My Funny Valentine

Dear Grace,

I am just so distraught to hear about your dog. When I lived with you during those summers, she and I used to cuddle on the couch and watch movies. And when I ate Pop-Tarts I always fed her the unfrosted edges. I remember when you and Gordon first got her and she had that one floppy ear. She is the loveliest dog.

In other news, Abe and I are celebrating Valentine’s Day in our own weird, non-celebratory way. All day my students (who came to class laden with flowers and heart-shaped chocolates) were asking what Abe and I had planned for the holiday. I felt increasingly guilty when my answer was continually “Errrr . . . nothing?” My students were all shocked and dashed as they see Mr. Adams and myself as some sort of ideal-romantic-love beacon. So in order to assuage my own guilt at not planning some sentimental gift or date, I quickly made a card for my Valentine-hating husband. 

When Abe came to get me from work, he was waiting for me with a bouquet of pink roses and hydrangea. My favorite! We might not be the best at Valentine’s Day, but for us I think we did pretty good. Now we are watching Friends and eating sandwiches in the living room like we’re college roommates. It’s the best.

Although I am wishing I had some chocolates right about now . . .

Love Always,

Millie

 

P.S. If you need some card inspiration, I made a version of this one for Abe last year. Naturally, it was a big hit.   Image result for i love your butt let me touch it forever

Yellow Tulips

Dear Millie,

I happened upon the sweetest video.  You have to watch it. Must.  Right now.  Read the little description before it (especially if you don’t know what a golem is.  I didn’t!)

Gele Tulpen (“Yellow Tulips” in Dutch)

Love,

Grace

Hard Things

Dear Millie,

How’s everything?  I hope things are going well.

Our dog is getting old.  The average lifespan for a German Shepherd is 11-13 years, and in May, she’ll be at 13 years.  She’s getting frail.  She’s looking too skinny.  A neighbor stopped by and mentioned how skinny she was looking when she pet her, and I looked at a picture I have of her from the fall and the difference is startling.  I hadn’t realized.  Her bark is still robust, but her eyesight and hearing are going.  Just last week, she barked at the front door to come in and she sat outside right in front of the full-length window.  I opened the door and she just sat there, waiting and watching.  I said her name, and she didn’t budge.  I yelled her name, and she looked up and realized the door was open and came on inside.

She walks with her back arched, and has a difficult time getting up and down the stairs.  Sometimes, I think without realizing it, she walks on the tops of her paws when coming down the stairs.  Yesterday, she ended up coming down sideways.  It seems like she just can’t get both ends coordinated.

I am terribly distressed about this.  On the one hand, it seems this is just the natural progression of things.  On the other, we had her for two years before we had children, so in a way, she was our first.

I need to make an appointment with the vet for her, but I can’t do it.  I’m going to have to make Gordon go, but I’m worried about the outcome.  What if they tell him she’s suffering and then she doesn’t get to…come home?

What if they find something wrong but treatable and the treatment is costly?  How much is too costly, knowing she likely doesn’t have much time left?  But what if it’s costly and it does buy her some healthy, quality time?

I went to visit a friend the other day whose dad had just passed away.  We both cried.  Then we didn’t talk about her dad as much as we talked about cheap beach houses in North Carolina, peanut butter fudge, and her dogs who were so happy to get extra attention.  I couldn’t get over how BIG they were compared to how our dog looks–so small and frail.  During the course of our visit, she mentioned that one of them had been so sick last year and she thought it’d be the end.  He’d lost a lot of weight and wasn’t nearly as responsive as he’d been in his younger years.  They had to carry him up the stairs like a baby.  They did take him to the vet, fearing the worst, and found out he had two tick-borne illnesses.  They treated him and he’s perfectly fine!  THAT’S the kind of story I need.

I knew when we got her that eventually we wouldn’t have her.  I hate that she’s slipping away and I can’t bear letting her go.  I just hate the hard things.

Grace

Bats in the Belfry

Dear Millie,

I’ve never liked our fireplace.  From the realtor pictures and even the video tour, I didn’t really take any notice, except that the chimney impressively swept from floor to vaulted second story ceiling.  When we walked into the house to tour it for the first time, however, it was nearly a deal-breaker for me.  It’s visible from the front door, and with the plaster around it crumbling, the ghastly brass trim everywhere…it just looked dumpy.  Unfortunately, fixes for that sort of thing takes know-how and/or money, neither of which we have in excess.

The first winter we lived here, we decided to try out the fireplace for some ambience.  Gordon cleaned out the ashes (including, sadly, a dead little bird) and built a lovely fire.  Being desert-dwellers, neither of us knew whether we needed to have the chimney cleaned (I still don’t know), so we’ve only built a couple of fires in there.  Thank goodness for central heating, I say!

During the summer, Gordon and I were up after the children had all gone to bed.  We were watching Netflix on the sofa directly across from the fireplace, when we heard weird screeching sounds coming from the inside of the chimney.  Bats??  Blast!

We immediately turned to the internet and things quickly felt very dark and desperate indeed.

Over the next few nights, we kept hearing the screeching sound after the kids were all in bed.  We filled out an online request to have someone come take a peek and do some bat removal and also clean our chimney.  Now that I’m telling you about this, I realize we never did hear back from anyone about it.  Huh.

A few days later, we were outside at dusk when Gordon noticed birds flying around the top of our chimney.  I couldn’t hear them, but according to him, they made the same screeching sound we’d heard.  Yay for not being bats!

But, that also meant the top of our ginormous chimney was not capped and that anything could (and did) just come right on down the chimney.  The kids didn’t seem bothered (easier access for Santa and bigger toys!), but I didn’t like the idea that we had a family of birds nesting inside our chimney.

Meanwhile, the brick along the outside porch and walkway had been crumbling.  Gordon also wanted to see about putting egress windows in the basement and getting a quote for finishing it all up down there.  We lucked out finding a great contractor and we got quotes for all sorts of things.  I think we’ll be seeing him often through the years.  The brick out front is repaired and now we’ve moved on to the business of chimneys and fireplaces.

I didn’t even know there was such a thing, but I’m practically giddy about getting a fireplace with a remote!  We’re having it converted to gas, and I hope that’s a good thing because I wouldn’t know either way.  I’m glad to know we won’t be starting fires in our chimney and that all the bats (or birds) in our belfry will soon be evicted.

Well.  Maybe.

Yesterday after church, a couple stopped to talk with me.  Their adult daughter is Vanessa’s teacher in primary.  The parent couple have Kyle in their class.  They were joking about his unflappable character and then the mom said that Vanessa’s teacher said Vanessa is…”interesting.”  I laughed and she continued that her daughter has concerns about her, but was worried about approaching me about them.  Apparently, Vanessa often talks to characters who aren’t there.  I burst out laughing!  They were a little startled by my response, but I told them there was nothing to worry about.  When I got home, I asked Vanessa if she talks to invisible people at church.  She acted like she had no idea what I was talking about.  Then when Gordon and I were sitting with her, she started turning her head to the side and saying, “Shut it, Ferb!” And, “Not now, Plankton!”  We laughed so hard!

Instead of people realizing she’s trying to get attention, they’re convinced she’s got bees in her bonnet, bats in her belfry, and knots in her noodle!*

Hope you are the same.

Love,

Grace

*(Thank you to The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater for this lovely combination of crazy-talk.)

Lucy Gets Hungry

Dear Millie,

Happy Friday!

Lucy gets hungry.  She’s a resourceful girl, so she doesn’t trouble us about it too much.  Examples:

  • Today, I bought a giant bag of chocolate chips from Sam’s Club.  I had gone back into the garage to put stuff in the deep freeze, and when I came back in, she had melted chocolate on her face.  

Girlfriend ditched her pretzel, got herself a stool and a pair of scissors and helped herself to chocolate.  It took a few tries, but when a girl needs chocolate, don’t be thinking she’ll just give up.

  • Around Thanksgiving time, Gordon was downstairs passing through the kitchen.  Lucy had come down and went over to Grandma McAllister’s china cabinet.  She opened up one of the side doors, pulled out a cookie, shut the door and left.  Secret stash?
  • I came downstairs one morning and the fridge doors were both open and the bottom drawer was pulled out.  I asked aloud who had left it open and Lucy came sauntering around the corner eating a slice of bologna and said, “What?”  She’s two.
  • I’d made cookies for a missionary zone conference and while I was putting more dough on the pan, Lucy was helping herself to a couple off the cooling rack.
  • On Christmas Eve, Lucy came downstairs wearing a small backpack.  When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she opened it up and dumped out peanut M&Ms and a pair of scissors!  I figured Gordon had given her the candy since it was his, and that the kids had left the scissors out.  Nope.  She’d scaled the wire shelves in our closet to get the M&Ms on the top shelf.  She’d pushed a stool to the dryer and climbed on top to open the cupboard where we *safely* store the scissors.
  • A couple of weeks ago, Gordon and I were talking in the kitchen after church.  Lucy wandered in, opened her favorite side door on the china cabinet, and pulled out an old, discolored and shriveled something-or-other.  I honestly didn’t know what it was, but upon closer inspection (thankfully before she took a bite), I realized it was a slice of bologna.
  • Lucy doesn’t just take care of her own needs.  She cares deeply about her dolls and stuffed bunny family and Star Wars action figures.  There was a lot of leftover jello and chocolate milk after the Community Supper, so I brought some home for the kids.  I’m a bad Mormon and the kids rarely get jello (though now that they’ve discovered it, it’s a common request.  Maybe I should learn how to make it?).  Anyway, I found Lucy feeding her doll orange jello.  Very sweet.  I  also noticed one of her dolls was covered in chocolate milk.  I said that Lucy must’ve been trying to give her a drink, and Vanessa, while practicing her ballet “ultimate spins” in the living room said, “No, she’s giving her a bath!”  Sure enough, Lucy had one of her dolls sitting in a cup of chocolate milk.

Gordon is home!  He flew home Sunday and I’m so glad he’s back.  There were protests at the airport (LAX) and Delta’s system had shut down which resulted in lots of canceled flights and everything being done manually, so we were very fortunate his flights worked out and he made it home.  Late, but home.

It was after 10 and I had all the kids with me since my flight tracker had said everything was on time.  The kids were all tired and Truman was going nuts in the backseat.  He and Lucy are the most wild when they’re tired, everyone was antsy.  It was getting ridiculous back there and when I knew Gordon was picking up his bag, I turned and told the kids, “Hey, let’s all put on smiling faces and act excited when Dad gets in the car.”  Vanessa said, “Or, we could just yell, ‘Surprise!'”  Excited as we were to have him home, that was about all we could muster.

When we got home, we tucked everyone in and went to hit the hay.  We found that Han Solo would be joining us: Lucy even gave him a little pillow in there.

Ack!  Lucy just came upstairs from her nap (already??  She usually sleeps another hour!) and is covered in chocolate.  Where on earth…?  I can never find chocolate when I need it.  Anyway, I’m off to find the source!

Love,

Grace

The Best Part of Paul

Dear Millie,

What’s new?  It’s been a crazy few days here.  By the way, did you get an Instant Pot?  If not, I’m recommending you do!  I decided to invite a few people over so that we would have to clean up (see previous post about neglecting things).  As predicted, it was stressful and not fun for the preparing part, but it was great when it all came together!  Partly because I made a pot roast in the Instant Pot (an hour and a half!  HA!) and also your amazing rolls that make me look like a rockstar.

I made some good cookies as well, but I’ve been meaning to share the recipe for these other ones: Almond Joy Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I halved the recipe because it’s dangerous to have good cookies around.  I had about half dark and half semisweet chips and they turned out great.  Love!  Almond Joys always remind me of Pops.  I’ll have to make these for him the next time I see him.

Don’t forget that it’s Groundhog Day tomorrow!  I’m going to make biscuits and sausage (ground hog, right?) gravy for breakfast before sunrise.  I don’t know if I appreciate that tradition nearly as much now that I’M the mom and have to get up early to make the food, but it’s still fun.  Hoping for an early spring!

I was going through the boys’ backpacks recently and look at this gem from Paul:

Ha ha!  I love it.  “Inmagine.”  So great.

I’d better get to bed early tonight.  It’s an early morning tomorrow!

Love,

Grace

 

Chocolate Cake Day

Dear Millie,

I neglect everything.  I don’t know what it is you think I’m doing, but whatever it is you think I’m doing is probably not the thing I AM doing (which means I should be doing something else)!

I don’t think I’d say we’ve been living in absolute squalor, but the piles just keep piling (laundry, papers, things needing to be put away/filed/etc.–all of which take time and attention).  I need to host a party or something (my go-to method for stress cleaning), but I don’t think a party would undo the prepping-for-the-party-madness my children would be put through.

I also keep thinking that as the children get older, it will get easier since they will be more helpful.  And they ARE, but Lucy seems to be two steps ahead of us in both speed and mess-making capabilities compared to our cleaning abilities.

Eh.  The stuff will always be there, begging my attention.  I won’t say that it doesn’t bother me (because IT DOES).  I don’t like that I always feel like we’re in emergency mode (last night, the children informed me that it was Pajama Day at school and Paul wanted a particular set of pajamas that needed to be washed.  There were plenty of other clothes I was able to wash with them, so yay!  But again, if I’d been sticking to my Laundry Plan, they’d have already been washed and it wouldn’t be an emergency late-night laundering situation).  But, the stuff can and will wait and it’ll have its turn at some point.

Sometimes, a good meal is just what we all need.  We eat drive thru dollar menu meals more than we should, especially considering how much I do enjoy cooking.  It’s the time that kills me.  Anyway, I have a couple of things to share with you that may help!

First, stir fry.  I have a love/hate relationship with stir fry.  I used to crave it and we ate it a LOT.  Fajitas too.  I think I burned us out on them for awhile.  Gordon especially is not a fan of stir fry and really, he never has been.  Recently…ish (October!  Ha!), I saw this recipe for 20-Minute Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry and thought I’d give it a try, because I had all the stuff and it sounded good to me (sorry Gordon!).  We all loved it!  Gordon said we should have it again and Kyle, who hates rice, ate it all up.  Yay!  The recipe says 20 minutes, so that’s awesome, except it took me way longer to slice veggies and chicken and all that.  You could probably buy everything already prepped (and do steak if Abe prefers!), but it still was ready in under an hour.  Try it!

And because emergencies demand chocolate (and because today is Chocolate Cake Day), I give you this:

Emergency Chocolate Cupcakes for Two

(or for one, because emergencies)

Negligence At Its Finest

Dear Grace,

How in the world do you do all that you do? It feels like I am constantly rushing to get things done; rushing through planning and grading, rushing to school, rushing to scouts, to church, to dance practice, etc. Due to aforementioned rushing, I have decided to compile a list of everything I have been neglecting lately just so you know my letters to you have not been the only things on the back-burner.

  1. The Food
    • I have never been the sort of person who could consciously or subconsciously skip meals. In fact, most of my thought processes seem to revolve around what I am planning to eat next. But if I am being completely, totally, unabashedly honest, I haven’t made Abe a home-cooked meal for a week. Mumsie would be shocked and dashed. I just can’t seem to pull myself together at the end of my long days to cook anything, so Abe will sweetly give in and order pizza or fetch breakfast burritos or let me heat up frozen corn dogs. My skin and wasitline are certainly paying for it.
  2. The Dishes
    • Despite the fact that we have not been eating real food lately, there is still a mountain of dishes to be done. How does that even happen?
  3. The Laundry
    • I might get the laundry into the washer and eventually into the dryer, but it has been sitting in mountainous piles in baskets waiting to be folded. When it comes down to it, I probably will just rewash everything because it is all a sad, wrinkled heap by now.
  4. The Exercise
    • Besides teaching my dance classes, I cannot think of the last time I purposefully exercised.
  5. The Hair & Makeup
    • Five out of five hairdos this week have been messy buns. Emphasis on messy. Abe’s teenage cousin has taken to calling my hair The Tumbleweave due to its sad resemblance in both color and texture to our beloved desert plant. I also ran out of face makeup about a month ago and have not made the time to go out and buy more. Given the fact that our diet of grease has been doing a number on my skin, I don’t look much better than the acne-infested students I teach.
  6. The Cleaning
    • Where does one even find the time to clean the bathrooms anyway?
  7. The Patience
    • I think Vanessa may have picked up her habit of eye-rolling from me because it feels like I have been doing this a lot. Or maybe I picked it up from her? I find myself rolling my eyes at my students, the teenage girl drama of my dance team, my scouts, even sometimes at Abe (Heaven forbid!). Most recently I found myself losing patience at a Cub Scout pack meeting. One of the leaders decided we needed to do a group cheer of sorts at the beginning of each meeting. The eight-year-olds started off with a steady beat befitting their age and abilities, the nine-year-olds added a beat slightly more complex, and then the ten-year-olds added theirs. I was actually slightly impressed and for a brief moment thought it was a good thing for the boys until the leader who started it all cried out, “And now I’ll add a cha-cha of my own!” She started flapping her arms about wildly, slapping her body in an inconceivable pattern, and stomping carelessly about the gym not caring for the steady beat set by the young boys. It was clearly an attempt at an impromptu Stomp performance, but we all sat there awkwardly patting our legs while she flailed about, literally to the beat of her own drum. I was so bewildered I couldn’t even roll my eyes, and I certainly neglected masking my impatience that night.

What this all boils down to is negligence. Not purposeful negligence, but negligence nevertheless. So I repeat: How do you have time for it all? Sometimes the thought of adding one more thing to my schedule actually brings me to tears. I keep reflecting on it all and asking, “How can I possibly think about adding a baby to this mess? How can I even think about adding more classes, more involvement, more reading, more cooking, or more anything?” I have always known life as an adult would be busy, but my word, does it never end? I surely can’t go on neglecting things forever.

Love always,

Millie

P.S. Tell the kids we miss them and talk about them all the time. I hope we can come visit you at least sometime this year! We will try our best not to neglect that.

Eggs-traordinary

Dear Millie,

I made scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Three eggs in, I knew it’d be a great day:

Hope your day is happy!

Love,

Grace

PS I asked Vanessa what I should title this, and she came up with that!

National Peanut Butter Day and Some Big Hair (and Also, a Book!)

Dear Millie,

How’s everything?  Back in the swing of things at school?  How’s Abe’s leg?

Before I get to anything newsy, Vanessa said to tell you she loves you, and the snow is nearly all melted off the trampoline.  Time to schedule a visit!

I don’t have very much newsy stuff, just tidbits.

*I had some neighbor kids over for breakfast because their mom had to be somewhere early this morning.  The mom told me when she asked if I could help out that they were super excited about pancakes, so of course I made pancakes!  The younger one happened to be in the kitchen as I was cracking eggs into the batter.  “Wait a minute.  Are these egg pancakes?  I don’t like egg pancakes.”  I tried convincing him that all pancakes have eggs.  He wouldn’t believe me!  I told him the pancakes he had here last time (and that he requested for dinner tonight) have eggs.  He replied that he didn’t like those after all and just wanted ones with chocolate chips.  Me too.

*The boys were having a rough time falling asleep last night, so in the end, I turned on a relaxation app.  When Kyle was younger, he often requested that app at bedtime.  I was snickering to myself last night remembering that he often set it to the “quit smoking” customization.

*Today is National Peanut Butter Day!  I think I need to make some of your peanut butter cookies!  A food blogger said once you’ve made a recipe six times, it’s yours.  I don’t know how the other food bloggers of the world feel about that.  You shared the recipe with me though, so I say they’re yours!

*Did you see this?  Big hair from the 80’s: 

Here’s a link to a collection of other fun 80’s ‘dos!  I can smell Aqua Net just looking at the pictures!

*Any tips for how to deal with passive aggressive people?  I have the unfortunate responsibility of doing so, and I’m just not sure how to.

*The boys and I finished reading the most delightful book!  It was a little slow getting into it, but the boys had me reading chapter after chapter by the middle (overshooting bedtime cutoff several times and nearly missing the bus a couple of times the next mornings–we all wanted to keep reading!) and then we read probably the last six chapters in one sitting.  Horus and the Curse of Everlasting Regret.

If Kyle hadn’t already gotten it on New Years Day, I’d tell you that the best auntie would buy it for her favorite nieces and nephews.  You’ll have to get it for yourself (and also maybe for your runner-up favorite nieces and nephews).

*Since we’ve finished that book, we’re on to Book 4 of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  We’ve watched the new Netflix episodes each of the last two Friday nights.  Fun!  Neil Patrick Harris is a good Count Olaf and the boys can’t get enough of Sunny’s comments.

*We should have a page where I list all the books the kids and I (or Gordon) have read together and you can make suggestions for what to read next.  I don’t think you’ve ever led me astray!

*I made sweet and sour chicken Sunday afternoon.  I do love that recipe!  The kids do too.  It takes a bit of time (longer than 30 minutes), but it’s really easy and is so good!  The first time I made it, the strong vinegar smell while it was baking had me worried.  Don’t fret!  It bakes off and the result is fantastic.

I’d best be off!  I hope you have a marvelous, peanut-buttery day!

With love,

Grace