Happy Halloween!

Our trick-or-treat was last night and we had such a fun time! Olivia was the last to get ready and she kept bringing her costume to me while I was getting EJ dressed. She definitely "got it" this year!

We took her to quite a few houses (usually those with shorter lines so she didn't get trampled) and she walked right up and held her bag up to the people. In between houses, she spent her time sucking on her unwrapped candy or just digging through her bag. She came home with bright pink, freezing hands because she wouldn't let us put mittens on her until the last half hour or so!

EJ and her buddy Abbie were really good about looking out for each other (which is awesome in the crowds) and left each house yelling "Thank you! Happy Halloween!" I'll have to get a photo of the two of them from Jackie, but Abbie was a monkey. Tony said they were like King Kong and Godzilla...well, really cute versions!

We got ready to go and the kids insisted on waiting outside for our friends. That was a good thing because while I had packed a bag of mittens (and the kids were wearing long underwear), that wasn't going to be enough. We went back in for hats, blankets, a second coat for me (yes, I wore two coats at once), etc.

We had such a great time! Hope you have a fun Halloween too!!!

Someone is Going for the Title "Super Dad"

The girls think it is super cool and Jack got to assist on the spray painting. I think he got a win all around!

Where Did I Find Olivia?

When Olivia first started being mobile, I would find her all kinds of odd places (like upstairs when I thought she was downstairs), but lately I've been finding her doing all kinds of interesting things. So before she gets told no, I've been taking her picture (doesn't everyone?)!

This one is because of Daddy. When I have the girls do art projects, they sit in their high chair/booster so they are contained. Not so much in Matt's world. So the other morning she had just pulled out a chair and started coloring away!

Watching the photo screen saver on my computer (my chair is high and swivels...this was impressive).

Putting on her boots, while the rest of us were playing in the playroom, at 5pm when we had plans to go nowhere (luckily she's the only kid who doesn't know how to get out the door...yet!).

Stripping? Or maybe channeling Flashdance?

And a little yoga...

Halloween Parade

The photos really won't show it (except for the fact that there are very few of them) but the parade this year was around the block of school only. Why? Because we had 40-60 mph winds...yikes! Very different than last year for sure!

I swear to you that Jack tried on this outfit just two weeks ago...with sweatpants...and it was fine. Today? We're waiting on a flood! No back up plan really...so I rolled with it!

A super short parade meant we had 45 minutes to spend before school ended for the day. We couldn't go home as I needed to keep the girls awake. We bundled up and tried the playground...

but as much as this one wanted to be a big girl, the wind proved to be too much!

So I wrestled two very unhappy girls into the bundlers in the stroller and walked around "through Kansas" (or maybe that was just how it felt). Thank goodness for super old episodes of Disney shows on my phone to occupy crying 3 year olds! Really hoping this weather turns back around for trick or treat!!!

Let the Halloween Celebrating Begin

Matt bought the kids new pumpkins to carve (to replace the 1st ones...see last pic of this post), because he's an awesome Dad like that! They were super excited! Jack's is on the far left (Matt left some of his crazy detailing out for his own sanity) and EJ designed the cat creation in the middle. Livie's baby one has not been decorated but EJ went crazy with the Sharpies on the last one!

{image courtesy of The Girl Who Ate Everything}

I don't often share recipes and I don't often go on about how much I love pumpkin (cause for the most part, I really don't), but...these pumpkin blondies are incredible!!! Jackie made them and shared a container-full with me yesterday and all I can say is YUM! (oh and also, all gone!)

{image courtesy of Vale Design}

The lovely Erin has done it again and created some wonderful DIY Coloring Book Sheets for all of us to enjoy. Go here to download some super cute Halloween fun!

10 on Tuesday

I'm kinda digging this format each week. It's kind of nice when you have short things to say (which I usually do)...anyway, no iphone pics this week, just me babbling.

1) My cool friend Jenny is helping her cool friend Milly fill a big duffle bag full of things for kids in an orphanage in Africa. You can read about what they need (items and monetary donations for a building project) here. We are sending vitamins on Friday and would be happy to add your donations to our package if you're interested in helping out!

2) And given that it's almost the holiday season, I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you about Jenny's company LobotoME. Awesome notepads perfect for stocking stuffers...including the MEpad!

3) I'm in my jammies already (it's 8pm). I wish I could say that it's because I was going to do something fun like snuggle up on the couch with a chick flick or go to bed early. Nope...bonus laundry! You know where you scavenge together everything you can to make another load of laundry (including the jeans I was wearing), so you can make sure there aren't sweaty soccer clothes stinking up the basement for the next week.

4) I don't think I'm ever going to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love. It's not that I'm not enjoying it and I only have 50 pages left. I think I might be finished already if I had it on my Kindle/phone as then I read smaller amounts. I have the book, which is great, but in this case makes me feel like I should commit a bunch of time to it...which I do not...hence the problem.

5) So it kind of goes without saying that I am not following my rule of reading 25 pages every day. Big fail on #3 on the list. Still doing well on the other stuff though...yay!

6) Starting to think of our Thanks project for this year. We've done a few different projects in past years and some have worked better than others. I'd like to do the cards again from last year, but would also like another idea or two. Anything work well in your house that you'd be willing to share?

7) My Google Reader is at zero for the second day in a row. I can't even think of long it's been since that happened. Oh wait, yes I can...never!!! (don't worry, it's won't last!)

8) I need a haircut...badly! My usual stylist is unavailable when I am available for about the next two weeks. So...I thought I'd cheat on her with a different stylist (just this once) but the only other people available are the new people. I know this because they have EVERY appointment on Saturday & Sunday wide open (I book my appointments online) and they cost $5 less. Do I take a chance?

9) Have you seen these gloves? The supposedly work on a touchscreen and I am intrigued! I hate having to take off my warm gloves to answer my phone or check email while I wait in the carpool line. If these work, I'm thinking they should cost a lot more!

10) Saved the best for last...our family photo shoot was featured yesterday on Auntie Tracie's blog. I love them and want you all to see, but...look & then forget okay? I have Christmas cards to do!

Happy Birthday Mom!

It's my Mom's birthday today...HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!! But we celebrated last night due to our crazy Monday night grad school/soccer practice/homework schedule. I had a bit of a back injury this weekend (in other words, I'm getting old & sometimes lifting a toddler the wrong way can lay you out in extreme pain for 2 days), so Matt stepped up and came up with a great craft for the kids to give to my mom.

Matt traced each kid's hand on construction paper (he did both hands for a total of 6) and then they decorated them with crayons. Once they were done coloring, he cut them out and taped them around a straw. If you bend the "fingers" of each back a bit, they flare out to look like petals. Six hands turn into a cute "flower arrangement" for Grandma.

{Jack's are red, EJ's are orange, and Olivia's are blue}

And let's be honest, the bouquet is even cuter when it's delivered by this little girl!

Hope you have a wonderful day today Mom! We love you!!!

Morning with the girls

Our morning in pics (sorry about the yellow overcast...iphone photos with no edit)...

Walk to class...

Animal tai chi class...today was tiger-themed so EJ was beside herself (she's pouncing here).

It's tough to have to be the baby & sit out of the fun!

Scenic route home...

EJ entertaining herself (and me) with hand shadows.

Pumpkins carved by squirrels are not the same as those you carve yourself (yes, tears were shed)!

Growing Pains

These extender light switch things are now in about half the rooms in our house. We had to give in to the fact that EJ just isn't getting as tall as she'd like to be (a major issue in her eyes) and yet she is getting bigger and there are some simple things that she shouldn't have to ask for help to do. The light switches (especially as we enter the early darkness of Winter) were a huge issue! And let me tell you that the new-found independence has made her so happy! It didn't stop the "I wish I was bigger like Jack so I could do everything" conversation in the car this morning, but it's a step in the right direction.

In other news, it finally happened. I was told yesterday that we could just walk Jack to school and say goodbye on the sidewalk. He thought it would be better if we just said goodbye there and then he could walk on the playground alone & we could "get EJ to school on time." Yeah, I believe there may have been other motives. I know I've made it a lot longer than other mom's at school, but it was still weird to hear. Given that I drive EJ to her school and with the temps dropping, this probably means I will just drive him and drop him off on the sidewalk, but still...

Last night Jack and I decided to read one chapter of Ramona Forever while the girls took their bath...right before bedtime. That was a bad decision...it was a sad chapter. I'm a softie myself, so I worked so hard not to shed a tear and to keep my voice steady as I read. And Jack was fine...he even smiled at the big news at the end of the chapter. When we were done, he recorded the time and then completely lost it as he told Matt about what we had read. However, he also said "but we got some great news at the end of the chapter!" I love how invested he is in these characters. To try to soften the blow, we read a second chapter. The Quimby family got the news they might have to move away. In addition to having a big heart, Jack doesn't deal well with big changes in life. As he said, "That didn't really help Mom!"

Each of the kids is currently going through some learning/school issues (and I am beginning to wish I had taken some child development/teaching classes). I've always believed that there are many different learning styles and because of that there should be many options for teaching children. I just never realized there would be so many different kinds of learners in one house and so few options of school where we live to teach them.

Yes, in case you haven't already figured it out, the growing pains are mostly mine.

Ten on Tuesday

My phone won't upload photos to twitter or facebook right now, so I've been saving them up for another 10 on tuesday post.

1) We've had really great weather in the past week, so we spend a lot of time on the playground after school. EJ has been asking to walk home (instead of a stroller ride) and she & Jack love to run ahead. This is how they waited for us in the driveway one day.

2) Then EJ decided "We should lay out!" It was not that warm.

3) EJ started a class on Friday mornings at another neighborhood elementary school. I spied this in the bike rack on our way in...seriously?

4) Last weekend we walked to the playground for a visit. Since it was a non-school day (i.e. no big kids to crush her), Olivia was actually able to play on the slide (climbing up into the bottom & then pretending she is sliding). She was SO happy!

5) The temps have started falling though, so we tried on new rain gear...

6) and new snow gear!

7) Halloween candy has finally arrived in our house (of course none of it is actual Halloween candy, just repackaged chocolate favorites...including Milky Way Dark. Yum!).

8) Another little treat to myself...flannel sheets & a new warm blanket. Matt and I have the coldest bedroom so I thought it was only fair!

9) This pic does not do it justice but as I unpacked the car this morning (stressing out a bit about things I cannot control), I looked up and saw a huge rainbow in the clouds. It had not rained, it was bright sun out and it started disappearing as I ran to grab my camera. Right after this it was gone.

10) Olivia went to the doctor for her 18 month check-up and now has to wear a hat to bed to prevent her from pulling her hair out (she twirls it to go to sleep & pulls chunks out in the process...she now has a bit of a mullet). So far it's working really well. And I swear, we are not idiots...of course I thought about putting a hat on her, but in a million years I never thought she'd actually keep it on. Guess what? I told her it looked pretty (and she somehow got EJ's Dora doll to sleep with too) and she keeps it on! Hopefully her hair will be back (and the habit broken) soon!

Surprise Packages

Last week I got a package that I wouldn't let myself open. It was a surprise (sort of) that I had ordered myself. Weird right?

Basically I made a deal with myself that I had to finish my projects using this...

Before I would let myself open my box full of this!

And yes, I realize it doesn't look like a lot (to anyone but me), but the surprise is in all the wonderful things I am planning to make for others with this gorgeous new yarn. I can't wait to share the surprises!

Halloween Crafts Without a Plan

EJ came home with this fun spider web art project from school yesterday (seriously how cute and easy is this one?) and it got me to thinking that we we haven't done any fun Halloween crafts this year. So, I emailed Matt to bring home dinner and decided we would fix the situation when Jack came home.

Well, Jack got home and wasn't interested. He has his own agenda/to-do list these days and was too busy, so it was just me & EJ. We started with the only Halloween-themed thing I had in the house...cookies!

Then we stayed on the food theme and made a marshmallow ghost. SO many great ideas floating around the blogworld, but this year 90% of them (or something like that) use candy corn. So instead, we went old school...black construction paper and a glue outline. Let preschooler loose with a bowl of mini marshmallows and in the end you'll get a ghost-like shape!

EJ was still wanting to do more art, so I decided that if we didn't have candy corn we could at least make candy corn art! I cut a bunch of tissue paper squares in yellow, orange and white and EJ went to work crushing them into little balls. Then we spread glue all over my lovely (remember I was an art history major not an art major) candy corn outline and EJ stuck them to the paper anywhere and everywhere she could!

She was SO proud to show her dad all her art when he arrived home. And the biggest plus for me was that Jack did his own thing (and was happy), EJ was making art with minimal help from me (and was happy) and I was able to spend some one-on-one time with the baby (who was NOT happy)! I think I need some more "on the fly" art projects for the dark, winter evenings ahead!

Put One Foot in Front of the Other...

{yes, apparently I'm already thinking Christmas specials with my song lyric title!}

{mirror project done & hung on the wall...new lamps too! oh and of course a bored baby.}

I've always been a procrastinator. I'll be honest with you though...it's only partially about "putting things off" though. Probably the biggest reason that I'm a procrastinator is that I'm big on doing something until it's done. I've never been about doing things little by little.

So if I had a big paper to write for school more than likely it was going to be written the night before it was due. And in those rare events where I did write it early, I still considered it done. No editing or rewriting would take place. If there is a book I am loving to read or a craft project I'm working on? More than likely I'm going to do nothing but read or craft (including staying up all night) until I'm done. When Matt & I would work on house projects or major yardwork (back when it was just us), we would get up early (8am...it was pre-kids after all) and work all day long with no breaks until we were finished (then we would shower, get dressed and head out for dinner at 8pm...life was very different before our kids!).

Obviously life is different now...add kids to the mix and your life is very start/stop. There is no way to devote "uninterrupted time" to anything. So in my world of all or nothing? Sadly my choice has often been nothing! For instance, because I didn't have a complete plan figured out for the walls of the living room, I felt like I couldn't do anything to it. But as you can see from the photo above...I've added lamps and I spray painted a mirror I got from my Grandma's house and found the perfect spot for it on the living room wall. How you ask?

My new motto...baby steps! Instead of trying to tackle the whole enchilada, I'm breaking things down and doing them little by little. For example...

1) Cleaning the house - As I talked about here, this has been a major problem. But two weeks into the new daily cleaning schedule (see the post below for the most recent version) and I am beyond happy!

2) The Basement - Seriously, saying that our basement looks like an episode of Hoarders is being kind! I've been overwhelmed for sure (and in this case it is justified), but this past week I hatched a plan. Each day I go downstairs and tackle one thing...one section of shelving, one box of junk, one corner. I'm not organizing (yet) but I am touching every item in that area. If it is garbage, I toss it. If it is something that we can give away, it goes in the Goodwill pile (which I will drop off weekly). If it should stay in the basement, it stays where it is (for now) and if it should come upstairs, it does (and gets put away) immediately!

{with my new basement plan, I found these dishes I bought myself on a trip to IKEA with NellieTracie...now i'm not saying it was a long time ago, but Finley turns one next week and I'm pretty sure Nellie was pregnant at the time!}

3) Reading - This is actually one of the things that pushed me into making this change. I had a library book I had to read in two weeks, so I divided out my pages and made a schedule. It worked great, but since then I've lapsed & still have two unfinished books to read. So...25 pages a day right after I get the girls down for nap...no excuses!

4) Crafting - The new cleaning/chores schedule has made life a lot more flexible which translates to the fact that I either have an hour or so during nap to do some crafting (which to me is playtime) or I work on something after the kids are in bed while Matt & I hang out (either watching dvr or watching him work/do schoolwork).

5) Exercise - Okay, let's not go crazy people! Still not back on the wagon with this one, but I'm hoping to start again soon (my jeans have been begging me to give them a break for some time now). Once I get some balance with the rest of this stuff along with Jack's school stuff (fingers crossed right now) and crafting time with the kids again, then I think I can start up with the running again too (or at least that's what I'm hoping)!

Now I realize I'm a whopping two weeks into this new mindset and things may change, but I'm kind of loving how things are going. Just realizing that things can be "in progress" and that I'm not failing is HUGE for me!!! And one more surprise benefit? I'm caught up, so I eat lunch with the girls every day. Like sit at the table and be present and goof around and talk (not use their occupied time to finish chores)...it's awesome! So...everyone keep your fingers crossed that I keep this new leaf firmly turned over! And I'll keep you updated if I find anymore treasures in the basement.

Final (for now) Daily Cleaning List

So I've reworked my original daily cleaning plan (in the comments of this post) into what works best for me and I thought I'd share. I moved things around a bit and made the beginning of my week busier (because I find I normally spend a lot of time cleaning on Mondays anyway). Certain days will be better for errands, but I tried to make it possible any day of the week. I'm also trying to keep my errand runs to a minimum (like one target run & two grocery store trips per week).

Monday - straighten up house, bathrooms, dust first floor, laundry - clothes
Tuesday - dust upstairs & vacuum, laundry - sheets
Wednesday - wood floors
Thursday - kitchen, bathrooms, laundry - towels
Friday - straighten, overall quick re-clean where needed

The biggest plus to this schedule is that it is beyond flexible as far as the amount of cleaning I do each day. For example with the wood floors, I can move furniture and seriously mop every inch of the floor or (if I'm crunched for time, etc.) I can sweep/quick wet mop around the big stuff. If I am away from the house for a day, it's easy to add that cleaning to another day, do it in the evening or just plain skip it because I know it was done recently!

Of course, the day-to-day stuff still has to be done (dishes, garbage, playroom clean-up, etc), but so far it actually has been less work than before!

Fun from the 70s

Tonight Jack and I were reading a chapter of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (which is awesome by the way) that focused on Ramona having to do a book report in front of her class. The teacher told the class to "sell their book" so Ramona takes ideas from some of her favorite commercials to create her own "commercial" for her book.

Jack thought the commercials sounded really funny, but when I told him they were actually commercials from when I was little, he just about died laughing. So while the kids put on their jammies & brushed teeth, I turned to my friend "The Internet" to find the commercials to show him!

The first was the dancing Purina Cat Chow cat (and an explanation on how they made that work).

And the second was one of my Grandpa's favorites to tease my Grandma about in regards to her cooking! It was extra funny because his name was Ralph.

Well after that the kids were hooked and wanted to see more and more! I love it when an evening takes some crazy turn you didn't expect, but turns into a total blast! We found some classics and I was reminded just how bad tv effects/budgets once were.

Take for instance the awesome break-away fence in this one (and let's be honest, that costume is really funny)...

Couldn't skip this classic!

Where are these horribly bad kid actors with ginormous collars today?

Jack was super impressed that I knew most of the words to this commercial by heart (Now you know why I can't learn languages. My brain is too filled with 80s lyrics, movie quotes and commercial jingles.).

And this one is for my bro (to annoy him of course)...

There are so many more I didn't put up...Mr. Mouth, Snoopy Snow Cone Machine, My Little Pony, Easy Bake Oven, Lite Brite (and we were just sticking to kid toys...I can only imagine the wealth of fun out there!). It was a fun stroll down memory lane and a lot of fun to laugh with my kids. As I tucked the big kids into bed they were still goofy. Jack even managed to work in a "Pretty sneaky Sis!" to the delight of EJ!

Ten on Tuesday

Okay, my life has been uber-boring lately! Well at least blog-boring. I've fit in lots of fun crafting time, but all my crafting is for gifts so I can't really blog about that, right?

So today I give you a ten on tuesday iphone photo edition...

1) Olivia has been waiting so patiently to be able to play on the playground with the big kids. This was the day she got "in" and joined a game of Duck Duck Goose (at least that's what it was supposed to be, but the big kids let her play her own way!).

2) EJ has been all about matching Livie and I think they are cute enough to pull it off so I usually oblige. Major upside is that I find I get a lot less questions about our family when the girls are dressed alike!

3) Waiting for the tiger to walk by again...apparently I have two very brave girls!

4) Post-pumpkin farm snooze

5) Visit to the cemetery with Daddy...they said Hi to Great Grandma and then visited the fountain.

6) Matt is selling almost all his pucks on Craigslist (anyone interested?) and Liv was helping him organize them. I once bought him a puck from every IHL team as a gift...pre-internet...so I had to call every team in the country. Now that is love people!

7) We've got another salsa lover! (now if we could just get Jack on board)

8) Jack's been known to set up quite the crowd at his Baseball Guys games and this past weekend he was at it again! When I asked him why there was food in the stands he responded that he "ran out of guys."

9) We've been getting a ton of nice weather this year in nice little spurts (so we truly appreciate it). This was a super nice day at the end of September which made the girls unusually happy post-nap!

10) EJ does a lot of art projects at her preschool and she's always proud to show them off at pick-up time. However this time she was a little more excited than usual!