Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How My Day Is Going

I just scared my dog as I gave myself a pep talk yelling, "Come on, Keeks!  I can paint! I CAN PAINT!"

And, while running around the house cheering for myself, my painting shorts (clearly devoid of elastic) fell off.

Boys and Busted Sidewalks, Part 2

Here are two photos of the after sidewalk.  Sadly, if you hadn't seen the before, it's still just a busted up sidewalk.  We may have to fill in the crack a bit, but it's so much better to look at (and walk over) than the 6-inch cliff that was so fun for our boys to ride their bikes over.  

One last before photo...

And now...ta da!  I guess we should also maybe clean off the sidewalk.  But it's a gross rainy day.  We'll do it tomorrow.

DIY Apologies

Here at my eclectic blog, you get a lot of what I'm into at the moment.  Currently, we are all about getting our house ready to put on the market.  Since we only gave ourselves a month to get ready, we are in high gear.  I will post more about my lovely kids, my hubby, my time in England and other randomness when I am not covered in paint.  Hope this inspires rather than annoys you!

One thing I will say about DIY: you really CAN do it if you want to.

The first time I ever painted a room was when we moved into our second apartment--a garage apartment at Rob's parent's old house.  I discovered that there is an oops paint section at Home Depot, and that if you don't like something, you can paint over it. This was freeing.  I also discovered that I can paint a room in a day, so I can change my mind 365 times if I am so inspired. And have $25 per day to spend on new paint.

This week, I have amazed myself by learning to caulk.  Not that it's difficult, but when you don't grow up doing something or seeing other people do it, it sounds like one of those things only experts should do.  Rob today gave me a huge compliment by saying that he was really and truly impressed by the way I decided to do something and just DID it.  My caulking isn't perfect, but I'm not a perfect worker. I'm fast and I'm pretty good about keeping clean lines if I really try.  I didn't take before photos of what needed caulking in the kitchen, but I can assure you it looks a million times better.

It's neat to see Rob figure things out as well, like how to totally lift up a huge section of sidewalk and level it out again.  I'm impressed with him!

In any case, if you're hoping to do some of your own projects, hope this inspires you. I'm sure I'll make some mistakes along the way and I'll share those too.  Hopefully, this won't last long.  My arms are sore and my hands have been white and sticky for two days.

Boys and Busted Sidewalks, Part 1

While I was busy tackling inside projects, Rob and his Dad got down and dirty fixing up our busted up sidewalk out front.  There was a huge hump in it due to a large root, so they first jacked up the whole big piece of sidewalk, then attacked the root, which was very stubborn.  Somehow they did this with me and little boys falling all over them.  I took a nap after they were done, so don't have an after photo, but will get that up tomorrow. You'll get a tiny preview at the end with Mr. Toad, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
 There is a board kind of masking how bad it actually was, but there was almost a 6-inch hump in our sidewalk.  It always bothered us, but not enough to do anything.

 I worked in the flower beds while the boys did their work.  Lincoln, um, helped.  By planting himself.

 And one of my derby friends (CopperWHO!) came over to do electrical work.  Clearly I surprised her here.  She replaced our doorbell (for the first time ever since we've lived here, it works), replaced a porch light (which I forgot to take a photo of), and did a lot of fixing of things that the previous owner had jerry-rigged.  He added lights to the pantry and a few closets, but didn't actually anchor them--they were just sort of hanging out of the ceiling.  There was also a disaster of cords on  top of the hot water heater, so she did that as well.  Fabulous work!
 Saw working hard!  He looks really huge and old to me here.  Maybe it's his little boy muscles?
 Love this!
 Linc was moving too fast for me to focus on the right place, but check out those feet!
 We settled him in his car to be safe during a dangerous part of the work...
 As evidenced here.  Lifting the whole sidewalk without breaking it more was tough.  This was one idea.  That (spoiler alert) didn't work.
You can see Sawyer sporting safety goggles in the passenger seat here. 
You can see what snapped here.  Later they moved to a chain, and that helped.  Some.

Meanwhile, I discovered how much our agapanthus had spread and replanted them, taking up a whole side of the flower beds.  Three cheers for less money we'll spend at the garden place.

 They finally got it up a little, with help from random stuff around the house.
 And some serious back labor.
 And our car jack.
 We also had lots of nature.  There were worms and grubs and roly polies in the flower beds, snakes and two toads under the sidewalk.  I got to hold a baby snake for like 20 minutes! I love snakes.  We also found this cicada emerging from his exoskeleton.  A little early, but it's been warm!
The funny thing was this pair of toads that were living under the sidewalk.  They crouched at the very back while there was a chainsaw blasting away at the huge root.  When the boys were about to drop the sidewalk, I kicked in Operation Toad Safe and we got them out and transplanted them to the backyard.  Look who came back later that night to squeeze back into their newly refurbished pad?  Mr. (or Mrs?) Toad!

Tomorrow I'll take an after photo of the lovely sidewalk.  It still has a big crack, but no longer a cliff.  Great work, boys!

A Little Caulk Goes a Long Way

Doing all these crazy home improvement things ourselves means looking up lots of stuff online.  I was totally inspired after searching Young House Love for caulking tips, and attacked the guest bath tonight. The grout was in need of a refresher after enduring so much water from the boys taking multiple baths and flooding things. I prepped it yesterday, kept everyone out today, then taped and caulked.  Rob helped with the last bit when my hand was too tired to even use the caulk gun.
 You can find the post that inspired this method HERE.
Doesn't that look clean and fresh?  Such nice little details. It's so great to finish even one little thing and see improvement.

Clutter Blinders

It always gets worse before it gets better, doesn't it?

The "it" in that sentence referring to things you are cleaning, or about home repair things.  I remember when we tiled our house and the sheer amount of dust that covered EVERYTHING in our house from tearing out the old floor.  Even a year or so later, I could find something in the pantry that had been shoved in the back and was still covered in a thick layer of dust.  Ug!

Here are a few views of the kitchen right now.

I am kind of doing all this stuff backwards. In an ideal world, I would have packed up the things I wanted to pack first, cleaning off the counters and tables and everything so I could WORK in the kitchen. But with little kids, it's more that I'm motivated by what I need to do when they are not around.  Packing boxes is something I can do with them around.  Painting cabinets?  Not so much.  The only time I've had to work has been when they are gone (at Rob's parents today) or sleeping, so I dove right in with the hard, messy things I can't do when they are awake.

I have trouble working in clutter, so I have made myself mental clutter blinders and am working as though the mess isn't there.  But it's really, really HARD.  Still, much work has been done!  I have done primer and one coat on all the cabinets (but not all the insides) and caulked everything.  Plus patched holes and nail places and rough spots on the walls.  I painted just a tiny bit to see how it looks on the walls.  Goals for tomorrow include painting all the walls (which means sanding first, and maybe priming some rougher spots) and doing a second coat on the cabinets.  Maybe even getting the hardware back in place.
 Color is so hard in photos, but if you look at the top of the photo, you can see the pale yellow that was in our kitchen.  I loved it--it looked cream on paper, but more yellow in person.  Very cheery.  The new color is pretty amazing though:  Parchment Paper by Behr.
You can see here the cabinet color difference.  This photo makes the old color (up top) look more yellow than it was, but it was definitely a lot creamier than what I will be painting the trim and everything else.  I'm trying not to think about the sheer number of doors to paint.  Ick!  The color here is Decorator White (also Behr) and I will use it again--love it!  Very clean without being clinical.

I am so stinking tired and have hand cramps from caulking.  But we are making progress, people! Hopefully in a few days we'll have a few photos showing a finished product.  I also hope I can get it looking clean and professional--after meeting with the painter I decided paying someone to do it for me was ridiculous.  Of course, when my back is cramping and I have paint in my eyeball, I'm sort of thinking paying a painter is priceless...

Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm a Walker, I'm a Gawker, I'm a Midnight Caulker

Tonight, I learned how to caulk stuff.

Well.  After I learned that I didn't know how to work a caulk gun.  Rob didn't either, actually, so we spent like 25 minutes trying to figure out what we could stick into the tube of caulk to break the foil seal inside. Then he realized that there was a handy-dandy long metal stick thingy just for this purpose on the caulk gun.  Score!

Since that time (about three hours ago), I have caulked about everything not nailed down in my kitchen.  That's not right--everything I caulked basically WAS nailed down.  Or grouted, or glued, or whatever.  I caulked the windows, the trim, the cabinets, myself.  Yes, I am fairly covered in caulk. I also have a headache that I believe is fume-induced.  It's not for lack of coffee.  (Note: I wrote caulkee, not coffee.  I swear.  I am tired.)

I can't take photos because I left my camera at Rob's parent's house, but I will take loads of photos later.  Right now, picture me with white stuff all over, watching Office Space, while the drawers are gone, the cabinets are open, sandpaper and various tools are all over the tables and countertops along with many, many cans of paint.

And, just maybe, a red Swingline stapler.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Where Life Intersects Death

This is another post totally feelings-driven, not theology-driven.  As in, these are sort of my gut feelings, not tempered by what I believe, beyond what I feel, to be true.  Maybe I'll have a post soon about what I know to be true, but in the moment, you're getting more feelings.  These days, I have a lot of them.

Today I cried (with much effort, silently) through a funeral, while thinking also of another funeral for a dear friend that I won't be able to attend.  I would vastly prefer to cry by myself in a closet where no one but Jesus sees and knows about it.  I really resist the public-ness of memorials and funerals, though I was glad to be there today.  I keep seeing all these little details of life and being disturbed by the way life intersects death.

There is something about funerals that makes everything seem (at the least) irreverent or (at the most) obscene.  Here are a few examples, some from today, and some fresh in my mind from other occasions.

Getting dressed--is it wrong to wear eyeliner to a funeral?

Nirvana on the radio, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," on the drive to the church.

The sun shining on a beautiful day.

That family walking their dogs behind the sanctuary--don't they know someone died?

Cookies in the hallway, the smell of sandwiches and too-bright yellow of lemonade.

Discussing traffic with fellow late-comers.

"How are you doing?"  Well.  I'm at a funeral, how are you?

Chapped lips.

The body inside the coffin just below the podium where people spoke about the person who is, and is not, inside.  

Dragonfly tangling briefly in my hair on the way back to my car.

It seems so inherently wrong for there to be laughter or a sunny day or to eat cookies or for people to be driving 70 on the highway past a church where a young man's life is being memorialized.  And yet, life continues on, with only the briefest pause for remembrance.

I sort of wish for the sackcloth and ashes type of mourning, where I could rend my garments and put ashes on my head and people would leave me alone.  Our mourning these days means dark clothes that don't look much different after a funeral to the man selling newspapers at the store, where you might have to stop to bring home dinner.

All this, too, is part of God's plan, that life would be going on all around death.  Maybe to remind us, maybe to point us to him and to a larger plan.  Maybe to give hope that when we are ready, we can rejoin what is already and still moving forward all around us.

Still, the juxtaposition always seems jarring to me--the way life is never far from death, even at a funeral.  Today I thought about both, and about two young men who have joined their heavenly Father, yet left so many behind.

I have KNOWLEDGE of the comfort of Christ ready and waiting, but for now, I just FEEL heavy.

Sawyer On: Garlic

I wrote the other night about a fabulous restaurant in New Smyrna called The Garlic.  The review inspired me to roast several heads of garlic this week.  (Can you smell me?) Sawyer really wanted to try the garlic-as-butter-smeared on bread, so I gave him a piece of toasted bread, slathered with thick, roasted garlic.

M: Do you like it?
S:  No.  It spices me.

It's always fun to hear little kids describe taste, and honestly--I think that "spice" SHOULD be a verb.  What a perfect way to describe it.  

Also, it was a good thing it spiced him.  Rob and I didn't want to share.

Leaving for a Better Place, Yet So Much Left Behind

This has been a full week.  Not full as in busy, though it's been that too, but full as in heavy.  In addition to the beginning of the whole putting-the-house-on-the-market stress (and already, it's stressful) and having a kid get sick (Saw, today), Rob and I saw two very young people we know lose their battles with cancer.

On Thursday, one of our church families lost their son Nick.  He was 22 and had been married maybe two years.  I only met him once or twice, but Rob is close with his brother who went through the youth group, and Nick's sister is still in the youth group.  Nick was diagnosed about the same time Lynn was, and while it was totally a joy to see the Lord really bring her through, Nick has been struggling this whole time.  It's still really hard to believe, and I just can't imagine the loss his family or his wife feel at this time.

Today I got word that my friend Patrick also lost his battle with cancer.  I spoke about him recently and linked to his blog (which you can visit HERE for ways to help and support his wife and daughter).  It's been a month or so since I got word that he was doing poorly, and have prayed and cried and had preparation for this, but still find it so hard.

In the cases of Nick and Patrick, I know that they knew and trusted Jesus.  (And by that I mean that rather than relying on whatever good things they might have done to earn a spot in heaven, they trusted that Jesus lived a perfect life that we couldn't and died on the cross, taking away punishment we deserve.)  I joyfully and tearfully know that they are with him now, seeing his face, partaking of a banquet in heaven.

It's tearful because of what they leave behind, and even how they left.  Rob saw Nick and his family this week and said it was just sad beyond words.  I saw a photo of Patrick this week and really didn't recognize him, except for a familiar bit of his mouth.  It shocked me.  His daughter was also in the photo, and that made it so real.  Both these young men leave behind so much: wives, a daughter. Parents and siblings and friends around the country and world who are mourning right now.

I totally meant to write about something else here, and maybe later I will tackle it, but as I was writing, the words of a song I wrote a few years ago came back to me.  It's not an amazing song or anything, but here's why I'm sharing it.  I sat down to write a gospel song in Greensboro (think: country gospel, not gospel choir) and was kind of writing about heaven and putting down ideas, when suddenly the song was not so much about heaven being a wonderful place, but my issues with it. Namely: the idea that we don't always get there at the same time with our earthly loves, and I don't know what that relationship looks like on the other side.

Jesus once rebuked some people who were testing him, saying that people won't be married in heaven, but will be like angels.  That sounds fine and dandy, but what about my husband!?!  I'm sure when I'm IN heaven, I'll understand and not care.  But here on earth, the idea of going to heaven doesn't sound like heaven if I'm not with the people I love now.  Plus, the idea of going at separate times who knows when just is not something I want to think about.  This week, that's definitely more real.

It's not really a spiritual or theological song, but just one about how I FEEL.  And as I've posted before regarding the Psalms, being honest is a good thing.  If I'm being honest, it's just really hard to see the loss left behind when our earthly loves depart, EVEN if you know their suffering has ended.

With that in mind, here is that song, which became not a gospel song, but more a country ballad where I rant and rail a bit to God.

Without My Baby

When that day comes, I will be ready
To fly away from here into the great blue sky
But I won't go without my baby
That's why I'm holding onto him so tight

    I don't mean to tell you, Lord, the way that it should be
    Just consider me the least of all and this my sinner's plea
    Nothing can compare to you, but Lord my faith is weak
    Forgive me, but I won't go without my baby

I know that it's not right for me to love someone this much
But I'd rather err on that side than not loving near enough
You gave my baby to me and he's yours to take away
But knowing and believing are two very different things

    I don't mean to tell you, Lord, the way that it should be
    Just consider me the least of all and this my sinner's plea
    Nothing can compare to you, but Lord my faith is weak
    Forgive me, but I won't go without my baby

Could there be a heaven without my baby's love?
Would it be the same if I'm alone?
I know the thing to do is let go and simply trust
I guess that I'm just not the trusting kind

That day has come and you've been faithful
Not that I'm deserving, but Lord your word is true
I look across the River Jordan
On the other side, I see him there with you

    I don't mean to tell you, Lord, the way that it should be
    Just consider me the least of all and this my sinner's plea
    Nothing can compare to you, but Lord my faith is weak
    Forgive me, but I won't go with out my baby

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Breaking Resolutions in January

With the re-start of derby (groan, my aching muscles!) and the whole selling-our-house thing, I have broken most of my resolutions on the daily. I'm sure I didn't post about resolutions, but I made a bunch, mostly focused on daily things that I think I can achieve.  Here are a few examples:

-make Rob lunch and breakfast each day
-do at least 10 minutes of yoga
-clean out sink and dishwasher and put away all laundry before bed

Fail, fail, and fail!  One thing I have done is give Rob a ten minute massage at least MOST days.  I don't have time for even ten minutes of yoga sometimes, and it's easy to use the excuse that I already did 2-3 hours of derby most days.  I'll also blame derby for the last one of those--I am a zombie by 10pm and just pretend I don't see the sink and laundry.

I always give myself grace with resolutions.  I am working toward some of them and doing well, like with having daily times with God.  Much better there, and that's important.  I also have been planning meals better and have done lots of organizing.  It's just with the whole moving thing, plus a busy beginning to derby, some of my lovely resolutions aren't going to make it.  I am okay with saying that MOST days I will do those things.  I have hope.  Returning from vacation also threw a wrench in things, and I've had extra practices the past two weeks in derby that will end starting next week.  Rob and I are going to write out a plan of attack on stuff for the house, so I think we can be organized.  I have failed, but don't yet feel like a failure.

Did you make any resolutions this year?  Have you broken them yet??

Spinach Winners!

My first three commenters on guessing the age of my spinach have won a prize!  Please email me your addresses, Courtney, Liz R, and Anonymous.  If I don't hear from you in the next day or two, I will proceed down the list of comments!

A Few Tiny Changes

While almost deleting my blog tonight, I did enable a fun feature:  you can now have threads in the comments.  What this means is that if someone comments and you have a particular response to that particular comment, you can hit a little reply button and yours will follow under theirs.  This is more professional, more fun, and will ONLY be useful if you comment on my blog.

(Hint, hint.)

Get excited for huge tiny things!

The Garlic

I was reminded yesterday when hanging out with my friend Kelly that I had forgotten to post a restaurant review from our Florida trip.  What reminded me was this amazing tomato and garlic and almond dip she had, which I totally ate with a spoon out of the container she gave me.  You can see that amazing recipe HERE. 

So on our lovely, child-free vacation, Rob and I were driving down the road in New Smyrna Beach and we both suddenly were like: "Where is that heavenly and amazing smell of garlic coming from? We want to go to there!"  (Ahem. Paraphrase.)  The answer was pretty easy because we were driving past a restaurant called The Garlic.  For real.
And yes, it had giant plaster heads of garlic.  Sorry for the terrible photo. It was nighttime--what can I say.

I have to tell you a little back story before I get to why we were compelled to go to there.  When we were living in Greensboro, one of Rob's colleagues gave us a recipe for homemade salsa. You'd think that we would have gotten some kind of amazing recipe from Texas, but no.  This woman in North Carolina.  

When visiting my parents in Virginia (this story involves way too many states), we made said salsa and consumed quite a bit of it.  It's lovely: roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes, fresh garlic, some other stuff.  Maybe I will share it soon.  Maybe. 

In any case, the next morning, my mother SWEARS that walking past the guest room where Rob and I slept, she could SMELL us.  She says that it was like garlic was living and breathing inside our room and emanating out into the hallway.  I call that awesome.  My mom called that gross.

The point of that story is:  we LOVE garlic.  

The prices at The Garlic (I should also point out that I think it's oddly funny to put "the" in front of things that normally don't have "the" in front of them, like The Derby) were sort of moderately high-ish (a technical term).  Entrees came in between $12 and $30 with some appetizers under $10.  The best thing at The Garlic was, however, free.  It was the garlic.
That, my friends, is a whole head of garlic, roasted. Ready to be spread like butter upon bread.  It really was like butter, and Rob and I soon found ourselves asking for a second head of garlic.  Have I mentioned that we like garlic??  We have had roasted garlic, but not usually as something you just spread on a nice slice of homemade bread. Typically I ad it to a recipe, like mashed potatoes.  I had no idea that I was missing out on just plain The Garlic. 

The ambiance was fabulous as well, though my photos don't capture it well.  We sat in a garden lit by rope lights, with trees and plants all through it and a roaring fire in a stone fireplace nearby.  There was also an outdoor brick fire oven they used to cook pizza.  In short, this place was phenomenal, and we plan to roast and eat a lot more heads of garlic in the near future.  Mmmm.  Maybe the VERY near future. 

 If you happen upon New Smyrna Beach, stop and smell and eat The Garlic.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Daily (Almost) Disaster: That Time I Deleted My Blog

I just almost deleted my blog.

Okay, not the WHOLE blog--the content and all that.  (Though I DID accidentally delete my old blog that was solely photos of our crazy life.  Sad, sad day.)  It was more all the code that makes my blog look the way it does.

No, it doesn't look perfect. But it took me forever to get it the way it is and I'm planning to change much right now.  So I should NOT have played around with the html code, especially when I don't understand html code.  There is even a little warning on blogger like: "Please understand if you click this button to work on the html, you may DESTROY THE WHOLE WORLD if you don't know what you're doing."  I still clicked the "Go Ahead, Genius" button anyway to edit my html and am still coming down from the adrenaline of the mild (major) panic attack I suffered when I tried to load my blog and just got an error message, then realized that I saved my code in case that happened, then continued to edit it instead of opening a new file.

When you panic, the best thing to do is just close the internet and pray that it forgot what you were doing. It did!  Whew.  I am still sweating.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sawyer On: My Culinary Prowess

M:  Saw, how is your breakfast?  Is it delicious?
S:  No.  It makes me have to go potty.

Sleeping...Like That?

This is how Sawyer is sleeping tonight.
Not only does he want to sleep in the floor (???), he wants to sleep halfway on an overturned armchair in the floor.  I have weird kids.

Photo of the Day

Lincoln has a new face!  No, not like the movie Face/Off, which I could never fully understand and watched while napping.  He has a Face that he makes, kind of like Sawyer's old one.  (This is still sounding like Face/Off, right?)  Here you can see Lincoln making a bald version of Sawyer's The Face, and then Sawyer's The Face.

Now with all this build-up, I haven't actually captured him making the face.  But I'll get it one of these days, and here are a few cute photos as I tried.

 I'm not sure what was going on here.  But neither of these is The Face.  He made it for the checkout guys today in the store and had them in stitches.  It's pretty fantastic.  Watch for it.  I will find you, The Face.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Brothers and Friends

Something odd has been happening lately.  (Odd and GOOD, I should say.)  Sawyer and Lincoln are really starting to become friends.

Not always--there are still the moments of fighting over toys or whatever else, and Lincoln is starting to fight back or react back when Sawyer isn't nice.  But there have been a few heart-melting moments this week that I have to share.

While getting ready for church (always a challenge), I was in my room getting dressed and felt like it was too quiet out in the TV room.  I came out, fully expecting the boys to either be zoned into the TV (a necessity to getting ready for church with two kids when your spouse has to leave an hour earlier than you do) or into trouble.  Instead, Sawyer had a book of trucks and planes open.  "Point to the red fire truck," he said, and Lincoln pointed to the fire truck.  "Where's the trash truck, Lincoln?"  And Lincoln pointed.


Of course there was then this:  "Where's the space station?  No, Lincoln, the space station.  The SPACE STATION.  SPACE.  STATION!"  Still, even the yelling was kind of cute.

They have also started really playing together, but the play is dangerous, rough boy play.  Today I made an executive (and perhaps insane?) decision to NOT watch them play as I cooked dinner. I'll tell you why--I didn't want to be nervous and make them stop what they were doing.  I heard laughter while cutting bread and checked to see what they were up to.  Sawyer was taking running leaps onto Lincoln on the couch.  I mean, like flying full speed into him.  Lincoln was laughing like mad.

It looked fun.  It looked cute.  It looked like someone was about to bust open a head.

I did warn Sawyer to take it easy, but then I retreated back around to the kitchen where I could hear but not see.  It was typical boy play, and nothing insanely dangerous--just maybe slightly.  I figured if I watched for much longer, I would be tormented by all the what-ifs that could happen:  what if their faces collide?  What if someone falls off the couch and breaks an arm? Hits the not-so-far-away fireplace?  Takes a Tinker Toy to the eye?  Instead, I could just listen to the laughter from the kitchen and pretend they were gently tickling each other from the safety of our thick rug.

No one lost an eye, though Lincoln was totally red and looked a little rug-burned by dinner time.  But they played!  Like friends!  Not just brothers.

I love seeing this new trend.  I'm sure along the way, someone will get stitches.  There's that fine balance between safety and boy play.  I'm not sure which side of the balance I'm more likely to err on...but maybe it's boy play, not safety.  I am, after all, the one who skates in a full contact sport.  Whatever form their bonding takes--and I'll even accept mischief, though not disobedience--I will embrace and enjoy every minute of it.

Contest: Guess the Age of My Spinach.

No, really.  How old do you think this spinach is?  Take a gander and then leave a comment.
For real:  take a guess!

And then go check a post on my review blog to find out the answer.  NO CHEATING!

Help! I Have a Blog Jam.

What, you may ask, exactly is a blog jam, Kiki?

Nope, not like jelly jam.

It's not like Pearl Jam. (I still love you, Eddie Vedder!)

Or a late night jam session.

Not a derby jam.

For sure not toe jam.

It's a TRAFFIC JAM.  I have a giant pileup of blog posts in my head, like I-10 where it meets 8 over here on the westside around 6pm.  I am totally backed up and so busy that I may just get a few posts out now and then, but there are so many more to come!

I am definitely continuing my Life of Kiki series with England posts (thanks, Mary, for saying you love and miss them!) and have so much to say about moving and life and salads and my boys playing together, but unless God makes every day a leap day with one extra hour, I'm going to be slow and steady for a while.

So please excuse my blog jam while I try to finish editing a novel, get my house ready to put on the market, start a new season of derby (ICYMI, I signed on for another season), and do all the everyday things like love my fam and maybe even clean out my car.

Father of the Year, or Creepy Man at the Playground

The other day Rob and I took the kids to the playscape at a nearby mall.  Within five minutes, Rob was the pied piper to half a dozen kids who were alternately chasing him and being chased in a colossal game of hide and seek.  Our boys, of course, loved every minute of it, and I loved watching how other kids were drawn into the mix.  My favorite moment: twin girls followed him, saying, "Monster! Monster!  Chase us!"

For probably an hour, Rob was Monster.  Growling and roaring through the playscape, he had kids squealing in delight and surrounding him en masse.  When we left, a group of kids followed him to the gate, saying, "Don't go!  One more time, please?"

I love watching Rob play.  There is something infectious about him as a person.  A small example, but no accident: he was voted Prom King and Class Favorite in high school.  He has that kind of charisma that draws people in, young and old alike.  Whether at a playground or our house gathered with all the cousins, Rob becomes the center of the game.  He creates the game, just by his presence, and has so much joy in making the kids laugh.  I'm not sure who enjoys it more--Rob or the kids.

While children on the playground come running to play with Rob, the parents are a mixed bag.  Many smile and laugh or, as the security officer in the mall did, they will approach me and comment on how fun it is to watch him play with all the kids.

Then there are the other parents.  The ones who scowl from their seats or watch with narrowed eyes.  Some parents just don't like chasing games, even on a playground where kids are, by definition, supposed to play.  But I know that there are others who disapprove simply because Rob is a man, playing with kids.

It's a sad fact of today, but there is a real fear and concern when it comes to men and children.  Especially strangers.  People have a distrust and a clear wariness, not without reason.  Turn on the news and you'll see the cause for this concern. As a wife, I am so proud of my husband and the way he doesn't just spend time with our kids, but is willing to bring that joy to random kids on the playground, or our neighbors outside in the yard.  But I have to hold myself back on the playground from running around reassuring the other parents who are fearful or have misgivings.

It hurts me to know that parents might be creeped out--and yet I understand it.  Even Rob is aware of this, and I can see how he tries to play and present himself in a way that's clearly friendly, not sketchy.  Still we both know that the worry exists.  I wish we weren't in a world where people have to fear for their children this way.  But the reality is: we do.

Is there room in our culture for a man to play with kids on the playground?  As a parent, would you be creeped out by this, or love seeing a happy father including other kids in play?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Moving Is Like Taking Off a Bandaid

This is what I told Rob today about my recent flurry of activity regarding our house. Moving is like taking off a bandaid: much less painful when you do it quickly.  Here are the things we did since talking to the realtor Thursday:

-cleaned out our closet (my half, so far)
-boxed up clothes for storage
-trashed a lot of trash
-gotten rid of the VW Thing that has been hulking in our driveway
-gotten rid of a lot of old doors (sad face from Kiki here), broken or just gross furniture
-taken down our rope swing in the front
-raked out leaves from the flower bed
-added dirt to the plants in front
-mowed the lawn
-took down Christmas lights
-moved some boxes out of our house
-took down personal photos from the walls

Is that all? It doesn't sound like as much as it FELT like.  Still, our front room looks emptied out, the walls look more bare, and you can see the floor and the shelves in my closet.  It's pretty amazing.

The rope swing took some real doing from Rob, and I was afraid for his safety so enlisted the help of Derek (Needs Derekshun), a friend from derby who lives nearby.  I texted him and said: "Want to come help Rob do something really stupid?"  He was over in a flash.

 Derek, glad to help with dangerous stunts.


 Rob tied such a good knot that it took like an hour to get it down!
Then he couldn't start the Thing, so he had Peter push it around the block with our Honda.  It was an interesting day.

So far, I can handle the moving thing.  I like cleaning things out and wish we lived like this all the time.  Maybe we can really get rid of a lot of things and then ACTUALLY live that way all the time!

A Strange New Year Resolution

As December rolled to a close, Rob and I started talking budget.  Mostly about how, even December craziness aside, we were always going over ours.  I hate talking numbers and HATE talking money, so often I'll just stick my fingers in my ears and shout, "JUST TELL ME HOW MUCH TO SPEND ON GROCERIES!  I DON'T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ELSE!"  I'm actually not kidding--I do that.

This time, I didn't stick my fingers in my ears and we had a real discussion, albeit a short one.  It ended this way.

M:  Maybe we should move to a cheaper house.
R:  Hm.  Okay.

Maybe the conversation was a little longer, but I don't think so.  We didn't actually make a decision that quickly, but let the idea sit.  The next day, it still sounded good.  I was a little afraid that it was just my idea since I can kind of be pushy.  (Just a LITTLE pushy.)  But when we brought it up again the next day, Rob said he was really loving this idea.

When we bought this house, it was within our means, but more than we'd planned to spend.  Then we started having kids and paying for home births PLUS hospital births (we've paid for four kids and only gotten two) and things like preschool and three gallons of milk a week.  People sometimes joke with me about being cheap, but the truth is that we're constantly on a tight budget.

When I say a tight budget, I have to point out that according to world standards, we are RICH.  Filthy rich.  Our house here is modest, but would be home to like five families in some other parts of the world.  We still have WAY more than what we need.   I just want to clarify that I am not in any way complaining about how much money we have, just saying that every month, every penny seems to be going somewhere.

We rarely eat out.  I hardly ever buy myself or the kids new clothes.  I coupon.  So when we look at where we could take a cut to bring us down each month, there is little to cut.  We could take the kids out of school, but then I couldn't write. The stinky thing is that I may never make money doing it, but I feel passionately about it, regardless.  The best place to really cut was our mortgage.

Fast forward to two weeks later.

We've met with a realtor this week and talked about how things are in our 'hood.  Houses like ours that are fairly well updated sell quickly when priced well.  We have some things to do (carpet, ceiling fans, landscaping, paint touch-ups), but generally this type of house moves well.  We were happy with the quote she gave us as to how she'd probably list it.  I don't get numbers (again, fingers in the ears) but she gave us a number that's more than what we paid and will allow us to fix the things that need fixing and get out with money for a down payment.

The kicker:  her suggested timeline was to have it ready in a month.

Yes, a month.  I've already started boxing up things in plastic tubs and we've made a google doc with what we need to do with each room.  I have numbers for painters and carpenters and we've asked people if we can store things with them rather than rent a unit.  I cannot believe we are doing this, but we are both really excited.

And sad.

I love our house.  We bought a house that we felt like we could live in forever if need be.  (Look forward to a post with my thoughts on "starter homes" this week.)  There is a ton of space and I love the layout.  It's perfect for us.  I'm terribly sad to think about leaving it.  And yet--we both LOVE the idea of living within (or even below!) our means.  There are comparable houses to ours for a ridiculous amount less if we move ten miles west.  We always planned to move to Katy (where it's cheaper and the schools are great), but just didn't plan to do it yet.

You can expect a bunch of posts about getting a house ready for sale with two kids.  Eeeek!  And you can be praying for us (if you're that kind of person) that we can actually sell our home for what we want and find the perfect home for us at the right time.

How about that for New Years Resolutions?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Park Play

We met up with the cousins today (ALL of them!) and took over a playground near Mimi and Boppy's.  There was much play and fun, plus a celebration of Katelynn's 12th birthday.  Here are some of my photos.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Real Mothers, and The Underside of Joy

I have this totally irrational fear of someone taking my kids away.  This fear is totally unfounded--I should just point that out now.  But there are those stories you hear where the system seems to get it wrong.  There are tearful kids and parents and a real sense of injustice, while so many kids suffer in less than ideal conditions.  That's where my irrational fear kicks in.

As I began reading Sere Prince Halverson's novel The Underside of Joy, I started to get that itchy, paranoid feeling in the opening pages.  Ella Beene suddenly loses her husband in the opening pages (so I'm not giving anything away!) and struggles through that loss alongside her two children.  Then out of nowhere, her husband's first wife pops into the picture.  Did I mention that she is the biological mother to Ella's two children?

While my irrational fear radar spotted this conflict early on, the novel was surprisingly fresh.  Halverson deftly handled the idea of motherhood and the questions of what defines it.  As Ella struggles to answer these questions to herself, her children, and, ultimately, the courts, I had to really think about how I perceive and qualify parenting and motherhood.  Halverson, again, handled this in ways that did not feel tired or overwrought.

The writing itself was lovely and I was hooked into the story and its beautiful setting.  You know you're reading something good when you have two small children and still manage to finish a novel in 24 hours.

If you want to read more about the novel or see what people are saying about it, you can check BlogHer's Book Club out HERE.

This post was sponsored by BlogHer Book Club, but the opinions and words expressed are solely my own.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

AAA > Random Car Jacker

Last night, this happened.

For the second time in my life, I locked my keys in my car.  I almost never do this, mostly because I stick to the same routine intuitively. I don't notice, but I always do the same things with my keys and purse and all that when I get in and out of the car. Then I obsessively check for my keys anyway before locking the doors.

But last night, after derby, I was pumping gas and it was cold and I was starving, so I decided to run into the gas station/McDonalds for some grub, or at least a coffee.  I had my wallet under my arm, so I locked the doors to keep my car safe in that not-great neighborhood up by Bush Airport, and headed inside.  As soon as I ordered my Hot and Spicy McChicken (note to self: never again!), I realized what I had done.

My phone was in the car too, but the nice gas station attendant let me use the store phone to call Rob and then AAA, which was a much-needed gift from my Dad last year.  The worst part was being bored in the gas station (which had NO magazines for sale) while I smelled like derby (ew) and froze in my short sleeves and skating skirt.

The AAA guy arrived rather promptly after a large coffee and my second Hot and Spicy McChicken (note to self: NEVER AGAIN!).  While I watched him try to unlatch my door, a random dude walked up to me and got right in my face (a close talker, Seinfeld style) and said:  "Baby girl, Ida done that for free to take you to dinner."

Because that was a really strange offer, (and I was wondering about the logistics, like: you mean, you could break into my car right now?) I sort of laughed and said something like, "I think we've got it covered, thanks."

He continued with the same line again and again, offering to break into my car for free if I'd go to dinner, baby girl, despite my insisting that I had a husband and that my car door was already open, thank you.  I managed to make it out of there alive and date-free.

The kicker was that when I finally got home around 11pm and went to take a shower, I realized that grease paint I wore during the championship game on my face had transferred to the inside of my helmet, which retransferred to my face.  So the whole time I was hanging around waiting for AAA and being baby-girled, my forehead was black.

I am a classy, classy broad.

Roller Coasters as an Adult

When Rob and I arrived last week at Universal's Islands of Adventure, I was pretty nervous.  This surprised me--I started riding (and loving) roller coasters when I was about six.  I remember the day:  I was at King's Dominion with my parents and really wanted to ride those cable cars that slowly move through the park.  My dad pointed to a line and told me it was for cable cars.  It didn't look like the right line, but I could see the cable cars overhead, and I trusted my dad.  When we got in front of the line, we were put onto a roller coaster car.  I remember a moment of panic, but my Dad forced encouraged me to stay on, and I LOVED it.  That was the beginning of a lifetime of love, so thanks, Dad!  (And am I remembering that right?  I was, after all, only six.)

Despite the fact that I have a total heights phobia that's gotten worse as I've gotten older, I've even ridden those tower drop rides that take you slowly up on the outside of what's essential a giant pole and drop you suddenly.  But it's been like six or eight years since I've ridden a big ride, and I was afraid last week that I might hate it, or maybe even throw up.

Not to worry, I found that in no time, I was going down that first hill on the Hulk with a giant smile on my face, just like old times.  Though I'd love to go back to both Disney and Universal with our kids sometime, going without them allowed us to be big kids.  We rode every ride 2-5 times.  We ran from ride to ride. We went without food at Universal to save money, choosing to eat a big breakfast before we went and a cheap Little Caesar's on the way back to our hotel.  We stayed at Disney til 1 in the morning.  We pretty much soaked every drop of fun out of the place, and then some.

Surprisingly, my favorite rides were the ones that dropped you. Rob really had to convince me to get on Dr. Doom's Fear Fall.  (You can see someone else's video of the ride HERE.)  It was actually more fun and less scary than the other drop ride I'd been on because the other one took you slowly up to the top, then paused and dropped you.  I about died in the few seconds between the pause and the drop.  But Dr. Doom starts at the very bottom, when you are surrounded by doors and can't see how high up you're going to go.  Suddenly, you shoot to the top and then immediately drop.  Your butt totally comes out of the seat.  It's amazing!

Hollywood's Tower of Terror at Disney Hollywood Studios was my other favorite. The same sort of concept, but located in a building that looked like an old hotel, complete with creepy bellhops.  They show you a video of a Twilight Zone type of episode where the elevators were struck by lightning in the hotel and disappeared. The story is you then board the service elevator and enter the Twilight Zone.  Basically, you have a very short ride up where you see Twilight Zone type of stuff, then your elevator (in which you are seated) shoots you up and down while doors to the outside open so you can see the park.

We actually got free tickets to Disney from my great friend Sarah's sister Katie, who works there.  (Shout out to the DeRiggi clan!!)  Katie, who was full of all kinds of fun insider info, told us that the Tower used to have a few programs that ran intermittently as far as the way the drop worked. Sometimes it would shoot you all the way up, sometimes it would take you slowly up, then drop.  It also has the option to keep going back up and dropping. Now the computer randomizes it, so each time we rode, it was different, which made it fun and surprising.  When we got on the ride, Rob looked at the simple lap belt and assumed this would not have the same drop effect as Dr. Doom, where you are strapped into heavy duty stuff.  But the Hollywood Tower still gave you that great feeling in your stomach as you fell, and offered a fun bonus because the ride itself was different each time.

None of the other rides were really anything to write home about.  The new Harry Potter ride was innovative (we got to play quiddich!) but almost made both of us throw up.  And it stopped almost at the end and had a malfunction.  Because of that, we rode it immediately again, which meant that we REALLY almost threw up.

I have to take a minute and talk about the Harry Potter mania.  It was insane!  We kept seeing people walking around in Hogwarts scarves and robes like in the movie, carrying wands.  There was a huge line of people waiting to get into some little demonstration where they helped your wand pick you.  The wands? $30 a pop.  The robes?  ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS.  Insanity!  The Harry Potter world was really neat, but they are banking on all that swag.

The biggest disappointment of the parks was the Magic Kingdom.  (Remember, this is coming from an adult perspective.)  The thing you do last is typically the worst, as you are so tired by that point, and at 10pm, we definitely were ready to sleep.  The problem with the Magic Kingdom is that very little has changed since I was there in third grade.  My favorite ride then, Thunder Mountain Railroad, was being refurbished, so I can't speak to that one, but Space Mountain was totally not worth the wait. And the classic rides like the Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World, looked (and, weirdly, smelled) EXACTLY the way I remember them.  I don't think they've changed.  At all. The same with the Swiss Family Robinson tree house.  So while it was really fun to experience them again, they were fairly...innocuous.

One funny thing was that they have added Jack Sparrow to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  (Did you know the movie was based on the ride, and not vice versa?)  He was so realistic compared to the other animatronic pirates that I actually thought he was real.  Rob thought I mean Johnny Depp was hiding out in there, and he had a good laugh at me.  But I thought for real that it was a guy dressed as Johnny Depp who spent all day popping in and out of a barrel.  By the last Jack Sparrow, I realize he was, indeed, a robot.

In short, if you want a fun trip as an adult to theme parks, I loved both Islands of Adventure and Disney Hollywood.  Disney Hollywood had some great shows like Lights, Motor, Action and Indiana Jones.  Plus we had fun on the Star Tours, and watching the little kids go through padawan training--I might have a video of that later for you.  We spent something like 9 hours there and were not bored!  Epcot was too much walking, though the food was delicious.  The light show was wonderful, though a little long.  We totally missed the Animal Kingdom, but I wouldn't say we missed it, Bob.

This time of year (just after kids go back to school) was perfect, and at Universal on Friday, the longest wait was an hour for Harry Potter.  Mostly that's because the inside line part is so neat with talking paintings and the like that people kept stopping to video and take photos.  The average wait time was 5-10 minutes.  A few rides we just walked on.   Disney on Saturday was worse (because it was Saturday) but still we mostly waited 20 minutes or so, other than Space Mountain and the Aerosmith ride (also fun, but not worth an hour wait).  I can't wait to one day go back with our kids, but Rob and I definitely had a fun, kid-free time being big kids!

Goodbye, Rats.

Just in case you wanted to know this, we had an exterminator come some months ago.  He had some brilliant words of wisdom:  the rats start outside, so get them outside and they won't come inside.

He set bait traps and within days, we had no rats.  What glorious news!  But good news is the kind of thing I forget to share--it's easier to share weird and bad news sometimes, if only for humor's sake.

Rat-free since 2011.  Holla!

The Great Salad Experiment of 2012

Wow, I don't think I can actually live up to that post title.  However, I am trying something new with salads this week that so far is going swimmingly.  It is: the jarred salad.
I came across the idea on Pinterest (and you can find the post HERE) and found that it solved one of the problems I have with making salads for lunch. It's tedious and I hate doing it daily, yet they don't really keep very well.

But they can!

The trick is to keep the dressing away from the leafy part of the salad.  I layered dressing (not the one in the link, just a few that we use, homemade and store-bought), then things like tomatoes, couscous, chick peas, dried fruit, cheese, and then topped the jar with romaine and then spinach.  When you're ready to eat, just shake and dump into a bowl.  The jar is not very conducive for eating.

Fabulous idea!  Rob and I have been enjoying a bounty of salads this week.



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