Saturday, October 14, 2017

Volleyball

I just had the most frustrating morning.

It all began two weeks ago.  At the beginning of September, volleyball season started for the Young Women in my ward.  Since I am in the presidency, I made it point to be at the games to cheer on my girls.  At some point, someone asked who I was and added me to a stake sports Facebook page.  Fantastic.  More reminders for me; that’s never a bad thing.  Well, a couple of weeks ago, someone posted that we had been invited to play with another stake Saturday morning at 8 AM.  I announced it to the girls, encouraged them to come, and got up early to cheer them on.  There is no limit to the sacrifices I make for my young women.

This morning, with wet hair, skinny jeans, and some nude flats, I slipped out of the house while my husband snoozed upstairs and my children helped themselves to some cartoons.  When I arrived at the building, I pulled into an empty parking lot, and surrounded by the company of fallen leaves, I questioned my existence.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  After waiting for a couple of minutes, another car pulled in, and then another.  Strangely, none of these vehicles brought forth young women.  Perhaps this stake underestimated the lure of a good Saturday sleep-in.  I walked in the church with the other leaders, recognizing a few from my stake, and waited anxiously.  Not a single girl showed up, but after the net was set up, the leaders began to take their spots. Wait? Are we playing?  I thought.  I glanced around, this time noticing a disturbing trend.  All of these women were wearing workout clothes and sneakers with their hair pulled back in high ponytails.  I stealthily asked if the Young Women were invited to this event, only to be answered with a resounding “No” from all parties. 

My panic escalated.  Here I had been promoting a game that required waking up early on the weekend that the young women were not actually sanctioned to play in. I imagined the annoyed looks on their faces guaranteed to follow this news.  My prayers that one of them would show up quickly turned to prayers that they would not.  Whilst I stood silently praying and panicking, one of the ladies from my stake pulled me in to play the game.

Listen, I am not an athlete.  I’m confident enough to admit it.  I wear glasses which are ball magnets.  I’m short and chubby which means slow and useless in volleyball.  Heck, I’m the girl who answers “read-a-thon” when I’m asked for my favorite sport.  And here I have found myself front and center in a volleyball game against grown women who practice weekly, three of which were behemoth, towering over my 5’3” frame at six feet tall, and they actually knew how to do that bump-set-spike nonsense you see in Olympic games.  Not good.

For an hour and a half, I slid around the gym in my slippery flats, ducking, rolling, screeching, and flailing every time the ball winked at my vicinity.  My teammates began to gather around me so they could compensate for my obvious ineptitude.  They spoke to me with kind, pity-filled reassurances, but deep down. . . deep down I knew they were secretly wishing a foul serve would knock me unconscious so they could drag me to the side and stand a chance at winning the game.

After rearranging the teams and somehow managing always to be on the losing one, we concluded for the day, and the saintly giraffes invited me to come play more often.  Perhaps experience would help me be more confident in my abilities (or lack thereof).  I smiled, said “absolutely” whilst subconsciously shaking my head no, and then slipped out to my car, secretly vowing to never again play this dreadful sport.


I drove down to Sandy to donate blood and then stopped by Wal-Mart to buy groceries.  My arms were red, black, and blue from the beating they endured, but I bravely pushed the cart onward.  My tired feet and nude flats slipped around the store, pausing momentarily to admire a purple pair of exercise capris and some blue tennis shoes.  I don’t know, maybe I’ll try volleyball one more time. . . 

Friday, August 25, 2017

August Update/Ramble

If you saw me right now, you would see that I'm wearing the same blue yoga pants and long-sleeved red shirt that I've been wearing for 3 days. I know that wearing other outfits means more laundry and, frankly, that's more than I want to do right now. If you looked around my house, you would see that it's a little messy but probably cleaner than it's been all summer. There are little piles here and there that need to be moved to a different room but the floors are swept, and the toilets are clean. So there's that. My lawn is mowed and covered in grass clippings because it was too long for my bagging attachment, lest I have to empty the bag every six feet. I read somewhere that the clippings are actually good for the lawn, so really my laziness it's just a gift to my grass. My counters are riddled with tomatoes. Some big and some small. The small ones are from my garden, which has produced just as poorly this year as it did the last. The large heirloom tomatoes are from a friend, whose green thumb matches the color of my envy. Every morning, I eat a piece of toast with fresh tomato on it. Fresh tomatoes and summer are somehow synonymous in my eyes. That and black bean corn salsa, which I shall be dining on this evening.

Girls camp is over. I've had a few of weeks to recover. When Girls Camp ends, I'm always left with an empty feeling. I love the process of working, shopping, crafting, and praying that goes into planning an outdoor excursion with a group of young women, and I truly have the BEST young women in the world. Together, we climbed mountains while peals of laughter rang out over the vast sky. Eyes were opened, physically and spiritually, to the wonders of God's creations. Friendships were strengthened. Then, after a morning of cleaning and goodbyes, we were thrust back into the valley of reality. And my reality was a messy house, stinky children, and a buttload of laundry.


Annie went back to school on Monday, and I'm excited to have some semblance of a routine in my life again. The hot summer zapped all of my energy, and it was not uncommon to find me laying on the couch sweating and complaining. I wish I did a better job of tapping into my pioneer ancestry and enduring the heat whilst counting my many blessings. Alas, I shall have to try again next summer. Although, I'm hoping I can talk Paul into investing in air conditioning by then.  My body longs for autumn. It craves brisk air and jacket weather. But my stomach dreads the squash soups. I have met very few savory pumpkin dishes I enjoyed, yet everyone seems to want to serve them come October. Memo to me: avoid social gatherings in October.

On August 16th, my baby brother entered the MTC to prepare for a mission in Japan. In the last year, we've formed a great friendship that, previously, our ten-year age gap prevented. I miss him texting me at ten o'clock at night asking me to edit his papers. I miss our philosophical conversations and playing Monopoly.  I think of everyone in the family, his absence at home has impacted me the least because I have not lived with him for over eight years, and because I'm a writer at heart, I genuinely enjoy our email correspondence. But he always gave the best hugs, and I could really use one of those right now.  It's been a long and lonely week.

After a lovely break from college, I have recently applied for a master's program in teaching and am anxiously awaiting an acceptance letter (hopefully). If all goes well, I will be starting my master's program on October 1st. Last Sunday, I confessed to Paul that I was beyond nervous for graduate studies. I have made a lofty goal of completing a year and a half worth of classes in 11 months, and I don't actually know if I am smart enough to accomplish such a task. Some days I feel like I am not very bright at all but a fantastic pretender, and it's only a matter of time before I am exposed. Paul said he knew the feeling but assured me that I was smart and said I'd probably finish all of my classes in 10 months. His faith in me is annoying. In the best possible way.

I can't wait for September to begin. August has always been my least favorite month, and I'm ready to embrace pumpkin spice everything. Farewell, Summer!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer madness

Back in May, I turned to Paul and said, "This is going to be the craziest summer I've ever had."  And I meant that too.  Yes, sometimes I'm prone to hyperbolic speeches, but this time, I literally (not in the ironic way teens use this word) meant that my ritual of boring summers was about to come to an abrupt end.

First, the Hatchett's were having a big reunion.  Dozens of relatives were flying and driving in from across the country, and I was part of the planning committee.  Additionally, I was hosting one of my out-of-town cousins and her little family.  Each day was chalked full of activities and adventures, and while it was a dream come true to use my guest room and a pleasure to socialize with relatives, it was exhausting for both families.  Human bodies are apparently not geared for so much excitement.  I had to skip out on a couple of adventures just so I could carve out time to clean and keep my son on his sleeping schedule to reduce night terrors.  During that week, I also celebrated my 28th birthday, which was less traumatic than turning 27, so no complaints.



After my guests flew home, we celebrated Father's Day, Sam's birthday, and I had two weeks to prep for a cross-country drive back to the land of my forefathers: Southern Illinois.  (#Exotic)  Three years ago, this trip was riddled with vomiting, fevers, a seizure, ambulance ride, emergency room visit, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, rashes, explosive diarrhea in the car, night terrors, sleeplessness, rain, and ended much like it started, with more vomiting.  You can imagine my reservations when my grandmother invited us to a reunion with the Walker family this summer.  See, I was sorta hoping that in the last three years I would have struck oil in my yard or rescued a millionaire's cat from a tree and received a large reward that would pay for plane tickets for my future ventures to the midwest.  Alas. Driving was still our only budget-friendly form of transportation, so I spent two weeks planning, shopping, cleaning, and preparing mentally to hurl myself across the country in a metal prison with screaming inmates.

Surprisingly, the trip went off without a hitch.  There was no vomiting, fevers, seizures, ambulance rides, emergency room visits, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, rashes, explosive diarrhea in the car, night terrors, or sleeplessness.  Instead, there were lightning bugs, ukulele sing-alongs, hot country breakfasts, long naps, ice cream cones, bouncy houses, splash pools, fireworks, Kansas City BBQ, St. Louis Science Center, porch swings, long talks with my grandma, trips down memory lane, family history, and rain when we had nowhere to be but indoors.

We drove home last weekend, and now I am in full camp-director mode because Girls Camp is in just two weeks.  Bring.  It.  On.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Case of the Stolen Bracelet

It was Friday evening, about seven o'clock, when I spotted the bracelet.  I recognized the magenta beads strung together by elastic, for I had seen it that morning at the Dollar Tree.  The problem was, we were not at the Dollar Tree.  We were at Home Depot, and the bracelet was not on a display, but my daughter's wrist.  It appeared as though I had a thief in my midst.  I waited until we reached the parking lot to confront the little criminal.  The best way to coax a confession is to act as casually as possible.

I leaned over the shopping cart. "So, where'd you get that bracelet?" I asked casually.  Annie looked down at her wrist with hesitation so slight, only the most experienced crime-fighting mother could detect it.  When she did not answer, I pressed a little further. "Is that the bracelet you showed me at the Dollar Tree?"  Annie's little lip began to tremble.  "The one I asked you to put back," I reminded.  She hung her head as tears welled in her eyes. "Did you steal it?" I whispered.  Annie tore the bracelet from her wrist and tried to shove it in my hands as if it were made of poison ivy instead of plastic.

"Take it!" She cried.  "I don't want it anymore!"  I insisted she wore it during the drive across the street to the Dollar Tree and told her she needed to give it a cashier and confess what she had done.  Annie held her arm away from her as she wailed and sobbed.  I asked her if she stole it on purpose or if she forgot it was on her wrist.  She insisted she forgot, and as I analyzed the evidence (i.e. her long sleeves which prevented her from feeling the beads sliding up and down her arm), I determined she was telling the truth. So, when we pulled up to the store, I turned around and handed her a dollar.  "How about we go pay for that bracelet."

She was afraid to walk into the store, convinced the approaching sirens were the police coming to take her to jail.  We waited 'til the ambulance passed so she could feel secure enough to go inside without having a meltdown.  Bravely, she stepped up to the register and handed the cashier the bracelet and the dollar.  I watched the fear and anxiety in her eyes melt away as the bracelet was handed back, this time, paid for and authentically hers.  She slipped it onto her wrist and held it close to her heart.

Back in the car, we talked about how yucky it feels to do the wrong thing and how much better we feel when we repent and make things right.  Annie nodded vigorously while admiring her magenta reminder.  There are so many times in a day when I feel like an inadequate mother. Sometimes I yell when I shouldn't, put my kids in front of the TV too often, feed them treats while the healthy bananas turn brown, and live in my head instead of in the moment.  But as Annie smiled at that bracelet, I did too, because I think I may have just done something right.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

April Favorites

When I look back on April, it seems like a dream that left me in a haze of denial.  Surely, it can't be May already.  But it is, so here are a few of my standout favorites from the month of April.

April Favorites

My yard
Last spring and summer, my yard was my favorite place to be.  Sometimes it was hard to balance time between school and yard work, but I always tried to dedicate a little time every day to be outside.  Whether I was weeding, watering, or pushing my kids on the swings, it brought me so much joy to cultivate the earth and create a recreational environment for my family.  This month, the weather warmed up enough that I felt comfortable mowing, weeding, and prepping my garden beds.  It was hard work.  I may have pulled a muscle in my back, but it has been so rewarding to slip on my worn-out garden gloves and sink my hands into some soil.

Command Center
In March, I created a Command Center in my hallway.  As my children get older, and especially now that Annie is in school, it's become more important to stay abreast of each other's activities.  So, we now have a family calendar and chore charts to help the kids keep up with their chores without too many reminders.

On the chore charts, we have magnets for each task, and when the children complete something, they can move a magnet to the "Done" area.  This helps them visualize their duties and engages their piddle-pot instincts which are attracted to touching everything.  Now my mornings are not a battle of begging my children to make their beds, brush their teeth, get dressed, etc.  I just ask them to check their magnets.
Thanks to this system, our April mornings ran more smoothly.

Escape to the Country
Photo Retrieved from https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/480x270/p04qmb0x.jpg
Because was a little bluesy and anxious this month, I often found winding down for the night rather difficult.  This show, however, changed that.  It was the perfect mixture of the scenic English countryside, charming accents, cozy cottages, and a splash of history.  After tucking my children in their beds and kissing their little cheeks goodnight, escaping to the country soothed my soul.  If you need some soothing, you can find this show on Netflix.

Cancun
I will write an entire post about this experience in the next few days, but this was definitely the highlight of April.  It was my first time leaving the country, seeing the Atlantic ocean, snorkeling, and having a vacation where I literally could just lay on the beach and do nothing.  It was also my first getaway with Paul since our honeymoon (which was eight years ago).  After graduating, this is exactly what Paul and I needed.  I'm ready to go back.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sad

Sometimes I feel there is this expectation for me to be the chipper comic relief, and I don't know how to reconcile that image with the reality that I'm not always happy.  When I had postpartum depression, it was slightly easier to be more open about how I felt.  First, I was too apathetic and exhausted to keep up the cheery facade, and second, because I had something to blame for my mood. I never said, "I'm depressed."  I would say, "I'm struggling with postpartum depression," like it was a separate being responsible for all of my woes, and I was the hormonal martyr.  For the past couple of months, I've had some familiar recurring negative thoughts and emotions I've have tried not to own up to, but here I am, typing away on my laptop, searching for something uplifting write about but unable to shake these unmistakable feelings.

I am sad.

There.  I said it.  I am sad, and I think it all began when I graduated.

Have you ever dreamed about something for so long that when you actually got to live that dream, you found it disappointing?  You know what I mean.  It’s like that weird fish fast-food restaurant in your home town you craved for years until you revisited the establishment as an adult and realized there is better food in the frozen section of Walmart.  Or that movie that all of your friends saw and wouldn’t shut up about it, but when you finally Redboxed it a year later, you find the picture rather lackluster.  Or, heaven forbid, it’s like that dress you’ve been drooling over on Pinterest, and when you finally venture out to a far-away outlet mall to try it on, it makes your shoulders look like a linebacker and your head appear shrunken. (#thestruggleisreal) Well, that was the level of disappointment I experienced after finishing my bachelor’s degree. Times ten.

Every spring, flowers burst from the ground and birds fill the trees, sounding their trumpets to announce winter is over.  Baby animals huddle beneath their mothers as the remnants of snow melt away.  The grass grows greener as popcorn pops on the apricot trees, and every spring, Facebook erupts with graduation pictures.  My feed looks like a Josten's catalog.  For years, I have concealed envy with copious amounts of "congratulations" as I watched friends and family obtain the one thing I thought I never would: a degree.  Heck, Paul even got two.  Occasionally, I would even watch celebrity graduation speeches circulating across the interwebs, and I just knew that being handed a degree would be a completely transformative experience.  Suddenly, my veins would pulse with wisdom.  People would stop and listen when I spoke.  My children would forever respect me.  It would be magical.

That didn't happen.

I graduated by clicking submit on my final assignment.  There was no pomp.  No circumstance.  No pulsing wisdom.  There was just silence, emptiness and an unreal feeling about the whole thing.  At the time, I did not understand why, but as the weeks dragged on, the reality of my situation became clear.  I missed school.  It's not that I missed the late night writing sessions or the mountains of reading.  I missed the daily human interaction and intellectually stimulating conversations that took place on the discussion boards.  I missed talking about world issues and how we would solve them.  I missed positive feedback from my teachers and peers as well as the constructive feedback which helped me grow.  It almost seems childish to admit, but after graduating, I felt lonely.

I'm not one to just stew in my feelings, so I am trying to stay active.  I have been appointed to the PTA council, buried myself in Girls Camp preparations, and have immersed myself in personal writing projects, but there are still days (like today) when the loneliness seeps up through the cracks in my schedule, and I just feel sad.  Is it okay if I feel that way?  Will you think less of me?


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Waiting

During my first pregnancy, many well-intended folks ventured that my delivery would be similar to my mother’s delivery with me, so when my midwife mentioned Annie’s due date was December 12th, I immediately attempted some mental math.  You see, I was born twenty days late.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I was TWENTY days late.  That’s one day short of three weeks and one week shy of a month!  It’s a wonder my mother loves me at all with what I put her through!  Anyway, as a first-time mom, I wanted my daughter’s birth to be perfect, and to me, perfect meant on time so I could take copious amounts of infant pictures underneath the Christmas tree.  However, if my daughter had the audacity to float around in her prenatal prison for an extra three weeks, she not only would not be born in time for Christmas, but she would be born in an entirely new year.  For tax reasons, Paul was equally concerned about that.  This fear ignited a fiery anxiety in me that only grew the closer I got to December 12th.  When the actual day arrived and my infant seemed content in her watery world, I cried, and I don’t mean shed a couple gentle tears.  I mean I spent the entire day stealing away to quiet spaces so I could wear my pity-party party hat without drawing too much attention to myself. Something deep down in my womb gut was positive that by not entering the world by her due date, my daughter was destined for a January birthday.

I can look back on December 12th with grand amusement now because just one hour after the day concluded, I went into labor and had my daughter in my arms before supper.  However, at the moment, the prospect of waiting for an indeterminate amount of days was more traumatic than the birth itself.  This just goes to show how much I hate waiting.  Man oh man, do I hate waiting.  I’d like to think I possess quite a few virtues.  Humility, integrity, morality, nobility, decency, masculinity, and probably any other virtues ending in ‘y.'  Patience, however, does not end in ‘y,' which is probably why I find this trait so elusive.

Recently, I have been plagued with much waiting. At the end of February, Paul learned that he had been nominated to join the executive team on a retreat in April to Cancun, Mexico.  It was an entirely unexpected but completely welcomed break from the rigors of life.  Unfortunately, because we had no plans on leaving the country anytime soon, we needed to quickly procure passports as to not miss the trip.  The kind passport lady said it could take up to six weeks for our passports to arrive by mail. She also had to take our birth certificates and told us to keep an eye out for those too.  Likewise, since I had just graduated, I was waiting for my diploma, and during this time, Paul renewed his driver’s license.  With so many sensitive documents floating around the postal sphere and a recent mail theft plaguing our sense of security, the wait seemed painfully long.  Each day I checked the mail only to find grocery store fliers and credit card come-ons escalated my anxiety to the point that had to hold back tears as I dumped my junk mail into the recycling bin.  It seems so silly now that everything has arrived safe and sound, but my impatient self doesn't care.  It’s like waiting transforms me into a caged animal.  You would think after twenty-seven years on this great green earth, I would have finally earned my patience badge for my virtue sash, but alas.  I think the older I’ve gotten, the harder waiting has become.  After all, every day is a day closer to death and yet another day that I’m not in Cancun.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March Favorites

March was a month where the universe conspired against me.  I had all of the best intentions to clean, organize, hem curtains, be perfect, that kind of stuff.  Instead, I spent most of the month sitting on the couch.  Still, I managed to stumble across some favorites I thought I would share.

March Favorites
Meal of the Month
We ate (and regurgitated) some pretty excellent meals this month, but this lovely combo is our new favorite. Applesauce, electrolyte-replenishing drink, and oyster crackers. This mixture of bland and smooth is easy on the palate and the stomach.  It also comes up nicely if that pertains to you.  It did to us.  Both of my children and I got hit with the pukies in March, so having these ingredients on hand was a must.

Humidifier
Our old humidifier sounded like a jet engine, and since humidifiers are mainly used at bedtime, you can imagine the roaring sound of turbines and crushed birds was not conducive to restful sleep. When Sam came down with the croup at the beginning of March, I purchased this ultrasonic/ultra-quiet humidifier from Walgreens.  It works perfectly, so perfectly it warps doors so they won't close and dampens every surface of my children's tiny rooms.  Still, this whisper-soft machine came in handy again when Annie contracted pneumonia later in the month.  A worthy investment, I'd say.

Diffuser
My mother-in-law gave us this diffuser for Christmas, and it ran almost every night this month. Whether it was diffusing a breathing formula for coughs and sniffles or a stomach formula for yucky tummies, it was an indispensable part of our healing process.

Party Pails

My kids are pukers.  They puke when they have the flu, run a temperature, take ibuprofen, get congested, don't eat enough, eat too much, cry too hard, or ride in the car.  Neither like the idea of sticking their faces in the toilet, so these old ice cream buckets have saved my life too many times to count, especially this month.  My kids have one under their beds at all times, and we have an extra in the bathroom. Highly recommend.

New Bedspread
When we moved into this house, the decorative touches the previous owners added to the master bedroom highlighted how incredibly pathetic our furniture and blankets appeared.  Over the last year, we [finally] bought a real bedframe, some clearance art for the walls, curtains, and this month, a new bedspread.

Where this room used to look dark and bleak, it now feels comfortable and cheery.  I have taken sooo many pictures of this new quilt (kind of like I did with the bookshelves) because, after almost eight years of marriage, I finally have a bedroom that reflects me. AND IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.

New Fridge
After over a year of struggling with our decrepit fridge, our tax return allowed us to replace it. The old fridge dripped buckets of water down the back that, if not collected in tupperware, would fill the produce drawers or pool in the bottom until it leaked through the door seal and created a puddle on the floor.  Anything sitting in the back of the fridge would freeze solid, but the ice maker in the freezer didn't work at all. The deli drawer wouldn't open half of the time because it was frozen shut, and that was the last straw because no one gets between me and my cheese.  Rediculous.  The new fridge is a vast improvement.  It has a working ice maker, no leaks, and we are loving having filtered water on the door. 10/10 love this fridge.

Well, March. It's been real. It's been fun.  Ain't been real fun though.  Bring on April.  I have a good feeling about April. :)

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 kid to 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....

Lightbulbs

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....

Headphones
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.


Poldark
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.

Naps
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.

Paul
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.