Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - The Year in Smiles

I loved looking back over each month & picking a picture of Z - it is so fun to see how he's grown over the year - I could hardly believe that the January picture was less than a year ago! So, here we go!!!

January: (working retreats at camp)

February: (first haircut for Z)

March: (vacation in the Smokey Mountains with Hubby's family)

April: (announcing that Z would be a big brother in December)

May: (grandparents visit)

June: (summer camp)

July: (summer camp)

August: (trip to Darien Lake amusement park, grandparents came to family camp, found out we're having a GIRL!!!)

September: (retreats, I became a full-time SAHM, trip to Creation Museum)

October: (Tot School, family vacation to Virginia/Washington DC)

November: (Thanksgiving, Tot School)

December: (Z's 2nd birthday, Natalie's VERY first birth-day)

Praise the Lord for the amazing blessings He has given us this year of 2009! I am SO looking forward to all the wonderful things He will do in 2010!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Week in Pictures

3 days overdue, heading to my induction at 5:00 pm on Monday, Dec. 21st.

Natalie Grace, around 5:20 on Tuesday, December 22nd.

Natalie with Mommy and Daddy.

Natalie with Daddy.

A hug from big brother. :)

Ready to go home from the hospital - around 6:00 on Wednesday, Dec. 23rd!

Z making Christmas cookies with his Grandma on Christmas Eve.

Natalie with one of her Christmas presents - a pink pig from one set of her Iowa grandparents. :)
Wearing her first headband, on Christmas Day. Doesn't she look thrilled with the hairdo?

And, finally, A Christmas picture - Natalie & Zachary with their grandparents - it has been so nice to have them here helping out since we've been home from the hospital! Unfortunately, Natalie decided to have her first blowout before we got OUR family Christmas picture. :( I'm sure we'll take one before long. :)

Hope everyone had an equally Merry Christmas!

Also, thank you to all who have been praying for us - and I can tell that you have - Natalie is doing excellent with nursing, and sleeping a decent amount, and I am just able to enjoy every minute with her. The first two days home from the hospital I was a little bit of an emotional/hormonal wreck, but I am feeling so much better, physically and emotionally these last couple of days, and I am SO thankful to be able to enjoy my daughter so much! Thank you for your prayers!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

She's Here!!!

Natalie Grace

arrived at 5:17 pm

on December 22, 2009

Weighed 8 lbs, 6 oz

20 1/2 inches long

Mother and baby are home after an early discharge from the hospital for good health & behavior, and all are doing well.

Z loves his little Natalie. I am loving being at home with my whole family, and enjoying my children together.
And, yes, she was born a full 24 hours after I went in for my induction. Better pictures and a proper birth story will follow at a later date.

Monday, December 21, 2009

She'll Be Here Soon!

Well, I had my LAST OB appt. this morning!

I was SO thrilled to hear her say that all these contractions HAVE been accomplishing something after all - I am 2-3 cm dilated.

I was even more thrilled to schedule an induction...

for 5:00 pm TONIGHT!!!! YAY!!!! I am going to meet my little girl tonight!!!...or tomorrow, at the latest... :)

I won't probably be able to access my blog while I'm in the hospital, but I will be tweeting my labor & will announce her birth on Twitter & Facebook as soon as possible.

Right now, I'm going to lay down and try to get some rest...if I wasn't so STINKING EXCITED, maybe I could sleep a little. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Think She's Stuck

People, I am one day overdue. One short day past my due date. And you would not believe how much sorry-feeling-for-myself such a simple, silly fact like that can bring on in my muddled emotions.

This is not what I had planned. My first contraction (Tuesday night) would have been, in my own plans, the beginning of a 24-hour-or-less labor. My daughter would have been in my arms many hours and days ago. My parents would be taking care of my son and my house while I take care of my daughter.

Instead, here we all sit. Watching Zachary play. Wondering if our baby girl will ever decide to make her entrance. Fielding calls from family and friends wondering if they 'missed the big news'. I know it's dumb, but it feels just a teensy bit hopeless today, now that my 'due date' has passed, I guess I feel like there are no more deadlines on her (not that there truly ever were). I feel like she'll never come now. Plus, I haven't had any big contractions last night or today, so that fact doesn't help.

Friends have been so encouraging on Facebook, and Twitter, and I know others who have gone much farther past their due dates, and are much more uncomfortable than I. And I know others who are grieving losses this week, as I should be rejoicing in the fact that I am still plumply pregnant with a healthy baby girl.

I know my feelings are wrong, but still I feel them. Time to pour them out to God, and let Him heal me, and remind me that all is under His control, and in His time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tot School

We had a great tot school week this week, lots of fun & educational play, plus we had about two feet of snow (rather normal for the western NY snow belt), so we got to play outside and learn how to make snowballs this week as well. And Z will tell you the story of how he lost his boot in the snow if you ask him (the poor thing had no socks on, so his bare foot was in the snow while his 39-week pregnant mom took her sweet time waddling over to rescue him).

Anyhow, to begin with this week, I promised I would share some of Z's (and my) favorite birthday presents!

The first one is LeapFrog's Fridge Phonics, I didn't get a great picture of the toy itself, but click on the link & you can see it up close & personal. Here is Z enjoying it - you put the letter in the sun & it sings the song I shared last week (to the tune of Farmer in the Dell) about the sound or sounds the letter makes. It also sings the alphabet song. Ad nauseum, if your child continues to push the button. :)

Here's Z, gleefully pushing the button. Hearing him sing along to the alphabet song is hilarious, his version always goes something like, "Z, K, T, L, time, sing with me" :)

Another great toy that I was planning to buy for him, so I was thrilled when he received one, is a classic shape sorter. He loves 'playing shapes', and is getting pretty good at all of them, except pentagon & hexagon give him a run for his money. :)

Also, hearing him say 'pentagon' and 'hexagon' is pretty much totally adorable. :)

We made salt dough Christmas ornaments this week. I got the recipe for the dough here, and it was pretty easy to work with. I would definitely use it again. Here is Zachary cutting out some ornaments - he LOVES using cookie cutters, so he had a great time with this part. :)

I didn't get any pictures of them before or after they were baking, not sure why, but some of them turned out kind of puffy and weird. I may have rolled them too thick. Also, I completely forgot to punch holes in them, I mean, they ARE ornaments and I ended up having to hot glue some ribbons on them for hangers, a little extra effort, but it worked out just fine.

Anyway, the next step was painting the ornaments. Z loves painting, but for some reason, he wasn't overly interested in it this day.

He was more interested in painting on his tray, so we did a few together (mostly me), and then gave up. :)

Here are the ornaments we painted:

And though Z was reluctant to paint them, he LOVED hanging them on the tree. He loves seeing the projects we've done hanging around the house, it really thrills him. :) He was pretty excited to show them to Daddy when he got home, too.

We made cake balls this week, together, which was a lot of fun. You can get to the recipe by clicking the link. Here's Z crumbling up the cake with me. :)

And here is the finished product:

We also made candy canes this week, courtesy of No Time for Flashcards. She started with painting a candy cane on brown paper, but I just started with a red paper candy cane.

I let Z use some glue...

and stick on some cotton balls for the stripes.

This project was absolutely perfect for his attention span and craft level. He often gets bored with longer crafts & I end up finishing them myself, so I was excited to find something that was just right for him. :)

So, we had lots of fun with tot school activities this week, but we were also able to take time to relax as a family (always important)! Z should be meeting his little sister some time in the next week (I HOPE!), so we will have some fun pictures to post of that soon!!!

For more Tot School ideas, head over to 1+1+1=1!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cake Balls

So, after you've finished carving your tractor cake, you're going to have a bunch of leftover cake.

And possibly some leftover frosting, am I right?

And we wouldn't want that all to go to waste, right? So here's the perfect recipe to use it up, and make some delicious treats in the process! This recipe is completely not mine, it is totally stolen from Bakerella, who is amazing. If you've never visited her blog, it is a real treat - every one of her pictures is beautiful, and she gives easy step-by-step directions for every gorgeous confection she comes up with. Anyhow, she makes these great treats called Cake Balls (and cake pops, which is what I set out to make, but I couldn't find any sucker sticks).

So, the first step is to crumble your leftover cake into crumbs in your bowl:

Elmo placemats and an adorable helper are completely optional.

Next, you combine the cake crumbs with the frosting, at a ratio of one box of cake mix to one tub of frosting. I estimated that we had about 2/3 of a box of cake mix worth of cake left over, so we started with about 2/3 of a tub of frosting, and mixed them together, with our hands.

Then you form the mixture into balls & put them in the fridge for a while. Please ignore my nasty old cookie sheet.

After you let them cool for a while, then you can cover them with candy melts or just melted chocolate chips or whatever you have on hand. I covered some with peanut butter chips, and they taste delicious, but don't look so great. So then I switched to milk chocolate, and finished up with semi-sweet chocolate chips, just for variety. :) And here is the finished product:

This was actually a really easy and fun recipe to make, and the truffles/cake balls turned out really well. Hubby says they taste like brownies. :) They would be really cute to give as gifts - Bakerella puts them in mini-muffin cups, or in a little box like a box of chocolates and they're super cute! :)

When you're done, make sure to take some time to put your feet up and relax! :) Here's a favorite picture from today - Z loves to put his hands behind his head like this when he's relaxing with Daddy. :) He also says, "dis is cozy" when they're under the blanket together. :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tractor Cake

A few days ago, I posted about the tractor cake that I made for Zachary's 2nd birthday. A few people commented on it, on here and on Facebook, so I thought I'd post about how I made it.

I enjoy decorating cakes, it would be fun to do as a hobby someday, but I am by no means an expert, or even very good at it. I was happy with how the tractor turned out in spite of my decorator shortcomings. :)

I started by looking for patterns online. The best site I found was here, Coolest-Birthday-Cakes. They had all kinds of different tractor cakes, so I looked through all of them to see what kind of cake I wanted to make. After last year's attempt at a stacked cake (which was supposed to look like a block), I knew I didn't want to try a sculpted/stacked cake again, just a flat cake. I also knew that it had to be a John Deere tractor, because my dad has worked at John Deere for longer than I've been alive, and I knew he would appreciate that. :)

So I figured out from some of the pictures on the Coolest Birthday Cakes website what I wanted my tractor to look like, and I carved it out of two 9x13 chocolate sheet cakes - one for the tractor, and one for the wagon. The big tractor wheel is also carved out of the tractor part of the cake.

I read a tip about adding a 'crumb coat' of frosting, thinned with water, all over the cake - then you leave it sit or put it in the fridge for a while & it hardens up & you can just decorate right over it, and not worry about crumbs in your icing. So here is the cake with the crumb coat:

It actually didn't work that well for me. I think I added too much water to the crumb coat, because crumbs still kept getting caught in the top layer of frosting.

Here are the other tractor wheels: They are made of three Oreos stacked on top of each other with frosting, and then coated in melted chocolate chips. (of course I made some extra, because, who wouldn't?) Also - I have no idea why this part is underlined - sorry!

I didn't take very good pictures of the next steps, but next I frosted the white cab, green tractor body, green wagon and brown big wheel, including all the sides, with a spatula. I also frosted the sides of the hay bales with a spatula, but left the top with just the crumb coat.

Then I piped the dark brown- stripes on the wheel, grill, JD, steering wheel, exhaust pipe, and stripe. Then I piped the edges of the tractor & wagon with green (star tip). Then I piped the hay bales with a larger 4-sided star tip, and finally I added the yellow finishing touches. I also 'glued' the small wheels onto the cake board with frosting.

So, again, here is the finished product: not professional by any means, but I was pretty happy with it. :) And Zachary liked it - he told everyone that the "cake looked like a twactor", so that made me happy. :)

So, go for it! If I can do it, you all CERTAINLY can! :)