Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Week Before Thanksgiving

Another kid-filled post.  Avert your eyes!  Unless you're my dad.

For the last few years, I've been lucky enough to spend the week before US Thanksgiving back home with my folks.  Steve drives us down on the weekend and flies back to Toronto to work.  Then we meet him in Niagara Falls on the way to our big Thanksgiving get together in upstate New York.  It's a highly orchestrated event involving a car, an airplane, a train and sometimes a bus. 

But it's all worth it because we get to do stuff like this:

Green Bay Packers Autograph Signing

Since I've managed to successfully turn my children into enormous Packer fans, this random event completely blew their minds. 

The only lead up I gave them was: You only get a few seconds with these guys.  Maybe you should ask them a question!?!

Henry: What's your favorite animal?
Quarless: A Lion!
Pennel: An Elephant.
Jake: Is it easier to catch the ball in the heat or in the cold?
Quarless: Haha, good question! Definitely the heat.

Mike Pennel #64
Andrew Quarless #81

I heard about it on the radio the day before.  It was taking place at a local haircut chain.  We stood outside in a freezing cold lineup for 1/2 hr.  But only about 35 people showed up, so we could have arrived 1/2 hr after the event started and walked right in. 

Oh, smalltown, WI.  You're so not Toronto. 

Then we took a roadtrip.

Ella's Deli - Madison, WI

The state capitol is Madison, WI...only 60 minutes away from my parents' front door.  So why not?

The State Capitol

It was really really cold.  But still, I told them to run around as much as they could outside, because it was gonna be all business inside. 

2nd Floor

But, by looking at this picture, you can tell that middle child was anything but business. 

State Senate Chamber

Thank goodness, our close family friend sits in that very desk.  I only found this out when my mom was reading the self guided tour info.  "...and the president of the Senate sits in the desk at the front of the room.  Oh!  That's Mary!!" 

She was elected to the position by her Senate peers just a few weeks ago.  The first female Senate President of the State of Wisconsin.  I've known her since I was in 4th grade.  Go Mary!!!

Rub The Nose For Luck

Then we found the bronze badger, our official state animal, and rubbed the nose for luck.  He sits right outside the Governor's office, so we had to ask the security guard to let us in.  He asked if we might be Packer fans.  I have no idea why.

And here's a picture without children...

The Dome

The inside of the Capitol Dome.  It's gorgeous.  Even the kids were drawn in. 

Oh yes!  Those kids...

Loving It
Turning In Tickets
His Loot

Today was our Grand Finale.  We leave tomorrow for my brother's house and then on to the east coast.  So, of course, we hit Chuck E. Cheese for lunch.  I never ever EVER go there in Toronto, so it's a real treat for these guys.  The games, the tickets and the prizes.  I don't think I've ever paid so much for a twisty lollipop in my life. 

But look at that face.  He's just so happy.

And part two of the finale?

Helium Trampoline Park

My kids are the three blurs in the foreground.  There is nothing more satisfying than burning off energy, and this is the place to do it. 

These videos kill me.  He's 3-1/2.  I had to drag him out kicking and screaming.



Happy almost Thanksgiving / Black Friday!!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Halloween...And Then Some

I've decided to get into the mode of posting less more often instead of a lot less often.  I'm short on time.  Like everyone.  So if I put it out there, maybe I'll do it. 

After this one.

My "blogiversary" came and went.  November 1st.  Three years!  I did a Halloween recap then, and again, and again, so I must do one now.  No matter how late is is...

George and I visited Henry's classroom Halloween party.  This black cat got to pose with The Hulk...aka his 3rd costume choice in the week leading up to the big event.  Argh!!

After school, we ran home to decorate.  I just can't get it together to decorate even one day in advance.  It's last minute every single year.  But the joy of kids getting older, means they pitch in.  Jake did the caution tape and I took care of the faux-pumpkins.  (For a full explanation, visit this link, we will never carve again!!!)

Recurring themes:  Zombie (this year there were two), Rain (at least it's not snow) and CANDY (more than ever).  We have the kids pour all the loot onto the table for a picture right after trick-or-treating.  This makes for no individual stashes.  I can't believe they haven't caught onto my trick yet. 

And because it's been two weeks since Halloween, here's some other random things going on in our terribly busy lives:

Winter Is Coming
Winter gear goes on sale incredibly early.  I gave him the chance to pick out his own hat.  I think he loves it.

This came home in Jake's backpack.  His class was taking a trip to the "Century Schoolhouse" here in Toronto, and he was actually excited about it!  I was skeptical.  I know my resistant-to-any-kind-of-change child, but he really wanted to participate.  So we headed to Value Village and Dollarama.  He picked it all out.

And then this happened. 

He settled down, went off to school and met up with his classmates who looked just as crazy cute.  A friend of mine called it "adorkable".  Yes.  Every 3rd grade child must go through the rite of passage.

Then he came home and told us how he got "punished" and had to hold a log for 2 minutes.  A classmate got her hair pinned to the wall and another had to stand on his tippy toes and hold his nose to the wall for a minute.  Awful field trip that it was.

"Henry, you're gonna hate it next year."

Since we're going with a Jake theme here, I have to mention how insanely into football he is right now.  I admit, we've been brainwashing him with my beloved Green Bay Packers from very young.  But he not only watches it, he plays it.  Daily.  At school.  Begs us to go outside and "throw the football around."  His brothers, too.  I love it. 

(And we loved watching the Packers dismantle the Bears on Sunday Night Football.  All three boys may have been a little tired at school the next day...)

And on this active note:

Random iPad Picture

We're neck deep in the electronics war.  Our kids have taken over the iPad.  And an old laptop.  Yesterday, Jake found my old iPhone. 

It's still the kid phase.  Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts aren't in our near future.  But usage is getting out of hand.  Our general family belief is: everything in moderation.  So we're doing our best to limit the time spent on electronics, taking turns, managing the games. 

But some days, that iPad just seems to disappear.  Nobody can find it!  Hmmm...let's go play football, instead ;)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How I Know We're Meant To Be

Back in early April, while I was dreaming of summer, I hit the mall to look for sunglasses and took this shot.

He picked them out himself, got a thumbs up from a hipster standing next to us, and the cashier even smiled.  I sent the pic to my husband.  Because why not. 

End of story.

It's the fall.  We've lived with our renovation for a year.  And we both decide we need to get on some art.  Like really need.  Minimal / Modern suits us well.  But we need something on the wall!  Especially this one. 

It's in the living room, opposite the TV.  You can see a tour and before/after of the room HERE from a year ago.  Where I mentioned we need art.  A YEAR AGO!

So, I finally put up some taped-together paper to get a sense of the size and location....for a little DIY idea that I found here.  Oh, how I love it.  It's totally my vibe.  But I live in the city.  There are no random large canvasses just sitting out on the curb. 

(Well, there was one.  In the spring.  I pulled over, measured it and started putting it in my trunk.  Then a lady walking by said, "Be careful.  That's a rooming house."  I looked at her with a question mark on my face.  She leaned in and whispered, "Bedbugs."  And walked away.  Then I saw dog poo on a corner of the canvas.)

Once I figured out the size, I looked into buying one.  The size of that paper is 5 feet wide by 3.5 feet high.  Any guesses?  $200.  For a DIY that might or might not turn out great.  I couldn't pull the trigger. 

So the paper stayed.  People asked if it was art.  I started saying yes. 

And then it was my birthday. 

My husband was sick of seeing the paper on the wall.  So he took a big gamble. 

And won. 

He downloaded a free app called Glaze, to give the picture a more painted look instead of a photograph.  Then he sent it to Canvas Pop, an online company that prints photos on canvas.  He had the canvas sent to our home address, and amazingly enough, our neighbor intercepted the delivery.  Then Steve ran it around the corner to our local framer. 

And funny enough, it matches the size of the paper.  He didn't even measure it.  He just went for the biggest canvas. 

It's not a DIY and it wasn't cheap.  But good, big art isn't.  What it is, is something better than a photo.  Or a gallery.  Or collage.  It's pop art of my own kid. 

(That the other two think "looks creepy.")

And I love it.  ;)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Someone's Seven

Suddenly, I found myself picking up a child at school today for a birthday lunch. 


We walked to Pizza Pizza.  He wouldn't hold my hand until we crossed the street.  And then he forgot to let go for a while.

6 months

He had to go to the bathroom SO BAD.  He wanted to go on a tree in the park, but we made a pitstop at a coffee shop instead.

1 year

We went to Pizza Pizza because he got a Birthday coupon in the mail for a free slice and soda.  He reeeeeally wanted bacon, but he had to choose between cheese or pepperoni.  He chose cheese.  And a root beer. 

2 years

His birthday fell on a Friday, so a bunch of 6th graders from his school were at the pizza place, too.  That was sooooo cool. 

3 years

Cool enough that he didn't feel like talking to me, just looking at the big kids. 

4 years

He did say he couldn't remember if he had math that morning, he wasn't sure if he had gym that afternoon and he really wanted to get back in time for lunch recess. 

5 years

We went back to school.  I walked on the sidewalk.  He walked on everything but. 

6 years

He wouldn't stop talking.  All about random things that I couldn't follow.  I don't think he even knew what he was talking about after a while.

7 years

The second we got back to school, he wrapped his arms around my waist and said "Love you, mom."  Then he walked up to the front entrance, in through the doors and disappeared up the stairs. 

He didn't look back even once. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Closetmaid with Ikea Hack (I Mean) Help

A million years ago, I ripped this out of a magazine:

If you squint, you can see it's from the June 2013 issue of Real Simple.  Soooo, it just feels like a million.  Because I've been dreaming of it for the kid's closet. 

In fact, when we did the big reno, I asked my contractor to build this for their room.  He laughed and said, "I'll do it, but it's gonna cost you about 5 times the price of that kit."  Done.  Don't. 


A few months later, I got all inspired by another blogger's closet, who used the same Closetmaid system.  I got all "if she can do it, I can do it". 

And took 6 months to buy the kit. 

Then went on summer vacation.

But I finally put it together!!! 

Double Door Closet
Mess Inside

This was as far as I got in organizing their closet a year after moving back in.  Fail.  HUGE FAIL. 

The space is not small.  It's 4 feet wide, over 8 feet tall and 20 inches deep.  So with those specs, I was able to match the Closetmaid Selectives 16" Starter Kit

It's sold at Home Depot for around $100.  It was surprisingly easy to assemble.  If you can put together Ikea, you can do this.  If you can't put together Ikea, you can definitely do this.  The instructions have words (in many languages!) along with pictures and helpful hints and what-not-to-do's. 

Bottom Half
Secured to the Wall
Top Half
Click-In Adjustable Hanging Rod
Thank God It's Level
Plus Room On Top

What it does not have is enough shelves.  The three you see in the 2nd last picture above cannot move.  They are screwed in place to keep the tower stable. 

I get that. 

But...then there are a million pre-drilled holes on each side for additional shelf placement.  Annnnnd...two extra shelves.  What a tease :(


So I check my magazine reference.  Seven shelves!  I only have five.  I need two more to recreate the dream.  Back to Home Depot.  Nothing.  No extra shelves for sale.  Not even an empty shelf of shelves.  Uh oh.

I call Closetmaid.  Explain.  Plead.  Beg.  Nope.  Not for sale. 


I'm not buying a whole other kit to get two dang shelves.  I tell them that.  I tell them I regret buying their system.  And they should think about selling the shelves.

(Here's where you ask - why not put in drawers instead?  Those are sold separately!  I would.  But if I move the tower to the right, so the drawers clear the door jamb, the hanging rod doesn't fit.  Boo.)

So I get to cleaning up and a light bulb goes off.  If I can't make a shelf from the bottom, what about from above?  Enter Ikea.

Aha?  Aha!

I have two of these Observator clip-on baskets in my basement pantry/closet from the good old Ivar system days.  So I thought, yes!  Instead of throwing my Closetmaid out the window, which would be hard after securing it through the wall into STUDS, those would work!

So off to Ikea I went.


And since you can never leave Ikea with just the one thing you came for, I got hangers and a box, too.  Score!

Big Boy George

The closet organizer is for George's things, so the hanging baskets are perfect for diapers/pullups and wipes.  When he outgrows those -I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait- he can decide what to put in them. 

For now, everything is in the open instead of baskets.  He likes to pick out his own clothes in the morning and a book from the bottom at night.  And no matter how messy it gets, I can just close the doors!

(Those hats aren't his...yet.  But this IS the house of hand-me-downs.)

I never think of Ikea as the help for something else.  I always think how something else can help Ikea.  So this was a nice surprise.  And although the lack of shelves is a bummer, I'm impressed with how versatile and sturdy the Closetmaid system is.  It's not flush with the wall to the left because of the baseboard...but this thing ain't goin' nowhere. 

Good on ya, Closetmaid, but get on those shelves.  And thank you, Ikea, for keeping the dream alive.

(Nothing came for free / Neither of these companies know I exist.  I'm just happy I finally got this project done.)