Monday, March 31, 2014


I remember my wedding day, nearly eight years ago, pretty clearly. Becoming engaged, registering, picking a dress, showing off my wedding ring (with nary a scratch), and then finally marrying the man of my dreams. It was amazing.
(Moments after we were married...
 Right before we realized that we had no clue what we'd gotten ourselves into)

I also remember thinking to myself how sad I would be when it was all over. And there was nothing left in life to look forward to. Except maybe having the occasional baby now and then. But that was it. I wondered if my friends and relatives who had married years before me felt envious of the beautiful bride and groom, as we danced together, lost in each others eyes. 

I was an idiot, per usual. 

Recently, my youngest (and onlyest) sister, Megan, married the love of her life, and they are living happily ever after. Did I feel jealously on the day of her wedding as I watched her and my handsome new brother-in-law embark on their new romance? In that moment, did I wish I could turn back the clock to my own happiest-day-of-my-life?
(Moments after Megan and Caleb were married...
Right before they realized marriage was no cake walk.)

Quite the opposite, actually.

While memories of my wedding day are warm and happy, being a newlywed was no picnic. For starters, we didn't have jobs, a place to live, or any money whatsoever. I don't know what we were thinking, getting married. My new husband was about to start student teaching in Las Vegas, a place where we had only ever visited in passing. We didn't know anybody but each other (and let's face it, we barely knew each other!) and we were young and stupid.

It was terrifying and lonely, trying to find our place in the world. Through what could only be described as divine intervention, we somehow survived the first few months on the generosity of friends and family who had given us money and gift cards. After the longest few months of my life, I finally got a job, though I still didn't know a soul or have a single friend, aside from my husband. After his student teaching it took him another three months to find a job. I wondered if we'd ever feel like we were on solid ground.

It wasn't too long ago that I found myself driving around in the small suburban neighborhood in Las Vegas that we started our life together. I blame my pregnancy hormones, but I started to cry as I thought about the young newlyweds beginning life with nothing but each other, and the struggles we were faced with. Of course we made it through those first terrifying year, and like the saying goes: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Those struggles bound us together as a couple and strengthened us both individually and as a family, but I hardly ever look back, and I'm grateful to have lots of ground between us and our beautiful wedding day.

As my sister has approached me multiple times with her own newlywed struggles, as she and her husband attempt to find footing and make sense of life as adults, and as a family, I can offer no other wisdom, except: just keep going. It gets better. Nobody can take away the struggles for you, you just have to work through them. Life's challenges are meant to change us, and in my experience, change never happens without at least a little pain and heartache.

Now I realize the value of experience. That when we look back on life we'll note the highlights of course, but we'll also learn to marvel in the beauty of the ordinary moments that taught us how to be, and who to be. I look forward to partaking in the wisdom and experience that my parents and grandparents have lived and earned.

Perspective is a gift that you earn with your blood, sweat, and tears. Embrace it, and be grateful for what you've been given, and never look back. Onward, always onward. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Truths Learned from Harry Potter

You may or may not have heard of a little book series called Harry Potter. Oh, you have? Great. To celebrate my own relationship with the boy who lived, which began at the tender age of twelve way back in 1998, I've complied a list of truths I've learned from the wizarding world.

At first glance, Harry Potter is the story of a lonely, unloved boy whose world is turned upside down upon discovering he is a wizard (and a thumpen’ good one at that) when he receives an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, a prominent wizard academy. With the help of his friends, his mentor Dumbledore, and a lot of magic, Harry fights against the evil that killed his parents, and terrorizes the wizarding world.

But Harry Potter is more than just an epic tale of good and evil. There are some serious life lessons that even us muggles can take away and apply to our everyday lives.

Love is magic: Sure it’s cheesy, but this is one of the central themes of the series. Harry’s life was saved and subsequently protected when his mother sacrifices her life for his. Harry’s capacity for love proved to be a powerful weapon and one could argue that Voldermort’s apathy was his undoing. When we really sit down and consider the most important things in our life, we realize that our greatest treasures are those we love, and those who love us back. Love motivates us to protect, survive, thrive, surrender, and everything else imaginable.  

You can’t make Snape snap judgments: Severus Snape was an unlikely hero, and a fine example of how we should never judge a book by its greasy, hooked nose cover. Sure, he was never a lovable guy, but when his back story was finally revealed we all kind of felt guilty for hating him so vehemently for seven books. When we come to know the heart of the people around us, we may come to realize our criticisms are harsh and unfounded.

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." This gem of a quote comes from none other than movie version Albus Dumbledore. Throughout the series, our heroes and heroines are faced with unimaginable hardships, but they never cease to find opportunities to laugh and find joy with each other. Sometimes we fail to realize that we can have our own happiness if we just chose to recognize it.  

“To thine own self be true.” No, that’s not Rowling, it's Shakespeare. But it’s applicable. Sure, we were all frustrated through most of the 870 pages of Order of the Phoenix when almost everyone rejected Harry’s proclamation that Voldemort had returned, but he never wavered from what he knew to be true.  Not even when he was forced to write “I must not tell lies” with a magical quill and parchment which carved the words into the back of his hand. There's an old saying that states, “Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.” Be true to your beliefs, and you won’t regret it.

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” This is from book Dumbledore and I agree wholeheartedly. Although there are things that happen to us, beyond our control, our everyday choices be it action or attitude, reveal the quality of our character. Sure, Voldemort was one of the most skilled wizards of all time, but the atrocities he committed were far more telling of who he was than his abilities. The same is true for each of us, and when our choices (our actions, our words) reveal our hearts. I love how Sirius puts it: “If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."

"Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have." I add this for my own personal pleasure, because at times I feel like I am Hermione, in a world full of Rons. Being sensitive and empathetic to those around us creates harmony in our relationships. 

What are some of the truths you've learned while reading Harry Potter?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Toddler Dress From Daddy's Shirt

When your wish list includes things like a car with more than two doors, being able to pay for a second baby in a few months, and eventually being able to afford a down payment on a house, you tend to find lots of creative ways to cut your budget. This month, I decided that before I spent $30 on an Easter dress for my toddler (because Easter dresses are obviously a need, but not one that I want to spend $30 on this year) I would finally try to turn one of my husband's old dress shirts that I rescued from the DI bag (DI is the Utah version of Goodwill) into a dress. I'd pinned about a thousand tutorials for it, but I narrowed it down to the one that seemed most comprehensive (see below). I went to the fabric store to pick up a little fabric for the waistband and some 1/4" elastic and spent about $5 on the stuff for what I hoped would be two dresses, plus extra for a coordinating doll for her Easter basket, because I'm ridiculous like that. 

For this project you will need:

  • 1 men's dress shirt
  • 1 package 1/4" elastic
  • Some coordinating fabric for the waistband, if desired (I needed two squares that were 5" by 19" for this 2T sized dress)
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Peasant dress pattern (see below)
  • Safety pin for threading elastic

Here's what I learned in my first attempt using this tutorial: I do not understand enough about fitting a dress to whip up my own pattern as this talented lady suggests. Either I picked the wrong dress to use as a pattern or I cut too much off when I was trying to even it up or I haven't ever actually made a dress before and had no idea what a pattern should look like. (That last one, probably.) In any case, when I had put together enough of the dress to try it on my little one, it was so tight in the arms and chest that I couldn't actually get it back off her without cutting it off, and I didn't know enough about fitting things to know how to add in some fabric so it would fit. So. Dress #1, scrapped before I'd done more than unpick the pocket of the shirt, cut it out, sew up the neck and sew down the sides.

See the sleeves cutting into her arms and the front of the dress puckering? Not cozy.

I didn't want to spend time making a second non-fitting dress, so I did a search for a peasant dress pattern and found this free pattern with accompanying tutorial, which looked similar to what I had been trying to make, but like the person who made it actually knew something about fitting a dress to a little girl (unlike me).  I used the 2T/3T version of the pattern to cut out the back of the dress, then laid it out on the front so I wouldn't have to figure out how to make sure the buttoned up front would be even (since this pattern wasn't actually made to go with a dress shirt.) Not only did this version fit, but it was a million times easier to sew up the neck, which had been miserable in my first attempt. (I was yelling, "HOW DO YOU IRON DOWN A CIRCLE??" for most of the first attempt, then just gave up and went for it in a bunchy mess.) This one used all straight lines for the neckline (which is genius, since it all curves when you stick the elastic in anyway), and so was really easy to iron down and sew up a casing for the elastic. (In case you're wondering, I had never in my life sewn a casing for elastic. Now I have done 5 for this dress, so I'm feeling confident.)

Note the difference between the two dresses, particularly in the armpit area.

 The second dress was so comfy it inspired lots of dancing.

This is my model at her least cooperative.

When the dress was hemmed and had elastic in the neck and sleeves, I was tempted to stop. But the dress had been a little more flowy than I wanted it to be when I tried it on CB pre-hemming, so I decided to go back to the first tutorial and make the waistband. I was a little afraid of it, but taking it one step at a time I found it was mostly straight lines. The biggest hiccup was realizing that I had started sewing the front of the dress to the back of the dress while I was sewing the waistband to the dress (it wouldn't be a Megan project if I didn't spend about half of my time with a seam ripper in my hand) and having to unpick a couple of inches. I placed the waistband higher than the original tutorial did, because the dress had been SO flowy when I tried it on her that I was afraid that it would be a balloon above the waistband when I put it on her. This way it just has a really full skirt, which is excellent for dancing. I used one of her other dresses as a guide for placement, and I think it looks pretty cute.

I haven't decided whether the boots are the right shoes for this, but I have some time before Easter.

She decided she needed to do butterfly fingers at me


Next up: using the scraps to try to make that matching doll! Wish me luck!

Monday, March 24, 2014

How do you spend your money?

Last year I wrote a post on the book The Happiness Project. It was one of the most motivating books I'd read in my life and I still think about it often. 

One of the chapters on the book focuses on spending money to "buy happiness." We all know the age old saying, "Money can't buy happiness," and while it is a nice thought in theory, the reality is money can go a long way for ones happiness. 

Gretchen Rubin writes, " People’s biggest worries include financial anxiety, health concerns, job insecurity, and having to do tiring and boring chores. Spent right, money can go a long way to relieving these problems.

Also, if spent wisely, money can help you boost your happiness. For example, philosophers and scientists agree that having strong ties to other people is the KEY to happiness, and money can pay for a plane ticket to visit your sister, a babysitter for a date night with your sweetheart, or pizza and beer for a Super Bowl Party with friends. Novelty and challenge will make you happier, and money can pay for a trip to France, for a drawing class, for a mountain bike.
Is money essential for developing strong ties to other people or finding ways to challenge yourself? Of course not. But money can make it easier. Some of the best things in life aren’t free."
The thing is, we each develop a relationship with money (healthy or not) that contributes to our happiness. So how do you spend your money to make you happy? Here are some of the things I spend my money on:
1) Getting out of debt: I have to admit, I'm a budget nerd. I have a passion for finances and I'm a Dave Ramsey fan (and every other money saving mogul in the business). We just paid off our 2013 Dodge Caravan in full after just six months and it thrilled me to my core. Thankfully my husband balances us out because if were up to me I would pinch every penny like a miser and we'd never have any fun, but I love putting extra money away for a rainy day. And if that rainy day comes I'll probably just stash more money away. 
2) In spite of my stingy nature, I love buying books: I've tried to curb my addiction since our large bookshelves are currently double stacked. Once in the early days of our marriage I bought about 7 books at Barnes and Nobel in one day and my husband made me chose five to take back. There is no way I'll ever be able to read all the books I own in a lifetime (thanks to the invention of Ebooks, plus my already large stash, I own thousands of books) but they are a comfort to me.
3) Desserts are high on my list: If I'm ever shopping by myself, I usually treat myself to a pastry of some sort. I don't know why this is, but there is something sinfully selfish about a wife and mother enjoying a tasty treat all by herself in secret. I have a huge sweet tooth and I'll be honest, I never like to share food (it's a great fault of mine that I am trying to overcome, especially since I appreciate it so much when others share). It always feels very forbidden and I love a little mystery in my life. (By now you know I'm a huge nerd for spreadsheets and budgeting and the thrill of my life is when I buy a pastry from a bakery so you are probably feeling pretty sorry for me.)
4) Vacations: Now, we don't get to go on vacations as often as I'd like, but I love to spend money for a vacation. Occasionally my husband and I will plan lavish trips that we never go on (our current dream destination is Italy). but eventually our trips will graduate from Southern California Disneyland trips (about four hours away) to across the sea adventures. 
A friend's husband loves buying cars, I have a friend who owns hundreds of pairs of shoes, my husband would purchase computer parts and the top grade technology on the daily if finances allowed it. Several friends take daily trips to the gas station to buy 88 cent cokes. My mother-in-law and her sister take several vacations a year both skiing and to the beach. There is nothing wrong with an occasional splurge... 
So what thrills you? 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Confessions of a Dumb Blonde

So technically I have brown hair but that still doesn't stop me from saying some really dumb things sometimes. I did graduate cum laude with my college degree but farm animals? Now that's a really tricky subject.

One day I was frustrated on the computer.
Paige: Ugh! I can't find what I'm looking for.
Josh: What are you looking for?
Paige: DIY stuff, it's always so cute.
Josh: What?
Paige: DIY makes like crafts and home good stuff and their stuff is always super cute but I can't find their website anywhere. Have you ever seen any DIY stores?
Josh: Do you think it's a brand or something? DIY stands for "do it yourself".
Paige: Oh... 

One night my husband and I were zoning out on the Internet
Josh: Did you know Artie on Glee is the pizza delivery kid on that one episode of the Office?
Me: Oh yeah, I can totally see that now! Wait so he's not really in a wheelchair?
Josh: Really? We've seen a bunch of episodes of Glee when he's dancing around and walking and stuff. How did you not know that already?
Me: I thought it was like special effects or something. Are you sure? Then why are his legs atrophied?
Josh: Paige, he's just a skinny kid.

One night while watching Blackfish I saw a close-up of an Orca whale.
Me: Woah, what was that?
Josh: The whale's eye. Was that surprising for you or something?
Me: I thought those big white things were it's eyes.
Josh: How could that possibly be an eye? There's no pupil or lid, it's just a big white spot on the side of it's head!
Me: Well, I didn't think you needed eyelids underwater.

One day while driving around Salt Lake I informed Josh that Utah's state bird is the seagull and then asked him what Minnesota's state bird is.
Josh: The loon.
Paige: No, that must be your state duck, or your state animal or something. What's your state bird?
Josh: The loon.
Paige: No, that's a duck.
Josh: Ducks ARE birds.
Paige: Nooo... Wait what?
Josh: What do you think a duck is?
Paige: It's an animal.
Josh: Well yes, but more specifically it's a bird.
Paige: No, it's poultry.
Josh: Poultry are birds.
Paige: So you mean to tell me that chickens and turkeys and geese and ducks and all of those things are birds too?
Josh: Paige they have WINGS.
Paige: Well yeah, but they can't fly...
Josh: Yes they can fly! Have you ever been duck hunting? Of course not. Have you ever played duck hunt?
Long story short, we got home, googled it (or I googled it while Josh stared at me in horror) and it turns out- ducks are birds I guess.

Apparently ducks are a confusing area for me. One night on the phone with Josh's parents they told us about the wood duck house they had built. We got off the phone and I asked Josh what a wood duck looked like.
Josh: What do you mean?
Paige: Well how is it different from an actual duck?
Josh: What do you mean an actual duck?
Paige: You know, like a normal duck.
Josh: A normal duck?
Paige: Those green headed guys.
Josh: A mallard?
Paige: A what?
Josh: Paige do you understand what a species is?
Paige: .... So there's no such thing as just a regular duck?
Josh: No honey.

Last one of the farm animals category (which I guess I never cared to learn much basic information about). One day while driving to my grandparent's house I was looking out the window and saw some strange animals.
Paige: What kind of animals are those?
Josh: Are you serious? They're cows. Have you never seen a cow before?
Paige: Obviously I've seen a cow. Cows are white with black spots. These things are just brown and black.
Josh: Black and white cows are dairy cows, there are different kinds of cows. Maybe your grandparents have some little kid book about farm animals you can read when we get there.

One time Josh and I stopped at In N Out. We ordered, sat down, and I started reading a brochure at the table. On the back of the brochure there was an order form to fill out and mail in and a place to put your money. I casually remarked out loud "Who would want to order a hamburger by mail? It'd be cold and gross by the time it got there." Josh was already walking towards the counter to get our food. He stopped, turned around, stared at me for a while, and then came back to the table to point out the t-shirts and hats and other memorabilia on the front of the brochure and explained that you would be ordering a t-shirt by mail, not a hamburger.

One night we were watching one of those late night talkshows and they introduced the lead singer of the Dave Matthews Band as "Dave Matthews."
Me: Woah! That's actually his name? How tricky!
Josh: silence.

One time we were driving and I saw a sign for a ten dollar tire rotation. I said to Josh "Who would pay ten dollars for that? Your tires rotate every time you drive." Josh tried to explain it for a while and then ultimately had to draw me a diagram of what tire rotation was.

One day Josh was telling me about a relative of his who was a merchant marine.
Paige: Wow that's so cool. You have to be really strong to be a merchant marine.
Josh: Well I don't really know about that, you mostly have to know about ships.
Paige: No you're thinking of the navy, the marines are on land.
Josh: Paige, what do you think a merchant marine is?
Paige: Someone who is in the marines and I don't really know about the merchant part- maybe they sell stuff?

I am very scared of bugs, one day while home alone I saw one on our floor and trapped it under a pot so Josh could kill it when he got home. I also stacked several books on top of the pot for good measure so it definitely couldn't escape. When Josh got home this is what transpired
Me: Oh good you're home. I trapped a really scary bug for you under that pot. Can you kill it please?
Josh: What kind of bug?
Me: I've never seen anything like it. It's like an exotic cross-breed of some kind.
Josh: (Lifting up the pot and taking a look) Yeah, that's a french fry.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Weeding My Collections

For the first 25 years of my life, I was a collector.

As a child, I collected spoons from vacation spots. (Remember spoon collecting? Do people still do that?) I collected rocks (and named them, but that's a post for another day). I collected (I swear I am not making this up) napkins, like from birthday parties and weddings and holiday celebrations. I kept them in the special napkin basket that I used when I was six and my job was to pass out napkins at my cousin's wedding. I'm probably the only person who remembers when weddings (at least in Utah) always featured napkins embossed with some cute little pictures and the names of the bride and groom, because I had napkins from every wedding reception I went to as a child, and there were a lot of cousins and siblings and neighbors getting married. I collected dolls and their accessories, stuffed animals (subcategory: stuffed tigers), Cherished Teddies (yes, yes I did) and so much other stuff that I have probably forgotten was once very important to me.

When I got older, my major collections were CDs, DVDs, and books. When CDs stopped being much of a thing, I collected digital music. I have SO MUCH DIGITAL MUSIC. My enormous iPod is bursting with music that I have barely heard, but can't bring myself to delete, because what if it is amazing and I just haven't gotten there yet?

And then I got married to another book collector. And then we moved three times in our three years of marriage.

Guys. Having a lot of books is fun when they're on your shelf. They're such conversation starters, and I love browsing my shelves and trying to decide what to read next or read again. Having my favorite books around makes me feel like I'm surrounded by old friends, and having books that I picked up on a whim somewhere and haven't read yet just feels like a new adventure waiting to happen. Plus, keeping my books from college reminds me that I am smart and well-read, even on days when I am doing nothing but wiping a toddler bum and finding new ways to trick the same toddler into eating the occasional vegetable while keeping her from coloring on the laptop.

Moving 30 boxes of books is not so much fun. Also, unpacking them, especially into multiple rooms.

This week my husband and I decided to start weeding and organizing our collection. ("Weeding a collection" is a term I picked up in library school. It means junking the books that are no longer checked out, accurate, relevant, holding their shape.) Here are some of the things we discovered:
  • We have a lot of duplicates. We had two copies of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which we both felt was more of a fun idea than actually good as a book). We had two copies of the complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, two copies of several classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (both mine!) and Anna Karenina, (and, I later discovered, two copies of Great Expectations, which I despise, despite more than one attempt to change my own mind - we chucked them both and just kept the big Dickens collection that included it)  two copies of a random book about World War I memorials because we both took a WWI class at some point in our college careers, and a whopping three copies of Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee, Frederick Forsythe's No Comebacks (which I think I may have accidentally purchased a couple of times at used book stores thinking that the copy I had on the shelf was my dad's when actually I had already purchased it . . . twice? I guess I really liked it.) and The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, which I don't think I've even read. 
  • We have a lot of books that I never care to read again, and although sometimes I like to hang onto books like that so I can look back on them or lend them to friends or just have because they look smart on the shelf, if I'm honest with myself, I'm never going to lend out books that I just really didn't care for. I know lots of people really liked The Shipping News, but I didn't, so why is it still sitting on my shelf? So I can point to it and say, "Hey, I read that once. Meh?"  
  • Also, why on earth do we have an MLA Style guide from several years ago? I really, really hope I never have to worry about writing in MLA ever again. (I won't even talk about the biology and chemistry textbooks my husband is hanging onto from his undergrad, because he isn't talking about the literary theory books that are shoved into various corners of my shelves. We both managed to let a couple of books in each of those categories go.) 
  • As much as the librarian in me loves building a collection, part of me just wants to be able to get all of our books to fit on our FOUR bookshelves and maybe have a little room for a picture or something here and there. 
  • At some point, the insane clutter of books means I can't even see what's on the shelf that I'd like to read but keep forgetting I have. (My iPod is similarly cluttered, and some days I scroll through my days and days of music and can't see anything I want to listen to. Probably time to weed that as well.) 
I guess what I'm saying is that at some point, I think I stopped becoming quite so much of a collector - or maybe my true collector self just realized that what I've been lately is more of a hoarder. In any case, we just sold one huge box of books to the used book store (so we can buy more books on credit later) and the box they wouldn't take is being donated. And then I might see what else needs to go to clear up my life a bit. It's time to make room for new friends, new stages of life, and new additions to my collections that matter to me now. 

Of course I'll still have four bookshelves. Let's not get crazy. 

What do you think? What crazy collections are cluttering up your life? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Words are crazy.

Teaching children to speak is a really interesting experience.  Explaining the names of things can sometimes become quite comical. Some words make complete sense. Their teddy bear, for example, is a stuffed animal because it is literally a toy animal full of stuffing.  Then there are those words that I just have to tell them "It's called that because that's what everyone calls it".  For example: aglet. Even blogger didn't think that was a word, but it is indeed the name of the plastic tip on your shoe lace.  This may sound like a strange word to teach my preschooler and toddler, but why not teach them every word we come across a meaning for?

This prompted me to think about some of the stranger words in our language. There are several, some of which I can think of, but can't even spell close enough for Google to guess what I am saying. Teaching beginning English often makes sense, words directly describe what you are talking about, but when you delve deeper into words like synonym, exacerbate, and plethora things can get a little dicey.

Which actually brought me to some words that other cultures have that we really need equivalents for.  Really.

Shemomedjamo- a Georgian (not the state, the country) word that is used to explain the phenomenon of being completely full from a meal and yet not being able to stop eating because it's so delicious.  It translates to "I accidentally ate the whole thing".

Zeg- another Georgian word, this one meaning "the day after tomorrow" (not the movie). This seems like a word people might actually use on a regular basis, and yet the English language has failed us.

Lagom- a Swedish word meaning "not too much, not too little, but just right"  Poor Goldilocks could have been much more succinct if she only had this word.

Cafune- Brazilian word which translates to "tenderly running your fingers through your lover's hair"

And my absolute favorite:
Kummerspeck- a German word used to describe weight gained from emotional over eating. Translating literally as "grief bacon".  That is a word I need.  What could make a person's emotional eating more complete than a side of grief bacon?

It appears our language is not only completely absurd with it's many rules and limitations (did you know that most words do not follow the "i before e" rule?), but it also fails us on a regular basis.  What am I to do when I need to quickly explain to someone my weight gain is due to emotional over-eating while planning a lunch date for the day after tomorrow in a restaurant that has chairs that are just right and explaining to them I can no longer talk because I am lovingly running my fingers through my lover's hair?  I mean I don't know about you, but I have totally had this conversation before.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Forward? Fall Back? Either way, here are some links!

These links are definitely all over the place on the random scale. I blame it on the hour of sleep we lost earlier this week with the time change. Nevertheless, here are some interesting things to check out!

Photographer Chino Otsuka revisited her childhood photos, but instead of just reminiscing she decided to create "double portraits" to bring together her past and present selves. The resulting series, Imagine Finding Me, is captivating!

I found this awesome video through Open Culture, a great resource for high-quality cultural & educational media.  Sometimes they share fantastically random things, like this cool video of tree rings being played on a turntable.

Though I'm not a parent, I do catch myself saying some pretty... unique (strange? ridiculous? all of the above?) things.  I feel like there's not a lot of difference between what camp counselors have to tell their campers, teachers tell their students, and what parents tell their kids (perhaps it's just the duration of responsibility--camp counselors: a few weeks in the summer; teachers: the school day during the school year; parents: the rest of their lives). Either way, this father captures those "parent-isms" in a lovely way with his honest (and hilarious) illustrations.
dad illustrates the darndest things he has ever said to his kids nathan ripperger (10)
There are more images to love at his Etsy store,

My links posts tend to be video-heavy, but how can I resist? If you haven't seen the "Kids React" videos, they're pretty awesome.  Usually they're about some pop-culture event, but this one is about the good ol' rotary phones we (I) grew up with (and can I just say, as someone with lots of 0s and an 8 in my old home phone number, that kid was right. It does sometimes take forever to dial a number).

Here's a moving story of how a teenager surprises the woman who helped him find his adopted family through her work as a newscaster. Absolutely touching!

If you kind of love it when things go perfectly wrong, then I think you'll enjoy this video.

If you feel like smiling like a goon while staring at your computer, then just watch this next video. Seriously. Normally I have a pretty neutral YouTube-watching face, but I realized about halfway through this video that I was smiling like a goon. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tutorial: Dining room decor

I like to think that on some occasions I can be "crafty". You know, creative and original.  Most often I just copy ideas I have seen and pretend they are my own.  But hey, take what you can get, right?

Recently, I found a craft I really liked, it was even a "green" craft.  I get to be creative and pretend to be good to the environment (please do not judge me for my lack of effort to preserve the environment in every way possible). I do care about the earth, but there is no way I am putting poopy cloth diapers in the same washing machine as my regular clothes.

Okay, craft.  I saved up a bunch of bathroom tissue rolls, in a much shorter time than anticipated. My kids were happy to help by TP-ing our living room.  I then cut them into similar(ish) sizes.  Roughly 5 pieces each. Although it turns out that different brands do not have the same size, or rather length, of rolls.  Never fear, it's truly not a big deal if they are different lengths.  It's actually quite alright and doesn't matter at all.

Now you have your cut up tubes (did I forget to mention that to cut them you squish them in half?)  and you lay them out to make your design.  Putting a few of them together kind of makes a flower shape, it's pretty.  I arranged the flowers with a flowing design around them.  It's below in the pictures.

Then you glue them together using your hot glue gun.  *REMINDER* Be so careful with those dang glue guns, even if you hide them in a box, behind a chair in the corner, your preschooler can still somehow find it, and burn his cute little foot and you will feel like the world's worst mother ever.
So, you glue them together, and all the while think "I hope this is worth it".  And as it comes together, you'll slowly change your thoughts to more positive ones, and you may even become slightly proud.
My original intention was to spray paint it black, but I made it in January, in Utah.  Turns out that paint doesn't set well in sub frozen temperatures.  I am far too impatient to wait to hang it up until warmer weather (which may never happen in Utah).  Also, I'm pregnant, and apparently it's unsafe to paint while pregnant. I suppose that makes sense.  Anyhow, it's now hanging in my dining room, and I LOVE it!  It turned out much better than I anticipated.  And guess what, with it's level of difficulty, anyone could do it!  Take a peak:

Monday, March 10, 2014

It Matters to Me

Little kids are cute, and they have little clothes, and little toys, and little likes and dislikes. They are just all around cute because they are little. The little things in their lives are the only things in their lives, so to them, they are big things.

Some people reason away children's wishes with a thought that they are just little things, but to each individual kid, their best friend is a stuffed animal and they really want to have a sleepover every night with their best stuffed friend.

Even older kid's wishes and dreams are sadly easily dismissed. A pre-teen in love is thought of as just cute, it's just a phase, just puppy love. But to the pre-teen, it feels like real, intense, unalterable love, to them it is real love. Dismissing their thoughts of being in love hurts them. It's little to us, but to them it's big.

A child's imagination is far greater than ours. We've lost most of our imaginations. When a child wants to be a cowboy, have cowboy clothes, toys and sheets, it's a real thing for them. To them they really can be/are a cowboy, they can make that happen with their amazing imaginations.

Same thing goes for adults. I know several people who are zealously protecting their views, both on different sides of the argument. I haven't made a zealous effort one way or the other, it's not a fight I'm fighting- I chose other fights. To me, it seems like a lot of effort and love put into a topic that I'm not willing to put the effort in to. But to them, both sides, it's a big deal, it's a big part of their life. It's real, it's not little, it's big.

They may see my zealous efforts in other fights as inconsequential and pointless, but to me, those things are worth fighting for.

We all live in our own realities- personal, familial, societal realities that vary from person to family to country. Other people's realities may not seem like the real reality, but they think the same of us.

If it matters to you, I'll try my best to understand that it's big for you, not little, and hope you do the same for me. It matters to me.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Social Media Challenge: Compliment Someone Today

In an effort to spread some joy today on the internet your challenge (should you choose to accept it) is to compliment five people on social media today. 

Maybe you'll choose to tag someone in a Facebook status

Maybe you'll write on their wall

Maybe you'll comment on an outfit someone posts on Instagram

The options are limitless...

Just make sure the compliments are sincere and meaningful!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fundraising Woes: Killing unrealistic expectations

Elementary school fundraisers are an introduction to failure and disappointment.

You know what I'm talking about. A company swoops in and gets already hyperactive children overly excited about selling coupon books, wrapping paper, cookie dough or the like.

They pontificate to the children about their solemn responsibility to support their school. They talk about the value of education and the hardworking, underpaid teachers who deserve their respect.

And as if guilt tripping them into participating wasn't enough, there are the prizes. Ooooh the prizes. If you work hard enough you can earn from tee shirts and slap bracelets (is that still a thing?) to stereo equipment and even iPads! I kid you not.

The school claims that participating in these events teaches students to have a positive attitude, to put others first, teamwork, and responsibility. All I see is that it turns these kids into ravenous prize grabbers.

My four year old came home from pre-k the other day with a fundraising packet. I asked her what it was for and she informed me that "Daddy has to work harder so he can give me money for my school." This was not appreciated by her daddy, who works plenty hard to provide both necessity and comfort for our little family. The thing is some nice man promised her that if she helped earn money for her school she could earn prizes, and she really has her eye set on either a rocket launcher, or a helicopter that flies. I calculated that she would need to earn $600 dollars in order to get the $20 dollar prize.

Now, I know schools need to have fundraisers. My degree is in education and my husband has worked as a teacher or specialist for our school district for the last 7 years so we know the ins and outs of public education funding. But seeing the hope and excitement in my daughters eyes, knowing she was going to be let down made me want to cry because a) I'm pregnant and everything makes me want to cry and b) I hate to see her experience disappointment and I know this is going to be a huge one.

Unrealistic expectations plague both children and adults. No one is immune. Hope is good and wonderful and serves us well. False hope, or unrequited hope is depressing and can cause anxiety. Failure is also good and wonderful, and it can teach us in ways that success cannot. But when we are faced with something too daunting for our age or physical ability it can wreak havoc on our psyche.

If you set your expectations too high, there’s obviously the risk of reality slapping you in the face This can potentially make you pessimistic and continually result in you having that kind of negative attitude toward any new venture you choose to pursue in life.

When setting goals and expectations, lets remember to:

Stay positive, yet realistic. Ask yourself if you are biting off more than you can chew, and if the undertaking is reasonable to ask yourself.

Make a plan, and make sure that plan is conducive to your lifestyle. Don't overwhelm yourself!

Stretch yourself and take reasonable risk, but remember baby steps are imperative to success. Telling yourself you are going to train for a marathon in a month without any experience is probably not the best approach, but if you set aside 15, then 20, then 30 minutes a day (and so forth) to go running you will gradually achieve your goal.

Remember something that is realistic for another person may not be realistic for you. I have a friend who reads 100 books a year and I set the same goal for myself. I could never reach it, and then I discovered that the average book length I read is around 375 pages while the average book length she reads is about 230 pages. She still reads much more than me, but I was attempting the impossible for where I am in life based on my own goals.

Be patient, and remember that life is a process. Patience is required for others, but also with ourselves! Give yourself a break!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Appreciating Small Towns

I may live in a metropolitan area now, but I grew up in a small town. While I enjoy the convenience of many things in a larger city, I still appreciate the benefits of small town living.  Here are a few examples:

Car mechanics
  • Not only do you know who to go to in town for what problem (electrical, engine, tires) but they know you, your parents, and knew your grandparents (and possibly even your great grandparents if your roots in the town grow that deeply). This is helpful almost all of the time. Why? Not only do they call it like it is (“You can probably get away with another 7,000 miles on those tires, but if you’re going somewhere with hills in winter you might want to put on new ones before then”), they don’t charge you for simple things that others might (“I don’t think that rattle is anything to worry about” or “Don’t worry about having us clear that ‘check engine’ code--it didn’t hardly take any time”). Also, they let you into the work area to visit with them. If you happen to be there, chewing the fat, and (light bulb!) remember a funky sound you’ve been hearing (in addition to the oil change you originally brought your car in for) or if you’ve ever wondered what that funky shaped thing was next to the other thingy, you can ask and they’ll answer! 

  • My sister was putting together a surprise party for my Dad’s birthday. Technically his birthday was on Friday, but in order to be sure everyone could be there (six kids, plus partners, grandkids, and helloooooo schedules and weather!) we agreed to have the party on Saturday. I was in charge of cake for the Saturday party and called several weeks in advance to place my order at the local bakery. In order to make sure he didn’t suspect our plottings, my mom and I, and my siblings who lived closer to the area, threw our typical “birthday dinner” party and got a small cake from the bakery. Because the bakery is 1) awesome and 2) knows my family from years of ordering cakes and delicious dinner rolls, they called my mom to check to see whether we actually did want two birthday cakes: one for Friday (decoy) and one for Saturday. They’ve had instances where different members of the same family had each ordered a cake, not knowing the other had already taken care of it. Talk about service and attention to detail! Plus, it is where local folks gather to get their morning coffee and doughnut and shoot the breeze.  

Grocery Stores 
  • While the selection of items may not be as diverse as that of a larger city, every time I head back to my hometown grocery store I run into people I know--Whether it is customers I grew up with or employees with whom I graduated high school (or perhaps I know their kids from my school days). It is familiar and welcoming, and half the time in the store is spent visiting with them about how my folks are doing, or how their folks are doing, or how many kids they have. And then I realize I need to rush through the checkout to get home to put the melting carton of ice cream that was sitting in my cart the whole time into the freezer before it turns into soup. 

Gas Stations
  • Small town gas stations have an amazing selection because they tend to be the only store open past 11 p.m. And sometimes, you really are willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a four-pack of toilet paper...and you might as well throw in that awesome battery-powered spinning candy sucker while you’re there (because who has the energy to twirl their candy using their own manpower after 11 p.m.?). 

  • Growing up I knew our neighbors. Their daughter babysat us; we bought hay from them for our horses; the neighbor two houses down (which in the country is at least a quarter-mile away from the edge of our driveway) would come and plow out our driveway (which itself was about a quarter-mile long). We kept track of one another, asking about their extended family, and generally just chewing the fat. If their dog would come visit ours it wasn’t a big deal--It was just neighbor dogs being neighborly. If their horses got out, we’d give the neighbors a ring and help shoo them back over to their place. 

Quirky Attractions
  • If you’re looking for fun slogans or strange attractions, look no further than small towns. Here are just a few of my favorite slogans from Iowa that just might charm you:
    • Readlyn: "857 friendly people and one old GRUMP"
    • Jewell: “A gem in a friendly setting”
    • Lake City: “Everything but a lake” 
    • Stuart: “Home of 1,700 good eggs and a few stinkers”
    • Mallard: “We’re friendly ducks”
  • In the realm of strange attractions, small-town Iowa has you covered, once again: 
    • Ames: World's Largest Concrete Gnome
    • Brandon: Iowa's Largest Frying Pan
    • Britt: Hobo Museum (and annual festival!)
    • Maquoketa: Two-Butted Lamb
    • Sac City: World's Largest Popcorn Ball
    • Stuart: Bank robbed by Bonnie and Clyde
    • West Branch: Creepy Goddess of Life: a Gift for Herbert Hoover (I’ll just say that the statue is appropriately described and leave it at that)
    • Villisca: Villisca Ax Murder House and Museum

What is it that you appreciate about small town living, or visiting the small towns around you?