrases from Schoolhouse Rock - like INTERJECTIONS: Hey - Anna's having a birthday, Conjunction Junction - What's Your Function, and of course, the number 6
Handmade Invitations - made by yours truly
Anna's "yearly banner" that included pictures of her through the years - from newborn up until age six - alternating with the letters of her name
Goody Bags - going with the theme of the party, each child received a bag of school supplies (which was a great deal - all of the school supplies were on clearance when we purchased them.)  So each bag included a package of 24-count crayons, a pencil, a wooden ruler, calculator, set of flash cards (thank you Target Dollar Spot), a glue stick, and a pair of scissors.
Drink Cups - included words from the song in Schoolhouse Rock about the benefits of drinking milk (and a super sweet paper straw - love the straw.)

Close up picture of the sugar cookies - and the basket - I tried to come up with tags that matched the food item with words from the song.  Not pictured were apple slices (Please enjoy a piece of apple - with apple highlighted as a noun), pretzels (They all shared their pretzels - with they highlighted as a pronoun,) and cheese balls (Anna crunched her cheese balls - with crunched highlighted as a predicate.)
Anna's second birthday banner (just the words spelling out Happy Birthday Anna - with images from Schoolhouse Rock added in)
The Pencil Cake - at the last minute I decided to make a cake for Anna to have to blow out her candles on - which turned out okay - I used a cake board and drew lines on it to make it look like notebook paper - all the idea of the Family Fun website.
Each child also took home a bag of candy - I used the words from the #6 Schoolhouse Rock song - about 'goin to the candy store - and yes, I counted out each set of six types of candies - including the six red, white, and blue m&ms...

Oh, it was such a fun party to plan - and I can't wait to start the next one!  Unfortunately I have to wait until February for the next Party child's birthday - but the wheels are already a-spinning....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Festivities

We celebrated Anna's birthday evening as a family of five at our favorite birthday venue - Red Robin.  There's just something about a big fat burger, fries, lemonade, and a hot fudge sundae that screams birthday fun for our family.

That, and the rousing singing of Happy Birthday by the wait-staff that the kids look forward to with anticipation. 

Even Jack enjoyed himself - and the big news about this - he actually ate an entire meal that was without baby food!  That is a HUGE step for him - and I think he's finally turning the corner on his eating issues - gobbling up the bites of cheeseburger we gave him while reaching for more french fries.

Anna enjoyed her dinner and her treat - but truth be told - was so tired out from the events of her day at school - she was kind of droopy and not too interested in it all.  And who can blame her - after being on film all day and on her best behavior.....

But she did rally her energy when we arrived home - in time to open her presents from mommy, daddy, James, and Jack.  The 'big' gift this year - the American Girl Kit Kittredge doll that she'd had her eye on for quite sometime.  She was very surprised to see it when she opened that last gift - and couldn't wait to take it out of the box.

She's been carrying Kit around with her ever since. 

Other gifts included a puzzle, some games, and books - the Ramona and Beezes boxed set - that I can't wait to begin to read to her.  I loved reading the escapades of Ramona when I was Anna's age - and was even named "Ramona the Pest" by my dad - as one of my umpteen nicknames.

It was a fun evening, and a sweet ending to another birthday for Anna.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Monkey See - Monkey Do

Monkey take a quick survey from Survey Monkey....

For any and all of you Columbia-area readers - could you please take a moment of your time to complete a short survey?

Because inquiring minds want to know...

Your responses are anonymous - I won't know who said what - just what your thoughts are.

Thanks bunches and bunches!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

I Heart NBC News

For those of you who know me - you know that I love NBC news.  I've watched them for so long that Matt, Lester, Al, and Ann (and even Meredith after Katie abdicated for CBS) are like old friends.  I start my day with them on the Today show - and when time allows and kids aren't climbing my legs - see the events of the day on the evening news.

So when I learned that NBC news was coming to Forest Lake (Anna's elementary school) to highlight the school for a segment during next week's Education Nation series - I was excited.  I didn't know who was coming or what they would be filming - but I was happy to learn that Anna's school was one of I think six selected across the country to be highlighted.

That's a pretty big deal.  And some very positive PR for their school.

We signed the required permission forms to allow our child to be filmed (should the opportunity arise) and heard from the teachers what day NBC would actually be at the school.

So we dropped Anna off at school yesterday (her birthday) and  shuffled her out of the van with her box of cupcakes and bag of snacks for her classroom - and I said 'maybe you'll be at the right place at the right time and get to be on TV.'

Turns out - not only was she in the right place at the right time - but apparently the camera crew loved her. 

And not only did she get to meet Lester Holt in person - but she got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with him - reading him the story she authored on Amelia Earhart (her project story about a hero) - playing computer games with him - shepherding him around her classroom as the official class ambassador - and basically charming the pants off him.

When Deonne and I arrived to pick her up yesterday from after care (two brothers in tow) the first thing the teacher who runs the program said to me was 'your daughter - she's been on cloud nine all day.'

I asked 'oh, because it's her birthday?'

'No.  Because she spent half the day hanging out with LESTER HOLT.'

So the story goes - that as class ambassador - she was asked to be on the school's morning news show - something they film each morning and broadcast to each of the classrooms on the room smart boards.  The production crew who were taping the kids as they filmed their show - zoned in on little Anna - then went and found Lester - told him he had to meet this cute little girl with a big red bow - took him back to where they were filming - and had the kids do it all over again so he could see it first hand.  Then Lester ended up spending time a good bit of time with Anna.

I asked her - so did you just sit and talk to Mr. Holt - just the two of you?  She said 'no Mommy, there were two other guys there - with big cameras - and a big furry looking thing they held over my head.'  I explained that was the microphone.

'So what did you two talk about?'

'Well, we read my book together - he helped me with some of the words - because I was nervous and forgot - and I told him my Mommy helped me write it.  And then we played games on the computer.  And then I showed him around my classroom.'

No big deal to her - she's very nonchalant about the whole thing.

I, however, almost peed my pants.  It was LESTER FREAKING HOLT!

I double-heart Lester Holt.

He's the bomb.

So anyway, who knows if her charming interview will actually make it to the national nightly news show - if it does - you'd better believe I'll be posting about that as well.  I've heard rumors that Forest Lake's segment is supposed to run on Thursday's news.  We'll see.

I'm just thrilled, and proud, and yeah - a little bit jealous - that my child, my sweet Anna, was able to meet such a cool dude.

Maybe someday she'll realize what a big deal it was.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Anna at Six

Oh, my sweet child. Where to start this post? You have grown and changed so much over the last year - that I find myself searching your face for glimpses of the baby girl I first held in my arms.
It is so hard to believe you are already six - it seems like a moment ago that I heard your first cries and looked deep into your eyes. Yet - it is hard to recall my life without you in it - it feels as if yo u have always been with me - always been a part of me - that I can't quite remember you not being here. You were (and still are) the blessed answer to our prayers - the joyous ending to a long struggle to start our family. You are the first child - the eldest sibling - the first person to make me a mother.

I am so blessed.
At six years old you are striving to gain your independence. I'm having a hard time letting you go - not because I want to hold you back - but rather because I marvel at your capabilities. You are such a smart, articulate, outgoing little girl - with the know-how and determination to do just about anything you set your mind to.
You love to help - and while you may not want to start to help (because you are absorbed in whatever other task happens to be occupying you when I ask for assistance) - once you start - you want to do more. Just the other day I was cleaning the downstairs of our house - sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom - and I asked you to help pick up some things you'd left in the living room. At first you protested - then came 'round and decided you wanted to help - only to be angry that I'd already finished dusting - and you didn't get to help spray the cleaner and wipe up.

You love to draw, color, paint, sculpt - basically do anything involving art. I think this is how you decompress after a full day - or how you settle yourself if you are overwhelmed. I've come to learn that when you are in a new situation and start looking around for a piece of paper and a pen - you need some space. And your drawings are so good! So very very good. I try not to be biased (as I'm your mother, and by default, think you are brilliant.) But so many other moms, teachers, bible school teachers, random people in restaurants stop me to say 'oh, my - she is so good at drawing!' that it's hard not to believe you have a special gift when it comes to art.

You are articulate. We laugh and joke that you are five going on thirteen -but the reality is - you are now six going on twenty-six. Seriously. I wonder sometimes how you have grasped the English language so well - and marvel at your extensive vocabulary. Perhaps it comes from the hours upon hours we've read to you - from the time you were a newborn (actually before - we were the dorky parents who read to you in utero) until now. I'm so thankful you still love to read. I can't imagine having a child that doesn't appreciate a good book, or the feel of pages in fingers as you turn them - eagerly anticipating what happens next in the story. I love that we've instilled this in you.

And your reading skills are coming right along. You are reading at a high level for your age - at least your class. You are very ahead of the curve - so much so that your Daddy and I are worried that you might not be challenged enough in school. You breezed right through the list of "High Frequency Words"your teacher sent home at the first of the year. And the 'homework' assignments have not challenged you in the least. Thankfully we'll meet with your teacher soon - to determine the best path to keep you working and not allow you the opportunity to get bored.

You have a lovely demeanor - and funny sense of humor. You help me remember that life is imperfect and messy at times - and to look for the silliness around me. You love to smile and giggle and be silly - all attributes of a fun six year old girl. You still love to play dress up - to play with your Barbies - and with your 'daughter' (a doll you received for Christmas last year from Santa.) You play so well by yourself - are so independent - that you easily lose track of time when you are wrapped up in your pretend world.

You are always thinking - sometimes I think I can actually see your brain working - the wheels spinning in your head. I see you whispering to yourself as you work something out - as you ponder the answers to the questions you ask - compartmentalizing and filing them away.
Which sometimes, okay, often times, leads to problems for you ... as you tend to be so wrapped up in your thoughts that you don't hear when we're talking to you - or sometimes don't respond very well. Meaning we have to ask you several times to do one thing - and even then you don't realize or remember what we've asked - because your mind is elsewhere. And we're working on that - helping you stay focused on the adults speaking to you - so that you stay on track. Thankfully, this has not posed an issue for you at school - it only seems to happen with mommy and daddy.....

You adore your little brothers, and love to play with them. At times, bossing them around - big-sister syndrome and all. Which isn't so much of an issue yet for Jack - but is for James - when he doesn't want to play your way. But we're working on that - and I know you are trying hard to be the good big sister - and lead by example. By showing and exhibiting patience with them. (Which is a hard thing for me to do myself - the most impatient person on the planet.)
But all in all - you are a love. You try your best at everything you do. You give the sweetest hugs and the biggest kisses, and nightly ask me to sing you a lullaby while I stroke your hair and you drift off to sleep.
I am so proud of you. I wish I could somehow fully explain just how much I love you - my little Giovanna - my six year old baby girl who is growing up right before my very eyes.
So on this day - on September 21, 2010 - I wish you a very happy birthday.
With many more to come.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Everybody's Favorite Schoolhouse.... Schoolhouse Rock!

Saturday's party was a huge success! Our sweet almost six-year old Anna enjoyed a super fun - super charged party at the Columbia Children's Theatre's production of Schoolhouse Rock Live. It was 45 minutes of nostalgia filled fun - complete with all of the songs us thirty-something's remember from childhood - from 'Conjunction Junction' to 'Mother Necessity' to 'Interplanet Janet.'

The cast was amazing - and performed so well - in fact, I'm not sure who enjoyed it more - the kids (many of whom were hearing the fun educational songs for the first time) or the adults who were taking a trip down memory lane.

No matter the person - it seemed all had a lovely time. And here's a sample of some of the festivities - many more photos to follow....

I had way too much fun planning this birthday bash - from designing the invites to the birthday banners to the cute tags for the foods and drinks - to the favor bags - oh, it was too much fun.
So stay tuned - more party planning details to follow - along with some big announcements!

Friday, September 17, 2010

What My Mama Always Said

If at first you don't succeed - try, try again.

I seriously need to take a picture of my baking DISASTER. But I haven't found the time to do so - and in an effort to keep this record of our life real - I have to post about my day yesterday...

6:00 am - Jack awakes - fussy as all get out. Deonne goes to get him. James follows suit - shortly after I hear 'Mama - Jack has a fever!'


Because Deonne has a big job to get out today (Friday) I'm nominated to stay home with Mr. Fussy.

Double awesome.

I sound like a bad mom. I totally would welcome the chance to stay at home with one child - to have some one-on-one time with him - but I have so much going on at work right now - and he was soooooooooo fussy (as in - wanted me to hold him constantly - would scream bloody murder as soon as his feet touched the floor) and thought it was a great game to howl and reach for the phone every time I tried to make or return a call - well, it wasn't a fun day.

I did find one activity, though, that he was very interested in and though he was a 'big boy' by helping.

I figured since I'm home - and clearly not able to work while he was so darn fussy - that I'd get ahead of the game for Anna's party and make the cupcakes.

This year, I decided it would be easier to do individual cupcakes, in those cute little cupcake wrappers all displayed on a tier, than a big giant cake. And I like to bake - I think I'm fairly good at it - so around 50 cupcakes shouldn't be a big deal, right?

So I ordered these cute little individual red polka dotted baking cups (like cupcake wrappers - but you don't put them in a muffin tin - just line them up on a baking tray) thinking they looked so sweet - and the red color matches my 'party palate' of red, blue, and yellow primary colors perfectly.

So Jack and I mixed up the batter, I lined up my 50 baking cups on cookie sheets like little soldiers - and filled them up. 2/3 full - just like every other cupcake liner I've ever made.

Because I didn't see the fine print. The fine print that is listed on the WEBSITE and not the package of cups anywhere. That say to fill them no more than 1/2 way up. That I didn't know existed until I called my friend N who had used the same type of cups for her son's birthday party. (With no troubles I might add.)

Popped my trays in the oven, set the timer, and proceeded to carry Jack around the kitchen for the next 20 minutes (because by this time he'd lost interest and just wanted to be held.)

And then it started. My cute little cups started to rise. And rise. And overflow. And erupt.

I ended up with two half-sheet pans full of baking cups that had essentially become one big cake - separated by the rings of the cups beneath the sheet of cake.

It's a helpless feeling.

Watching all that work bubble and explode in the oven - knowing there's not a darn thing you can do about it.

I tried to scrape them off and separate them - thinking that if I could pick off the crumbs and cover the top in icing - they'd be okay.


It's kind of funny - the actual cake inside is tender and sweet and everything you'd hope a cake would be. The outsides of the cups, however, are covered and caked (no pun intended) with an industrial-like substance that


So I'll be making 50 more cupcakes today. In between hauling Jack around on my hip.

Thankfully his weird fever seems to be gone - and he has no other symptoms - so maybe I can entertain him with some toys while I bake.

Except for that fun fact that the carpet guys will be here in about 30 minutes to clean all the carpets (which are in desperate need of attention.) Meaning J and I will be sequestered to the basement while they dry.

Oh, the joys.............

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Product Review

I'm the first to admit that I like to be organized. I like to make lists, cross them off, know what is coming - and when.
So it completely surprised me when Anna started kindergarten and James started his official pre-school program how completely disorganized I'd become. I didn't fully anticipate the volumes of paper that would come home each night, the amount of homework (no matter how small the task might be) that each child would either be required or encouraged to complete, or the number of days each week that rapidly filled up with activities.
I tried to be all high-tech-y and use my ipod touch to enter everything. And Outlook on my computer (seeing as I sit in front of this screen all day long.) But no system I had in place seemed to work.
Lots of things started to slip through the cracks - from phone calls I thought I'd returned for work to after school meetings I barely remembered to attend in time to James' simple homework task of bringing in three pictures from a magazine of things that start with the letter M.
Enter the momagenda.

I'd seen reference to this little beauty on a number of 'mommy blogs' and how wonderful it was at keeping life organized. I thought, sure, it's just another planner that I'll never fill out and forget to use. What makes this one so great?

Well, in a manner that can be described as pure desperation only - I ordered it. And I'm oh so glad I did.

It is a regular planner - and then some. I guess I'm "old school" in that I like to write things down (reference my OCD tendencies) and make that connection from my brain to my hand to the paper. I like having actual pages to flip rather than electronic screen to scroll through.

And this planner meets all my OCD needs. Each week is broken out over a two page span - and there is a dedicated space for mommy, and three additional kids. That means, I can write down in James' line when he has homework due (like bringing in two leaves and identifying them for tomorrow.)

I can enter when Anna has tap class, ballet class, and when her homework projects are due.

I can fill in the lines with family activities - like church dinners and programming - birthday parties and local festivities.

I can add in work commitments, book club, and church events.

AND - there's even a line at the bottom of each page where you can plan out your weekly dinners - something I regularly do - that I like to make note of - so that when I hit the door with the kids at 5:00 - I know exactly what I'm making for dinner and there's none of the wandering around, rummaging through the freezer and cupboards trying to find something to throw together.

Another great feature? There's an insert in the back where you can record all of your important stuff - and I mean ALL of your important stuff - like insurance information, car information, doctors, specialists, manicurists (yeah, right - as if I had a manicurist!), websites you reference, passwords, anything you might need to have is in ONE PLACE.


It really is that cool.

So any of you mommies out there who are struggling with organization - I highly recommend this little guy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Party Planning Time

It's hard to type out this sentence - because my heart just can't grasp the concept. Anna is going to be six this month.


I'm so incredibly nostalgic - I miss the sweet smocked dresses, the big hair bows, the little patent leather Mary Jane shoes, the 'scribble-scrabble' art projects she would proudly create ... yet, strangely, incredibly proud. I love her funky style, her 'interesting' hair-do's that she insists on doing herself, and her detailed drawings that she brings to me that I still can't believe are hers.

But my mommy-melt-down is the topic of another post - this one is supposed to be about the plans we're setting in place for her big sixth birthday party!

Because of the ongoing internal family drama (that I still can't disclose yet - so don't ask) - I've hesitated on planning her party. I finally came to the conclusion that my OCD self can't not have plans in place - so I started tossing ideas around last Friday. Yes, you read that right - I started planning a party only a few weeks in advance - certainly not my typical three-month-out sort of planning.

But I digress.

So. Turns out the Children's Theatre is putting on a production of what looks like an awesome show the weekends surrounding her birthday:

And I'm t-total thrilled.

We LOVE the Children's Theater - the productions have always been great - it's close to the house, relatively inexpensive, and the kids adore the performances. They're definitely geared for kids - but have enough humor hidden in them that the adults enjoy the shows as well.

AND - I'm not ashamed to admit - I Heart Schoolhouse Rock. I used to look forward to it on Saturday mornings between cartoons - and fully disclose that Schoolhouse Rock is how I learned the basics - from how a bill becomes a law to the rules of grammar. (Grammar written on this blog notwithstanding.)

So the stars aligned - when I called up to the theatre they had a birthday spot open on the Saturday show I was looking at - and we're all booked.

So Anna will get to see the show with 14 of her closest buddies, will have her name mentioned at some point during the show, will have her own personal meet-and-greet with the cast following the performance (they'll help serenade her with Happy Birthday), and pictures on the stage to wrap everything up.

And for myself? Well, that's the best part. I get to come up with all sorts of creative touches taking ideas from the show - like a lollipop tree labeled as "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here" - and each lollipop will have a sticker with a different adverb on it.

And cute cupcake toppers and banners with phrases from the songs.

I'm so excited - I can't wait.

Pictures to follow.

Of course.