Monday, January 26, 2015

10 Days, 1 Showing

I can hardly believe January is almost over. It's been all about getting the house ready to sell and now that it's on the market…we wait. We've only had one walk-through in the first 10 days our house has been for sale. I'm feeling slightly impatient, yet wondering how this month has already slipped away.

January, week 1: 

Project "Put Christmas Behind Us and Fix Everything Possible with our House" was in full swing. Paint was touched up, the pool pump was fixed, the sprinkler leak was fixed, the leaky kitchen faucet was replaced, I continued decluttering and selling everything that's not nailed down. 

We got rid of so much of the kids' stuff, their friends started asking what to do when they came over. The answer was quickly discovered: girls play school and color, boys play football. Who needs toys?

Week 2:

I headed to Charlotte, NC for a Tastefully Simple Leadership Conference. My first time speaking in front of the whole group from the big stage! 
Southwest lost my luggage for two days, but I managed to have the foresight to bring my speaking dress and some toiletries in my carry on bag. 

It was so cold. So. Cold. 12 degrees cold. Five days of cold.

Week 3: 

Once I returned home, we had the house cleaned, had pictures professionally taken and it officially went onto the MLS and a million other websites. Every day since, we've been keeping the inside model-home ready, which is absolutely exhausting when there are 4-5 people spending this much time in a space. We do a lot of life between these walls from 6am-10pm each day. 
I crammed in 4 Tastefully Simple parties in 3 days, then 4 parties in another 4 days. My available "work" weekends in January were slim.

I tried to start packing boxes, but every time I'd go to pack something we "won't need for a few months" I decided to either sell it or throw it away. Including all but a short stack of pictures out of more than 25 photo albums that I've been carrying around my entire life. I kept every picture I ever took from 1987-2002, until I went digital. That's a lotta pictures. And a lotta boxes. And I don't even know most of those people anymore.

Week 4: 

I'm heading out of town once again. This time, Mike's taking a couple days off work and taking the kids to the Arizona Science Center and to the "NFL Experience", since the Super Bowl is in town this weekend. 

I was scheduled to have Lasik on my eyes (FINALLY!!!) but had to postpone when I was asked to fly to Tastefully Simple HQ to work on a training project. I've never been to our HQ and I'm SO EXCITED to go! Too bad it's cold there, too. Very cold. My Phoenix blood can't handle a "real" winter  anymore. I'm used to sunshine and short sleeves and mountains and hiking in January. But all that will change soon!
I'm prepared for February and March to start getting a little nuts. We dropped the price of the house today and we're hoping for more activity. Praying that the house sells soon so I can stop being neurotic about keeping it perfect. Then we'll start the task of finding a new house in Dallas and packing up everything here. 

In the meantime…we wait. We can't do much until the house sells, so we're enjoying the last days, weeks, and months that we have here in Phoenix. Squeezing every little bit out of this great city.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Perfect Vegetable Soup

Are you hoping to get a little healthier in 2015? I have a great tip…when you're hungry between meals, eat homemade vegetable soup!  

I got this tip from a friend a few months ago and it's saved me over and over again. I try to make it every weekend and snack on it throughout the week when I just can't seem to feel satisfied. It's great for a meal, but it's an even better NO GUILT snack between meals.

This is a very loose recipe, and all quantities can be adjusted up or down, depending on your preference. DO NOT be intimidated by the long list of ingredient…this is super easy!

Perfect Vegetable Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil (or avocado oil)
1 onion, diced
5-6 stalked celery, diced
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 bag baby carrots, cut in half or quartered
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice (15 oz)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth*
2 cups water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf (if you have one)
3-4 zucchinis or yellow squash (or combo), cut into coins and again in 1/2
16 oz bag frozen green beans (large handful)
** leftover meat or veggies

Add the oil, onion and celery to a large pot and cook until the vegetables are translucent. (about 5-7 minutes) 

Stir in the tomato paste (will be very thick), then add carrots, diced tomatoes, broth, garlic, oregano and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. 

Add zucchini, squash, and green beans. Simmer another 30 minutes, then taste the broth to see if it needs salt. If so, add 1-2 tsp salt to taste. (salt content will depend on the broth you use) Remove the bay leaf, when you find it!

* If there's not enough broth, add more. If there's too much, add more vegetables.

** You can change the flavor of this soup, week after week, by throwing in last night's leftover meat, diced, or any vegetables you have in your fridge. 
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Thursday, December 25, 2014

It's Official: Big Christmas Announcement

After days and weeks of weighing the pros and cons, praying, talking, talking some more, praying some more…we've finally made the decision to move to Dallas. I'm still having trouble believing it. I was convinced Mike would get cold feet and want to stay in our nice, cozy, predictable, Phoenix life.

On our trip out there, I had gotten to a place where I was honestly fine staying or going, but I still felt more led to give it a try. I left the final decision up to Mike. I've told him for a couple of weeks that he could make the decision, but within the last week, I was truly fine either staying or going, whatever he thought was best for our family. 

As of a conversation with his V.P. on Tuesday night, he decided we should relocate. Then he proceeded to toss and turn all night, wondering if he made the right choice. 

Here we are, two days later, and he's already feeling better about it. Nervous about all that we have to do, skeptical about how his job will change in the upcoming weeks, uneasy about leaving our comfortable life and the only city he's ever lived in, but we're going. I still seems a little surreal that we've made the final decision. 

We'll put the house on the market, hopefully sell it in a couple of months and probably move in March or April. That's our timeline, anyway. We'll see if God has different plans. 

Merry Christmas to all! 
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Snowfall, S'mores, and Santa

Tonight, I planned to cross #85 off my 101 in 1001 list. After dinner, we planned to take the kids to the railroad park to go on a fully-lit, Christmas train ride. 

I made a huge carafe of cocoa, packed up mini marshmallows, brownies and napkins, grabbed hats and gloves for the whole family to wait in the long, cold line for our turn on the train. 

It's not very close to our house, so I put on The Polar Express for the kids for the ride there. It was going to be a magical night!  Until we approached the train park. Cops directing traffic, brake lights for blocks, people crossing busy streets…it was chaos and gridlock. I made an illegal U-turn to get the heck out of there and sadly drove away. What was I thinking, going to this popular attraction the Saturday before Christmas?!?

We took a detour to North Scottsdale and went to beautiful Kierland for a horse drawn carriage ride. We found a close parking space, hopped in line for the carriage and waited. And waited. And waited. 

Then…voila! Music began playing and suddenly snow was falling from the brightly lit palm trees. (we have fake snow by the hour here in Phoenix - it's the best we can do)
After running around in the snowfall for 15 minutes, we went back to where Mike was standing in the carriage line and he hadn't moved an inch. So we went on a walk and Mrs. Claus pointed us in the direction of a marshmallow roast and fresh s'mores on one of the shopping corners. The kids were thrilled.
Back to the line, which had barely moved. Mike took the kids to wander around Barnes and Noble. When they came back, we were a little closer, but not much. We decided to take a cocoa and brownie break. I imagined us having a little picnic on the lawn, but standing in an ever-lasting line was another alternative, I suppose.

Before long, an hour had gone by and the kids got to experience the snowfall again! At this point, anything that kept them busy worked for me.

We went on another walk and found more s'mores, where the workers begged us to eat because they were getting ready to close up and didn't want the Ghiradelli chocolates going to waste. Salted caramel s'mores? Yes please! Ryan had a Reese's s'more. Hershey's seems so boring with those options!

On our walk back, we noticed that there was no line to see Santa. We wandered over and realized that they were closing up, but they let Jason sneak over to say a quick, "Hello." Santa wouldn't have it - he insisted that Jason hop up on his lap and had a nice, long, chat with him. Then it was Kaylin's turn, then Ryan's. It seemed so unfair to all of the families that waited in line all night for this opportunity! He was the nicest Santa ever. Then he turned to me: "And what would you like for Christmas, Mom? Maybe an hour at the spa? Kids, tell your Dad that Mom needs a break and to send her to the spa." He was just adorable.
Then finally…FINALLY…after two hours in line and almost missing the 9pm cutoff (it was 8:58pm), it was our turn for the horse drawn carriage. Unfortunately for all of us, the horse chose to go to the bathroom just before we climbed aboard, so after we snuggled under the warm blankets, the majority of our beautifully lit, perfectly romantic, 5-minute jaunt around the shopping center was a giggly discussion about this horse's male anatomy and his steaming urine. (*sigh*) 
I can't make this stuff up, people. This is my life.

Falala lala…lala…la…LA!
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Checking Out Dallas (Our Trip in Pictures)

Before we make the final decision whether or not to uproot our entire life and relocate to Dallas, we wanted to go visit in person. As tourists, but also as possible residents. Coincidentally, it had been on my heart lately to take Ryan on a one-on-one trip, so I talked Mike into bringing him with us on our adventure. He. was. ecstatic.
We left on Saturday afternoon, knowing that we wanted to check out a particular church on Sunday morning. As we were boarding the plane out of Phoenix, Mike ran into an old co-worker from 10 years ago. As it turns out, he currently lives in Dallas and, after thinking about it, is quite literally the ONLY person Mike knows in the Dallas area, other than the VP of his company.  Things we discovered while chatting with him:

- He lives in the exact area we are considering moving. 
- After living in Phoenix his entire life, he and his family moved to Dallas 4 years ago and fell in love.
- He and his wife are in the process of relocating back to Phoenix because both of his parents have passed away and he felt led to move closer to his siblings and in laws. 

The only person Mike knows in Dallas was on our flight. Coincidence? I think not. We chatted all the way until we had our luggage in hand, then he offered to meet us for lunch the next day to answer any questions we have about relocating. 

We arrived at the hotel late, checked in, and crashed hard.

Sunday morning was very wet and rainy, but as Phoenicians, we love rain!  The first thing I noticed in the daylight was: leaves. Orange, yellow and red…and the leaves were thicker than an inch! I truly miss seasons. And trees with leaves that are more than sprigs.
After church, we had lunch with Mike's friend, then spent the gloomy afternoon driving around looking at new homes models. Our rental car was a 2014…neither Mike nor I could figure out how to open the trunk, let alone start the darn thing without a key, at 11:00 at night in the rental car parking lot. Our vehicles are so old…my van still has a (*ahem*) cassette player in it! It was fun to drive a new car with new features.
Sunday night, we were invited to eat dinner with Mike's VP. As we were leaving our hotel to drive to his house, Mike realized his wallet was missing. And that we had gone to a dozen different places since lunch. I called the restaurant where we ate lunch and they didn't have it. He left a message at the church coffee shop where he purchased a coffee at 10am. Other than that, we were at a loss.

The night was tense because Mike couldn't get his mind off of how he would get home without an I.D., let alone all of the cash and credit cards that were in his wallet. After we left the VP's house, I followed the GPS back to the restaurant that I'd called earlier. When we pulled up, I realized it wasn't the same location. ?!?!?  The guy at the front desk called the other location for me and, sure enough, the wallet was there. I have never seen my husband so relieved in my life! 

He tried to pay the busboy who found it, but he refused the money. We quickly figured out why: He had already helped himself to a $50 bill as a finders fee. We didn't mind, as long as we could fly home without a hassle!

Monday morning, Mike took Ryan and toured his would-be office building and met his would-be boss. Afterward, we met with a couple of homeschool girls for lunch. (I met one over the phone and she couldn't wait to get together in person - good ol' Southern hospitality!) One of the girls brought two of her sons and the boys all instantly hit it off. 

While we were there, I realized that the entire trip would be a waste if we don't choose to move to Dallas, so I suggested that we take the rest of the day to do fun things that would make memories for Ryan. 
I'd heard of a "human snow globe" at a mall nearby, so we took Ryan there first. It was a giant dome-shaped waiting room to see Santa. With fake snow falling. Quite anticlimactic, but it was still fun. Santa wondered why we stopped in the dome and had no interest in sitting on his lap. 
From there, we went to downtown Dallas and visited the site where John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  We did a cheap walking tour with a guy who told a very dramatic, animated version of the event, took some pictures, and hung out in the beautiful area for a bit.
X marks the spot where he was shot and the grassy knoll is on the other side of the street.
The building where Lee Harvey Oswold positioned himself for the assassination. 
Last, we drove to the infamous Galleria Mall to see the four-story Christmas tree. Ryan was so excited that he could ice skate around this monstrosity! 
After an AMAZING BBQ dinner at The Smoke House (can you say, "Smoked Gouda Mac 'n' Cheese with Truffle Oil"?) we drove up to downtown Frisco to see their lights-set-to-music. It was cold, Christmasy fun.
We stopped by a popcorn shop (that could be smelled for blocks) for a treat while we watched the light show from a park bench. It was the perfect end to our little vacation.
The popcorn shop had some crazy candy, including Bacon Candy Canes!
I'm hoping Mike will make his decision ASAP about whether we're staying in Phoenix or moving to Dallas. I am fine either way, but leaning heavily toward moving. We have no good reason to move, yet I really feel like it is the right decision. Time will tell! 
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Monday, December 8, 2014

#82 - Do something crazy with my hair (well, crazy for ME)

When I added this item to my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list, I fully intended to add pink peek-a-boo highlights for October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Or red for Christmas. Or purple to support K-State through the football season.

But then I brought it up to two of my best friends and they asked if I was going through a mid-life crisis. I know!  I was shocked, too! Isn't crazy hair something everyone does? I never have and I was FINALLY willing to give it a try. Not for long, maybe just a month or so.
I asked my hairdresser if I could do something fun and she immediately shot me down. She suggested a big, fun headband with a flower on it. Um, that was NOT what I had in mind!!! She all but refused to let me do anything crazy to my hair.

I thought it would be fun to have something colorful and different…just for a season…but I was talked out of it.

So when I saw Super Cuts temporarily dying people's hair red at the Cardinals vs. Chiefs game yesterday, I was in. Ryan wanted his hair all red and spiky. He looked like a cartoon character! I was sporting my Chiefs hat, so I just had them do stripes in my ponytail.
When we got back to our tailgating tent, Kaylin had returned from the bathroom and wanted her hair striped, too. She got red, white and gold…looked much more CHIEFS than Cardinals, which was just fine with this KC girl!

As far as I'm concerned, this item is crossed off my list. Because those closest to me won't let me do anything semi-permanent. (*sniff*)
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nostalgic, Excited, Unsettled

As we decorated the Christmas tree last week, I took time to appreciate the fact that this might be our last Christmas in this house. I'm not typically a sentimental person, so most of the discussions revolving around the option of relocating have been unemotional for me. It's just a house…we can build a home anywhere with our little family. It's just stuff inside the house…we can sell what we don't love and repurchase new furniture in Dallas, instead of moving it all more than 1,000 miles away. I look around at the life that I love and suddenly feel…unattached. 
But Mike got a little nostalgic on me over the weekend. "This is the pool where I taught all three of my kids to swim. And I taught them all to ride their bikes on that street. And we have spent hours in this backyard talking around the fire pit. And we built this garden together. And I taught all of the kids to ride their bikes…wait, I already said that one."

We have baked countless cookies in our kitchen together. Watched countless movies in our family room. Read countless stories in these bedrooms. Hosted play dates and Bible studies and game nights and birthday parties. We've watched first steps in this house, heard first words, transition from cribs to big kid beds, learned to tie shoes.

If we move in the spring, we might never get a chance to swim in our beloved pool just one more time. (*sniff*) This all feels so sudden!

We bought this house 10 years ago and moved in almost nine years ago. I have never lived anywhere this long…ever. This is a long time for me.

We stayed in the same city when I grew up, but I called more than 8 locations "home" by the time I was 11 years old. Honestly, I think I'm more resilient as a result. 

Mike had a different experience: his parents owned the same house for 25 years. He is a creature of habit. He is used to having roots. I'm used to having pen pals and reasons to go "back home" to Kansas City to visit. And it all ends up okay in the end.

I have obviously felt a bit of an itch recently, like I'm ready for a change. Hence the painting, redecorating, decluttering, and "sprucing up" I've been doing to our home this year. I love the changes we've made to freshen things up around here.

Yet something about relocating intrigues me. Not forever, necessarily, but just for a bit. There's something exciting about a new adventure in a new city with new people and new possibilities and…four seasons!

Until we visit next week, I'm expecting to continue feeling unsettled and a bit disengaged. I'm going through the motions of working my business and finishing up this semester at our Homeschool Co-Op. I'm attempting to soak in the Christmas season. But it's an unfamiliar feeling to be so torn between the life we have and the new opportunities presenting themselves to us. 

In the meantime, I need to enjoy the day to day as we know it, because I certainly don't want to take it for granted by being distracted!
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Monday, December 1, 2014

25 Days of Christmas, 2014 Edition

I almost didn't put this list together this year, knowing that we have a lot on our plate this month. I'm in major declutter-mode in anticipation of relocating to Dallas and downsizing our house substantially. BUT, I decided that I didn't want to break tradition just yet. This is the 6th year in a row we're doing a 25 Days of Christmas activities list! (to see past activities, here are the lists from 20092010, 20112012, and 2013)

Day 1 - Christmas Camping
Day 2 - Make homemade cocoa with whipped cream and marshmallows
Day 3 - Christmas Cookie Workshop
Day 4 - Shop for Adopt-a-Family
Day 5 - Kaylin's first Christmas dance performance
Day 6 - Go to Celebration of Christmas production with Grandma
Day 7 - Cardinals vs. Chiefs game
Day 8 - Create Christmas cards for friends and family
Day 9 - Family movie night - Elf
Day 10 - Wrap Christmas gifts for co-op teachers and neighbors
Day 11 - S'mores by the firepit
Day 12 - Homeschool Co-Op Christmas party
Day 13 - Glendale Christmas Parade
Day 14 - Make a Gingerbread House
Day 15 - Christmas Craft Day
Day 16 - Snow at Desert Ridge
Day 17 - Drive around looking at Christmas lights in our PJs with cocoa
Day 18 - Kaylin's dance recital
Day 19 - Go to McCormick Railroad Park and ride the train through the Christmas lights
Day 20 - Horse-drawn carriage ride at Kierland Commons
Day 21 - Bake Christmas cookies and deliver to neighbors
Day 22 - Family movie night - Polar Express
Day 23 - Drive around looking at Christmas lights in our PJs with cocoa
Day 24 - Bake a birthday cake for Jesus
Day 25 - Read the Nativity Story from the Bible
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