Monday, September 30, 2013

30 Things I'm Grateful for in September

1. Fantastic family. My parents, my in-laws and my brother-in-law have all come down and helped paint the exterior of our house this past month. As a result, we're close to being done. Really close. So much better than shelling out $3100 to College Pro Painters. No joke, that was the amount they bid to paint our house.
2. Lucan's speech has really blossomed. He calls people by their correct names and it's really cute. He loves his grandparents (Gram-mer? Gran-per? Papa?) and his cousins (Why-er? East-y? An-rea?). He also calls my brother-in-law "Uncle Donkey" because Andrew has word vomit and said donkey 40x one morning before church. As a result - "Uncle Donkey."
3. Our friends have a Boston Terrier named Sammy. Lu thinks every Boston he sees is Sammy - tv commercials, farmer's market dogs, our cousin's dog, Tinker Bell - all Sammy.
4. The birth of the newest little baby into the family - Ean. Such a cutie!
5. The celebration of this little guy's first SUPER birthday.
6. Canning. Canning. And more canning. I'm totally OVER preserving the summer's bounty. It can rot in my garden. We've canned over seven gallons (that's 26 quarts and 5 pints) of applesauce and have more apples in the garage. We've done tomato juice and Italian diced tomatoes too. Yep, I'm over it.
7. I'm thankful for a good roof over our heads. We had a massive storm blow through our community - 80 MPH straight-line winds that took down a grain bin and blew off the school kitchen roof, but left us unscathed.
8. My dad and my aunt's birthdays. My grandpa, before he died when I was 13, all had September birthdays. We would do a big celebration dinner of Sept birthdays. I remember once going to this really cool Chinese restaurant in Omaha that had koi fish swimming in an inside pond. That's cool stuff to an 8 year-old.
9. Lu got to meet an old family friend for the first time over Labor Day - love when those connections happen :)
10. Buying our first pumpkins and Lucan loving them "pump-er! pump-er!" Family memories in the making.
11. My chiropractor. It's probably ridiculous how much I appreciate adjustments.
12. Television season premiers. I live a small, small life with small, small joys.
13. Wedding day cupcakes from Scratch Cupcakes. The best cupcakes on the face of the earth.
14. Netflix. We watch Daniel Tiger and the video version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar on regular rotation. In fact, I can't remember the last time I got to watch adult television on Netflix.
15. Cooking club. We have so much fun.
16. The new Fleet and Farm in Ankeny. It's so clean, organized and well-lit. Because I'm totally a Fleet and Farm sort of gal.
17. Lucan loves soup. A boy after his momma's heart.
18. Subscription boxes in the mail. I reviewed Citrus Lane earlier this month and will review my Stitch Fix box later this week. I love mail.
19. Speaking of mail, we do this junk mail drawing at work once a quarter and I won a $25 gift card this quarter. Yay!
20. Homemade pumpkin spice lattes. I made this syrup the first time, but I think I might try this one next.
21. I know that I said that I'm sick of canning and applesauce, but I'm forever grateful for my dad picking four 5-gallon buckets of apples for us. And for Lance's aunt who let us have some more of her apples and gave us cherries off her tree.
22. Trader Joe's Cookie butter. I could eat it with a spoon. Everyday.
23. Men's Bible study that Lance is participating in.
24. The book "Tao of Martha." It's a hoot!
25. Days off with Lu. Granted, I had to take the day off because he had croup, but it was fantastic to be at home with him and just chill. He was such a good little man all day long.
26. "Good Night Moon" on the ipad. There are times when I hate the app, but Lu loves it. He'll point to the ipad and go "Moon? G'night moon?"
27. Who knew no one carries mens slippers until Christmas?
28. My friend, Jessica's kids. They are so much better behaved than most kids I know. Babysitting them seems like a mini-vacation from my own life :)
29. $6.55 pizza from Pizza Hut when I've burnt supper to a crisp.
30. Replacement grill parts for the birthday grill Lance received in APRIL. Stupid Char Broil and they're 8 week backordered problems.
Baby Ean. Lance is terrified of newborns. It took a lot of convincing for him to hold Ean.

Lucan wanted to check out the baby. This is where Lance starts getting nervous that one of the two year olds are going to crush the baby (see the panic?!). Easton was a little protective of his brother and his "things." Lucan is still walking around the house saying "Easty 'puter. No share." (translation: Easton's computer. He won't share.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Diamond Candle

My friend Rachael thinks that I win a lot of stuff. I suppose that's fair. But I enter a ton more things than I win. I suppose it's the law of ratios.

I won a Diamond Candle giveaway from Jennifer's blog, Style Your Life. Jennifer has great taste and is always causing me to think about my clothes differently (in a good way!). When I received my email from Jennifer, I was ecstatic because I was really interested in Diamond Candles. You see, each candle is all-natural, made from soy, but contains a surprise inside - in the form of jewelry! Each candle contains a ring - valued from $10 to $5000. It's like Cracker Jacks, only prettier and for grown-up women :)

The only disappointment I experienced was that many of the fragrances I was interested in were sold out. I had no idea when things were going to be restocked and I was too anxious to wait long, so I went with something that was in inventory. I chose the "Sunwashed" candle because I was looking to branch out from my normal spiced vanilla or cinnamon pumpkin. "Sunwashed" smells like clean laundry and is light and airy. I was initially concerned that it would be really overpowering, but it's nice and subtle.

I haven't dug my ring out of the wax yet. I've seen pictures where women get a spoon out and start digging. I'm trying to be a bit more patient than that. But I'll follow-up and let you know what I dig out of my Diamond Candle.

*I was given the candle, but all opinions are my own*

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Citrus Lane Review: September Box

Citrus Lane is a monthly subscription service that features kid and mom products. I LOVE all of these monthly subscription fads going on in the world. I love getting mail and each month is a new surprise of what's inside! Even though this box is for Lucan, it's just as fun for me too (partly because I love mail)

Cost: $25 per month or $21 with a six month subscription

Coupon: Get $10 off your first box and it credits my account $10 too! (Thanks in advance if you use my referral link!)

Products: The best kid products (toys, snacks, books, etc) on the market, specially tailored to your child's age.

In our September box, we received some fun stuff - fun for Lu, fun for Mom!

Episencial Playful Wash Shampoo & Body Cleanser – 100 mL Value $4
Charlie Harper ABCs Book – Value $10
Happy Family Super Toddler Bar – Value $1.50
City Planner Blocks – Value $10
Julep Nail Color in Gabrielle – Value $14

Lucan continues to love to make "towas" (towers) with his blocks and then immediately knock them down. The city blocks require a steady hand and are a little trickier for him (but they've provided me plenty of entertainment. I like making patterns and designs with all the colors and shapes).

The snack bar he was a little more iffy on. Lu liked picking out the blueberries the best. But if your child had a gluten intolerance, this is a great snack option. I like how Citrus Lane included something for those allergy kids. And they also included coupons for more Happy Baby products.

Lucan also loves singing his "ABCs." Granted, the only letters he's solid on are A-B-C and W-X-Y, but he enjoys singing the song and reading his ABC books. This book is really beautifully illustrated and lovely. Definitely a win.

The body wash smells really good. A nice light citrus smell. Lucan loves squeezing the bottle empty of it's contents. That being said, there is a gladewear container in the kitchen that now contains half a bottle of citrus body wash :)

And the nail polish. It's beautiful and surprisingly long wearing. I put it on without a top coat and it's stayed for the last three days. It's a great greige-purple color and the perfect nail polish to take me into the fall.

Okay and the silly thing I liked was that the illustrator of the book also illustrated the box flaps. I cut out the flaps so I could color them later. I suppose the idea is for your child to be able to color them, but I'm reserving them for myself. Because I'm selfish. 

Citrus Lane is a really fun subscription service perfect for newborns to five year-olds! I can't imagine what child wouldn't enjoy getting a monthly box full of stuff suited to them :) You can give gift subscriptions too, so it's a great baby shower, Christmas or birthday gift too.

*I can't figure out why the last three photos are all facing the wrong way. Sorry*

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What are you reading?

 Let me make a list of places I have/had library cards to:
  • Sgt. Bluff
  • Sioux City
  • Ames
  • Orange City
  • London
  • Urbandale
  • Johnston
  • Grimes
  • Des Moines Public
And if we throw in school library cards, I also would have ones to Northwestern, Iowa State, London City Metro Colleges, Gonzaga. Basically I collect library cards. I collect library cards like some people collect passport stamps. Fortunately, library cards, not counting library fines, are cheaper than traveling abroad :)

Needless to say, if I bought books I could potentially avoid piling up the library fines that I'm currently accruing at DM Public. And if Lance ever stops working downtown, I'm going to have to find someone else to make my twice a week library run. Lance has been working downtown for eight years, except for a short two month gap a few years ago. He loathes my library runs because he always feels like he's picking up or returning the oddest things - like I've Got Your Number by Sophia Kinsella (don't read, it's really a poor read) or the latest Justin Timberlake cd The 20/20 Experience. I like broad range of topics as illustrated below. I've made my way through most/parts of all these books and here's what I think.

1. Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. Great laugh for those with toddlers or those who have been through the parenting game. There are some language things, but when your toddler just dumped pee all over the floor (again) or sneezed his nasty strep throat germs all over you (again) or your husband managed to somehow to sleep through the crying baby for the second night in a row, some language is warranted.
2. Bebe Day by Day. I'm still not convinced that French kids eat sardine mousse at the age of 18 months. In fact I don't know any 18 year-olds that would eat sardine mousse. But I didn't feel like I had any huge revelations, especially after having previously read Druckerman's Bringing up Bebe. Again, don't immediately go to babies when they are crying at night; PAUSE and see if they are truly in need of something. My second learning was that french daycare is AWESOME - cheap, supportive and they all have a personal chef. I might even consider moving to France for that very reason (despite a very apparent lack language skills - parlez-vous anglais?
3. The Condition.  Okay, I didn't read this one. I'm not sure I started it. Perhaps I did and found it depressing. But it must have been due before I really had a chance to dig in. Another day.
4. The Reason for God. Oh Tim Keller, you stretch me. We read this for our small group's "summer book club" and it was thought provoking and challenging. Basically it lays out all the reasons for people who have disbelief about Christianity and dispels each one of the reasons and then Keller gives the reasons why you should believe in Christianity. It's not a light read by any means. 
5. Calling Me Home. I really, really liked this book. It reminded me a bit of The Help in it's setting and era. It surprised, saddened and made me hopeful all in one setting. It's an easy read and enjoyable.
6. Relish: An Adventure in Food, Style and Everyday Fun. I miss daytime television. Daphne Oz is the author of this book and on The Chew. She's stylish and lovely and uber-healthy. It's not so much a cookbook as it's more of a lifestyle book. Which is fine if you like that sort of stuff, but I was looking for food and her recipes were a bit fussy and filled with ingredients that I doubted my family would like. I really wanted to like it, but it fell a bit flat.
7. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Another blogger gone cookbook author. As a general rule I enjoy bloggers gone "authors." Perlman's pictures are beautiful and her recipes are lovely, but they were not where this family is at. I try to introduce adventurous items into the L&L's diets (lest they become picky Todd family eaters *shudders*) but I found that the recipes had "adventurous" ingredients and a long prep time. Not for this busy momma.
8. The Picky Palate Cookbook. Blogger author (have you noticed a trend in my reading patterns?) I think that I should check this one out again. Author Jenny Flake had a lot of good, practical recipes for families that seemed "normal." I didn't get a chance to do more than just flip through this one because it was due back to the library.
9. Garden Rescue. Not a book about food! Or chick lit! Probably my favorite thing about the summer is our garden. I love eating (yes, I know more food) fresh food picked in my backyard. What I don't love so much are the bugs and fungus that occasionally infest our poor plants. In our seven years of owning this house and our subsequent six gardens, we've learned a few things but we have a long ways to go in figuring out most of our garden issues. Lance hoped that this book would contain a magical solution to our terrible grass, but it didn't. I would tell you that solution is fertilizer and regular watering. Bam. Grass and lawn genius. Someone pay me $100 for my consultation fee. But I digress. This book had some helpful solutions and insights. Nothing earth shattering though.

These are just a few things I read this summer. I also re-read the entire Anne of Green Gables series, The Secrets of Happy Families, The Tao of Martha, My Berlin Kitchen and a few others. I'm trying to get Lance to finish reading Parenting with Love and Logic. Because we need to figure out the best way to parent Lucan and not screw him up :)
What's been on your nightstand?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Toilet Training - I need a Trainer!

I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to potty training. Zero.

And the internet doesn't do anything except make me feel more conflicted about how to approach this endeavor. I've read blogs, parenting websites, watched youtube videos. I still know nothing about potty training.

Case in point: I've been trying to have Lucan run around the house without pants and a diaper. Lots of peeing on things that aren't the potty. One day I changed his shirt because it was soaking wet and he insisted on wearing a onesie. A white, Iowa State onesie in which he then insisted that get snapped at the bottom (I tried to leave it unsnapped but he kept doing head stands and somersaults in trying to button the snaps himself. It was pretty funny so I finally took pity on him and snapped him up). Two minutes after snapping the buttons, Lance asked me if I smelled poop. At the time I didn't. Then Lucan entered the room and announced "poop!" Lance proceeded to ask Lu if he needed to poop, but it was too late. Lu had already pooped in his onesie and used the snaps as a poop hammock. That was a fine moment in potty training.

But here are the few things that we're doing and I have no idea whether they are right or not.
  • I bought a frog potty a month back when he started being interested. I figured it couldn't hurt. He had been taking off his diaper for a long time at this point. 
  • At daycare Lu saw everyone using the potty and he wanted in on the action. 
  • At daycare he will go on his own, by himself. He won't do this at home. I have to basically beg for him to use the potty. 
  • On the flip side, at daycare Lucan has been caught trying to flush an entire roll of toilet paper. Twice. He doesn't do this at home. Daycare provider's exact words "He's sneaky, fast." Yeah, I know. 
  • If he successfully uses the potty, Lucan gets three M&Ms. 
  • We've installed an order to pottying - first potty, then dump potty, flush, wash hands and then TREAT. Lu understands the concept of treat pretty well. He likes to run around the house yelling "TREAT!" at the top of his lungs. 
  • At home we let Lucan go diaper-less and pant-less. This is supposed to help lessen confusion and help them understand when their body is telling them to go. All I've seen is an increase in pee puddles. 
  • If Lucan poops, I give him extra M&Ms. Because poop is worth a party full of M&Ms.
  • Positive reinforcement only. If Lucan has an accident, I don't scold him. That being said, Lucan peed on the floor intentionally the other day. Lance made him mad and Lu looked him square in the eye and started peeing. Awesome.
  • We still diaper during naps, at night and if we're going somewhere or have people over. This probably isn't helping Lucan learn. 
OKAY. Someone tell me what to do next!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Favorite Gifts for a First Birthday

I had the pleasure of spending some time last weekend hanging out with some old friends of my parents. They are getting ready to celebrate their first grand child’s first birthday asked for some ideas about a good gift for the occasion and it got my thinking cap going. Granted, they were working around some pretty tight guidelines (no clothes, no toys and no books) and I wasn’t able to come up with too much, but here are a few things that I came up for those who don’t have such stringent restrictions:

1.       Cozy Coupe – hands down Lucan’s favorite present he got when he turned one. I love that the newer ones come with a removable floor board so littler kids won’t fall out the bottom. Perfect for parents who are going to be the ones pushing the coupe around until the child is old enough to move the car with their feet.

2.       Melissa and Doug puzzles. Actually most of their toys are fantastic. I love the workmanship, the story behind the company and quality of their products. The majority of their toys has some sort of education spin to them and made out of wood. Love, love, love.

3.       Ball Popper toy. It’s noisy and throws balls into the air. Lucan thinks this toy is the best and whenever we’re someplace that has this toy, he makes a beeline for it.

4.       Stacking cups/shape sorter. Lucan still loves playing with this toy. I think it gives him a thrill to get everything in the right place. It’s also a good way to practice learning shapes and colors. Stacking allows Lucan to work on his spatial coordination.

5.       Mega Bloks! This is a timeless gift that will engage kids for hours. Lucan loves building towers and knocking them down to the ground. That might just be a boy thing J Mega Bloks are great because they are large enough for toddler fingers to work with them easily.

6.       Musical instrument set. Because every child should have the opportunity to make music and irritate their parents at the same time J


7.       A swing. Not a baby swing, but a real life swing. I wish we had a place at our house for one because Lucan loves swinging and we would probably spend a majority of our time outside swinging if he couls.
8.       Push/ride-on-toys. We have a tricycle that we borrowed from a friend and Lucan loves playing on it. I love that it has a handle, so we can push him around. Now if only we had more sidewalks and ones that didn’t end by running into a hedge … Daycare had this particular toy and Lu enjoyed it immensely.

9.       Singing stuffed animal. My aunt gave Lucan a version of this for his first Christmas and he still enjoys hugging the puppy and singing along with it. Kind of adorable.

10.   Kitchen items. Lucan’s friend Bridget has this musical teapot. If he wasn’t playing with her ball popper, he was pouring tea for everyone. Lu also has a mini kitchen for him to concoct creations as well as a mixer. What can I say, momma is a foodie!

And with all of these things, you better ask for a bigger house because you’re going to need it once you get all of this!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

31 Things I'm Grateful for in August

  1. Our beloved county fair and our much-adored Iowa State Fair.
  2. Bauder's peach ice cream and the fact that Lu ate half of mine.
  3. Fall-like days. There, I said it, I like fall. 
  4. Fresh picked, vine-ripened tomatoes
  5. Emails from friends during the work day. 
  6. Zumba classes that make me smile and sweat. The perfect exercise combo. 
  7. Long conversations with friends after supper at their house.
  8. Gourmet cheese.
  9. Fun neighborhood parks and splash pads!
  10. 9th anniversary of Lance proposing at the Iowa State Fair - we're 4-H kids.
  11. The movie "Despicable Me" - we might be a couple of years late, but this movie is a hoot!
  12. Homemade margherita pizza - with all of the ingredients out of the garden.
  13. Perfect cherries.
  14. Pool parties that result with kiddos with blue lips and chattering teeth
  15. A sister-in-law who will babysit for date night at the Iowa State Fair
  16. Tenuous family connections that allow us to pick their sweet corn for free and put up enough freezer corn for the upcoming year.
  17. Sitting atop the Giant Slide at the Iowa State Fair and being more than a little afraid to go down it. Then feeling shamed by the five-year-olds screaming in delight.
  18. 6 year friendship anniversary with dear friend Erika. Our husbands swore that we would get along. Boy, were they right!
  19. Family get togethers with wild toddlers.
  20. Soft, plush green grass - my dad's not our crunchy version of grass.
  21. Tractor rides.
  22. College friends who babysit in exchange for produce - thanks Em!
  23. Chocolate zucchini cake, the best use of zucchini. :)
  24. Clean bill of health at my annual physical and great physician referrals from friends.
  25. Swapping nursery rooms with friends to use church nursery as a gab session.
  26. Friends who read my blog and take us out for supper as a thank you.
  27. Lance's mechanical abilities.
  28. Women's ministry events through church.
  29. Thirtieth birthday parties for neighbors.
  30. New babies and meals for their parents.
  31. PAYING OFF THE TRAVERSE! One paid loan closer to financial freedom.

So much to be thankful for.