Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Two, Dude

Almost exactly two years ago to the hour, I was holding our son in my arms for the first time.
My son.
The reality was finally sinking in, and I think I cried like twenty times that day. 

And much later, after the worst of the sleep deprivation was over,
we realized just how complete our family felt with this little man in it.

I just finished tucking in our now 2 year-old baby for his daily nap. 
He grabbed my face in his chubby hands and pulled me in for a big kiss on the lips. He smiled and said, "I yuhv you" before turning over on bed, snuggling in to sleep.

It melts my heart every time. 
He might not technically be a baby anymore, but he is still my baby.
Although if you ask him, he will proudly let you know that he is "two, dude."

Happy Birthday little G.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Last night was another conversion van ride (through snow-covered roads) to a concert. It's the third one this year - we road tripped to a random concert last February and then to Cher this summer. 
Truly, the 1995 Econoline just sets the mood for a fun time. 

It was a Tracy Lawrence concert. You might remember him if you listened to country back when country was awesome - aka the 1990s.

But you can't tell we are going to a country concert, can you?
Look at all that plaid...

When we heard earlier this year that Tracy Lawrence was coming to Iowa, we definitely wanted to get tickets. For one, they are cheap as hell. Fifteen dollars? Sign me up.
Reason #2:
The year was 1994 and our grandma Connie never knew what to buy us girls for Christmas. So she goes into WalMart and informs the sales clerk that her granddaughters like country westuurn (how G-Con says it) music and she needs help picking something out. The lady proceeds to come back with VHS tapes of Tracy Lawrence and John Michael Montgomery. She assures my grandma we will love them. And we did - mostly because we thought it was so cool to watch the same music videos over and over again. 
My mom heard "Sticks & Stones" so many times that she probably wanted to take a stick to her eardrums. 

Cut to 20 years later, we buy 3rd row tickets to his concert.

And just like the last time at this venue, we headed for the front of the stage and stayed there. 

We had a good time - we always do together - and when the concert was over we headed to the casino floor.

I am not a huge gambler. Jared and I go maybe two or three times a year, and it is usually because we are in a group like this. But I haven't spent any of my birthday money yet, so I brought along a couple of twenties. My parents like to gamble now and again so I found a seat next to my dad and Beaner and started playing a quarter slot. A few minutes later he wanted to change locations, so I cashed out and followed them. We ended up in the high stakes room. 

And since this is small-town Iowa, the high stakes slots start at a whole dollar. 
I have never played a dollar machine - I am way too much of a tight-ass - but I figured hey, whatever, it's my birthday money. Also, I had a few drinks at the concert and was really going with the flow at this point. I pick a machine, put in the $13 I have left from my twenty, and hit the big red BET button. 
Seven dollars in and my machine starts going nuts.
My brain is working a little more slowly than normal thanks to that Captain and Coke, but the constantly increasing numbers is getting me excited. I yell for my dad that I think I might be winning some real money. 
The machine stops on 480 credits. 
I process for a second. 
Wait, this is a dollar machine! 
A credit is a dollar.

I won $480?!

Night made.

I wish I could show the snapchat video my sister took of me immediately after. I am totally tipsy and fanning myself with my hand because I can't believe I actually won money.

Now, you would think I would be the big winner for the night, right?
Justy's boyfriend Zac put 20 bucks in another machine in this same room and hit $770. And he had never been there before and hardly ever gambled in his life.

We later tried to celebrate our winnings by purchasing some late night McDonald's, but the van window wouldn't roll down in the cold (How could you let us down, Vandie?!) and by the time Jared got out and hit it into working again, it was a minute past midnight and the lady in the drive-thru wouldn't take our order.
Fast Food Fail.

But don't worry, I comforted myself with my winnings.  ;)

Friday, November 14, 2014

There's just been so much cake...

Well, it's been about an eon. I swear I don't ever mean to take a 3 week blogging vacation, but it happens. Life got busy. Blogging was at the bottom of my list and apparently being a sick person was at the top. For weeks.

So let's recap.

We came back from our Colorado vacation and that next Tuesday was my birthday. 
I'm 30 now, y'all, in case you missed it.
So that week went quickly because I was busy eating cake and stuff.

Flash forward to that Friday night. 
My sisters had long planned to take Jared and I out for an evening to celebrate. We planned to meet at my parents' house and when we were chauffeured there, we were greeted by a joint surprise party. And trust and believe - we were surprised.
We celebrated with {more} cake and some adult beverages.

Jared's dad and step-mom came from Kansas and his mom even drove from Colorado after just seeing us the week before. I was shocked.
So a quiet weekend at home turned into two days of fun entertaining family that we don't get to see very often.

Literally the day we said sayonara to our visiting family, the kids got sick. Sinus infections, waking every hour all night long, generalized whininess... the whole nine yards. They missed school all week and basically drove me up the wall. We toughed it out for approximately 9 days before I had enough. (That's what you get when both your parents are nurses!) Then we spent a couple days going to doctor appointments. 

Their noses crusted up long enough for us to dress them up to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Yep, we probably spread around colds to the entire neighborhood. My bad.

Please take note of Picture #1...
...and Picture #2.

Graham was not tolerating an actual costume. We listened to about five whole minutes of pitiful crying and screaming and tearing at the hood of his costume before we gave up and let him win. Jared ransacked his dresser upstairs and came up with this outfit. 
His costume? 
We're calling it Dapper Toddler.

It was another weeks of colds (after kicking the sinus infections) and then we loaded up for a weekend trip to Fremont, Nebraska. The girls were to be flower girls in Jodie and Keith's wedding on Saturday. Jodie has been Fe's best friend for the past ten years, and in that time she has come on vacations with us, attended our kids' birthday parties, been around for holidays - you name it. She is family. There was no way we were missing that wedding!

Aunt Beaner was the bride's personal attendant.

Aunt Fe was the Maid of Honor.

Now, I partied with Fe and Jodie and their friends back in college, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But throw in Keith's friends? The beer was flowing and the party was on. 

This picture was taken about two hours in to the dance, so please excuse my sweaty face and ramshackle hair. 
There was a lot of dancing going on people!

I love weddings. I love the opportunity for an open bar, a festive mood, and great music. There was all of those things and more. (The more being the father of the bride down on the floor slapping around doing the dance to "Taking Care of Business.")  

I also love that at weddings my husband turns into this guy:

Some people don't get to see this particular side of Jared, but my husband is F-U-N. When the drinks are flowing and there is a good time to be had, Jared is there building the beer can pyramid and singing to Backstreet Boys' songs with the best of them. We don't get out much together, and when we do, usually someone has to stay in control. But that night there was a shuttle taking us to our hotel so it was game on. I am positive we both were displaying some pretty awesome dance moves for most of the night.

This past week we finally got out to my parents' farm for our annual combine rides. The kids are still small enough that I could fit in there with all three of them and my dad. It was interesting at times - there was always one child trying to yank on the steering wheel - but they loved it. Hopefully next year we won't be sick all month long and they can go out and spend part of a day riding in the buddy seat with my dad.

 Combine selfie!

So that's it. The past three weeks summed up in a few pictures.

Tomorrow night my sisters and I are attending a Tracy Lawrence concert. Like Tracy Lawrence that was on the country charts in the 1990s. Or as we like to call him, Tra-Law. 
Because we have names for everyone. 

So come 9 PM tomorrow night, I am going to be singing "Texas Tornado" like it's 1994. 
You best bring it, Tra-Law!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

30 Things

So earlier this week I turned the big 3-0.

Not nearly as intimidating and horrifyingly old as my 16 year-old self imagined. Life is good, even if I am now old...

I thought I might make a list of 30 random facts about me to commemorate my 30 years of age.

Here we go.

1. Favorite foods: (of course that is plural - I love food.)
Skippy creamy peanut butter.
My mother-in-law Cathy's chicken salad.
German chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.
Reese's peanut butter pumpkins/trees/hearts/eggs.

2. I was voted "most opinionated" by my high school class. 
"I was so surprised," said no one.

3. I like gross stuff. Probably goes with the nursing territory. Gnarly wounds. Pimples that need squeezed. Remember that YouTube video of the guy that had a zit-looking thing popped on his back and it basically erupted like Old Faithful for for five minutes straight? Yeah, fascinating to me.

4. I love to recycle.

5. My favorite date with Jared was a random, unplanned one. We went to a hole-in-the-wall bar on a random Sunday night. We ordered bar food and a pitcher of beer. Karaoke started and we ended up being asked to sing a song. We apparently livened up this dive bar so much that suddenly drink after drink was arriving at the table - on the house, which of course fueled our fabulous singing. What was supposed to be a quick supper turned into 6 hours spent singing with strangers.

6. I mow the lawn while singing loudly. I pray my neighbors can't hear me over the noise of the mower. And sometimes I forget to stop after I cut the engine. Whoops.

7. I still wear a t-shirt that I got in 6th grade. 
 Tri-County All-stars. 
I am not sure I will ever get rid of it.

8. My sisters jokingly call me The English Teacher because I love to proofread and edit things. 

9. I hate learning new technology-related things. (I know, I am so deserving of old person jokes.) I don't want to learn a new program to upload photos to the computer. I don't want a new keyboard on my phone for texting. I am becoming a geezer. And while I'm at it, get off of my lawn!

10. My sisters are my best friends. Seriously, what do women do without sisters? No one else would put up with my shit, I swear. 
There's that All Stars t-shirt again...
11. Aforementioned sisters and I are considering getting (small) matching tattoos. None of us know what it will even consist of, but we are currently in talks.

12. My dream vacation is going to Europe with Jared. True, I have already been, but I look forward to seeing it with Jared. And I am sure the experience would be completely different, especially since I wouldn't be 17 years old and in pizza-at-least-once-a-day carb coma.

13. I once fought back against a bully by punching him in the face. 
I was in 5th grade. 
He deserved it.
Most fulfilling detention ever.

14. If you are one of those people who constantly misuses your/you're, their/there/they're, to/too/two, etc and shows no interest in learning the difference, we probably can't be friends. At least not friends that write things to each other. And don't get me started on people who write entire blog posts using zero capitalization... Ugh!
The two on my left are still two of my besties even now, 25 years later...

15. I like the F word way more than is socially acceptable.

16. When reading a magazine or newspaper in a waiting room, I always flip to the advice sections first. 
Dear Abby. 
Emily Post.
"Can this marriage be saved?" 
All that stuff. 
It's my inner therapist.

17. I am a total night owl. But oddly, I am still way more of a morning person than my husband ever will be. 

18. When a person tells me that freckles are "angel kisses", I do not hold in my eye roll. Ever. 
(The take-away here: please don't ever utter that corny crap in my presence.)
19. I love fall. 
The weather, pretty trees, autumn-scented candles... but Halloween is just not my fave. I know I should care about costumes and dressing-up my kids, but I just kinda don't. Like I mean, I am always going to do it, but I never ever ever going to be a mom who sews costumes or throws down $150 (or more) to outfit my three kids for one night. (Because I think that is redic.) 
And I come by this honestly - my mom never gave a crap about Halloween either. I had last second costumes, and I am pretty sure every year Mom just said, "Go find something in the Halloween tub." It's fine though. Farm kids are basically used to raising themselves during the month of October.

20. I have become a crier. Since having kids, something snapped in the emotions department. Daily I am crying at something, whether it is a sweet commercial or the Today Show.

21. I notice eyebrows. Some people notice teeth (Fe, Jared, my friend Kate). Some notice eye color. Some notice clothes. I notice eyebrows. And if you're one of those people who over-tweezes and has barely half an eyebrow left, that is the first thing my brain is gonna notice.

22.  I was a huge perfectionist in high school when it came to grades. One time I got a B+ and it ruined my 4.0 GPA. When my mom tried to assure me that a B was still a good grade, I shouted in all my teenage, overdramatic angst, "B's are the devil!" All three of my sisters witnessed it, and trust me, they will never let me live it down. 

23. Both Jared and I want to live on an acreage. Annnnnd here we are living on Main Street. *sigh* Someday...

24. I am an insulin-dependent diabetic. Yeah, yeah, it sucks, but I am used to it, so whatever. Please take note of these tips so you don't piss off a Type 1 diabetic in your life. 

25. I had a pet pig growing up. Not like a guinea pig - we are talking a full grown hog. His name was Percy and he was a straight up pet. He knew the sound of my voice. He liked head scratches. I bawled nightly for 2 weeks after he went to slaughter. And this is yet another story that my sisters harass me for. (They're so mean, right?!)

26. I always wanted a nickname. My sisters all have at least one. 
Felicia = Fe, FeFe, FeDogg (cuz she was a ghetto wannabe back in the day)
Catrina = Beaner, Beans
Justina = Justy, Buggy
And then there is me. Vanessa
27. I can quote word-for-word the entire movie Billy Madison.

28. I watch too many TV shows. And I have way too many favorites. Game of Thrones, The Blacklist, Breaking BadModern Family, Masters of Sex, Outlander, Elementary, Downton Abbey... The internet has made it way too easy for us to binge watch tons of shows and then get addicted.

29. I am a card sender. I pride myself on remembering people's birthdays and sending a card. There is just something special about getting real mail these days.

30. I am fashion challenged. I never know what looks good, and we don't have the money for me to purchase lots of pieces to spice up my wardrobe. So I basically end up wearing lots of solid colors (ie: boring) and throwing on some jewelry to spice it up. And at home I live in workout pants and t-shirts, but at least it is a small upgrade from the nursing tanks I lived in up until 6 months ago. 

So that's it. Thirty items about my thirty year-old self. 
Many thanks if you made it this far.
You know you're thrilled that you now know the name of my childhood pet pig.

Monday, October 20, 2014

32 hours in the car and well worth it

We spent the entirety of last week on vacation. We loaded up the van early Sunday morning and started on the road to Colorado for {almost} a week with Cathy (Jared's mom) in Estes Park. 

It took eight hours, but we finally hit the sweet spot.
Yep, that's right. All three kids asleep at once. It was like Jesus himself came and blessed our Chrysler and all its occupants.

They did great until about 10 hours in. Then they got a little stir-crazy. And cranky. As did their parents. We reached a desperation level and I documented it with a Snapchat: a photo highlighting the fact that Alvin and the Chipmunks was currently playing on the Sirius XM in our car. And we didn't change the channel. 
Whatever it takes, right?
We arrived at Cathy's house in Loveland just a few minutes shy of 12 hours on the road. Despite some episodes of heavy threats ("Don't make me pull this car over!") and one episode of carsickness puking (Graham), the all-in-one-day trip was not nearly as painful as I had imagined.

Cathy rented a house on a mountainside in Estes Park, Colorado, complete with awesome views.
Everyone was just a little excited to finally be there!

The house slept a ridiculous amount of people and was probably bigger than we needed. In short, it was amazing. There was tons of room for the kids to run and play with toys and lots of adult space too, namely the pool table, sauna, and hot tub. There was also a big fake bear in the house, and you know we had to get some pictures with Smoky!

The view was pretty spectacular too. 
This Iowa girl isn't used to waking up to mountains every morning.

We did the traditional touristy thing on day one - browsing downtown, purchasing t-shirts for us and jammies for the kids, eating fudge and ice cream cones.
But the rest of our days were pretty packed with all things mountains.

We had a couple hiking guides and we researched a bit. We needed paths that were smoother and handicap accessible since we would be pushing a large double stroller. We bought admittance to the Rocky Mountain National Park and there were many trails to choose from. We spent the first day walking around Lily Lake and just driving through the park, getting higher and higher and enjoying all the views. 
The kids quite obviously liked climbing every chance they got.
We stopped for a picnic when we got hungry. And as usually happens with our middle child, nature called at an inconvenient time.

The next day we set out on another adventure in the Rockies. We intended to go on a short walk around another lake, but on the drive there Cathy spotted a waterfall off in the distance. When we arrived at the parking lot, we had the option of a hike up to Alberta Falls. So off to the falls we went. 

We took lots of pictures. 
Some not so great. 
I find that with three kids it is almost always an action shot of some kind.

It was a nice hike. Since both girls refused to ride in the stroller, we went at a slower pace. Major props to Jared for pushing the stroller for well over a mile up the side of a mountain! 
Both girls loved the stepping stones through a small creek on the walk.

And the view once we got there was well worth all the effort.

The following hike around Bear Lake was beautiful too. 

We let the kids loose to burn off some energy.
Graham particularly loved his freedom.

Rocks had to be climbed and water had to be watched.

We finished up the day with a slightly terrifying drive up Trail Ridge Road. Both Cathy and Jared thought it was a must-see kind of thing, so up the mountain we went. Now heights themselves don't really bother me. Driving on a road where zero shoulder exists and the only view is one straight down: that bothers me. Especially when I was riding in the passenger seat.

And man, was it windy up there! 
And cold. 
If you can't tell, I am freezing and about to blow away.

We got to the highest point and at Bailey's insistence, got out so she could throw a snowball.
And I didn't think it possible, but the drive down was worse than the drive up. I was extremely relieved when we reached somewhat level ground again and I could stop envisioning how many times the van would roll on its way to the bottom of the mountain after we careened off the road in some bizarre elk/deer/chipmunk accident.

We spent our last day being lazy. We hung out at the house, playing pool while the girls watched some Disney channel and Graham played with his old-school cowboys and Indians. We snacked on more food and took some short walks on the paths near the house.

And later on I did some more of this, which I am pretty darn good at when I want to be. Vacations deserve wine, that I am sure of.

So if you can't tell from all of the above wonderfulness, we had a fantastic time in Colorado. We all got uninterrupted quality time with Cathy and experienced fun new things together. It went way too fast, and we are a little bummed it is over. It is back to reality this week!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Refinished buffet

As I have mentioned in a previous post or two, we recently purchased an old buffet. 
Or sideboard. 
Or server. 
Or whatever you prefer to call it. 

We had a long wall in our dining room that was needing some love. And I have a thing for old vintage pieces of furniture, especially ones that are updated and given new life. 
A buffet was the perfect solution. 
The problem was finding one... 
We attended auctions, garage sales, you name it and it took over two years to finally find one.
Finally Jared attended a household auction on a random Friday night at 5:30 during an approaching rain storm. The stars aligned, and because few people want to stand out in a cold drizzle while their stomachs growl, he was able to snag the buffet for cheap.

Here it is in all of its "before" glory.

It cost us $110, which is pennies when you compare that to the cost of already refinished sideboards that quite often sell for upwards of $500 or $600. 

There was basically no cost in refinishing the buffet - only Jared's time. 
We already had the tools and stain required to sand down the top and refinish it. We also had the white paint used on the rest of the piece. We pieced together the decor by browsing Etsy and happening along a couple treasures at a household sale across the street from us. (We really are starting to sound like auction crazies. We aren't. We just like a good, cheap find.)

Table Runner: Etsy Modernality2
Copper Pitcher: Etsy SarahsVintageShop
Lamp: Hobby Lobby clearance
Yellow bowl: household sale for $4
Mirror: household sale $2

I love the fact that it is a neutral piece in our dining room that can be arranged and then rearranged for any season or purpose. Even just a new table runner can change up the whole look. I am excited to be able to display favorite items and family photos for years to come. 
And are you noticing all that storage? Extra storage room and increased organization make my heart oh so happy.