Friday, December 31, 2010


the perfect finish to my 50 posts for the year was supposed to be our family slide show.

a few years ago, for our christmas eve gathering, one of my brothers suggested that each family compile a slide show of their family for the year. it has become the best tradition and i really wanted to share our's that tim made to wrap up our year. but alas. i can't upload it. i tried. i'll never succeed at reaganing.

i should have just stopped with my last post, although this one takes me to 50. oh well, things will never be quite as i imagine, but i'm okay with that.

goodbye 2010. hello 2011. can we please be friends?

preparations for the new year

in my ideal world, my husband wouldn't have to work during the week between christmas and new year's. we would spend the time reflecting on the year behind us and looking forward to the new year ahead of us. make some family resolutions. relax. enjoy a slow and blessed holiday season that didn't end on december 26.

but really, the reflecting and resoluting part isn't tim's style anyways, so i did some for myself.

2010 was a very full year for us-in good and bad ways. but we are still all together, and for that, i am most thankful.

there are some things that i hope for my family in 2011, but mostly i'm going to try to work on me. more exercise. sleep. prayer. mass! gratitude.

there will always be some hard days. and probably never any easy days (at least in the short term). but there will also be many, many very good days. and i will be thankful for them.

so to prepare for the new year, i tossed these guys into the pasture (not ben and max!):

i'm not kidding that these were still on my porch until two days ago.

and i cleaned my kitchen:

which had honestly looked like that for two days.

and today, while i was away at the shower and on my mini-road trip, tim cleaned the rest of the house. even the bathroom. and when i came home, instead of commenting on the few things he missed or didn't do, because his style of cleaning is a bit different than mine, i said thank you. many times. and i meant it. because although he didn't clean the paperwork off the table, he made the bed the way i like-way different than the way he prefers it, folded a special quilt on the bed because he knows it makes me happy, and put a bottle of water on my bedside table. waking up to a clean house and a clean start in the year new-a very nice thing indeed.

i might actually get the hang of this whole gratitude thing yet.

some splaining

(you may be asking yourself, "why is mary posting multiple times in one night?" it's not normally my style, but my dear crazy bro requested/suggested i post 50 posts by the end of the year because, at the time, i was at 45 posts for the year and he thought 50 was a nice tidy number of posts.

yes, he might be a little neurotic-especially after his post in the comments section of my holiday breakings and makings post, showing that yes, in fact, there are other brands of waxed paper than reynolds/cutrite. but the funny thing was, i too had looked up waxed paper online, and was going to make a post solely about waxed paper, entitled "paper of the waxed persuasion".

so, although i hadn't planned on four more posts for the year, i figured, well, i can either watch a movie tonight, or i can do something that hopefully brings a smile to his face, while catching up on a few posts. and since he's in my top six of favorite brothers, i thought i'd go for the smile.)

busy busy

since christmas, we having been going, going, going in a mostly most delightful way. we've gotten to spend lots of time with family and friends and although each day i've gone to bed exhausted and our house messier, each gathering or event has been too special to pass up. christmas eve complete with the world's best egg rolls and family slideshows, christmas day, cousin kwanzaa, dinner with tim's parents, dinner and games with old friends, a "pilgrimage" with one of my super cool brothers and our Godson, a bridal shower brunch, and a mini-road trip with an amazing friend to visit an old roommate who is expecting. that's a pretty busy week by my standards.

(cousin kwanzaa) life is always better when this guy is around.

for the pilgrimage we took our nephew to mcconnell air force base, where the parish is the st. maximilian kolbe military parish, which is one of his patron saints.

i had thought this was a statue there and really wanted to get some pictures of him with it, as well as better pictures of it for myself (i had seen a picture of it from a friend that wasn't very clear), but it turns out it was a picture/plaque on the wall with some dimension to it. i'll admit i was a little disappointed, but really, it is a magnificent piece of art. the "parish" is pretty plain-a chapel like room that is used for different faith/denominational services.

looking around the chapel my brother noticed this:

the wall behind the altar has the dark green curtains. when you stand next to those curtains and look up, you see this cross and crucifix, that can be lowered down depending on the needs/desires of those gathering. there were also statues of St. Joseph and Mother Mary on little revolving door pedestals, so they could be turned out or put "away". i should have taken pictures, but alas, i wasn't thinking for blog purposes.

the other cool part of the visit was walking around the air park-a groomed, landscaped area where they had nine decommissioned planes that had all been at mcconnell at one time.

the nephew thought it was pretty cool.

(don't try to go to the base on your own, wanting to see the planes. we had a tour guide-one of tim's friends works on base and generously showed us around.)

i'm so thankful for all of the wonderful gatherings and events over the last week, but i'm also ready for some chillaxing time. now, if i can just explain that to the boys.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

holiday breakings and makings

nothing warms a mother's heart and puts her in the mood for christmas quite like having to put her kid in time-out a gillion times for taking ornaments off the tree.

and no, i'm not referencing max's behavior. ben is the one taking ornaments off the tree. over and over and over. we didn't put up our tree until yesterday and it has been constant touchy hands. this morning, after breakfast, he went straight to the tree and took off an ornament, which max then copied.

i think this was the only really breakable ornament tim put on, avoiding a lot of our more fragile ornaments. and max managed to find and drop it. if our ornaments were just uniform, pretty decorations, i wouldn't mind as much, but all of our ornaments are from someone or from our childhoods and i'm pretty sentimental about them.

it wouldn't be nearly as frustrating if ben just took them off to look at them, then put them back on the tree. no, he carries them all over the house and plays with them like toys. i know he's just an impulsive little boy and a lot of the ornaments are very cute-my mom gives the boys a new ornament every year. but it's that fine line between letting him explore and teaching him that sometimes he just needs to listen and some things are off limits. i'm sure the novelty will wear off and he'll leave the tree alone, but right now, it's really taking the fun out of the tree.

this afternoon, while i thought max was napping, ben and i *tried* to make chocolate covered peanut butter crackers. i was so pleased with how they were turning out, dreaming of all the people we were going to give them to. of course, max didn't actually nap and this was our final product:

yesterday while shopping, i forgot to get waxed paper from dillons and aldi didn't have any. not wanting to make another trip, i figured i would just grease the cookie sheets really well. i should have listened to the nagging little voice that kept telling me that greasing the cookie sheets wouldn't be enough. the chocolate totally fused to the baking sheet and even after putting them in the freezer, would not release without taking part of the bottom cracker with it.

fortunately, it's only tuesday, so i have time to remake these. the flavor was really good-i ate quite a few to ease my frustration. i'm sure tim will help eat the mistakes, but there's so many-neither of us need that much junk.

in other making news:

i wanted to make something for our Godson/nephew so i stamped this robot on a onesie, adding the heart to cute it up a bit. but after staring at it for a few minutes, i decided the hollow eyes were kinda creepy, so i colored it in.

it turned out pretty well, but took way more work than i had expected. what was supposed to be a five minute project became an hour+ long project that required touching up after i heat set and washed it. it probably would have gone better if i weren't using the rounded end of one of ben's plastic watercolor brushes to do my painting. again, i should have trusted that little voice that kept telling me to stamp a piece of woven cotton and then applique it onto the onsie, but i was lazy and didn't listen, making more work for myself.

i finally, after starting and undoing many hours of knitting over the last couple years, FINISHED a project-a scarf.

(i don't know why ben was being weird for this picture.)

i was really happy with how this project turned out, especially since i had gotten the yarn for free. so pleased, in fact, i decided to make another scarf, again, with yarn i already had.

my final project was probably my favorite, but that could be because it was so well received by the recipients.

i started with two free frames that tim's mom was getting rid of this summer:

(are you sure you don't want these lovely frames anymore? what? you think they're tacky and outdated?!)

let ben help me paint them with some acrylic paint i had from the robot project:

then added pictures of the boys.

one went to a dear friend of ours and the other went to the woman who comes in after our adoration hour. she really enjoys the boys and i knew she was bringing presents for them, so i wanted to have something for her. i had planned on keeping the second picture for myself, but after debating what i could make for her, the Holy Spirit prompted me to not be selfish and give her the picture. i'm so glad i listened-she loved the picture. she seems like a pretty tough old gal, but when she opened the tissue paper, she got pretty misty eyed and choked up.

today has been a really frustrating day, but after recalling some of our successes and accomplishments, it doesn't seem quite so bad.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

kitchen: part 3 the big reveal (gah!)

i left off with us going crazy. more crazy than normal. my window idea had been shut down and i had to come up with a new way to open up the kitchen. i just couldn't go back to the isolated space that it had been.

i usually prepped food where the big pile of junk is sitting on the counter. if the boys were at the table, the top right edge of the picture, i obviously couldn't see them, and couldn't really hear them very well either. it was also very awkward when we had friends over for dinner, as i was basically cut off from everyone else as i finished up cooking in the kitchen.

the most logical idea seemed to be to knock down that dividing wall, opening up the kitchen to the dining room. i have always wanted an island/bar and here was my opportunity. there were just a few little facts that made that idea a problem. 1.) the wall is load bearing. 2.) the other side of that wall is the only thoroughfare to the family room-putting a bar/island there would make traffic awkward. 3.) we would lose a lot of upper cabinet space. 4.) as soon as you walked in our front door, you would be able to see into our (not always spotless) kitchen. 4. that project would add way more time onto the project than we had to work with.

so, while it was a wonderful fantasy, it really wasn't going to work to tear down the wall. i just had to let the whole kitchen expansion dream go.

what i needed to focus on was counter top. on friday morning, my mother-in-law and i went with my boys to a place that could have our c-tops ready by tuesday IF we picked something they had in stock. we picked one that we thought might work, but then after going back into the warehouse and seeing a whole eight foot sheet of it, realized it would NOT work. then the very nice sales girl showed us another sheet, one that we had really disliked the two inch sample tile of, and it turned out, we really liked the actual counter top. while the sample tile made the color look like a beige alligator skin, the actual sheet of laminate was a nice white-grey marble. i was in a little bit of disbelief that we had actually found something we really liked, but i was really excited and so thankful to have my mother-in-law along to affirm my decision. as we left, we joked about how misleading those little sample tiles can be! (remember this point.)

to some it might not seem like picking your counter top color would be such a major decision, but for me it was. i really wanted to get it right and be happy with what i picked for a long, long time. having that decision done was a huge relief. i just needed to have my nephew call in the measurements and we would be set.

but once again, my happy bubble of having a decision made was burst. my nephew had relayed the plan to his dad (again, his dad is my brother who did a lot of the work building our house) and my brother called me to explain why we couldn't use the counter top from that place. because the counter top was the prefabricated sheets that had the rise in the back, we would be repeating the same disaster of having a million seams that didn't match up because our kitchen has weird angles. thank goodness for my wise brother, but of my goodness, i about lost it. i was resigned to having to wait two+ weeks for custom counter tops, but then my oh so sweet brother offered to build me the counter top. yes, that's right-build it himself.

how? how are you going to build me the counter top, i asked. he had worked in a cabinet shop while in college and sometimes they made counter tops. i knew he was capable-i mean the guy can build a whole house. but how would we get the needed supplies? we didn't exactly have a cabinet shop at our ready like he did back in the day. he reassured me that lowe's and home depot both carry the laminate sheets and all the other needed supplies. i just needed to pick a color and he would work on building it the next day-saturday. (now, please take into account that this conversation took place at about 7 pm. so i need to track down and pick an in-stock color before those stores closed at 10pm. i also needed to pick out the sink i wanted and the faucet, so he could take those sizes into account. and remember that i hate making fast decisions on major things. double blurg!)

after putting the boys to bed, off i went. i think i called my mom as i drove across town, whining about how my head was going to explode. she reassured me that it would all work out and promised to pray for me.

at lowe's i stood there, staring at my options, trying with all my being to will what i wanted into existence. but absolutely none of the five options would work. they were either really, really dark brown granite styles or totally plain-white and almond. so help me Jesus, i was not going to go through this whole ordeal and end up with almond counter top again! my last hope was home depot. i didn't have time to make it to the store, so i had tim call them and double check if they had sheets of laminate in stock and if so, what were the colors. i had the brochures for every possible laminate company, so if i had the names of the colors, i could look them up. heck, i knew half the colors off the top of my head from looking at the brochures so much! when i got back to the house, i searched and studied the brochures, but there were two colors that i couldn't find. the other colors were all dark options and wouldn't work. i went to bed holding out hope that one of those two colors would be the magic solution. i really wish i could remember their names-they were totally vague and gave no clues to what the color might be. we'll call them tumbled rocca and grecian glaze.

early saturday morning, tim and i loaded up the boys and went to home depot. when i asked were the sheets of laminate were, they directed me to the prefabricated, devil counter top with the back rise that we couldn't use in our kitchen. when i clarified to them that i just needed sheets of laminate, they told me they didn't have any. daggers were shot at tim. this was my last hope, MY LAST HOPE, and they didn't even have any sheets of laminate. it didn't matter if tumbled rocca was the most beautiful counter top in the world-i couldn't use it in my freak kitchen!!!!!!!

we went back out to the car and i literally almost started crying. i was so exhausted and sleep deprived. what the flippidy flip were we going to do. my sweet brother was willing to give up a saturday to help us, but we had nothing to work with. again, i think i called my mom. i was just so defeated. it seemed like every time we made a decision, it was undone, or something would fall through. she suggested we try some local places and gave us the phone numbers.

the first place said that yes, they had some laminate sheets- in gold, almond, and a few pieces of dark purple. oh yes please. that would be lovely. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! DARK PURPLE!? the next place said that they had a little in stock, but they weren't sure on the colors. but they also said that they could order a specific color for us and it would be in on monday. if nothing else, monday was way better than several weeks, so we headed to farha's building supply. when the guy showed us the odds and ends pieces that they had i would have lost it, because there was certainly some dark purple in the group, but i remembered the whole ordering thing and pressed him on that, explaining our situation and practically begging if there was any way they could get it for us that day. while the super helpful guy called the supplier we looked at colors.

remember how i said you shouldn't pick your color based on the tiny two inch tile that's a pretty poor representation of the real color. well, that's exactly what we were doing. we could have gotten the color that i originally picked with my MIL, the color i knew i really liked, but we would have had to wait, because that color came from a different supplier/manufacturer. if we went with a different brand, we could in fact pick up our laminate, directly from the warehouse, that morning!! banking on all the prayers my mom was praying for us, we picked a color we hoped would work. yay for local businesses. i was really impressed with farha's. although it's really small and kinda rough looking, the service was great, the price was great, and they actually were able to get us what we wanted and needed better than the huge chain store with the supposed endless selection.

we had to high tail it out of there because we had to get our truck and get back to the warehouse before they closed early since it was saturday. plus, we had two very restless, very cranky little boys who had had enough of all the shenanigans.

after the whole counter top ordeal was settled, the rest of the kitchen came together pretty smoothly. (or maybe i'm too tired to write about the project any more and have blathered on way toooooooo long as it is.) my brother, nephew, and tim built a gorgeous counter top-when they brought over the particle board base to check the size, my eyes welled with tears. my brother rolled his eyes and requested that i not cry. i'm pretty certain he made a mental note not to be around when i saw the finished product.

after the counter top was in place, i had the divine inspiration to just switch the stove and the fridge to open up the kitchen. thank you Holy Spirit. i really debated, but in end, we bought a new stove-a flat surface, black one. our other stove worked fine, but it was our last almond appliance and had regular burners and just didn't look very pretty. i'm soo glad we splurged on the new stove. the kitchen just wouldn't have seemed "done" with the old stove. thank you to a different amazing brother who did some rewiring for us, making the switch possible.

i have the most amazing family. without my brothers and my nephew, there's no way we could have accomplished this project. i can't imagine how much it would have cost to have contractors do the work for us. thank you, thank you, thank you guys. (although they'll never read this.)

so without further delay.....

to refresh your memory: isolated, crappy counter kitchen.

and AFTER!!!!!!!!!!!

happy kitchen.

in the old kitchen, this would have just been a picture of the side of the fridge. soooo much more open.

look ma, no seams or ledges!

again, in the old kitchen this would have been a picture of the fridge. big blocky mcblockerson fridge. now, i can stand at the stove and visit with guests at the table.

there are still things that need to be finished. the curtain is actually a pillow case that i thrifted and i need to rework it into a curtain. or take down the curtain rod completely. the drawers have no pulls on them and probably won't for a long time. a rug covers the area in the floor that lacks hardwood, there next to the fridge, were the huge pantry cabinet was that we decided to leave out.

i'm sure you were expecting something much more drastic after this whole saga that i have written. the changes were pretty simple. but for me, they were pretty major. i really hated our kitchen before. i love my new kitchen and am so thankful for it. and we got most of project done in time to see my nephew off to college!

what do you think?

now i think i'll work on some writing exercises that force me to be more brief. cause, dang! those posts were way too long.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

kitchen: part 2

so it took me a little longer to come back to this than i expected. max was beastly for most of the week and tim is out of town, so i have been mind-numbingly exhausted. but i'll see how far i can get tonight.

so i left off with us realizing we (my nephew) were going to have to tear apart the kitchen. i should have taken notes during the process, but at the time, i thought i would never forget. but now a lot of it has blended together. such is life.

my nephew had to go finish a project tuesday evening, so the plan was for tim and i to get everything moved out of the kitchen and ready for demolition. tim, seeing that i was about to loose it, sent me and the boys to his parent's house and promised he would get the kitchen ready.

after finally settling the boys in, i stayed up way too late looking at all things kitchen on the interwebs. counters, cabinets, fixtures-i had no idea what we would be able to salvage and what all would have to be done. i had wanted a new kitchen for so long, but just really didn't know what would happen. would we be able to salvage everything, going through a ton of work to have the same ugly kitchen but saving a lot of money, or would we have to replace everything, getting a beautiful kitchen, but lose our savings account in the process. i finally went to bed with my brain spinning.

wednesday morning my wonderful, dear, amazing mother-in-law watched the boys while i went to home depot to get a rough estimate of prices on anything and everything. i wandered around and around and around their display kitchens. then after settling max in for his nap, i headed back to our house.

i was greeted by a dining room that had the contents of the kitchen vomited all over it, including the fridge and large pantry cabinet. all the bottom kitchen cabinets were out in the yard, along with the counter top and sink. a dehumidifier was going to make sure everything was completely dried out. after talking to my nephew about the damage, we concluded that that all the bottom cabinets could be reused, minus the sink cabinet. we choose not to reuse the sink or faucet, which were in terrible shape, and i was so happy to see the counter top smashed. it was such a relief that the cabinets were mostly fine. although they look rough and need to be refinished, they are solid oak and have potential. i didn't like the feel of any of the cheaper cabinets i had looked at and new solid cabinets would have totally broken the budget.

after a little more clean-up, i headed back to tim's parent's house. i had a better idea of what we needed and had to start figuring out what i wanted. we needed a new counter top, sink, faucet, and some kind of back splash. i wanted a new floor plan that opened up the kitchen instead of going back to the tiny kitchen of isolation.

i really don't know what i would have done without tim's mom and my mom during this whole process. i bounced so many ideas off them and rambled on and on, trying to get all the jumbled up confusion out of my brain and worked into something do-able. tim's mom was so helpful with the boys and my mom was such a prayer warrior for me-praying for peace and wisdom, that i could get this all figured out in such a small amount of time.

thursday morning i was back at lowe's and home depot. my nephew was going to be working on resetting the cabinets and building the new box for the sink and i needed to make a counter top decision. at first i looked at a lot of really dark samples, thinking eventually i would like to paint the cabinets white. after talking to my mom, i got realistic and decided to pick something that would go with the existing cabinets instead of adding more stress and more projects to my life. but as i talked to the kitchen associate, one major problem became very clear. anything i picked would take at least two weeks, but more likely three or four weeks to be fabricated and installed. we didn't have that much time. blurg.

when i explained all this to tim's mom, she mentioned a place in town that her sister-in-law had just used on her kitchen project that had a really fast turn around time for counter top, but you have to install it yourself-they just make the cuts. i called the place, and they confirmed that yes, as long as i picked a color they had in-stock, they would have it ready in three days. three days was much better than three weeks, but i was still pretty hesitant because they only carried eight colors in-stock. having studied what seemed like every color of laminate in existence, i knew there were a lot of colors i didn't like. but i thought it was worth a shot, so we planned to go there the next day and take a look.

in the meantime, i went back to the house to pick up some things and talk to my nephew about the plan. as i stood in the kitchen, i just kept getting disheartened that it was still going to be the same dungeon kitchen, even if it had new counter tops. and then i had an *idea*. what if we added a window?! a window above the stove, so that as i cooked dinner, i could keep an eye on the boys in the backyard! a window that would let in glorious sunlight! a window that i could see the beautiful sunsets through as i cleaned up the kitchen in the evening! yes! a window was the perfect solution for my sad kitchen! my nephew was a good sport and agreed to try to work out the plan. i left and for the first time, i felt really excited about the whole project. something good really was going to come out of all this work and stress. i stopped at lowes on my way back to bel aire, checking out sizes and styles of windows. i think the window guy thought i was nuts, getting almost giddy over a window. (i didn't realize i had paint in my hair and smeared on my face, adding to my crazy lady look.) i discussed the window with my mom, sister, and mother-in-law and they all thought it was a great idea! yay! progress! it finally seemed like things were coming together.

but then the call came. thursday night my nephew called after discussing the window plan with his dad-my brother, who helped build the house. the window was still do-able, but it would be way more work and expense than we had thought because of the way the house was built. as much as i wanted it, i had to axe the window idea. my nephew was so sweet and supportive, insisting that it could still be done. but i just didn't feel like it was worth the extra resources.

late into that night, tim and i discussed the option of opening up the kitchen a different way-knocking down half of the wall that divided the kitchen and dining room. could we recreate a big island for baking, or maybe a bar?

ahhhh! this project was making us crazy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

saga of the kitchen Part One

i hadn't planned to write this in parts, but i'm tired and need to take a break. although i hate to keep you hanging with the rest of the story, if i just save this as a draft, i might never finish it. i need the accountability of it hanging out there unfinished. so if you hate "to be continued"s as much as i do, you might want to wait until i finish part 2.

i've hesitated to post my new kitchen for several reasons:

1. i don't feel like it's totally "done".

2. we (and by we i don't really mean us. my nephew did most of the work.) did this project in august. it is now december. the time for project bragging has expired.

3. i haven't been very happy with the pictures i've been able to capture of the "after" and the before picture doesn't really do justice to the awfulness of the kitchen. the battery on the camera was dead on demolition day and the project was so crazy, i didn't get ANY pictures of the progress.

4. i'm not a brief story teller. and this project was epic for me. i knew this would be a reeeeally long post.

but i promised "housey" things and i feel like i can't get back to ranting about motherhood until i produce a house post ; )

this is what our kitchen looked like before.

(i don't even know why i took this picture. it is from january.)

it was functional, but i really hated it. it was claustrophobic and honestly, i looked pretty rough/totally embarrassing. if you look closely you can see how all the angles on the counter top have a darker line going to the back. that was caulk. this tiny kitchen's counter top consisted of seven! pieces of counter top pieced together. the corners were obnoxious ledges that really ate up space. our house has some "quirks" to it, but this kitchen was beyond quirky. it was just ugly.

when we first moved into the house, the kitchen walls were a dark wine/burgundy color. combined with the oak cabinets and floors, the kitchen was a dark, depressing place to be. a couple of years ago, totally fed up with the dark walls, i painted over them with white primer. and then i left it that way. the kitchen was so hopeless-i knew there was no color of paint for the walls that could magically pull of the almondy blandness together into something i liked.

this last spring we got a new dishwasher and fridge thanks to the government and their energy efficient rebate program, so we replaced the almond appliances with black. but it wasn't very exciting to get new appliances because the room was still a yucky cave.

then august came. we discovered some mold under the kitchen sink and ended up taking out all the bottom cabinets and moving all the appliances out to make sure we got the problem totally cleaned out.

the timeline of events was insane! the problem was discovered on thursday. ( i don't even like to say the "m" word. it makes me shudder.) we ignored it until tuesday when tim had the day off because we didn't really know how to deal with it. when tim went to clean it up, we realized there was more than we thought. i don't remember why my nephew stopped by, maybe we called him, and within a couple of hours he had started to rip the kitchen apart.

my nephew, my dear first nephew who was born when i was in the second grade, is totally amazing. he's worked different kinds of construction for a couple of years now and helped with tons of family projects since he was old enough to slam a hammer. he's certainly not an average teenager. fortunately for us, the construction company that he had worked for over the summer ran out of work for him the week we discovered the problem. THANK YOU JESUS!!!

that's where the timeline got crazy. we had a week and a half to rip out, clean up, and put everything back together before he left for college. i think it goes without saying, but i'll say it anyways-i was a smidgen stressed.