Saturday, August 31, 2013

Basement: finished!

When we first started house hunting in Wisconsin last year, we were thrilled to learn that every house had a basement, something VERY uncommon in Texas. As we searched for a home, we always figured we could finish the basement in whichever house we bought to give us a little more room, and especially a place for the TV - we don't love having the TV in the main part of the house. So when we bought our house last September, we were happy that it had a nice, big, long space in the basement. All winter long we planned on finishing it, and back in May/June we finally did! Sadly, I can't find any 'before' pictures. It was pretty much just a big rectangular room with cement walls. Gratefully, the location of the furnace, water heater, and such made it pretty easy to plan the floor plan and closets. Here is the finished product:

This is the stairwell going to the basement - our house is a tri-level. Well, I guess that technically now it's a quad-level home. At first I didn't like all the stairs, but now I like only having to go up 1/2 a flight of stairs (unless of course I am in the basement and going to the top floor). We haven't done anything to the stairs yet. We like the wooden feel, but they are covered with paint splatters. We'll see what we do with them.
This is what you see at the base of the stairs looking left...a cozy sectional, with our treadmill and bike at the other end. If you look closely, on the left of this picture is a door to our food storage closet...
I LOVE this closet. Tons of room for food. Paul even installed a pull up bar to the rafters...that's what the green and purple pull-up bands on the left are hanging from. Our water heater is also in the closet. 
 Going back to the first full picture of the basement, there are double doors at the end with this inside:
The sump pump is also in this closet. Someday, we may move toys to the basement, in which case this would become the toy closet and the weights would move to the food closet.

Here's what it looks like standing by the bike and treadmill...
Inside the closet by the TV and the bottom of the stairs, you'll find this:
Usually the pink bean bag and garbage bags are in here, but they contain toys that are in "quarantine" from our lice infestation :) In here we have camping stuff, decorations, baby stuff, Paul's old physics books, cooking supplies I can't fit in the kitchen, anything else we don't have room for upstairs, and the furnace.

I love having the TV makes a great family room, and it makes exercising much more fun. I also love having real closets so that things are accessible! In Texas I had to store everything in the attic, where it was hot and DUSTY. And food storage was next to impossible since it was too hot to keep it in the garage. Now there is a spot for everything! The organizer in me is very happy. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Annual trip to Oregon: Anna's birthday

While my kids are young, I love having their birthdays at Grandma's house. That way they get a party with nearly 30 guests, but I don't have to plan too much or send out invitations. Just a house full of cousins. Anna felt like the star all day. I can't believe it was four years ago that she came 6 weeks early while visiting Grandma's house. She was so tiny then, and is such a big girl now.
All she really wanted for her party was a pinata. And boy, she got a pinata! This thing was huge, and pretty cheap. She loved it.
She helped decorate the cake...I think you can guess which Reese's pieces she added.
Hattie was pretty distraught that I didn't get any party hats for Anna's big day, so with Hattie's creativity, and my mom's skills, they made hats for those who wanted them.
We got all the cousins lined up in a row - minus the Castletons who were back in AZ :(. We kept Niels out til the last minute and added babies in strollers at the end.

Even Niels took a turn.
Anna really knows how to ham it up. When she opened the Stuffie from Hattie (the one gift she consistently asked for), she pulled this face:
Noticing the reaction that she got from everyone, she continued to exaggerate her excitement with each following gift. Notice her gigantic eyes:

By the end, we weren't laughing at her as much but she still continued to nearly go into shock with every present.

For another game, we played Don't Eat'll be a new favorite at our house.
Hattie wrote this card for Anna...but it uploaded sideways...lean to the right and you'll read: "Birthdays come but you are sweeter Anna." I love my tender-hearted, loving Hattie!
Anna really is such a hoot. She has so much personality. She makes everyone laugh. She has gigantic big eyes. She has such a funny way of talking that we love (although now we are going to take her to a speech therapist). She always wants to snuggle first thing in the morning before anything else. She truly enjoys playing with Niels. And she and Hattie create all kinds of worlds together. She is a marvelous second child who really makes us so happy. We love you Anna!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Annual trip to Oregon: Donnelly

After 3 or 4 thorough nit-pickings, 1 pesticide treatment, and 2 mayonnaise/cetaphil treatments, we felt we were clean enough to head up to Donnelly, Idaho for a family retreat. It was nice to get away after 4 very stressful days. Donnelly is just over 2 hours from my parents' house. We rented a few houses at the resort there, and just chilled for a few days.

Weighing in at 48 lbs, Hattie was close enough to the 50 lb weight requirement to go on the white water rafting trip. I was worried that she would be thoroughly terrified, but she was a champ and wasn't scared a all once we got going.
Twister tournament...which always ends in tears for the little kids.
And somehow the grandkids love to get in Grandpa's "boat" and explore the "river." I don't know how he does it but he keeps 6 of them entertained at once.
Each house had its own hot tub, so the kiddos jumped in whenever they could.
Definitely a relaxing and much needed part of my 2 weeks out West.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Annual trip to Oregon: Disaster strikes!

This post would be more accurately named "Disaster discovered." On Sunday morning, I was showing my mom the strange dandruff in Hattie's hair that wouldn't brush away. "Melanie, that isn't dandruff. It's head lice!" The next 5 days were a nightmare. All three of my kids were infested, as well as myself. When I reflected a bit, I figured we had had it for a while - during my trip to Minnesota and Iowa I complained of an inexplicably itchy lower head and shoulders. I called both Tandy and Laura to inform them...upon inspection, Tandy and her two girls were infested, and two of Laura's daughters were infested. All three of us had an exhausting week of shampooing, nit-picking, laundry, cleaning, and more nit-picking.
We spent two solid days washing anything the girls or I may have come in contact with. And we put all of Grandma's stuffed toys and dress up clothes into "quarantine" for 2 weeks. But the worst was certainly nit-picking. One day I nit-picked for 7 hours, painstakingly going through every millimeter of my girls, and Laura's girls' hair. I think I may need bifocals a little sooner after that day!
Anna allowed me to cut her hair, making nit removal much easier. I love her new do.
 We put some tea tree oil on Anna's hair, which supposedly repels lice...doesn't kill the, but they don't like it.
After my initial shampooing with the pesticide shampoo, I still found a live louse on my, so I put mayonnaise on my hair for 8+ hours. Very smelly to wake up to. But is supposedly smothers them. It's worth a shot, right?
We researched other alternative lice-killing methods and tried using Cetaphil soap - drench the hair in soap, remove as much as possible, blow hair dry, then wait 8 hours before washing it out. It's hard to know how much it helped...but it did give me a little piece of mind at least.
I've tried to remember to check them every few days for more. I live in daily fear of another break out. It really was 5 of the most exhausting days. My mom was a saint through it all, spending hours doing laundry and nit-picking my hair. I certainly wouldn't wish this on anyone. I think it will be many months before the paranoia disappears whenever I feel a slight itch on my head anywhere!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Annual visit to Oregon: down-time at G&G's house

Each summer I make a trip back to my hometown in Oregon. Last year I stayed for about 8 weeks, which was certainly too long. We were in the middle of moving across the country, so it was necessary. This year I struggled to know how long to stay - vacation is great, but caring for kids without a spouse gets exhausted, so our trip was just over 2 weeks. We drove 60 miles south to the Chicago airport in order to have a direct flight to Boise. With this adorable monster, I knew the shorter time he had to sit on my lap, the better. He doesn't hold still for anything. As luck would have it, the flight had a few empty seats, so he got his own chair. I still fed him pretty much the whole flight. And even with Dramamine laced juice, he wouldn't doze off, even though he would snuggle his blanket on the floor and rub his eyes.
The girls had their own party on the other side of the aisle. iPad, tons of snacks, and a surprise gift kept them happy so I could devote all my energy to Niels.
 But it was no surprise that during the hour long drive from the airport to my parents' house, this happened:
After a few days at my parents house in Oregon, we drove 2 hours to McCall, Idaho, my favorite place on earth. I've spent many summers and winters up here and it really is my 2nd home. I could only stay for 2 days, but it was so worth it.
 Of course we stopped at Ice Cream Alley with the Easton cousins
 And played on the perfect beach
 We were then back in Ontario to spend a few days with the Castletons before they headed back home. Cousin Reed is only 3 months older than Niels, and they sort of became friends. At least they shared food rather well.
 We spent tons of time in the pool. I'm determined to get Hattie swimming next summer!
After the Castletons left, I had a few days with just me and my kids at G & G's house. It was nice to have a few days to ourselves before more family arrived (and before disaster to follow). And my dear friend Kristina, who used to live in Lubbock, recently moved to Boise! I'm so thrilled I'll be able to see her every summer :)
 And Hattie saw her her buddy Juliet. The visit sure made me miss Texas all over again.
 More fun and Grandma's house...
 My dad bought the girls a bird house which they LOVED painting. They are both so crafty, unlike their mother.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Some down time at home

After two weeks living out of suitcases, we were ready for a few weeks a home. (I should say 13 days, because that's all it was before the kids and I took off again.)
 My girls are wimps, wearing gloves with icee pops.
 Our basement was finished when we came home from Iowa! We've slowly been moving stuff around down there...I'll post more pics later of it furnished, and my awesome closets! (I love organizing...what can I say?) And the kids enjoyed running around with the Elders...
 We went to the 4th of July parade with our friends the Keddingtons and Linfords. The girls definitely knew how to chase after the candy.
 The little boys mostly sat on the sidelines.

 Yup, he's folded in half. I just love fun ways kids sleep.
 And Hattie, who never naps, fell asleep one night at 5:30, after not feeling so great all day. These rare moments I also feel compelled to photograph.
We took this the last night before the kids and I left Paul alone for a week. They love to watch him play iPad games. Funny that is how they wanted to spend their last night with Dad!