Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Fire Pit

Hey! How ya been? Boy, how time flies, yo?

I know, I know. I've been a bad blogger. See, here's the thing- I meant to post. I did. I meant to post more back in October. I meant to post more in November. Then I woke up one day and...well...it's almost Christmas.

And here's another thing- I have this issue with order. I had some things I wanted to share and I just can't let go of them. (Cue the Frozen music.) I need to write in some sort of order. I probably need some type of therapy for this.

Anyhoo...

I'm going way  back to October. All summer long (I think I hear another song there) we worked on clearing our back yard so we could build a fire pit. The yard was full of post-fire construction debris and an insane amount of firewood and brush. We had our work cut out for us, but we conquered the mess and by October it was building time.  


Before we could build anything, we had to welcome the bobcat in to flatten out our space. When we rebuilt the house after the fire, we moved a lot of dirt to pour concrete piers and footers and we cut deep trenches to bury the electrical lines. We were left with a giant mound of dirt on one side of the yard. That mountain had to be moved. I was completely giddy when the yard was level again. It's the little things, ya know? That little tree was left standing on purpose- the kids are going to make a totem pole out of it.    



Then, the back-breaking brick moving began. We used a lot of bricks and broken cement pavers that had been left laying around the yard to fill in the open space in the fire pit, thus reducing the amount of dirt that had to be shoveled in, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. 
   

Still, we shoveled an obscene amount of dirt. 


The results though- oh, wow. I loved it.


We filled the top layer with gravel, built a small fire, and stepped back to take a good look at our beautiful accomplishment. 


And then, the Big Guy arrived with a butt load of river rock. A butt load is equivalent to three tons. Three tons. I actually thought I might just drop down in the gravel and die. We shoveled and we spread and we raked river rock for hours around our beautiful new fire pit.   


Finally, we were able to cook dinner over our new fire pit and sit back and rest our aching muscles. That was honestly the best hot dog I've ever roasted. The fire was apparently so bright, Fish had to wear shades. 


In the fall of 2012, I stood on the unfinished deck of my unfinished house and looked out over my destroyed back yard with the big mound of dirt and the deep trenches and the construction debris everywhere and I dreamed a little dream. I dreamed of a time when I would be living in my house again and we would walk out into our back yard and sit around our fire pit. I dreamed of a time that my yard would not be occupied by large construction dumpsters. 

The fire pit is a symbol of closure for me. It doesn't mean the deck is finished, or that the gutters are on, or that the insurance case is settled. But it does mean that we are living life again. 

It also means that we can enjoy a fire again. Outside of the house. In a contained fire pit. A fire pit that is too tall for anyone to fall into. A fire pit that is a very safe distance away from my house. 

What? You thought this meant I was over my fire issues? Not a chance.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Birthday Party#70: A Super Girl Party

Little Bean calls me Super Mom, but my super powers were called into question as I planned her Super Girl-themed 10th birthday party. Truth be told, I know nothing about super heroes. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Thank heavens for Pinterest. I started an inspiration board several weeks ahead of this party.

In addition to my limited super hero knowledge, I also have extremely limited time. Between work, college, and kids' doctor appointments, I didn't have a lot of time to work on this party. Fortunately, I have a house full of fabulous kids and I totally take advantage of child labor here. I cut out a background from black wrapping paper and Fish and The Boy's most amazing girlfriend...um...we'll call her Red...cut and glued lots and lots of windows for our cityscape background. I think it might be Metropolis, but I have muddied up so many super hero words and phrases this week- I just don't even know. I'll just go with cityscape.


Super Girl loved it. We found the family room floor to be littered with Kryptonite (crushed green plastic bottles) and that had to be removed before the party could proceed. Of course, Super Girls can't touch Kryptonite so they had to use their super powers and their special removal tools to get the job done. I attached 4 pieces of string to an elastic pony tail holder and the trick was for 4 girls to simultaneously pull open the elastic band by pulling on their string to capture the Kryptonite. Then they had to carry the Kryptonite over to a plastic tub and drop it in. (There was some cheatin' goin' on in this game.)  


I decided to keep our spider web up from Halloween so our Super Girls could shoot at the web. I was harshly informed that Super Girl doesn't shoot webs, Spider Man does. Yikes. Super Mom fail. But, you know, whatevs. The web was still up. Spider Man is a super hero. I was going with it. 

The Big Guy painted red and black point areas on the web and the kids took turns throwing bolas (those golf ball-ended ropes from the ladder toss game) into the web to collect points. 



While they were outside playing the web game, a sneaky villain  slipped in and stole the cake and presents! They located the villain somewhere in the back yard and shot her down with pink silly string. Once captured, the villain spilled the beans and told them where the cake and presents were hiding. 



 Super Girl was happy, her faith in Super Mom restored. 

Wondering about the #70 in the title? 5 kids, 18 parties each...equals 90 parties. This is #70. Amazingly, this is the first time we've had a Super Hero party. We've had tea parties, chocolate parties, beach parties, under the sea parties, medieval knights parties, Monster's Inc parties, A Bug's Life parties, Sesame Street parties, Teletubbies parties, candy parties, monkey parties, alien parties, One Direction parties, Toy Story parties...but no Super Hero parties. I managed to avoid this theme for 70 parties, people! I guess I couldn't avoid it forever. (But I got dang close.) 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Assault by Bug Repellent

Friday is supposed to be a good day. It’s the fun day of the week I look forward to. This particular Friday was one I was really looking forward to. The weather was nice and I anticipated a house full of kids and teenagers for our annual pumpkin carving. I couldn't wait to get off work and prepare for the party.

In spite of my excitement, Friday was not cooperating. Nothing I had touched had gone quite like I expected.  The cake pops that were to be dipped ever so elegantly in candy corn-colored layers had instead become unsightly orbs coated in glops of melted chocolate.  I had decided to just go with the flow and I had adopted a rather whatevs attitude.  Friday just wasn't what I had hoped, but I pressed on.  

I was boiling sugar into caramel on the stove while also trying to direct my young herd through a last-minute power cleaning of our well-lived in home. You know, multi-tasking, which always works out SO well. I picked up a few scattered hair bands from the sofa and flung them in the bathroom drawer on my way through the hall. I shot a sideways glance at the bathroom floor and noticed multiple rolls of toilet paper thrown in the floor (why kids, why??) and immediately my frustration level grew.

In my extreme frustration, I slammed that bathroom drawer. Hard. Very hard.



A bottle of bug repellent lined itself up ever so perfectly in the drawer so as to align its spray nozzle in such a way that my slamming the drawer depressed the spray nozzle and sent a stream of bug repellent directly into both eyes and my nose in a split second of pure horror. I was BLIND.

I’m not sure if I was blinded by the actual chemical or just from the sheer pain, but I was unleashing a torrent of profanities and indistinguishable screams that could probably be heard on the next block. I was near a sink, but I was not thinking clearly and I began to run blindly toward my own bathroom sink slamming face first into every door frame along the way. Every door frame. I plunged my face into the sink and began flushing my eyes with water which had the effect of intensifying the burning sensation three-fold.

I could not even fathom what had happened. I had just shot myself in the face with bug repellent. For the love of all things! How in the hell could that even have happened? I wandered, still half-blind, back to the kitchen to check on my caramel and then back to the sink for more eye washing.

In the meantime, a well-meaning family member reduced the temperature of my boiling caramel to less than a boil. I decided it looked caramelish enough and we began dipping bite-size pieces of apple. I was so very proud of myself. I had cooked my own, made-from-scratch, caramel and the Fish and I had coated the most adorable bite-size apples ever complete with little bat and pumpkin-shaped food picks.

About twenty minutes later,   those cute little apples shed their caramel coatings in an act of pure defiance.  I said very ugly things. Very, ugly.

But, Friday marched on as it does. Kids arrived with pumpkins to carve and I soon forgot my irritated eyes. There were ugly-but-delicious cake pops to be consumed. There were friends to converse with and hot dogs to roast. There were leaves falling from the trees and ooey-gooey roasted marshmallows being eaten around the fire pit in the back yard.

It was perfection, this Friday with all of its challenges and torments. Absolute perfection.  



If I had my stuff together, and had not sprayed myself in the eyeballs with bug repellent, and had not adopted a whatevs attitude, perhaps I would have actually taken photos of the pumpkin carving party. Alas, I didn't have it together. I did poison my own eyeballs. And I did say "whatevs, people. Whatevs." I did not take photos of our annual pumpkin carving party. But, I did take this last-minute pic with mah friend. So there you go.   



Monday, October 20, 2014

Who Knew?

This was delivered in my Super Mail today (slipped under my bedroom door) while I was away at class by Super Girl (also known as Little Bean).



It says:

If you are in the age of 13-20 there are 2 jobs open at the super office.

Attention! Super Tuna's mother has passed away. You are invited to her funeral Nov. 5 at [the] family room. 

So apparently, I have died.

Who knew?

It's a good thing I got the Super News or I would have missed my own funeral.

Monday, October 6, 2014

September In Numbers

I offer you September in Numbers: A Snapshot of a Family Schedule


Color Guard/Marching Band Rehearsal  Drop-offs and Pick-ups: 18

Doctor/Dentist/Therapy/Ophthalmology/Lab Appointments:  20

Back-to-School Orientations and Parent Events: 2

Work Related Drop-Off/Pick Ups for Kid: 20

Volunteer Activity Drop-Off/Pick Ups for Kids: 9

Marching Band Performance/Parade/Football Games: 2


In addition, we tackled a yard clean-up day, a garage sale, and sent two girls to the homecoming dance.  I also went back to school and took six credit hours in college this semester (two classes each week), leaving the Big Guy to manage even more of this mess on his own. (Which he did, like the rock he is.)

The comment I hear most often is that people don’t know how we do it. The truth is, we’re crazy. And we cut a lot of corners. We cook enormous pots of chili on a Thursday and then offer it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for three days.  We call the kids the wrong names and then get mad when they don’t respond. We turn in three pages of homework for our college course when we only needed to turn in one because we can no longer comprehend simple instructions. We occasionally wear our clothes inside out. We get so sleep-deprived and exhausted that we actually hit ourselves in the face with a chair we’re carrying and bust our own lip open.  We are walking comedians.

The how we do it is simple really. We just do it. We make a lot of lists and schedules. We rely heavily on the iPhone calendar app. We tag-team, reminding each other who needs to be where when and helping each other get out the door with every thing (and every kid) that we need.   

What’s more important is the why

We do it so we can stand up and salute the flag on the football field at the Friday night homecoming game as the marching band plays the Star Spangled Banner and our daughter takes the field in full show makeup spinning her flag like a boss.

We do it so we can look on with pride as our oldest daughter walks into work in full uniform, becoming ever more independent.

We do it so we can celebrate the joy of our middle school-aged daughter getting a reduced prescription for her glasses, knowing all those years of eye patching and an eye surgery were well worth it and turned out okay.

We do it so we can watch in awe as our two oldest daughters are transformed from snarky pajama-bottom-wearing, pony-tailed teens into stunningly beautiful young ladies for the homecoming dance.

Well, there might be just a little bit of snark still there. 


We do it so we can watch our son spread his wings and fly as he moves into his very own apartment.


There are things that simply cannot be measured in numbers.  Now (yawn) if you’ll excuse us, we are going to collapse and sleep.  The schedule has whooped our butts.           

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Case of the Mid-Term Crazies

I was in week six of an eight week semester in college when our house succumbed to fire three years ago. Like the Little Engine That Could, I kept moving on the track determined to succeed. I took extensions on the two courses I was in because I was just sure that when the fog cleared and I'd had some sleep, the memories of what I'd learned in those courses would return. I enrolled in the next semester because I was sure I could handle it. Nothing was stopping me. I thought I could do all things.

I was wrong. Very, very wrong. By November I was crying all the time. I couldn't remember anything I had learned in those two courses. I refer to them as "those two courses" because to this day, I don't remember what they were. I was several weeks behind on the courses I was currently enrolled in. I was constantly begging for "just a little more time" to complete an assignment. I was also learning a new job and spending every free moment shopping for replacement clothes and household items, meeting with insurance adjusters, fire restoration crews, and trying to make our temporary rental house a home. I was exhausted and I was a mess.

The tears finally got the best of me. I realized I wasn't having an isolated tantrum, I was having a breakdown. I knew that I needed to stop and take care of myself so I could take care of my family. I dropped out of college, with two Fs. It felt fabulous at the time. I was free of all of that workload. The weight was off my shoulders and I could set about healing and helping my family heal. I was free to run about in the fall air and spend time with the kids. It was awesome.

...for about a year.

By the next fall I was getting anxious and moody. I wanted my house put back together. I wanted to move back home. I wanted my life back. I wanted to go back to school. I missed the reading. I missed the lectures. I missed the class discussions. I missed knowing that I was learning and growing, moving forward.



Fast forward...

Three years later, I finally got to go back. The house is pretty much complete. The family is as healed as we'll ever be. The insurance case...well, it's still ongoing, but it is what it is. It was time. I signed the student loans in blood and agreed to be bound to Stafford loan payments until death do us part. I dusted off my backpack and bought new books. I. Could. Not. Wait.

That was five short weeks ago, which brings us to today.

I spent 17 hours yesterday slumped over my laptop. I'm still wearing the same clothes, and hooboy! They are some purty clothes. I'm wearing my husband's olive green t-shirt, old gray sweatpants, bright green fuzzy socks, and purple reading glasses. I've completed the look with wild, unstyled hair, no makeup, and dark circles under both eyes. I've consumed a steady diet of peanuts, chocolate-covered raisins and iced tea. I cannot recall simple words, but I can recite to you the top expenditures of my 130-page city budget and relate them to the class text.

I am a certifiable mess. And I wanted this.  

I want to go outside and walk in the September air. I want to watch the leaves turn. I want to have dinner with my family and sit on the living room floor with my kids. I want to sleep. And I will...

In three weeks when the semester ends.

And then, I will have six more credits checked off my degree audit and I will feel like I rule the world and I will want to do it all again.

Because I'm batshit crazy like that.      

Monday, August 25, 2014

Remember That One Time?

The Boy: Remember how you told me I was going to Monterey that one time?

Me: No. How?

The Boy: With the glass bottle? Remember?

Me: (blank stare)

The Boy: We were at the corner restaurant having dinner, and I took my little sister to the bathroom or something, and when I came back to the table the waitress brought me a message in a bottle. It said "pack your bags, you're flying to Monterey for the youth leadership conference!"

Me: I did that?

The Boy: Yeah! You don't remember?

Me: Huh. Dang. You've got a really cool mom!


I think I need a new memory stick installed. I've run out of space or something.