Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Wave of the Flu

The house smells sour no matter how many windows I open and how many blankets I wash.  Both of my children spent the night throwing up, often in their sleep, and waking up to the hot wetness of their vomit.  Paul was on bath duty and scrubbed down crying sick bodies.  I was on bed detail, stripping sheets, rinsing chunks into the toilet, and filling the washing machine over and over again with soiled blankets, towels, and jammies.  Eventually, I transplanted Sam onto the couch while taking the adjacent one so I could hear the first gag and catch further episodes in a bucket.  This finally ended the messiness, and at two in the morning, I sent Paul to bed so he could get some sleep before work.  I laid awake on the couch, one ear down the hall in Annie’s room, and the other on nearby Sam’s sleepy sighs.  Occasionally, I would hide my phone beneath my blanket and google things like “when do children grow out of puking in their sleep,” “how to get vomit stains out of white stuffed dogs,” and “best cream for undereye bags.”  By morning, both children’s energy and appetites had returned.  They chased each other around the kitchen while I, in my exhausted state, shuffled my feet and moaned like a zombie.  Paul emailed his boss and stayed home to extend further help. This traumatic night was our first experience with simultaneous pukers.  Usually, our kids catch things from each other which staggers their symptoms by a day or two so we can focus on one child at a time. I’m beyond grateful for Paul’s willingness to help even though he is much more sensitive to the smell of vomit than I am.

Though the event initially seemed like a cruel twist of fate, tonight I find myself relieved and grateful they were sick together.  Not that I want to volunteer for another night like that anytime soon, but there were a few good things to come of the ordeal.  Today I did not have to quarantine one child in a futile attempt to protect the other from germs.  Tonight I can sleep easy knowing both children are better instead of waiting for another kids exhibit symptoms, and the exhaustion of one sleepless night will not be drug out to two. It was like ripping off a band-aid instead of tearing it off slowly. A vomit-soaked, fevery band-aid.

Friday, March 3, 2017

February Favorites

To track my monthly favorites, I keep a list on my phone which I add to throughout the month.  When I sat down to create this post, I pulled up my one-list-to-rule-them-all, but as I started writing about the items, something seemed a little off....


Apparently, this was a favorite this month.  We are working on replacing all of our incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs.  It's been an interesting process finding the right fit for my picky preferences.  The first bulbs I screwed into the overhead lights in the family room buzzed obnoxiously, and the faux candle bulbs in our chandeliers were dim and appeared incredibly artificial.  After befriending the guys at the Home Depot returns counter, I think I've identified the right bulbs for my fixtures.  I especially love the LED filament bulbs as they are a vast improvement from their half bulb counterparts.

Butter Keeper
Our butter keeper cracked this month, so I picked up another one at Walmart.  It's pretty generic, but I guess I must have really loved it a couple weeks ago....

Uh... I bought new headphones this month because my earbuds only work on the left side.  The new earbuds have sound coming out both sides but are probably the most painful thing that's ever happened to my ears.  Seriously, I'd rather have an ear infection.  I have no idea why I have included this on my favorites list...........

Metal Sheets
This was the point when I realized I was writing about a shopping list.  Oi.  With a little digging through my unorganized phone notes, I found the real one-list-to-rule-them-all. #sleepdeprived #sickkiddos  Without further ado, I give you my real monthly favorites.

February Favorites
Nail Polish
I usually don't wear nail polish.  Painting my nails takes at least an hour because I am so uncoordinated I have to wait for each coat to dry before applying another, lest I smudge the semi-wet paint.  Meanwhile, a headache forms in my temples as brain cells cry and die from the chemical smell.  My hands cramp up from the paranoid rigidity of my fingers, and the one-star Netflix movie meant to occupy my thoughts during the infuriatingly mindless painting has such poor acting that tears of discomfort spout from the outer corners of my eyes.  After all of that pain and sacrifice, one wrong move on the handrail or doing the dishes and BOOM-- nails that look like a fifteenth-century fresco.  However, this month, my local Dollar Tree had Wet n Wild nail polish two-packs for sale (that's 50 cents a bottle), and it was love at first sight with some of the colors.

The fast dry formula actually dries very quickly and lasts about three days before it starts chipping. With two little kids, my nails pick a lot of stickers and boogers off hard surfaces, but the megalast formula can go almost a week without chipping.  Painting my nails has become my new Saturday night routine.

Photo retrieved from http://static.tvgcdn.net/mediabin/showcards/tvshows/700000-800000/thumbs/799483_poldark_430x573.png
Thank you, PBS, for this masterpiece.  The story follows a Welshman named Poldark whose great family name far surpasses his actual wealth.  Pulled into the quaint 18th-century coastal town, the audience watches his successes and failures to navigate the responsibilities of a gentleman while rejecting many of the societal expectations which try to unsuccessfully dictate his life.  This show is moody and raw sprinkled with a love story and tear-jerking tragedies.  It's the perfect addition to the nail polish routine and significantly improves the experience.  I believe you can watch it for free with Amazon Prime.

Great British Bake Show
Photo retrieved from https://img.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeed-static/static/2014-12/24/4/enhanced/webdr03/enhanced-16579-1419414089-8.png
Speaking of PBS classics, this show is positively scrummy (that means scrumptious for all you Yanks).  Bright, light, and filled with adorable British expressions, the mystical white tent tucked away in the English countryside is full of the sweetest drama. For the love of all that is holy, I beg you not to watch this show if you are on a diet, gluten-intolerant, diabetic, or just generally care about your health.  I found myself eating my couch upholstery while begging my husband to bake me a cheesecake late at night.  Please learn from my mistakes.  Do NOT watch this show.

I completed my bachelor's degree this month, and while my intentions were to jump right into sprucing up my neglected house, I quickly realized I needed to stop, breathe, and process this transition.  I retired to bed earlier than my previous school schedule allowed. I napped in the afternoons whilst my son slumbered upstairs.  As you've probably noticed from my favorites, I also watched copious amounts of TV.  I'm finally feeling my ambition return and have started hemming curtains and reorganizing closets, but a couple weeks of rest was absolutely necessary.

February favorites would not be complete without this birthday boy-- my Valentine and hubby.  When Paul and I married in 2009, we mutually decided to prioritize his education so he could be a competent provider.  After working and supporting him through his bachelor's and master's degrees, Paul supported my decision to go back to school.  He has left work early and braved rush hour traffic to be home with Annie so I could trek onto campus for evening classes.  He spent Saturdays parenting alone while I disappeared all day for child-free homework time.  He listened to countless hours of me reading papers and posts aloud.  He was my sounding board, assistant editor, and cheerleader during these late nights.  He's my forever February favorite.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

When the Luck of the Irish Failed Me

On Monday, February 13th, I completed my last day of class, and on Tuesday, February 14th (Valentine's Day), I ventured to the Dollar Tree and purchased a litany of St. Patrick's Day paraphernalia for crafting in my copious free hours.  I carefully laid out my spoils on the family room floor and planned a revolutionary wreath that was sure to send my neighbors into a jealous frenzy.

I began with 3 aluminum tins that I sliced and diced to create metal rings which I manipulated into a heart shape.

Next, I contracted tetanus from too many metal cuts as I glued my makeshift hearts together.

Then, I took poorly-crafted St. Patty's Day tinsel and wrapped it around my shamrock form whilst green confetti shed from the emerald strings, and danced and glistened in the air before adhering themselves to every surface of the room with static electricity.

Lastly, I stood back to admire my flimsy, nondescript bush.  It was suddenly obvious that my genius craft was a flop.  In desperation, I glued a leprechaun bobblehead to the center of my "shamrock," but instead of enhancing the good luck charm, my wreath looked like an Irish gull laid an unfortunate egg after eating Lucky Charms out of a convenience store dumpster.

My front door has since remained bare.  No jealous neighbors.  No lucky threshold.  Just an unwelcoming nail protruding like a finger bidding my visitors to turn and leave before my hot glue gun has time to heat up again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Lanyard

Written February 13, 2017:
I cried today at Annie’s Parent-Teacher Conference.  Nothing says, “I’m a stable parent,” like tearing up at your child’s kindergarten teacher while she explains library day.  After a moment of embarrassment, I explained I wasn’t crazy.  It was just her lanyard that was making me cry.  I realized that sounded worse than crying over library time, so I felt compelled to tell her the whole story.

Two years ago, when I reenrolled in school for what felt like the ten-zillionth time, I hoped this stint would end in graduation (finally).  A few weeks into the semester, I was meandering the aisles at Harman’s looking for gluten-free something-or-other when something sparkly caught my eye.  I turned to study a hanging wrack of lanyards bedazzled with plastic rhinestones.  The rows of halogen lights above illuminated the prisms, and tiny rainbows reached out to me like a divine sign.  I lifted a lanyard from the hooks and ran it between my fingers, smiling slightly and imagining a teaching name tag hanging from the clip with my picture and Mrs. Rowberry printed on the front.  I handed it to wide-eyed baby Sam who thoroughly tasted it as I made my way to the checkout.  At home, it laid out on my nightstand as a visual representation of my goal to finish school.  On nights where I stayed awake rocking a restless baby or cleaning puke out of stuffed animal fur and woke up completely exhausted with piles of reading and homework in front of me, that glittery lanyard whispered, “Keep going.”

Sitting across from Annie’s teacher on the final day of undergrad classes while she wore the same name tag accessory I picked out to wear during my first year of teaching was just too much to handle. It finally felt real that someday I may be sitting across from nervous parents and handing them report cards. When I shared this tale with Annie's teacher, she smiled at me and squeezed one of my hands while I wiped away a tear with the other.

I can never show my face there again.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

January Favorites

January has come to a close, and as I have promised, I have compiled a rather short list of monthly favorites. Since the new year, I have spent the majority of my time buried in books or crouched over a keyboard, but from the rare moments I came up for air, a few choice products and experiences stood out. I'm going to quickly share them because Ibsen's A Doll's House is not going to analyze itself.

Canada's Worst Driver
I realize I am a sick, twisted person to admit this, but I am obsessed with Canada's Worst Driver on Netflix. Imagine Worst Cooks in America and your high school driver's ed class had a love child that says aboot and caer. That pretty much sums up this show. I don't know why watching people back into stacks of wheels or rip the bumper off a sports car brings me so much joy, but I binged both seasons in two days. OBSESSED.  #straightAstudent #nosleep

These Four Walls - Little Mix
Do you ever just wake up cloaked in angst? I did for the first two weeks of January. I blame the overcast skies and sub-zero temperatures that confined me to my house. When my seasonal depression made leaving a cocoon of blankets almost too painful to bear, I would jump in the shower, crank the water temperature to blisteringly hot, and play this song as loud as my phone could muster. Though my skin would turn red from the lava flowing from the shower head, I would get chills from the emotional vulnerability in these ladies voices. Don't knock it til you try it.

Laundry Room Floor
After our water heater had flooded our basement and garage at the beginning of October, the floor in our hallway and laundry room was partially torn up. In December, my dad and hubby patched the hallway floor and garage drywall, but the laundry room still needed new floors, doors, drywall work, and baseboards.  Our contractor was booked out till January, but since I had already spent two months acclimating to a ripped-up laundry room, waiting an additional month didn't bother me. However, I'm glad the new floor is finally here. I didn't realize how cold the old stick tiles were until I could compare them with the updated vinyl. The vinyl is slightly padded and warm under my feet, and because the laundry room doesn't have a heat vent, this flooring actually helps maintain a comfortable temperature.  Folding clothes just got much more manageable.

Book Shelves
When we purchased this house, we had a solid plan for the layout. We wanted the upstairs living room to double as the kids play space, and we wanted the downstairs family room to be an adult space. No toys. Glass decorations. Casual sophistication. After dealing with mothering madness all day, I wanted to be able to go downstairs, shut the door behind me, and sit in a beautiful, clean, relaxing oasis.
This is what our family room looked like when the previous owners lived here. They installed a surround sound system that connects to a large amplifier. On either side of the fireplace, they built matching bookshelves which gave the room a balanced, homey feeling. When we moved in, I knew I wanted to purchase similar-looking bookshelves. Unfortunately, bringing my vision to life was not as easy as I thought it would be. We needed something tall, but short enough to fit under the speakers. We needed something narrow enough to fit between the wall and the mantle. We needed shelves deep enough to accommodate the amp. AND we needed something inexpensive but that didn't look cheap. It was a tall order to fill. Get it? Tall order? Because the bookshelves were. . . oh nevermind.

While I searched, a rickety white bookshelf and one of those wire cubby systems flanked the television and housed our movies, games, and technology. You can see them peeking out in these pictures. It was functional but unattractive and instead of feeling like my sacred retreat, this room felt like some dorms had vomited in our basement. After a year of scouring Ikea, Shopko, Target, Homegoods, Wayfair, and even RC Willey, I finally settled on these bookshelves from Shopko.

These shelves have completely changed the appearance and feeling of this room. My new full-time hobby is taking pictures of my beautiful black babies from various angles and in different lighting.  If I lay down to watch a show, I spend more time looking at the shelves than I do at the TV.

I realize it's excessive, but obsession is not always logical. Paul and I have been married almost eight years and have survived on hand-me-down furniture (for which I have been incredibly grateful), but it is also exciting to be old, established grown-ups and purchase pieces that express who we are.

Loreal True Match Mineral Foundation
Once upon a time when I was eighteen years old, my mother took me to Rite-Aid and bought my very first set of makeup. As a creature of habit, I continued to buy the exact same makeup for years without ever dipping my toes into the vast pond of drugstore brands. A couple of summers ago, my cousin gave me a mascara sample that changed my life. After one use, I realized how poorly my old mascara was performing. Sadly, the sample was from a pricey company, but it set me on a journey to find a drugstore dupe that would make my eyes look like a Disney princess. The more I experimented with mascara, the braver I felt trying different brands of eyeshadows, blushes, and foundations. I uncovered some gems too, except with foundations. I actually loved the foundation my mother picked out, but the brand repackaged and renamed it, and thought they no longer made it. I tried at least five other powder foundations and one liquid, hoping to find something comparable, but I hated all of them. For years, I have been covering my face with garbage I was just trying to use up, and I really began to hate putting on makeup.  Consequently, I began hating my face too.

At the beginning of January, I bought a new powder foundation that seemed similar to the one my mom bought me nine years ago. Since I still had the original packaging, I was able to compare the two and realized they were the same thing. It's the Loreal True Match mineral foundation, and it is amazing.  The active ingredients are clouds and angel dandruff. The powder is so soft and finely milled that it blends effortlessly.  When I used the foundation years ago, I remember having a conversation with my sister-in-law about my makeup routine and telling her I didn't use concealer. She was shocked. How can you live without concealer? However, when I ran out of that original foundation and began to purchase other brands, the need for concealer quickly became apparent. This worried me. Was my skin betraying me at such a young age and deteriorating rapidly?  Was my nose always this red?  Were my cheeks always this blotchy? It took me a while to realize it was not my skin that had changed so suddenly.  It was the new foundations that severely lacked the effortless coverage I'd become accustomed to.

Here is a stripe of permanent marker and five samples of foundations from my makeup drawer.  The Loreal foundation is the light one in the middle (because it's winter and I'm a pale princess).  It actually masks a lot of the red, and when it blends out, it looks creamy and flawless.  The two on either side of the Loreal have zero coverage (and yes, they are powder foundations, not just pressed powder)  The bottom one was okay, but when I wore it on my face, it looked like sidewalk chalk. The top shade is a liquid foundation that oxidizes to a lovely shade of orange.  On days when I'm going for that Ompa Lompa look, this foundation is perfect.  Just not on all of the other days, you know?

Here's a picture of my face, so you see the full effect of this mineral makeup.  The left side is bare, and the right side has nothing but powder foundation which masks my red nose, freckles, splotchy cheeks, and leaves me with an airbrushed finish. (Bonus: If you want to look like you are glowing from within, add a little Elf illuminating powder to the top of the cheeks. Gorgeous.) I know this is such a strange thing for me to write about, and believe me, there is no end to the discomfort I feel posting this. However, this foundation made a significant impact on my month.  I felt less self-conscious and looked forward to getting ready in the morning with fast and flawless makeup.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December Favorites

I’m graduating in seven weeks.  SEVEN weeks.  It almost seems unreal.  I have been in and out of school with three different majors and three different universities for nearly ten years just trying to obtain a bachelor’s degree all while popping out babies.  There were several moments where the finish line seemed impossibly far, and I assumed I’d be in my forties or fifties by the time I wore a cap and gown again. Amazingly, in seven weeks, I will finally realize the dream I have worked and sacrificed so much for.  I wish I could say this was the end of my school days, but I still have a master’s degree on the horizon.  However, I will be taking a year off between degrees to rest, recuperate, and give my kids some extra lovin’ to make up for all of the days and nights I impatiently rushed them to bed or shushed them incessantly so I could work on homework.  During this coming year, I want to revive my neglected blog, finish editing my book, and reorganize my house (you should see the guest room. . . yikes).

Part of my blog revival will be weekly posts.  Mostly, there will be the same old stories about my life, cooking disasters, and overly dramatic moments, but I also want to do monthly favorites.  My most beloved blog, Young House Love, used to do monthly superlatives, and I enjoyed reading those posts.  I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite things like activities I’ve done with my kids or recipes that made my taste buds sing.  Maybe even some beauty items will make it in there. Because December was such a busy month, it seems like the perfect time to begin this tradition.

December Favorites
My Fireplace
Who knew that a gas fireplace could be so expensive?  Not me.  When we moved into the house last January, I turned the fireplace on almost every night.  But a $170 gas bill seemed like a steep price to pay for a little ambiance.  Paul forbade encouraged me to save the flickering flames for special occasions.  WHAT IS MORE SPECIAL THAN CHRISTMAS?  The excitement of opening presents on Christmas morning was only enhanced by a roaring fire.  I highly recommend it.  If you don’t have a fireplace, maybe open presents by the kitchen stove for a similar effect?

Christmas Attire
Much to my grand dismay, I was not invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party this year.  Okay, I’ve never been invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party, but I imagine they are the most enjoyable thing on this great green earth.  Second to white elephant, of course.  Anyway, because I had no party permitting me to dress like a mom from an 80’s Christmas card, I decided to wear my husband’s sweater and some gaudy earrings on a random weekday.  I secretly hoped someone would notice and think, I bet that eccentric woman would be fun to invite to my ugly sweater party.  I’m still waiting for an invitation, but in the meantime, I found the holiday attire really lifted my spirits.  Washing dishes felt romantically domestic.  Grocery shopping made me feel like Mrs. Krank.  Wiping Sam’s bum after a number two was suddenly like frosting a yule log.  My afternoon nap dreams even consisted of dancing sugar plums.  New life goal: Christmas sweater for every day of December.

Arctic Circle Cookie Butter Shake
Shut. The. Front. Door.  This was one of the most heavenly treats to cross the threshold of my house this month. It’s a vanilla base with Biscoff cookie butter incorporated into the clouds of bliss.  Paul brought one home as a surprise on a particularly stressful day, and as I stared into his beautifully blue, caring, thoughtful eyes while we shared the cup of heaven, I couldn’t help but think, Gee, I wish he would go away so I can have this all to myself.  It was that delicious, people.  Go get one before the holiday flavors are gone.

Photo retrieved from https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91D9%2BiPsBHL._SX355_.jpg
I’ve had the opportunity to play this game a few times this month, and no matter what group I played with, I laughed till I cried.  There is no strategy required, so when your brain feels like mush after gorging yourself with tasty delights, this game is the perfect solution to distract from the painful digestion occurring deep within your bowels.  Try it.  It will not disappoint.

Our Ward Party Santa

If this Santa is not the big man himself from the actual North Pole, then I’m not detail oriented.  When we heard the announcement that Santa was coming onto the stage at our ward Christmas party, we were desperate for Sam to meet Santa for the first time for that quintessential photo op.  As we searched for the illusive lad, I notice a woman pointing to the stage.  Santa walked out and waved to the crowd, and our little Sam was trailing behind him, absolutely spellbound.  Apparently, Sam found him in the hall and had been following him ever since.  Santa gave him a hug and pulled him onto his lap.  He spoke so softly that I couldn’t hear their conversation, but as Sam came off the stage from his magical moment, he looked up at me and said, “Mom! Santa loves me!”  My heart melted right there onto the floor, and I had to use my coat to wipe up the mess.  Annie, unlike Sam, was scared to see Santa and came running from the line crying.  I gave her a minute to watch the other children, and she decided she could try again if I came with her.  Once her turn arrived, she seemed pretty calm.  She wouldn’t sit on Santa's lap, but he gave her a hug and asked her about her Christmas wish.  It was such a sweet moment that I suddenly understood why so many moms stand in obscene lines at the mall (though I was also grateful I didn’t have to).

Temple Square
Many Utahans have a December tradition of visiting Temple Square to see the Christmas lights.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had the opportunity to do so, and I forgot what an incredible experience it is.  If you’re into crazy crowds of cold, grumpy adults and frostbitten children blocking all of the best views, I highly suggest going the three or four days before Christmas like we did.  I got some of the most beautiful pictures of strangers looking surprised by my flash.  I spent half of the tour shouting, “Hold my hand!” or “Hold Daddy’s hand!” or “Do we have all of our children?” or “Sam?!  Where are you?”  Really, it was a great vocal exercise that properly prepped my voice to belt Christmas songs over the sounds of my kids' over-tired sobs on the drive home.  In all honesty, I’m glad I went.  We got to go went with my in-laws and had a lovely bonding experience.  Annie has already asked when we can go back.  Next year, I’ll try to go earlier in the month.

My New Laptop
This is my ugly cry, courtesy of my mom.
Though I'm usually not keen on publicizing Christmas presents, as I type this blog post on a particular present, I can’t help but think of it as my number one favorite thing.  Nine years ago, I saved up my pennies and bought my first laptop.  His name was Harvey, and he was my baby.  I used to polish his glossy exterior, slip him into my backpack, and carry him with me across campus.  I remember sitting in this little nook in the Jesse Knight Building (JKB) at BYU and being warmed by the laptop as I analyzed African Bushman or Baroque architecture.  Harvey made me feel like I was playing college student similar to the way fun food made me feel like I was playing house.  Unfortunately, like most technology, he started to slow down and freeze up when I tried to perform simple tasks.  When we moved here in January, it took the internet company a month to come out and hook up our router to their network.  In the meantime, I dragged Harvey to the empty townhouse every evening so I could work on homework.  His glitchiness reached an all-time high as every click took at least ten minutes to compute and typing had a 15-second delay.  I was in constant fear that I would lose my work, and once the internet was installed in the new house, I retired poor Harvey to my backpack permanently.  Though I have a computer to do my homework on now, I have missed the freedom my laptop afforded me.  There are Saturdays when I drive 40 minutes to do homework at my parent’s house when a laptop could take me a mile away to the library for some quiet study time. There are also so many nights when the stationary computer is too far from my sick children’s bedrooms or the areas where they play.  During this month alone, there were several nights where my kids coughed and heaved, and I cried on the couch because I felt so torn between them and my grades.  My sweet family noticed my laptopless stress and pooled their money to buy me a beautiful, shiny, new laptop for Christmas.  I still tear up thinking about it.  Harvey 2.0 is going to help me finish out the next seven weeks and then carry me on into the master’s degree.  I feel so loved and blessed by my favorite people who gave me my favorite gift.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

More Christmas

This month is flying by way too fast, and I feel like I haven't had much time to soak in the season. I'm incredibly thankful for Christmas music that can make washing dishes, cleaning toilets, and snuggling sick kids just a little more festive. The next few days will be filled with the best kind of madness and people I love like crazy. For me, being around family and friends is one of the best gifts ever, only second to my Savior.

As I've read a piece of the nativity story with my children each morning, I have been so touched by the simplicity. Sometimes I feel this need for more stuff or more adventures or more talent or more praise. But that is not what Christ wanted us to have more of. He wanted us to have more charity. More love. More compassion. More understanding. More joy. More peace. That is what I want to strive for in the upcoming year. I hope you all have a merry Christmas filled with all of the best and most worthwhile mores.