Tuesday, November 24, 2015

House Update and News&Reviews

This has been a busy month for us. Things are humming right along on our kitchen demo. We finished pulling down the walls and ceiling, in the process carting off several thousand pounds of material to the dump. We also removed three layers of flooring. Our awesome electrician Steve came over and gave us pretty new lights; a huge improvement over the single florescent bulb that formerly ruled the kitchen.

Next up, we're going to pop some insulation into these walls (as someone that is perpetually cold, I am thrilled about this step) and have our drywall guy install some smooth new walls. We'll most likely be doing the floor and then...we wait. Our cabinets aren't expected to be done until mid-January. oomph. So we'll be eating lots of microwavable cheese pizza. :)

In other news,

How do you keep a light-hearted blog going when horrible things are happening in the world? Here is a lovely response. 

Donald Trump wants American Muslims to have an ID card. First of all, wtf?! This guy had the perfect response.

What is the juiciest secret you know? These people have some humdingers. Want more? Enjoy them here.

Chris has had this funky video on repeat for so long. Yeah! Long live crazy Washington. What can I say, the moose motorbike is awesome.

Another installment of I, anonymous. 

A baby dies in daycare and a mother asks why she had to leave him so soon. 

Interesting: An artist turns beloved dead cat into flying helicopter

Financial advice for children

Seal soccer (spoiler: the orca wins)

Australia to put down two million feral cats.   This is why.

Here's what really happened at that company that set a $70,000 minimum wage

Happy Thanksgiving, peeps. We have some much in this country to be grateful for. Hold your loved ones close and tell them you love them.



Playground Politics


Happy almost-Thanksgiving! Ben spent his morning trying to convince me that he'd be more thankful for the holiday if it included presents. Specifically LEGO presents.

Not gonna happen, kiddo.

Speaking of Ben, he's been caught in an interesting (and somewhat heartbreaking) struggle at preschool. Here's how it went down:

There is a kid at school, M, who is the Queen Bee, when it comes to popular kids. He is older, taller, and very articulate. All the other little boys in the class, including Ben, desperately want to be in his posse. The first thing Ben does when he arrives each morning is run up to this kid and say "Hey M, can I play with you today?!".

And Lord M will decree that yes, little Benjamin can serve in his honor guard or no, little Benjamin is hereby banished to the far reaches of the playground and must serve out the recess in solitude.

I'm sure you can tell how I feel about M.

But, I also want Ben to learn how to navigate the often nasty world of the school playground so I've tried to be somewhat hands-off.

Except that M and his minions have identified my little Emma as a an easy target for ridicule and harassment.

Emma accompanies me inside the playground during drop-offs and pick-ups and usually she stands just inside the gate and stares in awe at the 'big' kids while I leave her for 60 seconds to go sign Ben out and gather his stuff.

Yesterday when I came back outside she had a circle of boys gathered around her shouting insults in the typical five-year old manner:

EMMA, you are SO SMALL. 

Yeah, you're just a BABY.

You still wear a diaper, Emma, and you poop in your pants!!


Kids can be such little shits sometimes.

Clearly, it's not the insults that pissed me off, but the manner in which they were delivered. Salem witch trials, preschool style. 

Ben is in a tizzy, as his loyalties are so clearly divided. The first time it happened last week he added a few of his own zingers into the mix (promptly looking at M for approval) but yesterday he was so spitting angry at the other boys that he started screaming and literally throwing wild punches at her aggressors: "HEY!! DON'T SAY THAT TO MY BABY SISTER!!!"

I'm still trying to decide how to approach the situation. Yesterday, I had my hands full scooping up a crying Emma and restraining a furious Benjamin. The teacher did a good job of collaring the other boys but this morning the behavior continued so we clearly haven't stopped the game. Another teacher commented to me that this group of boys was really into 'potty talk' (which has come home with my son, I've noticed) but it isn't the talk but the teasing that I've found disturbing. We'll see how this afternoon goes, but it's probably (past) time to bring it directly to the teacher.

Ben and Emma have their fair share of tussles, probably like any other group of siblings, but I'll admit it was sweet to see my boy coming to his sister's defense, especially since it required standing up against his idol. Now, if only we could stem the potty talk at home. That's probably a battle I've already lost, however.



Monday, November 09, 2015

House Projects: Kitchen Demo

We've had a busy few weeks around here. The big news is that we've begun demolition on our lovely brown kitchen. There is no turning back now, peeps.

Ours is long galley kitchen with the sink/dishwasher/fridge on one side and the stove on the other:

The opposite wall:

We've got grand plans for this kitchen, mostly because we want to open up the wall that leads to the dining room and put in a small bar with seating. Here is our dining room before demo:

That wall to the left of the pink plastic-covered doorway is going to disappear.

Sealing the dining room from the rest of the house:

I did most of the packing while Emma was napping. This was a perfect excuse to clean out the pantry. Stewed greens beans from 2012? Gone!

And then we got busy with the hammer and crow bar.

We tried to give away our chocolate brown stove and almond dishwasher on Craigslist. Not a single person was interested. boo. Off to the recycle plant.

We knew at the beginning that the lath and plaster walls were going to be the biggest job. We've dealt with the walls in other parts of the home so we went into this with our eyes open...but it was still so. much. work. And filthy. When Chris pulled down the ceiling he was enveloped in a cloud of fine dust, spider webs, and rat poop.

But we are getting there. Last week was a humdinger. I'd do demo during Emma's naps and then Chris would hammer away for a few hours after work. And then we dropped into bed at 8:30 and slept like the dead.

Here is a shot looking into our dining room. Picture that right wall gone.

Chris' dad is in town and be advised that we put all guests right to work on house tasks. Welcome to our home, here is a hammer, please take thyself into the demo zone. All kidding aside, I can tell that Chris loves having his papa here to discuss plans and work on projects together. It's not quite like two kids in a candy shop but pretty darn close. They are so alike. In the best possible way. :)

The guys were working on the hvac system. No more recirculating fan for us! So now when I burn stuff the smell doesn't linger for days.

Here is our current puzzle. There is a tiny hidden door in the closet of my office that leads into the kitchen. It is beloved by kids and dogs as it makes the lower floor into a big 'circle'. Which is perfect if you're participating in a rousing game of chase-the-dog. All workmen that visit the house are delighted by the secret passageway. 

But for those of us that are normal (or taller than normal) height, it's a pain in the neck because you simultaneously have to stoop down and turn sideways in order to shimmy through the passage. Chris, at 6'5", has to turn himself into a human pretzel. 

So tonight we decided to plaster over the secret door and turn the closet back into a closet, rather than a passageway. And then we'll punch a more normal-sized opening directly from the kitchen into the office. 

It'll still be pretty narrow (about the same size as the closet entrance) but it won't have a door so we'll be able to pass through with relative ease. I'm hopeful that it'll open up the space and provide a more direct route into the kitchen. It'll be a lot of doors for a medium-sized room: the main entrance from the hall (not shown), the closet door (at left), the new entrance into the kitchen (in blue), and then our tiny little laundry chute door. All on one wall. 

We agonize over these big house decisions...I just hope we're happy with the end result.

In other news, Emma has become Bailey's biggest fan. And is absolutely convinced she should ride her pup around like a pet pony. The poor wee beast is not amused. 

I also found this picture at my parent's house. That's me, circa 1985. 

Ben looks like a mini-me. Same eyes, nose, and chubby cheeks. What do you think? Emma, on the other hand, is trending Chris' direction. 

Have a great week, peeps! We'll keep you updated on new kitchen progress. Next up: final wall removal, hvac work, and structural construction. Wish us luck. 



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

News and Reviews

Hope your week is going well, my dears. Fall is here and we’ve been slowly settling into the cooler weather. We went hiking with some friends and have also had a few lazy weekend days. They have been desperately appreciated.

We have finally decided to move forward on our kitchen remodel so things are about to get busy around here. I am excited, but also terribly nervous. Please send happy remodel thoughts our way.

Here are a few interesting pieces:

A toxic work world for families

Also, this one rocked Seattle: Inside Amazon: Wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace. (I’m curious to see what our Amazon friends think of the article)

Llama trekking in Oregon?! YES. Sign me up. The Eagle Cap Wilderness is a stunningly gorgeous area.

I kept thinking of my parents and two of their close couple friends when reading this article: 3 couples imagine a new kind of retirement on Bainbridge Island

Christopher Columbus was a horrible, horrible person. Time to ditch ‘his’ day.

I get such a kick out of the Stranger’s We Saw You column. Seattle, you are odd. Which is why I love you.
At the end of the man-versus-nature escapade called Everest, the screen is filled with dead bodies. When the credits rolled on this anti-dramatic nightmare and the lights rose in the majestic Cinerama, your heads were tilted back and your mouths were agape—not from shock, but from actual sleep. People passed you on the way out, torn between wanting to wake you and not wanting to disrupt the only enjoyable thing they had seen for the past couple hours.

 Here is why the NFL’s annual pink campaign does almost nothing to fight breast cancer

A new way to tackle gun deaths

Also, here is the inspiration for our kitchen project. Go bold or go home! :)



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

DIY Tropical Fish CostumeTutorial

Our little Em is going to be a tropical parrot fish for halloween. This DIY fish costume is easy, provided you are fairly handy with a sewing machine. But be warned: sewing on all the scales is a time consuming process. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

DIY SCUBA Costume Tutorial

This costume works for both adults and children. 

Continue after the break for the full tutorial. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Halloween 2015: Under the Sea

I’ll post a few tutorials in a bit but here are the pictures from our little photo shoot today. Costumes are completed and have now been tucked away for the big day.

Update: SCUBA Diver Tutorial
Update(2): Parrot Fish Tutorial

First up: Scuba diver.

Ben’s favorite part of this costume is that we got to drink root beer for a week to empty out the soda canister for his air tank. 

With his prized net. (aka the candy holding bag)

Regulator = baby pacifier + plastic plumbing part

I cheated a bit: both the mask and the dive chart I lifted from our stash of scuba gear. Adds a touch of authenticity.

The flippers are felt shoe covers. 

Oh no! Almost out of air! Head for the surface!

And then we have our little tropical parrot fish:

This is my favorite costume to date. The flamingo was fun, but I love the color and pattern of the fish scales. 

Have I told you that Emma has a thing for apples? She’ll carry them around for hours. Don’t get between this girl and her fruit. 

The tail is velcro-ed so it can be removed in a pinch and the back fin covers up the velcro opening. 

The head is made from an old pilot hat of Ben’s. The eyes are halved ping pong balls.

Tutorials coming soon. 



Friday, October 09, 2015

Summer Camp on Lopez Island

Chris has three siblings and a few weeks ago we got together for the first-ever Team J Summer Camp.

In true Seattle fashion it rained. Blast! Such it life, right? It wasn’t too big a deal but I was so hopeful for one last gorgeous summer hurrah.

Chris’ brother and his wife were the true champs of the weekend as they flew down from Alaska to join the party. I think next year we owe it to them to all head north or find a place that’s out of town for all of us.

We spent our weekend on Lopez Island in the San Juans. Megan and Eric brought their boat and the highlight of the weekend was hauling crabs for a magnificent feast on Saturday night.

Here’s Megan stuffing fish heads into the bait trap.

We got Ben his own crab license and he was proud to contribute ‘his’ crabs to the party.

This was the last weekend of Dungeness crabbing for the season so we weren’t sure if we were going to be successful. There was a lot of trepidation pulling up that first pot.

Success! Sorry little buddy. 

All hands on deck. And watch your fingers! Chris and Alex learn the fine art of detangling crabs from Eric. Ben (true to form) is supervising. 

Nope, that’s a female. Throw her back into the water. Go free little lady and make lots of new tasty crab babies. 

What about this guy?

He’s a male so he’s fair game for harvesting.

Measuring the shell to see if he’s big enough:

Yep, we have a winner loser! Into the bucket you go.

Katherine was one of our resident crabbing experts. She got to sit back and laugh at our newbie attempts to not get pinched. I’m happy to report we’re still in possession of all our fingers. 

This kid. He doesn’t know it yet, but he won the lottery when it comes to aunties and uncles. 

 I like this one best. What do you think they’re talking about?

World peace? Donald Trump’s domestic policy? The state of the Chinese economy?

 And then: we ate! And ate, and ate, and ate. And then we took crab home and ate it for two more dinners. Thank you crabbies, for providing us with a feast.

Greg ate the rest of us under the table.  The sun has set, the diners are gone, the dishes are washed, and still Greg is going strong. King of crab.

One thing we’ve started doing for vacations is assigning cooks to specific meals. So Chris and I took lunch, Eric and Megan did dinner, and Alex picked Sunday breakfast. Each person is responsible for bringing food for the group, cooking it, and then doing dishes. Everyone else gets to sit back and relax (and eat!). 

Greg and Katherine, for their meal, introduced us to the horrible-sounding but shockingly delicious breakfast pasta. Think noodles, eggs, and bacon all rolled into one. 

Actually scratch that. Don’t even think about it because there is no way it’ll sound appetizing in your mind. Just know that it was fantastic. 

The one thing we definitively proved is that little Emma is a champion lounger. The girl can relax anywhere. 

We took a day trip into Friday Harbor (on San Juan Island). It’s a nice little town to hang out in, have dinner, and eat an ice cream cone. Chris and I went there a few years ago (our first trip after Ben was born) and especially enjoyed our hotel, 123 West

Ben made friends with the resident harbor seal. 

Photo bomb!

Ben gets a little biology lesson courtesy of his Uncle Eric. 

We also met a sea urchin. 

I am of two minds when it comes to sea urchins. I stepped on one once and having someone dig the spikes out of my foot is one of the most painful events I’ve ever experienced. That, and giving birth. :)

I suppose it wasn’t a fantastic day for the sea urchin, either.

All too soon it was time to pack up and hit the road. 

We were one of the very last cars on the ferry boat; if you’re traveling to the San Juans, be sure to carefully read up on the new reservation system. Some of the islands (like Lopez) don’t allow for pre-booking on the eastbound route. Lesson learned. 



[Many thanks to Eric and Alex for all the photos. xo]