the vinjes in cleveland

here are some photo highlights of my parents and sisters' visit during the thanksgiving holiday. mom and dad left on friday, astrid and clint on saturday, and michelle left this afternoon.

prior to thursday, we kept things low-key since thursday would be a full day. we did drop by the mall to pick up a new vacuum cleaner, and emma had fun trying out all the "rides" and the outdoor christmas light display at sears.

then astrid, clint, michelle, emma and i skipped out on black friday and went to the lake erie nature and science center instead while tyler spent the night at gram and pap's. they had a few animals out for petting including chincilla, rabbit and skunk (don't worry, it had been de-scented). i then took them to ohio city to show them a little bit of cleveland and had lunch at le petit triangle.

saturday michelle and i had a girls day at crocker park checking out some of the shops. i found a stocking stuffer for aaron and the kids, but there wasn't really anything else we found that we couldn't live without. later that evening we enjoyed dinner at angelo's pizza (as mentioned by drew carey on the price is right) since michelle had never been there before. our favorite on the menu is the artichoke pizza with the roasted red pepper sauce. delicious!

it's a bummer to have everyone leave, since we are all so spread out. but the visit was nice while it lasted. we'll have a true vinje reunion this summer when astrid and clint tie the knot.


we had a fabulous thanksgiving, and i have to say that i was thankful for maternity pants to allow my belly to expand and fit more food :).

this is the first year since i'm not sure how long that my side of the family have been able to gather together for thanksgiving. we had a total of 12 people in attendance (including little emma), and we ended up bringing up our old dining table up to accomodate everyone.

it was a lovely time, and we are thankful that we were able to share our home and our meal with everyone.



the sunday before thanksgiving our church hosted a catered thanksgiving meal for everyone. it was great to be able gather together, sharing a meal, giving thanks and just catching up with each other. i think it was also a great warm up for our tummies in preparation thanksgiving day.

since our sanctuary moonlights as a middle school cafeteria during the week, we turned the room into dining hall right after service ended.

like last year, i was in charge of decorations. this year, i wanted to keep things even more simple and low cost as possible. i was inspired by this and this from hostess with the mostess for the table decor. it was easy to do. i think the hardest part was trying to collect 18 empty soup cans in time.

after the soup cans were cleaned out, i covered them with green wrapping paper i got at target. then i tied the brown ribbon around the cans making sure to hot glue part of it to the paper. finally i took buttons purchased from joann's and glued the around the bottom of the can.

the sticks i found in my backyard and around my neighborhood. i bundled them together adding the small faux berry branch which i purchased as a bouquet (on super sale) at pat catan's. then i stuck each bundle in an empty can. each table got 2 cans w/ the sticks bouquet. a 3rd can was placed in the middle filled with strips of paper with the words "i'm thankful for." everyone at each table filled in what they were thankful for and exchanged them with others.

when i got home, i gathered up all the filled in thankful papers and stuck them on a poster board, which i'll bring in this sunday to church. after reading them, it helped me realize that there is always so much we can all be thankful for. even the little things that we often take for granted.


boys night out.

the following is my very first (and possibly my one and only) guest blogger: my dear husband, aaron...enjoy.

the exictement and anticipation had been mounting like a snowball fiercly rolling down the mountain side. on friday november 21st, the waiting was over.

my brother jon, tyler and i ventured out for an evening of male bonding. we started with food and beers (newcastles for jon and me and root for ty) at sullivans. then after consuming a hardy helping that filled our tummies, we trekked to the agora theatre to see the world renowned, crime-fighting superband...the aquabats.

one of the opening bands was the suburban legends. having seen the guitarist walking around in snakeskin cowboy boots prior to their performance, i didn't think i was going to care for them. but much to my surprise, they were extremely good. they started their show with a vintage breakdance video that they all danced along to in perfect synchrony. they were high energy, pop-ska, disco punk that warmed the crowd for the aquabats.

just as been the case in the 5 (yes, 5) times we've seen them before, the aquabats thrilled, chilled and rocked cleveland to its core. though they're a little older, and their super outfits seemed to be a bit more snug, they have not skipped a beat in both their rocking and in fighting evil. if the aquabats ever come to your town, you would be a complete and utter fool not to see them. they are amazing.

thanks for letting me blog-izzle...for shizzle. aaron.

girls night out.

friday evening, tyler and aaron spent a boys night out w/ jon (more on that later...if i can get mr. purdum to guest post).

so why should the girls stay in when we can go out?

it was party central at the early childhood pta sponsored bounce of the walls event. i mean, we partied like it was 1999...wait, i can't use that reference anymore, can i?

there was a plethora of rubber balls in the gymansium where the kiddies could chase, toss, and roll them to their hearts content. we also ran into a couple of friends so it was nice to see some familiar faces among the crowd.

sadly, my camera battery was dying and i only managed to get one photo of emma in action. but i can attest that she had a fantastic time.



after a conversation i had with my husband last night, a question has been on my mind all day: how do you teach compassion?

i read this post this morning and it brought me to tears. i know that there are many, many people around the world (even in our own country) that suffer, and my heart aches for them. but how do you teach that? how do you teach people to feel and connect with others at that level?

especially as a parent, how do we teach compassion to our children? you can teach them that it's good to help others who are in need of help. but where does the idea of "helping because it's the right thing to do" transcend into helping because your heart is sympathetic to the person's suffering?

there are people who choose to give their time and/or money to charities because it's the right thing to do. or perhaps they were made to feel guilty into giving. or because the money they give or the time they commit x number of hours a month looks good on their resume. but what do you truly gain from that? i was guilty of that especially when i began to prepare myself for college. i participated in school sponsored community service activities. helped out on my own time at the food bank. but truly, what was it for? just one more thing to check off on my college application. in all honesty, after i got into college, never once did i take the time to offer my time in the community. how does it help others in need when the only time or money you're willing to sacrifice is when it's beneficial for you? obviously, i did not fully understand the meaning of compassion (and i was technically already an adult).

so how do you teach compassion (to children and adults)? there's probably no way to truly teach compassion. i know that as parents, all we can do to teach them about compassion is by showing compassion to others. not simply giving money to this charity or that organization when it's convenient for us. but to give our money sacrificially. or to give our time in serving our community, whether it be to a chartible organization or helping a friend who is suffering. we can show our children what compassion is all about by striving to live out what it means on a daily basis.


so sweet

hey all you mamas! check out this post from rocks in my dryer, and perhaps you might be interested in participating in the project. *sigh* so sweet.
go directly to the mother letter project to write your letter.


where the wild things are

one of emma's favorite books is "where the wild things are" by maurice sendak. how do i know it's her favorite? well...i can pretty much recite the whole book for you from memory.

and when barnes & nobles hosted a story time event for the book with an opportunity to meet one of the wild things, how could i not take her there?

of course, i forgot my camera. but thanks to the wonderful advancements in mobile technology i managed to get a few pictures with the camera phone.


art detour

after a serious morning of parent teacher conferences at tyler's school on friday, the whole family took the rest of the day to head down to the recently re-opened cleveland art museum.

aside from family (of course), one of the major draws for us to move out here was the art museum (and this was before the remodel). it was HUGE. there was plenty to see just in their permanent collection. and it was free to the public. what better way to make art accessible to the public than to make it free? unfortunately, after we moved here, the museum was completely shut down for major renovations. closed up shop for 3 years (except for special exhibits...and admission for those are not quite in our budget).

but finally, in july 2008, the doors were open again! now, the renovations aren't fully complete. it's still a work-in-progress until 2012. regardless, i was glad to have some access to the museum again.

anyway, where was i going with this? oh...the visit to the art museum. it was fantastic! after navigating through the maze of construction, we were able to see a segment of their permanent collection. i'm sure when the whole renovation is complete, the museum will be spectacular!

after spending 2 hours exploring the exhibits, we headed down to coventry for a late lunch and a stop at big fun toys (that store is like a museum in it self).

we found super special apron for a friend who is an avid batman fan. and i found 2 1970s era 45s for emma to enjoy. i actually purchased them for the record sleeves...a potentional craft/art project.


india children project

i just got an e-mail from a friend of mine who is a school teacher in the seattle area. her classroom is working on a project to collect items to send to school children in india. here is the project description:

Mrs. Mann’s Project for School Children in India

Mrs. Mann traveled to India over the summer and spent time in the Amar Jyoti Elementary School in Bhadrajun, India. We are learning about India and as a project for our class, we are collecting items to send to the school children. We are collecting new school supplies like: pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons or markers, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, and small books. As a treat, we are also sending: hard candy and lollipops, mints, and gum. We would also like to collect necessities for cold weather like: socks, mittens, and caps. If a family wishes to donate money, we will have a container in the classroom that students and/or families can donate money by placing it inside. We would then mark that money to be used to buy sweaters and school uniforms in India, since those items would be much cheaper to purchase there. Dates of the fundraiser are from November 12th, 2008 to November 26th, 2008.
if you would like to help, please send me an e-mail and i'll give you more details on where to send money or items. if you're local to my area and would like to help, you can drop off items or checks at my house by november 23 and we'll ship everything all at once to Mrs. Mann.

'tis the season to...want

it's not even thanksgiving, and christmas is already being marketed in stores and television. it's not even thanksgiving. did i say that already?

i love christmas. i love the smells, sounds and flavors of the holiday...and all those sugar cookies and snowballs (a.k.a. russian teacakes)! and i especially love what christmas stands for...hope. hope in a little baby. hope that this little baby will grow up to become king. to selflessly and willingly give up his own life to rescue ours.

luke 2:8-14

but, let's get back to reality. advertisers and marketers will tell you (in their sneaky and subliminal ways) that christmas is a time to buy, buy, buy! heck, every possible holiday in the states is marketed as a time to buy, buy, buy. but christmas beats them all. what other time of year do big stores come out with book-like catalogs FULL of toys and gadgets you NEED? tyler has spent everyday since the target christmas toy book (er, catalog) came out scanning through each page. any other day, he'd be happy flipping through pages of his books or magazines (actual reading material). how are parents supposed to teach their kids not to be selfish, or greedy, and to think of others when they are bombarded with messages that tell them you need this for you? let me give you an example...

tyler: when do you think i can start getting an allowance?
me: well...once you start showing consistency in meeting
all of your current responsibilities then maybe we
can consider an allowance.
tyler: but i already do a lot of stuff.
me: like what?
tyler: putting dishes away, taking out the trash...
me: (let me just point out he listed 2 things as doing a lot of stuff)
we've had this conversation before...you shouldn't
expect to get paid for doing chores around the house.
as a family, we work as a team. basic household
chores are something we all contribute to as a family.
if you do something out of the ordinary, like spend a
day cleaning out and organizing the garage, then of
course we would consider paying you. but you shouldn't
always expect to get something in return just for helping
us or anybody else out.
tyler: but how am i supposed to make money to get stuff for me?

need i go on? he's not like this year round. it's really only around christmas (the season of getting) that we always have to work with him in remembering what's truly important.

it's easy to buy into all that marketing. even i'm guilty of it sometimes. i really have all i need. really. i'm not living in squalor. i have warm clothes when it's cold. i don't ever go hungry (unless it's by choice). and most of all, i have my family. everything else is not a necessity. it can wait. or, i don't have to have it at all. but it's so easy to convince yourself that, yes, you DO need another pair of shoes. or you DO need that accessory that you've already gone without for the past however many years.

i'm not opposed to buying stuff. but it frustrates me when almost everything is turned into something to market. on the bright side, the holidays (thanks to the media) also bring attention to people who are not as blessed as we are. thanksgiving drives, toys for tots, coat drives...all wonderful examples of how the holiday season can be more about providing for others in less fortunate situations.

let's make the holiday season a true season of giving. not the giving of more fancy, "must-have" stuff. but by giving our love and our kindness to those who do not enjoy the same luxuries and comforts as we do. or perhaps, giving a simple gift to someone we love that truly comes from the heart.



update 09 nov 2008 3:07 pm:

the performance went well, with helpful feedback from the audience members during our discussion time. i also enjoyed watching what other area choreographers are creating and contributing to the arts community.

my dear family did show up for the first half of the show (we were on first), and left during question and answer time for the first 3 pieces. emma was so enthralled by all the movement that she didn't make a peep, sitting and observing quietly, during each piece. in fact, she enjoyed it so much that she told aaron as they got into the car to head home, "i like the dance show, daddy." *sigh*

i believe this show was the last sneak reviews dance series until next year.
this is a little last minute, but if any of you local readers are interested, i'll be performing a work-in-progress with Gravity6 Dance Project tonight at 7:30 for Sneak Reviews presented by MegLouise Dance.

head on over HERE for more information. children are welcome, although the show looks to run for about 2 hours (i will not be taking my kids since it will end up being way past emma's bedtime).

see ya!


a sentimental discovery

for mommy, astrid, and michelle...you'll appreciate this recent purchase at the grocery store.

i just had to get it!


an extra poke for my pregnancy

with every pregnancy, you get to have your blood drawn at least once (usually during the earlier visits). i don't like getting my blood drawn. i know. this comes from someone who's been inked and pierced a few times. a little poke shouldn't be too bad. but it pinches when they poke the needle in, and it's a hollow! blech.

anyway, i got to have my blood drawn again today when i came in for my visit. i guess they didn't get enough of my blood from the last time. but they only needed 1 tube instead of 4 (joy!).

other than that, things seem to be going well. i did loose 4 lbs. since my last weigh-in about 2 weeks ago. i was a bit worried (thinking the worst, of course, given what transpired the last time i lost weight at my weigh-in), but my midwife found the baby's heartbeat and i felt much better. what's weird is that i don't feel like i lost any weight. in fact, one particular pair of pants seem to be feeling a bit tighter. well, i'm sure once my appetite returns full force i won't be losing anymore pounds.



if you haven't already done so, get out there and vote today!


highlights from october playgroup

october brought us a mix of beautiful and not so pretty weather. we made it to the playground a couple of times, but ended up at the great northern play area for the remainder of the month.

benjamin trying to stay warm on a chilly playgroup morning.

kasen having fun (helps when the weather is nice!).

emma driving oren to the library.

tate and emma breakdancing at the gap.

mamas hanging out (don't they look natural?).

ella really wants to join in on the action!

sharing the slide together.


on another note, emma did not have a melt down yesterday when i tended to little babies in the nursery. she let me ("let me"? LOL-who is running the show here?) hold baby chloe until she fell asleep and even baby ella! usually, the initial reaction after seeing me hold a baby is to start pulling at the baby (to get her/him off me) or to flop down on the floor like a dead fish and start crying. i was pretty amazed. she even gave sleeping chloe her "blankie." don't get me wrong, emma LOVES babies. but usually if i'm not holding them. so there is hope after all when our own baby comes :0).


old hallow's eve

this year was the first year tyler got to go trick or treating without a parent (i have a feeling he really liked that). he hooked up with his buddy stephen and they managed to return for the evening with a very heavy load of sweets.

we decided not to have emma trick or treat again this year, and probably won't make the whole halloween event a big deal until she starts asking. but we did throw on her tutu, some tights and her skull and cross bones shirt for when she helped pass out candy.

i know it may sound like we're depriving our poor daughter of the whole experience (or you'll think i'm wacko if you continue reading), but it's something we've been very convicted of. the history of the "holiday" itself is not something we care to align with, so every year we try and re-asses our decision in having her (and us as a family) participate. but at the same time, giving out treats to other children is a wonderful way to share God's love, and in no way encouraging some of the negative aspects (you know...the gorey stuff) of halloween.

aside from that stuff, i think it's very easy for kids to get caught up in the whole commercialization of halloween (much like any other holiday, i guess), which we are trying to keep to a minimum with emma as much as possible. the sunday catalogs are filled with pre-made, branded costumes. whatever happened to "make your own costumes?" or non-branded costumes like a robot instead of a transformer? or a fairy instead of tinkerbell? there isn't much room for creativity to thrive when advertisements are telling you to just go out and buy one.

where does that leave us now? well, i think every year, we'll end up passing out candy. and we'll let tyler dress up as long as it's not anything negative or scary. and we'll probably keep halloween low-key for emma until she tells us she's ready to try out the whole experience. we always feel torn about halloween. part of us wants to go one way and another part wants to go another way.

aside from my unintentional tangent (so sorry), emma had a blast passing out candy, though some of the kids who dressed up in scary costumes freaked her out a little bit. i do enjoy seeing what people come up with each year. i think the most original one i saw was this kid who put a huge box over his head, cut out holes for his arms, holes for his eyes and then just drew on a smile. it's simple but so funny. we gave him extra candy for originality. aaron busted out tyler's old, home-made optimus prime costume, which was a hit with some of the kids. and emma took a little visit to our neighbor's house and made out with a couple bags of m&ms.

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