Thursday, September 25, 2014

Picture of the Week - 9/25/2014

The last week of September is SUCH a special week for me.  It's may be my favorite week of the whole year.  (Christmas week might trump it...)  I love late September!  The weather starts to cool off, we have football to watch, the boys are settled into their new school routines, and I get to celebrate my babies.  I've spent several late Septembers pregnant - 3 of them very much so.  It's such a fun time of year!
In a few short days, I will be mom to a 12 year old and a 5 year old.  WOW!  Can you believe Zane is FIVE?  Where has the time gone? 
I love the age 5.  Adore it!  It's one of my favorite stages (at least so far).  At least with my boys, when they get near that 5 year old milestone all sorts of things start changing.  They become big boys in many, many ways!  It's fascinating to experience.
Zane is pretty awesome.  He's in a super sponge phase right now.  He's soaking in everything and seems to love learning just to learn.  It's kind of refreshing after dealing with elementary school homework and projects and all that stuff.  Zane delights in working on his worksheets and getting star stickers from his teachers.  He's learning to read.  I LOVE that!  He's sounding out words and trying to put it all together.  So sweet and innocent! 
We got him started in sports this year.  Our soccer experience was kind of a train wreck, but that didn't prevent Zane from having a blast.  Right now he's playing flag football.  He has no idea what's going on or where he should be or what to do.  He requires a TON of guidance from the coaches.  (God bless people who willingly coach 4-6 year olds!)  But even though he isn't always sure of himself, he's having SO much fun!  I love to watch him get so excited that he does a little jump or pumps his arms over his head.  And it melts my heart when he looks to the sidelines to give a little wave!
Zane is a little timid and can be pretty shy.  He's not an outgoing kid.  He's not the first one to jump into new situations.  He's quiet and somewhat calculating.  He really thrives on order and consistency and routine.  That's all OK!  I understand him because I am exactly the same way.  I am not my best in new situations where I'm not sure what to expect.  Despite the fact that Zane could be considered shy, he still has lots of friends and talks them all the time.  It's pretty fun to watch his friendships develop and hear how he's working through all the new social interactions. 
I think Zane will have lots of friends as he grows up because he's got a vivid imagination which makes him really fun to play with.  I adore listening to my two little guys play together.  They come up with some super fantastic storylines.  This kind of play is not something the big boys ever really did.  It's unique to the little guys and I credit Zane.  He lives a lot of life inside his head.  My job is going to be helping him figure out how to get out of his head and share with the world, because he's got many gifts that he can share. 
Zane is such an important part of our family that it's hard to imagine what things would look like without him.  (For one thing he raises our "beauty quotient" a great deal!)  He's gotten to the point where he's not the most demanding - of time or energy or food or things.  It would be kind of easy for us to overlook him from time to time as we race around.  I want to make sure we are stopping to celebrate the fact that he can get himself dressed now.  To applaud the stick figures standing in front of the house he drew depicting each member of our family sized relative to each other.  I want to stop and let him put his arms around my neck and hug me for as long as it takes for him to wake up in the mornings.  I want to stop each night as he gets ready for bed and climb up his bunk bed ladder with him to snuggle and shower him with kisses while I listen to him giggle. 
I want to celebrate Zane.  Not just on his 5th birthday, but every single day.  He is a gift that I will forever be grateful we get to enjoy every day.  My wish for him this year is that he continues to blossom in all the ways that are uniquely him.  I hope he finds joy and laughter in every single day.  And I hope he always remembers how much he is loved. 
This weekend we will celebrate many times in many ways!  Zane's party for his friends is tomorrow night (try finding a time for a birthday party with changing sports schedules on a busy weekend...) while Spencer and Quinn are at practice.  Saturday we have overlapping football and lacrosse games - so it's a divide and conquer kind of day - boo!  Spencer is letting us celebrate his special day with cupcakes after his game and has requested a quiet family dinner of Kentucky Hot Browns.  Sunday we will get to celebrate with cupcakes after Zane's game too.  And then finally on Monday we will be doing cupcakes with his class and a special family dinner at Chuck-E-Cheese (Zane's request).  Come Tuesday we will be a family with 12, 10, 5, and 2 year olds and will start the countdown to Beckett's birthday.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Picture of the Week - 9/18/2014

Spencer turns 12 next Saturday.  Wow! Hard to believe that I've had this parenting gig for 12 years already!
I know I'm a little early in starting his birthday celebrations, but with 2 Bovy boys celebrating birthdays next week, I thought I should get a head start. 
This has been quite the year for Spencer.  When I sat down to think about what I wanted to share about the last 12 months with him, the first thing that popped into my head is how much he's changed.  He's gone through a huge physical growth spurt.  He's probably put on 5" in the last year, and he delights in the fact that he's now taller than his "little mommy" (his words, not mine).  He's also put on some weight, but not proportional to the height.  He's in much better shape now than he was this time last year.
I credit a few things for his physical transformation.  The first is just timing.  He's an early bloomer just like I was.  He's going through puberty and the extra hormones have helped him to build muscles - and a mustache. 
In addition to a flood of testosterone spilling into his body, he's also done a whole season's worth of personal training.  It's pretty amazing how much some education on HOW to workout can help. 
Most of all, however, this physical change was spurred on by an underlying mental change.  Spencer is maturing.  He's growing up and starting to figure out what he wants.  He happened to "get to" go through a tough learning experience (that I will forever be thankful for) during last year's football season.  I know I've talked about it many times before, but the experience he had has forever (I hope) shaped him in such positive ways that I really can't help but beam with pride.  (Seriously...  I beam!)  He went into the Paladins situation thinking more of himself than he should.  He faced some hard realities and instead of giving up or throwing in the towel, he worked his a$$ off to try to get better.  And it worked.  And it was noticed.  And he earned the respect of the coaches, his teammates, and almost all the parents on the hill.  Bob and I didn't really need to say a word.  Unlike many parents, we have let Spencer's actions speak for themselves. 
To say I'm proud of how our oldest handled himself is a ginormous understatement.  He has taught me many lessons about handling disappointment with grace.  About committing to hard things.  About having the right goals and not letting the noise get in the way.  To this day he will tell you that he's playing football because he loves it.  He likes to play in the games, but that's not his number one goal.  His goal is to be better this year than he was last year.  Come on...  how can you not be impressed with that kind of attitude in a tweener???
Despite all the sports talk I force you to read week after week in these messages, we really aren't ALL about sports.  We do also pay attention to school too!  And Spencer's achievements in school are also pretty darn spectacular.  I don't want to be a big bragger, but he's worth bragging on for a bit.  Spence finished his time in Elementary school last spring and moved up to the middle school this year.  Based on his performance and test scores and his awesome mom (might have added one of those myself) he was placed into all advanced placement classes with one exception.  He didn't get into AP science, because he's in gifted science.  He's carrying a heavy load and early grades and signs lead me to believe he's going to finish this year with the same kind of success he's had in years past.  He's a bright kid.  Did I mention that I beam??
Spencer also decided that he wanted to be in the band and chose the tuba to play.  Bob's pretty excited about that!  If you ask Spence what he likes best about playing the tuba, he'll tell you that it's the fact that he doesn't have to carry his instrument back and forth every day.  He's very practical! 
I can't wait to see what comes next for Spencer.  He's a joy to parent and we really couldn't be luckier to have him as our oldest.  He's done a great job easing us into all the trials and tribulations of being a parent.  And I can't even imagine a better role model for his little brothers.  Spencer regularly gets on the floor to play with them or hoists one of them up and over a shoulder to carry around.  He's an excellent wrestling partner and a first class protector.  He also shows a pretty amazing level of patience when dealing with the little boys.  He's methods are pretty unusual, but they are also highly effective.  I think it's pretty safe to say that his little brothers look up to him in just about every way possible. 
I wish Spencer the happiest of birthdays.  I can't wait to see what awesome things he accomplishes this year.  I can't wait to witness the growth and delight in the young man that he's becoming.  I'm so very blessed to be him mom! 
PS - This weekend we have 2 lacrosse games, a football game and a flag football game, AND a visit from Grandpa Bob and Grandma Phyllis who are coming to watch the boys play and celebrate some birthdays - including theirs!  We are looking forward to a fun, chaotic, exhausting weekend. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Celestial Star QAL - Quilting

I have often chuckled to myself about the fact that when most people talk about quilting, what they are really thinking is the piecing part that creates the quilt top.  I love the piecing part!

But my favorite is really the quilting - the actual act of sewing together the top and the back with some kind of batting in between.  I love the way quilting can change the look of the entire project.  And I especially love the fact that it's a nice quiet process.  Perfect for keeping my hands busy while I watch TV.

The quilting part is also TIME CONSUMING!!! 

I'm sure the time commitment part is why lots of people turn to machine quilting instead of doing the quilting by hand.  I've dabbled in machine quilting, but I'm not very good at it.  I need LOTS more practice before I would consider attempting machine quilting on a quilt top as awesome as this Celestial Star top. 

So I decided to hand quilt - even if it means I'll (very likely) miss the deadline to finish as part of this Quilt-a-long.  I love this quilt and I don't want a deadline to change my plans for it. 

Here's my finished quilt top all pieced together.  Somehow I didn't get a picture of the back, so that will have to be a surprise.  :) 

At this point I still wasn't sure how I wanted to quilt this, but I knew that I needed to get it all basted together before I could do anything.  I really don't love the basting process.  I have messed up a few little mini quilts recently because my back has shifted during the basting process.  So I turned to the internet and found a new technique that I decided to try in an attempt to try to get everything lined up and straight during the basting process.
This new technique started with taping some skewers to my table.  They are just simple/cheap skewers from the kitchen.

The idea here is to mark the center and then line up the center of each layer using these skewer bumps as a guide.  I really meant to take a picture of each step, but I got too into it and forgot. 

Here's a picture of the back and the batting ready to go.  (Note the super duper heavy duty clamps...  yeah - overkill!!!  I bought them online and they are way bigger than I thought they were going to be, but I did get a GREAT deal!)  Sorry that this is such a bad picture...  it's a phone pic...

Next I got the top laid out and started pinning.  I pinned a LOT more than I normally do because I have become paranoid about the layers slipping around.  This is actually the first time I've ever used pins on a quilt that I was going to hand quilt.  Honestly, not sure I'll do it again...  the pins have gotten in the way a good bit as I've worked on this quilt.  But they were faster than thread basting...  I think.
Here's the top in the middle of the pinning process.

Somewhere along the line I decided (maybe by default) that I wanted to do echo lines around each of the stars to fill up the background.  In hindsight, I could have chosen a WAY faster design. 
I love the fact that I managed to get this ready for quilting at the same time football season started.  I love football and I know I will spend many games watching and sewing with this on my lap over the coming weeks!  Here's the start of the quilting. 
I use a wooden hoop that is attached to a base.  I love that hoop!  It allows the quilt to sit up off my lap without me having to hold it the whole time.  I'm not sure I could hand quilt without a hoop like this.  It's one of my most highly prized (craft-related) possessions.  

Here's picture of some progress and another that shows a whole area finished.  I currently have 2 of the 6 "middle spots" quilted and a few of the edge sections.  I'd say I'm probably about a 1/3 of the way done with the background quilting. 

I love the texture I'm getting with this design.  Nothing better than running your hand across a nice bubbly quilt top!!

I think the quilting of the actual stars will go much faster.  I'm not going to do anything to take away from the designs, so I'll probably just add some in the ditch quilting or maybe a few highlights.  I'm planning on finishing the background before I settle on the star designs.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Picture of the Week - 9/11/2014

I will kick off this week's email with a statement that I consider to be the most important thing I will say all day.
You all know what it means.  You all will remember in your own way.  We all stand together as Americans in remembrance.
Soooo...  what are you up to these days?  For us it's, school work and housework and work work and sports.  Oh, are you tired of listening to me talk about sports?  Too bad...  cause we are in the thick of it and I'm gonna talk about it - probably a lot - for the next few months, scratch that...  it's likely more like the next many years...
This weekend we have first regular season games for both Quinn and Spencer.  I'm most excited that they do not overlap and we will all get to see both of them.  Yay!  I'm also excited to see some lacrosse.  Since Bob is coaching lacrosse this fall he's had to go to all the lax practices while I've been at football or home with the LBs.  I have yet to see Quinn play and that makes me sad.  Also, lacrosse is just fun!
I'm also excited/nervous to see the football game.  I *think* Spencer will play much more than he did last year.  I *hope* he has done enough to start.  I really have no idea though.  What I do know is that regardless of his game-time playing minutes, I'm already more proud of that child than I could probably ever say.  I know I've talked about this before, but I'm continued to be blown away by the changes in him. 
Stay tuned...  I'll give everyone an update on game results next week - or watch Facebook!
We ALSO got to start Zane's flag football season this past week, so we'll get to watch a flag football game this weekend too.  You guys, I had forgotten just how ADORABLE little kids playing sports are.  I mean - SUPER ADORABLE!  I know there were some first time parents there who were probably taking things way more seriously than me, but I just couldn't stop smiling and laughing.  Zane had no idea what he was doing.  The coaches, God Bless them, had to move him and position him and remind him and prod him the entire time.  He's 4 and playing with 4, 5, and 6 year olds.  I think (just from watching) there's only one other kid who hasn't played before.  I know he'll get it and I have no need to worry about the fact that Quinn was referring to him as a "statue" by the end of the game.  LOL  I soaked in the experience and relished every time he looked up at us and waved with his fruit punch flavored mouth piece hanging out of his mouth.  It was such a cute experience!
I had a conversation related to this very recently and I know I've talked about this before.  But it's worth repeating.  I consider myself to be more blessed than I deserve to be able to experience all of these childhood moments all over again.  Without the little guys, my days of first time games and wide eyed wonder and nervous hops would probably be over.  I have perspective now that I didn't have the first time around.  It makes this whole journey way more fun.  I can tell you from very personal experience that there are a million things that I didn't stop and appreciate when the big guys were little.  And now, I consider it my privilege to get to do it all again!
Well maybe except for the homework part...  that still sucks!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Picture of the Week - 9/4/2014

Busy days at work + busy evenings at home + nothing super exciting going on = not too many interesting pictures to share
So...  instead of stressing out to come up with something witty (when really I just need a nap) I'll simply share this sweet little picture with you from football practice the other night.  The little boys were with me because Bob has decided to help coach Quinn's lacrosse team.  Luckily for us all the weather was pretty nice and they were both in a GREAT mood.  They played SO well together! 
Spencer's team is in the far background, not right on the other side of the fence.
Have a great week everyone!  I will try harder for a better post next week!