Thursday, May 30, 2013

We have a FIRST grader!

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I cannot believe this year went by so fast!  Eli had his last day of kindergarten today.  It's amazing the progress he has made.  He's reading and writing and really doing a great job with school.

Do you remember your grade card from kindergarten?  Mine was filled in by hand and came in a little envelope with my name on the front.  I'm pretty sure I was graded on competency using paste.  Here's what Eli's final grade card looks like!  It's crazy detailed!  He's doing a great job in all areas.  I'm so thankful he loves school.

Now to figure out how to maintain his knowledge until August!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weekend Fun

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We spent the past few days visiting Chris' grandma, who our kids call "GiGi" (for Great Gramma).  It's been a while since we visited.  She lives on a great property with a pond, horses, and chickens.  The kids had a BLAST!  The highlight of the weekend was catching frogs.  This went on for hours, and none of them seemed to grow tired of it!

Here's the team.  :)  I don't know if you can see, but Isaac is trying to catch
frogs with a tiny little fish tank net.  

Eli with one of his frogs - he caught 15 by himself!
We visited a beautiful garden after church with GiGi and Aunt Lisa.
These trips are becoming a little easier as the kids get older.  Daniel is still difficult, but it's a lot easier when it's only one kid who is a lot of work verses three!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Health Feedback and Chris' Victory

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I have a hard time knowing if what I do to change my diet and lifestyle are having a positive impact on my body.  I see that the scale reads a lower number, my clothing doesn't fit anymore, and I feel like I have more energy.  Probably the biggest positive for me was kicking the Coke habit.  But what's going on INSIDE my body?

Each year, our health insurance requires that we have a physical, and have our cholesterol and glucose numbers run.  My numbers are always pretty low.  Even though I wouldn't say that I'm healthy, on paper (aside from weight) I appear so.  I know that won't always be the case, but because I'm younger I have that benefit right now.  Chris, on the other hand, has struggled a bit with high cholesterol.  Cholesterol is REALLY important to the human body, but not in excess quantities.  Did you ever wonder what that sneaky thing that causes so much illness and chronic disease looks like?

Since his numbers were last run about 18 months ago, Chris has lowered his cholesterol by SEVENTY points.  That is HUGE!!!  I am very proud of him!  He is running again, and has lost some weight.  My numbers were pretty static, except that my triglycerides dropped 31 points, which is good.  

I think that looking at lab numbers frequently to gauge progress would drive a person insane, but every year or so it's a good mark to compare and see if the changes being made are having an impact at the micro level and not just on the waist line.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013


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We finally decided to join the YMCA.  We've been putting it off for a long time, but as the kids get older I feel a much greater urgency to get them into swimming lessons so they can learn - for enjoyment and for safety reasons.  My parents put a great emphasis on swimming lessons, and my brothers and I are very good swimmers as a result.  I want to know that if my kids fall off of a boat in the middle of Lake Erie, they will be able to swim, tread, or float until they are rescued.

Last night we went to the indoor pool for the first time.  As with most indoor pools, there is no zero depth entry into a lovely 2 foot deep play area.  They do have a pretty impressive set of steps, and the kids hung out there the entire time.  The first step puts you in about two inches of water, which caused Sophie to scream bloody murder and freak out in terror.  By the end of the night, the kids were moving around the steps, even into the three foot deep areas, without much freaking out.  Daniel is a great little water bug!  He floated on his back (with help), kicked and splashed, and had an all around great time!  They all asked to go back, so I think it was a successful night!  Swimming lessons start for them in about a week, and I really need them to get past the screaming and crying part before that happens.

I went over to the lanes just to see how far I could swim.  A total of 100 yards (4 laps) just about did me in. I am WEAK!  Oh my goodness.  I was never a very fast swimmer, but I could do many many times that distance without much trouble.  In the next year I'm going to work on building up to at least a 500 in a block.  Today my whole body is soar.  From 100 yards!!!  15-years-ago Megan would laugh at this!  ha!

Monday, May 20, 2013

How to re-screen Anderson window screens

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When we moved into this house two years ago, it was in pretty good shape.  Especially considering that it was a foreclosure!  One of the major problems was that many of the window screens had been torn out along the frame, make it a buggy adventure to open them.  One was helped along by Isaac and Sophie who decided it would be a good idea to make that screen hole a little bigger and throw everything in Sophie's bedroom within their reach out of the window onto the roof and into the back yard.

All of the windows/screens in the house are made by Anderson.  The problem is, they don't make their screens to be repaired - you technically need to buy a replacement screen.  They accomplish this by securing the screen to the frame using a metal U shaped spline.  I tried the "make your own replacement screen" kits, but they wouldn't work in the windows because there was no good way to attach them - the frame casing outside was slanted so the turning clips wouldn't work, and the "pressure" clips were way too weak.  Making a screen frame from a kit isn't too bad, aside from having to saw it to fit.  I was unable to locate the required fixtures to secure the middle support bar to the frame, which made them twist and was even harder to get them in place.

I located a little bit of discussion on the topic online.  Some people were able to very gently lift out the metal spline and hammer it back in.  I wasn't interested in going crazy, so that wasn't going to work for me.  I saw that using a 0.23 spline would possibly work.  The issue is locating it.  An employee at one of the big box stores told me such a size did not exist.  I finally found some at a locally owned hardware store and was able to get my screens done and windows open!  It takes about 10 minutes to do a screen, and it's cheap, since you're already using the existing frame.

Here are pictures with a step-by-step.  Hopefully this will help somebody so they don't have to go through all of the trial and error I did to make this finally work!

What the screen looks like to start with - totally torn out along the frame.
It looked like a previous owner had tried to tape it back together.  

Tools - a splining wheel, something sharp and flat (I used that chisel), an
exacto knife, scissors, screen, and spline.  Screen is available at any big
box store.  Spline is hard to find, at least at the 0.23 size (quite wide).
They sold it to me for 20¢ per foot!  Pretty cheap!

Hardest part - pry up the corner of the metal spline and pull it out.  Don't
bend the frame!  It's hard to get it started but easy to remove it.  

Here's what I took off.  It would be very hard to pull this out gently enough
to reuse it in my opinion.  It just twists and becomes a huge mess.

Measure out a little extra on each end and cut a piece that fits.

Start at the short ends and shove the spline into the channel.  Use something
blunt to push it in a the ends where the roller won't reach.

Roll the spline into place in little increments at a time, and be careful not
to roll off into the middle.  First do the short ends that are parallel, then go
back and do the long sides.  Don't pull too hard but hold it securely.  

Slide the knife along the spline and slice off the excess screen material.

Here's the finished product.  The screen is tight and everything is sealed up
with the new spline.  It looks different than the white metal spline (to my
knowledge white spline is not sold), so if you care about that,
pay for new screens.  Otherwise, this is a great option.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


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It's been a WHILE since we visited the Zoo.  So long, in fact, that today was Daniel's first Zoo trip.  Since he loves to be outside, he had a good time.  I gave up trying to force him to observe animals.  He was 15 feet away from an enormous elephant today and didn't seem to notice it.

We watched an animal show about African animals, and the kids got to see a lot of neat things!  Before the show there were different animals around the area the kids could pet - Sophie LOVED this alligator baby!

We visited the Zoo with Lucas and Nate, to celebrate Lucas' birthday!  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

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Happy Mother's Day to all of the wonderful mothers I know!  Especially to my own mom!  Yesterday, I wasn't feeling well, so while I was napping, Chris did a Mother's Day craft activity with Eli, Sophie, and Isaac.  Isn't it GREAT!?

It's so cute to see what they wrote.  :)  And they were SUPER excited to give them to me, and to tell me that those were their hands!  

I am blessed to be the mother of these four amazing children, and to have the best husband imaginable to share the journey with!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Garden Start

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I wanted to show you all some pictures of my garden!  I put summer plants in a few weeks before the last frost date this year (shame, shame, I know!).  The 10 day on May 1 looked good so I figured it was worth the risk!  This is my second year doing the square foot method, and this year was much easier to prep - all I had to do was mix in some fresh compost and it was ready!  Dad helped me figure out how to get the trellis netting on my trellises, and nailed down the tomato cages (upside down) for the romas.  I'm not sure if it will hold them, but this is all trial and error, right?  I might be mowing around giant spilling over tomato plants all summer.  ha!

Herbs in pots - chives above.  This year instead of using
a bunch of separate pots, I put rosemary, parsley, and
french tarragon together in the same planter.
These are my absolute FAVORITES!

We are trying strawberries in the top of the
water barrel.  

My 4 - 4X4 square foot beds.  Trellises up with netting this year.

First year growing broccoli!  I'm not sure if these
plants look good?  They're a lot bigger than
when they went in!

Transplanted roma that I didn't harden off very
well.  :/  Hopefully he'll bounce back.  And stay
inside that cage.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bus Greeting Committee

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The Great Breakfast Experiment and Tulips

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A week ago, I told my kids they were no longer allowed to have cereal for breakfast.  Since they have cereal, I was expecting a pretty big push back.  However, they have done amazingly well with this change, and I've been very proud of them.  The biggest reason they have cereal every day is that it's easy!  No prep work, just dump and serve.  It's not terribly healthy though, and full of a lot of refined "food."

We've been experimenting with different things - lots of smoothies, apple-banana and zucchini bread, omelets, strawberries, bananas, grapes, and toast.  I've managed to completely eliminate white flour from my breads (both yeast and quick)!  Nobody even seems to notice.  My next project is eliminating granulated white sugar.  Adjusting recipes to substitute applesauce and honey is tricky and I don't really understand exactly how to alter the liquids to make it work - trial and error I guess.  

I'm not trying to go insane with all of this.  My friend Kathleen shared this article with me and it made me laugh (The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater).  We aren't going to exist on kale.  We are trying to move even farther toward whole foods and more of a dependence on vegetables and fruits.  I signed up for a CSA which I'm really excited about.

This week I also realized how ridiculously easy it is to make sour cream.  One cup of half and half, a glug (yes, that's an official measurement) so maybe 2 Tbsp of cultured buttermilk, mix, sit on the counter for 24 hours and voila!

My next project is cottage cheese - mostly because it's apparently very easy to make as well and what is available at the store has a lot of weird things in it I'd like the kids to avoid.  I promise we won't just be eating kale.  

Here's a picture of one of the tulip beds, this is my favorite!