Summer Shenanigans

14 Jul

We’ve been having some fun this summer! It’s all Walter, all the time… as it should be!

IMG_20160618_181933Walter’s first movie theatre experience: Finding Dory. He liked it so much he says he wants to go see it every day. He’s not one for moderation yet.

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Learning to throw water balloons with daddy in our new backyard. I love that you can’t see any other houses in this photo.

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Lunch dates with mommy and the chips of course. Don’t be fooled, they tasted stale.

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Doing art projects like learning to work with “paper ma-clay”.

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Enjoying the new exhibits at the Atlanta History Center, especially the architectural model of Atlanta. He wants to build an exact replica at home.

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July 4th sparklers! Our neighbors were shooting rockets off all night. Definitely going to join them next year.

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Getting our swimming legs at a neighborhood pool with friends!

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Having a great time with cousins visiting from Miami! I had to bribe him with M&Ms to get him to sit down for the picture.

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This picture makes me laugh because he had a blast at the Botanical Gardens, especially going through the scary jungles with Nini.

Thinking about Brexit, and Happy Independence Day, btw

4 Jul

Because I’ve deleted all news apps from my phone, have no cable, and rarely search out the news, I had no idea what was going in Britain until my Facebook newsfeed popped up with all sorts of Brexit and I can’t believe the vote passed memes.

What I find interesting as I reflect upon the anniversary of our Independence Day, is how many of my FB friends were against Brexit.

They want their independence, y’all. Their freedom!

Isn’t that what we want most here in the United States after all? What we fought a war over?

And here the EU and GB get to part ways (for whatever their reasons) without the bloodshed of war, and y’all decry their right to do that? There is talk of overturning the vote, that somehow it didn’t count? Well guess what, that is democracy. And when you take away the power of the vote, things get tricky and usually pretty bad.

It’s reasonable to be scared of change (folks who regret their “Leave” vote and Americans worried about the economic impact), but there are people much older than you, who want change, who are sick of being told by other countries what to do with their land and money.

The world has enough strife. Let’s accept and support our brothers and sisters in their quest for Independence, just like we celebrate and support ours every year.

Cheers, folks, and don’t get blown up by fireworks today.

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Photo taken from Atlanta History Center’s FB page. Photograph ca. 1955

Audible Love

23 Apr

I am in love. I have always been an avid reader, but Audible has allowed me to take it to a new level. Now I can read while I am doing other things. Not only that, but it has replaced my need for performances from TV to books (not completely! I’m not a learning robot!). I can’t remember the last time I opened the Netflix app on my phone.

Nowadays I generally have two book club books, a personal fiction, and at least one fiction and non-fiction audio books going at the same time. Because of this, I have already read 20 books in 2016! I feel smart.

Here are some of my favorites so far:

yellow

Oh my gosh this book was so good. I was distraught when it ended, which was very soon because I listened to all 8+ hours in two days. The narrator was amazing. I will be seeking out more of her reads.

martian
Our first audiobook on Audible. It was a great story, and it was a good first one because I have a feeling that I liked the book more as an audiobook than I would have reading it on paper. It also introduced me and my husband to listening to books together while doing puzzles.

nightingale
I would not have gotten all the painting done to sell our house if I hadn’t gotten addicted to listening to this book and finished it in a weekend. Her other books aren’t that good, but this one is a winner.

summer
Bill Bryson. What more needs to be said? He is an amazing author, and I love that he narrates his own books. He makes history read like fiction. And his comedy makes the tragedies easier to bear. Plus who doesn’t love a playful English accent?

A Bit Untethered, but Happy and Excited

22 Apr

While living in the gloriously big house that Walter now doesn’t want to leave with my awesome, frequently jet-setting in-laws has been fantastic, it’s not easy for me to not have my home base. When I want to settle down or escape, I don’t really have anywhere to go that is mine, except maybe my car. I was even having difficulties living in the small room with our cat, who I am allergic to — long story –, until my brilliant husband suggested I take a Claritin, which thankfully worked. So at least I have that space too again.

The good news is, the finish line is within sight. We sold our house! It went under contract the first day of showings, and the buyers were great. I’m jealous of our old neighbors.

We also bought a house! I feel ridiculously lucky to have found the house we did. It’s a 1965 ranch-style that has previously had one owner, sitting on half an acre of gorgeous landscape.

IMG_20160414_171304306_HDRDay of closing: happiness.

It was very well-maintained, but dated. But that’s the best part! We get to do what we want with the space! No one else has done some costly, generic updating. Mostly it is painting the walls, changing light fixtures, and refinishing floors, but we also get to redo the kitchen from scratch!

IMG_20160418_162936242_HDRYep, that’s our kitchen. Walter thought it left the house on its own.

I already feel like it is my house, even more so than our old house, not just because I’m on the deed of this one, but because I picked it out knowing that I want to live here for the next 30+ years. We have only three weeks until the movers bring our stuff, but oh what needs to be done before then!

IMG_20160422_094949Our wonderful helper!

 

IMG_20160418_205801862_HDRWallpaper was clearly invented by the devil.

IMG_20160421_170823349I needed to paint by myself, and when I was ready to go, I found him like this!

It’ll be more than great to be home again, which is why we’re working round the clock to get things done. We have been blessed by the help of Dave’s dad, who has spent several days doing electrical work at our house and puts Walt to bed so we can go work in the evenings, and my mom who has kept Walt while we get stuff done. I worry about him. In the end it’ll have been a 3 month move, and moves are not easy. Sometimes he isn’t really clear about what’s going on, but he’s a trooper. I’m real proud of him.

We’re living like it’s Downton Abbey

4 Mar

This is multi-family household living at its best, just without Nanny. Or Carson & Mrs. Hughes.

Here’s what happened: my husband bought an expensive house during the real estate bubble of ’07/’08, right before he graduated college in 2009, during the recession. A + B = C, and C hasn’t been good for us financially.

College had delayed his transition from the Marine Corps to his career in his late twenties. I graduated college at the same time as him (but mid twenties) with my second degree, didn’t find a full-time job, didn’t get in to graduate school, and then became a stay-at-home-mama, which was my dream anyway. Meanwhile, my husband worked hard to pay the mortgage, while we watched many others get rewarded by buying foreclosed or cheap houses because of the recession and at one point getting huge checks from the government for being first-time homeowners. We have been the definition of “house poor” for the last 7 years, even though we lead really, really good lives. No denying that fact.

So in order to sell our house, we have moved in with my in-laws near Chastain Park. Oh how terrible! No, not really. It’s pretty awesome.

At our house, the floor needed a good sand and refinish. Our realtor recommended it. Our cousin, who’s the best real estate agent in Birmingham, said to do it before it goes on market. It’s not the most expensive reno job, it must be done by a professional, and it can totally change the look of the house.

I’ve been wanting to change the color for years anyway.

So I finally spent the last of our savings, touched up the paint (again), cleaned it up real nice, positioned the furniture just right… and now we pray we get some money back from the money pit that has been home ownership for us so far.

We moved in with parents so we can stage the house — and not live in the poly smell immediately post-floor refinish. I won’t have to battle the dog hair, kitty litter box, Walter messes, and my type-A cleaning personality all while keeping a house show-ready. We can also take our time to find the right house for us when it comes time to do that.

I have never been more excited to go shopping in my life. I’ve never had the opportunity to pick a house before. My husband bought our current one a year before we met.

So we’re in our thirties acting a bit like we’re in our twenties… but hey, we’re Millennials, so we’re allowed to do that, right?

IMG_20160224_192426Perks: Pop reading bedtime stories to his grandboy in what used to be The Serious Business Room for twenty years but has recently been changed by Walt to The Crossword Room (note WSJ crossword on end table).

Ladies Night Out 2-2016Perks: Ladies Night Out with the Sistas of the Pour at Terra Terroir

 

Today is the Day

3 Mar

A couple weeks ago I spent a very, very cold day moving most of our house into my dad’s bonus room. Well, three very nice gentlemen Stevie, Scott, and TJ did all the heavy lifting. I had a cold too (probably from Stress), and I was totally deceived by Weather.com’s prediction of 50’s weather. It was 30’s out there, with wind, and I was foolishly dressed. But at least the freezing rain held off til everything was moved! I’m pretty sure it was 70° and sunny the next day. Thanks, universe.

It was one of the final steps getting our house on the market for the third time in two years. And this time, we’re not kidding. We’ve worked tirelessly since last summer (intending to stay): fixed up the house, painted, stained, moved, decorated, etc etc etc until now it is stunning. And we finally came to the non-changing conclusion that we have to get out of our mortgage, for better or worse. Even though we will miss our sweet home and the neighborhood immensely.

Eight years of home ownership and two years in the making, we present to you our very beloved in-town home in the amazing East Atlanta neighborhood of Ormewood Park (going live around 5pm today). Click on the photo link to see more:

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Inside Out

11 Feb

We just did one of those technology-induced movie nights where my son and I watched Inside Out at our house while my BFF – Uncle Jason – started the movie at the same time at his house, and we texted each other throughout. I hadn’t seen the newest Pixar yet, but Jason was a veteran.

What a movie. It was glorious to watch. Walt and I both sat mesmerized the entire time, and I even stopped wanting to text at all because I was so engrossed. I thought it should be a movie played in every Psych 101 class, and for every pre-teen, heck, everyone, to watch to understand their emotions a little bit better.

At the end of the movie, Walter is watching Riley cry in her parents’ arms, and he says, “Mama, she’s crying.”

He turns to me and says, “Just like a baby.”

And I have big, rolling tears streaming down my face as well when I say, “Yes, son, just like a baby.”

inside-out-651The “colored ball” movie, according to Walt.

One month in to anti-inflammatory heaven, and we’re still kicking

7 Feb

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“I’m so confused about what to eat I had bean soup for breakfast today.” -David

A little over a month in to the diet, and I’m still alive. I’ve been pining over my sugar, and seemingly always hungry, but I think I’m doing well. It’s been incredibly helpful to have David doing this with me. We even inspired my mother-in-law to go vegan for a month! It’s good to cleanse your body in your own way when you haven’t been eating as healthy as you should be.

I’ve been feeling really good, despite the (mostly mild) cravings. I feel good about changing the way I think about food and forcing myself to branch out and not go for the quick fix. For instance, this week we’ve managed to eat an entire head of cabbage in various meals. I usually only like cabbage leaves with my nam sod — thank God Asian food is mostly meat, veggies, and delicious spices!

We went to a friend’s pizza night last weekend, which I was worried about, but they had so many people there with various dietary restrictions (who have been doing this a lot longer than we have) that instead of a torturous night watching other people eat homemade pizza, I think there were more alternative crusts and “cheeses” than regular! Gluten free crusts, one even made with cauliflower, and cashew cheese… covered in various toppings… yum. We did allow ourselves a half slice of typical pizza, and our friends laughed at how happy we looked eating it. I could literally feel my brain filling with happy neurotransmitters!

There are so many varieties of anti-inflammatory diets out there, that I kind of have to put together my own idea of what I want to do. Is it gluten-free only, or do I avoid white things – regardless of gluten – like bleached flour, potatoes, and white rice? Is honey OK or are all sugars off the table? Fruit is a good sugar, but are all fruits made equal? I wouldn’t have been able to get by this month without apples and peanut butter as a snack.

Recently I’ve realized that the Paleo craze is basically an anti-inflammatory diet, which makes it easy to search for recipes. And I ate a Paleo brownie from our local coffee shop because it was gluten free, dairy free, and refined sugar free, and let’s be honest, I needed something that reminded me life was worth living for (joke). It didn’t give me a headache like other cheat foods do, so I feel like I can relax a little bit about all that.

Tonight we made a really yummy and very easy ground beef/cabbage skillet meal:

1lb ground beef
1 sweet onion chopped
1/4 head cabbage chopped
garlic
10oz tomato sauce (salt free)
15oz diced tomatoes (salt free)
salt
pepper
crushed red pepper
oregano
thyme
parsley

After you saute the onions and garlic and brown the beef, you add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer for 25 minutes or until the cabbage is soft. We then served it over brown rice.

Enjoy!

New Years Resolution like no other

5 Jan

I’ve never really given anything up for New Years. I used to give things up for Lent, especially sugar a few times. And that was horrible for only 40 days.

Things are about to get really real.

In an effort to get pregnant “naturally,” I have started on the craziest, most depriving, anti-inflammatory diet I’d ever hope for. And I’m lucky enough that my husband is joining in as he sees fit for his needs!

No Sugar.

Minimal Wheat.

Minimal Dairy.

Minimal Alcohol.

Take Supplements: Turmeric, Magnesium, Bee Propolis, Probiotics, and a multivitamin.

Increase Fish, Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, Beans, and Exercise.

It was probably a mistake to ramp up my consumption of everything on the “no” list before new years, because it certainly made the first few days harder. Day 1 wasn’t so bad, but day 2 left me queasy, headachy, and shaky. I stayed up way too late during a game night, and when I got home I was suffering pretty badly. I have barely had any of the minimal stuff and have avoided alcohol.

Detoxing is no joke.

It might make no real difference in my ability to get pregnant. A recent diagnosis due to an HSG showed that my tubes (despite what I thought at the time of the test) are not fairing well. Only one side is open, and it might be damaged beyond repair. The point of this diet has nothing to do with weight, but to give my body the best chance of repairing itself and to get rid of endometriosis if that is my problem. And, if we do something like IVF, my eggs will be that much happier during the process.

My entire life I’ve said that I would never do IVF. I said, “Oh, if I can’t get pregnant, I will adopt. There are too many babies out there that need homes.” My, how life shows you how foolish you can be.

I’ve talked recently to friends who have adopted, exploring our options. My friend who went through a private adoption said that it cost them about $40,000 per child when you include all expenses such as travel etc. Even if it somehow cost us half of that, we have to cross that off our list.

I also talked to a friend who has done the foster-to-adopt route. Her story could very well be different than others, but one of the things she emphasized is that you do not know that you will be able to keep the baby you have been raising until at least a year, but most likely a year and a half. The state actively tries to take the baby away from you and give them to a family member (as it should be I suppose). Also, many babies are born addicted to drugs, and with that comes its own complications. This is an option I would like to explore later, but right now, I want at least one more that is mine.

I almost wish I hadn’t wanted 4-7 children, as I told our pastor when we were going through pre-marital counseling. It would be so much easier then.

And it doesn’t help that Walter has started saying, unprompted: “Mama, I have brothers and sisters. They just aren’t here yet. When they get here we will sit on the couch together and share my castle.”

I’m just going to continue hoping that he is prophetic. After all, my new supplements have definitely improved my mental state! I’m full of hope and happiness these days! (Seriously, I’m not joking. I’m not sure if it’s the magnesium, turmeric, or bee propolis, but I’m a new woman).

Happy 2016, folks. Here’s to life fulfilling all our innermost wishes!

Puzzles Puzzles Puzzles

29 Dec

It feels like we’ve done 50 jigsaw puzzles in the last few months. Because of listing our house and the renovations this summer, we had our dining room table in our garage for the first six months of 2015. Then when we pulled it out, we had too many dinner parties in the new pub room to really get any puzzles going. But then the fall happened. And so did all our puzzles.

We went through every one in the house we had that we hadn’t done yet, including this 2,000 piece monster that my mom had insisted we take from her years ago that I equally insisted I would never do. But then we wanted a challenge because we were going too quickly through 1,000 piece puzzles. And boy did we get it.

IMG_20151229_080408We call it “the blue puzzle”. And I hated almost every moment of putting it together — plus it took us weeks.

IMG_20151229_081458We did feel really good when we put the final piece in. Which, tragically, was not the actual last puzzle piece.

puzzleSo then we got this one as an antidote. It was really, really fun and I loved every minute.

IMG_20151229_080129We did a couple 1,000 and even a 500 piece one; then, after Christmas, we put together this 2,000 piece in two days. I couldn’t believe it! We’re getting too fast.

So now there are several more 2,000 waiting in the wings, and then we want to do a 3,000. After that, we’re debating if we want to do a 5,000 piece or just bite the bullet and go straight to 18,000  because there is one I particularly like. Once you get up to the big puzzles, there are a lot fewer options, and I really care about the picture I’m putting together. Plus I can generally tell how easy or hard a puzzle will be to put together, and I don’t want to do any more that remind me of our blue puzzle.

When Dave first mentioned doing a really large puzzle, I thought he was crazy. Until I did some research and realized they don’t actually make you do 18,000 or 32,000 pieces at once, because really, that would be insane and unmanageable. They generally keep the big ones to about 4,000 to 4,500 a bag, which I totally feel comfortable doing. And so we’re going to!

Meanwhile, we’ve gotten to such a puzzling state that last night we watched, and actively enjoyed, YouTube videos of people putting together really large puzzles. And other people making puzzles.

You might say we are addicted.

But look how cool.

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