Saturday, July 15, 2017

Raise the Stars and Stripes

Our weekends are starting to feel a bit more weekend-y and less dominated by renovation projects. That's not to say that things are done; there are plenty of projects to start and complete. As I type on this cool Saturday morning, Nate is downstairs building the final wood tiles for the screen porch from the remaining ipe that bought for the back deck. But don't feel too sorry for him, because in about 45 minutes we'll all bike down to the farmers' market & children's museum and he'll continue on to University Bay to play ultimate for 2 hours.

On the glorious long weekend before July 4, the goal was to complete the front porch. While it doesn't look that different to any of you, we're super excited to no longer see the uneven cuts of the ceiling and blotches of yellow primer on the fiberglass columns. Everything is trimmed and has two coats of pearly white paint. My favorite part is the dentil molding under the eaves, however subtle it is. On July 3, before driving to Oconomowoc to spend time with my parents and grandparents, we raised the American flag and hung the house numbers.

In Oconomowoc, the kids were thrilled by the $12 fountain fireworks I bought at Menard's the day before. Papa had them chanting "We love Dad! We love Dad!" over and over as Nate lit them off one by one. Another highlight of that evening was the boat ride the kids took with Belle and Papa while Nate and I stayed back to make dinner. Win, win, since my parents would prefer not to cook but would prefer to spend more time with our kids.

But back to today. Again, my husband never ceases to amaze me with his "get it done" attitude. He hardly stopped for more than a glass of ice water after we biked back from the capitol. He had the floor installed by 4 pm. The screen will come soon enough, and then we'll be dining mosquito free until it's too cold to do so.

Looks pretty great, Nate! And I'm sure the tiles will last way longer than the ones we saw at Ikea last month.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Permits Be Gone!

On Monday, we had our final, final, final inspections for the house renovation. What an AMAZING feeling of relief and accomplishment. Nate worked patiently and humbly throughout, researching and implementing all of the little things the inspectors found. Thank you, Nate, you're the best.

The pictures below show how much the landscaping improved over the past 4 months, but the main thing I like to focus on is the missing permits from the window to the left of the front door. It was very fun to remove the tape and recycle the permits!

March 2017

June 15, 2017 (we got it done just in time for your birthday, Anne!)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May, Before You Slip Away

We've had so many good things filling our days lately: happy, healthy kids, mountain biking, renovation awards, funny things kids say, a Cora-initiated haircut, celebrating 60 years of MSI with my parents, and extended family birthday parties (celebrating 12 birthdays in April and May). My brain would rather sleep now than think of creative things to say about all of these blessings, so, may these pictures speak millions of words to you.

Travis, Adam, Aaron, Josh and Nate heading north for a bike-packing trip

Sisterly love while Lou poses with her newly pierced ears

Cora gave me no choice but to finish her bang trim

Date night at the Historic Preservation Awards

Bird watching on the MKE river

Fun selfie on Nancy & Carol's balcony (at the family birthday party)

Congratulations to my amazing parents for leading MSI to such success and through a beautiful renovation!

Dirtying the glass and leaving poopy diapers in the ladies' room...likely the last party this guy will be invited to! 

37 year of our favorite guy, Nate. We celebrated with margaritas and key lime pie!
And because photos can't capture specific things kids say, two Cora quotes from the week:

Chasing [trying to catch] swallows in the field next to Nate's spring league game, Cora cries out "I just want to see you!"

Seeing 4 extra potatoes on the baking sheet at dinner, Louisa states that they are hers. Cora grumbles, saying "they are everyone's. No, actually, they are Jesus' "

Friday, May 5, 2017

Long Lost April

I don't put too much pressure on myself to blog regularly, but it does feel a little bit odd to miss a whole month. I'll blame it on too many parties, since April brought two birthdays, so we now have a four and a six year old. I'm excited because now I can say that my kids are six, four and two, which prompts less of a pity look than saying that my kids are five, three and two. We celebrated Cora's birthday three times: once with our immediate family, once to share the celebration with Aunt Georgia, and a third time with my parents and Cora's besties, Emmett and Cordelia. Cora is a friendly, creative little lady, who loves Moana, Elsa, pajamas and 2nd and 3rd breakfasts. We do our best to appreciate her persistence/stubbornness/passion that I'm told means she will be very successful someday. Bean, stubborn or not, we love you!

Party #2 - white cake with lemon curd and whipped cream
Cora got her very own yoga mat, so here they are, doing Cosmic Kids yoga on Easter Eve
Holding the letter "Y" to spell "We Love You" for Belle Mere's birthday
Pure joy
For Louisa's birthday, we were lucky enough to spend a long weekend with my parents on Coronado, an island near San Diego. We had a wonderful time seeing Grandma Joanie, walking to the beach, seeing my brother and his family, and celebrating the golden birthdays (60 years and 6 years on 4/29) of Louisa and my mom, Belle Mere. Louisa had high hopes for a birthday party with her entire Kindergarten class, but she graciously accepted the fact that we couldn't have a friend party and go to CA to celebrate with her grandma. Lou seems to be getting more and more "happy-go-lucky" the older she gets. She loves school, her friends, and piano lessons. She reflected the other day, saying, "I think the last time I had a time out was when I was three, in the rental house." It's true, she doesn't often need time outs, but I think she must have had a least one in her fourth year and one in her fifth.

Dress rehearsal of Moana Live!
Reminding myself that in Campbell, we couldn't walk to the beach, made it easier accept the fact that we left CA
Crafting with Grandma Joanie
The birthday girls

Saturday, March 25, 2017

2017 Historic Preservation Awards

A friend of our neighbors' called this week, introducing himself as Sam, the board president of the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation, explaining that he has watched the work on our house over the past 1.5 years and thinks we should nominate ourselves for a renovation award. It seems to be more of a fundraiser (applying is free, but the award ceremony requires a ticket to attend), rather than an honor I would love to win, but I applied nonetheless. At the very least, I'm grateful for the motivation to reflect on our process and put together a few before and after pictures. Here is our project description, written for the application, along with a few before and after pictures, also submitted.

We purchased our home in July of 2015. Our realtor tried to convince us to look at houses that needed less work, but we really loved the neighborhood and felt that we were up for a complete renovation, so we went for it. Over the next year and a half, neighbors shared stories of the history of the house. It was last purchased as a fixer-upper in the 1970’s but was never actually fixed up. Ten dumpsters of hoarded “stuff” were discarded before we ever set foot in the house. We removed another 10 dumpsters worth in the demolition process.

We completed the majority of the renovation work ourselves, while hiring out a few of the larger jobs to local contractors.  Nate discovered a passion for construction and woodworking at West High School, and from day one, balanced his desire to do all the work himself with a full-time job as an engineer designing bikes at Trek.

It’s probably easier to say which parts of the house we didn’t replace. Like all major renovations, the to-do list got longer and longer the farther we went. We retained the footprint of the house, with the exception of the back deck, which we made smaller. All of the windows, except one intricate diamond shaped window in the attic landing, have been replaced. The wood floors needed some minor patching and repairs, but sanded out beautifully. The electrical work was all knob and tube and needed to be replaced, and the plumbing needed to be updated as well. So we decided as long as we were opening up all the walls, we would put in a modern HVAC system with central air. We made a drafty, old house airtight with spray foam on the interior and rigid foam on the exterior of the original shiplap sheathing. For many months we debated whether to repair and paint the original cedar siding, but in the end decided that it made more sense economically to replace it with LP Smartside.

We painstakingly removed, de-nailed and refinished all of the trim in the house.  We’ve re-installed some of it, but much of it is waiting patiently in the newly finished walk-up attic, ready to adorn a window or cover the ragged ends of the hardwood floors where they meet the walls. For a modern family of 5, it made more sense to have two full bathrooms upstairs and a half bath downstairs, so we transformed the upstairs study into a bathroom. We also shortened the upstairs hallway, creating a master bedroom/bathroom. The house had a second staircase that was charming and historic, but by removing it we made room for the half bath downstairs, a closet in the playroom, a main floor laundry room, and a pantry. The basement remains unfinished and is a wonderful workshop for the general contractor, my husband.

As you can see from the pictures of the kitchen, we removed the wall between the living room and kitchen. This required removing the chimney that ran from the basement boiler through the roof, brick by brick. The house lacked an original fireplace, so we added a gas fireplace that vents directly out the side of the house.

The main things that still need to be done include a railing in the attic, lots of trim, fireplace mantle/tile, kitchen backsplash tile, cabinet doors and fronts, siding on the new 2 car garage, and finishing touches on the landscaping. All in all, it’s been a fun project and although we drained our savings, we have no regrets!


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Seussical The Musical

Two years ago for Christmas, the Ooms gifted us tickets to Good Night Moon at The Children's Theater of Madison. We loved seeing a favorite book preformed on stage, so when I saw that Seussical The Musical was coming to Madison this year, I really wanted to go. The girls and I went two weeks short -- so good! During the show, I found myself wanting to be less concerned about messes (the one's my kids make) and more encouraging of creating, thinking and dreaming (for myself and my kids). I found myself wanting a job that requires more creativity and gives me more of an outlet for creating.

The show is based on Dr. Seuss' book Horton Hears A Who, and during one of the solos by Horton, he sings about flying and Cora said, in her "outside" voice, "elephants can't fly!" Another favorite part of the show was seeing that Gertrude the bird learns that life is better with her single, bedraggled tail feather than it was with a beautiful, full plume that she wished and wished for. I liked this because I'm thirsty for "beauty-within" examples for Lou and Cora.

I should have read the book before we went to the show, but didn't think about it, so instead read it after the show. I smiled when I read who signed our copy of Horton Hears A Who: For the Bosscher Children, from Gee Gee 8/4/15. We miss you, Gee Gee!

Much of what makes Dr. Seuss books so enjoyable to read it the silliness of the characters mixed with real life issues. While of course Horton teaches us that "a person's a person, no matter how small," the thing that stuck out tonight was:

"This," cried the Mayor, "is your town's darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
To come to the aid of their country!" he said.
We've GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts

I know lots of people could argue that politically, every voice doesn't count. True. But the kind of voice I'm talking about here is the one that can call representatives and senators or defend those who don't have as loud of a voice. I don't always act as though my voice counts, but I should, so it was good to be reminded.

The little voices in my life count, too! Louisa has been taking piano lessons and it's been fun to hear her fingers and voice progress. Last night in the bath (2 weeks after we saw the show), Louisa was singing Horton's solo, "a person's a person, no matter how small" over and over again, even in tune. I love how songs just stick in her head and I really hope that someday, if she wants to perform via acting or singing, that we are able to give her that chance.

Our friend, who rocked the roll of the young Kangaroo

The Cat in the Hat was fantastically funny

Sunday, March 5, 2017

From the archives

This is a [random collection of four short stories] post I never finished:

Cora pushed Peter over the other day, making him land on his unpadded bottom. He was sad and came to me, asking for a hug-y. I asked Cora to say sorry and give him a hug, which she did, although without a lot of remorse. Next Peter said sorry to Cora and gave her a hug. I told him he only needed to say sorry if he did something mean to Cora, so he proceeded to push her, say sorry, and hug her. Too much.

The girls love music as much as Nate and I do, and yesterday in the car, we were only 10 seconds into the La La Land soundtrack, when Louisa requested a song that she had learned in school. Cora immediately interrupted her request saying, "No Wuwisa, I like La La Land!" I was amazed she could identify it, since she didn't see the movie and didn't seem to be that interested in the music. She then reminded me that she has seen the movie, "Remember, when Oma was over and we watched it on the computer?" Ah yes, at Peter's birthday party, Uncle Patrick played Jimmy Falon's La La Land/Golden Globe Awards spoof, which was written to the same tune as the opening song on the soundtrack. It's so fun watching little brains make connections like this!

Tonight, 40 minutes after we put the girls to bed, Cora (who had a nice long nap this afternoon) called out "Mom! I'm hot!" I told her to take off a layer and she replied "okay." Ten seconds later she asked, "Mom, what means take off a layer?" The understanding we take for granted!

Since I don't have photos directly related to any of these moments, maybe this is a good place to share some cute photos from a rare whole-family outing, to a $1 Wisconsin women's basketball game on February 18. They won the game, and the kids got to eat hot dogs. Win win, for them at least [insert smiley face]!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Things They Say, Continued

Now that we have three kids verbally exploring their world, it seems that there's a constant flow of "things I should write down." The latest:

Louisa lost her 2nd tooth this week. Although she knows that Santa Clause is not real, she's holding out hope that fairies exist, and in this case, the tooth fairy. We've read a few books about the tooth fairy, one where a boy loses and tooth and his sister is jealous, so she fakes the tooth fairy out with a piece of corn. The robots at the tooth fairy palace detect her lie, and chase her out of the palace,  teaching her a lifelong lesson. So Cora's only comment about the tooth fairy is that she never wants to go to her palace. The other book was from the library and I wish I would have written down the title, because it was cute. Basically a rumor went around school that Mr. Smith was the tooth fairy, for every child, not just his daughter.

But back to Louisa's comment....

She lost her tooth at breakfast on Monday. I put the tooth in a ziplock and left it on the counter. Long story short, it was accidentally thrown away and Louisa was pretty sad that night when she went to put it under her pillow. I consoled her, saying that the tooth fairy would still come. For some reason I told Louisa that "I know the tooth fairy, and she will come." That actually dried Lou's tears in a magical way, and for the next couple days, she was obviously thinking about my relationship to the tooth fairy. Yesterday on the walk home from piano, she asked if the tooth fairy came to our wedding and when I said no, she begged me to tell her how I know the tooth fairy. I debated telling her that mom and dad are the tooth fairy, but I love the hope that she has, thinking that fairies are real. I told her that when you have kids, you meet the tooth fairy and left it at that.

Cora says all sorts of funny things these days. One of our favorites is, "we got some ______ going," where the blank is filled in with whatever she is doing at the moment, such as coloring or a game. You got it going on, Bean. She has also been thinking a lot about Gigi, Nate's grandma Trudy, who died at a beautiful age of 93 in November. Cora has been learning about dinosaurs at school, and the other day asked if Gigi died when the dinosaurs became "astinct?" She quickly added that 'astinct' means smelly.

Then there is Peter, who loves to mimic single words, or 2 word phrases like "over there" but won't say two unrelated words together, such as "mama eats." I only stopped to think about the difference between the two when doing Peter's developmental questionnaire for his 2-year check up next week. But a specific speaking moment I'd like to remember happened two nights ago, when he was up every couple of hours, wheezing and coughing. He had been sleeping on me or Nate and at one point when he seemed totally asleep, he adjusted himself on me, wrapped his arms around my shoulders and said, "hug" before drifting off to sleep. Then Nate was up helping Cora reclaim her blanket from Ries and Peter noticed that Nate was gone. When Nate walked back into our dark room, Peter patted his spot in the bed and said, "sit here." Oh buddy, you make us laugh. Thankfully this was just a one night illness and while his voice is still a bit scratchy, he slept great last night, and so did I.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Back in the Game

Ever since we moved back from California, I've granted myself a break from meal planning. The time off was good, but I'm ready to get back to it. It's just so much more relaxing to come home from work with a plan for that night, even if it's something easy, like grilled cheese and steamed green beans.

A friend of mine recently recommended a book entitled Simplicity Parenting. Specifically, she liked the suggestion to make meal planning easier by giving each day of the week a theme. For example, Monday is soup day, Tuesday is chicken day, etc. Before I could get this book from the library, I picked up a book with a similar title: Minimalist Parenting. I've really enjoyed the tone and tips in this book, although I should be reading with a notebook in hand, otherwise the best tips offered will be lost after passing through my brain as an idea to implement. So...all this to say, I'm about to read the chapter on meal planning and want to take some notes for me (and you) here.

Okay, done with that chapter. Shoot. I don't have any notes. Well, here is my plan, definitely inspired by the chapter and also by my friend who originally suggested the other book:
  • On Sundays or Mondays, I will come up with 5 or 6 meals and a grocery list for the upcoming week, leaving room for leftovers and eating out
  • On Monday evenings, after the kids go to bed, either I or Nate will go grocery shopping
  • I will involve Nate, Louisa and Cora. Nate can suggest as many meals each week as he wants, as long as they don't all involve bacon, ground beef or excessive amounts of cheese. Louisa and Cora can alternate weeks (My predictions: Cora will choose pesto pasta, Lou will pick egg bake or spaghetti & meatballs. Peter? Well, he would pick a lot of his favorite foods, but they wouldn't exactly create a meal, so we'll hold off on asking for his suggestions just yet)
  • I will glean inspiration from websites like and, but also feel okay about a whole week without any new or interesting recipes
  • I will post the recipes on our refrigerator once again, because it's always good to write with a real pen on real paper, with all the typing and texting I do these days
  • At some point during the week, I will post our meal plan on this blog again, which will give me accountability and the chance to share our ideas with you!
Minimalist Parenting recommends The SIX O'CLOCK Scramble and Relish, two websites you can subscribe to for weekly meal plans, but I think I enjoy looking at recipes and building grocery lists enough to NOT outsource this part of the process. Do you use a specific website or app to help with meal planning? If so, I'd love to hear about it, because I have plenty of clients who ask for recommendations.

You can see our current tear-off pad below. It seems that this one is no longer available, but the original style still is. Once our kitchen is decked out in more grey and white, I might have to switch over to this color scheme.

When I was editing these photos to upload, I noticed how nicely they displayed Nate's latest invention. We'll call it the don't-let-the-fridge-handle-break-the-window invention. Can you spot it and figure out why it was necessary?

Sometime in November, Nate came home from work one day and explained that he was given $100 to engineer something that would make his life better. For a few months prior, he'd been trying to get a little rubber knob to stick to the top of our refrigerator handle, without much success. Who but a product-design engineer would think to unscrew the cap to the handle and design an extension with a rubber knob on it? Now instead of hitting the glass of the window, it hits the frame (technically called the check rail). How cool that his bike company job encourages it's engineers to innovate outside of work? Thanks Trek! Thanks Nate! Fewer broken windows = more time for cooking delicious meals for our family. Okay, that's a stretch, but I had to tie it all together.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Good News

Tonight we had leftover Chinese food that Nate made for our Christmas Eve feast. We also had some leftover fortune cookies not made by Nate (for those of you who think he is actually a Renaissance Man). Cora's fortune read You will soon receive good news. She looked very hopeful and said, "What is the good news?" I answered that maybe the good news is that she'd get to read an extra book before bed, or perhaps that when she turns four, she'll become a real princess. She immediately dismissed the second suggestion, obviously finding it too fantastic to be true, and said "Yes! I think the good news is that we get to read an extra book!"

Later, after reading not only one but two extra books, she asked if she could get some more good news sometime soon. Oh Cora, how I love the things you say.

Christmas was really a joyful time this year. Peter is too young to have expectations about gifts, so he would have been pleased with one new car, truck OR ball, but instead he got one or two of each. The girls each wanted a doll and some books from the book fair, so that felt easy to deliver on. Louisa also wanted a Barbie house, which thankfully she hasn't mentioned in the 2 days since Christmas. Probably because she was surprised by a great gift from my mom: my old collection of trolls from when I was a kid. It was so fun to see the kids playing together with a toy that I remember so fondly.

The Chinese feast was at our new house! We hosted my parents, Nate's mom & brother and two of Nate's cousins. The celebration was perfect. Good food, snow ball fights after dinner and a quick game of Dutch Blitz before the twenty-somethings said they were too tired to carry on. I swear! I was up for playing all night, but they bowed out before 8 pm.

On Christmas day and the Monday after, we spent time at Marcia's. It was the same group pictured above, minus my parents (who flew to Africa), plus Pat and Georgia (who returned from Kansas). After a nice long walk with Marcia and Peter, I got engrossed in a jigsaw puzzle, which is atypical for me. Normally I can't sit still long enough. It must have been something in the air -- Nate also managed to capture the attention of 6 kids age 6 and under a games of Bugs in the Kitchen.

It felt strange not to see more of our siblings this year, but we enjoyed some Facetime with everyone: Anne & Andrew, Wren and Marian; Sarah & Dan, Oliver and Axel; John Paul & Grace, Cohen and Marin; and Matthew & Kelly.

I realized that traditions are fun, but so are unique experiences that might not ever be recreated in exactly the same way. I did find time to make my traditional Christmas cookies this year -- buckeyes and chewy double chocolate chip peppermint cookies, and Nate found time to drink lots of his (and the girls') traditional drink -- egg nog. We had many opportunities to reflect on why we celebrate Christmas - important reflections for us and our kids. If Christmas wasn't just two days ago, I would have told Cora the good news is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem for you (and me, and Dad, and Peter, and Louisa...). Of course that is the best news, and I know we can never fully appreciate just how good that news is. Merry Christmas to you!

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