Wednesday, December 31, 2008


These trees were given to me by my mom.  In fact, all of the classy Christmas decorations I own were given to me by my mom.

I will remember this year as "The Year of Many Firsts".  

The first year that I started to feel better about losing my mom.  I don't mean that I forgot her, or that I don't grieve for her still, but I don't have the deep sadness I used to.

The first year that I have ever owned a dog.  Ever.  She is a lot of work, and fills the house with black hair, but I wouldn't trade her for anything.  She has brought so much to our family.  She has been one of the best decisions we've made - and we don't make positive choices too often!

The first year I haven't worked full time since I was 22.  My part time job from home has become pretty part time, about 8 - 10 hours a month, so I was able to start my photography business.  Have I made any sales?  Taken any photos for money?  Have a website?  No, but that doesn't mean I haven't started something!  2009 will be the first year I make money from it!!

The first year I've regularly volunteered in the kid's classroom's.  I'm teaching art.  Poor kids.

The first year that I peed in our SECOND BATHROOM!  The toilet is in.  We don't have a vanity, sink, shower, door, woodwork or tile, but the toilet works.  That's all that really matters in this household.

We're having a quiet evening at home tonight with neighbors.  We won't make it till midnight, but it doesn't bother me at all.  This is also the first year I've been able to catch up on my sleep - why would I stop now?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I always thought I looked younger than my little brother until I saw this photo.

Basie needs to be walked about four times a day.  Somehow, this "family" pet has become my main responsibility as I do most of the walks.  I don't really mind the midday walks - it's the crack of dawn walks that bug me.  My favorite time to walk her is at night, though.  We've had a ton of snow lately and there is that bright, crisp coldness outside at night.  

Tonight I recruited Harrison to come with me.  He is so full of energy now that school is out.  Ella is having a friend over for a sleepover and that just jacks him up even more, so I pulled him out into the darkness with the enticement of my camera.  I told him that he could take as many photos as he wanted.  He loved it.  This one of me, above, completely caught me off guard when I was downloading the images.  I don't even remember him aiming at me.  

Just when I thought I was getting better at Photoshop, I can't figure out how to "airbrush" all my smile wrinkles away!  This embarrassing moment is meant to kick me in the ass to brush up on my skills.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow day

I have been in a terrible mood for a few days now - it really doesn't mix with the whole Christmas spirit thing.  I wouldn't care, but I have kids - little kids who CANNOT wait till December 25th.  Today was the first day of their holiday break.  They'll be home for two whole weeks which means that I will not be on holiday break.  I took the kids, and some friends, sledding.  I wasn't really looking forward to it, but knew it would be much appreciated.

I was right.  Basie ran like crazy for two whole hours.  I think she went up and down the hill about 50 times at full speed.  The kids separated into two camps - the avid sledders and the fort builders.  It was so fun to watch them laughing.  I actually forgot about all the stuff that's been bugging me lately.  It was like I was on an island - an emotional winter wonderland!

I don't have photos because a large storm was expected and I didn't want my camera to get wet, but I wish I had risked it.  Ella tried snowboarding on her friend's board.  She did great.  The mom of this friend started the snowboarding lessons program up at a resort in Park City three years ago.  She is a great teacher - she had Ella going down the hill immediately.  She fell.  Everyone who snowboards falls, but she got back up and kept on going.  

I'm so glad that my kids get to grow up here.  The opportunities for experiencing wonderful things are endless.  All it needs are more lakes.  Without salt.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


When we first moved to Utah, four years ago, we would make it a point to explore a new canyon or resort, each weekend that first summer.  Sundance Resort quickly became our favorite spot.  We love going up there and just hiking around.  Several times that I've been up there, there has been this incredibly cool red truck in the parking lot.  It's even been featured in the catalog.  It might not be the same truck, but I like to think it is.  

A new neighbor moved in about two years ago.  We haven't really gotten to know her.  She has a huge, friendly dog and an active lifestyle - lots of comings and goings.  Every once in awhile there is this great red pickup parked in front of her house that closely resembles the Sundance truck.  It's been there about six or seven times, and I've always wanted to take a picture of it.  

Last week I forgot to worry about what she might think of me standing in front of her house with a camera, and shot away.  This is one of the images I took.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Everything all at once

The kids have started piano lessons this fall.  They had their first recital last week.  Harry played "Up on the Housetop" and Ella charmed us with "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas".  

When my mom was alive, I would talk with her at least once a week and fill her in on every detail of our life.  She was intensely interested in the silliest things, like the paint color I chose for the nursery or the idiosyncrasies of one of my co-workers.  My dad is a bit different.  He usually dominates the conversation with details of his social life (he is down to one girlfriend) and the latest scores he received playing golf.  After about 30 minutes, he'll finally ask, "So, how are things with you?"  By this time, I am tired of being on the phone and usually just give him a cursory overview.   Since he doesn't want to hear it all, I'll just write it down.

There is so much going on right now.  It's overwhelming and exciting, but hard work and exasperating all at the same time.  Christmas is taking somewhat of a back seat.  We've got so many construction projects going on that it doesn't allow for cookie-baking and/or craft projects.  The downstairs office and bath we are adding is fifty percent done.  The bathroom is painted, but doesn't have any fixtures.  The office has become our bedroom.  We moved down here last week and I just use the adjoining "bathroom" as a dressing room/Christmas present hiding spot.  Our old bedroom has become Ella's.  I've been painting for a week.  She picked the colors - three pink walls, one brown.  Polka dots as accents.  Purple and brown on the pink walls - purple and pink on the brown wall.  It is done and looks great.  It is definitely a girl's room.  Harrison is staying in the kid's old room and we'll repaint over the school break.  He doesn't know what he wants.  I'm just trying to keep him from painting everything navy, gray and black - like Star Wars.

I haven't been getting too many hours at my little assistant job.  I was supposed to get about 8 - 10 a week, but it's become about 8 - 10 a month.  This has, however, offered me the opportunity to get more serious about trying to become a professional photographer.  It's one of the "overwhelming" parts of what has been going on, but also the most exciting.  I haven't felt this positive about anything in a long time.

Basie has become more and more an integral part of things.  She is such a people dog.  Has to be near us all the time and has the greatest expressions.  After all the illnesses, and a bit of poor behavior, at the beginning - we are all thrilled that she is with us.  We don't have a fenced yard so I walk her about 3 - 4 times a day.  I have started meeting all the dog people in the neighborhood.  I also have a new appreciation for my neighborhood.  I love looking at all the architecture.

We always seem to get ourselves into too much, but it usually works in the end.  Mom would be fretting for us so much - I guess it's better she doesn't know.  

Last Saturday was three years.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes we can

I wore my "I Voted" sticker all day and felt very proud about it.  I watched the results come in on "mute" during dinner and then "out loud" while the kids were getting ready for bed.  Chris made a fire, and our first snow fell outside the window, as the announcement was made.  I feel so much more this election.  I feel hopeful.  McCain's speech was so gracious and Obama's was so inspirational.  

My dad and I argued yesterday about our respective choices for president.  His opinions were so deeply rooted that nothing I said mattered.  His voice rose - mine couldn't as I was wandering around Costco, but I also was truly trying to stay calm so that I could intelligently give him my differing views.  Chris asked me why I bothered.  I have to.  I can't just ignore what's going on in our country.  My dad has seen so much - he's a Depression baby, but I'm not - and I have kids and grandkids to worry about.  

I don't think I'll call him for a few days.  I can't wait for the kids to wake up so I can tell them.   For the first time, in a very long time, I feel hopeful.  It's somewhat of a cliche', but I really feel it.  "The times, they are a changin'"

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Working on the house, and day-to-day kid activities have consumed us for the last few weeks.  It took free tickets to get us on a family outing today.  We were able to watch the Real Salt Lake (our professional soccer team) play in their first playoff game.  It is only the third game to be played in this new stadium, also.  

We were spoiled and hung out in the coolest suite full of really great catered food.  We had a great view and enjoyed the fast-paced, exciting game.  Some of the fans were crazy.  Banging drums.  Setting off fireworks in the stands and even smoke bombs.  We just sat in our seats and screamed a lot.  

The kids both finished their soccer seasons this morning, so it was a big soccer day.  Besides the joy of being together in a fun environment - I think the best part was that the whole event went smoothly and easily.  Half the time we won't go places because we don't want to deal with the parking, etc., but this was all easy.  

Even if you don't know anything about soccer - I highly recommend going to at least one professional game.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Getting rid of stuff

The kids have been off from school since Wednesday at 12:45. It's Monday and they're STILL home. We've made do by planning many play dates and I decided to fight boredom and throw a garage sale.

I had pulled together most of the items I wanted to clean out of my garage weeks ago, but there has been a never-ending sidewalk repair project going on that didn't allow for much parking availability. Also we've had a few rainy weekends, so when I saw the gorgeous weather projected for this past weekend, I decided the time had come. Luckily I had a friend to help me, otherwise I would have exploded from the stress combustion inside of me.

I'm not good at playing it cool. I fret. A lot. Where should we put the signs? How should we keep the money divided between the families? Do we need tables? I don't have any tables! What about a change box? Do we need to get singles? How much should I price things for? Luckily, my friend, Janet, is great in situations like this. She kept telling me it would all work out and we just needed to remember that we just wanted to get rid of stuff - making money would be the icing.

Of course it went great. We had old men walking up the driveway a half hour early, but I didn't really care. Nothing was ready, but they still managed to buy some of my junk. I learned a few things: for instance, my friends want me to continue to be a hoarder! Every time I turned around, they were telling me not to sell this or that. My wonderful old neighbor from across the street even went so far as to bag up all the linens my grandmother had hand embroidered and put them back into my house. She has a great thick German accent, just like all my Tantes and my Oma, and she's hard to say no to. I also learned that people come to buy things to re-sell. I'm not dumb. I mean, I know that ebay exists, but I guess it was pretty weird to see it in action. There were two gentlemen who came for books. One guy was on the phone with someone for about 45 minutes reading numbers from the back of the books to another person. He then picked out some books and grinned REALLY big. Afterwards we decided that he was probably going to re-sell them all on Amazon and make big bucks because I sold them to him for 50 cents. Another guy had an actual machine that he held up to the books. I think it scanned those numbers on the back and then he could tell what they were worth. The best people to sell to were the kids. They would just find a toy they loved and carry it around begging until their parents relented and handed over the quarter.

It felt so good to see the floor of my garage. Nothing went back into it - we filled the van (without seats) three times with all the stuff we donated. I have a long way to go, but I am bound and determined to de-clutter if it's the last thing I do. In that same vein, I have found a great book. It is all about the connection between the state of our homes and the way we feel. The book is apartment therapy: the eight-step home cure.  The author has an eight week plan to "fix" my housing woes.  I just have to wonder if he can send over a few carpenters and tile setters while he's at it.  The basement project continues, however the backyard deck and fireplace will have to wait till spring.  My desire to leave education has left us without my income.  I have been looking for something to do from home for months and finally found a great part-time position working for a PR firm.  I'll work from home, have minimal hours so we have enough extra cash for groceries, and I can still be more involved in the kids' lives.  It's so nice to get some good news.

If the job doesn't work, I think I could make a living helping people with their garage sales.  It only takes one time to figure out all the mistakes and how you can make it better!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The D-O-G

So. I'm a dog owner. How the hell did that happen? I have never had a dog. Never. Growing up we had gerbils. They reproduced like crazy which was really good because they died all the time. My parents wouldn't let us keep them upstairs and I think they all froze to death in our Minnesota basement. My brother and I begged for dogs or cats, but we were turned down cold. I didn't really know many dogs, so I had no idea what they were really like.

When I got out on my own, I got a cat. Then I got another one. One was named "Dave" whom I rescued from a small cage at a pet shop next to a Thai place in Wausau, WI. I can remember everything from that evening. He looked so sad, but as soon as he came home he was pretty much a wild man. I can't remember exactly all of his antics, however I remember I could never have fresh flowers. He would knock them over.

Fast forward a few years, and I met Chris. We dated long distance for a year, but would visit every other weekend. When he came to see me, his eyes would water and his head would get all stuffed up. It was the hardest thing to give up those two cats, but when we decided to live together it was necessary. As the kids have grown, they have always asked about getting a dog or a cat. We would throw out the "your father is allergic" excuse and it usually stopped the conversation for a few weeks. It wasn't hard for me to say "no". I am really not a dog person. I don't stop on the sidewalk and pet other people's dogs. I don't ask about people's dogs. I don't even like it when they come up and sniff me. Everyone knows this about me, but one of my friends must have known that inside my dog-disliking soul was really a dog-loving soul SCREAMING to come out. She knew that all she had to do was wait about four years and I would melt and cave. All she would have to do is call from the Humane Society and say, "You HAVE to come and see this dog. She is so wonderful. I would adopt her in a second if my husband would let me have a third dog." And all of a sudden, this switch went off and as I drove to the Humane Society, all my kids in tow, I knew that I would be coming home with this dog.

My friend joined us so that she could show her to us. The dog was let out of her cage and we walked into a dog run. She started leaping around. Literally. Leaping like a gazelle. It was so obvious that she was thrilled to be out of her pen. She came up to each one of us, at different times, to greet us. She was affectionate and adorable. I called Chris and told him about her. He said that we should get her because it was obvious that we already had fallen for her. His allergies were never brought up.

Basie has been with us for a few weeks now. I feel as if I've joined an exclusive club - dog ownership. It's the same feeling I got after Harrison was born. I no longer resented crying babies in restaurants - I just felt bad for their parents. Now that I have a dog, I no longer cringe when I hear the dog behind us barking late into the evening. I worry for him/her instead.

The learning curve is steep and I've been thrown in feet first. She has been sick twice already each with their own medicines. First she had an upper respiratory infection. Through this experience I learned not to freak out every time she sneezed mucus all over my living room. Her nose was actually running. I WIPED A DOG'S NOSE! Then her nose dried out and I put Vaseline on it. I also learned how to give her pills pretty much from the first day we got her. I can whip my fingers behind her canines and open her mouth in a second flat. I throw the pill down her throat, rub her throat gently and keep her mouth shut until her tongue comes out and I know she's swallowed. Can you believe I know this? Non-dog-owners could give a shit, I know, but I just had to share. After she finished her first antibiotic, I had to go back to the vet for two booster shots. They casually recommended that I drop off a stool sample. "Here" the tech said, "Just put it in this tiny CLEAR bottle with this stick and then bring it back within two hours of collecting it. Do you need a glove?" I just stared. The pills were one thing, but this was a bit much.

Sure enough the test came back positive for giardia. Something about the cell count on the slide being so high they couldn't count them all. More pills, and some powder for her food. At least she's eating now. She didn't eat the first two weeks, so nothing worked to entice her to take her pills.

She may also have asthma. She has this reverse sneezing wheezing thing she does quite a bit. It usually happens when she's been exercising a lot, or sniffing a lot. Yes, Basie probably has allergies.

So we've come full circle. Chris is indeed allergic to Basie, but he hasn't said that out loud. He is really stuffed up, and has been using his inhaler more, but we keep attributing it to the remodeling he's doing in the basement. And the dog is possibly allergic to us. The love we all have for each other, though, makes all of that go away. This dog is the most loving, fun animal I've ever known.

I think it all comes down to this...Basie makes our family happier. She's been a ton of work. She's not fully potty trained, so I've been walking miles a day with her, but I can't help but accept that adding her to our home is one of the smartest decisions we've made.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Just a little tidbit I don't want to forget

The kids are at such a fun age. They actually have great senses of humor and can understand (and sometimes even appreciate) my sarcasm. Today after school, we went shoe shopping. Ella has outgrown everything except her sandals and suddenly the weather has turned blustery and cold. She was having a hard time picking out which shoes she liked the most. It was starting to drive me nuts and then Harry somehow got involved. Here's a quick recap of the conversation that followed:

Me: You two are doorknobs. (my favorite expression for everyone. Clever? no. Creative? yes. Non-sensical? absolutely.)

Harry: If we were "doorknobs" we wouldn't know anything.

Ella: yeah! that 5+5=10. The only things "doorknobs" know is how to turn.

We all cracked up. It was so fun to see them realizing that they could be funny.

Mud pies

The weather had been unusually warm for early fall in Utah.  Highs in the 80s through last week.  During one of these warm afternoons last week, Harrison got bored and then got creative.  He put on his swimsuit and grabbed the hose.  Our in-progress-front-landscaping seemed a little dry to him.  He asked Ella to help him water it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I am much more comfortable with the stuffed variety.

The kids have discovered Webkinz.  It's the current version of Beanie Babies with a twist - they're more expensive and they have some secret internet persona.  Ella has two and Harrison has one - a leopard named "Cheeto" because he originally thought he was a cheetah.  If they had their druthers, they would each have at least ten.  Both of my kids love stuffed animals.  Harry more than Ella because she splits her loyalties with dolls - or "babies" as she calls them.  Harrison, though, is all stuffed animals.  He has 21 so far (thanks to grandma and her care packages) and lines them up diligently around his bed.  He literally sleeps surrounded by stuffed animals.  Since he sleeps in the upper bunk, he can even line them up along the protective rail.  It's pretty cute until we have to travel.  We usually only allow one or two animals to come along and he frets the first night or two.  I know it's a bit unusual, but I love it.  It means he's still my little boy.  Too soon he'll be rejecting me, and his animals, for some adolescent babe in a too tight tank top.

One day I was eavesdropping on Ella and her playdate (it's hard not to with the size of our house), and Ella mentioned that Harry's "Cheeto" had fallen in the toilet a few weeks back.  After Harrison had ... gone ... and before he flushed.  I think that's descriptive enough.  The friend asked Ella how Cheeto got out of the toilet and Ella described a scene that included Cheeto being thrown out the back door to dry on the driveway.  Again, the story was told in the past tense.  Harrison let the leopard dry in the sun and then slept with him for weeks.   I was so amazed at what I was hearing that I didn't know what to do.  So, I did the only think I could think of.... 

Figuring out what to do with this animal was difficult.  I didn't quite know how to clean it without wrecking it.  Somewhere I read, or heard, that all sorts of things could be washed in the dishwasher, so I tried it, and it worked.  Cheeto is fine...still soft and not a scent of urine on him.

After getting through that trauma, I felt empowered.  I never had pets as a kid (gerbils do NOT count) and then tried cats in my twenties.  I liked cats, but never had a large attachment to them.  They left hairballs around and knocked over flower vases and Christmas trees.  Owning a dog was never a consideration.  They need to be walked and taken care of.  My cats could be left for days with water, food and a litter box.  Not dogs.  They need attention, love and backyards.

When we moved to Utah four years ago, I was a bit dismayed to see the immense number of dogs on our street.  I think every house has at least one.  My kids were scared to death of all of them.  Ella was only two and she was more freaked by them than Harry.  We have tried, over the years, to force them to acclimate to dogs.  Everyone has them here.  If they are afraid as they get older, it will only get harder.  

We have good friends who have two dogs.  Since we spend a lot of time with them, the fear in Ella has almost completely subsided.  It is so great to see her petting even strange dogs she'll run into up at school, or in the park.  About a month ago, I mentioned to this friend with the dogs, that having a dog of our own might be really great for the kids.  She held in her enthusiasm and then secretly started scouring all the pounds and humane societies in a 50 mile radius to find us a dog so irresistible, that I would have to succumb and adopt it.

Well, she succeeded.  Meet Basie.  I have now been a dog owner for 10 days.  I have absolutely NO idea what I'm doing, but she is so sweet - it doesn't really matter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hanging out at Sundance

We drove down through Provo Canyon and the approach was amazing.  The colors are just starting to turn.

My two cherubs.  Ella ready and willing to be photographed.  Harrison, on the other hand, will do whatever it takes to get me so frustrated that I'll put away my camera.

The many faces of Ella Annamarie.  She has quickly blossomed into a first grade "adolescent".  The attitude, whining and backtalk is so junior high.

There is a pond at Sundance that we always climb around on the rocks.  This year they have stocked it with fish.  They're really pretty.

Mt. Timpanogas, and the surrounding peaks, are so breathtaking.  Every time we go there I always wonder why it took us so long to get there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not dead, just lazy

You know when you have so much to do, and limited time to do it in, that you always manage to get it done, and more.  I have the opposite problem.  I'm still unemployed which allows for some free time during the day.  I usually have something to clean - or an errand to run - but I fail to accomplish much of the lists I generate the night before.  I have all sorts of great ideas at night.

I'll apply to create a LLC to start my photography business.  I need to clean out the upstairs of the garage so that I have more stuff for the garage sale I'm having.  I need to plan for the garage sale.  I need to study Photoshop more.  Take classes - study it on my own.  I should wash the windows.  I should clean the floors more often.  I want to learn to cook better meals.  I should bake cookies from scratch.  I want to read more, but don't have any idea what to read.  I should work out more.  I should more aggressively look for a job.
That's about all I can think of right now.  Now I need to find ambition.  (Maybe I'll run into some at Target.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I just thought these flowers were pretty

I took this picture up in Park City where it isn't as hot as down here in the desert valley.  The flowers seem brighter this time of year.  Probably because they haven't been fried in 95 degree plus weather for the last 6 weeks.  I love warm weather, but can't say I don't look forward to autumn.  

My dad came last night to visit for a week.  The kids started school on Tuesday and this is a big change for all of us.  So, of course, Chris decided that he needed to take a business trip.  Isn't that the way it goes?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who woulda thought I'd get so excited about a garage?

We decided that we the only way to continue on the basement project, and still have a bit of space down there, was to organize the garage and then put all the stuff in the basement into the garage (toys, games, etc.).  This will be temporary until we get a wall unit with shelves and drawers.  So at about 10:00 AM yesterday we started emptying the garage.  This is what it looked like around 1:00 PM.

But check out the view when you turn around.

Fortunately, we live in the desert and it isn't supposed to rain for a week or more.  Why does that matter?  Because most of the stuff is still in the driveway.  I have gone through a ton of stuff and we have a huge pile of stuff for a garage sale.  It will feel good to actually know where things are.  

Now we have to tackle the attic of the garage.  It's full, too.  (see the stairs in the back?)  We want to empty it so that it can be a play room/music room.  Maybe even a photography studio some day?????

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The basement - getting closer!!!

Here are some photos of the progress:

This is a shot of the shower.  The doors are just hanging out until the closet is created and the door to the office is moved.  (I just thought of something...we don't have a door for the bathroom?!!)  As you can see, it's going to be awesome - super large and will have borderless, glass doors.

This is a shot of the office/bedroom.  The weird "storage" wall to the right is actually a shelf.  It's a part of the foundation.  The drywall on the bottom half is just covering the foundation which I believe is made of a stone, dirt, cement mixture.  Chris decided to add framing, and eventually doors, so that we could use it for storage.  I thought it would be really cool to put a twin mattress up there for one of the kids - like a secret hideout.  I measured - there's room.

This is a picture of the other side of the office/bedroom.  To the near left is going to be a small closet.  Right past the closet is a hallway to the bathroom.  Right now that is the only access, but we have plans to move some things around (after we win the lottery) and then it will be accessible from the family room.

This is the hallway to the bathroom.  The wall protruding out to the right is the back of the shower.  The sink/vanity will go right where the ShopVac is sitting.  There was an old tool bench in the backyard that I found behind some bushes.  I pulled it into the garage and have started refinishing it.  I have already purchased a white vessel sink to put on top of it.  I think it will be really cool to have something like that in a new space - a piece of the house's history.

We are back in the thick of our remodeling projects.  Concentration is on the basement - adding an additional bedroom/office and a SECOND BATHROOM!  Chris is handling the bulk of the work, although we have hired a fairly cheap high-schooler who is often willing to help.  The level of Chris' expertise is pretty astounding.  I feel grateful that we don't have to hire a contractor, but I feel badly that all the responsibility is on his shoulders.  We were trying to get the bathroom done for some visitors last week and next, but it's not going to happen.  I need help with the tile choices.  I am thinking a palette of black, charcoal gray, beige, light gray and white.  Neutral yet a little unique.  The mosaic accent I'm looking at (for the back wall of the shower) is here.  (Unfortunately, the site won't let me direct link to the product.  If you have time to look - it's under "Glass Mosaic - Platinum.  The one I like looks most like "Celadon Swirl" although it doesn't appear to be green in the photo or in real life.)  The bulk of the tile, floors and other two walls of shower, would be this.  (Again, no direct link - this one is called "Urbanite".  The walls would be the "carbon" color in 12 x 12s and the floors would be "carbon" in the 8 x 24).  I think, to save money, we'll put a short "baseboard" of tile around the room and then paint the walls a light gray that matches the mosaic tile.  

As far as the office/bedroom, I have no idea for colors.  Obvious choice would be the same gray, but one of the kids may move into it someday and I don't think I'll want to paint again.

Have better ideas?  Let me know.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Christopher

We've been together for almost eleven years.  This weekend I was reminded that I don't know him as well as I should.  On Friday, I offered him the choice of two things for a birthday gift:  a 24 hour rental of a Harley-Davidson (the one I really hoped he'd pick!) or a university extension writing course (he secretly wants to have his own blog and make millions so that he can stay home while I go to work).  He thought over his options for about a millisecond and said, "Didn't you know that my motorcycle license expired?"  Then on Saturday, after returning from the grocery store thinking I had picked up all the necessary basics, I was quickly corrected.  I think his exact words were, "How can you have known me for so long and continue to forget to buy the things that I like?!!"  Defensively, I raised my voice (not too much) and responded that I am always thinking of him.  That he is my universe - of course I give him what he needs.  I just had no idea he would get so worked up over orange juice.  You would think I forgot the gin!

I am glad that these are the types of "conflicts" we're encountering at this stage of the game.  After nine years of marriage, I am as secure as ever in the decision I made to marry Chris.  As the two of us hit the big "44" this year, I'm realizing that things change with age.  There are weird things that happen to your body, and different challenges as the children age as well.  

I am so lucky that I have such an amazing man that's willing to watch me get even older - or is it that he's lucky I'm willing to watch?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

We just call him "Almanzo"

Harrison is learning how to be a pioneer this week.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hiking at Solitude

We took the kids up Big Cottonwood Canyon to get out of the heat on Sunday.  The hike started off pretty easy.  All I had to worry about was one of the kids falling off the boardwalk into the swamp, but at least that fate is better than falling off the edge of a cliff.

On the drive up the canyon (yes, this picture is out of order) I just stuck my camera out the window a few times.  Every view was better than the last.

Heres the girl.  Why is she holding her arm up like that?  She's showing me her Statue of Liberty pose.  Oh.  Of course.

The climb was one mile, but 700 vertical feet.  For some reason I wore Tevas instead of hiking shoes.  I really didn't think we'd get off the boardwalk.  When I thought I couldn't go over another rock, I looked to my left and this is what I saw.

When I looked down, though, THIS is what I saw.  Is that a black widow?  It sure looked cool.

We missed the height of wild flower season.  There were still some flowers blooming as the elevation increased, though.  These flowers were so sheer that I could see through the petals.

Here's the boy in his Brett Favre jersey.  He announced yesterday that he is no longer a Packer's fan.  Now the NY Jets are his team.  This photo was taken about 45 seconds before he fell in the water up to his chest.  This lake was our reward for making it to the top of the trail.  A storm was blowing in and the wind was whipping.  The temperature dropped about 25 degrees and Harrison was freezing the entire mile down the mountain because he was soaking wet.

Found this old sign.  We loved that some handy man probably put it up with whatever screws he had in his tool belt.  No two are alike.

We made it to the bottom without getting rained on, without breaking any bones, and without any whining.  I love that the kids are getting acclimated to this kind of outing.  

Best part?  It's free entertainment.  

Friday, August 08, 2008

One little step for the cleanse, one giant step for the frig

The clutter around here seems worse, than in other homes, possibly due to the fact that our house is pretty small.  We have a finished basement, but tend to spend all of our time upstairs in two rooms - the kitchen and the living room.  

One day I was annoyed by the amount of crap on the refrigerator.  I'm all for saving the kids artwork, but it was getting out of hand.  I wanted to throw it all out, but I also wanted the kids to feel like we revered their craft and art projects.  My mom never let us put stuff on the frig, so I tried to come up with a compromise.  What I discovered was magnetic paint.  

I decided to paint a wall at the end of the kitchen with this paint and transfer some of the artwork, etc over to that wall.

Here's what I used:  painter's tape, "Nail Hole Patch" for the nail holes in the wall, a foam roller so that the paint rolls on super smooth, a paint brush for the edges, a paint tray (which I covered in foil to avoid a bigger mess), and a can of magnetic paint.  This stuff is crazy.  That little can weighs about 5 pounds - okay maybe three, but whatever it is - it is really heavy.  Oh - and the paint stirrer is really necessary.  The paint doesn't present in a typical manner.  It is really watery on top, when you first open the can, and then it is really thick on the bottom.  It took me about 5-7 minutes to thoroughly mix the paint.

Here is the wall I chose.  This picture as taken after I taped and patched the holes.  I ended up extending the tape to the ceiling so that the line was straight and crisp.  

This is a picture of the wall after it was painted.  The can suggests you put three thin layers on to make it more magnetic.  I was glad that the space I covered was relatively small.  On the left of the picture you can see some of the mess that was on my frig.

And here is the final "after" shot.  The magnetism isn't as strong as the frig, but I still like it so much better.  I found that lighter magnets worked much better - and heavier objects can't be hung at all.  

I like it.  It's different, that's for sure.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Still cleansing

We have a garage that families from blocks around covet.  It is a oversized two-car with stairs in the back that lead to an attic/studio room.  The room has subfloor, drywall, ceiling fans and lights.  I have had dreams of it becoming my photography studio since I laid my eyes on it, but alas it has become a storage unit.  As we finish the unfinished parts of our basement, we are slowly squeezing out all the inside storage space that we have.  Of course the attic isn't large enough to store everything, so we put the rest in the large two-car bay area.  

Now it's full, and we park our cars in the driveway.  All year round.  In an effort to get at least one car in the garage, and to get rid of stuff in the name of cleansing, I found this steamer trunk.  I picked it up from a neighbor's garage sale back in Green Bay before we moved.  I probably paid $10 for it and was sure it was going to be a beautiful addition to our 1895 Victorian.  I couldn't really find a great place for it in that house, so I dragged it across the country to this house.  Half the size and not Victorian.  Not sure what I was thinking.  

So here I am.  Ready to sell it on Craigslist.  Prices on ebay go anywhere from $100 to $850 (when they are restored).  What do you think I could get for it?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Harrison fell off a swing tonight at the park because he was standing on it being reckless.  My big boy, who doesn't want to be called "baby" anymore, came running to me and wrapped his little arms all the way around my waist, shaking with tears streaming down his face.  I instinctively knew how to comfort him and within a minute or two he was running back to play with his sister.

When a person is hurting emotionally, I can't hug away the pain.  Watching a person you love, in pain, has got to be one of the hardest things to experience.  I can offer my ear, my shoulder, or a bottle of his favorite beer, but none of these can fix what is broken.

Not having control over life, and it's events, can be awful.  However, I also know that things usually happen the way they are supposed to.  I will try to hang onto that thought.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

It's been so hot!

Our house is all brick and heats up like an oven.  We are learning, finally, how to get the most out of our air conditioning.  We have an elaborate process that involves fans, opening windows until a certain time of day while leaving the air on, opening windows without the a/c on, and closing blinds and shutters.  Our house is pretty dark in the front rooms as it is.  Dark paint and northern exposure.  When we close the shutters I find it almost claustrophobic.  However, I will do what I have to do to stay relatively cool.

Last week we decided to dance.  Each of us picked a CD to play and then we partied.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Unemployment sucks

Harrison's birthday party last Saturday (only two months late) at a rock climbing gym

I have had some time to focus on myself the last two days while the kids have been in day camps.  I've spent the time looking for work.  What an arduous, awful job.  One thing that's different, since the last time I did this, is the "open" job postings.  They list a great job - something that I feel I'd be really good at - and then when I make an inquiry call, I'm told the same thing.  The company or college doesn't have an opening at this time, but they like to collect resumes for the future.  Just in case.  It kind of reminds me of a false ad - you go into the store to get the item that is advertised on sale, but find out that they don't have that model. 

I still want to explore working from the house.  Possibly try to sell photos or something.  Ella suggested that we decorate foam frames (like these) and fill them with "pretty pictures."  I'm sure we could make a couple bucks (selling to family and friends), but I doubt it would pay the mortgage.  I have high hopes for starting anew, but I think I need to explore the "work from home" ideas I have in the evening, AFTER a consistent-paying day job.

That leads to the whole idea of giving up.  I feel if I get a "regular" full time job, I won't seriously work at pushing myself to start my own business.  Why does it have to be that way?  I think it's because I don't feel comfortable changing the entire lifestyle for the rest of my family just so that I can fulfill a dream.  

It's that female guilt thing. 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Help wanted

I just mentioned to a friend the other day that I believe I attract chaos.  Like a magnet.  However, I don't feel overly anxious about any one thing more than the other.  I think that I have always attracted chaos and this is just the way life is meant to be lived for me.

One thing I do contemplate often, though, is how to stop this madness.  I wonder, though, if I really have more than anyone else, or if I just notice it more than others.  I heard this morning that the minimum wage went up making a person's yearly salary, at this wage, $13 thousand and some change.  That is about two thousand below the poverty level.  When I compare my life to a single mother making minimum wage, I know I have nothing to complain about.  But I write for myself, so I'll complain.

My nesting cleanse is not going so well.  I was cleaning like a mad woman for awhile, but then it all came to a screeching halt while I was in Minnesota and San Francisco.  I now have the old feelings of laziness.   I don't want to clean or organized.  I think it's similar to getting to the gym for others.  The desire comes and goes in waves.  I'm in low tide - I hate the disorganized state of the house, but can't figure out how to get my beached ass off the sand.

Face it.  I've been living in a dream world since I left my job in May.  I've had free days and fun nights for quite some time now.  This "not working" gig is pretty great, but reality has hit.  I need a job.  A great job that will allow me to work from home.  I want to be home for the kids and our family.  Two full-time working parents were no good for our children.  Neither Chris nor me are any good at switching gears at the end of the day so that we can be a great parent and cook.  We are more likely to come home, grab a beer and chips, and then open the door to the pantry and stare.  Soon it's 7 PM and we're throwing hotdogs in the microwave again.  All beef, but still hotdogs.  I want to do more with all the opportunities I've been exposed to on the internet.  With my writing or my photography.  That will involve taking risks.  Not monetarily necessarily, but self-esteem wise.  I need to stop beating myself up and find the confidence in my creativity somewhere in myself.  It's now or never.

A colleague and friend I worked with last year, Nicole, lent me a great book on this very topic.  One of the quotes that made a lasting impact on me came from the first chapter, "We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic."  This can be interpreted in many ways, but I tied it directly to my outlook on a future as a photographer.  My self talk in general is pretty awful, but when you ask me about my ability to succeed as a professional photographer - watch out.  The language becomes pretty foul.  I would never talk as poorly about anyone else (except G.W.) as I do myself.

Beyond my disgruntlement over my cleaning prowess, and my worry about my future career, I have other concerns.  Like the state of my yard and basement.  Remember the projects we started last year?  They're not done.  Not even close.  This goes back to the money discussion.  We've never had enough to do everything we want, but our priority has been travel this year.  Unfortunately, I never realized when perusing the Expedia site, how frustrated I would be 15 months later after we started our projects, staring at their unfinished state.  I want my kids to have a back yard.  I want a guest room and an extra bath.  We NEED a second bathroom.

It's hard to complain about this out loud, at home, because my husband is the "contractor" for all of these projects.  He's an extremely competent construction project manager by day, but can't seem to bring his amazing organizational strategies from his professional life into his home life.  Again, I can't complain.  Who wants to do all evening, and weekend, what they've been doing all week, but at some point I'm going to have a nervous breakdown about all of this. (Consider this a warning, Christopher)  I hate thinking about what the neighbors must think.  I don't like it that my kids know how to crawl up to the electrical panel to flip the breakers that turn on the basement lights.  I know it will all get done someday - I just want that day to come sooner rather than later.

This leads me to my kids.  Staying home all day with them has been trying this summer.  Vacationing with them was also hard because I was often single parenting.  Harrison and Ella have become so much easier, in so many ways, but the squabbling.  I cannot stand the squabbling, and then the subsequent tattling.  I wish I was set up like a tape player.  Whenever they are upset with each other, and want me to settle a dispute, I could direct them to push the "Play" button.  This would be the recording:  "You need to figure this out between the two of you."  Then I would hit the "Rewind" button so that the recording was all queued up for the next battle.

For the first time, in a very long time, I am completely in the dark about my future.  I have no idea what to expect.  I thought that I had a job opportunity that would solve all my problems, but it fell through for now.  I was devastated, but weirdly calm about it.  Maybe it's because the first two people I told were calm.  Chris said to me that it "...was just another bump in the road."  Nicole told me that she believed that it wasn't meant to be.  That something better suited for me was in my future.

I can live with these thoughts for a while longer, but soon I will need to know how to pay the mortgage.  For now, I'm going to forget all of this and go watch "Alvin and the Chipmunks" with my kids.  This will be their fourth time watching it this week. 

We believe in getting the most out of our rental movie dollar.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

staying up late playing with photoshop

A sign in Chinatown, San Francisco