Monday, February 28, 2011

4 years + 4 months

Emily is now 4 1/3 years old.  In this picture she is modeling her new "purple heart" outfit from Wal-Mart.  She was so excited when she saw it on the rack because they studied the color purple and the heart shape at preschool during February.  Preschool continues to be the highlight of the week for Emily.  She was devastated when she had to stay home one day last week because of a hacking cough and runny nose.  We also had parent-teacher conferences last week, and Emily got perfect marks in almost everything.  We are so proud of her in all the ways she has grown since the beginning of the school year!

It's hard to believe, but there honestly isn't much else to report.  The only other noticeable change in Emily has been a sharp increase in whininess and petty fighting with Lincoln, but I chalk that up mostly to being sick of winter.  It was a pretty slow month, which is obvious by the below-average number of blog posts and the fact that we didn't take a single video during February.  Oops!  I'll try to do better next month!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some ideas I've had...

I'm always looking for creative ideas for solving everyday problems, so I thought I'd share a few I've had.  Some of them have worked better than others.  Some of them sound like something that would be in a Family Fun or Parenting magazine.  But since I don't read any of those types of publications, I can claim them as purely my own. :o)

I've shared about the Art Cart before when I was on my organizing binge last fall.  It has been a pretty good way to attempt to corral and organize all of Emily's papers and other "projects".  It doesn't stay super organized, and really needs a good sorting at least once a month, but Emily does know where things are supposed to go and where to start looking for things she wants.  It also sort of works as a motivational tool.  We've said on more than one occasion at pick-up time, "If it doesn't fit in your art cart it needs to go into the recycling or trash."  Emily also has another shelf on a nearby bookcase to keep containers of art supplies and binders of print-outs and other acquired coloring pages.  There is also still a container of "controlled art supplies" on top of the fridge. ;o)
What do you do with the birthday cards your child(ren) receive?  Do you put them in a scrapbook?  Do put a rubberband around them and throw them in a box to save for them to decide what to do when they're older?  I've found a way to let Emily enjoy them year-round.  We put all her birthday cards in a picture tree holder (I don't know if that's the technical term) and put them in her room.  She often takes them off, looks at them and rearranges them.  By the time her next birthday rolls around they have been enjoyed enough that it's easier to discard them to make way for the new ones.

Do you ever come home with the sturdy but weird-shaped boxes from Sam's Club that you used to carry your purchases home?  I once had an idea about repurposing them.  I bought a roll of contact paper from Wal-mart and covered a couple.  They turned into instant table.  Or a doll bed.  Or a dog house (complete with a sign and mailbox).  Emily has found multiple uses for them.  Lincoln prefers to use them as stepstools since he is still light enough for them to easily hold him.  I would highly recommend getting a non-descript, non-repeating patterned contact paper, though, because it takes a lot of little pieces to get everything covered and the seams would be impossible to match up.  I picked this one because it reminded me of laminate counter tops. :o) 

After I started allowing Emily to play computer games I felt like I had to come up with some kind of a system to regulate computer time other than my whim and fancy.  I thought up this idea in November.  Emily & I made a little pocket holder to hang on the fridge along with a bag of 15-minute "tickets".  Every morning that Emily got dressed, made her bed and brushed her teeth with little or no prompting, she would earn one ticket to redeem for 15 minutes of computer time.  This seemed to work at first because of the novelty, but it was only a week later that the sound card went out in our old computer and there was no motivation to earn or use tickets.  I've kind of used it off and on since then, although it has morphed into whenever Emily wants to play computer games, she makes sure she did the jobs and lets me know.  Then I let her play for awhile, but not necessarily with a timer.  So this was one of those seemingly brilliant ideas that didn't necessarily pan out as hoped or expected.

My parents were great at coming up with all sorts of creative ideas and motivational tools, but they'll be the first to admit that for every one idea that worked there were probably several that didn't.  Everything has a limited lifespan, too.  So we continually go back to the drawing board.  Maybe I should start reading more magazines. ;o)

What are some creative ideas you've seen/tried?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

21 months old

Lincoln is now 21 months old.  He is in full-fledged copycat mode.  Sometimes it's funny (like when Austin is doing his P90X workout).  Sometimes it's annoying (at one point Emily wanted to make a list of all the things Lincoln could do besides what she was doing).  Sometimes it's bordering on dangerous (on more than one occasion I've caught him hauling my hairdryer out of the drawer, unplugging the nightlight in the bathroom and attempting to plug the hairdryer in just like I do every morning).  Sometimes it's actually helpful (Lincoln had refused to sit in the chair for a picture all day until Emily sat down in the chair for 2 seconds.  All of the sudden that's all he wanted to do.).

The biggest copycat example also corresponds with his only new word this month: "poddy" (potty).  Ever since he showed interest that one day, he has been sitting on the toilet at least once a day--usually before & after bathtime when he's undressed anyway.  He thinks he's pretty hot stuff even if he is sitting on a pink Dora potty seat on a peach toilet.  (I don't think he'll be scarred too badly.)  He loves to rip off pieces of toilet paper, wipe his back and front multiple times and then flush.  The only thing left is the minor detail of actually going potty.  I'm pretty sure he has no idea what is really supposed to happen.  But I figure if you humor him long enough you'll eventually get lucky, and he'll be able to start making the connection. 

Lincoln has had a bit of a rough time the last week.  His 4th molar and at least one eye tooth came through.  He has developed a hacking cough--mostly when lying down in his crib.  One day he tripped on something and must have twisted his ankle, because he kind of hobbled around on it for two days.  He has eaten very little--which is very typical when he's teething.  This all adds up to one big bundle of joy. :op

When Lincoln actually is eating he has expanded his fruit repertoire quite a bit this month.  Although he still loves his grapes, he also really likes clementines.  This was a very welcome change considering how unaffordable grapes were earlier this month and the fact that it is peak citrus season.  The other joy Lincoln discovered this month is ketchup.  He loves dipping things in ketchup.  If we go to McDonald's he probably dips and licks off the ketchup on a french fry a couple times for each bite he actually takes.

Before the ankle incident last week, Lincoln had pretty much figured out jumping.  He has also perfected break-your-heart eyelash batting to try and get his way sometimes.

Another skill he is working on is simple board puzzles.  I posted a video last month of his first attempts.  Unfortunately, the really nice chunky animal puzzle from Melissa & Doug in the video is pretty much out of circulation.  One day all the pieces mysteriously disappeared.  After awhile we discovered that Lincoln had shoved them into the opening of the base board radiators, and they have fallen behind the covers.  There is no fire danger because it's a closed hot water heat system.  However, the only way to retrieve the pieces would be to move the entire computer desk and two full filing cabinets, remove the entire radiator cover and pull them out.  That's not going to happen anytime soon.   The only one we were able to rescue was the elephant. :o(  Silly little boy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mission statement

The phrase "mission statement" is a business-y term that can cause many people to roll their eyes--especially if they have had the experience of trying to write one in a group setting. It's usually full of big and/or flowery words and after awhile, most just sound the same.

Have you ever thought about writing a personal mission statement? We discussed this topic and were encouraged to write one at my Mom's Morning Out group at church two years ago. My mom had a personal mission statement when we were growing up, and she shared it with me when the topic came up.  I was sorting/organizing some files on our computer tonight and came across the one I wrote at that time:

It is my mission to love and partner with my husband by encouraging and strengthening him using words of affirmation and joining with him in his mission and calling.

It is my mission to love and nurture my children by caring for their needs, being discerning with their wants and being available to foster the development their characters and souls.

It is my mission to be a loving and faithful friend by being a supportive listener and serving others with joy.

By fulfilling my mission I will be loving and honoring God.

I remember putting a lot of thought and effort into this exercise.  It was a good reminder, because I feel this mission is still true today.  It also comes at a time when I have been thinking a lot about my calling in life.  Dave Bartlett recently gave a message about this entitled "Follow the Leader--Foundations of a Helping Life" featuring a Story of Faith by Ben & Liz Patterson.  You can listen here (message on Feb. 6 on CF campus).

I'd love to hear your thoughts and/or examples of your personal mission statement or calling in life!

Taste of Spring

This whole week has really been a taste of spring with temperatures increasing every day while the amount of snow is quickly decreasing.  Today was the peak with a high of 62 degrees.  I cracked open several windows, and as soon as Emily got home from preschool we headed outside.  The kids were still in winter gear because it is really sloppy if you have any desire to venture into the yard.  However, we started shedding layers and were soon pretty much down to boots.  Emily rediscovered sidewalk chalk.  Lincoln enjoyed actually being able to do something like pick up and throw an object since he wasn't constrained by thumb-less mittens.  We all enjoyed a stroll around the block.  Emily is convinced that it is now officially spring, and it won't snow again until December.  Alas, I'm pretty sure she is mistaken.  It was nice while it lasted!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day

On Valentine's Day morning we hosted another Valentine's play date with some more friends and decorated more cookies.  We still have a lot of sprinkles left.

After everyone left and Lincoln was napping Emily got to make Valentines for the kids in her preschool class, which she took very seriously.  Valentine's Day is like a dream come true for her--a legitimate excuse to send lots of letters!

Her preschool class exchanged Valentines today.  Emily came home with a pretty impressive bag of loot.  I was just excited that she finally decided to wear the cute fleece heart hoodie that has been hanging in her closet all fall and winter without ever being worn!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A snow princess at last

After my mom left we all went outside to enjoy the warmer temperatures and FINALLY make a snowman!  The snow was in perfect condition and we ended up with a snow princess (Emily's dream since August) and her moose (inspired by the stick Emily found that looked like antlers).

Mommy vacation

I was able to take a lovely mommy vacation at the end of last week.  Austin was gone all week and ended his trip in the Twin Cities.  My mom came on Thursday to watch the kids so I could drive up to join him.  The first thing I did was spend over two hours but less than $30 at IKEA, and that included a scrumptious meal of cheese & spinach crepes, lingonberry juice and a giant chocolate bar.  I had never been to IKEA before and had really been looking forward to it.  While the overall style is too modern and contemporary for my tastes, there were some fun things in the kitchen gadgets and home decor departments.

After sleeping in on Friday I drove to the Grand Avenue shopping district of St. Paul.  I spent an hour in a really fun kids' toy shop called Creative Kidstuff.  I got a new puzzle for Emily and a new book for Lincoln.  I remember when my mom & dad would go on weekend getaways to the Twin Cities they'd sometimes bring us back something.  Then I had a lovely meal at Cafe Latte, a highly recommend place from my parents.  I had the salad sampler plate with Honey Pecan Chicken, Wheatberry Broccoli and Shrimp Artichoke with a Focaccia roll.  I also had to try the White Chocolate Strawberry Scone and a slice of their famous Turtle Cake (which took me three different sittings to finish).

On the way home I drove through the neighborhood just south of Grand Avenue and marveled at block after block of gigantic, stately Victorian homes.  I would have loved to see the inside of any of them.  I brought back lunch for Austin, who was working from the hotel room, and then took a nap to sleep off my lunch. ;o)

After Austin was done working for the day we had dinner at a nearby Outback Steakhouse.  Then we went to a theater in Minneapolis I found online that was showing the latest Harry Potter movie, which I hadn't seen yet.  The Riverview Theater is a nice one-screen neighborhood theater that shows older movies for $3.  It was a fairly large theater and it was packed.

We slept in again on Saturday--two days in a row without an alarm or kids waking me up!  On the way home we stopped at Lowe's in Owatonna to look at bathroom countertops.  How's that for exciting?!  The kids did great for Grandma, and it was a nice little break for all of us!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Silly Saturday

Today was another fun day at home.  With it being sunny and close to 30 degrees this afternoon, we bundled up and went outside again.  After hauling out the wagon and Emily's bike, Emily asked if we could go to the castle park, so we did.  It took less than 10 minutes to decide that it wasn't quite as much fun in the winter with everything covered in 1-2 feet of snow as it is in the summer.  Lincoln still managed to go down one of his favorite slides. :o)

Back home Emily commenced digging tunnels for groundhogs, which she learned about in preschool this week.  Did you know groundhogs and woodchucks are the same thing?

Earlier when Lincoln was napping Emily asked if we could bake a cake.  We decided to go with a confetti angel food box mix from the pantry.  It cooled on the counter while we were outside.  Emily couldn't wait to frost it.  I mixed up a nice pink buttercream frosting.  Lincoln loves licking the beaters. :o)

Then it was time for the sprinkles.  Since I was so rushed at Target on Thursday, I didn't have time to look at various places in the store for the best deal on Valentine sprinkles.  I ended up with a huge sampler bottle and another large one of nonpareils (why do I torture myself that way?!?).  With enough pink & red sprinkles to last 5 years, I let Emily have at it.  She wanted to try all of them.

This is what happens when you're not paying attention and have two eager "helpers"...

Is this a look of guilt or satisfaction?!?

The cake itself was pretty much disgusting.  I somehow managed to really underbake it (there is a reason for the big, bold warning on the box) and it sunk in.  The frosting was a little too much for a supposedly light angel food cake (reminded me too much of the frosting-laden angel food birthday cakes of my childhood).  And the generous amount of sprinkles made several bites quite crunchy and a bit unnerving.  As eager as they were to try it, neither kid finished their piece after supper.  Austin didn't even touch it.  This is why I rarely bake cakes--I know I'll just end up eating the entire thing by myself.  However, like the birthday cakes from my past, it was a fun project making happy memories. :o)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Week in review

Instead of writing lots of short, choppy posts, I have decided to write one long, rambling post about our week.  So stick with me--there are lots of pictures!

Monday was prep day for the big blizzard.  The kids & I got groceries in the morning and ate lunch at the new McDonald's so they could play at the new Play Place.  It's pretty nice.  I know several people who have made special trips to Waverly just to go to the new Play Place.  It had already started snowing, but Austin was able to make it to Des Moines in the afternoon to catch a very early morning flight on Tuesday to L.A.  Tough, I know. :op

At supper on Monday night Emily made a stinging observation: "Mom, you're having a yelling day and Lincoln & I are having a cranky day."  In my defense, it was only the two hours before supper that had really been bad, and that's never a great time of day anyway.  Lincoln had not napped well in two days because he poked another molar through, so he was just tired and cranky in general.  Austin would be gone for 2 1/2 days, and I knew we'd be stuck at home for at least that long.  Then Emily asked, "Are we going to have a better day tomorrow?"  I promised her we would try, and that really set the tone for the rest of the week.  She held me accountable by occasionally asking, "Are we having a good day today?"  And we did.

We got about 4-5" of new snow by Tuesday morning.  The kids & I made Valentine cut-out cookies to decorate later in the week.  As expected, school was canceled, so Emily didn't have preschool.  We were both bummed.  During Lincoln's nap I spent over an hour outside with the snowblower to try and clear as much as possible.  The wind picked up by late afternoon and the blizzard conditions began.

On Wednesday morning the kids & I made Monster Bars for my bookkeeping clients.  Lincoln got into the peanut butter measuring cup.  I think he's a fan. ;o)  I don't know if you can see the big smudge on his forehead.  He was trying to pick the leftovers out of the cup with his fingers.

It was impossible to tell how much additional snow we got because it was blowing and drifting so much.  Another 3-4" had been forecasted.  I went out again at nap time, this time for over 2 hours.  I was very grateful for both the snowblower and the hood attachment.  It was extremely slow going through the deeper drifts because it was so packed.  I literally inched along at points.  I think it took 30 minutes just to do one pass on the front sidewalk, which covers half a block.  At that point I ran out of gas (yes, I had filled it before I started because I've been burned the last two times by not doing so).  So I had to pull the gas can down the street on a sled and lug it over a snow mound and then try to pull-start the snowblower.  I felt like superwomen when it started on the 5th pull!  I did most of the sidewalks and as much of the driveways as I could.  I left the big drift across the front porch and the 4-5 ft. high hard-packed mound from the snowplows at the end of the sidewalk for Austin just so he wouldn't feel left out. ;o)

Thursday was one of those days where you wish you could just go back to bed and start over.  It was a general cranky start to the morning after the third night of me not sleeping well.  The first two could be blamed on snowplows clearing the streets and hospital parking lots at 3:00am.  (There is a downside to living on an emergency snow route across the street from the hospital--they clear snow early and often.)  Not sure about the third.  

Anyway, Austin had made it home safely the night before.  Our van was scheduled to get some repair work done to one of the power sliding doors and replacing the AM radio, neither of which had been working since Christmas.  Austin dropped off the van in the morning, but on the way a huge ice chunk fell off the vehicle in front of him and totally shattered the right front bumper.  Great.  

The original van repairs took all morning.  By lunch time Emily was itching to get out of the house and go to preschool.  So was I.  Unfortunately, when it was time to leave, the loaner van the dealership had given us absolutely wouldn't start.  And it was parked in the driveway, so the truck was blocked in the garage.  I had to call the dealership and wait for them to come jump start the loaner van so I could bring Emily to preschool and then pick up our van.  That loaner was such a piece of junk that Emily & I laughed out loud as we bumped our way to school.  Luckily, the morning class had a late start, so everything was running late and Emily didn't miss out on anything.

After picking up our van I took it to a body shop for an estimate on the bumper.  They had to snip it off and tape it together so it could go over 40 mph without flapping in the wind.  The bill is going to be twice as much as the original repairs and falls just short of our insurance deductible.  Superb.  Thankfully, the couple who run the body shop are really nice and accommodating and will try to cut us a deal.  I love the slogan on their sign: "We meet by accident." :o)  This is the point in the day where I decided it might be a good idea to go back to bed.  However, I still had a lot of stuff to do, so I turned to my favorite coping mechanism: an ice cold can of Diet Coke and Coconut M&M's.  They make me happy. :o)
Thankfully, Lincoln was back to his regular napping schedule and I actually had to wake him up after 3+ hours to get Emily from school.  From there we headed directly to Waterloo to run some desperately needed errands even though it was still bitterly cold outside.  After stops at banks and the bookkeeping businesses to collect bills and drop off Monster Bars, we skipped Sam's Club and went straight to Target.  As soon as I had the kids settled in the cart and happiness suckers (a.k.a. DumDums) unwrapped, I realized I couldn't find my extensive shopping list.  So we headed back out in the cold and found it on the front seat of the van.  We made it back inside just in time for Emily to announce that she had to go potty.  So we took a side trip to the restroom.  By this time I was down to 10 minutes before I had to be out of the store and on our way to a hair cut appointment.  That's when I decided to grab only a few of the most needed essentials.  These included diapers, new toothpaste for Emily (which cost her $3), and sprinkles for decorating cookies.  While in the Valentine section we also quickly grabbed some Valentine cards and treats for Emily to hand out.  Nothing like shopping under pressure.

We made it out the door and to Denver in time for a desperately needed haircut for Lincoln.  He has been channeling Justin Bieber and resembling a shaggy dog for quite some time now.  He did relatively well and was super excited for another sucker at the end. 

When we finally got home we found Austin outside tackling the snow on the corner.  I think he spent more time then I did outside cleaning up the edges and chopping through to the curb.  He said it was some of the hardest snow scooping he's ever done, and that's saying a lot considering he has been scooping snow since he was a little kid and survived the previous two harsh winters without any kind of snowblower.

Friday was a really fun day.  Since we didn't have Mom's Morning Out at church, we invited some friends over for a Valentine play date.  Emily made Valentines for everyone and we even broke out the birthday box to put up pink streamers and balloons.  Emily had declared that it was her imaginary friend, Alice's (she spells it Lais) birthday, so she had to wear a party hat, too.  We had four moms and eight kids playing, frosting heart cookies and eating lunch.  It was chaotic fun!  Next time we might have to wait until after lunch to frost cookies because who can resist eating them right away. :o)

After Lincoln woke up from his nap we decided to take advantage of temperatures in the 20's (weather is so relative in Iowa) and go play outside.  If spring decides to come early we're ready to roll!  We ended up taking a brisk walk/ride not once, but twice around the hospital.  That's a total of a mile up and down a big hill.  Emily did great on her bike and never had to hop off.  She pedaled hard up the hill with only a little pushing help from me and coasted down the hill using her brakes.  I was quite impressed.  Then Lincoln went inside with Austin and Emily spent another 45 minutes digging around in the snow banks along the driveway.

To top off an already fun day, Austin took Emily to the Waverly-Shell Rock varsity girls basketball game.  The head coach is in our small group from church and the team is pretty good this year.  They've already won the conference and are ranked 14th in the state.  Emily is already in awe of the high school, and after her positive experience at the UNI game, I think it was even more fun to go watch girls play.  She wants to play when she gets big!  She made it three minutes into the 3rd quarter before they came home.  That's probably when the popcorn ran out. ;o)  The game started later than normal because it was Parents' Night.  Emily was very ready to go to bed and she slept hard!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Classic quote

Classic quote from Emily on Thursday morning:
"Mom, you should be so proud of me.  I cleaned my room!  But some of the stuff didn't want to picked up, so I just shoved it under my bed."
And she did.