Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Snow Globe

I know I've already posted about the porch and how much I love it but as an update, it's still my favorite room of our house.  It's so warm and toasty with the fireplace. It's almost impossible to resist a nap when you're in there (just ask Rob and Loki...they fall victim the most!).  And this year we added a beautiful Christmas tree!  But mostly I want to thank my friend, Michelle, for making the tree happen.

Here is what I did.  Purchased the tree from Walmart.  Called Michelle and said "Please come make my tree pretty."  Escorted Michelle to purchase whatever ornaments and decorations she declared were necessary.

And then, on the day of the big party for the neighborhood I decorated our house with our Christmas stuff and I left Michelle alone on the porch to do what she does best.  I was and am still delighted with the result!

It's a skinny little thing but it fits there perfectly and I love sitting out there in my snow globe and looking at it. I decided that I am just going to throw a sheet or bag of some sort over it and it will go down in the basement all decorated and put together because I would never get it to look like that again.

Thanks Michelle!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Big Reveal

For at least a year Rob has dreamed of transforming all of the woodwork in our house.  Everything is honey oak.  Everything.  And although we loved it when we built our house (even though it wasn’t our first choice, just the standard option) after 10 years we were ready for a change.  We really love the look of white trim.

We spent hours looking on to find pictures of what we could do to our house (and what we couldn’t).  We finally settled on the idea that Rob would be able to replace all of the trim around the floor, windows and doors with new white woodwork and that we could stain all remaining woodwork (fireplace, family room posts, kitchen cabinets, and actual doors) with a dark stain that would hide all of the oak grain we were tired of looking at.  And then we thought the kitchen might get kind of dark with that color so we thought painting the island white would brighten things up.
Well, fast forward to October 20th.  An email was sent out to some of the neighbor ladies asking who would like to host this years Christmas party.  I was thinking it had been awhile since I had hosted everyone so I asked Rob if he cared.  He did not.  And then  he added “we should redo our house for that”.  I didn’t think there was a way to get everything done by the party day, December 11th.  It was only 7 weeks.  Rob assured me we could do it.  So, I agreed to host the part and the next day we got started.  And of course I didn’t remember to take pictures until we were under way.
Rob took off some trim to see how it would come off and thankfully the answer was “fairly easily”.  So, the next day I spent the whole day removing every piece of trim around the floors, doors and windows.  It remained one of my favorite parts of the whole project.  Apparently I’m more of a destructor than constructor.  I then made a schedule of every single thing we would have to do each day in order to have the project completed on time.

For the most part, I worked on all the staining of dark wood and Rob worked on all the painting and trimming of white.  Of course there was some tag teaming both ways but it was a good system.  Rob built some beautiful headers for all the doors and windows!  Once we had almost everything stained we painted the whole downstairs.  We removed the balusters from the staircase and replaced them with fancy iron balusters (this was my favorite project).  In order to stain the wood around the stairs, we had to cut the carpet about 3 inches on either side…which meant we needed new carpet.  And then just to add a little more chaos to the schedule we decided new counter tops were in order as well.

It was a hairy 7 weeks.  I think there were only 2 nights out of the 49 that we didn’t do something for this project.  Our countertops were installed on December 7th and the carpet on December 9th.  That left the 10th to paint remaining areas and touch up stain.  And that left the 11th to finally decorate for Christmas for the party that night.  Nothing like taking it to the last minute!  But we love the results!  And without further adieu here are the before and after pictures:

Front Hallway:

Piano Room:



And for good measure a shot of the whole kitchen and the whole family room (no before pictures)

I still don’t feel rested from all the work.  As soon as the party was over it felt like December just flew by with one activity/party after another. I’m looking forward to the kids going back to school and settling back into a routine that doesn’t involve any paint brushes.

Monday, December 21, 2015


Got the presents wrapped. Finally.

Time for the kiddos to inspect, shake, compare notes with lists, count, and otherwise make me nervous they will accidental be opened.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Let's Go to the Movies...

(You have to sing that title….like from the movie “Annie”.)
My children are harassing me because I promised I would blog about this a month ago and have not. Here goes…
About a month ago Rob went to Brazil for the week.  We were in the middle of our giant home renovation so there was chaos surrounding us.  Plus, it was a Thursday and on Thursday our evenings look like this:
4pm – kids get off the bus
4:25 – bring Ellie to piano lessons
5pm – pick up Ellie
6:25 – bring Riley to piano lessons
6:40 – drop off Austin at karate
7:00 – pick up Riley
7:45 – pick up Austin
8:00 – Eat

Some would argue I could throw “eat” in there after Ellie’s lesson and before Rileys but if Austin eats before karate he feels ill.  At any rate, its our only super busy day so it’s not a huge deal, but when Rob is traveling it gets a bit nutty.  So, on the way home from karate I was mentally done for the day. I said “Let’s rent a movie. When we get home everyone puts on their jammies and we’re having popcorn, M&Ms, and apples for dinner while we watch a movie.”  The kids scurried upstairs to get ready when we got home and I put some thing away  downstairs got the DVD ready (the new Cinderella) and then headed up to get my own sweatpants on and when I came down I had this:

They had made me a movie theater.
Get the theme?  Cinderlla’s glass slipper, the pumpkin that Ellie is changing into a carriage…
I had a menu:

If I remember correctly I had popcorn, cotton candy, and pop (with free refills!).
And they made me a red carpet to walk on to get to my seat:

And they had set up a snuggly spot for me to sit and enjoy the show:

We stayed up a bit too late for a school night but it was worth it.  These guys knew just what we needed that night!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

She's "Spec"tacular

About a month ago we noticed Ellie was having a little trouble reading things on the TV. But she seemed fine otherwise and life was busy so getting her to the eye Dr. didn't happen immediately. Then about 3 days later she came into our bedroom at about 10pm and said "Mom, I forgot to tell you....I had a hearing test today and I need glasses.".

Now, it was 10pm, and I tend to shut down after about 9pm, but something about that didn't make sense to me. I must've looked at her funny because then she giggled and said '"Oops, I mean, they checked my hearing and it's awesome! But they also checked my eyes and the lady told me I had horrible vision". (I thought that was a bit harsh.) So, the next day we took her to the eye doctor and he confirmed she is near-sighted; 3 days later she now looks like this:

Isn't she adorable! It was so cool to watch her try them on for the first time. I mean, she doesn't have a horrible prescription but he did say it was a fairly significant prescription for a first pair. She put them on and smiled really big, then she'd take them off, and put them back on. Tell me all the things she could read on the walls and all the signs she could see on the way home. Ellie has had experience with glasses once before in an effort to control her migraines but she hated wearing them and they didn't seem to do anything for the migraines so we eventually stopped trying. I was worried this was going to be a similar experience where I would constantly be telling her to put her glasses on, but she was so excited about what she could see that she hasn't once complained about them.

Ellie picked out two pair. These are her favorite. The other pair is a bright, almost neon, purple. To be honest I wasn't crazy about either pair in the store but I am the girl who picked out Smurfette glasses in kindergarten that were pink on the top and blue on the bottom so I wasn't in a position to say anything. I do love them now. They are very "Ellie".

The only sad part is that I think they make her look older....*sniff*....she's growing up.


I'm over a month behind in my introduction but this way I can give you an introduction as well as a progress report. I'm efficient.

My dad and I drove down to Iowa on October 14th to grab our new puppy. We met the breeders husband in a tractor supply store parking lot. It was a little weird but it saved me an extra 4.5 hours of driving so I was fine with it.

He slept almost the whole way home. I think we stopped twice to see if he needed to "go" but he was so distracted by all the cars and noise that he just wanted to sit next to me and hide. Country pup.

The kids had basketball in the afternoon so they did not come with us but were eagerly awaiting our arrival.

He has been a snuggly little thing right from the get-go. When Riley lay down that night on the floor to watch a show Loki was not satisfied until he was right next to her.

I think as far as puppies go, we got a winner. Of course, I'm biased. And it helps that I'm his favorite...can you blame him :)

If I sit still long enough you can pretty much guarantee that he will find my feet a comfortable place to take a quick rest.

This sometimes leads to a little bit of jealousy:

Potty training is going well. It took about 10 days for him to get the hang of it. But now he rings a bell by our door when he has to go out. He's also pretty good about peeing in the little spot we made for him under our porch. However, just tonight it seems he is allowing us only about 0.2 seconds to open that door post-ring before he can't hold it any longer. So, I won't say he is completely potty trained, but he is pretty darn close. He also sleeps great at night. Goes to sleep around 9 or 9:30 and wakes up around 6:30 or 7. I hope that someday he will understand the concept of a "weekend" but I'm not holding my breath on that one. That's what the kids are for.

His favorites include: playing with the kids (especially tug of war & fetch), hiding under small spaces,

And snuggling. If you are on the floor, he is in your lap.

All in all everyone is happy. (Riley is beyond happy.) He's been a nice little companion for me during the day. I guess we'll keep him around!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Charlotte’s Web

Back in August Ellie tried out for another community theater production.  This one was Charlotte’s Web.  She was delighted to find out a couple weeks later that she was cast as a farm animal and fairgoer.  She later found out she would specifically be a cow and then even more excited when she found out she would have one line as a fairgoer.  She’s moving on up in the theater world!

Well, the photos are hot off the presses from the show so I’m finally updating the blog with her performance.

Rehearsals started in September and I think she loved every second of it.  In our house it seems to be rare to find an activity that your kid loves 100% of the time but that is how Ellie is with these shows.  I never have to drag her to practice.  She only pouts if she doesn’t have practice.


This is her, and her fellow cows during a rehearsal.  She doesn’t have her cow shirt on because I am currently sitting in the auditorium sewing black cow spots on it.  And a special thanks to my mom who sewed up some white sweatpants for the costume.  Because no one sells white sweat pants.  Because who would ever buy sweatpants in white?

Rob and I also got a bit more involved in this show than in past shows.  Each of the animals needed face paint.  I volunteered to do it and then I volunteered Rob to do it when the original “duck” lady couldn’t continue her role.




It was quite a process!  I think that is probably one thing all of the farm animals were happy to be done with after the show was over.  It’s a process to put on, but also to take off at intermission when they all turned into regular people again for the second half.


Above is Ellie watching fireworks at the fair with her older “sisters”.

And for the final rehearsal they surprised their directors by all dressing up as zombies.


Ellie did not want to participate in this idea.  She thinks zombies are creepy and was even a little scared about going to rehearsal if everyone was going to be dressed as zombies.  But, knowing my daughter, I knew once she was there that she’d change her mind and want to take part in it.  So, at the last minute I convinced her to let me put some face make up on her before the rehearsal and after I saw this picture (taken by someone else there that night) I guess she got over it.

Thanks to everyone who showed their support by coming to see her show!  That is, by far, her favorite part!  She had lots of family, quite a few neighbors, classmates, and even her two favorite teachers showed up!


And because I haven’t included enough photos in this post already, and because everyone loves a good “soldier comes home” story.  I’ll include a video clip of another cow and her dad surprising her (and her siblings) by coming home from 8 months of deployment.  Tear jerker.

Click here for the video!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Halloween 2015

I thought I was going to be totally prepared for Halloween this year. Ellie decided pretty early on that she wanted to be a minion. I found a pretty costume at Walmart and I was already "one down two to go"! This was in September. Riley told me in early October that she was going to be a mixed up creature and use a bunch of parts from old costumes. Free and clever...I like it! However, with a little 2 weeks until Halloween she switched to a witch. No problem. I picked up a hat and some tights and decided we'd be able to make the rest. With some help from my mom and sister on the Sunday before halloween we made her a really quick smock/dress, I bought some tulle to tie around her waste, used the rest to make a broomstick and she was done. "Two down, one to go!"


In the past few years he has just come up with his own costume and it is usually great so I didn't give him much thought. He had been tossing around the idea of being someone from the Hobbit for quite awhile and he usually has very specific ideas of what each costume will include so I generally don't get involved much. I think it was perhaps Sunday night that he decided on Voldemort from Harry Potter. He said he just needed a black cloak, white face paint, Voldemort's wand, and something for his head to make him look bald. Just that. No biggie.

We had face paint.

Cue my parents!

Sunday night I went through my mom's patterns and found a cloak that would be perfect. She said it would be no problem and I specifically said "Don't worry about any details because it's just a costume. Skip anything that you want". But, of course she came back 3 days later with a perfect replica of what Austin was envisioning. Plus she added on a cummerbund type thing with loops to hold Austin's wand. An added bonus!

Back to the wand. I mentioned in my last post about trying to find Voldemort's wand and finding out it was $50 and saying "No way, Jose!". So, I half-jokingly and half-hopingly (that's a new word) sent my dad a text with this picture:

And asked if he could quick whittle this for Austin.

And, also in three days, when my mom presented the cloak, my dad presented this:

Because of course he can.

I'm pretty sure I officially give up when it comes to costumes because this team just can't be beat.

Here's the pics from the great night! Big thanks to my mom and dad!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Love This Kid!

His imagination is amazing and he is always thinking. Always. Lately he has been devouring the Harry Potter books. Rob started reading the first book to him in first grade because Rob had never read them either and thought they might be good to read together...which they would be, except Austin got completely terrified about 1/4 of the way into book one. Fast forward 4 years and I strongly encouraged (maybe forced) him to give them a second try. They are completely up his alley! And, as I suspected he loves them. He started them in September and he is about 1/2 way through book 6. And, like everything Austin does, he does it full speed ahead. He found a stick in Rob's workshop and it immediately became a wand. He uses his old Jedi robe Grandma Smith made as a cloak. He is a professor at Hogwarts for his little wizard students (Ellie and Riley), and he's constantly shouting out incantations or reminiscing about funny parts in the book expecting me to remember them (which I rarely do...I should re-read them). So, it came as no surprise that Austin wanted to be a character from the books for Halloween. It did surprise me that he wanted to be the evil guy. Lord Voldemort. I think it's the first time he's wanted to be something scary.

So, as we're coming up with his costume he really wanted a new wand. His stick from the workshop wasn't cutting it anymore. I took him to the Halloween store at the mall and he found a really cheap-o plastic Harry Potter wand there. $5. I could tell he wasn't thrilled with it. We tried both Target and Barnes and Nobles for a different option. Target had nothing and Barnes and Noble had a $50 exact replica of Voldemort's wand. Nice, but no way. So, we bought the $5 wand and went on our way. Right when he got out of the store he said "Man, I can't wait until we get to the car and I can open this!" and I took it out of it's package, handed it over and said "have at it!". And he walked through the whole rest of the mall in his own world throwing curses and spells out in every direction. God only knows what sorts of things were happening in the mall (in his head). I didn't think until the end that I should video it, so here's a short clip:

YouTube Video

I'm bummed I only caught a few seconds of it before he realized he was going the wrong way and turned around and saw me. When he saw me filming him I thought he would be embarrassed but instead he said "Were you videoing me? Cool, can I see it?". So, I also love that he sees nothing wrong with dancing through the mall with a pretend wand, wearing his jacket on his head like it's a hooded cloak.

He's an amazing kid. I'm a lucky mom.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I bet not everyone has to avoid be shot (with berg bullets) in their own kitchen.

And his opponent:

I'm not sure who won. But is there ever really a winner in war?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Puppy Love

Back in June we decided that Riley deserved a pet that did more than swim in a tank (or in Hades case, lay at the bottom of the tank and rarely swim). Rob and I thought that we were ready to graduate to a hamster or guinea pig and that it would be the perfect present for Riley's birthday in August. I set out to do my homework and found out that we should get a guinea pig because hamsters are nocturnal and apparently don't like being held. Then we went to a pet store to hold a guinea pig and see what they were all about. We asked some more questions checked out food prices, etc. I decided right then that I'd rather have a dog. Guinea pigs aren't cheap to feed, poop non-stop, have to have baths, get their nails clipped, and require at least 8 square feet of soon to be really stinky space. You have to clean up their poop at least once a day....and they aren't nearly as awesome as dogs. It took a little bit of convincing but not nearly as much as I thought it would and Rob was on board. Next up was finding our dog.

I started out with shelters and pounds. I checked their websites daily to see if anything arrived that fit our criteria for size and shedding (non-shedding because I'm slightly allergic to pet dander). After a month I realized that all I could find in the shelters were pit bulls, chihuahuas, beagles, and other large breeds that shed. I then turned my search to figuring out what would be the perfect breed for us. After much consideration and changing of my mind, I settled on a Cavapoo and made my pitch to Rob who agreed it was a good choice.

Next I had to find a breeder that didn't border on being a puppy mill. That was easier said than done but I finally came across a place in Albia, IA who was going to have a litter of Cavapoos in min-September. While we were in Hawaii, at a Luau, I was emailing back and forth with this lady. In that 20 minutes she sold two. I asked a few more questions and then sent her our deposit and we were officially on the list to get long as her mama had at least 5 dogs.

So, at the beginning of August we hoped we were getting a dog but told the kids we were only thinking about it and to not get their hopes up because Dad still wasn't' sure it was a good idea. We dragged out that story for what felt like forever. The mama dog ended up having 9 puppies! This weekend it was finally time to reveal our secret!

We told the kids we were driving down to Iowa to go watch Taylor, our niece, play in a basketball tournament. The kids were quite excited about this. So excited in fact that I was afraid they would be mad that we weren't actually there to see Taylor!

The breeder lives on a farm really in the middle of no where. We had to drive down a gravel road to get to her house and I was wondering how long the kids would continue to think we were going to a basketball game. I think Austin was the first to pipe up after about 5 minutes on the gravel road suggesting it was a weird place to have a basketball game. We had passed our breeder's house but she is also a teacher and wasn't home yet so we had to waste some time. Riley was getting worried because she absolutely hates being lost. So, we agreed we'd turn around (once we were sure she was home) and ask someone at that farm we passed for directions.

It wasn't until we were actually in their fenced in dog yard that we spilled the beans. All three of them just sat there mute looking at us. Then they just kept saying "Really?" Then we went in to see the puppies and their excitement became a bit more noticeable but I think they still weren't sure what was going on. I don't think it was until we were sitting on the floor with the 4 boy puppies that they finally figured it out.

It took us about 10 minutes to settle on our favorite (though any would do, they were all adorable!)

Meet Loki:

Rob picked the name. I tried out a few others (Roscoe, Finn, and Ole) but decided that Loki (pronounced Low-kee) was the best. He's the Norwegian God of Mischief so we're hoping we're not type-casting him here....

He's incredibly sweet. We are all in love.

Riley asked us at least a dozen times if this was for real. Do we really get to keep him. And then she was concerned someone else would want him (there were other people there picking up their Golden doodles that were 8 weeks old).

We're all pretty excited and we'll be able to bring him home mid-November. Time to read up on Puppy Training!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bathing Beauties

Sunday was beautiful! Beautiful enough that after Ellie's last Charlotte's Web performance of the weekend she was able to join her neighborhood friends (and sister) outside for a little run through the sprinklers and sun tanning on the driveway. I could get used to weather like that!

Unfortunately it was followed with ridiculous winds and sub 50 degree temperatures on Monday. Yuck.

Our leaves are changing and fall is in full force. I have mixed feelings on this.

The kids are on Fall Break the rest of the week so hopefully we'll find our way outside to see some of the colors!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chef in training

Every morning Riley wakes up first. She wants to snuggle. It's like having a life-size teddy bear in the house. This morning as we were snuggling she offered to make me coffee. All of my kids have a general idea of how to make my coffee (we started that training years ago) so I agreed and off she went. I came down as it was dripping out of the Keurig and remembered that I had some decaf cups in the coffee drawer and was worried she grabbed one of those (no decaf in the morning!). She said "Nope, I used the only blue one in the whole drawer!" which I realized was hot chocolate. So, Riley made herself hot chocolate.

Then Austin came down, grabbed the waffle mix out of the pantry and said "I'm making waffles." Ummm.....I'm fairly certain he's never done this before. My first instinct was to say "no" because I didn't want to deal with the mess. Then I realized he'd never been eager to cook before and the benefits that can come from someone else making breakfasts in the morning far outweighed a mess. So, I showed him where the directions were and off he went. I gave him a tiny bit of help but it was mostly him. He then even served up everyone's waffles for them according to their preferences (Butter & Syrup vs. Peanut Butter & Syrup)

Not bad. And the girls raved about how tasty they were so his ego isn't hurting either.

I think we might be on to something here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Crazy girl

And a nice photobomb from Austin. Riley lost another tooth on Saturday night. She noticed it was loose at about 10am so I knew it would be out by bedtime. She is relentless when it comes to....well, most everything actually.

I haven't decided yet if that is a good or bad character trait.