Friday, February 7, 2014

Zeke's 5th Birthday Party

Lego! Lego! Lego!  On February 2, Zeke turned 5! He had a Lego-themed birthday this year.  6 little boys from his preschool class (and a few younger siblings and parents) celebrated Zeke's 5th birthday last weekend.  We extended the Lego theme about as far as we could manage.  Lego invitations were sent out.


We melted crayons into minifigure molds as a part of the goodie bags for guests. I purchased some handy-dandy silicone molds off of Amazon that we used for the cool minifigure crayons and brick-candy cupcake toppers.  The bricks we made out of Wilton Candy melts (the same thing people use for cake pops and such).  I loved how our pre-party crafting worked out!  



I made the piñata out of two cereal boxes, paper maché and some tissue paper.  The weather didn't allow for an outside piñata, but Tom rigged up his branch-trimming pole and used a chair to bring the fun indoors!







CANDY!!!!

We served pizza, apple juice, fruit, and cupcakes!  Zeke decorated the plates to resemble his favorite minifigure faces.  









Games included:  
Tower building contests  (Awards given to tallest, squarest, strongest base, wiggliest, and cutest), 
Lego-bag toss, and brick free-play.  




Zeke even received some awesome gifts from his friends.  It was such a fun party!  











Friday, December 13, 2013

Lewandowski Year in Review 2013

The year has been busy.  So busy we haven't blogged.  The year has, however, been wonderful and we wanted to share a sort of "Christmas Letter" with those who may be interested.  I often find it awkward to try to write a Christmas letter in 3rd person.  Instead, I’ll just write in first person, and you’ll have to know that the “I” is Karine.  :)

Winter –Spring 2013 

Big changes in the household!  In January, I went back to work as a teacher.  I accepted a position as an ESL English and Reading teacher.  I began in an elementary school and moved up to a middle school position in March.  I love being an active part of the Rogers Public School system here and have found it rewarding to work with students whose families speak mostly Spanish. 

My return to teaching coincided with a semester of evening graduate school classes for Tom and full-time Stay At Home Dad during the daytime.  What a special time this was for both father and children.  They had some incredible bonding and our house was somehow always clean!  He’s a wonderful father and the kids flourished with the extra dad-time.   Tom took education classes towards his Master of Art in Teaching at the University of Arkansas.  His favorite class was an Adolescent Literature class that focused on graphic novels and comic books. 


Zeke, Zadie, and Ezra enjoyed playing outside daily in the warm Arkansas winter and early spring.  They loved their “WHEEEEEEE”s (big pushes on the swings), digging in the sandbox, and walks to the neighborhood park.  Tom took the kids on several outings including a few visits to the incredibly awesome Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  Zeke attended preschool 2 mornings per week and loved playing with his friends there. 


Summer 2013

Potty Training!!!!  For the past 4.5 years, we have had 2-3 kids in diapers.  We very much looked forward to the day that we would not have diapers around our house anymore.  Success!!!!  Our house became diaper-free in June.  We haven’t looked back since.  J 

More graduate school…  I took part in a 2 week intensive graduate coursework program called ESL Academy.  13 long days of studying and classes for me, and long summer days at home for the kids and Tom.   Tom also took graduate classes in July in preparation for his student teaching/internship in the fall. 


Swimming-  we loved the water this summer!  Rogers just built a new Aquatic Center that we visited a few times.  We also liked the Bentonville city pool and a few others we managed to dive into.   The twins jumped off the side of the pool thousands of times and Zeke discovered the magic of swimming.  Once he got his face in the water, he was able to swim independently- this was so exciting for a couple of former-lifeguard parents. 
In July, we traveled north for a two-week visit to Minnesota.  There, we spent time with the Piersmas and other friends, we connected with Nelson/Zabell cousins and family, and we enjoyed a bit of time in the Twin Cities. 

Then, we reunited with the Lewandowski/Notch/Roesner cousins, aunts, uncles, and Grandma Jean.  Our annual trip to New Frontier Resort up in Park Rapids was full of sunshine and memory-making.  sun, sand, crafts, food, and late nights. 

Fall –Winter (again!)2013
School began in August, along with more big changes for our family.  I was still teaching middle school ESL, and Tom began his year-long student teaching internship as an English teacher.  He was placed at Oakdale Middle school, where I actually teach for the first two periods of the day before traveling to a different middle school.  We enjoyed driving to school together and bumping into each other in the teacher’s lounge.  Tom found success in engaging students in writing projects.  I thought the most interesting project he did was the “Soundtrack of My Life” project in which students wrote and shared about their personal connections to songs.  It was a great way to learn more about the lives of these kids. 

Speaking of kids, our own have been thriving this fall/early winter!  We hired a nanny over the summer who comes to our house each school day and lovingly cares for our three kids.  She’s actually a twin herself and is still best friends with her brother today!  Our nanny has become a special part of our family this year and we are grateful for a dependable, loving, and creative childcare provider. 
 
Zeke has continued to attend a morning preschool program for 4 year olds here at a local church.  He’s mastered numbers and letter sounds this fall and will be moving toward reading some beginning words in the next few months!  His #1 hobby is playing with Legos.  Zeke even sleeps with a Lego catalog next to his bed every night (and has been since July) He loves to build and create all types of rescue vehicles with crazy adaptations.  Tom and Ezra also have joined Zeke in building some cities and towns on our Lego table.   
 
Our twins are growing so quickly too!  They celebrated their 3rd birthdays in November, and we can hardly believe how quickly time has gone.  Ezra is no longer our quiet and reserved toddler.  He’s loud and strong!  Ezra loves to play superheros, holler, run, and jump!  Ezra is also really into painting and art this year.  He loves doing art projects, and our nanny has been happy to indulge him!  Ezra has fun exploring games and activities outside like soccer, digging in the sandbox, and chasing the dog.   While he loves to play hard, he can snuggle and cuddle with the best of them!
 
Zadie is growing into such a sweet little girl.  She’s happy to tag along with her brothers and play with them, yet can play independently for an hour in her own fantasy world.  She loves wearing tutus, singing original songs (often about following rules) , and playing with her (imaginary) “ballet friends.”  While Zadie has not begun any formal ballet training, a great deal of dancing is done in our living room and kitchen each night.  She adores our dog, Roxy, and the love is reciprocated by the dog.  It’s a special bond. 

As for me, (Karine- in case you forgot who was writing this), I’ve been happily finding my rhythm as a working mom.  I love my job, and appreciate that my schedule allows me to be with my family by 4pm most days.  I’ve enjoyed doing some craft and sewing projects, trying new recipes, and reading a few books in the evenings.  I look forward to Friday nights all week long.  We celebrate “Family Movie Night” every Friday with pizza and a movie for the whole family.  It’s a fun small tradition that I cherish. 
 
As we move into 2014, we look forward to many adventures.  We’d love to host visitors here in Rogers, Arkansas (seriously!)  and welcome our friends and family to look us up.  May your holidays be filled with blessings and light!


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 
The Lewandowski Family

Karine, Tom, Zeke, Ezra, and Zadie

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Changing Seasons

Winter 2013 has brought about some exciting changes to the Lew crew.  After a few months of soul-searching and re-evaluating some priorities, we've landed on a path that is a great fit for our family.  What is happening???  Here you go...

Zadie is sleeping in a big girl bed.  All cribs have been removed from our house!  (!!!!!)  The boys have been sharing a room with twin beds for months, but Zadie was the last to transition to a bed.  She loves to come out of her room 10-12 times each night before going to sleep, claiming the need for a drink, potty, blowing her nose, finding her sunglasses, needing her bunny, hearing a train, etc.  This girl has a stubborn but sweet streak.  I think she'll be getting her way for the next 16 years if she keeps up her charm! Zadie loves to sing, do silly dances, and watch Dora the Explorer and Bo on the Go.  She can sing her ABC's and loves to discuss the merits of certain colors with Ezra.


Ezra is turning into the sweetest, most generous little boy.  He is constantly watching his big brother and keeping up with all kinds of big boy things.  It's so fun to see how he plays with Zeke and Zadie.  With Zeke, he watches and then participates wholeheartedly.  They play firefighters and police officers all the time.  Ezra will share just about anything with anyone who asks.  If he's got a cookie, he'll give you half if you ask!  Ezra is strong and athletic.  He's able to climb and jump as well as many 4 year olds. Sweet and earnest, he'll snuggle in the morning.  By afternoon, you can hardly catch him!  Ezra loves his blanket and little stuffed monkey, and his favorite book is Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell.



Zeke is a full-on preschooler.  He turned 4 in February and is showing so many signs of growing up.  He can dress himself, he's beginning to try new foods. (One sliver of carrot at a time counts- right?) He knows most his letters and can identify beginning sounds/letters of many words.  Zeke's imagination is in full swing, and he can spend hours setting up his rescue hero toys (think little green army guys, but instead of tiny guns, they're red and holding fire hoses) and narrating complex plots involving firetrucks, police officers, helicopters, and rules.  He loves learning animal facts and thanks to the PBS show, Wild Kratts, he knows all sorts of information about worms, skunks, whales, and pygmy marmosets.  Ask him anything- I dare you.

Starting in January, Tom began staying home with the kids as the full-time caregiver.  He has been taking education classes at the U of Arkansas, and anticipates graduating with a Master of Arts in Teaching next May.  His focus is secondary (7-12) English Education and will be student teaching starting in the fall.  Teaching middle school in Honduras was an eye-opening experience for him, and he's decided to follow this career path.  We very much look forward to having two teacher schedules and summers and holiday breaks to travel and enjoy with our family.  Tom ordered seeds and a starter kit from the Gurney's seed catalog this year.  Our bathroom is serving as a makeshift greenhouse to the sprouts as they prepare to make their journey to our four square foot garden boxes.  That's 64 squares of summer gardening!  It's going to be a great summer.






Also in January, I went back to teaching!  After looking for an elementary teaching job in the area for a couple months, I was encouraged to "get my foot in the door" locally by accepting a non-certified position.  In January I began working as an ESL (English as a Second Language) Instructional Assistant in a Rogers public elementary school.  I travel to 6 classrooms throughout the day working with K-5th grade students who are English Language Learners.  I've loved this work, and it has been a natural fit since coming back from Honduras, where 95% of my students did not speak English in their homes.  Taking that stepping-stone position has paid off.  Last week, I was offered a full-time certified position teaching Middle School English to ESL students.  I will begin my new job at the middle school mid-March.  I am so excited to be working with 6-8 graders again (the age-group I taught in MN) and I'm passionate about working with ESL students, so this is a great fit!  The transition from full-time at-home mom to working mom has been relatively easy, mostly because Tom has been so wonderful.  I know the kids are in caring, capable hands, and I love seeing the bond between them all grow.


Oh- and we got a dog.  Roxy (short for "Rock and Roll") joined our family in February.  She's a little terrier mix.  The guy at the humane society thought maybe a Manchester Terrier/ Jack Russell Terrier Mix?  She loves to chase tennis balls, dig in the yard (currently taking suggestions to combat this), and snuggle with the kids.  Roxy is a year and a half old, so past the chewy puppy stage- thank goodness!  Zadie is crazy about her, Ezra loves to chase her, and Zeke likes to pick Roxy up.  Roxy finds safety and comfort in her crate for a part of each day, but she's been a fun addition to our family!

So that's the news with us-  fun huh?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Usual Shirtson

Zeke has been doing wonderful things lately. One of the most wonderful is appearing in the living room with random equipment and costumes. This was Christmas Eve. I asked him who he was.

I'm Usual Shirtson. I make shirts for people.

It's an important job. Someone has to do it.



Monday, January 14, 2013

Ezra Talks about Bats

Ezra dreamt about bats last night. Smiling bats. He's at a pretty special place right now, language-wise. So, I decided to interview him.

video



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tired of Turkey Leftovers?

I posted a few years ago about a Chicken Tikka Masala recipe that is pretty much heaven.  Our friend Casey blogged about it, and it's actually The Pioneer Woman who originally published this recipe.  Every now and then, I think about it and can't sleep until I've made it and eaten it.  Anyway...  It's fantastic.

But when I don't have time to go all out, I love this recipe I tore out of the Ladies Home Journal a few years ago.  It's relatively hands-off-  25 minutes prep and 30 more minutes of cook time.  And if you plan accordingly, you can even make some killer homemade garlic naan while it's cooking.  I wanted to blog about it so that I can document it for the rest of time.  My beat-up page from the magazine won't last much longer!

Easy Chicken Biryani
Click HERE for recipe


*Don't be intimidated by all of the ingredients.  It's much easier than it looks and the prep is quick and not too messy! Plus, you only need one cutting board and one pot- easy cleanup!  


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Where Did the Summer Go?

I didn't get around to blogging very much this summer.  We were just too busy having fun!  The album below is our July trip to MN.  Tons of fun with so many family and friends.  By the time we got home and unpacked and settled in, July was pretty much over!

Click here to view this photo book larger

By the time August came around, we just tried to squeeze in as many fun activities as we could.  Highlights included:


Zadie and Ezra officially "play together" all the time.  (Which sometimes includes wrestling and biting!)
Benton County Fair - checked out tractors and 4-H barns with Zeke's friend Brennon
Ezra held this rabbit for 3 minutes without either one of them moving a centimeter!

Backyard Swimming in the little pool and storage tubs

Overnight getaway to Lake Wedington State Park just outside of Fayetteville (awesome little cabin for about $75 per night!)







Tom's first day of grad school at the U of A-  Graduation May 2013!!!

Also, we did the Downtown Rogers Frisco Festival (Zeke and Tom took a train ride, and Zeke rode the ferris wheel for the first time!),  We completed our Whole 30 Health Challenge  (lost some inches, and maybe some sanity trying to prepare all those sugar-free, wheat-free, dairy-free meals!!!), and generally had a lot of family fun!  


























Summer!  Ja Mon!