Strung Together

On a recent weekend away, we stopped at a national park to take a look around. The temperatures that day had climbed into the high 90s and it was unbearably hot. As Henry stepped out of the car, he lamented the heat exclaiming, “UGH. It’s so HUMID.”

From somewhere on the other side of the car, Millie replied calmly and clearly, “No, that’s just the sweat of your enemies you’re feeling.”

One morning a couple of weeks ago, Bob decided to make pancakes for the kids. It’s always fun to watch them groggily emerge from their bedrooms following the scent of maple syrup. When Millie wandered in, Bob immediately went to embrace her in a good morning hug which she crankily declined.

“If you even so much as look at me, I will stab you in the brain with this fork,” she declared whilst wielding her breakfast cutlery. We all looked up from our assorted tasks and collectively responded, “Whoa, dude. That’s way harsh.” Millie looked at Bob and exclaimed cheerily, “I’M JUST JOKING!”

As she turned and walked towards the table we heard her mutter under her breath, “Don’t worry. This fork probably couldn’t penetrate the skull anyway.”

Everything is fine but also we’re all sleeping with one eye open.

Speaking of Millie, she is our easiest-to-please eater. She always has been. She’ll try most any food. She’s adventurous and curious. She gets ridiculously excited about her favorite foods. She’s positively giddy when I make her most treasured meal – ground beef tacos seasoned with that orange seasoning mix you get in the packet at the grocery store.

Bolstered by virtually unfettered access to cooking competition shows on Netflix, the kids suggested we have a family cook-off showdown of our own. Charlie and Bob decided to pair off (of course). Millie decided she would be the judge (of course). That left Henry and I as a team (we always are).

Each team picked a night to prepare dinner and Millie had an elaborate and indecipherable points system that took into account originality, presentation, and whether or not dessert was included.

I don’t want to knock Bob’s kitchen skills but Henry and I totally won. Hands down. It… wasn’t even a competition. But, it took like, three hours to prepare dinner from (mostly) scratch and, my word, I would not last as a pioneer wife. I was too tired to even touch the dishes. Also, let me know if you’d like my sister’s winning recipe for meatloaf. There weren’t even any leftovers.

We’ve been making it a point this summer to come together for dinner most nights. Between my work commitments and the kids commitments, both dinner and dinnertime had become a scattered and random affair the first half of the year. We just simply fell out of the habit.

But, we kickstarted the effort this summer. Gathering each night around the dining room table to chat and laugh and linger. And, it’s been lovely. Turns out, my kids are very funny and I enjoy spending time with them after all.

78WJEhONTRyvGZJBXplkIQ

Speaking of dinner around the table, I finally found the wing chairs for my dining room that I have been searching more than a year for. I found them on Craigslist. I wasn’t sure if people still USED Craigslist but, out of desperation, I logged on looking for wing chairs I was certain I would never find. Turns out, a nice elderly couple downsizing from their large suburban home near the city was selling exactly what I was looking for.

Now, here’s where I admit that I’ve never, ever purchased even a single thing from Craigslist despite using the site years ago to offload dozens of furniture pieces over the course of four homes and two major house renovations. I’ve only ever been a seller. Never a buyer.

I was a little nervous when it came time to pick the chairs up and I had to take Henry for moral support but the couple could not have been nicer, the chairs were exactly as described, and they only smell ever-so-slightly like someone else’s house.

I am now completely addicted to looking for gently used, high-quality furniture at rock bottom prices sold by old people moving to patio homes. Turns out, those are the people still using Craigslist.

Speaking of my new chairs, it feels like the dining area is finally complete. It’s organized and decorated and soothing – something I’m trying to duplicate in every area of our house.

I am on a mission and that mission is to organize the hell out of everything.

I’ve been cleaning and clearing out every corner of our home. Every room. Every closet. Every nightmare underneath-the-bed scenario. Every single space. Ruthlessly discarding every piece of garbage that is anywhere. My kids are so confused, too. I’ve tried to “include them in the process” like all of the good advice columns tell you to do but there is a point where it’s just not really possible anymore and someone has to be the grownup and tell Millie that not every gum wrapper is a treasured piece of art and explain to Charlie that there’s a limit to how many deer skulls one ten-year-old should have in his bedroom.

But, they’re on to me. They know I’ve been throwing things away without their permission. Millie started grilling me about what happened to an Easter basket with a broken handle she got as a party favor two years ago that I dragged out from the back corner of her closet and threw in the garage garbage can approximately six minutes before her interrogation began. I just shrugged my shoulders and said I had no idea. I mean, I’m just straight up lying at this point.

Someday, my kids will read these words and realize that their mother lied and lied to them about what happened to that puzzle of the solar system they never even once put together or that stuffed animal that was kind of ugly and they will confront me with the truth and I still won’t feel even an ounce of guilt.

 

Snippets

We skipped straight from winter to summer this year. We were robbed of spring. It’s been hot and the air is filled with humidity and there has been a lot of rain and everything is damp.

My naturally wavy hair is reflecting the atmospheric conditions and this morning, while preparing school lunches for the kids, Charlie looked at me, tilted his head studiously and said, “Your hair is sticking up everywhere. You look like Albert Einstein.”

“If Albert Einstein were accidentally electrocuted.”

Cherish. Cherish every moment.

I was in the emergency room with Henry one evening last week. Our visit stretched into the wee hours of the morning while the staff diligently worked to determine why he was in so much pain.

At one point, in order to more comfortably perform a diagnostic test, they administered pain medication to him through an intravenous drip. Henry’s relief was almost instantaneous and he marveled aloud at how quickly the drug had worked.

“I can’t believe how much better I feel already,” Henry declared.

Having been given the same drug in the same emergency room last summer for an interminable migraine and having found the same tremendous fast-acting relief from pain, I looked at Henry and said a little too excitedly, “I KNOW, RIGHT? AREN’T DRUGS AMAZING?”

It wasn’t until the nurse looked at me a little wide-eyed that I realized I may have sounded a bit overly enthusiastic for pharmaceuticals. It was so very late and I was so very tired. I tried to course correct by launching into a brief summary for Henry of the nation’s current opioid crisis and the challenges we face in fighting the devastating effects of powerful drugs. Then, I inexplicably gave the nurse a knowing wink but somehow this just made everything tragically worse and significantly more uncomfortable.

I’m pretty sure the nurse thought the D.A.R.E. t-shirt Henry was wearing by sheer coincidence was merely a prop.

I find thunderstorms mostly delightful so on Monday afternoon, when the skies turned dark, I told the kids to put down the small screens and join me in my bedroom for a good old-fashioned storm-watchin’. When the rain began and hindered our view out the windows, Henry asked if we could go sit in the garage, with the door open, to watch the storm. I hesitated momentarily because I had definitely heard some thunder but agreed it would be fun so we relocated to a decidedly more hazardous location.

Since we’re responsible parents, we made the kids sit towards the back of the garage. You know, for safety.

Within minutes, everything went from FUN to DOOM. I remember hearing Bob slam the garage door shut and I remember thinking the big bay windows were definitely, most likely, positively going to break from the hail and I remember being in disbelief at how loud it all was and I remember hustling everyone to the basement.

Charlie, no one’s fool, was already down there. With a blanket, a book, several stuffed animals, and a flashlight.

The worst of it was over in a few minutes but our home is a mess. Shredded window screens, damaged roof, punctured siding, mangled trim, dented everything. We’re fine. It will all be fine. But, still. That was SOME storm.

While I was at the drug store late Saturday night, buying all manner of items to soothe the never-ending parade of symptoms and ailments that have descended upon our home of late, I picked up a pint of my favorite ice cream. Showing an unreasonable amount of restraint, I didn’t open it that evening. Charlie took notice of it in the freezer the next afternoon though and asked, rather slyly, what my intentions with that ice cream were. I explained I was saving it.

“For another time,” I replied.

“Oh, come on, mom,” Charlie pleaded. “It’s Mother’s Day. Doesn’t that mean you have to share?”

I chuckled and said, “Charlie. That’s not how it works.”

But then I thought, yes, that’s pretty much exactly how it works. Every time.

Home Renovations Take Longer Than HGTV Would Lead You To Believe

The really cool thing about home renovations is you get to find out what’s hidden behind cabinets or walls or baseboards. You get a glimpse at spaces you don’t normally see.

Take for example the kitchen renovation we undertook in January. When we pulled out our dishwasher and the cabinets that surrounded it, we found a nest of mice! I mean, they had obviously heard us coming and vacated already but they left behind lots of goodies like acorn shells and insulation they had dragged up from the basement. They sure are industrious little buggers. Also, super big props to the contractor that installed the kitchen 22 years ago and left a soup can-sized hole around the dishwasher’s electrical conduit!

But, enough about the mice that we no longer have but that still haunt my dreams.

This is what we started with. It was fine and I was so grateful when we found this house that it came with a kitchen that didn’t need immediate work. However, after four years, I still, frequently, tried to open those cabinet doors on the wrong side. I need HANDLES. Hinges on one side, handles on the other.

IMG_0877

Here’s the after. And, look, I’m not one of those home renovation bloggers so this isn’t a fancy photo shoot but I did fold my dish towels nice and neat before I started taking pictures so, you know, effort.

IMG_0215

I love that the cabinets now go to the ceiling. Sure, I can’t reach anything at all on those top shelves so I haven’t put anything up there but still, there is no longer a space on the outside that collects SO MUCH DUST.

IMG_0878

We waffled on closing up that kitchen cutout for a long time. (You can see above that we pushed a piece of furniture in front of it to help determine if we missed the view.)

IMG_0218

We don’t miss the view. Bob and I spotted the pineapple painting in a gallery window while we were on our honeymoon. We both loved it so we purchased it and had it shipped home. Then, we had kids and never spent large sums of money so frivolously ever again. It feels like it finally found its perfect spot.

IMG_0879

In the original design, this wall was going to hold the refrigerator and some pantry cabinets and that would have been great and afforded lots of extra storage but I found a piece of furniture instead and I really like furniture. The bottom half of this hutch can still hold a fair amount of Doritos so I think we’re good.

img_0228

With the cutout above the sink closed up, we gained a lot of useful space on the dining room side, too. Surprisingly, this is probably my favorite change the kitchen renovation brought. Well, this and the fact that we broke up that gang of mice under the dishwasher.

IMG_0224

And, no, we did not end up renovating the kitchen ourselves. We went back and forth for awhile, debating whether our marriage could withstand a diy kitchen remodel and, ultimately, decided our union was more important. Bob and I like each other but we don’t like each other enough to renovate a kitchen together. Also, it seemed like there would be a lot of math involved in such an undertaking. Math is hard.

We did, however, serve as our own general contractors on the project and, not to brag or anything, but also if I may brag for a moment, we came in ahead of schedule and under budget. I asked for a trophy but Bob just pointed in the direction of the brand new kitchen instead.

I still have to figure out the window covering situation and there’s a little punch list left that will inevitably take us six months to complete but, I’m calling this space done.

Which means, you are all cordially invited over for chicken nuggets and tator tots.

IMG_0099