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    Monday
    Apr142014

    When Boys Are Easier Than Girls

    When you are raising both genders, you occasionally get that question: “Which are easier to raise, boys or girls?”

    The answer depends on the child and the day and your temperament.  You also need to factor in patience levels, tolerance for stink vs. overly perfumed, how much you’ve had to drink and … well the variables are endless.

    But there is one occasion when I can unequivocally state that boys are easier than girls:

    Prom.

    To find a girl’s outfit for prom you shop.  And then you shop.  

    And shop some more, until finally… you shop.

    Then you buy the dress.

    Next you have to shop for shoes.  Then you shop for accessories.  You also shop for makeup.

    Then you drop her off so she can shop with her friends.

    With the boy, you walk into a tux shop and discuss the six options - all of which come with shoes and accessories.  Thirty minutes later you walk out with a complete outfit.

    The day of the prom, girls start early.  We went with paying someone to do the hair, but doing it yourself takes just as long.  There are also nails to be painted and re-painted and a painstaking session with make up.

    My son spent exactly thirty minutes, to shower and shave.

    It only took that long because he went all out and washed his hair twice.

    Hayden did not take any particular date.  He went with a group of friends which was a smart move, because guess who planned the whole outing?

    The girls of course.

    They picked the restaurant and the locations for the photographs.  They decided where to be and when to be there.

    They even tried to tell the boys who would be doing the driving.

    Telling boys what to do with their cars is where the line is drawn apparently.

    Look at those girls.  Aren’t they lovely?

    The girls spent fifteen minutes grouping and posing and regrouping and taking photos from all angles.

    While the boys?

    The boys stood off to the side and played with the sword that belonged to the guy who decided to go to prom dressed as a pirate.

    I couldn’t get a straight answer as to why he was dressed as a pirate.  I’ll say this though: he owned it.  He wore that pirate costume with bold swagger.

    I never did decide whether to be impressed or alarmed.

    So go ahead:  ask me which is easier to raise - boys or girls.

    The answer this week is definitively BOYS.

    Thursday
    Mar272014

    Little Touches

    Guess what I’ve been doing?

    Sigh.

    I wish that were a hard question, but it isn’t.  I’ve been painting.

    Again.

    At this point I’ve gone through almost 10 gallons of paint but the end is in sight and everything looks clean and bright and new - even the living room which I painted in the exact same colors.  New paint is the very best spring cleaning.

    Each evening when I finish painting, I settle in to our family room, look at the bookshelves a sigh a happy sigh.  Putting those together has been one of my favorite parts of this project.  I finally finished the fireplace mantel.  I incorporated several of your suggestions.

    Putting up pictures of the kids was a good idea, but seemed like it might overwhelm the space, so we went with a mirror.  My cousin suggested wiring the space for sconces but that was way more work than I wanted to do so I found these large pillar candles instead.

    The finished product is simple and symmetrically which suits my taste.  I love the layered look but can’t pull it off on my own without it just looking like clutter.  Since the bookshelves have a lot of different things on them, I thought the mantle would do better with a more spare look.

    The bookshelves make me really happy though because of all the little mementos on them.  Some of them are new, like this blue bowl that I adore.

    I bought it for it’s color because I was using blue as the “pop of color” for the room.  Most of the blue though, comes from much loved objects that I collected from around the house.  These blue books are classics by Louisa May Alcott that my mom read as a child and then I read them and then Reagan read them.  

    Faith is not so much of a reader.

    The picture in front of it is one of my mom’s baby pictures.  When I look at it, I remember the story she tells about those blonde curls.  When she was a toddler, my grandfather took them all to Occupied Japan to live with him while he was stationed there.  My grandmother could not take my mom out in the streets without covering her head or the locals would gather round to touch her head.  They hadn’t ever seen hair like that before and wanted to know what it felt like.

    Totally freaked my grandma out.

    This teacup was hers.  It’s part of a collection she gathered from all the trips she and my grandpa took.

    I suppose it’s probably an antique by now, as is the rest of the collection.  This cup has always been one of my favorites and the blue is perfect here.

    My grandma also got me this Lladro when I was little.

    Truthfully, I didn’t much like it when I was growing up.  I didn’t see it as a portrayal of a little girl trying on her mom’s shoes.  To me, it just looked like a girl with big feet - which I also had and was pretty touchy about.

    I’ve gotten over that.

    Mostly.

    Now it’s just a beloved family momento.  My girls each have a Lladro that my mom got for them, but they’re still in the china cabinet waiting for when they move out and decorate their own homes.

    These little silver plated cups are what we used for the kids when they were little and we were setting the table for a “fancy” dinner.

    Now they could drain a cup that size in one swallow, but once upon a time they would sip on them throughout the meal and feel so grown up holding them.

    Of course there are also books on the shelves.  I picked out books for their colors and also tried to pick titles that we have actually read and enjoyed.

    And then across from the shelves are our well worn, very comfy old couches.  Truth be told, they could stand to be replaced but that would have put the project way over budget so I’ve just disguised them dressed them up with new pillows.

    They’ll do for a while longer.

    I just love incorporating the old in with the new.  It makes the room fresh but also familiar.

    Hopefully this weekend I’ll finish up painting the entry/stairs/upstairs hallway that all runs together and then I can take a break for a bit and just enjoy everything for a week or two!

    Tuesday
    Mar252014

    I Am In A Bowling League

    No, that is not a euphemism.  I really am in a bowling league.

    What?

    Stop laughing!

    It’s true.  Every other Friday I join the other secretaries/friends/peoplewholiketolaughatme at a bowling alley and we bowl in a league.

    We even have a team name:  The Pinheads.  Which I was not there to vote on, but it’s fine.

    I even have pictures to prove it.

    Here are my feet in rental shoes that a hundred strangers have worn before me:

    And since I have big feet, probably most of those strangers were men which is completely gross, but I’ve done it.

    Even more risky?

    Here is my hand with my fingers stuck into the dark holes of a bowling ball that even more strangers have had their hands in.

    And I do not know where their hands have been.

    Which is horrifying, but I’ve done it.

    So bowling has been a very stretching experience.  Even more so when you consider that I have only bowled twice before in my entire life

    1. My college boyfriend took me bowling with some friends of his and I was really terrible at it and got embarrassed and worried that he thought I was a dork.  So I cried.  Which pretty much proved that I was a dork.
    2. One winter in Ogallala, we were all at my parent’s lake house and got bored so we loaded the kids up and took them into town to go bowling.  We used the bumpers and I am a much better bowler when there are bumpers.

    Given that history, I’m not really sure how I ended up in a bowling league.  Let’s just say that the other secretaries/friends/peoplewholiketolaughatme are quite compelling.  And persistent.  And literally would not take no for an answer.

    Their punishment is that they have me on their team and I am a very, very bad bowler.  I have the highest handicap on the team and last Friday I bowled three gutter balls in a row.  Thankfully I haven’t cried yet, but I have caught the super good bowlers on the other lanes (the kind who have their own shoes and balls) looking at me out of the sides of their eyes and nudging each other.

    I’m so glad I can provide entertainment.

    I have two bowling nights left in this round which doesn’t really merit getting bowling lessons so I’ll just fumble along. 

    But if any of you have any bowling tips, feel free to pass them along!

    Sunday
    Mar162014

    My Kitchen Is Done - And I LOVE It

    All the pieces are finally in place and it was worth every single minute and penny spent.

    The big splurge of course was the counter tops and they set the tone for the rest of the room, but I have to say - I am just as enamored of the tile back splash Rich put up at about 10% of the cost of the counters.  We chose a marble subway tile which was $6/sf at Lowe’s.  With a light gray grout and caulk, it looks amazing.  I like the look of the mosaic tile sets that are out there and they would have been easier to install, but the cost was was double and I’m just kind of worried that they might look dated before I want them too.  Subway tile is classic and so is marble so … 

    Yeah.  I like classic.  Mostly because it means I won’t have to do this again for years.

    Enough babbling.  I’ll let the pictures talk.

    The sink before:

    The sink after:

    Rich did such a good job with all the details.  Don’t you love those stainless outlet plates?

    The cupboards before (without the doors):

    The cupboards after:

    Counters before:

    Counters after:

    The red wall in the dining area that I once thought was the coolest thing I’d ever done and then came to loathe:

    And now:

    A note on the paint:  I did not choose it.  We paid a designer to come in and choose paint colors and advise on window coverings and accents and such.  When I was writing the check I felt fairly idiotic because who pays someone to choose paint?

    Now I can’t believe I hadn’t always done it.  Do you know that I have painted this kitchen twice before and been dissatisfied both times?  Which means that I spent the time and money to get a look that I did not achieved and then had to live with it for years.

    This time I am thrilled.  With each new can of paint I opened, I got happier and happier and by the time I got to the dark gray that check seemed like a bargain.

    Thanks for bearing with me through this project.  I know I kind of go on about it but it’s kind of a huge deal in my life right now.  All of you fellow non-artistic people out there will relate to this:

    You know how you get a picture in your head of how you want a drawing or picture or whatever to turn out and then you do it and you just can’t make it look like that picture?

    This time the picture in my head and what I see before me match and that’s such a rare thing in my life that I am just absolutely ticked.

    Monday
    Mar102014

    Worth Paying For

    They say it’s darkest before the dawn.

    Here is our version of “darkest” this week:

    The children have been delighted with the array of take-out food in the past few days.  Taco John’s, Raising Cane’s, Runza, Pizza Hut … basically a nutritionist’s worst case scenario.

    But what can I do?  At this point I don’t even have a microwave.  The end is in sight though.  Rich is working on a gorgeous tile backsplash that will merit it’s own post when it’s complete.  At that point we should be able to head for the finish line of the kitchen re-do.

    While it would be very nice to have a job that pays enough to hire all of this done, the reality is that I really like working in a school and so to get a makeover like this we have to do it ourselves.

    Last year I posted some tips for cabinet painting and I’d like to add to it today just because I get so many questions in real life about this progect.

    Here is my caveat though for all potential DIYers out there:  saving money does not mean cheaping out on product.  Here is my list of things that you just really need to pay the extra money for:

    1)  Good paint.  For walls, I like Consumer Report’s #1 pick which is Behr Ultra Premium Plus.  This stuff covers anything and does it in 2 coats without any primer needed.  I was painting light grey over dark red today and had no issues at all.  The good news is that Behr is a mid-priced paint so it won’t break the paint. I’ve used it on cupboards in the past with good results, but the drying time on it took for.ev.er.  Like one coat per side, per day.

    This time, I tried a new product that I am firmly in love with.  We have professional painters working in our school this year and they were telling me about a new paint from Pittsburgh that they are testing to use on school lockers called Break-Through.

    My cupboards take a lot of abuse, but nothing near what school lockers do.  This paint dries fast and hardens to an enamel.  This means no more waiting for days and days for the paint to cure.  I did two coats on the same day.  The finish really does seem very hard so (fingers crossed) no more chipping.  I am really pleased with the results

    The price ($70/gal) took my breath away a bit, but it only took one gallon to put two coats on the entire kitchen. My tip for this product:  Rinse out your brush a lot.  The quick drying time means the brush kind of gets gummy.  Clean it out whenever it starts to feel like that and the paint will go on better.  Along with two coats of a bonding primer ($25), I had new looking cabinets for under $100.

    Except then I had to buy hardware, which brings me to … 

    2) New hardware.  You do not want to go to all the time, trouble and expense of painting your cabinets and then put the old hinges on them.  We actually re-used the knobs we had on the cabinet doors and just bought new pulls for the drawers which helped save money.  But hardware really doesn’t need to be expensive.  You can spend anywhere from $2.50-$50 and up for pulls and knobs.

    I assure you that I choose the ones much closer to $2.50 and they look great.  And hinges come in packs and don’t cost a fortune.

    3)  Good tools.  Your brushes and rollers must be Purdy although they don’t have a 4 inch microfiber roller which is what was recommended to use with the Pittsburgh paint but don’t buy the sponge ones.  Purdy products are more expensive but they last and last and last.  Just be sure to buy one of the little brush cleaning combs too to help get the paint out each time.

    I also found these little doo-dads called Painter’s Pyramids.  

    They were basically life changing.  They held the doors up off of the surface so both sides could dry without either side getting all messed up.  

    So those are my tips for places where it’s worth it to spend the money.  All together, even with the good products, I got new looking cabinets for under $300.  For the most cheaply made cabinets at Home Depot, $300 would get you one and a half cabinets.  So all in all, this is a good investment.