Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hello, Growth Spurt!

This kid must be going through a serious growth spurt.  He's been napping 4+ hours each day, in addition to sleeping 12 uninterrupted hours each night this week.  Jack's also had a voracious appetite.  He's eaten multiple bowls of pasta, entire bean and cheese burritos, whole oranges and bananas, and chicken and dumplings. 

Jesse and I took advantage of the free Ikea breakfast on Monday morning.  This kid ate eggs, bacon and potatoes, then walked around Ikea like he owned the place. 

We had to put him in the cart once he arrived downstairs because there were too many items at his level that he could break. 

Jackson's also been excessively clingy around me.  He literally walks around while pulling on my pants and crying if I don't pick him up.  His overall demeanor is still very happy, he just needs extra lovin' from his Mommy. 

The last Jack update is he's had yet another tooth break through!  His lower canine came in, which is his13th tooth.  Based on how swollen his gum is on the other side, I suspect the 14th tooth is on it's way.  At nearly 15 months old, the only teeth that haven't come in yet are his upper two canine teeth and his second molars.  Clearly, we don't anticipate his second molars anytime soon, but he's been way ahead of average schedule. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Comfort Food

Growing up, I learned that chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven were equivalent to the strongest pain medication available.  While I am fully aware that this belief of healing power in comfort foods has done me no favors in regards to my weight or health, the notion is fully ingrained in my mind.  So, what do I do when my father-in-law has surgery on both wrists?  Bake him his favorite pound cake, of course!

Jesse and I brought barbecue over Friday evening after his dad's surgery.  I wasn't feeling well and it was getting late so we didn't stay long.  We came back on Sunday afternoon to deliver the cake and visit.  It was perfect timing because the whole family ended up coming over.  We had our choice of homemade pimento cheese or egg salad sandwiches before dessert.  Every good Southerner knows the best way to eat pound cake is with fresh peaches and ice cream.

Jackson and his cousin, Levi, wait in line for their MiMi to feed them.

It was another great evening spent with family.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wedding Cake!

Here is a photo of our wedding cake.   (Sidenote: It will be five years in October since Jesse and I got married!)  It's a simple 3-tier chocolate mocha wedding cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.  The only decorations are textured sides (applied by a decorator's comb) and rose petals.  I checked my wedding receipts last night and confirmed the price Jesse and I paid--$404! 

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My brother asked me a few months ago if I would make a wedding cake for he and his soon-to-be wife's reception.  I really wanted to say no, but I knew it was something I was capable of doing well and a way I could contribute.

My goal was to create a 3-tier cake with a textured look and flowers, much like my own wedding cake but significantly cheaper.  The reception theme was John Deere, but I wanted to keep it elegant.  After lots of surfing the web, I found inspiration from this John Deere cake and this simple cake with flowers.  I really knew nothing about wedding cake construction but I knew I didn't like the look of pillars in between each tier.  After watching a series of Epicurious videos, I learned how to center tiers and stack using dowel rods.  Each tier was two layers, baked in 6 inch, 9 inch, and 12 inch pans. The bottom layer was chocolate buttermilk; the top two layers were vanilla.  The frosting was a basic vanilla buttercream.

My budget was $50.  A.C. Moore allows you to print coupons for 40% off one item each day, so I bought 1-2 things per day.  In addition to the daily coupons, they also offer 15% discount for teachers who show their ID.  I purchased a 12-inch pan, cake leveler, green and yellow ribbon, corrugated cake rounds, the cake topper, and a cake lifter.  I bought all of the ingredients at Wal Mart and yellow daisies at Harris Teeter.  The final total was $54. 

I had planned to take pictures of the whole process, but I somehow got the entire date wrong for the reception!  For whatever reason, I thought I was supposed to be there at noon on Sunday, but the event was on Saturday.  Thank God I had baked, wrapped, and frozen each layer the night before.  I literally had an hour and a half to whip up a mega-batch of icing, then assemble, frost, and decorate the cake. 

My biggest concern was how to transport the cake in the car for an hour in the summer.  Each layer was completely frozen when I frosted it, so it stayed chilled despite the heat.  I was a bit frantic once I realized my mix-up with the day. I haphazardly grabbed the recycling bin from the garage.  I tossed everything out of it and rinsed it off with a hose pipe, then stuffed a towel in the bottom.  Miraculously, it was a perfect fit and the cake transported flawlessly!

As far as decorating goes, the lack of time kept me from over analyzing or trying to add too much.  I frosted it intentionally messy.  I followed the tips from the online videos to stack each tier correctly (center each layer and add support).  I took the ribbon and gently pressed it along the bottom of each layer so that it would have a nice finish with a pop of green and yellow.  (Technically, I should have ironed on wax paper to the back of the ribbon to prevent grease stains, but I didn't have time.)  Finally, I randomly placed the daisies along the sides and inserted the cake topper. 

Here is the final set-up at the reception:

I can see many imperfections in the cake, but I am still very proud.  It turned out better than I expected and it was actually easier than a lot of the birthday cakes I have made.  I don't know anyone getting married, but I could definitely make a simple wedding cake like this in the future (especially now that I have the tools).  For now, I am relieved that it's over.  I can resume my love of baking without any pressure.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wedding Weekend: Bonnie's Perspective

Since I had a workday on Friday, I packed my bags the night before.  Jesse got everything else ready and we were on the road by 2 p.m.  The wedding was held at a winery that also had several cabins on site.  The bride's parents generously allowed us to stay in their cabin.  We had our own bathroom and spacious bedroom.  I was curious how Jackson would sleep since he's never slept in a pack-n-play.  Though it took a while for him to settle down, Jackson slept peacefully the entire night.

The only thing I would have changed about the weekend was waking up every hour to these guys staring down at me:

The bridesmaids were kept very busy throughout the weekend!  Friday night's agenda included the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, ice cream social for out-of-town guests, and bachelorette bonfire.  Saturday's itinerary included getting a manicure and pedicure, bridal luncheon (yummy salmon BLT), and getting ready (hair, make-up, dress) before the photographer arrived.  The photographer had us doing some interesting poses such as sitting on the ground, jumping in the air, playing tug-of-war with the groomsmen, and carrying the groom.

The outdoor wedding ceremony was simple and beautiful.  I tried to get a nice family photo at the reception but I waited to late.  My feet aching required flip flops and Jackson's exhaustion eliminated his smiles.

My favorite part of the reception was the father-daughter dance.  They danced to Heartland's I Loved Her First.  It was so very sweet!   

Both the bride and groom were such great hosts and didn't show the slightest level of stress.  Everyone seemed to have a genuinely good time at the reception.  Here is the groom with his new, enthusiastic siblings:

The newlyweds made their exit through an arch of sparklers and the wedding party began cleaning up.  Jesse and Jackson were already in bed by this point, so I tip-toed back in the cabin and scrubbed my make-up off.  Despite a busy schedule, everything went flawlessly.  Hooray for old friends, celebrating true love, dressing up, and wine!

Wedding Weekend: Jesse's Perspective

Since Bonnie was otherwise occupied with her bridesmaid duties all weekend, that left lots of time for Jackson and I to spend together. We spent some time in the cabin. Jackson walked and climbed around the fireplace. That certainly wasn't toddler-proofed, but he managed to avoid busting his head open.
Our cabin

We watched Ellen's wedding rehearsal on Friday evening. Jackson desperately wanted to walk around indpendently, but there was not a square inch of flat ground. I held his hand and helped him walk down to the lake where we were attacked by bugs.
Watching rehearsal

Bonnie was busy all day Saturday which gave us some time to ride up to Mt. Airy and take in all the Mayberry good times. One of my favorite shows has always been the Andy Griffith Show. I have  seen every episode many times so I wanted to make a pilgrimage to Andy's hometown since we were close.

Jackson and I walked around Main Street. I bought Jackson a little teeshirt with Barney Fife on it. We went to the Andy Griffith Museum. However, the highlight of this trip was eating at Snappy Lunch. This was the first Mt. Airy landmark ever mentioned on the Andy Griffith Show. They are famous for pork chop sandwiches, so that's what I had. I wouldn't say it was life changing, but I wouldn't say it wasn't.
Pork chop sandwich

There was also a wedding and reception.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day

Jesse celebrated this Father's Day in a log cabin in Elkin, NC.  We spent the weekend at a vineyard celebrating the wedding of one of my best friends.  Here is a cute shot of my two boys at the reception.  

I wasn't sure how to make Jesse feel special since we were out of town.  It was easy to get pictures and a gift together last year because Jesse was working and I was on maternity leave.  However, there were very few opportunities this year to make anything without Jesse knowing about it.  I managed to put together a collage for his teacher desk next year in the Walgreen's parking lot.   We stopped for breakfast at Cracker Barrel on the way home.

Once home we immediately took a nap.  Unfortunately, I settled in for what became a four hour nap.  When I woke up, Jackson was in his crib and Jesse was at work.  While Jesse was at work Jackson and I purchased the key ingredients for a pineapple upside down cake.  Jesse has been requesting a pineapple upside down cake ever since my nephew requested a pineapple cake last September.  The recipe said to make it in a cast iron skillet, but I thought it would look nicer and serve better as individual cakes instead.  Ta da!

Overall, I'm not sure it was a very memorable Father's Day, but I hope Jesse felt appreciated.  I admire him for making numerous sacrifices to "stay home" and still provide for his family.  We have had to be very flexible to do what we thought was best for Jackson in his first year of life.  Jesse has proven to be a selfless father and I can't wait for future children and future Father's Days.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cake Doctor

A month or two ago I made this impulse purchase at Sam's: 

The Cake Doctor happened to catch my eye and I got excited!  Each recipe uses a standard cake box mix as the foundation but calls for additional ingredients and different proportions of eggs, oil, and liquid.  I can make buttercream and cream cheese frostings in my sleep, but I wanted to enhance the overall taste of my cakes.

The first recipe I made was the chocolate buttermilk cake.  I made my favorite cream cheese frosting to go along with it.  The cake was for my oldest sister's birthday party.  I planned on dusting cocoa powder over a Happy Birthday stencil.  When I pulled the stencil off all of the frosting came with it.  After re-icing the cake, I tried again.  I didn't hold the stencil close enough to the cake and you couldn't read the writing.  I got pretty irritated and just dusted the whole top with cocoa and garnished the sides with fresh strawberries.  Oh well...

The following day was my sister's birthday lunch.  (Yes, we like celebrating birthdays that much.)  I made a classic yellow cake following a Cake Doctor recipe. I frosted and decorated with chocolate buttercream.  It was really easy and especially tasty!

That same night I tried a new recipe for strawberry cupcakes.  We had a 5th grade family potluck on our last workday and my teammates requested something with fresh strawberries.  The Cake Doctor recipe called for white cake mix, strawberry gelatin, minced strawberries, vanilla extract, eggs, oil, and milk.  The icing was a cream cheese frosting with pureed strawberries.  The consistency was very runny so I had to refrigerate it before piping it onto the cupcakes.  They were amazingly moist and tasted like a strawberry milkshake. 

The next stop on the cake baking frenzy is a pineapple upside down cake for Father's Day.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Faith Like a Child

We were working on a poetry unit the last two weeks of school.  Students had to write a sensory poem using figurative language.  During our guided writing, we wrote a sensory poem on soccer.  Soccer tastes like grass, smells like sweat, sounds like crowds cheering, etc.  We were debating how to complete the last line, "Soccer makes me feel_________."  One student completed the sentence by saying, "Happy when I win."  Another student said, "Angry when the ref gives a player a card."  Another said, "Disappointed if you lose."  One of my ESL students ended the conversation by simply stating, "No.  You win.  You lose.  Time out.  You always happy if you glorify God.  You praise God when you play.  You happy." 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

School's Out for the Summer

Here are some highlights from the final two weeks of school. 

I couldn't let one of my students leave without getting a picture of him swinging from trees.  We spent the first few months trying to stop him but around November we stopped fighting it and just let him climb.  He's from Vietnam and frequently tells me how he would climb to the top of trees and jump from one tree to the next.  He is also the fastest runner in the school, is constantly barefoot outside, and can jump over scary heights.  I love this kid and hope to get invited to his track meets.

We have 20 countries represented at our school.  Just in my homeroom class alone I have students from Thailand, Burma, Cuba, Nepal, Vietnam, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mexico, El Salvador, and the United States.  The ESL teachers organized an outstanding International Night to celebrate the cultures.  Families came dressed in traditional clothes and brought homemade food.  We served small portions of tamales, tacos, pastries, rice and beans, stews, curries, etc.  There were also crafts and exhibits from numerous countries and the families had a "passport" that was stamped at each station.  It was hands down my favorite school event.

The fifth grade safety patrol and recycling team went on an end of year field trip to an indoor water park. We all celebrated when this student played in the water.  This particular child is wheelchair bound due to severe cerebral palsy.  Unfortunately, his disability is not his greatest challenge.  The family is homeless and we have documented cases of neglect.  The child wears diapers and on more than one occasion he has come to school in the same diaper that his aid initialed at 3 p.m. the day before.  Despite the hardships, he is filled with joy.  There was an overwhelming sense of pride and love on all of our faces as we played together weightlessly.

One of my teammates lives in an apartment complex with a large pool.  She invited twelve girls to go swimming last Saturday.  The kids were dropped off at school and we drove 3-4 kids each to her apartment.  The girls had a blast.  Jackson also went, and the girls were so nurturing playing games with him and helping him swim.  (Side note: Jackson is fearless in the water!)

After swimming we had a cupcake decorating party on her balcony.  The girls know I make cakes so I brought all my fancy tips, piping bags, sprinkles, dye, etc.  I had envisioned giving a tutorial on how to use everything but it became a bit of a free for all session.  Nevertheless, it was fun and delicious.

Thursday was our highly anticipated Moving Up (aka graduation) Ceremony.  The 5th grade teachers have given up planning for the last two weeks to organize the event.  We had to teach the students the three songs, how to process down the aisle, how to smoothly transition from the risers on stage to their seats, and how to walk across the stage and shake hands while receiving their certificates.  My nerves were shot, but the final event was flawless.  There were many, many tears shed by students, parents, and teachers.  Here are some of my boys that have given me a run for my money this year.

I can't include a post about my class without emphasizing my love for Tluang (pronounced Twong).  If anything were to ever happen to her I would absolutely adopt her.  She calls me mother and I frequently refer to her as my daughter.  She is a refugee from Burma and just moved to the United States last year.  God only knows what she experienced before she came since the country is known for it's military regime with high rates of human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and torture.  She will not discuss much about her country, though I know her father was killed there.  Despite her intelligence, it will take her a few years to catch up to English reading comprehension and vocabulary. Tluang didn't utter a word the first week of school.  Now she sings, smiles, picks flowers, holds my hand down the halls, and greets me with a full hug every morning and afternoon.

Here is the 5th Grade Class of 2012.  This has been my most challenging year so far, but I know we have all taught one another so much beyond reading, math, and science.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

I should have relaxed and enjoyed my students graduation ceremony on Thursday.  However, I had some serious anxiety over giving a speech.  (I talk in front of people constantly!)  I was sweating, swaying, and sick to my stomach the entire time.  My anxiety has shown its ugly face a lot this week.

I would have had a long night of sleep after being drained from hundreds of people (5th graders, parents, and staff) on Thursday.  I was sleeping hard until Jesse started throwing up in the bed at 2:30 in the morning!  If you know me well, you know I completely freak out with the smell, sight, or sound of vomit.  After we changed the sheets I spent the rest of the night wide awake downstairs.  I went to check on him every hour because I was paranoid he was going to choke and die.  I was at Wal Mart around 5:30 a.m. 

I would have enjoyed my Chick-Fil-A lunch purchased by my teammate had I not been so nauseous from the previous incident.  Seriously, what sober man throws up while sleeping??  He seemed to feel great and slept peacefully afterwards, while I'm still reliving the whole thing. Irrational, I know, but I have been this way my whole life.

I could have congratulated my amazing colleague when she announced her pregnancy at the end of  school, but I was too bitter and jealous to say one word.  Smiling was hard enough. 

I should have joined my teammates for a celebratory shot at 3:30 p.m. on the last day of school.  This is a favorite tradition among my teacher friends.  Unfortunately, three of my students missed the bus because they were crying and hugging all their teachers.  Guess who took them home?

I would be excited about my final Saturday field trip with my students if I didn't have such mom guilt about having Jackson's MiMi watch him.  We're taking 30 students to swim in an Olympic size pool and go to lunch from 12-4.  This cuts right into Jack's nap time and he has no floatation device.  As much as I want to take him and hate choosing my students over my child, I think it would be too much for him. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

TTC Update

We're on Cycle #7 now.  At this rate, Jackson is going to be an only child. The length of my cycles range from 18 to 44 days, which makes timing conception a guessing game. 

My frustration level has risen tremendously this week!  I went in for a consultation two weeks ago.  My OB/GYN scheduled me to come in this past Monday for a 21-day progesterone check to determine if I am ovulating.  The problem with a 21-day test is that it's based on a 28-day cycle. Unfortunately, I started my period on Saturday, which was a 19-day cycle. There would be no point to do blood work since my progesterone levels would have dropped again and couldn't indicate ovulation. 

I was also scheduled to have an ultrasound to check ovarian cysts.  When I was 14 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound revealed a cyst the size of a grapefruit on my right ovary that caused some concern.  While the oncologist confirmed it was benign, my doctor wanted a follow-up ultrasound after my pregnancy.

The new plan is to go in for an ultrasound next Tuesday.  I will have to wait another two weeks for a progesterone check.  If I am not ovulating, my OB/GYN has already discussed prescribing Clomid.  I am just ready for answers.

Patience is a virtue.


Hello, June!

School has consumed all of my time and energy for what seemed like the entire month of May, hence the lack of blogging.  End of Grade tests, retests, International Night, swim parties, and field trips have dictated my schedule.  While I have neglected to blog about it, I most definitely have not neglected Jackson.  Here are some of our family moments captured on film:

The weather has certainly been hot enough for a dip in the pool.  Jackson enjoys walking around the perimeter of the pool and climbing in and out of the pool much more than he enjoys swimming.  We are still using the same pack of Little Swimmers from our beach trip in October.

Jesse's family came over for a Memorial Day cookout.  Jesse grilled hamburgers and hotdogs.  Jan brought the chili and slaw.  I tried out a new dessert recipe.  I made a giant sugar cookie and frosted it with a mixture of cream cheese, powdered sugar, and whipped cream.  I used fresh berries to create a flag design.  Jan and Jeff were entertaining the boys by chasing one another around the downstairs and dancing.  I tried to take pictures but they turned out blurry.

Jesse and I actually had time off together and took Jackson to the park.  He is getting much more comfortable on the swings and slides.

Oh yeah, did I mention Jackson is walking??  Our big boy decided out of nowhere to take his first steps on Sunday, May 20.  Truly, he crawls way more than he walks, but he has finally let go and will take 5+ steps in between furniture.  He'll also walk towards someone if they are holding their arms out in front of him.

This one isn't exactly a family moment, but I do want to point out how adorably curly Jackson's hair is.  I'm not sure where he gets it from, but I love it.  During bath time, Jack's wet hair straightens down his back.  Jesse and I have no intentions of cutting Jackson's hair anytime soon.

Despite the fact that Jesse has a teaching position next year, we are still going to struggle to make ends meet this summer.  Jesse and I have just begun looking at daycare for August.  The average cost around here is $1,000 per month, which is literally a second mortgage.  Jesse and I will definitely be able to afford this with two incomes and we'll have the same schedule.  I'm so ready for a consistent routine!  I'm not sure Jesse is ready for the significant reduction in Jackson/Daddy time.  I'm ready for the increase in family time, though.

That pretty much sums up the random May updates for Jack.  Bring on S-U-M-M-E-R!