Happy Valentines Day

Oh what a fun little holiday.  You can ignore it and nobody cares, you can go crazy and nobody minds too much.  There is very little debate over ‘the meaning’ and it is almost fun to be the ‘guy who hates valentines day’.  Nobody really takes it too seriously so anything you do it all good.


For me, it is one of my 2x yearly I try and get a good picture of my kids.  I like to make the cards, I started a few years ago and I’m only sorry I didn’t start earlier.  For a DIY craft it is one of the easiest and over the past few years, I’ve refined my technique.

Here is my how-to for photo cards

  1. figure out your theme. There are tons of great ones on pinterest but this year we did one that was not actually from there (but it will be there soon!).  It was my 10 year olds idea, we have a cute dog and she wanted to include her.  We have done the holding candy and blowing kisses, both are super cute but I don’t want to repeat.
  2. Take the pictures.  I use my DSLR but a camera phone is just as easy really. Take as many as they/you have the patience for so you have options and be chill with the details. Some of what makes them really great is that the kids add their own style by choosing the outfit or style.  I tell them the goal, they fill in the details.  One of my favorites was when Fiona insisted on holding the sign with her feet – it was so cute and so her. img_5954
  3. Import your photos into whatever software you like.  I still use Picasa but there are plenty that will let you do the layout you want.
  4. Go to Avery.com and select one of their templates that will fit 4 per page.  This is a time saver for me rather than try and do all the sizing on my own like I used to.  Upload the picture and if you want to use the Avery collection of clip art and do it up.  They also have a pretty easy interface for adding text, I add my text there now instead of in Picasa.
  5. Save the Avery file as a pdf onto your computer
  6. go to UPS.com and do their 8.5×11 color printing option.  Select 100# card stock and full color and upload your pdf.  Double check sizing etc and order.  I did 10 sheets to yield 40 cards and it cost around $8.


You can also just print on your home computer but for the price, I like the quality.  My home printer is absolutely NOT photo quality.  I originally got cards printed via walmart as photos, however, the cardstock is more sturdy and the price is better so I’m not going back.

As they get older I like the idea more. The cards in the store are really intended for younger kids based on the cartoons etc and my way the sky is the limit because I can type whatever message I want.  I did one for a friends son and it said “Valentine’s Day? Whatever…” and had an eyeroll style picture that is very him (and also cute).  For the parents that don’t have time, I get it, but I count going to the store and hunting up something as more of a pain than sitting at my computer.

For this particular picture, we had a fun time getting the puppy kisses.  We were going to use peanut butter but you can see that in the photo so we went with pepperoni.  It was a win with the dog and gave the kids a bit of a shiny blush that wasn’t bad at all.


yes, that is her outfit, that is why these are headshot style only.  

I hope you are inspired!  I keep a set from each year in their memory boxes, makes me feel better that at least a few physical pictures exist of each of them.


2018 <- never before published because I was at a funeral this time last year.


2017  – this shape was really fun, perfect for adding a pencil to the back.





polar vortex

Every time I miss a whole week I have trouble starting up again because I never know if I should note what I did last week or just move on.  This goes double for my life that was basically skipped last week…  Last week we were the center of a polar vortex, kinda like a hurricane of air super chilled from the Arctic and swirling around us.  We were -50f one day and -20ish the days around that so basically our life hit the pause button.  The kid’s school was canceled, even the post office closed.  One would think you could still ‘do things’ but actually there was a real fear of the gas in the car freezing or the battery freezing so the car won’t start if it was out in open air so we were pretty trapped at home.

It really wasn’t that bad at all.  The kids were reasonable, we had plenty of food, the sun was shining so our passive solar giant windows worked great even when the utility company asked all users to lower the heat to 55 because there was shortages.  Our house is built for the cold in general so I wasn’t worried about pipes and we have a 3 car garage so our cars were safe.  It just isn’t normal life and I didn’t get most of my normal things done.  We did some homework, kids played tons of a math game they like and Minecraft and I relaxed the TV rules and we watched way too much of it.  I got next to no computer work done because the biggest fights happened the second I sat down so finishing all that was my focus as soon as they went back, and here at the back of the line is the online life check in.  And life moves on much like it always does but this week I’m able to go to the gym again because I don’t have to worry about my gas freezing.

These days we are a busy bunch of people.  Kid activities, Lars’ guys game group, and my school board obligations are piled onto our previous stuff so we end up running all the time.  It is a nice thing to be busy and fortunately, a person that used to dominate most weekends has stopped being a factor so we have some free time to work with and that makes the crazy weeks feel ok.

So this is my check in for the week.  We are not frozen and just marching forward.


The more we do, the harder it is to balance.  Sometimes I think the universe builds in balance, you just have to look at it right.

We had a super social 6 day weekend last week with guests arriving Thursday and we celebrated by going to a trampoline park.  If you want the place to yourself, go an hour before closing on a weeknight, we actually had races across the entire place and we each got our own lane.  Friday the houseguests did the tourist thing and I ran around getting ready for the event.  Saturday, the grand event day, went very well and ended even better with a great party at our house where everyone was happy and nothing got broken.  15 of our house guest departed on Sunday and the remaining group just had a nice day hanging out.  Monday (we had off) the last friends leave and I started resetting the house back to normal.  A friend called on Wednesday and asked what I was doing and I said making the 25th bed in a week and I thought I was being hyperbolic but actually, I was underestimating when you figure I made up beds for 25 people to sleep, I just did mine too because why not, then I unmade the majority and remade 6 so in the span of 7 days I made 31 beds.


Monday night dinner party

To balance out that frenetic weekend of social activity this weekend I’m solo with the kids and we have no firm plans but I’m sure we will have a good time and I’m looking forward to a peaceful weekend just as much as I looked forward to the crazy fun weekend.

In a micro version of balance today I started off with a very aggravating morning where because my plan last night didn’t work out per plan so the minivan got left out of the garage overnight and it was -40 (windchill).  This morning it did start but was cranky and there was ice on the window and the side door sensor refused to acknowledge that the door was shut so it made a LOUD BEEP the entire way to school and finally quit on my way to a school board thing.  In balance, I left the meeting and drove home and had a green light at every intersection the whole way home.  That is amazing timing, first in my life for here, absolutely blog worthy and actually this entire post is so I can tell the world that I had green lights from one side of town, all the way across the highway and the other side of town – I think about 10 lights in a row.

The sun is shining and although is it arctic cold outside, our passive solar is doing its job so I am going to take the opportunity to go sit in a sunbeam.  (balance is that I spend too much time running around in the dark since it gets dark here by 6 these days


Learning about board stewardship

The past two days I’ve been in an intensive crash course on how to be a school board member.  Given I have a ton of house guests coming this weekend it was not optimal timing but I am very glad I went.


There was one quote that truly resonated; “being on a school board is never what you expected”.  I’m getting the impression that is very true.  In some ways I think it will be easier, I was expecting to do more ‘work’ and really, the board is supposed to keep a broad view, an eye on goals and hold the superintendent and staff accountable.  I vaguely thought it would be like the Parent Teacher Organization supersized.

After many many hours of seminars, there was really nothing super NEW or truly surprising but it was an exercise in gaining more clarity.  Like the difference between learning algebra and then seeing why algebra exists in higher math.  Now I see much more clearly the role a board needs to play.  Seeing is one thing, the next step is doing.

The negative note for the situation though is that I may have irrevocably traded in my ‘cool helpful parent’ role in my kid’s school.  I joined the board to have a positive involvement in their lives and I might have just created a situation where their teachers will never quite know how to deal with me.  If any teacher is reading this; my plan is to do my very very best to be a normal mom when in the schools for my kids and only wear the board hat if asked.  By the way, the board seems to have very few magical powers so I can’t say I’ll be able to pull out any rabbits for anyone.


Last week was very very busy and I hardly got near my computer to say what was going on in life.  It was the first week of the winter schedule with choir and gymnastics and while all the children love their respective activities they are across town from each other and at nearly the same time.  It was also the week I got officially sworn onto the board so that was a fun event.  Inbetween I actually got myself to the gym, and, we dove into the final battle with the boxes by infiltrating the storage room stronghold.  I also managed to get our massive window covered in curtains and I can’t seem to take a good picture of it but it’s done.  It does cut down on the crazy loudness of the room and the sun in the face by TV situation some minor parties in the house have been disgruntled by.  Personally, I liked to see their solutions, you can’t not laugh at them sitting with pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals balanced on their heads to block the sun in their eyes.  Life didn’t slow down on the weekend and this week made last week look easy because I had to call in my support team to help with the kid needs while I went and drank from the firehose of learning.

It is a great sort of busy and I feel like this is going to be a good phase of life.  Great start to 2019.

Happy 2019!

In the mornings, pre official wake up time,  I surf my reading list on my phone.  Over the past few days the big theme seems to be resolutions.  The opinions range from “yes! clean slate, do the things!” to “resolutions are stress inducing and dumb” and a semi unique tangent this year seems to be ‘alternative’ resolutions like declutter or go on more social outings.  All the opinions have merit and I’m not really going to add to it other then say; you do you, I’ll do me.

The last post talked a little about projects in the works.  Like most of my projects I end up doing a little bit on a lot of things and nothing gets done until suddenly one day they all get done.  Putting a big party* on my calendar really helped motivate too, and, Lars really helped by feeding us all so I could focus.  He also checked in to see if his lifting skills were needed and he toted many many boxes (my nemesis!!!) to recycling, donation, and trash. I’m happy to say there is only one last major battle against the boxes on the horizon; the storage room.  Here is a list of my recent conquests;

  • the pantry. Was epically disorganized and desperate for a purge.  It also harbored 2 unpacked boxes.  It required 1 trip to menards and 1 trip to ikea to tame.img_9155
  • my closet.  This was a box stronghold, there were at least 6 very large boxes and 4 totes.  You could not touch the back wall even if you had long arms.  This required a dive into pinterest, a trip to Menards (yes, a different one), a trip to Tom’s where we still have some stuff (less now), an amazon purchase, and a trip to walmart for hangers.  Changing that light fixture was really annoying but worth it. I added to the existing closet system but now it works for us.img_9160
  • my room!  This is less a single battle and more a general campaign.  It is now box free (there were about 6 medium ones) and almost ‘done’.  There is still furniture to paint in the spring but it is now functional and pretty.


As all people with homes and children know, the daily skirmish against the creeping clutter is never ending.  I’ve read the how-to’s and they all boil down to a 2 part plan; get rid of most of  your stuff, including any messy hobbies, and, clean every day.  I don’t want to do either of those things so my modified version is to get to a point where things have a place to go away and that is what I’m working on.

In this oddly short week I feel pretty good about where I am since I really did spend 2 weeks working toward organizing it does pay off for a little while.  I even had time to get through the piles of paper around the house.


*The Party – we hosted a new years day open house and we had a great time, I hope our guests did too.  There were about 50 or so people over the day and while I missed a few that couldn’t make it I was super happy to see everyone who did and we even got to meet our elusive next door neighbors!

Christmas review

This was the first Christmas in the new house

This was probably also the first Christmas that all the kids were into it.

Sure, they had moments, short tempers, fights over the dumbest things (so dumb I don’t have a funny example because my brain can’t even fathom how they managed to fight over it) however each said without fail that this was the best Christmas ever.

I missed being in NY, the kids missed their cousins and grandparents and quality time was spent on facetime.  On the other hand, I feel refreshed after 5 days of break instead of trying to fit everything in and burning sleep to do it.  Not that I’m napping the break away, it is just removing all responsibilities beyond feeding the kids is mentally nice.

There is also a new secret weapon to sanity; I can leave the kids home for an hour or two and it is OK.  Not just legally ok (and it is) like, actually ok – they don’t seem to kill each other while I’m gone and I’ve come home to happy kids doing their own thing or watching a show every time.  It is incredibly freeing to run to the grocery or hardware solo, or, with Lars and NO KIDS.  They BEG to stay home,  I didn’t know I had been torturing them so all these years but I did read a good article once about viewing shopping from a kid’s POV. Where you have no control or choice about where you are going, have to stick with someone else the whole time, can’t ask for anything, can’t even touch stuff that catches your eye.  The article said imagine doing that with an adult friend – you would never – since then I’ve been treating shopping more kindly and looking at things that they think are cool and treating their opinions as I would a friend and it does help, but hey, it isn’t as good as undiluted Minecraft/kindle/TV/game that spreads toys all over with no one to tell you to pause and come pick up your socks or load the dishwasher etc.  Anyway, sorry for that tangent, but it is relevant to my current good mood because I had the BEST Christmas eve and a really good Christmas day and day after even.


sugar cookie production

‘New house’ is an excuse I’ve used long enough that I’m sick of it.  Yes, the house has eaten a ton of money and energy but when we made the decision to stay I also felt like I could reallocate some energy to getting back to normal and not so frantic.   We actually made 3 types of cookies and creme brulee for Christmas.  We used frosting and cookie cutters and we just stopped when they were ‘done’ even though that means there are 3 dozen unfrosted cookies in the freezer.  I wrapped a mountain of gifts, nearly all in fabric so the clean up was relatively easy and I didn’t feel like I was filling a landfill.  We threw out one single kitchen size trash bag and that was mostly packaging, not wrapping paper.  I’ve posted about it before but it really is so easy to pack soft things or oddly shaped things, it all fits in a bag and bags don’t rip on crazy open areas to ‘show off’ the toy.  They also make a very pretty collection if you make 6 or so a year, after 5 years you have a variety.


easy wrapping!  You see here 2 sets of ear muffs, a hat, a LOL ‘pod’ and 3 odd shaped toys.  Tags are from previous years Christmas cards and I usually manage to keep them year to year.

We got teacher gifts and even neighbor gifts done. Having Christmas on a Tuesday actually made things easier because that last weekend saw lots of Christmas prep time.  For teachers, I broke the candy rule and made them all emergency sweet boxes.  I know all the teachers well this year and I’m pretty confident they all like candy.  If they don’t, still a useful bits box once they give away the 20 odd pieces in there.  Neighbor gifts were from Pinterest and I hit a great sale early in the season at Michaels where nice wrapping paper was only $1.50 a roll and a 3 pack of tape was $3 ish and then there was a coupon….  It didn’t get together until 2 days before Christmas but the point was that it was emergency last second wrapping supply.  I also sent each of them an invite to a new years day party so even if I don’t do it again, I had a good reason to this year.


neighbor gifts

Christmas Eve we had no plans – being in a place you never usually are cuts down on traditional invitations – but we kept busy somehow.  I used my freedom to go pick up groceries using the pickup service and it was great to avoid that store on Christmas eve AND gave me time to pop into the thrift store.  I intended to go to buy butter knives for Lars who has taken up thrown weapons and saw a youtube about using butter knives and to keep his grubby hands of the silver I got him a dozen of his own.  While I was there (solo) I browsed the Christmas clearance and scored a house for my collection, a nutcracker for Zoe who is oddly into them and it was the best dollar I spent all year for her joy, and my best purchase was specialty Christmas dessert plates.  I have room to store them finally and I really love them and they were under .50 each.


my new plates from ‘santa’ and Niamh’s cinnamon roll trees.

Santa was left a tray and kids practically put themselves to bed.  This being the first year in the house the furniture got re-arranged to suit gift opening and this room is more and more my favorite.  I wish the chair could stay full time but it is also needed in the living room.  The final crazy thing we did is total potty humor but that is still very funny over here.  The Tamtes all pooped mints for Christmas morning!  We put a handful of mints under each one and it was worth it because they noticed right away and are delighted by it.  I had intended to do it earlier in the season but this worked too.


selection of baked goods and drinks by the tree.

Christmas Day started early (2am Fiona!) but they did let us go back to sleep until 7:30 and Niamh made cinnamon rolls and Fiona made coffee and Zoe made joyful noise and they actually spent their time organizing the gifts into people piles and that was helpful for opening, plus, it gave them time to wonder over the gifts and that is the best part sometimes.  We had nearly no lull because Vacation Mom came for brunch and then the rolling family calls and then we hosted dinner for a set of friends and we finished the night with a new game that was a bigger success then I had anticipated.


loving her biggest gift, wearing the new hat and new shirt.  Zoe is the most expressive of the 3

Boxing day was totally lazy.  PJ’s worn well into the afternoon.  Kids cheerfully doing kits and playing with toys.  I sequestered myself in my room to finally get my closet organized.  It still had lots of boxes, lots…. I didn’t finish but I did get the shelving up I needed and I’m at 70%.  I’ll have a picture when I’m done but there is no before picture, however, you can just imagine a small room full of boxes and 30 graphic t-shirts hung up.  (ps. Lars didn’t notice there were boxes in the closet?!?).  Maybe unearthing so many of my things beget my good mood but I definitely have one.  I said goodbye to 2 bags for donations and 1 bag of garbage but I’m ok with letting it go.

Here we are today, on a bonus December day.  A day off that has no obligation to society, church, family, or even airlines.  Our plan is to go to the zoo but it is somewhat weather dependent.  Tomorrow or the next day we need to start pulling out of vacation and getting ready for our open house party on New Year’s day but that isn’t today.  I have house projects cooking too but none are quite done enough for pictures.

I hope your holiday week has been as good, good enough to outweigh the not so pretty times in the week.  Believe me, there have been lows in my week too but as always I am focusing on the positive here and it doing so it sets the positive points in my brain.  It is my worst fear that someone reads my blog and feels bad about themselves in comparison – I’m cherry picking – I could post a giant list of shortcomings, fears, messes, and disagreements but I don’t want to, and would that be interesting or helpful? In the interest of full disclosure and your feelings trust me they were/are there!

Can’t end with that, just not my style so;  Merry Christmas and enjoy the last few days of 2018.