Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

We're in the home stretch of our stay at Homewood Suites...closing on our new home is approaching, and honestly, we could not be more excited.  Yesterday we spent the entire day cooped up in our suite because Gavin stayed home from school with a fever.  It was around 4 pm when I finally realized I had yet to shower, and the suite was in a state of semi-disrepair, as Raegan the cyclone had hit with a force that only a toddler can possess.  Where was I during this onslaught of clothes-throwing, toy-tossing, bed-jumping destruction?  I was stuck in the magical world of Pinterest, trying to escape the enchanting lands of Home Decor and DIY/Crafts as I visualized and pinned about 147 different ideas for the house.  Inattentive mommy?  Sure.  But, no one was hurt, and clean-up evolved into a game where the kids earned puff balls to help fill up their reward jar.  In the end, the room was cleaned, I found an escape route from Pinterest, and once again order had been restored to the land.

You can tell that our time here has been met with a mix of feelings.  The kids are just as antsy as Randy and I to move in, however we are all recognizing some of the things that we really don't mind so much about this place.  And so, I've created two top tens...a pros and cons list, if you will, of things we'll miss and things we're okay with leaving behind as we prepare to move on, move out, and move in.

So, do you want the good, the bad, or the ugly first?  (Actually...there really isn't an 'ugly'...we don't have many complaints at all about living here--it was kind of a stretch for me to come up with a full 10 items.)  At any rate...let's start with the cons...

Top 10 Things We Won't Miss About Living in an Extended Stay:
10. Close living quarters.  I mean, like really close.  There's pretty much no escaping anyone here (human or dog), which makes it a challenge to find enough 'time out' spots when I need them.  The dogs definitely miss their larger, roomier crate (and we miss them sleeping elsewhere--pugs snore.  Terribly.)

9. Speaking of the dogs, I will not miss having to walk them everysingletime they have to do their business.  Call me spoiled, but I long for the days when I can simply open the back door and let them run free in our fenced-in back yard.  This is mostly because Mojo has the bladder the size of a fava bean, and refuses to go unless she has an audience in her furry sister, Biscuits.  She will stand and stare with her bugged-out eyes, cross her legs, and wait....and wait....and wait for Biscuits to accompany her outside for 'moral support'.  Meanwhile, Biscuits is a bit on the 'high maintenance' side, and also has a bladder that doubles as a camel hump.  She can hold it--for as long as necessary--until the dew-covered grass is dry (heaven forbid our paws get damp!), or until the temperature is what she considers 'just right' for her to squat and piddle.  Diva with a deviated septum.  
now, I love MaKayla Maroney and am definitely not saying she resembles a pug here...
...but Biscuits sure is trying to capture the 'look' she became known for during the Summer Olympics!

8. Limited television channels...and no guide to speak of.  Okay, this is totally a 'first-world problem', but seriously.  News stations and sports stations dominate the roughly 30 choices of television channels made available to us.  Yes, yes, I know.  We have HBO, which is a help...if it's a movie that is appropriate and/or interesting enough to help pass the time.  I know these kind of hotels are frequented by business people, and therefore stocks, news, and panel discussions are popular choices so they can be 'in the know'...but would it kill to add a little Bravo to the mix?  (Or even FX...I'm dying to know what's going on in Sons of Anarchy!!)

7. A lack of oven/super small kitchen.  Again...'first-world' problem (you'll start to see that many--if not all--of these are, so let me just pause for a moment to apologize for sounding terribly spoiled and ungrateful.  If you can't handle it, I'm sorry for you that you can't find humor in the fact that you're reading this post on the internet and that you can get access to pretty much any information you desire at a lightning fast speed.  If you prefer, I can send you this post via Pony Express since you'd be so willing to give up the luxury of your wireless).  

Anyhow...the kitchen.  I'm definitely not a gourmet chef, however I do know my way around a kitchen.  It's  great that they provide the items that they do, however when faced with needing to cook for a family of five...there's only so many one-pot meals I can handle.  And, the baker in me is craving some scones, cupcakes, or brownies from scratch.  Oh, how I miss having a fully functioning kitchen.

6. Since I mentioned the kitchen, let me mention the lack of convenience the amenities offer a family of 5.  Four of each fork, plate, bowl, etc. means we've got to do a little bit of improvisation when it comes to meals. 
Pasta in a coffee mug.  It's either this, or we eat in shifts.

5. Needing quarters (and an elevator) to do laundry (on the 4th floor--which we are not).  I can't tell you how many times I've banged my head on the stupid coin slots attached to the machines as I awkwardly maneuver damp clothes from the washer into the inefficiently placed dryer.  

the stash is running low...and even though they'll make change for me at the front desk,
who carries cash anymore?
4. Scratchy, single-ply toilet paper.  Enough said.

oh...Cottonelle, how I miss your fluffy softness
3. Pillows that are just 'too soft'.  I'm all for comfort, and love the look of a perfectly plump, fluffed, marshmallow-esque pillow.  But, when you lay on it, and it transforms into a deflated, lifeless board-like non-pillow...that's where I draw the line.  Sometimes, comfort has to trump aesthetics. (Mostly when sleep is involved.  Put a pair of 4-inch, pointed-toe stilettos within an arm's reach, and I turn into a weak-kneed pile of goo.  I love a sassy pair of shoes.)
fashion doesn't match function if you need a chiropractic adjustment after sleeping on these!

2. Having 'lazy days'.  We're going a bit stir crazy in this space since there's not much to do.
Reduced to playing with bubblewrap (courtesy of our breakfast hostess!).
The toothbrush isn't an oddity...Raegan loves playing with her toothbrush.
1. Not having a place to call 'home' (despite what our key card says).  It's funny, one the kids will ask me, "When is daddy coming 'home'?", and every time the other will interrupt with, "This isn't home."  We aren't quite sure what to call our current living situation.  In my eyes (and the eyes of many of my family and friends), 'home' is where your family is, so we are at 'home'.  

But man, we really can't wait to be settled in our house.  

I'd say we've made ourselves at 'home'...the disaster-area of a suite says so.

There...my list of things I won't miss.  I told you it was a bit of a stretch (see #5 and 8...and any others you'd like to add to the list).  I have been struggling with trying to be as positive as possible throughout this whole scenario, knowing that it could be much worse...and while I can honestly admit I wasn't 100% successful in my mission, I'd like to end this post with the positives.  The things I will miss...some of them a lot...in living at Homewood Suites.  

Top 10 Things We Will Miss About Living in an Extended Stay

10. Three words.  Texas. Shaped. Waffles.  I seriously have eaten one everysingleday I've been here.  What is it about the warm, fluffy waffles I can't resist?  Each day, I start with a different part of Texas as my first bite.  Gulf Coast, the chimney, the rugged terrain of the western part of the state...every bite is delicious.  The ding of the timer on the waffle iron, while exceptionally loud (especially in a pre-caffeinated state), brings a little bit of anticipation as I pile on blueberries and sliced strawberries.

Sure, I can buy a Texas-shaped waffle iron.  I've seen them in a few places...but will it be the same?  Will I even have time to sit down and enjoy my creation as I do here each morning?  Most importantly, can my waistline (and collection of Miss Me jeans) handle the daily dose of unnecessary carbs??  Ahh...I'll miss this little luxury.

9. On a 'food note'...it's been kind of nice having a full breakfast buffet provided daily, in addition to dinner prepared Monday through Thursday.  Even though I love cooking (just not in a small kitchen, read: #4 above), it is nice to have a little hiatus from this task before jumping in feet first into stay-at-home mom who will be preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner as a part of my 'daily job description'.  This little 'extra' has made it that thatmuchnicer being here for the past several weeks.

Give us this day, your daily bread...

8. As if breakfast and dinner weren't enough...the liquid perk of both of these meals comes in the form of the 'vat o coffee' and bottomless wine & beer (sadly, the latter is only a dinner option! ;)

There's something to be said for a cup of coffee that someone else has brewed.  Or a bottle of wine that I don't have to pay for (although, Randy has pointed out that inadvertently, we do pay for the wine & beer...and at a premium.  To which I counter that his company has provided us with relocation costs, so in fact, we haven't. Boom.  Even tastier.)

7. Perfect (and practically endless) ice cubes.  Call me weird, but I have a strange affinity for ice.  I craved it with all three pregnancies.  When I go through Sonic drive-thru, I always order a strawberry limeade and an additional cup of ice.  I believe that Which Wich has some of the best ice around...and am so happy to discover the chain sub shop exists in the Houston area.

So, when I find great ice...I'm in my own small sliver of first-world heaven.  I am eager to find out what the ice is like from our new dispenser on the fridge.  I'd hate to have to come back here just to stock up on the cold cubes.

6. Another love...hot showers.  Turn-my-skin-a-bright-shade-of-pink kind of hot.  Melt-the-makeup-off-my-face hot.  And not just showers...handwashing just feels cleaner with really hot water.  Dishes and silverware washed in really hot water make me feel better about my housekeeping duties in the kitchen.  

It's not like we didn't have hot water in Colorado...we did.  And, I know we'll have hot water in our new house.  But the water here is some kind of special.  I feel like I'm entering a relaxing sauna when I shower, and the makeup cowers at the temperature as I splash my face each night after exfoliating.  It's my own way to make this place feel more like a 'vacation' than actual real-life living.

5. Housekeeping.  Amen.

Who doesn't love little bottles of shampoos and lotions, fancy folded towels,
and a perfectly made bed with a fresh duvet and perfectly plump pillows
(that is, until you lay on them...read # 8 above)

4.  When we moved down here, we had 5 of us, 2 dogs, and about a month or so worth of clothing for each of us.  Add in toiletries, our important documents in our fire safe, a large plastic tote filled with aerosol spray cans (a no-no  for the professional movers), and other odds and ends...it was a lot.  And it didn't leave a lot of space for toys.  The lack of toys has been somewhat of a mixed blessing.  The kids have learned to be satisfied with less (and the angels rejoice), and they're needing to be more creative and willing to share (again, the angels rejoice).  They miss their toys, but I don't necessarily miss the clutter.  The good news is, it's been so long since they've seen them...they'll all be like brand new.

These are the only toys (accompanied by library books)
that traveled to Texas in the Armada.  They're getting a little bored of the 'giraffe bag o fun',
but sometimes, in life, you just have to deal.
3.  Having lazy days.  Yeah, that was on the list above...but once we get into the house, we're going to be catapulted into a more 'normal' type of reality.  I'm sure we'll all miss the days where we don't have to clean a huge house, de-clutter the overflow of toys, and prepare meals.  Yeah, we'll have them again, but for the first few weeks until we get things organized, we'll be busy.  

And then I'll want to start the little projects I've pinned on Pinterest.

2.  Watching the kids cuddle in the same bed.  They'll hate me later in life for taking so many pictures (and posting)...but how can you resist.  I know when my brothers and I were growing up, we'd have 'sleep overs' on a huge 'mom-made' bed of comforters and blankets and sleeping bags.  Those nights, where we'd stay up giggling and tossing around Jason's beloved 'Jammie Pies' until my mom would come in, bleary-eyed, begging us to sleep so she could get up early for work...those are some of my favorite memories from my childhood.

sibling love.  a bond that won't break.
sweet Jammie Pies...my baby brother's version of Gavin's Eeyore

1.  And...the thing I'll miss most about living here...the close quarters.  Again, it's another repeat from my list above, but there's a hidden blessing in being forced to restructure a lifestyle to which we had become accustomed and co-exist in a couple hundred square feet for a few weeks.  Soon, we'll be in 4,000 square feet of space...spread out among five bedrooms (well, four and a guest room), along with a great room, media room, loft space, office, and kitchen.  Will we have nights where we are all squished on a couch or bed watching a movie?  Sure!  Will we have times when we all need 'our own' space?  Absolutely!  But we'll  always have these few weeks where there was no option but to be squished onto a king-sized bed watching Mr. Popper's Penguins, or when we couldn't have our 'own space'--even in the bathroom.  We'll treasure this time...somewhere down the line...and realize that it did not in fact kill us (like some of us joked it may), but it did in fact make us stronger.  

And to survive in this world...there's nothing more comforting than a strong family.

Nothing says 'close quarters' like dinner for five around a coffee table.
Cherished family time.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

families are like Jell-o

Today is Thanksgiving.  It doesn't quite feel 'Thanksgivingy' to me, however.  The aromas of turkey roasting in the oven, sauteing vegetables for my beloved stuffing, and pumpkin pies are non-existent.  I'm not busying myself in the kitchen with preparing holiday deliciousness.  Instead, my stinky dogs sit at my feet and I'm watching my husband and kids build Legos while watching Friends.  I'm not complaining, however.  Just making a general observation about how this holiday is different compared to what I'm familiar with.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  No gifts, no candy (minus the pecan pie which I easily consider an equivalent to Kit-Kats, 3 Musketeers, or Caramello).  Just family and friends surrounded by what I consider the most delicious meal of the year, spending time with each other, sharing stories and laughter, making memories (that you can share at next year's Thanksgiving!), and kicking off the Christmas holiday season.

Technically, our 'typical' Thanksgiving doesn't even really involve the aromas and kitchen preparatory I kicked off this post with.  For the past 7 years we lived in Colorado, and spent the majority of our holidays with our dear friends.  I had the good fortune of working with Sue during my first year in Colorado, and we quickly became close friends.  Over the years, our families integrated and we became blended in our own 'very Brady way'.

Sue and her family are from the Mid West.  'Sconsin to be more specific.  Becoming friends with them has given us the opportunity to learn some of the idiosyncrasies of the region.  One of the 'things' about meals in the midwest (according to my friend) is that Jell-o is pretty commonplace.  Every time we'd share a meal with Sue and her family, there would be at least one variety of a Jell-o mold or salad.

For our family, Jell-o never became a staple on our dinner table.  Jell-o was something we had 'every now and then', as a dessert or a snack.  Sometimes, we'd have Jell-o jigglers, which were always a fun treat, and a great food for the kids' birthday parties because I could make it into any shape to match the theme.  But having Jell-o salad or a fancy shaped mold?  Not unless we were at a picnic or pot-luck banquet.  Yet now, I can't imagine a holiday without it.

Now, for the first time in 7 years, are spending a holiday with just the five of us.  My heart is full of happiness and gratitude for the blessings we have, yet there is a part of me that is sad, knowing that our holiday meal won't include the jilggly, fruit-flavored gelatin we've grown to know and love as part of our holiday fare.  To us, Jell-o represents more than just food.  It represents family.

Sue and her family have been for us, the family that we were blessed with at a time when we didn't have any other family around.  They've been there with us on holidays, helped us out when we were in a daycare bind (or in labor!), birthdays and 'just because' days, and opened their home to us for our last days in Colorado.  I can't help but think of how God put her family in our lives to remind us that family doesn't always have to be blood relation (among many other reasons!).

Family comes in all shapes, sizes, and flavors (just like Jell-o).

This year, we won't be enjoying Jell-o on our Thanksgiving table, and its absence will be greatly felt.  We are so, so thankful for Sue and her family...for the kind words she wrote to every one of us in the cards we received earlier this week in the mail...for the heartfelt and genuine advice and wealth of knowledge she shared with me when I was feeling a little sorry for myself...for the years of hugs and sweet, thoughtful, and personal gifts she has given our family (she knows us all so very well)...for the countless memories (including the exploding glass and mashed potatoes!)...for friendship and love...and for the Jell-o.

There's always room for Jell-o.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life as a Quasi- Stay at Home(wood Suites) Mom

I'm in a funk.  Limbo.  A holding pen, anxiously awaiting that 'next step' that I've been trying to wrap my brain around.

With a week to go before Thanksgiving, I've decided I need to get over this 'blah' I've let myself fall into and step it up with my blogging (which, by the way, I've been *promising* myself I'd do every day since we arrived in Texas).  I owe it to myself, and most importantly, my kids, to document some of the things going on as we transition from life as Coloradans to life as Texans.

Things in Texas are going well...Randy is adjusting well to his new job, learning the ins and outs of oil and gas sales and discovering the differences of working in the 'corporate' world.  We are all enjoying his 'normal' schedule, and seeing him dressed up each morning for work brings a little smile to my face, cause he's just so darn cute. :)

Gavin is really liking his new elementary school.  He has two different teachers; a language arts teacher, and a math/science/social studies teacher.  Both have emailed me to let me know how happy they are to have him in class.  He's making new friends and likes the fact that he has a uniform dress code (I thought he'd be upset that he didn't get to wear some of his favorite t-shirts).  I'm driving him to school each morning for now, until we move into our house.  This dynamic allows for a mommy-son breakfast each morning that puts a smile on his face for the day (mine, too).

Brynn and Raegan hang out with me during the day, which gives us some time to visit the library and craft store.  We've been doing some daily exploring; checking out the city of Sugar Land, and getting used to where things are located.  B also has a few pre-school books that we've been working on each day, so that we can keep her brain busy until we get settled and figure out preschool costs.  Raegan's been keeping us busy with her typical toddler antics (I think we've cleaned up the overturned toy bins and scattered crayons at least a dozen times each day).

The dogs are doing well.  I'm grateful they have each other, and I think they are, too, even if it makes for tight sleeping quarters in their travel crate.  Biscuits isn't quite a fan of the fact that she needs to walk on a leash for her restroom needs, as she is used to having free range in the back yard.  I keep telling her that her time will come, as she sulks and follows along to the *perfect* spot Mojo sniffs out to spin 17 times before going potty.  As the days blend together, I think she's starting to doubt me.

That takes me to me.  I've always struggled personally with the working mom/stay at home mom dynamic.  The grass was always greener, whether it was the school year when I craved free time with my kids, or the summer when I craved the structure of a well-scheduled day.  Teaching gave me the perfect opportunity to experience both atmospheres, and just when I was 'settling in', the time of the year would allow me to flip the coin and experience life on the 'other side'.

When Randy and I made the decision to move our family to Texas, I was about 85% on board.  That 15% of me that wavered did so because I knew that it meant a shift in the role I played in my family and in my life.  For a decade, I taught classrooms full of students, sponsored student leadership teams, organized yearbooks, and directed plays.  Not to mention, I ran a household.  For six of those years, I balanced doing all of that with the added responsibilities of kids.  I thrived when my plate was full, wouldn't blink at saying 'yes' to a request from my principal for a project, or a dinner invitation from girlfriends during what almost always was an exhausting week where I'd hardly accomplished a full load of laundry.  Was our home spic and span and 'company ready' at all times?  Not a chance.  But my kids were fed and clothed and they were happy and smiling (unless they were fighting).  Was my classroom uber organized, lesson plans completed for the upcoming week, and papers graded in a timely fashion?  Uh...no, (but honestly, what teacher ever feels 'caught up'?)

Now, however, the pendulum has stopped swinging and is resting in the realm of stay at home mommy.  I'm relishing in the thoughts of getting to spend more quality time with my kids, making fun crafts, baking with them, having the house in a more defined order, and seeking out other avenues on which to find personal fulfillment.  My mental list of 'things to do once we're moved in and the house is in order' is speckled with wide variety of Pinterest finds, personal goals, and lots of laughter and smiles from the munchkins.  The possibilities are endless.

I did start this blog off by saying I was in a funk, right?  My friends and family have been emailing, texting, facebooking, or calling to see how things are going here in Texas, and I honestly feel like I'm lying to them when I say things are going great.  That probably sounds really hypocritical based on all that I wrote about the great things we have going on so far.  I don't necessarily feel like 'life in Texas' has started yet, which is why feel like we're in limbo.  

While the staff here at our Homewood Suites has been so very *sweet*, and I feel grateful that we have nice accommodations for our temporary housing situation, I still have this feeling of being on a family vacation from hell.  You know the kind...take a little dabble from the various National Lampoon movies and add in a little 'slightly spoiled' hotel guest and you get the idea.  The whole 'transition to full time stay at home mom' thing has taken somewhat of a backseat as we sit here, enjoying meals and housekeeping services.  ~Breakfast is provided every morning, with choices to please everyone's cravings (I cannot.stop.eating. the Texas-shaped waffles...I seriously contemplate buying an iron for our house).  Dinner is provided Monday-Thursday, and while I might prepare some of the options differently, for a *free* meal, it's not bad.  Plus, there's a salad bar...and beer and wine.  Randy's a fan of that part the most.
~Housekeeping comes in each day to change the sheets, fluff the pillows, and replace our 1-time-use towels with fresh, clean towels.  I've in inadvertently discovered that if I leave dishes in the sink, they'll be washed for me and left to dry on the towel beside the sink (ok, I seriously felt awful about that when it happened, and have since washed the dishes before housekeeping comes in).  We even came home the other day to discover that the kids 'lovies' and blankets had been neatly folded and organized adorably so on the arm chair.  
I mean, come on.  This is not how a household works.  Well, at least this isn't how my household works.  Parts of it, sure...the beds will be 'made' each day (the kids have a different meaning of the word 'made' than I do), and of course meals will be prepared.  I fear what the response will be, however, when the kids don't have a smorgasbord of options for their breakfast (although Gavin's requested I stock up on a variety of single-serving size cereal boxes and a silver insulated carafe for his milk).  I fear what Randy will do when he tries to make beer magically appear from the non-existent tap he 'thinks' is installed in our counter top because that's what he's familiar with at dinner time. I fear what they'll all do when they realize that sheets are not stripped and laundered daily, and towels can be hung up to dry so they can be used more than once as well.  I also fear what I'll do when I realize that these little 'luxuries' that I'm quickly becoming accustomed to as 'standard procedure' are the very tasks that will once again become commonplace on my own schedule.  Will I even remember how to cook/bake/make a bed?!

For now, I guess I'll enjoy this 'limbo funk', treasure the super squished living quarters, continue living as a quasi stay-at-home mom, and keep counting down the days until closing!  (as of right now, that count is at 17!)