Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Just keep swimming...just keep swimming...just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...

There are days where you are just running on empty. I like to call those days “Just Keep Swimming Days” because I say that over and over to myself. You’ll get that reference if you have kids or are around kids on a regular basis. I seem to be having a few weeks of that lately and just when I think it might slow, it gets worse. But that’s just the season of life we’re in right now.  As a working mom, it doesn’t help when so many other things are pulling all your energy (especially mental energy) away from what matters most. So for the days when I feel like I just don't think I have it in me to read one more story; watch Cars, Cars 2 or Monsters Inc. one more time; plan one more meal; or fold one more load of clothes. For the days when I think everyone else has it together and I’m about to snap.

For those days. You know the ones.

1.   I shall not judge my house, my kid's birthday parties or my crafting skills by Pinterest's standards.

2.   I shall not measure what I've accomplished today by the loads of dirty clothes or unfolded laundry but by the assurance of deep love I've tickled into my kids.

3.   I shall not condemn myself when I choose take out for dinner instead of cooking, even if it is back to back.  

4.   I shall say yes to blanket forts and see past the chaos and the "to do list" to the memories we're building.

5.   I shall surprise my kids with trips to get ice cream when they’ve already had some today.

6.   I shall not compare myself to other mothers but find my identity in the God who trusted me with these kids in the first place.

7.   I shall remember that a messy house at peace is better than an immaculate house tied up in knots.

8.   I shall play music loudly and teach my kids the joy of wildly uncoordinated dance. Can anyone say “dance party”?

9.   I shall remind myself that perfect is simply a street sign at the intersection of Impossible and Frustration in Never Never Land.

10. I shall remember not to sweat the small stuff. It won’t matter in the long run.

11. I shall promise to love this body that bore these two children, stretched skin and all.

12. I shall give my other mommy friends the gift of judgment-free friendship.

13. I shall admit to my friends my less than finer moments, for which there are many.

14. I shall say sorry when sorry is necessary.

15. I pray God I shall never be too proud, angry or stubborn to ask for my children's forgiveness and admit when I’m wrong.

16. I shall try to remember that it’s not always about having perfect manners all the time, especially with boys in the house.

17. I shall love Jesus and pray my children will see Him in me through my actions and words.

18. I shall love their father and make sure they know I love and respect him.

19. I will make every effort not to be glued to my technology so my kids know I’m available.

20. I shall not resent that last call for kisses and cups of water but remember instead that when I blink they'll all be in college.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Let there be light!

One of the fun things about renovating a new house and making it yours is you get to pick out all the fun stuff for it. In our case, we get to pick out a lot beforehand since we're doing a chunk of renovations before moving in. More on our shopping trip this weekend will be coming soon to a computer screen near you...

One thing I have found to be difficult to select is lighting. Obviously I knew there were lots of choices around but I had no idea there were MILLIONS. Literally. I already had in mind what I wanted for the 1950's style house. It couldn't be too modern or contemporary (nothing too out there) but I also didn't want it to be extremely traditional. A nice mix. Am I making sense here? But getting that to translate to reality (and budget) are two different things.

On the list of lighting needs we have:
  1. master bath vanity
  2. guest bath vanity
  3. guest bath fan/light kit (combo deal)
  4. pendant for the kitchen sink
  5. kitchen light (ideally to go over the island I plan on creating with an old table)
  6. dining room chandelier
That doesn't even begin to address the lamps we'll likely need since we have a bigger space and no overhead lighting but that can easily be remedied once I start decorating and deciding what we have and what we want to sell/replace.

For the bathrooms we decided on this. Our options were limited since we had to use nickel or chrome (although I wanted bronze). There is a swivel toothbrush holder embedded in each of the bathrooms that is chrome. No getting around that sucker and it wouldn't hold up well to painting. So brushed nickel it is. The guest bath fan/light kit didn't leave us with many options. Most were hideous at Lowe's but we did find this one that we settled for. We have plans to remodel the bathrooms in a few years so we aren't trying to get it perfect this time around nor spend a lot of money.

I wasn't even thinking about a dining room chandelier and came across this that would work, especially for the price. We had planned to live with the hideous lovely brass one for a while (which I'm pretty sure is a hazard given that the glass globes are dangling precariously from it) but have toyed with the idea of having the electrician switch it out if we find one we like. Heck he's going to be there working on the entire house anyway. What's one more light installation!?  I may continue to search and see if I can find a round version versus one on legs, as I call it. The more I look at this one, the more I think I may want a different version.

Then came the kitchen. For some reason, the pendant over the sink was easy. It was one I have stalked at Pottery Barn for a while but never had a place for so as soon as it was on sale I snatched it up.


While that will certainly light the area over the sink, it won't light the rest of the kitchen. And might I say, the light currently in there is one of those large box lights circa 1970's. Ick.

I've toyed with something matching like this or something like this or even these, but thanks to the advice of a good friend who has a great eye, they most likely won't offer enough light for the entire kitchen. So now I'm on the hunt for another option. I've searched online until I'm cross-eyed for hours. Now I'm going to go hunt at a local lighting store to see if I see anything there. Who knows, maybe they will even have a better dining room chandelier! Stay tuned...

Feel free to send links/options my way if you have any suggestions!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A few things I learned from moving...

As you may know, last weekend we managed to move out of our house and in to a friend's house who is graciously letting us borrow it while he is out of town traveling for a few months. It's a beautiful house. We may become squatters. ha ha! So all of our belongings now look like this:

It's actually a bit more packed in now but we still have a small walkway if needed. The boys found it fascinating to see it all packed in. Once we close on our house and finish renovations we can finally move to our house (somewhere around mid-September).

Moving day was actually not a bad experience. Not pleasant but not bad. We had great friends to help us...

That's Chippers who came to help despite his injured thumb. A big thanks to all of you who helped move or watch the kids while we moved! Disregard the chair next to Chip. I actually bought two of them at an estate sale that morning for $35/chair. I couldn't help myself. I saw the sign. I had to stop. A little fabric and they will be super cute.

But I digress...there are a few things I've learned in the moving process...

1) Dogs and babies are dirty - had I not been pressed for time, exhausted and let's face it, embarrassed, I would have taken pictures of the filth that can pile up behind large pieces of furniture as well as the amount of small little spills that were on some of our walls. Apparently every time one of the boys threw their sippy cups in anger (which happens often) a small splattering landed somewhere. It took us 5hrs of hardcore cleaning last weekend to get the house cleaned.

2) I don't do windows. One of the few things the renters asked us to come back and do is wash the outside of the windows. When Daniel cleaned the eaves the week prior he forgot to rinse them as he was going so they had all kinds of spots on them. But then it also made me realize we've never washed our windows to begin with so they were probably pretty grimy. We tried a new product I have been dying to try:

It was surprisingly not hard to use. After attaching it to the hose, turn the switch to rinse and wet the windows. Then simply turn to switch to spray and douse the windows and let sit for a few seconds and then rinse again.

It certainly did the trick. In our next house we probably need to add this to the spring and fall cleaning schedule...as soon as I start a spring and fall cleaning schedule.

3) A clean cook I am not. When we had Cole my mom came to stay and she offered to clean the oven. Apparently it was filthy and self admittedly I had never cleaned it. I mean who thinks about that in the midst of cooking? And I certainly don't think about cleaning it any other time. Out of site - out of mind. So there it's sat uncleaned for the past 21 months. In fact the last time she came she said "Anna, I'm not cleaning your oven again." A hint? Did it work? Nope. Call it child selective hearing. I hear it's related to spousal selective hearing, mostly found in men.

Take a look at what I started with...

Guh-ross. You can see where I already started the cleaning process just to show how absolutely bad it was. I had no idea!

Don't let your oven intimidate you. A little help from this guy is all you need.

I sprayed it heavily and left it for a few hours while we went house shopping (more on that later). It was actually pretty easy to wipe it down once it soaked in. Although don't try to save any trees during this process. I learned quickly that paper towels were better than constantly rinsing a sponge. I used an entire roll! In the end it was sparkly and clean minus a few areas that were so baked on I think they needed to sit overnight.

I also took the time to replace the drip pans on the stove. They were also pretty dirty and it's much easier to replace them (for less than $20) than to clean them.

Again...adding this to the soon-to-be spring/fall cleaning list.

So if you're keeping track we now need to do the following in our new house...First and foremost start a quarterly cleaning list which would include the following:
  • pull out all furniture and vacuum underneath
  • wipe down all baseboards, door jams and doors to remove grimy hand prints
  • clean ceiling fans
  • clean oven (my mother will be so proud)
  • wash windows inside and out
I'm sure there are others. In fact, I would welcome any suggestions on what you do/clean a few times a year that you think makes a huge difference. While I'm not planning on becoming a cleaning nazi, I certainly don't want to become piggy-pigerton.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's broken...and it needs to be fixed

I'm not typically one to post negative thoughts or rants or raves that are slanted. So you know that if I do go off on a tangent, it must be pretty bad. I've just experienced first hand why our country has so many financial issues.

We've been working over the last few weeks with the mortgage company to get our loan approved. So as not to be sued for slander let's call them Snails Largo. As anyone who's been through the process knows, it takes an act of congress and about 10,000 trees to make it happen. But since we consulted with a mortgage broker BEFORE we started the process, we felt confident that we'd have no problem being approved. We also shopped around to find what would work best for our situation - a house that needed immediate renovations.

Prior to going in to the house buying process we had worked hard to pay off almost all of our debt  including our cars (there might have been a piddly few $100's on a credit card from a recent online purchase but certainly nothing substantial). Literally the only thing we had was our current house mortgage, which has been rented and thus covered through the rental income. Our debt to income ratio was very, very good. On top of that we have worked hard to ensure our credit scores are high (above 800). Should be no problem, right? Mortgage lenders should love us, right?


We had no problem getting through the pre-approval and the first approval with the underwriter. That's when the brakes stopped. Really it felt more like a head on collision.

Just one day back from being home from vacation we get a note from the lender.  They say they can no longer count a chunk of money in our savings account because it was a gift. We've discussed this with them before and even provided them with a signed letter from the giver and a copy of the check (it was given to us before we even found the house) and they were happy with the justification.

Upon further review (final underwriting), they decided that this money is not allowed to count towards our "liquidated cash" that is needed to put 5% down. They also were not counting any rental income we've received thus far (deposit and last month rent) despite me asking what paperwork they needed to show it was valid and "traceable".

I explained why we don't keep a ton of cash in our local account (we pay cash for most everything and use Dave Ramsey's envelope system) and that we had just paid off debt and thus our savings wasn't extremely high...but that's also why we had the other money that they decided not to count. Seriously, we have more than the 5% required to put down sitting in our account.  

Their solution? Take out money from our 401k. Never mind the same amount and more is sitting in our savings account. They want to see that it came from some other source in order to "count it." At one point they even told me that I couldn't even make a cash deposit (from our envelopes) to use because it was untraceable too. 

I even asked "so because we've been fiscally responsible, that's not good? It'd be better if we had more debt?"  Their answer "in this situation, yes." They freely admitted they didn't review it appropriately the first time but were also clear that it doesn't change their decision.

It completely boggles my mind that in our country, those with high debt but make regular payments are better off than those who have worked hard to have no substantial debt. Since when did we become a country that doesn't reward those who are fiscally responsible? Or have we become so warped that having high debt is the new "American Way"? I'd love to know how much Americans spend annually in just interest alone.

Someone told us today that we aren't the ideal candidates for banks because it's obvious we are likely to pay off our loans quickly and also not default, hence they make less money and can't charge us any random fees.  

Whatever the reason, I'm confident it will work out and we've already taken steps towards a solution despite the Lender's lack of assistance. Sadly, this has showed me just how far away we've gotten from the Godly values our grandparents once had where one lived within their means. And don't even get me started on the other values we've fallen away from...that's a post for another day.

The system is broken...and it needs to be fixed. Can I get an AMEN?

You can't beat us mold!

Ah, the joys of living in the south.  Iced tea, delicious comfort foods and humidity that makes you feel like you live in a sauna. Yep, humidity. I for one am fairly used to it but it does have it's moments when it makes you want to scream.

For instance, when we left for vacation, we had pretty, clean and white trim around the outside of our house. When we came home, it looked like this:

Seriously, it was like that around the entire house and it had only been a week! Apparently all the rain and the hot temperatures have been great for not just mosquitos (seriously, they could carry a small child away they are so massive) but it's also great for mold. I instantly saw $$ thinking we'd have to pay for someone to power wash the house this week on top of all the costs of moving.

Thankfully my husband had a great solution I never even knew he used - Mold Armor. You can get it at Lowes and probably other garden stores.

You simply hook it up to your garden hose and spray it on the affected areas. Within a few minutes the mold is killed and bleached. It's amazing! If you don't believe me take a look at the pictures just a measly 10 minutes after he sprayed it.

The other great thing about the spray is that it's not expensive. I think a bottle runs somewhere around $10. We used 2.5 bottles on our house only because it was so bad that we double sprayed some spots and Daniel also used some on the deck. Ah another few pennies saved and another win for DIY!

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Week of Firsts

Isn't it always fun the first time you do something? The first day of school, the first tomato from the garden, the first kiss, your first home run...(it's PG here so we'll stop there)...but there's always is a level of excitement when it's a first. Last week was no exception while on vacation. The boys had a ton of firsts and it showed in their excitement each day. And thankfully because I'm their mother, I got to relive the excitement too. One of the many blessings of being a parent.

So without further ado, let's relive a few of the firsts from last week...

#1) First bite of green beans (for Charlie)
Probably one of the ones I was most shocked by was that Charlie ate green beans. Seriously, the kids has been given them over and over and over. Refuses to even consider them. But low and behold, Daniel and I go on a date and we get back to hear that he not only ate 1 but 4. Apparently they had a race to see who could eat a green bean first and Charlie raced to win totally forgetting that he won't eat green beans. On the fourth one he did gag a little but he still ate it. Cole of course loves them and it's one of his favorite veggies. We came home looking like this (all grins), especially after hearing that Nana and Pop-E worked their magic.

#2) First trip to the "real beach"
Usually we go to a little island called Radio Island where all the locals go if you live in town. This time we got to drive over to Atlantic Beach one morning and hang out on the big beach. Radio Island is great for kids because it's part of the inlet and has no waves or rip currents but I really wanted them to see the big waves and all the seashells. True to form, Cole loved being in the waves while Charlie preferred the safety of the sand.

#3) Watching a parade

#4) Holding their first crab
Or if you're Charlie, tabs. (we still can't say the "cr" combination yet). Once we learned there were crabs in the tiny holes on the water front, we became obsessed. And somehow he managed to find adults and kids who would catch them for him every time he went down! We also loved sticking our fingers down the crab holes. Thankfully the crabs were kind and no fingers were lost in the making of this blog post.


#5) Izzy came in to heat (this one's for you mom!)
OK that wasn't really one I wanted to chronicle but I found it fair to include Izzy (the dog) since she practically became one of the toddlers during the week. I'll spare you the picture of the diaper she had to wear all week.

#6) Watching fireworks
I wish I could explain the kids excitement at being allowed to stay up late, drive in the car to a dock and then sit outside and watch fireworks over the water. In theory I brought my camera and captured fantastic photos of the event. In reality I totally left it sitting on the counter.

#7) Boat ride on a big boat
This one was a last minute decision by Pop-E but a really good one. They have several boats at the town docks that go out on tours and he booked us on The Crystal Coast Lady. We could have easily gone out on Pop-E's boat but that would require the boys to wear life jackets which would then result in epic meltdowns. Instead we hopped on board the bigger boat where life jackets aren't required. Huge hit. Huge. And it was a perfect amount of time - 1hr. We even got to see some of the wild horses that live on the island across the inlet (Carrot Island). They are said to be descendants of the horses brought over on Spanish ships that crashed on the NC Outerbanks. (Cole did go with us despite the pictures...but he was too busy running around to be captured in a picture)

#8) Cole learns that everyone else's ice cream is better than his own
Didn't take him long but Cole quickly learned that if he refused to eat what he ordered then he could have two. Part way through the week, every time we went to the General Store, he managed to convince someone (usually mommy or Pop-E) that he needed our ice cream instead of his. I'm sure my waistline appreciates the few cones I didn't end up eating.

Yep, he played us. But who can blame him for trying when he's this cute? Kid totally works it.

#9) Building sand castles
In prior years (all two of them) the boys were too little to appreciate the sand. This year they realized the fun of filling a bucket and creating a little sand castle. OK, really it was partially fill up the bucket, whine to Pop-E so Pop-E would fill it up faster and then turn it over to create the sand castle which they promptly squashed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. But it was still fun.

So all in all it was a great week of firsts for the kids. We even managed to squeak out a few great family photos without having to force it. (note the way Charlie likes to close his eyes when he says "cheese") Maybe that should be #10 - easy family photos!

 I could actually go on and on but I'll stop at the top 10. Anyone else having fun family firsts this summer? Thanks for stopping in to share a few of ours!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy July 4th!

Last year we came a little earlier (June) to the beach to visit my parents and thus missed the annual 4th of July parade. I don't really remember going to parades as a child, maybe because we lived out in the country and the only parades we saw were cows crossing the street, but I sure do love one. So this year I was adamant that we go down the week of July 4th so the boys could watch the Beaufort town parade.

There are old cars...

And lots of fun tractors (one of Cole's favorite things)...

And some random tall Mardi Gras people...

And of course pirates! No parade in Beaufort would be complete without pirates...

It's a small tourist town so you get lots of families out to watch which I think adds to the fun. Nothing too fancy, nothing too over the top, but just right. And the best part is a lot of the participants throw out candy for the kids to pick up. They even got a frozen icee this year! Surprisingly there were no close calls either. I could just picture one of the boys running out to grab a piece of candy right in front of a truck or tractor.
You can't even tell that Daniel and I are dripping in sweat from sitting in the hot sun for an hour. We still had our happy faces on...
And the parade even comes with some crazy ladies dressed in red wigs and costumes who dance. Yep that would be my mom on the left holding the sign and my dad is driving the red truck that held the speaker system for the music. 

I sometimes wonder if Daniel fears what kind of crazy gusto will come out in me the older I get?

In case you're wondering, my mom is part of a club called The Sweet Potato Queens. Well known in the town because of their costumes and red wigs at special events. I don't think anyone is under the age of 55 or 60! Love her spunk.

Each year the parade is different but each year it's just as cute and fun.

So happy 4th of July folks! And thanks to all our service men and women who serve or have served so that we can have the freedom and privilege of having a simple parade.

I scream, you scream...

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! That seems to be words my kids live by when we come visit Nana and Pop-E (that would be my parents for all of you who don't know us well). You see, my parents live in Beaufort, NC and it is a small little beach town famously known for it being where Blackbeard the pirate used to reside. I highly recommend coming for a long weekend. Anyway, I digress. Just a block away from their house is the waterfront where there are lots of fun stores, restaurants and our favorite - The General Store. Here you can find little trinkets, toys, salt water taffy and Charlie's favorite, ice cream. Seriously, he knows how to get there from the house on his own and he's only 2.5 yrs old. I'm pretty sure if we didn't add the snap lock to the front gate he'd have left us many times to walk to the ice cream store this week.

We tend to go down every night after dinner and yes, I totally use it as a bribe to get my kids to eat their dinner. Charlie has eaten green beans 3x already this week. Miracle. I can't tell you how many times we've tried but failed on that subject.

So each night we stroll down to The General Store and have a scoop (or two if your name rhymes with spaniel) and then eat it as we walk down the docks looking at the big boats and listening to the live music.

We always get a chuckle as people see the kids dripping with ice cream. I'm pretty sure he eats only half of it and the rest drips. Seriously, you can follow that kid on the boardwalk by following the drips of ice cream. Some parents may fret over stains or the mess but I say bring on the napkins! Their kids and they need to be able to enjoy life as kids. Besides...I always have a plan.


One of the other favorite things the boys love is the outside shower with hot running water. I can turn them loose in there and they will happily bathe away.

And that makes for a happy momma (and some happy kids)! Win-Win for all!
These memories will last them a lifetime. Boats. Ice cream. Fun in the water. Hanging out with Nana and Pop-E. What more could two little toddlers need?