Smells Like Team Spirit

You can’t be married for 21 years without knowing your partner pretty well, but you can still learn new things. We’ve been spending a few days at Universal Orlando and I’ve realized Ginnie’s spirit animal is spirit itself.

Shortly after we checked in at Universal’s Cabana Bay, we were hanging out in the lobby and saw Lucy Ricardo. Perky, sassy, wisecracking Lucy Ricardo. Ginnie’s mouth immediately qwirked to her “porkchops and applesauce” grin and her energy level powered through the roof. Did she have to meet Lucy Ricardo? Hoo boy, she had to show Lucy who was perkier, sassier, wisecrackier. Pictures ensued.

Showdown

Showdown

Day two; she and Zoe met a couple who told them how to be part of Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras parade. You had to wait at a secret bench two hours before the parade started and you could be in the parade. Not just in the parade, but on a float tossing out beads to a pumped up crowd. You could be a literal team spirit dispenser.

Adoring fan

Adoring fan

Did this appeal? Hoo boy. She and our perky, sassy, redhead headed out early to shiver on a bench waiting for their chance at stardom. Reports came in. They were on a float wearing purple robes. The float featured a giant fire-breathing bird. Can’t miss it, except for the fact that the rest of the floats were equally crazy.

Behind the scenes, waiting for the parade to start

Behind the scenes, waiting for the parade to start

The rest of us barely made it to the show, but most importantly we did make it. The energy level was high. Glitter soared and beads flew. At last we saw the float. It showcased a maniacally cackling redhead Monkey (introvert #winning because the show was all atmosphere, she had something to do and people weren’t directly focused on her). And Ginnie, spirit glowing, happily hucking beads at the dispossessed and spirit-less.

Red distributes joy.

Red distributes joy.

Huckin' it

Huckin’ it to the back row

866 and Onward

This is my 866th post, which makes me deliciously happy.

Buster was reading through posts last night and laughing with great shudders of laughter.

Then he asked me, aghast, “Mom, have you done a post about Christmas yet?!”

Oops, not yet, Buster.

So many more posts to write, so many more adventures to have and love to spread.

Sometime in the next few weeks we’ll be switching this blog over to a private space that is password protected. Those of you who read it will have easy access, and there will be many more details to come.

But for today, for this random Monday as we prepare to head out for Girl Scouts and a cookie booth, today is just for fun.

A few random moments of joy:

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Buds, making the one-two success fist punch he does when he solves a coding problem, sitting in the dark under a picture of…Baby Buds.

She got sick far enough before our trip to Florida to be totally well at the right time! And her brother, too!

She got sick far enough before our trip to Florida to be totally well at the right time! And her brother, too!

Walking out our front door to see this goofball.

Walking out our front door to see this goofball.

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He doesn’t want to fish, but sitting in the boat feels fun.

These two, talking about things sisters talk about.

These two, talking about things sisters talk about.

A hockey date night with Buds and his co-workers.

A hockey date night with Buds and his co-workers.

I’m not sure why all the seats all around us are empty. We’re very friendly and harmless. At least I am.

And a blast from the past:

Four years ago. Buster's shirt was new then.

Four years ago. Buster’s shirt was new then.

Monkey giving Yessa an eye exam for some reason.

Buster still wears that shirt. We still have that brown sweater. Look at those sweet faces.

We didn’t even know that a move to Nash would soon be in our future.

Who knows what fantastic adventures await us now?!

866 more posts to come.

Floored!

We’re not fans of carpet in our family. Too many allergies, too many sensitive noses. For various reasons, we reached the end of our rope with the carpet in the basement and out it came.

Because Weston was putting in our new deck out back at the same time, it was the ideal time to take advantage of the lovely dumpster sitting in our driveway. There was plenty of room for the carpet, and the children and I got to work being destructive.

Plus, it was great to be able to pick Weston’s brain with a few questions. Use all available resources!

Obligatory “Before” post:

What the old carpet looked like.

What the old carpet looked like.

Tear it all out!

Tear it all out!

We made a big pile of carpet and padding in the garage, then tossed it into the dumpster.

This was after we’d removed 75% of the pile.

Looking pretty chipper.

Looking pretty chipper.

Filled up.

Filled up.

Hammer, chisel, the carpet strips don't stand a chance.

Hammer, chisel, the carpet strips don’t stand a chance.

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Can you tell how we learned there was tile before there was carpet?

Can you tell how we learned there was tile before there was carpet?

The big truck delivering the 64 boxes of laminate flooring.

And Wonderful Weston using his truck to make my life easier.

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Stripped, vacc'ed, and ready to go.

Stripped, vacc’ed, and ready to go.

The laying of the flooring was a process of; move furniture, pull out carpet, padding, and carpet strips, scrape up the glue, vacuum, vacuum, vacuum, move the furniture some more, vacuum again, lay out plastic, underlayment, and flooring, move the furniture again, vacuum again, lay out more plastic, underlayment, and flooring, repeat, repeat, repeat.

The flooring had to sit inside for 48 hours. This is what the children and I brought in from the garage.

The flooring had to sit inside for 48 hours. This is what the children and I brought in from the garage.

This is what Buds carried in for a pre-workout warm up.

This is what Buds carried in for a pre-workout warm up.

The leveler I poured by the door so it had time to dry before we got to this section.

The leveler I poured by the door so it had time to dry before we got to this section.

Part 1

Part 1

Part 2 Prepped

Part 2 Prepped

Part 2 laid.

Part 2 laid.

Part 2 continued.

Part 2 continued.

Furniture moved again.

Furniture moved again.

Getting close to the end.

Getting close to the end.

They needed to test the new flooring for snuggles.

They needed to test the new flooring for snuggles.

Friend J came down to help with the work on this day, and after hours of floor work, Buds said, “I’m hungry. Let’s go to Five Guys to celebrate our floor.”

So we did.

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And it was good.

Niece Teresa provided the tools that saved my life on this project. Her chop saw and air nailer made this so much easier than previous floors I’ve laid.

At various times I texted her to tell her how much I loved her, but how much more I loved her tools.

The floors were done enough to have friends over for a game night we’d been planning for weeks.

No trim, but it's clean!

No trim, but it’s clean!

It looks so clean and open.

It looks so clean and open.

Done and cleaned up enough to host friends for a party!

Done and cleaned up enough to host friends for a party!

All cat free, so Eddie can breathe!

All cat free, so Eddie can breathe!

Games, games, games.

Games, games, games.

Closet trim in!

Closet trim in!

I had to create a make-shift painting room in the closet since I was still sawing in the garage so I couldn’t paint out there.

Covers for the bases of the support poles in the basement.

Covers for the bases of the support poles in the basement.

The painting room.

The painting room.

And World’s Best Contractor Weston let me use his table saw to cut the side boards, which made all the difference. I haven’t used a table saw since high school shop class, but I came out of this project with all my fingers and my nose, so I did great!

Then, seemingly suddenly, it was done. The trim is all in. The chop saw has been sent home. The air nailer waits patiently in the garage to go home to its owner.

I scooted around on the floor and caulked trim while we watched “Trolls” for family movie night. There are still nail holes to fill and plenty of wall paint to touch up, but it looks great. It feels so bright and open, and no icky carpet to haunt me any more.

And all the lovely spaces we have down there to be together:

I asked them to pretend I wasn't taking a picture...they had to ham it up.

I asked them to pretend I wasn’t taking a picture…they had to ham it up.

They are putting together a server to host this blog.

They are putting together a server to host this blog.

Mario levels being crafted.

Mario levels being crafted.

Creating some new video game stages.

Creating some new video game stages.

The sewing space

The sewing space

The reading nook.

The reading nook.

Ready for some Virtual Reality.

Ready for some Virtual Reality.

The storage closet now serves as our server room.

The storage closet now serves as our server room.

Creating a world with K + B via skype.

Creating a world with K + B via skype.

It didn’t feel like that much work as we were in the midst of the project, but as I look back on it I’m so happy to have it complete. And I love that our children are exposed and part of work like this. I might not know how to do something, but thanks to the internet and help from friends and loved ones, we can figure it out.

On to the next project!!!

Deck Me!

We’d been talking with Weston for over a year about our new deck. We needed to save up the money; he needed to create a rough draft of the look; I had to order all the supplies to be shipped or delivered to the house.

Here’s what the old deck look liked for a before and after perspective:

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Buster says the best thing about the old deck was that it matched the house.

We’d covered it with blue outdoor artificial turf to help protect feet a little, but nails were popping up through and boards were warped and twisty.

Weston was willing to work with us to use the beams underneath which were fine, and build some planters and benches to make the deck even more user-friendly.

One of the many things I love about Weston is that he’ll give me his opinion, and he’s very willing to listen to my vision, help me see if there are concerns or issues, and then say, “We can do that.”

I’m a big fan of, “We can do that.”

Weston suggested getting 20-foot boards because then the deck top wouldn’t have any seams, which would look elegant.

I toyed with the idea of hauling the boards home myself somehow…I did haul home those 12-foot carpets at Mom’s house, and that went well. What could possibly go wrong with hauling 20-footers?

Since we needed 80 of the boards, it seemed that having Home Depot deliver was prudent.

The 20-foot deck boards arrived on January 16.

The delivery truck arrives.

The delivery truck arrives.

Took a little wiggle to get down the driveway.

Took a little wiggle to get down the driveway.

Thank goodness for the right equipment.

Thank goodness for the right equipment.

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Weston kindly took a little extra care in removing the old deck boards because I hoped to be able to freecycle them. (To no avail, but I’m glad we tried.)

I got to clean out underneath, which made me happy.

I got to clean out underneath, which made me happy.

Quite a pile when it was all torn off.

Quite a pile when it was all torn off.

Turns out the deck was a later addition. The original brick patio was still under there, which makes me feel better about the days Jake The Kitten was hidden below. I had thought of him wallowing under there in mud, but he was actually living in style.

Under the dirt is brick.

Under the dirt is brick.

The weather toyed with us throughout the weeks of deck building. There were cold and rainy days, and one day Weston had on shorts with a stocking hat and a couple layers of shirts and jackets because it seemed sunny, then wasn’t. We complimented him on his fashion choices that day.

He took the time to do a fantastic job, as always. This meant he had to step away from our deck for a couple days because of a previous commitment to another job, but that was fine with us. When our contractor is willing to let you use his tools for a project you are working on at the same time, what’s to complain about?

That’s right, while Weston was building the deck, the family was redoing the basement. Separate post on that to come, but here’s a picture of Weston and the delivery man helping me bring down the pallets of laminate flooring that were delivered on one of the days.

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Each day Buds would come home to see the progress.

Weston laid some boards so we could easily get out to do the composting.

Weston laid some boards so we could easily get out to do the composting.

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The above picture is a reminder to me of the care Weston took with this project. The end board on the right side of the deck looked wavery after he put the inital laminate deck board on. Buds and I would never have noticed, but it wasn’t up to Weston quality, so he took the board off, braced the underneath side more so it would be more solid and level, then put it back together.

That’s another reason we didn’t mind how long the project took. We knew it would be one well.

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A beautiful platform for dancing.

A beautiful platform for dancing.

Look at those 20-foot boards…smooth as butter.

Benches in.

Benches in.

Sturdy handrail up.

Sturdy handrail up.

The custom planters were the fussiest part. They look gorgeous and I can’t wait to see them filled and blooming.

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Weston takes the time to think through how to make things beautiful.

Weston takes the time to think through how to make things beautiful.

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Look at that consistency!

Look at that consistency!

My dad would love the symmetry of all this.

My dad would love the symmetry of all this.

On two days of heavy rain, we had the chance to see what the birds thought of the deck while all was quiet back there with Weston not working.

What the heck, birds?!

What the heck, birds?!

The birds sat in the gutter above the deck, hung their tiny feathery keisters over the edge and crapped in a pretty, seedy pattern straight down the deck. I was horrified and fascinated all at once.

After many shared cups of coffee, many hours of labor, lots of decisions and discussions, and a few conversations with Jeremy about fishing, the deck was done.

Before Yessa and I cleaned up the yard.

Before Yessa and I cleaned up the yard.

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The view out the deck door.

The view out the deck door.

Ready for entertaining.

Ready for entertaining.

Look at those beautiful patterns.

Look at those beautiful patterns.

Ready for spring.

Ready for spring.

We had a fire out back with Teresa and Jeremy on the first night the deck was done, and I’ve eaten dinner out there already. Once the weather is consistently warm, it will feel like we’ve added another room to the house.

Thanks, Weston, for making our life better.

The final product.

The final product.

Sorta Good Time

Part of being a Girl Scout is getting to know Girl Scout cookies, and since the girls have chosen to join up with a newly formed homeschool GS troop down here, yesterday I volunteered to help with cookie sorting. Awesome niece Teresa volunteered (was begged) to go along so I’d have company for the drive and to navigate if I got lost. And she even brought delicious coffee to help me get going in the early morning.

It was a beautifully sunny, crisp day to be outside. The sorting happened in the back lot of an electrical company so lots of space and easily available forklift and pallet mover. Due of the industrial location, no actual Girl Scouts could be involved in the sorting process, which is too bad but understandable due to liability.

Also, they wouldn’t let Teresa and me drive the forklift. Due to “you don’t know how.”

Whatever…

Teresa and I have lots of ideas for how they could improve the process next year…which no one wants to hear…but we are ready to share if asked.

The semi with our load of cookies pulled up right at 10 a.m. as expected.

Ready to move those cookie boxes!

Ready to move those cookie boxes!

The semi with our service unit's initial orders.

The semi with our service unit’s initial orders.

The crowd of adults ready to help.

The crowd of adults ready to help.

The line of pallets of with the individual cookie types.

The line of pallets of with the individual cookie types.

The pallets were piled above Teresa’s head, so well over 6 feet high. The taller folks were in high demand as they were called for help from stack to stack as we reshuffled the cookies into smaller stacks for easier counting and sorting.

The individual boxes of cookies hold 12 smaller boxes of GS cookies, which means some of the boxes are worth $60 on the open market. (Black market sales of Thin Mints…who knows the value?!) This means there are multiple counts of cookies at each step of the process.

First we de-stacked the pallets of cookies into smaller stacks of cookies for initial counting. Piles of 5 x 5 x 5 make for quick counts.

Samoas are popular.

Samoas are popular.

Then the human ants sorted the cookies into individual troop stacks, where each troop’s pile was counted by 3 separate counters.

The right side shows an individual troop's cookie pile, with remaining stacks of 5x5x5 piles on the left.

The right side shows an individual troop’s cookie pile, with remaining stacks of 5x5x5 piles on the left.

Then the human chain loaded the cookies into troop vehicles, then we were free to go.

Our troop's initial cookie order.

Our troop’s initial cookie order.

Teresa and I were on our way home from unloading the cookies at one of our troop leader’s homes by 12:19. We scooped up Yessa and headed to lunch at Publicity in self-congratulations for a job well done. Jeremy even made it back from fishing in time to join us.

A pleasant day well-spent.

Forgot my sunglasses, which makes me look just like...

Forgot my sunglasses, which makes me look just like…

Squnity-smiley emoticon.

Squnity-smiley emoticon.

Click on the picture of our two troop leaders and me to make it bigger and you’ll see, I’m not even joking.

Now, go support a Girl Scout.

Muggles

February 4, 1994 I finished up a Friday teaching school, went to the gym for a step aerobics class, came home to shower, slipped on my roommate’s little black dress, and stepped out for a night of ballroom dancing that would forever change the course of my life.

How I looked on February 4, 1994.

How I looked on February 4, 1994.

Twenty-three years later, I declared the 23rd anniversary of when you meet your soulmate “The Ugly Mug-versary!”

And Ugly Mug-versary we celebrate with a vengeance here at The Shoebox.

Inspired by lovely mugs like this:

So lovely.

So lovely.

I created this mugstrosity:

He was thrilled!

He was thrilled!

I even painted a heart in the bottom.

I even painted a heart in the bottom.

Notice the inside is brown so he can just rinse with coffee and use again.

I’m a thinker.

Buds was also quick to point out I’ve made a habit of green and purple mugs:

Other clay creations of mine.

Other clay creations of mine.

Now that our mug-versary is over, I’ll be taking orders for the 2017 holiday season, folks! Any mug painted in green and purple, I’m your gal.

Don’t wait too long.

Pottery Perfection like this can’t be rushed.

Happy Meeting Anniversary, Buds. Wouldn’t change a thing.

Dancin’ At The Symphony

The Nashville Symphony has a fantastic education department, and we have taken advantage of their offerings multiple times since we moved here. They send out a list of free school concerts each year, and we homeschoolers are included in this generosity.

The one we attended last week was “Dancing Through The Centuries.”

Waltz, Polka, Hoedown, Minuet...something for everyone.

Waltz, Polka, Hoedown, Minuet…something for everyone.

This is a great example of one of our adventures where I miss Buds. He’s been leaving for work early and working so hard. We had to send him this puppy pile picture so he knew we were missing him in the early hours on this day we’d be heading to the symphony.

Best way to start the day, if Buds were here, too.

Best way to start the day, if Buds were here, too.

Even Waffles joined the fun.

Even Waffles joined the fun.

The homeschoolers always get to sit in the loge boxes on the sides. Yessa wanted to see if we could get seats higher up, but they were already filled with students, so next time we’ll get there earlier to see if we can get higher or closer.

We love the loge boxes.

We love the loge boxes.

And our friend Roger was playing, which always helps us feel connected to the music.

Another great aspect of the Young People’s Concerts is that the symphony adds in an extra hook to help keep us entertained. For this concert a male and female dancer came out in stunning costumes to demonstrate several of the dances as the symphony played. I was so entranced I didn’t get any pictures of them, but it was beautiful.

Additional bonus, people who didn’t arrive in a bus always get released first.

Oh, and as a funny aside: Much like a new friend will say, “Oh, you are from Chicago. I know Sally Jones from there. Do you know her?”

When we’re out at an event with students who arrive in buses, Yessa and I are always looking for Nashville cousins to happen to be on a field trip at the same place at the same time. We’re perpetually hopeful we’ll see them.

Yeah for live music, kind people, and delightful, free adventures.

You work toward it and hope for it. Then when it happens…

You work toward it and hope for it. Yet when it happens, it is still a joyous surprise.

On Saturday of this last weekend, Buds and I were gone all morning, then we popped home to grab the littles and headed out for the afternoon. Monkey didn’t want to attend either of the event options, so she had the day to herself, including all afternoon at home alone.

She and I messaged about a couple things, and as you can see, I teased her about folding the laundry.

Monkey Pulls A Surprise

I walked up the basement stairs and into the kitchen. Monkey was sitting at the kitchen table working diligently on her video game creation. I gave her a cheerful, “Hi, Monkey!” Then I looked around me.

Clean dishes were drying next to the sparkling sink. Everything was so shiny I swear I saw those little twinkle lights.

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She had cleaned the kitchen and all that entailed; folded two loads of laundry, as well as processing more laundry; taken out garbage and recycling; cared for cats’ needs; plus, she made time for self-care by going out for a walk on the beautiful winter day.

Buds told us later that he was thinking on the drive home from our day out, “Okay, we’ll get home and I’ll tackle that dirty kitchen.” That was not a joy-filled thought for him. But he was going to do it.

All the people in the house help with chores all the time. That wasn’t the surprise. Giving of her precious time to show her love for all of us in this way; what generosity of spirit.

She said she likes doing chores when she’s alone because she can play her music and sing as loudly as she wants, which makes the time pass so quickly as she’s working. Monkey spends a fair amount of time thinking about when she’ll be ready to forge forth in the world on her own. She takes opportunities like this to see how “adulting” really works.

Whatever the reason, it was a lovely gift to the family.

Love this face.

Love this face.

An IKEA Farmhouse Kitchen that Lives Under the Sicilian Sun

In a splendid twist, a blog post was written about us by someone else!

A few months back the owner of the design firm that we used when planning the kitchen remodel reached out to ask how we felt about their services. I told him we had loved them, and suggested he read the blog posts about the remodel to see how things worked out.

And then we never heard from him again.

But then, a couple weeks ago, a writer reached out asking if they could do a write up about the kitchen. The owner had read the blog, and liked what he saw in the kitchen remodel outcome. Since Buds was the one who dealt with the IKD designer, he’s the one who gave the interview and visited with the writer.

It’s always fun to hear an outsider’s perspective on your decisions, and the journalist presents us in a sane, respectful light, and it even sounds like we have some creative vision, so big win all around.

If you can stand to read any more about our kitchen, here you go. Nashville’s Sicilian Kitchen

As a funny aside, the author reached out one last time for some before pictures of the kitchen “without people in them.”

Apparently they made an exception one time in agreeing to use pictures that had people in them, and that only reinforced their decision to NEVER use pictures with people in them ever again.

Interesting story there.

And oh, that kitchen in Sicily…

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Happy Catversary

Long time no write, folks.

Lots going on here at The Shoebox, and at some point I’m sure there will be a flurry of posts to tell you all about it.

But for MLK Jr. Day, as the children and I prepare to march in a celebration parade with hopes for a better world for all people, I decided to share pictures of cats.

Because that’s fun.

One year ago yesterday Waffles and MoonStar joined the family.

“Wow. It’s gone so quickly.” said Monkey.

Doesn’t time have that way about it.

MoonStar used to just sit nearby while we sewed.

MoonStar used to just sit nearby while we sewed.

Then she decided Monkey's new blanket was the best place in the world to rest.

Then she decided Monkey’s new blanket was the best place in the world to rest.

Then she wanted a better perspective.

Then she wanted a better perspective.

Then she decided she wanted to learn to sew.

Then she decided she wanted to learn to sew.

Their preferred resting places.

Their preferred resting places.

Moonie has selected a random styrofoam castoff as her preferred resting place. And the above photo shows the difficulties of taking pictures of an all black cat.

Waffles is curled up on the cat bed on the right…his snuggle spot.

A better shot of Waffles.

A better shot of Waffles.

MoonStar is the talkative one and Waffles is the squeaky one and they have both brought a tremendous amount of laughter and joy to our lives.

Oh, and worms, they have also brought worms, but let’s not focus on that today.

Happy Catversary.