Tuesday, January 31, 2012

{Prayers for Peru}

At Christmastime, a gentleman came and spoke to our church congregation about his life in Africa growing up.  He shared tales of an abusive father and malnutrition, of running away and finding Jesus.  He is now a world traveler and passionate voice for Compassion International.

As a result of his story, Katelyn decided to ask a few of her friends to join her in sponsoring a 10 year-old girl from Peru through Compassion International.

We told her she would need to come up with the money on her own, so she and her friends met one Saturday afternoon and agreed to bake and sell cupcakes under the auspices of {Prayers for Peru}.

We made sample cakes and distributed them with order forms to a couple different locations.  After one week of collecting orders, they had 25 boxes of cupcakes sold!

Katelyn and her friends met this weekend for the ultimate cupcake bake-a-thon!  We showed them how to "gut" the insides of a vanilla bean to unleash all that rich yumminess. 

We talked about how to measure flour and sugar accurately for our baking to be successful.

 And we swirled and swirled and swirled buttercream frosting until their hands cramped ;). 

Yesterday morning, the girls delivered their cupcakes to their clients, and they are receiving rave reviews.  I am super proud of the energy these girls gave to this project, how excited they were to not only get together but also to learn about and help a little girl in Peru who doesn't have all the extravagances we have here.  And above all, I love each one of them for their compassionate hearts.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tears ~ A Dramatic Reading

Saturday night we sent the kids to bed at 8:30.   A pretty standard bedtime routine unfolded.  Sashi went to bed and immediately fell asleep.  The boys went to bed and giggled a few minutes then fell fast asleep.  Pooks went to bed and came out half a dozen times complaining about being hot, thirsty, and sweaty. 

Two hours later, John uncovered the reason for her discomfort.  She had carefully burrowed herself under her heavy comforter away from parental eyes in order to score a couple of free hours quietly playing her DS.  She vehemently begged him not to tell Mom.  Oh he told all right.  We are still debating a variety of torture practices an appropriate punishment for the crime, but we started by taking away her new helicopter (the self-prescribed "best Christmas present EH-vah" per Katelyn)...and letting her brothers fly it whenever they want.  Oh the horror.

To commemorate the event, John spontaneously ad-libbed a funny poem about her predicament.  Then set the boys to dramatically acting out the story ... videotaped the entire escapade and uploaded it to YouTube (like all good parental figures).

Without further adieu, my boys in Tears ~ A Dramatic Reading...

Friday, January 27, 2012

...and that's a winner, folks!

Meiners!  For the wolf den.

AND Mr. T!  For the Webelos 1 den.

And the winners from the pack over-all?

First place Mr. T and second place Meiners from the whole pack!  Wowzahs!

Good Job boys!  We're all very proud of you!

it's also time for this...

...the Pinewood Derby!

The boys' car bodies have been sanded and painted until they shine.

Their axles are polished until they fly.  {We hope ;)}

The wheels have been tested until they're worn straight.

And tonight is the big event.  We sure wish all the boys luck.  And we'll let you know how it goes for our two ;)!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's That Time!

Girl Scout Cookie Time!
Have you ordered yours yet?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The boys are thick in the throws of basketball season.

I am super proud of both of them this year --- going all out on the court, showing up to do their best both at practice and on game day.  I remember not only participating in intramural basketball as a kid, but also those copious games as a spectator/pep-bando through junior high and high school.  Basketball is my favorite sport to watch, and how much more fun is it when my kids are out there scrambling for the ball?!

Meiners is a cat on the court.  He's here, he's there, he's got the ball, he's dribbling it down and shooting for two...He's always been an athlete, and he plays hard.  Always.

T played in an intramural league at his school before basketball season started this year.  We were sure proud of him for giving that a shot!  Once the season started, he earnestly went all out during his first game, snagging a loose ball from flying out of bounds at the last minute...and...unfortunately, is now spending three weeks looking like this:

That would be a Salter II fracture across the growth plate of the middle phalanx on the fifth digit.  Yeah.  It sounds like it hurts, doesn't it?  But it hasn't stopped his spirit - he's been showing up to practice and on game days with that same dazzling smile to cheer on his team.  He's been such a great sport about it...even though I know it's getting boring when he really wants to get out there and play!

We sure do love basketball around here!  And I sure do love my boys!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The kids enjoyed a super fun assembly at school on Friday! 

The St. Louis area ShowMe Jumpers came to show off their amazing skills with jump ropes!  The photo above shows two giant ropes being twirled from four corners while two young athletes simultaneously jump over both ropes!  The girls waiting in the foreground soon jumped into the spiderweb of big ropes with their own small ropes and jumped all three at the same time...and one girl even jumped through a hula hoop while jumping through those two giant ropes...I mean, it was crazy cool, energetic, and fun to watch! 

I couldn't jump twice with one rope let alone to an entire funky song with aaaaall those ropes going at the same time!  WoW!

And due to some unfortunate events that ended up bringing Dad home from his business trip early, we were both able to see the kids do a spectacular job introducing the ShowMe Jumpers to their school and giving this talented group a bundle of jump ropes for schools in Joplin.

We are super proud of our kids!  And duly impressed by the kids' skills from ShowMe Jumpers!  If you are in the St. Louis area, you HAVE to get these guys to come to your school's Jump Rope for Heart event, too!  The whole school was PUMPED to kick off their fundraising efforts for the American Heart Association!  Meiners and Pookie received free jump ropes for being Ambassadors for the AHA, and Meinie came straight home to start perfecting his rope tricks.

Please remember, if you aren't sponsoring someone already, all four of our kids are standing by jumping to accept your donation for healthier hearts!  Go here if you have a heart for this effort like we do!

Monday, January 23, 2012


I went through my laundry basket of loose photos recently to locate the handful of pictures I took during Meiners' open heart surgery.  Sashi helped me sort, and boy was I super excited when she actually found one amidst the piles of photos cascading across the living room floor!  I may have squealed and told her to "keep looking!!!" so intensely that she got a little scared.  Poor thing!  But she did, indeed, find about three photos.

In the melee of memories that morning, I also came across an old, unadorned chipboard, spiral-bound photo album that really made me pause.  As I soaked in the pages of the book, I remembered when I had attempted a Project 365 of our daily lives.  I made it about 6 weeks, documenting the special, the mundane, the little things that made me smile and the big things that made me sad early in 2008.  As I created this hand-held little gem of memorabelia, I began to transition toward blogging.  And doing both seemed redundant.  So I gave up the tangible and replaced it with the digital world of capturing memories.

Over the course of the last four years, I've contemplated my niche in blogging, watched newbie bloggers like myself back then turn their blogs into careers, and let life sometimes overcome the blogging (appropriately so, since I am a mother first).  I've also strongly debated with myself over which medium is better - tangible scrapbooking or the computerized world of blogging.  Looking through this scrapbook truly made me realize, though, how much I am heart wrenchingly forgetting memories because I am not keeping up with any sort of memory keeping.  I have the world's worst memory bank in my head.  I literally can forget the point of a sentence before I reach the end of it.  I am bound to forget my life in this time if I don't get it in writing.  With photos.

One way or the other.

You may have noticed I've been posting a lot lately.  It's because we have a lot going on around here and I want to remember it.  I want to remember how Sashi reads Jingle twice every night now - just the same way reading the pages of that photo album reminded me how Meiners used to play Minutemen every day in the living room at the same age.  How we used to make 1/2 pancakes for half birthdays and cookies on rainy days (what happened to those 'traditions?!' ... I hate to say it, but I think I forgot about them!).

So there you go.  I guess we'll be seeing a lot more of each other.  Provided I can keep up ;)!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

jingle every night

Sashi received this Jingle the Husky pup intereactive plush toy and story book from us for Christmas. 
To say she adores it is an understatement.  It has become a staple of her bedtime routine.  Threatening not to read Jingle has high obedience value.  We have literally read it every night since Christmas.  If not me, then Meiners or Pookie.  It clearly states in the book that Jingle does not respond to all children's voices, but it doesn't stop them from trying.  And we've discovered that saying the target sentences together leads to pretty successful responses from Jingle.  It is truly an amazing toy and a favorite from the whole season.  Sashi insists we will read it every day until she turns five (six months from now, by the way).  Then she will immediately outgrow it.  {Apparently she is clairvoyant.}  So I figured I'd better document it now.  Before it's too late.  ;)

The cool thing is she has the entire story memorized and relishes the opportunity more often than not lately to "read" it to me.   I sure love that kid. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

this little cultural mecca of the midwest

Friday night we went to the St. Louis Art Museum to see Claude Monet's Agapanthus Triptych.  For the first time in 30 years, our art museum - in conjunction with the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City and The Cleveland Museum of Art - have brought together three enormous pieces of art that Monet originally planned to display at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.  He changed his mind, however, and the three pieces (Agapanthus, Water Lilies, and Harmony in Blue) were brought to the US, and eventually sold separately to the three art museums.

The kids have a pretty cool art teacher who taught them all about Monet in first grade.  (How spectacular is that?!)  So as soon as I heard this exhibit would be here, I began to plan to take the kids.  Add to the consideration that the art museum promised free tickets on Fridays, and we were a solid, "We'll be there!"  We actually tried to go over Winter Break but those free tickets were sold out!  Instead, we made arrangements to go with the grands in the new year and we made a whole night of it.  So fun!

one of my favorite pieces in the whole museum - "St. Peter's Cathedral."  The kids LOVE how the perspective changes as you walk by...Me Too!  The girls enjoyed walking past with Grandpa!

"Smiling Girl with Obscene Object" - gotta love art!  (FYI, the obscene object is a naked man!)  Don't you love Pookie's studious expression next to Grammie??  She is really taking in that piece!
Grandma with Sashi
two handsome art oficionados!
his fave of the evening

this was the kids' most favorite part of the actual exhibit by far ~ making their own digital Monet masterpieces
Of course, taking photos in the special exhibit was a big no-no, but we snapped a few of our favorite pieces in the actual museum itself before we toured Monet with our iPod tour.  Afterwards, we scarfed down a whole lotta pizza at Imo's and called ourselves culturated, marveling how fortunate we are to live here in St. Louis where we have so many opportunities like these to teach our kids about the world beyond here.

Such a fun family night!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

it's just too easy to forget

Last week Meiners spent a day at home with Sashi and me since he woke up with a fever and some achiness.  Of course, by 10:00 he felt like a super hero ... or maybe he just acted like one as he leaped from couch to coffee table to fireplace hearth to beanbag to couch again.  In a single bound.

But later as he and Sashi sat at the counter giggling and mostly ignoring their lunches, I stood back and marveled at how quickly I'd forgotten what a help he used to be with her before he left us for school full day.  They were bosom buddies, best friends, she was his sidekick and he her mentor.  I loved their relationship back then.  I still do, but I see its evolution.  She's peskier with him now.  Has her own opinion and doesn't cater to his every whim as she used to.  He still adores her and wants her undivided love and attention.  Sometimes, nowadays though, she scoffs at his attempts to kiss her lips or hug her or his desire to lead her.

Then again, sometimes she just adores him back and all is still well with the world.

Monday, January 16, 2012

my Jump Rope for Heart presentation

Last summer another mom from our school asked me to meet with her and our local youth market director from the American Heart Association regarding our school's annual Jump Rope for Heart (JR4H) event.  I tagged along to the meeting, truly clueless as to any input that I might provide the cause, but willing to do what I could to help.

Since then we've found ourselves knee deep in Jump Rope for Heart and I have to say I count myself blessed to be doing it.  The kids are having a ball (or is it a rope??)  actively participating in the planning and prep work, as well.

Last week I met with our PTO to promote our 'new and improved' event and to share why the American Heart Association is near and dear to our hearts (I even created a power point - woohoo fancy!).  I thought I would just document those words here, as well.  I've told the story before here, but I am doing at least one more presentation in the weeks ahead, so I'm counting this as "practice" also, knowing public speaking just isn't my forte!

Here goes:

"My name is Karin and I am the mother of four sweet kiddos:

My oldest are 10 year-old twins, Mr. T and Pookie.  Meiners is 7, and then we have Sashi who is four.

Our twins were born in 2001, and at four days-old, Pookie was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.  Specifically, the cardiologist called it a 'complete a/v canal,' which basically means she had a giant hole in the middle of her heart where the blue blood mixed with the red blood before it all got pumped out into her body. 

To make a long story short, she truly struggled to survive the first few months of her life.  It was difficult for her to eat because she couldn't coordinate the suck/swallow/breathe pattern newborns use innately.  We needed her to weigh 10 pounds before she could have surgery on her heart, so by the time she was 6 weeks old we were feeding her with a feeding tube in her nose.  Eventually we had one placed directly into her tummy --- she didn't eat by mouth until she was five years-old.  The first four months of her life are kind of a blur, being a new mom - to twins, one healthy, one struggling to survive, but we finally made it to the day we'd been waiting for: open heart surgery.  She was four months old...and the surgery was a huge success!  I remember dancing by her bed in the ICU, so excited that the 'sick chapter' was finally behind us and we could go on with our lives.

Unfortunately, within just a few days, Pookie spiked a fever.  It was determined that methycillin resistant staph bacteria (MRSA - the nasty bug you hear about on the news today) had attacked her heart and eventually it destroyed her perfect repair.  We nearly lost her a number of times after that first open heart surgery.  We watched her become addicted to morphine and live on a ventilator.

But by the grace of God, she survived all of that, and she is now the survivor of 6 open heart surgeries.  She'll be followed by cardiology her entire life - she goes every six months and even had a procedure done in the fall because she was having - in layman's terms - little heart attacks during exercise.  We've sort of taken the year off from PE but she has been allowed to go back this month with strict warnings to rest if she gets tired or feels any sort of chest pain.  She takes medicines every day to keep her blood thin because she has an artificial valve in her heart.  She has to have her blood drawn every month, she can't eat certain foods, and she's banned from sports like gymnastics due to the risk of falls and bleeding.  The great news, though, is that she is doing very well.  She won the spelling bee in her class this week.  She loves to sing and dance and is participating in a very cool song-writing project through St. Louis Children's Hospital.  She's had a bumpy road, but she is truly one of our miracles.

That's our Pookie.

Then, in 2004, we had Meiners, and at 2 weeks-old, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect as well - an incomplete a/v canal.

 His story is different than his sister's - he has had only one open heart surgery.  He is our smart, athletic, rascally heart kid,  He'll be followed by cardiology his entire life, also.  But despite his heart defect, he, too, is doing very well.

Most people are unaware that congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common birth defect in the world.  In fact, one out of every 100 babies is born with a heart defect.  CHDs are the leading cause of infant death; of the one million children born with a CHD each year, 100,000 of them won't make it to their first birthday.  Twice as many children die each year from CHDs than from all pediatric cancers combined, yet five times more money is given for pediatric cancer research than for CHDs.

My mission - and our family's mission - is to increase awareness of and research for CHD.  We also want to be a light of hope for congenital heart disease.  There are an estimated two million CHD survivors today, and for the first time 50% of those are adults!  We not only want those numbers to improve, I want my two kids to be counted among them!

The American Heart Association (AHA) shares our vision.  Their mission statement is straightforward:  Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke {CHDs are considered under the 'cardiovascular disease' umbrella}.  Their focus is on educating the public on the importance of heart health through topics as broad as childhood obesity to how to cope with life after a stroke.  They provide us all with help planning exercise routines; they offer delicious heart-healthy recipes; and they teach us how to live longer, healthier lives. 

In 2009, the AHA donated close to $10 million for CHD research.  This positively impacts my family because money donated by the AHA led to the development of the first artificial heart valve.  We look forward to new medicines being developed that will thin Pookie's blood without requiring frequent blood draws;  and we also anticipate procedures that will allow her valve to be replaced through a simple catheterization procedure instead of invasive open heart surgery - which doctors are already doing in some cases!  These advancements may be on the horizon with additional research!  We look forward to improved quality of life for our kids and for all our heart friends!

Our school has been invited to share in fundraising efforts for the AHA.  This year we are super excited to bring a new and improved Jump Rope for Heart to our school.  We began in January already with a Heart Health Awareness essay contest.  Then on January 20th, we are honored to host the amazing skills of of the ShowMe Jumpers!  All of this hoopla culminates in an exciting school-wide Jump Rope for Heart event on - what our family calls "Healthy Heart Day" - otherwise known as Valentine's Day, February 14th.  AND if students raise $3000, our principal has agreed to let them duct tape him to the gymnasium wall!

Heart issues affect us all.  Nearly 2,200 Americans die from cardiovascular disease each day.  That is one person every 39 seconds.  Heart attacks and strokes takes more lives each year than cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and accidents combined.  They are also the number one cause of death in women.  So, we wholeheartedly invite you to join us in raising money for the American Heart Association.

Thank you so much for listening and allowing me to come and speak to you!"

**Would you consider helping us reach our goal of increased awareness of and research for healthy hearts?  You can visit our family's fundraising page here.

All the amazing statistics quoted in this post came from the following websites:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tommy on Violin

Our days are as busy as ever despite of our policy of {close to} one extracurricular per kid.  When you count four kids in the mix, every night there's running somewhere, in spite of my best intentions.

Last week was no exception. 

On Tuesday night we invited all the grands over for dinner and a symphony concert.  After a fancy Italian meal consisting of whole wheat spaghetti and a jar of Preggo, plus a salad kit in a bag, and Pepperidge Farms cheese bread, we attended the elementary strings concert.

is that spaghetti sauce on his cheeks?  *sigh*  seriously, who IS his mother?!
It's been fun watching T develop his musicality over the last year.  He began private lessons early last summer and is dedicated to keeping them through the year.  (Provided that doesn't include practicing regularly - wait.  Did I say that?)  I'm super excited that he'll be moving to first part in the upcoming semester - one semester early I might add! - but man alive is it tough to get the kid to practice.

Thankfully his private teacher is super patient...or maybe that's unfortunately?

After reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother last year, some days I feel like a super failure, not sitting on him to practice {for hours and hours} - even though I think he has the talent to be really great.  After pushing the kids to work mega-hard on some things last winter that led to more nagging and yelling than teaching of a solid work ethic, I have to be honest, I'm torn between pushing and allowing.  I just don't remember having to be told as a kid to practice my musical instrument...of course, I faked my practice card at times, so there's that.  But I also remember regularly practicing.  (My mom claims my memory fails me, but she doesn't have a blog to prove it...one day I'll be showing this post to my unpracticing violin could-be-prodigy grandchild, just you wait...)

I just wonder:  Does it ever get easier?  Cuz I hear that being a grandparent is even tougher - worrying about not only your own children but their children, too.

Guess that's why it's just healthier to remember to let go and let God.  And to super-remember that God is good all the time - and when it seems as though He isn't, it is because He is great.

And into his hands I place our violin commitment.
Now, where's the checkbook?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Geocaching @ Plymouth

On New Year's Day we decided to take the kids geocaching.  Before kids, we used to hike pretty frequently.  (The best and the worst was hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. ... Hiking in was the best; hiking out of the Grand Canyon was the worst!)  Since the kids, we've hiked here and there, but really not regularly because of the whole "carry me!" phenomena.  Now everyone's pretty much independent and we can get around with only the worst fatigue bringing out the jello legs.  We've heard great things about geocaching, so we planned our route, chose our St. Louis-themed object to leave behind (an old baseball card), and off we went!

We were truly astounded at how many caches there are throughout our area.  In just one park alone there were ... 50?  Maybe more!  How many times have John and I ran past them on a training run without knowing the secret treasures the woods held?!

We decided our first cache would be a St. Louis one called Plymouth.  We enjoyed exploring an old cave entrance, petting some horses that we came upon along the trail, scaling rock walls, and generally just enjoying gorgeous weather and our family.  Eventually, we came across the old Plymouth - yes, literally in the middle of the woods!

The next step was actually finding the cache - and since we really had no idea what we were looking for, boy did we get lucky when Meiners bent down into a hollow old tree stump and brought out a little plastic box!

Oooooh the kids were super excited to sort through the contents of the box and pick out their prize to bring home!  Meiners was finder, so we let him decide on a Rams drink holder (he insisted on using it at every meal the remainder of the weekend!).

We signed in and left our baseball card before moving on to more caches.

We went on to complete about five more caches total (hunting through my camera bag for additional treasures to leave behind, including a zoo map, an old stub from a ride up in the arch, etc.!), but our first find was by far everyone's favorite!

We searched and found a Harry Potter puzzle box. 

Everyone was excited to let T sit down to figure out how to open it until we discovered this message:

We scaled some death-defyingly tall trees (I'm so brave!):

Then we headed home.  Such a great day and a fun new past time for the family!
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