Friday, September 14, 2018

Three Reasons... (with gifs!)

... to be happy in September, one of my historically least happy months.  If you don't feel like being happy, though, that's okay too.  Go back to your Fiona Apple album and don't mind me.

  • First,  a quick and slightly bossy reminder to you to read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making because reading a book with beautiful prose and a protagonist named September can help make things better. Or at least appear to be better. Appearances are all that matter, anyway, right?  I'm pretty sure Chomsky said that.  Or Nietzsche, who has a fun name to say but does not appear to have been a fun guy, like, at all.

  • This is a book that exists in this world:

This book is so charming, and deals with difficult subject matter with such humor, and I just love it so much.  This is Honeyman's first book, and she has such a deft hand I want to take her, chain her to a word processor, and force her to write a book a year for the next forever, because that's how I express affection.
This is not too much to ask.

  • The elastic waist trend is back in women's wear.  I haven't been this comfortable in years!  What a time to be alive!  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Like One of Those Epic Sagas but with a Bathroom

The problem with home improvement is that if you improve one thing, it makes all the other things immediately adjacent to that thing look... less than improved.  In fact, they can look downright dreadful, especially, as it turns out, if you're looking through Derek's eyes, which are terrific at seeing What Could Be.  To get to What Could Be, however, you have to destroy What Already Is.

I have a knack for living with What Already Is. Sure, the peel-and-stick tile is coming up off the bathroom floor, but so what?  It's a matter of seconds to slip it back into place with your foot.  And the finish flaking off the medicine cabinet?  It's not ideal, but neither is the reflection in the mirror right next to it.  Both speak to the second law of thermodynamics, in that everything eventually degrades and decays, so to do away with the medicine cabinet is to do away with our children's grasp of science!  Or something!  Anything that makes it so that we don't have to embark on another home improvement project immediately after finishing the last one!

I am not an optimist by nature.  I wouldn't say Derek is, either, except when it comes to this house, specifically projects undertaken on this house.  All he really wanted was to get the bead board off the bathroom walls and to lay the new floor.  The work of a day, he thought.

The house had other ideas.

As it turns out, the previous owners (rather brilliantly, I have to admit) covered half the bathroom walls in bead board so that they wouldn't have to properly finish those walls:  drywall, tape, spackle, etc.  So what was awaiting us once that bead board had been removed?
That's right:  more plaster.  More lathe.  More crazily uneven walls and problem solving and work, work, work.

Caedmon, our child who either wants to be "a professional football player, a professional soccer player, or if I can't do those things, a construction worker," was eager to get in there and help.
If you look closely, you'll see the dimple that pops out when he's hard at work.  His dad's does the same thing.  This is incredibly sweet.

Added in to all this was the fact that Derek saw a mirror a while back that had the lighting built in to the mirror.  Fact:  people who work in video are semi-obsessive about good lighting.  Mirrors with built-in lights apparently make for good lighting.  So while we didn't have to have towel warmers or a wifi toilet or fake old fixtures (you know- those new fixtures that they purposely mess with to make them appear old?), we did have to have a lit mirror.  This meant that Derek had to put in a new outlet and new light switch, which involved wiring, which is always always a good time in an old house.  And by "good time" I mean trying not to burn down the house as you discover that none of the outlets are grounded or follow any kind of modern safety protocol.

Fun fact:  Derek says the same kinds of things whether things are going well or have jumped in to a handbasket and are heading straight south.   The other day as he was yet again working on electrical stuff I had to scooch around the bathroom so that I could peer into his face in order to correctly interpret the chuckle he'd just emitted.  And don't even get me started on the monosyllable "huh."  "Huh" can mean "Yes!  It fits!  I just fixed this nagging problem," or it can equally mean, "Well, that's definitely not supposed to look like that."

But!  A million "huh"s and a few dark chuckles later, he's got the wiring done.  Did I worry about him being electrocuted at some point? Especially after he attempted to assure me yesterday by saying not to worry, he'd already "gotten a little juice" from the outlet he was working on, and that it wasn't that bad?  Yes.  Yes I did.  Is it likewise done, though?  Yes.  Yes it is.

Please ignore my poor framing of this shot and focus on that beautiful mirror.  It is so dang purdy.  And if ever you feel the need to be mirror twins with us (sounds like the premise of a ghost story... I may have just ruined this mirror for myself), let us know because the company we bought it from is third generation family-owned- just the type of thing I'm a big old sucker for; we'll happily share all the particulars.

Now, brace yourself, because I wanted to show you how well this mirror actually lights its subjects, but to do that I had to take a for-real picture of myself.
The overhead light is not on; that's all from the mirror.

Somewhere in this timeline Derek replaced the flooring.  This consisted of me laying down the moisture barrier (a sheet of a kind of foam material that had to be connected at the seams with no overlapping but also no gaps), while Derek did everything else, including cutting the flooring to fit around a large pipe that randomly runs from the ceiling to the floor right next to one of the bathroom walls.  Derek suggested taking it out but I meekly said NO NO NO WAY NOTHING GOOD CAN COME OF THIS.  So he didn't.
If that workload sounds unfair to you, it's only because it is.  Now, I wasn't reclining on the couch, idly thumbing through a novel while he toiled away upstairs; we do still have those three children who require care and keeping.  I also handed Derek things as he needed them.  Please hold your applause.

After flooring came replacing the vanity, a journey which was made up of a series of small catastrophes.  First we picked out a vanity, muscled it into the van, squishing the kids into the back bench of the van, hoisted it into the house, opened up the box... only to find that the vanity inside did not match the picture on the outside, nor the model we had chosen.

Whatever, we can return it, and that one was probably too big, anyway.  Let's try this other one!

It was pretty!  The top was sleek marble!  The base color was "cloud," which was somehow important to me!

This one we managed to get all the way up the staircase- which includes three turns and two landings- and into the bathroom, where we swore up and down it worked and looked great.  Derek cut a hole in the bottom and we carefully lowered it down over the plumbing.  At that point we realized that it looked just a tad big.  Not terrible, we told ourselves.  We even lived with it for a day before we were both forced to admit that any bathroom fixture that forces you to close the door before you can squeeze past it to get to the other side of the room- well, it probably doesn't fit.  Somehow we managed to sell it on a Facebook swap shop- couldn't take it back to the store since we'd already cut into it- which included (not a little bitterly) maneuvering it back down the stairs, into its box, and out into a storm to meet the seller, who ended up being delightful, by the way.

Oh, and I forgot the drawer pulls, so I had to mail those afterward.  She was very understanding.

A bunch of other things happened- imagine a series of things going wrong, one after another, and you'll pretty much have it- but we finally got the right vanity and sink into the there.  Did it weigh hundreds of pounds and take three of us to get it up the stairs?  Does it fit perfectly in our space, as it is long but narrow, like our weird old-house bathroom?  Is it the first one Derek suggested but I poo-poo'd at the beginning of this saga?

Add baseboards, paint, wrangling a faucet into place, and a million other details, some of which are still unfinished, and we're done.  Nearly done.  Will this bathroom ever be done?
Close enough.

I'll get up a post up with more "we are so done" pictures (I like that term better than "after") soon, but for now, reward yourself for making it all the way to end of this long post by making these amazing chicken tinga tacos for your culinary pleasure and sit down with Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, one of my favorite books I've read so far this year.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Last Time I Ever Tile Something. I Mean It This Time.

I know it's been an age and a day since I last posted, but I have some feelings to process, and what better place to do so than the internet?

Never fear, we're not going through any serious family turmoil or anything; no one is dying or even majorly ill.

We are, however, in the process of some semi-major home renovations, which I know many would greet with the feelings appropriate to the situation:  excitement!  anticipation!  gratitude!

Because I am me, however, a decidedly non-Joanna Gaines kind of girl in an HGTV-obsessed country (no offense to the Magnolia empire.  Please don't have me smothered in my sleep with a perfectly on-trend designer pillow.), I am not feeling any of the emotions listed above.  I am instead cranky and teary and overwhelmed and even sending some not-so-loving thoughts to our beloved old house.  (I don't really mean it, House.  It's those Suspicious Previous Owners and their utter lack of regard to bringing ANYTHING up to code in their tenure here.)

It all started, as these things do, with a nasty old shower.  Our nasty old shower.

Because I am also apparently, um, nasty and old (?) I was more than happy to continue on with this shower of ours, as long as I had the thought of a someday-new shower to sustain me.  Emphasis on someday, which is evidently where I prefer our home improvement projects to remain.

Derek, however, is a go-getter, a doer, a today kind of home owner.  This is the kind of person every house deserves, especially a charming old dear such as ours that just needs a thing or two (OR ONE MILLION) done to keep standing well into its second century of life.

This meant a new shower.  Yahoo!  Huzzah!  Hoo-to-the-ray!

I can say with no false modesty that Derek and I are experienced tilers. You may remember that we tiled our kitchen backsplash a few years ago, and prior to that we'd tiled the floors of several rooms in a previous house. This was our first time tiling a shower, however, and that meant all kinds of waterproofing and sealing and fun, fun, fun.

Before any of that could happen, though, we had to tear out the old shower walls.

Do you remember that horror film that came out years ago called What Lies Beneath?  I don't really, either, but those are words that come to mind and I certainly get that horror movie feeling every time we set out to reveal anything that's been covered up in our house.  Hard experience has taught Derek and I that if there was a shortcut to be had, the previous owners of our house took it.  So I knew that when Derek went to rip out those shower walls,
we would not be greeted only by well-preserved, modern drywall.  And lo!  I was right!
We did find other things, though.  Like mold.  And a senseless mix of old insulation and new.
That's warm, cozy, no doubt terrible for the earth modern insulation on the left, and planet-friendly but barely-keeps-our-shower-warm lathe, plaster, and lambswool on the right.  Golly, old houses are fun.  (Okay, so they really are.  I found the lambswool as charming as I did maddening.  No wonder I flinch every time my arm accidentally brushes against the freezing walls of our shower!)

 Let's just take a quick moment and thank God for Derek's constant willingness to learn new things, and for YouTube.  After watching the appropriate instructional videos, Derek has rewired parts of our vehicles, fixed busted pipes in our basement, and now ripped out, rewired, and installed all new everything in our bathroom.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So:  DensShield went in (oh, you don't know what DensShield is?  Neither did I, a few happy months ago), and then we got to tiling.  Derek cut the tiles in the basement, I did most of the mortaring.  I couldn't very well take a picture of myself doing that, though, and didn't care enough to try and set up a shot of myself doing it, so here's a picture of Derek doing one of the sections he completed, because I know this is terribly important to you:
We went with gray glass subway tile.  You may notice we kept the tub, because it's in good shape and we don't generally replace things unless they're already halfway dead.  The fact that it likely weighs half a ton also factors in here.

We put it in shelf holder thingies, and a tile mosaic.

Then we grouted, which I did take a picture of myself doing,
and then we took a break to go to church and do an Easter egg hunt, because we did all of this Easter weekend!  Jesus is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Time to undertake a home improvement project so you can question His decision not to just forego the cross and relegate us all to the fiery depths because that's starting to sound preferable to spending another minute in this Godforsaken shower!
I think this is the closest we got to family photo this Easter, or as it will no doubt be known in the future:  "2018:  The Lost Easter."

That final sentence in the previous paragraph rather precisely communicates my attitude on the down slope of any DIY project, by the way.  Derek speaks very carefully and gently to me, reminding me that we do still care about this, and that it does matter where this tile goes or how we go about finishing this row.  The Bible is full of verses about finishing strong and not giving up but I think God may have decided to withhold those traits in me because two days in to these kinds of things and all I can say to any question Derek asks me is, "I mean, fine.  Whatever.  I'm sure whatever is fine.  Yep, that looks good.  Or that way.  Any way it gets done is fine because I no longer care about anything."  

Thankfully Derek is good about keeping end goals in mind, or our entire house would be in shambles.  I did get it together long enough to do things like caulking (a duty of which I have since been relieved because it turns out one can be almost comically bad at caulking) and sealing the grout- something I wasn't exactly bad at but certainly wasn't smart about.  All I remember is lying on the floor of the bathroom, ceiling swirling above me as Adelaide reads the instructions on the bottle in a scolding manner:  "Mom, it says right here that you should work in a well-ventilated area, that there MUST be a cross-breeze, that you should be wearing a mask and gloves and to remove contact lenses before use!  DID YOU DO ANY OF THESE THINGS?"  

No.  No, I did not.  In fact, I ducked under the plastic sheeting we had up so that we could still shower but not get the tile wet while it cured for a couple days, so it was just me and my sealant fumes occupying those few inches of space, which is how I ended up dizzy and swaying and pawing my way out of my chemical tent, then laid out flat and in trouble with our then-11 year old.  But the grout is now waterproof!

And look!  We have a grown-up shower!

In the next edition of "Kristy is a Terrible Person to Work With," Derek decides the rest of the bathroom looks like comparative garbage, and something must be done about it!  Kristy wails in anguish!  Do their children even still exist?  Who knows?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Three Things: A Food List (With Parentheticals!)

  • We already got our boxes, but they just won't go away.  They're everywhere.

Funny Pictures Of The Day – 37 Pics
Every grocery store, walking through the neighborhood, everywhere.  You know how you just want to grab whatever it is you forgot for supper and go, but first you have to shuffle past the rickety tables surrounded by pig-tailed entrepreneurs?  It's so bad Derek has dubbed it "the Girl Scout Gauntlet."  We bought our four boxes- so why do I still find I can't make eye contact with them?!

  • We've had a snowstorm just about every Saturday this month, and it is MARCH.  We've had snowstorms other days, too, but there's something galling about being snowed in on a Saturday.  I still love snow and generally prefer it over rain, but did I mention?  IT'S MARCH.  
The one good thing about all this winter-masquerading-as-spring nonsense (or would it be spring masquerading as winter?  Whatever, something's not right) is that it is still totally, completely, unarguably soup season.  When it's cold out I will have soup at every dang meal (yes, including breakfast, as the older I get, the more I seem to enjoy eating leftovers for breakfast.  I neither know nor care to know what this means.), and since I'm still the principal chef in this house, this means my family finds themselves spooning soup down their chilled little gullets at least once a week throughout the winterish-fall, winter, and winterish-spring.  Why only once a week?  Well, as it turns out there are four other people in this family, none of whom quite match me in my fervor for soup (soupish fervor?  Ew, never mind.), unless maybe it's our favorite recipe for potato soup (although keep in mind that the recipe I linked to barely feeds our family of five admittedly big eaters).  Even when I'm making vegetable-heavy soups, though, complaining is kept to a minimum by a thousand-yard death stare and a peace offering of homemade bread.  I like this recipe, because it's no-knead, takes five whole minutes to put together the night before, and is crusty on the outside, soft on the inside (which is also the way I like my- ew, never mind).  I added some leftover olive oil and rosemary asiago cheese to this one, and HOLY SAINT HONORÉ (the patron saint of bread bakers, and thank you very much, Catholics, for not leaving out the glutenous among us), DOES IT SMELL AMAZING.
If you're saying to yourself, "Gosh, that looks scrumptious," then you need to get your eyes checked. My food photography skills are three solid steps down from lackluster, but please just trust me when I say that it smells yeasty (in a good way) and cheesy (in a good way) and will help me coerce our children into eating a bowlful of onions, peppers, and corn (PW's corn and cheese chowder recipe, but I omit the bacon and sub milk for half and half 'cause dang, Ree, it can't be good for you to eat bacon every day).

  • Whoever is in charge of our district's school lunch menu seems to have given up.  Lunch option #1 for today was "taco in a bag," which our children assure me is school lunch-speak for "walking taco."  I just don't know if I've ever heard a cry for help quite as clear as calling a delicious walking taco "taco in a bag."  I'm worried about the poor soul who dreamt up that name.  Hey, I know!  I'll say a prayer for that person, then completely ignore the book of James and not follow it up with any action.  Take it away, John!

Sunday, March 18, 2018


We're on the cusp of soccer season, which means my meal planning is about to go down the drain and I'll be even worse about responding to texts and other messages than usual.  I don't understand those parents whose children are involved in every activity under the sun.  How do they cope?  Or, possibly the more accurate question, what are they on?  Because the soccer season is pretty darn short, I know, and it almost does me in every time.  Plus I show up at half the games eating a bowl of chili or bierocks or whatever because Caedmon's games are always at suppertime and very little can successfully come between me and my food.

Now that we have practices and games and such on the schedule it's time for me to break out the giant, color-coded family calendar again so that we all have half a prayer of showing up to the right place on the right day- but when I went to to put it in its appointed place on the desk, I remembered the latest thing Derek and I have signed ourselves up for that will no doubt be great long-term, but short-term?  It simultaneously fills me with excitement and makes me want to cry tears of self-pity.

That's right. Those are boxes of tile.  Eight of them, because either a) our current shower is old and gross, b) as a couple Derek and I enjoy punishing ourselves, or c) all of the above.  

If you were a student of dubious ambition whose test-taking strategy was "when in doubt, 'c' out," then congratulations, it's worked for you again.  Our current shower is both significantly past its prime and in need of replacing, and we hate ourselves.  You may remember the last time we tiled a surface in our house, our still-loved kitchen backsplash, the memories of which have developed a gentle patina in my mind to the extent that I'm willing to shrug and take on a "once more unto the breach" attitude.  At least I was before searching out that old tiling blog post.  That was a lot of bloodshed on Derek's part and sleep-deprived, half-maniacal laughter on mine.  But those boxes are heavy, and I really hate returning things, so...  

Saturday, March 17, 2018


"Hey- just what have you been doing that makes you too busy to blog?"

Oh, you know, same old, same old.  Giving our nine-year-old Pop Rocks candy for the first time and watching him freak out.  Then laughing hysterically rather than comfort him.  

We're also finishing up our spring break, which we celebrated by discovering that the auger won't turn on our snow thrower, making the ten inches of unexpected snow we received early this morning somewhat problematic. Thankfully, there are five of us capable of scooping and shoveling, and a very nice neighbor with a fully-functioning thrower who descended upon us in our hour of need. Never fear, mint chocolate chunk cookies have been baked as payment.

Pretty.  Also wet and heavy, as temperatures were right around freezing.  But pretty.

When we weren't at the library this week, I was trying to expose our children to a little culture via the sculpture park in Des Moines.  They ignored the artwork and repeatedly rolled down the embankment.  It would seem that we just can't help but raise savages. 

Then we went home and they did science experiments, so I guess we're doing something right, however accidental.

I enjoyed the sculpture park, anyway, and will now regale you with tiny tales of my most and least favorite sculptures:  my least was the one of the naked woman, not because there was anything wrong with it, but more because our boys kept veering close to it, giggling madly while Adelaide harrumphed in eleven-year-old girl superiority.  My favorite was this one:

It reminded me of the book The Invisible Man, which in turn gave me the heebee-jeebees because man, what a weird book.

Atticus's favorite was the newest sculpture of a polka-dotted squash, which I found to be both whimsical and depressing, as we are at that time of year when I start to believe I will never see anything growing and alive outside again.  In short, I am a delight to be around.  As usual.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Three Things, with Gifs

  • It's mid-January, so I finally feel safe in saying congratulations, friends:  we have survived another season of unnecessary apostrophes!  We can at last turn our gazes to the contents of our mailboxes without fear.  I love Christmas cards and newsletters so much, so I've more or less made peace with the trauma I'm dealt each holiday season as my eyes are repeatedly assaulted with good-intentioned missives from "The Smith's" or "The Jones'."  (IT PAINED ME SO MUCH TO TYPE THAT LAST PHRASE.)  Now we're back to the standard fare of bills, ads, and scams every day!  ...yay? 
Is this helpful?

  • We've reached the time of year of Late Starts.  Schools around here will do just about anything to keep from outright canceling (and the parents are guh-RATEFUL) because we don't want to send our kids to school through July.  Enter:  the two-hour delay!  -30 degree wind chill?  Two hour delay!  Slick roads?  Two hour delay!  Blowing snow causing low visibility?  Two hour delay!  We have one today, which is why I am writing this rather than packing endless lunches for our kids (someone remind me to write a post regarding how much I loathe packing school lunches).  I'm not really sure why there is a two hour delay on this particular day; we had a full day last Friday and I'm pretty sure the temp was almost exactly the same as it is this morning- like, to the degree.  Expected temperature of -4 at 8 a.m.?  Check.  Wind chill of -22?  Check.  Lightly snowing?  Check.  This also means I have to sign off social media for extended periods of time as I get unreasonably bitter toward people who live in warmer climates but still complain about the cold.  "Brrr! It's thirty degrees out today!  I searched everywhere and finally found my gloves lololol.  #cold #winter #socold."   Me:  

  • A while back I went on a field trip with Caedmon's class to the Science Center of Des Moines.  I'm pretty sure that, in addition to keeping all the children in your group alive, chaperones are supposed to help keep the kids engaged and point out interesting things they might learn.  I would have done that (the latter, I mean, not the former; all my kids made it back alive, thank you very much), but I got distracted by how much these conceptions of dinosaurs on display there

resemble these.

And does that mean this

was actually this?

Something to ponder.