Friday, January 17, 2014

I can do laundry at my house.

I can do laundry at my house!  Whenever anyone asks how I've been, how the house is coming along or what I want for lunch, the answer is always the same: "I can do laundry at my house!"  I didn't even realize what a hassle it had all been until I brought the dirty clothes downstairs and cleaned them without even leaving my house then took the clean clothes upstairs 90 minutes later and put them away.  It was miraculous.  I am so content.

I met with a little ladies group from church this week (the group was little, not the ladies), and we all went around the room and said how things are going for us.  Responses included, "Next week I'm one year cancer free!"  "It's been a year since I lost my daughter and her kids are doing so much better", and "I can do laundry at my house!"  My cute grandma friends were thrilled for my news, I love them.

Nothing is ever "done" around here.  I need to hang my ironing board, hang the hooks and grout the tile.  Oh, and a door would be nice.  I was questioning the coral color a bit, when I found this pic from Wendy's Look Book.  That's totally the vibe I was going for with my ultra glamorous warrior-housewife under-the stairs washer and dryer, Wendy!  Thanks for the endless validation!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Reading

We are so naive.  Just last week, after all that we have learned, we said I would have a laundry by today.  Such sweet kids, so full of hope.  I do have a floor!  Actually, Dan would have gotten further, maybe even finished, but I made him come out and play on Saturday, and that was the right choice.  Sunday is the Lord's day here at Winters Creek Ranch... so nothing got done on that front yesterday, either... but soon!  This week for sure.  For sure...

I read a lot during the break.  I hate most movies, and I for sure hate any movie the guys want to watch, so when Dan and the kids watched movies most nights, I went to bed early with a book.  I will only review books I liked.  Who has time for negativity?

Reading level... Us Weekly (4 hours)
I love The Mindy Project (in large part for her white and bright apartment... she has my green chandi, even!  We're twinners!) so I thought this would be fun, and it was.  She has a really developed voice, so the series of essays sound like conversations with a friend.  She brought up two points that I have felt for years, so I will tell you what they were, then read the book for a much more articulately expressed explanation of said points.

We are both children of type-A immigrant parents, so we see most Americans as whiners. Sorry, we just do.  She says she hates it when people say they are "stressed".  Her mom, who was an OBGYN in Africa, had to re-do her residency in America, which meant commuting (1...2 hours... I can't remember) while she had a young family.  Every day before she left she prepared all three meals for the day and left them in the fridge.  She never heard her mom say she was stressed.  On a personal note,  I hate it when people say they are busy.  Really?  Then eliminate something, whiner.

OK, the other thing she is really vulnerable about is her desire to be a wife and a mother.  This is such a politically incorrect and uncool thing for a young, accomplished Hollywood (or anywhere else) young woman to want, I was surprised she was so candid about it.  She talks about her married friends who drone on about how hard marriage is.   She says something like, "Shut up!  You have what we all want!"  I don't remember the exact quote because I gave my copy away... but the point is to be grateful that you found someone who you can build a life with.  As someone who has been married for 13 years, I agree.  We have had Hard Times, but this whole dialogue about "Marriage Is Work", just creates an attitude of drudgery.  I studied a bit of Eastern religion in college, and one philosophy I remember is that with arranged marriage, you are expected to love the one you marry, while in the West you are expected to marry the one you love... and Eastern marriages are much more successful.  It goes back to your attitude.  In America, we are free to have it both ways, so be careful with who you pick and make the most of it.   I like to think of Hard Times like, "You're being a jerk, so be cool so we can have fun again".  Joking!  Moving on...
Reading level, High School, 7 hours
My bookish girl friends had all recommended this book to me years ago, so if you are still reading this post you have probably already read this book, but here it goes.  Probably the best book I have ever read.  What a contrast to set down Kaling's memoir and pick up Walls'.  Their parents are a total contrast in life philosophies, and it shows how people experience the same opportunities so differently.  I had this story described to me as that of a homeless family.  Well, sort of.  The tragedy of the story is that children are the victims of the adult's choices.  The brilliance of the writing is Walls' ability to "show, don't tell".  She describes the most horrible scenes like a reporter, but this is a first person account.  She rarely even says how she felt at the time, allowing you to feel the pain, hunger, fear for her.

I read this book right before Christmas, and it put all of my expectations and those of my children into perspective.  We need so little and we have so very much.  This book really stuck with me.  As angry as I felt towards her parents, her mother in particular, I also related to some of their philosophies, which made me think, "There by the Grace of God, go I".

The most important passage of the book for me, what could be it's thesis, is at the end when she is in college and her professor is discussing poverty and homelessness in America.  In the class, Walls suggests that there are some homeless people because they choose to reject traditional values and have made it their choice (again, I am paraphrasing).  The professor slams her in front of the whole class, "People want to go cold and hungry?"  Not able to tell her story, she submits, "Of course not".  If you agree with the professor, read this book.  I have known homeless people, and the homeless people I knew had other resources which they rejected to be a part of the counter culture.  I'm just speaking of the people I know personally.  I see homeless people on the street who are disabled, often veterans, and I always give them anything I have.  Cash, food, anything, and I teach my children to show the less fortunate compassion, so that's not what I am saying.  I am saying that as hard as it is to believe, there are entire populations of people who prefer the hunger and cold to following the norms of society.  Poverty in America is sometimes choice, albeit more by default than actual planning.

I was still subdued after reading The Glass Castle when I started Unbroken, the day after Christmas.  Oh, boy.  Where do I start.
Reading level: Mature, 10 hours
Nutshell:  Brilliant.  Important.  Devastating.  Heart breaking.  I love history.  Maybe you've noticed these are all biographies.  That's 90% of what I read, and 99.9% of the time I read non-fiction.  I fancy myself an above average historian, but I was totally shocked by the brutality and suffering of the Pacific Theatre in World War II.  I have talked to people who read this book who had the exact same feeling.  In school we learned about the Nazi atrocities and the horrors in Europe, but not so much of the Pacific action between Pearl Harbor and the Atomic Bombs.

Maybe it's too soon for a review, I'm surprised that I'm feeling emotional trying to summarize this, I truly can not.  I'll tell you what.  Google it if you're interested, and if you don't read, I hear Angelina Jolie is directing the movie.  Will I see the movie?  On the fence.  Probably not.  Like I said, I go to movies for entertainment and I don't think I have the stomach for it.  This book has a happy ending.  I mean, sorry to spoil it for you, but if it didn't it wouldn't be much of a story, so duh!  Of course it does.

This is a long book.  It documents years of suffering and atrocities by POW's.  I found myself thinking, "Drop that bomb already!  When does the bomb drop so we can just call this thing!"  Of course, I mean the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   I lack the vocabulary to express what I'm trying to say.  My brother is an expert on WWII, so if he reads this he will think I'm a bimbo... but here it goes.  I didn't understand the warrior spirit... war philosophy... I don't know what it's called... of the Japanese.  I knew about Kamikazes and that Japanese troops committed mass suicide rather than surrender, but I didn't understand how deep this whole honor thing went.   I started to understand that Japan would never surrender if there was any option at all.  Still, why two civilian targets? Perhaps if it was tactical targets the Japanese would have seen it as more collateral damage and continued the war, it had to be civilian targets for them to surrender.  This book was from the American perspective, so I tried to find unbiased information on the topic, which doesn't exist.  Research led me down a rabbit hole of politicized rhetoric and hind-site judgements, and I don't think we will ever have those answers.  War is a tragedy and disgusting and everyone loses.  How am I so lucky to raise my children in one of the only times and places in the history of the world where we are free?  A humbling thought, and my ultimate take away from the book.

My interest in WWII was peaked.  Dan had been taping the mini-series "The Pacific", so we watched the first one together.  It's too soon, I just can't.  I really have little tolerance for violence, and even though it was well done and compelling, I have to take a break from that whole topic for a while so I can get out of bed in the morning.  Read Unbroken, you can handle it, and I am really sensitive.  Hopefully you're of stronger stock than me.  I have talked to other friends who loved the book and are really looking forward to the movie.  I admit, I am kind of wimpy.  It's definitely one of the books that I am going to make sure my boys read... in High School.

Ok, thanks for letting me ruminate on my recent books, Dan can only take so much.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Dream Refrigerator, because I dream of Refrigerators.

I have played outside with my boys 2 days in a row now... in winter.  I'm really gunning for Mother of the Year, here.  We hiked all around Davis Creek Park and after an hour, somehow ended up back at our car.  The boys turned and ran the other way, not ready to leave.  When we ended up at the parking lot again a while later, I made them load up.  They were still bursting with energy so I drove them to the park down the road and read in my warm car while they chased each other around for another hour.  Graham fell asleep on his Dad's lap right after dinner and the older boys weren't far behind.  I love Reno sunshine.  I can't complain about the 40 degree days.

A while ago I posted this picture on Facebook of the kids frosting sugar cookies and people asked about my fridge.  Lincoln's blood sugar has crashed... too much frosting... I've been wanting to do a kitchen post for a while because I am so excited about how things are (extremely slowly) coming along, but I will have to divide it up or it will never happen.  The kitchen was a total gut, we (Dan) even had to replace the rotten sub floor.  The worst part was removing the drop ceiling.  It was at about 7'6", now it's back to 8 like the rest of the South side of the house.  It took a couple of weeks to raise the plumbing and wiring, a very nasty job.  Fortunately, Dan's dad and brother came into town to help.

The East wall houses the fridge.  Ta Dah!  I love it.  It's a Fridgidaire Commercial.  If you want a glass door, you can get this one, a GE Monogram with the freezer on the bottom, or a sub Z.  This is far and away the best value.  The only negative is that there isn't an ice maker.  We buy pellet ice from Sonic (holla!) and keep it in a rubbermaid box in the freezer, ain't no thing.  When my pantry is built (that shelf is just a temporary sitch... not as temporary as I had hoped, but still... ) we will do a built-in there with a pellet ice-maker and a butcher block.  Someday.

You can see where the ductwork ran, leaving a nook just tall enough for the fridge.   Most everyone, even the salespeople, tried to talk me out of the glass door, but I have wanted a glass door fridge for YEARS, and finally we are doing a kitchen just for us, not as an investment, so I held firm.  The sales people all said that customers get sick of the glass door because it's hard to keep fridges clean.  Glass doors are SO unpopular that this model is discontinued.  If you want one, get shopping before it sells out.  The castors are pretty sweet, too.
My sister was on my team, telling Dan, "Jacqui never has any food in her fridge, anyway.  Keeping it neat won't be a problem".  I HAVE food, I just don't archive food!  I have very strong feelings on groceries.  I have a lot of repect for food, and I hardly ever waste anything.  I only grocery shop about 3 times a month and I buy pretty basic fresh foods. I can't wait to get Arancana chickens so I can have pretty green eggs.  (I LOVE to clean out other people's refrigerators, but it's not the sort of thing I can offer, so if you want my help please ask.  It's my gift to this world).

I agree with Peter Walsh , an organizing guru.  Set limits for your stuff based on you capacity to store it.     If the condiment basket is full something gets tossed so the fresh condiment will fit.  It's kind of gross to have 10 open salad dressings in your fridge, don't you think?  Some of them must be so old. Large spice containers are in the freezer.  In the unlikely event that I am baking I pull out the whole spice basket.  It's very convenient and the spices last longer chilled.

The obvious benefit to a glass door fridge is that the kids aren't opening it and staring at the food all day while energy is wasted.  I got Dan this sweet Elk bottle opener (apron hook) for Christmas.  $10 at Cost Plus, the perfect host gift for that Super Bowl party coming up.  There's some news you can use! 

Dreams do come true.  I have a glass door fridge, I can die now.
P.S.  Paolo wants you to know that we found "deer paw" tracks in the snow yesterday.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Our New Tradition

This is my utility closet, today.  Doorway, wall in the hall where the bi-fold doors were.  Light switches and thermostat moved and tile started.  Dan went back to work today but he wants to finish the tile tonight and he is determined to get the washer and dryer in the house by the end of the weekend, bless his heart.  I kept warning him that 2 in the afternoon was his deadline, not midnight.  At 2:00 yesterday I drug Dan outside to play with the kids, and we had so much fun.  We kept asking each other why we don't play outside more often.  Sometimes you have to really schedule things that are important, even simple things, or you can keep yourself occupied with endless tasks and miss out on all the fun.
My boys kicked my trash on our New Year's Day hike.  Grandma made us these sweet beenies for Christmas.
I took this picture while I leaned against a tree to give my legs a break.  I yelled, "My legs are on fire!"  Paolo (5) yelled back, "I don't see any flames" and kept on going.  Strait uphill and they ran the whole way, kids are so cool.
Paolo was so excited to find a kill site with pretty feathers.  

Taking a little snack break.  Paolo always has that sweet smile on his face, making him vulnerable to attacks by grown-ups powerless to resist smooching his chubby cheeks. Graham, just 3, in moon-boots, ran circles around everyone, no whiney babies here.  I mostly like this picture because you can see the scar on Dan's neck from the surgery he had in October.  It looks like he got in a knife fight with a pirate and won.  So hot!

Criss-crossing the mountain on the way back we came across our own footprints.  They made me happy, especially the littlest ones.
We are standing in front of the cliff that Lincoln would have flung himself off if I hadn't yelled at him to stop.  Barely catching himself,  he said, "I didn't know it was really a cliff".  Not quite sure what he thought is was.  He has NO fear.  The kid is a total mountain goat.  He and his dog ran the whole way down, flying over fallen trees and boulders.    I never ever ever imagined that this would be my life, but here I am, in this masculine world barely keeping up at all times, and I couldn't be happier.  After some poopy years, I have to say 2013 was really really good.  Dan and I love our jobs, we found our dream/nightmare home, everyone is healthy and best of all we made so many good friends. My heart is filled with optimism and excitement for 2014.  Happy New Year!