Monday, December 26, 2011

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Dave wrote this post for us. Enjoy!

I have long been desensitized to the comings and goings of items on, under, and around the Christmas tree. The self-induced blindness was a necessary coping mechanism for me as an obsessive compulsive person, borderlining on disorder, sharing the Christmas season with, first animals and now, children.

The process began about eight years ago after Amanda and I put up the tree in our first home and the kittens promptly undecorated the bottom branches, climbed ¾ the way to the top and perched on the inside of a branch for a nap. Two days later, we returned from shopping and did not see the tree in the window of the house. It was in the floor and we picked it up and reset it with the ornaments we could find, a process we repeated two more times before Christmas Day arrived.

During that first Christmas, we adopted a rule that any ornament we found on the floor after it “fell” from the tree would be placed in a box and salvaged for next year. We had a fully decorated tree top by Christmas, with more natural looking lower branches.

The next Christmas I knew what to expect and I had well learned to not see ornaments and scraps of papers from the wrapped presents in the floor. We had also added a new member to the fold who kept some control over, or at least provided interference to, the kitten activities with the Christmas tree. The cats of course did not appreciate having to succumb to the larger physical presence, and hence authority, of Georgia Brown Dog regarding the Christmas decorations. And that is why they tried to kill her.

When Georgia came into the house the year after the cats, we knew she would likely be interested in chewing the Christmas ornaments, as would any other four month old Labrador retriever. For this reason, we decorated the bottom of the tree with plastic, wooden and cloth ornaments, placing just a few glass balls toward the top. The day after the decorating was complete, I heard a crunching in the kitchen and walked in to find Georgia chomping on little pieces of glass, bleeding from the mouth and attempting to understand what had become of the pretty purple ball that had just been in front of her. By extreme fortune, she had a scheduled vet appointment the next day and had no damage from the incident. While I did not see the situation resulting in that ball falling from the tree, I have no doubt that the cats we fully involved and acted with full knowledge of the results of their actions.

With such a history, I was decently prepared for the addition of children to the list of Christmas tree admirers and undecorators in our home. I have become skilled at kicking an ornament, sending it gliding across the hardwood floor, so it comes to rest underneath the tree. I no longer have to pick the decorations up and put them back on the tree and torn wrapping paper doesn’t not bother me as long as the gift underneath is not completely visible. Partial visibility is solved not by re-wrapping, but by turning the other direction. [Note from Amanda: Now that Ella is learning to write, many of the presents weren't just partially unwrapped, they also had her name scrawled across them in Magic Marker. You are a special person if you got one of those presents this Christmas!] If a strand of lights goes out, so be it. Out of necessity, I pay very little attention and we are all much happier for it.

This was my first year with two mobile children at Christmas and I could have easily driven myself crazy had the cats and dog not taught me to cope with the tree situation. By Christmas morning, the presents underneath our tree sat in the midst of several ornaments, shreds of paper and other small pieces of trash, and toys. Luke’s “drop it wherever the urge to move on to something else hits” mentality combined with my “don’t stress about what’s going on under the tree” attitude allowed the underneath of the tree to become somewhat of a toy box for the children.

And then on Christmas morning, I was completely taken aback and stunned to the point of tears by what transpired from underneath and around that tree. We had a living room full of presents and Ella was helping her Mommy hand them out. I don’t know the exact number, but there were presents from four separate households dispersed. The process took about fifteen minutes. After the morning presents were handed out, a few were left under the tree that were for our afternoon guests. When everyone had their presents, I expected Ella would tear into her stack, as would be expected for any three year old. Instead, the following conversation transpired.

Ella (moving to the back corner of the tree where the presents for the afternoon company were): Mommy, you have a few more over here.
Amanda: No baby. Those are for this afternoon.
Ella: No Mommy, these are for you.

And Ella retrieved her own small purses from the underneath the Christmas tree and handed them to Amanda saying, “These are your presents Mommy.” And Amanda opened each one to find that Ella had wrapped a few items inside to give to her for Christmas.
Ella's presents for Mommy
I sat in awe and thanked God that I had not moved any of the “toys” from underneath the tree and for the wonder of children at Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

R.I.P. Jewel E. Cat

My engagement kitten, Jewel E. Cat, died today. She was apparently asleep up under the truck of one of the sub-contractors and she didn't wake up until he started it. Dave was pulling into the driveway when that happened and saw her run into the backyard. He came into the house and asked me to come out and we walked and whistled for her (that's how we've always called our cats). Gypsy was with me and when we got to the trailer parked at the back fence, Gypsy howled a pitiful cry. I bent down to look under the trailer and found Jewel. She was already dead.

My heart hurts for how scared she must have been. It hurts for Dave who had to bury her; it hurts because I have to explain this to Ella tomorrow. It hurts most of all for Gypsy because she lost her buddy.

She was a good cat. She followed us everywhere; she was always in the middle of whatever we were doing. Just this weekend, she went on a walk with us and played in the playhouse while the kids were swinging. She has supervised every phase of this construction project, including needing to be rescued from high places - twice. She was ridiculously fearless about sticking her foot in every hole she could find. She was a huntress; we haven't had to worry about rodents or snakes since she was allowed to go outside. She was the first reason that all of our Christmas ornaments were plastic and she once knocked the tree to the floor when she jumped into the top of it. She welcomed our babies without so much as a hiss and she especially loved all of their stuff. She used to love all over Georgia, rubbing in and out of her legs and kissing her nose to nose. When she was a kitten, we couldn't eat a bowl of ice cream in the same room with her without being completely harrassed. She loved to play in the plastic grocery sacks when I emptied them and she would jump several feet in the air to pounce on them. She fell into the bathtub with me more than once because she couldn't keep her paws out of the water; and she once fell on my face in the shower because she was walking around the top of it and slipped. She was curious to a fault and I've worried that her incessant need to explore every strange vehicle in our driveway would end tragically. I'm sick that it actually happened.

I don't have any kitten pictures to share because we weren't digital then, but I found a few good ones of her all grown up. She was 8 years old this past August.
She loved hiding in the wrapping paper.
We never did a project without her supervision.
She thought the Boppy was for her.
She couldn't be bothered to move from her princess perch.
She loved her dog and forced her to share her bed.
Even though they fought sometimes, she was Gypsy's buddy.
Godspeed, Jewel. We'll see you at the Rainbow Bridge.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Ella had her gymnastics Christmas performance this weekend and she was totally excited to see other little girls wearing the same leotard as hers. They didn't all have pink hands and arms though, because I'm sure their mothers don't let them graffiti themselves with magic markers. We let her get away with it because she learned it from Nana.. and they are washable. Bathtime is more fun if the water turns green when you step into it because you've colored the entire bottom of your foot.

She also had her preschool musical last week and she said her part right into the microphone without missing a beat. She even sang the songs this year. I still can't believe she volunteered for a speaking part. Amazing.

Now, she's teaching us the songs. We've had to sing Away in a Manger too many times to count because that's what the angel on our Nativity scene sings and she uses it for the music. When she got tired of that, she decided to speed it up a bit so she turned on our pole dancing stuffed cat that sings M.C. Hammer's Can't Touch This and belted the words to Hooray for Baby Jesus! over the top of it. It was quite something, but hey, you can't have music practice without music.

Last night we walked through a Night in Bethlehem so, between that and the musical, there has been lots of Nativity play in our house. Right now, she is pretending to be Mary, Dave is Joseph, and a baby doll in the toy pack 'n play is the baby Jesus in the manger. I think she mostly likes bossing Dave around about the baby. My favorite quote from him this weekend: "No body ever carried around a manger." Oh, I should also disclose that Luke is a shepherd ("Shepherds can't hold the baby Jesus!"), Georgia is the angel, and I am the camel. I'm telling myself it's because I make a great camel noise - which Luke imitated as soon as we walked by the camel in Bethlehem last night. He also made such a great sheep noise that the shepherds in the field asked if they could keep him. He would have stayed in the market place all night if we'd let him, especially playing the drum in the music shop.

Here's our Nativity set at play. Joseph and one wise man are missing because they had to take a trip. Mary is just staying with the baby until they get back.
Mary, taking care of the baby.

Joseph and the wise man riding the carousel.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Magic

I read something this morning that got me thinking about what makes Christmas magical for me. As I thought through it, I realized how much I've changed in my lifetime, but especially in recent years.

When I was little, of course it was all about the anticipation of presents. I don't remember Santa ever really being a part of the magic because I was 5 when a friend in my kindergarten class told me he wasn't real.

As I got older, but still pre-driving age, it became not only about the presents but also about traditions - seeing all of my cousins on Christmas Adam (the night before Christmas Eve), loading up in a van with them to look at Christmas lights, listening to Christmas music on the drive home from Grandma's house on Christmas Eve and shivering because the windows were rolled down so Jan could cool off because Grandma always kept the house too warm (and oh how I can relate to that now!), yummy breakfast on Christmas morning at Daddy's, and finally the transfer to my mom's house that afternoon for the rest of Christmas break, which usually included reading a stack of new books she gave me even though she hated seeing me "with my nose in a book all the time."

Sometime in highschool, when the family started changing (boyfriends, girlfriends, marriages, divorces), Christmas lost it's magic for a while.

Then God sent me Dave and Christmas got magical again, even during the darkest period of my life, he brought magic to Christmas. It wasn't just magic in the form of romance and renewed anticipation (because Dave Roper loves Christmas more than any person I know); it was because he gave me the first Christmas gift. The baby Jesus.

"But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” - Luke 2:10-12
I was 13 when I prayed the prayer of salvation, but I wandered around for a lot of years after that not really knowing what it meant, certainly not understanding what a gift that little baby was. Dave changed all that when he told me point blank, in his very Dave way, "You think that you get to heaven by being a good person and doing good things? You're wrong." He then proceeded to tell me exactly how you get to heaven and he took me to church. Again and again and again until we were both convinced that I understood that it takes more than works to get to heaven. It takes faith. It was only after that that he married me.

Then the magic of Christmas became about candlelight communion and awestruck reverence for a tiny baby who would be my Savior. It became about waking up with my husband on Christmas morning and traveling to see our families.

Then our family started to grow. The year I was pregnant with Ella was also the first year our church did the Night in Bethlehem production. I worked and worked, lived and breathed the city of Bethlehem for a solid month and do you know what happened? I suddenly had a new perpective of God's greatest gift, that of a pregnant woman. How must she have felt with such an unbelievable story of immaculate conception, knowing that she carried the child of God?

"But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33

Then we had Luke and I got to sit in the stable and play the part of Mary and see the recreated magic of people on a journey to find a baby. I got to sit quietly and think about what it would be like to know that my tiny baby would the world's savior. Did she know?

"When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2: 17-19
And now the magic of Christmas is about a 3 year old voice sharing the story of Jesus, from birth to resurrection, with her animals in the shower. It's about my 16 month old son bringing me the baby Jesus from our Nativity playset so I could give him kisses, and entire evenings of acting out the Christmas story with the same playset. (Thank you, friend, for giving us that Nativity set. It might be the best gift my children have ever received.) It's about, "Don't worry, Mommy. I'll just put the ornaments back on the tree if he pulls them off" and knowing every word to the preschool musical before it happens. It's about explaining why we give presents at all and shopping to fill stockings for kids whose parents cannot afford to do it this year. It's about lights and trees and cookies and presents, and most of all, it's about the baby Jesus.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Operation Bigger House: Happy Birthday to Me

Don't get too excited; it's not finished yet. But remember this?

Now it looks like this. 

The Big Room with a clean floor.

And no beds.

Did you hear me exhale? I did. This was the perfect birthday present.

We spent Saturday afternoon moving stuff into Ella's new room. She's still sharing it with Luke for now, but it freed up enough space that we could clean up the place and finally decorate for Christmas.

Ella's purple bedroom.

We still have to find her a twin bed and we've got no where to put Luke's bed yet, so this set up is temporary. She slept fantastically in there last night.

Also, look at this. This is the old pink bathroom. It's not pink anymore, and it's finished except for the electrical stuff. Notice that kids have already occupied it? That's right, no more sink baths. My back will miss them, the rest of me will not. I stretched an extension cord in there and plugged up a lamp so Luke could swim last night while I restocked the bathroom closet. 
Not Pink bathroom.

Today, we cleaned and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. For nearly 12 hours. The hardwoods are vacuumed and mopped, the furniture is dusted, the kitchen is mopped, the carpet is steam cleaned, the laundry is done, and the house is decorated for Christmas. And Dave cooked supper.

There is not one speck of sheet rock dust in the old part of our house.


It looks like humans live here again.

In the new part, all of the hardwood has been laid and the tile is completely finished. Now we need the final plumbing in the master bathroom, final electrical work (light fixtures, plugs, etc.), shelving in the closets and laundry room, a final coat of paint, and finished hardwoods. The floor man is supposed to be here on the 19th to finish the floors and then it will be done.

On the outside of the house, the dirt has been backfilled and they smoothed out a level place for the playground, too. Work on the deck should begin this week.

I'm starting to think that home renovations are like potato chips.. or tattoos - once you start, you can't stop. We are already considering extending this project to add a door from our living room into the backyard. It's something we've been talking about doing for years - since we realized that we don't use our backyard because it's not as convenient to get to as the front porch. We haven't made a final decision on that yet, but it would be nice to just go ahead and have it done. And after that? The kitchen, of course. But not right now; my sanity wouldn't survive a kitchen renovation with two little kids.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Why the People of Mizu Hate Me

or My Daughter Will Not Eat at a Hibachi Grill Again Until She's 20

Last night I met my family (Dave, Ella, Luke, Grandmother, Papa, Joshua, Rebecca, Nathan, and Jake) for supper at Mizu, a local Japanese steakhouse. It was the first time I'd been to this particular steakhouse and I was excited to see a fish swimming at the entrance because I knew Ella would like it. The kiddos were happy, if hungry.

We got to our table, taking up an entire grill to ourselves, and settled in. Ella sat by Aunt Becca and Jake. Luke climbed out of his highchair immediately and did acrobatics in my lap. Drinks were ordered and delivered to the table. Soup and salad made an appearance in answer to the repeated question: "Where's my food?" Even Luke settled down to eat soup while we all started stuffing our faces. All was well.

Then the chef came to the table with his cart of yumminess. It started out low-key enough with him wiping down the grill and clanging his knives. Luke was cautiously interested; I don't know how Ella was doing since she was at the other end of the table. That question was soon answered when Cooky Man lit the grill on fire.

In less than a second, Ella was hanging on the front of Aunt Becca like a baby monkey and shrieking like she was on fire. And shrieking and shrieking and shrieking. My tunnel of vision was focused on Ella as Dave peeled her off of Rebecca and took her away from the table, but I'm pretty sure the entire restaurant had stopped to watch. That child was terrified. Luke was also scared, but his reaction was amplified because of Ella's. I managed to peel him off of me and hand him to Papa so I could follow Dave and Ella.

We deposited her in a chair at the bar, and I stood with her while she hung onto me and calmed down. Dave and I decided that we should probably just take our food to go because she was truly freaking out and we were both exhausted (Really, truly, exhausted. Dave has been reading the Beranstain Bears with his eyes closed all week.). He went back to the table to tell the waitress to bring us some to-go boxes, but realizing it would be a while before all the food was cooked and in an effort to preserve the evening, he came back to attempt to convince her to go back to the table. There was rice on the plate and Luke was eating. She was very hungry, and she finally agreed that she would return to the table if she could sit in my lap.

We got settled down, Ella in my lap with her face buried in my neck, and Luke sitting with Grandmother and stuffing his face. She did finally turn around to eat, and guess what happened? The chef at the table next to us lit the grill on fire. Oh yes, people, it happened again. And again, and again - 4 more times I think. With each passing blaze the shrieking toned down to loud crying, then eventually whimpering and flinching by the time every table around us was fed and the grills cleaned. Finally, she was able to compose herself enough to eat. Then do you know what happened? They turned on the disco ball and loud music. Ella was pretty much okay with that once the initial surprise passed, but flashing lights on the walls is just the sort of thing (one of the few) that scares Luke so he had a minor freak out before he calmed down and realized it was a "ball!" making those lights.

Then, then, as if we had not attracted enough attention to our table, the wait staff came with cake and gong because did I mention that this was my birthday supper? Oh yes, the man brought me a gong and handed me the stick and asked me to hit it one time. Only one time? Really? I could have gone off on that thing. Had I not had a child in my lap, I think I would have knocked it through the plate glass window. Oh how much pleasure I got from hitting that gong. I think I might buy one to keep at home. For real.

Finally, we ate the cake, pottied and jacketed the kids, and got them loaded into the car for the ride home. As we were leaving the shopping center and after I explained over and over again why they have to have fire, this conversation happened.

Ella: I don't wike fire.
Me: I know you don't.
Ella: I don't wike that place.
Me: I know you don't.
Ella: Mommy, next time for your birthday, can we just go somewhere else?
Me: Yes, you don't have to worry about that.
Ella: Taco Bell, Olive Garden, Chick-fil-a, any of those places, but not this place.

And all I could think through my stifled laughter was, "Right on sista-child, Nachos Bell Grande it is."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Not to be confused with the Center for Disease Control, the CTC is code in my house for Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Here's how it went down.

Dave: Where are you keeping the CTC, woman?
Me: Bottom shelf of the lazy susan.
Dave: (incredulous) You knew what I was talking about?
Me: The Cinnamon Toast Crunch?
Dave: How did you know?
Me: Because it's the time of night that you eat it and you have a little cup in your hand while you dig through the cabinets.

It also goes by another name: Cinnamon Croast Tunch. That's what Ella calls it.

We are a family of Cinnamon Croast Tunch eaters. I've mentioned my love for it before, but it doesn't even touch the addiction that Dave and Luke have for those little squares of goodness. Ella loves it and asks for it on the cereal aisle at the grocery store; I love it and eat a bowl of it occasionally. Dave eats as much of it as we have and Luke will eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I leave the box on the counter where he can point at it and tell me "Dat!" (If Luke's diet were based on his choice alone, it would consist of Cinnamon Croast Tunch ("dat!"), shredded cheese ("cheechee!") and grape juice ("juju!") .)

I bought a new box at the Lucky's on Saturday night and put it on the bottom shelf of the lazy susan. On Sunday morning, I pulled it out and poured some in a bowl for Luke to snack on for breakfast. It was already open, and Dave said, "As long as Luke eats one bite of it, I can say that Daddy didn't eat the whole box." Done.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Happy Merry Christmas!

Soak it up world, because at the rate I'm going, this is the closest thing anyone is getting to a Christmas card this year. Despite the fact that Pop the Pop actually got a decent picture of all of us at once, no Photoshopping required. Despite the fact that I picked out the card at Snapfish and it's just waiting there for me to order it. And despite the fact that Dave has offered me the use of his debit card since mine has expired and I've yet to recieve a new one. I'm in the Christmas spirit, but I'm also paralyzed by our remodeling project and finding it hard to make myself actually do any of the Christmas things that need doing.

Regardless of the fact that we've not decorated a single thing and I have no real date in my head for when that will happen, we officially kicked off Christmas with breakfast with Santa over the weekend. You read correctly, we paid Santa a visit. Ella has been very curious about him and our church had a pancake breakfast fundraiser with Santa, so we went.

The kids were not at all excited about Santa. They gobbled pancakes, they made picture frames with Nativity scenes on them, they watched from afar as others sat with Santa, but they were not impressed. Anytime we went near him, they were hanging on us like baby monkeys. Dave really wanted a picture, but after seeing Luke's reaction and Ella standing at the other side of the room, I told him I wasn't having any part of it. At first he tried to encourage them to sit with him and take his candy, and then he realized that we don't really want them to sit on strangers' laps and take their candy, so he backed off and let them have some space.

That led to this.
Proof of Luke's love for suckers.
Upon seeing that Luke didn't spontaneously combust or disappear in midair, Ella reluctantly agreed to be photographed with the weird man as long as her whole family participated. Thus, we have this classic holiday moment preserved in time.

Merry Christmas!

There are so many things I could say about this picture but I really want you to note their faces (click the on the pictures to enlarge). One was climbing me, the other was trying to stand as close to me as possible without being near Santa, and Dave and I, well, we just knew what the result was going to be: hilarious.

So mark it down peeps, we took a Santa picture this year. We have not broached the topic of Santa coming into our house and I dearly hope she doesn't go there. I briefly considered finding a copy of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to explain him to her, but I decided to leave it be. So far she has only asked two questions: Does Santa live at the North Pole? and Does Mrs. Claus make cookies? She is still not sure what to say if someone asks her what Santa is bringing her for Christmas. For the love of all things merry and bright, people, please stop asking her that before she realizes you mean that a stranger is supposed to come into our house and leave presents! I'm kidding. Sort of. I'm already dreading the sleep disruption when we move her to her new room, and associating that move with a belief that Santa will be coming down our chimney (because those two events are going to happen too close together) is just not an exciting prospect for me.

Without further ado, Merry Christmas from the fam-i-ly!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Is that a baby vampire?

Crayon Connoisseur
Nah, it's just Luke eating crayons again. He goes through our crayon box like it's a Whitman Sampler- taking a bite and spitting it out, then carefully selecting another, taking a bite, and spitting it out. I don't know if we have any crayons left with tips on them. I've asked him if Crayola started secretly flavoring their crayons, but he just looked at me mischievously and ate another one. He seems to have a preference for orange.

I took another approach and explained to him that stores actually sell watercolor paints and we can get him some if that's the medium he prefers. He responded by picking a new color, biting off the end, swishing it in his mouth, and dripping brightly colored drool on his coloring page. I guess he likes to make his own watercolor paint.

I guess we'll keep using washable crayons and brushing colored bits out of his teeth.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Operation Bigger House: Down to the Details

We are finally at the point in this project that there is nothing left but the details, but there are a lot of them and some of them are rather large, like flooring. With Daylight Savings Time, I have even less time at home in the daylight to take new pictures, so I took a lot yesterday while we were home.

Ella's Room - less scary, still smelly.

All of the sheetrock has been hung and finished. Yes, everything is covered in white dust, but my sweet husband removed the layer that looked like snow from the kids' bedroom so that we wouldn't track it all through the rest of the house. I will miss seeing the cute, little white footprints on the hardwood after the kids follow me into the bedroom to get their clothes in the mornings. I wish I had taken a picture of those footprints. Maybe I can still stage that with the dust that is left in the new bedroom.

Ella's new room is a lot less scary now, but there is a funny smell in there (from the sheetrock mud?) so she still doesn't want to go in there. I'm hoping that moving her back in there will go smoothly, what with purple walls and Tinker Bell sheets, but I'm preparing myself for  a long transition.

Hallway to the master suite.

This is the hallway to our new bedroom. It's finally open to the old part of the house, so Ella can now see how she will come to my room when she needs me. The door in this picture is temporary since the new part isn't climate controlled yet; it will actually be in the entry you see just beyond it. In between the two doorways is the new laundry room.

I am completely excited to have the laundry room right next to the bedrooms. I've been questioned a couple of times about having it right next to the master bedroom, but really, the only better place I could think to put it would be inside my closet. My least favorite part about laundry is the putting away, and it will be so much more convenient to hang the clothes in the closet doorways instead of the kitchen! If I had thought about it before last night, I would have asked for an adjoining door to the laundry room from my closet, but it's too late now!

New laundry room.

I am very pleased with the size of the master bedroom and the amount of natural light that comes in. I was worried that it would be too dark in there, but the double windows in the nook are working out perfectly. Dave is still trying to figure out the logistics of the new TV so that he can watch it from the bed and the nook, but my only requirement is that the wires be hidden (and that he set the sleep timer; I hate waking up to the TV). We don't have a TV in the bedroom now, so this will be new and very exciting for him. I'm not terribly excited about having a TV in the bedroom, but I'm happy that he's excited about it.

Master bedroom from the hallway.

My new bathtub.

My new bathtub has been installed. It's huge and beautiful, and it is not a jacuzzi tub. That's another something I've been questioned about. Apparently I'm a weirdo (that's no secret) for not wanting a jacuzzi tub, but I just really don't. I have no interest soaking with that black gunk that grows inside the jets no matter how often you clean the tub. I tried to convince Ella to pose in the tub for a picture, but she informed me that it is dirty so she cannot get in it.

We will have a double vanity with a custom built cabinet so that we can maximize the bathroom space, and there is a built in linen closet. I know that the cabinet will be stained cherry, and we've negotiated to a compromise on the tile for the shower and floor. I still have to pick the material for the counter top, and the light fixtures and paint colors for all of the rooms.

The shower

The shower is oddly shaped, but at least as big as the one we use now, so I'm happy with it. The first layers of the shower pan and drain are in place, but that's it for now. I'm hoping to see it finished in the next week or so.

As we walked through the addition and I explained what each room was and where the shower, sinks, and potty would be, Ella responded repeatedly with, "Oh, okay." Meanwhile, Luke was looting the pile of tools and sorting through the trashcan in the middle of the bedroom. Thankfully there is no electricity in there yet, because he was turning knobs and flipping switches like he owned the place.

Luke, rifling through tools, from the nook.

New hall bathroom.
The old, pink bathroom already looks better. The new tub is in place and the sheetrock has been finished in there, too. The vanity and mirror are here waiting to be installed, but I still need to pick the lighting and paint color.

From the edge of the patio.

The outside of the house had been completely bricked. The brick color matches very well, but the new bricks are a little smaller than the old ones. We found out early in the project that our house was bricked with street pavers, so the bricks are bigger than normal house bricks and, of course, now they are hard to find.

Back of the addition, from behind where the tree was.

 The things we have left are flooring, lighting, finished plumbing, paint, and the deck. Our contractor says he thinks we can be finished in two weeks but I'm trying not to get my hopes up. I'm itching to get started cleaning up the mess and putting this house back together. I want to be able to focus on Christmas, and I can't wait to see the kids' excitement about their new rooms. I have surprises for them and I can't wait to give them.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm raising the Dial soap kid.

It happened last night. My worm/bug/snake worry that I mentioned in a post last week came to fruition. I'm sure I spoke (er, wrote) it into being.

As I sat at the table, finishing the last few bites of my supper, Luke toddled up to me with a clenched fist and a lot of jabber. He held his little fist out to me and opened it to reveal a big, dead roach. Blech.

He was so proud of his find.

I was thankful for my napkin, which I used to grab the roach and toss it into the garbage. Then I was thankful for the antibacterial wipes I keep on the kitchen counter, which I used to scrub is little hands.

After that, I was rinsing plates to load the dishwasher and I had given the dog a plate to lick rinse (Yes, I do this when I'm feeling especially lazy. It's one of the benefits of having a dog with children. I expect her to earn her keep.). Luke was very interested, so he squatted down beside her to get a better view. As I was telling Dave, "Next thing you know, he'll be licking the plate like the dog," he bent down and tried to lick the plate, too.

A poor frog met it's untimely end in our driveway last night - by cat or car, I don't know, but it was squished. Of course, I had forgotten about it this morning until I noticed something slimy on the bottom of the shoe that Luke was chewing after I buckled him into his seat. Apparently he stepped in the frog guts on the way to the car. I snatched the shoe out of his hand and tossed it out of his reach while I finished buckling Ella. Then I grabbed the wipes I keep in the car and scrubbed his hand, his face, and his shoe. I probably would have done his tongue if he'd stuck it out.


As I replayed these events in my head this morning, I realized, I'm raising the kid from that old Dial soap commercial.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Being Little is Big Work

Luke fell asleep in his high chair while eating lunch today. He does this frequently. I think it's a testament to his very busy life that he falls asleep as soon as he sits still long enough. These days he even prefers to eat on the move. Notice that he is tied into the chair in this picture? That's become necessary because he can climb out, no matter how tightly you squish him in there.

Side note: Grown women pay good money for lips and eyelashes like his.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

There's Something Happening Here

... and what it is ain't exactly clear.

Last night at the supper table, Ella asked us, "Why did Jesus die on the cross for us?"

Picture me with my mouth hanging open while my brain zoomed around at a thousand miles per hour while I tried to formulate an age-appropriate response. I think I sat there in silence for about 4 minutes before Dave jumped in and answered her.

He told her, "Jesus is God's son. God sent him here to die on the cross so that, if we love Jesus, we can go to Heaven and be with God."

All I could think was: How do I explain sin and death to a three year old? She doesn't have any personal experience with death yet and she does not grasp the permanance of it. I was completely unprepared to have this conversation with her at this age. I expected it to happen when she is older with a little more experience under her belt.

On the way to school this morning, she asked Grandmother, "Where did the baby Jesus go after he left the manger?"

Even that one gave me pause.  I was glad I brought my Bible into work with me today so I could look it up and be certain when I answered her. Mary and Joseph took him to the temple in Jerusalem, then the fled to Egypt to hide, and then they returned to Galilee.

Prior to our supper conversation last night, I had already had a few conversations this week about faith and the Bible. One was a deep discussion about God's plan and our free will and how the two work together. And during another one, I admitted that I do not prioritize the Bible at the top of my reading list and I don't have any good reason for that.

Then Ella started asking these questions, forcing me to spend more time reading it.

I believe God gave me Ella to make me a better person, and now she, one of the most important things in my life that takes up so much time and gives me a legitimate excuse not to do a lot of stuff (like spend time reading the Bible), is pushing me closer to God with her questions. I cannot say that I don't have time to spend with God, because one of the things she needs is for me to do just that.

There's something happening here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

He's Everywhere! He's Everywhere!

I've said before that I have music in my head and secret theme songs for all kinds of things. At this phase in his life, 2 days away from being 15 months old, Luke's theme song is one line from Ray Steven's Santa Claus is Watching You: "He's everywhere. He's everywhere."

That child is everywhere. I never stop picking up the trail he leaves in his wake and removing him from elevated surfaces. He gets up when I get out of the bed around 5:30 am and spends a quiet 24 minutes with Dave while they watch Mickey Mouse, but when Dave leaves, he's up and running. His latest favorite thing to do in the mornings is brush his teeth while I put on my make up. He climbs up on the toilet and grabs for whichever toothbrush he can reach. I take it away and give him his toothbrush, and he proceeds to brush and spit, brush and spit until I'm finished. He also likes to wash his hands and try to steal things out of my make up bag.

When that's done, he follows me around the house unless he finds something better to do, like this.
Throwing wipes down the stairs.

The fruit of his labor.
He recently started throwing things down the stairs for the fun of watching them go.  I let him pull wipes out of the box while I change his diaper so he will be still for 90 seconds, and he loves this activity. Today he combined the two for double the fun, then brought me the empty box. Sometimes he empties the plastic cup cabinet, sometimes he dumps the dog food if I forget to pick up the bowl, sometimes he rakes the magnets off the fridge, sometimes he pulls out all of the books and puzzles. You get the idea.

When he gets bored of whatever mess he's making, he comes to find me and that's usually when I'm making my bed. It is his job every morning to hand me the pillows. He gives them to me one-by-one, saying, "thank you" each time. Then we go wake up The Beast if she isn't already up. He likes to jump in the middle of her and cuddle in her bed for a few minutes before they get dressed.

Last week, after removing him from the toilet 15 times in a row, I took him into the living room and plunked him into the chair to watch Mickey. Ella was already up and watching, and she shocked the morning fuzziness out of me when she climbed into the chair and settled in beside him. I took a picture for proof. It was one of those moments that make the chaos so worth it.

Watching Mickey together.

Luke is a mess. I've had a stupid worry about how I would control my reaction when my children one day bring me a worm or a snake (because those are two things I just cannot handle). How would I control myself so they didn't know it bothered me and thus use it against me? Well, Luke doesn't pick up worms or snakes yet, but he has figured out how to get what must be a positively hilarious reaction from me.

On the drive home from gymnastics last night, instead of the cry fest we usually have because he's tired and hungry, that child figured out that I would freak out if he stuck his fingers down his throat and gagged. He did it over and over again, and every time I screamed out about it, he laughed hysterically. And Ella laughed hysterically. I tried to laugh with them and chill out, but I'm too well conditioned to respond to the gag noise so I found that difficult. Praise the Lord, he doesn't throw up as easily as she does. When she started to do it, too, I had to shut her down. There absolutely would have been vomit if she had continued that fun activity. So, he already knows one good way to completely unnerve me. Great.

He is using more words, and now he combines them with his pointer finger to make his point. Last night he had a plate full of vegetables and a pile of shredded cheese. Twice he ate all the cheese and told me "do-do!" (which is his word for "food" or "more food") and pointed to the empty cheese hole on his plate saying, "dat!" He sings the blessing after Ella finishes saying it, folding his hands and everything. He even pops off to sing the blessing when he nurses at bedtime sometimes. He gives good kisses and hugs.

His cuteness is his saving grace right now.

ETA: At 15 months, he is 31.5 inches long and weighs 21 lbs. 8 oz. Still long and lean.
The EGR Update
Her use of the language continues to amuse and astound me. We had an unpleasant incident over the weekend when she woke up prematurely from nap and wailed at me for have the nerve to watch something besides Mickey Mouse while she slept. That led to more unpleasantness when she screamed from the bathroom that she needed help after I had just gotten Luke to sleep in my lap. I was not happy and made that very clear. She came back to the couch and cuddled up next to me and said, "Mommy, I'm just a little person and sometimes I get scared. Please don't use your mad voice." She's just a little person. I had to laugh. I too often forget that she's just a little person, but I did ask her to please not use her screaming voice and I wouldn't get so frustrated that I have to use my mad voice. We didn't have any other issues after that, and guess what? She actually liked the show I was watching because those dresses on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding are something to see.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Operation Bigger House: Inside the Original House

I took some pictures of the inside of our house as it is right now so that this project will be fully documented. Unfortunately, I don't have a good Before picture of the old pink bathroom, but here are a couple of good looks at it's pinkness.

Ella's first interaction with tampons. Oh, and the pink floor.

This hilarious picture shows the original pink tile floor. I didn't necessarily hate this tile, but it had a lot of wear and tear. What you cannot see behind Ella (circa 14ish months) is that the majority of the tiles in the threshhold are cracked or broken. We ended up pulling them up entirely once she was crawling because she kept picking them out of the floor and carrying them around the house. When we put the house on the market earlier this year (because Plan A was to sell it and buy a bigger one), Dave caulked them back down so that it looked all nice and put together, just in time for Luke to start crawling and picking them out of the floor.

The picture also shows the old bathroom doors. Those were upgraded, as part of my perfect Christmas present in 2009 - when all I asked for were doors that opened and shut without the full weight of my body behind the effort.

Ella, circa 9 months, in the very pink bathtub.

This picture is also of Ella (Why don't I have any bathtub pictures of Luke? Oh, that's right, because mangaging two kids in a tub is lot more work than one.),  in the pink bathtub. Note the pink tile around the tub as well; it covered the walls up to chest height. The sink was pink to match the tub, the counter was the same tile as the floor. The cabinet was painted white - but the chipped places revealed the secret that it used to be pink, too. Above the tile on the walls was a beige and pink flowered wallpaper with a border.

All of that is gone now. The only thing left in that room is the disgusting light fixture (which will be replaced) and the closet with it's new door. It looks like this now.

Bathroom- unpinked.

This picture is from the doorway, looking into the corner where the tub used to be. Dave's new closet is right behind the wall you see in this picture.

We have picked out the tub, vanity, toilet, and floor tile for this makeover but I still haven't settled on a paint color. There will not be any tile on the wall this go round.
Bathroom from where the tub used to be.
This is the bathroom from where the tub used to be. See the nice new door? I love my new doors. (I know that they aren't really new anymore since Dave gave them to me 2 years ago, but they still feel new to me. They still make me squeal inside sometimes when I admire them.)

Ella is content to shower all by herself now, and I am content to let her. She uses our shower in the current "master bath", and she even bathes, with soap and a rag and everything. A couple of times a week, I reach in there and scrub her head for her, and that's all I have to do to keep her clean. She loves showering so much , she will sit in there and play for 45 minutes. While she had the stomach virus, she asked to shower every time her fever spiked - 4 times in one day.

Luke in the temporary tub.

Given that bit of goodness, I really only have to worry about scrubbing Luke these days. I know he misses the bathtub, especially since he had just gotten to have it to himself. He was really enjoying swimming on his stomach and blowing bubbles with his face in the water, but he is an adaptable child so he's making do with this situation for now. As long as I keep him out of the knives, he's good to go with drowning the entire kitchen and watching Mickey Mouse through the space over the stove.


 The kids' bedroom.

This is a picture of the bedroom the kids have shared since I moved Luke out of the Arms-Reach co-sleeper beside my bed. See that terribly scary piece of plywood on the wall? That used to be a window. There was another one beside it as well. Those windows are now in "the nook" in the new master bedroom. The new laundry room is directly on the other side of that wall now. I took this picture from what will be the new doorway to this room. It will be Ella's because she cannot fathom the thought of changing rooms at this stage in her life. She has plans for it to be purple, and she has already picked out her bedding, rug, and lamp.

Frame for the new hallway.

This is the frame for the new hallway, and the plywood that covers what used to be the other window and what will soon be the opening to the new part of the house.

Ella finds the room completely terrifying in it's present state - so terrifying that she cannot go in there alone. Luke, on the other hand, enjoys playing loudly in there to hear his echo in the absence of furniture. Over the weekend he mastered balancing on the 2x4 on the floor.

The Big Room dressed as their temporary bedroom.

This is where they are sleeping for the present - our Big Room. If you look past the bedroom in the middle of it, you might be able to see that it is usually a combination sitting room/dining room. Ella dubbed it The Big Room some time ago because it has a lot of wide open space for playing, especially since we pushed all of the furniture against the walls for just that purpose.

One of the things I'm looking forward to the most is having this room put back together again - sans toys.
From the opposite side of The Big Room.
And this is a view of the play portion of the room. Most of the toys that are in there today will go into Luke's new room (our current bedroom). He loves the little kitchen and Ella rarely plays with it anymore, so I'm putting it in his room.
I'm okay with the current situation for a little while longer, but I'm really hoping to have The Big Room cleaned up in time for Christmas. This is where we put our tree, and I'm trying to rest peacefully in the belief that that will happen this year, too.
As for the addition, the duct work for the heating and air went in last week and that's about all that happened. There was an inspection today, so the hanging of the drywall should commence shortly. I look forward to a lot more progress this week.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Operation Bigger House: It's Starting to Look Like a House

I'm way overdue for this update since it's been three weeks since the last one. That means we are six weeks into our project, and it's really starting to look like a house.

These are my most recent pictures (and I need to take some newer ones).

From the approximate location of the tree.

You can see that the addition is becoming a part of the house now. Last week they finished the roof and put in the windows and doors, so it actually looks even more like a house than this pictures shows.

The single square window you see will be over the bathtub. There will be a bathtub, that holds water, deep enough for me, and there will be a second hot water heater to fill that sucker up to the rim.

I cannot wait to sit in a bathtub again. The tub in the pink bathroom was dead to me. There wasn't enough hot water to fill it up, and what I did put in there slowly leaked down the drain before I was finished soaking. It worked well enough for the kids, but I gave up on having a bath in there a long time ago.

The double windows are in what we affectionately refer to as "the nook." It will be a sitting area of some sort, though we haven't decided yet which furniture will go in that space. These windows were previously in the back wall of the kids' bedroom.

From the edge of the patio

The doorway you see in this picture (with the gangplank) is a french door that will open onto a deck. The deck will connect to the existing patio, or something. We have a team of designers working on that situation. We do not currently utilize our backyard space to it's full potential, so we are trying to make it more livable. The main issue is that we don't have direct access from the house to the backyard, but that will change with our new french doors.

Looking into the basement

The small window you see in this picture has actually been moved closer to the old part of the house. Due to an oversight on our part, it was originally cut into the wall of what will be my walk-in closet. We discussed and discussed, with each other and our consultant, Pop the Pop, and decided to just go ahead and ask them to move it. It is now located in the new laundry room - which is where I really wanted it to be all along.  This window was previously in the pink bathroom.

The basement wall is finished and there is a double-door in place. That means that there is also now a hole in the existing basement wall to connect the old part to the new part!

View of the bedroom from the hallway

This is the view of our bedroom from the new hallway. To the right of "the nook," you can see part of the master bathroom, including the shower.

The hole to connect the new hallway to the old part of the house isn't finished yet. They did cut it and frame the new hall way through the kids' bedroom last week, but it's covered with plywood for now. The kids' bedroom will be Ella's new bedroom when this is all finished, and it sacrificed two windows and about 4 feet of space to the addition. Still, it's a very decent sized bedroom.

View of the bedroom from the "nook"

This is the view from "the nook." You can see the old wall of the house, and those pieces of plywood are where the windows were previously. From this perspective, Dave's closet is on the right, then the hallway, the laundry room, and my closet is on the left. I can see the opening for the door to my closet, but you might not be able to since you are not intimate with this project (as I am).

Watching the framing of this addition has been really cool. I could see it in my head before, just from studying the floor plan, but seeing the walls go up was like watching that floor plan go from one-dimensional to three-dimensional in Auto-CAD. So neat.

View of the yard from the future site of my bed.

And this is the view from our bed - or rather, where our bed will be, eventually.

You can see Jewel E. Cat walking the gangplank in this picture. She is so much trouble. This entire project she has supervised the men all day long and she has conducted a full inspection every evening when they leave. Before the roof was framed, she followed us from room to room, walking on top of the walls while we did our inspection.

Last week, that fun all came to and end when they finished the roof. I assume she picked out a good location, from a high vantage point, like she has done every day - in the rafters. And I assume that the noise from the nail guns above her was just too much because she lost her composure and could not get up the nerve to jump down again. I ended up climbing a ladder, coaxing her close enough so that I could grab her by the scruff of the neck, and dropping her between the 2x4s. Dave was holding the ladder for me, and all I had to say was, "Move!" He knew what was about to happen. I couldn't carry her down with me because she was a veritable buzz saw, all legs and claws, so I just lowered her as far as I could and released. She landed on all four, like a good cat should do, and high-tailed it out of there. I was happy to see her serenely lounging on the porch all the next day.

Since these pictures were taken, there has been plumbing, electrical, and heating and air work done inside the addition. Our old pink bathroom was gutted down to the studs (the day the whole family go the evil stomach virus), and the hall was framed out in the kids' old bedroom. I'll get more pictures this week of all that good stuff. The kids have embraced their temporary home in The Big Room, and I just try not to look in there when I pass by. It's a disaster, but we are so lucky to have a room big enough to hold a full sized mattress, a crib mattress, two chairs with matching ottomans, two end tables, a dining room table, a china cabinet, a sideboard, an old cabinet sewing machine, a play kitchen, a dollhouse, a McDonald's drive-thru, and two Little Tykes coupes, so I'm not complaining too much.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Octopus and the Pumpkin

Happy Halloween, ya'll! I'm happy to report that this year went much better than last, up to and including this moment.
She fell asleep with the Anti-Mommy

This year, they were benign creatures, just as I promised myself. Ella chose her own costume - a pumpkin, and just to be safe, I made it myself with a happy face. She generally had her happy face on all evening. (Much credit to the fact that Daddy didn't paint his face this year, I'm sure.)

Luke went as an octopus, and while that could be perceived as begging for trouble, it felt safe enough since he already is an octopus.

Pumpkin Girl and Octopus Boy (and Jewel E. Cat)
We trick-or-treated the town, played at the Fall Festival at church, then passed out candy at Grandma and Pop the Pop's house. I really think Ella might like passing out candy even more than trick-or-treating for it. They both ate more candy than should be allowed in one evening.

There was vomit, but it was contained and we didn't let it ruin the evening. (It seems that the wicked stomach virus of last week wreaked all kinds of havoc on my reflux babies and they are still not back to normal. Ella is puking like she did before we re-medicated her for reflux. She'll be getting Zantac on top of her normal Prevacid for the next two weeks to get her back on track. Hopefully. It tastes so nasty, it's the reason she puked this evening.)

I just love this picture. It makes me think Ella was right, we should have given him some "black water" to squirt like ink while he was running away from us. She really, really wanted to add that element to his costume. I'm sure he would have complied.
The perfect octopus picture.