Sunday, March 29, 2015

Birthday Parties: A Call to Stop the Madness

We are in the throes of Birthday Season in our house. In our immediate family, we celebrate 4 birthdays and our wedding anniversary in a 6 week span. Add in extended family and there are 8 birthdays to celebrate. Good grief. It also seems there have been loads of birthdays at the kids' school in March. What the heck holiday is 9 months before March that so many people are, well, you know... July 4th? Juneteenth? What is it? What's everybody celebrating? Moving on. (Sorry, Mom. And Mom-in-Law.)

Early on in our child rearing years, birthday parties simply meant gathering cousins and grandparents, icing a homemade cake, blowing up a few balloons and eating some supper together.

But then the Oldest went to school. And was invited to a party at a popular place for kids' birthdays. And was given a treat bag. And saw the birthday kid sitting on a birthday throne. And being celebrated by a ginormous (sort of scary) person in an animal costume. And being sung to by thirty kids. And got a Treat Bag.

"Can you believe I got a present (she was referring to the Treat Bag that seems to be standard fare) for just going to someone's birthday party? I mean, it's not even my birthday!"

And suddenly, after all this fabulousness, the home birthday parties weren't quite so partyish. 

So many thoughts. I think I'll make a little list. Those seem to be everywhere these days. (27 Ways You are Ruining Your Kids! The Top 5000 Places You Must see Before You Die or You are a Complete Loser! Six Ways to Lose 50 Pounds This Month!)

So here goes...."Problems" and "Martha's Solution" 

Problem: Treat Bags
99% of the time the stuff in there is C-R-A-P and gets lost/broken/thrown away/forgotten about before we pull into the driveway. Plus I consistently whine to my friends about the amount of C-R-A-P we have in our house, and they whine back, so I know we all feel that way. Let's stop perpetuating the C-R-A-P cycle!

Martha's Treat Bag Solution:
What if, when you were making Treat Bags for the party, you let your kid shop for the stuff, which I've learned is half the fun, and then bagged it in Zip-loc bags and saved it for November when Operation Christmas Child rolls around? I guarantee there is a child somewhere in this world who would open that shoe box and think the stuff inside is amazing, take care of it, play with it, and not throw it onto the floor of the van to be stepped on. Plus, then your OCC shopping is done, which means one less thing in the crazy busy holiday season, and it won't affect your Christmas budget. You could even print out a little something telling each party guest what you did. Also, you just paid for thirty kids to have two hours of sugar filled fun, and then you are supposed to send them home with something? Guess what? The party is the treat! Hello!

Problem: Cakes shaped into the Child Herself (or a life sized Batman, Barbie, etc.)
I love a fancy, detailed cake. I really do. Our wedding cake was to die for. It was four layers of beautiful, handcrafted deliciousness. The icing details were exquisite. It was topped with perfect red roses. Art that was edible. But it was for our wedding. Up until that day all the cakes in my life that celebrated me were made by my Grandma. They were not shaped into Rainbow Brite or Holly Hobby or any character from back in my day. That wasn't even a thing. It was just good cake topped with colorful candles, and it made me feel special that she would give her time to make this cake for me. 

Martha's Cake Solution:
Bake the cake with your kid sitting on the counter dipping his dirty fingers into the batter repeatedly spreading germs you refuse to worry about because he will spread them anyways when he blows out the candles. Doesn't have to be scratch. Use a cake mix. Let her lick the beaters. Then do the same with the icing. Smear it on there. Let her make it look like she wants. And let him stick his finger in the side for a swipe of icing when it's all done. 

Problem: Party after Party after Party and Gift after Gift after Gift:
Oh, my word, with three school aged children parties have started to dominate our weekends. We are constantly running them places around our town to shoot each other with lasers, skate, bowl, jump, and build bears. And with most parties we send a gift. Which can get PRICEY, especially considering most of us have family birthdays to celebrate as well. (We have 5 nephews and 2 nieces on top of these three girls who insist on living here, plus siblings, siblings' spouses, and parents.) We all talk about how much crap our kids have and trying to find ways to make them appreciate what they have, understand the blessing of this North American life, be thankful. (remember the complaining my friends and I do from the Treat Bag problem?) 

Martha's Party/Gift Solution:
How about if the party we are throwing is also the gift for the Birthday Kid? And their presents come from their parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents instead of schoolmates. The party is just a time to be together and eat cake and candy and be crazy. And for the party, you invite the class over and toss them out into the yard with some old yogurt containers, the hose, and plastic spoons and see what happens. And, if you don't have extended family to buy presents, you can take the money you were going to spend to rent out the Party Place and buy your kid's presents. I believe less stuff = more appreciation for the stuff we have.

I will now offer this disclaimer to my entire post:

  • I have decorated cakes like the current character my child adores.
  • I have passed out Treat Bags at my kid's party.
  • Middle Girl, whose birthday is coming soon, has specifically requested store-bought cupcakes. She doesn't care what they look like or what store from which they come, just that they be store bought. Ouch. 
  • We let our girls have a party at Build-A-Bear. Where exactly zero of them actually built a bear.

Obviously not made by a professional.

Build-A-Bear. A mere two weeks ago. 

On my own birthday, no less. The things we do.


This tower is actually cinnamon rolls which this 

refuse-to-follow 

all-traditions-child requested.



As always with me I am a total fence rider and were we not in Birthday Season and had I not had it UP TO HERE, this could have been an entirely different post. As always, take it with a grain of salt, no judgment from this seat. Because my hypocrisy shines loudly through these pictures. 

Grace for the million more birthdays before the end of April,
Martha


 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Week in the Life

Here you will observe a week off, in neither chronological order nor any type of order at all, except for the deep thought at the very end. So skip there if you are deep. Captions are above pictures, which confused me, so I switched them, but then that confused me, too. Man, a week off can make you tired!

We celebrated the Baby, who turned 5, and who was given some obnoxious singing birds by her sisters, who promptly wanted to take some money of their own on a field trip to Target and purchase their own obnoxious singing birds. 




I bought this hat (I figure a good Redneck wife should have a camo item at her disposal) and took this questionable selfie after an outing to a chocolate shop, Olive and Sinclair. We toured their factory, donned some hairnets, and bought some to-die-for chocolate. Oh, oh, oh, YUM! 





I also took this questionable selfie of the hat the Oldest gave me for Christmas. It will henceforth be known as my "mowing hat" and you should not be subjected to this again.



Lots of creeking went on, and they were thrilled to discover whole "new" wardrobes when we switched the clothes from Winter to Spring. There was a really tense moment over a pair of generic Keens which kind of fit two girls. Glad we made it through that crisis.


We thoroughly enjoyed the first fire of the Spring with some friends who are really family and family who are really friends. No one watched all the kids running around. All in all a delightful evening.


A day trip to Mammoth Cave was a worthy expedition and went smoothly except for a minor meltdown from the Oldest who is apparently claustrophobia. (I know that isn't right. If you don't get why that is funny, might I suggest you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Then you can join in the laughter being enjoyed by tens of people right now.)






Playroom School was in session despite the break everywhere else. Can't let the dollies get behind.


There are four faces hidden in this picture...


Sofia the First puzzle, done by Batman (???) and sister. 


Trampoline tricks. Looks like she's working on a cheerleading move, but Preston assures me he can use that on the basketball court.


Sister slumber party minus one sister who has a complete come apart if she is not in her own bed. 

I like to call this "Spring at the Side Door." I don't think anyone has ever come in through our front door. Side door guests are best. Or some Southern rhyme crosstitched on something.


That Girl did not actually help with this project, but wants everyone to think so. I also didn't have to help, so that was a bonus.





I read this book and died from laughing. Seriously. Well, not seriously, but for real, Jim Gaffigan is hilarious. I also loved his book Dad is Fat. Dying. Tears the whole time. And the Baby calls it "the hot dog wedding book mommy is reading" which makes it even better.


Look at him. He's just standing there thinking up projects for me to help him with. But he's so fine in his Sesame Street shirt. I'd do math for you anytime, Hot Stuff. This particular project is a grape arbor, which he spent all week researching. In a year or ten we will have some grapes to eat. In the meantime, I bet I can still get them at Kroger. 


I took this picture from the kitchen window so forgive the terrible quality. He enlisted the girls to help with the never-ending creek clearing project and I was afraid if I was seen he would hand me a slingblade, too. And I'm just about all slingbladed out. For the love.  


I have some crazy food allergies that reared their ugly heads about five years ago when the Baby was born. (and I will never let her forget it!) Most of the time I can ignore them and be ok, but occasionally I get too carried away with what I eat and start to feel like crap and have to push the reset button. I happen to be in one of those seasons. It is always challenging and requires way more time in the kitchen, and I hate it with a passion I didn't know I was capable of feeling. However, I made this honey caramel from a recipe in Danielle Walker's Against AllGrain cookbook. The spoon is there so I can get it into my mouth. Without putting it on anything. It's supposed to be a topping. But it's so good. It's topping my tongue, so maybe I actually am using it correctly.


And here is the last. The final hurrah. I took the girls to see Cinderella this afternoon, and it was amazing. They had already seen it, but I wanted to see it, too, so I just took them again. It is so, so, so good. I adored it. My favorite part was that the Baby was in tears, really bawling, at several parts, and her sisters held her hands, put her head on their shoulders, and comforted her. These girls. We have always prayed for them to be friends, best friends, and God is granting that supplication. 



Back to the movie. There was this line spoken by the narrator at the end (which took me forever to figure out was the Fairy Godmother, another character I loved) that resonated with me. I tried to get out my cell phone and "write" it down but my rule-following oldest daughter was afraid they would kick us out. Anyways, the Prince has arrived to fit the shoe on Cinderella, and she is dirty, in her housedress, and looks every bit the country girl she is. As she is walking down the stairs the narrator is saying "she would have to give herself as she was and would it be enough" and that the greatest risk we all take is to be seen "as we truly are."

This really hit me as I think about the last three months. For a long, long time Preston would encourage me to write. Friends would encourage me to write. But I was too self conscious about putting my thoughts out there. What if it wasn't any good? What if I'm not really funny like my hero, Erma Bombeck? What if people think things like, "Good try, sweetie." Finally God moved in me, and I was prompted to start the blog for which I'd registered a domain long ago. To allow myself to be seen as I truly am to the world (or at least the people who read this...probably not the world). 

Because to the One who matters, I am enough. Well, actually I am not, but through some big theological term called "double imputation" Jesus gave me His "enough," and He took all the risk. So I have the freedom to be seen as I truly am. I come in all my filth, in my housedress to the Father. And He loves me. 

And that is also how I come here.  

I hope you think it's a good try so far. Sweeties.

Grace, 
Martha










Monday, March 16, 2015

George Bailey Ain't Got Nothing on Me

Preston and I celebrated our 14th anniversary, my 36th birthday, his 39th birthday, and life in general with a "Staycation" for the past 48 hours. Some of you may find this hard to believe, but this is the longest we have been away from the girls, ever. We have had friends tell us, "You guys NEED to leave them for a week or so, for the sake of your marriage. You NEED to leave them so they will be able to be away from you. You NEED to leave them for yada yada yada." I disagree with these statements. 

1. Our marriage is good. Like, really good. I think being married to Preston gets more fun with each passing day. He is crazy about me. And I know it. I don't really see how a week away would confirm that more than him unloading the dishwasher, bringing coffee to me in bed, and not allowing the girls to disrespect me. 

2. I'm ok with them liking us best and wanting to be with us. Before I can even believe it, they will be gone. As in, not living here. Not reading Bible stories with us. Not complaining about the meals I cooked. Not giving me goodnight kisses on every inch of my face. 18 years x 365 days=6,570 bedtime routines. That's really less than what I would like. Tick tock.

3. I get ridiculously fed up with my kids and, yes, my husband. But by the 24 hour mark away from them Preston and I were both wishing they were here. Kind of. 

Again, everyone gets their rest in their own way, as I discussed in this post, and I do not judge that. I think if you can travel for a week solo and that makes you a better parent and have a stronger marriage, please love your kids by doing that. But we don't roll that way, so please leave me alone about leaving my kids. They will leave soon enough. 

Anyways, the Staycation. We ate out every single meal. It was awesome. Steak, eggs benedict, burgers, beer brewed on site, wine, margaritas, coffee that was "poured over" and "pressed." Gourmet chocolate made right before our very eyes. Cheesecake that made me wish all food was cheesecake. 

And we stayed up until 3 am binge watching "Justified." It's getting a little intense for me, but maybe that's because I am softened by 8 1/2 years of Disney and Barbie.

It was an amazing 48 hours. 

Last night we started reliving our prekid days when we were both teachers with amazing breaks of no work filled with books, pools, vacations, projects, spontaneous trips to Destin, skiing, boating, late movies instead of bargain matinees. Preston made the comment, "Do you realize the past two days is how it would be all the time without the girls?"

Which set me to thinking. At one point in our history, we had no debt. We both made decent money. We had 14 weeks a year to ourselves. We had no responsibilities. Like, none. If we had continued on that path, what would our life be like 14 years in?

Maybe I would be a principal somewhere. I did get the "Most Leadership" superlative in high school. Which Preston assures me is code for "Most Bossiest." 

Maybe Preston would be a professor. After all, he only quit his education when we had our oldest. With 10 more class hours and a dissertation the man would have his doctorate.

Maybe I would still wear a size 7 shoe instead of a 9. Thanks, three pregnancies.

Maybe I would shop in the bikini section instead of the "skirt to cover up the cellulite and underwire to hold things up" section. 

Maybe we wouldn't be so well-versed in the best vomit clean-up methods.

Maybe we would have travelled to more exotic locations than Gatlinburg. 

Maybe we would have some money in a 401(k).

Maybe we would drive not a minivan. 

Maybe my house wouldn't look like this:


Notice the birthday countdown chain hanging on my mantel.
And the American Girl box on the coffee table. 
Not straight out of Pottery Barn.

Play-doh box on the floor.
Craft table in dining/living room.
Where everyone has their craft table.

Overflowing trash.
Dishes and dishes and dishes.
And wine. 



And maybe our house would be downtown, within walking distance of all the wonderful places we discovered in our area.

But then I would miss this:

Me, dressed up for an evening out.
I think maybe those are wings?
Or maybe the shoulders of the dress from this post?
I have a million more pictures of art like this. I also have stories of sweetness with which I could bore you. 

But if you have chosen this life path, you have those as well.

And you know there is no steak in the world you would trade for the last sleepy kiss from an almost five year old.

It really is a wonderful life. 

Grace,
Martha

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Age Appropriate: 11 Things I'm Allowed to Say Now

It seems when a person is a child anything can come out of their mouths, and it's ok. Fat comments? Curse words? Letting family secrets slip? It's ok. He doesn't know any better. There was even a whole show dedicated to the idea - "Kids Say the Darndest Things." (In the house where I grew up "darn" was a cuss word. Strictest parents ever.)

This phenomenon of being able to say pretty much anything at all and get away with it seems to reappear later on in life. I was chatting with a college friend lately about when exactly is that age where we can gripe, boss, and let our darkest feelings out without fear of repercussion? ("I don't know about you, but I think that was the worst meal I've ever had. Yes, I know you cooked it! Ain't nobody got time for beating around the bush when you are as old as I am!")

Well, yesterday I turned 36 so we are going to say that is the age where you can say things. At this age I can safely say, "Ain't nobody got time for that!" So I am going to get some things off my chest in this here post. Some you may have heard before particularly if you follow me on Facebook, which I recommend you do.








Here we go:

1. Quit missing belt loops!
I mean, what? Why can't you turn around, check the mirror, use your sense of touch. Thread the belt through all the little loops. Not hard, people.

2. Eat some dadgum carbs!
If you want to eat them in moderation, I think that is wise. Really, I think that is wise in all things, not just food. But if you never eat any cornbread, or a hot Krispy Kreme, or birthday cake, or drink an ice cold coke every now and again just so you can have ripped abs, you are seriously missing out. Of course I've never had ripped abs, so maybe I am the one who is missing out.  

3. Stop not finishing sentences. 
There is this new trend where people say things like, "That was the best pie ever because chocolate." Um, this is not a complete sentence. Did you have a grammar class ever? I taught 1st grade for the first six weeks of my teaching career (which was a disaster). Within that first six weeks the curriculum involved teaching the difference between a complete sentence and an incomplete sentence. It isn't hard. Because grammar. 

4. For the love of apostrophes everywhere, learn to use them.
This one can be a little more challenging. Those little marks can really screw with the best of us. I happened to have this high school English teacher who would go crazy with his red pen marking your papers until they looked like a crime scene over things like misused apostrophes. This appears to be especially difficult if your last name ends in an "s" as does ours. When pluralizing a name ending in "s" apostrophes have no place: Brooks', Brook's, Brooksssss and Brooks's are all incorrect. This grammar lesson brought to you by the Brookses.

5. No passive aggressiveness. None. 
Mixed signals make you crazy. You must say what you think, or you are lying. If you come back later and complain about something you agreed to, you are the problem causer. This is an especially tricky one because you must learn to be kind while stating your real opinion, and you most also learn you will not always get your way, so sometimes you must change your mind and heart to go with a different plan from the one you think is best and truly be OK with it. Super challenging. But again, mixed signals make you crazy. Be a friend. Don't make others crazy.

6. Lie, lay, laid, lain, laying, lying
Just kidding. This one doesn't bother me because I have no idea myself. It's a pet peeve of my brother's (the superfab, genius Realtor), and I love to drive him nutso. 

6. You won't change someone's mind on social media.
Want to influence someone? Buy them a cup of coffee and have a conversation. Keep Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest fun! (Well, Pinterest is never fun. It will only make you feel like the least accomplished person on the planet. No, universe. See this.)

7. Don't wear leggings as pants. 
Because they aren't. This satirical blog post from way back in 2011 still makes me laugh. 

8. Let it go.
Stop holding on to that thing that happened when you were a child, or back in high school, or last year. Lay (lie) it at the Cross 50 times a day if need be. Otherwise you are the one who will be miserable, not the person who did it. And not to say those "things," whatever they are, don't shape us and become a part of our consciousness, but don't let them define you. For instance, I refuse to let the fact that "talks too much" got checked on every report card ever in the history of my life keep me down. It has taken some serious strength to move past all those check marks, but now I probably average 57 million words a day. Ask Preston. I've healed.  

9. Quit giving out candy.
A child who lives here just told me she has Pez left from last Easter. What now? Trash it immediately. Commence dramatic tears. Or if you really feel the need to give out candy, give chocolate, and I swear there won't be any left one week later, much less one year. And I think dark chocolate has some riboflavins or endorphins or something that ends in "ins" that your body needs. On behalf of mothers everywhere, chocolate is the way to go. 

10. Don't push your agenda on someone else.
The only thing, the ONLY thing, you need to be pushing is Jesus. And the best way to do that is loving, serving, kindnesses without end, loving accountability when you are in relationship. That's key - don't try to hold strangers accountable. They do not care about your opinion. 

11. Extend grace. 
And then do it again, and again, and again. And again. Just think of how awful you have already been today. 

And seeing as this list is my own agenda, please take it with a grain of salt. Extend me some grace. Just think to yourself, "Martha says the darndest things," and then post this blog to your social media site so more strangers can be influenced by my agenda. 

Grace for the 37th year of my life,
Martha

Friday, March 6, 2015

Chores are the Best Medicine

I am so blessed to have three incredibly healthy children. Who have "ailments" all the time. 

My kids get legitimately sick sometimes. They throw up, they get strep, pink eye, weird rashes, roseola, sore throats, and snotty noses.

I am a total fence rider as I have told you before. So when they are sick I do things like squirt garlic oil in their ear as I speed dial the pediatrician to call us in some magic amoxicillin. I will rub their feet with oregano oil and then have a sudden uncontrollable urge to pick up a pizza while I am running to the store for dye-laden grape-flavored ibuprofen. We put something called colloidal silver on a wart and then pour on some hydrochloric acid to burn it off. Fence riders.

But like I said, despite our best efforts, they get "sick" all the time. 

Like the time a girl said to me, "It feels like I have popcorn in my ear." Now I honestly tried to take her seriously. But really? Popcorn in your ear? I burst out laughing. When the child was offended, her father goes, "Come here, Baby. Mommy just doesn't understand what it feels like to have popcorn in your ear." Which made me laugh even harder. 

One child is constantly concerned her throat is going to close up. For a while we took this seriously, trying to figure out if she had an allergy to something. Then she spent the better part of last winter in Tonsillitis Hell despite all my witch's brews and Z packs. We ended up having her tonsils removed after a scary night in Paris and an amazing English speaking doctor, whom I really think might have been an angel. We thought the tonsillectomy would cure this throat closing up mess. Nope. 

So after lots of trial and error, we did discover an allergy. It's actually really common. Perhaps one of your kids has it. She is allergic to bedtime. And cleaning the bathroom. And clearing the table, folding laundry and picking up legos. Oh, and VERY allergic to feeding the dogs. All these things make her throat feel dangerously closed up and will cause her to need to be held and coddled. But we have found an antidote. And it doesn't involve an Epipen.

We also have had children talk about how the decibel level of the axe hitting a log while gathering a load of firewood gives them an unbearable headache. The thwack of the axe hitting the piece of wood is unbearable, but the "Tangled" soundtrack cranked to van-shaking volumes doesn't appear to affect her head.

One girl will definitely contract a stomach bug if broccoli is within her view/smell. Or any meat. Except chick-fil-a nuggets. That meat is apparently free of stomach bug causing germs. 

School days involving tests will bring on a 152 degree fever. (Are you sure you didn't hold that thermometer up to your book light? Because I think we may need to be concerned about spontaneous combustion here. Oh, you think I misread it? Well let's try that again while I stand beside you.)

And stomachaches. They are a real problem around here. They can come on from unloading the dishwasher, practicing piano, wiping down cabinets and washing baseboards. So I tell them I'm really concerned they have a leaky gut. This is a big buzz thing right now in health conscious venues, a few of which I like to read and keep up with, mostly so I can reaffirm all the things I am doing wrong. 

(Side note - does anyone else think in 20 years it will be coconut oil that is killing us all, and we will find out we should have been eating margarine and drinking Diet Coke the whole time? Or that someday soon there will be breaking news that kale causes cellulite? It seems like all this nutritional stuff is always changing. I'm just going to eat food that tastes good. It's working so far. Except I don't eat kale and have plenty of cellulite, so the whole kale/cellulite thing probably won't be a hypothesis proven correct.)

Back to the leaky gut. The girls don't read those gut health articles, so when I tell them I'm worried they might have a leaky gut they assume it means the food they eat will leak out of their bellybutton. Somehow this mental image and the threat that stomachaches are caused by sugar so I will be confiscating the insanely large solid chocolate hearts they received from Nana for Valentine's Day is medicine enough to make their stomachs feel better. 

Nana!!! Come on, now!

One time I did have a child complaining about not feeling well, but I assumed she was having an "allergic reaction" to the scrambled eggs she did not want, so I sent her to school. Wasn't long before I got the phone call telling me she had barfed, and they would appreciate it if I could come get her before she did it again.

Being the sweet, sympathetic mother I am I did not use the entire car trip home from school to lecture her about The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Well, maybe I did. A little.

It's really hard to know when a child is sick and when a child is "sick." They get bumped and whacked and jump out of trees and try to throw each other out of the wagon and flip their sibling out of the hammock and make it a point to double bounce one another off the trampoline and have a competition to see how many levels of the retaining wall they can jump off of before they reach the level that is high enough to break their ankle and my personal favorite, who can go to the top of thier cousin's climbing wall and back down without falling to their death. (This one often involves a child who makes it halfway up, cannot find a hold to move either up or down, so screams until a cousin/sister takes her seriously, who then is sent to fetch an adult to reach her down to safety, but when the child is advised against climbing this wall until she is a bit taller, she declares her bigness and scoffs at suggestions of safety. Whatever.) 


Yay! You made it!! Now what???

The only way I know to cure these "sicknesses" is to keep having them do the things that are causing the problems so they will build up immunity to them. Kind of like a vaccination against the "illness" feeding the dog and unloading the dishwasher brings on. But the real "cure" won't come until they get out of here and have "sick" children of their own. And then I will be the one with the giant hearts.

Grace for this season of "sickness,"
Martha





Monday, March 2, 2015

DDIY (Don't Do It Yourself!)

There should be a proviso in marriage vows saying something like, "for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, unless we are trying to do a project together in which case all hell will break loose and these vows are null and void, till death do us part."

Preston and I cannot do a project together without a fight. We just can't. And we adore each other. Seriously, disgustingly in love. But we cannot.

We got married way back in 2001, and DIY shows were new and all the rage, especially our personal favorite, Trading Spaces. We were addicted. It aired on Saturday mornings and like a million times during the week, so we watched it and watched it. We bought our first house together that year and were determined to make it unique by copying all the projects we saw on Trading Spaces. And we were smitten and Preston got a saw or something, so we had all we needed. 

We did so much in that house. We laid hardwood, created wall art, (which was not art by anyone's standards) painted every room in the house twice, redid cabinets, applied fake, peel off stick down "tile," glazed bathroom countertops and replaced light fixtures. We even replaced plumbing fixtures, which really turned into a brawl when Preston and his brother ended up CUTTING INTO A WALL to get to some pipe or something, turned the water off for over 24 hours, and spent the better part of a day (and night) playing with soldering stuff. I felt it served them right when they snuck into our neighbor's backyard in the middle of the night to wash their hands and these two huge, burly men had the crap scared out of them by a flock of birds. That almost made it worth it.

We fought every single time we did a project. Every. Single. Time. 

You see, Preston is from the "perfectionist" camp, and I am way on the other side of the pond at the "that's good enough" camp. These camps do not play well together.

Preston likes to think things through, research a topic, pick the best tools, plot out lines, make sure everything is square, read reviews, do lots of (I feel unnecessary) math before he begins a project. I hate this. In fact, I feel no planning is needed. Just get started, already. We can cut more/mix more/buy more/build more/redo if we need to. Just start!

We moved into our next house in 2006, which happened to be built around 1900. It was on three acres and was like the Promised Land for us Project People. But I was deathly pregnant and couldn't do much, so Preston got to do projects as he liked. 

Only it annoyed the heck out of me when he would do a project, even one I had asked him to do, because it meant he wasn't at my beck and call (which at this point meant I needed him to hold the throw up bowl) or later on, wasn't available to bounce a screaming baby while I tried to refind my sanity. Because projects take him forever. Because of the perfectionist thing. 

But we did tons to that house, too - treehouse, knocking out walls, moving refrigerators, adding electrical outlets, building new walls, floors, roof, on and on and on - and all ourselves along with the help of friends and family, who frankly I'm surprised don't screen our calls.

We spent the better part of 2013 and 2014 building this house we moved into last May. For years we had envisioned that someday, when this happened, Preston would do a lot of the work. But then the past 12 years. We decided we would probably be calling a divorce lawyer if we really tried to do a lot ourselves. So we barely lifted a finger. (except the painting - Preston wants it noted that he did all the painting. Which was a huge job. Love me some painting man. I think that's enough recognition to satisfy him.)

One of the very first projects we did here was build a treehouse. The girls went over to my parents' for the day, and I naively thought they would have treehouse when they returned.


Turned out pretty awesome!

And it all started with just a post.

No. We made lists. And did math. And dug holes. And cut boards. And screwed in lag bolts. And did more math. And when the day was over, a post was up. Have fun on your new post, kids. 

Preston says I have ridiculous expectations. I say he does way too much math. But we have learned how to work together. We don't fight. We (I) just huff and roll my eyes and when he accuses me of being impatient I can say, "I haven't said a word!" It works.

This whole DIY culture has gotten way out of control what with entire TV networks dedicated to projects you can do for less than $1! Turn that broken down wheelbarrow into a pool in one weekend! Buy that mold ravaged double wide for $100 because we will show you how to flip it in just one week and make $2.2 million on your investment! Sew your own wedding dress from pillowcases in under three hours! 

And don't even get me started on Pinterest.

Delete it off your phone. Erase your account. You cannot hot glue pine cones together to recreate a ten foot Douglas Fir. Some mothers may be able to transform their living rooms into Queen Elsa's castle using only tinfoil, but you aren't her. Do not pin things telling you how to turn cardboard into a dining room table using Elmer's glue and glitter. (for that matter, don't pin anything using glitter) You will not have flat abs in two weeks by doing this easy 3 minute workout once a week. You will not successfully organize your entire life in 72 easy steps using cereal boxes and washi tape. Your kid's childhood will not be made more magical by making hula hoops into necklaces. Your child will not eat the lunch you pack even if everything in it is cut into shapes of Walt Disney himself, so for the love, stop pinning!






I honestly have only tried one thing off Pinterest, and although I showed it to you before, I think it is an excellent cautionary tale that deserves another look. 

Pinterest Cookies


Martha's Cookies

I don't know if this is clear by the pictures, but the cookies I made don't look like the Pinterest ones. 

But I'm sure Preston and I will continue to do projects. (he bookmarks things on Houzz, which is Pinterest for men) And I will keep pinning on Pinterest. It's a sickness. It has something to do with our inability to be still for long, I'm sure. 

If you ever hear we have split up, just know no one cheated. No one had a midlife crisis or went off the rails. We just tried to do a project. 

Or maybe he asked me to read a map...

I'll tell that story another day. 

Grace for all your DIY projects,
Martha