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!