Monday, April 14, 2014

Jo + Cat

For a few days now, Jo's been playing her toy guitar and singing the same song over & over. It's really clever & cute:


Yesterday, we finally figured out what she's singing: the into to "Peg + Cat!" Once we figured it out, it made her song that much funnier. She does such a good job! My favorite is how she takes the guitar and holds it at her side when she's done.

Here's the link to the YouTube video intro of "Peg + Cat":

Oliver was about the same age when he started mimicking videos he watched. I think this age is just the funniest, cutest age ever (minus some of the tantrums, of course!).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

World's smallest bathroom (well, it's at least in the running...)

Before the woman who briefly lived here before us, a couple owned this house since the 60s. Our realtor told us how, as they got older, they no longer wanted to have to go downstairs (especially in the middle of the night) to use the restroom. So, they had a toilet added into the closet that sits above the full bathroom. That was the extent of this "bathroom:" simply a toilet in the closet, and a bare light bulb on the ceiling. No sink, no toilet paper holder, nothing. There's not even really any room to turn around.

Here it is:

I think the last owner didn't really know what to do with the room, either. She never added anything to it and might not have even used it. When we went and looked at the house, we were even asked, "What did you think of that weird toilet in the closet?"

When Andrew and I talked seriously about putting in an offer on the house, I asked him what we should do about that closet. Should we pull out the toilet and have the sewer line capped? He thought that would be silly, especially since we have little kids who might need to go potty in the middle of the night. He made sense, so I started brainstorming ideas for the water closet. I decided I didn't want the room to be an apology. "Yeah, we have a toilet in the closet. Weird, right?"

So, I decided to own it! Plus, with tiny spaces, you can do things you'd never even consider doing in a standard-sized room. I decided to try wall paper for the first time. I decided to hang pictures. I decided to add a mirror (a basic one that I brought up from the main bathroom downstairs. That room is a whole other story for another time). We got a towel ring and a toilet paper holder. Here is the finished bathroom:

Because of where the sewer line was, there was a big gap left behind the toilet. By big, I mean 10-11 inches!

So, I filled it will a shelf! I looked everywhere and finally found a floating shelf on that fit the dimensions of the space almost perfectly.

See something different in that picture? Yes indeed, I found a toilet tank sink! It is actually the coolest thing I've ever seen. I got it online from SinkPositive, and it's an eco-friendly sink. Instead of going into the toilet tank when you flush, the clean water from the line first goes through the faucet. You wash your hands with that clean water, and the used "gray water" then fills the toilet tank. So, the water automatically flows as soon as you flush the toilet. I took a video of it because I think it's so neat. At the time of the video, the bathroom wasn't yet completed.


Finally, we replaced the bare bulb with a simple pull-chain light with a cover. We also swapped the bulb to a CFL so no tall people would burn their head stepping into our bathroom closet. Powder room. Water closet. WC. I don't know what to call this room.

One final look:

The room is simple, obviously. But I just think it now looks like a bathroom instead of a weird toilet in a closet. And that makes me happy :) I now consider our house to officially be a 1.5 bath!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt at Scheel's

We took the kids to Scheel's to check out the free Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt event they had on Monday. We were given clues that led us from station to station throughout the store. At each station, the kids had to complete a challenge to earn a prize (usually a plastic egg with a little surprise inside). At the first challenge station, the kids had to putt. I helped Jo hit it once, and then she picked it up and dropped it into the hole. She was probably wondering why we were making it so difficult with the putter.

There was a hopscotch station:

 There was a Bozo Buckets station:

Jo liked the prizes the best:

There was an egg balancing station. Oliver did a pretty good job with this! I helped Jo, and she enjoyed tipping it to watch the egg fall and break open.

And best of all there was...

The EASTER BUNNY! Jo was brave enough to give him a high five. Oliver went in for the hug!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Everything looks fun to a toddler, even building a patio.

I've been working on digging out a patio. With all of the dirt I've removed, I've filled all of the raised garden beds. I created an area for strawberries. Now, I'm scattering dirt between some sprouting spring flowers (Tulips? Daffodils? It's a surprise!). Jo decided to help spread some of the dirt by playing in it.

We're not ready for patio stones yet, but we decided to purchase them over the weekend because Home Depot had a sale on them: 88 cents each! They looked like a lot of fun to Jo.

She's kind of cute, and definitely funny to watch.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Earth Day at the Junction

No, it's not really Earth Day, but there was a free Earth Day event called "Earth Day at the Junction" today anyway. It was in Valley Junction, a few miles from our house.

Valley Junction is this cute little area of West Des Moines with funky, unique street shops that sell everything from fudge to costumes. The kids and I have been to Green Grounds Cafe with the Des Moines MOMS Club group. It appears to be just this tiny little coffee house that serves mostly natural & organic products (and fair trade coffee). When you walk back for seating, the place really opens up. It's huge! There's even a stage for events, and a little play area with toys for kids.

When we arrived in Valley Junction, we couldn't find the event. I'd just assumed it was on the street. As I drove down 5th Street, we finally spotted a single tent with bird handlers and owls. We pulled in by the tent and went to check out the owls. We saw a lot of people walking out of the nearby community center, so we decided to pop in there. That's where many of the Earth Day at the Junction vendors were!

At the very first station, Oliver got to make a bug puppet. The volunteers helped cut pieces and staple everything together, but Oliver got to make the eyes and decorate. 

I talked with a woman about home efficiency stuff, and Andrew went to check out some herbs. He got us a self-watering basil plant. Oliver got to make a guerrilla gardening seed bomb. He flattened out some earthen clay, filled it with compost and native seeds, and then they helped him roll it up into a ball. When it dries, it becomes fairly brittle. They told us that people take these and throw them on the ground near old, abandoned industrial sites. The idea is that the native grasses will start to grow there again.

When we finished up at the community center, we were directed to Green Grounds Cafe down the street. Apparently, there were more booths set up there. We walked in and spotted a fisheries station. He talked a bit about clean runoff water, and Oliver got to make a picture of a trout. They had a 3D trout, and Oliver spread paint on it, placed a piece of paper over it, and rubbed it to get the image of the fish on his paper. Jo was so excited about it, so she made a trout painting, too.

I enjoyed the Sierra Club booth. They gave me information on local parks, and they also told me about the weekly hikes they take starting in the spring (more information here). Both ladies at the booth insisted it's OK to bring little kids along on the hikes, so I think we're going to check it out one week soon! They also have a kite flying day on April 19, and I think that might be a big hit with our kiddos.

Our family had a great time at Earth Day at the Junction. It wasn't too grandiose, and the little activities were perfect for their age. In addition to what's pictured here, they also got a spin a wheel for a prize, and they got to plant marigolds in a cup to take home. It's no surprise that Jo liked planting with the dirt the best.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The kids water their garden

We're officially homeowners again! We closed on our house on Friday, and we quickly jumped into projects. Andrew's working on railings for the basement stairs, and I'm working on digging out a patio to extend the old one and planting a garden. So far, we planted a couple of early spring crops: snap peas and lettuce! I think the kids are very happy with all of the space in the house and yard, especially after our extended stay at the hotel.

Here are the munchkins watering the garden and climbing over the soon-to-be patio:


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jordan Creek Mall Play Area

My sister met us at the play area at Jordan Creek Mall last week. The play area is on the lower level, just outside of Scheel's, and it was jumping! There were probably two dozen kids running around this popular play place.

They had a great time playing, so I went back with Andrew last weekend. It was about as busy, but there was more of a mix of big kids there. Although the cut-off says 42", there were many school-aged kids running and jumping around. Our kids still had fun, but they were knocked down a lot.

There were lots of creatures and critters to climb on. Our kids like the elephant the best.

There's also a train to climb on and slide down, as well as a few bigger slides in the center.

Here's Oliver, climbing on and through the log!

Here's Jo on and in the boat!

I love how much fun the kids have here, but I think the play area at the Valley West Mall might be a little less chaotic. Plus, we've never seen the one at Valley West get overrun with older kids.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

South Karen Acres Park

It was another perfect almost-spring day on Friday. Temperatures reached 60, and there was a nice breeze. It's perfect park weather, so the kids and I set out to play at yet another local park! I looked for parks nearby on Google Maps and found one called South Karen Acres Park. It's just a little southeast of Walker-Johnston Park, where we'd played the day before.

This park is in the middle of a residential area, but it has some wide spaces for kids to run and play. There was also a little kid-sized basketball hoop, and there was a (currently empty) wading pool for the summer.

The playground was small, but the kids loved it. That is, they loved it until Oliver spotted...

...the ride-on, sand-digging crane!

We used to play with those all the time when we were kids, but I think they mostly disappeared when sand parks were replaced with wood chips and gravel. Oliver took to the crane immediately and dug and dug and dug.

Here's a video of him working so hard:

Jo just loves to be outside and play. She has no fear on the play equipment and was content to just keep climbing & sliding.

I had to keep telling her that this climbing wall was for going down and not up. She seriously kept trying to go off the edge there.


Digging in the sand:

There was also one of those merry-go-rounds that they used to have at parks when we were kids!

And, again, we spotted a trail running through the park. A few cyclists went by as we played. I checked the map. Apparently, this trail does a big U and can take you back to Walker-Johnston Park, where we played yesterday. About halfway along that trail is a main trail that you can follow south all the way into Des Moines and the parks there.

Photos of the kids playing with some trees and planting magic beans for a beanstalk:
I'm really looking forward to seeing these parks and trails when everything is green. Just a few more weeks!