Saturday, July 31, 2010

In which I whine about my week

I'm sitting in DFW airport, waiting to board my flight to South Dakota. I had to sit by the power outlet for my laptop, which was close to a family of five. The dad is baffled by facebook and his teenage daughter isn't all to happy to be explaining it to him. Remember when parents weren't on facebook? Or even teenagers, for that matter. When it was just college kids and there was a profile picture, your name, and just a big block of text for your wall. No applications, no news feed, no political arguments. Those were the days, right? I mean, admittedly I do think the news feed is a nice touch, and parents, welcome, but still. If you can tell me about your good old days of buying a movie ticket and popcorn for a dime, I can tell you about the good old days of college-only Facebook.

But I digress.

The week has sucked. My parents left on Monday to go to what I thought was Wyoming but turned out to be South Dakota (seriously, did anybody else know that Rapid City was in South Dakota? Can anybody name any city in South Dakota? Didn't think so).

My grandma (mom's mom) checked into the hospital with jaw pain about a week ago and deteriorated substantially since then. On Wednesday, my dad told me that they were signing a DNR for her, and on Thursday morning, I called my mom at work and she tearfully answered that my grandmother had just passed away that minute (I have great timing, don't I?)

So, there's that. After putting the dog to sleep two weeks ago and now this whole thing this week, we're all "okay, life, hahaha! Good one! You got us! But that's enough with all the death, mmmk?"

My parents went and got a new dog after Tia died but as far as I can tell there's no grandparent pound (Internet, if you know of one, please advise), so we're kind of stuck with no replacement on this one.

She didn't want a funeral. Because she was all "don't have a funeral for meeeee. That's just silly. I don't need a funeral." And yeah, she was right, she doesn't
need one. Because guess what! Funerals aren't for the dead person, they're for the people left.

So they're having a casual memorial service at their house instead, which I think means that we're hanging out and talking about her there. So jokes on you, Grandma! We win this one.

So I'm going to go there and hang out. Which is nice.

Evidently my grandfather is growing corn. And my grandma told me that there's a little frog that hangs out with her on the porch sometimes, though now I wonder if her little frog will wonder why she stood him up the last couple nights. And he's probably asking all his little frog friends what's wrong with him and why didn't she show up for his dates?

Probably not.

But the travel isn't quite as enjoyable when you've worked a 50-hour week. And the dogs have had diarrhea (inside the house!) and whined all night every night because one wants to dance on top of you in your bed instead of sleeping in his cage and he other wants to play with the one who wants to dance on top of you. And and you booked the wrong freaking flight to South Dakota which gave you a 10-hour layover in Denver. And you got a speeding ticket last night. And oh yeah your dog and grandma are dead. And when it rains it pours and my goodness stop raining already we have a sprinkler system!

But it's okay. Honestly. I'm tired, but fine. Jack cleaned up the dog mess for me (and I must do an entire boy brag post about that one, because we have a clearly
negotiated agreement that he is not responsible for poop). And there's always defensive driving for the ticket. And I got the plane ticket changed with no substantial penalties and my dad paid for it in the first place which was so nice of him. Because, expensive.

Mostly I just want to be there for my mom and grandfather. Because she lost her mom and he lost his spouse, and I don't know what life without either of those people looks like but for me, it would look dark.

Very, very dark.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Green Rabies - A guest post!

You guys, I am so excited and honored to have my first guest blogger, Jill, from a little super-famous and amazing blog called Baby Rabies. I'm quite sure you've heard of it. Because, famous. And if you haven't, run, don't walk to her blog. She is hilarious. Also? Super-nice. Also? So cute you want to punch her a little. Also? Has an incredible kids' party blog.

Jill and I happen to live super-close to one another even though we met through the blog world, which I think is pretty cool. Anyway, she and I have some differing opinions about environmentalism (in that she cares and I don't), and so I was pretty up-front with her about my apathy when I asked her to do a "green" guest post for me. I told her that I'm quite frankly not a fan of all the trendy "green" madness, but like most things, I believe there's probably some value in the middle ground, and I definitely respect her point of view enough to give it a shot.

So I asked her to give me a list of five things she finds reasonable for a person like me to do to *gag* live greener. My guideline was that they couldn't cost me a lot of time or money. And you know what? I think her list is pretty reasonable indeed. I'm going to give them a try and see what I think. And probably blog about each one along the way. Although I'm pretty sure Jack is going to have quite a problem with number 5.

Thank you, Jill, for the fabulous guest post!





I guess from the outside looking in I can come off as “crunchy” or “green” (a word I know Mandy despises, but one I’ve certainly been called before). From time to time over on my personal blog, Baby Rabies, I write about some of the eco-friendly things we are doing as a family, like cloth diapering and making our own baby food. I tweet about these things frequently, too.

So when Mandy, who reminds me so very much of the me I was in my early 20s, asked me to do a guest blog about some of the easy and inexpensive ways they could be more… not GREEN, because she hates that term, but maybe more eco-friendly, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. The truth is, it’s so much easier than I ever imagined to make small changes, and even if you don’t do it to be “green,” you can certainly appreciate the fact that these things will save you money and keep you healthy.  

Here are 5 ways to make small changes that add up to a big difference:
  1. Stop buying paper towels and napkins. In the over 2 years we’ve lived in our  house I haven’t purchased a single roll of paper towels or napkins (other than those used at my son’s birthday parties). I don’t know exactly how much that has saved us, but I’m confident it’s in the hundreds of dollars. What do we do to clean up messes, then? Well, for napkins I have a big stack of white cloth napkins I purchased at Ikea and we use them at mealtime. When they are dirty they go into a designated hamper in the laundry room. The same goes for the 48 white terry washcloths I purchased at Target that we use in place of paper towels.  They rest, folded and stacked, in a basket on the kitchen counter.
    For really nasty messes, like dog pee, we use designated towels or washcloths that have been marked with a Sharpie and stored in the laundry room. And I’ll admit to using toilet paper to clean things up that I don’t want to wind up in the wash, like cat puke. 
    About once (sometimes twice) a week I do a load of washcloths, napkins and hand towels in hot water. It’s usually a medium sized load and takes minimal time to fold. For those arguing that the water usage is negating the eco-friendly factor, let me point out that more water than that is used to create one package of paper products, which you will have to replenish frequently, not to mention the fuel required to get those paper products to your grocery store and then to your home. Of course, if you live in high drought area and plan to recycle the paper towels and napkins then this might not be the most eco-friendly option, but it will still be the cheapest. 
  1. Make your own cleaning products. Y’all, chemicals are scary. I’m more aware of them now that I have a child who likes to put everything that’s laying on the floor in his mouth, but they’re even a danger for your pets, and certainly for anyone that’s living in your house and exposed to them hours on end. Yes, it took me some time to adjust to the smell of cleaning my kitchen with vinegar and water instead of Pinesol and Clorox, but now I’m so sensitive to the chemical smells of those products that it makes me sick.
    We clean mainly using a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 or 4 parts water in a spray bottle. I also add a tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (more on this fabulous stuff in a moment) and a few drops of Tea Tree Oil to it for it’s disinfectant properties. It is SOOOO much cheaper than purchasing bottle after bottle of chemicals, not to mention safer for you to be exposed to and less waste to worry about sending to the landfills. I clean other parts of the house with baking soda, lemon halves, and other cleaning solutions we’ve mixed up. You can find a lot of “recipes” online. That’s not to say we don’t buy any cleaners, but I always make an effort to purchase environmentally friendly and safe options, like Biokleen Toilet Bowl Cleaner or Seventh Generation Dish Soap. These brands are more expensive, but if you’re saving money making some of your own cleaners, you won’t be breaking the bank by splurging on these. 
  1. Stop buying fancy liquid hand soap. Invest in a foaming soap pump for every sink in the house and get yourself a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Soap (hopefully you already have one from making your own kitchen cleaner) in your favorite scent (my favorite is Lavender, and you can get bottles for 25% off frequently if there is a Sprouts near you). This soap is environmentally friendly and free of lots of synthetic chemicals that many other soaps contain (and certified under the USDA National Organic Program and Fair Trade). Remember, the bigger the bottle you buy, the less frequently you are sending waste to the landfill or to be recycled, so try to buy the biggest one each time. Sure, it will be more expensive than that giant bottle of Softsoap, but I promise you it will last much, much longer. Pour 1 part soap to 4 parts water into your foaming pump and you’re good to go.  The best part is this is really one of those things that doesn’t even look inexpensive or “eco-friendly.” Your guests will never know that the lovely hand soap next to your charming hand towels is saving you a ton of cash. (Says the ex Bath & Body Works junkie.)
  1. Switch laundry detergent. Stop washing all your money down the drain by purchasing Tide or similar. My favorite laundry detergent is Charlie’s Soap. I started out using it for my son’s cloth diapers and wound up using it on all our clothes. It’s fantastic. It works just as well as the commercial detergents, but doesn’t leave a scent, is hypoallergenic, biodegradable, safe for babies and the environment. It doesn’t come with any extra stain fighting powers, but I’ve learned a good soak in an oxygen cleaner like Oxyclean works wonders. The best part is it’s inexpensive. A $48 supply from SunshineDiapers.com (with free shipping!) got us through nearly a year as a family of 3, and that’s with me washing cloth diapers 2 times a week and kitchen towels 1-2 times a week.
  1. Eat less meat, and eat local. Listen, I grew up in Texas, I know there is that mentality that it’s not dinner without an 8 oz. slab of beef or chicken on your plate. It was a little hard for me to overcome at first, too, but I’m glad I did. We began a little at-home food revolution at the beginning of 2010 and we’re all healthier for it now. It’s not that we’re vegetarians, we just do everything in our power to make sure the meat we buy and eat is local, grass fed, and antibiotic and hormone free. I know what you’re saying. That’s expensive! It is, but it’s not going to eat up more of your budget if your buying less of it and getting creative with other food groups. We eat a lot more legumes and whole grains now. We have black bean quesadillas instead of beef quesadillas, or instead of a full chicken breast on each plate we’ll shred one and add it to some brown rice. My husband’s fantastic chili tastes just as fantastic with half the meat and extra beans. We purchase our meat at a local farmer’s market every couple Saturdays and make it a fun family affair.
    By eating this way you’re not only eliminating antibiotics and hormones from your food, but you’re also supporting your local economy and helping cut down on green house gas emissions by demanding less meat and less fuel to get it to your plate. I wouldn’t say this option is going to save you money, but it certainly doesn’t have to cost you anymore than what you’re already spending.
    So there you have it, 5 things you can do starting today to be healthier and more environmentally conscious without blowing your budget. I’m not saying that all of these options will work for everyone, but it’s a starting point. Look into other options that may work for your family. Just because it’s marketed as “green” doesn’t always mean it’s expensive, and, conversely, beware of “green washing.” Not all products that claim to be “green” are the best option for your household. Do a little research and feel free to ask questions in the comments! I don’t know everything, but I’ll be happy to help you find the answers. 
Thanks so much to Mandy for having me as a guest blogger on this topic!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Get down

Jack, Shane, and Cassandra went golfing while we were in Vail this weekend, and since I'm not a golfer, I took pictures while they played. Lots of pictures. I was glad I had read through the Two Peas photo lessons the week before, because this was a great opportunity to practice a few of the simple things I learned about photography there.

Here's one of my favorite composition "tools" - changing your perspective by getting lower or higher than your subject. Here are a few examples (I haven't had a chance to edit any photos yet though):


 
I was standing up when I took this one


 I was crouched in the same spot when I took this one. I like this one a lot better (though Jack said he likes the first better).



I was standing up when I took this one


 I was crouched in the same spot when I took this one. Again, I love the sky in the background on these crouched ones. But it's all a matter of preference! That's the great thing about photography!
 


For this one, I was flat on my belly behind him so I could get the mountains and sky in front of him.
 

It's definitely something small you can think about that changes the look of your photos quite a bit!

What's your favorite photography tip?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I do not understand...

I do not understand...



...why Jack...



...pays good money...



...to get out there...



...and piss himself off.



Guess it's for the view.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The view from here

In which I have to be dragged back into a raft

Today we went white-water rafting...ish. I mean, it was technically white-water rafting. But it was also the beginner's level, so we spent a lot of our time just... rafting. Which was awesome. Beautiful scenery. Perfect weather. Refreshing splashes from the river every so often. A really fun raft guide from a fabulous rafting company in Colorado. And a stop and climb up a 10-foot high rock from which to jump into the river.

At one point during the 4-hour ride, we were at a slow spot and our guide told us that if we'd like to jump in the water to cool off for a minute we could. As soon as we did, however, I guess he realized that the current was taking the boat away faster than he had anticipated, so he began grabbing each of us by the life jackets and pulling us back onto the raft before we came to the next rapid.

He started with Cassandra, then Jack. Both of them got back onto the raft with little incident (Jack evidently ended up all up in the guy's crotch, but you know, it happens), but then he tried lifting me out of the water.

I don't know if I was just heavier than the others (gosh, I hope not, at least when it came to Jack), or I was just bad at hoisting myself up at the right time, but for some reason when he pulled me up, he decided it would be best to turn me over while I was only halfway onto the raft. I ended up splayed over the raft backwards, my back arched at a very uncomfortable angle and my legs hanging over the side. And I don't know if you've ever been in that position? But it's really hard to get out of it.

So I'm just dangling there, kicking my legs wildly and trying to get over this hump onto the raft while folded in half and backwards, and he's awkwardly trying to grab my bottom half and drag the rest of me onto the raft backwards. When he finally got me in, I ended up in a heap, upside down, at the bottom of the raft.

Needless to say, it was not my most graceful moment.

Friday, July 16, 2010

16 hours

16 hours in the car today. Just him and me.

I was dreading it. I thought we might kill each other if we had to be in the car that long together.

Instead, it was nice.

Relaxing, even. Sometimes.

Of course, I didn't really have to drive much. Only about 6 of those hours. He likes to drive.

But still. We were in the car together for 16 hours today.




And we still like each other and everything.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In which I overthink a bumper sticker

Today we were sitting behind a van at a stoplight and I was examining the many bumper stickers on its back bumper. "Pray to end abortion," one said. "Pro-life," said another. A few more advertised local AM Christian talk radio stations and various conservative viewpoints.

I was looking at the bumper, perplexed because I agreed with every one of the sentiments on the stickers. And yet... I had already decided this person was a crazy-pants.

There's a reason I don't put these kinds of bumper stickers on my car or statuses on my facebook wall. I don't forward mass e-mails whether I agree with them or not, and I generally stay away from hot topics such as abortion or politics on my blog. Because, drama.

But more than that, blunt statements about hot topics do nothing except swiftly and decisively hurl the statement-maker into a stereotype. I don't want to be labeled. Labels are never good. Labels give people an opportunity to disregard you without understanding the background of your stance. And labels remove the opportunity to gain the respect of those who disagree with you.

And without the respect of those who disagree with you? You will have no opportunity to convince them that your views are legitimate. You will have no opportunity to get to know someone different than yourself, and you will therefore have no opportunity to be a witness.

I'm not saying that using a Christian bumper sticker is necessarily a bad thing. But at the same time, you may want to consider how "hot" the issues on your bumper stickers are. You may want to think about how many stickers (or tweets or statuses) of the same message you are putting out there. A message has much more impact if it's delivered once respectfully than many times bluntly.

Consider what your extreme statements are going to look like to others. Insisting "I am right" about an issue may simply be communicating "you are wrong" to someone else.

And when was the last time you ever wanted to listen to anybody who started the conversation with a big fat "you are wrong?"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Purple Rain (a YOU:Create free download!)

It's Thursday, and you know what that means!




Lovely Sara is hosting YOU:Create again! This week I went slightly more digital and created a mini-kit. It's purple. Because, well, pretty. And yeah, it was a designer challenge at Brownie Scraps this month. So, two birds.

I would say more about what it means to me to be creative and all the magicalness and amazingility and enchantment that goes along with that, but it's very close to 2 a.m. and I still haven't put the dinner away or gotten ready for bed, so I'll leave you with the kit preview and a free download link too! If you download, leave a comment and let me know what you think (and what I can improve). I'm still learning the design game.


 
Download here!
 

Be sure and head over to the lovely Gitz's blog this week for a fabulous Project 365 download from her as well!

Happy crafting!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Peepers

I was nine years old when we got you. I named you Tia for some weird reason that I still don't understand (my mom says it's because we passed a Tia's restaurant on the way home, but I'm skeptical since I never liked that place)



My dad was out of town and somehow Shane and I coerced my mom to the shelter, "just to look" at the puppies.



Yeah, that worked out really well. They took us to the back room, where the "special" litter of puppies were kept. Evidently "special" meant "inbred" and "having been attacked by their mom." When we got you, we had to put drops in your eye from the damage your mom did. So you didn't exactly start out ahead. But man, were you cute.



The mirror astounded you (Who was that other puppy? It was so friendly!). We would confuse the heck out of you with a laser pointer. Instead of playing with your squeak toys, you would lay there and lick them. All. Night. Long. Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! You were a coward from the get-go, but at least you came by it honestly.

And you and I? We discovered life together.





We grew up together.





We celebrated every Christmas together for 15 years.







You and Kodi were the best of friends.



Even though you spent much of your time with your head in her mouth.



And when Kodi died, you were so confused. Where was your friend? You looked for her all over. It was heart-breaking. So the "dogs are only allowed in the living room" rule somehow went out the window with you. And there you were. On our couches.



In our beds.



When you slept with me, you would press your whole body up against mine with such force that I could hardly breathe. So I would move over. And so would you. And then I would move over again. And there you'd be again. By the morning, you had the whole bed and I was on the very edge. You were an evil genius.



Actually, nobody who has ever met you would describe you as a genius. Sweet? Yes. Loyal? Definitely. Loving? Without a doubt. But smart you were not.



The best evidence of that is clearly when you got yourself hit by a car my freshman year of high school. It was scary, but you pulled through. And you lived to run in front of other cars. (It was shocking that you didn't get hit again. Oh, Tia, you were so dumb.)



One thing that always got you excited were our trips to Sonic together. When I was in high school, I would take you to Sonic all the time after school to get you a corn dog. It was our special thing we did together. You got to where you recognized it when we pulled in (or even if you saw the Sonic logo on a bag or we said "Sonic" out loud), and you would go absolutely crazy over it. You would whine, and shake, and slobber as you waited for the carhop to bring you your corn dog. It's probably the most excited you ever got over anything. Go figure, it was about food.



A few years ago, after we got you accustomed to being the only dog, we introduced Maggie into your life, and though you had a long, terrible time with her beating the ever living crap out of you, eventually, you became pretty good friends.



She kept you moving, which is exactly what you needed. Because you loved to sleep all day. You were lazy. And you loved your routines. (We're pretty sure you were autistic, actually.)



At the end of your life, you moved a little slower, you got (selectively) deafer, and perhaps even a little stupider. The damage the car did so many years ago took its toll, and you were having a hard time getting up and down.



But even still, you would come running every so often if you thought my mom was home (she was always your favorite). Maggie became your ears and where she ran, you would hobble/run with her.



You lived your life a good dog.



I don't know if there's a doggie heaven, but if there is, you certainly made it there today. Not because you were a brave dog (you were a huge wuss). Not because you were a strong dog or a smart dog. It's because you did your job for every second of your 105 dog years here. You loved your family.



I don't think it ever really occurred to you to do anything else.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

First love



Ahh, a kick in the pants. It's what we all need sometimes, isn't it? My lovely and talented friend Sara started a "You Create" series on her blog, and I'm so excited that she did. Sometimes it's just what we need to get going (or get finishing) some projects we want to do!

I joined digital scrapooking design teams because it was a creative outlet and it was a way to get some scrapbook layouts done with none of the mess, half the time, and a fraction of the expense. And it has been a blast. I've gotten more layouts done than I ever thought possible, and I will cherish them.

But the paper?



It's so close to my heart. What with its many textures.



And the dimension.



And so many options.



And of course, there's the journaling in your own handwriting. And I'm not really a huge fan of my handwriting, but there's something to be said for doing it. The fact that your family can look back at it after you're gone and see a part of you that you left. You just can't get that with digital.

Photobucket

(Click image for more detail. Paper and ribbon by The Paper Studio, Ink on the word "world": Stampabilities, Heart stamper: Creative Memories, Title fonts: Rockwell Extra bold and Viner Hand ITC)

(I created this layout for the Lasting Memories Layout Challenge Blog, for which I'm on the design team (this week's challenge is red white and blue, and if you create a layout and link up, you have the opportunity to win some fun prizes!). It's nice to have an excuse to get back into paper. It's definitely more creative and more rewarding than digital, and I'm glad for the opportunity to create on this team!)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

In which I stand on the bed at 5 a.m.

Our fan. It's possessed.

In our effort to update everything that was gold in our house to brushed nickel, we decided to get a new fan in our bedroom. And it's magnificent, really. The blades are bigger, so it produces more air than our old one, plus it's just so darn pretty.

But when it's on?

Clank. Clank. Clank. Clank. Clank. Clankclankclankclankclankclankclankclankclank!!!

Oh my gosh, guys. It's like there's a freaking angry bull inside my fan. It shakes so hard that it wakes me. ME, who needs 5 alarms to wake up in the morning. Me, who has entire fights with my husband in my sleep without any recollection.

It's a loud fan. There's something wrong with its balance, so it never stops clanking. And our room is super-hot, and we just plain need the fan to be on in the summer. As a result, our neighbors probably think we're having a lot more fun at night than we are.

So it woke me up about 5 this morning, and I'm just laying there, getting angrier and angrier that I'm awake, thinking about how I have to get up for work in just three hours (okay, yeah, I forgot that today was Saturday) and clank I clank couldn't clank even clank think clank about clank anything clank else! Clank!

I decided the only way to stop the madness was to stand up on the bed and hold it still. Totally rational, yes? So very carefully, I stood up on the my side of the bed, Jack sleeping down below. I reached up and steadied the fan. Oh, sweet silence. Maybe now it would somehow be magically balanced and I could get back to sleep. Am handy!

All of the sudden, Jack popped up.

"Mandy! Mandy wake up! Mandy! What are you doing?" he asked, panicked as I stood on the bed, arm outstretched, holding on to our ceiling fan.

I started laughing as I realized how this must look to him, his crazy wife who talks in her sleep suddenly standing up on the bed in the middle of the night.

I explained what I was doing but I doubt I seemed much more levelheaded to him then than when he thought I was doing it in my sleep.

For the record, standing on the bed in the middle of the night didn't help the situation.

Clank.