Saturday, September 29, 2012

Project Cleanup

We didn't intend to tackled so many projects at once, but they all heaped up into a stressful couple of weeks. But now that they're done, I'm so happy with them.

First, Brian discovered the sink and plumbing in our guest bath was corroded and starting to cause a leaking issue. We happened to mention this to a friend who is a contractor, and he hooked us up with a brand new FREE sink and faucet that was ordered for a client and arrived in the wrong color. We threw in a little paint for the vanity, a new light fixture, and some hardware, and we had a very cheap facelift for our bathroom.

**Darn it!! I really thought I had a before picture in the old archives, but I can't find one.**

Painting the vanity

Much better! And not leaking.

If you have visited our kitchen, you've likely participated in a debate about whether or not we should install a kitchen island. I have always been hesitant about the idea, because I didn't want to give up the wide open space of the kitchen. But as time has gone on, it's true that we don't have much counter space for such a large kitchen, and I like the idea of the kids being able to sit at the island and eat snacks or do homework while I'm cooking. So Brian found a good sale on what we needed, and I couldn't believe how quickly it was decided and done.

Before (2009) - big open space in the middle

More cabinets, more counter space, more seating.

So far, I love it. Certainly the kitchen is a little less spacious, but the functionality is priceless. (Also, we added a little countertop on the passthrough to the living room)

Finally, the city is doing a sidewalk improvement project, and we had a portion of sidewalk that needed to be repaired in the driveway. Meanwhile, we looked into sealing the driveway, but multiple people told us it would be a waste of money because it was so crumbly that it wouldn't hold a seal and really needed to be replaced. One of our neighbors works for his family's patio and driveway business, and he was able to give us a really good deal on replacing the whole driveway. All of this work had to be completed this month in order to satisfy city requirements, so we had another big project going on in September.  (These pictures might be boring to most, but I know some family members really want to see what it looks like.)

The crumbling, before

Uneven walkway, ugly and broken light post

Another attempt to show crumbling

The whole project has been quite entertaining for the boys. It's not everyday that you have one of these in your yard.

Altogether the process took almost two weeks from the first demo to the final brick.

But now it looks pretty and perfect.

And I LOVE the new walkway (minus the light post).

Doesn't it make you want to pull in for a visit? :)

And you just HAVE to. (That's my thumbprint for the baby. We really debated how to acknowledge Baby Girl.)

Oh, and just for kicks, it happens to be the best month to reseed the backyard, so Brian also spent last weekend sharing a rented slit seeder with 3 other neighbors. We are on the 10 year plan for having decent grass in the yard.

So now...we are taking a big ol' break from house projects (right, Brian?). We've got other things to prepare for this winter.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Best Part!

I almost forgot the best update of all. Remember how our school district was desperately trying to pass an emergency levy in March? Which barely passed, to my huge relief, and even with the passage of it still meant cuts to specials, reduction in bussing, closing 2 school buildings, and pay-to-play sports.

Shortly after its passage, the anti-levy group started collecting signatures for a petition. The petition would put a levy repeal on the ballot for November - a repeal of a permanent levy that had been passed in 2009, bigger than the one we passed in March. I knew they would get the signatures they needed, and they did. In August it was announced that it would be on the ballot.

I tried not to talk about it too much because I hoped it would not become a reality, but I was really worried about how desctructive it would be to the community if this repeal passed. The funding cut would be devastating to the schools, and I worried that the morale of the community would take years to recover. I researched whether we could afford to move to a different district if this all happened.

A few weeks ago a concerned citizen, who happens to be a lawyer (and says he is neither for or against levies in general, but thought that this action to repeal a levy was a new level of concern), brought up legal concerns to the Board of Elections. The simple explanation is that the levy they were trying to repeal was a renewal, not an increase in taxes (even though it made the dollar amount go up, I believe he was saying this was consistent with inflation?). Apparently state law says you can't repeal a renewal, only an increase. (I didn't know you could repeal anything - never heard of it.) The Board of Elections sided unanimously with the lawyer's concerns and removed the repeal from the ballot.

The anti-levy group appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. So we had another week of waiting for someone to decide how it was all going to turn out. Finally, less than 48 hours before absentee ballots were printed, the Supreme Court also unanimously voted to keep the repeal off the ballot.

This was SUCH an enormous relief to me. We really love it here and want to be here for the long haul. I kept feeling like everything was great except for this thorn in my side that is concern about the schools. And certainly this doesn't mean that everything will always be great, but it's a huge hurdle and a big victory for the families in this community, in my opinion.

Goings On, Sept. edition

Well, so much to report and not a single picture to go with it.

We've been passing around a back-to-school bug, and out of the 6 people in this house (including Aunt Mel), I'm the only one who's been spared at this point *knock, knock*. Which I appreciate so that I can take care of everyone and because I'm already operating under par. But the kids have all had croup, starting with David and working around. Katy and David have both missed two days of school each, so we've been having sick days at home, pulling out lots of games and puzzles and crafts that we haven't done since last winter. That all sounds quite lovely, but in reality everyone is really cranky and there is lots of fighting and tears. With good moments tossed in for good measure.

All the sudden, I keep noticing this quiet that is "where's Katy?". So I go looking, and she's sitting somewhere with her nose in a chapter book. I just keep blinking because I can't believe my eyes - is she really....reading those? Understanding them? Choosing that as a recreational activity? If so, I am THRILLED beyond belief. But really? So I had her read a chapter aloud to me and as it turns out, for the most part, yes. She's not getting every word, but getting the gist. She went over to our neighbor's house who is in 3rd grade and borrowed a stack of Junie B. Jones books. I'm floored, and hoping that this continues. Reading has always been a struggle for me, even back in school - I wish I loved to do it, but I'm so slow, I fall asleep every time I sit down to read, and I have never fallen in love with it like so many people do. But I would love for my kids to love it.

Luke has developed a new routine at bedtime. I pull him into my lap to rock as usual, but he struggles to get down and says, "I wanna DANCE, Mommy!" Then he requests a song. Either Twinkle, ABC's, Jesus (loves me), Wiggles, or his latest favorite: La La. So I sing and he dances. He dances with such joy on his face until I stop singing, and then he picks the next song. It's pretty much the best part of my day.

For some crazy reason, we have had 3 different home improvement projects going on in the past 2 weeks. The timing on all of them was somewhat predetermined, and it all happened to fall together. I'm really excited to show you pictures when they are all finished, but all three of them are about 90% complete (which causes my blood pressure to be a little higher than normal - I like things to be AS THEY SHOULD BE.) But by the end of the week, everything should be done and we can enjoy them.

I'm feeling lots of baby movement these days which is so reassuring and exciting. I'm also having quite a bit of pain and discomfort, which is unfortunate. It feels more frequent than previous pregnancies, but I'm not sure if maybe my memory just isn't clear. I'm really trying to have a positive attitude and hang in there. One nice thing about this due date is that I have something I am really looking forward to in JANUARY. Bonus.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

More Start-Ups

After a really nice Labor Day weekend, we've had another week of firsts.

David started preschool, and it went swimmingly. He's going three mornings a week, and his room is right across the hall from last year. His new teachers said their goal is to get kids to love school and love learning, and that research shows that if kids learn to love school in preschool, they will love school long term. I think that is a fabulous mission, and they seem to be really good at achieving it.

David only got nervous for a second as we were waiting outside of his classroom door, but then he waltzed right in and gave his teachers hugs. When I picked him up, he was all smiles, telling me all kinds of things he did that day, excited to go back tomorrow. His teacher said, "such a sweet boy," as she handed him over, and I couldn't agree more. He is such a kind soul. I love him so much.


Then I did something really embarrassing that afternoon. I sat down on the couch to read at 2:45. Both boys had fallen asleep, but they are always up by 3. Always. I'm supposed to pick Katy up at 3:30. All the sudden, I opened my eyes and it was 3:38. Silence from the boys. I shrieked. Good thing it's a 30 second drive to the school. She was waiting in the office and I was too embarrassed to say that I fell asleep (they'd be thinking: "must be nice, some of us have to WORK"), so I didn't explain. When I got home I felt a little better listening to the voicemail they left while I was gone, "It's only 3:40, but you are always on time, so we're a little concerned." Okay, well at least I have a reputation for being on time, hopefully I didn't ruin it. (David slept for 3 hours - preschool must have wiped him out.)


Katy had a big day yesterday, too. The first of each month, each child in her class who hasn't had their "magnet moved" (for misbehaving...moved from green to yellow to red, etc) in the previous month gets to be "star student." This was a nice warm up since it was only half a month. She and almost half of her class got to wear a star necklace all day, carry around a stuffed animal that they picked out, have lunch with the teacher (hilarious that this is a reward!), and pick out a prize (Happy Meal variety) to take home. She was beaming. She told me her goal is to become Star student for the whole YEAR, because then there's a big prize. Lord help us if she doesn't make it, she doesn't handle failure well.

That same day she had her first soccer game of the new season/new team. She's been a little sad during practices because she says she misses her old team, where Daddy was coach, there were more girls, and they had a better team name (IHHO). So I was relieved that she really enjoyed her first game, giving her best effort and getting excited when they did well (which wasn't often, they played a killer team).  I will be curious to see if she still wants to play in the spring. She still has to be on co-ed at this age, and the boys are just taller and faster than her. She would be a good player if she could keep up with them, but her size limits her. I hope she doesn't get discouraged.


So with our new schedule, Luke and I have 3 mornings a week - just the two of us! It's really nice, his demeanor is different when he's the only kid. It's fun to see how much older he seems when he's the only one. I signed him up for a little toddler tumbling class on one of the mornings, just because we never do anything for HIM. We went this morning and he loved it. It was a little challenging to get him to follow the teacher's directions, wait his turn in line, and do things when he was supposed to do them, but the teacher is very relaxed, so it was fine. And you could just tell that he was SO proud of himself, having his own class, his own "thing." He showed David the stamps on his hands as soon as we picked him up. So cute.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Ultrasound Day

Most of you know our news from this week because of Facebook/texting/old-fashioned phone conversation, but I always want to remember the day we had our 20 week ultrasound for baby #4.

Brian stayed from from work in the morning, so he walked Katy to school. I was having serious Nervous Tummy, partially because I was hoping they would be able to tell the gender of the baby, and partially because I hadn't been feeling much baby movement, and I kept having this sinking fear that something could be wrong.

After taking Katy to school, Brian stayed home with Luke so I could take David to his Meet-the-Teacher day at preschool. He has been a little hesitant about going back to preschool, mostly because he hasn't been there for awhile and also because he's content to play with cars all day. But once we got there, he was excited and so sweet. I LOVE his teachers. They've been teaching preschool for a long time and I love their mission for the kids and they seem so organized and loving and fun. When David and I got back in the car, I asked him, "What did you like about your new class?" and he said, "Let's turn off the music so we can talk about it." I love this kid. Can't wait to see how he likes it this week.

Brian and I dropped off the boys at my friend Beth's house and we went back to pick up Katy from school and take her to the appointment with us. She was so excited to be picked up in the middle of the day that she skipped into the office. (This was the recommendation from my doctor, by the way, that Katy was old enough to understand and appreciate being there, but the boys, at their ages, might be more of a distraction. I agreed.)

The best part of the ultrasound was that the baby looked healthy and active. I guess my placenta is in the front, which is preventing me from feeling as much movement. I hadn't realized how worried I was until I felt the tremendous relief of that news.

Katy was really interested in the ultrasound, and she really seemed to understand, making all kinds of comments about the arm moving, there's the head, etc. Toward the end of the appointment, she said, "I'm really getting the hang of looking at this thing!" It isn't easy, I don't think.

So early on, the doctor said, "Well, Katy, you are having a SISTER." I have to admit that right away I didn't believe her. I couldn't see what she was looking at, and it looked so unclear, so we asked her how confident she was and could she show us again. A few minutes later, she went back to that spot, paused it and outlined it for us. Finally the lightbulb came on and we all saw it, and for the first time it started to sink in - we were really having a GIRL! Katy said, "I was wanting a sister!"

Now, of course, I would have been thrilled to have three boys, I certainly love my boys. But I have been really excited to find out that we're having another girl. After having 2 boys, it doesn't feel as likely that you'll have a girl, and it will be so special to do all the girl stuff again, and for Katy to have a sister. Having a sister is a huge part of my life, and I'm thrilled for her to have that experience.

David, by the way, wanted a sister too. I think because he plays well with Katy, but Luke grabs his toys and frustrates him. So he'll take one of those sisters, thanks. Oh, and he would like to name her Holley Shiftwell. "No, for real, Mom!" he says as I'm laughing.

We left the appointment and grabbed lunch on the way to pick up the boys. Once we got home, I walked Katy back to school. Right away the secretaries saw the pictures in her hand and just flipped out, asking her all kinds of questions and making over her like crazy. Then I walked her to her classroom door, and the teacher waved me into the room. She told the class to cover their eyes and asked Katy to write on the board. Katy wrote, "It is a girl." The teacher told the class to open their eyes and they all shouted: GIRL!!! One of the kids, who I don't know from Adam, said, "I KNEW it!!" Hilarious. Then Katy got to walk around and show the class her pictures. I was teary eyed in the back of the room. Also, "girl" was one of the class spelling words for the week. Not boy. God is in the details.

On the walk home, I got 2 semi-worried texts from Cindy and Melanie because I hadn't had a chance to send word yet that everything was ok. (I have been on that end many times before - knowing a friend has an appointment and waiting anxiously for the news! Sorry guys!).  So I started texting the news and calling grandparents and all of that fun part that comes with it. This, for me, is my favorite part of "finding out": getting to share the gender with everyone and revel in that part by itself for awhile. It was so fun to tell everyone - so many people were surprised and thrilled to hear that it was a girl. (I know that being surprised at the birth would also be amazing - they both have pros, is what I'm saying.)

So all of this has given me a renewed attitude and energy. I had been feeling somewhat down as the physical challenges of pregnancy were weighing on me (earlier and earlier with each pregnancy). But now I am so excited and I have a better attitude about hanging in there - even trying to enjoy it - for the next 20 weeks. I feel so blessed to be carrying this baby and to have had the chance to get a glimpse of her. HER!!! I still can't believe it.

We're enjoying a long weekend with a final pool visit, a football game with friends, and getting some errands done. I feel so fortunate this week.