Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cleaning Out the Games

I'm a  bit of a board game junkie.  I LOVE to play games with my family and friends. So do my kids.  And they often ask to play games together during free time.  I love it!  And I love all the new games we got for Christmas.  But...there wasn't room for the new ones with the sad state that our game collection was in. So something had to be done!






Side note:

Old houses have such character.  This space...I'm not exactly sure what the original purpose was.  It's alongside the top of our stairs, but isn't really wide enough to be entirely useful living space. My Dad remembers jumping off it onto the steps when he was a kid. And falling a lot, through the sheet rock on the stairs.  Since Bryan and I wanted to avoid that memory building opportunity for our own children, we decided to turn it a game storage area with some portable, build-able shelving. 

 There are other spaces in the house where I just wish I could see what the original builder had in mind...

End side note!

Since we aren't doing school right now, it's the perfect time of year for more in-depth organization and cleaning.  However, since I am very pregnant, I'm trying to make sure I don't over do it.  I've been picking one or two projects a day to work on, and then make sure and spend time with my feet up relaxing and resting with the family.  The games were the goal for the day!

Ellie and Sydney were visiting with my Mom and helping her undecorate her Christmas tree. The rest of us jumped to work. Jayme was assigned keeping track of Owen and Simon so they couldn't track pieces all over the house.

Jeffrey helped to pull everything off the shelves.


I had forgotten how many games we had. Jeffrey and I stacked everything up in the girls' room or in the hallway area outside.

We started by putting all loose pieces in a tub.  That way when we found a game with a missing piece, we'd have one spot to look.  We went through the games and made sure there were enough pieces that it was still playable (some are still missing a piece or two, but nothing that affects game play greatly).  Game boxes that were broken had their contents dumped into Ziploc bags to avoid losing more.  Games that were unplayable due to missing pieces were either kept in one pile to be used for play by our younger kids (who just want to play with the pieces and don't really care if they play "correctly") or thrown away, depending on their state.

As part of the process, we straightened up the money and cards in games.  Rubber bands and small baggies were big helpers for this task!  Now when we decide to play a game, we can jump right into play instead of having to organize everything first and then play.  I'm excited about that part!

We put puzzles in bags, and now just have a small pile of pieces leftover that I'm not sure where they go.  That's Jayme's project over the next few days--put together puzzles and toss the ones missing pieces and add the correct pieces to the right puzzles.  We also have a few cards left to be organized.  We have three sets of Skip Bo, but I know that the sets as they are aren't complete right now. So cards and puzzles need a bit of work, but everything else got finished up.

It looks so much nicer, and all of our new games have a home. The card games (Monopoly Deal, Skip Bo, Life Adventures, and so many more) are now stored in plastic bags in the baskets.  No more digging for them. The white basket in the corner is for any pieces we find as we clean out other rooms in the house.  I'm sure they're there somewhere...



Another plus?  Since we've really been decluttering lately, it felt good to fill another bag.


And now our games are ready to play.  I'm feeling a game night coming on!

Do you have any tricks for keeping them organized?



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

From everyone here on the farm, we wish you a Merry Christmas!

Enjoy celebrating our Savior's birth with your friends and family.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pictures for the Week (12/20 ending)

Ok...blogging on the computer this evening instead of the phone app.  Hopefully the post will actually publish!  Sorry about the confusion with two picture wrap-ups in a row.

This is for the current week (12/14-12/20).  Let's get started, shall we?

Sunday, December 14

No pictures.

Monday, December 15

Jeffrey made a catapult from some scrap wood on the porch.  I actually managed to catch a shot with the rock in the air!  Never a dull moment around here...




Tuesday, December 16

Sometimes when something crazy happens, you have to stop to take a picture first.  Those few seconds allow you to breath and calm down.  Yup...one of THOSE moments happened on Tuesday.  Simon grabbed the bottom of the roll of toilet paper off the wall and started running.  He made it through the gate into the living room before I caught up to him.


Wednesday, December 17

Shopping Day.  Five of the kids had dental appointments, so we hung out in the waiting room for a while.  Jeffrey gave Simon a ride on a toy they have there, and both boys were really enjoying themselves!


Thursday, December 18

We made Christmas tree Rice Krispie treats as our first Christmas goodies of the season.  Everyone got to sample one, and the rest went into the freezer to share with family and friends later on in the Christmas season.  Two pictures for your viewing pleasure--one of the process, one of the product!



Friday, December 19

Addressing Christmas cards.  The kids decorated most of the envelopes for me.  Sydney had to be reminded a few times to stick to the back so I had room to write!  We made it to the Post Office with just a few minutes to spare, and thankfully--they are mailed!  Then we came home, and built gingerbread houses with Daddy!


Saturday, December 20

Decoration Day for our houses! Sydney, Ellie, Jeff and Jayme were all able to use the frosting "guns" independently this year, so I just helped open candies and refill things when needed.  (I thought Sydney would need help, but she is a very independent girl and determined not to need help when Ellie and Jeffrey didn't!)

Since he's not usually in my weekly picture wrap-up, here's one of Bryan decorating the house he built for Owen and Simon to share.  Owen enjoyed sampling all of the goodies, and Simon was down for a nap during this project. I think they'll both love eating the house Daddy decorated!

Christmas excitement is brewing here at Grouse Creek.  How about where you are?

Pictures for the Week

Appearently I can't count on my Blogger app to actually publish these posts all the time, since this post from LAST Saturday is still sitting in my drafts. Oops! It wasn't showing as a draft on the computer.

 I'll have to remember to start double checking that they actually make it to the web!

In the meantime, you get two weeks for the price of one!

The current week will be published shortly!
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It's been a hectic week! We finished up school until January, and got the room emptied out for my Dad that we needed to. I'm sure looking forward to a lower key week next week (hopefully!)

Sunday

I got an awesome deal on onions last week, and also...avacados! Bryan stopped after work last Friday to purchase these beauties.

 About $0.50 each for 70 of them at Cash and Carry. We are a lot of guacamole, had avacados in smoothies, and froze the rest--mashed up with lemon juice. Yum!


Monday

Ellie helping to empty Jeff's room upstairs  so we could turn it into the new playroom/library. The cradle also got moved to Mom and Dad's room in anticipation of new baby. 


Tuesday 

A tub full of books for Goodwill. Purging feels great! 


Wednesday

It's been super rainy, and a couple of great puddles formed in the neighbor's driveway. Jeff eagerly explored the "bridge" that was on this "lake" sized one. 


Thursday 

Oh goodie--this one is sideways! I'm blogging from my phone in bed, and can't get it to turn. Maybe I'll work on that next week if I remember.

I was trying to catch the wind--see the trees bending? Amazing how fall like our December weather has been this year. In the 50s some days! 

Of course just a few weeks ago it was single temperature highs, so I'm enjoying the heat wave!


Friday

Jayme got Simon back to sleep after he woke up too early from a nap. Isn't this precious? 

Saturday

I absolutely love watching the kids play spontaneously! Jeff and Ellie have really been trying hard to incorporate Sydney and Simon into their free play. They were all chasing each other all over the house. They even taught Simon to crawl under the table today.

Jeff had just caught Simon  in this picture. Ellie decided to take advantage of Jeff being on the ground to do her own tackling!



I love the joy our blessings bring into our lives. All of them! I'm going to make it a point to really enjoy the days with them while we take a break from school, and build some memories together! 

Any plans for your Chriatmas break? 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gingerbread Houses from Graham Crackers

Today was the day...or rather tonight was the night. We had bought all of the supplies and had an easy dinner of pizza and salad on the menu. The Christmas countdown selection was "Charlie Brown Christmas."

And one at a time after dinner, Daddy helped each of the kids construct a cracker gingerbread house. They need to dry overnight so they will hold up to loads of decorations tomorrow. 

Everyone was so excited as they watched the movie, eagerly awaiting their turn. Here are a few pics of the process:

Jeffrey and Daddy get the evening started. 

The final gingerbread house, for Owen and Simon to share, is a double!

Sydney loved looking at the ideas in the cookbook!


After five houses were standing, we moved them to the utility room to dry (it's cold in there...)














Then there was more fun. Leftover cut graham crackers and frosting needed to be used. The kids got to use the "glue gun" of frosting on their own and build little creations to eat. 

Ellie made a tower.


Sydney decorated the whole bowl. 

And Jeffrey perfected his J writing skills. 

It was a wonderful evening! And I'm so thankful that Bryan took the lead on building these things. I can decorate. But making a house that actually looks straight while standing? Not really my strong area. I love how we compliment each other as a couple! 

Have you ever decorated graham cracker houses? This is our second year, and I imagine it'll be a lasting tradition. Maybe someday we'll get brave and use real gingerbread! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Owen & Nonconvulsive Status Epilepticus?

Back in 2012, Owen was diagnosed with  nonconvulsive status epilepticus. What exactly is that? In non-scientific words, it is constant seizure activity--but not grand mal seizures (that is convulsive status epilepticus.)

The only symptom we noticed? Weird changes in behavior. Owen was very withdrawn, not making eye contact, and just not himself. We never made the connection that seizures were happening, and only caught it because we were in the hospital for GI problems and they did a 24 hour EEG while there because of his drop seizures. 

We were shocked! Just when we thought we had this epilepsy thing figured out, we learn something new. 

Back then, it took more than two months of heavy duty anti-epileptic medicine to get him snapped out of it. But when he was out, it was a joy to have Owen back!

So if this all happened two years ago, why am I bringing it up now?



Because...I'm worried that Owen has gone back into status. His behavior has been off since a week or two before Thanksgiving. I chalked it up to his ear infection and stress from schedule changes while traveling. 

But...it's getting worse not better. His cognitive ability is greatly impacted. He is trying to hug the wood stove. He's gone back to opening the fire. 

He is not engaging with the iPad, with his siblings, or even snuggling with me or Bryan. He has stopped using the potty and is back in diapers after months of mainly being in underwear during the day. He's like a different kid who doesn't know where he is. And he hasn't been Owen. 

Thankfully when I called the neurologist today, they had a cancellation for tomorrow. Praise the Lord, that has never happened with this particular doctor before, so it is a huge blessing! 

So he'll be seen soon. Now I just have to convince the doctor that something isn't right and try to get an EEG scheduled. That is the only way to make the diagnosis.  

I will be sure to keep you updated on what we learn tomorrow! In the meantime, if you could remember Owen in your prayers, we would really appreciate it! 




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rearranging

As I shared on Saturday, my Dad will be moving in soon. We aren't sure if this is going to be a short or long term arrangement, but either way, we needed to make space.  

It's been a challenge getting a room empty. We choose the office/Lego room since it has an outside entrance. But it also had a lot of stuff. Stuff that needed a new home. 

That means our whole house is pretty much getting overhauled. A huge decluttering session if you will. 

Bags to Goodwill.


A new clothes hanging space in our bedroom (old house equals closets that are more like cubby hole down the length of a wall with no real hanging space..so we were using the closet downstairs...). This space can easily be turned into a real closet by framing around it, so it could be upgraded even more. I love how my husband comes up with good ideas like this! 



A new space in the hallway upstairs for the computer.



Moving Jeffrey back downstairs into Owen's room (at least for now...if Owen starts climbing to the top bunk and beating Jeffrey up again while he's trying to sleep we will have to rethink that arrangement...)

Turning Jeffrey's old room into playroom/library. Oh yes, Simon will still be there too. Owen tries to climb into the playpen so we can't have those three together yet...


It seems to be getting worse, even though I know the contents are dwindling. We are getting close to empty--our goal is to be done by Friday so we can just relax on Saturday. 

And in the midst of all this chaos, I am reminded that nothing takes the Lord by surprise. And I am confident that all things will work out for good, even when I'm struggling to find a new normal. 

So I'll just count my blessings and choose rhankfulness. Here are some good bits from this process:

1. Decluttering

It's needed done for a long time, and I've been putting it off. Now with less space, it had to be done. A good kickstart. And having less stuff is freeing! I finally pitched many of the books Owen has ripped pages from. I also sorted all the too small clothes from the kids' dressers and got them into appropriate tubs in the basement. No more clothes falling out of drawers!

2. Space on our bookshelves. This goes with number one, but really makes me feel happy. I'll share this picture again. It's our picture book shelf. Notice there is now an empty shelf on the bottom. The books are not hanging off with no space. It looks so much better, and is easier for the kids to keep up.  And...there is room for new books! (But just a few--don't want to overload it again!)


3. We are able to be a blessing to my Dad. I'm hoping we can show him God's love and point him to the One who can truly turn his life around. Dad will also likely be having carpal tunnel surgery in the next few months, so I'll be able to help him during his recovery. That's good.

4. I have space to hang my clothes...in the bedroom! That's exciting news right there! 

5. We are learning to trust the Lord more and more with the future and not rely on the plans we had. His ways are best, even when they don't always make sense to us.

So a big change, but I can already see how good has come. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Lord moves in our lives in the coming weeks and months. 


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Putting Up Onions

Oops! This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but apparently something went wrong since it was still in my drafts tonight! Oh well...

----

Wow! I was able to score 50 pounds of nice onions at our local Cash and Carry for $0.12/pound. I thought it was a good deal, so I grabbed the bag.


Now I'm trying to deal with 50 pounds of onions. I know I can store and use about 12-15 pounds over the next few months in cool storage (a room where the wood stove heat doesn't quite reach...), and I shared some with my parents. 

For the rest? I'm putting up onions! They make a great addition to both the pantry and freezer, so I'm adding to both.

Today I diced up 10 onions, and have those going in the dehydrator. Yes, it smells a bit, but I didn't feel the need to take the process outside, especially since it's snowing. We will just deal with an onion smell for the next few days as I dry them. 



I was recently going through the cupboards making an inventory to see what it would take to get a year's worth of certain foods on hand. I estimated I used a Costco size container of dry onions in about 6 months in my cooking. That means I need two to make it a year. Guess how many onions I'm hoping to dry? 

Yup. About two quarts. That should be an equivalent amount. 

And then I'll dry more to make about a quart of onion powder, but I'll divide it into two jars and mix one with salt in the blender and get onion salt. 

I'm excited! It's a little work, but definitely worth it. Last time I dehydrated onions, the flavor was so much more intense than the store bought variety. I'm hoping for similar results again. 

As for the rest, they are heading to the freezer. I love being able to pull out chopped onions for soups and casseroles and things. Frozen onions don't work well in all situations, but they are great for many. 

So I am also working on chopping onions and freezing in a single layer on a cookie sheet before moving them to quart sized freezer bags. That way I can just break off however many I need and am not stuck with a whole bag that needs used all at once. 


What's your favorite way to deal with excess onions? 

End of Week Pics

Sunday

This was our driving day, and I didn't get a picture. As wonderful as our trip was, it was nice to make it home! 

Monday

My sister and brother-in-law gave Sydney some cute foam blocks for her birthday. The kids collaborated and this is what they came up with.


Tuesday

We made potato stamps to decorate some butcher paper for wrapping paper. Jayme worked hard on her TMNT stamps. Getting the mirror effect right was a challenge for her, but she kept at it until she got it right. Fluconazole

Wednesday

The Christmas decoration tub made it up from the basement, and everyone really enjoyed going through it. We put some lights up in the kitchen, and hung a few things around. We will do more decorating later in the month, making sure that everything is Owen (and Pica) safe.


Thursday

The kids have so much fun with Bryan in the evenings! He's the one in the yellow shirt, buried under kids. A dogpile in the making! 

Friday

Know what happens if you mix lime Jello and orange Jello? You get Sewer Gewer! 

The kids loved it!


Saturday

A game changer for our family. I'll explain more another time, but my Dad will be moving in sometime over the next two weeks. (This is his house we are living in and he's struggling.)

That means we had to get a room empty for him, and so we spent a lot of time today cleaning and decluttering. It definitely needed done. 

We are rearranging rooms and moving everything around. With this change coming, my blogging time might be cut short while we adjust. 

But, my picture for the day shows the back of our Explorer loaded up with items for Goodwill. It's amazing how much we've been hanging onto!


The house is looking much better, and drawers  are no longer crammed full of stuff we don't like or need. We are also downsizing our book collection, and I'm finally tossing the ones that Owen ripped up. No point in hanging onto books with pages missing. Sad for me, but freeing at the same time. 

It'll be a busy few days for us as we continue preparing for another family member to join us. (And then another once baby is born!) Crazy days ahead! 

Anything new on your agenda? 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Countdown: Our Tradition

Until last year, we didn't really have a tradition we could claim for a Christmas countdown. And then I came across this post, which sounded totally doable and enjoyable. The kids all loved it, and we are doing it again this year--which makes it officially (at least in my opinion!) a tradition!!

I go through our books and movies and select the Christmas ones. If I don't have 24 (which we don't yet), I order a few from the library and/or purchase ones we'd like to have. 

Some of the books and a Veggie Tale movie that we have gathered so far.  The Dr. Suess collection contains How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which is what we'll be reading from there. 


Then I wrap them up, one per package (except if it's a really short book I might do two together.) they are then labeled for what day of December they are to be opened, and placed in a container.




Each evening, as part of our family time, the person whose day it is finds the present for that day and opens it. We then snuggle to read, or watch the selection. 

I try to think ahead and put longer movies on Friday or Saturday, and get quick reads for Sunday and Wednesday when we are home late from church. That way it fits into the schedule nicely and we aren't skipping this enjoyable time on a crazy night.

A Bible is wrapped up for Christmas Day, and we open it in the morning before anything else.  Bryan will read from Luke 2 so we can focus our hearts on the true meaning of Christmas. 

It has been so much fun planning this year's selections. I'm purchasing A Charlie Brown Christmas (again because it got scratched last year before we made a digital copy), The Christmas Shoes trilogy movies, and Charlie Brown Christmas Tales.The only other movie I want to get (but it'll be next year at this point) is the Home Alone Collection. Books will make up the other days.  I'm excited! 

And so are the kids. Ellie got to open our first one tonight, and we all snuggled up to enjoy Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.  Maybe I'll make some cocoa for us to drink tomorrow night...

I'm so thankful for great ideas found on the Internet, and for this awesome time to spend as a family each night this month.  What a great way to build memories!

How do you count down to Christmas? 


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pictures for Thanksgiving Week

We have had an amazing week! So many memories were built, and we relished spending time with extended family.

These pictures offer merely a glimpse of our fun, but I wanted to share them with you!

Sunday

We started making a trail mix to snack on during our road trip. Sydney approved of the garlic pretzels we made! 


Monday

A quick craft was needed, and so we made these turkeys. Sydney's turned out cute!


Tuesday

Jeffrey has really been getting good with making things from K'Nex without directions. Here is a pickup truck.


Wednesday

We picked Bryan up from work at 4 and left town. Because we were traveling in the dark, we bought some glow necklaces and bracelets at the Dollar Tree. $3 well spent for all the enjoyment and peace in the car these brought!

I don't remember which child this is, but it's the neckace (down low) and the bracelet unsnapped around the neck as well. 


Thursday

Happy Thanksgiving! We had a lovely day with my Aunt and Uncle in Mt. Vernon. My sisters, brother-in-law, parents and cousins were all able to join us, and it was a full, fun feast. 

My Aunt has a gorgeous backyard, and the kids enjoyed running around in it. Many thanks to my mom for snapping this picture of the kids and I. 


Friday

What a relaxing day! We didn't go shopping, and the only thing on the agenda was watching my little sister in "A Christmas Story: a Musical" up in Lynden that evening. (It was very well done, and if you are in the area, I recommend going to see it next weekend!)

We took time to veg, play with magnet boards, color and visit. Here are Bryan and five of the kids. Simon was too busy enjoying Aunt Gerri's carpeted stairs to pose for a picture! He seriously went up and down them fifty times a day or more! (He slept well!)


Saturday

Wow! The zoo, Sydney's third birthday, a lovely evening with my amazing sister and brother-in-law playing a game and relaxing. It was definitely a full day! 

The only downside? It was absolutely FREEZING in Seattle today. The wind was blowing and that made the snow that had fallen Friday come flying off trees  onto us. Brr!

Thankfully we were able to spend a lot of time in the Zoomazium and warm up. Also thankfully, Mindy and Drew (my older sister and brother-in-law) volunteered to take Jayme to the raptor demonstration so the rest of us didn't have to freeze! (Thanks again guys!)

Here are my middle kids on the elephant statue in the play area. Thanks Bryan for taking the picture. 




Hope you had a wonderful week as well!