Tag Archives: money

Because It’s Really Their First Car

There were a ton (okay, two tons) of items acquired to prepare for the babies, but none that I anticipated more than the purchase of our stroller.  I am a member of an unusual species, one that looks at strollers like cars, and did so long before my own children entered the picture.  I can’t really explain it, because I had no interest in any other baby paraphernalia, but before I had the babies I could pass six strollers on the street and tell you the make and model of each one, along with which was used by a celebrity for their spawn.  File under: useless information recall.

You won’t know this stroller, or care, but before I had babies I always thought I’d buy the Orbit.  The Orbit is genius, and cool, and looks like a spaceship.  The seat twists on and off the base and then twists on and off a matching base in your car.  I probably would have purchased it, too, if it hadn’t been for the little double surprise we encountered.  Because just look at the locomotive that is the double-version:

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Six wheels?  The thing is about eight feet long.  How do you turn?  Or fold it up?  Forget about it.

Next I thought I wanted the Bugaboo Donkey Twin stroller, but I test drove one and it felt forty feet wide and I knew it wouldn’t fit through standard door frames, no matter what they told me.  Fitting through doors, I’d say, is kind of essential.

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Easily the most popular stroller in Seattle is the BOB, and it’s popular for good reason.  I just couldn’t go with it because it didn’t fit two car seats, and it was beastly to collapse and store in the back of the car.

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Where to turn?  What to do?  After an embarrassing number of hours of research, a fellow twin mom told me she was going with the Baby Jogger City Select, which I had never heard of.  At first I naturally thought, “amateur” but after further intense research, I dragged Mike to the store and we fell in love with it.  I also asked for stroller recommendations at the next EMOMs meeting, and was met with a chorus of advice to get the City Select.

I insisted on adding the bassinets, because one of my long-held stroller fantasies was to push a baby in a bassinet.  It’s so classic, so British, so splendidly posh.  If I was going to be falling asleep at the wheel, I was going to do so behind a bassinet.  Or two, as the case may be.

After ten months with our little red SUV, I can now report that it was a wise purchase.  Speaking of purchase, I haven’t listed the prices of any of the strollers here intentionally; those who care will look it up, and those who don’t I won’t horrify.  Just remember: Judgy Wudgy Was a Bear.

What makes the City Select so choice, as Ferris Bueller would say?  The versatility.  It can be configured to hold two bassinets, two car seats, two seats, or some combination of those if you have children of different ages.  We can even add a glider board once we have another baby so all three are riding (which sounds ridiculous, but we’ll see when we get there).

Our first use of it was to take Arden in for our daily visit to Henry in the NICU:

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This only required one bassinet, obviously, and it worked well.

During subsequent outings I would choose bassinets or car seats based on whether they were sleeping, or likely to.

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It sounds complicated to configure, but the bassinets just click in and out, and then we click little frames in to hold the car seats.

bassinet view

As the babies were able to sit up, I would let them ride perched in the bassinets.  This was adorable, but unsafe, as they could arch their backs and fall out (theoretically…it didn’t actually happen).

bassinet sitting

It took me a very long time to switch to the big kid seats because I was so attached to the bassinets.  Also it was winter, so it made sense to keep them in their little traveling sleeping bags.

bassinet foxes

 

bassinet foxes sitting 2

But a couple of weeks after they turned eight months in late March, it was time to make the switch.  We ran into our friend Matt soon after, and he summed it up perfectly: “First stop: five-point harness, second stop: college.”  This was EXACTLY why I didn’t want to move out of the bassinets.  It was like admitting they were ready to have email addresses.

big seats

The glimmering silver lining was that they instantly loved it.  Their faces looked like, “WHAT?  I can sit up fully supported!?  AND touch all the things?!”

stroller reach

(Also please note their gender differences even in seated positions.  Arden always sits ankles crossed like the lady she is, and Henry’s legs are always swinging high in the air, toes wiggling.)

We can have the seats face front, back, or each other.  We always have them facing each other because then neither of them is staring at the back of a seat.  Plus they interact, which is just as adorable as it sounds.

full view

On rare occasions one of them will fall asleep in the car and one will still be awake, in which case we rock the different seating combo.

stroller two seats

One of the key requirements in our stroller search was that it be easily collapsible, as I’d be doing it myself the majority of the time.  The City Select has two knobs on either side and when I pull them at the same time they collapse the whole thing.  It’s really easy, but it’s still a little awkward to load into the car since it’s not a featherweight umbrella stroller.

The name makes this obvious, but we use it to go on runs and it does just fine.

At this point Baby Jogger should be sending me a check, but since they’re not, I’ll conclude with its drawbacks.  There isn’t a safety connection from my wrist to the stroller, which I think of every time we go running, as I imagine myself tripping and sending the twins into oncoming traffic.  It’s not “recommended” for jogging like their sportier strollers are, so I’m sure there’s a better running experience out there, but the ride is smooth and works for us.

I’m hoping to do a post soon about other top products I haven’t been able to live without, but for now I had to start with the mothership.  I’m reminded of it everywhere we go, because sometimes it gets more attention than the twins do.

I don’t like to say I love inanimate objects, so let’s just say that I deeply like this stroller.

stroller toes

 

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May 31, 2014 · 9:29 PM

A Little Tangle with the Law

I got a speeding ticket a few weeks ago.

I was driving near our home on a Wednesday morning, heading to the grocery store with the babies.  We never, ever run errands in the morning because it messes with their first nap, but I had plans later in the day so I decided to be ultra-efficient.  I was also doing something we never do: I was headed to the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market.  I thought: I’m a stay-at-home-mom on a single income.  This is a smart-savvy-savings ninja move that moms everywhere have discovered before me.  Look at me go!

And then a cop stepped into the road and waved me over.

I was completely bewildered.  I was not speeding.  What the?

“Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No, officer, I genuinely don’t.”

He showed me the read on his radar gun: 35 miles per hour.

“Yes, but…this is a 35 zone,” I replied, still baffled.

“Yes it is,” he answered.  “But it’s 9:15 on a school day.”

A tiny brain bomb exploded.

“I…I had no idea.  I’m so sorry.  I didn’t know…” I stammered pathetically.  I glanced in my rearview mirror looking for the twins to back me up, or cry at least.  Isn’t this what babies are for in a pinch?

He walked away and promptly wrote me a ticket.  My giant Precious Moments eyes did nothing to garner a sympathetic let-off.  I should’ve worn more makeup.  Well, I should’ve worn makeup.

He handed me the ticket, I rolled up my window and promptly burst into tears.  I felt royally ripped off, also like a fool, and worse, I glanced down at the ticket to see a colossal $271 staring back at me and cried even harder.  The brutal irony was not lost on me of getting hit with a nearly $300 fine on my way to save nickels and dimes.

Naturally, I decided to check the little box for “mitigation hearing” so I could hopefully lower the fine.

Three weeks later I packed the kids in the car and drove across town for my hearing.  More than a few people said I was insane to bring them; I said I’d be insane not to.  They failed me in front of the cop but I was confident they’d do much better in front of a judge.  This was nothing if not parenting at its finest.

We rolled through the door in our locomotive of a stroller, causing the security guards to react with such glee I knew their jobs involved slower policing than Mayberry.  We made it through the metal detector and I got a full body wanding, just for good measure.  The security guards made all kinds of exclamations about how I got around with that thing, and how full my hands must be, and how it’s a wonder I’m out of the house at all.  I smiled and faked laughed as they tried to escort me down the hall to my courtroom.  I told them I was fine, and they just shook their heads and chided each other about this wild twin mom in their midst.

I sat in the back row of the courtroom and quietly talked to the babies and gave them the toys I had packed.  There were only five or six other people (defendants?) in the room, and it was so, so quiet.  Every squeak the twins made sounded like a holler through a bullhorn.

Suddenly the security guard walked in the door at the back of the room and started talking to the judicial assistant.  I paid no attention until I realized they were talking about me.

“Can you imagine?  Two at once?  Boy oh boy you’d never sleep!”

“I have two five years apart and it was so exhausting.”

“She said it’s a boy and a girl!”

“Well I’d be done. I wish that had been me I would’ve only had to be pregnant one time.”

They were speaking so loudly it became awkward for me not to respond.  Again I fake-laughed good-naturedly, and they started to openly include me in the conversation.  In front of the defendants.

“How old are they?  Is it hard?  Oh my gosh!”

I answered and then occupied myself with Henry who was starting to fuss.  Too soon, Hank!  I need you to cry when Her Honor is here!

Finally, ten minutes late (which is about thirty in twin time), the judge entered the room.  She made a quick announcement about our options for dealing with our tickets, stating that we could get them reduced if there were appropriate circumstances.  I felt so hopeful and then she added, “unless it’s a ticket that cannot be reduced by law, like speeding in a school zone, for instance.”

Womp womp.

My crime would be too obvious if I left immediately.  I was crossing my fingers that she’d call me last and I could plead in the privacy of my own patheticness.

Before she began the proceedings, she asked if anyone wanted to defer — to pay $150 to keep the ticket off record, and if you’re ticket-free for a year it never shows up on your record at all.  I got my hopes up again, but then started mentally calculating when my last ticket was…since you can only have a deferral every seven years, it would be close.

Henry was fussing, louder and louder.  I picked him up knowing that he would never go back in without crying.  Of course that’s when it was also time to decide to defer.

After several others took her up on her offer, I raised my hand.  She looked up my name to see if I qualified — bingo.

“Please step forward,” she told me.

I balanced Henry on my hip and pushed the stroller forward with one hand, careening around slightly and smiling sheepishly, because, remember, that’s why I brought them: sympathy points.

“Do you understand the terms of the deferral?” she asked me.

“Yes, your honor,” I replied, bouncing Henry.

“Alright, as long as you don’t get a ticket for the next year, this will be wiped from your record.  So don’t speed in any more school zones,” she added.

I was offended by this, mostly because she said it like I did it as a hobby.  Here I was toting two babies and she thought I was a reckless driver out to mow down the schoolchildren of America.

That comment aside, I considered this a victory.  A one hundred and twenty-one dollar victory, to be exact.  Provided I don’t break the law for the next twelve months.  In which case, it would be not a victory at all, but rather a $321 defeat, plus the cost of the new ticket.

Ergo, the next time you see a sloth-like vehicle with two carseats in the right lane of the freeway, just give me a wave and try not to judge.  At least I’m not snowplowing elementary school children.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

Elbow Grease

Even though Mike and I have yet to experience unemployment in our marriage, I am still overly conservative and penny-pinching in our daily lives.  Call it my nature, but I wish I could sweep our funds into a nice little pile in the middle of the floor before stuffing it all in a pillowcase and hiding it where Mike can’t find it. 

I don’t do this without cause.  Mike’s spendthrift ways are thoroughly documented somewhere in a book called “There’s Always More Money Where That Came From,” a book I failed to read before signing the marriage certificate, by the way.  Similarly, my frugality is the stuff of legends, legends that felt like a myth to Michael before he married me and realized I would circle the block for days for a free parking space.

So it’s easy to picture the clash of ideals when one of us carries a homemade lunch to work every day and the other frequents the local Nordstrom for a refreshing cafe lunch and a shoe shine.

Mike has long argued that a shoe shine is a great decompressant, and he always tells me about his engaging conversations with his favorite shine artist, Kim.  To avoid any raised eyebrows, Kim is a man.

I have always lamented Mike’s shoe shines as a needless extravagance, and he has always defended them by pointing out that they cost a mere $2.50.  Well, $2.50 plus a $5 tip.  And, he points out, it’s helping out his main man Kim, and who can argue with that?

This is the point in the conversation when I roll my eyes.

Well, I used to roll my eyes.  All of that changed one Sunday when Mike invited me to get my boots shined after church.  I asked if we could really shoot the moon and get that cafe lunch, too.  Needless to say, he agreed.

After enjoying a bowl of crab bisque and too many slices of sourdough, we meandered downstairs to the shoe shine room near the entrance of Nordstrom.  I started to ask Mike just how often this little shoe shine date with Kim really takes place…is it once a month?  Every two weeks?

“Kim!” he hollers to the man furiously buffing a gentlemen’s shoes.

Kim turns around, leans in toward Mike until he’s inches from his face, and says, “My man!”

Must be every week.  At least.

“What do you want today?” he asks Mike.  He hasn’t noticed me standing with him yet, and that’s when I remember that Mike once told me that Kim is nearly blind.  All at once I’m realizing the implications of a blind man shining shoes all day, and I’m stunned silent.

“We’d both love a shine,” Mike replies, gesturing toward me.  “This is my wife, Abby.” 

We exchange hello’s and he invites us to sit while he finishes with his current customer.

“I been slammed today, man,” he says to Mike.  “It’s almost the holidays and people are coming in a mile a minute.  This one woman walked off in a huff when I said I was backed up five pairs.  People don’t get it.  I’m the only one working here today!” 

Mike sympathizes with him and assures him we’re in no hurry, so he can take his time with other things.  He asks if we’d like to change the TV station or choose from the reading materials.  A feeling begins to creep up on me, a feeling of being mortified that someone thirty years my elder is about to wait on me.  I feel a sweat-inducing class-consciousness, and I realize I’d rather run naked through the store than have him shine my shoes. 

It occurs to me that the feeling harks back longer than I can consciously recall.  My parents always raised me never to have others do for me what I could do for myself.  This includes things like housework, landscaping, washing the car, laundry, and apparently, shoeshining.  Part of it is about not spending money on those things, but the other part of it is the fact that what is my responsibility is my responsibility.  I made my shoes scuffy, therefore I should have to buff them myself.  Case closed.

“Ma’am are these boots black or brown?” he says, leaning over my feet.  It’s the worst reminder of his lack of sight.

“They’re black,” I reply, “and I’ve never had a shoe-shine in my life.  I haven’t taken good care of them,” I admit. 

“Well, you’ve got to come in here,” he says.  “You’ve got to get your shoes done, not just to make them shine but to treat the leather.  Especially in Seattle!  The water dries out the leather and you have to have them oiled.”

I feel both gently chastised and justified by what he’s said.  Yes, I need to take better care of them, and yes, it is my problem.  But it also occurs to me that he’s emphasizing that this is just part of owning shoes — you go get them shined.  It’s not about pretentiousness, it’s about caring for the things you purchased six feet away in the shoe department.  It’s the same as getting an oil change (which my dad has always done himself by the way…poor example, then).  My making this a class issue is really my issue — I’m uncomfortable; he’s not.  After all, the shoe shine costs $2.50 — it’s designed for every shoe owner to take care of their shoes.

I look over at Mike, who couldn’t be more at ease.  He’s telling Kim about church today, since he asked what we’ve been doing this morning.

Kim apparently agrees with our morning choice.

“So you’re paying attention, you’re tuned in,” he says.  “People I meet here always think that their days are not numbered, but let me tell you, they are.  You’ve got to get to know the Lord before you meet Him, am I right?!” 

Kim steps into the back room to gather different supplies, and I turn to Mike and tell him something about how utterly ungrateful I am for having an easy job sitting at a desk all day while Kim is on his feet, working his tail off for far less money.   I tell him about a teacher I had in seventh grade who used to tell us about her trip to India and ask us a haunting question:  if we were ever in India, would we pay to take a ride in a rickshaw?  Would we do what felt degrading to the driver in order to help them make money?  Or would we refuse to take a ride, on principle, but then know that we had just kept that person from making enough money for the day?  I’ve never forgotten that question, and I still don’t have an answer.

Mike looks at me and says, “Kim is working hard, yes, but there’s honor in that.  He’s here every day serving his clients, getting paid, making what we hope is a living wage.  Think about it: he’s blind — he has every excuse to be at home, and instead he’s here working his tail off.  I’m going to support him as much as I can because I admire him, and I want him to be the best paid shoeshiner in the freaking state.”

I don’t know what to say, but I suppose I agree.  I want to support Kim, and I also want to be socially responsible.  For today, that means swallowing my issues and letting him shine my shoes. 

Kim returns and finishes our shoes.  We tell him he did an incredible job, because he truly did.  I can’t believe how much better my boots look, and I tell him I’ll return.  He asks one favor of us before we go.

“Would you email the management and tell them that you liked your service today?  That woman I told you about earlier threatened to email management and complain that I couldn’t wait on her fast enough.”

We are both horrified and vow to send an email that will remove all doubt as to the nature of his service.  We pay him and begin to walk away.  Normally, I would have a hurricane of a heart attack if Mike tipped someone more than 30%, but in this case I just feel proud of him for the far higher than 30% tip he hands to Kim.

“And,” I add, “I’ll tell everyone I know with a pair of shoes to get over here.” 

Nordstrom, Bellevue Square: Open 9:30AM – 9:30PM Monday through Saturday, 11AM – 7PM Sundays.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Rocket Woman

Last night some of my coworkers and I went to an indoor skydiving facility called iFly Seattle.

All I have are two words: Mind. Blown.

I have always wanted to go skydiving but that little detail about possible death has held me back for some reason.  So when Mike told me that one of his clients had just built an indoor skydiving facility where the rate of death is 0%, I was intrigued.  Then one of my coworkers, who has gone skydiving before, suggested it as a team-building activity, and I jumped (but not out of a plane) at the chance.

We arrived at the building having no idea what to expect.   We didn’t even completely understand how it worked — a tunnel of air?  That can hold up a person?  And that person doesn’t die?

We checked in and sat in a little classroom for a ten minute lesson on how to position our bodies in the wind, how to read the instructor’s hand signals, and that no, somersaults are not allowed for beginners.

Then came the this-is-becoming-real part: the flight suits.   We were each fitted with a surprisingly comfortable jumpsuit and then told to put earplugs in our ears.

This should not have been difficult.  I put them in and felt like they were set when the instructor walked over to me, looked at each of my ears, and then said, “No.  These will fall out.”  He took them out, rolled them tight, pulled my ear away from my head and jammed the earplug so far in I swear it touched the back of my eye.

After that, I was legally deaf.

Helmets were passed out, goggles were strapped on our faces, and we were finally ready — to be Team America, apparently:

Since one of my teammates had skydived before, we graciously allowed him to lead us into the unknown.  The instructor gave the wind controller behind the glass the thumbs up to turn on the air, and it occurred to me that Mr. Wind Control really just looked like a DJ, which I found far too casual for the activity at hand.

Our teammate stood at the door of the giant wind tunnel, and then he leapt into it and I immediately decided I was not going next.

He was flailing all around and then suddenly he got himself in the pose we were taught, and just like that, he was flying.  The instructor gave him tips here and there, but mostly he was hovering in the air as we all cheered him on.  Well, we could cheer as loud as we wanted but due to hundred mile an hour winds and mind-bending earplugs, he probably just saw a bunch of silent muppets through the glass, waving our arms around.

In a split sixty seconds his turn was over and I was up.  I did a little deflection dance, trying to get the person behind me to go ahead of me, but the instructor was having none of it.

I stood at the doorway and jumped across his arms.  The intensity of the air hitting my face and the weightlessness of my body was immediately disorienting in the best possible way.  I got into position as quickly as I could, and after he moved my arms around a bit, there it was: I was floating.  I was also grinning like an idiot.

I couldn’t stop laughing as I realized that this felt completely natural and also like the best thing I’d done in years.  The instructor spun me around and I saw all of my teammates through the glass giving me the thumbs up, which made me feel like I must not look quite as ridiculous as I felt.  That or they were just glad it wasn’t their turn yet.

All too quickly, my minute was over and I jumped back onto the ground.  I felt absolutely fantastic, like I had just been shaken alive from a stupor.

Easily the best entertainment of the experience was watching other people fly.  I had to physically restrain myself from falling off my chair with laughter as each teammate went.  It wasn’t that they were any better or worse than me, it was just the sheer absurdity of watching someone you know get pummeled by 110 mile an hour winds.  People’s cheeks were pushed back and their lips were rumbling like a cartoon character falling off a cliff.  As each person got out of the tunnel it took them a minute to realize their entire chin was covered in saliva.  Oh, this was good entertainment.  Good indeed.

We all got to go a second time, and this time I was confident and the instructor knew it, too.  He saw me steady myself and then he showed me a head nod, teaching me to turn my face so that my whole body would spin.  It was insanity — I would barely turn my head and I spun like a top.  It was unreal.

At the end of our session our instructor said that no one was behind us in line, and if we’d like to go for an additional minute it would be $20.  No one hesitated.

Ha.  I tried to trick you there.  Did you fall for it?  Did you think I’d spend $20 without hesitation?  If you did, this is likely your first time reading this blog.

Everyone else went a second time, and I sat there telling myself I’d already spent $66 on this, and I’d likely be back to bring Mike and other family members, so I didn’t need to go.  But as each person went I could hardly stand to watch their glee.

As the last person exited, I jumped up and yelled, “OK I’ll do it!” into the deaf ears of everyone around me.

I don’t know if it’s because I held out, or because I’d done well the last time, but I’ll never forget what the instructor did next.  Ten seconds after I entered the tunnel and was floating, without warning he gave Mr. DJ the thumbs up and the force of the wind shot us thirty feet into the air, twisting and turning and flying all around the top of the tunnel, racing back and forth and driving downward and upward.  I went absolutely bananas, totally ballistic with joy.  It was exactly what I’d imagined Peter Pan must have felt as he dove in front of the moon in Hook.

One of my coworkers later told me, “I’d never seen you so happy!  It was incredible!”

Best $20 I’ve ever spent, hands down.

We all left the building completely elated, telling each other what we’d felt and who was funniest.

There is one drawback to indoor skydiving, and it’s significant: the experience is just too brief.  There’s no way around it.  Three minutes of flying only convinces you that you want more.  Which is a pretty brilliant marketing plan, but it’s also torture when you realize it’ll cost another eighty bucks to return.

It’s just a hunch, but I suspect I’ll gladly part with my cash if it means I can give the DJ the thumbs up and rocket to the moon.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

Designing Woman: Part Three

People may think of a number of descriptive words for me, but D0-It-Yourself is not among them.

One of my favorite blogs that I read all the time is Young House Love, and they are all about the DIY.  But they’re DIY on crack.  They knock down walls and paint brick and tear out concrete.  They do an incredible job of making it look accessible, but it still scares the junk out of me.

Enter our hideous bar stools that the previous owner of our home left us — and refused to pick up when we found she had left them (but we could hardly blame her — they’re hideous, after all):

Not only is the pattern like something from a Ringling Brother’s Circus, but one of them was actually stained:

How did we live with them for 16 months?  If I think about that question too long I will go into convulsions, so in the interest of time, let’s skip that question.

When Mike and I decided that we finally had to get rid them, naturally we planned to throw them away and buy new ones.  But then some DIY-type friends heard our plan and were aghast that we’d waste money and resources on “such a simple project.”

Sure.  Simple for you.  This coming from the people who carve their own dining room tables.

We promptly ignored their suggestion and proceeded to look for new bar stools.  However, upon finding that any decent bar stool was at least $150 a pop, we figured why not try to fix our current ones?  If we fail we can always throw the embarrassment in the garbage and THEN spend the $450.

Off to the fabric store we went.  We chose a fabric, bought a staple gun and some backing and headed home for the dirty work.

First we took the stools apart to determine if we’d need to strip the fabric.

We decided that the backing on our new fabric was thick enough to prevent any of the old fabric from showing through, so we left the seat fabric on.

The fabric on the back of the stool, however, had to come off.  That was not a fun process.


We then proceeded to iron our new fabric to ensure it was perfectly smooth.  When I say “we,” I mean “he.”  We all know I don’t know how to iron.

Isn’t it a beautiful pattern?

Everything worked like a charm until this point.  The next step was nothing short of maddening.  We had to align the fabric perfectly, staple it correctly and tightly, and make sure the corners didn’t look freaky.  We alternated between talking to each other through gritted teeth like seamstresses on Project Runway, and cheering each other on like we were at the Mathletes Finals.

After dozens of removed staples, we finally had it:

…and then we realized we had to do it again two more times, and we almost decided it would be easier if we just sold our house and left the new owners with two torn apart stools.  Let history repeat itself, we said.

But we motored through, and finished all three seats and one seat back.

Those of you paying attention realize this leaves two seat backs unfinished.  How long do you think it took Mr. and Mrs. Reph to finish those last two seat backs?  I’ll give you some hints:

  • it’s the same amount of time it takes to get five credits at a university
  • it’s the same amount of time it takes to grow 1/3 of a baby
  • it’s the same amount of time that Seattleites enjoy the weather each year

Three months, people.  Three months.  For three months, two of our chairs sat there without backs.  For three months, we told our guests we’d “just started” this project and that we were going to complete it “this weekend.”  It was sometimes the last thing one of us would say to the other before falling asleep, “You know, we really need to finish those bar stools.  No seriously.  It’s embarrassing.”  The other would always dutifully reply, “I know.  Totally.  Let’s do it this weekend.  Oh wait, we’re out-of-town.  Next weekend, then.  For sure.”

This went on for three months.

Until this week.  This week, in a fit of energy, we decided it had to come to an end.  We got home from a date, walked right into the dining room and started stapling like it was our jobs.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Victory!

Aren’t they pretty?  But really, the attractiveness doesn’t even matter to me at this point.  The point is that they are done, complete, finito.

And just as I hoped, they bring in the red from the family room behind them, and help add a little color and interest to the space.

The other side of the victory is that what should have cost $450 ended up only costing $35 ($20 for the fabric and backing, $15 for the staple gun).  Even though they aren’t perfectly done, I’ll take imperfect at $35 over perfect at $450…at least for now.

Instead of teaching us that we are DIY-capable, this certainly proved to us that we should never remodel a home.  It took us three months to do the backs of two stools; I don’t think we should be knocking down walls and replacing granite counter-tops.  For the sake of our marriage, obviously.

To read about other design projects we’ve conquered managed, see here and here.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

There’s Good News and Bad News…

Last night as I left a friend’s house, I got pulled over by a cop.  I have not been pulled over in years…come to think of it, neither has Mike.  We have a great track record, and as I pull to the side of the road, I’m totally annoyed that I’m the one who broke it.

“Hello, ma’am,” he says politely.  “Do you know how fast you were going?”

I hate when they ask this.  It’s a trick: answer honestly and you admit to breaking the law.  Lie and you look like a liar.

“Um, maybe 35 or 40, sir?” I reply.

“Well, in fact you were going 43, and this is a 35 zone.”

“Yikes,” I gulp, with the most pathetic look on my face.  “I’m so sorry, Officer.”  My father taught me to always address policemen as “officer.”  So far, it appears to be working.

“Where were you going in such a hurry?” he asks.

I don’t have time to think of something less embarrassing, so I tell him the truth.  “I was watching ‘The Bachelor’ at a friend’s house and now I’m just driving home….”

He fights a smile.  He has the kindest eyes I’ve seen on a police officer, and this gives me a ray of hope.  And I desperately need that ray of hope, because I know what’s coming next.

He walks back to his patrol car, and then two minutes later returns to my window. 

“Now, looking at just your speed, that’s about $150.  But did you know your tabs are also expired?” 

There it is.  I’m hosed.

“Actually,” I say to him, “just yesterday my husband noticed that and told me to change them.  I’m really sorry, Officer.”  This statement is one hundred percent true.  I bite my lip and look up at him.

He goes on, “And I can’t prove it, but there was a construction site about a quarter-mile before I pulled you over, so that would be another $150.  And the tabs would be $100.  Do you realize this is a $400 ticket?”

He says all of this, but has nothing in his hands.  Against all odds, I hear the tingling sound of victory bells three miles away.

“My goodness, I can’t believe that.  I’m so sorry, Officer.”  And I really am — I mean, who can claim to have their life together and be driving around on January 31 with tabs that expired in October?  Yes, October.

He smiles and hands me my license.  “Have a nice day.”

I am too shocked to speak.  I cannot even smile.  I look up at him and say “Thank you,” but it’s small and quiet because I am stunned into silence.

I didn’t get a ticket!  I thank God the entire way home for his divine mercy, because that’s the only explanation for that officer’s behavior.

I decide to tell Mike that I got one anyway, so that when I tell him I didn’t, he’ll be really excited.  This is a cruel game married people love to play.

I walk into our condo slouched over like Charlie Brown.  I don’t make eye contact.  I just say, “I got a ticket.”

“What?  No way!  How fast were you going?”

“43 in a 35.  But it’s the TABS!  The TABS make it $400!!” 

Now he remembers our little conversation yesterday, and he’s mad.  But right as I’m about to make his day by telling him it didn’t happen, he interrupts me.

“Do you want the good news or the bad news?”  he asks.

What is he talking about?  I’m supposed to be dropping all of the bad/good news…

“I got a ticket today, too!”

“????……#$@&…..@$#%…..$%&@……….$@&*……………..!!!!” 

I don’t actually cuss at him, but the dozens of explosives going off in my head at once won’t allow me to process a coherent response.

He apparently doesn’t notice that my jaw is on the floor and my eyes are three inches outside my head, and keeps talking.

“Man, am I relieved.  I’ve been dreading telling you all day, but now that we both did it, you can’t be mad!  This is awesome!”

His joyful glee needs to come to an end.  We are not in the same boat.  There is a crucial difference to our stories, and it’s time he knew what it was.

“AHA!  But I lied!  I did get pulled over, but I DIDN’T GET A TICKET.”

I thought of the most obnoxious dance possible and starting doing it with great enthusiasm.  In case you’re into details, it involved a lot of hip thrusts and pumping of arms.

I was dancing so violently I barely registered his expression of shock.  But being the ever-optimist that he is, it didn’t take long for his indignation to give way to his mental calculations. 

Suddenly he was ecstatic again.  “Do you realize what this means?!  It’s like our insurance will barely even go up at ALL!”

Mr. Sunshine has a point.  And I’m so grateful that I didn’t get nailed that I decide this is one of those moments in life that is most ironic, and we high-five.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

On Eating My Words

Despite being one of the thriftiest people on Earth, I abhor shopping at Ross. 

And TJ Maxx.

And Nordstrom Rack.

And any place that requires an inordinate amount of “digging” to find what I need.  One would think that a cheap-o like me would call TJ Maxx my mecca, but one would be forgetting that my need for organization will always, always trump my frugality.

I have needed structure and order for as long as I can remember.  Not an obsessive compulsive, lock-and-unlock-the-door-six-times type, but enough that walking into a store with rows and rows of clothes makes me want to turn around and flee.

Did I mention my other disorder, commitment-phobia?  When it takes decades to make seemingly insignificant decisions (which boot?  Black or brown?  Knee-length or ankle?), it becomes nearly impossible to make decisions if nothing is in its proper place.  How do I know if I’ve seen all of my paralyzing options if they are strewn down an aisle?

Last week, however, I had to make a concession:  I was throwing a party, I needed decor, and I needed it cheap. 

And I knew exactly what this meant.

I Binged all the thrift stores I could think of, and was a little embarrassed to find so many of them in such close proximity to my home.  How did I not realize they were there before? 

Anyway.

I walked into Ross and braced myself for feeling like a arachnophobe in a store full of spiders.  But as I made my way to the back of the store I saw the rows upon rows of glass vases — exactly what I was looking for.  I bent over to pick one up to check its price tag, and nearly dropped it to its death on the tile floor — $4.99!  Was I hallucinating?  Is this a joke?  Or is this Merry Christmas to me?

I quickly stashed every last one of them in my cart, totally convinced that I had just snagged the deal of the year and surely 15 angry women would be coming around the corner to claim their vases too. 

Jingle Bell Rock tinged in the background as I had these paranoid thoughts.  No angry women.  Just Jingle Bell Rock.

I hurried around the rest of the store convinced I was going to find a hundred other things I couldn’t live without, but sadly, Ross only had one treasure to offer me that day (or any day).

My next stop was Tuesday Morning, which was so chaotic and out-of-order that I almost reconsidered before making it past the front door.  I walked down two aisles and saw that their glass vases were $9.99 — apparently not all discount stores are created equal.  I felt a surge of pride at my wise Ross choice.

And even though Michael’s isn’t a discount store, it is decidedly crafty, and I had hopes it would be cheap.  It was not.  Not only did they not have anything I could use, but they had things I couldn’t use that were overpriced.  I moved on quickly.

Twenty minutes later I was standing in Target because I couldn’t think of any more discount stores.  Target had exactly the ornaments and ribbon I was looking for, but I realized that I felt like a failure for paying full price.  And since I was in a such a panic about not being able to find more things I needed, I bought twice the ornaments necessary, grossly overestimating the size of my glass vases.

When I got home and started putting the vases and ornaments together, I realized that the vases were filthy.  They were completely covered in dust and I spent 15 minutes hand washing each one.  At first I was irritated, but that feeling quickly dissipated each time I turned a vase over to clean the base and saw the price tag.  Yes, I thought to myself, I am willing to spend 15 minutes for $4.99 vases.  Who wouldn’t?

I feel like I owe an apology to discount stores everywhere: Why do I judge you when you are so good to me?

The decorations worked really well, and I was thrilled with the look.  In fact, I got several compliments on them throughout the evening, and now I am going to use them to decorate our home for Christmas.

I am secretly hoping that someone comes to my house and asks about my vases.  I am looking for an opportunity to sound exactly like the radio commercial, “I got it at Ross!”

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)