Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thankful tree

Since completing the new kitchen, we have started a family devotion time that occurs after baths and right before bed.  We have molded and adapted things along the way.  The key ingredient, however, is a candle and a cool snuffer to put it out. :)  Every November, we try to do a thankfulness activity.  This year we added to a Thankful Tree during devotion time.  We did something similar two years ago using pressed real leaves.  This year we used leaves and pumpkins cut out with the Cricut.  Everyone wrote or drew a picture of something they were thankful for each night.  It was fun to see the board fill up!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving with family

We were lucky enough to see almost everyone on both sides of the family in NW Iowa over Thanksgiving.  We ate our Thanksgiving meal with my parents with my sisters joining us at night.  The cousins had a lot of fun being monkeys jumping on the bed.

We spent most of the day in LeMars on Friday visiting Austin's grandmas and other family members, including an aunt and cousin from Colorado we don't see very often.  We enjoyed a trip to the Wells Blue Bunny ice cream parlor!

One of the most special events for me was a gathering of almost everyone on my mom's side of the family with my Grandpa Vander Kooi at the nursing home.  I don't know the last time that many of us have been together.  My 93-year-old grandpa has been going downhill as of late, so this was a bittersweet time.
Our family
My mom's family
The extended Vander Kooi family minus two cousins with spouses and three great-grandchildren

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Football slippers

This little guy is proud and cozy in his new football slippers!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Concur awards

Austin attended his company's annual sales meeting back in October where he was awarded "Business Development Manager of the Year" for the second time in three years.  This is out of a group of about 30 people.  The Travel Channel Sales Team he manages also hit all three of their numbers for the first time in the history of the team, so each team member received a miniature bat engraved with the "Triple Crown" award.  His actual display awards just arrived in the mail.  It's so great to work for a company that recognizes and rewards your efforts!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

West Cedar bake sale

Yep, I'm THAT mom.  I've been looking forward to the bake sale for Emily's elementary school for weeks.  I was especially excited about using my new kitchen and double oven!  I baked and froze a bunch of stuff plus a few fresh items that day.  Here was my total donation:

The bake sale was free-will donation during the Hometown Holiday Market in Waverly (which makes it super easy to organize and manage).  I volunteered to sit at the table for a good chunk of the day.  Austin and both kids were home in various stages of a nasty 12-hour stomach bug, so I selfishly stayed away.  The event raised over $400 for the Parent Connection group, which funds things such as a new supplemental reading software program, new playground equipment and gas money for field trips.

It was a miserably cold day, so I thought traffic was a little lighter than normal.  It was very interesting to observe which items were the most popular and which ones were passed over.  After all my creative baking and new recipes, I decided the top sellers will always be Scotcharoo bars, the giant Monster Cookie pies and homemade cinnamon rolls.  Mental notes for next year! ;)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

4 years + 6 months

Lincoln's imagination has really blossomed lately.  It's fun to just sit and listen to him engaged in pretend play.  He has also started another question phase.  There are a lot of "Why?" questions, very few of which he is actually looking for an answer.  Another popular question is, "What time is it?" followed immediately by, "What does that mean?"  He constantly wants to know what time it is and is trying to figure out the relationship between the numbers on the clock and the next activity coming up.  Similarly, he frequently asks, "What month comes next?"  This was inspired by Emily's birthday, which is causing Lincoln to try and figure out how long it is until his birthday.

Lincoln knows his name and can recognize it in print.  When asked his first name, he replies, "Lincoln."  When asked his last name, he replies, "Lincoln Austin Lorenzen."  He insists his last name is all three names put together.  

Lincoln has made huge strides in writing.  At the beginning of the school year he had no recognizable letters.  Now he can write his name and the letters & numbers they have learned about so far.  Here are some pictures I just took of his work one afternoon when we were practicing on a white board.  We are working hard on holding a pencil/marker correctly.

Lincoln is done with any kind of regular nap time, so we usually don't even try.  The exception is weekends when Lincoln will crawl in bed with me to take a nap together--especially Sunday afternoons.  He has also started a bad habit of picking at his fingernails.  It's a good thing they grow so fast!  His toenails are starting to actually grow somewhat normally for really the first time in his life.  It's quite a contrast from hands to feet!
Below is some of Lincoln's November preschool art--including the projects made during his preschool field trip to the middle school to visit their "Friday Friends".  There is also a picture someone captured of Lincoln peeking out of a turkey blind.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Balancing act

Seussical Musical

The W-SR fall musical this year was "Seussical Musical."  I was so excited to take the kids.  Andjelka also went along with us.  The cast and crew did a phenomenal job and everyone loved it.  The kids took pictures with Carrisa Ewest as the fox (occasional babysitter for us) and the amazing girl who starred as The Cat in the Hat.  I wish I had a picture of the whole cast--especially the mind-blowing hair-dos of the Who's!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hearts at Home

I had the privilege of once again attending the Hearts at Home North Central Regional conference in Rochester, MN.  This time I went with a fabulous group of ladies from the Mom's Morning Out group at church.

I drove the early vehicle and enjoyed some highly successful shopping.  The conference itself was awesome as usual.  The theme was No More Perfect Moms based on Jill Savage's book of the same title.  I particularly enjoyed hearing one of my favorite speakers, Dr. Kathy Koch, twice.  The workshops she did on technology and millennials were fabulous.  She recently posted a recorded version of something similar on her blog here:

I'm excited that Dr. Kathy will be a keynote speaker next year with Hearts at Home founder, Jill Savage.  They are currently co-authoring No More Perfect Kids.  I'm also excited to see the movie Moms Night Out when it comes out May 9.  The star, Sarah Drew, spoke and signed autographs.  The official movie trailer is here.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

New truck

Austin has been looking for a new truck for over a year now.  He had some very specific parameters and wasn't really in a hurry.  With winter approaching, it was definitely time to find something, though.  His trusty 1999 Ford F150 needed new tires, had rust chunks falling off, paint scrapes on the side, iffy door locks and neither the heater or A/C really worked. 

He checked out a couple deals this week and came home with a 2010 Toyota Tacoma with 27,000 miles.  It's a pretty sweet ride.  It feels like a car in the inside and fits in the garage a lot better than the F150.  It sure makes me feel better having him driving it!

Ballet class

It was observation week at Emily's dance studio, so I was able to sit in and watch her ballet class.  She looks so grown up!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fun with Ellie & Owen

I had a lot of frosting left over from Emily's playdate, so I made another batch of cut-out cookies and let the kids decorate more cookies after school.  Ellie & Owen (the kids I watch after school 2x/week) were also there.

Lincoln & Owen have lots of fun building block towers.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Birthday playdate

In lieu of a big friend birthday party, I told Emily she could have a playdate with the Abben triplets, who are in her class.  They pretty much always dress alike, and I'm still trying to remember who is who.  :) This was Emily's first ever real playdate (only her peers with no moms).  Lincoln had a hard time with that.  He has never really been told that he can't play along with Emily.

Our snack/activity was frosting cut-out cookies.  I made the letters spelling out each girls' name plus some other fun shapes.  Lincoln got to frost some cookies, too.  I think over half of them got consumed before even making it onto the take-home plates.  :)  Then they played a little of this and a little of that all over the house and yard.  It was a fun little shindig, but I'm not looking to plan big friend parties anytime soon.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 2013 videos


Once again, I got by pretty easy on the costume thing.  Emily decided the $3 purple witch costume we bought at Trinkets & Togs two years ago was still good with the addition of a sweet purple wig that was recently resurrected from my childhood (actually, it was my sister's).  I tried to convince Lincoln to be a cowboy like Curious George with the cowboy hat and rope from the dress-up box and the cute pony stick we have.  However, he was determined he was going to be a farmer.  He dug out a John Deere implement hat we acquired during the 2008 Iowa House campaign, wore jeans and carried around a red tractor (Hey--we're all inclusive here!)  Easy peesy!

This is a picture of Emily in costume with the pumpkin she painted at school and her class picture.

We did some early, private trick-or-treating at our 98-year-old neighbor's house after school.  Millie loved seeing the kids and had a special collection of candy just for them.

Austin had a meeting, so Andjelka came over for supper and took the kids around the neighborhood while I stayed home to hand out candy.  We definitely live among an older population.  I had exactly five kids ring the doorbell, and I had porch lights on at both ends of the house.  Maybe it was the freakish beard I wore with a pirate hat from the dress up box?!? (Beard courtesy of Austin's trip to the game in Boston)

Lincoln got cold quickly and opted to come home early.  They ended up with a manageable amount of loot.  We're also going to be eating a LOT of Kit Kats and M&M's!  Next year I'm just going to grab a package of fruit snacks from the stash in the pantry if anyone happens to come.

Carving pumpkins

We finally got around to carving our pumpkins after school on Halloween.  Emily did okay using the scraping tool on the inside, but didn't really grab the slimy stuff.  Lincoln wouldn't touch anything besides a spoon, which got him nowhere.  He did, however, enjoy dictating the face he wanted and popping out the pieces after I cut them.  Emily also designed her own face.  I free-handed the "L".  They aren't super fancy, but carving pumpkins is my favorite (and only) thing I like about Halloween.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Boston World Series

Austin has a business partner at work that is a huge sports nut.  Austin's boss is, too.  This is the third year they have both have been invited by the partner to join him at a World Series game.  In the past, it has been Game 1.  This year it was Game 6.  In Boston.  On Emily's birthday.  But who could possibly say no to that?!? (He didn't leave until mid-morning.)

Although their actual seats were in right field, before the game they casually wandered down behind home plate just to see how close they could get.  They ended up hanging out just rows from the field all the way through the national anthem and first pitch before returning to their ticketed seats.

First pitch
Of course, it turned out to be a big moment in baseball history as Boston won the World Series at home in Fenway Park for the first time in 99 years.  Here is the final pitch from Austin's viewpoint:

World Champion Boston Red Sox

7 years old

Emily weighs in at 54 lbs. and measures 50" tall on her 7th birthday.  She loves school and continues to excel.  This year she has become more acutely aware of her intelligence and talent.  We are working on being more humble about it and not being braggy.

More and more often her quick wits and cunning outsmart us.  As an alternative to continually replacing broken CD players (both kids like falling asleep to music), I decided to wipe out my old iPhone 3GS as much as I could and give it to her to use at night as an iPod with the kids' CD's on iTunes.  I also left the Weather Channel app, Calendar App and Pandora.  We quickly learned the true irresistible nature of a screen, and there were many late nights followed by an expected crash every 3-4 days. 

Then I started discovering things in Pandora that were disturbing, like some of the songs that came up under "Children's Radio" and the comments Emily had started leaving on certain songs (none of which were actually public).  We entered a cycle that went something like this: we'd talk about things, lay out some new ground rules, she'd poke around and find something else, I would discover it, repeat.  For the most part, it was just innocent curiosity and not devious or intentional disobedience.  I tried activating every restriction and parental control I could find, but it still wasn't enough.

One perk of the iPod experiment was have extremely powerful leverage to use against Emily when it came to consequences for behavior or attitudes.  However, it seemed (and kind of was) unfair when I had to take it away for a week or so because my iPhone screen broke, and I needed a phone to use while waiting for it to be fixed.  (It was right before my trip to Washington, D.C.) 

After getting it back, Emily became more sneaky by re-activating settings I had turned off.  She even sent some actual texts via iMessage over Wi-Fi.  Thankfully, they were only to immediate family members.  This, of course, resulted in getting the iPod taken away for a week.

**Update** Sometime in November, the phone stopped taking a charge and died altogether.  After a week or so of lamenting, it was pretty much forgotten.  We'll just chalk it up to a learning experience!

Emily loved the new "sporty" outfit she got from Grandpa & Grandma Lorenzen!  She chose to go to McDonald's for supper on her birthday.  Below are some October school projects.