Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Burnout

"Why are my tribal vases under the sink?"

So last week I (sort of) finished up Money Saving Mom's "4 Weeks to a More Organized Home" program. Some of you played along, others are planning to, and some of you couldn't care less.

Hyperbole and a Half
For me, having a plan laid out was really helpful. I get very, very overwhelmed when I look around at all the various things that need to be done. I can keep my house liveable on a day-to-day basis, but I would never call it "clean" because of all the nasty little tasks that slip by for weeks, then months, and then in many cases, years. I know I'm not alone in that, which is why I'm swallowing my shame and admitting how friggin' disgusting I am.

But alas, life does not stop for a perfectly laid-out schedule. Doctor's appointments, funerals, vacations, and general random "life wrenches" can make it impossible to stay 100%, completely on task.

And that is 100%, completely okay.

When I took on the "4 Weeks" program, I told myself up front that while I wanted to stick with it as much as possible, I wasn't going to view imperfection as failure. Sometimes I like to make my to-do list at night instead of over coffee in the morning. Sometimes I don't have one at all. Some days my kids want to go to the park and that leaves no time for an all-day task like cleaning base boards. Sometimes I'm tired and have an ear infection and I decide that resting and reading a book or cuddling my children is a better use of my time than organizing drawers or whatever.

Progress, not perfection.

I think you really do have to be okay with it NOT being all-or-nothing. A refrigerator cleaned three days late is still a clean refrigerator, you know? There is no failure as long as there's progress, regardless of whose time table it falls on.  So even if you're a few days or a week behind, or you've lost track because you got overwhelmed—that's okay. There are some days when the oven is just not going to get clean. Do something else, something small, just for that feeling of accomplishment. Or don't. It's genuinely okay.

Hyperbole and a Half
When you look at the "4 Weeks" list, see it as a guideline, not a rigid program. If you don't, you will flame out and give up. I guarantee it. There are very few people with the discipline to stick rigidly to something like this, and to try to force yourself to be one of them is a recipe for failure. Do what you can, when you can. Make yourself choose to succeed.

What I've done instead is kept a list of all the tasks I didn't accomplish, as well as some that I  discovered along the way (like wiping down and touching up paint on all the interior doors). I'll use that list as a guide to get shit done when I have the time and motivation. There are some things on there for Husband to do, like clean the top of the cabinets and refrigerator. We'll finish it together, in good time, when our unique life allows for it.

Good luck to my friends who are just beginning. You'll be glad you did, no matter how many or how few tasks you complete. Tailor it to your unique life and you'll be just fine.

And if you're in need of a really good laugh, read Hyperbole and a Half's post about basically this same thing. Bitch is funny. That's her graphic up at the top of this post.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Week Four of the "4 Weeks" Program Complete!

"I think I'm joining the Mathletes."

Image courtesy of moneysavingmom.com
It's over! I finally (more or less) completed Money Saving Mom's "4 Weeks to a More Organized Home" program. Here's how it went for me:

Friday—Clean your computer. We have several computers, but the only one I use with any frequency is my laptop, so I left the desktop for Husband to deal with. This was a bit more of a PITA than I thought it would be. Try as I might, I could not get the screen streak-free. I was even using lens wipes.

Also, I suck ass at photography, so my pictures are terrible. But the laptop does look much better.

Monday—Clean your vents. I was kind of looking forward to this one, as our vents be NASTY. The floor vents were a little dirty, but the larger vents in the upstairs hallway were really dusty. First I tried just hitting them with the vacuum attachments, but that didn't do much. So I got all handy, grabbed a screwdriver, and took them down for a sink bath.

Tuesday—Clean out and reorganize your cabinets and pantry. So technically we have a pantry. We also never technically finished it, and it's currently storing a bunch of machine parts that Husband is TOTALLY going to sell, and has totally been going to sell for about six years now. I'm sure he'll get to it. Anyway—it's on his honey-do list.

I was looking forward to hitting my cabinets because I've been thinking of moving some stuff around, anyway. I wanted to switch where some things were kept, so I did that. My favorite reorganization was my baking cabinet, though. I still need to get some containers for my supplies, but for the most part things are where I want them.

My baking cabinet. The stuff on the left side, center shelf is now in a small tote, and the rest will be as soon as I run to Target and pick up a few.

This cabinet holds a lot of "pantry" stuff. It's much easier to see everything now.

Wednesday—Vacuum or sweep and mop the closet floors.

This sounded a lot harder than it was. This was a ten minute job for me, including taking out and putting back all the stuff IN the closets.

Coat closet

Linen closet

Thursday—Clean windows, blinds, and window treatments. I just did this in January, but it needs done again already. Well, the windows themselves need cleaned, anyway. However, it's proven too difficult to get this done at Bug's current stage, so I'm taking this one on slowly, a window at a time.

Friday—Clean and reorganize your medicine cabinet. FREE DAY! I literally just did this less than a month ago. It still looks great and everything is still organized, so I got a pass on the final day. Whoo-hoo! Three cheers for sitting on my ass!

So. How did everyone do, or how are you doing? I would love to see pictures or hear your stories. I'm thinking about doing this again in six months, though probably sans the blog updates. It's just a good, regular regimen for keeping things from getting disgusting.

Check back tomorrow for my post about combating burnout and the things I didn't get finished.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Simplifying Life with Kids

"There are no rules in this house. I'm not like a regular mom. I'm a cool mom. Right, Regina?"

*I plan to get the post about my final week of the "4 Weeks" program up this weekend. Again, it's been a busy week and those take awhile to put together. But it's pretty close to finished, so it should be up before Monday. Try to contain your excitement.

Bug and Bear, adoring each other.
I've recently discovered The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking in my continued quest to read every blog ever started. She has a terrific (and apparently well-shared) post entitled "99 Ways to Simplify Life with Kids". And she should know—she and her husband have five, with a sixth on the way!

So I feel like she probably has some authority on the subject. Like the time my friend Angie met the Duggars and Mama D gave her advice about how to soothe a child's bug bites. Like, are you really going to question Michelle Duggar on something like that? I think not.

So anyway, back to the list. As we're all aware, I effing love lists. I also love this process of simplifying our lives. So a plan which marries the two? SIGN MY SHIT UP.

We already do some of these things. I've found numbers 3, 6-7, 12, 15, 20, 31-32, 41-42, 58 (seriously—Bug is obsessed), 89, and 96 particularly useful in our home.

We're actively working on numbers 13-16, 24, 27 (so hard for me!), 28-32, 39, 45-46, 61 (again, SO hard for this control freak), 63, 68-71, 87, 88, 91 (okay, I've done this ONCE, but I have plans to do it more often), and 97-98.

There are several on the list that I've never even considered but will now. And then there are those that just don't suit our particular family at this particular point in our lives well, and that's okay, too. With 99 to work with, it's okay not to adopt every single tip as legislation.

What stands out to you on Kelly's list? Anything you've found particularly rewarding or that you think might work well for your family?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pinterest in Real Life: Crock Pot Beer Chicken and Easy Oven Roasted Potatoes

"Oh, God, honey, no. What kind of mother do you think I am? Why, do you want a bit? If you're gonna drink, I'd rather you do it in the house."

This week I made two Pinterest-acquired recipes in the same meal. The first was this delectable looking Crock Pot Beer Chicken. I love recipes like this, where the hardest step is thawing the meat. You literally just toss everything into the Crock Pot and let it go. I cooked mine on high for five hours.

My house smelled amazing all day. I used fresh garlic (two diced cloves) instead of powder, but other than that I followed the recipe exactly. The chicken was falling apart as I was dishing it out, and it had a nice flavor. I actually found it just a tad dry, but maybe next time I can either add more beer or reduce the cook time. This recipe is too easy and good not to tinker with and perfect.

As a side dish I made these Easy Oven Roasted Potatoes. Again, the recipe was super easy. The hardest step was slicing the potatoes (I used three medium taters), and I did that early in the afternoon when both of my kids were on a whining-and-clinging break.

I LOVE fried potatoes, so my hope was that these would be a low-maintenance substitute for them on those nights when standing and frying is not an option. My oven cooks fast, so I only cooked these for a total of twenty minutes (including the five minutes after adding the Parm). But I still felt like they were overdone. The flavor was great, but I prefer a softer potato, so these were a tad too crisp this time. I'll definitely make them again, though.

So that's that! It was a perfectly serviceable meal. It just needs some tweaks to make it the way I like it. My family can eat whatever the hell I serve them. :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


...I THINK I've fixed the commenting issue on here. I've had a few friends say that their comments are being eaten, so I did a little digging and I think it's correct now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week Three of the "4 Weeks" Program Complete!

"It was full-tilt jungle madness. And it wasn't going away."

*Sorry I didn't get this one up on Friday. I had a very busy week and then a funeral over the weekend. These posts take awhile because of the photo stuff and all that, and I usually spend all week on them, but I think I'm back on track. 

Image courtesy of moneysavingmom.com
Picking up where I left off last week...

Friday—Clean ceiling fans and light fixtures. Yuck. I was dreading this. That's probably why I didn't do a very good job.

We only have one ceiling fan in the entire house, which is fine with me because I hate ceiling fans. I think they're unhygienic by default and I have absolutely no use for them. so the only one on our house is in Bear's room. I grabbed a pillow case and dusted the fan, then wiped it down with damp paper towels. Simple—just gross. I am glad to know that all that grossness is not flying around my daughter's bedroom anymore, though. I forgot to take a picture before, and then I decided I didn;t care, but I did do it. You'll have to take my word for it. Or ask Bear. She was lying on her bed, playing a video game while I slaved away. Woe is me.

So the light fixtures...I didn't do it. I'm going to, but not until Husband is off work and can take them down for me. See, it's not that I CAN'T take them down myself. It's just that I'm terrified to do so. I have a weird aversion to taking down things from above my head. I'm not especially coordinated and I don't even like getting down bowls that are on the top shelf. I don't feel confident in my ability to take down and then replace the fixtures without suffering a concussion, so I didn't do it.

Monday—Clean out your silverware drawer. Oooooh, yeah, baby. An easy task. You know why? Because I just did this on my own about two months ago, and it's still pretty much how I want it.

Grr, Picasa, cutting off my pictures. Looks more like a "find the differences" game than a Before & After, amiright?

Tuesday—Clean your microwave, stovetop, and/or oven. Again, I just cleaned my microwave out really well the week before we went on vacation, so all I had to do was give it a quick swipe and it was good. The stovetop and oven, however, were in need of some TLC. We bought the unit in 2006 and I've never cleaned out the oven. So yeah.

But alas, this was not a good day for running the self-clean because we were home almost all day and I didn't feel like being "smoked out". And cleaning it by hand meant...cleaning it by hand. So this was a terrible failure and I'm sorry but...them's the facts. I did not clean out my oven. The microwave and range look awesome, though.

Wednesday—Clean above kitchen cabinets and the top of the refrigerator. I really hate having space above the cabinets, and I wish I'd put my foot down about that when we remodeled. It just invites clutter and dust and there's no real reason for it. When we build the dream house, the cabinets will touch the ceiling.

So, um...I didn't do this one, either. I was going to. I dragged a chair over. I climbed up on it. I picked up some stuff from the top of the cabinet. And I promptly put it back down, realizing that almost everything up there belongs to Husband (which makes sense, as he is 6'4" and I'm 5'6") and I have no idea what to do with it. Not to mention that this task means getting up and down every few minutes to move Bug away from something he's getting into when he rebels against the highchair. It was just too mentally exhausting and I felt completely ill-equipped to deal with it. So I didn't. And despite my desire to be held accountable by chronicling my progress here—I don't feel one bit bad about it.

Thursday—Clean out the utensil drawer and junk drawer(s). Well, we don't have a utensil drawer. I hang some of it and put everything else in a jar, so that was a non-issue. I do have two drawers in the kitchen that I guess you'd call "junk" drawers, though. Both were just cleaned out in March, and the "junk" drawer has literally not accumulated one new item in that time, so I just wiped it out and reloaded it. the other drawer functions as my "office" drawer. It's where I keep my household planning binder, coupons, unread magazines, flash drives, extra memory cards, receipts, etc. It needed a good purging.

*sigh* I really did have the entire drawers in the photos. DAMN YOU, PICASA! I need better collage making software. Anyway—before and after.

One week to go, plus several projects on hold because I didn't feel like it or just didn't get to it! Not too shabby. even if I don't do every single task, my home is still cleaner. Progress, not perfection, right? If you're just getting ready to start, look for my post about burnout next week. I think I'm going to put it up on Monday. Stick with it until then!

So how's it going for everyone? Are you seeing any results?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pinterest in Real Life: Lemon Crinkle Cookies

 "I'm gonna make you girls a 'hump day' treat."

I love just about anything lemony, so when I saw this recipe on Pinterest I immediately pinned it. It won some Mormon cookie recipe contest, so I figured it had to be good, right?

Lemon Crinkle Domed Cookies
And it is. But I feel like something must have gotten lost in translation for me. First of all, my cookies do NOT look crinkly like the ones in the photo. In the interest of honesty, no one is exactly asking me to write a cook book, but damn it, I CAN bake. Somewhere along the line, however, I didn't quite nail this part. Mine are a bit more rounded and have a somewhat denser middle than I expected. I thought I'd be getting a sugar cookie-like chewiness, but with a lemony flavor, and these are just slightly donut-like to me. It's hard to explain. I feel like I took them out at the right time—when the bottoms just began to turn slightly brown—and I expected them to cave in and settle into the chewy appearance that the ones on the linked website have. But alas, they only settled slightly.

Can you tell where I do the majority of my shopping?

Also, I would love a slightly stronger lemon flavor. I might add an extra half tablespoon of lemon juice next time, just to kick it up a tad. The lemon flavor is very subtle.

Good, but just missing *something*. I'm open to suggestions!

All told, these are pretty darned good. I think the fact that I keep shoving them down my gullet is a good indication of such. But I think I need to play with the recipe a bit. I might add a lemon cream cheese frosting next time, too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Words of Wisdom for New Homeschoolers

 "No, I know what homeschool is...so you've actually never been to a *real* school before? Shut up. Shut up!"

Not MY words of wisdom! I don't have any yet!

I am a big fan of Simple Homeschool and the Weekend Links segment. I often find the linked stories relevant and timely (is that redundant?) in my life, and this past weekend was no different.

Whether you're homeschooling, or just know/love someone who is, peruse this quick list of tips from 10 moms who've been doing this awhile. I find value in occasionally being reminded of even stuff that should be common sense, which some of this is.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pinterest in Real Life: Two Timin' Pasta Bake

 "I can't go to Taco Bell, I'm on an all-carb diet. GOD, Karen, you're so stupid!"

I pinned this amazing looking pasta recipe just about two weeks ago and immediately added the ingredients to my grocery list.

Two Timin' Pasta Bake with penne
It's really quite easy. I adapted it a tiny bit by adding in some bite-sized pieces of chicken that I cooked in the skillet until they were just done. I just dumped them in with the pasta before popping it in the oven. I also forgot to get shredded Parmesan, so I just sprinkled a bunch of grated Parm over the top. Next time I'll remember to get the shredded stuff.

In short, this shit is really, REALLY good. And it's easy. It fed Husband, Bear, and me dinner, plus two lunches each for Husband and me in the next two days. It reheats well. I'll definitely make this again, so I'm going to have to start looking for Alfredo and marinara on sale to stock up.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Week Two of the "4 Weeks" Program Complete!

 "You don't go cryin' to your daddy after I wipe it up with your face."

Image courtesy of moneysavingmom.com
Picking up where I left off last week, let's run down my progress:

Friday—Vacuum the couches. I've been looking forward to this one because my couches have been smelling a little musty due to disuse. Since we had all that yardsale crap in the living room for so, so long, we weren't really using the space and the couches smelled weird.

There wasn't much in the way of "stuff" under my cushions, partially because of the lack of use and also because I just vacuumed them out in January, but they smell normal again!

I kind of hate Picasa  because it's hard to find a collage format where part of the photos aren't cut off. Grr.

Monday—Clean out the car. Even after a vacation, our car really doesn't get very dirty. We rarely eat in it and I'm pretty good about taking any trash with me when I get out. But there was some vacuuming to be done, especially where Bear and her chips and snacks were for the trip. Still, the visual impact is pretty minimal. I had a few little sticky spill spots to wipe up, and the car desperately needs a Rug Doctor-ing (not because of us—old stains started surfacing a few weeks after we got the car!), but it's generally pretty clean, anyway.

Yeah...not much difference. I really do keep my car pretty damned clean.

Tuesday—Wipe down all the baseboards in the house. Um...no. And the reason I say, "Um...no," is because even in my tiny house, that's a CRAPTON of work. So here's what I did instead.

I combined the Tuesday and Wednesday assignments and decided to break them up over a week or so. Instead of spending an entire day wiping down baseboards, I'll do one room per day, baseboards and door handles, until every room has been done.

I started with the bathroom for a couple of reasons. One, it's the smallest room with the least amount of trim, and two, it has the grossest baseboards, which means the highest impact. And even in this tiny room, it still took me half an hour.

If you rolled your eyes at my couch and car pictures because they really weren't that bad, these photos should bring you back to reality. Yeah, my car and couch are usually pretty tidy...but we all have strengths and weaknesses. And my bathroom floor is nothing short of vile. Here's my filthy little secret:

That is NOT mold in the corner. It's just really, really filthy build-up. And there is just no cleaning dirty caulk. *snicker*

More dirty caulk, and that dirty-looking spot is a nail. Basically our bathroom needs to be gutted and redone.

Pretty much all the trim in our home needs to be painted (some of it desperately), so even though the trim in the photos above is now clean, it still doesn't look great. I also found as I was wiping down the bathroom trim that there is a lot of caulk along the edges, and dust is kind of caked into it. Nothing ruins a good "after" photo like dirty caulk.


Wednesday—Clean all the door handles. See Tuesday.

Thursday—Clean all the switchplates in the house. Finally, a quick, simple task. I'm not going to post a picture, because what a boring picture that would be. I just grabbed the Clorox wipes and some Q-Tips and gave them all a quick-but-thorough cleaning. Easy-peasy.

How did you do on Week Two? Are you still going strong? Did you have to do any tweaking to make the routine work for you?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Land Huntin'

 "Get in, loser. We're going shopping."

Gorgeous, but not quite what we're looking for.
A few weeks ago, Husband, BIL, Bear, Bug, and I went to look at a few properties within a half hour or so of our current homes. Some of these places were pretty far off the beaten path, and none of them turned out to really be what we're looking for, but it was still nice to feel like we're actually doing something productive toward reaching our dream-home-building goal.

The week before last we were on vacation, but now it's time to start scoping out potential home sites again.

We're looking for 10-20 acres in a private setting that has space (doesn't have to be pre-cleared) for two homes and a sizable garage/workshop. We'd like some wooded area on the property to muffle outside noises and encourage wildlife, as well as provide more privacy. Some type of water (a pond or proximity to the river) would be awesome, too. And we need to stay within a forty-five minute commute for Husband and BIL. Forty-five minutes is what we agreed would be the absolute maximum, and would only be acceptable if the property was otherwise PERFECT. Ideally, we'd like to keep the commute at or under a half hour.

Oh, yeah—and it has to fit our price range.

Husband and Bug scope out some potential property.

So that's what I'm doing with my week—searching for properties on various MLS sites, Craigslist, etc. Hopefully we can go out and take a look next time Husband gets a weekend off. Which is probably going to be never because that's how his company rolls.

Le sigh.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pinterest in Real Life: Filling a Piping Bag

 "It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for 'em."

I pinned this tip (video, 1:10 mark) for filling a piping bag with minimal muss and fuss a few weeks ago and I've been excited to try it out. So when I made red velvet cupcakes and vanilla cream cheese frosting for Husband's and my father-in-law's birthdays last week, I decided to give it a shot.

I recommend watching the video, but the basic principle is that rather than plopping and scraping frosting directly into a bag, you roll it up in plastic wrap and drop it in.

I've gotta say, it worked great. The ends of the plastic wrap did unwind pretty quickly, but I was using really cheap stuff and I think I overfilled it a tad. Still, there was almost no mess. The nice, clean bag made it much easier to remove my coupler when I was finished.

This is my finished product. I packaged up all the prettiest ones to take to dinner and give to my neighbor, so this is one of the less attractive. And I used a tad too much cream when I was making the frosting, so it's a little bit runnier than I like for piping. But even so, I think they look pretty damned good!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week One of the "4 Weeks" Program Complete!

 "On Wednesdays we wear pink!"

Image courtesy of moneysavingmom.com
So I managed to get through the first week of Money Saving Mom's 4 Weeks to a More Organized Home program. If you're not playing along at home, each day includes a list of things you're supposed to do to become more organized. Here's how I tackled the first week.

I did not get dressed in something I feel great in each morning. Although I absolutely agree with the logic here, I'm such a zombie until I get moving that getting dressed is just not something I do. I get out of bed, change Bug's diaper, pull on a sweater ('cause my house is always FREEZING due to my hot-natured husband and daughter), and go downstairs to feed Bug. I like lazing around in my pajamas, so unless I have somewhere to go, this step gets skipped. Or as I call it, "Check!"

The next step is to sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and make a list. HELL, YES. This is basically my favorite part of life. I strap Bug into his high chair, start my coffee, grab my notebook, and wait for the clouds in my brain to part.

Next we're supposed to knock out our morning routine. For me, this means feeding Bug while I check my email and Facebook, and then letting Bug have some time to just play freely on the floor. Easy enough. Then we're supposed to set a timer for fifteen minutes and tidy up various areas of our homes and stuff. Again, easy-peasy.

Finding seven things to get rid of each day was harder, because I've done SO much purging lately. Still, even trash counts, so I managed pretty well. I didn't really count stuff out, but I got rid of some stuff, so I feel good about it.

Then it's on to the main cleaning and organizing tasks. Here's what my week looked like:

Monday—clean out purse and/or diaper bag. I did both, but here's the before and after of my purse mess:

Tuesday—clean out the refrigerator. We actually did this on Monday, too, because our refrigerator was getting very warm and ruining food. So Husband de-iced it and I used that opportunity to just go ahead and scrub it out, too. But I did forget the before picture. Sorry. I know you were basically lined up in anticipation of seeing moldy spaghetti and caked-on food particles.

Bright and shiny! Stay tuned for my masterclass in How to Take a Straight Picture

Wednesday—clean out the freezer. We skipped this one, but we had a good reason. The freezer needs the same work done to it as the fridge side did, which Husband can do, and it will require pulling everything out of the box. This makes it a perfect time for cleaning, but Wednesday was Husband's birthday and he did not want to spend it doing chores. I don't blame him. So we're probably going to do it this weekend.

Thursday—clean out under the beds and couches. I very recently cleaned out under our bed and Bear's, too, so there was nothing to do there. Even the stuff we store under the bed is organized at this point. The couches, however, were another story:

Click to enlarge. Top pics are the couch, bottom are the love seat.

Today I'll tackle the Friday assignment and include it with next week's updates. If you've been playing along at home, please tell me about your progress in the comments! Be sure to link to any blog posts you may have written about it, as well!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Settling in After Vacation

 "'Bad morning boss?' 'They usually follow good nights, Dwight.'"

So now that we're home from Jacksonville, we're settling back in. In a conscious effort to be kind to our future selves, here are some of the things we've done to make the post-vacation transition as smooth and stress-free as possible:

1.) Before we left, I made sure that any bills due before our return were either paid or scheduled to be paid.

2.) We cleaned almost the whole house before we left for Florida. The basement/Husband Hideout was a bit of a mess, but the rest of the house was fairly tidy, with beds made, laundry and dishes clean and put away, and everything mostly in its place. There's still clutter from stuff we have to get rid of in the living room, but it's manageable and organized.

3.) We did our vacation laundry before coming home. We were lucky enough to have a washer and dryer in our rented apartment, so I washed, dried, and folded everything the night before we left. All we had to do when we got home was put it away.

4.) We made our to-do list for the next few days before we left Florida so we wouldn't have to try to organize our thoughts after a thirteen hour drive.

What do you do to make the post-vacation letdown a bit more bearable? 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Won't You Join Me for a Vacation Slideshow?

 "You're in a Chinese Opium Dem, Timmy. This is where the sport of dodgeball was invented in the 15th Century."

As you may or may not know, my family spent last week in Jacksonville, FL for vacation. I wrote and scheduled normal posts to go up so you creeps wouldn't know I was gone and break in to steal all my awesome crap. SUCKERS.

Anyway. Jacksonville. My mother lives there, so it was a good chance to see her and spend some time on the beach.

Well, it was supposed to be. But a certain grouchy, aging, personified phenomenon decided to invite her friend Debby to the party and it rained the full first three days, and was overcast Wednesday morning. We watched the road in front of the apartment we were renting flood on Tuesday night, which was simultaneously fascinating and unnerving:

Right in front of our rented apartment. NOT our car.

Also, there was surfing. In the street. Tethered to a truck. I thought I had video of it, but it turned out I had hit the button and recorded my feet instead. But here's a picture!

Click to enlarge. And that IS our car in the driveway there.

Fortunately, I had planned ahead for the possibility of nasty weather and had a list of free/inexpensive indoor activities at the ready. On Monday we went with my brother Superman and his fiancee, Lois, to their gender determination ultrasound. We're thrilled that we're going to have another nephew! I'm getting good at shopping for little boys, so this is welcome news.

Tuesday we went to the Budweiser brewery and did the complimentary tour. It was really interesting and fun, and at the end, Husband and I got two free beers each! Yes, tour groups members aged 21 and over get two free beers each. I tried the Wild Blue blueberry beer and, after finding myself unable to finish it because it was SO STRONG, switched to a good old Mich Ultra. Husband had the Landshark Lager and then the Shock Top Belgian White. He wasn't crazy about the citrus flavors in the Shock Top.

I feel like holding a baby while drinking really classes up the situation.

Bear had a Pepsi. Clearly I have failed her, as Pepsi is disgusting.

Wednesday was overcast, so we went to the Museum of Science and History. It was really small and not especially interesting, but not a terrible way to pass an ugly afternoon. When we walked out, though, the skies had cleared and it was really really beautiful on the shore of the St. John's River. So we took some pictures!

The Husband and me, taken by Bear.

Our beautiful babies

This was taken by a nice lady who has zero talent for framing up a photo.

On Thursday, we finally got a proper trip down to the beach! Friday, too. Both days saw Bug crash for three hour naps after we got back to the apartment.

The kids and me at Neptune Beach. Try not to be jealous of our stunning tans.

My little Bug in the beach tent.

This really doesn't tell the story at all. I just think it's adorable and I'm one of those, "Look at pictures of my kids!" people.

Bear and her daddy, swimmin' in the sea.

Saturday was our last day. We checked out, went shopping for a few hours, hung out with my mom's friends in Jax, and then headed home. It was great to get back to our house and our dog. And our bed. And shower. And familiar roads.

The only thing better than vacation is getting home from vacation, amiright?

Now that we're back, I'm starting the 4 Weeks to a More Organized Home program from Money Saving Mom. Feel free to join me! I'll post my first update on Friday.