Tuesday, September 8, 2015

good things

For posterity's sake, today was a really good day.

Grant had his first day of preschool and pronounced the day awesome. I had mixed feelings about it at the beginning of the day, but seeing his happiness when I picked him up made me feel much better about everything. He is the cutest.

Maddy also had a great day at her new school. She is been thriving at her new school and it does my heart so much good. I was torn up about switching her AGAIN. I felt like the worst mom in the world. But it has been a seamless transition and she is learning so much. Plus, one of her teachers gave me a glowing report about how loved Maddy is, and what a light of goodness and fairness she is to those around her. How could I not be on cloud 9 after that?

Lastly, I began writing on my little book project again. I didn't do a single thing with it for the entire summer, and to tell you the truth I was really scared I wouldn't want to do it again. I was worried I would come back and read what I had worked so hard on and hate it and be too discouraged to start again. But...I wasn't! It felt good!

On tomorrow's agenda is more preschool, more normal school, more picking up and dropping off, more laundry, and maybe even some canning of apples. And this Thursday, the huge clearance J.Crew sale is back in town. And I've been working on lots of homemade Christmas presents. And not least of all, the weather is starting to not feel so suffocatingly hot. Good things on the horizon, I believe it.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Blessing and a Curse

Here's my beef, folks. I'm over the perfection of the internet and the glossy spin people put on their lives. Listen, NO ONE loves a beautiful photo--composed to within its life--better than me. I based my whole blog name, Pretend Fancy, off the the fact that I love things that look fancy but really aren't. I love to put a positive spin on things. I love to laugh. I love to put a red and white checked towel under my pies and pretend I live in a farmhouse. We all know this to be true.
exhibit A
But I don't love when people condemn me for not being this way all of the time. When I am trying to communicate in a way that feels honest and open about some really hard months of my life. I think folks mean well. I actually do think they usually mean well. But...when we really sit there and think about it, do we mean well 100%, or are we just uncomfortable with reading about messy feelings, sadness, loneliness, anger, boredom, depression. We just want to wipe it up. Tell people to go "see someone" about that messiness. Most of us are fixers (even me, especially me) and loose ends in life, in someone else's life, is just one more thing that we don't have the emotional energy to wrap our heads around. But my friends, I didn't want to be fixed. 

I wanted to be heard.

I thought this little corner of the internet was safe, but that was really naive of course. I just *wanted* it to be a safe place. And if I deleted the comment section, I suppose it could be in a way, but only on the surface. And in doing so, I would miss out on all of the wonderful things that 98% of people say.   I'm trying. I am trying hard. But I've always had thin skin. My brother's teased me and got some spectacular responses. My friends talk to me, and I empathize the heck out of their sorrows. So you see, my thin skin, my nerdiness, my heart on my sleeve, my hurt at perceived betrayals, they are all two sides of the same character trait that I possess in spades--thin skin/open heart.

I can wish it away. Wish not to care about everyone. I often have done those very things. And I go in cycles where I harden myself and try not to care. But it all comes shambling down eventually. Because this is the heart that I have. And I love deep and hard. And it hurts deep and hard. I take things too personally and have done for my whole life. But I love just as fiercely and devotedly. Like that old saying goes," It's a blessing...and a curse."

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Random Thought Thursday--the LONG WINDED and YELLING EDITION

This week has been my (and my friend's) week to host the girls in our church congregation for camp. Last year I did science camp and while it was fun, it was a TON of work. Most science experiments that are safe and fun for kids take about two seconds to actually do. So that required LOTS of experiments and lots of work and although several of the girls told me they loved that camp best, I didn't want to go through that again. So this year I asked my friend if we couldn't just pick a theme and then we could do a variety of activities--food, crafts, games, etc. I suggested Harry Potter, and it has been super fun, the girls have loved it. But......it's still a ton of work ha! Next year can we teach the girls how to take naps? Watch movies? Give their parents massages?

We went to see Inside Out with everyone. Both kids and us. First of all--pricey. But totally worth it because Grant sat through his first movie without running around! He still fidgeted a ton and we had to stop him from kicking the chair in front of him. AND....he burped really loud during the sad, quiet part (haha, I can only laugh in my utter shame and resignation), but hey, that's pretty good for him. :)

Also, who ever thought I would cry over a character in a movie named Bing Bong. Well played Pixar. Well played.

Last thoughts on Harry Potter camp--I'm exhausted and never want to clean my house again for the rest of the summer. Cleaning up after ten kids running around every other day is enough to drive me to the crazy house. Praise the heavens the camp is only every other day.

Remember how I told you last blog entry that I cleaned out my closet and had way less clothes. Three things: 1. Every day I feel like I look better because I only kept clothes that I loved 2. I have to do laundry way more often or else 3. I wear dirty clothes and look/smell worse than I did before I got rid of my ugly clothes. So....I'm calling this whole "clothes that spark joy" thing a DRAW unless you have a million dollars for new clothes.

John mows only the front lawn one week and then alternates to the back lawn the following week. My yard only looks good on one side at a time.

The heat is killing me. And it's not even close to Fall. WHYYYYY???

I hate to be one of those mom's, but is it time for school to come back yet?? Seriously...I hate moms like that. But...I need five minutes to myself to pee and eat a sandwich and think/mope and do house chores and not listen to fighting or silence and wonder what they're up to and how many cookies they are sneaking and it's too hot. If you think that was whiney, imagine you were my mother when I was 16. Yeah, I feel sorta bad for my Mom too.

Three more months until the possibility of John not being a contractor anymore and we had normal insurance for which we don't have to pay a thousand dollars every month. It seems but a distant, sparkly, glittery, fairy world. These past three months of waiting have been really hard on me, and I've tried to be all cool and mature about it, but we all know THOSE ARE NOT MY STRENGTHS. I'm doing a lot of blog yelling in this post. I need five minutes of peace and quiet my friends. And maybe I need to take up this Diet Coke fanaticism that every other mormon mom I know has succumbed to....

I limited my instagram account and deleted most of the people that live around me. I think I offended some people even though I tried to soften the blow by saying it wasn't personal. But apparently it is always personal.  Sigh. I honestly (REALLY) thought some/most people would be happy they didn't have to follow me anymore. I instagram way too much. Here are my thoughts about the subject in as few of words as I can manage:

1. I want to instagram and not worry that I'm being judged that my kid still uses a binky to sleep. I am so self conscious about that. I hate that he still uses one to sleep. But I also know that his therapists recommended it to me, and I also know the hell that was the year that he didn't have it to sleep. He was completely weaned, and it was sort of horrible to give it back to him, until he finally slept a whole night through for the first time in a YEAR. (sorry, once you start blog yelling, it feels sort of good inside). But I still feel horrible about it, because I know some people will never understand. And I know I know I know....I shouldn't care what people think. I'm not that good. So instead, I decided that the people that I don't know well enough to know if they are judging me negatively just gotta go. And you can't just delete one church lady and not the rest of them without offending.  So in order to feel more comfortable in my own skin, I had to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And it ruffled some feathers. But I feel better.

2. Lastly, I think it's better for acquaintances not to know every single thing I've been up to. It sort of jumps the gun on developing true friendships when they already know the minute details of your day-to-day life---then you have nothing to talk about in person hardly. So I'm taking back my everyday from folks that live around me for the most part. Mostly because I want to love them better.

If I never hear another argument for or against gay marriage, it will a great life. I don't like talking about politics, religion, and hurt feelings. I just want to sing kumbaya and pretend like we can all just get along. I going to start a new political party called the I Don't Want to Fight party. Our mascot will be the Ostrich sticking his head in the ground.

Lastly, if you were wondering, my latest trial in life is trying to figure out my next adventure for the coming year. I'm considering the following: buying a different house with more land, getting my master's degree, finishing my book and trying to get it published, becoming a foster parent.  I have been reading a lot of self-help, self-actualizing books, and praying. But I'm still no closer to an answer. When you can't finish the pathway that you started (having at least four kids), it lands you here--in a place you didn't anticipate arriving until you were much older--having all of your kids in school. And I want to be there for my kids, but I need something for me too. I just want to be happy. That's a doozy to leave you on. Tell me how you are.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Good, Bad, Ugly, and a Farmhouse

Thought I'd pop on to say hello. I'm feeling sort of too scattered to write anything well thought out. So I think I'll steal an idea from one of my favorite blogs and do The Good, The Bad, the Ugly.

The Good

1. We had John's parents over for Memorial Day weekend. They spoiled the kids, and the kids are finally at the age where they realize it, which makes it awesome. Grandma bought Maddy and Grant both a toy from Toys'R'Us (elves lego set for M, nerf bow for G--that he promptly lost after shooting me in the eye) hahaha, good thing I wear glasses and they mostly deflected the arrow. Foam is way more dangerous than I originally thought. We also went to a ranch where you ride around in a wagon and feed animals off the side, including giraffes and asian water buffaloes. It was really cool! We watched lots of mystery t.v., ate some great food, and John's mom Jane and I had lots of long talks. It was excellent.

2. I've been proactive with having my preschool fella out of school for the summer. We've been doing Mom school (workbooks I found at the dollar store) and sticking to our chore chart. It adds some necessary structure without costing money or being too strenuous for me. I'm pretty terrible with routines, but my guy really thrives with them (it's a sensory processing thing). So I'm really trying for his sake to be better. I've noticed a great change in his attitude and defiance, so I think my preparation and work is paying off. Too bad I'm exhausted by the end of every day. Waah poor me, I know. :)

3. Swim team is going great. Maddy has gone from barely being able to go a few strokes without panicking and stopping to swimming more than half the length of the pool! I'm so glad we did it! She LOVES it. It's a lot of commitment for the parents, but it really is awesome for kids. I see now why swimming teams are such a big deal in the South (or maybe everywhere? I didn't really notice it much anywhere else I've ever lived?)

4. Just finished watching a season of Next Food Network Star on netflix. I really want to cook with liquid nitrogen now. I also really think that's a bad idea.

5. I went through my closet and got rid of a bunch of clothes that didn't fit/were stained/were maternity clothes. My closet looks really empty now. But it feels good. I am slowly but surely adding pieces back in as I can afford them. It's making me feel a lot better about myself. I know...what a shocker. I'm slow people.

The Bad

1. I'm not 100% thrilled with Maddy's school. I had such high hopes, and maybe that's why I'm less than thrilled? I don't think that's entirely it. I'm struggling to figure out whether I should give the charter school another year or just put her into public school. Our elementary school is great, but the middle school we are zoned for is pretty terrible. I wouldn't put her into that middle school, I would homeschool her if I couldn't get her into a middle school charter school that is excellent nearby. I'm leaning towards giving her current school another yet just because I hate to move her again. But I'm frustrated.

2. I'm missing my writing time that I had while Grant was in preschool. A lot. It was only two half days a week, but I cherished those hours like they were golden. I know I'm just supposed to love every single second that I have my kids because the time goes by so quickly. I know. But, listen folks, I think a lot of moms get their downtime by going to the gym or whatever. I have decided I would rather be chubby and be a writer. But unfortunately they don't have writer gyms where they watch your kids while you break a sweat over your latest plot line. So...that's a little tragic.

3. I'm broke. Pretty perpetually. You?

The Ugly

1. There's a lady I don't like at church, because she was cruel to me right to my face (not sure if that's better or worse than behind your back?). It wasn't just a misunderstanding (just in case you thought I might be jumping to conclusions or haven't talked to her about it). I'm working on overcoming it. But it's hard. Real hard. It's real life you know? I'm not perfect. She's not perfect. It's a work in progress. But it does hurt, doesn't it?

2. Somebody peed on the floor next to the toilet. I'm not naming names.....Grant.

and to end on a good note again, I'm pretty sure I need to start a regular "series" where I show you my latest farmhouse obsession that is on sale around here. Here's this week's lovely, complete with 7 acres and lots of outbuildings (and wallpaper up the wazoo!). Oh boy do I ever swoon over old houses.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

good things

Time for something a little bit lighter on this blog, wouldn't you say?

Man there has been enough bad news lately at our house. I've decided that what is needed is a fresh start. Funny how when you decide on something as arbitrary as a "fresh start" how much is actually helps your mindset. I decided it on Monday, and this week has been much easier for me to handle. Must be that whole idea of what you put out into the world comes back to you? I actually hope that's not true because that means that before now I was putting out the vibes that made our hot water heater and van and air conditioner break amongst other bad occurrences. That's bad juju.

Anyway, how about some things that are going well/that I'm enjoying/wishing for currently.

1. I still really like my phone case. Small and simple things count right?

2. My sister bought her first house! They've had such a long road to this day, and I'm SO happy for them.

view from their new backyard, isn't it beautiful??

3. I have accepted spinach as a necessary and even delicious part of my life. My body thanks me.

4. I am almost finished with the massive re-writing of the beginning of my book. That means that very soon I will be back to writing original content. I just may actually finish someday! (whether or not it's good or sellable is a whole other ball of wax).

5. Taylor Swift. I like her songs...just like everyone else.

6. Just discovered the plus sized clothes on this site. I already want about $759 worth of stuff. Most especially I am wanting a new dress for Maddy's baptism in July. I'm saving up.

7. My sister sent me some earrings from World Market to cheer me up this past week. Made my whole week.

8. This cleaner really works great in bathrooms.

9. I found this house and want to move in tomorrow. But seriously, I'm pretty sure those doors were painted yellow just for me! (and 16 acres!)

10. We've been doing this chore chart and it is working really well! (I had to add a few of my own chore cards that they didn't have, but it was worth it). I even bought the same pocket chart. That thing is amazing.

That's all I've got. What's been going on in your neck of the woods?

Monday, April 27, 2015

sharing too much and not able to stop myself

Let me just start by stating what will become obvious (so you can run away and hide if you need to), but today was a rough rough day.

I've been thinking and praying and worrying and crying for my college roommate who is also one of my closest and most enduring friends. Last night I heard the news that her brother--who is literally one of the kindest people I have ever met and I didn't even know him as well as many others did--was in a tragic accident while out jogging. Today, despite the prayers for a miracle on his behalf, he passed away.

It has me undone. My dear sweet friend is very close to all of her family members, but I always especially admired the love this brother had for her. It was very sweet and protective and he loved to tease her goodnaturedly. It seems impossible to me that he is gone and leaves a wife and family behind. It doesn't seem like something that happens to someone you know. My heart is so heavy it is aching for my friend. I feel moorless, unable to fathom what to say to her. She is in North Carolina, but three hours away, among her family, now faced with having to help plan a funeral for a brother that is only a few years older than her. It's so heavy.

All I kept hearing was the poem from the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. The most agonizing and sorrowful and gut wrenchingly real poem at expressing that grief I've ever heard. It's too raw to post here, but maybe you know which one I mean. The pain, the grief-- the poem expresses those, but it ends bleakly, without hope. And the one thing I know about my friend is that she is firm in knowing that there is hope. She is the friend that served a church mission in the snowy, dark towns of Alaska while hundreds of miles away I walked the dusty hot roads in Honduras. And we wrote each other and lifted each other told each other not to give up. And all that we talked about, and preached about and taught to anyone that would let us in their doorways was really just about Hope. The Hope of Days. The Good News. The only thing worth really knowing and holding and protecting with our entire hearts. Hope. Hope in Him.

But even still.


Though I tried with all of my might to go about my regular routines today, I felt sluggish and worn out and to-the-bone-tired. I couldn't get the sadness off of me, and I fought it. I went through the motions. I sat down and forced myself to write on the book. It was stilted and frustrating and agonizingly pointless. I should have just given in to the day and gone back to bed while Grant was in preschool. And then he was home and took an unexpected nap and awoke with a fever of 103 and I almost thought it was a mercy because for these next few hours I poured all of my worry and anxiety and sadness into caring for him in the same way that I wish I could watch over and care for my friend. I hope that although she is there lifting up her brother's family, that someone is remembering to lift her too. She needs it too.

Sorry to be sad on here today. But thank you, whoever you are out there, for listening. And if my friend is reading, (and I know she will eventually, because that's the amazing friend she has always been) I love you AMDL. More than you know.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

balloons, and budgets, and my swimming suit love affair that came true

The week in review:

I'm back to working on Relief Society advertising/decorating stuff for church. This time on a bigger scale for the Stake Women's Conference. Our theme is this scripture:

And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another

 The thing about these events is they always give you a next to nothing budget to decorate. We have to decorate 30 large round tables, and our budget is about $2 a table. !!! That's not much. I originally thought I'd try to stick to the knitting part of that theme, but there wasn't anything that was exciting me that was doable. I wanted something that would be big impact but beautiful as soon as people walked in. That's tricky on a $2 a table budget.

Finally I came across these ideas, and I've already done some tests with a real practice balloon (haha, this is what I get up to when left to my own devices...) and managed to make the netting myself with yarn and it looks pretty good! Our Stake Relief Society President is a florist and will be making the bottom basket of flowers happen for super cheap. I'm excited. Don't tell me if you think it's dorky.... that's not okay with me.

This week we've been trying to figure out insurance. John is technically a contractor until his company finishes paying the recruiters for "finding him." What that means for us is terrible and expensive insurance that takes up any extra money that we hoped to make for the time he is a contractor (which will probably be about 6 months). Annoying. But can I just say that the one good thing I about the medical insurance mess out there is that they can no longer bar you for what they consider preexisting conditions. Thank goodness.  (no thanks to you, Honduras). 

Our van had issues this week. Our air conditioner had issues this week. Our hot water heater had issues this week. which means I HAD ISSUES this week. oh my gosh.

My friend posted about a J.Crew warehouse sale that she heard about really close to us. She said she would meet up with me and a bunch of other pals. I went for my kids (because j.crew size I am not), and it was awesome! Before the sale was even a twinkling in my eye, I had long had my eye on one of their fancy dresses for Maddy's baptism dress. Also, if we are confessing all of our j.crew coveting sins, I also wanted a swimming suit they had. I found BOTH at the sale in her size! The swimming suit is still on the site for $55, I got it for $5. The dress is on the site for $198. I got it for $25. I got Maddy a nice wool coat with a hood, and four or five pairs of bermuda length shorts that are still on the site for $48 a piece. I got them for $5 a piece. Scorage!! (on a side note...why would you pay $48 for a pair of kids shorts?? I kept looking for the hidden golden nuggets. They must be in there somewhere?)

 (best part of the dress is it's beautifully long and puffy, and that sash makes into the most deliciously huge bow, which I intend to put in the front side. Cause we're SASSY like that).

this suit is the love of my life. it's right after my kids in line to my affections.

I like to pass along a good piece of reading that provokes thought and has added to my life. I read this essay years ago and I think about it at least once a week. I finally found it again and read it again and it was just as good the second time. But the funny thing? The part that stuck out to me over all of these years is not even the main point of the essay--well at least not as much as I remembered it to be. Funny how life is like that right? You take out the part that you need the most at the time? I repeat to myself over and over again that final tagline of the essay every week. Let it soak. There is a deep, and abiding wisdom to that. And when I get stressed and worry worry worry about things all of the time, I think back to that tagline and tell myself, Self, let it soak. Sometimes time is the only answer to making things easier.

That's all I've got this week. Let's hope for less ISSUES this week, and pray for the grace to let them soak if necessary (except if it's the hot water heater...then you should just probably stop that soaking).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

the time will pass

Oh man, yesterday was such a crummy day. Bad at the beginning and bad financial news all the way at the ending. I texted John before he even got home that I needed to get away from the house that night and would he mind very much taking over so I could go somewhere alone. I never do that, so I think he knew it had been a rough day.

So after dinner, I grabbed my laptop and headphones and headed off to the local coffee joint and ordered myself the biggest hot cocoa they had (with some peppermint flavor for good measure) and wrote for the next few hours until they closed. It was just what I needed.

these cat pictures have nothing to do with the post, I just felt like a pictureless post is a travesty

Truth be told, lately it's been easy for me to talk myself down about my writing project. I have about 60 pages. I haven't made much progress in terms of adding pages for about a month because I have been going back through what I wrote and majorly revamping everything--adding more details, taking out awkward sentences (of which I write many. I am the queen of passive voice. What do I have against getting straight to the verbs I ask you?!) Also, I am sort of terrible at describing the expressions on people's faces without it feeling cheesy to me. Honestly, I don't think I am cut out for fiction. It feels silly sometimes.

Some days I am just really down on myself about the time that I devote to writing something that likely isn't terribly good. I don't know why I push and push at it. Some days I just feel like an impostor. A wanna-be.

But on the days that I have scheduled to write and don't get around to it, I feel sad. My life feels monotonous without it. It's really hard work--making up plots and characters and trying to nuance out people's feelings by their actions is really difficult. When I read books now, I marvel at how good even "nominally" talented writers are at what they do. I have more compassion now that it's me trying to coax words out of thin air. It's much easier to write about literature, or my life. My brain struggles and stammers and uses thesaurus.com a lot to get even the simplest sentences just right.

My very good friend, who has done a million interesting things in her life, is the most encouraging person I know when it comes to creativity. She let me borrow her creative work bible (Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit), and she makes me feel like this whole thing isn't a fools errand. The best thing she ever said to me was, "Whether or not you're writing this book and it takes you two years or five years--that time will pass anyway. So why not?"

So, if you're out there and feeling the same way about something that you're attempting to do, maybe her advice will help you. It puts things into a sort of manageable perspective doesn't it? The way I parent, the way I am involved with the projects of my life--I can just endure them for two years, or I can try something interesting and hopeful. The time will pass either way.

Monday, March 30, 2015

monday morning randoms

Kelly's British Midcentury Living Room

Kelly's British Midcentury Living Room by jthesavage featuring multi colored accent chairs

A few Monday morning thoughts:

I created the above collage/room for my sister. I think I mentioned she is moving into a new house, and we like to pretend to decorate it. Her style is updated midcentury modern with british/welsh accents. I introduced her to the magic of polyvore (do you know polyvore?). It's the way I decorate before I buy anything. It's fun.

John starts his new job on Wednesday. He has his last day at his old job today. He gets tomorrow off! I know he's nervous, but I think he will do great. Change is scary, but we think this will be a great change for him.

So I lamented on facebook how my hair dryer just mysteriously stopped working without any warning signs. I had tried it in all of the bathroom plugs and no dice. So I went out and bought myself a new one and plugged it in....and it DIDN'T work, in EITHER of the bathrooms. Turns out the electrical was having issues! It's fixed now, but I couldn't believe it. What are the chances every outlet in both bathrooms would have issues at the same time. In good news, my new blowdryer is amazing. So I'm not that broken up about it.

I want to see Freetown, and it's actually showing in Charlotte! We're gonna go!

Long story short, today we are buying gerbils. Maybe two of them. How did I become this person???? My kids are so excited and they are paying for a chunk of it with their saved up chore money.
But seriously...how did this happen to a nice girl like me?
It goes without saying, I will never be cleaning that cage. (and before you laugh, Maddy is the best pet owner in the world. I have never cleaned the litter box or fed the cats either. She LOVES animals).
But still.

My house will never stay clean. Is it because it's a one level ranch, or we have too much stuff, or because of kids or all of the above. It's starting to drive me CARAZAY. So glad we're adding small rodents to the mix. That's gonna help.

Easter feast is on my mind. We do it old school, with ham, rolls, au grautin potatoes, frog eye salad. But then I realized that I invited a gluten free vegetarian family over. What in the H am I going to feed them? Bird seed? Why do all of my friends have to be so new age? They are probably wondering why I have to be such a chubby carnivore. It's a match made in heaven.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

choosing my small patch

Something has been on my mind lately. As a mom I get a lot of emails, requests for my attention, time, money. I'm a simple person, and these requests often exasperate me. I don't want another email about a class offered by the school Occupational Therapist about reaching your dreams! Or another message about the next big school fundraiser, two months after the last big one. Holy cow, it's getting to be too much. I think the thing that I am sick and tired of in regards to technology is that I have to sift through the copious requests of me and my kids. I wish I could just say to school: Yes, I want to be involved, but pretty much that just means I want to help out in the classroom when I can (which isn't often right now with a child at home), and yes I would like to give a bit of money occasionally when I can afford it (which has been never recently), but I don't want you to try and make the school community into my replacement for church. I don't want to go to a bunch of extra outside of school activities. I don't want to meet at the park once a week. I want my kids to go to school and then come home. I want them to learn, to play, to make friends. And then I want them back. Why does this seem to be such a foreign and strange concept these days?

I don't want to have them participating in five million activities just for the sake of looking well-rounded. I do want them to be involved in things that catch their interest. I do want to encourage and develop their talents. But I don't want them to do that at the expense of spending time with their family. These children are not just fashionable accessories that we decided to have once we were financially in the clear. They belong to this home, to this family. They have work to do, lessons to learn, love to be surrounded with. 

It seems like these days that I have to fight for the right to just be a simple family. I remember when I was growing up that I took dance from a neighbor lady who had put mirrors in her garage. I walked to elementary school by myself and walked home with my brothers. When I got home I had a snack, did my homework, and then I played with either my siblings or some friends down the street. Then we had family dinner EVERY night together. We worked in the garden, we picked oranges, we had to help make and can salsa and jam and pickles. We had to spend most of Saturday running errands and going into the boring Home Depot or Joann's or Sam's Club. We had to wash the cars, clean our closets that NO ONE would ever see (and boy did I make sure my Mom knew about the injustice of that one). We had to find ways to entertain ourselves. My Mom didn't play with me. She was always available to me, but she was also busy doing her work around the house. If I got bored, she made sure we always knew there were plenty of chores we could do, and then we magically found things to do--worked every time. Don't get me wrong, I certainly didn't have an ideal childhood with nothing gone wrong, but my younger childhood years had a rhythm that seemed to make sense. We moved along at just the pace meant for us.

My Mom didn't have the phone ringing off the hook all of the time. She didn't have to answer emails and constant requests for her to do things. But she was busy without all of that! She still had to make appointments, get dinner on the table, devote time to her Church responsibilities, keep up with us four kids. School would ask her to come on field trips and that sort of thing, but we knew she had my little sister so it wasn't likely she could come. And somedays that made me feel sorta wistful, but I knew it was just life and it was okay. We would go to a school carnival once a year and get to buy cotton candy and do the cake walk (which Mom probably donated something to) and that was enough, and it was really great! I'm sure my Mom felt some pressure and guilt, but I am sure she would agree with me that it isn't the same as it is today.

These days, it's just one big rush to be the biggest, the best, the busiest, the smartest. Our kids should be building robots out of legos for their extra activities, or only eating vegetables thus no cotton candy carnivals. Parents should be taking endless self-help classes, and lamenting the state of parenting with other parents....all who are out taking the class instead of just being with their kids.

Listen, I'm not against improvement. I'm not against the occasional class. But when did society get to this point where I have to feel guilty for not living to be the most active and vocal member of the parent association? Where I feel weird when I go to my child's class market and everyone seems to know everyone else because they are doing all of the extra school activities on sundays?

Here's the bottom line that I have come up with for now. I have to pick my communities. I only have a very finite amount of time and energy (and I like to pontificate on it endlessly I know!). But folks, I guess I say it over and over on my blog because I wish I could just yell it loud enough for everyone to hear: My number one community will always be my family. My children and my husband, and then my extended family. They will always be first. And not just first, but probably about 96% of my time and effort is spent on that one area. So that leaves me 4% to focus on all of the other areas that I care about--Church being next, and then school and the rest behind there. I think as we become a more secular society, and that being religious becomes more of a hiss and byword, people have a hole in their lives that doesn't supply that community for them anymore. So they build up their hopes for these school and sport and other extracurricular activities to create these sorts of connections. And when I get there as an extreme part-timer, I'm becoming more of the odd man out.

And really, although it's uncomfortable for me to feel that way, I just need to remember that I have made the choice to invest myself in the areas that I consider to be more lastingly important. I guess I just wish I wasn't made to feel guilty and strange about it every time I log in to my email or facebook or get a text message which I can't respond to right away.

I don't have any big last word on this to finish up my blog post neatly. I wish sometimes for the days before now, but I think God put me here in this time because He knew that would be a living beating truth in my heart. And there needs to be more folks out there wishing and trying to create the same things in their lives. Because all of this other rubbish is too much and just asking and taking and asking for more and I fear it will bleed us dry and leave us nothing left for the 96% that's supposed to be at the center.

Do you get what I mean? I wish I could say it the way I feel it! I wish I could tune the rest out and not at the expense of being unreachable to those I want to be available for when they need me. It's a hard one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lucky Days

Today's update!

1. John got a new job! It's a pay raise, it's still in Charlotte. We are THRILLED!

2. I am in LOVE with my book today. I have good days and bad days. Today was a fantastic day. I got so much done and for the first time ever I wish I could sit down and read my own book and find out what is going to happen! Since this is my first time trying to write a book, I'm not sure if that should have been the case all along. But even if it is, I'll still take is as a good sign! Look, it's not going to be literature, but it is entertaining and exciting and I think the characters are lovely. I think John finally being finished with interviewing and figuring out the best company cleared up my block. Monday was an excruciating writing day as I waited to hear what would happen. But I am relentless and committed to this project and I made myself do the work and sit down. Creativity is 95% work and showing up and just trying. BUT.  It's much easier to be creative when you're not stressed or distracted! :)
mine didn't look this professional....but close-ish

3. My friend invited us over last night for their St. Patrick's Day feast. I hadn't planned a single thing so I was pretty happy to accept. I bought a bunch of fruit and made one of those fruit rainbows I see everywhere. Easy, delicious, fun. Best part was when Maddy told everyone in her very sad voice that the leperchauns didn't visit us this year and she didn't know why. Looks like when you do something one year (like three years ago) that you are committing yourself to hanging their spoons from the chandelier for LIFE.
I'm having a great day. Hope the sun in shining on you wherever you are too!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Random thoughts because I'm distracted

Random thoughts this Monday morning, because I can't focus enough to start working on my other writing.

1. The other day on the way into a mutual friends house to hang out, one of my friends handed me a book. It was titled A Girl Named Zippy. She did it without explanation, and I took it and put it into my purse like we had just conducted a book drug deal. Which makes a lot of sense since books would definitely be my drug of choice if they were illegal. I had no idea of the premise of the book when I started it last night, but let me tell you, I have not laughed out loud in genuine delight during a book in a LONG time. It is amazing. My friends know me so well. If only I could write a book like that!
2. I'm waiting to hear on some news about John's job, and the suspense is killing me. Killing me I tell you! 
3. This weekend was a really really good weekend. Best one I've had in a while. We caught up on house chores, played lots with the kids, lit candles during dinner, took turns lazing on the couch, made chocolate cake, hugged and kissed on our kids a lot, washed their hair to smell like peaches, talked about how we would spend our money if we had lots of extra, and watched Planet Earth until we fell asleep. That's a good weekend. We may not have everything, but I really love my life. I have the best little family.
4. But if I did have everything, I would travel to Austria first thing. It is just about the only thing on my bucket list. Paris, Italy, and England wouldn't be hardships either.

5. I've started annoying everyone I am close to by sending gifs as text messages. I don't think anyone thinks it's as hilarious as I do except for maybe John. But he might just be saying that because we share close quarters. My favorites usually involve either animals being human-like, or Dumbledore looking irritated. Classic.
6. My day goes infinitely better if my bed and the kids' beds are made. So I'm trying to be more on top of that. Conversely, I've given up on laundry and dishes. I know a losing battle when I see one.

7. My sister is buying a house!! As is right, I am pinning lots of projects for her to do in her new house. I'm so dang happy for her and her family. And for my future pinterest activities.

8. The other day Grant was scootering around the house on his little red scooter after I fed him lunch, and he stopped suddenly and looked at me with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "I know all of your secrets." I was amused but intrigued and asked him, "Oh really. Like what?" He looked around casually, like he was making sure no one was listening and said. "I know you going to take you sandwich and eat it while watching a mommy show." I laughed and said, "Very true. How did you do that?" And then he started laughing like a maniac and got serious all of the sudden and told me, "Mom, I can read you like a magazine!" and scootered off. I couldn't stop laughing. Since he can't read a magazine, I guess my secrets shall remain safe....for now.

Friday, February 27, 2015

My super budget bathroom freshen up

Let me just start by saying, I could have lived with my bathroom as it was. I almost did. The vanity is old and sorta not in the best condition. But it works.

The light and faucet were dated, but still worked.

The mirror was your standard builder mirror. Nothing to talk about. nothing to diss. (those square cut outs that you see above? I have no idea what those were about. They were a surprise to us as well.)

The whole reason I decided to take a bit of money from our tax return this year and make over the bathroom was the sink. Can you see the issue in the photo above?

That was NOT from lack of cleaning. Cracks. And they just kept looking worse and worse. It's a cheap cultured marble sink. The annoying part is that we only have one sink.

One sink for a double vanity. Which means that we would have had to get the sink done custom. Which meant it would have cost a BUNCH of money (because I checked out alllll of the options). I was frustrated and stumped for a while. Thought of doing a wood countertop, but I didn't want it to look like a cheap chintzy DIY project (I know all about those from my own DIY experiences ha!)

But I am also the craigslist queen, and one day, CRAZY though it was, someone was selling five one sided sink vanities because they were making over their bathrooms. ONE of those sink vanities was the exact size I was looking for. And super cheap!

So once we had that new (to us) sink and countertop, the rest of the plans fell into the place.


Became this:

We planked the walls using $13 boards from Lowe's (three of them, cut to six inch sized planks). We caulked and filled holes for many moons. I hate caulking.

I chalk painted my cabinet. Added new hardware from Home Depot. Here's a few close ups of that.

Yes, you can still see some wood grain when you get up close. But the wax finish with chalk paint makes the grain look nice. Not shiny and weird. I love chalk paint. I went with crystal knobs and silver handles because I like to mix it up like that. I'm wild and crazy.

I made John install a new light fixture for me. I got this on clearance at Home Depot--the last one they had! I was worried because previously we had one of those Miss Piggy barebulb hollywood light fixtures with five or six bulbs and this only has three. I also knew it would not span as far over as the previous light fixture which I was afraid would make the mirror look disproportionate. We overcame that by upping the wattage of the bulbs and cutting our mirror. I almost bought an expensive light fixture (because all of the good ones are expensive) and happened to find this one in the store and was so happy I waited for a deal!

 While we were in process of doing everything, I found that little stool at Goodwill. It was six dollars and I wasn't even sure it was the right size to fit into that awkward little space. It was! I bought a scrub brush and some turkish towels from TJ Maxx as a treat for our hard work.

I love the character and warmth it brings into the room! Plus it really is handy for holding towels while the kids are bathing, or for sitting on while taking of their socks etc.

I may have also bought a new bath rug at World Market with pretty scalloped edges. And some bath salts. :)

Here is a close up of the plank treatment we did. It was actually a pain in the pituatary gland. We should have bought pre-made planks because between the Lowe's fella and the cheap board, the cuts were not done well. But...we made it work. We always do!

Probably my favorite find was this faucet. I found what I liked on Amazon and was going to buy it when I noticed there was one "used" faucet available. Have you heard of that trick? I use it all of the time thanks to 320 Sycamore It's basically just things that still are in great shape, that were returned to Amazon. The description always tells you why it was sent back. In my case though, the description actually turned out to be wrong. It said there were some "nicks and dents" on the faucet. I was really tempted not to buy it because I thought it must look really noticeable for someone to return it. But it was HALF the price. As you might imagine, my cheap side won out and I bought the fixture. The awesome part? No nicks, no dents. The real reason it was probably returned (and what surprised me as well as probably the original buyers) was that the handles on the faucet were different than the handles on the outside of the box (and what I thought I was buying). I actually LOVE these handles more than the ones I thought I was getting! My cheap side really saved me a lot on this makeover, I'm telling you!

 The color on the vanity was a color I made with two different colors of blue. I always make my own chalk paint. It's so much cheaper and I can customize the colors.

 The mirror was actually quite a to-do. I wanted to use our old mirror because, uh, FREE. But I didn't want to just hang it back up and put molding on it because usually the sheer size gives it away that you are using the basic builder model mirror. But let me tell you, hanging a mirror is not a joke, and I didn't want to just use thin molding to frame it out. I've done that before and it looked just mediocre. I looked on craigslist for a mirror, I looked at molding. I even looked at buying a new mirror online. All too expensive or the wrong size. I was getting frustrated when I looked out my back door and remembered that I had a huge chalkboard with a frame that I bought from the thrift store years ago.

I found a tutorial on how to cut glass and John helped me cut down our mirror to size and install it into the mirror. That was sort of a scary, not-fun project. But in the end, it cost us the price of a mirror cutter (about five bucks), and I love the chippy mirror effect. Bonus points, we don't have to see ourselves using the loo anymore (which is completely TMI, but seriously, what were the original builders thinking??)

So that's my tale. It was some hard work. But even John can't believe how much nicer it is, and how much LIGHT there is in that bathroom because of that one white paneled wall. It feels like someone else's house, and we're really proud of how it turned out. There's something to be said for being cheap after all.