Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

I have to admit that Christmas snuck up on me this year. We've been so consumed with renovating the new house, work, school, scouts, etc etc that I didn't see it coming. I've felt guilty that our kids have not had much of a Christmas season. I was hoping to be moved into the new house by Christmas (didn't quite happen), and so I didn't want to put up the tree at our old house. We finally put up our tree on 12/22. We put it in the new house, after we finished grouting. Here are the little kids decorating the tree.

We did try to make the house look as festive as possible- we hung up the stockings at the new house (only to rush to the house at 10pm on Christmas Eve to retrieve them so that Santa could fill them while we slept).
(yes, that's trim being painted in the foreground)
I did make peanut butter fudge, as well as a batch of traditional fudge, and we brought it to the neighbors in our new neighborhood- we thought it was a nice excuse to try and meet all of our new neighbors. I am very optimistic that we'll really like it there.

Alas, Christmas doesn't wait for distracted moms and dads, and Christmas Eve was upon us. I thought I was being SO SMART. I put all of the kids' Christmas presents at my office. That way, I didn't have to worry about any potential moves, forgetting where I hid things, or kids stumbling/snooping upon their gifts. A couple of days ago, I bought K a beautiful Christmas Cactus (hey, it was on her list, along with cactus potting soil. I buy off their wish lists!) My office doesn't have any windows, so I left the cactus out in the conference room, along with a jasmine plant that Santa was going to bring me.

The present I was most excited about was a REAL LIVE crested gecko for Z. I had made arrangements to pick it up on Christmas Eve. I'd contacted the seller online, and was a little worried she'd flake on me, but she came through with flying colors. We got a beautiful baby gecko, as well as a good sized enclosure that will last for several months.

So, after we picked up the gecko, we had our traditional Christmas Eve party at my parents' house. It was really fun. We got home, and got the kids into bed. I then drove to my office to pick up the presents. Everything was how I'd left it, except for K's cactus and my jasmine plant. The paper bag I'd brought them in was there, but the plants were gone. I searched the office high and low, but NOTHING. I'm not going to lie. I kind of lost my temper and said a lot of very bad words. I texted my broker/friend, very diplomatically, and asked her if she knew where my plants were, and explained they were Christmas gifts. It was nearly 11pm though, so I didn't expect an answer back.

I came home, swearing like a sailor. I decided that we were getting the kids NOTHING (because that means I wouldn't have to wrap anything), and that Santa was giving ALLLLL the gifts this year. J talked me down a little, and we set everything out.

K, S and J and my stockings
(yes, K asked for cactus potting soil)
M & Z's stuff

I had trouble sleeping. I was genuinely disturbed that my presents had been stolen. I like, respect, and trust all of my coworkers, so the idea that they disappeared was distressing. I felt sure that it was an honest mistake, but I was pretty full of rage.  Sometime in the night, my broker/friend texted me back. Another agent had told her there was a bunch of gifts for her in the conference room, and she should come get them. Evidently, she'd thought the plants were part of that. She had been so excited about them that she'd taken pictures of them before she took them home. She was absolutely mortified that she'd taken something that hadn't belonged to her and was really upset. Upon hearing what had happened, my rage instantly evaporated, and it became hilarious. My broker and I immediately started calling it The Plant Heist of 2014.

After he woke up, Z came in to show us his super cool lizard feet slippers, and told us how much he loved them. A little surprised that THAT was what he wanted to talk about, I asked him what his favorite gift was. It was an enthusiastic "Slippers!!!"

"Really? The slippers were your very favorite gift?!"

"Yep, they're really neat, and they keep my feet nice and warm."

"Uh, Z, what else did you get for Christmas?"

Turns out that he thought that the lizard was JUST the cage. The gecko is awfully tiny (2 grams, if memory serves, and only a couple inches long), so he didn't see him in there. I asked him to bring the "lizard cage" into his bedroom, and I pointed out the gecko. He is such a sweet kid, and was perfectly enthusiastic with just the cage, knowing that someday, he'd get something to go in it. When he realized he actually had a gecko, he was so excited. It was definitely the best gift given this year. I tend to have a gift I'm most excited about, and this one was DEFINITELY it.
 All in all, this was a wonderful Christmas. We received wonderful gifts. While I didn't give it the normal attention, I hope I gave good gifts.

I go to bed tonight feeling incredibly loved, and loving the family and friends I'm surrounded by.

Love you guys!

Monday, October 27, 2014

ADD Home Improvement

It feels like I have been suffering from ADD (attention deficit disorder) when it comes to fixing up our new house.  I am leaving half started projects all over the place.

The first weekend we had possession, I started by trying to remove the wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom. It was an awful plaid, and an affront to the senses. I couldn't remove any flooring or start with my kitchen plans until after the appraiser came back to the house and verified there was carpet everywhere and that we had kitchen appliances.

J wanted to have a couple functioning toilets and sinks. He discovered that the upstairs toilet was grouted to the floor and wasn't properly installed. Hmmm. Interesting. When he pulled it up to put a new wax ring in place, he discovered previous owners had installed the tile right on top of the vinyl flooring. For you beginners out there, this is NOT the right way to install tile. So, we knew we had to pull it up. He abandoned the plumbing so that he could pull up the tile so that he could properly install the toilet. At that point, we made the awesome discovery that there was mold on the floor around the toilet, due to improper tile installation. So, we cut out the subfloor in that spot so that we could replace it with non-moldy flooring. Well, since there's now a big hole in the floor in that bathroom, no toilet, and I quit with the wallpaper removal because I was convinced I would trip and fall in the hole.

We finished the flooring assignment and then J left on his business trip, leaving me with a shockingly little amount of supervision on home improvement.

I decided to begin by tearing out all of the flooring. The upstairs bedrooms and hall were gross but uneventful. Then came the tile floor on the main level. This turned out to be really messy and time consuming. Plus, we needed a trailer to put the broken tile bits in (as well as the carpet), and my father in law's trailer was not available. I decided to jettison this idea, figuring when J got back, he could do it quicker, and the trailer would be available, so cleanup would be possible. Then I decided to move on to stripping the rails and spindles so that I could refinish them. This was not going well. The stripper I bought wasn't as effective as envisioned, and it was very frustrating.

After a couple days of this, I was re-reading all the tutorials on painting cabinets, and it occurred to me that the cabinets project is going to be a couple weeks. Maybe I should get going on the cabinets, and strip the banisters while I waited for paint to dry?

So, I moved on to cabinets. I got all of the faces removed from the cabinets and put in the garage. Here I encountered another problem- there's an awful lot of carpet and pad in the garage, and an awful lot of cabinet faces. I also started envisioning the sprayer spraying paint. If I don't clean the garage up, I'm going to have little bits of carpet and pad permanently painted to my garage. I need to get that carpet out of there! But no trailer.

So I go back inside, and start scrubbing down the cabinet boxes so I can just paint those. Except, I realize that the tile floor is probably going to interfere with my painting. So, I need to get that tile out.

I swear, my life has become "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie"

Friday, October 17, 2014

Summer Catchup

I feel bad that I have been neglecting this blog. It's ironic that the busier I get, the more material I have to blog about, but I have less time to actually write it down.

The sad thing is, while this summer was really busy, there's not a lot to show for it. K got her driver's license, which is terrifying, but she's been a really good driver. She also got a job at Lagoon, which has been a lot of fun for her. She's working in their landscaping department, and has really loved learning how to work with plants. It was a lot of weekends though, which made camping difficult.

Further complicating our usual camping plans was my work. I love my work, and this summer was truly spectacular for me. I worked very hard and sold a lot of houses.

After Ragnar was over, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and FINALLY got a tattoo. It's on my foot. Each flower symbolizes the birth month of the people in my family. The sweet pea on the top is for April, which is for S, Z and me. The blue flower is a delphinium, which is July for K. The violet is February for J and M. I expected it to hurt a lot more than it actually did. Healing was the worst part- as tattoos start to heal, they itch. That itchiness drove me crazy! I found that if I put an ice pack on it, the itching wasn't nearly so bad.

We also bought a new car- a 2013 Mazda 3. We were able to pay cash for it, which was really exciting. We've paid cash for a car before, but that car was under 3k, so it wasn't nearly the accomplishment. We were going to sell the Honda Civic, but it turns out that my Expedition is so expensive with gas that it's cheaper for me to have the civic around for when I'm not hauling millions of kids.

M took summer school for math. So while he's still in 9th grade and attending the junior high, he goes to the high school for his math class, which is nice to give him a little extra challenge.

S finally got her two front teeth to start coming in, which has been really different.

Z is still obsessed with minecraft, legos, and more recently, Portal 2.

We also recently made a major life decision- we bought a new (to us) house on a whim. We've been toying with the idea of getting something bigger since, well, almost immediately after buying this one. We were waiting to pay off debt, and waiting for the timing to be right. I found a home that has been foreclosed on TWICE in the past two years. From the sound of it, it's had some rough times the past few years (meth test came up very mildly positive, but well below any state standards). While it's not significantly bigger than this one by square footage, the floorplan better utilizes the space. Plus, we'd have a garage again, a master bathroom, AND each of the kids would get their own room. However, it's in terrible shape. But, for the price we paid, we can make the repairs that it needs, then move in, then sell this house. Of course, we'll be trying to market it during the worst time of year for that. Oops! The new house will need all new flooring, new paint everywhere, some drywall repair, a couple windows replaced, new appliances, countertop and we need to add a window to K's room. Because it was kind of spontaneous, we bought it a week before J leaves for Europe for two weeks. He's been working so hard and stressing out trying to get as much done before he goes. I think he also feels bad that he's leaving for PARIS while I have to deal with the smelly house. As time goes on, I'll post some before/after pictures.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ragnar Wasatch Back 2014- It will be fun!

If you know me at all, you know that I do not like running. I also don't like waiting in lines, traffic, and not going to bed at a decent hour, all of which are critical parts of Ragnar. However, you also probably know that I'm a sucker for a good adventure, and I'll forget what I don't like if you offer up an amazing sounding adventure.

After I did the Tough Mudder in 2012, I swore I'd never run again. We won't mention the fact that since then, I have done 3 Dirty Dashes and 2 Undead Runs. So obviously, my vow never to run wasn't taken all that seriously.

Last December, Jim's Aunt Sue (one of my very favorite people on earth) suggested that we create a Ragnar team for Wasatch Back, and wanted us on it. I warned her that I am slower than slow, but she didn't mind. So, team "Ramblin Rem-Blinn-Knapp-Wicks" was born. Our team consisted of 1-Jason (Bruce's son), 2- Bev (Bruce's wife), 3-Tereasa (Jody's childhood BFF), 4- Bruce (Jim's uncle/Sue's brother), 5- Jody (Jim's sister), 6- Kevin (Jim's brother), 7- Nykki (Erik's wife), 8- Nora (Nels' sister), 9-Erik (Jim's brother), 10- Nels (Sue's wife), 11- Jim and 12- Me.

What is Ragnar, exactly? It's a relay race, in which a team of 12 people run a total of 200 miles over the course of 24-38 hours, depending on how fast they are. Wasatch Back is where it started, and most agree that it's the toughest, given the high elevation and very hilly course. Runner 12 has the shortest distance to cover, but two of the legs are trail courses, and there's a lot of hills.

I had seen the following video a year or two earlier, and sent it to the group after we signed up. It ended up becoming such a big joke that our theme became "It Will Be Fun!"

Everyone started training, and given that we're all OLD, we all had our injuries and issues getting ready, but we persevered. Kevin struggled especially with knee issues, and the day before the race started, acknowledged that he would have a really hard time running all three of his legs, and asked for us to try to find a substitute. I posted on Facebook, and my adventure-loving friend Kristy enthusiastically (naively?) agreed to it. She said she'd always wanted to do a Ragnar relay, but just had never had the opportunity. So, 13 hours before start time, she arranged time off work and was the latest member of our team.

The biggest emotional setback, at least for me, was the news Sue received a couple weeks before the race. She is a 4 year survivor of ovarian cancer, and she fought so hard to be called "cancer free". Because she is responsible, she was doing frequent health checks to make sure everything was still clear. Unfortunately, a couple weeks before she and Nels were scheduled to fly out here, she got bad news. It appears her cancer is back. Never one to take this lying down, she consulted with her oncologist and got a big dose of chemo a couple days before the scheduled flight, and was out here on time. Seriously, what an inspiration of an amazingly strong woman!

We had a big pow-wow the night before the race, and we were all given really amazing matching shirts that Sue had made for us. The back said that we were running for our Captain Sue, which made me a little teary. The party broke up early because van 1 had to be to the starting point early. Our start time was at 6:15am, so van 1 took off.

I know that all the real runner blogs would have a blow-by blow here of how each leg went, how fast they went, and lots of photos of scenery. But, I'm an adventure monger, not a runner. In my opinion, everyone was amazing and fast and strong. By the time Van 2 took over, we were a good half hour ahead of the spreadsheet's predicted time.

Van 2 took over, and again, everyone was remarkably fast. My first leg was a quick 2 mile trail run at Snow Basin, just before it started to get dark. It started at about 6400' above sea level and climbed 300 feet. I got more and more nervous as the day went on. Everyone on my team was so strong and so fast, and I was just convinced I was going to let everyone down. Even under the best of circumstances, I'm not fast. I'd done a test run of legs 12 and 36, and I knew it was trail run, and all of the rocks, bumps, roots, hills and plants were going to be challenging, and slowing me down. I hadn't anticipated being so anxious about the whole "letting my team down" that it would further impact my time. Unfortunately, it did. My time was slower than I'd anticipated, and I was disappointed. But, I did pass a couple people, so I knew I wasn't the very slowest runner out there.

After we handed off to van 1 again, we went to exchange 18 and tried to rest for a couple hours. It was very noisy, so I don't think anyone got much sleep. Around midnight, we were ready to go again. Kevin had decided to travel with our van. He ended up deciding to run that leg with Nykki as a pacer. I think it helped her time, and Kevin at least got to run one leg, which was a far cry from what he wanted, but better than nothing.

My second leg began around 7am. It was a 6.5 mile run starting at 6000' and ending at 6444'. While running, I had a deer run out very close in front of me, which was pretty amazing. I was still suffering from nerves, and now sleep deprivation, so again, my time was a bit slower than I'd hoped.

Saturday was another day of amazing feats by my teammates- running through pain and injuries and illness, but they just kept going. I think I'm most in awe over Jim and Erik. Erik ran more than 11 miles in the middle of the night, only to start up Guardsmans' Pass the next afternoon. Jim had "Ragnar Hill", which is a 4 mile run starting at 7200' and ending at 8900'. that's almost 1700' of climb. I don't even like doing that hill in my civic, let alone on foot!

My final leg wound up the hill/mountain just past Park City High School. While it started out at 2.8 miles, they decided to extend it to 3.6 miles. It started at 6700' and gained about 500'+ (and lost the same). From the finish line, you could see the Runner 12s winding up the mountain, looking like tiny ants. Doing this leg earned me the nickname of "Mountain Goat", which made me feel moderately better. I'd practiced the run a few days before and took this picture from the top. I wished I'd taken a picture during the race. That big empty field was full of racers and tents and was a beautiful, colorful sight. I was so worried about not letting my team down that I didn't stop, which I regret now.

If you DO want to see amazing photos from the race, click HERE.

I finally finished, and our team had our triumphant finish, complete with medals. Seeing that finish line, and seeing my team waiting for me so we could pass through it together was incredible. It was amazing, and I nearly wept with joy because I was DONE. The only thing that got me through the whole experience was I swore I would never, ever, ever run again. Ever. Except maybe another undead race. Or the Dirty Dash.

I changed our car so it said this, after we finished the festivities and limped back to the car to go home.

A couple days after the race, Nels points out that we can get a discount on Ragnar Wasatch Back 2015 if we register our team soon. 

Nels says it'll be fun.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We are a steer free family

In other words, Casanova and T-Bone went to freezer camp a few days ago.

I found it ironic- when we bought them, I said I was fine with all of the raising and caring for them, but when it came time for them to be "processed", I didn't want to be there. I was assured by many that I wouldn't need to be, that there were several people who WANTED to be there. I was even urged to schedule it on a Friday so that those with flextime schedules wouldn't have to take off work. When the time came, the only ones there aside from the guys I hired was the ever curious llamas and me.

Despite my tender heart and hippy, pacifist ways (I don't even kill spiders unless they're venomous!), I found the process very fascinating. A significant reason I agreed to raise beef for meat was because I felt it was important to be a conscientious consumer. I believe that we already were significantly more aware and careful than the average American, but this did bring it up a notch for me.

I was very impressed with how quickly, cleanly and efficiently the deed was done. The Butcher used a very old rifle. He shot them both within just a few seconds of each other. I don't think either of them even had time to form the thought that maybe this was not good when the trailer came back into the field. I could tell the trash cans on the side had a very interesting smell to the cows, as they kept sniffing them. While they were investigating that, it was lights out for both.

I won't go into details on the processing here, nor will I show photos. However, if you want to see the few I took, I'm happy to share. I just don't want to upset the sensitive.

I will say that I want the knives the Butchers used. It was amazing to watch how well they worked- they made the infomercial knives cutting through aluminum cans look like plastic sporks.

The other thing I will comment on is how skilled the Butchers were. It is obviously an art form to work so quickly so that the animals don't suffer. Then, to process it out so neatly, yet so fast. Despite myself, I was fascinated.

From our house, the Butcher took the sides to the meat cutting facility of my choice. There, they will hang for a couple weeks to age. Then, they will be cut, wrapped and frozen. I will come and pick them up, and we'll divide it amongst our other owners.

I was disappointed with the size of them. I haven't heard what the hanging weight was, but when it was all said and done, it seemed like a very, very small amount of meat. Butcher said that Casanova was the right size and fattiness for his age/breed, but T-Bone was small. We knew that though. I guess if I'd wanted more meat, I should've 1- bought an Angus, and 2- had it be mama fed for the first few months. Also, grass fed beef does tend to be leaner.

It occurred to me as I type this that I haven't had beef since they were taken to freezer camp 5 days ago. I don't eat a lot of beef, and I don't remember AVOIDING it, so I'm not sure if it's an accident or subconscious avoidance.

My emotions are complicated. It was hard to watch, and it was also a little sad. When I look over the field, and I still obsessively do, making sure they haven't escaped AGAIN, I'm 40% sad, and 60% relieved.

Scratch that, 80% relieved. I always had a mild-moderate amount of anxiety that the cows were going to escape, and cause trouble. Knowing that is never going to happen again (unless I get more cows) is a huge load off my mind.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Remembering a Mother

As you probably know, I am a Realtor. I think my favorite task as a Realtor is showing homes to buyers.

When getting a home ready to show, the traditional advice is to de-personalize the home so that others can imagine themselves in the house, as opposed to feeling like a guest in the home. I have a vivid imagination, so I often try to imagine the people who live(d) in the houses I'm showing. So, while de-personalizing to a certain degree is a good idea, if the home is absolutely occupied, but there's zero hints as to the people living there, it distracts me. I advise my clients that it's ok to have one or two photos on the wall, but that it shouldn't be an overwhelming presence. Just enough for them to see, "Oh, this family just gave birth to their third child. I bet that's why they're moving out of this two bedroom condo".

The other day, I was showing a vacant home. The house had wonderful potential, but was fairly dated. Vacant homes don't drive my imagination crazy like completely impersonal homes, so I just assumed it was an older couple was was scaling down, or possibly had died.

A man surprised us by popping up in the back greenhouse window, causing my client to nearly jump out of her skin. Once he recovered from his amusement, Dennis came in and gave us the tour. He was selling his parents' house. Dad had died 9 years earlier, and Mom had died this past September. As he gave us the tour, he told us about his mother. She seemed like such an amazing person that by the end of the tour, I simultaneously felt like I KNEW her, and mourned her loss, and the fact that I hadn't known her.

In one drawer, she had every owner's manual to everything she'd ever owned. Each sealed in a plastic bag and neatly labeled in her leftie handwriting. There was everything from a circa 1970s range to a twist on faucet regulator.

The yard had been her crown jewel, and she had won yard of the year a few times. Lining the back of the house was a row of mature rose bushes. They were perfectly pruned back, save the last two. The second to last one was partially pruned, and the last one was a bit overgrown. Dennis told us that his mother had fallen while pruning the rose bushes. That fall had caused a lot more internal damage than she realized, and she'd died within a few days. 

He buried her with roses from the remaining, unpruned bush, as well as her gardening gloves and shears. He felt she would've liked that.

He said the family couldn't bear to finish the rosebush job, so there it had stayed.

I'll admit I had noticed the perfectly groomed yard, and thought it was interesting that the rose bushes hadn't been completed. After hearing the story, I was nearly in tears, looking at those roses and knowing the significance and the story behind them.

It was a very interesting showing, and it was nice to remember the people that live in the homes I show.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Winter Hiking

In the past, I've always seen the coming of winter as the end of outdoor adventures outside of sledding until spring came. I still am refusing to run in the snow. A couple reasons: It sounds even WORSE than running in heat, the air quality is so bad that I think I'd be poisoning myself and lastly, I'm afraid of the trail not being groomed.

A couple weeks ago, J brought home some crampons. Stop giggling- they're not what you think. Crampons are those spiky things that you put on the bottom of your boots/shoes to keep you from slipping on the ice. He suggested we go on our favorite hike- to Adams Canyon. It was 12 degrees, and I'd donated blood the day before, so OF COURSE I said that I'd be happy to go.

It ended up being much funner and warmer than I anticipated. The views were spectacular, and quite different from the summer/fall views. I had trouble with my crampons though- they were a ladies' size 6-10, and it turns out they're closer to the 10 side than the 6 side.

Last weekend, J went to the outdoor retailer show, and he bought us higher quality crampons. Mine were sized ladies' 5-7, and this time, I had zero trouble with them. They were really handy.  The second hike, we went on the Malan's Basin trail. We didn't go all the way back to the basin- most people are stopping at the look at the view from Malan's Peak (I think that's what it's called, but I'm not sure). M came with us.


We signed S & Z up for Jr Jazz Basketball through our city's rec department. It's really a great deal- we pay around $50 per kid, and that includes playing games/practices twice a week for a couple months, a jersey (not fancy, but it's still a jersey!), and two tickets to a Jazz game. We bought a couple extra tickets to the basketball game (Jazz vs Chicago Bulls) so that we could go as a family. At the last second, we got an extra ticket, so we took our nephew along. The kids all had a blast, and the Jazz won, which was exciting.

The kids play their last games tonight. I think they're sad about it. They've had such a wonderful time, and have made pretty dramatic improvement. I don't think either of them are going to play professional ball, but they had a lot of fun, and that's what really matters. S really has great hustle, and she's truly a joy to watch. We've actually had other parents approach us and say how amazed they are at how quick and tenacious she is. It's really pretty amazing to watch because she is so much smaller than most of the other girls.

While Z has a good time, he tends to drift off into his own world, which can actually be more entertaining than watching truly excellent playing.

Recap of the end of 2013

It's ironic: The more that I have interesting things to blog about, the less time I have to ACTUALLY write about them.  At this point, I'm going to give up on actually telling everything that's happened the last couple months, and just to to recap. In addition, I'll add "blog more in 2014" to my resolution list.

Z became a Tiger Cub Scout. I think he's really enjoyed going to meetings. He got his Bobcat Award.

K went to homecoming with her boyfriend.

For Halloween, Z was a ghoul of some sort, S was a fairy (I sewed the costume, thank you very much!), M was Jack Frost (I attempted to do the frost design on his hoodie) and K fell back on her Super Girl costume. J and I dressed up as meth addicts.

I got my own office (admittedly, that happened at the tail end of 2012). 2013 was my best year yet. I hope that 2014 will be even better. I'm wanting to paint the walls, and make my office look like I actually have decorating taste.

In Dec., S participated in the third grade economics fair. She chose to make bath bombs, which were a hit!

We have said for a while that we wanted to move to a bigger home. A couple things had to happen first. First off, we had to pay off all debt other than our mortgage. We accomplished this goal this past summer, which was an incredible achievement for us. Secondly, the cows had to go to freezer camp.  Freezer camp day has been set: February 21. So now, we're starting to really focus on things we need to do to get the house ready for sale. One of the big things is to remove the remaining popcorn on the ceilings, and retexture the kitchen ceiling so that it matches the front room.

Z watching daddy scrape the popcorn. Yes, that is a witch hat

We also need to do some major de-cluttering, as well as some painting. I think we may need to replace the carpet in our room and S & Z's bedroom. The idea of getting a house that fits us sounds unbelievably wonderful.