Thursday, October 15, 2009

Life can be . . . (or catching up in installments)


I haven't blogged in a while, but we've been doing lots of really neat things. Just as an example, this coming Monday, aside from all of our regular stuff, we have art class followed by writers' group followed by lunch followed by Knitting Group and Lego Group followed by Group Violin followed by violin lessons. Somewhere in all that is dinner. Not every day is like that (this homebody would lose her mind) but here and there, we have lots of fun classes, groups, and outings. We also, thankfully, do have a lot of down time, too. I love that.


Mark's best friend from high school, Mike King, has moved to the East Coast for good. He now lives in New Jersey, about 2.5 hours from us, and is a hop, skip, and jump from Manhattan. The guys have already talked on the phone and visits and trips are already in the works. We're thrilled.


Call me a nerd, but one of the most exciting things about parenting to me is seeing kids' reading and learning take off. Thing 1 has always been a big reader. She reads voraciously and we can hardly keep up. And she is constantly writing stories. Thing 2 has been reading for a while and his reading has really taken off this past month especially. He reads so well and so much! And he is also writing lots of stories! He has recently read (and twice more re-read) a 115 page book and is so proud of himself. We are, too.

One of Thing 2's book piles around the house

Thing 1's headboard


It's like the universe is sending me idea upon idea for my novel and I can hardly wait for November 1st to get started on NaNoWriMo. My notebook of ideas keeps filling and filling!

I got my copy in the mail
(from Better World Books -- LOVE that site!)
and have already read it and gotten PUMPED for the challenge.
We've registered on the site
and can hardly wait to start!


We love visitors. And we recently were visited by my Mom for a couple of weeks. Jim actually drove her down and picked her up. We never get to see Jim for long enough, but we did manage to get in a game of bowling . . . Wii style. Very fun.

Wii bowling


I directed my first play. Thing 2 debuted in his first play as a guard. And Thing 1 participated in her 2nd play as Inkantadora (witch) and Cindy (play on Cinderella). Mark did the lighting and generally helped me keep my sanity. "Holka Polka!" (a mixed-up fairytale mystery) was a smashing success and I could not be prouder of how the kids pulled it off--it exceeded all expectations, especially since I had no idea what I was doing. Thank goodness for help from a real live director from the local community theater as well as parents and kids pitching in and being so creative and supportive and helpful.

The cast of Holka Polka

Between the group and Mark and my Mom,
we got lots of beautiful flowers after the show


We really do enjoy good food. We love to eat out, but we're really trying to pay down debt, so we've been eating out less and cooking and baking more. And my oh my, do we make yummy stuff!

Crab Pretzel -- giant soft pretzel smothered in crab dip and melted cheese
(Okay, this one we ordered while my mom was here).

Our homemade lasagna filled with various meats and veggies
and served with our homemade Italian artisan loaves

Outdoor Summer Barbecues!

Homemade Pizza Dough and Toppings

Middle Eastern Rice with black beans and chickpeas
served with pita bread (or na'an), chopped onions,
Greek salad (romaine, tomatoes, feta),
and all served with creamy Greek yogurt sauce with spinach. Yum!


We are in the process of painting our carriage house/barn. The city is cracking down (read: fines) on messy-looking yards and buildings and ours was in desperate need of a paint job (and we can't afford siding), so we got started on the colossal project. The carriage house is 2 stories high and just generally HUGE. And someday we wouldn't mind moving the clinic out there and expanding it to include more patient rooms and a yoga studio/group room.

We had several painters come out and bid on the job. The estimates ranged but most were around the same cost (right around "yikes!"), but one of them was ridiculously high (try 3 times "yikes!" making it "Are you insane?!"). One guy came along and said he didn't do bids but told us his hourly as well as an estimate of how long it would take him. Never again will we do this! Bids ONLY. You can get so messed over by hourly estimates like this.

Based on what he told us, we figured that even if he were wrong and it took DOUBLE the time he thought, he'd still be cheaper than the rest, so we decided to go with him. NEVER AGAIN, do you hear me? NEVER again on the hourly estimates. Bids ONLY.

Everything he thought would work hasn't and he's found new jobs along the way. Don't get me wrong, he's doing a great job and it looks fantastic, but ugh. Every hour that he's out there just makes my stomach hurt.

AND. He belongs to some sort of cult? Religious group? Something? He has a very long white beard down to his waist. The neighbors down the street tell us that Santa is painting our barn. He has missed I-can't-tell-you how many days due to religious festivals for feasts of tabernacles and the like. We've had numerous days where he hasn't shown up nor has he called us to tell us as much. He makes us nervous--he works by himself and goes WAY up high on his ladder--no scaffolding--(he's insured and bonded).

He thought he'd paint each side ONCE after scraping it -- paint and primer in one. Well, that wasn't working, so it needed a primer coat (yes, the job just got 4 times as long). But okay, 2 coats per side. Well, the paint-and-primer in one wasn't going on dark enough (it really wasn't) and was looking pink rather than barn red (ugh, why did we go with red?!). So now it needs 2 more coats per side (the job just got 12 times as long). We considered switching it to white, but since he'd already done one side completely (and he'd have to redo that one), we figured out that it would only save us only one coat's worth of work, so we carried on.

Yesterday, as Mark weeded the garden, the painter remarked to him, "If Adam and Eve hadn't sinned, you wouldn't have problems with weeds."

--blink. blink.--

Just paint the barn, please!

So the barn isn't painted. During his most recent 8-day religious feast (which was more like 12 days), Mark and the boys down the street painted more of the barn to hurry the job along (which frustrates me because we hired the guy so we wouldn't have to worry about this!). We are, however, grateful for our friends who are truly there to help us out. We ordered pizza for lunch and made a mini-party of it.

Anyway, discouraging and stressful.

And don't get me started on how we are STILL dealing with adjusters over the front fence--I'm so annoyed by the fact that the side still has a crumpled mess of antique fence and we're still dealing with paperwork.

That said, when it's all done, it will look nice. And the barn is looking amazing. It really is.

Our big, red barn


We had a great September getting ready for and attending the National Book Festival. This month's focus is Portuguese and we're all having a lot of fun with that. Daily, our language skills increase and it's exciting and fun.


There are so many pictures I could share. Not included are many more beautiful pictures of the gardens, butterflies, and potato sack races and hula hoop competitions with friends. Click to enlarge:

Our yearly tradition of enjoying
Community Days at the Hershey Gardens
(and celebrating friendship)


Mark and I both got new glasses. It had been over 4 years and ours were VERY beat up. Remember, Mark's had gotten knocked off of him by a wave in the ocean. We didn't give up looking (though it seemed near impossible they'd return to us) and, miraculously, they washed up within an hour and a half. But the shells and rocks weren't kind to them and he's been dealing with very scratched up glasses for years. The optometrist is wondering how Mark doesn't have near-constant headaches from them.

Mine had that anti-reflective coating on it for driving at night, but it didn't take in one spot or something (what a pain!) and so I've been looking through a bubble-like cloud of purple for the past couple of years. Basically, it feels like no matter how hard you try, you just can NOT clean your glasses well. Never again! New solution? Just don't drive at night.

Anyway, we've been putting off getting new glasses (obviously--it's been over 4 years) because of the expense. We've had several big expenses set us back this year (family reunion, yard and business expenses, etc.) and we kept pushing back getting glasses. We finally could stand the annoying lenses no longer.

So, we went to Sears. They were offering various packages like 2 pairs of glasses for $99. Ha. What a joke. By the time they add on all the extras that aren't included in that deal and all of the expenses that don't pertain to the glasses included in that deal and the warranty and all the fine print stuff that isn't readily shown on the poster ads and all that jazz for both of us . . . KA-CHING! $644 later, we walked out feeling a bit dazed by the total. Or maybe it was the old glass lenses. Hmph.


We have such great teens in our homeschool group and neighborhood. I love that our kids have these teens as friends and role models, too. They are amazing, GOOD kids. I love that our kids hear these beautiful 17 and 18 year old girls say, "Oh, I'm way too young to even think about dating. I have so many things I want to do in life and I'm getting ready for college." They see the boys stand up for themselves and their values, being respectful, giving service, learning new skills, having an open-minded attitude, and saying things like, "I hope they know that not all musicians do drugs, because we certainly don't. That's not something we would do." I love these kids! We invited a bunch of them over the other day to play Beatles Rock Band. It was really fun.

Here are a few pictures from our Rock Band Teen Party


Yesterday, we pulled up our student loan information because we've been paying them down for almost 3 years and were excited to see what kind of a dent we've put in the overall total. Turns out? Not much of a dent. It was terribly deflating to see what little impact our monthly payments have made in all this time. Sometimes it seems like it will take forever to pay them off.

That said, we are still grateful for our education and skills and so so grateful for the path it's put us on. We love owning our own business and couldn't be happier with our clinic. We're thrilled to have the ability to do what we do. We wouldn't trade it. We ask ourselves now and then if we'd ever trade it for a "normal" 9-5 work-for-someone-else scenario and the answer is a categorical no. We're happy. Not bad to go from "discouraging" to "happy" in one section, eh?


We attended a party with some friends of ours who take Tae Kwan Do and both kids broke boards!

Tae Kwan Do!

More to come. I've already started the next installment of "Life can be" to catch up on some of what we've been doing . . .


Dr. Mark said...

It's a good thing I already ate dinner before reading this post! I'm looking forward to more installments! ;)

the emily said...

That barn looks FANTASTIC. I'm sooo glad you went with red! I really looks amazing!

Last time I got glasses (just me) it was almost $500, and I only wear them at night/morning and when I absolutely can't wear contacts. You better believe I'm keeping those glasses for the rest of my life.

Our student loans are that way too! Not nearly as high as yours I'm sure, but still, so frustrating that we've been paying mine for almost 6 years and the total doesn't seem to be going down.

bythelbs said...

The barn does look great. I want pictures of the guru Santa dude.

Glasses are ridiculously expensive. (Says the woman with four of her household in glasses.)

This was a great catch-up post. I wish I felt like doing this on my blog.

Jimmy said...

Your barn looks so professional. Like something from "This Old House" that's been restored to perfection.

J Fo said...

I like this "Life Can be..." series. Keep it up! I agree with the pictures of Santa! I love the ADam an Eve comment. What did Mark say to that? Weird. Sorry all of that stuff with the barn and the fence is being drawn out, but it'll be worth it in the end I'm sure. I played Beatles Rock Band and I LOVE it. I told Greg if he wins $800 he can get a Wii and Rockband! But then again, we both need new glasses, too, so never mind!

Zelia said...

The barn looks great. I love that yard. My favorite part of your beautiful house is the yard.
The US has gone nuts. The price of anything medical is out of whack.
I have friends that go to the Azores to do dental work. The cost of the plane and dentist is less than a dentist here. Ditto for glasses too.

the emily said...

This is your brother-in-law Dave:

Good luck on the novel in November. I started writing a novel a few months ago then hit a major case of writer's block, got too frustrated, and stopped. Maybe I'll start back up in November.

April (Thorup) Oaks said...

I love this post! Very clever! I'm so sorry about your barn, but it looks AMAZING!!! I want to see side by side before and after pictures if you get a chance.

Jillo said...

What a fun post, i found if most enjoyable. =) I just went in for a "special" on glasses and walked out 300 bucks later. YIKES!!! Eyes are way to expensive, I tell you.
I too, would like a sneak shot of the overly religious Santa. And your barn is looking great!

Boquinha said...

I think Mark just kind of laughed at the comment. I mean, what do you say to that??

Maybe we should be flying overseas to get a vacation out of our new glasses, too!

Dave, I had no idea you were doing that. That is so cool! If you decide to do NaNoWriMo, let us know. On the site you can sign up with "writing buddies" and we can all support one another. Mark and I are buddies. I also highly recommend the book "No Plot, No Problem" by the guy who started NaNoWriMo. He already has me prepped, through this book, for how great week 1 is and how writer's block and frustration and discouragement enter around week 2. He has tips on how to get past it and keep going to the fun stuff, which he claims is weeks 3 and 4. It's a neat project! We'd love to have you join us on it. I'm starting to get a little nervous about it . . . excited, but nervous, too.

I sneaked pictures of Santa today. I'll post them soon. :)

Dr. Mark said...

Actually, Santa's comment took a few seconds to register. It wasn't until after the fact that I realized what he was saying.

Dave, you should join us on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon. It would be great to have more gluttons for punishment.

coffeemaw said...

What a terrific post! The barn is looking great, by the way. I don't know what I would have said in response to the Adam and Eve comment, though.

I can get glasses every two years with our insurance (I'm due in a couple months), and I can't imagine going longer than that without getting new ones! Mine get so scratched up...I think it's because I never have the special cloth to clean them when I really need it and end up using my t-shirt.

Student loans can be so frustrating...that's all I can say about that!

And all the photos on here were great. I love how you have so many different ones.

I'm so looking forward to NaNoWriMo too! I'm trying to talk my husband into doing it (right at this instant, as a matter of fact), and have so far been unsuccessful.

Boquinha said...

Cristin, I think my new glasses look more like yours (subtle difference from my old ones). Mark's are way different -- he's channeling his inner Elvis Costello. I like them!

We need to hook up on that NaNoWriMo site. Remember Lily from theater? She just signed up, too. But I don't know how to find her even though she told me her name on there.

Oh and the lady gave us a big speech about how she "can't believe how many people use their T-shirts and wipe their glasses when they're DRY!" I just sort of chuckled and then admitted, "Yeah, I'm guilty of that." She was talking to me as if surely I wasn't one of "those people!" Surely, I have been (though I'm trying to change my ways)! :P

Boquinha said...

Oh! I figured it out! There's a search feature on the top bar. You can search forums or authors. By searching authors, you can find all sorts of stuff.

Chelle said... much information! So you're a play director now. Congratulations! It's amazing what things we find ourselves capable of doing. Because I know you are a perfectionist, I know you must have spent oodles of time dedicating yourself to that project. Way to pull it off.

I love, love, love your posts about food. It's so motivating for me. Homemade Italian artisan loaves? Is that even something I could do justice to if I took a stab at it? I would love to get your recipe for na'an - I think I'm ready to try my hand. I'm sure I could look online, but I'd rather just get your tried and true recipe.

I'm so excited to hear about your novel writing next month. That is so ambitious of both of you. I hope the fact that you'll be working on your novel all month doesn't mean you won't have time to update us on your progress on the blog.

The barn looks amazing. Even though I've never seen your yard in person (yet), once the barn is completed it's going to be a great addition.

Can't wait for the next update!

Boquinha said...

Rachelle, email on its way with recipes. :)