Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 2010 videos


Halloween was kind of an after-thought with the excitement of Emily's birthday party on Sunday, but we still went trick-or-treating.  Emily changed into the new "princess dress" she got for her birthday as her costume.  Lincoln was relatively compliant in his warm puppy dog vest.  We took the kids out for about 20 minutes in a two block area of our neighborhood.  That was enough to satisfy Emily's desires and collect enough candy to feel pretty special.  Given the fact that we had about 12 kids total come to our door, we're pretty well set for chocolate for awhile. ;o)

First red tractor

Lincoln got a special present, too.  Grandpa Boote was super excited to give him his first red tractor.  I know we live in Deere country, but all of Grandpa's tractors are red.  :o) 

The Case IH 5240 model is the same one Grandpa spends 2.5 hours on every day.  Lincoln knows just what to do with it and propels it around with his motorboat sound. 

Thanks, Grandpa Boote!

Happy Birthday, Emily!

Emily had a great birthday celebration!  It began at preschool on Thursday when she got to wear a birthday crown and bring ice cream cookie sandwiches for treats.  On Saturday morning she came down the stairs at 7:15am fully dressed in her "party gear" complete with dress, tights and black dress shoes.  She beamed when she saw the decorations I put up while she was sleeping.  Then she got to open a few presents from us.  Along with some new books she got a bike basket and tassels for her handle bars. 

When I got home from the retreat on Saturday we frosted her long-awaited "princess" cake.  This was my first attempt at anything remotely fancy as far as a birthday cake is concerned.  We baked a pink-tinted confetti cake in a Pampered Chef Classic Batter Bowl and turned it upside-down.  I bought a doll cake topper from Hobby Lobby and two containers of pre-made frosting, which we tinted using neon food coloring.  I used my PC Easy Accent Decorator and kind of made things up as I went.  I can see why it would work much better to use stiffer, homemade frosting, but Emily was absolutely thrilled, and that's what counts!

Emily was super lucky to have Auntie Abbie and Uncle Wade spend the night at our house on Saturday after attending the Iowa football game and staying through her party on Sunday afternoon.  One of her #1 requests for her birthday (besides the princess cake) was party hats.  She & Uncle Wade got a little silly. ;o)

The grandparents arrived after church on Sunday for lunch and a party.  She was dressed in her party gear again and got more fun presents.  Here she is trying out her new princess roller skates.  The silliest thing she got was a rubber snake that she had pointed out at Wal-mart when we were in Des Moines a couple weeks ago.  She loves that thing.  Weird!

Happy 4th Birthday to our beautiful little girl!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

4 years old!

It is hard to believe our big, little girl is four years old today!  It is such a joy to see her learn and grow every day.  Her biggest accomplishment this month is really, truly starting to do some beginner reading.  Her favorite book is Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss because she can read almost the entire thing by herself (and not just recite it from memory).  She is starting to recognize some sight words and can sound out some basic words.  We are so excited to see the love she has always had for books move forward to the reading stage!

Hop on Pop (Beginner Books(R))Another "growing up" issue that has come up this month is privacy in her own room--particularly in reference to Lincoln.  As Lincoln has become more mobile, Emily's "safe" area has shrunk significantly.  I feel like she should have some space of her own that is somewhat protected from Lincoln's meddling.  Her room is the obvious choice, but with Lincoln able to easily climb the stairs, his curiosity at a heightened state and so many interesting things in her room for him to explore, it's kind of hard to manage sometimes.  She has begun closing her door and declaring that Lincoln has to stay out so he doesn't mess anything up.  I can sympathize with her, but that means it's also very difficult to do anything upstairs while Lincoln is awake.  So it's kind of a back and forth deal.  I try to protect her space as much as possible, but sometimes Lincoln is just going to get loose or he's going to have to be in there for a short period while I have to do something like help her pick out or modify her clothes for the day.

Emily also went through a Mommy-only/anti-Daddy stage this month.  Thankfully, I think we've finally made it to the other side.  She was more cuddly (read: clingy) this month than I think she has ever been in her life.  I love her and all, but when you just can't get away and have to practically peel off an almost-four-year-old it can get, well, old.

Another funny little phase Emily went through recently was constantly saying, "Mommy, I have an important question."  And then silence.  Most of the time she never did come up with a question.  The rest of the time it was more of a statement relating to her concern about Lincoln opening her birthday presents. :o)

The last tidbit has do with princesses, of course.  As I have mentioned before, Emily recognizes the Disney princesses as "princesses" but has no idea about their names or stories.  However, this month she has convinced herself that Belle from Beauty and the Beast is named "Emily" because she has brown hair and brown eyes just like Emily does. :o)

Rise and Shine!

This Saturday I had the privilege of attending the Rise and Shine Women's Retreat at our church.  Austin took care of the kids for the day and did great.  I got to experience some awesome worship and great teaching from Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries.  Lysa has an amazing life story.  She is also an incredibly real and inspirational woman.  You can find her blog post about the conference here and her daily posts in my blog roll list.  She has also written 12 books, several of which I have read, and is at the top of my favorite authors list!

I also want to thank the amazing organizational team of the retreat for covering every beautiful detail and a huge shout out to Natalie Brown and Scratch Cupcakery for the incredible lunch and heavenly cupcakes.  If you have never tried one of these tiny pieces of heaven you should ASAP!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Carving pumpkins

Carving pumpkins is by far my favorite part of Halloween. I was pretty disappointed when the pumpkins I had purchased earlier started to shrivel up and rot, so I broke my unwritten rule and bought a couple of replacements from a cardboard box at a store. Emily was super excited to help this year and asked if we could put Lincoln down for a nap at 8:30am because I told her we could carve them when he was sleeping. :o)  She did manage to wait until after lunch.

Emily ended up playing more of a supervisor role, though, after she discovered what was actually inside the pumpkins.  This is as close as she got to touching it.  She called it "honey" because it was sticky and then later "cheese" because the little ridged scooper tool I was using shredded the pulp and made it look exactly like shredded cheddar cheese.

She sort of drew her own face and helped me cut it out.  This picture shows her directing me where to cut the ears.  I guess I've never really done ears on a pumpkin before, but they turned out super cute.  She decided it looked like a monkey and named it "Curious George". :o)

She was most excited about putting the candles in.  I was pretty proud of myself for digging up a random white votive candle and a purple floating flower candle left over from our wedding reception centerpieces!  I also thought my "artistic" pumpkin turned out pretty good.  Before you give me too much credit, it was a paper stencil from the carving kit.

It's always a little tricky taking photos of the finished product to get the full effect of the carving, but I waited until after dark and played around with some settings on our digital camera.  Happy Halloween!

More cleaning projects this week

Lest you think I totally slacked off after the great toy sort (which did wear me out), I thought I'd better report on my cleaning projects the rest of this week... 
I spent an hour in Emily's room while she was at preschool (a necessity).  Yes, this was totally separate from the toy sort the day before.  It should have only taken 30 minutes, but I kept getting distracted by the audio book I was listening to on my mp3 player (The Romanov Bride by Robert Alexander).  My task was to put away all her clothing items, throw away all the trash (a whole grocery sack full of half-used tissues and various papers), sort and reorganize the books, put away misc items and dust mop the whole thing.  Whew!  Emily was pretty impressed and excited when she saw it afterwards.

I almost didn't do anything today, but the kids & I spent 2.5 hours playing in the basement while the wind howled outside.  We are going to be spending many more hours down there this winter when we can't always go outside.  So I spent some time setting up and rearranging things down there.  It is going to be a continual work in progress.  It is also going to bother me that it won't stay very "clean", but it is a basement, after all, and it's just going to be dusty, dirty and cob-webby sometimes.

One of the ongoing dilemmas of the basement play area is how to handle the rice box, which is kind of like an indoor sandbox.  It is essential to have it on a hard surface and not on any kind of carpeting, but it gets old sweeping up the rice that bounces all over the place along with dirt and dead bugs. :op  My latest attempt to keep things sort of under control is to put it in a corner on some foam mats that you can pick up and funnel all the loose rice back into the box.  I didn't really count on Lincoln taking up residency in the box and kicking, tossing and pouring the rice out.  Plus I'm finding it other places around the house--especially his changing table--as it falls out of his shoes, pants and diaper.  I could get rid of the rice box or only get it out once in awhile, but it is heavy to move and both kids absolutely LOVE it.  At least for now.  So we'll just deal with the mess and enjoy it. :o)
Today the baker's rack in the kitchen received a thorough cleaning.  There wasn't much organizing to do other than straighten the cookbooks, but it was dirty gross.

It had always been the plan to deep-clean the rest of the kitchen today, including wiping down over a year's worth of kitchen grime and dust from the cabinets.  It was not, however, in the original plan to move the refrigerator and mop up the entire cup of milk I spilled down the crack between the fridge and the countertop at breakfast this morning. :op  It took three rounds to get everything cleaned.  This organizing/cleaning thing does not go as well or as fast with little kids around.  And then the kitchen turned into a disaster area again while I cooked supper.  Sigh.  At least I have a wonderful husband who cleans everything up and returns it to near pristine condition again at night!

As I had predicted, accomplishing small cleaning projects each day is motivating and almost addicting.  I sometimes have to tell myself to stop and just take a little chunk at a time.  Otherwise I'll get burned out.  Plus, as I mentioned above, it just doesn't work well when the kids are awake and around, so that naturally limits the amount and scope of the projects I tackle.  I think part of the motivating factor is that I'm finally feeling normal again after dealing with my foot/leg issues for three months and only operating in survival mode. 

I have also discovered that many of the ideas about cleaning came from FlyLady.  While I'm not quite ready to become a full-fledged Fly-Baby yet, I like her philosophy about baby steps and her mantra of "You're not behind, you're just getting started!" :o)

I have also appreciated the shout-outs from some of my blogger friends that have been inspired by my cleaning frenzy.  I had hoped that recording my accomplishments would not only be motivating for me, but for others as well.  Keep up the good work!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The great toy sort

I've been doing pretty well with the small tasks, so today I decided to tackle a bigger one.  Back when I was all-wise and all-knowing pre-kids, I wondered how/why people accumulated such large collections of small random toys (aka "junk") in the bottoms of toy boxes and bins and everywhere.  And why didn't they just sort through them or throw them away?  Then I had kids.  And they got toys.  And games.  And Happy Meals.  And I tried to "sort" things.  And everything just slowly migrated all over the house.  And now I understand.

So with Emily's birthday coming up this weekend and Christmas just around the corner, I decided it was high time for a "great toy sort".  Emily & Lincoln happily obliged in helping to literally empty almost everything and dump it all in the middle of the living room floor.  Emily's exact quote when I was taking this picture was, "This is so messy I can't even believe it!"  Me either.

The sorting part actually wasn't that bad because I kind of had a plan and I kind of had a jump start using the boxes I had previously used to organize other toys in the upstairs closet (most of which are still pretty sorted).  However, Emily & Lincoln weren't exactly very helpful.  In the beginning they just got distracted with toys they had forgotten about.  In the middle they would "sort" toys into the wrong piles.  Towards the end they would dump out a box/container of newly sorted toys to play with for 5 minutes before moving on to the next one.  It took about 3 hours to sort, label and put everything away and then vacuum up the crumbs left behind.  It feels so good to have it done even though I know I'll probably have to do it all over again post-Christmas. 

Here are a few tips from the trenches I learned today:
  • Have plenty of boxes and containers in a variety of sizes available for sorting.
  • Have a large wastebasket available.  Use it.
  • Wear shoes.  This activity is hazardous in bare feet!
  • Have some inspirational music playing.
  • Have a water bottle handy.  This is exercise!
  • Labels are your friend.  It teaches the whole family your organizational "system".  This is an amazing product.  I now have pink & green labels everywhere.
  • You've heard it before, but pack some toys away and set a reminder to yourself to swap them out later.  Less toys = more playing.  This is so hard for me to do because I think the kids will be "missing out" if something isn't always available to play with.  The opposite is actually true.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Princesses & Pirates

This afternoon we attended a super fun birthday party for one of Emily's best friends.  It had a Princesses & Pirates theme, and the kids dressed up accordingly.  They played games, ate cake and ran around having fun in general.  Lincoln's favorite part was eating the red Tootsie Pop.  His outfit is currently in the washing machine with a half a bottle of stain remover. :op  Emily's favorite activity was going on a treasure hunt in the corn.  We now have quite the collection of princess and pirate rubber duckies. :o)  Happy 4th Birthday, Mieke!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A puzzle disaster and an art success

Another tip for getting your house under control is to enlist the help of your kids whenever possible.  Today's housecleaning plan was to have Emily work on her room while I worked downstairs.  Remember the Puzzleland post just a few days ago?  Well, Puzzleland had turned into Puzzle Disasterland.  Emily finished most of the remaining puzzles and also got out most of her books and other miscellaneous toys and clothes.  This is what her room looked like after I removed the dirty laundry:

Her job was to simply put the puzzles away.  Her reward was to be able to watch the video she got from the library.  I was hoping she wouldn't need any supervision so I could work on my project downstairs.  However, I got distracted when the appraiser came for our refinancing.  When he left I checked on Emily and discovered that out of the approximately 24 puzzles involved, seven had made it into the correct box or bag, four were in the wrong box or bag, and the rest were all together in one box.

Thankfully, after this happened the last time we labeled every piece.  So we took the box downstairs and Emily had a new task to sort the puzzle pieces.  She worked on it for about 30 minutes and had a couple of the larger piece puzzles sorted out. 

Then I came up with a new plan and together we got the rest sorted in another 30 minutes.  Now all the puzzles, except for her brand new princess ones, are stored safely in the attic.  Mommy has had enough of puzzles for a little while. ;o)

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While Emily was sorting puzzle pieces, I was working on my project for the day: Emily's Art Cart.  I put this cart together a few months ago to try to corral and organize all her art supplies and paper.  It has worked quite well, but as with most things, the stuff started getting piled up on top and things just got thrown in random drawers.  And Emily started collecting leaves from outside and storing them in the drawers where they eventually dried up and crumbled into leaf dust. :op  In 30 minutes I was able to empty all the drawers, sort through all the papers and put everything back in its proper drawer. 

The biggest task was sorting all the drawings and papers that had accumulated.  I was very proud of myself for only saving three things to hang up on the art wall downstairs and putting the rest in the recycling box.  It was not easy, because I have a tendency to want to hang on to things for emotional reasons.  Just ask my mother.  When I was growing up my desk at home was a landslide of stuff (mostly papers) that I just couldn't throw away.  One of the most formative moments of my childhood came one Saturday when my mom sat down next to me at my desk and we went through all the piles piece by piece.  Her mantra became, "That was fun, but now it's done," as she threw each precious thing in the trash.  I cannot tell you how many times I've had to say that to myself in the years since that moment! 

Apparently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, because Emily kept abandoning her puzzle project and checking in on what I was doing.  As soon as she spotted something in the trash or recycling she'd dig it out and insist that it was a "special" drawing or that she was going to give it to someone or she wasn't done coloring it yet.  I would just send her back to her puzzle pile and stuff the paper deeper in the box.  I had to empty the trash and recycling immediately afterwards, because on more than one occasion she has discovered and dug her pictures out of the trash.  I have a feeling we're going to have to have the same "now we're done" discussion in the future!

Here are the before and after pictures of Emily's Art Cart.  You can click to zoom in to read the labels. 

Pictures in the leaves

It's that time of year again when a mama strongly desires cute pictures of her kids in the leaves. This week the weather cooperated and the leaves cooperated. Now for the kids to cooperate...;o) I carried a camera in my back pocket, and over the course of four days and over 100 snapshots, we got some good ones. Unfortunately, not a single one of them is with the kids together. Maybe next year...Enjoy!



Thursday, October 21, 2010

A plan to reorganize the house

Most people probably feel like their house is out of control 99.9% of the time.  This is especially true when there are kids in the house.  You often find yourself just operating in survival mode and let lots of things slide.  Then one day you wake up with an incredible urge to clean and/or reorganize practically everything in your house, but the sheer size and scope of the task is so paralyzing you don't even know where to start.  That was me a couple days ago.  Everywhere I looked there was a project/task that could be started.  I had to come up with a plan.  Using some ideas another mom presented at my mom's group at church a year ago, I'm going to try and take 15-30 minute chunks of time whenever I can find them to work on one small thing or area.  Then when I have some larger chunks of time I can tackle the bigger projects.  I think I will be more motivated to tackle a larger project if I can see progress and gain encouragement from the smaller ones. 

I am going to try and document some of it as I go.  Hopefully this will hold me accountable.  I know that nothing stays the same, so even if you "clean" something one day it could very well be "messy" again the next day.  Therefore, I also hope to develop/experiment with some different organizing strategies.  Please leave comments to let me know if you have any good ideas that have worked for you!

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I completed my first task on Wednesday night when I transferred everything in my recipe binder to a new, larger binder I purchased at Wal-mart two months ago.  I looked through every paper.  I recycled any recipes that had only gotten an "Okay" rating by my family and the ones I knew I'd mostly likely never make again.  I also recycled three years worth of monthly recipe calendars.  I always thought I'd go back and look at them and reuse the ideas, but I haven't.  I plan meals based on Austin's travel schedule, grocery store specials and what I already have in the house.  Plus I'm always trying new recipes from my favorite magazine Simple & Delicious.  Which is another whole project--for another day.

Today I complete two small projects.  While the kids were playing after breakfast I sorted through the mail in the organizer on the counter that Austin had already looked through and saved for me to read and/or deal with.  It literally took 5 minutes to go through more than a week's worth and most of it ended up in the recycling.  That's something I could do at least once a week while I'm waiting for Emily to go potty or get her coat on, etc.

The second project was cleaning off the top of the fridge.  I don't know how your kitchen is set up, but we have a nice space on top of the fridge that becomes a catch-all for everything that must go "up".  This includes toys and other items that were put in "time-out" and then forgotten about.  Ours had gotten to the point where anything you put on top was at risk of sliding right back off.  So I took 20 minutes while Emily was at preschool and Lincoln was napping to take everything off the top and give it a good cleaning.  After one trip upstairs and one trip downstairs to put things away in better homes, this was my final result:

Using some Ziploc containers that no longer have matching lids, I have one spot for things like the headphones and iPhone armband Austin uses when he runs and one for what I labeled "Controlled Art Supplies".  This includes some frequently used items like the Elmer's glue, watercolor paints and occasionally a scissors that is in "time-out".  The package next to it is our pumpkin carving kit that will go in the larger "Craft" box upstairs after we use it next week. :o)

P.S. This whole venture is dedicated to my husband who is the neatest, cleanest minimalist I know.  Thanks for putting up with us and our messes!

A real haircut

After buzzing it short this summer, I've been letting Lincoln's hair grow out.  I like it a little longer.  However, there is that painfully annoying inbetween stage that you have to live through to get to where you want to be.  Like growing bangs out.  Anyway, aside from the fact that it stuck out all over on top, the back of Lincoln's hair was starting to get too close to the mullet line for my comfort.  I attempted to trim it this morning, but failed miserably.  So after Emily's scheduled haircut this afternoon (which I guess I didn't feel the need to photograph), our hairdresser agreed to fix my hack job.  Lincoln ended up getting a full haircut himself.  He sat so nice and still!  It may not look drastically different like Emily's first haircut, but it sure looks a lot cleaner and neater!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010


While I was at the neurologist and running errands all day, Emily & Lincoln had fun with my mom.  Grandma Boote brought this fun puppet kit along.  Emily meows and meows whenever she has the kitties on her hands.

Grandma also spent many, many hours outside with Lincoln.  It might be a long winter with that kid!