Monday, February 28, 2011

Nora - 18 Months!

My my my my MY how time absolutely flies!

Well, our little 18 month old is definitely in full fledged TODDLER MODE! She fake cries, changes her mood in an instant, but is still totally soothed by a cup of milk. Well, when she feels like it!

New this month is her interest in cleaning. She loves to "help" do the laundry now that the mud room is safe for her to be in, and she also carries around this broom that her daddy made out of one of our old brooms:

She uses it to pretend to sweep, which is really funny since her idea of sweeping is running with the broom dragging behind her. She is also intentionally making messes so she can help clean them up - banging her milk cup on the floor so she can get a towel and clean it up, or dumping out her ball pit so mommy will help her pick up. It's both frustrating and cute.

Her attention span is unusually long for her age, and as a result she is continuing to be very smart. She officially knows all her capitol letters, is working on the letter sounds, can spell her name, and can identify her name. We are also doing a few sight words like "cat", "mommy", "daddy", etc. People are usually very shocked at how much she knows, letter-wise. She also knows her numbers from 1-9.

We are also working on colors. She can identify blue and red and yellow (sometimes purple), and that's about it. She's come a long way since we started, especially since we don't work on colors very much.

Physically, she is doing great! I went ahead and moved her up to 24 month clothes, because when I came back from El Salvador I noticed she was too long for her 18 month jammies, and her 18 month pants were almost short. Funny thing was, I went to clean out her closet and see what 24 month clothes she has already . . . and nearly the entire closet was 24 month short-sleeved shirts! WHOA! I knew she had a lot, but I was kind of shocked to see how much she had. I had to move he pajama drawer to make room for them all! She also has a lot of skirts, but only one pair of shorts. :) When I put a short-sleeved shirt on her the other day, she kept trying to pull down the sleeves. Wait until she gets some sandals on again . . . :)

At the doctor this month she weighed in at 25 pounds, 13.5 oz. This is the 75th percentile for her age. Her height is . . . 33.5 inches! HO-LEE FRIJOLES!! lol She's in the 90th-95th percentile for height still. Everyone always asks if she is two - and when we went to visit at KinderCare last week, she was definitely the same height as the 2-year-olds!! It's crazy!

She still loves to dance. One of her new favorite shows is the "Fresh Beat Band". She used to watch it every once in awhile, but lately since her daddy has been working overtime she has been watching it everyday while I make dinner. The final song is always the same, and she tries to do the choreographed dance that goes along with it every day! It's really cute. As soon as it starts, she starts rolling her hands in a circle . . .

OK, now time of the biggest two pieces of news for the month. The first is . . . teeth are finally coming in! I can actually feel two molars on the bottom, which is awesome! :) I thought some may be coming in when I asked her the other day to show me her teeth and she did not point to the two she already has, but a random spot on her gums. Sure enough - that was one of them! Still none on top, but the doc says not to worry about it just yet.

The second piece of big news is that Nora peed on the potty already!! I couldn't believe it either. She started waking up dry from naps, so we started sitting her on the potty. And she DID IT! Three times in a row! It. Was. Awesome!!! I am over the moon about it. She continues to do it at least three times daily, which is great.

And that's all the news for our little girl. Happy 18 months Noranator!! :)

Until next time . . .

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Before and After Series - 1

Before and After Series - The Guest Bath

(The first photo - previous owners)

(Not long after we moved in - plain but temporary.)

What the before pictures do not show is that the grout was breaking out of the tile floor pretty badly. I previously mentioned that this is something that happened in 3 out of the 4 tiled floors in our house within two years after moving in. So that needed to be fixed for safety reasons.

Also, as you can see, this room was YELLOW. SO YELLOW! I liked how bright it was, but I am pretty well against "sunshine yellow" as a wall color. So we ended up keeping the yellow, but toning it down a lot.


This room's primary focus was to be a guest bath, and a kid's bathroom. So I wanted it to be fun and childish, while still going with the rest of the house in color scheme. I found the perfect shower curtain at Target, and used it as a basis for the entire room. (Side note about the shower curtain: the company accidentally packaged two curtains in the package and then marked the curtain down about 20%. So I ended up with two curtains for the sale price of one.) Also my daughter just recently started getting interested in potty training, so when I saw that the cheapest little potty at Wal-Mart was a frog . . . well, I may have just been a little excited.

Also, recently I ended up deciding to finish an art project I started for this room a long time ago. When we painted this room, just for fun I made the owl pictured below out of construction paper. I had no idea what I was going to do with it. However, I made a trip to a thrift store and saw the frame. Suddenly, the art was formed in my head. A flat canvas, a thrift store frame, a construction paper owl, some ribbon, and some Modge Podge later . . .

. . . "art."

The next picture is of our new floor, which is one of my favorite things about this room. I love the light tile and dark grout. Even better because it's not coming apart! Safe for the little feet running around on it.

You may be wondering why I picked this room to document first. This is the ONLY room in our house that I feel like I can say is mostly "done". There is nothing in it that truly bothers me, and I have no plans to change anything in it. Now, that does not mean that there is nothing I would change if given the opportunity - in fact I would change the entire vanity/sink given unlimited money. Also, we have plans to buy new vent registers and door knob/hinge hardware for the entire house at some point. Also there is virtually no storage in either bathroom, which is tricky to work with. However . . . that's about it. I like everything else about this room.

All Done! :) Guest bath: check!

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Silhouette Dreams . . .

I dream of owning a Silhouette SD machine. Seriously, it's like all I talk about. Just ask my poor mom and husband who have been subjected to me saying "If I had a Silhouette I could blah-blah-blah-insert-some-random-decor-related-thing-here" for about two months now.

"What is it?" you may ask. View some of the things you can do with it here. Then hope that I win, for the sake of my husband and mom of course.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Before and After Series

When Cory and I were house-hunting almost 5 years ago, I had my camera with me. Not intentionally or anything, it was just a time in my life where I carried my camera with me in my purse at all times. Also a time where I got a lot of great photos of friends. :)

I was fortunate because when we went around with a realtor on the first day of house-hunting, we happened to look at the home that we are currently living in. We looked at it that first day, and then came back to look again at a later date. That second visit, I got permission to pull out the camera.

I am grateful that I did that because those shots help me see how much progress we have made. Not long ago, I shared some of that progress, and I have had a few requests to show more "before and afters" of our home. So I thought it might be fun to do a little "series" of before and after shots, and show you what we have done. BUT, before I start the series, I thought I should give you some background on our house to give you a general picture since most of you have never been here.

Our house is a one-level, 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. It has one large kitchen, dining room, living room area with large ceilings. It has a large basement that is currently unfinished, and a large fenced backyard. It was built in 2003 and had one previous owner.

Since our house was built fairly recently, most of it was in fantastic shape when we bought it. However, there were some parts of the house that were badly constructed. For example, 3 of the 4 rooms with tiled floors needed to be replaced due to the grout coming out and the tiles cracking (someone at some point tiled over vinyl flooring - the floor situation became dangerous when Nora started to crawl.) Also there was carpet in some impractical spots (such as right in front of the back door.) Also, the entire front yard still to this day needs some major TLC - there are lots of foot hazzards and the front porch is falling apart. Other than that, there is very little else that really needs done in this house. Since our house is a fairly recent build, the majority of it is serving us very well.

I truly am very satisfied and happy with where I live. I love our neighborhood, and our home is a cozy LIVE-able place. It's practical and comfortable, just like Cory and I. :) If I won something like 10 million dollars in the lottery, I am pretty sure I would like to stay (at least part of the time) in this house. It's a place that we have made into "home", and home is a great place to be!

Anyway, that's the rundown. Look for the first of the "Before and After" series coming this weekend! Also . . . Nora's 18 month update on Monday. :)

Until next time . . .

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wall Art

This week I got a few opportunities to do some crafting, and I happened to make two projects that did not cost me a thing.

I am getting into making my own art for my walls. I have ideas for different things all the time, and I just never make them. If I had a Silhouette or Cricut, this would be super easy, but without one I have to get a little bit (more) creative.

Some of you know I have been working a little here and there on the mud room - mostly just organizing it now that it is put back together. But I did get an idea for a cute little mud room art piece:
Anyone who has read the book Knuffle Bunny will recognize the art. (If you didn't know, I have a tiny obsession with children's books. When I went to El Salvador a few weeks ago, I brought the kids tons of children's books in Spanish.) I thought these pictures went well with the saying I chose for the sign. (Also the little kid reminds me of goofy Cory, and the Dad reminds me of Nora "helping" with the laundry, as she loves to do. And yes, you read that right!)

The only thing was that the graphics did not dry flat when I Modge-Podged them on, so that really stinks. If I do this again, I will do it with a thicker cardstock instead of regular printer paper. Anyway, these images were just scanned out of the book, and Modge-Podged onto the pre-painted canvas. Grey goes really well in this room, and I stole some of the dark purple wall paint for the edge of the canvas. To make the lettering, I just used the "rub a pencil on the back of the paper, trace the image on the front with a pen, and then paint the tracing" technique. First time I have done that, but it worked out! That canvas has been sitting in my basement since we moved in, and I have been wanting to use it for some neat decor item for awhile now. I think this turned out pretty cute even though the graphic is a bit bumpy. I may try to fix it at a later date, if I can manage it.

Also this week, I cleaned out some of my craft stuff. When I did that, I stumbled over some cards that I had bought when I was decorating "the baby's" nursery in 2009 (Nora's room.) I wanted to do something with them, but I had no idea what. Today it came to me:
All I did with these was hot glue the cards to a ribbon, and tack them up. Simple, easy, cute. I didn't worry about if they were hung crooked or not, I just eyeballed it so it might look a little more childish. :) It goes so well in Nora's room, don't you think? (Side note: Nora loves them, but she was definitely disappointed that she couldn't touch them. She reached up as high as she could into the air and tried to touch them, then literally shrugged her shoulders and went back to playing. I will have to make sure I lift her up to see them up close.)

So, that's what I have been up to lately. I just love it when I can create something from things I already have!!

Until next time . . .

Thursday, February 10, 2011

El Salvador

Well, first of all, I apologize for making you all wait for this post. I wanted to do it justice.

My trip to El Salvador was, in one word, amazing. It was unlike any other experience I have had in my life, and in a totally unexpected way. When I went to Mexico before, I was this baby Christian and not really going anywhere for God so much as myself, although God did still use the experience to teach me. I wanted this time to be different. I wanted to work harder, get more dirt on my hands, keep my eyes open wider, and love bigger. I prepared a lot before I went and worked a lot when I was there, but it was futile. I still got way more than I gave.

What follows is a breakdown of what we did. I was going to write a book about every little thing I experienced, but after I wrote about the first day, I realized that I would basically be duplicating my entire LENGTHY trip journal, and I didn't want to do that (for your sake, as well as mine). So, in it's most basic form, here's the rundown:

THURSDAY: After 4 canceled flights, and a major detour to L.A., we arrived in El Salvador at 6:30 a.m. very tired. We had a few hours to "refresh" and eat before heading over to the "project", which is what they call the church and classroom buildings. The church building consists of a bunch of former homes that were bought up one at a time, and walls were eventually knocked down in between to create one large space. Across the alley is a taller building with a kitchen, one toilet (IN the kitchen), and Sunday school classrooms. That second building was where construction began on a new set of bathrooms while we were there.

When we arrived, the kids popped out of a large box to see us. Then they had a wonderful little presentation about their ministries. We toured the project and heard the first of many stories of injustice that we would hear that week. The tour also included an outline of what Compassion does exactly for this specific project. We learned that kids who come learn a trade that they can use to make money, for example: making bread, welding, computer network repair, etc. It's really a neat process.

After the tour was lunch, and then a few people met their sponsored children. I got to meet mine unexpectedly - I actually thought I would not see her until later in the week. We didn't get much of a chance to talk before we headed off with Pastor Chris to go to his sponsored child's home . . .

. . . and THAT was a really neat experience. Since the one translator we had was busy, my sponsored child and I just smiled back and forth. Mostly we watched what was going on, because it was awesome!! Pastor Chris really did a fantastic job asking his sponsored child and his mom questions, and just helping them feel at ease to have these strange people in their home. Really awesome experience.

When we got back to the hotel, the President of El Salvador was at our hotel doing some sort of program in the courtyard. So military was stationed all over with machine guns. Freaky!

FRIDAY: Friday was one of our work days, and even though we were tired, I think we were all anxious to get started. I was a little too anxious I think - I started out making this gigantic mess! My paintbrush was well-used and also wet, so it leaked a lot of pink liquid as I tried to paint with white paint. I felt awful that I was making such a mess, but nothing could be done. I ended up just getting as much as I could on myself - which maybe was not the best idea, but it kept the floor cleaner!

All the food we had was really REALLY good, but for snacks on Friday they gave us two different and really special treats. In the morning we had a "pupusa", which is like the El Salvadorean national dish. It's like a tortilla with beans inside. In the afternoon many ladies from the church made us a SPREAD of really interesting food that they were obviously so proud of, and all of which tasted great to me.

Later that evening we went shopping and I learned not to be too bold with my Spanish. :) I won't put the story on here, but feel free to ask me about it!

SATURDAY: This was our fun day! We headed to a nearby beach with some of the youth from the church for a fellowship and evangelism day. I got to ride down there with some of the youth, and they are just amazing. And that sentence was a total understatement. They are so on fire for Jesus, and it shows in how gigantic their hearts are. I was impressed with them from day one - the next generation in that church will undoubtedly accomplish a lot.

When we got there we just played on the beach. A gigantic impromptu soccer game started between all the guys, and the girls played ball and Frisbee. I played baseball with some of the girls, and it was a lot of fun! During the baseball game is when I met little Paola. :) What an absolute sweetheart. Paola doesn't know it, but she completely helped me get over myself on this trip! I was feeling a little introverted, and she just helped me open up and have fun. She was like my little angel in that way.

After lunch we played some games with the youth and just showed them how we do some things with the youth at Metro. They also showed us some games that they play, and it was a really fun time. It was one of those moments where despite our various ages, everyone there was a kid at heart. I really feel that we started to come together as a group at this point. After the games, we went for a swim in a nearby pool. It was very relaxing and a great time spent with the girls.

I think at the time I underestimated the importance of this day. Having fun together gave everyone the chance to bond and get to know each other on a more personal level. I am so glad we got to do this.

SUNDAY: Sunday morning we started out going to the church and playing with some of the Sunday school kids. I got a chance to hang out in my absolute most favorite room in the whole place - the nursery. :) I played most of the time with this little girl who was about three, and she just did NOT want me to let her go. If I was sitting, she had to be on my lap. If I was standing, I had to be holding BOTH of her hands - holding just one of her hands was not enough. The girl just needed lots of love! It was both a happy and sad time.

After play time, we helped clean the church floors and the chairs. I got to sit by Paola and her mom. Lunch was YUMMY, as usual.

After lunch we got to head to a little handicraft market for a brief shopping trip. We were only there about 40 minutes or so, but it was a good place to get souvenirs and things.

Then . . . it was time for church! HOORAY! Even though we all had to dress up, I had been looking forward to this all week long. In Mexico we did not get to go to church because we traveled on Sundays, and I was sad about that, so this was fulfilling something that I had missed out on before. There's something special about worshipping with new friends around the world. :)

The service was really neat. The music and atmosphere was definitely different, but still great. We had the message translated for us, and Pastor Paul got to deliver it. He was personally very honored. There was a LOT of people that showed up, and the youth of the church gave their seats up for those who needed a place to sit. How amazing is that?

Pastor Paul gave a very "Pastor Paul type message" about love. It was very VERY good. After service we had to beat feet out of there because it is not safe for us to be in that area at night. We got to eat dinner that night at a nicer place, because they had a surprise for us . . . we got to watch part of the Super Bowl, yay! It was in Spanish, but we understood what was going on. :)

The team meeting that night was amazing, and the most touching moment of the week for me. The first thing Pastor Paul told us was that the church had given our church a love offering of forty dollars. He said that they had said "we know it's not a lot, but we want you to have it." That made me simply bawl my eyes out. I was touched beyond words. I think this was really beautiful. The rest of the meeting was touching as well. It kind of started the waterworks for me - I didn't really stop crying until Tuesday evening! . . . not joking!

MONDAY: Last day. :( We spent the morning painting the outside of the church. We actually were able to get it almost all done! :) After painting we had to say good-bye to the church and most of the members. It was SO SAD. Saying good-bye to the ladies in the kitchen was the hardest for me at that point. I love them all so much! Their hearts are huge!

I never did see my sponsored child again. I was sad that I hadn't gotten to give her the things I brought her in person, but thankful that I at least got to see her once. I ended up leaving her backpack there for her to open later.

After that we hopped on the bus to head to the mountains where we would have our formal goodbye at a retreat place. On the way up I chatted with a lady from the church who tutors my sponsored child, so that was good because I got to learn more about her and her family. The retreat was very pretty, and we ended up taking a lot of pictures there.

We had lunch and then they set up this whole surprise birthday party for Dylan, Pastor Paul, and our Compassion staff member Debbie. They went all out: hats, horns, balloons, a pinata, two cakes! It was really, really sweet, and tons of fun to watch.

Then we broke off into smaller groups to pray. Wow, that was so meaningful. I am glad we got to end the trip in prayer for each other on a personal level. From that point on I pretty much cried for the rest of the day . . . We got back together as a large group and they had a photo slide show for us, and a formal goodbye. There are no words to really describe this time and how meaningful it was. You could feel the love in the air - it was practically palpable. They told us how much we mean to them, and we shared with them some encouragement and what this trip had meant to us. Everyone was crying. I was a mess and just could not even hold myself together.

Then . . . the individual good-byes. Oh my goodness, saaaaaaaaaaaad. They told us that we were like their angels. Saying good-bye to Paola was the hardest. I think I hugged her about 50 times!!

But . . .

At dinner that night, surprise! The pastor and his whole family was there - there was Paola! :) I was happy to get to sit with her again, one last time. Her and her sisters are simply lovely - we had a good last night hanging out at dinner. :)

After dinner, one last set of good-byes, and the trip was over. :(

. . . Well mostly. I got sick on the way home, so I am still feeling El Salvador physically! Ha ha.

You know how in the move How the Grinch Stole Christmas! how the Grinch's heart grew three sizes when the Whos down in Whoville started to sing?

The best way to describe how El Salvador touched me is:

ME = GRINCH. (You may be confused by this, but somewhere my husband is likely nodding in total understanding.)

Not that I was trying to stop Christmas from coming or anything, but I DO feel like my heart grew bigger as a result of this trip. It had to in order to accommodate all the people who are in it now! These people are Metro's second church family, and they grew to mean so much to us in so little time. The delay in arriving, the sickness that followed . . . really neither of those things matter in the span of it all. In everything that happened and how much we all grew - we will be down there a lot longer than 6 days in our hearts.

This trip meant the world to me. Learning to love bigger is no small thing.

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mud Room Update

I have been trying to outline a post about El Salvador . . . but it's much harder than I thought. How do I express to you all what I saw and make you understand what's in my heart? . . . I am usually not this unsure about my writing. But I promise, I will get there soon.

Anyway, while I was working in El Salvador, my husband was also at work here: working on the mudroom that is. It worked out well that he would get to work on the floor, paint the trim, paint and hang the board for the hooks, and paint the cabinet while Nora was at my mom's house for a few days.

Anyway, he did an absolutely fantastic job! :) I thought I would share some photos of his hard work (please excuse the mess and the blue rug):



You can see how yellow the old counter top looks - we are thinking of just replacing it. Does anyone have a better idea, or experience painting a countertop?

I am seriously thankful for the floor. :)

Now all that's left is the decor and the organization of that room, and both will be jobs for me. I am still deciding on whether or not to paint the back wall with a design. I guess it depends on how quickly spring arrives. :)

Until next time . . .


So, you totally missed me. I know. :)

I am back from El Salvador. IT. WAS. AMAZING. I am going to do a post later in the week, where I give you all a kind of play-by-play of the week, but for now I will just say that I completely miss my other family down there already. I have a lot of letter writing to do this week, but also a lot more loving on my Noranator!! I missed her and the hubbs a LOT while I was gone.

Expect at least two (maybe three) more posts before this week is over. I have a lot to share:

1.) the trip, of course - including getting sick on the last day. :(
2.) mudroom progress made while I was gone.
3.) knitting done before I left and while on the plane.
4.) ice storm from last week.
and that's just the top of the pile, folks.

For now, I will just share a photo:

This little girl is Paola. I would have gladly packed her up and took her home with me. I miss her so much!!!!!!!!! She is in my heart like a second daughter, and the rest of her family will forever be on my mind.

Until next time . . .