Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Top 10

Cody and Lisa's top 10 stories from 2011.

10. Married 6 years!
9. Everyday moments watching our children grow and learn.
8. New callings as Nursery Leaders.
7. Annalisa getting potty trained--and becoming a very independent "big" girl.
6. Lisa's hometown of Minot, ND flooding severely
5. Lee Starting Kindergarten
4. Lisa's Gall Bladder removal surgery.
3. Moving out of our old house and in with my parents.
2. Constructing our new house.
1. The birth of our sweet daughter, Katie Verda.

Happy New Year, everyone! As you can tell, this year has been an important, full year for us. It's been full of ups and downs, bumps and bruises, smiles and tears. But it's made us stronger, happier, better people. We have filled the year with love--and that's the most important part. I hope you have a fabulous evening and have had a great year as well. And if you haven't, well, then, at least it's over now. ;) Love ya!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The House: Pondering Layout

I've been thinking a lot about the layout and purposing of space in our new house. Since we are building it ourselves, we can pick some things to design ourselves--things like closet shelving and placement of cables and phone jacks etc. I want to tell you a little bit of what I've already decided, but I'd also like to ask thoughts and opinions. But I'll get to that later.

First of all. Here's a refresher on our floorplan:

The first little personalization we've already done is putting extra stud backing behind where doors will open, behind shower curtain rods and by windows, and where we want to hang TV's. The next things we are planning now are closet shelves. The bedroom that faces the street will start as Lee's bedroom, but we plan on finishing the basement and at that point Lee will move downstairs and that room will become an office. So, we're designing it as a room that can easily convert to either purpose. In there, we've put a CAT 5 line and a phone jack, to make it easy to put in a computer. I want to put mostly shelves in that closet and not so many rods so that papers and printers and whatnot can be stored in there. Not to mention, Lee is a boy. He needs more shelf space and less rod space. I actually don't plan on putting any full-length rods in that room. (like for long dresses.) I plan on doing shelves on each side of the closet and double rods in between. Is there anything else I should think about?

Now, Anna and Katie's bedroom is the one that faces the back yard. On one side of their closet I'll have double rods, then a large section of shelves in the middle, and a short single rod on the other side for full-length dresses. I'm trying to think of colors to paint it, but that will still be a long time coming, so no big deal.

I've been pondering on how to make the entry way more guest friendly, since we don't have a coat closet. I want to build a bench that has shoe spots under the bench, and above it have either cubbies with doors or curtains, or just a set of coat hooks where we can hang backpacks and coats. On the top I want a shelf with some baskets to hold keys and mittens. I want to put this on the wall to the left of the front door, right where the laminate floor will be. Cody wants to put it to the right of the door, between the sidelight and the big front window, and put a TV on the wall to the left. We have a piano that needs interior wall space, and we plan on putting it on the wall adjacent to the laundry closet. How to set up the living room? Where to put a TV, if we put one there at all? How to arrange furniture? This is a slight battle between us, so I'd love for you all to weigh in. :)

The next thing I've been pondering is how to store everything. We have these nice little linen closets in the bathrooms, but we don't have a big one in a hallway. So today I decided that the closet in the kids' bathroom will be our cleaning closet. I'll put shelves on the top half, but leave the bottom part open so I can put our vacuum and steam mop and broom in there, and on the top I can put my cleaning supplies. The bathroom will have some other open storage shelves where I can put towels, and an extra-long vanity where I can store extra TP etc. I, personally, feel like a genius for coming up with this. :)

Lastly, what are some things you love about the houses you all live in right now? What do you wish was different? How would you fix the problems--or prevent them from happening altogether? Is there something you would suggest we do to make sure our home is as kid-friendly and comfortable as possible?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

We've had a very busy year, but not too busy to pause and remember Christ our Savior. We hope you all have a very wonderful Christmas! Love, Cody, Lisa, Lee, Annalisa, and Katie

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The House: 21 Weeks building

With the Holiday season here, we've had a few rough hours weeks. Everyone is off going to parties or stuck in snow etc, but we keep trucking on with the build. Here's where the houses are this week:

House 1, 2, and 3: Insulation finished, Sheetrock up! What an amazing difference it makes!
House 1 and 3: Stone DONE! Finished! Tents taken down and moved to House 2 and 7, and set up.
House 4: Electrical done and inspections being done. Stone finished, grout nearly complete (until we ran out of color.)
House 5 and 7: Electrical done and inspections on the way. (after inspections comes insulation.)
House 6 (ours!): stone and grout (finally) COMPLETE! Every last bit! done done done! It required moving around a tarp and using a space heater because we had to take the big tent down before it was done. Still not sure why, but we did listen to the boss.
House 7: Scratch coat of mortar applied.
House 8 and 9: heating done, plumbing mostly done, and House 9 finally got the last window fixed and installed.

We're not building today (Christmas Eve). On last Thursday, I brought out some little smokies and cheeseball and we had a regular Christmas party under the tent at House 7. Some very kind people have brought little gifts for each other. I love the feeling of camaraderie as we build. There's always some little drama going on, but that is to be expected. Mostly we enjoy being with each other and have all found some true friends in our build buddies. And whenever the building gets tough, I just look at our front window and imagine a Christmas Tree there and lights on the roof and I think, "Next year, Lisa, Next year."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The House: Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Framing had splinters. Subfloor had scraped up knees. Windows had smashed fingernails. Propane heaters hurt the eyes. Grout has little abrasions that sting like the dickens. We've seen nails in feet and and fingers. We've tripped and scraped and bonked and generally just owie-d our way through building our house. But at the end of the day, we are still overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to be working hard on our new home.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Addressed: To Kids Everywhere

Dear Children of the World,

At this time of year, I receive billions of letters asking for toys for Christmas. I'm really happy to oblige; giving is what gives me the greatest joy in the world. But since giving should be a two-way street, I'd like to offer up my Christmas Wish List to all of you. This year, I would like all you children to:
-Listen to your mommies and daddies. They love you and want what is best for you, and I promise they have more experience than you might think. Listen to their advice and their instruction and be obedient.
-Clean your rooms, and put away your toys. My elves and I work very hard to make them nice--you need to work hard to keep them nice!
-Do something nice for someone else. You young children can make the world a brighter place when you smile and help out.
-Go to bed on time. And I'm not just talking about Christmas Eve--getting good sleep will help you grow healthy and strong. So don't complain when your mommy tells you to get in bed. Just do it!
-Please hang up your coat and wipe your shoes before you come inside.
-Be grateful for everything you have and remember to say Thank You.

Now, I'm very busy and must get back to work, but if you want to make me an extra-happy Santa, please check off my Christmas List!
Santa Claus

Middle School: A memoir

Middle school is an ugly time for most people. It's when we hit puberty and have braces; we have pimples and clothes that don't fit. It's the time of our first crushes and, most of all, a time of great change. My memories of middle school were right along these lines. Mostly I try to block out some of those awkward moments, but there are some that have proved to be the most special, influential, and dare I say it? cherished memories of my life.

In seventh grade I took keyboarding. My teacher had a "whiz of the week" award that she would give to the fastest typer that week. I consistently would type around 60-70 words per minute, but had too many errors to count. I worked hard on decreasing my dependency on the backspace key, and after about ten weeks of work, I finally hit 74 WPM with only 4 errors. I was so proud of my little certificate that didn't just announce my "whiz of the week"-ness, but also the whiz of the month--and eventually, whiz of the semester. That was a pretty special moment for me.

I also won Student of the Month twice (once in seventh grade, and once in eighth grade). I was awarded a little plaque and got to shake the principal's hand while the counselor snapped my picture. I still have those little red plaques somewhere buried in a box.

One of my favorite classes in Middle School was choir. It was taught by a bubbly lady named Mrs. Speiser who had a pretty good NoDak accent. She had us sing such great songs like "Oh Lutefisk" (to the tune of O Tannenbaum) and a plethora of Disney hits. Every year we would perform a variety show. In eighth grade I was awarded my very own solo. I sang Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano." I wore a black velvet dress, long white gloves, and a turquoise feather boa. After tapping into the sexiest side I had as a thirteen year old girl, I sang my song in front of the whole school and afterword, my English teacher said I was a ham. I took that as the greatest compliment a girl could get.

Also in Eighth grade, my appendix ruptured and I had to leave school for a week for surgery and recovery. My science teacher came to the hospital and brought me a book to read. Now, I regret never getting around to reading it (though in my defense, I was on morphine). But it was still a very nice gesture. I had to wear sweat pants or pajama pants for a month after the surgery to avoid reopening the surgery wound. I'm not sure what anyone thought of me at that point, but I can at least say nobody said anything mean to the girl with the perma-sweats.

My school had a swimming pool, and for a few weeks of the year we were all given basic swimming lessons. We were required to swim the length of the pool underwater, tread water for five minutes, and dive to the bottom to retrieve tar-covered bricks. I realized then that the only possible way to find those bricks was to wear goggles. And yes, it took me a few days to figure that out.

While I was in eighth grade, I tried out for the school's Science Olympiad team. We had to stay after school one day and take a basic Science test. I was accepted on to the team along with a couple other friends. The team was then broken up into pairs and given a couple of events that we would compete in. My two events were water quality and the egg drop. My friend and I built a contraption that would catch an egg that was dropped from eight, ten, twelve, and fourteen feet high. We lost pretty badly at that event. But the water quality--we had no clue even where to start. We found a few books on water quality, but never really read them. When it came time for the regional Science Olympiad event, we went in worked together on a written exam about Water Quality testing. We had no clue what we were doing, so we made guesses throughout the whole of the test. We giggled our way through it, and when we were finished we laughed about our horrible blunder. When it came time to award the medalists for the whole Olympiad, and they announced our names as first place winners in the Water Quality Event, we were downright dumbfounded. I carry that little gold medal still as a tribute to all educated guessers in the world.

I could continue with this memoir for many more pages--like about getting our Hepatitis C shots and doing archery on the stage, or about the tar they put on the roof every Fall and how that smell still takes me back to sitting in Algebra class... The sights, sounds, and smells of middle school still stay with me. Even though I completed middle school well over ten years ago, it still is with me; as it is with everyone. But this Summer, our silly but beloved middle school looked like this:
Now, Erik Ramstad Middle school has been labeled a complete loss. I know I've talked about the Minot floods on here a few times, but I just had to walk back through memory lane today. I'm sure there will be another school where the teachers will drop bricks to the bottom of the pool in the name of better fitness. I know there will be a stage where young girls will first test the waters of stardom. I know there will be halls that smell like roofing tar. I know there will be shop classes with camouflage-colored CO2 cars. I know that the only thing truly lost was a building--the memories I hold will last forever. But it still makes my heart hurt just a little bit to know that my school is gone. So it is with a tear in my eye that I bid farewell to my old school. Goodbye Erik Ramstad Middle school; I will remember you with fondness to the day I die.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Well, we did it. I really should say Cody did it, since I can nearly count the boxes I packed on one hand... But anyway. We're packed. We're moved out. We're no longer residents of that house. Some things I learned:

-It is ten times easier to move out of a place when you're not living there. When you have to wear clothes and use dishes and brush teeth and take showers and sleep in beds, you can't touch any of that, making it impossible to pack it. So I'm grateful we just grabbed our clothes and a few toiletries and came up to Mom and Dad's to live, so we could pack everything much faster.
-Cody's PTO was finally approved and we couldn't have chosen a better week. It was nice for him to have plenty of time to spend packing and cleaning.
-For a family about to move, nothing is a more thoughtful gift than some nice, sturdy, clean, identically-sized boxes. Well, except for maybe pizza coupons. :)
-And lastly, occasionally you just have to give in and eat microwave dinners.

I'm still shocked that all of our stuff fit in this one bedroom (well, probably closer to half or two-thirds of our stuff, since that doesn't include the clothes we brought up to Mom and Dad's, our couch, box springs, piano, and a few other items...):

Holiday Baking

Since moving out of the old house, I feel kind of like I'm double timing Christmas. Which is actually a very good thing, because it means I'm really enjoying myself! I've been indulging in all kind of holiday baking--keep in mind that I usually enjoy the baking more than the goodies themselves. There's just something about the smells and the warm stove, and the memories and all the nuts and chocolate... At any rate, the baking itself is not a chore for me. Just lucky I guess. ;)

So here's our holiday treat lineup:

Famous "F" Fudge
Aunt Bev's Peanut Butter Cups
"Yule Logs" (which I invented last year: pretzel rods dipped in caramel, dipped in chocolate, and drizzled with white chocolate and sometimes rolled in nuts)
Peanut Brittle (my first time this year!)
Caramel Cashew Popcorn
Toffee Balls
Peanut Busters
"Christmas Punch" (our own version of spiced cider with cranberries)
Homemade caramels dipped in chocolate
Chocolate dipped Cherries
Cheeseball and crackers
Mrs. C's Star Cookies

Have I made you drool yet? ;)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The House: 20 Weeks

Twenty weeks building. wow. It seems wild to think we've been building that long, but also that it has gone so quickly as well. When we started I compared it to being pregnant--lots of work, lots of pain, but lots of excitement and in the end you get a beautiful new family member. That's certainly still the case.

We took down the tent from our house this week and started another house on stone. Of course, though, a mere day after taking the tent down our corner pieces arrived. We thought we could get by with just a little tarp over the one corner, but our manager wants us to re-tent the garage (not the whole house, but still a big tent). Ugh. Why couldn't we have just waited one more day? Those 100 foot tarps are heavy, not to mention all the lumber and scaffolding we use! Oh well. We at least get to look at this gorgeous sight now:

Meanwhile, subcontractors have been hard at work inside the houses and we're seeing some fun progress all around. Here's where the nine houses are sitting at the end of week 20.

House 1: Drywall delivered; Stone and grout still almost all done. We got all the stone on that they had and had to order some more, which came in on Thursday. So there's still just a few pieces to put up and then they will get grout, and then it will be done. Most of the grout was done on Tuesday.
House 2: Insulation completed
House 3: Insulation completed; Stone and grout nearly completed--similar story to House 1.
House 4: Electrical done; Started putting up stone
House 5: Electrical done
House 6 (ours!): Plumbing and Heating completed, Electrical started; stone and grout nearly completed and tent moved to House 4
House 7: Plumbing and Heating completed
House 8: Plumbing started
House 9: Heating started

Once the electrical, plumbing, and heating is all done, there is an inspection done. After the inspection we get insulation and then on to drywall--which is a major step as it signifies the beginning of the finish work, also known as the beginning of the end. :) But until then... Keep on buildin' keep on buildin' keep on buildin' buildin' buildin'....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Really? a 9 month old baby?

Our little Katie is growing far too quickly! This past month she's completely left her infancy and entered into full-fledged babyhood; bordering on toddler. It's amazing how suddenly that seems to happen.

Kate's two top teeth are about to break through, and she's had some hard moments with teething. But her big break through this month: standing! She's crazy! She can stand up for several seconds without holding on to anything. I'm afraid she'll take off walking at any second. With these new found standing skills and wicked fast crawling, Katie has found great pleasure in touching anything she can find. She enjoys exploring the world around her, even at the expense of some unsuspecting plant or Christmas decoration.

I'm really proud of our baby girl and the way she's handled the crazy situation we're in with moving and building and whatnot. Sometimes it's hard to find a quiet place to take care of a baby, but we do our best and are so grateful we have our little Katie Bubble. Happy 9 months to you, Katie-gug-gug!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The House: 19 Weeks

Goodbye, week 19!

We had a few setbacks this week. I hate setbacks. We have 3 houses right now (ours, House 1, and House 3) that have all the stone on, except for a few small sections because the company didn't deliver enough stone for us to finish the whole house. Our house still is missing one corner of stone from last week's corner fiasco. We did everything we could on the other two, using every tiny piece of stone we could find, and we just plain ran out. Then, there was the problem with the grout. Apparently we all ordered our grout color using an out-of-date sample. Over at House 3, they mixed up the grout and it was bright orange--like, hunter's orange. It was awful. Of course the homeowner nixed that immediately, so we went over to our house. I wanted grey grout, but through a miscommunication, we ended up putting in black (I wasn't there on Wednesday, Cody was, but he didn't realize I didn't want that color). I could have put up with the black, but when we went back on Thursday to finish it, there were a lot of bubbles in the grout and other problems, so we ended up chipping it all out. It wasn't very happy. After three hours of chiseling out grout, we just went home early. We needed it. So, Saturday will be a fresh start and we have all learned an important lesson on being careful with grout--like, beyond careful. Grout is one of those things that must be perfect. Pretty good just isn't good enough any more. Bubbles in the grout will cause it to crumble and crack the stone, so we are all going to slow down and be extra cautious, and triple check every grout line before moving on.

But anyway. At least the sub contractors had a good week this week! Here's where all the houses are:

House 1: Every piece of stone they had is on. Waiting on another shipment before we can finish. Also, wall insulation in! (Ah man, I can't wait to tell you all about insulation when it's our turn! It's stinkin' cool!)
House 2: wall Insulation
House 3: stone all on and waiting another shipment; grout getting started. Rough electrical done, wall Insulation done
House 4: Rough electrical done
House 5: no change (plumbing and heating is all done, has been for a few weeks)
House 6 (ours!): stone all on except those four corner pieces, grout half on and then off again. :) plumbing and heating done, including... BATHTUBS!
House 7: plumbing and heating done
House 8 & 9: No change

Sorry no pictures this week. I lost my phone. :/

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Moving again

Oh how I hate moving!

We tried so hard to finish our new house before we had to leave the one we're living in, but it just didn't happen. So, over the next week or so (either this weekend or the next) we'll be moving in with my parents once again, and living there temporarily until the new house is done.

Why, you may ask? Our landlords have been so kind to us just letting us live here for the last year, but it's time to move on now. They need the space for their own growing family and their brother (who moved into the basement last weekend), and Cody and I feel like we're in the way. Leaving has been a tough decision--especially when you factor in Lee's Kindergarten and Cody's work schedules. But we really think it will be best for us to live with my parents for the next few months. Which leads me to another bummer.

Our new house won't be done until mid April, no matter what. If we went out there and built 60 hours every week, it wouldn't make a difference. Why? Because only 2 driveways and back porches have been placed (ours and House 1). They can't touch the frozen ground until Spring. So even though we cruised through shingles 3 weeks faster than predicted, and are already ahead on stone, it won't get us into the houses any sooner. We're all quite heartbroken, but are trying to make peace with that fact and finish up our part. If we have any down time, I hope it is at the end of the build so that we can all have a few days to pack and clean our houses before moving. I always said this whole affair was an emotional roller coaster; this is yet one more dive in the journey.

One last random fact: once Cody and I move in with my folks, there will be only 2 families in our build group of 9 that don't live with parents. Silly, huh. We've all had strange ends to living in rental homes that have put us in strange situations, and since we're building our own homes, we all have thought the same thing: why rent an apartment for a few months? Mostly, I'm just grateful for my wonderful parents who are willing to put us up when it feels like life is crumbling around us, and I'm grateful that this time around we can easily see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I'm grateful that we can move out of this house with smiles on our faces and hugs and love, instead of like last year which was so horrible. It may be a tricky couple of months, but it will be for the best. And that, as they say, is what is up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Just a bit more from Cali

I had to share some of these clips from the Talent Show. They're the only ones I took that were small enough to fit on the blog easily. Maybe if one of my siblings puts the whole thing on YouTube or something, then I will link it. Consider this a teaser. :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

The House: 18 weeks and no roofing

On Tuesday Cody and I went out to build together, as is normal because my mom graciously babysits on Tuesdays. We started stone! It is a new project that we were both excited to start. But after just a few minutes of carefully sculpting mortar and having to ask before placing a single stone, Cody realized it was too much tedious artwork and just "not his thing." So, I got to go build the rest of the week and he took care of the kids. It felt great!Putting on stone is really interesting. It can't freeze, so we have giant plastic tents we put on the fronts of the houses, held up with scaffolding. Underneath we run some propane heaters and put up bright lights, so building has been quite pleasant this week. If you get up on the porches where all the heat flows, it is almost sauna-like and you wind up in your shirt sleeves. On Wednesday and Thursday we even had some cold winds blowing, and we were just so grateful to not be on roofs any more!

Because of our choice of stone (it's a really easy pattern to learn on), we are one of the starter houses. We have 3 houses with tents on right now, and our team has broken up into 3 small groups and everyone is doing something. On Wednesday, we started our house and one more house with stone. I loved our stone color, but noticed that the corners were oddly red, and they're supposed to be grey. I asked our project manager about it, but he didn't seem too concerned so I just tried to sort out the best ones for the corners. We got the majority of the corners on when I went to go get a saw. I started talking to another homeowner (owner of House 1, which we wanted to start, but couldn't because his corners weren't delivered yet), and he said he wanted to come check out how we were putting up our pattern, since he had ordered the same pattern--just a different color. As we were walking to our house with the saw, I asked him what color he had chosen, and he told me it was a reddish-purple. And his corners were missing. And mine were reddish purple. Why I didn't put this all together in the first place is still a mystery, but when we got back to our house and looked closer, we saw a second label on the box of corners--the first label said our name and stone color, but the second label had his name and stone color. I'll admit I was frustrated. There was nothing in the box to note which stone was to go with which house, so we pulled off all the corners we had put on and cleaned them off. First order of business on Thursday was to sort out which ones were theirs and which ones were ours. It ended up being a really screwy order because they didn't give us enough stone at all (we're about 4 feet short) and his were all one size instead of a variety of big and small. Anyway. We can laugh about it now, and we're grateful we caught it before the mortar had set so solid that we couldn't pry it off. But here's the picture of the first stone going on (SO exciting!)... ....and then a few hours later, the first stone coming back off (bummer man!):
You can see the color difference in this photo pretty well (and keep in mind, these were the "good" ones!):

Porch is almost done!
Now, each house:
House 1: getting stone on, rough electrical done
House 2: rough electrical done
House 3: getting stone on
House 4, 5, 7, 8, 9: All roofs completed, but no interior changes
House 6 (ours!): getting stone on, heating done, rough plumbing done