Monday, December 31, 2007

Lucy in the Sled with Snowpants

One of Lucy's gifts for Christmas was a sled - so today we bundled her all up in her snowsuit and boots, and hat and mittens, and strapped her in. Ron dragged her all around the backyard and she was really loving it, especially when he would go faster. I took lots of photos - too many as usual. So I made a gallery of these pictures just for the occasion: the last gallery of 2007!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cadaver Calculator

I just found out my dead body is worth $4525! Ron's was $4325. Ha. Talk about world's most morbid blog post.

See how much you're worth!

This is the kind of stuff we get from my brother-in-law, Tom.

Totally Tubular!

Yesterday afternoon my brother- and sister-in-law (Ron's sister) came to visit us with their twin 2-year old boys. Upon arriving the boys starting running throughout the house (apparently thrilled to be freed from their car seats after an hour on the road). We hung out and opened Christmas gifts - since they weren't able to make it on Tuesday. We watched the DVD Ron made for everyone in his family, which is 47 minutes of photos from the past 40 years (his parents were married in 1967). They loved it very much, and enjoyed seeing the mullets and bad Cosby sweaters, etc. It was a nice time, although we wish they could have stayed a little longer. The roads were getting bad and they had to head back to Portage, so they left after only a couple hours. It was also the first time they got to see our new home.

Lucy got a little stuffed toy and book, and also a big nylon tunnel that she can crawl through. She watched as the boys went in and out several thousand times, but hung back, a little nervous to go in. We didn't want to push her, but we tried luring her with her favorite toys... she didn't seem to want to have anything to do with the tube. We tried again this morning by putting a piece of cookie a few feet into the tube. She went in only as far as necessary to retrieve it and backed right out. After Ron left for work, I decided just to leave the tube there, and she will explore it on her own terms if she wants to (the more we try to force her, the more she will hate it). Sure enough, within a minute she was crawling through it like a pro.

It's covered in Disney princesses and flowers.

Here she is with the latest issue of Zymurgy magazine:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Crazies

Wow - I can't believe Christmas has come and gone. Here's the rundown:

Christmas Eve we went to my Grandma and Grandpa Chamberlain's house for dinner. Almost all my cousins were there, even the two who live in California. One of them brought a rotweiler named "Tank" who made us a bit nervous to say the least. He is a very well-trained dog. He would lay his head on the floor if my cousin snapped his fingers... but I don't care, he's still 100 pounds of potentially angry solid muscle. That breed has a reputation for a reason, I think. There were no incidents while we were there, thankfully. We tried to keep Lucy away from him, since she does not have a healthy fear of big dogs (our dog is so wimpy and tolerant)... we hate to think what TANK would be capable of. As it turns out, it clamped onto my uncle's head sometime after we left, with my mom sitting a couple feet away. No blood was drawn, but according to witnesses, it was quite a buzz-kill. That dog belongs to none other than the center for the Los Angeles Clippers, Chris Kaman... my cousins' buddy/housemate. I think my uncle wanted to kill Chris Kaman's dog. But don't worry, Tank is going home unharmed. I'm not one who would be star-struck by being a degree of separation from a professional basketball player (as far as I am concerned Chris is a good player, but just a regular guy from Grand Rapids), I just think it's such a random weird thing to say that Chris Kaman's dog was running around my grandma's house on Christmas Eve and bit my uncle's head. That type of thing doesn't happen too often.

Yesterday we got up in the morning to open gifts with Lucy, and then spent the rest of the morning preparing for Ron's family to come over (12:30)- which included baking, cleaning, and some last minute home-improvements, if you can believe it! Once that started, it was full-throttle for the next 5.5 hours or so, as we juggled all the food, kids, entertainment, and gifts. After the last person left around 6:00 (!) , we loaded Lucy in the car and headed to my grandparents' house to see my extended family on my mom's side. As we arrived, some of my cousins were heading out, but we got to see basically everyone. Lucy was in amazingly good spirits, considering the day she had which included the following:

1) perhaps 90 minutes of total naptime, at best
2) loads of interaction with pushy (but loving) older cousins
3) a face-plant on the wood floor when she tripped, resulting in a nice bump on her forhead AND
4) a trip down the basement steps.

Apparently she made it down several steps before tumbling, which I can't really believe since she has virtually no experience with navigating stairs alone. I saw she was gone, I looked at someone who I thought was watching her and the next thing I know I hear thumpthumpthumpthumpthump... [pause...] then screaming. I shoved my mother-in-law out of the way, since she was blocking me and moving slowly toward the sound of our daughter's cries (sorry, but I wanted to get there quickly and anyone would've done the same. It's not like I knocked her down), and hustled down to find her... in once piece. She got some bruises and I'm sure she was quite scared... but after I took her upstairs and we got her some milk, she calmed down and was back at her normal activities as if it never happened. Tough chick. All in all, it was a good day because everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Lots of other little things happened but the bottom line is, it went as well as we could've hoped for, and I'm already looking forward to next year, when Lucy will be even older and able to understand what this is all about... and we won't be hosting.

See all Christmas Photos Here

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wii Video

Have you played on a Wii system yet? My sister, her boyfriend Heath, Ron, and I got a chance to play at my aunt and uncle's house on Thanksgiving (after the Bingo party)... we did a variety of sporting games... in my opinion the boxing was the most fun. My uncle Dan was at the ready with a video camera and here are some highlights. I know we look rediculous:

Untitled from Dan Van Malsen on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Matchmaker Man

Ron fixed up one of his students with one of his Woodcraft coworkers. They are both seniors in high school - one at Grandville, the other at Jenison. I am skeptical about their compatibility, but apparently they were both quite excited about their date tonight... ice skating!

The girl is the same one who babysat for Lucy a couple of weeks ago - she is really sweet, and so is this guy. How boring are our lives that we're fixing up high school kids! Yikes!

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Better Start No-Baking

Ron's mom and dad stopped by last night to drop off many of their Christmas gifts (less to carry on Christmas when they'll probably have food, etc., as well). They gave us a box of Pine Mountain logs (the packaged logs for your fireplace, easy and clean and burn for about 3 hours) as a late housewarming gift. Huh, I just realized that is quite literally a housewarming gift. We were all impressed when Lucy held the sides of it and dragged the 30-pound box of logs a few inches across the floor. She's a future American Gladiator. Anyway, they also gave us a giant bag of Quaker Oatmeal. It came in a giant box which contained two giant bags, and they kept one and gave us the other. It's from Costco. I am not quite sure what I will do with 4.5 pounds of oatmeal. I was thinking no-bake cookies would probably burn through some of it.

Speaking of cookies, I am starting a tradition. Last year I made these amazing gingerbread cookies that look like snowflakes, and I decided that I will make those again this year. I'm not taking credit for the cookies being amazing, I just happened to find the best recipe online and tried it. Everyone seemed to love them last year (the photo from last year's party shows them, along with Steve's amazing cookies). I want to make December 21 the cookie-baking day, where we have a fire going, and listen to music, and have NO TV, and bake cookies. It will probably be much more enjoyable when we have little helpers, but for now I'm the one doing all the work (that's okay). And since we're not enlisting the help of any kids yet (the one we have would probably just make a huge mess), I cheated and got a head start last night, baking my first batch. I justified it by saying I need a trial run to figure out exactly how thin to roll the dough and how long to keep them in the oven - as gingerbread is very temperamental. I succeeded in this and know exactly what I'm doing now... and I'm 28 cookies ahead of schedule.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In a Former Life She was an 80's Pop Star

All Wrapped Up

Well, I am basically done with all Christmas shopping! I have one more little tiny thing to get to accompany another gift, but I know exactly what it is and where to buy it. I might put that off since it's for someone who I won't be seeing until after Christmas, sometime in January.

So, the gifts are all wrapped all pretty and sitting under the tree. The ones for Ron's side of the family are stacked neatly in one corner of the 'nook' since they are all going to show up with probably another 30 gifts or so, so I'm setting aside some real estate for them.

Ron has been working on some details around the house, like adjusting the size of the holes in the floor where floor registers go - they didn't quite fit before, and stuck up (a little ugly, a little hazardous), but now they lay flat. Thanks Ron. He is also installing the handrail by our basement steps tonight, and attach the base trim on the kitchen island (it's just sitting there).

Yesterday he also installed three new light fixtures: one in the foyer, one in the bathroom (the big vanity light over the mirror), and the dining area chandelier. I got good deals at Lowe's and we had a little extra money for home improvements, so we decided to go for it, and it makes a big difference. The old ones were so ugly (the 1980's brass boxy types). We're slowly converting all fixtures and hardware to brushed nickel... I'd say if you count all the doorknobs and stuff that are left, we're about 40% of the way there.

Meanwhile, we're trying to get actual preparations for the Christmas party figured out, and I want the house to look really pretty. I made a table runner last night - it's dark green with light blue ribbon - about 2" wide - trimming the edges, and a little silver loopy cord going along the seam where the ribbon and the green fabric meet up. Photo to the right:

Monday, December 17, 2007

One Good One vs. Two Battles

Lucy's naps are really the best time for me to get anything accomplished (for example: undo the mess she made, plus any other cleaning or TV watching or playing on the Internet...) and for the past week, more consistently than ever, she isn't taking 2 good naps. If she takes a nice nap in the morning, it always results in not napping in the afternoon. And vice-versa. So I get to decide whether or not I want her nap (my "break") in the morning or afternoon. I would have to say afternoon, which is when I hit the wall of being tired. Yet she is currently down for a nap because she was acting tired and woke up twice last night (she never EVER wakes up in the middle of the night)...

... which is a short story that needs to be explained. She started crying for no reason around 12:00 midnight, I figured she has a toofer poking through and flip on the hall light so I can see enough of what I'm doing to give her a bit of Tylenol. She is so upset that the can't stand still and pulls her head back just as I squeeze the dropper, and red cherry Tylenol drops onto her crib sheet. I'm a freak about treating stains immediately, so of course I have to call Ron in to hold her while I change her sheet. At midnight. You know this requires removing the bumper pad, lifting the mattress out of the crib and pulling the sheet over the four corners. I swear the crib sheet factory workers must be laughing all day thinking about how they make those fitted sheets just 2 inches shorter than they should be, and the frustration they are going to cause. Anyway, then she woke up again at 4:30 and fell back asleep after a couple minutes of crying. So strange.

All this would make me think she would actually sleep this morning, but she's not. That's okay too - this is known as "quiet time", but I hear her in there playing and feel like I am neglecting her, or missing an opportunity to stimulate her developing brain. Although that sounds dramatic, because at the end of the day I know the long-term effect(s) are minimal. Lucy gets plenty of stimulation, and I shouldn't feel bad for giving both of us a break. It's like playing Snood when you should be filing a never ending tidal wave of depositions. It keeps you sane.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's a Christmas Miracle

Tonight there are 2 cars parked in the garage for the first time since we moved our stuff here! This is great, but unfortunately, much of the stuff that was in the garage is now in our basement... except for all the old carpet and padding, which Ron and his Woodcraft (his weekend job) coworker brought to the dumpsters behind the store we bought our carpet from. Actually the basement isn't too bad, just some more random boxes and items that we can sort through fairly quickly. So it looks like it has been a fairly productive evening - and Ron's car will be safe from the big snowfall we're supposed to get tonight and tomorrow!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pine Tree Air Freshener

Since our tree is artificial, we are without that pine aroma that accompanies a real one at Christmas. So, I decided to make a real pine garland from trimmings from the trees in our backyard, using florist wire to tie pieces together. I added glittered pine cones and blue poinsettias, as well as some other gold accents. It's mostly spruce, which is kind of prickly but according to Martha Stewart, lasts a long time. Some of it is some kind of fir (which is slightly softer) and I'm hoping that lasts as well. Luckily, Lucy never goes anywhere near the fireplace, and this hasn't piqued her interest. She knows that getting close is a "no-no".

Some day we are going to re-do the fireplace surround with stone, and attach a new mantle, but that's not happening in the next week and a half... so I think this dresses it up pretty nicely for the holidays. Last night we had a fire and I have to say, it looked quite picture-esque!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Perhaps the Biggest Difference...

This is a much better portrayal than the last before-and-after post I put up. The crown molding and valence are done, and the bar is finished (except for a little touch-up paint). We really enjoy the improved layout.


Our Christmas card is being mailed today! I ended up using a photo that I took while I was trying to get Lucy to be cute in front of the tree... here she is by our front door, being herself... so I thought it was a good "natural" picture of her. I put them in all the envelopes last night, and wrote all the addresses. Now when she wakes up from her nap, I have to go to the Post Office, buy stamps, and leave them there to be mailed. Hopefully most people will get them by the end of this week (although a few are going overseas to Ron's side of the family!). Cards, check.

Here's my parents' card, which I think turned out pretty cute (I took the pictures last weekend). We received theirs yesterday (that was quick!). I just love those photo cards you can create online!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Our Christmas colors are going to be blues and evergreens, with silver and gold, etc., and for a couple weeks I was thinking I'd get some of these new trendy blue poinsettias to go with everything else (either real or fake)... so today I went to Michaels, then to Hobby Lobby, and both places were sold out of blue poinsettias! I guess I was the last one on the bandwagon. With low hopes, I went to the Jenison Meijer and found them, tucked into a small section of fake floral stuff in their Christmas department. There are a few left, if you're also on the hunt. By the way, the real ones are not poisonous, that was just a myth.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Snowed, 'Eh

This morning watching the weather on the news, I remembered one of the key perks to Ron working at a school... Today there was a 2 hour delay for many schools, which soon turned into a full snow day! That meant that Ron got to stay home and I got a hand with Lucy which helped me get a lot of stuff done...

Now that the day is winding down, he put in Escanaba in Da Moonlight, a really weird Jeff Daniels comedy that takes place, obviously, in the UP of Michigan. Since that is where Ron is from, it is extra entertaining (as well as disturbing). He's doing is weird laugh right now. Note: there was just a Leinenkugal reference for anyone interested. Anyway, it is pretty funny and I recommend it, especially if you're at all familiar with Yooper culture.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I Love Hugs

Lucy has a new IKEA POÄNG chair from when her grandma Carla visited Chicago. It matches our adult version that used to be Kelly's. She likes to sit in it and read, but she needs a little help getting on and off... Here are some cute new photos.


Random site alert: KittyWigs!, worth visiting :)


With Care

Last year we didn't have a place to hang stockings at our old house... and this year we have an actual fireplace, with a mantle, and it's Lucy's 2nd Christmas so it's about time we get some stockings. I could not find any that I loved, plus I wanted them to all be similar designs but different colors... so this past weekend I made stockings, which we will be using for years to come. They are corduroy with lace and a felt top. Ron doesn't even mind the lace on his, the dark blue one...

I made four of them, but that is not an announcement (somebody we know already wondered about that) - it's just so that if and when we do have another child, I'm not scrambling to put together a matching stocking to go with these three. I like the corduroy because they won't get too stretched out over time, and it's somewhat unusual for stockings. I also kind of like the idea of leaving them plain, because they have a classic design - just different fun colors.

Blue Christmas

This is the new light fixture above the sink. As you can see, the crown molding and valence are done, and I have our lit garland on top of the cabinets. We chose a funky bluish purple light because I'm leaning toward shades of periwinkle blues for accents in the great room. Also we have both always wanted a pendant light with a colored glass shade... and since it's just one fixture, we figured why not have a little fun with it? We can easily swap it out for a plain one later if we get sick of it, or a different color if we want to change things up.

Here's a closer look at the shade... with criss-crossy clear lines that let the light kind of sparkle through.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Just For Now

I know Howie Day has done something similar - but I like this better...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Need a Challenge?

Ever try to trace the hand of a 1-year-old onto a piece of paper? If you feel like your morning is going a little more smoothly than you'd like, you should do this. My grandma enlisted me to accomplish this feat for something she is making (she told me to "act surprised") - so this morning I did my best and came up with an actual tracing of her hand. It required me to combine 2 separate attempts in order to make it look like a human hand... but I did it! Maybe it's just Lucy, but she does NOT like someone grabbing her hand or arm. She only cried a little. Now, whenever I look at the mystery thing my grandma is making, I will think of our little hand-tracing adventure and it will bring back such fond memories.....

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Needle in a Haystack

I just took 623 photos trying to get something good for a Christmas card. I know that sounds completely outrageous, but my camera allows me to take lots of photos, and many quite quickly. If you know toddlers, you know you need to be fast. I am sure 75% of them will still be blurry (I tried to get good angles that allowed some natural light to shine - I don't like using the flash if I can help it), or just too wacky (like when she comes running at the lens and all I see is her face getting bigger and bigger before I have time to back up....), and some of them will feature our dog, Killian, who was trying to sneak Cheerios - which I was using to lure Lucy back near the tree. Then Lucy decided to start giving her Cheerios to Killian... awwww how sweet. Kind of works against what I am trying to do. By myself. Oh Ron - if only you knew how difficult this is to do alone!

Here's one that is definitely NOT going to be a contender for this year's card, yet it sort of portrays the afternoon really well:

I know I am going to have a couple of "maybe's" and perhaps one of them will work for our card... we need to get that done soon!


Last summer when searching for a home to obsess over, we found one in Allendale - the price was right, the location was beautiful... it was just "perfect"... or so we thought. It wasn't meant to be, as it sold before ours did. However, it was meant to be that we visited the house and walked through, where I discovered the woman who lived there is a wonderful photographer. I found her website and blog, and like to peek in from time to time at some of her photos. I just like seeing people's creativity and artwork. Anyway, her blog had a new link that I checked out: My Meanderings. I loved it so much, I added it to my own Photography links (to the right). I love that she takes pictures of everything - kids, family, nature, food, architecture, and more. I also love that she adds such vivid descriptions and tells a story, and lets the photos act more as illustrations. Anyway, it's a really pretty site and I plan to check back periodically.

Book I Want

I never really put things on here that I "want" per sé, but I actually really do want to read this book... and thought I'd plug it for anyone else who might be interested in the same kind of thing and doesn't yet know about it.

Book Description (from

In The Greatest Generation, his landmark bestseller, Tom Brokaw eloquently evoked for America what it meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, in Boom!, one of America’s premier journalists gives us an epic portrait of another defining era in America as he brings to life the tumultuous Sixties, a fault line in American history. The voices and stories of both famous people and ordinary citizens come together as Brokaw takes us on a memorable journey through a remarkable time, exploring how individual lives and the national mindset were affected by a controversial era and showing how the aftershocks of the Sixties continue to resound in our lives today. In the reflections of a generation, Brokaw also discovers lessons that might guide us in the years ahead. Read more.

Race, war, politics, feminism, popular culture, and music in the 1960's truly changed our country and the world. It is a decade I wish I could have experienced first-hand - but someday maybe my kids will say the same thing about the 1980's! I just love Tom Brokaw, and I love reading about this kind of non-fiction, 20th century historical stuff, as it really brings back a lot of things I studied in college about communications and pop culture, how they impact each other... and I think I would really enjoy it. So... if you need any last-minute gift ideas...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Look Up and Smile!

Christmas Card

We've been trying to come up with ideas for our Christmas card (and we need to get this done soon!) and the most recent adventure was to take Lucy outside with her mittens and coat and attempt something cute. Today I noticed the sun was shining, filtering through our snow-dusted spruce trees, and the ground was white and sparkling... a perfect day to bring a toddler out into the winter wonderland. Of course, Lucy's only previous experience of winter involved being bundled up in her infant carrier, with only her face peeking out, like so (Feb. 12, 2007):

So, when I set her down in the backyard, my big camera case slung over my shoulder (not yet sure how I'm going to manage not do drop my camera when and if I do get it out), she starts to cry and sits down. I can tell right away this is not going to work like I imagined in my mind (where she is playfully toddling around in the snow, smiling and exploring...). This is definitely going to be a 2-parent job if it is to have any chance of working. Otherwise, it will be on to plan "C" (which we have not yet come up with).

Doggy in the Sun

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I was just glittering the edges of pine cones. Now, what to do with them...

Monday, December 03, 2007


Lucy is so tall! I don't know if we're raising a future 6'-plus Dutch kid or if she'll slow down eventually. It just seems like she is nearly the size of a 2 year old... in fact, if she were currently 2 years old, she'd be in the 75-80th percentile. Yikes...


This is my good old wreath. I've had it for quite a few years, and it has hung on many a front door...

The Tornado Episode

Holy cow did anyone watch Desperate Housewives?! I've never been so stunned by that show as I was during the "Something's Coming" episode which aired last night. Now I'm forced to watch it next week too...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bringing Her Home!

I just checked my pal Lindsey's blog and got to read all about her time in Ethiopia, where she and her husband are adopting a baby girl. It sounds like this has been a very long, complicated, and emotional process for all of them. I am very excited for her and her family and wanted to mention it here because I think it is really cool what they are doing. That little girl will be very loved by her mom, dad, and big sister... and very photographed! Congratulations, DeYoungs!

Date Nite

Last night we left Lucy with a babysitter who is not one of our mothers. However, Lucy was put to bed before we even left the house, so I'm not sure if it counts. As far as she knows, we were there the whole time. But we weren't. We went to Olive Garden! Oooh the "fancy" restaurant for people with kids who never get to go out! Plus we had a gift card from our Realtor, so we knew we could get a lot to eat for not much money. During our wait we were entertained by a big group of teenage girls in fancy cocktail dresses and their moms' high heel shoes, one with a tiara (it was her 16th birthday)... and they were TOTALLY having an AWESOME time crammed in the hallway to the bathrooms, playing some kind of digital trivia game you have to pass around in a circle. Anytime someone wanted to actually use the facilities they had to squeeze through the gauntlet of balloons, hairspray, and giggles.

We had a bottle of wine and I had the latest saucy chicken dish that's featured on their commercials. Ron had the Tour of Italy... because I guess he couldn't narrow it down to just one meal.

We of course ate too much, and then attempted to go bowling, but all bowling alleys were packed. We even went to Terry Hall (rollerskating) but they were about to close, so we will have to save that for another time!). Instead, we decided to mosey along to the Whiskey River Saloon. Neither of us knew this place even existed - next door to Chicago Drive Pub in Grandville - but there it was, and you could hear the music from the parking lot. It's a country bar with live music and no cover charge, so we went for it. It was a little smoky but it was still a neat place (if you hate country music, stay away). It doesn't have that "meat market with a DJ" atmosphere like Chicago Drive Pub, so we sat at a table for an hour and had a couple drinks and headed home.

Craziness - we ran into Katie Terpstra at the hostess stand at the Olive Garden - checking to see how bad the wait was. She took off ... something about Matt being really hungry :) (where'd you end up going?) but we stuck it out and it ended up being about a half hour wait. Not terrible for a Friday night at 7:15 PM!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Cousin Was on TV!

We just finished watching the latest episode of Desperate Housewives and wouldn't you know it - the rumors are true! My cousin Ben Chamberlain was on the show! He was only on for the briefest moments but it was him, dressed up like a cop in a scene with Gabrielle (Eva Longoria). Here he is last Christmas with my sister:

Here is a still shot from the show that Ron got from

I'm pretty proud of the fact that my cousin was on such a popular show... hopefully he will continue to get his foot in the door and maybe someday have some lines!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gobble Gobble Gobble

This weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving... according to the Wikipedia, Thanksgiving is a traditional North American holiday to give thanks for the things that one has at the conclusion of the harvest season.

In my family we eat, drink, and play Bingo. Of course.

This has been a long standing tradition that we carry out every single year in my grandparents' basement. We all get plenty of prizes, including "white elephant" gifts, and of course gum and pencils... upon getting a Bingo you must call out "Bingo!" above the dull roar already going on, and sit patiently with your arm raised until a hastily-wrapped tchotchky is delivered to you. You might get a candle, you might get an apple. You might get a bobble-head baseball player. It doesn't matter. All the while someone will probably be shooting Bingo chips like Tiddlywinks at your coffee cup. This year a glass candle votive spontaneously exploded. We're not sure if that glass was supposed to hold a candle or not, but it sent a shard up Ron's sleeve. Never a dull moment.

The following evening we celebrated with Ron's family at his sister's home in Portage. Equally chaotic but in their case, it's the little kids running around who drive up the energy level in the house. There are 8 grandkids. The oldest is seven years old, and the youngest is about 7 months old. With all of them running around (except for the baby), it's hard not to spill your wine. But as usual there was plenty of good food, and everyone was in great spirits. The only people to end up in tears were a couple of the little ones when the evening was winding down and someone wanted another cookie and wasn't allowed.

Oh - and we put our Christmas tree up yesterday... the day AFTER Thanksgiving. I was going to do it earlier in the week, but we ended up taking longer than we thought we would preparing for Kelly and Heath's visit, getting the bathroom all painted and cleaned up, and making sure we set aside a little time to relax after all the hard work we had done on the house.

Now we have Christmas to look forward to, which we are hosting here! We must be crazy...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Downstairs Bathroom

We just don't know when to quit! Last night I took on the job of painting the downstairs bathroom which I hope to make much more inviting for Kelly and Heath (and anyone else for that matter) to use. I started cutting in the edges last night and wiping down all the walls. I still have to finish painting, but it is going to be much nicer... Talk about last minute preparations! Nothing makes a room feel fresh and clean like a new coat of paint though.

The flooring in that bathroom is a medium blue "floating" tile (vinyl tile sections that fit together) and it really isn't doing it for me. We are going to install ceramic tile one day (but NOT this weekend!), probably a light tan color, and that will add a more neutral element to the room. The walls are being painted green, and there is a green, blue, and white, striped shower curtain. Right now it looks like a lot of blue and green going on, but with the blue floors and blue countertop replaced it won't be so overwhelming. Another project for the winter months.

New Carpet

We have new carpet in our great room and hallway! The carpet guys came at 7:45 a.m. and were done around 10:15 a.m. We were up super late again last night getting things ready, including sanding, painting, grouting the tile hearth, and removing all the old carpet/padding and generally tidying up the place so there was room for the installers to do their job.

So, the trim pieces that will "join" the wood floor to the carpet aren't yet installed, but that will *hopefully* be a simple job for Ron this afternoon.

The tile hearth looks like the money with the carpet... so much better than a varnished wooden hearth! We are going to have a fire tonight and try to have a somewhat relaxing evening (although there are a few non-messy, non-noisy jobs that we could putz at before our guests arrive tomorrow). All in all, the pace of the work is going to slow way down, so it will definitely feel like a break from what we have been accustomed to lately. I can't say enough what a relief it is to be to this point. The stress and fatigue of the work, and living in a construction site, tripping on tools, constantly cleaning up drywall dust, and corralling Lucy into such a small area have not been easy to manage. Luckily we're to the point of wrapping it up. I'll post photos later.

Monday, November 19, 2007

No More Bathroom Carpet

We have our new flooring in the bathroom!

Yesterday we had dinner at my grandparents' house, and then my mom and dad took Lucy to their place for a few hours so Ron and I could go home and work for the rest of the afternoon. We tore out all the flooring (the carpet, and the 2 kinds of linoleum) in the main floor bathroom, as well as the toilet. I painted the trim and cabinets white - which still needs some touching up. My parents brought Lucy back to us around 7:30 or 8:00 pm and we put her to bed and continued working. We started with the first floor board around 8:30, and put the last one in just before 12:30 a.m. Ron finished the job by putting the toilet back in place, all neat and clean. We were in bed at almost exactly 1:00 a.m. It looks so much better in there, after basically renovating the entire room in one evening!

Now I'm wondering if the purple I painted it could be a little bit darker. It's practically white, it's so light. I still love the lavender but I want something that will show a little more contrast with the cabinets and trim.

I can't believe we didn't wake up Lucy, as this bathroom is only a few feet down the hall from her room.

We have to finish the floor by putting quarter round along the base trim, but we're going to have to do that throughout all the areas we installed wood laminate (you have to leave a 1/4" gap between the edge of the floor and your base trim, so the floor can "float", and that gap is then covered up by quarter round).

Tonight is the last night we have before carpet goes in tomorrow. We have a few more little things that need to get done, but it should definitely be doable considering how much we prove to be able to get done in an evening.

Friday, November 16, 2007

No More Plywood

Last night Ron and I got through the "galley" section of our kitchen (the area between the island and the bank of cabinets with the sink). It doesn't look like a huge area, but it took a little extra time figuring out how to get the flooring under the oven (disconnecting the gas line is a big pain - not because Ron can't do it, but because due to the awesome design of our old school stoven it requires partial disassembly and it's just not worth it for a space that no one is ever going to lay eyes on). We adjusted the back feet (via Ron hanging upside-down behind the stove) and that made it level with the several inches of flooring we could slide under the front. I know it sounds confusing and I don't know why I even went into as much detail as I did... I just wanted to illustrate why a relatively small area of the house took so long to get done.

Anyway, it looks awesome and it's so weird not to be walking on plywood subfloor. The dining area carpet still needs to be torn out, and we will do that section of flooring tonight. Walking on plywood for so long has become just "the way it is" around here, with little shards of wood stuck to your socks at all times.

In other suburban life news, today Lucy was in the kitchen (where it is now finally SAFE for her to be) and discovered how to play with her alphabet fridge magnets. Her spelling skills are still a little rough but she understands the concept of putting them on the fridge... She is currently also fairly interested in making out with the glass door (we have this French door that we'd someday like to replace with a slider). The glass gets cleaned occasionally, but sometimes it's hard not to ask myself, "what's the point?" It's just going to end up with tongue smears and hand prints 10 seconds after I get it sparkling clean... She presses her face against, mouth open, and proceeds to lick the glass. I've been saying "no-no" and she just smiles at me, and walks around the living room shaking her head from side to side. I'm still amazed this kid has never once been sick. She must be part Schrute.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Take a Minute

Every day you should visit FreeRice.Com and test your vocab skills. For each word you get right, the site will donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. It doesn't seem like a lot, but it can add up quickly as the "game" doesn't take long. After about a minute you could have 300 grains donated. The point is, it doesn't cost a thing or take much time but it could save the life of someone who is starving. Thanks, Amber, for the link on your blog!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Piece by Piece

Last night, Ron did some mud-sanding (and we discovered a very good use for the attic fan, as we opened a window and the fan sucked all the dust out of the air rapidly!), and we made a lot of progress on our wood-laminate floor. I worked solo on the floor for a while when he ran to the store for something, and then he came back to help cut pieces (ends) while I fit them in. We had a pretty good system going, and made a ton of progress. I am definitely a lot more confident that we'll have this flooring in before Tuesday (Carpet Day). We were up until almost midnight plugging away, and were much less exhausted than usual, partly because of the after-dinner pot of coffee Ron made, and partly because it was going much more smoothly.

This morning I got Lucy up and tried to stand her on the new floor and she hung onto me as if her life depended on it! According to her toddler-logic, this floor is a terrifying deathtrap! It took a lot of coaxing to get her to stand, crawl, or even sit on the floor! I think it's because that area of the house has been an "off-limits / no-no" work zone for so long, it is completely unfamiliar territory. I'm sure she'll get used to it soon! I can't wait until she can just roam through the great room freely and I don't have to worry about tools or nails, or slivers of subfloor...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Top 10 List

I think it's been a while since I did any kind of Top 10 List so I decided I'm going to create a new one...

Top 10 Lessons Learned From Our Recent Home-Improvement Project(s)

10. If you're going to have to use the bathroom as a kitchen, it is especially helpful to have a dual-vanity.

9. Have at least one "finished" spot in the house to escape to.

8. Small fights are inevitable. A couple big ones might be too...

7. Don't hold grudges from those fights... you were just under a lot of stress and taking it out on the poor sap in your path. It's not personal (luckily we are pro's at letting them go instantly).

6. Four free matching bar-height stools can be a highlight of your week.

5. Cut out the hole for the floor vent in the padding RIGHT AWAY so you remember not to cover it up with new flooring.

4. Keep a little wine handy at all times.

3. In the meantime, don't neglect your yard work.

2. Babies/toddlers really don't pull their weight when it comes to working on projects.

1. Seeing our ideas become reality makes all the cuts, bruises, dust, sweat, and sarcastic remarks worthwhile.

Monday, November 12, 2007

4th Toofer

"Toofer" is what my mom and a few other people I know call baby teeth. It looked close for a while, but now the other top front tooth has poked through. We're going to start her on Tootsie Rolls as soon as possible.


The area we want carpeted was measured today and we placed our order! I made the down payment and it will probably be installed at the beginning of next week (Tuesday) - which is unbelievably exciting. No more stained nasty carpet that grosses me out when I watch Lucy playing on the floor (despite the fact that Stanley Steemer cleaned it thoroughly, just couldn't get stains out). We have our work cut out for us now - getting the rest of the flooring in, plus the tile hearth in front of the fireplace, before next week! The new floors were the last "big ticket" item for the interior and it is going to be quite a dramatic difference from the last time my sister and her boyfriend visited, when they come up for Thanksgiving. And to think we haven't even been here 2 months.

A Start

Yesterday we were pretty busy - Ron did some drywall mudding, mowed up all the leaves in the yard, and we started prepping the floor for the wood laminate (of course we're just about a day behind schedule, but that's to be expected. Nothing ever goes perfectly smoothly). It was strange to clear out everything from the area where the flooring is going to go, as it made the room appear so much bigger. Carpet and pad was removed, and I couldn't believe the pile of actual dirt I swept up from underneath, along with staples, nails, etc. Ron put down some of the underlying padding for the new flooring, and several planks went in. What's in looks awesome, and we can't wait to start covering a large area. It wasn't going as smoothly as we hoped it would, but I think it will speed up this afternoon when work resumes, as he and I learned more exactly how to go about putting them in - although he was really doing the work until after Lucy went to bed. I'm not much help when I'm busy with the daily household tasks and taking care of her.

We also found the carpet that we will most likely order today or tomorrow, and we're hoping to have it installed at the beginning of next week. I have to call the place and find out if that's possible. I'd like to have all the new flooring in by Thanksgiving.

By the way, does anyone know where we can bring our old carpet? I can't imagine EverKept will take it if we put it out on the curb... but we have to get rid of it somehow!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Handy Dandy

I just added a feature to my Picasa program which uploads directly to SmugMug without having to open the website and click on a series of tabs to select the album, and drag and drop files, etc. Before you were also forbidden to browse away from the site while uploading, and now that is no longer a factor. It seems equally fast, too.

I highly recommend SmugMug to anyone who shares large quantities of photos with friends and family. I can't say for sure how many people visit ours, but I love having it - if only for a backup of all our best photos. It's beautifully organized and has many fun features like keywords, quick sorting, password protection options, gallery styles, and purchasing, to name a few. We've been using it for a few years now, and it keeps getting better and better.

And as for Picasa, it certainly does not have the depth of features as say, Adobe Photoshop, but for quick everyday editing, it is much easier than anything else I've used, and you can do the main adjustments and even some cool enhancements in a matter of seconds.

Beer Hunting

Why would a beer can be hunter orange, you might ask?

I mean, nothing goes together like guns and alcohol. Yikes! Well, at least it's a good marketing tactic.

No Need For a Cake, But...

Lucy is one year, one month, one week, and one day old today.

This is her "I Dunno" move she's been doing lately.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Last night Ron wired the island - a couple outlets, an outlet for the (electric ignition) gas stove, and one on the back "wall" of the island for general use. Tonight he is planning on finishing up the island so that we can put it behind us and move onto floor installation.

The other day we also spent a couple hours cleaning the basement - it was just a jumbled mess of all the boxes and bins that don't really need to be unpacked right now - or things we just generally want to store - little baby gear, personal mementos, beach towels, etc. - so we stacked bins and put things neatly into the storage room so the main rec room area is much clearer. There are a few more items but we can finish up with one more session. Anyone want a microwave from the late 1970's (with the owner's manual)?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Last night we picked up the wood laminate flooring that will be in our entry, kitchen, dining area, mudroom, and bathroom. We borrowed my dad's truck because 21 boxes of flooring not only takes up a ton of room, it is extremely heavy. We're hoping to begin installation later this week. We were pleased to find that the flooring was on sale - and we saved hundreds of dollars!

The tone of the wood is medium - like our cabinets. I think it will look really nice, although there isn't a ton of contrast in the color (between cabinets and flooring). Typically people will have either light cabinets with dark floors, or vice-versa. Having them be similar wasn't my initial plan, but now that I see it, I think I like how it streamlines everything, but still feels warm.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Got The Boot

Yesterday I went to a foot and ankle specialist and was outfitted with a walking boot. It's black and has a lot of big Velcro straps and looks kind of like a ski boot... and although I am still using one or two crutches most of the time, I can put some weight on my foot and hobble around a little bit. The doctor looked at my x-rays and saw three minor fractures and ligament damage. I was just glad that I didn't need a cast, which would make things pretty much impossible for me. So today Ron is taking off work so he can help with Lucy, and we will be able to get some errands done. He even vacuumed this morning!

Saturday we went to our friend's wedding and had a great time, and stayed until the end of the reception! Not what we were initially planning, but it seems like whenever we get a chance to "get away" we like to make the most of it - so that's what we did. Sunday we went to church and my parents met us there with Lucy. We were at the early service, so there was nursery to take her to, so we all did our best to keep her fairly quiet and content through the service.

Yesterday my mom came over and spent the day helping me with Lucy, chauffeuring me around, etc. and she will do the same tomorrow (I have to take Lucy to the pediatrician for flu shot #2). I'm hoping by later in the week I will be able to do everything on my own and not need anyone taking off work to help me.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I'll Tumble For Ya...

Well today was interesting - I felt great and had a pot roast slow cooking, smelling up the house, got all geared up and went to visit Ron and my mom at GHS. Things are quite uneventful until I decided to head down a flight of stairs, and missed the last step with my clunky Danskos. I fell in slow motion, rolling my foot funny while turning my body to cushion Lucy from the fall. She was fine. I layed her down and called for help - and then she started crying. I saw someone I knew (security guy) and called his name and he came over and radioed for the nurse (Sally). So once he was on the radio everyone heard that a woman had fallen down the steps and some of them could hear Lucy crying. Within moments a half-dozen people were there, including my mom who could take Lucy and calm her down. I had heard a "pop" sound so I didn't want to put any weight on it.

Ron, wandering by, bumped into someone who said, "hey I think your wife sprained her ankle" and he didn't even know I was in the building - then he looked up to see my mom with Lucy, and me sitting on the ground. Probably quite surprising to say the least.

The principal and the security guy carried me up the steps and stood me upright, which is when I started to feel nauseated, turned green, and developed very muffled hearing - like after a rock concert. I felt better when I sat in the wheelchair and Sally pushed me toward the office, but still a little queasy. Those signs showed that I probably had a fracture, which is sort of what I figured. My mom took Lucy to her house, and Ron and I went to the med center where I had x-rays, which showed that I had an avulsion fracture of my cuboid and dorsal talus bones (info for all your medical professionals out there!). Anyway, I have to wear this splint thing and use crutches for 5-7 days (no weight bearing) and then a follow-up will tell me what I can do depending on how it is healing. What really bothers me isn't that I broke my foot, or that I feel like a complete klutz... it's that I am going to need a lot of extra help taking care of our daughter, who toddles and climbs and is definitely not one of those kids who sits still for like, 3 nanoseconds. Even if she was calm all the time, it's hard to carry a 24 lb. child while on crutches.

I felt really terrible because she was obviously scared and I could hardly comfort her because there was so much going on... and now she's sleeping over at Grandma's and Grandpa's house so that tomorrow morning is easier to manage. Right now the fact is, I can't do it alone... and I really do not enjoy being "taken care of" like this. Much of how I perceive myself is based on being the one who takes care of someone else, so this is an adjustment. Hopefully I can allow it to heal well and be back in business within a couple of weeks.

No scans to share this time - but you can check out last year's injury which was pretty gnarly too. You can see the fracture goes almost completely through my toe, and then you can see the x-ray after it was set. Before having Lucy I never broke a single bone. I guess I need to be much more careful!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

Kelly, forgive me, but I had to post this Halloween photo of you (1981) as Kermit. I know a couple people in particular will get a kick out it... how cute!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Little Pumpkin Witch

Lucy was a Pumpkin Witch for Halloween, whatever that is! Basically we decided it's a good witch with an orange skirt. She got some special treats, and got to see many relatives! Not quite ready for trick-or-treating this year... I'd rather take her when she can actually say "Trick or Treat!" and "Thank You".

She was a good sport about wearing the hat most of the afternoon - which we "trained" her to do by putting it on her head throughout the past week and getting her used to it. She even wore tights for the first time!

Wouldn't you know it - there was actually a beautiful pink sky with a rainbow this evening - what an oddity for Halloween - but the sun was setting as it was raining, and this is what I saw from my grandparents' front porch. If you look closely, you can see it's actually a double rainbow:

Hope everyone had a great Halloween!


Today Lucy was playing around after breakfast and I figured I'd put her in the black bodysuit (long-sleeved onesie) that she is going to wear under her costume later, and change her out of her PJ's. What could it hurt? Well let me give you some background information...

Lucy stopped spitting up quite a few months ago. It used to be her "thing" but then one day she decided she was over it, and ever since then it's extremely rare. Unless of course you decide to stick a xylophone wand down your throat when your mom turns away for a split second.

I turn around to see part of Lucy's breakfast running down the front of her clothes. So, I guess don't put your kids in any part of their costume until the last possible moment. Now I'm washing it and don't want to put it in the dryer, so I'll hang it up and hope it's dry by this afternoon! Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Watching Over Us

Autumn of Life

Trying to enjoy the "peak" of the fall colors, on a glorious sunny day, we went to Hager Park again with Lucy to take some photos, while she got to explore some new aspects of nature.

We also met an old woman wandering around picking up colored leaves... she had lived in Hawaii and Alaska most of her life, but was born here. She seemed to have quite an interesting life behind her, but was making the most of the present as well. She celebrated her 60th anniversary with her husband earlier this month and told us a little bit about her family. We'll probably never meet her again, but we were both glad we stopped to talk. Ron and I both enjoy talking to strangers and just getting a glimpse of their lives and personality, like reading the back cover of a book. Most people you meet are extremely friendly and you never know what connections you will find with them. Of course I wouldn't recommend children talking to strangers! But we figured a little old lady picking up leaves was probably safe ;)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Paint Blob Tradition

Today my mom and Lucy and I ran some errands, but first we stopped by my Grandma and Grandpa Hiddema's house - Lucy's great-grandparents - so that Lucy could make her artistic contribution to the Halloween slider mural. Every year since forever my grandma turns her slider into a watercolor canvas for her grandchildren... and this year a great-grandchild! Lucy didn't initially understand what we were making her do - a paintbrush thrust into her hand (a first) and my mom, grandma, and me giving her instructions for what to do with it! With a little guidance she figured it out, and got to work creating a pretty pumpkin.

Some of my younger cousins still add their artwork to the slider, although I have kind of grown out of it. I have to say, many of them are incredible artists and it makes me wonder if at least a tiny bit of that can be attributed to how much Grandma encouraged us to draw and paint when we were at her house (which was quite often). It was just something we always did there, and she loved to display our work where everyone could see it.

My grandparents have always gone above-and-beyond when it comes to celebrating holidays in a way that makes it especially fun for kids... especially the 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I can really appreciate that now more than ever, as I get to still "participate" in all the traditions and watch our own child become enveloped in them as well.