Saturday, July 31, 2010

Just Because ...

Happy, originally uploaded by cheryl.

... every day should be like this one, he says!

Weekend at the Lake

It's not often that we get everyone in the water, at least without someone screaming. It took some convincing on the twins part today when we first started out, but by the end of the day they were practically jumping off the boat (okay, maybe scooting off is a better way to say it, but they definitely wanted in the water by the end of the day).

We had a good long day on the water today, despite the early morning rain and the clouds that rolled in late this afternoon. We all got to swim (except for Grandma, of course, because she doesn't swim). Connor got to take a spin on the tube. And we even took a long boat ride down to the big dam, despite the rough waters on a Saturday afternoon. Two of the three boys took a nap, so everyone was in good spirits.

We made it home in time to get the grill started just before the rains came. Grandpa cooked under the deck and tried to keep Connor from getting to wet dancing in and out of the rain. He also tried to keep him from dropping steaks in the charcoal, because he'd "never done that before" and wanted to help grill tonight.

We have another day to enjoy the lake before heading back to the real world. Daddy has to go back to work, Connor has his kindergarten screening and Mommy has a few days at home before her new Thursday, Friday and Saturday night work schedule begins this week.

Summer time, and the livin' is easy ...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The List

As a builder's family, we've moved around quite a bit. This will make the fifth house Josh and I have moved into together since we've been married. Our last one was definitely the most over the top, when both our careers were going extremely well (and before I stopped working full-time to raise our three boys). In some ways it was hard to leave, but for the most part, it's been a good move for us. It was actually exciting in its own way. Here are the things I love about the new one, and the things I kind of miss about the last one.

10 Things we LOVE about our new house ...

Location. It's in a great older neighborhood, with good community schools and a city park within walking distance. The neighbors have been very welcoming, and there seem to be a lot of kids around the boys age on our street.

Old but new. It may not be a new house, but it's new to us. And, truth be told, a lot of the inside is new. It was fun to go through and redesign a house, to pick out new colors and textures for another space. And I absolutely LOVE our new hardwood floors!

Size. It's smaller than our last house, but probably about the right amount of space for a family our size. It's much more manageable to locate the kids at any given time (they can't be very far, and they're not very quiet) and it's also much easier to clean. Win, win.

The yard. It's a huge, shaded back yard meant for playing and enjoying. Our other backyard was small and sunny except for very late in the day. This one has good shade, in places, all day long. It's also big enough for an in-ground pool, which may be on our someday list!

The dining room. It actually has one, not just a little breakfast nook. It's an extension of the kitchen, but that's only because we knocked the original wall separating the two down to open up the space. But the dining room is big enough for the new, very big table, which keeps the kids (and their grabby hands) a little further apart at meal times.

The sun room. It needs some work - like the tile floor we hope to put down in the fall and perhaps a portable air conditioning unit next summer - but it's a great space. And it's a great room for the kids (and Buster, too, since he moved himself in there after the first few nights in the laundry room).

Transitions. Moving to a new space was a great way to give up all the child safety and other things we had in place for the boys and start teaching them to listen and follow rules. It was too convenient once it was in place in the old house, but it was nice to move to a new space knowing everything wouldn't be under lock and key.

Downsizing. I know most people will think that's crazy, but it was actually a good thing. We had accumulated so much stuff - things we had no reason to keep but did simply because we had the space. When we moved, we got rid of a lot of things that weren't necessary and were just taking up space. We didn't overcrowd the new place with stuff just to hold onto it, and the entire house looks better for it.

No stairs. Don't get me wrong, the boys find plenty of things to climb and jump off of, but not having the double staircase in the middle of our main living area is really nice. Little boys are not constantly running up and down, climbing the outside rails, or hopping off from four or five steps up.

No blinds. Who knew that the staple of new houses was really so annoying? Growing up, I used to swear I would only have blinds and never curtains. My how the times have changed. Three little boys who break, pull, crash into and climb on blinds will do that for you. There isn't a single blind in this house, and I love it. Just a curtain you either pull to the side or to close. So simple. Why didn't I think of it about five years ago?

And, because it's only fair, 10 Things we MISS about our old house ...

Monster Garage. You know, the one where both of our cars and all of our stuff actually fit. This one is a two-car garage, per se, but not two big trucks like Josh and I both drive. We miss having both cars inside, especially when it's raining or when winter gets here.

Buster's space. We miss the puppy having his own room, just to contain him at times like after a rain or bath, or when company who doesn't care for big dogs is over, or just when we want him to stop pacing the floors. We also miss the dog door that meant you didn't have to worry how long you were away or if you even wanted to spend a single night away. We could leave his food and water out, he could get in and out of his room while the rest of the house was safely locked up, and he even had his own section of the yard where the kids didn't play. We miss that.

My kitchen. It was kind of perfect, the location, the style, all of it. I miss my flat stove top in the center island, my wall ovens and my french door refrigerator. We're making the new one work, but it took a little adjusting.

The aesthetics. Building your own house can be a lot of fun. And we've done it enough to know how to make some cool features. I miss a few in the last house - the tray ceiling in the family room, the stone columns between the family and living rooms, the high ceilings. Architectural details on the outside. Little things you can't remodel into existing homes, not without spending a lot of money, anyway.

The laundry room. It was upstairs, centered among all the bedrooms, unlike the one we have now that's on the opposite side of the house from all the bedrooms. It was simply convenient, from the pass through hole into the master closet to the soaking sink and folding countertop. Nothing in this house is quite that easy.

Location. I miss being so close to Hamburg, to shopping and eating and the movies and anything else you can think of. I don't miss the neighborhood schools or the fact that we had to drive to the closest park, but I do miss our long stroller walks through the neighboring farm fields.

Walk-in shower. Don't get me wrong, I love having a tub again, especially the big, deep ones we have in both bathrooms. But I definitely miss my big walk-in shower at the old house. It was nice not to have to worry about shower curtains or to have to wait for someone else to finish showering at the end of the day.

High ceilings. Upstairs, downstairs, all over the house. None were less than 10 feet. I definitely miss that, because these are no where near that tall. Also not an easy fix during a remodel.

House on the hill. We were lucky enough to draw the best lot in our old neighborhood, at least for the house plan we wanted to build. Our house kind of sat up on the hill, not really looking at anyone else's yard or house. It overlooked the landscaped median in front, so it was nice.

Circle drive and landscaping. It was easier to come and go in the old house, without worrying about one car being in the other one's way. We'll working on our landscaping over here in the fall, but the circle drive will have to go on the someday list.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big Boy School

Kindergarten. Little back packs and lunchboxes. Pencils and paper. Crayons and markers. Scissors and glue. Notebooks and folders (and a whole lot of other stuff that was on our supply list, as you can see above).

It's right around the corner, and that's hard to believe. Our first born is about to begin full-time school, the kind that will last for the next thirteen years at least. Probably more with college and post-secondary studies. Wow.

Next Monday is the kindergarten screening program, where the evaluate the incoming students skill level to help with placement into the four kindergarten classrooms at his elementary school. We have him at a magnet school, one that provides individualized education based on student abilities and interests. It's a slightly different concept than other public schools in the area, including an open classroom area that will house four different classes in the same complex, so regardless of which classroom he's in, he'll have some activities with all of the kids in his grade.

The following Monday will be the school open house, where we get to go on our first real tour of the school (Connor and I looked around some last year when we signed him up for the program) and meet some of the faculty and staff. We'll also get to meet his assigned teachers during open house. And two days later, on Wednesday, kindergarten will begin.

Even before we started him in preschool two years ago, he asked about the big kid school. He wanted to go there, he told us. Every year since then he's wondered how long before he could go to the big kid school. Now it's finally here. He says he's ready. He says he's excited. He says he's going to be in the same class with Jack and Bennett (and we're hoping so, too, but there are no guarantees). He says he's almost six, and it's time.

Of course, we've tried to explain some of the differences between big kid school and preschool. For starters, it's every single day, not just two or three days a week. It's also all-day long, not just three hours. And it's also a bit more work and a little less play. Lunch time is shorter. Recess may not be a given every single day. And there's a lot more sitting and a lot less running around. It also starts a whole lot earlier.

We've tried to explain these things. He says he understands. Of course, the conversation usually goes something like this.

"We have to get up a lot earlier for big boy school," I remind him.

"I know," he says, clearly not bothered by the statement. He pauses for a minute, then looks at me. "But not too early, right?"

Not sure what his definition of too early happens to be, but I'm pretty sure for a boy who's been used to getting up around 10 o'clock all summer, that getting up before 7 in order to make a 7:45 start time might qualify.

But it's coming, ready or not, it's right around the corner ...

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Games We Play

A few quick, fun things the boys have done to amuse us at our new house the last few weeks ...

Icee addiction. Sawyer is constantly sneaking into the garage to get icees out of the chest freezer out there. He can't open them, per se, but if he chews on the end of them long enough, the juice starts to come out and he's happy. He'll eat five or six if you're not careful. Literally.

Drive-by computing. Xander sneaks onto the computer every chance he gets. It's in the corner of our family room, and he cannot help himself. If you're working on the computer and turn away to talk to someone in another part of the room, he will slide in behind you, reach for the mouse and log onto his favorite game. He's that good. And that fast.

Round-the-clock snacking. We're working on an open pantry concept in the house, except in extreme circumstances. That means you're constantly putting canisters of cereal back in the pantry. Sawyer and Xander sneak them out all the time.

Kool-aid kid. Sawyer loves the new refrigerator - drinks are much more accessible for little people. He likes to carry around cans of Mountain Dew, hoping they're going to open. He also likes to sneak into the kitchen and pull out entire pitchers of kool-aid to drink. He doesn't spill them mind you, at least not more than a little bit on his shirt, but he does drink it all.

Secret hideaway. Sawyer has the exact same bed he had at the old house. It hasn't changed at all, not even the mattress or the sheets that are on it. Perhaps it's just because it's located much closer to a window (and lots of natural light), because he's discovered a new favorite spot to hide. He loves to put his pillows (and his Buzz Lightyear plush doll Grandma and Grandpa got him at Kohl's) underneath his bed. This is where we find him most mornings when we let him out of his room. Even if he's not there, he has been. Because the pillows and Buzz are always there.

Indoor trampoline. Xander has always liked the bed in our bedroom. In the other house, it was upstairs and out of sight. In this house, everything is closer together. He finds his way into our room often, usually on our bed. We have one of those sleep number mattresses, so it's really soft on my side of the bed. Xander likes to swan dive off the footboard onto my side. He also likes to walk the balance beam (ake the footboard) and do a big leap off the end when he's finished. We have to keep them out of our room these days.

Big boy desk. Connor really hasn't been here much since we moved. He's spent the summer traveling on fun adventures to the lake, to amusement and water parks, and just hanging out with the extended family. But when he is here, he likes his new big boy room. He has a king-size bed, a holdover from family member who originally lived here, and he also got the extra full-size desk from our office (we had two desks in the old house, but just kept the computer one in the family room at the new house). Daddy installed his shelves a week or so ago, so all his stuff is now on display and he likes to sit at his big new desk and do big boy stuff. Like organize his silly bands. Or play with his coveted MicroMachines (they are an old toy that my brother had many, many years ago that has passed down to him) or even his "Star Wars guys" (a pass down from Daddy's younger days). Big boy stuff.

And there you go ... that's what the boys have been up to these days!


Our last house was full of child safety products, you know, the stuff that didn't exist probably 15 years or so ago. Outlet covers. Cabinet locks. Safety door knobs. Blind cord covers. Extra locks. Our theory back then was we were outnumbered, usually three-to-one in the working parent home, by three curious and stubborn little boys. We did things like toddler proofing and toddler proofing some more and then had to adjust to things like this and this when they started to outsmart the system.

When we moved, most of that stuff got left behind. Actually, we passed it on to our good cousins Katie and Josh who are expecting their first little one in a few months. Share the sanity, right?

Those things did help keep me sane, especially in the early years of three boys less than 14 months apart. I didn't' have to worry about them getting into cabinets or things that could hurt them. I didn't have to worry about fingers or toys in outlets. The blind cords were rolled up, safely out of reach.

But like everything else, the boys were starting to outgrow it. Or outsmart it. Even when outlets were left uncovered, at other people's houses or on vacations, the boys didn't try to play with them anymore. If they bothered the blind cords, it was more to pull it out and watch it drop than to wrap it around themselves (think the twins' obsession with watching motion rather than actually playing with it, because that's more what it was about). They sometimes tried to get into locked cabinets, but only to open and close the doors, not to bother the contents inside.

So when we moved, we decided to move on. The boys are older now. They're getting past some of those initial hurdles of listening and following directions. They understand rules. They can be reminded or redirected into leaving most everything alone.

So this house is virtually un-childproofed. And it's kind of nice. You don't have to unlock a kitchen cabinet to get into it. You can get an extra towel without unlocking the cabinet first. There aren't any blinds, so we don't have to worry about the cords coming unrolled any time we opened or closed them. You don't have to pry out an unwilling outlet cover every single time you want to plug something, like the vacuum, into the outlet. It's kind of nice, actually.

We did bring a few tricks into the new house.

The twins' door locks are still reversed. Sawyer would be up all hours of the night if we didn't lock him inside. And there would be no quiet time or containment, say in the event I decide to clean the house (it happens, occasionally) or if there's a large mess (think big drink spill) that needs to be cleaned up without little boy footprints running all around and through it. They had long since outsmarted the safety door knob covers and the baby gates, so this was pretty much the only containment option.

Our pantry door in the kitchen still has a key lock on it. If it didn't, Sawyer would eat cereal and bread all day long with abandon. And probably throw up everywhere on top of it. I keep it unlocked most of the time when we're in the house, but it still gets locked on mornings when we're trying to sleep in and the boys are up or on days when we need to get some work done in another part of the house or outside (like when I mow the yard).

Same goes for the refrigerator - a bungee cord still locks it on occasion, too. Not all the time, because we want the boys to learn control, but at times when we can't watch them as closely as we need to. Let's just say that Sawyer has a sneaky side we didn't see until we moved over here. The boy can tiptoe from the kids playroom to the kitchen, open the door and retrieve a full pitcher of kool-aid and return to the playroom without making a sound. He's that good. And miraculously enough, he usually doesn't even spill it. He wants it that badly. Some may get on his shirt, but none on the carpet or the floor. So the refrigerator has it's moments of being locked, too.

We still have extra locks on exterior doors, just for safety. There's a chain lock at the top of the sunroom door for two reasons. The kiddie pool is out back, often filled with water. The gates on each side of our fence are chain link, and our boys can climb right over it. Neither one is good without close supervision. The front and back door both have security storm doors that aren't very attractive but have proven exceptionally functional - they have double-key locks on them - so you can lock them from the inside with a key. Our last door in need of additional security is the one between the house and the garage. The boys don't need to be out there, and the lure of icees in the small chest freezer out there is sometimes too much for Sawyer to stand. We're in the process of getting a double-key deadbolt for that door, too.

So that's where we are now. A lot of the little things that used to be everywhere are gone. There's more rules in this house, and the boys are slowly starting to understand them. The big things that keep the boys safe and protected are still in place.

But it's a much more open home, where you don't have to unlock every single cabinet or uncover every single thing you use. It's just a home, where you eat and sleep and play and live. Just one more way the boys continue to move forward ...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer's End

It's nearly August, and in our part of the world, that means it's nearly time for school to start again.

The twins will be back at the same school they've had the last two school years, Sawyer with his same teachers and Xander trying out a new classroom that is also going to participate in the autism grant program. We will miss having him with Ms. E and Mr. K, but we are excited to have both boys in the grant program and are sure we will like his new teachers as well.

Connor is moving up in the world. He starts kindergarten in just a few short weeks. His school supplies have already been purchased (and it was a pretty lengthy list) and are sitting in his room waiting to be delivered. The kindergarten screening is a little over a week away, where all of the kids come to be evaluated for their entry levels to help balance out the classrooms with kids of all skill levels. Open house is the week after that. And the first day is less than two weeks away.

Because our move came about a little later than we might have liked, Connor will still be attending school close to our old house. That means a lengthy drive, and also an earlier start time than the neighborhood school all the boys will likely attend next school year. But we have been impressed with the school he is going to attend, and those are small prices to pay for him to get a good start with some friends he made in preschool these last few years.

What that early schedule did mean is that we've had to work on rearranging our work schedules. Connor's school will start at a very early 7:45 in the morning. On the nights when I work, I don't get off from work until 7:30 and often later, simply because the job is not one that stops and starts with a clock. And that means Josh would have to get all three boys up and ready and out the door before I'm even off from work. Not exactly a fun prospect, especially since the twins' school doesn't start until 10:35 and Xander is notorious for wanting to sleep in.

So I worked it out with my coworkers and my boss to have a set schedule, which means I'll work every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. That means there's only one day each week that the twins may have to be up and out early. And that's much better than as many as three nights on the floating schedule I've had since I started back in April. I'm not excited about working every single weekend, but it's going to make life much easier when school starts. And the good thing about working nights means I won't really miss much on the weekends, I just might need an extra nap or two!

Summer is definitely almost over, for me anyway!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fun with Cousins, Part II

The skies cleared long enough for us to make it out on the water for a few hours. Thunder rumbled down the lake, but never quite made it to us. Everyone had a chance to jump off the boat about a 100 times, each one trying to make their jump better than the one that came before.

Everyone also had a chance to be pulled on the tube behind the boat. Today's order was youngest to oldest - Connor, Kyndal and then Austin.

Some were better at holding on than others (right, Austin?) Grandpa may or may not have circled back into the big waves. We'll never tell.

Fun with Cousins

The three amigos are back together again for a fun week at the lake (the twins are just down for a few days - Xander is in Austin's lap and Sawyer is laying down beside Kyndal).

Cousins Austin and Kyndal made it down Monday night. Connor had a scheduling conflict, since he already had plans for a fun day trip to a nearby amusement and water park with Grammy and Aunt Lynn on Tuesday. After I caught some sleep from my long work week, I brought all three boys down yesterday afternoon and will leave Connor at the lake with his cousins through the weekend.

Last night was spent playing outside in the yard and riding on the Ranger with Grandpa. Today we're going to attempt a trip on the boat in between the rain showers. We'll see how that goes. Either way, the cousins are having had a good time running around and playing.

A nice break in the middle of a long work week!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The New Neighborhood

We Live Here, originally uploaded by cheryl.

We live here, in a place where the trees are HUGE beyond belief. Surprisingly, that's never happened for me. Ever.

Even growing up, I was fortunate enough to live in new homes. My parents had just built their first house the year before I was born. We lived there until sometime in elementary school (fourth grade, I think, but I wouldn't swear to it) and then we moved to another new house down the road.

In college, I lived in the dorms the first few years, then moved out into a brand new house (an investment for my parents) for the last two years. Josh and I did live in a slightly older rental house just after we were married, during that in between stage of selling both the houses we'd had before (the one my parents owned and one Josh owned) and building our first new one together. And with Josh building, we've moved every few years into a brand new house.

This house, not so much. It was built in the 70s and hadn't been updated much since then. Hence the gutting and the rebuilding. But the neighborhood has been here forever. And for the first time ever, there are big, huge trees everywhere. They line the streets, they're all around the houses and in the fence rows between the houses. I LOVE it.

The kids love the park being so close. We haven't ventured down there much just yet, simple with the chaos that is moving a household of our size from one (much larger) place to this one. We've been busy arranging and organizing and trying to figure out our new normal. My working three nights a week also changes things, since evenings and early mornings are the best summer times to visit the park. Evenings I work. Mornings I come home to sleep.

But last night I took all three boys, for the first time all by myself. It went surprisingly well. We had to set some ground rules, mostly for Connor, that you have to stay within sight and you have to ask permission to venture away from the play equipment (there are also playing fields, like basketball and baseball and tennis and even grass volleyball). Rules are good, especially when the space is so large. But after we talked about it, he did well. Even if his friends had a little more freedom (and seemed a little younger!)

Take a look for yourself, but I'm pretty sure they had fun!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Another Day, Another Adventure

Cousins, originally uploaded by cheryl.

It's hard to be them. Yesterday the cousins left the lake and headed out for a day trip to ride a scenic railway in the southeastern part of the state. They may not have been happy posing for the picture (my son, anyway), but I'm sure he had a good time on his adventure. He loves to be out and doing, and he also loves trains!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Finally at Home

Finally at Home, originally uploaded by cheryl.

After hiding in the sun room for the first few weeks at our new house, Buster has finally decided it's okay to come inside. We think the real hard wood (versus the laminate in our old house) made him nervous. Clearly he's gotten over it, because this is now his favorite spot - right underneath the fan in the front room - and also right beneath the big picture windows on the front of the house, convenient for barking at people who dare to walk on the sidewalk.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Adventures of a Big Boy

Oh, No!, originally uploaded by cheryl.

Have I mentioned he lives a hard life? He's spending the week with Grandma and Grandpa and his cousins Austin and Kyndal at the lake. I'd say they're all having a big time, if this picture is any indication!

Special thanks to Grandma for sending the photos!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pool Days

Double Trouble, originally uploaded by cheryl.

Despite being a busy summer, with the whole house remodel and everything, the boys have been kept busy and entertained thanks in large part to the extended family. Both sets of grandparents have taken turns entertaining them. Connor has spent a lot of time with Grandma and Grandpa at the lake, and the twins have spent a lot of time with Grammy at the pools and playgrounds closer to home. Aunt Kelly has even taken the boys on separate adventures as well. Not to worry, fun is still a big part of their summer despite all the changes they've been asked to adapt to along the way.

More pictures from our last day - with all three brothers - at the pool are here.

Adventures of a Big Boy

Big Smile, originally uploaded by cheryl.

The last few weeks leading up to our move, Connor spent his time at the lake with Grandma and Grandpa. In between boating and swimming and fishing and playing baseball in the yard, he took time out from his busy schedule to visit a local amusement and water park in the western part of the state, about a two-hour drive from Grandma and Grandpa's house at the lake.

If the look on his face is any indication, he had a big time. And this was before he made it to the water park part of the day. The smile just kept getting bigger! It's hard to be five, you know ...

More photos from the day are here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Changes ...

If you're wondering where we've been these last few months, the answer is here. We've moved. Nothing dramatic, just across town, but it's been a different process than normal for us.

Early last year, we had someone randomly express interest in our house. It wasn't exactly for sale, but we had been contemplating a move in the next year or so for a couple of reasons. The family who expressed interest was looking for a new home and their realtor just happened to be Josh's business partner and his realtor (for his construction business). They drove past our house and really liked it, so much so that they asked about the possibility of just seeing it even though it wasn't listed. They saw, they liked and they eventually made an offer we accepted.

It's been a different process, mostly because we weren't planning to move at that moment. There was no new house waiting for us to occupy, as there has been for the last two houses we've lived in. We did have a really great option this time, but it required a little work first.

By little, we might actually mean a total-house renovation.

We've moved into an older part of town, into a nice, established neighborhood with big shade trees and quiet streets. There's even a city park just a few short walking blocks away. There are some really good schools just down the street that our kids can actually someday ride the bus to if they want. Those are the selling points.

The catch is that the house was built in the 1970s, an older-style ranch, and it hadn't really been updated since that time. Josh gutted the house, and we started over from scratch. Walls and doors were taken out or moved. Wallpaper was painfully removed. Laminate floors ripped out. Bathrooms completely replaced. And, well, you get the idea.

So THAT is what we've been doing these last few months. Between working our day jobs, taking care of the boys and all the normal everyday stuff, we've been renovating our new house. I couldn't even tell you how many hours we've logged over here, but it's been a lot. Let's just say the boys were perfectly used to the new place before they ever actually got here to stay.

Here are a few before and after photos to give you an idea.

The kitchen ...

The living room ...

The front room (aka the office) ...

A bedroom (King Connor's in this one) ...

A bathroom ...

The laundry room ...

There's still a few things to do - a kitchen island to finish, a bathroom wall cabinet and mirror to install, some trim work, some dry wall and paint to touch-up. You know, details.

But it's mostly done. We've been over here about a week. We're finding our new normal. Or at least we will after Josh finishes up the one major repair at our old house for the new buyer - replacing the entire first floor laminate wood floor with real hardwood. That's also kept us a little busy!

So we'll try to get back to our regularly scheduled programming - lots of photos and the day-to-day lives of three busy boys and their big puppy!

The rest of the remodel pictures - the before, during and after - are here. We didn't start taking photos soon enough, so some of the early stuff is after walls had already come down. So it goes.