Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Parking Lot Apocalypse

Michigan was great. Better than I could have ever imagined. Every day we shared the most amazing experiences and I would sleep that night thinking that was the peak of the trip only to find more once-in-a-lifetime moments waiting for us the next day. The 6 hour trip home was bitter sweet. We hated to say goodbye, but it was time to get back and reunite with Z who had been with his grandparents. The car ride is smoother when attempted at night while the kids are asleep, so we didn't leave until the middle of the night and rolled into our apartment entrance in the early a.m. hours this morning before sunrise.

While discussing who was going to carry which sleeping child upstairs and when we would unpack all the luggage our planning was interrupted by a moment that felt like it belonged in an episode of the twilight zone. There was orange caution tape wrapped around our building and half of the street. I rubbed my groggy eyes wondering if I was actually awake. This place that we have come and gone for over a year now suddenly looked completely abandoned. There was no way to pull into our home. It was completely blocked off and the entire parking lot was empty. The sea of fresh tarmac covered the entire lot and there were no yellow lines painted yet to indicate spaces. Parking lots get repaved, sure, but no one told us this project was coming. No phone call, or newsletter, or email was sent out. The strangest part of all was that my car, my precious car that should have been idly sitting in it's space for the week having it's own vacation, was GONE!

You can imagine my confusion and frustration. I had some words to say. Now imagine my husbands response who is bigger, stronger, and gets more angry than he does upset. I tried to calm him down telling him we just needed to get some sleep before we react and do something irrational. There was no one to talk to at the time anyway since the offices were not yet open. We did find my car along with all the others in a different parking lot. It had been towed back behind our building a little further down the road. We just had to walk a little ways to get home and inside we found that they had also let themselves into our living quarters and onto the deck to remove all of our outside belongings and power wash the balcony. They left a letter explaining (to a degree) what had taken place on the porch. It was crazy I tell you. I felt ripped off and violated. I know we don't OWN the space that we live in, but we pay money to have temporary residency there and I think we have a right to know ahead of time when people are going to be traipsing through our stuff and moving our cars!

After a couple short hours of sleep, where I dreamt that there was a hostile takeover in our home I called the landlord and explained how our morning went. She assured me that the car was fine and it just needed to be moved before they paved the next lot and that I owed $60 for the towing expense. Yeah! Not only was this a huge inconvenience and disappointment in how they do business, but they were going to charge us extra for all the hassle. I told her that that was not our responsibility to pay and we did not know that we needed to move my car. Had we known we would have gladly made arrangements. She said that there was a note on the door a few days beforehand. I asked her how I was supposed to see the note if we were out of town. She mentioned that a lot of residents will notify the office that they are going out of town, and I told her that I would be sure to let her in on our personal schedule in the future, but for the time being I needed to know who to talk to in order to take care of our current situation. She told me that she would need to speak to her regional manager, but he was unavailable at the moment because he is *ahem* OUT OF TOWN! Yes. It is all as ridiculous as it sounds and worse, but I will hold back any further rambling for now.

I know it will all be okay. It's not what I wanted to come home to that's for sure, and it makes my already aching heart long for a place of our own that much more. My biggest prayer right now is that this would blow over quickly and not cause too much of a rift between us and the landlord. If you've ever rented you know the importance of being on good terms with the people in control. But, I am not a doormat either, and as I mentioned, we write a check every month on time, and I don't think it is too much to ask for some common courtesy as part of our agreement. On the bright side, at least my car wasn't stolen and we got back before they tried to tow it again, which can be damaging to the vehicle. Grrrr. I need to get some more sleep and maybe look through some of my Michigan photos and reminisce about better times when I was on the beach far from the evils of tow trucks and landlords. Those were the days.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Our 5th Annual Cow Day

Chic-Fil-A time, cow day, dress-like-a-cow, free food, cow appreciation day- whatever you want to call, it it's a fun time and something that is starting to become one of my favorite days of the year!

This year I was saddened when I realized Z would be out of town for cow day. I had already planned on painting the kids faces this year and almost considered changing our whole summer schedule around  the event just so that he could be a part of the action. That was unrealistic though. So instead I decided we could still dress up and take pictures like we do every year, but we would do it before cow day at my aunt's barn.

 The weather was gorgeous and the children really ate up the chance for some extra special pretend play.

Then later they ate up the free food when all but Z went in dressed like cows on July 11. 

On the left is my niece for her first cow day wearing the same dress SJ wore 5 years ago on her first cow day (pictured right). It was so sweet! 

Between all the free meals we've gotten over the past 5 cow appreciation days, my family has ordered at least $75 worth of free Chic Fil A. That's a pretty sweet deal. I am cheap, so I usually just get a couple kids meals and share with the kids. I don't mind because it's still delicious, but on cow day you better believe I get myself in full garb and I order a chicken sandwich meal with a LEMONADE all for me. YUM. 

The whole experience just makes me smile! I've decided at this point it's worth it for me to come up with a permanent costume. Every year I dress in white and tape black spots to myself, but I think next year will be different. Yes I am already planning for next years cow day. I am a true CFA fan. Moo.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Week of Vermont

I am enjoying the crisp northern air this morning as I lounge in my flannel pajama bottoms and previously owned North Face fleece, on my best friends porch in Michigan. But let's back up a bit to Vermont, which is where I was last week. I know, I know, I'm such a globe trotter! Actually these nearly unplanned trips just happened to fall into place for various reasons. I think God knew that the kids and I could use a little break from being cooped up in the apartment all summer and the fact that I favor cool weather is just icing on the cake. Anyway, here are my boredom busters for the 7th week of summer featuring all of the memorable summer days of the family farmsteads in my favorite state.

1. Berry Picking

I love berries! Picking them straight off the bush just makes them taste even better.

SJ took this one on my phone.

And here are the benefits all mashed up on a aunt Julie's homemade shortcake. YUMAZING. Best dessert I've had all summer.

2. Farm Animals

When my mom was growing up they had all kinds of animals and pretty much lived off of the land. It's not quite like that anymore, but there are still plenty of gardens, a couple of pigs, some dogs, and lots of CHICKENS.

SJ was the chicken whisperer. She helped them reach the leaves at the top of what I called the Charlie Brown tree and they were extremely grateful.

3. Rocks and Rivers

We've been to a few lakes this summer, but this time we went to the river where my mom played growing up. It was the perfect day for a summer dunk.

 Also perfect was the little area off of the river that was roped off for swimming.


My mom has some video of us running down the hill at full force holding hands and crashing into the water. We had such a great time. 

4. Mountains

The mountains were a welcome sight in contrast to the hilly area that we live. We even ventured up 3,000 feet to the summit of one of these Vermont beauties.

5. Distant Relatives

My children have never met many of their distant relatives. And by distant, yes they do live far away, but I am talking about great aunts and uncles, or second cousins and such.

This photo is special because it's the three "Jeans". My Aunt Jean is in the blue shirt, then my middle name is jean after her, and SJ's middle name is also Jean after me!

My aunt Jean does lovely paintings and when she saw this photo of SJ with the chickens she immediately inspired some artwork. I can't wait to see the turn out.

6. Cook out

The last day we were in Vermont we had a cookout with the whole family.

The flames were leaping off the grill. The family was gathered around in the rocking chairs and picnic table catching up on lost time.

The children were running around playing kick ball and climbing on tractors.

It was a wonderful trip and I already can't wait until we get to visit again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Not So Baby Boy

I can't believe my baby boy is going to be 22 months old! It's just about every morning J and I wake up and see this pile of blanket and boy sprawled across the bed and it appears that his limbs have become longer over night and his sturdy little body is covering more ground with each passing day. We marvel out loud about how big he's gotten. J said yesterday that he does not remember the other two being that large at that age and I said "Yes they were. He is about to be two years old! It just feels like he should still be our little baby so it seems impossible." I think it's also that fact that I would usually be pregnant right now. When Z was this age I was expecting SJ and with SJ I would have just found out that I was pregnant with Ezie. The fact that we are delaying the next pregnancy because of our current life status (underemployed, living an apartment, going to school full time) is something that's hasn't gone unnoticed in my mind. I am not upset about it, but it's a new family dynamic for us and it's going to be a while before our little fellow has to give up the complimentary title of baby.

I am not sure about his height and weight, but he has a doctor's appointment next week so I'll find out then. I can always tell how much he has grown though by how well he can reach the door knob.

These three photos show the growth between November, January, and July.

Now he is about to be able to reach the keyhole! 

As far as what he has been up to lately, his favorite song to sing to is "Apples and Bananas". His favorite show is where he learned that song and it's called Baby Genius. And let me sarcastically tell you it is a real Emmy winner. He loves sweets just like his mama, but besides that his favorite food is probably eggs. He loves to buckle clasps that can be found on highchairs, shopping carts, and car seats. He can't undo them, but boy does he love the satisfaction of snapping them into place!

Here I am trying to copy his expression. All of my kids made the funniest faces at this age.

The most frustrating thing about him at this stage is his aggressive tendencies. He has always been a biter. Now add to that hitting, throwing, and spitting and you've got yourself a real bruiser I've googled my options on correcting this behavior. I'll let you know how that goes. Sigh. The cutest thing about this stage is his sweet little voice. I just love hearing him talk. He is really into possessives right now. Mommy's keys. Me'me's phone. SJ's shoes. Daddy's car.  He knows what things are and who they belong to and he will tell you all about it.

One other milestone I need to report for this stage is his first haircut. I know for some it wouldn't even count because I just trimmed his bangs, but when I clipped a piece that messy mop on top of his head it become baby book official in my opinion. It's funny because Z had his first hair cut on his 2nd birthday and SJ was right around her 4th birthday. I wanted to wait until Ezie was two, but his hair was constantly covering his eyes. I thought to myself You can be stubborn and wait until he is a nice even two to get his bangs out of his line of sight or you can cut his bangs and give him the gift of vision right now. and that is how the 21 month haircut was born.

I didn't touch those curls though! 

He does get mistaken for a little girl now and then. Especially since some people think Ezra can be a girl name, but I don't worry about it. He is a cutie pie for sure and I treasure these final months of him being a one year old.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quick Week 6 Wrap Up

I never shared my weekly summery for last week and now this week is almost over. I don't want to get backed up so let's see we activities we did to keep our summer swinging.

1. Slip N Slide

My niece turned 4 last week and there was a lovely cook out where some of my favorite people got together to celebrate the sweetheart that E is.

I am going to call her E on the blog. That is what SJ calls her, and it sticks with my trend of using initials.

 Besides the usual birthday festivities, the kids also had fun jumping on the trampoline, splashing in the kiddie pool, and slipping and sliding, down the hill!

2. Popcorn on the stove

We don't have a microwave. The one we owned in Texas was a built in with a vent-a-hood over the stove so that stayed with the house when we sold it. I don't miss it though. We started out the first 4 years of our marriage in an apartment without a microwave, so it reminds me of simpler times. One of my favorite things to do with the kids is pop popcorn over the stove. It really takes the whole popping experience to another level. I am not sure if the video will work, but if you haven't tried Jiffy pop then you need to! 

3. New Friends

I met blogger Lauren in real life at the world's longest yard sale last year. After she read how nervous I was about surviving the summer she kindly invited us over to her place for a play date. Z had already left for his trip with the grandparents, but SJ and Ezie are the same ages as Lauren's children so it worked out perfectly! Aren't they adorable?

4. Chores

At this rate I don't know if I will ever do the long overdue blog post about our chore system, but for now I'll share a quick summery of how it works since it is a great boredom buster. I know a lot of people are against allowances and getting paid to do housework and I get that, but this is what we do to help teach skill sets that I think will be important later in life. Starting at age 5 (just Z for now) we have chores and we have responsibilities. A responsibility is making your bed, putting your dirty clothes in the bin, and cleaning up things you got out. For our purposes at this time, a chore is something like setting the table, putting everyones shoes in what we call the shoe cube, helping clean out the car, folding/sorting clothes etc.

We started using Dave Ramsey's financial peace junior kit almost 2 years ago (inconsistently at times) and I have been very happy with how it's worked out. Z does 3 chores a day at the going rate of about 25 cents each. We only do weekdays so ends up being about 4 dollars a week (IF he even earns that) and 1 dollar goes to offering. In other words we are not breaking the bank and it's often spent on things we would have ended up getting anyway like a book from the school book fair, a new app to play on a road trip, or his halloween costume. It's going to be different for everyone, but we can't afford to do much right now which is a valuable lesson in itself.

Here he is counting up money while learning about the value of each coin.

I really, REALLY hope I will expound on this topic more when I have a chance because I have had so many people inquire about it, but that's the gist of what we've been doing for our family so far.

5. Dress up

My kids love to dress up and we have a box full of costumes that I'll pull out for fun year round, but every July we have a special tradition of dressing up like a cow at Chic Fil A. Here are a couple pictures of my herd!

This was my 5th year to participate and one of my favorite parts was seeing my little niece wear the cow dress SJ wore 5 years ago on for her first cow day!

Every year I get more and more excited about this event!

6. Travel

Last Saturday we traveled by plane to Vermont. Well, actually, we took a plane from Cincinnati, then had a quick layover in Detroit, and then Albany New York as a final destination where we rented a car and finally ended up in good ol' VT. SJ gets excited about all aspects of travel from the moving sidewalk, to the indoor train, and the take off and landing of the plane ride. 

She's got her ticket in hand.
Buckled up and ready for take off! 

She loves pulling her suitcase around like all the other passengers on the jet bridge. So cute! 

Granted these photos were of the trip there. The trip back was not so pleasant, but we won't go into that. Believe it or not we are gearing up for a trip to Michigan next week. For that trip we'll be driving, and it's less than half the time that it would take for our normal trek to Texas so I'm not worried. It should be a really great time.