Thankfulness and the November 2012 Total Money Makeover Update

Many people have been posting something they’re thankful for each day of November on Facebook. I’ve decided to do the same on a weekly basis, but here in the (relative) quietness of my blog. Here are my first seven, in no particular order.

  1. I’m thankful for my husband Dexter. He is my best friend, and he knows when it’s time to bake a batch of brownies and brew a pot of tea. He’s so creative and has so many big dreams. I’m so proud that he’s started a business called Iron Swallow, which offers ready-made and custom comic book wallets, greeting card, and journals.
  2. I’m thankful for the health insurance and sick leave my job provides. I used both today and was reminded that I received amazing services, information, and medication with incredible flexibility and affordability that many people don’t have.
  3. I’m thankful to have a job I love. Real talk: sometimes I get really tired of my job. However, my students–with a smile, a question, or an enthusiastic “Miss Kelsey!”–always remind me that I love what I do.
  4. I’m thankful for parents who taught me about Jesus, always made sure I knew that I was loved, warned me to NOT EVER mess around with credit card debt, and have been a great example of what it looks like for two imperfect people work together to make a marriage survive and thrive.
  5. I’m thankful that we got through our fire safely, and that a year later we are back home with our puppies and a mostly unpacked house.
  6. I’m thankful for our roommate. She has introduced us to some amazing Honduran foods, she made my birthday celebration extra special, and she’s just a good friend.
  7. I’m thankful that for the first time since our fire, we are able to make extra payments on our debt each month! Since September, we paid off 1.3% of our debt and we have 63.6% to go!

What are you thankful for this month?

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My Cool Little Brother

Monday night, I rushed home from work and headed downtown to the Blue Moose Tap House as fast as I could.

Why?

Because I had tickets to the Atticus Metal Tour, of course!

What? I don’t seem like a heavy metal type of girl to you? You’d be surprised.

There was one HUGE thing about the show that got me interested. My (not so) little brother, Braden, was playing with his band, Visions. He’s been the durmmer in his band for a few years, but I’ve never had the chance to see him perform (although I’ve heard the music from from my parent’s basement). His shows in Des Moines tended to be early, and I could never get there in time after work in Iowa City.

His band came up to Iowa City Monday night. These boys are committed. They even lost a tire off their van on the interstate getting here! (It didn’t just pop…it came off.)

As the big sister with the fancy camera, I felt it was my duty to record the the boys (somewhat obsessively) as they rocked it 515 style.

I was proud of my self control. Although I was tempted to only take pictures of the insanely awesome drum moves, I did manage to get fairly clear shots of the other band members.

The show was quite an adventure. A mosh pit started up in front of us, and I was concerned for the safety of the Rebel. A crazy dancer behind Dexter almost punched him in the head. (In my youth, mosh pits were much safer because the venues I went to were smaller. I could hop in and just be carried across the room.)

After helping load up the drums (I got to be a groupie!) we went out for dinner at an awesome local burger joint. Then we had to go home and let our dogs out while the cool kids went back to the show.

I really enjoyed getting to see my talented little brother perform, and after a while, the screaming vocals didn’t even phase me! Maybe I could be a cool metal fan after all!

Either way, I’m super proud of my unquestionably cool little brother!

Top Ten Ways My Dogs Are Preparing Me for Parenthood

Before we adopted our dogs, I joked that they could teach us about parenthood. (Honestly, I was secretly hoping. I had killed so many plants that I doubted whether I could keep anything alive.) Little did I know how much I would learn about parenting! These are the top ten lessons I’ve learned that will help me prepare for becoming a parent someday.

  1. Bodily functions – Vomit. Poop. Pee. We’ve had this stuff everywhere in our house. We never had candles lit around our house until we had dogs. Now I realize why some people are so into candles. Once we have a child, poop that I can consistently find inside of a diaper (as oppose to in the hallway, in the bedroom, in a dog mouth…) might even seem refreshing!
  2. Injuries – My mom once said that the only thing worse than being in pain is seeing your child in pain. We’ve made a few trips to the emergency vet for ripped toenails and allergic reactions, so I’ll have a little practice for dealing with scary injuries when my future son comes inside with a bleeding chin.
  3. Feeding someone – I was never good with plants because they don’t tell you what they need. At first, Fitz didn’t tell us if we forgot to feed him. Now, he whines and barks if it’s a couple of hours after his normal supper time. Although I’m assuming my baby will cry if I, for some reason, am not compelled to feed her on time, I at least have practice remembering to care for someone.
  4. Being consistent – I think one of the hardest things about parenthood will be disciplining (or redirecting) my child for bad behavior time after time. With our puppies, we’ve seen how one or two instances of “letting them off the hook” can turn your dog into a table-begger or bed-sleeper.
  5. Hurting someone with a purpose – Parents don’t like taking their kids to get shots. It’s not fun to try to get your child to eat broccoli or clean his room. It’s also not fun to take dogs to get shots, to clean their ears when they have an ear infection, or to clip their toenails. However, inflicting necessary pain on my dogs for their own good will hopefully help me steel myself in similar situations once we have kids.
  6. Someone always wanting my attention – A few months after we got Fitz, I started feeling really lonely and distant from Dexter. I finally realized that it was because Fitz forced himself in between us in bed and on the couch, so our physical contact went WAY down. We’ve finally found a balance between paying enough attention to our puppies so they feel loved and getting to spend enough time together. I imagine new parents need to find a similar balance.
  7. Lack of sleep – My friend Sarah recently posted on how their family has started co-sleeping–something she never really planned on doing. It reminded me of our own bedtime situation (only we have a smaller bed and bigger snugglers). We force our puppies to hop off the bed and to get in their own dog beds before turning off the light each night. Every morning, we wake up to curled up dogs between our feet or in the middle of the bed with their legs stretched out, somehow hogging 75% of our blankets. However, I don’t plan on swatting my children and yelling, “Off!” at them to get them out of bed.
  8. Loving someone undeserving – Jesus loves us, even though we don’t deserve it. In fact, we reject him, sin against him, and give him a bad reputation. My dogs steal the covers, rip up my couch pillows, eat Dexter’s shoes, chew holes in our undergarments, poop in our hallway, and stink up the air with their terrible gas. And I choose to love them and not let them loose on the street because they are micro-chipped and the shelter would send them back to me they are my responsibility and that’s what Jesus wants me to do. Although babies are cute and kids can often be profoundly sweet, their behavior doesn’t always inspire all those lovey feelings.
  9. Photo-craziness – It seems like lots of new parents, when they aren’t feeding, changing, or sleeping, are snapping photos of the new babies. I am embarrassed to say how much computer memory is taken up with cute photos of Fitz and Watson. I avoid sharing them on my blog, not for the privacy of my puppies, but because I’m afraid it would get out of control and this would become “Fitz and Watson’s mom’s photoblog.”
  10. Accepting staying in – We can’t spontaneously choose to zip out of town for the weekend or stay out much more than eight hours at a time. While, for new parents, this is kind of a “duh” thing, it took me a while not to be frustrated that I had to make my errand running less convenient or my night less entertaining because of my dogs. We’re practicing giving up the fun stuff you can do when you don’t have kids to be responsible for early, so it might not sting so badly to say no to something fun when we’re home because of a human baby.

Top Ten {Tuesday}

PS –  I know my dogs are different from your baby. Don’t be offended. I’m just learning what I can in anticipation of parenthood.

Homemade Marshmallows

Since I became a vegetarian (I use the term loosely–see this and this), one of the things I’ve cheated on most is marshmallows. Because, when someone offers you a s’more around a campfire, it takes a lot of willpower to say no, especially since marshmallows don’t resemble a red, dripping steak.

What makes marshmallows non-vegetarian? They contain gelatin, which is made from collagen in the skin, bones, and other organs of animals. (source) And you can’t use the skin and bones of a still-living animal, so although marshmallows aren’t meat, they do require an animal to be killed. I don’t think marshmallow makers are too concerned with the animals that were used to make the gelatin they use, so you probably can’t find grass-fed marshmallows to make sure your marshmallow-cows were humanely raised.

You can buy vegan marshmallows like these, but many vegans are wary since another marshmallow company (turned out not to be vegetarian although they claimed to be. Plus, vegan marshmallows are pretty pricey.

Vegan marshmallow recipes usually call for agar agar, but most of the reviews I read said the product wasn’t very good. Since I’m only vegetarian, I went for a better reviewed recipe that calls for egg whites and xanthan gum to give the marshmallows that chewy consistency.

I wanted to make these marshmallows for my little (just-graduated-from-college) sister, because she’s a more virtuous vegetarian than I am and I thought she deserved a treat. I asked her if she and her boyfriend wanted to come over and roast marshmallows. She excitedly agreed, confessing to me later that she forgot we have an indoor fireplace, meaning that she would have been willing to stand around a fire pit in January to get a taste of these babies. It was then I knew I couldn’t disappoint.

The recipe came together surprisingly easily. I even substituted vanilla extract for the vanilla bean it called for. I was afraid the marshmallows would be too thick because they were so heavy and viscous.

Fortunately, they responded well to my Pam-sprayed hands and excessive amounts of granulated sugar (think Peeps) I used instead of corn starch.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the delicious s’mores we ate. I was too busy getting my fingers sticky. I will say that these marshmallows, even after nearly 24 hours in the fridge, weren’t a great consistency for putting on the end of a stick. Cornstarch or more time in the fridge might have helped. We set them on top of a grilling fork and held them over the fireplace. It was a good thing the marshmallows were so soft, since each of us wimped out of the roasting process early because of the heat of the hottest fire we’d ever built.

These were so fun to make, and even more fun to eat. After I cut them out, we had plenty of leftovers. I folded them up in an airtight container and we’ve been using a cookie scoop to have them on microwave s’mores as a bedtime snack. They’d also be amazing on a cup of hot chocolate.

Follow the link in this blog to find the recipe for vegetarian marshmallows.

Visit Alicia’s Homemaking for more Try New Adventures Thursday and The Diaper Diaries for more Things I Love Thursday.


Top Ten Reasons My Husband is Awesome

Top Ten {Tuesday}
Do I need a reason to shower my husband with praise? I think not. Here it is, in no particular order.

  1. Commitment to our marriage. I’ve been known to be super a little emotional and crazy from time to time–probably making the corner of our roof look like a pretty good home. However, when I don’t make sense, he just tries harder to understand me.
  2. Commitment to work. Dexter has had four jobs in the past eleven years. He’s had more cars than that. The only reason he left any of them was because he moved to another town. He’s blessed right now to work with two of his best friends. Sometimes, working with friends might make it harder, because it’s easy to take things personally when they come from people you know personally. However, he’s humbled himself, compromised, forgiven, and been forgiven, and stuck it out like he has in the tougher times of our marriage, while also enjoying the blessing.
  3. Graduated from college. Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Dexter could’ve gotten just a 2-year degree in his field. But, because him having a college degree made me feel more secure (and probably made my parents agree more readily to our marriage), he graduated with honors with a BFA in Art/Graphic Design. Even though that meant he had to take four semesters of torture Spanish.
  4. Sense of humor. The man makes me laugh. My favorite thing to laugh at? When he sees something funny on TV or online and cracks up till he cries.
  5. Spiritual growth. Like me, Dexter is not content to hang a cross on the wall and call himself saved. He’s pursuing a real relationship with Christ. In the past six months, I think he’s grown more than I’ve ever seen him grow before. And there’s nothing more attractive than a man who’s becoming more like Christ.
  6. Protector and defender. Most of Dexter’s favorite movies are about men fighting for their families. (Unfortunately, their families usually die at the beginning of the films. I’m trying to get over that.) Dexter has a strong desire to protect those who need protecting.  Whether it’s farm animals, child slaves on chocolate farms, or people at work who need standing up for, he doesn’t hesitate about whether to step up or step back.
  7. Gift-giving excitement. My birthday is October 3. Dexter’s not a huge planner, so he used to start thinking about what to get me for my birthday at the beginning of October…and two days isn’t a lot of time to shop. I realized that might have been for the best. This year, for my birthday, Dexter started planning in early September, and two weeks before my birthday, there was paper-wrapped sphere sitting on our fireplace. He asked me every day if I wanted to open it, and told me, “It’s a bowling ball,” about every half hour so he wouldn’t blurt out what it really was. Finally, when I was having a really bad day, I caved and opened it early. It would have been great to open an iPod on my actual birthday, but opening it a little early made him SO happy.
  8. He’s proud of me. He tells me all the time how cool it is that I’m a teacher, how he appreciates the food I made, how much he likes my blog. I’ve never been the cool girl in any social situation, but Dexter makes me feel like I am.
  9. Story-telling. Our kids are going to have the best bedtime stories. Dexter has an awesome imagination and is working on writing out a story he’s been mulling over for years. During our last car trip, Dexter described what he was writing and I’m pretty sure that man is fit for Hollywood. I’m so excited he’s finally taking the time to write so his ideas don’t go to waste.
  10. He’s a good driver. A few weeks ago, I joked to Dexter that some day was the best day of his life because of some silly reason. He looked into my eyes and said, “No, the best day of my life was when…you told me I was a better driver than you–I mean, when we got married.” Dexter is a very careful driver and has driven me safely back and forth between our home and my parents’ home many times in some really bad weather. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, so sometimes I don’t like to admit that other people can do things better than I can. I’m a good driver (in my opinion), so it would have been easy for me never to admit what I knew was true to Dexter. But, because I love him soooooooo much, I told him anyway.

Find more Top Ten Tuesday posts at OhAmanda.

50 Reasons I’m Glad You’re My Aunt

My Aunt Annie turned 50 earlier this week. In honor of her birthday, I want to share fifty things (listed in no particular order) with you (and her!) about why she makes such a fantastic aunt and friend.

  1. She knew I’d want a KitchenAid standmixer before I did.
  2. She (and my grandma) got me a KitchenAid standmixer for college graduation.
  3. She makes the best pumpkin pie in the world. Hands down.
  4. She shared her pumpkin pie recipe with me.
  5. She shares memories with me from when I was young without  making me feel like it’s a bummer I grew up.
  6. She gave me a microplane grater for Christmas before I knew how to cook.
  7. She shares and encourages my love of freshly grated nutmeg.
  8. She found and shared this amazing recipe for nutmeg muffins.
  9. I did my first baking with citrus zest with her while making Christmas cookies. (And I thought it was so weird.)
  10. We’ve had good conversations about Jesus and the church.
  11. She was excited to call Dexter her nephew.
  12. She loves our puppies and wants them to come to her house even though Fitz has both peed on her carpet and thrown up on her area rug.
  13. She shares Dexter’s love of “i has a hotdog.”
  14. We share a love of Sudoku.
  15. She appreciates and makes a good cup of tea.
  16. She understands that sometimes tea just tastes better when drunk out of a bone china tea cup and stirred with a tiny spoon.
  17. She gives good teacher advice, like, “Just think of the summer as the slow season–then you won’t be disappointed at all the work you end up doing.”
  18. We’ve had good conversations about love and family.
  19. She’s taken me to the bookstore for my birthday every year since I was young.
  20. She continues to take me the bookstore, even though I’ve gone from thinking the hot cocoa wasn’t sweet enough, to drinking mochas, to drinking lattes, to drinking tea.
  21. She writes in each of the books she buys me for my birthday, so that even after I forget what The Babysitter’s Club: Mary Anne Saves the Day was about, I can still remember good trips to the bookstore.
  22. We’ve had interesting and educational trips about politics.
  23. She and Uncle Dave drove me home from Iowa City in the middle of the night when I was really homesick.
  24. She didn’t freak out when I asked her in the car how you know when you’re ready to get married.
  25. She took me to eat at Atlas for the first time with my college roommate, Anne.
  26. She introduced Anne and I to Atlas flourless chocolate cake, which we affectionately refer to as “chocolate paradise.”
  27. She was a vegetarian for a while while I was growing up, making me think that it wasn’t that weird of a thing to do.
  28. She sets a good example of making exercise a part of everyday life.
  29. She and Dave bought my books for college.
  30. She’s a great recipe source for both healthy meals and decadent treats.
  31. She grew flowers all summer long to decorate the stage at my wedding.
  32. She made all the floral arrangements for my wedding except for my bride and bridesmaids bouquets. My biggest wedding regret is that I didn’t ask her to do those bouquets, too.
  33. She and Dave paid our “tuition” for Financial Peace University.
  34. She’s a good sport when my family members dress up like clowns or give her clown-themed gifts for her birthday even though she has a bad case of coulrophobia.
  35. She’s a great puppy-mom to her 15-year-old dog, Joy-Joy. I remember her bringing Joy-Joy over the evening she got her and how happy she was about her cute new puppy.
  36. She did lots of eco-friendly things, like not using paper towels, way before it was trendy.
  37. She gave me Gumby and Pokey figurines when I was about 5-years-old. It might have been because I found her keys. Regardless, I remember thinking it was pretty fantastic payment for whatever service I had rendered.
  38. She let me come work with her and use the cash register at Global Gifts when I was in elementary school.
  39. She gave me a necklace with a pink string for a chain and a silver heart pendant as a gift for my first day of kindergarten. I still have it.
  40. She gave me a pair of earrings with a stained-glass-style picture of the moon and water when I was a little girl that I still wear. I get compliments on them all the time.
  41. We can talk about organizing things like chores, spices, and cabinets for fun.
  42. She gave me the idea to have magnetic spice holders on the wall and made sure I didn’t make the mistake of storing them right above my stove.
  43. She took me to paint pottery when I was young. I remember being astounded by how cool the bowl she painted was.
  44. We share a love of list-making.
  45. She’s one of my most faithful blog readers and encouragers.
  46. She’s brave–like get in a motorcycle accident, break some ribs, heal, buy a new bike, go on a motorcycle trip to Utah kind of brave.
  47. She instituted family nights where we’d watch Monk and Psych together. I’d always wish I was back home for those Friday nights when I lived in the dorms.
  48. We share a love of Indian food.
  49. She married a smart, jazzy, biker-dude, Dave.
  50. She always makes me feel like she’s really proud of me.

Annie, I’m so fortunate to have you as an aunt and friend! I love you!

Books: To Have and To Hold

Photo Credit

I have a little thing for books. I love them. I love the way they look. I love the way they smell. I love the way they sound when their pages are turned. One of my favorite places on campus in college was the library. No, not the three floors of computers and study rooms, but the top two unfrequented floors with shelf after shelf of books. The shelves were tall, the rooms were long, and if I didn’t love being in that quiet room with that booky smell so much, I might have felt claustrophobic.

The thing is, I don’t just like books at libraries. I like books at my house. I don’t just like to read books. I like to have the book around so I can think about the first time I read that book and what it was like. I like to have hardback books to look at on a shelf. I also like to have paperbacks that I can write in and toss in my purse and not worry about because I think paperbacks know that that’s what they’re for and they like that. I like to save books that I don’t plan on reading again until I have kids…maybe even 10-year-old-kids.

This summer, I’ve spent a lot of time getting rid of things. A few weeks ago, I dragged all the crap out of Dexter’s office (also known as the room where we shut our eyes and throw crap in that we don’t know what to do with) and into our bedroom. Keriann was about to move out of her apartment and needed a place to stay during IC’s notoriously inconvenient “turnover” of renters, and I told her she could set up camp on the floor of our office. That was a pretty gutsy promise coming from a woman who hadn’t seen the floor of her office since February. I wish I would have taken a “before” picture, because it would have made you “clean people” shudder.

I got rid of a lot of things. I took 8 boxes of clothes and assorted junk to a consignment shop and Goodwill in the course of three days. I even sold things on Craigslist, sinc e Dave Ramsey recommends selling all your stuff to get out of debt. When I  initially removed all the buried treasures from the office, I divided them into piles on one end of our bedroom. I went through each pile, deciding what to keep, what to give away, what to sell, and what to throw away. I helped Dexter sort through college art projects. We tossed some things, photographed some things, and kept a few artifacts.  I dug through art supplies and purged what I had been saving for my job as an elementary school teacher and for the knitting projects I would do someday. I organized office supplies and added to my growing pile of things to take to my classroom.

Then, there were the books. I saved them for last because I was hoping that all the other stuff I got rid of would make room for them. But I knew that at least some of them had to go. I plopped down on the office floor with Dexter, who caught a bad case of my book-disease that interacted dangerously with his disorganized-packrat-disease. We divided the books into three piles. One pile was for books we could easily part with. Another pile was for books that we thought we might want to read again someday but that would be really easy to find at a library. The third pile was for the if-I-don’t-get-to-read-this-again-I’m-going-to-freak-out books. That pile was probably a little bit bigger for me than for normal people. We threw away a few books that were in bad condition, consigned a few more, and put the others up on paperbackswap.com. (Yes, I know that’s a place where I’ll get more books, but believe me, I’ll only get books I really need.)

You thought it was over. But it wasn’t. I still had a few boxes of books I unearthed from my parents’ house that I had been saving for my future students and children. I kept most of my picture books, because I love them, and not just the stories, but those specific copies. (New publications of Bread and Jam for Frances will not cut it for my babies.) I only have one copy-paper-sized box of these, which I think is pretty acceptable for a bibliophile. But, I was really torn when making decisions about the “chapter books.” I’ll take some to school and they’ll be great for my students. Others, like my Boxcar Children and Babysitter’s Club collections, are too juvenile for my students. I’m almost positive that my children will want to read those books, but the thing is, it’s going to be a long time before I have a child old enough to read a chapter book. I also wonder if keeping these books around will teach my children to love perishable things. Although I would love for my kids to cherish their mother’s tattered copy of the first Boxcar Children book, would I love a little more for them to grow up loving reading, loving the library, and loving people and experiences more than things? (And maybe they’d never even want to read it because without the cover it wouldn’t look cool.)

I still may keep them because children are expensive and books that you already have are free. Older foster kids might read them before biological babies would grow up and read them. And they’d just about fit in one copy-paper-sized box…I think. Before writing this post I’d decided to get rid of them, almost. I think I have swayed myself the other way.

How do you decide what to keep and what to get rid of?

What I Remember (and What I Don’t)

I got my wisdom tooth out last Thursday, and it went so much more smoothly than I expected and worried that it would. Here’s a short run-down of what my day was like. Things I remember are in bold. Things I don’t remember are not bold. Thanks to Dexter for taking care of me and filling in the many, many gaps.

At 7:20, I took some antibiotics (for when heart murmurs and dental procedures coincide) and some triazolam (to “relax” me before the procedure). We left home at about 7:30 and made it to the surgeon’s by about 7:45. I texted my parents to let them know we were on our way. I read my dad’s text back. Dexter and I planned to stop and get me a milkshake on the way home. I told him he should definitely get one for himself, too.

We checked in at the front desk and talked about whether he should come back with me. We saw a girl’s mom go with her, so Dexter decided to come with me. The nurse called me back. I sat down in the chair in the exam room and answered the nurse’s questions about my medication. I even said “clindamyacin” correctly when I told her I took the antibiotic. Dexter pointed out to me that the brand of the dental chair was “Dexta.” I leaned dangerously over the side of the chair, aware that I was way to woozy to be doing that. I was very careful and I didn’t fall. The doctor came into the room and the nurse escorted Dexter out.

They propped my mouth open, gave me some shots, and I heard some cracking while they had tools in my mouth. Then I heard, “We’re done.” I don’t think it took much more than 5 minutes.

Dexter came into the room and the nurse gave him (me) instructions about what to do. She mentioned a huge list of things I could eat on day 2, including a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We walked to the checkout area and the receptionist said she’d send our bills to insurance. Dexter walked me out to the car and held onto me tightly although I didn’t seem like I thought I needed the help. I wanted to text my dad, so I did.

We drove down the street to A&W. Their drive-through window was out-of-order, so we parked at the gas station it was in. Dexter verified that I wanted a chocolate shake. I said, “Yeah, but I want to come in because I might want something else.” We walked (stumbled) into the gas station and found out that A&W didn’t open for another couple of hours. We got back in the car.

We drove to the McDonalds near our house and went through the drive-thru. There was a problem with the chocolate flavor, so I agreed to have a vanilla shake. Dexter ordered 2 small vanilla shakes. I remembered wanting to text my dad, so I asked Dexter if I had texted him yet. I didn’t really believe him when he told me I already did. I was confused about whether or not I had texted my mom, too.

We went home and I sat down on the couch and finished my shake. I sat my finished cup on the end table. I told Dexter I wanted to watch “Failure to Launch” because I didn’t think it would be very good, so I wouldn’t care if I fell asleep while I watched it. I asked for some ibuprofen and took some. Dexter put in the movie and I watched for about a minute and then fell asleep. I woke up, but dozed on and off for a while before falling asleep for real. When I was awake, I asked for ibuprofen several times and each time was surprised when Dexter told me that I’d already taken it. Dexter took out the dogs, and when he came back, I was sitting at his computer. He watched me update my facebook status to make sure it wasn’t too weird. I ate some pudding. I fell asleep for a long time. Dexter woke me up because I was drooling blood. Luke came home. The dogs and I napped some more. Watson and I snored on the couch while Fitz dream-barked on the stairs. I woke up to my phone ringing. It was my dad. Dexter called him back for me and I talked to him for a few minutes. I woke up (even though I was already awake?) and Dexter told me Keriann was on her way over. I ate some more pudding.

From this point on, I was coherent. I watched TV and rewatched a movie with Keriann. I ate more pudding, some applesauce, some lukewarm soup, and more pudding. I freaked out when Dexter told me what I didn’t remember. I called my parents and talked them for about 20 minutes. Right before getting off the phone, my dad asked me if I remembered talking to him around noon. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. I freaked out about that for a while.  I ate some leftovers and some Newman O’s. I took a Vicodin and waited around for it to kick in. My pain wasn’t too bad, but I never got sleepy. Dexter, exhausted from caring for a crazy woman, fell asleep very quickly.

Weekend Getaway: Day 1, Part 2

Dexter and I set a budget for our trip. It wasn’t a big budget, but it wasn’t too beans-and-rice either. We planned to book a hotel online with a bank card and take the rest of the money out in cash. Dexter and I love a bargain, but we also love staying in a hotel that is clean and safe. We decided to use the Priceline Name Your Own Price feature.* It’s risky because you don’t know exactly what you’re getting until you’re already committed. We were very specific about the area we wanted to stay in (Country Club Plaza) because we wanted to walk instead of drive as much as possible. (If you want, you can tell yourself that this is because we’re green hipsters. It’s actually because we wanted to avoid paying for parking and navigating through unfamiliar areas.) We also chose a high star rating. (Budget Travel Tip: On Priceline, I often look at all the hotels in a certain star-rating and location on the regular discount page. If I would be okay with staying at all the hotels on that list, I’ll very likely be okay with whatever hotel I get using the Name Your Own Price feature.)

While poking around on Priceline, I fell in love with a ritzy hotel called The Raphael. It was right on the Plaza, it had free high-speed internet, I was sure it would be clean, and it was oh. so. classy. For a week or so, I lowballed on the Name Your Own Price feature and came up with nothing. Eventually, the Raphael sold out for the weekend before our anniversary. So we tried a different weekend and offered exactly half the price listed for the cheapest room on the Raphael’s real website. I clicked and prayed as the page loaded. And we won! And then I ran across the room to high-five Dexter.

I was expecting to be a little disappointed by the Raphael. You know what I mean…sometimes hotels with “old world charm” just end up being old. I checked in while Dexter waited in the driveway in front of the hotel. The lobby was beautiful and the clerk was friendly, but I still half expected the upholstery to be faded in a stainy looking way or there to be hairs in the towels. We parked, rode the elevator up to our room, unlocked the door, and stepped inside. At first, I was a little confused.

I thought, This is a lot more spacious than I expected! Wait…no bed? There’s more? It turned out that our bargain hotel room was a suite!

 I plopped down on the bed, facing the second flat screen TV we’d seen so far. This was a big deal for the people whose Best Buy store-brand tube TV didn’t even get TV reception. I knew it was going to be a relaxing trip. But we still had to explore the bathroom…or, bathrooms, that is.

 

In the bathroom, we found yet another flat screen TV in front of a gigantic whirlpool tub. Another room had a sink, and another room had the toilet and a shower the size of a walk-in closet.

There were plenty of little amenities and details that made us love the hotel as well. There was the alarm clock with an iPod dock.  And there was the coffee machine with inserts for tea and hot chocolate. There were the M&M cookies and hot chocolate packets left on our bed after we returned to our room on Saturday afternoon. There was also a string quartet that played outside the front door each evening. Pretty fabulous for the couple who just wanted safe and clean.

We worked up quite an appetite exploring the room, so we headed to the plaza to find some sustenance.

At Blanc Burgers & Bottles, a restaurant serving local fare, we started out with some fried cheese curds. After that deliciously artery-clogging experience, we decided against fries even though they came to your table in an adorable tiny shopping cart. Sigh. Tiny things are so cute. Dexter had the “classic burger” and a Pepsi that was not from a bottle.

 My curried lentil burger was on a Blvd. wheat bun and was topped with spiced yogurt, cucumber and onion salad, avocado, and radish sprouts. It was by far THE best veggie burger I have ever eaten. Usually, the bun and toppings are fine, but the patty is totally flavorless. I thought that using Indian spices would take me too far from the burger experience, but it didn’t. It was AMAZING. I am going to try to recreate this and will post the recipe when I figure it out. (Also, I have no idea why I’m holding my arm like that.)

 We walked around the plaza, I met a penguin, and I fell in love with Anthropologie (think Urban Outfitters, but cooler, more French, and more expensive). There were several dresses I fell in love with that were priced starting at $150. We did want to be able to eat during the rest of the trip, so the budget didn’t get spent on a dress.

Later, at Balsano’s Gelato Cafe, we tried out Kansas City’s attempt at gelato. The high school boys who worked there were very polite and friendly although the store was busy when we arrived, and they both got to work cleaning as soon as we sat down. Our gelato palate is, what can I say, refined, so we weren’t blown away by the gelato. But ice cream is ice cream.

Then, back to the Raphael for some Iron Chef and Good Eats. Be still my heart.

*Thanks to Mom & Dad for their savvy hotel shopping advice and for babysitting our angelic puppies. I believe they have earned a round of applause and a really good Christmas gift!

The ABCs of Living

Everybody knows that if you want to have a thin, toned body, you’re going to have to eat right and exercise. It’s common sense. But, that doesn’t stop me from hoping that I can keep drinking Coke and eating chocolate cake every day while watching TV and still have my stomach miraculously flatten and my arms tone up.

I’ve been realizing this principal about my life in general. The basics really do matter, and natural consequences still naturally occur no matter how good a reason I have for not doing the things I didn’t do.

For instance, if I don’t call the drug store and tell them I accidentally sent my prescription to Des Moines, they are not going to give it to me in Iowa City. Even if I really feel like a doofus for sending it to Des Moines, things aren’t going to change on their own.

If I don’t load the dishwasher and then start it, I’m going to have a messy kitchen. Even if I have a headache and it doesn’t feel fair, this is how it happens.

If I don’t go to the grocery store, we won’t have any food. (Well, we will, but only things like vegetable broth and diced tomaoes.)

If I don’t type anything out on WordPress and hit publish, nothing new appears on my blog.

You get the idea.

Eventually, when I don’t do all those little things, the problems become a big thing. Loading the dishwasher is not an overwhelming task. Loading the dishwasher when the kitchen counters are stacked a foot high with food, garbage, and dishes is overwhelming, especially when the trim around the floor looks like it’s made of dog hair, when I have no clean clothes, and I want to use the girls’ bathroom at work because it seems cleaner than my own. Okay, things have never really gotten that bad at our house, but when I’m overwhelmed, that’s how I feel.

Last weekend, we went to a marriage conference in Bettendorf. The speakers said a lot of really basic things, like how it’s important to have a strong relationship with God and to depend on Him to meet your needs instead of relying on your spouse to provide all the love and company and validaton you need. I knew that. But that’s not what I acted like I knew. Unfortunately for Dexter, I’d been failing to make regular, quality time to spend with God and had been relying on Dexter to make me feel loved. We’re human, so we ended up with me feeling disappointed and Dexter feeling defeated.

Having a clean house and bills that leave the house on time are important, good things. But my relationship with God and my marriage are even more valuable to me.

To do a Total Money Makeover on our finances, we’ve gone “back to basics” with our money–we have (almost) no credit cards, we use a cash system, we make a budget, we shop consignment, we sell unneeded things, we devote every Tuesday night to learning more about how to be financially responsible. I feel like we could use a Total Life Makeover, too. Don’t get me wrong, we’re blessed beyond belief to have our home, our jobs, our families, and each other, but I haven’t been acting like I value and appreciate these things. I’m not making a specific goal or vow to “fix” my relationship with God, my marriage, or my responsibilities, but I am taking a look at my priorities to see how the things I say I value are matching up with my actions, and I think my daily activities will look a lot different in the future.

Things that are going to change?

  • Dexter and I will be getting up early three days a week to help each other make time to spend with God and to pray for and with each other. We did this two days last week, and although it’ll take some a whole-freaking-lot of discipline to actually get out of bed early, I think it will have a huge impact.
  • Dexter and I are going to be exercise buddies. We’ve realized that we’re the perfect jogging team. I make him slow down and pace himself, and he encourages me to take longer strides. I’ve found before that discipline in the area of exercise does a lot for discipline in other areas of my life. Most days, I’d rather clean toilets than run, so if I’ve already run, I might as well clean the toilets.
  • Although I don’t have a staying-on-top-of-cleaning-and-the-rest-of-my-life system, I plan to write down what I must accomplish in my daily planner, and some other projects I want to work on. I’ll start working on them soon after getting home from work instead of waiting until I wish I was sleeping.
  • Probably a lot of other things that I don’t realize yet!