And suddenly I’m a soccer mom

It seems like just yesterday Ava was small enough to fit into my arms, but this weekend my baby girl had her first soccer game. And just like that – I’m a soccer mom (and wife to a soccer coach to boot!). 😉

I don’t know if I look like a soccer mom. What do soccer moms look like anyway? I’d take a pic of myself and let you make the call, but since we’ve all been sick with some nasty colds the past several days and I haven’t had a haircut in months and may now be sporting a mullet (gah!) and thus am hardly feeling photogenic at the moment, I think I’ll pass. ;oP

Anyway, Ava and daddy had their first soccer game this weekend. The kids were up against a much more experienced team and while they weren’t able to pull off even one goal (bummer), they had fun and I had a good time watching them and snapping pics (I even dusted off my SLR for the occasion) until a certain little someone pulled me away to the playground. 😉

This is how we’ll be spending our Saturdays for the next eight weeks and that brings a smile to my face.

Here are some pics of my little soccer player (in the purple pants) and coach hubby (with the shaved head and the green shirt). Mouse over the pics for captions or click to enlarge.

I know I haven’t participated in a while (photography just hasn’t been in the cards for me lately), but I’m counting this as my Best Shot Monday post and choosing the last pic as my BSM for this week. For more Best Shot Monday pics, visit Mother May I.

Wii had a Merry Old iTime

The last five days have been pretty spectacular. For starters, Jody had them all off of work so we got a lot of family Slaving away in the kitchen making apple crisp 12/25/08time in and then a lot of productive house cleaning/fixing up in as well. My parents (who were here from MI) and sister were here for Christmas day. I cooked another turkey (nearly 20 lb.’er – but this time got all of the giblets out BEFORE I cooked it – Woot!) and they supplied all of the side dishes. I also made a chocolate cream pie and an apple crisp for dessert. Everything was quite tasty.

For a year when the economy has been in the crapper and talk of recession, recession, depression(?) is everywhere, we enjoyed a very plentiful Christmas present-wise and I’m very thankful for all that we have been blessed with – health, family, friends, job security, a home, etc. We might not be in our dream home, but we have a roof over our head (and although it doesn’t look that way from the pic below, clothes on our backs) and, despite my whining, that really does mean a lot.

Playin’ w/ new toys in the buff 12/25/08 Ava says, “I did,” to Grandma’s question, “Who painted this bird house?” 12/25/08 Aunt Carrie reads a new Fancy Nancy book to Ava 12/25/08

Bed head, a zit, and my sexy new iPhone!I had suspicions that Jody was getting me an iPhone for Christmas, but when I unwrapped the box and saw Google on it, I thought he was either giving me his new G1 phone that he’d just been given by Google for his Christmas bonus or he’d bought me my own. I opened the box and there was the G1. I tried to act not totally crushed happy, but I was bummed it wasn’t an iPhone. Jody told me the battery was underneath it in the box, but when I went to get it out I saw … a sexy, sleek, shiny new iPhone underneath! Squeeee!!! 🙂 Then he asked me for the iPhone and when gave it back to me and there was Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” He rick-rolled me – twice, but I got my Precious iPhone so who cares! ;P

Ava and I running with the Wii Fit 12/28/08Jody also got us a family Christmas present of the Wii Fit and I have to say I am really digging it. I’ve been on it for the past three days and, while that’s not much, I haven’t tired of it yet. There’s quite a bit to it to keep it interesting and I’m looking forward to getting a regular exercise routine into my life. My body has been hinting at me that I should get in better shape so hopefully this will help me take better care of myself.

The kids and the kitchen 12/25/08The kids got a ton of books this year, a handmade wooden farm set, as well as a wooden retro play kitchen (from Costco Santa) that Jody Santa was up until 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve assembling. As for me Mrs. Claus, I she was only up until 2 a.m. wrapping presents on Christmas Eve. Whew! I also dyed about 10 new play silks that we used for wrapping “paper.” They turned out beautifully and make great toys in and of themselves.

They also got a slew of stuff from both sets of grandparents which were opened on Christmas eve – mostly books, clothes, art supplies and a few large (ahem) plastic toys – a firetruck and Easy Bake Oven.

Two days after Christmas and a full month after it had been put up, the Christmas tree and all of it’s decorations were taken down. I needed my living room back and to get the new toys into new homes. The disorganization was weighing heavily on me (AKA stressing me out!).

Two little helpers ate some of the tree decorations before they made their way outside for the birds. The cranberries I’d strung up went out for the birds but haven’t been touched yet. What the heck, birds? Not good enough for ya? 😛

Christmas tree popcorn eater AKA Ava 12/27/08 Julian, the big fish at the end of the popcorn string 12/27/08

After much cleaning (thank you, Jody) and some rearranging, I was very happy with the results of the livingroom overhaul.

Clean living room Another angle of clean living room

My plan for the next week (Jody has another several days off for New Year’s) is to continue cleaning, rearranging and organizing the house – one room at a time. I’ve been overwhelmed with clutter and disorganization for so long, but holding out with the hope that we’ll move into a bigger house and it would all magically disappear then. I’ve realized, however, that we will likely be in this house a while longer and, in an effort to make our time here more pleasant and manageable (and to save my waning sanity), it would behoove me to do whatever I need to do to make organization a priority.

I worked on the dining room a bit today and little by little, it will all get done. 🙂 I can do this!

Hope you and yours had a happy, healthy holiday and a happy return to normalcy too – as normal as life gets.

Note: If the quality of some of the pictures posted here seems lacking, that’s because it is but only because they were taken with my iPhone. 😉

Our Barack Obama Rally Experience (pictures & videos)

On Saturday, Jody, the kids and I drove 2 1/2 hours to Pueblo, CO, to experience our first political rally where both Michelle and Barack Obama were scheduled to speak. According to the LA Times, there were over 15,000 people in attendance.

We were seriously lucky and got amazingly close to the stage thanks to a phone call my sister Carrie made on Friday. Jody and I had been debating whether or not it’d be a good idea to take the kids for the 2 1/2 hour drive, then make them wait for the rally to begin and sit through the rally before having to drive 2 1/2 hours back home. It seemed like a lot to ask of them. I had several questions like if I could wear Julian in my Ergo (baby carrier), if we could bring a blanket to put on the ground, and if we could bring in a bag with diapers, snacks, toys, etc. to entertain the kids. Carrie called the Colorado Springs Obama office for me and said we’d be coming with two small kids and asked my questions (yes on Ergo, no on blanket, yes on backpack with snacks, diapers, etc.). She then told Carrie that since we’d have little kids with us we could use the disabled persons’ entrance.

So we decided we would give it a go, try not to have any expectations and just enjoy being a part of the event. We dressed the kids in their “Kids for Obama” t-shirts, I donned my “Obama Mama” pin and, because it was warm enough for short-sleeves, even displayed my Obama temporary tattoo on my arm and we headed out on a beautiful day to Pueblo.

When we finally got to Pueblo, about 30 minutes before the rally was set to start, we parked a block from the disabled persons’ entrance and made our way there. A police officer outside of the line told us that we’d have to go to the main entrance – FIVE blocks away. I explained that we were told to go to the disabled entrance because of the kids and he was skeptical. He said we could try to get in, but they might just turn us away and direct us to the main entrance anyway. Unsure what to do, we started to walk down the street to the main entrance when I said, “Ya know what? No. We are going to try to get in back there.” So we headed back, told him we’d take our chances and waited in line for about 10 minutes while I formulated my story, even verifying on the phone with my sister the name of the person she talked to. (Carrie and her friend had got to the rally before us and were out in the crowd, about 2 blocks away from the stage.) When we got to the front, the security guards didn’t bat an eye, they just had us go through the metal detector like everyone else and we were in! We walked around some Port-O-Johns and a building and discovered that we were in the media area and about 30 feet from the podium where Obama would be speaking!! SCORE! 🙂

I took both my SLR and P&S cameras and am so glad I did. I got a few videos, some snaps, as well as some good pictures of Barack and Michelle. The only thing I didn’t get that I wished I had, was a picture of Barack and Michelle with their daughters. They all came out on the stage for about 30 seconds at the end, but by that time I was holding a tired and very much ready to leave Ava (Jody had been walking around with a tired, cranky Julian for the entire rally) and was unable to get a shot off. Despite that, I was very happy with the pictures I got.

Julian looking sleepy in the Ergo – Excited Ava and Jody waiting in the security line – Before the rally began, Julian was ready for a nap
A tired Julian in the Ergo on my back as we walked to the rally 11/1/08 Ava and Jody waiting in the security line before the rally 11/1/08 Excitement mounts before the rally, but Julian is ready for some Zzzzzs 11/1/08
Cute baby for Obama – Our view of the media (which we were standing right beside) – SWAT team on the roof
Baby for Obama 11/1/08 We were in the media section 11/1/08 Members of the SWAT team 11/1/08
Michelle Obama spoke briefly before introducing Barack – Love that Obama was speaking on Union Ave. (since he’s all about unity)
Michelle Obama speaks at the rally 11/1/08 Michelle Obama introducing Barack 11/1/08 Barack Obama speaks on Union Ave. (nice) in Pueblo 11/1/08
Obama speaks to the crowd
Barack Obama addresses the crowd in Pueblo 11/1/08 A very small part of the crowd 11/1/08 Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08
More of Obama
Obama speaks on Union Ave. in Pueblo 11/1/08 Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08 Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08
Obama – Ava and me with Obama speaking behind us
Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08 Me, Ava and Barack Obama 11/1/08 Pueblo, CO Another of Ava, me and Barack 11/1/08
The kids run off some energy after the rally ends
The kids running off some energy after the rally 11/1/08

The energy at the rally was incredible and it was amazing to be a part of it. Obama encouraged everyone to volunteer – make phone calls, go canvassing, etc. – in the last few days before the election. I’m hoping to do that again Monday evening. If you’ve already voted and are looking for something to do on Tuesday other than make last minute calls encouraging people to vote, please consider taking water or food to the people waiting in line to vote. Seriously, that’s what is needed (Edited to add: I learned today that you need to SIGN UP to be able to do this – don’t just show up at the polling place expecting to get to distribute food to voters. Call your local democratic office first. However, you CAN bring food to the people working at the polling place (according to someone who will be working) without signing up first.).

While the kids weren’t very excited to be at the rally (it was a long day for all of us, especially them), I am glad we went and that they got to see Barack Obama in person. Someday, I think they will be glad they were there too. (Oh, and Julian finally got that nap in – all the way home.)

If I’ve still got your attention and you want to see a couple of videos from the rally, here’s Michelle welcoming Barack onto the stage (they are so cute together) and a short one of Barack talking about unity.

Oh, and as for my choice for Best Shot Monday, this week I really can’t choose just one. I like the “Obama baby” and the one of Michelle smiling and then I’m also very partial to the ones of me and Ava with Barack behind us because they are priceless. 🙂 You can see more Best Shots over here.

I hope to post about my experience hearing Gloria Steinem talk (I saw her today at Borders) tomorrow. Stay tuned. 🙂

A look at where our food comes from

Last week on Oprah, Lisa Ling gave us a glimpse into some of America’s farms – factory farms as well as organic farms – to see just how some of the animals we eat live before they become dinner on our table. They showed what the living conditions look like for egg-laying chicken, Lisa Ling in a factory chicken farmpregnant pigs and veal calves. Oprah had replica cages and crates on the stage to demonstrate the cage/pen sizes of animals in factory farms. “In an egg-laying hen cage, five to six hens could be in a single cage. The typical crate for a young male calf being raised for veal has enough room for him to stick his head out. Pregnant pigs—which can weigh more than 500 pounds—are about 5 to 6 feet long, while the cages they live in are about 7 feet long.”

There was also information presented about Proposition 2, the proposed Standards for Confining Farm Animals (specifically egg-laying chicken, pregnant pigs and veal calves) initiative statute that will be voted on in California’s general election this November. “The new regulations, which would go into effect in 2015, would require cages to be large enough to allow these animals to be able to stand up, lie down, turn around and to be able to fully extend their limbs without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens.” My friend Melissa (Nature Deva) has some information about Prop 2 on her blog and there’s more information from Cameron at The Thin Green Line. If you live in California, I encourage you to look into it before you head to the polls so that you can make an informed decision.

The point of Oprah’s show was not to scare anyone into vegetarianism or veganism, but to educate people so that they can make conscious choices when it comes to buying their eggs or meat.

In the past, I’ve bought cage-free eggs from Vitamin Cottage because I assumed that meant the chickens were treated better and able to go outside, but after looking more into it, I’m not sure that’s the case.

According to Health Castle:

  • Free-Run or Cage-free eggs are produced by hens that are able to move about the floor of the barn and have access to nesting boxes and perches. The nutrient content of these eggs is the same as that of regular eggs.
  • Free-Range eggs are produced in a similar environment as cage-free eggs but hens have access to outdoor runs as well. The nutrient content of these eggs is the same as that of regular eggs.

I recently discovered a local farm stand (thanks to Alison at Green Me) where they have free-range eggs every Wednesday, as well as locally-grown fruits and veggies available Wednesday through Saturday. We’ve been going there for the past few weeks for some produce, but I bought my first dozen eggs this past Wednesday. They open at 10 on Wednesdays, I got there at 10:30 and got the last dozen they had! Seems I need to be on the ball Wednesday mornings if I want to continue to get them each week because they sell out fast.

Free-range eggs from our local farm standAnyway, the eggs have been wonderful! Ava enjoyed carefully examining them all at home on the kitchen table (and I admit, so did I) because every egg looks different. There are slightly varied sizes, different colors, different shades of those colors, some with spots, etc. They aren’t cookie cutter eggs like you get from the grocery store and I think that definitely adds to their appeal.

On Saturday we went back to the farm stand and, because Julian wants to see the animals they have every time we stop in, we asked the owner if I was OK if we went back to look at the sheep and chickens and he was fine with that. That was cool to show the kids exactly where our eggs are coming from. I think most people want to believe that their chickens get to run around in a big open space like these chickens do, though in reality, they are generally packed 6 to a small cage for their entire lives.

Someday I’d love to have some chickens of our own, but that will probably need to wait until we move into a different house with a slightly larger yard. Ava already talks about how she will go out and collect the eggs every day. 🙂

Here are the kids and Jody observing the animals this weekend, and, at least with regard to the chickens’ eggs, seeing just where our food comes from:
Checking out the sheep - 10/18/08 Looking at the chickens 10/18/08
Thanks for the eggs, chickens! 10/18/08 “Come-ere sheep” 10/18/08

Pumpkin-y goodness

On Sunday we went to one of our favorite pumpkin patches from some pumpkin-hunting; corn maze walking; animal watching, feeding and petting, followed by pumpkin carving at home. A good time was had by all.

Julian checks a little pumpkin out 10/19/08 Ava takes a break from hauling her pumpkin around to smile for mommy 10/19/08 Finding their way out of the corn maze 10/19/08
Ava gets to work scooping out the pumpkin guts 10/19/08 So slimy 10/19/08 Julian gnaws on some raw pumpkin seeds 10/19/08
Jody and the kids during the pumpkin carving 10/19/08 Mommy sneaks in for a pic with her boy 10/19/08 And one more with both kiddos 10/19/08

And lastly, my choice – punkins holding pumpkins – for Best Shot Monday:
A couple of happy punkins 10/19/08

See what everyone else is up to for Best Shot Monday.

From fresh fruit to tasty jam in 36 hours

Photography-wise, I only pulled out the P&S and I’ve got nothing to write home about this week. But as far as expanding my kitchen prowess goes, I’m very proud of these pictures. 🙂

On Saturday, we visited Berry Patch Farms where we ate picked organic strawberries and peaches, and had a great time doing so.
Ava’s strawberries 8/23/08Julian helps too 8/23/08
Julian and daddy having fun in the strawberry patch 8/23/08
I was determined to get some of the big ones up high, so up the tree I went:
Me, up a tree 8/23/08

Something like 4 lbs. of strawberries and 15 lbs. of peaches later, our bounty looked like this:
Strawberries and peaches we picked ourselves, plus a few other goodies from the farm store 8/23/08

Then it turned into this (after a fair bit of work) in the span of 36 hours:
Strawberry and peach jam - 8/24/08

That used up all of our strawberries, but we still have a LOT of peaches left that I may freeze or can as slices.

But the big deal here (at least to me) is that Sunday was my first time ever making jam or canning anything! While it was definitely a learning experience, it was also a lot of fun and I’m so proud of my first 10 little jars of jam. 🙂 Those 10 little jars are my choice for Best Shot Monday, although they are hard-pressed to compete against Mr. Strawberry-face up there. 😉

I will be blogging a step-by-step guide to canning jam (with pictures) in the near future, so if you want to get started canning be sure to check it out.

More Best Shot Monday pics

Our MI vacation: the good, the bad & the ugly (with pictures, of course!)

On Saturday, Aug. 9, we returned home to Colorado after spending two weeks on vacation in Michigan. Most of our trip was spent in Oscoda (where my parents live), but we also spent a little time “down state” in my hometown of Clawson and the surrounding area, and Jody, the kids and I spent three days on Mackinac Island.

There was drama even before we left for our trip when I discovered (as I went with the kids to our car in Borders parking lot) one of our tires had gone nearly completely flat. This happened the day before we left. I got the tire fixed (actually, got all 4 tires replaced since we were due to do that anyway after having another flat just two weeks prior) and I was thankful that it happened and was discovered that day instead of the following morning as we scrambled to the airport to catch our flight. (Small favors and all that.)

The trip itself went quite well for the most part and what follows are some of the memorable moments – the good, the bad and the ugly (in no particular order).

The Good
* Watching the kids delight in the waves and sandy beaches of Lake Huron or discovering interesting rocks and minnows in the Au Sable River
Julian on the beach at Lake HuronJulian on the beach at Lake HuronAva in the Au Sable River
* Eating s’mores (or, in Julian’s case, plain chocolate graham crackers) at a campfire in my parents’ backyard
Julian and a graham cracker
* Going with my sister for a walk down memory lane, or more specifically the street we grew up on
* Watching the kids read books, get pulled in the wagon, and play with their grandma & grandpa
Reading books
* Seeing Ava perfect her bike-riding skills
Ava riding her bike at Grandma&pa’s house
* The kids smearing sunscreen all over my back for me
* The surreal feeling of watching my kids play at two of the parks I used to play at as a child
* Communing with nature.
Wild flowersAt the marshes
* And trying to catch the little frogs
A frog on a log
* Everything about Mackinac Island – the flowers, the clean air (no cars on the island), the horses, the biking, the fudge, the history, the nature and beauty
The harbor, Mackinac IslandThe kids on Main Street, Mackinac Island
* Watching Julian pass out kisses and the kids beg for more bites of dessert from grandma & grandpa
The kids with grandma and grandpa
* Witnessing Ava drive her first boat at age 4
Ava driving her first boat
* Seeing Julian eat the rind off a lemon slice, twice
Julian eating a lemon
* Zen biking riding around Mackinac Island and discovering the perfect place to have lunch (Turtle Park) – with sandwiches made by Jody right at the picnic table – and let the kids play
Jody with the kids in the Burley on Mackinac Island
* Watching Ava and my mom’s excitement over the butterfly kit my mom got as the chrysalises hatched and butterflies emerged
* Seeing extended family members and watching Ava bond with her 15-year-old cousin Claire
Ava and cousin Claire (taken by cousin Ryan)
* Getting to float on the waves of Lake Huron alone with Jody for about 30 glorious minutes
* Capturing the look on Ava’s face as she saw a rainbow
Ava spots a rainbowRainbow

* Having an opportunity to take Ava’s 4 year pictures
* Spending time playing with the kids without having to worry about blog posts needing to be written, the house needing cleaning or dinner needing to be made
* Seeing the kids, especially Julian, enjoy strawberry shortcake for the first time
Julian enjoying his first strawberry shortcake
* Never tiring of Julian requesting “more horsey” after seeing yet another horse on Mackinac Island
* Assembling a rock family with Ava on Mackinac
Mommy, Ava and the rock familyOur rock family
* Water as far as the eye can see
Looking out at Lake Huron from Arch Rock
* The opportunity to take lots of pictures
Me and Julian at Fort Holmes
* Listening to the kids play grandma’s piano
Tickling the ivories
* Beautiful sunsets
Sunset behind the Mackinac Bridge
* Watching Ava make a new friend at our resort. They went from “flying” around together, to collecting seagull feathers, to talking, hugging and kissing in the span of about 30 minutes. It’s amazing how simple it can be.
Ava and her new friend Lily at Mission Point Resort (Mackinac Island)
* Eating ice cream, ice cream, and more ice cream.
Mmm, ice creamIce cream
* Watching my little beach combers
Ava and Julian on the beach of Lake HuronJulian - “Giddy-up!”
* Having my whole family together (mom, dad, me, li’l bro, li’l sis), even if it was just for one dinner
My brother, mom, dad, sister and me
* And a new picture of me with my siblings. Not sure when the last one of the three of us together was taken.
Me with my li’l sis and bro (taken by my cousin Ryan)

The Bad
* Iceburg lettuce. Seriously, what is up with iceburg lettuce?! I’d forgotten that it seems to be a staple in MI and that it’s nearly impossible to get a salad without it.
* Discovering we’d also left our wireless router at my parents’ house. Oops!
* Wearing my new sexy sandals for 10 minutes only to have them leave my feet looking like this:
Ouchee feet

* Discovering we’d also left our Mackinac Island fudge from the Murray Hotel in my parents’ fridge. D’oh!

The Good
* My mom saying she would mail the fudge to us. 🙂

And the Ugly
* Having one of our three suitcases stolen out of my sister’s car.
* Finding out insurance won’t cover any of it since the amount of items stolen (clothes, shoes, bike helmets) is just under the amount of our deductible

The Good
* Realizing my evil sandals were in the suitcase that was stolen.

The Bad
* Realizing my brand new tennis shoes were also in there, as well as one of Ava’s favorite dresses.

And more of The Good
* Getting a family picture using a tripod and the timer
Family photo on Mackinac Island
* Making wonderful memories
Daddy’s little girlAva and Julian at Fort HolmesMe and the kids at sunset on Mackinac IslandJody and the kids at G’ma & G’pa’s houseThe kids at Mission Point Resort

Celebrate good times (BSM)

While our 4th of July didn’t go exactly as planned (we missed the parade we set out to see because the time listed for it was incorrect, then missed our backup plan of an outdoor symphony concert because Julian fell asleep in the car on the way), but we still ended up having a nice day. Ava got to ride her new bike (a present for her 4th birthday). My sister Carrie joined us for the evening. We picked up some dinner and some fireworks which Jody set off in the street. Carrie and I were sure to throw in some oooohs and aaaahs for good measure and the kids enjoyed it all.

My best shots are of my big girl learning to ride her bike:

Ava on her new bike - 7/4/08 Ava on her new bike - 7/4/08

Then here are a few from our mini fireworks display:

Fireworks 7/4/08 Aunt Carrie and the kids watching fireworks - 7/4/08 Fireworks 7/4/08

See more Best Shot Monday posts this week over at Slurping Life

A daughter’s love (BSM)

I took a slew of pics on Sunday, hoping to get something worthy of sharing for my Best Shot Monday. While most of them didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, this one grabbed my attention. I just love the look of adoration and pure joy in Ava’s eyes.

Ava and daddy 6/29/08

And I thought this one was pretty sweet too. 🙂
Ava and Julian 6/29/08

See more Best Shot Monday posts over at Slurping Life (for this week only).

Getting your feet wet (BSM)

Even though I captured this with my P&S, I had a feeling it just might become my Best Shot Monday choice. The photo was taken a week ago last weekend as Jody and the kids waded into the freezing cold (at least, in my opinion) water of the Boulder Creek. The kids didn’t mind the water temp one bit and Jody endured it, ‘cuz that’s what daddies do. These are the types of moments that I never want to forget.

Ava, Julian and Jody getting their feet wet in the creek - 6/7/08

See more Best Shot Monday posts over at Mother May I?.