Thursday, December 13, 2007

Random Things

Yesterday, my friend Tonna and the girls gave Zacky his very first bottle! He took it like a champ. The only issue was that I'd only pumped 2 oz, because I wasn't sure he'd take it, and he would have liked more. What a good boy! Abbie would never take a bottle, so I just haven't been pumping for Isaac - I must have had to pitch 2 gallons of milk when Abbie was a baby. I'm excited by this because it means my mom and I can go shopping without the baby when she's here next week.

Here is Abbie giving Isaac part of the bottle:

And here he is with Emma:

They do love to take care of their baby brother. It's very sweet - except when they fight over him. Then it's just annoying.

Today, I found a picture of Abbie as a baby that looks exactly like Isaac. I had Abbie come over to look at it, and when I asked her who it was, she told me it was Zacky! LOL! Emma brought Zacky over so she could see, too, and Zacky was smiling and laughing at that cute baby on my computer screen.

We raked a big pile of leaves for jumping this morning - away from the part of the yard that the dog visits. Heh. Check out the fun we had!

The first big leap:


Let's make the baby play in the leaves too (and, of course, NOT post the very next picture in which he rebelled and cried a lot):

I found some great cross-stitch sites this morning. I learned of a new designer (also a homeschooler!), My Mark Designs, when reading my new issue of Just Cross Stitch. When I looked at her blog, I found links to lots of stitching blogs! I am so excited! I don't get to stitch much right now, but I have lots of projects that I should be working on, and am looking forward to getting back to it someday soon. I would like to participate in the Fair and Square project. I shall have to ponder whether I can really make this happen.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mammalian Marauders at the Bird Feeders

I love to feed the birds. When we lived in Michigan, we lived near some state land that was home to all kinds of beautiful birds, who would grace my bird feeders, bringing with them much joy for me and entertainment for my cats. Since moving to North Carolina, I've had to accept that my visiting bird population is different; we live in a wooded area here, as opposed to fields. That means we have a lot of insect-eating birds who don't visit the feeders as much. However, I have managed to attract a pretty fair variety and every now and then get some pretty cool birds.

As any home bird watcher knows, once you put out bird feeders, you get some other visitors that you may not have counted on. We have several squirrels who visit daily. I don't mind them so much; the cats love watching them and they're not so bad. We also have the occasional opossum. The critters I do mind, however, are the raccoons.

I have seen raccoons in the past, but was lulled into thinking they'd gone elsewhere for their nighttime snacking since I hadn't seen any in a while. However, I have recently discovered at least one fairly large one making nightly visits to my feeders. The dog won't even go out if there is a raccoon on the deck (he is quite lily-livered, since he weighs 70 lbs and the raccoons, while fat, don't come close).

The main problem is that my feeders are on my deck. Our back yard is quite a bit below our kitchen window, where we like to sit and watch birds. If the feeders were in the yard, we wouldn't be able to see them. We have the shepherd's crook poles installed and the feeders hang there. The thing is, the deck railing makes a great place for squirrels and raccoons to kick back and have a snack. I have the squirrels partially foiled with a Yankee Flipper feeder - I have seen squirrels get flipped off this thing and it's hysterically funny. There is no really good way to set things up with baffles or any other preventatives, though, because the raccoons just grab the feeder, swing the pole around and dig in.

I went searching on the internet a bit to see if there is anything to be done, and found some information on Dealing With Raccoons at the Bird Watcher's Digest site. While fun to read, it made me realize that I'm going to have to break down and bring my feeders in at night if I want to keep the coons away. Oh, well. It will be worth it if the dog will agree to go outside before bed.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Good Parent Today!

I feel like I've accomplished something today as a mom. For a few months now, Emma has been writing on a wall in our living room. I don't know why. When I asked her, she looked at me and said, "Well, we used to do it when we were little."

What?!?!? Not with impunity, they didn't!

So, today, after a few weeks of telling her she would be cleaning up her mess, I got out the Magic Erasers and set her to work.

She didn't like it at all. She whined. She said it was too hard. She complained that it was such hard work.

I suggested that perhaps she think twice next time she thinks it would be fun to write on the walls. BWA HA HAHAHAHA!! (evil mom laughter)(

In baby news, Isaac, aka Snort, aka Schmooey, voted not to nap today much. Finally I put him in his crib and after about a 30 to 45 minutes of complaining that really, naps are not at all necessary, he fell asleep. This is a good thing. I am quite wimpy about doing what I know needs to be done with this sweet boy to get him on a schedule, and I need to get a grip. Step one accomplished. :-)

Bicycle Fun For Two

It's finally happened - the day Emma said would never come! She has learned to ride a bike without training wheels! Abbie has too, of course, but in Abbie's mind, it was just a matter of time. Emma vowed that she would never, never ride a bike without training wheels. Thanks to our new friend Tonna, though, she looks like she's been riding on her own all her life.

I took them to the park on Thursday and Friday, and they had a ball. I cracked up when I heard Abbie say, "Look, Emma, I can turn left!" Apparently turning left had caused a few accidents on previous bike-riding expeditions.

Emma looks so comfortable on her bike, you'd never know she was afraid to take off the training wheels. Abbie, my little daredevil, careens around and runs into things pretty often. It's common to hear a crash, see a tangle of arms, legs, and bike, and find her little face peeking out saying "I'm okay!" when you're sure there should be something broken. In fact, I called Todd while he was up there with them yesterday, and heard her crash and say "I'm okay!" But when Todd asked her if she was sure, she said, "I think so," and started to cry. Poor sweetie. Her knees have taken quite a beating, and apparently she did a face plant yesterday too because her poor wee nose is scraped.

Todd took pictures of them yesterday with his fancy-dancy new camera lens. Enjoy!

Abbie, gleeful as always:

The near miss:

Look! Synchronized biking!

I love this picture of Emma, riding Abbie's bike with her tongue sticking out:

Monday, November 05, 2007

What's A Mom To Do?

I took Schmooey to his 2 month well visit last week, and it went very well. He weighs an ounce shy of 14 pounds, and is 25 inches long. He's grown a bit since he was born, I'd say. He has outgrown his 3-6 month clothing and looks quite handsome in his 6-9 month stuff.

The nurse asked me if he's turning over tummy-to-front yet. At two months? Would that not require me to put him on the floor? Why would I do that? I mean, he eats a lot, and would be quite happy to nurse all the time if I'd let him. Once he's done eating, his sisters argue about who gets to hold him, and after they're done, he's tired and it's time for a nap. Who has time for something as frivolous as tummy time? There is baby-head kissing to be done!

And then, when I told the pediatrician that I'm having a hard time getting him to bed before 11 pm or so, she asked me what he does during that time. Well, he nurses mostly, and snoozes occasionally. She mentioned that it might be a good idea to put him down and let him get used to being somewhat self-soothing. I was nonplussed. He has this great awake time around 10 pm when he's happy and cooing and laughing. He gets to spend time with his daddy then, and otherwise that's a pretty rare occurrence. Plus, I get extra time to stare at his beautifulness and wonder why God chose us to be so blessed with this child.

Really, he's not my first baby. I worked hard at sleep training them - they were both self-soothing pretty early on. Well, Emma was - Abbie refused to participate in the schedule concept for several months, and I confess freely that I nursed her to sleep most of the time until she quit nursing. Frankly, I was too tired to fight with her about it. But, by 6 months I did have even that stubborn baby on a schedule and she did have to cry occasionally.

This time, though... he's not my first, but he's probably my last. I didn't get much of a chance to enjoy either of my girls. I was pregnant with Abbie about 3 months after Emma was born, and quickly progressed into being really tired, counting the minutes between naps. I remember very little about Abbie as a baby since I was chasing after Emma while caring for my newborn girlie. I love(d) them both dearly and we had some great times, but my frazzled brain didn't retain very much of those first couple of years. Whenever someone wanted to hold a baby, I was only too willing to pass them off. It was a crazy, crazy time.

Enter Schmooey - the most kissable boy this mama has ever met! I can't seem to stay away from him. I have to force myself to let other people hold him, and to stay away so he will be happy for them and not want his Mama.

It's fun. I love being so in love with my baby. And, I promise, I'm working on giving him some time to himself, too. :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thank Goodness for Big Sisters

Today, during Zacky's kick-and-play time, Abbie started teaching him directions. "Zacky, am I looking up, or down? Up! That's right! Thank you, Zacky!"

I believe Sir Isaac will be the best-educated two-week-old baby boy ever.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What A Wonderful World

Check out this movie - I thought it was so cool!

Grateful in spite of me....

Now, this is unrelated to the baby, but still very cool. My grandmother sent some necklaces to the girlies, and they asked my mom to help them write thank-you notes. Isn't that sweet? I'm terrible about writing thank-yous so I was so impressed that they asked to write them. My mom wrote out what Emma wanted to say, and then Abbie had a hard time copying so my mom told her which letters to write. Look how they turned out! (Of course, it was also an excuse for them to use their stamp set, which had been put away after they stamped on our new carpet a few months back, bur Grandma didn't know that, and it was time for a second chance, anyway.)

Here is Emma's:

And here is Abbie's:

I thought it was really cool that Abbie wanted her great-grandma to come for Christmas. She's been asking about that for a while, and was disappointed that she couldn't make it down when the baby was born. She and Great-Grandma haven't always seen eye to eye, so I was touched that Abbie would ask for her to come.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Want to see some new Zacky pictures? Of course you do! And I aim to please. :-)

Isn't this the cutest picture?

Here he is sleeping in his bouncy seat. When I went to get the camera, he had his fingers aside his face in a very thoughtful-looking pose - but he was still too cute to resist.

You know, I did try to rotate that picture, but it keeps coming up like that. I don't know how to fix it. I had another one do that too so I didn't post it. Hmmm....

Here we have a picture of Abbie teaching Isaac his alphabet. "Is this a rainbow, or a whale, or an x-ray? You're right, Zacky, it's a rainbow! Thank you!"

My boy is doing really well so far. He's sleeping perfectly in his crib, in spite of my desire to hold him all the time. He goes 3 hours most times between feedings, which is wonderful. Last night we had a rough night - apparently white chili does not agree with the poor baby's tummy so he and I were up all night. Lesson learned for Mommy, that's for sure! (Shhh - don't tell - but it was nice to have a reason to hold him while he slept.)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Baby Schmooey Is Here!

We came to the hospital yesterday morning to see if my transverse baby had perchance gone head-down, but he was breech, so I ended up with a c-section. This is not an experience I would care to repeat, but I have an amazingly beautiful son out of the deal. Isaac Todd Merle Hollmann was born on August 31, 2007 at 10:11 am. He weighed 9 pounds and was 20.5 inches long. And he has red hair, so we're three for three. :-)

Here is his very first picture after being born:

Here he is showing off his red hair:

Here he is with proud big sister Emma:

And with just as proud big sister Abbie:

Watching "The Sound of Music" with Daddy:

Last but not least, I just couldn't resist this picture of him with Abbie and Grandma. The look on Abbie's face is just priceless:

I am going to try to get a picture of the "Klingon ridge" I see on his head. My mom says it looks like he has a peace symbol up there. Apparently it's the where the seams of the bones of his head come together, and the pediatrician had an actual name for it, but I prefer to think we might have some Klingon ancestry. Ha.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

This week in the hottest August on record in North Carolina....

We had a pretty good week. Monday and Tuesday, there was a lot of art being created at our house. The girls do love it when we get out the paint!

Also, on Wednesday we went up to the Homeschool Gathering Place, to see if they might have a used copy of a reading program I'd like to use for the Bean. They didn't have it, and for the FIRST TIME EVER I didn't buy anything while I was there! Woo Hoo!

Then, I took the girls over to the nearby mall - not high on my list of fun places, usually, but we had some clothes to return for Schmooey that I'd bought, and Kanki is there - my very favorite Japanese steak house. The girlies were sure that Subway was the better choice, but I was able to convince them to try Kanki with me, and they had a great time. It's one of those places where they come out and grill the food right in front of you plus do nifty things with their knives and such. The girls were fascinated! Emma told me she was so interested in watching our chef that she actually forgot about horseback lessons for a few minutes. That in itself was quite a miracle. Abbie decided to try shrimp, and she really liked it! She even ate all her leftovers. It seems that my choice of restaurants was a hit!

After Kanki, we wandered over to the Disney store and found Schmooey's coming home outfit! I was so excited.

Saturday was my birthday, and the girls painted picture frames for me. They did such a nice job! Abbie had decided at least a week before that she wanted to make a picture frame for me. We nearly had a crisis when Emma said something about Abbie wanting a picture for me while we were at Target. We were able to avoid catastrophe when I told Abbie that we would pretend Emma didn't say anything, and that I wouldn't remember it. Abbie was much relieved and said, "That's right, you don't remember things very well, do you, Mom?" Heh. Sad, but true.

Todd gave me new Birkenstocks for my birthday - woo hoo! They are the same style as my old ones, but you certainly wouldn't know it by comparing the old pair to the new pair. The old ones have paint, spit-up, and various other substances of unknown origin staining them. The new ones are still suede-looking and clean. They are a new canvas awaiting their stains from the walk of life. Ha.

Monday, August 06, 2007

That Silly Baby!

I went to the OB this morning for my first of two appointments this week - since I'm taking insulin for gestational diabetes, they do a non-stress test and check my amniotic fluid level twice weekly. Fun, eh?

This morning the baby was, of course, fine - squirming all over the place, not letting us find his heartbeat for more than a few seconds at a time, but they finally had enough of accelerations in his heartbeat to be done with the test. When we went for the ultrasound, we discovered that he is breech AGAIN. The little stinker. He couldn't make this easy and be cooperative and stay head down, oh no. Those brief days of him being in the right position were just a ploy to lull me into a false sense of security.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Unknowingly, a Field Trip!

Yesterday, I took the girls to Duke Gardens in Durham, NC to have their pictures taken. A friend of mine had made an arrangement with a local photographer, which allowed several families to have "abbreviated" sittings (no outfit changes, about 20 minutes each) for no sitting fee, and then we can decide to purchase pictures, or not. I hope we get some good ones - Emma was feeling weepy over her pony from horse camp who she has not seen in a few weeks and is next on the list to retire - in a couple of years. We won't go into how I felt about that.

We have lived in North Carolina for 9 years, and never been to Duke Gardens. It is one of "THE things" to see and do here, but you know, it meant driving to Durham and probably getting lost on Duke's campus and..... I am not a touristy kinda gal, really, so we never went.

Anyhoo, we were over by the goldfish pond for pictures, and when we were done, the girls were naturally drawn to the water. Do you know we saw at least 4 or 5 kinds of tadpoles in there? We saw some huge ones that had to be bullfrogs, and several different smaller kinds. Of course I did not have a camera (it was a million degrees and humid and I did not want to be there any longer than I had to be), but I wish I'd thought to at least take a small net and a jar... oh, wait. I bet the Duke Gardens people would have frowned heavily upon my snagging tadpoles for brief observation from among all those incredible water lilies.

In the short walk we had to and from the photo-taking area, we saw lots of beautiful flowers. We will definitely be going back when it's cooler to poke around a bit more.

Naturally, on the way home we found ourselves to be what you might term "slightly misdirected." I came in on Anderson Street and went out on Anderson Street, but apparently it's a kind of magic road that changes its position in the universe from time to time because where I came out and where I came in were not the same and the way out didn't take me back to the highway. Thanks to my very wonderful husband and the new AAA maps he just put in my car last week, I was able to figure it out and take a different way home. If you know how directionally challenged I am, this was no small feat. We ended up going by the mall with Pottery Barn Kids store, so we stopped in there and got a wonderful, soft blanket for Schmooey. It was tax-free weekend here in NC, and it was not my first choice of days to go to the mall, but it means I don't have to go back, so it was worth the effort.

In other breaking news, on the way home from the pool last night, the girls were "flying" with their towels as wings, running down the sidewalk. Abbie fell and scraped her poor little nose and forehead on the sidewalk. Thankfully, this time it was AFTER pictures. Extra specially thankfully, she did not give herself a concussion, black eyes, or break her nose.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Anything to encourage more writing!

I got this idea from Janie at the Well-Trained Mind Board - she made some neat half-sheet writing paper with the picture of a sailing ship behind the lines. You can see it at her blog, Seasonal Soundings. She was inspired by the How To Use Dinah Zike's Big Book of Projects Video (scroll down a bit on the page to find it).

Since we all seem to have gone horse-crazy around here, I decided to make one with horses. Let me know what you think. I'm hoping that the girlies, Emma especially, will be inspired to write a bit more voluntarily if they have cool paper to work with. Let me know what you think!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Upon Completion of Pony Camp

Today the girls finished their very first week of Camp Cheval, or pony camp. I was calling it horse camp, but the girls both corrected me very quickly after their first day, because they rode ponies, not horses.

They had such a good time! They went Monday through Friday from 9am-12:30pm each day, and learned lots of great stuff about horses - colors, markings, breeds - along with basic riding skills and horse care. I'm impressed with the program and am so glad they had their first horse experiences there. Both girls talked nonstop about everything they learned, argued about who would get to tell me stuff, and corrected each other constantly all week long.

Emma rode an Arabian pony named Pharaoh all week - he was the tallest pony, and she was definitely the tallest girl! He is called a "flea-bitten grey" because his markings are little dots that apparently look like flea bites. She loves this pony, and cried today when she had to say goodbye.

Abbie rode a pony named Ollie on the first day, and on the second day switched to a pinto pony named Toby, who she rode for the rest of the week. Toby is so old that he would prefer to sleep all the time, with occasional breaks for eating. He needs a whip to keep him going, so Courtney, one of the counselors, led him while Abbie was riding.

Today, we got to go watch the girls demonstrate their new riding skills for us. They decided to show us trail riding, so we followed them on a little walk around the farm and went to see a brand-new foal who was just born on June 21 - the first day of summer, so her name is, quite appropriately, Summer. My friend Michelle, and also my friend Jenni and her three girls, came to watch the girls ride. Summer came over to the fence to see Michelle, and all of Jenni's crew were able to get up close and touch her, and seemed enchanted with the sweet little horse. The littlest one, who is almost two, was quite impressed by all the "horsen" and seemed to think Summer was just her size. I think we may have at least one new recruit for horse camp next year from Jenni's girls (not the toddler - only the oldest will actually be old enough)!

When we got home, we had to deal with lots of horse (excuse me, PONY) camp withdrawal. Emma was told that "her Pharaoh" is the next pony on the list to retire, and he will go back to his owner. He used to be a little girl's show pony, and apparently he's going back to her within the next year or two. Emma was just heartbroken to think that she might not be able to see him again. In order to help her, and Abbie, feel better, I printed off some of the pictures I took and put them on a ribbon board, along with their camp certificates of completion, which we will hang on their wall.

The girlies, of course, can't wait to get back on a horse. Macnair's, the barn where they went to pony camp, will be issuing invitations to take riding lessons to all the kids from camp. We're talking about signing them up, but with "Schmooey" coming along, we will probably have them wait until spring. The good news is that they do have a "Saddle Up" program, which would allow the girls to go ride sometimes without committing to a lesson schedule. We might be able to swing that a time or two in the interim while they wait to start "real" lessons.

I believe pony camp was a huge success. We definitely wanted to see how the girls would like being around real live horses before signing them up for lessons, and it looks like this is something they'd like to pursue.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

This week at our house....

We had the girls' first standardized tests done this week. We went to a friend from our homeschool co-op, who does Woodcock Johnson testing. It's a one-on-one test with lots of oral parts, and seemed like it would be a much more relaxed environment for our first testing experience.

Abbie's scores were amazing. My friend, Michele, commented on what a hard worker she is, and told me that she tried lots of questions that were far above her level. She got most of them wrong, but got some of them right, and wasn't afraid to try anything. If there was a question to be answered, she wanted to take a stab at answering it!

And then came Emma. Emma, she reported to me, was quite the dramatic test taker. When asked to spell a word, she would get the first letter, but wouldn't try any further and would complain that she didn't know how. She wouldn't even try any vertical math problems - it's not as if she hasn't done them that way, so I don't know if there were problems with more than two numbers, or what. She got very upset and cried when asked to write a sentence (even though she does this at home at least twice per week).

When I got their scores, they pretty much told me what I already knew - Abbie is up for anything, very smart, and very competitive so she tries her best at everything. The tester told me that her "Story Recall" and "Delayed Story Recall" scores were pretty much off the charts. She said we should never discuss anything in front of her, ever, because she would remember it until her dying day. And truly, if you've been around Abbie at all, you know this is true. She remembers everything. All of her other scores were at least average, and most of them were "average to advanced."

Emma, however, gets her perfectionism from her mother, and along with that a fear to make a mistake and an unwillingness to try something that might possibly be difficult. Her "Computation" score, for example, was very low. However, her applied math scores were fine, and as Michele explained to me, you can't apply the concepts if you don't understand them. Several of her other scores were also falsely low, she felt, because there were so many things that Emma simply wouldn't try.

What does all this mean to me? It certainly didn't yield any surprises about their personalities. I know Abbie will do just fine with whatever we do, because she loves to do school, and everything else for that matter, to the best of her ability every time.

Emma, on the other hand, has some character issues that we need to address. I am working with her to understand that the only thing she needs to do is her best, not anyone else's best. It doesn't matter if the older girls in her tap dance class have a better grasp on some of the steps; she just needs to participate in the class. It doesn't matter if she writes everything perfectly; what matters is that she writes. Math is something everyone has to learn, and it's OK not to get every problem right the first time. And, Mom can't walk her through every single thing she has to do - she needs to learn to think for herself. Intelligence is certainly not an issue - just the willingness to try.

This leaves me with some questions about how to approach school from now on, but we've already talked about "the rules," which they've known from the start, really, but apparently need to be stated more clearly and more often:
  1. School comes first. We will not do anything fun, like play dates or going to the pool, until school is finished. If we don't finish school in time, fun activities will be cancelled. If school takes all day, so be it.
  2. No whining or complaining allowed. If they feel the need to do either of those things, they will be sent away from the school table until they can come back with a better attitude.
I have a couple of ideas that I know work for Emma, and I need to be better about implementing them. One thing that is quite effective is to use a timer. She has a certain amount of time to finish an assignment, and if she doesn't get it done, we move on and it becomes homework for later, when she could have been playing. Another thing is to send her to work by herself, away from me. She is quite good at working independently, and gets a lot more done when she can't pester me about every question. The issue there is that she tends to do sloppy work, but she will just have to redo it if that's the case.

We haven't been as good about these rules since we moved the school room upstairs to the office. We have a better setup downstairs, with an extra table where either girl can work when I need to focus on something with her sister. Upstairs, we just have a round table where we all have to sit, and that's not working out so well. We do need to get everything out of the office for the nursery, and the plan is to do school in the bonus room, so we will have to carefully consider the design when we start doing that - which will hopefully be soon since the baby is due in 3 months.

On a side note, I had an OB appointment today, and the baby was not cooperating, so the doctor couldn't find the heartbeat with the Doppler. We got to take a peek at him with the ultrasound machine. He was facing completely sideways, asleep on his tummy with his wee bum up in the air. Abbie used to sleep like that. It was terribly cute. :-)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Don't you love productive days?

OK, so we haven't done school - yet. However, so far today I have:
  • Gotten a file folder frame for my portable cart for our school stuff, and gotten everything in it organized. (Woo hoo!)
  • Scheduled Emma's pediatric dentist appointment
  • Called the OB to schedule an appointment to discuss my gestational diabetes.
  • Rescheduled my chiropractor appointment so I can go to the previously mentioned OB appointment
  • Scheduled the replacement of the windshield on the minivan - the crack has been go\rowing since October and we decided we would rather not go on vacation with a big crack through the driver's viewing area
This has been a big day, can't you tell? The cleaning ladies, bless them, have also been here and a friend came to pick up a Mary Kay order so we went to lunch.

I know most of it was phone calls - I have been putting them all off for a very long time and I'm feeling quite as sense of accomplishment today.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Random Funnies

This week, we started decorating the ceramic piggy banks that Aunt Leigh and Uncle Jeff sent for the girls' birthdays. Emma had me trace her name in a bubble alphabet in yellow, and then she colored it in with orange. She said, "This is the antique part." Abbie said, "Yes, Emma is a real antique." Emma responded that she was not a real antique, as I sat there and giggled. They asked me why I was laughing, and I asked them if they meant "artist?" Of course they did - but I got a big kick out of "antique."

Also, Abbie informed me that she's quite jealous because Emma can read Kurdish. This would be a true miracle, since I've never even seen Kurdish and had to look it up (if you happen to be a language geek like I am, you can check it out here). Abbie told me that she would like to learn to write in Kurdish. Come to find out they were talking about cursive - phew!

This just in.......

"My mom can't drink caffeine when she's nursing the baby," says Emma Hollmann, age 7. "It makes the milk all fizzy and bubbly for the baby."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Twelve Years Today!

Today, Todd and I celebrated our 12th anniversary. We had a beautiful spring wedding in Michigan with quite a crowd - around 400 family and friends. The funny thing about marriage is that sometimes it seems like we've been together forever, and other times, it seems like it hasn't been long at all.

It's been an interesting 12 years. We bought our first house in Michigan just before we got married, and we loved it there! We lived in a little ranch house on an acre of land on a dirt road, and it was perfect. We thought we'd live there forever... and surprise! We moved to North Carolina from Michigan 9 years ago, and I've been pretending we would move back "home" ever since. I think I've finally accepted that we will be here for at least a wee while longer, though, and we've started painting things. Heh.

Emma joined us in March of 2000, and Abbie joined us in March 2001. "Schmooey," who will probably really be called Isaac, will join us sometime in August of this year. His impending arrival was a bit of a shock, but we're so glad he's coming and can't wait to meet him.

Like all married couples, we've had our share of tough times. I have come to believe that staying married is only possible through the miraculous grace of God. I don't see how else it could happen. I can remember being quite sure that I would never like him again, wondering how we were going to stay married - but now, we like each other better than ever, our love has certainly grown and our commitment deepened.

I remember being told that marriage is a lot of hard work. I had no idea what they - my parents, grandparents - were talking about. I guess you can't know what that means until you experience some tough times. Then you realize that sometimes, the hardest thing about being married is staying married when you don't want to. When you get to the other side, though, you will be glad you did.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Horse Camp!

Today we had to drive the girls' applications for horse camp to the horse farm to save our spots. The girlies are so excited to go to horse camp, they can hardly stand it! We even got to see some horses walking by, much to our delight. They're going to camp at Macnair's Country Acres, if you'd care to see the website.

The very nice lady, Debra, who signed us up for camp, told us the names of some of the ponies that the girls could ride. Emma decided that she would like to ride "Toby," and Abbie would like to ride "Lacey." I had to break it to them that they get to ride ponies based on which one is the right size for them rather than which one has the name they like best.

We also got to go to the Tack Shop and get their helmets, riding boots and riding pants. They're allowed to ride in jeans, but the riding pants are nice and thin and since they're going to horse camp in July, I thought it would be kinder to let them have the cooler option. Emma got a pink helmet, which made her quite happy. Abbie, naturally, was between sizes so she got a (far more expensive) green helmet - her choices were green, blue and gray. The helmets make their heads look huge. I will try to get a picture of them in their riding gear.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Love Notes

This week while I was getting ready for the day, the girlies made "love notes" for their daddy and me. They are so cute. Emma wrote "Emma L. Hollmann" and "Mommy" on hers. Then she used a bunch of heart stickers to write "I Heart Y" all over the picture.

Abbie wrote on hers, "Abbie G. Hollmann" and "Mommy Hollmann" with a backwards "y." I got such a kick out of the Abbie G. - I tried to tell her later that her middle name is really Ruth, and that her first name is Abigail - not Abbie Gail. She glared at me and clearly did not believe that I was telling her the truth. I think she knows her name is Abigail Ruth - I call her Abbie Ruth quite often and I know I've heard her call herself "Abigail Ruth Hollmann" before. Today, however, she was not buying it.

I told Emma that usually people would write "I Heart U" on notes like that, but she explained to me that it's the way the sign works for "I love you" - it's a combination of I, L and Y. We sign it to each other all the time. I thought that was pretty darn smart, to figure that out! Aren't the notes cute?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Those Funny Girls

This week is our "H-h Horse" week with our My Father's World Kindergarten curriculum. On Monday, we go to go to my friend Shawn's house and groom her quarter horse, Sunshine. The girls had a wonderful time. Abbie walked right up to Sunshine and groomed her with a soft curry brush. Emm, of course, had to wait a minute to make sure Abbie wouldn't be eaten or anything, and then she joined in too. Abbie got to comb Sunshine's mane, and Emma got to brush her bangs. I know that's not what they are called on horses, but the real name escapes me right now.

I had so much fun doing school with my girls today! We got our math done, and they both had spelling dictation, so I started with Emma while Abbie colored a picture of a horse - pink and blue, I'd like to note.

Emma's spelling words involved the sound "ew" like in flew, and long "o" spelled "o_e." She had to choose which column to put them in.

Emma is an excellent speller, but every now and then she gets it into her head that she just can't spell something. That happened today when we got to the word "drew." She had spelled "new" and "flew" just fine, but she could not seem to hear the "r" in "drew" and wanted to write "dew." She started to get upset, so I told her we would come back to it - unfortunately, the next word was "grew" which presented the same problem.

Abbie knew that Emma was missing the "r" and was just itching to tell her. (They like to give each other answers.) I looked at her and told her that she was NOT to give Emma the answers today because she needed to figure it out for herself. So, she looked hard at Emma, and then started drawing little "r's" on over her horse picture, a few at a time. Then, she would look at Emma again, who remained clueless, and turn the "r's" into circles and color them in. She did this several times, while I tried (and failed) not to giggle. Emma kept asking what was going on, but I told her if she didn't get it I wasn't going to tell her.

That Abbie Ruth is so much like her daddy sometimes! Tell her she can't do something, and she will find a back door - she's not doing exactly what she's not supposed to do, but she accomplishes her goal.

I did tell her after we got the spelling words straightened out, and we all laughed. They never cease to amaze me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

And we're having.....


Today was our level 2 ultrasound, which we got to have because I will be 36 when "Schmooey" is born. The girls and Todd came to the appointment with me, and we were all excited to see the baby. It was incredible - they measured the baby's head, stomach, arm bones, leg bones. We saw all 4 chambers of the heart. (To be perfectly honest, he kept looking at things and telling me what they were, and I thought most of them were the baby's head.)

We got to see the tiny little spine, and watch the little bugger beating up on the inside of me.
The ultrasound technician asked if we wanted to know what we're having, and of course we said yes - did he really think I was lying there for any other reason? :-) He said, immediately, "You're having a boy."

I said, "No, really."

He said, "No, really, you're having a boy," and pointed out the very clear evidence to me (once I knew what I was looking for).

Todd and I were nonplussed. We were both expecting another girl because, well, we have girls and an attic full of pink clothes. The girls both cried because they wanted a little sister. The poor ultrasound tech and the doctor were quite surprised at our reactions. They thought we would be a little more excited by the news that we were having a boy after two girls, I think. They printed a picture of the baby's wee bum with an arrow pointing at the important parts, labeled "BOY" so I would remember, I suppose.

On the way out of the office, we started discussing what we might name a boy, since we'd been mainly talking about girl names. Abbie piped up with, "I think we should name him Herman!"

I said, "Herman, huh?"

She said, "Yes! Herman DeeDee Hollmann!"

I tried hard to keep a straight face and failed completely. Herman Hollmann - can you imagine? What a funny little nut my Abbie is.

I don't think we will be naming him Herman.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fun day at the Park!

This morning, the girlies and I took their bikes and the dog over to a small nearby lake with a walking trail around it. I've been resisting the idea, because the last time we went was a couple of years ago - it was hot, they were little and they did walk the whole way, but not without a lot of whining. I was not sure it would be any better this time, even with their bikes, but they really wanted to go and take Toby, and my sister encouraged me that sometimes we just need to bite the bullet and actually pack up and leave the house for these kinds of things.

We stopped and bought cheap bread and store-brand cereal, with which to feed the birds. We saw a Great Blue Heron several times, once up close enough to see his black cap. We saw lots of geese and gulls, and some mallard ducks - even a swan. We saw lots of turtles, too; big ones, medium-sized and little ones, all stacked up on each other on the logs, enjoying the sunshine. We even met another lady with a little dog who made friends with Toby, and they got in the water and then rolled in the sand with great delight. They were completely disgusting when they got done, but they certainly enjoyed themselves!

I was kicking myself for leaving the camera in the car, especially when we saw the heron, and then when the geese would eat out of our hands. But, we'll go back, hopefully with grandparents, and take pictures then.

The trail is 2 miles long, I think, and I was not sure how the girls would do - they ride their bikes with me sometimes when I walk in our neighborhood, but it's very hilly and they have a hard time pedaling the whole way. They are getting better every time, of course, but still, this was twice as far. They did great! It's a relatively flat trail, until about the last 3/4 mile - I did have to push them a little bit up one long incline, but mostly I just had to try to keep up with them.

It was a great morning. We were there for almost 2 hours! School today turned into nature study at the park, and we will have to buckle down for the rest of the week to get our work done, but it was well worth it. We even saw an old friend there who walks the trail at least a couple of times a week, and we might start joining her for the exercise. We are all very glad we went.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What a wonderful day!

Today I had the privilege of being involved in a Spa Day, sponsored by my church, for the women of New Bern House. The New Bern House is a really neat place. It's not a homeless shelter, exactly, but it's a place for families to live when they would otherwise become homeless. I don't know if that makes sense, and I can't find any information on it right now, so that's the best I can do.

Anyhoo, a wonderful woman from our church put together this Spa Day to pamper these ladies, who certainly deserved a day of special treatment just for them. We had Mary Kay ladies (myself included) there for makeup, hair stylists, nail people, and massage therapists. We had many women who volunteered to be hostesses, so that each woman who came in had a personal escort. My favorite part was the food - we had a wonderful woman, Kari, who does catering and hospitality as her business, and she coordinated wonderful food for the day, including a chocolate fountain! And strawberries to dip! Also, we took each woman's picture and printed it out on the spot, put it in a frame and sent it home with them. I had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed every woman I worked with.

Now, as a Mary Kay consultant, I am not supposed to touch people - the whole goal is to teach people to do their makeup themselves. This was particularly important today, when we were training ladies how to put on makeup appropriate for job interviews, etc.

When Miss Maggie sat at my table, though, I had to make an exception to the rules. She was the sweetest woman, and apparently quite blind and deaf, as she could not see the product on her tray (moisturizer and such) to put it on; I had to put her fingers in it. When she tried to put on her eye color, she put it on her forehead. When she could not see which end of the mascara brush to use, I decided to take matters into my own hands. She looked so pretty when we got done!

The most amazing thing about today was God's provision for the event. We had service providers who sacrificed income today to bless these special women, and organizations who donated everything from nail polish to limousines and champagne! We had enough Mary Kay product donated by local units that we were able to put together 35 looks, enough to send each woman home with full-sized product that she will be able to use for quite some time. For those who were "makeup gals," we were able to pull out some extra things and really make their day.

And you know - I am not sure who was the most blessed by this event: the women who received the services, or those who gave them. I know that I will carry this day in my heart.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ants have names?

We got the ants for our ant farm this week, and the girls are SO excited. I have never really thought that having ants in the house on purpose was a good idea, but they are delighted. Abbie has named some of them - Lila, Mira and Twylan being the names I can remember. Apparently Lila is a "very sweet ant, and ran right up and gave Abbie a kiss" through the wall of the ant farm on the very first night she was here. And, wonder of wonders, Abbie can "tell the ants apart." She tells me frequently "who" is climbing up the wall and tunneling, etc. It's quite entertaining. She is, of course, the child who told me at age 3 that I had killed her best friend, when I squished a Japanese beetle grub in the driveway.

On a side note, I really don't like the ant farm. I do not believe it's humane. All right, they're ants, and stinging ones at that, but still - don't they deserve to have their life in the wild outside like everything else? Could be the pregnancy hormones talking, but I haven't felt very good about this since I saw one at Learning Express. The ants just have to die in there. Somehow, it does not seem fair. At least with the butterflies, you can release them outside.

And, in case you're wondering, I am not crazy about zoos, either.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Snow Day!

Yesterday, we got about a half inch of snow where we live in North Carolina. The girls really wanted to play outside, but the last time we had a little snow, they got cold and wet so quickly that they really couldn't enjoy it. This time, though, I discovered a treasure in the coat closet - SNOW PANTS! When we went to Michigan a couple of years ago for Thanksgiving, my parents picked up some snow pants for my girls, since we don't have a need for them here and honestly, they're hard to find. I don't remember bringing them back home, but there they were. Miracle of miracles, they still fit! The girls thought I was a bit loony for suggesting that they wear such odd clothing, but it really made all the difference in the world for their fun in the snow.

The first thing they did was go out to gather some snow for snow ice cream. They managed to find some that was relatively clean, so we stuck it in the freezer for later ice cream making. Then, they went outside to slide down the hill in our front yard on their sleds.

Then, they decided to make snow angels. They were really more like sludge angels, because by the time they got outside, it had stopped snowing and started raining, but they made an entire chorus in the yard in what was left.