Sunday, May 31, 2009

What 13 Looks Like...

13 can be a lot of things.



It can be confident,



competent,



pensive,



not too sophisticated to show your playful side,

and a lot like Dad.




A lot like Dad.



Happy 13th birthday, Brian, and many happy returns!










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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Recent Twin Pictures

We still don't think they look very much alike, but there are many who can't tell them apart. I think that it is mostly a matter of not bothering to take the time to pay attention to the differences. At this point, they will correct you decisively if you get them mixed up, although I don't know how long we have left until they figure out that they can pull one over on us.


After 2-and-a-half years, I've finally decided in favor of dressing them alike. At first it was simply a question of maintaining their individuality versus intensifying their traffic-stopping cuteness.




Now that they've begun to run away from us in public, dressing them alike becomes a safety feature. This way, when one of them disappears, we can say, "My child is missing! She looks just like THIS!" and hold up the other one as an example.


I'm only half-kidding.


"Run away? US?"





The twins, from top to bottom:
Noelle, Natalie
Natalie, Noelle,
Natalie, Noelle
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

100th Post

On the occasion of my 100th post, I present to you our firstborn, Sarah, who graduated from high school this very evening.












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Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Weekend in Review

Today I celebrate my birthday, surrounded by my favorite people in the world...

...most of them, anyway. My dh had to work night shift, so I didn't see too much of him, but we're spending the whole day together tomorrow. The oldest two were also at work. :-(

As a birthday surprise, the camo kid above decided to make my birthday cake. Tradition has it that mom usually makes her own cake, due to husband's work schedule and kids' ability level. He chose a dark chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. He was so sweet and proud of his accomplishment, especially since it turned out de-li-cious! He even cleaned up every bit of it himself, INCLUDING the dishes afterward!


The angry cake.


I know this isn't such a flattering picture of me, but I decided to swallow my vanity and post it anyway, just to show all the eager help I had blowing out the candles. There were a LOT of candles.


Brian's surgery was quick, successful and uneventful. He wasn't too pleased with the anesthesia, and had some pretty funky "dreams" as he was going under. He spent about an hour in the operating room, and hour in recovery and an hour in post-op, where I was allowed to see him. At first he looked really dopey, but by the time he was discharged he was starving for a double cheeseburger. Ah, to be young, resilient and invincible...




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Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's been boring around here lately...UPDATED

Sunday, May 17

I was starting to get antsy, since we hadn't been to the emergency room since August. But Brian was kind enough to provide a reason to return. Thanks, Brian! You're a real pal!

Brian, Scott and Josh were having a bike ride. The front bolt on Brian's bike tire was apparently loose. Brian tried to go up on a curb, and the whole tire came off. He broke his left arm in two places, but otherwise he's unhurt. The swelling was severe - it turned green and purple right away, and the swelling was, like, an inch high. He was calm enough by the time I saw him at the hospital.

The thing that most upset him
is that he'll probably be in a cast for 8 weeks, which leaves the summer swim season out of the question. He's quite depressed about that, but I'm hoping he'll assist as coach. We're also worried about his prospects for football season this year. This is all speculation at this point; it depends on what the ortho has to say. We'll know in a few days.

One other semi-exciting (in an alarming and disturbing kind of way) event was that I lost vision in my left eye last week. There I was, trying not to panic, praying, wondering if I might be having a stroke, imagining the "rest of my life" without vision in one, or worse, both eyes. Blind in one eye = no more driving. How will I get along if I can't shuttle all these kids around? What if it happens in both eyes? How will I know if my hair looks alright, if the kids tidied up the living room, if they've improved their cursive? Vision is something that I take completely for granted, as a given. I can totally imagine myself holing up in a darkened room for the next 10 years, depressed over losing my sight.

Oh - what happened with my left eye, you want to know? Well, it wasn't totally blind. It was more like a window shade was pulled down inside. I could still see the where the sources of light were, but only very dimly. After about 3o minutes, the vision returned. I don't remember if it was all at once or gradually. The eye doctor couldn't find any evidence of damage or disease, but I have to see my regular doctor this week and she'll probably refer me to an eye specialist.

And so it begins.




UPDATE TUESDAY, MAY 19

Brian's arm is broken in an awkward and unstable place, and it needs to be reset. They are going to fix him up on Friday May 22, when they'll put him under general anesthesia, reset the bone and insert a pin. He's going to get a blue cast, because that's the color his little sister Noelle wants him to get. How sweet is that?

He's definitely out for the swim season, and will be sporting a cast when he goes to the beach for a week in June with friends. Boooo. He's very scared about the surgery, and very down about everything else, especially since he's the lone left-hander in the Stefo Crew. I keep referring him to one of my favorite verses for comfort: Romans 8:28.

As for my eye, a trip to my family doctor produced nothing definitive. I will be seeing a neurological opthalmologist next. I feel confident that it was just a fluke caused by me constricting a blood vessel by the way I was lying, watching tv. But I keep checking the vision in both eyes, just to be sure!



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U.S. Army Heritage Day

This was a great weekend!

On Friday, we were supposed to attend a free educational symphonic concert in the state capitol, but a traffic jam kept us from arriving on time. Rather than entering late, we opted to skip the exit and move on to Plan B. We drove past this awesome-looking outdoor military museum that we're always too busy to visit, and since we suddenly found ourselves with a few unclaimed hours on a gorgeous morning, we decided spontaneously and unanimously to check it out.

It was terrific - no twins, no pressure, we were free to explore... I didn't have a camera on hand, but let me just say that it was a paradise for any kid (like mine) who thinks the army is mad awesome cool. Helicopters, tanks, pillboxes, redoubts, trenches, barracks, watchtowers, cannons, guns, guns, guns and more guns. All hands-on, all interactive. I can't tell you the last time everybody was interested, nobody fought, nobody whined, nobody wanted to leave (mom included), etc..... you get the picture.

To sweeten the deal, in honor of U.S. Armed Forces Day (which was Saturday, not that I knew in advance), a special day honoring the army throughout American History was planned - think "Renaissance Faire" in camo. So in addition to the regular attractions, the place was starting to fill up with re-enactors. We were priviliged to speak with a tentful of frontiersman from the French & Indian War, a colonial American dressmaker, and an encampment of WW2 German officers, with the promise of countless more re-enactors the next day from every era from the 1750s to the present.

Even though gas money is getting short AND it's a three hour round trip AND we'd be making the trip twice in two days AND our dear husband and father had night shift on Saturday, it was decided that we absolutely could not miss Saturday's event.

And indeed we did not.



My camo kids racing across the parking lot.
They deliberately planned the most appropriate wardrobe for this outing.

Overall, I haven't ever seen this much camo in one place before...



Peering through a sandbag parapet (or so they tell me...)


Observing and interacting with new WW2 "inductees"
assembling and disassembling their rifles.

The twins' new favorite thing is "jeeps."
The delight in those cheesy grins is evident...


Theresa in the pan-denominational chapel


Theresa and Clare interacting with a colonial
and his selection of 18th century toys

This guy had that wooden top spinning for over 4 minutes.
It would have kept going if it hadn't edged off the platform...



Clare, in the WW2 base camp, inspecting a foot locker,
replete with supplies (and girly pinups)


This was a priceless collection of genuine artifacts, even an actual roll of 1942 Life Savers.
Here Clare is holding an Army-issued box of shells.

Let's go back to the twins for a second. I worry that I don't write about them enough.
This picture shows the biggest difference between the twins - their hairlines. Natalie, in the background, has two dramatic cowlicks above her right eye, and her hair always parts sweetly on her right and falls smoothly away from her face. Noelle, in the foreground, usually has hair stuck to falling in her face. Lately, her hair seems to be parting more regularly on the left side, which lends weight to my theory that they might be mirror twins, especially given that Noelle is tending toward right-handedness, while Natalie uses her left hand most often, especially whenever she scribbles on the walls eats.

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Girls' Portrait Colorized Version

In the original version, only the flowers and the pink ribbons were colorized. I tried my hand at making a color "pop" using a ridiculously-priced version of Photoshop (I used the free trial, not the full version). It was tedious, but not too difficult.



Now if I only had the $600 to buy the full version...


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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Theresa, the Troll

Theresa is five.

She's a ball of energy, constantly dancing around, forever hamming it up, always singing and humming.

She dresses in ballgowns to pose and pirouette, then later crashes through the house and yard playing the Corporal in her big brothers' war games.

She wears tank tops and shorts when it's chilly and rainy, and turtlenecks and sweatpants in August.

She eats mayonnaise with a spoon, and cheers when I buy cottage cheese at the grocery store.

More than anything else, she wants a pet, preferably a real horse.

She's determined and resourceful, smart and silly and sweet.

She's also a Troll.

I guess to be fair I should also mention that her other nickname is Cookie, because she's a Tough one and a Smart one. She's a problem-solver who won't stop until she gets what she wants, and when she takes a tumble, most often she bounces up with a cheerful "I'm okay!"

She will deny vehemently that she is a troll. She, in fact, is a princess - or a queen (or a kitten), depending on the day. But she is legendary in our family for making troll faces, grunts and growls. Having her poker-straight hair hanging in her face at all times doesn't help the situation. She's been a RaggMopp from the beginning, though, so I really should be used to it by now.

We've been growing out her bangs for almost a year, but the problem is that Theresa's hair (or Theresa) doesn't grow very fast. I've probably cut 8 inches off of Brian's hair in the last 10 months, but Theresa's has only grown from eye-level down to lip-level.

Theresa will meticulously groom her hair on those days when she is a princess or a queen. but catch her in between, and you won't be able to tell if she's looking at you or not. On those in-between days, Theresa does not know the meaning of the words brush, comb, barrette, clip, spray or gel. I present Exhibit A. This is what we usually see when we look at Theresa:

Click to play this Smilebox postcard: RAGGMOPP


Nota bene: Our camera has been temperamental lately; well, in fact it's been cranky since our 2007 beach trip, when sand got into the zoom lens mechanism. Sometimes it just won't even turn on, and that's what's been happening lately. Bottom line - none of those pictures are current. They're mostly from last winter, which means that her hair is really two inches longer now than it appears in these pictures.



This picture is only a few days old. You can plainly see what I'm talkin' about here.


Imagine my surprise when the Spring portraits were delivered, and I discovered that Theresa is actually a pretty little girl with a face! Who knew?

The professional portraits were worth every penny just to see this sweet face:
Click to play this Smilebox postcard: Theresa


She cleans up so nice. Simply lovely; she makes my breath catch in my throat. I can see the lovely woman she's going to become.




Even so, she still acted like a troll the day the pictures were taken.




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Sunday, May 3, 2009

My Girls

I present the fruits of the latest visit to a professional portrait studio. The pictures ought to be clickable so you can jump to a full size version. Just hit the back arrow or button when you're done.


Theresa, Natalie, Noelle & Clare







Natalie, Clare, Theresa, Noelle



Again, another nerve-wracking exercise in frustration. Clare & Theresa were happy and mostly cooperative, but Natalie and Noelle were both overtired and sick - watery eyes, runny noses, sneezes, coughs. Noelle even had mysterious red spots on her belly. Once again, those lukewarm, semi-pleasant faces were the best we could manage.

I know I keep saying this, but I think this was our last professional photo session.

Until the next one.
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Clare's First Holy Communion








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Prom #2

Once again, I present my oldest two offspring as they prepared for their high school prom. This is most likely to be my daughter's final prom, since Sarah is a senior. Scott is a sophomore.







Scott and Rebecca

Sarah and Alex

I am so glad that full skirts are making a comeback. Those slinky, cut-out dresses of the 90s just weren't my thing.






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All for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, all through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, all in union with Saint Joseph