The Thomas Fire

So last week was a doozy. Monday night I was putting Max to bed and kept hearing the Hubs's phone buzzing over and over again in the living room. In my mind I was like, "OMG you guys and your group texts are getting out of control!" Well it was a group text, but when I finally came out and took a look (Aaron was putting Cadence to bed and I'm unabashedly nosy), that's when I learned about the fire. And it moved so fast, by the time I skimmed the messages - which had been going back and forth for like 20 minutes - the fire had already made it from one end of town to the other. When Aaron came out we turned on the scanner, texted our families, and got on social media to see what was happening. Meanwhile, the power went out all over the city and didn't come back on until the next morning.

My parents live adjacent to the neighborhoods that were worst off, and I spent the entire next day watching their house on the news while they were evacuated. The houses directly behind theirs went up but theirs, and amazingly their whole neighborhood, stayed safe. Also amazingly, only one person died in the fires. Even though there was very little time to escape, people left as soon as they were told and saved their lives as a result.

Now we're starting to deal with the aftermath. Most of the evacuations have been lifted. Hundreds of homes are completely gone in our city alone (the fire is still burning and has hit at least 4 cities now, ours was just the first and hardest hit).  So many people are displaced and lost everything. For most, insurance will pay for them to rebuild of course, but I feel for the people who were renting and weren't insured. Not to mention just the thought of losing all your possessions. Some friends of my family who lost their house also lost all of the photos they had of their daughter who passed away several years ago. There was just no time to even think about what to bring with them when they had to flee. Hubs works at a bank and has been talking to lots of people who fall into that category and he says it's really emotional. I can only imagine. It's bad enough just watching these neighborhoods that I've known my entire life disintegrate overnight and seeing friends go through this incredible loss. I'm suddenly very grateful for my tiny house that is still standing.

So we're all trying to get back on track now that it's been a week since the worst has passed. The air quality here is horrific though. You can't go outside without a mask and schools have been closed going on two weeks. At first the east winds were pushing the smoke out to sea (let me tell you that was the first time I truly appreciated the Santa Ana winds!), but now the winds have died down and we're all just living under a huge cloud of smoke, with ash raining down. Here in our house, the kids have had colds and coughs, and Max seems particularly sensitive to the smoke. We were able to borrow an air purifier from my parents and that helps. But boy does it suck being stuck indoors all the time! Aaron and I have been meaning to drive around town and survey the wreckage but it just hasn't worked out. Even being in the car you can still smell and taste the smoke.

Nevertheless, we're trying to get into the Christmas spirit. Our tree and lights have been up since right before the fire, decorations are out, and I'm mostly done shopping. I'm looking forward to the festivities even though it's lots of running around! It's been too quiet this past week or so. I will say it's been amazing to see our community come together, and so, SO many people helping out. I wish I could do more but at least was able to bring some clothes and toys by for an old friend who lost the home she and her family were renting, along with all their stuff. I hadn't seen her since high school, and although the circumstances suck, it was nice to reconnect.

I have all the confidence in the world that our city will recover just fine. I know there are people already making plans to rebuild. It's going to look a lot different around here I'm sure, but this tragedy actually brought our community closer, so I really think it will be even better than ever once it's behind us.


Holiday countdown

Now that Halloween is over it's nearing time for our annual holiday marathon to the New Year! In the past the craziness of the holiday season has been a bone of contention for me, but in my old age I've come to accept it, and dare I say even enjoy it. Well, most of it anyway. Don't get me wrong, I still daydream of vacationing in Hawaii instead of rushing from house to house to house for Christmas, but with two little kids who love visiting their cousins and grandparents, for now it's better to just suck it up and play along.

But first a little rehash of Halloween! I was pretty excited for it this year. I even decorated the house right around the first of the month. Cadence was super excited too, and dressed up as Mal from Disney's Descendants. She's obsessed with those movies, which honestly is fine with me. At least it's a change from the nonstop stream of cartoons that we watch on repeat, and some of the musical numbers are enjoyable (my personal fave is "Did I Mention," it's just so catchy). Also I'm not gonna lie, I'm relieved to see her admire a female character for once. Not that I have a problem with her mostly being attached to male characters, only wanting to listen to male singers, and preferring boys in general, but I do have a problem with her overall disdain for girls. I'm not sure what brought that on, but it had been going on for months and finally seems to be fading a little. Now she's been telling me she's playing with the girls AND boys at school, likes purple and sometimes pink (before those were relegated to "ew" girl colors and therefore to be hated), and might even be willing to wear a dress from time to time. So anyway, she was Mal, we sprayed her hair purple, and she wore her costume to school two days in a row and was totally stoked.

Max was a puppy, because I figured this was probably my last year of getting choose his costume myself and I wanted him to be something snuggly. He was so cute! He loves dogs too so he was actually pretty happy in his costume. He of course refused to wear the hat/puppy face so I painted a nose and whisker spots on his face (which were mostly rubbed off in the first 30 minutes but whatever). He can't say "trick or treat" yet but he can go "woof woof!" when you ask him what sound a dog makes, so that was pretty adorable. And he caught on to the idea of trick or treating pretty fast and had a blast. We went out with the kids' cousins and a couple other families as usual, and it was exhausting as usual, but fun.

Now we get a little holiday break for a couple weeks, and in the meantime we have some more house projects to do. Nothing major, but we're getting a new screen door to replace the retractable one we've had for a while. I didn't realize when we bought it that the bottom would be loose enough for the cats to easily squeeze underneath and escape, so for the past few years we've had 2 very classy cinder blocks on our front porch to block them in when the door is open. And now the screen has torn so even the cinder blocks don't keep them contained anymore. (I'm just starting to realize how white trash my life must sound...) So hooray, soon I will have a nice screen door and NO CINDER BLOCKS to step over! That should probably take my trashy-meter down at least 10%. Also we're going to do a little hot-spot cleanup on the side yard finally. And I'm going to secretly get rid of like 30% of my kids' toys and clothes before Christmas. Shhh!


Jobs and heat and cold

So I have a second interview tomorrow that I'm a little anxious about. The first interview went really well and was actually super easy, and tomorrow I meet with the hiring manager. It seems like a really nice place to work, but it's the same commute I had been doing for about 6 years before I got laid off, which I am not thrilled about. That's my main concern about the job, but the reality is there's not much available any more locally than that.

On the bright side I've been working a lot with my dad on expanding his business. If our efforts pay off I'll be able to work full time for him, which really means working from home taking orders and doing administrative stuff, and weekends filling orders. Eventually he would like to pass the business on to me when he retires too. So I'm making that my end goal. Whatever job I take right now is "temporary" in my mind because I'm doing whatever I can to grow my dad's business until I'm making enough money to quit. I really hope that happens sooner rather than later, but I'm guessing realistically it will be at least a year or more.

In other news it's hot as balls here lately. Apparently we're beating all kinds of heat records in our area, which is super fun when you don't have AC, let me tell you. Today is the first day in a few days that it has been cool enough to even stay home (it's like 90 today). Supposedly tomorrow will be a lot cooler, and I'm praying to every god I can think of that it stays that way for the rest of the year. I'm so sick of autumn heat waves! Seems they've been nonstop since the end of summer and I am ready to put away my flip flops and sundresses already and stop having to shave my legs for a few months!

We've also been fighting colds and coughs nonstop around here. Max came down with an ear infection and when we went to the doctor yesterday we discovered that Cadence had one too! They've each had a cough for at least 2 weeks (and so have I), so I'm hoping the antibiotics finally knock it out. I just don't understand why these sicknesses seem to linger all the time lately. I hate giving them antibiotics and I wouldn't if it was just a cold, but with the ear infections I figure we have to. We go to a large family practice and the doctor we've been seeing lately seems to jump to antibiotics every time we visit. Next time we go for a checkup I think I'm going to talk to our regular pediatrician about it and see why that is.

Yeah so not much of interest happening in my life. I've noticed that my party planning posts have gotten lots of hits since I posted them on Pinterest; unfortunately I can't afford to plan any parties right now! I have tons of ideas too. I would love to do a kids' Halloween party someday, and a vintage Christmas party. Last year we hosted Friendsgiving and that was a big hit. Maybe it would be fun to write some posts about the parties I want to throw until I can actually afford to throw one. That will ease the itch and give me something to do when I need to hide from my kids for a few minutes! (Yes that's what I'm doing right now.)


I am the storage solution queen

Okay so my open shelving project in the kitchen is officially complete, here it is in case you wanted to see:

Ooh, aah! Baskets were a steal at $15 for 2 on Amazon Prime.

...And so is the pegboard-over-the-stove project! That one turned out to be ridiculously easy and cheap! We bought an $8 white pegboard from Home Depot, cut it to size with a circular saw, hung it up using stainless steel bolt spacers between the wall and the board, and hung up a bunch of utensils that were taking up ample drawer space... A-like so:

I'm pretty excited that my green mason jars fit perfectly in that basket, so my non-hangable utensils are still out of the drawer and within easy reach.

The baskets were purchased in a set of 3, also from Home Depot, and I ordered the J-hooks from Amazon since I couldn't find them at HD. Can I just take a moment to mention that Julia Child's kitchen was covered in pegboard? So I'm feeling like a legit chef right about now. And I'm fully appreciating the fact that locating my cork screw is easier than ever without all those pesky spoons and ladles in the way.

My kitchen chalkboard is also nearly complete. It has taken 4 coats of chalkboard paint, 4 sanding sessions, and like 2 weeks, but at least I'm done painting now. We still have to pick out trim for the frame, and then cut, paint, and install it. It is going just to the right of the open shelves.

So the other day I was so excited to be in my kitchen with my satisfying updates, that I mentioned to the Hubs that we should finally replace our awkward old stereo cabinet/bookcase with the big bookcase I acquired from my old job. While the old bookcase was too short and too deep, the "new" one is completely the wrong color to go in our living room and I've never gotten around to painting it like I initially planned. But we really need the storage space, so I decided color scheme be damned,  storage is more important and I'll get around to painting it eventually...one day...maybe. Well we got it done, and even though the color is all wrong, I still think it's an improvement:

Before: This cabinet/bookcase is short, narrow, and deep (you can't tell from this pic, but it's like 18" deep). The room looks super cluttered. And in case you're wondering, yep, Max's "changing table" is in the living room. The joys of living in a 900 square foot house with 4 people.

After (but before I really organized the shelves): 7' tall and 3' wide, but only 12" deep, it looks more streamlined, and makes the room feel more spacious. I'm planning to paint the frame black, and the back of it to match the wall. 

And while I was waiting for my BIL to show up and help hubs move the 7' tall bookcase from the garage to the living room, brilliant inspiration struck! I decided to remove the feet from the old bookcase and use it at shelves in my bedroom closet, where we currently store Max's clothes. We'd been using yet another old storage device - a 2-drawer mini-dresser-thing, but the crap cardboard bottoms fell out of both drawers so that it was completely useless. Now none of Max's clothes are hanging anymore but the closet looks much better and I can actually find what I'm looking for when I get him dressed.

The more projects we complete, the more I find to do - like now I need to clear off the top of the fridge and microwave, and we're considering trading rooms so that Cadence and Max can share the bigger bedroom and keep their toys in there. I'll probably tackle the fridge and microwave first though.


In my kitchen

Well I haven't been very organized about it, but at least attempting to focus on getting more focused has made me feel a little more focused. Nothing life-changing has happened, but I'm getting things done around the house anyway. 

The other day I recognized something that has been bugging me for ages: That we don't eat meals at the dinner table (in the kitchen), but instead on our laps in front of the TV. A big part of the reason for that is like every other part of our house the kitchen is a cluttered mess. Another part is that it is ugly. It's almost original to the house, which was built in 1950. The cabinets and layout are original. Some previous owner put in white tile countertops and backsplashes, and did a terrible job installing ugly beige tile on the floor, then when we moved in we painted everything white and yellow and that's where the improvements ended. There isn't much in the way of counter space or storage, so the kitchen table is often used to hold anything and everything until I find a place for it indefinitely.

It's not big but it's also not a particularly tiny kitchen, it just has a really inefficient layout. There is a big blank wall right when you walk in, which originally was home to the laundry area. We put our fridge on the other side of the doorway from the blank wall so there wasn't room for anything substantial like cabinets, so instead three Cost Plus vintage-esque framed prints went there and we made do. For nine years. Yep, I haven't even switched out the art since we moved in. I would absolutely love to renovate the whole damn thing, change the layout around, increase storage and counter space, and install a pass-through, but we haven't been able to afford that master plan since we conceived it so instead we did nothing.

Nothing... until the other day when I said to the Hubs, "I wish there was something we could do to make our kitchen more comfortable." We started brainstorming (not to be confused with mind-mapping), I hit up Pinterest for some ideas, we measured, and voila! We decided to build open shelves on that big blank wall. It was actually really easy and inexpensive. Instead of buying shelving kits, we got pre-cut pine wood and brackets and turned them into four three-foot long shelves ourselves. We painted the wood white and put a pretty gray contact paper on the tops. I ordered some nice (and cheap!) gray baskets for three of the shelves so we can use them like a mini pantry, and the other shelf is where my coffee maker and fruit basket now live. I'm kinda loving my new coffee station, and I'm absolutely loving the extra counter space I have now that the coffee maker and fruit basket have moved! Plus the kitchen looks more balanced, and even though I haven't finished stocking the shelves (my baskets aren't due to arrive for another week, ugh!) I'm already feeling a lot more organized.

I have more plans too! Next I'm going to paint a chalkboard on what remains of the big blank wall next to the new shelves, and then I'm planning to install pegboard above the stove (where three more "vintage-esque" pictures have hung for the past 9 years). 

So all this is what it takes to eventually get us to start eating meals around the table together. Yeah, it hasn't quite happened yet, but it will! I still have to tackle that mess on the table... but as my therapist friend says, "Progress, not perfection!" 


Focus and garlic

July is over and we're almost halfway through August already. I feel like I'm watching life fly by as one day blurs into the next. And every day I feel more and more scattered. It's getting to the point where I can hardly keep track of the thoughts in my head anymore. What's worse is I got rejected for yet another job, one that I thought I had in the bag. So I'm losing confidence and really starting to feel lost. I am not letting it get me down, I have these kids to take care of and when I'm stressed, they're stressed. Instead, I'm making a goal of getting focused. I don't know if it will help me get employed, but I think it will help me feel more...me. Centered. Purposeful. Less of a nebulous mass of thoughts and emotions. Something like that.

I did a little "mind mapping" (I'm old. Back in my day we called it "brainstorming," but whatever) and wrote out some things I can do to help me feel more focused and maybe figure out what it is I want out of life.

One is to get creative. I like writing and I have this here blog, so I'm going to try to do more of that. I may try to paint or draw or maybe just color too. I feel like when I do that my thoughts just flow, I'm not forcing them, so I feel more "me." And sometimes realizations happen.

Another is to meditate. When I was at what I feel was my best, I was meditating regularly. As a result I felt less stressed, more optimistic, and more confident, even though back then I was unemployed too.

And third, and I know I keep saying this, but I need to get back to running. Running is hard and makes it difficult to focus on anything but the present moment and how I may or may not actually die from the effort. And when I'm done with a run and realizing that "HEY! I didn't actually die," I feel pretty great.

So there ya go. You have glimpsed my most focused mind at the moment.

On Garlic & Zycam:
This is for Misty - TRY IT. Apparently there are studies that show the allicin in garlic can reduce colds. It's antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. Every time I start to feel like I'm coming down with something I eat raw garlic. Just take a clove, cut it into chunks, chew and swallow. You have to chew it in order to release the allicin. I chomp down a few times until it starts to sting, swallow and chase with water. (Take Pepcid if it bothers your stomach.) Do this 2-3 times a day for the first 2-3 days you feel sick. I find that when I do it I get maybe 30% of the severity compared to the rest of the family. And YEP I caught the gnarly cold that was going around my house last month, took the garlic, and I only felt a little crummy for part of one day and didn't get much of a cough at all, while everyone else hacked for DAAAAAYS. (Aaron had to do a nebulizer treatment and get inhalers, and Max wound up with an awful cough, an ear infection, and had to go on antibiotics.) I use Zycam too because zinc also works to reduce the severity of colds. I take 3/day starting at the first sign of a cold, for about the first 3 days. Oh and I also take Emergen-C! I do whatever it takes to not get sick! I do think it helps, particularly the garlic.



Happy July! This month is a busy one for us this year. In addition to Max's birthday and mine (and my sister's, and my nephew's), we have a wedding to attend, and the start of our annual campout. On top of that I've been interviewing again and am pretty hopeful for one of these jobs to actually work out. With any luck I'll be back to work after we get back from our camping trip! Knock on wood. Crossing my fingers. Wishing upon a star...

Anywho. Max's first birthday party is of course at the forefront of my attention right now. He loves playing ball and the Hubs is a big ol' Dodger fan, so naturally it will be baseball themed. Once again I will be making more decorations than is reasonable, but I'm a picky lady and I always want them to be just so! Also as you know I'm poor, so I'm trying to be frugal as well. This time I've actually arranged some (free) help though! Hubs's little 12 year old cousin is dying to be a babysitter but needs some practice, so she's scheduled to come help watch the kids for a couple days while I get some party prep done. I'm pretty stoked about that! 

The campout is a week long and starts the day after Max's birthday party, so that should be pretty fun to prep for too (#sarcasm). I have no big plans for my birthday, which is next weekend. And the wedding is the day before my birthday, so there's really not much time to do anything anyway. I've told Hubs what I want is a cake using the $25 credit from Nothing Bundt Cakes we received when he found a piece of packaging tape that looked waaaaay too similar to a band-aid in his carrot cake, and a box of See's candy using the gift card I found in the junk drawer last month. (I'm thinking it was a Christmas gift?) We also got updated family photos, so I did get a gift. Bada-bing bada-boom, birthday planned, as always by me.

So that's what I've been up to. Oh yeah and Cadence came down with a cough, which Hubs caught the other day and I'm trying desperately to keep Max and myself from getting. All I need is a sick baby to add to everything else! I'm pretty confident the raw garlic and zycam will keep me healthy but I can't really feed that to a baby. Too bad because that stuff works.


Sounds Suspicious Vol. 2

I told you last time that I have another round in the works and indeed that was true! So let's get to it because my kids are already all over me making this really hard to type.

CLAIM: Putting Vaseline on your eyelashes makes them grow longer/fuller; a la this bad boy:

Pro tip: Photoshopping is clearly at play here. Look closely and you can see how her hair is falling in exactly the same way next to her right cheek in both images. Also both pics are taken at the exact same angle. I had a hard time getting my "after" photo even close to the same angle I had in the "before." Shadows are falling in the same places in both pics, etc. 

My problem with this claim was that in my 5 minutes of research, I was unable to find a before and after pic that wasn't either obviously Photoshopped, or where the person wasn't wearing mascara. So you have my word that the following are true:

1. No photo editing has occurred that enhances the look of my eyelashes. I did do a little color editing that made it easier to see my lashes and to compare. But nothing that would make them look longer or fuller. Scout's honor! (#iamnotascout #imstillhonestthough)

2. I wasn't wearing ANY makeup in either photo.

And my disclaimers:

1. I didn't use Vaseline brand white petroleum, but CVS brand. Because I am poor and that's what I had on hand.

2. I admit I wasn't fully consistent with this experiment. I had great intentions and put the Vaseline on my lashes every night for the first several days (like 5 days straight. One commenter claimed to see results in a week so I was close). And then Max started teething, and late nights abounded, and there were a few times I fell asleep without even brushing my teeth, so you'll have to forgive me and take that into consideration. On average I'd say over the past 3 weeks I managed to put Vaseline on my lashes about every other night.

Okay so here are my results:

I did my best to get these in focus but it was hard to do on my phone!

VERDICT: I was really, REALLY hoping this one was going to work! But I don't see a noticeable difference, do you? It seemed reasonable that white petroleum could potentially work as a moisturizer or conditioner and reduce breakage. And when I wore mascara after doing the Vaseline trick for several days, I thought my lashes seemed a little fuller-looking than before, and that the mascara went on a little smoother and more evenly. But looking at the photos now, I'm gonna have to say this one was another bust!

Until next time!


Sounds Suspicious vol. 1

I love Pinterest. It is one of the 4 apps I switch back and forth between pretty much all day long while my kids are napping or involved in an educational independent activity. I love getting inspired to start projects I'll never finish, finding new uses for everyday items, and discovering new ways to make all my crap fit into my tiny house.

Lately, however, I've been noticing with increasing frequency certain questionable pieces of advice, or "life hacks," that have no apparent foundation in reality. My favorite recent finding is this handy tip to straighten your hair without heat using water mixed with brown sugar.

Please just let that sink in for a second. Do you really think there's any planet on which spraying sugar water into your hair would result in anything other than a sticky, bug-attracting disaster? But judging by the number of boards this pin was saved to (over 750), people will believe anything they read on the internet, especially if there's a pretty, high-resolution (and usually highly Photoshopped) before and after pic attached. I'm not sure who's coming up with these ridiculous claims or why, but there are a LOT of people buying into them.

So I've decided to anoint myself your official questionable-life-hack-buster! That's right. When I find a bit of advice on the internet that seems shady but isn't too expensive or dangerous to try you can count on me to test it out and report my findings. I'm highly qualified for this gig for the following reasons:

1. I have a computer with a reliable internet connection.
2. I know how to type.
3. I have Photoshop experience so I can usually recognize when image editing sorcery is at play.
4. I need a hobby.

So without further ado, today I give you my first Sounds Suspicious life hack test!

CLAIM: You can remove (or minimize or possibly bleach) blackheads with a solution of baking soda and lemon juice.

Here's the pin I found making this claim:
Wow! Just look at the improvement!

I tried this hack out yesterday exactly as the pin prescribes. First I made a "creamy paste" (does that sound gross or what? I hope this post doesn't come up in an adult themed google search) with a fresh lemon and some baking soda.

My lemon and baking soda concoction. (And my bathroom sink that needs to be cleaned.) I used about 1 tbsp lemon juice and as advised poured baking soda in until it looked like a creamy paste. It was fizzy and bubbly until I mixed it up because base + acid = SCIENCE!

And here's the blackheaded nasal region in question (i.e. mine). I tried very hard to get a picture with my old iPhone that was in focus, but this was the best I could do. I think you get the idea.

I'm all squinty because I even stood outside in the sun trying to get you the best view of my clogged pores. And you can tell it's not photoshopped because I would have at least minimized those dark circles under my eyes or some of the red blemishes. See? This is how you know I'm trustworthy - I let it all hang out.

Time to slather that creamy paste on my face! I went all out and covered every blackhead-prone region cuz in case this actually worked then I wanted all those suckers gone. I used a Q-Tip to smear it on nice and thick.

I smell delicious.

And now we wait. 20 minutes. I watched the clock and took the following notes:

  • The lemon juice separates from the baking soda pretty quickly and drips down my face.
  • My nose itches. On the inside. I think some lemon juice found its way in.
  • 8 minutes in - it's tingling with a very mild burning sensation. Does this mean it's working?
  • My nose seriously itches every time I move any part of my face. I try to be completely still.
  • 14 minutes in - the paste is drying out and starting to crumble off. I now have dried out creamy lemon paste in my cleavage. DON'T MOVE.
  • Aaron is taking advantage of the fact I'm trying not to move, and reaches into my cleavage to remove some dried up paste. He really just wants to cop a feel.
  • 19 minutes in - one more minute and I can scratch my nose!

At the 20 minute mark I ran to the bathroom and rinsed very carefully and thoroughly with cold water, making sure not to open my eyes until all the paste was removed.  I couldn't wait to see the results!

(I'll put the before image here again so you can compare side-by-side.)

Would I be blackhead free as promised? Would I??


VERDICT: This life hack is a bust!

Well I'm sorry to report that the only difference I noticed was that my face was a little redder. If anything I thought my blackheads looked a bit more pronounced. Looks like my blackheads are here to stay... at least until my next experiment!

Speaking of, I have 2 more suspicious life hacks in the works. I'm testing the claim that Vaseline helps your eyelashes grow, and whether regular ol' hydrogen peroxide can whiten your teeth. So I'll be back with more unedited photographic evidence that lays these claims to rest, whether true or false! Hopefully I don't lose my eyelashes or teeth in the process.


Welcome to Zootopia

I'm having a little post-party depression, I have to admit! I think it's because I felt so productive for the week or so leading up to it, then Aaron and I celebrated our 10th anniversary last weekend, followed by Mother's Day, and now I have nothing but regular life going on. Also Max has been sick with a mild virus for the past week, and is probably teething too. He's been up all night and refusing to nap during the day and I haven't showered in two days, so I'm a little bit of a salty bitch (literally and figuratively!). I need to go for a run and start a new project but I feel so MEH...

As promised, here are pics of Cadence's Zootopia party. I gotta say, for all the time I spent on this party the pics don't really look very impressive. But Cadence loved it, and like I said, I got some satisfaction out of making all the decorations, as much of a pain in the ass as it was!

Zootopia city limits. Poster board, paper, ink jet printer, and an X-Acto knife. This was the biggest pain of all the decorations and took the longest because I had to cut out all those letters by hand. And if you can't tell, it says "Where anyone can be anything!" in the yellow strip... in cursive... and yes I cut those letters out too. Because I'm a glutton for punishment.

My character flag banners looked prettier in person. I tied strips of super glittery green tulle between each character square (purple, blue, and turquoise card stock backing) so it was nice and sparkly in the sunshine. 

A few of the borough posters I put up around the yard. Little Rodentia was meant to be a shady area  for the babies on the grass, but it was overtaken by the retirees drinking wine instead. Oh well!

Some details - The Fox Away silly string was our party favor, I made Zootopia license plates for each of our riding toys to go with the Emmitt Otterton game, and candy "night howler" lollipops I made with a flower mold and Wilton candy melts. I told all the kids if they eat them they go savage, and they very obediently went wild once they took a bite.

I made up a game where the kids had to find Emmitt Otterton by following clues and finding key witnesses around Zootopia/the backyard. There was no prize for this game, we all worked together to crack the case. And everyone got a popsicle.

Cadence was pretty stoked to find Emmitt at the asylum/bounce house.

Our other game was Parking Duty. Whoever put tickets (post-its) on the most cars during the song won a prize. I cut all the cars out of poster board and we taped them up all around the yard.

I asked Cadence what her favorite part of the party was and she said the games. This was the first year we actually played games, and since they came out of my own imagination I was pretty happy she enjoyed them. She's already decided she wants a Star Wars birthday party for next year, so I guess I have plenty of time to prepare. On the bright side I'm pretty sure I'll be able to buy decorations for that one!

Okay Max is rubbing his eyes and wailing "Maaahhhh!" so I'm desperately hoping he'll finally take a nap. I have already tried 3 times to get him down. Wish me luck!


Pinterest perfect

I've got a birthday party brewin' for this weekend! Cadence wanted a Zootopia themed party because she's all about becoming a police officer when she grows up, mostly because they wear blue and she loves all things blue. I'm so hoping she eventually changes her mind, I do not need to be fearing for her life for the rest of mine!

Anyway, I was saying... Oh yeah, so it's pretty difficult to find Zootopia party supplies. There's absolutely ZILCH at Party City, and only a small selection on Amazon - plates and cups and a couple balloons, that sort of thing. But the party will be in my pretty sizable backyard which I had the brilliant plan to turn into the city of ZOOTOPIA! At least it seemed brilliant until I realized I would be making ALL of the decorations myself.


Lucky for me I'm unemployed and have nothing better to do than design and print and cut and craft intricate details for a 4 year old's party. 😑

I actually enjoy doing that sort of thing, when I can sit down and get in the zone and bust it all out in my own sweet time. But being at home with the kids crawling all over me while I'm wielding an Exact-o knife makes it a tad trickier. I think the moms who post their perfect, handcrafted children's parties on Pinterest must have nannies or housekeepers or both, or perhaps a deal with Satan because I seriously have no idea how a normal person can accomplish it. 

So yeah I've spent all of my free time this week doing paper crafts and making up Zootopia-themed games. Oh and I made candy for the first time ever. So you better believe I'm gonna be posting pictures of it all to my blog, because let's be honest, no one but me is going to appreciate (or probably even notice) how much work I put into this party, but at least maybe someone out there in the internet will take pity on me and drop a comment about how cute my Night Howler lollipops are! (Hint!) (No, I have no shame about fishing for compliments!) 

And if anyone's interested, I'll have some high quality, perfect, handcrafted Zootopia party supplies for sale in about 3 days. Or really just take them. I'll even pay for shipping. I'm going to cry when I have to throw it all away.


Just some stuff

Yeah so I still haven't gotten my kids' schedule together. Sickness has been tearing through our home for the past few weeks and at this point I'm just like, screw it, we're not schedule people. As long I get the tykes outside for an hour a day and we all get away from home once a week we're good! I haven't started running again yet but I bought a new sports bra and athletic socks so I'm like halfway there, right?

In other news, Southern California has enjoyed some actual seasons this year, and for once I'm super excited that spring has arrived! Normally spring to me is just another 3 months of waiting for summer, because winter isn't usually much of a real season around here. But since we got all kinds of rain for a few months spring has signaled the end of soggy season and I for one am excited to see the sun again, even though it's not hot just yet. And I'm making plans! I just love making plans! Cadence's 4th birthday is approaching very quickly, only a month away now, so there's a birthday party to arrange and class cupcakes to bake. Easter should be fun too. I'm not real sure how to include Max in the festivities, but honestly he'll probably be content just watching his sister and cousins get all hopped up on sugar and run wild. We're also going to try to get to the beach to camp for a weekend toward the end of April. We took a drive to scout the local campgrounds yesterday and it was so beautiful out that we wound up playing at the beach for the afternoon. Hopefully next month will be as nice!

The job hunt continues. Sigh. I had a moment recently where I felt that I was actually getting pretty good at SAHM-hood, and like I could do it indefinitely... And now I kind of just want Hubs to find a job where he can make more money (he works at a big bank and has been applying for branch manager positions) and let me off the hook. But the reality is we are going into massive amounts of debt on one income and he hasn't gotten a huge promotion yet, so hunt I must. In the meantime I'm also doing some work for my dad, who owns a small business basically making probiotics for exotic fish ponds. There is some potential for me to partner up with him, and if I can help increase sales and clientele I may be able to make enough money just doing that. Which means mostly working from home, and honestly not a whole lot of actual work at that.

On a related note, I have a little rant about the job hunt. (For those with delicate sensibilities, beware of falling F-bombs.) What in the actual fuck is with employers these days? I swear I never in my dating life got ghosted by men the way I'm getting ghosted by hiring managers AFTER I interview. I've even been sending follow-up emails - tastefully and infrequently (like maybe 2 emails after each interview, 1 or 2 weeks apart) - thanking them for their time and asking what the status is on making a decision, and...crickets. So fucking rude! Now it's been 3 months since I had a great interview with the first employer, and 2 since the 2nd, and I still haven't gotten so much as a "thanks but no thanks" from either of them. This really pisses me off. I can't stand inconsiderate people, and this behavior is super inconsiderate. How hard is it to send an email saying, "We picked someone else, sucker."

Okay. I'm done now. Just had to get that off my chest!


Best laid plans of mice

I've been doing some research about how to be a better SAHM. And by "research" I mean I googled it and read one article. But I think it had some pretty solid advice, and of course the first thing I should do is make a schedule. So I'm giving myself a week to get a preliminary schedule together. I started working on it yesterday and was not prepared for what a pain in the ass it already is. I figured I'd start with school days (MWF) since those mornings are already pretty much done, that way I only have to plan out afternoons. I have hit a few roadblocks though, specifically that Max's nap times conflict with Cadence's tired times, which leads to excessive screen time, which leads to tantrums when I suggest turning the screen off, which leads to mommy wanting to start drinking.

But hey I have all week to figure out how to make it work without becoming an alcoholic!

I did manage to decide that on Thursdays we'll get out and do something fun and different for the tykes. This week we're going to the zoo and I'm finally going to renew my membership so we can go whenever we feel like it and not break the bank. There are plenty of free outdoor things to do around here but since we're having such a wet winter I need to find some more free/cheap indoor things.

The other thing I want to start doing is to get back into running. I felt so much happier and physically better when I was running regularly, but like everything else lately it's so hard to make it part of my routine. I did run yesterday actually! I'd decided that taking a walk to the supermarket would be more fun than driving there, so I put on my running shoes, loaded the kids into the stroller, and set out! Everyone was having a pretty good time until Max got overwhelmed at the store and promptly began screaming almost as soon as we got there. I finished up as quickly as I could and then ran the whole way back home, pausing only to let the one jiggly front wheel straighten out every now and then. Yep, he cried the whole way. And if I'm ever dumb enough to try that again I'm definitely going to use the jogger instead of the Winnebago sit and stand stroller. But we made it out of the house, I got some exercise, and I have enough food for 3 more dinners. So all in all I'll call it a success. Meanwhile I'm planning to sign up for a 5K so I have something besides my baby's freak-outs to motivate me to keep running.

It's a start, right? I feel accomplished already!


I suck at this

Okay so I'm just now figuring out how to moderate comments again. I'm so excited to have readers and that everyone didn't fall off the face of the Earth! Thank you!

Last week was another gnarly week of torrential rain and sickness here.  Cadence has been bringing home every virus that makes the rounds at preschool, and try as I might I have yet to prevent Max from catching everything she gets (with the blessed exception of the stomach bug she had a couple weeks ago). Bonus: he tends to stay sicker longer than she does, and although he's much better the past couple days than he was last week, we're currently on day 12 or 13 of this cold and cough and green mucusy gross-fest resulting in a fussy tired baby who somehow doesn't want to sleep. Oh and did I mention he's teething again too?

Now that the rain is on hiatus I've been making an effort to get out more though. Today we went to the library to check out some books and probably some new germs too. But at least I got to see the inside of a building other than my house. 

I seriously need to figure out how to be a better SAHM. Who knows when I'll land a job. I for sure thought I'd be gainfully employed by now, but since it hasn't happened I'm realizing it could still be a while and it's getting real hard to stay optimistic. Meanwhile I'm stuck inside most of the time with two sick kids and no money to spend on fun stuff even when they're well. And let's be honest, even at the best of times I'd prefer working at a nice desk job surrounded by adults and being intellectually stimulated than wiping butts and coloring and watching cartoons and arguing with a very dramatic 3 year old about why Girl Scout cookies aren't an acceptable breakfast item.

See, I'm good at being employed. I'm smart, I'm great with computers, and I'm a fantastic coworker. I even look for actual work to do when I have down time (usually). And when I'm employed I'm a better mom too. But man, I suck at being a SAHM. I just can't seem to get it together, to be organized enough so my kids are on a stimulating schedule that keeps them (and me) happy. I lose my patience a lot, like when my preschooler asks me over and over for something after I've told her no, and I absolutely lose my shit when that line of questioning eventually dissolves into (her) tears and cries for DADDY! As if he would be on her side, seriously. I'm exhausted by having to be "on" 24 hours a day. Max is on the move big time and of course puts everything in his mouth. He has blowouts like I never thought possible and barfs on the floor and then crawls through it on a daily basis. Did I mention he weighs over 25 pounds? It's a lot to pick him up and clean him off and he freaks whenever I change his clothes.

I am tired. I miss having coworkers and sitting at a desk and meeting deadlines and writing policies and business emails and taking the time to get the details right in training materials. And mostly I miss feeling like I was doing something I was good at and actually enjoyed.

I'm gonna put some serious thought into how I can be a happier and better SAHM. I need to get better at it.


Last good-byes

This week was supposed to be a nothing-particularly-special type of week, except I was supposed to have a second interview for the job that's currently at the top of my list, but then some family shit hit the fan. My grandmother who was already on hospice had a stroke and started fading, so I quickly had to decide how and when I was going to make the 4 hour trek to see her for the last time. The Hubs couldn't get time off work so I packed a bag, took the baby, and got on the train first thing Tuesday morning.

I had low expectations for how Max would handle 8 hours on a train in one day, but he was amazing. He loved staring out the window and smiling at everyone who walked past our seats. He nursed and napped and hardly fussed at all. And when we got to my grandma's bedside he was perfectly content to chat with my mom and aunt and stare at himself in the mirror while the adults talked. The ride home was exhausting but again, he did great.

Grandma Kay was unconscious the whole time I was there, which I expected. But I believe she could hear us, and that she liked having her family there with her. She seemed peaceful. I spent a few minutes alone telling her that I loved her and would miss her and never forget her. I found out the next morning that she passed away in her sleep late that night.

There are some people who understandably have a hard time being around the dying, so much so that they can't bring themselves to visit and say good-bye. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Saying good-bye is usually more for you than it is for the person who is dying. When my grandfather was on hospice I never went to see him, even though I promised I would, and then one night he just died. I guess I thought I would have more time or there would somehow be more warning before he finally went. That still eats at me. So a few years later when my grandmother, his wife, was fading I made sure to see her and I'm so glad I did. The same goes for my Grandma Kay's death. I haven't been the best granddaughter as far as keeping in contact goes. And over the past 10 or 12 years she had Alzheimer's, so she didn't really even remember me the last time I saw her (over a year ago). So for me it was really important to go see her, even though it meant a long, exhausting day of traveling with a baby by myself.

It's sort of strangely fascinating to me to be around someone in their last hours. I find myself wondering what, if anything, is going through their mind. What they're feeling or if they're absorbing the present moment or lost in their memories. Or if they're dreaming just as if they were asleep. Both of my grandmothers were very peaceful in their last hours, so I don't think they were afraid, but who can really know? Of course we all find out one day what it's like, and I can only hope it's as peaceful for me as it has been for my loved ones.

Now all of my grandparents are gone. I'm not a believer anymore, so I'm not sold on the idea that they're all together in heaven. I like the idea of reincarnation, but I also sometimes feel like I get visits from them (and my mom swears she does). At any rate, I believe whatever has happened to their souls/life force/energy is as good as it ever can be. They were all wonderful people. And my Grandma Kay was a particularly sweet and special lady, who I loved and will never forget.


In defense of the poncho

Does the poncho need defending? I'm not actually sure. I dress pretty conservatively, some might even call my wardrobe boring. I like to call it "classic" but I know I don't take many fashion risks. For example, I really like hats in theory, and I think they look good on me. But whenever I go out on a limb and actually wear one I feel like I'm trying too hard or something. For all I know the poncho might be the height of fashion right now, I pay so little attention to trends. But in my mind it's an inherently dorky fringe clothing item that is difficult to pull off at best.

Well. This year my MIL got my SIL, hopefully future SIL, and me our very own ponchos for Christmas. Mine looks like this:

A regal name for a most regal wearable blanket.

My first thought was, "Cool! I am totally going to wear this when we go camping, and on cool evenings in the backyard around the fire." But definitely not, "I am going to wear this out and about on the town!" Because, dude it's a poncho.

Is the poncho so bad?

I tried it on and OMG. Comfort level of 10. I put the giant hood on and felt simultaneously mysterious and comfy. Like a Star Wars character, but with zippers and seams. I've been wearing it around the house almost every day and it's like wearing a cozy fleece blanket that fits so very very fine. It's almost luxurious, the amount of fabric that envelopes me. And it provides the perfect amount of warmth when I need to run outside to the garage to do laundry in the evenings.

It turns out I love my poncho and I want the world to know! I mean, not enough to actually wear it outside in front of people, but like I will write about it here, and probably one day wear it to the movies. I think it's going to be the perfect movie theater accessory. And of course when we go camping, and in the backyard around the fire, and every single day when I'm at home.

Join me in the poncho revolution!


Upside Right

I've started a little collection of the funny things my daughter spouts off. If you have little ones of your own, or even just know some little ones, I highly recommend making a collection too. Three is a great age for this because not only are they repeating everything they hear, but they're also butchering the language in unexpected and hilarious ways.

Here's a little taste of some of the things my daughter has said this year:

My nipples are shrinking!  They'll come back when I'm four and then they'll be THIS BIG!

No princess has brown eyes.

I think you're delicious.

Let's play hip stotch!

(With tears in eyes) But, my body wants to watch something! (on TV)

Me: Son of a...
Her: Beast!

One of my favorites of her new phrases is "upside right." Call me a terrible mother but I never correct her when she gets phrases like that and "hop scotch" wrong, frankly just because I think it's adorable. She has plenty of time to be corrected! Anyway I thought Upside Right was kinda fitting for this blog because after all those years of failing at TTC and after giving it all up (twice, kinda) we somehow wound up with our perfect little family anyway. Life certainly has a way of turning out completely different from what we plan, and in the end it usually ends up pretty good despite all the hardships we go through.

I still have no particular direction in mind for this space, but since my family-building days are behind me now I thought it was a good time to change things up a little.

**MISTY! Thank you for your comment! I can't find your blog in my reading list, can you remind me of the url please? Is it private? I would love you follow you again!