Sunday, February 28, 2010

The many faces of tournament-Jack

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I'm with the band... or at least, I want to be.

Jack woke me up at 6:15 this morning to take him to his tournament. Which meant that either he is a very, very mean person or I am a very, very good wife. I'm going to operate on the premise that it was the latter, because I try not to say bad things about my husband on this blog, and there are really no good things to say about a person who wakes you up at 6:15 a.m.

Anyway, unless I wanted to be stranded in the hotel room all day, I had to drop him off so I'd have the car, so there I was, stumbling out of bed at an hour that Jesus would surely find unacceptable and mark into his big book of sins.*

"Good morning!" Jack said cheerily, for he is the rarest kind of freak who is both a night person and a morning person (National Geographic will be doing an 8-page spread on him for April's issue since nobody has ever seen this species of human before).

"Greeeeabjioawwhuoahhmaaaaaa," I replied, and shuffled into the bathroom to find my toothbrush and the pair of jeans I had thrown on the floor the evening before.

And then I saw it.

"Jack," I said groggily, as I looked into the mirror. "My hair. It's crazy."

He burst into laughter, and agreed. "Yes, yes it is."

I stared at it a little while longer, appalled at just how crazy it was, for I am a straight-haired girl and generally the hair I go to bed with is the hair I wake up with. Super-boring.

"We have to take a picture of it and send it to Jessica Latshaw," I said.

Jack, aware that he is married to a loon but still taken aback by the strange request, looked at me quizically.

"Um, why?" he asked.

"Because," I replied "She takes pictures of her awesome bedhead."

Somehow, he understood that completely. I think he also really wants to stay on her good side, since he is convinced that she would be the perfect martial arts student with all her dancing skillz. And for some reason he is also convinced the only reason she has not been learning taekwondo all these years is that he, her teacher, simply lives too far away.

Now, there is absolutely no chance that I could ever match the sheer awesomeness that is Latshaw bedhead, but if I have any hope of joining her Flock, I've got to start somewhere.

So Jack took my picture. And then I remembered that for it to be a truly authentic Latshaw-inspired bedhead picture, it needed to be a webcam picture. So I broke that out instead.




And no, I don't do full-pouty lips, flawless skin and cute kissy faces at 6:15 in the morning like she does. At 6:15, I look more like this:




Also, I can't harmonize anything you throw my way. And you really don't want me to try.

*No, Jesus doesn't keep a big book of sins.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What did you do at work today?

I helped tiny children play with a green screen and a bunch of broadcasting equipment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

They're not playing games

Tonight was leader appreciation night. And I guess there has to be balance in the universe, because along with all the love, food, and gifts we were getting from the directors and parents (thank you, sweet Tiffany and others!), we were getting all kinds of craziness from the kids as well.

And by "craziness," I mean the maniacal-clown-laughing-in-a-horror-movie-just-before-he-slays-the-town kind of "craziness."

The other leaders and I have a theory that there's some kind of narcotic in the air in the room in which we have the game time. Because as soon as the kids passed through the doors, they turned into tiny frenzied demons, intent on torturing all the leaders with their high-pitched screams, perpetual jumping, and an evident need to always be poking each other. OH, THE POKING!

And our poor interim game director, Owen, had absolutely no hope of getting the kids to listen to the rules of the game. Most of the time he was just standing in the middle of the floor, helplessly doing the 5-count and no doubt praying as the kids rioted with their torches and pitchforks.

I'm not going to lie - had it been my first night at Awana, I might not have returned another week. And my rule about "annoying versus harmful?" Went right out the window.

"Girls! You need to back up! You're going to trip someone! Quit poking each other! Stay in line! Emily, stop tackling Christina! Give me back the beanbag! Madison! Let go of Jenny's hair! No, you can't get a drink of water. No, you can't take your shoes off! Why are you taking your shoes off? I just said no! Fine! Just go put them out of the way. Wait - where's Catherine? Please stop poking me! If I see you acting like this in counsel time, you're going to be in BIG TROUBLE, ladies."

By the end of game time, I was curled up in a corner in the fetal position and sobbing, throwing my car keys, wedding rings, credit cards, and all the cash I had in my purse at the kids and screaming "TAKE WHATEVER YOU WANT! JUST PLEASE DON'T HURT ME!"

I'm pretty sure I'll still show up next week. Surely they won't be like that two weeks in a row, right? (RIGHT!?) Still, I'll be sure to have lots of Advil in my purse and wine in my fridge next time... just in case.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Meet Lucy

Isn't she beautiful? I've been wanting her for five years. And now she's mine.

A real road bike.

See, I've been riding BikeMS every year with a hybrid, which, if you know anything about cycling, really sucks. But it was worth it, because every year I raised lots of money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Three cheers for curing MS. But still.

This is way better.

I named her Lucy, after Lucille Ball. You know, because she's red. And probably hilarious, clumsy things will happen around her.

And don't think for a second that I'm above using the phrase "Lucy! You've got some 'splainin' to do!" and then laughing like an idiot because, oh my, I am so clever. Get ready for me to over-use that joke, world.

When I asked Jack what I should name her, he was like, "why is it a 'her?'" And I informed him that it was inappropriate for me to be riding a "him" for two days straight plus training. At least, that "him."

Ahem.

So, yeah! I got a new bike today! Happy dance.

--

Pssst... 20% of your Blogs by Mandy order goes to the MS Society. Even better? 100% of your donation to my ride goes to the MS Society. Also, then I don't have to do any work. You know, besides all the pedaling.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Choo choo!

There's a blog train going on today! The digital scrapbook kit is called "Monsters in my Closet," by the Jacabean CT.

And it is CUTE.

You know, if you're into that kind of thing.

If you'd like to check it out (Psst... I might just have designed blogwear for you for my stop!) and download it for free, just stop by my craft blog today to get to all the stops!

Friday, February 12, 2010

I built a snowman today

But it wasn't this one.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My (super) hero

On Thursday mornings, Jack gets up before I do (for once!) because that's the day they do their "big clean" at all the schools (you're welcome, taekwondo students). Before he leaves, he kisses me goodbye. Today, when he came to kiss me goodbye, he was also singing "Daaa dana NAAA!" as if he were a super-hero.

"What are you doing?" I asked, groggily.

"I'm cleaning man!" he said dramatically, as he stood proudly, fists on his hips.

"Um, okay. Like, a super-hero?"

"Yes. I have super cleaning powers," he replied.

"Oh, good!" I said. "Then you can clean our house!"

He furrowed his brow.

"Well, I can only use my powers at work," he explained. "It's my secret identity."

Rick's Chophouse in McKinney, TX

I just had the best filet I've ever eaten here. We WILL be going back. Yes, it's pricey, but it's perfect for special occasions and totally worth it.

(Thank you, Jack and Christine, for dinner tonight!! It was amazing!)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And then God said "YEEEAAAHH!"

Sometimes, God just gives you a little boost, doesn't He? On the days that you're like "Um, hey God, this is a lot of work. Are you sure this is what I'm supposed to be doing?" and He's like "YEEEAAAHH!"

Okay, so I don't know if God says "YEEEAAAHH!" But I like to think he does. Just like I like to think he gives high-fives in Heaven. (YES, this was a deep, theological discussion at work the other day. "Do you think God gives high fives?" Because these are the kinds of things we think about. I KNOW. WE ARE SO DEEP.)

I digress. (I was going for a "deep, meaningful post" with this one, but let's be honest. I am neither deep nor meaningful.)

But this tweet was:

At least, for me it was. Because when I started Survival Mode Parent, this was exactly what I had in mind. Laundry! Toilets! Mail! Lawn! Stuff I can do for people who can't wrap their mind around fabric softener because their kid is fighting for his life.

But I'll be honest. I haven't had a lot of time for SMP lately. All of the legal stuff is hovering in my mind and in my bank account like Thestrals. (Yes, that was for you, Jess.) 

I know I should be filling out paperwork to get everything in order for the incorporation and tax-deductible status, especially when I've generously been given the resources to just do it already. I know I should be recruiting more volunteers so I can better serve the needs of parents, wherever they are. And I know I should be sending stuff to hospitals so they can tell the parents that there is help for them out there.

But then there's that pesky full time job, and being a co-captain of my BikeMS Team, and being an Awana leader, and the blog design orders, three CTs, and oh yeah, am I married to somebody or something too? 

I don't list these things to complain, because really, I wouldn't trade them for anything. Every single one of those activities is something I'm wildly passionate about (minus the blog orders, which I could take or leave, though I suspect that if I left I'd have quite a few angry bloggers waiting for their orders... even longer!) 

My point is, when it comes right down to it, I don't have a kid in the hospital (and never have). Or a special needs kid. Or a kid at all. I don't have a heck of a lot that I have to worry about, when you really think about it.

But somebody out there can't even think about their laundry.

And that kind of puts it in perspective, doesn't it?

--

And a shameless Survival Mode Parent plug, though that's not why I wrote this post, but let's be honest, I'll work them in anywhere... for crying out loud, I sent out SMP business cards with my Christmas cards - If you'd like to sign up to be a Survival Mode Parent volunteer, you can do it here.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Annual Valentine's Day Rant

The people who know me best (or people who have read this blog for more than a year) know that I love Valentine's Day.

Now let me make it clear that Jack and I don't make a big deal out of Valentine's day. Occasionally we'll go out on a date, but we do that pretty much every weekend any way. He's gotten me flowers before on Valentine's day, but there has been a "no gifts" agreement the last few years (plus, it's much more fun to get flowers on random Thursdays). So I hope you know that this is not about gifts for me, or even about being with someone on Valentine's Day.

No, I love Valentine's Day for the same reason I hate Halloween; I take a lot of stock in the history of holidays. After all, we are so ridiculously concerned about keeping Christ in Christmas and remembering to be thankful on Thanksgiving, and yet we don't give a crap about the fact that somebody died because he believed in the sanctity of marriage.

Let me explain with some history:

Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree [Mandy's interjection: ...and realizing that God created marriage and it was not Biblical to outlaw it], defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Saint Valentine was a martyr for his faith. A martyr. Is it just me, or is that admirable? Like, special place in Heaven kind of admirable?

And yes, there's a sweet, romantic story to go along with this tale:

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor's daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today.

Valentine or not this year, don't you want that kind of romance someday? Everybody wants a good story, and Valentine had it.

So before you post bitter Facebook statuses and tweets about how Valentine's Day is a scam that Hallmark created to get your money, or how you're single right now and you hate everyone because of it, just remember the big picture here. He stood up for what he believed in. He followed God's rules when the world's rules said something else.

And I think that's something to celebrate.

Good things happen on Twitter

Alternately titled: "We probably just lost a bunch of followers."

(The ones without a picture are my tweets.)











----




----








A day in the life of a Spanish Broadcast Editor

Every time I get an e-mail with Spanish in it from our Spanish project coordinator about my Spanish broadcasts, I use it as an opportunity to showcase my Spanish. Because I know that my Spanish is so very impressive that it should be shared with the world. I'm a giver, is what I am.

So it will go something like this:

Me: "The files have been uploaded."
Katie: "Perfect! ¡Mil gracias!"
Me: "Muchas Chalupas!"

...or...

Katie: "Our Station in Switzerland needs you to upload the broadcasts to the FTP. Gracias!"
Me: "Burrito! (I uploaded them)"
Katie: "Enchilada! (thank you!)"
Me: "Chimichanga! (You’re welcome)"

You get the idea. The last e-mail I got from Katie started with this:

Hola Chiquita, burrito! Here are the edits.

I think I finally have her trained.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

And then we took him to the hospital

The Wildmans are over, watching the show after the Superbowl where the CEO guy does the crappy jobs in his company. Owen asked what the worst job we have ever had was, and I told him that I had cleaned houses for a summer before I went to China.

"It wasn't terrible, but it was hard work."

And then Jack chimed in.

"Well yeah, but it was really good practice for you," he said, with a mischievous little smile on his face.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Toll road

In my car, on the way to the mall, Jack driving.

Jack: "Is it okay if I take the toll road on your tolltag?"

Me: "Sure."

Jack: "Are you sure? It's your money."

Me: "Yeah, honey, that's fine."

Jack: "If you want, we can use my tolltag instead. Do you want to take my truck?"

Me: "Are you asking if I want you to turn around, go back home, park this car, and get in your truck and go back out so we can use your dollar instead of mine?"

Jack: "Um, yes."

Me: "Yeah, okay, let's do that."

Jack: "Um, never mind."

Friday, February 5, 2010

How to work in an office

A lot of my friends just recently graduated, are going to grad school, or are job searching right now, so to help out, I thought I'd give you a few tips on working in an office, from my many, many (read: 2) years of experience in the real world. Here's how you can fit in with all the other white-collar workers out there.
  1. Comment on people wearing the same color clothes - Rest assured that if you wear the same color blouse (and heaven forbid, the same color blouse AND pants) as a co-worker, you will be hearing about it non-stop for 8 straight hours. Oh my gosh! You're both wearing pink today! LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT ALL DAY LONG!
  2. "Reply all" to things all the time all the time allthetimeallthetime. Because you are, in fact, as clever as you think you are, and everyone in your company should know it. (Except that you're not.)
     
  3. Ask how everybody's weekends were (even though nobody really cares) - For some reason, it's important to repeat this ritual every Monday morning. And FYI - responding to this question with "well, Jack and I killed a guy, but we got rid of the body and wiped all the fingerprints down, so I think we're good" doesn't go over quite as well as you'd think.
     
  4. Watch the shows they're watching. Even if they're stupid. Because there is a lot of talk about reality shows the next day. You might as well keep up and be a part of the conversation.

  5. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Or, if you're like me, dress however the heck you want because you have the job you want anyway.

I'm the girl who...

...doesn't cry.

...loves giving stuff away.

...can't say no to things.

...loves the friendship she shares with her husband.

 ...hit the jackpot when it comes to family.

...has lived in the same house almost all her life.

...loves documenting her life in writing, video, photography, and scrapbooking.

...laughs at sexist jokes made at her expense by men she works with.

...gets all shaky and wound up when she has caffeine. 

...earned the white dress she wore on her wedding day.

...cuts coupons and strategically plans her shopping trips. Usually.

...had a happy childhood.

...tries very hard to be a Proverbs 31 wife.

...doesn't feel like her struggles are anybody else's business, even if she's a blogger.

...can have a passionate, logical argument with someone without getting emotional.

...loves problem solving at work.

...loves being creative at home.

...sticks to a budget.

...makes babies cry when she holds them.

...thinks that not believing in God is highly irrational.

...does not take life too seriously.


What kind of girl are you?

(Thanks, Jessica and Sandy!)

Happy Valentine's Day!




Love, this blog

--

This blog design is with two new coordinating kids from Down This Road Designs and Jacabean Designs called "Love Letters." It's so beautiful and classy! You can find DTRD's part here, and Jacabean's part will be available on February 15.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Just call me Mrs. Ed

Watching the opening theme of The Office tonight:

Me: "His name is 'Ed?'"

Jack: "Who?"

Me: "Andy."

Jack: "Oh. My name is Ed."

Me: "No, it's not."

Jack: "In my dreams it is."

Me: ::Stare. Blink blink. Stare.::

Jack: "What?"

Me: "Your name is not Ed in your dreams."

Jack: "You don't know! You don't know what my name is in my dreams!"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to increase your blog traffic and readership

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm not a "big and famous" blogger, nor do I have a lot of followers (less than 200 subscribers!), so my advice should be taken with a grain of salt. I'm also not a big seeker of followers, though it is nice to have readers and get comments on your posts. Everybody likes that.

The reason I'm writing this post in the first place is that I've been asked how to improve blog traffic by some of my blog design clients. So I will tell you what has worked for me and what I have observed in the blog world, and maybe it will help you too if you're looking for more readers.

Write well. This above anything else will bring you readers. As it should. Nothing sends me running faster than bad writing. Double check your grammar and spelling before you publish. Try to put a humorous spin on things. Spend a little extra time with a thesaurus when you write. Keep a notebook (or your phone, enabled with Twitter) with you and jot down things that happen or pop in your head that will make good stories.

Write a long time. This goes hand-in-hand with writing well, since the more you write the better you get at it. But at the same time, it will take you a while to get noticed by people and by search engines, and the trick is to be patient and keep writing. For years, I had zero comments for pretty much every post. Now I get a few, and it's nice, but it didn't start out that way.

Comment on other blogs. This one is pretty huge. Not only are you putting your link out there for other readers of the same blog to see and use, but the authors themselves will sometimes click over and leave a comment on your blog too. They may not become readers of your blog themselves, but it's always nice to hear from your blog-crushes every so often (in my case, Amanda O'Brian, Wendi Aarons , and Lindsay Ferrier. Hummanah hummanah hummanah.) The blog world is interactive. Use that.

Shamelessly self-promote using forums, business cards, twitter, facebook etc. I get a lot of traffic from a "post your newlywed blog here" forum I replied to more than a year ago. Who would have thought, right? But I figured I might as well put it down there since they asked, and lo and behold, people clicked. Sometimes I'll answer blog design questions in a Blog Frog discussion or forum and people will click over. If you're having business cards printed, you might as well add your URL. Set up your blog's RSS feed to publish to Facebook notes. All of these things will get you readers in some form or another. Just be sure that you want your in-real-life friends reading your blog - there are things I can't (or rather, refuse to) write about because our in-real-life friends and family read our blog.

Don't set your blog up so that only excerpts publish for RSS. I'm not going to lie, I am really lazy when it comes to blog-reading. There are only two blogs that publish excerpts I've deemed worthy of actually clicking over from Google Reader, and that's Jennepper's (because she's ridiculously hilarious) and Owen's (because he's a really good friend, great writer, and doesn't publish that often anyway). Otherwise, I usually drop them if I can't read their posts in their entirety on Google Reader.

Use links in your posts. If you've been writing for a while, you have an opportunity to link to yourself when you're writing a post that relates to something you've written before, essentially giving yourself a second "audition" for readership assuming they click over. In addition, you'll give the reader some context to what you're talking about (for example, remember when I went to work with urine on my skirt?) Plus, linking to others spreads the blog love, which is always nice, since others will probably link to you at some point too.

Giveaways. If you have something to give away on your own (like my blog designs, for example), it's just kind of fun to do it sometimes. If you do a giveaway, you can promote it in places like Tip Junkie's giveaway directory. In my experience, this will bring a lot of traffic (depending on what the giveaway is worth), but you may not gain long-term readers this way.

Guest posts. This one isn't something I've done myself, though I sometimes enjoy guest posts and I think I would be willing to sparingly. If you follow somebody and they follow you back and you generally have the same interests, see if they want to do a guest post and vice versa, so that you can generate traffic and followers from one another. Just be sure that 1) they're a good writer and 2) they won't be so off topic from your blog that nobody will care about what they write and neither blogs' readers will click over.

Drama drama drama. This is another one I don't do myself (if I can help it), but it's a surefire way to get comments and hits. Be edgy. Be controversial. Over-share. You'll get quite a bit of backlash for those things, but you will have traffic. The more people hate you, the more they'll love you. Not my preferred method, but to each his or her own.

Use your expertise to your advantage. Do you know a lot about organic cooking? Blog design? Nightlife in Dallas? Video production? How to create a strong password? Write about it. Publishing tutorials on things you're an expert on will bring in search engine hits from people searching for solutions to things. Plus, you can submit them to places like Tip Junkie and get even more hits from that.

Participate in (some) blog carnivals. Blog carnivals can be a blessing and a curse. They do bring in traffic when you have the opportunity to link up, and you usually get comments from others participating when you link. Sometimes, you'll earn readers that way if your writing is good. However, if a blog does it too often, I usually get bored with it. Play along sometimes but be sure to come up with your own content too.

Review wisely. Generally, I steer clear of paid (in products or otherwise) reviews on this blog. This one is mine. A product has to be ridiculously amazing paired with a fabulous giveaway for me to review it on my main blog (as opposed to my review blog) if I'm contacted by a company about it. My readers know that any product I talk about is just something I've bought and found useful, not something somebody contacted me about to review. I like to think that makes me more credible than some other bloggers out there who are being paid to review things. At the same time, the things I do review on my own get quite a few search engine hits. Review stuff that you're not being paid for and don't always review stuff you are offered. Think about it - when you realize you're reading a sponsored post, do you usually stick around to read the whole thing?

Stop caring whether your blog has traffic. This one's my favorite. Now, this is easy for me to say coming from a no-ad blog, since my livelihood doesn't depend on how many people read, but quite frankly I don't really care whether I get a bunch of hits or not. (And if I had to be honest, I'd really rather Survival Mode Parent get all the traffic!) I love having readers (friends!), and I really love having comments, like everybody else, but that's not why I write. I want to document our story, and as long as I'm doing that, the rest is just gravy.

How about you? What have you noticed increases your readership or traffic, and what keeps you reading a blog?

Jamaica Zip Line Adventure

Alternately titled: "The really long video with a lot of talking, 'woohoo'ing, and pretty views"
Alternately alternately titled: "Man, it took me a long time to get around to finally posting this"




If you ever go to Jamaica, we all very highly recommend this tour. They were fantastic. And you can find Jessica and Colton's blog here.

Home, sweet Hornbuckle home

Come on in... we love having guests! We've been working on fixing up the house I grew up in for the last few years, and though we're far from finished, we do love coming home to this house. Here's a look into our world (at least, a few of the rooms in our house!), courtesy of my dad's wide angle lens!



Our dining room - this table was our first "grown up" purchase and it's one of my favorite places in the house! I love scrapbooking at this table, or having dinner parties here!


Living room


Kitchen - we added the wood floors in 2008 and plan on changing out the counters at some point, as well as replacing the wallpaper with paint


Kitchen and Jack's game room (read: A&M shrine)



Our room. Yes - there's a ton of space on one half of the room that is completely empty (and by "completely empty," I mean it's generally a clutter/clean laundry/random junk magnet). Someday we'll have some furniture or something to fill the space! Also, yes, those are where our cell phone chargers live on each side of the bed in the first photo. And that's Maggie's bed on the floor beside my side of the bed.


Our master bathroom, which we are in the process of renovating (thus the half-peeled wallpaper! Eeek!) The plan for this room is to basically replace everything: all the gold will become brushed nickel, the carpet will become tile (we already have the tile for that!), walls will be painted, and the countertops, sinks, shower, wall tile, and cabinets will be replaced or updated. It is a HUGE, expensive, slow-going, and intimidating project, but fortunately nobody really sees this room except us!


...and finally, our guest bathroom, which we'll be continuing to remodel in the future (replacing the countertops, sinks, and faucets, painting the cabinets, and retiling the shower)!


I still need to take photos of the guest room and our respective offices, but let's just say they're not picture-worthy at the moment!

We realize how blessed we are to have a house, and we are so thankful that we get to live here!