Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh my elves!!!

Thanks to my friend Nancy for making this adorable little dancing elf production. She left it in a comment on here, so I thought I better make a post with this link to make sure everyone sees it! SOOOOO cute!

Thanks Nance!

Jack's First Band Concert

Well last night was amazing. Jack had his first band concert with the 5th grade Beginner Band. It was at the middle school where Jack will attend next year, and we got to hear the middle school bands and choirs as well.
That's Jack all the way on the left, I don't know the band director at all, so it was pure luck that I had such a good chance at taking pictures with him on the end like that! I'm glad I took a couple of pictures before we left the house, because my camera lens doesn't zoom enough to get all the way across the multi-purpose room to get any good close-ups...are you listening Santa? :)

So here's a good close-up we took at home. I love the look of concentration on his face. The 5th grade band, was, well...beginners! They did great, and what was really encouraging was to hear how much they will improve in the next year when we heard the 6th grade band. And then, we heard the varsity band (7th and 8th graders) who were even better still!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Letter

Well here is what my Christmas cards look like this year. I borrowed an idea from and then changed it around a little, of course. I am posting it here, because knowing me, even though I have 28 of these cards made, it will take a while for me to get them all written out, addressed, and mailed off! And there are more than 28 people on my Christmas card list. So...just in case you don't see one of these masterpieces in your mailbox...please know that I still love you, but as usual, my best intentions are not quite enough! Also, instead of writing up a big long letter for everyone and printing it out to put with the card, I decided to just put the URL for this blog inside the cards...well that's my plan anyway, again the insides of these cards are still blank.

2007 has been a year full of lots of changes. While not all of them were easy, we have been so very blessed along the way, that there is much to be thankful for. One of those changes was our change of address, if you need the new one, please leave a comment or email me and I'll happily give it to you! We left Ohio after 4 years and headed back home to Illinois, to be closer to my family.

The children are doing great! Jack is 11 now, and in the 5th grade. He (as always) is an excellent student and has adjusted very well to our new school. In the summer, he had a part in a Shakespeare play back in Ohio and did a fabulous job. Currently he is playing the cornet (a small trumpet) in the 5th grade band and will have his first band concert next week. As the basketball season is approaching, he has signed up not for the basketball team, but for the cheerleading squad - this boy is so full of self-confidence he can give his mother lessons any day! I think he would be upset if I forgot to mention his greatest accomplishment of late - his ever-improving bowling. Talk about chip off the old block, this boy is a Bowler (with a capital B) and bowled a 451 series last Saturday! His average is a 125 and rising fast. I don't think it will take him 32 years to bowl his first 300 game.

Nora is 10 and in the 4th grade. She also is excelling in school. While 4th graders don't have any sports teams at the school they can join, they are eligible to be a student leader in the SALT program (that stands for Student Advisory Leadership Team) and Nora applied and was accepted. Jack was too, coincidentally, and the two of them were writers for the school newspaper the first quarter and are now patrol guards. Nora has a special job to patrol for the kindergartners in the middle of the day which she enjoys. Like Jack, she is still bowling and steadily improving as well. Just last week, the entire 4th grade went on a special trip to Lorado Taft for an outdoor education program for 3 days. Nora came home with lots of stories and great memories from her first trip away from home all alone. I don't think she was homesick at all, but we all sure felt her absence here at home.

Carmella is 8 and in the 3rd grade this year. She just loves her teacher Miss Callahan, and wants to be just like her when she grows up. She has been doing some wonderful projects this year and has really learned a lot. The next project due in a week is all about Spain. Today at school, Carmella was chosen to read the morning announcements. She did a phenomenal job, and I had several other teachers at school let me know how wonderful she was! Carmella and Gina bowl together in the "bantam" league on Saturday mornings. They only bowl 2 games each week, so it seemed like a bit of a demotion to Carmella at first since she had been bowling 3 games for the past couple of years in Ohio, but she seems to have adjusted just fine. Carmella loves to read, this is the first one of my children that didn't have to be "forced" to do their 20 minutes of reading every night! Hooray!

Gina is 6 and in the 1st grade. Her teacher is marvelous and says Gina is a star student, but she was a little concerned when she saw Gina's "evil twin Tina" walking with me in the hallway one day after school! I guess this is how multiple personalities start, but I'm pleased to know that when she's at school she is on her best behavior because it must mean she is comfortable and secure enough at home to be her REAL self, as evil as that may be. In addition to bowling on Saturday with Carmella, Gina really enjoys her Awana group at church on Wednesday nights. She is a whiz at memorizing her verses and loves to recite them for me before bed. She misses her friends back in Ohio very much and plans to move back there when she is a grown-up, but she has made some good friends here in IL too.

As for me, I think I'm the one struggling with the many changes this year more so than the kids...they are very resilient. Russ and I separated early in 2007, but have not filed any paperwork with the courts as of yet. In May, he took a new job in Seattle, leaving us back in Ohio...which prompted our relocation here to IL. I have a wonderful family and supportive friends who rallied around me to help us get moved in August just before school started. We arrived on a Monday and school started that Wednesday. I met the principal of the kids' school outside the building after school one day and asked if she had any job openings. A week later, I was hired as a one-on-one teacher's assistant in the special ed classroom. The job is challenging at times, but also rewarding, and the hours couldn't be more perfect! I feel it was a gift from God to have this job fall into my lap the way it did at the perfect time. I know this has made our transition much smoother than it would have been otherwise. I am still getting used to my new role as working mom after being at home with the kids for so long, so I have not found the time to devote to my scrapbooking and stamping like I used to, but I hope with time, I will get back into the crafting groove. In moving back to IL, not only have I gotten to come "back home" to my family, but I have been able to reconnect with one of my dearest friends Karen, who in turn invited us to her church which we now call our own as well. In addition to the weekly service on Saturday nights (or Sunday mornings) and Awana on Wednesdays, I attend a Faith and Hope group on Tuesday nights where I have met some loving and encouraging friends. Oh, and I would be remiss to not mention my own bowling. While I was not able to join a weekly league because of babysitting issues, I did join an every-other-week league with the other teachers in our school district. When I bowled my 300 almost a year ago, I never would have thought that I wouldn't even be a sanctioned bowler now! I'm sure in time, I'll be able to get back to bowling more regularly too, for now, I can at least live vicariously through my little Russell Rollers!

OK I guess that's about all that I have for a year-in-review recap! I know Christmas letters can be annoying, and I appreciate that you've read this far! Some of you who may be reading this will know what's been going on, but others might be surprised to hear about all our changes. When I am depressed, I tend to withdraw from my family and friends. It's counter-intuitive and somewhat self-destructive and all that, but it's just how I work. So, please know that I care about you all and treasure your friendship, even if you don't hear from me very often. Please keep the kids and me in your prayers, and we will certainly be doing the same for you!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Animal Show

Who doesn't love a good animal show? The last few years we have had the entertainment of Seymour the Magician at the xmas party, but this year for a change we had animals. My kids just loved it, and I think the adults had a little more fun with this one too! The man brought all his exotic animals in little rubbermaid cages, and brought them out one at a time, told us all about the animal, and then brought it around for everyone to pet or hold. First was the chinchilla, which my kids have been asking/begging me to get them for a while now. (Not gonna happen, especially since the Animal Guy showed us the ugly yellow teeth that like to chew on antique wood furniture!)

OK so next up was my personal favorite, the African Pygmy Hedgehog named Horace. He was ADORABLE, though not nearly as fun to pet as the chinchilla. He would make a nice pet, perhaps, and like me, when it's over 100 degrees out, he would rather dig a hole and sleep through the hottest part of the year. Check out how cute he looks when he's curled up in a ball!

Now at this point, Animal Guy asked for a brave audience member to help him. Of course, my kids all had their hands raised, and Carmella was chosen to come up to the front. She got a little nervous though when someone mentioned that it might be the snake and sat back down. I think we are lucky she did, because what DID come next was not any better than a was a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. EEK!

Next was a very pretty fox-type thing. Related to canines. Oh, and he lives in the desert and his large ears cool him off. I don't remember anything else...must have still been shivering from seeing the cockroach up close.

When Animal Guy called for another brave volunteer, the kids were not quite as eager to raise their hands! Jack thought he could be brave though, so he stood up...for just a moment. When he saw the tarantula come out of its cage, he was off like a shot, hiding behind ME as a matter of fact, which of course was not much help, as I was ready to go run and hide behind MY dad! :) There were several other brave people though, including my cousin Jeff.

Next came Gina's look-alike which made her day, and made me glad I spent the money on those adorable sweatsuits for the girls! This cat is called the Goeffroy cat named after the guy who discovered it. Animal Guy says he would be just like Sylvester if there was a Tweety Bird around, and the cat (named Jesse James) has at some point tried to attack all of the animals in this guy's house...which by the way, must smell lovely. So here's spotty Gina and the spotty cat.

Once more, Animal Guy needed a brave volunteer. Jack and Gina stood up there with him, but not for long...this time it WAS the snake - an albino python. Many people wanted to wear him around their necks, but none of my clan, thankfully! It really looked like the snake was constricting around people's necks, and his tail would dip down behind them and come up between their legs...eek! Here's brave Grandpa up there with the beast!

And last but not least was the 35-year-old monkey. Animal Guy said he was single, so I hopped right up there to make friends, haha. I really just wanted to get a good picture of the kids holding him, but then I ended up holding him myself. Carmella took this picture with her camera (thanks Carmie!)

Here's a few more pictures, I think this was everyone's favorite. He was quite a personable monkey even though he was balding and much older than any monkey should be. They only live to be about 10 in the wild, and 20 in captivity, so it's quite a big deal for him to be 35.

Turns out I didn't take many pictures at the party other than these and the obligatory Santa pictures. Ah well, we will just have to do it again next year! :)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Gogliotti Christmas Party

Despite the snow and ice, we made it to the annual Christmas party on Saturday night. There didn't seem to be as many people as usual, so I think the nasty weather scared some people away. Many of my cousins were there though, and plenty of people I didn't recognize or even know I was related to. I have lots of pictures to upload, but it's very late and I'll just start with a few. Santa visited, of course, to bring gifts to the children. My kids are just too old, they knew as soon as cousin Nicholas disappeared that he was dressing up as Santa in the back room. Carmella told me later, "Nice choice of wrapping paper, by the way." and then she winked at me...she's really good at winking, coincidentally, and she doesn't get that from me. But anyway, here are those Santa pics. Tomorrow I will try to post the dozens that I took when the entertainment of the evening was there - the animal show.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving

The kids were very adamant that we had to put up the Christmas Tree the day after Thanksgiving. They must have forgotten last year's fiasco with the !@$# dog chewing off the cord of our pre-lit tree that was only a year old! I ended up getting rid of it before we moved, so I got up EXTRA early on Black Friday morning. Kohl's had been advertising that they were opening at 4am, and I saw they had a pre-lit tree on I got there about 3:30am. Not because I wanted to stand in line in the cold, just because I had gone to sleep SO early the night before, I couldn't fall back asleep when I woke up before 3. I wasn't the first one there though, there WERE some crazies standing outside in line...quite a few crazies, come to think of it. And I'm STILL not sure what the big draw was, but there was absolutely no pushing or shoving, and I got a Christmas tree very quickly and was back out the door by 4:05am. I'm pretty sure I could have gotten good deals on many other things, but the tree was all that I had on The List. And big crowds and long lines and I don't get along that well. So anyway, I was back home and sleeping in the recliner for a while before the kids even got up. When they saw the box, they got really excited though, so I was able to bribe them into helping me clean up the living room. When they went for a walk in the afternoon, I set up the tree, and the kids got it all decorated when they got back home. It's beautiful, and it has all white lights like I've always wanted. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Happy Thanksgiving

We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner with Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie Anna, & Great Grandma at the nursing home. The food was great, especially since no cooking or cleaning was necessary for any of us! The only drawback, of course, is the fact that we have no leftover turkey for turkey sandwiches. Boo hoo!

Thank goodness for my digital camera and the ability to crop pictures on the computer! The very nice employee who offered to take our picture didn't do a wonderful job, but oh well, at least we are all in the picture even if we are a little fuzzy!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

School Pics...kinda

Well, being a single mom has some really swell perks, like being broke all the time. Picture Day came in late October, and for the first time since the kids have been in school, I was not able to go overboard and buy the largest package of pics for each of the kids. You know - 2 8x10's, 4 5x7's, a million wallets, plus a class photo. In fact, I was not able to buy ANY packages of individual pictures, but I did make sure to at least order a class picture for each of the kids, so they can have a picture of their friends and teacher to remember. This should be no big deal, in fact I know in years past, I have been disappointed with the expensive school pictures. But it just seemed like "the thing to do" and so I always did. After a good bit of pouting and being angry (at Russ, God, and the world basically) I decided to have the kids pose in front of the fireplace and I took their portraits myself. I think they came out pretty nice. Probably better than the professional ones would have, but in a not-so-professional-taken-at-home sort of way. Not being able to afford school pictures certainly isn't the end of the world, and I know I am very blessed in so many is just another adjustment I am finding myself struggling with.

Jack - 5th Grade - 11 years old

Nora - 4th Grade - 10 years old

Carmella - 3rd Grade - 8 years old

Gina - 1st Grade - 6 years old

If any family or friends want one of these pictures printed out, please just let me know what size and I'll send them out to you. :) Oh, and I'm pretty sure I still have last year's pictures around here somewhere, too!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Glasses again

Well whaddaya know, Nora needs glasses in 4th grade too, just like Jack, and just like me, and just like Grandma and Auntie Gigi. It's a tradition, I guess. Here she is trying out her frames at the Costco. She only needs to wear them for reading or doing work at her desk. I guess she's far-sighted, go figure. Let's just hope she takes a little better care of them than Jack does his. I think more days than not, he just forgets to wear his glasses. I've had to bend them back to the right shape more times than I care to count. Boys! I also got Carmella's eyes checked while we were there, and she has a slight far-sighted prescription as well, but because of her astigmatism (also a hereditary gift from Grandma and me) it is kind of cancelled out, so she doesn't need glasses just yet. Maybe next year when she's in 4th grade!

One lousy picture!

How did this happen? On Halloween night, I brought along my camera trick-or-treating, and only took this ONE lousy picture of the kids! We were probably out for an hour, and it was after 6pm, so getting dark. Jack decided to stay home and pass out candy for us, believe it or not! No worries though, the 3 girls got plenty of candy to feed an army!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Crazy Hair Day

It was Spirit Week at school last week. They had a theme for every day....crazy hat day, crazy sock day, pajama day, sports day, and of course our favorite - CRAZY HAIR DAY! Now for me, every day when I wake up, it's a crazy hair day, but that wouldn't be enough for these Russell kids! So we bought up as many colors of hair spray as we could find at Wal-Mart, and this is what we came up with. I'm fairly certain we are responsible for a rather large hole in the ozone, and I would not recommend coloring the hair of 4 children at once in the confines of a small bathroom even if the exhaust fan is on.

Carmella of course, wanted blue in her hair. She was the first one we did, and it was looking very blue...I was suprised how well it worked on her dark hair. The pictures really don't convey the blueness, you really just had to be there!

Nora loves the color orange. And with her hair being so much lighter than the other girls, I thought this would be a breeze. I was kind of concerned though, it actually looked like I was just highlighting her hair at first. She decided that orange alone wasn't going to cut it, so we added some green, which made me think of carrots with the tops on. Is that crazy enough for ya?

Gina wanted purple, but for some reason the purple spray did not show up as quickly or as brightly as the blue had on Carmella, so she decided to go half blue and half purple.

Jack's hair was my favorite. His hair is lighter like Nora, so it took the color spray really nicely. I put some gel in his hair to get it spikey first, then just sprayed some colors here and there...I think he ended up looking like an Easter Egg, and he LOVED it! It's a good thing these colors came out with one shampoo, because picture day was 2 days later. After getting all these kids colored up before school, I couldn't even think about doing anything crazy with my own hair...I blame the fumes. But it was really fun for the kids to get to do something fun like this at their new school. Seeing all the other kids and teachers with crazy hair was fun, too. I feel very lucky to be able to be with them at school every day!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Check it out!

My sister and I gave birth to identical twins 10 years apart! :) Not really, but I wanted to post these pictures together to show how much baby Ella Rose reminds me of Nora when she was a newborn! It's the same pose and everything!!! Nora was a little smaller when she was born...but grew fast! I hope Ella gets those awesome chubby cheeks like Nora had. :)

I wish I had one of those Star Trek machines that could "beam me up" to SC so I could hold this little pumpkin! Post more pics, sis, I'm sure you're just sitting around eating bonbons and having massages (got your message, sorry forgot to call back!)