Monday, July 28, 2008

I said what?!?

I interupt this regularly scheduled post to point out this picture. Hmmm...ya think my girl has some sassy attitude.

Back to the real post for today. Bear with me. It's long.

We had storms all night last night. The kind that keep waking you up. All night long.

This morning, I noticed a wet spot on the ceiling in our bathroom. I'd noticed a similar one in the kids bathroom.

At this point, I'm thinking we need a new roof. Remember this and this? Ya, and before that came the washer that decided to flood the laundry room every time I did a load. And my stove died on the 4th of July so we replaced not only a stove, but all the appliances (they didn't match and were all living on borrowed time so it was a preemptive strike). I was so ready to start packing and move into a RENTAL house. I'm sick of being a homeowner (and fairly broke to boot!)

Perry was going to look into the roof issue while I was at work...and cushion the blow when he had to tell me we needed a whole new roof and to start looking for a 2nd job to pay for it.

I must have forgotten the part when I told him to leave the mess and I'd clean up after work (being kind...he's very stressed about getting ready for school next week.)

Yup, forgot that completely.

Until I arrived home to find this on my bed.

Yup...after working a 9 hour day (remember that flex time that I love?) I'd completely forgotten about my promise to my dear hubby to clean up the mess.

See that access panel all the way at the top of the closet...right above where my clothes should be resting? It's the ONLY attic access in the entire house. Only one. Clearly a man designed this. Since we'd never been into the attic (and all night long I laid awake thinking my attic was probably crawling with mold thanks to my leaking roof), we didn't want crud coming down and covering our (OK...truth...mostly mine) clothes. duck boots! I haven't worn these since I moved to Illinois from New York....17 years ago (not admitting how long it just took me to do the math.) Mightly helpful boots to have since we RARELY get snow. I digress.

It's all slowly coming back together. I vaccuumed every pair of shoes. Where in the world does that much dust come a closet?!?

For a good bit of the time that I was working, Elise was taking a bath in our bathroom. She kept saying things like, "Mom, you should really take a bubble bath, this is so relaxing." (Yea, life is pretty stressful when you are six!)

Phew...2 hours later and I'm done. Order is restored and lots of dust, shoes and clothes are GONE! I even cleaned out my trying them on. Wow, was that humbling! Clearly time to lay off the ice cream!

I didn't even do Perry's side of the closet. Apparently he wasn't too worried about the mold monster in the attic and didn't even bother moving any of his clothes.

Between today and cleaning out Elise's room, here's our on-going pile for Goodwill. I'm going to try and see how big a pile I can create before I take it all in on Friday!

The good news? The roof leak is easily fixed with CAULK! :) I'm so loving that news! We don't have to move from this money pit of our house.

But, hon, the next time I offer to clean up the mess after a long day of work...remember that I SOMETIMES LIE and have a very short memory!!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


For some odd reason, I decided to plant an eggplant plant in our garden this year. Never mind the fact that none of us have ever really eaten a eggplant. I do strange things like from time to time…made sense at the nursery when I was picking out all the garden plants but now I’m left scratching my head. My neighbor gave us some veggie last year (squash, maybe) that we liked and I perhaps got the names mixed up (?!?).

I honestly don’t even know if this sucker is done growing. But it looks like a snake. And I kept freaking out every time I went down to garden thinking there was a snake. So, for my sanity, I had to pick it. There are several mini-snakes that continue growing on the plant.

I have NO IDEA what to do with this. I haven’t a clue what eggplant tastes like (I know, pitiful but true). I found a few recipes on…eggplant parmesan, grilled eggplant.

If anyone has any tried and true eggplant recipes, please send them my way.

(And to tell you how truly clueless I am at times...I wrote this entire post calling it zucchini, until I decided to google it while the picture loaded and see if I could find more recipes. Turns out, it's not zucchini, it's an eggplant. Maybe this gardening isn't really for me?!?)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Chinese Room?

In my quest to de-clutter and organize, I turned my sights on Elise's room. She's usually a pretty tidy little girl, but over the summer, she's played hard in her room. Very hard. It's been a disaster zone.

She surprised me by announcing that she wanted a Chinese room. I think she misunderstood my de-clutter/organizing to mean a total re-do. Not exactly what I had in mind!

We spent most of Friday cleaning out, tossing and putting things in the Goodwill pile. I was so proud of how willing she was to give away unloved toys. She can be a hoarder so I was thrilled to see her letting go of a few things.

On Friday night, the kids went over to my parents for the weekend. Perry got tickets to the BOSTON / STYX concert in town this weekend and my folks were babysitting. (The concert, by the way, was felt so good to rock out to some music from our high school years and feel 20-25 years younger again!!)

Today, while Elise was still at Grandma's, I tackled the task of finding some Chinese touches to add to her room.

I really should have taken a "before" picture but I was anxious to clean it all out. Imagine the floor COVERED in stuff and all the furniture covered in sticky-messy LibbyLu play makeup.

Pink sparkly Chinese accents!

We did get a new organizer to help Elise keep her toys separated by type. The bookcase is for her room safe crafts. Part of the mess was the crafts she'd brought up to her room...markers, paint, yucky messy stuff that should have stayed in the kitchen. That and the sticky-messy LibbyLu play makeup. Did I mention what a mess that stuff makes?!?

Here is a baby quilt that I purchased in China. It's silk and has just sat at the top of Elise's closet all these years. (Don't mind the dowel rod still sticking out...we still need to cut that down!) Elise also LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to write her name. I had her help me paint the letters on the top yesterday and I added glitter to them today.

And I followed my friend Sandra's idea and put one of Elise's Chinese outfits in a shadow box. This is one of my favorite outfits that we purchased in China. We had professional pictures of Elise taken when she was 2 and used this as one of the outfits. The pictures of her in this outfit were my favorite and one hangs in our living room. It brings back such strong memories of both being in China and her wearing it, that even if she doesn't like, I'll move it to our room! :)

So, hopefully when Elise comes home tomorrow, she'll be happy with her "Chinese" room.

Now, Carson wants me to re-organize and re-arrange his bedroom. He has so many living critters that require tanks and habitats that it's difficult to move anything! I think a good cleaning would do wonders! I'm pooped for today. Maybe I'll tackle that later this week.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back to school "nesting"

Every year about this time, I start to get in nesting mode. Perry only has a week left until he goes back to school and the kids are down to 3 weeks. These summer breaks seem to by go quicker and quicker. It's hard to believe we're coming to the end. I'm so thankful my kids get to stay home with their dad all summer. How many kids get that experience? And even though they've all complained a bit at times, I think these are memories that will stay with them throughout their lives.

But, in a few short weeks, our lives will be hectic again. Perry will be back to teaching and heavily involved with high school sports. I start my yearly cycle as a sports widow. Football is the worst season since they have Saturday games. The only day I can count on him being home in the fall is Sunday. He'll leave home before the kids get up and get home hopefully before they are in bed for the night. It's a long, draining season for the family.

So, in preparation of that season, I usually start getting things ready so we are as organized as possible for the coming year. I'm decluttering closets, drawers, homework areas, the works. Lots of things going in the trash or to goodwill or freecycled. I try to get my meal planning on track so I have simple and healthy meal options at the ready (and I'm organized enough to have the ingredients on hand).

On a positive note, I was able to get our flexible summer schedule extended into the school year. It'll mean slightly longer days but only 4 day workweeks. I'm truly hoping this will help with some of my "sports widow" stress. I'm looking forward to using that extra day to get errands and chores done so we can better enjoy our weekends. I'm also looking forward to being able to volunteer a bit more often in the kids' classrooms on those extra days.

I'd love to hear your organization tips for back to school!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

School orchestra

Carson will be playing the sax this coming year in the school orchestra. This was surprising news to us when we learned, as the guitar lessons he did last school year went over like a lead balloon. But, he's excited and has several friends playing other instruments.

We picked up the instrument on Friday and Carson already loves playing it (as do his friends).
I had NO IDEA a saxophone could be so loud. Mind achingly loud.

Today I asked him to play outside.

When I went out to take a picture, I noticed a strange phenomenon in my side yard.

It would appear to be 2 grown men engaged in some sort of lawn mower race! Perry swears they weren't racing, but it sure looked that way!

Boy, our neighbor's mower sure does look bigger and faster from this angle!

Friday, July 18, 2008

16 years ago...

I married my best friend and life partner.
There have been some ups and downs along the road,
but I'm happy to have travelled this journey with you.
I'm looking forward to the rest of the journey!

Us back in 1991 (holy cow, just typing that year makes me feel old now!)And here we are just a few weeks ago.
We're a little older, have a lot more grey hair (or less hair in the case of one of us), a few more wrinkles but I've come to love and respect you even more than the day we married.
Love ya, hon!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cheerleading camp

Elise attended a cheerleading camp this week. Every day she begged to stay home and getting out the door for the finale this evening was torture. But, we made it and Elise eventually warmed up. Sorry about the poor quality. I was literally on the other side of the gym and my camera kept focusing on the dude in the grey shirt behind Elise (nice crisp shot of his shorts!).

Teehee...and where was Carson during this? He refused to come in the gym. Instead, he stayed outside the gym hiding behind a beam. I think he was secretly checking out the older group of girls! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ummm...where'd that come from?

After dinner, I headed outside to check on the veggie garden. Perry and the kids were the backyard (this detail is important!).

As I head off the deck into the yard, I notice a very LARGE tree just laying across our shed. The kind that might come down during a bad storm...except that the weather had been clear all day.

Perry had mowed the lawn earlier in the day and the tree had been upright at that time. No one had noticed when they went out to the backyard. No one heard a large crash (as you might expect when a tree this large comes down).

Fortunately, it just hit the lean-to portion of the deck (come on, everyone has a "lean-to" in their yard, right?!) and it didn't smash the larger part of the deck containing the generator, the mowers, etc. (i.e....the things that would actually cost some $$ to replace!)

Here you can see the debris that was dropped when the tree fell (again, no one noticed this large tree coming down in broad daylight!) Yup, there's Trixie guarding the downed tree...and the boys on the other side of the fence trying to figure out who cut down the tree (no one simply fell).

As if Perry doesn't have enough projects to finish in his last few weeks of summer break, now he had to break out the chainsaw and clean up this mess.

I'm still wondering how a tree that big could come crashing down with NO ONE noticing it (and there people around all day!)

Parenting decisions

I really enjoy reading the "5 minutes for parenting" blog. Quick snippets that give me insight into how other mothers handle the challenges of parenting. This one really jumped out at me.

I've never quite understood the SAHM vs. working mom tension. I know *I* am a better parent because I work outside of the home, but I know that's not true for everyone. I love my kids and family but I also love what I do for a living. I would feel incomplete if I had to choose one or the other. I feel fortunate that I am able to choose to work. And, I'm fortunate that my husband supports my decision.

I also know that some parents do not have the choice of working or not. That being said, I have friends who are SAHM but miss their careers. I also know other moms that work out of financial necessity but in their hearts want to be SAHMs. They make the best of their situation but they feel a constant pull in their hearts.

I don't think there is one right way to parent and I don't get that sense of belittling someone for making a decision that differs from the one you made. We are all different and what is right for one isn't the right decision for another.

That being said, I'm very confident in my decision to work outside of the home. I have an enormous amount of respect for parents who make the decision to stay at home. Honestly, I would have a very hard time doing it and I think I'd be a terrible parent in that setting. I have lots of friends who are SAHM and I think they are terrific parents and I value their parenting advice.

But, the one place that I do feel the "mommy wars" is at my kids' schools. There are lots and lots (and LOTS) of SAHM. It's almost like an exclusive club that I won't ever be eligible to join. Now, I'm usually pretty oblivious to that type of stuff so it has to be bad for me to notice and "the club" is a running joke with many of the other working moms in the schools, so it's not just me. I think there are some moms who actually get pleasure from saying, "oh, I forgot, you have to work." (like it's a dirty 4-letter world...usually said in a lowered tone so the kids won't hear.)

Now that I've rambled is today's post on the 5 minutes for Parenting. I love the perspective of this author! We really are all in this together, making the best decisions in our power for our children.

If Every Mom Were a Stay-At-Home Mom
By Veronica on Veronica
By Veronica

If every mom were a stay-at-home mom, the public schools would shut down due to a lack of teachers.

If every mom were a stay-at-home mom, giving birth would become much more dangerous. All those mothers who are midwives and OBGYNS would disappear. The hospitals could not staff enough nurses for basic patient care. The pregnant women who already must drive twenty miles to a birth unit might have to drive fifty.

If every mom were a stay-at-home mom, I would lose my pediatrician. My kids would go farther and wait longer to see a doctor. My sister's clients - children with neurological disorders - would spend years on waiting lists before seeing another physical therapist who specializes in their treatment.

If every mom were a stay-at-home mom, some of the most brilliant scholars I know would not be available to affect the lives and minds of students. My children's future education would be immeasurably the poorer.

This stay-at-home mom has one thing to say to the moms who leave home to earn a paycheck at a job worth doing: thank you. Thank you for caring for patients and protecting citizens. Thank you for repairing our streets and driving our buses and picking up our garbage. Thank you for writing our newspapers and teaching our kids. Thank you for being an example to my daughters of the many options they have in adult life. Thank you for making my decision to be a stay-at-home mom a real choice.

The media-manufactured "Mommy Wars" tell us that mothers resent and judge each other. Sometimes we do. But sometimes we recognize that the world needs different people to make different choices. The truth is that as we all struggle to provide the best for our kids, we can't make it without each other. Your choices affect me, and mine affect you. We really are all in this together.

So the next time a belittling feature on a morning news program tries to exploit you emotionally; the next time a snooty mom at play group or school treats you like you are just a "part-time" mom; the next time you feel isolated and unappreciated in the challenges you face, please, come back and read this thank you again.

Because it will still be true.

Veronica Mitchell also posts at Toddled Dredge.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

CHI Reunion

When we adopted Elise, we carefully considered several agencies with solid reputations and long histories in Chinese adoptions. In weighing our choices, we went with Children's Hope International (based in St. Louis) and were very pleased overall. One of the big deciding factors in using CHI was the hope that in using a more local agency, perhaps some of the families from our travel group would also live in this area.

Nope. None. Sigh.

We've kept in touch with many families from our travel group mostly through holiday cards and e-mails. We do miss that close connection with the other little girls who lived at the orphanage with Elise during her first year of life.

So, we were THRILLED when one other family from our travel group contacted us to see if we'd be going to the annual reunion! I wasn't sure how the girls would do...they haven't seen each other for 5 years. They were both pretty uninterested in each other at first, but soon became quick friends.

There were so many families at the reunion with much littler ones. It's so hard to believe we've been home for 5 years already and our girls are the "big girls" at these events now.

The face painting was the big highlight.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The girls

Normally, I hate every picture that includes me. I just focus on the areas of my body/face that I hate and that's all I see. Very vain, I realize, but that's my reality and as a results, we have very few pictures that include me. I'm trying to get over it so my kids have pictures of me (the good, the bad and the ugly!) as they get older. I don't want them to look back at pictures of their childhood and not think I was involved just because I wasn't in the picture (although I'm usually the one TAKING most of the pictures!).

So, in all it's glory, here is a picture that I love of Elise and me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Conversation with Carson

In all fairness, I thought I'd post a conversation I had with Carson this morning.

Background...our stove died a quick death on the 4th. The new one was delivered yesterday and Perry decided to install it himself. It's a gas stove but he felt confident in his abilities to NOT blow up the house and obliterate our family. (I did ask him to send the kids outside of the house when he tested his work just in case...but I'm sure you did a great job, honey!)

So, this morning he finished installing the stove and left Carson and a friend at home while he drove Elise to a gymnastics camp. He'd be gone 20 minutes...tops...and besides, he assures me, they are half asleep and sacked out in front of the tv, they won't probably won't even move while I'm gone. Okey-dokey.

So, I get a call at work.

Me: Good morning honey!

Carson: Mom, where are the spatulas? (no "good morning" to Mom!)

Me: Why do you want a spatula?

Carson: Because I'm making eggs. (This from a child who can't even pour a glass of water by himself without making a mess.)

Me: How are you making eggs?

Carson: On the stove. (please keep in mind this is my BRAND.NEW.STOVE to which he is referring...and the GAS stove my husband just installed all by himself!)

Me: TURN THE STOVE OFF!!!! (mentally judging how quickly I can travel the 4.2 miles from my office to home.)

Carson: Ok (clearly thinking I've lost my mind)

Me: Is the stove off?!?

Carson: Yeah, I turned it off as soon as you started yelling.

Me: Leave it off until Dad gets home.

My next his father...consisted of something like this...GET HOME THIS INSTANT...YOUR SON IS TRYING TO COOK EGGS OVER AN OPEN FLAME ON THE NEW STOVE!!!!

Good grief. Two 9 year old boys with enormous appetites, empty bellies and the cocky belief they know everything SHOULD NOT BE LEFT ALONE.

At least not with my new stove. :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Elise's little sister

Disclaimer, lest anyone thinks we've been secretly waiting and just received a referral, there really is NO little sister!

My conversation with Elise last night....

Elise: Look at what I did with my little sister's picture.

Me: Huh?

Elise: My little sister. (imagine eye rolling and silent DUH here)

Me: But, honey, you don't have a little sister.

Elise: I know. (a more emphasized eye roll and DUH here)

Me: Then how do you have a picture of your little sister? (I'm a little worried here about where this conversation is going...)

Elise then shows me what she has done (sorry, I didn't get a'll have to use your imagination here).

She's taken a frame from her room that has a recent picture of her and added in a copy of her referral photo so it "looks" like she has a little sister next to her in the framed picture.

Sigh...guess my baby wants a little sister. So NOT going to happen, sweetie! :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Six words

I have been tagged by my friends Sandra and Tammie to "Describe your life in only 6 words..." I love the 6 words they have each selected to describe their lives. I thought it would be a pretty easy task, but turned out it took some thinkin' on my part!

Time Alone Required for Healthy Relationships

I've always known that I need my "me" time. I've often thought it was a selfish thing on my part and felt guilty when I wanted time alone. I'd tell myself that I choose to be a mom and thought there was something wrong with me when I secretly enjoyed the times Perry took the kids out to do someting and I was left at home by myself.

There are many days where I feel like I give everything to my husband, my kids, my family, my co-workers, my employer and there's nothing left for me. My energy is sapped and I can't seem to get my mojo going. I feel disorganized (maybe because I'm focused on everyone else's needs) and like I'm going in too many different directions. Projects drag out forever and I don't feel on top of my game.

Perry took the kids to Chicago last week and I ended up with 3 days alone in my house. I debated taking some vacation time (again, feeling guilty that I should be using my vacation time for time with my family). I did take some time off work and that time alone was so good for me. I worked at my pace around the house without feeling pulled in different directions (mom, I need, where is, can I do this....) I felt energized again and ready to face the world.

In addition to "me" time, I crave time alone with each child. That one on one time is so critical to my relationship with them. They open up about things in those one on one settings that they aren't willing to otherwise. Even something as simple as taking the dogs for a walk and bringing one child along.

Perry and I also need that time alone but we struggle with finding that time. We do have a date coming up for our anniversary and I'm looking forward to it.

So...some folks are energized by social settings and by other people. I'm energized by the times I can sink into my thoughts and be alone. And, I'm learning that's OK and not something I should feel guilty about.

I'm supposed to tag some other friends. If you are reading this, I challenge YOU to describe YOUR life in 6 words....

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Part of Perry's recent trip to Chicago involved a labor swap with my brother. Perry helped Eric do some electrical work in their new house and Eric helped Perry put up a pergola on our deck this weekend. We had a family BBQ on the 4th in the hopes of enlisting some additional help!

We've wanted to do something for years on our back deck. We have a large deck and we love being outside. Unfortunately, the deck just bakes in the late afternoon/evening hours and is the LAST place you'd want to be. Eric's new house has a pergola so Perry studied it and came up with a plan to add one to our deck.

So, here's the pergola in progress. It still needs a few finished touches, but the guys got the basic structure up in a day. I think it looks great and am so grateful to Perry, Dad and Eric for putting it up on such a hot 4th of July!

Vet for a day

Carson has always wanted to be a vet. He loves animals. Knows more about animals than many adults.

He had a special treat last week. Perry's sister, Eileen, is a vet tech. She made arrangements for Carson to come in and shadow the vet for a few hours one morning. Carson has been looking forward to this all summer.

The only week that worked out was last week (right when we came home from Maine). Perry took both kids and they spent a few days in Chicago....leaving me at home ALONE! :)

Carson had a great time with Aunt Eileen and Dr. Sakas. He got to see some really neat things and really enjoyed being a Vet in training for the day!

And me? Well, let's just say I really needed and enjoyed my time all alone for a few days but enjoyed having the gang home again.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Favorite Maine Pictures

I've finally weeded through all 600 or so pictures I took on vacation and here are a few of my favorites.

Sexy legs...

I'm bored. So, if you haven't lost your lunch after viewing the lovely picture, here's an explanation....

See those nice bruises on both knees and down the one leg? On my last day in Maine, I gracefully tripped over a baby gate (remember, I'm a tall girl, so there was nothing graceful about me falling to the ground and landing...clearly...on my knees!)

And that paint...I worked on painting the deck today. This is after a shower where I scoured most of the paint off. Clearly I suck at painting since I'm usually covered in it when I'm done.

And the celulite? Yeah, that seems to just be multiplying these days.

Scary legs, huh?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Elise is crushed...

Remember this post about my sister-in-law being pregnant and Elise's fervent hope that she have a girl cousin?

Well, they had the ultrasound yesterday...

....and....'s ANOTHER boy!

My family seems to be only capable of producing boys biologically (and the babies are always quite proud to show off their boyhood on ultrasounds so there is little doubt)! My parents have 6 (almost 7) grandsons and only one grandPrincess.

So, for now, Elise will have to reign alone on her grandPrincess throne. I don't think she realizes the realities of having to share that throne!