Friday, December 10, 2010

A little Redneck

There are a few things in life you can't do if your basement is finished. Ava has enjoyed going outside every day over the summer and fall months and now that it's cold it's not as much fun. She hasn't gotten the concept that it is crucial to keep your mittens on when it's freezing out. Drama! After ten minutes of playing outside she is ready to come inside. I am here to tell you that getting your toddler all bundled up to go outside is a lot of work for ten minutes of activity. So I have brought all of her outdoor toys to our basement and Rob has hung her swing to the basement ceiling. Ava has enjoyed immensely her outside world coming inside and all of her giggles make it worthwhile. It is a tad bit "REDNECK" but we do live in the country. I can only hope that in time she will learn to keep her mittens on because you can't build a snowman in the basement!

My happy country girl...

Going "weeeeee-weeeee" inside is the best!

Oh Ava... you have a way about you that makes everyone giggle. Your expression is PRICELESS!

So how do you know if your a Redneck? The answer is... You are if your toddler has a swing hanging from the ceiling of your basement! I look forward to sharing Ava's unfinished basement play area when we finish cleaning it up and setting it up. It's been an interesting winter so far here at Home Sweet Kolkman and I can't wait to see what creativity, imagination, and indoor games this winter brings. If you have any fun things you have done with your children during the cold months please feel free to share them with me!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A little organization, Please!

After spending some time in our basement pulling out our Christmas tree and taking inventory of the junk we have slowly accumulated over the years, Rob decided a little organization was in urgent order. Time for a little TLC for the basement! The number of storage totes for Ava's clothes, baby gear, outdoor toys, college text books, old condo furniture, hunting gear, exercise equipment, tools, and lots of odds and ends in Rob's work space is mind boggling. The stuff that is cluttering our lives in our basement seems to be multiplying like rabbits so it's time to straighten and purge.

The shelving project begins.

I love that Rob is very handy!

One new shelf to help get our stuff in tip-top shape.

Here is a small start to filling up this new shelf.

Here's our storage area... Lot's of work to do but it's getting there...

This is an old shelf that needs some work.

Rob's work room is starting to look organized... I wish I had a before shot.

All of this is going to either the dumpster or Goodwill... Feels good to purge!

There's a lot of work to do in this area of our home without a doubt. We have lots of dreams for this space and I look forward to sharing them with all of you here at Home Sweet Kolkman. Someday, I would love to completely finish this space into something really warm, inviting, and functional for my families needs. For now we just need some organization and a lot of purging. I know everyone has junk in there lives but ours was getting a bit over the top. It truly feels good to be getting his house in order. Next up is moving all of Ava's totes and baby gear to the new shelf, organizing what is currently on our storage shelves, turning the main room of the basement into a great play area for Ava and all of her outdoor toys, and then dream up a future basement finishing project. There's lots to tackle here and all we need is a little money, time, and a handful of trips to Home Depot!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trim Up the Tree

Last weekend Rob and I were busy around the house getting ready for the holidays. Rob brought up our Christmas Tree from the basement and assembled it for me which was very helpful. I went through all the boxes of holiday decorations and decided what would go where while I did some household cleaning. For the most part, I think Home Sweet Kolkman's holiday decore' looks the same each year except this year some of the fragile pieces I set out on our end tables in years past have been re-located.

It was a bit of a challenge finding places for everything so some of our holiday decorations will remain in the box this year and possibly for a few holiday seasons to come. I'm afraid our end tables will not be designated for safe keeping anytime soon with Ava running around here getting her mitts into everything! In years past I would do a marathon day of cleaning and decorating. I would have the job done within four hours start to finish. This year the decorating became a longer process so I could share some holiday traditions with Ava and make wonderful memories to cherish this season.

 Ava and the tree with just the lights... "Looking good Momma!"

Ava loved looking at all of our ornaments as I unwrapped each one. She had to touch, hold, and kiss each and every one of them. I was surprised she was this intrigued by them because last year she was not interested in our tree in the least bit. I really enjoyed watching her face light up with excitement as I laid them all out on the table in front of her.

"I can't wait to put these pretties on the tree!"

It was getting late in the evening so I decided to put Ava to bed at this point in the night and save the rest of tree decorating with her for the morning. I have learned Ava can expire instantly and I wanted to avoid toddler meltdowns if possible amidst my memory making for 2010.

Ava couldn't wait to get back up to the table and see all of the ornaments in the morning. She was definitely feeling some good holiday cheer.

Home Sweet Kolkman's Tree is Trimmed... It's Beautiful!

Twelve white angel wings represent each month in the year we journey on as a family without Elise here on earth. One set of pink angel wings make a total of thirteen symbolic for the day in the month we lost her. October 13, 2007 marks the day that forever changed our lives. Rest in peace sweet girl!

Here's the story of our tree... I moved out of my parents house just before my 25th birthday into the home I had built after I graduated from nursing school. I was as broke as broke could be and by the time Christmas rolled around I didn't think I would have enough money to get a tree. So Rob gave me an old tree of his families that he had been storing for several years along with the lights and a handful of decorations. I believe Rob has moved this tree and all of it's accessories and stored it at least three different times in his life.

Apparently, somewhere along the way the middle section of the tree didn't make one of the moves. So instead of it being a nine foot tree it's more of a six foot tree with a bit of masking tape holding the two sections together. This is an old dolly of a tree for sure and I was never so thankful to have it my first Christmas out on my own. Thanks again Rob for giving it to me that year! It's hard to believe that this tree has been a part of my Christmas for the past eight years. I must admit that we dread getting the lights out of the box and stringing them on the tree. We have sworn for the past four years that we are buying a new tree that is pre-lit. But without fail we continue to use this family gem! Maybe next year is the year for a new tree... only time will tell!

...and it begins with little Miss Busy Fingers.

"Martha" thinks Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse need to be on the floor instead of the tree where I put them!

It's been a fun week of redirecting my toddler away from the tree. Currently the score is Ava:1 and Tree:0. She has a hard time leaving my Crate and Barrel red bulbs alone and finally broke one on Tuesday morning. I wish I had taken a picture of her caught red handed with the broken bulb but I removed her from the glass safely before thinking about capturing it on film. Sorry, the next time she breaks an ornament I will get the camera first. I'm afraid our tree doesn't stand a chance! I have lost count of how many times I've said, "Ava, look with your eyes not your hands!"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving Past & Present

It's hard to believe the Thanksgiving season has already come to an end. While our Thanksgiving was very differen and hard this year it was evident there's still plenty to be thankful for. With that said, I'm sending blessings to you and yours from everyone here at Home Sweet Kolkman.

Thanksgiving Day Fun Facts:
  • There were 256 million turkeys raised in the US in 2005 (Minnesota had the most); 624 million pounds of cranberries (Wisconsin); 1.6 billion pounds of sweet potatoes in 2004 (North Carolina); and 998 million pounds of pumpkins (Illinois).
  • The average American consumed 13.7 pounds of turkey and 4.7 pounds of sweet potatoes in 2003.
  • The first NFL Thanksgiving Day game was held in 1920, when the Akron Pros routed the Canton Bulldogs 7-0.
  • Thanksgiving Day football series went on hiatus 1939-44 due to WWII.
  • The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade tradition began in the 1920's.

Thanksgiving Day Past (2009):

Ava's First Turkey Day...

Playing at Grandpa's & Grandma's...

Ava and I on her 1st Thanksgiving!

I can't believe that's all the photos I have of last Thanksgiving. Oh how I wish I could go back in time and take a million pictures of my parents together and of my Dad with Ava. Thankfully, I can close my eyes and still remember each moment I shared with my Dad last holiday season. It's still so hard to believe he is gone and that last year will forever remain the last holiday season we made memories with him. If only I had known his clock was ticking. I hate that I was lazy with the camera last year. I promise I will NEVER miss photo opportunities with my family during any part of the year. It's way to easy to take the times we share with our loved ones for granted. I truly believed I had a million more memories to make with my Dad and now that he is gone I am having a hard time not kicking myself for not capturing more moments with him on film. So if you a part of my family get ready to say cheese because you will NOT be able to hide from me and my camera this season.

Looking back at the old photo CD I saved from our holiday's 2009 I am thrilled to have found a few pictures of my Dad with Ava just before the holiday season. On November 11, 2009 my Dad installed his custom baby gate at our house. He had hours and hours of work into this gate making it the perfect in every way. It fits our home's style, keeps our Ava safe and sound, and it's very functional... ten dollar latch and all! I love that I have it as a permanent piece in our home and as a token of his love and affection to remember him by. 

Grandpa & Ava...

I love the look of approval on Ava's face... "Strong work Gramps!"

Grandpa, Ava, and the Gate...

Thanksgiving Day Present (2010):

Rob and I took Ava to the library for the first time on the Wednesday before the holiday. Ava's known to get in a rut with books and want the same ones over and over. Rob and I were looking forward to taking her there and getting some new material to read with her. She had a great time and loved the kids reading corner. We ended up leaving with fifteen books and three DVDs. Oh Happy Day!!!

Rob and Ava...

Daddy showing Ava how to honk the horn!

Ava & Momma...

I hate to make this post about being sad and down right down and out over my Dad's death but it's impossible to write about our holiday without a brief blub on my sadness. It's been just over six months since he past away and my heart remains broken in two. It's pretty plain and simple. I miss him. The reality of never again is hard to bear especial on special family days and holidays. Thanksgiving was tough on everyone but together we remained strong, kept our chins up, counted each blessing with extra thanks, remembered our past, dreamed of our future, set new traditions, and made new memories. My Dad was an amazing person who will be forever missed and never forgotten. I can only pray that he was with Elise, sitting at the kids table this season, and eating the greatest Thanksgiving feast with our savior face to face.

Rob, Ava, and I brought roses to the cemetary for Elise and my Dad in route to our holiday party... We had to giggle a little about my Dad's past heaping full Thanksgiving Day plates. Without fail, slow and steady he could eat it all! He would say every year when he was done, while he rubbed his belly, "Once you get it out there you have to keep it full!"

My Mom was given the option to opt out of hosting this holiday but she was insistent she still wanted to keep to our usual tradition while making new traditions. I am so proud of her and I am amazed daily by her strength. I have the finest example of what a mother is and when I count my blessings I count her twice! I love you Mom. XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO...

My Dad would read the Angel Prayer with me in rememberance of Elise at our holiday and family gatherings. It has been our tradition to acknowledge her by lighting a candle in her memory. This year we had two candles burning bright next to my Mom's angel centerpiece. I read the poem but I'm hoping in time Ava, Jack, and Emma will read it by heart with me.

In loving memory of: Michael James Barron & Elise Renee Kolkman.

Rob took over my Dad's spot in the kitchen this year... What an honor!

Rob and my Mom... Like I said... no one is hiding from my camera from here on out so humor me!

We had a great meal as a family and enjoyed each others company. Everyone split the menu and took over a portion of the cooking so my Mom didn't have to do all the work. We had the traditional meal and everyone walked away from the table with fully bellies. Mission accomplished! My Mom makes the best apple pie and I wish I had a picture of it. All I can say is YUM-O-LA with vanilla ice cream on the side!

Oh... I tried this new appetizer from Kraft Foods and it was good but no one will ever know. I made them the night before and the whole dish was soggy by our meal. Clearly, a blonde moment. I had to throw the whole tray away. I don't think I will be making it again anytime soon but it was so pretty I wanted to share a photo of my efforts.

Crackers, Cream Cheese, and Fruit...

I just have to share this picture of cousin time with Ava and Emma... I love these two!

The Friday after Thanksgiving Ava and I went to my Mom's to help her decorate her Christmas Tree and eat some leftovers. We ended up spending the night and smothering my Mom with all sorts of TLC. We had a glorious six day stretch with her and I cherish every memory made. I'm so lucky we live so close to each other and can see each other as much as we like. Thanks for rooting me Mom and for all of your hospitality this holiday weekend. Enjoy some pictures of our holiday decorating with Grandma Barron.

Ava is fascinated by Mrs. Clause & Santa...

Giving out holiday hugs to Santa...

Ava had to copy the animation of Santa and Mrs. Clause... What a TURKEY!

At the table watching Grandma's Ice Skaters that really skate...

She MUST touch everything...

Helping Gradma with her ornaments!

"Oh Christmas Tree... Oh Christmas Tree"

Last but not least... Ava's pointing out Rudolph's Red Nose...

Happy Thanksgiving... I hope your holiday was stuffed with many great memories!