Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

4 years + 3 months

This is a picture of Emily in one of her favorite outfits.  I confess to actually hiding it on a few occasions so she was forced to wear something else.  I try to limit it to not wearing it both preschool days in the same week.  In other clothing news, Emily figured out how to zip zippers all by herself on New Year's Day, much to our delight and the delight of her preschool teachers!

Emily also practiced counting to 100 this month.  She's usually pretty close.  We've done a LOT of counting!  She has a funny "video game" she plays on the basic calculator we have on the desk.  She types in numbers and then says, "Look, when I press the AC button it eats all the numbers!"  Kids can be quite creative!

Besides the letters and scrapbook (see previous posts), Emily has been quite preoccupied with all kinds of "projects" involving writing.  At the beginning of the month she was all about rules, probably because they talked about resolutions (which were more like rules), at preschool.  The picture on the right is one of her rule lists with interpretations. 

Next came the sign phase.  She made signs for everything.  It was okay when she was using free sticky pad paper Austin brought home from hotels.  Then she started using her glue stick to attach the signs to things.  Now we limit the number of signs and use parent-controlled tape to hang them up.  There are currently two signs hanging on our back door.  One says "No dogs and no cats" and the other (in Emily's own spelling version) says "You can play in my garden".  Not sure where either of those came from.  There is also a sign on her bedroom door that says "This is my room not Lincoln." :o) 

The latest craze is to-do lists, probably inspired by the short story "The List" from Frog and Toad Together.  She wants to make a list of things to do every day that she can cross off.  The lists include things like wake up, eat breakfast, make bed, etc.  I finally took my mom's suggestion and found a free font online that is dashed letters perfect for practicing handwriting.  With Emily's help, I typed up a basic list of 18 things that we can easily modify based on the day and print off for her to write (i.e. trace) and cross off.  It has inspired her to clean her room on more than one occasion.  However, we found out that you need to be very specific.  The last time she "cleaned" her room, most of the stuff ended up in the closet.  Then she said, "Next time we should put 'Clean closet,' too."

We have been very blessed with extremely healthy kids who rarely get sick, and then only have a runny nose for a few days.  Emily hasn't even had a runny nose for months.  However, there is usually at least one "friend" from her preschool class missing because they are sick.  Emily keeps careful tabs on this and reports to us every day who was gone.  She also prays for them just like they do at preschool, although she usually embellishes the number to 5 or 6 friends who are gone.  She also talks about being sick herself and tries to tell us that she is sometimes.  I just tell her that it's not fun to be sick and that means she'll have to spend the day in her bed.  That usually produces a miraculous cure! ;o)

Emily also is hung up on losing teeth.  She often says she really wants a loose tooth or she thinks she has a loose tooth.  Then she tells me what she's going to do with her loose tooth.  Then she asks if Lincoln has a loose tooth.  All in good time...

The last funny note about Emily involves food.  She likes her food cold.  Especially leftovers.  This is not limited to pizza.  She also prefers things like scalloped potatoes and ham, noodle casseroles and cooked vegetables straight from the fridge.  If she asks for oatmeal for breakfast she usually doesn't actually eat it until it has been sitting on the table for over an hour.  It seems really gross to me, but it makes leftover lunches a little easier to prepare.  However, just yesterday she apparently changed her mind and declared that she liked hot food and wanted things warmed up.  Whatever.  She also still likes slices of bread plain and straight from the bag, although once in awhile she asks for toast (still plain).  They learned about rectangles in preschool this month, so she likes to make "rectangle sandwiches," which just means folding her plain bread in half so it is shaped like a rectangle.  :o)

Friday, January 28, 2011

The great book sort

Like the great toy sort we did last October (and really need to do once/month), we were in desperate need of a great book sort.  I inherited my weakness for children's books from my mom.  Now that bookorders come home from preschool once a month (and will continue to come home for years to come) I needed a plan.

The first step was to gather all the books from all over the house.  There are a couple hundred at least.  Even with them spread all over the floor, Lincoln was still able to find one of his favorites. :o)

The next step was to sort the books into piles and categories and figure out where to put them.  Here's how it all turned out before I redistributed the books throughout the house.

  1. I was especially excited about the new canvas sling bookshelf I just got.  I've been wanting one for a long time.  Now that we have a large and growing collection of thin paperback books it has almost become a must-have.
  2. There is a special space reserved for the Sing-and-Read books from bookorders that both kids, but especially Lincoln, currently love.
  3. This is where the seasonal books are (currently winter & Valentine's Day).
  4. This is the shelf for our massive collection of board books.
  5. All the treasuries and box-collections are kept on this shelf.
  6. I decided to move all the Dr. Suess/Beginner Reader books out of Emily's room since Lincoln has started showing more interest in them--especially Go, Dog. Go!
  7. This basket of books will go downstairs to the play area.
  8. A lot of books came out of Emily's room, but quite a few are going back because the are either especially for her or just more age-appropriate.
  9. This small stack consists of seasonal books that will be rotated out when appropriate.
  10. This collection will go in Lincoln's room to read before bedtime.  They can be rotated out with any of the other board books.
  11. This basket lives under the end table in the living room and contains all the bulky, oversized board books that don't fit well anywhere else.
  12. This is a pile of books that are going to go away for awhile.  I might get them out later for Lincoln, or I might just pass them on.
  13. This fabric drawer from Emily's bedroom cube shelves contain all the books that actually belong to my mom, including twenty-one Berenstain Bears books from my childhood. :o)
  14. This final pile are the books that are definitely going away.  Most of them were garage sale purchases to begin with.  They served their purpose, but they are not favorites and are just taking up space.
Like toys, sorting books is a good way to eliminate things no longer loved that could possibly bless others.  It is also a chance to rediscover things once loved.  Austin & I both love books and are thrilled to be able to pass it on to our kids.  I'm sure there will be many more book sorts in the future!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Another mini money lesson

One of Emily's latest "projects" has been making letters to send to people.  She'll do a little drawing, maybe cut it out and put it in an extra return envelope leftover from my bookwork bills.  Then she'll write an "address" and want to send it to someone.  I tell her it will need a stamp, so she will draw, cut out and glue on her own stamp.  Then she wants to mail it by hanging it on the mailbox for the mailman.  One afternoon she made six letters, so I decided it was time for another mini money lesson.

I tried to explain that real stamps cost money.  Emily's initial solution was to write a check from the bank, which she quickly designed and cut out herself.  Then I had to explain that stamps cost real money, so she found a purse with some change leftover from her pillow pet purchase.  We had a quick lesson in coin values, which will definitely have to be repeated.  We determined that she had $.64.  Then we counted out $.44 and she bought a stamp from me.  I wrote out a real envelope with a real address and she put her letter inside.  Then we hung it outside for the mailman where she kept close tabs on it until it was gone.

The Very Fairy PrincessOf course, she wanted to send more envelopes, but she didn't have enough money to buy any more stamps.  This was mostly due to the fact that the day before she "bought" one of her bookorder books from me.  As you may recall, she didn't have enough money at the time the bookorders were due to pick out a book.  However, I had ordered a cute (pink!) princess book called The Very Fairy Princess that I thought would be fun for her to have (it is a good book).  She was so excited when she saw it she wanted to "buy" it from me because she had saved enough money by then.  I decided it might be more effective to have a visual stimulus like an actual book to purchase rather than placing an online order and waiting, so I let her buy it and might do something similar in the future.  However, that book purchase pretty much wiped out her small stash of dollar bills.  Plus, one of the next times we go to Wal-mart she has to buy a new tube of toothpaste for herself because she squeezed almost everything out of her old one into the sink earlier this week after watching a movie that another little friend brought over.  Apparently she is very impressionable.

Anyway, as Emily continues to grasp the concept and power of money, I'm sure the list of things she wants to buy will grow by leaps and bounds.  This will create many more future lessons in money.  In the meantime, maybe I should come up with some ways she can earn a little money at home.  I'd love to hear any good ideas!  And if you get a letter from Emily, you know that it is very special, because she likely had to pay for it herself. ;o)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Barnyard dance party

This is our new post-bathtime activity.  Not exactly recommended for calming kids down for bed, but it does burn some energy. :o)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Emily's scrapbook

Another thing my mom brought from her basement last week was an unopened scrapbook.  The first thing we had to do was number the pages to 100.  Since then Emily has literally spent hours filling pages of it with drawings and letters and numbers.  Below is a movie slideshow of some of the best pages with explanations.  If you would like to study a page longer, just pause the movie.

You gotta start somewhere...

I haven't even begun to think about potty-training Lincoln.  However, Lincoln has become increasingly interested in the toilet--especially since he figured out how to open the lid.  Just for fun I pulled down his pants the other day and held him on the big potty with a diaper on.  He thought that was pretty fun, so I dug out the little potty.  He thinks it's pretty fun to sit on that, too.  I guess you gotta start somewhere!

Silly shoes

It has been a bit slow for the past week for blogging material.  
Here are some snapshots of a fun new activity...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

20 months old

Lincoln is 20 months and counting!  I'm not sure if he has any more teeth because it's getting harder to look, but he seems to be ever so slightly decreasing the drool.  He usually only soaks one bib per day.  Maybe it's because we let the rest get absorbed by fleece and sweatshirts. :o)

Lincoln has added several new words in the past month, which makes me feel better.  The clearest ones are "coo-kie" and "cah" (car).  He also does a funny "hah" (hot) and "co-oh" (cold).

Another new skill he has acquired this month is blowing his nose, although he really hasn't had a runny nose lately.  He can do it better than Emily at age 4+.  He also likes to walk on his tip-toes and try to jump.  He has made a lot of progress with the jumping over the course of the month and actually slightly leaves the ground once in awhile, which sort of surprises him when it happens!  He has also started experimenting with chucking various objects--especially his sippy cup.  I blame it on the influence of his cousin, Ryan. ;o)

I'm sure most kids go through this phase, but Lincoln is really into drinking bathwater lately.  He has moved beyond just sucking on washcloths and takes full gulps from whatever object he can get ahold of that holds any amount of water.  Blech! :op

One thing I have really noticed this month is the way Lincoln has started to copy everything Emily does.  He wants to do all the "tricks" she does on the Little Tikes climbing slide downstairs.  He wants to color like her and does his best making chicken scratchings with crayons and pencils.  Just this afternoon Emily was throwing a tantrum about something or other and kicking her feet up and down while sprawled out on the floor in timeout.  So he came into the kitchen, laid down and started crying and kicking his feet up and down, too.  Have mercy!

A grandma visit

Austin is out of town all week for new employee training, so my mom came to keep us company for a few days.  The kids had a lot of fun with paper.  Grandma made them "party hats" out of newspaper.

She also brought a whole chunk of continuous-feed computer paper she found while cleaning out her basement.  Who would have thought the tear-off strips on the edges would provide the most entertainment?  They made 3-D sculptures and had "Happy New Year" confetti streamers.

 And of course, there was a lot of book reading.

Thanks for visiting, Grandma!  We love you!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

UNI basketball game

Faithful readers may recall that last year Austin & I attended a UNI basketball game for free when he got to shoot free throws as part of a drawing from the Fareway in Waverly.  I seriously laughed out loud when I got a phone call this week asking for Austin because his name had been drawn AGAIN!  I promise I only signed each of us up once both times!  Anyway, this time he won four free tickets, so we decided to leave Lincoln home with a babysitter and take Emily along.

Emily was pretty excited and counted down the hours until it was time to leave.  She kept talking about wanting to score a goal.  We tried to explain that she wouldn't be playing and we were just going to watch other people play, but it didn't really sink in.  She was also very concerned that she didn't have a Panthers shirt and wanted us to buy her one.  When we got to the McLeod Center Emily decided that she & I would get to play because we were wearing purple.  After settling into our seats, Emily learned that we were supposed to cheer for the players wearing the white jerseys.  At that point she informed us that we needed to get her one of those white shirts with a number on it--specifically #4 because she is 4 years old.  Okay, then.

You can imagine Emily's excitement when it came time for Austin to shoot baskets during a media time-out in the second half (the game was televised).  It was structured a little differently this year.  It was just Austin shooting 10 free-throws.  He made four of them good for a $40 gift certificate to Fareway.  Hooray!  Not bad for not shooting a ball once since last year!

The game itself wasn't terribly exciting.  UNI jumped out to an early lead against Southern Illinois and ended up beating the Salukis 72-52.  Emily told us on more than one occasion that it was a long time to sit!  We brought a little bag of activities and some snacks, which she blew threw before halftime.  We didn't get there early enough to get a foam Panther paw (although we found an abandoned one in the bleachers afterward), but there were some college girls sitting behind us that thought Emily was cute and funny and let her have their pompoms, which Emily thoroughly enjoyed.  Her other favorite parts were watching the "wolf" (i.e. TC the mascot), the motion-sensor water faucets in the restrooms (we made two trips there) and the big bag of popcorn she mostly shared with Austin.  She was a trooper and made it all the way to the end.  It was very entertaining to have her along, and I'm sure she'll remember--and talk about--it for a long time to come!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snickerdoodle boots

We seem to be in the mess-making business this week.  On Wednesday afternoon I was running errands in Waterloo with the kids.  One of our stops was a bank to sign some paperwork.  The well-meaning lady at the bank tried to send us home with a half dozen cookies, particularly the freshly-made snickerdoodles.  Emily happily took a cookie and the last miniature Snickers from the lady's candy tray.  Back in the van Emily asked me to open the Snickers, which I did and handed back to her.  I assumed she just ate it.  However, an hour later we were at church waiting for the family meal to start and Emily started getting fidgety.  She was wearing her jean dress with rainbow striped tights and her pink snowboots.  Apparently, she had not eaten the Snickers right away, and it had somehow fallen into her boot where it had been slowly melting into her tights.  By this time it was just a big, sticky, gooey mess.  Of course I didn't have anything else for her to change into, so the rest of the night she chattered about nothing else but "the snickerdoodle in my boot."  I ended up having to try to explain to several people what she was talking about.  I am happy to report that the Snicker goo came off the tights just fine in the wash today.  I also got most of the goo out of the boot using a toothbrush with a dab of detergent.  However, I'm sure I will never hear the end of the "snickerdoodle" every time Emily puts on her boots!

Unsupervised children

On Thursday we had some friends over to play and eat dinner because both of our husbands were gone for the evening.  The kids were playing in the basement while we were getting dinner ready.  I remember specifically asking my friend if I was a bad mom for letting my kids play downstairs unsupervised at this age while I did things like prepare dinner, empty the dishwasher and set the table.  We decided it was a good way to encourage independent play.  However, there are sometimes consequences.  When the kids came up for supper Lincoln had rice all over in his hair.  A quick peek downstairs revealed that half of the rice from the rice table was in a pile on the floor next to the rice table.  I didn't think much more about it until bathtime two hours later.  While undressing Lincoln I discovered rice all along the top of his diaper.  Then I discovered a bunch of rice in his diaper.  His very wet diaper.  We'll just stop with the word picture there.

After we released the kids from the dinner table they went upstairs to Emily's room while my friend & I finished eating and cleaning up.  I consider it partially my fault because I distinctly heard the squeak of the medicine cabinet door in the upstairs bathroom on two occasions and did not go up to investigate.  When it was time to start packing up, my friend & I discovered that the kids had decided to "decorate" Emily's room using stuff from the bath caddy in the bathroom.  There was strawberry body wash covering Emily's money bank inside and out, dripped along the bookshelf, all along the roof of her princess tent and filling the potted plant.  There was also fruity-flavored toothpaste on a rug and diaper ointment smeared in various places--including Emily's hair.  You just had to laugh out loud.  Luckily, the body wash was easy to wipe off of everything, although it will be interesting to see how the plant fares.  The toothpaste was clear, and the rug is washable.  I did contemplate whether or not to add detergent to the load of towels we used to clean everything up.  I ended up running it through the quick wash cycle once without detergent and then once with.

Dealing with Emily's hair has been a bit trickier.  We shampooed it three times that night with little impact.  I put Lincoln to bed and googled "diaper cream in hair."  I had 1,880,000 results in .21 seconds.  After skimming the first few, the general consensus seemed to be Dawn dish soap.  We happen to only have Joy right now, but I sent Emily back into the bathtub for two rounds of washing with dish soap.  I couldn't tell much of a difference, so I decided just to put her to bed.  She woke up with a crazy, greasy hairdo that was surprisingly still very staticky (which is a word I just made up).  Other suggestions online were concoctions of baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.  One lady said she tried everything and found that GoJo was the only thing that worked on her two-year-old.  I'm not quite ready to go that far yet.  We'll probably just try some more dish soap tonight and the night after that.  Thankfully, the hand-held showerhead works great and Emily has been relatively cooperative throughout the whole ordeal.  Worst-case scenario is that she just has greasy hair for awhile.  I'm betting Emily's preschool teachers have seen worse. ;o)

P.S. To my dear friend--please know that you are welcome back to my house any time.  We'll just clean up the messes together. :o)

Backyard birds video

I have been looking for an excuse to try out the features of the iMovie program on our new laptop, so I decided to take some video clips of the birds on our new backyard feeder.  Not only was 1/11/11 a cool date to do it, the conditions were also perfect.  A newly filled platform feeder after a fresh 4" of snow (and still snowing!) is a busy place.  All of these clips were taken on Tuesday morning.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A money lesson

Well, the little money lesson came sooner than I thought.  Emily brought home a bookorder from preschool last week, which gets us both excited.  In the past I have let her choose one book to buy each month with money from her savings bank.  She didn't get a bookorder in December, so she was extra excited about this one.  When we arrived home, she immediately got out a pencil and started circling all the books she wanted--which included every book with a pink cover (she has real discerning taste).  Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view, every single one she circled cost $3 or more, and she only had $2 in her bank after purchasing her Pillow Pet.  The princess one she really wanted (but I really didn't want her to have) cost $5.  As soon as I pointed this out, Emily asked for a piece of green paper and made five dollars (see picture).  Apparently she has also been paying attention to the TV ads for the new $2 bills with Thomas Jefferson's striking portrait! ;o)  I calmly tried to explain to her that you had to have real dollars and not pretend dollars to buy books.  I thought we were kind of past it, but it has come up a couple more times since then.  I know she still doesn't really grasp the concept of money and where it comes from, but it was a good place to start a conversation.  She also seems to be okay with the fact that she has to wait until February and then maybe she can buy a book.  In the meantime, I think we might have to start considering some creative ways to teach some more lessons about money.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Backyard birds *UPDATED*

One of the fun gifts I received for Christmas was a platform bird feeder and suet holder.  I've been wanting some kind of bird feeder for almost a year but have just been too cheap to buy it myself.  Emily helped me hang it up this week.  We put in two different kinds of seeds and went inside to wait for the birds to come.  We were not disappointed!  Within 24 hours I counted at least 10 different species.  Using a birding book I got for a gift a couple years ago along with a little help from Google, I have positively identified the following: Black-Capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal (several pairs), Mourning Dove, White-Breasted Nuthatch, House Finch and Sparrow (not exactly sure which specific kind though).  There are also at least two other kinds that I'm having a hard time figuring out.  I've searched several web site databases, but I am still at a loss.  They have to be relatively common, though, because there are lots of them in our backyard.  One of the mystery birds is at the bottom of the picture below.

The busiest times seem to be right around breakfast and lunch, which is when we are sitting at the table and have the best views.  There is also at least one fat squirrel that has happily plopped himself in the middle of the platform and eaten a majority of the food. :op  In the picture above he is performing acrobatic tricks to get at the suet.  The kids enjoy watching the antics of both the birds and the squirrels.  We look forward to adding to our species list in the months to come!

*Update* Austin's brother, Tyler, is a high school science teacher and the family naturalist.  He was over for lunch on Sunday and helped identify the mystery birds as Black-eyed Juncos--more specifically Slate-colored Juncos.  I had been thrown for a loop because most of the birds in our yard look darker (some almost black) than the lighter gray birds pictured in the books and online.  However, I have since learned that there are vast regional differences in coloration.  Regardless, they are fun to watch as they hop around on the ground in flocks. :o)

Bowl O' Kleenex

It has been a slow blogging week because I have been bogged down in bookwork.  I finally feel like I'm on top of things again, so here's a funny incident from the week.  One day I had to take a very important bookkeeping phone call that I had been waiting to come for two days.  Emily was in the middle of a tantrum about something or other, so I briefly excused myself from the call, semi-pushed her up the stairs and told her to finish her tantrum there.  After I was finished with the call I heard squeals of delight coming from upstairs, so I thought I better investigate.  Apparently, in retaliation for me sending her upstairs, Emily thought it would be funny to take not one, but two boxes of Kleenex and gleefully empty them all over her room.  I was not amused--especially since I had to walk out the door in 15 minutes for a doctor's appointment.  Did I mention that Emily had also changed back into her pajamas?  After helping her get started, Emily had to pick up all the Kleenexes and at least gather them into one pile.  Then she needed to get dressed again.  Luckily, I hit the mark on the first try when I told her she had 5 minutes, and if she wasn't dressed by the time I came back upstairs I would start taking toys out of her room starting with her princess castle and next would be her Magic School Bus books.  We made it out the door on time.

Earlier that day, Lincoln had gotten into the kitchen cupboard of big bowls as he has many times before.  He turned one over and tried to use it as a stepstool.  Tragically, after 8 years of faithful weekly service, Austin's big popcorn bowl succumbed to the pressure and cracked.  Sniff.  I don't even know if Wal-mart carries the $1 bowls in the winter. 

Anyway, before being tossed into the recycling bin, I decided it was the perfect storage container for all the Kleenexes Emily had gathered since I wasn't going to try and fold them back into a box, and I certainly wasn't going to waste them!  Thus, the Bowl O' Kleenex that now resides in our bathroom.  Luckily, both Lincoln & I have drippy noses so we're going through quite a few in a day.  I'm just waiting for Lincoln to get a little too curious and find another mess on our hands...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas in Waukee

While I was off having fun at the wedding events, the kids were hanging out with Grandpa & Grandma Lorenzen and other members of Austin's family.  We also did the family Christmas on New Year's Day.  Here are the picture highlights: 

One of the activities was decorating Christmas cookies
The best shot of the grandkids
Someone is ready to open presents and easily bribed into taking pictures!
Emily's new scooter
A super-cool quilted wall hanging Austin's mom made out of t-shirts Austin's dad accumulated during his Road Race days.  Even the tabs for the hanging rod are parts of t-shirts.
Fun in a Thomas pop-up tent
More fun wheels for Lincoln
Emily also got a tent, but it required a little more assembly.  Grandpa Lorenzen is trying to figure it out.
The kids had fun playing in the tent at G&G's house.  We got it reassembled in Emily's room when we got home and she promptly moved in for the night.  She might not have to make her bed for awhile. ;o)