Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mommy, Where's Jesus?

The other day, I heard about a website that you can play the original Super Mario Brothers on. I loved that game as a kid, but we didn't have a Nintendo. I would play at friends' houses or sometimes we'd rent one from the video store. I loved it. So when I found out I could play on-line, I thought I'd try it out. Of course, the kids wanted to play, too.

Lilly was playing it this afternoon and she hit one of the blocks that a vine pops out of. You climb up the vine and into the clouds, kinda like Jack in the Beanstalk. When Lilly was playing and got into the clouds, she goes, "Mommy, where's Mario's Jesus? He's supposed to be up in heaven!"

Let me tell you, it made this momma proud to hear her ask that question!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'm Hungry...

The other day, I sat down to write a blog post, and my stomach started growling. "Hmm, why am I hungry? I ate breakfast," I thought to myself. So I started thinking about my morning, trying to figure it all out. Then I realized why I was hungry.

First off, I folded laundry while waiting for the girls to get on the bus. They were watching out the window, while I sorted the clothes and paired the socks. The bus came into view, so I gave out hugs and kisses, wished them a good day, and watched while they walked down the driveway. Then Mikayla and I got ready to eat breakfast. I got us each a bowl and our respective cereal choices, and set them on the table. I went to the drawer and found only one clean spoon. I gave it to Mikayla, poured her milk, and went to get one for myself from the dishwasher.

The dishwasher was clean and next to it, a sink full of dishes that showed our crazy last few days of eat and run. So I unloaded the dishwasher and started to reload. When the sink was empty, I started the washer again and wiped the counter.

Then the phone rang. I went into the living room to answer the phone, and while I talked, I finished folding the laundry from earlier. Then I ran them upstairs and put them in everyone's rooms, to wait for their owners to come home and put them away. While I was at it, I gathered a new load to wash. I checked on Mikayla, who was now done with breakfast and playing ponies, then headed to the basement to start the load. I fished the wet towels out of the washer, started the new load, then asked Mikayla if she wanted to go outside and help me hang the towels on the line.

Outside we went. We hung the towels on the line, the whole time being watched and "talked to" by the animals. I hung up the last towel, then we headed to the barn to water the horses and calves. We visited with them, pet the cats, threw the ball for the dogs and finally the water was full. We headed inside the house.

I fed the dogs, and in doing so tripped over a pair of shoes. So I straightened up the shoes, hung up some jackets in the closet, and gathered the mail that had been brought in yesterday but left on the entryway bench. I brought the mail to the kitchen, where I sorted what was worth it's while and what wasn't. I made a pile for keep and a pile to throw out. I went to throw away the envelopes and papers, and found the garbage bag to be full. I tied the bag, replaced it with a new one, and put the full bag in the garage.

When I came in, Mikayla was asking me to help her turn on the music so she could sing and dance to "Tayer Swiff." I followed her to the family room, where we danced and sang for awhile, before the phone rang again. It was Andy, asking me to find him a note he'd written some information on. I found the note on the coffee table in the living room, next to some other random sheets of paper. I grabbed the note and stuck it to the fridge. I turned and saw the table, with a lonely bowl sitting on it. I put the bowl away after making sure it was clean, not yet realizing why it was there.

Then I wiped the table and did a quick sweep to clean up the cereal Mikayla had dropped. I went down to the family room and watched while Mikayla danced and the computer booted up. I checked my e-mail, went to Facebook and finally came here to post about something completely different than this. Then my stomach growled REALLY loudly.

I hadn't eaten breakfast. I hadn't had anything to eat since the previous night's dinner. I was starving, but really, it was almost lunch time so I wasn't about to eat yet.

Andy wonders why there are days where I get tons done, but not much of anything, if that makes sense. This particular day I didn't have any extra daycare kids, either. Some of those days are like total pin-ball machine marathons. Please tell me I'm not the only one that has days like this?!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Orange Beast

A long time ago, back before Andy and I were married or had kids, he traded his dad a horse for a truck. His sister really wanted the horse, Andy had out-grown her, my father-in-law had a truck Andy wanted, and it wasn't needed by my FIL. It was win-win.

Except the truck wasn't quite ready for the road. It was a '78 Ford that had seen better days. We spent countless hours together, sanding paint off the body until we had it down to the steel. Then we brought it to a neighbor, who did some minor body work and prepped it for paint. Andy and I, in the meantime, poured over paint samples and colors, finally deciding on a color called "General Lee Orange." Yes, like from Dukes of Hazzards. The neighbor and Andy primed the truck, then painted several layers in order to have the orange be bright and shiny.

After the paint job, it was time for all the other stuff. Andy went through the motor and all the other mechanical stuff, while I cleaned and detailed inside the cab. I scrubbed and cleaned and vaccuumed. We bought a seat cover and floor mats. Andy made a custom tailgate and running boards. He installed a cd player, speakers and amp. We looked at tons of tires before he bought the ones he has on there. He brought it to a garage and had dual-exhaust installed. This truck was our project and it took a long time to get it right.

Once it was all done, we drove it everywhere. We drove it for our wedding, our friends' weddings, date nights, whenever. It wasn't our primary vehicle, but it was one we loved to drive. We didn't drive it in the winter because of the road salt, but it was ready and waiting in case the roads were snowy and icy when I went into labor with Alayna (January in WI is never predictable) I always laughed when I would drive it by myself, because guys would do double-takes when they realized it was a woman driving that big, loud, flashy truck. Eventually, Alayna told us that when she got her license this would be her truck.

Then something happened. We had another baby and no longer fit in the truck as a family. We also bought a house. The truck was driven less and less, and before we knew it we hadn't driven it in almost five years. Until this past weekend.

Our friends were getting married and the girls were all going to be staying with other people, so just Andy and I were going to the wedding. We decided just last week that we'd take the truck. So while I registered and insured it for the first time in years, Andy went through and made sure all the fluids were good, the tires inflated, the lights working. He brought it home from storage at his parents' and we scrubbed all the dirt and mud and bird crap off. He replaced a U-joint and I again cleaned and detailed the cab. The girls loved it, especially Lilly and Mikayla, who'd never really seen or known "Daddy's Monster truck." Alayna immediately reminded us that it was her truck for when she got her license. We couldn't believe she remembered that comment from when she was 3!

It was finally in good condition again and we drove it to the wedding. We both agreed it felt great to be driving the truck again, cruising down the road. It still needs a little work, as some of the wires were apparently a snack from some wayward mice, but it works, looks great and we were driving it again. I think we'll drive it more often now, when we don't have the kids and it's just Andy and I.

*In this pic, Andy's driven it up on a stump. But the truck is very tall, as you can see from Alayna's height (and she's on the down-side). To put it into perspective, my MIL is 5'2" and she rode with us for part of the day on Saturday. She had to use a 5-gallon pail, turned upside down, as a stool to get to the running board. It was quite comical!

**I posted earlier today, too, so check it out!

Singing in the Spring

Alayna's spring program was this past week. The kids all sang various songs that represented spring or other countries. It was a very cute program, from the little Kindergartners up to the 4th graders who were almost too cool for what they had to do. Alayna was part of an international choir, that sang a song called "Go For the Gold" during the school's closing ceremonies for the Olympics. She also had a narration part before the first grade sang, then sang 2 songs with her third grade class. She did a great job with her singing, but especially her reading. She read loud and clear, which some of the other students did not. She has such poise. She's in the picture below, pretty much center.

In other concert news, Mikayla almost stole the show from all the kids performing. It started before we were even in the school. We were walking up to the door, with two little old ladies in front of us. Mikayla heard a little scream and immediately asked what that noise was. I told her I didn't know and she goes, "I fink it was a child, or a kid!" The ladies started laughing and had to turn around to see who made such an observation! Then during the program, one of the Special Education students was making some throat noises. Mikayla heard the noise and again, asked what it was. When I said it was just someone making a noise, she piped up with, "I fink there's a sheep in here!" (and she's right, it sounded like a sheep baa'ing) Then the student made the noise again and Mikayla commented, "Or maybe it's a coyote...or fox!" All the people around us were laughing, as Mikayla is ever so quiet. A few minutes went by without incident, then a baby started crying. Almost as loud as her "only talking, not yet yelling" voice can go, she proclaimed, "Someone's crabby!" Ah, always fun with that little girl.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Horse Expo

Every year, we go to the MN Horse Expo at the MN State Fairgrounds. It's something the entire family looks forward to. The barns are filled with horses for breed demonstrations, competitions and advertising for stables. There are booths everywhere to sell and advertise anything horse-related, from grooming supplies to riding apparel to barns and trailers. It's horse heaven.

Tomorrow is the big day. We usually go on Saturday, but we have a wedding this year, so we decided to pull Alayna from school. She has no problems in any of her classes, so we feel confident that it will be fine to take her out for a day of family fun. We all love to wander the grounds and see everything. We also have quite a list of items to look at and purchase this year. Should be fun!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ball Battle

The pictures that I have to help illustrate this story are a little hard to see. But I'll tell you, it's a very funny story. I'm sure it's much funnier to have witnessed it, like we did, but in pictures it works okay, too.

Chief, our 3 year old gelding, is a very curious horse. He's always the first to check out if something is making funny noise, but he'll act very nonchalant about it. Almost like a teenager. Anyway, we were throwing the tennis ball for the dogs the other day and Andy threw it to land near the horses. Chief immediately checked it out. Marley wouldn't even think about it, because she's tall enough to get zapped by the electric strands. Sunny, on the other hand, is not only short enough to fit under the fence but she's the real ball fiend. She was going crazy trying to get to the ball, but Chief wouldn't let her. Chief would stand over the ball, acting like he didn't care, but as soon as Sunny would try to sneak in, Chief would do a little charge in Sunny's direction. This went on for over an hour. Sunny would finally make it in to get the ball, then Andy would throw it back in the general direction and the stand-off would begin again. And for the record, as long as the ball is not involved, they get along just fine! Cheap afternoon humor in our house, I'm telling you!

It's hard to see, but the ball is very dirty and to the left of Chief

Checking out Sunny after she got the ball one time

Sunny sneaking away, with Chief on her tail

We are such dorks. But our animals give our entire family such pleasure, from the big horses down to the little cats. We could, and do, play with them all for hours.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"BRACE" Yourselves!

I was really trying to find a more recent picture of Alayna's smile that shows her teeth. She has a fantastic snaggle-smile right now. Some of those gaps have been filled with huge, crooked teeth. Teeth in front of teeth, some sideways, some only partially in because there simply isn't room for them to grow any further. I had almost the exact same smile and tooth configuration as Alayna does now--it's all because of me. And it's all about to change.

Yesterday we had her first orthodontist consult. While examining her mouth, the doctor used phrases like "severe crowding" and "5mm off center" to describe the shape of her mouth. No surprises there. They recommended pulling a baby tooth to allow the other teeth to shift, and putting in spaces and a "space saver" on the bottom. On the top she'll get an expander, to slowly expand her jaw and hopefully help the teeth to shift into place somewhat on their own once there's some room. She'll also need top braces on the front four teeth to help them pull into line. All this is what they are calling "Phase 1" and hopefully we won't need a Phase 2, or at least not a real in depth Phase 2. That's what the doc said. Let's hope it's true.

Having lived through this myself, I know what my poor baby girl is going through. I know that she'll have days that it hurts to eat anything. I know that she'll want gum or taffy or caramel so bad some days that it just doesn't seem fair. But in the long run, it's so worth it. She'll thank us for giving her a nice smile that will only help her self confidence. But until then, when all it does is hurt...Wish us luck.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That Darn Kitchen

Ever since we moved into this house 5 1/2 years ago, we've been slowly changing, updating and making things our own. The kitchen was the biggest eye sore...and the one that's taken the longest--and most money--to remedy. And it's still not done. But, we're getting there.

First off, it was wall-papered in that 1979 vinyl stuff specifically for kitchens. It's great because it's waterproof. It's horrible's waterproof. So I have to painstakingly peel tiny bits of vinyl off before I even get to the paper part that water and other solutions will soften in order to be removed. The entire kitchen was covered in it, from the half-wall above the table, to the walls on each side, the soffets above the cupboards and the back splash area. It's still covered in much more than I care to admit or look at. But it takes time, time I rarely have.

So we've done quicker fix things. Like replacing light fixtures, painting where the paper has been peeled, replacing every appliance (not all at once, thankfully) putting down wood floors over the scarred linoleum, removing the doors on our peninsula cupboards to allow light into the main kitchen area, window mis-treatments, etc. It's still a work in progress, but we've come a long way, no?


After that

And after that (though we've since replaced that light fixture)

You can see the semi-peeled paper in the back splash area. That will hopefully be fully peeled soon, or covered up with a back splash. We also need a new range-hood. And eventually, I want new counter tops. We bought a new pendant light to put above the sink, but the current light that's hidden behind the trim piece is a square cut into the drywall, while the pendant hangs from a circular base. So Andy has some work to do before it gets put up. But nothing big, and the changes are quite dramatic if you look at the initial before photo.

Then there's the eating area. It's a nice area, but it has a railing down to the family room and a half wall on the upper half. The wall is quite a large expanse and when we first moved in, it needed something but I didn't have much. So I stuck these postage stamps there to fill a little bit of space (after, of course, we peeled and painted).

Okay, so they aren't really postage stamps, but it looks like it, right? Shortly after this picture was taken I found a beautiful print that had my basic kitchen color scheme and hung that in the middle with the small rooster prints on the sides. It stayed like that for a long time, though I was never really happy with it. Then I started reading The Nester and The Lettered Cottage, which are both fantastic home blogs. The Nester encourages everyone that their house doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. And that sometimes, you have to do something and live with it for awhile to be sure if you really do, or don't, like it. Layla at The Lettered Cottage is documenting her entire house remodel and decorating, flaws and all, while throwing in fantastic decorating tips and tricks for the average person. Both women concentrate on using things that you already have, re-purposing, being thrifty for those things you don't have and thinking a little outside the box. In other words, they bring decorating down to something the average mom and wife can do.

Layla showed a picture on her blog once that really caught my eye. She had done a virtual design for someone and put EAT on their wall in big, black cut-out letters. I couldn't get it out of my mind and thought it would be great for our wall above the table. But in our house, and our family, things are a little better if left rustic. So one day, I went out to the garage and dug up some of Andy's scrap pieces of wood. I hauled out the circular saw and eyeballed my measurements, cutting the pieces to approximate lengths. The lengths are close, but not exact, the wood isn't sanded, some pieces have knots, some have nicks. I didn't care. I glued and screwed them together and put them on the wall the next day. They aren't perfect, and at first I didn't like it much. But I listened to The Nester's advice and left it up there to see if it would grow on me. And it did. Now I like it. A lot. And I get a lot of compliments on it, too.

I haven't decided yet if I need something more on the sides or not. But this is perfect for our family--simple, strong, a little rustic, a little odd. It works for us.

BTW: I've been doing some blog-keeping today, so be sure to check below for horsey and Easter posts of the girls!

Does the H in 4H stand for Horse?

Alayna has anxiously been awaiting this year in 4H--the first year she can be involved in the horse project. She's been working with her horse, Chloe, at home 2-4 times a week and she's been doing so well. The first few times, she wasn't comfortable with me letting go of the lead-rope. Now, I don't even lead her at all. She and Chloe are both getting more comfortable with one another--Alayna's learning to properly tell Chloe what she wants, without confusing her or hurting her (even though that's all inadvertent) and Chloe's learning that she can't get away with things when Alayna's on her back. They are learning a mutual respect of one another, which is exactly what you want between a horse and rider.
This past Friday was the first beginner's clinic of the year. A stable that helps the 4H project devoted Friday to first- and second-year horse members, so they could have a dedicated time to get comfortable with their horses, the grounds, and riding without the presence of the more experienced riders. Alayna did a fantastic job. She was one of only two students who didn't need extra help during the night, and she also kept Chloe in control when another horse got spooked right in front of her. Alayna also did a great job of reminding Chloe who was boss when Chloe saw where the gate was at the end of the session--she decided she was done but Alayna kept her going past the gate 3 times before they left.
Andy and I couldn't be more proud of how well she did not only on Friday night, but how well she's done with all her work with Chloe. Together they are shaping up to be quite a team.
Alayna and Chloe go trotting by

Easter in Review

Our Easter started on Saturday morning with a craft. A few weeks ago, I found a Foamies Easter Egg Wreath kit. It included two wreath forms, dozens of foam eggs in all different colors, and various shapes and fun things to decorate the eggs with. The girls loved. We made a beautiful wreath for on the door, and the girls also decorated individual eggs for their teachers, friends and family. It was a hit!

Sunday morning we were up bright and early for the egg and basket hunt before church. Alayna and Lilly each got new bike helmets and Mikayla got a pink soccer ball. Of course, modeling had to commence immediately after finding their baskets!

Church followed a hasty breakfast, then we came home to host the holiday meal for my side of the family. There were 17 of us here for ham, cheesy hash browns, buns and various salads. Then the guys hid 74 plastic eggs filled with candy around the yard for the little ones. Lots of fun to search for the eggs!