Monday, February 27, 2012

best developmental milestone ever!

9.5 years - boy learns how to use washer.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Jacob and I were riding in the car the other day and had the following conversation:

C: Nevermind, I'll find someone like yoooouuuuuu, I wish nothing but the best foooooorrrr yooouuuu . . .

J: Geez mom, what is with this listening to Adele over and over again? Did she die too?

C: No! I don't just listen to the music of people who die!

J: You know, Molly asked me today if my mom was listening to Whitney Houston over and over again, and I told her: ummmm, YES! Well, her mom is too. It's driving us both crazy.

C: Well, most of the moms of the kids in your class are going to be the age of people who were in middle school, high school and college when Whitney Houston was really popular, and that's an age when music has a big impact on you. So the moms are feeling nostalgic.

J: Do you think you'll stop soon?

C: Probably.

J: Good.

Now I admit that I can get kind of obsessive when it comes to music, but I try to have consideration for others -- I mean, why were the repeat button and headphones invented if not to allow obsessive music listeners to peacefully cohabitate with others? I guess they just need to deal with me on the car rides.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

40th Birthday Basement Makeover

As David's 40th birthday was approaching I was struggling with what to get him. I originally thought about having a really fun party with friends, or going somewhere for the weekend -- both things he would love -- but then I found out that he'd be traveling for work on the days leading up to his birthday and on his actual birthday. Bummer! I really wanted to do something memorable for him because he is all kinds of awesome and it's a really big birthday -- and I didn't want something that would really underscore the whole "middle age" thing, like a tie or a Churchill biography (although that's what he's always gotten from me for his birthday, even back in his 20s!!) As I pondered various options, I scanned our {wild} household and thought that the one thing David really needs is a place to escape. So I started thinking about some form of a man cave.

This is the blog post that originally inspired me to do this project:


This blogger took IKEA Billy Bookcases and trimmed them out to create the look of built ins. I thought that that would work perfectly in our basement because it's a very rectangular room and I thought that wall to wall bookshelves would work nicely on the short wall at one end of the room. I started playing around on the IKEA Billy planner and emailing with my dad to see if he thought this was the kind of thing we could pull off. He did and agreed to help me with the project.

Here is the basement before:

My plan was to build wall to wall shelves with a TV stand in the center; switch out the doors with french doors we had sitting in our storage room from another project and change the hinges so that they didn't open into the main room; swap the old tube TV for a flat screen, and get better/more comfortable seating in that area. But as I kept playing with various Billy components I just couldn't get them to fit right - they were either too short or too long for our wall, and the trim job that would be required would end up being greater than what we were competent to do. I knew I was going to stick with IKEA products because I was doing this on the cheap. And then I found Hemnes:

When I took the wall measurements again and added up the dimensions for two large Hemnes shelves, two small Hemnes shelves, and the Hemnes TV stand, I had a "Cinderella tries on glass slipper" moment -- they would fit perfectly on our wall (well, at least once the baseboard and chair rail was ripped off -- minor detail!) So Hemnes it was.

As I explained to David on the night of his birthday, this project was a function of motive and opportunity -- the motive was to get him a non-old man present that he would really love for this milestone birthday, and the opportunity was afforded by his travel schedule in the weeks leading up to his birthday. A couple of weeks before the big day he had to go out of town for the night, so my parents and I took the 2.5 hour drive to IKEA in Atlanta to gather supplies while David's parents spent the day shuttling the kids from school to their numerous activities. I can ramble on and on about the day in Atlanta but seeing as I'm already rambling on about everything else, I will attempt to summarize. Get to IKEA. Find shelves. Buy shelves. Buy sofa. Go to set up delivery of sofa. Learn that sofa will not arrive in time. Cry at home delivery counter. Take break to regroup and eat Swedish meatballs. Drag frightened parents who know better than to try to talk me out of it in my fragile emotional state around greater metro Atlanta area looking for u-haul to bring sectional back to Alabama. Procure u-haul. Load sofa into u-haul. Caravan home (mom and I carrying shelves in minivan, Dad carrying sofa in u-haul). Here are my {heroic} parents outside of IKEA:

We got back home well after dinner and moved all of the boxes into David's parents' basement:

Where they remained until David took off for a conference two days before his birthday.

David's dad and my dad spent basically one full day putting together the cabinets. I truly could not have done this project without their help. They are the best (and in fact may consider marketing their services outside of IKEA - I'd hire them in a heartbeat!):

Miraculously, there was no split wood or missing parts, a "furniture in a box" first for me, and it could not have come at a better time.

The dads also had to take down trim, cut off molding, etc. in order to get the cabinets to fit between the two walls. They rocked it!

The next day David Beckham, a non-soccer playing handyman who's done a lot of projects for us over the years, came to hang the french doors and had some great ideas about adding a couple of strips of trim to the sides of the shelves to make them look really built in. He did that minor trim work for us while the dads worked on bolting the cabinets to the wall, replacing the quarter round, etc. And then we finally got to start putting the room together.

Aaaaaaaand . . . . the after:

For direct comparison's sake, here is the before:

And the after:

It looks a little different.

Better view of the seating area:

I got the Ektorp sectional, and while I'm a bit suspicious of some-assembly-required sofas, I'm happy with the quality of the sofa so far, and the washable slipcovers are a definite plus. We'll see how it holds up, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

I went with some vintage sports prints for behind the sofa. I wanted something masculine but not overtly "fraternity house basement" that David would think was interesting. I originally looked for official World Cup posters, which are really beautiful (shadow mullet poster from Mexico '86 excepted). I did extensive searches, but could not find any available for purchase (other than on the Japanese black market). FIFA is clearly not run by Americans. So I ended up going with a Kentucky Derby print, a cycling print and a soccer print (David is a fan of all three sports). I like them. But I still kind of had my heart set on the World Cup posters, and since David's return flight home was delayed, I was able to modge podge some smaller photos I printed out of the world cup designs onto canvas and hang that on another wall.

I kind of did a sloppy job because I was modge podgeing under pressure, and we all know how THAT goes, but David seems to really like the poster.

From this angle behind the sofa you can see part of the poster, as well as the new-to-this-room french doors to the office room:

The fact that the doors now swing into the office rather than into main basement living area makes the main room feel much larger.

I didn't want to "style" the shelves per se because nothing says NOT A MANLY RETREAT quite like a wall of bookshelves styled by the wife, but I did try to load them up with stuff that would have meaning to David. The alma mater is well represented:

Honeymoon photo by which to remember our lost youth:

Photo of David and his brother at a World Cup game in Germany in 2006 and a sign I painted to help explain what I did while he was gone:

David wasn't going to get home until late in the evening on his birthday, and his brother and our friend Alan came over earlier in the day to hook up electronics.

I seriously would not have been able to do anything more than open the electronics boxes if it weren't for these two. I could never in a million years have done this project without the help of so many people.

David had a horrendous day of traveling and got home really late on the night of his birthday. I made up some lame excuse about having a painting project blocking his side of the garage and asked him to park in the driveway instead (because if he came through the garage he would have noticed that something was different in the basement). We chatted about his trip and then he started asking me about what I was painting. I decided that it was time to show him the basement. He was completely surprised and really seems to love it. He said that what he likes most about it is that it's a room we will all enjoy -- see, he's the best. And as it turns out he may have indeed gained a man cave, although the cave may actually be in our family room, since the kids have taken over the basement since it's been finished. In any event, I think the project was a big success all around. I hope that David can retreat there on occasion and enjoy some peace, solitude and high definition football games. Happy birthday, David!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Common ground

David and I don't generally have the same taste in movies. For example, when The Help was playing in theaters I asked David if I should call Lisa {our babysitter} to see if she could come one night, and after looking at me inquisitively for a minute, he said "OH! You mean you want to see it with ME?" I told him that no, I hadn't been planning on hiring someone to come see a movie with me, so yes, my first thought was to see it with him. And of course he said that he would come if I really wanted to see it, but I spared him the misery and ended up watching it on my Kindle.

And then just last week my college housemates and I started planning a virtual viewing of The Bodyguard on Facebook in the wake of Whitney Houston's death -- this was a movie that we probably watched 100 times senior year; it must have been running on HBO or something, but it was just ALWAYS on. We loved that movie even as we made fun of it, and after the movie was over my friend Lisa would always sit in a chair (a la Whitney, belting it out in the snowy forest for no apparent reason) and do a spot-on cover of Whitney's "I Will Always Love You" -- ahh, good times.

{R.I.P. Whitney. I curse the day you got tangled up with that no-good Bobby Brown.} Anyway, I love The Bodyguard even though I know that it is by no means a "good" movie -- it's TOTALLY my kind of movie and I'm not ashamed to admit it. David has never seen it (!!!!), so I invited him to join us in the virtual viewing, you know, because I figured he'd bring a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective to the material -- but he declined, can you believe it? It's probably for the best because David would HATE that movie.

But the one genre we can agree on is the Anglophile Flick -- e.g., Gosford Park, The King's Speech, etc. -- basically if it takes place on an English country manor, the chances are excellent that we are both going to like it. And such is definitely the case with Downton Abbey. We're still a season behind, but we're trying to catch up at a two-episode per week pace, eagerly watching to see what the Dowager Countess will say next:

I'm kind of obsessed. I'm even staying up past 9 p.m. so I could watch!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Kids' Marathon 2012

I haven't been blogging because I haven't been taking any pictures. And I haven't been taking pictures because I haven't felt like taking any pictures. But while waiting for that picture-taking desire to return, I couldn't miss posting about one of our most fun kid events of the year, the Mercedes Kids' Marathon. It's one of the things that our city does really well (well okay the city probably doesn't actually do it, but it takes place in the city, so I'm counting it). The kids run a total of 26.2 miles for the kids' marathon - 25.2 in PE class over the course of the fall semester, and then the final mile on the fun-filled Kids' Marathon day.

Race day was cold, really really cold. Not Red Nose Ten Miler 2010 cold (which becomes colder with stiffer winds every time my running pal and I tell the tale of that day, but I do not exaggerate when I say that we actually saw sweat freezing on people's necks -- it was kind of freaky. After that we vowed that we would never run in temperatures below 20 degrees again. And I've stuck to it. Heck, I think I've actually revised it upwards to 30 degrees).

Anyway, yesterday was probably 30-ish, wind chill 20-ish. But that didn't stop the 9 year old from running in shorts:

From my observations during my afternoons in carpool line, tween boys are impervious to cold. I marvel as I watch them waiting casually for their ride in shorts and t-shirts on a 40 degree day, jackets stuffed in backpacks, oblivious to the chill, while the moms who walked on foot to pick up their kids are huddling in parkas.

Jacob did put on some pants when he was done with the race:

Kindergartners and first graders are allowed to run with parents, and Elizabeth had originally asked me to run with her. But after we met up with some of her friends in the first grade starting corral, I was pretty sure that I was going to end up being a spectator.

She broke it to me gently, and I hustled to the finish line to see her kicking it at the end.

The kids obliged for a quick post-race photo with their medals:

although by this point the cold was causing mass emotional breakdowns all around.

We went for our traditional post-race lunch at Five Guys and all was well in the world again. Another fun Mercedes Kids' Marathon in the books!