Sunday, December 28, 2008

Okay, Mr. Wiseguy (aka Drew Randolph)

Once again, I am having some fun with my new printer/scanner today. I cannot resist sharing Drew's preschool group photo. Only two of the little boys in the photo are not smiling and Drew is one of them (he is standing and is the third from the right). He has his "I am a little wiseguy" look on his face. I am sure the other moms looking at the photo are thinking, "this picture would be perfect if it wasn't for the two little boys who are not smiling!" Oh well, I think it just makes him stand out from the other little boys Aaron and I laugh when we look at this photo. I am just amazed that they were able to get 14 little boys to sit still long enough to get the picture!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Blast from the Past - August 1988

I am testing my new computer printer/scanner/fax machine that Aaron gave me for Christmas. I had wanted a new printer, since our old one was horrible. But, I am most excited about the chance to scan old photos from the pre-digital era.

My first blog featuring a scanned picture is from August 1988. I was fifteen years old and I was in Oregon visiting my friends, Kathy Embick and Julie Grossharth (now Carattini). After I moved to Ohio, I missed my friends very much (we lived in Beaverton, Oregon for five years and we moved just before my fourteen birthday) and my parents agreed to let me fly out to Oregon for a two week visit. It was great. The first part of my visit was with Kathy Embick and her family--we stayed at a house they rented on the Oregon Coast. The second week was spent with my friend, Julie and her family in Beaverton. We had a lot of fun goofing around. One night we went to see Dana Carvey at a theater in downtown Portland. Julie had won tickets to see him and he was pretty funny. Anyway, the attached picture was taken before we left for the show. My visit is definitely a highlight of my teenage years.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas-the aftermath

Our Christmas this year was very hectic. Aaron and I were running around for two days straight. So, we are both pretty wiped out, but we had a good time and ate a lot of food. The kids had a terrific Christmas and enjoyed being with their respective grandparents on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Santa was very good to them--despite the many warnings to Drew that Santa might just leave him coal if he did not behave better. Drew was like a wind up toy--he was just so excited for Christmas that he could not contain himself. Luckily, he slept until 7:15 a.m. on Christmas morning so we could get a little more sleep. Drew received a very cool bike for Christmas, along with a bunch of other goodies and Claire received a play kitchen and other goodies as well. They both received aprons with their names embroidered on them. They can wear them when they help us in the kitchen. Claire was more impressed with the big bows that were on the bike and play kitchen more than the toys themselves it seemed. Attached are a few photos of the festivities. The family photo by the tree was a little tricky to get this year-Drew is in a phase where he enjoys making funny faces when he gets his photo taken. This is the best one of the four that were taken. We hope your holidays were merry!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I would just like to take a moment to wish to those reading my blog (all one or two of you! :)) a Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating with your families.

The good news is that my mom gained two pounds this week! From what the nurses said at the nursing home that is quite unusual (but good). But, like I said earlier, we have to be cautious and hope that she continues to gain weight. She is still very, very fragile and she has a very long road ahead of her. With her weight gain, she is still only 95 pounds--and 5 feet 8 inches. My mom (along with my dad) were able to come over today for a nice four hour visit. She has not been out of the nursing home in quite a long time. She ate a little (not as much as we would have liked), watched the kids run around the house (Claire gave her many kisses and kept handing a little plastic ball to her), look at the Christmas tree and open the gift we bought her. We were grateful to have her here and we hoped we made it as nice as possible for her.

We try to be as grateful as we can for what we do have--and for that we feel very lucky.

Merry Christmas again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the roller coaster....

My dad received a positive phone call from the nurse case manager with the hospice group yesterday. My mom has been eating much better since the nursing home starting giving her real food (albeit softer foods that she can easily chew) instead of the pureed food that looked like--well, I won't even say. The nurse case manager said that she would be surprised if my mom has lost weight this week (they weigh her on Monday mornings). We have been down this road many times before where we will hear positive news, only to hear bad news a few days later. It is a perpetual roller coaster ride, so our own sanity, we try to not to get too excited about positive news. I am trying to get everything in place so that my mom can visit our house on Christmas Eve. She is very anxious to leave the nursing home--even if it's only for a few hours. I hope we can pull this off well.

Our official visit with Santa Claus at Easton Town Center

To mix things up this year, we took the kids to visit Santa Claus at Easton Towne Center (which is a little further away than our usual mall hang out of Polaris Fashion Place). The cost for an official 5 x 7 photo with Santa was only $5.00--which was quite a bargain considering the Santa photo-op at Polaris costs a minimum of $18.00. Aaron took a half day off of work, so we could avoid the crazy crowds. This Santa looked pretty geniune too. While we waited for Santa's little photo elves to take the official shot, I took a shot of the kids with Santa. The photo elves were not very good--in fact, they seemed quite confused. The woman in front of us could not decide which package to purchase. Which was fine--unfortunately, it took four photo elves to help her out. Meanwhile, Claire, Drew and even Santa were getting a little restless. I had to tell the photo elves that our one year old was not going to last much longer--so they finally took the picture. Needless to say, the photo I took turned out to be much better than the official shot. Oh well. It was still nice to spend some time together--we had lunch, walked around and even stopped to buy some yummy cheesecake to bring home at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My mom, Liz Carlson

In late 2001, my mom suffered a relatively minor stroke--that was not detected until several months later. The ramifications of that stroke (and many other "mini-strokes" that she experienced in the following months after the initial one) lead to her being both physically and mentally disabled. For a good part of the past seven years, she has lived in nursing home facilities. She is only 61 years old. To say that it has been a difficult journey for my family is an understatement. For me personally, it has been painful to watch my mom slip slowly away from me. While she could drive me crazy more than anyone else in my life, she and I were very close to one another. We could talk for hours at night together and we talked on the phone daily (sometimes more than once). She was the glue (as I think most moms tend to be) that held our very fractured family together. But, what makes the most difficult to deal with is that she has never had a chance to be the grandma that she always wanted to be. She loved her children unconditionally and I know how much joy her three grandsons and one granddaughter would have given her (three of which were born after she had her stroke and subsequent illness). I could not have predicted how difficult being a mom would be without having her guidance and support. Unfortunately, she is now in the fight for her life. She has lost a significant amount of weight and hospice is involved in her care. We have been told that she is quickly losing her battle--but no time frame can be given as to when she might finally give up this fight. She is a tough woman and that is why she is still with us today. While I have been quiet about my mom's health--I really feel like I need to share this with everyone. After all, I want to celebrate who she is and who she used to be. She deserves that. Sadly, there are few pictures of her with grandchildren, but the one above I cherish greatly. Shortly after I gave birth to Claire last year, she and my dad came to the hospital to see their new granddaughter. My mom got the opportunity to meet and hold Claire (Claire's middle name is Julianne--which honors both Aaron's mom, Julia and my mom, whose middle name is Anne). She just stared at her for what seemed like an eternity. For that, Aaron and I are so grateful.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Winter Wonderland--that is, a very cold, but pretty one!

Last night, we took the kids to the Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo. I thought it would be a nice evening, as there was little wind or snow or any other kind of item falling from the sky (we have seen a little bit of everything in the past several days). However, it was 24 degrees outside. I bundled the kids up in a couple layers--so I thought we would be covered at least for an hour or so. Aaron was a little hesistant about it due to the bitter chill in the air. But, as soon as we walked into the zoo, I was in awe of the lights--they were quite impressive. Drew was bouncing up and down with the excitement and Claire pointed excitedly at the lights. He also enjoyed the huge train exhibit (held inside) and the photo above shows him jumping for joy in excitement watching it. We lasted for almost an hour--with several visits to a couple exhibits held indoors (the train exhibit we visited twice). I plan on taking Drew again solo, as Claire is at the age where if you leave her in the stroller too long, she gets antsy and wants to walk--which is fine and dandy, but when its 24 degrees out and she is still a little clumsy walking on concrete--it is better to let her do in the comfort of our warm and reasonably child proof home. As you can see in the picture--she is not too thrilled with the lights towards the end of our visit.

Christmas at Franklin Park Conservatory

Last Sunday, our good friend and family photographer, Amy met us at the Franklin Park Conservatory to take our family picture for our Christmas card this year. With two very squirmy kids, it can be quite a challenge. Amy is always up for the challenge and is a great sport about it. The kids love their "Auntie Amy" and they like hanging around her. The Conservatory was filled with a huge number of poinsetta plants--which make it quite festive. My personal favorite is the Palm House--a large, glass enclosed area that looks like a tropical forest (with some poinsetta plants and a few Chiluly sculptures thrown in). They typically host wedding receptions, company parties and other events in the area. The good news is that Amy took a terrific photo of the four of us (a rare occurance--just to get a picture with the four of us in it, much less all of us looking at the camera!) You will see the photo on our Christmas card. But, here are a few outtakes from our photo session! As you can see Claire is never too keen on Drew putting his arm around her. It is a trust issue! :)

Girl Power! (and Boy Power too!)

As I mentioned in my previous blog, if I say "Girl Power" to Claire, she instantly raises her fists in the air like a little super hero (and a big grin). I am quite proud that she knows exactly what I am talking about. Attached is a picture of her in her full power super hero mode. Drew, being ever the follower, likes to throw in his "Boy Power!" Ah, these two are going to conquer the world!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

To be thankful

In a year that has brought a lot of challenges and sadness for our family--I try to remind myself of all that is good and what I should be grateful for. Here is my list.

1. My husband, Aaron. He is a good man. He loves me for me and that is always a very good thing. He is handling a lot on his shoulders right now with his job, our finances and family issues.

2. My always curious little boy, Drew. The kid is constantly asking questions and building strange little structures from the most obscure items in our house. And he is one of the friendliest kids around--he is never shy to say hello. Plus, he is starting to share with his sister (without being told to do so). While he can be a major challenge at times--I am very proud of this guy. Sometimes I feel like I learn from him instead of the other way around.

3. My spirited daughter, Claire. This little girl is going to rule the world someday. She has been a firecracker from the earliest stages of my pregnancy with her. She loves to smile and raise her arms up in the air when I say "girl power!" Plus, the girl can shake her rump like no one else when she hears music. And she doesn't put up with any nonsense from her big brother.

4. Our home. While we pay out the ying-yang for it and we have to sacrifice a lot for it-we are grateful to be living in it. We are happy to have found it when we did (it took us over a year to sell our first house--we had to list it twice!).

5. Our friends--who are like family to us. We just wish we could see them more often.

Holy Cow! One excited kid at Christmas

This clip from YouTube cracks me up! The little boy and his sister are beyond excited to open his Ninento 64 unit. It is the kind of reaction I had when I received my Mickey Mouse record player at five or my cool purple comfortable when I was eleven (I was a little weird--I liked home furnishing items at a very young age). I hope our kids get that excited one day for a gift that they are anxiously awaiting for Santa to bring. Not sure it will happen this year--but it will happen and it will be great.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Claire with the Coon skin hat!

It is Carlson tradition that goes back to my Dad's childhood days--the Davey Crockett inspired coon skin hat. It is a terribly ugly looking hat, but somehow it is has landed on the heads of my dad, myself, Drew and now Claire. The original hat my dad had as a kid no longer is around, but my dad found this hat on E-bay and had to buy it for Drew a couple years ago. Claire likes to wear it and then share it with everyone else. You cannot help but laugh when you put it on (or try to do so because it is too small for Aaron and I). Animal lovers--please note that the hat is not real raccoon fur--only synthetic fur and tail.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Grandpa Bob

Recently, it was the second anniversary of my Grandpa Bob's passing. I miss hearing his voice when I would call my grandparent's house. He would always say a big "hello!" and then say, "well, hello there Jennifer!" He was never one to talk very much on the phone--but he left a big impression in the first minute of the telephone conversation. We took Drew to visit Grandpa Bob and Grandma Bernice in April 2006, so that he could meet one of his three (at the time) great-grandchildren. It was our last visit with him--but I was so grateful that we did it. I will always remember him laughing and clapping as Drew played at the piano while we enjoyed a family dinner. The only thing I regret is not getting a picture with him and Drew--I had planned to do it the last morning we were there, but Grandpa was not feeling well. I miss him tremendously. The attached photo was taken when Aaron and I were on our way to Minneapolis for his memorial service. The photo in a weird way represents the feelings I had on my way up there.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Drew's famed art piece--Indian Corn!

Drew brings home a ton of his art projects from preschool and I love each one of them. I have been keeping them in a basket on top of our refrigerator (which seems to be one of the only safe places in our house these days). Last week, as I was picking him up at preschool--one of his teachers mentioned what a great job he did making his of paper Indian corn. Drew was quite proud to show Aaron and I his masterpiece. I thought it was so cute that I had to take a picture of Drew proudly holding his piece of art.

Random thoughts about the election and being a mom

First, I just want to say that no matter what your political preference is, last night this county made history. A moment that I never thought would come--but it has. Honestly, I just think that after eight years, our country was/is ready for a change. That is pretty typical. I was on the fence this summer about who I was going to vote for (and that has never happened before). I did vote for Barack Obama yesterday and I felt good about my decision. I do not envy the position he is in now--it is going to be a very tough job. I think John McCain is a good man--who has fought for his county in war and in the Senate and deserves our admiration and respect. Hopefully, this county can take the words from Senator McCain's speech last night and move this country forward together.

Second, after being home full time with the kids for just over a month--I have to admit that it has been a huge learning curve for me. Everything I thought that would be resolved by me staying home still remains unresolved. The house is still messy, I still stink at cooking dinner (well, not the easy stuff like Sloppy Joes, brats, spagetti, etc.) and I am still exhausted. I have renamed both of my kids "the tornadoes" because they can mess up a room in less than ten minutes. Just when I think I have one room looking somewhat respectable--the two of them come in and it looks the same before I cleaned it up. Ugh. I need some foolproof good recipes that everyone will enjoy in this family--not an easy task. I have always struggled with balancing my roles as wife, mom, employee, friend, daughter, etc. I am not sure I will ever reach that point where I think I have got it all figured out.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Spiderman and the Puppy Dog

We could not have asked for a nicer fall day than what we had for Halloween this year. The weather was perfect for pictures in the yard and trick or treat night. Each year, I like to take the kids out in the yard and take pictures in their costumes when the sun is still out. Trying to get a picture of the two kids together (and both smiling) is quite a feat--but I gave it my best try. I put Claire in Drew's puppy dog costume--he wore it for Halloween when he was 18 months old--Claire is just a few months younger at 15 months old. I figure I will keep putting Claire in Drew's old costumes until she is old enough to care about it. Heck, she may be wearing the Spiderman costume in a few years. Of course, I may not be able to resist dressing her as a ballerina or princess. We took both kids around the circle we live on and then I took Drew to take on the rest of the neighborhood. We received our fair share of candy. Aaron stayed home to watch Claire and pass out the candy. This year, we had a ton of kids come to our house--by the end of the night, we were passing out quarters and full packs of bubblegum (that we had bought for ourselves). My dad came over to help pass out candy and I think he enjoyed helping--it had been a long time since he had done that.

Imagination Parade at Drew's Preschool

Watching little ones parade in their Halloween costumes is probably one of the cutest things to see. On Thursday afternoon, Drew and his fellow classmates at his preschool had their annual "Imagination Parade". It was Drew's first time participating in such an event and he did wonderfully. He proudly wore his Spiderman costume. The kids received treats from the staff at his school. There were some very imaginative costumes, a police officer, an old fashioned golf player, Peter Pan and one little boy dressed up as Slash--complete with the full wig and guitar. It was pretty darn funny. After the parade, Drew and his buddies in his class (14 boys--no girls!) had a celebration in their classroom.

Pumpkin Carving with Daddy

On Wednesday night, we brought out one of our pumpkins to carve. Aaron did the honor this year of doing it. It has been a long time since we had carved a pumpkin and it was Drew and Claire's first time to watch the fun and exciting process! Drew thought it was fun to touch the gooey insides of the pumpkin. He also wanted to take the pumpkin seeds and grow a huge garden of pumpkins--so we could have in his words "pumpkins all over the porch!"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Inniswood Gardens - Fall 2008

I took Drew and Claire to Inniswood Gardens last Monday morning to get some lovely autumn pictures with the two of them. We had visited the park in July when my good friend, Amy had taken photos of them with the beautiful gardens as a backdrop. Well, it was nearly impossible to get the two kids to sit together for longer than ten seconds. Claire was running off somewhere and Drew was off gathering leaves, rocks, sticks and pulling the flowers (which is a big no-no). Drew is also in the stage that if Claire is getting her picture taken--well, then he needs to be in it too. Needless to say, after a half hour of frustration--I decided to hang it up. But, I thought I would share a few of the photos. Happy Fall! :)

One of my favorite places: The Cloisters/The One and Only Ocean Club-Paradise Island, Bahamas

The majority of this blog will be about the kids, but every once in a while, I will share a few tidbits about Aaron and I. We rarely get many opportunities to do things together alone as a couple--which is just part of the reality of having kids. But, as the kids get older, we will need to make a point of it, as it makes us stronger as a couple and ultimately, better parents too! This may become a blog feature--our favorite places that we have traveled to. At the end of March this year, we took a four day cruise together on Royal Caribbean--it was the same cruise that we took for our honeymoon, but we did very different things this time around. We visited Nassau, Bahamas, Royal Caribbean's private island, Coco Cay, Bahamas and Key West, FL. While in Nassau, we decided to take a ferry taxi to Paradise Island to visit the Atlantis resort and a few other places located on the small island (which we did not do on our initial visit). Two of the places I researched on (a great resource when planning a trip) were the Cloisters and The One and Only Ocean Club--which are located on the same property. Along with our visit to Key West, this was one of very favorite moments of the vacation. The Cloisters is a section of an old French monestary that was brought over in the 1930's by a wealthy businessman who was enamored with the island. The best thing about it was that we were the only ones visiting it--which was terrific! The One and Only Ocean Club is an amazing resort (and one that we will never be able to afford--unless we win the million dollar lottery!). We enjoyed lunch at their oceanfront outdoor restaurant--which was right on the water! Needless to say it was the most expensive lunch that we have ever had and probably ever will have--but the view and the food (especially the pina coladas!) made it completly worth it!

Drew-Halloween Through the Years

Halloween cannot come soon enough for Drew this year. He is already telling us, "Happy Halloween Mommy and Daddy! After much discussion and debate, he finally decided to dress up as Spiderman this year--even though he had no idea what Spiderman really was. More to come on that this week. But, with the holiday arriving this week--I thought it would be fun to do a retrospective of Drew's Halloween costumes. This year will mark his fifth Halloween--and third as a trick or treater! When he was six months old, he was Winnie the Pooh; a year later, he was a puppy; at two years old, he was a lion and last year, he was Thomas the Train. It is always a lot of fun to take pictures of him in his costume and he has always been a willing participate in the photo sessions.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Miss Claire--What a difference a year makes!

I admit there are days where I feel like Claire has always been a part of our family, but it was only 14 months ago when she arrived. She has gone from being a little peanut--at only 6 pounds, 13 ounces when she was born--to a big girl of roughly 26 pounds and 31 1/2 inches tall! She is now walking more confidently, saying an occasional word we can recognize and screaming at the top of her lungs (with a sly grin!) when she doesn't get the full attention she wants! These pictures were taken on the same day--October 20th--only one year separates them!

Claire's First Official Haircut

On October 8th, we took Claire to get her first official haircut at Cookie Cutters. We thought it would be nice to do it around the same time we took Drew for his first cut. Plus, I did not want to risk trying to cut her bangs again, since I am not very good at it. She started out good--as you can see in the close up photo (the one with her in the pink cap). But, as soon as the hairstylist started to cut her hair, the waterworks began. I told Aaron that she was like one of the model contestants that cry on the "makeover episode" of America's Next Top Model when the chop their hair and dye it the complete opposite of their original hair color. Nothing would pacify her--a lollipop, honeybee cracker, the Little Einstein show playing on the television, our laughing, etc. The hairstylist gave her a slight trim and little damage was done. She stopped crying almost immediately once I got her out of the chair. As part of the "first cut" package they give you a certificate with the child's picture and a lock of the hair they cut. Needless to say, the photo of Claire is priceless--her eyes are full of tears and her mouth is in full pout action. It will be fun to bring it out someday when Claire is older and having one of her diva moments (which I am sure there will be plenty of!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Drew, the little Bobcat!

Last month, Drew and I went down to OU to meet our friends, Amy and her boyfriend, Jim and Lisa, her husband, Bill and their little boy, William for lunch and to watch an OU football game at Peden Stadium. Needless to say, it is always a lot of fun to go down to Athens to visit the campus and remember all of the fun things we did in college. Aaron and I try to visit the campus each year--usually in the fall. It is fun to bring the kids too--although I admit it is a little strange bringing a little one to campus. Drew loves to visit the campus and seems to feel right at home. As with our visit to Circle S Farms, we had hoped to have a somewhat cool day--but it was almost 90 degrees! Being excited about the trip, Drew had slept very little the night before, which made him more of a challenge then usual, since he wanted me to carry him around the campus. I forgot how steep the rolling hills of OU can be--especially carrying a 42 lb. 4 year old! I think I lost 5 lbs. in water weight by carrying him around so much and sweating in the stands! Anyway, attached is a picture of Drew with Rufus the Bobcat--the official mascot! Drew loves to meet these furry creatures and give them hugs. Oh yes, the football team lost that day--but with a long tradition of losing football games--OU alumni have learned to accept this. And as we did as students, we only stayed until the Marching 101 played at halftime. While I was busy chasing Drew around while they played, they were a lot of fun to watch (well, as much as I could see) as they danced on the field.

Brutus Buckeye at the Schott

As you can see from the photos on our blog's title page, we paid a visit to an odd exhibit outside of the Schottenstein Center on The Ohio State University campus a few weeks ago. Basically, it is the same Brutus Buckeye statue dressed in different themes---Elvis Brutus, Coach Tressel Brutus, Hippie Brutus, Butter Brutus (in honor of the annual butter cow at the Ohio State fair--and Drew's favorite Brutus), Phantom of the Opera Brutus, Coach Tressel Brutus, etc. The statues surround the Schottenstein Center, which is home to the Ohio State Men's and Women's Basketball and Hockey teams and hosts a variety of concerts and other events. While I am not the biggest Buckeye fan (Aaron, on the other hand, is a huge Buckeye fan)--it was kind of fun to see them. We are trying to get as many outdoor activities packed into this month, as we know that winter is only weeks away--ugh. The older I get, the more I detest winter.