Tuesday, January 31, 2012


This is officially the 1,000th post on this blog.  It took just over 4 years to reach this point.  Thanks for coming along on the journey from this..............................................................to this!

January 2012 Videos

Monday, January 30, 2012

More snow fun

The snow is melting quickly with more unseasonably warm temperatures, but that makes for great packing conditions!  The kids & I headed outside again for more snow fun.  We worked some more on building up the snow fort Grandpa Lorenzen help start on Saturday.  I'm not sure who had more fun--Emily or me. ;o)  Emily named it "Emily's Py-lo."  Then we had a snowball fight.  There is a good video in the January play list.

We also added to the snowman population in our yard.  It currently stands at five.  This was my favorite creation.

Emily had fun shoveling snow onto the driveway.

Lincoln found a puddle under a dripping gutter.

Lincoln also attempted to take a little spin with his tractor and played tee ball with a golf club.

5 years + 3 months

Emily has had an inquisitive month.  Instead of asking the proverbial "Why?" all the time, she constantly asks, "How come?"  This is essentially the same thing, but it took me a while to figure that out and is taking me longer to get out of the habit of always trying to answer the question.  In addition to "How come?" we have also been inundated with math questions this month.  Like "What's 20 + 20?" or "What's 200 + 200?"  Then it moved on to multiplication, as in "How many is three fives?" or "What is four sixes?"  Emily is pretty good with addition/subtraction math facts up to 10, and if she doesn't have them memorized, she can easily count them out on her fingers.  Then just today, she matter-of-factually explained to me at lunch that "When you add hundreds you just take off the zeroes and look at the regular numbers.  That means 200 + 200 = 400."  Whew--I'm glad I don't have to answer that one again!  She also explained that "Zero means you start over again, like 10 to 20 to 30 in counting."  This latter fact she learned during calendar time at preschool today even though she can already easily count to 100.  The former one she figured out on her own while at the math center at preschool.  We might have a little Math Bee in our future! ;o)  (I was in 6th grade Math Bee.  Our school team went to the state competition, and I finished 5th overall in the individual competition.)

Emily has also become a super star helper this month.  She empties the silverware basket out of the dishwasher, dries the plastic containers, sets the table and feeds the fish every day, in addition to clearing her dishes and cleaning her room.  Last Saturday she sorted and "folded" three loads of laundry.  Today at lunch she cleared, rinsed and loaded almost all the dishes into the dishwasher.  She has been excellent about picking up toys and straightening rooms lately.  We're going to take all the help we can get because we know it probably won't last long!  Maybe all my organizing is rubbing off on her. ;o)

Emily still has a very vivid imagination.  The cardboard scenery regularly gets hauled up the stairs and serves all sorts of purposes.  If she's not teaching a class of some sort, she's organizing a competition.  For some reason, it's always the UNI team vs. Nebraska.  She's always on the UNI team, and we want the UNI team to win. :o)   I'm sure the competition thing comes from her current favorite PBS Kids show, Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman.  It's basically a game show for kids.  It's actually quite informative and amusing.

Among her large assortment of imaginary friends (Karen & Hannah have been the friends of the month), Emily also has a group of "teasy girls."  The teasy girls are the ones who misbehave or make mistakes or do things wrong.  This has brought up some good discussion points about how to treat/deal with other people who don't act/think the same way we do.  Maybe we won't have to deal with them for a while, though, because Emily informed me today that the teasy girls have been sent to Hawaii for seven years.  That's a bummer punishment!

I'll end this month's post with an observation that I can't believe it took me this long to figure out.  Lincoln has always been a cuddler, but Emily never was.  I think part of it is because she just can't sit still.  Seriously.  I've noticed this more while reading Magic Tree House books before bed.  She always has to be moving.  I call her a squirmy wormy.  I'm not sure how this plays out at preschool, but we might have some problems once we get to elementary school.

P.S. We are on Book #12 of the Magic Tree House series, and we both love it.  Emily already has the rest of the books scouted out, but I'm content to let them unfold one by one. :o)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday in the snow

Austin's parents, brother and brother's girlfriend came to visit on Saturday.  After a big lunch, Austin & Grandpa took the kids out in the snow.  It wasn't nearly as good packing weather as Thursday, but they managed to put together another little snowman.  Emily made some major progress on her hole/tunnel (she told me she was going to dig the deepest hole in Iowa), and Lincoln put in some more time on the sled.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A new friend

You may recall last fall I introduced Andjelka, the international student at Wartburg for whom we were going to serve as a host family.  I recently requested a second student, and we were matched up with Rahel from Ethiopia.  She just arrived on campus in January and is studying engineering with the hope of going into architecture.  We met her for the first time at another large potluck last Sunday.  Andjelka was there, too.  (And the food was much better this time!)

While visiting with Rahel, I found out that she had been planning to go somewhere to purchase a laptop computer for use during her school years, but didn't realize there wasn't any kind of public transportation available between Wartburg and Waterloo/Cedar Falls.  So, I offered to take Rahel and a couple of her friends to Waterloo on Friday afternoon.  Rahel found a laptop at Best Buy and the three girls had fun getting some new clothes/boots at the mall.  (All three are freshmen from Ethiopia and had never seen snow before.  They thought it was really cold.  It was 34 degrees with a little drizzle.)  The kids had fun at the mall play area.

By the time we got back to Waverly, the cafeteria was closed, so we picked up Austin and took the whole crew to the Pizza Ranch for buffet.  It was a lot of fun, and I wish I would have taken a picture of everyone together.  I look forward to doing more fun things with and for Rahel!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Today was a perfect day to play in the snow.  I was so eager to get outside, I woke Lincoln up from his nap (he'd already been sleeping for over 3 hours) so we could have plenty of time to play before the sun went down.  My first priority was making a giant snowman.  There are already two big ones in our neighborhood.  However, I quickly realized my limitations as to how big of a ball of snow I can realistically lift into place.  Regardless, this was our first creation.

With such ideal packing conditions and a whole yard full of pristine snow, we had to make another one in the front yard.  Emily spent a lot of time "packing" it together while Lincoln was just interested in sticking in the nose and eyes.  Lincoln was pretty proud of the end result!  (Note: I am aware that Lincoln is not wearing mittens in any of these pictures.  He is still at the age where getting his thumb in the proper hole is nearly impossible and just sticking them on renders his hands useless.  Because it was fairly warm out, it was just easier to let him go barehanded.) 

Emily soon got bored with snowmen and spent the next 45 minutes digging holes and tunnels in the small pile at the end of the driveway.

Lincoln scooped and raked snow, went for a ride in the sled and even trudged out to the backyard for a quick ride on the swing.  He was quite disappointed that the sandbox lid was tied down for the winter, but I learned my lesson after the first big windstorm when our neighbor thankfully grabbed it and stored it in her garage until the wind died down.

We're hoping for some more nice days to dig around in the snow!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beach Body

Austin & I both got new workout videos for Christmas and both were produced by Beach Body.  Emily spotted this on the boxes they came in and has referred to them as "Beach Body" ever since.  After observing Austin exercise (I have had a bad head cold and haven't done anything for a week--at least that's my excuse), Emily decided to set up her own Beach Body exercise course.  She made a sign and tickets and everything.  Lincoln was the first (and only) customer, but I don't think things went very well. ;o)


Plasma Cars

In addition to the art desk corner, we picked up all the toys from the rest of the basement and did a good vacuum/sweeping.  This was quite necessary due to the fact that Lincoln had dumped and scattered the entire container of pea gravel Emily had collected from parks over the summer all over the floor.  :op  With everything cleared away, the kids were finally able to both use their plasma cars at the same time.

And yes, I realize Lincoln is barefoot and Emily thinks it's July.  Sometimes you have to pick your battles. ;o)

Art desk disaster

Today was a snow day--6+ inches fell during the day and school was cancelled.  Emily & I took advantage of the free morning by addressing the art desk disaster in the basement.  Emily's corner had become so overwhelmingly messy, no one ventured there.  Here's what it looked like when we started:

After getting a new garbage bag and a box for recycling, I started sorting through the big white "Craft Box" that had become a dumping ground (in addition to the floor) while Emily worked on little sorting projects like collecting all the crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.  I asked her opinion on a few things, but most went straight to the garbage or recycling without her even noticing.  A few things got hung on the wall.  It was really a matter of sorting supplies back into their proper containers and eliminating the "fun and done" projects.  After a couple hours it looked like this:

Most of the containers had already been in use but just needed to be re-labeled.  The old art cart could use a better sorting, and we still need to come up with a better system for storing paper (plain white & colored construction), but it was a vast improvement.  Emily spent most of the afternoon working on projects at her desk.  Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for it to slip back into messy mode, but I think if we try to sort and keep up a little more often it won't get so bad again that it becomes unusable.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2 years + 8 months

Lincoln is another month older!  A big thing I noticed this month is that he has pretty much stopped drooling.  Hallelujah!  It has been 2 years + 5 months since he started.  I was almost to the point of starting to look into it medically, but my procrastination paid off and he stopped on his own.  I think he would just get too busy and would forget to swallow.

Lincoln's speech continues to expand.  He has become a lot more conversational lately.  There are still times when I don't know what he's saying, but more often I'm surprised by what he does say.  He has a lot of thoughts that go on that he hasn't been able to share before!

One of his funny sayings (and favorite things to do) is to "make schuguh wif Mommy" (make sugar with Mommy--i.e. help me with baking/cooking).  Whenever I put on my apron or he hears the mixer bowls clanging he comes running.  He even has his own little blue apron.  His favorite things are to stir the dry ingredients, lick the beaters and play in the dish water.

Another of Lincoln's favorite things to do this month is combing his hair.  Since his hair is really too short for it to do much good, I think he really just likes the feeling on his scalp.  I'm trying to get him to comb my hair because I love it when people comb/brush my hair, but it's going to take a little more practice. :op

Lincoln had a little cold the first bit of January and ended up with an ear infection (only the second of his life).  The funny kid absolutely LOVED his non-flavored, non-colored amoxicillin.  He sucked it right down every time and begged for more.  I had to hide it in the trash when the 10 days were up because he wasn't ready to be done.

Lincoln is definitely our snuggler and loves reading books.  He asks for books by name and can kind of "read" along.  He recognizes there are letters on the page and demands that you read them if you haven't already (although you can still get by with skimming through  the words sometimes).  He has started enjoying longer books like Franklin and The Berenstain Bears.  He is definitely a second born/baby in that every once in a while he likes to turn a book upside down just to see what it looks like from a different viewpoint.  As a firstborn, this drives me nuts, but it makes me smile. :o)

Lincoln's eating habits continue to be sporadic and come and go in phases.  This month he/we discovered a new love: strawberry jam.  His go-to lunch is a "jam samich", shredded cheese, fruit and Cheetos.  I have been known to trade single Cheetos for bites of a meal quite a few times in the past couple weeks.

In the movement category, Lincoln has been doing a lot of jumping.  He always wants to jump off the last step on the stairs.  He often carries around and jumps off the step stools scattered around our house.  We had to immediately put the kibosh on jumping off the furniture.  It's a good thing he received a little exercise trampoline for Christmas!  On a related note, whenever Lincoln falls down or runs into anything he gets a funny sad look on his face and says, "I go bonk!" or "I bonk my head!"  As you can imagine, we hear this quite often.  :o)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

52 OHC: Week 2 & 3

I haven't been doing a lot of blogging recently, but I have been doing a lot of organizing!  I kind of overlapped two weeks worth of challenges because they both involved kitchen cabinets and drawers.  One week was focused more on dishes/gadgets and the other on food storage.  I feel like my kitchen is already organized in the most efficient way possible based on the current layout.  I thought long and hard about this (with help from my mom) when we moved in 2.5 years ago.  However, there are definitely things that haven't been touched since they were initially placed there.  So, I took this opportunity to go through every cabinet and drawer (except the "junk" and "phone book" drawers--that is a whole other project!) and really considered things.

One tool I used was a suggestion I've seen multiple places, but championed by the FlyLady.  I found a dual pop-up laundry sorter I had purchased a long time ago but had never used.  I labeled one side "Put Away" (i.e. things that don't belong in that room and need to be put in their rightful place) and labeled one "Giveaway/Sell".  I had the large kitchen trash can for "Throw Away".  I also made myself a little organizer tool box that includes things like labeling supplies.  I have to say these little guys are my best friends: Post-it® Super Sticky Removable Label Pads.  They are everywhere in my house.  They last a long time unless heavily abused (e.g. Emily's art cart), but are easily removed and replaced.  Unfortunately, they only come in bright green and pink.  And I've only seen them at Target and Amazon (not Wal-mart).

But I digress. Here is a before and after of one of the worst drawers in the kitchen--the mid-sized, moderately used gadget drawer.

The utensil drawer also got a fresh sorting and mild purging, although most items stayed in the same place.

The cabinet that needed the most attention was the corner cabinet containing sprinkles, frosting supplies and plastic dishes.  I don't have a "before" picture, but it was getting bad.  As in, it wasn't unusual to have a container of sprinkles drop on your head if you reached for anything up high and the sippy cups were getting harder to cram inside when everything was clean.  I pared the plastic things down to what we actually use on a regular basis--including travel mugs and koozies.  I then used plastic containers I already had in the house to corral the sprinkles, baking cups, frosting/cake supplies, etc. as well as the vitamins/gum/medicine.  I did purchase two new containers from the dollar bins at Target for the plastic lids and bowls.  Pictured is the end result (notice the lovely neon labels).

You may also notice all the spices/cooking supplies on turntables.  Turntables are great for awkward corner cabinets!  One of the daily challenges from the Declutter Calendar last week was to purge outdated spices, etc.  I did this and actually wasn't surprised by the amount of stuff lurking in the cabinets that was past its prime.  The collection is pictured below.  The worst offense was an unopened bottle of peanut oil that I believe I received as part of a wedding shower gift with an expiration date of 2003! Sadly, that means I moved it to two different houses AFTER it had expired. Yikes!  Many of the cooking wines/vinegars dated back to my experimental cooking days before kids and expired 3-5 years ago.  Everything else is now back in place (and still alphabetized--but I bet that doesn't surprise you!).

I also took the time to really tidy up my pantry closet.  I am very lucky to have a dedicated closet with built-in shelves.  I still don't feel like the space is completely maximized, but it works well for now.  Here's a top to bottom view with commentary:

These shelves are way high up, so I use plastic crates to hold paper products (plates, napkins, cups, silverware, etc.).  I can walk the crates off with my fingertips without having to get out a stool and the labels tell me what's inside each crate so I don't have to get both down everytime trying to guess which one has the napkins (it took me over a year to figure that one out).

These shelves hold baking chips (specialty kinds are sorted into labeled Glad-ware containers), box mixes, pasta, and canned goods.  The green bag is for collecting Terracycle items.  Some kids in Waverly led by a mom I know run the program at the recycling center.  They collect specific plastic bags like chips, cheese, cereal liners, etc. and each bag gets $.02 for the WSR school district.  It's amazing how fast you can accumulate these things!

The bottom shelves hold larger bottles and boxed items, including cereal.  The plastic tub holds extra baking supplies (flour, sugars, etc.).  The trash can is for collecting recycling items that are sorted in the garage when it gets full (usually twice/week).  It sits on top of the ample supply of Diet Coke. :o)

I did finally add stackable bins for potatoes/onions and other large items instead of just leaving them all on the floor.

It feels really good to systematically go through things that I know should be done, but I would otherwise have a hard time finding the motivation to do.  I would love to have you join me if you haven't already!

P.S. I submitted two entries to the Home Organization "Hall of Fame" and both got published!  You can see the kitchen countertop one here and the spice organization here.