Monday, March 30, 2009

Happy 8th Birthday, Harrison!

(click to enlarge)

Dear Harrison:

Happy Birthday, son! As always, it's hard to believe that another year has gone by. Just a few short years ago, you were my chunky baby that we jokingly called "Tiny". Little did we know that 7 1/2 years later, you really would be skinny! I thought for sure you were destined to be a linebacker. :) You are the light of my life. Your sensitivity and sweet spirit melt my heart. You always know how to make us laugh & entertain us. Not a day goes by that I don't marvel at your energy! And yet, my favorite time of day is when I go to tuck you in bed and you hug me like there's no tomorrow and give me sweet butterfly kisses. I know that it's difficult to be the middle child - especially with brothers SO close in age. Know that I will always love you & cherish you as an individual. God gave you many talents & abilities and I cannot wait to see what He has planned for your life.

I love you,

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Break Fun! Part 3

As our final big event of Spring Break, we hosted a sleepover! Harrison and Truman both have birthdays coming up, so we told them each they could invite a friend over to spend the night. They wanted Noah & Evan to come over - brothers - so we decided to have one big sleepover, instead of two. The best time to have it was over Spring Break, so Friday night was the big night!
The weather was rainy & icky, so we decided to have fun at home. We ordered pizza, made root beer floats, played lots of Wii games and watched movies. The boys went to bed around 11:00 p.m. and we didn't hear from them until 7:30 a.m. - WOW! All five of the boys get along really well and we had a good night. The worst part was the NOISE LEVEL - five boys in the house and my eardrums are still recovering... :)
Harrison (turning 8) and Noah (8)
Evan (5) and Truman (turning 6)
All of the boys snuggled up watching a movie before bed...

Spring Break Fun! Part 2

On Thursday of Spring Break 2009, we went to St. Louis with friends from our small group. We got up early in the morning to leave with 6 adults, 3 vehicles and 13 small children! We drove 3 hours, visited the St. Louis Zoo for several hours, had a picnic lunch, visited the Science Center for a couple of hours and had dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. It was an exhaustingly wonderful trip and the kids (and adults) had a great time.
My favorite thing about St. Louis is that there are several free attractions and they are all located in Forest Park. My new least favorite thing about St. Louis is that there is major construction in and around Forest Park.
Harrison on the gorilla statue
Photo of 12 of the kids (baby Johnny was in the sling)...
On our way out of the zoo...
The boys loved the Science Center! There were so many hands-on things to do. One of our favorite activities was building the arch. It requires several people (tall people) to complete.Jennifer & I at the Old Spaghetti Factory. We bonded, because we spent 6 hours in the car together!
Admission to the Zoo: FREE
Zoo parking: $11 (split with Jennifer)
Admission to the Science Center: FREE
Science Center parking: $8 (split with Jennifer)
Parking at Laclede's Landing (home of OSP): $5 (split with Jennifer)
Dinner for 4 at the Old Spaghetti Factory: $30
Gas money: $30 (split with Jennifer)
Trip to St. Louis: $57
Fun Spring Break experience... priceless

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Break Fun! Part 1

Our Spring Break started out with a visit from my sister-in-law and nephews! My brother, Ryan, went out of town for work - so Susan brought the boys down for a visit. It was SO MUCH FUN! They have two boys - Marc (7 years old - 4 months younger than Harrison) and Tyler (3 years old). Our boys got along very well and really enjoyed each others' company. Now that we live a lot closer, we really want the boys to get together more often to enjoy cousin time. They were here for 48 hours of fun-filled time.

We visited two different wooden playgrounds...

We went out for ice cream...

We visited the local Children's Museum... ...where Franklin built a bridge (he could have stayed there all day!)...
...the Quack Factory was a big hit...
...boys love their boogers...We played lots of video games...When the rain dried up, we spent time outside riding bicycles, scooters & skateboards......Funniest photo of the week!
We spent time getting our energy out on the trampoline too...
All in all... the kids had a great time and both Susan & I were thrilled that we didn't have to spend Spring Break at home with very energetic boys alone! We can't wait for the next visit...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Me Tarzan, You Jane

I have often wondered what life was like at the Tower of Babel after God gave the people many languages. I am intrigued with other languages and other cultures. I dream of visiting other countries, though I don't own a passport (yet). The Amazing Race is one of my favorite TV shows, because you get a glimpse into life in other cultures and international travel. I think that all Americans should be bilingual and that our schools should teach a 2nd language from an early age. We are doing a disservice to the next generation by thinking that everyone around the world should speak English. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a foreign exchange student to Norway (unfortunately my parents didn't like the thought of their little girl being so far away!). I still would love to host an exchange student at some point, adopt an international baby or go on the mission field.

Anyway... In January, Truman told me that there was a new boy in his class - a boy from Japan. Naturally, I was intrigued. I kept thinking that it would be fun to get to know the family and invite them over for dinner sometime. One day in the carpool line, I realized the mom was behind me. When we left the school parking lot, she followed me all the way to our neighborhood - they live one street over from us! Again, I thought - we should have them over to play sometime.
Last week, I picked the boys up at the school after school, rather than having them ride the bus as usual. The Japanese mom was there. So, I wanted to approach her - planning to introduce myself, welcome them to the area, let them know that we lived in their neighborhood & suggest that we get together sometime soon. I was thrilled when I realized that there are three boys in their family and they all looked about the same ages as mine!

When I walked up to talk to her, I quickly realized that she doesn't speak English. No - she REALLY doesn't speak English. At all. Nada. Zip. I said "Hi!" and asked how old her boys were. She did not understand me. My boys had seen hers at school and knew what grades they were in. I was hoping her 4th grader would be able to help translate. She was speaking to him in Japanese, but when I tried to talk to him... he didn't understand anything I said! Finally, I was able to get out of her that her boys are 5, 8 & 10 (mine are 5, 7 & 9) and their names (which I could not pronounce). I tried to tell her that we live in her neighborhood. Blank stare. She held out a translator and pointed to the blinking cursor. Everything on the translator was in Japanese, other than the QWERTY keyboard. So, I tried to type in "We live in your neighborhood." - except I couldn't find the space bar!! So, I typed "weliveinyourneighborhood" - which apparently didn't translate well into Japanese. :) Then, I found a hyphen, so I tried again "we-live-in-your-neighborhood" - apparently that doesn't translate into Japanese either! :) Finally, after 10 minutes of attempted conversation and many attempts at using the translator, we smiled - she said "sorry" - we shook hands and we parted ways. Thankfully, she was very friendly and seemed happy that someone was trying to talk to her.

I don't give up easily. This poor lady lives in the U.S., her children are attending English schools and none of them speak English! I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to live in a foreign country and not speak the language. So... I searched for an online translator. I typed in some simple sentences - what my name was, that we live in her neighborhood, how I translated the text, etc. and translated it to Japanese and printed it out!
Yesterday, I saw her again and handed her the note. She smiled as if she understood and seemed pleasantly surprised. She tried to communicate something about the kids' kindergarten program that was taking place last night... I think she meant that she wanted to meet me in the hall before the program. Last night, I didn't see her until after the program and once again, we attempted communication. After much gesturing and her saying repeatedly "You" - we exchanged names. Me Amy, Her Sayaku.

I still know very little about her family - why they are here, how long they will be here, whether her husband speaks English, or anything else. But, I'm excited to see where this new friendship takes us! Someday, I hope to laugh with her over coffee (or hot tea) about our first conversation attempts...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Yes, that's me. Yes, I know I'm a bit crazy. Yes, I look like crud - I was on my way to the Y to work out with no makeup on. Yes, I did wear this hat in public. Yes, to the Y. Yes... I'm a bit crazy - so I've been told. What's a holiday without a little fun?
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Painting again...

I'm finally painting again! We still have several rooms of our house that have not received the touch of the magic paintbrush yet (though the paint was purchased in September!)... it is finally feeling like Spring. Spring brings about a desire to see things freshened up and brighter colors. I started painting Franklin's room this afternoon and will finish it up tomorrow. I love the motivation of company coming!! My sister-in-law and two nephews are going to hang out with us for a couple of days over Spring Break & we are SO excited!! Then, a week and a half after that - my parents are coming for the weekend. So... the magic paintbrush is visiting the guest room (aka Franklin's room) to prepare for all of our spring visitors. Yippee!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Last night, the girls from small group & I had a Girls' Night Out! We had dinner, coffee and went for manicures/pedicures. One of the girls has a contact at the beauty school, so we all had manicures, pedicures and paraffin for the price of a pedi! I love deals and I love to be pampered... so what a great combo! My feet are finally ready for sandal season. We had such a great time together, laughing & carrying on... I'm sure the girls at the school thought we had stopped for a drink on the way! ha, ha It was a wonderful night of relaxation and rejuvenation. We also celebrated Marsha's birthday.
Happy Birthday, Marsha!
The final product!

Monday, March 9, 2009

You're Such a Baby Face

Isn't this little guy the cutest baby you've ever seen? I have the best job in the world - babysitting him & his big sisters every Monday afternoon. He's a delight & I get my weekly baby fix! Today, I tried to capture a smile on film (he's almost 3 months old & starting to coo & smile)... as you can see - I didn't have much luck.
Here are the many faces of Johnny... (click to enlarge)
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Friday, March 6, 2009

Slacker & Company

Apparently, I've been slacking! I finally peeked at my blog today and realized that I have not posted in March yet - oops! I guess I'm a big slacker... and this week has been fairly busy.

Here's an update on what I've been doing and thinking about...
  • I have worked out at the Y four times this week - yes, FOUR! That's a big accomplishment for me. :)
  • I have had some sort of a nasal drainage issue this week, which worries me... because I spent 16 days of February down & out with various illnesses. So far, it's limited to drainage, a dry cough and a slight sore throat. Here's hopin' it doesn't get any worse!
  • Our "old" friends came to visit last weekend!! They were scheduled for two weeks earlier, but I had to cancel due to above said illnesses. When they arrived, it was immediately as if we had not spent time apart. It was so wonderful, because we had not seen them since July 2005.
  • We filed our tax return and are contemplating taking a "real" vacation. This is unheard of in the Payne household... We are trying to figure out where we could go & what fun we could have with $500. The rest is going into savings, of course!
  • I'm doing some consulting work for church HR stuff & babysitting on Monday afternoons.
  • I'm still trying to figure out why I can't seem to find a "real" part-time job and trying to be patient in the process. (I didn't pray for patience, God!!) :)
  • In January, I joined BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and we are studying the life of Moses. I've been a Christian since I was 4 and I don't think I've ever really studied the early books of the Old Testament. I'm amazed at what I'm learning and so grateful to have this opportunity! The main thing we've hit on lately is grumbling & complaining (of which I'm guilty way too often), so I've been trying to curb that bad habit.
  • I'm working on trying to be content with where I am right now and not focus too much on the things I want to change. I want to be joyful in all things, but sometimes I am too busy thinking of the future and how I expected things would be different to enjoy the moment.
  • My "new" friends are not feeling quite as new anymore. I love them dearly already! We are making memories together and I'm very grateful for that.
  • We re-instituted a discipline system with the boys that has brought more peace (I won't say complete peace, but more) to our household. It has definitely resulted in less yelling and threats of spanking.
  • I'm antsy to get more household projects finished. Spring is in the air & I'm ready to get the saw buzzing (but not too close to my thumb!) and the paintbrush swinging to get the rest of this stuff DONE! Man, I really love spring. My attitude and mood have certainly improved from a few warm, sunny days. Sometimes I wish I were a bear, so I could just hibernate in the winter! (I'd probably be less grumpy!!)
  • Franklin & Harrison started tennis lessons last Friday at the Y. They are so excited! I'm excited because the teacher is a tennis pro and is very strict (aka. the boys might learn something).
  • Upon reviewing this week, I think the main reason why I feel so good right now is because I've been proactive this week. Not just surviving or functioning day-to-day... but planning ahead and staying on top of things! That makes my heart happy...
  • Oh yeah - and we made calzones for dinner. YUMMY!
Here are some photos from the past week...
Dave, Em & Will came to visit!

Truman & Lucky cuddling. When Lucky is a little sleepy,
she'll lay on her back & let us scratch her belly for hours!
Picnic & playdate at the park - Hooray for SPRING!