Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snowbabies: Falk Edition

On this most blessed of nights, I pause to thank friends and family, and mostly God, for the wondrous blessings in my life. Three of them are pictured here (and see the profile pic for the fourth!:)), and though I realize I'm biased, they are as close to perfection as I've come on this earth. Here Natalie is making snow angels for mom after 14 inches of snow blanketed Oshkosh.
Snow angels continue as Maria takes to the snow. Her favorite part of this winter's heavy snow has been that she can climb the snow bank over the fence to her friend's house, instead of using the sidewalk and walking around. Cool, huh?

Jarod's first stop during the snow play was at the swings. He carved out a place for his feet to fit under the swing, and took back to it like it was any other summer day to play outside. Simple pleasures aren't that hard to come by in your own backyard!

According to the kindergarten class of Washington Elementary School, "Mary Had a Baby"--or so they sang during their Christmas program at the Civic Auditorium. Here Maria is pictured with her friend/neighbor/classmate, Seth. Maria sure knew how to shake her booty on stage, too. She had a great time singing and dancing--she sure likes to practice at home!
Perhaps it's cliche, but Dickens still has it right: God bless us, everyone. Peace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Merry Christmas, friends! Again, my apologies for the lack of updates.

December finds the Falk family busy as usual. Tomorrow we'll be attending the Washington Elementary School Holiday Concert at the Civic Auditorium at West High School. This will be Maria's first school concert, though her second time on the stage (she had her dance recital on the stage this summer). She has a gorgeous little dress to wear and family joining her for the festivities. We're looking forward to the holiday mood the concert should instill. Her class is singing, "Mary Had a Baby", and she has been practicing in the car for weeks!

Jarod had his school concert at the same auditorium, and he did very well. He looked handsome in his new red sweater, and he sang along with all of the songs, even joining in the movements for some of them. He seems more excited, however, about watching Maria's concert, and being part of the audience rather than the main event. He's doing very well in school, also. He scored a perfect score in his catterpillar and butterfly science unit test, and he is scoring perfect scores on his spelling tests every week. Subtraction is his tough point in school right now, so we're going to see if Santa can bring some flash cards to share with the family. Jarod was home sick from school on Friday with a fever, and I taught him to play slapjack. He kept giggling, telling the jacks they were naughty as we smacked them on the pile of cards. This is a favorite new game!

Natalie is growing by leaps and bounds, and she says the funniest things (though not always under funny circumstances). She loves to read right now, and is memorizing her favorite books, like "Pinkalicious" and "My Many Colored Days". She steals my sodas and gingerbread men, and when I find her completes the transaction with a kiss and a "Aww...I love you mommy." She may be autistic, but she's NO dummy! The good news is Natalie should access her therapy waiver slot in early January. Once she passes the county's evaluation for therapy (they have to make sure she's bad off enough to still qualify), WEAP will begin the process of assembling her team. Hopefully she will begin therapy sometime in February. That will be a tremendous change for her, but an important one at that.

Chris received a pretty perfect evaluation from hsi employer, and is pretty happy with his current job. He's looking for ways to pick up a few extra bucks working part time since my practicum time is closing in, and I'm doing the same. With all of the snow we've had, he's been borrowing the neighbor's snowblower because the baby is powerful! Our little one isn't keeping up with the snowfall and our drifts are usually taller than the blower! Chris is grateful this holiday season for generous neighbors!

And as for me, I'm keeping busy, but am enjoying the relaxed pace compared to first quarter. My student teacher is a dream--excellent with students, well prepared, and very thorough. There's little I have to do to help, and that has allowed me some time to work on my graduate class work for my final class Research and Evaluation. This week I'm prepping a presentation, and I scored an A on the last test--wasn't so sure that was going to happen, but I'm grateful it did. January 26 is the first day of my practicum, and with it only five weeks away, the butterflies are already fluttering in my tummy. I've also recently begun singing with the Lifeteen band at the Lifeteen masses 6 p.m. Sunday evenings. A friend leads the band and invited me to join, which I did. I've really enjoyed singing again, though it's intimidating. She described it as a choir, and when I realized it's usually three of us with microphones in hand, I realized there's no where to hide if I mess up!!!!! It's fun though, and it's a nice finish to the weekends.

The holidays are heading into full speed. We enjoyed Thanksgiving with my folks, and we went through the Celebration of Lights in Menomonee Park the same night. St. Nick visited and brought treats for the kids, which they loved, and we're planning a visit back to the Celebration of Lights so the kids can visit Santa. They emailed their Christmas lists to Santa, and he promptly replied, which had them pretty excited. And we hear Santa's elves have been busy making and wrapping special presents for the kids to open on Christmas morning. Next weekend I'll be taking Maria to the Paine Art Center for the Nutcracker in the Castle event along with a friend who is bringing her daughter, and afterward we'll take them to lunch. Our extended vacation this year is already planned with playdates, visits, and parties throughout the entire two weeks. We feel very blessed to have so many friends and family to share our lives with, and we hope the holidays find your family equally blessed.

God bless us every one...our families, our friends, ourselves, and our world. Peace be with us all.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

In the depths of autumn

I feel as though I've been asleep.
And that sleep was anything but restful.

November is almost halfway through, but I find I am awakening from some kind of hazy autumnal existence that was less than memorable. I am at the end of my first full week of being without classes (well, I'm down to one now) and having a student teacher. And the end result is the constant refrain running in my head that there is a tremendous difference between survival and living.

But living I am. My "hell semester" of grad classes has come to a close and I am on home stretch. One class, and it's time for practicum.

I'm nervous about the practicum stuff, and elated, too. It's hard to know I'm leaving friends for a pretty long stretch, know I'll not see them nearly as I used to, but knowing, too, that I'm making positive life changes. It is, to say the least, bittersweet.

The brightest spot in life, as always, are family and friends. Chris is doing well. He's up for his annual eval and things are looking good. And as for the kids, well, what can I say? Maria is, as I write this, leaping off the livingroom furniture showing me her "superspy moves". Jarod is making a caterpillar out of playdough (and accurately naming all of the parts, thank you very much), and Natalie is fully clothed and playing webkinz on the computer. In other words, they are wonderful, bright, and healthy--and absolutely perfect, of course! Jarod and Maria's report cards show things are progressing well. Maria is quite the little helper at school, and the teacher has had to tell her to let other kids do things for themselves or they'll never learn! And Jarod did extremely well with his latest science test. He received a perfect score on his science test on the caterpillar. He also has had perfect spelling tests all quarter, except for the one where he wrote "shit" on the test. They were testing "sh" words, and he knowingly added this little tidbit to his test before turning it in. I got such a note from the teacher! But the English teacher in me is just happy he spelled it right! (JK) And Natty spends most of her days at school hugging and kissing her friends and dressing up like a fire fighter. Jarod says he wants to be a teacher when he grows up, Maria wants to be a police officer "like Uncle Steve", and Natty wants to be a fire fighter in a "quiet" firehouse. Go figure.

My hope is this finds our friends and family well. Keep in touch, and know you can also find us on facebook!

With love,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's been 20 days since I've last posted, and again, my sincere apologies in not doing a better job of keeping up! I'll try to do better.

This month began with a sigh of relief as I completed my freelance project for Carroll Electric. Each year this electrical contractor participates in the Association of Builders and Contractors Projects of Distinction Awards. Since they don't like to write, and the submission requires extensive writing, they hire me. And they won again this year! I'm two for two now, which was why they were just fine when I raised the price of my work a touch. Yeah for me!

Classes and school have continued on in a desperately strenuous grind. Soon after Chris's birthday the stomach flu hit the house swiftly and mercilessly, and I found myself falling out of my patterns of working out. I'm slowly getting back into it, but the stress of classes has left me longing for sleep and time with my family.

Speaking of the loved ones, they continue to blossom. Jarod turned 8 on September 28, and Maria will be 6 this Saturday. Natalie has been wonderful also, and I keep getting funny notes about all of the goofy things she says in class from her teacher. This weekend, with the birthday on the horizon, we'll be carving pumpkins and hanging out at home, enjoying the beautiful autumn weather. And of course cake is part of the equation!

I'm two weeks away from completing this round of classes, and in that time I have 7 papers to write, so I'll definitely be working on that. I also have the end of quarter grades approaching, so as soon as I can, I'll be tackling that as well. I'm a mere two weeks from being mostly finished with my grad work, and my final class will begin--this time only one class per week for seven weeks. By the time the holidays roll around, I should be almost finished.

In the meantime, my happy thoughts are with you as Wisconsin's brilliance grows increasingly golden this fall. Be well, friends.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Turn of Events...

Sorry for the delay in updates. I've been a little buried the last few days.

The past couple of weeks have been an endless windfall of blessings and chaos. I was thrilled this week when I finally submitted the final copies of my freelance project for Carroll Electric of Janesville. It was a huge amount of work that I struggled balancing against my classes and school, so it is a tremendous relief to have it behind me.

The kids are sick this week, though, and that always takes a toll. Stomach flu is rampant in the schools these days, and our kids are no exception. Natalie had it first, and now Maria. I'm crossing my fingers and saying a prayer that it passes Jarod by (not to mention Chris and me), but time will tell.

School is, otherwise, going well for everyone. Jarod's doing well, though he struggles with math and social studies. SS is particularly difficult for him since the concepts are rather abstract, so the teachers are working to find ways to help Jarod connect with the material. Natalie will be going on a field trip with her class to a fire house, and Maria's class is going on a walking field trip to Menomonee Park so she can collect leaves and other autumn treasures.

Thank God, though, for Chris. He's been wonderful these last few weeks as things get pretty hectic around here. Things are going well at the lab, and he's pondering whether he wishes to pursue a graduate degree as well.

Good news came that we did not use our entire budget this last year for Jarod's therapy, and we have money left over for respite. And, as long s/he fits the county's requirements, we are allowed to hire the individual of our choosing. Kathy, a former therapist of Jarod's who has babysat our kids and knows them very very well, will be doing respite for us. We're thrilled to have this opportunity, and it'll be an extra support for our family. We're always grateful for the blessings we have in family and friends!

Jarod's birthday was a nice day. We had a special breakfast, and took the kids to the toy store to let him pick out his own present. Later, he and Chris went swimming at the Y while I took the girls to a birthday party for their friend next door. In the evening, we had dinner with mom and dad, including Jarod's birthday cake of choice--white cake, white frosting, white ice cream!

We're looking forward to celebrating the kids' birthdays on the 11th with our family. We can't wait to see you! Until then, be well friends.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Days of Dragons

The Dragon Boat races have returned to Oshkosh, and this is the first year we ventured out to witness them. Held on the Fox River in Oshkosh, alongside the Leach Ampitheater, the Dragon Boats carry a crew of 20 paddling to the beat of a drum. Three or four boats race at a time, and over 50 boats participated this year. It was quite a sight. Teams were very colorful in their presentations, wearing clown wigs, cow hats, face paint, and lots of team spirit. Various Oshkosh organizations sponsored the teams, and a walk through Athlete's Village gave spectators a glimpse into community supporters.

I took Jarod and Maria to see the Dragon Boats this year, and in addition to the races, many stands were created to offer face painting, children's tattoo's, a fun house, and book sales. Another one held a guy bearing a 30 foot boa constrictor. We avoided that tent COMPLETELY. Snakes are instruments of the devil.

After getting their tattoos, and after bouncing in the fun house, we wandered to the riverside banks and took a seat to watch the action. The kids cheered loudly for the teams we saw racing, and had lots of questions. After two hours, the kids had had their fill and the high noon sun and heat called us home to enjoy a little lunch.

Meanwhile, Natty and Chris journeyed to Menards for a new toilet seat, and to Festival Foods for groceries. She digs the car carts and was happily "racing" through the aisles with Daddy.

Saturday night brought swimming at an Appleton hotel with Steve and Virginia, and family, as they are in town for Virginia's half marathon run today. As I type this, she should be within 2-3 miles of finishing, and we're very proud of her. We splashed in the pool of the Country Inn and Suites, and Steve took all of the kids to play video games. Valorie has a special talent for winning animals out of those claw machines, and Maria walked away with one of them, thanks to Val.

Today my work takes precedent for me as I work to finish freelance assignments and prep for school. We're taking the kids to Washington School's 50th birthday party this afternoon, and we're cleaning up the house.

I'll be posting pictures here, or on facebook, eventually, of the races and of my adventures during spirit week for North's homecoming. For the last few years our team has won the faculty spirit contests (judged by our ability to dress up for the dress up days), and we intend to continue the tradition. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, it's back to family time. Be well, friends.

Friday, September 12, 2008


It's always good to know the kids in great health, and yesterday was no exception! Chris and I took the kids for their well-child checkups with the pediatrician, and it was defeinitely an adventure. Natalie kept trying to climb up on the table, rip off the paper and then jump off the table, wearing only cupcake underwear and a hospital gown tied loosely around her neck. Maria was stealing juiceboxes from Mom's purse, and Jarod was trying to use as much of the doctors equipment as he could without getting into trouble. I'm so grateful Chris met me there!!!

But all are in good health. Jarod and Natalie are way off the charts in height. Nat is, in particular, since the doctor said she's the size she should be when she's 6. Seeing as she just turned 4, she tends to tower over her peers and have people wondering why she isn't in 1st grade.

This time we updated Matty's meds (she's on a bit higher dosage), and we started Jarod as well. While his normal home and school behavior is pretty good, he still has a lot of anxiety, and his reactions to things he dislikes can be extreme. We're using a low dosage so that we can help his anxieties calm while maintaining the good behavior and personality he has the rest of the time. We're also hoping it will slow doan some of his stimming that he has been engaging in so much.

It all ended with Maria getting a shot. Though she had her vaccinations earlier in August, the office was out of the chickenpox vaccine which is required for school. So she had to go back and get it when we went for the appointment. She was NOT pleased by any means and screamed bloody murder. She was stoked, though, when she realized she got Strawberry Shortcake stickers and pencils out of the deal.

Hmmm....maybe I need to get a shot too....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Around the corner

Autumn is peeking at us from behind the curtain. I've been noticing the chill in the night air, the sniffles in the kids' noses, the desire to bring sweatshirts and jeans to the front of my wardrobe. I love fall, and though it also means the start of the new school year and busy times, I'm filled with excitement for the promise of beautiful days and fun family times each year.

Our weekend was a nice one. Mom and Dad (thankfully!) took the kids overnight, and Chris and I were able to get so much done. We took four boxes of books to the library, 7 bags of clothes and items to the Goodwill store, and five bags of garbage. We can finally use our storage room in a meaningful way again! It took almost 6 hours, but we've reclaimed the room. After a lovely evening at the Melting Pot and a very quiet night of uninterrupted sleep, we had breakfast and picked the kids up, heading to Sam's for some staples around the house. Though the trip costs mucho dinero, it's great to be well-supplied for the next two months on many items! I went in to work today to catch up for the week, and then headed back home where we bathed the kids and prepped things for the week. Time passed quickly, but we can sleep well knowing we got a lot done!

Be well, friends! Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Starting School

The school year is off with a bang as four of five family members trot back to class. Jarod began second grade at Traeger Elementary in Oshkosh. He has a wonderful teacher and a great assistant, and he is spending his entire day in the regular room! He has received very positive comments from his teachers so far, and he is already doing homework, counting by 2's, 5's and 10's to 100, or reading for fifteen minutes per day.

Maria's first words when she got home from school were, "Mom, kindergarten rocked!" And she meant it, too. She loved coloring, recess, gym class, and making friends. She enjoys her teacher, and she talks mostly about her boy classmates. Tomorrow she has to wear red clothes to school because the class is studying different colors each day--tomorrow is red.

Natalie also transitioned well to school. We made a picture schedule for her so she could see how her day would progress, and it helped alleviate some of her anxiety. She had her hair cut the other night, and she looks like a little elf, if I do say so myself. It also minimizes Maria's hack job on her bangs from a month ago!

My return to school has gone well, though it's not just my own classes as a teacher, but as a student. The first two days of school I also had my first two days of grad class. My students at school amuse me (though I think they see me as totally insane), and my grad classes will be challenging--and a lot of work! I'm trying not to freak out too much, and take it a week at a time. Most devastating, of course, was realizing my grad class interferes with my ability to watch Project Runway Wednesday nights! A travesty! :):)

Chris has been awesome this week. He's been super productive, has gotten the kids off to school and such, just taking it all in stride. Friday we're planning to take the kids swimming at the Y and have a bonfire that evening. My folks are taking the kids overnight this weekend so Chris and I can have alone time and clean the entire basement. It's romantic among the dust bunnies!

Time to get to bed. Chat soon!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

I want to invent some sort of super-mom tool that keeps my kids from recreating the same messes day in and day out. I'm depressed that I find myself on the last day of summer vacation, cleaning my house. Again. I know I'm not alone in this, but I'd like to be doing something more fun with the family.

The summer was a good one for the Falk family, though bursting with business. Chris took vacation so I could take a trip to Vegas (I'll post photos soon) with my Mom and sisters-in-law to celebrate my Mom's 60th. We then went up North and visited Chris's family which was a good time also. His family saved fireworks from the 4th since we couldn't make it, and we still had a good show with smores on the side. Can't beat that!

I took a full load of grad classes this summer toward my degree, and thank goodness I have a great husband because he has been incredibly supportive and helpful. The kids took swimming lessons and played every day with friends in the neighborhood.

Jarod and Maria taught themselves to ride two wheeler bikes, and Maria lost her first two teeth. Natalie made nice gains this summer as well, learning more about compliance and boundaries, which wa so helpful. She also spent most of her summer in a swimsuit since she prefers to be naked--at least we could get her to keep her "wimsuit" on most of the time!

A few bonfires with friends and visits with family made it a great summer. I wish I could see you all more often. We miss you!