Monday, December 30, 2013

One of those days.

My husband left his work computer at home this morning.

I noticed it when I stumbled downstairs after Finn crawled back into bed with me and informed me in his sweetest voice that he got everything ready for breakfast and it was time to eat now.  I thought he had just gone to the bathroom, but apparently he went downstairs - all the way down to the kitchen where I can't hear anything from all the way up in my room - and pulled out everything he would need to make his breakfast.  Last time he tried this particular trick he actually poured the cereal and milk in his bowl and also all over the counter, step-stool, and floor, so I was fearful of what might greet me in the kitchen before coffee. Luckily this morning he wanted hot cereal.  He knows about the stove - for mamas and daddies only! - so he just had everything laid out on the counter with the precision of a surgeon: cereal box, marshmallows, milk, spoon, bowl, bread, knife, spoon for jelly, jelly.

I pushed start on the coffee (because I get that shit ready the night before) and proceeded to make coco-wheats with marshmallows while Finn told me he would put the bread in the toaster and he push the button down and explained that he needed to get dressed soon so he could have all day clothes day but that I could have all day pajama day (so benevolent, my son) and could I please make the marshmallows into the shape of an n and what starts with n and he needed to test to jelly to "make sure it didn't get solid." Solid is Finn-speak for poisoned; I always tell him that I have to test his food - french fries, Halloween candy, ice cream cones, chocolate cake - to make sure they are not poisoned.  It stems from years trick-or-treating in the world's smallest town and being unable to eat our candy until our parents looked it over to make sure the packages weren't tampered with, there were no needles in our Butterfingers, and crack-cocaine wasn't moonlighting as a box of Nerds. It was the 80s...drugs were everywhere and parents needed to be vigilant. I'm just carrying on as my mother before me did: vigilant.

Anyway, I drank three cups of coffee while Finn ate his breakfast.  I read a chapter of my book (I'm trying to make this one last because it is so good) and then I watered some plants.  It's Monday and that's plant watering day - and the sun is sort of out, so I had to put them all on the kitchen table to soak it up.  I drank another cup of coffee and read another chapter of my book.  Finn dumped the rainbow rice on the floor and made 3 trips down to the kitchen with various construction trucks and dinosaurs.  I stepped an a million little rice grains to get the load (from yesterday) out of the dryer.  I read another chapter in my book, drank another cup of coffee and contemplated what needed to get done today.  I ignored the mental list and read another chapter.  I talked myself into taking out the trash and the compost (it's 20 below here; it takes some mental preparation to go outside when it's that cold but it's garbage man day, so it needed to be done).

Finn decided, in the midst of his field of rainbow rice, that he needed to take a morning bath.  I obliged and loaded the tub with hot water and bubbles, tossed him in and snuggled on my bed to read another chapter.

Now - usually on extremely lazy days like this, I make sure that by the time my husband comes home from work in the evening, everything looks presentable and the day appears to have been somewhat productive. The dishwasher has been emptied, the living room and library have been tidied of random books and hotwheels, the kitchen counters are wiped down and the chairs are pushed in around the table.  There aren't any coats and mittens laying around and the couch cushions are neat and orderly.  When I worked, I always liked to come home from a long day to a semi-neat house and I feel like it's a nice thing to do for my husband when he comes home (does that sound very circa-1950? I don't change my apron, apply fresh lipstick or pinch my cheeks to give them some color before he get's home, though.).

Today, however, it was only 11:30 - I had the whole day ahead of me to get my 1950s housewife on.  And then I heard the door open and heavy feet coming up the stairs.  It was one of two things: either Finn and I were about to be made into sausage by a crazed lunatic or my husband popped home in the middle of the day.  And then I remembered the work computer left on the coffee table.  Knowing that he had to step over 12 million grains of rainbow rice in the kitchen, walk through a maze of trains and hotwheels, bypass sloppy couch cushions and come upstairs to find me snug in bed with a book and our son taking what is referred to in our house as a "day bath," I was secretly hoping for a crazed lunatic.

My husband knows that I work hard for this house; dinner is made in a timely manner, clothes are washed and put away, I can be counted on to dust occasionally, the floor usually gets swept, the bathroom is almost always clean and I make the bed most days.  But we have had some heated discussions about just what gets done around the house on a daily basis and individual contributions (his and mine) and stimulating my kid's brain isn't always readily apparent to the naked (albeit tired) eye.  So it's days like today when I seem to have made his argument for him - still in my jammies, reading, in bed at nearly noon! - that I feel like a stay at home mom failure.

I know that I'm not - I know that some days require getting dressed and slapping on mascara and some days require little more than a marathon of stories and painting and glue and scissors.  Today is the latter.  Our house will look relatively put-together when my husband gets home this evening; there will be new Finn artwork on the refrigerator door and all the freshly-watered plants will be off the kitchen table and back in their normal spots.  I will have swept up rainbow rice at least three times. There will be a plate for him to heat up and we will chat idly about our respective days while he eats his dinner.  It's just that my daily summary will be somewhat short: finished my book, cleaned a little, painted with dinosaurs.

Monday, December 23, 2013

About writing. Or not writing.

Usually Uriah and I spend our evenings discussing the intricacies of his job and I'm fine with that because, you know, he brings home the paycheck and all; I just cash it and spend it.  I'm a trophy wife like that. I'm happy to be supportive and pass judgement and tell him how to do his job because I don't actually have to do his job (although I could.  How hard can it be to cook for a bunch of people?  Actually, don't answer that.  We got in a huge argument over that statement one night.  I guess it's harder than I give him credit for. Allegedly.).

Last night, however, we talked about my job.  Or lack there of.  Or dreams of.  Or whatever.  I don't really have a job.  Raising kids is a job, yes, I know.  But I don't get a paycheck or my 15 minute break.  I don't accumulate vacation time and I sure as shit can't take any sick days. On the plus side...1:30pm and I'm still in my jammies. Without a bra. I guess that's what one would call a fringe benefit. Anyway, I told him that once again I felt unfunny, that life has dealt some nasty blows lately and I can't seem to find the humor in my days, even though I know it's there. I felt that nothing I had to say had merit; that when I sat down to write, there was a big, fat blank screen staring at me.  If it had a voice, it would be British and it would probably heckle me.  Also, it would look like my sister-in-law's cat while it heckled me because I think that cat does, in fact, hate me. It probably doesn't help that I whisper to him every time I see him that he'd make a great pair of fluffy slippers.

But back to last night...I told Uriah that my kids are annoying.  Abby is lazy and Finn can't clean up his own messes without a major meltdown.  I hate it when he takes all of the cushions off of the couch and jumps on them, regardless of how many times I tell him not to.  I don't really care about the cushions, we need a new sofa, anyway, but it's wrong to send the message that jumping on furniture - no matter how crappy - is okay.  So I tell him to put the cushions back up and then he cries and flails his arms and bemoans how nobody likes him. When I suggest things for either of them to do, I get eye rolls and angry huffs of air, and "Seriously? Why is your cure for boredom cleaning?" and "But I don't want to do that!"  You can guess which kid says what, but that's actually a trick question because their responses are interchangeable .  And really, who wants to read about someone's annoying kids?  I mean...I like to read about people's annoying kids because it makes me feel less alone, but maybe I'm the minority on that one. And for the record, my kids aren't always annoying.  Sometimes they're funny and delightful and precious. And that time is bedtime. Just kidding.  But not really.

So I sit down to write and...I don't write. I do anything but write. Like right now, I feel like sweeping and dusting the stairs and the banister and all of the baseboards and woodwork in our whole house because they are so amazingly disgusting.  I notice that kind of stuff when I'm sitting here, staring off into space. And when I was on Pinterest, I pinned a "towel refresh recipe" whereby you use hot water and vinegar and then an extra rinse and voila!  Suddenly your towels are back to their original fluffiness and are not filmy and gross. You can go here to get it. You're welcome. The thing is, though, I didn't really notice that my towels were filmy and gross, but now I think they are and now I think I should take all of my towels out of every closet and drawer and refresh them.  Even though I just washed a load of towels on Saturday.

That's the kind of stuff I do when I'm writing but not writing.

My New Year's resolution is to try not to care so much.  Uriah hit the nail on the head last night when he said that I care too much about what people think about what I feel I have to say, even though people probably are giving my writing less thought than I think they are. (Holy crap that was a very long, run-on sentence that might not make the point I wanted it to.  But I'll leave it anyway.) He also said that once Abby figured out that I write, and sometimes about her, I immediately censored all the things that I write.  That is a fact. And I'm having a hard time with that, because let me tell you...teenagers are hard to raise - and raise well - and sometimes a lovely vent in the form of a haiku about annoying teenagers is in order.  But then my conscience kicks in and I think: Will she be offended?  Will she understand the undercurrent of sarcasm in this post? And so I stop writing about what it was I was going to write about.

The fact is, I could write a million little posts about how not to teach a tween to shave her legs, how not to react when your kid tells you her friends are "engaged," and especially the right and wrong ways to tell your husband that aforementioned kid's friends are going on birth control. Father's tend to have strong feelings about daughters and boyfriends and shit like that and when sharing news that could potentially be upsetting, approach with caution. Do not, under any circumstances, share startling news via text message. Anyway...all that to say I think I need to refresh my blog because this one has gotten old and a little stale.  Sort of like my towels.  It needs to be rinsed back to its original fluffiness.  And by fluffiness, I mean, funny, cheeky stories about our somewhat boring and irreverent life.

The thing is...our kids say and do funny stuff. Uriah and I say funny stuff to each other all the time.  We are constantly making each other laugh. Last summer I told him that I would be commandeering our neighbor's yard because I didn't think they'd last very long during the zombie apocalypse and I obviously would need a spot close by for my horses (I'm certain when the zombie apocalypse happens, there won't be cars anymore and I will need a mode of transportation: hence, the horses).  He was appalled, not because of the demise of our neighbors - he agreed with my assessment, actually - but because he didn't think I'd know how to take care of horses.  To which I responded, it's probably a lot like hard can it be?

We dream of having a radio show, but it would have to be satellite radio because I don't think our penchant for using cuss words, sarcasm and strong Minnesota accents would be appropriate for most audiences.   So, in lieu of an uncensored radio show where I read the local DNR report in my best Minnesota voice...more of that weird uncensored blog stuff that makes up our life coming soon. Or maybe a vlog (that's a blog video, in case you were uninformed) of me reading the news...oh, the possibilities...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On my mind:

I cleaned the fish tank today.  It was disgusting.  Almost as disgusting as my wedding ring, which I also cleaned today after suffering a minor heart attack because Finn hid it - or rather, he "buried a treasure" yesterday while we were making Christmas cookies and I didn't realize it was missing until this morning when I went to put it on and it was in neither of the places I usually keep it when I take it off.  Luckily I found it, but not before standing on the edge of a very imminent panic attack, complete with sweaty palms, racing heart and spots in front of my eyes.  Back to the fish tank.  I think this is exactly why we do not have a dog. Dogs require a lot more work than a bath every couple of weeks and feeding them when you happen to remember.  I happen to remember to feed the fish about twice a week.  And still he does not die.

I've been doing a 5-day health/fitness challenge - not very long, but it's about accountability and getting back on track, two things that I've desperately needed lately.  Today is Day 4 and I feel pretty good.  I've been to the gym 3 days in a row, as my screaming calves will attest to, and I've been drinking so much water I've been considering new paint colors for both bathrooms in our house due to the insane number of times I'm in there daily.  I haven't peed this much since I was pregnant with Finn.  But I feel less "snacky," which is pretty awesome because Snacks is my middle name.

I need to work on giving my son a larger variety of lunch options.  That's not true, actually, I give him plenty of options, he just veto's everything in favor of pb&j.  Every single day for lunch.  And usually his request for dinner, too, but I abstain.  Pb&j is a lunch item only.  Today he was forced to have pb&honey having consumed the last of the jelly yesterday and Lord, how he suffered.  He ate it, but he was not happy about it. I checked Pinterest for some toddler-friendly lunch options.  I have some ideas for tomorrow's lunch and I guess that's what matters. I try not to force him to eat everything on his plate, but I do require he tries everything.  So far it hasn't blown up in my face and I feel like he eats until he's full and that's good enough for me.

Abby starts her Christmas break after school today and she doesn't go back to school until January 6th. Once again we'll be going through some growing pains as we work out a new daily "normal."  When I say "we," I mostly mean Abby and me.  She's going to want to "sleep-in and hang out with her friends" because "she's on break" and I still need to come up with some chores and things for her to do because - seriously? - no one is sloughing off during a 17-day break. Things can get cleaned and organized (like closets and her room, which doesn't even look like I stepped foot in it a couple of weeks ago).  I continue to be blow away by how smelly and scatter-brained 14 year old girls can be.

I have 3 different kinds of Christmas cookie dough in the refrigerator right now.  Yesterday, as Finn and I were making some more sugar cookies (piggies that double as grizzly bears and westie dogs - all present and accounted for at the birth of Christ, I guess) I kept wondering why I only make these particular cookies at Christmas time.  Does it make them more special?  I suppose so, but would they be less special if, say, I made them in June?  Does their "once a year" status mean that I have a free-pass to snack on all of them?  That's where my brain has been in the past, and why I made the dough to begin with - because it's Christmas, and at Christmas I make chocolate drops and gingerbread men and Russian tea cakes - but now I'm staring at the dough and thinking of all the cookies they're going to make and wondering just who is going to eat all of those cookies?!  I think I will make them and put them in the freezer and we will have some Christmas in June this year.

We have a Christmas tree up, but have yet to decorate it.  Uriah's been busy and working late.  Finn's been up early and subsequently going to bed early, so we haven't all been awake and at home at the same time.  It looks sparkly and it smells good and if we don't get any decorations on it this year, I guess that will have to be good enough for me.  I've been moving our little elf around the house each night.  It's fun for Finn to look for him and the first thing he says when he snuggles into bed with us each morning is: "Let's go find where Reginald is this morning!"  It's usually about 6:30, numbers I don't really recognize as an actual time.  We wait about a half an hour before getting up, but no one is asleep.

It's nearly dinner time and I have been looking forward to dinner all day - I got some salmon at the grocery store this morning after I went to the gym (it seems so healthy to say that, but truly, I was on the treadmill thinking about Christmas cookies and I decided I needed something really healthy for dinner tonight to balance those sweet thoughts).  I'm going to roast some veggies to go with it - Brussel's sprouts, sweet potatoes and grapes.  Finn lost his skittle's for a minute (the witching hour before dinner) so instead of losing my own mind, I redirected him and we counted potato chunks and Brussel's sprouts.  I had to remind myself to use phrases like: take one away, add two more, how many total.  It's the only "preschool" stuff we did today, but there was snuggling and playing his current favorite game: dark in the tent (wrap a blanket around us - the tent - and then turn on and off the flashlight) and he sang most of the words to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so I'm considering it a successful learning day. Abby's asked to stay the night at a friend's house after I already had everything ready to go into the oven, so I guess we'll have salmon and veggies for lunch tomorrow, too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday, I feel as though you are the new Monday.

We are still in our pajamas.  The bells have already rang lunch and I can't believe this morning is gone.  The sun is high today but the wind is bitter.  All of my plants are reveling in some Vitamin D in the kitchen; I think I should join them, maybe curl up in a sunbeam on the kitchen floor and just forget the world.  It has finally warmed up to zero degrees and I am waiting once again for laundry pipes to thaw so I can do a load or 2 of laundry.  My camera will not connect to my computer and it is full of fun pictures from celebrating Abby last night (she turns 14 today and Uriah works late tonight, thus the celebration yesterday).  My frustration level is high - especially since I just dumped my camera on Sunday and it worked fine and today it decided to crap its pants.  It probably doesn't help that our computer is old and probably plotting to give up its ghost (which means I have to back everything up to the external hard drive today or risk an even bigger melt-down if it does die).  I guess I will have to write about having a 14 year old tomorrow, but in case you need a dose of the Birthday Girl today, you can find some stellar Abby posts here, here, and here.

Fourteen.  Does this somehow feel bigger than 13?  Yes, I believe it does.  Inching and ticking closer to complete independence.  College visits just around the corner.  Boy-girl parties on her radar.  I think we are all of us in this house aging quicker than I find comfortable.

Finn is whining because he has to clean up the mess that he made in the living room (game chips all over, Christmas books strewn from one end to the other, and every single cushion and pillow pulled off of the couch). Cabin fever has set in.  10 minutes outside might not be so bad, if it were just a few degrees warmer. His ploy to get me to help him when I use my firm voice: "You're scaring me.  Nobody wants to be my friend today."  I can assure you, the sad eyes and the pouty mouth do not work on me.  And if I have to repeat "You put the red chips in the red bag, the blue chips in the blue bag, the yellow chips in the yellow bag, and the green chips in the green bag," one more time, I may have to go out into the frigid back yard myself just to adequately cool off.

Maybe aging and preschool and college aren't such bad things after all...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cold & snow & turkey & elves

We hosted Thanksgiving again this year - the 2nd year in a row - and we continued with the Turducken theme of last year.  Another theme that was repeated?  Snow.  And lots of it.  We picked people up from and dropped them off at the airport in snow.  About 20+ inches of snow in a two-day period.  And our snow blower is broken (who has a broken snow blower in Minnesota in December?!).  So, yes - shoveling the old-fashioned way was necessary!

It's common knowledge that I revoke my own license when the snow starts falling in earnest and this year is no different.  I can toodle around town a little bit once the roads have been cleared, but I get major-highway and hill anxiety if I have to do more than run to the grocery store.  So what possessed us to live in an are that gets a million zillion snowflakes a year?  Well, it is beautiful (from the warm confines of my home!).  And I love the summers here - not too hot, not too cool.  I'm like Goldilocks of the north land - it's mostly just right.

Anyway, as I dig through my pictures of the past week with my family I will share.  It was...epic.  So much food, 19 people for Thanksgiving dinner, a round of illness (not in any way related to the dinner), more hooch than you can shake a stick (or a beer can) at, pies that didn't get eaten and now sit in my freezer, Jac's first steps, birthday cake, maple ice cream, loads and loads and loads of laundry.  I am equal parts happy and exhausted and still picking myself up from the week.

Our elf, Reginald VanWinkle, made his appearance this week.  In spite of my planning and calendar, he was a few days late.  Not that it mattered too much, Finn doesn't even know the days of the week yet.  It's a more laid back year for RVW this year.  Last year he had a lot to do, which you can check out here and here.  This year he's more into hiding and snowball fights and reading.

I had big plans for preparing my kids for Christmas this year, but every good intention got over-taken by planning for Thanksgiving and now my energy level is spent.  We do have an Advent wreath this year, and we light a candle and read a little prayer at dinner time each night.  I did not do 24 Days of Christmas Books this year, in spite of the treasure trove of new books I found that I bought at the end of the season last year.  Instead I have them spread all over the coffee table in the living room so we can read them and look at the pictures whenever we want.  And Finn does so, often!  We've been taking advantage of the Christmas movies on Netflix and hot cocoa with marshmallows.

Today Finn and I are going to make some sugar cookies for our religion kids tomorrow.  Abby's fighting a cold and stuffy nose, so she get's to stay far away from any food preparation/dishes because I do not want those germs spreading.  We've been listening the The Best Christmas song list ever (remember when mixed tapes/CDs were so cool to make?!).

I'm hopeful that some Santa cookies will put me in the Christmas spirit (and not the napping spirit!) because I still need to figure out some Christmas cards this afternoon and I found a paper mache ornament project that I think Finn would have fun with.  Honestly, though...the Christmas movies and couch are definitely calling my is the weekend, after all!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cleaning out the cobwebs.

I cleaned Abby's room this week.

You're probably asking yourself: isn't she 13?

Yes, she is.  Actually, she will be 14 next month.  And yes, sometimes I still have to purge her room of all the things that make her a prime candidate for an episode of Hoarders.

When she was younger - because I never really lived with her when she was little, just younger - and after she came to live with us full-time, I would clean her room about every other month or so.  Somewhere towards the end of that six week time period I could no longer live with the tiny bits of paper on her floor or the piles of dis-robed Barbies or the 824 Littlest Pets that were living in every nook and cranny in her room. When I was working full-time, we'd all pitch in and clean the apartment on Saturday - Uriah and Abby did their parts while I worked Saturday morning, and then I got my chores done Saturday afternoon while Uriah worked, sometimes enlisting Abby's help, depending on what she'd done with Uriah in the morning.  Usually her task was to clean her room, because for the most part, she contained her scatter to her own room.

We lived in a small apartment, which I love to this day, and even though we haven't lived there for years I still sometimes get homesick for our first little nest.  The three of us were crammed together in two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen not much bigger than a closet, and I'm sure I would have lost my mind a million times if her mess was everywhere.  It still managed to trickle its way down the hall and onto the kitchen table or into the living room, but she learned that those messes in the "common areas" had to be cleaned up before she moved on to something new.  She could usually get by for a few days by telling me that she had a game going with her Polly Pockets or Littlest Pets and that was the reason for the urban sprawl on her bedroom floor.  And I usually let her get away with it for a few days.  But at some point, she needed to clean up her room (usually by Saturday afternoon), and that usually involved her shoving all manner of papers, pencils, markers, books, toys, broken crayons, and dolls into her closet, into toy bins, and under her bed.  I think her goal was to shove her stuff anywhere she could get it out of my sight, but still hang to each and every small scrap of paper, nub of crayon, dried out marker.

There always came a breaking point, usually when I'd open her closet only to be bombarded by the most awful smell and an avalanche of crumpled paper pieces and all-around junk.  That's when the big black garbage bags came out and purging began the crying started.  She would sit in the doorway and sob over every little piece of paper, every broken game piece, every item of clothing she had out-grown.

It took a few years for me to really wrap my mind around why she holds onto things with such a tight fist. When she came to live with us, the decision was immediate.  There was no taking her back to her Illinois home and packing a suitcase or her toys; she got in our car and we drove to Kansas City.  She was wearing a pink and orange dress and sandals and I hung that dress in the back of her closet and she never wore it again.  Of course, when we got to our apartment, she had her "Kansas City clothes" and her "Kansas City toys," but up until that point those were kind of like special things because she didn't get to play with them that often - really only twice a month.  The clothes weren't her regular clothes - her "Illinois clothes," and the toys weren't the ones she'd grown up playing with and had to leave behind.  It was a long time before we got a box with any of her belonging.  She was so happy when that box finally, finally came years later, I think she had anticipated something like that coming for her for so long, but I could tell she was disappointed when she opened it; she'd outgrown everything in the box and I think the feelings she had about that stuff were mixed.  Good memories and bad memories equally wrapped up in Barbie clothes and books and smells from a past life.  While she was an every-other-weekend kid, we'd refer to her "Kansas City home" and her "Illinois home," two completely different lives that she'd had to balance between.   It took years before we were able to stop differentiating between the two and when she talked about "home," we knew she was referring to us.

So when I was cleaning her room and throwing away garbage bags of paper pieces and crayon nubs and pencil shavings; as I loaded up bags with outgrown t-shirts and shorts that will not fit next summer, I had to breathe deeply and remind myself how far we've come.  The stuff in her room?  It's just her stuff and most of the junk is there because she's a teenager and she can be really, really lazy (What? Take that piece of paper to the garbage can all the way across the room?  Nah, I'll just shove it here, under my bed.). And while she's certainly no longer worried about being pulled from the life that she has, old habits die hard and she still hangs onto things - because then she can say she has something from when she was little (which, for all intents and purposes, is 4th grade). I know it pains her a bit when she asks what her first words were or when she learned to walk. I don't have those answers.  But I can tell her that she's been head-strong for as long as I've known her.  I can repeat the "I am an American and I have rights" story until we are crying from laughing so hard.  It's funny now, and I can see so much of her strong personality already bubbling up when I look back on her childhood with us - short as it has been.  (For the record: I was not laughing when she asserted her "independence" not long after moving in with us and that was her argument for not having to listen to me).

She's well-adjusted. She has plans for the future and when she talks about where she'll spend her holidays when she's in college (less than 4 years from now), I have no doubt that she'll come home.  I will even help her clean out her dorm room at the end of her freshman year.  It will probably require lots of big black garbage bags and that's okay.

Certainly not the oldest picture I have of Abby, but pretty close.  The first Christmas cards we sent out as an every-other-weekend family, November 2007:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Previously Enjoyed.

A few years ago the happiest mail day was when Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel's newest catalog slid into my mail slot.  I could read those magazines and dream for hours, ignoring all manner of housework and dinner making. When we lived in Kansas City, blocks from the trendy shops on The Plaza, Uriah and I would spend our kid-free evenings walking through Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware and, for a brief while, Z Gallery.  Oh, the dreaming we did amid $90 sheet sets and thousand dollar couches (all right, I did the dreaming, Uriah kept trying to bring my champagne tastes back down to our water budget). 

Kids have changed so much in our lives, not the least of which is our budget for expendable income, which was tiny before and is now almost non-existent.  We happily used hand-me downs when Finn was born for everything from baby socks to bibs to toys to his car seat -and all manner of accouterments in between for the past 3 years. When Abby was younger and came every other weekend, she usually hopped in the car on Friday afternoon with just the clothes on her back, so we shopped sale racks and clearance racks and held our breath hoping that she wouldn't grow a lot in the two weeks between visits.  These days she relishes when her aunts clean out their closets as she is usually first on their list to go through the clothes and shoes.

Last weekend, Becca was in town - she is my person, my go-to-gal, and I am certain we were sisters in another life, maybe even twins (but probably not, because she likes to run 5ks and half marathons, and I like to run to the grocery store for my car),  She loves to thrift and antique and sift through junk as much as I do. After Sarah's shower last summer, we stopped at an antique mall south of the Cities and spent more time than we probably should have finding good deals.  We hit up the Duluth Junk Hunt when she was in town, which was successful for me, not so much for her, and we were hoping to get in a little junk fix up the shore at a flea market on Sunday, but they'd already closed for the season so we had pie instead, which I have to say, is not a bad alternative.

I'm slowly filling our home (which is an antique treasure in and of itself) with items that have been previously enjoyed...not necessarily antiques, because they're not worth a lot of money, and often times I paint them or re-purpose them away from their intended use.  

I still love looking at Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware - but now just for inspiration and ideas on how I can make some of those looks work in my home for way, way less.

The Half-Marathon Bachelorette Party.  I love, love, love the stool.  
And you can't ever go wrong with a vintage yellow Fiestaware bowl.

I knew I wanted something different and mis-matchy in my kitchen.  I collected all sorts of random chairs over the summer (my only stipulation was that they had to be functional, because I'm not really a fix-it girl and they had to be under $10).  I half consulted Uriah on color options and painted.  I did not use a primer.  They are a little chippy in spots, but I love that, and each has a different fabric on the seat.  I still have two more in the cottage that need to be painted, but the weather isn't really conducive for that now, so that project will probably wait until spring.

I bought the map print at an antiques shop that was more like an uncomfortable episode of hoarders - but since it was only 75-cents for two or three huge maps, I say - hoard away, sir!

These are my most recent thrift store purchases (as in: today).  Finn has discovered puzzles and I need more serving dishes for Post Thanksgiving 2013: Turducken II.  This Corningware dish is a 2-1/2 quart - so deep! - it will hold Potato Casserole just fine, I think!  I also found a pair of vintage pillowcases to make our flannel sheets feel a little less wintery.

Last weekend I got this old metal milk crate to put my piano books in (which had previously been in a precarious pile on top of the piano).  Once I got it home, I thought of about six other places that I could use those crates, they make awesome storage!  I will be on the look-out for these in the future.

My favorite thing to look for is vintage table cloths.  
I feel a little like a 1950's house-wife when I have a table cloth on my kitchen table.

Mostly, though, I like the feeling of giving something old a new lease on life.  Yes, the table cloths have stains on them, but that's probably because they were part of years of great dinner conversation.  My dining chairs need some wood glue fixes every now and then, they're a little wobbly and sometimes pieces fall off of them, but they have character and I can repaint them in 5 years if I get sick of their color (I probably won't though, they make me feel so happy when I look at them!).  And instead of buying a whole new set of sheets just for some happy pillowcases, I found a pair for a dollar!  I've had to dig a little and I've had to dig a lot, I've had to go out and search through some random (and a few questionable) garage sales.  But truthfully?  That's the fun part.  

That's what makes each item I find and add to our eclectic and mis-matched little home a treasure.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Seemingly overnight the wind blew in and took with it the leaves from the trees and the light from the sky.  I almost feel as though we should be getting into jammies and brushing our teeth for bed by five o'clock.  I'm planning a lot of soup and I light candles by four o'clock to ward off the gathering darkness.

Autumn is my most and least favorite time of year.  I love the crispness and the squashes in the grocery store and the onset of comfort foods for dinner.  I love flannel sheets and warm slippers and the way my hands feel around a cup of hot coffee in the morning.  I do not love full-blown night time by six o'clock, even if it is a little easier to get my small human ready for bed.

Our fall so far:

Finn grew his own pumpkin in our garden this summer and has been asking every day since July when it was going to be time to carve his pumpkin.  We finally carved it the day before we left for Kansas City, but we lit it up a few times when we got home.  Finn wasn't too keen on the squishy insides but was insistent on it having an angry face.  He also had to write his name on his pumpkin, which these days is a lower-case i, followed by a backwards upper-case F.    

Finn wanted to be a fireman for Halloween this year.  When Uriah and I went out for our anniversary, we stopped at every costume store in Duluth looking for a fireman for our small human. We found one at Target, but it was sized 3+, which means it was made for kids much bigger than Finn.  I was lamenting the fact that Finn was swimming in his costume to my mother-in-law and she said said she saw a costume at Costco and she'd check to see if they still had it.  Sure enough, she had one waiting in a 3T size for Finn when we got there on Halloween.  He did not wear his mustache trick or treating, apparently it "tickled." Abby, of course, is too old to trick-or-treat, but she wanted to dress up anyway to hand out candy.  When you're 13, it's really just an excuse to wear a lot of very heavy make-up (I believe that she calls it "smokey eyes") and some super high heels and call yourself a vampire.  And then she was resistant to having her picture taken with the small-ish cousins.  Go figure.

Finally this fall we have begun the process of raking and raking and raking the leaves.  I've already done one round.   I have piles in the yard that need to be bagged and taken to the community composting site. And I end up raking each pile at least 15 times because it is just too tempting for Finn to run through! He looks so cute, though, I forgive him and re-rake.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

There is always, always something to be thankful for.

I have a collection of Finneaus' hand in the shape of a turkey.

I didn't think to make a turkey out of his little 3 month old hand for his first Thanksgiving.  I wasn't on Pinterest then, maybe it hadn't even been invented.  And also, I was too busy keeping a squalling human alive that fall to think about things like turkey hand prints and Thankful trees.  But in 2011, his daycare ladies sent him home one day in November with two little turkey hand prints.  The paint was squishy and his hand looks like it's probably two sizes bigger than it actually was.  I guess that's what you get when you try to keep a 1 year old still for arts and crafts time.  But I thought it was the cutest thing - those fat little fingers making the turkey's face and feathers.  Last year I did it again - made a turkey hand print with his wiggly fingers.  And trust me, it's a little bit easier to keep a 2 year old still and his hand flat for the turkey.  Last year's turkey is so cute and perfect.  He laid his hands flat and the colors looked so good.

And this year?  You guessed it.  I did it again.  Only a 3 year old has a mind of his own.  This year Finn wanted to pick out his own colors and paint his own hand and make his own turkey.  This year his turkey body is orange and he has green and purple feathers and blue legs and eyes.  After a few very messy tries and some oddly shaped turkeys, I insisted that he let me make his turkey.  He could pick out the colors, but I was going to paint and hold his hand down in one spot on the paper so that it would resemble a turkey (albeit a very colorful turkey).  And he let me.  He sat still and we painted the body and the feathers.  We let it dry a little bit and added a beak and eyes and legs.  It turned out so cute.

This morning I compared the one that I insisted we do together and the sloppy, splotchy turkey that Finn created.  My turkey?  It looked good; it probably even looked like a Pinterest-worthy turkey.  Finn's turkey, with the blue dots for eyes and thick stick legs; the turkey with half of his orange body missing because he didn't quite paint his whole hand and water drops on the paper where his paint brush splattered.  Finn's turkey is perfect.

This smudgy, multi-colored turkey that he created all by himself will always remind me of that fall when I blinked and realized that my baby had turned into a boy.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Overheard & Said

  • "Mom, I'm just a little tired and crabby."
  • "Sharing makes me crabby and it makes me want to walk away."
  • F: "Mama, I need to go to school." | M: "What do you need to learn?" | F: "I need to learn to share."
  • "Mom!  My imagination is falling down!"
  • "Toothpaste is not a snack."
  • "Do NOT wipe your nose in books!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Patience: not a virtue in my house.

Yesterday we cleaned up the back yard, put away all of the summer stuff (sandbox toys, lawn chairs, bikes and wagons), the lawn mower and the snow blower traded places, and Uriah pulled down his ice fishing stuff (priorities, people).  Our snow shovels took up a forward position by the back door.  The wind chimes came down, I cleaned out one last garden for the season and the gutters were checked for excess junk.  The dark clouds moved in and the wind picked up.  A little bit of rain fell.  And Finn proceeded to ask every four minutes - all day long - when the snow was going to start.

It didn't really snow at all up here and Finn woke up in a bear of a mood because of it.  So while he moped around the house this morning, alternately looking outside and sighing heavily, and making a construction site all over my piano, I spent this morning doing the most mundane things known to man: finishing up the laundry, cleaning the fish tank and washing some windows.  And trying not to be frustrated every time I had to answer that the snow would come when it was good and ready.

For about twenty solid seconds, the snow came down in teeny tiny flakes during lunch and Finn pressed his sticky, jelly face right up against my freshly cleaned window and screamed with excitement and asked where his snow suit was.

And then the snow stopped.

He looked at me with his little brow furrowed and said through his teeth (his new way to talk when he's frustrated):  "That was not enough to fill up my back yard!"

This was 6 months ago. I'm okay with waiting a little bit longer for snow to fill up my backyard.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall into you.

Last night we celebrated being The Hefters.  Abby baby-sat Finn (for the first time alone and almost successfully.  Another story for another time, but I will tell you this: 3 year olds are the best nanny-cam ever. Given a little pressure, they crumble like a house of cards.), we got to power shop through a few stores to find Finn a Halloween costume, found out after waiting for 30 minutes that I'm not eligible for a phone upgrade until April (I should probably stop dropping mine), and Uriah let me dream in the Coach store for 10 whole minutes (I'm never brave enough to go in there with Finn in tow).  He told me that the 4 year anniversary present was not, in fact, a $400 purse ($100 for every year I've put up with him seemed logical to me).  We had dinner downtown and we made each other laugh.  A lot.  We might have decided that we should get a cat...strictly for writing-muse purposes only.  We ate ice cream in the car on the way home singing John Denver songs off-key (well, I sang them off-key, obviously not Uriah) and we ended the night in our favorite way...reading in bed.  (Oh, you dirty minds.  This blog is wholesome.)

And I told him this morning that I would choose him all over again.
In a heartbeat.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Decide what to be and go be it.

Every single song on my play list spoke to me at the gym this morning (yes, even the Eminen song that never fails to push me from a tra-la-la steady, light jog into run for your life, there's a giant freaking bear behind you!  You have no idea how much I need that motivation every. single. time. And yes, I get it from a white rapper who uses profanity.  We take it where we can get it).  And so I pushed myself a little harder, ran a little further, and as I worked on my breathing (so, so hard for me to master) I let my mind trip over the words blasting in my ears.

This has been swimming in my brain ever since: Decide what to be and go be it.

I want to write more, but instead, over the weekend we cleaned the house.  Fall cleaning, if you will.  We moved furniture and dusted and swept in places that hadn't seen a broom or a rag for months.  Words bubbled up in my brain as I was making beds and emptying the dishwasher and folding laundry.  And before I could put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) I was consumed with a 3 year old and trains and cars and the library and dinner and baths and bedtimes and church and we fell down tired into our beds every night; the weekend gone before I'd done something want to do.  Doesn't that sound selfish?

I want to write more, so in the midst of my cleaning frenzy over the weekend, I decided to carve out a space that would be conducive to writing - somewhere that I would feel creative and comfortable and inspired.  I've thought for a while now about bringing my computer out to the Artist's Cottage because I love that space, and as we were shoving and organizing in the house on Saturday morning, I told Abby we were moving my desk out to the cottage. It works because Finn can be in here with me and occupied (paints, play dough, car mat, dump trucks, puzzles) without me wondering how many not-so-secret cereal snacks he's going to sneak out of the kitchen (the boy is a bottomless pit already!).

I want to write more, and I've thought about writing the story of Uriah and me, something for our kids and our grandkids to have before we both lose our marbles and rock quietly next to each other in a rest home, our stories locked up inside our minds.  Of course, that story is entirely interwoven with Abby and how we got her and the court-house-shit-show that ensued for years (I'm eternally grateful to a youth spent reading Nancy Drew; I consider her my mentor), and I'm still trying to decide how that all works, because the story - while it is Abby's - is also integral to Uriah and me and the family we've fought for and struggled with and created.  But it will get started...that story, I mean.  Because it, too, is bubbling inside my head, looking for a way to get out.

I want to write more, so initiative taken.  Space created.

Decide what to be and go be it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Catching a mouse.

Yesterday Uriah's restaurant had a guest-chef event, which I couldn't attend know, kids, and since my husband was working, no date.  Anyway, it turns out they needed some cheese for the dessert course of the meal, so it fell to me and my copious amounts of stay-at-home-mom free time to drive into Duluth to pick up some fancy Minnesota cheeses. 

I made Finn a pb&j, plugged the address into my phone and we were off on a rainy adventure.  We drove through a really, really, really nice neighborhood and up to a really, really, really nice grocery store (I texted Uriah - later, because I do not text and drive, mom - that he needs to make more money because I found our next neighborhood.  He did not find that amusing.).  I immediately felt out of place with my no-make-up/windblown hair and my son and his semi-wet pants from playing at the park earlier, his rain boots, and his sticky jelly fingers and cheeks.  But we pressed the cheese mecca of Duluth.

Now, I like cheese. but I was overwhelmed; top that with the fact that this is for a meal being served by a James Beard Award Nominated chef (it's like the Oscars for Chef's.  It's a big deal.) and I had an anxiety attack right in the middle of the artisan cheese section.  My heart started beating really fast, my palms got sweaty, and Finn decided to use my distraction to his advantage and take off his sweatshirt, swing it around his head and sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider to all of the shoppers hovering over the fresh sushi case right behind us.  The cheese guy looked at me kind of crazy when I told him I needed 8 pounds of Minnesota cheese.  They didn't have a lot of Minnesota cheese options; Wisconsin, however, makes a crap-ton of cheese (I guess that's why they're called Cheese Heads?  Who knew...).  I probably called Uriah 3 or 4 times in my panicked state, trying to choose correctly.  He had a lot on his plate (which is why I was sent on this stupid errand in the first place) and really didn't care what I picked, but he tried to be helpful and keep the exasperation out of his voice when he said: "Just pick some, whatever you choose will be fine!"  Then the cheese guy showed me a cheddar cheese that was $80/pound and I knew I had to get away from him.  I made my frantic selections of Minnesota and Wisconsin cheeses, attempted to add the ounces and pounds up in my head (math is not my strongest subject) and prayed there would be enough.

I corralled my vocal son, who at this point had moved on to a rousing rendition of the Move It, Move It song from Madagascar (including some sweet dance moves) and we headed to pick up the last of the items on our list, which read (I kid you not): fancy tomato paste and Minnesota honey.

We finally made it to the check-out after avoiding a near-catastrophic melt-down in the soup aisle because there was a can of Cars soup with Mater on it that Finn felt he really needed to have.  We did not buy it.  I slung my basket on the counter, ready to be done with this chore from hell.

I was explaining to the check-out boy the reason for all the cheese when the sweet old man bagging my groceries told me that I should tell people I was trying to catch a mouse.  He then asked me - straight faced - to come back and tell him which cheese the mouse preferred.

$200 worth of cheese to catch a mouse.  I laughed all the way to the car.

From this morning.  I had all of my laundry sorted and ready to go when Finn decided to claim the clothes for himself.  He told me he was making islands for his boat.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Do Not Feed the Zoo Animals.

Some days are just like this: full of saggy red undies and jumping and eating chocolate chips out of the bag even after you've been told three times to stay out of the kitchen. They consist of not using listening ears and maybe peeing on the floor and insisting that he doesn't like what's for dinner because it's too spicy, which is code for: I just don't want to eat that.  And then there are the days that include bedtime at 7:15 - willingly and without fuss because we all knows it's been one of those days and we're both ready for it to be finished.

We will try again tomorrow for more patience.  Kinder voices.  And maybe a few more articles of clothing.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Artist's Cottage

When we moved into our house last year, there was an extra room attached to the garage.  A simple room with windows and electricity and heat.  You can safely bet that Abby begged for weeks to be able to use it as her bedroom.  You'd win the jackpot if you also bet that we firmly denied that request each and every time (Because, really?  A teenager in a room that is not connected to the main house?  No good can come of that).

I don't know if it was pitched to us as an extra cottage, or if we later found out that the previous owners were artists, but we took to calling it the Artist's Cottage and that is how we still refer to it today.  For the first few months the Artist's Cottage housed all of our moving detritus - the stuff we couldn't find an immediate home for.  Then winter blew in and it suddenly became a catch-all for our summer stuff - bikes and stroller and wagon and sandbox toys all found their winter respite in the Artist's Cottage.

We spent the winter dreaming big dreams for the space - my favorite being an extra guest bedroom. But that would require a little more work that we have time for during Uriah's busy season, so it continued to sit through the spring as extra storage space.  Finally early in the summer I gutted most of it.  I threw away a ton of junk, swept up a sandbox of dirt and rocks and dust.  I found homes for the items that needed to get out of there and organized the items that remained.

And suddenly it turned into an Artist's Cottage again.  We brought out all of the crayons, markers, craft stuff. The paints and the paint brushes, paper, coloring books and scissors, even the sewing machine all found their happy homes on the shelves of the cottage.  I strung up some string with clothes pins to dry pictures and I brought a bin of Uriah's old toys out for Finn to play with; I set up a very big table in the middle and stuck some of our folding chairs around it - giving space for imaginations and crafty ideas.

And over the course of the summer, Finn would ask me to open up the cottage for him and he'd play planes, or play-dough or color pictures.  Abby and her friends would visit in there and they even did a couple of paint craft projects.  We used it and we loved it.  But somehow, when I walked in there earlier this week, the play-dough had melted all over the table, the pieces of paper craft projects were scattered over the floor. The blow-up pool had found a temporary home in there, along with our charcoal, bird food, and a bag of quick-set cement.

In other words: the Artist's Cottage was more like an Artist's Junk Pit.  So I swept and organized.  I threw things away and stored things in the garage.  I scrubbed all the grody, melty play-dough off of the table and cleaned up the shelves. 

And although organizing that room was very, very low on my list of tasks to tackle this week, once again we can use the cottage for it's intended purpose: art and imagination.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Extended Stay

You'd think we hadn't seen each other for years and years.

It felt that way, actually.  It was a long week and I was pretty preoccupied - but worth every stressful moment to see how incredibly beautiful and happy my sister was on her wedding day.

We are snug at home now, with no plans to leave for extended periods of time for awhile.  But, you know, all that could change without notice.  Now we can focus on doing some preschool stuff during the week, planning for a visit from Uriah's parents and sister, and my list of things to accomplish is growing with every turn I take in the house - paint the bathroom, finish painting the dining room chairs, wash the windows, clean Finn's closets, bring up/air out cool-weather jackets, find a dry cleaner for the down comforter, get Abby's twin bed ready.  We also need to figure out something to do for our anniversary - a couple's massage sounds like a really, really good plan to me right about now! Abby's JV volleyball is in full-swing, so we also have to work around practice and games.  My mom's group starts up again soon, I'm wait-listed for Finn's once a week preschool class, and I've committed to teaching the 2nd graders religion this year.

I was deluded into thinking we wouldn't be busy...we're just busy in a different way.

I spent the morning diving into my recipes and past menus.  I think my week runs so much better when I'm not struggling to figure out what to make for dinner.  Abby has requested to take her lunch to school this year, so we're giving that a trial run.  I like to give her some variety - not just sandwiches, chips and fruit, so I'm making a list of lunch options, as well.  I planned out a month's worth of rotating breakfasts a while ago - some she can make herself and some I'll do for her on gym mornings.  (For the past month my gym mornings have been non-existent, but I'm hopeful to get back into them regularly starting tomorrow. No more "we're not home" excuses for me!).  Gym mornings will hopefully also turn into writing mornings - so long as Finn stays on his sleeping-in schedule, that is!

It's raining today but I promised Finn a trip to the library.  We've been infrequent visitors as of late and we both miss it, so we are going to put on our rain boots and our sweatshirts, grab our umbrellas and take a rain-walk this afternoon.

Happy (wet) Monday!

Monday, September 2, 2013


August was a brutal month of travelling for us.  We were away from our home more than we were in it - and we left Uriah behind more often than not.  Our one-day-a-week Family Funday that I had great expectations for fell off the map sometime in July and we never fully recovered.  

So here we are, school starts again tomorrow and the summer of great adventure is going to go down in Hefter Family History as the summer of mediocre adventure.  And lots of travel.  And lots of busyness.

We did not get to the Great Minnesota Get Together (aka: The Minnesota State Fair) but we did make an appearance at the Great Lake County Get Together (aka: The Lake County Fair).  We sampled the offerings of the beer garden, saw some chickens, let a baby cow lick our fingers, rode some kiddie rides and had mini-donuts.  

Abby lost her crap on the ride that drops you super fast.  We could hear her screaming the whole way down.  She begged to be able to meet her friends the following day - without parents - at the fair.  I guess this is what growing up means - more friend time, less family time.  We sent her off for the day with some money and the request to make good choices.  I guess that's all you can do. 

We took another mini-vacation to Leech Lake.  Uriah, of course, worked.  But we managed to get in a little family time on the "hontoon," as Finn calls it.  Lots of fishing - no catching.  Finn also learned to jump into the pool and even let me dunk his whole head under a couple of times...and by "let," I mean I just dunked him under a couple of times when I caught him.  He learned to hold his breath!  For as fearless as that boy is of the water, he needs to learn some basic swimming lessons soon!

Abby is awesome at being surly and 13.  She brought a friend along on our Leech Lake vacation and then promptly slept on the pontoon/fishing excursion.  Her friend, on the other hand, fished with Finn and Uriah.  My mom's advice is always to stick my tongue to the roof of my mouth; you can't say anything when you're busy keeping your tongue stuck up there and it avoids a lot of needless arguments.  I am getting awesome it and I remind myself daily that at some point she will grow out of this phase.  Please let me be delusional in thinking that it won't take her going to college for her to become human.  Teenagers...they think they know it all!

We had a bachelorette party for Sarah last weekend in southern Minnesota.  That area of Minnesota is so beautiful.  I should know, my pal Becca and I got lost walking on the bike trail for about 4 hours.  It's clear I learned nothing from my years as a Girl Scout.  No map.  No compass.  No idea where we were going.  We are poster-children for what not to do in the great outdoors.  Luckily we made our 10+ mile walk back to Sarah and she was only slightly annoyed that we left her sleeping in the tent.  Without a note. And with the car keys in my pocket.

School starts tomorrow for Abby.  I am very much looking forward to getting back into our routine and having some structure for our days.  Finn is still too young for pre-school, and, let's face it, I'm not ready for him to go even if he was old enough, but he was insistent that he get a back pack when we went back to school shopping last week.  He can wear it to the library, I guess.

Wedding week is upon us and then Uriah's parents are visiting and then it's our anniversary and my birthday.  And then, you's Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So, I'm really looking forward to January when the snows keep us home-bound for more than a few days at a time!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

{cricket chirp}

This summer, especially this month, has been a blur.  It's the end of August already and we have hardly even started shopping for back to school supplies and clothes!  Finn keeps asking me to sign him up for preschool (our once a week ECFE program) and is insistent that he needs a backpack.  He told me this morning he also needs to bring a lunch to preschool (he does not).  We've been away from our house (and our Uriah) more this month than we've been together, although we did get a mini-family-vaca last weekend.  And a whole, uninterrupted 24 hours with Uriah to swim and boat and build sandcastles together.

Summer weather has finally hit the north shore and it is hot and humid and I have fans everywhere and windows open wide in a vain attempt to get a cross breeze blowing through our house.  These are the two weeks of summer that I wish for an air conditioner.  I know that this too shall pass and I wish I could bottle up this heat so that in January I can remember the smell of humid grass in the early morning and clouds heavy with raindrops that do not fall.  In the meantime we are meeting some friends for a picnic and some swimming...a fun way to cool down.

And then we will pack up and leave again tomorrow.

Oh, summer...our love affair is fleeting.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A family obsessed.

A few weeks ago I brought home a fire pit.  

Uriah and I had been talking about getting one pretty much all summer, although Uriah was convinced that he could make one for us out of bricks and crap he was going to buy at Home Depot.  With the loads of spare time he has in the summer, I was certain it would be 20 summers from now by the time the awesome fire pit of his dreams was complete, so when I found one on clearance at the ShopKo, I popped on it. 

We have been obsessed ever since.  We have a fire as often as we can - weather and wood permitting - and I 've been loading my kids up on s'mores, because I think s'mores are the official bed time snack of summer.  Most nights we have our bed time snack around the fire pit (grahams, mallows, chocolate...what an awesome way to go to bed!  Last night we experimented with Rolos and the metly-caramel/hot marshmallow combo was amazing!) and then Uriah and I sit outside and have grown up time until the embers are glowing and the mosquitoes force us inside.

We should have done this a long time ago...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Text Message Tuesday

Em: Does Finn get highlights?
Me: Highlights like in his hair?  He just has awesome hair.  He totally gets it from me, although Uriah claims otherwise!
Em: Not hair the magazine.
Me: No shit! :) no he doesn't! I feel like such a dumbass...
Em: U r awesome.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Parade of Sail

The Tall Ships came to Duluth last weekend.  It was a pretty incredible spectacle for someone who's never seen anything quite so...well, tall - and piratey, before.  We met some friends down by the shore to watch the ships parade past us and into Canal Park.  It was a mess of boys - 5 between the three of us (plus one teeny, sweetie girl) and we were joined by two more boys before the afternoon was over.  And as you can imagine, where there is water and boys, there is sure to be wetness and swimming.  The "only go out up to your knees" rule lasted 12 seconds with Finn - he sat down in the lake almost immediately.  I did think ahead and I had a change of clothes for him, but only because wearing big boy undies is still so new and with playing with friends, I wasn't sure he'd remember to tell me when he needed to go, so I wasn't too terribly concerned when he got soaked, I was just hopeful he didn't have an accident, too, or we would have been in a heap of trouble.  I just took off his shirt and let him have at the water; it's where he's happiest, and he had dry shorts and undies for the drive home.

The boys watched the ships for about 12 minutes, and then it was more fun to throw rocks and climb rocks and slide down rocks and lay on rocks and they were entertained for the rest of the afternoon by each other, the waves, the rocks, and occasionally the cannons that the ships shot off.

Next time the tall ships come through (in a couple of years, I'm sure), Finn will be a little older and I think it would be fun to actually go for a ride on one of the ships, or at least go down to Canal Park and look at them up close.  He was just a little too little this year and his attention span is still a little too short for us to brave the masses of people that converged upon Duluth.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Strawberry Insanity

It's been a whole lot of strawberries up in here lately.  The last time we went strawberry picking was 2 summers ago, Finn couldn't walk and it was a hot Iowa day.  Needless to say, we didn't last long in that patch.  We tried to go last summer before we left Iowa, but by the time I got myself organized and had carved out some time in the midst of packing, we were too late.  It's just as well, I wouldn't have had time to do anything with those strawberries last summer anyway, I was just being optimistic.

This year was different and our bounty was 10-fold what we had two years ago.  I've got a board devoted to all things strawberry on my Pinterest page and I can't wait to try a few new recipes.  I managed to make 3 batches of jam.  I used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman because it's really easy and because it's in her new cookbook, which my husband gave me as a surprise "just because" gift last spring, so it was readily accessible.  The pages are now slightly sticky and stuck together.  Try not to shudder at the 10-1/2 cups of sugar per batch.

I've got a list a mile long of what I want to make with all of these strawberries - and considering I have about 5 gallon-sized bags in the freezer, it will surely take me through the winter.
  • Strawberry Popsicles are top on my list (although we've been hovering in the high 60s, low 70s, so it hasn't really been hot popsicle weather up here).
  • I want to make some more Strawberry Syrup for ice cream and for pancakes and for waffles (and really, anything else I can think of to throw some strawberry syrup on - oatmeal, vanilla pudding...).
  • I really want to make some biscuits to go with the jam, and if I'm making biscuits, I might as well make some Strawberry Shortcake - or an alternative, Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake.
  • Last summer, to celebrate Julia Child's birthday, I made Strawberry Millefuille, which I will totally be making again because it was so light and amazing. 

I have been using this strawberry ice cream recipe for a couple of years.  It's easy and really, really good. Especially paired with the lemon ice cream that I made a couple of weeks ago.

Uriah requested that I make my mom's Strawberry Glaze Pie, so I did.  It doesn't take a lot of arm twisting to get me to make pie, and since he requests sweet things so infrequently, I like to oblige when I can.  I think my love language is food.

If you find yourself with a plethora of strawberries and need something to make - this pie is a summer staple. Clearly we couldn't even wait to dive into it!  You wouldn't necessarily have to use whole strawberries, although my mom always says it makes for a prettier presentation and I tend to agree.  A simpler solution would be to fill the pie crust with sliced strawberries and pour the glaze over them.

  • Baked pastry shell for a 8-9" pie
  • 1 cup strawberry juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablepoons cornstarch 
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups (or more) strawberries
To make the juice:  Measure 1 cup of strawberries, crush them, and add enough water to measure one cup.  Simmer for about 3 minutes; strain, discarding the strawberry pulp and keeping the juice.  Add water to the juice if necessary to measure 1 cup.

To make the glaze: Cook the juice, sugar, cornstarch, and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.  This part takes a bit of patience because it takes time for it to get to a thick syrup consistency.  Cool the glaze.

To assemble the pie:  Slightly wash and hull 2 cups (or more) of strawberries.  Arrange in the baked pie shell.  Coat with glaze and chill 2-3 hours.

Could someone please tell these two to stop growing?  2011 and 2013: