Thursday, August 28, 2014

Elly in Love and other Booksparks titles are 99¢ on the Kindle!!

For this Labor Day Weekend, a load of Booksparks titles are on sale for just 99¢ on the Kindle!!


We're talking Serenade, The Revealed, On Grace, Ways of Leaving, Girl Unmoored, Gravel on the Side of the Road, and The Curse of Van Gogh.

These are amazing books!
 For 99¢!
Seriously!
People, load up those Kindles!

Of course the sale includes...



I would look into it, that's all I'm saying. Here's the link: http://amzn.to/1vSu4MK

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Movie Reviews: Noah, Budapest, Spiderman and The Lego Movie

Every once in awhile I have this mini freak-out where, as a Mom, I think "I am so out of touch with everything! With pop culture! With music! With movies!"  About the only pop culture that I'm totally up with is book culture, which just makes me a bigger nerd than I already am, but I'm okay with that, I'll wear it like a badge of courage, but - I wouldn't MIND knowing what is up in the rest of media culture.  Like, I don't even know who that Izzy chick is.

So, this last month I had a freak out where I went to Redbox like three weekends in a row in a desperate attempt to catch Ryan and I up on the pop culture that we have missed.

Here's what we watched:

 

The Lego Movie:
 Not gonna lie, there were times when I was watching this movie where I thought "The seizure that accompanies this movie is coming ANY minute now", but overall I thought this movie was witty, cute and very original. It had a great message and the animation was absolutely incredible. Sure, I maybe edited a novel while I was watching it, but I'm not that into Legos, but I would have to say for anyone that IS, that this was probably the most fun they've had in a theater all year. There were parts that actually made me laugh-out-loud, which is more than I can say for a lot of the comedies I've seen in the past years.  I liked Will Ferrell as the serious Dad in the movie, because I actually really like Will Ferrell when he plays serious. He is a surprisingly talented actor and I wish he would do more meaty roles. Who would have thought I would have found that in the Lego movie?



Noah:
 We need to talk about Noah.  After the first dismal 20 minutes, Ryan and I actually turned it off. We had heard that it was completely non-scriptural and terrible, but we wanted to see it for ourselves, especially so that when congregation members ask Ryan about it, he likes to be informed so that he can answer their questions.  Well, first we saw the weird opening which involved strange coal transformers that walked across the earth, "The Watchers" - WHAT THE WHAT?  I turned to Ryan, who was actually laughing. There were magic flowers and weird armadillo dogs and a terrible moment where Russell Crowe is asked to sing and I waited for him to burst into his terrible rendition of "Stars."  But he didn't, and after we confirmed that the only thing Noah has in common with Noah of the Bible is that the both stories involve men named Noah and a flood and that's about it.
Yeah, NO. On to better movies!
After that, I was I'm left with one question: how did the genius who made Black Swan make this terrible movie?






 The Grand Budapest Hotel:
 
We love Wes Anderson films! We were actually introduced to them by Karen and Michael, and we have now watched them all and just love them.  Wes Anderson films are like the most detailed, delicious little pastry, filled with imagery that is so lovely that you just want to die. His humor is dry but very quick, and the plot twists are adorable and unpredictable. Take the Grand Budapest - one minute you have a beautiful pink hotel that just glows with beauty and light, and the next you have a very bloody scene in a prison.  While we didn't love Grand Budapest as much as Moonrise Kingdom, which is, in my opinion, his best film - and one of my favorite films EVER -  it was still a really fun watch, and reminded me that Ralph Fiennes is also awesome when he's not being Voldemort.




The Amazing Spiderman 2: I wasn't even sure I wanted to watch this. I'm still waiting for Hollywood to ask me how I feel about everything they do, but can I just say WHY ARE WE REMAKING SPIDERMAN?  The most recent Spiderman was like, what, 10 years ago? And it still looks awesome, no seriously, we just watched them a couple of months ago!  I feel like if we you are going to remake something like Spiderman, you need to remake it in a different way, like how Christopher Nolan pivoted and changed how people saw Batman forever and along the way made brilliant movies.  Okay, awkwardly climbing off soapbox now.  With this being said, I actually didn't hate this movie.  Mostly because of the actors - not only do I really like Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, but I also LOVE Dane Dehaan, because I loved him in Chronicle, which is the superhero movie everyone SHOULD see and no one does.  I was pleasantly surprised by this one, and that was pretty surprising for a girl who can go on a ten minute rant about Hollywood is just recycling movies these days.

What TV Shows I've been watching this summer: Lost reruns, Silicon Valley,  and I reluctantly let Ryan introduce me to Dr. Who, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but I know "Blink" was scary as all get-out, but the next one had cat-people and I'm like "Uhhh...those were cat people, so maybe no."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Late Summer Days


I apologize for my lack of blogging lately. Usually I hate it when people blog about how they don't blog, but here I am, being super lame, apologizing for not blogging.    Life, as of late, has been crazy.

Here's a quick wrap up:

LittleM visited his first splash pad.  At first he was wary but fascinated, watching the shrieking children run in and out of the fountain, totally overcome with joy.  Katie and I wondered why they didn't have these when WE were children?  Now they are everywhere, and it's a lot less work than a pool.   I watched with amusement as my son explored the tiny baby fountain at the very edges of the pad:

At first he was like:
 "Mom.
MOM.
WHAT IS THIS?
WHY HAVE YOU LEFT ME NEXT TO THE FOUNTAIN OF DEATH?"








  















Then he was like, "Oh, nevermind, this is kinda fun."

STAY HERE FOREVER.



































It was so fun watching him explore the new sensation of water bubbling up from the ground, all without getting his hair washed, which is his least favorite thing EVER.  He also really dislikes getting out of his swimsuit, which is something everyone universally hates, since it makes you feel like a wet walrus getting pulled through a piece of saran wrap.

Later in the week we went to the Denver Zoo.

I'm not a fan of the zoo.

The zoo for me can always be summed up by that lame moment when I'm watching a monkey do nothing because THEY ALWAYS DO NOTHING and everyone is cooing and I'm like...why am I not watching Orphan Black right now?  I could spend all day at the Aquarium, but the zoo is kinda meh.

Especially the Denver zoo. It's better now than it was, but once you've been to the Omaha Zoo, there is no going back - everything pales in comparison. We took LittleM to meet my stepsister Jen, who he has never met before. She couldn't get enough of him.  The best part of the trip for LittleM was that my stepmother, who recently had some minor surgery, was in a motorized wheelchair since she still tires easily.   He rode on it the entire time with her. She loved it, he loved it, and the rest of is almost got run over a dozen times.



It had a horn button.  He honked it approximately 13,492 times through the zoo.  I'm not even sure he noticed the rhinos, or any other animals, because it was all about the scooter.  His stroller is now going to seem pretty lame in comparison. 

While we were at the zoo, we were caught in a rare Denver downpour.  In Colorado, it rains for about four minutes every three weeks.  This time, the day we go to the zoo, there was an absolute deluge of water. We were trapped in the MONKEY enclosure - seriously? Of course it was the stinky monkeys - for about 15 minutes.  My flip flops were not having it.



The fun thing about the deluge was that afterwards, all the animals came out to play, including the most incredible flock of pink flamingos, happy to flutter the rain off their wings for our cameras.



Look at this pretty guy!


We came out of hiding, soaked but happy to be leaving the smell of monkey poo and took a few family photos.

This is Jen, my stepsister. Isn't she pretty? 


So that's the summer, as of late. Our home buying plans have changed, but that's for another blog.  Right now there's a glass of moscato and Les Miserables calling my name.

Kisses and hugs to all you readers enjoying the waning summer moments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Home Seller's Guide for Idiots


We sold our home! Yes, we did it, it actually happened, we have a contract on our home and a closing date of less than a month away, which if I think about it makes me absolutely crazy.

I remember like three months ago when I casually asked Ryan if we should sell our home and he was like "Yeah, okay, I guess. It's a good market. We should cash in our equity."

Oh, we were SO NAIVE!

I had no idea what selling a home required. I knew what buying a home required, since we had doen that once before. It involved looking at homes like you are at a home version of TJMaxx: so fun. Lots of paperwork, okay, I can handle paperwork. No biggie. Then you close and move in and yay!  No sweat. Moving itself is never fun, but it's a necessary evil of life.  Packing and unpacking are sort of fun for me, anyways. Organization!  Putting things away! Clearing clutter!

Selling a home is not like that.  If buying a home is like a day at the beach, then selling a home is like trying to clean the beach during a hurricane.  First of all, you have to get your home ready to sell. We thought our home was ready to sell. You know, we don't have dog poo on the floor and there are no puddles of standing water, and our walls are all a really nice color.  We've put a lot of work into our home, and so we figured it was good to go.

NOPE.  We had probably thirty projects that needed to be accomplished before our realtor said we could list the home, everything from painting the trim outside the house to clearing the backyard to switching out all the outlets, reorganizing the garage and repainting one of the bedrooms and fixing random dents in the wall that we never even noticed.   Let me tell you how easy this all was with LittleM, who just learned to MOVE, MOVE fast in the last two weeks.  Poor Ryan. He was going grey over it all, and I was right there with him.



We even put our baby to work.

 It took us probably a month and a half to complete all the projects.

At the end of it, we had the home staged which was both fantastic and totally depressing when we saw how our house COULD have looked this entire time if we had just been smart and good at decorating. We had it professionally cleaned. The house was shiny.

 I mean, I would want to live there!

Then we took a deep breath and had a summer ale and said "We're good, right?"

Wrong.  Then the showings started.  Here's how showings work: your house is perfect.  PERFECT. Sparking clean, everything in place, a general feeling that only Cylons live here, Cylons who don't use things like food, shoes, wet towels, make-up, toys, books or dishes.   We had a wonderful app that let us know "Showing requested in 30 minutes!"  Then the craziness began.



I would put LittleM in his crib or pack-and-play, where we would yell his discontent and look like a prisoner of war for maximum mommy-guilt, and then I would race through the house like a furious tsunami (3rd water/beach metaphor, ten points for Gryffindor), throwing everything I could find into the weirdest hidden places. The result of this is that nothing in our house is where it should be. There are dirty bottles in the cabinets, books in the dryer, ipads in the underwear drawers, makeup in the pj drawers, diapers in the junk drawer.  No one can find anything in our house right now.

"Where is the cell phone charger?"
  "It's either stuffed in a sock inside of a board game box, or maybe hanging in a tomato plant, I don't know."  

After I threw everything that proved our humanity into a hiding spot, I would throw on whatever clothes were needed and grab the diaper bag that was always woefully under-packed no matter how we tried to be prepared ahead of time, and race out the door, hoping to beat the people looking at our house.  Oh, and we had to take the dogs with us.

So, you know, two dogs, their stuff and a baby and their stuff, and a hamper full of items that couldn't be hidden quickly taken out to the car by one person in a blind rush =totally easy, right?

After that we would either drive around aimlessly wasting gas in our gas guzzling car or drive to church, where LittleM would play in the nursery and the dogs would be hanging out in this tiny quarantine that they would always get out of and then everyone at church would laugh as the pastor chased a black wiener dog around the narthex.


(He loves the ball pit in the nursery, more specifically, removing all the balls from the ball pit.)


Alas, it didn't always go that smoothly.  One night, we declined a late night showing because it was after the time that LittleM went to bed and we had had three showings already and were just DONE by eight pm. I put my baby to sleep, changed into pjs and settled into my comfy couch to watch Last Night Tonight with John Oliver, which is totally my jam, when I hear a knock at the door. I freeze for a minute, and then  I peek out the windows like a creeper, and there they are: a nice looking couple and a realtor, wearing a suit. They don't look like murderers, which is unfortunate, because if they did, I could just go back to regularly scheduled loafing on the couch.

I am trying not to panic. Ryan wasn't home, so I wasn't sure what to do.  You don't want to turn down a potential showing, even one that you have already declined. What if these are the people The people who will buy your home? So I opened the door, arms folded coolly over my chest.  Then the house alarm goes off, because I had armed it a few moments before. "CRAP!" I yell, definitely the way to greet potential home owners. I scramble upstairs to shut it off. LittleM wakes up and starts yelling.

I'm a little stressed.

I tell them to come in and have a look around, they are here after all, and it would be a waste, even though I was like two seconds away from the wonderful joy of HBOGO. I tell them that they can't go in LittleM's room because he's (not) sleeping now and then I just go in his room, pick up my baby and rock him in the darkness while strangers look around my house. I hear them opening and closing doors. Mumbling things like "I like this!" or "A little small" or "A bit of work could make this really nice!" I rock and rock and rock.  Finally, I hear them leave. I put him back down. He's not having it. An hour later, I think, "This can't happen much longer."

 Thankfully, God is good, and it didn't.  Two days later we got an offer on the house. We close in less than a month.  I can't tell you how happy we were to have that news.  We both fell back on our bed and looked at each other and breathed "We did it. We did it."

It was crazy exhausting. I think my husband is still recovering. I hope we still have friends.




We were so naive, but we did it.

Here's my advice for those who are going to try to sell their home in a hot market:
1. Get your house ready now. Give yourself about a year to prepare the home.
2. Have it staged. I can't believe how amazing it looked.
3. Maybe go out of town for the durations of the showings. That was such a strange, chaotic way to live and I would much rather have been chilling in Nebraska or something for a few weeks instead of living, but not living at all, in our home.
4. Don't start looking at homes until after you have a contract on your home because that's just chaos and insanity and we tried it once and just NO.

Next up: Phase Two: Find and purchase a home. Done and done. More on that later.

What I'm Reading: The Cuckoo's Calling
What I'm Listening To: You and I by JohnnySwim and Shenzou from Gravity.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ice Cream Happenings





*This picture would be frame worthy if I had just wiped that pita off his chin...*

This last week had two very exciting happenings that revolved around ice cream. I realize that my last post also had a little something to do with ice cream. I promise I'm not like an ice cream fiend, but this might just be the season of ice cream and stress. It's just happening. Hopefully autumn will be the season of financial windfalls and pumpkin - who knows!

 First, it was LittleL's birthday!  LittleL and LittleM are uniquely connected. Karen and I both waited a LONG time to become mothers. You can read about that here.   Her water broke at LittleM's baptism, and LittleL arrived exactly a month after LittleM did. They arrived together, at the perfect time for us to close out our grief and fill it with joy.

They are buds. You can't tell, because they take turns crying in pictures, which led to these awesome photos, both taken at their first birthday parties.

At LittleM's birthday:



At LittleL's birthday:




 LittleL's birthday party was an ice cream social. What a fun theme for a party! A great time was had by all.  

How much do I love this picture of my two handsome men?


(Photo by Michael Groves)

 LittleL looked like a little cupcake in her pink dress, matching her Momma.  There were ice cream coloring pages for the kids, soccer balls, legos, handmade pinwheels, and all of it was outside on the most perfect day around.



  Ft. Collins is such a beautiful place.  Ryan had a great time catching up with some pastor friends, and I got to spend a lot of time playing with LittleM and LittleL, and chatting with a friend from the Seminary

  Of course, when Karen throws a party, you can count on three things: creative activities, bright colors and Thrifty, Crafty, Fun. 


The trees were strewn with these colorful fabric streamers, of COURSE! SO Pinterest-worthy. Karen was Pinterest before it was Pinterest.

(Photo by Michael Groves)

I loved this homemade chocolate syrup in the wine bottle, made by Michael.

 Such great details, that's what Karen excels at! 



My other fun ice cream story was with my dear friend Nicole, who is currently juggling two kids and a newborn! You would never be able to tell - she's always so confident, beautiful and wise, and makes mothering with style look WAY too easy. I feel like I can barely get on my pajamas, let alone get a cute ensemble together at 9pm at night.

 

  Groupon had a deal the other night (actually, I just checked and it's still available here and SO worth it Denverites!), for 10 bucks for two ice cream flights at the new High Point Creamery, which specializes in unique flavors like Basil with Blackberry Swirl, Coconut and Ginger and Earl Grey.

 I immediately thought of Nicole, who seems like a woman who would enjoy a funky, trendy sort of place. She's my cool friend who wears dresses with jeans and looks amazing and bohemian.



Those flavors. Yeah. I know what you are thinking. Get in my face!


Nicole picked me up with her little baby June, who is the cutest thing ever with those chubby cheeks and crazy hair and we headed down for a short girls night out! 

For my ice cream flight, I got milk chocolate, pure strawberry, browned butter pecan, bananas and honey and the mint.

  

Each ice cream had it's own little topping that goes with it. In fact, watching the girl make my flight sort of reminded me of this:




Oh man, love that movie.

My favorite of the flight was the browned butter pecan. It was amazing.

















And that's about it for now.  If you'll excuse me,  I have two things that I need to cuddle up with:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Those Summer Nights



*Crickets* No summer hollers here.

I can't believe it's almost August.  This summer has not felt like a summer, not a normal summer anyways.  Summer to me is represented by the simmering scents of this time of year: suntan lotion and the smell of sun-kissed skin, like warm lemons.  Summer smells like the airport, pool water, hair with salt water crusted at the roots, fresh peaches.  The aromas of fish tacos, strawberries, fireworks and beer fill the air.

That is not what this summer has smelled like.

 This summer has smelled like interior and exterior paint, cardboard boxes, mulch, Lowe's, diaper cream and stress, whatever that smells like.  This summer does not feel like a summer, because in the middle of it, we decided it would be a great idea to sell our home.  It didn't really bother me until I thought about it, until Ryan and I had the same realization at the same time: what happened to our summer?  Not only that but there has been a definite lack of summer invitations to BBQ's and volleyball games.  I think everyone is hunkering down this summer., either that or we have no more friends.



Maybe it's something in the air that says "Don't party. Stay in. Rewatch Lost."

(Maybe I'm watching Lost because Sawyer that show just reeks of summer with all those attractive people lounging on the beach, gorgeous Kauai shots and lots of swimming and yelling in the ocean. Also, imminent demise, smoke monsters, bombs, helicopters, golden labs. Maybe because minus the death and mystery, LOST is one big summer.)



Still, I'm happy to announce that I finally had one epically summer night. The one thing that I will miss about our home is that we live literally down the street from Katie and Dave.  It's nice because I can text Katie to go get ice cream at 10pm on like a Tuesday and it can happen, and I never have to take off my yoga pants. Katie picked me up and we hit up Coldstone (Sweet Cream Ice Cream + Bananas + Heath + Caramel = Deliciousness) and then decided to "Go Park".

 We laughed for a long time about that, because for both of us it had been a long time since we "parked" with anyone. After considering an actual park that is nice during the daytime but super shady and full of creepers at night, we found a gorgeous place to park in a private Christian school parking lot that overlooked the entire city and the foothills.

Fact: Colorado has resplendent summer evenings.

 No matter how hot it may be in the daytime, Colorado nights are always cool and comfortable.  We rolled down the windows and Katie opened her sunroof and turned up the radio.  The night was clear, and we could see the stars overhead, and the city before us.

We laid back our chairs and talked about everything in the world for the next two hours: our high school memories, motherhood, feelings, traveling, movies, book plots & plans for the future.



It was magical.

 Sticking my feet up out of the sunroof (something about being in a car for a long period of time turns me into a yoga master) and watching my toes wiggle at the stars above, that moment encapsulated summer.  Sure, this summer has been less than ideal in a lot of ways. I'm a mother of a wiggling, active pre-toddler and I'm a home owner who is trying to make a home perfect to sell.  There is a loud ticking clock over our heads, and a child trying to eat paper clips at our feet. Our lives right now may be boxes and bottles and an occasional crying fit of stress when I think we will never be ready, that I will never make my Wendy Darling deadlines, that we are MAD, MAD I TELL YOU to attempt this, but for those few hours...

with that dear friend,
with that ice cream and those stars and that view,

 I had summer.

It tasted like rainy air and bananas.

It was enough.
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