Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rejoice ...

What a beautiful word - I know I need to do a lot more of it in my life ...

Thankfully I had a good reminder of that in some recent scripture study:

Yes, I should be doing more of that!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Kitchen Tracker

It seems that ever since we moved into our home I have been excited about modernizing the kitchen. However, it has been so structurally sound that it has always been on the bottom of the "Needs Attention Immediately" list - even when I tried to burn it down. (As evidenced by the large burn marks on the floor.)

Anyhow, I was finally fired up and ready to really get it going. I have always wanted a white kitchen, I love the clean, crisp, happy feel and found the perfect "template" to follow when I was playing on Pinterest one day. It was exactly what I wanted:

(here is the Pinterest link)

Finally I had some direction and motivation and it sounded like a great way to keep myself busy this winter. I wasn't sure about the counter tops ... that is a pretty big move and everything I really like was out of my budget for this little transformation I was itching to do. But I figured I would just get going and when we found the right stuff, we'd find a way.

Lo and behold the radio was the answer. I was driving along one day listening to my usual dose of talk radio (I am my father's daughter - and my mother's, too - of course, but I did inherit a compulsive attachment to talk radio somewhere in the process of being raised by them) and there was a commercial for a contest where the grand prize was NEW COUNTER TOPS! All I had to do was send in a photo of my needy kitchen and then vote, vote and vote AND get my friends to do the same. When the contest opened I found there were only 8 entries!!! I couldn't believe it - I was already feeling the cool granite under my fingertips, talk about visualizing good things - those counter tops were practically mine, as far as I thought! The contest ran for about 2 weeks and I bugged my Facebook Friends to vote every single day. And miracle of miracles ... no one dropped me from Facebook during those 2 weeks (ha ha) AND I totally won the grand prize.

Two words sum it up ... Gid Dy!!!!!
(seriously - who ever wins stuff like this???)

So, now the ball is officially rolling and a few amazing things have happened. I am going to keep track here of all the good things that happen along the way. The list is long, and for the most part we are tackling this on our  own, since our budget is still pretty tight. So, this won't be happening FAST ... but it IS happening and I am thrilled beyond belief. And on that note, here is our motivation board and our to do list:

One step at a time:

1. Knock out corner cubbie and scallop thing above sink.2. Knock out soffit above sink, re-work walls and wiring to accommodate light fixture.
3. Pull out old range and CLEAN up well and find it a new home.
4. Purchase wall oven and drop in stove cook top.
5. Install a gas line to kitchen.
6. Wire electric line to kitchen for new stove cook top.
7. Building casing for new oven.
8. Install new oven and stove.
9. Build shelves in corner cupboards.
10. Call the guy to get counter tops and sink/faucet installed. (this is my FAVORITE step - ha ha)
11. Use wood filler to fix up cupboards where needed.
12. Clean, sand, prime, paint and glaze cupboards. (this should take a while)
13. Cut out panels in two doors and replace with glass.
14. Replace stained glass panels with something else.
15. Add new hardware and hinges.
16. Figure out what to do with sacrificial drawer (so we could install the bigger cook top).
17. Scrape ceiling texture down, patch where needed, remove 2 old lights and patch where they were.
18. Call the other guy to come install the new lighting. (this is my second-favorite step)
19. Replace electrical outlets and switches and make them conducive to a new layer of tile.
20. Tile the back splash and around the window by the sink.
21. Build built-in bench.
22. Frame in big kitchen window (with a slight ledge).
23. Paint window trim.
24. Paint kitchen walls.
25. Paint and install crown molding.
26. Rip out old burnt linoleum.
27. Tile the floor!
28. Oh, and get a new microwave somewhere in there.

29. Eventually get a new fridge.

30. And even more eventually - knock out wall by stairs and open up that space. We'll get to that someday!

And there you have it. I felt a little overwhelmed when I first made the list, but the more I looked at it the more I realized how grateful I was that we have the skills and tools and friends to make this happen. Just seeing little bits and pieces of this outdated kitchen go out is also a HUGE dose of motivation, just knowing what is waiting to replace it.

We have already had 2 wonderfully kind people come and help with a few things that were beyond our skill set (installing a gas line and creating a casing for the new oven). That was so amazing to knock out both of those to-do's this weekend, leaving the door open for the counter tops to come.

And we are on our way - there's no going back now!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The HUGE Harry Decompression Session

And we are done ...

almost a year after we first ventured into the wonderful world of wizarding ...

with our brilliant tour guide, J.K. Rowling ...

3,407 pages
346 days
198 chapters
7 books
1 epic tale of a boy with a lightning shaped scar

And all shared with my 2 daughters ...

NOW ... That's Magic!

This has been such a huge part of our lives over the past year, I feel a need to decompress and release all of the thoughts and emotions that have been aroused through reading these books. All of which was magnified because I was reading the story out loud to my two darling girls.

As we began, with "The Sorcerer's Stone", I felt the magic of this world as if I, too, were entering Hogwars for the first time, completely unaware that this world had even existed. The first book was fun, enchanting, innocent and endearing. I fell immediately in love with so many, I longed to have an old friend named Albus and a loveable body guard named Hagrid. I wished to be able to attend magical feasts and quidditch matches. I teared up at the wise words shared between Harry and Dumbledore at the end of the book ... and my girls soon figured out that mom would be crying a lot in the books to come. But I can read through my tears, and I did!

Then Hogwarts returned with a new, very lovable character ... Dobby!!! Who doesn't need a friend/fan this so loyal and devoted??? We were laughing our heads off as we watched Dobby make Harry's life miserable in his attempts to save him. We saw the difference one year makes as the sweet, innocent first years turn into actual wizards - with skills and knowledge and courage in "The Chamber of Secrets". And Dumbledore reminds us all that, "It's our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Definitely a great life lesson.

And as we moved into the third installment "Prisoners of Azkaban" ... I realized we had become prisoners of Harry Potter! We were in this for the long haul and would not be getting off this boat until Voldemort was gone FOR GOOD! This book was the most tender to me ... I felt this book more than the others. I cried a LOT in this book - my poor girls kept asking me if I was okay and after taking a minute to compose myself and get breathing again, I would continue on until the next wave of emotion overtook me. And in the end, when Harry wonders about the stag that saved him from the Dementors, about his father, about what is real and what is impossible.

"It was stupid, thinking it was him, " he muttered. "I mean, I knew he was dead."
"You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him..."
It took a moment for Harry to realize what Dumbledore had said.

Thank goodness Dumbledore is always there to strengthen him and help him believe in himself and the epic mission that lies before him.

This book remains my favorite of the 7, the lessons of this book were tender, and motivational and full of love. For Harry to finally have a physical family, to find more people that he could trust and look up to. To come to know  his father through his father's dearest friends, it all touched me very close to my own heart. I know how important it is to have a connection to a father through the friends he made in this life - it brings so much joy to your own.

And one other fantastic aspect of this book was that I fell in motherly love with Fred and George ... their fun, clever, loyal natures were really highlighted here and I felt myself wanting to have my own little Fred and George running around my own home. In fact, we joke that if I would have read the books before having my boys, there is little doubt that The Boy and The King would have been named Fred and George instead!

The first three books went pretty quick, they were shorter and sweeter and much faster for reading. Then came "The Goblet of Fire" ... Oh my, this was my least favorite. But, I accept the importance of the GREAT AMOUNT OF CONTENT that came through in this book. It took us some time to work our way through this book, it even made it's way on our trip to Disneyland. In fact, we started in January and didn't finish until the middle of April. That was a workout! This one really caught me a bit off guard though, when I realized that completely innocent people would be killed off, wow! I didn't quite know that was coming, I figured that Dumbledore wouldn't make it to the end of the series, but he is one of the warriors and warriors will have to die. But bringing bringing demise upon the innocent, well that set a whole new tone for the series and I started taking them much more seriously from that moment on.

As tough as the fourth book was, I was dying to get into the fifth and see if I would be able to connect a little better with that one. Sure enough I did. "The Order of the Phoenix" got me excited and fired up again. I found a kindred spirit in Molly Weasley. I saw our protagonists really grow - even if Harry was filled with a lot of frustration and angst ... he might be the chosen one, but he was still a teenager. I was glad that they were keeping him real - but I was also glad to see him growing. We had to take a little break during this one as we were entertaining our guests from Spain, but we managed to finish it up a few days after our visitors returned home. I was just so glad to come to know the Order in this book, so glad the author took this direction to open us up to this amazing group of wizards that would be the family Harry'd never had.

And then we get to "The Half-Blood Prince"!!! Oh my, I am such a sucker for a sweet bond between heroes and Harry and Dumbledore finally get to get the ball rolling and work together through out so much of this book. It was literally just like eating candy for me to go through each page and see their strengths and weaknesses come together in such a beautiful and timeless bond. It is all starting to come full-circle - you could see where certain details were necessary, and the role they would play in the looming final event. This book left me primed and ready for the final showdown - the big battle - the downfall of one of the most villianous characters I've come across.

One of the funny things was that I had found out that Dumbledore would meet his end in this volume, and I was dreading it. Almost everything made me cry, I saw everything as a precursor to his death and I couldn't quite stand it. I hate finding out about things ahead of time. The same thing happened with Sirius, and it totally affected my reading of the fifth book. Every single scene with Sirius seemed to be his last, and every single scene brought me to dread. But, even knowing these things, we still made it through, I had to hold on to my girls at different points, hold their hands, pat their heads and let them do the same to me. Especially as we moved into the 7th book and again, knowledge of another's demise was made known to me before even opening the first page. Unfortunately, it happened to be my favorite of favorites (well, one of two, as they are a pair). So, "The Deathly Hallows" started up with me knowing that no character was safe, no emotional tie would be strong enough to keep them "alive" and I was going to see some of my dearest, most preferred literary characters go to that big old literary heaven in the sky.


And we started the book. I knew that I couldn't let it drag on forever. So, we took it seriously, we stayed up late some nights, we read for hours on end when there was a day off from school. We read while we were waiting for piano lessons, we read while the boys watched Star Wars. We chugged through like a locomotive and found ourselves on the ride of a lifetime.

We laughed out loud, we jumped in our seats, we cried and we feared. We waited and waited for the inevitable showdown and finally we cheered and triumphed with the great turn of events that left a young man alive, able and ready to finally start his own life, a normal life, nothing like he had ever known. He was finally able to have a family and a constancy in his life and without the dreadful shadow of Voldemort hanging over him!

I felt that the many, many details from the previous books were important and not just thrown in there as fillers. Ms. Rowling really made each word have a purpose in her epic tale of a young boy, and the magic that saved and made his life.

How happy I am to have had this experience with my girls. We laughed and cried together more than I would have ever imagined as we set out on this adventure a year ago. The bonding has been sweet and sincere and deep, the time spent together, beyond description. And our understanding of human relationships increased and deepened.

In reading aloud I found that my best character was, unfortunately, Professor Umbridge ... man I did her really well!!! But McGonagall was a close second. Oh well - someone has to play the bad guy (or woman, in this case). I was also left wanting to do so many things, unfortunately, all of these would be impossible as this was a work of fiction. But, some little corner of my heart still wants to have lunch with Molly Weasley, go shopping at the Weasley's magic store, ride on a broom, befriend a house elf and get a pet phoenix.

So where do you go from here? This magical roller coaster ride has come to an end. There is a bit of a let down, much like having your home filled with friends and family for a party and then left alone the next morning with all those good memories and feelings in your heart, and sink full of dishes to tend to, and alone to boot!


Anyhow - thank you Ms. Rowling for a magical experience, I hope my boys will want to do this as well in a few years!!! I am ready and waiting for them now!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chronicles of Disneylandia ... (Day 8)

Day 8 and were still weren't feeling great - well - just Bert. Everyone else seemed to be okay. We had tickets for Sea World and so we packed up and headed toward the ocean. I had never been, I wasn't sure what to expect, and I can tell you, it was nothing like I expected. But I must factor in that we were there on a Saturday and so was half of Southern California. And since crowds and I just don't get along super well - that surely contributed to the fact that Sea World did not impress.

But we had been spoiled by an incredible few days at DLand and the Zoo - so, I guess something had to be subpar!

Anyhow - we pushed through the crowds and avoided the food lines and made it into the Orca show - which was the highlight of the day. I guess I was expecting to be able to see more of this, so the one show, about 30 minutes long, was fabulous, and then it was over. And then we realized there was nothing else for us to see at Sea World, so we left.

But, the Orca show was beautiful, and I did capture a little bit of it (okay - I took about 100 photos during the show - but these were my faves):

After Sea World we drove around San Diego looking for two things - gas and dinner. We found both and as it was still in the afternoon, we sent poor Bert (who was probably down 15 pounds by this point in time) and The King back to the suite to rest. I grabbed the kids and headed for Solana Beach.

We spent a few hours there. And as the sun set, we warmed up on a rock, gathered our belongings and headed back to the suite, hoping that The King hadn't wandered away while Bert was sleeping.

Sure enough, we got there and all was well. BUT, just for the record, The King did try to get out. Thankfully Bert was able to keep him in the room. We then sprinted down to the pool where we found out that we live 10 minutes away from the family we were sharing the hot tub and pool with - small world.

Then it was back to the room for showers and to start getting ready for the ride home - sigh!!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chronicles of Disneylandia ... (Day 7)

WHEW ... to make it to a new day and not have another sick person was a HUGE relief! (especially since I am the last one - it was like this dark cloud just following around, looming over my shoulder ... "you're next" it taunts - and I just hope each day to dodge the bullet - someone needs to keep this vacation going - ha ha)

We woke up this morning finding out all about the devastating earthquake in Japan - we didn't quite grasp the extent of the damage, as we were only catching snippets of information here and there. But we did hear that there were tsunami warnings along the coasts - so we opted out of Sea World and went to the zoo instead. We would go to Sea World tomorrow.

It was a good choice - we were feeling okay enough - the kids were pretty good - Bert was still struggling - he was pretty sure he dropped 10 pounds in one day - we would find out when we got home that that might have been true as he ended up losing 18 pounds altogether with this bug he caught - INSANE! And as much as I would love to drop 18 pounds - I wouldn't wish that method on anyone. I am still just so grateful that I never came down with all this garbage - what a blessing!

So, on to the zoo - this really is one of the most wonderful places to visit - I can't get enough of this zoo - we have to stop there every time we make it down to the lovely San Diego area. And isn't it great to be met by lovely elephant bush sculptures?

We went straight to the koalies ... The King couldn't get enough of them - he just kept giggling and pointing and saying, "Awww - look at the cute koalies". I am not sure who was cuter ... the koalie or the King. In fact, we gave the kids little disposable cameras to use that day, and I think The King took all his photos at that first stop with the koalies.

But can you blame him - look how darn cute and cuddley they are!

Then there were the flamingos - my goodness - they are just so striking - I couldn't keep my eyes off them!

And, we got a great view of the pandas.

In fact, we like the pandas so much we had a photo taken with them!!!

LOVE the moving sidewalks to get you up and down those steep hills at the zoo - such a great feature!

And now, the reason I go to zoos in the first place:

We watched one of the zookeepers feeding this sweet elephant - I loved how she interacted so tenderly with the elephant and the elephant responded with the same kindness. I was just mesmerized by the whole process - I really need to get a pet elephant someday! They are the most amazing, beautiful, emotional, intellectual creatures - I can't get enough of them. And since they have been my favorite thing as far back as I can remember - well - my family just gets to put up with my little obsession because it isn't going anywhere anytime soon!

Oh, and the Condors - such amazing ugly and fascinating birds - so great to see them.

And the meerkats - they were totally hiding until the kids started making funny little noises. Then, they were all over the place and posing for the camera - such silly little things.

And speaking of silly things:

The kids were finding favorite things all over the place - I can't wait to see the photos they all took - but I keep forgetting to get their film developed.

And then there was Bert, he was there for the tigers - and luckily we got some fantastic views of the tigers, too!

And toward the end of the day we made our way up to the polar bears. This guy gave quite a show - rolling and frolicking and taking a HUGE dump right in front of us. (yes, I do have photos - no, I will not be posting them here!)

It took everything out of Bert to make it through the day - so after the Polar Bears we jumped on the little tram and floated back to the entrance and took our leave. It was a beautiful day and we were all thrilled with what we had experienced - it really is one of my favorite places to visit.

With that, we went back to our lovely suite, spent some time in the pool and hot tub, The Boy almost drowning when a girl took his floatie away - sheeeeese. Thankfully Bert was on it right away and all was well. We ordered Megamind from the hotel PayPerView thing and nestled in for a great nights rest. It was a good day!

Chronicles of Disneylandia ... (Day 6)

Sure enough ... Day 6 brought the sickies to one more member of our family. Thing 1 woke up feeling fine, but right after breakfast she realized she was not fine. She spent the morning puking and spitting and just laying on the bed. But sadly, we had to be out of our room by 11 am and we couldn't check into our San Diego room until 3 pm.

So, we packed everything up, parked in the DLand parking garage and went in for a few more hours of whatever we could manage!

The Boy tried to get into the Jedi training camp, but they didn't pick him - clearly the stars were not in our favor today.

But Thing 2 was in top form and wanted to ride a few of the things we missed on our first day there - like the Tea Cups and Space Mountain. So we zipped around to the few other rides we were hoping to get on, enjoying a few more moments of DLand before we said goodbye for who knows how long (it had been 5 years since our last visit).

And my sweet Thing 1 just sat in the stroller with her head down, spitting all that excess spit into plastic baggies. What a pathetic picture, don't you think? The King passed out, Thing 1 wishing to just be in bed and Bert pushing them both around still feeling like garbage. But he insisted on doing the pushing as he said it actually helped him stay upright!

Now, just for the record - we were washing our hands and staying away from things while we were there, we knew it probably wasn't the most responsible thing we have ever done, but since we probably spread more sick germs on Monday and Tuesday before realizing we were sick, I didn't feel too terrible about going there after the fact and being a million times more careful!

But, energy was not on our side, so after a few short hours at the park, we were ready to roll on down the highway and check into our new home. The best part is that despite the illness that hit our family, we were able to take in the most of DLand that we ever had. The lines were short, the weather was PERFECT and we literally rode ever ride we wanted except for Splash Mountain which was closed. So, no complaints and no feeling jipped - it was definitely good enough.

And so we bid adieu to the proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth and headed for the actual happiest place on earth just an hour or so south! We found our new hotel without any trouble and checked right in. We were so happy to find out that the hotel not only had a full hot breakfast served daily, but they also served a complimentary dinner Monday through Thursday nights - and it was a Thursday night right then - YAY!

So we had our free grilled burgers and sides and then settled into our room for some much needed rest (especially for Bert and Thing 1). Again, going to bed with the hope that tomorrow would bring some much needed recuperation and healing for our family.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chronicles of Disneylandia ... (Day 5)

Day 5 brought us one sick daddy! The boys were up and running and ready to go ... but not Bert - he was in a position where he needed to have immediate access to the facilities if you know what I mean. So, we hung around all morning hoping that with a little time he would start to feel better.

So, we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And finally we realized we weren't going to have our 3rd day at Disneyland today - we would have to wait until tomorrow. So, we started thinking about the pool. We checked it out and sure enough, it was closed. There was a sign on it that said that it would be open after 2pm. That was something to look forward to. Being locked up in a hotel room ALL day is a bit of a slap in the face to kids in vacation mode ... especially DLand mode.

So, we ran a few errands, leaving Bert in the room. When we got back it hit me how bad that room was smelling ... so sorry to include such details, but it's for me to remember and sometimes all these little bits and pieces are important. So, I brewed my first pot of coffee, not a beverage I consume, but I have always enjoyed the smell - and that made the room so much more tolerable.

I also checked emails and phone messages and found out that the hotel we had booked for San Diego fell through (we had booked with And to make up for it, they upgraded us to a Hilton Suite near Del Mar - that brightened up our day tremendously!

And then we just sat on pins and needles waiting for the pool to open!

This next photo was taken at 6:15pm - apparently the pool wasn't going to open at all that day. We called the office and sure enough - we were OUT OF LUCK!

That's when the cabin (hotel-room) fever hit HARD and I had to get out of there.

So I dragged my poor, sick, puking his guts out husband and 4 crazed squirrels and buckled them all in the car and drove due west. I figured if I kept going west I would eventually hit the ocean. And we did, however, we ended up getting a little off course and it took a LOT longer than it should have. But we made it to Seal Beach - at dusk and it was AMAZING!

We didn't see any seals - but there was sand, surf and shells, and a beautiful board walk - that was all we really needed!

The ocean is beautiful, medicinal and magical - I probably should live a little closer to one - it made all the ickiness and frustration of the day just disappear. And Bert totally forgave me for forcing him into this little outing, well, until we got lost on the way back to the hotel. Then he was kind of miffed again. In fact, after the third time passing by a certain street he made me pull over and he got in the driver's seat and got us to our hotel in a matter of 2 minutes. (I do much better in the navigator's seat, I think.)

And just one more note, I am officially in love with those little old hippie/bohemian neighborhoods built near beaches.