Saturday, August 31, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Grandpa & Grandma Lorenzen!

We spent Saturday afternoon/evening in LeMars celebrating Austin's parents' 35th Anniversary at a picnic with family.  It was still miserably hot, but the kids played happily on the playground while the adults visited and tried not to move too much.  Of course, when it came to picture time at the end, our kids were NOT in the mood.  Emily was pouting on the ground behind everyone for most of them.  This is the best one we have, and it includes Austin's grandmas.

Happy Birthday, Great-Grandpa VK!

We took a trip back to NW Iowa for Labor Day weekend.  Saturday was my Grandpa Vander Kooi's 93rd birthday.  The kids & I stopped by the nursing home to sing, "Happy Birthday" and see his cake.

Friday, August 30, 2013

6 years + 10 months

The transition to school has been a bit rough, but about what I expected.  It's hard getting used to going to bed/sleep earlier and getting up earlier.  Attitudes are harsh and patience is thin.  The heat hasn't helped.  Emily's school had early dismissals the first week because of intake PT conferences.  They had early-outs every day the second week for stifling heat.  Her classroom is well over 80 degrees.  That's not fun for anyone.

Emily set up a "Hawaii Vacation Spot" in her room earlier this summer.  She goes there to read and relax sometimes.

Emily also still loves "Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman".  She decorated her pencil box for school with the characters and lists of all the participants from Seasons 1-5.  On a recent hot afternoon she made a stuffed Ruff doll with his own dog house.

In order to conquer the hair chewing habit this month, I have been making a diligent effort to keep her hair up in ponytails or braids.  It has taken some trial & error, and I still need some more practice, but Emily has been a trooper.  I even attempted a french braid one day.  It wasn't bad for a first effort, but neither of us have the time or patience to do it often.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Produce and Pruning

After struggling for years to grow tomatoes at our Denver house, I am continually amazed by the bountiful production in our Waverly garden.  I picked these this morning from three plants.

Despite the heat, I also decided to tackle some much-needed pruning in the backyard bushes.  Lincoln wanted to help.  :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chalk art

A budding artist at work...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Kitchen: Storm doors

Austin finally had time to install the new storm doors today.  I was really looking forward to being able to open screens for air flow.  Unfortunately, we discovered that by moving the location of the back entrance door, it no longer cleared the new light fixture we had installed after painting the house. to the rescue for a new, lower-profile fixture that almost perfectly matches the original.  We moved the porch fixture to the overhang above the garage door entrance because I really didn't care for that old fixture anyway.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Flowers & Kingdoms

I really enjoy flowers and plants.  This what this year's garden, flower pots, and landscape beds around the house look like in late summer...

 The gigantic Bleeding Heart is now twice as tall as Emily.

These are the Belladonna (Surprise) Lilies blooming.  I dug these up from my neighbor's yard last fall.  Technically, they are Amaryllis bulbs.

Emily likes using her imagination to create nature kingdoms.  This is a recent one...

Kitchen: Pantry

It took over a week and a couple different trips to Waterloo for shelving material, but I finally got the new pantry organized.  It's amazing how fast the space fills up even when you don't feel like you have a large inventory.  It makes a big difference when things like cereal and snacks are added to the pantry rather than in a kitchen cabinet.  It's still a bit of a work in progress, but I'm pretty happy with how things turned out.

I found a spot for my white board menu planner on the inside of the pantry door.  It also has a spot to pin up the school lunch menu.  There is a small basket with markers and the Fareway ad in the closet. 

Inside the pantry to the left is the recycling/collection center.  We collect all recycling items in one bin and then sort them in the garage.  I also have separate baskets to collect Milk Moola lids, Box Tops for Education, and Labels for Education.  Above that is the snack shelf.  There are small disposable containers filled with serving sizes of different snacks.  There are also bins for fruit snacks and pre-packaged snacks. 

My baking supplies fill the floor and a shelf.  Then it's all the open cereal boxes, snack boxes and cooking supplies.
I bought a shallower adjustable shelving unit for smaller boxes/cans because I didn't want it to stick out so far by the doorway.  It doesn't hold as much as I had hoped, but it's nice to be able to see everything instead of moving and digging.

It took two tries to find a shelving unit for inside the original coat closet.  This one holds the beverages that don't fit in the beverage fridge. (I like to have options and to stock up when things are on sale.)

You can't see it in the picture, but on the right side of the upper shelf is all the electronics that connect to the TV with the cords going through the wall to the TV on the other side.

The shelves also hold the paper products, mixer and crockpot.  In addition, there is an outlet wired by the bread machine on the floor.  This allows me to simply slide out the bread machine, fill and insert the inside bucket/pan thing and let it run on the floor in the closet, thereby eliminating the need to ever lift it up or take up counter space.

The best part of the pantry, though, is the motion-sensor light.  You never have to flip a switch or pull a chain to turn it on or remember to turn it off.  Brilliant!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Kitchen: Washer & Dryer and Hardware

Austin got the washer & dryer stacked and installed today.  It was a bit of a hassle, though, after discovering that the 220V outlet the electrician had installed did not have the same shape as the dryer plug.  After a trip to the hardware store and then another to the local appliance store, Austin ended up changing the dryer cord to match the plug.

I'm curious to see the difference in dryer efficiency from the ridiculous 20 ft. vent with four right angles in the basement to the 2 ft. out the wall vent upstairs.

Austin also installed all the cabinet hardware.  It was an extremely stressful decision on my part to decide where to install the knobs.  Then I hardly slept all night fretting and second-guessing my decision.  It all seems silly now.  They look great!

Pancake production

Breaking in the new kitchen with pancakes & eggs night!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Attack of the Animals

I swear Mother Nature was out to get me today.  It began with the washer/dryer.  While Austin was preparing to stack the washer/dryer, I thought it would be a good time to get out the vacuum and clean out the dryer vent, which you are supposed to do on a regular basis but had never been done in five years.  As I was vacuuming out all the lint, a large chunk hit the attachment.  I picked it off and turned it over and over trying to figure out what in the world it was.  After a couple minutes of handling the golf ball sized object, I recognized the "string" coming out of it as a tail and could make out a few tiny feet.  I had been holding a very dead, petrified, lint-covered mouse.  Eewww!!!!  I immediately dropped it in the trash and washed my hands over and over.  They didn't feel clean for the rest of the day.

I had a Bible Study in Cedar Falls at night followed by a late-night trip to Target & Wal-mart.  I got home around 11:30pm and was unloading the van.  As I returned to the garage for my second trip, I noticed a bat flying around inside the garage (I had already closed the door).  Then something fuzzy and white caught my eye.  At first, I though it was a cat.  Upon further examination, I discovered an ugly possum staring down at me from the garage rails.  My first instinct was to open the garage door.  That got rid of the bat, but then I was afraid the possum would get squished in the door.  Turns out he just crawled on top of the door and rode it up.  I dove into the van to let me heart-rate return to something normal while he sat there staring at me.   I finally decided to make a run for it and shut the garage door again.  He rode the door back down on the outside, leaving little footprints all the way down.

After Googling "opossum" from the safety of the kitchen, I learned they are relatively harmless unless cornered.  It also explained the "dead animal" odor that I had noticed in the garage for the last couple days, and likely explains why the plastic garbage can containing the bird seed has holes chewed in it.

**Note** A few days after this incident I noticed possum roadkill four blocks from our house.  I'm hoping it was this guy.

Kitchen: In & Out

We said goodbye to the stove today.  It was brand new after we moved into the house and I declared the inherited one unusable.  Other than a few chips in the porcelain top, it was in like-new condition.  We ended up donating it through our church to a new, young mom who could really use it.

With an extra helping hand, the washer & dryer made the trip up the stairs.

Austin also got the dishwasher installed, although it required a late-night trip to Wal-mart for a special size/shape tool and cost him a toenail after he dropped it on his foot. :o(  It is awesome, though, because it is SILENT.  We also hauled the old table and a collection of chairs up from the basement.  Here are some current pictures of the kitchen:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First day of first grade

With the chaos of the kitchen project and a last-minute vacation, the school year really sneaked up on us this year.  Emily wasn't even thinking about school until we went to the open house the day before to see her room and bring all her supplies.  After that, though, it was pure excitement.  She wanted to go to bed at 6:00pm so the morning would come sooner. :o)  I did, however, put her to work sharpening all the required pencils.

Emily has Mrs. (Crystal) Betts for a teacher this year.  She had a great first day.  Her quote was something like, "I have a problem.  I like first grade so much I didn't want to leave!"

Monday, August 19, 2013

4 years + 3 months

Lincoln's chattering and expressions are quite a source of entertainment sometimes.  This month's favorite phrase was, "Can you remind me to _____?"  Like, "Can you remind me to watch Thomas tomorrow?" or "Can you remind me to get some fruit snacks?"  I'm guessing he's heard that around here a few times. ;o)  He also talks about "cancelling" the bad guys.  He doesn't shoot or kill them.  He cancels them.  I can live with that!

It has been fun to see and hear Lincoln begin to recognize some phonic sounds and make connections between letters and their sounds.  He is becoming quite interested in what letter words start with.

This month we're down to almost no milk at all.  This is so frustrating for a mom who grew up with a dairy farm!  Right now I'm bribing Lincoln to drink small juice glasses (maybe 3 oz.) of chocolate milk with these disgusting strawberry mallow things he talked me into buying at Kmart.  Blech!  But whatever works at this point.

Parmesan cheese is another story.  The kid is in love with it and has been experimenting on different foods.  Here he is with a pile on top of his second love: watermelon. :op

The beginning of school has meant the return of Lincoln's favorite playmate, Owen.  I will be watching Owen and his sister, Ellie (in 4th grade) until 4:45pm on Mondays and Wednesdays during the school year.  Owen & Lincoln will be in the same preschool class, and I will pick both of them up at 11:30am.  They don't start until after Labor Day, so we'll have full days until then.  Here there are on one of the first days with a block city.

New dishes

I decided that a new kitchen deserves new dishes!  Other than the wedding china, I haven't ever picked out everyday dishes.  We have always had hand-me-downs.  So, I spent my birthday money on some fun square dishes with matching placemats. :o)

Summer Adventure crafts

The Hudson Summer Adventure program is over, but we have a few lingering craft reminders hanging around.  One of the activities was to send a bag of "junk" trinkets from around the house so the kids could make sculptures.  I had a lot of fun collecting stuff.  I was disappointed how much stuff came back home still in the bag (don't worry, most of it went straight into the trash).  Here are parts of Emily & Lincoln's creations:

We also finally got around to watering this guy and have had fun watching his hair grow. :o)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Family Vacation: Twin Cities

With the kitchen project well on its way and the first day of school just around the corner, we had scheduled a weekend family vacation to the Twin Cities.  This would mark only the second time the kids have been outside of the state of Iowa (Omaha last year was the first).  We left after lunch on Friday and stopped at the fun rest stop on I35 at the IA/MN border.

After checking into Embassy Suites by the airport, we took the light rail to the Mall of America.  This was a huge highlight for Lincoln.

We ate at the food court and marveled at Legoland.

Then we bought a pack of tickets for the amusement rides.  The kids & I went on the log chute ride.  I was surprised how well Emily did.  She screamed with delight and declared, "That was AWESOME!" when it was over.  Lincoln wasn't quite as thrilled.  He was terrified of the giant animatronic Paul Bunyan and Blue at the end.  His assessment: "That was too scary!"  I forgot there were two drops on the ride and screamed with the best of them on both. :)  I didn't realize I got to ride free with Lincoln, so we had more tickets to use.  Both kids decided to ride the Blues Clues ride.  Lincoln also enjoyed trying to drive the boats.

We went swimming on two different occasions.  Saturday morning was MUCH nicer than Sunday morning where the pool was so crowded you could hardly move and had to hoard towels.

We attempted to go to the Como Zoo on Saturday around lunch time, but after driving around for 45 min. trying to find a parking spot within a mile of the zoo, we gave up and went to Choo-Choo Bob's Train Store instead.  The kids enjoyed looking at and playing with trains.

Next we headed to Centennial Lakes where we enjoyed an absolutely picture-perfect afternoon walking the paths and paddle-boating on the lake.

We rounded out the afternoon with a stop at Cherry Berry frozen yogurt where the kids enjoyed a little bit of yogurt with their toppings. ;o)

We went back to the MOA (or "Mall of Comerica" as Lincoln calls it) to eat at the food court (and endured a second torturous night waiting 20+ min. for a Happy Meal).  Emily gawked at the American Girl store while we gawked at the prices.  Then the kids used the last of the ride tickets on "Big Rigs".

After another big buffet breakfast and a second swim, we checked out on Sunday morning.  I think riding/pushing buttons on the glass elevators was both kids' favorite part of the whole trip!

We tried the Como Zoo again--this time heading straight for the shuttle parking lot, which was actually running that day.  It was okay.  We watched half of the seal/sea lion training.  Emily got mad when we didn't go exactly where SHE wanted to go on the map (see picture by gorilla).  Lincoln was scared of the misters in the Japanese Gardens.  It got hot.  But it was cheap entertainment.

Then we headed home for popcorn night.  It was a fun little whirlwind vacation.  We didn't get to do much shopping, but the kids got to do a lot of different activities.  I must also say PTL for the Apple Maps app that showed road construction and traffic flow.  Because of major construction projects and huge traffic jams, we took a LOT of alternate routes.  More memories made!