William, Charlie, Ikey, Benny, Henry

William, Charlie, Ikey, Benny, Henry

Friday, February 22, 2013

All you need is love...

William loves a celebration more than anyone I know, so I wasn't a bit surprised when his first words upon waking January 2nd were, "What's the next holiday?" I almost hated to answer...we barely made it through Christmas. With gifts laying about, the stockings Betsy and I decided to make left unfinished, and the tree still standing, the very last thing I wanted to consider was hauling out Valentine's decorations. We agreed to no Valentine's discussion until February 1st, and William patiently watched the days inch closer on his "High Five" calendar, giving me a little time to switch gears.

I really wanted to keep things fairly simple. Last year we constructed felt Valentine's envelopes for all the kids (even the two on the way) and I had stuffed a few trinkets and surprises inside for our Valentine's breakfast. It was fun, but I felt like maybe Valentine's Day would start to resemble a smaller version of Christmas stockings. This year I decided to ditch the gifts and focus on card-making and sweets.

I prefer living in a small town, but really, REALLY miss the convenience of Target, Michael's, and Party City when there's creative work to be done or a party to plan. My life doesn't allow much time for trips into Madison, so with a little help from Pinterest and the Baraboo Wal-Mart, our Valentine's wheels were put into motion.

Valentine production: Day One. Watercolors, aluminum foil, and stickers...William decorating his cards.
Valentine production: Day Two. I failed to snap an in-progress photo with six painty hands sitting at the table, but the little boys did hands (and baby feet) so they'd have cards to pass out, too.
Next, plenty of sweets and treats! I found these homemade gumdrops on Pinterest and thought they were cute. William and I made them together and packaged some for friends.


Sugar cookies with Ahmie! Mmmm...best cookies ever.

Charlie was so proud. What a big shot.
The kids love to descend from their beds and find a fully decorated kitchen and tabletop, so we decided a Valentine's breakfast with card exchange was a good way to celebrate. The rules were simple...everyone needed a mailbox or some sort of Valentine receptacle, and everyone had to bring a Valentine for each person in attendance. Even though our breakfast was a family-only affair this year, it  still worked out well.

Mailboxes and envelopes galore...6 adults, 6 kids.

Here come the troops...William's valentines ready to distribute, Benny and Ikey reading Valentine books while we wait.
Filling envelopes!
Charlie Bear

William
Benny Boo
Ikey
Hanky and John John...my "twins." Betsy made them the most adorable matching heart onesies!
Just like brothers!
While the little boys took naps, William and I delivered his friend Valentines...



I'd like to say the day ended with a romantic dinner for two, but you know that's not possible! Instead it was red velvet cupcakes with our kids and a great Badger game once everyone was in bed. (Sidenote: I get asked for my red velvet recipe a lot...it's from the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Cookbook. Use her cream cheese frosting, too...page 303. I hate to brag, but  they're dynamite. Make them. Today. You won't be disappointed.)

Hope you had a love-filled day!



video




Happy Valentine's Day! With love from us...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Heigh-ho! Heigh-Ho!

It's off to work we go! If you knew how many times the scope of our remodel has changed course, particularly in the last 12 months, you'd understand why this project has been more than two years in the making. Of course we've had obstacles outside our control (bed rest, financial barriers, another pregnancy, and oh, not to mention those 5 kids!), but deciding how to best utilize a small, 100 year-old house to fit a family of seven (without completely breaking the bank) has been no easy task. We've never been "bigger is better" kind of people and I have absolutely no desire to live in an oversized house with more space than necessary. At the same time, a few modern conveniences make a world of difference in day-to-day living and are quite attractive when I momentarily drift off into my lifestyle fantasy land...

Snapping back to reality, we have to work within the confines of the house as it stands. We nixed the idea of building an addition (originally two additions) when the estimates started rolling in, so for better or for worse, the house's footprint will not change. Organizing our family under it's roof will be a challenge, but a do-able challenge, I believe. My grandparents raised seven kids in a three-bedroom ranch...I have no excuse for failure in this mission.

Problem #1: TIME
I asked Jason to take a brief construction hiatus during Christmas. The holiday season is busy enough without my husband spending late hours of the evening (sometimes into wee hours of the morning) framing the basement. It didn't take long to realize we'd never move at this rate. If you're Jason, it's a lose-lose situation: Work on the house...have me frustrated. "I'm burned out with the kids and count on your help at night and on weekends...blah, blah, blah". Don't work on the house...listen to me complain that we need our own place...NOW. The answer to Jason's dilemma came as an off-the-cuff suggestion from a co-worker..."Why don't you call the Building Trades teacher at the high school and see if they can help you out." Bingo. Our project provided plenty of beneficial learning experiences, so we now have a crew of seniors (12-14 kids a day), plus a supervisor or two, working like gangbusters four hours a day, five days a week. We're only three weeks into their services and I'm blown away by their skill, speed, and attention to detail. We pay for the supervisor's time (plus some doughnuts on Fridays to stay on the kids' good side), and in return we get an entire crew AND a general contractor thanks to their hardworking teacher. Short of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, I feel like we hit the remodeling jackpot. Dry wall was scheduled for delivery this morning...hard to believe, but it's actually going to start looking like a house again.

Table saws and work stations everywhere. HVAC...check. Electrical...check. Plumbing...check. Insulation and visqueen...check!

It's a busy house during the week. Little worker bees hauling in the dry wall!


Problem #2: SPACE
I cannot even begin to list the space problems staring us in the face. As you know, we made this purchase exactly one month after finding out we had triplets on the way. Our doctor said we needed to move by family and we acted on his advice...immediately. It's fair to say it was an impulse-buy. We were planning for triplets based on wisdom we'd gained from being parents of one child and the joke was on us. That's an impossible comparison. The reality of triplets was so drastically different from anything we could've imagined, so it wasn't long before we started noticing the home's shortcomings. And THEN, we encountered a sweet little surprise named Henry. But, where there's a will, there's a way, and with a few modifications, a little creativity, and a very critical eye when it comes to necessities and possessions, we WILL fit comfortably in this house.

Switching gears, I don't believe our Henry has made the blog since his birth. At six-and-a-half months, he's a roller, a sitter, and recently an oatmeal eater. Henry loves his brothers and watches their every move. He finds their action and antics completely hilarious and so obviously can't wait to be in the mix. He's a very happy baby and tries to engage anyone and everyone with his enormous smile. On the other hand, just as Cinderella's spell deteriorates at midnight, Henry automatically reverts to an all-night waker and nurser around 8:00 p.m. He has a textbook day, but sleeps no more than 90 consecutive minutes at night. Henry is EXTREMELY fond of his mama, and although she often feels she'll die of fatigue, she adores him too.

My blue-eyed boys. Henry at 2 months



4 months

6 months
Betsy turned me on to a little Pinterest experiment...and it was a SUCCESS! If you've seen "The Christmas Story," you'll know what I mean when I say I was Ralphy waiting for his Little Orphan Annie decoder pen...for weeks. And THEN (hooray!!!), Henry received a very special piece of mail...

"Hmmm...what's this?"

"HOLY SMOKES! It's from the PRESIDENT!"

"You're right, Mama...those Obamas sure are personable!"
Highly classified, obviously. Hanky's name and address handwritten on White House Stationery!
Considering I had five kids during Obama's FIRST term alone, I think it's a pretty cool keepsake. 
It's been a snowy winter in Wisconsin. The little boys aren't quite ready for full-blown snow play, but William has been enjoying the larger snowstorms of the season. Despite my itching for spring, I have to admit that the backyard has been particularly impressive. Here are a few pictures of William "working" outside and the sled run he built with Daddy. His "luge" stretched all the way to Auntie and Uncle's house and included a tunnel, too!

William's very own shovel. He accidentally left it in the yard during this snowstorm and it was buried in less than an hour. We had to wait weeks for a good melt to find it again.

Helping Pa dig us out.



Sitting atop the starting line...

All the way to Auntie's house

The masterminds of the sled run. They played in this storm for 4 hours straight!


Tunnel

Tunnel...with mini snowman on top for a decorative touch.
That's our news for now. We're expecting lots of changes in the next couple months. Can't wait to share more. Have a good weekend!