Thursday, February 26, 2015

How to bathe your cat (in two parts).

There are many benefits to having a husband who occasionally works from home. He spends a lot less time sitting in traffic so his work day is shorter (and he's on time for dinner!). He can hold down the fort while I run out to the gym or make a quick trip the the grocery. And the boys get to spend a lot more time with him (even though he's working he's still home).

It's also just kind of fun to have his energy around. The dude is always thinking (and can multi-task like a mo fo) so you never know what to expect when he says something like, "You've got to check out this video I just saw..."

(Honestly? It could have been ANYTHING.)

We've talked about bathing the cat before but nobody thought we were serious. I mean, who would purposely put their cat with claws in water? Sure, she's fifteen, has never had a bath and seems a little greasy sometimes. So what? That's all just part of her charm.

And yet, the lady in the video made it look so easy...

"Let's just try it," Bill said. "What's the worst that could happen?"

Awkward silence.

We came up with a plan. I put on kitchen gloves and held Missy in the sink while Bill used the sprayer hose and some Dr. Bronner's to clean her back. We stayed away from her face, tail, legs, was actually kind of pathetic for her one and only bath.  But no one got mauled! And she definitely seemed less greasy when it was over.

After we got her fairly dry, we brushed her and gave her some treats. She seemed really happy. And I have to say, she had a lot more swagger than before.

Fast forward to last night. It was pretty late - sometime between dinner and drinks with my friend and falling asleep in Liam's bed to ward off bad dreams. I was in the bathroom, getting ready for bed while the cat paced around meowing at me (she's gotten much more vocal in her golden years). Bill had saved me his bathwater (we share a bath almost every night) but I got home too late to use it. I was just about to drain the tub when I decided to sit down to pee and close my eyes for a second.

Can you guess what I saw when I opened my eyes? Cat in the bathtub! I'm not sure which one of us was more surprised. I mean, really, it was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. She was trying so hard to get out and I desperately wanted to help her but I was laughing so hard it was making me move in slow motion. And then, the noises started.


I. Was. Dying.

By the time I actually got up to help her, she had somehow managed to scramble out on her own. Her legs, tail, belly - pretty much everything that had escaped the bath the first time - were all dripping wet. She no longer had swagger but was now almost 100% clean. That's a pretty exciting week for an old ass cat...


(Please note the end of the video where she almost claws my eyes out and Finn blows up a balloon for the first time...)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Brick by brick.

Meet Frederick the Chef Robot.

The boys created him for the LEGO competition at the library this weekend. He was mostly Finn's idea, mostly Liam's execution and mostly my nightmare.

All week last week (Snowmageddon for those of you in our neck of the woods) the boys worked on Frederick. And by 'worked on' I mean 'dumped out all the LEGOs, talked about the competition a little bit, threw some blocks together, moved onto something else and left every single LEGO on the rec room floor for the rest of the week.' It looked like a Home Alone style alarm system in there. Bill took an injury to the foot he's still whining about and, while I escaped physical harm thanks to my socks and boots, I'm definitely suffering from PTSD.

Not because of the mess. I can handle a mess. It was the project that nearly killed me.

It started off great. The boys were so excited to get to work. They dumped out all the LEGOs so they could take stock of what they had, come up with a plan, and make something that would blow the judges away. Liam immediately threw out the idea of making a restaurant where Gordon Ramsay was the chef and Finn was totally on board. Things were firing on all cylinders. It was creativity at its best.

But then? They sort of ran out of gas.

"How's the LEGO competition coming along?" I asked.

"Good," Liam said. "We're done."

I swear it had been maybe 15 minutes.

I asked to see their work and it was...fine. Okay, I know that sounds awful. It's looked like something they threw together in 15 minutes so they could play Master Chef. Great for playing, just maybe not so great for display.

Let me pause here to say that in retrospect I can totally see that this is where the story should have stopped. Who cares if it's great for display? It's a LEGO competition at the library! I know. It's just...they didn't seem to care very much about their work. Like, 'Is it done? I dunno. I don't want to work on it anymore if that's what you mean...' I was just getting a really lazy vibe. Which seems to be a recurring recurring theme around here...

So I gave a little push.

"Wow, guys! This is super fun. Look at the little tables and chairs...and is that a grilled cheese? So cute. It's just...well..." There was really no nice way to say it. "I'm just wondering if the judges will really be able to tell what this is."

"What do you mean?" Liam snapped.

"It's just. Okay. Try to think about what you're making as something you would see in an art gallery. Like a sculpture! It doesn't have to be something fun to play with, it's more like something cool to look at."

"This looks cool to me," Liam said cooly. Bruised ego? Check.

"I know. It's just... Maybe get out some paper and pencils and brainstorm a bit? See if you can come up with any other ideas to play with."

"Like a chef robot!" Finn yelled immediately.

"Oh my gosh, Finn. Yes! That's such a creative idea. And I bet it would really stand out and be easy to see like a sculpture!"

Liam was pissed. "But I like our restaurant."

"Buddy. I like your restaurant too. It's won't hurt to play around a little. I want you to feel like you're giving this everything you've got, you know? You have all week to work on it."

This is such a tricky space for me. On the one hand, I am all about my kids doing their own work. Absolutely. 100%. On the other hand? What do you do when your kids don't give a damn? I am totally fine with letting them fail. But letting them be super lazy and not even try? I don't know how to do that.

I'm not gonna lie. I STRUGGLED with this. Bill worked from home most of the week and I must have asked him a hundred times if I was being crazy or not.

"I just told Liam his robot kinda looked like he had just stuck a few blocks together and HE TOTALLY ADMITTED THAT THAT'S WHAT HE DID! It falls apart every single time he touches it and he DOESN'T EVEN CARE! I don't know what else to say to him without hurting his feelings! PLEASE HELP ME!!"

This was all whisper yelled, of course. And, for the record, Bill was totally in my court. A so-so finished product is one thing but no effort is just not okay.

I tried to explain this to Liam by showing him a few Jackson Pollack paintings online. To the untrained eye his work might look like something a preschooler did to get time out. But to Jackson Pollack? Every little splash of paint is there for a reason. At least that's what I told Liam. To be honest, I really don't understand his work. But I don't have to! It's not the finished product that's important, it's the intention!

I just really wanted Liam to understand that it wasn't his work I was questioning, it was his work ethic. "Seriously, dude. If you stuck five blocks to a base plate but but had a reason for doing it? That would be a finished project! But to just kinda stick some stuff here and there randomly without really caring? I don't know. It feels like you could do better."

"Yeah. I see what you mean," he said honestly.

I was beyond relieved. It didn't mean his work ethic was suddenly whipped into shape but at least now I could be constructive without hurting his feelings. I helped the teeniest tiniest bit (just to make sure poor Frederick didn't fall apart at the library) and encouraged the boys to work until they felt proud of their work. I knew they were done when they both genuinely loved what they made.

(The mustache sealed the deal.)

Watching them submit Frederick into the contest was very sweet. And, honestly, even when they saw some of the things they were up against (INCREDIBLE creations from preschoolers all the way up to adults), they still felt proud of what they had made.

While we were dropping it off, we met a 13 year old who made a ship from the Avengers that pretty much blew my mind. It had lights and moving parts and, even though we couldn't see the inside, his mom assured us it was just as detailed as the outside.

"Wow," I said, practically speechless. "How long did you work on this thing?"

"About 127 hours."


On Saturday, we spent the afternoon checking out all the entries and voting for our favorites in each age group (in addition to winners chosen by the judges, there were also crowd favorites). It was nearly impossible to choose just one. Nashville, apparently, is brimming with master builders.

We skipped the awards ceremony on Sunday which just goes to show how good the guys felt about what they made (you don't need someone to tell you you won if you already feel like a winner). But when we went to the library on Monday to pick up our blocks, we practically got a ceremony of our very own.

The children's librarian led us into a room with all the creations that had not yet been claimed. As soon as we walked in, Liam said, "Oh, there he is!" and started toward Frederick.

"Is Frederick the Chef yours?" she asked from across the room. Liam looked up at her and nodded. I'm sure we all looked shocked. "I'm so excited to meet the people who made him!" she said enthusiastically. "I counted votes for crowd favorite and saw his name written down over and over again. He got a LOT of votes. Including my own!"

I was floored. And the boys faces were absolutely priceless. To see them get a well deserved compliment on something they worked so hard on and already felt proud of was beyond anything I could have hoped for them. It made me feel so good I almost stopped dreading the science fair...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The cold totally bothered me.

Eleven winters ago we decided to move south.

It was Christmas Eve and Bill and I were driving from Reno up to Lake Almanor where his parents have a cabin. Our whole family was up there waiting for us so we packed up our two dogs and all our Christmas presents and headed out of town.

Just as we left Susanville and started up the mountain, it started to snow. We were pretty used to this, growing up in Reno, but we still didn't like it. We had an SUV with 4-wheel drive and knew what we were doing but the visibility was still terrible and the road was getting slick. "Don't worry," Bill said. "We'll just go super slow. We'll be fine..."

Even when we hit a patch of ice, we stayed calm. "It's okay," he said. "I'm turning with the spin, just like I'm supposed to..." We were going so slow, it wasn't really even scary. We just spun, slowly, waiting for the car to correct itself.

Which it might have.

If we didn't slide off the road.

As soon as we rolled into the ditch, I kind of blacked out. When I came to, I had no idea where we were. Everything looked upside-down and backward.

"Are you okay?"

"I think so. Are you?"

"Yeah. Where are the dogs?"


We knew we had to get out of the car but were so disoriented we didn't know how. I was holding a bottled Frappaccino we had picked up in Susanville and was looking for somewhere to set it so I could get out of the car. Nothing looked right. I couldn't find a damn cup holder anywhere. Finally I just let go of the bottle and it crashed to the ceiling.

"We're upside down!"

Bill undid his seat belt first which is really hard to do when it's holding you suspended in air. He dropped onto his head and then helped me undo mine. Crash. There's really no way to prepare for falling onto your own head like that.

Once we were out of our seat belts we realized the dogs had been thrown out of the car upon impact. Where were they? I was starting to panic and still couldn't figure out how to open the car door. (This sounds weird but when everything is upside down, it's very confusing.) I noticed a couple of people running toward us (they saw us slide off the road) and I started yelling, "We have two dogs! Do you see our dogs?!"

They helped us out and we quickly found the dogs who were fine. We were fine, too. Shaken up, obviously, but not seriously hurt. Our SUV was upside down in a snowy field, our wrapped Christmas presents scattered everywhere. When we slid off the road, we rolled into a ditch and kept right on rolling. Of course, had we rolled off the other side of the highway, the side with the mountainous ravine, I wouldn't be writing this right now.  

But as it was, I was fine. We were fine. The dogs didn't even have glass in their fur (which was really strange considering they broke out the back windows with their bodies...). The whole thing was very surreal. We took it as a sign. We obviously had to move.

So we did. We flew south for the winter and never looked back.

Of course, if you've seen the Weather Channel lately you know the snow found us.

The difference is, when it snows here, the city shuts down. I LOOOOVE that. It removes the stress of bad weather and lets us actually enjoy it.

We've been hunkered down all week, alternating between getting cozy inside and sledding at the golf course down the street.

It's been really awesome. And beautiful. And SAFE. I am so grateful we are able to phone it in when the weather gets bad. So, so grateful.

Please stay safe and warm out there, friends. (And it you live in East Nashville, go sledding at Shelby!) xo

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Love the players, hate the game.

We just got off one of those wild and crazy weekends that started Friday and, thanks to the thin blanket of ice covering everything in Nashville, shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

We are now in the why change out of pjs? portion of the weekend. But on Saturday and Sunday we were definitely on the party circuit. It started off with a kid's birthday party which, if you have young children, is how a lot of these weekends tend to start.

The party was for one of Finny's friends from school which was so sweet. As the youngest, it sometimes seems like he's just along for the ride. Like we don't go out of our way to nurture friendships with his friends because he can just hang out with the friends we already have. We have come to realize that this could have something to do with why he never wants to go to school. So we're trying harder. It felt good that all of us were tagging along with him for once.

After the party we had to rush rush so I could put the finishing touches on our Valentine's Day scavenger hunt. This is a tradition carried over from my childhood and we all look forward to it every year.

All the clues rhyme (I'm a sucker for rhyming things) and lead the boys to places that are somewhat significant. Like Finn's school...

The desk we built together...

The community center...

This year, the final clue led them to Theater Bug where I surprised them with tickets to the incredible Inside Out Atlas. They found it just in time!

Of course, as soon as Finn realized we were seeing a play in a dark theater, he started saying, "Why are we here?" and asking if we could go home. (Just another example of dragging him along whether or not it's appropriate...) By the time the play turned sob worthy (it's about adoption and the actors did an amazing job tugging at our heartstrings), Bill was asking the same thing. Between sobs. "Why did we come here??"

We promised the boys ice cream after the show (way more fun than conversation hearts) and after that decided to check out the newly re-opened Dino's. I mean, it was our Valentine's Day too. "Boys!" Bill said as we parked the mini van out front. "Your first dive bar!"

It was everything we love about a dive (minus the smoke!). And bringing the kids made us feel like we were in Ireland or something. Kinda sweet for the most romantic day of the year.

The kids loved it too. Finn asked the bartender if he could change the music to Rolling Stones and then chose several other favorites from the jukebox. After that, he went back to the bar to ask for some bacon...

You would think after such a fun filled day we could go straight home and crash. But nooooo. We still had to tie die costumes for the next morning's Mardi Gras parade!

We decided to be "Party Ninjas" which was a culmination of ideas. Finn suggested ninjas. I wanted to do tie dye. And Liam made us stick to traditional Mardi Gras colors. (Bill picked up the check. And did his own hair and makeup...)

Because it was freezing cold, we decided to skip the parade and stayed inside with the mimosas. It was a super fun morning with friends that could easily have become an all day event. But we had that other birthday party to get to...

The next party was obviously not a costume party but what could we do? Once you put on a wig or face paint, there's really no going back. Finn gave everyone Mardi Gras beads to help level the playing field and I did my best to embrace the afro.

By the time we got home, we were all exhausted. I was desperately hoping there was something on TV we had to watch all night - like the Olympics or the Oscars or something - and was beyond thrilled when I discovered the SNL 40th anniversary special.

I may not have ever mentioned this out loud but if I could go back and live my life again, I would get on whatever path leads to being a part of that show. And please don't try to encourage me like, It's not too late! You could do improve or stand up comedy or something! No. That's NOT what I want. I just want to know what it feels like to be on SNL. Kinda like how I want to be a prima ballerina when I watch the Nutcracker. I don't want to take some sad adult ballet class now. I want to be the dang Sugarplum Fairy.

Anyway. Liam was slightly disappointed that we had TV plans that didn't include him. It's been his thing lately to get out of bed after Finn falls asleep so we can watch MasterChef Junior together. I'm not gonna lie - it's a good little routine. But it can't happen every night. So I told him no, said goodnight, and settled in to let Bill handle the rest.

This was a bigger job than anyone could have anticipated. Suddenly the kid who loves his nightly alone time needed a LOT of attention.

"He says he needs more time with me," Bill said after laying in his bed with him for way too long. "He's really sad that the weekend is over already and we didn't get more quality time together."

Now, I'm not usually one to call B.S. on a kid but this sounded an awful lot like he cow poo. Hadn't we just wrapped the most family centric weekend ever? Maybe we stumbled into quantity and forgot to pay attention to quality? It is possible to spend a lot of time together and never really connect. Maybe that's what happened?

And yet...


I think we might be getting played. Hi, Theater Bug? I got another cute kid for you. I'm not sure if you can trust him but he's real good at the whole heartstrings thing... 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Harry Potter birthday party.

It came as no surprise that Liam wanted his 9th birthday party to be Harry Potter themed. He's been in a bit of a phase ever since he picked up Sorcerer's Stone to read at the beach this summer. Since then it's been pretty much all Potter all the time.

At the park...

At the beach...

On Halloween...

Even our vacation!

So when we realized his birthday was a week away and we had yet to plan a party, we weren't too worried. We're old pros at this Harry Potter stuff. Plus, we have magic on our side...

Once the guests were invited and the location was secured (we decided to have the party at our neighborhood community center where we spend a lot of time and can fit a lot of people), we got our Pinterest on.

This was Liam's second foray into the wonderful world of pinning (his first was during the making of our new workstation) and he was super excited. And browsing through all the awesome stuff that people pin really helped us narrow down where we wanted to spend our party energy.

We decided it was most important to make wands. I mean, what's a witch or a wizard without a wand? At first we thought it would be fun for the kids to make wands at the party (or, at least have the option available for any kids not feeling the wild and crazy vibe). But once we got started making some at home we realized that they took way too long to be a party activity. Plus we were having so much fun making them we didn't want to stop! So we made a bunch (30?) so every kid could have their own.

The process was pretty easy and we found that there was no way to really them mess up. We took wooden dowels (we bought packs at JoAnne's), added a bunch of hot glue to make them look more wand-like (sometimes we just added a handle, other times we went nuts), then once everything was dry we painted the wands with craft paint (several coats, usually ending with a little metallic) and finished with a little spray polyurethane.

The wands turned out really awesome and nobody could believe we made them. Until a few broke. Fortunately I had brought the wand making supplies just in case so we were able to quickly hot glue the couple of broken wands back together. And one of our friends stepped up and created a little wand making station for anyone who wanted to fashion their own out of glitter hot glue and markers...

Since we had the whole gym to ourselves, we came up with a game we called Quiddish. It's like Quidditch but not exactly. We hung a couple of hula hoops from the basketball goals, tossed a bunch of homemade brooms and balloons into the gym and let the kids figure it out. Which, of course, they did. Kids are the best...

The brooms were pool noodles we transformed with a little masking tape and construction paper (the noodles were kinda pricey in the middle of winter but Liam decided they were an 'essential'). We cut the noodles in half, covered them with masking tape (we used the thick kind and wrapped them vertically - pretty quick work once we got the hang of it) then added fringed construction paper to the end for bristles. Oh, and Liam labeled each and every one. Half were Nimbus 2000s, half were 2001s...

The noodles came in a big cardboard box that we decided to turn into a Platform 9-3/4. We used some of our leftover wand paint and a big sponge to make bricks. Then we printed out a sign, stuck it to some construction paper and voila! Perfect for the entrance to the gym.

For snacks, we decided to leave it to Mrs. Costco (veggie tray, crackers, cheese, hummus, bottles of water, done). We even let her make the cake! To make it special we fashioned a Golden Snitch out of a Ferrero Rocher chocolate with a couple of leaf shaped earrings stuck in for wings. Boom.

The only thing special we did for snacks was make Butter Beer. This was a highlight of Harry Potter World at Universal and deemed a 'must have' for the party.

We really wanted to get it right but unfortunately, it was our one Pinterest fail of the party (there's always one, right?).

We bought cans of cream soda (we couldn't find 2-Liter bottles anywhere) and poured them into growlers to mix with butter extract and rum extract (full recipe here). I'm not sure if it was the extract or the pre-pouring but our soda was totally flat and weird by the time the party started (and we poured it right before).

Also? Our creamy topping curdled which was really gross. Bill had to run one last time to Kroger to get cans of whipped cream. Which, if I were to do it again, is exactly what I would use. A good quality cream soda (we liked IBC way better than A&W) with a little spray of whipped cream up top. Done.

The drinks were also pretty high maintenance which, you could probably tell from my approach to Quiddish, is so not my jam. I would much rather kids help themselves and make their own fun while I chat with my friends. Wish I would have spent less time pouring flat drinks and more time beating Bill at ping pong. But all in all it was a great party and the birthday boy had a blast. I'd call that a success.