Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pictures from Christmas (and the two days after)

The kids were up at 7:15am on Christmas morning, but we were ready to go. Sean's favorite gift was his new Fossil watch. He unknowingly picked it out just a few days before Christmas so there was no doubt that it was the one that he wanted.

Bren got a custom made skateboard (from a local skate shop), and in this picture he is opening a new pair of Vans (because you have to have new skate shoes to ride a new skateboard-don't you know?)

When Erin unwrapped this huge package she was beside herself. She yelled, "Santa, you are the BEST!!!" It is a five drawer container on wheels that is completely stuffed with every single arts and craft supply that you can imagine. Every drawer was filled to the top. Aside from reading her favorite thing is doing art so we knew that this was going to be a hit. It has already brought hours of enjoyment.

A huge surprise to all three-Guitar Hero World Tour for our Xbox 360. Now we have a full band in our house. Erin sings, Bren plays the drums, and Sean plays the guitar. As I sit here and type this right now they are playing, but using two guitars (one for bass and one for lead guitar) because Bren's friend Brandon is over. We have an extra guitar from the Guitar Hero game that the boys got from their dad last year. When they unwrapped this box they were all three jumping all over the place. Erin jumped up on Bren's back, and kept saying how happy she was.

The rest of the pictures below are from Nana's house the day after Christmas. The first is, of course, the matriarch of the Harper family. My Nana is so beautiful.
This is Erin and Sidney, my cousin Liz's daughter. She is exactly one week older than Bren.
My nephew, Maddox.

Erin loves the swing in the back yard at Nana's. She enjoyed having her big brother there to push her.
Sidney again.
Tony and Maddox.
With part of his Christmas money from his dad Brendan bought his cousin Zaye an airsoft gun and pellets. Once we got to Nana's some of the neighborhood boys came over with their airsoft guns and they setup a target. (l-r) Zaye, Bren and two of the neighborhood boys shooting the target. They did this the entire time we were there.
Best buddies, Brendan and Zaye.

Maddox feeding a cracker to Anah.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm behind

We didn't get home from Nana's house until about 9pm last night.  I-4 traffic stinks.  Anyway, we had a great Christmas, the kids got everything they wanted, and then some!  We got a great box full of goodies from Grandma Carol and Vern with gift cards and four boxes of various chocolates (truffles, assorted chocolates, turtles, and Ferrero Rocher).  I kid you not when I tell you that the Ferrero Rocher was emptied in minutes, and the rest are now gone as well.  We also got a fabulous box of goodies from Grandma Laurie and Grandpa Larry with gift cards, custom chocolates (Grandpa Larry made wrappers on them with pictures of the kids), more homemade jams, and homemade cookies.  Brian devoured one bag of the cookies the evening that the box arrived!  Thank you all.  

And now the "I'm behind" part.  I'm late.  Very late on getting my gifts and goodies mailed out.  I tried my hardest to get organized, but with Erin's party last weekend, and then getting ready for Christmas I just couldn't pull it together.  We didn't even do cards this year as several people have pointed out to me!  However, I am now finished wrapping and getting everything packed into boxes, and they will be in the mail on Monday.  I'm sorry for being late.

I have pictures from Christmas day and the day after at Nana's house uploaded, and as soon as I can get them resized I will get them here on the blog.  I've had a severe sinus infection for SIX days now, and it's not slacking up one bit so I'm going to bed now.  I'll do my best to get them on here tomorrow morning.  

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas party

We had so much fun.  I loved having all of the kids running around in my house.  There were 16 of them here with their families.  There were kids in the house, on the lanai doing crafts, in the backyard playing soccer, and on the swing set.  It was great.  There was a ton of food, including a punch fountain, and a chocolate fountain (the biggest hit with the kids and adults).  

Erin's piano teacher, Ms. Linda, sat at our piano playing Christmas songs for several minutes before Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived.  In the minutes before Santa arrived she and Sean started playing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" together, and everyone (kids and parents) were singing along.  We had gathered everyone in the front room to sing Christmas songs while Ms. Linda played the piano.  Then all of the sudden the front door opened, and in walked Santa and Mrs. Claus.  The kids all froze until they realized who it was standing at the front door.  He came in and walked over to Erin.

Then all of the kids started gathering around him as he read their names out of his book of "naughty and nice". They all wanted to see if their names were on the nice list.  Afterwards he pulled out a gift for each of the kids, and after they had all been handed out they all opened them at once.  It was awesome to watch the smiles on the faces.

Santa spent one on one time with each of the children, took pictures with families, and even my baby brother Tony got a picture with the two of them.  He asked Mrs. Claus for her phone number, and Santa pointed at him and told him that he had to wait until after Christmas!

Each child left with a bag of reindeer food, a gift from Santa, a goodie bag with cookies and chocolate, and a full belly.  I'm sure they were all tired, too.  There was a lot of playing going on at the Andrews/Kowalski residence today. 

Our gingerbread house this year

This year Erin made it by herself, and I love how it turned out.  She did a great job.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy birthday Jacob

My third son would be seven today.  I'm sitting here at my desk looking at a picture of his sweet little face, and I remember the day that he was born so vividly.  My third longest labor, but the hardest by far.  He was so tiny.  I can smile now as I remember the hours that we held him.  His short life had so much meaning, and was not in vain.  

This is a picture of a beautiful stained glass piece that Pam made for me when she came to visit me for the first time for my birthday a few years ago.  It is a white tulip-our flower for Jacob (she knew the meaning of the white tulip for us). The picture does not do the piece justice.

Happy birthday little guy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's not your traditional Christmas tree

But it's our Christmas tree, and we absolutely love it.  We all agree that it is our favorite tree ever.  Definitely not traditional Christmas colors, but when I saw these ornaments I knew that I had to decorate the tree with these ornaments and these bright colors.  I was inspired by a small three foot tree that was decorated by the collection at Michael's.  It was called "Festivale" (as in Mardi Gras).  I fell in love with the bold purple, pink, orange, green and blue.  

The following weekend (this past Sunday) Sean and I set out to EVERY Michael's store in the Tampa area, and we collected all of the "Festivale" ornaments that they had left.  We have 230 of them on this tree!  I added the glittering curlies to some of the branches, and had the bow made for the top (exactly like the bow on the display model at Michael's).  And this is our "Festivale" inspired Christmas tree:

I cannot tell you how much I love it.  I woke up yesterday and just stood staring at it.  I had to go back to Michael's to get a few more things for the party on Saturday, and I ended up coming home with the display model, too.  It looks so cute as you walk in the front door, and the kids will love it on Saturday-it's just their size (plus it had some of the ornaments I wanted, but they wouldn't sell them to me without buying the whole display!).

So I guess it may not be for everyone, and it may not evoke the feeling of Christmas in everyone, but that is alright.  It does for us.  Every time I look at either of the trees I get excited, and I want to giggle.  No Christmas tree has ever brought a smile to my face like this one does. 

The tree lit up at night.  Still searching for a tree skirt that I like!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas party with a special guest's a secret.  Well, the party isn't a secret, but the special guest is.  Erin is hosting her very own children's Christmas party this Saturday.  We have 10 children (not including our own) and their parents, my dad and Jeanne, and a few adult neighbors who want to be here to see the "surprise".  The party is from 4-6pm.  We have lots of food planned, and for the first hour we have stockings for each of the children to make, ornaments to be painted, and snowmen to be decorated.  Then at 5:00 (the surprise) Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive with bells ringing, and a big sack of gifts (one small gift for each child that I purchased).  They'll be spending an hour here at our house, sitting with each of the children, giving them their gift, and letting them check his big red velvet book to see that their name if on the "nice list" (I provided the names ahead of time).  

Santa is a real bearded Santa, and I've attached a picture below of he and Mrs. Claus in their "summer attire".  I'll have plenty of pictures after the weekend, I'm sure.  I am so excited about them coming.  I'm like a little kid.  I could barely sleep the night that I spoke to him on the phone.  When he called me he even addressed himself as Santa.  I may just cry when I see how excited Erin gets.  She loves Santa.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another beautiful winter day in the sunshine state

Brian climbed the orange tree to get another batch of oranges so that we can make more juice. Look closely. He's there.

Just as quickly as they hit the ground Erin picked them up and put them into bags. Bren was loading them up just as quickly, too. We ended up with TEN bags of oranges! They are beautiful, juicy, sweet, and delicious.

This particular one was huge, and Erin decided that it was HERS. She is taking it in her lunch tomorrow.

We came home and squeezed two gallons of fresh juice, and that was only three bags. We will finish squeezing tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Brendan's concert

Brendan had his first band concert tonight. He plays the xylophone, but his primary instrument is the snare drum (that is what he has at home-lucky me). He did a fabulous job playing both of them tonight. The entire band of over 300 members did great! I had a wonderful place to sit to take picture of Bren while he played the xylophone, but when he moved to play his drum I could barely see him-bummer. I did the best I could to get the one picture of him just before he started playing.

One semester closer

Another semester behind me, and five months closer to graduating.  This was definitely the most challenging yet, and I learned that I cannot work full time and finish pre-med.  It's too much. Starting in January I will be working about 15 hours/week until I graduate and start medical school.  

I managed to get through this semester with honor roll.  I'm looking forward to the three week break ahead before the spring semester begins.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I walked into the room and said "Anah!" and she knew that she was in trouble.  She took Erin's doll out of her mouth, but as you can see it was still under her paw.  She totally has the look of guilt on her face (the picture is blurry because I had to grab and shoot quickly).

Friday, December 05, 2008


We watched a fantastic Christmas lights display, and enjoyed the decorations around the shopping center.  The tree is in the middle of this particular outdoor mall, with lots of holiday activity going on around it (as you can see).  I definitely prefer the outdoor malls.

Then we did a little shopping, and reading, at Barnes & Noble.  Santa picked up a few more of the Keeker books (shhhh) while Erin was busy reading to daddy and a few others.

A little bit of relaxation by the fountain, some gelato, tossing coins in the fountain, and watching the shoppers as they pass by.

And then we headed home for the night.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Meet Keeker

Erin has discovered a new best friend.  Keeker.

My girl is an avid reader.  Usually an hour or more each night (up to two hours at a time on the weekends!), and the standard story books just weren't cutting it any more.  I knew she was ready for chapter books when she went into Sean's closet and got one of his chapter books and said that she wanted to read it.  It was a bit too much for her (one of the Harry Potter series), but I set out to find just the right thing.  And last weekend I found it.  While we were at Pottery Barn Kids I discovered this series, and I bought the first two.  Erin started reading the first one on the way home, and she didn't stop.  She's on the second book now, and she's already made it clear that she's asking Santa for the entire collection.

If you have a little girl that loves to read I highly recommend this collection.  Erin has read some of it to me, and it's very cute.  

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Erin loves to go ice skating, so we took her to the mall again today.  

A little break after 45 minutes of non-stop skating

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pictures from the holiday

We had a fabulous Thanksgiving with Grandma B in Jacksonville. When we arrived there at 1am on Thursday morning (I had class until 9:30pm on Tuesday) it was only 37º!!!! That was nearly 20º colder than it was at home, just three hours south. We were freezing.

Anyway, we stayed up for about an hour to visit, unpack, and have a quick snack before heading to bed. On Thursday we ate, ate, and ate some more. While waiting for dinner to be ready we played outside (thankfully it warmed up) with Anah, played kickball, and enjoyed time with Grandma B.

Later that night we built a fire in the fire pit, and had another night time snack. Graham crackers+Hersheys+marshmallows=SMORES!!! We do this nearly every time we go to Grandma B's house.

I love this picture because Anah is trying to get her leash in her mouth so that she can walk herself. When we are at home and she wants to go outside she will sometimes get the leash and walk around with it to let us know that she wants to go out. She's so cute.