Saturday, May 10, 2014

Why I applied for a demotion

A while back I wrote a post called Apple Pie or Applesauce basically comparing apple pie to being a stay at home mom, and applesauce to my position as a mom who works full time. Both are tasty ways to eat apples, but I admit, I'd rather eat apple pie. There's going to be a change on my menu next month. I call it apple cobbler, which is to say, I'm going part-time. Since there are no part-time positions in the area I work in, I've applied for a demotion. Yes I had to apply to get demoted, and get a pay-cut. Interviewed and everything.

Someone recently said to me,

"So instead of being a full-time mom, and full-time employee, you're going to be a full-time mom, and part-time employee." Wow, I had never thought of it that way. Now, I think of this decision as being totally rational despite the downsides (pay-cut, demotion, etc). I did question for a long time whether this was a crazy thing to do. People loose their jobs every day, and here I am complaining I don't want to work as much, but here's the thing I learned from that comment, being a mom is a full time job.

My entire life I've always worked two jobs. In high school I worked as a receptionist for work release, and taught piano lessons after school. In college I worked in two stores at the mall. Then I did one mall job, and got an on campus job at the gym. After college I worked full time doing telemarketing and at my current job. The day I had Hunter was the last day I worked as a telemarketer. At the time I thought it was going to be so nice only working one full time job. I can't believe I never realized being a mom and working was still like having two full time jobs.

Naturally my biggest concern with going part time was the money. I like to think that I'm not wrapped up in who has what, but it made me sad knowing it might be years before we can afford to install a dishwasher in our kitchen, or finish our basement. For once in our lives we finally seemed to be at a point where we had a little cushion at the end of the month, and it was really hard to decide we were going to scrimp by again.

It's a good thing I never stopped coupon shopping. Yes I'm that crazy lady who goes to the grocery store with a binder of her clipped coupons. I also could never get over spending more than $20 on a shirt or a pair of jeans. I still head to the back of the store for the clearance racks, I still accept hand me downs from cousins, and I still shop at the thrift store. Cheap must be in my blood.

Last November I wrote a post called Palpitations where I was also contemplating taking an available demotion for part-time. That was six months ago. Sometimes I wasn't even sure this would ever happen, so I'm really excited to be stepping into this part of my future. It's one of those futures you're not sure will happen, and when it does you feel incredibly lucky that the future is looking pretty bright.

Five reasons you should love your crappy car

Growing up we owned old cars. They were vintage and fixed up by my Dad, like his Mustang and El Camino, or they were beaters like the Bronco we bought for $900 and gave a new coat of paint. So it hasn't bothered me that we've never had a new car. I'm used to it. So in no particular order, these are my top 5 reasons you should love your crappy car.

The closest we came to buying a new car was before we had kids. I wrecked this awesome little turquoise green car we were given by a family member when we got married, and we needed a new one ASAP. We bought our Mitsubishi Lancer from Low Book Sales for way too much right before the economy tanked. Within a year it was worth half what we owed, but it's never broken down on the side of the road. This brings me to reason #1: The more you pay for a car the more reliable it is.

Now that it's been almost a decade since we bought this little gem, I'm beginning to love it even more. I don't mind so much the huge dent in the trunk I got when pulling out of our carport and ramming my father-in-law's truck. It will always be the reminder that I forgot to look, which is reason #2: You will be a safer driver if your car has dents they will remind you to look before you back up.

The little dent over the passenger side wheel well Mike made with his butt. He was trying to use his behind to push us out of a snow filled ditch next to the curb at my Uncle's house. This is reason #3: Dents can also be a reminder of your hubby's nicest asset, which will make you smile every time you see it.

There was also this time I was run off the road into construction barrels by a semi. He decided to exit the freeway from two lanes over. My passenger side mirror hit a barrel and the mirror popped off, exploding into the pavement at 50 mph. I don't think the semi ever saw me and I was too happy to be alive to think to get his license plate number. Mike cut out a new mirror and I glued it on myself, the edges are kind of rough, but at least it still functions. This is reason #4: If anyone ever hits you and runs, you will have the good sense to memorize their license plate number.

The last thing I love about this car is the awesome knob. The temperature knob had always been a little sticky until one day I turned too hard and it broke off. For a while we adjusted the air with some pliers until more of the inside of the knob broke off. Then finally last year it was completely stuck on a/c. When the temperature outside started to dip, my handy husband took off the panel, disconnected the a/c and voila somehow we had heat again in the car. It's about time to have him take that panel off again re-connect the a/c wires which he will lovingly continue to do each spring. Reason #5 is: Your crappy car will help you appreciate how handy your husband is.

Yup, I think we're pretty lucky to have this little gem.

Monday, May 5, 2014

I'm starting to wonder if we're crazy for raising chickens

I thought I would make the announcement that we are now owners of 8 chickens and 4 turkeys, and share some pictures of our almost finished chicken coop which has turned into a monster of a project. You know, the kind where you're like, oh this will be easy, no big deal, a weekend project. Then it turns into a never ending project you couldn't have dreamed would create so much work, your asking, how did I get myself into this? Yes, it's that one.

Originally we'd planned to make a tiny movable coop, then our neighbors gutted their house and let us take all their old beams. So we decided to use them to build a shed, This way we could park the quad in it, and I would finally be able to use our garage for car parking. Sounds like a great idea right?

I guess in theory it still is, but had I known all that goes into building something that big, I think I would have backed out immediately.  First we had to demolish a huge pine tree, because chickens have to be a certain distance from the house.

Then once the thing was built we realized we couldn't just paint the plywood, we had to add siding first of course. Let's not forget we learned that chickens like to be outside. I know, how dumb are we for not figuring this out earlier, and we thought, silly us! Instead of also building an outdoor pen, let's just fence in our yard. Surely that will be more efficient than building a pen.

Did I mention a few weeks after we bought the chickens in February we began to suspect I was allergic to them. I had the most severe allergies of my life for three weeks before I finally found a medication that worked, hallelujah for Allegra D. So we are now on the countdown as the chickens are getting pretty big. They seem to enjoy their coop, but we still have to finish the fence, their nests, and their chicken door to the yard. I must give props though to my handy husband for building all of this. Yes he is pretty amazing, I picked him myself, can you believe it? I know, I'm an extremely lucky girl.
The inside of the coop
A few of the chickens

One week old Turkeys
8 week old Turkeys

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The older I get the more I worry. . .

The older I get the more I worry. I'm told it's because with age comes added responsibility which equals more stress. One of the things I find myself doing when I have a quiet minute to sit and fret is look outside my bedroom window. I never expected when we bought our house six years ago, that the view from my bedroom would have such an effect on my sanity. I never cared much for views before, like when making a cruise reservation I chose a room with a tiny porthole where all you could see was water. The time we stayed at a bed and breakfast, I'm sure the description of the view, lake or mountains, had no bearing on which room I chose. But for now, I'm really attached to the sight of our neighbors trees against the red brick background of her house.

Last winter I was worrying about whether or not to change departments at my job. I would wake up and see the branches sparkling as light began to filter in against the icy blue sky. Then I'd wrap my blanket tighter against my skin and wonder what to do. I felt weighed down like the tree branches, crusted with snow. I hunkered down in my position at work all winter, and it was cozy for a long time. Now that it's spring I'm ready to make that move within my company, but I still feel wobbly with anticipation, as I stand on the brink. The landscape around us grows so much during the spring.

Early this spring I was studying with Hunter. He asked what the word 'bud' meant. I asked him to remember what the trees outside my window looked like covered in leaves. I explained the tiny leaf buds he saw now would soon become big leaves by summer. As I watched him grasp this new concept I remembered last fall, the leaves had started to turn crinkly and orange when he brought his first phonics book home from kindergarten. It was called "A School". It has the word "a" next to a pictured object on every page. I was so frustrated. I'd tell him the word is "a", he'd repeat it, then I'd turn the page, point to "a" and he would scream he didn't know what it was. We read that book for two weeks until he could remember the word "a".

I still worry about the rate at which he's learning new things. I have to keep reminding myself that we're making progress. It may not seem like it when I'm comparing yesterday to today, but when I think about where we were last fall compared to now, I realize he is reading those phonics books with minimal help. We only have one month until summer. The closer it gets the more I dread the possibility he will begin to forget what he's learned while he's out of school.

I question my organizational ability to make the lesson plans without the sheet sent home from Kindergarten showing me what he needs to learn each week. Will he take spelling tests seriously when I'm the one giving them? Am I taking away from his childhood? Are summers just for fun, or should I expect his mind to grow, just like the branches grow during these hot months to reach the top of our roof. Things are going to change and I'm fearing it. It will be so hot outside, we'll become lethargic. When we study we'll forego our nice view out the window from my bed, to sit on top of the air conditioning vent. We won't be able to see the blossoms next door. If the flower buds had feelings, would they also fear the process of change? Or would they realize they have to grow, to constantly change, until they bloom?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Whose related to the most amazing maker of handmade bags, aprons, pillow case covers, dresses, and well everything? Yup it's me

I have to say I'm incredibly lucky to be the niece-in-law of my husbands Aunt Stephie. I had heard all these wonderful things about her while she lived in Iowa, like, Aunt Steph loves to make things, loves to decorate, loves little kids, is writing a children's book, and helps out in an elementary school. I'm so glad Stephanie has moved to Utah so I finally get to know her and witness all these wonderful things she does.

Right off the bat as soon as she heard about Hunters struggles in school she offered to come once a week and tutor him. She is amazing with him, and he looks forward to his Tuesdays with Steph. He adores her and she adores him equally. Then I noticed she was always making cute things for the kids. First there were these knitted mittens.

My kids love them so much they refuse to wear any other glove. Even though it's warm outside now, Amy claims she needs to wear them in her bed because her hands get cold at night. Now she's added her purple Easter bunny Steph made to the bedtime routine. She says she just can't fall asleep unless her bunny is next to her pillow. Stephanie is also making dresses and gave two to Amy last week.

I let her wear it to a tea party with my cousins and now she calls the yellow one her tea party dress. The other one she wore to church last Sunday and also wanted to wear it the entire day. She begs that we let her sleep in it. I did give in once. . .

Then I discovered Stephanie has a huge collection on Etsy. EmiesCorner has stunning unique items for the home like throw pillows, hand painted tablecloths, towels, scarves, aprons, and little girls dresses. On TheBauerCollection she has tons of clutches, purses and my favorite, super cute totes. I don't think there's anything she can't make. I wish I could buy every single item, seriously. So so lucky I am related to this super talented woman! I love giving handmade gifts, but I always run out of time to make them, so I've already started picking out what I want to buy for Christmas gifts. Can't wait!

Just some of my favorites. . . .

Friday, April 18, 2014

The parents we try to be

Last year I began to notice for the first time that we had birds living in our yard, and not just any birds, the same birds who continued to come back every spring. The first one I noticed was a starling, all black with a small yellow beak about the size of my hands with fingers intertwined. She used a hole in our neighbors brick wall to build her nest. Every time our car pulled into the driveway her babies chirped with fervor, and she watched us warily before making the mad dash back to her nest. Still, I like to think the more she saw us the less daunted she was by us. We got to witness the delicacies she carried in her mouth to feed her babies, and then the day she kicked them out of the nest and forced them to fly. I think I saw her again today building her nest in the same place.

This last week I've also seen two blue jays rebuilding their nest in the tree at the back corner of our yard. They are also visitors from last year. Often they would perch on the tree just a few feet outside my bedroom window. One of my favorite things to do, is bask in the sunlight that hits my bed in the afternoon while reading a book. I count it a good luck charm if I am able to have sunlight and see the blue jays at the same time.

We also have a new family of Quail this year with four babies. I have to be up early in the morning, no later than sunrise to see them; sometimes marching in a row through the back lawn, or other times scavenging for breakfast in our lawn. I love how they always stay together like a family should.

I would not classify myself as a bird watcher. I've never gone out of my way to see birds. I maybe considered how bird watching could be interesting a decade ago when I read Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, but quickly forgot the idea. Last year when I was in Oregon visiting my Aunt I found my favorite place was reading a book on her pergola. But instead of reading, I would find myself watching yellow finches who came to rest on her marigolds, and black birds with red striped tails who fed out of an antique bird bath. From her kitchen, doing dishes, hummingbirds would come right up to the window to sip out of the feeder. I could stand so still in front of the sink, with nothing else on my mind, but intent on watching their tiny wings blur next to their fat green bodies.

Our neighbor who will have passed away a year ago next Saturday built bird feeders. He told me he needed a hobby when he retired and he liked wood working, so he decided to build bird feeders. His carport is lined with at least 20 feeders which he regularly filled. Inside his kitchen he also kept a collection displayed on top of his kitchen cabinets. I used to come over to borrow the coupon section of his newspaper, and he would tell me stories of when he did munitions in the Korean War. He always had a kind word for my kids as well. This time last year he boiled two eggs, one for each of them to take home and paint for Easter. I couldn't believe he had taken time to boil eggs with us in mind. It was such a small thing, but it said so much about how he cared.

Dons house has become a hollow shell, gutted for renovations, just as his bird houses in the carport are also empty. I am missing him, but I'm glad our bird friends are back rebuilding their homes.  I'm hoping they will continue to come back each year, or that their children will come back to take over the nests and raise the next generation of chicks. Mike and I are not much different from the birds when it comes to homes since we are raising our kids in the same house his parents raised him in. We are not very different from the birds at all, protecting our kids, feeding them, building our home one twig at a time, frantically flapping our wings to stay afloat, trying to suck the most out of each moment, and forcing our children out the door when it's time to fly. I've been saving milk cartons the last couple of weeks so the kids can make bird feeders for our spring dwellers. I hope they know they are welcome to stay and remind me of the home we build and the parents we try to be.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why I hate historical fiction

Have I mentioned before how much I love to read? Well, I do love it, although my life doesn't allow much time for it. Usually I listen to 2-3 books per month while I'm in the car, folding laundry, mopping, washing dishes making breakfast, showering, pretty much during any mundane task I have my little bluetooth speaker nearby. Actually reading is still preferable, but time is so limited I get through about 1 book a month the old fashioned way.

I've been thinking it's been a long time since I read anything I really loved, you know, when you read a book and it makes you look at the world in a completely new way you never considered before? I just finished listening to My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliviera. I'm just going to openly admit right now, I hated it. This is what always happens when I pick something up off the shelf without doing my homework on Goodreads first. I think it's safe to say I hate historical fiction with a passion and I'm determined never to read it again.

If I wanted to read about history, I would read non-fiction. How can historical fiction teach you anything except how dull and boring a story can be when the author attempts to throw in so many historical details it actually detracts from her story rather than adding a richer authenticity to it? Nothing, the story flat lined in my opinion, underdeveloped characters, weak storyline, ambiguous love triangle, did he love her as a daughter or as a woman, because if there was a love story going on I missed it until the very last page. This book had no pulse.

On to greener pastures. I've begun This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, which has actually been extremely enjoyable since page 5, although still not sure how the title fits into the book, and Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool which is turning out to be an easy read and a good page turner. I think even if the ending turns out to be stupid I will still like this book because the story keeps me thinking about it even when I'm not reading. Next up is Wonder by R.J. Palacio which I've heard is really great too, maybe I'll get on a lucky reading streak, knock on wood, but seriously, Mary Sutter was bad enough to leave a bad book taste in my mouth for at least a year.