Monday, May 30, 2011

May Days

May is always a busy month for us. Some of this comes from the final push at the end of the school year, when we are as tired and burned-out as our students, and when Daniel's school holds extra end-of-year festivities. Jogging that can be reasonably avoided in below-freezing weather now has no good excuse for being put off. Activities like t-ball and library reading programs are gearing up, the garden needs some early tweaking, there's always some spring landscaping or home improvement that needs completed; these are normal things that inevitably come with warmer weather and longer days.

Some of it, though, we brought on ourselves. When we were trying to plan (as much as one plans these things) the kids' births, we aimed for the end of the school year, thinking the beginning of a 3-month vacation from work would be a great time to have new babies in the house. Though that indeed worked out well at the time, I neglected to think about those babies becoming kids who would one day become old enough to walk (to the mailbox, to intercept the Oriental Trading Company party supply catalog), and talk (about the kind of cake and decorations and parties they would like to have for their birthday), and even write (an extensive guest list of everyone they'd like to invite to said party). Both of our kids get very excited about their birthdays, and so now for our family May also includes lots of planning of birthday festivities and special visits from extended family.

Last year we did throw Daniel a full-on party for his birthday, but not being pony-hiring, bouncy house-renting kind of people, we wanted to send the message this year that not every birthday will include a bash bigger than the year before. So we decided on a casual weekday get-together in the park for each child, with cake and lunch for a few friends. As usual, the kids had very specific cake requests, but thankfully nothing as gravity-defying as Daniel's cake from last year.

Eva had a butterfly cake, and was thrilled about having a few friends to share it with. Grandma Jan came for her birthday, and we had a nice day. So far being three involves significantly less napping than being two, and a bit more of a sassy attitude, but is still pretty fun.

For his birthday, Daniel got a visit from Grammy, a tiger cake, and a good time running around the park with friends as well. It seems that for him, being five is a little more moody than being four. Some of this seems legitimate (like coming to the realization that several of his favorite friends will not be attending the same school as he will for kindergarten), and some seems a little less so (like pouting about not being able to invite everyone he knows to his party). Let's all keep our fingers crossed that some extra attention this summer will help smooth this over.

Also in May, we found out that Kyle was granted tenure and was chosen to teach a month of summer school (yay extra paycheck!). Our friend Madeline got an exciting new job, and of course there was the successful yard sale and purchase of the Wii. We decided to celebrate all of this by holding a happy hour at our house, complete with appetizer food for dinner, mudslides for the grownups, and a whole lot of Mario Kart and Guitar Hero.

Now that we're through all that, I'm looking forward to relaxing into our summer routine. We've had our first visit to the city pool for the season, and summer classes start Monday. Tonight Kyle and I began giving some attention to our summer movie Netflix queue. Not to jinx anything, but hopefully the beginning of June marks the start of a nice, restful few months.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Crazy For Sale

This past weekend I joined forces with a group of friends for our annual yard sale (because nothing draws a crowd like a "multi-family sale"). The yard sale is always one of my favorite events, not only because I'm earning money for ridding my house of stuff we don't need, but also because of the total lunacy that usually surrounds any yard sale. And this year did not disappoint.

For some background, I should share that we held the sale at the home of my friends Mat and Marbree, who last year bought their house with the previous owner's contents in an estate sale. Last summer, their yard sale was the most unbelievable one ever, because nearly the entire house was open to the public, and nearly everything was for sale. Though this was not the situation again this year, I think their house still carries a reputation among some in our town for being the place to be for this sort of event.

We had some rain, we had some huffy customers, and we had somewhat of a challenge displaying and keeping track of eight different families' things, but in the end I'd say fun was had by all (plus we made a boatload of money). Here are some of my favorite stories about this year's event:

-Fending off the early birds
We planned to have the sale Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, so Marbree ran an ad in the paper and posted signs around the neighborhood on Thursday. Friday morning we all got together to finish setting up, and already there were cars lurking around the house, driving back and forth and around the block. We made a giant sign (easily 3x4-foot) that said:

Yard Sale is 4-7 Friday
8-2 Saturday
Early birds pay double
Exact change required

The text on this sign was bordered with florescent pink spray paint, and the thing was taped to a trash can blocking the end of the driveway. Despite this fact, most of the people from the steady stream of foot traffic seemed very surprised to hear that we were not yet open. Somebody criticized us for not having everything organized and clearly labeled. And over and over I heard people say, "Oh, I saw the sign back there; I just didn't read it." Wow. All I can say is "wow."

By the time we did actually open for business, there was a sizable crowd of people waiting on the driveway to get in. Mat stood guard outside while Marbree passed out money aprons, notepads, and change to the rest of us. I could hear Mat saying things like, "I will talk to you about the price of that item at 4:00." Really, it was enough to make me wish I could be outside looking in just for the comedic value of poor Mat's situation.

So apparently the ad in the paper was very... effective, because at the opening there were a number of people interested in some of the large items that had been individually listed. In particular, one of the first women through the door started negotiating with me right away regarding the price of a stroller I was selling out on the driveway. We agreed on a price, and I started working my way out of the garage to set it aside for her while she continued to look.

When I arrived outside, the stroller was being clutched by another woman who wanted to know the price. When I told her that it was already sold, she demanded, "Did they already give you the money? Because if you don't have the money in your hand it isn't a sale!" I tried explaining to her that I had already negotiated a price and made a verbal agreement with this other person, and she cut me off to say that she would give me full price right there if I would just give it to her. Meanwhile, this woman's father(?) started moving toward me, waving money and hollering about how if I had any business sense I would know that you sell it to the person with the money, and that if I knew anything about having a sale I would give it to them right now.

I agreed to go back into the garage to see if the original buyer would be interested in giving it up. When I found her, I told her that there was another buyer who really wanted the stroller, and was willing to pay full price for it. She looked up and loudly yelled,"But YOU TOLD ME I could have it for $25! That's the price, and I'M getting it!" Ooohh-kay.

So, back to the driveway to tell buyer #2 that it's definitely been sold, where she and her father continued yelling things like, "But we're giving you full-price!" and "But you still don't have her money!" Hilariously, my friend Jennifer took this opportunity to stick her head in and joke that I might break my word with the original buyer for an additional $5 over the original asking price. Dirty looks from everyone involved...

In the end I had to use my Mommy voice, make direct eye contact, and say, "I'm sorry. It's been sold." And with only one more admonishment from the father they turned on their heels and left. After that start I was worried about the rest of the weekend, but really that was the worst part, and I got it over with right away. Most other people barely negotiated at all.

-The things people will buy
In packing up for the sale, I realized that Daniel owned 30 pairs of underwear. Judging this to be ridiculous for a family that usually does laundry once a week, I slipped 15 or so of them into a bag for bulk sale. Thursday night, as I priced things while watching television, Kyle noticed the bag-o-underwear and expressed his skepticism that anyone would buy USED underwear. Oh, but I knew they would sell. And what a satisfied smile I had on my face Saturday morning, as I collected that dollar, because after all being right is worth a little extra.

Really, though, I have never seen anyone who can sell junk like our friend Mat. Last year when they sold the unwanted contents of that estate purchase it was like watching a thing of beauty. Half-empty can of WD-40? Fifty cents. Old coffee can full of rusty screws? Seventy five cents. This year I collected payment from a man with a repurposed peanut butter jar full of nails marked $1.25. "He said he'd take $1 for that!" the buyer informed me. I'll bet he will. I saw another man buy a roll of flashing left over from some project Mat or someone in his extended family had done. "I don't even have anything to use this for," the man said as he dug into his pocket, "but it's a good price, and you never know when it might come in handy." Yep, like when you'd like to make some money in a yard sale.

Funny stories aside, though, I think we all came out pretty well. I was glad to see Marbree and Mat sold the most, because I'm pretty sure it took lots of time on their part to get their garage ready, organize the stuff, and keep track of all the money. For me, it was definitely worth my time. We made enough for everyone to pick out a prize, and let's just say that because of Kyle's pick Wii have all been playing Mario Kart this weekend (he does not endorse this pun, by the way).

Until next year!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

We Sterups have had quite a week. I was having a hard time deciding how to write about it until this title occurred to me, and now it fits so well I can't believe it took me so long to think of it.

The Good...
-Mother's Day weekend was nice. Eva's birthday cake turned out well, my mom visited, and Kyle and I got to have a date. The weather was beautiful, so I got the last of my garden put in for the spring. The kids made me nice gifts and Kyle got me Tina Fey's new book in audiobook format (because it's always funnier to hear the author read their own words). Wonderful!
-The Day Planner smiled on me this week. My friend Madeline and I found time to have lunch together on Wednesday, and the kids even let us have a conversation. I was sweating all week, trying to find a babysitter for Thursday, until our preacher's wife and daughter called and just volunteered to take care of it for me. Daniel and Eva finally got a long-awaited play date with their friends Dalton and Evangeline on Friday, which meant I got a talk date with their mom Janice.
-The kids and I went with our friends Lena, Gus, and Jennifer to LaPlata (the next little town over) for a picnic lunch on Thursday. LaPlata has a train station with quite a bit of rail traffic, so they've built a little lookout house with a deck right near the tracks. You can sit and watch the trains go by, which is a total plus if you are a five year-old boy or someone who loves one.
-Some of Kyle's students were in a play at the school Friday night, so we took the kids. It was called something like: Cinderella-the Untold Story, and contained people dressed as Cinderella, Snow White, and Ariel, which is a total plus if you are a three year-old girl or someone who loves one. We went out for ice cream afterward, and ran into several families of friends from church.
-Saturday we went to Daniel's soccer game, the library, and to friends' house for dinner. Our church divides everyone up into groups of four or five families, and we eat with our group once a month for a year. We had good food, the adults had good conversation, and the kids had fun playing together.
-Sunday afternoon we went to the circus. Much to our delight Gus and Lena were there, too, and so we all sat together. Eva kept saying "Wow!" throughout the lion act, and Daniel laughed quite a bit at the performing dogs and at the clown whose act relied on fart jokes. As circuses go, this one is a little lame and cheesy, and as Jennifer pointed out, it kind of "gives you a PETA feeling" for the animals. Still, I'd say fun was had by all, which made it a worthwhile event.

The Bad...
-Eva burned her hand on our toaster oven Tuesday night, and not just a little tiny spot on her knuckle or something. She got the whole back of her (dominant) left hand, and it blistered and broke the top layer of skin away. She screamed a lot, and I have to admit I didn't blame her one bit. I spent the rest of the night feeling a little sick about the whole business. Luckily we'd already had the kids' school physicals scheduled for the next day, so we were able to have a doctor assure us that it should heal up okay with minimal scarring.
-I found out recently that I have skin cancer on my face. And though I am told that this is "the kind of cancer you want to have" (in case any of you out there are wanting to have cancer, go with basal cell carcinoma), it still requires treatment in the form of removal. And so treat it we did this week. The drill is that the dermatologist takes off a layer of skin, analyzes it there in the office, and if they determine they've gotten down to healthy cells they sew you up and you leave. If not, they take and analyze additional layers until they're sure they've gotten everything. The office I go to schedules everyone who is having this procedure for the same day, so the reception area is full of people with bandages and paper drapes, waiting for their results. People, as it turns out, who are all 60-80 year-old men. Except me.
-I heard a lot of other people's bad news this week. A close friend's grandmother died. My favorite (very young) professor from college has breast cancer. I feel a little heavier for all of them.

The Ugly...
-The kids had to get their shots updated this week so that they can register for school in the fall. Eva only had to get one, but Daniel had to get FOUR separate shots. He did the best he could with that, but his cry with each additional shot just sounded more incredulous and appalled.
-The spring spider onslaught has begun. I killed one in the shower this morning and three this afternoon while cleaning downstairs. Yecchh!
-The semester ends this next week at the community college where I work. I've been grading papers this weekend, and while some of them are really great work it is just so discouraging to sludge through the ones where the students clearly didn't put in much effort. Or papers from students who were getting good grades, but didn't follow the directions on this last assignment, and are now not getting such good grades. It's really just painful to enter the points sometimes.
-Finally, there's my face. In order to remove the damaged section of skin on my forehead, they had to use some local anesthetic. Only apparently I am nearly immune to this anesthetic, and they had to continue giving me more and more to get me numb enough for the procedure. At the time, the doctor pointed out that I was getting quite a goose egg from all the medicine, but said gravity would drain it down out of my head over the next few days. He stitched me up and covered the lump and the stitches with an attractive giant white gauze pad. Great. Until the next morning, when I took the gauze off and looked in the mirror. What I had going on was a nice row of black stitches right across one side of my forehead, while the center of my forehead and eyebrows were puffed out about a quarter of an inch. Seriously, I looked pretty much like Frankenstein. Today on the way home from church Kyle pointed out that it now seems to have drained down into the space between my eyes, right at the top of my nose. It is making the bridge of my nose and my eyelids swollen, resulting in something that looks like a cross between a lizard-woman and textbook renderings of a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. I can't wait to see where that will end up tomorrow.

So that's our week. To sum up, that was three lunch dates (plus one dinner), three doctor's visits, two family outings, and two nasty skin injuries, each with their own prescription cream. I'm hoping this next week is a little less exciting.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Favorite Child

A couple of months ago, I saw someone write on their blog regarding their favorite things about their children. Maybe because we just celebrated Mother's Day, or maybe because I am only one stack of papers and two finals away from a summer of abundant family together-time, I have been thinking a lot about that post and about my own kids. I realize that I often write about them here, mostly in ways that will surely embarrass them once they are adolescents. It has occurred to me that they might like something flattering to read one day, that day in the future when blogs are completely out of fashion and they access mine in order to provide further proof of my total unhip-ness.

So here it is, Daniel and/or Eva of the future (whoever stumbles onto the blog archives first):

Daniel, you have been my Buddy since day one. I'm continually amazed by your complete and total sweetness. The way you lavish me and everyone around you with affection is almost overwhelming sometimes; I don't think I could possibly be hugged or snuggled more by any one person ever. I'm so excited by your creativity, your ability to make up outrageous stories or to go through reams of paper just drawing, drawing, drawing... You aren't even five yet, and already I think you are a better artist than I am. I love that you see beauty everywhere you look. I love that you save the best thing on your plate for last, so that you can look forward to it. I love that you stand in the middle of the soccer field like Ferdinand the Bull, picking me a bouquet of dandelions while the game goes on around you. I love that you invent games where plastic dragons savagely destroy your dinosaurs, but also cry because you think the Grinch is too mean to his poor doggie. I am so glad that, no matter what I'm cooking or baking, you always want to help me. I like you and love you so much; you are definitely my favorite child.

Eva, you have always been My Girl. I'm continually amazed by your tenacity and independence; even as a small baby you rejected being rocked, and just wanted us to leave you alone so you could sleep. The way you jump right in to whatever you're doing is almost frightening to watch sometimes; it's no wonder that by three you've broken your leg, contracted pneumonia, and burned your hand. I'm so excited by your enthusiasm; it seems there's no end to what you believe you can do. You know your home address, the first three verses of Genesis, and all the words to several of your books, all without me teaching them to you. I love the way you lend or share your things so freely, but hold on so tightly to our family. I love that you sing Happy Birthday to each of the 46 cakes in our Birthday Cakes for Kids book. I love the way you say, "Mom, I love ya'" instead of the more formal "you." I'm so amused that you will eat the breakfast of three adult men, but turn down dessert rather than eat your meat at dinner most nights. I like you and love you so much; you are definitely my favorite child.

So there you have it, kids. And just in case you're checking, like the blogger I stole this idea from, I used exactly the same number of words for each of you.