Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bathroom Remodel

I shared a while back about our bathroom.  In fact, it has been two years (!!!) since I wrote that blog post.  I can’t even believe it has been that long!  Although we had planned to work on the bathroom at that time, we ended up giving other things priority.   The first year, we found out that we may have to move and sell our house, but we wouldn’t know for sure until winter was in full swing.  So, that year, we decided that getting rid of the jungle that was our “garden” was more pressing, as we could work inside the house in the middle of winter if we had to.  So, we hired a backhoe to come in and demolish all remnants of the garden that was here when we moved in.

The "Jungle"
The Backhoe

Almost done!

The second year, when we had some money, we realized that a shed would be a more universally useful addition to the house.  Buying that would also leave us enough money to purchase a swing set for the kids, which was something we had been planning for years.  If we waited much longer, the kids would not even be interested in using a swing set.  So, we made those changes to the yard, as well.

Choosing a spot for the new swing set.
Playing on the finished swingset

After adding the swing set to our newly cleared yard, we moved on to clearing some of the woods to add our shed.

All cleared and ready to go.
Let the men get to work!
Drilling lessons.
My Princess was not about to miss the chance!
No girl left behind!  Gotta start 'em young.

The finished Shed.
During all that time, this is what we looked at in our bathroom:

Not anymore!  There is some honest-to-goodness change coming to that room!  The initial reason for the demolition of this bathroom was that the pipes were leaking water into the laundry room below.  So, the first order of business was to hire a plumber to come and fix the pipes.  Then, Ryan began his part by putting in a light fixture with a fan, as there was no ventilation in this bathroom other than a small window - which I believe may actually be painted shut.  (He said that cutting a hole in the roof just felt wrong!)  He did a great job, though, and the light fixture looks good and is so quiet!
New pipes & light fixture

The next job was to build the half-wall that will serve as storage on the outside of the shower and a storage area or seat on the inside.   This past weekend, he finished putting up the backer board and we picked out the tile that will be installed in the coming week(s).

New half wall/storage
All prepped for tile.

This is all the first/biggest step in getting our bathroom finished.  Once we install the tile, we will also pick the flooring, vanity and wall color.  Oh, the wall color!  I cannot WAIT to paint over the walls in this room.  I don’t think any other paint job we have done in our house has given me more pleasure than I will get from painting over the awful walls we have looked at the last eight years.  And, it is oh so close!  Until then, I will still be looking at this:

Like the vanity???  The colors???
How 'bout that sponging?

I guess I will just have to be happy the days are numbered for the vanity and walls and start picturing what I want them to look like. I can't wait to post more pictures of the new changes!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Veterinarian Birthday

The Plan

We had a great Veterinarian Party this weekend.  Princess told me quite a while ago that she wanted a Veterinarian party and her plan was to have pens in the yard to hold everyone’s real pets.  Yikes!  I didn’t really say anything about it at first, hoping she would not remember and I could talk her into something else, but she did remember.  So, with only a few weeks to go, I was trying to back pedal with her and get her to agree to a different plan.  We agreed to have everyone bring a stuffed animal and they could give them check-ups.  As a result of travel and illness, I wasn’t able to shop for anything until the night before the party.  To say I was worried would be an understatement.  I prayed before I left that God would guide me and help me to find the things I needed, especially since one of the items was pretty specific.  I believe He did just that.

Princess wanted to buy a little dog in a pet carrier at Toys R Us a few months ago and I wanted to use it in my party plan, but I wasn’t sure they would still be carrying them.  When I arrived at the store, I couldn’t find any.  I finally found one broken one, but I needed five.  Just as I was about to call Ryan and see if I should at least get the broken one for her, an employee walked up and asked if I was finding everything.  I asked if there was any way to see if there were any more of these little dogs in the store.  He scanned it and said there should be four more…exactly the number I needed.  We walked to where they had been, but neither of us saw any.  He looked at his hand-held to confirm, and realized there was a brand new box of six in the back room.  Amazing!  A brand new box of a clearanced item.  What are the chances?  The rest of the night went similarly.  I usually plan for weeks, if not months, and shop over time to get the things I need for my theme.  I found everything on my list, including a trip to the grocery store for the food, in three hours!

The Party

When the guests arrived, they received a Dr. Badge with their name on it.  I ushered them into the “Exam Room” where they put together their “Dr. Kit" which consisted of a White Bag with a Red Cross on it filled with a “syringe” (really a CVS oral medicine doser…I just happened to have six lying around from past prescriptions), Sports tape (“casts”), Popsicle sticks (for tongue depressors and splints), a small sponge for cleaning wounds, two Exam Gloves and Band-aids.  We also had a bin with all the medical equipment I could find from our dress up box, stethoscopes, otoscopes, thermometers, blood pressure gauges, etc.  We brought in the food scale to measure weight, as well.  Once everyone’s bags were set up, we did the “Pet X-Ray Quiz” on the Animal Planet website.  Then, everyone got their stuffed animals from the “waiting room".  I gave them some “Patient Charts" to fill out for their animals.  While they were doing their checkups, I had Ryan call my cell phone so it would ring.  I answered it and pretended that someone was telling me about some puppies that had been abandoned near our house.  I told all our Veterinarians that we needed to go get the puppies and give them a checkup to make sure that they were healthy.  I gave everyone an empty pet carrier and we headed out to the bushes at the end of our yard.  Everyone took a puppy and brought it in to give them a checkup.  They then picked names for their puppies and made collars for their puppies out of ribbon held together by Velcro and decorated them with jewels and foam stickers.  I then left them to play in the exam room with their new doctoring skills.  They played for quite a while and then took their patients outside to play with them.
Princess had asked to help with her cake and I let her pretty much do everything on her own.  I turned on the oven, reminded her of what to do next whenever she had a problem and put the cake in the hot oven.  Other than that, she measured, mixed and followed all the directions herself.  She also decorated the cake with Ryan.  She decided she wanted white frosting with a Red cross in the middle, and she picked animals and a “Veterinarian” from her toy box.  And…the cake tasted great!

My Thoughts on the Day

I was really worried that this would feel like the “consolation prize” of birthday parties for Princess, as we did not have real animals.  Seeing her face when I pulled out the pet carriers was priceless…I knew she remembered it from the store.  Tonight, when it was time to clean up the Exam room, I heard the kids saying, “It’s time to clean up…for now.  We will play again tomorrow!”  It is these moments in life when I remember that God delights in blessing us, even in the little things.

As an aside, even if you are not planning a Veterinarian Party, this is a great activity for kids.  I saw a lot of websites that used the idea in “Pretend Play”.  I couldn’t find any printable Patient Charts to use for today.  So, I threw one together using ideas from the internet at the last minute.  I thought I would share mine here in case anyone wanted to use it.  It is not perfect, but the kids still really enjoyed it.  I can see many of these charts being filled out by my kids in the near future.

The Office Door The Medical Bag Setup

This was Princess' reaction to finding out that the new stethoscopes actually worked.

Let's find us some Puppies!

Eye drops for Little Man’s Checking the Ears

Some of the puppies were worse off than others...this poor one was Pookie's.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Our Homeschool Playdough Adventure

Well, my first mistake was probably in deciding to do something with the kids that I had never done before on my own.  I decided that we were going to make playdough together.  I had seen a really fun recipe for Pumpkin Pie Playdough on pinterest and decided to give it a whirl.  I had been wanting to make this "Busy Hands Box" for a while, and had just received the art bin from Amazon last week.  The two ideas seemed perfect for each other.  I even found on the 1+1+1=1 website that she had a link to a smaller version of the playdough recipe, so I decided to use that one  with the Pumpkin Pie spice.  That is where I made my second mistake.

Just after breakfast, I told the kids that we were going to make Pumpkin Pie Playdough, but I didn’t check for Pumpkin Pie spice first…whoops!  We didn’t have any.  No problem, I thought.  I will get a recipe for the mixture and make it.  Mistake number three?  I told the kids this.  Only then did I realize we only had WHOLE allspice berries and WHOLE cloves.  Ah, no worries!  We have a mortar and pestle, they will just get to try using it!  It was great for the allspice berries, it was fun for them to see something go from whole to ground.  The cloves were another thing entirely.  They are quite woody, and would not break down!  We got it as close as we could and took a break.  We were not making playdough until after lunch.  We went about our studies and stopped for lunch.  We then gathered all the hardware and ingredients we needed to make our playdough.  We had decided to make two smaller batches, which would use a total of two cups of flour, instead of the larger 5 1/2 cups that the original Pumpkin Pie version called for.  So, we were going to make white Vanilla scented playdough with green, blue and purple glitter and orange Pumpkin Pie playdough with red glitter.  Ready for mistake number four?  It seemed that 2 cups may not be enough, after all the original recipe called for 5 1/2!  So, I decided to double each of our versions.

Princess looks like an Amazon woman here, but she is just on the highest step of the step stool!
Pookie feels so grown up when she gets to help.
As the first to get sent to his room, Little Man was very excited to get back and have a turn stirring.
Pumpkin Pie Playdough…slurry?

Vanilla and glitter!

It seemed fine at first, we had just enough Cream of Tartar to double each pot and everyone was getting  a lesson in doubling a recipe (in turns, as each one was sent to their room at least once during this process!).  Then, I made mistake number five…FIVE!  I turned the heat on under both pots at the same time.  I had a child assigned to each one, but they are not as good at stirring as Mom.  So, when I took my turn on the white version, I noticed several chunks forming.  The directions said to “keep stirring until it forms a ball.”  I was not sure chunks were supposed to be part of the equation.  Remember mistake #1?  Yeah, I should TOTALLY have done a round of this myself so I knew what to expect.  Anyway, as more chunks were forming in that one, the bottom of the Pumpkin Pie one seemed to be a completely different texture on the bottom than the top…I thought it was burning.  So, there I was stirring two pots of chunky playdough unsure of when to stop.  This is where mistakes number four and five really come into play.  It was HARD to mix as it got thicker.  If the batch was smaller, it would probably have been fine, or if I only had one pot to worry about it would have been fine.  Instead, I was a frazzled mess trying to decide when to take them off the heat.  Finally, the Vanilla version was done, so I got ready to turn it out onto the table.  I quickly realized it was too hot for our $5 tablecloth to handle and ran around, with the pot in my hand, trying to decide where I was going to turn it out.  I finally thought of the cookie sheets and grabbed one and turned the dough out onto it.  I quickly got back to pot #2, and stirred while scraping the bottom hoping that it was not, in fact, burnt.  I turned it out and after kneading, it looked fine.

Pookie jumped right in with kneading the Vanilla when I moved on to the Pumpkin Pie version.
Princess took the photos of the kneading action!

This one was still HOT while kneading.

Orange Pumpkin Pie Playdough with Red Glitter
White Vanilla Playdough with Green, Blue & Purple Glitter

There were some redeeming qualities to our crazy experience, though.  I would definitely make playdough again, just in smaller batches and one kind at a time.  I think it was really good for the kids to see the kinds of things that can go wrong and how to adapt to situations as they arise.  (Though hopefully they will be a bit more composed when the unplanned happens!)  The best part is that the kids LOVE playing with their new playdough and busy hands box.  I think the combination of making the dough themselves and getting to pick the scent, colors and glitter they liked makes them enjoy it more.  Next time?  I am definitely trying Kool-aid packets for color and scent.  I love the idea and I think it will save me some of the trouble I caused myself this time around!

The Art Bin is perfect for our table, it allows for everyone to have their seat and still reach everything.
I think they enjoyed the scent a little too much…they made playdough “noses”.

Our "Busy Hands" Box

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pinterest Laundry Shelf

We have been cleaning up and cleaning out around here.  I hired a friend of mine with a cleaning business to clean for a few hours every other week in the "maintenance" areas (Kitchen, Dining Room, Living Room and Main Bathroom) so that I can get busy with the deeper clutter and organizational issues in our home.  With the time I gained during the summer I was able to...
  • wade through two years' worth of school papers (we home school and I never knew what to save those first few years, so I saved EVERYTHING!)
  • Clean out our storage room of boxes - some we have been holding since we moved in eight years ago!
  • Organize much of what was left over in the storage room
  • Organize our School Supply Closet 
  • Build a Laundry Basket Shelf.  
This last project is the one that has made the biggest "daily life" impact.  Here it is:

I found this shelf on Pinterest one day, and thought that it would really help us with laundry. The link was to a blog post by Ana White. We didn't have that much room in our laundry area, so I followed her link to another size found here. Ryan agreed to build it with me, and tried to let me do most of the work.  I got to use all his power tools, which was fun!  It was great to do the project together and I have loved how functional it is.

We always had a problem keeping up with laundry. We have laundry baskets in each bedroom and it was difficult to know when we had a full load to throw in the washer.  We would always end up with all the baskets full.  Then, I would dump it out in a mountainous pile in the middle of the floor and sort through it.  We would spend days catching up.  It would always be so depressing to bring the baskets back to the rooms, just to have something else sitting on the floor that needed to be thrown in.  Now, each person is responsible to carry their laundry basket from their room every few days and separate their laundry into the bins. Whenever a bin is full, I run a load.

The original plans were for a wider shelf, with bigger baskets.  I didn't see the bigger baskets at Wal-Mart when I went shopping, so I bought smaller ones.  We had to adjust the size of the shelf, but I think the basket size is just right.  I did end up finding the proper ones at Target a few weeks later, but I personally like the ones we ended up with.  I also made one addition to the baskets. The little signs on the front:

I didn't want to be carrying all the laundry down myself every day, so I had to have a way to visually show where things go. The older kids can read the signs, and our youngest uses the pictures to sort out where her things go. As the kids get older, I will teach them to do a load when the basket fills up. For now, we have a much easier time keeping up with the laundry. We have had the system for about a month, and I have not had a mountain of laundry to separate since we built it.  An added bonus is that I have to pack for an upcoming trip and I don't have to catch up on laundry to be able to get that packing done.

I will show you the School Supply Closet next time, and maybe give a peek at the progress on the bathroom project that we finally have both the time AND the money to invest in.