Monday, October 20, 2014

32 hours in the car and well worth it

We spent the entirety of last week on vacation. We loaded up the van early Sunday morning and started on the road to Colorado for {almost} a week with Cathy (Jared's mom) in Estes Park. 

It took eight hours, but we finally hit the sweet spot.
Yep, that's right. All three kids asleep at once. It was like Jesus himself came and blessed our Chrysler and all its occupants.

They did great until about 10 hours in. Then they got a little stir-crazy. And cranky. As did their parents. We reached a desperation level and I documented it with a Snapchat: a photo highlighting the fact that Alvin and the Chipmunks was currently playing on the Sirius XM in our car. And we didn't change the channel. 
Whatever it takes, right?
We arrived at Cathy's house in Loveland just a few minutes shy of 12 hours on the road. Despite some episodes of heavy threats ("Don't make me pull this car over!") and one episode of carsickness puking (Graham), the all-in-one-day trip was not nearly as painful as I had imagined.

Cathy rented a house on a mountainside in Estes Park, Colorado, complete with awesome views.
Everyone was just a little excited to finally be there!

The house slept a ridiculous amount of people and was probably bigger than we needed. In short, it was amazing. There was tons of room for the kids to run and play with toys and lots of adult space too, namely the pool table, sauna, and hot tub. There was also a big fake bear in the house, and you know we had to get some pictures with Smoky!

The view was pretty spectacular too. 
This Iowa girl isn't used to waking up to mountains every morning.

We did the traditional touristy thing on day one - browsing downtown, purchasing t-shirts for us and jammies for the kids, eating fudge and ice cream cones.
But the rest of our days were pretty packed with all things mountains.

We had a couple hiking guides and we researched a bit. We needed paths that were smoother and handicap accessible since we would be pushing a large double stroller. We bought admittance to the Rocky Mountain National Park and there were many trails to choose from. We spent the first day walking around Lily Lake and just driving through the park, getting higher and higher and enjoying all the views. 
The kids quite obviously liked climbing every chance they got.
We stopped for a picnic when we got hungry. And as usually happens with our middle child, nature called at an inconvenient time.

The next day we set out on another adventure in the Rockies. We intended to go on a short walk around another lake, but on the drive there Cathy spotted a waterfall off in the distance. When we arrived at the parking lot, we had the option of a hike up to Alberta Falls. So off to the falls we went. 

We took lots of pictures. 
Some not so great. 
I find that with three kids it is almost always an action shot of some kind.

It was a nice hike. Since both girls refused to ride in the stroller, we went at a slower pace. Major props to Jared for pushing the stroller for well over a mile up the side of a mountain! 
Both girls loved the stepping stones through a small creek on the walk.

And the view once we got there was well worth all the effort.

The following hike around Bear Lake was beautiful too. 

We let the kids loose to burn off some energy.
Graham particularly loved his freedom.

Rocks had to be climbed and water had to be watched.

We finished up the day with a slightly terrifying drive up Trail Ridge Road. Both Cathy and Jared thought it was a must-see kind of thing, so up the mountain we went. Now heights themselves don't really bother me. Driving on a road where zero shoulder exists and the only view is one straight down: that bothers me. Especially when I was riding in the passenger seat.

And man, was it windy up there! 
And cold. 
If you can't tell, I am freezing and about to blow away.

We got to the highest point and at Bailey's insistence, got out so she could throw a snowball.
And I didn't think it possible, but the drive down was worse than the drive up. I was extremely relieved when we reached somewhat level ground again and I could stop envisioning how many times the van would roll on its way to the bottom of the mountain after we careened off the road in some bizarre elk/deer/chipmunk accident.

We spent our last day being lazy. We hung out at the house, playing pool while the girls watched some Disney channel and Graham played with his old-school cowboys and Indians. We snacked on more food and took some short walks on the paths near the house.

And later on I did some more of this, which I am pretty darn good at when I want to be. Vacations deserve wine, that I am sure of.

So if you can't tell from all of the above wonderfulness, we had a fantastic time in Colorado. We all got uninterrupted quality time with Cathy and experienced fun new things together. It went way too fast, and we are a little bummed it is over. It is back to reality this week!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Refinished buffet

As I have mentioned in a previous post or two, we recently purchased an old buffet. 
Or sideboard. 
Or server. 
Or whatever you prefer to call it. 

We had a long wall in our dining room that was needing some love. And I have a thing for old vintage pieces of furniture, especially ones that are updated and given new life. 
A buffet was the perfect solution. 
The problem was finding one... 
We attended auctions, garage sales, you name it and it took over two years to finally find one.
Finally Jared attended a household auction on a random Friday night at 5:30 during an approaching rain storm. The stars aligned, and because few people want to stand out in a cold drizzle while their stomachs growl, he was able to snag the buffet for cheap.

Here it is in all of its "before" glory.

It cost us $110, which is pennies when you compare that to the cost of already refinished sideboards that quite often sell for upwards of $500 or $600. 

There was basically no cost in refinishing the buffet - only Jared's time. 
We already had the tools and stain required to sand down the top and refinish it. We also had the white paint used on the rest of the piece. We pieced together the decor by browsing Etsy and happening along a couple treasures at a household sale across the street from us. (We really are starting to sound like auction crazies. We aren't. We just like a good, cheap find.)

Table Runner: Etsy Modernality2
Copper Pitcher: Etsy SarahsVintageShop
Lamp: Hobby Lobby clearance
Yellow bowl: household sale for $4
Mirror: household sale $2

I love the fact that it is a neutral piece in our dining room that can be arranged and then rearranged for any season or purpose. Even just a new table runner can change up the whole look. I am excited to be able to display favorite items and family photos for years to come. 
And are you noticing all that storage? Extra storage room and increased organization make my heart oh so happy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The ladies' room

Bailey and Avery share a room. Most days it is all fine and dandy. And some nights it is an absolute disaster, but that is a bitch sesh for another day.

Their room isn't large. Up until recently all the available floor space was basically eaten up by two twin beds and one bookcase. There was no room to actually play or do anything other than sleep. Now that they are older and playing more and more independently, I wanted their room to be a place where they could actually spend time. 
Of course the peace and quiet I experience from that is a pleasant outcome as well.

So we decided to buy a set of bunk beds. And because their existing carpet was nasty blue office carpet dotted with paint stains and hastily installed by the previous owners, we opted to install new carpet while we were re-doing everything else in the room. One trip to Menard's and $250 later, Jared and I got the privilege of installing a remnant piece of carpet all on our own. 
It is safe to say that carpet removal and installation is a workout all on its own. 
But I am glad we took that extra step because both of us had forgotten what nice, new carpet feels like because God knows it is no where else in this house. "This is why we don't have nice things" rings more true each and every day. I know you are hearing me on this one, fellow parents.
Anyway, new carpet - totally worth the hassle.

The girls thought it was great fun to spend one night sleeping on the floor in their empty room.

Bunk bed installation was less painful than I imagined. Granted we bought them from Walmart so we were expecting vague directions and not top-of-the-line quality, but I am pleased with how they turned out, especially for the money. We already had the mattresses and matching bedding, so there wasn't much expense in this room re-do. 

I had only a couple honey-do projects for Jared to complete to finish off the room. 
Jared scored an old dresser for $35 at a local household auction two months ago. It is in great shape and with a quick coat of paint, it very quickly became a fun piece of furniture for their room.
If you are wondering about the rug under the bed, well that is the kids' favorite place to "hide" from me each night after their bath. They have pillows under there too, and they think it is just the coolest place to hang out.

The other area of their room is open and easily facilities a pillow and blanket cuddle-up session for reading books, which happens nightly before bed. 
Jared built the white crate for the corner of the room to hold all their blankets. They have so many baby blankets, many lovingly knitted and quilted by friends, and they are beautiful. They have been sitting in a closet for years since I had no where to put them. The crate works perfectly because it is easy for the kids to access the blankets and put them away at night. Plus every time they get used, I remember all the time and love put into making those blankets for each of my three newborn babies.

The dollhouse bookshelf is originally from Pottery Barn and we found it on Omaha Craigslist a few years ago for a hundred bucks. The rocking chair we bought at a garage sale for $10 and a coat of white paint freshened it right up.

The girls love their new room and Bailey was excited to achieve Big Sister Top Bunk status. And while it is technically Bailey's bed, Graham is up there so often you would think he had claimed it as his own.
Are you spying that bookshelf? 
Yep, another honey-do right there. I love that it holds so many books and Bailey has a variety at her fingertips at night without having to climb up and down the ladder.

We still need some decor for the walls, but I want to wait and find something that we really like and that will grow a little with the girls. Oh, and I don't want to spend much money. Are you noticing a trend here?  :)

So we will take our time and add things as we feel like it. Right now I most happy about the missing blue office carpet. 
My only complaint: changing linens on a bunk bed. Ugh.
It's. The. Worst.

Friday, September 26, 2014

the Solkos in September

Ya know, I thought that once school started, I was going to feel like I had a tiny bit more free time, especially on days with both girls in class.
I thought I might be able to get some exercising in with Graham on those two days a week when both girls are in school.
I pictured myself accomplishing all kinds of tasks. 
I imagined I might even have time to blog or do something I enjoy while Graham played quietly.
The reality?
Nope, not so much.

For one, on the days when both girls are in school, it has rained every single day - with the exception of one. Pretty hard to go on a bike ride or long stroller trek in a constant downpour. 

And two, this school drop-off stuff is basically a pain in my ass. 
Like today: I get all three kids ready, loaded in the car just to get to the school and unload all three just for one child to actually go to school. Then I shepherd the other two back outside (after Graham and/or Avery has thrown a fit because they want to stay and play), load them in the car just to drive back home and unload them again. Then I do it all again 2.5 hours later. 
And while this might not sound like much, if you have ever tried to get my wiggly terror of a 22 month-old into his car seat, you know what I am talking about. 
Completely trying to your patience.
And I get to do it 4 times in one morning. 

Both girls love school though. Their clothes are always picked out the night before and given a lot of thought. Lately Bailey has quite the obsession with headbands, scarves, and her black maxi skirt. 

Meanwhile Avery has been a tad bit addicted to her cowboy boots. In her world they work with every outfit.
Jeans? Naturally.
Gym shorts? Of course.
Easter dress? Why not?

And then there is the G Man.
I want to go on record at this point and state just how much more cooperative my girls were at this age. There weren't temper tantrums or the word "NO!" on constant repeat throughout the day. He is less verbal than his sisters were at this age, so maybe that is his issue. Whatever the reason, he is an absolute terror some days. 
A cute terror.
But still a terror.
And believe me, he has the sucking up, give-Mom-an-I'm-sorry-kiss part down pat.

Other stuff in our world...
We have been checking out garage sales and household auctions for a couple years on the lookout for a buffet/sideboard for our dining room. We wanted one that needed some TLC (ie: minimal cost) that we could re-do on the cheap. It took a while but Jared finally scored one. 

The "before" shot

The price was very, very right due to it being cold and rainy at an outdoor auction on a random Friday night. Since then Jared has refinished/painted it, and I have been picky about exactly what I want on it. It needs one more final touch and I will be ready to show off our upcycled find. 

Also at that same auction, Jared scored another cheap find - a dresser for the girls' room. We installed new carpet in their room along with assembling new bunk beds. The room looks totally different now and much more grown-up with room to play. I will be taking some pictures soon to share.

Also on my to-do list: switching up Graham's room. 
He is still in a crib at the moment but has made it clear he wants his own bed. (He has done this by trying to nap in Avery's bed every day.) While I am not exactly looking forward to giving up the comfort of knowing he is safely imprisoned in his crib, it is probably time. I want to repaint the room (yep, officially tired of nursery-room-neutral green) and he still needs a duvet/comforter. And since we already have Avery's old bed to use, once the bedding is obtained, we are in business. Right now his room is a total mishmosh of random stuff that I don't particularly love, so I am excited to give it some purpose and make it a fun room for a little boy.

Trying to keep my shit together.
Today I took 30 minutes to put months and months worth of photos in the kids' albums - a job I have put off for at least 2 weeks. I could see Graham and Avery in the next room; they were playing decently with a huge mountain of toys. I finish what I am doing and walk in the room. A box of 8 crayons is laying on the floor completely empty. Tucker had chewed all of them and currently we now have large spots of red and black (it couldn't have been yellow?!) crayon melted and ground into the light beige carpet. 
Where is the rumchata when my coffee needs it?

Other randoms lately.
A weekend trip to Omaha.
A new roof for our house very soon.
Looking for a new church.
Etsy orders.
Trying to squeeze in a workout every day.
Planning a week-long vacation to Colorado in about 2 weeks.

That last little item is what is motivating both Jared and me lately. A switch from our normal routine is going to be an extremely welcome change! As will a house in the mountains with an included hot tub. Oh hot tub, how I am looking forward to you... Come on, October!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Down 20

This past weekend, after exactly 5 months of exercising (4 months of it calorie counting with MyFitnessPal), I met my initial goal of losing 20 pounds. I had been chugging right along, but then it took me 6 weeks to lose the last 1.5 pounds - ridiculous!
Anyway, I've actually lost 21.2 pounds to be exact. 
But hey, who's counting, right? *wink wink*

It's been great to feel a difference in my clothing, but honestly, I swear I lost 15 pounds from my chin/face alone. Or maybe I am just learning the art of a skinnier looking selfie on Snapchat?
Every pair of pre-pregnancy jeans fits again - not so helpful since they were purchased about 6 or 7 years ago when fading was popular. 
Most of my shirts no longer fit or just look weird because, of course, my boobs defected first. Whatever, they weren't that great anyway...

Obviously my weight loss wasn't super fast. I wasn't dropping three pounds a week, but that wasn't my goal anyway. My goal was to lose weight and keep it off. 
Do I eat pizza? Yes.
Do I eat dessert? Yes.
Do I go out for margaritas and have more than I should? Yes.

I have been "dieting" this whole summer, through backyard cookouts, an anniversary trip, vacations, and s'mores freakin' galore. 

But here is the thing, I want to eat like a normal person. I am not going to pretend like I'm going to permanently refuse chocolate chip cookies or Reese's Peanut Butter pumpkins/trees/hearts/eggs for the rest of eternity. 
Cuz I'm not. 
So why try and lose weight like that?
The challenge for me was to find a balance: to eat healthier food and still eat the things I want within reason, plus keep exercise in the mix. 
And so far it's working. 

I started out thinking, "Yeah, yeah, sure I want to be healthier, but I would trade in healthy for skinny in a heartbeat."
Now my tune has changed. 
I {usually} like exercising. 
I like feeling accomplished when I am done. 
I like the feeling of muscles that are a bit sore the next morning.
And let's get real: I like being able to eat back some most of those calories I burned.

A big challenge for me that most people don't face is my Type 1 diabetes. 
Let me put it simply: it blows.
It takes a lot of fine-tuning to adjust insulin levels with the different forms/intensity of exercise. I can't tell you how many times I worked out, burning off 200, 300 calories and then had a low blood sugar an hour or two later. To bring up a low blood sugar you have to eat something, which just feels like a huge waste and totally counterproductive when you're trying to lose weight. Very frustrating.

And even after months of working to manage it, I still have lows. 
My basal levels (the amount of insulin your body needs throughout the day when not eating food) constantly change when my weight changes or because of less/more exercise. And anyone who is diabetic knows that when your blood sugar is low enough, you want to eat like you will never ever see food again.
Not the best thing for attempting weight loss.

So this post might seem to be a bit of tooting-my-own-horn, but it's my blog and I will do whatever I want I've been working hard and am excited to share my success.

21+ pounds doesn't really sound that amazing, but then I look at Graham. He weighs about 25 pounds now. I look at him and think, "Wow, I was basically carrying him around stapled to my ass? (And chin. And waist.) 
That visual makes it feel like a real accomplishment.

Friday, September 5, 2014

because this is all the effort I can give today

This week has been full of NyQuil, DayQuil, children's ibuprofen, and grumpy moods.
Damn you, start-of-school sickness.

So in place of real content, check out some pictures my kids (and dog) instead.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

First day of preschool x 2

Today marked the first day of the school year - well, for preschoolers at least.

Which means it was Avery's first day of school ever

We bought school supplies a couple of weeks back and visited the girls' classrooms last week, but it was all very real this morning as Avery slid her Hello Kitty backpack over her shoulders and sashayed around with the importance of a 3 year-old about to do really impressive things. {Like painting with actual paint and sitting properly on alphabet-themed carpet.}

It was raining pretty heavily out all morning, so we didn't get the traditional on-the-stoop and in-front-of-the-school photos. We did a pretty rushed and overly unamazing in-front-of-the-lockers photo though.

Along with these other gems.

 And one of Avery giving the steal sign for the Yankees...?

Bailey was excited for school. She has been counting down the days all week. She bounced into her classroom and got into the swing of things in no time.
Doesn't she look so grown up standing there?!
(Please allow me this one where did my baby go?! moment.)

Avery is usually our slow-to-warm-up child. {She didn't let her own grandfather hold her without screaming until she was 11 months old.} We weren't entirely sure how it was all going to go down. Thankfully for all of us she took a seat next to my friend Holly's daughter and just started coloring. 
That easy.

She wasn't timid at all and seemed already at ease in the classroom. 
We said our goodbyes and drug her brother out of the room. He had already taken a seat at the table and helped himself to some markers and a picture of a school bus.

Speaking of Graham, he didn't mind his sisters' absence one bit. 
It's amazing how much quieter it is with only one child - especially one child that doesn't say more than one or two words at a time. 
Not surprisingly he put one of his favorite words to use: cookie.
And since it was just Mama and Graham, I obliged.

We spent almost 3 exciting hours by ourselves, playing cars, doing dishes, running errands. Okay, so I lied - not exciting in the least, but there was no yelling or pinching or fighting over a jump rope, so it was a morning of luxury. 

Graham and I went to pick up the girls when school was over, and while he didn't miss them at home, he ran to greet them down the hallway like an airport scene straight out of a cheesy romantic comedy. Both Bailey and Avery ran to greet us and were excitedly telling us all sorts of preschool-ish details.
Avery's teacher even approached me to say, "I just LOVE her. She was singing and dancing and entertaining everyone." 

Which is great, because Avery is not Bailey's twin when it comes to rule-following and showing self-restraint. To put it mildly, Avery is our spitfire. Apparently Avery's teacher wanted to reassure me that our sometimes little hellion was in fact a sweet, entertaining little girl today. **Fingers crossed that it wasn't a one-time fluke**

And after an early start to a morning full of exciting new things, everyone was in bed (and actually asleep) early tonight. 
Hooray for peace and quiet!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Unrevealed until its season

For me the best part of church is the music. Music speaks to me. The flowing notes and the familiar words. All the voices joining together as one. It's comforting. 

In middle school during particularly boring {at least to me} sermons I would browse through the hymnal, locating my favorites. I would hum the tunes in my head, memorizing the page numbers in preparation for the next time the pastor would ask for hymn requests.  

The Hymn of Promise has always been my all-time favorite. 
So much so that my own family could probably tell you its page number (707, just FYI) and if it is not sung at my funeral some day, my spirit self is gonna be irate.
There are lots of oldies that everyone knows, and I love them too, but this particular one always speaks to me. 
It's a song of promise as the title indicates. 
God's promises. 
Promises that spring will come again, 
that a dawn follows every darkness, 
that our suffering has an end. 

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there's a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There's a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There's a damn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

I'm not a big lullaby singer. 
Rock-a-bye Baby has always seemed a bit bizarre.
("...And down will come baby, cradle and all." Seriously? Why do we sing this song to babies again?)
When at a loss of a song to sing to an upset infant Bailey in need of comforting, I chose at random "Edelweiss" from the Sound of Music. And I still sing it. It's part of the bedtime routine. I think we all just think it's a lullaby at this point.

One night a few weeks ago the girls requested a new song. I racked my brain for songs I know by heart. And Hymn of Promise came to mind. Apparently the girls love it just like their mama because a few days later Avery was adamant that I sing her the "hippopotamus song" before her nap. It took a full five minutes before I realized that "hippopotamus" equaled Hymn of Promise in toddler-speak.

I love church music and lyrics so much that I fell in love when I saw this sign on Etsy. 

Isn't it pretty? 
If I could justify the money, I would be ordering one of these suckers for my wall tomorrow. Customized with my favorite hymn of course. :)
(*hint hint* Birthday gift, Jared!)
After all, we do have a new vintage dining room buffet to decorate around. {Hopefully more coming soon on that in a future post!}

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Every year growing up, my parents loaded all four of us girls into the Dust Bucket (ie: the family station wagon) and made the drive to Okoboji. My dad's parents owned a small house there so every summer we went and stayed for a few days. Every summer we posed - from youngest to oldest, naturally - on the front steps and indulged my mom her yearly picture. Basically every year is a slightly different version of embarrassing.

summer of 1995
Side note: Yes, we are all girls. 
Felicia just preferred a boy's haircut while wearing a t-shirt featuring Pocahontas and John Smith. Thanks Disney. 
Meanwhile I am rocking a one-piece number with a built in belt and skirt. 

We spent our days swimming, fishing, playing in our usual parks, mini-golfing, and eating Godfather's Pizza and DQ ice cream. At night we hauled the extra mattresses out of the closet and arranged them in the over-sized living room. All four of us slept on them together, after about an hour's worth of jumping back and forth.

We went every year, all the way up through high school. 
One year we wanted to take friends. My mom was not signing on for a "vacation" with at least four extra kids. My dad was just crazy enough to agree. 
And that is how our dad ended up spending a night by himself with nine girls.

What I remember most from the trip was that we made him drive us around while we listened to the Backstreet Boys. And he learned some words and sang along. 
My dad's always been cool like that.

Fast forward a good decade or more.
My grandparents still own the same small one-bedroom house, although minus that green carpet. 
And now I am the one with small children. And I would love for them to experience and enjoy the same wonderful things I did when I visited Okoboji as a kid. 

Yesterday we decided to make a little of that happen. 
We loaded our kids in our packed Honda Pilot (can't wait to see what our kids name it someday) and hit the same road my parents used to.

We picnicked at the same park we used to play at when I was a kid.
We swam and played in the sand at the same beach that we used to when I was a kid.
We drove around and noted what had changed - and what had stayed the same - since I was a kid.

The result was a day of smiles and laughs. 
Lots of cookie bars and lemonade.
Plenty of sun and definitely a lot of sand.

Our three came home exhausted, already asking when they can go back again.