Friday, December 29, 2017

Keeping Me Busy

I find that I'm frequently asked, and that I frequently ask, the question, "So, what's new?" The problem is my answer is almost always, "Nothing." Because it's the truth. We still live in the same house, I still have two boys and the same husband, the adults still have the same jobs. But I think I found my new alternative to asking that question. Instead I'm going to ask, "So, what's keeping you busy?" It just feels different enough.

Here's how I would have answered that for December. For me, it was choir and Ollie's school. I joined the stake choir in addition to ward choir, which meant performing at Stake Conference, a local performance highlighting different denominations in our area, a stake Christmas performance, and then the regular ward Christmas program. It was a lot. And then there's the work I've been doing at Ollie's school. After the move to the new building, one of the book storage rooms is in dire need of some organization. I offered to help the Reading Specialist there with this task. And whoa. It's intense. First was doing a complete inventory, next was applying all appropriate labels (genre and reading level, mostly), then will be the sorting and actual organizing. I'm still working on the inventory, but also doing some of step 2 at the same time. But I'll be honest: I kind of LOVE this task. It's spreadsheets, organizing, and, oh yeah, helping the school. Wins all around!

Oh, here are some pictures I haven't already posted from the week. These are Christmas Eve morning in our fancy clothes.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas Day

Without sounding terrible, can I admit that I enjoyed Christmas Eve much more than Christmas Day? Not that we had a bad Christmas Day, but I just find the day boring. Sure, it's relaxing. And no, my boys didn't fight too much. I just get restless. The boys were awake by 5:30, I made it up the stairs at 5:45, we started opening presents at 6, and we finished slightly before 7 (a new record for us, I think). But then we had to kill 12 hours. INSIDE. It was fine, really. The boys put together Legos, Ollie read a TON, Chuck and I napped, and everyone ate their weight in sugar. Rhett and I made it outside for a run/bike (me on foot, he on wheels) where we saw ZERO animals (a bummer to a kid with new binoculars). We watched a movie and then it was the boys' bedtime. It was fine, just a bit boring.

I was reminded Tuesday why I also like Eve more than Day: the MESS. I came home from work and the house was a disaster. Christmas Eve is still beautiful and not messy. I feel like it takes until New Year's Day for the house to be clean again. Blah.

Oh, and here are some pictures. Rhett got a lot of Caps gear, although no real hockey gear.

Chuck working on his x-cube. He's already made tremendous progress.

Ollie reading.

Sitting in the mess.

Pretty much how Rhett spent his day.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The BEST* Christmas Eve

Having Christmas on Monday was pretty darn good. But having Christmas Eve on a Sunday was the BEST. I'm just sad we have to wait six years for this to happen again.

Saturday: We were done with all shopping for gifts, so we saw a movie ("Wonder") and then went grocery shopping. We went to the "special" grocery store because they have bulk candy and we love buying it that way for our gingerbread houses. For dinner, we went out for Chinese. My family used to go to Benihana on Christmas Eve and Chuck's family loves this local Chinese restaurant, so we compromised and did Chinese on Christmas Eve Eve. (Of course, our boys ate pretty much nothing except the won ton soup crackers.) That night was a movie and then sleeping by the tree. It's also the night Chuck and I get all the presents from their hiding place and put them under the tree. The way the boys couldn't keep their hands off of them the next morning told us waiting until Christmas Eve was the right decision.

Sunday: This day was my FAVORITE. As church was reduced to only one hour, we opted for the earliest (8:30) ward in our building to get it done. (I was disappointed in the service however. They had two talks. WHAT?! Why weren't we just singing Christmas hymns?! On the plus side, this ward served bread with gluten, so we forgave them.) We invited our friends over for lunch (we served this delicious chili and fried plantains) and to join us in our gingerbread house decorating. So. Much. Fun. I have to admit that I love actually building the homes, not just the decorating. This year Chuck and I designed two more houses so that we had three houses in the three different styles. I seriously love everything about this. And having our friends over made it so much fun everyone. The kids had fun; the adults had fun. It was great.

The boys helped divvy out the candy. Ollie is one snappy dresser.

Plus, we have these incredible centerpieces now. I just love them.

After our "party," Chuck and I cleaned up while the boys watched some Christmas shows. Then it was time for...LUMINARIAS! We did this at my house in Sandy and I love them. I loved setting them up with my Dad, and I loved driving home from Benihana seeing them lit. Even though we were going to be the only house doing it, we did it. Of course, I didn't get the right candles and they didn't last long, but next year I'll do better.

Then it was time for dinner, another movie, and then bed. Chuck and I fell asleep before 9. Ha. It really was the best of days.

*Why the asterisk? Because poor Ollie got sick. He puked twice, scaring my guests who were silently terrified that their kids were going to be sick. Thankfully, he woke up feeling fine and ate plenty of candy to assure us he was better.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

December Happenings

As usual, we had a busy month filled with our advent activities. Some highlights are below:

Playing reindeer games. This was "Pin the Nose on the Reindeer." Ollie drew the reindeer. :)

Decorating cookies that only kids could like.

Decorating a gingerbread house with our family friend, Edna.

Decorating gingerbread men. Lots of decorating going on this year.

Annual "sleep under the tree" night. You can't see it, but we're projecting the movie "Elf" on the wall. It was a lot of fun to watch it that way.

There was also lots of driving by house lights, reading Christmas books, watching Christmas movies, and shopping.

We also had a bonus Secret Santa night. We made some treats for our ward Christmas party one Saturday, and the next Tuesday a friend put out a message looking for the bakers of that dessert because they wanted the recipe. I thought we do could better than that: we could make them a fresh batch (which would NOT be over-baked like the ones I brought to the party). So that we did. I was able to get them done right when the boys were going to bed, so we all piled in the car and doorbell ditched those suckers. :) The boys had an awesome time doing it and LOVED that by the time we got home, our friends had already thanked their "Secret Santa" on Facebook. That might have to happen again next year.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017

Mental Load

There are a lot of things that I say over and over in my house. "The house is not a playground!" or "Don't touch your brother's food!" But this one, "Why am I the only one who thinks in this house?" is one of my favorites. Ever since I saw this comic, it made me realize why I said it. Because I am the main one who thinks in the house. The idea of mental load was new to me. But it's really changed the way I look at the stuff that I do for the house.

Just for documentation, here are the things that take space in my head:

Vacation plans
Meal planning
Adult chores
Kid chores
Car maintenance
House maintenance
Medical appointments
Gifts (birthday and Christmas)
Family documentation (DVDs, scrapbooks)

Chuck and I have discussed this, but have really yet to figure out how it can be more even. It's a process, but I'm hopeful that someday we'll find a good balance.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

House Updates

I briefly mentioned that we got rid of most of the boys' toys a couple of weeks ago. In order to soften the blow, we sold them and told the boys they could use the money to spend on Legos. Why Legos? Because other than Magformers, Legos are the only things they play with regularly. I wanted everything else GONE. And except for a set of baby balls and this strange kitty piano, everything sold!

To house the Legos, Chuck and I put together a Lego table. The entire house loves it. All the Legos can stay out, I can vacuum, and there's less clutter. I love when everyone wins. And of course there's a hairbrush on the floor in the playroom. Isn't there one in your house?

And just for documentation, we also replaced four closet doors. The old doors were bi-fold doors with mirrors on them! They drove me crazy. I love these new ones. Plus, I don't have to look at myself 50 times a day.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Crafty Bastards

It's my favorite event of the year: Crafty Bastards! This time I took Rhett and Ollie (the latter not being my choice but he was conned by his older brother). Unfortunately we had a FREEZING day and Ollie whined and complained the entire time until we got to Shake Shack, where he miraculously recovered. Of course, as soon as we got home he said, "Well, Mom, I didn't hate it there." Thanks Ollie. His whining didn't stop us from seeing cool things, however. Below are some of my favorites.

Some super cute paper cut cards at Shipwreck Press.

Of course there was some arty taxidermy. This was wire taxidermy by Alison Brynn Ross.

These amazing prints from Brainstorm! I love love love the style.

A modern take on macrame from Savvie Studio.

Beautiful puzzles and hilarious coasters from Bright Beam Goods. Both boys loved playing with the tangrams.

Confession: I don't remember what specific things I liked at Cuddles and Rage. But I have their card. Oh, I remember: among other things, they took oil paintings and put some extra graphics on top that just did not match AT ALL but got the biggest giggle out of me and Rhett.

The style here at Little Canoe was just adorable.

I'm still laughing about the merpug from Pickled Punks Plush.

I liked Studio 366 because it gave me some possibilities for a girls camp craft.

And of course, there's always some beautiful jewelry. This stuff was from Off on a Tangent. It's so intricate and gorgeous and wood!

Aren't people incredible?! Now, what can I recreate...

Friday, November 24, 2017


Well, we did it again. A group of six friends ran an (almost) out-of-town race. This time it was the Annapolis Classic. Three of us ran the half marathon, two ran the 10K, and one couldn't run so she brought her bike and biked while we ran (but not on the same course). We left town fairly early and were able to enjoy walking around Annapolis. We got a delicious dinner and then chatted until bedtime.

Race start was at 7:30, so to give me time to eat and get ready, I got up at 6:15. Our biker gave us a ride to the start and within ten minutes, the gun went off. (It was a very prompt start, which I appreciate.) It was a chilly morning with a breeze, but not cold. I was happy with my clothing choices. The race started out just fine, but at about mile 6 the hills began. And then they didn't stop until about mile 12. A lot of ups and down. A LOT. But then it was over! My time was 2:12:53, so definitely not my fastest. But I have been running slowly during training runs (old age?) so was actually okay with this time. I didn't stop even once on the hills, and made sure to drink. And hey, it's not like I actually expected to win, even if my boys did.

Race start was at the Navy Stadium (hence the promptness of everything).

So what if I'm not the ridiculously photogenic race guy.

Race finished (hence the red face).

Because it's Annapolis and we're on the Chesapeake Bay, our post-race food included warm tomato soup and oysters. TRUTH: I'd never had oysters before. Because of this, I opted for the grilled (instead of raw) variety. These were grilled with bacon and cheese and hot sauce on them and so obviously, they were delicious.

And after finishing the run, we headed back to the house and ate our delicious breakfast. We had quiche, meat and crackers, fruit, yogurt and granola, and cinnamon rolls. So good. Then we headed home! It was a great way to spend 24 hours, even if we joke about doing the same ladies weekend without all the running.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Big Kids are the Best Kids

I gotta say it: I am LOVING my big kids. I know that they're not huge, but they're certainly not babies or even little kids (well maybe Ollie is, but we're forcing him to grow up quickly). They can eat food (notice that I said "can," not "do"), wipe themselves in the bathroom, do chores, etc. Rhett is learning how to cook things; Ollie is getting there. They can grab the key to the shed, get out their bikes, and go riding around the house. They can watch big kid movies. They can read to themselves and each other. They can play big kid games, sometimes without it ending in tears. They don't have to have little kids toys (which is good because we just got rid of 95% of their toys--with their permission). They can sleep in (sometimes, usually only when super tired, but still, sometimes). They can use knives, which means they both carved their own pumpkins (one with slightly more help than the other). They can use matches to light their own jack o' lanterns. They can use magnifying glasses to start fire, although I'm not super excited when one does this during recess.

I look at babies and just think, "UGH. So sorry, parents-of-that-baby, that you have five to six years until they're actually FUN." Or maybe not fun exactly, but until those babies can do stuff.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely mine. I realize lots of people like little kids. As I'm cold and heartless, I'm not one of them.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pumpkin Day

We also made it to a pumpkin patch. This year we had another family join us. They're new to our area, and they have two boys our boys' ages (plus they have another little girl) but the boys get along really well. So it's fun to have them around.

The boys "let" me make shirts this year! Of course, they immediately turned into pajama t-shirts, but I'm totally okay with that.

Monday, November 6, 2017


Last year, Rhett wanted to be Harry Potter, but we convinced him that a ballot box would be awesome and he concurred. However, this year he still wanted to do it which meant Ollie decided he wanted to be Ron Weasley. Done.

Of course I was excited to do some sewing too. The ties and scarves came together quickly, but those capes. Oh those capes. I saw some tutorials online, but wasn't in love with them. So when I saw the Simplicity pattern at Joann that had a little girl dressed as Hermione, I knew I had to do it. I'll tell you what though: NO MORE PATTERNS for me. I just don't speak pattern-ese. It's terrible. I want to write them and tell them to hire me as a translator between pattern-speak and tutorials because tutorials do it so much better. But a week later and more money spent on fabric than just buying them from Amazon and they were done. And I love them.

And once I spend all that time and money making them, I have to find multiple opportunities for the boys to wear them. We did a ward trunk-or-treat, school party, and neighborhood trick-or-treating. I just love Halloween and I love watching my boys enjoy Halloween.

We went trick-or-treating with Rhett's friend. I'm thinking next year, when they're ten, they'll be big enough to go alone, right? I think they can do it.

P.S. The last-minute trunk decoration was a true family effort the day of the trunk-or-treat. We all enjoyed creating it. And now we'll have it forever. It'll work even if we don't go dressed as Gryffindors, right? I thought so. Also, we won second place for best car decoration, so that's awesome.

P.P.S. UGH. I totally forgot to do the lumarias! So mad at myself.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Update: Me

School is in full swing and I LOVE it. Walking away from school, knowing I have 6.5 hours of free time is the best. Of course, it's not really free, but kid-free is good enough. I haven't been as ambitious in filling my days as I was last year, but I'm okay with that.

I've been doing some biking, just trying to get used to a road bike is hard enough. I'm crazy slow (shocker). I'm still crazy slow at swimming. It's infuriating, but I just have to get over it. Swimming I get: my arms aren't strong and I've never really done lap swimming until last year. But biking? I thought I could do better given my legs are fairly strong and I've been riding a bike my whole life. But nope. I'm super slow. Still considering doing a tri in June, though. We'll see.

The boys finally decided what they want to be for Halloween: Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Easy. The ties and scarves are done; I'm just figuring out how to do the Hogwarts robes. Simplicity has a pattern, but it's expensive. And knowing they go on sale for $0.99 makes it really hard for me to spend $8--and that's after my 60% off coupon. Sadly, most of the tutorials aren't that great.

The biggest news is that I joined a clothing "challenge." What does that mean? It means that the blogger tells you the pieces you should have (either that you already own or that you should buy) and then she gives you 48 different outfits from those pieces. Because it's me, I didn't have much in my closet so I needed to get a lot of the things. But shopping with a list was AMAZING. You didn't have to buy the exact thing she recommends; in fact, she gave many options as examples. But it was so helpful for me because I just don't know how to shop. The best part, however, is obviously having her put together all the outfits because this is where I completely fall apart. I have no idea how to do this. So it's been awesome. I don't even have to think about what to wear: I just check the pdf and grab the clothes. So lovely. Plus, I actually like what I'm wearing. Sure, some things feel like a stretch for me. But that's okay. Also, I'm not sure I can pull off a lot of what I'm wearing, but I'm doing it any way.

My calling. Sigh. I knew the hardest thing about this calling (for me) would be finding people to work with me. I don't know that many women outside of my own ward, so am finding it difficult. Plus, asking someone to go to camp for a whole week?! That's so hard! I decided to let our YCLs vote on the theme, so data are being collected as I type. Of course, Chuck reminded me that I can override their decision should I choose. Ah, the beauty of being in charge.

What's next? I mean, it's October so it's just one holiday after another. My half marathon is in four weeks, so that'll be fun. Training has been fine. My Saturday runs are pretty long already, so it hasn't even really felt like I'm training yet. I've been trying to do an additional speed run so that's different. And of course, Thursday night runs with the girls. We have no family trips planned, so it's just hunkering down for the winter. At least Fall decided to finally show up. (Last Sunday was still in the 80s.)

That's it.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Update: Chuck

Chuck is, well, pretty much the same. Work is good. He's working on creating the online statistics course. Of course I'm super jealous. I think he has more fun at work than at home because of his work husband (they don't have any kids together AND his husband likes sports). At home he's busier than he wants with his calling. Sunday meetings, Wednesday nights, and then anything extra. We all know the drill. But they've had a couple of great activities. One was teaching bike maintenance to the YM and the other was teaching the boys how to grill and then eating the food with the YW. He loved the pineapple so much he made it at home. (Rub the pineapple with cinnamon and then grill--delicious!) He'd love more time to play video games, but wouldn't we all?! Well maybe not, but we'd all love more time for something. That's just his something.

In other news, we cleaned out his closet. (And by "his closet," I mean the section of the laundry room where we hang his clothes.) I think we got rid of 50 pounds of clothes. It's amazing. It just feels so good, at least to me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Update: Rhett

I think all kids are weird. I mean, I only know two really well, but 100% of them are just bizarre. They other night Rhett got every stuffed animal we have (along with his brother) and put them in bed with him. So weird. I love him, but weird. In good news, I'm really starting to like him too!

And what's he doing? School, obviously. Man, 4th grade is REAL. I mean, the homework is serious! He's had lots of projects, spelling tests, math that's getting hard (exponents!), and he's doing cursive. It's been a real adjustment for all of us. Chuck and I are having to learn to navigate Google classroom, Rhett has to learn to manage it all, and Ollie has to learn to play by himself when Rhett's still doing homework. It's not been terrible, but I feel like I have a big kid now, not just a little guy. Socially he's doing okay. I think he likes the kids at school and they like him, but I still can't get him to name one kid he'd like to have over. As long as he's happy, I won't worry. Well, I will, but I won't press. Also he's learning the trumpet in music. That's been, um, interesting.

At home, it's lots of homework. It's also chores and while he's not perfect, he does seem to whine less about them. Like his brother, he loves kindle time (the only screen they choose). He's also doing scouts with church and then hockey one night a week. He's getting much better on the skates and it's so cool to watch your kid do something you can't do. He's still reading a lot, frequently two to three books at a time (which drives me crazy!). And, because he's my kid, he still hates pretty much everything I put in front of him to eat. One day he'll be big enough and hungry enough to eat. Hopefully.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Update: Ollie

This kid. He is such his own little person. Most of the stuff he does comes out of nowhere. For example, he put on seven shirts and five pants during pre-bed reading time. Why? Because he's six. And weird. Mostly the latter.

But he's just so cute, right? Omy. I love him so much.

So what's he up to these days? School. He says he hates it, and I believe he does sometimes, but thankfully this hatred doesn't translate into problems getting him out of the door in the morning. It only manifests itself during writing and then he writes stuff like "School is a prison." Nice. Things are going much better this year. His teacher is great and he's had no trips to the vice principal's office...yet. We got in trouble for doing his entire October homework at once so now we're back to doing it weekly. (We also got in trouble for bringing Bruno to school drop-off in the morning. Ha.)

At home it's a bunch of mood swings. He can be this happy, fun, silly boy but then ask him to do chores and WATCH OUT. ("WHY? Why do we always have to do chores?!?!?!") But then wait a couple minutes, and he just does them and happily reports when he's done. He still does this annoying baby talk thing which everyone in the house hates. ("Me want kindle.")

He loves his kindle, but he also loves riding his bike and jumping on the tramp. Sadly, no one wants to do those things nearly as much as he does. He is still reading really well and it's so nice to not have to read to him all the time. Like his brother, he says he likes to wear only polo shirts (although he does wear t-shirts too). Unlike his brother, he matches these polos with basketball shorts. It's quite the look. And of course, Piggie is still his favorite.