Thursday, May 31, 2012

A little FYI from a Korean adoptee

I LOVE this girl. Seriously love her. Someone on Facebook shared this video and I loved it so much that I looked at some of the other videos this girl has made to learn more about her and she is just super adorable. From what I gather she was adopted from Korea and also has a non-biological sister adopted from Korea as well.

Anyway, she made this video about some of the racial stereotypes that she comes across. I love it when adult adoptees share their stories and experiences because it really helps me to understand the types of things that Clarissa will go through as she gets older, and the more I understand it the more I can help her navigate life.

So here you go, here is your Asian FYI for the day. :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cleaning, Cleaning and more Cleaning!

Spring cleaning is in session at our house!

So let me just start off by saying that our house is 4,000 square feet with six bedrooms, four full bathrooms and three floors, and as much as I enjoy living here, when it comes to cleaning it's a BEAST. I sometimes have a real love/hate relationship with this house. I love having all the space to spread out, I love all the storage and we're happy here. But sometimes I feel like my house is eating me alive. I feel like a hamster on a wheel and as hard as I try I never manage to get anywhere. We'd get the upstairs clean and the main floor is a mess. We'd get the main floor clean and the upstairs is a mess. With a toddler in the house there are days when EVERYTHING is a mess. Living in a mess drives me crazy, but keeping up on all the housework around here feels like a full time job that sometimes I don't have time for.

When we just had two kids we somehow managed to make it work and the house was generally pretty clean. I don't know what knocked it over the edge when we added a third child but suddenly I couldn't keep up anymore. Shawn is an awesome helper. Probably the best helper of any husband I know. But even between the two of us we sometimes feel like we're just spinning our wheels. The toys and clutter get picked up on a regular basis, but some of the deep cleaning and other projects have been put off much longer than they should have been. We're busy and we put off projects, we stick things in a closet to deal with another day and all of a sudden recently we kind of looked around and said "holy crap, what has happened to our house?". There is dust in places that shouldn't be dusty, there are closets I would be mortified for anyone to peek into, there are half finished projects and crumbs in the couch and sticky toddler fingerprints on the walls and suddenly we realized that we couldn't take another minute of it.

So over the weekend we got to work. We had a long talk with the kids about working together as a team and getting back to a clean, organized house, and we went to work. We organized shelves, we scrubbed walls and baseboards, we cleaned under beds, we fixed things that were broken, we dusted and wiped and vacuumed and shined. For two and a half days we all worked together to get our house back in order. In a house this size it's not easy task to clean the whole thing from top to bottom, especially when you're deep cleaning things that haven't gotten attention in a while. We all worked really really hard and then went out for ice cream when we finished.

It's still not perfect, we still have a few things on the list that we didn't get to yet, and there are still a few problem zones (mainly a few scary closets!) that need addressed, but it's amazing how much better it looks and feels around here now. We spent a long time with the boys going through their bedrooms and reorganizing all their toys and getting rid of things they've grown out of and they are loving their newly organized bedrooms.

My favorite part is the bookshelf project I spent an entire morning on. We have a gigantic built in bookshelf at the top of our stairs that we've been shoving books into for quite a long time. We have a TON of books, I'm a bit of a book hoarder! I took every single book off the shelves, we fixed the shelves that were sagging a bit, we dusted everything really well and then I went through every single book, decided what to keep, what to donate and then reorganized everything back on the shelves in a specific order (kids book on the bottom shelf, church and non-fiction on the second shelf, Shawns books on the third shelf and mine on the top) and now it looks amazing!

But the greatest part of all is the chore chart system I came up with to keep the house looking as nice as it does now. We realized that part of the problem around here has been that the kids haven't been helping enough. They do have some chores, but we didn't have an effective system and they haven't been helping around here as much as they could be. I broke up the house into five zones and assigned everyone chores in that zone each day. Instead of trying to tackle the whole house at once, which is impossible, we'll just focus on one zone every day, which is much more manageable. The day to day clutter will still get picked up like usual, but when it comes to deep cleaning we'll focus on one section of the house a day, which means the whole house gets deep cleaned once a week like it should be and I'm not going to be going insane trying to keep up.

I also assigned everyone a laundry day, which I've done in the past and it worked great until we got off track with it a while ago. Basically, everyone in the family has their own laundry day and on that day we only do that one persons laundry. In the morning they bring down their basket and I wash it in the morning and whoever it belongs to takes it out of the dryer in the afternoon, folds it and puts it away. It is SO much easier to fold laundry and put it away when it all belongs to one person. No sorting socks, no figuring out whose jeans belong to who. There are five people in our family and five weekdays, so it works out perfectly. On Saturday I do sheets and towels.

So we now have a handy dandy chart on the fridge that I created which lists everyone's laundry day, the kids chores, it has a dinner menu on it, a schedule of what activities we have going on during the week and a spot for notes in case something comes up that we need to remind ourselves of. Everyone can consult the chart to find out what's for dinner, what the cleaning zone is, what their chores are, what appointments we have that day and any other important information.

And now my life is MUUUUCH easier. :) The boys have been awesome about all the cleaning we did and about their new chore schedule. They weren't so thrilled about it when we started but as soon as we started organizing their rooms and they saw how much nicer it was going to be they got really excited and were totally on board. Now when they get out their Legos or books or whatever else they do in their bedrooms, they're putting everything back when they're done because as I pointed out a million times over the weekend, it's WAY easier to do a little maintenance now than a complete three day overhaul later. I don't think anyone wants a repeat of what we just had to go through over the weekend to whip the house back into shape! It's easier just to stick to the schedule and keep it maintained on a daily basis.

 So between all the work we did on the outside of the house over the past month and all the work we did on the inside of the house this past weekend, life is feeling SO much better! Everyone is happy and organized and enjoying the house inside and out. Aahhhhhh.....:)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Our Year Of Adventure: Plant a Garden

We've been busy around here! About a month ago we decided that we were finally going to get all of our yard projects done and we've spent the past month crossing them off one by one. We have a fairly big yard and it's got a ton of landscaping in it, so the upkeep on it is fairly time consuming. The past couple of years we've let it go a bit for various reasons and our to-do list just kept getting longer. One side of our fence was leaning, our wooden swingset was unstable and looking really weathered, the garden needed some work, there were some overgrown plants that needed some attention, there were some flower boxes on the back patio that were in bad shape, all the landscaping needed new was a pretty long list.

So this spring we decided that in the spirit of our year of adventure that we would do everything that needed to get done in the yard so that we can really enjoy the yard this summer. The past couple of summers we have spent very little time out there and that really needs to change.

We got lucky and the guy we hired to fix our fence is an all around handy man and we decided to have him do some of the work for us. Between everyone being sick over the past month and some of the other stuff we've had going on we decided that the projects would be more likely to get done if we hired some of it out. So the fence got fixed, he repaired our swingset and restained it and we bought new swings for it, he did some of the yard clean up, he put in new bark, he restained the garden boxes and the patio flower boxes, and did some other things for us. It was totally worth it, the yard is looking great and we spent this weekend finishing up the rest of the projects we wanted to do out there.

We were at Lowes four times this weekend, buying more plants and flowers and seeds for the garden boxes and various other yard items. I spent yesterday planting flowers and we spent all day today planting the garden. It was a bigger job than we thought it was going to be!

A few years ago we built square foot garden boxes. We had big garden planting plans but the last two summers we never got around to it.  Well, that's not completely true, I did plant a few things the first year but it was too late in the summer and nothing grew.

So that's why we added planting a garden to our year of adventure list. I feel like it's a skill that we need to improve on and it's a skill that I want to teach my children. I grew up with a huge garden in my yard when I was a kid and my mom took such great care of it. She has a green thumb, she can make anything grow. I, on the other hand, can kill a plant faster than anyone I know. It's a skill I need to work on. This yard had a gigantic garden space in it when we moved here and we've never really done a whole lot with it. It's time to change that.

So today we planted the garden. We decided to try using seedlings instead of seeds as much as we could because I can never get seeds to grow well for some reason. So we bought strawberry plants, little corn starts, some pumpkin and watermelon plants and a few other things. We love corn and since we were able to buy the little plants I have higher hopes that they'll actually grow, so we planted an entire garden box just full of corn. If it all grows we're going to have a TON of corn! I'm excited about that. I'm also excited about strawberries. Those will definitely get eaten! We've never successfully grown melon before, so I'll be interested to see if we can make those work.

We did have to plant some seeds. We did one box just with seeds. We planted lots of peas and carrots and a few sunflowers, just for fun. Like I said, I haven't been very successful getting seeds to grow in the past, but I'm really going to baby them this year and see if I can manage to get something to come up.

One thing that made it extra fun this year was that we really got the kids involved in helping. In the past when we've done a garden it was mostly just something I did myself, but this year we spent a lot of time teaching the boys all about working in the garden. Shawn helped the boys measure out the square feet and use twine to mark it and I taught them how to plant the seedlings. It will be Josh's job every day to go out and make sure the boxes are getting enough water and he's excited about doing that. It really was a fun family project. We worked on it for hours today. Planting all the little seedlings took forever. I really hope that they grow and do well because it was a lot more work to plant the seedlings than it was to just plant seeds. It will be worth it though if they grow better.

Tonight we're all tired and a little sunburned but the yard looks better than it has in years. Between the flowers and the garden and the repaired fence and the newly stained swingset and the nice bark and the other projects we've done, I am absolutely LOVING the yard right now. I just want to stay out there all day, and I haven't always felt that way about our yard in the past. I find that everyone is wanting to spend more time out there now, and I love that.

Now all we have left to do is to get the screen built for our backyard movie theater and we'll be ready to start Friday night movies in the backyard hopefully in June! I'm waiting for it to warm up just a little bit more before we start that, but I'm really excited about it!

So now I will leave you with pictures of our garden work today! Hopefully I'll be updating the photos when everything grows! I'm keeping my fingers crossed! :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mothers Day and popcorn!

I had the most awesome Mothers Day ever yesterday! It was just one of those truly perfect days from start to finish that reminded me how much I love my husband and my kids.

I woke up to Shawn and the kids piling presents on the bed! I got my favorite chocolates, sweet cards, a lilac scented candle (my favorite!), beautiful flowers and the popcorn popper that I've been wanting (more on that later). I also got a beautiful rose corsage to wear to church.

At church I got more chocolate and the kids made me super cute cards and trinkets in their classes. In Matthew's class they made the cutest bookmarks that I've ever seen! He also made me a necklace out of candy that I happily wore for a while until I was forced to eat it. :)

After church I got to pick my favorite lunch and then we relaxed for a while and then I got to try out my new popcorn popper!

Ok, so I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I have this thing with popcorn. I love it. Like seriously love it! I'm a popcorn snob though. Not all popcorn is created equal! I hate microwave popcorn, at our house I usually only eat it air popped. We use our air popper at least once or twice a week, and for some reason it always tastes the best when Shawn makes it. Usually on Sunday afternoons I talk Shawn into making a big bowl of popcorn. He has the exact butter/salt ratio figured out that makes it taste just right.

But I love movie theater popcorn even more than homemade popcorn. Getting popcorn is my favorite part of going to the movie. When I was pregnant with Josh our apartment was right next door to a movie theater and I craved movie theater popcorn. One time Shawn went over there and asked if he could just buy some popcorn. I love that man. :)

As we've been planning our outdoor movie theater one of the things I knew I definitely wanted to do was buy a real movie theater popcorn popper that I could sit on the patio for movie nights. Real movie theater popcorn at home! Yay! I've been researching them and pricing them for months and I know which one I want and I'm going to be buying it soon.

But in the meantime I started wishing that I could make real movie theater popcorn without having to get out a gigantic popcorn machine. The popcorn machine will be great for parties and movie nights when I want to feed a lot of people, but it's kind of overkill for Sunday afternoon popcorn with the family.

So being the Googler that I am, I went to work researching my options and I discovered the Whirley Pop! It's the old fashioned way of making popcorn on the stove and it has a hand crank to stir it as it heats up. What I found after reading many many webpages about popcorn is that with a Whirley Pop and the right ingredients you can make movie theater popcorn on your stove!

So that's what I wanted for Mothers Day and I couldn't wait for Sunday to try it out!

The secret to movie theater popcorn is coconut oil with beta carotene (that's what makes it yellow) and a very fine buttery salt called Flavacol. That's the exact stuff they put in the machines at the theater. You can buy those ingredients at Amazon for pretty cheap.

To make movie theater popcorn in a Whirley pop you put in 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil, a teaspoon of Flavacol and 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels. Then put the Whirley Pop on the stove, turn the heat on to somewhere between medium and medium high (don't get it too hot or it will burn) and then turn the handcrank for about 4 minutes until it starts popping. When it finishes popping you pour it in the bowl and you have absolutely perfect movie theater popcorn! 

 We excitedly tried it out yesterday afternoon and I'm not kidding when I say that it's exactly like movie theater popcorn. It's perfect! We had so much fun that we made three huge bowls and probably could have fed half the neighborhood, lol.

After we made way too much popcorn we all piled on the couch for family movie time. One of my favorite things is watching movies with my kids that I liked when I was a kid. It's fun to introduce them to things from my childhood. At this point I think we've pretty much gone through most of my childhood favorites that are age appropriate for them and it's getting harder to find new ones to watch, but we found one yesterday that we hadn't watched yet. We watched Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which was a cheesy movie when I was a kid and is even cheesier now, but the kids liked it and we had a great time.

All day long my kids kept giving me hugs and wishing me a happy Mothers Day and I really appreciated their efforts to be extra sweet. I absolutely adore my kids and love being a mom and yesterday was just such a fun, perfect day with my family. I appreciated the extra effort that Shawn went to to make me feel loved and special. He's always so great with holidays like that and I appreciate it.

Today everyone went back to work and school and I made more popcorn. Yum. :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Science Fair project complete!

We've been helping Josh with his science fair project for the past several days and tonight we finally got it done! Shawn helped him with the experiments and I helped him put the poster together. He chose to study water tension and it was actually really interesting. We learned how soap works!

Next up, Matthews Invention Convention. He needs to invent something using simple machines. We're stumped. Send your ideas my way. :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My house!

Every now and then when we're out driving around we drive past our old house, the one that we built in 2001. We drove by it a couple of days ago and there is a for sale sign in the yard! Today I was finally able to find the listing for it, hoping that there would be pictures of the interior so I could see what it looks like inside now and there are!

Here's the listing!

I'm wondering if the house was foreclosed on or something because the pictures are clearly of an empty staged home. You can tell that no one is living there and it looks like it has been staged with model home furniture. It also has surprising updates in it! There used to be carpet on the main floor and they've taken it all out and put in hardwood, which is unusual for this area and especially unusual for that neighborhood. It's a starter home neighborhood, there aren't many high end finishes in those houses, so it's kind of a surprising choice. It looks beautiful though.

The yard is in bad shape now though, which makes me sad. We rolled the sod in the backyard ourselves and planted all the trees and bushes in the backyard. We had the front yard professionally landscaped and it was beautiful. We were obsessive about that yard. It hasn't been taken care of very well and both of the big beautiful trees in the front yard have been replaced by little, not so pretty trees. I'm surprised that they put so much work on the inside and not on the outside.

I wish they would have shown pictures of the two kids bedrooms that are upstairs. When Josh was a baby I spent an entire day painting orange Tiggers on a dark blue wall in his bedroom. I've always wondered what happened to that Tigger wall. I'm sure it has probably been painted over now.

It makes me nostalgic looking at pictures of that house. We picked out the floorplan and all the carpet and tile and fixtures and spent months going over there every day and watching it being built. Josh was one when we moved there, and that's the house we brought Matthew home to when he was born. I have lots of good memories of that house.

One of the websites I looked at said that there is an open house on Saturday. Shawn has to work but I might go over there and take a peek at it. I've been dying to go back in it for years. I'd love to get one more look at it!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Josh!

Yesterday was Josh's 12th birthday! It blows my mind that my sweet little boy is 12! He's not such a little boy anymore, I took him shopping for shoes last month and we discovered that he has to shop in the mens section now and his shoe size is only a size and a half smaller than Shawn's! My little boy has been replaced by a big kid and he just keeps getting bigger!

Josh is an amazing kid and he just gets more amazing every day. I love to watch him grow and learn and mature, even if part of me wishes that my kids could just stay little forever. :)

We celebrated his birthday yesterday by doing his favorite things. We had Ihop for breakfast and then went bowling. Josh has been talking about bowling every since we went a couple of months ago and he's been really anxious to go back and do it again. It was even more fun the second time, I definitely think that bowling has become a new hobby for our family. We all had a really great time.

Josh also got his first real "grown up" birthday present. We bought him a Kindle. As much as I'm a total electronics junky, I don't really like a lot of electronics for kids. My kids don't have their own cellphones or Nintendo DS or Ipods or anything like that. Josh totally takes after me and loves electronic gadgets and has been asking for an Ipad and things like that for a while. An Ipad isn't going to happen, but I loved the idea of getting him his own Kindle, to encourage his love of reading and to show him that we think he's growing up and is ready for more grown up things. He was really excited about it and is already in the middle of his first Kindle book.

In honor of Josh's birthday, here are some facts about him. I try not to brag about him too much, but since it's his birthday you'll have to indulge me for a minute. :)

Josh loves school and is a straight A student. Last quarter in math he got an almost perfect score for the entire quarter. He missed one half of one point on one assignment and got 100% on everything else. He works really hard and I admire that about him. When he finishes his assignments in Math his teacher sometimes lets him tutor the ESL kids who don't speak much English. Josh speaks enough Spanish to help them with their math assignments. He loves doing that.

Josh is extremely creative. He has been writing a novel for the past year that he works on in his free time. He read somewhere that the average novel has 80,000 words so that is his goal. I just asked him and he said he's up to 19,000. He's got a ways to go but I'm ridiculously proud of him to attempting it!

Josh is a red belt in taekwondo, which is three belts away from his black belt. He has worked really hard over the past two years and I'm amazed at how far he has come.

Josh is amazing with computers and loves to make really creative movies. He has hundreds of little movies that he has created over the years stored on disks. For Christmas every year one of the things he always asks for is more disks because he's always running out. Santa brought him 100 this year, so that should keep him happy for a while. :)

Josh is very compassionate and caring and kind to others. That's probably my favorite thing about him. He's always concerned when someone is sick or hurt. When I had the flu a few weeks ago he kept coming to check on me and see if he could bring me something or do something for me. I loved it when he would just come and sit on my bed and talk to me and take my mind off of being sick for a while.

I could go on forever about all the things that makes Josh special and amazing, but I'll stop there. I'm so proud of the person he is becoming and I'm amazed by him every single day. I'm lucky to be his mom. Happy birthday to my sweet boy! :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


It's been a looong couple of weeks. What I didn't mention in my earlier posts is that we've all had the flu for the past couple of weeks. Josh got sick a month or so ago with a fever and a cough that just wouldn't go away. His fever finally went away but the cough lasted for weeks. Just about the time we realized that his cough was finally gone, Matthew got it. Fortunately Matthew's version of it was milder and he just had the fever for a day or two and his cough wasn't nearly as bad.

And then I got it REALLY bad. I had a high fever and my whole body hurt for a week. I spent days alternating between having the chills and feeling like I was freezing to death to being so hot I could barely stand it. It was miserable.

Just about the time I started feeling better, Clarissa got it. If we all had to get sick I kind of wish we had all just gotten it at the same time, but we seemed to be taking turns and it drug the whole thing out for an extremely long time! Clarissa got it the worst of all. She had a high fever that wouldn't go away and her cough sounded terrible. We spent days and days just laying on the couch snuggling because she didn't feel like doing much else. Finally this past weekend we decided that she wasn't getting any better so we took her to the doctor and he diagnosed her with bronchitis and possibly a sinus infection.

Now she's on antibiotics, which have done wonders for her cough but the antibiotics are causing stomach problems that I won't even get into, but it has pretty much undone all the work we had done with potty training. We've got a constant code brown situation happening here, and she's still got almost another week of antibiotics left to take.

So needless to say, this hasn't exactly been my favorite month. I don't know what's up with all the sickness in our house this year. The kids hardly ever used to get sick. We would get a round of colds or whatever like everyone does occasionally, but we've now had the full blown flu go through our house twice in the past six months. We seem to be on the mend now though, so that's good. I'm hoping this is the end of it for a while.

In duck news, I think our ducks are pretty much gone. The male still shows up to eat occasionally but I haven't seen the female in several days. Either she has found another place to lay eggs or she has moved on. After the two eggs in our yard got broken I hoped that she would stick around and lay more in a safer spot, but she didn't. We have the awesome duck house in the corner of our lawn now though, and I plan to try really hard next year to talk the ducks into using it! I think if I keep their food in there I might be able to talk them into making themselves at home in there. If nothing else, it looks cute in our yard!

And speaking of our yard, I'm really excited about how it's looking this spring. We had the handman guys here to rebuild our fence and while they were at it we decided to have them do several other yard projects that we've been putting off and they really have the yard looking great. It's been nice while we've been in the house sick all month to have someone else doing all the spring yard work that we weren't able to get to. I'm really excited to enjoy our yard this summer. I'm especially looking forward to it getting warm enough for us to start up our backyard movie theater! We still need to built a stand for the screen and I'm still on the lookout for a real movie theater popcorn popper and then we'll be good to go as soon as it gets warm enough! I've been looking forward to this all winter!

The other thing I'm looking forward to is Josh's 12th birthday this weekend! I can hardly believe that he's going to be 12. That kind of blows my mind. I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday and he said that he wanted to go bowling, so Saturday morning we're off to the bowling alley. We had so much fun there a couple of months ago that I think it will be the perfect place to celebrate his birthday. We're all looking forward to it! He's growing up so fast.

In the midst of all that we've got plenty of end of the school year projects to keep us busy. We're helping Josh with a big science fair presentation that he has to do next week and Matthew has to enter something in the invention convention coming up, so we're trying to find something to invent, which has been tricky. We live in an area with a lot of engineers and men in technology careers and unfortunately for our children, that is not our strength. Shawn and I are not super talented when it comes to inventing, creating or building things, so every time one of these science fairs or invention conventions come up, we feel really bad for our kids that they have us as parents, lol. Matthew just had to deal with us in the great Pinewood Derby Car Fiasco of 2012. Poor kid is now stuck with us as his helpers in inventing something. So we're conducting science experiments on water tension with Josh for his project and helping Matthew come up with something to invent for his project and it's keeping us pretty busy at the moment. Life is crazy but we're loving it! :)