Monday, November 03, 2008

Time Flies...

...whether or not you're having fun, it seems!

The summer was flying by, and we were busy little bees. And then school started up and I had to redefine the word Busy (and give it a capital B!) We had 2 September birthdays, but unfortunately, this picture of the girls (and a friend) taken at Nora's birthday dinner was the last one taken on my camera before it broke. ACK!

Luckily, I got the extended warranty at Best Buy, though I didn't figure that out for a month or so, and it took a couple weeks to send it off and get it back. But the camera works again...but not completely like new. I'd love to just go buy a new one, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon. So, since getting the camera back, some of my pictures are less than blog-worthy, but since that's all I've got, that's all you get to see.

I took the kids to the zoo finally. We've been back in IL for 14 months now, and they just got to see Brookfield Zoo. We enjoyed it, but weren't aware that it was the Boo at the Zoo weekend, so they could have worn costumes, etc, but I guess we're getting a little old for that anyway. The zoo has really grown since I was here last...which I don't remember when, but I assume at some time when the kids were young we would have gone to the zoo during a visit???? Maybe.

Jack had a band concert in October and did a wonderful job. He has really improved his trumpet playing since starting middle school. I assume having band class every day which forces him to practice daily is what's helping so much. He really is a good little musician though. Nora is starting 5th grade band and chose to play the saxophone...and Jack (never having played one himself) was able to look at her book and teach her how to play a few notes before she even had her first lesson! The two of them are quite a duo as they practice together...I've been told they can be heard from down the street by a neighbor - oops!

Halloween was an adventure, as usual. I took all 4 kids trick-or-treating, and of course, the whole neighborhood had to come along. I wound up with 17 trick-or-treaters and only one other adult walking with us. Just the kind of stress I need, I know. Anyway, we survived, didn't lose any little goblins, and have a giant bowl of candy to enjoy for a few I'm sure these kids won't let it last much longer than that!

It's hard to believe it's November already. I'm certainly not ready for the holiday season. I am struggling with single-parenthood and depression, but the sun keeps coming up every morning and somehow we make it through another day. I havne't done any scrapbooking, and minimal card making. I've been reading for an escape, and remember how much I enjoy it. There still aren't enough hours in each day though!

Friday, July 11, 2008

7, 9, 10 & 11

Yep, that's their ages. I kind of like this time of year, between Carmella's and Nora's birthdays...makes me feel REALLY crazy to think I have so many kids so close in age. I guess 7, 9, 11 & 12 doesn't sound all that much better, oh well! It made for a good scrapbook page title when they were 4, 3, 2, and NEW. Here are some pictures from the little girls' birthdays. We have yet to do a party for Carmella, it's so hard with a summer birthday getting in touch with school friends. She isn't quite as social as Nora trading phone numbers with everyone...well not yet anyway! These pictures may look like parties, but they are just us having cake with our neighbors. Have I mentioned how fun it is on this block and how many GIRLS there are??? Poor Jack!

Other than the birthday excitement, the kids have been keeping busy with their Drama Camp...6 weeks of FUN compliments of the City of Aurora! The play they are putting on is The Music Man. All 4 kids will be in the play, the younger two also have a smaller play (Really Rosie) which will be performed during the intermission of the Music Man. Nora sings a solo in a couple of songs, she has minor roles. Jack is one of the leads, Tommy Djiles(?) and he also plays one of the Quartet (Ewart). He can't play both roles at the same time because they share scenes, but the play is triple-cast in some instances because there were so many children in the camp (130+!) So, his BIG performance where he plays Tommy will be on Tuesday evening, July 22nd at West Aurora High School at 7pm! And Nora will be the farmer's wife that night as well. The littles are in the chorus of the big play, and truthfully, other than hearing them since some of the songs from Rosie, I have no idea what they are doing for that! All I know for sure is that all 4 of these kids LOVE drama camp & are already talking about doing it again next summer!

We have been swimming whenever we can, and LOVE that we are so close to Philips Park. It hasn't been too crowded the couple times we have been there, and the kids love the water slides! I love that they are all good swimmers and I can work on my tan. :)

We also went "camping" with my Aunt Diane up at the lake. We swam in the pool instead of the lake, but that was OK with the kids. And later on we had a campfire and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows - definitely no complaints there!

It feels like summer is slipping away much too quickly. We saw school supplies out already at the WalMart this week - eek! I haven't done near as much scrapbooking as I wanted to...seems my "free time" while the kids are at camp isn't being used to the best of my abilities. I'm still a week behind watching my soap, there's still a mountain of laundry, and I haven't even gone grocery shopping without the kids but maybe once! Iy iy iy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bad blogger!

Yep, it's been a couple months since I posted...AGAIN! But summer is here, so theoretically, since I'm off work for a couple months, I *should* be able to blog more often. Of course, we've been busier than ever, and running around like crazy. Trying to cram as much fun as we can in every day! Here are some pictures of the kids from the park in our neighborhood that has a water thingie (for lack of better name!)

As you can see, it's more than just the Russells, we seem to attract the other neighborhood children. I babysit 2 girls down the street a couple days a week, and every day I have one extra (Adriana) the 2 little girls across the street who are always over, AND we have new neighbors with 2 MORE little girls. It's just a madhouse, and poor Jack is STILL the only boy! But, he seems to be handling things OK, he's teaching all the girls to play Yu-Gi-Oh, and gets away to play with Keith and Brandon as often as he can!

The girls hair is getting so long, especially Carmella and Gina. We all love long hair, but WOW, we all shed like you wouldn't believe. My carpet just seems to collect hairballs, and we don't even have a cat! Yuck! I keep threatening short haircuts because the little girls don't really like to have their hair brushed or put up in braids...but I guess that's all talk, I'm not cutting mine either.

You can't tell in this picture, but Nora has been somewhat accident-prone this year. Luckily she hasn't broken ay more bones since her foot incident, but she sure is bruised up quite a bit! She has big scabs on both knees, both elbows, a wrist, and the palm of one of her hands! It's usually from those darn Heelies that she just HAD to have, but she has also fallen off a bicycle. Good thing she's not a picker!

Well, this summer should have more blogging opportunities...we just started Drama Camp and Jack is in a week-long golf program called the First Tee. I'm playing taxi driver, but it's all worth it for those couple of peaceful hours in the middle of the day! Today, I actually became an official Illinois my new license, and we just moved here 10 months ago - haha!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Look Out Hollywood!

Jack and Nora made their Allen School acting debut yesterday in the school's production of a play called The Granny Awards! They both did an awesome job...shows were at 9am, 1pm, and the grand finale was a 6:30pm performance. Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie Anna, Karen & Declan Smith, and of course Mom & Carmella & Gina all were in the audience cheering them on. The show was loosly based on the Academy Awards but with fairy tale character and awards for their performances in their stories. Snow White won the best female character, Jack (from Jack & the Beanstalk, not MY Jack) won Best Male Character.

The next award was for Best Dramatic Scene, and the winners were Cinderella and her stepsisters. Nora played the part of one of Cinderella's (evil) Stepsisters, a role that she was born to play, according to Carmie and Gina! She had a solo in their song entitled "A Corn Upon My Toe" which was both hilarious and beautiful at the same time. Nora has a beautiful voice, and did not seem nervous at all up on stage! She wore a beautiful silver gown and HIGH HEELS...and like all the girls, insisted on having some make-up for the play. We didn't overdo it, though I can't say the same for the other stepsisters! I almost think Nora's voice was too sweet for her role, but she sure did a good job fighting over the shoe with the other girls!!

Jack's part in the play was that of the Big Bad Wolf, and throughout the play, he was sneaking across the stage behind the main action trying to steal one of the "Granny Awards" which looked an awful lot like basketball trophies and bottles of Mrs. Butterworth's syrup! It was the job of Sleepy (one of the 7 Dwarves) to guard the awards, and whenever he fell asleep, the audience had to scream "WAKE UP, SLEEPY!" and thwarted Jack's attempt at stealing an award. Then at the end of the play, Jack had a solo in Little Red Ridinghood's rap song called "Big Bad Wolf" in which he explains to everyone, "I know sometimes I lose control, but I'm merely acting out my role. I'm just an actor through and through, the director tells me what to do! HOWL!" And then he receives an award from Granny for the big happy ending!

In addition to the cute storyline, the play was filled with lots of singing and dancing, and the cast had an absolute BALL doing this play. Nora is so sad that there won't be any more drama club meetings or rehearsals. She even was wishing this morning that her directors would surprise them with another surprise performance this morning. No such luck, but the whole school was buzzing about the play from the day before. Nora said several kids asked her for her autograph, and Jack said the same had happened to him. Even I was approached by several other teachers in the building telling me how great the kids were, especially Jack. Everyone knows he's the smart kid who won the spelling bee and mathlete competition...but now they got to see him in another light, and were amazed at his on-stage presence and the personality and confidence he showed with his funny dancing. It was certainly another huge highlight in our first year here in Aurora.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


My cousin of the pregnant with twins! OK it's actually his wife who is the pregnant one, but you know what I mean. And she's SO stinkin' cute, it's just not fair. They both are so adorable with that soon-to-be-parent glow, and they are going to make wonderful parents. Here's the happy couple and yes, I made Dayna stand so I could get the profile of that beautiful belly! From the looks of things, at about 7 months pregnant with twins, she's probably as big as most full-term single pregnancies, so Dayna is surely uncomfortable at night and can't get comfortable. We talked about seeing little hands and feet sticking out occasionally and trying to determine if a particular lump might be an arm or leg! It was almost enough to make me wish for another....almost! Hang in there, Dayna (& Matt) and I'll be praying for a quick and painless labor and delivery and of course 2 healthy baby boys.

Here's a picture of the delicious cake they served at the baby shower today. I'm having some not-so-nice feelings about my camera though. Can someone out there tell me why the right half of the cake is in focus and the left side is all fuzzy? I'm about to go back to using my old 35mm SLR with *gasp* real film. Help!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Just fell behind, I have pictures posted on the other blog, but nothing here for a month. Oops! I'll be trying to backtrack in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Visiting with Cousins

Whoops, another month went by and I haven't blogged here. Keeping up with 2 blogs is not working out so much. In case you haven't seen it yet, I'm working on posting a photo a day at my other blog,, but I'm not actually taking photos every day unfortunately. Seems during the week when we are in school, there just isn't much to photograph, or there's not enough time, or I'm just not that organized to remember to grab the camera...or a combination of all those things. Anyway...

Gigi & the kids came to town for a (long overdue) visit with the babies. Ella Rose is no longer a newborn, she's rolling over and drooling like crazy (Gigi doesn't believe me, but she's teething) and she is just as cute as a button. Cuter, actually. And the boys are AMAZING, I'm still not sure how Will got to be 2 years old already?! He's talking like crazy, very well I might add, and to see him and Ben play together is just so fun. Ben is a pure joy, when we first saw him, he won us all over by just repeating whatever anyone said. He loved getting piggy-back rides on his cousins' backs, and just had a ball whenever we got together.

I'm just posting one of the many, many pictures I took throughout the week they were here. You can see more at my other blog if you want. I'm having Ella Rose withdrawals already, so the kids and I are going to plan a road trip to go visit SC this summer. Only 47 more school days left - wahoo!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

District Spelling Bee

Well, thank goodness, the list we had been studying from for the past 2 months was the one they used at the District Spelling Bee. Jack was well-prepared, and hung in for 19 rounds! He was a spelling machine and even got the word hosta correct (which was one of the words he struggled with during our studies, always wanting to put an A instead of an O in it!) When it was down to just 3 contestants left, the girls were all giddy with excitement because they knew the top 3 places all got to go home with a trophy in addition to the plaque and medal that everyone got. The word he got stumped on was ERRAND, but unfortunately, Jack didn't hear it correctly, asked for it to be repeated, but still was uncertain. He did ask for a definition, which I'm afraid did NOT help at all. They opened up this dictionary that was as big as 2 or 3 Chicago phone books put together. The definition they read made absolutely no sense...I wanted to yell out, "What does your mom have to run at least a dozen times every week?" But I restrained myself. He thought the word was Erin, and spelled it like that, a girl's name, even though he knew it wasn't right. I'm so proud though, that he accepted his 3rd place finish with grace. I think he should have won the whole thing, as does his teacher, the assistant principal, and everyone else who was there to cheer him on!!! What an incredible achievement though, and he's just in 5th grade. We're looking forward to 3 more years of spelling bees for Jack!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oh yeah, he's a MATHLETE too!

If I haven't bragged enough about my boy Jack lately, let me just tell you one more accolade he has added to his growing resume! Tonight, Jack was in a Mathlete competition held at the middle school he will attend next year. He found out last week that he scored well enough to be one of the 5 fifth graders from Allen School to make it onto the competition team. Unfortunately, there was a lot of snow this afternoon, and only Jack and ONE other boy from our school showed up for the meet. Each of the other 11 schools had a full team of 5 students. They didn't let that stop them though, the two boys won the whole darn thing! Well the speed round competition thing they did in the gym in front of the audience anyway. The individual testing, I'm not so sure about, I only know Jack didn't get a trophy for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd overall scores. We aren't too worried about that though, because WAHOO, our school gets to have the plaque displayed for the next year, and it's all thanks to Jack and Cesar! These pictures are not wonderful, I am really not happy with my digital camera lately. I'm almost ready to go back to film. But anyway...hooray for Jack, the little smarty pants. He gets that from me. :)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

That means Happy New Year in Cantonese, or so my Carmella tells me. She is learning a lot about China in her 3rd grade class. And for a special treat, I got to chaperone her field trip to Chinatown today. I love getting to spend one-on-one time with my babies!

We had a great time, got to learn a lot about Chinese history in this country and in Chicago. As we walked around after lunch, I had a whole new appreciation for all the dragons, lions, and different colors that all have special meanings. We ate a wonderful lunch at one of the 60 restaurants in this little 4-5 block area! We also learned that there are also about 50 grocery stores in Chinatown, and that most Chinese people actually prefer to go grocery shopping twice a day to ensure their food for each meal is fresh!

The shops we stopped in were so fun, the food store was just full of the most unique things. I recognized the Knorr brand but not the Chinese characters on the label! The dried seahorses were our favorite, though the ginseng's price (behind the glass case) was the most astonishing for me.

The one building with the most "authentic" Chinese look in Chinatown was actually designed by some people from Denmark and based it on some pictures of China from a German book. It's certainly beautiful though, and the carvings on it are amazing. Though we didn't get too close, we also saw the Wall of Nine Dragons and it looks equally impressive.

I'm guessing that Carmella's favorite part (other than lunch) was probably the shopping in the little gift shops. There she got her own set of chopsticks, a fan, some earrings, and a change purse. We also brought some goodies home for her sisters. We didn't see anything we thought poor Jack would like though.

Though I loved it all, this particular sign tickled me. Check out the phone number for the Hong Kong Noodle Company!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

More cards

Carmella went to spend the day with her friend Morgan, and Gina was mostly sleeping in front of the TV. Nora was a little bored, so asked if we could make some cards. She picked out one of my newer (read never been used) stamp sets, and we printed out 9 pages of card ideas. Here's what we ended up making...

And then this one...

And finally, this one...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Castoff - the cast is off!

Whew! What a 3 weeks it has been. Looking back, it doesn't seem like THAT long ago, but if you ask Nora, I bet the last 3 weeks have been like an eternity. She was prepared going into the orthopedist's office that she might have to get another cast on, or she might find out that she did need surgery...but we got the best news. No new cast, no surgery...just a fracture brace. It looks pretty nifty, but I didn't take any pictures of it today for some reason. I was more in awe of the whole cast-removal process. Let me show you what I mean...

Here's the big saw, about to cut into my daughter's leg! Just kidding, it was just loud, they put headphones on Nora, but the rest of us had to listen to the ROAR of the saw.
Nora said it tickled...and look at that smile, you can't tell she was happy to get the cast off, can ya? Clapping and everything, I think she might have danced a jig if it weren't for the broken foot.
As the nurse got to the last leg of the cut (pun intended) on the opposite side of Nora's leg, I saw Grandpa's cute little get well message "Grandpa says HEAL!" (pointing to her heel) and had to take a picture. He also added the THIS END UP, because he's oh-so-funny.

After the sawing was complete, the nurse pried open the cast and you could see this cottony stuff inside. In this picture she is cutting away the sock part (the smelly part) and that was basically it! Check out those nasty toes though...they are dirty and dry and gross because Nora refused to put a sock over her cast because "it looked dumb"...and now she knows just how smart her toes looked all this time. Haha!
The cast came off in 2 pieces that fit back together like a jigsaw puzzle, here's Nora holding the top half with all her friends' signatures. She's already planning to wear it to Awana on Ouch Night which we think is coming up in March! The other kids tried it on, of course, but Nora has the skinniest legs in the house, or so they tell me.

We had been warned about atrophy by a few people, so we wanted to make sure to get a picture. Of course I was expecting a shriveled up prune of a foot/leg, but it wasn't THAT bad. You can kind of see where her right calf is slightly smaller in this picture. Now I'm just wondering if we are going to be able to find all the missing right shoes that she hasn't been able to wear for all this time. :)

All in all, I think we did OK with our first broken bone. Nora is on the mend, and the doctor doesn't think surgery is necessary. Her x-rays may never look "perfect" but she shouldn't have any problems walking or running, etc. Though she's excellent on crutches, she is REALLY looking forward to getting rid of them in another week. We will visit the doctor again in another 3 weeks. No more running down the stairs. Ever.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We're famous!

OK well not exactly, but the assistant principal asked me the other day if they could put this picture of me and Jack on the school's website, and of course I agreed. Personally, I would have cropped it a little like maybe above my hips..but anyway. No complaints, because Jack looks awesome, and I am still so proud of him! We're studying some killer words for the next spelling bee...I'm beginning to think I'm not smarter than my 5th grader!

Monday, January 21, 2008

One more...

OK got the last card finished this morning, thank you Dr. Martin Luther King for everything you did that enabled me to have one more day off this weekend! Now I'm off to pick up some envelopes and get these ready to mail.

Card #6 - To Someone With a Very Big Heart

cardstock - Gable Green, Whisper White, Real Red
patterned paper - Designer Series Paper Cerise & Prints Brilliant Blue
ink - Basic Black, Gable Green, Brilliant Blue, Basic Gray
Blender Pen, Exacto Knife

I just cut around part of the mouse with my Exacto knife so I could stick the heart that I cut out of the polka-dotted patterned paper underneath him. The heart itself I just kind of fudged, too bad there wasn't a punch that size, would have made this card very quick and easy!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Back to crafting...

I wanted to be able to say I'm back to scrapbooking, but I'm not quite there yet. This is equally as exciting for me though, because I haven't been able to do much stamping since leaving Ohio (other than the Christmas cards, that is, but that already seems like eons ago even though the Christmas tree is still up!) I talked to Angie a week or so ago and we talked about the demonstrator meetings that I have missed and she mentioned that the next one would be a big stamping fest with new stamp sets. So I asked if I could join in from afar and mail in my cards for the swap. Only problem is that I didn't start creating quickly enough, because the meeting is Monday and unless I plan to drive out to Ohio tomorrow...they aren't going to make it in time since Monday is a postal holiday! Doh! I guess this will get me motivated to get to the post office anyway, so I can send the card samples to each of the girls in our group. (Sorry they are late, ladies!) But anyway...I just wanted to post these here because I'm so pleased with myself for doing something creative. Now most of these card ideas were just lifted right from but I did have to change a few things here or there to make them my own, of course.

The set I used is called Happy Heart Day and was in the preview brochure, and is now on page 66 of the new Spring/Summer 2008 catalog. It's adorable, and can be used for more than just Valentine's Day.

Card #1 - to an unforgettable friend

cardstock - Groovy Guava, Wild Wasabi, Purely Pomegranate, Whisper White
patterned paper - Designer Series Paper Darling Doodles

ribbon - purely pomegranate double-stitched grosgrain

ink - Basic Gray, Groovy Guava, Purely Pomegranate, Wild Wasabi

aqua painter

blender pen
Card #2 - Happy Valentine's Day

cardstock - Real Red, Regal Rose, Whisper White

ink - Basic Black (ink & marker), Regal Rose, Real Red (marker)

ribbon - Real Red grosgrain

punches - 1.25" circle, scalloped circle

stampin' dimensionals, sponge, blender pen

The tricky part on this card was stamping the Happy Valentine's Day without the tag shape around it. Instead of using an ink pad, I colored the rubber of the stamp with my black marker.

Card #3 - Happy Valentine's Day

cardstock - Pale Plum, Black, Whisper White

ink - Basic Black, Pale Plum (marker), Perfect Plum (marker)

ribbon - eggplant grosgrain

small purple square brad, glue dots (for bow), stampin dimensionals (for heart on tag)

The heart on the tag is just one of the butterfly wings that I stamped on some scraps of Pale Plum cardstock. I'm thinking I should have added some glitter to this one.

Card #4 - Happy Heart Day

cardstock - Regal Rose, Ruby Red, River Rock, Whisper White

patterned paper - Designer Series Paper Ginger Blossom

ink - Basic Gray, Regal Rose, Groovy Guava, Ruby Red (marker), Sahara Sand (mouse didn't look right in River Rock!)

ribbon - Groovy Guava double-stitched grosgrain

CM circle cutter (tsk tsk)

ticket corner punch

aqua painter

paper piercer

hole-punching template (for corners)

Card #5 - Thank you to an unforgettable friend

cardstock - Whisper White, Tempting Turquoise, Read Red, Pretty in Pink

patterned paper - Designer Series Paper Cerise

ink - Basic Gray, Tempting Turquoise (ink & marker), Real Red (marker), Certainly Celery (marker)

paisley background stamp, celery 5/8" grosgrain ribbon, white gel pen (for elephant's toe nails!), circle punches, stampin' dimensionals

This card took the longest, but is probably my favorite. The elephant is actually stamped 3 times, once on the white, and then twice on pink...cutting him out once, and then his ear and arm to pop up with the dimensionals the second time. Took a while, but was worth it, he's so cute!
That's all so far. I am supposed to do one more card from this set...hopefully tomorrow I will still be in the crafting mood. Wish me luck!!