Sunday, August 20, 2017

Nederlands - Days 1 & 2

Have you ever received a notification many hours before your flight, telling you about a delay? We have in the past, and intentionally didn't change our airport arrival time. Unfortunately, for our flight to Frankfurt on Saturday, we let our 1 hour delay notification slow our trip to Chicago. We tried checking in 1 hour and 15 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart, but the kiosk told us to go to the full service check in counter. We waited there for about 25 minutes, and when the airline attendant tried to check us in, she couldn't, because apparently they close check-in 60 minutes before the flight is scheduled to depart. My heart sank. We protested. "I'm sorry," she said, "but if I ask again [if I can check you in], they will get mad." We had planned to fly into Frankfurt (leaving at 3:30 pm) and then take a 3-hour ($100) train ride to Amsterdam. Instead, we got on a 5:55 pm flight to Brussels and took a 2.5 hour ($49) train ride to Amsterdam and even arrived in time for our FreeDam walking tour.

Waiting for our train from Brussels to Amsterdam
We didn't exactly fall in love with Amsterdam. Part of it was probably the jet-lag (ugh - it's been a long time since I only slept 2.5 hours in one night), but beyond that, the city almost seemed like a joke -- infamous because of marijuana and prostitution -- also just crowded, dirty and touristy. We'll spend one more day and night in the southern part of the city at the end of our trip, so hopefully that visit will redeem our tainted view.

The biking culture though. Wow. Bikes have the right-of-way over cars and pedestrians. Apparently every year, they pull 30,000 rusty bikes out of the canals in Amsterdam. The tour guide took us to a bridge where each night, you can buy a stolen bike for less than 20 euros. At breakfast in our hotel, I read that bikes involuntarily change hands every 3 years because they are stolen so often.

It was unusual for this bike to be locked up alone, without others locked up all around it
But about prostitution. Apparently they only legalized it in 2000, which surprised me. And the pot-smoking? Not legal, but tolerated in an effort to keep people away from harder drugs, mainly heroine. One way it's tolerated is that the government allows each person to carry 5 grams of pot and grow 5 of their own plants. The government gets a 58% tax from each "coffeeshop,"which is where you get pot in Amsterdam. So interesting and strange! No, we did not smoke. I don't tend to follow the concept of "when in Rome."

Last night, we had a lovely dinner at a gastro-pub and then quickly walked through the canal lined streets back to our hotel to go to bed. I was fast asleep by 8:30 pm. Also haven't done that in a while!

Spare ribs and beet ravioli with mint sauce at De Reiger
I guess because we essentially lost 7 hours during our plane ride, I will call this day 1 and 2. Tomorrow, I'll blog update you on Day 3 (Amsterdam, Harderwijk and Utrecht). For now, I'll just say that it feels AMAZING to be celebrating our 10th anniversary for a whole 8 days. No real schedule, no responsibilities (other than the e-bikes we're borrowing from the Trek office in Rotterdam) and the chance to hang with my favorite man.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Back in Touch with Flamingo Pink

Last week I did something I've done before, but never with the same expensive consequence. We've all done it, right? Okay, probably not all. Only the multitasking, clever moms out there? I left Costco and before strapping Peter into his carseat, placed my phone on the roof of our car. About one quarter mile out of the parking lot, I thought the person behind me honked at me, but I brushed it off and kept driving. A little less than halfway home, driving 65 miles per hour down the highway, it hit me: my phone! I looked at my Apple watch. Sure enough, out of range. We pulled over a mile later (as soon as we safely could) and I looked on top of my car. Wishful thinking, I know. No such luck. We retraced our path and went back into Costco, just in case. I asked a friendly stranger if I could text Nate. Using his phone he could see my phone on the side of the highway! So maybe it was still working?

My loving husband left work and went to search. Apparently Find Friends is not so accurate, plus I described the debacle poorly, so he spent a fair amount of time driving on the opposite side of the highway from the phone. Sorry Nate.

Later on, the phone was not showing up as active, so our hearts sank a bit. Most expensive mistake I've made, but on the other hand, it could be way worse. I admit I said some prayers. Louisa laughed a bit, I think knowing that God cares, but maybe that he was busy answering more important requests. Long story (a bit) shorter, we found parts of it smashed on the side of the highway, maybe 100 feet from where it originally showed up on Find Friends. Without the bright pink case, our search would have been in vain.


I know it's still $700 more than we planned to spend this week, but I sort of feel I had an iPhone purchase coming, because I never actually paid for my two I've had in the past 5 years. Yes, that's right - I made 2 phones last 5 years! Okay, okay, I know it's still NOT COOL that I left my phone on top of my car.

My love for pink prevailed when ordering a new phone, and there were no pink iPhones in stock, so I was without a smart phone for 5 days. First world problem? Yes. Kind of nice to be out of touch for a bit? Yes. But I'm happy to report that I'm back in touch, with a smaller screen and flamingo pink case.

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 ago...in 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.

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