Great Strides 2014

This is Ella.  She is the daughter of my college roomate, Lindsay.  She is 10 years old.  She is living with Cystic Fibrosis.
As Cystic Fibrosis has continued to destroy her lungs bit by bit by bit, Ella has continued to grow into a strong, intelligent, silly, sweet, stylish, sporty, talented, loving, responsible young lady.  Her strength, resilience and maturity is amazing.  For TEN YEARS Ella has been managing this life-shortening disease with amazing grace and tenacity. 
Ten years means 70+ doctors visits, 40+ throat cultures, 6000+ hours doing breathing treatments, 110,000+ pills swallowed and so much more including breathing tests, chest x-rays, blood draws, and surgeries.  This girl is a fighter!
A message from Ella:
A few precious donations from you could change my life drastically. It could lead to more than seven hours of sleep a night, more play time with my friends, and more moments with family, because with your donations will come a cure. A cure that means no more treatments, no more pills, no more worrying about hospital stays. So, please donate as much as you can or even a dollar makes a difference.
We are starting our fundraising late and have just two weeks to raise money to help Ella and the 30,000 others living with CF in the United States.  Any contribution you make is 100% tax deductible and the CF Foundation will use over 90 cents of every dollar raised to find and fund A CURE.
PLEASE CLICK HERE to donate or learn more.  Thank you!

Reading List Summary, March 2014

Mom's List
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (B.J. Novak)
The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart)
This Is Where I Leave You (Jonathan Tropper)
What Remains (Carole Radziwill)

Jack's List
Things Not Seen (Andrew Clements)
The Penultimate Peril (Lemony Snicket)
Elephant Run (Roland Smith)
Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue (Tom Angleberger)
The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart)
A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L'Engle)

EJ's List
Henry and Beezus (Beverly Cleary)
Just Grace (Charise Mericle Harper)
The Snow Queen (Hans Christian Andersen)
The Cinderella Ballet Mystery (Carolyn Keene)
Surprise Island (Gertrude Chandler Warner)
Elizabeth Leads the Way (Tanya Lee Stone)
The Lucky Lottery (Ron Roy)
The Missing Mummy (Ron Roy)
Mr. Chewy's Big Adventure (Johnathan Rand)
Tadpole Trouble (Johnathan Rand)
A Picture Book of Amelia Earhart (David A. Adler)
Marvelous Mattie (Emily Arnold McCully)

Olivia's List
Mr. Putter & Tabby Make a Wish (Cynthia Rylant)
Mr. Putter & Tabby Spin the Yarn (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge and Annie's Good Move (Cynthia Rylant)
Mr. Putter & Tabby Clear the Decks (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge and the Wild Wind (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge in the Green Time (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge: The First Book (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge Get the Cold Shivers (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge and the Bedtime Thumps (Cynthia Rylant)
George and Martha: Rise and Shine (James Marshall)
Monkey and Elephant Get Better (Carole Lexa Schaefer)
Three By the Sea (Edward Marshall)
Mr. Putter & Tabby Ring the Bell (Cynthia Rylant)
Mr. Putter & Tabby Bake the Cake (Cynthia Rylant)
Mr. Putter & Tabby Stir the Soup (Cynthia Rylant)
The High-Rise Private Eyes: The Case of the Puzzling Possum (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge and the Careful Cousin (Cynthia Rylant)
It Could Still Be a Cat (Allan Fowler)
Kittens (JoAnn Early Macken)
Mitzi, Molly and Max: The Kittens (Gisela Buck)
Breakout at the Bug Lab (Ruth Horowitz)
Big Surprise in the Bug Tank (Ruth Horowitz)

Read-aloud List
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
Bunnies on Ice (Johanna Wright)
The Seesaw (Judith Koppens)
Happiness is a Watermelon on Your Head (Stella Dreis)
When I Feel Worried (Cornelia Maude Spelman)
How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth (Michelle Robinson)
The Apple Orchard Riddle (Margaret McNamara)
Patti Cake and Her New Doll (Patricia Reilly Giff)
Puffin Peter (Petr Horacek)
Splat and the Cool School Trip (Rob Scotton)
Theo's Mood (Maryann Cocca-Leffler)
Poco Loco (J.R. Krause)
Once Upon A Balloon (Bree Galbraith)
One-Dog Sleigh (Mary Casanova)
Momo and Snap are Not Friends! (Airlie Anderson)
My No, No, No Day (Rebecca Patterson)
Old Mikamba Had a Farm (Rachel Isadora)
123 versus ABC (Mike Boldt)
Mr. Wuffles! (David Wiesner)
Daisy Gets Lost (Chris Raschka)
Noni Is Nervous (Heather Hartt-Sussman)

The Shock of Spring

When you live where it is super cold in the Winter, the start of Spring is awesome.  You put on (way too light) jackets and spend as much time outside as you possibly can even though there is mud everywhere and the grass is brown and gross.  The kids have logged a lot of hours biking down the sidewalks, forcing me to play catch in the front yard and begging Dad to bring all of the outside toys out of storage.  They are ready and honestly, so am I (although I'm not putting the snow boots away yet because you never know what can happen here).

The other shock of Spring is that all of the activities kick into high gear.  Dance recitals, band and choir concerts, soccer and baseball practice, signing up for summer classes and camps, and school meetings and programs.  My menu planning just made the switch to meals I can cook and get on the table in 20 minutes and things that can be eaten in the car on the way to practice.  And the shopping kicks into high gear as well.  Usually feet grow (the girls performed in super tight tap shoes last week...oops!) and new cleats are needed.  I've spent the last week in search of new black dress pants for Jack.  I went to 4 of the exact same store (same store, different locations) and still am only close to the size he needs.  Yikes!

So, amid all the craziness, I try to focus on the fun and not get so stressed out.  I say every year that April and May just get me warmed up for all the summer driving I do.  Most of all, I look to the kids for inspiration.  Liv had the worst start to her week (and still isn't feeling all that great), but she got a haircut yesterday and I don't think she's stopped smiling since then.  You have to remember the fun and try to roll with the crazy.

The Science Bug

I am consistently finding layouts like this around the house.  Olivia is obsessed with making things and testing things and doing experiments.  Some of it is self-driven and some of it seems to stem from Olivia and EJ's love of Design Squad (they could watch snippets of experiments for hours on the ipad app).  This marble run was located at the entrance to the office for about three days.  It was not convenient, but Livie kept returning to it to try new things (the animals are helping her test her prototypes...lingo courtesy of Design Squad as well).  She has Tinkertoy creations all over the playroom and she'll be adding Snap Circuits to the collection on her upcoming birthday.

I've been starting to think about summer projects and realized that while we've done a lot of science-based projects in the past, they were all done when Liv was too little to really get much out of them (or remember them).  So, in addition to rounding up ideas on my Projects for the Kids Pinterest board, I decided to do a round-up of our past projects here for easy reference.

Magic Powder

Gummy Bear Experiment

Pencil vs Ziploc Bag

Walking Water

Naked Eggs

Hand-tossed Ice Cream

I also found out about a site/app recently called DIY.  I haven't completely figured it out yet, but it looks like kids can sign up and then work on projects/challenges to earn points.  There are patches for completing certain skills and ideas for forming a group of kids in your area to work together on projects.  I'm definitely doing some more investigation before summer (finally) gets here!

No Joke...Pinterest Recipes That We Liked

Lately, I've been mixing in some new recipes to change things up a bit.  It's still cold here so I'm not ready for summer foods, but I'm sick of the usual.  So, here are some things we've tried that 3/4 out of 5 of us have enjoyed!

{photo and recipe from Snixy Kitchen}

Baked Ravioli (we added ground beef to the sauce)
{photo and recipe from Amy Lynn Titus}

{photo and recipe from Real Housemoms}

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder
{photo and recipe from Lulu the Baker}

{photo and recipe from Chef}