Friday, November 4, 2011

Birthday and Halloween

I'm taking a break today and writing a blog post. Life has been busy with work and other things. I am doing a lot of freelance work right now and we have some deadlines this week (one tomorrow, yet) and so it's been a bit stressful. But if I don't blog now, I'm afraid I will get too far behind.

Eva's birthday was earlier this month. I cried. I can't believe my baby grew up so fast. She is such a wonderful, sweet girl. And she really has a mind of her own. Here are some pictures:

Eva is not walking much yet, but she stands a lot and can take a few steps. I think crawling is still more convenient for her. She mostly just does the bear crawl. She is a big-time mooch and loves to beg for food. She is also learning some sign language, which is very helpful. Right now she knows "more," "milk" and "all done."

As for Halloween, I cannot believe how wound up Ruth was about the holiday this year. She was so excited about carving pumpkins the night before. Then, the day of Halloween, she went around the house practicing how she would ring door bells and say, "Trick or Treat! Thank you! Happy Halloween!" Even though Ruth talked about being a dragon for Halloween for over a month, she changed her mind at the last minute and decided to be a pumpkin.

Eva was a baby leopard. Her costume was Tony's when he was a baby.

We were so glad two of our nieces, Marcie and Leila, could join us for trick-or-treating. They were characters from the show "Monster High."

Here is Eva wearing one of their wigs:

We headed over to my parent's street a few blocks away, which is a prime spot for trick-or-treaters. My parents usually have well over 100 kids come to their door. Watching Ruth trick-or-treat was HILLARIOUS! She was over-the-top excited about it. We were cracking up watching her go from door to door.

"Let me push the doorbell!! Trick or treat! Thank you! Happy Halloween!" She pretty much yelled it all the whole time we were out. By the end she started to wind down a little, but not much. I caught her asking for more candy from people a couple of times, and we had to have a talk about taking what we are given and saying, "thank you." I think the vast majority of the people handing out candy got a chuckle out of Ruth's enthusiasm, though. :)

That's all for now! Hope your November has started well!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Life goes on

So I realize that I have been M.I.A. for a while. Summer went by too quickly. I do love the fall, but not the idea of winter being on our doorstep. Here are the big things that happened:

1. We went on vacation to Minnesota. We tried a new spot this year, Vermillion Lake, and it was a bust. The fishing was terrible for everyone we talked to on the lake. But it was still fun to go and have a relaxing time on the boat. As my parents say, "a bad day fishing beats a good day at work."

2. Jack stopped coming over regularly. His mom had her baby, Molly, and decided to become a stay-at-home mom. The adjustment was hard on Ruth. But then...

3. Ruth started preschool! She and Jack go together two days a week, which I feel is just right. They attend A is for Art in the Benson Community Center, which has an emphasis on fine arts. They have 10 children in their class, and the teacher is excellent. Last week Ruth told me preschool is her favorite thing, so I think it's safe to say that she likes it.

4. Ruth also started a dance class. She is taking ballet at the Y on Friday evenings. She really enjoys her teacher and seems to be the class clown sometimes. :)

5. I ran a half-marathon! It was my second time running the half-marathon in Grand Island, and it went better than I expected. I finished in 2 hours. I am contemplating running a full marathon in April, but I don't know if I will take the plunge. We shall see.

6. I also took the GRE. I think I did pretty well, but the writing part was quite challenging. I receive my scores the first week in November. I don't know what I am going to do with the scores... as in I'm not sure when I will apply to grad school. I would like to start in the summer, but I'm not sure the timing would be the greatest because...

7. Tony has decided to apply for admission to an MBA program. His employer will pay for the degree, and he feels that getting an MBA will help him reach his long-term goals. He thinks we would be okay going to grad school at the same time, but I'm not fully convinced yet. Still some pondering to do on the matter.

8. We have been doing a lot of work on the outside of our house. Tony has done some tree-trimming, removed a lot of old bushes, and painted the porch. We have to do a few more things outside before winter comes, and then we will work on the dining room walls and the bathroom.

9. Eva will be 1 next week. My baby is not a baby anymore! She is very close to walking and is still such an easygoing kid. She and Ruth play together so well. They are best buds. Eva has to have a some tests done this week at Children's Hospital because she had a kidney infection in August. They need to make sure her "plumbing" is functioning properly. We are keeping our fingers crossed that they won't find any problems.

I would upload photos but my internet is being slow right now. So another day! Hope your week started well.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting older!

Hello, hello. Eva is 8 months old today. Happy 8 months, Eva!

I <3 that baby. She is wonderful. She has been pulling herself up on things. It worries me that she will start walking early. She is very good at crawling, so our house is baby gate city. She really loves going after her sister's toys and books. Ruth is not so great about sharing, but at least she's getting a little more polite about it. Eva is also in the process of cutting three of her top teeth and it's making her fussy at bedtime. She already has one of her top teeth and two on the bottom. She is starting to prefer feeding herself. She likes bananas, ripe peaches, smashed blueberries, cheerios, baby puffs, etc. She also loves our cat.

She goes and tackles him, and he's a good sport about it. She comes out with fists full of cat hair, which is disgusting. I try to keep her away from him, but she can be sneaky.

Here's a peek at our garden:

It has grown quite a bit since I took this picture a couple of weeks ago. I will have to do a separate post on it sometime. This is just one of the raised beds - we have three. In this one is romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, carrots, peas and green beans.

Here's a shot of Ruth with her best friend, Jack. We will really miss Jack when he stops coming over regularly in August.

I had a birthday.

Tony and Ruth got me my favorite kind of cake, Dairy Queen ice cream cake! Yummy! I'm now closer to 30 than ever... OOOOOLLLLD! (j/k) My parents got me tickets to Wicked, and Tony and I went last night for date night. Awesome show.

And my sister-in-law, Jenny, also had a birthday. Last weekend was her party, which had a "Minute to Win It" theme. It was a blast for both the kids and adults. I'd really recommend it if you're looking for a fun party theme.Jenny showing her mad skills catching 8 pencils.

Janalee about to kick butt at her challenge. She and her friend were "team John Deere."

Marcie and Leila enjoying their winnings, and sharing with Ruthie. Such nice girls. :)

Tony and Eva the Diva.
Marcie with pantyhose on her head. It was the "elephant game." This is blackmail material for when she gets older. :D

In other news...
-I got a little job working for a hyper-local news publication here in Omaha, the Metro Neighborhood News. It's been a little crazy getting started over the last few weeks, but I'm enjoying it. If you live in NW Omaha, look for my articles at the end of the month! The paper will come in your mailbox.
-I've lost 16 lbs on Weight Watchers! Woohoo! I originally lost 18 lbs, and I've fallen off the bandwagon during the last couple of weeks. My half-marathon training has fallen by the wayside as well. But I'm getting back into both this week. And I'd really recommend Weight Watchers. I've learned a lot from it.
-Ruth's birthday is coming fast!!!! She is getting so tall. And imaginative. And her hair is reeeeaaally long, but you can't tell because it's so curly. Right now we're working on the ever-important skills of putting her underwear around while still in the bathroom (instead of running around the house naked) and not whining. She has a chore chart on the fridge right now and is doing an awesome job with it. Yesterday she got enough "smiley faces" to earn a pack of Dora the Explorer stickers and a piggy bank (found it at the Dollar Tree for $1!). She loves getting change to put in her piggy bank.
-Also next week is girls camp, and I'm going to stay overnight one night. I've never, ever stayed overnight at girls camp, so wish me luck! If you have any tips, let me know. :D

Have a happy weekend!

Monday, May 2, 2011


Easter weekend was lots of fun. I had been optimistic that it would be warm on Easter because it was at the end of April this year, but it was still pretty chilly. We went to an egg hunt at church on Saturday, which was cold but fun for Ruth. On Sunday, Ruth and Eva received their treat baskets, and we took pictures of the girls' new Easter dresses before we headed off to church.

After church, we headed straight to Grandma and Grandpa Christensen's farm for another Easter egg hunt and a prime rib dinner. Ruth loved playing with her cousins. We stayed the night in the little house Jenny (Tony's sister) and her girls just moved into. They have put so much work into that house, and it will be a wonderful space for her family.

Lesson learned during playtime: I guess Crayola makes colored bubbles now. DON'T buy them unless your kids are perfectly neat and clean and never splash bubbles on themselves or others. Seriously. While we were at Jenny's house, the girls opened their colored bubbles, and they made a HUGE mess. It didn't take them long to start flinging bubbles at each other. All of the girls had to take a shower when they came inside, and some of them still had colored streaks in their hair afterward.

This was only the beginning of the mess for Ruthie.

Chaos ensued.

Monday morning the girls didn't have school so Tony took them fishing at a little lake near Jenny's house. They caught six fish, and Ruth had a fun time throwing rocks in the lake.

Easter was a lot more fun this year since Ruth was old enough to appreciate all the celebration. We started our garden over the weekend (another blog post for maybe later this week), and Tony has this week off. Big repairs/updates to our house will be happening this week! I'm excited!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring has sprung

I'm so happy that spring is here! We have had a busy couple of weeks, and things aren't looking like they will slow down anytime soon. Here is what's new at our house:

1. We are getting ready to plant our garden. Last year's gardening adventure was difficult, as our garden was easily overrun with weeds and difficult to maintain. This year, we are planting a square-foot garden using the method in this book:
Basically, you plant seeds in raised beds divided into square feet instead of rows. You also use "Mel's Mix," which creates the perfect, weed-free soil. I'll be sure to make some individual blog posts about our garden as we get it put together so you know how it goes.

2. We had a leaky dishwasher. It was leaking for who knows how long, and we discovered it earlier this week. We didn't know it right away because the leak was very slow, and the vinyl flooring in our kitchen doesn't go underneath the cabinets. The inside of our cabinets and part of our subfloor are water damaged. This has meant bleaching and fans in our kitchen. We called the insurance company, and I'm not quite sure if that was the right thing to do. But an adjuster came out and is supposed to let us know today if insurance will pay for any of the costs. (Hopefully they will not just drop us, which is my biggest fear.) No matter what, a new kitchen floor and cabinets will be in order in the coming months. We will keep you updated.

3. Our babies are cute as ever! Ruth is now aware that her birthday is coming, and she likes to talk about having balloon cupcakes with blue frosting (she came up with that). Eva is now more than 6 months old, and she is in the 90th percentile for her height and 80th for her weight. She is already outgrowing some of her 6-9 month clothes. Here are some pics:

by Tony)

(Ruth with her baby doll, whom she has creatively named "Baby Eva.")

(Sweet sisters.)

Happy Easter weekend!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Update (finally)

Hello, all. Here is a long overdue update:

1. Eva "Diva" (what I affectionately call her) is 5 months old! She is BIG! I think she is in the 80th percentile for her weight and 90th for her height. She has outgrown her 3-6 month clothes. She is my smiley, easygoing baby.
2. Ruth is registered for preschool in the fall. She will be attending A is for Art in Benson on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Her friend Jack (the one I will be babysitting until August) will be attending with her. They are so excited to be going to school together. I cannot believe I have a child who is old enough to be in preschool. Where does the time go?
3. I am doing Weight Watchers online and have lost 4 lbs in the last week. Woot! Tony and I are also gearing up to train for the Bill Seymour Half Marathon (in Grand Island) in September.
4. Tony is almost done with is undergrad degree!!!!!!!!!! This is super exciting. He is halfway through his last full-time semester. He applied for graduation last week and should be completely finished by either August or December.
5. Eva has no more binkies. She is sleeping better than ever.
6. Home improvements are continuing. We took down the ugly wallpaper in the living room and have repaired the damaged walls. Next up is sanding, priming and painting.
7. Tax return money is coming! That means more home improvements: finishing the dining room, bathroom and some landscaping.
8. We got a new cat. His name is Zane. He likes to sleep on my dining room table and attack my feet at night. But he is a good cat and tolerates the toddlers very well.

And here are some happy pictures to send you on your way.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10 days of real food

I am eating chocolate chips as I write this. The first chocolate chips I have had in more than 10 days. That's a big deal for me, considering I used to have chocolate chips as an everyday snack. (That's probably part of the reason why the pregnancy weight is coming off more slowly this time around... but that's another blog post for another day...)

This is a really long post, but I hope you find it valuable.

About a month ago, Tony and I decided we wanted to try the "10 Days of Real Food" challenge, as posted on the blog (One family did this diet for 100 days.) The rules are inspired by one of my favorite books, In Defense of Food, and are as such:
-No foods that contain sugar or artificial sweeteners, except for those naturally occurring in foods like fruit, honey and maple syrup. (Honey and maple syrup should be used sparingly, though.)
-No white flour or foods that contain white flour.
-Nothing out of a package, can or box that contains more than 5 ingredients.
-No fried or "fast" foods.
-Grain products must be 100 percent whole grain.
-Only meat that is locally produced. Fish and seafood (wild-caught is best) is also allowed but doesn't have to be local. (The best we could do was the meat from the meat counter at Whole Foods, which includes where the meat came from in its signage. All of our meat came from the midwest.)
-Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds are free game. So are dairy products that contain 5 or fewer ingredients.
-Allowed beverages were milk, 100 percent fruit juice, water, tea and coffee.

We decided we would start after the new year and ended up taking the challenge from Jan. 9-18. I did a lot of research and planning ahead so I could be sure we would have plenty of "allowed" foods on hand. I planned a 7-day menu for the first week of the challenge, which was extremely helpful. What did we eat? Here is a general idea:

-Breakfast: Homemade granola, oatmeal, eggs, toast (from homemade bread or bread purchased from Great Harvest Bread Co., which makes some varieties with 5 ingredients or fewer and only honey as a sweetener), whole wheat banana pancakes, muffins (made with orange juice and honey)
-Lunch: PB&J; homemade mac and cheese; salads; wraps made with homemade, 100-percent whole wheat tortillas; leftovers from dinner
-Snacks: Unsweetened dried fruit, nuts, whole fruit and raw veggies, Triscuit crackers (only 3 ingredients and whole-grain!), cheese, Larabars that have 5 ingredients or less (my favorite flavors were lemon and cherry pie), smoothies
-Dinner: Soups, chicken fried rice, fajitas, roast chicken, etc.

The first day we started the challenge, I moved the "forbidden foods" to their own cupboard so they wouldn't be such a temptation. Tony and I were craving sugar like crazy during the first few days. It was then we realized we are sugar/white flour addicts. Also, we noticed our GI systems were taking a beating because of the dramatic increase in fiber in our diets (sorry if that's TMI - just keepin' it real!) After those first few days, though, we noticed we didn't feel as sluggish as we did before we started the challenge.

We had already agreed that we would just do our best if we had dinner at another person's house or if we went out to eat. But I had a big cheater moment on Saturday when I took my mom out for lunch and had a turkey melt (on white!) and french fries. Definitely didn't do my best, and I regret it.

All in all, it was a great experience. I even lost a few pounds! I would definitely recommend it to anyone thinking about changing their diet to include more whole foods, less sugar and fewer highly-processed products. Here is what I learned:
-You have to read the ingredients on the foods you buy! Who knew that shredded cheese has more than 5 ingredients? Who knew that some pastas that say "whole grain" are not 100-percent whole grain? Why are there so many ingredients in store-bought bread and tortillas? And why does regular sour cream contain a whole boatload of ingredients, while organic sour cream contains only two or three?
-Keeping highly processed foods out of our regular diet takes a lot of work. This was a very cooking-intensive challenge. Convenience foods are usually very processed. Planning ahead made the challenge easier, but still, there was a lot of cooking involved. Some days it really wore me out. I can see that it would take a lot of work and dedication to make this diet work for a large family.
-We (Tony & I) don't typically drink enough water. And drinking water is important, because sometimes we think we are hungry when our body is really telling us we are thirsty. It's also important to drink lots of water when you are eating a diet very high in fiber. I learned this the hard way!
-We love baking our own bread and eating Great Harvest bread. It was worth the investment.
-Switching to 100-percent whole grain foods wasn't that bad. Macaroni and cheese made with whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat noodles is not the same as the blue box version, but its still very yummy.
-Toddlers (and other children, I'm sure) do have the capacity to follow this diet without too much trouble. I felt bad because Ruth's snack options were fairly limited, as she didn't like a lot of the choices. But she survived and enjoyed many of the things that we ate.
-There are lots of minimally processed, whole-food options. I found lots of great, healthy, new recipes and products. We really love the dried, unsweetened fruit you can find at Trader Joe's (mango and pineapple!), Larabars, homemade granola, and homemade tomato soup.
-Eating less processed food can be more expensive. But the idea is that if you eat well and spend more money on nutrient-dense food, you will spend less money on healthcare expenses in the future.

We believe moderation is okay in all foods. If we eat at someone's house, we aren't going to ask if their noodles are 100-percent whole wheat. When Valentine's Day comes around, we aren't going to ban candy from the house. (I actually have plans to make heart-shaped rice krispies treats.) However, after this experiment, we also hope to make some permanent changes in our family's diet:
-We want to keep our sugar consumption to a minimum. We aren't going to buy ice cream or sweetened cereals on a regular basis. We won't make cookies, brownies, etc., except for on special occasions. Whenever possible, we will bake items using natural sweeteners like juice, applesauce, honey and maple syrup. We also want to avoid pop and other sweetened beverages. This will be good for all of us, especially since diabetes runs in both of our families.
-Whenever possible, we want to make our grain products 100-percent whole grains. We are going to continue using Great Harvest Bread and homemade bread and stop buying bread from the store.
-We want to keep increasing our intake of veggies and fruits (but mostly veggies).
-We want more of our food to be locally-produced. We are seriously considering joining the Nebraska Food Cooperative, which allows members to purchase locally grown/raised produce, meat, poultry, eggs and a variety of other items. We also plan on shopping at the Omaha Farmer's Market when it starts again.
-We'll buy organic whenever we can afford it - especially organic dairy (the Hy-Vee brand organic milk is produced in Iowa, so it's local, too), meat and eggs.
-We don't want to buy packages foods with long lists of weird ingredients. I don't mind so much if it contains more than 5 ingredients, as long as it's not too many more than 5 and I can pronounce all of them.

If you want to try this diet or get more information, check out The site author provides lots of meal ideas, recipes and tips.

By the way, after the 10 days, the chocolate chips aren't even that great! I never thought I would be able to say that!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Christmas and home improvement adventures

I know this post is very late. But better late than never!

We had a wonderful Christmas here. Opening Christmas presents became a week-long thing, though, with opening presents from grandparents on Sunday and Monday, presents from aunts and uncles on Friday and Santa's arrival on Saturday. We were blessed with some great gifts -- I got a stand mixer, some earrings and lots of other neat things. Santa brought Tony and I fly fishing poles and reels. Ruthie got some Lego blocks, a Princess kitchen, books, and lots of other toys and clothes. Eva got a tummy time mat, books and clothes.

Ruth and Jack also spent some time decorating graham cracker houses before Christmas. They did a great job.
And here is just a cute picture of them playing together. Jack is such a good sport. :)

Christmas is such a wonderful, magical time, especially for children, and now I can't wait for it to come around again this year!

And now for our home improvement adventures...
We decided to take down the wood paneling in the dining room. We did it on a whim one night as a "date" of sorts. It ended up being a fairly stressful date. Taking down the paneling was easy enough. It's repairing the walls underneath that will be stressful.

The previous owners did a really messy job when they cut the bar area into the kitchen. Since our walls are all lath and plaster, we will have to tear down and patch up what we can with drywall. But since there is probably lead paint in the walls of our 101-year-old house, we need to do it on a day when the girls and I can leave the house and Tony can spend the day doing demo, drywall, and cleanup work.

We also found another surprise under the paneling....

Mr. Moldy-mold made an appearance under the windowsill.
The mold was under the oldest window in our house (it is seriously extremely old and falling apart), so chances are good that it formed because the window is leaking. I cleaned up the mold with some household cleaners and we have plans to replace all three windows along the window seat. We are also planning on tearing out the window seat and completely replacing it along with the small section of wall that was moldy. There is no insulation under the window seat, and that area of the house is very drafty.

However, it's cold out, in case you haven't noticed. So the dining room project is on hold until it warms up a bit and we can get the windows replaced. *sigh* If you come over, please forgive my ugly dining room.

Here is a before:

And after:

We left the paneling up on the top part of the wall temporarily, because there are chunks of wall missing underneath up there, too. We will take the paneling down when Tony's ready to do the demolition and drywall.

In the meantime, we are going to tear down some wallpaper and paint the living room. Tony even went out and bought some paint and supplies. I'm incredibly indecisive about paint colors. It drives Tony a little nuts. I can't decide what color to paint the walls, and I also can't decide if I should leave the wood trim unpainted or paint it white. Right now I'm leaning toward painting the walls a basic taupe-brown color and painting the trim white. So if you have any feedback on what color you think I should paint my living room and whether or not I should paint the trim, let me know. :D If you want to see a pic of our living room for reference, click on this post.

Also, our little baby Eva is getting big! She is 3 months old now! My, how the time flies.

I think that's all for today. Tomorrow I'll post about our 10 days of real food challenge, which ends today!