Here is our year in review in pictures

16 Dec

Merry Christmas!


Beach Vacation II

23 Jan

This summer the kids were dying for another beach vacation, and so were we I admit. We went to Daytona Beach in Florida. It was great! We stayed at the Wyndam Worldmark for only $70 per night, which is a steal of a deal. We are all about vacationing on off days (Sun-Thurs if possible), going to church on the way, packing in our own breakfasts and lunches, and picking fun places to eat out for dinners. The kids absolutely love the water and sand so no extra entertainment is required. We took a beach umbrella this year to cut down on the sunburn and make it a little less hot for the 8-month Mommy. There was a kids play pool with slides and a lazy river at the hotel so that added to the water fun.

Daytona Beach is on the coast with a river running beside it. In fact, one sign said “Beaches” to the east and “DeLand” to the west! Funny. There are nice bridges, good scenery, and a mild temperature. The water is warm with good waves and some animals to see, and the sand was the finest white sand I have ever walked on. All in all, it was relaxing and fun. Some favorite highlights were:

  • A discussion of the Spanish moss on the trees along the drive,
  • A stay in Macon, Georgia, and totally friendly people at church,
  • A general good impression of Georgia overall (we would definitely go back there),
  • A sign for Emory University (except she was asleep as we went past),
  • Discovering that Jacksonville, Florida, is a beautiful city built on St. John’s River,
  • Being surprised by a wrap-around balcony and jetted tub in our room,
  • The fine white sand and of course the ocean,
  • Finding live snails with gorgeous shells on the beach,
  • Digging in the SAND (Oliver),
  • Surfing and seashells (Merayla),
  • Pelicans flying in formation right along the ridge of a wave (Cristian),
  • Floating out to sea (Mommy),
  • “Valu!” (Emmie),
  • Marshmellow sandwiches,
  • Watching a dolphin and a manatee peek out of the water,
  • A small carnival on the beach where Merayla went on her first rollercoaster ride with Aunt Char,
  • Oliver and Daddy racing cars around a track with Chris and Savannah,
  • Meeting a whittler on the pier that gave us a free statue of a gnome,
  • Getting caught under the pier with nowhere to go without wet shoes,
  • Oliver becoming a rhino, literally,
  • The most romantic restaurant in Daytona,
  • Not being able to squeeze past the car turned either way (Mommy),
  • The wild ride home, and Emmie saying, “Oh My!” over and over in a super deep voice (see last video post).




06 Oct



Oh My

30 Jul


Birthings and Such

29 Jul

Not me. I am not birthing. Wishing I was, but not. However, I will take this moment to tell about some awesome experiences this last year that I got to be a part of:

  1. Birth of Kajove Jerome Toulassi
  2. Birth of Everett Alan Lee


People ask me about natural birthing a lot, and I like talking about it because I feel like the things I have learned are very empowering to women when they face the daunting task of birth, however they choose to birth. Knowledge is power, and the last thing you want in the emotional and physical challenge of bringing a child into the world is to feel like a victim. So, I recommend books and classes and share stories, but what I really would like is to be able to say is that I’m teaching this class and you can come, or I can be there to support you if that’s what you’re interested in.

Thus, I would love to be a doula, and I have researched it a few times. Right now it’s not really feasible for me with 27 piano students and almost 4 kids, but hopefully someday! If anyone reading this is doing it, and has suggestions about certification and how it all works, I would love to hear about it.

Anyway, on to the stories. My good friend Kossiwa went into labor, and I was her ride to the hospital. Since she does not speak English very well and we have practiced communicating quite a bit, I wanted to stick around to make sure everything was taken care of for her. Well, it turns out that hospitals do have some great translation services available by phone, and I was very happy for her when they found a woman that spoke Ewe to help her through all of the questions from the nurse about her history and previous children. However, I was very surprised when they got to the part about an epidural, and she said that she had had a lot of pain from the epidural with her last baby and did not want it at all. From our conversations, it had been, “Heidi, no medicine? Woo! Kossiwa, yes medicine.” Something started nagging at me, and I felt like I needed to help her through this somehow if I could.

Later on in the day when I came back to check on her and give her husband a ride to a brief appointment, I could see that she was struggling to handle the contractions. She was also coming off medication that she said she didn’t know what it was for. I decided I should stay for a bit to help with communication and found myself jumping in to teach Ablam some counter-pressure and Kossiwa how to breath out with the contractions. We were making good progress, and Ablam asked me if I could stay to help. Luckily, Cristian was a great sport about letting me, and keeping the kids for several hours. It was an intense afternoon! The nurse Kami was wonderful and tried so hard to listen to what Kossiwa needed and how she was doing (because at that point there was no way she could stay on the phone with a translator), and Kossiwa was being so strong. We got through the toughest parts of labor, and you could tell she was changing to pushing contractions, but she was at a 9 1/2. Then the doctor called. It was about 4:30pm, and he asked to speak to me. I was confused, but got on the phone only to hear that he thought, “It may be time to discuss an abdominal delivery and I want you to explain that to them.” I was dumbfounded. My next thought was: “You’ve got the wrong chic on the phone for that discussion” but I said, “Ok, I can try to tell them that.” Ablam, was confused. Kossiwa was on the brink of pushing; the nurse and I looked at each other, and she said, “I think I can move that little bit of cervix and she can have this baby.” And that’s exactly what happened! Kajove was born about 20 minutes later, and he was beautiful. Kossiwa was so relieved, and Ablam was so ecstatic. The nurses did a great job of handling everything, the doctor showed up about 15 minutes later and kind of stuttered over a “well, you never know…”, and I got to hold the new baby.

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Ablam thanked me about a million times for being there, and he still does every time I see him. I feel like I was allowed to share a very special moment and that maybe I helped out in making it better just by supporting Ablam’s efforts to help Kossiwa and by being the second yes to the nurse that wanted to save her from an unnecessary c-section. The entire experience was incredible, and it left me humble and exuberant at the same time.

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Here’s my buddy Kajove at about two weeks old when Cristian went to meet him for the first time.

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And here he is this summer: all grown up!

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The second birth that I got to be a part of was my sister Charlyn’s birth of her second baby, Everett. Now that I’m in birthing mode, I’d love to continue, but just in case I go into labor tonight, I think I better get some sleep. At least I have something to write about tomorrow!


That is the biggest baby belly I’ve ever seen…

28 Jul

Well, I really didn’t think I would make it this far. I have blogged all of my folder except two massive family vacations, which I still want to procrastinate, and I am a week overdue tomorrow. Looks like it’s time for a giant belly picture. Or two or three:


“No, I did not stuff anything else in there.”


“Yes, it definitely does look like I could tip over.”


“Well, sometimes I do carry two babies!”



28 Jul

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Time to break out the sprinkler and have a little fun in the heat.


We also got our best blossom of strawberries this year. Thanks to the Chandlers for great starters when they moved! Here are the fruits of my labors:

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1. Pickings from only one day!!

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2. My favorite way to eat fresh strawberries—with as many as you want on vanilla ice cream.

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3. What I do with the less-perfect ones.

Freezer jam works great on whole wheat pancakes, or toast, or waffles, or back to the vanilla ice cream… I’ve decided freezer jam pectin is a crock because it doesn’t thicken the mix unless you don’t cook the berries first, and I like to cook the ones I make into jam because they are the squishy, or cut-off-the-bug-bite, or not quite ripe ones. So this time I made some with just sugar, which was fine though a bit runny. Then, I made some with plain gelatin. That worked very well so that’s the plan for next year. 

I also chopped off all the plants (at about 4 inches) after the June-bearing season was over and pulled out extra runners or old plants this year (3rd year of harvest) in preparation for next year. This was a huge help in cutting back on the amount of leaf spot and maintenance for the rest of the summer. The bed looks ready to go. And here’s my little strawberry girl. I can’t resist putting in this picture too.

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A Trip to the Zoo

28 Jul






Piano Classics: 2014 Spring Recital

27 Jul

Piano Recital TLS 2014

Each year, I enjoy picking the theme for recital mostly because I enjoy finding new music, and it’s fun to see my students get excited about pieces that are not normally in their lesson books. This year, I scouted for some of the most famous classical compositions and the tunes that pop into your head because they are so well-known that they are used as background music in cartoons, re-occur in advertising, are sung as lullabies, etc. I let each student pick their own recital piece from a set of songs at their level, and I was surprised at how much they really enjoyed the melodies, along with learning valuable lessons about timing and rhythm from these songs.

I also got stuck on this funny idea about playing Name-That-Tune at the recital, as I thought parents would readily recognize most of the songs and it gave a bit of participation to the recital outside of the usual clapping and smiling. Here’s a sample of the program where (mostly the kids) filled in the names of tunes or guessed composers as the recital progressed.


The students also received a certificate and treat, and I just have to stop here to thank Cristian for his great graphic design skills on the invite, poster, program, and certificate. I’m lucky to have a husband that can help out with all of this, not to mention running the DVD so we had a real recording of the event to send home with each student this year. He is great.

Spring Piano Recital Diploma 2014

We caught a fun group photo as well, so here it is for everyone. Thanks again to the parents who were so positive about the recital and to my students for putting their songs together so well. I think this year’s performances were the strongest so far, which makes all the work very worth it.

Back row: Heidi Icleanu, Carter Ashmun, Patrick Bauer, Katelyn Police, Jennifer Russell, Hanae Yoshida.
Middle row: Isabel Police, Lillian Beiting, Cate Conklin, Caroline Beiting, Miya Yoshida, Shailen Zimmerman, Uma Zimmerman, Brooke Russell.
Front row: Oliver Icleanu, Max deCastro, Rigdon Anderson, Abby Bauer, Katherine Monohan, Claire Glenney, Eden Russell, Selah Rust, Merayla Icleanu.

P. S. Since this is the family blog, I get to put a little more in here about my kids. It was Oliver’s first recital, and he was fearless and adorable. We played a duet, and he announced his song very clearly into the microphone so I’m glad his dad caught it on camera. Merayla played Morning by Grieg, and I loved how she finished it progressively soft with the pedal. She is very artistic and has a good ear for how a piece should sound. I am so proud of them!



Preschool Graduation

26 Jul

This year, Ollie and I got to spend a little extra time together doing a preschool co-op group with some friends. We met once a week on Tuesdays at a different Mom’s house each time, and it was lots of fun. Oliver really enjoyed all the fun things he learned about. He even wanted to save his papers and projects in his backpack to tell Daddy about. At our house, we did a Camp Out, Helping at Home, Musical Preschool, Snow Day, Wading and Weaving, and made books of our favorite memories about going to preschool. I really want to do this for each of my kids for one of the years before they go to school, so, at least two more times!

Big thanks to the other teachers: Sara Walthers, Ashlee Millar, Misty Goodman, and Sara Fugal! Here’s some pictures of the kids at the graduation party/BBQ: Ian, Oliver, Annie, Ammon, and Meda.