Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

We hope the year has gone well for you.  It has been a very full year for us.  In February we started a class that was recommended to us called Financial Peace University. It was very eye opening and has made some big differences in our life.  We are now on a budget and no longer use any debt instruments (credit cards and the like) and pay for everything with cash, which means we don’t really worry about money anymore…very liberating!  We will be teaching this class at our church after the start of the new year.

In May we had some adjustments to make as Emmy again had to have surgery. It actually involved two surgeries at the same time to help with her peeing and stooling so that she can be continent.  While it has presented challenges, we have been very happy with the overall outcome.  (To keep up to date on Emmy’s journey, visit her Caring Bridge page: www.caringbridge.org/visit/emmareneearly.)

Sadly Jesse, our dog of 9 years, died in March.  We did not get a new dog right away and decided to try fostering dogs for a while.  In July we got a foster dog, Elmo, who was a very fun cute American bull dog.  Unfortunately we were unable to keep him as we found that Emmy was allergic to dogs. A couple of weeks after we got him Emmy suddenly had an allergic reaction with anaphylaxis.  We did not suspect dogs at first, but a couple of days later she had another allergic reaction with anaphylaxis, and then the allergy testing came back showing dogs as well as cows milk and egg whites, so we are no longer able to have a dog and our whole family’s diet has had to make some adjustments. 

Peder played t-ball and Soccer over the summer.  The girls are looking forward to playing soccer themselves next year. Peder then started K-Camp in late august and finally kindergarten. He had some adjustments to being at school all day.  He was really missing playing with his sisters. Emmy and Mari both started pre-k this fall and they are enjoying school.  We had originally planned on having them repeat pre-k since their birthday is in the summer, but after going to their first parent teacher conference, we were told by their teachers they are fully ready for kindergarten now and repeating would only result in their being bored.  So, in a few short months, all of our kids are going to be in school all day.  Where did the time go?

Melissa finished up with her schooling in June and can now do some amazing things with a computer.  Our holiday picture this year had some adjustments made to it.  Right before we took our picture, Jake managed to get a nice gash on his cheek.  Well, Melissa quickly and easily removed that little blemish. She has also designed her own website, Earlybirdcrafts.com to support her paper craft business and has plans for future websites to create a support network for the families of children with Emmy’s condition.  In August Melissa started working every other weekend in a group home and she will be having surgery in December to treat a chronic condition that causes severe pain.

Jake continues to play football.  His team has had some struggles this year.  They are all getting older and chronic injuries have resulted in a couple of people no longer playing. Jake has had lingering issues himself with plantar fasciitis.  It took him almost six months before he finally went to the Doctor at Melissa’s encouragement and finally started noticing improvement in his foot. He also continues with fantasy football, though decided to drop one of his leagues as he was having trouble finding the time to keep up with all of them.  He has also continued with his poker league once a month and was especially proud of one night when he managed to win every game he played, plus personally took out every person at the table one at a time.

We had a pretty good year and are looking forward to the new year!  We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and joyous New Year.

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Very Proud Mama

See that boy right there?  I love him.  He makes me SO proud.  That boy right there is my baby boy, the first of my children to venture out into the world beyond our home by himself.  That first day of kindergarten, I bawled....a lot.  I watched him walk up to school, a bit nervous, pause a moment and then take those steps into the big brick building where he would be spending his days, and my heart went with him.  He looked so little next to all the other kids, but I was SO proud of that little boy.

Then, I started volunteering in his classroom.  I help out with "centers" on Wednesday mornings....basically I help out with learning activities and the kids rotate centers and I get to help them out and spend some time with Peder.  I watch him and listen to him when he doesn't realize that anyone else is paying attention, and the things I hear him say make me even more proud of him.  He will walk past someone in his class and say something like, "I really like how you colored your monster." or "Your letter M looks really good."  He reaches out to his classmates and is extremely kind to them, and the fact that he does that when no one is watching, with no expectations, makes me SO proud.  It melts my heart and brings tears to my eyes because I can see the person he is becoming, and I love who he is becoming.

Yes, I'm bragging.  I'm proud.  SO PROUD!  And let's just add another thing on there to be proud.  Today when I picked him up from school he had a sucker in his hand.  I asked him why he got the sucker and he told me that he got it for counting to 100 with the principal.  The principal, Mr. Bretoi, goes to the classrooms and sits with the kids and does things with them to track progress and see where kids are in their skills.  Today Peder was one of only 2 students in his class that was able to count to 100.  Another thing to make this Mama proud.

I am SO happy and excited about the boy Peder is turning into.  I just had to share this with all of you....I'm just so proud of him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The proof is in the dancing

Here is a video of one of the happenings in our house this morning.  If you listen closely you'll hear her singing....and a bit of my singing too.  :)  The reason you hear me telling her to keep going is because I stopped dancing because the camera was starting to shake.  And she wouldn't take a bow because another song came on and she proceeded to dance to that one too.

The video is wider then my screen on my blog, so if you want to see the full width and Emmy actually centered in it, click on the video and the youtube page will open up.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oh the Hilarity....

Some of the funny, hilarious, whatever tidbits happening in our life right now:

- Mari had her new glasses for less than 3 hours before she got hit in the face with a whiffle bat and had to have them adjusted. 2 days later she got hit in the face again while wrestling with Peder.

- Any time we are in the car, all 3 kids sing along to the radio.....every song. It amazes me that after hearing the song once the kids know half the words to a song.

- Our house is full of giggles lately. Our kids are all developing their senses of humor and OH MY GOODNESS, do they find each other hilarious. Sometimes they are a lot like their mom, dad or Grandpa Warren, and they find themselves hilarious when no one else does.

- All three kids had blood draws today for their allergies....no tears whatsoever. They all were VERY brave and did a wonderful job.

- Peder starts kindergarten a week from Thursday and the girls start Pre-K two weeks from today. How did this happen?

- On the slightly crude side....Emmy was sitting on the toilet this morning before her flush and she farted.  I said, "Did you tooter?" And her response was, "No, my butt coughed."  I seriously could not stop laughing.

- We're doing a lot of singing and dancing around the house and while driving around on our errands. I will leave you with the one song that gets us ALL (yes, Jake too) dancing and singing along to the radio...(YES, we have WAY too much fun in our life! :) )

Friday, July 08, 2011

Babies, Dogs and Engagements.....Oh MY!

It's been awhile since I've updated, and we've had a lot going on since then.  All 3 kids finished up with preschool and Peder is getting all prepared for Kindergarten this fall.  Peder is playing both soccer and t-ball this summer and the girls and I spend Monday and Wednesday mornings hanging out with one of their preschool friends and watching Peder play soccer.

In addition to our regularly scheduled summer activities, the following things are going on:

- I have decided to take the summer off of school.  It was all becoming too much and I was missing my family.  We'll be reassessing in the fall to decide whether it's better to start again in the fall or wait until all 3 kids are in school all day and talk about it again then.

- My cousin Chelsea and her husband Josh had their first little boy last month.  That's Great-Grandbaby number 5 on that side of the family, and baby number 3 for our families this year.  I said in January that 2011 was going to be the year of the baby, and it's definitely shaping up that way.  Any baby fever is placated by snuggling with all these little ones joining our family and the families of our friends.

- Jake's brother Nick got engaged earlier this week.  WA-HOO!  Dana really is the perfect fit for him and we can't wait to have her in the family.  Welcome to the family "Auntie Dana!"

- After Jesse's death we really struggled with whether to get another dog.  We just didn't know about getting another dog, especially at this time in our life with the financial responsibility of it.  I hemmed and hawed for quite awhile and then took the plunge and applied to be a foster parent for dogs through Midwest Animal Rescue and Services.  We got our first dog last Friday.  His name is Elmo.  He is an American Bulldog (think Chance from Homeward Bound) and is about a year old.  He was extremely lethargic the first couple of days here, but now he fits right in.  He is very much a puppy still and we're working on teaching him his manners.  I'm actually amazed at how easy he is to train and how well he is doing, especially after how sad he was those first few days.  Here's a picture of the cutie:


I think that's all for now.  We're gearing up for a couple of family get-togethers this weekend with Jake's family and the girls turn FOUR tomorrow.  WHAT?  How did this happen?  I'm in disbelief....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Am I Naive?

I've been reading what I can about the horrible crisis in Japan.  I say "what I can" because I am an extremely emotional person.  I see others' heartache, pain, devastation and I take it as my own (the same with positive things, it's just that the sad is overwhelming in this story), meaning I put myself in their place and feel as if it had happened to me.  This has resulted in my distancing myself from most news....my heart and soul cannot take it.  I become depressed, devastated and it results in worrying on my part.  Jake has stopped telling me about sad stories about children, because he knows I just cannot handle it.

So in part, I know I create my own naivete.  I don't keep up on current events as much as I "should" because the human stories behind the news break my heart.  I have to do it for my own well-being.  That being said, I'm shocked by what I've been reading lately.

APPARENTLY, there is a large underlying issue in the United States: racism and hatred towards the Japanese.  There are men and women who hate the Japanese and can never forgive them for what happened at Pearl Harbor and WWII in general.  Now, I understand that this was a devastating time for our nation and that it greatly influenced my grandparents' generation.  That it was a scary time and that for many of these people their lives were never the same because of it.  I also know, that it has been close to 70 years since the horrible event and that those involved and responsible for those events left our world long ago.  I also KNOW, that NO MATTER what you feel about a group of people, to say that they "deserved" or "had it coming" in regards to this horrendous disaster is heartless and my eyes defines you as a person.  And in my eyes, that's not a very good person.

I'm extremely angry about this.  I don't care who you are, people do NOT deserve to have their lives swept away from them, to live through this devastation, to have their entire world fall apart.  Yes, it happens.  This is the world we live in....bad things happen.  But no one, NO ONE, deserves it.  No one can earn to have their country in crisis like this.

So apparently I was pretty naive about the amount of racism towards the Japanese in our country.  And now I'm all fired up and ticked off about it.  Too bad that when I get fired up and ticked off I have a horrible time articulating my thoughts.

Ok...vent over.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Financial Peace University

So....here in the Early household....we're dealing with a bit of a pride issue.  Jake and I are extremely PROUD of ourselves right now.  I'm glowing and hyper.  Jake sends me happy little emails about our finances.  Yep....you read that right, HAPPY little emails about our FINANCES.

You see....we're feeling a bit like rock stars right now.  At the end of last year my parents attended Financial Peace University (FPU) through their church.  They kept telling us all these great things about it and all the things you can accomplish with it.  After our second or third conversation with them about it I asked Jake what he thought about us taking it.  We both thought it was a great idea and I started to look up places we could take it.  With my schedule for school and having 3 kids, we had one option that worked.  SO starting on Super Bowl Sunday (yes, Jake voluntarily missed watching the Super Bowl) we started our classes.

We just had our 5th week of class on Sunday.  The class is getting to the point where we're starting to share our successes, the steps we've taken, the things we've done and the changes we've made in our lives to reach financial peace.  It ROCKS!  Seriously, it is not only empowering to yourself and your family to see the changes happening, but when you hear about the steps others are taking and the positive changes in their lives, it motivates you even more.

The change in our life, in our relationship, in our moods and in our finances is awesome.  Dave talks about making your "money work for you" and being in "control of your money" rather then your money controlling you.  For us the changes we have made so far and the things we have learned have resulted in exactly this.  We're in control.  We're planning.  Those "unexpected" expenses are now planned for and the amount of stress that is gone because of that is amazing.  I'm even looking into another part-time job to help pay for expenses that we see coming up in 6 months and want to have them more then saved up for.

We would highly recommend this class to anyone at any phase of your life and in any financial situation, it can help you no matter what.  Jake and I have talked about being coordinators or leaders of the class sometime in the future (probably after I'm done with school).  The amount of peace and control it has brought into our lives has been great for us and we want to help others get there too.

So anyway, that's my happy ramble about FPU.  You'll probably be reading more of them as time passes.  We just made a couple of major steps in our process and whenever that happens I'll get excited and want to share that excitement with all of you!

For those wondering, here are Dave's Baby Steps towards Financial Peace.    You do them in the following order:

Baby Step 1 - Establish an Emergency Fund (Get $1000.00 in savings)
Baby Step 2 - Debt Snowball (Pay off your debt starting with smallest debt first, once paid off roll your payment over to the next smallest debt.  Continue until all debt is paid off.)
Baby Step 3 - 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings  (This is your new Emergency Fund.  You do not touch it.  This is in case there is an unexpected emergency,  i.e. loss of job, severe medical issue)
Baby Step 4 - Save for Retirement (Put 15% of your income into pretax retirement funds)
Baby Step 5 - Save for college for your children
Baby Step 6 - Pay off your house early
Baby Step 7 - Build wealth and give

(P.S.  If you have questions, leave a comment and I can email you privately if you'd prefer.  I'm not an expert, but I can give you the general idea behind the class and what Dave recommends.)

Friday, March 04, 2011


*This is a warning.  This could very well be a rambling, emotional post.  Be warned that it may be full of random thoughts and tears on my keyboard.*

Eight and a half years ago, right after we got married, Jake and I went to the Last Hope Adoption Day at our local PetCo.  Sitting there looking for a home was a 6 month old yellow lab.  He was super sweet and later that day he came home with us. He very quickly became "my"dog and an important member of the family. That 6 month old yellow lab turned into my sweet, gigantic (95 pound) lap dog.

Today we said good-bye to Jesse.  Last Friday he started acting lethargic and was starting to limp around.  We thought his arthritis was acting up, so gave him something for the pain. He continued to act that way and by Tuesday Jake had to carry him to his vet appointment.  It was then that we discovered the horrible truth: Jesse had severe internal bleeding, most likely from a tumor in his spleen.  There is very little that can be done for it, and research is currently being done to hopefully find a genetic cause, because then they can breed it out of the dogs.  Sadly, it was already too late for Jesse.

We had 3 days to come to terms with it, question ourselves and spoil him rotten.  This evening, just before 5p, Jesse went to God while I scratched his ears and the vet rubbed his neck.  All 3 of us who were in the room cried and with each memory came fresh tears.

Memories, like how he would snuggle with me every chance he got.  I would often fall asleep with my face buried in his fur and wake up the same way, because he would lay in Jake's spot when he wasn't in bed.

Memories like when we would go to our friends Allison and Monty's cabin, Jesse would head down to the lake and just swim in circles, because he loved the water so much.

Memories like constantly being crushed under my gigantic lap dog.  According to Jake I train those around me to want to snuggle or sit on my lap and I started with the dogs. 

Memories like how he was so good with kids, especially our kids, and how he put up with their crazy behavior.

Memories like the ones that had me thinking "a boy and his dog."  Jesse would sleep on the bed with Peder, follow him around and they would give each other random affection.

Memories like his adorable smile and perked up ears. How being around us could always get that smile and happy ears.  It makes me remember when he could hear (his hearing was pretty much gone because of ear infections that became immune to anitbiotics) and every time he heard a dog bark on TV he would stand in front of it and cock his head back and forth.

Memories like his deep affection for Jake and how sometimes that deep affection would result in him constantly pestering Jake....nudging him, rubbing against him, leaning on him, anything to be next to him.

 Memories of "my dog."  My snuggler.  My best fur buddy.  My sweet, loving, gentle giant.  Jesse, I love you, and you will be missed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Building up our Immunity

We've been dealing with illness here for the last 2 weeks.  It started with Jake and moved to the kids and me.  All 3 kids and myself went to the doctor today.  Here is a rundown:

Peder - Strep
Me - Strep and Sinus Infection.

Here is my adventures of the day:

- I have never had strep in my life.  EVER.  I was shocked to find out I had it.
- I was given the choice of oral antibiotics for 10 days or a penicillin injection today and no need for oral antibiotics.  I chose the injection.
- I hate needles and the shot took FOREVER.  I got lightheaded and had to lay down.
- I finally felt better, but exhausted.  I decided to go home and take a nap.  By the time I'd made it 15 feet from my exam room I was looking for a nurse.  I couldn't keep my eyes open.....I was SO tired.
- I passed out on the appointment desk at the clinic.  They helped me to another room, got me a nurse and laid me down tilted towards my head.  Apparently I was so pale my lips were white.
- It took me a half hour to recover from my lightheadedness/exhaustion enough to be able to drive home.
- I woke up from my nap this afternoon to a temp of 103.4.  I called the doctor and am now on a tylenol schedule for the next 48 hours until my body has the infection under control.  WA-HOO!

It has been quite the day.  I'm still going to be feeling pretty crummy for the next 48 hours, so I'm planning on spending my time in bed as much as possible.

It's been awhile since we've all been this sick.  I hope that by next week we'll all be on the mend.  I hope none of you are battling all of these illnesses like we are and are able to enjoy the gorgeous weather!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Someone stole my baby boy....

and put a big boy in his place!  Peder lost his first tooth today while eating popcorn at preschool.  I didn't even know it was loose!  We are pretty sure he swallowed it.  Apparently he looked at his teachers and asked, "Did I lose my tooth?"  They searched high and low for it and couldn't find it anywhere.  We'll be leaving a note for the tooth fairy to explain what happened.

In the meantime, I'm going to go mourn the loss of my baby boy, who I swear just got those teeth in yesterday!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


So I read this book "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown.  It was interesting.  I didn't get as much out of it as I thought I would, but it made me think, so that was good.  (Or maybe not....sometimes I think too much.)

Anyway....something she talked about frequently....or at least stuck out to me was vulnerabilities and how we tend to hide them.  Are you a vulnerability hider?  I think everyone is, it's just how much so.  Brown talked about how there are three areas in which people are the most vulnerable: dancing, singing and laughing.   I found this SO interesting.  I know there are people who don't like to do these things because they are embarassed, but man alive, I am not one of them.   Here's a bit about me on each of these topics
  • Laughing - I snort when I laugh.  Sometimes really loud.  I get teased about it, I get egged on to try to get a snort.  Friends and family judge how funny something is by how many times I snort.  Sometimes I'll try to hold it in (which essentially means it is delayed, they always come out), but HECK, IT'S ME!  It's who I am.  I didn't used to snort.  Something happened during my pregnancies....it started after Peder was born and got way more prevalent after the girls.  I'm the girl who laughs so hard she snorts.  I'd rather laugh so hard I snort then not laugh at all.
  • Singing - I sing A LOT.  I sing to my kids, I sing in the shower, I sing along with the radio.  If you're driving down the road and you start laughing at someone who is jamming along to the radio, it's probably me you're laughing at.  There are pictures of me unabashedly singing my guts out on facebook.  Yep, I'm the girl who can't carry a tune but sings at the top of her lungs.
  • Dancing - OH MY GOODNESS!  I love to dance!  L-O-V-E IT!  We have dance parties around our living room and kitchen.  If I hear a song I like while at a store or restaurant I will start singing and dancing along.  I'm pretty sure I get this from my mom (She was SO embarrassing when I was a kid! LOL).  I have memories of dancing around with my parents when I was growing up and one of my favorites is dancing around a cabin we rented to the song "If I had a Million Dollars" the summer before I left for college.  Right now my workouts are to Just Dance 2 and Gold Gym's Dance Workout on our Wii.
Apparently these are not my vulnerabilities.  I'm a free spirit.  I don't embarrass easily.  I will NEVER be ashamed of having a good time through laughing, singing or dancing.   These things help to get me out of my head when I'm thinking too much, when I'm very grumpy or when I'm just having a hard day.

This is my current favorite song to sing and dance to.  I crank it every time I drive to school.  Don't let a moment slip away!

Friday, January 07, 2011

I'm a Guest Designer!

Here is a post from my blog for Early Bird Crafts about a guest designer spot I got.  My project is on the blog today.  Check it out!

Hi all!  Head on over to Frosted Designs to check out my very first guest design.  I've been working on a bunch of stuff lately and hope to get pictures of other layouts and projects posted soon!

If you are here from Frosted Designs, thank you SO much for stopping by!  My blog has been quiet lately because of school, but I've got a bunch of projects in the works and will be posted soon.  I would love it if you became a follower to view more of my work!

Thanks again for the visit and I was SO honored to be asked to guest design at Frosted Designs.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

First Haircuts

My baby girls are now 3 and a half, which means I have finally given in to giving them haircuts.  They look SO cute and like such big girls.  And for those of you who have a hard time telling them apart....Emmy now has much shorter hair then Mari.

Emmy Before:

Emmy After:

Mari Before:

Mari After: