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.