Recent/Significant Posts:

We often refer friends to our post(s) on our experiences with Ben's Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, as of yet these are:
--- Our introduction to this disease and basic timeline February 2012 through July 26, 2013.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Preparations

Last Sunday, Dec 5th, we put up the Christmas tree after dinner, but then it was time for bed... We didn't want to decorate it without Daddy (who was in Korea for work for the week), so we waited and hung the ornaments last night....

Click to play this Smilebox greeting: Decorating the Tree
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Our friend, Claudia, was over for dinner and got a big kick out of watching the kids... (She is widowed and lives in a group home --- but she raised 5 kids, back in the day, so I'm sure this brings back some fun memories!)

(Esther, 1yr, showing Claudia the reindeer Jen's Grandma made)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Esther's First Birthday!

Hard for us to believe, but our little Esther is one year old! We tend to keep baby/toddler Birthdays fairly low-key, just getting together with family, but I do like to try for fun cakes. Feeling somewhat uninspired, I turned to her older siblings for cake/theme ideas...

I asked the kids, "What does Esther like?"

Emily giggled and said, "Peas!"

We all laughed, because it is very true --- One of Esther's favorite foods is frozen peas (and she eats them while they are still frozen). We joked around a bit about decorating the top of a cake with frozen peas and decided it would be icky when they melted. (Eeeeew!) I had been expecting the girls to say "princeses" or "fairies" (because that's what they like), so I combined some ideas and decided to make a "Princess and the Pea" cake!

I wanted to use fondant (smooth playdough-like frosting) to make blankets, but I'd only used the store-bought kind and it tastes nasty. Fortunately I found a recipe on the web for making fondant at home from melted marshmallows (and lots of powdered sugar). The project was still kind of tricky, since this is only the 3rd time I've worked with fondant, but I think it turned out ok:
On the weekend, we got together with family over at the Boschis, since Esther shares her Birthday with Uncle Dennis (as well as my sister Lisa and Matt's dad!). Katie made a really yummy chocolate cake for Dennis.

We had all had a good time. I think Esther quite enjoyed destroying (her part of) the cake and ripping into presents!
Click to play this Smilebox greeting: Esther's 1st Bday
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Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ready for A Grand New Adventure: School!

Well, it's official: Mike and Emily are now "kindergartners", and quite delighted to be heading off to school each day. We met their teachers at the school open house last week, and I think they will both get along just fine. They are also excited to be riding the bus, and hoped right on the first day with no worries. Fortunately, the bus stops right across the street from our house, so by winter I can just watch from the door :-)

Anyway, here's a little collage of the first couple of days. (Hit "play" of course, then when the project is loaded up, you click the different pics at the bottom to see them "full size" in the frame.)

Click to play this Smilebox collage: Off to Kindergarten
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Monday, August 17, 2009

"Tea" Party is a Relative Term...

One of Emily's Birthday presents this year was a "tea" set and some other toy cooking items from Aunt Jana (Boschi). The kids had played with tea sets at Grandma Higgins's house and at friends' houses, but we only had generic cooking/serving toys at our place. Needless to say, Emily loves it, and the Mike and Natalie are right there with her! (Although I think Mike's favorite is actually the toy blender --- he makes "milkshakes" for the tea parties....)

Jana has wanted for a while to have the kids and Evie (our cousin, Jana's granddaughter) over for a little tea party at her house. Carmen (Jana's daughter) wanted to be in on the fun, too, of course. The problem is that she's getting married in just a couple of weeks; so they had to squeeze the party in amongst the wedding preparations!

Being LDS, none of us actually drink tea, but that's no reason to miss out on a chance to dress up and eat fun treats! Jana's teapot was filled with milk, and the "creamer" contained chocolate syrup, and as an added touch, the "sugar" bowl was filled with Hershey's kisses.

A good time was had by all, and, most miraculous of all (to me), I didn't end up scrubbing chocolate out of the party dresses, either!

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook:
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Thanks Jana and Carmen!!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Catching Up...

Well, it's been/being a fun summer! That said, I have lots of photos and related projects I've gotten started and never finished or that I finished and then didn't get around to posting here...

Anyway, over the next couple of days I am posting the finished project and (hopefully) finishing and posting several more. I will back-date them closer to the event(s) featured, and hope this will not be too confusing...

So far I have put in:
2 from our trip to PA in May
1 from the 4th of July

Hope you-all are having a decent Summer, too!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How Much Fun Can We Pack in One Weekend?

In May I was delighted to re-connect with a friend we'd lost track of almost 10 yrs ago, Shae (Shauna) Johnson. Come to find out, she's been living only about 5 hrs away from us for several years now! Of course, now she's working on moving back to Idaho/Utah... It just figures, doesn't it!

Anyway, in the middle of July we loaded up the family and went down to see her and another "long-lost" friend, Meg Dolan, before they headed westward. It was great fun to catch up with friends (none of us had any kids the last time we talked!)and we made sure we planned activities the kids could enjoy, too. On Saturday morning, we went to a local Farmer's Market with Meg and her 9-yr-old, 'Becca. Then we met up with Shae and her crew that afternoon and we all went to a neat little Children's Museum built in an old theater...

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Market & Museum
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The trip was tons of fun, which now means even the kids are sad "mommy's friends" are moving so much farther away!

Good Luck, though, Guys!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's Finally Em's Turn to Party!

For Emily's birthday, she had a "Princess and Pony" Party. This pretty much just meant that the girls were invited to bring their "My Little Pony"'s over to play with for a while before the festivities...
Click to play this Smilebox invite: Em's Bday Invite
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Fortunately, Em didn't request a Pony cake --- that would be a bit beyond me! She giggled and said she wanted "bugs", so we made ladybug cookies and put them on a field/flowers cake....

One of her friends, Ainsley, couldn't come, but Emily had a good time with Cassie, Emma, and Gwen. They played a while, then we went out on the back patio for cake, ice cream and lemonade. Back inside for presents, and then the girls stayed and played a while...

Click to play this Smilebox collage: Em's Bday Party
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Independence Day Celebrations

On the 4th of July this year, the Bullough Family invited us and the Henries over for a picnic and then we all went over to the New Berlin Independence Day Parade. It was a lot of fun and I'm so glad they included us!

Unfortunately, Natalie did not like the 100 or so Harley Motorcycles that preceded the parade... She never has liked loud noises, and while she probably could have handed a few of them, she was crying and shaking long before the actual parade started. Poor kid! After that, she was hyper-sensitive to everything, and, as a result, spent most of the parade whining and asking to go home. She did finally perk up a little by the end, thankfully! I think next year we'll be "late" on purpose....

Later, we got a call from the Banks Family asking if we wanted to come cook out and go over to the fireworks near their house. (We went to the fireworks with them last year and the kids have talked about it ever since!) The Grips were over, too, although they had to go home and put their crew to bed before the fireworks.

This "Smilebox" only covers the first bit --- my camera stayed home for the second round of festivities....
(This one is another scrapbook, click "play", it will open in another window, use the little round button(s) to pause and/or "turn" the pages)

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Independence Day, 2009
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pittsburgh Adventures: West View Firestation

My brother Joe's wife, Mary, is from the Pittsburgh area. Her family still lives there, and her dad, Ed Glatz, is a volunteer firefighter. He arranged a tour of the firestation for the (older) kids while we were out there....

(Once again I was home with baby --- many thanks to my Dad for escorting the kids --- and for taking these great photos!)

Note: this "Smilebox" is a postcard-style creation; click play, it will open in a new window, then you can click on individual photos for a close-up)

Click to play this Smilebox postcard: West View Fire Station
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pittsburgh Adventures: Going to the Zoo/Aquarium

One of the super-fun activities we like to do in Pittsburgh is going to the Zoo. This time, Grandma & Grandpa and Uncle Joe & Aunt Mary (my brother and his wife) took my three older kids, and Riley, my sister Lisa's oldest. I stayed home with baby Esther, since she and I were both still sick. (Lisa was home with her littler boys, too.) The kids had a blast, of course --- and I confess I'm a little jealous!

(This particular "Smilebox" is a digital scrapbook, click on "play", it will open in another browser window, use the little round button(s) at the bottom of it to "turn" the pages)

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Pittsburgh Zoo (5/12/09)
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Friday, May 22, 2009

Bye, Daddy --- We're going to Grandma's!

We've wanted for a while to go out and visit my parents and sister who live in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, not only does Matt have little vacation time to spend right now, his job keeps sending him to Seattle --- And no way was I going to drive 10+ hours with 4 kids all by myself!
Well, in the meantime, my brother, Joe, and his wife have been wanting to see everybody, too. So, it finally occurred to us that these were highly compatible goals: Joe flew into Chicago, the kids and I drove down to meet him, and we continued on to Pittsburgh together! (There's only so much room in the van, so Joe's wife, Mary, flew out directly to PA.)

We got there just in time for "Mothers' Day", which was way cool. We spent a fair amount of time just hangin' with the grandparents (and often my sister Lisa and her boys), but also had a few fun excursions. (I'm making separate "Smileboxes" for a couple of the fun outings --- the Zoo and the Fire Station)

Anyway, it was all very fun (except baby Esther and I having a cold) and I very much hope to do this (at least once a year) in the future!!!

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: May in PA, 2009
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Thanks Again, Joe!!! (aka "Uncle Funny!")

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mike's 1st "Boy" Birthday (Party, that is)

Well, in our excitement about going to Grandma's, we almost didn't end up throwing a party for Mike. We figured we'd celebrate with the family while we were out in PA.... However, upon contemplating the fact that his sisters had/would have "friend parties", too, we kind of threw one together last minute for him... We decided we'd call it a "train day" and just invite a few kids.

This is the invite I helped Mike make and email (and we printed out a couple for those whose emails we were uncertain of):

Click to play this Smilebox invite: Mike's Bday Invite
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I came up with some (good?) ideas about how to make a train cake --- but it was Matt who made it work. Mike was surprised and pleased when he saw it in the morning!
Two of Mike's friends from church, Nathan and Will, along with their little brothers (Eli and Isaac), came and played trains and had lunch. Later, Aunt Jana, and cousin Evie came over, too. The kids enjoyed the cake, played with presents, and generally had a pretty good time.

Click to play this Smilebox collage: Mike's Bday Playdate
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter-Time Festivities

Easter is a very important religious holiday, and I don't like to detract from its importance with Bunny-talk... However, bunnies, eggs, (and chocolate!) are fun and pretty harmless. We've worked out the conflict by arranging for the "Easter Bunny" to deliver baskets on Saturday, so the kids can have their fun and then (theoretically) settle down for Easter Sunday....

This year the kids "rolled doubles" --- when we went out to join the Boschi's for dinner, they had more fun stuff planned for the kids. Aaron & Melinda were there, of course, with Evie (3) and Lizzie (1yr), who were just beside themselves with excitement. Aunt Jana, Uncle Dennis, and Carmen had baskets of treats hidden around the house for all of us, including the grown-ups! Once we had our baskets, we took the kids out to hunt eggs in the yard....

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Easter Activities (2009)
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mike's "Book"

Well, I'm sure it's obvious by now that I/we are enjoying the "Smilebox" program! Last week while Matt was gone, I let the kids each take a turn working on a project with me. I'm still finishing up the girls', but Mike's is ready for launch...

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Mike - Man of Action (Mar 2009)
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This one is a scrapbook, again, so you have to click the little buttons underneath (after it loads into its own browser window) to "turn" the pages...

...I'll be sure to let Mike know if anyone leaves comments for him/us about his "book".... :-)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Fun

In honor of this day of silliness, here's another "smilebox" creation --- this one is a slideshow:

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Silly Little Higglets...
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Also, if you want a fun song for the day, check out the April Fool Song.
I learned that song in Kindergarten and hadn't heard it since! (I could only remember the opening line and the part about the pig in the parlor and was delighted when Google "found" it for me!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Esther's 1st Four Months

***Update - I decided to do a "trial membership" on smilebox, so this shouldn't have ads anymore and be viewable full screen and such... ****

Just for fun, I'm experimenting with a couple of "digital scrapbooking" programs... Here's one I made on smilebox.

The "album" will open in a new window. It is not a slideshow --- you have to "turn the pages" via the tiny little arrow button(s) under the pages....

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Esther's 1st Four Months
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Make a Smilebox scrapbook

Note: smilebox is free --- hence the ad banners when you view the albums... But I guess that is fair, after all! (Also, I do have the option to actually "buy" the design for a few bucks or get a paid membership on smilebox, and either way the ads would disappear and the album would be printable and such.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Legoland" at the Mitchell Park Conservatory (Domes)

One of the coolest places in Milwaukee is the Mitchell Park Conservatory, which consists of three huge greenhouse domes full of gardens. One is all tropical, one is arid/desert, and the third has different themed gardens throughout the year. Every year after the holiday display is packed away, they do a model train setup in the Show dome, but each year is a different theme. Last year it was "Lilliput" (from Gulliver's Travels), this year was "Legoland."

Monday mornings are free to county residents, so we try to go every year... This year the Boschi's came with us, too, Jana and Dennis, and Melinda with Evie and Lizzie. It was really fun (although I think they could have done a lot more with the Legos!).

Click to play this Smilebox photobook: Botanical Domes
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Re-Reading "The Gift of Fear"

Well, I suppose this is my first non-family post, but it's about family safety --- something increasingly on my mind as my kids are rapidly approaching "school age"....

A tiny bit of background: Our R.S. book club read "The Shack" a couple months ago. I didn't get to go to the discussion, but did read the book. The core tragedy in the main character's life is the abduction of his little girl. The book is about him supposedly meeting with God and learning to have faith/forgive, etc. (I didn't really like the book, to be honest; the author's version of spirituality has little in common with my beliefs and feelings, especially since he is very anti-church/organized religion.)

Reading that, however, reminded me of a couple books I read quite a few years ago: "The Gift of Fear" and "Protecting the Gift", both by Gavin de Becker. The tagline for the first of these books is:

"True fear is often a signal that can save your life. Are you listening?"

Basically, the author makes the case that your intuition is a lot more reliable than you think; if you feel uneasy around someone, chances are that your subconcious is picking up on very real clues to a potential danger. His books both go through a lot of ways to assess risk (deciding if threatening behavior is likely to escalate, etc), but he explains that all this information is just to give your subconcious more to work with so that you are more likely to notice a threat, and, most important, so that you don't brush off your own fears. If you are informed and confident in your own intuition/fear, you don't need to worry or be constantly afraid.... (He makes it clear that the "fear" he is talking about is your "gut reaction", not just worrying about stuff in general.)

Anyway, the first book, "The Gift of Fear", is about risk assesment and such in general and as applied to stranger-on-stranger attacks, domestic violence, workplace violence, and stalkers (of celebrities or exes).

The second book, "Protecting the Gift", is specifically targeted on keeping your kids and teens safe and on teaching them to keep themselves safe. (For example, teaching children to ask a woman for help, rather than just "look for a policeman" since kids can't tell a real cop from a predator with a toy badge...)

Both books are interesting and very thought-provoking, to say the least! I am actually ordering the second one - it has really good info for parents, including sample questions to ask about your kids school(s), potential babysitters, and so on.

Now, this guy is a genuine expert and all - he has lots and lots of experience and data to back up him up when he tells us to listen to our instincts.... However, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I personally believe that in addition to our "subconcious mind", we are warned/protected by spiritual means as well. A lot of the concepts he talks about in relation to acting on intution, such as it is more important to be safe than to be polite, could/can really apply to listening to the Holy Ghost, too! Perhaps that is why his ideas seem to me to have particular merit....

Well, I could go on an get really philosophical about all this, but I shall spare you all! I do, however, recommend these books - particularly the one directed at parents!

(BTW, I am seriously thinking of recommending the second book to our Relief Society book club - anyone have thoughts on this?)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Daddy is Oooollllddd!

Matt's Birthday was this week... I won't say how old he is, but his parents sent him this giant cookie...

He had to travel for work this week, so we celebrated last Saturday. (Many thanks to Jen's Aunt Jana for last-minute babysitting!)

The kids "helped" me make a cake on Friday, and I hid it in the oven (off, of course!) and crossed my fingers Matt wouldn't be seized with some sudden urge to broil something... Saturday we surprised him with the cake and a couple of presents... The kids gave him a "nerf" dart gun, I gave him a really neat book he wanted. The kids were lots of help -trying out the gun for him and helping blow out the candles....

Esther, of course, was the biggest party animal... well, maybe just the cutest...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Yippe! Yipee! Natalie is Finally Three!

Well, we not only survived but enjoyed Natalie's action-packed third birthday... Of course, I use the term action-packed rather loosely --- based on the age of the participants it was plenty of excitement for one day!
We started off the day by having my aunt, Jana, and our cousins, Melinda and Evie (3 yrs) and Lizzie (10months) over for breakfast. (Aunt Jana and Evie are two of Natalie's favorite people.) The tots snarfed down a pile of muffins and some toast and ran around a bit before we called them back in to unwrap presents. Evie just had her third birthday a couple weeks ago, so she was a little confused and rather disappointed that none of the presents were for her (and Natalie was reluctant to share at first). Poor Evie! Being a toddler is tough!

We sang, of course, and let Natalie blow out candles on her birthday cake, but we only let the kids have one little cupcake (flower) each, assuring them we'd dig in to the big cake that evening. We had some cupcakes set aside to send home with our guests, too, of course.
After the kids played with the toys a while, we packed up and headed off to play at Betty Brinn Children's Museum. Our guests came, too, and Melinda actually snapped more pictures than I did (since I had an armful of Esther a lot of the time). You can see some on her blog:
Most of the photos I got were badly blurred - apparently the camera I'm using these days has almost no tolerance for motion; but here are a few that turned out:
We spent a couple hours at the museum before everyone went their separate ways. By the time I got the kids home, Natalie was pretty much asleep in the car and Emily (4 1/2) started crying and said she didn't want lunch, only a nap!!! Those poor kids dropped like rocks! (heh heh heh)
Well, they bounced back by evening and we went to McDonalds for a fun dinner. Natalie wanted to take her new (toy) doggie, but we convinced her that would be a bad idea... We suggested she take her ballons and some of the cupcakes, instead.
Anyway, quite a busy day for us! But, I think it was pretty successful: Nat loved her presents, got to eat food she actually likes, and got to "play" with some of her favorite people; And all of use enjoyed the activites --- and the abundance of cake!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cake Time!

Ok, I confess, I am fairly pleased with myself about how Nat's Birthday Cake turned out... Or, at least I like the flowers! (The caterpillar is a bit pathetic.)
The flower cupcakes were really fun, and best of all, really easy to make. The centers are sweet-tarts (smarties or whatever would work) and the petals are mini marshmallows cut in half (and pinched a little). We made extra cupcakes to share with friends. The kids were even able to help --- I let them eat their own creations, though, on account of contamination issues....
I found the flower technique on:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Party - Party

Well, we had a lot of fun this weekend --- 2 birthday parties to attend!

First, Mike and Em were invited to a party for one of their friends from church, Nathan. His parents arranged for the kids to tour a local police department, and then everyone went back to their house for cake and presents and such...
The kids had a lot of fun - Thanks for inviting us, Nathan!

Later, in the afternoon, we went out to Aunt Jana's for our cousin Evie's 3rd birthday. The kids had fun sleddingand watching the Daddys fire off some model rockets (but I was inside with baby so photos are courtesy of Evie's mom, Melinda). When the kids were thouroughly soggy (on account of it being 50 degrees out!) everyone gathered inside for cake, ice cream, and presents.

Again, much fun was had by all! Thanks for inviting us, Evie! You make a lovely little Princess!