Friday, January 30, 2015

Our Week in Bullet Points

I don’t really have anything to make a whole post out of, so I thought I’d go with bullet points to give a rundown of our week.

*Saturday we woke up to 4ish inches of snow.  Wet, HEAVY snow.  Snow that was great for building snowmen/snow-women.  Snow that was not so great for shoveling.  Well, scratch that; it was a pretty darn good full body workout.  I should have some nice arm and back muscles by the end of winter if the weather keeps this up!

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*Trenton had a new girl move into his class from out of state right before Christmas.  We met her family after church one morning early in January, and Sunday evening we went over to their house for dinner.  A five-course meal, y’all.  Amazing!  The family is super nice (another military family), and Trenton and the little girl are super sweet to each other.  Trenton says that she is his girlfriend.  And I heard that she writes him love notes!

*More snow fell Sunday night and into Monday, so there was no school on Monday.  I came in from shoveling the drive and sidewalk to make lunch for the kids.  My next door neighbor called, and told me that our neighbor diagonally across the street from us had passed away early that morning.  She left behind a husband and six kids ranging in age from 5 to 16.  She was diagnosed with Leukemia right before we moved here, was doing pretty well, but went in Sunday with difficulty breathing.  She had pneumonia, and it was just too late.  Trenton and Charlotte spent a lot of time in their backyard playing with the younger girls during the summer.  One of the girls comes over to feed Bailey and let him out when we’re out of town.  The older boy helps us with the yard.  It is all just so heartbreaking.  Please keep this family in your prayers. 

*I had book club Wednesday night.  Our book this month was Orphan Train.  It was such an amazing book and made me interested in learning more about this part of American history.  I really enjoyed reading it.  Next month’s book is Molokai’i.  I’m looking forward to reading it, and I really want to make a trip to the leper colony after hearing two of our members talk about their trips there.  Apparently there are only about 9 lepers still alive, so it looks like Jarrod I need to plan a trip to Hawaii soon!  Has anyone else read anything good lately?  I’m always looking for a good read!  Speaking of that, are you on Goodreads?  If so, link up with me so I can see what you’re reading!

*I’m kind of a history nerd, so here’s another bullet on the subject.  Did anyone else watch Sons of Liberty this week on the History Channel?  Jarrod and I loved it and didn’t want it to be over!  My brother is a way bigger history buff than me, and said that it wasn’t quite accurate (which I don’t doubt – it was made for TV), but I still enjoyed it.  It’s been six years since I watched John Adams, but now I want to watch it again to compare the two mini-series. 

*This week is Catholic Schools week.  The kids have worn team gear, crazy hair, and crazy socks to school.  They’ve had the whole school doing Zumba together, and each grade did an obstacle course.  Parents came to school to eat with their kids.  The teachers were treated to an appreciation brunch.  There were two service projects that the kids participated in.  I cannot be more happy with our decision to send Trenton and Charlotte to Catholic school.  Not only are they excelling academically, they are growing socially, spiritually, and morally too.  I have a feeling that this is going to be a very hard school to leave when that time comes.

*Evelyn doubled her tooth count this week.  She went from three teeth to six teeth in a day!  She’s still not sleeping through the night, but she is sleeping better since they’ve popped through.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a full night’s sleep soon!  She has also started taking steps on her own without being prompted by us.

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That’s been most of our week in a nutshell.  We’re expecting more snow later this weekend.  Pennsylvania, I love you, but I’m getting ready for spring.  I’m not real fond of groundhogs (I love them about the same amount I love gophers!), but I’m hoping that Mr. Phil helps me out next week!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Kid Friendly Fireplace Cover

My parents were visiting us here in Pennsylvania for Evelyn’s and Trenton’s birthdays.  And you know that when my parents are around, there’s normally a home project going down.

A few years ago, it was sodding our backyard in CA and helping me get started on our music fence (one of my most popular posts on the blog).  And this summer while my mom was here while we got moved in, it was the roll top desk that I refinished with milk paint.

This time it was a cover for our fireplace.  I use the term “fireplace” very loosely here.  It’s an enclosed gas fireplace that doesn’t have a blower hooked up to it.  So when it’s turned on, hardly any warm air at all gets out.  And when it’s not on, cold air from outside seeps into our house through the fireplace venting.  Enough to actually feel air coming into the house!

So, 1) my house was cold all the time, and 2) I kept having to turn the heat up to stay at least somewhat comfortable.

The previous tenants apparently covered the fireplace up with cardboard during the winter, but I wasn’t keen on that option.

I did a couple pinterest searches, found a few ideas I liked, and then when my parents got here, we took those ideas, and tweaked them to work in my house.

And this is what we came up with!

DIY Kid Friendly Fireplace CoverDIY Kid Friendly Fireplace Cover

I love that it’s functional, keeping the cold air from coming in the house, and it’s also something for the kids to play with!

DIY Kid Friendly Fireplace Cover
DIY Kid Friendly Fireplace Cover

To make our cover, I bought styrofoam sheets that my dad cut to fit snuggly into the fireplace space (after removing the fireplace grate).  This was to insulate and keep the cold air out.  If you don’t need insulation, you could skip this part.

DIY Kid Friendly Fireplace Cover 

I bought a sheet of 1/4-inch plywood and had it cut to hang over the marble one inch on the top, left, and right sides.  Looking back, I probably should have gone with 1/2-inch plywood because the 1/4-inch warped a little after we got it home.

We used Liquid Nails to glue the styrofoam to the back of the wood and let it dry overnight.

DIY Kid Friendly Fireplace Cover

The next step was priming the wood with magnetic primer.  I gave the wood eight coats of primer using a low nap roller.  I was hoping to get the magnet power strong enough to hold our LeapReader fridge letter toy, but it just wasn’t happening.

Next was two coats of chalkboard paint over the primer.

Once that was completely dry, we used 3/4-inch sticky back velcro to stick the whole thing to the marble edging around the fireplace.

We’ve only had the cover up a week, but I can definitely tell a difference in the temperature in the house.  The project cost about $75, and I’m pretty sure we’ll recoup that cost with lower heating bills!  Plus, it’s cute and fun.  A win for all!

DIY Kid Friendly Fireplace Cover


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Trenton’s Birthday Weekend

Trenton decided on our Mother’s Day trip to Yosemite that he wanted to go camping for his 6th birthday.

Well, Pennsylvania doesn’t really lend itself to camping in the middle of January!

Trenton told us that instead of doing a birthday party right now, he would rather wait and take some of his friends camping when the weather warms up.

But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t pack his birthday weekend full of fun!


We started off the weekend with a trip to the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Friday.  Pennsylvania doesn’t have a state fair, so I guess the farm show kind of fills that spot.

It was a blast!  The kids got to vote on a name for a two month old little Holstein heifer calf.  I was not surprised that “Elsa” was in the lead and both of my talking kids voted for that name too.  We also learned that you can tell what color egg a chicken will lay by the color of their earlobes (the fleshy skin behind their eyes).  And we saw the cutest litter of piglets at feeding time with their mom!

There were also a ton of exhibits – wood pellets, bees, apples, wool, dairy, veterinary services, and of course a bunch of big tractors, combines, and trucks. 


Evelyn even was interested in a few things – namely the sheep and the carousel.


Speaking of sheep, we stopped to sit down and watch a sheep show.  Trenton loved it and wants to raise sheep.  Charlotte wanted to know where the screen to watch the “show” was!


And it wouldn’t be a trip to the farm show without hitting up the food court.  We were told numerous times that we had to try the shakes.  And wow – the vanilla was the best shake I’ve EVER tasted!

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Jarrod and I also hit up the free wine and cheese tasting while my parents watched the kids in the play area.  The cheese was really good.  And let’s just say that living in California made me a wine snob.  There are still a couple of local wine tasting shops that I’d like to try, and I’m hoping that they’ll change my opinion of PA wines. 

Also – if you happen to ever visit the Pennsylvania Farm Show, be aware that there are aisles of free food samples in the main hall.  We found these after we bought dinner at the food court…

Saturday was a little more low-key.  Jarrod took Trenton to watch the pine wood derby races at the school.  Trenton can’t wait until later this year when he gets to join Cub Scouts!  After lunch we made a trip to the library to get some books and movies.  And when we got home, Daddy had a fun activity planned for Trenton!

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Sunday, Trenton’s actual birthday, we let Trenton pick where to eat lunch after church – he chose Cracker Barrel – and then we went to visit the Turkey Hill Experience.  Turkey Hill is to this region what Blue Bell is to Texas. 

We’ve done the Blue Bell tour before (which is a tour of the actual creamery), but Turkey Hill is not at the creamery and is an interactive experience.  I’m pretty sure everyone had fun milking cows, driving the dairy truck, fighting bacteria, and measuring the correct amount of ingredients to mix up some ice cream.


We also sampled plenty of ice cream, tea, and lemonade (it definitely wasn’t the healthiest of weekends!).

All that eating made some tired…


But I think the biggest hit at Turkey Hill Experience was coming up with a new flavor of ice cream, designing a carton for your ice cream flavor, and making a commercial for it! 
*Turkey Hill Experience also offers a Taste Lab, where you can physically mix up your own flavor, but all of the spots were sold out for while we were there.

Here’s the birthday boy’s commercial.  He came up with an ice cream that he named “Chocolate Gummy Bear.”  It’s chocolate ice cream with cotton candy flavoring, marshmallow swirls, and gummy bear candies.  Sounds delish!


And then, as if we hadn’t already had enough junk food, we capped off the weekend with s’mores cupcakes for our new 6 year old!

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I think that Trenton had a pretty good weekend even though he didn’t have a party!

Monday, January 19, 2015

We Are All Family

The other day Trenton and my mom were having a genealogy conversation.

“Who were Nanny and WaWa’s parents?”
”And their parents?”
”And their parents?”
”And their parents?”

And then…

”Adam and Eve were the first two people.  And everybody else came from them.  So that means that we’re all family, right?”

We are all family.  We are all the same.  No matter what color we are.  My 6 year old gets it.  I wish everyone else could too.

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“Jesus loves the little children.
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My 6 Year Old

Six years ago today, during halftime of the NFC championship game (yes, I was watching), this little guy came into our lives.


Our firstborn.  Trenton Brantley. 


He fills our hearts with joy.  And sometimes our heads with aches.

I have seen so much growth in Trenton in the past few months.  We had some trouble both last year in school and at the beginning of this school year with Trenton being a follower and making bad decisions because he wanted to do something a “friend” wanted him to do.  Or doing something that Trenton thought would make a “friend” laugh. 

But I have seen a lot of changes in Trenton lately.  He hasn’t moved down on the behavior chart in school since a few weeks before Christmas, and he is more confident that he can stay on green or move up on the chart.  He is fighting a lot less with Charlotte at home.  He is being more considerate and compassionate. 

He is growing up. 

In some ways it makes me sad because he’s not my little boy any more.  But in other ways it warms my heart to know that he is growing into a nice, thoughtful, respectful kid.

He tells me that he still has leftover “Christmas Magic” to give out and he likes making people happy.  He tells me that Fr. Wayne said that everyone should try to be a saint.  He tells me that he’s going to be a Cub Scout soon, and Cub Scouts are really nice.  Oh, and he also tells me that he’s going to have First Reconciliation (confession for you non-Catholics out there) in a few years, and he doesn’t want to have “too much stuff to tell Father.”  

I love this kid so much.  I love that he hums when he’s happy (even though sometimes it really gets on my nerves because I. just. want. quiet.).  I love that he wakes up on the right side of the bed every morning.  I love listening to him read (he can read – how COOL is that?!?!).  I love when he finds something new to become interested in – the Revolutionary War, the Titanic, sharks, volcanoes, etc.  I love when he randomly makes me “gifts” – even though he uses up all of my paper, tape, and staples.  I love seeing his little mind work when he comes up with his own LEGO creations, science experiments (we’ve froze a lot of stuff on the deck this winter!), songs, and jokes (knock knock jokes are a riot at this age!). 

Trenton amazes me every day.  He is the little person that made me a mom.  I love him to the moon and back, and even though he’s growing up, he’ll always be my baby.

And now for the yearly birthday questionnaire.  It’s fun looking back at past years versions.  Now that Trenton is getting older, his answers aren’t changing as much.    

What is your favorite color? Orange
What is your favorite toy?
What is your favorite fruit?
What is your favorite vegetable? Peppers
What is your favorite TV Show?
Wild Kratts
What is your favorite movie? Star Wars
What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?
Peanut Butter Crackers
What is your favorite outfit?
Shark shirt and sweatpants
What is your favorite game?
What is your favorite snack?
Cheddar Bunnies
What is your favorite animal?
What is your favorite book?
Magic Tree House books
What is your favorite cereal?
Oatmeal Squares
What is your favorite thing to do outside?
Playing with Nerf guns
What is your favorite drink? Lemonade
What is your favorite holiday?
What is your favorite thing about school? Moving up on the behavior chart
What do you like to take to bed with you at night?
The Scooby-Do blanket Nana made me
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
What do you want to eat for dinner on your birthday?
What do you want to be when you grow up? in the Navy

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Watch Me Grow: 1 Year

I’ve already done a post on 12 months of side by side comparison pictures and another on Evelyn’s birthday party, so now it’s time for the official one year update.


I absolutely love this girl’s personality!  She is such a happy, easy going baby.  She smiles at everyone, and will let almost anyone hold her.  All of the kids in Trenton’s kindergarten class love her, and they don’t like it if I don’t bring her along when I volunteer in the classroom.


Evelyn had her one year check-up earlier this week.  I don’t remember any other doctors ever checking this with any of our kids before, but Evelyn’s pediatrician checks her “baby BMI.”  And apparently we are supposed to lay off of the carbs and sweets with her.  Because she eats so much of that stuff….  I have a feeling that if our current pediatrician would have been seeing Evelyn those first few months of her life when she had such a hard time gaining weight, that he would not think that her above average “baby BMI” would even be worth mentioning.

The girl is solid though.  Even if I don’t get in any normal arm workouts during the week, I can always count on two one hour workouts at church on Fridays and Sundays!  She is such a wiggle worm, and I feel like I fight her the entire Mass.  On Sundays, the older couple that we normally sit next to like to help us out with her though!


Evelyn has started trying to clap on her own rather than just grabbing my hands and clapping them for me.  She seems to like making me do things for her.  If I ask her how big she is, she grabs my hands, and makes me raise her hands up for “so big” rather than raising her hands by herself.  And if I ask her where her nose is, she grabs my finger and puts my finger on her nose instead of touching her nose with her own finger.

Evelyn’s nighttime sleep habits haven’t improved any.  Actually I think they have gotten a little worse.  It could be because Evelyn spent so much time the past month sleeping in places other than her own bed.  Or maybe she’s working on more teeth.  Whatever it is, I’m ready for her to sleep through the night!


On that same note, the pediatrician told me to try transitioning her from two naps a day to one nap a day.  I hope that it helps!

We’re also working on transitioning from bottles to sippies and formula to milk too.  The formula to milk transition is going better than the bottle to sippy transition.  Evelyn will take water perfectly fine in her sippy, but she’s not a huge fan of taking milk/formula in it.

Evelyn still isn’t full on walking, but she can take 2-3 steps at a time.  And I’m perfectly fine with that.  I’m in no hurry to chase after her more than I already do!

We still have Evelyn in her infant carseat.  It’s quite a load lugging nearly 35 pounds around, but I’m trying to make it through the winter before switching her over to a rear-facing convertible seat.  Even though it’s heavy, popping the carseat out of the car in freezing cold at school drop off is quicker and easier than taking a squirmy baby out of a carseat and then putting her back in.

Evelyn, you have brought so much joy to our lives in the past twelve months.  Everyone loves you and wants to play with you – even Bailey.  You are such a happy little person, and I hope that you never lose that.  I can’t wait to see how you grow and change in the years to come.


Weight: 23 pounds, 9 ounces – 84th percentile
Height: 29 1/2 inches – 64th percentile
Drinking: 20-24 ounces of milk/formula a day plus water from a sippy throughout the day
Eating: Three full meals a day.  Mostly table food.  Favorites are bananas, broccoli, rice, quinoa, and chicken.
Napping: She had still been taking two naps a day, but we are now transitioning to one afternoon nap.
Nighttime Sleeping: Ha!  What sleeping?  There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to how this little girl is going to sleep and we never know what kind of night she is going to have.
Clothes: 12 months
Shoes: I think it’s about time to move up into a size four, but I haven’t taken her to get new shoes in a while.
Diapers: We are using up the last of our size 3s and will then move into 4s.  At that point, we are going to try to switch from Huggies Little Snugglers to generic brand.
Words: Still just Dada….
Teeth: Still just the three teeth for my little vampire baby!

First Christmas:
(Mommy had pinkeye and didn’t make it to Christmas Eve Mass.)

First Band-Aid for something other than a shot:
And when we took it off, her blood had made a perfect little heart!

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First Snow:
(She loved sledding but didn’t like sitting in the snow by herself.)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Birthday

Even before Evelyn was born, she was listening to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  Charlotte used to sing it to my baby bump all the time.  And to this day, Evelyn likes hearing the song whenever she’s upset – especially if it’s her big sister singing it to her.

So when it came time to start thinking of a theme for Evelyn’s first birthday party, a Twinkle Twinkle Little Star theme was an easy choice.

We kept her party very small, simple, and laid back.  My parents came out from Texas, and we had a few of our closest friends here come over for cake and punch.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday PartyTwinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday PartyTwinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday Party
Golden Punch recipe - HERE
Lemon cupcakes with strawberry icing recipe - HERE

I also kept decorations super simple, just stringing up some cardboard stars that I cut out, painted metallic gold, and spray glittered.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday Party

After the kids played for a while, it was time for cake.  Evelyn was probably the only kid in the house that wasn’t excited.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday PartyTwinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday Party

Evelyn took a few licks/bites of her cake, but really wasn’t that interested.  And other than getting a little cake on her tutu and some in her hair, she didn’t make a big mess either.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday Party
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday PartyTwinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday PartyTwinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday Party

Evelyn loved getting help from her friends opening gifts, and has already been playing hard with her new toys!

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 1st Birthday Party

And after such an exciting day, she actually came somewhat close to sleeping through the night.  We take what we can get when it comes to sleep with this girl!

Thanks to all who have wished our sweet girl a happy birthday.  She truly is our bright and shining star!