Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bodily Fluids Unleashed

Today Carter got sick at school. And when I say got sick, I mean he got up from his desk to get a book and hurled on his way to the bookshelf.

What's good about this is that it happened when he was in 1st grade and probably no one will ever remember it. Because goodness knows I sure don't vividly remember the day Timmy Dixon had an accident in our combined 1st and 2nd grade class. And for sure that unfortunate incident has never come up in conversation in the 31 years since.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Worse Than Walking Around With Toilet Paper Stuck to the Bottom of Your Shoe

A few days ago, I decided to attempt to refinish the hideous 80's brass chandelier our home came with. I drug it out of the attic where I had banished it just 6 short years ago and carried it down to the garage, thinking I could hang it from the overhead garage door opener in the middle of the ceiling. That worked. The chandelier was both off the ground and able to spin freely. Then I laid an old sheet on the floor, moved our fleet of bikes out of the way, and proceeded to spray primer on the chandelier until it was a delightful shabby chic. Ten minutes later, after the primer had dried, I sprayed it with Krylon's Oil Rubbed Bronze. It was lovely. Not the design of the chandelier so much as the new color, but you've got to be able to give a little when you set out to repurpose rather than to buy new.

What I was ultimately hoping to do was to replace this brass monstrosity currently hanging in our entryway...
with a fixture that was a little more compatible with these pieces also found in our entryway.

My little DIY project was looking quite promising. Confidently, I went inside to get a glass of water and wait for the color to dry. A few minutes later, the professional painters power washing the outside of our house asked me to close the garage door so they could work in that area. Ever accommodating, and apparently very high on paint fumes, I enthusiastically hit the button which both closed the garage and sent my "new" chandelier crashing to the ground below. And that, my friends, is why I am not crafty.

The story continues. I left the drop cloth on the floor for a couple of days - mainly because after trashing the chandelier, I was out of time and had to race out to go pick up Carter from school. When I got back home with three tired and hungry kids, the drop cloth was kind of the last thing on my mind. Needless to say, I drove the van back into the garage over the sheet and parked on top of it. Since then we've been going in and out of the garage always on top of the sheet. Today, after dropping Carter off at school (far, far away), and Griffin and Peyton off at preschool (close, close to home), I had to drive back up to Mooresville which is even further away than Carter's school for a meeting. I got there, had my meeting, and walked back out to the van only to find that somehow the sheet had attached itself to the right back wheel. I had been dragging it like a flag all over town.

This is what it looked like when I finally got home - which was about half the length of what it was when I discovered it in Mooresville 20 miles earlier.

You can see that it is completely wound up in the wheel well.

Jeff unwinding miles of fabric from our car.

Rest assured, I am not going to try to repurpose it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Christianese

Dear Faithful Few...readers that is,

If you read nothing else today, read this post. You will not be disappointed.

He holds the keys,

Mel

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Griffin Begins His Career As An Aerial Acrobat







Overall, the coach was quite pleased with Griffin's progress. So much so that he wondered if the Freshours might have TWO flying sons.


Unfortunately, they do not.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th Images

Beef was grilled, sparkers lit.

Griffin in patriotic attire...patriotic attire with distinctly Asian overtones. (To the right of Griffin, you'll notice the hand of a child stealithly trying to filch the lighter. I'll let you all take a guess as to which child that is.)

An overexposed picture of the successful thief. I had to crop it kind of tight because while Griffin was paying homage to the Japanese, Carter was rocking the Union Jack. (Just kidding, Dori.)

Pyromania 101.

Great balls of fire!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This Is Not A Post About Michael Jackson

As all three of my remaining readers are aware, Jeff and I attended Rift Valley Academy which is a Christian boarding school for the children of missionaries. Because their target audience hailed from a variety of denominations, RVA tended to err on the side of the conservative when it came to particular codes of conduct. Dancing, for example, was strictly prohibited.

Needless to say, it was quite a ground-breaking moment when it was announced in my 8th grade class that the girls would begin doing aerobics in PE. To say I was excited about this radical new addition to the usual mundane PE curriculum would be an understatement.

Not surprisingly, it was aerobics set to Christian music.

Exercise for Life by Stormie Omartian, if I remember correctly, and taught by a none other than a member of our own supporting church in CA. (Have you any idea how rare that is on the mission field? I mean sometimes in a blue moon you’ll find someone in the same country that went to your home church in the US, but never upon never do you find someone from your home church working right alongside you.)

But as conservative as RVA was, the BJU alumni* responsible for raising me were nothing short of rigid when it came to the perceived evils of dancing. Though my Dad had never actually witnessed aerobics in action, the mere concept of physical movement set to music seemed entirely too much like dancing to him. How could it be anything BUT sexually suggestive? To my horror, I was promptly banned from doing aerobics with my class. Instead, I retired to the library for 50 minutes alone while the rest of my girl friends jogged to an early 80’s techno mix of “Crown Him With Many Crowns”, and did risqué donkey kicks to “This is the Day That the Lord Had Made”.

My exclusion from this exercise only served to cause me to seek out the opportunity to do it. I desperately wanted to be a cheerleader, not for the cheering so much, but for the awesome routine they got to choreograph and perform at homecoming. Alas, I was never cute enough, or thin enough, or talented enough, or coordinated enough…or perhaps the coach didn’t want to tangle with my Notorious D.A.D.

After graduating from RVA, I attended Taylor University, yet another environment that was wholeheartedly anti-dance, and that pretty much sealed my fate. While dancing often called my name, it was never going to be something I did regularly…or when I did do it, felt confident about my ability to do it. (Insert some violins playing some awfully sorrowful music here. This is a sad story, isn’t it?)

Jumping ahead 20 years. This summer our church is running a sports-themed VBS, which involves bringing in professional athletes like Rodney Monroe to run sports clinics interspersed with large group and small group sessions. We’re expecting 600 kids and oh, hey, I’m on the committee, can you tell?

I knew that we were having a bit of trouble confirming someone to lead the dance sessions, but because our church has an entire praise-dance division, I was kind of tuning those conversations out. Also, I was a little concerned with how I was going to manage my own area of responsibility, that being overseeing the multitude of small group coaches/assistants we need, and was busy mentally trying to figure out if I could sell the idea well enough to entice the Sr. Saints to come get run over for a week! So you can imagine my surprise, and ensuing delirium, when the children’s pastor I teach under emailed me last week to ask if I would teach the dance sessions at VBS this year – and not just any old dance…but hip hop.

It’s a genre I am well-versed in, not because I have ever done it per se, but because I watch a lot of So You Think You Can Dance, and America’s Best Dance Crew. In my mind, I consider myself an expert…if expert is defined as 9 times out of 10 you can guess who is going to win the competition.

As you can imagine, my impressive street cred, coupled with years of repression in both high school and college, prompted me to jump at the chance to trade responsibilities, and thus FINALLY be able to live out my dream of being a fabulous hip-hop artist. Except that I am seriously way past my prime so there is really no way this is going to be anything but a HUGE PUBLIC SPECTACLE culminating in a nightmare. But one I’ll be awake for and after which we’ll probably have to move out of the state because I’ll never be able to live down the humiliation. My dear husband actually took a look at me trying to decipher some moves last night and said, “I can see a lot of humor coming out of this.” And then he cringed and left the room. It bodes well, doesn’t it?

I would like to end this post by listing for you here a few observations related to my most recent practice session in hopes that this experience will benefit someone else on the downhill slide to 40 that may be tempted to allow their fantasy life to guide them a step too far:

1. The trendy shag carpet that works so well in the play room has not proven to be the optimal dance surface. Also, I have never been so tempted to rip out a ceiling fan with my bare hands. Apparently, when I jump, I am 7 feet tall.

2. Speaking of jumping, while this is both inexpensive and readily accessible, I can say with great authority that it is not intended for high impact “sports”.

3. I have asthma. How this debilitating medical condition has gone undiagnosed for 38 years, I’ll never know, but unless our insurance company approves my request for an oxygen tank immediately, I do not expect to live through our first clinic on July 13th.

4. It is my opinion that the hip hop genre is best suited for waifs rocking a size 2 wardrobe, which means I have approximately 12 more days to lose 45 pounds. Make that 46 pounds since I just ate a huge brownie. I’m carbo-loading in hopes that it will help me to build up some stamina…or at least some energy reserves.

5. Like kegels, core muscles are something I’ve never really given much thought to. Until I needed them in order to teach something that looks like this….and subsequently discovered they weren’t there.

And now if you'll excuse me, I really must go get a massage.

* I would be remiss if I did not add somewhere here that my parents have loosened up ever so slightly over the years. My youngest brother tore up the dance floor at his wedding, and my sister served adult beverages at hers. At neither event was anyone struck by lighting. Both were nights to remember in the history of Bustrumdom if for that reason alone.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Advice? Make a Double Batch.


Brown Sugar Cookies

The most efficient way to bake these cookies is to portion and bake half of the dough. While the first batch is in the oven, the remaining dough can be prepared for baking. Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter. The dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is sufficiently browned. Use fresh brown sugar, as older (read: harder and drier) brown sugar will make the cookies too dry.

Ingredients:
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (about 1 3/4 ounces)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar (14 ounces)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions:
1. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter to melt; set aside for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. In shallow baking dish or pie plate, mix granulated sugar and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, rubbing between fingers, until well combined; set aside. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in medium bowl; set aside.

3. Add remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and salt to bowl with cooled butter; mix until no sugar lumps remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

4. Divide dough into 24 portions, each about 2 tablespoons, rolling between hands into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Working in batches, toss balls in reserved sugar mixture to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart, 12 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but it will take 3 batches.)

5. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are browned and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone; see photo below), 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.

6. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.


Makes 2 Dozen Cookies. Published in Cooks Illustrated, March of 2007.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Taming the Wild Animals...Or Euthanizing Them in Your Driveway

I had a difficult day today. There was really no reason for it other than the fact that it was Friday and Griffin and Peyton weren't in preschool this morning. Instead they were home all day with me. Per usual, as the day progressed I found I really enjoyed it. Both were cooperative and did very well with one another. Griffin was his charming, happy self, and Peyton stayed dry all day! There were successes to celebrate and moments to share. It was at the end of my day, when I realized I had accomplished nothing on my to-do list and our house looked worse than it did when we started out, that I found myself reevaluating my last 10 hours and deciding that they left much to be desired. It's a sad thing when efficiency and progress are hallmarks of your personality because when your day is being orchestrated by a 4-year old and a 2-year old, efficiency and progress are nowhere to be found. This is one of the things that makes me terrified of the career change that I am slowly crawling toward. You can modify how you spend the hours in your day. The question is whether or not you can adapt your personality to appreciate the new ways in which you are spending your hours. Can value be found in a day in which nothing was accomplished?

Also affecting my current life experience is that Carter is struggling at school. Today, for example, he told a bunch of kids at recess that he had taken a leak on the playground - a scenario for which he was sent to the principal's office a few weeks ago so it's not exactly an unlikely story. Then later this afternoon he angrily gave his teacher the bird. Admittedly, he has no idea what the gesture means, but he does know it has a negative connotation and the spirit of the movement was still readily interpreted by a bunch of kids who did know what it means. Today marked the 12th day in a row of his reign of naughtiness. On a high note, he seems to have moved past his kleptomaniac stage. Now he just lies constantly.

When Jeff and I lived in the DC area we attended McLean Bible Church. The Pastor, Lon Solomon, used to say about parenting, "You've got to get in the cage and tame the wild animals." At the time we had not yet begun to procreate and thought that statement was hilarious. Now we think it's profound. All this to say, we've got problems over here and I can say with great certainty that they aren't going to be solved efficiently. Worse, it appears that none of the disciplinary measures we have taken thus far have had any sort of impact whatsoever.

I took my crummy mood with me to dinner tonight. Dinner I was simultaneously thankful not to have had to cook, and frustrated by the need to constantly correct my dinner companions: stop turning around, use your napkin, get your feet off of me, stop pulling on my shirt, sit down on your bottom, be careful with your water, hold my hand. It would appear I am a relentless nag. Jeff, on the other hand, was patience incarnate. I'm sure there is no correlation to the fact that he, "had a quiet day at work and was able to accomplish some items on his to-do list." And here I thought I was the only one programmed to achieve.
On our way home tonight, we happened up this slithering across our driveway.

I'm positive the kids were not at all alarmed when Jeff and I both leapt out of the car to get our respective tools of the serpent-killing trade.

Mick Dundee at work. Incidentally, Mick claimed afterwards that the snake was around 5-feet long. But I'll let you all be the judge of that. I'm just here to report the events of the evening in my unbiased and objective way.

Time of death: 9:00pm. Which explains why I spent so much of the evening nagging our children. They should have been in bed.

Alas, if only parenting were this easy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Freshour Children's Choir

The Freshour Children's Choir singing Peyton's favorite song. Carter on (teeny tiny) lead guitar.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Veggie Tales: Popeye Donuts

Here at Chez Freshour, I'm on a quest to expand my children's vegetable awareness because, quite frankly, I'm a little tired of the seemingly endless rotation of carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, carrots, peas, green beans...you get the idea. So when I came across this recipe while at the hospital yesterday with Carter, I shamelessly tore it out of the magazine and took it home. What is exciting about sitting in a waiting room for an hour and a half, is all the time you have to scan free magazines and ponder what to have for dinner. And wonder if you are going to be there for so long that a trip to the grocery store afterwards will be out of the question.

You could probably call these Spinach Balls, but around these parts, conspicuous vegetable typecasting earns us swift and blatant rejection. There's nothing like a clever marketing ploy to help move them from the plate into the mouth. Without further ado, I bring you:


Popeye Donuts

Ingredients:
2 (10-oz.) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
4 eggs
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 lg. white onion, finely chopped (I grated mine thereby rendering it invisible.)
2 c. Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing mix
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
10 Tbsp. melted butter (Try to keep your mind centered on all the folic acid while drizzling this in.)

Directions:
Heat oven to 350. (Mine was already on because I was baking cookies. This because we are not above bribery when it comes to pushing new vegetables and we weren't exactly sure if the green donut idea was going to fly.) Squeeze the water out of the spinach through a colander in the sink until the spinach is just about dry. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then dump spinach and the rest of the ingredients in and mix well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until the mixture holds together, about an hour. Shape roughly into 1-inch balls and bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet (I'm nothing if not lazy and avoided that whole greasing bit by lining my baking sheet with parchment paper.) until just browned and crispy, 30-35 minutes. Sprinkle with kosher salt while still hot prior to serving.

It's spinach for spinach haters. Not only did the kids give them two thumbs up, but they would be a slammin' summer appetizer or side. They were that good.

Monday, April 20, 2009

CMS: C is for Convenience

Around this time last year, Jeff and I began to ponder education options for our rising Kindergartener. At the risk of causing all of my homeschooling readers to hyperventilate, I will admit that our final decision was based solely upon something entirely unrelated to our educational philosophy. It wasn't based upon curriculum, academic emphasis, use of enrichment programs, student-teacher ratios, or test scores. No, instead it was based upon convenience, which is a hot little commodity for this working mom.

The school we chose for our firstborn was none other than our local public school and, after touring and researching several other options, we picked it because it didn't start until 9:15am in the morning, (around the same time I needed to be in the car running the other two to preschool), and it didn't get out until 3:30pm allowing our youngest to take her afternoon nap uninterrupted. Also, we thought, "It's Kindergarten, right? How much damage can they do?"

So now we are coming to the end of Carter's first year in CMS, and I can honestly say they have not just met our lofty expectations, they have by far surpassed it, earning them a well-deserved A++. Not only has his academic day been completely compatible with Griffin and Peyton's preschool and nap schedule, but Carter has delighted in being able to ride the bus to and from school each day, thereby making my job even easier! Other pleasant surprises for the year included Carter's teacher - a seasoned veteran who manages him exceptionally well, and the fact that under her, he learned to read, and tell time, and count to 100.

Unfortunately, the disappointments are beginning to outweigh how cool we think it is that the bus stops right at the bottom of our cul-de-sac, and that Ms. Juanita makes all the Kindergarteners sit up at the front of the bus with her. One of those is that we live in a fairly diverse community both racially and socio-economically. While our family possibly owns more children's literature than the local library, some of the students who entered Kindergarten with Carter had never held a crayon or a pencil. How as a teacher do you reconcile your responsibility to bring all 26 of these children with such varying abilities up to a common level? And is your bigger problem the non-English speaker who is legitimately struggling, or the kid who races through everything and spends the rest of his day cutting up? Because that would be our kid. The brilliant bored one. Or maybe he's not smart at all. Maybe he's entirely mediocre, he just looks smart because the competition is working at such a tremendous disadvantage.

Another concern is the lack of focus on enrichment activities such as art. Consider Exhibit A below:

It's an Easter hat, sent home as a Fun! Family! Activity! like so many other art projects have been this year. Problem being that neither Jeff (who is entirely responsible for the above millinery masterpiece) or I are at all crafty, hence the finished result is altogether worse than if Carter had just done it himself. AT SCHOOL. With an accredited art teacher presiding over the mess.

All things considered, Carter's teachers have done a wonderful job this year despite a work environment that would have sucked the joy right out of me. They are tasked with directing far too many kids at once, are very under-resourced, and endure constant pressure not to teach creatively, but to raise to raise test scores. Speaking of the AYP (which we didn't pass), in our particular elementary school, only 60% of the kids in Carter's school were found to be performing at or above grade level. I find that deeply disturbing...which is not to say that I don't understand why.

Suffice it to say, despite a seemingly successful year in public school, we are once again elementary school shopping. Yesterday we toured a private school option we are quite familiar with. For the past year we have compared the awesome projects that line their walls with the enormous stacks of worksheets Carter brings home. He, lately, has begun to notice what is hanging on the walls as well. On our last visit, he commented on "all of the different materials they used". It really is a much more vibrant, creative learning environment than he is in presently. The class sizes are significantly smaller, integration of faith and learning is a priority, and the other students are closer to his performance and achievement potential so the pacing would be more stimulating for him. Challenges are numerous, the school is a 20+ minute drive from our house, and they require something Jeff and I are only too familiar with: school uniforms.
Fortunately, Carter is a big fan of red.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

S.O.S.

My blog and I are experiencing a slight identity crisis...where "slight" equals all-consuming, very disturbing, I need to find a therapist immediately.

Please be patient while I try on different themes...where "try on" equals my husband hated the springy green stripes, try to embrace the whimsical giraffe, I'm not replacing my widgets (gadgets? plug-ins?) until I actually decide on something. Which might take a while since, again, the identity crisis is not solely restricted to this blog.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bloom Where You're Planted

When we moved into our current home, there was a large, overgrown planting area between our house and our neighbors that really had to go. I tore it apart at the height of my second pregnancy whereupon I promptly went into pre-term labor. Suffice it to say, it was a busy fall.

One of the first new shrubs I planted was a lilac bush...because lilac bushes are rumored not to grow that well in the south and, being the gardening rebel that I am, I like to tempt the naysayers. I purchased it from Wayside Gardens in 2004, put it in the ground and waited to behold the glory of a bush I had never seen in full bloom.

Four years later it had grown but had yet to flower and, in my opinion, a lilac bush without the flowers is a deciduous waste of space. For three seasons of the year it is lanky and ridiculous looking sticking out of the top of my planting bed, and in the winter it's just a bunch of sticks. So this year I decided it either needed to produce something bouquet worthy or I was ripping it out.

It apparently sensed the end was near.

Because right at this moment there are exactly three blooms on the darn thing...

And as you can see below, they make quite an impact.

Or not.

Fortunately, I think I have figured out the problem. Lilacs like loamy soil. Four years ago, I had no idea what loam was. Now I do. I don't have loam. I have clay. And while I am fairly certain I can turn clay into loam, I'm not so sure the other plants around the lilac would appreciate the effort. So I am admitting defeat and giving this round to the naysayers.

But I'm keeping the lilac. Because if a lilac can adapt to clay soil, I can probably adapt to the south. Maybe we both just needed that 5th year.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How to Make the Barter System Work to Your Advantage


Jeff: You can have the mommy makeover you've been talking about if I can have one of these.

Mel: Fine...as long as yours comes with the accent.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dear Daylight Saving Time,

At first I didn't like you very much. This morning, for example. I felt rather certain we could never be friends.


But this afternoon, you redeemed yourself and I have since reconsidered my earlier position.

A position that was confirmed when at 7:00pm it was still light enough to take this picture of my husband tooling around our neighborhood on a Bratz bike. As you can see, he was thoroughly enjoying his purple velvet banana seat ride. I know it goes without saying that it is precious moments like these that remind me why I married him in the first place.

So, DST, we can be friends until your twin, Humidity, comes over to play. Then I must go back to despising the both of you.

Until then, Melanie

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

#1 and #32

Yesterday, these were removed from my head.

(insert picture of wisdom teeth laying on the metal tray)

(insert second picture of huge swollen jaw)

You're welcome.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Is There a Reentry Seminar For This Sort of Thing?

Guess who, after 16-days of adult conversation and fine dining, is flying back home from Hong Kong today? Good-bye expense account, hello really needy wife kids family.

We'll try not to maul you at the airport tonight with our excess love, but I'm not making any promises.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Little Less of Me: Release Your Inner Gym Rat

I went to the pacemaker clinic last Monday for my annual tune-up. In short, this involves a technician sticking a bunch of wires on my chest and stomach and then using a magnet and some software to test the device, leads, and battery. The testing involves speeding up and slowing down each chamber in my heart, which is about as enjoyable as it sounds. The process had just begun when the conversation below took place.

Pacemaker Technician Carol: Do you work out?

Me (laughing): Why do you ask?

Pacemaker Technician Carol: Well your pacemaker recorded a total of 4 elevated heart rate episodes in the last three months. All were between 9:30-10:30am.

Me: Considering I know that is when Dr. Phil is on, I think we can safely say, yes. Yes, I do work out. As you can tell, I'm a real gym rat.

(You know that conversation totally got back to my cardiologist.)

Appropriately, A Little Less of Me Tip #3 is this: Conclude the exercise sabattical.

Every year I take an exercise break from November through January so I can bulk up and hibernate for the winter because things are so harried at work that something has to give. Needless to say, balance is not my forte. Generally speaking, by the beginning of February things have usually slowed enough that I am able to pencil my date with the elliptical machine back in more regularly. Unfortunately, that has not been the case this year. Or, really, last year. Or 2006. But that is beside the point.

However, after my broken heart shamelessly betrayed me last week, I decided the time had come to crawl out of the cave put on my yoga pants and actually wear them to the gym. As opposed to the grocery store, or the gas station, or the mall, or any other location they are frequently on display. I determined that would start on Tuesday.

The next morning all was going according to plan...until about 8:15am when I happened upon a horrific stench coming from Peyton's room. She was swimming in vomit and other revolting bodily fluids. Let your imagination run wild. I assure you that you cannot possibly conjure up anything close to what we experienced together, my Sweet P. and I. (And later the Grandparent Reserves who were called in to join the FUN!)

My week slid briskly downhill from there...until Friday afternoon when she began to slowly climb out of the viral pit. Suffice it to say, between trips to the emergency room, the pediatrician, and our own laundry room, my target heart rate was not in the zone at any point during the week.

(As a positive aside, I will say I have never been more delirious to have this setting on my washing machine. Truly. In the presence of hazardous waste, it makes me very, very happy.)

During this awfully wet and malodorous time at Chez Freshour, I am proud to report that I did manage to take my vitamins regularly. And my birth control pill which is perhaps the most important vitamin of all. This concludes the exhaustive listing of everything even remotely health related I accomplished last week.

Which brings us to this week. Tomorrow, around 9:30am, you will find me and Dr. Phil here.

I can only hope my heart won't explode from the sudden exertion.

(Photo by Molly. Because, surprisingly, I didn't bring my camera on any of the four trips to the gym I've made since October.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Adventures in Appliance Repair

Have I mentioned before that I am married to an appliance repair man? No?

Hi. My name is Jeff. I try to fix our appliances after my wife has called the real appliance repair man and we've been thoroughly fleeced.

See, we've been having some issues with our Whirlpool Super Capacity 465 Oven. An oven that was originally purchased for $600 back in 2001, giving it a current depreciated value of $36. Try to remember that important dollar figure as we progress further into this story of appliance woe.

A few months ago, I tried to use the self-cleaning cycle. Normally, the oven automatically locks and then cranks itself up to highs previously unknown so it can burn off the grime encased within that I have ignored for the past year. But this time I got an error message that looked like this:

Anyone want to try to decipher the secret message from the stove? No?

Anyone want to come over to my house and clean the control panel? Please?

How about the wall behind the stove? Would anyone like to volunteer to clean that? I'll bake you a smoky cake.

Well, neither did we. So, predictably, we just let it all go...until we realized this was happening.
That would be the vinyl fronts peeling right off of the cabinet drawers due to heat escaping from the oven we haven't had fixed. I believe in HGTV circles this happenstance would be more commonly known as deferred maintenance. But I like to call it, 3 kids, 2 jobs, and the yard needed to be mown last week. (Mown? Is that a word, or have I been living in the south too long?)

Naturally, when we realized all of our high-end cabinetry was going to be slowly cremated, we raced to do something about our troubled oven...which is why I was able to take the above picture for you just tonight. Right.

What we actually did was to wait until the oven was so coated with baked on crud, that we could not turn it on without smoke billowing out of it, thereby causing the smoke alarm - which is connected to our house alarm - to wail for hours on end. Case in point. It wasn't enough that it went off for 45 minutes while we were trying to host a lovely dinner party this weekend, I tempted the forces of Hades again on Tuesday night when I tried to bake enchiladas. Dinner that night was delicious, but earsplittingly loud. Louder than the kids even.

Fortunately, after the second night, my live-in lover threw in the towel and we decided to call an official repair guy. He was supposed to come between 8:00am-12:00pm this morning. Naturally, he showed up at 3:00pm.
15 minutes and $141 later, the oven still wasn't working. However, I did learn that for another $278, he might be able to fix it. That is when I bid him adieu.
Jeff came home later that evening, and believe you me when I say he was DELIGHTED that I had shelled out $141 for an oven that still wasn't working. And that is precisely when he decided he was going to fix it himself. Because nothing, no nothing, will get a man all hot and bothered like having spent $141 on a $36 appliance, unless it is the possibility of having to spend $278 more. (Somebody give me an Amen.)

And, so, this is what commenced.

First he did some electrical surveying back here. It was gross. I felt sorry for him. Not sorry enough to climb back there myself simply because squeezing into tight spaces with a screwdriver isn't part of my Less of Me weight loss plan for 2009. Maybe in 2010.

Then he unscrewed some important bits in the front of the unit.

And then he totally mooned me.

And while I would love more than anything to show you that picture, I cannot. Because I have to sleep with that same moon tonight. Also, I was laughing so hard that it's not really in focus.


Anyway, after Jeff had retrieved his pants, he determined that we needed part #32 (See it there in the middle of the page?) and he ordered it. From California. So in about 10 days I'll be able to use my oven again. Isn't that exciting? And the biggest victory of all is that we'll have only spent about 5 times what the oven is actually worth.

Assuming he ordered the right part.

(To be continued...)