Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 2011 videos

Day 2

Day 2 at my parents' house had no particular plan, and it was a great day.  Everyone slept in.  Lincoln took a 4.5 hour nap in the afternoon.  I spent 2 hours mowing and trimming the yard.  We tried to identify new birds at my parents' bird feeders.  Emily played board games with anyone who would sit down with her, and when no one would, she played them with herself.  She beat me at Monopoly Jr. (which she calls mo-po-ly).  It was one of my favorite games growing up.  One of Lincoln's favorite places to play has been under the dining table in the sun room.  I guess it makes for good pretend roads. :o)

Emily got to check off an item on the summer bucket list by going golfing with Uncle Wade & Auntie Abbie.  She made it through 7 holes.  She said her favorite part was driving the golf cart all crazy.  I can only imagine!  Can you tell that Uncle Wade is Emily's hero?!?

I ended the day with a good soak in the hot tub on the back deck while the sun set over the freshly mowed lawn.  It would have been completely perfect if it hadn't been for the swarm of the mosquitoes hovering just above my head the whole time.  But life is good--especially when you're on a mommy vacation. :o)

Monday, May 30, 2011

4 years + 7 months

It has been another busy month for Emily as she finished preschool and probably attended her last MOPS and MMO (her new preschool schedule will interfere in the fall).  She is ready for summer, though!

Here are some of the interesting tidbits from the last month:
  • Dirs had another birthday (ironically the day before Lincoln's) and is now 14.  Maybe going that quickly through the tween years isn't such a bad thing. ;o)
  • Emily has another "new girl" named Brecken because Dirs is reportedly currently on vacation in Mexico.
  • During the month of May, Emily temporarily changed her favorite color from pink to black because she was a bit disappointed that the color of the month at preschool was black instead of pink.  The book Purplicious may have had a little to do with it, too.  However, she has since changed back to pink again.
  • Emily's new favorite pajamas are her pink and black Hello, Kitty shirt & capris.  However, she usually wears some kind of crazy combination of the many sets of pajamas in her drawer.  She rarely matches at bedtime.
  • Emily has only grown 1/2" since her birthday.  I don't think she's gained much weight, either.  Her feet are definitely the same size as last fall.  This is actually quite convenient, because many of the clothes purchased at the end of last summer still fit.
  • Her latest little habit has been an annoying lip smack as she says, "Um, [smack] excuse me" every time she has something to say.  She also swishes her spit and makes other weird noises with her mouth and throat.  Drives me nuts.
  • Emily has become quite ruthless while playing Sorry!, so I don't feel bad beating her most of the time.  Her primary goal is usually chasing down your pawns to knock them off the board.  This oftentimes distracts her enough that I come from behind to win.  She always wants to play with Daddy before bedtime, but for some reason it usually ends badly.  She has a tendency to either get silly and start really cheating or just want to quit as soon as she thinks she's going to lose. 
  • Emily's favorite new show on PBS Kids Go! is Wild Kratts.  She pretends to talk to Martin & Chris on the phone.
  • Emily has inherited her vocal volume from my dad's side of the family.  The DeJong's are infamous for talking very loudly.  At family gatherings you can tell who are the blood relatives and who married in based solely on volume levels.  I am completely guilty of this, too.  I could never figure out how other girls could talk on the phone in the hallways of the college dorms and you couldn't hear a word they were saying as you walked right by them.  These days I find myself asking Emily to speak softer and not yell directly in my ear.  Yikes!

Memorial Day

Emily has been looking forward to Memorial Day for quite awhile.  She still hasn't quite gotten the name right, though.  It has gone back and forth between "Re-morial Day" and "Meer-mol Day."  Here is a picture of the flag she made.

The kids & I are in NW Iowa for the week.  We started off with the traditional pancake breakfast at the church I grew up in.  Then we headed to the cemetery.  We were glad my Grandpa Vander Kooi was able to make it to the service courtesy of the nursing home shuttle.  He is a WWII POW veteran, so Memorial Day has always meant a lot to our family.  The kids did quite well during the program--including the gun salute.  It was so incredibly windy, though, they weren't able to put up the Avenue of Flags.

Emily was super excited to wear her special new dress.  She had tried on several patriotic dresses, but ended up picking the red & white ladybug dress.  She insisted on wearing her purple frog flip-flops because they had blue in them so she could be red, white and blue.  :o)

While everyone else (including me) took naps after lunch, Emily got to go swim in Uncle Wade & Auntie Abbie's backyard pool.  They just filled it up yesterday, and it was freezing cold, but she loved it and they had to make her get out after an hour.  They found a cool Cozy Coupe float thing at a garage sale.
Later in the afternoon Lincoln had fun shooting baskets with Uncle Wade, playing tractors in the driveway and learning how to share a tee-ball set with Cousin Ryan.  He also got a little too adventurous with the little tricycle down the long driveway!

Emily got to stay up late playing a farm game with Grandpa Boote that resembles Monopoly but uses cows on a dairy farm instead of hotels on real estate.  They kind of made things up as they went. ;o)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Birds are cool but crows are creepy

As mentioned in a previous post, I have really enjoyed the bird feeders in our backyard over the last five months.  It has been fun to see the shift in species over the changing seasons.  To date I have positively identified 19 different species actually eating at the feeders.  Some of the more recent visitors have been Lark Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, American Goldfinches, Brown-headed Cow Birds, a glimpse of a pair of Scarlet Tanagers and a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks pictured at the right.  For some of the species I can identify the males vs. females.  Some day I would like to be able to recognize them by their calls and songs, too.

One unmistakable "call" is that of the American Crow.  I know crows are supposed to be incredibly smart, but I personally think they are creepy.  They're big and ugly and their loud caws are so annoying.  There is a nest high up in the evergreen tree in the back corner of our yard, so we see and hear them often.  The caws of the young ones are even worse.  One of the "babies" (which was bigger than robin) must have fallen from the nest this morning and either really injured itself or just wasn't ready to fly.  It kind of flopped around and moved itself around our yard all day.  I suppose the most humane thing would have been to let Austin put it out of its misery with a shovel or something, but I couldn't stand the thought of seeing or hearing that.  We didn't see any parents attempting to help it all day.  It slowly made its way across the alley and is currently residing under our neighbors bushes, so I guess it's their problem now.  I kind of feel sorry for it, but it's still creepy.  :op

Edging & bush climbing

Austin put the edging in around the new landscape area this afternoon.  Of course, Lincoln was eager to "help" which meant he basically just played in the dirt.

Emily & Lincoln also decided to go climbing in the burning bush.  Emily made it a foot off the ground and had a ball, but ended up with quite a few scrapes and scratches and a pretty good sliver that we're just going to have to wait to surface itself.  Lincoln thought it was fun, too, although he kept getting hung up on branches with his saggy pants and his boots stuck in tight places.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Painting with water

"Painting" on the cement with water and old brushes is a fond childhood memory of mine.  I especially remember doing it at my Grandpa & Grandma Vander Kooi's house.  Our kids enjoy it, too.  :o)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Extreme couponing

Last night Austin & I got hooked on watching episodes of Extreme Couponing on TLC.  I heard about this concept about a year ago and actually looked into it a little bit.  At that time I decided it was a little over the top.  Last night confirmed that initial thought.  Here are some of my observations:
  • These crazy people spend an average of 30 hours a week collecting, clipping & organizing coupons and planning shopping trips.  I don't know about you, but my time is worth WAY more than these people are saving by doing this.  I usually spend an hour or less a week doing the same thing.
  • Getting things for free or next to nothing requires a store that doubles coupons and has some kind of loyalty/rewards program.  I remember certain stores doing double coupons on certain days of the week growing up, but I am not currently aware of any local store that doubles coupons.
  • In order to make the deals work the shoppers often buy large quantities of items and create a "stockpile".  The stockpiles tend to take over their homes.  One lady converted her bedroom closet to more pantry storage and put personal items in rented storage.  Seriously?  My husband would never go for this.  And Mom, your "gray shelves" in the basement growing up were nothing compared to these people.
  • Along with large quantities of items is piles of items they'll likely never need or use themselves.  Like the lady who had a 1.5 year supply of diapers and wasn't married and didn't have any kids (I hope for her sake that Walgreen's brand works for any future kids she might have).  Or the 25 boxes of sleep-aid medicine.  Or 50 tubes of toothpaste.  Apparently, it doesn't matter to them that a lot of the stuff they buy has expiration dates.  How fast can two people really consume 60 boxes of cereal?
  • The shoppers brag about how little they spend on groceries--like $50/month for a family of six.  They'll buy $300+ worth of items and end up paying like $4 out of pocket.  However, in four episodes featuring eight families, I saw exactly two pieces of produce and not a single fresh meat or dairy item in the carts.  No milk.  No eggs.  No cheese.  Granted, the TV show never says how often they go shopping, or whether they do separate trips for fresh stuff, but from the way it looks and sounds these people live off of pasta & sauce, canned soups, cereal (apparently dry) and sports drinks.  The one couple with 60 boxes of cereal was hoping to not have to go shopping for 2 months so they could save to go on a dream vacation.  From the looks of them, they should maybe think about trading in the 10 boxes of Reese's Puffs in the guest room for some oranges and lettuce salad.  I'm just saying.
  • Which leads to the annoying statement of "I made like $30,000 in a year by couponing."  No you didn't.  The money you "saved" didn't pay the rent or put gas in your car.  It just accumulated a bunch of useless products junk.  And it "cost" you a lot of time that you could have spent doing something else that actually produced a real income.  Or you could have spent actually raising your kids.
  • On the TV show (and probably in the shoppers' minds), they do not take into account the costs of accumulating coupons through multiple newspaper subscriptions, ink for printing out hundreds of online coupons (one lady had three dedicated computers for couponing), paying babysitters to watch your kids while you spend 4 hours grocery shopping, etc.
  • There are smart and simple ways to save on your grocery bill without going crazy.  I consider myself to be a pretty frugal shopper.  I always plan ahead with a list to match my menu.  I shop the sales and stock up on things, but only to a degree that I know I'll use in a reasonable amount of time.  I often buy meat in bulk and repackage it for the freezer.  I do clip coupons and use them regularly, but only for items I was going to buy anyway.  I have price limits for what I'm willing to pay for certain items--especially produce.  I try to provide my family with a somewhat healthy and nutritional diet.
Overall, I think extreme couponing is really just a sad example of people with another form of addiction.  It's not really that much different than being addicted to Facebook or video games or collecting any other kind of item.  It's more for the thrill of the chase rather than a final reward.  Although, one lady commented that if her stockpile suddenly went away it would be like losing a member of the family.  If that's not a red flag, I don't know what is.  So unless you're planning for a nuclear war, or you give most of what you "buy" away, I believe this phenomenon is more than just a hobby--it's a sickness of the mind and soul.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Welcome summer!

After a rainy start to the day, it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon.  While Austin mowed the lawn the kids & I got out the water table (all the rice went in the trash).  We're excited for summer!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer bucket list

I have several friends who have made summer bucket lists with their kids in the past, so I decided to join them this year.  Emily & I brain-stormed ideas together.  Our list will hang on the fridge, and we're going to try and check off as many items as possible.  It looks like it could be a busy summer!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Emily's preschool progress

One of the neat things they do at preschool is take samples throughout the year to show the child's progress.  Below is a slideshow of the progress papers Emily brought home.  I apologize for the pencil being so hard to see sometimes.

A day of celebration

Today was Lincoln's actual birthday and also the last day of preschool for Emily, so we found some fun little ways to celebrate.  Each kid got to use the "Celebrate" plate at a meal.  Since Lincoln's birthday cake was gone, the kids & I walked the three blocks to duos for ice cream cones.  Everyone enjoyed the special treat, but we did have a bit of an embarrassing incident when I was balancing three cones in one hand and realized my wallet was not in my purse and I didn't have a single penny on me.  Luckily, it's a small, locally owned business.  The lady behind the counter totally trusted me.  So after finishing our cones we walked home and then walked back to the shop to pay for our ice cream.  I think God has a sense of humor and irony. :o)

Since it was such a beautiful day, and we were halfway there already (again), we decided to continue on to the Wartburg campus to see if the fountains were turned on yet.  Much to the kids delight, they were.  They spent quite a bit of time splashing around (the water is still very clean).

After supper Lincoln had some quality time with Daddy while Emily & I headed to the high school.  Every other year the 5th & 6th grade music department puts on The Wizard of Oz.  The performance is open to the public as a free-will donation.  I'm really glad we packed an activity bag and went 45 minutes early, because we got good seats and it ended up being standing room only.  The production was very impressive, especially considering it was performed by middle-school students.  They sang and danced and did a great job of acting with really cool costumes and props.  Apparently they had over 100 kids audition for parts and have been practicing since January.  It showed.  Emily was especially excited to see one of our regular babysitters, who was a citizen of Emerald City.  I think Emily enjoyed the performance overall, but she definitely does not care for anything remotely scary.  When the lion first appeared, as well as the Wizard and the Wicked Witch of the West, she was digging around in the activity bag for a book to read.  I think that's why she can't make it through any kind of Disney movie.  Hopefully she'll change her mind by the time it's her turn to perform!

2 years old!

Happy 2nd Birthday to our little buddy!  Lincoln finally had a word explosion this month.  His vocabulary has increased exponentially, and he will repeat almost anything you ask him to.  One of his favorite new words is "my!" (mine).  Funny how that is much more important to a second child. :op  I love hearing him say things like "knock-knock" and "di-no-soh".  It is also funny listening to him try to sing along to "Old McDonald Had a Farm" because it takes him a long time to get to the ending "o".  It's more like "e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-o".

Lincoln loves trains and runs to the front window every time he hears a train whistle blow.  Then he waits for a glimpse of the train as it passes behind the hospital while saying "Shoo-shoo!" over and over.  He really loves anything with wheels and enjoys playing with his cars, trucks and tractors.  Check out the birthday card Emily made for Lincoln that includes the birthday song they sing at preschool (Last line = Bless Jesus, Bless you).

He is eating a bit better lately, but is still quite finicky, as most toddlers are.  Lincoln's two new favorite foods are watermelon and pudding snack packs.  Sometimes he even has them for breakfast.  He also loves noodles, rice, mac & cheese and hot dogs.  Pretty typical kid.

Lincoln has been practicing and perfecting his tantrum routine.  Going to the park has almost become a dreaded outing.  He is usually not ready to leave when the rest of us are, and lately I have had to carry him over one shoulder kicking and screaming while trying to push the stroller one-handed and directing Emily on her bike.  It isn't a pretty sight.  I'm grateful for our own little "park" in the backyard that is much easier to deal with.  Lincoln loves swinging (baby swing, glider and belt swing) and loves going down slides, although he thinks he has to hold your hand on the way down.  He also loves the sandbox and has spent a lot of time there already.  I gave him a watering can full of water the other day and he was in heaven.

Reading books before bed has become even more fun with more verbal interaction.  However, Lincoln now insists on sitting next to you in the chair rather than on your lap.  It's a good thing at least one of us has skinny little hips! ;o)  I guess it's his way of being a little more grown up.

We love our little guy and all the smiles and joy he brings.  I have had several people comment on how they just love his smiles.  He is a very enthusiastic greeter and will smile and say, "Hi!" over and over again to anyone who comes in the door.  We love his funny and goofy faces and antics.  He really is a little ham.  We can't wait to see what the next year brings!

P.S. Check out the birthday post shout-out from Lincoln's cousin, Ryan, here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Emily's preschool program

Emily's preschool program was on Sunday afternoon, which worked out great since all the grandparents were already here for Lincoln's birthday.  It was very cute, and Emily did a good job, although apparently her tights were really itchy.  And at the last minute she insisted that she couldn't wear her fancy white shoes with her dress because they aren't allowed to wear sandals at preschool.  So she wore her bright pink Crocs.  Whatever!  Below are some pictures from the program.  There is also a long video with different clips from the program.  The memory card on the camera got full halfway through, but trust me, it was probably okay to miss the 10-minute "Alice the Camel" color countdown song. ;o)  We're so thankful for an awesome preschool program with two great teachers.  Emily absolutely loved it and can't wait to go back to Little Lambs in the fall!

Lincoln's birthday party

Lincoln's birthday isn't until Thursday, but we celebrated with grandparents this weekend.  Grandpa & Grandma Boote arrived on Saturday.  Lincoln got to open one gift at night and enjoyed playing "monster trucks" with Grandpa Boote using his new monster bowling set.

Grandma Boote brought some fun new books along.

 Grandpa & Grandma Lorenzen joined us for lunch on Sunday.  Then there were more fun presents.

And cake, of course.  I'm pretty proud of my little creation using the star layer-cake pans from the library.  Thankfully, the train cake mold was checked out, so I didn't have to try to attempt something like that. ;o)

Warning note: Blue & green cake with bright blue frosting is really fun but does interesting things to digestive tracts.  :op
Emily did a pretty good job of being a big sister and letting Lincoln be the birthday boy, even though she was really tempted.  She did corral the grandmas into playing Sorry! with her, and she was pretty proud about beating both of them.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Car heaven

A blast from the past

After watching the wedding I just had to get out my photo albums and look at my pictures from London.  This was way before the days of digital cameras, but I have a few good ones. :o)

A famous red telephone booth
Tower Bridge
Trafalgar Square

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A new park and a Royal Wedding

I knew it was going to be an exceptionally hot and humid day for mid-May, so we decided to explore Cedar Bend Park soon after breakfast.  Cedar Bend is a county park along the river located just north of Waverly.  Emily was supposed to go on a field trip there for preschool last October but it got rained out.  I've been curious about it ever since.  The park consists of a campground, various picnic spots and some aging playgrounds.  I'm not an outdoorsy person, and I wasn't too impressed.  There is a decent little hiking trail along the river bluff that could be fun when the kids are a little older.  We just ventured across a little bridge for a photo op.  Then we spent a little time at the nicest of the playgrounds.

Since it hit a humid 93 degrees and was too hot to do anything else, I finally got around to watching the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton this afternoon (thank you DVR).  The kids got into it, too.  Emily thought it was exciting to see a real princess and decided to change her clothes and dress up for the occasion.  Something tells me she didn't read the 22-page etiquette manual that got sent out with the invitations. ;o)  When she heard the organ music she said, "That's just like the songs at Grandma Boote's church!"  Kind of, honey.  Emily also got out the foam blocks to build a church/castle complete with Little People in attendance. 

Lincoln mostly enjoyed marching along to the upbeat parade music.  I enjoyed the pageantry and the beautiful music.  It brought back a lot of memories because I was in London 10 years ago almost to the day while studying abroad in England during college, so all the places they showed on TV I've been to and seen in person.