Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Day in the Life: Summer Version

I've been going back through my blog and making some tweaks, privatizing posts that mention people from my past (a privacy/ respect thing for them.)  That means, of course, that I've stumbled through many an old blog entry, some more cringe-worthy than others.  My favorites?  The day in the life type posts.  Jeeeeez, is my life different than it was five or six years ago!  In spirit of that, I thought I'd crank out "A Day in the Life: Summer Version."  This is a random Wednesday in my summer of 2016:

4:55 - Mark leaves for his class at the Y - he'll go directly to work after that - so I send him off with a half asleep kiss and "have a good day" then snuggle down under the covers.  I miss that man so much when he's away on business but I love the hour or two of having the bed allllll to myself when he leaves in the morning.

5:40 - This happens:

Uh-oh.  Forgot to turn off his "regular day" (non-workout day) alarm.  I consider going back to sleep for another half hour or so but, nope, I'm up.  And by "up," I mean I'm laying in bed whilst checking Facebook, Instagram, and playing Candy Crush.  Yup, no shame in my game.  I'm still crushin' candy.  #OG

I finally roll out of bed around 6:15.  Make the bed -- this is a chore that often gets neglected on weekends but, damn, it takes approximately two minutes to do and makes me feel like I've started my day off on the right foot.  I grab my coffee out of the freezer (totally spoiled: my man preps my coffee for me every morning and pops it in the freezer so I have iced coffee ready for me when I get out of bed) and head outside to water my plants.

I am NOT a gardener.  Like, AT ALL.  All these plants -- save what will hopefully, eventually be two pineapple trees -- were planted by the previous owners.  I'm trying though!  I really need to harvest my basil and rosemary and make a note to do so tomorrow.  The Google told me it's best to do so in the morning but I've got too much to do this particular morning.

Breakfast time!  We're in DESPARATE need of a grocery shopping trip, something that must happen later in the afternoon, so my choices are limited.  We have precisely two eggs left in the fridge.  I boil one so I can make tuna for my lunch and scramble the other.  While the eggs are cooking, I finish loading the dishwasher.  We always load it right after dinner but the kids' cups didn't make it in before I went to bed the previous night.  I remember reading somewhere to always run your dishwasher at night and, yeah, that's good advice for most.  But if mine isn't full or almost full after dinner then I'll wait and run it after breakfast.  I know you were dying to know that piece of information.

Sit down with my measly breakfast -- uno scrambled egg topped with salsa and an orange.  I usually eat blueberries with my breakfast but one of those huge oranges was calling my name.  I just knew it was going to be plump and juicy and couldn't wait to bite into it.  Nope.  Not at all.  I ate a few pieces and put the rest up for a kid to enjoy.  Or not so much.

By 7:00, it was time to get to work.  I grabbed the blueberries I should've had with my breakfast and my coffee and got to it.  Welcome to my office . . . 

I really should be set up in the dining room.  I know this.  But my dining room is currently the setting of pictures that will eventually be hung on walls and knick knacks that will eventually find themselves on shelves.  Therefore my humble little office is my living room couch and coffee table.  Ahhhh.

As far as work goes, I work for a realtor and basically do her administrative stuff.  Now that everything is digitalized, it can mostly be done remotely and we can communicate by email.  I can edit contracts for her, schedule for documents to be picked up, you get the picture.  It's SUPER convenient for me because swinging summer childcare for four children would put a huge, huge dent in our budget.  It's also harder in a lot of ways.  The kids can be distracting.  I think about the laundry I should be doing.  The kitchen floor needs to be mopped.  I should really clean the bathroom.  Oh, look!  A puppy!  You get the picture.

Around 7:45, I pause working for just a bit because this happens:

Usually the kiddos sleep later, but three of them are up and eating breakfast by 8:00.  Sigh.  The good thing about being up early is that it's not too hot out yet.  After breakfast, I send them outside to ride bikes for a bit so I can work in peace and quiet.

Working from home with kids ... some days are better than others. This day was definitely an "other." I was constantly breaking up fights, one kid kept crying. Ai yi yi. Doozy of a morning. By 10, I'd had enough and decided we needed a break. Off to the Y!

Work out essentials: iPad, sweat towel, water 

We got back home before noon and I instructed the kids to empty the dishwasher and start on their lunches while I showered. After my shower, a little more work while I ate lunch (tuna and pretzels.)

Then. What I'd been dreading all week. 

Wahhhh! I have to go grocery shopping with four kids! (Spoiler alert: it was worse than I anticipated.)

Whole Foods (only because I had a coupon and it was going to be dinner that night. I'll never go back again), Aldi, then Kroger. 

Grocery shopping with four kids is a NIGHTMARE. One was whining, one kept touching every.damn.thing, and one was turning freaking cartwheels in the store. The other, luckily, was good and helpful. Also luckily? You can now buy wine in grocery stores in Tennessee! *ALL THE PRAISE HANDS* Of course, I picked some up!

After we got home, we put away groceries and I folded a load of laundry. Then finally ... finally ... time to relax. *More praise hands*

We're not on diets but also not trying to eat like assholes. My one guilty pleasure (other than wine ... duhhhh) is ONE piece of sea salt caramel. Ohhhh. 

I turned the filter on and made the kids pull leaves out of the pool. This pool is going to be a beast come fall!

Then. My favorite part of the day (except for when Mark comes home) ... they swim, I read, sometimes jump in the pool to cool down, sometimes swim the length a few times as a "work out." Mostly, though, I just relax. This is usually between 4-5:00 in the afternoon, which happens to be the "witching hour" for my kids. Spending it at the pool seems the most calming for them.

Mark got off work early so he did our Sam's run before coming home.  He knew I'd had a stressful day with the kids so when he made it home, he told me to relax while he got dinner going.  "Don't move.  Read your book.  I'll make the kids help with dinner."

We ate dinner -- rotisserie chicken and a "family salad" (that we had to add to but, then, we do have a larger than average family) from Whole Foods with a side of corn.  I wanted roasted sweet potatoes but, more than that, I didn't want to get my butt up from my spot by the pool.  After dinner, we all pitched in to clean up and load the dishwasher.  Then . . . a family walk with a side of Pokémon Go!

I noticed on Facebook that people were posting pictures with their Pokémon.  This particular night, I couldn't figure out how the heck they did it so I just took (bad) screenshots.  Um.  There's a camera icon RIGHT THERE.  Sigh.

We were good and sweaty after our walk - Memphis humidity ain't no joke, y'all! - so I jumped in the shower to rinse off real quick.  I hate going to bed dirty and sweaty.  We sent the kids upstairs with good night kisses.  They don't have a set bedtime during the summer but we do make them go upstairs and settle down around 9:00.  And that's generally precisely the time WE settle down for the night.  We old . . .

And that's a little "day in the life" look, summer 2016 version!  And I just had the realization that five years ago when I was writing something like this, I had one, three, and four year old.  In five more years?  All the kids except my baby will be TEENAGERS. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Me Before You

I hated this book.


I said it.

I hated the book.

And, after asking on Instagram, I'm wondering if anyone actually enjoyed it?!?

The non-spoilers review:

The book is the story of Louisa Clark, a 26-year-old who still lives at home with her parents and helps support them, who takes on the job as a caregiver for a quadriplegic man named Will.  He's a grumpy asshole, she's miserable so, of course, this is going to be a love story for the ages.  (Do you sense my sarcasm there?)  Louisa realizes that Will is on the heels of making a decision that will alter the lives of everyone he knows.  She makes it her mission to change his mind.  That's really the best synopsis I can give without completely giving the book away.  I will tell you this much: it deals with some HIGHLY sensitive and ethical subject matter. 

Honestly, I found the book to be dark and depressing from the jump.  The character of Louisa's father was entertaining enough but the rest of the characters - including Louisa - just fell flat to me.  Overall, the book is incredibly predictable.  I knew what was going to happen and only kept reading to see if somehow JoJo Moyes was going to pull out a hat trick and surprise me.  She did not.  Read it if you're curious, but only if you manage to find it free somewhere.

Now stop reading if you don't want spoilers!

I mean it!


I'm not 100% opposed to assisted suicide.  I completely understand someone who is terminal and wanting to die with dignity.  Yet, I still found Will Traynor's decision to be completely and totally selfish.  It was cruel to his family and cruel to Louisa.  And one of the things that bothered me the most about the book was his mother going along with his plan.  I'm a mother and, yes, my children are strong and able-bodied.  I can't imagine one of them, especially one of my fearless boys, being in an accident that left them with a body that made if impossible to enjoy the life they once loved.  Beyond that, though, I absolutely could not be involved with them ending their own life.   

I also found it incredibly cruel that he would tell Louisa he loved her, he loved their time together, yet he would still choose to leave her.  Obviously, I'm seeing this through the eyes of a healthy person so maybe it was selfish of Louisa, also, to want to keep him around and in a body that would never get better, never even allow him to feed himself.  I just think about it this way: I have a man in my life who I love very much.  He is always on the go, always doing something, rarely sits down.  I can't imagine him losing his ability to just go.  However.  I would rather have him in a wheelchair than not have him at all.  At the end of the book, Louisa reads a letter Will left to her.  He explains the gifts he left to her and says something about how changing her life for the better wouldn't be possible if he were still alive.  (i.e. I'm dead but, hey, now you have my money!)  Why wouldn't it have been?  She still could've taken classes and traveled.  Monetary gifts don't make up for the loss of a person.  That part was just so . . . insulting.

This is the first JoJo Moyes book I've read and it was just so dark and depressing.  Jodi Picoult manages to write the same type of controversial fiction but hers always seems more . . . I'm not sure if enjoyable is the right word . . . just better?  Are the characters more relatable?  Is the story better drawn out?  Is it the difference in love story verses life story?  I don't know.  I just can't say, after this book, that I enjoy JoJo Moyes as an author.  Though I will give her . . . if Nicholas Sparks had written his book, there would've been a totally different ending!

If you read the book, what did you think? 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

On a Pontoon

The #1 reason we chose to vacation in Hot Springs - both this year and last - is its proximity to Lake Ouachita.  We rent a pontoon and a tube for the kids to ride on and spend an entire day on the lake.  It's amazing and definitely the highlight of our entire summer.
This year's pontoon trip started with us seeing one of the most Arkansas things that ever Arkansas'd.  (And I can say that as a native Arkie.  And yes you have to be a native in order to make fun of us!)  It's a mobile home house boat.  I mean . . . that's just so Arkansas.

We had a BLAST the entire day.  All smiles from everyone.

The highlight for the big kids is the tube.  They will talk about this experience for the next year (when they expect to do it again.)  In fact, we were originally talking about going to Gulf Shores instead of Hot Springs but the kids insisted on Hot Springs.  Why?  The tube!

K2 even rode on it a little bit but she was more content to watch the bigger kids from the boat.

This year's pontoon had a roof which meant there was a lot of this going on:

We beached on one of the small islands for lunch.  The kids explored and played in the water while Mark grilled up hotdogs and brats.

Whyyyyyy is K2 being such a turd in this picture?  It would've been the best!

We ended the day sunburned (me and Mark), tired (all seven of us), and agreeing that it was one of the best days ever.

That evening, we'd planned to go to Doe's Eat Place for dinner.  Only to find out their Hot Springs location had closed down.  Wahhhh-burger!  Instead, we decided to go against everything I believe in while traveling and had dinner at Brick House again.  (The only thing worse than eating at the same restaurant twice while on vacation is eating at a chain restaurant you have back home!)  We REALLY loved it the first night there, though, so we knew it was the best choice.  And it was!  The food was great.  Sitting at the table next to us was the owner and his family.  He came over and introduced himself, complimented us on the kids, and, of course, I thought it was absolutely vital that we take a picture with him and his wife (I'd been hitting the local brew a little hard at that point!)

We love Lake Ouachita, we love Hot Springs, and now we love the Brick House Grill too!  It's definitely been added to our list of "Hot Springs Musts."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Second Annual Hot Springs Trip

I guess we're what you could call "last minute travelers."  And, if I'm being honest, that gives me a tiny bit of anxiety.  I'm a planner.  I need an agenda.  I want to know what's going on!  Flying by the seat of my pants isn't my strong suit.  But it's what we've done the past two years when it's come to our Hot Springs trip.  In fact, just a week before this trip we were still looking to see if we could score a deal on a Gulf Shores condo.  We hadn't even formally decided on Hot Springs.  We didn't even book our hotel until Saturday . . . and we left the following Wednesday.  Sometimes being last minute and flying by the seat of your pants works out.  Because we had an awesome trip last week!
My one request was that at least one night we kinda-sorta dress up for dinner.  I wanted a family picture (which didn't end up happening!  Wahhhh!) and wanted everyone to look nice.  We decided to do this our first evening there (the 9-year-old girl child had a wardrobe malfunction, hence the shorts) and walk a few blocks to a steakhouse.

We chose the Brick House Grill because of an ad in our hotel.  And it ended up being an awesome choice!  Our server was super friendly, the food was amazing, and the atmosphere was great.  Great enough for wearing shades inside like a couple of dorks?

After dinner, we walked down the strip until we found an ice cream parlor. 

Then we ended our night swimming in the hotel's rooftop pool.

Thursday morning, we woke up and gave the kids a choice.  We could either walk the trail then hit up Mid-America museum or swim at Lake Ouachita.  Orrrrrrrr.  We could go to Magic Springs (a local theme park.)  Betcha can't guess what they chose . . .
We started the adventure off with, what else, parking lot selfies!

We discovered that a hot Thursday in early July is the PERFECT time for Magic Springs.  The lines were pretty much non-existent.  On many rides, the kids were able to just stay on and take another ride.  I think the longest they had to wait was maybe five minutes.  It was perfection.

Magic Springs is both amusement park and water park (Crystal Falls.)  We spent the morning on the amusement park side, riding all the rides and wearing ourselves out.

There were only two roller coasters K2 was big enough to ride and this really bummed her out.  Like, she was wanting to go spinning around and upside down and all that stuff that makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it.  I'm glad she was too small because I can't imagine my tiny baby on those rides!

My people are on this ride right here!

Except this one (and K2, of course) . . .

He is not my fearless child and it took a lot of pep talk and A LOT of courage for him to decide to ride any of the bigger roller coasters.  Once he took the plunge, though, he couldn't get enough! 
The eight and eleven year old boy children ARE quite fearless.  I imagine them being in their mid-20's and doing things like bungee jumping and sky diving together.  Those two were on roller coaster after roller coaster after roller coaster.
We went back to the car for a quick lunch then it was WATER PARK TIME!

Because of the low crowds, we were able to let the big kids have free reign on the slides while Mark, K2, and I hung in the lazy river and the kiddie area.  They had so much fun doing slide after slide after slide (and checking in with us every few rides down!) 

This picture makes me melt.  You never know what you're getting into when you're a single mom dating and to find someone like this man is to really find a treasure.  K2 didn't even think.  She just reached up and held his hand and off they went to the kiddie area together.  He's her "Mawrk" or "Mawrky" and she loves him.

We stayed at the water park for three or four hours and were EX-hausted, a couple of the kids were a little cranky, and we were all starving and hot.  We ordered pizza (from Rocky's Corner -- it was really good!) at the hotel and passed out before 9:00.  That's how you know it was a damn good day!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Welcome to our Home: The Kitchen

Our backyard oasis is most definitely where we spend a majority of our time when we're home.  Coming in second place?  The kitchen.  And, man, do I love this kitchen!
The house was built in 1983 but it's pretty obvious the kitchen has been updated and brought into the 2010's (with the exception of the oven and . . . well, you'll see . . . )  I love the color of the cabinets, I love the granite countertop.  I just really, really like my kitchen! We haven't done much as far as decorating but here you go.  Take a look!
My boyfriend has a love affair with ceiling fans so eventually we'll replace the light fixture with a fan.  Which, since cooking bacon, I've also discovered is needed.

And now you see what I mean about the oven not being updated!  It still works, though, so that's all we need. 

If I were to change anything, I'd add just a tiny bit more cabinet space.  All we really need is one more pull-out drawer.  Also want to point out that I LOVE how deep our sink is.  And also the fact that it's NOT WHITE.  My old kitchen was stuck in the 90's.  The cabinets were light oak, the countertops were an ugly white laminate, and the sink was white.  A white sink is the worst.

I also love the glass stove top.  It's so easy to clean!  And, yes, that is a gigantic container of koozies on top of my fridge.

When we were looking at houses, one check in the "pro column" for this place was the size of the eat-in kitchen.  It's bigger than most houses we looked at.  Not quite the right size for a family of seven but we do also have a dining room and outdoor patio to help out with that!

So there you have it . . . a peek at our kitchen.  We absolutely love it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Welcome to Memphis!

I love hosting.  I absolutely love it.  I love opening our home to friends and family.  I love sharing what we've been blessed with with people we love.  I love cooking for people who enjoy eating.  I love having a great time with people who mean a lot to me.  I just love it all!  And, lucky for me, Mark enjoys it as well.  We joke all the time about opening up "Mark and Brandi's Bed and Breakfast."
One thing I reallllly like to do whenever my girlfriends come to visit is make a goodie bag.  I can only do this when a small group visits because, ya know, budgets and all that.  But it's a fun way to welcome them to my house and also give them a little bit of Memphis to take home.  This is what I made for the girlfriends who hung out with us the weekend of the Fourth:
I mean . . . are those bags not the most perfect thing ever?!?  They were a dollar at Target and I snatched them up as soon as I saw them.
As for what I put in them . . .

The kiddos got dollar store/ Target dollar bin Fourth of July themed goodies.  Not a whole lot because I knew I had to get the same stuff for my kids and buying for seven?  Had to limit it and stick to the dollar store.  Altogether, I spent less than $15 on kid goodies and they all looked so cute decked out for the Fourth!

As for the adults . . . Mo got two bottles of local barbecue sauce (a Corky's apple and a Rendezvous hot.)  I didn't buy BBQ sauce for Mari since she was flying with just a carry-on and wouldn't be able to get it back on the plane.  Instead, she got a jar of Rendezvous dry rub (that Mo didn't get because she still had some leftover that I took her in Chicago back in April.)  They also got Memphis magnets, koozies, and shot glasses.
Not pictured: a gag gift Mo and I pass back and forth amongst ourselves, the ornament I bought her for Christmas in 2007 and kept forgetting to send/ give to her, and a couple shooter bottles each.  I chose to go with my personal favorite: Deep Eddy sweet tea vodka.  Because, as I said, it's my favorite and also because they were visiting from the Midwest and northwest and nothing says "welcome to the south" like some sweet tea!
I did something kinda-sorta similar when Mo, D, and I met up in Chicago back in April.  Our trip was originally supposed to be in Gulfport and New Orleans.  I asked the girls what they wanted to name our trip and D came up with "Menage a Crawfish."  I asked our friend Kira to print that on tumblers for each of us.  She made these . . .

I mean, how freaking cute are those?!?

I filled each one with a shooter bottle and a few strands of beads (since we weren't making it to NOLA) and then also brought each of the girls some Memphis BBQ sauce and dry rub. 

I love my adopted hometown and things like this are just spreading a little bit of Memphis to the people I also love!